words | rabiah shere
At the age of fifteen, I told my father that I was depressed, but I set my feelings aside after he told me that kids my age don’t acquire depression. At the age of sixteen, I told my doctor that I was in a consistent state of unhappiness, but he told me that it could be “seasonal.” At the age of eighteen, I was led to believe it was ‘just me’.
At the age of twenty, everything became worse.
I’ve forgotten what happiness tastes like ever since I've lost myself through the months.
And when I say that “I’ve lost myself,” I mean that every bit of me that I once knew has shattered into bits and pieces. It's not only that I don't know where things are, but rather, everything seems to be all over the place - my emotions, my thoughts, my strength, my confidence, my hope, my faith, and my interests. I can’t seem to gain the energy to pick up everything that I’ve lost and put my old self back into what it once was.
I don’t know where these things - everything that defines my identity, that make me who I am - are; everything that built me, and everything I once held onto, so tightly, is now something I’ve suddenly lost all control of. I don’t know where they are, but I know they aren't with me. Everything I once had control of, or at least the slightest bit of control of, are no longer in my hands. Things I cannot or do not have control of, I wish I did. And things I currently have control of are what I currently convince myself to believe are fragile enough to ruin without any effort.
This is what living with depression and anxiety is like.
In a room full of people, you feel entirely alone.
Yet being alone suffocates you from the inside out.
You wish that you’d find comfort in one of the two ends by either staying at home and isolating yourself completely or going to that party and surrounding yourself with people to help you forget the mess that’s occurring inside your head.
But in reality, you know that neither of those two can truly help you.
In reality, you’d rather be at home with just one friend, but you also know that doing so means isolating that person from the party where everyone is at.
In reality, you know that what you need would be asking for a lot, burdening others, and trapping someone else to deal with your emotions.
In other words, the solution isn’t simple. With depression and anxiety, it never is.
Depression is living in the past. It’s remembering what things used to be. It’s being sad about everything, anything, and nothing.
It’s curling up into a ball, not wanting to move, but also not being able to move. It’s staying in bed all day, not because you’re lazy but because you just can’t get up. It’s crippling. It’s sighing about thirty times a day because you feel like you can’t breathe. It’s having your heart in a consistent state of heaviness because all you want to do is cry.
Anxiety is living in the future, always thinking about what’s to come. You’re always thinking about what you have to do and what’s next. With anxiety, there’s no break. Life feels like it’s going too fast and won’t pause for you. What’s defeating is that, with anxiety, you expect life to stop for you, even though rationally, you know it won’t. You constantly believe you’re going to mess up - that your mistakes will yield a catastrophic result as if the world will end by your own ruinous hands.
Anxiety is fearing change and avoiding new experiences because you fear the unexpected more than the average person would. Anxiety is connecting everything together - if one thing doesn’t go right, then everything else consequently fails. Anxiety is thinking about everything you have to accomplish in the near and far future and feeling extremely overwhelmed as a result. Anxiety is becoming hopelessly engulfed - lost - within your own thoughts.
It’s when your broodings consume you, your heart races, your breathing deepens - so much so that you can’t breathe.
You feel weak, your stomach turns, you become dizzy, you feel like crying, and somehow all of these reactions make your body numb, making you wish for someone to hold you and stabilize you because, in that moment, reality loses all sense permanently. Nothing feels real anymore. In that moment, you feel physically impaired, as if you have no control over your own body.
Anxiety and depression mean that you are always blaming yourself, always feeling like you need to be in control - not because you like it your way, but because a change of plans makes you anxious and because not knowing the unknown vexes you.
Trying to accomplish your goals becomes exhausting when every setback that may or may not be your fault results in beating yourself up.
Imagine extending your entire arm is the only act required to attain what you want, yet the one thing that cuts you short from achieving it is the finger that cannot reach far enough. How do I control that? It’s not my fault that my finger falls short.
To be frank, it sucks to be so close to - practically at - your destination - and yet fail to accomplish your goal because of the inability to properly measure the distance. Was it even possible to measure the distance? Perhaps, it’s all about chance. But I can’t help but think - I could have done more.
That being said, with anxiety and depression, you always feel that you could have done more - should have done more.
You never really know what this sentiment feels like until you’ve experienced it.
However, I’m opening the door because I am tired of being misunderstood.
I’m tired of being told that I am too emotional, that I “freak out” too much, that I’m ungrateful, that I am overly dramatic, hypersensitive, and always have to have it my way. I’m exhausted from being told that I'm too irritated, sad, angry - that I need to control my emotions...when I simply can’t.
For eight years prior to my clinical diagnosis of depression, I was constantly told to "fix" myself, as if I was broken in the first place. I was told this type of vulnerability was a flaw in my personality, and that I was weak and incapable of handling stress properly. I was told that my faith in Islam was diminishing, that I was being punished due to a lack of faith, that I didn’t pray enough, or recite Qur’an (the Holy Book of Islam) enough, and that I didn’t devote enough of my time to God.
I was made to believe that I was the issue. I was forced to believe that everything I felt was the result of being a bad Muslim, despite the fact that I did pray five times a day and regularly read the Qur’an.
For eight strenuous years, I was forced to believe that everything was my fault. However, ever since my diagnosis, I've known that that is a lie; my condition is not something I have brought upon myself. It is simply something I am endeavoring to control, through the help of therapy and medication.
I wish other people understood that I’m trying, that I’ve become exhausted in the process and that if they are tired of hearing about my mental illness, then they cannot fathom the courage to imagine what it’s like living with it.
Just because I’m smiling, laughing, and having a good time does not mean I am cured.
Depression is not simply being sad 24/7; it’s internal. And on days when it does become external, I seclude myself and avoid any form of human interaction. I don’t like to project my emotions on my face and I’d rather not talk about it. I don’t want anyone to notice my mood and ask if I’m “okay” because the answer is almost always in the negative, which triggers me to cry. It’s not that I can’t trust people with my life affairs; it’s that I have a hard time leaning on others. I feel that talking about my problems burdens others. Both my anxiety and depression already put the blame on me, and I don’t wish to feel such negativity anymore than necessary.
I wish others understood that it’s not my intention to lose them as friends; I just need them to work with me. It’s taxing to work on myself and another relationship - self-care can be selfish, but it’s crucial to understand that in order to care for others, I must first care for myself.
I need to be healthy.
I just wish others understood - that I’ve forgotten what happiness tastes like and I am trying to find what I’ve lost throughout the months.
photos | rabiah shere and christine nguyen