Coping With Confidence Draining Chronic Illness
“I am confident because I can admit who I am, what I’ve done, and love myself for who I’ve become.”
For close to 50 years I’ve lived with chronic depression. Being on medication for many of these years I don’t have a point of reference for what “normal” feels like. Yet “normal” is the one thing in life I’ve desired most.
One would think it would get easier living with a chronic illness for so long but it’s just different. I’ve only learned recently how to identify some of the triggers which send me into a downward spiral.
How It Feels
It [depression] begins with a feeling like something isn’t quite right but I can’t articulate what’s wrong. The more I try to figure out what’s causing my angst the more apprehensive I become. This pressure begins building in my chest making it almost impossible to do the simplest of daily tasks. Things like getting up, making the bed, taking a shower, heck, even breathing are difficult. I’m hyper-aware yet at the same time paralyzed.
I feel overwhelmingly exhausted and I’m experiencing panic attacks. Thinking to myself, ‘not again, I can’t do this, I can’t be feeling this way because I have so much to do.’ No amount of telling myself to ‘calm down, it’s only a panic attack’ helps. I can feel my heart rate increasing as my anxiety continues to grow.
Anxiety Takes Hold
There are so many thoughts like rapid fire running through my head. Unfortunately, it’s the feelings of self-loathing, guilt, helplessness, and hopelessness that threaten to take me over the edge. Oddly enough when it’s a beautiful day I feel worse. Something inside of me is telling me I should be energetic, I should soak up the sun and feel alive. But I don’t want to, yet at the same time, I do. I know it sounds crazy and I wish I could get out of my head but I’m so tired and so incredibly sad. What’s worse is remembering I’m a fighter but I feel so weak, so depleted.
I try to recall past struggles I’ve overcome but it’s just too much and I just want to stop thinking. No matter how many times I go through these episodes they scare me. I feel like I’m hanging by a strand and one more thing might cause it to break, cause me to break. It can last one day or five and I really don’t know what ends the cycle and I don’t care I just want it to lift. Coming out of it is almost as scary as being in the midst of it because it’s a tentative thing. I mean, what if it comes back? It’s important for me to take it slow to avoid getting sucked back into the vacuum that is depression.
The Way Back Home
Today I feel a little better but I’m still hesitant. Life is so fleeting. It’s miserable that something as despicable as depression can suck all the good out of me but it’s a process. I hold onto the hope that it won’t last forever and I’ll come out on the other side replenished. Life isn’t a fairytale and it isn’t the perfect pictures we post on social media.
When I was younger I thought my depression resulted from my childhood experiences but now I’m not so sure. The one thing I do know is it certainly wrecks havoc on the confidence I’ve so carefully honed. Or just maybe accepting depression as part of me makes me confident?
There is no shame in living with a chronic illness. The only shame, in fact, is believing we have to pretend we are okay when we’re hurting. Do I like being labeled as someone with depression? Not particularly, my depression is a part of me but not all of me.