Anxiety and depression are two mental illnesses that go hand-in-hand.
One half of all people diagnosed with anxiety will also be diagnosed with depression.
The real tragedy behind those statistics is that anxiety and depression can be treated, but are often not.
I know what I'm talking about, because I suffer from both disorders, and in order to stay alive I have had to do my homework. If you're anxious and depressed, you probably do too.
Despite how common they are, only one third of people diagnosed with anxiety and depression ever seek medical help. That's disastrous, because people who suffer from both conditions are six times more likely to be hospitalised for psychiatric reasons than others.
Anxiety and depression can be caused by genetics, brain chemistry, or life events. Facing the two disorders together can feel doubly daunting, but it isn't impossible - I'm going to say that again because if you've made your way to this blog post it's important you hear it - it isn't impossible.
You can do this.
It's hard to explain to people who aren't anxious and depressed simultaneously just what it's like to have these two disorders battle it out in your brain.
Because it's so hard to talk about, you might find the very notion of explaining how you're living day to day an impossible feat, even to family and friends.
Below I've shared eight common struggles people who are both anxious and depressed face every day.
1. Sleep is a real challenge.
When you have anxiety and depression, sleep problems are really common. For some it's insomnia, for others it's sleeping too much ..! My anxiety and depression make it a really struggle to stay awake, at any time in the day. Bed time at 9 and awake at 8, 9, 10 ... even making it to 13+ hours of sleep at night. Then in the morning, because of my depression, getting myself to wake up can be a major struggle.
2. It's hard to keep up with friendships.
When you have anxiety and depression, your personal relationships can really suffer. As a person with depression, I have to work very hard not to fixate on irrational fears like the fact that I'm not "good enough" to be anyone's friend.
As a person with anxiety, however desperate I might be for companionship, I find myself repeatedly cancelling plans because the idea of having to leave the house and interact is sometimes more than I can handle. It's easy to write off a person with anxiety and depression as a 'flake' or someone who isn't interested in your friendship, but sufferers of anxiety and depression know this couldn't be further from the case.
Sometimes we just can't do it.
Don't beat yourself up about this if it's something that happens to you. Your real friends will understand if you're honest with them about what's happening. Just make sure you continue to communicate. Better to be honest and risk embarrassment then to stay quiet and potentially lose a friend.
3. Managing work stress is incredibly hard.
Because of my depression, finding a job that makes me happy can be challenging.
Because as a depressed person it is hard to be excited about anything. As an anxious person having a job is great because the routine can feel really stabilising. What doesn't feel so great is the constant panic that you aren't doing your best work or will mess up at any time.
The goal is to find a job you love and you'll have to work really hard to convince yourself that you even deserve it.
I struggle with this one on a daily basis. I love my job ..! And I love the people I work with ..! But I constantly worry that I'm not working HARD enough or being enough of a team player or that my endless array of typos will have me filing for unemployment. I remind myself when these feelings come over me that depression and anxiety LIE. I do my best work, and if I'm concerned about something ACTUAL I talk to my boss about it.
4. Sometimes I forget to take care of myself.
My depression makes me rip myself apart. I can stare in a mirror and seriously think I'm too ugly to exist. This can lead to a lack of self-care. I neglect myself.
When my anxiety can't take it anymore, I'll try to pull myself together but even that can seem so totally overwhelming. Breaking your routine down into baby steps can help with this a lot.
5. Being in a messy house affects me in a huge way.
My anxiety makes me want to clean, it makes me want to fix everything. That should be good, but it can actually keep me from getting real work done, which in turn leads to stress which in turn leads to MORE anxiety.
My depression can immobilise me altogether. Feeling really uncomfortable in a dirty space but being physically unable to rally the energy to do anything about the mess is a brutal mixture of emotions.
Instead of arriving late or canceling plans or not getting work done because you HAVE to clean, remove yourself from the situation and get some place where you can feel comfortable. Don't reward your anxiety by giving in to it. Normalise cleaning the way you work to normalise everything else in your life.
6. It hurts when people don't take my feelings seriously.
As a person with anxiety and depression, it can be hard to handle everyday confrontations without your mental illnesses being used against you.
My anxiety and my depression don't make all of my feelings and complaints invalid. Stop ..!
7. I'm constantly afraid something will happen to the people I love.
Because of my anxiety I am constantly worrying about different members of my family. Anxiety replaces normal love with worry and fear. My depression makes talking on the phone difficult for me to do. Checking in with them is hard and can strangely make me seem like I don't care at all. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is another case of communication saving the day. Let your family know why the phone is hard for you and I bet they can find other ways of communicating.
8. Sometimes I feel alone ... and like things will never get better.
Anxiety can make you feel like you are running in circles and not getting anywhere. Depression can make you feel like it doesn't matter because nothing matters anyway. This in turn makes you anxious. It's a snake eating its own tail, a horrible seemingly endless vicious cycle.
It was hard to sit down and write these things out. That's because I am (knock wood) in a pretty good place. I manage both my anxiety and my depression. I've come a long way. But it's shockingly easy to access these feelings and emotions, easier still to pull back into the way they feel when you're having - which is miserable to the extreme.
You don't have to go through this alone, and that vicious cycle I mention as number 8 ..? It's one you can break. For every 'friend' who doesn't get what's wrong with you, there's another ready and waiting to support you. 6 million people suffer from anxiety and depression in the UK alone, and like you they are fighting every single day.
If you feel alone, remember that you aren't. If you feel like you need help, it's there for you. The NHS helplines are a great resource if you think it's time to find help and break the vicious cycle.
Until next Monday,