A monster is coming for you and you need to get away fast. The monster roars. Looking behind to judge the distance, you trip and fall down a hole. It feels like you fall forever then, suddenly, you smash down onto the bottom of this immense, dark pit.
You look around, trying to see through the darkness for roots or rocks to help you climb your way out, but you see nothing. Looking toward the sky, you see the monster. It’s pacing and howling; watching you, waiting for you to attempt escape. Feeling hopeless, exhausted, and sore, you curl up in the darkness and wait for the nightmare to end.
This, my friends, is where I’ve been. I’ve been in that dark pit of darkness, of hopelessness, struggling to find a way out. Some days I think I’ve found a path of nooks and crannies that will lead me out, only to have the ground give way and fall back to the bottom. On some days, a friend is there, temporarily scaring the monster away and lowering a ladder, only they let it go too soon, and I fall again.
This monster is my anxiety, depression, and caregiver burnout. On most days, I feel pretty good. I take medication to help. I’m not ashamed of it. (I shudder to think of what kind of person I’d be without it.) It’s like a fence, built around me, keeping the monster at bay. There are days, moments in life though, where the fence fails, and the monster gets through.
Many times, I’ll think I’m doing great and then the monster is on me before I know it. This is, unfortunately, what has happened recently. I’m plodding along, caring for my family and things fall apart. I’m not sick; just tired, on edge and cold. I sleep deep but wake up feeling exhausted. I want to eat or snack, but nothing sounds appealing. I’ve lost interest in things that previously made me happy. I can’t get into a book; no story keeps my interest. I know there are things that could occupy me, but I have no motivation to do them. I feel bored but can’t motivate myself to fix it. These are the signs I’ve been trying to ignore. Then came the anxiety. Attempting to craft something, bake something, or paint something brought tightness in my chest. The tightness turned to shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Panic! Panic at committing to doing something. Panic that lasted hours not minutes. Meanwhile, I’d smile when I saw friends or family. I’d say I was doing “fine.” I kept my problems inside.
This, I believe, is why I kept falling to the bottom of the nightmare pit time and again. I felt that no one wanted to know how things really were. Or maybe they thought they did and persisted, so the dam burst open and now they’re looking at me with wide eyes, like I’ve lost my mind, and are terrified that I’ll keep going.
I don’t like to talk about myself because everyone has problems – I’m no different, I’m no one special. And one negative thought leads to another, and pretty soon, the shame spiral starts. You’re worthless. You have no purpose. I rarely go that dark, but I can get there.
I’ve recently seen friends post on social media inspirational sayings that show support for those with similar mental health issues. I’ve seen celebrities, admitting that they deal with depression and showing support for others who do as well. That’s a great start but, honestly, I see depression as a hidden illness/disability along the same lines as my boys’ autism. It’s not always obvious from the outside. It’s a sneaky, subtle thing. You can’t “just get up and feel better.”
For me, time has been the biggest contributing factor to my healing process. My husband has been an amazing support, especially since he has his own monsters to battle. I’ve realized that being open and talking about what is actually going on helps. Even if you are unsure of what the other person’s reaction might be, it’s better to get it out there, rather than buried down inside, waiting to ambush you at any given moment.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. Many have used therapy, journaling, exercise, and other tactics to reset their mindset and feel better. It takes time, commitment, and acknowledging your imperfections. It takes growth as a person, and understanding and support from those around you. You may never truly win your fight against it but, if you keep fighting, you will survive it. You will have good days and you will have bad days. But, one day, you will see light. You will find your way out of the dark pit and successfully fight off the monster.