There’s a switch that turns off around this time of year, when the rain and clouds finally give way and my breathing room expands; not all at once, but with slow methodical steps I feel my cumbersome winter skin peel away, leaving me feeling light and optimistic.
It took me a long time to be able to differentiate my mental illnesses.. if you would have asked me in high school I would have told you that I suffered, primarily, from depression, because that is what I felt was most prominent at the time. Looking back on this, I recognize this as false, as my depression was derived from a constant anxiety that I didn’t know how to describe. I wasn’t fully able to identify and distinguish my conditions until about a year and a half ago, after I saw a psychologist and started medication.
I think what a lot of people, including people with mental health issues, don’t understand is that mental health is not a straight line and mental disorders are not cookie cutter – in fact, they are completely unique to the person living with them… for lack of a better term, they come in all shapes and sizes. To help explain this, here is a look at my mental health diagram (as imagined by me after discussions with the psychologist):
as you can see, I have two shapes within my mental health; a triangle, which encompasses my major, every day conditions, with anxiety leading the cavalry – and a circle, which survives on it’s own, in a constant state of flux, depending on the time of year. Neither relies on the other, and although they may work together at times, they are complete separate entities. I would be lying if I said that differentiating the two came easily and quickly, just like I would be lying if I said anxiety driven depression is the same as seasonal depression. as I expressed earlier in this post, there was a time where I could not distinguish anxiety from depression, never mind depression from depression; but as I gave myself time to wade through the puddles in my brain, I learned that there are pros and cons to both, which is how I came to understand and characterize the two:
anxiety driven depression
pro: if identified early enough, the specific anxiety causing the depression can be dealt with, either weakening the depressive episode or completely preventing it.
con: as long as my anxiety is as severe as it is, I will have this problem, and the moment I let my guard down is the moment I open myself up to becoming depressed.
con: I have zero control of when it happens or it’s severity. unlike anxiety driven depression, where there is a clear reason as to why I am depressed, seasonal depression is a cloud of desperation that doesn’t leave until it feels fulfilled.
pro: eventually… it does leave, one step at a time.