It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but there are almost no days where I don’t wake up or go to bed feeling utterly and hopelessly overwhelmed. The feelings can present themselves in different ways, but the root is always the same; have I done enough? Am I ever going to feel like I’ve done enough and how can I get more done? What does the future hold and have I properly prepared for it? Have I done all that I can for those I love, for my coworkers, for the world?! I imagine that it was something similar for Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain.
I think I’ve suffered with depression and severe anxiety since I was 9 or 10 years old. I first sought help when I was a sophomore in high school, but because of a lack of resources, we were told that my condition wasn’t dire enough to warrant getting therapy at that time. The circumstances did eventually become dire a year or two later when I swallowed a bunch of pills. I’m not sure why, but I told a friend and she immediately took me to the nurse’s office. I was sent to a crisis center where they determined that I was at low risk for harming myself again and sent me home with my mother. At this point, therapy became mandatory for a year. I finished therapy and got better, then I went to college and relapsed a bit. My university was a blessing since it had mental health staff on site. I received therapy once a week and for the first time, saw a psychiatrist. I was prescribed Xanax for daily anxiety medication needed for my panic attacks.
With age comes the ability to gain hindsight and wisdom. Now I can say that I’ve always been a highly functioning depressed person. While most people can’t get day-to-day tasks down when depressed, I can now do those and more. Maybe it’s my way of seeking approval… approval from who, you may ask?
There was a time when I focused on receiving my parents’ approval. It was my way of proving that I was worthy of attention. While my parents were always around, they were absent. Early childhood was a back and forth. I describe it to friends now as the best/ worst childhood ever.
It’s true, my brother and I were highly praised and I don’t think I’ve ever doubted that I was loved. I just wasn’t sure that I was seen. Even now, sometimes I feel invisible. That has never gone away. My parents had what would be called a tumultuous relationship. I have no doubt in my mind that they loved each other, probably still love each other, but they didn’t know how to properly convey that love. There was screaming, yelling, hitting, drinking, and—unbeknownst to me in my childish eyes—drugging, and so much more.
We were never left alone, but you can say that at times, it felt lonely. My parents would go on to spend almost my entire lifetime on and off with each other until I was 28 or 29. I’m 31 now.
When I was 9 or 10, that was the turning point for me in which I became super anxious. My parents had a physical altercation and I spent the next few years thinking that one day, I’d come home and my mother would be dead. I remember really loving the song “Love is Blind” by Eve because it was a glimpse into my life.
Nonetheless, being highly functional kept me away from it all. I’d be anxious, but at least I wouldn’t be in the middle of everything. In high school, I think we were homeless once or twice and that added to my anxiety.
I said that with age comes wisdom and after seeing so much, it was easy for me to determine that my parents didn’t need to be together. Times were better for my mother, brother and I when my dad wasn’t around. I didn’t have to live in fear of what I’d come home to. My mom was there both physically and emotionally. Sophomore year when I swallowed those pills, it was after my dad had come back into our lives. While the physically violent nature of their relationship was better, the emotional abuse continued. I wanted out: I wanted off the roller coaster ride of fear, anxiety and invisibility.
I imagine that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain felt what I feel a lot, being included but not connected. I felt like I was never doing enough, like I was invisible to those most important. That the fear, anxiety and invisibility are unshakeable.
In the years since those dark times, I’ve been able to get off of medication, but the depression and anxiety are still there. What I want people to understand is that by no means do I think my life is lacking or not enjoyable. Most times when I think about it, I really am happy. The problem is, my mind doesn’t turn off and it’s not something that I’m in control of. I’m constantly thinking about the future and how I can become a better person. Please make no mistake, that is what this is, feeling like you’re constantly disturbing others.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about all this in it’s entirety, but in light of recent events, I wanted to share my story. Anxiety and depression are hard. Our minds are powerful tools and we can fall victim to our insecurities or even our own good intentions. Money, large families, nice clothes and great shoes do not solve the tricks of the mind. If you see someone succumbing to the recesses of depression and anxiety, reach out. Listen to them. Force them to talk. Remind them that they are not a burden. They need help to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
If you need a vina to talk to, reach out here. Also, if you live in the U.S., someone is always there to talk to you at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255