“You don’t LOOK depressed.”
“You’re always smiling and laughing, you can’t possibly be depressed or have anxiety.”
“You’re such a strong black woman. Nothing phases us! Girl, brush it off!”
Hi, I’m Danielle and I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk.
I've known for years that something wasn’t right. All of the accolades from running collegiate track and field or obtaining my master’s degree couldn’t stop the extreme internal battle that I have been fighting for so long. I developed little tricks to help me cope, like excessive sighing, being jumpy, and other nonverbal cues. I had been having anxiety attacks for about 2 years and they came on when I was alone or when I was in a room filled with people. A flashback, a nightmare, or a bad thought triggers a negative response within and a downhill spiral ensued.
In 2014, I went to the hospital for the first time, but it would not be my last. If you’ve never had an anxiety attack, let me tell you, they are not like ice cream on a hot Monroe, Louisiana afternoon. CLICK TO TWEET
Check this out: It’s an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, because you can’t catch your breath and your heart is racing so fast and you try to be still and act “normal” waiting for it to pass and you’re trying out all of your “techniques” that you’ve learned but they aren’t working and you want to reach out to someone but you’re second guessing yourself like is this really happening, so you sit alone in your apartment and cry. Cry because? Who knows why. Seems like it’s for days, but it’s only been a few hours and you’re at your boyfriend’s house crying and lying in bed all day, trying to focus on The Revenant, until he gets home and you fix yourself up so he doesn’t ask what’s wrong, but you want him to read your mind, your eyes, your body language and hold you and say everything is going to be alright, even if you know it’s not but hearing someone other than yourself that you love say it, might make you believe it. If only. Then you’re in the hospital and your sister is trying to cheer you up and make you laugh, but it’s not working and the doctor comes in all chipper saying, “You’re fine! Nothing is wrong! Just an anxiety attack!”
Even writing this gives me chills and makes my heart palpitate. This long, drawn out sequence of thoughts and dialogue that I have with myself is a snippet of how my brain really functions. Remarks like the doctor’s reminded me of why I never wanted to share myself with anyone in the first place. She made me feel so small, insignificant, and like I didn’t matter. Since there isn’t any physical pain, then you aren’t hurt, right?
My brain is going a million miles a minute, yet I can be smiling in your face and you have no idea what’s going on. It may sound irrational and “crazy” to outsiders, but to me, it makes plenty of sense. This was me on a regular basis. So as life came tumbling down on April 21, 2016, I knew that I needed to seek some form of help outside of myself. I have been in positions where I was not in control and my voice ripped away from me and I felt like I was losing my grip on reality; losing control. Since I had “all of the answers Sway”, I tried to fix myself by suppressing the emotions and feelings that I did not want to deal with. Unresolved emotions from my car accident, having a gun pulled on me, being in an all-around abusive relationship, and many other heinous experiences I went through, played itself out in other aspects of my life. Emotions that I tried to keep a lid on for so many years, showed up in relationships with my friends and loved ones, and recently a relationship I was in. (Try liking someone with all of this going on!)
I was so used to wearing these masks of friend, sister, daughter, and confidante that I started not to recognize myself anymore. CLICK TO TWEET Everyone was depending on me and I couldn’t even be there for myself. I felt like I was drowning and sometimes I didn’t want to be saved. So, as I sat in that chair and poured my heart out to the therapist, I felt one of the many masks that I wore slowly unveil a small part of myself. I finally couldn't run from the torture that I lived in for so long. She is someone who is well versed with cases like mine, as well as sex and trauma therapy. I let someone in. Like REALLY in. I’ve been learning that my vulnerability is not a sign of weakness and that my depression and anxiety is not who I am.
Am I healed? Not even close. There are days where I’m great and happy go lucky, then there are the days where I feel the absolute worse and “not feeling well.” I want to take a magic pill and make it all go away. However, life doesn’t work that way and I must play the hand that I was dealt.
I have found some positive ways to release my mental anguish and the feelings of depression, such as knitting, writing, reading, yoga, praying, and meditating. CLICK TO TWEET It also helps having an amazing support system in my corner that I can reach out to when I need them. I’m grateful to be given a platform where I could possibly help someone, while I’m allowing others to help me. It should be the norm to be able to openly and freely talk about any mental illness plaguing us.
So I say, keep fighting and keep pushing through. It will be hard. It will be difficult and it will challenge you, but you will get better if you keep fighting. CLICK TO TWEET
Suffering in silence is not an option anymore. Your joy and light are within you. CLICK TO TWEET
To the friends and loved ones: be patient, be kind, be present, and be as understanding as you can be. This is already a huge step towards feeling and we need people like you to help us.
Stay Hopeful, sunshine.