If You Struggle With Anxiety and Depression, Know That You're Not Alone

By: Valeria Ramos

Photo: Lead & Light

Whether you've struggled with anxiety and depression or not, you're probably aware that it's not something most people talk about openly. Everyone's brains work differently, so my experience dealing with anxiety and depression might seem confusing to some, but I am sharing it in the hopes it will resonate with someone who has gone through or is going through the same thing. 

I wanted to share my experience after watching a Kathleen Lights video on YouTube, where she talked about dealing with the same issues. Reading through the comments of her video and seeing the amount of people who deal with similar things made me feel like I wasn't crazy. I felt a wave of reassurance hearing someone else talk about feelings I've experienced. If I can do the same thing for even just one person by writing this, that would be pretty cool. 

There were a couple of things I was dealing with this year that spiked my anxiety to new levels. I've always been a worrier with a tendency to be hard on myself, and the anxiety I usually experience makes me feel nervous for no logical reason. It could be leaving my apartment, going grocery shopping or pumping gas. Anxiety makes me hyper-aware of my actions because I feel like people are watching and judging me, even though I know in my mind that no one is. 

However, what I experienced in the last 6 months was different. I felt physically anxious almost constantly. I would wake up and go to sleep with a tight feeling in my chest, nervous energy and stomach cramps. On good days, I could ignore it. On bad days, I felt like I couldn't breathe. I lost count of how many nights in a row I cried myself to sleep because of how scared I was that this feeling would never go away. The worst part? I have no reason to be unhappy. 

I am incredibly blessed in so many ways that the idea of me experiencing anxiety and depression could be laughable. I have the most amazing, supportive parents, great friends, a good job, a growing blog and I am doing well in a university that I love. So, I was constantly wondering, "What the hell is wrong with me?"

Being anxious made me not want to leave my apartment unless I absolutely had to, and being alone in my apartment made me feel depressed. I was stuck in a rut where I didn't feel like myself. Instead, I felt like both my body and mind were being weighed down. 

The thought of feeling this way forever scared me so much that I found myself crying almost every day. My low point? Crying in a cubicle at my university's library. More than once. Not exactly how I pictured my semester would go, but somehow I made it through. 

Talking to someone about it was really the first step that helped me feel better. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it really does help. Being in your head all the time is not fun, especially if the voice in your head is saying nothing but negative things. Talking to people who love you really is a great form of therapy. 

My mom picked me up when I was at my lowest, and all she did was just talk to me and help me calm down. Being around friends, being distracted and just out of your own head can do more than you might think.

The simplest things started to help if I made a conscious effort to do them. Thinking about my dog, eating foods that I liked, painting, watching shows that made me laugh and leaving the house to go eat or get coffee were all small things that made a difference. I am by no means saying that going to a coffee shop or watching Parks & Recreation will cure your depression, but incorporating actions that make you feel good on a daily basis will only do you good. 

Convincing myself that this was all happening for a reason and focusing on the future were two thoughts that made the biggest difference for me. Instead of questioning why this was happening to me, I looked at it as something that I could overcome and be so much stronger for it. It took a long time, but eventually I woke up one day and didn't feel the ache in my chest anymore. Slowly, I started feeling like myself again and that was more than enough to make me smile.

Today, my anxiety is back to its original state, which is minor and not daily. It comes and goes in times of stress and insecurity, which I think is completely normal, but it is nothing I can't handle.

 I know it's hard, but if you're dealing with anxiety and/or depression, know three things with absolute certainty:  it's okay to ask for help, you are not alone and you will not feel like this forever.