Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of a person who has anxiety and depression? Have you ever wondered what makes them feel the way they do? Why can they not break themselves free of this “mindset”? Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that.
When thinking of how to describe what it’s like in the mind of someone who is depressed and anxious, I thought of the old riddle I used to LOVE to tell when I was little (I guess now that my brain is feeling like this, it’s some sort of weird karma for me torturing others’ all those years…), Pete and Re-Pete. If you’ve never heard it, it goes like this.
Me (in my whiny child voice): “Pete and Repeat are sitting on a wall. Pete falls off. Who’s left?”
Annoyed other person: “Repeat.”
Me: “Pete and Repeat are sitting on a wall. Pete falls off. Who’s left?”
Other person: “Repeat.”
So, yes, you get the picture. The point is it’s cyclical. When you think it is done, it’s not, it is really just starting over.
An example of what this looks like in the mind of a depressed person is this: “I feel really terrible right now, this is awful. Everything is stressful. Work has been exhausting lately, my friends are all so busy we barely keep in touch, my family lives far away, my significant other is probably so annoyed by me since I’ve been so down lately. If I had more energy, I’d go do something to make myself feel better but I am tired so I’ll just rest.” (a bit later) “I really hate being alone, this sucks I want to be able to go do things but I just feel so exhausted and nobody would understand why I feel this way, so I will just stay by myself.”
Those thoughts lead to a day/night/weekend home alone. After that time alone, you feel just that…alone. You feel you’ve been so shut away and shut off and somehow more exhausted, that if you tried to explain it, nobody would understand. Sometimes if you have prior obligations (such as works or plans with people), you can force yourself to get up and get out for that. While it is not easy, just going and doing your best to get through it is often times easier than having to explain because you do not even understand your feelings fully yourself. You also do not want people to worry about you, though secretly you wish someone would notice. But you try to suppress the feelings, so of course nobody notices and everyone thinks things are good for the most part. Maybe they think you’re stressed, but certainly not depressed.
After your day at work or your dinner out with friends you come home. You think: “Thank goodness I’m finally home and can just let my guard down and be alone with my thoughts. It was so exhausting to be out around people and put on a good face and pretend to care about socializing.” (a bit later) “I just hate that I spend so much time alone and being around others is so draining emotionally for me. But I know that when I’m alone I just overthink everything. But being around people is too much. But being alone sucks.”
You see how this is a lot like the Pete and Repeat riddle? It makes no sense, yet it is repetitive and ultimately destructive. You tell yourself the same things over and over, but then you get so angry at yourself for thinking this way and you beg to be released of this agony. But you know the way out is the exact thing this illness is preventing you from doing – asking for help, putting yourself out there, and being willing to be vulnerable even when it is uncomfortable.
It is quite difficult to explain this to someone who has never experienced it. People think you enjoy feeling “sorry for yourself” after a while. And maybe you do end up finding some comfort in it because it becomes routine. Routines somehow become comfortable even if the routine is an uncomfortable thing. While I know this analogy to a pointless riddle may seem silly, but I believe it sheds a bit of light for those on the outside to understand how we are feeling on the inside.