There is something no-one acknowledges about depression and anxiety. Something only those who suffer continually with these monsters can understand.
The fear of our fears.
By that I mean, not only do we worry about how our illness affects us in the present but that we worry greatly about how it will effect us in the future.
I have five months left until my visa runs out and I need to leave Australia and when I’m tired and my blissful contentment wanes, I find the thought of leaving Bondi, not just heartbreaking but, devastating. I worry that when the time comes in which I have to move on from the place my heart calls home, it will break me. That is not an exaggeration or a call for platitudes telling me how strong I am; it is a genuine fear I hold. That come the end of September, I will lose the war against depression and ultimately my life.
But I can’t tell anyone that because they will tell me it’s ‘so far away so don’t think about it’ and for the most part I don’t but when people ask what my plan is after Australia, I find myself needing to rapidly change the subject because that one question puts my mind on the edge of a very dark abyss. That one question allows me to believe that when it comes time to leave, the heartbreak I will feel in leaving the place in which, after years of searching, I found myself will kill me. That I will be right back on the shoreline searching for reasons to walk through the sand instead of the water.
But I can’t tell anyone because it hasn’t happened yet. And I might be ok. But my illness tells me it won’t.
When I faced unemployment at the end of January, I worried that the stress and pressure of it all would cripple me. It didn’t. A combination of denial and getting a new job within a week of the previous one ending meant that though my mood dipped, I was fine despite the anger I felt at having my emotional concerns ignored by platitudes and people telling me how strong I was. But I may not be so lucky next time. I may not be surrounded by love and Universal signs like I was last time.
When you’re ill, you don’t just fear the future naturally, you fear how your illness will react to it. It’s a vicious cycle and not one I have managed to break in all my years of trying. I have yet to find the balance of planning for the future whilst not simultaneously dreading it.
Losing everything last year has given me a new level of gratitude now that I’m back in Bondi, such to the point I have been stubbornly training throughout the last few weeks of being sick despite fainting because of it. I am attempting to make the most of it. But it’s bittersweet. I can never truly relax because my dreams have an expiration date. People make jokes that I can marry an Australian but I’m deathly afraid that the demons in my head will win the war when October comes my way.
And only people that live with mental illness know what it’s like to worry about our worry. To fear that a new job will create havoc with our anxieties as it did last time. That a relationship ending will put us back in hospital because abandonment is a trigger for our illness. That not planning for the future terrifies us as much as fearing the future altogether.
We are in a lose-lose situation and it hurts. The future hasn’t happened yet and it’s already painful. How is that fair?
Truthfully. It’s not.
It’s not fair that whilst we worry, as do others, about what the future may hold, we also have to worry how we might feel and react to it.
It’s one of the reasons that I attempted to end my life; I couldn’t deal with the crushing weight of uncertainty and the related pain that the future brought me. That any future relationship would end because my boyfriend wouldn’t be able to cope with my depressive episodes or that no job would be calm enough not to overwhelm my anxieties. For the moment, living in Bondi, my fears have yet to be realised and I’ve been so very grateful that, for the most part, I have not suffered a prolonged depressive episode since October. My head and body have needed the rest.
But that does not stop me worrying about the future. Worrying that when I face that huge life change in October that history won’t repeat itself. That my anxieties will go into overload and I won’t be able to cope. People tell you how strong you are but it does nothing to abate your fears when you feel so very far away from the definition of ‘strong’. When you feel weak, embarrassed that you’re already worrying about something that hasn’t happened and alone because no one seems to understand.
We don’t tell our friends that we worry our next office job will cause a breakdown like the previous one. We don’t cry to our family that we’re so in love with our girlfriend that we’re terrified she will cheat on us like our last one. We don’t confess to worrying that we don’t think we’ll ever feel as content as we currently do because huge life changes cripple us. So we suffer in silence. And we think we’re crazy.
We tell ourselves that we’re ‘stupid’ for worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. That it could ‘all be okay’ despite not believing our own words. We go into denial because we can’t face the future or the thought of it.
So we stay silent.
We believe that everyone else embraces the future.
But we live with the fear of our fears.
And it hurts.