At 25 years old, you would be remiss to expect depression to not surprise me anymore. It is only in the last few months that I have experienced some new symptoms. Where they came from I am not sure, but I found myself really uncomfortable in myself and with my body. Really uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I was unable to look in the mirror or even at photographs. I didn’t want to leave the house. I’m used to the thought of people judging me, it comes part and parcel with my experience of anxiety, but this was different.
There was, or I’d convinced myself there was, a cause. It was as if every blemish on my skin, my weight, and my hairline of all things, were being scrutinised by every passer-by and colleague around. It’s not as if I had a strong ego or body image before, however this fixation was brand new. Strange how this new manifestation had reared its head so late in the game. I have experienced so many effects of depression and anxiety that are common place such as low mood, low motivation and dark thoughts etc. and really believed I could anticipate every symptom thrown my way. Not this year though. But why? Was this person who I am now?
Over the past few years I have learned to normalise the symptoms of depression. I know them and subsequently I can deal with them. It doesn’t make it disappear but it makes it slightly easier. Low moods can be countered with junk food (though not good in the long term!) and shyness can be countered by immersing myself with familiar people. When a new symptom arises, what then?
Anxiety is a different beast. How can do you override this automatic response? It has been your only response for as long as you can remember. As mentioned above, it is all about finding a coping mechanism. Not necessarily a cure, but something that makes the symptoms of anxiety slightly easier. Just slightly. Once this is achieved it feels like a huge win.
There are physical techniques that are fantastic for this, such as slower breathing and focusing on lowering your heart rate. My go-to methods of dealing with anxiety are a little unorthodox…
I am a massive nerd and I’m the first to admit that. My spare time is divided between video games, comic books, movies and role playing table top games. This isn’t because I find it cool or think it will make me popular, far from it. These hobbies, or habits, of mine can be described in one word: Escapism. It is where I find comfort and shelter from the world. The world scares me. Socialising scares me.
There are lots daily pressures that go hand in hand with anxiety as I’m sure you are all aware and I find that a multitude of other worlds exist in which to explore and disappear in for a while when it all seems to get too much. Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings or the post-apocalyptic world from Fallout provide a cushion between myself and my anxiety. There are no forced social situations in books and it is very rare to find someone that will comment on your outward appearance in a video game. Shame, embarrassment and panic can all be forgotten in these places.
Maybe you already have a place where you find comfort or solidarity and that’s fantastic. If not, I urge you to reach out and find a place like this for yourself. It really helps to have somewhere to escape. No one said it had to be real.