I promise I will take pictures of my apartment. I promise I promise I promise.
But first I want to give everyone an update as part of my new resolution to be 100% open and honest with everyone when it comes to the topic of my depression. And I thank the anonymous nature of the internet (even though I’m not anonymous) that makes me feel better about sharing parts of my life this way.
Many people know that depression and anxiety disorders often go hand-in-hand. And it sucks. It sucks a lot. When I moved back to Chicago (and during those last, tumultuous months in Los Angeles) I was worried that my depression symptoms (which had been dormant for a couple years, due to medication and talk therapy) were popping up again. I was crying, I was stressed, I kept having panic attacks and withdrawing from people. It was difficult to write, difficult to be social, occasionally difficult to sleep.
Soon after arriving in Chicago my mood stabilized… but my panic did not. I had roughly three panic attacks in a two week period, which was particularly stressful, because prior to that I had only had one or two in the past two years. It was starting to impact my internship, it was starting to impact the way I interacted with my new friends at church, and quite frankly I was sick and tired of it all.
Thanks to my mother’s suggestion, I had a therapist appointment lined up before I even got to Chicago. My therapist assessed my symptoms, and after a couple sessions she told me that she thought I was experiencing a great deal of social anxiety. She talked me though the symptoms–a persistent, intense, chronic fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by one’s own actions–and it made sense, in a weird way.
I can point to episodes of my life where I can say “yes, I was depressed. I felt like absolute shit and I wanted to die” and “no, I was not depressed. Life was wonderful and everything was shiny,” I honestly can’t remember a time I wasn’t preoccupied with social anxieties.
I used be afraid of getting a pedicure because I was 100% certain that the pedicure ladies would be so horrendously grossed out by my feet that they would gossip about me when I left. I hate going to the dentist because I thought he would judge me for my oral cleaning habits. I hate getting my haircut because I thought they would judge me for how I treat my hair, and also because I knew that I was “supposed to” make conversation with hair stylists, and I never knew what to say. I hate shopping, because sales people talk to me and look at me and I feel like I’m on display. I hate performing, I hate reading things out loud, I hate one-on-one conferences and above all, more than anything else, I hate the word “inappropriate,” because I feel like I’m being scolded.
Until I started having semi-regular panic attacks (for the strangest reasons–I got lost on my way to my internship and now I’m late; I accidentally unfolded this double-folded table cloth while setting up the alter at church; I don’t understand this work assignment), it never once occurred to me that those were strange habits to have, or that they, in some way, impacted my life negatively. I was able to muddle along and figure out life and it was okay that I was a little shy, because I was an introvert and many (though not all) introverts are shy. I thought it was just the way I was–the way life was–and that there was nothing I could do about it. Unlike my depression (where I could remember what it was like to feel genuinely happy, and thus I noticed when I felt soul-crushingly sad), I had no recent memories of a time 100%, totally, completely unaffected by social anxieties.
Needless to say I am very excited to work with my therapist on tackling some of these. We’ve outlines some short- and long-term goals, and we’re going to work on building up a de-sensitivity to social situations that cause me anxiety–starting with the least intense (reading out loud at Bible study), and work up to the more intense situations (attending a social event where I know very few people, or perhaps going on a date).
Throughout all of this, I can see God’s fingerprints on everything. I live in a neighborhood with many friends (including my best friend) within walking distance, and we travel places together (such as church or Bible study). This lowers the chances that I will back out of attending church every week, because I don’t have to walk in alone, and because I have a group of people who are expecting me to attend. My therapist is a Christian and works for a Christian clinic (which I found quite accidentally!). I live by myself, which creates a safe sanctuary where I can control the social situations, and a place for me to retreat when I need to recharge my batteries. In short: a place I know with all certainty that no one will judge me. My family is, and always has been, incredibly supportive.
So if I behave strangely–if I have to take several deep breaths or recite the L Red Line stops from Harrison to Morse; if I have to excuse myself or if I suddenly start stuttering and stop speaking; if I apologize for something that doesn’t need to be apologized for, or if I turn down an invitation to dinner or a party, it’s not personal. I promise I’m working on it.