Of course my mental illness is in my head, Sharon.

Depression and anxiety effect everyone differently. I can’t speak for others on how they feel or try to cope. But I can speak for me. And for me, they are ever-present, demanding my notice and attention like a petulant child.

“Look at me! Look at me!”

Most of the time, I don’t. I go about my day, in relative happiness, calm and able to enjoy parts of it. I read a book. Play with my dogs. Take my daughter to school and help my son with his coursework.

But, like a child, they don’t leave. They sit on my shoulder, making me fight the urge to tell my kids to stop running on the playground. They make me unable to speak to the cashier. Eye contact is physically uncomfortable and dropping my daughter off at preschool is immediately met with an insane need to sleep for two hours. There’s just a constant catch in my throat, a nagging in my ear, that reminds me the moment is fragile and fleeting. That everything can come crashing down within the blink of an eye.

And sometimes? Sometimes, I do look. Exasperated, exhausted from trying to hold it all inside, I look directly into crippling eyes and

I

f
a
l
l.

I resort to retreating. Curling up inside of my mind, and in my bed if possible, I sink into the anxiety, letting my depression settle around me like a blanket. It’s stifling and it terrifies me. I get cranky when I’m hot, and under the oppressive weight of my own thoughts, I start lashing out at people. Angry that they’re helping, that I may need them. And angrier at myself because my reaction will inevitably drive them away. It always does. But I can’t stop the words from falling past my lips even as I’m screaming inside to shut my mouth.

Lights hurt.
Talking hurts.
Forcing a smile hurts.
Hurts
Hurts
Hurts.

Everything hurts.

My thoughts become disjointed, breaking into abrupt and senseless chaos before descending into a continuous stream of thought without pause and I can tell someone is talking to me but is that even English what the hell are they saying and my skin is on fire and it hurts and small hands are tugging on my shirt and they need me and they’re repeating my name and why can’t you just play nice and why do you need to argue and they need lunch but my legs won’t move and fuck I can’t breathe and my chest hurts lungs hurt head hurts arm hurts and please please please stop can’t listen can’t think can’t talk and the baby is crying and I’m crying and it’s okay mom just go sit down and it isn’t stopping why isn’t it stopping make it stop it needs to stop stop stop stop fucking STOP

And then it does, and a heavy silence settles on me, and I’m left with broken pieces and a mess to clean up that I can hardly remember making. And the thing is, I might not have seen it coming. I might have known days in advance, might have felt the fog creeping into me and seen it darkening my life in my peripheral.

But I probably didn’t. I’m so used to this whispering reminder that I’m not enough, and that I’m fucking crazy, that the signs are so commonplace they escape my notice. And I try to ride it out and I try to work past it, but when you have people depending on you, it’s hard. So I bottle it up, and I don’t talk about it, because what if my husband just thinks I’m a burden and he decides this isn’t worth putting up with my psycho ass but he’s never even said that and he loves me so why but why does he love me when all I do is mess things up and lose the keys and forget to pay a bill and round and round we go.

If we stop, nobody knows.

Depression and anxiety aren’t moods. They aren’t something you get over, or push through, or smile off. You probably can’t really snap someone out of it, not totally. Honestly, if you think you’ve helped me? 99% of the time, I’m lying.

I’m lying about the fact that I ate today (and maybe yesterday) and I’m lying about the fact that I feel better and I’m lying when I say I like me, too. Because I don’t, not really. I love my husband, and our kids, and my dogs. And I live in constant fear and expectation of the day that I’m going to wake up and that’ll all be gone, and it’ll be all my fault.

“Of course this is happening in your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?”

– Albus Dumbledore

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