I have chronic anxiety and periodic depression. My anxiety is rooted in my schoolwork, research, and other aspects of my professional life. My depression is brought on by pain in my person life.
Over the past few weeks, I have been struggling through a breakup from someone I really cared about. The reasons for the breakup will stay between him and I, but I want to be open about how it’s affect me and what I’ve been going through.
When I am depressed, I can’t tell my own feelings, especially the pleasant ones. It’s like there is a fog hiding my happiness and positive emotions from me, so that I can’t access them. I can laugh and smile, but those emotions are only genuine for an instant.
I don’t have the energy or desire to do optional activities. Even though I love cooking and it normally grounds me, depression makes me only go for easy-access food. My poor diet and incessant mental wanderings make it very difficult to fall asleep. Problems compound when I need to be in the lab early in the morning after having only slept for 3 hours. As I’ve written before, I get frustrated when personal life struggles bleed into my professional life.
I think that the people who I’m closest to can tell that something is wrong but I’ve never been fully open with them about what is happening. I think this is partly because I know they have their own problems and partly because I can’t explain things fully to myself, let along someone else. It’s far easier to isolate myself from others and attempt to occupy myself with why I’m upset.
I’m now self-aware enough to know what is happening to me. I can’t do anything to make it go away – only time can do that – but I have some activities that offer a temporary respite.
Trips to the gym for cardio-intensive workouts facilitate endorphin releases that alleviate some of the mental burden. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a godsend. They are easy-access foods, but are far more nutritional than anything in the pantry. Plus, bingeing on these foods are far less likely to lead to undesired weight gain.
My final tool used to make myself feel better is to be honest with myself about what I’m going through. Putting my thoughts and emotions into words is an underrated way to move forward. Words mean that I can explain things to myself and others. As much as I may want to run away from what I’m going through, I can’t.
I plan to start seeing a counselor this week, which will likely become a regular occurrence leading up to my candidacy exam in a couple months. I need to be honest with myself that I will have a much healthier and easier time if I don’t try to go through this alone.
The good news is that I can feel the fog lifting. I cooked for the first time in a few weeks and am looking forward to activities that I’ve been avoiding. I am taking the right steps to get past this, but a need a little more time.