“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.” -John Green
Although I’ve always been an anxious person, I was only diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression less than a year ago. Throughout high school, I was severely depressed with the more than occasional suicidal thought. I was also very stressed as I was either taking enough college classes to be considered a full time student or Honors and AP classes all throughout high school. I didn’t really have a social life or time to join clubs or sports (although I was to uncoordinated for them). I felt alienated and like an outsider even though I did have a couple of what I believed to be friends my senior year.
One of these “friends” attended the same university I did after graduation and became my freshman roommate. I thought this would be a good idea because at least I’d be living with somebody I knew, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everything started off seemingly fine. We had lost touch over the summer so we were a little distant. However, the problem began when she started hanging out with what I would call the wrong crowd. I had no personal grudges against these people, but the went out partying and drinking every night, rarely attended classes, and never studied. She fell into these same habits. She would come in at 2 AM, invite strange people into the room, skip most of her classes, and not do her homework. Although I was annoyed, I kept it to myself because at one time she had been my best friend.
The issue started when her parents started to find out how badly she was doing in her classes. She begged me to help her with her homework which I did for a time. However, when it got to the point where I refused to help, she blamed me for her grades. She was mad at me for getting up to attend my own classes and disturbing her while she skipped her own. She blamed me for these strange people being around and messing with her things even though she was the one inviting them in, and I never wanted them there in the first place. She spread nasty rumors about me in our hometown and to her parents saying I was doing all the things that she was actually doing. No one should have believed this of course if they knew me at all.
One day, I came back to our room, and she was packing her stuff to move to another dorm. It felt like a slap in the face. We had so much history, and she was supposed to be my best friend. I thought she was different, but she was the same as those other girls in high school. In fact, she was worse.
Instead of just leaving, she destroyed my property and put substances into my makeup that could have caused me harm. I was scared in my own living space believing anything could have been tampered with. I was paranoid beyond belief. Every faint sound woke me up. I reported this incident for my own safety, but that still wasn’t the end of it. When word of the report reached her, my former roommate, who new my schedule, stalked me to threaten me, and when I tried to leave, she chased me. Of course at this point, I was terrified and police became involved. She was arrested. I was proud of myself for standing up for my self and my own safety, but it still bothered me. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong or why she’d put me through this. Her mom also had to get involved and throw a fit because somehow I was in the wrong even though her daughter had threatened my safety, I “handled it the wrong way.” People in my hometown still give me dirty looks and are rude to me because somehow its my fault even though I was the victim.
“It is very hard to explain to people who have never known serious depression or anxiety the sheer continuous intensity of it. There is no off switch.” -Matt Haig
This is when my anxiety started getting really bad to the point it was almost unmanageable. I felt so alone and like no one could be trusted. I over analyzed every detail of my life to make sure it wasn’t leading to another occurrence like this. I felt alienated and alone and like I couldn’t handle everything at one. Even though mental illness ran in my family, the people around me didn’t really understand what was going on. I didn’t even really know what was going on. The closest thing I have ever found to describe my thoughts was Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.
“You lie there, not even thinking really, except to try to consider how to describe the hurt, as if finding the language for it might bring it up out of you. If you can make something real, if you can see it and smell it and touch it, then you can kill it. You think, it’s like a brain fire. Like a rodent gnawing at you from the inside. A knife in your gut. A spiral. Whirlpool. Black hole. The words used to describe it — despair, fear, anxiety, obsession — do so little to communicate it. Maybe we invented metaphor as a response to pain. Maybe we needed to give shape to the opaque, deep-down pain that evades both sense and senses.” -John Green
It starts over some small insignificant event and spirals into the worst possible outcome. For example, I forgot to bring a pencil to class. I would panic and be worried about not taking notes. Then the no notes would turn into failing the exam, and that would turn into failing the class which would turn into flunking out of college. Flunking out of college would turn into not being able to hold a job which would cause me not to be able to maintain a stable relationship. Then, it all would end with me dying alone with a bunch of cats. It seems illogical to think not having a pencil would lead to that demise. I did exaggerate and fabricate this example, but the point I’m making is one little event brings up every problem and bad thought about myself I have. It causes me to completely lose control of my thoughts and reasoning and leads me into a blind panic. Every thought goes deeper into my mind and my fears.
“It’s getting sucked into a whirlpool that shrinks and shrinks and shrinks your world until you’re just spinning without moving, stuck inside a prison cell that is exactly the size of you, until eventually you realize that you’re not actually in the prison cell. You are the prison cell.” -John Green
When I have these anxiety attacks, I feel trapped in my own mind. I get claustrophobic even though I’m in an open space. My chest starts to feel heavy and tighten up. It gets very difficult to breath, and many times, I start to cry uncontrollably. I feel like I can’t move. Sometimes it’s not full blown its just one symptom, but sometimes it is all of them at once. I can’t stop my mind from doing this, and I can’t reason through it until I’m already calmed down.
This anxiety triggers the depression. It makes me feel bad about myself and broken. The anxiety pulls up all the events of my past for my depression to dwell on as if they were fresh wounds. It’s like a never ending cycle. It just keeps going, and it never feels like it is going to stop. Then finally it heals, and I am okay again. Sometimes it lasts for a long time, but as soon as I think it’s finally over another event pushes me back into the worrying and into the spiral.
I have tried to get help. Last time it didn’t work. I’m in the process of trying again. I’m not sure if it will ever stop completely, but I hope it will dull with time as I learn to live with it and work to prevent it.