My official diagnosis is anxiety with depression. However, although I know at times that they can be linked, I experience them most of the time as very separate experiences. As a result, when I’m talking to anyone about my mental health, I generally say that I have anxiety and depression, as that is my experience. To me, they are completely different, and I deal with them in different ways.
My anxiety is something that everyone around me sees much more, especially at work. It is the more visible of the two, which I guess is why I have the diagnosis that I have. It shows itself very physically – I can’t sit still, I walk or pace a lot, I talk faster. That obviously makes it easier for people to notice. But I also generally manage it better. I can walk it out, talking through whatever is making me anxious helps. Maybe 10% of the time, I resort to self-harm, but I have other ways that I can usually manage and release the anxiety.
My depression is completely different, and is a lot more internal and in my head. So a lot of the time, people don’t see it or know it’s there. I’m quiet anyway, so when it causes me to withdraw, it’s not all that noticeable. The only ways I’ve ever felt to manage my depression is self-harm or distract myself. Self-harm makes the feeling go away for a bit. Distraction doesn’t make it go away, but I forget it’s there. So much of my self-harm is depression related.
I know the two are related in some ways. If I get too anxious about something, or I don’t feel like I can resolve it in a quick amount of time, then that can spiral my depression, and make that hugely overwhelming. However, what I have found is that depression doesn’t spike my anxiety. Actually, when my depression really hits, there isn’t any anxiety at all, because that overwhelms everything and is all I can feel.
Because of the way the two come across, everyone thinks that the anxiety is my biggest problem. But actually, the anxiety is a distraction, and covers up the depression most of the time, when the depression isn’t overwhelming. The anxiety I have better techniques for managing. So actually, my depression is the biggest problem. People don’t see it and I have a tendency to hit self-destruct when it gets too bad.
So that’s the way I experience my anxiety AND depression.