It is a familiar darkness that looms over me on the long, dark days. A black dog trailing behind, shrouding me from the outside world. It wraps around me its ebony drenched tendrils, born out of the darkened mire of my mind. Here we lie, together, until tomorrow’s dawn splinters and light streaks through the fractures in the shadows. Our relationship is one with teeth and nails flaring; it lacks the simple presence of happiness, and yet still we cling to each other with deeply planted roots. This is how it feels to suffer with anxiety.
Some days we forget one another exist; too caught up with sustaining our lives to remember. Other days we crawl, slowly and unconsciously towards each other, to face the starless night where we stare at the walls conjuring reasons for being awake. There are moments when, having been apart for an age, we are slammed together, without warning, without preparation, introducing fear into our already brittle relationship. From sheer exhaustion of the chaos we emit, the darkness will cradle me for days, luring me deeper into a darkened chasm.
In these times, depression decides to gift an uninvited visit from its cavern, ending in a party of three; depression, anxiety and me. I am the colluder to the distorted ways of depression and anxiety, and they to my desire for demise.
Anxiety and depression are both equally devastating in isolation, but when the two decide to fuse, the path to recovery becomes muddied. From my own internal experience with mental illness, and the external experience of those around me, these forms can rear their monstrous heads in different ways. The consuming capacity anxiety holds always astounds me. When anxiety and depression merge, it results in fear combined with the inability to function; the turning point from normal realms of anxiety to life threatening.
Over two years ago, in being visited by the full force of anxiety for the first time, I sank into a bottomless inky ocean within myself. Anxiety wasn’t just one shadow lurking in the depths, but hundreds of ravenous monsters, tendrils dragging me deep into the belly of a world where life ceases to exist. I was drowning in an airless current I wasn’t sure I could ever find a way back from. My family thought they’d lost me to the darkness forever; my mum saw the light disappear from my eyes and a stranger steal my place. For me, anxiety and depression took the form of a barbed wired eating disorder. It wrapped itself around every healthy aspect of my life, and threatened to kill me. I seemed too caught in the net of the monster to ever escape, but through pain, tears and time, I did.
I don’t think I will ever be free from the choking grasp of anxiety, of depressive tendencies; I don’t think it is something you can ever be completely free from. Everyday is a constant, exhausting battle to stay well, to “keep the fire burning,” as Cormac McCarthy wrote.
Through seeing the darkest parts of myself, I found my true self in the depths of the ocean I thought I had drowned in. From this journey, I found my creative voice. The simplicity of words healed me when nothing else could.
From fighting so hard to be well, I am a stronger person than I ever saw myself being, and I know now what is most dear to me in this world. My mission is to bring more awareness to mental health, to the dark shadows, black dogs, fathomless oceans and barbed wires wrapping around our lives, and to show how important creativity is to express pain when little else can. These shadows hang low over all of us, to some extent, but there is a world with more light than darkness if we fight for it.