It didn’t occur to me until halfway into last year that what I’d known as depression and anxiety for almost nine years could be something else. That they could actually be a symptom to something much more nuanced as opposed to an outright issue of their own.
I’ve always referred to my depressive episodes as cycles, to my anxiety as cyclical. It never retreats; it just circles about in a repetitive, almost predictable, pattern. It’s almost reliable.
The first time I ever experienced an anxiety attack, I was about five or six years old, faced with the first comprehension of mortality. I lay in bed after the death of someone I knew, thinking about how life ends and what that means for the soul. Overwhelmed by the thought of an afterlife, of an uncertain and abstract concept taught to me as “heaven” that my brain couldn’t wrap around, I couldn’t breathe. Everything felt like I was spiraling out control, and nothing could stop the noise in my mind as I tried to break the wave of questions and thoughts that screamed at me on loop.
These attacks became commonplace, and still are, even after coming to terms with my own atheism. Often times, I don’t sleep for hours because of uncontrollable and unrelenting “thought cycles.” As a kid, I would have to exert all of my energy into thinking of opposite topics in order to distract myself from the noise of the thing I didn’t want to think about. Whether it was the cause of my desire to be a writer or an inevitable outlet that became my coping mechanism, I can’t be sure, but the only thing I could distract myself with were the stories and characters I crafted in my head that I could make fare better in a dark world than I could myself.
But they don’t always work, and the more I relied on my stories, the more resistant my mind became. More often than not, the only real success would be crying myself into unconsciousness.
The truth is, I struggle to let go of the smallest of things. I hold grudges less out of bitterness and more out of my inability to stop running over the situations and words that hurt me into freshness as if they’d occurred merely hours ago. I can lose hours and days to something that happened twelve years ago.
Those who have argued with me in the past have pointed out how fixated I get on a turn of phrase or point I want to make, to where I become nothing but mindless repetition. It’s not intentional. It’s not meaningful. It’s obsession.
And it only occurred to me about half a year ago. It’s only ever talked about as perfectionism or hypochondria or germophobia… but in the midst of an oppressive episode, the thought occurred and made more sense to me than anything else I’d ever experienced.
I don’t have an official diagnosis… I’ve been too terrified of going back to a doctor for a long time. I’m afraid of being wrong, ashamed of this self-diagnosis by process of elimination, and overall just…scared of something different than what I’ve come to know. As much as I hate the cycles and waves of depression and anxiety that come and go, I can also take comfort in the reliability of a circle.