And you believe her.
She tells you your children would be better off without you. That they deserve a mother who is better, who is “normal.” She tells you your husband hates you and you don’t deserve to be loved. She says you will never have a real friend who cares about you because you are fundamentally flawed, and of course, no one will ever like you. Depression will whisper in your ear you are bad, you are broken and you are unworthy.
And you believe her.
Depression takes over your brain and your heart. She fills all the holes in your soul with sadness, making it hard to raise your head, impossible to look people in the eye. She sneaks into your subconscious until you think it’s you having these thoughts, not her. She makes you believe she is you, until you don’t feel like you even exist anymore. You are just a husk of yourself. She is inside, taking over your mind and your heart and your soul.
She is persistent and stubborn. She holds on tight when you try to fight her and whispers her lies more insistently. Her whispers become shouts as you get closer to defeating her. Pills, meditation, exercise, mindfulness, supplements, sunshine, therapy, a million things to try, but if you loosen your grip, even just a little, then she weasels her way back into your brain and you spin out into that black space.
Depression has a sister. Anxiety.
Anxiety whispers worst case scenarios into your ear and won’t let up. The phone rings with a number you don’t recognize. It must be a collection agency or the hospital calling to tell you a loved one has died. Or the bank. Or the IRS. Or. Or. Or.
Your friend hasn’t returned your text. So she has decided she doesn’t like you anymore or to stop lying about liking you in the first place. Your car made a funny noise so you and your children are going to die in a fiery explosion. A person smiled at you at the grocery store so they must feel sorry for you. And on and on and on.
When depression and anxiety double team you, you spiral, completely out of control. Anxiety says your friend doesn’t like you and depression says of course she doesn’t. You are completely unlovable and why would she?
Anxiety says your husband is late because he’s having an affair and depression says you deserve it because you are a horrible wife. Anxiety tells you not to go to a mom’s night out or play date because they won’t like you. Depression tells you you are fat, ugly and stupid and they are better than you. Anxiety tells you something is wrong with your kid. Depression tells you you are unfit and don’t deserve to be his mother.
Anxiety says horrible things and depression validates them.
They get put on an internal loop and all you hear in your head are a thousand nasty things. You can’t turn it off. You become a shell, filled with fear, sadness, blackness and doubt.
You want to hide, but you can’t. You want to run away, but you don’t.
You keep on going, doing what you can to make it through each day. You take your meds, you meditate and you practice mindfulness. Maybe, if you’re lucky, depression and anxiety leave you alone for long enough that you can claw your way out of the spiral and be a mother, a wife, a daughter and a person. Not a ghost. Not a shell. You.
This story was published on The Mighty, a platform for people facing health challenges to share their stories and connect.