Do you wish to date me?
I have depression, anxiety, and social phobias.
Was that information listed on match.com or the other dating websites?
Did you notice the medicine cabinet selfie I took for my cover profile?
Since I am over forty years old, these words do not haunt me. However, I still see such fear in a younger generation of adults enrolling in college or attempting to connect awkwardly to friends.
Them: I prefer to be alone.
Me: But you told me last week your best summer was hanging out with friends? So, which is it?
Them: Well, that was then.
Depressed, anxious human beings with social phobias struggle in environments many people take for granted. Let’s use myself as an example. Lights. Bright lights. Reflections. Any reflections. I am extremely sensitive that walking into many large buildings like Wal-Mart causes disorientation. Not every person experiences these kinds of confusions, but I do. Who knew? What causes confusion for you?
Honestly, lights were fairly unnatural before the industrial revolution. We have the sun, candles, and other methods of making fire before electricity. Why should I adapt to the unnatural element of shopping stores when the natural elements please me the most. Light rays bending off the water have no impact upon me whatsoever. Let’s live, in some cases, like our ancestors. Put me in a cave; I’d be fairly happy, actually. Imagine the morning waking up to the opening of light in the early morning. A cave is not a perfect environment, but it is certainly considered a natural one.
What do I do when a panic attack occurs from overstimulation of lights, such as films, which I love to watch. Dizziness begins. Films don’t cause me seizures, but they do stimulate an aspect of my brain to the point I have to shut down my senses to finish the film. I cannot watch fast-cutting action films or 3D films without desiring to vomit. As a child, I vomited on a ship, and the captain told me, “Puke into the water next time.”
I love people. For short periods of time. I enjoy going to parties and making a fool out of myself, but then again, getting me to go to a party is a difficult one. One little thought races into one thousand directions. Meditation causes them to stir and shoot further into my entire body until I truly feel like a helpless fool. How many times have you talked yourself out of going somewhere?
Many days, I don’t listen to the voices. When the lights bother me, I squint and allow the confusion to stir without it impacting my day. As a teacher, I stand in front of the class, have panic attacks during a lecture, and continue teaching. After years of social conditioning and being in unnatural spaces different from caves, I have learned to allow anxiety and depression to appear as a physical condition like any illness.
Yes, I have anxiety and depression, but I am not these illnesses. There are some people who self-identify as “chronic” in many categories. There is no denying of real pain. We wish to change but cannot. We wish some miraculous surgery would arrive to fix our knee or back, but when we talk about the unseen illness–depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and so forth–suddenly we don’t always have our friends recognize the pain. The mental world seems too subjective compared to physical pain, although chronic illnesses (lupus and autoimmune disorders, for example) perform subjectively as well.
Doctor: The tests do not demonstrate any broken bones.
Them: But my neck hurts constantly.
Doctor: We can try to send you to a rheumatologist.
(Move the patient down the line to the next firework stand of confusion creates frustration and not solutions. No empathy. Just tests.)
We have to discuss suicide and other cases openly. We may seem like an open culture, but we still feel alienated and lonely at times. We do not have our tribe in most modern cultures to protect and guide us. Our role models may originate from films instead of teachers or parents. And, our phone is a mere instrument to talk about our depression when we still feel so damn lonely in a busy room.
At some point, we need to touch, even though I hate being touched. Hugs cause claustrophobia, so do you mind patting my back instead of shaking my probably sweaty hand? I write myself out of depression and anxiety, but when bouts of depression really smack me, I cannot meditate or write.
“All things must pass,” sings George Harrison.
That’s how I make it to the next week. I remember the week or day or second when I felt peaceful coexistence with nature and friends. That day will come again, but during an anxious or depressed state, no person can give me good advice. Just wait for me. I will be on the same road as you soon; I simply have to take some long cuts through the forest first.