I’ve been suffering from depression for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t truly diagnosed until I was nineteen and in college (where I could get free counseling). But I knew something was up for a while. Looking back, I recall being about five and bursting into tears seemingly out of nowhere.
I asked my sister, “Do you love me? Am I so bad that mom doesn’t love me?”
While this isn’t exactly straight out of a DSM-V, I would say something was definitely up. It became a struggle to do anything without either beating myself up or overthinking. Eventually, I would just start dreading every simple thing. I would think about the possibility of freezing up and completely lose any ounce of motivation I had. And around in a circle I went.
Who could know or care though? Once I moved from Russia, I got good grades in high school. Although I was teased quite a bit, I was unremarkable enough that I didn’t need too much attention from family.
When I did mention some sort of emotional discomfort, I got a stern “that’s life kid” and “what’dya gonna do?”
My parents’ attitude stemmed from their own needs never being met. My cry for help only gave them permission to talk about how hard it was to raise a moody teenager. From here, we can press fast-forward.
Midway through my eighteenth year, I met a boy who opened up to me about how “broken” he felt. He had been diagnosed with anxiety and had to leave college due to debilitating agoraphobia. I made it my life goal to ensure he never felt broken again. Because I saw anxiety reflected in my own thoughts, I followed his lead into therapy.
In therapy, I learned coping mechanisms that helped create a mental toolbox, as well as some diagnoses to reference. But, I also had an existential crisis looming in my obsessive-compulsive head. Having broken down the top level of my issues, I was certain of two things:
1) I was depressed with some PTSD flashbacks to round out the experience
2) I never had a moment to figure out what it is I wanted to do.
Between the two, my hands (and my mind) were full. Seven years into therapy, a bachelor’s degree, two jobs and three promotions later, I found myself still unhappy with life. While I was taking medication to take away the physical angst that comes with a mental illness, medication alone doesn’t fix everything. It cannot turn off self-loathing but merely dims it enough so you can work on yourself.
However, I went from wondering what it is that I wanted to do to asking myself, “Why the f*** do I ever NOT feel like this? What is this for?”
Because this feeling had to be here for a reason. How could I be so good at my job, going into work day in and day out when I didn’t even like it? How could I be so outstanding in a traditional office-desk career that I didn’t even care about? Why did this somehow feel easier than following a dream of writing? Not only was my self-worth based on how useful I could be to people, but it was also hung on the nail of being liked and praised for doing tasks I hated.
Now the endless loop of thoughts was, “If I do something that I dislike, I get extra life points, right?” Upon finding there were no “life points” or really anyone to count the points except for me (and I wasn’t doing that stuck in all my self-hatred), I found myself in a true personal hell. Nevertheless, I persisted.
Now it’s one thing to have depression. It’s another thing to be unfulfilled in your career. I decided that the two should be mutually exclusive. When changing careers a few times didn’t “fix” the problem in my head, the next series of logical conclusions felt clear:
1) Self-imposed, depression-induced death
2) Changing careers again
3) Trying to do the thing I claimed to be my dream (writing)
Since the first two seemed easiest, I kept entertaining the first option, while keeping my stable 9-5. The latter continuously made me feel worse.
The final straw was a strong belief that I could help no one because I didn’t deserve for people to tell me I was helping them. It went against my prime directive of constantly being in debt to the world. If anyone is counting, at that point I was spinning four plates tied to self-loathing. But I certainly kept pushing myself under the belief that it was easy enough to do.
In another year, my mental state was completely unraveling. I started having panic attacks at work. At first, they were concealable enough. Go to the bathroom, hyperventilate, cry. Rinse and repeat once a day. Then, one happened publicly and intensely. Suddenly it didn’t matter if I was competent at my job, loved my co-workers, or worked 40 to 60 hours a week… I simply could not go on like that.
Here comes the white-girl cliché. I found some answers during a yoga retreat. During every meditation, several questions would not leave me alone. What combined the seedlings of a writer and the answer to my question about suffering? What would help me reach people instantly, so that I can remind myself and them that we are not alone? What could prove to me that I am more than just a living meat-puppet, trying to get through life without ending it prematurely? And whatever all of that was, it had to also include research and writing.
I woke up in the middle of the night (another cliché) with one word on my mind, Mxiety (Marie+Anxiety). Mxiety felt like the personal definition for my constant state of being anxious and depressed while still working very hard to define myself as something other than those illnesses. A means to reach out to those with mental illnesses who were on their journey of self-discovery.
The quilt came together. One square of personal experience, one of compassion sewn to anonymity, a pocket of encouraging friends with similar backgrounds, and apparently what you end up with is a Twitch Stream full of research,with guests to share stories and crafts to keep us less nervous.
Mxiety became a permission to create, to remain resilient to all my mental illness acronyms. To be the light, so to speak, to others with what little torch I was persevering to keep lit for myself. To ensure that one person is informed enough to help another, to be good to another. With a purpose so idealistic, it rises high above anything going on in our minds: Making for a healthier mental illness community. That’s the future of mental illness I hope I help create.
Marie is better known as an Mxiety, a tea drinker, corgi fanatic and serial worrier. Her superpower is reading copious amounts of information and distilling it upon anyone who listens. Will write for food, or best offer. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Youtube, and Instagram.