By Aiden Merchant
All my life, I have dealt with people who do not understand depression or anxiety. They’ve said I was faking. They’ve said I was being over dramatic. They’ve said I was just looking for attention or trying to get out of work. But if you are someone who suffers from a mental health disorder, then you know it is often a chemical imbalance that may have nothing to do with what’s going on in your life. Things could be going fine, and yet you’re sad and clinging to darkness. You have no control over it or when it comes.
Depression hit me hard in high school and followed me into adulthood. I’m in my thirties now – with a supportive wife and a wonderful daughter – and I still have my days where I feel like nothing will make me happy. But with age, my depression has been mostly replaced by severe anxiety. It’s cost me several jobs in the last couple years, making me too scared to return to work for one reason or another. My father had the same issue as a teacher, and eventually retired early as a result. When my anxiety is bad, it feels like I have a hive of bees in my chest. I get flashes of heat around my heart and lungs. I feel an inner tremble that rattles my teeth. My mind races and overworks my emotional responses, even when I’m aware of it and wish it to stop. I try to calm down, but usually can’t unless I go to sleep. Isolation doesn’t even help, unless I’m lucky enough to divert my attention onto something else (which is extremely difficult).
Luckily, there are things that can help your mental health. I’m not going to talk about drugs, because I personally don’t care for them (having tried many over the years). However, there are activities – often creative – that work as wonderful outlets. For me, it’s writing. I don’t necessarily have to write myself onto the page for it to help, either (though I often do to some degree). Others paint or draw. Photography can ease the mind, help you appreciate the beauty around you; I’m pretty bad at it, but love it. My point is, look for your outlet if you don’t already have one. It’s not always going to be easy to use it – sometimes I really struggle to get myself onto the computer to write – but it’s worth the effort. Don’t let your disorder get the better of you!
Aiden Merchant is an independent author of several collections and novelettes. He is also a sub-editor for Black Dogs, Black Tales, a new charity anthology for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.
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