Something We All Need to Know About Anxiety and Depression
We'd Stop If We Could
There's patience and time involved if you're trying to stop something you've been doing for years. It doesn't matter if we're talking about smoking, eating chocolate, or any habit.
It's the same thing with perfectionist behaviors and anxiety or depression. We have been told for years that we shouldn't beat ourselves up over stupid little mistakes—everyone makes them, right? Yet there are always those moments where we sit there and kick ourselves relentlessly for some wrong that we perceive ourselves to have made. We try to bounce back and continue on with the business of life, but it's not always so easy.
For people who don't experience anxiety or depression on the same level that someone who has had diagnosable depression and anxiety does, we don't make a whole lot of sense. "You know you've still got to do the job, so why are you still beating yourself up?" might be a question we'd hear.
There's also, "You shouldn't do that," which is probably one of the biggest "no kidding" statements that we encounter on almost a daily basis. We know we shouldn't, but we're working on a better go-to to express how we feel instead of just beating ourselves up.
Friends and family members, those of us with anxiety and depression know what we "shouldn't" do. We should all over ourselves daily, and it's exhausting. Are we learning tools to better cope with our pre-existing conditions? Definitely. Does it help us stop behaviors that had been previously hardwired into our personalities? Not altogether.
Anxiety and depression is not a switch we can flip off or on at will. We are trying to learn to manage our symptoms of it, so we can at least seem what we think of as "normal," but we can't just "stop" at will. The day to day things that you enjoy as normal takes people with anxiety and depression that much more energy to stay focused and for God's sake, stay calm. We know mistakes are daily occurrences, but for us, they're not any easier to take, because we for whatever reason tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard that anyone would have a hard time reaching, let alone ourselves.
There seems to be a belief that if we "mess up"—and it doesn't matter one bit if we are told that it wasn't a "big" mistake, or that it was no big deal—we will disappoint the masses, but the truth of the matter is, the person we're most disappointed with is ourselves. We should've known better, done better or even thought better—that would have saved the day, for sure.
These are thought processes that those of us with anxiety or depression deal with on a daily basis, and it's gutwrenching at times.
Shoulds And What Ifs
We're Not Crazy, We Promise. We Think.
Truthfully, it feels like there's no end to the cycle that we catch ourselves in. We beat ourselves up for some sort of perceived wrong, then our friends try to reassure us that we are okay, and then we try to explain why we're upset, our friends look at us oddly as though they are thinking, "Why are you so upset over a little mistake?" We then feel worse, as though we're wasting our friends' time, and kick ourselves all over again.
It's a cycle, and for many of us, it could take years of conscious effort to resolve. That's years of reminding ourselves to be gentle with ourselves and with each other, battling with our brains to let something go, and refocussing so that we can give our teachers and coaches the continued best we've got. We can and we will get past the voices that keep telling us that we suck, and that we shouldn't have made the mistakes we have, but it takes time.
We aren't like you, and we're going to try and get past the self-recrimination so that we can be the best of who we are for whatever you need us for, but please understand, we can't just turn this off at will. We're learning to manage as best we can, and it is going to take your support, not your curiosity about why we are the way we are.
It'll be worth it.