“You don’t know why you’re exhausted? You’re fighting a war inside your head every single day. If that’s not exhausting I don’t know what is.”
I have anxiety and depression. Oh, and I have also suffered burn out, a few times.
It has taken me a long time to rid myself of the shame of having anxiety and depression. Shame is counterproductive, especially when you use it to hold yourself hostage to an issue that can wreak havoc with your life. I still carry a little around with me, I haven’t fully embraced this aspect of myself - I still see it as a shadow part.
I have always been proud of my strength, focus and determination. I was the person who willed myself into a legal career - through sheer hard work and determination. When something felt difficult or too hard, I pushed through it and steamrolled myself to success.
I’ve probably always had depression, with anxiety lurking underneath and I was on the road to burn out ever since I was 8 years old - when I made the decision that my self-worth was tied inextricably to career success, academic achievement, awards, accolades and gold stars.
Being diagnosed almost six years ago was a relief in some ways, and a burden in others.
Depression and anxiety feels different for everyone who suffers from it. As I have a tendency towards burn out as well, I can experience big mood swings - so that one moment I’m “me” - capable, organised, attentive, happy - and a few hours or days later I can feel so low that I am teary, exhausted and need to let go of all responsibility.
My anxiety is not severe, but it has caused me to have two huge panic attacks which saw me go to emergency. It also makes me want to plan, structure and ‘control’ most aspects of my life. And it doesn’t like ‘bad’ feelings - when a ‘negative’ feeling comes over me, I want to get rid of it as fast as possible, as I’m scared that the feeling will hang around.
Many highly intelligent people who have high expectations of themselves suffer from anxiety and depression. Maybe being super perceptive of the world around you, and personalising all of the social and cultural rules, conditions and barometers of success becomes overwhelming.
Perhaps the nagging feeling that you do have the skills and abilities to create a big, impressive, magnificent life is just too tempting to ignore and then the inevitable realisation that you are a human being after all, with highs and lows, deep feelings and contradictions, successes and losses - does not fit into the ideal you have set up.
Maybe it's a combination of many things - genetics, early experiences, chemical make-up, self-perceptions, sensitivity, personality etc.
Whatever the factors – anxiety and depression are part of my life, and it is one of my challenges to learn to accept these aspects of myself and look for the positive things they bring to my experience such as growth, compassion. empathy and being the catalyst for self reflection and deeper understanding..
The more I can accept who I am, learn about how anxiety and depression affects me even today, and be open about my experience, the easier it becomes. And this is still a work in progress…..
Amanda is a (reformed) lawyer turned holistic life coach, self-care advocate, workshop facilitator, writer, speaker, avid reader, nature lover, chai tea drinker and mother to a curious, active toddler. A spirit seeker who loves connecting with others on journeys of self-discovery, Amanda believes we can all find our own version of success and live an empowered life.