Can't Keep Calm: What It's Like To Live With Depression And Anxiety

by Shannon Postrion

Growing up, even simple tasks were never easy for me.

I wasn't able to make a decision without compiling a never-ending pros and cons list. Tests were impossible, no matter how well I knew the material, and sleep wasn't achievable without spending hours re-evaluating my life.

At the time, I didn't think anything of these issues, until I realized they were actually affecting my life way more than I thought.

Anxiety didn't come to my attention until I was a freshman in college. I was told about my school's counseling center by my mother, who couldn't handle seeing me as stressed as I was.

Moving away from home for the first time wasn't easy, and it made focusing on school twice as hard. I went to the counseling center two times a week.

One day, I attended a group therapy session with students who were experiencing the same issues as I was. This made me realize I was never really alone.

The therapy sessions helped for the most part, as they forced me to look inward and recognize deep-seated issues I hadn't dealt with before.

My counselor told me staying busy with activities that made me happy was the best way to relieve stress. Starting my days off with a kickass workout and plenty of retail therapy definitely helped take my mind off of whatever was bothering me. I eventually stopped attending therapy sessions because I felt like I had overcome whatever it was that was bothering me.

I was wrong.

Once my schedule became jam-packed with school, work and extracurricular activities, I became more stressed than ever.

The smallest things would trigger all my emotions at once, which resulted in multiple nervous breakdowns. The red flag appeared the day I panicked while taking a test and nearly stopped breathing. As soon as I was done taking the test, I bolted out of the room and ran straight to the counseling center.

Between crying and heavy breathing, my throat tightened to the point where I was gasping for air. The doctor immediately took me in, and he was able to calm me down with some deep breathing exercises.

The doctor pulled up my old files and had me take a written test, which provided everyday situations that I rated, depending on how I would typically react to them. Immediately, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

I had heard of both mental illnesses before, but I didn't know how serious they could be. I was prescribed three types of medication: a daily medication, a medication for whenever my anxiety was triggered and a sleep medication.

The medication helped for a while, and it allowed me to relax during the times that used to give me the most trouble. Things were finally running smoothly, and I was able to take back control of my life.

Medication was a necessary and a helpful tool to help me cope, although I have reached a place where I no longer need to take it.

Anxiety is a ceaseless battle I will probably never fully stop fighting, but I refuse to let it define me.

Without medication, I have taught myself how to cope with my mental illness. While I still stress myself out and find my hands shaking more than they should at times, my anxiety has definitely lessened over the years.

According to my doctor, anxiety typically follows depression. Both mental illnesses are real, and they can drastically affect a person's life. A person cannot overcome these illnesses overnight.

I must prepare my mind every day to face the challenges that come with my mental illness.