Head sinks into a pillow soaked with tears
Heartbeat’s thumping in my ears
Body is tense
I can feel every muscle in my body contracting
Nothing makes sense anymore
In this present moment I’m reliving past pain
And tormenting myself with worry of the future
Drowning in overwhelming sadness
Longing for the courage to end it all
This pattern is seemingly so senseless and repetitive
I wonder, why do I continue to torture myself this way?
I’ve studied, I’ve prayed
I’ve prepared for this kind of moment
Time and time again
Yet it comes, often without warning
And the will to fight it fades
The thoughts come stampeding through
Trampling over every positive affirmation I’ve tattooed on my heart
I should talk to somebody, reach out for help
But I don’t
Because I feel like a burden, like an afterthought
So much hurt and pain in the world
People with “real” problems and concerns
And, I’m over here waging a war against my own thoughts
The stress I feel, pumping like blood through my veins
It all began with a thought
A lie disguised as truth
An uninvited guest
It’s come to visit before
Maybe, I should have saw it coming
Yesterday was a good day
I showed up, I smiled, I laughed
Nobody noticed the pain in my eyes
Nobody noticed the strain in my voice
Nobody heard my silence
The people who love me, the people who care
They didn’t see it
They couldn’t sense that something was wrong
And in that moment of recognizing this
I felt more alone and disconnected than ever before
After countless cycles of tossing and turning
I sit up in bed and close my eyes
And proceed to take deep breaths
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat
I push myself to reset my mind
I center my attention on something positive
I think of only this
And in that moment, I begin to calm
(Extended excerpt from “Uninvited Guest” – Let’s Be Real: The Secrets of My Soul Exposed by Kezia Arterberry)
I share this excerpt from a poem in my latest book, Let’s Be Real, because I believe it paints an authentic picture of my struggle with anxiety and depression. This poem was written a few years ago, but it depicts what anxiety and depression often looks like for me.
Anxiety and depression does not always look the same for everybody. It varies. In the same way that – we all have different trauma and triggers and different perceptions and responses.
I’m no stranger to sharing about my personal experiences and journey to managing my own stress, anxiety and depression on this blog. I share my experiences and story along with tips and strategies, in hope that I can empower, inspire and remind someone going through a similar experience that they are not alone. And, the tips and strategies that I have shared and will continue to share, are usually things that I have done or am doing myself that have been helpful OR that I’ve learned, or witnessed with my clients over the year, as I have been in the behavior health field for a little over 5 years now.
Moment of transparency..
During the 5 years that I have worked in the behavior health field, I have had the opportunity to work with adults with serious mental illness, at-risk youth, many who have a history of trauma, and adults with co-occurring SMI and substance abuse. The “non-secret” is that the 5 years I’ve worked in the field, have not been worked consecutively.
After 4 and 1/2 years, I took a “break.” However, that “break” was unintentional. My intention was, I was done and did not want to work in this field ever again. I was burnt out and ready for something completely different. During my break, I WFH at a call center in the health field. I was still helping people but… I was not destined to stay. I worked that job for 3 years, things realigned and I landed back in behavior health field as a behavior health case manager. Yeah!
We all experience stress, anxiety and depression – but there’s levels to this thing! Stress, anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, low self-esteem etc… They are all UNINVITED GUESTS and they like to knock on our doors.
When I tell you I had no intention of going back, I mean that! I was done – done, because, I was legit afraid of not being able to handle working in such a high stress environment, when I was struggling to manage my own stress, anxiety and at times, depression! It’s was too hot for me to handle! Soo, I quit.
Before I quit, I was showing up. I was putting forth my best effort. Until I no longer wasn’t. Eventually, I became overwhelmed and then burnt out. I started to slack, take days off work just to rest, I lacked motivation, I complained all the time, and honestly, I was just unhappy with the environment I was working in. Before I left, I realized that the motivating factors that kept me there as long as I was, no longer had anything to do with the job I was there to do. That’s when I knew it was time to go.
As time as passed, I have learned a lot more about myself as it relates to my personal mental health and wellness journey. And I mean A LOT. Something I learned more recently is that a lot of what I have experienced over the years, and even over the past month and a half is something, I really don’t hear discussed as frequently…
As the conversation on mental health awareness and ending the stigma expands (YAY!), when it comes to anxiety and depression specifically, I’ve heard a lot about anxiety and depression, what it is, what it looks like, how we can manage it etc. However, I haven’t heard so much about high functioning anxiety and high functioning depression.
High-functioning anxiety is commonly described as an individual who experiences anxiety and still manages their daily life well. High-functioning depression is commonly described as an individual who experiences depression and still completes daily obligations. For example, person A (Jack) and person B (Jill) are both depressed.
On Monday, Jack doesn’t get out of bed, doesn’t shower, has low mood, low energy, lacks appetite, and has been having trouble sleeping. Jack has not been able to work lately and has begun seeing a psychiatrist for medication management and has received a letter of disability to provide to his employer. Jack will remain on leave until he is ready to return to work. For Jack, every day for the past few weeks has looked a lot like Monday. Jack has recognized his need for additional support and has sought out professional help and hopes to go back to work and engage in social activities like before.
Jill is depressed too. However, on Monday, Jill wakes up at 5:30am, after hitting snooze several times prior, showers, eats breakfast, drives to work, and clocks in for her shift at 8am. Jill socializes with her coworkers, laughs and smiles, and works hard – doing their very best! For Jill, every day for the past few weeks have looked just like Monday!
Jill’s coworkers and family have no idea that every now and then, Jill leaves her shared-office and will spend a few minutes in the restroom stall just to have a few isolated moments to… breathe. Jill goes straight home after work, every day, and most days she crawls into bed and cries herself to sleep. On a better day, Jill might ditch the bed and instead, will spend hours on the coach, watching movies and show because for Jill, it is a distraction from reality, thoughts and emotions or something from her past she’d much rather forget.
Jill has been struggling with suicidal ideation. She has also been experiencing a bit of social anxiety, so Jill has started ordering groceries online because shopping in a crowded store like Wal-Mart has become too overwhelming for her, to where she feels like she’s on the verge of a panic attack just from walking through the store. Overall, Jill is able to function, manage her life, and complete daily living skills without support.
Often times, it’s easier to recognize when someone is struggling and may be experiencing anxiety or depression like Jack versus someone like Jill. Those who can relate to Jill often blend in, in the sense that, objectively, they may appear just like someone who is NOT, at that time, experiencing anxiety or depression. But the reality is that, although it’s not as visually or audibly obvious to others, they can be struggling to manage anxiety and/or depression all the same.
I share this post for two reasons:
Firstly, I can relate to Jill. Many days, I feel like Jack, but every day, I show up as Jill. I show up, I function, I take care of business, but when I get a moment alone or when I get home after a stressful day, I sometimes feel very much like Jack. But, what I’d like to highlight is that – Not only is it challenging for the individual who is experiencing the anxiety or depression first hand, but it can also be challenging for their loved ones also!
Secondly, I want help create more awareness because for as long as I’ve been in the field.. Honestly, I have not thought about or really studied as much on the high-functioning aspect of anxiety or depression. It wasn’t until I began working my current job where I really comprehended the fact that while there are many individuals who are living on social security disability and are not working anymore for mental health reasons, there are also many individuals who ARE going to work every day, raising their children, supporting their families, running one or multiple of their own business but are still struggling too!
What I am learning from my own mental health journey and as I help others with theirs is that while we may wish to ban these uninvited guests from our lives for good, it does not always work that way. In those cases, the key to survival is management. Stress-management, managing anxiety, and managing depression. The better we are at managing it, the better quality of life we can have overall.
I was afraid to start working in the behavior health field again, but I’m here. And, I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be. My prayer is that God will give me the strength and capability to manage my stress, anxiety and depression (I’m working on it 😜) in a way that will allow me to continue to show up and make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Just a friendly reminder to all – check on your quiet AND your loud family and friends, and your introverted AND your extroverted family and friends. You never know what someone may be going through. A quick text or call to check in can go a long way.
2 thoughts on “The Uninvited Guests: When Anxiety and Depression Knock”
This is a moving and honest post about the author’s struggle with anxiety and depression, and their journey to manage it. It is important to recognize that anxiety and depression can take different forms, including high-functioning anxiety and depression, and to check on loved ones who may be silently struggling. Thank you for sharing your story and creating awareness.