My stress, depression, and anxiety have now merged to form a new and exciting phenomenon: Stredepranxiety. (Yes, I did take longer than probably necessary to come up with that word. Thanks for noticing!)
What is stredepranxiety, you ask?
It’s when stress builds up to such a degree as to trigger a depressive episode, which is also sprinkled with periods of anxiety. Sometimes, the anxiety is about the stress and depression. Sometimes, the stress is about the anxiety and depression. And sometimes, the depression is about the stress and anxiety. Wahoo! It’s a non-stop fun-fest that just keeps on self-perpetuating. Welcome to the party.
While mental health is no joke, sometimes I just need to joke about it anyway.
The truth is, it’s been a pretty rough… oh, I don’t know, two years for me?—emotionally speaking. I struggled with antepartum and postpartum depression, and then just regular depression (which has been pretty consistently part of my life since I was a teenager, but I’m more aware of it and able to label it these days). Anxiety has been a struggle on and off as well. As a teenager and young adult, it was social anxiety. Now as an adult, it’s been more of a general anxiety, and it’s not severe but it is nagging and annoying.
Stress is just a part of life, and mom-life is no exception. Kids need a lot, and it can be stressful and exhausting to meet all of those needs day-in and day-out, often with little to no breaks. The auditory overstimulation alone is enough to make me want to scream into a pillow most days.
Recently, my stress has also been through the roof because of huge life changes that I’m going through. Mainly, separating from my husband and figuring out what our new lives look like both individually and as a family. But also, being by my boyfriend’s side as he goes through a much more emotionally volatile divorce of his own. Watching the person you love be verbally and emotionally abused and being able to do nothing to stop it is extremely stressful and painful.
Being in a new relationship with RJ and experiencing all of the ups and downs of falling in love and learning each other is stressful enough (even if most if it is good stress), but doing that while simultaneously navigating the ends of both of our marriages has been a lot. Doing all of that while also living an hour and a half apart and managing our children and other responsibilities—well, it’s taken its toll for sure. I’m stressed, no way around that.
When stress overwhelms me, I get depressed. And usually when I’m depressed, I alternate between mostly feeling down, sad, tired, and hopeless—typical “depressed” feelings—and feeling anxious.
When I feel anxious, I tend to find things or tasks to fixate on, and get extremely irritable when I’m interrupted from those tasks. I do a lot of “problem-solving,” organizing, and scheming in my anxiety. Which doesn’t sound too bad, to be honest, but the problem is that those things don’t really take away the anxious feelings. I need constant distraction, and when I’ve run out of problems to solve and things to organize and schemes to plan, then I end up watching TikTok for hours or trying to find some other meaningless thing to do. Which of course, still doesn’t help. I feel restless and that something is wrong or I’m forgetting something. I don’t feel at peace.
The worst thing right now is that my depression is consistently reaching levels that I’ve only felt a few times before in my life, prior to the last year and a half. It used to be rare that I had “not interested in continuing living” feelings, but now it’s a pretty frequent occurrence.
To be clear, there is a big difference between “not interested in continuing living” and “planning to discontinue living.” I am zero percent planning to discontinue living. I have kiddos and parents and a boyfriend and husband (weird sentence) who all need me to stay living. So.
But anyway, the feelings are there and they suck.
There’s a lot of reasons I could give for feeling this way. Such as, my life has taken a completely different path than originally planned and that’s scary and makes me question what’s the point of anything. Yeah, it’s a bit of a spiral that doesn’t really make much sense, but there you have it.
There’s also a big fear I have of “never being happy.” Whatever that means! Basically, I sometimes question whether I can be consistently happy on a big picture level. I don’t mean that every day has to be great, but just that the average day is more happy than not. It’s absolutely not quantifiable, which makes it a fantastic measuring stick for the valuable-ness of my life. *sarcasm*
I have days where I feel content and happy. I have moments in my days where I feel sparks of joy and excitement and positive things like that. But I also feel that many of my days currently are more characterized by feeling worn out, listless, and unexcited about life. Worse are the days when I feel those dull waves of sadness or sharp spikes of despair throughout the day. There are still pockets of happiness throughout my days and weeks, but it’s hard for me to tell if they outweigh the sadness.
One thing that scares me the most is the thought that I’ve tried so many different things to find happiness, and I always just end up back at depression station. A narrative I have in my head right now is that I just blew up my entire life for the sake of trying to find happiness, and I’m now worse off than before. I was content in my life, but now everything is a mess and I’ve ruined everything.
Is this narrative based in reality? No. Is it still in my head? Yup.
The reality check I need to give myself is this:
I didn’t blow up my life. I have made changes in the pursuit of living more genuinely as myself, and those changes have been successful. I am on the right path. I was living a good life, but it wasn’t a full life. I am in a season of challenges as I navigate these changes, but overall I am in a better place in terms of my life trajectory and potential for happiness than I was a year ago. I haven’t ruined anything. My kids are happy and healthy, my relationship with Cory is positive, I’m in a good spot financially, and I have a bright future. I’m madly in love with RJ. We’re extremely happy when we’re together. We’re planning a beautiful life and future together, and what we found with each other is worth all of the difficulties and stress that we are currently facing. There is more peace and joy and a life very much worth living on the other side of this, and we are going to get there together.
Until then, I’ll just be here, slogging through my stredepranxiety one day at a time.