I am sitting at the table with Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD. I realise that all of these things are part of me, which means that technically I am both a guest at the tableandthe table itself. I am here to remind the other three that I am a bright, kind, lovable force, but they have thoughts of their own.
PTSD is the loudest. He shouts indignantly that he doesn't want to do anything, or it's unsafe to be here. He eggs on anxiety and brings Panic to the table most days. He screams that we can't focus, that I can't trust any men, that I'm stupid, or, or, or!! But he's really just terrified that maybe we aren't as brave or strong as we were told we were.
Anxiety sits jittery in her chair, neurotically picking at her cuticles or twirling her hair.She worries that if we don't do everythingright nowthen we will be a failure for the rest of our lives. She tries to get PTSD to sit down and focus, but she isn't strong enough; instead, she turns and takes it out on me. She tells me that I need to be good enough, to do well in life, and find a better job. But she knows I cannot do all of these things and believes that I will never be good enough. Anxiety disguises herself as responsibility, but really she is just cruel. She knows that the things she is saying are impossible, that they aren't all actually necessary, but she tells me we have to do them anyway. She won't let me rest. She makes my fingers bleed and my hair break.
Depression has sat sulking until now. She chooses a moment when PTSD and Anxiety have weakened me. She says quietly... I have an idea... you wouldn't have to do any of it anymore. PTSD and Anxiety stare silently; they are always shocked when Depression speaks. I look at Depression. I am silent too, hoping I will have the strength to fight back.
Finally, I gather the courage to stand up and shout, THAT IS NOT AN OPTION!
I walk away from the table, feeling a shaky confidence. I hope it lasts. I hope I do not sit down with them again in this way any time soon.
This is what no one tells you about comorbidity. Those who experience it know that the illnesses in your mind talk to one another; they do not exist in silos. I've learned that I cannot attack them separately. I must come at all of them at once. I must find what they whisper to one another when I'm not paying attention. It's been helpful to write because I've found out how they are intertwined. And it's been helpful to talk, to let someone else remind me that these things are notmespeaking, but the others at the table.
That may be the most important thing I've learned: These illnesses are not who I am. These illnesses arepartof me, but they are not who I am. And the same is true for you: You are not your illness.