Month: March 2017

The Physicality of Mental Illness

While the constant lack of knowledge surrounding mental illness in today’s society never ceases to surprise me, what really gets to me is how almost no one understands the PHYSICAL effects of them on the body.

I am pretty open with my close friends about my anxiety and depression.  If I’m having a bad day they can usually read it on me.  Or I’ll straight up tell them.  But for those in my life that I don’t quite feel like spilling all the beans to, I imagine sometimes my behaviors and complaints can seem unwarranted or whiny.

When I’m going through a rough streak with my depression (especially in the winter) my entire body aches constantly.  I feel like I’m 80 years old.  Standing for long periods of time is utterly exhausting and hurts my legs.  My joints protest when I move too quickly or bend down.  I go through periods of binge eating everything in sight, or eating one cereal bar for an entire day.  I get headaches in the back of my head 3-4 times a week.  And whenever I get out of bed in the morning afternoon and place my feet on the ground, I can physically feel the weight of the world pressing down on me through the soles of my feet.  Whether I set my alarm to wake me up at an appropriate time after 8 hours of sleep, fall into a coma for 12 hours, or hardly sleep at all during the night, I am tired.

I am always

tired.

But it’s beyond the point of just being tired like you had a late night doing homework.  I can barely function without coffee as is, but if I don’t get some into my system within the hour, I’ll be falling asleep the next moment my butt hits a chair or I lean up against something.

It’s a kind of alien exhaustion that I feel threading through my veins like a slow-working, liquid poison.

Now depending on the day, this is not all that happens to my body.  When anxiety strikes, it strikes hard.  And if depression is ice, freezing me in place and slowing my movements, anxiety is fire and my entire body is kindling.  My chest hurts because my heart wants to escape my ribcage.  My hands and fingers shake.  My brain thinks it’s trying to win the next Daytona 500.  I get nauseous.  And there go my fingernails.  Again.

Of course these are not the only effects of these mental illnesses on the body.  They are simply the ones I am familiar with.  Others deal heavily with weight loss/gain, heart disease, a weakened immune system, etc. There is so much to these diseases and I will not pretend to be an expert and minimize others experiences.

When I make open-hearted posts like these on a tiny little blog that I post in about two times a year, I am not trying to cry out for attention.  I am not trying to get the few people that read this to pity me (I’d hate nothing more, actually).  I’m just trying to raise awareness.  The more time I spend in college and the more people I talk to, I realize that the grasp of mental illness has a tight hold on many of my peers.  It’s an epidemic, really.  One that does not have the proper education or medication to make any real efforts against combatting it respectable.

Here are some links on how depression and anxiety affect the body, if you would like to further educate yourself.

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/effects-on-body

http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/depression_and_heart_disease

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/anxiety_and_physical_illness

http://www.webmd.com/depression/how-depression-affects-your-body#1