The brilliantly talented, insightful and always frank Viv Vermaak has perfectly summed up the feelings of so many people in South Africa (and the world) who suffer from anxiety and depression. Responding to Viv’s words, posted Tuesday morning, one parent said “you wrote this today for my daughter, who is very dear to my heart. Thank you❤️”. The gratitude of so many who relate has been pouring in – “Thank you Viv for putting in to words what many of us fail to have the ability to do” said one. “Thanks so much for being one of us… Your honesty is truly liberating,” said another.
With her kind permission, here is Viv’s raw and honest description of a life lived with anxiety and depression:
SUICIDAL DEPRESSION VS CRIPPLING ANXIETY. AHHHH, THE AGONY OF CHOICE……
I never knew which one was worse, until a few weeks ago. We have a winner! The anxiety is definitely worse.
The thing with depression is that I always feel I sort of ‘deserve’ it. That is just how one should feel when you fuck up your life like this. Like you are paying penance for bad mistakes. And that shame and guilt that is part of depression become its own salve.’ You are beating yourself with a big stick, wondering when that stick will become a gun or an overdose.
And you don’t want to live, but you’re not sure how to die, because you might fuck that up as well and end up eating soup through a straw via your ear because you panicked at the last minute and didn’t shoot straight.
So you drag your alcohol doused sorry ass to that meeting, that jiu-jitsu class and that braai. And you smile. You write that story. You press that button. You show up because maybe there is hope.
Did you know you release endorphins and other feel-good hormones when experience certain emotions, which could include ‘hope’ or ‘gratitude’ or ‘guilt.’ And that brief glimmer of hope delivers your drugs to your brain and you carry on.
Depression, when enjoyed properly, can be an insightful journey and an interesting mixture of brainly chemicals.
Anxiety has no feel-good drugs. The sheer physical intensity of it is what makes it worse. There is no hope. There is no self-reflection. Just terror.
It feels like you have been sentenced to the electric chair for a crime you did not understand you had committed, but instead of hitting the switch at ‘full speed’ and getting it over with, the sadistic bastards put the chair on ‘medium’ for 2 weeks.
Fear. Horror. Dread. And shaking. You physically shake. Your skin feels weird like there is an ominous tingling to it. And you can’t think. You can’t make decisions. You can’t breathe. Something as simple and automatic as breathing (we do it in our sleep, goddammit) becomes an effort. You are certain you are going to have a heart attack or a stroke. It feels terminal.
At night, you are afraid to go to sleep because what if you have a heart attack in your sleep or die because you forgot to breathe? But eventually, you do fall asleep. And when you wake up you are not dead. And you are a bit disappointed.
A few weeks ago I had it bad while driving to work. I had to start consciously breathing – every breath for two hours. Every time you change the gears, it is an effort. Every car hooter startles you and every decision is excruciating.
“I shouldn’t drive in this condition,” I thought, “But if I stop this car now, I will never have the courage to get back in again.”
At certain times, it felt as if my ‘soul’ departed from my body for a brief second and then came back. Terrifying. I guess the devil didn’t want my life either.
On that day, as I was stuck in peak-hour traffic on the M2, I was convinced I was going to die. I thought. “One of two things is going to happen in the next hour. I am either going to live or I am going to die. Each option is as ghastly and as wonderful as the other. It’s that simple.”
So you swing yourself out of bed, wide-eyed and barefooted. And you march into the abyss, screaming.
[This post is not a cry for help. You cannot help me. If possible, can you also avoid giving ‘advice.’ I know what my options are. I am just writing this shit down because that is what I do. I write stuff down. To other people who experience these waves of depression and anxiety – I hear your silent screams.]
If you are feeling sad, anxious or depressed – you can contact:
Suicide Crisis Line: 0800 567 567
SADAG Mental Health Line: 011 234 4837