By: Maya Kachroo-Levine
- You shy away from sex.
Putting your body on display is natural and alarmingly unnatural at the same time. If you have ever been remotely self-conscious about how you look, disrobing can coax all of those feelings back into your head. Getting fully undressed means showcasing your extra skin, scars or love handles that you hide beneath your shirt. (Alternately, if your anxiety or depression has eaten away at your flesh, your frailty is exposed, and your protruding hipbones are all too noticeable.) You don’t crave sex the way you once did because you’re unwilling to put yourself through the mental repercussions, even for the physical benefits.
- You need control.
Not in a Stalin-esque way, but in a way that you feel helpless and need to be in control of something. Mental illness makes you feel as though you lack control over your life. It makes you feel like you can’t control your own mind. So you try desperately to cling to the little, insignificant things you have power over, so you’ll have the satisfaction of being in control of something.
- You constantly question your happiness.
Is happiness even an option for you? You wonder if there’s a possibility that you won’t be able to find happiness, because genetically your brain will not allow it. You fear the depression that’s been passed through your family. You are unsure whether it’s something to do with nature, or nurture. You search for the internal changes that you might need to make. You falter, because you don’t know if you’re capable of making those changes.
- You push away things that you know will make you feel good.
You’ve lost interest in the things you used to enjoy. Going out. Playing sports. Having good conversation. Flirting. Having sex.
You are frustrated by the decline in your sex life, and are even more concerned because you can’t explain it to yourself or your partner. You’ll try to deny that there’s a problem, but you know there’s a reason you don’t want someone to make you feel good. You know there’s a reason your body stiffens at the thought of intimacy. If you’re depressed and guarded, or even in a prolonged rut, you push away something that you know will bring you pleasure. You deprive yourself.
- Death and general discord scare you.
To the point that watching something disturbing on television can really shake you up. When you hear about family tragedies, or an invasion in Palestine, the pain of those suffering becomes your pain. You hear of someone’s daughter who died too young and become terrified that could happen to you. You cry for her family, even if you never knew them.
- You have your own rules for how you associate with others.
You’re reserved when you don’t need to be. Guarded, even though you want to be carefree. You have trouble letting people in because you’re wary of them. You create your own rules for what you can and cannot say freely because if the conversation ends on a bad note, you’ll blame yourself.
You perceive any flawed situation or animosity as your fault. It gives you an excuse to disapprove of yourself. If one more thing is your fault then that’s one more thing to stoke the fire of your self-loathing.
- You feel inadequate.
You constantly talk down to yourself, and do not believe that you could ever be the one to pursue their dreams. You fear that you’re not good at school, or your current job. You’re not a good enough sister, or brother, or friend, or companion. You want to do something about it but cannot find the motivation. You would rather be perceived as lazy than let your feelings show.
- You’re a space cadet.
You loose your train of thought and trail off in the middle of a conversation. When your anxiety sets in your thoughts start to rush and you’re completely distracted from what you were just saying because your thoughts are suddenly moving too quickly. You literally stop speaking because there’s an unexplained pit forming in your stomach and the thoughts in your head no longer match up with the thoughts that are coming out of your mouth.
- You cling to people who care for you.
You become addicted to the comfort one person provides. When you find one person who makes you feel whole, or at least makes you feel less broken, you keep coming back for that feeling. That person could be a friend, a significant other, a family member, anyone really. You find that their presence, or even hearing their voice on the phone grounds you.
- You push away the people who care for you.
If #9 doesn’t apply to you, it’s because you push away anyone who could possibly bring you comfort. You don’t want their comfort. You don’t need it. You do not want to face your mental illness, nor do you want to put the burden on others. You push the people that can help you away, because you know that to really accept their help, you’d have to feel so much pain and it terrifies you. You don’t want to feel that pain. You don’t want to feel anything at all.