“What we’re going to do is lower the oxygen concentration in there to the exact point you feel like you’re suffocating. If your brain waves slow, meaning you’re about to pass out, then we’ll turn up the O2. If your heart rate slows, meaning you’re able to catch your breath, we’ll turn it back down. And that’s where we’ll leave you. Right there.”
——— Francis, Deadpool
Anxiety and depression are often talked about under the same mental illness umbrella. Having both is one of the most common mental illness combinations anyone could have, so that’s hardly surprising. Yet the two illnesses are vastly different. I’ve used this quote from Deadpool to explain how it feels to have an anxiety attack – the sensation of feeling far too much all in one go, rather than the crippling numbness that depression gives you.
Two nights ago, I had an anxiety attack as I was trying to sleep. Nothing brought it on, and it went away eventually and I was able to get a great nights sleep, yet at the time, I felt as though I was suffocating. It was as though I had just been told the cave I was standing in was about to collapse – not that I was being crushed, but the impending fear of being crushed was enough to feel as though I was being. I felt restless, as though I had to physically fight my way out of the feelings of anxiety. That I would have to kick my way out, to expend the excess energy my brain was supplying the rest of my body. Whenever I’m struggling with anxiety, movement has always been a way of working through the emotion, partly as a necessity, but also as a coping mechanism. Imagine, trying to fall asleep with the insatiable feeling of needing to kick, punch, run as hard as you can in order to dull the irrational emotions building up in your head?
My first instinct was to pull my spare blanket over me. It’s beautifully heavy, and usually brings me comfort. However, during this particular anxiety attack, I fully realised the difference in the way that depression and anxiety externalise themselves.
The thought of covering myself in a weighted blanket was horrifying. Already struggling to breathe, this idea filled me with dread, terrified that the weight would further impede my ability to breathe. Yet when I’m feeling low and vulnerable, this blanket is one of the only things that can relax me.
Having both depression and anxiety is a ridiculous contradiction, yet one so often gone unrealised. I hadn’t fully realised myself until recently, and I hope this explanation goes some way to understanding for all of you readers.