Defining "Normal" when Depression and Anxiety is Lifelong
I've been officially diagnosed as clinically depressed twice in my life --
once when I was in third grade and again in my third year of university. I don't remember anything about that first diagnoses (being ten and all) nor do I remember much of the therapy and counseling my parents enrolled me in.
Until my first year of university, I had no idea that life was not actually meant to be really shitty all the time. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I assumed that the problems I was experiencing were normal. I thought binge eating until you were sick was normal. I thought that picking at your scabs or fingernails or face until your skin was red and raw was normal. I thought coming home from school completely and utterly exhausted and then sleeping for twelve hours a night was normal. These habits have been a part of me for as long as I can remember -- they were my type of normal.
The danger of being a lifelong depressed and anxious person means that you can struggle to identify the signs of your own declining mental health. If everything you do is "normal" then how are you supposed to identify what are particularly unhealthy behaviours or thought patterns? Since a lot of these behaviours have been ingrained over decades, it's incredibly difficult for me to dig myself out of this pit of depression even with the help of medication, counseling, and an amazing support system.
Half of the battle for me is becoming more informed about symptoms of mental health problems, and the other half is becoming more aware of my body and its reactions to stress. Some days the battle is easy, but others are an uphill slog the whole way ... in which case, it's often best to find some great people to drag you up that hill with them.