Living with Dysthymia

I recently made a post describing what it’s like living with social anxiety to educate you all on what people like me have to go through on a regular basis. Now, I want to talk about being dysthymic because I know so few people understand dysthymia and how it affects me.

Dysthymia, also known as chronic/ neurotic depression, is a mood disorder. It affects my mood similarly to the way a person with bipolar disorder switches moods, but dysthymia is most often compared to depression with only a few differences: it’s less severe and the symptoms last longer.

The problem with dysthymia is that it often goes undiagnosed for years at a time. It was at least five years before I was diagnosed in March of last year. By that time, I had already begun to believe what I had been experiencing was a part of who I was as a person. I thought I was the problem.

I knew there was something wrong when, as of last year, I was sleeping about 18 – 20 hours a day and barely eating anything except painkillers. It’s not that I wanted to hurt myself. . . I was just beyond caring.

Symptoms of dysthymia include low energy and a low capacity for pleasure in life. When you have dysthymia, you withdraw into yourself. Friends begun noticing how much I seemed to be avoiding them, because it was easier to be alone. I preferred it; I still do.

Here’s something else you probably didn’t know: 75% of people with dysthymic disorder also have an anxiety disorder, like myself.

Dysthymia is something that comes in waves, and on days like today, I feel more like I’m drowning than floating.

Now that I’m diagnosed, there is only so much I can do. I don’t want to take medication because I’m terrified it will leave me with more the mind of a zombie afterward than I had before. I could take therapy, but I don’t have that kind of money and the therapists at my university don’t have that kind of time. I’d rather they see those who really, really need it.

So what do I do? I distract myself, almost always by retreating into worlds that don’t exist. I read novels about King Henry VIII, I binge-watch shows on Netflix, I write my own poems and stories. . . I do anything to forget how numb I feel sometimes.

Believe it or not, this is actually a relatively healthy way to handle dysthymia. It’s healthier than self-harming or self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. It’s better than continuing my streak of sleeping all day and having a diet consisting of water and Tylenol. It’s better, but it’s not perfect.

Some days, I’m fine. I can smile and laugh and go out with friends and flirt with boys and do whatever I feel like doing. On days like today, I don’t want to leave my room. I try to have a nice, long cry in the shower to help relieve some of the stress I feel, and this usually helps. But it’s never good enough.

The biggest stigma I’ve had to deal with is people, including my several people close to me, telling me I’m okay, that I’m doing this for the attention. As someone with dysthymia, believe me when I say that attention is the last thing in the world I want right now.

1.5% of the world’s population has dysthymia. If you think you have it or know someone who might, please contact a doctor.

Symptoms:

– depressed mood for prolonged periods.
– low self-esteem.
– low energy, tiredness.
– sleep irregularities.
– changes in appetite.
– poor concentration.

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