Earlier this week, on April 14, I sat down to do my taxes. Yes, just one day before they were due. I won’t lie; I’ve benefitted from some major life privilege, and my parents have paid for my taxes to be filed through the same accountant who does theirs for the entirety of my life. Up until this year that is. And wow – did I not handle it with the grace of a mature responsible adult. I let my anxiety and irrational fear of doing it wrong, getting audited, owing the government money, and even worst case scenario, going to jail for tax fraud, completely wipe away my motivation. I am 100% aware that the extreme of these don’t make sense for someone with barely enough money coming in to stay afloat, but I couldn’t help it. My brain had decided that any attempt I made at doing my taxes, or even gathering the required documents, would get me in some sort of trouble with the IRS. Therefore any time I even thought about it, my chest tightened, my brain started detaching itself from reality, and I would frantically look for a way to distract myself from the feeling I was about to get. Because once the panic starts to set in, the self-humiliation slides right in through that open door. The anxiety makes it hard enough to stay productive, but once that small terrible depression voice picks up volume I can barely function on the most basic levels.
Whoever first came up with the metaphor of a spiral to describe the anxiety and depression cycle really understood what I deal with. I get so deep in the endless swirl of terror and self-hate that I even despise myself for letting it knock me off track. The lies say that I’m just using the common mental-health ailments as an excuse for my laziness and lack of responsibility. I’m not really anxious or depressed, I’ll think, I’m just a piece of shit who only wants to live the easy and good parts of life. I know the truth, and I’m well aware that I’m a mostly functional member of society.
I AM NOT A PIECE OF SHIT.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
I repeat these mantras over and over again because I’m aware that my mental health is trying to strangle me. But getting the rational side of my brain to drown out the irrational, rapid-firing synapses is much more difficult than the reverse. Obviously, I’m able to figure out how to overcome it, at least enough to fake my way through the adult-ing and get my taxes filed. Because honestly, this doesn’t just happen to me during tax season, it’s woven through every manner of grown-up obligation I have. The word adult scares me so much I can barely see straight. I’m not sure when adult-ing and anxiety became such close friends in my world, but here we are. Some people call it “Executive Dysfunction” but that sounds so clinical to me. Like I just need to find the right coping mechanism or organizational system and all will be magically fixed.
To be clear, I don’t have a solution. I’m scraping by the best I can, and this is not an advice blog from someone all whole and healed. My goal in putting this out there is two-fold. Firstly, it is selfish. For me, this is a type of therapy, moving the spiraling thoughts from inside my brain to words on a page helps slow the racing of my heart and view things slightly clearer. Secondly, it is in the hopes that someone else who is also suffering might read this and feel less alone. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for how you deal with some of your adult-ing, anxiety, or depression battles that you’d like to share. Maybe then we’ll all feel a little less like failures. The struggle is real, but there are other people who are surviving it, and that gives me courage.