It has been about three weeks since my husband and I dropped my daughter at college in New England. There was one day out of about 5 that I was extremely anxious on the border of being non-functional. I have bipolar illness and do not travel well and do not do so well outside my daily routine.
Since my husband and I have returned from this trip I have felt depression kicking in and replacing some of my chronic anxiety. I have talked to my therapist about it and am currently exploring whatever linkages there may be causal or correlative between my depression and my anxiety.
Depression has a certain feel. Anxiety has a certain feel as well. I can tell the depression is coming on due to a generalized feeling of dread and a physical expression of being low energy or down in my mood. It is like a wet blanket all over everything. This feeling of depression is very different from my generalized anxiety. With the anxiety there is always something specific that I am worried about. The source of the anxiety has a specific source in mind: Did my daughter find out how to print her assignments? Is my daughter eating well and eating enough? Is she isolating or making friends? Are her finances for groceries in order?
However with the depression there is not such a direct connection to current events that are on-going in my daughter’s collegiate life. Instead, the depression appears to be me re-living my experiences and hardships in college and projecting them onto my daughter. The depression is not so much about what is going on presently and how can I fix it by being a helicopter Mom (stated objective is to move from this helicopter to supportive Mom) as it is a replay or reminder of events from my past that were not fun at all at the time I was in college.
My depression is all about me resurrecting or reliving past experiences that occurred to me and with me in college. During college was when my bipolar started so that may help to explain things.
The depression is a general malaise. The anxiety is tied to specific details of my life or my daughter’s life.
What does this indicate about the relationship between my anxiety and my depression? I have largely been somewhat anxious since I began treatment with clozapine in 2008. I have not really experienced a depressive state since that I can recall at this time. My current struggles from depression have really just started since we got home from dropping my daughter at college.
If the anxiety is generally topic specific, the depression and malaise are generally not so much so. The anxiety is hard to contain and hard not to push onto other people in my life including my husband and my daughter – as if this impacts my boundaries with each of them. The depression for the most part is not so invasive to boundaries as it is something I sit with while those around me continue with their lives.
I keep asking myself which is better and which is worse? If I am imposing my anxiety on others, that feels like a worse way of managing my health than experiencing my depression and allowing those feelings to occur so that feelings and emotions are not so much being projected on those around me. My depression like it or not is mine while the anxiety I experience is a state I extend to others in my life while not meaning to.
So what is the connection if anything between my anxiety and my depression? Is it possible that underlying all those anxious thoughts about school schedules, meal routines, printer access, train trips at Thanksgiving is a generalized experience of depression that is difficult to distance myself from because the depression echoes experiences of depression or uneasiness when I was in college. If I confront my demons about my own college experience more fully, will I be able to stop experiencing and therefore projecting that experience on my daughter in terms of anxiety checklists?
Can I learn to allow my own college experiences to flow through or wash through my emotional registrars and stand up and say: This was not a good time in my life (for reasons explored in other posts) and I do not wish this on anyone including my college aged daughter. If I can release these depressive experiences as I relive them on my daughter’s college timeline, can I be less likely to project my specific anxieties on my daughter? Is the depression the root cause of the anxieties? Or do they just co-occur? If I finally came to terms with what happened to me during my college years, would I be less likely to project worries upon my daughter or to extend checking behaviors to her.
Bottom line is that I did not feel safe when I was in college (for a variety of reasons outlined in other posts). Now some 40 years later can I just own the fact that I felt unsafe and that I currently do feel safe more or less. If I can recognize that safety is an issue of the past and not so much of the present, will there be less room for that litany of anxious thoughts about this and that specific thing to occur?