In this post, I am exploring the relationship between anxiety and depression. I originally thought that most people either experience anxiety OR depression, but I have been corrected that this is not always the case. A large percentage of people with depression also experience anxiety.
My therapist has told me in her opinion anxiety and depression are often two sides of the same coin. I am using this post to explore that concept. This post is a work in progress.
Since becoming an empty nester in the last several weeks, I find my old friend depression to be creeping in. I have been wondering how this depression relates to chronic anxiety. As an FYI, I manage bipolar illness and have for more than half of my life.
Yesterday, my husband and I catalogued and bundled five or six huge garbage bags of my daughter’s old clothes. Going through them and bundling them for GoodWill felt both depressing and productive at the same time. The process reminded me of going through belongings after my father died. It was a time of great loss and also a time to look forward to a better day as he had been ill for quite some time.
I suppose getting my daughter’s items together for GoodWill meant that a part of my relationship with her was going away forever. That is the Mom role taking care of all the details for my daughter. There is loss associated with letting go of the hovering Mom even though I am 100% sure it is the healthy thing for me to do as well as what is healthy for her. She is soon to be 19 and very able to manage things in her life that I used to (and still do at times) worry about.
The idea that all these sweaters, and pants and shirts and skirts will have a second life at GoodWill once purchased by a new owner is a reminder to me that my daughter also is embarking on a new chapter in her life. As her belongings move to new owners, so too is her life migrating to a new phase where she and I will continue to relate but relate differently. I will not manage her life so much as support her emotionally and financially. I am learning to do this but am not a pro at it yet (at all). Perhaps as I experience the loss, there will be more room for experiencing the joy of her moving forward in her life with this critical milestone.
The depression I feel is that I am losing the child I have worked so hard to raise. There is sadness in letting go. There is anxiety in letting go. I need to let myself experience the sadness and the sorrow and the anxiety of her moving from one phase in her life – childhood – to another phase in her life – young adulthood.
Clearly there are related joys and moments of extreme happiness that also accompany this transition. My daughter is embarking on a journey of higher education, deliberate self-management and self-initiated problem solving as she maneuvers these first several weeks and months in college. My husband and I are in effect setting her free.
However, I am not quite feeling celebratory yet. I am still in the remembering and experiencing the loss phase of things.
I think perhaps loss can be attributed to a child leaving home for the first time. There is a kind of loss that is similar to loss when someone dies though not so dire and not so extreme. I believe that if I can learn to grieve that loss, I will be more able to embrace the positive developments and positives sides of this lifetime transition. There is also this issue of abandonment. I suffer abandonment issues as a child of divorce. I have bent over backwards so my daughter will not experience abandonment issues – if anything I have overdone it with my hovering Mom role.
So how does all this relate to my chronic anxiety? Is it possible that the anxiety is a symptom or manifestation of the depression I feel in letting go of my daughter’s life details? If I am able to let myself experience the sadness associated with this change, will that allow me to free up or tackle some of my anxious thoughts and give room to feelings of joy, pride, love and support for my daughter and her pending journey of self discovery?
Finally, does anyone else experience depression and anxiety as being related? Do you believe that if you allow yourself to mourn the loss of a prior mode of relationship that that will free you up to embrace the new phase or mode of that relationship? Or might this give less room to feelings of anxiety?
Sorry to ramble on. I am clearly still exploring and processing these thoughts and feelings.