How Depression and Anxiety Led Me To Build a Community

I’ve been suffering from depression for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t truly diagnosed until I was nineteen and in college (where I could get free counseling). But I knew something was up for a while.

I recall being about five and bursting into tears seemingly out of nowhere and then asking my sister “do you love me? Am I so bad that mom doesn’t love me?” While this isn’t exactly straight out of a DSM-V, I would say something was definitely up.

It became a struggle to do anything without either beating myself up or overthinking. Eventually, I would just start dreading every simple thing. I would think about the possibility of freezing up and completely lose any ounce of motivation I had. And around in a circle I went.

In therapy, I learned coping mechanisms that helped create a mental toolbox, as well as some diagnoses to reference. But, I also had an existential crisis looming in my obsessive-compulsive head.

Seven years into therapy, a bachelor’s degree, two jobs and three promotions later, I found myself still unhappy with life. While I was taking medication to take away the physical angst that comes with a mental illness, medication alone doesn’t fix everything. It cannot turn off self-loathing but merely dims it enough that you can work on yourself.

However, I went from wondering what I wanted to do to asking myself, “Why the f*** do I ever NOT feel like this? What is this for?”

Because this feeling had to be here for a reason. How could I be so good at my job, going into work day in and day out when I didn’t even like it? How could I be so outstanding in a traditional office-desk career that I didn’t even care about? Why did this somehow feel easier than following a dream of writing? Not only was my self-worth based on how useful I could be to people, but it was also hung on the nail of being liked and praised for doing tasks I hated.

Now the endless loop of thoughts was, “If I do something that I dislike, I get extra life points, right?” Upon finding there were no “life points” or really anyone to count the points except for me (and I wasn’t doing that stuck in all my self-hatred), I found myself in a true personal hell. Nevertheless, I persisted.

In another year, my mental state was completely unraveling. I started having panic attacks at work. At first, they were concealable enough. Go to the bathroom, hyperventilate, cry. Rinse and repeat once a day. Eventually, one happened publicly and intensely. Suddenly it didn’t matter if I was competent at my job, loved my co-workers, or worked 40 to 60 hours a week… I simply could not go on like that.

Then, one night, I woke up with one word on my mind: Mxiety (Marie+Anxiety). Mxiety felt like the personal definition for my constant state of being anxious and depressed while still working very hard to define myself as something other than those illnesses. A means to reach out to those with mental illnesses who were on their journey of self-discovery.

The quilt came together. One square of personal experience, one of compassion sewn to anonymity, a pocket of encouraging friends with similar backgrounds, and apparently what you end up with is a Twitch Stream full of research, with guests to share stories and crafts to keep us less nervous.

There was no better outlet to accomplish my goal of helping as many people as possible than Twitch. It’s amazing to be talking to people in real time, to be facilitating discussions around difficult mental health topics and seeing a community grow around my idea. I want to focus on growing that space to be an incubator of tolerance and support.

I’ve also picked up a game as a result. Unlike what most Twitch streamers are known for, I am not exactly a gamer, so I am sticking to Stardew Valley for now. I started because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, since it had earned an award for “Excellence in the portrayal of mental health” (right here by Take This). It’s been fantastic and lives up to every expectation so far. It also seems that I have gained a new outlet for stress-relief along the way.

Mxiety has become permission to create, to remain resilient to all my mental illness acronyms. I hope my works informs at least one person enough to want help another, to create a cycle of giving. It is an honor to “be the light” to others with what little torch I was persevering to keep lit myself.

A purpose so idealistic, it rises high above the other noise in our minds: Creating a healthier mental illness community.

Marie is better known as an Mxiety, a tea drinker, corgi fanatic and serial worrier. Mental Health advocate, working to break down the stigma through research, discussion, and interviews. Will write for food, or best offer. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Twitch.
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