Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Quirky Guide to Living With Anxiety & Depression


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 While discussing the topic of mental illness one night over dinner with some of my friends, I realized how little people really know about anxiety & depression. Honestly, unless you struggle with chronic anxiety or depression, you truly have no idea how it feels. As most of you already know, I have struggled with anxiety and depression for quite some time. My anxiety/depression is a symptom of my thyroid autoimmune disease, and I have been working towards living with gratitude & positivity ever since I was diagnosed back in 2009. Recently I received a very touching email from a reader who wrote about her own personal struggles with depression. She asked for some of my suggestions on how to cope. Because I rarely talk about my illness, I thought it would be an interesting topic to broach. 

Before I start this post, I would just like to disclaim that I am not an expert on treating anxiety, depression, or any other medical/mental illnesses. Of course, because I struggle with anxiety, I do feel confident in sharing my own coping mechanisms and experiences. I would just like to express that we are unique & different, so our experiences will vary. 
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There are a lot of people out there who suffer from their own degree of anxiety or depression. For whatever reason, they are afflicted with uncontrollable feelings & emotions. And the worst part of having anxiety or depression is that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. The paralyzing affect, the feeling that you're out of control, and the knowledge that you're different from the rest of the world. 
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My battle with anxiety:

I've always felt like I experienced life differently than most people. I've been very sensitive and in touch with my emotions since I was very young. I worry about things and notice details that most people disregard. I'm always thinking about something, even when I'm trying to sleep or watch a movie. My experience with anxiety has been an ongoing struggle for years.  I started having extreme anxiety in high school. My mom would often find me curled up in a ball in the corner of the bathroom. She would try to get me to open up to her, but I struggled to find a way to explain myself. The scariest part of developing anxiety is not being able to truly describe how or what you are feeling. Because I was a teenager, my doctor assumed that my anxiety was due to stress from school. Unfortunately, my extreme anxiety was just the first symptom of a bigger health problem.

I started seeing a local family practice doctor during my junior year in high school who was convinced that I had OCD. In an attempt to control my anxiety, I had adopted many quirks and organizational techniques to quell my anxious tendencies. I would color code my study notes, walk the same exact routes, continually rearrange my room, and set all of the clocks in my house exactly 5 minutes fast. It wasn't until I was in college that I found out that I was simply adopting coping mechanisms for extreme anxiety. 

Many doctors in the past have suggested that I begin taking anti-depressants to help with my anxiety, but I have always been very sensitive about medicine. I'm not keen on the idea of taking medicine unless it is absolutely necessary. When I was diagnosed with my thyroid autoimmune disease, I found out that anti-depressants would not have helped my situation because my anxiety was caused by my disease. I'm glad that I listened to my body and decided against the use of medicine to treat my anxiety. 
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Quirky Ideas on How to Cope:

♥ Focus inward...Listen to your body and treat it with love & respect. You should never punish yourself for feeling poorly. Self-hate is the worst possible way to deal with anxiety and depression. Give your body the things it needs to be healthy. Resolve that you are worth it. 

♥ Develop a mantra...I recently started using EFT to help with my anxiety. This may or may not interest you, but it has helped just to chant my mantra during especially troublesome times. I say, "Despite my extreme anxiety, I love and fully accept myself exactly the way I am."

♥ Take things slowly...Go your own pace. The rest of the world always seems to be in a hurry. For someone with anxiety, it's best to take things slowly and makes sure that you aren't missing any steps along the way. Don't let anyone rush you or make you feel like you need to hurry up. Also, try to set extra time aside so you can arrive early to engagements without rushing. 

♥ Find comforting activities...One of my favorite things to do when I'm feeling stressed or anxious is workout, take a really hot shower, or call up my sister to vent. Everyone is different so you will need to identify some activities that help you cope during a period of anxiety or depression.

♥ Consider vitamin supplements...I am such an advocate for vitamin supplement therapy. My mom started researching vitamin therapy several years ago and has been using me as her guinea pig ever since. Most of you don't know this, but my mom is a brilliant nurse. She is probably one of the smartest people I know. When I started getting sick, she did a lot of research, even consulting one of her contacts at the Mayo clinic. She put together a vitamin regime that I can take when I'm feeling anxious. We call it my anxiety potion. On top of a daily multi-vitamin, I take a B complex, Inositol, Valerian root, and GABA. 

Consider medication...As I have mentioned before, I decided not to take medication for my anxiety. But some people have a lot of success by taking anti-depressants to help deal with their anxiety or depression. There isn't any shame in getting a little bit of help from prescription medications. I think it's best to listen to your body and decide on what is going to make you feel your happiest and healthiest. 

♥ Keep a journal...I keep a small section of my filofax aside for anxious thoughts or scribbles. Sometimes all you need is to vent a little bit or get your worries out on paper. 

♥ Go for a walk...Put on your headphones and go for a long walk. I love to go walking when I need some time alone to think. The physical exercise is also good for your disposition. 

♥ Develop a support system...I think we have all been guilty of pushing away those in our lives who really want to be there for us. I always feel like a burden to my family, and I often keep to myself when I'm feeling down. Lately, I've been leaning on my family more and they have really helped me to feel better & secure.

♥ Find someone to talk or vent to...Or consider seeing a counselor if you need some extra help. A lot of schools, universities, and work places now have some type of counselor on staff. Speaking with someone trained to deal with anxiety or depression can give you a different perspective. They can help you discover triggers and develop your own unique coping mechanisms.

♥ Stay busy...While I'm not encouraging you to simply ignore your anxiety, I do believe that it's easier to cope when you aren't just sitting around like a lump. On the other hand, do not overload yourself with activities and obligations that will only perpetuate your anxiety. Commit to things that make you happy and put energy into your favorite hobbies.
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Surprisingly, there are a lot of people out there who suffer from some type of anxiety. Johnny Depp, Oprah Winfrey, and Barbara Streisand just to name a few. I feel that one of the worst things about anxiety is the overwhelming feeling of being alone. Just know that you are not alone in your struggles. 
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Do you struggle with anxiety or depression? I would love to hear about your struggles and ways of coping.

Lots of love & positivity,

10 Lovely and Quirky Comments:

*Peonies and lilies* said...

Great post, and thank you for sharing so many tips. I'm definitely going to bookmark this page and refer back to it whenever I feel like things are getting too much! x

Kato Kaka said...

I suffer from severe anxiety as well, and didn't realize it for years and years. I self medicated with drugs, but thankfully stopped doing that and started paying attention to myself and my anxiety and depression.

A lot of the things you have said here are things that I do, as well as new things that I will try.

Thank you so much for this! xoxo

Samantha said...

I just bookmarked your page. I love your ideas and gentle approach. I am having a really hard time right now and this actually helped me. I am very hard on myself when get like this and I need to stop being my worst enemy. I like what you said about taking things slowly. Adorable pics too.

Yvonne said...

I love your blog and your writing. I have GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and it is very difficult at times. I just wanted to write and say THANK YOU! Thank you for your post. Always a good thing to read positive input. You are an inspiration and I LOVE LVOE LOVE your blog!!!
THanks again!

Simon's Cat said...

It's nice to see other people like me. I feel so alone sometimes lost in my own paranoia and anxiety.

Myself said...

I am always glad when others are brave enough to share their experiences with anxiety and depression. As people who experience any kind of mental health issues, we are generally very hard on ourselves and become very good at hiding our symptoms and feelings. I found your blog by accident, but am glad to read a gentle and positive blog. It's something that I posted about on my blog - it may or may not be of interest to you, but I think it's good to read other people's perspectives. Thanks for sharing. My blog is http://allmymutterings.blogspot.co.uk/

Anonymous said...

I feel I am alone. Why me?

Niccolo Alley said...

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts.combating depression

Clareio said...

I have suffered from anxiety since I was very young (I think I was about 2 when my mum started noticing it). And along with several other health issues, I seem to be constantly at the doctors. I got sick of hearing "there's very little we can do about that" and "theres no real explanation for that" so I went private for other health issues but tried to ignore the anxiety. I eventually decided to speak to my GP about it and he suggested hypnosis, which i've done once and will be going to again this evening.

I have yet to discover whether it works, but the idea of it is to give stress reducing methods and also create a "safe place" that I can escape to in a bad situation. If nothing else it is a perfect way to relax and clear your head every week!

Emily Jayne Lewis said...

Thank you for writing this post! I personally like to almost ignore the fact that I suffer from anxiety on my blog, but I am glad someone has wrote about their experience.

I suffer from anxiety issues and lately I've had more panic attacks than normal. I thought it had started when I was at school, after GCSEs from the stress and so developed severe depression and anxiety. 3 years later the depression has gone, but it turned out that I've actually suffered from anxiety from about the age of 3. It was mainly as I reflected my dad's emotions. So I myself have my little quirks in how I deal with anxiety :P

Much love

Emily
www.emilyjaynelewis.blogspot.co.uk

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