Depression and Anxiety
A little history…
I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was 14 years old. I remember when I was first diagnosed I was in a bad place. I had no confidence. I had been beaten down in a figurative sense. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to play the sports I had always loved. I didn’t want to do ANYTHING. I didn’t have the energy or the self esteem to stand up and fight. I cried a lot, for no reason. Over little things, big things, anything! The worst part was I didn’t understand why I felt that way! That was when my Mom took me in to get help. I saw a therapist but I didn’t feel that it was overly helpful as I had a great childhood. I hadn’t suffered any major loss or tragedy.(not bashing talk therapy- it just wasn’t for me.) I was treated badly by some friends in middle school but nothing earth shattering. I was confused and scared because no matter what I did, I was SAD. Like REALLY, REALLY SAD. I didn’t feel like this feeling was justified and then I would get angry at myself and that soon turned to resentment and anxiety about my being depressed. After trying to talk about my “problems” I was told that I had Major Depression Disorder and was started on medication. If you haven’t been on anti-depressants the real kicker is when you are as low as you can be it can take up to a month for the medication to start to make a difference. This is when people who are depressed need help more then ever. The trouble is the same medication that works for some may not be the one that works for you. If that is the case you then need to try a different medication which can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month. This process then continues until you find something that works for you.
After about a month and a half I was started on Wellbutrin. I was so fatigued all the time, that the excitability factor of the Wellbutrin really helped my depression. Unfortunately, it ramped up my anxiety and then had to be started on a SSRI for anxiety. After 16 years of dealing with this I feel like I am in a good place to share my story and coping mechanisms. I want to support others who suffer with mental illness. Sadly, mental illness has been placed on the back burner for decades. People with legitimate illnesses including veterans with PTSD are often sent home from the ER in crisis mode due to a shortage of beds and mental health professionals. States have closed down most of their mental health facilities due to budget cuts. The worst part that I witness almost everyday in the ER is that the spots that are available, go to people who abuse the system. They know the right words to say to get admitted so they can be taken care of and have a place to stay, while others who really need the help are sent home with a help line in case they feel like killing themselves. It is not something doctors and social workers want to do, but it is the reality we are dealt with.
I have so much more that I want to say on this topic but will leave it for another post!
– From a self proclaimed expert!
Most importantly talk to your doctor and get on medication if you are suffering, you can’t live life that way!
- Vitamin D and B – If you are having issues with depression and anxiety I suggest asking your doctor to check your VITAMIN D levels. Especially if you live in the North where you don’t get enough vitamin D through sunlight. According to Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D helps the body absorb Calcium and Phosphorus. Most people who suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder are usually deficient in Vit D. A few years ago my nurse practitioner check mine after new studies had concluded that Vitamin D levels are indeed directly related with depression symptoms. Weird mine was critically low. If you do decide to take vitamin D as a supplement a safe dose is usually – 2,000 – 4,000 IU. Higher doses are not uncommon but check with your physician before taking them. Another supplement you may want to check out if you are feeling extremely fatigued is Vitamin B. B Vitamins help metabolism and energy. Try a Vitamin B complex supplement that contains up to the 8 different kinds of Vitamin B that our body needs to stay energized throughout the day.
- Exercise– this is not new. Exercise raises your endorphin levels. This has been proven in medical journals for decades. It has been proven to reduce stress. Now I know this is easy to say when you don’t feel well and all you want to do is sleep. But I promise if you can get up for 30 minutes a day you will FEEL better. If vigorous exercise is not for you, try a yoga class. This gets you to focus on your breathing as well as letting go of tension and stress.
- Get Outside– Go for a walk, take your dog out, learn to love winter. Cross country ski, snow shoe, get some warm walking boots. You will be surprised how good the sun on your face feels when its cold and it’s the dead of winter. If you are up for it, look up skijoring! It’s a blast and everyone gets some fresh air! I promise the kids, dog and you will sleep amazing. If you live in the north just try to get out and enjoy the snow.
- Caffeine…lots of caffeine. (controversial) Now this is more of how I cope with my lack of energy and the desire to lay and bed and sleep the day away. I understand that sometimes caffeine can make anxiety worse but when you have depression and two little boys to take care of, the only way to get through the day and out of bed is caffeine. If tea and coffee are not for you I will refer back to the vitamin B supplements. I notice a huge difference when I take my sub-lingual (under the tongue) vitamin B.
- Deep breathing– when you feel your mind start to wonder, whether it’s at night and your trying to sleep but your mind keeps racing or it’s the middle of the day and you can feel the anxiety creeping in. Stop what you are doing. Seriously, STOP. Give yourself a minute. Go to a quiet room.( I realized this is easier said then done.) But if you can give yourself a few minutes it will save you. This is what you need to do. – Count to 4 very slowly. While you are counting to 4- Start taking a slow, deep, breathe and count 1…….2……3…….4. When you get to four, your lungs should be full. Now hold your breath for 4 seconds. Again count slowly. Slowly start to release the breath over another slow four seconds. As you do this you will be slowing your heart rate and getting your body out of your “flight or fight” mode that we put ourselves in in when we start getting anxious. Continue doing this until you feel better. It will happen, try it. It is physically impossible for your mind and heart to race if you focus on your slow breathing.
- Stop your negative self talk. The more and more we talk badly to ourselves and about ourselves the more times those neurons in that path in your brain fire. Making it easier for your mind to actually think and believe the negative stuff you tell yourself on a daily basis. To change the way your brain actually thinks you have to consciously tell yourself to STOP letting that neuron path from firing. When you feel those thoughts coming through, I know you know the ones…. “I’m not good enough, I should have done better, that was a stupid thing to say, did I say something wrong, etc etc etc…. fill in your blanks. You need to tell yourself stop. Then think of ONE thing that went well. Say you are at work and you have a horrible day. It was a crash and burn nothing went as expected. On the way home you feel all of those negative thoughts repeating, and you obsess over them in your head. This is when you says “STOP”. Seriously, out loud if you have to. Then think of one think that went well even if its just MY OUTFIT KICKED ASS, or , MY NEW HAIR CUT LOOKS AMAZING. I HAVE AN AMAZING FAMILY. I mean anything to stop that neuron track from firing. It gets easier and the more you are aware of the negative talk in your head, the more times you can tell it to shut UP!
- Stop APOLOGIZING! – I am doing this all the time. I don’t know where or why I started doing this but I apologize for things that I have no control over or things that don’t have anything to do with me. Not only is this another way to feel like you did something wrong, but it makes you think you actually did something “bad” in the first place. When you catch yourself saying “I’m sorry” for something you had no part of change your words. If you are trying to be empathetic instead of saying “I’m sorry” acknowledge the issue at hand. For example- Instead of “I’m sorry you had a bad day.” Try “That must be really frustrating, aggravating, maddening, sad, etc. When you apologize because you were raised to think it is polite, remember that it runs that negative circuit in your brain making you feel worse. Ask yourself , why am I apologizing?? Most of the time it is probably unwarranted.
- Say No. This goes hand in hand with the apologizing. Start putting you and your family needs first. Don’t overbook or stress yourself out if it’s not something you have the time and energy for. It’s okay to be selfish with your time! This is also a biggy for me. I will go above and beyond at work or take on too many things and then I end up frazzled and stressed out. When I come home I end up crabby and short with the ones I love the most. It’s not fair to my husband and kids. Being kind and helpful is great, but not at the expense of those you love.
- Photo therapy– This can be especially helpful for those who don’t see a lot of sun over the winter months and suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. They actually make lamps that can deliver full spectrum light that can help treat depression and SAD as an additional therapy. There are a ton of different companies who sell these lights just make sure you do your research and use a legitimate light.
- TALK– get a good counselor, therapist, psychologist. Get a good base about understanding depression and anxiety and what your stressors are. This may not be something you need all the time but highly recommended if this is a new diagnoses. Friends are also a great outlet.
- Take it easy on the ETOH! – Alcohol is a depressant so logically it will make you feel worse. This is true for me, especially if I’m at a big party or holiday and I have more than one or two drinks. Not only will you have a headache but my anxiety is through the roof on the next day!
Disclaimer: I clearly am not a licensed therapist but a RN and a long time sufferer of depression and anxiety. I have been there again and again. (don’t wean yourself off your meds when you feel good!!)
These are all personal ways that I have fought and won over the years.