MY LIFE: Dealing with depression and anxiety
This, in my opinion, is a universal topic. Many people who don’t deal with chronic illness and pain DO find themselves struggling with depression and/or anxiety. I’m going to give some tips about things I do to try to alleviate my own depression and anxiety. Your mileage may vary, and I am by no means a doctor. Please, please do go see your primary care physician if you’re having trouble coping. Don’t go it alone.
By the way, I have a Pinterest board for Chronic Illness Depression and Anxiety. As I said above, you can feel depressed or anxious without experiencing a chronic illness. The pins may still help.
- Accept that some days you’ll feel nothing, and others you’ll feel everything. That’s how it is with depression and anxiety. You may even feel everything and nothing at the same time. Your brain is playing tricks on you. The more you fight it on this, the worse it will get.
- Try not to feel bad about how you perceive others feel. This is an incredibly hard thing to do. But remember this — you’re not in anyone else’s shoes. Don’t project your own feelings of inadequacy on them.
- Someone else, no matter how much they love you, can bring you out or talk you down from your feelings. We all wish they could, but the fact is, they’re YOUR feelings, YOUR experiences. You may or may not be able to change your feelings, and don’t rely on others to either.
- Accept that your depression and anxiety are rooted in the rational, and at the same time, that they’re not. More than that, even, we can’t turn it off, no matter how irrational. Depression and anxiety aren’t intermittent things — at least, not usually.
- Don’t expect others to understand, show patience, etc. They don’t get what you’re going through. It’s not that they don’t want to, they simply can’t. People may think you’re lazy, a hypochondriac, or something else. That’s their problem, not yours.
- Your decisions will waffle, depending on the day, hour, or even minute. What does this mean? An example: there’s a holiday party coming up. All your friends will be there. You know you’ve had a good time in the past so you’re looking forward to it. Then — BOOM — you’re not. Instead, you’re looking for excuses not to go. Remember, it might not be rational and you might know it, but that doesn’t change the fact you feel it. Some people say you should force yourself to do things you don’t want to, but I say — listen to your body (or brain), at least to a point.
- Related to number six, there will be times you have to be heartless. This is necessary to protect yourself. You might miss an important event, like a wedding, bt consider this. If you went and then lost it, as we all know we could, what would happen then? Again, people wouldn’t understand. They won’t understand you missing such an important event, either, but you need to come first.
- Understand you’re battling your own mind every waking minute. Now accept how awesome you are for keeping going. Is there anything more difficult than fighting your own mind? Fighting your body, but that’s another post.
- If you’re feeling up to it, set a goal to get even one thing done. If you don’t make it, don’t beat yourself up over it. The laundry doesn’t ALL have to be done now. You are allowed to hightail it to the checkout registers even if your list isn’t completed. The world will not end if you can’t do it. But if you CAN do it, give yourself credit. Be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small you or someone else may think they are.
- Eat and drink. This sounds elementary, but how many times are you lying on the couch or in bed, hungry or thirsty, and yet not wanting to get up even for the five minutes it would take to reheat a meal? One of the things I do is go somewhere to get food. Yes, it’s not the least expensive way to handle this problem, but at least you’re eating. And getting out of the house to boot, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. To a depressed or anxious person, drive-thrus are awesome. We have five places within ten minutes of my house that have drive-thrus. I have my favorites, but anything will do in a pinch. Just make sure you keep eating and drinking. (NOTE: My husband just brought me a homemade breakfast sandwich. Sometimes they really do understand. I didn’t ask for it, but he knew I needed to eat.)
- Snuggle with a child, a spouse, a pet — whoever is willing to cuddle (though I don’t suggest strangers, lol). Even a fairly brief, twenty or thirty second hug releases endorphins. And this is going to sound weird, but if no living thing is available, find a nice big pillow and wrap yourself around it. In my experience, that still helps.
- Remind yourself that you are enough, in whatever form you take on any given day. You don’t have anything to prove, even if those around you make you feel like you do. Repeat after me: I. AM. ENOUGH. You can even expand on this. I am a good spouse. I am a good mother. I am a good (whatever occupation you have, if you work).
- Figure out what you need. Why are you feeling sad today? Is there something you’re missing? If you can put your finger on it, do it/get it if you can. Watch a movie. Read a book. Get some ice cream. Go to the mall. As long as it matters to you, it’s right. By the same token, where’s all this anger coming from? Do you need to rail at the world? Then do it. What other emotions are weighing you down? Identify them and how to help yourself, or ask someone to help you.
- Do something you’re good at. You might be able to fight back against yourself if you have a fabulous cake you baked or a pretty piece of art you created. It doesn’t matter what you’re good at, and even if you don’t succeed, give yourself credit. You did it. You tried.
- Don’t bottle all your feelings up. Even if you scream at no one in an empty house, you might feel better. It doesn’t help you or anyone else to keep it all inside.
- Forgive yourself and those around you. You’ll feel better if you let things go. It’s extremely difficult, I realize that, believe me, but holding onto bad feelings or grudges isn’t good for anybody, least of all you.
- Get rid of toxic relationships. This goes back to the “heartlessness” thing. You can avoid contact with almost anyone, even if you have to work extra hard to do it. It’s worth your mental health to not let toxic people interrupt your well-being.
- Recognize that shame is a big part of your life. Guilt, shame, whatever you want to call it, will bombard you every day. Acknowledge that, but fight it. Know it might be irrational, know it may not go away. Just do what you can and that’s good enough.
- Identify easy things that make you feel better. Maybe it’s listening to music, or eating a piece of your favorite candy. Again, it doesn’t matter what you do. If it helps, you’ve won. Even a tiny battle helps win the war.
- Lastly, when all fails, watch cat videos. Seriously, how can you not like this?
What coping methods do you use? Tell me in the comments!