Hi all! I wrote this post months ago but it never felt like the right time to put it up. Well, today it hit me – I haven’t felt the effects of depression for quite some time now and my anxiety has gone down a lot. And then I started to think back to some of my latest feelings and experiences and I realised how different they now felt, compared to what it used to be like. It’s amazing. Well and truly amazing. My brain has finally realised that I’m… well, happy. And that’s not to say I wasn’t happy before. My brain was just having a hard time coping with things. But I think with this realisation, it’s now the time to show you this post.
I think this is going to be a bit more serious post than usual. This is something my sister suggested I write about quite some time ago and I’ve been toying around with the idea for a while. Last night however I couldn’t fall asleep, thinking what I’d write about. In fact I almost got out of bed to write everything down then, but I thought I’ll sleep on it and see what I think in the morning. Now it’s morning and I think that if this post could help even one person, I’d be incredibly happy, so I’ll go for it. I may try to think of a funnier title for it later, but at the moment it’s ‘Anxiety/depression’.
I’m so glad that recently a lot of people have spoken up about it, shared their personal experiences and shed some light on it. I think one of the most important things to know about this is that you’re not alone. Anxiety and depression are way more common than you’d think.
I’ve been through quite a bit, some of it I brought on myself, some of it not my fault. A lot of these things brought on thoughts and feelings I couldn’t deal with. Years went by and I still hadn’t found a way to cope. For a few years I felt like there wasn’t a way out and I found everything increasingly difficult. Then I got some outside help, without me or them realising that that’s what it was – help. My family was always really supportive and the new people in my life made everything seem a bit brighter again. I wish that could’ve been the end of it, but my burdens ran deep and still crept out every now and then. I was very up and down, struggling without realising I was struggling. That’s the funny part actually. I didn’t realise it wasn’t normal. I thought that’s how everyone feels. Or maybe I just didn’t think about it much.
My eyes were opened when last year, on top of everything else, I had two panic attacks a week apart. I’d had them before, but usually not more often than a couple of times a year. That made me pick up my courage and seek professional help. I rang up my Dr’s office and they asked me to go in for a chat. That chat was to evaluate what kind of help would be the best for me. I found out that the thoughts and feelings I had were brought on by anxiety and depression and that I could actually get better. It was such a revelation to me, to discover that you don’t have to feel constantly anxious and on the edge and that it’s possible to manage the negative thoughts that are just going round and round in your head. It was such a relief to realise that what I’d been thinking and feeling isn’t necessarily what I’ll be thinking and feeling going forward. I could get better!
Together we decided that I should start with computer based cognitive behavioural therapy. This meant that every week I went in for my appointment, to catch up with my support person and then spend an hour going through the week’s materials and exercises in the Dr’s office. I did this by myself with my support person right there in case I needed anything. I liked that. I like doing things by myself so this suited me well.
At this point I wanted to get well so bad that I think I got ahead of myself and thought that I was better than I actually was. I was burying some things without dealing with them. I was lucky as it didn’t all come crashing down on me, but I did have my ups and downs. My therapy sessions ended about four months ago and I’m finding that I do slip back into the negative loop every now and then, but what the therapy did was give me the tools to manage it. That was the whole point of it. Not to magically fix me, but to give me ways to cope and to gradually need to do it consciously less and less. It’s working for me and after all those ramblings that’s what I’d really like to share with you. There’s not going to be any miracle potions or spells, just some tips that are good to have, even if you’re perfectly fine. Some of these things are pretty basic and you may find that you actually already do these, as we’ve all got our little things that help us get through the rough patches. Even I discovered I already had a couple of good habits (among a hundred bad ones but hey, nobody’s perfect!). Please keep in mind I’m not a healthcare professional and am only talking about what I’ve found useful from personal experience.
What I found the most helpful was scheduling in an enjoyable activity. I hadn’t even realised how I wasn’t really doing the things I used to love doing and just felt like I had no energy for anything ever. But scheduling in something enjoyable, giving it priority over everything else and having to do it has worked wonders. I used to feel that for example if I haven’t done the dishes, I can’t relax without feeling guilty, but knowing that this enjoyable thing that I’d booked in for the day was at the very top of my list, meant that I can do it without feeling bad about anything. So I was doing something I enjoyed and it made me feel great. Good enough in fact that I found I could then tackle the rest of the things on my to do list. (Never put more than five things on your daily list though)
Next thing that I have found very helpful is the can I do anything about it? That’s actually something I already used before my sessions and my support person said it’s a very good technique so I’ve continued to use it with great success. Basically it’s really simple. I picture myself in my happy place, conjure up the thought that’s bothering me in my mind’s eye and think – is there anything I can do about this? If the answer is no I picture a big stamp and just slam it on the thought which leaves a big red NO on it. If there is something I could do about it then I schedule it in for a bit later so I can approach it with fresh mind.
The next thing that’s helped me would need a post of its own, so I’ll talk about it quickly and leave a link to a page that describes it in more detail. Recognising thinking errors. It’s something that very many of us do, usually without realising it. Once you do see them though, you can tackle the errors you’re making and gradually change the way you’re thinking. If you look for this on the internet you’ll find a lot more information about it, these are just two websites that I found pretty much cover what I learned. www.psychologytoday.com and us.reachout.com
There’s a lot more to it, these are just the main things that I’ve found useful. If you feel yourself struggling though, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. If it’s from your Dr or a friend or family member. You don’t have to go through this alone and you can get better. There are also telephone helplines if you’d like to talk to someone anonymously.
So, that’s what I wrote then and I feel it’s still relevant today. Even though I’m now a lot better, I’m still making sure I do something that I enjoy every day and that I used the techniques I learned, to make sure I stay this way. I don’t punish myself for ‘failings’ and am trying to go a lot easier on myself. I’m only human after all (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. You’ll never get me back, you space creatures!)
*Ahem* Still as nutty as squirrel poo.