Depression and Anxiety: What It Feels Like & How I'm Learning to Cope | #mhmonth2014

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Earlier this week I posted a photo of myself sitting in the waiting room of my therapists office. I've been seeing her twice a month for almost two years. Shortly after I posted the picture, two friends reached out. They admitted to needing someone to talk to and asked where I found my therapist. 

[you can search for therapist in your area here: therapists.psychologytoday.com

I have lived with depression and anxiety for most of my life. Returning to therapy after becoming a mother was probably the best thing I ever could have done for my family.

For a long time, I felt embarrassed by seeing a therapist. Like it was something to hide and be ashamed of. I saw my depression and anxiety as this flaw within myself. It became this thing that I needed to get over instead of a condition I needed to cope with.

What Depression and Anxiety Can Feel Like (for Me)

Depression and anxiety can feel crippling. It is both unexpected and predictable. There are days when I have to convince myself to get out of bed and walk out of the apartment because being around people is difficult and talking requires too much work. Some days, everything feels out of place and I feel like an outsider in my own life. But it can also feel as comfortable and familiar as an old shoe because it's so easy to slip right into.

There are days when I am fighting back tears and nights when I cry myself to sleep. Every part of my body hurts, my head aches, my hands shake and the pounding in my chest won't stop. I feel dizzy and weak and I concentrate on every step I take because I am scared I'll collapse in the street.

There are times when all I want to do is sleep but it isn’t really an escape. It comes to me in my dreams of drowning, falling, searching or being trapped. I wake up in a panic and unable to fall back asleep.

When depression takes over, I eat too much, drink too much, shop too much or say yes to too much. It is my attempt to fill the unfillable void. And it is often the "too much" in my life that fuels my anxiety. The more I take on, the more chaotic and uncontrollable my life becomes - the more anxious I become. And the more anxious I become, the deeper I fall into depression. It is this vicious cycle. 

(How I am) Coping with Depression and Anxiety

Therapy. Being a special needs mom, I spend so much of my time focusing on what Norrin needs. It became easy to neglect the things that I needed. I told myself, I didn't have the time or the extra money to see a therapist. But it got to the point where I couldn't live with the way I was feeling. If Norrin needed something, I'd find the money and the time to make it happen - I had to do the same for myself. Therapy is helping me be a better mom.

Crying. This may seem like a strange way to cope. But I always feel so much better after a good long cry. So often we are told to "get over it", to "move on" or to "be happy."  Suppressing feelings of depression and/or anxiety isn't healthy. Crying is sometimes the release I need in order to move forward.

Take Inventory. On nights when I can't sleep, I think about all the good things in my life. I count all of my blessings and the things that I am grateful for. I count all the people in my life who help lift me up.

Just Breathe. When I get a panic attack, I stop what I'm doing, sit down and breathe. I close my eyes and breathe in and out slowly.   

There isn't a bandaid or quick fix to manage depression and anxiety. It is an ongoing commitment I have made to myself. And on days when I fall, I don't beat myself over it. I tell myself that I can try again tomorrow.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I wanted to share some information regarding "Depression in Women" from www.mentalhealthamerica.net.  
Contrary to popular belief, clinical depression is not a “normal part of being a woman” nor is it a “female weakness.” Depressive illnesses are serious medical illnesses that affect more than 19 million American adults age 18 and over each year. Depression is atreatable medical illness that can occur in any woman, at any time, and for various reasons regardless of age, race or income.

"Approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year."

"About 1 in every 8 women can expect to develop clinical depression during their lifetime."

"Depression occurs most frequently in women aged 25 to 44."

"Social factors may also lead to higher rates of clinical depression among women, including stress from work, family responsibilities, the roles and expectations of women and increased rates of sexual abuse and poverty."

"Girls 14-18 years of age have consistently higher rates of depression than boys in this age group."

"Fewer than half of the women who experience clinical depression will ever seek care."

"More than 80 percent of people with depression can be treated successfully with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both."

"More than one-half of women cited denial as a barrier to treatment [for depression] while 41% of women surveyed cited embarrassment or shame as barriers to treatment."


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2 comments:

  1. For this post I thank you from the bottom of my heart. BB2U #StopTheStigma

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  2. I. Needed. To read this. Thank you thank you thank you for writing it! My daughter is 10 and her whole life she has been slipping into exactly what you've described. I've never understood it and this year it has been really taking over. She gets sick consistently once a month, misses a ton of school, stops speaking to us, cries, feels sad, feels dizzy...I've taken her to so many doctors appointments to try to figure out what is going on with her and last week finally found a therapist I think will be perfect for her.

    Your post made me feel even more confident I'm on the right track!

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