One of my friends who suffers with anxiety writes a very open and honest Blog about this condition and how he deals with it on a daily basis. As with depression, there are good days and bad days, but with some patience and a lot of hard work the good days might just start out-numbering the bad ones soon.
Here, with his permission, is his latest post and I am very grateful to him for allowing me to publish it on my Blog today. So I introduce, Fighting the blues.
As I read back over yesterday’s post I am struck by a few things. None of them are particularly positive. That is to say as I read over the text I observe a ‘me’ I don’t like very much. I blogged truthfully, I said what I felt and I felt what I said but nevertheless I am left with a strong feeling that I have painted a picture of myself that is none too pretty – for the first time since I began my blog I feel I have presented myself as a little self-indulgent, an impression of self-pity.
That was not my intention and if anyone else read it that way please accept my apologies. And to those who left comments (here and on facebook) thank you – thank you for replying as honestly as I tried to blog.
As a result of these reflections I have tried to get up with a more positive attitude. Those who struggle with depression and anxiety know that is very easy to say and very difficult to do. The deeper the anxiety the more difficult it is to challenge.
Followers of this blog know I have to move house because my job in the army has changed and the second word of ‘posting order’ is ‘order’! Is morale low – yes. Is the move this time a fearful event (at least in my mind) – yes, of course it is! But I have taken on board some excellent (but frankly terrifying) advice given to me by my psychologist – to treat my anxiety almost as a person. And when feeling low (as I have been lately, in particular, worrying about my son – student loan, job prospects etc. – despite the advice and assurance of those who know us both who say my anxiety is almost certainly unfounded) to do the opposite of what the anxiety expects and demands of me.
What did it demand of me this morning? To give up, not bother and do nothing. Oh yes, let’s not forget a large measure of self-pity thrown into today’s ‘misery pot’!
So I’ve tried to follow the advice I have been given. I got up – well, come on, it’s a good start. I’ve been outside all day in the fresh air although the sun has been mostly cloud hidden. I’ve got a lot of practical things done ready to move and I can see the results of my labour.
Most importantly doing the ‘opposite’ has made me feel a lot more positive. Simple as. My hope and my prayer is that this may encourage me to believe that my anxieties are unfounded and I start to feel better about myself with a degree of consistency.
Awareness and acceptance- One of the first things that an individual needs to do before embarking on their road to recovery from depression or low mood is to become aware of their emotions before accepting them for what they are.
“The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance” [Nathanial Branden]
I often tell people that my road to recovery began with my surrender to the illness and they recoil in horror to think that I should have on the face of it accepted my condition and given up the fight. This is not what I mean by surrender or acceptance and I feel this is an important distinction and lesson for people to learn and understand. I learned that instead of using my energy to fight against the illness its impact and the stigma, by accepting depression as part of me I was able to transfer that energy into getting better. This made a big difference.
“As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what’s best for you” [Oprah Winfrey]
“At some point you have to surrender to the fact that you are suffering from depression and that you feel powerless over it…..submit to your feelings.”
“Don’t be afraid of what might happen; you won’t lose any more control than you have lost already. Good things will come from this stage. If you feel worse than you have ever felt before this is because the feelings that you have been running from are surfacing. But it is more exhausting to be constantly running than it is to STOP, turn around and face what you have been running from. ….you have had to contend with the exhaustion of running plus the fear of the unknown”
To surrender, Alexandra recommends some of the following every day;
Sink into your depression
Stop trying not to be depressed
If tears rise to the surface, let them out
Ask no questions
Take time off-get a sick note
Stay in bed-damn the world
Make no big decisions
Shelve your projects
Suspend self crticism-surrender instead.
Remember; ” Acceptance is not submission, it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation then deciding what you’re going to do about it” [Kathleen Casey Thiesen]
The problem with depression is just when you think you’ve got it licked, bang! it hits you right between the eyes and knocks you for six. Big black clouds of despair stifle your emotions, leaving you feeling numb and empty. Nothing makes sense, no one cares and you are stranded in a dark and lonely place with no immediately apparent lifeline. These are bad days.
What do I do when this happens?
Firstly, I don’t panic. Gone are those days when I think that a long-term bout of illness is imminent. I now know that these feelings will last for maybe a day, maybe a week, or if I’m really unlucky, a bit longer. But I have had enough experience of this monster to know that in my case, it will eventually lift and leave me in peace. I just need to be patient and work my way through it.
Strangely enough, I don’t fight it any more either. I find that I use too much energy in trying to pretend that everything is OK when clearly it isn’t. I have learnt over the years that no matter how hard I try to resist it, it gets me in the end so, I surrender. I wave the white flag, admit defeat, cry a lot and indulge my emotions for a short while. By surrendering I am able to save my energy for when I eventually turn the corner and see that it is again possible to bask in the gentle rays of an emerging sun. These are good days.
Since I admitted to my depression back in May this year I have had the pleasure to meet and make friends with many many people who suffer with depression or other mental illness. Travelling around the UK, football used to be my chosen universal topic of conversation. Now it is mental health, depression and anxiety and, if I can combine the two, I’m ecstatic. So if you are a depressed football supporter (calling all Aston Villa fans!) I’m your mate!
In the past when asked who I admired and who inspired me I always thought of Karren Brady, current vice-chairman of West Ham United FC, business woman, mother, Sir Alan’s assistant on The Apprentice and someone who was back at work just 1 month after a brain operation. A role model for all the down-to-earth talented women everywhere. But, whilst I still admire her, she is no longer top of my list.
So who are at the top of my list of people whom I admire or inspire me?
I’ll tell you. All those people who frequent the Depression Alliance Face Book page. Those with or recovering from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and insomnia. Everyone who is still here despite the setbacks. They are still here because underneath this beast of an illness they are strong, decent people. They have families who care for them; they are waiting for treatment for months on end but never give up hope; they are open and honest about their illness and most of all they inspire me to do the same when I’m not up to it.
So to all my new friends at DA, “Thank you for being you” I wouldn’t want it any other way and I hope that 2011 brings us all health and happiness because that’s all that matters.
“Supposing a tree fell down and you were underneath it?”-“Supposing it didn’t”
Many of us worry about things that never happen and in doing so can put ourselves through sleepless nights, increased stress and depression-all for nothing.
Do you spend a lot of time thinking about bad things and being preoccupied with negative possibilities? Do you find that the more you do it, the bigger your worries become? Do you even find yourself worrying about all the time you’ve spent worrying?
With the best intentions, people who do not worry to excess will say ” focus on today and tomorrow will look after itself”. On the face of it, this is sound sensible advice, but to a worrier it is easier said than done. It is very hard to stop yourself worrying but there is some really good advice in the Mind leaflet “How to Stop Worrying” and if you are a worrier this makes a good place to start.
Bobby Ferrin wrote ;
“In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double”
No one likes worrying. It’s hard to live with a worrier. It’s exhausting and emotionally draining so seek help and talk through your fears. Don’t worry yourself into an early grave.