It seems that everyday the numbers of those suffering from depression and anxiety are on the rise. Everywhere I turn I hear about different methods and tricks that could be used to help with someone who is battling their symptoms. While having these abundant different resources at our finger tips is greatly beneficial in knowing what to do, it can actually make starting difficult.
Where do you actually start off? Do you actually have depression or anxiety problems? Don’t all people feel this way? Well I think more people feel that way then they would like to admit, but that doesn’t mean its normal. And it definitely doesn’t mean that its something you have to live with.
Depression and anxiety don’t always present themselves as the cliche images that they are stereotypically given. While numbers are on the rise, so many are also going without notice because they don’t think they fall within that category. That was my problem at least. It took me years to notice and then to admit that my mental health wasn’t quite where it should be.
Depression and Anxiety have Hundreds of Symptoms
Part of what took me so long to realize that I had a problem was that my symptoms weren’t quite like the ones I’d expect to have. While physical illnesses have a set list of things that can be checked off, mental illnesses have vague outlines that are being rewritten and added to every year.
Because of this, depression doesn’t always look like someone whose laying in bed all day and can’t get up. It’s not just someone who cries all the time or who is pessimistic. It can be the person who excels in work or school but goes home and has little motivation to do much else. Depression can be feelings of nothingness and a world where the colors are just too dull to really take notice.
For me, depression was high functioning. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I found that getting out of bed was difficult. I’d question what was really worth getting up for. I was perfectly content not doing anything besides watching Netflix. That mentality quickly turned towards everything else in my life. I kept friends at a distance, guarded myself from new people, and lost interest in things that had been life long passions. While I had always suffered from depression, it wasn’t until I had the option to not be high functioning that I realized just how much I had relied on my autopilot.
It took me even longer to realize that I had anxiety though. I thought the swirl of ‘what if’s’ were something that everybody had to deal with. Part of the reason why my bed and room were my best friends is because there were no ‘what if’s’ involved in doing things there. It’s not like my bed was going to judge me for what I decided to do or wear or say. Honestly though I don’t think I would’ve blamed it at the time if it did though. It would’ve probably been a nice wake up call.
Anxiety isn’t always hyper ventilating. It doesn’t have to be shaking. It’s not stuttering. It doesn’t even have to be panic. It can be the simple fear of walking through a partially filled room. Anxiety is going through a conversation you haven’t even had yet a hundred times and then kicking yourself when you go off script. It’s feeling that nobody likes what you’re saying and that they aren’t laughing with you, they’re laughing at you.
What Finally Worked For Me
When it comes to figuring out what coping strategies will work best for you, it can be a long process of trial and error. You just need to keep pushing on though. Don’t give up because it’s hard. Improved, stable mental health is well worth the time and energy investment.
Years of reading studies, self help books, and other’s advice allowed me to formulate my own coping strategies. These are what work for me on most days. Sometimes they don’t help and I need to find a different coping strategy to use. But they’ll work on another day. Each day is different and will keep you guessing. That’s why having an arsenal of potential coping strategies is so important when it comes to longterm success.
Replaced My Thoughts
“Self talk”, ah yes that mysterious therapeutic term. It sounds like its way more complicated then it actually is but it’s literally the way that we talk about ourselves, to ourselves. The way we think about ourselves and the words we choose to use have significant impact. It’s the anxiety riddled thoughts that I had that kept me from doing so many different things. It’s the ‘what if’s’ that fall into the category of self talk.
What if they don’t like me? What if they’re going to think ____ about me? These concerns are just our way of pointing out our perceived flaws to ourselves. What our minds are really saying is: “what is there to like about me” or “this quality is weird about me”. Both of which aren’t true. We are our biggest critique. No one is going to dislike you more than you can dislike yourself.
These negative thoughts influence our behavior in ways you can only begin to imagine. They prevent you from living your life to the fullest. They convince you that you are not worthy of things because of the way that you are. They’ll cause you to question your every positive thought or feeling, because surely that can’t be happening to you right? Well, it can be. And it is. You just need to start coming between yourself and these negative thoughts.
Begin to monitor what you think about yourself. What are your anxieties, what are your fears, what are you sad about? You may begin to see a pattern emerge over time. Or they may just be random thoughts and feelings that you experience in the moment. Either way, you need to stop yourself. Really, tell yourself to stop. Stop thinking that. It’s not true. And think the opposite (the positive) instead.
Thought Everything Through
Overthinking can lead to anxiety. Replacing your thought is one way that you can combat against that. But sometimes, you need to actually challenge the really persistent thoughts. For example, I still have a hard time going shopping. So I have to challenge myself and the way I’m thinking.
Is someone really going to come up to me and tell me how they’re judging me? No. Has that every happened? No. What if it did? Well honestly I think I’d be more pissed off that someone felt the need to do that rather then bursting into tears and running all the way home. Is someone actually judging me? Pretty sure they’re not. They’re here shopping too. They probably don’t even actually see me.
When I began to challenge my own thoughts and think everything through, I overcame a lot of my anxieties. This in turn began to make it easier to conquer my depression. When you combine thinking everything through with changing the negative thoughts to positive ones, you’ll actually begin to rewire your brain. You’ll see the negative thoughts slow down. They’ll become less frequent and more easily dismissible. Now when I go to the store, I get anxious out of habit. But the thoughts aren’t there as much. I just have to give myself some positive self talk and walk my happy butt into the store.
For me, it took trying medication for me to realize that they weren’t for me. One, I was still sad, and two, I still had all my negative thoughts. But I would never take back trying out the different medications that I did. Talking to my doctor about what I was experiencing and consciously trying to take back my mental health really pushed me in the right direction.
Just because they didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean they didn’t help. They helped me realize where I wanted to be and that I needed to do something for myself everyday to get there. It’s not turning on or off a switch. It’s doing something everyday (whether it’s taking a pill or making lifestyle choices) that will make the difference.
For those that medication works for, more power to you! I’m happy that you have found relief from depression and anxiety. I still recommend finding coping strategies for the extra hard days. If you’re on the fence about it, just have an honest and open conversation with your doctor or therapist. Fighting your symptoms is about finding what’s right for you; body, mind, and soul. I’ve never been one to take medications but I couldn’t let my stubborn side control me if I was going to get better. Turns out they aren’t for me. But they work for millions more.
The point I’m trying to make about trying medication even though it didn’t work, is that you have to try everything. You never know what might work, but you’ll be grateful when you have.
Have Been Unapologetically Myself
This was my turning point. For some reason, one morning I woke up and said “screw it, I’m going to be me”. I don’t know where the nerves came from. I had tried telling myself to stop caring millions of times before. For whatever reason though, one morning it just finally clicked that who the heck cares. Haters goin’ hate. Doesn’t matter what you’re going to do. So thank you haters for giving me the inspiration I needed to get over you. Keep in mind though that your own imagination is probably your biggest hater (pesky negative self talk).
Once you allow yourself to go about your life the way that you want to, the sadness lifts. It’s like taking off a heavy jacket that’s been making it difficult to be comfortable. You may not have really noticed that it was restricting something until it’s gone. Obviously, I’m not a fan of jackets. But I’m not a fan of negative thoughts either. The positive ones are what make our lives worth living.
Becoming the person that I am and that has always been hiding around inside of me, was the best decision I have ever made. It has led me to the places I have been and where I’m heading. Yes, it’s still absolutely terrifying sometimes. I second guess what I really want, but I’ve learned to trust what my heart and intuition tell me. It’s still hard for me to voice my own opinion around those that I trust sometimes, but I know that I can now. I’ve finally given myself the rights to my own voice. You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.
Removed the Negative
The most amazing thing about being more yourself is that it naturally starts to remove the negative from your life. You drift away from the people that have been holding you back and you begin to fall in love with yourself. When you love yourself, you become confident. And it’s true what they say. Confidence is attractive. Attractive to you and others.
Yes it can attract more negativity (not everyone will understand you) but it invites a wealth of positivity into your life. You’ll meet people that have the same values as you. The colors of the world become more vivid and luminescent. Your friendships and relationships will flourish. All of this because you’re finally opening up yourself to the world.
When you trust in yourself, you trust in the process of life. Once you erase those negative thoughts you’ve been having for years, you’re left with the positive ones. When you stop those thoughts from coming back and replace them, you’re just solidifying your new found confidence.
Sometimes though the negative influences in your life need to be consciously removed, like the negative thoughts. These influences could be people, habits, or addictions (and not just physical addictions). If you find something that doesn’t quite fit in or that is butting heads with your happiness, it’s time to remove it. If it’s a person, try talking to them first. Explain to them what’s going on and what needs to change. If it doesn’t change then respectfully detach yourself.
This can be the one of the hardest things that you have to do, but it’s worth it. And it will help you in the long run.
Depression and Anxiety Will Always Be a Struggle
As much as I wish I could say that my symptoms have disappeared, they’re still something I deal with everyday. Sometimes I get anxiety about having anxiety. Sometimes I think it’s a burden for other people that I have anxiety. It’s not my anxiety symptoms that affect other people, its the way that I let them control me that does. It was selfish of me to let them control me for so long. But you need to pick the right kind of selfish in this situation. Be selfish about your mental health. Your mind needs to come first when it’s in a disarray.
Just because I have found a way to cope with my depression and anxiety symptoms doesn’t mean that they’re fully gone. I still have sad days. I still have awful anxieties sometimes. Each day at some point I have to revert back to one of my methods. I have to remind myself to ignore my negative thoughts or to do something for just myself. It’s a part of my life. As time has gone by I have become incredibly grateful for my depression and anxiety. Crazy right? They have made me a stronger person and have set me down a path that I would never want to change.
Thinking that all of your symptoms will magically vanish forever is unrealistic. I’m sorry. I know it’s not what you want to hear. I wish it could be like a cold. A really bad cold where you’re bedridden and have to watch movies and read books all day, but in a few weeks it will be a forgotten memory. No, those sniffles or that annoying cough is going to follow you around for the rest of your life. The good thing though is that you know what to do to help make those annoyances go away until another day.
There’s so many more coping strategies than the ones I mentioned above. There is also medication and therapies that can be extremely effective in treating your symptoms. What’s important to remember though is that everyone is different. Just because it worked for me, doesn’t mean they’re all going to work for you. Some might and others may just seem like a waste of time. Explore all your options. Get outside help when it’s necessary (because it’s ok to ask for help). Just keep yourself in mind. Be selfish about your mental health! You’re the one who has to live with your thoughts, not anybody else.
If you’ve battled depression and anxiety, what strategies have worked for you? What were your symptoms like and what was the final straw in seeking help?