A Moment of Honesty: Anxiety & Depression

I've struggled with anxiety and inexplicable bouts of sadness for a large part of my life. There have been clearly defined peaks and valleys brought on by little or no provocation. It's been maddening and yet I've also found great joy in the chaos and instability. Some may dismiss it as simply one's "artistic sensibilities." Some might say that it requires immediate medical attention. Some will try to label it; I'm sure there's a name for it out there somewhere. It's tiring trying to find all of the answers so a long time ago, I chose to reject all of the excuses, the medical jargon, and the medication and set out to find the cure for myself. I'm 22 and although I've learned a lot, I have more questions than answers. However, if there's anything that I've learned in this past year it's that one of the best panaceas for the torn and tattered soul is to be open and honest. As humans, we're sort of "gifts" to each other. Why should we do life alone when we can carry each other's burdens? Above all else, life is too short to be sad. And yet... we still are. 

I'm not sure if it's because we're all becoming more transparent with each other here on the internet, but it really seems as if anxiety is a huge problem lately. Of course, it's always been, but I don't remember everybody talking about it so openly. In a way, it's good that we're talking about it. It's in our nature to find solace in the fact that we are not alone. In a way however, it's terrible because to talk about it is to leave yourself open to all sorts of misguided advice, whether ill-intentioned or well-meaning. More so, modern life is not conducive to stress-free living, regardless of who you are. If you're out there in the waves, fighting to keep your head above water, feeling hopeless and drowning because every gasp fills your lungs even more, I'm there with you. It's scary. But there is hope. 

I'm not a doctor at all, just simply a peer who hopes to share some wisdom. These are some of the things that I've learned about my own anxiety and depression that hopefully, if nothing else, will give you some comfort. If you're struggling with self-harm and suicidal tendencies, though, please seek help. There are so many people who are out there to help you. Although you should feel no guilt or shame, if you don't feel comfortable talking to someone you know, there are many sources you can speak with anonymously. Your life is too precious to not do something.

1. You don't have to be sad. Simple, no? Easier said than done, I'm afraid. There are so many reasons to stay sad. Guilt is a big one. Inspiration, oddly enough, is another one. Crippling sadness can be a wonderful muse. Take a gander at some of history's most respected artists. Most of them struggled with horrendous, crippling depression. You become the sadness and the sadness becomes you. You don't know how you'll function without it. The truth is that there is so much joy waiting for you on the other side of self-recognition. It's a terrifying journey to get there. It involves diving into the deepest, darker parts of yourself and staring your strongest fears, most painful rejections, and repressed memories in the face. You will make it out alive though, and you will be a much better person in the end. The road to contentment begins with being aware that sadness isn't the only option.

2. It's in your mind. You should exercise your mind just like you should exercise your body. I am a huge supporter of Cognitive Therapy. Depression is fueled entirely on negative thoughts. One thought, dwelled on for but a moment too long, can be a slippery slope to a negative pattern of though that can send someone into a downward spiral. We're all extremely volatile. The way that I combat this is to be constantly self-aware. Keeping a journal helps me with this. I try my best to be on top of myself with it daily. It's not easy but once you find a pattern and a rhythm, you'll begin to see a difference. Need help getting started?:
  • S.A.S.H.E.T. - Also known as sadness, anger, scare, happiness, excitement, and tenderness. All human emotions can be traced back to these six. It's a good idea to "check in" twice a week or more. I write down two or three of these that I'm feeling the most intensely at the moment and elaborate on why I'm experiencing those particular feelings. It's always good to think about the way you're feeling and to follow it to why you're feeling that way. It helps to weed out any irrational fears or negativity and, like all things, the act of writing it and seeing it written down is healing in itself. More about S.A.S.H.E.T. here.
  • Good/Bad - Draw a vertical line right down the center of the page. On the left side, write down your thoughts, regardless how how irrational they may seem. Your fears, your insecurities-- whatever you may be feeling. Write it all down. Look over your list and then, on the right side, write positive outcomes. For example, one of my recent bad thoughts had been "Find a reporting job but never climb the ladder and end up in a small town for the rest of my life." On the positive side, I wrote, "Work as hard as you possibly can. Even if you do not end up where you always wanted to be, you'll be doing what you love." This is a technique that I picked up from this book. I read it in high school and I'm planning on picking it up and starting it again as soon as I'm done typing this.

3. Just because you're generally content doesn't mean that you're not suffering from anxiety or depression. You can still feel generally happy but not be completely okay. Have you been a little distant lately? Having trouble sleeping or waking up? Loss of motivation? Excess of motivation but no will-power to actually do anything about it? Start charting your thoughts and feelings and nip it in the but before it turns into full-blown depression.

4. You are affected by what you're putting in. Are you listening to dark music or surrounding yourself with negative people? Stop. Cold turkey. Cut it all out of your life. Your well-being is at stake. When you're sad, you're vulnerable. When you're searching for contentment and answers, you're going to soak up whatever you're putting into yourself. This doesn't have to be permanent, but for now, some of your friends, your reading material, and your music may have to go. Funny thing is, when you feel strong enough to come back to it someday, you probably won't even want any part of it. 

As always, I'm available to talk to. (erika@larkandlace.com) I love you guys, stay strong. 

xo,
e.m.

7 comments

  1. Amazing post. I too have had some weird highs and lows lately. I think i will start to keep a diary or chart to see what influences it. :)

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    Replies
    1. Do it, it'll seriously change everything for the better. I'm here if you need some encouragement!

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  2. This helped me so much.. Thank you for sharing your helpful tips

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    1. Any time. I'm glad that it helped you :)

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  3. This is so surreal, reading your text right now, after the day I just had. Surreal. But still real.

    I've always been a little different from other people. I know everyone's special and unique, but my kind of different is, I guess, depressed. I experienced a mental breakdown about a year ago, and have been very aware of my mood and thoughts since then. I was on medication too, for almost a year, but I think I need to focus on the problem causing my depression, rather than just medicating the symptom.

    I found this post very helpful, inspiring and it actually gave me hope for the future. I might be different, but I'm not different alone. Thank you, for making me see it.

    I started following your blog, and maybe one day, someone might star following mine. I don't have a blog yet, and I don't think I'm even supposed to have it yet. It's all ready in my mind, and you just pushed me a bit more towards it. I'm on a path, and you are a part of it. I'm sitting in my bedroom all miserable, showerless and makeupless, but I think I can do this. This life thing. And that's partly because of you.

    I have so much more to say, but I think I'm done. I think you know, anyway.

    Love, Milja from Finland

    ReplyDelete
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  5. Amazing. I've always been prone to #4 but lately I'm trying to surround myself with only positivity. Thank you for being so vulnerable and open.

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