– how I cope with depression and anxiety –
A perfectionist, a people-pleaser, an over-thinker, an empath with a dash of bipolar disorder, is a miserable albeit perfect concoction for anxiety and depression. While at times, my doom and gloom can solely stem from my mood disorder (chemical imbalance that occurs in my brain), I have discovered that some days it is just the nature of being a living and breathing human being. We do not need a diagnosis to feel or experience depression or anxiety in our lifetime. Period. This is why I tend to steer clear of telling people I have a diagnosis. You are not your disorder, you are indeed, a human being.
I feel incredibly empathetic for those of you that feel the clouds roll in on a perfectly sunny day, and your brain and body tell you, “you are not okay – panic!”. For those of you who have never experienced this, imagine yourself stuck in a movie with a sad song playing, only the music then turns into smashing drums and your heart feels like its going to burst and you cannot escape. At it’s climax, you are now in a horror film – prompting dark and negative thoughts that are no where close to representing the core of who you really are as a person. Somedays I cannot for the life of me grasp why I feel like crying over every little thing; or why I feel so sorrow, like my heart could rip apart as I stand on a metaphorical cliff waiting for anything to take the pain away. I don’t understand why my brain feels the need to send shocks of anxiety through my body making it impossible to breathe; convincing enough, one would think they are having a heart attack.
A lot of people are shocked when I say that I suffer with my mental health because I don’t “appear” to suffer. I am here to tell those people that mental health disorders do not discriminate – and they are not always easy to detect. This is why it is ever so important to treat each person you meet with kindness and respect.
I am certainly not writing this post for pity of any kind. I in no way, shape or form feel sorry for myself because I recognize all the others around me that face the same battles every single day. You all continue to inspire me to speak up and write about mental health.
This post has been A LONG time coming – and a very requested one. The fact this post has been so highly requested not only proves the commonality of such experiences but the struggles in which we collectively face in association with our mental health. It is my hope that this post will bring some light into someones life… Know that, no matter your journey, you are not alone.
Here is a small list of what I do to prevent and minimize the aches and pains of depression and anxiety.
1. The Power of Thought
When you are in the middle of an episode, it can be easy to spiral versus fight it. I am 100% guilty of this. First thing you need to do is write down your negative thoughts and triggers. You cannot work on minimizing your negative thoughts, if you don’t really know what thoughts hold you back from living life to the fullest. I then do everything I can to educate myself on positive talk. I read books. I practice mindfulness. I meditate. I visualize what I want to feel. I journal. I remind myself of what I am grateful for. Doing these small practices can help shift your brain from, “I AM DYING”, to something a little more hopeful.
For anxiety specifically, I have been trying SO hard to do an exercise that a therapist taught me a couple years ago in CBT. It simply questions every little fear in your head to the point it sounds stupid – and then you can let it go. For example, saying “I am going to fail this exam,” I then say to myself, “-and then what?”. The chain of questioning continues. More often than not, you realize that the little fears are actually unrealistic and nothing to hold on tightly to. “So I fail the class, so I lose my money, so I failed myself… Am I going to die and never be happy again? Well, no. The world is not going to end. I will succeed at something else.”
I am triggered by darkness. I do find I tend to spiral more out of control in the darker seasons of the year. That being said, I find it super helpful to have a LED Happy Lite. A Happy Lite essentially creates the feel-good effects of the sun. I like to put it on in the morning to start the day off. Another amazing light source is the himalayan salt lamp. While I have not found it to be overly therapeutic, it is supposed to help alleviate symptoms of depression – and as a bonus – it is aesthetically pleasing to look at.
Light is certainly not the only factor to a healthy and happy environment. Your environment can be both physical and psychological. For physical, I like to surround myself in a comfortable environment that I enjoy. Here are a couple things I love:
- A nice candle.
- An essential oil diffusor.
- Playlists of my fav music.
- Incense. I tend to burn incense once a week. It is some what spiritual for me. I feel like it cleanses the emotions or shit that is stuck in a room.
- A nice bath with a bath bomb.
- A clean room with things that make you feel comfortable and safe.
- Fav books and magazines.
For psychological environment, I am very much what you would call an extroverted-introvert. I love to talk to people and I seem really outgoing, but 99% of the time I would rather be chillen’ with myself or with my boyfriend. I never ever put myself in situation that I feel uncomfortable – sparking anxiety and depression (ahem: bars, nightlight, sleeping in unfamiliar places, etc, etc.). While some of my close friends still like to go out and drink till the wee hours in the morning, everyone knows that I am all fun and games until about midnight. I always arrange a way to get home beforehand. I am not one to over indulge in drinking – and I do not partake in any drugs. This is a personal preference. Anxiety and depression do not mix well with copious amounts of booze (in my experience). I have no problem with people that do chose to partake in those activities. I used to hate being such an outcast or different than everyone else my age; but the truth is, I am living my best life for myself and I do not care that sometimes I am asleep at 10am on a friday. No fomo here.
I am not religious per say, however, I am very spiritual. I remind myself every time I am having an episode that there is a greater plan and there is always a tomorrow. I am a big believer in consciousness. This may sound very strange, but bare with me while I explain… We cannot always control what happens to us, but WE CAN control how we deal with it. A part of my spirituality is reminding myself that nothing is ever permanent and that I am my own Goddess (or God). With that, you better believe you can quit that job, move somewhere new, make a new friends or do whatever the f you want, if you set your mind to it. Consciousness is recognizing that your destiny starts within you.
4. Lifestyle (Diet, Supplements, Exercise)
There is no denying: eating well makes you feel like Beyoncè. Mood disorders are very much intertwined with gut health. I take probiotics every single day religiously. Additionally, I eat a lot of fermented foods, a perfect excuse to eat kimchi and drink kombucha daily (not at all necessary, but I love). I try really hard to eat a balance wholesome diet of real foods. It has been recommended that people such as myself intake less sugar and less caffeine. I also try to incorporate a lot of healthy fats such as avocado, ghee, coconut oil, walnuts and cashews. I do take a omega three fatty acid supplement every morning. I also take magnesium, as I have learnt that that helps with anxiety. I do not track calories or macros for protein or carbs or anything of that nature. I always listen to my body. Some people say you should cut out carbs to avoid crashing, but honestly, I don’t really know how I feel about that. Carbs make you feel so good – blast that serotonin. I just try to eat everything in moderation. As a recovering ortho/anorexic, I try not to put myself in any place of mind where restriction is present.
For exercise, I try to stay active daily. The reality is, it just doesn’t always happen and that is totally fine. Do not sweat it (pun very much intended). That being said, try not to fall too far off the ladder. Try to stick to an exercise goal every week. I usually look at my calendar and see how much physical activity I can reasonably get in and that is my goal. Some weeks it is two workouts, other weeks it is four workouts.
5. Talk about it. Be social.
I could get really long-winded with this one, but I am going to keep it real short (as this post is getting too long). The best way to heal, is to accept help. I fought help for over ten years. From the day my mom and dad took me to a physiatrist’s office at seven years old, I resisted to talk about my feelings or show any vulnerability. Let me tell you how amazing it feels to actually get help and talk things through with someone that is safe and someone that cares. It gets a lot easier the more you talk about it. I joined a support group a couple years ago and that is free for those of you on a budget. Also, it is so important to get outside your house and actually talk to people. It can be easy to stay at home in your comfortable bubble… But you will feel better if you have strong relationships with friends and family. I recommend joining a league or club of some sort to force yourself to get out and talk weekly.
And as I do best in my school papers, I am going to leave you with a very unfulfilling and short conclusion… Anxiety and depression are essentially clouds that pass through your life. Some days are sunny and bright, and some days are dark and cloudy. While we completely cannot change the way our brain works, we can learn to rewire it with time. The best thing you can do is remember that the clouds will pass. It has taken me a long time to write this post, mostly because being this vulnerable is terrifying. But in knowing that many of you will have shared experiences and take something from this is what makes it all worth it.
Should you ever need someone to talk to on this subject matter or you have a wonderful addition to add to my list, please shoot me a message or comment.
Lastly, remember: you are doing the best can, with the best you have. The very fact you are reading this post means that you are willing to accept help. You are willing success and positivity into your life. That is always the first step. You are doing great.
with love always,
Canadian Help Info: Here
Suicide Help Line: Here
BC Support Groups: Here