Depression and Anxiety – The Ups and Downs

I just finished my post on Exercise, Diet and Sleep….decided that I would do something on how moods can change quickly, unexpectedly and sometimes annoyingly. While these mood changes are a part of what we live with, for those around us they can be difficult to accept or even understand, and they have to live with it as well if they are in close association with you. In discussion with my wife just the other day, she made a comment that made me start thinking about this topic when she said, “when I have mood changes I always know what triggers it.” For me, I rarely know what triggers it. Just a few weeks ago I was talking to another depression and anxiety sufferer and he made a comment about how his wife, even after years of dealing with him and his illness still asks what has triggered his sadness. So I guess it is really a lottery that just goes on and on – what will today bring? Will I be “down” and have everyone concerned and questioning, or will I be “up” and have everyone thinking “why isn’t he like this all the time?”

Overall for the past few of months my depression and anxiety have been under control or at least manageable. I have reduced my medication, with my psychiatrists approval, and have had no major problems. I have noticed that my level of sadness has increased but still ok, my anxiety has increased but again not unmanageable. So that all sounds great and my doctors are all happy. What this doesn’t show though is those “downs” that just come upon you. Where you are walking through a shopping center and realize that somehow between coming in the door and where you are now, your mood has hit the floor and, dare I say it, tears are running down your face. Or, where you are sitting in a coffee shop with your latte and American cheesecake, rubbing the skin off your forehead (one of my anxiety “tells”) clearly anxious about something but who knows what. Still this is what I call manageable and would rather this and still feel like I am “myself” than so doped up that I am “level” but not me. It could be quite different for you and you need to realize that by now I have been through all that and I am having on-going therapy so the meds have done their job in getting me this far, I will continue on some level of meds for who knows how long but it is nice to be me again. Another blogger who has come off their meds altogether has written her experience which I found interesting, so click here and have a read.

When it comes to “ups”, I have to say I don’t really have lots of those. Probably why when they do come along I behave very badly and for quite a while my wife was concerned that I might actually be bipolar – to be honest I had actually thought that myself! I think for me the best way to explain how I feel is this; when you have been sick with a bad flu or cold for lets say a week, that first day when the sickness finally breaks you feel like this is the healthiest you have ever felt and you are be tempted to do things that you shouldn’t since your body is still too weak. Well that’s me, when I come out of a low period I feel so great to be out that I….., ah well it’s great while it lasts.

It is good to remember though that you don’t have to be a depression and anxiety sufferer to have “ups and downs”. So always be conscious that those around you could be in the midst of something that has dragged them down. Consider their feelings and this might help them to be a little more conscious/considerate of you.

 

Depression and Anxiety – Exercise, Diet and Sleep

Wow, this is a tough topic for me! The only diet I like is the one that involves eating what I like. Yeah, I’m not good at healthy diets, but along the way I have found some important messages as well as helpful tips. As for exercise….now that comes a lot easier, I’m almost a walk-aholic (I’m quite certain my wife and some of my friends think I am). So how do you go with these two parts of your life?

I think the first thing to remember is this, diet, sleep and exercise all go together. Clearly if you have physical restrictions, the exercise part will need to be done in conjunction with your medical professional. If you don’t and part of your reason for dieting is weight control….then I can make this real simple – you need to burn off more than you take in! All too often we want to take short cuts, we think that if we go on “this great diet” that we have heard about, then the exercise won’t be so necessary. Reality is though that if any diet has any merit at all it will include the need for….you guessed it, regular exercise. So if your diet doesn’t include exercise…….

Now from the depression and anxiety point of view you will find an endless amount of information on the internet. These sites will tell you all about what kinds of foods are best, what drinks are good for you, etc. The Black Dog Institute in one of their publications says, “A healthy, balance diet is the best way to ensure the body is getting the nutrients it requires”. So unless you have a particular deficiency in some area, you will probably find that eating excesses of particular types of foods is going to do little to help. In this respect, the old saying “you are what you eat” probably says it all. If you live on a diet of junk food, then your body will follow the leader! The National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia in 2013 developed the Australian Dietary Guidelines. The following are three of those guidelines:

  1. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs.
  2. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five food groups every day (you can get this info from the web site shown below) and drink plenty of water.
  3. Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.

(The the web site is: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/n55)

The BBC Good Food site (www.bbcgoodfood.com) in an article called “10 Foods To Boost Your Brainpower“, written by a Nutritional Therapist – Jo Lewin, suggested the following foods that studies “indicate” can help the brain:

  1. Whole grains
  2. Oily Fish – omega 3
  3. Blueberries
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Some “B” vitamins – B6, B12, folic acid
  6. Blackcurrants
  7. Pumpkin seeds
  8. Broccoli
  9. Sage
  10. Nuts – vitamin E

If you look over this list you will find that if you have a reasonably average diet, you are probably already eating quite a few of these things. Also, if you check out other sites you will find an endless supply of people ready to tell you that “this” is better than “that”, so be cautious. Again the importance of being balanced can’t be over emphasised as overdosing on anything is never going to be good for you in the long term.

What about sleep? Well every list you look at that discusses dealing with mental disorders is going to include somewhere near the top of the list – “Get enough sleep” . I personally have found that the medication I am on has helped me to get more sleep and I have not needed to resort to sleeping pills. However, changes in medication or medication dosage can for a time change your sleep patterns – it does for me – I don’t think I would rush off and get sleeping pills, I would rather let the medication settle before doing that. But what is enough sleep? Most advice is going say somewhere around 8 hours. Remember though we are all individuals and things will vary to some extent. I have actually found that since getting my depression treated, my need for sleep has increased. Now that could be just a result of being more “stabilized”! Previously I was practically a workaholic, hence I had no time for sleep and my brain was always racing and refused to settle.

So how do we get that sleep then? A few good tips I have picked up along the way though are as follows: 1) Keep the bed room for sleep and sex (don’t watch TV there, don’t read there, don’t eat there, don’t work there, etc – I think you get the idea), 2) If after twenty minutes you haven’t been able to fall asleep, don’t stay there tossing and turning, get out of bed, go to another room and do something for a little while then go back to bed. Then there are the more obvious things like avoiding caffeine drinks etc., 3) Try to keep your sleep pattern regular. Don’t change you sleep times around too much (this will be a problem obviously for those doing shift work but do your best).

I think I will come back to this subject again in the near future as there is so much you can consider. In the meantime these are the three main points that go together:

  1. Regular exercise
  2. Balanced diet
  3. Get enough sleep

Let’s see who can get all that together! Cheers

 

Depression and Anxiety – It’s Not ALL Bad

I think one of the traps that people fall into is thinking that if you suffer with depression and anxiety, you will be this miserable person that can’t have any enjoyment in life. Well it’s true that you probably have more than your fair share of sadness but that still doesn’t preclude you from living an enjoyable life. If you are being  treated then your chances increase, if you are on medication then even more chance if it is correct and just occasionally your specialist might alter your medication just a little bit too much and for as long as it lasts you can have the best time of your life! Yeah I’ve been there….tragically for me though I just couldn’t handle how good I felt – seems I’m not your average person. I had the unusual sensation that I wanted to be sad and cry, but outwardly all I could do was be happy – I told my shrink that I felt like Jeckle and Hyde. He change the dosage and that put an end to that.

On another occasion when my medication was not right, I had the rather dangerous condition of “blabber mouth”! The stuff just destroyed all my inhibitions, I would tell anybody anything – yes I did get myself into trouble. That all ended though when I ended up in a mental health ward at a nearby hospital. Now that may seem bad but for me it was probably the turning point in my dealing with my condition. Having the opportunity to be separated from the outside world and be with an ever changing group that were all dealing with the same sickness, the same medication ups and downs and some who had been on this journey for many years, put things into perspective. Although I had had the condition all my life, I had not been conscious of all these other issues that now confronted me. I must also say that I owe a number of those people for helping me to see the lighter side of the sickness. Meal times would sometimes be as good as listening to a comedy show as they would relate stories that if heard anywhere else you would say they were just not true. You really learn to laugh at yourself.

Another really good thing you learn when you are in hospital is what an amazing equaliser depression and anxiety are. It doesn’t spare anyone, young, old, rich, poor, etc., nobody is immune. It was also good to see how unlikely mixes would happen, particularly when you would see things like teenagers sharing and supporting older ones or a musician with studs in ears, eyebrows, etc (you know what I mean) sitting having a heart to heart with an eighty two year old patient. It really was an education.

Now from the time I started getting treatment I made the decision that I would not be a closet sufferer. So I have had a lot of “uncomfortable” moments when I have just straight up told people that I am a depression and anxiety sufferer. I have one of those sense of humour where I don’t mind seeing people squirm a bit, can totally lighten your day, but you need to be judicious in picking your targets – hurting people is not cool at all. My favourite was when I had just come out of hospital, people would automatically ask why they hadn’t seen me recently. I would just say that I had spent a month in hospital. They would automatically gasp at the length of time and question what could have been that serious, being all sympathetic. I would just reply, “oh no it was great fun, I was in the mental health ward”. I reckon most people didn’t know where to go with that, or whether to even believe me.

So, you can let it tear you down or you can take the opposite view and make the most of every opportunity to enjoy the moments as they happen – make the most of every day.

Depression and Anxiety – Coping with PEOPLE

When you suffer with depression and anxiety you are going to find that you keep  running into more and more things that can be frustrating or difficult to deal with. It can be as simple as the morning sadness that just doesn’t want to let you out of bed, or it can be the level of medication you take to manage your depression and anxiety that has side affects – are you prepared to live with those side affects. In this post I am going to just discuss something that I have found and continue to find a challenge – people. Later I will discuss other things that have tested my coping ability.

From a very early age I found myself thinking that everybody was superior to me. Although I was good at my school work, everything was hard for me, I just didn’t have the desire to get ahead or succeed, I felt that I didn’t deserve any praise or credit that someone else should get that. I didn’t feel that people would or should like me. By my teens I had basically given up on myself as a person. For the most part I just tagged along with my older brother. Whenever I went out with friends I always felt like baggage, not part of the group. Usually I would never walk with people, even my friends, I would walk behind them even if there was only two of us. As an adult I still felt the same but by then I had learnt the art of subterfuge. Yes I could fool almost anyone into thinking that I was in control of my life. Now it might seem that this is not too bad and could in fact be a positive! From where I am at now I can assure you it is not good. It just meant to keep up the charade I had to keep on taking on more, accept things I should have turned down, not because I wasn’t capable of doing them, but because I was slowly but surely self destructing, burning myself out.

Now I know all this sounds like me having self-esteem issues, and it is, but when you are on the inside looking out all you see are the people, those who somehow know what to say, know how to behave, know how to…, and you just don’t have the mental capacity to cope. The problem with the self-esteem idea is that even today when I actually do know what I am capable of, I know what to say, I know how to behave, etc, I don’t need anyone to tell me I am great (hehe), I still see people in the same way and struggle to relate to these superior creatures. Sometimes I find myself looking at someone not even half my age and being in awe of them like they are something special. But if I stop and analyse it, I am just as capable as them, sometimes much better! Yet I still can’t make those feelings go away. If I try to talk to such ones I quickly find myself wanting to defend myself, from what I don’t know. When they talk to me, instead of taking on board what they say and responding the way I know I should, I go speechless, “If I say that I might upset them”, “they might think I’m stupid”, “they might not like me any more”…. either that or I go the opposite and I make a complete fool of myself by being too blunt, too outspoken, not really funny at all. If I am really lucky, I will find a quiet corner to hide in!

The moral of the story is…do the best you can. Letting people know how you feel is a big help, that way if you need to suddenly escape, they will know why. At the coffee shop I frequent most, I told the owners that if they see me sitting in the corner crying not to panic, it’s quite normal for me on down days. They were ok with that and everything has continued as normal. What I don’t want to do is to try to cover up my condition and put more stress and pressure on myself, I already know where that ends up. You will find for the most part, people will be understanding if you are open and honest with them, and the exceptions…..we can’t do anything about them, but honestly it’s them that’s got the problem not you.

Exercising Away My Depression and Anxiety

Being that it is a weekend, rather than “officially” cover one of my future topics, I thought I might just relate some thoughts about my own situation with exercise and the role I feel it has played in my managing my depression and anxiety.

I grew up on a small farm and so was busy with chores that kept me physically fit and strong. Then there was the usual playing and sport at school. I have to admit that while I was probably in the worst environment at that time for my depression, I did manage it quite well, I had to, in a farmers family there was really no opportunity to be “lazy” or “slack” and that is likely how it would have been interpreted at that time.

As I grew up and we moved off the farm, which by the way was in New Zealand, and moved to Australia, I replaced one lot of activity with another. Over the next eleven or twelve years I was for the most part a workaholic. Scuba diving became a big part of my life, initially as sport but then into a business. At times I would have multiple jobs, working through the night in a steel mill then diving during the day either for work of sport. For periods I would even squeeze in a third job or even studies (I did computer programming). The point being that during this period I was always very fit, healthy and busy – no time to dwell on my sickness. Actually at this stage I still didn’t know I had a sickness, I thought it was quite normal for people to feel like I did – going to sleep hoping not to wake up in the morning due to this overwhelming sadness inside. When I did wake it was like, “oh no”. Then all day long struggling to feel real interest in anything.

It wasn’t until my late twenties when I got married and also had a complete career change moving into an office job, and just the office job, that things started to change. Now my level of exercise and fitness plummeted and I mean plummeted. My wife is a great cook and I love food – on went the weight. With family responsibilities I just didn’t have the time anymore for the kind of activity that would keep me fit. The first ten years were probably ok, but after that I started to have more and more lows. I had probably been married for about fifteen years when I happened to read an article on depression. It listed the kind of symptoms experienced and I was amazed to find that over my life I had experienced almost everything described. Now one might think, “so now you go and get help – right”, wrong. For me it was a revelation and even liberating in a way to be able to put a tag on my feelings. But now that I could do that and I had managed all these years and I had a hectic but good life, clearly I didn’t need help!

Now if there was one point in my life that I could go back to and change things, it would be that point. For although another twelve to fifteen years would pass relatively smoothly, my condition was deteriorating quite dramatically. From the early part of this year I suddenly found myself being driven to walk just to manage the anxiety attacks I was having. So all hours of the night and day I would just jump up and go for walks, long walks, which really started to disturb my wife. These walks however did assist me in coping with and getting through these attacks. However my moods and behavior continued changing until eventually earlier this year I had a severe meltdown.

While I was hospitalized for a month, the program run by the hospital included exercise twice a day. This suited me as I was already a walker, but now that I was on medication, and the exercise wasn’t just random, I noticed the positive affect. The hospital program also introduced “mindfulness” into the walking rather than just walking which assisted further. For those unfamiliar with “mindfulness”, it is a way of managing our thoughts which are often the triggers for depression and anxiety. So now I try to walk every day and often these walks are up to twelve kilometers and never less than three to four kilometers. Now I know this kind of thing is not every ones idea of a way to use their time but at least give some kind of regular exercise a go, you will find at the end of it that you do start to reap results which will then spur you on to do more.

Other benefits aside from helping with your depression and anxiety is you have a weight control mechanism. This is also important since a side affect of many of the treatments for depression and anxiety is weight gain. You are also looking after your heart so it’s all good.

So off you go and start doing something other than reading blogs!

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