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!

Medication for depression and anxiety

This, I must say, seems a strange subject to talk about since I am not a medical person at all. However, as you will see I am not tackling it from that direction. My point is simple, trust your specialist! Seems obvious so why do I say this? Firstly, medication and mental illness, including depression and anxiety, are a very complex thing. Just yesterday I was at a group therapy session where my psychiatrist was present. His comment was worthy of including (this is not word for word) – as humans we are all very much individuals, for this reason the various medications work differently for every one. What may be too strong a dosage for one person, may not be anywhere strong enough for another and any particular medication that is effective for one person may have no affect or even be unsuitable for another. I can certainly vouch for the last comment as the first medication I was on had a very detrimental affect on me. Another person I know is on that same medication and has no problems with it.

Secondly, if you spend time as I did in a mental health ward or you spend time with other depression and anxiety sufferers, you are likely to hear them discussing their medications among themselves and it can be quite amusing. Particularly among those who have been having treatment over extended periods. You will hear them saying things like “what medication have they got you on?”, “oh, I wouldn’t take that. My doctor had me on that and I …..”, “I was on that for a while and it made me ……”, “I am now on ….. and it’s great, speak to your doctor and get him to give it to you”, etc. There’s a Chinese idiom that goes something like this, “prolonged illness makes the patient into a doctor” (久病成医).

So I guess this brings me back to the point that you need to trust your specialist. If however you are being treated by your local doctor or GP, make sure you monitor your moods and keep your doctor informed. On the Black Dog Institute web site you can actually find Daily Mood Charts that are designed for you to print off and fill in. These can then be given to your doctor.

 

Priority One – Getting Help

If there is one thing that to me stands out as being the most important thing to discuss, it is taking that step to get help, don’t be a closet sufferer. According to the UN World Health Organisation, depression is “the leading cause of years lost due to disability world wide”. The statistics are shocking and yet so many sufferers still don’t seek help – a deadly decision since around one million people a year commit suicide as a result of depression.

I myself did not seek help until eventually I had a complete breakdown. I had grown up with the illness and yet somehow managed to convince myself that everyone feels like this, everyone lives with thoughts of wanting to be dead, of being so sad that they wish they would die just to stop the pain inside. So I just pushed my way through life, basically becoming a workaholic just to stop myself from “feeling”. Even when eventually I read an article on depression and alarm bells rang, all I did was convince myself that now I had a name for my condition, I could manage it – a near fatal decision(I will discuss this in my next post)! To make matters worse, in the build up to my final breakdown I hurt the people that I care for and who care for me. So again I would say, if you have even the slightest indications that you might be suffering from depression or anxiety, speak to your doctor immediately.

Which brings me to another important point on seeking help, not all General Practitioners (GP) are skilled in dealing with mental health issues. So it is important to make sure your GP is, don’t be afraid to question them. The Black Dog Institute actually has a part of their website where you can identify qualified professionals in your locality. If you are concerned don’t be afraid to request a referral to a specialist.

So just in case you haven’t got the point yet….GET HELP.

First Post

Hi

Well post number one…I am probably going to take a bit to get the site looking like I want it (and I need to learn how to use WordPress effectively and learn how to get the site to work the way I want it to), so please bear with me.

I really want this to work well as part of my effort to increase awareness of mental health issues, but I also want it to help those living with mental health issues to feel that it is not something that needs to “ruin” their life, they can be just “the person next door”.

I look forward to your ongoing support.

Michael

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