journey to recovery · mental health · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

When Anxiety Prevents You From Functioning…

It’s really hard to put into words how I’m currently feeling. I just know its a severe, intense feeling that is consuming me 24/7. It’s crippling anxiety that I haven’t felt in a really long time. It’s deliberating tiredness that even sleep can’t heal.

It’s emotional. It’s time consuming. It’s horrendous. It’s draining. It’s lonely. It’s darkness.

It’s really funny how a small thing such as going to a new place or taking on a new role with new people can cause such emotions and make you feel completely helpless. I start work placement on Monday, at a school for two weeks, and I know this is one of the causes for my extreme anxiety and mood. Every day, normal people get up, get dressed and go to a new workplace without worry. They greet people, laugh, smile, ask questions without a second thought. They interact, they eat lunch, they catch a train or a bus, and feel completely normal for doing this. They go to bed at the end of day without feeling anxious because its just another day with new people.

I think that’s why its so hard for people to understand why I struggle. Why I struggle to even leave the front door because I’m freaking out inside over somebody seeing me. Why I can’t walk into a coffee shop without hyperventilating and playing with my hands. Why I can’t greet people or look into their eyes when they want a conversation. Why I can’t ask for help or ask questions in new settings with new people. Why I can’t be myself because I think people are watching me. Why I can’t get onto a bus or take a seat because I think I’m going to trip or do something stupid. Why I can’t ask the bus driver for a ticket without going over and over what I’m going to say. Why I can’t pay at the till with cash because I worry I won’t have enough. Why I can’t answer phone calls without preparing for days. Why…just WHY.

Work placement is one of my worst nightmares. New surroundings, new people, phone calls, parents, taking responsibility. It’s a day filled with social interaction and trying to smile and laugh. It’s a day filled with sitting in a quiet staff room – wondering what to say and worrying to eat in case someone’s watching me. It’s a day filled with people observing and watching you interact with children and staff. It’s just a day…but it’s not just a day  – not when you’re battling with severe anxiety.

Why can’t society be accepting and accept the fact that sometimes I just can’t function…I really can’t.

Extreme anxieties feels like you’re cornered; you’re trapped; you’re dying…your chest is tight, your lungs don’t catch air, your mind is a whirlwind.

Anxiety, I despise you.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

All about Depression

What is Depression?

Let’s start by defining depression. When things aren’t going how you planned them or something bad happens, its normal to feel down and upset about it. Usually, you’ll feel down for a few days. However, Depression is different. Feelings of sadness and upset last longer than just a few days and make it difficult to cope with everyday life. Depression is common – 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their lives! Depression varies from mild to severe. Mild depression can cause a person to feel low, sad or fed up for a while. The person may not enjoy life and may find things harder. Eventually, these feelings lift. Severe depression makes a person feel very down and unable to cope with normal activities. It lasts longer than mild depression. The person may feel hopeless and think of suicide.

Are you depressed?

Depression affects mood,  thoughts and physical feelings. You may experience some of the following symptoms:

Mood

  • feeling low and fed up or numb and empty most of the time
  • lacking confidence and feeling anxious
  • being irritable, over-sensitive and tearful
  • feeling worthless
  • finding it hard to enjoy anything – nothing seems fun
  • withdrawing from friends and feeling you can’t face going out

Thinking

  • finding it hard to concentrate, to remember things and to make decisions
  • feeling guilty and thinking you are to blame for things that go wrong
  • seeing everything negatively and expecting the worst
  • finding it hard to be motivated and thinking ‘there’s no point in doing things’
  • thinking you would be better off dead, making suicide plans

Physical

  • either being very restless or unusually slowed-down
  • feeling tired all the time and lacking energy
  • changes in sleeping: difficulty in getting to sleep; waking up early; sleeping much more than usual
  • changes in eating: loss of appetite or eating more than usual (‘comfort eating’)
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • loss of interest in sex

Overcoming depression

1: Start by accepting that you are depressed and it’s not your fault. Being angry or critical with yourself will only make things worse. Telling yourself to ‘Pull yourself together’ or ‘Snap out of it’ won’t help. The key to overcoming depression is to break the ‘negative cycle’ of thinking where you become depressed or anxious about being depressed. If you find this happening, try to stop the negative thoughts. Some people shout ‘Stop!’ in their heads, or imagine traffic lights on red. Try to give yourself more encouraging messages: ‘It’s not my fault I feel like this. I will get better – it takes time.’
2: Challenge your negative expectations. Depression makes you interpret events in the worst possible light: ‘My housemate didn’t speak to me when he came home – he’s annoyed with me’. Try to think of alternative explanations: ‘Perhaps he’s had a bad day… after all, he was quite friendly this morning.’ ‘Maybe he’s still hungover from last night.’ Then think which of the explanations is most likely.
3: Set yourself small and realistic challenges. Reward yourself for your effort. If you don’t feel you’ve achieved much, remember that you are one stage further on than when you started. When you feel ready, work for a little longer each day.
4: Try to establish a routine for meals, bedtime etc and stick to it, even if you don’t feel hungry or sleepy. It’s important to eat healthily so that your body can fight infections and doesn’t become run down. Include something you like doing as part of your routine, even if you don’t have much enthusiasm at first.
5: Exercise, including gentle walking, can help to lift your mood. Again, set realistic goals: walking may feel more manageable than going to the gym.
6: Learn and practise relaxation techniques which can help reduce tension.
7: Talk to people. Some of your friends may be worried about you and want to help. If going out feels too difficult, try to arrange to meet for a coffee or talk to someone on the phone. Some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have experienced depression, eg on an internet chatline.
8: Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs such as cannabis – they are likely to make you feel worse. Alcohol lowers your mood and recreational drugs will intensify your depression. Some people find herbal remedies helpful, but they can have side-effects. Seek advice before you take any non-prescribed medication.

And remember – Breathe, take life one day at a time!

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Depression is an illness, not an emotion

I don’t get angry very easy, but I do get irritated. As someone whose been struggling with a diagnosis of Depression for over 2 years, it irritates me when people replace the feeling of ‘sadness’ with ‘depression’. Sadness is no where near the same as Depression.

Sadness is a normal human emotion. We’ve all experienced it and we all will again. Sadness is usually triggered by a difficult, hurtful, challenging, or disappointing event, experience, or situation. In other words, we tend to feel sad about something. This also means that when that something changes, when our emotional hurt fades, when we’ve adjusted or gotten over the loss or disappointment, our sadness remits.

Depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviours in pervasive and chronic ways. When we’re depressed we feel sad about everything. Depression does not necessarily require a difficult event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger. In fact, it often occurs in the absence of any such triggers. People’s lives on paper might be totally fine—they would even admit this is true—and yet they still feel horrible.

Sadness usually goes away when the thing we’re worried or upset about is resolved or goes away too. Depression can not only last days but weeks and months, even years. Depression colours all aspects of our lives, making everything less enjoyable, less interesting, less important, less lovable, and less worthwhile. Depression saps our energy, motivation and ability to experience joy, pleasure, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction, connection, and meaning. All your thresholds tend to be lower. You’re more impatient, quicker to anger and get frustrated, quicker to break down, and it takes you longer to bounce back from everything.

To be diagnosed with depression, people need to have at least 5 of the following symptoms, for a continual duration of at least two weeks. This means you experience these symptoms constantly for 14 days. Be advised: The severity of these symptoms must also be considered, so please use these only as a guideline and see a mental health professional for a conclusive diagnosis.

  1. A depressed or irritable mood most of the time.
  2. A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been interesting or pleasurable previously.
  3. Significant changes in weight or appetite.
  4. Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  5. Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days.
  6. Feeling tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days.
  7. Having feelings of worthless or excessive guilt most days.
  8. Experiencing problems with thinking, focus, concentration, creativity and the ability to make decisions most days.
  9. Having thoughts of dying or suicide.

All I want to do with this post is to simply remind you that there is a fine difference between sadness and depression. Please be aware that when you say, “oh, im so depressed today.” or “she looks depressed.”, that you are referring to a mental illness that has such a large impact on daily functioning for people who suffer with it.

Mental Illnesses are far more than ’emotions’. They are disorders, illnesses, conditions that affect the mind and steal daily functioning of the individual affected. Be mindful, be open, be aware and simply understand the difference between an emotion and an illness.

Thank you.

[Credit: Guy Wynch]

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