I have been a bit M.I.A. for the past week because of some things going on in my life right now. I wanted to post about it but it never felt like it was the appropriate time. Well… now as I lay in my bed feeling defeated and anguished I couldn’t think of a better time to tell you guys how I really feel.
For those of you with anxiety/depression I hope you can relate. For those of you who do not suffer with either, I really really hope you read this with an open heart and an open mind in efforts that I may change your opinion about this topic.
A common misconception with anxiety and depression is just because I may be in a good mood today or I may appear happy doesn’t necessarily mean I am. I put on a brave face for the ones I love because explaining my true thoughts are exhausting- and for those of you with Depression and GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) you understand this feeling. I almost would rather pretend I am happy rather than constantly explain to people why I am not. Because when I do, the response is always, “Just be happy!” or my absolute favorite, “Just stop worrying, forget about it.”
I like to compare GAD and Depression to a common cold. If someone is sick you would never tell them, “just get better!” and expect them to have a miraculous recovery. No… you make them chicken soup, give them medicine and take care of them until they recover. So why don’t we treat and help those with a mental illness?
It’s tough to understand anxiety and depression if you don’t have it. My doctor made a really great point, it’s hard to understand if people can’t physically see it.
Challenge Accepted I am going to visualize GAD and depression for you to help understand how serious this illness is.
Imagine, you wake up and you are ready to start your day. You are so excited you decide to get in your car and get coffee to treat yourself. But as you get in your car you start to worry about driving because the nearest coffee shop is 15 mins away. That’s quite a long drive. As you get in your car and drive away, a spiral of emotions hit you:
Did I forget to lock the door? If I did, someone is defiantly going to rob me. Did I leave my dog outside? If I did, she is defiantly going to run away.
You turn around.
The door is locked and your dog is safe.
As you are about to head out for attempt number two you notice you have a missed call from a family member… twice. Your mind starts to spiral:
What if it is an emergency? What if someone got hurt? What if they are in danger?
You called them back
They called to tell you a funny story.
You try to head out again but this time before you even walk out the door your mind is racing.
Did I send that email last night? Did I pick up a shift for work today? Did I forget to pay the bills? Am I going to have enough to pay them? Do I even have enough for groceries? If I don’t then how will I eat? How will I live? How will my family live?
You notice your body is tense and it feels like one giant charlie horse from head to toe. Your breath is slowly taken away from you, making it harder to breathe. You start to focus on your breathing and notice you are having shortness of breath. You start to worry why you can’t breathe making your heartbeat faster than ever. Its racing and just took first place in a marathon. You focus on this. Its a scary feeling! Are you having a heart attack? Do you need to go to the hospital? What the heck is going on right now!? You are attentive to your body and feel your mind race faster and faster. You lose control. The space around you now feels large and swallows you up as you feel no escape. Will this feeling ever end? What if it never goes away!? What if your stuck? Wait a minute… You are stuck! The world around you is closing in and your head feels like a volcano ready to erupt. You cry. You are scared. You hide.
Eventually you come around but you are left lonely and full of despair. The one thing you were excited to do was never accomplished. You are feeling hopeless and disappointed in yourself, questioning your strength. You call a friend but all he or she tells you is “just relax! you are fine!”
-Yeah but you don’t feel fine and if you could relax… trust me you would.
Now you are hopeless. You are afraid to leave the house in fear of experiencing this feeling you had again. The outside world you once loved is now your worst nightmare. You feel robbed and a sense of your security is gone. You feel numb.
Anxiety is a really hard topic for most people because it is uncomfortable but hopefully I depicted something that makes sense to you. Panic attacks can come out of no where and they escalate in no time.
Some helpful things to say to someone with GAD and depression:
- I believe in you
- You are strong, you will get through this
- I am here for you if you need me
- How can I help
During a Panic Attack
- Breathe and focus only on breathing (breathe with the person, it helps)
- You will come out of this, it is not forever
- Hand them something to read and tell them to focus on reading until they feel better
- Depending on the person, physical embrace can be comforting. But only use this method if the person feels comfortable with you doing so. Some people love physical touch during episodes of panic and some do not.
- Tell the person to tense up their body for 10 seconds and release. Repeat until relaxed.
During a Crying Fit
- More often then not the person will either be laying down, sitting or even be on the floor. Get down to their level and position yourself parallel to them.
- Let them cry and do not say a word. With depression, a crying fit can be a release of tension and emotion.
- Again, physical contact like a hug or a back rub can be effective but only if the person is comfortable with this.