The overlap between depression and anxiety
I had hoped this year would be off to a good start but annoyingly, depression has raised it’s ugly head again. Suddenly, I realised I was withdrawing from others, spending more time sleeping and feeling very unenthused about pretty much everything in life.
It doesn’t help that I have been seeing someone for a few months who is struggling to come to terms with the fact that I have health problems. He was super keen until I told him about the fact that I was born with Cystic Fibrosis. To be fair to him, he is actually a very decent guy and lost his wife to cancer in 2015. Unsurprisingly he does not wish to have to go through all that trauma again.
Not that I am planning on going anywhere just yet but I guess I am more of a risk than a ‘healthy person’. The overlap between depression and anxiety is clear here. I have felt anxious about the status of the relationship for a few months now and this emotional stress has taken it’s toll, leading to depression.
Of course, I am doing my best to apply cognitive behavioural principles and keep perspective. I also ‘feed’ myself with positive affirmations daily and remind myself of all my wonderful qualities too. Despite, this, I am still human and still subject to all the rejection, fear and worry as everyone else.
I wanted to write this post to let anyone else out there struggling with anxiety and depression to remind themselves that life is a series of ups and downs. Accept that there will be down times but that the good news is you won’t stay down there forever. Take life one day at a time when you feel you are struggling and don’t take your thinking too seriously. I know that my thinking is seriously ‘off’ when I am depressed and I tend to see everything as my fault. I tend to also think about myself and my abilities in a very negative way. I do my best to ‘distance’ myself from this thinking as I know it is distorted and a product of my depressed state.
Keep your chin up(I will try too) and hopefully this dark cloud will soon clear.
A cure for CF
I was diagnosed with CF when I was about two years old. My mother had cystic fibrosis as well and she knew the signs of the illness well. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that affects the body’s ability to control the movement of salt and water between cells.
This causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system.
Sticky mucus in the lungs causes problems with breathing. People with cystic fibrosis are very vulnerable to lung infections.
Currently I am struggling with breathing problems and have had this for two weeks now. I use cognitive behavioural techniques to help me with my thinking but there are days when I find it hard to stay upbeat. I am human after all and dealing with CF on a daily basis does take its toll. I take tablets every day to try maintain my health and worry that every time I catch a cold, I will need to have an intravenous line put into my arm. Most of the time, I just cannot fight off lung infections on my own and need the help of strong intravenous drugs to help me get rid of the infection. Luckily, once the line is put in I pretty much carry in life as normal apart from the times during the day when I need to infuse the medication. Even while that is happening, I can still work or drive. Thankfully modern medicine has come a long way and life can carry on pretty much as normal now whereas before, intravenous drugs meant a minimum stay of two weeks’ in hospital.
Coping with a chronic illness comes with a lot of challenges and I wish constantly that a cure would be found. I have been rejected by potential partners due to my health and it can be tough to overlook that and stay confident about myself at times.
Ultimately, I think it’s all about attitude. I can’t change the fact that I have CF and so my best bet is to watch my attitude. Loving myself, defects and all is a challenging job and a work in progress but it’s the only way forward. If you are struggling with self acceptance, remind yourself of your strengths and do your best to never let others make you feel inferior.
Here’s to being imperfect!!!
Like yourself now
Why don’t you like yourself now? We can all improve something about ourselves but actively disliking yourself or feeling you aren’t good enough is never the way to go. Lately, I have been focusing on my faults and not feeling good. This morning, I gave myself a talking to and forced myself to think about all the good things that I like about myself.
Carrying around negative thoughts and comparing myself unfavourably to others leads me to feeling stressed and unhappy and how is that helpful? Others will take your cue. If you ooze confidence and seem happy in your own skin, others will see you this way too. If you come across as lacking in confidence, seem insecure and put yourself down, others will see you this way as well and treat you accordingly. Be your number one fan. This doesn’t mean you feel you are superior to others, it just means that you feel okay with who you are. How can that NOT be a good thing?
Learn to love and accept who you are, good bits and bad bits. No one is perfect but there is no one else on this planet quite like you. Think about what makes you unique – your sense of humour, the way you see the world? Be proud of all that you have accomplished in life.
I admit, it takes effort to constantly like yourself now. I know I find myself saying things like, I will like myself when I have lost weight but my value as a person should not be dependent on a few pounds or kilos. This is the wrong attitude. I tell myself I am wonderful as I am and actively monitor my thinking about myself.
See yourself as amazing. See yourself as a gift that someone else would have huge luck to get to enjoy and share.
Dealing with my anxiety
I never really acknowledged my anxiety for many years. I always felt I was more depressed than anxious but now I realise that anxiety has been a constant companion by my side. I have just learned strategies to help get me through.
We all feel anxious at times and this is healthy. It is the body’s way of preparing us for a threat. The problem is that in modern day living, the threat won’t usually kill us yet the body reacts the same way it would if there was a real danger to us. Psychologists say that this is down to evolution and the fact that the ‘old brain’ – the amygdala and the hypothalamus still activate in the same way that they would have thousands of years ago when faced with a hungry lion, for example. So, nowadays, in modern living, we can be triggered by our body’s natural reactions and interpret this as real danger. Understanding that even though our bodies are preparing us for a fight/fight or freeze response does not necessarily mean we are in immediate danger has helped me to separate physical symptoms from any real threat or danger. Well, it’s a start at least!
The other strategy I try to use is to ask myself whether my worry is a real worry or a hypothetical worry (a “what if” type worry). If it is a hypothetical worry, I try to dismiss it and distract myself with something else. I used to believe that worrying would somehow keep me safe but I have since challenged the idea that worry is a good thing. I can think if many times when I have worried and it has had not effect on the outcome. One of my favourite quotes is: “Worry is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere”. I think this is very true. I see worry as mental torture now and although I cannot stop the thoughts coming, I am better at dismissing them and not focusing on them or giving them any attention. Think of it this way – you can’t control who knocks at your door but you can choose how long you wish to entertain them for. Your thoughts can be seen in the same way.
I also remind myself that thoughts are not facts – they are just my perceptions of reality, not necessarily the actual reality out there.
Anxiety comes and goes in my life. It has been debilitating at times but I have learned that the only way to reduce anxiety is to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone by confronting my fears. Anxiety is caused by overestimating the threat and underestimating our ability to cope. I talk to myself more positively and tell myself that I will find a way through, no matter way. I have to repeat affirmations to myself regularly but they do help me.
Anxiety can be managed, I know because I have done it. I am still a work in progress though as life is naturally ‘up and down’ and anxiety always seems to hover nearby. Having said that, I do feel I am less anxious than I used to be and I keep working at it and resisting it. You can too!
My depression and anxiety
I have always suffered from depression and can remember going to see a mental health professional at the age of thirteen. Depression tends to run in families and mine is no exception. My grandmother suffered from depression and my mother did too.
Depression is one of the most debilitating experiences. It feels like you are stuck in a dark tunnel with no light and no way out. Depression often gets confused with unhappiness and they are completely different places to exist in. Unhappiness usually has a specific cause (for example – losing your job or a relationship) and doesn’t last indefinitely. Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t always have a specific cause and can continue indefinitely without professional intervention. For me, being depressed meant I did not enjoy anything and did not look forward to anything. Even winning the lottery would not have perked me up.
I withdrew from friends and avoided social situations, locking myself away for lengthy periods of time. Of course, this is one of the worst things you can do when you are depressed but it is a very common reaction. I did not care about my personal hygiene and even taking a bath or shower became a huge effort.
The thing is, mental illness is not uncommon and statistics suggest that 1 in 4 of us will be affected by some sort of mental illness during our lifetimes. With this is mind, it seems ludricrous that there is still such a stigma attached to having a mental illness. I put this down to ignorance and a lack of understanding. Mental illness isn’t as obvious as a physical illness but it can affect someone far more severely in terms of the quality of their life.
Due to my own experiences with depression and anxiety, I decided to study Psychology to try to understand more about why depression occurs and what can be done to alleviate the symptoms. I have found many tips and tricks over the years (many of these I share in this blog) and thankfully, I can say that I manage my depression and anxiety far better these days. I still get down days (I like to refer to them as “duvet days”) and I will constantly be a work in progress. Depression and anxiety can be managed and in many cases, overcome.