One of the great things about having a blog is getting to know other bloggers — from all over the globe. I’m not sure how Pip found Wayward Sparkles, but I’m glad she did. And once she did, I then discovered her blog, Pip’s Tips, which I highly recommend. Thanks for finding me, Pip!
Pip’s writing is many things: warm, insightful, funny, creative, candid and articulate. And REAL. She writes about a broad range of topics and her voice is very much her own. I love her English accent! Yes, I can hear her accent in my head as I read!
I’ve been reading several of her posts about mental health — a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Pip shares an intimate glimpse into her world during episodes of depression and anxiety. (Add courageous and a loving, caring mother to the list of things I admire about her.) As I was reading her posts, I found that I wanted to talk directly to her and ask her questions and have a whole conversation with her and maybe give her an encouraging word or two and a hug — but, of course, there are limitations to a blog. So today, I thought I’d blog about her blog and, specifically, about her posts on anxiety and depression as one long comment to what she’s written. (See what I did there? Now you have to check out Pip’s Tips to see what it is I’m responding to.)
While I don’t have the same, ongoing anxiety issues and depression Pip is coping with nor the same kind of stresses she has, I can empathize. I’ve also struggled with depression and anxiety in my life, and I have loved ones that struggle as well.
Like Pip, I too believe there is a strong genetic component/ predisposition for both. That just means that it’s there in your genetic makeup, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have it. Theory suggests that there’s something in our lives that flips or triggers that genetic switch to “on” and there you are — dealing with a really shitty part of living.
Because of the biochemical nature of both depression and anxiety, medication can be truly helpful in reducing the severity and the number of episodes someone experiences when they do have it. Besides meds, though, there are myriad techniques, therapies and treatments to address mental health disorders with or without medication that are highly effective.
In my case, my therapist minimizes what I deal with by calling it, “difficulties in living” — not to minimize the fact that my struggles aren’t very real and very hard — because he knows they are — but to present my struggles back to me in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me. That makes them more manageable so I/we can find solutions or resolution.
Sometimes our brains (my brain) can do something that is called catastrophizing (which means that I think and feel that my struggles are too hard for me to effectively cope.) That doesn’t mean everyone else does this, but many do and I tend to default back to this way of thinking when I’m in the thick of an episode. I usually don’t even realize it when I do this. That’s why it’s so important to have someone like a therapist who can point that out to me when I do revert back to old behaviors/ways of thinking.
Over the course of my life, I’ve also discovered that meds don’t work for my depression. Been there, tried that and couldn’t acclimate to the side effects. I’ve also discovered that some meds have given me panic attacks. (Once, never twice — because after once, I’m not taking that drug again!) My body/system can be a diva that way! Even so, I’m glad there are medications that work for many!
As some of my readers are aware, I also have ADHD. So, when depression hits or anxiety hits or life becomes overwhelming, it tends to exacerbate my ADHD. Thoughts swim around in my head fast and furious and sonofabitch, it’s hard to focus, let alone get anything productive done! Not a fun time.
In dealing with my own mental health issues since about the age of fourteen, I’ve figured out some things in therapy, some things through education and reading, and some things just through experience. I’m still learning.
One interesting experience happened to me that I’d like to share — I remember waking up feeling so damned depressed for no other reason than just because — this was several years ago — and my depression came at the worst possible time because I had no choice but to get shit done that day whether I was depressed or not. I don’t even remember exactly what I had to get done. Maybe I had homework that had to be turned in or maybe we had people coming over for some reason or maybe David promised a client we’d get a report out or maybe it was something altogether different but — whatever it was — it was too inconvenient for me to deal with everything that I had to do plus deal with my depression.
I was struggling and couldn’t focus worth a damn. I really just felt like saying ‘fuck it, I can’t do this!’ and then give up. But I guess it was too important for me not to give up that day and so I didn’t. For whatever reason, probably just out of sheer desperation, I finally said to myself — Okay. Yes. I get it — Depression, you want my attention. You want to invade my mind with thoughts, yet again, about how everything is shitty and overwhelming and how lousy I am at dealing with everything, and I will give that time to you. We’ve been there, done that too many times to count, but, yeah, we can go through it again. I promise. But right now, I have to get this, this, this and this done whether I like it or not, even if it’s not as good as I’d like it to be. And yeah, you’re probably, right, I’ll probably screw it up, but even so, IT STILL HAS TO GET DONE! Afterward, I’ll give you all the time you want. Just right now, I simply can’t. You’re just going to have to wait your turn!
Then I hyperfocused on what I had to get done that day. Throughout the day, every so often, I’d start having one of those awful, intrusive thoughts trying to sneak in on me and I’d literally yell at it as though it were a real person who I was utterly pissed at for interrupting me, “NOT FUCKING NOW! I told you I’d listen to you when I get done and I’m not done yet. You’re just going to have to wait!”
Then I’d refocus on what I was doing. Anyway, in doing this — and trust me, I know I sound crazy right now — the damnedest thing happened. Perhaps it was just the fact that I acknowledged how I felt and that I was willing to give my depression its due, just not at that moment — but as I focused on everything else but my depression (those overwhelming thoughts I was having about how awful life was, people were, and I was), my mood lifted.
Hours later, I was finally ready to let my depression have its say, and I remember thinking, “Okay, depression, let’s get this over with now that I have the time!” However, I no longer felt depressed at all. It was gone and so were those awful thoughts. It’s as though my depression got tired of having to wait around for me and finally gave up and went wherever it goes when it’s not hanging out with me. I know that sounds really weird — even to me — but what the hell, it worked. By pure accident and necessity, I might add.
Since then, I’ve found that depression has much less power over me. That doesn’t mean I don’t get the blues sometimes because I do. It’s just that since then, depression hasn’t overwhelmed me to the degree that it’s become debilitating anymore (knock on wood!) Like I said, bizarre, huh? The point is that, yeah, I can accept that depression is part of my life and will probably always be a part of my life, but if I have to make some concessions to accommodate it, then by damned, it’s going to have to make some concessions to accommodate me!
In another instance — about a year or so ago (I think), I went to the doctor with a miserable sinus and respiratory infection and was given a shot of something that was supposed to make the antibiotics work better or faster (I think.) To this day, I’m not sure what it was they gave me; but after I got home, I started freaking out.
All of a sudden, I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin, my heart was racing, my thoughts were racing, and I started physically trembling. I literally thought I was going to die. I was so scared. I started sobbing and felt very panicky, and my husband called the clinic because I was going crazy in a very scary way.
The nurse told him that I was having an adverse reaction to the shot they’d given me, but I’d be okay once it wore off. Until then, though, I just had to wait it out. Well, it was nice that she, the nurse, thought so, but that remained to be seen and I wasn’t so sure about her assessment, especially since she’s the one who gave me the damned shot! By then my anxiety level was off the charts and I couldn’t calm down.
Still, even in the middle of my panic, I remembered having seen something on the news several weeks before about this song that was supposed to calm people who were anxious or panicked. All I knew was that I wanted to be calm NOW! My son looked up this song (I couldn’t even tell him what it was called), but he found it and then downloaded it. Ry and David then set me up in an area where I could listen to the song with headphones on, in the dark, covered with a soft blanket. At that point, every noise, light, and movement made my anxiety worsen. I shut my eyes and focused only on that song with everything I had. I needed it to help calm me down. I listened to it three times before I finally relaxed — enough. But it was that song that got me through until it passed. Well, the song along with my husband and son — who were also pretty damned freaked out! I wasn’t fully myself until the next day, but after I came down from the effects of that shot, I was drained and went straight to bed.
I guess I’d pretty much blocked out these two experiences until I started reading Pip’s posts. Then they came flooding back when she’d asked the question in her post, “What works for you when you are dealing with depression or anxiety?” And I wanted so much to tell her that this was what worked for me during a couple of intensely stressful moments in my life, but my experiences/ explanation was much too long to try and fit into a comment section; hence, this post!
I don’t know that Pip will read this post, but if she does, I hope this proves useful to her in some way — or helps others who are struggling with depression or anxiety and are looking for ways to cope. I don’t pretend that my experiences are like hers or anyone else’s or that what worked for me will necessarily work for someone else.
However, for any who are struggling with depression or anxiety, I say — Do whatever you gotta do! Therapy? Yes. Meds if they work for you? Yes. Working out? Absolutely. Screaming at your depression as if it were a person or listening to music to calm you down when nothing else is working? Hell, yes! Because what I know is that depression and anxiety both suck the big one and I feel for anyone who is forced to endure this in his or her life. It is a struggle.
If you’ve never experienced anxiety before, think about it this way — if you’ve ever had something caught in your throat and all of a sudden you couldn’t breathe and started choking and you couldn’t easily dislodge whatever it was that was keeping you from breathing and then you started to panic and all of a sudden it occurred to you that you might die, that you were probably going to die — yeah, anxiety feels something like that — only with an anxiety disorder, it’s ongoing. Episodes come at you from out of nowhere and sometimes for no apparent reason and it’s not as easily remedied as using the Heimlich Maneuver. Wish it were, though.
With depression, everything hurts. There’s psychic pain and physical pain. There’s pain within your mind and body and when dealing with other people. There’s fatigue — no energy — and you lose interest and you feel overwhelmed and helpless and hopeless and you just want it to stop. You don’t feel like anyone else truly understands what you’re going through because it doesn’t make sense that anyone would or could. You feel like you’re to blame, somehow — that for whatever reason, you’re a defective, undeserving wretch of a human being. You feel like maybe you’ve done something and are being punished or that you’re making others miserable. It just feels like everything is your fault and you can’t fix it. It’s not so much that you want to die, it’s that you just want the fucking pain to stop but it won’t, and nothing’s ever going to get any better. Well, even if it does for a short time, you’re convinced that it won’t last and then you’ll be back to feeling and living your same shitty life with no hope.
Well, let me tell you, when you’ve been experiencing these intense symptoms and feelings long enough and you’re in the middle of it, unfortunately, death starts looking like a viable option. Not for everyone, but for many. I’ve had suicidal thoughts and they seemed pretty rational at the time, though I never attempted — somewhere deep inside, I was somehow able to recognize these thoughts as, “I’m not supposed to be thinking this. This is bad. I need help because thinking this can’t be right.” Then I went and got help. Hopefully, I won’t have those thoughts again. Really not a good place to be.
BECAUSE SUICIDE AS AN OPTION IS A DAMNED LIE THAT YOUR BRAIN’S TRYING TO CONFUSE YOU WITH BECAUSE WHEN YOU’RE IN THE THICK OF IT, THERE’S NO WAY IN HELL YOU’RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO THINK CLEARLY AND RATIONALLY ABOUT YOUR SITUATION (EVEN WHEN YOU’RE CONVINCED THAT YOU ARE) BECAUSE MOST OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS FEELING PAIN AND YOU’D DO ANYTHING TO FIND RELIEF, BUT EVEN SO — SUICIDE IS NEVER AN OPTION!
To Depression and Anxiety — Fuck you, you fucking fucks!
Getting rid of the depression and anxiety or at least finding manageable ways to deal with it so that it doesn’t overwhelm your life — that’s the option! There are many ways to go about treating these debilitating mindfucks, too — so don’t give up. If one treatment or medication isn’t working after you’ve given it some time, try something else. And work on this with a professional who knows what they are doing and will provide you with support, dignity, unconditional positive regard and good treatment options and who will never give up on you, either! You are worth it! Never give up on yourself!
At this moment, I’m sending virtual hugs to all who need one and I want to say that while I can’t take your pain away, please know that you are not alone in your struggle. There are those who can help, who’ve been trained and educated to help, so please reach out because, even if you don’t feel like it right this minute, you are so worth it! You do not have to suffer this alone and you don’t have to feel this way for the rest of your life! Depression and anxiety are not your fault and you’ve done nothing wrong and you deserve to have mental health and wellness in your life!
Okay, I’m going to breathe now. I hope you’ll take a few deep, slow breaths with me at this moment. Ah, yes, that’s much better.
The song I referenced above, btw, is called “Weightless” by Marconi Union. I’m also providing a link to an article by Melanie Curtin about the neuroscience/research that’s been done on this song. All I know is that it helped me and I’m grateful that Marconi Union put that song out there. This article also gives a list of other songs that are supposed to help as well.
Anyway, I’m so glad that Pip wrote about these issues and has given them fresh air while bringing attention to mental health. We need more people who are willing to do that. The point is, no one wants to feel shitty and we do what we can to not feel that way! The fact that depression, anxiety and other mental health issues has ever had a social stigma attached is ridiculous when you think about it! No child has ever said, “Oh, I think I’d like to grow up and live with depression or anxiety or schizophrenia or become a paraplegic or have diabetes or heart disease or become a drug addict!” NO ONE! Yet there are those that think and act like this must be the case. That someone has actively worked to have the struggles they were born with or have acquired in their life through no fault of their own. All I know is that any person who believes that they are better than someone else because they don’t struggle with any mental, physical or medical issues is only tempting fate — and they are only a head injury or medical condition away from experiencing these kinds of struggles for themselves. Not that I’d ever wish harm on anyone — I’m just saying that shit happens in the world and we don’t get to control most of it. We do the best with what we have — each of us. So, if you find yourself feeling like you think you’re better than someone else for whatever reason, you’d best just get over yourself — and that probably means you’re not as psychologically healthy as you’re thinking you are, btw. Because if you think misfortune can’t happen to you or someone you know and love, that just means you haven’t lived long enough yet or you’re just living in denial. And I feel sorry for you, because when it happens to you, it’s going to hurt like hell and you’re not going to know what hit you! Even so, I would never give up on you as a human being! Everyone learns and, hopefully, grows.
We’re all human and we all have human frailties. Yet it is because we are human that we have the capacity to transcend our conditions, whatever they may be, and become stronger, more resilient, and healthier for it! We get both the good and the bad of being a human being and all that that implies. The idea is to just get better!
Okay, I’m going to take another moment to breathe again.
I know, it got a little intense there! As I said, mental health issues are near and dear to my heart! People are near and dear to my heart. And mental health issues are people problems, people who have some difficulty in living.
Also, I don’t want y’all to think that Pip’s blog is only about mental health issues because it’s not. She has recipes and wonderful stories, music and interesting thoughts and ideas about a lot of things. She also has helpful tips. She has poetry on her blog and she writes amusing songs. You have to read sing her take on menopause. Hysterical! Also, I’m a sucker for artists and Pip is an amazing and talented artist. Lovely watercolors! But go and see for yourself and leave her with wonderful, supportive comments to let her know that you’re out there cheering for her and her blog ! Bloggers like to hear from their readers! I know this for a fact, because I’m a blogger and I always appreciate feedback and comments! HINT, HINT!
Until next time —
Peace and Health to You, my Wayward Friends,