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Five Ways I've Dealt with my Anxiety & Depression

Updated on May 8, 2016

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Mental Illness - My Back Story

Mental illness takes many forms and everyone deals with it differently. This is my personal experience with General Anxiety disorder and Depression, this portion is a small installment of my history with mental illness.

As a child I had always suffered from extreme anxiety, paranoia, and bouts of what I thought was just sadness. I never said anything to my parents, counselors, doctors, or teachers because this is just the way I was, I had no reason to believe that the way I felt was anything but just normal, nor did I have any influence from the outside to tell me otherwise. At a young age I was average in school, moderately social, and mentally developing like I should, I can only conclude my condition to either genetics or the mental strain I endured from molestation at the age of three, and my Dad's decent into alcoholism which spawned constant arguments and even fights between my parents, which I also thought was normal behavior at the time.

Once puberty began its assault and my hormones geared into a frenzy, my bouts of sadness grew into rage after being bullied in school, lashing out at my parents, misbehaving, internalizing, and probably major depression which still went untreated; again at this age I felt this was normal, and my parents didn't seem too affected by my behavior, I was just a teenager, so it was expected.

After many countless years of my parents still fighting and my Dad's worsening alcoholism we moved states to start anew. This change, though sudden, I feel genuinely helped me as I started high school and the path to becoming an adult. After the move my depression faded along with my behavioral problems. I finished high school with a 4.0 GPA and was quite a social butterfly, even though I was still an anxious mess 98% of the time. I was still unaware that this wasn't really normal, I just coped with it and lived my life to the fullest and enjoyed what I could of it.

On my first day of college I had my first panic attack. It lasted for 45 minutes and was spent in the bathroom. I missed all of my classes that day, and I felt like a worthless piece of garbage. What was wrong with me? It was at this point that I knew the way I had been feeling my entire life was not normal, and I set out to self treatment. (which failed)

Eventually I ended up dropping out of college. Mentally, I was a wreck. My relationship with my mother worsened and I moved out on my own with my now fiance, other than my two best friends, he was literally the only other person who was patient with everything I was dealing with and had my back 110%. For four years I struggled with a looming shadow hovering over my life, sapping the joy out of everything I enjoyed doing-- painting, reading, writing, exercising. I gained 60 pounds and hated myself. There came a point when I was my own worst enemy, and this was when I began to heal.

1. Seek Help!

Despite the fact that I work with medication as my profession, I thought I could deal with depression and anxiety unmedicated. When I finally expressed all my worries to my doctor I was surprised by his lack of surprise. He merely said, "In your line of work you deal with a lot of mental and physical stress, and that's okay." OKAY. It's okay to need to take medicine for something that is ruining the quality of your life, which by the way, is the only life you have on this Earth. If you can handle it without lab-made chemicals, great! If not, also great! Whatever resources you need to seek in order to live better, act upon it! I have been happier, medicated, in five months than I have ever been in my entire life, and it is the greatest feeling.

2. Take Some Time for Yourself.

Whether you're having a full on panic attack complete with heart palpitations, sweating, tunnel vision, pins and needles, or just needing a break from a group of people, the work place, everything in general; take time for yourself.

I had frequent panic attacks at work. At least once everyday, during which I really wasn't much help and afterwards I'd be wound so tight I'd snap at my coworkers and if I'm too focused on my panic level, I can't be focused properly on my patients. When this would happen, I would merely step away, take a 15 minute break, go sit in the bathroom, sit in the floor and just breathe. Remove myself from whatever was causing my impending doom and let my brain settle down. On hard days after work I'd spend some time on myself, take an extra long shower and shave my legs with a mud face mask. Make a cup of my favorite tea and sit down with a great book. Before I sought help for my illness, nothing made me happy- and I took for granted all the small things I can do for myself that pay off in the long run for my happiness and health.

This is the Fitbit I have, Simple and Practical!

3. Learn to Love Exercise!

After I gained 60 pounds I was very eager to get it back off. Thankfully after a few weeks of taking my new medication I began to feel like an entirely new person, but though I felt more energized I had become quite used to coming home from work and slouching down in the couch for the rest of the evening drowning myself on facebook. Working out can be a difficult task, especially if you enjoy being lazy. To get myself in gear I bought a few clothing items from the fitness section at walmart (nothing fancy, just comfy) bought a great water bottle and made an energetic playlist on Spotify. Not only do I enjoy getting up and moving, I love kicking my own butt on the treadmill or walking down by the river. Getting out of the house helps more than I ever imagined. Fast forward a few months and I'm walking 10K+ steps a day (using my fitbit) drinking over 80 ounces of water daily, and I have completely cut out soda. I feel great, physically and mentally.

4. Change your way of Thinking.

Every waking moment of my waking life there was always a radio in the back of my mind turned on with the knob broken off constantly dishing out worry after worry after worry. What if my fiance dies on the way to work? What if my zipper falls down? Are they looking at my messy hair? What if I get fired? What if I become a diabetic? Is my mom okay? Is my house burning down? What if my new medicine makes me a zombie, I'm worrying about taking medicine to stop me from worrying.

Really practical stuff, just constant. A few weeks after beginning my medicine it was as if someone had turned the radio off, yanked it right out of the wall! All of my worry faded away into a dark hole somewhere. But along with my new founds clear and concise thoughts, I learned how much I had been a Debbie-Downer, and how I alone had affected the atmosphere of my work space with my fellow associates, bringing unneeded stress and negativity to everything I was a part of. My fellow coworker who passed away a while back, her words rang in my head like a bell, "Have an attitude of gratitude, and blessings will always befall you" And her words have never been more true for me.

Instructions For a Bad Day

5. Talk, Talk, Talk about it!

Having lived with so much anger for so long, and never talking about it, you can imagine how freeing it can feel to finally talk to someone. Sometimes I'll come home from work in almost a blind rage because of something somebody did or said to me. Once a patient got so mad at me because I transposed two digits in his ID card # into the computer and delayed the billing process that he called me an "Illiterate dyslexic dolt with mental retardation." His words, not mine. Thankfully I opened that day and gladly handed his transaction off to another tech, and I immediately went home. As I gathered my things to walk out the door I over heard him telling the other associate, "What kind of business are you running when your employees can't even read." I was so angry at him deep, down to my core for insulting me in a way that he didn't even know he could because I AM dyslexic and Dyscalculic and I though I WAS stupid in primary school because I was always in remedial classes. I drove home 70 MPH and passed a cop, who must not have been paying attention because he made no attempt to chase me. I slowed down with tears in my eyes, drug myself home, and cried on my love's shoulder. I told him all about it, and after just speaking of it, I felt so foolish for letting someone I don't even know hurt me in such a way. He's just some angry guy throwing insults at complete strangers, and his words should mean as much to me as my words to him--not at all.

Talking through things has been a release for myself, and my partner and I talk about our days thoroughly every night over dinner and blow off steam and laugh off the people that tried to bring us down, and then we pray for them. They obviously have a lot to experience in this life.

Depression, anxiety, and the like are serious conditions, ones that almost cannot be categorized. We all feel pain and heal differently. Our mental and physical health should always be our top priority. Life is too short to trudge through it wishing your days away dreaming of a brighter future. Do whatever you can to make your today brighter, take as much time as you need, and remember that you're not alone.

Brighter days are on your Horizon

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© 2016 Jessica Smith


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