Two very dark and complex entities. They keep you from enjoying life, friends and loved ones, and all the things you used to do. Whisper lies in your mind that you’re worthless, unwanted, stupid. They destroy relationships, dreams, and all that you hold dear. They create doubt in your own abilities and cause you to ultimately withdraw from the world.
In time they turn you into a lifeless shell whose only desire is to drown in the comforts of your pillow. To hope you never again have to wake up to face the cold reality of your cold and confusing world. To escape… by whatever means necessary…
This has been my reality for the last several years. It’s the reason I haven’t kept up with this blog very well, and why my business isn’t successful yet. I’ve dealt with emotional abuse, loss of employment, loss of love, stress overload, financial strain, caregiver burnout, death of a parent, and feeling like a failure at life.
All the years of mental and physical exhaustion, unfortunate circumstances and loneliness have taken their toll on my psyche.
Depression and Anxiety became overbearing and cruel roommates in my brain, inflicting immense pain on my heart and deep wounds on my soul. Forcing me to shut down my senses just to survive. This is what Depression and Anxiety do.
For those who don’t truly understand this misery, hearing things like “stay positive” and “it’ll get better soon” does not lessen the pain. There is no simple solution, and you don’t know what will make you feel better. You feel like a burden on everyone. Eventually, you stop answering friends’ messages and make excuses to get out of socializing, isolating yourself even more.
For me, the recurring and vivid nightmares of watching myself wither away into nothingness mirrored my waking life. But I kept trudging along day after day, drowning myself in work or responsibilities to keep the thoughts and feelings at bay. On the weekends I’d lay in bed drained of all energy and motivation, my pillow as my only comfort.
I alienated friends and loved ones, missed out on opportunities, and gave up on my business and the hobbies that I had been so passionate about. I even neglected my health. The emotional torment, the guilt, the feelings of worthlessness were so deep I could no longer fake happiness. It was much easier to just shut myself in.
When you’re so low that you can no longer see meaning to anything, nothing matters anymore. It seems like nothing can pull you out of your despair.
Throughout these last few years I’ve been researching depression and anxiety to try to overcome them and I’ve learned quite a lot about my unwelcomed roommates. I’ve identified their weaknesses, and am climbing my way out of the dark abyss of my mind that they created.
But this is not to say that I may ever be totally free of my mental roommates. Though I will still slip and fall, I’m learning how to gain my footing again, and keep climbing up. They may always be there trying to drag me down, but I don’t have to stay down for long.
If you are currently stranded in a dark place of your own, here are some things that can help. It is a collection of my own insights as well as from others I’ve reached out to.
1) Get help
Don’t suffer within your own emotional abyss alone. Please seek help. Don’t believe the lies your depression and anxiety are telling you. People around you actually do care and want to help. They just might not know how. Talk to someone. Let them know what’s going on with you. If nothing else, it will help getting your thoughts and fears out of your brain. It can be tough to find solutions when all you can see are walls closing in on darkness.
If like me, your friends are limited and you cannot afford therapy, there are online groups dedicated to mental health. Get involved in one or several of them. One app I’ve tried is 7 Cups. There are “listeners” available to help you, and the site offers affordable therapy options. It helps knowing you can reach someone anytime day or night, from all across the globe who have been where you are. You are not alone.
When your mind is drowned out by negative thoughts and irrational fears, it can be difficult to be calm. But believe me, if you can find even 5 minutes of calm, it’s worth it. Meditating doesn’t have to mean sitting lotus style on the ground attempting to attain enlightenment like in the movies. You are simply clearing negative thoughts and fears by focusing your brain on something peaceful for a short time span. Kind of like giving your brain a mini vacation.
There are apps designed to help you set aside small amounts of time to do just this, such as Calm and Headspace. They even explain how to stop the racing thoughts so that it’s possible to get your mind into a calmer state. Over time, this can lead to improved health and brain function, as the stress response begins to ease up.
3) Change your circumstances
If you are in an abusive or toxic situation, a job that drags you down, or simply in a place that brings bad memories, do whatever you can to change it. It’s unhealthy to stay where you are. Reach out to friends, organizations, co-workers, authorities, whoever you have to for help.
4) Be kind to yourself
You may not feel like putting in the effort, or you may even feel like you don’t deserve it. But you do deserve it. Do something new you’ve always wanted to do. Buy yourself something nice that fits your budget. Indulge in a new flavor of tea or coffee. Get a haircut. Color your hair purple if you want! Give yourself a rest day where you aren’t obligated to do anything but lay in bed if you want, without judgement. Your body probably could use the rest, honestly. And be sure to eat as healthy as you can.
5) Take care of your health
When you are dealing with depression you often will ignore your health. It can be worse if you already suffer from illnesses or disabilities. Make sure you keep up with your doctor visits, and let them know of your depression or anxiety. It’s well-documented that people who suffer from long-term illness or disability have greater chances of developing major depression. Be aware, and make any allowances or alterations for better quality of life. Go easy on yourself; you’re doing great!
6) Get organized
Believe it or not, cleanliness and organization can make a big improvement in your depression and anxiety. When you wake up and the room or house is chaotic, it makes you feel chaotic, which can trigger your symptoms even worse. Keeping your space clean and organized will do wonders for your mood, and help clear your mind. Easier said than done, I know. But try to motivate yourself just a little bit by knowing that it could help you feel better overall.
Start small, and just clear away trash and wash the dirty dishes. Do your laundry. Next, go through that pile of junk mail on your desk or clear out some of your inbox. Take a rest after that, and allow yourself to feel good about taking that step. Next time, try organizing your shelves. Small improvements over time will help you to get back to a normal living space that you can feel more comfortable in.
7) Make a game out of it
Similar to #6 above, try creating a to-do list and reward system for yourself. This one really helps me, as being able to check off something on a list gives me a small sense of accomplishment. It triggers the reward system in the brain and can help jumpstart a positive outlook. Start by making a list of small tasks you need to get done. This can be cleaning to-dos, or other tasks to help such as making time to exercise (another mood booster). Next, assign a reward that you will allow yourself once the task is done. For better results, make sure the task isn’t too heavy, and that the reward is good for you. When you do the task and check it off, you get the assigned reward!
8) Music therapy
Music is powerful. It can transform the way you feel in both positive and negative ways. When you’re feeling down it’s ok to immerse yourself in sad or angry music. But if you want to try a change of mood, change the station! Music that is more upbeat or complex can help you lift your emotional state, even if only temporarily, so that you can get going with your day.
You don’t have to suffer alone. Please get help if you are dealing with depression and/or anxiety. It’s not a sign of weakness to lean on others. It takes incredible courage to speak up. Don’t believe the lies your mental roommates feed you; people do want to help you. They might not really know how, but they can be there for you and help support you on your way to climbing out of your abyss, onto higher ground.
Do you have other ways to cope with depression and anxiety? What has worked for you? Please share in the comments!