The Plan! How I combat the systems of Anxiety and Depression

               There is an increasing amount of talk when it comes to the subject of Anxiety and Depression.  I have read no less than 4 article this week.  Some of them are interesting and innovating, and others are the same wish wash language that has been going on for decades.  I am not an expert by any means and want to make that a blunt point right from the beginning.  I can only talk about my experiences with anxiety and depression and hope that it brings a little light for someone out there.  If you are reading this and struggle with anxiety and depression, I want to make a few things clear.  First, if you are taking medication, DO NOT STOP without your doctor’s help.  The danger of this is not spoken about enough.    Second, you are not an abnormal freak.  I cannot tell you how many people I have spoken to that feel that way.  “What is wrong with me?” is so common of a question that it breaks my heart.  Third, there is help.  Please don’t mistake “help” for cure.  This too is very common.  That is why pharmaceutical companies are piling in the money.  They are trying to convince you that they have the cure.  They have something that might, very important word there, might help you.  It is a process and it should not be rushed. 

               I did not even recognize that I was struggling from anxiety or depression until my late 30’s.  When I would struggle to stay out of bed, eat more food than my body needed for a week, and want to isolate myself from the people that I love and then become sad that I hurt them.  I want you to know that I believe there is a difference in feeling sad and feeling depressed.  Just like there is a difference in feeling anxiety and feeling worried.  The world does not seem to understand this.  To be honest, the church is one place that seems to get this wrong most of the time.  I cannot tell you how many people tell me I am not praying enough, or I am not being honest about a sin.  I will tell you, judgement is not the answer.   Although they cause emotional responses, I feel that anxiety and depression are more to do with your physical and mental health.  I love trying out new things that help me.  New tools that I can use when the body and mind seem to crave what is not healthy for me.  I use the word crave because, it is such a powerful pull that is extremely hard to resist.  I believe that this is why self-medicating is so rampant in our culture today.  The list of how people do this is long and taboo to talk about in our society.  There of course it turning to alcohol or narcotics.  Turning to food, porn, sex, or adrenaline rushes are very popular as well.  What is on the increase however, and probably the most dangerous, is turning to social media searching for people that will enable feelings.  These are all ways that tricks the mind and therefor the body into “feeling” something different.  The problem is that they do, for a small amount of time.  Like anything else that you do repeatedly, you build a tolerance to these things and find yourself addicted and needing more and more so that you can feel “better”.  At least, this what I found true in my life.  I have fallen trap to all the above mentioned and found that I was right back to where I was, or worse, then where I started. 

               So, what changed?  I will tell you.  Before I do, I want to let you know again, I have found no cure.  I do not want to give false hope in this.  I found that a few life changes and some excellent mentors in my life has made the difference.  Also, I have an exceptionally supportive and forgiving family.  They talk to me and let me know how I appear to be doing without judgement.  So here is a list of things that I discovered that HELPS me though. 

  1. I pray!  Did I lose you there?  What support group does not promote praying?  Not many that I have seen.  The feeling that you are not alone no matter where you are and who you are with is extremely important.  I never feel alone when I pray.  Now, I am not ashamed to tell you that I am a believer in Christ.  I realize that many of you that will read this will not relate to this.  So, I go to my second question again.  Most support groups promote prayer to “a god of my understanding”.  However, for me, a belief in a Christ that has forgiven all my sins and that has made a way for me to live free, well, HELPS ME!  I will tell you that this is not an easy concept or action to take when all I want to do is sleep.  So, I force myself to pray. 
  2. I eat clean!  I so want to eat carbs and sugar.  But then I feel bad because I don’t want to be the middle-aged man with the over achieved “Dad Bod”.   I like seeing my feet.  I like tying my shoes without having to exhale.  Don’t get me wrong, I am overweight still.  I am working on that, however.  I will make myself eat fruit and vegetables, lean meat, and lots and lots of water.  Lack of guilt HELPS ME!
  3. Positive in only.  What?  What does that mean?  That means, I take myself off social media.  That means I do not watch news.  That means that I read positive things, listen to positive things, and participate in positive things.  It doesn’t seem much, but it HELPS ME!
  4. I exercise.  Yep.  Swimming seems to help me, and I don’t feel dysfunctional afterword’s.  My friend, mentor, and pastor helped me with this one and I am so grateful.  This one is the hardest to get motivated to do.  I wish I could tell you that I do this every time for my anxiety and depression.  But I want to make my post clear and honest.  When I do this, it HELPS ME!
  5. I have POSITIVE but not Enabling people in my life.  I have friends that will tell me to shut up and not feel sorry for myself, with love in their heart!  This is so important to me.  They are supportive and loving but are not “yes” friends that agree with everything that I say.  I have removed most, if not all, of my “yes” friends from my life.  It HELPS ME! 
  6. I talk with people.  I have a group of people, including my support group Celebrate Recovery.  Being honest, open and willing to take action helps me not feel hopeless.  It HELPS ME!
  7. Last but not least, I serve people.  I get outside of myself and my “comfort zone” and go and help someone.  I cannot emphasize how much that this helps me.  It could be that I feed the homeless, help someone move, spend time with someone that is hurting, pray for someone that is sick, or just buy someone that needs a lunch.  I do something that has nothing to do with me.  In reality, however, the amount of joy I feel when I do this, makes it impossible to “feel” that it is not about me.  It HELPS ME!

So that is my list of things that seems to help me.  I want to make it clear that I do believe that medications can help as well.  I however believe that you need a very good professional in your corner that wants to meet with you often and make changes if necessary to reach your goals.  I talk with people often when they go through their struggle of anxiety and depression.  The important thing for me is not to be selective.  To make the commitment to all seven actions.  That is when I feel the best results.  I hope that this helps you and encourages you to make your own list.  You of course are more than welcome to use mine.  If that doesn’t work for you, keep modifying your list until you find hope.  I am not claiming to have found a cure for anxiety and depression.  I am simply telling you that I have made a plan of action to combat the symptoms that take over from time to time.  Thank you for your time and please tell me what you think.  My wish is only to help. For A Better Life     

A Kind and loving…Rebel??

We have a puppy.  A large, 85 lb., 15-month-old puppy named Nala. She is so sweet.  She loves to snuggle and play.  She always wants to be around us and will often follow me around the house when I am working from home.  She was a gift to my wife for her Birthday, December of 2017.  She is family and we love her, but…She has this rebel streak in her as well.  This morning, she woke me nudging my knee and wining.  This usually means she needs to go potty so, the trained owner that I am, I rushed out of my bed, threw on my robe and slippers and swiftly was escorted to the back door.  Upon arriving outside, I would love to tell you that she did her business.  That I was able to return to the warmth of my bed and the comfort of my dreams.  I would love to tell you that I was able to take advantage of the one day of the week I do not have to use an alarm.  But alas, I cannot.  No, this loving, kind, playful, and sweet puppy changed the direction of my day quickly.  How you may ask?  Well, let me tell you the tale of how my normally innocent puppy go the best of my emotions this morning.  As we go outside, this emergency that she woke me for was not to empty her bladder or to drop a morning landmine.  No, it was to play with a stick.  A stick!!  I was awakened from the sanctuary of my warm cozy bed so she could play.  That in itself, was enough to write this to you, but the plot thickens.  I decide to call her back into the warm home so that I could make me some coffee.  Seven minutes later, the pot was finished, and the cup was poured.  Knowing that at any minute there could be an explosion of mess on my floor, I reluctantly offered to go back outside, risking insanity I know, so that she could use the restroom in the appropriate place.  Imagine how relieved I was when she immediately went into the yard and completed her only true morning assignment.  “What a good pup” I thought.  As if she knew what I was thinking, she looked at me when she was finished (I even received what was a hint of a smile) and started to walk off towards the lake.  I called out to her “Nala!” and she turned around, assuring me that she did in fact hear me.  I received a smile again, and even a wag of the tail before she turned around and continued her journey away from the home and away from me.  Did I forget to mention that it was raining?  This behavior continued, me calling out to my sweet puppy, she turning and wagging her tail then returning to her journey of independent thought and curiosity.  About this time, I felt my morning schedule beckoning.  I had to go to the bathroom, and I needed to be there in a hurry.  How inconvenient!  I called out in desperation, as if hoping that with the tone of my voice she would take sympathy on me and rush to my aid.  The response did not change.  She traveled on her way sniffing the ground with zeal.  I made the decision to leave her outside and rushed to what is my normally my sanctuary and quickly took care of business.  Then, as a well-trained owner of my puppy, I ran back outside to start the insanity once again.  She was walking beside the lake now.  A small dot in my range of vision.  I called out her name and she again turned, wagged her tail, and again began to walk off opposite of my direction.  My face began to blush with the anger I felt.   My hands clinched and I began to talk to myself outload of how much this upset me.  I went into the house, put a pair of jeans on, zipped up my sweater and put on my slippers.  I grabbed my car keys and headed out, like any trained owner would do.  It only took a moment to be alongside the lake and my dear sweet innocent puppy.  She, fully recognizing my car and me driving alongside her, rushed to me with such joy her body could not contain.  Her tail was wagging so hard it caused her body to wag as well.  I opened the back door to my car, so mad that she was so happy, and I was so angry, wet, and appalled by her “wet dog” smell.  I took her home and she walked into the house without incident.    

As someone that deals with Anger often, I find myself praying when it arises in me.  I ask myself if I really needed to be angry and in most cases I find that I do not.  Now, I am not quite sure yet if my anger in this case was justified or not.  Perhaps some of you will think yes, and others will just laugh at the silliness of my response.  However, what I was do know is that God gave me a lesson that I would like to share with you.  How does God respond to me when I am being that rebel?  Does he lash out at me, or yell at me.  Since I spent the better portion of my young life rebelling against him, I can tell you, he did not.  In fact, he gladly went out into the rain and rejoiced when I came back to him.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  There have always been consequences for my actions.  God disciplines with love, however.  I learn the lesson (sometimes) but still have assurance in his love for me.  The writer of Hebrews tells us “Because the Lord disciplines the ones he loves and chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:6).  Is God trying to help you learn a lesson that will keep you on his path?  How do we respond to those that are choosing a path that you know is not from Father?  This morning was inconvenient for sure.  And of course, my puppy chose not to listen to me and do her own thing.  But I think that the most infuriating thing for me was that I was not in control and desperately wanted to be, even needed to be.  That is where most of my anger stims from.  How about you?  Do you find that trying to control what you can’t leads you to a place of anger and frustration?  Food for thought… For A Better Life!