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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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