Overcoming Anxiety and Depression
Certainly, our mental health deserves the same attention and care as our physical health. A bout with anxiety ought to receive the same reaction as a broken leg, but for some reason, our society has a stigma surrounding mental health issues which prevents many from talking about their struggle and seeking out proper care. This post has taken me over 2 years to finally write, and I’m still not sure whether I have it all sorted out yet. Regardless, it is high time I share what I know about depression and anxiety.
My Experience with Anxiety
I have struggled with perfectionism my entire life. As an adolescent I let the pressures of being a perfect student, athlete, family member, church member, musician, and student council leader make me uptight and overwhelmed most of the time. As a mother, I got to the end of my very full days feeling like I hadn’t accomplished a thing—like I just wasn’t good enough. Never mind the fact that I played cars and read books to my toddlers while juggling carpool, meetings, homework, piano practice, meal prep, laundry, and school volunteer hours. I got up early and stayed up late making sure my house was perfectly tidy. I was often late to appointments because I had to do just one more thing before I could get out the door. I would get so overwhelmed that I couldn’t breathe. I lost sleep at night worrying about the unknown and conjuring up my greatest fears. Life became a strict schedule mandated by my long To-Do list and it wasn’t fun any more. I was depressed.
I thought that if I prayed intently, served others, and studied my scriptures more, the anxiety would be replaced with peace. On a particularly difficult night when I was feeling useless and empty, I cried and prayed for release from the anxiety. In a moment too sacred to explain, I was reminded of my worth. I was worthy of getting help and working through my anxiety. I needed this spiritual experience. And I also needed professional help.
Reaching for Help
It wasn’t until I started to notice my perfectionistic behavior in my 8-year-old daughter that I finally decided enough was enough. I inherited my perfectionism and anxiety from my dad, and he inherited it from his mom. I REFUSED to pass this down one more generation. I made a desperate reach outside my comfort zone, and I found a therapist who opened my eyes to my perfectionism and “accomplishment addiction.” First of all, I learned that I am in good company with my anxiety. Once I started talking about my struggles with others, I learned that almost everyone struggles with anxiety in some degree at some point in their life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) over 300 million people worldwide are struggling with depression. Depression is a medical condition that can effect a person’s work, family, self-care, and social-life. The American Psychiatric Association has found that “one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their life time.”
Fortunately, depression is one of the most treatable mental illnesses with an 80 to 90% rate of positive responses to treatment. For some, relief comes from medication, and for others, treatment comes in the form of cognitive therapy. Many cases require both. For me, I found relief in formal cognitive therapy sessions and I continued my self-help by studying a book recommended by my therapist called, When Panic Attacks, by David Burns. (aff. link) Using the principles from this book as a guide, my therapist helped me discover what my triggers are for going down the path that gets me overwhelmed. I learned strategies for talking myself through my feelings before letting them blow up out of control. For a whole summer, I threw away my to-do list and just woke up each morning, said a prayer, and let the day happen. It was liberating and healing.
I would be lying if I said my anxiety is gone forever. I still experience bouts of feeling overwhelmed and anxious, but one principle in Burns’ Book always comes to mind in those moments: talk to myself the way I would talk to a very dear friend with the exact same problem. That stops my negative self-talk in its tracks and helps me see the truth of my situations.
Ending the Stigma
My hope from sharing this story with you is that you will do one of two things. First, if you struggle with anxiety and depression, I hope something I wrote has resonated with you, and you will take a step in reaching out for the help you deserve. Second, I hope you will share my story with someone who is struggling now. To end the stigma that surrounds mental health, we have to support each other by talking about it. Life really is so beautiful. Life can be so joyful. Sometimes we just need help clearing the smoke so we can see it that way.
(Includes Affiliate Link)