Something about Anxiety and Depression

I’ve been wanting to write something on anxiety and depression but I couldn’t think of a good opening. Having a good hook at the start of the post is important to me since it was important to all my English teachers over the years who taught me how to write. Sometimes I’ll find myself stymied because I know what I want to say as the major point I want to make, but I’m not always certain how to get to that point in order to say it. It’s frustrating to have a middle and an end but no opening.

So, yes, in writing about how I couldn’t think of a good way to open, I have given myself one. I think the major issue was that this topic is so personal and so hard to talk about sometimes. Yes, I am someone who lives with anxiety and depression. I was going to say “suffers from”, but I don’t think that puts the right spin on it. It’s something that inhabits me, not the other way around. To be fair, it’s more like a main entrée of anxiety with a side order of depression. And, like many of my fellow Americans, I am having difficulty with portion control.

I’ve had bouts of anxiety for a long time over the course of my life. It’s only within the last few years that it has intensified to the point where it has become (for lack of a better phrase) life interfering. Specifically, it has made travelling anywhere very hard at times. At its worst, it could turn a short car trip (think 15-20 minutes) into a white knuckle experience. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say that the kind of imagination and creativity that was used some of the projects I’ve done over the years doesn’t always work for the good side of my brain. No, it has staked its claim on darker territory.

I remember a previous counselor remarking that I live a lot in my own head. It’s not that I’m unaware of what is going on around me or unable to empathize with others, but that there are thought processes go on without an outside check. That, despite best evidence otherwise, I don’t always articulate the thoughts and feelings I’m having very well so that I get some sort of feedback from others. This has lead to many a conversation in which I feel very silly or stupid once I say what the issue is because (oddly enough) it’s not that big a deal otherwise. I will build things up in my head that aren’t always as big as they purport to be.

The other half of this equation are the physical symptoms I’ve experienced. Dizziness, shaking, chills, and the ever popular chest pains have made appearances over the years and especially recently. They are the perpetual motion machines of symptoms since they can expand and fuel an ever increasing anxiety reaction. What starts out as a “I’m feeling a bit off” can become a “DEAR GOD I WANT TO GO HOME AND CRAWL UNDER THE COVERS AND NOT COME OUT EVER AGAIN” with just enough lingering thoughts over the interpretation of symptoms. It’s been my experience that there is nothing too small that the mind can’t blow out of proportion.

Writing this blog post has not been the easiest. As I said before, it is something personal. But even if no one was to read this, just the act of typing the words has been liberating. It’s as if I was transferring it from my brain to the screen thus freeing the former from the latter. It’s certainly not a cure-all, but it takes away the power that comes from suffering in silence. As someone who lets those thoughts rattle around his head, this can be the change that is needed to come out ahead.

This latest bout of anxiety comes and goes. Last week I was feeling pretty great; this weekend and last night hit me sideways. Right now I’m on an ‘up’ so I’m taking advantage of it. I got some exercise this evening, ate a nutritious meal, had a non-nutritious snack, and have been on-and-off dancing around in my apartment. I just have to remember I’m not alone and that anxiety doesn’t define me even though it gets the controls every now and again. To everyone who has it or been touched by it in their lives, it’s a good reminder of all the benefits that come from facing something as part of a crowd.

22 thoughts on “Something about Anxiety and Depression

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. It’s hard to write things like this, especially publicly, but it really is comforting to read it and know that other people are dealing with this issue and not letting it get the better of them. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’m not ready to go public yet, but you’re not alone in your struggle. It’s also helpful for me to read other professionals which have the same symptoms that I have. I’ve finally given in to go on medication. The crushing sensation in my chest has finally relented though the way my daily interactions with people is…different now. I’m not sure if the change is good or bad.

  3. Bravo, bravo, bravo to you for writing this post. I’ve dealt with similar issues for years (minus the physical symptoms) and relate to so many of the circumstances you discuss here, especially anxiety over travelling – which, for me at least, is always ten times worse when I’m trying to go somewhere unfamiliar to me. Thanks for the reminder that none of us are in this alone.

  4. Thanks for this post. I too suffer from anxiety and depression, and it is always good to know that you are not alone. I have had anxiety for years but it has really come to a head after I was in a bad car accident (hit by a drunk driver) in February, and on top of that, I am adjusting to life with a new baby (luckily, not in the car). I am struggling with going to work, because driving is now terrifying. I am always very open about my anxiety because I think it is good to talk about it.

    So, thank you for writing this! It is always great to know that I am not alone in my battle with anxiety.

  5. There is still so much stigma with mental illness, that it is difficult to come out as someone who struggles with it. Thank you. You are not alone. You are far, far from alone. Our brain is a physical thing and just like knees or livers, it can go on the fritz. It’s just often treated as if it is different by those around us. Plus, it’s invisible and there’s no test for it. No one doubts that someone who’s found something in a scan or a blood test has an extra burden, but sometimes the perception with this is that it’s a moral weakness or self-pity.

    It’s like any chronic illness — it can be managed, but it’s difficult. When you have a chronic illness, whether it’s diabetes or anxiety or fibromyalgia, you’ve been given a part-time job of managing the symptoms and taking care of yourself. I am glad to hear you are taking care of yourself.

  6. Good for you Andy in being able to open up about this. I have lived with anxiety since I was a child, though it was not diagnosed until I was 16. Being able to characterize it the way you have, “I am someone who lives with anxiety and depression” not “suffers from” hits the nail on the head. Being able to say “This is something I live with, but it does not define me” is the first step that helped me handle my anxiety better, and enabled me to tell others about it so they could understand why I am the way I am. Over the long term, those closest to me (work and home) respect me more for being open about what happens to me physically and emotionally, and usually they are able to calm me down and help me “short-circuit” the symptoms before they get really bad.

  7. Thank you so very much for typing this up, after all. I am transitioning from being a library assistant to a new job as an archivist, after studying for my MLS and working full-time at the same university. I wasn’t expecting the panic that is accompanying this transition.

    I hope I don’t offend, but can I recommend paniccenter.net? For those of us who can’t afford the time or money to visit f2f with a counselor, it seems like a good alternative.

  8. You are certainly not the only one suffering from anxiety or depression and I thank you for your bravery in posting your life experiences here. It seems to me that the most creative, successful, intelligent, and energetic people I know all experience either anxiety or depression (or both) on a regular basis. So, perhaps, look at it this way: if you’re anxious and depressed it’s also likely you’re full of awesome.

  9. Keep up *regular* exercise.

    I’d also recommend taking a look at your diet. Everyone is a bit different, so ymmv.

    First, I’d cut out all artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame ; see http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/01/21/sweetened-beverages-increase-depression-risk.aspx) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I would also try to cut back on the consumption of all simple sugars (sucrose, etc.).

    Second, I’d be careful of caffeinated products (and their relatives, e.g., tea, chocolate, etc.).

    Third, I’d look at the types of fats you are eating. I’d eliminate partially hydrogenated oils of all kinds. I’d also cut down on the omega-6 fats (primarily grain / seed oils) and increase monounsaturated fats (e.g., olive oil). I’d recommend trying a high quality omega-3 supplement (e.g., Nordic Naturals). Most people’s omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is way to high.

    Fourth, try going on a gluten free diet. (Trigger foods vary greatly between people. I also avoid corn and soy).

    Fifth, see if you are getting enough vitamin D and vitamin K2 (not K1, K2).

    Sixth, increase your intake of choline (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/10/08/choline-consumption-during-pregnancy.aspx). I prefer hard boiled eggs.

    The key is to try different options to see what (if anything) works for you.

  10. First, Mercola is a quack pure and simple whose purpose in life seems to be making money selling supplements.
    http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.html

    Secondly, those of us who deal with chronic illnesses of any sort do not typically appreciate the types who barge in telling us how to “fix” it when we have not specifically asked you for it. You have no idea what someone has tried or not tried. You have no idea what their particular health situation is. It’s frustrating and annoying and I’ve heard it once too often in my own life.

    • Well, I tried current medical advice / treatment with either no relief, some relief but side effects, or no relief and way too many side effects.

      So, I tried following suggestions from a variety of sources, including the alleged “quack’s” with much better results.

      I think the reason is that current medicine has a tendency to treat too much of the symptoms while ignoring underlying causes.

      And maybe I wasn’t explicit enough, but ymmv means just that. I am well aware that what works for one person may not work for another. On the other hand, I’m also going to go with what works for me. And this has certainly helped me. So, it might help Andy or others. Sorry if it doesn’t help you.

      • I think it was the tone. People forget there is a different between witnessing to their own experience and inflicting their opinion. Tacking on “ymmv” does not change the fact that you weren’t asked, your tone was prescriptive and you know nothing about what this person has tried or not tried. There’s a difference between saying “I suffered from that, too. I don’t know what you’ve tried, but what worked for me is…” rather than jumping in telling someone else what to do because you apparently know how to fix their life better than they do. I would have no trouble with the former. The latter is no more welcome in my book than if I went to someone’s house and rearranged their closets without their permission after they made an offhand comment about having trouble getting organized. It’s just not respectful.

        I am glad you found relief, however you got it. I was perhaps too harsh about Mercola, although he lost me when his website demanded my email address (for marketing, I’m assuming) before I could read anything. Somehow, I find that suspicious.

  11. I so appreciate your courage and honesty, Andy, as well as your wit. “Anxiety with a side order of depression and difficulty with portion control” – a fabulous description! I haven’t experienced the level of symptoms that you talk about but can sometimes feel them around the edges held at bay with the help of a great therapist. I’m printing out your post for him because I think he will find it very interesting.
    And @ksol, Anonymous does sound a bit preachy but I’m trying to hear the concern expressed.

  12. PS – Andy, aren’t you getting married soon? As happy an event as that is there’s still anxiety about a big life change so be kind to yourself! And best of luck with life, the universe and everything.

  13. Anonymous who brought up exercise and diet, and who got slammed for trying to be helpful by ksol, is exactly right on. Diet has been scientifically proven to cause depression and anxiety and help people overcome depression anxiety. Antidepressants work no better than a placebo for most individuals. Exercise works as well as medications for anxiety.

    You can overcome your anxiety naturally through diet, supplements, and exercise. You can learn more on the latest scientific research here: http://www.depressionanxietydiet.com

    And Andy, thank you for sharing your anxiety struggles publicly. You are helping to remove the stigma, which helps people in need, seek help. Depression and anxiety are not a mental illness, they are symptoms of a physical condition (Dr. Oz agrees) which affects the body, brain, mood, and behavior.

  14. I have Sensory Processing Disorder. Since my senses don’t process normally something as simple as the ticking of a clock will trigger my fight or flight response which increases my anxiety which makes me more sensitive to my triggers (it’s a vicious cycle). I’ve been on anxiety meds for over a year now and keep my as needed meds on me at all time. I never know when a panic attack will hit, which makes life a bit difficult. Specially, in trying to network with people at conventions.

    I also spend too much time inside my head and like you have found that writing it out is helpful. I’ve found that applying it to a fictional character is a way to get it out and find a creative release.

  15. Thank you for sharing this. I live with depression, too, and I often feel like I have to hide it in my professional life. It means a lot to hear that someone in my field whom I admire also deals with these kinds of things.

  16. What an honest post! Depression runs through my family like a big black marker line, but over time it has abated. When I couldn’t outrun it or outgrow it, I saw a therapist. That helped. Thanks for the honesty–and writing does help!

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s