Content warning: this post is going to touch on several sensitive topics, including: managing anxiety and depression. Please prioritize your own mental health and check out some of our other content if any of these topics may be triggering to you. If you or someone you know is having a hard time, please know there are resources that can help.
I want to use this blog post to open up to the world about some of the things I experience as a result of just being myself. My goal for this is to share my experiences with managing anxiety and depression; and hopefully help someone who may be going through the same things. Anxiety and depression present themselves differently for everyone. This is simply my experience.
My history with anxiety
To start from the beginning: I have always been a very anxious person. I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents discussed putting me on anti-anxiety medication in high school. For me, different things become so important that they consume my entire thought process and I harp on them until there’s a resolution. The word obsess should’t be used lightly, but I would think about the same issues, fears, concerns all the time, over and over again. I would remain uneasy until I felt like the situation was resolved.
For a long time, I felt like I managed it well on my own. I had highs and lows of anxiety as I got older. During college, I thrived on stress. I always felt relatively level-headed when dealing with incredibly stressful situations that naturally arise in a college environment. Anxiety was just a part of who I was, and I never questioned it as abnormal.
The biggest peak was in 2016 when I started my second “big girl” job at a new company. It was an opportunity for me to challenge myself and prove myself in my career. I was really excited about it. While my work-life balance was great, I would come home at the end of the day feeling mentally exhausted and overwhelmed. I’d lay on the floor of my apartment just trying to breathe because it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.
I didn’t realize it, but I was having panic attacks every day. It never occurred to me that I was that anxious or that stressed. Things came to a head when I got some bad news about a family health situation and I began to feel myself spiral.
Spiraling into depression
I had a very hard time managing the things I was feeling during this period in my life. At times, I found myself laying in bed unable or unwilling to do anything. I wasn’t feeling sad, I wasn’t feeling unhappy, I just wasn’t feeling. It felt like nothing I could do would help me feel happy and I was going to live in this state of nothingness forever.
My anxiety was the tip of a mental health iceberg that had a load of depression lurking beneath the surface. What happens is, I feel anxious, and then I feel bad about feeling anxious, which creates more anxiety and more bad feelings until I get so overloaded with feeling bad that I shut down. It feels awful to shut down.
Depression presents itself differently to everyone. And people manage it in different ways depending on their needs. At first, I needed something to prevent myself from feeling down. After speaking to my therapist and primary care physician, I went on an antidepressant. Something my doctor said really stuck with me. That depression can be a “mental” thing or a “chemical” thing, and realistically it’s a little of both. Medication can help with the “chemical” aspect.
Taking an antidepressant helped in some ways and not in others (that can be a whole blog post on its own). When I spoke with my doctor originally, we agreed I’d be on the anti-depressant for at least 12 months. In the end, I decided to stay on it for about 18 months before coordinating with my doctor to plan how I’d stop.
How I manage anxiety and depression
Honestly, I’m still figuring it out. Every once in a while I think about going back on an antidepressant. But I’ve found some personal mantras to cope with my anxiety to prevent spirals into depression.
- Your feelings are valid.
This is one of the biggest takeaways from 4 years of therapy: the acceptance of my own feelings. It’s okay to feel happy, sad, angry, down, up, left, right. Allowing yourself to just feel those emotions is a healthy and normal thing.
- Take a break when you need it.
I took this past weekend off. I did half the things on my list before I stopped, and I’m okay with it. It was a down time and I needed the time to just exist in the world and do what felt good. In this case, it was watch Parks and Rec all day.
- Remember your priorities.
I am my #1 priority. By that I mean I focus on the things that are important to me and bring me happiness. I don’t drop everything else in the world all the time, but I afford myself space to when I need to.
- Have you been outside today?
This TED talk has a great explanation on anxiety and depression overall. There’s an element of being outside that helps me in a way that a medication couldn’t. Going for a short walk helps me ground myself in my perception of space in the world and helps me feel better.
I hope this blog post was helpful to you (or someone you know). Remember, you’re not alone in this, and it’s okay to feel any type of way you’re feeling. It’s okay to get help if and when you need it.