Monday, April 29, 2013

Breathing in again...

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I battle with depression and anxiety on a near daily basis.  It's part of my makeup, it's not something I can hide from or escape or simply wish away.  My depression and anxiety is something I don't discuss much outside of my therapist and my husband.  But it felt as though it was time to share a little bit of it in this space.  Perhaps it will help someone else not feel so lonely and isolated in their struggle.**

My depression presents itself as paralysis.  I become literally stuck in place, watching tv or browsing the internet for hours on end.  It becomes exceedingly difficult to do things to take care of myself and my little family.  We eat out more frequently because cooking and meal planning are much too daunting.  My home becomes sorely neglected, with the bathrooms desperately needing scouring and rugs in need of vacuuming.  It takes lots of energy to even take a shower sometimes.  During my episodes of depression however there is always this little voice screaming inside, saying get up, making suggestions of other things I could be doing.  As best I can I attempt to listen to that little voice but often my depression sucks me back down into the chair.  During my therapy sessions I become mute.  It is hard to express and identify what the feelings are that happening inside so I spend most of a session in silent contemplation versus talking.  I notice that I tend to have everything very quiet around me too.  The radio is off when I'm driving and my home is very still and quiet.  But then slowly the haze will lift and I become able to clean the dishes, cook a simple meal, the radio is turned on again and things become bright again.  This lifting haze occurs mostly because of a combination of therapy, yoga, passing of time, and an incredibly supportive and understanding husband.

Anxiety has another whole set of symptoms. There seems to be a scale or range of anxiety levels and symptoms it produces.  My sleep can be interrupted.  Three thirty to 4:30am seems to be my bewitching hour when I wake up and struggle for the rest of the night to fall back to sleep and often don't.  I battle this by doing gentle stretches and meditative breathing exercises.  Also it can be difficult to go to bed in the first place as there is a compulsion to do one more thing or read that next article or chapter before rest can occur.  One trick I use for this is to simulate the sunset in my home by slowly turning off more and more lights.  If a good night's sleep alludes me for several nights in a row then I reach for medication to assist with sleep.

My thoughts can race and my body feels shaky almost as if I have ingested huge amounts of caffeine or other stimulant.  It can become increasingly difficult to attend to the task at hand and often I find I am trying to do several things at once or rush to complete tasks.  For example making Daisy's food, checking my email from my phone and trying to make myself a smoothie all at the same time.  I then become very klutzy.  Once I recognize my racing, rushing actions I make concerted efforts to breathe, move slowly, do some grounding yoga poses, or simply force myself to sit and look out my big picture windows and watch nature with a cup of hot water or herbal tea.  Medications are in my arsenal for extreme situations when I am unable to control it on my own.  However those are always my last resort.  It is my personal desire to use other techniques as much as possible as I want to be myself, Annette, as much as possible.   

Things that I have found to be effective in managing my depression and anxiety are psychotherapy, hatha yoga, walks, therapeutic massage, eating a balance diet, vitamin supplements, flute lessons, volunteering, ladies Bible study, book club, crafting, gardening, photography, having Daisy...  The list continues to grow as I learn more and more ways to cope and manage with this piece of myself.  A simple gesture of a few flowers in a vase can really make a world of difference to me.  I am so grateful and blessed to have a supportive and understanding husband.  He truly loves me wholly and completely for who I am as I am.  Yet he always sees and encourages me to be the best of myself.  He is my rock.  I could not face any of this without him, my Patrick. 

I hope that you or a loved one never has to face this invisible disability.  But in the chance that you do I hope in some small way this post may provide a bit of comfort knowing that you are not alone in this experience. 

Lots of love,

**This is a personal account of my own experience with depression and anxiety.  This is not meant as a extensive explanation of depression and anxiety nor are my coping strategies meant to serve as recommendations or advice for anyone else.  This is what works for me.  If you have questions regarding depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness please speak with a licensed practitioner.