Anxious or depressed people like me are often very stubborn. We look around and wish we could live like everyone else does. It's like, you only live once, and we are wasting it being scared or depressed right? But we also want to pretend we don’t have a problem. We hate our reality so much that we want to act like it’s not there. We act that way so that other people will at least think we are “normal” like them. But the truth is, that just stops us from overcoming challenges and living the way we want. Many who need treatment are not getting it. It’s time to start living, guys!
Face this ----> Everyone. Has. Mental. Health.
They just do. Why? Because they are human beings with real lives. Just like everyone has physical health. There is no reason not to see a doctor if you need professional help for a physical illness, even if it is just for a small sprain or infection. Likewise, therapy is there to help get you back on your feet. So why not use this resource? According to this article from The American Psychological Association http://psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/1522-3718.104.22.168a people with anxiety and depression who seek help improve far more than those that don’t. The logical conclusion is that if you are anxious or depressed, it will most likely help to seek therapy.
Even if it is just for something small, it’s okay to go to a therapist. I talk to my therapist all the time about everyday traumas such as school, family dynamics and relationships, or even looking for work. Psych Central says that one major myth about therapy is that only people with a serious condition should go. Seriously, you don’t have to be like a psychopath to consider therapy. I personally believe all people could benefit from seeking professional help with everyday life every now and then. Life is hard—for everyone. You might think you would have to be crazy to go to therapy. I would say live a little, try something crazy! But also I would say that, really, you are crazy to try going it alone and expect to get as far by yourself as with help. Many of the awesome people you compare yourself to have had a ton of behind the scenes support that you are not witnessing. Even look at the celebrities we idolize. Jennifer Lawrence, for example, plays Katniss in the highly popular movie The Hunger Games. But let me tell you a secret. She has suffered from social anxiety. She, however, dealt with it through friends, family, and-- through therapy. Now she is on the big screen fighting against the fictional system with her bow and arrow that she is awesome with. There are many more such successful people who have undergone therapy.
Personally, I don’t know how I would have obtained my undergraduate degree without it. Since I started therapy, I have experienced more of life. I've met new people and tried new things. I've felt comfortable doing things I would never have felt okay with before. I've made better decisions.You only live once, so make it good. The bottom line is— Find a therapist who you like and try it. Stick with it for a while before giving up. It might just help.
Depression is ugly. There’s no way around this fact. Depression is like driving to an amazing job interview and your car dies in the middle of nowhere. Say goodbye to the interview. You will be sticking around for a while.
Those of us with anxiety are well aware of our depressive episodes. Depression and anxiety come in the same package. The National Institute of Mental Health states on their website that, “Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder, often accompany depression.”
When a car breaks down, our immediate reaction is often a bit senseless. We may get angry at the car for busting down. We want to scream at it; to kick it; to take a sledgehammer and smash all its windows. Likewise, when someone we love becomes depressed and simply stops functioning, we often become overwhelmed and frustrated by their ineptitude; and rightly so. It is not easy having a car bust down and spoil longed for opportunities. However, smashing in the car, telling the car it is lazy, sending the car on guilt trips for busting down is not going to get anyone back on the road. Smashing up the car will only make matters worse. One must give the car a tune up. Maybe it needs some more gas.
The consequences of maltreatment, however, are obviously more severe for living things. Didier Lefevre traveled into the rough terrain in the bleakest parts of Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. He recorded his journey in captioned photographs and illustrations in a book called The Photographer. At one point, he comments on the treatment of caravan horses who accompany travelers through the rocky passes. “Caravan horses go through martyrdom” he says.
"They’re overloaded, yanked here and there, subjected to freezing cold, and wounded by stones. They collapse from exhaustion and get abandoned on the side of the road. The trails are littered with dead horses and donkeys." (46-47)
People who are suffering from depression often feel like these horses who have been driven to the point of exhaustion. They feel like they cannot take another step. Yet the travelers feel like they must drive the horses harder. Lefevre showed a sequence of pictures of a horse and explained,
"That horse is making long stops. He can’t take any more; His eyes seem to be saying, 'Enough.' The asshole Muj’, the one Regis and I don’t like, comes up to him, places his AK-47 on top of the horse’s head and fires a volley of shots forward between his ears. The poor horse whinnies and runs desperately for fifty yards before stopping again, panting. And the Muj’ starts again, and keeps at it all the way to the top." (63)
Most of us could agree that this is maltreatment of the horse. Obviously, the man needs the horse to carry his things. He needs the horse to keep going. But this is clearly not a good solution. When the horse finally dies of exhaustion, it will be of no help at all.
As someone who has been that horse before, here are some things that I feel are helpful for people who suffer from depression.
*Recognition of the Illness
When the horse can’t go any further the mindset toward the horse must change. A person with depression may be strong in spirit, like a horse, but simply unable to utilize their strength at the time. This is not laziness. They are sick. When someone comes down with physical ailments we allow them to be sick. We do not expect them to act like a healthy person. That would be harsh. The same is true for depression. To help them, you must recognize that they are sick and need special treatment and reprieve.
* Positive Energy
When you are depressed, you don’t want an AK-47 fired next to your ears. You want to laugh again. You want to enjoy life. You want to like yourself again. When you are surrounded by positivity and cheer it gives you strength to move again. Nobody wants to be forced to act happy. But whatever degree of positivity your loved one is able to accept, offer that to them. Sometimes, something like cleaning up an area of their home so they have one less thing to worry about can add positive energy and show that they are cared for.
Now that you have recognized that they are ill, realize that their hopelessness is faulty. Have hope. Share hope. Give any dosage of hope that they are ready to accept. Life is never as bad as a depressed person believes it is.
Depressed spirits often lack in confidence. This is ill founded. See past this. See their potential rather than their sickness. Share this vision rather than pointing out how awful they have become since they have gotten sick. That will just make them feel less able.
* Encouragement of Healthy Choices
No one wants the horse to stop at the side of the road and never trek again. Encouraging the regeneration of healthy habits without being overbearing is important. This is a tricky balance. Help your loved one to run again. But keep in mind that they are injured. Don’t make them run faster than they are able. Encourage them toward manageable efforts that may improve their condition. They need encouragement to realize they are capable of much more than staying in bed all day. Make the encouragement positive and manageable rather than negative and overwhelming.
* Seek Help
All of this can sound overwhelming when we have our own discouragement and problems. We don’t want to overwork our own selves. If it becomes too much, seek help from a professional-- for your loved one and for yourself if needed. Seek help from friends and family. Don’t try to cure their ailments alone.
* Take Care of Yourself
If you are happy, your loved one will benefit.
Life is a blessing. Everyone deserves to enjoy it. Let’s all try to lift each other.
Guibert, Emmanuel et. al. Trans. Siegel, Alexis. The Photographer. New York. First:2003.
So, I somehow convinced myself that this was going to be a good idea. Everyone reassured me that it was a fine idea when I explained it, so I felt okay about it. Here is a graphic representation of what I envisioned along with a poem that inspired me.
The idea was that I would buy a balloon and give it away. This is how I saw it. A great time, framed by this whimsical poem of spring. I imagined that I would be a little awkward like Cummings' balloon man, but I would make people happy. That's not quite how it went.
First, I went to the party store. I picked out a big monkey balloon. A big monkey balloon. I tied it to a hair band around my wrist. I drove to a store I was not accustomed to. I felt lost as I wandered through the isles looking for someone to give the balloon to.
I felt like people were staring at me because I was carrying a giant monkey balloon. They were. I knew I should look them in the eye and smile. I think they were grinning at me. But I started feeling self conscious. Where was my inner extrovert when I needed it?! "Square your back, chin up, don't look at the floor," I told myself. And just then I saw a mom with a toddler.
I approached my "prey." I asked the mother if she wanted a balloon. Her eyes widened. She looked flustered. I freaked out."Oh, no. Oh, no. What does she think is wrong with me? Oh, no. Oh crap," Uncertainty crept through my spine like seeping, black, fog. That made her feel even less sure. As I drew the balloon toward her, she tensed. Okay, this was stupid. "Well," I said, "he's probably too young"
"Yeah, too young... I was going to say," she responded. I walked off. AGH! Why did I decide to walk around Walmart with a giant monkey balloon? Could I please explain that to myself again? How did this seem like a great idea? I felt like a big, stupid, clown. It was as if the monkey was screaming, "Idiot! Idiot!Idiot!"
I hid in the toy isles and pretended to look at some Batman action figures. I felt a burning in the back of my eyes. Was I going to cry? "Dear Heavenly Father," I prayed, "Please do not let me cry in Walmart while holding a monkey balloon."
I emerged into a clearing of children's clothes. I passed some people who stared at monkey and me. I felt ashamed. I had to get rid of this horrible, smiling, banana munching anathema of evil. A girl of perhaps three or four and her mother were picking out clothes. They had their backs to me. Great, now I had to get their attention.
"Um," I stammered, "excuse me." They turned around. "Um, I was buying balloons for a friend" a partial lie, only a partial lie, "and I had this extra balloon" that was true, "and I'm trying to give it away." She looked slightly confused. "So, um, do you want it?"
Ahh! This awkwardness surpassed Napoleon Dynamite! "Sure," she said politely. Turning to her daughter, "It's your birthday next week anyway, isn't it?"
The little girl happened to be wearing a monkey hat. "It matches your hat," I said. She smiled as I transferred the burden from my wrist to hers. I felt like Frodo finally dropping the ring into the volcano. I turned to go. "Thank you!" the mom said.
When I got to my car, I felt like the most giant loser on the planet. What had I been thinking? "Stupid,stupid, stupid!" I told myself. I suppose, in feeling these things, I was doing what my therapist, Dr. Headman, tells me I often do. I was figuratively sticking an ice pick into my leg and twisting it all around. I didn't actually do anything wrong. In a sense, it happened a bit like I had imagined, but with minor set backs that I blew out of proportion. I gave a little girl, who obviously loved monkeys, a giant monkey balloon a week before her birthday. 'nough said.
Sometimes, people think that shy people are snobs and that's why they don't interact more. A cool, quirky girl wrote a blog entry that discusses how this is usually not true.
In the case of people with anxiety, it's not that they don't like people or don't want to have positive interactions with them. It's not that they don't want to make friends. It's that it's hard for them. They may feel foolish, as if they're carrying around a giant monkey balloon and are inevitably going to elicit rejection.
Until my next awkward adventure,
Namaste (bye in Napalese)