I think the past year of my life can be summed up in one word..STUCK. I have always had a plan for my life. I always had career goals and dreams. Unfortunately, life threw me a few curve balls and now I'm back home (somewhere I never thought I'd be) and I feel like I'm in a rut. It's really hard having your dreams crushed and having to start over. I get so frustrated daily with the fact that I deal with anxiety and depression. It keeps me from doing the things that I used to do and from being the person that I want to be. Every day seems to be a struggle. Yes, I do have days that are better than others. However, if you are like me and have a serious problem with anxiety...everything seems so hard. Getting out of bed, seeing your friends, going out, dating, meeting new people, being away from your "safe" people/places, working...it's just hard. Since my initial blog about my struggles, I've had a lot of people reach out to me. I must admit, it was scary for me to put my struggles out there for the world to see. I didn't know how people were going to react. I had no idea that so many people were dealing with the same thing that I was. I mean, I knew all the statistics about anxiety being the most common mental illness in the US..BUT, I had no idea how many people that I knew who struggled. I guess they hide it better than me or maybe they just function better than I do. I've had people ask me what helps me get through it so I decided to share. Keep in mind, not every strategy works for every person. You really have to try different things and find out what works best for you. That's the thing with anxiety and depression...each individual is different so they require different treatments.
First of all, if you're struggling..SEEK HELP. There is no shame in admitting you need professional help for this. I didn't want to ask for help because I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I thought that I should be able to control my anxiety but I couldn't. I let it go until I finally had a complete melt down. Don't wait for that to happen before seeking help. It's brave to face your problems head on...even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. Also, don't be afraid to take medication if it will help you. I was dead set on avoiding any kind of medication. Finally I realized that I NEEDED medication. This isn't the case for everyone but it is for me. A year later, I'm still trying to find my perfect "cocktail" suited to my needs but I can't imagine making any progress without it. Also, medication should not be your only form of help. Therapy and implementing the things you learn in therapy are essential. I'd also suggest getting a physical from a doctor that you trust. That way you can rule out any other medical conditions. For me, I worry about my health a lot because anxiety has given me physical problems that I thought could be something more serious. It will put your mind as ease if you worry about your health.
One thing that has been really important for me is to tap into my spiritual side. I spent a lot of time being mad and upset that God would let this happen to me. I didn't understand and I still don't...but now I look at things differently. Instead of asking why...I have come to accept that it is what it is. This is a part of my life and I have to learn how to manage it. Asking why isn't going to "cure" me or make me feel any better...it just further upsets me and prevents me from progressing. I've been a Christian for many years but when I was in college and living in Nashville, I kind of ignored this part of my life. In fact, I didn't take many things too seriously besides finding a job. That's all I cared about and all I focused on. Well, I learned my lesson the hard way. When we put things above God, we will pay the price. One way or another, God is going to get your attention and it may be a slap in the face to get you back to reality. I often wonder if I let all the glitz and glamour of the music industry become my idol instead of God and that is why I am in the place I'm at now. It's one thing to say you are a Christian but it is another to walk the walk. I'm far from perfect and I make mistakes and sin just like everyone else. However, I have found that starting and ending my day reading a daily devotional seems to really help me. Simply knowing that God has a plan for my life and that I am not alone comforts me.
Also, self help books and researching anxiety has helped a lot. If you can help yourself, stay away from reading the horror stories people post online about medications that they have taken. Most people will post what doesn't work for them and are less likely to post what has worked for them. Remember, everyone is different and everyone reacts differently to medication. What could be a miracle pill for one person could be a nightmare for another. You have to trust your doctor and realize that it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what is going to work for you. I have the bad habit of looking into every side effect of every drug that I take. While it can be informative, if you struggle with anxiety it will only make you feel more anxious. I have read a LOT and I mean a LOT of books on anxiety. The best one that I've found has been From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett. In fact, I'm probably going to read it again very soon. I liked it because it wasn't one of those books that just tells you what anxiety is and how it feels to have it...if you suffer from anxiety you already know these things. Lucinda actually experienced it herself and regained control of her life. It's very encouraging and it was very relatable for me.
Meditation always seemed weird to me but it really does help. It takes practice but it's all about being able to control your breathing and learning to calm yourself down. I have found a lot of really good guided meditations online that have been extremely helpful. Sometimes I just need a minute to myself and to be able to clear my mind...it works for me.
Deep breathing is part of meditation and I love it. I can almost feel myself releasing tension when I practice my deep breathing exercises. Again, this takes practice and I recommend doing it even if you feel good. That way, you'll be prepared in case you have an anxiety attack and need to use this tool. If you only use it when you're anxious, it won't be easy.
Something that has been especially difficult for me is positive self talk. I've never been that positive when it came to myself so this has been hard to tackle...however, it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO OVERCOME THE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS IN YOUR MIND AND TURN THEM INTO POSITIVE THOUGHTS. You can't live a positive life with a negative mind. If you took the time to write down every thought you had each day, you'd be amazed. Try to see yourself the way that others see you instead of how you see yourself. After all, if you were that bad you wouldn't have all these amazing friends who support you, right? I try to talk to myself like I would talk to my best friend if she was going through the same thing. You have to be kind to yourself.
Also, remember that recovery is like a ladder. Sometimes you'll go up three steps and then back one. There is no magic pill or cure for anxiety or depression. You will likely struggle with it your whole life, even if you do have some periods of time that are easier than others. I think once you accept that and realize it is going to be work to get to where you need to be, you'll be making your way up that ladder.
I know it's hard...trust me, I know. I've been trying to push myself lately to do things that don't feel safe to me and it hasn't particularly been comfortable for me...BUT..I know that I have to do it. I have to push forward. I can't stay this way forever. It's no way to live your life.
So, all my friends that are struggling out there...what helps you?
Hopefully this helps all the people who have messaged me!
Thanks for reading!