I lost this battle, but I will win the war.
While I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, I can usually maintain control over it. There are times, however, when it has much more control over me than I over it. It won a recent battle, and as a result I had to take a three week medical leave from work. While this was a huge blow to me, I can happily say that I took advantage of that three week leave to put some truths and strategies in place to help myself recover... and hopefully to prevent this from happening again.
I learned many things in those three weeks, but there are four that stick out the most in my head.
- You can't take care of other people until you take care of yourself.
I am one of those people who will do almost anything for those I love and care for. When they aren’t doing the best, I will go out of my way to try to make them better - but occasionally this has had a negative effect on me - especially when I’m trying to help someone who also suffers from depression or anxiety. I have a tendency to push myself too hard to make these people feel better, and this isn’t the first time I have had to pay a price for it.
Your own mental health needs to be a priority for yourself. You can’t forget what you need to do for yourself to keep healthy. Allowing yourself to become not your best certainly won’t help those you are trying to help either.
- Taking medication that you need isn’t something you should feel bad about.
This has always been a huge issue with me. I have been taking antidepressants for almost 12 years straight now. And while I know that I need them to maintain a balanced life, I have always resented the fact that I am dependent on antidepressants in order to feel and act like a normal human being.
That said though, until recently I had been taking such a low dosage that I still had many days where either the anxiety or the depression kicked my butt. My doctor recently prescribed me with a higher dosage; this is the first time in years that I’m at a point where I can go out in public without feeling sick to my stomach, and it is amazing. I didn’t realize how good it would feel to be at this point, and it has made me realize that instead of resenting the fact that I am dependent on these medications, I should instead be grateful that there is something available to allow me to function on a day to day basis.
- You have no control over what other people think or do.
My anxiety is based on other people. It has often caused me much trouble when I am interacting with people I don’t know and trust well. I have come to realize the reason it bothers me so much is because I am terrified of what other people do, or how something I do will make them think of me. But spending all my time around other people worrying about how what I do or say will make the other person respond isn’t a good way to spend my time. I should instead be focusing on what is happening, not the what may happens.
You can always choose what you do. You can also always choose how you react to or feel about what others do. But there is absolutely nothing you can do to control other people and how they respond to you or something you do, so there’s no sense spending all of your time worrying about it.
- You can work towards living in the moment more.
When suffering from anxiety, a person’s thoughts are often on future events. With depression, a person’s thoughts are often on past events. Living in the present is supposed to help keep perspective on what is going on around us. This is actually a whole hell of a lot easier said than done.
I’ve been trying to spend time living more in the present lately, but I have found that I need to do it in small steps. Right now, I’m working on doing this in the shower every morning - focusing on how it feels for the water to run over me, focusing on massaging the shampoo into my scalp, focusing on the smell of my body wash... focusing on all of the little things instead of allowing my thoughts to run away with themselves. And while it’s hard, it does get easier with practice.
I know that the war with my anxiety and depression will always be present in my life. There will be periods that are better than others. I will win some battles, but lose other ones. That said, though, when on leave recently, I really spent the time to focus on teaching myself truths that would make me more prepared to fight smarter next time around.