Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On Alleviating Anxiety

(Please note I am not a doctor or counselor and am simply sharing a glimpse into my own experience with depression and anxiety. I firmly believe that fully overcoming anxiety and/or depression often takes professional help, medication, and genuine community.)

It was a Saturday that had been covered by a cloud of grey. I had accomplished nothing. I felt worthless. Blue. And it wasn’t the first time. I’ve fought depression, and its new friend anxiety, for years. This day was just one drop in the bucket of those covered by these nemeses of mine.

Somehow the survivalist in me managed to get to the grocery store. No makeup on my made me feel worse about my state of mind and forgetting to shower never helps. I trudged toward the door quarter in hand (I was at one of those stores where you have to pay for your shopping cart). I got my cart all the time thoughts echoing in my head:

“This was a bad idea. You should have stayed home. You look like crap. You have no business in public. You feel like…”

 And then it happened.

“Excuse me, miss. But do you have an extra quarter?”

Suddenly snapped out of the depression fog in my brain I turned toward her. I fumbled through my purse and handed the silver piece to her. She thanked me and walked away. 

I smiled. Slightly at first and then it turned into a full-fledged goofy grin. That was it. I had gotten outside of myself for the first time that day. I had helped/served someone else. It was a game changer.

Sure the rest of the day didn’t magically become gumdrops and daisies but that moment taught me something about depression. You see depression is about you. Or in my case, me.  Depression lets us setup an idol to ourselves. It makes my life, my problems, my pain, the most important thing. Depression thrives less readily when we get outside of ourselves. The following points below have helped me gain perspective in times of facing depression:
  • Get outside of yourself: serve someone else. Even something small like in my story above can make the difference in your perspective on a particularly dark day.
      (I realize that the suggestions above can be particularly difficult to accomplish when you’re depressed. Never forget to confide in close friends, your spouse, etc. when you need help getting past the cloud of depression. And if you think you might harm yourself or others, or the depression does not abate, please contact a professional. TWLOHA is a good place to start. They have been exceedingly helpful to me including even providing grants for counseling.)

I don’t want to over simplify the struggle of depression and anxiety. Some days just getting out of bed is a victory. Other times slowing down you racing heart, breathing at a normal rate and have a minute without chest pains feels like miracle. But for me the day when I engaged in the simple act of giving away a quarter was a game changer. And if it helped me I hope it may be an option for you too.

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