The Beauty in the Sadness
The Struggle Is Unreal
How Do You Deal When All Seems Amiss?
"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." - John Milton, Paradise Lost
Everything is easier said than done when it applies to mental health, specifically anxiety and depression. Both frolic hand-in-hand leaving their hooved-prints in the grooves of our noggins while they poke and prod our brains, making our commonplace lives a living hell; and sometimes, just sometimes, your brain starts warping your perceptions of yourself and the world into something it's totally not. Somedays, we may fabricate these ideas that the world thinks the worst of us. Other days, the sadness is relentless and weighs heavy on its victims without explanation. Even worse is being paralyzed by anxiety and having to find a "safe place" to calm yourself. You literally can't move. You have to remind yourself to breathe as if all of a sudden breathing isn't an autonomous function anymore. Out of toilet paper or deodorant? Leaving the house is not an option, so just grab the paper towels by your kitchen sink and deal with it. It's not worth having to weave through the masses of humans at the grocery store when they're all glaring and judging you. Your jaw clamps, your heart pounds, and you wonder what the hell you did to deserve this. This, my friends, is the mind of a manic-depressive individual, heavily peppered with intrusive thoughts and an anxiety disorder. But rest assured that you and I are not alone: there is comfort in the mental-mayhem.
"You say that I'm paranoid, but I'm pretty sure the world is out to get me. It's not like I made the choice to let my mind stay so f****** messy...." - Kiiara
There's an old saying, one I'd heard many times before when I was a young girl and, boy, do I hear it now more than ever! I was finally able to understand the mentality that had kept me in the dark for so long in my earlier years: "Crazy people don't know they're going crazy, they're under the impression they're getting better." That being said, one can find solace in the thought of dementia or a sort of naivety (I know this is a sensitive subject) in mitigating the sadness. I think a lot about the "what ifs" in my situation. What if I didn't know I had depression or what depression was? Would my quality of life be better? And sometimes I straight out wish I had short-term memory loss so I could forget all the pain. I won't lie - I've pondered it long and hard. As someone who's suffered from anxiety and depression since the age of 10, I often think about the future and what's to become of me (because that's what anxiety does to us, right?!).
You vs You
So how does one silence the mind and calm the body? Why is mental health so taboo in today's society? Why, in our right (or crazy minds for that matter), are we AFRAID to ask for help or advice? We've weighed down today's mental health issues with shame, and a surprising amount is inherent or learned at a very young age. Thirty-three years later and I still haven't disclosed to my parents or family that I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety. If there had to be a positive take on my mental health, it'd be that this illness has made me an exceptional liar (no ill-intentions here). Thanks to certain medications, I can function for the most part and perform my job as an insurance representative. I'm very private about my mental state, so when I do divulge my mental health, people's reactions are typically the same: "I would have never guessed!" or "But you're always smiling"; and the all-too-familiar, "Ohh, it'll pass. It's just a phase." Yes, you're right, because phases last 30-some years. Simply put, it's difficult to talk about and harder for the other person to understand. Acceptance, however, plays a key role in the lifelong process of healing. How so? You stop fighting yourself. You learn to love your uniqueness and rather than seeing your mental illness as a handicap, you see it as a gift. You're different, you think differently, and that in itself is the very reason to love yourself.
Coping: The Calm After the Storm
You read correctly: the calm after the (anxiety) storm. We all know there's nothing soothing or calming that prefaces an anxiety attack. All we know is that it's coming and that we have to brace ourselves for it (i.e. hiding, going to our "safe-place", and/or coping mechanisms to name a few). I've acquired quite the collection of books, all of which address anxiety. We all deal with our episodes differently, but I have found that Mindfulness has yielded the best results. When you feel an anxiety/panic attack coming on, keep these practices in mind (again, easier said than done):
- Remember to breathe; when in panic mode, we tend to take short breaths, often making matters worse. Deep belly-breathing helps tremendously and also reduces the acidity in your blood.
- Be mindful of the current state you are in. Don't distract yourself or re-direct your attention; rather, focus on the thought(s) and let it be. Let it engulf you while continuing to take deep mindful breaths. This is part of the acceptance process
- Write, write, write! Even if it's a random sketch or random words strewn together that make no sense, just write. Writing has long been known to be therapeutic, and I say this from experience as an English, Writing, & Rhetoric major.
- Meditation. This one's a doozy and takes practice and patience. The art of meditating alone and self-conversing can be frightening at first, but after some time it becomes a part of you and you'll find that meditating is a necessity in your everyday life.
- Love yourself. It's complicated to be gentle or kind to yourself when you're at war with yourself. There's a lot of self-blame, self-shame, and self-hatred at first; but if you allow yourself, you can offer yourself happiness and love.