Guest Post by Tim Stoddart
Edit and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by markus53 via Pixabay - made using @WordSwagApp
In general, anxiety is part of the human experience. It’s a natural reaction to stress. It might show up as sweaty palms before an interview, chaotic thoughts clashing in your head before making a big decision, or a general sense of unease in daily situations like meeting new people. Anxiety spans across a broad spectrum.
One of the most common mental illnesses affecting U.S. adults--about 40 million—are anxiety disorders. When anxiety levels become difficult to control and negatively affect day-to-day living, it can be deemed an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can lead to a host of physical problems, as well as life problems: anxious habits, substance abuse, difficulty with relationships, problems at work.
No matter how it shows up in your life, anxiety can be troublesome. An anxious response can range from uncomfortable to inconvenient to overwhelming. Even in situations of “minor” stress, our brains behave differently and we don’t always think clearly.
Your Brain on Anxiety
Our brains can also trigger an anxious response from something internal—a quiet thought or worry—and experience the same fear, dread, or apprehension. Our bodies still react, and our thought patterns can become clouded by emotions.
Anxiety is a powerful force in your brain. But how you react to it can make a huge difference in the power it has over you. Don’t think of anxiety as all bad! That energy in us can also help us to be more productive, pay attention to detail, and creative. It’s not about beating anxiety, but outsmarting it in your everyday life.
Being told to “just breathe” can be really frustrating in the heat of anxiety, but it’s actually great advice. In a research study, scientists found that certain emotions change our breathing pattern. Similarly, by taking control of our breathing, we can change the way that we feel.
When we’re anxious or stressed, our heart beat elevates and our breathing becomes fast and shallow. If we continue this breathing pattern, we prolong the emotional response. According to the study, the best medicine for anxiety is “deep, slow breathing into the belly.”
Does your mind ever start racing, but you need to get focused again? Grounding techniques are a practice in mindfulness that you can use every day. When the thoughts start picking up speed, ground yourself by focusing on something concrete.
Focus your attention on sensory details around you and stay in that moment. Wiggle your fingers and watch their movements. Tap your feet in a rhythm. Focus on those sensations and the control that you have over your body. Look up at the sky, hone in on the movement of the clouds. Describe the colors and shapes of the leaves—aloud or in your head. Whatever you can do to put yourself in the present and relax, do it.
We spend so much time worrying about the past and the future, but things slow down when we can put ourselves in the present. In general, you can practice mindfulness at any time—while you’re eating, in the shower, on a walk, or listening to music. It can help in any intense emotional state.
It’s easy to lose touch with Mother Nature amidst our busy lives. But, time spent outside is important—it’s a break from our everyday stresses, it can help us to relax and breathe easier, and it’s the ultimate place to get serene and practice mindfulness. Even if it’s just for a short stroll, by stepping outside to appreciate the tangible beauty in our world, we can bring ourselves back to center.
A great activity to practice outdoors is meditation. When we’re tangled up in anxiety, it might seem impossible to sit still, be quiet, and meditate. Like any skill, meditation gets easier with practice.
Think of meditation as personal therapy time—a space to untangle your intense emotions. First, control your breathing and let your emotions settle. Then, quiet your mind. What are you feeling? Are you bothered, angry, fearful, stressed? Taking the time to meditate reminds you that—here, in this moment—you are safe and you are okay.
You can meditate at home, outdoors, or even in a quiet place on your work break. Meditation isn’t limited to sitting cross-legged in the lotus position. You can sit in a chair, lie down, or take a walk. Some people enjoy guided meditation recordings, calming music, or nature sounds, while others prefer quiet. And it doesn’t have to last an hour—try 15 minutes, 5 minutes, or even just 1 minute.
Reason with Yourself
If we can slow down our thoughts, we have a chance to challenge some of our thinking. When you’re feeling nervous, afraid, or overwhelmed, talk to yourself like you would a friend.
What’s going on? What’s inspiring your fear or apprehension? Are your fears posing an imminent threat, are they far-off in the future, or are you stuck on the worst-case-scenario? What can you control, and what’s out of your control?
Take action when you can, but so much in life is out of our control. Ease the panic by identifying what you can do and what you must let go. You can use internal self-talk to get real with yourself; try talking aloud, or writing those thoughts into a journal to make more sense of them. Reasoning with yourself may not “fix” the problem, but you parse through the intense feelings and see things more realistically.
Be Kind to Yourself
Many people, like myself, get frustrated with their anxiety. We perceive ourselves negatively when anxiety has a hold on us. Instead, make an effort to be a patient and accepting friend to yourself. Allow your feelings to exist without judgment. Bolster yourself against negative thoughts, rather than putting yourself down even more.
One of the best ways to practice this is through positive affirmations—statements or mantras that you use to bring positive thinking into your life. You can say them in your head, aloud, or write them down and post them somewhere you can see them. The idea is to practice them daily and change the color of your thoughts. No need to be insincere—use statements you believe in, that will actually help you.
I am safe. Life is good. It’s a beautiful world.
Let it Out
Last but not least, we all need an outlet for our feelings. With any emotion, it manifests in our body as energy—and you can feel that pent up energy and tension with anxiety. Find a way to let it out.
For many of us, this means having a trusted friend you can talk to or call in tough moments, or scheduling time to meet with a therapist. Talking it out is a way to release those feelings and reason with yourself and someone else in the process.
There are also healthy routes of self-expression worth trying. Journaling is extremely effective for many people, helping them to interpret and understand their thoughts. But, writing isn’t the only way—paint, draw, collage, sing, dance, cook a meal. The idea is to find a way to express whatever chaos goes on in your brain so you can lessen the negative impact it has on you.
Anxiety is Smart but You're Smarter
About the Author
Addiction is categorized as a mental illness, even if it’s not always seen that way. Those addicted to drugs or alcohol are twice as likely to have an additional mental illness. Unfortunately, these two illnesses can send a person down the path to self-destruction.
A good friend of mine committed suicide after years of struggling with alcoholism. It wasn’t until he found himself in a substance abuse program that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It makes one wonder if things may have turned out differently had he been diagnosed earlier.
Since my friend’s death, I’ve been taking a closer look at the connections between addiction and other mental illnesses. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD) is an illness which often walks hand-in-hand with addiction. PTSD is most commonly suffered by veterans and victims of abuse. The disorder causes a number of disruptive symptoms including flashbacks, insomnia, and depression. With the modern stigma against mental illness, some sufferers of PTSD go untreated. Without proper treatment, PTSD symptoms grow worse, leading those with the disorder to self-medicate. Self-medication is most often done with alcohol but also can be done with a variety of drugs. Below, we highlight a few of the dangers of self-medication and the reasons those suffering from addiction should get help.
Self-Medication Leads to Addiction
When a person self-medicates with drugs or alcohol to feel better, he becomes increasingly more likely to continue the behavior in order to feel normal.
Not only does self-medication lead the person to feel he needs the substance to go about his life, but it also creates a physical dependence on the substance. Addiction is the last thing a person struggling with mental illness needs.
Substance Abuse Increases the Risk of Suicide
Those who abuse a substance are six times more likely to attempt suicide.
This alarming statistic does not include the added risk for suicide experienced by PTSD sufferers. It also fails to incorporate the risk of accidental suicide via overdose. As the individual increases his tolerance to his substance of choice, he will begin to take more and more, and continue to slide down the slippery slope to unintentional overdose.
Self-Medication Damages Relationships
Any person who has struggled with addiction can attest to the strain the addiction placed on his relationships.
A person with PTSD may unintentionally prioritize his substance abuse above his loved ones.
The combination of social anxiety that often comes with PTSD, lack of proper treatment, and substance abuse is bound to batter one’s family ties. It is critical for people with PTSD, even those who already are self-medicating, to seek help immediately. Recovery is the only way to repair any damage to relationships.
Substance Abuse Makes Symptoms Worse
When left untreated, PTSD symptoms grow worse with time.
When the effects of drug and alcohol wear off, the original symptoms of PTSD are aggravated, leading a person to abuse substances even further. While self-medication may seem to help in the short term, it is wreaking havoc in the long term. The only real way to combat symptoms of PTSD is to seek help from a trained professional.
Treatment for PTSD does not have to be embarrassing or uncomfortable. There are many forms of therapy available to help you recover and cope in the way you want. PTSD service dogs also are available to make daily life more bearable. Whatever form of therapy you choose, it is critical that you find and undergo professional treatment. Self-medication may seem to work in the moment but in actuality, you are damaging your chances of living a normal life in the long run. Get help, seek support, and avoid addictive substances.
About the Author
Adam Cook has a strong understanding of the devastation that can be caused by addiction. He recently lost a close friend to an addiction-related suicide. In an effort to better educate himself and to help others, he created AddictionHub.org, a site that provides addiction and mental health resources. When he isn’t working or adding to his website, he’s prepping for his first triathlon.
Guest post by Luke Cochran
Edit and Post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by superanton via Pixabay CC made using @WordSwagApp
Sitting deep in a closet under my basement stairs lies my PlayStation 3. For years, it has been sitting there unused, dormant. However, a recent study has motivated me to dig it out of its tomb and donate it to help those in need.
In a 2012 study by The University of Utah, video games had a positive impact on children diagnosed with chronic illnesses. Much of the impact came from the mental stimulation users experience when gaming.
The study outlines how the patients interacted with games designed for therapeutic use. The University News Center describes how, "their own Patient Empowerment Exercise Video Game (PE Game), an activity-promoting game specifically designed to improve resilience, empowerment, and a “fighting spirit” for pediatric oncology patients." The study also included other games noted for their therapeutic use with chronic illness. Click here to see a preview of some of the games used in the study.
The video games used were also renowned for their promotion of "positive attitude and empowerment" - feelings that the study suggests stem from a games ability to "activate positive emotions and reward systems." This helped strengthen a "fighting spirit" for the patients, trickling down to other health related benefits.
Playing a Role in the Future of Medicine
Roger Altizer, a professor at the University of Utah’s College of Fine Arts and director of game design and production for the program, pointed towards the role the games can play in the future of personalized medicine. He spoke on how these games can motivate people in very individual ways because of how engaging and immersive the experience can be.
With this news comes not only reassurance that my countless hours on PlayStation 3 were of some benefit, but there is now so much possibility ahead for those children diagnosed with chronic illnesses. Just as people learn in different ways, so do patients when responding to different forms of treatment. While it will be a challenge to develop games tailored for therapeutic development, it should be in no comparison to the benefits it can provide so many people.
Therefore, instead of letting my PlayStation 3 collect dust, I think I'll put it to good use. Sending it to an organization like GameCrate (www.GameCrate.us) will make sure my games are reaching their full potential.
Connect with Luke
Article by Steve Johnson
Edited by Maureene Danielle
Post design by Christy Zigweid
Image by tiyowprasetyo via Pixabay CC made using @WordSwagApp
In the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and it claims “more than twice as many lives each year as homicides.”
There are certain behaviors and situations that can add to suicidal thoughts. Losing a loved one, losing a job, or breaking up with a loved one are just a few situations a person may find themselves in that add unneeded stress to their life.
Drug abuse, addiction, or mental illness may also add to, or be a part of, suicidal thoughts and feelings. There are many things you can do to help a struggling suicidal individual, but if you’re struggling with how to help someone you care about, these five ideas can help you be there for your loved one in a meaningful way.
5 Ideas to Help a Friend or Loved One Considering Suicide
Support is available through a variety of organizations, and there may be several local or national services available to meet various aspects of an individual’s complex mental health condition. There are places for addiction, drug abuse, many different types of mental illnesses, and suicidal thoughts, and it’s possible that an individual may require assistance from more than one organization.
One way to start seeking help is to call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They can point you in the right direction to get the help that your friend or family member needs. Don’t forget that if someone is in imminent danger, call 911 immediately.
About the Author
Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.
My diagnosis is ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorder. I have suffered with depression for 5 years and my anxiety for 1-2 years. I have fully recovered from my depression and have slowly, even without realizing it, found ways to cope with anxiety. I’ve come to the realization I have to cope with my ADHD the rest of my life.
I suffered with my depression for a year in college, where I studied office administration, and in that year I barely made it through alive. Right now I am taking time to work and do research and figure out what I want to do. I have thought about being a counselor, teacher, or anything that involves helping those with mental health problems, where I can inspire others in tough situations.
Some of my passions and coping strategies are:
Listening to music. At times when I'm feeling anxious, music helps me ease my thoughts on the situation. When I feel ready to react properly to the situation, I feel more confident and aware of what I should feel and think in the situation.
Inspiring others: I'm passionate about inspiring others with the knowledge I've gained through my experiences and recovery. I've inspired, given advice, and helped people (including those who suffer from mental illness) with my first blog. I currently have a new blog on Tumblr where I still inspire others.
Being creative: When I set my mind to something, I’m finding new ways of thinking differently & creatively. I make sure my thinking is positive, inspiring, beautiful, encouraging, uplifting, happy, and creative.
Being optimistic: The movie Tomorrowland with Britt Robertson and George Clooney, was very inspiring to me. I've come to realize in the things that I do and believe in, that I never give up and always find a way to make it work.
Now that I've finished recovering from my depression, I realize I can fully embrace the person that I've been hiding even before the depression.
In my recovery, I’ve learned how to be confident, love myself for the first time, and not letting anyone or anything hold me back. I now have so many plans I want to do with my life. I feel more myself than I've ever felt in the 19, almost 20 years of my life. And lastly, I am truly proud for all that I have accomplished with my recovery and all it gave me in return. I may have suffered from life-threatening illnesses, but I am here alive, mentally healthy, and happy, which I will never take for again. Near the end of my recovery, I actually started to really and honestly feel that love within myself. Loving myself for the very first time feels amazing.
Versions of this story were also posted on:
My story is posted for team not ashamed, May 20, 2016
My full story can be found on Medium.
About the Author
Guest Post by Joseph S. Fusaro
Edit and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Picture made using @WordSwagApp
It was the spring of 2013. It had been 3 years since my last psych inpatient stay for schizoaffective and general anxiety disorder and to this day, I still say my symptoms were from excessive cigarettes, Adderall, benzos, and the 6-10 joints I was smoking a day. I never had a problem with any of these meds before, but after 2 years, they stopped working and I would go from ADHD and general anxiety straight into psychotic and schizophrenic episodes.
But, before I get into 2013, I need to explain what happened after my last inpatient stay in 2010. Held against my will for over a month and a half, I learned the hard way that sarcasm mixed with psychosis is really a bad idea in urgent care; a sentence of 45+ days and a monthly shot of Haldol is what one gets for not being compliant. I could not stand the fighting, the older lady defecating on the floor in her room for fun, the nightly argument of what terrible 1980’s movie would be played, the medication line, the bedtime, and the patronizing of patients from the guards and nurses aids. I hated that they gave me a handful of downers and then told me I could not sleep during the day. I would skip out of every group activity and the guard would open my door, knock, and tell me to wake up, then stare at me while he or she feverishly took notes on my current state to give my doctor.
I was so exhausted I knew I had to comply because I never wanted to go back there.
After this stay, even though I started to make up with friends and family and being a little more social (I was now getting out once a month instead of once a year), I was prescribed a month long injection of Haldol which was literally stealing the life and soul from my body. (I later found out from a drug rep at a NAMI event that Haldol was a drug from the 1950’s and they only give it to people in the public hospitals that have no money. He said it was outdated and dangerous). I could not eat. I could not think. My muscles were spastic and twitchy, and I know that I was at the beginning stages tardive dyskinesia, even though my psychiatrist denied it. He would stare right at his notepad, never my eyes, and say, “You are still shaking, but that is normal.” I would think, “Well doc, I felt a hell of a lot better when I was on anything except this garbage in a vile.”
Every time I went to a psychologist I would tell him that I am one bullet or handful of pills away from death. I was numb and in serious physical and mental pain from the Haldol. I could not socialize. I had major, major depression that he was ignoring. I guess, in his eyes, as long as I was not psychotic, we were winning this health war, but I felt very different. I had to make a change. I had to make a change myself because there were too many people making decisions about my life. There were too many outside sources ripping the book that was my life apart.
I finally could not take it anymore and in the winter of 2012, I made a decision which looking back now, may have saved my life.
I decided to find another psychiatrist. I told him the whole truth of exactly how I felt every moment of every day; how extremely depressed I was, how much trouble I was having thinking and focusing, and how I needed something to help me sleep at night. I conveniently left out my other psychiatrist and the medication I’d been on. I believed in my sick and tired mind, this new doctor would prescribe me things to balance or offset the garbage my original doctor was forcing me to take. And, to my amazement, it worked. The new doctor prescribed me Adderall (a lot of Adderall I must say). I also got my best friends Xanax and Clonopin back. This felt like Christmas. I filled my prescriptions right away and before I even left the pharmacy, I had 40 milligrams of Adderall sliding happily down my little throat. I swear before they even hit my happy stomach I knew this was going to work. The Adderall was going to counteract the Haldol and I was going to be free again. Well, at least until they stopped working again, which after a year or two of overdoing it, they always stop working.
While this was not a cure-all, just a Band-Aid over a Band-Aid over a 30-year-old bleeding infection, I was feeling okay for a short time. I was still far from healthy, but it got me out of bed every day. It started going to family events and hanging out with friends. For a year or so I thought I had found the answer to my mental illnesses.
I thought that I was finally on the ever so famous and glorious “road to recovery.”
While I was more active and social, there was one issue holding me back. I could only be around people or hold conversations for a maximum of 2 hours. After this, I would lose all interest and focus and my brain would start to take a launch into space. While I had to keep my visits with others short, the more I went out, the longer my visits became.
When I had to go to a family wedding in Florida, things started to take a nasty turn. I was extremely nervous. I had not been on a vacation or a plane in years. I had not seen my family or been around people for more than a couple hours in years. In my mind, there was only one way to power through all of these strong emotions and that was with Adderall and benzos. What I have learned time and time again with this combo is that: 1. It only works if you can keep them to minimal dosages and 2. You cannot take them at the same time or alternate them (Adderall is for days and benzos are for nights). So yeah, I totally abandoned that theory for my trip. Coincidentally, the drugs then abandoned me.
Somehow I made it through the trip, but my sleep schedule got completely screwed up. From the moment I got home and laid on my couch, I knew I was entering a bad phase. When I was just about to fall asleep, I had a dream that someone was whispering in my ear and I knew that the lack of sleep caused the racing thoughts and nightmares to begin again. Now it was just a matter of damage control for me. Could I keep this from becoming mania or psychosis? I knew if I just took my Seroquel every night I would pull through. What I did not calculate was that if I was taking between 40-100 milligrams of Adderall every day I was going to need a lot more Seroquel.
I was a mess and didn’t have any answers, but was not ready to admit defeat.
Days started going extremely fast. I would wake up at 7 or 8 am and take an Adderall, then I would go back to sleep for a couple of hours and wake up at 11 am or so in pain. The only thing that eased my pain was another Adderall. I used to always know when mania was starting because I would write with vigor. I wasn’t writing poetry, prose, an article, or even thoughts, just my opinions on anything and everything. I could connect the dots to anything. I could tell you why the sun came up. I could tell you why I fell off my bike when I was 7. I could tell you why birds lay eggs. Then I could tell you that all 3 topics were scientifically connected…via the power of God. I was working on a book that I called Loose Associations, which if I ever decide to put it together and release it will probably only make sense to 1% of the 1% of people that live with schizophrenia. I did not have these psychotic symptoms all the time, but I can assure you for my stints of psychosis I was not even in this galaxy. I lived in a world of telepathy gone mad. I lived in a world of nuclear war gone everywhere; friends were at war with friends, and family was at war with family. I was on the lookout for it 24/7 and hiding from it any way I could. I thought that alone, I was chosen out of every person in the world to fight and end this war so that the “regular people” did not have to be bothered. I thought that I was named Commander and Chief, then given a sword and horse. All of the Justices, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, and Queens looked at me and said, “We need you, Joseph. God speed, kid,” and sent me off to save the world. I later found out while I was in my internal war that I had scared the life out of everyone; my family, friends, doctors, and pharmacists.
After an all-night battle with myself, I walked out of my room at 1 pm and decided I was going to take the day off and watch a Mets game for the first time in a few days. Wait, it was the last day in June? I had not sat down to watch a game in over a month? I did not have any proof but I could sense that one of my friends had told my family that I was a mess and it was only a matter of time before my family called the police on me.
I knew what was coming. I needed to leave and get out of here now. Was there any way I could get from my house to the airport without anyone noticing? I checked my Twitter app and what I saw was my latest post was at 4:15 am. It had happened again, my mind had won again. I left an embarrassing trail of every thought that crossed my mind (which I thought were kept on my private on my public profile) and every battle I’d fought. I’d left thumbprints of every moment, fear, and illness via likes and posts. I can distinctly remember the few random replies from people who wanted to start a political or racial war with me. They had no idea that I was fighting this war and disease internally. They had no idea I was in shock and awe of the things I was reading, watching on the news, and thinking. They had no idea I was fighting a war for peace. My tone was that of fear, not anger or rebellion.
I could sense my what-had-become-routine-pickup-by-the-police coming every time. You’d think I would have known by now that when I started to sense someone was going to call my doctor or police behind my back, I would stop taking the controlled substances that made me walk around my house talking a mile a minute to the air. And when I heard the siren, I sighed, knowing what was coming. My heart and cheek bones swelled up with emotions. I could feel the air around me thicken, and I slowly started to drown in the embarrassment and anxiety. I’d done it again; blamed everyone else for my addictions and dependence. The officer knocked and said, “Hey Joe, can you come outside with me for a second? I just want to talk. I promise no one is going to take you from your home.” (They always make you go outside for their safety. I knew that he was lying. He came here with one intention and that was to take me from my home to the home). At that point, I could deal with one more embarrassment for the sake of my well-being. I tried desperately to stutter my way out of it for a few minutes and he became impatient. But, this time, I was given an option: “You can come gracefully with me or we can call an ambulance and strap you down. Joe please, just walk with me.” So I did. I gave up.
All I could think was that I had let everyone down again and the next week to a month was going to be the same pain from a few years ago that I thought I was done with. It was going to hurt so much. I was going to be so sick. And on this Independence Day, I was surely guaranteed to be alone and far from free.
That Independence Day hospital stay was my last and from that day forward, I have stayed sober and reduced my meds down to just Seroquel for sleep. For some strange reason or by the grace of some force that is stronger than me, I found a great doctor in 2013. He was the first doctor that I could tell had faith in me. He encouraged me to tell my family and friends how I truly feel and to try and repair my relationships. He taught me breathing exercises and self-compassion. He taught me about eating healthy and getting sufficient rest. He not only prescribed me medication but he made me believe in me, which is something I wish a doctor would have taught that six-year-old kid with depression.
As of 2014, I can feel the change of seasons again. Holidays feel like special days again. I have friends and family I can call if I am having a bad (or even a good) day. Now that I am focused on the right things I am finding that I attract more of the right people and the right lessons. I can honestly say for the first time since I was a kid, that I am happy. Every once in a while I still feel a little behind the game when all of my friends are getting married and having children, but I know that I have been so patient for so long that if I keep the right attitude good things will happen. I now know that I cannot search tirelessly for patience, peace, or love to add to my life because I already have it. I just take a deep breath, smile, and think, yes I am happy, but I am not done yet.
I may have lost everything but I did gain one thing: I have a constant desire to spread a positive message that there is hope for those with mental illness. There is no reason to feel ashamed and you are not alone. This is all I have and I am making it my responsibility to shine a light on mental health.
About the Author
Guest post by Annalise Sinclair
Editor and blog post designer: Christy Zigweid
Photo made using @WordSwagApp
The semester of college right after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder was the worst of my life. I was in a terrible relationship with a real loser. I was on a highly competitive, world-ranked winter guard team, which I never, ever felt good enough for. I stupidly decided to take on way too many credits in school. I had just joined my sorority and wasn’t prepared for the time, energy, or self-commitment. I was struggling to figure out my identity as someone saddled with a mental illness. Essentially, I ran myself into the ground and then decided to dig a little bit deeper, just for good measure.
Somehow in the middle of all this, I found some time to adopt a kitten. I grew up around animals and had convinced myself that if I got a kitten, everything would magically get better. My aunt (another crazy cat lady) took me to the local Humane Society to “look around,” knowing fully that I couldn’t leave without my own ball of fur. So insert Addy, the cutest, spunkiest kitten you’ll ever meet.
Photo courtesy of Annalise Sinclair
Unfortunately, getting a kitten didn’t solve all of my problems; shocker, I know. I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into depression, which felt impossible to overcome. I felt like my only out would be taking my own life. Living each day was so hard and all I wanted was some peace. Suicide seemed so serene, like I could finally get some rest.
I planned everything out: I cleaned my apartment so no one would have to bother, figured out my method (something simple and painless), and wrote a goodbye to everyone that I loved. However, there was one problem. I had no idea how long it would take for someone to realize that I wasn’t answering my phone or showing up to things. I was worried that Addy would have to go too long without someone giving her food or water. I couldn’t be responsible for both of our deaths. So I drove the 45 minutes home to drop Addy off at my parent’s house. That is when everything changed.
My mom had come home early from work that day and had already started dinner. My plan to drop off Addy and run was no longer feasible; I had to stay and pretend to be the happy, wonderful daughter and sister my family knew. It was all too much and for the first time in my life, I finally broke down and talked to my mom about what I was feeling. I told her I was so unhappy that I considered suicide. The pain in her eyes was more than I ever wanted to see. I knew I had to find my courage and do whatever it took to get better. I couldn’t hurt my family by taking my life; my personal pain would never amount to the pain my death would have caused them.
I started seeing a new therapist the next week.
I often think back to that day, my decision day where I chose life over death, and think about what would have happened if I had never gotten Addy or didn’t care about her well-being. Suicide isn’t rational and I’m thankful that it isn’t. My concern for a kitten saved my life.
So when people reproach me for being a crazy cat lady, I couldn’t be more proud. For if it wasn’t for a sassy cat and an irrational love, I wouldn’t be here today.
About the Author
Article by Nikki W
Editing and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo made using @WordSwagApp
Photo by debw07 via Pixabay CC
The day my daughter was born was the day my eyes truly opened for the first time. When my heart swelled as never before, I suddenly became aware of a consideration much bigger than myself. Any concerns or preoccupations about the life I should have been living became insignificant as I was introduced to a reason for my existence. My real purpose in life. To care for this innocent being and enable her to become all she could be.
Before I became a mother I struggled with periods of depression. During those times I would feel a great want for peace that could perhaps come if I just didn't exist. There were no cries for help or a want for attention, I had no intention of taking my life, I just felt the world wouldn't notice if I just wasn't there.
As I compare the life I lead now (physically and emotionally) to the life I had back then I can't help but wonder if finding a purpose for one’s existence can overturn a life of depression.
10% of the UK’s population will experience depression in their lifetime. This critical illness is much more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days; we all go through spells of feeling down. It’s when you feel persistently sad for weeks or months and it’s something you can’t "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together." According to a recent study led by the World Health Organization (WHO), global failure to tackle depression is costing the world nearly $1 trillion a year in lost productivity and causing “an enormous amount of human misery.” The study urges the international community to make mental health a priority, as without scaled-up treatment, a staggering 12 billion working days – or 50 million years of work – will be lost to depression between now and 2030.
As unique individual’s, depression can vary from person to person and can happen for one or more reasons. In many cases, the first time someone becomes depressed, it’s been triggered by an unwelcome or traumatic event, such as a bereavement, divorce, or assault. Occasionally it may appear for no obvious reason. Whatever the cause there appears to be left a lack of purpose to ones’ life that sits like an empty hole, thereafter getting filled in with a consuming sadness. Yet for me, in a single moment, my illness was lifted and replaced by something more worthy.
Now, there are about a million things online telling you how to find your true purpose in life. If you're feeling unmotivated, unsure of yourself, aimless, can't find your passion, directionless, not clear on what your ultimate purpose is, it appears you’re in good company — many people are in the same boat. The journey to finding ones’ true purpose can be a lifetime of searching. This is different, having a life with no purpose at all gives us no reason to exist.
As said by Ralph Waldo Emerson “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Whether we are conscious of this life aim matters not, the affect will be the same. We are all born with an innate drive to achieve an individual purpose(s). From the moment of our birth we naturally set ourselves developmental goals to achieve. This then, can be replaced by emotional targets ever changing as we evolve along our life’s path. Some are more consciously aware of their wants and then in-turn purpose to be strived for. Whereas other’s follow where the wind may lead, the purpose is still there. When we are stripped of this reason to live, our innate drive has nowhere to direct itself and therefore self-grieves until we can give it a new goal to work towards.
Finding a purpose big enough to shed the depression cloak is no small feat but conscious effort loosens its hold. Deciding to do something to help yourself is the most important conscious step you can take. Try to recognise patterns of negative thinking when you are doing it, and replace it with a more constructive activity. By connecting with others and participating in the environment around you, your drive is given an opportunity to discover a new focus to its attention that might otherwise be ignored.
Let awareness of purpose arm you with strength to over-turn your depression.
About the Author
Article by Paul Banuski
Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Edited by Maureene Danielle
Photo made using @WordSwagApp
I recently marked two years since my suicide attempt.
Two years of avoiding alcohol, of taking medication, going to therapy and trying to remind myself that I’m good enough to keep staying around.
Some days are certainly easier than others and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t troubled or tempted or haven’t been tested over the last two years- hell, in the last two weeks. But so far I have fought off every single attempt to knock me off of the path of recovery and self-improvement.
To be honest with you, the hard days are still really hard and I think it’s possible that I’m only one bad day away from failing. The road ahead of me stretches out, winding through deep valleys and shadows, with who knows what waiting for me, lurking around each bend. There are days when I worry how much progress I have made and I fear that it’s laughable how I struggle for inches rather than miles. And all those miles still to go…
Well, it is a trick of perception. When you live with depression, you can pick up on these tricks. After all, that’s what depression does- trick your brain into pain and anger and sadness.
In my most recent therapy session, we spent some time going back over my progress so far. How when I came to therapy two years ago, I would struggle with things that I do today without a second thought.
I have managed to reign in some of my worse impulses (the quick and cheap relief of getting drunk) and to tackle problems head on rather than turn my head away, hoping they will disappear. I can throw the brakes on my train of thought when it begins to speed up and threaten to careen off of the tracks.
Mindfulness practice has taught me to recognize negative and judgmental thoughts, and to process them in a healthy way. When I take a longer view I can see just how far I have come and how different I am from the man I was two years ago.
I now worry less about the years to come and try to live the moment, and to take each day as it comes. And if I pause once in a while by pulling back and looking down the road ahead with fresh eyes, I can still see the valleys and I can still see the dark corners, but they are broken up by gentle rises and bright straight stretches. And then I refocus on the present day.
About the Author
Please stop trying to convince me I am not worthy of love, respect, feeling my feelings, and living. I have a mental illness but it doesn't define me and I'm sorry you can't handle that. I know you want my illness to take over and pull me into the depths of self-hatred. You get your power when I'm convinced I'm not worthy of this life.
You are a coward. And I'm done listening to you. Today I am taking my power back. Today I am going to take it one step at a time and turn my back on you. I no longer need your false validation to convince me people are better off without me, that this life is full of nothing but pain. I'm better off without you.
For so long I've sat with you on my shoulder, turning to you when life gets too hard, when I'm cruel to myself, and when others' words hurt me. Surprisingly enough, you have been a comfort to me. Because I've always seen you as an option. But you are NOT and option any longer. You are NOT a comfort to me. You've fed off my insecurities and I'm sick of it.
I hate you for intensifying my emotions and experiences to the point of feeling I have no other choice. I hate you for taking advantage of my weaknesses. I hate you for sitting on my shoulder and comforting me in my times of darkness.
Today, I will join with my support system to kick you to the curb. While I'm not successful 100% of the time keeping you at bay, know that if you try to come back in I will kick you to the curb again and again and again.
I will no longer let you control me. I will no longer miss out on the precious moments I too often fail to recognize. And most of all, I will no longer feed into your power and negativity. Because it is false. Because it is not the truth. And because I know deep down I am stronger than you.
So good-bye suicide. Pack your bags and head to the door. You are no longer welcome here.
I'm Too Strong For You
*If you've attempted suicide or thought of suicide, THANK YOU for holding on. I'm glad you are here.
About the Author
Christy Zigweid is a writer, household CEO, wife of a musician, and mother to two great kids. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education and has been a stay-at-home mom since 2007. A fighter of depression and anxiety, she uses her words to inspire and offer hope. She is an advocate for mental health and suicide awareness. "A New Beginning," her first published short story is featured in Mosaic: a Compilation of Creative Writing, which was published March 2015. She also has a short story featured on Short Fiction Break titled "1,862 Days." If you don’t see her nose stuck in a book, you will likely find her behind a computer screen or spending time with her family.
Visit her website: www.christyzigweid.com
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