As some of you may already know, I have anxiety and depressive disorders. They make for some interesting days. And by that I mean they can totally suck. There were times when I felt nearly paralyzed by them--I couldn't work on my book, do research for it, or even do simple things around the house. I was fortunate that it didn't affect my day job work. Fortunate isn't the word ... I streamlined all my focus into my work days. It worked when I needed it most, but when I wanted to be creative on my own time, it would just be too much. Then there were the sleep issues, which added to the fun. Why am I sharing this with you? Because if you have ever felt alone while dealing with a mental health disorder, I'm here to tell you that you really aren't. You have many brothers and and sisters in the same boat. So let's all start rowing together.
Life doesn't end when anxiety and depression take over; it changes temporarily, but it doesn't end. "Temporary" is the important word here. Remember, "this, too, shall pass." Think and believe that rather than "None shall pass!" (that's for you Lord of the Rings fans).
For weeks I've been telling myself I need to get working on things. "You need to write! You need to keep researching! You need to organize yourself! You need to focus on work! You need to be a good mom! You need to be a better wife! You need to work on the house! You need to pay bills! You need to go volunteer! You need to _________!" Sound familiar to anyone else?
It can be difficult on an average day to achieve everything you want to do. Add something like anxiety or depression to the equation, and they can stop you in your tracks. There have been times when I have gotten so overwhelmed by the things I think I need to do that I couldn't do anything. There's nothing like feeling helpless from the inside out. But how do you get past this? How do you move forward when you just can't?
For me it may take someone else to help me calm down. My husband or daughter have learned the signs that occur when I start feeling out of control, and they help me get back to myself when I feel like I'm going to melt down. But we don't always have family or friends who can be there all the time for us. Panic attacks don't wait for a helper to appear.
When I'm alone and the panic begins, I have to remind myself that it's temporary and it will stop soon. Easier said then done, right? It is. But I've found that having some tools at my disposal help. If I started panicking at my office and my breathing became erratic, I would grab one of the paper lunch bags I kept in a drawer and breathe into it. Fortunately I had an office with a door and was able to deal with the situation privately. I also have anti-anxiety medication I can take when an attack occurs. A cell phone is a versatile tool--you can use it to call someone who knows about your mental health situation and can talk to you until the attack passes. You can also download apps that help you manage your stress, depression, or anxiety. There are also apps that help you get through panic attacks when they happen.
I would love to say there's an easy way to deal with mental health challenges, but there isn't. My treatment is a combination of therapy, medication, and my own awareness of what I go through and what helps. Overall I've felt more like myself since my psychiatrist and I worked together to figure out which drugs work for me and which don't. My therapist helps me see things from different angles, which helps me separate my thoughts from my emotions. It's a work in progress and likely always will be. My advice to you is don't give up on yourself. Your mental disorder may be part of you, but it doesn't define you. You are so much more, and you're worth the effort it takes to feel better.
I'm the author of a number of cemetery books and am now writing one about the graves of silent film stars, starting with the ladies. Who would you like to see included?
More Silent Film Resources
• Silentology blog