Depression is like falling into a deep, deep hole.
In this hole, you are surrounded by complete and total darkness. The floor is dirt. The walls are cement.
In this hole, you fall right in the middle and everything around you spins like a tornado. It is not quiet; it is not peaceful.
Directly to your left, there is a ladder to the top. You are not prisoner in this hole but, still, you feel like you will never escape.
Directly to your left, there is this idea that if you just take one step up, you might be able to take another. But you’re stuck. You feel broken and exhausted from the fall, and your limbs won’t move.
At the top of the hole, there are people telling you to ‘cheer up,’ to ‘just get out and do something,’ to ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself.’
At the bottom of the hole, you feel like a failure, like there is something wrong with you, that you’re a burden, and that people look at you differently now that you’re at the bottom of this hole.
When you sleep, it is not for long, and, when you wake, you remember that you need to face another day in this deep, dark hole.
What will you do? How will you pass the time? Will you try to climb the ladder? No. Not today. Maybe tomorrow.
The next day, you try to climb the ladder. You get halfway up, but something stops you and you think, this is useless.
You fall back in.
Back on the ground, you gaze at the top. You think, even if I get up there, I won’t last long. I’ll be back here again in no time. You resign yourself to stay in the hole forever.
Then, one day, you wake to see a person climbing down the ladder into the hole. They reach the bottom and reach out their hand. You eagerly, albeit hesitantly, grab it, excited for a lifeline, but afraid they aren’t actually real.
This person lifts you up and guides you up the ladder. Not halfway this time, but all the way to the top.
You look around. The top of the hole is bright. There is no longer a tornado spinning around you. Your limbs feel light.
As you walk with this person, you look over your shoulder to see the opening to the hole become smaller and smaller and farther and farther away.
As the days go by, flashbacks to your time in the hole become less frequent. You breathe a little easier.
The person that helped you out of the hole sticks by your side.
You feel supported.
You feel safe.
You are not alone.
* I felt inspired to write this blog post early on Sunday morning. I was thinking about writing more about my struggles with depression on my blog, but wasn’t quite sure what to say or where to start. This is the result.
In this case, the ‘person’ who pulls me out of the hole is a metaphor for treatment (therapy), but it could mean a friend or family member too. If you struggle with depression, feel free to interpret it however you like. If you don’t suffer from depression, I hope this helps you understand how a friend or family member might be feeling if they are suffering. Remember, it’s never helpful to tell someone who is struggling to ‘just cheer up.’ Believe me, it’s never that easy.
I wrote this post to help start a conversation, to help end the stigma. Depression is a very real disease. I hope you will share this post if you are in any way inspired or moved by its message. As always, thank you for reading.
Confession: I had an entire different post written but I deleted it. I deleted it because I was writing and writing and writing and nothing was coming out the way I wanted it to and it felt preachy and impersonal. And what is a post about anxiety if not personal. Right? So I took a deep breath, contemplated the anxiety I felt about writing this post, and the anxiety I felt about the anxiety I felt about writing this post (yes, anxiety about anxiety- it’s a thing), and started a new post. So here we are. (Note: if you’re looking for the giveaway it’s alllllll the way at the bottom of this post, so feel free to scroll past the next few paragraphs if that’s why you’re here)
I’ve written about my anxiety before, but if you have anxiety you know that it ebbs and flows and changes with you as you grow. You find new ways of coping and that the old ways maybe aren’t as effective anymore. So I wanted to write about it again. Because it’s important. And it’s normal. That’s the thing, anxiety is completely normal, but there is such a stigma surrounding mental health that it’s hard to talk about sometimes.
Well, I’m here and I’m talking about it because Hi, my name is Rebecca, and I have anxiety.
(Let me stop right here and let you know that I am not a therapist. I’ve just had a lot of experience working through my own anxiety over the years. If you feel like your mental health is something you cannot manage on your own (or by reading a blog post by a stranger on the Internet), please stop what you’re doing and seek medical help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Remember that.)
I was inspired to write this post because quite a few of my close friends have come to me recently for advice in dealing with their own anxiety. Since I’ve dealt with it my WHOLE LIFE I’ve become pretty good at talking about it and helping others who might not know what the hell is going on in their heads.
The thing is, anxiety has a way of making it seem that the things you are worrying about are not just in your head. How could they possibly be just in your head when your palms are sweaty, your breath is shallow and your heart is racing at the very thought of whatever it is you’re anxious about? It has to be real, right? Wrong. But your mind does a really great job of convinving you that this horrible thing you’re fixated on is definitely going to happen.
Over the years I’ve gone to countless therapy appointments, read what feels like millions of articles, and even taken antidepressants to manage my anxiety. There are things that work and things that definitely don’t, and one thing I know for a fact is that talking about managing anxiety is a hell of a lot easier than actually doing it when you’re in the thick of it. But I have found a few things that have helped me even during my most anxious moments and I want to share them with you because maybe you’ll find them helpful too.
One thing I find really helpful when I’m anxious is to repeat a few different mantras out loud. I find that just the act of saying these phrases out loud distracts from my anxiety and forces me to focus on rationtal thoughts rather than the irrational ones in my head. There are tons out there but the three below have really helped me.
Three Mantras To Repeat When You’re Feeling Anxious
This is Anxiety
I’ve found that sometimes the best thing to do when I’m feeling anxious is to just acknowledge that what I’m feeling is, in fact, anxiety. This helps because it removes a lot of the pressure I feel about whatever it is I’m anxious about. To just observe that what I’m feeling is anxiety without judgement and to just let it be is really freeing. One thing I notice with my friends who suffer from anxiety is that they tend to beat themselves up over it. They’re anxious about being anxious (which, as I mentioned above, is a very real thing.) I used to do this too. But I eventually learned that the act of accepting that you have anxiety (and that it’s OK) and that your thoughts might not be rooted in any real proof or logic is really helpful, which brings me to my next favorite mantra:
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
This. THIS mantra has gotten me through some of my worst anxiety. I don’t remember where I first read it but I remember feeling something click when I did. It just makes so much sense and the thing about anxiety is that, a lot of times, it doesn’t make any freaking sense. The things your brain comes up with are sometimes SO COMPLETELY ABSURD and the scenarios in your head seem like very real possibilities, but, for the most part, they’re not. When I find myself spiraling and believing the made-up situations in my head, I stop, take a deep breath and ask myself, “what proof do you have that what you’re freaking out about is actually going to happen?” Usually, it’s none. Usually my anxiety isn’t based in anything real. But, for the very rare occasions when the things I’m anxious about are an actual possibility, I rely heavily on the next mantra:
Worrying Will Never Change The Outcome
It abolutely won’t. Worrying will never, ever, ever affect the outcome of whatever it is you’re worried about. Similary, most of the things I worry about never end up happening. It’s really helpful to look back on all the times I’ve wasted time worrying about something that never came to fruition. Believe me, I know this is a lot easier said than done. I am a chronic worrier, but it is really helpful to keep this mantra in mind.
Now that I’ve talked about my favorite mantras, I want to very briefly tell you about a few tangible/ action-oriented techniques I’ve used to deal with my anxiety (one of which I’ll be giving away!).
Three Tangible Techniques To Deal With Anxiety
I know, I know. If you have anxiety, hearing that deep breathing will help is nothing new. The thing is, it really works, especially for the heart-racing, hyperventilating type of anxiety. A really helpful activity I learned in a yoga workshop once is to count backward from 25 (or 10 if 25 seems too much). Each deep inhale and exhale counts as one breath. It’s just true that when you’re focused on your breath you’re not focused on what it is you’re feeling anxious about. Period.
Talk It Out
As I mentioned in my disclaimer at the beginning of this post, seeking help is nothing to feel ashamed of. Whether you talk to a therapist, an Internet forum or a close friend is completely up to you. Anxiety can be very isolating. It’s very easy to feel like you’re the only one in the world who has ever felt the way you’re feeling. I can 100 percent guarantee you, you’re not alone. The simple act of talking about what you’re anxious about can and will make you feel better.
Practice Self Care
Whatever that means to you: going to a yoga, drinking tea, taking a bath, etc. Remember, anxiety is completely normal but we tend to beat ourselves over it, and become anxious about our anxiety. In these cases it’s always best to just be gentle with yourself. One of my favorite things to do when I’m feeling anxious is to take a hot shower.
It was around this time last year that I wandered into one my now-favorite body care shops in Asheville: C & Co. Naturals and discovered their Serene Shower Mist. Simply put, it’s an essential oils mist that you spray while taking a shower. The oils diffuse with the steam and immediately fills your whole bathroom with a super relaxing lavender and coriander seed scent. Since buying it last year, I’ve gifted it to many of my friends who suffer with anxiety. It is a really concentrated spray so you only need to use a little bit; I’ve barely made a dent in my bottle. Whenever I’m feeling anxious I take a shower and use this spray. It ALWAYS helps. (They also have an Energize Shower Mist -pictured above and below- that I am dying to try!)
Feb 10, 2018: This giveaway is now closed. I will announce the winner next week! Thank you for entering and don’t forget to use the COUPON CODE I mention below. Stay tuned for more fun giveaways on Rosey Rebecca in the future!
Since it’s helped me so much, I’ve teamed up with my friend Christi, the owner of C & Co., to send one anxious reader a Serene Shower Mist of their own!
How To Enter
All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post letting me know one thing you do to manage your anxiety (let’s help each other out!) That’s it!
Extra Entries (Optional) You must leave a separate comment for each additional entry
This giveaway is open to United States residents only
You have until 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, February 9 to enter
I will select and announce a winner on Monday, February 12 via the Random Integer Generator. The winner will have until midnight on Tuesday, February 13 to claim their prize. If the winner does not reply by then, I will choose a new winner on Wednesday, February 14.
Since I love C&Co so much (I probably have one of everything they sell) and want you to love it too, Christi has agreed to offer Rosey Rebecca readers 10% off your purchase at the shop or on the C&Co website. Just mention/enter promo code HEALTHYLIVING when you check out. If you’re local and are in the shop, you can also just show them this blog post. This coupon is good until 11:59 p.m. EST on February 28. One time use per customer.
Note: C&Co has not provided me with any free product or compensation to run to this giveaway. I just love them so much and want to share a product with you that has helped tremendously with my anxiety.
Good luck and I truly hope this post has helped you in some way!