Depression and Anxiety | A 'HOW TO' FOR YOUR LOVED ONES

I have been struggling, more than ever, with my depression and anxiety the last 4 months. Waking up every day and your first thought is about how much you don't want to be alive - that isn't an easy life to have. And I don't know about you but the last thing I want to tell my family is that I want to die. 

But in the midst of all my pain and darkness and utter sadness, I found myself thinking that this can't be easy for my loved ones to watch either. Especially recently since I no longer have the energy to fake being fine. They have no idea what is going through our minds or what we feel. And in my case, I think that is partly because my family are uneducated when it comes to mental health. But I can't sit down with a loved one and begin to describe how I feel whilst looking them in the eyes. Which is why I put together a quick and simple guide. It definitely helped a few of my family members. They will never know what is going on in our minds because we can't understand it ourselves. And they will never know exactly how we feel. But what I tried to do with this guide is use examples to partially describe how we feel so that it is easier for them to imagine. Along with a list of things NOT to say to someone struggling with depression and anxiety. Although we all feel differently, this guide might be relate-able to you in some way.

*Disclaimer - although most of the guide is written by me, I did take some quotes from images on google and medical websites, which I have since been unable to find again. If I have quoted you please email me at - safehavenanonymousletters@gmail.com - so that I can edit the guide with a credit to it's source*

ANXIETY

Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave. 

Examples to help you understand anxiety;

Human beings are equipped with an instinct to survive. One of our common responses to physical danger is the 'Fight or Flight' response. Lets say you were suddenly found in the presence of a great white shark, the fight or flight response would affect us as follows;
- Adrenaline is released
- Your brain concentrates on what could be the danger. All extra information is filtered out causing tunnel vision
- Your heart races to supply your muscles with blood and your breathing accelerates
- Your blood leaves the skin to feed the muscles, causing a chill. Sweating then occurs to prevent overheating whilst in action
- 'Non essential' systems shut down
Unfortunately for people suffering from panic and anxiety disorders, this 'fight or flight' response occurs when there is no physical danger, e.g. in supermarkets, cinemas, crowded places, transport and so on.

Social anxiety is like being trapped in a box and you can't scream for help because you're too scared that someone will hear you.

Anxiety is a lot like a toddler. It never stops talking, it tells you when you're wrong, and it wakes you up at 3am.

Living with anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all of your insecurities and it uses them against you. It gets to the point where it's the loudest voice in the room.

What does that voice in your head tell you?;

- 'What-if' scenarios are justified
- "You're not good enough"
- "You don't deserve to speak up"
- "What you're about to say is stupid. You don't want to embarrass yourself do you?" 
- "You shouldn't ask for things"
- "You want it? Well you can't have it"
- "You're losing your mind"
- "They're laughing at you"
- "There is no way you can do that. Don't even try it"

DEPRESSION

Physical Symptoms:
- Sick and run down (weakened immune system)
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Muscle pain
- Tiredness

Behaviours:
- Withdrawn from others
- Doesn't get tasks done
- Stops doing enjoyable activities
- Has difficulty concentrating 

Feelings:
- Overwhelmed
- Unhappy
- Irritable
- Frustrated
- No confidence
- Indecisive
- Emotional

Examples to help you understand depression;

Imagine an ocean. You're drowning but there's no end. You never stop. The drowning is on loop. There is a chain around your ankle that is keeping you from swimming up to the top. 

It's like standing beneath a glass floor, screaming and banging on it to catch the attention of the world going out about their day. But no-one can hear you. 

You know that feeling when your heart breaks and each breath feels like it could be your last? Well depression breaks your mind bit by bit, each day, until you so desperately want each breath to be your last.

It's like you're mourning the death of yourself.

It's peaceful water to the outside world, but a raging tsunami below the surface.

It's like having a bully inside your head. But instead of taking lunch money on the playground, it takes pieces of your mind, heart and soul. You can't hit back or tell the teacher, you just have to sit and take the punches until one day the bully gets bored and leaves you alone.

What does that voice in your head tell you?
- "Nothing good will ever happen to you"
- "You don't have a future"
- "Your life isn't worth living"
- "You're worthless"
- "You're a failure"
- "They will all be better off without you"

Depression is when you don't really care about anything. Anxiety is when you care too much about everything. Having depression and anxiety together is like being scared yet tired at the same time. Fearful of failure but no urge to be productive. Wanting friends but hating to socialise. Wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. To be caring about everything and then caring about nothing. Feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb. 

Having both is hell.

WHAT NOT TO SAY;

- "You're just being lazy"
- "You think you have problems"
- "You can choose to be happy"
- "If you sleep/eat better you'll be fine"
- "Just remember there's worse things happening in the world"
- "Get some fresh air, it'll do you good"
- "Everyone gets sad sometimes"
- "You need a hobby to take your mind off it"
- "You will be ok, just hang in there. It'll pass soon"
- "You don't like feeling that way so change it"
- "I thought you were stronger than that" 
- "Ugh I know how you feel"
- "It's all in your head"
- "Cheer up"
- "You need to get out more"
- "Get a job"
- "You don't look depressed"
- "You're just having a bad day"
- "The only person you're hurting is yourself"
- "Are you ok?"
- "It hurts me to see you like this"

WHAT TO SAY;

- "I know it feels like you're alone. But I promise you're not."
- "You're important to me"
- "Do you want a hug?".... actually don't ask, just hug them.
- "When these feelings have gone, I'll still be here and so will you"
- "I can't understand what you're feeling, but I can offer my compassion"
- "I'm not going to leave you"
- "My life is better with you in it"
- "I'll give you as much space as you need. I'll be here when you're ready"
- "I love you"

To our loved ones,

We are aware that their are worse things happening in the world, unfortunately our mental illness does not give a crap. We aren't lazy, we physically and mentally can not bring ourselves to do anything. Mental illness is not a choice, so in turn we can't just 'choose to be happy'. And sleeping, eating and getting some air is not a cure. Don't ask us if we're ok every day. There are usually only two possible answers - "I'm fine" which is a lie or "No I'm not. Everything hurts and I don't want to live anymore". 

I know it's not easy to watch a person you love be so broken, but just remember that what you're feeling is nothing compared to what they feel. Don't suffocate them, just make sure that they know every single day that they have your love and support. 

_________

To other people suffering with depression and anxiety, find something to make you smile each day. Whether it's a movie, a show, a youtube video or a song. And find something or someone to live for. I still can't see a future, I still wake up every day and wish I wasn't here. I may not have a choice over much right now but I can choose to live for my dad. 

I hope to see you on the other side. xo 


8 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. I've suffered with depression and anxiety for years and it became worse 3 years ago when I lost my mum to cancer. I go through everyday trying my best for everyone but it's so draining. I told my dad today how I was feeling and his response?...'you don't know what depression is. you're just idle'.
    I start counselling tomorrow, hopefully they will show some compassion and understanding better than my dad does.

    Thank you for this post. You're amazing.

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    1. Hi Laura.
      I'm so sorry how your dad reacted. It takes a great deal of courage to be able to tell someone you love about your depression, so no matter what he said I am so proud of you for opening up. And I'm very sorry for your loss. If you ever want to talk about anything please email me - safehavenanonymousletters@gmail.com - it's hard to talk to people but talking to someone who understands a little bit is easier.

      I hope to hear from you and thank you for commenting. You made me smile today and you made me remember that I'm not always the failure I think I am.

      -SH;AL.xo

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  2. You're amazing. Thank you for writing this. It makes me want to write one, too, but then I feel like I'm just opening myself up to be judged. It pushes me deeper into a darker place when people call me a "victim".

    https://ariannecruz07.wixsite.com/ayre

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    Replies
    1. Hi Arianne.

      Thank you very much. Everyone has different ways of helping themselves but writing things down definitely helps me a little bit. So you could try writing it all down and then you choose if you want to publish it. You can even email me anytime, I find it a hell of a lot easier to talk to people who also have a mental illness.

      You're still a strong woman, you're just in a dark place.

      -SH;AL.xo

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  3. Depression and anxiety suck! Thanks for sharing this! I currently crawled out of the dark place and I am so happy my hubby is still here...it was so hard on him! He gave up so much to help pull me out! Stay strong, there is light after the dark! Hopefully I can stay in the light this time...

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    1. I'm so pleased to hear that you're in a good place! Thankfully so am I, I'm the happiest I've ever been at the moment. I guess we're the success stories.

      Thank you so much for commenting Linda.

      -SH;AL .xx

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  4. I’ve recently been in a position where I’ve been frantically sending articles about understanding anxiety when you don’t have it to my boyfriend in fear that he’s going to break up with me because he thinks I’m being “moody” or “stupid” - I will definitely send him this one too as he’s really starting to understand now. Thanks so much for writing this! More people need to know and understand xx

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    1. I have no idea how this comment slipped through without me seeing it. Thank you for commenting lovely and I'm glad it helped.

      How're you feeling with your anxiety now?

      Love, Han -xo

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