A Look Into the Head of Someone With Depression and Anxiety

I feel I need to write this for a mixed amount of reasons. Some good, some bad. My heart is telling me to let it out. To educate and make people aware of the everyday struggle. Something hard and embarrassing to talk about or tell anyone, but for some reason my heart is telling me to shout it out and to let people know.

Friends, family, co-workers, even random people I have never met: the struggle is real. So I will listen to my heart since my head does not cooperate like it used to.

I was diagnosed in April with severe depression and anxiety with panic attacks. Me? The strong one? The one who has been through hell and back in life but has never let it knock me down? I am strong and a fighter. There is no way this can happen to me. Why all of a sudden did it hit me? Why me? How do I tell people? Will they look at me different? Will they judge me? I can’t work. I can’t think even, though thinking is all my head keeps doing.

I am not a good writer on a good day. I jump all over the place, but to be honest that is what your mind is like with this illness. So bear with me as I try to explain how my head works. Will my head ever stop? It’s spinning, and I don’t know how to turn it off. It will not let me sleep. I am just so tired. I don’t like these thoughts. They scare me. They are not me. I want me back. I like the old me. She was not perfect, but she was so in control. So strong. I wish I could find her again. She was me. She is me. I know one day I will get her back.

It’s morning. My eyes open. I wish they hadn’t. I don’t want to wake up. I want today to go away. I wish I wasn’t here. I don’t like my life. I don’t like myself. I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I feel. I wish I was gone; I don’t want to live like this. It’s too hard. How can I end this? The thoughts will go away. I won’t have to deal with this anymore. But it will hurt. I don’t like pain. I do not do pain very well. I need to survive this. I need to live. I need to fight. I close my eyes, shut them hard, sleep some more. I might wake up better. Take my meds. I hope these ones work. I need to get better. Changing meds really sucks. I don’t want to be on meds. I want the “normal” me back. I can’t talk to people about this. They will think I am “crazy.” How do I tell my work? I can’t call them and tell them I have a mental illness. They never will understand it. There is so much pressure. I used to be great at pressure. Now I just break. Will they fire me? Will they think I am too crazy and messed up to do my job? I am so dizzy. My body feels so weak. I just want to lay here in my bed. I am safe here. She will not let me though. She cares to much. She will make sure I live and fight. I like to think she is my guardian angel. She keeps me feeling real. I don’t always like her though. It’s so hard to get out of bed. I want to lay here. I don’t want to go out into the world. It’s a bad day. But she will not let me. Get up, get dressed we’re going out. Did you take your meds?

My body is so heavy. I need to shower. It’s been three days since I last showered. I drag myself to the shower. It feels so nice. I do like to be clean and fresh. It takes all my energy to finish though. And getting dressed. I don’t feel like makeup. It’s just too much work now. I am grateful that I accomplished the task of showering and getting dressed. She is here. She brings me coffee. That has not changed. I still love my coffee. I like that normal part of me. We go out. There are lots of people here. I just keep trying to breath and tell my legs to move. They are so heavy these days. I just want to go back to my bed. Are people are louder than they used to be? Or is it just me? I breathe and smile. I hope people can’t tell I am messed up. I feel like a zombie as I walk through the store. My brain will not stop. I worry people will see through my smile. I will mess up somehow. I will stutter or space out. Fall, and then they will know my secret. I have realized a new habit I do often: I rub my hands and fingers, which I know is a sign that I am anxious. And I am trying to get through it.

I did it. I made it in the outside world. But I am so relieved to be back home. Back to my bed. I hate this life. I want my old life back. I lay in bed and try to watch TV or knit. It helps a bit. My mind concentrates on these tasks. It stops the thoughts a little. I am shaking a lot lately so it’s hard to knit. Is it the meds? I wish it would stop.

I get a letter in the mail. I have been denied long-term disability. In the letter it states my condition is not a continues illness… what? I can turn this off? Please, please, please tell me how.

I have to go back to work. I, like everyone else, have bills piling up. That strong women in me I have always been tries to come through. I can do this, she says. I am a fighter. It’s hard. My thoughts do not stop this whole time. But I just breathe. The meds are not making a difference. It’s really all up to me. I put on my fake smile and get through the eight-hour days until I can once again get back to my bed where I feel safe and warm. It’s all just way too much to handle. I do not sleep. My body is getting weaker. My head hurts so much. I don’t want to move. I can’t move. I try. I really try so hard. It’s just too exhausting to smile today. I can’t find the strength to fake it anymore. I cry. Why me? I don’t want to live like this anymore. I once again am broken…

It’s so late again. No sleep. I am so tired. I just need to sleep. The thoughts of just ending my life are so strong. I fight it. It’s hard. Why fight it? Because I don’t want to die. I want to just be normal again. I just want me back. Is that too much to ask? I lay here with my thoughts. In the dark. As everyone is sleeping. Will tomorrow be a good day? Where I don’t have to fake it? Or a bad day? Why are there more bad days than good ones? I listen to the quiet. It’s so peaceful. I want peace. I look over at my husband. Does he still love me? I love him so much. I know he can never fully understand this illness.

Why? is what I keep asking myself. All my questions start with why? Why me? Why do I not want to be around anyone? Why does everyone annoy me? Why does everyone sound so loud? Why am I so stressed all the time? Why don’t I have patience anymore? Why am I going through all this? Why do I feel alone? Just why? Why? The last few months I have tried so hard to overcome this. I feel like no one understands me. They say, “She looks the same, she still smiles and laughs and jokes around. I know she is strong. I don’t see a difference?” But they cannot see the struggle on the inside. My demon, my monster that will not go away. What they see is me. But the truth is it’s not me. It’s a disguise. They can’t see me space out in my head while they are talking to me. They can’t see me wonder to myself, “Did I just say that? Or think it?” They cannot see my wonder if It has been five minutes or an hour that has passed since I asked a question or talked. They cannot see my heart beat so fast out of my chest that it hurts. They cannot see me breathing and counting as I breath to get my head to stop. They just can’t see the struggle every day that I have to live and deal with. Just to make it through that day.

I do not want to talk about it. I know family and friends think I ignore them and that I do not care. They just do not understand what it’s like. I try so hard to be normal. I go online, see posts about depression and anxiety. Maybe the more I post and share, the more they will understand this illness and then I will not have to explain it. It’s too hard. I don’t want to admit it. I do not want to have this illness. I know I am loved. But I feel so alone. I know other people struggle like I do, but I feel I am the only one. I know it’s an illness, but I feel like I am just crazy and fucked up. I know people are aware of mental illness, but they really do not understand the struggle and day-to-day challenges of this illness. It is real.

It may not happen overnight. It may take years. But I promise myself I will fight this. And win. I will because I want to live. I love my friends and my family. I want to educate people on this horrible disease. And I can only do that if I am here. I know that old me is in there somewhere. And I will get her back one day. But until then I will just have to try the best to live. With the good and the bad days. All I can do is Close my eyes and breathe.


When ‘I’m Fine’ Means ‘I’m Too Scared to Tell You How I Feel’

As a person who has major depressive disorder, I sometimes experience difficulties when asked how I’m doing. Several thoughts go through my mind. Do they really want to know? Well, most people don’t want their day ruined by my thoughts, right? Just say you’re OK. Tell them something positive. Don’t ruin her day with your troubles. Everything in my racing mind tells me to smile and give them good news.

Simply put, I can’t muster more than just “I’m fine.” Sometimes I wish people knew what I mean when I say I’m fine. I wish they’d dig deeper. My voice says “I’m fine,” and though I give a weak smile, my face must give some indication I’m lying. What does “I’m fine” really mean to me, anyway? Well, it means lots of things.

I’m fine means I’m too scared to tell you how I feel. I’m afraid that what I’m thinking will make you judge me. I’m afraid you won’t really care. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m weak. Most of all, I’m afraid that when I tell you how I feel, you might give me some comment about how everyone feels the blues sometimes. This isn’t sometimes for me. This is almost all the time. This has been my entire life. I’m afraid you’ll minimize my feelings and sum it up with a kind-sounding, well-meaning equivocation.

I’m fine means that what goes on in my mind sounds scary and all too sad. My mind races from one negative thought to another, and I don’t think you really want to hear it. When you watch people on television, especially on comedy shows, talk about people who say how they really feel, all that really comes up is sketches like Debbie Downer from “Saturday Night Live.” I don’t want to be Debbie Downer. I don’t mean to feel how I feel or always come up with the downside to everything. I fight daily against pessimism and hopelessness. I fight against the feelings that the world would be better off without me. Depression makes you feel like you can’t cope with even minor stresses. Just as much as I don’t want to feel this way, I don’t want the people around me to know about my feelings.

In short, “I’m fine” means I’m really not fine. It means that I need someone, anyone to help get me out of my own mind. Sometimes it means I need help. I’m not OK, OK? Can’t anyone see the pain in my eyes and the hurt behind my smile? While part of me gives you this “I’m fine” line just to push you away, another part of me wants you to see that I need help. And it’s not that I think no one cares, but it’s hard to believe anyone would want to know about these horrible feelings. Feelings I still cannot adequately put into words. When I say “I’m fine,” it means my feelings are so awful that I can’t even tell you what I’m thinking.

Only those who identify with these feelings can truly understand the agony behind the words “I’m fine.” If you recognize when someone isn’t really fine, know that we really do want you to help us. Our instincts tell us to push you away because we’re either protecting ourselves from rejection or we’re just plain scared. For me, it’s easier to write out how I feel than to say the words out loud.

Deep down inside, I know there is hope, but it’s hard to see the silver lining through the clouds. Maybe you can show me where to find it.


What It Feels Like to Have ‘Functioning’ Depression

If you’ve ever experienced depression, you know exactly when your worst moment was, your rockbottom. Some of us hit rockbottom more than once. Sometimes we feel like we are always at the bottom of the well, begging for someone to pull us out.

But sometimes, we don’t realize we are depressed because we aren’t that depressed.  We aren’t rockbottom depressed, so this “functioning” depression doesn’t feel like depression.

We remember that hellish feeling of rockbottom. When this functioning depression hits, especially if it is a constant “low-grade” depression, like dysthymia, we often don’t realize that’s what’s happening. We just think that’s our normal. But that’s not “normal.” It often masquerades as “OK” or “fine,” but is really low-grade depression.

Functioning depression feels like there’s not enough coffee in the world in the morning to wake you up. Functioning depression feels like there’s not enough sleep in the world to cure your exhaustion.

Functioning depression sounds like “I’m OK” when everyone asks how you are doing, hiding that something is a little off. Functioning depression sounds like everything is “fine.”

Functioning depression looks like making yourself presentable, but only just barely.  Functioning depression makes everything you do seem like you are in slow motion. Functioning depression is making it to work every day, but maybe a few minutes late. Scraping by, counting the minutes on the clock until you can go home. It can be burying yourself in the day just to make it pass, but most often, it’s just the idle passing of time, waiting for that magic hour when you have lunch and then can start your next countdown to being off.

I remember telling one of my roommates that being low-grade depressed was just part of my life; it would never be gone.

But one day, after a little tweak to medication regimens and some lifestyle changes, I suddenly didn’t feel that low-grade depression anymore. I suddenly was lighter, freer — I was, dare I say it, laughing and smiling.

Low-grade depression does not have to be a part of life.

And you would think after all the articles I’ve written on mental illness, I would suggest medication. But for low-grade depression, the kind that affects millions of people without them knowing, exercise has been shown to be effective, too.

Functioning depression, while it may require medication, can also be treated with lifestyle changes, therapy and my favorite healer, the sunshine. (Disclaimer: Always go to medical doctor to rule out medical issues.)

You must think I’m ridiculous, recommending the sunshine as a treatment. But the sun provides valuable nutrients to our body, specifically vitamin D, which is useful in boosting our mood and giving us energy. Plus, nature is beautiful and if the weather is right, being outside can do your soul good.

You don’t have to live your life in a low grade/functioning depression. You can find it a little easier to laugh; a smile may be coerced without as much effort.

Depression is not a choice; it is a disease. It is a mental illness. But especially for those of us who have experience serious, even life-threatening depressive episodes, hopefully, this serves as a reminder that depression doesn’t have to look like that. It can be much milder, but still have an impact on our lives.

And for all of those people out there going day to day, trying to make it one day at a time, maybe you don’t even realize you are depressed. Maybe you just think this is “normal,” and it’s just how you are.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Life is joyful. Life is beautiful.

Yes, life is hard sometimes. In fact, life is hard a lot of the time. But that does not mean there is not beauty in it. We have to go through the bad to appreciate the good.

But the good is there; the good is all around us. Find the good. Even if it’s just one moment in an otherwise crappy day, find one good moment.

If you, as I do, struggle with functioning depression and self-esteem issues, try making a grateful list every day. Even if it’s only three things long. Then maybe try to do five, 10. Or, alternatively, you can list as many as you can think of each day. Find a mantra you can repeat to yourself.

By realizing the good we have in our lives, we can change our perspective on what our life is. That can aid in lifting the cloud that so often hovers over millions of us around the world, day in and day out.

I know this all sounds like BS. Look at this girl, preaching about the sunshine and being grateful. But as someone with bipolar disorder, someone who has been hospitalized for suicidal ideation, and someone in the mental health field, I do believe this works. It has worked for me. I also require medication, but for those days, those moments when I’m just a little Eeyore-ish, I try and lift myself up through the ways I mentioned above.

It doesn’t always work. In the beginning, it may feel like it’s not working and you have to fight your thoughts every moment to counteract the negative thoughts. But that’s cognitive therapy, plain and simple.

You have a bad thought. You look if it’s distorted. You challenge it with a more accurate thought.

And if you can learn to do that, if you can learn to talk back to that little voice in your head, that tape, you can open a whole new world of perspective.

And most importantly, be as kind to yourself as you would be to anyone of your loved ones if they were struggling. Yes, it’s hard, as we are our own worst critic, but be kind to yourself. Don’t say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say to 5-year-old you.

Talk back. Look for the good. Be grateful. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to others.


Sleeping With Weighted Blanket Helps Insomnia And Anxiety, Study Finds

How can something so simple as sleeping with weighted blankets be a solution to stress, anxiety, insomnia and more? Messed up sleep can create a long list of secondary issues that can quickly become primary concerns if insomnia or other disturbances continue untreated. Lack of sleep, whether it’s medically related or anxiety-driven, can throw off your normal functioning during the day. Concentration becomes difficult, productivity at work or school begins to suffer, irritability can have you lashing out at family and friends, and you also become at risk for serious health issues like heart attacks.

Deep pressure touch stimulation (or DPTS) is a type of therapy that almost anyone can benefit from. Similar to getting a massage, pressure exerted over the body has physical and psychological advantages. According to Temple Grandin, Ph.D., “Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is exerted in most types of firm touching, holding, stroking, petting of animals, or swaddling. [sic] Occupational therapists have observed that a very light touch alerts the nervous system, but deep pressure is relaxing and calming.”

Traditionally, weighted blankets are used as part of occupational therapy for children experiencing sensory disorders, anxiety, stress or issues related to autism. “In psychiatric care, weighted blankets are one of our most powerful tools for helping people who are anxious, upset, and possibly on the verge of losing control,” says Karen Moore, OTR/L, an occupational therapist in Franconia, N.H.

So, How Does It Work?

A weighted blanket molds to your body like a warm hug. The pressure also helps relax the nervous system.  It’s a totally safe and effective non-drug therapy for sleep and relaxation naturally. Psychiatric, trauma, geriatric, and pediatric hospital units use weighted blankets to calm a patient’s anxiety and promote deep, restful sleep. In a similar way to swaddling comforting an infant, the weight and pressure on an adult provides comfort and relief.

When pressure is gently applied to the body, it encourages serotonin production, which lifts your mood. When serotonin naturally converts to melatonin, your body takes the cue to rest.

Weighted blankets are typically “weighted” with plastic poly pellets that are sewn into compartments throughout the blanket to keep the weight properly distributed. The weight of the blanket acts as deep touch therapy and acts on deep pressure touch receptors located all over your body. When these receptors are stimulated, the body relaxes and feels more grounded and safe, and clinical studies suggest that when deep pressure points are triggered they actually cause the brain to increase serotonin production.

Weighted blankets are especially effective at alleviating anxiety. A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that weighted blankets offered safe and effective therapy for decreasing anxiety in patients. These results were confirmed in a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which indicated that weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety.

More Than Just Insomnia And Anxiety!

Depression, anxiety, aggression, OCD, PTSD, and bi-polar disorder have all been linked to low serotonin levels in the brain, which weighted blankets are reported to assist with. In addition, people battling with depression, mania, anxiety, trauma, and paranoia, or undergoing detoxification have reported relief from symptoms.

Weighted blankets have reportedly helped patients suffering from a lot of different diseases and disorders, from autism, to Tourette’s, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Restless Leg Syndrome, and even can help alleviate menopausal symptoms!

Using Weighted Blankets

The weight of the blanket will depend on your size and personal preference, but the typical weight for adults is around 15 to 30 pounds in the blanket. Experts recommend seeking the guidance of a doctor or occupational therapist if you have a medical condition. Do not use weighted blankets if you are currently suffering from a respiratory, circulatory, or temperature regulation problem, or are recuperating post surgery.

Where To Buy?

There are many website where you can purchase a weighted blanket in tons of choices of fabric and weight, or you can even make your own!There are specifically blanket shops, such as Magic Blanket, created by product developer, Keith Zivalich in California, which have children’s blankets that are 36 inches wide, and adult blankets, which run 42 inches across. Another good option is Mosaic Weighted Blankets which sells all-cotton versions. Amazon, Etsy and Ebay all sell them, and therapy and special needs stores like National Autism Resources also sells them. You can find them in a variety of sizes, colors, and fabrics, and this is one simple change that can make a HUGE difference in your life,