Mental illness is becoming more and more a part of our daily conversations and experience. Statistics tell us that the rates of mental illness are increasing rapidly. Depending on who you talk to, the reasons for this vary. Some blame environmental factors, and changes in lifestyles and diet. Others talk about the isolation we are experiencing as an individual-focused society. Still others point to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, claiming that they promote inflated levels of diagnosis by rewarding doctors for over-prescribing. Whatever the causes of mental illness, almost everyone will experience some symptoms of depression and/or anxiety at some point in their lives.
Being sad and anxious are part of being human. Whether our symptoms reach diagnostic criteria, or not, how we respond and relate to these symptoms can greatly influence our experience of them, as well as our chances for recovery and survival.
Everyone has times in their lives when they are extremely sad. This is often in response to situations or events that involve some kind of loss. It could be the loss of a relationships, a job, physical ability, or the dream of success in a particular area. See “When You’re Down.” Many of us will, at some point, receive a diagnosis of depression. For some this will be an ongoing struggle. For others, it might be a very low point that they encounter once or twice in their lifetime.
Everyone feels anxious at some point, sometimes even panicked. This can be due to a real danger or some other factor (see “A Good Time to Panic”). Nervousness around big crowds; fears of engaging in some particular day-to-day activity due to a previous bad experience (i.e. fear of driving due to having previously had a car accident). Worrying obsessively that the assignment you’ve completed and handed in wasn’t good enough, or being unable to start the assignment for fear that it won’t be, are all different forms of anxiety.
Medication is sometimes utilized too soon or too often, but can be very helpful at times. When you are: at risk of harming yourself or others; unable to function in your day-to-day life; at risk of losing a job or failing school; at risk of harming your physical health due to lack of sleep or appetite changes – these are all good times to talk to a doctor about whether medication is advisable. Even if medication is advised, counselling to help you manage your depression or anxiety and to look at contributing factors (situational factors, cognitive distortions, historical influences, and making meaning out of these things) is always recommended.
Counselling can also help you to build a healthier relationships with anxiety and depression or sadness, as each may be useful at various points in your life, and each may be destructive at other times.
I came across a couple of videos about relating to depression and anxiety which I found and wanted to share with you. The first one is called “Noise in Your Head” and is a series of 6 short videos about one woman’s relationship with anxiety. Anxiety is played by a man who she interacts with, and with whom she eventually develops a healthy relationship. I love the interactions and the way the woman is able to put clear healthy boundaries around anxiety by the end of the series.
An Open Letter to Depression is a beautiful video outlining a young woman’s experience with depression and her response to depression in the form of a letter.
For another perspective on depression and anxiety, check out the hilarious book by Jenny Lawson called Furiously Happy.* (LANGUAGE WARNING) which I recommended in an earlier post. I loved Jenny’s heroic attempts to defy her own crippling anxiety and depression, her self-depreciating renditions of her relationship with her therapist, and her hilarious stories of her own quirky ways of finding joy in her day to day life.
*Please note: I have signed on as an affiliate sales person for McNally Robinson which means that if you click on the above link, and decide to purchase the book I’ve recommended, I will receive an affiliate’s fee. I only recommend books I have read and believe to be worth recommending
For about mental illness and diagnosis see Saving Normal
Also check out A Good Time to Panic