How to Work Through Depression & Anxiety
No one chooses depression or anxiety. It's easy for others to believe that those who suffer from depression and anxiety are responsible for how they change it, or how they react to it. The truth is, not one person suffering is prepared for the amount of pressure and turmoil it brings to our lives. The pressure to perform at work, school, socially, and mentally as if we had the ability to take on the world. The pressure to live and think our best while remaining crushed on the inside. The pressure to keep going when giving up sounds like the only option. And most of all, the pressure that turns into the hidden chaos in our lives when we've realized that no one understands how difficult it is to live the way others want us to. When no one understands what it's like to feel tired, lonely, fearful, hopeless, confused, incapable, burdened, insecure, and unworthy every day we wake up. I say "we, and us" because depression and anxiety is something I've suffered from since I was fifteen years old. After spending years fighting my way out of the darkness, I learned something beautiful about the storm.
I've spent most of my young-adult life battling depression. I felt as if I was constantly on the search for meaning, acceptance and purpose. I would try to find ways to fill the void in my heart. I was constantly trying to drown out the noise in my head that convinced me that I'm not good enough, that I won't get to where I need to be, and that I'm never going to be happy and feel like myself again. I've been mistreated, bullied, and verbally, sexually, physically and emotionally abused by people I trusted. I even reached the point of attempted suicide. Although I fortunately didn't succeed, I still wasn't completely convinced that life was worth living. But it gets better...
It wasn't until I moved away on my own that I felt I had a fresh start, away from the negativity. I discovered a new world and way of being. I saw it as a new beginning; as a newly opened door that was urging me to turn the knob to see what's behind it. Through that door I allowed myself to recover and rediscover. Through that door I saw a new side of me. A side that was left hidden in the dark up until that point. 'Who knew there was a brighter side?' I allowed myself to open up to the world, and with that came reward. I went from a dark and lackluster demeanor, to someone who was curious, ambitious, and driven to find myself and my strength. Throughout my time away, I rediscovered myself, I learned that abuse is not apart of me, and it surely didn't have power over me. It is, however, a part of My Story.
(Told from a third person point-of-view): My story began as a young girl looking for acceptance and meaning. A girl who got lost in the dark and couldn't find the light...until she found that she was looking in the wrong places. The same girl who thought she couldn't win against her demons, turned her battles into triumph, and made that her testimony. This newly found side of her knew that her testimony was never meant to be cultivated in the light. But all along, her testimony was to find truth, strength, and the warrior in her throughout her battle. Who knew that her battle with depression would result in finding the truth about the woman she is today? Not the woman who suffers, but the woman who conquers.
**Please note that I am only suggesting ways to help and to provide a resource for those who need it. I am, in no way, trying to tell anyone that these are the only ways to win against depression. I am here to tell you that there are ways to strengthen your mind and soul to conquer depression and anxiety, described from my own perspective.
The (6) Steps of My Healing Process:
First, know that you are not your depression. You are not your anxiety. It is not a part of you, and you are not a part of it. It is an illness, and there can be a cure other than medication. I am someone who used to take medication for depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. I am past the fact that sharing that makes me vulnerable, because there are people like you, that are reading this, that may need to hear it.
I acknowledged my need for peace. First, I decided to come to terms with my depression. Acknowledging how it changed me, and how I'm ready to commit to ending depression once and for all. I acknowledged that I was uncomfortable, and that the way I had been operating on a daily basis was outdated and unhealthy. I was physically, emotionally, and mentally tired. One day, I acknowledged that something in me needed to change. I acknowledged that no one can fight this battle for me. I began to make peace my priority. I was tired of feeling inferior and unworthy. I knew that if I began this journey, I would have to let go of everything that was holding me back from becoming a better version of myself. Ok, so now that I acknowledged that I don't have peace and that was what I was in search of, I began the journey to self-healing.
2. DEFINE WHO YOU WANT TO BECOME.
"Allow the space between where you are and where you want to be to excite you, instead of terrify you."
Define who you want to become. Allow the space between where you are and where you want to be to excite you, instead of terrify you. I did this by writing in a journal. To this day, if you searched my desk you'd see about five different spirals full of notes, self-help and self-healing ideas, thoughts and plans. Please note that I made a lot of progression in this area, and that at first I was completely disinterested and turned-off by the thought of writing. I did it because I knew that it would eventually help me, so I started off little by little. I've learned there is something powerful about writing things down. When you write it down, it becomes a constant reminder. And it allows you to refer back to it at any time. I spent years (and still spend time) journaling my feelings, along with writing positive thoughts, affirmations, and motivation. This process was long, but I fully believe that the only way to go through something, is to grow through it. My note-taking was pulled from inner reflection. I would write qualities I liked about myself, and qualities I wanted to change. When it was hard to find something I liked about myself, I would ask my parents or friends. Additionally, I would ask myself probing questions and answer them accordingly. I would sometimes ask "...and why are you feeling this way?" A lot of questions concerned myself and my future. At the time I certainly didn't want to live in the past, and the present was anything but enjoyable. So the future was the only thing I could believe in and hope for. I began to make achievable goals for myself. I didn't always go through with them, but it helped knowing I wanted something...anything better than my current circumstances. These goals would be something as small as taking a walk outside to get some fresh air, to praying daily about things I wanted to change.
To find out more about things you can journal, you can read my self-love article: "You are Enough."
3. CHOOSE YOUR WELLBEING OVER ANYTHING.
Choose YOU. Make your wellbeing a priority.Ultimately, I decided I wanted to do something for ME. My mind would trick me back into that feeling of emptiness and loneliness by the end of the day. So I began to find things that made me enjoy life a little more each day. If you want to refer back to my note-taking days for example, I would look at my strengths and emphasize those daily. I had to truly convince myself that I was strong and worthy even when it was hardest to do so. I discovered how much I loved to draw and color, and that eventually turned into scrap-booking. There was something that came alive in me once I knew how to use my mind for something good. I was so happily consumed that I didn't have time to think negatively. I enjoy being creative, and it became one of my outlets (even to this day). My advice here is to find something that makes you happy. You deserve it. What are some things you enjoy? Write them down. Research what your personality fits, or take a personality test. Do you like to write music? Sing? Read? Do you like volunteering? Working out? Photography? Drawing? If you don't know what you're good at, try your hand in something new. I know that something new may sound terrifying, but it's the only thing that will give you that step forward. It's just as important to make sure you find something to look forward to every day. A cup of coffee in the morning, taking a walk outside to watch the sunset, wearing your favorite outfit this week, a phone call from your family, knowing you'll see a friend on Friday. Starting something new is actually proven to enhance your serotonin levels, the natural chemicals in your brain that make you "feel good." The goal here is to move forward, into a more positive lifestyle and way of being. Remember, peace and happiness is your priority.
Every day isn't always easy, but don't be so hard on yourself. You aren't expected to conquer the world in one day. Be proud of the progress you've made, even the progress no one else can see. A step forward is a step in the right direction. As long as you keep moving, you will end up exactly where you need to be. In a place that only involves the best version of yourself. A place of peace, comfort, and happiness.
4. TAKE TIME TO REFLECT.
Reflect on how far you've come. Even if it's only been days, weeks, or months. If you've tried anything I stated above, or even switched up something different in-between your days, you can actually look back and realize that you've become a little more organized, a little more creative, a little more hopeful. All it takes is a small step forward. Strength grows in the moments when you feel like you can't go on, but you keep going anyways. Even when it's hardest to move, those are the times you become your strongest.
5. SPEAK POSITIVE THINGS INTO LIFE.
Speak positive things into life. This is a MAJOR component to getting rid of negative thinking. Instead of saying "I'm depressed, I'm damaged, I'm broken, I have trust issues," say "I'm healing, I'm rediscovering myself, I'm starting over, I'm becoming the best version of myself." Affirming yourself is the best path to believing in yourself. Speaking these things out loud will further convince your mind that these things are happening... that you ARE healing. Notice that when you're speaking negative things about yourself and your life, you're living out what you speak out. Speaking words such as "I can't, I don't know how", or "I'm scared," will only hinder your development, and your mind will accept it as a way of being. Don't forget how powerful your mind is, especially when it comes to depressive thoughts. Be stronger than your mind. The more often you express how much life has to offer (even when you feel the opposite), you will soon believe in it, and in yourself. I promise.
6. LEARN THE IMPORTANCE OF LETTING GO.
"Sometimes what we're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set us free."
Learn how effective it is to let things go. Know that the only thing you CAN control is your thoughts. I only learned this after I spent so much of my time worrying about things that I can't control. When my life seemed chaotic, or when an inconvenience occurred, I would instantly stress and panic attacks would occur. With time, reflection, and guidance, the lessons in my life always resulted back to acknowledging that no matter how much I wanted to--I can't control situations, and I certainly can't control other people. But I can control and change my own perception of those circumstances. You can either let your mind work against you, or work for you. Letting go of the need for control actually gives you the power to make your own decisions, instead of letting the decisions of others affect you. I understand how hard this may seem, but it just starts with faith, and the act of letting go. Letting go of anything that is harmful in your life leads to healthy living. If peace is your priority, then we need to let go of anything that is harming our peace, and make that a priority. Letting go of people who no longer serve you, letting go of a lost hope, letting go of a haunting memory, letting go of a bad habit, etc. If you feel in your heart that it's causing you distress, but you can't let go of it because (1) you're used to it, (2) you rely on it as a means to escape, or (3) you hold on to it because it's the only lifestyle you know--then that could be your first sign that letting go may be the healthiest way to happiness. Sometimes the hardest things to do are the very things that set us free. The goal here is to move toward a bright future, to shed off negative energies, and to move toward a new, positive lifestyle that has only the best version of yourself waiting at the end. If anything you're holding onto isn't contributing to the best possible version of yourself, then try to understand your intentions behind your reluctance to let go. The next best step would be discovering the best way for you to move on, in a way that makes you feel confident that you're on the right path. I understand that most times confidence may be absent in the process of moving on, and it may be uncomfortable, but your heart will never lead you astray. Ultimately, your heart knows the path to take toward the best version of yourself, and that is where your happiness begins. It begins with the small step forward toward the "you" you've always wanted to become. This will put you on the journey toward the fullest extent of self-love and healing. Your burdens will slowly disappear, and peace will return.
Most importantly, turn to God.
If you haven't already--give all your anxieties to a Higher Power. I saved the best for last. And I believe it is the ultimate, truest path to healing. In times when you feel like you don't have anyone, turn to God. I realized that trying to heal myself, by myself, was a lot more painful and frustrating than just giving my burdens and limitations to the One who has none. I grew up in a Christian family, but never really reached a relationship with God until my young-adult years. I've always believed in God, but not like I do today. All it took was one step of faith. That's it. Just one step. I began with just a simple prayer over my life, my anxieties, worries, and fears. Writing down things I wished to obtain, I started asking God for energy, confidence, courage, strength, and power daily. I started small by just praying about my days as they go. The more I did this, the more I trusted in God and believed He was listening, even when He was silent. I slowly began to find myself feeling lighter, and belief in myself grew tremendously. There isn't a better feeling of liberation and joy when you seek it and find it from God. He makes the impossible, possible. Any trial, tragedy, or trauma that you have been through can turn into your greatest triumph and testimony when you let God do the work. God has the ability to restore everything you've lost during your battle with depression. That includes your faith, your energy, your time, your perspective, and your lifestyle. All of the anxiety, fear, worry and defeat will only be a product of the past. One of the biggest misconceptions that people have while praying, is thinking that we have to give something up for God to relieve us of our pain. All God asks is for trust and faith in His plan, and you WILL receive what you ask for. "For everyone who asks, receives; the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knows, the door shall open." (Matthew 7:8) God didn't give you this life to live in fear. He wants to give you abundance; to give you more than anything you can possibly dream yourself. If you've hit rock bottom, God will show you that He is the rock at the bottom.
"Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles--and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith, rather than sight, enables you to see My Glory."
--Your God of Strength and Glory
You can read my article "The Power of Prayer" to learn about some of the misconceptions people have about praying, and how to pray in a way that makes you feel confident God listens. I also included a few prayers at the bottom of the article listed! P.S. If you want me to say a prayer for you, or if you need advice, send me an e-mail from the address listed above!
When I went through these steps during my battle with depression, I never understood how I made it through. But when I look back, I'm in awe of how far I've come, and how much I've grown through this journey. And once I knew that depression could never have me in the way it did before, I knew that someday my story was going to unlock someone else's prison. That's the beautiful thing about My Story. My story was about my personal journey to find strength, peace, and confidence. What is your story?
Remember, you are not your depression. You are a warrior. Believe in yourself, I know I do.