Real Talk : Anxiety & Depression
To anyone dealing with anxiety and depression - you are not alone.
My life in Italy has not been short of adventures. To say that there has only been ups since I moved here 3.5 years ago would be a lie. There have been many highs & lows which have kept me on my toes and shaped me into the person I've become today. And some of these experiences have made for some entertaining stories. But unlike reality TV stars, I haven't been paid to recount these stories for the sake of your entertainment.
These difficult hurdles along the way have deeply affected me in ways that have left me feeling stuck and unhopeful for the future. Last year, I lost my dream job due to visa issues, was stuck at home for 3 months with a broken rib post a year of quarantining in a city and country that was unfamiliar to me and lived in a total of 3 countries and 4 different cities in a span of 1 year. That is only to name a few...To some people this may not seem like a lot, but to me, someone who strives on stability and control, I've struggled to manage all of these tumultuous changes in my life.
Regardless of the many times I got knocked down, I always managed to get back up on my feet. The consequence of doing this several times in a short amount of time, has lead to emotional exhaustion and build-up. In my case, I internalize a lot of my personal struggles which overtime pile up and weigh heavily on me until I reach my breaking point. Now you'd think that since I've been through something like this before, that this time around would be easier to handle. To a certain degree it has, in the sense that I can remind myself that I once made it out on the other side. However, knowing this, doesn't diminish the intensity of my anxiety and mood on a daily basis even though I wish it did.
Having gone through this before, I desperately try to prioritize taking small actions to confront the situation at hand. The first time around, this course of action would never have been an option given the severity of the situation. Yet understanding that this time around I had more strength to take action has been my first sign of hope in overcoming this hurdle. And that in itself, brought me some sort of comfort.
Pushing myself to get out of the house to meet friends for coffee & lunch has been a must, along with watching inspirational videos and reading books that reminded me that the tough times are surmountable. I even pushed myself to do 5 push ups a day (thanks to Atomic Habits by James Clear) because doing something was better than doing nothing at all. Through this process, I have been reminded of the importance of continuing to push through even when times are tough because it is only then, that you get closer to the turning point.
Despite having made all these efforts, my actions did not eliminate the issue at hand. In fact, as time went by, I came to the realization that I was getting worse. I had days where my throat would tighten leaving me feeling as though I was suffocating. On a good day, this would only last a few minutes. On a bad day, it would last hours and what seemed like an eternity for me, to the point where I couldn't speak. And the only way to get rid of it would be lying down in the dark for a couple of hours and distracting myself with a movie. I had days where my body would shut down like a dead battery that needed to be recharged. I had trouble getting out of bed and even out of the house -that getting dressed up and putting on makeup felt like an achievement in itself. I felt at a complete loss. But most of all like a failure because I could not seem to help myself alone.
I didn't want to admit it but I needed help.
One of the ways I got help, was turning to trusted professionals, mentors and friends. As difficult as it was to open up, I could no longer carry all this weight on my shoulders. And through opening up to these individuals, I was able to come to terms with the fact that I cannot always control what happens to me and should not blame myself for the things out of my control. The only thing that I could control is how I choose to respond to what has happened to me.
If you've ever experienced anxiety and depression first hand, perhaps you can relate in that it can be a very daunting experience that is unique to each one of us. And to each one of us, it is felt and experienced in a variety of intensities. I am not ready to open up and share the details of the ongoing steps and actions I've been taking to confront my situation at hand. And let's be real, having been through this hurdle once before and still not having hacked the right formula to confront it once in for all, doesn't give me the confidence nor right to tell you what can and can't be done to confront it. However, if by writing this article I can potentially shed light on some of the tools that have helped and brought comfort to me along my journey, then I've reached my goal.
1) Surrounding myself with good friends
Steady relationships may reduce anxiety and depression making us feel less lonely. Being around my genuine and trusted friends has brought so much positivity in my life and has made me feel safe. And opening up to my good friends has also made me appreciate and value our relationships even more which I am extremely fortunate and grateful for.
2) Reading inspiring books
Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay, are two books that encouraged me to shift my mindset in believing that it is normal for me to go through ups and downs and that the repetition of the littlest actions I choose to do on a daily basis, eventually yield to unprecedented results in the long run. I hope to confirm this to you in a few months from now...
3) Watching videos
Steve Harvey and Gary Vee have reminded me that no matter how tough things are, there is always a way out. Never stop believing in yourself and always remind yourself that things will be ok.
4) Take care of your health
Eat, sleep, exercise and drink tons of water. Easier said than done. Something that I struggle with especially with a constant lack of energy and motivation to get out of bed. PS : exercise means strengthening muscles in your body physically and mentally. Meaning, training your brain to think positive and healthy thoughts. This will take time, repetition and discipline.
5) The key formula
Anxiety = (Overestimating Threats) / (Underestimating Your Capacity To Cope)
Often times I overestimate the threats in my life and underestimate my ability to cope with the threat. And the best way to confront this is to break down the threat and remind myself that I am capable of coping espeically because I have overcome many obstacles to date.
If you are going through tough times, you are not alone. No matter how difficult things feel, remind yourself that things will be ok. There ARE ways to overcome the challenges you are faced with. Although you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, believe that somehow it will appear. Everyone around you is fighting a battle that we don't know about so be kind to everyone. Most of all, be kind to yourself.