Taking Control of my Life: Overcoming Depression and Anxiety
I don’t recall exactly when it started. The majority of my adult life I have suffered from anxiety and depression. Over the years, the pressure I put on myself to be successful, to be liked by everyone and to never disappoint anyone in both my personal and professional life took a toll on me. My anxiety and depression crippled me, effecting every aspect of my life. Although I had some amazing accomplishments that I was proud of, it all came at a price. I no longer could find the joy in life, I felt like I was just going through the motions.
Therapy and Medication?
I spent countless hours in therapy and my doctor prescribed me with medication, but it just numbed my emotional and mental state. Therapy and medication did not give me any more motivation or excitement for life. All it did was help me cope. The last time I went to my doctor for my 90 day check in, my life changed. When my doctor completed her evaluation, she noticed that I was more depressed and anxious than I had been throughout the entire time she had been seeing me. When she recommended taking a second medication in conjunction with my current one, I knew something had to change in my life. I was so mad at myself and embarrassed. I had never been a fan of taking prescribed medication for my anxiety, and fought it for years, but now I was being recommended an additional medication to take! I was mad at myself for allowing myself to get to this point. Why didn’t I work harder to feel better? The truth is medication for mental illness is not meant to “cure” you like a medication for the common cold. The medication helps control your symptoms which helps you want to make a change, but without the hard work you put in, everything will stay the same. I was embarrassed for anyone to find out, I was even embarrassed talking to the doctor. Would they think I was faking it for attention? Or maybe I was just too sensitive? Or that I was crazy?
The Stigma behind Mental Illness
Mental illness is a serious condition that is misunderstood by many people. Often times people may associate someone with a mental illness as “crazy”, “unstable”, or “dangerous” to name a few. People who have not experienced it themselves or have not known someone that has struggled with a mental illness, may not understand what you are going through. With mental illness not being a disability that is visible to the naked eye, it can be easy for others to push it aside and not show someone that empathy and encouragement that they need. Many people with a mental illness have a history of mental illness in their family and often just want to feel OK and have a good quality of life. It can be confusing and emotional, not just for that person but also for the people in their life. Oftentimes that person’s symptoms may be controlled by various prescribed medication(s) in conjunction with a routine that consists of exercise, a healthy diet and an activity for mental exercise like journal or meditating.
Leaving the doctor that day I made the decision that I had to start loving myself enough to want to feel better and regain control of my life. My self-care plan started out small and evolved from there. I began by working out for at least 30 minutes every day. I use to associate working out with losing weight and would get discouraged when I didn’t see the scale move so I would give up. In order to keep up with my new routine, I had to start thinking differently about working out. Now when I work out I imagine all the anxiety and depression sweating out of my body. When I am done I always feel re-energized, motivated and happy. I don’t even think about the scale anymore, although becoming physically fit is a nice bonus! I focus on healthy eating, drinking plenty of water and taking a good multivitamin. I have incorporated meditation and journaling into my daily routine. Both of these activities help me clear my head and give me a renewed focus. I read books and blogs and listen to podcasts that inspire a positive life. I try to leave work at work (and we all know how hard that can be!) and be present in the moment when I am spending time with family and friends. I also give myself permission to turn off my phone or shutdown my computer and not feel bad for leaving emails and texts unresponded to for a few hours or for the night.
I am still a work in progress, but putting time aside every day to focus on me has helped manage my anxiety and depression. I feel more control over my life, find happiness and joy in the little things and excited about what the future holds!
For some tips on managing stress, check out my other post about my 10 favorite ways to manage stress!
Jen Mastroianni is a thirty-something cat mom of two with a passion for helping others be the best version of themselves. Maintaining mental, emotional and physical health through a healthy lifestyle is incredibly important to her. When not working, you can find her out for a run, in a yoga class or curled up on the couch with a good book. Follow her on Instagram at @jenn_mastroianni.