I have struggled with anxiety for my entire life. If you have seen Inside Out, my command center is run by Fear. I have depended on perfectionism, planners, and the illusion of control to help ease Fear. As an adult, I have learned new coping skills like meditation, box breathing, the five sense technique, and moving my body. I also take a daily medication.
But since March 12, 2020, my anxiety has been super activated and no amount of healthy or unhealthy coping has calmed Fear down. When this happens, I become so exhausted and worn down that depression settles in. It’s extra hard to do all of the things I know to do to help soothe and ease my soul.
I am not one of those Christians who thinks this is a spiritual shortfall. I am not one of those Christians who would ever say that I am not trusting God, or praying enough, or “right” enough, or disciplined enough. God made our brains with amygdalae and they exist to tell us if there is a threat to our survival lurking around the corner. Sometimes, like for people like me, our amygdalae can’t shut off the survival mechanisms. Cortisol pumps through my body for weeks and months on end, and that leaves me fatigued and feeling hopeless.
So how do I show up and love myself during all of this? How do I model self-compassion for Rowan? Because I know that he’s got a high chance of also having GAD and Depression because he’s mine. I don’t want him to feel immense shame because he’s depressed. I want him to feel seen, heard, and surrounded by love.
Step 1: Tell a friend. I don’t know about you, but it is so scary to even text the words, “I am depressed. I am so depressed that I am scared I will never feel better.” It just seems “easier” to stay quiet, to keep pretending I am fine. I can close my guest room/office door and stare at my computer screen, answering emails while I slump low in my chair numbed out on fear. But it isn’t easier. It’s just so scary to admit it because once I say the words out loud I can’t pretend anymore. It has to be seen and dealt with by me. But Good Lord, it’s always amazing when I get the courage to name it and share it. I am never really as alone as I feel.
Step 2: Eat a snack and take a nap. When I am extra anxious and depressed, I forget to eat and I sleep terribly. If I can just put a little protein in my body and sleep for even 30 minutes, things don’t seem as bleak.
Step 3: Call a professional. I have an incredible husband and amazing friends, but they are not professional therapists. I need a therapist and a psychiatrist to help me. They also can look back at where I have been with my disease and remind me that I am coping better now than I was 8.5 years ago. And if I need a little extra help right now, they are happy to give it.
Everyone needs a little extra help right now. Everyone.
So, if you are like me, imagine your child came to you with the experience you are currently having. What would you do for them? What would you say? Do that for yourself. We are all basically children in adult bodies anyway.
Lots of love. It’s hard out there, but we’re never as alone as we feel.