How To Overcome Anxiety

For those of us who get it, anxiety can be crippling. It’s difficult to get ourselves past it, but there are ways that we can overcome our anxieties. Here, I share my tips for overcoming yours today.

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Become a Patron - How To Overcome AnxietyDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

When You’re Hurt

I’m Hurt

Has someone ever hurt you?  Whether they’ve done something intentionally or unintentionally, it’s quite easy for us to feel hurt over someone’s actions or inactions.  What do we do with that, though?  How do we move on?  Let’s look.

I feel disconnected from the world and I feel like no one even notices me or cares about me anymore.Thinking about my journey, it’s easy to identify a number of times that I have felt hurt.  My example comes from my church.  I used to be heavily involved in everything and yet when my depression hit and I disappeared, no one really got in touch.  A few people messaged for a few weeks but once it became apparent that this was a long-term problem, people stopped messaging.  It really didn’t do much for making me feel important and, in all honesty, it still hurts.  I thought that it was a church family and yet no one bothered to help me after the first few weeks.

I’m sure you can think of other examples.  Relationships that have broken down, coworkers who have done the wrong thing, even parents or children who have done something wrong.  But what do you do when someone hurts you?  How do you deal with it?

Stuff Them

Wouldn’t that be easiest?  To say “stuff them” (or whatever variation of that you would prefer, as there are quite a few) and try and treat them horribly?  “An eye for an eye” would be quite applicable here, would it not?  Do to them what they’ve done to us, let them know how it feels.  It would make us feel better, teaching them what their actions have wrought.

A lot of people say that doing that would make it all better.  You get to teach them a lesson, you get to exact some form of revenge and you also get the joy of watching them suffer.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But is it?

Looking at the world today, I’d say that there is enough of that sort of thing.  How many revenge killings do we see in the news?  Stories of people getting even in some way.  Don’t you think there is enough hurt in this world that we could do with spreading a little bit of the opposite?  It’s harder, true, but so much better.

Don’t Let Them Change You

I don’t know about you but I would say I’m quite a nice person.  When someone hurts me, my first thought isn’t to hurt them back.  Usually, despite it taking a lot of time and considerable amounts of pain, I try and forgive them.  It might just be who I am, but that’s what I do.  Still, that set me thinking: what would happen if I did to them what they’d done to me?  What would that make me?

Don't treat people as bad as they are; treat them as good as you are.My advice to you: don’t change.  Whether you think you’re a nice person or not, if you wouldn’t treat them the way they treated you, then don’t.  As clichéd as it might sound, forgive and forget.  Why should their bad actions turn you into a bad person?  If you wouldn’t do it, then don’t let them change you into someone that you’re not.

If someone hurts you, give them a second chance.  Perhaps give them a third chance.  In fact, give them as many chances as you want to (within reason) to make it right.  If they won’t then walk away.  That’s all there is to it.  Forgiving them is between you and them, as no one else needs to know.  However, don’t let them turn you into something that you’re not.

I know it’s hard when someone hurts you but you have the wonderful opportunity of being better than them.  If you’re not a nasty person, don’t become a nasty person for the sake of revenge.

Take care, guys.

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Anxiety – Managing the Attacks

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Anxiety Attack

I’m sitting at my desk, flicking through YouTube videos on my phone.  Suddenly my heartbeat accelerates as though it’s bent on pounding its way out of my chest!  I can’t breathe!  It’s like some giant fist is clenching my ribs hard to stop me breathing.  I’m shaky, as though my legs want to jig up and down.  Somehow that makes sense to me.  Helplessness overwhelms me, as though I’ve completely lost control.  Dread claws at my mind.  I’m convinced something awful is about to happen!

The sensation lasts ten to fifteen minutes.  I’m trying to breathe slowly, to calm myself down, to snap myself out of it.  All the while, my mind is being bombarded by thoughts and feelings.  It’s disorientating.  Confusing.  Scary.

It’s an anxiety attack.

– Alex Davies, 13/12/2016

Anxiety

I wrote the above quote on my personal blog when trying to journal my experiences when all this started.  Contrary to explaining depression, trying to get people to understand the anxiety was more difficult.  It’s like worry mixed with panic but at the same time it’s not.  Somehow it is more than that but less than that.  It’s stress but it’s not stress.  You see?  It’s confusing.

The easiest way for me to describe how an anxiety attack works is for me to show you.  Some of you may have experienced this.  The following clip is from the ABC News YouTube Channel.  Presenter Dan Harris has a panic attack live on the air.  Warning: this is an anxiety attack that has been filmed and could be a trigger.

What Can You Do?

Are you someone who struggles with anxiety?  Have you had a panic attack before?  They’re absolutely awful if you have experienced them.  As Dan mentions in the video, they can manifest themselves in different ways.  For myself, it’s always been the feeling of being unable to breathe and that feeling of dread as if something awful is going to happen.  Can you relate?

But what can you do?

Mind.org.uk

Mind.org.uk has a few good suggestions for managing your panic attacks.  I’ll be honest, not all of them have worked for me because everyone is different and some techniques will work better for others.  Give them a go.  You might surprise yourself.  If you’re a friend or family member reading this, perhaps make a note of these so you can try them with your friend or loved one.

  1. Talk to someone – sometimes talking about what’s making you anxious can help you.
  2. Breathe – this is almost the stereotyped one but according to www.mind.org.uk it’s the simplest thing that people often forget in panic attacks.
  3. Distract yourself – this is where my self-harming comes in as it serves as a distraction from my anxiety.  Fidget spinners or stress balls can help with this.
  4. Listen to music – another big one for me. It often helps to listen to music as a distraction technique.
  5. Try reassuring yourself – easier said than done but that’s where friends and family can help.
  6. Physical exercise – said to help combat depression as well, it’s something you can do to allow you to get away from everyday stresses.
  7. Keep a diary – this can help you identify triggers (stay tuned for my upcoming post on triggers!) and help you avoid them.
  8. Eat a healthy​ diet – mind.org.uk suggests cutting out alcohol and coffee to avoid the stimulants that can contribute to anxiety.
  9. Complementary therapies – there are plenty of therapies that can help manage the anxiety symptoms.  Yoga, meditation and aromatherapy are the first three that mind.org.uk suggests.  Why not give them a try?
  10. Support groups – another good one, support groups can help you meet people going through similar experiences and remind you that you’re not alone.  Why not check out our forums for more support?
You’re Not Alone

Remember, no matter how scary the panic attacks are or how daunting the anxiety may seem: you are not alone.  If you need help, reach out to someone.  A friend, a family member, I’m sure they will support you as best as they can.  If you can’t reach out to them, reach out to us and we will provide whatever support we can confidentially.

You’re not alone.

Stay strong.

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The Onus – We’re Here For You

Connectivity Campaign

For those of you who are connected with Pushing Back the Shadows on social media, you may have noticed that there has been a running theme over the course of this weekend.  For me, it’s been all about tackling what I perceive to be one of the biggest issues in mental health: the onus.  I’d like to walk you through that.

Sometimes you just need someone to tell you you're not as terrible as you think you are.The past few weeks have seen the first few posts in our Talking Things Through series run in our Friends and Family Support section.  In that series, we look at tackling the big issues surrounding mental health.  We also try and equip you for your interactions with people going through mental health struggles.  If you haven’t already had a look, why not check it out?  It doesn’t mention the onus anywhere but it does give you other insights into how you can help people with mental health struggles.

Today’s post, however, is all about looking at the onus that we place on people.  The reason that series I mentioned was called Talking Things Through was because, in my opinion, that’s one thing that we don’t do.  Mental Health is stigmatised.  We don’t talk about it if we can help it.  It’s almost one of those things you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot barge pole.

Yet that’s what we need to do!

The Onus

A strange thing to be talking about, I know, but I think it’s an important and integral part of dealing with mental health struggles.  This post probably won’t win me any friends but, in truth, I didn’t start this site to talk about the nice and comfortable subjects.

So what do I mean about the onus?  Well it hides in the almost clichéd line “we’re here for you” or “you know where we are”.  In the majority of cases, I know these lines are well-intended.  You’re offering your support to someone who is struggling.  It’s a nice thing to do.  However there is one big flaw in that.

You’re putting the onus on them.

That’s right, you’re making it their responsibility.  It’s the get-out-of-jail-free card, the contractual sub-clause that allows you to sit back and relax and wait for them to do the hard part.  If they, the sufferer, don’t contact you, then that means they don’t want your help.  At least they know it’s there though.  Right?

Sadly, wrong.

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The Onus Problem

What’s the problem?  You’re offering them your support, you’re telling them to contact you if they need the help…so isn’t that a good thing?

Do you know what?  It’s great, it really is.  I’m pleased that you’re there for your friend or family member.  That being said, there’s something you need to consider.

Can they talk about it?

For a lot of people going through mental health struggles, opening up and talking about it is one of the hardest things to do.  Every time my friend struggles and spirals, the first thing she does is hide because she doesn’t feel she can ask for help.  I’m the same: I find it hard to say “I’m struggling, please help me”.  It’s just not something that comes easily.

Are they likely to talk about it? Not always, no.

Mental Block

Imagine that you live with your brain trying to tell you that people don’t care.  Why should they?  You see yourself as worthless so why would anyone else bother with you?  Now imagine that you don’t hear from people.  It’s rare for you to get messages or phone calls unless a) you message or phone first or b) the person messaging wants something. Is that going to make you feel like they care?  That they are there for you?  That you can turn to them when you need them? Somehow I don’t think it will.

That’s the trap that a lot of people struggling with depression fall into.  They have a small yet persuasive voice in their brain telling them no one cares and they have a phone or social media devoid of messages to support that statement.  It becomes far too easy for them to believe that no one cares.  That they’re alone.

Why?  Because the onus is on them.

My Struggle

Picking up the phone, for me, is one of the hardest things to do.  There are only five people I would ever really answer the phone to or make any effort to phone.  That’s partly because I’m stuck in the trap I mentioned earlier but also because I tend to have an anxiety attack every single time I go to ring.  Combine that with the need to ask for help and I’m more or less shot in the foot before I even get going.

I don’t talk about it.

Which is why I need others to talk to me.  I know plenty of other people who are in the same position, who need help but people don’t reach out to them.  It’s like we’re too content to just sit back and let people struggle unless they ask for help.  Admittedly, keeping in touch with people does take work but even so, it’s an integral and important part of supporting someone.

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Suicide

Something for you to bear in mind – and this is an example I used with both my mum and one of my friends when trying to explain this – is suicide.  Suicidal thoughts can creep into people’s depressions and it’s scary when it happens.  The thing with suicide, though, is that you’re supposed to watch the ones who don’t talk about it.  According to studies and experts, the ones who talk about suicide are less likely to commit to it than the people who hide it and don’t talk about it.

They don’t talk about it.

So what would you do if that happened?  What if someone felt so isolated and so unable to talk to others that they killed themselves?  With depression, it’s a possibility.  Together we can change that though!  We can talk to them.

Breaking the Onus

So what can we do?  Well for starters we can stop putting the onus on the person suffering. Statements like “but I haven’t heard from you” or “you know where we are if you need us” need to become the minority. Instead, send them a message periodically.  Weekly, fortnightly, both work, just try not to leave it longer than fortnightly, especially if you’re not seeing them.

Don’t know what to say?  That’s no problem.  Something simple like “Hi, how are you keeping” or “Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you” will do.  From what people tell me, the majority of us don’t need answers, we just need someone to send a message and listen.  That’s all you have to do.

Over To You

I’m passing the buck now.  It’s your turn.  Do you know someone who suffers with depression?  Have you noticed they’re isolating themselves? Could you send them a message to let them know they’re not alone?

It takes 1-2 minutes.

It could save a life.

Please reach out to someone. You have no idea what difference it could make.

For further information, check out the Onus pt 2 – The Damaging Effect.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Positivity

The Power of Positivity

It’s something we hear a lot about, don’t we?  The power of positivity and all the wonders it can do for us.  Are you having a bad day?  Don’t worry, just be positive!  Change your outlook on life and it can lead to great things.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Many of my therapists have said that positivity is just one of the stepping stones for a full or partial recovery.  Speaking as a depressed person, I’d like to tell you that this is a lot harder said than done!  With a brain full of negativity, being positive takes considerable energy and willpower that you just might not have.  Moreover, it takes time to change your outlook, particularly if you’re stuck in a negative cycle.  Time and energy, energy that you don’t always have.

In my own journey, I find it very hard to be positive.  There are plenty of days when I feel that the darkness will never end.  The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off.  Whether it’s the depression talking or a part of my genetic makeup, being positive is just something I don’t seem wired to do.

Being positive is just so hard

Through Grey-Tinted Glasses

Imagine for a moment you’re looking at a beautiful countryside scene.  Brilliant blue skies, a few fluffy white clouds, the lush green leaves of the trees swaying in the breeze, the yellow sun in the sky and a field of red flowers reaching towards the sun.  Sounds lovely and picturesque, doesn’t it?

Now take all the colour out.

That’s right, imagine that you’re colourblind.  You’re looking at exactly the same view but everything is different shades of grey.  No pretty colours, just grey.

In my head, this is what it’s like for a depressed person to try and be positive.  Beside you are people telling you about the wonderful myriad of colours swirling around them but you can’t see it.  It’s as if you have grey-tinted glasses draining all the colour out of the world, leaving it that bleak, dark place that lacks any form of positivity.  That is the challenge that I and so many others face daily.  The positives are there, we just can’t see them.

Now, I’ve got nothing against colourblind people, don’t get me wrong, it’s just the best example I can think of to describe how I feel.  It really is as if someone has fixed those grey-tinted glasses to your face and you can’t get them off no matter how hard you try.  I mention this because someone was once telling me to be positive and, when I said that I try but positive thoughts just slide off, that person told me that I wasn’t letting them in.  It was as though I had a choice in the matter.  The way I see it, it’s part of my wiring.

The Better of Two Negatives

Paraphrasing the lesser of two evils a little bit, I think the better of two negatives is the best way to describe my outlook on life.  Stuck with my obscured view of the world, the one without those positives around me, I often feel as though I’m going through the motions in life and my motivation comes from the lesser of two negatives.  I know some might argue that that, in itself, is a form of positivity but they really do feel like negatives to me.

I know that seems bleak but sometimes I think it’s the only way I’ve made it through.  I try and be positive – I really do – but sometimes it takes all my energy just to hold on.  My friends keep telling me that I will get there, that I’ll make it, that I’ll come out of the darkness.  Sometimes I believe them.

Isn’t that positivity?

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