How I beat depression and anxiety for good
My top 10 tips for moving towards the light
I’m not going to wallow in the details of my time in the dark. It’s enough to say that most of the different buckets in my life were empty. So I do know that when you are in that place, it can feel impossible to see a way out. In fact even thinking about the way forward is both exhausting and over-whelming. I mean I could have a panic attack just thinking about, well panic attacks!
We are all different and what works for me might not work for you, but you should take hold of the fact that there is hope. It’s been a long journey but I will never be that person again and of that I am sure. It’s hard for me to write this as it is so personal but I am not ashamed. I see everything that has happened to me has helped to make me as strong as I am today.
I want to share with you all the 10 things which helped me the most:
1. Professional Help
Should be your first port of call, no arguments. I didn’t know I had depression until a GP told me (it’s true). I thought I was ill, over tired, hormonal and maybe crazy. A diagnosis gave me something to get to grips with. Take what the NHS gives you, I saw a nice Councillor (she didn’t change my life but it was the first step away from feeling trapped and lonely in my own head). Medication also has its place, there is no shame some people need to take it but do not be afraid to go back and talk to your GP about any side-effects which trouble you. Follow the prescription and advice to the letter. Finally do not feel guilty, you are as deserving of help and time from your doctor as any other patient.
I was young and I actually didn’t know anyone with depression. Learning about what it is and realising that I was not alone in this made a big difference to moving forward. I read an amazing book which I still have today. Also please don’t join forums full of other sufferers, misery loves company and in the end you become the people you spend time with.
3. Buy a Horse
DON’T buy a horse… but I did. For the next five years I had to get out of bed at 0500am whether I liked it or not. Something relied on me, needed and even loved me. I spent my free time in the fresh air. I made some friends. I got exercise. Ultimately I got further and further into debt which became its own stress feed. However animals are a powerful source of companionship, I still have a cat who needs me and loves me. Dogs are also a great source of motivation and companionship. Even if all you can manage is a goldfish, well that’s still great they are very relaxing. This leads me onto my next point…
No matter how bad things are, how poor you are or weak or ill you CAN find something to do. I’m a natural introvert and these days I go to yoga (no talking, its great). I go hiking (either with or without a few trusted companions). I do DIY (often badly). I love gardening and grow my own veggies, I write my blogs and take my own photos. Ha wait, I do sound like a lonely weirdo…!
I also work in the city and partake in the social events and I have found a relationship. Even if you start off with something quiet and personal this can give you some focus.
As above, activity of any sort no matter how little - this is now your BEST friend. I can hear you, you can’t get out of bed and don’t have the energy to choose between a ham or a cheese sandwich, so how on earth are you are going to exercise?
Or like me you can't go to the co-op without a panic attack so bad you have to sit on the pavement until you calm down.
Well this is how - you start so small it almost seems pointless. Walk around the block and back home straight away, 5 minutes. Every time you achieve something, no matter how small it is, this is the beginning of repairing your health and confidence. Do that for a week, two weeks, a month but one day you are going to feel that you are ready to go a little further. Exercise is the best drug free treatment out there (also it makes you look good, double win). You don’t need to run marathons but walk somewhere everyday. Listen to a podcast or some relaxing music if it helps.
Now this is a bit more tricky. I firmly believe that part of the root of my depression and anxiety stems from what is known as "unfulfilled expectations". Or in plain English - I had a picture in my head of how life should be and this is definitely not it. I do know full well that sometimes you cannot just make the changes you want (despite what the Facebook adverts tell you). My advice here is to think about the one thing which would make the biggest difference. For me the start was moving house, I moved in with a nice couple who gave me a sense of normal and got me away from a very toxic environment. I also in time moved jobs once I felt ready to and this was the beginning of my now career.
Another tricky one. The problem with self care, is that often you don’t realise how little you have been doing it, until you start doing it. Try to make some small adjustments such as healthy breakfast routine or drink more water. Alcohol and smoking are not your friends but don’t start by depriving yourself of things which you feel help. Do focus on moderation. (I’m laughing at myself as I type this as I do believe in moderation but always veer towards excess). So if going out for a big dirty curry and beer means you get to spend the evening with friends then don’t beat yourself up over it. Make an effort the next day to do something healthy for balance. Don’t know how to cook? Neither do I but it can be quite therapeutic. Don’t know about nutrition? Then learn, google is good for this. Very good. Starting to eat with mindfulness is the first step towards getting some energy back in your life.
I got myself into a lot of debt and the trouble with debt mixed with depression is that its very hard to care about. I know the feeling, whats the point? £10 won’t make a difference so I might as well just spend it. The other trouble with debt is shame. I struggled a lot with relationships back then as I thought that some men would think I was just looking for a meal ticket. Then there is the wider shame, you don’t want people to know, so you spend more to cover it up. It eats at your self-confidence.
Get some help, there are a lot of good places to start like the money advice service or moneysavingexpert.com. My personal advice, start by paying off your smallest debt (such as a credit card). I know this seems wrong but the feeling of achievement will reassure and motivate you that you CAN do the rest. No matter how long it takes. Having a plan and a budget is a great place to start.
The biggest turning point in my life to date has been finding a private therapist/ life coach. This was expensive I am not going to lie to you. But if someone asked you how much you would be willing to pay to have the life you want? Then I’m guessing you would do it regardless. Be choosy, very choosy. There are a lot of people out there who will take your money and make promises they can’t deliver. Take the free consultations and listen with your gut. You need to find someone you feel comfortable with and can build trust with. Also think about what sort of therapy might work for you. I am a realist, so for me it had to be something pseudo-scientific. Even making the call to meet my coach was terrifying but also very motivating.
10. Find your tribe
When you are down on yourself its easy to wonder why anyone would want to be with you. I clung to the few people I had, even though they came with their own negative drains. I had countless disaster relationships just to feel human contact, to not be alone. Letting go of people is scary, yet you don’t have to be blunt you can drift away gradually (this includes family!). I questioned why all my friends were married with kids, whilst I am childless and single. Now I spend more time with people like myself and I feel much better. Be with the people who make your energy go up and inspire you. This is one thing that you can start doing through online forums and groups. Put yourself first, if someone isn’t going to support your journey then they are not a good use of your energy.
11. Mindset and Acceptance
Ok so I had to add an 11 but this is important. I had a privileged childhood which always made it hard for me to say that it was unhappy. I felt guilty, like I was making it up. Surely to feel this bad you should have some real physical trauma to blame? I read some books on toxic family life which really allowed me to understand more and both accept and forgive.
Life isn't fair but learning to accept the cards you have been dealt is huge. Instead of saying "I want to do that thing BUT I'm anxious/ depressed". Try saying "I want to do that thing AND I'm anxious/ depressed" don't let it make the choices for you.
Its all to easy in this day and age to think that you are the only one in this position. Social media is telling you that everyone else has an amazing sorted life. It's just not true. My life isn't perfect, i still have challenges but I'm nearly 10 years out of the darkness now.
Finally, mindfulness and gratitude and such are great tools but hard in the beginning, much more use later once you are on a strong path to recovery. For now just try letting go of the big thoughts like "why me?", focus on hope and do not give up.
Love Dav x