Hope Blog/Depression – A Real Pain in the Neck

When I focus on how much time I’ve lost to suffering with depression and anxiety throughout my life, I get angry and profoundly sad. From there I switch to feeling grateful that I’m doing better, but no matter what, I always come to the same conclusion: ruminating over the past is detrimental to my wellbeing. It does not help me in any way. Yet, I still do it, especially at times when I’m not feeling well physically, like now.

I’d always planned on making up for all the great adventures, big and small, that I missed out on because I was too depressed to face the world for so long. Therefore, it’s extremely frustrating that now, when I’m feeling pretty good mentally, I’m stuck at home, grappling with close to unbearable pain in my neck and right arm. The discomfort has become so severe lately that I’m unable to sleep – not a good thing for me, since insomnia is one of my main triggers for depression.  

Until now, I’ve been successful at not letting “it” get to me. But after another sleepless night, filled with invisible knives stabbing and twisting inside of me, I’m feeling vulnerably wide open to an uninvited bout of depression. It’s times like these that all of the tools I’ve collected and worked so hard to use properly become useless against the mighty powers of the body and mind.  

I don’t want to look at any time in my past or present as being lost or wasted due to depression or a physical ailment. In addition, the future is not my enemy, negative projections are. 

One lesson I’ve learned is that perspective can turn negative experiences into positive ones, most of the time. From that standpoint, I’ll consider this day as one not lost to pain and anxiety, but as an opportunity to share my struggles with the hopes of helping others to heal. 

BC2M/Overcoming Anxiety and the Disease to Please

If there’s one thing I regret so far this year, it’s not getting a flu shot. Against my doctor’s strong recommendation, I chose to forego getting the vaccine. I’d heard it only works 60 to 70% of the time, and my stubbornness combined with apprehension of having a live virus injected into my arm, simply as a precautionary method, with no guarantee, didn’t seem worth the risk. I was afraid of adverse reactions and side effects that might have had a negative impact on my mental health.  My attitude has since changed. Completely.

What began as queasiness, while watching the Golden Globe Awards, rapidly took a turn into the land of Flu-Ville.  For the days that followed, the flu’s nasty and undesirable symptoms showed no mercy. While my muscles and joints ached so badly, every inch of my body was riddled with pain. Even my toes hurt. My ribs felt like they’d been smashed with a baseball bat. As for nutrition, all I could keep down were a few bites of a baguette and vanilla tea with honey. Having the flu was the opposite of fun. Next year, I’ll listen to my doctor and get the vaccine. Lesson learned.

It was during one feverish afternoon that I was partially awake yet dreaming at the same time. I think it’s called a “fugue state” (Breaking Bad, anyone?). Anyway, it was in this bizarre space oddity that I recalled being very sick many years ago when I first started working full-time after college. I came down with a bad case of strep throat. My doctor put me on strong antibiotics and told me I was in no shape to go into the office. Even so, the idea of calling in sick and making my two bosses angry caused me to have a series of uncontrollable panic attacks. The levels of extreme anxiety caused me to hyperventilate – all out of fear of disappointing my higher-ups and having them angry with me.

Back then, conflict brought on severe strikes of anxiety. I could feel orbs of acid eating away my insides while my heart pounded so loudly it hurt my eardrums. But because I was not yet receiving professional help, I didn’t have the tools necessary to deal with this kind of discord. My psychological angst, on top of my physical illness was too much for me to handle. The memory of twisting with worry-filled stomach cramps at the thought of my bosses sharpening their own pencils and making their own lunch reservations still haunts me. The toxic disease to please had spread throughout every groove of my brain. My throat was killing me, as if I was swallowing broken glass, yet I was truly considering risking my health and going to work just to avoid inconveniencing others. I wound up staying home for a few days, but not without dreading going back and facing the consequences of my absence. How ironic it was that when I returned, at least half of the office was out with the same thing I had.

It frustrates me now that I was so hard on myself and consumed with unwarranted self-hatred. The over-the-top fear of making someone angry with me, of not considering my own needs – truly believing that I was a bad person if I disappointed someone else, were classic symptoms of anxiety and depression. I just didn’t know it yet. This kind of self-punishment went on for years before I began Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to overcome those negative thoughts and actions.

The severity of the flu from last week didn’t leave me with any options but to simply rest and wait until the virus exited my system. I fell behind in my workload, had to reschedule appointments and most likely let some people down for canceling plans. Had this been twenty years ago, I’d have been wracked with feelings of culpability, shame, fret and disgrace. Today, I’m simply another statistic of what the Centers for Disease Control is calling an epidemic in at least 40 states, this time with no guilt attached.


Hope Blog/Respect Your Illness

Respect Your Illness

Published by Adrienne Gurman at 12:41 AM under Acceptance | CBT | Coping | Depression |Health | nutrition | Recovery

I find it remarkable that although I’ve come to accept the fact that I have depression and all that comes with it, I still become frightened by how powerful this hardcore illness can be. Last week, I was forced to succumb to the violent strain of flu that’s been making its way across the country. The virus completely took over my physical being, the symptoms robbing me of sufficient sleep, nutrition and essential daily medications.  After a painful four days, when the bug was finally out of my system, the shock of my ghostly reflection in the mirror paled in comparison to the invisible heaviness and despair weighing me down on the inside.

This has happened to me several times in the past – getting hit with a depression after a bad cold, for example. So much of managing my mental health is based on routine, and when that gets shifted for whatever reason, in addition to the inability to digest food (and meds) and not sleep eight hours per night, it really messes me up. While it helps knowing why I currently feel so blah, I can’t simply snap my fingers and make it disappear. As much as I hate having depression, I can’t pretend it’s not there. I have to acknowledge it and respect it, just like the flu.

Time and experience has taught me to never underestimate how quickly depression can take control of my life. Sure, it would be easy to surrender. I won’t deny the temptation to withdraw, hide away, unplug and disappear. But I’ve done that before and it only makes it worse. While my eyes burn with familiar tears of sadness, I can feel my bodily strength returning slowly. It’s a bizarre dichotomy – mental and physical powers pulling me in opposite directions. Yet, if history has taught me anything, there’s no reason for me to think that I won’t get through this rough time. I’ve done it before and I shall do it again!