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What Happened When I Posted About Anxiety and Depression on Facebook

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Author’s note: The following was created from actual Facebook posts and comments. However, all names have been altered and profile pictures removed.

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met… And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” Alan Bennett, “The History Boys

I used to be afraid to post about mental health on Facebook. I was afraid to be judged or that people would think I was suicidal or would not want to comment or share. I thought Facebook was a place for cat memes and silly videos, not for meaningful, in-depth conversations about people’s thoughts and feelings.

Then one day I found a succinct description of what it is like to have depression and anxiety that resonated with me. After much internal debate, I decided to post it.

I was blown away by the response I received. The post received 763 likes and 5.1K shares. Most of all I was intrigued by the comments on my post and on the shares.

Facebook post that reads: Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It's the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It's wanting friends but hate socializing. It's wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It's caring about everything then caring about nothing. It's feeling everyone at once then feeling paralyzingly numb.

One of the things I discovered once people started sharing my post was that there were so many people who not only agreed with me, but who finally found the words to completely articulate their feelings. I felt voyeuristic getting a window into each person’s story. We all had a common connection of living with depression and anxiety.

Facebook comment that reads: I didn't think simple words could describe the depths of this torment. But I swear this hit me right in the top of the head. No one could possibly want to be depressed.

Something I loved seeing was people coming out to their partners and supporting one another. I would see people tag their partner, hoping they would get the hint. I was glad they expressed their desire to stick by each other’s side.

Someone tagging their loved on in a post

Sadly, I wasn’t surprised by how many youths were struggling and trying to make sense of it all.

A facebook comment that reads: I know. I have had this since I was around 13, just horrible.

Some of the people I least expected to speak openly about depression and anxiety shared the post, albeit in their own unique language.

Facebook comment that reads: Dude, yes! This explains exactly

I learned there is still a lot of work to do to educate people.

A Facebook comment that reads: Get over it over one goes though it, it's called growing up

I learned people can speak out about mental health without currently being in crisis, despite what their son might think.

Comments that read: I'm sorry Mom, I sure wish you could find happiness again. I love you.

The post inspired some to reflect on their faith.

Comment reads: "Couldn't have explained it better myself. When I learned it was part of my melancholy type personality. I decided to embrace it, if I needed to stay in bed a little longer, I do. Even since I stopped feeling guilty about it, and just go with my natural flow. I'm freer and more productive, I've gotten better with age. Knowing God, and being passionate about something, has kept me alive. God says that u need a vision, has worked for me. Got to have friends help u pray past that dark cloud that hovers over.

Although Facebook can be a place of negativity at times, I was glad to be able to witness so many people from different corners of the world being able to come together and share our common struggle.

Facebook comment that reads: My life is that to a T

After this experience I was even more committed to fostering dialogue about mental health. I’m convinced people do want to talk about it. It’s just that some needed the language to describe what they were feeling all along. So maybe Facebook doesn’t always have to be so silly after all.

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How to Celebrate Your Birthday When Depression and Anxiety Show Up Uninvited

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I want to start by mentioning my depression and anxiety are much better than they used to be. Despite this, I realized recently they have left little surprises behind that are going to stick around for a while longer. These packages are emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms and I’m still just learning how to operate with them.

Today is my birthday. I realize now this is one of the days that causes me a lot of dread and stress. I thought I might share some tips that helped me through the day:

1. Set one meeting for friends and family.

Either lunch or dinner is best. Because lunch or dinner can only go on for so many hours, after it’s over, I can have some quiet by myself at home. A defined time frame provides an out when the people and noise get to be too much.

2. Find a place to meet that is “neutral ground.”

I usually choose a favorite cafe or stay at home. The familiarity makes me feel more comfortable.

3. Wear something that makes you feel important.

A new dress or necklace can be a good luck charm – especially when a mother or grandmother worries about your appearance. I don’t need to tell them the necklace I’m wearing comes from my favorite TV show and makes me smile when I look at it!

4. Limit the gathering to just a few people.

I prefer quality over quantity and I want to share this day with people who make me smile.

5. Make plans for gifts.

It may sound strange, but the gift giving process can be a trigger for my anxiety. Sometimes I’m worried I won’t be happy enough. Sometimes I get a little present for myself and think of it when I open other presents. Or I ask people not to do presents at all. If worst comes to worst, I ask the family (really really nicely) to give gift cards. Gift cards make things easier as I can buy things from the comfort of my own home.

6. Prepare for phone calls.

Phone calls can be the worst and on my birthday, it feels like the phone doesn’t stop ringing. If I’m having a hard time answering the phone, I have a close friend or family member answer it first to help my anxiety a bit.

7. Take a break when you need some space.

Pretending to take a phone call is an old trick, but can really be a life saver if need be! I need to work on not feeling guilty if I need a little break.

8. Pass on these tips to a loved one.

The most important thing is to find someone in your family or a friend who can help pass on these tips to those people coming. Having someone close by during a party when things get overwhelming to can change the subject or fake a phone call so you can have a break makes such a big difference.

I really hope this was helpful. Happy birthday to those January babies out there!

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Mental Health Nurse Shares How Depression Landed Her In Inpatient Psychiatric Care

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After 29 years as a mental health nurse, Mandy Stevens never expected she would spend 12 weeks receiving inpatient care for a mental illness. Now the nurse is speaking up about the stigma those with mental illnesses face after facing depression as a patient.

“Mental illness will affect 1 in 4 of us during our lifetime and I guess now it’s my turn,” Stevens, who lives in the U.K., shared in a post on LinkedIn. “As I have worked in mental health services for 29 years, one would think I would be immune to mental illness… But there is no immunity; mental illness can come out of nowhere and affect anyone at any time.”

According to her post, it took 10 days from when Stevens’ depression symptoms started for her to be checked into an inpatient facility by an critical care team. “Depression ripped the rug out from under my feet and emptied my whole being,” she wrote. “I have been completely disabled and incapacitated by this illness.”

It took a lot to share her experience with others, Steven notes. “If I had been in hospital with a broken leg, or a physical problem, no doubt I would have been sharing amusing photos of my drip stand, the signed plaster cast and the hospital food; laughing with my family, friends & extended Social Media community. Instead I have hidden myself away, scared of my own shadow and told very few people.”

Despite her apprehension, Stevens post has resonated with thousands, racking up more than 8,000 likes on the professional social media network. “I suffered a complete breakdown in 2013 that took me a year to recover from,” one commenter shared. “I am proud of my fight and I am proud to help my colleagues that also have to fight the Mental Health fight. They come to me now as I have never hid what happened to me. I needed a safe place and safe people, I am now that safe person for others.”

Along with her post, Stevens shared a selfie she had taken in the midst of her depression, noting “This selfie, taken late November, shows a Mandy that no one will recognize: tearful, distraught, matted hair, frightened, withdrawn, desolate & desperate. So so so far from who I normally am… This is what mental illness has the power to do.”

In addition to thanking her family and medical team for their care, Stevens ended her post with a powerful message:

“Please don’t pity me for having a mental illness. Instead, wish me well for my discharge and full recovery.

I lost my mind, lost my self esteem, lost my pride, lost my sense of who I am, lost my confidence, lost my job & my income, lost my driving license and my independence… but I am slowly picking up the pieces… like a smashed vase, glueing itself together in to a beautiful mosaic. I will be strong again. I will be ok.”

You can read Stevens’ full post on LinkedIn.  

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Finding Beauty in a Life With Depression

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Sitting in a Starbucks this past Friday, working on an English assignment, I began to wonder why this world was so broken. I was sad, but not without any apparent reason. This time I was once again back at school, and armed with antidepressants, I was determined to finish. I still am, but somedays are inevitably harder than others. Some days I just want to stay in bed and cry, while the world goes about its business. I’m convinced it wouldn’t really miss me. After all, isn’t there enough sadness in the world?

I wish I could still text this girl I used to talk to, someone who also has depression and could at least understand what I go through. She seems to be long gone though now, but who knows, maybe she’ll be back. Even on days like today, when I’m in a state of deep sadness and sorrow, I still hold onto the tiniest glimmers of hope. Hope that tomorrow will be a better today, hope that the sun will once again shine and bring new people and opportunities into my life. With depression, it can often be hard to find happiness.

Sometimes, I just have to intentionally create my own. Whether it be jamming out to Taylor Swift, or writing letters to people I will never send, the path to happiness looks different for everyone. Depression and sadness suck, but it’s also made me that much more thankful for the times I feel happy, for the times when I’m not sad. This world is broken, that is true. It’s filled with plenty of sad stories and sad people, but I’d like to think that for all that sadness, there still remains happiness. There still remains love. There still remains the first date, the first step in what will inevitably lead towards love. And isn’t that something to be happy about? Even for all the sadness, does love not still remain? I am convinced that it still does, and that in the end, love will indeed win.

So today, I choose to smile about that.

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Facing My Own Depression After My Wife's Mental Health Crisis

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Being “the glue” during my wife’s mental health crisis had many challenges. However, I was surprised by how difficult the moving on with life part was. We were really fortunate Sarah’s recovery from paranoid and psychotic episodes was relatively quick. After she had been out of the hospital for about a month or so, my worries about a relapse went away.

However, the most difficult part for me wasn’t about Sarah. She still had a ways to go in recovering and processing what had happened and what it meant for her life. While it may have slowed her down a bit or made her more somber, I started to see I was having my own issues. A little time and counseling has provided some perspective on things and it seems I have struggled through some major adjustments.

The main thing I realized was life felt numb. Being on such high alert for six months had fried my emotions and response system. Also, I realized how much I relied on Sarah to keep my mood up. Combined, these were difficult to grind through. Everything was a chore. I didn’t really want to do anything. It was like my life had become the embodiment of the Roger’s and Hammerstein song “It Might As Well Be Spring.” “The things I used to like/I don’t like anymore…

With all of the reading I had done in the previous year on mental health, I could tell I was exhibiting a number of the symptoms of depression. As my annual physical was coming up, I decided to talk with my doctor about it and see if some medication would be helpful. When my doctor asked me how I was doing, I timidly began ticking off the symptoms I had been noticing. When I went to the doctor with Sarah, it always seemed like the doctors were offering drugs, so I thought I would be able to play coy and accept her offer. Really I was getting so desperate to feel like myself again I was prepared to begin with, “So, what’s it going to take for you to prescribe me some medicine today?”

However, to my disappointment, she printed me off some suggestions for coping with depression and anxiety and told me keep at it. I had thought about talking to a counselor, but I didn’t know if I was quite ready to talk about things yet. Also, I didn’t have what I had read about were called “hot thoughts.” I didn’t think everyone hated me, I didn’t think I was worthless or I was going to die. I just wanted to stay in bed and listen to Richard Claderman’s smooth renditions of schmaltzy love songs. Also, I got pretty deep into Quebec pop artist Coeur de Pirate. It was a confusing time.

I didn’t feel like myself. I had often thought of myself as a happy and energetic person, but I now felt I lacked my spark. I also found myself more easily irritated, more easily agitated, less enthusiastic. Every so often something would happen and I would feel my spark again. But it would be fleeting and often only provided me a reminder of what I had lost.

When the Royals recorded the last of their World Series victories I felt empty. Growing up with the Royals winning the World Series was only possible when I made it happen on my video game console. I expected ecstasy. This to me, proved I was broken. Either that or the outcome of a contest over which I have no control and no tangible gain means very little. Obviously it was me being broken.

One of the most difficult things for me has been the cognitive dissonance between my moods and my circumstances. Through my church service I have interacted on a very intimate level with many who have many things to be unhappy about. I try to be conversant in world and national affairs and I am appreciative of the genetic lottery I won that allows me to live in peace and comfort. What reason did I have to be anything other than happy? Were my kids too cute? My food too plentiful, varied and delicious? My air conditioning too comfortable? My paycheck too regular?

As far as Sarah’s experience goes, while I didn’t like that it happened, I could quickly identify and list so many blessings that occurred amid the chaos. So, it was frustrating not to be able to fix myself. Throughout my life I have typically been able to accomplish whatever I wanted if I really focused and worked at it. When my emotions would go haywire, I saw this as my personal weakness. I should be able to control this.

So, when I finally decided to get serious about getting myself right, I began talk therapy and at my next physical my doctor prescribed some medication. I was disappointed to discover a lot of time may be required to recalibrate. For someone who has built a lot of his life on control and discipline, this has made me feel helpless.

I’m still swimming in a lot of this, but the combination of Sarah feeling better, the weather being nicer and feeling like I’m doing things to improve my situation have made things feel better more often. I’m still often “vaguely discontented,” but I take less time to mope and have started to feel things again.

I haven’t been able to perfectly find the words to describe how all this has changed me. It’s been a weird combination of increased self-confidence, gravity, perspective and hope while simultaneously feeling crushing inadequacy, dread and fragility. I’m learning to be more accepting of this.

One teaching of Neal A. Maxwell has steeled me regularly through the past couple of years:

“Real hope is much more than wishful musing. It stiffens, not slackens, the spiritual spine. Hope is serene, not giddy, eager without being naïve, and pleasantly steady without being smug. Hope is realistic anticipation which takes the form of a determination—not only to endure adversity but, moreover, to ‘endure…well’ to the end.”

This is what I aspire to.

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When I Had to Accept Depression Made Me Too Sick to Take Care of My Pets

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To my guinea pigs: Diana, Natasha and Clark,

Depression and anxiety have made my life so different. My sleep patterns keep changing. I have back aches due to stress stored in my muscles. Headaches are now a regular occurrence and I can’t tell when I am stressed or overwhelmed. Actually the medicine stops most feelings until they come out in an overly dramatic way. That and anxiety attacks could start on any minute.

But you guys don’t see that. I’m not too sure how well guinea pigs can remember, but you would know things aren’t OK. I don’t always have your favorite food organized. Or the right amount of vegetables. I can’t always bend down to clean your cages. I sometimes wait a few extra days so I can build up the courage to face the pain when cleaning. I ran away last week when I heard your squeaks asking me to add more water to your water bowl. That’s when I knew things had to change. I used to love all your squeaks and attention. You all have such unique personalities.

Clark, you were a special surprise as we didn’t know Diana was pregnant when we picked her and Natasha up from the pet store. You were so small and fluffy and I felt so special to have been there when you were born. I felt so connected to you, Clark as you got surgery the same day I did (minor cut that needed stitches) and we were “sickies” together. You three set the activities for the day everyday – your squeaks let us know when it is breakfast time and welcome us back home when we get back from work. You all make such a fuss we have to give you dinner first and check on you before we go to bed.

I can’t imagine you three not in my life. But your life with me isn’t as great anymore.

So I will have to find you all a new home. The people around me say this decision is acting in a mature manner, but I feel like I am saying goodbye to members of my family forever. I thought I would feel better and be able to give you the care you deserve. But my anxiety and depression symptoms of pain and fatigue aren’t going away. So this is my best course of action – even though I hate it.

My therapist says it could also be my depression making my guilt feel more extreme than it really is. All I know is I can’t look at you three anymore and cry when I see anything guinea pig related. I’ve organized friends to find you the best home possible where your new family will care for you in ways I can’t right now.

I can’t tell you how much I love you. I loved being a “guinea pig mummy” and my phone is filled with photos and movies of you. But I can’t have you get sick just because I am. I couldn’t forgive myself if something happened to you because I didn’t let you go.

So I’m doing the only thing I can for your happiness and wellbeing right now. I pray it’s the right thing to do. Please know I love you and doing this so you can have the life you deserve. Your little lives are short and you can’t wait anymore for me to return to “normal.” I don’t think I will ever be “normal” again. But I can know I was a good “guinea pig mummy” at some point.

I love you. Please forgive me.

Jane

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