Margaret Rutherford

@margaret-rutherford | contributor
Medical Expert
Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist, who has practiced for over twenty-five years in Fayetteville, Arkansas and the author of the new book Perfectly Hidden Depression. Since 2012, her work has been found on her own website (http://drmargaretrutherford.com). She hosts a regular FB Live video session on depression for The Mighty. Her expertise can also be found on The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Prevention, Psychology Today, Psych Central and the The Gottman Blog. Dr. Margaret is the host of the highly popular podcast, The SelfWork Podcast, which has earned over 3M downloads and attracts over 100,000 listeners each month.

When Complex Trauma Is Misdiagnosed as Anxiety

I’ve been living with the effects of complex trauma for a long time, but for many years, I didn’t know what it was. Off and on throughout my life, I’ve struggled with what I thought was anxiety and depression. Or rather, In addition to being traumatized, I was anxious and depressed. Regardless of the difference, no condition should ever be minimized. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, it’s important and urgent to find the right support for you. No one gets a prize for “worst” depression, anxiety, trauma or any other combination of terrible things to deal with, and no one should suffer alone. With that in mind, there is a difference between what someone who has Complex PTSD feels and what someone with generalized anxiety or mild to moderate depression feels. For someone dealing with complex trauma, the anxiety they feel does not come from some mysterious unknown source or obsessing about what could happen. For many, the anxiety they feel is not rational. General anxiety can often be calmed with grounding techniques and reminders of what is real and true. Mindfulness techniques can help. Even when they feel disconnected, anxious people can often acknowledge they are loved and supported by others. For those who have experienced trauma, anxiety comes from an automatic physiological response to what has actually, already happened. The brain and body have already lived through “worst case scenario” situations, know what it feels like and are hell-bent on never going back there again. The fight/flight/ freeze response goes into overdrive. It’s like living with a fire alarm that goes off at random intervals 24 hours a day. It is extremely difficult for the rational brain to be convinced “that won’t happen,” because it already knows that it has happened, and it was horrific. Those living with generalized anxiety often live in fear of the future. Those with complex trauma fear the future because of the past. The remedy for both anxiety and trauma is to pull one’s awareness back into the present. For a traumatized person who has experienced abuse, there are a variety of factors that make this difficult. First and foremost, a traumatized person must be living in a situation which is 100 percent safe before they can even begin to process the tsunami of anger, grief and despair that has been locked inside of them, causing their hypervigilance and other anxious symptoms. That usually means no one who abused them or enabled abuse in the past can be allowed to take up space in their life. It also means eliminating any other people who mirror the same abusive or enabling patterns. Unfortunately for many, creating a 100 percent abuser-free environment is not possible, even for those who set up good boundaries and are wary of the signs. That means that being present in the moment for a complex trauma survivor is not fail-proof, especially in a stressful event. They can be triggered into an emotional flashback by anything in their present environment. It is possible (and likely) that someone suffering from the effects of complex trauma is also feeling anxious and depressed, but there is a difference to the root cause. Many effective strategies that treat anxiety and depression don’t work for trauma survivors. Meditation and mindfulness techniques that make one more aware of their environment sometimes can produce an opposite effect on a trauma survivor.  Trauma survivors often don’t need more awareness. They need to feel safe and secure in spite of what their awareness is telling them. At the first sign of anxiety or depression, traumatized people will spiral into toxic shame. Depending on the wounding messages they received from their abusers, they will not only feel the effects of anxiety and depression, but also a deep shame for being “defective” or “not good enough.” Many survivors were emotionally and/or physically abandoned, and have a deep rooted knowledge of the fact that they were insufficiently loved. They live with a constant reminder that their brains and bodies were deprived of a basic human right. Even present-day situations where they are receiving love from a safe person can trigger the awareness and subsequent grief of knowing how unloved they were by comparison. Anxiety and depression are considered commonplace, but I suspect many of those who consider themselves anxious or depressed are actually experiencing the fallout of trauma. Most therapists are not well trained to handle trauma, especially the complex kind that stems from prolonged exposure to abuse. Unless they are specially certified, they might have had a few hours in graduate school on Cluster B personality disorders, and even fewer hours on helping their survivors. Many survivors of complex trauma are often misdiagnosed as having borderline personality disorder (BPD) or bipolar disorder. Anyone who has sought treatment for generalized anxiety or depression owes themselves a deeper look at whether trauma plays a role. MORE ABOUT ANXIETY: While everyone experiences some level of anxiety , not everyone has an anxiety disorder . For those with anxiety disorders, anxiety can become so severe and persistent, it interferes with their daily life and functioning. Anxiety disorder symptoms include excessive worry, panic attacks and other physical symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea, headaches and tremors. Click here to join our anxiety community and connect with people who get it.

Community Voices

How to Keep Disappointment from Becoming #Depression

<p>How to Keep Disappointment from Becoming <a class="tm-topic-link mighty-topic" title="Depression" href="/topic/depression/" data-id="5b23ce7600553f33fe991123" data-name="Depression" aria-label="hashtag Depression">#Depression</a></p>
Community Voices

FBLive today on Anxiety and Panic

<p>FBLive today on <a href="https://themighty.com/topic/anxiety/?label=Anxiety" class="tm-embed-link  tm-autolink health-map" data-id="5b23ce5f00553f33fe98d1b4" data-name="Anxiety" title="Anxiety" target="_blank">Anxiety</a> and Panic</p>
Community Voices
Kelly Jensen

Lies My Depression Told Me

I was not depressed. I couldn’t be. I had never self-harmed. I had never ideated on suicide. I had never felt the need to seek professional help for those low days or weeks or months. I wasn’t like the people I saw on TV or in movies or in books who were depressed. People I knew with clinical depression sought treatment when they engaged in destructive activities or couldn’t get out of bed in the morning or function on a day-to-day basis. I did everything with my whole heart — and depression always seemed to me to be like an all-over weight, impossible to live with. I wasn’t like that. The first lie depression told me was that I didn’t have depression. Because I could get up in the morning, because I could take a shower and do my makeup and my hair, because I could sit down in my office at home and put in a day’s worth of work, because I could follow the routine day in and day out, my depression told me it wasn’t a big deal that I’d spend all my free time sleeping. Depression lied about it being relaxing, recovering and restful. Working takes a lot of energy. It wasn’t an avoidance tactic or an unhealthy coping mechanism. Going through the performance of each day drained me, but it was ignoring depression that really wore me out. The second lie depression told me was that things were OK if I maintained control. By obsessively watching my food intake and making sure I ate only the healthiest meals, by ensuring I worked out daily, by spending an hour with a therapy light in the darkest mornings of winter, I would pull through my temporary seasonal blues. If I added in half an hour of yoga or a few minutes of mind relaxation techniques when I felt really bad, I could relax and avoid the unpleasant thoughts. But being restrictive negatively impacted my physical and mental health. Insisting on controlling every aspect of my life denied me peace and balance, and it made the depression worse — which is exactly what depression wants. The third lie depression told me was that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t a good enough wife. I wasn’t a good enough friend. I wasn’t a good enough daughter/granddaughter/niece/co-worker. The critical things people said to me or about me, the mean things they wrote — those were the truest parts of who I was. The niceties, the compliments and the solid, unwavering support of those who always had my back were all instances of temporary kindness. I was and could only be an obligation. Depression told me people I knew loved and cared about me didn’t. That the things I thought were true and safe were anything but, and I needed to try harder to be better or retreat all together. The crushing insecurity depression wrought upon my thinking led to out-of-character behavior and the need for constant reassurance from those to whom I was closest. The insecurity also led to building up giant walls and demanding space from others who cared about and sometimes needed me to be there. At times, the insecurity depression gave me meant doing both things in tandem: demanding reassurance while not offering the same back. Or worse, believing those reassurances were just there so that I would offer something back, even though I believed I had nothing worth offering to anyone. The fourth lie depression told me was that I didn’t suffer from anxiety. I didn’t have real problems. I had a house. Friends. A job. A family. Real anxiety involved trauma. Real anxiety involved fears outside of the things that I had complete and utter control over (because I could control everything, remember?). Depression told me the anxieties I had were all made up, even as it fueled the feelings and demanded behavior that exacerbated my anxiety. The truth is that anxiety fueled the depression that lied to me. Depression thrived off my low-grade anxieties, helping them grow, which in turn made my depression worse. For me, depression and anxiety weave together like a strand of DNA. They twist around and around and around, rooted and connected to one another. The fifth lie depression told me was that it wasn’t “bad enough.” Depression told me getting out of bed in the morning meant I was functioning. That turning in work on time — sometimes really great work that showcased my sharpest thinking skills — meant I didn’t have miserable, self-flagellating, relentless thoughts circulating through my head. Depression told me sleeping my afternoons away was fine, even restorative, rather than part of a dangerous cycle. Depression told me near-constant exhaustion came from pushing myself too hard on projects I’d taken on, not from being up half the night because I couldn’t shut off the voices or thoughts. Because I’d already slept eight or ten hours that day. Because I wasn’t eating enough and I was working out too much. Depression doesn’t present one specific way. It doesn’t feel one specific way. It doesn’t function one specific way. But it will insist that it does, encouraging you with lie after lie after lie to explain away very real signs and symptoms of its existence, which only causes more pain and hurt. Finally being able to untangle those lies and turn them into the truth of the situation — that I suffered from depression — was like discovering a whole new, different world: a healthier world where I did not have to be my depression, and my depression did not have to be me. The first truth I told depression was that it existed, but it did not define me. This post originally appeared on the To Write Love on Her Arms blog.

Andrew Spade Posts Suicide Prevention Message on Kate Spade's Birthday

On Christmas Eve, Andrew Spade posted a message on Instagram for anyone who might be struggling like his wife had. His wife, fashion designer Kate Spade, died by suicide on June 5, 2018, at the age of 55. Christmas Eve would have been her 57th birthday. The couple married a year after launching Kate Spade’s designer brand together in 1993. Accompanying a picture of their daughter, Spade encouraged people to be kinder to each other and to look for signs of what he called “private problems.” He wrote: Some of us are too embarrassed or prideful to admit we have flaws. Please don’t hide from them. There is no shame in having flaws. I have many. As do some of my best friends, mentors and idols. We should take pride in admitting our humanity. Perfection isn’t the goal — honesty is. View this post on Instagram I will never forget the love Kate had for our beautiful, bright and charming Frances Bea. On the date of Katherine Noel Brosnahan Spades birthdate I hope that we can all be kind to one another and look for signs of private problems. Some of us are too embarrassed or prideful to admit we have flaws. Please don’t hide from them. There is no shame in having flaws. I have many. As do some of my best friends, mentors and idols. We should take pride in admitting our humanity. Perfection isn’t the goal – honesty is. Please seek help if you are feeling helpless or lost. Ask friends and relatives if they are okay. This is truly important. Sometimes they won’t tell you how they are feeling but nudge them to find out. Happy holidays and best wishes to all. By the way, this is a picture of our daughter. The most special person on this planet I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. She will not like that I posted this but she may understand when she’s older. But probably not. Love to all. AndyA post shared by Andrew Spade (@andyspade) on Dec 24, 2019 at 12:51am PST Kate Spade, known for her brightly colored and feminine fashion line, struggled in private. According to an email from her sister that was published by the Kansas City Star, she almost sought help for what her sister called “manic depression,” but in the end didn’t want to “tarnish” the name of her brand. “The ‘image’ of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up,” Kate’s older sister, Reta Saffo, wrote. “She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.” Suicide risk peaks for middle-aged women, and there’s a connection between perfectionistic personality traits and suicidal ideation. Spade’s post is a reminder that when people feel pressure to be perfect or embarrassed to admit their flaws, the consequences can be dangerous. He ended his post by telling people to check up on their loved ones who might be struggling in silence. Please seek help if you are feeling helpless or lost. Ask friends and relatives if they are okay. This is truly important. Sometimes they won’t tell you how they are feeling but nudge them to find out. How does the pressure to be perfect affect you? Let us know in the comments below.

Andrew Spade Posts Suicide Prevention Message on Kate Spade's Birthday

On Christmas Eve, Andrew Spade posted a message on Instagram for anyone who might be struggling like his wife had. His wife, fashion designer Kate Spade, died by suicide on June 5, 2018, at the age of 55. Christmas Eve would have been her 57th birthday. The couple married a year after launching Kate Spade’s designer brand together in 1993. Accompanying a picture of their daughter, Spade encouraged people to be kinder to each other and to look for signs of what he called “private problems.” He wrote: Some of us are too embarrassed or prideful to admit we have flaws. Please don’t hide from them. There is no shame in having flaws. I have many. As do some of my best friends, mentors and idols. We should take pride in admitting our humanity. Perfection isn’t the goal — honesty is. View this post on Instagram I will never forget the love Kate had for our beautiful, bright and charming Frances Bea. On the date of Katherine Noel Brosnahan Spades birthdate I hope that we can all be kind to one another and look for signs of private problems. Some of us are too embarrassed or prideful to admit we have flaws. Please don’t hide from them. There is no shame in having flaws. I have many. As do some of my best friends, mentors and idols. We should take pride in admitting our humanity. Perfection isn’t the goal – honesty is. Please seek help if you are feeling helpless or lost. Ask friends and relatives if they are okay. This is truly important. Sometimes they won’t tell you how they are feeling but nudge them to find out. Happy holidays and best wishes to all. By the way, this is a picture of our daughter. The most special person on this planet I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. She will not like that I posted this but she may understand when she’s older. But probably not. Love to all. AndyA post shared by Andrew Spade (@andyspade) on Dec 24, 2019 at 12:51am PST Kate Spade, known for her brightly colored and feminine fashion line, struggled in private. According to an email from her sister that was published by the Kansas City Star, she almost sought help for what her sister called “manic depression,” but in the end didn’t want to “tarnish” the name of her brand. “The ‘image’ of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up,” Kate’s older sister, Reta Saffo, wrote. “She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.” Suicide risk peaks for middle-aged women, and there’s a connection between perfectionistic personality traits and suicidal ideation. Spade’s post is a reminder that when people feel pressure to be perfect or embarrassed to admit their flaws, the consequences can be dangerous. He ended his post by telling people to check up on their loved ones who might be struggling in silence. Please seek help if you are feeling helpless or lost. Ask friends and relatives if they are okay. This is truly important. Sometimes they won’t tell you how they are feeling but nudge them to find out. How does the pressure to be perfect affect you? Let us know in the comments below.

Community Voices
Community Voices