Healing from anxiety and depression through reflection and introspection

In my book, Cultivating Peace and Hope, I narrate my life story and describe the challenging life events that resulted in my experiencing episodes of anxiety and depression. I talk about the underlying emotional struggles and dysfunctional self-beliefs that served as triggers. I also share strategies that I used to help me cope and look towards healing. I relied on my Christian belief and faith for support. In addition to taking conventional medicine, I applied self-help modalities, including hypnotherapy, mindful meditation, yoga, mirror work and self-affirmations. I read extensively about self-help and followed well-established authorities in this area, including Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Mike Dooley, Deepak Chopra and Brene Brown, to name a few. The self-help literature equipped me with crucial knowledge about the importance of self-analysis and introspection to gradually untangle the mental knots that triggered episodes of mental agitation. It was not until I committed to uncovering my deeper emotional drivers and self-beliefs that I started making progress. I learnt to understand that perception is often the driver behind how one chooses to emotionally respond or react to significant life events. Over time, I uncovered, analysed, and let go of dysfunctional emotional habits. I hope that my story and experiences of anxiety and depression, will help people in similar situations to have a better understanding of what they are going through and strategies they can pursue to manage their condition.

Life throws us curve balls at different points on our journey, sometimes from a very young age. Our living environment determines how we react or respond to the challenges. In telling my story, I am advocating for the de-stigmatisation of this topic, in order to empower people to seek help when needed.

Anxiety and depression are common mental challenges that can occur in one’s life at any stage, with varying adverse effects on one’s ability to perform routine life tasks. Their impact depends on environmental factors that trigger the affliction. Anxiety and depression often manifest together. However, one can occur without the other. Some of the common symptoms of anxiety which often lead to depressive disorder include:

  • reduced concentration and attention
  • reduced self-esteem and self-confidence
  • ideas of guilt and unworthiness (even in a mild type of episode)
  • bleak and pessimistic views of the future
  • ideas or acts of self-harm or suicide
  • disturbed sleep
  • diminished appetite

The degree of anxiety disorders across the world varies from 2.5 to 7 percent by country. In 2017 an estimated 284 million people in the world experienced an anxiety disorder, making it the most prevalent mental health or neurodevelopmental disorder. In all countries, women were generally more likely to experience anxiety disorders than men. Based on data published by the IHME, Global Burden of Disease, in 2017, the magnitude of people with anxiety disorders was in the order of 63 percent (179 million) female, compared to 37% (105 million) males

Social denial and misconceptions

Anxiety and depression are prevalent in communities, but many people do not readily admit to experiencing either, for fear of societal stigmatization. The condition is often swept under the rug, hoping that it will go away. In some cases, it does not and when other life challenges occur, it creates a crisis.

Many people do not fully understand the impact of anxiety and depression on peoples’ daily lives. Sometimes well-meaning friends, family and colleagues who make comments like; “It’ll be alright” or “Just get on with it” or “keep your chin up” unknowingly contribute to the reluctance to disclose these mental struggles, as people try to just “get on with it” and not be a bother.

Admitting to a mental struggle is not a weakness.

In my situation I did not acknowledge for a long time in my life that my mental struggles were caused by anxiety attacks. I was unaware of what was happening, but I was also reluctant to associate my day-to-day personal struggles with a psychological disorder. One of my biggest draw-back was the concern of people’s perception of me, so in response, I attempted to live up to people’s expectations. This reinforced my already low self-worth. I was constantly second guessing myself and modelling my life to what I thought society and people around me wanted. I suppressed my natural creative energies and instincts, resulting in mental confusion and agitation and a complete lack of self-awareness.

Admitting to a mental struggle signalled a weakness that I thought would attract judgement by colleagues. Like many other people experiencing anxiety and depression, I thought my struggles were just a passing phase. However, the phase did not go away. It became evident and compounded over time as more ‘stressful life events occurred. Acknowledging that there is a problem takes tremendous courage and willingness to be vulnerable.

Let’s talk about it and don’t put it in the too hard basket.

It is normal to feel stressed. There are lots of things one can do to feel better and sometimes just talking about one’s mental struggles is the best medicine.  However, there are many people who still find talking about anxiety and depression too “depressing”. I wonder why? Might it be because it stirs up something deep within ourselves that we do not want to acknowledge? Perhaps a fear of ourselves and our own issues? I fully acknowledge the need for positivity in our lives. However, I believe that to achieve positivity society attitudes towards people with mental health issues should change. This would make those needing assistance to feel less alone and more supported in recovering from anxiety and depression.  More talk about the subject would encourage people with anxiety disorders and depression to pursue ways of attaining mental clarity and positive outlook to life instead of suppressing underlying trauma/agitation. Society needs to tackle this too hard basket!

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