Straight up, I just want to say, my bad for how long it has taken me to write this post. I wanted to give you my full journey through anxiety and depression but as it turned out, once I started writing it down it was turning into a book and I don’t read books (other than the bible), so I sure as heck don’t want to write one.
As a result, I’m going to give you the gist… In dot points, oh yes and it’s still pretty hefty. If my journey bores you though, that’s cool. Skip to my tips and tricks for overcoming depression and anxiety (also in dot points at the bottom of the post J).
- Anxiety discovered 2012 after a panic attack at university. Didn’t know what it was except for a friend saying “you’re having a panic attack”. Went to the doctor sometime after for other symptoms, turned out she was right.
- Symptoms gradually became worse, was tired all the time was the major one even though I thought I was sleeping ok.
- Fast forward to 2015, got married to the love of my life, Caleb, on January 10 and moved away from family, friends and all that was known to me that very same weekend. Seemed like a good idea at the time, turns out anxiety doesn’t like huge changes like that, never mind – we survived and it made us stronger in the end J.
- Went back to the doctor as going to work was making me feel physically sick along with the relentless fatigue. Diagnosed specifically with social anxiety in 2015, at that point moderate anxiety, mild depression.
- Finally, a bit more change came our way when we bought a house 2016, by mid-2016, I was contemplating suicide… Yep… that escalated quickly and no one but my husband at that point knew how much I was struggling and I can imagine this dot point will shock most of my friends and family as I became very good at hiding things until I got home and broke down.
- I knew I wouldn’t go ahead with suicide because as a Christian it’s a much bigger deal than just ending a meaningless existence (what some, I assume think when contemplating suicide?). I also knew that Caleb would not have coped and would have blamed himself if I went through with it.
- So instead, I got online to Beyond Blue. The lady asked me if I was antidepressants. I told her I was opposed to going on them. She convinced me otherwise and before long I was back at the doctors.
- I went in for something else to the doctor and tried to as casually as possible ask about anti-depressants. It was at that point where he questioned a little and I broke down. I was then diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. He called a psychiatrist there and then (at 7pm) and booked an appointment. Funnily enough, nearly all my questions on the test lead to my diagnosis as severe except one. I had hope. Apparently, that’s a bit strange for someone with depression, but because of my faith in Christ, I knew I would be healed. Nonetheless, I was prescribed Lexapro.
- Started feeling ok not too long after that, increased the dose at one point but was too much so brought it back down.
- Once I was feeling ok, I started looking at ways to cure myself and get off anti-depressants, starting with diet and exercise. To be honest, I’m still not as healthy as I want to be on the lifestyle side of things but I’m improving.
- I was obviously this whole journey praying for healing and those prayers started to get answered. Before long my amazing sister started a little healthy lifestyle group, and started selling “Juice +” capsules with a bunch of ground up organic fruit and veggies and I started to feel a lot better just by getting those missed nutrients in my diet.
- As well as that, again around the same time a preacher came to our church having a similar story to mine with anxiety and depression. I honestly can’t remember too much of what he said but I remember it changed me. I knew without a doubt I would be healed and I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit that I could start to decrease my dose of Lexapro. When we got out of church that day, without me saying a word, Caleb said the same thing the Holy Spirit had just told me and so I knew we had both heard right.
- I started to decrease the dose, and that was well over a month ago now, and I am now off Lexapro.
That’s the journey so far. I won’t say that I feel 100% better. I still have days, many days actually that I struggle out of bed and can’t wait to crawl back into it #adulting. I still have days where I am so aggravated that the slightest thing from Caleb can send me into wild depressive rage #poorCaleb. I even still have days where I feel it would be easier if I just wasn’t here #violenceagainstmyselfAshleyandCalebsayno. But, amidst all that, I know I am healed. Goodness me, this all sounds so cliché to me but it’s the honest truth. I’m looking at doing some more counselling soon once I can contact and book a time with the therapist. Side note: is it just me, or are they ridiculously hard to get a hold of for such a crucial role?
Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you. If it’s hard now, it does get better. I didn’t know I would come off Lexapro so soon after going on but it was so worth going on because it got me through the hardest part of everything. To think I was so against going on and I could have saved so much heart ache for myself and Caleb, but yeah, I lived and learned, thank goodness. Another thing I just realised is, I never knew mid-way through 2016, that at the start of 2017 I’d be doing this much better. So please, like I said, it gets better, don’t give up. Maybe like me, the hardest part of your depression/anxiety is signalling the final lashes of your disease and maybe soon, you’ll be ok too. I can only pray. I want so badly for whoever is reading this to be healed. So, I will pray.
Ok, some things that helped me through last year:
- Try not to judge yourself too harshly. Growing up as a Christian, I was always told I was very strong and seemed to have it all together and that sorta became a part of my identity. That when everyone else was freaking out, I could hold it together. Well, I couldn’t. I just could until I was behind closed doors and that’s where I let it all out half the time. And it wasn’t healthy, so I really admire people now who are just open and honest about how they are feeling. Not that I ever consciously tried to hide my emotions, that’s just what I learnt to do somehow. Now, I think about it though, I feel like I still cried in public more than a lot of people just because I couldn’t hide it anymore. I’ve just realised that a lot of people are probably hiding their emotions then…#somethingtothinkabout #peoplearestrugglingandwedontevenknow but yeah, don’t beat yourself up for struggling with this, instead try to nurture yourself.
- This one’s important, if not the most important. I don’t know where you stand with God but I know Him and I know He is the only one that can truly, thoroughly and properly heal you. And I know there’s a lot of people out there who have prayed “God, if you’re real, prove it” and have felt nothing change. Please don’t give up. We don’t understand these things, but I know God. I talk to Him every single day and I know that I know that I absolutely know, He loves you. Pray to him and keep praying to him. Praying to God gave me the wisdom to know that if I left this world, I would leave a huge flipping hole. And I’m nothing special, no matter who you are, you would leave a huge flipping hole in this world if you left.
- On the same token as not judging yourself, give yourself the time you need to heal and do what you know you need to do to heal. For me, I was so socially anxious that it was physically exhausting for me to be around people. I was always over obsessing in my mind about all the stupid things I was about to say at any given moment and trying to keep a cool face while having these crazy thoughts. So, when I was home, I would veg and I knew I needed to. It’s probably not the best psychological advice out there but I knew I needed to give myself a break, I needed to get out of my head and for me that was just watching movies and series. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not advocating anything bad that would get you out of your head, somethings can actually make your depression/anxiety worse. For example, Facebook. Even now sometimes after being on Facebook, I feel anxious and depressed so please, if it makes you feel the same way, try and do something else.
- Talk to people. I was fortunate to have my husband who understood exactly where I was coming from and when I went on the anti-depressants, I told my closest family members because I knew I needed the support and it helped. They didn’t need to understand where I was coming from to help, just them listening helped and I am so grateful for them.
- More practically, I did a fair bit of reading on how to overcome this illness and the best resource I have found so far online and free, was Moodgym. Google it. I loved it because it meant I didn’t have to go and be interrogated by a psychologist to start fixing my problems. Lol, I say interrogated as that’s what it feels like with social anxiety. At least it did for me. She was nice and all but a whole bunch of questions of your upbringing and then a whole bunch of weird exercises to try and fix it… that was my experience anyway and I’m hoping the next therapist I go to will be better, but if not, Moodgym. The best thing is taught me was that not everyone is focusing or at least even remembering every silly thing you do. What seems like something really stupid to us that we did, other people likely aren’t all that worried or if they are, they will probably forget about it in a few weeks. You are not the centre of everyone’s world, only your own. Haha what a relief.
- Another resource that also helped at the time was a brain fast by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Again, a whole lot of exercises which I find hard to upkeep which is why I prefer Moodgym but that’s just me.
- Nutrition: really briefly, at the height of anxiety, someone offered this tip on Facebook and it really helped. Drop down on caffeine intake. Obviously, caffeine is a stimulant and when you are anxious you are already highly stimulated so it makes sense that caffeine doesn’t help. I went off caffeine for a day or two and felt better…but then that’s not one I could keep up so, yeah. Do or don’t but it does really help if you find you really are far too anxious. I just went back on lightly when I wasn’t so anxious and I’ll go off it again if I need to too. Also, I personally find dropping sugar has helped a lot and increasing veggie and fruit intake. If you need help doing this like I did, I highly recommend the Juice + capsules, I can hook you up if you need it. I don’t sell it, but I can link you to someone who does.
- Finally, as you get better, help someone else. You might see someone that looks down or lonely or you remember a friend who said they have depression at some point. Check in with those people and see if you can help. They will so appreciate it and by helping others, you help yourself. You give yourself a sense of purpose and that in itself is so healing. Just don’t be too nosy, offer your listening ear and if they want it, they’ll let you know.
Thank you for reading this. If you made it to the end of all those dot points, kudos to you! I’d like to end this post with some scriptures that have really helped me lately, especially with overcoming the last of these mental health issues.
Romans 8:1 NKJV
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8:5-6 NKJV
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
Do your best to keep your eyes on Jesus, he will get you where you need to be.