I had my first anxiety attack when I was in fourth grade. I was sitting at my computer during keyboarding class, and I started uncontrollably crying because I was such a slow typer. My parents had to be called because I was whipped into such a fit that I couldn’t calm down- I was in such a huge panic over nothing. I had deeply ingrained an expectation on myself to be perfect. For years after that, I would have “fluttering heart,” something my doctors couldn’t find a cause for, though now I know it was anxiety. I started antidepressants when I was 15 years old without any kind of official diagnosis from a psychiatrist, which I wouldn’t recommend. In college, I went to the school counselor a few times to get through a death in the family and some transitional anxieties I had, but I never committed to a routine of therapy. And the anxiety didn’t get any easier as life got harder. Transitioning from college to some semblance of adulthood knocked me on my butt.
This January, I decided that my mental health had to be a priority so I could have a good foundation for the rest of my life. I started going to therapy weekly (which I continue to do) and finally went to a psychiatrist for the first time in my life. I’ve changed my medicines a few times since January, and I’m in the middle of trying another new one. I’m in the midst of my biggest and hardest depression flare-up of my life. I have good days and I have very, very bad days, crawl-in-a hole days. Hopeless days. My new medicine made me so sick for the first few weeks. I would lie in bed hurting so much it felt like my skin would fall off; my doctor had to prescribe me the same anti-nausea medicine given to chemotherapy patients because my stomach reacted so badly. But the sickness has calmed down a lot now, and I’m trying to see if this is the medicine that is best for me. So here I am now, 23 years old. A little neurotic. A little high-strung. But I’m out here trying my best.
For me, depression and anxiety are best regulated by a mixture of therapy, regular psychiatrist check-ins, medication, and self care. But sometimes, those coping mechanisms aren’t enough to keep overwhelming anxiety from creeping up and paralyzing me.
This is my Official Depression and Anxiety Survival Guide, a list of things that help me cope:
- Journaling journaling journaling. It helps me keep routines and process my thoughts and be creative.
- Meditation is always something I was interested in but afraid to try. I’m working on developing my practice.
- Candles, nice soaps, face masks- anything that makes me soft and nice-smelling. I love Lush so much.
- This advice column from Cheryl Strayed
- Actually anything from Cheryl Strayed. She has a podcast too!
- Plants! Taking care of plants makes me feel preternaturally calm. Watering them, observing their growth, learning patience.I read somewhere the other day that dirt has natural components that help anxiety; I don’t know if it’s scientifically true, but I definitely love plants and dirt and nature.
At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.