Part of combating a mental illness is making sure that you have meaningful activity to participate in on a regular basis. Even those without mental health conditions need to have meaningful, purposeful tasks in their life to make life worthwhile.
There are very few tasks that don’t involve interacting with other people. Even something as solitary as writing a book eventually involves submitting it to editors and publishers and dealing with them, as well as critics and readers.
As a result of my bipolar disorder, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and severe social anxiety disorder, I have the most difficult time interacting with people. This limits my range of productive activities that I can do outside of the home. I cannot hold any job that involves interacting with others for any length of time outside of my immediate family. I do short stints of volunteer work, an hour here and there, and that is it.
It makes me sad to think my life will be void of being of sustained service to other people for the rest of my life due to my mental health conditions. However, I can do nothing else but accept this reality and move on.
I do take satisfaction in the fact that I can at least blog here and write about my experiences and provide information and encouragement to those who may be in the same situation as myself.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is related to depression. It is thought that those with depression are lacking in serotonin. Some antidepressant medications block the reuptake of serotonin leaving more available for use by the brain, thereby decreasing depression symptoms or so the theory goes.
Besides medication, which has been proven in clinical trials to have a significant effect on depression symptoms, there are anecdotal treatments some people say increase serotonin in the brain. These “treatments” aren’t always backed by scientific studies and should be discussed with your doctor before being tried especially if they involve any sort of supplement or exercise, but most appear relatively harmless and may even be helpful in relieving some depression symptoms in some people. These serotonin-producing ideas include the following:
Get more tryptophans from foods like lean meats, eggs, and dairy.
Get a massage.
Boost your vitamin B.
Soak up the sunshine or use a light therapy box.
Add more magnesium to your diet with dark, leafy veges, fish, bananas, and beans.
Be more positive, practice gratitude.
Reduce sugar intake.
Increase vitamin C.
Practice self care to reduce stress.
Keep a journal or practice some form a regular writing.
Don’t try to make all the changes at once, if it seems overwhelming. Tackle one or two items a month. Eventually you will get to feeling better and better and before you know it all of these things will become second nature, if you tackle them like a marathon not a sprint.
Play the long game. These changes are lifetime goals. You have all the time in the world to reach them, but start making them one or two at a time. You can do it and will be glad you did as you begin to feel better and better little by little until it adds up to be quite a lot!
It took me over ten years to get to some real solid stability in my bipolar depression. I did it by addimg a lot of coping skills and healthy habits to my life year after year. Trauma work in therapy and constant medication management was a huge part of it, too, but the anecdotal cures were essential and still are. They may be for you, too.
As always, comments are open for any questions you may have for me and for any shares you have regarding your experiences. Thanks for reading.
There are many factors related to the coronavirus pandemic affecting the mental health of people, with social isolation and fear of the virus being at the top of the list. Based on other pandemics and natural disasters, as many as 50% of people may experience anxiety, depression, and some post-traumatic stress symptoms.
If those without mental illness are having a difficult time right now, you can bet those of us with mental illness, particularly anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and obsessional or phobic disorders are having an exacerbation of symptoms due to the current situation.
If you begin to feel anxious, irritable, worried, or are unable to concentrate or sleep, or find yourself abusing drugs or alcohol, you may want to reach out to your healthcare professional. If you’re questioning whether you should reach out or not, go ahead and reach out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you do not have a healthcare professional, call a hotline or a supportive friend to help you find one. Mental health issues are treatable and do not last forever. You can and will get better if you seek the help you need.
So tell me, how are you doing? I’m hanging in there. Where’s your head right now? Are you having an exacerbation of symptoms? What are you going through? As always, comments are open for questions and for sharing your experience.
Bipolar disorder usually consists of moods alternating between extreme highs, or semi-highs in the case of hypomania, and extreme lows, with stabilized moods in between. The highs can include symptoms such as:
Having lots of energy
Feeling high or wired
Having racing thoughts
Taking more risks
Needing less sleep than usual to feel rested
Having more distractions than usual
Having intense senses, such as smell and touch (Source: WebMD)
The lows can include symptoms such as:
Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
Not enjoying things you used to enjoy
Trouble with concentration, memory, or making decisions
Sleeping too much or too little
Gaining or losing weight
Feeling restless or irritable
Thoughts of suicide or death (Source: WebMD)
A person experiencing a mixed episode is having symptoms from the highs and the lows at the same time or in rapid succession with no break in between. This is a very disturbing type of episode to have and can cause much confusion and anxiety for the person. The person can, for example, feel depressed and tired most of the day with no motivation or hope, but still feel compelled to act out impulsively with regards to sex or spending money at times. They can be crying uncontrollably one minute and extremely happy the next. This can go on for days, weeks, or months.
Treatment usually includes some form of medication. Treatment by a doctor is definitely required as this is something that will not go away on its own and if left untreated carries an extremely high risk of ending in self-harm or suicide. Mixed episodes in particular are even more at risk of suicide than straight bipolar mania or depressive episodes alone.
The good news is with medication management by a qualified doctor these episodes can be arrested and a safe, healthy, happy life can be attained even with a life-time diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I am living proof of that.
Comments are always open for questions regarding my experience with bipolar disorder and how I’ve learned to manage and live positively with it after being diagnosed almost 15 years ago.
How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.
The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.
According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:
“Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
Restlessness or feeling slowed down
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)
If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.
Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!
Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.
Unprecedented times can sky-rocket anxiety that is already high for those of us with mental illness. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves if we are feeling particularly out of sorts during this craziness. Let’s remind ourselves that it will not last forever and that life will go back to the way it use to be relatively soon. In the mean time, let’s make a plan of ways we can cope with our anxiety and get through each day, moment by moment, knowing that there is no shame in merely doing the best we can no matter what that may look like.
Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy. Get exercise. All the usually advice. Take time each day to do something you enjoy. A hobby or special interest. Watch relaxing or funny videos or movies or shows. Read uplifting or positive material. Create a soothing environment in your home with soft lighting, pleasant aromas, de-cluttered rooms, and quiet or calming sounds.
I’m going to be all right. My feeling are not always rational.
Anxiety is not dangerous. It’s just uncomfortable.
Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I will be fine.
That picture or image in my head is not a healthy or rational picture.
I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now.
It’s not the first time I feel anxiety. I am going to take some deep breaths and keep on going.
Finally, remember this: “You have survived everything you’ve gone through up to this point. The best day of your life is still yet to come. There are still people you haven’t met and things you haven’t experienced. YOU CAN DO THIS.” (Source unknown)
Depression can present itself in many different ways. Some common signs of depression include the following.
sadness, loneliness, or emptiness
loss of interest in things normally enjoyed
tiredness and chronic low energy
difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, making decisions or remembering
feelings of worthlessness and guilt
irritability, frustration or anger
restlessness and agitation
change of appetite
recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
There is also something called hidden depression or “functional depression” where the individual with depression may not experience the common signs of depression, but the depression manifests itself it other, less obvious, ways, such as the following.
perfectionism with a constant, critical inner voice
heightened or excessive sense of responsibility
difficulty with accepting and expressing painful emotions
worry or need for control over self and environment
intense focus on tasks, using accomplishments as a way to feel valuable
active concern about the well-being of others, while not allowing anyone into his inner world
discounts or dismisses hurt or abuse from the past, or the present
accompanying mental health issues involving control or escape from anxiety
a strong belief in “counting your blessings” as the foundation of well-being
intimate relationships may be difficult, but are accompanied by professional success.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself lasting more than a few weeks, please talk to your doctor about them. Depression is a real illness and is not something we can wish away or control by will power alone. Get the help you need so you can live the life you were meant to have.
Depression affects the whole person. Not just our thoughts, not just our emotions, not just our behavior. It affects everything, including our physical body as well.
In a nutshell, below is how depression may present itself in these four areas.
thoughts of death and suicide
withdrawal from others
neglect of responsibilities
changes in personal appearance
lack of energy
sleeping too much or too little
weight gain or loss
loss of motivation
If you recognize these symptoms of depression in you or someone you care about, talk to a doctor about it. There is help for those who suffer from depression. I am one of those people. It is not the end of the world. There is life beyond depression. It does go away. Getting through it until it is gone is what you need help with. I can share my experience with you via my Facebook page here. Or feel free to comment below.
Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes people to be fearful of social situations where they might be embarrassed or judged. Psychological symptoms include self-consciousness when around other people, excessive worry about upcoming events where interaction will be expected, avoidance of places or events where people gather, and difficultly making friends and maintaining friendships. Physical symptoms include excessive sweating, difficultly speaking or catching one’s breath, a sensation of flushing, trembling or uncontrollable shaking, and nausea.
There are many behaviors people with social anxiety may do or not do in an attempt to cope with the overwhelming anxiety this disorder produces such as not talking because of being afraid of being judged, not being able to go anywhere alone, staying inside all day, hating when the teacher calls on you in class, avoiding eye contact with others, avoiding eating in front of others, counting money before you pay, not leaving voicemails, not asking for help when you need it, always preparing what to say ahead of time, being worried about running into people you know, going to the bathroom to escape, using a phone or some other crutch to avoid people, dwelling on a small awkward moment for much longer than necessary, never going to any social event without a person that makes you feel comfortable and following said person way too much, worrying about the person beginning to find you obnoxious, and faking an illness to get out of a social event.
Have you done any of these behaviors to deal with social anxiety? How else do you cope with your social anxiety? What are some positive ways to cope with social anxiety disorder?
Thinking about things is good, right? When we have important decisions to make we have to think about them before committing one way or another to ensure we are making the correct decision. We have to weigh the pros and cons, ask others for advice, sleep on it; you know, think about it. After all, thinking is one of the main things that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Does there come a time, however, when thinking becomes a liability to our well being? I believe there does.
Signs of Overthinking
second guessing everything
analyzing things to death
expecting the worst
hating to make decisions
would rather someone else decide things for you
regretting things often
have a hard time letting things go
taking things personally
being a perfectionist
criticizing yourself a lot
never feeling one hundred percent certain
feeling like you can’t turn your brain off
What to do if you are overthinking
Journal – writing down your thoughts can sometimes take them out of your head and keep them out. It is worth a try.
Talk to someone about your thoughts – again the idea is to get the thoughts out of your head. The longer you keep them bottled up, the longer they will just swirl around in there.
Use positive distractions – engage in a creative hobby, something that gains your entire focus so you are no longer thinking about anything else except for the task at hand. Sometimes our thoughts just need to be interrupted by action, whether we feel like taking that action or not.
Are you an overthinker? I am. What do you do to deal with it? Leave a comment or message me on my Facebook page here.