The Journey: Depression, Anxiety issues are real; recognize the signals

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By SAMANTHA BRAZIE, Special to The Paper

Happy May, Paper readers! In previous columns, I have written about depression and anxiety – particularly being high in the times of COVID.

Depression and anxiety have been swept under the rug (especially with men) for years until the past decade or so. It was seen as an excuse for behavior/medication and a mindset that could be overcome. It took a long time for society to accept that postpartum depression was a real issue that new mothers needed immediate support with. I have struggled with both in my life, and I’ve come to learn a couple of things that have helped me cope and come off of medicine when it was time to do so.

Depression and anxiety both have a lot to do with control. Have you ever felt helpless, hopeless or worthless? If you have, you know these are awful feelings and you feel little to no power to stop them. Decisions made to relieve that pain may lead to substance abuse and other reckless problem-solving methods.  It can send a person into a terrible spiral where they make poor decisions that make things worse without realizing the long-term consequences.

Something I heard last week really made me think. Depression is often related to the past, and anxiety is embedded in the future. So – we are often depressed when we think about how we lost our job (past), broke up with our partner (past), re-live abuse (past). We get anxious about an upcoming speech (future), a test (future), a job interview (future).

There are a few risk factors that predispose many of us to these diseases (and that’s exactly what they are) – and genetics is a big one. If someone in your immediate family is prone to depression or anxiety, it is likely you will be too. Other causes are abuse, medication, conflict, death or loss, gender (women are twice as likely as men to experience these although men are much less likely to talk about it), major events (surprisingly even a graduation can trigger these because change is coming), illness and substance misuse.

At the end of the day, these issues are real, and it is important for you to know the risk factors so you can recognize the signals your body is giving you. It is also equally as important to recognize the signs in loved ones because they may not realize it themselves.

 So, what have I learned from depression and anxiety? There is nothing to be ashamed about. Feel your feelings, support others going through it and speak your truth because you never know who it will help.

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: It is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’” — C.S. Lewis

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