There was something else that I wanted to post today, but for some reason, I was unable to bring myself to finish the entry. Normally I would have posts written the day before and I just schedule them to be published the morning of the next day. I am still building my writing pipeline so I don’t have much completed entries that I could just schedule for publish even if I am not particularly productive for a day. I am finishing up this post today, February 28th, and will be publishing this as soon as I am done with the actual entry. Yesterday, as I was working on a post that I wanted to release before the week is done, I suddenly felt an overwhelming pressure on my chest. I couldn’t control the feelings of helplessness, antsiness, and despair that were bubbling inside me. I was having issues breathing, and I felt very incoherent. I tried to calm down and gather my thoughts and assess the situation and then I realized, I was having another anxiety attack.
That came as a big surprise and shock for me. It’s been a couple of months since my last episode, and I thought I was getting better. I tried so hard to get rid of my stressors, made sure I took it easy, saw my therapist, and loved myself more but here I was, sitting in the middle of the bed, trying to control myself from having another meltdown. It was so disheartening. With all the progress that I was making, it didn’t feel fair to go through this all over again. I didn’t want to resent myself for being so weak, because I knew that it would only spiral out of control from there. I’ve been there before, I know how it goes. If I stewed on those thoughts longer, I would find myself in another depressive hole. My anxiety and depression are married to one another.
According to this article, it is not uncommon for anxiety and depression to co-occur. I have experienced almost all of the symptoms for both conditions, and I am controlling these symptoms by following the treatment plans laid out by the article: CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), Talk Therapy, and Problem Solving Therapy. Although my depression still lingers, I was glad that my anxiety was getting better. Until I relapsed.
I composed myself and gathered my thoughts. I tried to think up of ways to get through the episode without getting worse. I thought I’d share the steps that worked for me, as it might come in handy for you later on. I am not a professional therapist but you can take it from someone who is currently battling these demons.
REALIZE YOUR TRIGGER/S
In my case, I knew what triggered me into having that anxiety attack. I was caught off guard, and I didn’t realize that I would still feel this strongly about this particular trigger. Turns out I still have residual feelings of hurt and disappointment towards the whole situation. My takeaway from my episode is that I still have to learn to let go. And perhaps I still need more time to heal and work on
accepting the fact that some people are just so insensitive, entitled, self-centered, and vain forgiving… or at least forgetting. Hard to do when you’re the type who keeps grudges, and you have exceptional memory. Someone whack me with a rock. I think the only way for me to get through this is to get amnesia. But all jokes aside, I guess I have a long ways to go.
It is important to know what our triggers are. It is only through recognizing them that we are able to work on them. If we don’t even know what causes us grief, how can we avoid future episodes? We need to at least know what to to avoid, improve, or solve. One of my ways of coping and calming down is by doing research to understand myself better. I came across this article that talks about triggers: https://psychcentral.com/lib/top-relapse-triggers-for-depression-how-to-prevent-them/.
Do not dwell on self hate
It’s not hard to get to that state when you catch yourself relapsing. I was beating myself up for not being strong enough to prevent the anxiety attack from happening. It was so easy to turn all of these negative thoughts inwards, it felt like second nature. I still am my biggest critic and worst enemy, after all. Thoughts were coming in nonstop – of panic, despair, worst case scenarios. Once I realized what I was doing, I had to forcefully stop that train of thought. I recently read about grounding, and it somehow worked.
Once the initial feeling of antsiness/helplessness/panic/despair has calmed down, I reached out to the people who were aware about this particular trigger. I texted my best friend and my cousin and told them what happened. They were very supportive and helped me to not feel like crap for feeling what I was feeling. They also proved to be very effective distractions who took my mind off of negative thoughts once I had my fill of venting. I also spoke to J about it much later on, I told him of my fears of relapse. I was so afraid that I have not changed at all from last year, despite all of my efforts of recovery. He reassured me that I was on the right track to healing, and that he could see how much I have grown and changed from last year. He told me to be patient, and that I shouldn’t rush myself to see the results. But he promised me that soon enough I will, and that he will be there with me through the process. I know I’ve said this before, but I will say it again: having a solid support system is crucial for people with mental health conditions. I am lucky to have mine around.
EXTRA: DO YOUR RESEARCH
Considering that my official diagnosis of GAD and MDD was just almost a year ago, I still do not know everything about how to live with my condition. I always find reading to be a therapeutic and relaxing activity, so I tried to peruse books and websites that talk about mental health conditions and how to overcome them. I feel that knowledge will be the best weapon that I could use as I battle with myself and my inner demons. Here are some that are accessible online:
- What It’s Like to Have an Anxiety or Panic Attack – good for those who are still new to the experience, or for those who would like to understand people with GAD more.
- Vulnerability for new episodes in recurrent major depressive disorder: protocol for the longitudinal DELTA-neuroimaging cohort study
- Monitoring Symptom Fluctuations Can Help Predict Depression Relapse, Recurrence
- Relapse and recurrence prevention in depression: Current research and future prospects
- What are the early signs of a depression relapse?
- The Mighty for Depression and Anxiety – this is a good place to read on other people’s experiences with their mental conditions: their road recovery, thoughts, feelings, etc. It’s a supportive non-judgmental environment, good for people who want to understand mental health more.
Writing this entry took me longer than necessary. I have been writing this since 8pm last night, but somehow, despite the overwhelming emotions that I was feeling and my desire to tell my story, the words were not flowing easily. I still ended up ruminating (and stewing), and I was up all night writing on and off. I tried to sleep several times and postpone posting this entry but sleep is my ever elusive lover. It wasn’t until noon today that I have managed to sleep, when a big chunk of this entry was already written. Three hours later, I got up to write some more. Once I hit “publish”, I will close this laptop and leave my bedroom for the first time today. It is now almost 5pm, EST. J will take me out and give me hugs as promised, and I will try to get over yesterday’s episode like I have done other previous episodes. These are the life cards that I have been dealt with, and I’ll be damned if I end up losing this game. As they say, fall down seven times, rise up eight. I’m a sore loser so I guess I’ll just keep on getting up.
I continue to move forward,