Depression and anxiety are a strange team and, yet, they often appear together, creating havoc. At times the instigating factor for each is similar: biology. Each has been shown to have a genetic component. At times, that predisposition needs outside forces to set it into play. This is called the “kindling effect,” with heredity providing the dry sticks to the match set by life experiences. Those experiences may bring a sense of learned helplessness, hopelessness, or feeling powerless to meet a problem head on. Anxiety often draws an active response with racing thoughts, restlessness, brooding, and insomnia. Depression typically pulls for the opposite: inactivity, over-sleeping, lethargy, and an inability to think straight. Either can bring on irritability and even chronic anger. In some people, when one condition ebbs, the other rises in its place; later in time they may swap the lead again. Even though it’s against your nature, suicidality can be a ready answer when asking yourself the question – how can I feel better right now?
Such desperation is understandable. What a gift it is that we have so many resources here in Calgary to offer other ready answers. First, discovering that you are not alone can be a remarkable experience. Support groups, a good connection for individual work with a psychologist, and skills-training classes such as dialectical behaviour therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction can offer surprisingly-rapid relief. For longer-term change, determining who you intend to be in the world, and how to bushwhack a path toward your goals, is critical. Sometimes medication for a short time or even, in situations of a biology-based concern, can be life saving. Sanity saving, at the very least. Creating a community of support is key, as well. Perhaps having a physician and psychologist provide coordinated care will help. Sometimes adding in complementary practitioners such as a naturopath, acupuncturist, functional medicine specialist, a physical therapist, or even a physical trainer can boost your body’s natural healing and health. Identifying role models in group work, and reading success stories of other survivors through social media, can turn learned hopelessness into options.
So where to begin? Begin with a good read of where you are now. Make an appointment for a full assessment and a comprehensive report back to you of your current state of functioning, your expressions of anxiety- or depression-leaning behaviours, and – never forget these – your strengths and learnings to date. Some people have a hard time imagining that they deserve their goals, or that these goals can ever be reached. A good psychologist can give you the same feeling that you get as you add sturdy winter tires to your car in the season of treacherously icy streets: providing the right traction at the right time, so that you continue on your journey with forward motion, rather than slip sliding back down the hill you just traversed.
Anxiety and depression can be overcome with the right tools and the right guide.