My confession today is that I have struggled with depression since I was 12 or 13 years old. For much of my life I have been plagued with horrible anxiety, particularly since college. I’m not sure if even my closest friends realized it, because I was able to have fun and enjoy myself doing after school activities, hanging out with friends and family, at school and work (for the most part). I doubt that my outward appearance in social situations indicated what was going on inside. However, after my father passed away in 2007 I developed fairly debilitating social anxiety. My personality has always been more home-oriented, or at least doing what I find familiar. I always got nervous before going to new places or being around more people, but this was something very different. I avoided making plans and when I did I would frequently cancel last minute or not show up at all. It became nearly impossible for me to put myself out there even among my best friends.
Gradually (over 2 or 3 years) my serious social anxiety went away and I leveled out back to my, “I would really rather do something comfortable and familiar, but I can do this new thing too.” And during the last few weeks I have noticed that my depression is pretty much nonexistent and my anxiety is significantly better. This change really seems to coincide with my daughter’s birth, and I wonder if it’s because my focus changed so dramatically. Of course, when I got married my life became about both my husband and I had to thusly focus on him and not just myself. However, admittedly at first this was difficult because my father passed away a year before we got married and it took me a long time to pull myself out of my sadness. My daugher’s arrival brought a much sharper focus onto her instead of myself. I just don’t have the time to worry about myself and obsess about things all of the time, because I am busy taking care of her, my husband, and our home. (and NO I don’t feel like some harried housewife who has given up my sense of self for the sake of my baby- a post on this topic is forthcoming.)
I don’t want anyone to take this the wrong way. I certainly don’t think the quick fix for every anxious and depressed person is to just stop thinking about themselves all the time because so much more is involved with those conditions. And I’m REALLY not saying to have a baby so you will stop being depressed! But I do think that there is something to trying to focus thoughts onto other things. This is really hard to do. When I was at my lowest with my social anxiety and functioning this would not have worked. Because honestly, I couldn’t focus my thoughts even if I tried.
Now I have to say that I am doing much better. Before our move to TX I was worried that I would fall apart being so far away from the city and family that I love so much. But it didn’t happen. I am meeting new people, going new places, doing new things and it feels great. I have some natural anxiety, of course I worry when my daughter is sick, when my mom needs something, etc. But I don’t stay up all night worrying about what *might* happen tomorrow. At the last minute I don’t cancel dinner plans with friends because I will have to get dressed and put on makeup and act like I’m having fun. I do have fun. Sure I miss home, and sometimes I do the ugly cry over it but I don’t feel desperate. I feel blessed and lucky that my husband has a job and I am able to stay home with our daughter.
If you are feeling depressed or anxious I encourage you to get help. See a therapist, go on medication if you need to, change your diet, start working out, start a prayer group or bible study, go to church, pray, do whatever you need to do to help yourself feel better. Focus on the good things in your life (yes, there is something) and try your best to stay positive. My natural disposition is glass half empty but I’m finding that trying my best to be a glass half full person has its benefits. 🙂
p.s. If you are going to see a therapist don’t go to the person I went to. During a session I started crying and felt awkward so I tried to diffuse my awkwardness by saying something to the effect of, “Oh, I’m sure I don’t need to feel silly for crying. I’m sure people cry all the time.” Her deadpan response, “not really.” ?!?!?!? WTF?!?! Needless to say that was the last time I saw her. So I would like to add that if therapy isn’t working for you you might want to try someone else and see if your personalities work better together. 🙂