Ironing the Dish Towels

A friend of my suggested that I write more about my own experiences with depression and anxiety in my life and how I’ve dealt with it.I’ve hesitated for quite some time to look back at this state of being mostly because, well, writing about depression can be… depressing.But I’ve decided that perhaps some of what I can share might help someone else step out of that space and move onto actually feeling in control.So, with that here it goes…

As I’ve said before, I am not a doctor of any kind and have no formal education around psychology or psychiatry.I am however, an expert witness of anxiety and depression from my own personal struggles and triumphs.I’m not going to be so bold as to tell you that what I’ve done will work for you.But what I do know is the fact that you are reading this and if you have struggles with anxiety and/or depression, you have come a long way to making a permanent change in your life for the better.If you know of someone who struggles from these issues, I hope that this can give you some ideas on what you can do to help them.Just remember – you do have the strength to last another day.

I’ve written at length before in my blog post “Understanding my Depression” about how anxiety and depression started in my life, so I’m not going to cover that here.What I’d like to talk about now is some revelations on not only how I combat it, but how I see other people deal with it (even if they don’t realize that’s what they are doing).

I see anxiety and depression (AD) now as being very similar to constipation.AD is a blockage in my system that creates a downward spiraling, self fulfilling outcome of more AD.Just as your bowels can be constipated in the lower/large intestine and can cause a backup in the rest of your system so it is with AD.The very first and most basic step in combating AD is to create movement in your life.Movement can include a variety of things like physical, environmental, sensory, etc.You need to take one step, then another and another.If you feel so overwhelmed with your circumstances and have a storm of immobilizingthoughts causing you to freeze, say to yourself, “Excuse me – I’m going to interrupt you right here.” and then take a walk.Change your environment in some way.Walk around your room to start with and be sure to look at every part of your room.Look at everything and think about each thing you see, identify it, remember where it came from and think about what you can do with it, then move onto the next item and the next.

The next most important thing to remember is to breath!This seems simple right?Well most people do not breath properly.You need to take deep cleansing breaths.Breath in through your nose way down into your belly.Breath until you can’t suck in another morsel of air and then hold it for a few seconds, then let the air out slowly through your mouth.Once all the air is out, hold that position for a few seconds before taking the next breath.Do this process at least three times slowly and you will feel a burst of energy and be very much more connected to your body.

Anxiety and depression (AD) is constipated energy in our body and we can remove this blockage by breathing and movement.I also consider these actions to be a distraction from what we are lamenting over at any given AD moment.It is this art of distraction that will set you on a path of moving out of the AD state.It has also been proven that by getting more exercise, we increase a naturally occurring chemical in our system called serotonin.Serotonin has been linked to helping many people with AD moods.

I’ve often wondered what people did in the “old days” before medication or even knowing what AD was in order to deal with these feelings.In watching people and some of the older generations, they seemed to deal with hard times by keeping themselves busy.This “busy action” is the distraction that would pass the time and also make them feel good about accomplishing something worthwhile.I would often shake my head as I watched my mom ironing the dish towels, underwear and bed sheets wondering why did she do this?I know that culturally this was sometimes an expectation of the dutiful wife, but I also think it became a sort of mundane task therapy.It was a way to have time to herself and to be distracted from some of the stresses of life.

The real lesson here is give the mind something different to focus on rather than whatever issue caused you to slip into that state of anxious uncontrollability.This movement is a rhythm that brings you into a state of harmonics with the universe around you.This brings peace and creates a space for you to untangle webs that clog your mind.

Dwight Raatz

Understanding my Depression

There is a lot of uncertainty and history around my struggles with depression.  One thing I do know is that it just didn’t happen one day, it was something that I taught myself over many years.  Yes, that’s right, I said that I taught myself to be depressed.  Now, it’s not like I set out to be depressed, thinking that it would be a good idea, but all the same I did learn it.

What I know now from a physiological perspective is that there is indeed a chemical imbalance in the brain or body that is a result of being depressed.  There is research stating that low serotonin levels is the “cause” of the depression.  While I agree that there is definitely an imbalance, I don’t believe it is the cause of the depression.

I  think that over the years of being alone with my thoughts of feeling unworthy of not measuring up to the supposed expectations of my siblings, parents or even my peers, has slowly manifested my sense of depression.  I am in no way blaming anyone for what I went through for more than 30 years of my life with regard to feeling depressed.  This came out of not knowing what else to do with all the self-talk, the unworthy talk I gave myself day in and day out.  This came out of analyzing a thousand times each and every situation I was in, what I said, what other people said and how they reacted to what I did or said.  I manifested my depression because it was the only way I knew how to survive my social interactions and the lack of support I had around me.

As I got better and better at recognizing my oncoming depression, it was easy to see how my own thoughts would literally paralyze me in my brain-storm of self-analysis.  It was interesting to experience going from feeling completely “normal” to having the one thought; that one thought about what I said or did and that thought would lead to the next thought of how stupid or ridiculous I must have looked or sounded, and the next thought… and the next.  Soon I found myself just staring off into nothing while in the shower, driving my car or eating a meal; replaying the scenarios in my mind a thousand times in a thousand permutations.

It got to the point where I could actually step outside myself and observe myself becoming depressed.  This ability didn’t not come quickly, it came out of years of assistance from an anti-anxiety medication which allowed me to take hold of myself at some level and work my way back out.  My “cycle times” between depressions prior to medication became shorter and shorter as the years went on.  Medication was my godsend, but I knew that I didn’t want to be on medication forever.  It took about six or seven years before I successfully won my battle over the depression and the medication.  I tried three times to stop the medication, but the first two times just didn’t work.  They didn’t work because I wasn’t ready, I didn’t have my own tools in place to deal with the source of my depression, this would come later.

As I write this to myself and the world, I have decided that it is important for me to remember my journey and to tell my story.  Maybe someone will find this and identify with my struggles as their own.  Maybe I can give hope and a possible solution to their own depression problems.

As I move forward with this topic, I will be unfolding my past and my journey with depression.  I will tell you the steps I went through on  my journey out of the wastelands of depression.  I welcome feedback or questions as I move forward.

Dwight Raatz