Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Stress, Anxiety, Depression, their Triggers, and Faith.

Lately, I've been feeling overly stressed, overwhelmed, anxiety ridden, and depressed. A myriad of reasons have found their place on the list of recent whys, but I won't take the time to name them all. Last evening, I spent a good deal of time talking with a couple of very good friends about my life (and theirs), depression (mine and theirs), its triggers (which are different for all of us), and the road to a healthier outlook.

I think if I had to pinpoint my triggers today, I'd list: spiritual starvation and worrying too much about myself.

Spiritual starvation can be summed up as this: a lack of communion with God; a lack of nourishing my soul with things spiritual; not making God a welcome presence in my daily life.

Worrying too much about myself encompasses: how I compare to others, financial concerns, uncertainty of the future and my place in it, weight gain/self image concerns, etc.

Interestingly, when these feelings of stress/anxiety/depression intensify within me I tend to do things that only make it worse. For example, I'll stay home instead of going out with friends, and then I feel lonely and alone. I won't call back friends because I just don't feel like I have anything happy or great to talk about, so I lose the opportunity to interact with those who love me and can help to raise my spirits. Or I'll feel the need to eat some (fill in the blank) ... candy, Taco Bell empanada, McDonald's fries, ice cream, whatever. Temporarily, it seems like this might do the trick to make me feel better. But almost always, I simultaneously have this opposing thought. "I really just want to be x pounds thinner because I would feel happier about myself and life." It's an awful, unhealthy cycle, really. I know that poor eating habits will cause me to gain weight, which will then in turn cause me to feel more depressed and not want to be seen in public, which will then make me feel like I have no friends and cause me not to get out and work out. I'm intellectually aware of the contradiction in thoughts and actions, here.

Generally, I'm a pretty healthy eater. I love healthy foods and really cling to the feeling I get when I have a well-balanced diet. But there are times when I just feel like I have to eat everything! Those times usually come when I feel like other aspects of my life are out of my control. So what do I do? I choose to eat because I have control over that. (Or so I lead myself to believe.) And almost to "stick it to 'em" (whoever 'em is), I eat just as much as I want, saying to myself, "See you ARE in control." How ironic, because it's sort of out of control. Sometimes it's candy. Other times it's just larger portions of the "good" food I eat. Either way, I'm sabotaging myself and my goal to eat better and lose weight.

I think what it comes down to for me isn't so much managing my eating habits, but managing the other aspects of my life that feel out of my control. Recognizing my triggers for depression. By recognizing them, I am at least somewhat more equipped to battle them and overcome them, hopefully more quickly than the time before.

Interestingly, I almost always recognize the depression coming on and my reaction to it, but feel the need to wallow in it for a bit. That may seem masochistic, to knowingly allow myself to feel bad for a period of time before I decide to do something about it. But sometimes I have the need to really FEEL all the emotions that pass through me.

Also, there are times that I, cognitively, know what I ought to do to help myself through to a brighter side, but I just can't make myself do it for whatever reason. It's rather bizarre, actually because it's like sometimes I'm observing myself from a standpoint outside of myself. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and, know that everything will be alright, but I just can't get myself to just let go and go toward that light yet. Eventually, I do. Sometimes it just takes a bit. The other bizarre part about it, which makes me feel a little crazy, is that often I am capable of living a normal "happy" life, seemingly masking the feelings of sadness I'm experiencing at the moment. Sometimes, I feel that "faking it until I make it" actually helps me to get through it. Interesting.

So last night, my talk with my friends really helped me to talk through and think about my latest feelings of sadness. I'm grateful for friends who love me, who have it in their nature to talk about things until they understand them better, who understand "processing", and who just "get it."

I'm also grateful for communion with God. Believing that he truly is my Father in heaven, I believe that he wants what is best for me and will guide me through life allowing for experiences that will all ultimately benefit me, by refining me and making me a stronger person. I believe he's all-powerful. Having faith in Him gets me through. The Apostle Paul taught in Hebrews 11:1, that "faith is the substance assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is a principle of action and power. Whenever we work toward a worthy goal, we exercise faith. We show our hope for something that we cannot yet see.

Life is hard sometimes, but I believe that "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7)

Photo a la moi (Berlin, March 2009)


Nancy said...

Good honest feelings Emery. Last Sunday the speaker said "pain is the touchstone of growth". So is talking about it and recognizing what is happening. Keep up the good work and rely on Faith.

Brooke said...

I just love you!!! And I love that you wrote this blog, it helped me and got me thinking. xoxo