This is going to be my most controversial post so far! Perhaps the biggest aspect to overcoming anxiety (and depression) is awareness. Awareness comes from education. Once you understand what anxiety and depression actually are, you can then start to make the steps towards eradicating it. And let me be very clear; they CAN be eradicated!! Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and very bad information knocking around, much of which has become “common knowledge”. This is one of the reasons anxiety and depression is getting WORSE in society. When myths such as “It’s a disease” and “a chemical imbalance” or “a genetic disorder” are now spoken as fact, it’s little wonder so many continue to struggle. They are not facts.
I am not here to make you feel bad! Quite the opposite! Everything I say comes from a place of love and caring. This is just my opinion but I’ve been there at rock bottom and I’ve hauled myself out of it. So I have real experience of what it takes to recover – something most doctors and psychologists don’t have. I urge you to look at the positives of what I’m saying. If anxiety and depression are not diseases, or the result of a defective gene – THIS IS A GOOD THING!! It means it’s not with you for life, you CAN overcome it. It means you don’t need to put shit into your body that could make things worse!
The reason people get upset when they hear these things, is because they have spent so much time trying to convince certain people that they have a genuine, serious problem.
You MUST make a clear distinction between people who are totally ignorant and don’t believe anxiety and depression are real issues and people like me, who KNOW that anxiety and depression ARE major, life destroying issues.
I’m telling you those things because I know how unhelpful it is to have views such as the ones above. It is not in your interest to believe those myths. In fact, they are likely to be making your problem worse! Those other people, the “snap out of it!” arseholes, don’t believe you have a problem AT ALL. They haven’t experienced crippling mental health issues – they don’t get it. But I do.
No one can tell me that my condition wasn’t serious. I had anxiety TWICE. The first time, it was destroying my life. The second time, I nearly ended it entirely. So I know these are real, serious issues. You could class them as disorders; literally speaking, my anxious thinking was out of order. Dis-ordered. But I also know, through my recovery process, that meds are not the answer. That treatment is available. That you can fully recover. That much of the information out there is totally misleading. But I only know this because I opened my mind to alternative viewpoints. I listened to people who had been there and overcome it. I did the research – not just blindly regurgitate sound bites from Twitter retweets. I urge you to do the same.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you think anxiety or depression is. If you believe it’s a disease – fine. There’s no solid evidence to prove that it is (any physical issues are symptoms, not causes). But it’s OK. As long as you don’t fall into the trap of believing that it’s a disease that is incurable. Unfortunately, that is exactly what many people automatically believe as soon as they get that idea lodged inside their brain. But you can believe it’s a disease or a chemical imbalance (again, NO concrete proof for this) and still recover – as long as you think it can be overcome. One of the reasons people believe this bullshit, is misunderstanding of these familiar brain scan photos:
These photos DO NOT show disease! They DO NOT show chemical imbalance! They show BRAIN ACTIVITY. They show how areas of the brain of someone with depression are not functioning at the same levels of a healthy brain. The neurons in the depressed brain are not being activated as much in the area of the brain where emotion, thinking and planning are done. What this scan shows is that when depressed, a person is not THINKING correctly. You can call it an illness, you can call it a disorder but does it really matter? It’s just semantics. And whilst I appreciate that semantics can be important in the big scheme of things, on an individual level, YOU have control over your recovery. You can choose to ignore what anyone else thinks and just get on with trying to get better.
SO WHAT IS ANXIETY & DEPRESSION?
Here’s the truth; anxiety and depression are temporary mood states. It’s important to note that they are totally normal emotions. We experience them for a reason – so we know that something is wrong and needs our attention. It’s only when they become chronic, when that feeling doesn’t go away and becomes intensified, that we have a real health issue. At that point, we can say they become a disorder or mental illness, though I prefer the term mental health issue. But I repeat; mental health issues are REAL. I had them and I suffered BIG TIME. How do they become a chronic issue? Although it’s a variety of factors and they are complex issues, the most significant cause is simple; NEGATIVE THINKING. It is ALWAYS negative thinking. Two people can have the same bad experience but react totally differently. The reason why one might get depression and the other might not, is down primarily to how they perceive and THINK about that experience.
Depression and anxiety are learned ways of negative thinking, at a subconscious level, that become so ingrained, that it becomes a habit – one that we automatically repeat without being able to consciously stop it.
I’ll be talking more about this in part 2 & 3.
Is anxiety a mental illness? I don’t know for sure. It depends on your definition of illness. But I don’t like the term “illness” as psychologically, it can make the sufferer feel as though they can’t overcome it without meds or indeed, at all. However, I appreciate the struggle many people have to convince others that they have a serious health issue and so for that reason alone, I have no problem with the term mental illness. But someone with chronic anxiety or depression, has their thinking negatively distorted.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT’S THEIR FAULT!
We must stop playing the blame game. This thinking occurs mostly at a subconscious level, making it almost impossible to control. I prefer to look at it like this; the wires in your brain have become tangled and disconnected, so aren’t working properly, as shown in those brain scans. But you can do the re-wiring yourself. It is in your hands – and I’ll be talking more about what you can do in part 2 & 3.
Please check out the links below to read up in greater detail on what I’ve written. They are websites created by people who have overcome anxiety and depression – just like me! You’ll find stats, detailed explanation of the science behind it, personal stories and courses you can take to gain knowledge and fully recover:
In part 2, I’ll be continuing the discussion by looking specifically at medication – and the disturbing role of the pharmaceutical industry.