Brandywine Family Medicine Blog

Depression and Anxiety

Published 09.20.21

Depression is really hard for people to understand if they haven’t had it. It changes the way you think and you can’t pull your self out of it. It doesn’t mean that you are weak. You may have the perfect life and still be depressed. Everyone has bad days but this is way more than that. There is a range of how people feel but most people feel good 80% or more of the time. With depression life feels like a deep dark hole that you can’t see a way out of and you don’t care. You isolate yourself and withdraw from family and friends. You may be going through the motions but nothing matters. Life can be crumbling around you and you just keep trudging along in deeper and deeper mud. Your life may be going great, good marriage, kids doing well, and a good job, yet still be depressed. It isn’t your fault. You can feel better with help. You want life to feel like a sunny day again rather than a series of gray dreary, rainy days. Trust me I have been there myself and I know how hopeless depression feels. You can feel better. Depression is about chemicals in your brain and you can’t control them with willpower. If there are issues in your life getting you down then counseling will help but depression is more than just a hard time. It is difficult to ever see yourself feeling better when you are depressed but you have to trust the people in your life; family, friends and counselor to help you get to a better place. If you don’t have positive caring people in your life then you need to learn how to find them. Counseling will help with that. Medicine can help as well. It can make the chemicals in your brain that control mood stay around longer so your thoughts and feelings get better.

Having thoughts of hurting yourself or feeling life isn’t worth living are not normal. Get help. For healthy people who are thinking normally, in times of stress with loss or adversity they may wonder how they will keep going on but they don’t have thoughts that life isn’t worth living or that they don’t want to keep going on. If you have thoughts like this call me, call the crisis hotline, go to the emergency department, or go to Rockford for an evaluation. There is help out there. If you have had thoughts of hurting yourself in a specific way like taking pills or hanging or shooting yourself this is an emergency just like having severe chest pain or problems breathing. Go to the emergency department. Call 911 if you can’t organize yourself to get there. Get someone to come help you. This is an emergency!

Depression affects your problem solving skills. You can’t see your way out of the hole and you need help. What may be obvious to others, you may not be able to see yourself but there are things you can do that will help you feel better. There are things that can help.

Talking always helps and I always recommend seeing a counselor. You want someone trained and objective to talk to about issues and help change how you think about things. If you don’t click with a counselor after a few sessions find someone else. Get connected to someone. Surround yourself with supportive people. For some people getting positive caring people in their life is hard and something you have to learn to do. Some people are lucky to have family and friends in their life who care about them and will help, but some people don’t have that. A counselor cares about you and will be objective and can help guide you to change how you think about things.

Medicine can help your mood improve and make your thoughts become more positive. It is like taking a burden off your shoulders. The outlook just seems better. There are several different antidepressants and there is one to help you, though we may need to try a few different medications before we find the right one for you. The medicines only work if you take them every day consistently. A combination of medicine and counseling helps the most

There are things you can do to help yourself. Take care of yourself. You deserve it.

Get enough sleep but not too much. Aim for 8 hours a night. Don’t take naps or lie in bed. Get on a schedule.

Get up every day and go out and do something. Run errands. Make a plan for every day. Have a to do list no matter how small. Start somewhere. Clean out the hall closet, clean the fridge, or pay your bills. Accomplish something.

Get out and exercise. Walk as much as you can, especially on sunny days. Look up at the sky. Get sweaty every day. The goal is at least 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise. This doesn’t have to be at a gym. Brisk walking is the best or exercising to videos and music is great too. Walk around the neighborhood or go to a park. I have always found a walk on the beach to really help put things in perspective. Do something every day.

Eat healthy. Eat five servings of fruit or vegetables daily. Cook something instead of eating take out or frozen dinners. Go to the grocery store and buy healthy food. Snack on carrots and apples instead of potato chips and cookies. You are what you eat.

Try journaling. Write down your thoughts on paper or in a computer. There are lots of different apps out there. I use Day One. Getting your feelings out helps. It doesn’t have to be grammatically correct or beautifully written, just write. Write how you feel now. What is going on in your life. Where do you want to be. It doesn’t have to be all positive though. If you are angry about feeling bad every day - write about it. How does it make you feel and what do you want to feel. Have dreams and hopes again.

Anxiety is as bad as pain. You can’t think clearly and all logic goes out the window if you are having a panic attack. You feel like you are dying and you can’t do anything about it. You just want to feel relaxed and happy and enjoy life. Daily anxiety is exhausting. Again a
combination of counseling and medicine can help. You have to learn to trust yourself and others around you that things are going to be okay. This is where journaling really helps. Writing those thoughts down physically releases you from them. Have a letter to yourself that you have written when you are calm and thinking clearly that you can read and calm yourself down. Have your coping skills written down in your phone or inside a kitchen cabinet that you can read and think more clearly.

Do something early when you are just getting anxious rather than waiting until it is a full panic attack. Sitting in a chair crying never helps anything. You have to get up and move and do something constructive. Go for a walk, clean the car, talk to someone, clean the floor, color, pound nails into a piece of wood or fold laundry. Do something that occupies your mind and distracts yourself. Listen to audiobooks or record something to yourself when you are calm that you can listen to. Reach out to someone to talk. Call a friend, family member, or call psych crisis.

Counseling is really important to teach you skills to cope with anxiety. There are a lot of good books and websites information too. You have to trust the process and yourself that you can get yourself calmed down again and relax.

Medicine can be a big help. I always favor daily preventive meds rather than anxiolytics like Xanax. These are so addictive but sometimes people need a week of them to settle down until preventive medication begins working. I have many patients that just keep a couple of Xanax around for emergencies and just knowing they have something they can take if they really need it gives them a sense of control. We often use the same medicines for anxiety that we do for depression. Most of these take a week or two to start working but can significantly
help, You want to gain control and get off the rollercoaster.

I’m not a fan of using marijuana for anxiety. It works for some people but being high all the time isn’t a very good solution to a problem. Some people get more anxious with marijuana and get paranoid thoughts. It certainly doesn’t help your problem-solving skills. There are
better options.

Come in and see me and we can talk and get a plan to fix your problems. Laying in bed or curled up on the couch isn’t going to fix anything. You need help.

Crisis hotline 1-800-652-2929 or call 911

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