Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Anxiety: Are you a Worry Wort?

I used to think of mental health as a continuum, with a healthy emotional state at the center and depression at one extreme with anxiety as its polar opposite. But I've since learned that some people can have both depression and anxiety issues at the same time. So, I've included the link to the Burns Anxiety Inventory here. As long as we're taking tests to find out how crazy we are, we might as well be thorough, don't you think?

My Score: 10

So, anxiety is not a big problem for me. But I suspect it is for some of you. Maybe you got a low score on the BDC, or maybe you scored as somewhat depressed as well. Rather than get depressed about it(ha ha what a good pun! right? no? oh come on people, get a sense of humor!), the next step is to figure out what to do. And later this afternoon, when I become a Cub Scout Day Camp Survivor, we'll start talking about solutions and a way out of this emotional mess.

10 comments:

hiccups said...

I scored an 18 and once again, the greatest chunk of that is stuff related to pregnancy. (I took big hits on the digestive-related questions. Also, tiredness and tingly fingers and lightheadedness added up. I also blame my concentration issues on the hormones.) My adjusted score would be a 6 or 7 without the pregnancy stuff, I think.

Anxiety has always been a secondary symptom to depression for me. The depression has been the bigger, more demanding issue and when the depression lightened up, the anxiety eased up too. The only time when anxiety was nearly as big as the depression was when I was in high school. I shudder just remembering those days. I will never, ever be a person who looks back and wishes I could be in high school again. :P

Pat said...

Well once again I scored way high, 57 to be exact. I do think that alot of this has to do with spending a week watching my child struggle for life. But I still think that before all this I would have scored in the twenties or thirties. I would hate to think how I would be if I wasn't on some meds. I am just trying to ride out this storm. Thanks for discussing this often taboo topic that is so important to so many of us. I too have been reading my Burns book that you so kindly gave me years ago. Are you going to be sending me a bill for this wonderful therapy? Good luck with cub scout camp. Yikes that does not sound like fun to me at all.

Lisa said...

thanks hiccups, and Pat, for sharing. This topic is taboo for people who are new to it. I remember when I suspected that I was depressed; I was very ashamed to admit that might be my problem and I cast about for any other health problem that might be causing my symptoms. Why? Because having hypothyroid is just an illness, but being depressed means you're crazy. The specter of "mental illness" is still a very scary thing to consider.

Then I learned that it is much much more common than I ever supposed. Not only was I NOT the only one, I learned of so many people who struggle quietly with this problem that I was stunned. Why don't we talk about it more? Why do we suffer in silence? The isolation and shame is one of the most insidious facets to this health issue. The absolute worst thing a person can do is keep it a secret -- because keeping it secret will doom you to only get worse.

I'd like to ask anyone else who has struggled with depression/anxiety and has a happy ending or at least some silver lining to share their experience. Because I am convinced that there are people reading this blog who need to hear stories like that.

Anyone?

hiccups said...

Ok, here goes. I have struggled depression and to a lesser degree anxiety since the age of 9.

Some background: my mother is (and was all those years) mentally ill and unmedicated. She sought out marriage counseling for a brief time once, but due to her inability to be honest about herself, it wasn't helpful. My mother's behavior was erractic and very intense. And then sometimes she'd just dial out completely. My father was depressed, though he'd never admit it and very critical.

Life was often chaotic and I spent a lot of time in survival mode. I never learned to just live a normal life and I didn't know how to not tie my happiness to the behavior of others and not be a victim. I picked up some disfunctional coping skills. I could deal with crazy really well. People on the outside of my family had no idea of how it was in our house. The price I paid, though, was my happiness and serenity.

As I became an adult, the emotional growing pains were often overwhelming. I was severely depressed for years and sometimes it was simply anxiety that kept me moving. I made a bunch of wrong choices once I got to the point where I felt terrified at the idea of trying to have a grown up life. I knew there was no way I could ever get that right. It lived in my heart like a dead weight. I was so tired of life. I didn't think it could get better and didn't think I deserved better.

At the end of my dreadful dating career, I got fantastically lucky and met and married my wonderful husband. Life should have been good then. But I dragged all that baggage and bad coping and all the things I thought I knew about life and love and relationships into my marriage. By no one's fault but my own, the first 5 years of my marriage were very rocky. Anytime I felt unhappy I found a way to make it my husband's fault. I yelled at and I blamed an innocent and loving man for my own unhappiness. That was what I grew up with, that is what I knew, but I was an adult and needed to be responsible for doing and being better.

Adding children into the mix increased the drama and my own guilt over my actions. I was often very angry and short-tempered with my kids. I finally sought out help for their sakes. I got on Zoloft and that was the begining of the end of living in the darkness.

No, it wasn't "poof!" all better. It still isn't and that was 5 years ago. But the beauty of it was the medication opened the door to healing. I was able to rest a bit in my own mind. The lack of constant negative thinking was freeing and allowed me to begin making some much needed changes.

I came back to church and cleaned up my act. I began listening to promtings. I stayed on medication for a time. I got healthier and lost 70 pounds. I sought out therapy. I got really honest about who I am and the actions I take. It has been a long path and frequently frustrating. Often it felt like I wasn't making progress as I was holding myself to a higher standard.

Today life is not all peachy. Crap still happens. I still get down sometimes and frustrated. But the difference in how these normal life things effect me is night and day from before. Before frustrations would defeat me by their very existence. Now they might knock me down, but I can find my way back up where I know Heavenly Father wants me to be. I really get it now that I was sent here to learn and to struggle, but absolutely not to be beaten and defeated. Today I can live in life and not have who I am be put at risk by every bad thing that happens.

I share all this because I want others to know it can change if they find themselves in similar darkness. It can change. You can change. Seek guidance from Heavenly Father and listen to trusted friends and find a good therapist. And if you can't bring yourself to do it for you, think of your family. They need you at your best.

peacekeeper said...

my bdc was 27 more than i thought and my bai was 14. i think i have been in a little bit of a funk but i think i am coming out of it. i read these posts from you and i know that we have seen less of each other lately but i feel like i have been oblivious and i am sorry for that. i know it is a personal battle but if there is anything i can do please let me! and remember ... I LOVE YOU!

Pat said...

hiccups, thanks for sharing all of that. And Lisa I share peacekeeper's love for you. thank you so much for opening this dialogue and tutoring me along the road to sanity.

Lisa said...

Jessica, you certainly are not expected to read my mind and take care of me. :) You have a bunch of people to take care of already, and in fact my youngest child is at this moment also under your care!

And holy hiding-how-we-feel batman! Your bdc score was nearly as high as mine! Now who has been oblivious? :P

Christina said...

Um crap mine was 28. I didn't think I had issues with anxiety, and I guess they still aren't that bad, but still...

Lisa said...

Moderate anxiety is not something to ignore, my young friend. Being in the middle of your teens is a big part of that -- those are not years I would go back and live over again, if given the choice. So while your score isn't cause for alarm, I believe that the sooner you learn to manage it, the easier the rest of your life will be.

dionne/dianoia said...

Here's my story:

Having babies takes a toll on my bod and brain. I feel tired, lazy and low, and it takes a full two years to get back to normal if I'm not on medication. And since my first two children were only two years apart and I wouldn't admit to myself how bad things were, it wasn't until Son1 was 4 that the sun came out again in my life and it dawned on me that I'd had PPD.

Enter Son3, my miracle boy. I pushed out a 10 pound baby, and was chasing an ambulance to another hospital an hour and a half later. Five months later, after the medical drama was finally done, his heart was fixed and the last of the tubes came out, I CRASHED. Badly. Who knew it could be so difficult to shower?

But if an extreme amount of stress caused the depression, it took a long time for me to realize that my bad thought patterns and sleep habits were keeping me there. I slowly learned that it was God's opinion of me that was important, and not everyone who disapproved. (Why is it we let one voice of disapproval negate ten voices of love and concern?)

My LDS doctor once asked me what were my biggest helps during that time, and I replied, "Priesthood blessings and Zoloft." My husband was amazing and supportive, and some of my most cherished spiritual experiences happened during that time.

I'm a better person because of that time. I find myself less inclined to judge others, and more willing to think I don't have all the answers. I'm medication-free for this last babe, and have never had a better recovery. It doesn't mean I have more energy, it just means I'm gentler on myself than I used to be.

I've still got changes I need to make, but I've discovered that I'm strong, and I am capable of making them.