Depression & Anxiety

Depression is so common nowadays it’s fair to call it an epidemic. The same could be said for anxiety. Why is this? What is it about modern life that has driven a substantial bulk of the population into despair and fear?

Despair. Fear. These old, vibrant word are nearly synonymous with depression and anxiety. We now have psychiatric research, medications, therapy models, correlated factors in realms like diet / nutrition / exercise / environment / workplace / family / relationship / sunlight / seasons / media / current events and on and on. The science and practice of understanding depression and anxiety have become so complex and overwhelming that managing it can bring on … well, depression and anxiety.

Coping with Coping

Mental health struggles are hard enough on their own. Heaping on the difficult business of trying to figure it out … the dreaded pressure of knowing what’s wrong and what’s causing it and what to do about it. Sheesh. Sometimes it can feel like figuring it out is just as depressing and stressful as the condition is to begin with.

In the U.S., mental health is a massive and profitable industry – and make no mistake, it is an industry. Big pharma is heavily invested in chemical solutions, and the psychiatric profession supports that investment by looking to medication as the go-to solution.

For patients, psych meds are a mixed blessing. Some medications have fearsome side-effects, even including suicidal thoughts and actions. Some can be difficult or even dangerous to get off of. Some are tolerance-inducing, and patients need to gradually take more and more in order to keep getting the benefits. And some simply stop working on many people after awhile.

A patient struggling with mental health issues might find relief in medications, just to then find himself dependent on medications. In the vast majority of cases this is a substantially beneficial trade-off, but in an already over-medicated society there are risks and problems with psycho-pharmaceuticals.

The Feedback Loop of Mental Illness

Depression sucks. Anxiety sucks. The symptoms of these maladies can be debilitating. Those symptoms can be made worse by a tendency toward self-propagating feedback loops.

The symptoms of depression: hopelessness, sadness, irritability, loss of interest in things you used to love, exhaustion, sleep disorders, eating disorders and more – they take a huge toll on a person. They impact quality of life, relationships, activities, how you live and how you are in the world.

On top of that, though, depression is depressing. It loops back on itself. Hopelessness creates more hopelessness, sadness creates more sadness, and on down the list.

The symptoms of anxiety – constant worry, tension, hyper-vigilance, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue – like depression symptoms, they take a toll. And as with depression – anxiety makes you anxious and creates a feedback loop. Worry creates more worry, tension makes you more tense, and on down the list.

I struggle with both depression and anxiety, sometimes to very extreme degrees. The feedback problem is similar to back spasms, which I’ve had also. Back spasms create more back spasms, which can actually injure the muscles that are spasming, which – guess what – leads to more spasms. The muscle can’t heal. At its worst, I’ve had depression that couldn’t heal because it kept getting re-injured by these feedback loops.

Saying What Is So

There are many approaches to dealing with mental health disorders – and I’m a firm believer that it’s essential to acknowledge that you’re struggling. Say what’s so. Especially if you think mental issues have a stigma attached to them – getting past that notion is a great place to start.

It’s one reason that therapy is so important. It’s also a reason to talk openly with family and loved ones. If you’re suffering and the ones who care about you most don’t even know it – that’s not good for anybody. They’ll take it personally when you withdraw or lash out. I’m a big believer in letting loved ones know what’s up.

The good news about depression and anxiety is that it’s treatable – and you’re not alone. You’re not even close to being alone. Millions of us struggle with these conditions.

Here at BipolarBear I’ll be sharing my story – sharing what I’ve learned about bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety – and telling parts of my story through the adventures of Bipolar Bear. I’m honored that you came to visit. Thanks for checking in …

Pete Russell