I recently interviewed a friend to talk about her experience with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and anxiety attacks. I’ve known her for a couple of years, and I have seen first-hand what her anxiety and depression have looked like, as well as sitting through a panic attack with her. We discussed some questions and answers to help enlighten those who may not know what it looks like to have anxiety and depression and to continue education for those that do experience these. Here’s part two of our interview together.
- Have your depression or anxiety taught you anything?
“They have taught me that I really cannot depend on myself to get through it – meaning, I can’t get through it on my own. I did that for years and kept it bottled up. They have taught me that I am so much stronger than I think I am. They have taught me to find joy in the little things and to appreciate every second of my good days.”
- What advice would you give someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety, or panic attacks?
“YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Reach out to someone and, in all honesty, try to find someone who has dealt with/is dealing with the same thing. Don’t be afraid to get medication and see if it works and try not to put yourself down for not being able to do “everyday” things easily. Appreciate your good days and reach out and ask for encouragement on the bad days. Something I learned about opening up about it is that when you open up, it helps encourage other people to do the same.”
- What would you want people to know that don’t know what it’s like to have depression, anxiety, or panic attacks?
“You probably won’t understand what they’re going through. It’s kind of like a physical illness; you can’t feel their pain, so you don’t understand. It’s okay. Just be encouraging and love on them. They most likely already have it in their head that they’re crazy and telling them to “just get out there” or do things that they struggle with is kind of like telling someone with a broken leg to “just walk it off”. Just understand that even if you don’t understand them, you can still love them, without being a therapist for them.”
- Do depression and anxiety look the same for everyone? Is it different?
“There are some things that are similar, but it’s usually different for everyone! For depression, there are similar symptoms like [a] lack of motivation, irritability, bad memory, hopelessness, etc. Some can have all of them, some can have only a few, and some could have none of them. Some people have a difficult time getting out of bed and going to work and some can’t stop working. With anxiety, it’s similar, too. Some people have excessive worry and major panic attacks, and some have different symptoms.”
- What is a common question you get asked about depression or anxiety?
“I honestly don’t get asked questions very often. I think people are usually too nervous to ask questions (It’s okay to ask people questions! As long as you are trying to learn or understand rather than make them feel shameful through it).”
- How can your friends and family be there for you when it comes to your mental health? Earlier you mentioned encouraging them and not trying to fix the person. What does this look like for you?
“A lot of times it’s just sitting there with me or letting me know that you love me. People who are struggling with this may not look like they’re trying even if they are, so just let them know that you are there for them and that you love them.”
- What’s been the most helpful when figuring out how to deal with your depression and anxiety?
“Talking to people, especially a therapist. Becoming self-aware is important and talking to a therapist can help with that. Working to figure out your triggers, your outlet, and unhealthy ways you cope. Most importantly, give yourself grace. It’s okay if it takes longer than you’d like or if it’s harder to talk to people than you thought it would be. You will get there.”
- What is it like to have both anxiety AND depression?
“It’s a vicious cycle. For me, personally, it’s a cycle of having no motivation and my depression keeping me physically weighed down and in bed and then getting anxious and feeling guilty and shameful for not doing what I wanted to or should’ve done.”
- Do you know others with depression and anxiety? Is it helpful to have a community of people to lean on?
“I know one other person but haven’t really talked about it with her yet. Depression and anxiety can be really confusing to people who don’t understand and can cause a lot of conflict between people. Having a community of people who love and care for you is important but can still be lonely if you don’t have people to talk to who can relate to you. Community is SO important.”
- Is there anything else you would like to tell me? Any final words about anxiety, depression, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, or anything related to mental health?
“Try to become knowledgeable in mental health! At least a little bit. There is a huge percentage of the population struggling with mental illness and it’s easy to assume what they’re dealing with based on media and movies. I promise we’re not crazy or scary and we really are just people struggling with an illness.”
Author’s Note: If you, or someone you know, is struggling with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or anxiety attacks, and is wanting and willing to seek therapy, an Olive Branch Counseling Associates therapist is happy to step in and walk with you through this journey. The best way to reach us is by phone: (708-663-8000) and our website is: https://www.olivebranchcounselingassociates.com. Thank you.
By: Sara Corcoran
Undergraduate Counseling Intern
Olive Branch Counseling Associate, Inc.