Friday, August 28, 2015

Clawing my way out of the hole

Depression and anxiety challenge me most days. Luckily, my nights are free of the spinning thoughts and fear. My resolve is to take back the days and become content with my life again. Is the depression caused by my brain chemicals, my thinking, or a response to events in my life? I don't know. Perhaps a combination of all three.

Brain chemicals are influenced by stress, especially ongoing high levels of stress. Serotonin and other chemicals responsible for nerve cell function in the brain become depleted. The fight or flight response in the amygdalla, deep in the brain, responds as if a sabre tooth tiger is in pursuit. These chemical reactions become set patterns. Breaking the pattern can require medication, as well as talk therapy, and other methods for relief.

My thinking is definitely part of the problem. Gloom and doom. Predicted outcomes are bleak and negative. Breaking this thinking pattern requires working with a therapist to learn new ways of thinking about each issue and reinforcing the new positive thought patterns. Learning that we have little control over our future and the behavior of others, and learning to be at peace with those thoughts is essential. For Type A personalities, this is challenging. We thought we were in control. Accepting that we are not is a blow. Learning to accept change and disappointments and stress becomes a daily lesson, and not an easy one.

Repeated stressors can initiate anxiety and depression. Accumulated effects of life events such as losing a loved one, marriage difficulties, financial setbacks, job changes, and moving to a new house can trigger the depression cycle. Then the brain chemistry changes to stress response. Working toward peace requires making changes to reduce stressors and to handle those we can't change in a different manner.

For those of you who haven't experienced severe depression and anxiety, my explanation may sound trivial. "Just think positive thoughts," is a refrain that every depressed person has heard. If that admonition worked, there wouldn't be any depressed people. However, it doesn't. IT DOES NOT WORK. Overcoming depression requires a multi-faceted, personally tailored approach. Medication, exercise, cognitive therapy, and meditation may be helpful. Working with a psychiatrist and/or counselor to sort through the causes and select treatments is essential. Making lifestyle changes may be required. Plus, the process of recovery is not quick. One must be patient for the medications to work, for your thought patterns to reform, and for your stress reduction choices to have an effect.

Depression and anxiety can be resolved. Seek treatment. Take steps. Be patient.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pondering my sixties...

My mother said her seventies was her favorite decade. I hope that works out for me, too, because my sixties are starting out a little bit rocky. What is going on with me? Mid-life crisis a couple of decades late, or what?

Financial worries abound. The media hammers the plight of baby boomers who are retiring and don’t have enough money. Social Security is going to go broke. My husband and I have lived comfortably, invested, and not squandered money, but my brain goes into panic mode when I look ahead. Our investment advisor says we’re going to be OK, but I worry. Too much. What does OK mean? Beans and cornbread? Walking to the store because we don’t have gas money?

Then there’s health and healthcare. My husband is ten years older than I am. He had a kidney transplant in 1994, one heart attack about five years ago, and multiple bone breaking injuries three years ago. I have issues with anxiety and depression. Try getting healthcare now that “Affordable Care” is the new reality. You can get on a waiting list for a doctor’s appointment IF the doctor takes your insurance, or you can go to the ER and sit for hours. Or just be sick.

What to do after retirement is a strange dilemma. I’ve taught in public schools, done bookkeeping, made quilts, had dairy goats, painted water color and acrylic paintings, built things, and had rental properties with all their attendant remodeling, painting, and dealing with tenants. Name something. I’ve been there, done that. I don’t KNOW what I want to do next.

Yes, I know I’m looking at all this from a negative point of view. In the past, I had a plan. Somewhere inside me is a plan and the hope that I’ll start making my sixties a good decade in preparation for my seventies.