I’ve been fighting with my mind for the past few weeks, trying to stave off a looming depressive episode. I had been in a hypomanic state for about 3 months, and now that my wedding is over I’m entering the ‘let-down phase’. I fear the onset of a depressive episode because I can become tearful at any moment, over anything, and there’s moments where I literally can’t talk to anyone because I can burst into tears for no reason.
I am having trouble sleeping, breathing, eating and even just ‘being’. Most of the time I feel numb, but recently, in the morning I experience a short bout of anxiety, some periods of sadness in the early afternoon and anxiety in the evening. The anxiety is the worst before bed. I get into bed and my mind can’t turn off, so I start to panic that I won’t sleep well and will have a bad day the next day, and then the tight chest and other symptoms follow. It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to see people and want to curl up and hide in a cave. I want to hibernate and it’s summer!
I will try to help myself…I know I should be going to the gym and trying to exercise but the will to get to the gym (which I can see from my condo) is not there. The will to do anything other than my ordinary routine of work, eat, and sleep is not there.
There’s a new show on HBO called Ballers that I started watching. It is an entertaining show; my husband describes it as Entourage but with football players. The episode that aired on July 12, 2015, had a scene that really spoke to me. One of the main characters is impulsive, reckless and has anger issues. He is struggling to fit in with a new team and one player in particular keeps pranking him. The coach offers to speak to this character and to counsel him, which he eventually takes him up on. During the scene, the coach essentially says that what the character needs is a mantra, not to get revenge. The coach has him lie down on his couch, close his eyes and tells him to take a deep breath and say, “I am bigger than my problems.” He keeps repeating this and he calms down.
Last week when I was having my ‘moments’, whether it was agitation, anger or anxiety in the car/at work/home I kept trying to say this and practise deep breathing to see if it could help. It helped a little bit. Maybe it’s saying the actual words, maybe it’s taking deep breaths, or maybe it’s the combination of the two.
Am I bigger than my problems? Can I be bigger than my problems? I know I have been through a lot, I know I am strong, and I know I am capable of handling a lot of stress.
By saying “I am bigger than my problems”, I am not saying that I am minimizing my problems, or that you or anyone else should minimize yours. I want to interpret it as I am bigger than my problems in the sense of my ability to handle whatever my problems are, whether it is anxiety, depression, agitation, anger, etc. Being ‘bigger’ has a lot to do with your will to thrive, survive and the amount of inner strength you have.
One of my favourite shows is Seinfeld, and one of the funniest episodes is when George’s father decides to sell computers out of his garage. Frank has adopted a manta – “Serenity now!” – and keeps shouting it out whenever he gets angry. The twist is that he is later told by Lloyd Braun, someone who was institutionalized in an earlier episode, that that the full saying is actually “Serenity now, insanity later”.
Here’s to finding your mantra! It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just make it a phrase that’s easy to say and remember!
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!