When Depression and Anxiety Try to do a Con Job

Remember feelings are not reality.

Posted Apr 08, 2017

Bennett Edwards/StokPic
Source: Bennett Edwards/StokPic

Years ago, when people actually had paper bound address books and faxes were a new technical wonder I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychosis and generalized anxiety disorder. I struggled for years but eventually recovery began to unfold for me. On the whole I 'live well' with the disorders using a basketful of tools and strategies (including psychiatric medication).

One effective and simple way that helps me stay sane when I don’t feel sane at all is to recognize my heavy muddy madness for what it is: a nauseous jumble of emotions, energy and sensations accompanied by thoughts (particularly nasty ones at that) running amok in my body, all that will eventually pass. My therapist told me this great mantra to use: ‘I’m uncomfortable. I’m not going crazy.’ Somehow that puts things in perspective.

Suffocating in mucky depression and scrambling in scratchy anxiety, my world feels convincingly and unrelentingly foreboding.

But feelings are not a reflection of reality. It’s like my girlfriend who I know to be beautiful and luminous, yet who doesn’t feel that way. Don’t you have a friend like that? I bet we are all like that in one way or another. We have some aspect of ourselves others see as magnificent (or at least as pretty darn good), yet our feelings and beliefs override any actual evidence that supports what others see so clearly.

Feeling are not indicators of the truth but they are indicators of something. For me, they are reds flags that my gnashing depression is trying to take me under the water line and that my porcupine anxiety is at a peak. But the relentless ear worm of ‘I-hate-myself-I'm-loser-it’s-hopeless’ that accompanies these so very uncomfortable states are not edicts of who I am.

A subtle (though often short lived) liberating 'aha' comes when I remember that just because I feel useless, hopeless, cowardly and worthless, doesn't mean I am.

I have to come back to this again and again. With as much gentleness as I can muster, I do my best to open my heart (and my mind) to this truth.

The reminder doesn’t magically make the prickly feelings evaporate. But it gives me something to focus on while they slowly do. Maybe I should just call this a good distraction tool. Yeah a weapon of mass distraction. Though I'm pretty sure Dolly Parton originally coined this term. Except she was referring to her generous...umm...bosom.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, when I’m feeling good, inspired or content (or at times all three) this tool doesn’t seem as relevant. Though I think those who are wiser and more enlightened than me would probably disagree. But hey, I’m stickin’ with what works for now.

How do you manage the weighty feelings of depression and irritable pricks of anxiety? What do you do to understand they are not the Truth? I need to know. I'd like more tools of mass distraction.

© Victoria Maxwell

To find out more about my keynote speaking and workshops, visit www.victoriamaxwell.com