A mood disorder such as depression or anxiety is not apparent in a person’s appearance, but it is no less intrusive — and no less painful. The person may look “just fine” on the outside, while inside they are dealing with a host of debilitating and difficult symptoms.
Millions of people know the challenge of living with an easily concealed mood disorder and the difficulty on some days of simply getting dressed, putting on a smile, and acting as if all is right with the world when the feelings on the inside do not match at all.
It would be nice if there were one special magic-bullet treatment or approach that would help everyone faced with a chronic mood or anxiety disorder.
However, I’ve discovered over time that there is not one skill, outlook, philosophy or approach to coping with a chronic illness or mood or anxiety disorder. Everyone has his or her own way of living and coping with ongoing symptoms and challenges. Some people meditate; others use medication.
The trick is to expose yourself to a variety of possibilities and numerous methods and hone in on those treatment[s] or coping techniques that work best for you in your particular situation.
The more determined you become to manage your symptoms and not allow them to manage you, the better your quality of life will be. Playing an active role in your treatment and taking care of yourself and your needs helps enormously, whether it’s doing regular meditation, exercise or educating yourself on various treatment options. When you become an expert in your disease, you manage it better. Meshing acceptance of your mood or anxiety disorder with determination to do the best you can, when you can, is a winning combination.
Many who suffer from mood or anxiety disorders tend to feel guilty when they are unable to participate in social activities or work, or they berate themselves if they are too fatigued to accomplish what they originally set out to do.
But guilt is a wasted emotion. Learning to honor your limitations instead of playing the blame game and generating self-destructive thoughts that chronicle your shortcomings can be an extremely difficult skill to master.
For instance, you have to learn to say ‘no’ to some things that pushed you too far too fast. But, by doing so, it can assist you in regaining a sense of control rather than being at the mercy of your symptoms and setbacks.
One of the most beneficial coping tools is to take goals and break them into a series of small steps. This is quite difficult for those of us with Type A personalities! However, it truly helps to pace yourself and not bite off more than you can chew.
Learning to be compassionate toward oneself is another important tool, especially for women. We are taught to be caregivers, always watching out for those around us. We are not accustomed to taking care of ourselves or making ourselves the priority.
Most observers cannot fathom how a mood or anxiety disorder can have such a devastating internal impact and not reveal itself on the outside. This sometimes causes others to perceive the disorder as something less than legitimate. This makes having a chronic mood or anxiety disorder even more isolating. Therefore, seeking social support is crucial. Joining or starting a support group helps keep you connected with others who truly understand your challenges.
You can even learn to laugh at your symptoms and challenges, and laughter may be the greatest coping skill of all.