I fight anxiety and depression every day

Julie shares how she copes with a long-term lung condition and depression.

I’ve had asthma since I was a child. When I had pneumonia 12 years ago, my asthma got worse and I developed other long-term illnesses which made it had to keep active. And I’ve now developed a condition in my legs which means it’s even harder to keep up.

Low mood

I’ve always suffered from anxiety and depression - especially anxiety. Recently, I’ve felt my low mood starting to take hold of me. I’ve just started taking antidepressants as well as having therapy.

And while my health is stable, I’m using what I’ve learnt in therapy to fight anxiety and depression. I’ve been doing this every day.  

Finding the new me

Because of my health, I’ve had to make large life changes.

My journey through therapy has helped me realise I was mourning a loss of myself. I’ve had other losses in the past 2 years too. I’ve lost local communities and networks because I’ve had to move into new areas 3 times.

I’ve lost family members, and I lost a stable work environment when I was made redundant. 

Connecting with the outside world

I’ve always been a social person. I do love a good natter. My health has meant I’m more socially isolated. I found that very difficult, especially as I’d moved away from family, friends and connections. I could only natter so much with my cats and partner! So the last 2 years have been a period of adjustment and transition.

I’ve worked hard to find new ways of living and trying to find the new me. I come up with ways to re-join the outside world, be more active, and find people to natter with. 

Things that help me feel better

Everyone is different – so what worked for me may not work for everyone. But I hope that sharing my story and my advice can help others.

  1. Interaction
  2. Getting out and about
  3. Listen
  4. Diet
  5. Read

Interaction 

I make an effort to connect with close family more often by phone calls or texts. I chat with my friend daily via text and Alexa (the virtual assistant) about the everyday things (how did you sleep? what are you doing? how was your day?)

I also use social media to connect with forums and networks. I found a local chronic illness support group online. We meet up annually in person. 

Getting out and about 

I volunteer at a local museum. I also visit old work colleagues for catch-up coffees and cake.

I make time to do the exercises and stretches my physiotherapist taught me. I also go for short walks. I love taking part in a nature task while I’m walking – like the Big Garden Birdwatch or the Great British Bee Count.

Listen 

I listen to the radio - talk radio is good if you want to listen to a good moan or what's happening.

Diet 

Now this is a hard one! I’ve overeaten due to depression and I battle with this. 2 years ago I gave up alcohol - a big positive. Giving up the chocolate will be next!

Read 

When I can, I read. I always read as a child: every Tuesday I went to the mobile library (remember those?) and every Saturday I was in the main library. I really enjoy reading and it keeps the old brain cells going. 


I have ups and downs from my anxiety and depression. But I carry on fighting. Maybe one day they will go.

In the meantime they are part of me, and maybe I’m coming to accept that. Humans are complex, and maybe accepting that is not an aspect to shy away from.


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Comments

It may help to do your exercises at a Pulmonary rehab exercise class as you are meeting other people in the same boat as you!  Good luck 
I too suffer as you do. I also have Bronchiectasis and asthma and epilepsy. I had to give up work and went into depression. Im not as bad now but do have very low self-esteem. My husband is a diamond luckily. I have panic attacks and it can really affect life. We have to all cope as best we can, and trust your family and friends to be there for you.
Julie's article about the above was very helpful & gave clear guidelines on what we can do to help ourselves. It could be that because these conditions (I have COPD) make us feel a bit unable to participate in things the way we used to without making us feel even more breathless & lacking in energy, it then becomes a viscious circle and we avoid those things in order to avoid feeling even worse physically. Her list of things to do is very good, but I would add music - especially the kind you can dance around to & which makes you feel energized - try "Shiny Happy People" by R.E.M. or "Dancing Queen" by ABBA, that Irene Cara one (think it's called "What a Feeling", or how about "Big Spender" by Shirley Bassey! The list is endless, but whatever makes you feel like getting up & jigging around! Also, there are some lovely classical C.D.s which are very calming if you're feeling particularly anxious, and how about Handel's "Fireworks" piece if depression is a particular problem making you feel low so that you need something lifting. Which reminds me of the record "Lifted" by the Lighthouse Family - we all have our own favourites! Another thing that I find helpful is to get outside & potter in the garden, or just sit listening to the birds, insects, even people mowing their grass, which all seem to have a calming effect on the mind and on breathing. We don't have to do a lot of digging - maybe just plant a few seeds or plants in tubs and pots, then keep them watered during dry spells. It's very relaxing & rewarding to see their progress over the Spring and summer months. Even houseplants can involve quite a bit of looking after and watering - sometimes potting-on into bigger containers, so that can be a nice hobby during the winter months. Baking bread & kneading the dough is a great stress buster, and the smell of baking can lift the spirits, then just sit down with a nice cup of tea and a slice of newly-baked bread with butter - magic! Cake baking is also very rewarding, and if (like me) you make slight alterations to the recipe, make sure to jot these down for future reference. Icing a cake is always rewarding, then there's biscuit making, meringues, flapjacks etc. I suppose we have to be careful not to put on too much weight having lung problems which limit our capacity for exercise, but maybe a little dog that needs regular walking could be a blessing. Cats are lovely too, but in a different way, and nothing beats sitting quietly with a cat purring & curled up on your lap - very calming. Add to that one of the lovely DVDs of gardens like Kew or perhaps the Chelsea Flower Show, or Wisley Gardens, depending on where you live, and this all helps to feel relaxed and give ideas for little garden projects. If none of that helps, just sit quietly, listening to the sounds of the house and things outside - I suppose what they now call "mindfulness". Good luck!
I have all of the above...i know how each one of these problems relates to another....i too have had asthma ...i had it as a child..then it left me...then it came back at the time i moved to N.H. ...USA...i became allergic to things...went into anaphlactic shock..and carry an epi-pen now...i have had pneumonia about 7 times in my life...now i have bronceasatis...and aspergillias..all are spelled wrong..sorry...but you get the drift.....i just had a nasal polyp removed this morning via surgery...i couldn't breathe all winter....i am coughing up a lot of blood...but i believe it is because i am not supposed to blow my nose for 7 days...dr.s orders..?...but i have a positive attitude...i accepted what i was going into when i decided to do the surgeryl..i prayed on it...i do believe God has a great part of what i am doing in my life...i trust in Jesus...today went so well...i actually enjoyed most of it...i had fun with the nurses...the doctor was so attentive to me...the Beverly Hospital in Massachusetts was incredible...and i felt awesome all day...didn't sleep at all...i just kept going...it is now 8:30 at night...and here i am talking to you....thank you for your letter...it takes one to know one...be blessed and ask God for advice...He always listens....yours truly ...joanne....

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27 April 2018