If you are seeking self-help for anxiety, depression, etc., I have a different exercise for you. One of the most popular exercises for coping with issues such as anxiety is writing an open letter to your anxiety, depression, etc. The purpose is to separate yourself from your illness. It’s a healthy way to cope. Unfortunately, I have tried it and all I want to do is curse my PTSD, anxiety, and depression and tell them to rot in hell where they belong. I feel more angry, sad, and hopeless than before I began writing.
Luckily, I already know that my illnesses do not define me. However, I would be a fool to say that they do not shape me into who I am today. One of the best ways I cope with my illnesses is by thinking of all the ways they have changed me for the better. I challenge you to write a thank you letter to your illness or over-abundance of stress. If you aren’t much of a writer, try drawing or painting the ways you are thankful. Perhaps a collage would be fun and relaxing, too. Then, on your bad days, go back and read/view what you created and see how that helps. Be sure to let us know how this exercise worked for you! Here is my letter:
Dear PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression,
I know we have a love-hate relationship. You often cause me so much pain. Majority of the time, I feel like a burden to others. I constantly feel hopeless. It’s hard to relax; I am often on edge. It’s difficult to be happy sometimes, even when I have no reason to be sad. You drain me of my energy and you steal my focus. You make simple tasks such as grocery shopping or talking to family members a big, ugly mess. Although we are not one and you do not define me, you all certainly tend to control me. All of this pisses me off and breaks my heart. I constantly miss the person I used to be years ago. Today, however, I just want to say thank you for all the ways you have changed me into a better person.
I am now more aware of how I see and respond to others. The asshole lady that wasn’t paying attention and cut me off in traffic almost made my head explode. After my nerves settled, though, I was able to think to myself that maybe something was stealing her focus like you often steal mine. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she is just human like me and everyone else. Before facing my own “invisible battles”, I never thought that others are probably doing the same. I am more sympathetic and compassionate. I have a bigger desire to help others than ever before. People are inherently good. Thank you for providing me with this belief… even if it’s terribly difficult to remember when anxiety strikes.
I used to do things to prove that I was tough. I moved out of my parents’ house as soon as I could and worked hard to finish school and provide for myself. I could’ve went to college but after deciding that was too cliché, I chose to join the Army instead. I had to prove that I was tough enough to get out of my town. And when people were shocked that I was going to join the Army, I had to choose Military Police as my job in hopes that I would deploy and have one of the most difficult jobs as a female. I had to prove that I was super tough. I am no longer proving that I am tough to others. Although I often feel weak, I keep going in spite of you because I must prove to myself that I am tough. If I feel strong, I am strong. So, thank you. You are my reason for wanting to give up yet my reason for continuing forward.
I remember being a ridiculously happy and optimistic person. I was one of those bubbly people that now boggle my mind. I was full of energy and motivation. I felt unstoppable because nothing could bring me down. I feared little. I am no longer that person anymore and that is what hurts the most. You know what, though? If I didn’t have such bad times, the good times wouldn’t be so great. Even though my fiancé would disagree *winkie face*, I don’t take a whole lot for granted. I cherish my friends far more than I ever would have if I were still “normal”. I wouldn’t feel so blessed when my little boy comes into my bedroom to wake me up in the morning by flipping on the light and declaring that he’s a baby pig (this really happened). I wouldn’t be so grateful that my stepson likes me for me regardless of how frazzled I can be most of the time. Butterflies wouldn’t still fill my belly when my handsome lover does something as simple as holding my hand. Small moments like that are what I live for now. I don’t need thrills. Without the storms, sunny days wouldn’t be so grand. So, most of all, thank you for teaching me how to cherish my life.
Oh, and thanks for giving me something to write about.