Coping Exercise: A Thank You Letter to Your Anxiety/Depression/Stress

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.

Yours truly,

Vanessa

Thank You

Thank You

flowers2

I cherish every little thing!

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5 Things You Should Know About Being Friends with an Anxiety-Ridden Person

I have a rough time making and keeping friends. I am lucky enough to have approximately one best friend that seems to absolutely not mind that I am far from normal. I love her to pieces because she just gets me (my fiancé is truly awesome but that’s for another time so he doesn’t count here). We have survived my anxiety for years now and I am not even sure how. As for other people, I lose friends faster than I gain them. People can certainly be rotten little turds but I also realize that I am hard to like/love. If you have a friend that suffers from anxiety, this is for you.

  1. We often like need our space. Sometimes we just like to be alone with our thoughts. Other times, we aren’t even sure if we can trust our thoughts so it’s best to stay at a distance until we sort things out in our heads. There are numerous reasons we need our distance. Most of the time, it’s not you. It’s really us. Don’t read into it too much.

    Can you imagine the peace and quiet?

    Can you imagine the peace and quiet?

  2. A lot of times, we give ourselves too much Eventually, it gets to a point that it is going to feel awkward to get back in touch with you, which leads to an even longer period of being “away”. This is when we actually need you to come in and break the ice. Ask how we are doing. Tell us the latest stuff going on. Send us a corny joke. My best friend likes to text me the simple word “PENIS” and it works every time. Try it. It doesn’t even matter. Just get in touch, please.

    We actually prefer text, usually. But this will work.

    We actually prefer text, usually. But this will work.

  3. When we accept you as our friend, it’s a huge deal. Anxiety comes with many fears such as being judged, criticized, and betrayed. The list goes on and it’s slightly different for each person. We befriended you because we believe in you. We think you have a good heart that is probably twisted just enough to accept our odd sense of humor and other quirks. Just know that our friendship is real.

    Friends are cool.

    Friends are cool.

  4. Since we take friendships so seriously, we are also very cautious about what and how we forgive. Normal people go through ups and downs and stick through it. We are used to breaking up with friends, though. When we feel let down or betrayed, it cuts deep. Some of us may be giant softies inside and out. Others, like me, have a rocky outer shell but a giant marshmallow core. We are tough in many ways but putting up with shaky friendship isn’t typically one of them. We will let you go in a heartbeat. We are just kind of fragile like that. We ain’t got time for that.

    Awe. Don't hurt marshmallows.

    Awe. Don’t hurt marshmallows.

  5. We are fully aware that we are misfits. We find inappropriate things funny. We are easily overwhelmed with emotions. We are numb when we absolutely shouldn’t be. We are mentally high maintenance. We are interested in things that are odd. We are deep thinkers. We overanalyze… everything. But when we choose a friend and they decide that being friends with a misfit is actually pretty damn cool, we will be the best friend you ever had.

    No really. We can be mother jamming cool.

    No really. We can be mother jamming cool.

I realize this is a very short list. I could write a book about being friends with an anxiety-ridden person. If you suffer from anxiety, is there something you think should be on the list? Do you feel the same way? Maybe you have a friend or loved one with anxiety issues. Does this clear some things up? Do you think there should be something else added? Thanks for reading!

I’m Not an Oceanographer

When I was 10, I wanted to be an oceanographer. Aside from space, I think there is nothing more mysterious to me than the ocean. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents that told me I could be anything I wanted. Well, I’m not an oceanographer, damn it.

I have been quite a few things. I have been a Military Police soldier in the Army. I’ve been a student of many paths (I’ve fulfilled enough credits to be just a class or two away from several different degrees: Mathematics, Science, Graphic Design, and more). I have been an entrepreneur. And I am now a stay at home mom. Any career that I have held or thought about holding has had one thing in common. They all offer the challenge that I crave.

Some days, I feel so empty inside, especially after semi-recently closing my business. This is not where I wanted to be and I am certain that my 10 year old self would be highly disappointed. Guilt is a frequent visitor as I feel like I have chosen the easy way out. But did I, really? Living with PTSD and major depression is honestly the most challenging thing I have ever done. The universe is laughing at me right now. I wanted something challenging so I got it. Be careful what you wish for.

Although my current “occupation” is SAHM, DV (disabled veteran), this is not my destiny. I refuse to retire from this position even if I am stuck here for a few years. For the past 5 or 6 years, I have put my mental health on the backburner by pretending it’s not my life’s dictator. I have tried hard to tackle large mountains and become one of those strong, successful women you see on social media cheering other women along. The ugly truth eventually bitch-slapped me in the face. My job has to be focusing on getting better.

If you are living with anxiety or depression, I just want you to know that it is okay to pause your other ventures in life to pursue a healthy state of mind. It has taken some time for me to realize that I need to attempt to heal before all else. Yeah, there are some stigmas associated with mental health problems but you are living for you and nobody else. After a lot of thinking, I have concluded that there is no rational reason for me to feel guilty. Healing is simply a challenge that I have been handed and I am going to conquer it like any other challenge. I mean, if you were an athlete and you had to take time off for a torn ACL, would you feel guilty? I think not. You cannot begin your journey to better health until you get over the guilt. You’ve got to be your number one fan. Just know, though, I am here cheering you on.

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, intense stress, etc., do you also struggle with guilt? Maybe you aren’t in the position to take time off from work to focus on your mental health or you have made the choice to try to push through anyway. If so, do you feel like those “issues” impact your work performance and do you feel guilty about that? Have any of you actually been here and done this already? How did you move past the guilt if you felt this way? I’d love to hear from you! This is a new journey for me and, likely, for my current and future readers, too.

It's called the Emerald Coast for a reason!

It’s called the Emerald Coast for a reason!

There is something about ocean waves!

There is something magical about ocean waves!

Tough Little Lotus: Rising Above

I tried to make it work. However, battling PTSD and major depression forced me to throw in the towel. I had a beautiful business that I built from absolutely nothing. It had the potential to become everything I ever wanted. I was (and still am) proud of that business. No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn’t handle it any longer. I had to say a sad goodbye.

Constantly dealing with anxiety and depression has significantly impacted my life. Many hopes and dreams have been pursued and met with an abrupt end. I have disappointed myself in many situations.  I have learned that failing is nothing to be feared; only because I have faced failure so often.

I have no idea where my life is headed. Every path I have taken has led to something unexpected. But that is okay! I will not fail at trying to get better. Today, I put my best foot forward. Just like a tough little lotus that rises above the murky pond water, I will rise above, too (and so will you!!). After all, that is what life is all about. 

Lotus Beauty

2014 CC image, “Lotus Beauty” courtesy of Tony Brooks on Flickr.