My toolkit for managing my anxiety and depression
Weronika has found self-belief to manage her anxiety and depression through a number of tools that work for her.
Written by Weronika Alchimionek
Voices - Experiences
Young people share their personal experiences.
I subtly got told by my psychiatrist recently that I have borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety. I remember having stomach issues and feeling guilty since I was 5 or 6. I also struggled with disordered eating as a teenager. However, things seemed to only get worse for me as I was growing up. Something tragic happened in my family that caused me awful mental turmoil. I started seeing the doctor at 18 and got prescribed my first dose of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
SSRIs are a type of antidepressant. They block existing serotonin from going elsewhere in the body so that there is more available that can help with depression and anxiety. A common SSRIs prescribed is sertraline.
They did not help me at all and not even counselling helped, I fell into a spiral; I was impulsive and neurotic. Neurotic means being afflicted by neurosis, a term used to describe mental, emotional, or physical reactions that are drastic and irrational. At its root, neurotic behaviour is an automatic, unconscious effort to manage deep anxiety.
No matter how much love my boyfriend showed me, I started pushing him and all my friends away. I was in a very dark place.
I isolated myself and felt misunderstood. I dealt with constant anxiety and guilt. I started seeing a psychiatrist who put me on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. February 2020, was when I felt that a change needed to happen. I was reading my old journal from a year back and I realised nothing had changed. The way I felt in 2019, was still what I felt that day in 2020. And then it hit me. What hit me was a strong feeling in my stomach, a stab in my solar plexus, that I felt told me that I cannot go on like this, and life can be much better for me. After so many years of turmoil, that minute, I finally felt able to work on myself.
I stopped counting on just medications, therapists, psychiatrists. They helped me to manage symptoms, and I was very grateful for them. However, only I could create my own happiness and heal myself. While everyone’s journey looks different, here’s what personally helped me:
Recognise the problem
What is causing my depression? I discovered the depths of myself by analysing the causes of my issues today. I did this by journaling; writing about things that traumatised me, or made me uncomfortable. I then realised how they impacted me to this day. This is the only way I found for me to fix the root of the problem, by acknowledging it first: and then working towards healing the pain.
Healing pain is a really tough thing to do. But I found I could do it once I recognised the deep-rooted pain. I started by working on my confidence. Realising that I am an important, worthy human being who deserves respect and good things. Finding my worth. I do things that make me proud of myself, developing my talents, working on my skills but also – I do not beat myself up for past mistakes or flaws. Instead, I am compassionate with myself. I realise that I am only a human being and I try to learn from my mistakes instead.
At least once a week, I work on what I am grateful for; my comfortable bed when I come back from work, clean sheets, a warm radiator. I understand that trying to find gratitude might be tough in times where everything seems not to go right, and I personally found it a tough thing to do, however, whenever I concentrated on the really good things, it became easier every time. Gratitude shifts my perspective towards a more positive view of life. I try to feel gratitude and love; I do not write anything down that I do not mean.
This is where I vent, see gratitude, develop, and discover. I journal at least once a day and start with an entry. What are you looking forward to in your day? What are your plans? Is there anything bothering you? I say anything that I feel. Also, in my journal I work on my goals. Do I want a better relationship with my family? Do I want to feel more motivated or personally develop? I do specific entries for those things I want to work on, and find solutions to them. For example, if I am not getting along with my friend, it can be a communication problem, therefore, I can discover how I can make our communication better. Do I need to be more compassionate towards my friend? More honest? I would work from there, the more I write, the more I discover about myself and others.
Journaling really helped me to organise my mind and ease my anxiety and rumination throughout the day.
I personally find exercise a good way to take out all my anger and anxiety. However, I Move in a way that I like to move and that feels good for me. Personally, I do not like fast-paced workouts. I prefer yoga, gentle pilates and long walks. They make me feel good, relaxed, and I still sweat and feel great afterwards! For example, fast-paced walks, or even slow walks by the river, help me to calm my mind and nerves. I also feel like I am improving my mood by accomplishing something. Exercising releases dopamine which is a “feel good” chemical. After whatever movement I chose to do, I feel more energised and ready for the day.
Nourish your body
Natural unprocessed food can help with low mood but I do not have to go on a diet to feel nourished, healthy and energised. The only thing I make sure to do is to be mindful of my food. I make sure to incorporate fruit and veggies that I like in my daily intake and try to lower my sugar intake. For example, instead of drinking juices that are full of sugar, I try to squeeze my own oranges. My body feels the difference. I also excluded coffee from my daily intake – it was hard as everybody surrounding me loves coffee and it is a part of their morning routine. However, the more I discovered about myself and my body’s reactions to certain habits, I have realized coffee made my anxiety worse and so did high-sugar foods.
Do not give up on yourself
If I have a low day and do not feel like exercising or eating right, I know that is okay. I do not let a bad day, a bad week or a bad month make me stop my progress completely. Because I know I am stronger than the thoughts in my head making me tired.
I have found I can say ‘No’ to my thoughts when they tell me to stay in bed for another day. I have the power to be in control. If I am struggling with my mental health, I lean on someone I can trust. Make sure to get the support you need to be able to carry on with the next day. Do not be afraid to call for some support like Samaritans or Pieta House. If you feel uncomfortable speaking with someone, you can text spunout’s 50808 for help.
Since February 2020, I have come a long way. I finished my MA, got a great job and moved out to Dublin. For me, the first, biggest and hardest step was to believe in myself.
I would like to end this article on the note that it was personal, and my methods might not work for everybody like they worked for me, because everybody is different. However, the most surprising thing my journey taught me was how far I can go in life if I have faith in my own strength. Always follow the advice of your doctor or medical professional.
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