Look Up – Living with Depression & Anxiety

Making life work when you’re living with depression and anxiety is like making your way across a wide creek.  The stepping stones look like they’ll help keep your feet dry but they’re slippery and it’s risky.

My husband and I have a simple exchange of facial cues that allow me to keep going during situations that make me uncomfortable.  I think it distresses him when he sees my “I’m struggling” face across a room.  But he smiles, nods almost imperceptibly and waits for me to acknowledge his support.

Doing life calls for a much higher degree of effort when you’re doing it with depression and anxiety.  Our chemicals are smouldering before we even conceive of leaving home; they ignite at the knowledge of what’s to come and by the time we’re trying to get out the door we’re in an uncontrolled wild fire of epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline).   If we make it out, even to something as simple as shopping for groceries, we’re already exhausted from managing the unmanageable. It’s no wonder we’ll avoid doing anything.

After all, logic determines that we avoid things that create pain.  And we’re smart; right!

We know that avoiding life isn’t the answer to the problem but we also know that we don’t cope out there.  The internal conflict becomes all-consuming and our self-focus intensifies.  Now we’re looking for ways to fulfil our self-belief that we’re useless.  We’ll compare ourselves to the all the “normal” people out there and find ourselves less than satisfactory.

Even when I compare myself to others living with depression and anxiety I find myself lacking.  Given an opportunity, I’ll espouse why I must be more useless or more affected or different to justify my need to maintain a status quo.  After all, to do anything will put at risk all the protections that keep me immobile and compliant within my illness.

Recovery or remission of clinical depression is a reality but we’re happier to believe that we don’t need treatment because it would make us weak.

“Doctor please don’t remove my tumour because I’ll look like I’m not coping!”

“Doctor please don’t give me antibiotics for my curable infection because I’ll appear useless!”


The trouble is that everyone experiences sadness, happiness, lethargy, excitement, distress, anxiety and any other number of emotional reactions during their life and it seems for that reason alone we consider everyone an expert.  Even ourselves. So when someone tells us we should “buck up” we believe they have the expertise to offer “advice” and accept that we should be capable of well… er… bucking up!!

As I leap from one slippery rock to another in an attempt to cross my creek, I take care not to get my feet wet, not to slip and wet my clothes; not to fall and hurt myself.  But sometimes it just doesn’t work the way I planned.

Nevertheless before I jump, I look up for a face I know and wait for an almost imperceptible nod to tell me I can and to give me courage to accept the outcome regardless of success or failure.

Depression and anxiety disorders are not a state of mind.  They cannot be overcome by simply thinking ourselves into a different state.   They are a biochemical disruption to an otherwise healthy life.

This week, from the wisdom of Bill & Ted: “Be excellent to each other.”

Deb Shugg is an awarded business woman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.  To contact Deb click here.

If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.  If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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