They say it's my birthday – Living with depression & anxiety

Well, today’s my Birthday!

A zero birthday, so it comes with an additional hint of aging that only appears once every ten years! Contrary to popular myth, I like birthdays, especially mine.  It’s the one day of the year when it’s okay to be me and I get presents for it!!

Birthdays aren’t always good when you’re living with depression and anxiety. In fact they can be a definite downer. When you’re already a little too introspective for polite company, a day that measures the passing of another year has the potential to turn us inside out.  So today as I’m reflecting on not just another year, but another decade, there’s a hint of melancholy amid my excitement.

You’ve heard me say before that depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress are NOT thinking disorders. They’re a result of a chemical imbalance that can become so intense that we’d rather be dead than endure another day.

By way of example, if you’ve ever suffered from indigestion, you’ll know how bad it feels and what you’ll do to make it stop. Indigestion is caused by a (different kind of) chemical imbalance, in the stomach. And, if you’d be happy to struggle through life with a burning ache in your stomach 24 hours a day 7 days a week: One that keeps you in tears because of the pain or awake all night with worry: Or if you’d accept everyone telling you, that you’re lazy, just need to get out more or try some exercise; you’re a rare breed.

Modern antidepressants work by blocking the body’s ability to absorb the feel good chemicals it produces naturally. People living with depression and/or anxiety either don’t produce sufficient quantity of these chemicals or absorb them too quickly to sustain a psychologically healthy life.

Because I’ve been exhibiting signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since I was 9 years old, I believe I’ve adapted to help me cope with the, then undiagnosed, symptoms. Mostly I’ve become an attention-seeking extrovert. My behavior (usually) creates affirmation, which in order, stimulates production of the feel good chemicals, my body either doesn’t create enough of or absorbs too quickly. (That’s not a scientifically proven theory by the way!)

Or perhaps I was just born this way. (Even though the diagnostic tests indicate differently.)

The sad part is that when my attention-seeking extraverted self does something perceived as errr… unsatisfactory, I fall. And, I fall hard. The last time I ever played softball was when I did a most incredibly stupid thing on the softball diamond that required I put myself to bed for a week!

My perceived over-reaction that day created many frowning faces belonging to people who couldn’t understand the depth of my self-rejection. For my medicated self, my ability to maintain “operational” status plummeted into weeks of suicidal ideation (that’s the medical term) and crying (possibly not a medical term!).

(Oh, and there was that time the children’s coach made me throw a temper tantrum when her expectations of the children’s softball ability exceeded their actual ability!! But that’s another story!!)

So in the spirit of my birthday, I’m making an effort to enjoy any attention lavished upon me, be grateful for another decade of memories and look forward to a new decade of being an attention-seeking extrovert seeking a new adventure.

This week from the Big Bang Theory’s Amy Farrah Fowler:  When your pre-frontal cortex fails to make you happy, promiscuity rewards you with the needed flood of Dopamine.

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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