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Living with Depression & Anxiety – Finding Meaning?

When you live with depression and anxiety it can be easy to think religion is just another crutch.

For all intents and purposes ‘religion’ has one of the most tarnished of all multinational brands.  With obvious exceptions among the environmentally challenged such as Exxon and BP, ‘religion’ is responsible for some of the world’s most infamous armed conflict, genocide and human abuse.

It’s true that you don’t have to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety or other emotional health issue to feel at times, that life sucks.  After all, we all make bad decisions.  But what is it that has people turning to religion, with it’s questionable reputation, when bad stuff happens?

In my description of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) I raised the possibility that PTSD is triggered by the physiological changes that occur when our self-awareness meets a traumatic experience.  As I began to contemplate this further I wondered how our self-awareness impacts other areas of our lives and how we perceive ourselves within our family, community and wider society.

In that, I wondered about the role religion played in helping people find meaning.  Or perhaps, it’s how I find meaning?

In order to put some perspective around this I probably need to tell you that I identify with Christianity and routinely attend church.  However, in this context I’m lumping all expressions of spirituality and faith together including Christianity.  So if you’re a “Worm Worshiping New Age Old Fashioned Church of Bitumen” member that’s okay,  I’m including your faith too.

In my westernised experience, our desire for independence and self-sufficiency seems to supersede our desire for familial relationship.  We seem to be shaking off our ancestral linage in the belief that we are held back by our genetics.   So I wondered if, our misguided acceptance that we can be anything we want  (if we just put our mind to it) could be responsible for the growing tendency toward narcissism and as a consequence, debilitating dissatisfaction.

It seems our inability to fulfil our self-belief of ‘being anything’, can only be assuaged by replacing it with something else.  Not the material ‘something else’ that’s often used unwittingly as a placebo, but an inner peace and self-fulfilment.  If you like, contentment.

If you’ve never been told, or told someone else, to “be yourself”, it’s just possible you’ve been living under a rock!   It seems to me that our desire is to be accepted for who we are, however it appears that we believe we can be something we are, errr…, umm…, not!

Did you get that?

You can be anything you want, or desire, or need.  However, you should only be who you are.   Hmmm?!!

I’m not sure if it’s because I live with depression and anxiety that I tend toward skepticism or because I have the ‘skeptical’ gene.  (If you think I’m a skeptic, you should meet my family!!)  Or, if it’s something I may have learned through experience (again, you should meet my family!!)

Regardless, I’m skeptical that we (humanity) understand ourselves, let alone the scientific and philosophical concepts behind our existence.  And, I’m skeptical because we (humanity) have a tendency to self-interest and as a consequence, fact and fiction have a tendency to morph into ‘faction’ making the truth in matters of existence difficult to discern.

So I go to church not because of it’s reputable brand image but because my value is less likely to be measured by my physical, financial or intellectual ability.  (If you attend a church where you are valued for those things – GET OUT NOW!)

(Also, if you attend a church where your sexuality, race, culture, piercings, hairstyle, career, parentage, tattoos or any other lifestyle choice are not respected – GET OUT NOW.)

To put it simply I didn’t turn to ‘religion’ or to the ‘church’ when my life rolled off a cliff.  I turned toward the best explanation for why I exist and how, in the face of overwhelming adversity, I would find the strength to avoid suicide.

For me, the Christian Church although flawed, is the best expression of God that I could find.  And through it, I can begin to understand being accepted for who I am rather than, for who I’m trying to be.

I simply don’t have enough faith to believe that I exist because I errr…  do.  And I go to church because I’m committed to (one day) being myself, whoever that is!

Today from Tony Robbins: It is not what we get. But who we become, what we contribute… that gives meaning to our lives.

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.

(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay.  If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)

Living with depression & anxiety – How does your garden grow?

When I recently asked my husband if he loves me, I expected him to provide the usual answer.  But this time he upset me with something different.

In my black and white, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder world, routine and control are my safety structures.  For me, living life is like participating in a liturgical church service.  I ask questions that I already know the answer to, and await the affirmation that keeps my life in order.

Mr. Amazing knows how to play this game.  After all, he’s been doing it for years.  He knows that I often require affirmation to keep me operating ‘safely’.  That my need to always maintain my emotional equilibrium is the first rule of any engagement and after that, it’s simply a matter of following procedure.

But this time Amazing broke the rules and bowled a bouncer at me.  (A cricket term for a ball that bounces right in front of you causing you to protect yourself with a bat.)  There was no excuse for his rebelliousness.   He simply decided that he no longer wanted to play by the rules of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and took a stand.

By now you’re probably thinking that I live in a naïve and sterile world made up of my own rules.  That I’m dominant and controlling.  That I’m selfish and calculating.  But, nothing could be further from the truth!  Let me explain why.

Possibly the saddest thing about trauma for a child is that they cannot easily develop into the adult they were designed to be.  Their natural, emotional growth is espaliered into fractured branches, each neatly groomed to ensure survival.

Those branches display a tightly controlled expression of manipulation.  Each one wrapped tightly to a brace for support.  Underpinning the suppleness of childhood with unbending truths.

Truths of vulnerability; value; and security.

We construct a method of coping that protects us from the uncertainty created when our self-awakening meets our experience.   As a consequence we believe that the fractured, carefully tended self, because of its experience, is the real us. When the natural us begins to emerge as it always will, the self-doubt and confusion require expression.  That expression must find an ‘emotional’ outlet.

Add to this the physiological effects of trauma such as the intense release of adrenalin and noradrenalin at the moment of trauma that cannot be reset.  The stimulation of neural pathways and receptors that can no longer be satisfied with ’normal’ activity levels.  The memories, visual images, the smell, the feel, the sounds and the taste of fear on your tongue that both together and independently can make the trauma inescapable.  (Being able to taste fear is a reality.)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t limited to child victims of crime.  Anyone whose self-perception meets a traumatic reality, with which it cannot reconcile, will experience PTSD.  The symptoms of which can include depression, anxiety, unmanageable anger, confusion, insomnia, excessive sleeping, weight gain or loss and illicit drug or alcohol addiction just to name a few.

Amazing has learned to live contentedly with my insecurities and quirks.  He knows, like any spouse would, that I rely on him for emotional support and that it can be more often than a ‘normal’ person might require.  He also knows that there are times when I can confidently emerge and tackle my demons with unwavering certainty.

And it’s because of this that every now and then he’ll throw a bouncer at me to measure where I am on the scale of neediness.  Knowing he may need to pick up some pieces, he tells me he’s not sure if he still loves me.  Then, he smiles, winks and tells me he loves me beyond measure.

So I punched him!  (On the arm of course – girl style!)

This week from Oscar Hammerstein II  –  Do you love me because I’m beautiful, or am I beautiful because you love me?

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.

(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay.  If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)