Monday, September 20, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XXIII)

Dr. Thomas Marra, Ph.D, states the following in his excellent book "Depressed and Anxious", "As if coping with feelings of depression or anxiety by themselves weren't enough, clinical research suggests that as many as 60% of depresson sufferers concurrantly experience some kind of anxiety disorder. If you are in this group, it is quite common to simulaneously experieince profound loss of energy and initiative going on with substancial stress and anxiety. Caught between the push and pull of these two conditions, you might find that neither is easy to recognize, much less to cope with."

I have stated that I believe mixed depression-anxety is a bio-psycho-social-spititual disorder. Considering the statement above, it follows that the social element can exascerbate (make worse) or ameliorate (improve) your depression-anxiety.

The social aspect of this disorder is profoundly affected by dysfunctional relationships. These commence as children with fallable parents (of which I am one) and continues in and through adolescence when relationships are at their most difficult, on to adulthood when we begin forming dysfunctional families of our own!

I am not one who blames my parents for what I've become, or feel that is productive. It may be "better" having someone to blame, but my heart just isn't in it. By the time I came to adulthood I had aquired a sufficient amount of education and experience to make my own choices about what kind of person I would turn out to be. I accomplished this through genetic predisposition, social learning, experience, and experimentation within my many relationships throughout my life.

NOTE: I do not devalue nor am I not mindful of those who have survived sexual and psychological abuse and neglect. But that isn't my experience and isn't my focus here. I salute those who are among these brave, wounded souls and have counseled many over the years. I have been enriched almost to a person through this counseling relationship.

No matter what one's experience, it is my opinion that we ALL need to eventually take responsibility for our own lives. Our social experience is one of the things that set the tone in our lives but we are responsible to change the "tune" as necessary. The above describes in a nutshell, a brief glimpse of the social aspect of our mixed depession-anxiety disorder and how it affects us. How we affect it is described below in my experience.

How can we work within the social framework to move toward healing of our disorder?
I think social habits are a big part of improvement in our disorder.

We need to learn to be vulnerable to a couple of people with whom we can discuss what we're going through. This is our primary support system. It may be comprised of one, two or five people. These people are good listeners and do not try to fix us. They listen and positvely encourage us in a functional direction. They are interested in frequent and regular contact by phone or in person. I have five on my support team. I talk to two every day, one about every other day, One of these I talk to one or two times a week, and one each month or so. This is a good balance for me. These five love and care for me. There is no underestimating the power of a solid support team.

We also need to involve ourselves in a faith-based and/or some other community group. This social involvement helps us to "get social". Many of us with mixed depression-anxiety isolate ourselves (like me). We stay away from groups and gatherings. My faith community and my involvement in a Rotary Club have helped bring progress in my gradually developing sociability.

We also need to move toward some kind of service, in tandem with others, to share ourselves and give something back to our communities and those within our personal sphere of influence. I am fortunate because my Rotary Club and Faith Community are primary vehicles for this.

My first step toward improving my social skills as a person with this disorder after 2-3 months away was to begin attending my faith community and leaving the meeting when my anxiety overwhelmed me.

I then, a month or so ago, returned to my Rotary Club. After 3-4 months away I was able to attend at least part of a meeting once or twice each month. Now I endeavor to attend each meeting every Thursday. Between these two social groups I am getting a little more comfortable in safe groups of people whom I know. I can leave if I need to but I usually force myself to "stick it out". Kind of like "desentization" training.

I mentioned Financial Peace University in my last blog. My wife and I began attending two weeks ago (of the 13 week program). This is giving me the experience of meeting with a small group of people whom I don't know and even participate (however little it may be) in a group discussion.

I do not know when my anxiety in groups, crowds, and other situatons will improve to a significant degree. I just know I an trying in small ways to become comfortable and improve this social aspect of my disorder, because I think it is so important.

Depression and anxiety, for many of us, has an "anti-social" or socially resistant affect. I have found value in concentrating on this vital area to gain support and begin to give support to others.

Someone said, "A friend is one who walks in when everyone else walks out." We all need people in our lives of whom this saying is true. In this light, I am grateful to my five regular supporters, those who I call or meet with periodically from whom I experience mutual support, my supportive faith community, and my Rotary Club who all affirm me, have patience with me, pray for me and send positive thoughts my way.

Fellow travelors, this social effort is very helpful. I commend this to anyone suffering with depression and/or anxiety. I am not sure we can heal without it.

Typos and all, God bless you.

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