Depression, anxiety and self image… why do we do it to ourselves? ~ Gelände Straßetastic


A dear Virtual friend writes from his heart about a topic not many talk about.  I congratulate George for taking the time and having the courage to share his own personal story and journey.

Please visit George’s blog by clicking the below link….👍

Depression, anxiety and self image… why do we do it to ourselves? ~ Gelände Straßetastic.

I’ll get straight to the point—I’ve been going through a rough patch. In brief, my last remaining grandparent, my maternal grandmother, is quickly reaching the end of her life. Combined with a very busy and stressful time at work at the moment, this has caused me to re-evaluate my own life—doing so has caused depression and anxiety (D&A) to bubble up after so many successfully years of keeping it under the surface. This has caused some apathy and a loss of focus on the things I normally love doing, such as motorbiking and keeping my blog regularly updated.

Many (and I will boldly say the majority of) people suffer D&A to varying degrees. I believe genetics play a part in being prone to D&A, as I can trace it up my family tree on my mum’s side. Because D&A is an ‘invisible’ illness, there is a stigma associated, and I feel the need to share what it’s like, from my perspective, to live with this, in the hopes that it will be of value to someone else. Doing so makes me feel exposed and somewhat vulnerable, but the stigma needs to be broken one person at a time.

In my own words:

  • Depression: When you don’t care about anything.
  • Anxiety: When you care too much about everything.

Like many people, for me these come as an ironic, vicious circle of a package. D&A leaves me conflicted—getting into a rut means I start worrying that I don’t care about anything, escalating into my mind running a million miles an hour. This triggers the fight-or-flight response meaning frequent adrenaline highs (butterflies in the stomach) and preventing wind-down at night which means really shitty sleeps—compounding everything.

My D&A causes me body/self image issues. Those who know me casually or professionally would likely say I am a confident, self-assured person holding my head up high, but in reality I have simply mastered the ability to project this image, or mask, or ‘gloss’. It’s what people expect—they don’t want to know what’s going on under the surface… and rightfully so, they have their own things to deal with.

In my own words:

  • Self image: When you can’t see yourself the way other people see you.
  • Narcissism: Seeking approval from others for your appearance, then hating yourself for doing it, then doing it again, over and over.

I fight with my self image every day. At its best it might be wishing I didn’t have dark circles around my eyes—at worst it’s coming to a realisation that other people love me more than I love myself. At the same time I recognise how stupid and illogical it is to suffer from this ridiculous condition.

Like a lot of people, I post far too many selfies of myself (aka gpoys, headshots etc). There is something oddly comforting about having people on Facebook or Instagram say nice things said about you and it gives a ‘quick fix’ to self image problems. However, it’s like opening Pandora’s box—do it once, and you want to relive the ‘high’ of the experience, so you do it again. My D&A then causes me to worry: “What if the next time no one likes the photo?”

Selfies allow so much control through lighting and angles that they are really an idealised image of one’s self. They give you the ability to present what, in your mind, is the perfect image of yourself—but they are not how other people see you. In essence, they are frauds—everyone knows this. So they don’t actually help improve self image issues in the long run.

Seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes, however, does help.

The photos at the end of this post were taken by one of my closest friends Andy, who has little photographic experience. I knew he was taking them but not *when* he was going to start snapping away, so there is an element of candidness—they are not posed. As a photographer, I know when people pose, they are attempting to form themselves into what they believe is their best look—facial expression, posture, angle etc—but this is almost never the case.

These are rare photos I can look at and not pick myself apart so much—I feel like I look a confident and sorted person for once, and I feel good about myself. I believe changing my appearance by growing out my beard to the ‘big’ stage has played a part as well. The picking is still there a little bit, bubbling away just below the surface—my shirt is one or two sizes larger than it should be, my beanie is turned up on one edge, I have sweat marks where my camera bag’s padded strap was pressing my shirt onto my skin (we’d just briskly walked more than 10 miles). Nevertheless, this is a huge step forward for me.

I completely understand that self/body image issues are ‘only in my mind’—yet I can’t stop it. Others may look at the photos and think ‘how could this person have body image issues’, or ‘he looks intimidating, I wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley’, or ‘he looks cuddly’, or ‘what a bruiser’—everyone applies their own preferences, tastes and biases to photos.

But for once, I’m ok with my appearance… ok that my Nordic/Viking genes have made me a barrel-chested, stocky-built person… ok that my Mediterranean genes have given me dark circles around my eyes… ok with the person I’ve become after 40 long years on this earth. And that makes today a good day.

One step at a time. For the minute I’ve moved forward with my self image—next is to move a step forward with my D&A. When my grandmother’s time comes, the funeral will help provide closure to that particular source of D&A. Spring is coming which means trips out to the byways on my bikes—one of my favourite ways of distancing myself from my troubles. Motorbiking requires 100% concentration—no time to dwell on other things.

I think the most effective way to deal with D&A is to believe that you will come through it. This
empowers you to make the changes required to choose to be a happier person. For some people that means changing a job or school, moving to a different city, removing the negativity from their lives. For others it is distracting themselves with activities they enjoy and not allowing themselves to get bored to the point that the D&A resurfaces. Everyone is different and there is no single answer.

Once things get better again—and they will get better—I will be in a good place to make regular blog entries again. Right now I’m taking some much-needed ‘me’ time. Until then, I continue to appreciate all the people who have read and commented on my past entries and hope to welcome you back soon. As always I will be monitoring and replying to comments, and I would be particularly grateful for your thoughts on this entry.

As a final note, thank you to Leslie from Advgrrl for encouraging me to publicly post this entry in the hopes that others may find benefit in reading it.

George
x

11 Comments

  1. depietroplace says:

    You know you are not alone. I identify with life, your life and all people. We are in one way or another a like. We are human. The difference is, some of us “get it” and grow and move on. We are not afraid of what is happening but we strive to be honest with ourselves. This is what helps us to accept ourselves and be available to others, giving strength and support freely. We are all trying to connect on one way or another, that’s what we do as humans. Thank you for sharing. Peace to you.

    • I have my go-to friend who suffers a similar type of depression as me and this has been key in helping me through the rougher patches (and for him as well). What is slightly concerning to me is that it has taken just one (albeit deeply) troubling incident to trigger what has been well managed for years.

      The difference is this time I’m not letting it silently gnaw away at me while getting high as a kite on prescription medications (like what happened to me in the mid-90s) – this time I’m talking out about it as a way to sort through my thoughts and get them off my chest. As you mention, being honest with ourselves is key.

      Thanks for your thoughts – I’m not sure why your response has been voted down, however?

      • depietroplace says:

        It’s OK…. We all have our opinions and our ways to deal. For some of us that’s what got us caught up in addiction in the first place and this compounds our issues which makes depression and anxiety even harder to deal with. That’s why we are addicted in the first place along with maybe a genetic or predisposition to addiction. Rigorous honesty is the only way. I commend you for your strength to become open and honest. 🙂

  2. sabot03196 says:

    This may sound like a flip answer, believe me it is not. I suffer from PTSD, I say this only to clarify where I’m coming from.

    So there’s two things that help immediately. First off try to get regular sleep. My demons are at their worst when I’m running on a poor sleep schedule. It makes it hard to keep the bad thoughts at bay but if you recognize the signs, you can grab a nap and rest up.

    Secondly, eat properly at regular times. Your body is a machine and it needs fuel.

    Both these things really help.

    Now the philosophy bit and be warned, some people see this bit as somewhat brutal.

    Life falls into two distinct piles: Shit that is your problem and shit that is not your problem. The real trick is to keep a minimal pile one and a very high pile two. This is not advocating a “Me” centric view of the world, it’s just a filtering tool. You may well decide to make something your problem but before you do, this allows you to have a quick think about it and to analyze if it is something that will be of benefit to you to assume in the long or short run for that matter or if it even impacts you at all.

    What others think of us is immaterial, what we think of our selves is the important thing and not everybody is going to like us for who we are or how we look and that stuff should be firmly relegated to pile two.

    • One thing I can say is my eating schedule is like clockwork – even people at work know better than to try to schedule in meetings at 10am and 1pm and this is non-negotiable 🙂

      Sleep is another matter. Despite my good intentions of getting to bed at a decent time, I often can’t slow down my thoughts so lay awake for hours, or wake up multiple times throughout the night. I can’t remember the last time I had a solid sleep in a single block. Since this recent relapse I have also had a number of vivid dreams which result in me waking up soaked in sweat and not able to fall asleep again for a long time.

      I understand what you’re saying about what others think vs what we think of ourselves, but there needs to be a balance – without others, our ideas, thoughts and self disappear… our species would die out quickly without our ability to share ideas and ourselves with others (both in a physical and figurative sense). But key is learning to accept ourselves, as without this ability we are unable to accept others.

  3. depietroplace says:

    LIKE!

    • sabot03196 says:

      I agree, no man is an island but everybody does have their own agenda and its good to keep that in mind when dealing with members of the mob. Too much negativity directed at people who like to tear things down, doesn’t feel great either and yes, it needs to be a balance. I take St John’s Wort for when my mind runneth over, it helps.

      I once had a guy single out one of my films (the writing especially) to excoriate publicly. The week after his rather public drubbing, I was nominated for an industry award for excellence in Dramatic writing. Guess which one held more stock for me. It turns out after a bit of digging the initial attacker was a failed NYU Film Grad.

      Funny thing was I had to fly to Chicago a week later on business, and part of me wanted to look this guy up and exact a physical response on his person for his chickenshit attack but I knew deep down it would be hard to hide the body successfully (grin).

  4. Wonko the Sane says:

    Here’s a very interesting TED Talk™: http://www.ted.com/talks/rob_knight_how_our_microbes_make_us_who_we_are

    Be sure to watch to the end.

    • Thank you for this – it drives home the fact we aren’t on our own and must live symbiotically with all other organisms right down to the bacteria in our bodies. A lot of people could do well to take that to heart 🙂

  5. Ry Austin says:

    George,

    My heart aches for you.

    Until just over 5 years ago, I had often balanced on that fence that separates health from depression–balanced not by MY choice, of course. Then, in late 2009, I was struck by what I’ve since labeled “the mindquake”, triggered by (among many other things) years upon years of severe irrational emotional abuse by my employer, and two back to back sudden deaths in my family and the terrible secrets that surfaced thereafter.

    The next 18 to 24 months proved to be the most terrifying, soul-wrenching experience of my life so far (I’m bearing down on 40, whether I like it or not). That destructive time has, somewhat unintentionally, become a significant reference point to me, a sort of year zero against which I now measure most events and occurrences. Yes, it was that significant–ominously so.

    For what it’s worth–though I know that it’s not worth much, because it won’t remove the torment, won’t “fix” you–but for what it’s worth, people make it through…

    I did.

  6. advgrrl says:

    What honest replies. George you have touch so many by allowing me to put your words on my blog. I have received many messages and the ones here are all positive and have thanked you. So, on my own behalf and the many who have read your story…Thank YOU!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: