Anxiety, depression and self labeling
Whether it's in our own head or out loud, there is a connection between the language we use to describe ourselves and how we behave or think.
The connection is complicated and always being studied by people with a lot more education than myself, but I've always found personally and in dealing with others that when we start applying labels to ourselves, we start to live up to them whether they are true or not.
With depression or anxiety, there are obviously some of us who clearly are suffering from something more than just nerves or sadness, or are going through a period that has all the hallmarks of a deep depression.
Regardless, an effective tool can be to avoid even using the words depression or anxiety. This is not about trying to be tough or not seeking out help, but a method for breaking down these challenges into more bite sized pieces and minimizing their impact.
You eat an elephant one bite at a time
Think about some of the symptoms of depression- fatigue, laziness, apathy and often disturbances to sleeping and eating patterns. These are all problems to be sure, but like most problems, there's probably a solution. Anyone having all these things happen at the same time could rightly describe themselves as being depressed-and a doctor might agree.
But sometimes, the label of "depressed", right or wrong, can carry with it extra weight that just adds to the pressure. Same thing with "anxiety". These labels are at times necessary in a medical context, but we too often apply them to ourselves with little regard to the impact.
We get nervous about approaching someone we like, starting a new job or mingling at a party and start thinking of ourselves as having anxiety, when it's completely normal to have a spike in heart rate or to have racing thoughts of anticipation for such events.
There are all sorts of ways (such as meditation) to help with these things, but when we label ourselves as having anxiety, it starts to take on a life of it's own and the problem can become greater than the sum of it's parts. We start looking at ourselves as having something physically wrong with us, and that "normal" stuff like meditation or breathing exercises isn't enough- and that's when we start seeking out drugs.
You might have problems with feelings that could be described as depression or anxiety. But sometimes we're causing them by having a poor diet, not exercising, spending too much time inside or staring at a screen, not taking responsibility, etc. Instead of dealing with these things individually, it's easier to just slap a label of depression or anxiety being the cause and solving everything with a prescription or two. It's hard to know when we're being truthful with ourselves.
The biggest danger of labeling ourselves
Again, this is not about denying that depression or anxiety exist. I dealt with vicious forms of both for years, but a big part of breaking free was not thinking of myself anymore as someone who suffered from anxiety and depression. I tried to break down symptoms or things that bothered me into individual categories, working on solutions one by one.
It's easier to deal with an elevated heart rate than it is to deal with a term like "anxiety" or "social anxiety" that comes with all sorts of preconceptions and scary implications. If you're depressed, try not to think of yourself as such and just pick one of the many symptoms/problems and try to address it individually.
The biggest danger is that the longer we use these labels, the more we internalize them and the stronger they get. Do it for long enough, and they will define your life, influencing every decision you make without realizing it.
In the midst of a deep depression, it might seem pretty silly to just try to avoid using the word as a tactic, but give it a shot- it's certainly not going to make things any worse!
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