Last month I talked about my mission to fight anxiety, depression, and PTSD with love (family), philosophy (Freemasonry), and intense physical activities (Muay Thai). This is an update.
I am no longer depressed for the most part but dealing with anxiety and PTSD still at times feels like an overwhelming struggle for me. Although I am a lot stronger now physically and mentally, certain fears, if I'm not careful, still manage to find their way to the surface and stop me dead in my tracks. My purpose for writing this is two-fold: (1) for my own sake- I write so I can watch my thoughts without judgment and to record and keep track of my progress; (2) and to share a life experience and some tips so that others may learn from it.
A quick recap for those new here. If you know my story, you may skip to the next paragraph: I am a 35 year old father of four. I lived a troubled childhood, spent my college years self-medicating with meth and hanging out with bad company. I made a lot of poor choices- I smoked, I was overweight from eating all the wrong stuff, and I never exercised. A few years ago following a series of deaths within my immediate family, I was diagnosed with social anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The meds worked at first until I experienced too many adverse reactions. Since then, I made it my mission to fight and defeat my mental illness by harnessing the power of the body and the mind instead of relying too much on prescriptions and the opinion of others. My game plan revolves on 3 things- Family (Love), Freemasonry (Philosophy), Muay Thai (intense physical activities).
Stop you dead you say? How debilitating is Anxiety and PTSD?
To paint a picture, let me share with you my personal experience. I have lost too many important once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in the past because I was so mentally paralyzed and confused with anxiety that I would actively avoid most interactions for fear that I might just end up humiliating myself in some way and everything will end up in an spectacular display of failure. I watched too many favorable circumstances come by and slip away because I let myself get overwhelmed by things that I perhaps should not even worry about.
The extent of my social anxiety and the effects of PTSD goes beyond actual inter-personal interactions, at times it also takes over my life online. I know it's shocking considering that I conduct my business on the Internet. Last New Year I suffered a severe panic attack and was sent to the emergency in an ambulance due to heart attack symptoms. It was triggered when I went to my rarely-accessed personal Facebook profile. It doesn't end there, I have representatives from some of the more popular Masonic Grand Lodges from all over the world eager to have me design their neckties but later on give up on me because of the amount of time it would take me to get back to them. Oftentimes I would find myself completely overwhelmed with my personal responsibilities as a family man, and when I get overwhelmed, I tend to push my business responsibilities out of the way while I attempt to iron things out. I would hope for less stress but the inconvenient truth is that I will definitely have more stress in the future if I continue to push business aside- how am I going to pay my bills if I'm not making money? I had to figure out a way to balance things out fast.
Problems like what I have continue to plague those suffering from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I am quite lucky to have kids who never cease to put a smile on my face, and an online audience who would listen to my stories. A lot of those who don't have the same privileges that I have suffer in total silence and may have given up hope for a better tomorrow. If you're one of those suffering souls, please read on.
Interesting problem you have. How do you plan to defeat it?
I am certainly not an expert and I can only speak from my own meandering experience. Talking to your doctor about it would be a good first step. My doctor is fully aware of my decision to go with the natural route as opposed to taking pills. With that said, here are 3 simple things that seem to work for me and help me with my quest to defeat mental illness the most natural way possible.
Be compassionate. Give plenty of love and show plenty of care.
There are two important things to remember when dealing with anxiety and PTSD. First, coping happens inside you. Second, positive thinking is one of the best tools you could ever have. By being gentle, loving, and compassionate with those around you, your heart will be filled with joy and all the positive energies that can only be derived from simply being nice to others will be yours. If coping with anxiety happens on the inside, and your inside (aka your heart and being) is armed with the positive thoughts and experiences that you get from meaningful interactions with those around you, negative thinking will have a tougher chance of creeping in. Be nice to others and others will be nice to you and you will feel better about yourself and the world.
Philosophy is defined as the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc. The word "philosophy" comes from two Greek words, meaning "love of wisdom". No matter who you are no matter what status you have achieved, life will throw a curve ball at you and it will catch you off guard. You're lucky if you can get guidance from someone close to your heart like perhaps your parents who might have experienced something similar in their lifetime.
But what if, like in my case, your parents are no longer around? Knowing a little bit of Philosophy will help illuminate your path in case you get lost along your way and you have no one but yourself to help you figure out the right path. One beautiful thing about Philosophy is you don't really need to go to school to know about it. All you need is a sincere desire to improve yourself, a passion for learning, and Internet connection (or library access). Ancient Greek Philosophy is a good start. If that is not your cup of tea, listening to reputable motivational speakers such as Anthony Robbins or the late Dr. Wayne Dyer can be a good primer as well. If you can handle the commitment, joining reputable organizations such as Freemasonry and the likes will help open up your mind.
Get enough sleep (if you can), proper nourishment, and plenty of exercise.
As a creative guy and a father of four, getting enough sleep is as common as seeing a unicorn cross the street. If you can't have the benefit of a complete rest, do your very best to fill your stomach with the right portions of the right food- not too much, not too little. Remember, you are what you eat so select your food wisely. Eating well is good but it is not enough- you must supplement it with plenty of regular exercise. A good amount of physical activity will feed every cell in your body with oxygen so your body and mind can operate at their full potential. You get what you put in it.
In conclusion, a gentle heart, a strong body, and a sound mind can work wonders that is beyond your imagination. Find the time to nurture and develop these 3 aspects of your being. Doing so will make coping with the stresses of ups and downs of life come natural.