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Good morning everyone,
My name is John and I wanted to introduce myself and tell my story. At the beginning of December our dog was having some health issues (he’s a 11.5 year old Boxer) and it was causing a lot of concern and worries for my wife and I. We don’t have any kids so our dog is a huge part of our everyday life and the thought of losing him caused me to break down and share a lot of thoughts and feelings with my wife. I realized that I had never truly grieved anyone or anything in my life and bottled up my emotions and take on the role of the “rock” for everyone else.
I realized I could no longer assume this role and when I shared these feelings with my wife she comforted me and said she was waiting for me to finally break down and feel these things. This was all on a Sunday evening and she asked if I thought I should talk to someone (meaning a councillor or therapist) and I said I didn’t know as I thought that maybe sharing these things with her might be enough to get me through this.
That week at work I had some anxiety during the work day and had moments when I felt like I was going to break down and cry. By Wednesday it grew to a point where I felt I couldn’t be at work. So I emailed my boss and explained that we were having some issues with our dog and that it had compromised my emotional stability and that I felt I should work from home to avoid becoming a distraction at work. I also asked for the phone number for the counselling service that our work provides.
I went home and worked the rest of the morning and at lunch I called the counselling phone number and shared what I was going through. It was hard asking for help and I cried a bit during the phone call and after. They set up an appointment for a councillor to call me late that afternoon. It felt good to get the ball rolling on this so I worked the rest of the afternoon until the councillor called. I shared what I was going through and we agreed that I would benefit from some in person counselling. They set up an appointment for a local councillor to meet with me that weekend.
I emailed my boss and told him all this and that maybe I should work from home for the time being. My boss and the organization that I work for are very supportive in these things and he told me to take the steps to get better and not push myself.
I’m not the type of person that just sits back and waits for help. So I knew that the health care provider that we have at work has an extensive website dedicated to mental health issues ( in fact that’s where I learned of this place yesterday). I started to learn about anxiety and some of the things to do to manage it. I learned that meditation was a good way to calm the mind and started to do some guided meditations. This was the first time I had ever done this.
I have had anxiety here and there during my life but it’s never been a big enough issues that I couldn’t handle it on my own. I felt it was always a bit of social anxiety because it seemed to happen in public. I always used deep breathing to get through this and in my head I could say good energy in when I inhaled and bad energy out when I exhaled. I don’t know when I learned this but it was probably when I was a teenager.
When I met with my councillor on the weekend I was still holding back feelings as tears and he told me that I didn’t have to do that with him. Before the meeting I decided to be prepared and made a few pages of notes, what I thought was the issues, what I was doing and planning on doing in order to get better, and lastly all the good things in my life (or at least a portion of them). I talked a lot about the people and things that I have lost in my life and how I didn’t feel like I had let myself feel this loss or share my grief. I learned that I felt that by sharing my feelings or grief that I would be hurting the people I love. I know it’s the wrong way of thinking and that no one that cares about me would feel this way.
The first meeting was a lot of just background and we didn’t spend a lot of time on my anxiety. Our work only covers 6 counselling sessions so he wanted to space the next session out a bit and I wasn’t scheduled to meet with him for almost two weeks.
I had tried to make an appointment to see my doctor but her office was closed so I couldn’t get an appointment until the next week. I wanted to see her because I knew she might have other tools for me to use.
I started to share the things that I was going through with my friends and decided that I wanted to share my grief with my little sister as she would have gone through the same losses. I invited her over and I fully shared all these feelings and talked about the anxiety that I was suffering from. She cried and comforted me and shared some things that I didn’t know about. She too had dealt with some anxiety and depression. She told me that things do get better and she told me about being mindful and gave me a couple of examples of when she practices it (when she’s eating or in the shower).
I don’t feel any shame or embarrassment with having these issues or needing help. I am comfortable sharing these things with anyone really. My best friend is also my neighbour and he’s retired from a career in the military. He has gone through these things and understood what I was going through. He gave me a work book on anxiety and cognitive behavioural therapy. I started to read and learn right away.
I knew it was important to maintain my physical health so I made sure to exercise at least 30 minutes every day, eat a healthier diet, take my vitamins, go to bed at the same time every day, and not consume alcohol. I’ve always been a very healthy person so those things are quite easy for me. In fact I was actually cutting back my exercising because I felt a bit weaker and thought that maybe I should allocate some of that time for working in my anxiety work book and practicing meditation and mindfulness.
Working through my work book I was learning a lot about the different kinds of anxiety, stress, fear, and everything else. I began to learn that my anxiety was more consistent with general anxiety rather than social anxiety. I’m a worrier and that can sometimes consume me, which is more in line with general anxiety. I didn’t have much consistent with social anxiety, I don’t fear being judged by others, and I’m an outgoing person.
The next week of work (my last week of work before an extended holiday vacation) I worked from home and got everything done that I had planned before the break. I thought it was important that if I was feeling better that I would go into the office. I went in one day at the end of the work day to do some things that I couldn’t do at home and I didn’t have any anxiety while I was there. At the end of the week I went into the office for the afternoon and again everything went well. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this and not suffer from anxiety or break down.
I find the mornings to be the worst. Early on I got the advice that I should not stay in bed and allow my worries and sadness to take hold. Which was very good advice indeed. If I woke up early I would put my head phones on and do a guided meditation, depending on how early it was I would find a meditation that matched how long I had left before I should be getting out of bed. I found that I could do these meditations and stop the onset of the worries and sadness.
I was having a hard time eating, especially in the morning and I really have to force myself to eat at times. I realized that my desire to eat was gone. I never have a craving for any type of food, which makes it difficult to eat. But at least I was able to sleep at this point and a full 8 hours of rest. I wouldn’t allow myself to nap during the day as I was afraid it might affect my ability to fall asleep later. I was also taking a melatonin supplement to help and from time to time an over the counter sleep aid.
When I had my appointment with my doctor I had written down all my physical symptoms, what I thought the issues were, and what I was doing to get better. My doctor really wasn’t interested in hearing any of that. She just wanted my “story” about why I made the appointment and she focused on the trigger. Which in her opinion was our dogs health. She felt that if we were able to figure that out that I would get better and lose my anxiety. I knew this was false hope as I have more issues than just that.
After the doctors appointment we decided to have our dog fully tested and it turned out the he was perfectly fine. He was acting normal again and the weight loss that we noticed was only 2 pounds and he was actually at his lifetime average. So that was good news and I was able to stop the constant worry for him and feeling like everything we did with him would be the last time.
I continued to work and learn. Practicing mindfulness and meditation. When I was on the rower exercising I would turn the TV to the fireplace channel and use the first 5 minutes to practice mindfulness visually. I find that when I narrate what I see I am able to be more present and stop my mind from wandering. The next 5 minutes I would close my eyes and focus on what I smelled, heard, and physically felt. After that I would just finish my rowing. After every workout I will do a guided meditation to bring my heart rate down and ease any tension I might be feeling in my body.
I would try to do a full chapter in my anxiety work book every day and do the exercises that they had laid out. I was really starting to feel like I could overcome my anxiety and get my feelings under control.
Then I had my second counselling session and this time I told him that I learned my anxiety was actually more consistent with general anxiety and not social. I started to tell him about the difficult relationship that I have with my parents. That alone pretty much took up the hour that I had with him. We never got to any coping mechanisms or how to change my thinking. But I was having a good day (the session was late in the day when I feel my best) and I didn’t want to feel like it was unproductive.
The next day I felt a little worse and time was getting closer to when I would have to see my parents for my sisters birthday on the 21st. I was still doing the things that I was supposed to do but they seemed to be a bit harder now. My mind would race more in the mornings and the meditation was harder to visualize and be present. My sisters both knew that I was going through some things but my parents I have kept in the dark. It was very hard being at my sisters birthday party and I was constantly trying not to break down and cry.
I managed to get through the evening and on the drive back home me and my wife talked a lot. She had mentioned that I seem to have lost my “spark”. I could not feel happy or joy. Things that I enjoyed doing no longer interested me, nothing interested me. All of this is very new and strange to me. Christmas is the one time of year I look forward to the most. It’s not a time I feel stressful and I always have a great holiday. I was unable to feel any of those positive things.
Things got progressively bad until on Christmas Eve I woke up early and for whatever reason didn’t want to get up and do my meditation. It was very early and I didn’t want to wake my wife and cause her to worry. Instead I struggled to fall back asleep and my sadness and worries took hold. I began to have troubling thoughts of suicide and had convinced myself that I needed to go to the hospital to talk to someone and maybe even be admitted until I stabilized.
At 6:30 am I finally woke my wife and told her all about what I was going through. I started to cry, uncontrollably shiver, and coughing so hard I threw up. I kept saying that I thought that I needed to see someone today, whether that be at the walk in clinic or hospital. I really felt helpless and didn’t know what to do. My wife messaged one of our friends who is a social worker to discuss what I was going through and see our options. She gave us a couple of numbers to call, the mobile mental health crisis unit at the hospital and a mental health hot line.
I tried calling the mobile mental health crisis unit at the hospital but they weren’t open until 8am. So I called the hotline and talked to a nice guy for about 40 minutes. I told him what I was going through and what I was doing to get better. He told me that I was doing everything right but that if I felt I needed to see someone I should go to the hospital. At the time I didn’t feel any better and was still very much in crisis.
I called the mobile health crisis unit and finally got a mental health nurse. She wasn’t all that helpful as she said that she can’t do anything over the phone. She asked where I got the number and said that they didn’t take phone calls like mine very often. She said that I should go to the hospital and be assessed. After hanging up I told my wife that I thought I should go to the hospital. At this point it was just after 8:30 am and I knew if I went to the emergency room I would be spending my Christmas Eve and that my wife would want to be there with me. Also I knew I needed to eat something, so I told my wife that I would try to eat something.
I was able to get a bowl of cereal down and began to think that if I could eat that maybe I was feeling a little better. I think by talking to the guy on the help line and the mental health I was able to distract myself for long enough that the sadness and worries subsided enough to not be in a crisis. I told my wife that the hospital would always be there but that I wanted to try and get through it on our own. Take it one hour at a time. Part of me knew that I had a follow up appointment with my doctor on the 27th and that I only needed to hold out until then. I was able to get through the rest of the day, I did a guided meditation and exercised. Did some more work in my anxiety work book and made it to the end of the day.
I did however have a hard time falling asleep but when I did manage to fall asleep I slept until morning. This time when I woke up I immediately did a guided meditation and did not allow my sadness or worries set in. The day started out better and it was Christmas so thankfully I was able to have a good day. Even though I couldn’t feel happy or joy I knew I had to try. I still took the time to exercise and practice mindfulness.
I came to the realization that I must be suffering from depression and not just anxiety. I have a lot of the symptoms of depression and know that what I was currently doing won’t be enough. I needed help from my doctor in the form of some kind of medication. I needed to get through a couple more days until my appointment.
The last couple of days haven’t been terrible but my sleeping was starting to suffer and I was still struggling to eat. I had my appointment today with my doctor and she agreed that I am suffering from depression and that I needed more than what I was doing and counselling. She prescribed me some meds and I start them today. I don’t know exactly what to expect or feel but I’m hopeful that with the work that I am doing on my own, the counselling, and the guidance from my doctor that I can get better.
I mean how can I not beat this, I have a great life, I have so many great people that love and care about me, and so much to live for. I will get better, this is only temporary.
Early in the process when I was focusing on grieving the people and places that I lost I was allowing myself to “feel the feeling”. It’s hard expressing these things to the people I love because I know it pains them to see my suffering. But I also knew sharing these feelings is something that I must do. Even though the sadness and grief was great it didn’t feel like I couldn’t manage it.
It wasn’t until the 24th that I realized that the sadness felt like it could take over and it wasn’t directed at one thing (grief). That morning I attempted to do some internal feeling recognition. I was telling myself that they are only feelings and that they will pass. But I could not turn off my mind or the bad thoughts (suicidal thoughts) and the worrying started to take hold.
That was a time I attempted to accept my feelings but it lead to them consuming me. It was the wrong thing to do in that moment.
But I sometimes have upsetting dreams, about people and places that I have lost, or having difficulty in a relationship, I can wake up upset. I have found that I can calm myself by accepting I have these feelings and that it is only a dream. That can help be fall back asleep or get up without having a high level of sadness and depression.
I have to build this skill so that I can handle the bigger feelings of sadness and depression. I know coping mechanisms are something that people have to practice in order to make them more effective. Maybe if I continue using these skills I will be strong enough to accept the anxiety or depressive feelings and be able to step back and accept the feelings and take away some of their power.
Like I said I’m very knew to all this. I went from thinking I was emotionally unstable because of my dogs health issues and years of bottling up grief, then I thought I was having general anxiety issues of and on throughout the day, but around the 22nd I finally accepted that I was suffering from depression. That’s when I really started to focus my learning on this issue.
I’m not sure if the meds I am taking are having a placebo effect or what but my mood and feelings seem to be more consistent and positive. I am still doing the cognitive behavioural therapy that I have learned (meditation and mindfulness). The days seems to be getting better, but I am not allowing myself to let my guard down and slack on my work. I know the depression and anxiety are waiting just out of site to strike again and it is so easy to allow that to happen. Every day is a struggle but every day is a chance to get stronger.
It’s been about a week and I wanted to give another update. I have been doing really well and I’m able to feel more positive emotions and am able to enjoy activities that I used to love. I met with my doctor two days ago for a checkup on how I am doing. When she heard that I was doing well she tells me that I don’t need the anxiety/depression meds as they aren’t the reason I am doing better. I knew the meds take up to 4 weeks before they are effective and I was only at 6 days when I met the doctor. Plus the amount she prescribed was at a therapeutic level and not treatment level.
So I am no longer on those meds and I’m going to take it as a positive. I still take a medication to help me sleep but I requested a lower dose as it made me a bit groggy in the mornings.
I’m back to work on Monday and I’m feeling more positive about being in the office. I would like to share my struggles with anxiety and depression with my coworkers. In essence I want to invite them into my support group and also open the channels on mental health with them. I’m still doing my meditations and practicing mindfullness. Keeping a firm schedule on sleep, working out over 30 minutes per day, and not indulging in alcohol. I still worry that I’ll slip back into depression and being a prisoner to my anxiety.
Figured I should give another update on how I am doing. I've been feeling really good and almost "normal". I have been able to sleep well with the help of my prescribed sleeping med. Eating hasn't been a chore and I've found my desire for food has come back. I'm able to feel more positive emotions and enjoy activities that I did prior to all this.
I had a follow up appointment with my doctor about 6 days after starting my medication. When I told her how I was doing she told me that I no longer need to take the depression/anxiety meds as they are not the reason I am doing well. She explained that those meds take about a month before they become effective and I started to feel better the day after. Plus the amount she prescribed was only at a therapeutic level and not a treatment level.
She thinks that sleeping played a huge role in my depression and once I got that under control I would start to feel better. I knew prior to all this that sleeping affects me hugely. If I don't get 8 hours of sleep I don't "function" well. Thankfully I have always been a good sleeper and only when I am stressing about the next day do I ever have issues sleeping (in those cases I usually take an over the counter sleeping aid).
I've been off the depression/anxiety meds for a couple of days now and I'm still feeling pretty good. I go back to work on Jan. 7 and I can feel a bit of anxiety about what to expect. I know that I must continue on with my meditation, mindfulness, and learning. I need to build these skills so I can handle any anxiety that I might face.
I've been talking to my boss throughout this and kept him up to date on my progress. I explained that I will be back in the office and that I might from time to time need to put my headphones on and tune out the world or do a seated guided meditation. I told him that I might have my eyes closed during this time and that if they need me the best thing to do would be email me or send a message through our messenger program.
I'm thinking about sharing my issues with my coworkers. I know they have wondered why I was out of the office for so long and are concerned about me. My anxiety and depression is not a secret or something I am ashamed or embarrassed about. I want them to know so they can understand the challenges that I am going through and informally invite them into my support group. Plus I know the more people talk about this stuff the more comfortable they are with it. If a coworker ever goes through this I want them to know I am there for support and knowledge.
I am scared that my anxiety (worrying) and depression (sadness) will come back and take over my life again. But I just have to take it day by day and build up my strength with this. I also have to work with my councillor to find ways that I can grieve in a health manner. I know my dog won't be around forever and his health was the trigger for all this beginning in the first place. Maybe if I have the tools to deal with this grief I can avoid a slip back into depression.
I can totally relate to what you are going through. I lost my grandmother almost 2 years ago and we were very close. I lost my grandfather about 20 years ago and I was close to him as well. When he passed I took on a role of “the rock” for everyone else and did not take the time to grieve or share my grief.
Just before my grandmother died our family sold the cottage that we gathered at for all our lives. It was where I spent summers as a child and I spent a lot of time there as an adult with my grandmother. When it was sold I felt that I was losing my childhood and then my grandmother died about a month later. I lost her and the place I felt most connected to her.
I let all this grief build up and not deal with any of it. Then right before this past holiday my elderly dog started to have health issues. The thought of that and the reaction my wife was having to it really made me emotionally unstable. That was when I finally admitted that I haven’t greived these things in a healthy way and it caused my anxiety issues to overwhelm me. I soon when into a depressive place I have never been to.
I put the work in with cognitive behavioural therapy and doing all the right things. I kept a healthy sleeping habit, I did meditations, I practiced being mindful, I saw a councillor, and I shared my grief with my wife and sister. I haven’t ever cried so much in my life. But when things started to stabilize I was able to start enjoying life again. I believe if you put the work in and do the right things you too could feel better. You need to find your new “normal” and learn the things that work for you.
I wish you all the luck in your journey.
I get anxiety in the morning because my worrying starts to take over my thinking. I struggle in changing my thoughts to a more positive subject. I have found the best way to fight this is to get up and do a guided meditation. It takes my mind away from my worries and I’m able to reset my thinking. It can be hard though as I am constantly trying to get back to sleep and get the rest that I need.
Also I know that my wife worries when I get up early and do a meditation. She knows that my morning isn’t starting well. One of my biggest worries is how my mental health affects my wife.