Tag Archives: depression

Anxiety, Not Depression

 

“Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But unlike depression, with which it routinely occurs, anxiety is often seen as a less serious problem.”

On the heels of World Mental Healthy Day, The New York Times has followed up with an informative article about the disorder which doesn’t get as much “play time” in the headlines as its more infamous sibling, depression, but is deadly nonetheless.

Benoit Denizet-Lewis has published a well-researched article titled “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Anxiety?” and the answer, though never easy to pinpoint for any one specific person, is sometimes more obvious when looking at entire groups of people. As Mr. Denizet-Lewis writes:

“For many young people, particularly those raised in abusive families or who live in neighborhoods besieged by poverty or violence, anxiety is a rational reaction to unstable, dangerous circumstances.”

And for those who think that those raised in affluent families have it any easier, he adds this:

“Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University who has studied distress and resilience in both well-off and disadvantaged teenagers, has found that privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.”

Not surprisingly, one thing that ties all young people together – rich and poor – is the anxiety brought on by social media. As one college student put it, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities. Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”

It’s disconcerting to learn how so many men and women, boys and girls, suffer from anxiety to the point that they shut down. When I was living in Korea, a lot of the people I knew from other countries would dismiss the heightened state of anxiety there as “Koreanness,” what was euphemistically called a “bballi, bbaali (quickly, quickly)” culture. But it’s not unique to Korea, nor does it only affect teenagers fighting to get into university.

It would seem that many of us are having a tough go of it in modern society. However, according to the article, there are certain things we can do to alleviate the pressure. While these activities are sometimes easier said than done, they include mindfulness techniques, art and equine therapy, and exposure therapy (facing your fears).

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when stress/anxiety starts building in my life, the best thing I can do is unplug from social media and, even more importantly, sit down and read a book. That one single act, I think, is the cheapest, quickest and most effective way to mollify the Demons of Angst and Anxiousness.

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The Letters of Sylvia Plath

 

And still she speaks to us.

Her editors in New York knew exactly what they were doing with this book design. Just as the Instagram campaign highlighted recently, what you see on the outside is rarely what’s happening on the inside. Look at this beautiful blonde woman, the cover beckons us. Striking debutante? Swimsuit model? New wife and mother who has already “recovered” to her perfect form?

Nope. That’s the face of someone who put her head in an oven while her kids were in their bedrooms and killed herself from carbon monoxide poisoning.

More than 50 years after her death, Parul Sehgal (@parul_sehgal) reviews what may the most intimate look at the famed poet and writer in “Sylvia Plath’s Letters Reveal a Writer Split in Two.”

The title of the tome (1,388 pages), edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, is The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 1: 1940-1956, so you can expect a second volume soon, I imagine.

While works like The Bell Jar are seen as semi-autobiographical, and her poetry now described as “confessional,” there’s no doubt that in these letters Plathophiles will see a side to a woman who has come to represent all that was wrong with mental health diagnosis in the past, especially when it came to depression.

In light of #WorldMentalHealthDay yesterday – and with Plath’s legacy still as strong as ever – hopefully these letters will illuminate parts to her past that have remained hidden up until now, shedding new light on awareness about mental health.

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Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

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I’ve been writing and commenting on some pretty shallow subjects these days, so I thought I’d up my game and post on a slightly heavier topic than HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT PANCAKES IN JUST 10 MINUTES!

Let me begin my commentary on Stephanie Bitler (@stephiieb) and her incredibly brave and touching piece on adoption, biracialism, and, ultimately, depression called “It’s levels to this shit” by saying Korean adoptees have got to own the rights to some of the most unbelievable adoption stories. I remember interviewing adoptees for Faces of Korea all those years ago and scratching my head after each one and going, How does this kind of shitstorm happen? Ms. Bitler’s story is no different in this way.

Having recently been in a relationship with someone who suffers from depression, I’ve learned a lot about it, even if I can’t fully wrap my head around it from a firsthand perspective. Fortunately, much of (Western) society is slowly coming around and realizing that severe anxiety/depression is a “real” condition that requires the empathy of those who don’t suffer from its torturous side effects.

And it’s because of people like StephiieB and their courage to put their heart out on the table and expose their naked soul in the biting wind of harsh social critiques that others in her wake will have more strength to confront this subject both with themselves and with others.

By the way, if you like the title of my post, a line Ms. Bitler referred to as well, you can thank good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt, who apparently had something memorable to say every time he opened his piehole back in the day.

But I digress. I laud and applaud StephiieB for her soulful writing that was as down-to-earth as it was spiritually uplifting. With more discussions spurred by content like hers, we are sure to become a more open and tolerant society, especially when it comes to the subject of depression.

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Mental Health and the Success of Let’s Talk

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Just over one week ago, Bell Media continued with its multi-year initiative called Let’s Talk in support of mental health. In 2017, the campaign – which now stretches across the CTV network and the entire Bell network, as well as social media sites – raised more than $6.5 million. Now in its 8th year, the campaign has raised a total of $79,919,178.55 for mental health. As a result, “institutions and organizations large and small in every region received new funding for access, care and research.” The aim is to reach $100 million by 2020. Something tells me they’re going to crush that goal.

More importantly, just as the program name indicates, people are finally talking about the issue. The purpose of talking about mental health and depression in public and with the public is to reduce/remove the stigma attached to these subjects. Although Bell leaves much to be desired when it comes to telecommunications technical support(cough, cough), I have nothing but the utmost respect for what they started in 2010 with the Let’s Talk program, and to Clara Hughes for having the strength to be the national spokesperson. For that, if nothing else, Bell Media is to be lauded and applauded.

On a related note, I recently came across a site called Natalie’s Lovely Blog, which is run by a very brave and well-spoken 19-year-old named Natalie Breuer. She writes about a number of subjects, but it was the one entitled “On Depression” that caught my eye.

While I support the Let’s Talk initiative 100%, it’s important that we don’t address mental health for just one day out of the year and then forget about it until next January. For many people, it’s a crushing condition that spans every minute of every day – 365 days a year. If you want to help, reach out, donate or merely learn more, I can think of no better place to start than the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), an institute with a mandate and access to resources like no other I know of in Canada.

As Barbara Kingsolver, the acclaimed author of The Poisonwood Bible, wrote in The Bean Trees:

“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”  

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