Advice On What to Do When You're Suffering From Anxiety, Depression & Agoraphobia

When we hear or read the words "mental health," there seems to be a stigma attached to it, regardless if you are suffering or not. Anxiety, depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or even bipolar disorder, which used to be called, "manic depression"' back in the day are all common things people suffer with. We hear or read these words and then begin to think negative associations with it. Movies and TV shows may warp your definition of what mental illness can be like. Some are severe, while others are less severe--regardless, it is a struggle for many people. Back in the 70's and 80's---you rarely heard the word "anxiety" or "panic attack." The word "phobia" was commonly used, as well as "fear." If someone was agoraphobic, experiencing panic attacks on a daily basis back in the 70's and 80's where they can no longer function in life, it was known as having a "nervous breakdown." Seeing a psychiatrist was thought to be an extremely drastic move. In fact, it was looked down upon, especially in families who were fearful of getting help for their mental illness. "Don't let the neighbors find out..."  Some would actually live in silence with these conditions, sometimes taking their own lives unfortunately.

Here are some things that have helped me work through each symptom of mental illness. Just so you know, I suffer from anxiety disorder, bouts of depression and grief, as well as periods of agoraphobia.

Telehealth and Online Counseling 

This is a great avenue in treating people who suffer from anxiety and depression. For me personally, I started using telehealth counseling for talk therapy. I have a psychiatrist I see face-to-face on a monthly basis, but I need something during the days when my psychiatrist isn't available. Online therapy is pretty simple and very effective. You and your licensed counselor have an open chat session 24/7. Your messages from your therapist will be received via email or text message, and you can be totally anonymous if you want. This type of counseling cuts out most cancellations, waiting all week for the next appointment, as well as awkward face-to-face communication. Having said that, there is an option to video chat or telephone your counselor. You just set up a time and date that's available for the both of you and link up with him or her. It is extremely interactive. I first had my doubts about doing something like this, but once I was invested, I couldn't believe how much I opened up about my feelings when I was comfortable enough. You also have the ability to switch counselors without the awkward discussion of "why." If you're feeling agoraphobic, you can talk to your counselor one on one in the comforts of your own home. I can't think of a better option for those who suffer with agoraphobia. Keep in mind, your counselor will set goals for you, like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to conquer your agoraphobia---so they won't let you stay there. As you progress and get better, there is a progress bar on the left of your chat session. It goes from 0%--100%. The best part is, the monthly cost is less than one therapy appointment, but the only difference is, you have access to a counselor 24/7 + video or phone chats. Technology is something!

Taking a Brisk Walk Outside or Taking Vitamin D Supplements

There's nothing like the feeling of cool air on your face while the sun is shining down on you as you walk around a park or your local neighborhood. During the winter, we tend to stay indoors more than normal, unless you're adventurous and don't mind a cold nose while running five miles a day. Some people just don't have the time (or energy.) Most of us sit in a florescent lit office or they have the ability to work from home like I do until 4ish, which is also the time the sun goes down in the winter months. A lack of sun depletes your vitamin D levels. This is also what causes SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.) It's crucial to get outside for at least 15 minutes a day, as well as taking vitamin D supplements. I have a liquid dropper of vitamin D that I just add to my water. I take up to 2,000 IUs my endocrinologist suggested due to my vitamin D levels. Make sure you get bloodwork before you start taking massive amounts of it. The amount you need to take is on such an individual level. You may need more or you may need less than you think. It's also a fat soluble, and should be taken after a fatty meal, like avocados, fish or eggs, which are all wonderful nutrient dense foods that have a good fat content. I heard someone say, "What you ate yesterday determines how you feel today." I laughed and thought about my Ben & Jerry's binge---which mind you, is sometimes very heathy due to treating yourself once in a while! It's actually pretty healthy in terms of calcium, so we're gonna let that one slide. Once in a while, treat yourself, but remember to grab those other amazing super foods along the way. Most of your vitamins can simply be found right in your diet. Many people buy these expensive vitamins. They end up buying expensive urine, depending on the quality of the product.

Have Faith

My world came crashing down on me when I lost my beautiful mother. I truly thought that I would go through what's called, "broken heart syndrome." I didn't think I could live without her. A part of me feels like I died when she left this world. This is when I turned to my faith in God. There've been studies that have shown that those who relied on their faith while grieving for a lost loved one, seemed to have recovered faster than those who didn't have faith in a higher power. I took time out every morning to sit and pray---to vent it all out to God, even asking Him, "Why! Why did you take her from me?" Eventually, I started to get answers, whether it was through words from someone's mouth, a text message or something I had found in the Bible. I have a journal that has "prayers" and "answers"---and the answers usually come right away, or within that day. I guess God proved Himself to me, and so I felt less alone. But once I feel distant from God and don't pray as much, those signs and messages seem to disappear. With faith, you will find answers about certain things, as well as finding answers from within yourself. It's like a self-discovery mission--and who knows you best than the one who created you? This is how I find peace throughout my days of anxiety and depression.

My only advice to anyone who suffers with mental illness is to never keep it all inside. Tell someone, reach out, find a counselor and if it costs too much for a counselor, look into Telehealth and online counseling, which is much less than seeing a therapist face to face. This method has been so incredibly helpful in my time of need.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at Deb's Cucina for some of her famous recipes!