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Is it really possible to overcome anxiety and depression long term?

(44 Posts)
RhodaCamel Thu 16-Jul-20 12:36:38

Because for most of my life (I’m 47) has been blighted with anxiety and low mood. It just lives alongside me like a shadow, it has faded and loomed larger over the years but has never completely vanished. For the last 3-4 years it has been almost continuous and it honestly feels like it will never leave me.
I am currently in the middle of my 4th attempt at CBT. I genuinely put in so much effort with these sessions and implement my learnings into my everyday life but it has minimal impact. Nothing I’ve tried (counselling, CBT, alternative therapies like hypnotherapy etc) has had any long term impact and eventually the shadow creeps back over me.
I have tried antidepressants but give up (I am ashamed to say quite quickly) because, frankly I am petrified of them, of the potential side effects, of the thought of being on them long term and (I know this sounds ridiculous) but the thought of taking meds to control my mental health feels like I’ve given up the fight, like I’ve lost the ability to control my own mind (even writing that looks pathetic but it’s honestly how my mind thinks).
There are so many people now with poor mental health and it’s all I read about, I belong to lots of support groups online etc but it’s hard to find stories or RL people who say they have recovered and are free of poor mental health for the long haul.
Is this really a possibility, can it be overcome long term or for life? Like overcoming a disease?
Is there anyone out there who can say they are genuinely free of poor mental health having previously suffered greatly?

OP’s posts: |
Soozikinzii Thu 16-Jul-20 13:16:21

My husband has anxiety and depression he has also had by which he found very useful. He has been on medication for the past ten years .citilopram which suddenly stopped working and now sertraline which does seem to help . I don't expect he'll ever not have it but the medication definitely helps x get all the help you can .

RhodaCamel Thu 16-Jul-20 13:22:23

Thank you. I am going to make another gp appointment and ask what my options are.

OP’s posts: |
Lightsabre Thu 16-Jul-20 13:32:02

I can understand your reluctance to take medication but if you read the Sertraline threads on here, for example, they have been a life saver for many. You do need to persevere with the meds - 8 weeks minimum I'd say. Sometimes the GP will prescribe something alongside the medication to lessen the side effects, for example, Diazepam. If you had an infection you'd take antibiotics - think of it the same way.

katie2812 Thu 16-Jul-20 13:42:37

There's such a stigma around medication but honestly it saves people's lives. My friend has gone from being completely suicidal to getting her life together over a period of 6 months because of medication and chances are she will be on it forever but that's ok. I would rather happy her and her be on medication than her being severely depressed. Once you start to feel better after 6 months or so on them you can reduce them and take CBT alongside the reduction so that you can talk through any thoughts with a clear head and put a plan in place. You need to view depression and anxiety as separate from you as a person and something you can manage with help from medication. They are feelings which are completely normal and manageable when you view them differently and have help with medication and CBT. Hope you feel better soon 😘

Superscientist Thu 16-Jul-20 13:51:51

My mood only improved in the long term when I accepted I needed medication.
I had a bad habit of going on and off it, not giving it enough time.
I have now been on medication for 8 years and my mood has been very stable for the last 3 years. The medication isn't an out and out cure but it gives me the opportunity to put all the stuff I have learnt in therapy and counselling over the years into practice.
I have made life style changes too, the years I was medicated and still having episodes were when I was doing a high stress course which came with long hours and poor sleep. When I finished I knew I needed to find a job that wasn't high pressured and allowed me to prioritise my well being.
During the course the counsellor I was seeing said I might need to accept that I might never get proper stability. I'm bipolar so I know there is a chance for future episodes but I now know that there can be prolonged periods where I am stable.

One thing that has helped me is to think about improving how I respond to each period of low /high mood or anxiety. It's a learning curve and it can take time.

RhodaCamel Thu 16-Jul-20 13:52:12

Thank you so much. I know that medication is probably the best option for me right now as nothing else has helped long term but I get to a point where my brain space is so muddied that it is hard to think rationally.

OP’s posts: |
Itishwhatitis Thu 16-Jul-20 14:12:00

I'm someone else that would endorse medication. I don't like it but it keeps me alive.

Soozikinzii Thu 16-Jul-20 14:32:25

O good I’m glad you’re going to the gp it might be a phone consultation ours are at the moment but we find they’re great . Make a few notes beforehand so you don’t miss any of your symptoms. There is help out there but you must go with the attitude ready to accept it . Let us all know how you get on we’re all rooting for you on here xx take care till then xx

LaneBoy Thu 16-Jul-20 15:27:41

I don’t see it as overcoming, but as learning to live with it and actually living a good life with it. The therapy I’m having (acceptance commitment therapy - I know the name sounds a bit woo but it’s really not) is aimed at that, not at trying to change your thoughts. CBT is amazing for many (I had it in my teens after my first breakdown) but it’s not your fault if you’ve tried so hard and it’s not right for you. I did have to go private unfortunately but it has been well worth it.

I am absolutely NOT saying this to armchair diagnose you or anyone else, but yes, I would say I have better mental health now - for me and many like me, the ultimate answer was that I was actually undiagnosed ADHD (inattentive type - I am the least hyper person ever which is why I never realised, I just thought I must be lazy and useless) - ADs never worked for me (I completely agree they should be tried BTW - totally understand your fear but as others have said you’d need to give them longer) but ADHD meds have changed my life because that’s what my brain needs. Again, not saying that part is relevant to you or anyone here, but it shows that sometimes it’s worth thinking about other causes, I think even certain deficiencies can cause depression at extreme levels?!

The combination of the right meds and the right therapy for me means I can cope with life a lot better, and I’m now ok knowing that I have these issues. I just observe the bad times without them knocking me back so much. They’re like bad weather now - they’re horrible, but they pass. I no longer hate myself and feel like a failure on the days I wake up feeling awful, or the times I cry over nothing, which means I don’t compound the bad feelings with guilt and shame, which do nothing but make the bad feelings last longer. It’s so worth finding the right approach for you, you’ve done amazingly trying so much already and should be proud of that.

I go on about this far too much on other threads but have you tried journaling - it gets me through a lot of difficult times and puts distance between me and the thoughts. As you’ve said about your muddled thoughts it might help untangle things a bit.

Good luck with the GP thanks

HotnessUnited Thu 16-Jul-20 16:13:28

Hi OP. In a nutshell i would say yes some people do heal from anxiety and depression. From my own experience and those who have, have done so by being shown the right way.
I'm 42 now. Had a major breakdown aged 26.diagnosed with GAD and agoraphobia.
I followed a simple but by no means easy programme devised by dr claire weekes. It took six months of dedicated effort which was possible at the time as I was single without DC.
No medication even though she doesn't advise against it.
I lost my fear of my symptoms (yes the shaking heartbeat, palpitations etc)
I also lost the fear of my intrusive thoughts.
It changed my life.
Yes , as her book says, I still experience symptoms from time to time when under stress. But following her plan gave me a renewed confidence that I dont fear a breakdown again.

RhodaCamel Thu 16-Jul-20 18:24:17

Thank you all.
laneboy I have never heard of inattentive ADHD, I just assumed there was one type and it was the bouncing off the walls type. I’ve just had a quick google and oh my word!! this describes me so much. I have been called lazy all my life, my husband always says I’m not listening to him, I have hundreds of half read books scattered around the house, I am forever tracking down lost items, get completely distracted by things to the point of leaving projects half completed. I must look into this much deeper, thank you.
HotnessUnited I do actually have Dr Weekes (half read) book somewhere and I also have it downloaded onto my iPad, I must dig it out as I know many, many people have been helped greatly by her teachings and that she said not to fight things but to let them pass over etc. Yes, much find it again,

OP’s posts: |
LaneBoy Thu 16-Jul-20 18:27:45

Oh wow. No worries - do feel free to PM if you’d like, I think there are threads on it around too 💐

Kidneybingo Thu 16-Jul-20 18:35:59

I think you learn to manage it if you are lucky. I too endorse medication long term. I just see it as part of the management, along with getting sleep and fresh air and exercise. Frankly, I think highly of myself for doing these things to keep healthy. I had a major breakdown a decade ago, after struggling off and on for years. But now I know the signs and can usually avoid a big crash.
Please speak to your gp. And if they aren't great, try a different one in the same practice, because I have found that some are better than others. Lots of luck!

Clarissa1971 Thu 16-Jul-20 18:37:42

Hi, I’ve only just joined this website today but am realising we are LL going through similar crAp. I’m a bit late to the party lol. I’m 49 and have suffered with depression for as long as I can remember. I too have had Cbt and other therapy but in a nutshell the antidepressants are a life changer for me. I even went vegan and ran 5 miles every day to try and live Med free but my doctor said some people just don’t produce enough seratonin and that was it. I’m only on a low dose but it takes the edge off and I still have a veggie diet do yoga and meditate to help myself. If you had high blood pressure you would take a tablet wouldn’t you. Don’t beat yourself up about medication it can make all the difference. Xx

TheEmojiFormerlyKnownAsPrince Thu 16-Jul-20 18:42:18

I’m 56. I’ve had it all my life and don’t feel healed.

It’s mainly managed by anti depressants, but it can break through.

I’ve had CBT three times, and mindfulness. None of it has had any effect.

However, 2 months ago, l paid to see a pyschiatrist. He described everything I’ve had as ‘tinkering round the edges’ l felt for the first time ever that in all the medical staff I’ve seen for mental health( and there has been very many!)that he was the first one to ever ‘get’ it.

He recommended Pyschotherapy or EDMR. On waiting list now.

Tinamou Thu 16-Jul-20 18:45:24

My SIL is a couple of years younger than you, OP. She had suffered from depression since her teens, and has now been free of it for over 3 years. She attributes her recover to open water swimming.

AlwaysColdHands Thu 16-Jul-20 19:07:50

I’ve lived with it for over 20 years. Happily turned to medication on occasions for a year or so at a time.

I’ll never overcome it, but I am much more schooled in identifying earlier symptoms and many lifestyle habits that are now second nature to me definitely help me.

Getting the right kind of sleep - for me that means going to bed no later than 10, sleeping til about 5am. I’ve worked out it’s the best pattern for me.

Getting regular small doses of quiet time so my head doesn’t feel overloaded - 10 minutes silence before kids get up for example. This makes a massive difference to me.

Rarely drinking. It does me no good.

Movement and fresh air. It’s sometimes a colossal effort but after a while, I suddenly notice that I’m feeling better.

Accepting ups and downs will happen. Like an injury that flares up, and you have to re-start the Physiotherapy again.

I’m not free of it, but feel less at the mercy of it.

Best wishes to you 💕

SuperStay7 Thu 16-Jul-20 19:31:36

Another one who is learning to live with it and accept it, rather than fight it.

I do take some medication. I’m on a low level of antidepressant, which doesn’t ‘cure’ me, but takes the very dark edge off my depressive feelings, particularly around my cycle (my depression and anxiety were getting unmanageable around the time of my period, previously). I also have a supply of betablockers at the ready for when my anxiety occasionally reaches panic level. And I take a high daily dose of Vitamin D, as I discovered years ago I was badly deficient and after taking it for a month or so I saw a big improvement in my depression.

Other than that, I try to manage my life in a way that keeps me comfortable. I’m also classic inattentive ADHD, so it’s not always easy (not diagnosed, btw, but my son is and I’m very like him and was just like him as a child).

I need:
- a good, regular sleep pattern;
- some downtime and some quiet and solitude each day
- regular exercise (I struggle with this, but I’m getting better)
- to connect with friends and be honest about how I’m feeling (find this hard, but I know I need to do it to get out of my own head regularly)
- Some sort of daily routine, especially in the morning. Mine includes meditation, which has a soothing effect on my busy head.

I’ve had to give up alcohol completely as it just made my anxiety so much worse. I also have to be careful with coffee and other stimulants.

It sounds a bit dull, but as I get better at managing myself, I do feel better. I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘cured’. My mind naturally jumps to anxiety and depressive thoughts the minute I wake up, but I have certain things I know I can do that will make me feel better (see above). I also stay vigilant to how I’m doing, and if I can feel myself slipping in to a depressive episode or getting even more anxious, I have a plan for actions I can take (sometimes it is just simple stuff like giving myself a duvet day, but the point is, I recognise and accept how I’m feeling and I don’t beat myself about it and instead treat myself kindly).

Therapy has never helped me, unfortunately and neither did CBT. I know others have found these useful, but for me I need a sort of programme of action to live by to stay well if that makes sense?

Kidneybingo Thu 16-Jul-20 20:04:59

Superstay has said what I was saying, but much, much better!

TheEmojiFormerlyKnownAsPrince Thu 16-Jul-20 20:15:43

Interesting how many people haven’t found cbt helpful. And also interesting that many have found anti depressants more helpful.

Fatted Thu 16-Jul-20 20:26:56

I have to agree with Laneboy to a certain extent. Again without wanting to do the armchair diagnosis.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression on and off since my teens. My mum has always been 'different' but it wasn't really until my 20's that I recognised it as what could possibly be ASD and OCD. Again, it never occurred to me that I could be like my mum. I guess in some way I never wanted to admit it and I have also been functioning at a level my mum never could, so assumed I wasn't. It has only been recently since it became apparent DS1 also has traits of ASD that I've looked at my own behaviours and background in a new light. Definitely reading up on strategies to help DS1 has also been very helpful and useful for myself.

The main thing is that I have started to accept what I once thought were flaws. My need for lots of sleep is not lazy. My overwhelming desire to be alone and for quiet is not selfish or anti-social. I have accepted I am not suited to certain situations and that is OK. I don't feel like I am fighting against myself as much these days.

Howmanysleepsnow Thu 16-Jul-20 20:29:18

That depends on what long term is...
I struggled aged 15-24, recovered, had PND for a year aged 27 then was fine (despite 3 more dc) until 40. I had another episode for 1.5 years (with a clear trigger) and have been fine Since. I view myself as well now, or at least well managed. I think it’s similar to asthma in that you may always have it (but could be years and years between attacks) or could grow out of it/ find a combination of treatment that keeps you asymptomatic for life.

RhodaCamel Thu 16-Jul-20 21:02:06

Thanks again everyone and for the tips, I can definitely relate to much of what you all describe. Thanks to those who have mentioned inattentive adhd, I have been looking this up this evening and can really relate to this and see many of these traits in my 15 year old son also (We always thought he had anxiety but maybe it’s this?). I will need to look into this further.

OP’s posts: |
swimkiwipanda Thu 16-Jul-20 23:15:41

I have found meds helpful in the short term. I get weight gain and they affect focus though.

What helps me is getting back to some kind of equilibrium. I have been there so many times that I have my own 10 step depression recovery plan. First thing (for me) is to talk to someone, tell them the unedited version of what is going on. Then make time for total rest. Sleep. Clean eating (diet for me is huge). Eat greens and natural yoghurt which help with serotonin in the gut. Exercise routine. Connecting through hobbies. I found counselling helpful to deal with specific events. I tend to avoid the support groups as it can be a bit depressing. There is a really good facebook group for Adult Adhd, very supportive. Depression and anxiety can often be a result of adhd. Re. Hope/faith, having something to look forward to, trusting your inner guidance/own ability. Not sure overcoming bad feelings is the goal as life is 50/50 positive/negative feelings but recognising its a sliding scale and trying to stay at your best X

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