Category Archives: Counseling

Depression feels like….

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If you live in South Africa and urgently needs support for anxiety ir depression, call 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312 to reach the SA Depression and Anxiety Group. You are also welcome to send me a DM if you need to talk. I am a qualified counselor. Reposted from @projecturok – Depression can feel like… 🎨: @bymariandrew Know that you are not alone and if you need help, text UROK to 741741 @CrisisTextLine . . . . . #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthrecovery #mentalhealthwarrior #mentalhealthresource #mentalillness #mentalillnessawareness #mentalhealthsupport #endthestigma #breakthestigma #stopthestigma #storiesbreakstigma #fightthestigma #stigmafree #urok #resilience #alwayskeepfighting #recoveryisworthit #recoveryispossible #recovery #keepmovingforward #dontgiveup #itsokaytonotbeokay #youarenotalone – #regrann

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What anxiety really feels like

Anxiety is tough, tells us so many stories and has many physical symptoms.

Reposted from @branchesofgrowth on Instagram

Living with Depression

Image source: @thegoodquote on Instagram

Today I don’t want to particularly give you tips and tools about dealing with depression. Today I want to tell you why I totally agree with Alexandra Tilton’s quote and if you happen to learn something along the way, well, that would be a bonus.

Depression has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. About ten years ago a psychiatrist suggested that I may suffer from dysthymia. Now, in layman’s terms, dysthymia is basically a continuous feeling of depression. Occasionally there may be flare ups of major depressive episodes and even the occasional mania, but it is not bipolar disorder. This is different, as the main symptom is an intense feeling of, what I call, the Shadow.

Like a functioning alcoholic, I’ve been battling this with a brave face and a deceptively humorous exterior. I am regularly called the sarcasm queen and am known for my twisted sense of humor. People say that I always look at the bright side, that I am a positive person and that I am strong. They apparently like my company, because I tend to entertain them so well with my quirky personality. Fooled them, didn’t I? They have NO IDEA what I am hiding and, because it is not anyone’s fault, I feel obligated not to spread the  misery in my soul. Back in the day even my Dad, when I told him I’m about my depression, was shocked. He thought he knew me so well. That particular incident happened just 6 years ago, when I was 45 years old. You can imagine how he felt.

As a child I often felt ‘blue’, but took no notice. I had no one to talk to about my emotions and didn’t dare discuss it with my mother. It would have freaked her out completely. She was quite a nervous person herself, you understand. I had no real friends either. Those who I did talk to didn’t really understand the intensity of my emotion at all, not that I blame them. Little kids want to play and teenagers are all about boys and make-up and music, they had no time to be depressed. So the depression simmered just under the surface. My tears went unseen (if it were noticed it was made fun of) and the only person I ever discussed this with was God. That was where I found my peace, in my religion.

You may notice how careful I was to keep my depression to myself. I have always felt this responsibility to make others happy. I never wanted to upset anyone and that was perhaps the main reason I kept my mouth shut and suffered in silence. I also knew that the people in my life would make fun of me, should I ever confess that I have depression. Don’t ask me why, but I was just never taken seriously, despite the fact that I took EVERYTHING seriously. The weird sister, the changeling, the outcast….that was/is me.

Sometimes it felt as if I was living in a bubble. I can see everything and everybody, even bounce around to please and serve, but no one could see in. When I was 18 this bubble got an instant revamp. It’s outer surface hardened into a tough shell, unbreakable, keeping me safe inside in my own little world. A terrible tragedy caused me to bury myself and my intense emotions very deep. I made the decision to ‘get up and do what has to be done’ while others around me fell apart. Of course the depression manifested in other ways. I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and decided to get treatment in the nick of time. Doctors was convinced that, if I didn’t get treatment, that I would be dead within two weeks. I weighed in at 31,7kg and left the hospital when I reached 37kg. My body was more healthy, but my mind was still scarred.

This ‘get up and do’-attitude stayed with me and today, 33 years after that fateful day, I am still such a person. I never procrastinate, I DO. This got me through the deaths of my grandparents, sister and parents. Others were allowed to cry and share their grief, I stood silently by and did the practical things. Remember, though, I chose this, so I don’t hold it against anyone. Thing is, there are days that I simply CAN’T ‘get up and do’. That is why I’m writing this today. I want to tell you something that I’ve learned over these years in the company of the Shadow.

Despite being a ‘get up and do’-person, I still felt guilty about depression. Sometimes, if I felt not up to doing stuff, I thought I was a bad person. A lazy mother who have no strength to do the laundry, much less cook a meal. The Shadow still hid inside this little bubble with me and yes, the shell was still tough, but not AS tough as it was all those years ago. Hence me sharing all of this with you.

As I grew older, I started to realize that I am someone who needs recognition as well. I’ve been so busy making sure those around me are happy and comfortable, that I completely forgot about myself. I never allowed myself to just be ME, Shadow and all. Depression is part of me, something that I cannot negotiate away. I had to make do with it in my life. I decided to embrace the fact that I have a mental illness and, nearly 10 years ago now, I threw away all my anti-depressants. They’ve served their purpose, I guess, but I just didn’t want to be hooked on those drugs anymore. I thought that, if I couldn’t figure out how to deal with depression while being of sound (not foggy) mind, I could always rethink the choice I made. Well, I’ve never had to.

[LISTEN UP NOW! Please DO NOT STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATION just because I did! Consult your doctor first. Keep in mind that I am quite a different person than you and your own health is paramount. Medication CAN HELP you take the edge off. If it works well for you, please continue using it. Sometimes medication can mean the difference between living a normal, stable life and living a life in darkness.]

My decision to stop medication had more to do with the fact that I am a terrible patient. I simply cannot remember taking my meds, so simply NOT TAKING it was quite a relief. I didn’t need to remember anymore! Plus, I was 41 years old and already I was on more tablets than people in the geriatrics ward at the local hospital. It was just sick and tired of all those pills!

Of course it took time. Withdrawal is difficult and it took about 6 months for me to be completely clear of all medication. It did not, however help my depression at all. I didn’t expect it to, as the medication was keeping a lid on most of my intense emotions. Everything boiled over, but I learned to embrace it over the years. I decided that I need to find some sort of way to live with the Shadow and not lose my mind. I also realized that I must be kinder and more forgiving to myself, like I have always been with others.

At first it was incredibly hard. Like I mentioned earlier, the guilt at feeling low can be exhausting. I read a lot about depression during that period and discovered a brilliant book by Kay Redfield Jamison called ‘An Unquiet Mind’.


Img: Amazon

Dr Jamison has bipolar disorder herself and writes about her own experiences. She mentions at one point how tired she felt during one of her episodes. She was so exhausted that she couldn’t even answer the phone. She couldn’t get up at all and had to crawl over the floor to get around. This book, in particular, inspired me to rather embrace the illness, than fight it with all the power I can muster.

I may  not be bipolar like Kay Jamison, but I could identify with what she goes through. Her testimony caused me to understand that, when you feel depressed, this exhaustion, this ‘cut off from the world’-feeling is, in fact, normal. I needed to deal with the guilt, put a damper on it and tell myself that feeling like this was NOT out of the ordinary for depression sufferers. I needed to allow myself to feel this way. It took time, though. I had young children, a husband, a household to run, I couldn’t just drop it all and be depressed. I had to find a way to make it work, a way to make me accept the Shadow, but not to let it rule the roost.

Another thing that really inspired me to change my attitude towards depression was my sister. Clinically depressed for most of her life and on medication, which obviously didn’t work as well as she’d hoped it would, she lead a very sad life. By ‘sad’ I mean that, with her, the glass was always half empty. She couldn’t seem to find joy in life, although I recall good times we had, times of laughter and silliness. Of course I treasure those sparse moments, but overall I remember her being moody and low, someone who could never find the sunshine. It broke my heart when she died, simply because she barely lived. The day she passed I stood next to her bed and thought: “What a waste”. Such a beautiful woman, with a loving husband and family, why did she allow her Shadow to win?  How is it that in her 50 years on earth she could not learn to live? In the end I had my suspicions about her death. She died of breast cancer, but knew she was ill months before the diagnosis. I warned her to go to a doctor, but she refused. Was it suicide by cancer? I guess we’ll never know, would we.

I was determined not to allow depression to steal my life. I didn’t want to end up knowing that I’ve wasted years mulling over my mood and nursing my sorrow and pain. This is where the ‘get up and do’ comes in again. I decided to accept the following facts:

  • I have depression
  • I cannot control my depression
  • I can control how I deal with it
  • I can be kinder to myself

Of course doing this didn’t just happen overnight, it took years of practice, especially the part of allowing myself to be depressed and forgiving myself for feeling terrible. These days, and now you’ll understand why I said I agree with the quote, I just know when the Shadow is looming. I do not invite him in, no, never, but I do allow him to exist around me. I allow myself to take it easy during my ‘down’ periods and yes, like the quote, I disappear for a while. At first I felt really guilty about my disappearing act, but now I feel that, if people are offended, let them be. I still get to do my chores around the house and take care of my family and, because I’m not wasting energy on guilty feelings, I actually can cope with those more often than not. I do what must be done. If I don’t get around to doing everything today, I’ll do it tomorrow. (There is ALWAYS tomorrow, you know.)

My depressive episodes usually last about 7 to 10 days at a stretch and during that time I’ll do what I can when it comes to family and the chores I cannot do, well, I let it go. I also do not make contact with anyone, I allow myself to binge watch Netflix or read an endless array of books and I talk about my feelings with my husband, who is my closest, and probably my only, friend in the world. These days the personality I spoke about in the first few paragraphs, the quirky, crazy, weird girl, is still here. But now I can be more honest about who I really am. I am all that, the fruitcake, with depression and sometimes the depression needs some alone time with me. I’m beginning to see my depressive episodes as a sort of re-charge, taking time out to make sense of the world again. I do not enjoy feeling so down and I hate not having any energy, but knowing it will pass eventually really helps to make it bearable. The thing is, it does pass and, once it does, I go back to living my life with gusto. I don’t worry about what I’ve missed during my down period, something that I used to indulge in in the past, and I don’t wait anxiously for the next episode to strike. I am in control of my life. The Shadow is always in residence, that I can’t deny, but he is NOT in control of my life. Even when he jumps at me from a dark corner and overwhelms me for days on end, I know his power over me cannot last. I am NOT my depression, I am me, someone who has a life to live, someone who still has a lot of ‘get up and do’, quirkiness and loads of sarcastic comments in her and I shall not be stopped by my moods.

Now, I understand that all this may sound strange to some of you. We are all different people and your experience with depression may be quite the opposite of mine. I’m not trying to tell you that it’s easy or that this is the answer to your dark moments. What I’m trying to say is that you should never give up. You should try and take control of your life and never allow depression to consume you. Most important, perhaps, is that you understand that your mood will lift at some point, even if it is only for a while. Have the courage to use that time of light and allow your life to shine.

You have just this one life, make it count. Don’t bury it in Shadow.


[Please note that I am not encouraging people to stop their medication at all. I am also not encouraging people to try and tackle depression on their own. There is help out there, so I urge you to speak to a medical professional about your depression. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed about, it is NOT your fault, nor is it your choice. Seek treatment so that you can live a bountiful, happy life.]


Low self-esteem? These ideas will help you love yourself

19 March

#SelfImprovement #SelfEsteem #SelfLove #MentalWellness #BalancedLife

I recently watched a programme about the late Whitney Houston and was shocked to learn from the commentary that she had extremely low self-esteem. One would never suspect that, don’t you think?

She had it all; a successful career, a Godgiven talent, a beautiful child, wealth, fame and beauty. It is actually so very sad. The lady who spoke about her actually said that she was such a wonderful person, with a good heart, filled with kindness and love, but she felt NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

This is such a disease of our times. Most of us feel that we’ve disappointed someone. We feel we are never enough, despite all our efforts. Why is it that we crave acceptance by others SO much that we feel less the person we are, because we don’t get recognition?

You know what, it is time for us to understand that no one will ever be satisfied anyway, so we need to accept that we will ALWAYS disappoint someone. We live in a world of takers and givers. The givers keep on supplying love and support, caring and kindness, while the takers keep on demanding. You can only do your best and that should be good enough for you.

We have people in this world that makes a habit of bringing others down. They think it is hilarious if they make fun of you or your job, and we let them make us feel very small indeed. We need to STOP allowing that kind of behaviour. Do NOT let those people poison your mind with their insensitive and cruel remarks. I know one rarely has the courage to tell them off, but at least try to ignore them. If you find the strength to speak up, do not try to defend yourself, you have no reason to. These people actually need to know how sorry we feel for them. Obviously they suffer from severe low self-esteem too, seeing that they need to walk all over your efforts so that their dim light can shine brighter.

Look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud: “I love you. I accept you. You are good enough.” And no, it is NOT pride speaking here. There is NO pride in having self-love and self-appreciation. If you know that you’ve tried your best and are the best you can be, you have NOTHING to be ashamed of.

In the end we only have to please ourselves. We need to NOT disappoint ourselves. Other people’s opinions of you do not count at all. As I said above, the people that criticize you and bring you down, most probably do it with everyone they encounter and why? Because they need to degrade others in order to feel superior. THEY HAVE A PROBLEM NOT YOU!


DO accept yourself

DO love yourself

DO encourage yourself

DO appreciate yourself

Because, in the end, it is all about you. You are a creation of God, you have been made perfectly (despite what you may think), you have a unique purpose in this life, and you owe it to yourself to find kindness in your heart for YOU!

Image source:

Slideplayer –

Do life, nevertheless

13 March

@PsychToday #SelfImprovement #Anxiety #GetUpAndGo #NeverthelessPeople

In an article for Psychology Today, dr Jeffrey Bernstein mentions the effectiveness of the simple word ‘nevertheless’ on how we perceive our circumstances.

It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of  ‘looking on the bright side’.

Bernstein encourages us to get up when we fall and think differently about how we deal with life. We may have fallen down, but NEVERTHELESS we can get up. We still have some energy and two legs to stand upon. We can still do battle.

Sometimes we are looking at our lives as this enormous mountain that we must climb and, yes, for some people life can indeed be daunting. Life is NEVER really easy and, you can admit this, even for those of us who seem to have it all under control, simply doing life can become too much.

The thing is that those people who seem to have all their ducks in a row are the people that fight every single day to survive. They accept the challenge and encourage themselves to get up and get going, despite the challenges that life throws at them.

They are the ‘nevertheless-people’. They may feel afraid at facing some daunting task, nevertheless they stand firm and get it done.

When you are camped at the foot of mount Everest you have a choice, either you start climbing or you back off. You have to weigh the choices: when you make it to the summit, you get the prize. It will be extremely hard, you may even die, but you need to ask yourself if you are prepared to take the risk and be a winner, a survivor. You may feel weak from the high altitude, hungry for some ‘real’ food, freezing in the cold, but NEVERTHELESS you will get your backpack and your ropes and start clawing your way upward.

In life we rarely have such a clear cut choice. Our days are filled with inevitabilities, things you never expected to happen, yet are faced with. Yes, Everest comes to most of us on a daily basis.

You have a choice, are you going to allow circumstances to discourage you or are you going to say: “I don’t have the strength for this, NEVERTHELESS I will face it.” You may surprise yourself and find that, through your persistence, you have gained strength and wisdom.

Don’t underestimate your own strength and ability to push forward. The only people left behind are those who never want to get up in the first place.




Image source:


Tips on dealing with stress

Article 28 Feb

#Stress #Wellness #MentalWellness #Health #StressManagement

I’ve heard this question many times: “How does stress really influence my wellbeing?” Have a look at the image above. It clearly shows you how stress (and anxiety) can influence your body and mind.

This is old news for most wellness practitioners and, perhaps, for the public. But the problem is that we have become so used to being stressed, that we do not even notice it anymore. We have such busy lives, that, once stress affects you physically, you immediately have treatment to alleviate the symptoms just so that you can continue your very stressful life.

Stress builds up and eventually you will ‘crack’ under pressure. How often have you noticed that something meaningless can totally frazzle you? Something that, if it happened on another day, would not have had the same influence on you. You become unglued and the influence of your stress starts to reach further than yourself. It permeates your relationships, your lifestyle and consumes your identity. Does it sound far-fetched? It is not, believe me. Why do you think that many people feel confused and without purpose anymore? Why do people feel helpless and out of control?

Stress is a symptom of our times and cannot be avoided. We all have stress in our lives, and while some people can deal with it beautifully, others simply crumble beneath its onslaught. Dealing with stress is never easy, but there are ways that you can bring subtle changes in order to minimize its impact on your everyday life and your overall health. One also needs to remember that moderate stress is essential if you want to thrive. Stress can be positively channeled and used as a means to fuel our motivational strategies.

If you are suffering the ill effects of badly managed stress, you may want to take note of these 7 ways that mentally strong people use to deal with stress in their lives [Morin:2015].

They accept that stress is part of life. Unfortunately both good and bad stress is a reality we need to live with. The positive side to this is, that once you expect stress, you can also prepare for it. By taking care of your physical health and by preparing mentally for life and its challenges, you will be stronger and more likely to deal efficiently with challenging stressors.

They keep problems in proper perspective. Human beings have a default mindset that often exaggerate circumstances. We need to look at the bigger picture and see a specific problem within the bigger scheme of things.

They take care of their physical health. No matter how you try to shy away from it, the fact remains that exercise and healthy eating habits pay off. A warrior never go to war without his armor. You need to see your physical body as the armor with which you enter life’s battlefield every day. Your armor must be strong enough to withstand the enemy, which in this case is stressful situations. Weak armor will simply crumble and you will be unable to cope.

They choose healthy coping skills. We live in a society that has become so comfortable in seeking the easy way out. Instead of dealing with issues, many people will turn to ‘quick-fix ideas’. To cope with stress you will therefore find that many turn to alcohol or drug abuse, many become violent or seek other vices that endanger themselves or others. This is all a way to escape the reality of everyday life. People with a healthy mental attitude will prefer to channel the ‘negative’ emotions caused by stress into alternative activities, something that still allows for these feelings to exist, while giving them a mental and physical break from the impact stress may have. Hiking in nature, hobbies, volunteering, yoga, meditation and even an evening walk with your dog may relieve the symptoms of stress and clear your mind.

They balance social activity with solitude. Many times people feel like they want to avoid stress altogether, then they can either cram their schedules with activities in order to avoid dealing with the real problem or they can withdraw from society in an effort to ignore the problem and avoid confrontation. The secret is balance. Like with anything in life, stress is caused by mental overload. If you work too much or socialize too much, you get stressed and anxious. Even when you are alone, you can become stressed when your thoughts turn to work that needs doing or problems that need solving. Having a healthy support system is important and cultivating good relationships essential, but we need not socialize constantly. We need alone time to gather our thoughts, to meditate and to take care of ourselves.

They acknowledge their choices. We have the luxury of choice. We choose how we live, what we do and when we do it. Often, though, we tend to blame circumstances for certain stressful issues and while some events may be out of our control, we can still choose how we deal with them. Having a healthy attitude towards life means that you take responsibility for your behavior at all times. If you know you will not be able to deal with something, learn to say ‘no’ and accept it. Don’t burden yourself with cares and worries because of your choice, let it go. If you accept a challenge, if you choose ‘yes’, take responsibility for that and understand that no one is to blame but yourself.

They look for the silver lining. I heard a beautiful sentiment the other day: ‘If things have not worked out yet, it is not the end’. When you feel worn out by stress in life, don’t falter, don’t lose hope, this is NOT the end yet! Life is a journey and we have many experiences along the way. Develop a sunny attitude, be positive, despite how things are going at the moment. There is ALWAYS a bright side to everything, you just need to look for it.

It may seem tough at first, but once you’ve managed to integrate these tips as part of your life, things will indeed get easier. The point is, one should never lose sight of who you are, where you are, what your goals are. Everything in life needs to be evaluated in that manner, even something simple like an argument with a colleague. If you disagree with a co-worker about something, remember who you are, what your basic moral values are. These will help you to NOT say or do things that you may later regret. Where you are – what was your contribution to this argument? What is your position in this ‘fight’? What your goals are – what can YOU do to resolve this issue?

Once we take responsibility to manage our own stress, we will be able to live more balanced lives. We will, once again, be able to BREATHE.


MORIN, Amy.  2015.  7 Ways mentally strong people deal with stressPsychology Today –


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