distraught girl with numerous question marks coming out of her head (thoughts)

Pride Masquerading as Anxiety

I guess I’ve kind of been stuck in one of my uninspired ruts – the last time I posted was 7 weeks ago. At a minimum, I like to challenge myself to write and publish a post once a month. But if I have nothing valuable or important to say, it seems silly to post subpar writing. I confess, you may be about to embark on some “less-than-par” writing in this post.

October was a stressful month, kicked off by an emotional appointment with our fertility doctor. The days after the appointment consisted of a lot of processing about the infertility journey, and trying to decide what steps we did or did not want to take when considering trying to have a second child.

October was also chock-full of too many events. I get stressed out even when there are too many fun events happening. I need down time – though often I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to overscheduling myself. In October it seemed like we had about 10 different Halloween or Fall Festival carnivals (it was probably only 3 or 4 in reality), we had our first-grader’s big school fundraiser, our son (the same aforementioned first-grader) had just joined Cub Scouts and their biggest campout of the year happened to be the third week of October, and to top it all off I ended up needing to go out of town to Nashville for a work event… everything in the world felt like it was crammed into a 4-week time period.

I like being busy. I like hanging out with friends, traveling, and doing meaningful things with my time. But when I get so busy that I can’t do some of the essential things anymore, that’s when I know I’ve gone too far. When it becomes difficult to even have a conversation with my husband (as in, we have to try to schedule a time on the calendar when we can connect), when I don’t have time to workout, when I can’t find the time or energy to grocery shop or cook… those are my red flags signaling me that I’ve overcommitted myself. And I guess I didn’t leave much time for writing the last month or two either.

One of the things I did still make time to do over the last 7 weeks was read. And one thing I read has been mulling over in my head for a while now. I like reading books on spirituality – and I’ve been interested in prayer, so I was reading Timothy Keller’s book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. On page 219 (I noted it because I was so struck by his words) Keller says, “it takes pride to be anxious.”

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three faces, sad, nonchalant, and happy

Anxiety Screenings – Helpful Or Not???

You may have seen in the news earlier this week that a health panel (specifically the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force) recommended that all adults under age 65 get screened by their doctors for anxiety. This comes on the tails of COVID, inflation, and the rise of crime (among other things) that have left many in our country (and the world) feeling a lot more anxious.

The Task Force cited a study which showed that between August 2020 and February 2021, adults with symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders increased to 41.5% from 36.4%.

Initially that doesn’t seem like a huge increase to me (about 5%), but the fact that over 41% of adults may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or depression does seem concerning in its own right.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to asking (or requiring) doctors to perform anxiety screenings on their patients. So let’s take a quick look at both sides of the issue:

PROS

  • Screenings could help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected and untreated for years
  • Standard screenings help to reduce the stigma of mental health – it would just be another thing to get checked out annually like any other health issue
  • Standard screenings could help “combat the effects of racism, implicit bias, and other systemic issues in the medical field” (you can read more about mental health disparities among people of color in this New York Times article)

CONS

  • Screenings alone will not solve a mental health crisis – patients who get flagged as being “at risk” would need other interventions and could not be forced to get treatment
  • Some worry that screenings may primarily favor doctors and healthcare providers financially if there is an uptick in diagnoses
  • Some doctors expressed concern that adding “one more thing” to their already long checklist for physical exams is not practical or doable – there are also staff shortages to consider

As a mental health advocate, I am in favor of making anxiety screenings (or more broadly, mental health screenings) a standard practice for all adults and children. But I understand the logistical problems with carrying that out, and I also understand the fear that it may allow the medical community to take advantage of people (due to over-diagnosing or over-prescribing medications).

I am also aware that mental health treatments like therapy are expensive, and that unless there’s a more cost-effective way for everyone to have access to that service, it may not be realistic for everyone.

The problems with increasing mental health services are real and something that need to be considered, but my hope is still that more and more people would be proactive in taking charge of their mental health – and standardizing screenings could be one way to help accomplish this.

What are your thoughts on the Task Force’s recommendation? What other pros and cons have you heard about the issue?

cat looking in through slightly open window

The Sneaky Side of Depression

I think one of the most helpful things I’ve done in trying to maintain my mental health is to become aware of my own personal red flags.

There are certain things, when they start happening, that make me suddenly wonder if something is off. Suddenly I’ll realize, “oh, I’m not handling things well anymore.” 

For me, some of those red flags are:

  • Getting overly emotional at everything (more crying than usual)
  • Feeling tired and fatigued all the time (wanting to sleep as a coping mechanism)
  • The stopping of activities I normally enjoy (lack of motivation to do them)
  • Becoming extra critical and annoyed with others
  • Being extremely bothered by clutter (feeling obsessive about needing to have the house clean)

A few weeks ago I was at work reading one of my daily news emails that I subscribe to, and that day it was focused on the war in Ukraine. As I read about numerous innocent people dying, I suddenly felt so overwhelmed. I just wanted to start sobbing about the injustice of it all – literally, I was having trouble keeping it together. Now, I’m not saying that the war in Ukraine isn’t something worth crying about or getting emotional over. Obviously, it’s a very serious situation. But the reaction I was having was more extreme than was normal for me. That was hint #1 to me that maybe I was dealing with some extra anxiety, or even depression, settling in.

I thought over the previous weeks, and realized I had gotten out of some of my normal routines. I wasn’t writing or blogging anymore. I wasn’t taking time to pray or do other spiritually-focused activities. I certainly wasn’t taking time to exercise either. So what was I doing with all my time? I was sleeping a lot more, going to bed early and waking up late, despite setting my alarm for 5:30 each morning in the hopes that I would actually get up and write (which wasn’t happening). No matter how much I slept, I still felt tired. I was wasting a lot more time on Netflix and social media. It felt like I was busy all day, but I wasn’t really doing anything of substance.

And yes, I felt extra annoyed with people, especially the people I lived with. In my mind, the house was a disaster. Why did it feel like I was the only one in our family who pulled their own weight? How could everyone else stand to ignore the mess and clutter and go about their happy little lives? I had blown up a few times at my husband Dean, and had made it loud and clear that I was tired of being the “only one” who took care of things.

Basically, ALL of my red flags were showing. But this didn’t even occur to me until that day in my office when I was struggling to not have an emotional breakdown over the current news about Ukraine. 

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