Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.
First let me say that I can imagine how confusing, distressing and even scary this situation must be for you. You are clearly an incredibly loving, caring, and morally courageous person. But you don't feel very strong now, it's clear. I therefore want to begin by telling you that this is not a contradiction: that you do not feel strong right now does not negate the truth that you are indeed a very strong, courageous, loving and caring person.
What has happened appears to be that you had to be so strong for so long on both the outside and inside with no way to express your fears, disappointment, pain, anger, rage, hurt, sadness, etc. And now as things normalize all these emotions need to come out.
Emotions don't just disappear: they store up and the pressure builds up. And then they begin to leak out if you don't let them express themselves in healthy ways. And that appears to be what's happening at this time now that things have become more stable. So all those fears, disappointment, pain, anger, rage, hurt, sadness, etc. are beginning to come out.
And they're coming out in the ways that emotions will if they're not given a healthy way to come out: gambling is one. Affairs is another. And there are other ways. Therefore, we have to get you to a situation where you can let your feelings out in a healthy ways. That means a combination of work on your own and psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is important because anxiety and depression are often the result of these unexpressed emotions. So therapy is an important way to manage the emotions. I will also at the end of the posting give you a technique you can use on your own as well for when you are feeling anxiety and working on avoiding the undesirable activities and behaviors.
Let's work on the five ways you can begin to build a behavioral program for yourself: diet, exercise, spiritual life, motivational reading and psychotherapy. The first four are to help you feel more involved and in control of yourself and what's going on inside. The psychotherapy can actually teach you skills and give you tools for managing your symptoms.
Diet: cut out coffee, sugar, white flour. That may be tough. But you will see results as some of the newer research shows. And lean meats only. No fast food restaurants, no fatty foods. See what I mean about getting involved in controlling what's happening? With diet changes you are treating your problem with respect: you are acknowledging you need to make changes to get your body feeling better. It will help you feel more in control again.
Vitamins can be useful for moods. A good quality daily vitamin, for example. One of the most important supplements is Omega 3 fatty acids, either in fish oil or capsules or in flax seed oil. Buy good quality. The clinical dosage is 1,600-3,000 mg daily. All these things you should get at the biggest and most frequented health food store and ask them for the best brands they trust in terms of quality.
Exercise: 5 days a week moderate exercise, to include 3 days of strength training as you get more used to it. Pretty amazing isn't it? I told you it would require work, but what you put in to it you will get out of it. Your doctor will verify the research results showing the benefit.
Spiritual life: the medical literature is now rather overwhelming about the benefits to so many different areas of physical health of regular religious and spiritual practice. Going to church, meditation, etc. are all shown to produce benefits to the physical body. What about our mental health? Well, you will see that meditation is now a regular part of psychotherapy interventions. I don't know if you're a religious person or not. But if not, this may be a good time in your life to tune up your spiritual life. If you do not believe in G-d, that's not a barrier to your own spiritual life. Just thinking about the meaning of your life, of life in general, and studying spiritual texts and practices will help with the anxiety and depression, all those unexpressed emotions.
Then along with exploring the spiritual part of life, I want you to get really into motivational videos and books. Here's a simple YouTube search I put together for you on "motivational speakers":
Some like Tony Robbins are the classic big guys. Some are newer. Watch them all. Get inspired. Buy a book or two. Here are some possibilities, but they are only suggestions as there are so many good ones.
The first book is the father of all these type of books. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. There are classes in these books now! It was written in the 1930s and still has something to say to us today that is very worthwhile.
I think very highly of the second book on my list, which is a real classic: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It is the book that has helped more people than probably any other. The third book is by Anthony Robbins. He's one of those speakers who fills up huge auditoriums. For a reason. He's a terrific speaker and writer. The particular book (if you like it, try his others): Awaken the Giant Within.
Which brings us to psychotherapy. You need to find a psychologist or psychotherapist to help you manage the anxiety and depression from these unexpressed emotions. And the therapies today are very effective. The preferred form of treatment today is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to learn skills but you need someone who also practices psychodynamic therapy as well so you have a place to express all your frustrations, etc.
Okay, that should help you get working on these symptoms and get some relief. I wish you the very best!
Now, I want to give you a tool to use for when the anxiety is present. Here are instructions on a therapeutic protocol called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). It's really quite easy to do almost anywhere. My patients suffering from depression or anxiety, when I teach them PMR at first are amazed how simple it is and that it is a psychological protocol. It was first used in the 1920s! Since then, of course, it has been refined and many studies have been done showing its effectiveness. You will practice PMR at first when you don't wake up with an attack so that you will be familiar with it. I want you to practice the PMR at least 5-6 times before an attack or feeling acute anxiety. Why? Because when you're in the throes of anxiety, you will only remember to do something you are very familiar with it. So practicing 5-6 times is really a minimum.
I want to stress the importance of breathing as well. Part of the physiology of what is happening to you in anxiety states is that your breathing is getting shallower. This reduces the oxygen in your blood to your brain. That increases the anxiety reaction, which strengthens the attack and you are in a vicious cycle! Not good. So breathing is the primary tool. I have found in my practice that learning breathing techniques can be helpful. But some of my patients are not interested in learning more than one thing at the beginning, so I have found that just reminding you to BREATHE deeply at the same time you are doing PMR is almost as good. If you are willing to take a yoga class and learn breathing techniques, that's the best. But, breathing deeply with your PMR will help. So, we're ready for learning PMR. I want you to print my instructions below my signature and have a copy in each of the rooms of your home where you may be when you have an attack. And again, you need to practice this easy technique at least 5-6 times as soon as you can. It needs to become as natural to you as breathing. Ah, remember breathing?
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Quickly focusing on each group one after the other, with practice you can relax your body like ‘liquid relaxation’ poured on your head and it flowed down and completely covered you. You can use progressive muscle relaxation to quickly de-stress any time.
What You Need:
Thank you for listening. I am aware of the books you recommended and love the program you have laid out above which I will put into practice immediately. My caffeine in take has increased dramatically in the form of tea in the past few weeks however I am Coeliac (also diagnosed last summer) so have had to alter my life / diet yet again. I actually bought a CBT book recently but have yet to read it. The intention is there but the energy didn't meet it. You have motivated me and I am strong but very tired and a little lost at the moment and frightened by my own behaviour. Thank you for pointing out to me the causes for my behaviour which I can now address. I feel like a failure and a fraud for being angry at my husband when I am actually now not able to cope myself. I am a logical thinker and follow instruction probably too accurately. However in this case thats not such a bad thing. I feel you heard my cry for help and wish I had done this earlier. Thank you.