Real Talk: Depression and Emotional Triggers in the Media

For people with mental illness and those with loved ones who have a mental illness, the news about the loss of Anthony Bourdain to mental illness can really bring up a lot of emotion. Emotions you might have thought you had moved through. I know for me it did. Especially coming right after the news of Kate Spade, on the anniversary of Kalief Browder’s death. All of these individuals lost battles with mental illness.  My family has been impacted by mental illness, from distant family members to my closest loved ones. Because of this, waking up to hear about the loss of someone’s beloved family member really brought up my own past emotions, or at least, what I’d like to believe are past emotions.

Reading this may open you up to painful emotions

Hearing the news, I went right back to a time in my life when a loved one of mine was newly diagnosed with depression. I was terrified of losing my loved one. I took time off from work (thanks to FMLA), put in a good chunk of hours scouring to find a psychologist and a psychiatrist, drove them to appointments, and searched the internet for things that improve mood. I bought omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin d supplements, and dragged them on walks after dinner. I was frantically and desperately trying to ensure that what amounted to my greatest fear wouldn’t happen to my family. Waking up and reading how it happened to someone else’s family brought back all of that pain and fear. I can’t read any articles that want to offer up details because I immediately picture the suffering of those experiencing this tragedy. I went right back to those feelings of fear and pain. I didn’t lose my family member, but these events remind me, that despite looking at my loved one and fighting like hell to get them help, we lose some people to this illness. And my imagined control over the situation is just that, imagined. This is a chronic health problem, and my loved one may experience periods of good health and have relapses in health. It’s a painful thing to face.

Are you or a loved one experiencing triggers from the news?

This may be the case for you or your loved ones. Th experiences you are having are real. So what can you do next?

First, if you think your loved one is experiencing a serious mood change or is at risk of harming themselves, reach out. If you think they are at risk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) for help.

What are the signs of depression? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some signs and symptoms could include the following:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Self Care for Emotional Triggers

When you feel like the news or the media is triggering intensely painful feelings, you can practice some self-care.

  • Know that its normal to experience these feelings. Feelings are real, but how you react and recover differ from person to person.
  • Recovering can include finding ways to cope that help you and don’t harm you.
  • Ways to cope with emotions can include:
    • exercise
    • logging off of the news and social media. Allow yourself a break.
    • journal your feelings
    • reaching out to loved ones
    • Trying a relaxing activity like yoga, meditation, or guided imagery
    • Set goals and priorities for the day. Don’t ask too much of yourself, but organize your tasks and plan for them. Maybe today you need to be at home close to loved ones or a comforting situation. Maybe cleaning will provide that physical activity you could use.
    • Look for comfort, not numbness. Spending time with a pet, play music, watch a funny movie that you love, instead of self-medicating with alcohol. Be careful, alcohol and drug use can increase in triggering events.
    • Avoid judging yourself. Be kind to yourself. You aren’t weak, bad, or less than for having feelings.
  • Some of these a hard to do while traveling. Find an online yoga course to do in your room. Skype a family member if they aren’t with you. Don’t miss sleep, eat healthily and exercise because these all affect your mood.
  • Give yourself some space. If your feelings last longer and it’s affecting your work and your health, reach out to a professional (Clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, psychologist)

Today, after reading the news, I logged off and took my dog for a hike. My feelings came with me, and I still felt them. But moving and spending time with my dog, while he tried to catch lizards brought me some relief. I hope you can find yours.

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