(This is the eighth post in a series called “Anxiety Society” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
Meet Larry Nocella: blogger and independent novelist. He sold his first article at the young age of 14 and “has been writing ever since,” he says. By day, Larry is full-time employee at marketing company and a (mostly former) sufferer of anxiety & depression. He lives, writes, and works in the greater Philadelphia area.
Just over a year ago, he “came out” on his blog as a user of antidepressant medication:
Do I tell you something I’d rather keep private? Or do I spill the ugly details?
I’ve decided to share. Why? Because of you of course. Yes, you. Reading this. You. Or maybe someone you know.
Because there is definitely a time when sharing beats silence, and that’s if you can help people. Mom was all about helping people, so while I lean toward her style of privacy, I think she’d appreciate why I’ve decided to come out.
What I’m trying to tell you is I take an anti-depressant. Were you expecting me to say something else?
Larry and I talked about his anxiety, depression, his medication use, and his optimism for the future.
Summer: So, Larry! In this blog post, you “came out” to the world as someone who takes antidepressant medication. How did you feel after publishing that post?
Larry: Frankly, I felt great. It was exciting, too, before I pushed the ENTER button. I was thinking, “This is the internet. There is absolutely no going back if you do this.” I enjoyed the drama!
As I mentioned in the post, I was helped immensely by people who talked openly about these kinds of illnesses, and their struggles, but ultimate victories. I wanted to give back a little. Before the post, I was thinking about doing it, and then someone I knew had a similar episode and I “came out” right there and surprised my friends who were there. And as you might expect, a lot of people have since confided in me they have (or know someone) with the same issue.
Anxiety and depression might sound like opposite ends of a spectrum (and to some extent, they are)…but you’ve experienced them in tandem, correct? You describe going to the ER for a panic attack before, but it looks like depression was your main longstanding issue.
I would say that I definitely experienced both, but I think anxiety (obsession) led to depression.
Did your anxiety feed off of your depression too? How do you suppose anxiety and depression were related for you?
I was always worried about all kinds of stupid things, and I couldn’t push painful memories out of my mind, even when I wanted to, no matter how small the pain. I’ve always been positive, actually, but that habit just wore me down. So what was an annoying trait as a kid, became dangerous as an adult, with adult-size problems, I collapsed under the weight of my own angst.
Looking back, it was a great thing, because now I know more about myself and I’ve never felt more capable of consciously pursuing inner peace and happiness.
What sort of tools or methods or life changes are you using to pursue that inner peace & happiness? How were to able to tackle that angst & the obsessive thoughts? What changed?
Once I realized I had a serious problem, and not just an annoying habit, I countered it on all fronts. My doctor recommended an anti-depressant and that was (and is) a huge help, but as I said in my “coming out” article, that doesn’t guarantee happiness, it just fixes the hardware (brain chemistry). The software (thoughts) was still up to me, so I became much more aware of my internal dialogue, which looking back, was brutal and merciless.
I’ve always been a gentle person to others (well, I try) but I was constantly berating myself and being dissatisfied with myself, etc. I put a stop to that, and it’s great being so aware and fair with myself.
I’m glad you’re doing so much better now! These days, how prevalent are anxiety & depression in your life? On a bad day (or week, or month), how do you cope?
I have to say practically non-existent. My internal dialogue and naturally positive attitude are mostly in-line now.
I’m kind of proud of that, and of course thankful for my good fortune. I am much better equipped to handle real stress because I don’t strain myself daily with unnecessary stress. I did have a bad time recently, but the positive side effect was I learned a fun and successful anti-OCD trick.
I’m sure someone else has thought of something like this, but recently I had some stress that was pressing hard, and I would obsess about it, so I told myself, okay, every time you obsess about this, you MUST think about [insert disturbing & funny memory here].
My disturbing and funny memory I can’t tell because I want to protect the semi-innocent, but it was something like seeing a friend dirty-dancing drunk in their underwear. It was one of those uncomfortable yet funny memories. That particular type of memory was key because it felt like a mild punishment for obsessing, and it also made me laugh. It worked like a charm, knocking out the negative memory and making me laugh all at once.
Basically, I robbed the obsession of its seriousness and laughed in its face.
Later this week in the next installment, Larry and I discuss how he manages his critical “inner dialogue”, and he also shares his method for sourcing positive energy into his life.