Don’t give up, your life is worth living

What can I do as I am struggling with depression and anxiety for a long time now. I tried therapy but I could not afford it anymore. I have been on medication but stopped as I do not want to be dependent on it. I am considering suicide and have placed it on my “to do” list.

Depression and anxiety are reportedly the most common psychiatric problems that people struggle with and need help for.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression and anxiety are the most common mental health ailments and there needs to be more support from the public and private sector for people who struggle with these and other mental health conditions. It’s a real pity that you needed to stop psychotherapy due to affordability problems. Psychotherapy, coupled with antidepressant medication, is well-known for being the best way for alleviating depression and anxiety. I would recommend that you make contact with your GP or a psychiatrist and be assessed as well as start the appropriate medication as soon as possible.

Stopping your medication on your own without being monitored by your prescribing doctor is counterintuitive and not advisable at all. One of the side effects of this is that you can, for a while, feel worse. Severe and untreated depression may often coincide with a sense of hopelessness which may lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Ending your life is not the answer to your problems, although, right now, it may seem as a way to escape from them. Your life is worth living. But often severe depression distorts one’s perception to believe that life is not worth living at all.

I want you to know that it does get better and there is light at the end of the tunnel, although you can’t see it right now. I would strongly advise that you see your doctor urgently and start your medication soonest, as well as contact Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital or Cape Mental Health Society for counselling. You can google them for contact details. Many of these institutions offer counselling for free or on a sliding scale depending on your income.

My 12-year-old son is being treated by the Child and Family Unit at Red Cross Children’s Hospital for anxiety attacks and school refusal. I am waiting to be referred to a psychologist there. They say my son is very clever but his problems started when I went through a divorce and (at the time) he was seen by a child advocate for divorce and a doctor who put him on antidepressants. I struggled with depression myself. I need help for him as he has dreams and goals for his life.

I am really sorry that your son is going through such a difficult time. Divorce impacts very negatively on children, in most cases.

Anxiety and depression, among other feelings, are common emotional responses to a family break-up. I would advise you to personally visit the Child and Family Unit, inform them of the urgency of your child’s condition and ask if they could place him on the “urgent list”. Sadly, these kinds of public services are often not well funded, understaffed, under-resourced, yet in desperate need by families and community members.

Your son will be able to fulfil his dreams once he gets appropriate psychological support and works through his emotional problems.

I was relieved when I came across your article about anxiety and how it can affect one’s everyday life. As I was reading it I realised that I have been suppressing it for years without reaching out for help. I am a 26 year old male. Since my childhood I’ve always had stomach problems and was constantly sick. I never knew what the cause was. I come from a house where domestic violence took place often to a point where it affected my mind and the doctor told my mom back then I’m a very nervous kid. As a teenager I started experiencing severe loss of sleep, was always tense and whenever I used to go to new places, my stomach would turn, I would feel uneasy with a wobbly feeling in my legs. I grew out of that but the sleepless nights continued and I eventually dropped out of school even though I was a top student.

I couldn’t take the domestic violence from my dad at home, I stood up to him but he put me out of the house. I went to live with my granny down the road. I felt lost and always was restless. I started smoking weed and was able to sleep at night but the side effects of it was worse, as it included addiction-like symptoms, like restlessness if I couldn’t smoke, and a more depressed mood.

I became a father at the age of 18, lost my job and this made me more depressed. After some time, I managed to pick up the pieces. I got a job and I decided to look after my son with the help of my mother who got a RDP house. After a while I got a better job, and my son was with me 90% of the time but I developed severe social anxiety. I want to protect my son and be more of a father to him but can’t do this. I decided to reach out to you, hoping that this would be the first step in the right direction.

I really admire you for your courage and strength. It’s a very hard life that you’ve been through and you have clearly struggled with severe depression and anxiety.

How you have managed to cope with this without much support is admirable. Many people try to manage and cope with emotional problems by abusing substances.

But as you experienced, these often make the symptoms worse including developing addiction. I would advise you to seek help from your doctor including prescribing anti-depressants which incidentally, also helps with anxiety especially and the antidepressant family known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).

These act on nerve cells in the brain to ease depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that carry signals between brain cells. SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available. You have really tried to push yourself to cope with difficult experiences and painful psychological struggles but receiving support through therapy will help you work through difficulties more thoroughly. It will improve your ability to parent, nurture and support your child through his development. With being in the information technology field, you can also do courses in mindfulness (there is a free one on MOOC), which offers skills in dealing with depression and anxiety.

Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist. Write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za Send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.