I have a problem with distractions. With losing focus and staying in control of tasks I’m working on. It can be a major problem, particularly when it comes to concentrating on work tasks, staying on top of assignments and being generally organized with what’s going on. This can result in missed or late assignments, sloppy work and a lot of wasted time. How do I handle that as someone with anxiety and depression? By ignoring problems rather than facing them. By withdrawing from people in order to avoid being asked about something. Sometimes by shutting down completely (nothing can harm me if I just stay in bed all day!). Or at least, that’s how I used to handle it. I’m better now after nearly two years of therapy, medication and personal development. But sometimes I still find myself lost, with multiple projects piling up, and it can feel like the episode of I Love Lucy with the assembly line.
I fall behind and can end up feeling the anxiety building and it’s awful. The thing with anxiety of course is that it feeds off of itself and without checking it early it becomes nearly uncontrollable, building into a nasty cycle of fear, denial, and regret. That in turn breeds depression, a sense of hopelessness that the problems are insurmountable, that you have no worth because you struggle and that you have no way out. Having been through all of that I’m conscientious about my anxiety now and try to interrupt it before it gets out of control.
There are basically two ways to do this- through pharmacological means and through skill sets learned through therapy. I do both of these, taking a daily anti-depressant that’s designed to improve mood and an anti-anxiety prescription on an as needed basis. I also have learned some good habits in therapy when it comes to recognizing the signs of a panic attack, how to plan for and around situations that may be trigger anxiety. But so far a lot of what I’ve worked on and discussed with my therapist has been focused around interrupting the patterns of anxiety and depression (which, don’t misunderstand me, has been hugely important and helpful). But today, for the first time since I started therapy, we had a substantive discussion about other things that I can be doing to help avoid a lot of these situations in the first place.
I explained to her the issues I outlined at the beginning of this post; I have a problem with distractions, attentiveness and focus. We discussed how my issues were both similar and different from ADHD, and some of the different skills I can try in order to manage things like distractions, how to organize tasks in a way that works for me, how to hold myself accountable for deadlines, etc. We also discussed a new medication, Kapvay, that may be helpful. It’s essentially the extended release version of the clonidine I take for anxiety, but instead of taking it on an as needed basis, I’ll take it daily. It’s supposed to help with focus and attention to detail.
I know that new medication or tips on how to manage time aren’t an all in one solution or a silver bullet. All of these things are pieces of a larger puzzle and I need to be patient and committed to proactively taking steps to get better. But I’m optimistic.