Jellyfish, Vancouver Aquarium, April 2017
It’s now been nearly two years since this great anxiety train rolled into the station and almost derailed me for good. And I really do wonder what life would be like if it hadn’t happened to me, and I wasn’t this way.
One thing that has definitely changed is I am so much more aware of how my body reacts to things. I have been thinking a lot these past few weeks about how much of depression/anxiety is physical, and how much is thoughts. A lot of times we treat mental illness as if it’s something we can think our way out of. If we were just nicer to ourselves, we’d feel a lot better. Etc.
But lately I have been wondering, how much are the thoughts swayed by what the body is feeling? And if anxiety and depression are inherited, how much do life circumstances actually play in triggering anxiety and depression? Or is it that the physical strains of stress on the body triggers the mind to produce anxious and depressed thoughts?
I have wondered this because I’ve noticed profound changes in my mood whenever I do certain things. For instance, when I exercise, go for a swim, or take a cold shower, my negative thoughts turn off and I become calm, relaxed, and hopeful. It’s like I’m actually incapable of thinking bad things. In contrast, the other day I was feeling really hormonal. My chest was tight, I had a throbbing headache, and my muscles were sore and painful. All I could think were dark, despairing thoughts. Then I took a painkiller, and it was like the clouds parted and I felt all would be well again. I felt much more hopeful and optimistic.
I’m no scientist. I don’t know for sure. I only know the experience of my own body. But I’m thinking, the brain is a physical part of the body. It’s connected to what’s going on everywhere in it. It wouldn’t surprise me if our thoughts were influenced by the stimuli experienced by our bodies.