by Jim Boyle
Cindy Lovelette began dealing with anxiety at the age of 12, and she couldn’t shake it until about five years ago.
That’s after she learned the root of all anxiety is how you think and what you tell yourself. Up to that point she either did her best to fight through her anxieties or she let them get the best of her.
“Your world becomes pretty small,” she said. “Nobody should have to live that way.”
Now Lovelette has learned tools to deal with anxiety and what she does to curb her thoughts when the world around her begins to close in.
Lovelette began to share her stories and tell of things that helped free her to fight through anxiety at a District 728 Community Education program Monday night. It was the first session of a two two-session program called Dealing with stress, anxiety and depression at the Handke Center.
It was for adults only, and another two-session course is available for parent/child teams. The adult-only will conclude with a session from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 24. The parent/child sessions will be at the same time on Sept. 17 and Oct. 1.
To register, call 763-241-3520 or visit www.728communityed.com.
“We all have resiliance,” Lovelette said. “We have to find that because we live in a stressful world.”
Lovelette said the program is geared for anybody with anxiety that keeps them from living the life they’re supposed to be living.
Lovelette admits she does not have a degree in psychology or anything like it. She simply has lived through the disorder, learned how to combat it and now finds herself living to tell about it.
Anxiety develops from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events. Her experiences coupled with classes she has taken and studies she has done have made it possible for her to step up and volunteer personal information about herself.
She’s been thinking about it for two years, but not seriously until this past year. She said she noticed when she brought up her condition to others, many volunteered that they suffered from anxiety, too.
Others said they knew of someone who did and in some cases it was that of a child who did.
This former parent liaison who worked for 12 years at VandenBerge Middle School and Elk River High School has had school nurses urge her to talk about her experiences. She hopes to get in front of other groups, like health classes.
Through her efforts to rid herself of anxiety, she has learned valuable skills to help her overcome the debilitating effects of the condition.
She still suffers.
“The thought of bearing my soul in public is scary,” she said. “But if it helps one person get over their fears it will be worth it.”
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18 percent of U.S. population), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
They are also highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment, the ADAA states on its website.
It’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Mental illness is defined as “collectively all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.”
Depression is the most common type of mental illness, affecting more than 26 percent of the U.S. adult population. It has been estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease., according to The Global Burden of Disease: A Comprehensive Assessment of Mortality and Disability from Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors in 1990 and Projected to 2020. Geneva, Switzerland;World Health Organization, 1996.
Lovelette says Americans need to restore quiet time in their lives and get past the stigma associated with mental health issues.
She says Americans no longer have quiet time, and they are suffering because of it. In the old days, the farmers had it out in the fields. They also had sleep, exercise and a better diet built into their lifestyle. She says it’s easy to dismiss the need for quiet time, sleep, exercise and a better diet, but adds the consequences are stiff. And the thing with anxiety, she said, is it builds up steam.
“The way you conquer fear is to do it,” she said. “Do the thing that you fear.”
And a person can be taught to handle their fears. Meditation — taking time to calm fears — is one key.
“I know what works,” she said. “Is it hard to do? You bet it is. Do you have to work at it? Absolutely.”
Lovelette says the reason she believes so many people with anxiety also have depression is because they don’t overcome the anxiety. It puts them into a depression when they are suffering from anxiety without a clear end in sight.
At the peak of her anxiety, she had given up travelling and started to feel like she couldn’t do anything. Once she turned a corner, she said it got easier the more she faced her fears.
The trouble is often that people choose not to address their disorder. Most won’t even talk about their fears. “We have got to get rid of the stigma,” she said.
Lovelette will do her part this month and next at the District 728 Community Education classes. Space is limited, so register soon.