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How Journaling and Regulating Emotions Helps Me Deal With Depression and Anxiety

“Sometimes I look back and think about all the years I spent crying and thinking about how to end the pain, which made me believe that’s how life is. I got to the point where I had no idea what it felt like to feel a little bit of joy or happiness.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hey! My name is Anabel, and I currently live in Utah, USA although I’m from Chile. I moved to the US seven years ago. 

I have been working as a Project Manager and Linguist for a technology company since 2020. 

I’m single and I’ve always wanted to get a pet, but I also love traveling and it makes me sad to know that I’d have to leave my pet with someone else, so for now, it’s just me. 

Traveling has become a therapy for me. It makes me feel so good at the same time I distract myself from my boring routine. I also like reading, watching movies and TV series, and going to the theater to see musicals. Mamma Mia and Anastasia are my favorites.

I tend to be very hard and demanding on myself, so happiness is a big concept for me. I don’t think I’m 100% happy, but I do think I’m happier than five years ago. 

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager; I just didn’t know those were the names. I think my struggle started at 12 with moving to a new house and the mental health struggle my own parents were going through.

As a kid, I couldn’t understand what was going on, all I felt was abandonment, loneliness, and fear. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve realized that I’m also a highly sensitive person and that I have highly functioning anxiety. I remember I spent my teen years being sad and watching TV all day. I didn’t go out as any other teenager or have fun at all.

My world was my room, and I’d overthink so much. I thought that was normal, but now I look back and don’t know how I actually survived those years. When I grew up I started realizing that those symptoms would repeat over and over at different ages. Sadness, overthinking, a feeling of being trapped and suffocated. 

I think I was around 30 when I started naming my symptoms with the help of a therapist, and it was a year ago when I was able to practice naming my emotions and accepting all of them, even the unpleasant ones (I call them unpleasant ones now. I used to call them “bad” emotions).

Now that I’m 35, I see how my emotions have taken over my physical health. When I was a teenager it was all about feelings, but now it is a pounding heart that simulates a heart attack, tickly hands, and the feeling of drowning. 

I’ve learned so many techniques to try to accept what I feel, and those resources have helped me move forward with my life

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

Sometimes I look back and think about all the years I spent crying and thinking about how to end the pain, which made me believe that’s how life is. I got to the point where I had no idea what it felt like to feel a little bit of joy or happiness.

As an adult, I’m trying to remember that I do deserve to be happy and that I’m allowed to feel joy. It’s hard though, but I’m getting there. 

At those moments, I don’t think anyone around me knew what was going on with me. I have never been good at expressing what I feel. I always kept it inside me, which made it worse. 

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

At 32 or 33, I was feeling the same symptoms and feelings I had when I was a teenager, and that made me feel desperate. I didn’t want them. I started having thoughts of ending my life, which, for me was the main symptom to know that something was wrong with me. I thought I had it under control, but then I realized I didn’t.

So, I thought about all the therapy and things I tried over the years, and I didn’t want to go back to that because I knew it wouldn’t heal me. It took me months to finally come up with something.

I knew I had to try something I had never done before. So, I started looking for something that would motivate me or at least something that would find the motivation that was hidden for so long. I thought if I found it I could hold on to that to start feeling better.

I went back to my years before 12 to find what was filling my heart. Then, I remembered something I felt passionate about that I never tried because I was always told that I couldn’t do it, and I believed it. 

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I always wanted to be an actor. I was always a creative person, but never believed it. I’ve always wanted to create something and always liked writing, acting, and movies!

So, I thought that acting would take some time, but writing I could start right away. I was never good at talking, but I was good at writing what I felt. So, I started writing a book.

I wrote my poetry book and self-published it in 2023. It took me some time; it was harder than I thought, but every time I wrote I’d feel that something was filling the empty holes in my heart.

When that tiny light started coming out in my heart, I held onto that and found my motivation to move forward. My book is about mental health issues, healing, and self-empowerment. I created an IG account for my book, a website, and my book is available on Amazon.  

Besides writing to find healing, I also wrote to help others. My wish is for people to read my book and find something they’re lacking. Maybe that motivation I was looking for and then take it and make it their own. Since then, I’ve also tried other types of therapy, like hypnosis.

This one has helped more than any other. It takes courage to do it because you have to go back to unpleasant situations in order to heal them. But it has been so rewarding.

I know I’m not completely healed, and I’ve come to the realization that I might not heal completely ever, but at least, I can try to feel better every day by doing something. 

Other things I have done is to imagine I’m sitting at a table with strong emotions, like anxiety, frustration, depression, stress, etc., and telling them all I feel, even if it’s bad. I’ve told them how hard my life is because of them, and then once I’ve vented, I’d let them talk.

Most of them have told me that they’re not there to ruin my life but to help me overcome something I might not even be aware of. Then I proceed to look at the emotion and see its colors, shape, and where in my body I’m feeling it.

Afterward, I drew the emotion on a notebook and named it. This way, every time I feel anxious, for example, I’d remember the drawing and identify what I’m feeling. That way, I’ve found that I don’t want to get rid of the emotion anymore. I accepted it as uncomfortable as it was. It has worked for me. 

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

As I have said before, I wasn’t good at expressing/talking, so I didn’t share my struggles with anyone, which made it harder for me. I’m still practicing and I’m still comfortable not telling anyone. But I’ve also learned that when you share and face your emotions, you heal faster. 

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Don’t fight your emotions. Don’t get desperate to get rid of them. You’re not the only one feeling this. Learn to regulate and to accept them. The more you do it, the better you’ll feel. 

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

  • Book “Many Lives, Many Masters”: This book helped me realize that many of the emotional struggles we have come from past lives or even from our ancestors. They’re not even ours. And this knowledge has helped me lower the intensity of my emotions. 
  • Ted Talk “The Power of Vulnerability: This Ted Talk by Brene Brown is so good! It has helped me to find validation about how brave and vulnerable I’ve been in my life.
  • Podcast “Dear Hollywood”: This podcast has helped me realize I’m not the only one struggling with mental health issues. Even celebrities or people whom we think are happy still struggle with this. 
  • App “Twill”: It’s a free app where you can find meditations and other activities and resources for your mental health. 
  • This is my own website where I list free resources to help others with mental health issues like me. Click on the Mental Health tab.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can read more about me here:

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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