EDUCATION

Self care helps some COPE with depression and anxiety

Brooke McNabb
Oxford Stories
hbmcnabb@go.olemiss.edu

Self doubt. Thoughts of never being good enough. The fear that no matter what is done, it will always end in failure. These are just a few examples of intrusive thoughts those with depression and anxiety may face.

According the the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression also suffer from anxiety. The two illnesses often go hand in hand and can be debilitating for anyone who falls prey.

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Rachel Clark spent most of her life in Mississippi. She grew up in Madison with her mother and stepfather. After high school, she graduated from Hinds Community College and attended the University of Southern Mississippi. It was her first time on her own, and everything seemed fine until the panic attacks started.

“I had struggled with depression in high school,” Clark said. “But after a falling out with one of my friends that moved to Hattiesburg with me, I became really lonely.”

Cindy Carter, Clark’s mother, began to notice the change in her daughter’s behavior. She tried to intervene, but her daughter assured her everything was fine.

“I knew something just wasn’t right,” Carter said. “Call it mother’s intuition or whatever you will, but I went down to her apartment to see what was really going on.”

Her mother found medication in Clark’s apartment and confronted her. Clark admitted she had a problem and was struggling, so her mother helped her find an out-patient counseling center since school was still in session.

“I’m glad I got the help,” said Clark. “I don’t know where I’d be without it. I finished out the semester, and my mom and her husband were moving to Tennessee, so I thought it would be a nice change of pace for me.”

Clark packed up her tiny apartment, grabbed her two twin kitties and said goodbye to Hattiesburg. She stayed with her mother in their new home in Tennessee over the summer while Clark looked into different schools and finally decided on Eastern Tennessee State University.

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“Tennessee is absolutely breathtaking,” Clark said. “I started getting back into photography again because the mountains and vast landscapes inspired me. It gets me outside and I get to see the beauty in the world again.”

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Clark is about to embark on her last semester in the spring when she’ll finish her social work degree. She plans on working at an entry level position for about three years before heading back to school for her master’s degree.

“I chose social work because I want to help those that are suffering too,” said Clark. “I’ve been there, and I want to be their guiding light to help them on the right path. Everyone deserves a second chance, just like me.”

Alex Kerwin works at the University of Mississippi as a professor of counseling skills and is the director of the Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment. COPE is a counseling center off campus where UM students can talk to counselors for free if they feel they’re struggling.

“Everyone needs a counselor at some point,” Kerwin said. “I have one as well. Sometimes we just need someone to talk to and help us understand ourselves and our choices better.

“At COPE, we teach people overall wellness with a positive outlook. Eating well and exercising are important, but we also stress the importance of making sure your finances are in order and you’re being responsible.”

“Self-care is proactive,” Kerwin said. “Coping skills are reactive. If we revert to coping skills, they’re more like putting a band-aid on a broken bone. It doesn’t really help in the long run.

“Instead we should focus on ‘parenting’ ourselves. That means doing the things we don’t want to do, like chores or other mundane tasks. The thing is those are what really help to structure us to live better, well rounded lives.”

Admitting the need for help can be difficult for anyone. Some may feel like there is no hope, but those are the ones who need it the most. Being proactive and seeking help through counseling or doctor-prescribed medication is nothing to be ashamed of.

Everyone has struggles, but they shouldn’t have to go at it alone. The University of Mississippi offers many different counseling options for students and faculty free of charge.

“Self-care is self-love,” says Kerwin. “Always remember to take care of you first, everything else can wait.”

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