For many people suffering from anxiety and depression, life can feel like a dark tunnel. But Monica Gullotta wants to assure people that there is a light at the end of that tunnel.
Gullotta, a mental health educator, will present a workshop for those struggling with anxiety and depression on changing perspectives and thought patterns. “Rethinking Anxiety and Depression: Anxiety the Ally, Depression a Discovery Device” takes place June 16 at Ophelia’s Place. (See below for more details.)
After the positive feedback she received from hosting the same workshop in April, Gullotta decided to reprise it with another session.
“The response was unbelievable,” she said. “I literally had to turn people away, so that’s why I’m doing it again.”
The goals of “Rethinking Anxiety and Depression” are to dispel myths about anxiety and depression, turn around negative thought patterns, learn healthy coping mechanisms and show the positive effects that come with those conditions.
“My role is to educate them in all aspects of mental health and ways of understanding it, utilizing it, viewing it in a positive way, and not allowing it to hinder them but rather to change the direction of their lives,” Gullotta said.
Gullotta said she created a support group after struggling with anxiety and depression herself, and she went on to become a mental health educator and self-help coach. Soon, she plans to start an “anxiety and depression learning circle.”
Anxiety and depression can be debilitating conditions, so it can be difficult to see what secondary gains, or positive side effects, come with them.
“Depression invites us to take a deeper look inside. There’s so much [insight] to be gained,” Gullotta said.
“Depression might be telling you that you have something physiologically going on.”
Depression, Gullotta said, can indicate thyroid problems, sleep apnea or hormonal imbalances.
People who suffer from depression often become stuck “camping out in the past,” or dwelling on losses and setbacks instead of moving forward.
“You’re not allowing yourself to transcend that,” Gullotta said. “The depression is saying, ‘Take a look at me.’ Maybe it’s what you continue to focus on that breeds the so-called sadness.”
In addition to the insights depression can bring, Gullotta said people who have depression may develop positive personality traits.
“Typically, people that have had experiences with depression no longer fear death. [They have] more compassion,” she said. “Often they become outwardly focused and they want to make positive changes in the outside world.”
Gullotta cited the example of Abraham Lincoln, who suffered from “melancholy,” or what is now called clinical depression. “He turned his melancholy into positive changes,” she said.
Anxiety sufferers, Gullotta said, also tend to be more compassionate. People tend to put more trust in those with anxiety.
“They’ve been there. They know what it’s like,” she said of anxiety sufferers.
Just as depression can be a sign of underlying issues, anxiety can be a “red alert” that reminds a person to stop and re-assess their well-being.
“Are you getting enough sleep? Are you drinking too much caffeine? Perhaps the anxiety is alerting you of that,” Gullotta said.
While depression is living in the past, Gullotta said, anxiety is living in the future.
“I often see this a lot where college students might be like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m going to fail out of college if I get a bad grade,” she said. “You’re creating this scenario that’s not even there.”
Given the popularity of the April and May workshops and the growing number of attendees for the June session, Gullotta said she is thinking about hosting a future workshop in a larger venue. She wants to change people’s perspectives of anxiety and depression and spread her message of positive thinking.
“Your thoughts are going to change and something incredible is going to change too: Your symptoms will reduce,” she said.
To learn more about Monica Gullotta and her work, visit monicashelp.com.
If you think you have depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, please seek the help of a professional. To find a therapist, contact your general practitioner or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline, 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727).
In addition, the New York State Office of Mental Health (omh.ny.gov) can direct you to resources for children, teens, adults, perinatal mothers, seniors and veterans, as well as crisis assistance. You can also search by county.
If you are in crisis, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis workers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What: “Rethinking Anxiety and Depression: Anxiety the Ally, Depression a Discovery Device” workshop with Monica Gullotta
When: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 16
Where: Café at 407/Ophelia’s Place, 407 Tulip St., Liverpool
Info: Admission is $25. Seats are limited, so register soon by calling (315) 352-0866. All participants will receive a free workbook to be used during the workshop.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.