Archive for the depression Category

The Art of Doing Something.

Posted in anxiety, anxiety disorder, coping, coping strategies, depression, mental health, mental illness, panic attacks, recovery with tags , , on July 9, 2013 by Trace

The thing about depression and anxiety flare-ups is they often creep up on you. At first, it’s just random, self-defeating thoughts, such as:

You’ll never be able to handle this, why are you even trying?

You’ll ruin everyone’s day if you go out with them.

And then the thoughts get progressively worse, the longer you let it keep going. And it will keep going. I don’t know about anyone else’s brain, but it’s a little like lassoing an enraged animal. You let it keep rampaging and it runs around breaking precious things until you get it under control and back where it should be. Sometimes the animal is a tiny, angry dog. Other times the animal is a bull elephant.

Either way, there is damage that happens. In terms of emotions and depression, that damage can be a lot of things – a complete lack of self-esteem and self-worth, the inability to live a normal life, the blackest feeling of despair you wouldn’t wish on anyone. You sit in your room and cry and then get angry at yourself for crying. You bemoan not being able to be normal and then that wanting to be normal compounds the depression you feel. Eventually, at least for me, it leaves me finding it hard to do much of anything but go through the motions.

Your body has a way of keeping you from doing things you want to do. I’ve noticed the pattern, after almost ten years of this garbage. What’s the pattern?

Depression/anxiety > Wallowing > Pushing self out of wallowing > Getting motivated and feeling better

…and it repeats, over and over. The motivation is the best feeling in the world when you’ve been under gray clouds for ages, but eventually that sunshine starts to fade under the clouds again. Thoughts like ‘well this won’t last long’ becomes something you need to constantly combat. If you’re me and have health anxiety issues, suddenly the things you’ve felt you finally got under control is going haywire again. The motivation slowly sinks back to depression and anxiety, and you’re left with vague memories of all the moments you thought you were finally okay.

Trust me, your brain records your every failure to repeat back at you when you’re at your best when depression is part of your life. It’s never that time you overcame your fear when the bad feelings start coming back, not automatically at least. No, you need to actively seek out the positive thoughts before it drowns under the negativity your brain loves to hold onto. It beats you over and over and, just for good measure, the injuries it inflicts on you are invisible just so the people in your life wonder why you can’t just pull yourself together.

I’m still in one of my downward spirals. It crops up every so often, often when my body decides to do something that scares me (remember, health anxiety). Simple aches and pains are blown out of portion the second they happen. Sometimes, I can push them aside quickly enough. Other times you have where I am now, where fear dictates everything. I know the what I need to do to pull myself out of this, but it’s the initial push that’s the hardest. And what is the first step, you ask? What is the secret first step I have found to be the start of every recovery period for me?

Do something.

Simple, right? Really vague, right? There’s a reason for that. The ‘something’ is different for each person. It also pluralizes itself as you take steps to improve things. When you hit rock bottom like I’ve been, where getting up and taking care of myself feels insurmountable, that’s my something. Showering, making myself meals instead of just eating junk, keeping myself and my surroundings neat, go to therapy even when I don’t want to go outside – these are all small things, but recovery is a lot of stepping stones to getting better. Sometimes you trip on the stones, but getting up and pushing forward is the best thing you can do for yourself. I think what I need to learn now is to always keep my eye on the road instead of letting myself slack, because when I start sliding back into old habits, the cycle starts again. Doing something and continuing to do something, whatever that something is, is difficult but in the end is the best thing you can do for yourself. It may not ‘fix’ you, but it may make things just a little better than it was before. Those falls start not lasting as long as they lasted before.  

I hope you all find your ‘something’ to get you started on feeling better, too.Go_For_It

 

As an aside, if you feel you are to the point of needing professional help and don’t know where to turn and want getting help to be your ‘something’, there’s a good list of ways to seek help for anyone looking for it here.

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On job searching and hope

Posted in anxiety, anxiety disorder, depression, job hunting, mental health, mental illness with tags , , , on July 1, 2013 by Trace

Hello there, folks. Long time no talk.

I wish I could say the radio silence was for all good things. Instead, I’ve mostly been mentally exhausted and depressed by putting myself into looking for work. It’s bad enough when you’re someone without a mental disorder and not finding what you want, but when you have one?

Yeah, it’s been a bit like I’ve been constantly beaten down.

009-depressed

I admit it, my resume isn’t the best. I got my anxiety and depression diagnosis late in life (18) and didn’t properly have it under control for most of my college life. I had to take a semester off at one point, but that’s a story for another time. During school, I did have one solid job, but once I was out of school, I was set adrift. That led to anxiety and depression part two, in which I stayed out of work for way too long. Now I have a resume that’s pretty terrible and lacking much since 2011, which is the first thing people see.

How do you explain you’ll be a hard worker when you literally have proof on paper you did nothing but wallow in misery for years? I’ve started to get better at lying my ass off and saying things I’ve been doing when I haven’t been doing much at all except piecing my life together.

It’s rough. It’s rough but I keep going, because eventually I’ll get hired somewhere. Still, I find myself constantly jealous of people who sort of fell into their lives, because at 27, I still don’t know what I want to do or if I can even do it. It’s a little hard to sell yourself to companies when you’re even hard on yourself for not having things together.

People say you are your own worst enemy. This is probably more true than I ever want to admit. I have let myself pass up opportunities when I was at my worst, and it’s biting me in the butt. I think I fell into this moping cycle again, and I starting fighting back yesterday. Cleaned my room properly in the first time in forever. Wrote this post this morning and actually felt like writing this post, instead of feeling like I had to force these words to come out of me.

Positive steps. That’s what I need now more than ever.

I’m looking into volunteer opportunities this morning, because I’ve recognized I’m not doing well the longer I don’t go out and do something productive. I think that’s the first thing I can tell anyone dealing with this – don’t stay inside. Even if you’re getting nos, even if it feels like everything is at its’ worst, find something fufilling to do, even if it’s not paid. I hope to get back into blogging more, too, because this is a nice outlet. It’s nice to be able to write these things down and release them instead of letting them bottle up and explode on me.

Maybe I’ll even have good news to share soon.

Meet my best (furry) friend.

Posted in anxiety, anxiety disorder, cats, coping strategies, depression, mental health, mental illness, panic attacks, pets, recovery with tags , , on June 5, 2013 by Trace

I feel like I’ve written mostly heavy articles on this blog so far, and figure, hey, you know what this place needs? Cats. Cats always make things better.

 

Particularly, my cat makes my life better. If you checked out my coping tips blog article, you might’ve noticed the inclusion of considering getting a cat or dog buddy. I say this from experience because both animals have enriched my life in many ways. I focus on my cat, however, because while I love my dog, my cat seems to have found some sort of connection to my emotions that my dog has never tapped into. But I’m getting ahead of myself, here.

 

Meet my cat. Her name is Kiki.

 

Super adorable.

Pretty cute, right?

 

 

She was a stray in Rhode Island twelve – almost thirteen – years ago, found under a porch with her siblings and mother. They were taken to a vet in Rhode Island and given their own special area to grow. My sister and her boyfriend – now her husband – had recently rented their first place together up there, and they decided with their lifestyle, a cat would be the pet for them. They happened to hear about this litter and went over to check them out. All of them were adorable – and the mother was very sweet – but in the end, my sister spotted a tiny black kitten who seemed a little off in her own world, concentrating hard on her mother’s flopping tail instead of pouncing on it. It made mer laugh, and she knew in that moment she would be the pet for them.

 

The cat was a ball of energy. The first night they put a giant bed up to keep the cat confined to one area and woke up in the middle of the night to her howling. Turned out little Kiki had clawed her way up and realized only after how high it was, and needed help down. This of course did not stop her from doing that more than once, but there’s cat logic for you. When they moved back to New Jersey, they faced a far more strict housing situation with pets involved, as well as the very late realization that my sister’s really bad allergies were in part due to cat hair. At the time, we had a large golden retriever but no cat, and my parents made the offer to see if Amber and Kiki could get along.

 

Suffice to say, it went fine. Kiki was nervous at first, but Amber was old by then and, true to the golden retriever nature, very gentle and calm. For a long time they settled on not really bothering with each other, but eventually Kiki became comfortable enough with dogs that I would sometimes find her sleeping on the floor near Amber, or getting bored and playing with her tail. She settled in nicely, mostly sticking to my mom. Still, I noticed she had an uncanny ability to come find me when I had anxiety attacks and just sit with me. To say the least, I got very attached very quickly.

 

Peek-a-boo!

Peek-a-boo!

 

As all living things unfortunately do eventually, Amber passed away three years later from bone cancer at the age of twelve. Kiki became the only animal of the household, which she seemed pretty listless about at times, especially in the beginning. Honestly, my entire family was listless too – it’d been a long time since we had no dog around – and while we all thought we’d wait some time, it wasn’t long before we started looking at petfinder. We found a small puppy rescued from a Georgia kill shelter with her siblings, and she would eventually become the newest member of my family. There was admittedly some worry that Kiki wouldn’t like a dog with quite a lot more energy than what she was used to, but two years later, they have gotten very comfortable around each other. Annie – the new dog – has learned boundaries, and Kiki knows how to make it known if she’s getting a little too annoying.

 

I bring this backstory up because it was when Annie came into the picture, she really became my cat. Annie is a smaller dog, allowed to sleep with my parents in their bed instead of the floor, so Kiki suddenly found her usual spot to sleep taken up. She began spending more and more time in my room – the quietest in the house – and suddenly it went from her finding me when I was freaked out to basically going between the porch to my lap whenever I was home. Having a warm cat curled up to you, knowing that they have complete trust in you to pass out for hours and not have a second thought, is a strange but wonderful feeling. At my lowest, she was one being I never felt uncomfortable being sad or upset around, because animals don’t judge. They just don’t.

 

Hanging out, as always. :P

Hanging out, as always. 😛

 

And that’s where I am now. My cat is my best friend. I’m not embarrassed to say that at all. There’s something about having a being that literally will never stop loving you, no matter how many tears they see you shed or what you tell them. She’s amazingly patient with my moods, and I honestly hope I have many, many more good years with her. I cherish every day the little pain in the butt is with me, even when she decides to be very much a cat and gets into trouble.

 

So when I say, you should consider a pet, this is where I’m coming from. Pets are pretty dang great. 🙂

On dating and self-acceptance.

Posted in anxiety, anxiety disorder, body acceptance, depression, mental health, mental illness, personal, recovery, social anxiety with tags , , , , , on June 4, 2013 by Trace

I’ve been taking tentative steps toward dating again lately. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, but have been wary of doing. My life isn’t put together like I think it should at this point of the game. I’m still job hunting, still living at home. It’s hard to explain both of these when you’re on the older spectrum of twenty, even in this crap economy. The ‘what are you doing with your life’ portion of any dating website makes me wince, but I know, honestly, that really isn’t my only hangup.

Anxiety ruins a lot of things, especially severe anxiety. That little part of me that feels good about myself is one of the first things that went, leaving me questioning why anyone would want to be my friend, nevermind date me. I look at the mirror and see my imperfections and that’s about it. I assume that’s all anyone who wants to meet me will see as well, so it becomes a battle of ‘why bother’, which is disheartening to say the least. I’m getting better at combating the negativity that plagues me, but it’s hard to tell yourself you’re worthy of love and friendship when you spent years having trouble convincing yourself you’re even worth being alive. The years I could’ve been spending learning how to grow as a person with other people around me was stunted, and I feel, in a lot of ways, still unequipped to be close with people.

My inexperience builds on my fear and my fear builds on more fears, until it’s just a mess of uncertainty. I used to think, if only I had work, I’d be okay and feel good about myself. If only I were skinnier, I’d be okay and feel good about myself. In the end, I think the thought is flawed – it’d certainly lift my self-esteem some to feel like I am being a productive member of society, but I know that work and appearance aren’t really all there is to a person’s character. My self-hatred is a deep seated one, one where I don’t think people would like me as a person because of my problems and my hang-ups, and that’s something I’m trying to learn isn’t true with my therapist.

can-stock-photo_csp5304582Because I at least know the thinking is warped. When I get over the hurtle of being around people – and it’s always that first hurtle I trip on – I like to think I’m good company. I try to be empathetic, I try to make people laugh, I try I try I try. I wish I didn’t have to consciously realize how hard I’m trying, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that at least for the time being, things will be a little harder for me than it would be if I didn’t have a mental illness. And it’s worth the uphill battle, because I do want friends and eventually someone to spend my life with. Both involve me having to force myself out to gain, and while that’s hard, exploring the world around me is a gift in its’ own right.

One day I hope I can, without a second thought, decide that if someone doesn’t like me based on superficial reasons like looks or the fact I struggle with this fear monster at my back, it’s their own problem and I’m better off without that sort of negativity around me. For now, I treat it like a mantra, something that if I tell myself enough, hopefully one day I’ll wholly believe that and not be so hard on myself when I hit walls and some ‘friends’ leave me behind instead of waiting for me. The funny thing is, I have had friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin, it’s just focusing on them and not the ‘failures’ that’s the real trick of it.

Story time (otherwise known as, the big background post)

Posted in anxiety, depression, personal with tags , , , on May 30, 2013 by Trace

So I’ve juggled the idea of putting together a blog about anxiety for a long time. I talk about it enough elsewhere, so it seems silly I haven’t consolidated my feelings somewhere. And since this blog is mainly about my journey with an anxiety disorder, well, we probably should start at the beginning, shouldn’t we?

If I’m honest with myself, there were a lot of little things that were brewing way before my first panic attack. I had a tendency to really dislike crowds and actively avoided them. I worried about long trips because of the potential lack of bathrooms. I worried about people not making it home after work and school at night in an almost obsessive sort of way. I never really connected it all, though, not while it was happening. My parents shrugged it off as me being a homebody. I put it off as that, too – it was easy to just tell myself I preferred hanging out at my house than going to parties. When college came around, I chose the closest ones, never really even considering leaving home. Graduation happened, I got in to the university I wanted to go to, and things seemed pretty good.

I never saw the first panic attack coming. It was the summer before college and I was eighteen. I woke up and it honestly felt like I was having a heart attack. How I didn’t manage to rush to the hospital that night, I don’t know, but it forever changed me. I spent that month basically waiting to die, despite doctors assuring me I was fine. I nearly gave up on the idea of college all together, even though I was staying home and commuting, but my parents convinced me to give it a try. The first semester was brutal. There was one class I could barely sit in because it made what I now realize was anxiety flare up so badly. I nearly failed that course, and my other classes weren’t so hot either. It was November that year that I first went to a therapist.

Before I continue, I want to say that I won’t go into the long list of therapists and therapies I have tried in this post. Those might become their own posts, because sharing what I’ve been through and the types of therapies I’ve tried might help someone reading this pick one for themselves. What I will say here is the journey to finding the right therapy for you can be long and hard, and it took me two tries to get to a therapist who at least helped me function. I was put on medications at that point – after bad reactions to a few, I eventually was put on Zoloft and Klonopin. They helped get me through school, though at one point I went off my meds and ended up having to leave school for a semester when I basically reverted right back to how I used to be.

Protip: Don’t go off your meds and stop therapy in a stupid decision that you are clearly fine when you start feeling better. Trust me, it will probably not end well.

I missed out on a lot of things in school, unfortunately. It was hard to stay there, so I usually just did my classes and went home. Eventually I got a job on campus during phone stuff for fundraising, which I liked. But beyond that, my participation in social life suffered tremendously and the years I had to get work experience was sucked away. I had a general idea of what I wanted, but was always too nervous to talk to my adviser because I had no set goals. There were still classes that really made me anxious for one reason or another, but I’m pretty proud to say I only had to talk to one professor about it (and only because she had a strict attendance policy). The rest I managed to get through and get decent grades in. It took me longer than it ought to have, but I graduated at the end of 2009. Thrust into a world with no direction, my anxiety got bad very quickly.

I tried to better myself before I hit the working world. I got a new therapist, decided to get weight loss surgery while I was still covered (that will be a post in itself one day) on my dad’s insurance. I coped with eating, and had ballooned to a pretty high weight. I thought surely once I lost I would be okay. I wasn’t. My health anxiety had flared up at that point, and the surgery caused me to be unable to tolerate my zoloft. I was taken off my parents’ insurance, and basically went off meds cold turkey. It went as well as it did the first time. Depressed, I hit rock bottom. It was the closest I’d ever been to being suicidal (though I was always too chicken to ever actually think about doing it). I couldn’t deal with my parents leaving for a week on vacation and even my sister saw how bad I was getting. With her urging, and having gotten my own insurance, I decided enough was enough and started working on getting back on meds and trying to get my life back on track. I was twenty-six by then. My health anxiety had gotten so bad I was getting a lot of tests done that found nothing. I’m still dealing with a lot of debt from that, even with insurance.

I found the prescribing doctor, but now I needed a proper therapist. I jumped around. Finally, I found my current one this year. It’s been a positive experience, overall. I’m pushing myself to do things more and more every day in a way I hadn’t been pushing before. Am I cured? No. Will I ever fully be cured? No. Am I learning to live with a chronic disorder that ebbs and flows? Yes, yes, and yes. I think one of the most important things someone with any mental illness is to accept that sometimes there will be low points even when things seem to be going good, and that it doesn’t mean you’re back to square one. I always remind myself my worst is still not as bad as it was in the very beginning when I didn’t even know what was happening. I didn’t have the coping tools I have now to pull out of it faster.

In the end, I take things one day at a time. Do my best, try not to worry when things get bad. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it – I like to think I still have a lot to give to this world, after all.