Archive for mental illness

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.

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On haircuts and anxiety.

Posted in anxiety, anxiety disorder, coping, mental health with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2013 by Trace

Getting my hair cut has always been a harrowing experience for me, especially post-anxiety.

regular-haircut-1aReading that sentence, I realize someone without anxiety would question what that even means. For most people, the worst part about haircuts are worrying your hairdresser/barber might mess up the cut? For me, it’s a litany of what if scenarios. There’s a sensation of being trapped, of not being able to get away without looking like you’re crazy in front of your hairdresser. I have an extra layer of fear because of an unpredictable nervous stomach – one that just loves reacting to any tiny bit of stress with cramps and general non-great feelings.

Add in not being great at small talk and you have a miserable hour or so to contend with. Don’t get me wrong, I do like my hairdresser. She’s a nice Polish woman, probably around the age of my older sister, with two kids and a husband she clearly adores. She asks polite questions of me, and I try my best to interact well even when I’m nervous, but I always feel like I come off as a little stand-offish. In all likelihood, she probably doesn’t think that at all – I’m sure she has customers who completely ignore her, whereas I try to engage in conversation to the best of my ability. The worry is always there, though, and it made me think a bit today about how people view me as a person and how I view my own worth.

I hide my anxiety well. Around people I’m comfortable with, I’m a little better at being open about how I’m feeling, but around strangers – well, let’s just say bathroom breaks were common when I was at my worst. About a year ago I met up with an old friend from college for coffee, and she was stunned when I mentioned I was going through a lot with my anxiety.

‘I never would’ve guessed,’ she admitted, and she actually looked like she felt bad. ‘You always seemed so chill.’

In that moment, I honestly felt bad for not trusting people with the information. I certainly never plan to shout it from the rooftops – not because I’m ashamed, but because I don’t want anxiety to define me as a person – but I do realize now that there were a lot of times I should’ve said something but didn’t. That I don’t give people credit because I assume the worse. That I didn’t think people would find me worth hanging out with if they knew I could potentially have an anxiety attack that might halt the entire night. It’s because of all those doubts I closed myself off from situations and people instead of giving them a chance to understand. Instead of showing them my ‘weakness’, I hid away like I was some sort of deformed beast that no one would want to hang out with anyway because I was such a mess. Even in the situation with the hairdresser, my worst case scenarios were so silly – what if my stomach acted up? What if I had an anxiety attack? Surely my hairdresser would not care if I got up to go to the bathroom for a minute or two, but for some reason, the very idea was mortifying to me.

They say people make mountains out of molehills. I make the tallest kinds of mountains in my mind. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, and I’ve put a lot of rationalization into work, but it still happens.

Everything went fine, by the way. I got my haircut, I had my eyebrows ripped off (the joys of being a girl!), and while it was the usual awkward hairdresser/client conversation, we got through it okay and there weren’t too many lulls of silence. All those things that nearly made me cancel my appointment up to the very last minute didn’t happen. My stomach ‘magically’ stopped being a pain in the butt and it hasn’t made a peep since, when it’d been a problem all morning. It’s just another reminder that I can let anxiety keep me away from people or accept it exists and not let the ‘what if’s stop me. And every time I don’t let anxiety keep me from my day, I’m almost always rewarded with something good. Today’s reward? Lookin’ pretty rockin’ in this new haircut. I mean, look at this:

Pretty rocking, right?

Aw yeah lookin’ good, amirite?

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.