I've been having a really difficult time lately. And it makes me sad because my blog is stuck in this "break" and though I need it, I'm also finding something that moves me to be too difficult to do right now because I have my own 'stuff' to work through. I am all about being authentic but I can't write about this yet. and if I write about anything BUT that- I feel I am being inauthentic and making it appear that life is all sunshine and rainbows over here but really I just can't share what I'm struggling with. And that's like soo not the point of my site. I usually write through it, to work through it, sharing my insights along the way.
I sent this in an email last week. I have not blogged in almost one month!!
This rut I am in began with my post on gut instincts.
I couldn't talk about it then, and I can't talk about it now. It is so difficult for me, but as Robin from The Diary Of An Empath reminds me, it takes strength to show up. So here I am, with little direction, but I am showing up.
I haven't been writing, or in other words, utilizing my coping strategy. I don't have much of an appetite, I've been having digestive troubles, and I have been skin picking in my sleep from stress.
But OH, because you asked, I'm OK!!
Who else does this?
I sat in silence at a therapy appointment trying not to cry, but when she asked I said I was OK and she asked what OK means to be. I replied with a faint smile, "not terrible."
And she smiled back, "just surviving."
Is this being resilient or is this dismissing our feelings? Maybe it's both good and bad.
If you look again at what is in bold above, one can view those effects as red flags.
They sure are! Something is up with me, that's for sure. But, I am OK, and I'm going to tell you how I know that. I am showing up, in more ways than I think I am.
Listening to lately
Skip to 1:00 to avoid the intro. The music video isn't my favorite, but this song is just all the feels. I read that "Kesha's new song is for those battling depression" and when I first heard it I could NOT believe it was her. So so powerful. I had to listen to it more than once to really get into it, but if you are one for powerful ballads and vulnerability, you should check this out.
I have been listening to more Christian music lately. For the reason that I love how motivating the lyrics are, and I love the Singer/Songwriter genre. I was playing this song, "Soar", while on that really difficult mountain hike that I wanted to give up on. Hint: I kept going anyway.
I finally watched this movie, and if you have Netflix and have not seen it yet either DO IT. It's a true story of a 5 year old boy who was lost from his family in India, and was adopted by an Australian couple- and traveled to reunite with his family in India after 20 years !! That's not a spoiler, it's the main description. The music is phenomenal, the acting, the storyline, everything!
Miracles + motivation lately
I admit- some unfortunate things do just happen, they happen all the time, and sometimes we can't prevent them from shaking us to our core.
It may be difficult for me to write as much as I used to.
I may not be sleeping as well, and developing unhealthy anxious habits (skin picking)
I may be needing more support than usual.
but when I say that I am OK- everything I listed above is why.
I'm doing just fine, I'm doing the right things, I am helping myself heal by showing up.
I don't have to be able to write every difficult emotion and piece of my story to do so.
a challenge for you..
if nothing seems to be going right, and you don't feel like yourself, but you keep saying you're OK -
Ask yourself what OK means to you. Ask yourself what you are doing/thinking/believing in that IS making you OK, and ask yourself what isn't.
Your answers are what you are doing right,
and how you are choosing to heal.
I'm still here, lovelies. Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my story.
I am forcing myself to sit down and blog right now for 2 reasons:
I had 2 heart surgeries at age 13, and since then it has been a ride to get my heart-healthy life to a steady pace. 2 years ago was my last appointment at Boston Children's Hospital. It went well, and my doctor said he would see me in 2 years!
So 2 years later, here I am! I only had one "episode" of a racing heart a year ago in my p.e. class, but other than that I have been pretty kick-ass.
The anxiety started to kick in when I entered my appointment. No reason in particular, I just wanted the day to be over with so I could breathe and know I was okay, and it was all over now.
My mom was excellent therapy. We were both overtired and extreme goofballs. We shared many laughs together and of course, were the loudest ones in the waiting room. Oopsies.
During my appointment, we discussed my blood pressure medication that I had been taking for over 4 years to keep my heart at a safe rate. We were going to determine the necessity of remaining on the medication.
I mentioned the year I have had struggling with anxiety and depression. I learned that my heart medication is very safe, however it can be known to cause depression. My doctor also stated, however, that being on the med could help my anxiety because it will prevent symptoms of a racing heart triggered by anxiety.
Help my depression, or help my anxiety? My mom pointed out that my anxiety is every single day, and helping that would be more beneficial than eliminating my depression spells-which are more rare.
Going off the medication would also put me at a greater risk of ending up in the emergency room again. Besides the one episode in p.e. class, I have had zero issues.
We decided I will remain on the medication.
My mom was extremely pleased to learn that Wheelock College is just 5 min walking distance from my hospital, in case I were to have an issue with my heart. Of course, I feel good about that as well.
I was pleased that the day ended on a positive note, and it was refreshing to see how far my heart has come after all of the hell it had put me through growing up.
To add to the good vibes of the week-
My MindBodyGreen article has reached 1K shares..I repeat 1 THOUSAND SHARES!
I am working on more contributions, and also keeping up with my blog as I am now.
Thank you all for the continuous support!!
Yesterday's date is one I am going to keep on the calendar. June 21, 2016. I could not have had a better day.
Almost 2 weeks ago I became interested in contributing an article to my favorite blog site, MindBodyGreen. I read the terms in order to submit an article, and I just rolled with it. I chose a topic that was important to me and wrote an article (possibly) within 30 minutes. I went to my email and sent it off. That was all.
It was fun for me to try. I knew it was a popular site and that my chances were not too big in getting published on there.
I am known for getting my hopes up- always. I guess that also contributes to my insecurities regarding self doubt. I am afraid to be let down, so I prepare myself to be disappointed. Wonderful confidence tip, right?
This time, I had zero expectations. I almost preferred it that way, and I wish I could take more things in my life with that same perspective. I wasn't contemplating the what-ifs or worrying about not being good enough. I wasn't even expecting what would happen if I ended up being published. Days went by and graduation was approaching and I honestly forgot all about it.
Yesterday morning I woke up at 7 am. Usually when I wake up on days with zero responsibilities, I check my phone. I check the time, my social media notifications, emails, and then I go back to sleep.
When I checked my email, I had to blink a couple times to be sure I was reading it correctly. The editors from MindBodyGreen published my article??? What? I smiled HUGE, and knew there was no way now I was going back to sleep. My mom was still home and about to leave for work, I ran downstairs and told her about my publication in a hyper stream of chatter.
Throughout the day, I was receiving loads of support from family, friends, my past teachers, and even strangers. My article currently has 629 shares !! Insane!
I take pride in my own courage. I willingly shared some of my personal challenges, but all the feedback has been positive. It is a reminder of why I am doing this.
You cannot grow by remaining within your comfort zone.
My cousin shared the link to my article in a Facebook post and said: "We all have very different ways for expressing ourselves, whether it's through art, music, etc...But for many of us, it can become frustrating when thoughts become trapped and you can't figure out how to let them out. My cousin Haley began writing blogs simply for herself. Simply to let out feelings she felt were not even really that important to anyone else. Now, her simple advice has been published and overnight it has already inspired the possible thousands of people who have read it. I think everyone can relate to reading her post whether they suffer with mental health or not."
It is amazing to hear, but also very true. Months ago I was submitting anonymous articles to the school paper, and now I'm officially out there. To think this all began with private vomit journal of my worries..
I told myself when I got out of the hospital I was going to make some major changes. One of them was to no longer hold things back that inspire me.
I'm alive and I'm here, so why not take risks? Why not take chances? I want to see what I can do and what I can learn with this life I am choosing to live.
What will I write about next? :-)
I have grown more these past 2 months than I have all of my senior year.
"Senior year." It's supposed to be the best year? That is what I imagined. I can sure say that I will never forget my senior year of high school, but it is not how I would have wanted to remember it.
This year, I lost myself. I became disconnected from myself, and the world, and I found myself in a dark place that I never thought I would come out of. It was a rollercoaster. I would reach the top and I would feel powerful and hopeful, but it would only last a few weeks, and then I would be back down to the darkness again.
I always had this skill, you see. I was always able to hide my feelings with a dorky smile and a constant stream of chatter. This year, my friends discovered that I was not so good at hiding it anymore.
It has been a bumpy year.
The main reason why I became so invested in mental health awareness is not just because I struggle with my mental health as well. It is because I discovered something that made my life worth living. I became passionate about advocacy, and my dream to become a school social worker someday.
This is the first time I am saying this in writing, and the first time I am putting this out there...
This past March of 2016, I reached bottom. At 17 years old I found myself sitting in an ambulance all alone on my way to a hospital without my family, where I would be hospitalized for suicidal ideation. While my friends were going to school, and hanging out with one another, I was in a room with my zentangle coloring books and a pile of quarters for the payphone. I was at my lowest point, and I didn't know when I would be able to go home.
When I did return home and back to school, I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions. I never would have wished for that experience, but everything happens for a reason and in many ways the experience itself, and the truly amazing people I had met, changed me for the better.
Despite my social anxieties I am insanely proud of myself for advocating for myself this year. It was a long and painful process for me to get there, but it was all worth the effort. My support system helped me to get here, but it was I who had to make it happen.
Months ago I didn't think I would make it to Christmas, and then I didn't think I would make it to my high school graduation.
But I did, and I'm here. And if I am choosing to be here, I would like to use my voice and my time here for a bigger purpose.
I'm tired of hiding the struggles in my life. I want to celebrate every tiny victory they lead me to.
Thank you to my dear friends and family members for the ongoing support this year through it all. I am truly blessed.
MS, thank you for inspiring the idea of blogging for me. You have saved, changed, and inspired me more than you know.
I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach and had hardly slept the night before. We hardly ever host parties, and now we will be! Not only that, but this will be the first time our family will all be gathered together at our new home.
For once this year I actually was beginning to feel like this is my place. This is my home. Soon people will be coming to my home.
My cousin Kristy had said something today that stood out to me. "After you have gone through so much shit in life, when anything good happens you just want to jump at it."
I related very much to that. My struggles have given be a broad perspective. I appreciate the little things often- (though I could more..)
So today, I was jumping at it. I hugged my mom often and told her and John how happy I was. Just walking through my house and seeing people out the windows and in all directions just made me so happy. Not once today did my mind wander, not once did I dissociate, and looking back I was completely focused and appreciative of the present moment.
Months ago, family parties would be absolutely draining for me. I would leave early, cry on the bathroom floor with an anxious stomach, or feel overly exhausted and zombie-like.
I'm jumping at this. This to me, is perfection. If there is such thing as perfection. I am enjoying and daydreaming about today like a dork.
I am incredibly grateful for my family. My cousins are my best friends, my grandparents gave me cards that made me cry, and I have an enormous amount of support.
With my mental health struggles, all that mattered to me is that people could see I was trying. In my lowest moments my mom would become frustrated with me being in bed 24/7 and say "you aren't even trying." That killed me. I felt like I was trying so hard.
Overall, if there is anything I have been taking for granted, it is that my family has seen my progress, and they know how hard I tried.
My Grammy wrote in my graduation card that she was proud of my strength this year when I was stuck in the "doldrums." My aunts, uncles, mom, grandparents, etc continuously tell me how proud they are of me. They understand all I have fought through, and all I have overcome. I take that for granted because I know if anything, it is easy to feel alone with a mental illness. As alone as I may feel at times, and though it may be hard to see at times, I know I always have people behind me.
I feel happy, strong, and emotional all at the same time. Tomorrow will be my last Monday of the school year. Just 1 more week of school, and then I'm free. It will be an exciting, but emotional week. I think it's perfectly okay if I get sappy and overwhelmed at the good things happening around me, because now I can reflect upon where I used to be.
We can all find ourselves in a slump at times.
Slumps can be a pain. No motivation, no hope, just misery. Slumps can be very damaging to your mental health, depending on how you choose to handle them.
When I find myself in a slump I tend to ignore the little things that make me happy and refuse to acknowledge how much those things mean to me. I become grumpy, and stubborn and I go into "sloth mode." I tend to overthink everything in my past, and everything for my future. I find myself in an uncomfortable position with a never-ending "stuck" feeling.
When you feel stuck, you almost find comfort in staying there. You find it much easier to view the bad things in your everyday life, and ignore the good. It is a feeling that is so strong, that you generalize it and you can't imagine when you will be able to feel unstuck again.
But here's the thing.
It is all temporary. Any pain you feel inside; temporary. Any sadness, hopeless feeling; temporary.
We all know "This too shall pass" but that does not seem to matter to us in those terrible awful moments.
What is important is how we get through those times.
I decided to create a "Slump Challenge" for myself, but I am sharing it with you! When I feel stuck and overwhelmed by even the little things, I need to give myself a little boost.
The key with this is keeping it simple. Take everything one step at a time, and don't get discouraged by everything you can't do. Acknowledge the little things you are doing.
Instead of a "challenge" this is more of a list. A list to turn to with ideas, so no matter what..you can see that you are trying.
I have noticed that I have been significantly happier for over 2 weeks now. In therapy when asked why I think I have been happier, I tried my best to refrain from just saying "my med adjustments have kicked in."
I knew the real answer was about my control. I shouldn't just give antidepressants the blue ribbon for making me happy. I have done plenty of this all on my own.
I become very hesitant when these phases of happiness come back to me, because I have been known to relapse shortly after. The reason I can tell I will not relapse this time, or as I used to, is because this is the longest I have gone with consistently making positive progress for myself.
Now, it is much easier to become more positive, and become more motivated if you do have a little boost (in my case, antidepressants.) The rest of the work, however, is on me. Antidepressants are not "happy pills" they do not make everything sunshine and rainbows. With depression, it is a chemical imbalance in your brain. Antidepressants help to balance everything, but there is still a load of work you have to do yourself.
In therapy, it was pointed out that I frequently feel the need to minimize the worth of my efforts. I am learning that I must celebrate or acknowledge every tiny accomplishment, because months ago my biggest task was to get out of bed.
So here are some little things I have done that have made a huge difference:
It has been a rough day.
A trigger of it is the fact that i have not slept in 4 days.
I went to the gym with Erica even though i was sleep deprived. I was going to leave after the workout and go to my therapy appointment. I had been looking forward to the appointment. I needed it. I had a long list of things on my phone to talk about. I told Erica, "When i get in there i may just tire myself out from talking so much." I was SO ready to vent.
When my appointment started, the life was sucked out of me. I couldn't turn to my list. I couldn't think straight. I wasn't ready. I was too hard on myself. I was angry with myself that i came prepared and i just couldn't do it. I was scared. My eyebrows were twitching and my lip was shivering in a smirk-like way that happens when i am trying too hard to fight my emotions and try not to cry. She asked me why i had a smirk and i became more upset with myself because i don't know why i do that. My facial expressions never match my feelings inside.
I left the appointment and just sobbed in my car. I continued to remind myself it was just a bad day. I have come so far. I am probably just overtired. I let myself cry anyway the whole ride home. I embraced every fear that was creating my tears. That i will never learn how to express my emotions when i need help, and that my facial expressions and my overall self will never be perceived correctly because they do not match up. I do not know why i make faces when i am uncomfortable that do not match what i am feeling inside. Maybe i should put a bag over my head. Great, now my biggest insecurity is my..face? What will people think of me? What do people think of me? At least my therapist reassured me about it, and told me there was no judgement but not everyone can see it that way. Who else must notice this- oh no.
and thoughts such as:
Yes i must be overtired but that is a problem that when i am overtired i drag myself down to such a dark place.
and so on, and so on, i let the thoughts come, knowing with sleep i will be better.
So I breathed, i showered, my pjs are on. It's only 5:30 but if my tears will tire me out, i might as well take this opportunity to finally get some sleep. In the shower i thought to myself, "What are my options here? I can give tonight more power to suck. I can keep crying over how ashamed i am at myself, but what is that teaching me? If i don't learn to shut this off now, it will always be this way when i become overtired or am doubting myself. I already know these thoughts will pass, so why i am holding on to them now?"
Just that thought helped me. I just breathed and let myself cry a little more, but i washed my face and felt refreshed, and i was ready to move on. I can't always stop those self-loathing and fearful thoughts from occurring, but i can learn how to understand where they are coming from, where they will end up, and how i can stop them.
I need to find easier ways to allow myself to open up in therapy. I need to find easier ways to spit words out before my mind blocks all together, and to not judge myself so hard if words don't come out as i want them to.
So that is my reflection of today. I am going to eat something small, and hope that this post has helped calm my thoughts and finally help me to get some sleep tonight.
In many ways i am a perfectionist. I don't give myself credit for small things. From someone who struggles with mental illness, the small things ARE big things. Heck, i've been going to the gym! I've been spending time with friends outside of school! I haven't been questioning the worth of my life! I have motivated myself even when i am "too tired." I found the strength to let some people go, and trust that it doesn't change who i am as a person. These small things have made my anxiety manageable. These small things have given my depression a tiny boost, and i am able to have a little more energy and a lot more strength in my mind.
I need to STOP waiting for some miraculous moment when i "get there." and acknowledge and congratulate myself for all of the tiny things i am doing that are creating HUGE gains compared to where I was last year.
Today I went to see my high school's production of Cinderella with my Auntie Sara, little cousin Maya, and my Nana.
It has been difficult for me to go to events or see shows these past few years. During my anxiety sickness spell when i was out of school for almost a month, i brought myself to see the school's musical, Grease. It was difficult for me to enjoy the musical because the entire time i was worrying about having an anxiety attack, and if i would have to get up and leave during the show. It was a valid worry considering during that time i could barely sit in class for 10 minutes comfortably. I ended up being fine, but i still spent the time worrying.
In November my aunt took me to see "Disney on Ice" with my little cousin. My depression was just as severe as my anxiety at that point. I made sure I got the aisle seat, and i found it very difficult to be myself. I was in a fog and i couldn't bring myself out of it. I then was hating myself for feeling that way when i wanted so badly to be enjoying the day out with my family.
Whether it's watching a play, movie, sporting event, being in long car rides, or being at an assembly i worry. The fears are always the same. What if i have to leave? What if i have an anxiety attack? What if everyone stares at me if i need to leave? They probably sound so small in words, but to me they are everything. Those questions used to be my daily struggle for almost 5 months before i got help for my anxiety. My doctor had thought that part of the trauma i experienced with my anxiety attacks last May had contributed to PTSD. Now, even on a good day the same worries spin in my head and i think it will happen all over again to me. When i know i will have to sit for a long time, I tend to starve myself beforehand so i do not have to worry about getting sick.
Today I prepared myself with a snack bag of original crackers and stuffed them in my purse. In case i got hungry, i knew they wouldn't upset my stomach if i was also anxious.
But there were things i noticed today:
Do I still get anxiety and worries? Hell yah.
But they didn't affect me today. They didn't prevent me from going about my daily life as they used to.
I would also like to point out something incredibly important.
I have been happy-truly happy for 2 weeks.
Now, this has happened many times before and then i relapsed. I know that life has it's ups and downs and MY life has ups and downs far too frequent than most with little consistency. But maybe things are becoming more steady for me? Maybe things will only go up from here?
I am putting something out there now....with no shame...
I take anti-anxiety/depressants. It was something i had begged for because the chemical imbalance was making it fairly impossible for me to leave my house. I have had them adjusted many many times. I am not giving the medication full credit for my happiness and progress. Most of it i had to do all on my own. However, i am NOT ashamed to say that I needed medication in order to help get myself on track. Some people need it, some people don't. There is NOTHING wrong with taking something to adjust an imbalance in the chemicals in your brain.
So maybe a med adjustment did contribute to my happiness these past 2 weeks. Most of my depression is triggered by my severe anxiety. My anxiety has been manageable, so of course that must be a factor!
I have also gone 2 weeks without questioning the worth of my life. THAT is HUGE progress. It doesn't mean i have spent these past 2 weeks with full confidence and joy of living life, but i haven't been putting as much thought to it as i used to. I haven't been thinking about living life, i'm just doing it.
Yes, something as small as making it through (and enjoying) a school play gave me many realizations today. You appreciate the little things when it becomes easy to compare where you were to where you are now.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.