A new Depressing experience, without Anxiety

*This post may contain some self-harm triggers*

It’s been a crazy semester trying to balance my physical health, mental health, work, and school.

In one of my previous posts, I talked about how it seemed that the Welbutrin I had been taking was spiking my heart rate. Last time I wrote about that experience, I was weening myself off of it, and onto Lexapro.

Well, let me give you an update.

I weened completely off of the Welbutrin, and it seemed to be fine. My heart rate steadily decreased to a little bit lower when it was at a resting rate, but still not great. However, high heart rates run in my family, so it is not a huge concern that meds are still causing it. Going off of the Welbutrin did make an impact; for that, I am thankful.

Letting my body get used to the Lexapro was quite the adventure. It gave me extreme mood swings where I would either be so extremely energized that I couldn’t sit still or stop talking, or I’d crash and completely fall asleep for the night (at like 6pm). It made it very difficult to focus on school work at either time.

I had a follow up with my doctor and I told her what was happening with the mood swings, but otherwise it was alright. We decided to continue and see if my body normalized it into my system.

About two weeks ago was when I finally realized its effects. My biggest victory with the successful anxiety medication was that I was able to finally speak up in class and contribute to the conversation, without feeling my heart pounding in the chest, sweat beading on my body, or words travelling in a million different directions as I tried to organize my thoughts. It was a huge small accomplishment, and it felt so good!

However, there was something that changed recently.
Maybe it was switch that had just turned off; maybe the power went out.
Maybe it was a cliff that I fell off and hit the bottom of the canyon, leaving me gasping for air because the wind was knocked out of me.
Maybe it was a stranger watching me as I went throughout my days. Myself unaware, only to find out it was someone I knew all along.

Depression came knocking, and it has been relentless.

There was no warning, no known triggers, no idea where it originated. It hit me like I ran straight into a brick wall. It’s like that family member that never tells you when they are visiting, but just shows up and expects you to drop everything and cater to their needs.

One new development from the last time I hit a valley like this has been the anxiety portion. Last time, I had Anxiety to occupy some of Depression’s demands, but this time I’m medicated so that Anxiety doesn’t visit. Last time, I had Anxiety to keep me stressed just enough to overcome the lack of motivation to be able to get something turned in for homework. This time, Anxiety isn’t staying while Depression is staying. No, it hasn’t reared its little head at all. This time, I just don’t feel like getting out of bed. I don’t feel like taking a shower. I don’t feel capable of changing my clothes. I cannot even look and read on my computer screen because that is too much work in itself.

And beyond all of that, persistent graphic images keep invading my mind. Images of myself slicing down my arms and legs, watching the blood continuously flow from my body reoccurs in my mind, relentlessly.
I’m getting impulses just to hide places so no one can find me so I can just hide from everything around me.
I had an instance yesterday when I was in the campus’s library with my group for a class, and I went downstairs to use the bathroom. There was no one when I was in there, and the images came back, but in that setting. I was getting impulses and images to self-harm before I went back upstairs to work on a project, crafting up ways that it would be concealed.

I’m terrified of being alone.

If you’re religious, please pray for me, and for the many others that experience this everyday, or other variations of it. Please pray for the many that suffer from such debilitating mental illnesses. When it is persistent, uncontrollable, and there is literally nothing that motivates you, it’s hard to be and feel like you’re a functioning member of society…and you don’t even care that you’re not.

With all the negativity aside, I have finally begun exposing some of what is happening to me to those close to me, and it has been exactly what I need. Those around me know I need some decisions made for me in times like this, and they know just the ways to make me feel better, even if it is for a little bit. It’s great having a psychology major as a roommate and one of my best friends because she knows what’s helpful in the psychology aspect, but also is able to cater it to what I personally need because she knows me. Another one of my best friends sent me lots of pictures of dogs throughout the day because he knew it would brighten my mood just a little bit more every time. I had people tell me they were ready to drop everything to come “rescue” me and do something to keep me distracted, because they know that it is helpful for me to keep my thoughts on something else.

I encourage all of you who may be going through something similar to find those coping skills for yourself, and find what works to keep you going every day. I encourage you to find those people in your life that know you and know what works for you and can help when they see those signs.

Keep fighting against the darkness with me, and I’ll keep fighting with you.

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World Mental Health Day!

I want to wish you all a happy World Mental Health Day!

I also thought it to be appropriate to share with you something that was awared to me this past week.

Through ASHA International, I was awarded the 2016 Hope Bringer Award.

This was given to me because of the world-wide impact my post had; so many people identified and found hope because of it. Although I was only one person who opened up about my mental health struggles, I had a miraculous incident happen to me. Because of that, I used it to my advantage to keep the transparency going; I encouraged others to speak out about their own struggles, seek help, or find ways of positive comfort during these times. I continued to be vulnerable, and encouraged others to be, and reminded people that they are not alone.

Because of the impact my post had, ASHA International awared me with this incredible award. It was amazing sharing my story with so many more individuals, and seeing the reactions in the audience.

I am so humbled by all of the support everyone has given me.

Thank you, and keep fighting 🙂


 

The Heart Knows Best

Last week was the beginning of my last semester of my undergraduate education at George Fox University. Obviously I am excited and terrified at the same time. With all of the stress that comes with it, Life decides that I need more things to worry about: one of those includes my heart.

Because I took 15-18 credits every semester prior to this one, I was able to have an easier class load my final one. My roommate and I decided to take two workout classes, which are back-to-back twice a week. The first is yoga, the second step aerobics.

Last Wednesday (the first day of our work outs), something happened. Yoga went well, but when we started step aerobics, I realized something wasn’t right. I wasn’t just out of breath; it was different than that. Worse. I had to excuse myself after a short few minutes of workouts because I felt like I was either going to pass out or vomit. I decided I should go see someone.

Later that same day, I went to see the University’s nurse practitioner to discuss what had happened. Previously–the times I had gone in the past year+–my heart rate had been high pretty much every time, but I would brush it off like I had rushed over there, even though I hadn’t. I didn’t want to deal with it. However, this recent time was something different.

We decided to monitor it the next few days to see where my heart rate goes in different situations: in class, at home, with friends, etc.

Let me tell you (if you don’t know) what the average heart rate should be: 50-70bpm for an adult resting heart rate is ideal, with some leeway.

That night, I checked my heart rate after I had showered and felt relaxed = 98bpm.
I walked to class the next morning, and when I got there: 158bpm. For walking.
I walk most places and it is roughly 125bpm. Again, for walking.
I rarely saw it dip below 90, and that was only when I was laying down (or sleeping. Shout out to my roommate for letting me borrow her Fitbit during this process so I can track and see the data).

So this became and even greater concern. When I went for my follow up on Friday, she decided to take a look at the history of my heart rate from my time at George Fox. She noticed that before I started any antidepressants, it sat at 75bpm. When I started trying my first antidepressant, it was at 88bpm. It grew from there.

She predicted that it was the medication that I had been taking for the last year and a half.

Just what I needed. My last semester, and I would have to suffer withdrawls from weening off the meds, then potentially horrible side-effects from trying another one to replace the current one. Finding one that worked the first time was hell, and I definitely did not want to be a psychotic, moody, angry, tremor-ing person during my final semester of college. If I didn’t switch meds, however, I would potentially keep putting myself at risk. I would have to “take it easy” during my classes. Either way, I lose.

However, I was told that the specific meds I was on were not typically as bad as other ones for withdrawl. I decided it is worth trying.

I went to see my primary care provider yesterday. They did and EKG and everything looked good, which was a concern of mine: that it was actually my heart. My family has a history of heart problems, so it was relieving to hear that things looked okay.

So now I am in the process of reducing the Welbutrin, and starting Lexapro (because Depression holds hands with its best friend, Anxiety). The goal is to reduce the Welbutrin to a low dose, with the Lexapro the same (except adding the dosage instead of reducing…). If I go back in two weeks and my heart rate hasn’t improved, I will have to go completely off the Welbutrin.

The stressors of this semester had already begun, but I guess the universe thought it wasn’t enough. It’s just one more bump in the road, though. Although it was beyond stressful to deal with this the first week back at school, I feel at peace now. I had remembered my last post about being thankful.
It prompted me to think of why I am thankful to have this heart of mine, even though it’s been acting up.
I am thankful for the two working legs I have, even if walking raises my heart rate a ridiculous amount.
I am thankful for the lungs I have, even though they feel constricted, dry, and make me cough when I exude myself too much.
I am thankful for body I have because it is the only one I get, and it’s functioning despite the few problems.

It’s important to not let yourself get wrapped up in the negatives, because you will drown. However, it’s an incredibly difficult task, but impossible. Just try to remember to not get wrapped up in it, even if you fee like you are; it helps to keep you afloat a little longer.

 

A Monster Called Anxiety

My anxiety has gotten worse. I have never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder before; just depression.

This last week, I have been put on a higher dose of my antidepressants to see if it will help the anxiety that has become more prevalent in my life. I want to tell you a few things about it.

I have always struggled with presentation anxiety and nervousness leading up to and during a presentation, or just talking in class. For presentations, I have to write everything out in full sentences because I am unable to form sentences in my head from just bullet point prompts. Even if I know the information like the back of my hand, I can’t say it how I had it organized on paper or screen. Same goes for in-class comments, answers, or discussions. If my teacher or professor (this goes back to 4th grade when I began public school) would ask the class a question–even if I was 100% sure of the answer–I wouldn’t say it.

The same goes for being called on in class; I freeze up, and a lot of times I don’t make sense, or the info isn’t not clear. One of my professors this term–who knows of this problem I have–asked me before the class discussion if he could call on me. This gave me a few minutes to write my thoughts down, but it wasn’t enough time for me to write them out in sentences, so I still didn’t say exactly what and how I wanted to say. My heart pounding in my chest, the shaking hands, and quivering voice made me too distracted to concentrate.

Another recent time was a class group presentation I had just a few weeks ago. Like I always do, I had all my notes written out in sentences to help me during the presentation. This, of course, makes it more difficult to actually present well because I read aloud, which means I talk faster. I’ve been like this for most of my life, so that’s just how I thought my mind worked through it. However, this isn’t the point I want to make. The point is that I was the one who was going to bring the laptop to hook up to the projector for our presentation, so of course that meant getting there 40 minutes early to make sure everything works, even though I have used that same projector in that same room before, with the same laptop. I just needed the time just in case something didn’t work right, even though I was 99% sure that nothing would go wrong. My anxiety took over and made me take extra time out of my day to unnecessarily triple check everything.

The same went for the conference I went to a few week ago. My professor and I had our seminar after the luncheon they provided, but I was so nervous and anxious about presenting that I had to leave early to collect myself and try to calm down because I felt like I was going to throw up, pass out, or break down and cry. Or all of the above. I even tried breathing exercises to try to slow my heart rate, but honestly I think it just made it worse.
I got to the room we were presenting in early–but not 40 minutes, surprisingly. However, I immediately regretted it when I discovered that the video wouldn’t play on my laptop. I didn’t have enough time to fix it because I had to figure out how to set up the room as well (getting the projector the right distance for the screen, but also having the laptop close enough to where we would be standing). My professor didn’t get there until 5-10 minutes beforehand, and we just used her laptop. But my final added notes weren’t on her copy of the presentation. For some reason, I thought that those few sentences were crucial to the presentation so I scrambled to add them right before we started. But I didn’t have enough time to add everything. Whatever calmness that I had found before the presentation had disappeared and my heart was racing, my hands shaking, my stomach in knots, and I was almost in tears…all over again.
But the presentation went beautifully. Better then I had even hoped. I definitely began quite nervous, but it did get a little easier. I think that was the first time in years that I hadn’t felt anxious or nervous for the entire duration of a presentation. That was a huge step for me.

However, my anxiety didn’t just go away after that. Conveniently enough, I needed to renew my prescription for my antidepressants from a doctor, so I decided to bring up my increased anxiety during my appointment. We came to the conclusion that my anxiety stems from worrying, but further than the average person experiences. This made sense because I always have so many things to do, assignments to work on, personal matters, and I get extremely stressed out thinking about how much it is and when they’re due…but then there are the days when my depression shows up and I don’t have the energy or concentration to do those tasks. Even though I had all of these worries that were driving my insane. How does that make sense? To have a mental disorder, it has to impair daily functioning. Which is what has happened, because there will always be something for me to do…which means there will always be something for me to worry about.

So, on this increased dose of my antidepressant, I began experiencing some side effects, like usual. However, they didn’t hit me until two days later when I was at work. I work at a Pita Pit (a sandwich shop, but with pita bread), so I deal with tons of customers, and it’s a very fast-paced job. I was also the stand-in shift lead for that night.
The side effects came onto me gradually. I was kind of shaky, and I thought that maybe my blood sugar was low; when I get low blood sugar, I often times shake. I popped open a bag of chips and nibbled on a few of them to see if it helped, which it usually does. But I was still shaking. Quite badly.
Then it got worse. I then realized what was happening. From then, I began to just feel uncomfortable. I felt like I was in a bubble, and I couldn’t hear people a few feet in front of me. I couldn’t concentrate. I could not remember something that someone just told me. When I was helping a customer with their pita, they would say a couple veggies to put in there, and I could only remember one. That was embarrassing. I also couldn’t grill because it is already loud underneath the hood due to the fan, but I couldn’t hear outside of this “bubble” that I felt that I was in. I also couldn’t even run the register because I was shaking so badly when handing cards, cash, and our rewards points card back and forth to the customers. Again, my memory would not allow me to remember what the customer had just said, let alone try to hear them from the bubble I was in.
I could only do tasks in the back. But I couldn’t just do that. I eventually got so bad that I had to call someone and have her cover for me. I felt so bad that I made her come and work when she had the night off, blaming myself for what was happening, even though I had no control over it.
Obviously I couldn’t take that higher dosage because of work the following few days. I decided to risk my potential insomnia and take the pill at night so I’d (hopefully) be asleep when the jitters kicked in, so I would be able to work the next day. They say that the meds may cause insomnia, but I had to risk it. I was able to work the next two days with no problems. I began taking the dose in the morning again after that so it would be on my normal schedule. That was Friday.

Here I am, still feeling some side effects–especially the shaking–but it is not to the extreme that it was. Last week was Spring Break for me, so this week I am back to school. Anxiety and I will have to face off this week, and I just hope I win this round for once.

It’s a circle — I mean cycle

(Oops, sorry for the Paramore reference)
I feel like I go through these cycles.

This past month I have been so busy and excited about the business, AND I’ve kept up with it all! However, these past few days I have felt myself sinking a little bit. I have come to see this cycle of when my depression decides to show its face.

Even though I am better than where I was a year ago, I still have days when my depression seems to be tied to my ankles.
I still have days when my depression draws dark circles under my eyes, and hooks weights onto my eyelids.
I still have days when I cannot fall asleep at night because I have a thousand things running through my head;
I still have days when my depression encompasses itself in my comforter, but weighs 100lbs, making it difficult to get out of bed.
I still have days when depression ties my hands together so I am unable to do my homework.
I still have days when my depression holds me down so I cannot leave the couch.
I still have days when depression takes over my appetite, whether that is eating too much or too little;
I still have days when my depression decides I need 2 bowls of ice cream and 3 bars of chocolate, even if I really don’t want it.
I still have days when my depression takes the words right out of my mouth, and I’m caught unable to explain how I am really feeling.
I still have days when my depression grabs my stomach and twists it into knots.
I still have days when my depression seeps into my veins and makes me feel anxious for no reason.
I still have days when my depression consumes my mind so I am unable to focus in class.
I still have days when my depression makes me obsess over the simplest things that don’t even matter.
I still have days when my depression looks at me in the mirror and calls me worthless, ugly, and pathetic.
I still have days when my depression makes me act out the “I’m fine” when I am really feeling the “save me.”

I also have days when my depression has gone on a day trip or extended vacation because it needs a break too. I know it is spending time with someone else’s depression, making their life even worse.
My depression will sometimes bring a friend to visit as well, plummeting my life into some ocean of darkness–
drowning–
instead of just letting my head float above the water.

But,

I also have days where I feel like I can do a million things in a day, and I actually  do them.
I have days when I am able to get up with my first alarm.
I have days when I get all my homework done, and have time to relax.
I have weeks where my depression is nowhere to be found.

I will always have good days and bad days. And that is okay.
It is important that I surround myself with supportive people who help me stay connected and engaged instead of drowning in my thoughts.

It’s okay not to feel okay. But don’t let that stop you from trying to reach “okay.”

The reason I write

For a good portion of my life, I wrote. I had an entire stack of journals, filled from front to back with diary entries or poems that I wrote to express myself. The reason for it was because I was young, and was not aware of ways that I could express it. I definitely did not know how to talk about it with my parents or my friends. I felt that I was the only person in the world feeling the way that I did, so I kept it hidden in the vast pages of spiral notebooks or “cute” graphic art journals.

I stopped for a time; writing didn’t seem to flow as easily as before. I always told myself it was because I was happy, and that I had only written when there was pain in my life. I could never seem to produce poems or entries describing my happiness because I didn’t know what that looked like.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my entire life was miserable and I had absolutely nothing to smile about, but at the end of the day, there would still be a pit in my stomach.

So, when my focus was more on my happiness, I couldn’t put it into words. I didn’t know how to describe the embrace of a friend you hadn’t seen in a long time;
I didn’t know how to explain the butterflies that I felt when I saw my boyfriend;
I didn’t know how to convey how trees reminded me of home and my foundation.

But I do now, because I’m finally opening up and digging out the parts of me that I have been hiding; the parts of me that I have not dealt with or thought about in years. I have reason to write again.

The reason I write is to express things I feel that I otherwise cannot.

The reason I write is to put my feelings into words so I can process them easier.

The reason I write is to paint a picture for other people who may not understand what it’s like to struggle with a mental illness.

The reason I write is to help free myself of my insecurities regarding my depression. The more I actually express myself, the better I process it.

The reason I write ambiguous posts (like the last one) is to not leave you out of the loop, but to show you that I am progressing, even if I am unable to publicly talk about it. But I am talking about it, just privatelyAnd that’s okay!

Ultimately, the reason I write is to share my experiences with you, hoping that you find comfort in my disclosure, even though it’s painful. I hope you feel not so alone.

I now know that my friend’s embrace felt like being wrapped in a blanket, sitting by a fire, and reminiscing about the time you spent with that friend under that same blanket talking about where you were going after graduation; bittersweet.
I now know that the butterflies weren’t contained in my stomach, like they always say; they consumed my insides, fluttering their wings to tickle me until I smiled.
I now know that the trees’ branches were like outstretched arms–much like the arms of my friend–pulling me into my foundation, my home; their height reminding me how small I was, showing me that there are so many places to climb, explore, visit, or immerse myself, and all I needed was the wind to sway those big, wooden arms in the right direction, releasing me to do great things and become someone that my younger self would have looked up to.

I now know that I don’t need sadness to fuel my drive because it was comfortable and safe; I now know that have so much potential at the end of my fingertips and in the words of my voice. I am glad that I have found my true reason to write.

Today was incredible

And I just want to share it with you!!

So I woke up this morning and saw that mine and Kris’ (my professor) poster was accepted for the 2016 CAPS Conference in March in Los Angeles! We get to present on the data we are collecting from the viral post, including some data of the shares, comments, and private messages. We are also going to look at content of the comments and messages. I am SO excited to continue this information!

Also, I received an email today that the Fall/Winter 2015 George Fox Journal article is printed, AND I’M THE COVER! I didn’t know that I was going to be the cover!
Displaying IMG_9188.JPGGFU J cover

I’m incredible excited! The journal has not been officially released to the school yet, so all I am going to post is the cover until they release it to the public, and the digital version. I will share it on here and my Facebook when it is released!

Anyways, I just wanted to share some of my excitement! Overall, I’m glad this week is almost over because this week was very busy for me, so it was a great way to sort of end my week. I’m excited to see where this goes.

On another note, though, there have been a few things on my mind lately (that I cannot disclose), and I’m at such conflict about what I should do. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be able to make these things public, but I know my family would be at such conflict, or be upset. I am sorry, family, that I have kept such secrets from you.

I will let you readers know that I had finally disclosed something to my therapist about something that happened years ago that I have never talked about. I also have sought out someone outside of my therapist that has gone through something similar; I am excited to talk with them about it because–even though I’ll be terrified–I can feel that it is something that is well overdue, and I am anxious to hear a first hand experience from someone I actually know and care for (even though I would never wish it upon anyone).

I just want to thank every one of you: to my friends and family who have been by my side for so long, helping me overcome  so many struggles, and loving me no matter what; and to all of you readers and followers that I gained from the viral post: you guys encourage me everyday to keep fighting, and keep talking about my mental illness, so we can begin to see the change in our world. And I am amazed to see the impact that I have had on so many people; I am so thankful for it. I am so encouraged to see and hear so many people seeking help or speaking out. Every time you do, the stigma falls; it becomes less and less of a problem.

Thank you, every one.

Hearts

For my Learning class (yes, the class is titled “Learning.” Yes, I hear it being made fun of all the time. It’s about Learning theories, get over it!) we have to write a research paper analyzing a behavior with two of the theories that we have learned in class (behavior can include abnormal illnesses like depression or OCD, or normal behaviors too). I decided I wanted to write mine on self-harm because I think it would be an interesting topic to look into because of the cause and effect of (for example) cutting; it’s cathartic, or it’s one thing the individual can control.

ANYWAYS

I am looking at self-harm, not specifically cutting, so I Googled common ways that people self-harm, and I came across “carving.”

And I remembered something…

I used to do that.

Do you remember when I said in an earlier post that I would carelessly shave and “accidentally” cut myself? Well, this is different from that. I completely forgot I used to carve into my skin. I still have some scars from where I carved hearts in different places on my body, like my arms or legs. There is one that is still prominent on the side of my right knee.

At the time, I never saw this as self-harm. I used pencils and would draw and redraw and retrace until the spot began to indent into my skin, or break the surface. And then I’d keep going.

I did this in middle school and in high school. It never even hurt me.

I remember my mom being upset at me for doing that to myself, but like I said, I didn’t see it as self-harm. When I carved the one on the top of my wrist, people at my high school saw it during class; I didn’t even try to hide it. Because I didn’t see it as self-harm.

So then, is is self-harm?

Yes. Yes, it is. It was me mutilating my body, in which I found joy in. Do people who self-harm in other ways think it is particularly bad at the time? Not necessarily. Like I said, it’s something they have control over, or it’s a cathartic experience.

I remember looking at the scar on my knee this summer, and it was almost nostalgic. I don’t know why it almost brought happy thoughts to my mind, but it was a time where I had control of what was going on with or happening to my body.

I guess I will explore what this really means.

 

Intermission

I know it has been about a week since I posted anything, but I have good reason.

I’ve done more personal journaling or “drafting.” What I have been writing about this week is something that I cannot share with the world yet. It’s something I haven’t really shared with anyone (I’ve only ever told two people). No one in my family knows, and my best friend doesn’t even know. But it’s something I had to finally dig up this week and stop choking it out of existence. Because it did happen.

I just sat and wrote well over 1000 words on what happened…and there is still so much more that I could say. I have never written about it before. I have kept all of the details and emotions that came with it, and its lasting effects without a word to anyone, or even paper.

There are things in my life that don’t just involve me and my secrets; there are some serious things that other people did that really effected me. But it’s not my place to say. It’s more of their secret than mine. There have been many people close to me that have really hurt me because I was involved. I can’t write to the world because then they would be exposed. But this blog isn’t about pointing the finger and saying what everyone did wrong; it’s about my journey to recovery, trying to sort out everything in my life.

“I don’t know”

That’s my go-to phrase. It’s the easy way out.

I was supposed to try to catch myself this week when I say it, but I completely forgot until right now…when I said it.

And it was exactly for that reason. Because I didn’t want to take the time to think about what I was feeling because that means facing it. That means taking the time to dig up some of that real self and see what’s there.

And that’s terrifying.


I’ve posted three times tonight, but oh well. Apparently I needed it.