Wednesday, July 19, 2017

i am tired.

I know I probably shouldn't take all these feelings so seriously because I am tired. I have been dragged around an island for three days straight and a literal one-horse town for a month and a half. Sometimes I feel like I have just been dragging myself through life, slumming with no break. The truth is, I am tired.

Tired of thinking I have escaped this darkness inside of me only to have it consume me again

Tired of thinking I have finally found a man who will love me and who I can love only to be disappointed. Let down. He wasn't what I thought. He doesn't feel the way I hoped he might. He still hasn't grown up. He made a bad choice and now my heart is crushed because of it, crushed under the weight of expectation, anticipation, and years of similar high hopes and dashed dreams.

Tired of lonely. Not fitting in. Third-wheeling. Bouncing between one group and another but feeling equally alone in both.

Tired of being ignored, yelled at, disrespected when I try to hand out kindness.

Tired of being mistreated and internalizing it because I hate to confront people. So I take out my hurt on myself and they go on hurting me.

Tired of this room, this place, this street, this ache, this fatigue.

Tired of not making a difference.

Tired of wasting my time.

Tired of waiting for my time.

I don't know how to keep going without the smell of his cologne. I don't know how to cut the piece of my heart of that has been carved with his name. I don't know how to get through this summer. I don't know what to do with my life. How to go on living my life. How to reach out for help. How to say what's weighing on my heart. How to be someone people like, want, desire.

I've never wished so badly I could turn back time to when I believed he was good and I could feel safe and taken care of with him, not scared, betrayed, anxious, angry, hurt. I want him to worry about making sure I don't feel bad about not finishing all my breakfast, not me to stay up until 4am worrying about whether he's still alive.

I want to go back to believing he was a good man, dreaming of the day I could lean my head on his shoulder and have some respite from the overwhelming world, a hint intimacy in the disconnected bustle of the day-to-day. But now I'm just questioning everything he's ever said that I admired, every conversation we had that I cherished. I can't erase the other side of him I saw last night. I'm so mad at him for ruining everything. I'm so mad at everyone who keeps breaking my heart. I'm mad at myself because I keep giving it away.

This time seemed different. This time seemed real. I never felt the way I did that evening he was talking at the dinner party, not drunk, not idiotic, just honest and earnest, well-spoken and thoughtful. Maybe that wasn't the real him. Maybe it was. I don't know any more, and I'm tired of wondering.

I thought this summer would be different. I would have friends and be happy and fit in and be myself. Of course, it's all gone to shit.

I'm tired of being disappointed.

I'm tired, so I shouldn't make any rash decisions.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


Isn't it stupid, sad, and funny how you can unravel so quickly. I don't know if it's the stress or the PMS or that I forgot to take my meds this morning, but while I was okay - not great, but okay - this morning, tonight I'm in one of the darkest places I've been in in a while. People said little things here and there and my anxious mind took advantage of my insecurities to spiral those minor comments into a much bigger ordeal.

I feel inferior because I didn't go to a "good school." It didn't help when he made the comment about my "backwoods school in the backwoods town." Everyone probably thinks I'm stupid because I went to schools they've never heard of.

I feel stupid because this summer just keeps proving over and over again that there's so much I don't know.

I feel frustrated that I can't express my feelings to people when they've hurt me. I don't want to get mad and say something hateful that I can never take back. But that means I just don't say anything and the anger festers inside of me. I hate that about myself, but I don't know how to change.

I feel insecure because I hate criticism and I'm already so fragile inside and words on a screen are so hard to interpret. They feel so harsh.

I feel disappointed because I can't get the chance to get to know a guy and I always freeze when we're all talking in a group and I can't be myself. I just want to be appreciated for who I am, to get to know someone for who they are. Why does it have to be so hard.

I feel like a square because I don't drink but I don't because I'm screwed up and I don't want to become dependent on alcohol to try and alleviate the pain and just end up making things worse.

I feel lost because I don't have a ten-year plan. I don't even have a plan for the next ten months. I don't know what my calling is. I can't find my purpose or my place. I feel like I don't have an impact. The path I'm on now feels useless and I hate the rat race of advancing yourself and impressing big wigs instead of helping other people. I hate the criticism and the stress and the feeling stupid all the time.

I'm sick of the suicide jokes, the toss-away schizophrenia comments, the misuse of the descriptor "manic-depressive," the fake masks we put on and the stones we through in an effort to make ourselves seem cool. I don't know how to correct people when they say insensitive crap and I'm mad that people don't realize that it's not okay to joke about people's suffering.

I don't have answers. I'm haunted by the wrong answers I gave. I keep trying to put myself out there, but it's terrifying. I've grown so much, but people don't see that. I wish people could be more open, more sensitive, more loving. I wish we didn't all have to tear each other down. I wish I could write crap like these blog posts and they could be considered a contribution to the world, not something I have to hope my boss never finds.

It's stupid, sad, and funny how this darkness hides in the back of my mind, haunting me with the fear it will return. It amazes me how even when I'm doing well, the thought of turning back to self-injury still lingers in the back of my mind. I don't know why. I don't even have scars any more. I don't want to go back there, but for some reason it's always calling to me. Some nights I hear it louder than others - I have to put the music on a little louder to try and drown it out. I have to count the minutes until tomorrow to make sure I keep going. I have to remind myself to keep breathing. Count up and down. Maybe in the morning life will look a tiny bit clearer. Or I'll be busy enough to crowd out all these overwhelming feels and thoughts, if only until they all they come crashing back out of the closet again.

But I'll just take out my headphones and broom and sweep up the mess as best I can one more time.

One foot in front of the other. We can do this. We'll make it through this. We may never bloom where we're planted or whatever it is they say, but maybe one of these days we'll be able to put down some roots and feel comfortable in this skin.

Monday, April 24, 2017

This is who I am.

The past several days, I've been dealt some heavy blows that have left me reeling. I've taken trips back to some of the darker parts of my thoughts and emotions, which has left me feeling pretty unmotivated to do schoolwork or exist really. My counselor had to stop coming to my school's campus because of how busy her life has gotten, so I've been therapist-less for over a month. Before, I was doing pretty well and figured I should start learning to stand on my own two feet anyways, so I didn't bother to try and start with a new counselor. I guess I also dreaded the whole "getting to know you" process, which can be tedious and at times even demeaning, especially with counselors who aren't as good at what they do. Teaching someone about your entire background can take several sessions in itself and they might still not understand where you're coming from, so I figured I'd be okay without.

Anyways, since my last post, I found out that: 1) because of a series of mistakes on my school's part, I can't graduate next month, and 2) the guy I liked is even crappier of a person than I thought, so now I definitely can't like him. Two big things that have been driving me through all the stress and busyness of this semester have been: 1) the knowledge that I'm finally graduating, and 2) the excitement of liking someone, talking about them, trying to talk to them, and anticipating the possibility of dating them. I think I had honestly convinced myself that I would finally get the chance to have a romantic relationship by the time summer rolled around, and I was so excited by that prospect that it propelled me through all the assignments and late nights. I like most of my schoolwork this semester, I love creative projects, but nothing motivates and excites me the way having a crush does. I don't know why that is, but it's just the truth.

Unfortunately, the reverse is that nothing breaks me the way that "losing" that person does. Usually I realize they just aren't interested in me, though sometimes, like in this case, I have to come to the cold, hard acceptance that they aren't the person for me, even though I really, really admire them. I really love caring about people, admiring them, looking for the best in them, so turning myself against someone I've grown to adore is heartbreaking. I guess that's why I (and many others) often turn to hating and talking smack about that person; it seems like the only way to channel such strong feelings into something besides admiration. Sometimes I'm still as obsessed with the person as before, just this time I want to berate them or hear others tear them down or have lengthy discussions wondering why on earth they weren't interested in being in a relationship with me.

Ultimately, these two blows robbed me of my two big dreams and sources of excitement and motivation. Now I feel stuck. Time inches along whereas before it felt like it was zooming by at the speed of light. I still have major assignments due almost every day, however, and I really don't want to let this growing darkness get the best of me, so I'm struggling to fight it. But my brain feels like it's off in Neverland...Never going to find love, never going to be happy, never going to escape depression ruining things for me, never going to be desired...I chase my tail in a prison of anxiety and angst.

Today was especially bad. It's been rainy for days, which doesn't help, and on Thursday I had a particularly frustrating interaction with the guy I liked. We actually had some good banter and he even told me he had heard about my not being able to graduate and was really sorry - more than the majority of my girl friends have even done - but later in class I heard him talking about drugs and realized we really lead completely different lifestyles. I gave a big presentation that afternoon, which was publicized in the class we're both in, and he missed it because he was off getting high somewhere. Flashback to all the other times I've hoped guys would come to events and support me and they didn't show...

Anyways, I went through a period of shock as I wrestled with my admiration for this guy's good qualities with the growing amount of information I was receiving from a friend of mine (as well as my own interaction) about this guy's seriously immature traits and his interest in other women. I didn't want to let go, but I slowly realized I had to, for my own protection. Naturally, being the lovesick young thing that I am, I turned back to a former crush of mine - someone I really, really liked and subsequently had to really hate to try and get over him. I don't know what made me go back to him except that he really has seemed like one of the most compatible people I've liked and I had very strong feelings for him. Only problem is, to get over him, I cut off all communication with him, including unfriending him on social media, so I had no non-awkward way of getting back in touch.

Of course, I began to obsess about the situation and ask myself whether he really is compatible with me and rack my brain for a way to get back in touch with him. Subsequently, I've been miserable from the anxiety of obsessing, but also from the shame of admitting to people who I've ranted about how awfully he treated me that I'm actually interested in him again. I was afraid of their judgment, but I hate bottling things like that up.

I decided, impulsively, to try and reach out to some of our mutual acquaintances from my old school and ask about him, but this led me down the dark hole of, well, interacting with those people and remembering what shitty friends they were/are. I got even more upset and frustrated and lonely, feeling like nobody really cared or understood me. My friends would rarely ask about me and their answers were condescending or overly brief. Nobody asked me if I was graduating. I started recalling how the same people didn't respond when I said I wouldn't be coming back to that school. How they didn't check in to see if I was doing okay. How tempting coldness like that made ending it all seem. I want so badly to love people and invest in friendships because I love showing people kindness and thoughtfulness, but I get tired of how little people invest in relationships or appreciate other people's lives. I felt tempted to stop investing in relationships at all, but that's a depressing prospect too.

Ultimately, today has been really tough and I'm scared to think of what tomorrow is going to be like, but I realized that I need to be the one who embraces myself. I felt so embarrassed today for being interested in this guy who I previously ranted about, but at the end of the day, I'd rather be somebody who is honest about going back and forth than someone who denies they were ever on a different side than they are on now. At one point, when I was driving to class, I decided to just accept that I flip-flop a lot on things. It is part of my personality and the way I process. I don't think it's necessarily wrong, though I understand why it might frustrate people. I would rather be open-minded about things than be someone who makes a snap judgment and never reconsiders. People and situations are constantly changing, so it's oftentimes worth reevaluating your opinion. I've changed so much in life, and I firmly believe most of it has been for the better.

I also accept that I am who I am. I want to be the person who is in my corner. Obviously, I'm not going to get the validation and acceptance I'm seeking from other people. I either get torn up because those people disappoint me in their friendship, or I do experience validation via grades or applause or the occasional positive interaction and still feel unsatisfied. I guess I need to accept myself because even if I do get what I really crave - a relationship where the other person is really invested in and excited about me and vice versa - I will need a firm grounding in who I am so I don't get lost in that other person and so I can survive if the relationship doesn't work out.

So I'm not perfect in any way -- I'm sure anyone could read this post and pick it apart to identify a host of character flaws and psychological issues. But I'm trying really hard to be a better person, to love others, to improve my own methods of dealing with tough times. And I choose to accept that I am still growing and that's just the way life works. We can't get it all right at once. Or maybe, like, ever.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I'm not okay, okay?

Days haven't been too dark lately, but they haven't exactly been light either. You know how you get your hopes up about something - or someone - but then your happiness gets tied to that idea or that person? Well, I'm guilty of that.

I'm sitting in my school hallway and silently crying. I'm on Crisis Text Line because I was shaking and I wanted to puke but I have class later so I can't go home and I was starting to think about ways to end it all but knowing that I shouldn't end things over a stupid little thing like this.

An hour and a half ago, I went through the effort to come to campus extra early so I could try and get a chance to talk to him. I should've just stayed home. I don't know why I keep putting all this effort into these relationships that won't work. Why can't I learn that when the other person doesn't put any effort in, it's not worth doing the pursuing? I should have listened to my mom's advice that a relationship that's supposed to work should be easy, should work out well. But I was infatuated.

Anyways, I walked in, my heart pounding, going out of my way yet again to try and talk to him, and he was talking to another girl - a loud girl - asking about another woman. Asking if she could set him up with this other girl. Saying she was hot. She said something about how he has a crush on so-and-so. It was enough to know he had moved on, if he was ever even interested in me.

I don't know why I still tried to talk to him. I guess because I had gone through all the effort to go there and I didn't want to feel like I hadn't tried. The conversation wasn't anything special and just in the way he talked to me, I could tell something had changed. I got that sense of pity, of him wanting to be polite but not really being super interested in talking to me.

I know it's stupid. I know it's small. But it's the cumulative effect of over and over having the same story play out: Girl meets guy. Girl observes guy from afar and slowly grows to admire him. Girl imagines them together and develops embarrassingly strong feelings for him, but they don't interact much. Girl tries to overcome her shyness and talk to the guy, but they have little more than occasional conversations but her friends all say they would be so cute together so she keeps hoping. Guy never shows interest or straight up chooses someone else. Girl feels like a piece of shit nobody once and hates herself for not being outgoing and bubbly and sexy and normal.

That's happened so many times, I've lost count. So now that it's happened again, can you blame me for feeling a little worthless? More than anything though, I feel stupid. I feel mad at myself for falling into the same trap, telling myself the same lies, devaluing myself again by chasing after someone who doesn't make an effort to do the same for me.

In the mental health world, people talk a lot about triggers. Usually they think that reading about something traumatic you've gone through will trigger you to have upsetting thoughts or other negative emotions. I haven't found that to be true for me, personally. I've found my biggest trigger is experiencing rejection. I got a lot of rejections in the past; literal ones like, "We don't want you in our club" and more indirect ones like, "I told another friend my big news before you", or "I'd rather date this bitchy girl than you." Sometimes people don't come right out and reject you, but they get the idea across pretty well regardless by just ignoring you or not answering your messages any more or whatever.

When I was going through my hellish depression, I was also experiencing rejection. Rejection on a larger scale of realizing that I was never really accepted into the school I had been attending for three years; they just tolerated my existence, but I was never really part of their community or one of them. Rejection in the sense that friends were showing that they didn't really care about me enough to be there for me when I needed it most. But most of all, rejection from a guy who I really cared about. He seemed interested at first. He came to see me play a concert, we had nice conversations, he checked in to see if I was okay a few times when I was depressed. In turn, I tried to talk to him, get to know him, learn about the things he was interested in, support his music, send him encouraging notes. But ultimately I felt him slowly drift away and found out halfway through the year that he had decided to date a particularly unpleasant, jealous girl.

That was all happening as my mind and my life and my happiness was rapidly unraveling. It wasn't the cause of the destruction, but it sure added insult to the injury. It multiplied the pain infinitesimally. I turned to self-injury to try and deal with the pain so deep and intense I couldn't communicate it or even figure out how to endure it. People don't understand unless they've been there.

So when I experience rejection again, in whatever form it comes, I fall apart. I unravel. It's my trigger. I can't even help the emotions. They're just a reaction I can't control. Friends judge me, wondering why I have such a strong reaction to something so small as a conversation that didn't go well, and I can never get them to understand it's because of my past.

The Crisis Text counselor sounded more like a robot. They fed me the lines. I've heard all the lines. This month is my three-year anniversary in counseling. I know all the right answers, but I can't just give them to you right now because I'm hurting. I know you want me to just pull it all back together so you can don't have to feel uncomfortable, but I'm hurting right now and I just need you to let me hurt and be on my side, in my corner.

My friend told me I need to grow thicker skin, to be positive, to believe things will work out in the future. She told me she had endured actually breaking up from a real relationship but she was okay now. I felt disrespected. I felt betrayed. How dare she compare our experiences to devalue mine. And I've been through loads of shit, even if I've never been through a breakup.

I know all the answers. I also know my own history. I know my heart. I know the hurts its seen and the places that never healed quite right so they just burst at any tug at the seams. I feel self-conscious about how sensitive and emotional I can be, but at the end of the day, I don't think I want thicker skin. Because then I'd be the kind of person who tells a girl crying alone in a school hallway to have a thicker skin.

I just want you to be okay with me not being okay right now.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I don't know where I fit.

I've been doing really well the last couple weeks. I let go of the toxic people in my life. I decided not to visit the social media pages of the people who have hurt me in the past. I shed my old skin and finally let go of my disappointment and grief over my old life.

I felt like a new woman. A burden was lifted off my heart. Light finally got through to my soul. My foundation was finally firm and I could start building my life again.

Today I feel lost again. I feel like I've slid back, but I'm trying not to obsess about it because that seems like something my therapist would tell me to do.

I don't understand what my place is in the world. I feel disappointed, I feel scared, I feel insecure. The other women at school were swapping stories about men asking them out and overhearing men ranking women's appearance. I started to wonder where I fell on the list, which any woman knows is a poisonous thought that eats you from the inside out. Am I pretty enough? Do I really look as fat as I do in the pictures? Does anyone want me? Or on the converse, am I just being judged based on my appearance and objectified instead of being valued for my intelligence, compassion, personality, and character? Pretty or not pretty, you feel scared and devalued, like the ground is slipping and the world is suddenly full of predators and you're the prey.

Maybe it's the lack of sleep...Probably it's the lack of sleep. But it's also everything - all the little comments and criticisms and mistakes - coming together and weighing on my mind. It's the conversations with friends I thought would be fun and uplifting but ended up being discomfiting. Where you say something and they don't react and you're scared you said the wrong thing.

I feel like I've been walking on eggshells around everyone lately. I'm so scared of saying something offensive or incorrect that gets me in trouble and tarnishes my reputation or hurts my friends' feelings and gets everyone whispering about me behind my back. I try so hard to be sensitive and to push myself to be open-minded and aware of others' struggles and points of view, to understand their arguments and be sensitive to their needs. But I feel overwhelmed. The eggshells are turning to broken glass underneath my bare feet.

I don't feel safe with people. I can't be myself. I feel my insides tighten with fear and stress over the angry words I know I'll have to patiently, passively listen to. On the car rides home, my mind races with social anxiety, going over my conversations and class contributions from the day, worrying whether I said anything offensive, trying to figure out if people were angry with me or if they were just tired.

I don't know where I fit in this world. I don't even know where I fit in my own little world - my friendships, my family, my faith. Even my therapist wants me to fit into a little box. I don't know where I stand on everything and I feel like everyone is scrutinizing my every word and move. I have to have it all figured out and be consistent, but the truth is I'm still picking up the pieces and trying to figure out how to make them into a new picture that fits the frame my life has taken lately.

A couple of days ago, I had hope that maybe someone was on my horizon -- our lives could fit together, even if we didn't fit anywhere else. But shit I don't know any more. Last week I kept catching his eyes on me. My heart beat so hard all class period, knowing he was just in the same room. I hated the anxiety it brought back into my life, but loved the anticipation. The possibility of the complete unexpected being within reach. But we spent a semester sitting next to each other and not talking...Why would we start now? And I hate putting pressure on myself to approach him. I hate leaving school, feeling like a failure because I didn't overcome my fear and end the purgatory of dreaming of what's just out of reach. I hate begging my friend for hints whether they think I might have a chance with him. I hate feeling at the mercy of what I know will, given my track record, never be.

I guess we all have things that make us feel like we don't quite fit in. We're all misunderstood and hurt and broken and vulnerable. I just hope we can all find someone - or better yet, some people - who accept us in our brokenness, who embrace us in our vulnerability instead of using it to whip us and point out our flaws. I keep worrying about what qualities to look for in a man, what red flags to notice. I guess the core of the thing is finding someone who I feel comfortable being my full, most vulnerable self with and who accepts me wholeheartedly even when I'm broken or a bit out-of-bounds.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Panic & Peace.

It's been a roller coaster of a week. At first, I wasn't doing great on the Wellbutrin, then after a couple days on it, I was starting to see glimpses of light and I could read more than a page of a textbook and I was starting to think better about myself and the world...But the wheels of anxiety were starting to turn anew in my mind, creaking back to life and then whirring faster and faster. My brain was feeling more and more like a whirlwind of "What ifs" and "WhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdo", etc.

Tuesday, I woke um in the wee hours of the morning and felt like I couldn't breathe. Then it happened again in class later that morning. I had never had a panic attack that felt quite like that before. The mind-whirring anxiety continued. I couldn't shut my brain off. I couldn't stop obsessing over the question of what I should do with my future.

Today, I had been awake about an hour and was sitting in bed, trying to do some reading for a paper, when suddenly an indescribable pain clutched my abdominal region, spread up to the left side of my chest, and simultaneously struck in the left side of my head. I was terrified. What the hell was happening to me? It really felt like a heart attack or something. I faintly cried for help and my sister gave me a heating pad to put on my stomach. I clutched it to me, even though it wasn't that sort of pain. I lay down and stared at the ceiling, panicking. What was happening? What the hell was happening?

Thankfully, the pain subsided in maybe ten minutes, thought the ache in the left side of my head remained. I kept half-joking to my sister that I had had an aneurysm. I picked my book back up, determined to actually work hard today.

The slight headache remained and worsened and I started to feel worse and worse. I remembered that I might have forgotten to take part of my Klonopin dose last night, so I wondered if I was going through withdrawal I took a small amount to alleviate the symptoms and rested.

After dinner, I forged on in my reading. But it just got harder and harder. The house seemed to get louder, the sound of water running in the kitchen became more grating. My ears were ringing just hearing it. Then my head started to feel like it was turned to a static channel on the radio. I abandoned my reading as my head became too "noisy" and "busy".

I felt my torso fill with a similar panic-y feeling; everything was topsy turvy, like my insides were a bunch of bingo balls in a cage, being spun round and round. My heart felt like it was both fluttering and pounding. My stomach was full of butterflies that were escaping to frolic around the rest of my midsection. I kept getting waves of panic feelings, hitting me anew. It was frustrating. I just wanted to do my stupid homework. But I was in such an agitated state, I couldn't focus on anything.

I think both of these occurences today were probably panic attacks. The weird thing is that they were different iterations from the ones I'm used to experiencing - different symptoms, different feeling. But a little research into Wellbutrin's side effects revealed that panic attacks and extreme increases in anxiety are semi-common side effects.

And my shrink insisted that Wellbutrin had next to no side effects.


I'm tired of the b.s. and I'm tired of people messing around with my head and my life and taking my money, pocketing it, and sending my to the secretary to schedule a med check a month out, barely giving me a method to contact them should something go wrong. Like, if I was ever suicidal, I wouldn't know how to get in touch with my psychiatrist in a timely manner. That is ridiculous.

I guess I'm just frustrated at how out of touch these people seem with things. You're effing around with my well-being, my chance to do well in school and make a career, my chance to live...literally. There were times my bad medication reaction took me to such a bad place, that I was suicidal. But the doctor will get back to you within twenty-four hours.

Medication saved my life - I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't been able to get on Klonopin so I could start sleeping again the one semester panic attacks kept me up almost all night, every night. But it also ruined it; I had to give up everything because of the depression that my meds caused. It was devastating, heartbreaking. It gets frustrating when people who didn't see that, live that, feel that, don't listen to you or take the time to really evaluate what is best for you as an individual, not just what they learned in class in their manual. It's frustrating to try and communicate over a decade of struggle into a thirty-minute interview.

I know these people are trying, but on another level, I sometime feel a certain level of robotic detachment, even apathy. And that frustrates me because every day I feel turmoil. And all they give me is detached, distant once-a-week therapy or once-a-month med checks. Where do I turn when I'm spiraling? Where do I turn when I question if it's all worth it?

I'm going to call my doctor once the business week starts and tell her I'm going off of the frickin' Wellbutrin. If the anxiety is this bad now, it will likely only get worse. And I don't want to turn back into the girl lying in the fetal position in her bed barely able to murmur, "I can't" when her sister asked why she hadn't gone to class yet. I don't want to be the girl who leaves her group work partners hanging and gets those shameful "W's" on her transcript because she's too anxious to leave the house any more. I'd really like to graduate, thanks very much, and I'd like to do so with flying colors, not dragging myself with bloody fingernails to the finish line.

One last thought before I sign off: This evening as all this anxiety was going on, I also had another emotion: inferiority. I felt ashamed of being so "crazy" and "unstable" and of not being able to function and keep it together. That silly lie of, "Maybe I need to try harder and this is all my own fault" crossed my mind.

I felt inferior to the people who relish travel instead of feeling terrified of being stuck in a plane or vehicle, hurtling away from the safe, known to the insecure, unknown. I felt inferior to the people who set off with a few dollars in their pocket to pursue their dreams 1,000 miles from home. I felt inferior to carefree, well-adjusted, sociable, amiable, gregarious people who have perfect white teeth and can do no wrong. The truth is, I felt inferior to one person in particular, who shall remain unnamed.

But I have a struggle. I don't know why. I was born with it. Most of the people who cross through my life will never know about it. Most of my life I will probably be affected by it. But I'm trying. I'm fighting. And I'm trying to make a difference and encourage others and change at least the little circle where I have a bit of influence. A lot of the beautiful people out there can't necessarily say the same.

People might not get your struggle, but it's real. It's hard. It's amazing that you are still fighting. My hat goes off to you, friend. I hope you keep up the good fight. I hope you don't let others make you feel inferior for feeling. For fighting. For being who you are.

People may think you're weak because you struggle so much, but you're strong for getting through days tougher than some could ever even imagine.

Here's to you, friend.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Meds and shrinks, oh my!

I'm not entirely sure what people mean by the term "crossroads" (as a figurative term that is...I know what it is literally...duh), but I always think it sounds cool, like something you name a hipster church or a young adults group. This past week has seen a lot of change for me, so I felt like it warranted another post. I guess I feel like I'm at a lot of crossroads or turning points or something. I just feel like some shifts have happened.

For starters, I went to a new psychiatrist, which is always nerve-racking. The shrink I had been seeing was $200 for 15 minute med checks, a pain to get to, and it took over a week to track her down to get her to refill my prescription. Not cool. Dangerous, in fact. My mom found someone on our insurance plan (miracle of miracles) so we figured it was worth a try.

I started seeing my previous psychiatrist with the express intention that I not go on any new medications. I was shaken and scared by the experience I had had the previous year, being debilitated by the meds I had been put on that I had a bad reaction to but the doctor didn't have the sense to take me off. I wanted someone who would refill my Klonopin prescription and my L-Methyfolate and maybe offer some sage advice about sleep patterns. (Actually, that's a lie. I want to sleep how I want and I hate how that doctor's sleep advice haunts me, telling me I'll give myself the effect of jet lag if I sleep in on Saturday mornings.)

This time, I didn't have clear expectations of what I wanted; the appointment snuck up on me because I was busy starting school. So when I went in, naturally the psychiatrist did what they're trained to do: put me on a new prescription.

I was a bit shocked and pretty apprehensive, but Wellbutrin did show on my genetic testing to be a drug I shouldn't have an interaction with and it was true that while I had been on Wellbutrin, it had always been while I was on an SSRI, and the SSRIs were what I was clearly "allergic" to. Plus, the shrink said it can help with concentration, and I've been increasingly concerned about how much difficulty I have focusing to complete schoolwork. I figured that now that I'm well-informed about meds and the potential of having a bad reaction, it was worth trying the thing out and I could go off of it if I found myself getting worse.

That's not to say, of course, that my mom and I haven't been hypervigilante and constantly on-edge the past few days since I started it, combing through my life for any possible signs of a bad reaction.

But weirdly enough, the thing that's almost as scary as getting worse because of the medication is the thought of getting better. It sounds bizarre, but every time I feel my mood and outlook lifting or my ability to cope and have a healthy perspective increasing while on this med, I have a hint of fear. I mean, part of it might be my own pride; I kind of wanted the psychiatrist to see she was wrong and I was right to be apprehensive. As my mom put it to a friend, "This woman wasn't there when my daughter was curled up in the fetal position, too agoraphobic to leave the room because of these meds." But I think another part of it is a fear of a new normal; happiness is an unknown. Being well-adjusted and even-keeled is a strange concept. A tiny part of me almost doesn't want to be better. I guess it feels like losing part of myself. More than that, it feels like conforming. Becoming normal. Becoming one of those happy people who it pains hurting people to see. I guess I will continue to have empathy for hurting people because I can never remove the scars of this past torture from my heart and mind -- nor do I want to. But a part of me kind of resents those normal people who don't hurt or struggle constantly and I don't know if I want to be one of them. Maybe that makes sense, maybe it doesn't. Take it or leave it. But the feeling is there.

Whether the Wellbutrin will work, I don't know yet. I have to grudgingly admit that it does seem to be helping. But I have one last rant before I hit the Publish button....

I woke up at 4am this morning, hours before my alarm. This isn't uncommon for me. since I have to take one of my supplements on an empty stomach, so I usually stumble out of bed like a zombie and take it in the wee hours so I can eat breakfast right away when I wake up for real. But once I had lain down again, I couldn't get comfortable. I tried different positions, but nothing was right. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I couldn't get enough air. I tried to tilt my head different ways in case I was blocking up by air passage. I started to worry I was allergic to peanut butter suddenly and my throat was swelling up (I had also eaten a peanut butter cracker b/c I was so hungry I was miserable). I opened the window. Nothing helped. I sat up in bed and felt a little better. I sang Hank Williams songs to myself softly ("I Saw the Light" is a must-see if it doesn't contain triggers for you). Finally I realized I was having panic attacks. Eventually I was able to drift off again.

Later, in class, I was overwhelmed by how crowded the room was. The classrooms don't have windows that open or a ton of ventilation and there were thirty bodies packed into one smaller-sized room, consuming oxygen. I was again overcome with the sensation of something like a low-level suffocation. I felt physical discomfort that's difficult to explain, but wasn't unbearable. I couldn't wait to just get out of that classroom.

I realized once again that this was a panic attack of some sort, though it lasted for a while. (As a side note: I've noticed I tend to have panic attacks in crowded places. I think it's something to do with the lack of oxygen.) I told my mom about both occurrences that evening and she immediately told me that she had researched and found out that one of the big side-effects of Wellbutrin that people complain about is having panic attacks. "I should have told you sooner," she said, "well, heck, your psychiatrist should have told you."

I actually asked my psychiatrist what side effects there were and she did not mention this at all. She emphasized that Wellbutrin has relatively few side effects -- maybe a headache. Ummm...panic attacks are a pretty significant side effect and one that you need to be informed about. I hate to get all salty, but I'm getting frustrated with what I think isn't a stretch to call irresponsibility on the part of some psychiatrists when it comes to informing patients about potential side effects and what to do should they occur or should symptoms get worse. None of the three psychiatrists I have seen gave me much of any information on the subject.

What if I had never had a panic attack or wasn't familiar with them and experienced them? How freaked out would I have been? Panic attacks can be difficult to identify because your mind tends to get confused and frightened and you think you're dying or having some other medical emergency or you just can't think straight period. I've also had them manifest themselves in many different forms, so sometimes it's hard to tell when they're happening. It would've been nice to prepare myself.

I guess playing into this is my frustrated that psychiatrists (at least the ones I and my family members have seen) don't closely monitor -- or even encourage the patient to closely monitor -- their emotions and physical symptoms when they start meds or give them much guidance in general. Bad reactions to medications can be life-threatening in that they can involve suicidal thoughts, not to mention be downright frightening.

I guess I just got really irritated last year when I saw an article saying that Paxil, the medication I was on for a year, had been advised not to be given to teens or young adults after a study that had been done years ago, but that the study had gone largely ignored. Then another study had confirmed the original's findings. I got mad because my life was ruined by these people's irresponsibility.

I don't want to say that psychiatrists don't take their jobs seriously or have no emotions (well, sometimes I wonder...), but I want to add my voice to the conversation. I understand why shrinks don't want to overwhelm new patients with the black box of super freaky potential side effects and make them run away from treatment, so they downplay the info. Or maybe what happened to me really was a strange fluke (though judging by the research I've seen and stories I've heard, I don't think that's true) and most people who walk through these people's offices are totally fine on whatever. But, again, I want to add my perspective.

In particular, I want to emphasize that shrinks should encourage people to track their mood and physical symptoms closely, give the client an easy way to contact them and game plan should their symptoms take a turn for the worse, and give patients information about the side effects and adjustment process. I also would venture to say that we should reevaluate giving meds, especially SSRIs to teens and youth. I'm not saying we should rule it out entirely, just do more research and exercise more caution, which I know is beginning to be done.

Well, I meant to talk about some other things, but that rant has been longing to come out for a while. Thanks for bearing with me, readers. I will talk about my other crossroads some other day, I guess. On the plus side, I do have a new, much, much more affordable psychiatrist who, in spite of what this post might indicate, seems pretty competent. (And I bought myself a new scented candle as a reward for surviving the stress of going to a new psychiatrist. It smells like jam and makes my soul smile.)

One last time.

I hate first weeks of school.

I guess the good news is that last week was my last first week of school, at least for a while. It hasn't really sunk in yet, though, that this is the beginning of the end. And I really want to go through this semester with some sort of consciousness of that. I want to appreciate these moments before they're gone. I want to revel in the feeling of transition.

But back to first weeks...They're awful when you're an anxious person. My therapist says I shouldn't call myself an "anxious person" because that means I let my anxiety define me, but eff that...All I've ever known is life with anxiety and it does define me; it influences my every moment. It shapes my personality and my actions. People get to define themselves as white or black or Latinex or gay...why can't I define myself as mentally ill? I don't mean it in a bad way; it's just part of my identity, perspective, and experience.

Rants aside, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on life right now because I've wanted to write about first-week anxiety last semester but never got around to it because, well, schoolwork caught up with me.

First off, I wanted to give a shout-out to all the anxious people starting school again. I learned to dread going to school when I was young, and I think I mentioned before on this blog that I would always cry and cry the week before school started. I didn't have a particularly horrific school experience or anything, but I just hate the stress, the regulation, the loneliness, the detachment, the oppression. Even though I'm a good student and always get things in on time and do a thorough job, I always feel like I'm drowning once school begins. All the deadlines feel so impersonal and even though I know everyone else is stressed, you're the only one who can do your own work, so there's an element of loneliness. I guess it doesn't help that I've never had a ton of friends. It also doesn't help when you have friends who invalidate your fears and anxiety about school when you confide in them.

First weeks are awful because you get syllabus after syllabus of deadlines, due dates, projects, readings, expectations, grading policies, office hours, participation grades...It's like a giant vortex of anxiety. If the mantra to combat anxiety is, "Take everything one day at a time; don't worry about tomorrow", syllabuses undermine all of that. And we've all had those teachers who love to talk up their class to be as intimidating as possible to weed out people. I recall getting so anxious about being in honors math class when I was in sixth grade after listening to the teacher tell us all that we would be covering that semester (I've never been particularly confident in math), that I dropped down to the grade-level math class. It was not an appropriate fit for me and my teacher kept telling me to move up to Honors, but I was terrified. But that was the only year I got an award for my performance in a math class, and trust me, that's never going to happen again...

You think that after, what, eighteen years of first weeks (I guess more if you count semesters...) I would be able to not get freaked out and tell myself, "Hey, you've done this seventeen times and everything turned out alright, even when you were, like, almost dying, so I'm pretty sure you can do this." But no, I still got pretty overwhelmed. Not as overwhelmed as before, but freaked out. And it didn't help that my professors gave the syllabuses in a casual, "Oh, btw, nbd but there's a ten-page paper and two three-pagers but they'll be a breeze." And when I expressed my overwhelm to fellow students they seemed non-surplussed by the workload.

This week, I'm feeling less overwhelmed. I guess I'm just taking the "one step at a time" approach. But my heart goes out to all the people who feel completely out of their element and overwhelmed. It's not a fun feeling to have. That's an understatement. You feel like you're in a pressure cooker. Like someone just placed your head in a crock pot. Maybe you get headaches or neckaches or realize you're constantly tense. Maybe you start having panic attacks again or waking up in the middle of the night. Maybe you feel emotionally like you're drowning and can't possibly get this all done. You need a break just when you can't take one. You feel overwhelmed with inadequacy and uncertainty. Your calendar is your enemy but it is also your master; you can't ignore it but it terrifies you and it's marked up with commitments and deadlines in red ink.

It's okay to feel overwhelmed. It's completely understandable and valid; don't let other people who are excited and blase let you feel like you're crazy. (Personally, I feel like they're the crazy ones...) Give yourself room to breathe though. Take a moment every now and then to pause and say, "I am alive. This moment is mine. I am here. It is a miracle. I am breathing. I am working. I am achieving. I am enough. There is a future, but my job is to do my best today."

Look around you when you walk. Look up at the trees and admire how their branches stretch as if trying to touch the sky. Notice the little things: a house's shutters you like, a plant you've never seen before, a bird flying by, no matter how small. Dwell on the small miracles that all this life is happening. It's not all about this stress bubble that has encapsulated you (I'm not blaming your for the stress bubble, by the way...I hate how life puts us into these bubbles.)

I know the pressure is unrelenting when the semester starts, but I also know that people who are anxious and/or struggle with other mental illness are strong. They are survivors. They are overcomers. Every day is a battle for them, and they beat it. Just getting through a day is achieving sometimes.

When the world is putting pressure on you, be the one to give yourself a break.

You are a miracle.

We will be okay. One day, one hour, one minute, one second, one breath at a time. One sentence, one word, one formula, one math problem...It's going to be okay.

(I do wish there were a couple extra hours in a day though...)