Tag Archives: hope

No, You’re Not Okay

I broke this week.

I crashed this week.

I drowned this week.

Whatever you want to call it, my depression came back. I think I probably just didn’t take care of myself as much as I needed to. I’m not sure. I wasn’t exercising or sleeping enough, and was very stressed and overwhelmed by the amount and difficulty of the homework I needed to do. It was too much. College can be too much.

I ended up crying and having “depressive attacks” four days in a row. Wednesday I had a migraine, took a nap, started self-medicating with Benedryl and Advil, and slept a lot. Thursday and Friday I was so far behind on homework that I worked for 8+ hours straight through, both days, stopping only to eat. And to go to class. It’s not really surprising that I couldn’t stop crying.

I don’t know if anyone else has a name for what I call my “depressive attacks.” They must. Any ideas? For me, they’re very similar to panic attacks, but there is not feeling of panic or anxiety. Instead it is grief. There is this intense feeling of deep inner sadness that starts in the gut, and can only work its way out through crying.

It is a wave of grief that washes over me which can only let itself out by crying the disgustingly intense kind of crying. The kind that should only be cried when someone you love has died. The attack sneaks up on you, hits hard, then passes as quietly as it came.

When I have my depressive attacks is when I feel the most vulnerable, embarrassed, and ashamed. I do not like people to see me in that state. It is terrifying for them– they feel helpless and afraid of the monster, my illness, which has stolen me right out of my body. I know it will pass– they don’t know it will pass. It’s not fair to them.

Friday night I had one of my depressive attacks with one of my best friends around. She’d never seen it before.

One of the things I do when I am in that state is tell myself that I’m okay. I find it calming. And I need to remind myself that the feelings will pass.

I’m okay.

I’m okay.

I’m going to be okay.

I wish so much that she hadn’t been around when it hit. I hurt her– I scared her. And at one point she responded to me:

No, you’re not okay.

No, you’re not. That cut through. Because there was so much truth to it– I wasn’t okay. I was just telling myself that.

I knew I was going to be okay. I am okay– good, even– now. But I wasn’t then. And I’m ashamed of the person she saw on Friday night. Of that person who wasn’t okay.

I want this blog to have an air of hope against the stigma of mental illness. But I also want it to be honest. And that is the truth.

I am ashamed of the person she saw on Friday night.

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I like to pretend…

“I guess I like to pretend I don’t have this problem.”

I’ll be studying abroad in Hungary in the fall, and was discussing logistics about it during my psychiatry check-in this morning. I was feeling really good and comfortable with the plan we were working out–we figured out how I will get my prescriptions–but then she said to me:

“Yes. But what will you do if you are all the way in Eastern Europe on your own and you become symptomatic again?”

Oh.

I have no clue how, but that concept had completely slipped my mind. I had literally given no thought to what I would do if I was abroad and wasn’t okay anymore. I guess I like to pretend I don’t have this problem.

Even with my disordered eating habits, I have been doing so much better this year than ever before in my adult life. I feel so stable, so good, so in control of myself right now. I take my meds when I wake up, I go to nutrition and counseling check-ups, exercise, write in my diary, keep my food logs– I’ve found a self-care routine that’s working.

For the first time in my adult life, I know what it feels like to not live in constant fear of my illness.

I know I am so blessed and lucky to be able to say that. I never thought I would. But my appointment today gave me the necessary reminder that I will always, always have this part of me.

I will never outgrow my mental illness.

I will never be cured of my mental illness.

My mental illness will always be a part of who I am, and something I will always carry with me– even as far away as Hungary.

I’ve already had six years to try to reconcile myself with my illness, and even so, I’m still trying not to be angry about it.

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Food Logs

I am doing a lot better. From the beginning of this semester, I met with our college nutritionist every week for about a month, then every other week, and have now “graduated” to once a month.

I have been keeping a food log this entire time, recording specifics of what I eat as well as my feelings and reactions to food. It makes nutrition appointments really easy– every meeting we start out by looking at my log. She can see what I consumed and how I felt about it in “real-time.” There’s no forgetting what happened since the last appointment, and no hiding certain meals/lack of meals.

My food log is helping me transition my obsession with food from an unhealthy restriction of what I will allow myself to put into my body towards a healthy awareness of what I am eating and why.

I have been using my food log as a crutch–but honestly I think that’s okay. In the beginning, I needed it. I needed my food log to give me something to obsess over as I tried to increase my food intake. Now I just like it. Sometimes I even forget to log, and that doesn’t bother me anymore. That’s one of the ways I know I’m doing better. But I like having someplace to reflect on food and notice how my emotions impact what I eat. My log is helping me to enjoy food again.

For anyone who has kept a food log: Were you forced to use it? Was it helpful? Do you continue to use it?

One of my recent food log reflections:
I have really not been concerned much with food, exercise, and weight recently. I feel happy and calm and comfortable with my body. I have accomplished one of my goals– to feel less anxiety surrounding food. It is still there sometimes, it still exists, but I feel that I now have enough knowledge about myself and healthy eating habits as well as tools to be okay. I fear that this might not be the case tomorrow or next week or in six months, but I can deal with that when it happens. My food choices and habits are definitely different now than ‘before,’ but I think that it okay. I think I am okay.

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My Food Log

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Who is in control?

We take drugs in order to give us more control over our lives.

I think about this a lot, and wonder about it. It’s ironic, really.

My Lexapro changes who I am. It directly affects my personality and my emotions. It controls my feelings, and makes me feel stable. It takes away my suicidal feelings and my panic attacks. It allows me to live a life where I don’t spend hours crying in my room or in the middle of class for no apparent reason.

But, it also gives me more control over my own life. Since I don’t have panic attacks, suicidal attacks, random crying attacks (if you will let me call them all “attacks”–as that is how I perceive my mental illness. It is just that, an illness, and one that sneaks up from behind when you least expect it and in an instant changes how you are feeling and functioning), I can make choices about my own life. I can choose what I want to do, when I want to do it, and I don’t need to spend as much time catering to the illness.

With my meds:

I can stay up later without having to worry that I will be depressed for the next week because of it.

I can make it through exams without crying from test anxiety.

I can listen to my friends and give advice without having to worry that it will trigger me.

I now have the emotional capacity to love, and live, and do what I want to do.

The very first thing I do every morning when I wake up is take my meds. Before I even put my feet on the floor, I take my meds. Any time I am going anywhere overnight, I have to pack my meds.

They control me, but at the same time give me my freedom back. It’s confusing.

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Let’s Start from the Beginning

I had my first visit with a psychiatrist yesterday. I wasn’t terribly anxious about it– having been in counseling on and off for the past five years, I have plenty of practice talking about my problems, my life, my medical history. And although having to start from the beginning (“I had my first episode of major depression when I was 13, in eighth grade…”) over and over is exhausting, it can also be refreshing. Not only does it give a new set of earns to listen, but also a chance to reflect on your history and see what new connections come to mind.

But the longer you’ve been suffering, the longer, more complicated, more convoluted the story gets. For me, as of right now, my story includes chronic depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thinking, disordered eating, insomnia, and self-injury. It takes something out of the ordinary to make me feel happy. I feel “neutral” most of the time. When I’m in a major depressive episode, I feel like I just got hit by a bus. I worry a lot. I get panic attacks that make me feel like I’m drowning. The worst panic attacks happen at night, though, when I’m alone, and, having lost my sense of sight to the darkness, am consumed by thoughts of how tiny I am, how insignificant I am, how I am going to die someday, and how even if God does exist, that eternity is a long time and what if I don’t like Heaven? A lot of days I want to run away, or to die (although I don’t really want to die, just to not live the way I am at the moment). Even though I’m not, I feel fat. I might weigh myself 6 times a day, in secret, obsessively. Some nights I can’t fall asleep because my thoughts are consumed by what I ate that day, trying to decide if it was “okay” or not, and what I will do the next day to “control myself.” There are nights I can’t sleep at all, and have to watch TV to try to escape my incessant thoughts. Sometimes I hurt myself. I dig my fingernails into the skin on my back to try to get out all of the feelings that are controlling me. But then when I realize I’ve done it again, I feel guilty and weak, and am mad that I can’t stop myself. Am I crazy? Maybe. But I’m me, and all of this is part of my story, part of who I am, and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of any of it (most of the time).

Generally, though, I’m fine. I go to college, have good friends, and a loving family. Most days my symptoms are not bad, they’re manageable, and although I’m rarely happy, I’m… doing alright. I’m doing the best I can. And I have so many good things going on in my life.

What finally made me decide to see a psychiatrist was the suicidal thinking. There’s a difference between being suicidal and suicidal thinking. I think about dying a lot. I think about wanting to run away, to leave. I think about how much suffering there is in the world, how much pain I’m in, and how much more pain I’m going to go through in the rest of my life, and wonder if there’s even a point to go on. But I know that I won’t kill myself. I feel very safe with myself, and I don’t actually want to die. I still have some hope. There are good days and loving people that make it all worth it.

But I worry that there will come a day that I’m in so much pain that I’m not thinking straight, and I won’t be able see that little bit of hope anymore. Because when you’re depressed, your thoughts aren’t your own. They might come from your own mind, but they’re not yours. You don’t have control over them. The depression hijacks your thoughts, it takes over and you don’t think the same things you would if you weren’t sick. That idea scares me. And as I get older that idea seems like more of a real possibility, more of a real threat. I’ve been struggling with depression on and off for more than five years, and I worry about some invisible pain-tolerance threshold that I might be approaching. I want to be able to live my life, and see the beauty in the world, and feel happiness the same way I used to. I don’t know if that’s possible, but if there’s something I might be able to do about it, it is definitely worth a try. I will never get back the time I have spent sick and depressed. I don’t really want to keep giving away my life to this illness.

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