Tag Archives: Mental Health

“Adequately Thin”

I have this “365 Days of Cats” calendar. (Yes. I have a “365 Days of Cats” calendar…)

The quotes can be weird, they can be random, but they usually do make me think.

Thursday’s quote read: “The way he treats his body, you’d think he was renting.” (R. Brault)

I really doubt it originally had anything to do with disordered eating, but the quote made me think about the way I treat my body.

In my nutrition appointment this week, my nutritionist and I were discussing how far I’ve come since the beginning of the semester. And really, I have come so far. I am much happier with my body and who I am. I exercise more, I feel stronger, I am enjoying food again, and I am allowing myself to feel pretty.

But. I do written stream-of-consciousness reflections as part of my healing process. I write for a few minutes without censoring or erasing anything. It helps me do an honest self-reflection. And sometimes things come out that you didn’t realize were there.

This week: “I feel much prettier now, more comfortable, and thinner. I feel like I am thin enough for my clothes now. I feel adequately thin.”

I am doing so much better, but there is still this insane obsession with thinness and fear of gaining weight. I am allowing myself to eat more freely and feel better about myself because I am thinner.

It is so complicated. My nutritionist and I are now working to keep my eating the same, but to shift my mental focus away from the ideal of being thin toward the ideal of being healthy.

I need to focus on being healthy— the way I treat my body, you might think I was renting. I need to take care of myself and love myself. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I like my body, but I still don’t love it.

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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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Power Naps and 5-Minute Workouts

Saturday, I was feeling really sad.

Honestly, I’m not sure what was going on. Probably a mix of being tired, nervous for a play I was acting in that day, overwhelmed by schoolwork, and all the usual other college-related stressors.

One of my good friends asked if I was okay, and if I wanted to talk. I didn’t. I didn’t have anything that needed to be said, nothing was really wrong. When I realized that, I knew I needed to do something to shake the clouded feeling that had taken over me.

In my years of struggling with depression, I know that when you have the cloud feeling but nothing is wrong, the only way to fix it is to stop whatever it is you are doing and take a moment for yourself. You can try to power through the feeling, but it won’t go away. I promise.

Saturday, I stopped, took a 20 minute nap, then woke my body up right after with one of the videos from the 5-Minute Workout Anywhere series (click for link–they’re pretty funny).

After doing those two things, which only took a half hour of my day, I was feeling exponentially better. Good, even! Excited! Ready to continue with everything I needed to do!

Yes, doing those two things took a half hour from what I had been planning on doing. But I know the increased productivity and happiness that came from my nap and “workout” were absolutely worth that half hour.

For me, Saturday was a good reminder that taking care of yourself is worth every minute.

Easier said than done? Yes, of course. But I am going to try.

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toasters

Sketch 2014-03-22 15_40_06

My friend’s nutritionist showed her a magnet that had a similar quote on it.

It’s a little bit sad, but we both laughed over it.

Although emotionally it is much, much more difficult than this, we logically know that obsessive weighing is just as “silly” as saying:

“today, I think I will base my self-worth on the workings of my toaster.”

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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.

IMG_5653

My Food Log

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Food Goals

My nutrition appointment actually went really well! I like our school’s nutritionist a lot. I talked to her for an hour about my history, where I am right now eating-wise, and where I want to be:

I have struggled with depression/suicide/self-injury/etc. I am restricting. I want to be able to eat without feeling overwhelmed.

I liked talking to her because I never felt like she was judging me. It is so refreshing to be in a safe space like that– where you can admit that you self-harm, take meds, aren’t eating … and the other person doesn’t stare at you like you’re a sick puppy. She asks what has helped me cope in the past, and how can we apply those methods to this new problem?

We came up with three goals for me to work on this week. They are easy. Right now she is not asking me to change the way I eat my meals, which I appreciate because honestly I don’t think I am capable of that at this point. My big goal is basically to stop being hungry all the time. I want to do that. I think I can.

My three nutrition goals for this week:

  1. Snacks. I am adding in 2 snacks to my regular 3 meals. One at 3pm and one at 9:30pm. Something that has helped me cope with stress in the past is having a very specific schedule that includes self-care on it (eat, shower, go to the gym, watch TV). I am able to follow my self-care schedule, even though I struggle to do those things otherwise.
  2. Challenge Day. Right now, my eating involves obsessive pre-planning of all my meals. I look at the menus for our dining halls before I go, and decide what and how much of it I will eat. I might plan all three of my meals for a day the night before. I don’t like doing it, either– it stresses me out. I want to stop. I am attempting to have one challenge day this week where I don’t look at the menus or pre-plan my meal.
  3. Read. She gave me a reading list of some books relating to disordered eating and body image. The one she recommended to me was Eating in the Light of the Moon. I’ve started it– it’s about women reclaiming their feminine body and improving their relationship with food. As a women’s college & gender studies student, I’m not sure how I feel about the whole femininity thing, but I’ll give it a shot. I take all of these mental illness books “with salt” anyway.
    Has anyone read it? What do you think?

So far this week, I have been doing pretty well. I am taking my snacks, and eating them, and it’s nice not feeling hungry. I have more energy.

However, I wasn’t as good today: It’s 5:00, and I’m really hungry. I have a headache and my stomach hurts because I haven’t eaten enough. I missed my afternoon snack because I forgot to put it in my backpack when I left this morning (I’m still trying to get used to having nutrition goals), so I haven’t eaten anything in 5 hours. And even so I can’t make myself eat.

This just proves to me how important my scheduled meals and snacks are right now. One would think I would be able to eat my snack now since I missed it, but my brain won’t let me. It’s not 3:30. I physically cannot do it, even though choosing not to do it (as if it’s a choice) is making me feel sick.

But, overall, I feel positive about where I am emotionally right now.

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Sick enough?

One of my friends posted a link to this article on her Facebook wall:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/12/soft-grunge/

It’s an article about Millennials and this new “style” called soft-grunge, which at its core makes intense emotion, depression, and mental illness appear beautiful. The article argues that this beautification of mental illness by young adults who may not have or understand mental illness leads to “erasure” of the experiences of those who really are suffering, thus worsening the stigma of mental illness.

The part of the article I really connected with, however, had little to do with the “soft grunge” stream of thought. What hit me was about halfway down, where the author writes, If you can selectively channel an emotion at will, it’s not mental illness.”

For me, that really resonates as an accurate way to describe mental illness, even though it defines mental illness by way of saying what it is not.

Mental illness is not having control over your emotions.

I have always struggled with defining mental illness– how do I know something is wrong with me? How do I know that I’m different? How do I justify, unfortunately even to myself, that I have a problem? That I am sick enough, and thus worthy of, my meds and all that expensive psychotherapy? It seems like a silly thing, a side point, but I am constantly trying to reassure myself that I need all of it.

I started my meds because I no longer felt safe with myself. I was too suicidal, and I couldn’t control my feelings. Using the article’s definition, I was suffering from mental illness because I didn’t have control over my thoughts or emotions. I was scared to be left alone with myself. 

Yes, I think that is “sick enough.”

Why do I need to keep reassuring myself of that?

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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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Life Update

So, clearly I failed at this whole blogging thing. But what’s new? (; I am an ideas person, and I think of all these great/cool/helpful/super awesome things I could do, then I start them, and then… nothing. Although I’m blogging now, aren’t I? So that counts for something? And my depressive journey will never actually be over; I know it is something I will be living with for the rest of my life, so I don’t have to worry about missing the opportunity, I guess.

In general, to be totally honest, things have been going really well. I am happy– truly, consistently happy– for the first time in years. The meds are working! I realize my last blog post was while I was still on 5mgs, and still trying to get over the initial sickness that often occurs when you are starting psych meds, but a lot has changed since then. My side effect sickness only lasted about 3-4 days, then went away completely. Immediately, I stopped having suicidal feelings (before I started the meds, I was feeling suicidal ~ 3 days a week! It was terrifying, and I wasn’t okay with that. Since I have started, I have only felt suicidal once. I literally never would have thought that would be a possibility for me.)

It took about a month for it to really affect my personality, so to speak, but the effects have fully set in now. It is weird in a way, but I finally feel like myself again. I feel like the girl I used to be before all this started, before 8th grade, before my first major depressive episode. I feel more outgoing, and a bit crazier in the “I want to do things and try new things” sense, and excuse my language, but I don’t give much of a s**t about what people think of me again. I feel so much more comfortable in my skin, I feel so much freer, but most importantly, I feel like my “old self,” my pre-depression self, pre-high school self that I had been missing so much.

My psychiatrist and I decided to up my dose, so now I am taking 10mg Lexapro every morning, and still have “check-up” counseling appointments. But I no longer feel like I need my appointments. They make me feel safer right now, since I am still trying to figure myself out, but I don’t spend my time counting the days down until appointments, trying to convince myself that I can hang on for “just 3 more days…”

All this being said, please don’t think I am trying to sell the idea of meds to anyone. They have worked for me. I don’t know how long they will continue to work, or what kind of biological effects they will have on my body and brain, or what the past few months would have been like for me without my meds. All I can say, and all I feel comfortable saying, is that they have helped me and they were the right choice for me at this point in my life. Everyone is different, and everyone is at a unique spot in their journey.

Sometimes I joke with my friends something to the effect of, “I won’t let anyone take my meds away from me! They’re mine!” … Except I’m only half-joking. I am terrified of what is going to happen when/if my meds stop working. But for now I am just trying to live in the moment, and soak in the good feelings.

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