Tag Archives: mental illness

A Love Letter to My Friend, Who is Suffering:

December 28, 2013

I want to tell you in writing how much I love you. I need to tell you this way, because I know you don’t believe me when I tell you in person– you can’t, your illness doesn’t let you. You told me that yourself.

You are so amazing at finding the good in other people, at finding their strengths and beauty, yet you can’t see it in yourself. You think you are worthless. I wish I could hold up a mirror in a way that would allow you to see yourself the way you see everyone else– beautiful, and perfect in their imperfections.

I want you to see yourself the way I see you. When I look at you, I see a girl who is strong, physically and mentally. I see someone who can finish workouts, homework assignments, exams, take care of friends, and lead a “normal” life all while on the verge of mental breakdown. You put up a good front. You’re a fighter. Never let them see you sweat. Or cry.

I wish I could take away some of your suffering. I wish you didn’t feel the need to take out your emotional pains by cutting into your skin or drowning them with alcohol. But I am so thankful you have let me in to this part of your life: because I understand, because I don’t judge you in the least, because I care about you and you mean so much to me. 

I don’t know why my meds have worked for me and yours haven’t worked for you. I don’t understand. Maybe you just haven’t found the right one yet. Maybe you just need a different therapist. Maybe this just isn’t the right year. Hang on, my love, hang on. I have seen the other side of this pain and it is worth the wait. The world really is amazing.

Please be careful. Please ask for help when you need it. Do it for me, or your sister, or the moon, or your younger self. Anyone. I’m here for you. I love you, and so do so many people around you.

It will get better. You know the emotional intensities pass. And I believe, truly and deeply so, that there will come a time for you as it has come for me when “good” days are not just “not-as-bad” days.

xoxo

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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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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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I wish I could tell you how much you’ve hurt me.

What do you do when the person you normally trust with things suddenly becomes the problem? When the person you love most becomes the person you need help dealing with?

It happens over and over. For me, two of the big ones:

Breaking up with my boyfriend.
My first reaction was to call him and tell him some jerk guy broke my heart. Then I remembered that it was him.

My anorexic best friend.
I usually talk to her about everything. She knows all my secrets and I know hers. But now, just looking at her makes me feel sick. It makes me so sad and it makes me feel angry. Angry at the world, angry at her parents, angry at everyone who has ever hurt her– now they’ve hurt me, too.

Time heals. With those two, my best friend is in recovery and we’re now as close as ever before. With my ex, we don’t talk anymore, but I’m okay with that. I’ve moved on.

But how long does it take to heal? And what do you do in the meantime?

This past weekend another relationship has broken for me. To simplify a complicated situation, I spent a very long night taking care of a very drunk best friend. She is okay, but it took more out of me both physically and mentally than I had. I’ve now shut down and am trying to recover and find my life again. I’m really hurt by the way things happened, and I’m really angry.

I hate being angry with her– I still love her so much. But right now I am not okay.

I have other friends who I’m talking to. I am taking care of myself. Everything will heal in time.

How long will it take? What do I need to do? I’m an impatient person.

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“…loved your baby feet.”

I have not been doing well.

Depression-wise, I’m fine. I’m not depressed. But my disordered eating has taken itself to a new level.

I’ve now lost 15 pounds since a year ago this time, and I’ve stopped eating enough food. I eat small meals, and close to nothing in between. I’m not eating enough, I know I’m not eating enough, I’m always trying to convince myself I’m not hungry–but I don’t want to stop. I want to keep losing weight.

As I said in an earlier post, the idea of disordered eating is nothing new to me. I have writings and journal entries from the past 2-3 years about my struggles with food:

I told her that what I wanted most for my birthday was to be able to eat my birthday cake without feeling sick, nauseous, and guilty for doing so.

Before I can fall asleep, I have to make a mental list of everything I ate that day.

I can’t look at anyone without judging if I think they’re thinner than me or about my size, and then spending time deciding if I’m okay with that.

But I have hit a new low now. I am still very much within a healthy weight range for my height, but I now weigh less than I did in high school, even when I was an athlete.

My best friend from high school suffers from anorexia. I talk to her about everything, and when I told her how I am doing eating-wise, she made me promise her I would go see our school’s nutritionist. I have an appointment, and I don’t want it, but I’ll keep it for her.

 I think I don’t know how not to be emotionally sick.

As a side-note, one of my friends showed me Mary Lambert the other day.
I really connect with her poem Body Love.

“Love your body like your mother loved your baby feet.”

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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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I love food. But it sucks.

One thing that is frustrating me right now is my weight. Well, actually, my weight is fine (I weigh 10 pounds less than I did a year ago at this time, and am very healthy). I’m frustrated with my worry over my weight.

I was doing pretty well when I was at college. I was controlling my eating more, as much as you can in a dining hall situation, and exercising a lot. Almost every day. At home, I just don’t get to exercise as much. Somehow, there’s no time.

I need to exercise at home, though. Not doing to makes me feel anxious. When I do exercise, I can go about the rest of my day without any worry over food or what I have eaten. But if I don’t, thoughts of food and of my body pre-occupy me and take over my mind. I start to resent the people who take me away from my workout time, and get angry at the food I’ve eaten. I plan my meals– what I am going to eat and when, and struggle to restrain myself from eating anything else.

I went to a Christmas party tonight. Of course, I ate more than I needed, and I didn’t work out today. Had I worked out, I know there would have been no issue. But since I didn’t, now I am left hating my body.

I don’t understand– It’s f*ing (sorry) Christmas. You’re supposed to eat lots of Christmas cookies! I keep trying to tell myself that it’s okay, that I’m beautiful and thin (which logically I know I am!), but it doesn’t always work.

My mom brought up my weight today. She asked me if I’d lost weight (I haven’t since summer), and told me I looked thinner (I was secretly pleased). I am worried about my worry over my weight. I have talked to my counselor before about disordered eating, and will continue to do so.

Underneath all this mess, there is a healthy desire to just be physically strong and to love my body. That exists. If I can keep that frame of mind, I’ll be okay. But I have been skating on the edge of an eating disorder for over two years now.

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