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Aware of the Pain

I have been suffering through more than words can express, for a far longer time than I care to admit. I find myself acting as a character rather than actually being myself. That denial of pain has caused great strains in my closest relationships, and has resulted in needing to increase the frequency of my mental health treatments. I feel broken more often than I am whole. I feel lonely more often than I have company. I have cried more days this week than I’ve smiled. I am so tired of being a victim of my brain chemistry, and I need to look beyond myself for answers.

On Friday I left work early to deal with some personal issues, and thankfully I have a boss that understands the urgent needs of self-care. At that point in time I hadn’t eaten in 3 days and I had slept a total of 5 hours. As a result of all this I am still exhausted, and want nothing more than to take a vacation. I don’t know where my mental health would be without the support of my loved ones, and acknowledgement from others that my condition is real.

Yesterday I was able to run a little over 4 miles, which is something I haven’t done in almost 4 years. I realized this weekend that I need to force myself to participate in physical activities in order to gain anything of value for my health. Sure I would rather lay on my couch and watch Netflix, but feeling the sense of accomplishment I do today is worth it.

Over the last week I’ve learned it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok forgive yourself and others for wrong doings. We’re all human, and sometimes in order to move forward in life you need to forgive and forget. It just doesn’t always seem fair to deal with so much hardship at once, and see the world pass you by while you deal with roadblocks. But once you get over those hardships, life becomes so much more rewarding. I have a tendency to get stuck replaying things from the past in my head, but no matter how many times I watch my memories, I cannot change them.

As a write this today I am still sad. I still am on the verge of tears and I want to crawl back into bed and never leave it. I make a vow to myself today to just survive, and I make the same vow for everyday here on out. If I cannot control the outcomes I can be in control of my own reactions. Just remember that when you feel alone, there is someone out there that loves you. When you feel overwhelmed, someone is waiting for you to speak up so they can help. When you feel like life isn’t worth living anymore, it is, I promise you. I choose to never give up on myself, because I am the only person in the world I can control. Now it’s just about moving forward, forgiving myself for all the negative things I have done and most of all forgiving others when they have wronged me.

Life is a hell of a ride, but you never suffer alone.

Depression Doesn’t Just Mean You’re Sad

Having a licensed professional tell you that you are exhibiting signs of depression is devastating. Depression has always been a real possibility for me, because of how closely intertwined it can be to anxiety. Anxiety tends to focus obsessively on the future state and depression focuses on the past, and when combined together it’s impossible to move forward. Being told I have depression made my anxiety spike and I immediately thought I was given a death sentence. My brain thought “great, now we are destined to live a sad existence and be labeled even more of an outcast than we were before.” I’ve been taking some time to reflect on my emotions over the last couple of weeks, and what I’ve found is both frustrating and enlightening.

A common misconception is that depression means you’re sad. I’ve heard other people give the advice of “just get over it and be happy.” Ok cool. That’s like telling someone with anxiety to “not worry about it.” Your advice has just solved the world’s mental health problems and I will just be happy and not worry about it. I wish with my entire soul it was that easy. Over the last few weeks I have noticed a shift in myself that I was trying to ignore. I started losing interest in activities I used to love, like working out. I didn’t want to have any social interactions, I was always tired, and I felt my moods shift drastically from being ecstatically happy to feeling like I have a pit of blackness inside my body. Being on a self-discovery journey gives me the opportunity to reflect and analyze the way I feel and why I might be feeling that way.

My therapist let me know he thought I was having a depressive episode, and expressed concern for my well-being. He immediately suggested looking into medication, but I am resistant to jumping to conclusions without trying alternative methods. I think I was choosing to ignore what was happening and the downward slide because it was easier to live in a bubble of denial than to accept the truth. Being told I have depression is not much different than being told I have anxiety, but for some reason it had a greater impact on how I viewed myself. Instead of focusing on where to go from there, I decided to dwell on the fact an external source was telling me I was sad (not a productive way of thinking).

I also feel a sense of guilt for being depressed, which I know sounds weird. But many people in my life that have dealt with depression have experienced a tragedy, and I don’t feel like I fit into that category. I feel like I don’t have a reason to be sad. Sure I have a lot of life stressors that I’m working through, so in my mind my anxiety is in a way amplifying my negative emotions. It’s also not ok to compare yourself with other people. No two people experience the life in the same way, because we were not built as robot replicas of one another. I just need to stay focused on not drawing those conclusions, rather put the spotlight on my own experience and process.

Since my therapy session I have been trying to force myself into participating in activities that I love. I spent Saturday working on some art projects and cooking, and Sunday I made myself go outside and workout with my dog. Sure today I don’t feel a lot different, but like anything in life it’s a process that takes time. Isn’t the saying that the best things in life are worth waiting for? Only time will tell if that is true. The one thing that I haven’t lost is hope. I am hopeful that through the process of challenging myself to change and grow, that I can change my behaviors without the need for medication. Similar to anxiety I believe that my mind can heal itself, and in the event that is not true I will seek other interventions. Right now it’s time to stay in a positive mindset and start the process of healing.

When it Rains it Pours

My favorite song is called “For Good” from the musical Wicked. This song is about two unlikely friends that came into each other’s lives and have had their lives changed because of their friendship. I like to use this as my mantra and something that leads the way that I interact with the people in my life. I choose to believe that people are introduced to you in times where you need them the most. You can call it fate or luck or good timing, but I consider it all of those.  As I wrote in a previous blog (Why I Don’t Have Friends) I tend to attract people to me when they need help and I am able to provide what they need. This can be in the form of needing someone to vent to, go to concerts with, drink wine and watch trash TV with, or be the person that can brighten their day. I can never predict how long we stay in each other’s lives, but very few have stuck with me throughout the years.

My anxiety causes me to be a lonely person. Social anxiety prevents me from having fun experiences with other people, and always gives me an excuse to cancel plans. Even when I am with a group of friends (or acquaintances) I still feel lonely. Imagine being in a room filled with family and friends that love you. You are having great conversations, maybe drinking some alcohol, but for some reason you have this invisible barrier between you and the rest of the room. No matter how physically close you get to them, emotionally you stay distant. I know this is a defense mechanism my brain has created to prevent myself from getting hurt. Most days it feels more like a handicap and something I need to overcome if ever have dreams of creating lasting friendships.

A great example of what I am talking about is from this past Saturday. I went to the Jesse McCartney concert with my friends Bre and Emily, and honestly had a great time. We had dinner at an adorable restaurant in Dinkytown called Annie’s, and drank cocktails at the Porthouse down the road. In line at the concert we made friends with the girls in front of us, and throughout the night we continued to add to this group. We ended with about 20 girls around us laughing, dancing and singing to all of his songs. Watching my Snapchats and Instagram stories showed a girl that was living her best life. In truth, I was in a lot of pain.

When Bre picked me up to head downtown I was an anxious mess. My stomach hurt, I couldn’t breathe very well, and my head hurt so bad I wanted to vomit. I told myself it wasn’t a life or death situation, but my mind was unconvinced. I felt better after having a few drinks, because the alcohol was able to numb the feeling of anxiety. The entire night I still felt like I was distant from everyone around me. It felt more like an out of body experience and looking back on the night I have very little memory on what I was actually feeling.

I am hoping to get to a point in my life where I don’t need a social crutch to get me through a socially stressful situation. The last thing I want people to think is that I am an alcoholic, because I am not. In reality I do not drink often, but only if I am entering in a situation where it will be helpful to get through (or if it’s a weekend in the summer and I want to let loose).

When I reflect on all of the people that have rotated in and out of my life I realized that I do not give anyone the opportunity to help me. I am so focused on what the other person’s needs are that I forget I have my own. I know I do this because I have always felt that my issues should not overshadow someone else. I feel that if someone is having a bad day and telling me about it, I am not allowed to also be having a bad day and share my feelings. Instead I push aside the way I am feel to focus on improving the other person’s day. What I am doing is incredibly harmful to myself, and as a result the relationship suffers.

For anyone that I have ever let down, I am sorry. For anyone I have ever cancelled plans with, I am sorry. For anyone I have pushed away, I am sorry. For anyone that I haven’t been able to help, I am sorry.

I am so exhausted right now. Maintaining this wall I’ve put up is exhausting. Pretending to be happy all the time is exhausting. I just feel like I can’t let the people down around me, but at what sacrifice to me. If I had any solutions in my brain I would’ve used them already. If you truly are someone that considers me a friend, please do not give up on me. This self-discovery project is incredibly mentally draining, and I am doing the best that I can.

Chaos

As I sit here writing this, I feel like I want to claw all of my skin off. I feel like I can’t breathe and there is something heavy sitting on my chest. I have a lot of pent up anger inside of me begging to come out. My ears can sense the bass of the music and my heart can feel every thump, thump, thump of the classic rock. I can’t get my mind to fixate on something else. I can’t get focus on using another task as a distraction. I can’t hear the TV that I turned up from volume 12 to volume 25. All I can sense, feel and hear is the fucking bass on my neighbor’s music.

All of the windows in my house are closed, so I know it’s partially our fault for having terrible insulation. I understand it’s 4th of July week so everyone is having parties. I know this particular neighbor likes to listen to his 80s rock music on full blast in his garage with the bass up so loud it syncs your heart rhythm to it. I know everyone has a right to do whatever they want (within reason) because they pay a mortgage to live in this neighborhood too.

You know what doesn’t care about reason? My anxiety. I decided to sit in my basement with Netflix playing at a loud volume next to me, and in the room furthest from the source of the noise. I want to cry and stick something in my ear until they bleed (like they feel like they do already). I know my life is not in danger, but no matter how many times I tell myself this it doesn’t matter.

My anxiety does not care.

The long term solution is to move away from this noisy ass neighborhood with all of my inconsiderate hillbilly neighbors, but I need an immediate solution. I keep telling myself that I’m not dying. I have lived through almost 7 years of loud neighbors causing me distress. Work today was absolutely terrible and caused an increase heartrate all day. Working on projects with impossible deadlines and feeling like I cannot control any aspect of that part of my life. But to come home and feel like my world is further in chaos does not help.

Home is a place to come when you need to relax and unwind after a long day of work. Sometimes the home in my mind is an impossible place to be. I just want to be able to breathe again. I want to be able to sit in silence and focus my mind in the proper direction. I need to feel a sense of peace in a world that rarely allows for it. Right now the only release I have is to cry about something I cannot control.

Fuck anxiety.

Why I Don’t Hit ‘Reply’

I am notorious for being one of the worst people in existence when it comes to replying to texts. I am someone that will read the message and forget to reply for a few days, if at all. I understand how frustrating it can be, because I hate when people do it to me. Did I forget? Am I mad at you? Do I ignore you on purpose? The answer is most likely no. I’m probably distracted or in a headspace where I do not want to have conversations with people.

We live in a world where there are constant distractions and this compulsion to always be “connected” with everyone. I live in a world where being connected all the time causes me to have anxiety beyond what is necessary. My coworkers all have smart watches. While I can understand the ease of seeing an incoming email or a missed phone call during a meeting by simply rotating your wrist over, I find this technology to be in contradiction to my lifestyle. I appreciate a separation of life and work; it is called a life-work balance. Even if you do not have a mental illness, this is extremely important. Being able to shift my brain into different modes throughout my life is important for me to stay sane.

The same headspace issues come into play when I get messages from people. Whether this is through Facebook, Instagram, SMS, Snapchat, etc., I am not always in the right place of mind to hold a conversation. For example; if I am at Target shopping for essentials (lol) and I get a message from someone looking to make plans I instantly get anxious about the pressure to make a decision. My brain goes: “What is this about? I’ve messaged you 3 times prior and now you want to talk. Where are we going? What will parking be like? Who else will be there? Do I like them? Do I have something else going on that day? My planners are at home. Oh my god my shopping list. There are a lot of people here. Move your cart mom with 3 kids. Child stop screaming, it’s not always about you. I wonder what my dog is doing at home. Wow that blanket it cute I should buy it.” As you can see my brain is a busy, busy place to be. My constant changes in thought feel like a defense mechanism to calm my brain so my anxiety will stay in control. In the 6 seconds I have all of these thoughts I have put my phone back in my purse and have completely forgotten to respond.

For those who are not aware, I am also a fortune teller. I don’t use a crystal ball, I use my anxiety and overactive imagination to create and play through scenarios before they even happen (if they ever happen). These fake scenarios usually end with unrealistic conclusions, which in turn cause me to have anxiety over something that is not even real. Well depending on the contents of the message you have sent, it’s safe to reason that 95% of the time I don’t reply I have just ran through scenarios in my head until I reach an ending I deem to be the most reasonable. Don’t act like you’ve never done this in your head, because I know it’s more common. No Shame!

The final reason I don’t respond to your messages is that I most likely got distracted. I have a creative brain, which causes me to be a little eccentric when going through my everyday life. I like to have multiple tasks going at once (none of them completed) and work on them at my own pace, on my own terms. Where messaging fits into this category is that I could be doing laundry, talking to 3 other people, cooking dinner, watching a murder show on Investigation Discovery, AND trying to make a new playlist on Spotify. All. At. The. Same. Time. This is how my brain works, always. Distractions are a good way to keep my mind from spinning its wheels and getting too preoccupied with shit that doesn’t matter. It also prevents me from getting bored and depressed, because as I’ve stated previously I constantly feel alone in the world even if I am not.

It’s not personal. Very few times have I gotten a message and made the conscious decision not to respond. (If you are a person I do not want to talk to, I am sorry but I do not possess the ability to tell you to buzz off.) If you have ever been a victim of my lack of responses, I am sorry. I am doing my best to navigate this world and I will be more mindful in the future. I have been trying to make an effort to be more aware of how my actions impact the feeling of others (I know very elementary). Please, please, please do not make it personal.

All or Nothing

Mixed messages in the world cause a lot of stress and confusion. The constantly changing trends over body types and what is considered ‘healthy’ is nauseating if you actually follow the information. I have always been a bigger kid (with the exception of a few years of high school volleyball) and as a result have always had poor body image. I remember being a freshman in high school in the best shape of my life. I was 5’3”, 145lbs and could box lift as much as any of the football boys. Even then I felt like a cow compared to my petite teammates that were all tall and skinny. I have an athletic build and I’m not ashamed of it anymore. But the worst memory I had from being that in shape was lying sideways on my couch and feeling my hip bones. I would obsess over that small belly pouch that would be squished against the couch. NEWS FLASH: There was no pouch; I just thought I was fat compared to everyone else around me.

I saw a meme the other day that said “I wish I was as skinny as the first time I thought I was fat”, and that statement made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Being a female today it feels like you need to fit into one of two molds: Be a skinny/healthy fitness model OR eat as much as you want and be praised for your bigger girl confidence. I don’t want to be either of those. Yes I want to be healthy. Yes I want to eat pizza and drink wine. Yes I want to have protein shakes after my workouts. But I don’t want that to be the thing that defines who I am as a person.

I have been on a health ‘journey’ of sorts, for about 6 years now. I gained that freshmen 15 after high school, but it was more like the freshmen 60. The amount of weight I put on in such a short time span still makes me sick. Like most people I was eating my feelings and looking for the quick and easy options when I was busy with work and school. 6 years ago I tried a diet program called SlimGenics. SlimGenics is a plan where you are eating both their prepackaged snacks and preparing your own food from an allotted food list. I lost 45lbs on this diet and I felt like a million bucks. What happened? I gained ALL OF IT BACK.

The truth about dieting for people with anxiety is that your brain can become obsessive. I would skip meals or eat less because I was afraid of not losing weight on the scale. With SlimGenics I was weighing in 3 days a week, and if you didn’t lose anything (I’m talking celebrating .01lbs lost) they would interrogate you on what you were doing wrong. As anyone with a brain knows, your body weight fluctuates A LOT throughout the day. This is due to water retention or waste moving its way through or just being a goddamn human. I hated feeling like I needed to justify what I was eating to them all the time, so I started trying to pee out as much liquid as I could before I went to weigh in and crossed my fingers it was good enough. THIS IS NOT HEALTHY. Nobody should put their body through the amount of stress I did, because you put yourself at risk of doing some serious damage.

I ended up 45lbs down and I was not able to lose any more weight. I hit a beautiful, frustrating plateau. Instead of doing the right thing and keeping faith in the plan by actually eating enough food, my anxiety decided it was good idea to deviate from plan and eat all of the foods I missed. Once I fell off the tracks I was done for. All of the 6 months of hard work were for absolutely nothing. But this is what happens every time I try to “diet”. I get so focused on the results and terrified to go off plan that once I have a “cheat day”, the diet is over.

Over the 6 years (gross I am old), I have tried about 6 or so diet plans including: Medifast, SlimGenics again, Nutrisystem, Paleo, Whole30, and Sensa to name a few. I don’t think I have a problem with the diet programs, I think some of them generally do work for people. Where I struggle is with my own brain trying to adjust to making changes and staying with my choices without getting too obsessive.

I have a tendency to be an “All or Nothing” type of person, and if I can’t throw myself into something 100% then what is the point. But in reality life is about finding a balance and understanding that it’s ok to let the scales tip a little to one side or the other. I try to never compare myself to other people, because we are all individuals. What works for one person, will probably not work for the next person. My currently focus is on educating myself on what to use for body fuel, instead of what is going to give me faster results. Having a full understanding of what my body needs is important in order to be physically and mentally healthier. It’s amazing that once you get used to giving your body proper fuel, anything other than that can drag you down. You start to listen to the messages you are given and can start to make better choices.

I will never be a size 2 and I will probably always have a larger chest. That’s called genetics. My focus is on training my brain to not obsess and to not set goals that are unattainable. As I’ve gotten older I understand that I am a beautiful person, and I have a lot to offer the world and the people around me. I just wish it wasn’t so hard to have that confidence on the outside.

 

Be true to who you are, and never apologize for it.

Welcome to my Hell.

Do you ever get this gut feeling of being alone but you’re surrounded by other people? Like you are so far inside of your own mind and emotions, that you have trouble connecting to the world around you? My high functioning anxiety feels like that. I feel like I’m holding onto a secret that the moment I release it I will lose control. The only way for my anxiety to not manifest itself in different ways is to keep it all inside of my brain. But how much pressure can my brain take before it all comes exploding out? I don’t know the answer yet.

The last few weeks I have been living mostly inside of my own head. I am constantly thinking about a scenario that hasn’t even happened yet, but am already trying to problem solve it. Conversations that I haven’t even had with people, but I am creating the conclusion based on what I know about them (or think I know about them). I have a fear of being wrong or of hurting other people, and this fear makes most of these internal scenarios result in a negative response. Why do I do this to myself? Constantly torturing my mind and running in circles with things that don’t really matter? This is one of the most frustrating parts of anxiety.

I have also been unable to relax lately. Everything that I have used in the past, from painting to playing Sims, doesn’t seem to be distracting enough to keep my mind at rest. I have tried boxing, meditating, baths, but nothing seems to be working quite as I would like. The only time I have felt truly at peace is to be outside or going on some grand adventure. The problem with that is also my inability to unplug from my life. I went to Epic in Madison, WI a few weeks ago for work training. I told myself that I wanted to get away from my life and have new experiences with new people. Well mission accomplished. I was a social butterfly and turned into someone I didn’t recognize. When it came time to come back to reality, my brain was waiting for me. With so many more worries, thoughts, and anticipations. So my week-long escape turned into anything but an escape.

At this point I am so exhausted from feeling like a hyped up Chihuahua, but also internalizing all of that energy. What I want is a vacation from life. A moment in time where everything can just stop, and I can let my brain come to some sort of peace. I wish I knew what that would look like so I could make it a reality. I just feel trapped inside of my mind and I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I keep pushing people away from me with the intention of not wanting to hurt them, but in the process that’s exactly what I’m doing.

My therapist told me to try taking Benadryl when I am feeling amped up. He said that many of the one-time anxiety meds are antihistamines, so I thought I would give it a shot. From my own experience I don’t think it helped. All the Benadryl did was made me really tired and unable to function. Don’t worry, my brain was still fully aware of all of the thoughts, I was just physically relaxed. I still refuse to actually medicate, although lately I have thought about how nice it would be to have that escape.

This post turned much darker than I intended, but this is the reality of anxiety. Some weeks I can handle anything life throws at me, and in an instant I feel like I can no longer breathe. Welcome to my hell.