Clarity and Confusion

Mental health has always been something that I am passionate about. I have used my experiences to try to eliminate stigmas that are associated with different disorders. I knew when I was young that I was different from everyone else. I was self-aware that the way I processed emotions and feelings was different from the “average” person. I have had moments in my life where I felt bad for being different, because of the messages I received. I have always hidden away parts of myself, because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me.

In March I made a decision to end a relationship that I was no longer happy in. My decision seemed drastic to some, but I knew that it was for the best. I could’ve gone about the decision differently and changed the method in which I ended things, but I do not regret it. In March I also made the best decision of my life, to follow my heart. I had been mentally separated from my previous relationship for about 6 months prior to meeting this new person, so I knew my heart and soul were ready to love again. However, mentally I am not in a place where I can properly support someone else, and as a result I lost them.

Today I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. In my previous treatments with mental health I was treated primarily for anxiety and depressive episodes. Right out of high school I was put on antidepressants, which I never felt helped my symptoms. When I discussed this, among many other things, with my psychiatrist, she explained that antidepressants can actually make bipolar II disorder worse, which is why I never felt relief with that medication.

Bipolar is something so new to me, and I am not entirely sure what it entails. I have a treatment plan, I started some medication, and I am following up with talk therapy next week to start that part of my treatment. Bipolar was explained to me as a mental disorder where you experience drastic moods of lows and highs. I have days where I do not want to be on this planet anymore, and I physically hurt inside from emotions. Then two days later I feel like I can take on the world, and I am making impulsive decisions just to feel pleasure. I always thought of these things as two separate disorders, anxiety and depression. What I didn’t realize is that they are connected, and some of my other symptoms are also related.

I know this is a time in my life where I need to be thinking about myself. I need to get better for me. Not for the benefit of anyone else in my life, but because I DESERVE to be the happiest and best version of myself. I have made so many decisions lately that have impacted my life for the better and for the worse. But as my dad told me today, we always make decisions and sometimes we have to live with the consequences of those decisions, but that’s life.

I also need to come to terms that some of the things that I have done over the last few years have not been entirely my fault. I did them, sure, but I didn’t always understand why I was doing it. I just want everyone to know that I am working on it. I’m going to still have days where I am sadder than other days, but as a rule I want to focus on being me. I want to find out who I am and what makes me happy. I am ready to move forward from here and to continue to grow and understand what all of this means.

Positivity is a Choice

I wake up every single day and make the choice that I am going to live my life in a positive mindset. Optimism comes second nature to me, and through everything I have overcome in my life, I have always tried to maintain that sense of balance. The one thing I’ve learned over the last year is that I can’t wait for good things to happen. I can’t sit on my couch watching Parks and Rec, drinking wine and waiting for the changes I want to see to magically appear. I have fought so hard, and continue to fight every minute of every day to earn my happiness.

The traumas and hardships I have overcome cannot be compared to the journey of someone else. In reality, I come from a strong, family-oriented background. We had nightly family dinners, took road trips together (mostly for hockey tournaments), lived in relatively close quarters, and always attended each other’s events (no matter how boring ). I remember growing up and not getting along with my siblings most days, but that frustration had an underlying layer of love attached. I never experienced any standardly classified traumatic event. I didn’t lose my first loved one until I was in middle school, my dad didn’t have his amputations until I was in high school, and I was given unconditional love from my parents. By textbook definition, I should not have a reason for anxiety.

In all of my years of therapy, my therapists have attempted to “get to the bottom of the issue.” They were under the clinical mindset that something within my past triggered my brain to develop anxiety to use as a defense mechanism. My earliest memory of anxiety was first-grade taking timed math tests and having such extreme testing anxiety I couldn’t even answer a simple “1 + 1 =” question. When I would go on field trips I would get physically sick the entire night before and the morning of the event. Was I ever in any risk of physical harm taking a test or going to the zoo? Absolutely not. My body’s reaction to those situations was extreme and inappropriate.

I have been under the belief the past year and a half that my brain was built differently. I don’t have the same chemical makeup as a person without anxiety. My body lives in a constant state of defense, and I can feel my anxiety living inside of me like a gentle hum of energy. I find very rare moments in my life where I can truly relax, but when I find them I cherish them. When I feel anxious I get so uncomfortable in my own skin that I wish I could take my body apart and clean it piece by piece. It’s almost like part of my consciousness views the experiences in the 3rd person, and wants to help the version of me trapped inside. I live under the constant threat at any little thing could set my anxiety off. But my mental toughness and willingness to fight this battle is what gets me through every day.

I have always believed that psychotic drugs serve a beautiful purpose for people who need them, and should be used as an aid to help balance some of those imperfections we are born with. I also am vocal about the fact that I do not take medication. I was put on antidepressants in my early 20s, but I didn’t have depression. I was misdiagnosed, and given drugs to alter my brain chemistry that was not even out of balance. As a result, I became an emotionless robot that lost the ability to feel anything. I went 2 years not experiencing joy, sadness, excitement, absolutely nothing. The thought of that happening again terrifies me, and I decided I would rather feel too much all of the time then to ever lose my senses like that again.

I acknowledge that if I had been properly diagnosed and treated, my experience would have been different; however, life tests us so we can learn and grow into the people we were meant to become. I have grown into someone that is intelligent, witty, understanding, empathetic, and strong. Looking back, I have come so far from the girl that was insecure and sought validation from people around her. I am now at the point in my journey where reflecting on my progress is important, and I can see the milestones I’ve hit in my recovery process. I went from 5 years ago almost losing my job because my anxiety made it impossible to function, to use my own experiences to help others find their balance.

I use humor to combat my sadness.

I use music to soften the buzz in my head.

I use goals to hold myself accountable.

I use blogging to get my thoughts on paper.

I use exercise to release endorphins.

It takes time and dedication to figure out what works best for you, and sometimes you will experience moments of failure. My journey certainly hasn’t been perfect. I continue to have moments of doubt with what I’m doing. Some days giving into the darkness feel comfortable because that feeling of emptiness is so familiar, but I know deep down that’s not my answer.

I have met some incredible people through this blog, and to everyone I have ever impacted, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for supporting me and offering kind words. Thank you for knowing me well enough through my writings to know when I need help. Being open and being vulnerable to complete strangers is incredibly difficult. If it wasn’t difficult more people would do it. Find your passion and share it with the world as I have. In a society where we thrive on the darkness, decide to be the light.

Be On Time or Die

My heart was racing, I was panicked, I couldn’t think straight, and I was speeding. My body always has the same response anytime I think I’m going to be late somewhere. And by late, I really mean being late for being early. Last weekend my sister and I attended Beachbody Super Saturday with some of the other coaches (and my coach) from the team I work on. I had the time management planned to a T, as usual, and thought the morning was off to a great start. Once my sister and I left our meeting point to head to the convention center, my sister realized he left her phone in her car.

Now mind you we were only about 5 mins away from her car and it wasn’t that far out of the way to get back, however, tell that to my anxiety. I immediately felt frustrated and profusely asked her if she is sure it’s not in her bag. I even asked her if she really needed it, which is so mean because I would also need my lifeline. My body was tense, I could feel my blood pressure increase, my breaths became shallower, and my brain couldn’t process why in the world she could be so careless and risk making us late.

In that moment I allowed my anxiety to control the situation. I didn’t use rational thought and reasoning with the part of my brain that was over processing information. Was I really in danger of physical harm by being later than expected to the event? Absolutely not. Should I have lashed out the way I did and made her feel like complete shit, like she messed up the entire day? NO. These are the situations I am still a work in progress.

What I should have done is taken a moment to breathe. A deep inhale, deep exhale. Focus my attention on the task at hand, which was retrieving her phone. I have this weird phobia of being late for anything, and I have had that my entire life. I think this stems from wanting to please people and I associate being late with making others angry or disappointed. I need to remember that sometimes you do everything you can to be timely and there are occasions it doesn’t work out.

We ended up making it close to the time I had mentally scheduled for myself and had an absolutely amazing experience. But I risked potentially losing that experience or ruining it before it began because I couldn’t control my anxiety. I know this is an area where I need to focus more of my attention for improvement. Maybe try being late to a few things on purpose to realize that I am not going to die if I don’t make it to things early. I had someone ask me once what one of my faults is and I replied that I am too timely. That statement clearly still holds true today.

Tiffany, I am incredibly sorry I almost ruined our day together. I love you!

Constantly Spinning

I attempted to write this first sentence about 20 times before I gave up because I had nothing witty to say. It’s Sunday night, and I have been sitting here post homework, post-meal prep, post-workout reflecting on everything that happened this week and weekend. I have met some incredible people and made some amazing strides forward in my business, but for some reason, I keep coming back to the feeling of not being satisfied. I feel like no matter how much I push myself, no matter how much I try to look forward I keep shifting my focus back on shitty things in the present.

I always preach honesty and being your authentic self. We all have a tendency to wear masks to fit the narrative that other people expect us to deliver. With friends, I feel like I need to be upbeat and hilarious, ready for anything. At work, I need to be focused and professional while maintaining my sanity. With family, I need to be caring, loving and compassionate, always available to lend a hand when needed. With strangers or new friends, I need to be sweet and open about who I am. In school, I need to be an overachiever, and capable of performing tasks, but fake it till you make it. In all of this, I have a tendency to get lost.

I lose focus on who I am, who I want to be. Last year offered so many opportunities for growth, that I sometimes am not appreciative of how far I’ve come on this journey. January last year I remember still being new to my job, networking at Epic training, and not having any confidence in myself or my ability to be successful. Grad school wasn’t even a thought in my mind yet and my relationships were suffering because my focus was not in the right places. I have gained SO much in the last few months that I feel like that scared insecure girl again.

I am scared my business will fail. I am scared I will not perform well enough at work or school. I am scared of losing people in my life that I value. That bucket of fear inside of my head can sometimes spill over when I am having moments of high anxiety. But living in this world of being scared and putting too much focus on the “what ifs”, does absolutely nothing to propel me forward.

I have a lot of faults that I need to work on. I look to others to make me feel good about myself, but in reality, I am amazing AND beautiful. I put too much focus on being perfect, but perfectionism is not an attainable goal, it’s not real. I always look to my friends and family to make me happy, but my happiness is controlled by me. I spend too much time assuming someone else’s thoughts and feelings, and not enough time analyzing my own.

This year has been challenging for me in so many aspects. I feel like this “new year” has just been a continuation of last year. I am spinning my wheels trying to figure out how to get out of the mud I am stuck in. I decided that I am going to do “Affirmation Mondays” on Instagram. Allow myself to have 1 story post each week where I express what affirmation I am believing in that week. I am going to continue to push hard through my fitness and nutrition to be the change that I want to see.

At the end of the day I control my happiness, I control my progress and I control the way that I feel. To anyone that has seen the ugly side of me lately, I am so sorry. I continuously have so much to learn, but I really am trying. I need to find the balance in a world that constantly tries to spin me out of control. I just need to remember that no matter what it will always get better.

I believe in myself. I CAN do hard things.

New Years Resolutions? Nah. Life Changes.

We’ve all heard the saying, “New year, new me,” and the running joke that the gyms will be full until February 1st when everyone quits. In truth I’ve always HATE new year’s resolutions because of the stigma behind them that they are temporary change. If you want to make a change you need to do it because you WANT to. Make the change for YOU. Not because it’s suddenly no longer 2018, but because you see the benefit in becoming healthier or making life changes. Change is HARD, trust me, I know. My life has been through more change in the last year, but due to those changes, I have grown so much stronger physically and emotionally.

I am going into 2019 with so many GOALS, but I will never call them resolutions. My goals may evolve through time, but they are not something I am willing to give up on. If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that my happiness is just as important as the happiness of those around me. When it comes to your goals being selfish is necessary. This is about YOUR change, not your partner, not your friend, but for YOU.

Set goals that are realistic and sometimes you have to start small. For example, one of my goals is to finish the 80 days of my program. This goal is in process, it has a set end date, and it’s totally obtainable! I am already on day 54 and I actually feel sad I am getting to the end of reaching this goal. The fight has been so emotional, exhausting, challenging but I NEVER had a thought of giving up on myself. At the end of January, I will meet this goal, check it off the list, then I can move onto the next one. 😊

My focus for 2019 is on bettering my mental health. I am still having far too many issues with anxiety attacks and overreacting to situations, so I want to discover new ways to prevent them from happening. Currently I use breathing exercises, different painting mediums, and taking relaxing baths. What do all of these coping mechanisms have in common? They all involve my favorite topic SELF-CARE.

Self-care is SUPER important. Whether it’s picking up a hobby, going out in nature to relax, going for a walk, starting a new workout routine, learning a new skill, baking some treats, the list is endless. Even if self-care is as simple as downloading a meditation app and sitting on your floor for 10 minutes to control your breathing, DO IT. (I have done this and it works wonders!)

I have learned so much in 2018 and I wouldn’t take back any of the decisions I’ve made. When I think about what my life looked like earlier this year, I cringe thinking about how sad, lonely and ugly I felt. I HATED myself. I had moments this year where I didn’t even want to live anymore. I developed the worst depression I have ever had in my life. That feeling of emptiness and loneliness will haunt me for the rest of my life, representing feelings I never want to have again. I spent most of the year unhappy and terrified I would never figure out who I am. (Turning 30 next year didn’t help this anxiety.) I just felt like I wasn’t good enough for the people around me, and they would be better off if I didn’t exist.

I AM good enough. I AM beautiful. I AM confident. I AM capable of anything. Most importantly of all I matter. Remember that if people in your life let you down or make you feel insignificant, they don’t matter. My favorite quote from Dr. Seuss is:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Why I Broke Up With My Therapist.

I have always been really outspoken about the benefits of talk therapy as my main intervention for treatment of anxiety and depression. I have been in and out of therapy for the last five years, and have had many successes and failures. Medical intervention has never been something I was interested in, and will continue to resist medications as long as possible. Hence why talk therapy has always been my go-to for symptom treatment. Without therapy treatment I am not sure where my symptoms would be, but I am sure it would have been in a much worse place.

I just feel that my therapist and I have gotten to a place where my symptoms are manageable without weekly or biweekly sessions. I did some reflection on what issues I still want to work on, and the problems that are left I feel I am fully capable managing on my own. There isn’t anything that happened between my therapist and I, but I think our treatment plan has run its course. This is not to say I will never be back in therapy, because I think that is almost guaranteed to happen, but for right now I feel good about my progress.

I have accepted that I am a stress crier. If I am really upset or angry about something or someone, there is a 100% chance I will cry about it. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me, it’s just my way of coping with certain life stressors. I have also accepted that my anxiety will never go away. I will never have a moment in my life where my anxiety is completely gone, but I have to continue to learn to function with it.

My self-care has improved 100% with the introduction of my fitness and nutrition work. This is the first program I have been able to create great habits from. I’m on day 50 in a row and going strong! I workout every. single. day for me. My nutrition hasn’t always been stellar, but I never blamed myself or felt guilt about eating foods off plan. How can you properly maintain a lifestyle change like this without allowing yourself some flexibility?  You can’t. The minute I start have ANY feelings of doubt I remind myself that it’s ok. The next meal is a new place to start over. The next day is an opportunity to work even harder.

My first therapist told me to think about my anxiety as a separate person. When I am feeling anxious I have dialog with them, to ask “is this anxiety I’m feeling really necessary?” It’s like that quote from the hangover, “but did you die?” In truth, no I didn’t die. My life has never been in danger, and if it ever is I will be thanking my body for having the ability to have an anxious response.

You see the world will tell you your anxiety is unnatural. If you cry too much that means you’re way too sensitive. If you get upset with people because of miscommunication, you’re overreacting. When you have a panic attack and lose the ability to think and make logical decisions, you’re crazy. No matter what you struggle with there will be someone out there telling you that something is “wrong” with you. Everyone experiences some level of anxiety in their lifetime, but the level at which people truly suffer from anxiety will never be understood by those that cannot feel it.

If you have someone in your life you know is struggling with anxiety, depression or seasonal effective disorder, reach out to them and ask if they’re ok. Sometimes it’s a simple conversation with someone you love to make all the difference in the world. When I have panic attacks, many times people message me during them and have no idea the impact they made in my life at that very moment. I can go from crying uncontrollably, unable to breathe to cracking a smile or even laughing. We all deserve a little bit of light in our worlds, and you can be that for someone.

Life is about overcoming obstacles and growing, but you cannot grow without change. I made the decision to accept the changes that I have made, and have a plan in place for changes that I need to continue to work on. I have some great people that are a part of my life, both new and old, that made this decision much easier for me to make. I am not afraid to admit I will never be “fixed” but I will continue to surround myself with love from people willing to accept my flaws.

It’s Perfectly ok, to not be ok.

Life can sometimes be awful. Some days (or weeks) feel like no matter how hard you try, you just can’t turn it around. The past week has been emotionally devastating and character building all at the same time. Without going into too much detail I will give you an overview on what’s been happening.

My dad has been sick basically my entire life. He has type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed when he was a kid. Since then, he has had a number of medical issues including a kidney transplant, double leg amputations, a stroke, MRSA infections, heart issues.. the list goes on. Our family joke is that he gets bi-annual hospital visits, and the medical staff at the local hospitals know him by name. This year I believe we are up to 3 or 4 hospitalizations (possibly more?), and this one has hit me really hard.

Growing up I wouldn’t say I was a daddy’s girl. He was always the parent that pushed my buttons just to see how angry I would get. He always told me I couldn’t have a boyfriend until I was 16 (like I ever followed that rule). If I was ever injured from a sport, he always told me about the time he broke his foot playing hockey and just tied his laces tighter and finished the game, so I needed to suck it up and not baby my injury. As I’ve grown into an adult, I’ve realized how lucky I am to have two parents that care deeply for me, and how blessed I am to have him as a dad.

Seeing a parent sick is not easy. Being in a hospital, watching them suffer feels like someone twisting a knife in your heart. One way my family deals with these tragic situations is with humor. My dad is always the first one to crack a joke if any of us are crying. He loves to play pranks on the nurses or say ridiculous things just to see someone else smile. It doesn’t matter how much pain he is in, he is always trying to cheer the people up around him.

Through him I have learned what it means to have strength. I have learned that even if obstacles seem impossible to overcome, it could always be worse. I have learned that when you feel at the lowest point in your emotional state, the best way to deal with it is to just laugh. Watch a funny video, replay a memory in your head, surround yourself with people that make you happy, but most important, remember that positivity will concur all.

It’s really easy on social media to portray that you have the perfect life or you are positive all the time. It takes courage to be vulnerable and admit when you’re not ok. It’s perfectly ok, to be not ok. Tragedies will continue to happen, but how you respond to tragedy is where you grow in strength and perseverance. I never take for granted the physical activities I am able to do, that my dad can no longer do. Taking care of my body has become so important to me, because he was never given the chance.

Imagine what we would all be capable of, if we used our strength to help others. The story that I am trying to tell through my health journey is just that. Over the last week I have received some of the nicest comment I never would’ve imagined reading. I decided to be like my dad, put myself out there as authentic as I could possibly be, and let others see it’s ok to be themselves. I could easily play into a character or a role to get people to like me, but I’ve always been unique and haven’t cared about being popular. By being a weird, awkward, goofy person (a replica of my dad) I believe I can break through the “perfect life” mentality that plagues us all and encourage anyone to always be authentically you. 😊