Separation

One of the things that I struggle with most is separating my own emotional struggles from my reactions and responses to other people in my life.

My reaction to stressors and my family and surrounding drama completely take over who I am. I become so focused on what is going on in others lives, that my response takes up all of my emotional energy. And in turn, that anxiety, worry and fear take up a majority of my physical energy as well.

It’s easy for someone to say just focus on yourself, or to not worry about things that you can’t change. But in practice that is a lot harder said than done.

For me trying to not worry and focusing on separation can make things worse. It’s like when you try not to think about it, it turns into the only thing you can focus on.

This is something that I’m working on, similar in a way to how mindfulness works. By acknowledging the fact that yes I am worried, or yes I am stressed, but also telling my self that that is ok. By focusing on breathing and acceptance, I am able to refocus on myself, rather than whatever it was that caused the initial panic.

This is a practice, and one that I am far from mastering. But, I’ve reached a critical point where the level of stress is completely taking over my life. So, I’m working hard on being able to focus inward.

Socializing?

Socializing is a pretty mandatory aspect of life. You have to do it, it’s what allows you to survive. What gives you the will to keep going.

But sometimes it is the most difficult thing to motivate yourself to do. When my depression starts to get bad, the first thing I want to do is isolate myself. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to go anywhere. Sometimes I don’t even have the energy to watch a show, or listen to music.

It sounds so sad, so pathetic. But it’s the truth. Sometimes my energy is so diminished, and my mood is so low. I lay in bed not wanting to move. But you have to socialize, you have to get involved in life in order for anything to change.

Not to say that by socializing you magically feel better and like the world is all rainbows and puppies. Because that could not be further from the truth. When I get the energy to get out of bed, I usually regret it the instant I am with friends.

Their upbeat energy and mood makes me aggravated. Like I’m missing something. Why do I feel so miserable, and they are enjoying life to it’s fullest. But after the initial aggravation, I usually have a moment where I realize that I’m out of bed. Not only am I out of bed, but I’m feeling something other than exhaustion and hopelessness. Even if it is one of those moments of aggravation rather than enjoyment.

I love my friends, and talking to them, spending time with them, it’s what keeps me going. But I think it’s a topic that isn’t discussed enough. Sometimes it’s hard to be social. Sometimes you can’t help but to lay in bed and accept defeat for the day.

Pushing Away

I have never fully been able to trust anyone, to allow myself to be 100% vulnerable. It doesn’t matter who they are, or our past. It sounds like a horrible way to live, and it is. But sometimes you’ve just been burned to many times.

I’ve always known that I’m not exactly a people person. But today it struck just how truly closed off I can be. I was walking back from class as someone said “good afternoon beautiful.” Rather than accept the innocent complement, I flicked him off. That’s not all, in my head I went to the worst places, and looked down to be sure my pepper spray was on my keys. (I do live on a college campus, it’s not completely unreasonable.)

I’ve noticed that I am always quick to assume the worse. While I am generally polite, and try to be a people pleaser. I socialize very little. I have a close group of friends and that’s how I like it.

Growing up as a child of an alcoholic, you learn that trust can be extremely confusing. Whether it’s the lies the addict tells you, the lies others tell in order to protect you from the addict, or the lies you tell yourself in order to preserve whatever resemblance of innocent childhood memories you have, your world is surrounded by lies.

Growing up with such a limited understanding of honesty and trusting relationships can make it hard to form relationships. Being in a new dorm, meeting new people, I immediately think what is the other person getting by talking to me, rather than just assuming that they are simply trying to make a friend in an environment that is new to them as well.

They say acknowledging a problem is the first step, however I have always known that trust is not my strong suit. However it has allowed me to learn independence.

Either way, shutting people out and isolating your self is one of the worst things that you can do when you are depressed. So in writing this blog, I’m hoping to force myself into accepting that not everyone means you harm. Sometimes people can be nice simply for the sake of being nice. Even if your past makes that hard to see.

The Stigma

Anxiety sucks. Depression suck. And so does the stigma.

You hear people constantly talk about how we need to break the stigma, and how it’s our generation that will make the difference. However, I’m sometimes just as guilty in hiding my disease.

It’s hard to talk about mental health issues, especially when it comes to suicide. If someone asks how I’m doing, I’m often very quick to say, “Oh, I’m fine.” Or even if I am willing to open up, I’m much more likely to talk about my anxiety.

For some reason it is easier to confess to suffering from anxiety. Maybe, because on some level everybody has experienced it to some degree. Probably not to the same point, as to when it impairs your ability to function. But in my mind at least, I imagine everyone having a moment of anxiety.

But depression is a completely different evil. Everyone feels sad sometimes, and most people believe that that is all depression is. However, I think you have to experience it to truly understand. The complete and total feeling of emptiness, of hopelessness, of worthlessness.

There was this article on huffpost. (https://www.google.com/amp/m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_598cd864e4b090964295eef3/amp) It was an artists interpretation of her depression. I viewed the photos and was completely overtaken by them. So many of them I could relate to on such a deep level. When I showed it to my friend she was perplexed. She said they were good, but she wasn’t nearly as affected.

It was at that moment that I was happy for her. She had no idea how true those photos could ring. She wasn’t able to relate, or even understand their depths. While when I viewed them, I saw so many different aspects of my everyday struggle with depression.

I was able to see the facade you have to put on for others, and sometimes even yourself. I interpreted the drawings as showing the physical aching and pain that you endure. I pictured how suddenly you can feel although your entire being just shattered, or how at some points you are just so confused and paralyzed with fear.

Suicide is the most difficult of all aspects for me to open up about. If I am to be completely honest, I am almost always suicidal. Having the desire to live is very rare for me. When people hear this, it is scary. Which I completely understand. But it’s important to see the different degrees of suicidal thinking. There is a difference between not wanting to live and having a plan. Furthermore there is a difference between having a plan and having the means the carry out your plan.

At points in my depression I have come to points where I have a plan. I have imagined the different ways I could end my life. But ultimately I’ve always been able to reach out for help when I reach such a critical point.

Its important to listen to people and be understanding rather than judgmental if they do open up to you about their illness. However, sometime I think that we put to much pressure on people to open up. There is definitely an importance in “breaking the stigma”. But if someone is going to be triggered or uncomfortable sharing their story, don’t push them.

That’s why this blog is anonymous right now. At some point I hope to be able to share this with friends and family. But for now being an anonymous voice is the best that I can do. I want to share my story, and help to break the stigma. Even though a face behind it may make it more powerful, it also makes it that much more real for me. That much more to face. On top of that, I would than have to worry about the reactions of those close to me. Which is more anxiety.

The Question that Actually Made Me Think

One component of my depression that I find extremely difficult to manage is the guilt. I have friends, a home, am financially stable… so why do I deserve to feel this way? To allow myself to completely shut down?

Well a few months ago my therapist asked me something that for the first time, made me feel a little less guilty. What is the difference between feeling sad or depressed when people have it worse, than feeling happiness or joy even though others have it better?

This made so much sense! I would never feel guilty for feeling proud of a B I got on a test, even though a fellow classmate got an A. So why should I feel guilty for experiencing depression just because there are people in worse situations??

My PHP Experience

After trying a dozen meds and still being unsuccessful, at one point this past summer I decided to try a PHP program.

For those who don’t know, it’s a step below impatient hospitalization. You check in every morning and leave every afternoon. But it is intensive, and most times at least five days a week.

I had turned 18 a few months earlier, so I had no other option than an adult program. Which, ended up being very unfortunate for me. I know many people who have gone through PHP programs and found them to be life changing, and extremely helpful. That wasn’t the case for me.

I arrived around 8am, and began all of the intake paper work. They asked the typical questions: are you suicidal?, do you self harm?, drugs and alcohol?. I answered honestly and then the other patients (that had already completed intake) began to arrive.

In my first group I realized I was the only teen. There was one other women in her late twenties, but everyone else was past 40. The discussion revolved around one women who was being discharged that day. And then somehow drifted towards a debate about celebrities that marry young and if the spouses are solely in it for the money. I was at a loss. We were supposed to be helping each other with our stories and coping mechanisms. However it felt more like a gossip session.

When the first group got out I was hopeful that the next one would be better. However, when we all walked out a man was sitting in the waiting room furious. He said he had finished his intake paper work an hour ago and wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing. The counselor simply looked up, took the papers, and said sorry we must have forgot about you.

I fully acknowledge that I’m a control freak. So being in this situation, with no control and such a complete and total lack of organization I lost it. Everyone went outside for lunch, and I made it to the hallway before I had to stop. I couldn’t breathe. My anxiety was horrible and I started crying.

I went in and talked to the women in charge saying that I didn’t think this was the best program for me. She said that it is the best that I’m going to get being 18, and that I should really try to stick it out for at least a day. But I refused. I was more anxious than I had been in weeks and had no intention of experiencing anymore of that program. So the women reluctantly discharged me, and sent me on my way. It’s been a month now and the hospital hasn’t called to follow up at all. Which, to me just speaks even further to the disorganization and faults the program was full of.

I know that it was the right thing for me to try, but also definitely the right thing for me to leave when I did. I have the experience, and unfortunately it wasn’t great. I will definitely be more hesitant towards group therapy in the future. But I know that everyone’s experiences are different, and I’m grateful that programs designed to help people with mental health are in place.

Here Goes…

This will hopefully be the first of many posts. An outlet for me to share my feelings, struggles, stories, and simply be unapologetically me.

First of all, this isn’t a place full of bright and happy. I struggle with depression and anxiety. In order to remain honest, many of my stories will be dark and twisty~ just like Grey’s Anatomy.

Tonight, was a low for me so I decided to start this blog. I reached a moment where I had no idea what to do, where to turn to. In the past months my father, a recovering alcoholic relapsed. Triggering my anxiety and depression to skyrocket. And moving out, starting college is not making anything more manageable.

It’s a Saturday night, and only the second week of college. I should be off partying. However, because of my father’s newly lacking sobriety, alcohol is one of MANY triggers for me. Making the whole college social life experience a bit difficult. Luckily, I’m not too far from home, and still have supports I can turn to. Friends that didn’t go away to school, family, and of course my amazing therapist.

But tonight, was a night where nothing in particular went wrong. I went to the movies with some friends and came back to my dorm early. Then anxiety struck. Just me alone in my dorm, not in danger, not in a stressful social situation, just alone. Yet I felt so misplaced, like something was so wrong.

So, I did the usual array of coping techniques. I did a yoga video, read some of my book, even tried binging some Netflix. But NOPE. No relief. So, then I turned to my one not so healthy coping mechanism. Cutting. I’ve been cutting for a few months now, but never seriously hurt myself.

I’m not sure why I do it. The relief is instant, however minimal and very short lived. But standing in front of a mirror, my stomach dripping in blood I still felt no relief.

Sometimes I find that nothing helps, and that you just have to hope that you are strong enough to keep going. Or strong enough to reach out for help. So tonight, I’m going to sleep, or at least attempting to sleep, with the feeling of anxiety in my chest, and hopelessness in my heart.

*If you or someone you know is in need of help, NEVER be ashamed. Reaching out is one of the strongest things you can do.