It’s 3:40am, and I haven’t posted in a while.
The cool thing about owning your own website, is you can literally write about whatever you desire. The difficult part is finding motivation to continuously update it, especially without any deadlines. I’m not sure if anyone will even manage to read this entire post, but hey, that’s okay. At least I’m writing and by doing so I’m growing as a writer.
I just ‘napped’ for about 6 hours. I meant to for just a wee 30 minutes, but turned off that nagging alarm and kept on snoozin’ until 1:30am. In the wake of these early morning hours I decided to read a bit and finally gave myself a push to write a post on here.
This post may lead you in a multitude of directions, down a maze of thoughts that I just want to put out there. I think writing is a great way to relieve bottled up feelings and worries that others around you may not understand or know how to react to.
Scratch everything I just typed, I’m currently writing this at a decent time of day and I want to talk about my mental health journey.
Lately, I find myself reflecting on the past couple years and how my life has been developing. I think about the people that have played a role in my growth, moments, decisions, and most importantly I think about — putting myself out there by doing things that scare me. See — I have, a push and pull kind of relationship with doing things that scare me. Constantly thinking about things I should do, but then I back out, choosing what makes me most comfortable. But, some of the greatest moments I’ve had over the past couple years have been those that initially send anxiety through every crevice of my being.
Speaking of anxiety, I’ve struggled with it for SO many years. I’m not really sure how long, but I’ve only been ‘diagnosed’ for about two years (specifically: Generalized Anxiety). Anxiety’s best friend, depression, soon joined in on the confusing my emotions and motivation party after a while.
I’m going to talk about these disorders a bit through life events that may have influenced them, how mental illness has effected me, and what life is like now. I’m hoping maybe this post can put trauma and it’s effects on mental illness into perspective for some people and hopefully is something others can relate to.
Growing up there was (is) alcohol abuse and mental illness in the household. On top of having a twin sister (whom, when I was 11 passed away from surgery complications) with cerebral palsy. Life as a child was anything, but ‘normal,’ but who’s really is? I grew used to covering up many unhealthy situations or really being oblivious to the fact that they were unhealthy at the time.
I had wonderful friends around the neighborhood, which distracted me and helped me enjoy life as a kid. My parents were supportive, mostly my mom, but I was always craving acceptance from my father who let substances take over his life. Yet there were still many good qualities he brought to our family as well. But at the time I don’t think I really realized how unhealthy his substance use was or maybe I just blocked most of it from my memory. I still have trouble talking about it, because of the love I have for my parents. I think hiding the problem is what families of an alcoholic do. Whenever there was money it went to that, it was like walking on eggshells and trying not to make the wrong move in order to keep the alcohol anger at bay.
When my sister (Amanda) passed, I felt like I was the strong one of the three of us, but also growing up it’s hard to remember things that parents do. I often felt guilty (and still do) for supposedly not missing her and crying about her being gone as much as my parents do. Of course at the time it was a gigantically, difficult moment for us as a family and I was sad a lot, but soon I became used to people asking about her. I spoke with a counselor and didn’t even realize that was what I was doing, as I was taken out of class each week, skimming through photos of Amanda. It’s all a bit fuzzy for me now.
Fast forward to high school, because that is when I can remember having signs of anxiety, but at the time I never really knew what was ‘wrong with me.’
Whenever I got into large social situations, had an opportunity to be in a relationship or just go on a date, I would get extremely nervous. My nerves were so incredibly debilitating that I couldn’t eat, became super warm, sweaty, nauseous and eventually puked. After puking I’d feel much better and then I would completely avoid the situation that made me feel this way. For years I was never in actual relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend) with anyone for fear of needing to eat/go out on a date and then having this horrible feeling take over. I hated not knowing why this was (recently looking back I believe they were panic attacks) and friends would often laugh and find it silly I’d puke in social situations.
This feeling followed me into college, where I clung to unhealthy relationships that weren’t really ever a ‘relationship’ for multiple years. I clung to this for comfort and attention and felt like I was trapped — like I could never date someone that treated me well and that I would never feel comfortable with anyone, especially going out to eat. So for years, I just accepted casual hook ups and late night texts. Enough to make me feel comforted and keep the anxiety at bay. Yet, the funny thing is I was always anxious about these relationships never turning into anything.
Towards the end of college I struggled with suicidal thoughts. I never planned on doing anything and even typing this terrifies me that I would think such things. Driving home (just a short 30 minutes) from college I’d constantly think, ‘what if I just drove into oncoming traffic, would anyone care?’ Of course people would, but I just felt hopeless and at an all time low. I didn’t think friends from home understood and only told one or two people these thoughts — not even my parents, who at the time I had quite a close relationship with and told them everything.
Brushing it off, I graduated. Ready to venture out into the world, but jobless. My view on relationships was still the same. I began working full time and after a while suffered from tons of digestion pain which I constantly googled. (I know, self diagnosis is a bad idea.) Each day I felt worse and worse and could not figure out what was wrong. Many doctors told me I was just constipated and sent me home with a giant emergency room bill.
Eventually after demanding tests, I found out that I had moderate GERD, diverticulosis, burns in my intestines, and gallstones. (Later found out, it all could be related to my anxiety.) My level of stress was at a max and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I religiously thought about it. Scheduled for gallbladder removal surgery, I was very uncertain and thought that it would have a negative effect on my other digestion issues. I reached out for help via Facebook.
Reaching out for help CHANGED MY LIFE. So many people recommended helpful diets, healing herbs, supplements, and people to see. A dear friend of mine (whom I met as a teacher in a summer high school program) reached out and took me under her wing. I started taking herbal remedies, saw a holistic doctor, and changed my diet. I even stopped drinking alcohol for a couple months and cut out beer for a year. The gallbladder pain started to reside after a few months.
During this huge health epiphany, I ran into who is now my boyfriend of 2+ years. Still terrified of giving relationships a chance to guys that are worthy, I gave him a shot. After a few months I was feeling really down, crying often, and experienced a bunch of low self esteem. I wanted to continue with my holistic ways, but wasn’t eating as healthy anymore. This is when I decided to talk to my doctor. I took a couple assessments and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression. Then prescribed 10mg of Lexapro each day. Still in touch with my friend, she encouraged me to take yoga classes and help at the community garden. I began attending these classes weekly for a few months.
After about half a year, anxiety and suicidal thoughts started to dissipate, but the over thinking never really went away. I decided to search for some hobbies to keep myself busy and had been going to yoga classes less often due to money. This is when I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I applied to contribute writing at a local magazine called VolumeOne. Nervous at first, I really went out on a limb by taking on a larger article, because the topic had to do with some local musicians I admired. (Throughout all of these years of my life, attending shows was something I never tired of.)
Once the interview was complete, I knew that this was something I truly enjoyed! I had found something to be passionate about and that was listening to what others enjoy doing? What a strange thing huh? Perhaps, I just like to live vicariously through other people. Because in all reality I’m still pretty nervous and awkward in social situations. There is something though — something about seeing people light up as they discuss what makes them tick.
When I had the time and motivation I would take on articles for this magazine. Soon, in public, people would compliment me on my latest piece. It felt great and I couldn’t believe anyone actually read it.
Fast forward to now.
I continue to struggle with anxiety and depression. My relationship with my parents has improved and changed — as my father is struggling with Parkinson’s disease which has brought a new challenge into our lives. I’m learning how to balance being there for them and doing what I need to for myself. I continue to put myself out there by trying new things when I am feeling motivated and participating in self care. Through this, I’ve started this blog, took pole dancing classes (whoa, something I never would of thought I’d ever do!), traveled on my own, let go of toxic relationships that fed my mental illness’, interviewed people I don’t know, and I’m about to dive into a job that could be my career!
I’m absolutely terrified, but I think that means it’ll be the right decision. Because if you don’t do things that scare you a little, are you really growing?
Really though — I was terrified to say no to gallbladder surgery. Terrified to attend yoga classes alone. Terrified to start dating someone who is actually a wonderful human being, that I now love with all my heart. Terrified to let go of unhealthy relationships. Terrified to start writing (what will people think of me).
If I didn’t push past this fear I wouldn’t be where I am. That doesn’t mean I’m cured. I still overthink and worry, bite my nails, cry, need to be alone at times, but it’s not all the time anymore. With the support of others and myself, I’m able to manage it.
That’s a summary (kind of long summary) of events in life that I believe influenced my anxiety and depression. Of course I’ve had many wonderful moments throughout life too. I just want to share my story. Mental illness is very difficult for people to understand. I think that there are those that do, those that think they do, and those that have no idea. I can’t even imagine growing up with social media and the impact that it can have on your mental development. Cyber bullying is a huge thing.
Trauma influences mental health.
If you see someone struggling, lend a helping hand. You can help others realize how important mental health is. How you treat someone can have a huge impact on their well being.
So spread the love and educate yourself. And if you’re struggling, I’m here to talk.