Hello friends & happy Wednesday! ❤
As most of you probably know, May is Mental Health Awareness month! YAY! This is super huge for me since I have been struggling for many years.
The last year and a half was a big slump for me in regards to recovery in adulthood. My fellow mental health warriors, you may experience this too – but it comes in waves. Some days/months/year(s) go by with little to no symptoms and other times it feels like a brick hit you in the face (or treats to a puppers face) and you feel ALL THE THINGS!
So, in honor of this beautiful month – I wanted to share a summary of my history with mental illness and what I am doing this year to honor it – since I am a bit stronger than last year!
The History: My “relationship” with mental illness probably started when I was in my later years of middle school. I do not remember the exact age anymore as it’s all a little blurry at this point in my life. I do recall the feeling of overwhelming sadness, numbness, anxiety and losing my will to live. Which, is scary thought to have that young.
I remember looking for ways to “feel” again. At that point, it had consumed me and had been for a while. I danced sharp objects along my skin, the burning, the color and feeling was the only feeling that came alive. Glowing red metal rods laid across my skin and pills by masses to try to get away from it all. I also remember driving and being tempted to just close my eyes.
My life, even in my younger years came with its complications. I had mentioned some of it in my “How the hell did I end up this way” post. There is always more to every story but I like to keep things going, I did and will hit all the highlights?? <– I need to find a better word here!
Depression is an evil bitch
Fast forward through the long dark days…There came a time when I snapped to and realized I had to get help. At the rate I was going, I think my story would have ended quickly. So, for whatever reason – inner strength took over my darkness for long enough to gain to courage to speak to my mother. Which…why I chose her to open up to at this moment, I will never know but I did. This was the woman who scrutinized my appearance regularly and informed me that I looked fat several times through out my life. You see, she has always been petite and we have been close in weight for as long as I can remember, so god forbid if I started to look like I as growing out of that mold.
Anyway, informing my mother that I no longer wanted to live and that I needed to go to the doctor was one of the hardest things that I had to do. She seemed to care and then handled it poorly afterward. I remember bits and pieces of going to my doctor, completing tests and having that hard discussion with her. I was put on antidepressants and agreed to counseling. I have never felt so lost and scared in my life.
Counseling was strange for me. I did not care for my therapist or her dated orange and brown decor through out her office. I think part of it was because my mother was in the room with me majority of the time, which she took over the conversations and reminded the woman that I was “fine.” She just did not get it.
She further proved that she did not get it by providing a less than supportive relationship. Which, is still true to this day. Versus actually talking to me, it was like I was living with a prison guard with strip searches to see make sure there were no fresh wounds. Which I can understand, but I feel there are better ways to go about it – rather than throwing demands around and talking down to your child during these searches. She just looked at me as if she hated me, or perhaps she felt that she had failed on some level and it bothered it and came pouring out of her eyes. She already had a troubled child, so I don’t think she had room for me to struggle too… I suppose I can sympathize with that now?
Further more, my new medication made me feel nauseous – as many others you have taken these kind of meds, they can be rough until your body gets used to them. So now, since I could not eat without wanting to vomit, my mother viewed it as now an “eating disorder.” She would force me to clean my plate even if I told her if I ate one more bite, I will probably get sick. Which happened numerous times because when you have a level of anxiety – you already feel that way. Throw in some anti-depressants and you know what? You just don’t have the best appetite and that is okay, you are adjusting. When I did get sick, she would yell and say see – I told you. “I knew you were throwing up after eating!” No, actually I did not have an eating disorder at the time…but thanks Mom. That did happen, just in my adult years.
I managed to stick to my therapy and medication and I did start to feel better. More alive and a bit more happier. It took some time and some dosage adjustments but I got to a point of no longer wanting to harm myself and wanting to be able to walk this fine earth as a young person should. I am not sure exactly how long it took as I am getting old these days 😉 but the important part was I made it. It was not easy, reflecting on this point in my life – I believe there were a lot of factors that played into this outside of genes (they were stacked against me too). I am also sure that it took a significant amount of time of general sadness to get to my breaking point as well.
Anxiety and insomnia still was an issue from time to time. It really kicked up again around 18 – probably with adulthood, college and who knows what else. Luckily my college therapist was helpful in providing techniques to help me cope with panic attacks. I started back on my meds and tried to really focus on self care at this time. To be honest though, I have been dealing with anxiety ever since…in those waves that I was speaking of :).
Self image became an issue in my early adult years. I have always been told that I was “small, tiny, petite, anorexic, bulimic, had nothing to worry about and weird/tomboy.” I still remember this time in class when a man asked me if I ever ate without throwing it back up…. thanks fella. Reallly nice.
However, it did become an issue eventually. I was in a bad relationship with someone who made me feel less than. To put it simply, he was physically and verbally abusive and beat my confidence and self worth down. It resulted in me weighing roughly 75-80 lbs in my adulthood. Granted even when I was younger…I believe now, I can call it social anxiety?? But I had a fear of eating in front of people. The cafeteria in school was my nemesis. All the kids. All the food. Perhaps there is some sort of eating disorder theory in there as well??? Lord who knows – I am a mess haha.
When I finally got out of that bad situation, which took time. Planning an exit from someone like this must be done carefully. He obviously did not handle it well and probably would have reacted poorly regardless. Unfortunately, he did end up stalking me, he would show up at the local mall where I would be shopping, or restaurants where I was having dinner with friends and even showed up at my house. Trying to get over that fear while trying to repair myself again – whew. This time, it also meant physically and mentally. Again, I over came and now happily weigh in with triple digits on the scale and have been steadily since 2012-2013ish. While body image is something that I still struggle with after my many surgeries, the important thing to remember is it is progress. I am better than what I was before and that is key.
Mid 2015 is when my anxiety took on a form that I had never encountered before. I had gone through several ups and downs in life regarding my mental health and outside of it but this was different. It was something that I literally could not handle. Feeling anxious and insomnia again was not a stranger to me. I live a life that tailors to these needs – most would probably deem boring but it is my life and I have accepted this.
This was the first time in my life that I would need to check in somewhere for observation. I. LOST. IT. Best part? My breaking point occurred at work. I had to get out immediately, after reaching out to my employee assistance program – I informed my boss in little words as possible that I had to go without worrying her….. but one more issue… I take the bus (which was very hard for me at first too btw)…so I had to step up and take an uber to my car. One, I don’t like not being in control of the vehicle that I am in. If I trust you to drive me – congrats! Second, I don’t do taxis or ubers….the amount of germs, smells and general feeling of out of control does not vibe with me.. third, it was a 35 dollar trip easily. However, it had to be done.
This is where the medical field failed me and I have heard similar stories and it is so heartbreaking to me. I did not feel in control, I could not breathe, I could not function, I literally did not know what happening but all I can say is, I did not feel myself. I was not me, I felt literally insane or that I had “snapped.” I attempted to get into our local psych center…for anything consult, treatment, or whatever. However, they were at capacity and since I was not “that bad” I had to find elsewhere. This was the story for the next 3 calls that I tried. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless, trying to find someone to care when you do not even know how you are going to get home or what may happen to you. I was finally able to get into a physician…. 2 weeks later. How was I able to get manage this? Sadly, this is so common and for some people that 2 week wait has cost their life – no joke. Fortunately, my psychotic break was more controllable? (somehow I managed this…I will never know how) versus severe depression/suicidal. Luckily my boss was understanding enough during this time, my then fiance was….I don’t even know but he was there (at the time). I was able to hang on until my appointment where we had a full work up, got a referral in for a specialist, adjusted my medication and added in more…it was overwhelming but I hung in there the best that I could. I began intense therapy, maintained my strict medication regiment, tried my hand at self care and then my now ex (Fuckboy), abandoned me in December 2015. I guess I should be thankful that I was already medicated at that point. Perhaps he could not face being married to someone with severe anxiety, who knows. The key was, I was trying to take care of myself while planning a wedding with little help. Honestly, I thought I was doing well. I had the “supportive” partner who had been my best friend for years and we had helped another through it all – before and after we were together. Life was on the up and up….until he decided otherwise. Since I was medicated, when he left I always asked people (friends, family & associates) if they saw it coming. The answer was always no – whew so I was NOT crazy :). We even had Friendsgiving where Fuckboy stated he was thankful for me and put on this great speech where he pulled a fast one and even pulled it by my good friend Sunshine- who does not miss a damn thing! Anyway, after I had to handle that mess – I took some serious time off. I had to, granted I am still struggling to this day with building PTO…. it was worth it.
My anxiety/episode recovery has been hard since I did not see that life changing event coming during it. Learning to trust people again, regaining my self worth and learning to live independently has been really fucking hard. However, I have kept up with therapy. I know that leaving someone without reason, leaving all their shit behind for you to handle, not telling their own family what they did and not forwarding their mail is THEIR problem and not mine. Abandonment is never okay and that is something that I have had to accept and the fact that I will never really know the reason why this happened.
My medication has increased over the past year, I still struggle with insomnia and anxiety but I am stronger than I was a year ago – mentally and physically. I am able to stand on both feet and take on the world the best that I can. Some days are still hard… There are times that I cannot get out of bed for several days, at times my anxiety is so bad that I cannot leave the house and it does impact my day-to-day.
Most do not realize all that is going on behind the scenes in recovery and that is fine – because this is my journey and if they don’t notice – I must be keeping it together…..(right!?) hahaha. I am happy to report that I got through that very dark period aka – all of 2016 without thoughts of suicide and while I have lost some weight, I am still healthy. This has been my healthiest recovery to date and I am quite proud.
I may still be a mess but hey – I have a good heart dammit and worthy of love! Now let’s transition into what I am doing this year since I feel stable, happy and productive during Mental Health Awareness month!
Present day! May 2017: Since I am someone who has clearly struggled with some shit – it has become my mission to give back to the mental health community in anyway that I can. I have done this by sharing my story with friends, family, here, through sites, beating down the stigma in anyway that I can, looking to become an advocate for local mental health chapters, donations, spreading the word, educating others, remembering to be kind – you never know what people may be fighting inside and by participating and supporting Kenzie Brenna during her self-love boot camp on Instagram- which encourages others with mental health disorders to share their stories through social media (there is a focus on body image but it is helpful for everyone), ensuring others that they are not alone!
You can learn more on the link provided or check her out on Instagram, along with her supporters @omgkenzieee and searching #selflovebootcamp. There is a new topic each day and so many people are opening themselves up to vulnerability – it is beautiful. I am going to push myself to participate every day, but some topics are harder than others as you can see in the calendar below. However, if this will help push me to become a more whole person – why not? Although, I do struggle with vulnerability…my therapist can attest to this :).
FINALLY! If you made it through that entire post – you get a cookie! I know it was long so thank you for listening to my story, ignoring any typos that came out during the flow! Yoda best!
I want to ask all of you to do something for Mental Health Awareness this month too! It is so important to keep bringing awareness! Sometimes individuals cannot make that 2 week waiting period to see a physician – we need to do something about this! So my friends/warriors, wear some green this month or ribbon! Participate in a challenge or walk, start a conversation, be there for a friend, spread some facts on social media, advocate and help influence positive policy reform, volunteer, share YOUR story if you have one and remember to take care of yourself and others!
Love you all xoxo,