Confessions: Inside My Mind

So as you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post, I haven’t been doing the best lately.

Instead of disappearing from the world, like last time I fell down a bit, I thought I’d share a bit about what’s been happening, and hopefully help some of you understand what its like in the mind/life of someone with an eating disorder, and depression. My goal with this blog is still to (someday) reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, and I feel like being open is a good first step. If you’re suffering, this may be triggering as it deals directly with my thoughts.

Today I felt like I was floating. People imagine, or I imagine that they imagine, that when you suffer from depression you sit around listening to sad music, and sigh a lot, and seek revenge on your dead father’s murderer of a brother. Oh wait, that’s Hamlet.

Quick rant: I actually had this conversation with my Shakespeare professor last term, as he looked at Hamlet, who I personally think is one of the first famous characters shown to be depressive or manic depressive, and said to the class, “And there’s Hamlet crying again, such an emo.” This reduction of someone to “emo” bothers the hell out of me. To look at someone and call them emo involves so much assumption, and judgement, the end result of which is a fairly derogatory term for a mentally ill person. It’s one of those terms that people don’t think about a lot, but that contributes a hell of a lot to the stigma around mental illness. End rant.

But back to the floating. That’s often what depression looks like for me. Clinically, its called “depersonalization” which always seems to fit for me as it sounds like it means becoming less of a person. It really means a sort of loss of identity, or a state where it seems like your body isn’t your body and your thoughts aren’t your own but rather you are separated from body and world and all that they imply. What it looks like to the outside world must be a bit bizarre. I imagine I stare into space a lot, as people tell me that I look like I’m zoning out a lot. I’m often quieter, but once I start talking I ramble and can’t stop. I forget that I’m hot, or cold, and I often forget about what it requires to be human: must get up, must eat, must brush teeth, must shower. I actually write all of these things down in the to do section of my planner in order to not forget.

All this depersonalization, and dissociation (which for me relates closely to the depersonalization though its different) basically make it seem like my mind is in a world of its own. The odd part is that when I’m depressed, I often go into my eating disorder which has become so much about my body.

One of the problems for me with eating disorder recovery is that it greatly involves being present, and mindful and in your body. Frankly, I hate my body. I hate it with a passion actually. So when I’m in this dissociated state, it’s a welcome break from the feeling of entrapment in a place that I hate. What I need to learn to do is tolerate being in my body, even when I hate it, but that’s another blog post entirely.

How the dissociation affects my eating is another story entirely. It’s hard to explain because as much as I feel separate from my body, I also feel tethered to it in a way. Often when I’m dissociated I completely forget to eat–that it’s something that I have to do as a living creature, but then when I get hungry the eating disorder takes over. When you feel like you’re a mind trapped within a body that’s not your own it becomes incredibly hard to remember that thoughts aren’t orders, and that they aren’t permanent, and that you can argue with them, and change them and flip them entirely. So here’s how it often goes: 1) Sit down or lay down or stand or be 2) Thoughts occur 3) Thoughts consume 4) Forget importance of things like hygiene, school, and food. 5) Get hungry. 6) New thoughts consume–thoughts of greed, and disdain, and food and fat.

What happens next varies. Lately, I’ve been choosing the not so very good options of refusing to eat, throwing out what food I can and feeding more food to the dogs so that I won’t give in, or eating everything. Often these two options rotate, one after the other in a cycle of self-hatred that feeds itself until I intervene with a meal plan meal.

I’ve been asking myself recently, a lot, why I don’t just give up on recovery, and stop eating, and stop going to therapy. I could do it, though not for long. You see, they’ve got my number now. I’ve outed myself in too many ways (including this blog) and people who care about me would know immediately what was happening. Then the following things occur, in a ritualistic stripping away of the things that make me less of a patient:
1) They would make me step back up in treatment, cutting down on work hours.
2) I would have to quit my job, or go on leave.
3) I would have to cut down on classes.
4) I would have to stop going to classes completely.
5) I would be admitted to a higher level of care.

I’m writing that down primarily for selfish reasons, to remind myself that if I go back to being a patient, I lose more than weight–I lose everything. Everything that makes me, me–at least for a little while.

So it would work for a little while, but not long enough to allow me to lose enough weight, if I’m being honest. Too many people care about me more than I do (goddamn it) to let me spiral too much. This makes me both incredibly grateful, and incredibly sad.

So what’s the other option–figuring this shit out. That’s the option I’m trying my hardest to move towards, and I’ll detail that more later, as right now I have to do it and that means doing my homework as opposed to writing what I would like to write. It means taking steps towards studentdancerbaristaquilterratloverwriter Kerry instead of patient Kerry and it means trying to do instead of just trying to be.

As always, I love you all and I’m always here if you’re struggling or just need to talk.

Thanks for reading.

Distractions and Financial Responsibility

So I’m keeping on with this whole trying to post daily thing, and what I’m discovering is that I don’t have it in me to be deep and hopefully insightful every day. So for today…

I’m getting a new toy!

I’m actually very excited because tomorrow, if the weather doesn’t mess with my plans, I’m going out and getting an iPad Air 2. If anyone cares, which I doubt, I’m going with space gray and 64 GB. Related, I’m also excited because I’m adulting, and got a couple new credit cards today. They’re both from Capitol One–the Quicksilver, and the Journey cards, and the planner nerd within me is actually really excited about planning out payments, and making sure everything fits together right so that I can improve my credit score so that it’s decent for when I need it.

You see, I’m not doing too hot when it comes to recovery at the moment–I can always tell I’m kind of slipping when I latch on to a new obsession. This obsession though seems promising, as it’ll improve my financial future instead of make me spend money. I went on what people in the credit card forums (I was surprised they exist too!) call a spree, and applied for a few different credit cards upon signing up for a credit karma account and seeing that my number wasn’t where I’d like it to be. I was approved for the majority of those I applied for–the two cards I mentioned above–and now I’ve devised a sort of plan to get myself on track financially. I thought this plan might be helpful to share, as my situation isn’t that far off from any other college student, and although it might seem boring it’s actually really important to plan financially for the future. So here are my little tips–now remember, this is just my plan and what I think will work best for me. Feel free to pick and choose to create a plan that you think will be best for you. Also–remember that I’m no expert, just a college student trying to stop herself from blindly spending.

Aspect A) The bank account: So the first part of my plan will be my main bank account. This is where my paycheck is deposited. I’m going to use this account as a sort of base, as I’m trying to make use of the rewards system that comes with the credit cards.

Aspect B) The savings account: My savings account is linked to my bank account which makes it really easy to transfer money between the two. From now on though, no money will be flowing from savings–>checking. This part of my financial life isn’t as healthy as I’d like it to be, but I’m planning on growing it. What I have, and what I recommend for everyone, is a giant coin jar. It seems really simple, but if you make a commitment to every day take the change out of your wallet and put it in a jar, at the end of the month that money that you might not have touched otherwise will have added up into an amount that can grow in your savings account. Also, if you’re like me and have a job where you get tips consider putting a portion of your tips in this jar as well. That’ll help your savings grow even faster. I’m also going to kind of take stock of my money situation at the end of each month and try to transfer some money into my savings at that point if it makes sense as well.

Aspect C) My secured credit card: I have a secured card, which is generally easy for people with even no credit score to get, which I’ve been using to try and develop a credit history. This kind of card is great for college students because of a few reasons: its possible to get them, and you can’t spend what you don’t have as you need to deposit a certain amount at the get go which serves as your credit limit. Because of this, the limit is usually pretty low which keeps spending from getting out of control. As long as you try to pay off this card as you use it, and don’t keep it maxed out all the time, just paying the minimum each month, a secured card is a pretty safe way to develop a credit history. I’ll generally be keeping this card to use for emergencies, or for vet appointments and such.

Aspect D) the Quicksilver card: So this is where the fun comes in for me–I’ve been looking for a way to upgrade my iPad, but I was dreading making the actual purchase and seeing 730$ leave my bank account. I then remembered the payment plan my phone is on–the Verizon Edge plan. This plan spreads the cost of whatever you get out over 24 months and just adds that cost onto your monthly cell phone bill. My parents are angels and still cover my cell phone, but I’m now looking to get a line of my own for the iPad Air 2 with cellular. Here is where the new card comes in: my goal is ultimately to raise my credit score without going crazy with spending, which for me involves making smallish purchases on the cards and paying it off immediately. I don’t want to be carrying around cards for the same purpose all the time (which one would I use?!) so what I’m going to do is dedicate this card to the monthly bill for my new iPad Air 2. This way I’ll still be spending regularly and collecting rewards on the card, but I can predict exactly how much and when that money will be needed. So I can just pay off the card immediately after the bill comes, leaving me carrying no debt. Also, this serves as protection, as even if an emergency comes up and I’m short on cash I won’t miss a payment on the iPad.

Aspect E) the Journey card: the Journey card is a student card, which means pretty easy to get, and things that students care about like no annual fee, and a baby rewards system of 1% cash back on all purchases. If you pay on time you also get another 25% for 1.25% cash back total.  This is going to be the card that I use regularly. My plan is to pay it off completely every Saturday.

The hope is, that with all of these things in play I’ll be able to both grow my savings, and keep a check on my spending, all with minimal effort on my part. Keeping track of credit card balances is made pretty simple these days through various banking apps. If you hook up your debit card to these apps, you can set up your payments in advance too so that you have less of a chance of forgetting.

This has been a pretty boring post, but I hope its been informative and given you some ideas of your own. It seems weird to think that we need to adult already, but if you’re like me the babies and marriage photos on your Facebook feed gave you a hint already.

For me, taking control of one area of my life, especially one as important as my financial life, makes me feel better about myself, and my abilities. If I can do one complicated thing, surely I can handle them all?

Any questions, if you need to talk, or for pretty much anything, let me know.

Thanks for reading lovelies, have a nice week.

“…I have to do what?” Or: on faking discipline.

This begins as a very ironic post, as I’m writing it when I’m actually not doing what I have to do, my homework. But I read a quote the other day that’s really been stuck in my mind, about discipline. It came, again ironically, because I have a lot of things lined up that I do while procrastinating: I clean, I plan for the upcoming days, I watch Cosmos and feel tiny, I sleep sometimes, and I google how to make myself do what I should be doing. This lead to a tumblr search on discipline which brought up something that I actually liked:

tumblr_mrhz61j1GF1rleh0yo1_1280(theangryviolinist.tumblr.com)

So, I’m not going to quote the post directly because I’m not sure if I’d have to register my blog as rated M or something, but motivation’s being “fickle and unreliable”  hit home for me.

I’ve been at the intensive outpatient program that I’m in for about a year and a half, and here was why, summed up by an apparently irate violinist. Or, you could put it in the words of my lovely therapist who pointed out when we were arguing about something that I only was doing things when I felt like it–when it suited me. When I felt like making the grand ol’ leap and recovering, I would do so, only to freak myself the fuck out and back off, relapsing again. If I wanted something done, she pointed out, I would make sure that it got done. Evidently, at that point actually recovering wasn’t a priority.

I’m doing the same thing right now with my homework: I came up to do homework at 6PM. The plan was to do the homework, study, make a list of places I have to call tomorrow, and go to bed. And here I am writing to you all at 1:08 on a Monday morning. I feel like this isn’t an unusual college student experience, the whole pulling all-nighters thing. So here I am wishing for motivation to write a few paragraphs about what is in my opinion the least interesting part of Modern Dance history, when what I need to find is discipline.

I feel like I used to be good at discipline. Discipline seems like it plays a big part of many peoples’ eating disorders. It takes a lot to be starving, throw your food away and go run a few miles. But what I’m realizing now is that eating disorders like mine was at that time magically turn motivation into discipline by making weight loss the only goal, and giving you hell until you start working for it. In other words, eating disorders motivate you into eating disordered behavior by making your mind miserable until you give in. Same goes for self harm, at least in my case. Something inside your head is there, motivating you towards a behavior that you deep down don’t really want to do, giving you hell until you give in, then rewarding you by making you feel better.

So anyway, it seems like there might be a way to hack the system: find something as annoying and pervasive as “intrusive thinking” (if you want to go all psychology terminology) that motivates you towards positive things instead of self destructive behavior, and maybe you can fake discipline (or find discipline depending on your point of view) until you get into the habit of doing something that you might not always want to do.

I’m going to have to go to bed soon, and do the rest of my homework in the morning this time, but I’m going to be thinking about this and keeping you guys updated. In the spirit of my experimental psych and neuro class, I’m feeling an experiment on discipline coming up. Let me know if you have any ideas in the comments or by messaging me on Facebook–I promise I don’t bite.

As always, I’m always here if you need me–on Facebook, or on WordPress, or by email. I’ll always listen.

Thanks for reading!

You Are NOT a “Special Snowflake”

Recently I’ve become aware of how many people suffer from mental illness–part of it is because as I write this blog more people choose to come to me for help (which I love!) and partly because everyone suffers to a degree. I truly believe this. Mental health is a spectrum to me, and what I’ve seen from people since I’ve come public about my own mental illness has only supported that.

With that said: I need to point this out to people who are suffering, and please, please, please don’t hate me: YOU ARE NOT A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE BECAUSE OF YOUR MENTAL ILLNESS.

This isn’t directed at anyone in particular, more something I’ve noticed over the past year of treatment, something that I’ve experienced myself, and something that it hurts me deeply to see others suffering from. One of the ways that people are controlled by their mental illness is because it makes them feel special–like they’re the odd one out and like for some reason, they are broken in a way that no one has been before them, and so they’re separate from other people and unable to relate to them, or be comforted by them.

I’ll be listening to someone I care about speak about their thoughts, and in that I sometimes hear my own thoughts reflected. But when you let them know, “Oh yeah, I totally get where you’re coming from.” All too often the reply is something along the lines of, “Well, yeah you get it, but here’s why I’m worse…here’s why I’m different from everyone else…here’s why I’ll never get better…here’s why you can’t possibly understand.”

And I get it–when you’re suffering from mental illness, and that hell inside your head, it’s impossible to believe that others have gone through the same thing and lived to tell about it. And yes, everyone has different experiences and no one’s experienced the exact same things, but those thoughts that you think, that you think are unique because they’re so sad, or so fucked up, or so utterly awful–they’ve passed through the heads of countless people before you: I guarantee it.

I have realized through hearing countless other people talk about how their disease makes them think and feel, that nothing I’ve felt–no matter how dark, or tragic, or hopeless, is unique.

At first, this made me mad. Like some of you probably will be at me for posting this.

But your sadness does not make you special. It only makes you sad, and holds you back in life.

Your eating disorder does not give you control–it either kills you, or puts you in a situation where you are stripped of all control.

Your mental illness is not unique, it is not what makes you, you.

You are the person who kicks ass at that sport, or who can’t stop talking even when you have been all night, or who is loved by everyone around you, or who’s smile makes everyone else smile, or who drunk texts everyone “I love you”‘s. You are made up of endless quirks, and fascinations, and loveliness, and so many things and guess what? None of those things are your mental illness.

We are, all of us, living our own private lives within our minds. But let’s all stop pretending that those lives are so different from one another’s. Do you know how much I would give to tell someone that I relate to what they’re saying without hearing back,

“Well, yeah you can do that, but I can’t.”

When you tell someone something like this, at least in my experience, you give the monsters inside your head that much more power. You’re not only missing out on a chance to bond with someone over the shit you’ve both experienced (because something positive should come out of it somehow) but you’re also invalidating the other person’s experiences, and basically making them feel like a piece of shit.

And if you’re reading this, and think that I’ve talking about you, know that: A) Everyone’s friends occasionally make them feel like shit and yet they still love each other. and B) I’m not talking about you so sh–don’t worry.

And I might get shit for this, but I want to challenge the notion that everyone’s thoughts are unique because they fucking aren’t. Out of all of the people who have ever lived, and likely out of all of the people who are alive at this very moment, someone out there has thought the same things as you. And one of the only positive things about diagnoses (other than insurance–yay!) are that they make it easier to find people who understand, and who have thought those same fucked up things that you have.

So next time you rant to, or talk to someone about something that’s going on inside your head and they say, “Dude, I’ve been there, I’m sorry, I get it.” Try believing them.

Because we all think these things, we all suffer, we all get sad or lonely, some of us want to or have wanted to die, some of us can’t talk to people without freaking out, a lot of us think that we’ll never be able to actually be happy, and it’s about time we start believing each other, and let this stuff bind us together instead of isolating us inside a little bubble.

As always, I’m always here to listen, though be warned I’ll be honest.

I love you all–keep on keeping on, and thanks for reading.

To Vegan or Vegetarian? On the film Vegucated

So I have a bit of a dilemma.

I’ve been being a vegetarian/occasional pescetarian for a little bit now. I used to be very strictly vegetarian, but that was when I was strict about all food in general. Lately, I’ve been eating some fish when its the only protein around, or if its at a good restaurant, but tonight I decided to watch the film that solidified my vegetarianism: Vegucated.

Essentially, a woman takes three people who eat meat, eggs, dairy, everything, off the streets of NYC (through craigslist) and asks if they would be willing to go vegan, and be on film for six weeks–along with some medical tests to see if blood pressure, bloodwork etc. changed.

Then the documentary starts educating them about the horrors of the meat industry. And I do mean horrors. For example–free range means three square feet per chicken, cows are neutered using rubber bands (to slowly cut off blood supply and kill the organ), medical procedures done without anesthesia or antibiotics, pigs are sometimes boiled alive and chicks often don’t even survive the sorting process–and they never even get to see their mothers. I don’t know about you guys, but this cut my meat eating cold. I can’t stand choosing which animals I care about living. I rescue some of the most hated animals around the world–rats–and personally know how cuddly, intelligent, and emotional they can be, so how could I do anything to condone the murder of other sweet, innocent, intelligent animals.

The documentary also goes into how eating meat actually gives one a huge carbon footprint, along with harming the environment in other ways. One of the more gross ones includes the waste of all of the animals in the farms (yes–these are FARMS not just slaughterhouses) because yes it has to go somewhere. Its stored in the open, then when the storage is full sprayed all over crops as fertilizer I assume (bet you won’t skip washing your veggies before you eat them now, will you?) and runs off into water sources, polluting them and changing the ecosystem drastically. Also those fish I’ve been okay with eating on occasion? Their netting kills tons of other ocean life and wrecks different parts of the ocean floor. Bye-bye salmon.

And before you ask–all of this is legal under a law that states that farm animals are exempted from the animal cruelty act when it comes to COMMON procedures. So because everyone does it, everyone can do it!

I took all this into consideration last time and figured, okay, so I’ll stop eating meat. But the thing is, what I’ve been doing is doing just as much damage, its just making it less personal for me. Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated, then separated from their calves so that they can be forced to produce 340% (from the film) of the milk that they would naturally. The calves are either raised to slaughter, raised to be milk cows or sold as veal. Chickens are living on metal grates in packed containers and live no life other than for their eggs. Sheep grown to produce wool are sometimes fed hormones which make them grow folds of skin where more wool can grow (and where insects can lay their eggs!).

I don’t think I can do this anymore.

Hardest to say goodbye to will be my leather filofax which I love, so that’ll likely be the last to go, but I’m going to start making changes. I’m not going to change everything at once, because I want to be able to stick to this one day. I’m going to scramble tofu in the morning instead of eggs, make smoothies with soy milk instead of regular milk and try to start drinking the stuff. And I’m going to buy a pair of fake Uggs that are vegan, and man-made material slippers, instead of the new sheepskin products I was going to get. I’m also going to talk to plenty o’people at IOP (the intensive outpatient program I go to) and my nutritionist about doing this healthfully, because the last thing I need is for people to think I’m doing this just because its a way to cut out food.

We evolved into omnivores because there wasn’t food available–we needed to be able to eat all that we could eat. Now, the food’s available, but we’re still omnivores. The cruelty of animal based products is unnecessary, and as I try to cut out the cruelty I inflict on myself, I want to cut down on my contribution to other acts of cruelty.

Its a good thing I like tofu.

Peaks and Valleys and Imperfect Recovery

So I go to a school that runs on trimesters–this essentially means a semester of school packed into ten weeks instead of the 15 that I believe a regular school runs on. One thing this changes is that we take only three classes typically. So what did I decide to do as I work a part time job and spend hours in groups every week? Add a class of course!

I’m still trying to figure out if this was a mistake, but I’m really enjoying it so far. For the first time in a year my worries are “normal!” That’s to say that they’re about school, and getting my assignments done, and getting to work on time, instead of stuff like whether or not to go to the hospital.

What I’m finding though (and what other’s I found out last night in group are finding as well) is that when you’re distracted from the bad stuff, and not concentrating on it as much, its much easier for it to creep back in on you until suddenly, “What the fuck, I haven’t thought about this in months!”

Example A: I’ve been doing pretty well with the whole not bingeing thing. The other day though, I was passing my student center before a class and I suddenly thought, “Wow, I have money on my card. I could go and buy a shit ton of candy and eat it all instead of going to class and no one would have to know.” Know what I did? I went the fucking long way around, where there was no chance of both making my class and going to the student center, and ended up making my class and not getting those bags of candy. But you know what else? I bought two candy bars that night and ate them in my car.

And you know what? That’s a fucking success story, because things don’t have to end up perfectly in order to be successes. I delayed my binge for about twelve hours. And that’s eleven and a half hours longer than I could have two months ago.

And also, that’s recovery right there. Getting the thought, recognizing it as just a thought and fighting it, and maybe losing the fight, but most of the time winning. And I’m finally at the point where I’m comfortable enough to say that I’m in recovery without wanting to figuratively throw myself back under the bus, so you bet I’m going to scream it. I’m recovering, and I’m basicallyalmostalways okay with that, and not only that but proud of it too.

This turned into a sort of rant, but I’m okay with that. Because I think too often we think that we’re the exceptions that are going to “do recovery perfectly” (I certainly did) and we forget that its the upwards trend that’s important, not the minute peaks and valleys of the graph. I’m constantly reminding myself of this and I hope you are too.

Breaking Radio Silence and on Medication and Setbacks

Hello all, remember me?

If you’re new, welcome. If you’ve read before, welcome back!

I’ve befriended a few people on Facebook who may be reading for the first time, and learning a lot about me that they didn’t know, and so for their benefit I’ll do a quick recap. I’m Kerry, as you hopefully know, and I’m a lot of things including a sophomore in college, a barista at Starbucks, and an owner of many cute animals (including pet rats). I’m also in recovery from an eating disorder, and pretty severe depression. I hope this doesn’t change your view of me too much, as I’m obviously still the same person, but I’ve accepted that it might. I’m writing this blog to hopefully increase awareness of mental illness, and acceptance of mental illness, and I want that to start, or continue with me.

So anyway…

As Amy Poehler puts in her book that I got for Christmas, Yes, Please!, “There’s a lot of, ‘I dressed for writing and went to my writing spot,’ and it’s like ‘What the fuck are you talking about? This is a nightmare!’ Writing is a nightmare.”

Writing about your innermost fee-fees (feelings) is easier said than done. Especially when you’re being open with all the internet. This became obvious in the last month, when instead of writing about when I fell off the ‘recovery wagon’ I kept my mouth shut and tried not to feel like a hypocrite for all the advice I’ve been giving people.

But enough with me whining about how hard it is to write (something I truly love to do) and lets get on with it: yes, I fell off the recovery wagon.

You see, a very important part of the recovery process (for me, not everyone) has been finding the right medications. I’m including the name of my medication here, so that people who are taking it or considering taking it have a view of what it might be like to go off of it. That medication for me is Effexor XR, used alongside Abilify and Trazodone with the occasional Ativan.

Sounds like a mouthful right? (ha, ha–get it?) But seriously, if you’re on medication let me give you a small piece of advice:

Do NOT go off of them without your doctors help.

Yes, this sounds self-explanatory and you’re probably thinking, “Why Kerry, why ever would I do such a thing?” But if you are taking the right medications, you end up feeling better. For me, this automatically translated to ‘I don’t need these anymore, and they’re awkward to take in front of people, and so I’ll just stop.’

Of course, skipping them once led to skipping again and by the time I noticed that I was regularly skipping my medication it had been five days and nights. Luckily, I was in group when this happened and was able to tell my therapist, “Hey A, I think I know why I’m feeling so dizzy, nauseous, lightheaded, depressed, sleeping a lot and crying a lot.” Because that’s what was happening. By the time I got home I withdrawal had really kicked in, and I couldn’t watch a small section of a military-based TV show without becoming overwhelmed, anxious and bursting into tears.

You see a lot about withdrawal in the world: when people stop smoking, or drinking caffeine, or when people who use drugs try to stop. What its impossible to convey though, is how much it sucks when its actually happening to you. I’m just going to whine for a little bit here, because the people in my life got tired of hearing about how much it sucked pretty quickly–way before I was done complaining about it.

Effexor withdrawal is the most awful thing I’ve experienced (and I’ve gone through gallstone pancreatitis–more on that later). Not only do you feel the feelings that the drug has been keeping away, getting sadder, more tired, and yes–suicidal, but you also get the physical symptoms of your body adjusting to being without this drug (and so not performing the chemical reactions that it has been helping with the same way). These physical symptoms include: brain shocks (which essentially feel like a small current of electricity is going through your brain, or like its being shaken), nausea, migraines, lack of the ability to regulate your emotions, and more. Fun stuff!

Personally, I (as a neuroscience major) was morbidly fascinated, as what was happening chemically in my brain was pretty interesting. Effexor is (I’m pretty sure) an SNRI, which means selective serotonin-neuroepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Basically, it causes the neurons (brain cells) to take back in less of the chemicals that they use to communicate (serotonin and neuroepinephrine in this case) than they normally do. This means more happy chemicals (they actually affect mood and energy levels generally speaking, respectively) swimming around in your brain. This means that your brain gets used to these new levels.

Now imagine taking that extra juice away.

So logically, I knew it was no wonder that I felt like shit.

After a couple weeks, including a really hard weekend that I may go into detail on later, and a lot of lectures from many medical professionals on stopping your medication without assistance (again, the upshot is: don’t do it) I was mostly back mentally, and physically. So why didn’t I post then?

This experience scared the hell out of me.

One week, I was doing well, visiting my friend in NYC, eating as I was supposed to, and the next I was contemplating putting myself back into the hospital. Thankfully, a lot of good things that I had set up in my life kept me from doing that.

First, there was work. I love being a barista, and the people I work with, and though I have no problem with them knowing that I’m in recovery (as a few people do know) I didn’t want this setback to affect my ability to do my job, or people’s confidence in me. I’m proud of having a job, and I love Starbucks as a partner and as a customer. Going inpatient would have meant taking a lot of time off of work, and it also would have meant the possibility of reduced hours (with increased care) for a while after I got out of the hospital. I didn’t want to go backwards.

Second, there was my team. If you’re going through any sort of anxiety, depression, eating disorder, or any other sort of mental illness, I hope you have a good treatment team–and I’ve got to say, mine’s fucking awesome. They made sure that: A) I was safe and B) I didn’t forget that this was temporary, and that I had shit to do other than being a patient.

I truly am thankful for their helping me stay out of the hospital, because although the hospital is “great” when you absolutely need it, its obviously something to be avoided if you can. You know that you have a good treatment team when they do what they have to do to keep you safe and on a good path, regardless of how you feel about the matter initially.

Thirdly, there was my family. Although my parents didn’t do the ideal thing, what the treatment team advised, they helped me to figure out a solution that worked for everyone at the time. If you’re going through a tough time, it pays to have family on your side, because you’re pretty much stuck with them loving you no matter what you do. My extended family ended up chipping in and helping me out where I needed it, and it was the perfect distraction.

And lastly, as cheesy as it sounds, there was me. You can set up the environment all you want when you’re feeling crappy, and try to prepare for everything your sad self might throw at you, but in the end there’s you and your thoughts. One of the main things that stood in my way from doing something stupid that really hard weekend was the memory of how exquisitely good life can be when you’re really in it, and trying.

So now I’m back. In school for the Winter term, with a full course load, stepping down on treatment and stepping up with that whole life thing (more on that later).

Let me know if you want to hear more about anything I mentioned here, or if you have any questions you want me to answer. I’m happy to help with pretty much anything and everything, and I don’t care if we’ve never talked, or if you used to hate me, or if you think I’m weird, or think that I think that you’re weird, or any of that. If you need to talk, message me–period.

This has been a rambling message, with a lot of odd details and I hope you’re still with me. My new goal, to hopefully not fall off of the radar, will be to post something daily, likely when I’m procrastinating (like now). So expect to hear from me tomorrow.

Love you lovelies, thanks for reading!

“I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are.”

Hello everyone–sorry for the break, it’s finals time for me which had to be the priority unfortunately!

I want to respond to the poll and what people want be to elaborate on, but I feel that it’s necessary to talk about something that a loved one brought to my attention recently, and that’s the possible repercussions of posting my “secrets” for all to see.

I am aware of these repercussions, and I have been for long before I wrote my first post. But as it is so nicely put in the song, “Secrets” by Mary Lambart, which the title of this post comes from, I really don’t care who knows about my secrets anymore.

The loved one who inspired this post, or made me aware of its necessity, is concerned that I may be hurt by this blog–that people will look at me differently, and treat me a certain way before getting to know me and you know what I say? Let them.

Because what they’ll see if they look at me in any certain way is that I’m human. There are things that I struggle with, and ways that I cope with them, and these things have been labeled a certain way but this makes me no more or less human than others who are not labeled in these ways.

I’m not ashamed of my problems. They are a part of me, and my eventual goal is to accept all of me–not just the things that I like–even as I work to change some things.

In treatment one of the most difficult things is that for a time you are treated as a diagnosis. Things are assumed about your behavior, you aren’t trusted, and your independence is restricted because it is assumed that because of your label you will do certain things. The tough part comes when your life is out of danger, and you’re still in treatment, and you’re asked to shed your diagnosis as your identity and find yourself again outside of your disorder. This is the hardest thing that I am doing right now, as my disorders are still so much a part of my identity.

But what people don’t realize is that people, when they’re living with mental illness, are constantly working to find their new self. I’m now not only a depressed and anxious eating disorder patient–I’m a dancer, a student, a crafter, a rat-lover, a barista, a research assistant, a reader and so much more.

Recovery happens “when life becomes more important.” This is what I’ve heard from people since day 1. And what recovery is becoming for me is just adding to the list of what I am, and who I am. With this blog, I’m hoping to add “mental health advocate” to that list.

People won’t be able to change their preconceptions of what mental illness is until they realize that it’s all around them. And that it doesn’t take away a person’s other identities–it just shortens the list until they’re well enough to extend it out again.

So if you’re reading this, and choosing to look at me as a mental health patient before you check out my other qualities that’s fine, because it’s part of who I am, and where I’m coming from. And yet when you do look at me from that perspective, I hope you’ll see and understand that I am fighting to be so much more than that. And my decision to share that fight with you all is a choice that I hope will help you see that people with mental illness are not to be discounted as “just another patient.” We’re people whose lives were taken away, and who are getting their options back, and our lives back one day at a time (oh no…Four Winds motto!)

We are also stronger as a result of it all.

Thank you for reading.

My Filofax Planning and Recovery

So I can’t stop writing. Seriously, thank you all for being interested in what I have to say!

Thank you to those who voted in the poll–the results were a tie (at least so far) between how my Filofax has helped with my anxiety, and my depression turnaround, and as I’m upgrading to a new Filofax system soon I really wanted to write this one so that I can chronicle the current setup. If you’re interested there’s also an accompanying video, which is my first venture into Youtubing.

I’m excited because this is my first post that will have pictures. And they’re pictures of one of my favorite things, the nerd that I am, my Filofax!

So, I got into planning one really awful night when I was home alone for the weekend. I was coming off of a pretty horrific binge, and I remember just thinking, “What should I be doing right now? Because it isn’t this.”

I started researching journals, and planners, and I came across the amazing Filofax community! Soon I was sucked into the videos, and the decorations, and the different ways of customizing your pages, and your setup, and I just had to get one. I ordered my black Domino that night, rush order (yes–next day delivery) because I had this feeling that it could help me for that weekend, and she’s been with me ever since!
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(Also you get to see my face–exciting I know)

So this is my baby now, and it helps me in so many ways. So when you open it up:

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This is what you see!! I have my dashboard, which has the occasional post it on it with reminders, but is more to protect the pages, sticky notes and quotes behind it. Silly as it may seem, opening my Filofax up to a big ol’ bright pink “Hello” makes me smile, so I keep it. On the back of the cover is five card holders, which I use for appointment cards and to hold sticky notes, in the pocket behind I have some labels right now– it’s super handy.

Oh and just a close up of one of my favorite quotes. I don’t remember where I got these printables but If someone knows please tell me!

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After that…

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Is a pretty piece of paper that I washi taped and had to show off, and then…

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Comes the meat of the planner–my week on two pages. This is one section that really helps my anxiety. I use it to make to-do lists for every day, and I make all the lists on the Sunday before the week starts, using my syllabi and notes I make as needed about appointments. This way, I know what I have to get done, and how I’m going to spread up the work so that I have some free time but everything gets done. After I finish the to do lists, if there’s any doubt about how I’ll get through a day I used the calendar on my phone and block out every single minute, starting with the time-sensitive things, like appointments and classes, and then fitting in the rest of what I have to do. If it doesn’t work out, I rework the spread of the to do lists.

I also keep here a positive things sticky note, which I’ll talk about later, and a goals sticky note, where I have my goals for the week.

This might seem like a lot to do just to make a to-do list, but it cuts way down on my time later because I never have to worry about how I’m going to get something done: it’s already figured out.

The time consuming thing I did not like was the entering things into my phone. So I’m moving to an almost entirely paper based system and making…

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Day per page pages! I’m not actually making them for long–I ordered a set for 2015–but for now they’re working out fine! So on these, as you can see I have my calendar, which is only ever completely scheduled out if I have a day that seems impossible. I kept a section for to-dos, and added a section that I was keeping on sticky notes before–positive things about the day. It really is nice to fill this out throughout the day, and just keep note of the nice things that happen. Also I love turning to a past week and being able to say, “Oh cool, this was when I started
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My goals are now incorporated into my to-dos, and calendar, and I keep the ones for the week on my dashboard at the front of the binder.

So then after the bulk of the binder are the rest of the sections: contacts, which are hidden because Internet, quotes, which I have a few pictures of! Notes, which is mostly Starbucks stuff to remember, Projects, which is stuff I’m planning to make for Etsy, and for other people, and last but for sure not least my Recovery section.

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The quotes help if I need a boost, but the recovery section is super important and I will forever keep it in my carry-along binder. It has all of the notes from my treatment groups–CBT, DBT, Nutrition, the works. This way if I ever find myself really stuck I can look and see what I can do in that situation. This is also where I make the lists I talked about in my last post, of things to do, and where I keep a running CBT log, because I’m a dork and find that they work.

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Basically, in here is everything that I could possibly need when I’m out and around. It keeps me on track, and helps me worry less, because it lets me both figure out how to handle a situation that’s come up, and plan to handle ones that may come up in the future.

If anyone wants a post about setting up their own Filofax let me know–I’m planning on doing one around Christmas but definitely can sooner!

Until next time, with lots of love.

What it means to cope.

I had an odd conversation with my therapist the other day.

I’m definitely on an upward swing treatment wise. I’m stepping down in treatment, and stepping up in life. But what a lot of people don’t tell you is that even when you’re ready to not be in treatment for twelve hours a week, you’re still not always sure that you’re ready or able to recover. I was describing a slightly scary incident that I had the other day, and how a lot of the urges to act in “bad” ways had come back for the first time in a little while, and my therapist asked me, “So what did you do?”

I was a little shocked at the simple question, mostly because I was so caught up in how I had been feeling, and describing to her exactly how bad the situation seemed, and how it obviously meant that I was going back down my old road again. So when I answered it felt really, really anticlimactic.

“Well, I drew up a pattern, cried a little, watched some TV, finished my work, ate a snack, and went to bed.”

That’s it. That was the conclusion to my big night of emotional turmoil. Productivity, a few tears, and some much needed sleep. And she informed me that what I did was cope with it.

Now: I did not know until a few weeks ago that I had this ability. It still feels a little bit like a super power or something else miraculous. I mean, something horrible happening doesn’t mean that horrible things need to continue happening?! It may seem obvious, but when the pattern is to drag out the unpleasant and dismiss all good things, to start to reverse that feels like some bizarre opposite day.

So what is coping anyway? Its a word you hear a lot once you start treatment in any form– “Did you use any of your coping skills when that happened?” is a question that will forever be burned into my brain, and I’m not sure that its in an entirely helpful way. It brings to mind stress balls, CBT worksheets, and lots of suppressed feelings. It seems that if someone has to cope with the situation, they have to let it “win,” and just deal with the outcome, or at least that’s how I always interpreted it.

In reality though, I’m finding that coping with a situation is just the opposite of that. Its not that you’re giving up to the situation, its that you’re letting go of the pointless struggle. When you can’t change a situation, does fighting it do anything other than show that you’re fighting it?

For a long time, I thought that if I actually coped with a situation it would mean that I wasn’t feeling the actual emotion behind it. Because if you feel that strong an emotion, and that strong an urge, is there anything left to do but act on it? As it turns out the answer is yes.

But what coping is not is: artificial, forcing yourself into something, unpleasant, or suppression. An actual coping skill that you use can’t be something that you don’t want to do, or it loses its purpose as you’ll never do it.

Also: this whole coping thing? Not just for people with mental illness! Thaaat’s right, everyone can do it! (Cue cheering I know!) In fact, I learned how to really cope by watching people who weren’t depressed, and who (as far as I know of course) had never “officially” learned coping skills in therapy.

So how to do it? How to cope with a situation in a healthy way instead of overexercising, cutting, bingeing, purging, or beating yourself up in any way? I came up with a system that works for me, and I figured I’d break it down and share it with you all.

First, accept that the unpleasant thing happened. That’s right, let it into your mind: let it become a past event just like all the other things you’ve ever done, and don’t give it any more significance than that. Its something that happened, that’s now over, and that you cannot prevent or do anything about, other than move forward.

Next, look at your options. Usually, when something bad happens, you have options. If you don’t have any options, move onto the next step. I recommend at this point, until you’re used to doing things the healthy way, making a list of your options. I have a huge list from past events in my planner. And really consider what you can do, including things that you might initially discount. I’ll share my list from the example I was giving: binge, binge and purged, overexercise, restrict food for the next day, cut (and yes, it may be the unhealthy things that come to mind first: don’t worry about it), continue doing my homework, eat a reasonable snack. After thinking a little more, I added to this list: put on my favorite movie, let myself cry, practice banjo, play ukelele, plan out the next week, watch How I Met Your Mother, sleep, play with the rats, wake up my parents to talk, pet my dogs, feed the fish, go for a walk, plan out my meals for the next day, call my therapist, start a book for NaNoWriMo, make something for my Etsy shop. Get creative with this list: the only restrictions are that it has to be things that you actually like to do, and things that you could get up and do that second, without making excuses to prevent yourself from doing it. But you want a really good list, and you want to include literally everything you could do

Choose the ideal option. This isn’t always easy, because what you want to do is almost always what you should do. So take a look at that list, and pick out what it would be ideal for you to do–even if you don’t want to do it in that moment. So for me, I would circle “Continue homework.”

Identify what options would move you backwards. That is any action that won’t bring you towards where you eventually want to be. And not just short term. For me, although in the short term, when I’m in a bad place, I might want to just be a patient forever. It helps here to look at the long term, where I want to be a respected neuropsychologist, with research going, and patients that I see, happily married, with kids that I homeschool. So I would take my list and  (because I love colorful pens) underline in red anything that doesn’t bring me closer to where I actually want to be.

Then, decide what you feel like you can do, that isn’t underlined in red.  This doesn’t have to be the ideal option: we’re getting there! This is just what you feel emotionally prepared to do, in that moment, right away. For me, it was to watch TV. I felt a little guilty about not doing my homework, but it was what I could do, and even if it wasn’t moving me forward, it wasn’t going backwards either.

Repeat previous step as needed. As you do each thing, you’re distracting yourself, and proving to yourself that you don’t need to do the things marked in red. I ended up combining to things on my list: I made a pattern for something I’m going to put up on my Etsy shop! Make your way through your list, doing everything you can. What will usually happen is that you’ll either calm down, or run out of time and have something come up that you need to do.

Now, notice that the unhealthy things aren’t crossed off, just marked as backwards-moving. This is because if you go through everything, and you can’t calm yourself down, and you’re in a really bad place, I won’t pretend that they aren’t an option.  And its possible that you’ll make it all the way through, and have nothing left to do but something that will move you backwards. But if it gets to this point (which shouldn’t happen often) keep in mind how long you’ve made it without resorting to unhealthy behaviors. Try repeating some things on the list. Or seeing if you can add to it.  Just know that you don’t have to do those things: recognize them as a choice, not a compulsion. You’re free to make that choice, but you should do so recognizing that it’ll only move you backwards, and hurt you in the long run.

Anyway, hopefully you’re still on the happy things on your list, and you’re now calm enough to…

Do what you need to do to move forward in your situation. For me, as my crisis was school related, what I had to do was to do the homework that I could do. But because I didn’t just jump into trying to do this, I was able to get it done quicker, without getting frustrated with myself. Sure I could have gotten it done sooner without doing all the other stuff, but by pausing for a moment and doing something that made me happy, I reminded myself that there are things in life beyond the stressful situation at hand. There are things that you enjoy, and that bring you joy. Life is bigger than what makes you miserable.

Congratulations, you just coped with an upset in your life!

Yay, congratulate yourself!

If you actually try this out, and keep doing it, you won’t always have to make physical lists. You don’t even have to at first if you don’t want to–I’m just making suggestions, do what works for you. I like lists because I’m paper-obsessed, and like to write things, and see them all in front of me. Also, making lists makes me happy for whatever weird reason, so its another one of what my therapist would call my, “delaying tactics” (what I refer to as your options).

If you have a slightly backwards mind like me, it might be scary to successfully cope with a situation, without using your unhealthy coping mechanisms. To this, I say: f*** your mind, because it obviously doesn’t know what’s best for you. You made decisions specifically based on what will bring you to where you want to be, and if something in your mind doesn’t want that, then its only trying to hold you back.

Know this. Own this. And keep kicking butt.

Also, I have a ton of things I’d like to write about, but consider taking this poll to show me what you’d like to hear about. If no one answers, I’ll do whatever I want 🙂

Until next time, lots of love from me to you.