Archive of ‘Mental Health’ category

It’s Lonely In London

london tower bridgeLondon is pretty lonely.

When I came to London in November, I was living with one of my best friends.

When I came back after the holidays in January, my best friend had moved to Sydney, but I had my dog, Meyer, with me. (I know she is not a person, but she was excited to see me every time I walked through the door and that counts for a lot.)

Now I am back again and I had to leave Meyer back in Florida (she is living a lux life of retirement in FL w/my parents). 

I really am alone and I am lonely.

 

When I walk by a cafe and see a group of girls having a glass of wine, I am flooded with jealousy. I consider approaching them and asking if I can join them. There would probably be a 50% chance that they would welcome me with open arms or a 50% chance that would look at me like I am crazy and intrusive.

The pubs in England overflow into the streets at any day or time of the week. I am so tempted to walk up to a group and say “I love a great beer and watching a good game, can I join you?”, but I just keep walking.

I live on a really popular street for bars, restaurants, and markets. I can hear the world of socialization through my windows as it passes me by, while I stay in on a Friday night.

There is so much to do in London. I wake up each day and there is a flood of ideas of things that I could possibly do. Sometimes I go do them on my own. Sometimes I am lucky to find someone to join me, but my pool of options is pretty small (about 3 people), so I am typically left with the choice between on my own or not at all.

More often than not I feel like I am wasting this opportunity that I have in front of me and it riddles me with guilt and sadness.

 

Making new friendships is hard. I know some people compare it to dating, but I think it is more like job hunting.

First, you have to find the elusive potential friend who wants to make new friends. There are the typical suggestions of where these potential friends are hiding: alumni groups, mutual connections, meet up groups, blah blah blah. I have heard them all at this point, but just because there are 10,000 jobs posted on LinkedIn, doesn’t mean they are looking for you or that you are the right fit.

If you are lucky enough to find a potential friend, cross your fingers that you make it past the initial interview. Do they like you? Do you like them? Are they willing to welcome you into their social calendar?

If they are, you have made it to the 2nd round interview. Now you have to try to convince potential friend that you deserve the job. You might get the temp job, just a surface level friend who gets invited out for drinks or light socializing every once and awhile. But, when you have no friends, you are hoping you get the real friend job and have found someone you can get past the surface level and really be yourself. Without a real friend in this city, you can feel completely isolated and alone.

 

Friend hunting is exhausting. You are constantly trying to find new friends, work your network and get interviews.  When you chase down a potential lead only to have it not come through as you had hoped, you are left disappointed in the time you spent and in yourself.

If the process of making friends wasn’t hard enough, just getting the guts to put yourself out there is a feat in itself. It can take nerves of steel to walk into a room alone, meet a stranger, or do something on your own.

Living with depression, my mind instinctively tells me that I should isolate myself from others. If I hide away then I won’t burden anyone around me with my depression and I can relieve myself of the stress of trying to fake it when I am around people. When the depression is loud, it is a struggle to walk out the front door, but when it is quiet, I tend to forget that it is still there and something that I am feeling is not a flaw, but a symptom.

Right now, I am trying really hard not to give in and hide away from the world even though that is what my head is telling me to do. I am trying to win the friend hunt and create as many opportunities for success as possible and I know that eventually the probability will land in my favor and I will get the job.

 

 

 

*Disclaimer: I hate to follow my last post with another one that is on the less rainbows and sunshine side of this experience, but it is what is at the top of my mind at the moment. I promise, I have many informative and entertaining posts to come about my life in London.

London Is Kicking My Ass

IMG_9891

London is kind of kicking my ass and last night, it literally kicked my ass.  While walking home on a high street in Hyde Park a man bodychecked me and then yelled “I AM GOD” as I fell to the ground.

Thankfully I was with a friend because I can only imagine how embarrassed and scared I would have felt if I was alone. He is pretty sure that the guy who knocked me down was on drugs, so it wasn’t personal, but it is definitely symbolic of my experience in London thus far.

When I came over in November I was beyond lucky to stay with friends until I got on my feet. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get on my feet and when I flew home for Christmas I felt as if I had failed. I hadn’t secured a place to live or taken any significant steps in the job hunt.

At the moment, I am staying in a long term type apartment. Apartment is a generous word, it’s a room with a bed, couch, and kitchenette. The flat search has been tough because I am battling a few criteria that are proving tough to meet.

  • I am unemployed, which means I will need to put out 3+ months of rent up front.
  • Budget (yes, what they say is true, London is expensive)
  • Pet-friendly (Meyer came back with me after the holidays)
  • A short-term lease (I can’t sign anything more than 6 months bc of my tourist visa)
  • Location (my only requirement is a part of town where I won’t be afraid to walk home at night)

But the biggest restriction I have run into is my own ego and fear.

EGO. My ego has been talking a little too loudly when I look at a flat. One of the reasons I decided to move was to shed the materialism and false idols of “success” in my life. I think both of these feed your ego and inhibit growth. Ridding my life of materialism has been easy. I find freedom in knowing that everything I own can fit into 4 bags. I think that many people believe your home is a reflection of you and your success in life. I have always been a bit of a nester. I like to make my home and comfortable and welcoming place where I can gather with friends.

I think that many people believe your home is a reflection of you and your success in life. I have always been a bit of a nester. I like to make my home and comfortable and welcoming place where I can gather with friends. Problem is that life in London, at this point, is not conducive to my previous ideas of how I create a home. I need to lower my standards and accept that the only thing I need right now is a roof over my head, in a safe place, that allows me to chase the experience and adventure that I came to London for.

FEAR. This kind of goes without saying, but I am just a little bit terrified of how this experience will turn out. The fear of failure is overwhelming. If I find a flat, sign a lease, then this is real and if it is real, the chance that I fail is real. The fear is silent and sometimes invisible, but it is clearly holding me back.

What I need more of is faith. I need more faith in myself that I will find a way to overcome any obstacle. Faith that there is no failure in this experience because having the experience is the success in itself. Faith to remind myself that every time I fall down (literally and figuratively), I always get back up.

 

 

Three Goals for Kicking Off 2015

It is a New Year, so it’s time for the stereotypical blog post about reflecting on the year past and resolutions.  I enjoy reading about how people want to better themselves in the new year. It provides a behind the scenes look at other’s insecurities and areas that they want to improve on, while reminding you that we are all traveling the same path of self improvement and acceptance.  I have been pretty open about my struggles and areas that I want to improve in my life, but I think taking a moment to focus on where I am at and where I want to go is cathartic and helps hold you accountable when you know you anyone on the internet can read your thoughts, so let’s do this!

Reflections on 2014

This past year was like any other with highs and lows. Unfortunately, I saw more lows and they lasted a lot longer than I wanted. My last episode of depression started in late 2013 and plagued me until July of 2014. I look back on this period of time and see all the ways that my depression negatively effected myself and those around me and I just want to bury my head in the sand. I would want to forget that 2014 ever happened if it hadn’t been for the complete turn around that I made in July. I brought my entire life to a screeching halt and it is the only thing that saved me. I took a leave of absence from work and focused on healing my depression. Once I did that, everything changed. I found a new job that I couldn’t be happier in and it led to my career getting back on the path that I have always wanted to be at this age. I took control of my finances and stopped hiding from my financial mistakes and illiteracy. I embraced turning thirty and it really wasn’t scary at all.  I am proud to say that I am acting like an adult in more ways than I am not, which is really all I expect from myself at thirty.

I won’t say that I don’t live with any regrets. I really do wish I could change some things about 2014, but I learned more about myself than the year before and I moved forward in my life, instead of back, so I have really have nothing to complain about and a lot to be proud of.

Looking to 2015

On that first day when I took my leave of absence from work, I wrote all of the things that I wanted to change on my wall and I started to check them off one by one. I knew that I couldn’t tackle them all at once, so I organized that list by priority.

Here is the priority list I created on 6/26/2014:

  1. Mental Health
  2. Career
  3. Financial Health
  4. Physical Health/Weight
  5. Love

Here is where I am at today:

  1. Mental Health
  2. Career
  3. Financial Health
  4. Physical Health/Weight
  5. Love

 

I have two major hurdles to tackle and they are ones that I think are most personal. It might seem odd, but I have been more anxious about revealing my goals in weight loss and relationships than I was to reveal my struggle with depression.  How crazy is that? But being thirty, single and over weight feels shameful and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be “public” with my struggle. Nothing removes the sting of feeling shame than being 100% authentic and in my case, sharing my story on my blog, so let’s do this!

Goal #1: Feel comfortable and confident in my body

Depression takes a toll on your body and I feel as if I am literally carrying the results of my depression on my body.  I don’t know if I am brave enough to reveal the actual numbers, but lets just say when I got on that scale for the first time it was jaw dropping. So to start 2015 I am going to be a cliché resolutioner at the gym. I started tackling this goal right before Thanksgiving by joining Weight Watchers (I will write a post on my WW experience soon, promise). My friend Kerry was using Weight Watchers and having amazing results (and blogging about them, check her out) and I knew that I was ready to take on this challenge. I didn’t want to put it off until the new year, so I started my diet at the hardest time of the year, the week of Thanksgiving and I can proudly say that I lost 7 pounds during the holidays.  This was a great jump start to the new year and I am excited to see what the future brings for this new challenge.

Goal #2: Open myself up to relationships

When you are depressed dating is the last thing that you want to do, so meeting someone new has not been on my radar in the past year. I think the idea that when you are happy and confident, you attract others around you who are as well is completely true. I have not been happy with myself and my body and that has really shown when I am out and about. I am not ready to date right now. I am still a work in progress and I know that I always will be in some way, but until I am feel comfortable and confident with myself, there is no way I can focus on making someone else happy. So, I have no immediate plans to tackle this goal, but stay turned!

Goal #3: Be kind to myself

My last goal may sound really simple, but it makes the biggest impact.  Depression has kicked my self-esteems ass over the past year. It says the nastiest things in your head and a key in maintaining my mental health is being kind to myself. Whether I am suffering from an episode of depression or not, I am going to be my biggest fan, instead of my worst critic. No more comparing myself to everyone else. No two journeys in life are the same, so it is time to stop comparing them. No more beating myself up when I make a mistake. It is not my first and certainly won’t be my last. No more worrying about what other people think of me.  The more time I waste wondering what they think, the less time I am spending building up my own self-esteem.

Instead, this year I am going to treat myself how I try to treat my friends and family, with kindness and respect.

2014 showed me the power that I have to create change in my life and I am pretty pumped to see what I am going to do with that in 2015.

Is this depression or am I just sad?

Depression is a sneaky little bitch. Pardon my language, but that is the best phrase I can think of to describe it. When you are depressed, the narrative that depression plays in your head is so convincing that you are the reason for all of your problems that the lines between reality and the depression become completely blurred.  The depression can’t figure out if you feel this way because of depression or are you just sad?  To make matters worse, the longer that the depression narrative plays, the worse the depressive episode gets and the harder it is to get out of.

Sometimes the way you are feeling it is not because of depression, sometimes life just kind of sucks and you are sad. But how do you determine if life or depression is to blame? If it isn’t just life and it is depression, the sooner you can identify it, the less time it can steal from you. The only way to learn if what you are feeling is a result of depression is to become keenly aware of your personal symptoms.

Symptoms of depression can be unique to each person but generally fall into the same categories.

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

Many of the symptoms described can be attributed to normal lows of life, but the severity and length of the symptoms is what indicates that someone is suffering from depression versus general sadness. If someone is feeling a combination of the symptoms listed above for 2-3 weeks or longer, it is recommended to seek medical consultation as it can be an indication of depression.  For someone who suffers from reoccurring depression, becoming familiar with your indicative symptoms can help identify and prevent an episode of depression before it becomes too serious. Unfortunately, it takes suffering through a few episodes of depression to learn your personal symptoms or signs.  See what I mean about depression being a sneaky little bitch? You have to suffer through it a few times before you can really learn to fight back.

I recently made a change in my medication to finally wean myself off an old drug, Effexor (the story of the actual withdrawal process is one I will share another time) and this change in medication has led me to that crossroad of thinking “is this depression or am I just sad?” After a week or two of “this is just life and I am sad” I took an inventory of my symptoms and realized this wasn’t life, this was that sneaky bitch (depression) rearing her ugly head again.

The first symptom that I notice is a lack of concentration. Knocking out projects at work becomes tedious and I can’t seem to get anything done.  This symptom doesn’t raise many red flags, because who doesn’t have a hard time concentrating from time to time? Next I notice that I have an extreme loss of interest in doing anything social. I bail out of every social event with any excuse I can think of just so I can spend my time in solitary confinement on my couch. This past weekend I stayed on my couch, weeping at the drop of a hat and feeling an extreme sense of loneliness. My head was telling me this was all my fault.  I wasn’t worthy of having people love me which was why I was so lonely. Realistically, I know this is not true, but depression is so convincing that I believe it to be true and the message becomes so convincing that it causes me to ignore the huge red flag that my depression was coming back.

For some reason, it is the change to my morning routine that finally caught my attention and made me start realizing that the depression was back. When I am depressed getting out of bed in the morning is a monumental feat. This isn’t your typical lazy mornings, this is feelings of immense exhaustion and hopelessness of the morning.  Now when this first starts happening I beat myself up for being so damn lazy. I think “you are 30 years old, grow up and get out of bed on time”. My whole day starts off on a negative thought and it tends to go downhill from there. The self-loathing narrative churns in my head all day and by the time I get home at night I am so exhausted from trying to fight back against the depression script running in my head that I have no energy to take care of normal activities like cooking dinner, doing laundry or cleaning the house. The exhaustion then leads to heading off to bed where I toss and turn all night and start the entire cycle over the next morning. Today I noticed that I was going on day 8 of the cycle and it was this fact that finally let me see that red flag flying and realized that the depression was coming back.

My first thought was how angry I was to be depressed now.  At this time of year, when you just want to have a warm and happy time celebrating with friends and family, I don’t want depression to ruin it. And let’s be honest, that idyllic happy time with family that we all wish for is usually a mess of uncomfortable situations and never lives up to the dream that a Publix holiday commercial portrays (if you don’t know what I am referring to, YouTube one of their commercials and I guarantee you will cry).  Adding depression to an already stressful time of the year is just dreadful and makes me want to curl up in a ball and sleep right through the holidays.

So what did I do? I called my Mother. Having a Mom who also suffers from depression means that she truly understands what I am going through and just having someone say “I understand how you feel” makes all the difference in the world. My next call was to my doctor so we can re-examine my medication and find the next solution. Then I came back here.  Sharing my experiences and my thoughts allows me to accept myself and there is something about putting my reality out into the world that feels like a relief.  I am grateful for those of you who listen, even more grateful for those of you who reach out with your words of encouragement and I hope that sharing my experience can help someone hear that “I understand how you feel”. 

What NOT to Say to Someone With Depression

what not to say to someone with depression

Recent events, like Robin Williams’ death, have helped propel mental health into mainstream media. It is exciting to see society embracing the conversation and helping to remove the stigma associated with mental health.

As I have gone “public” with my own struggle with depression I have experienced many reactions that have made me feel better and some that made me feel worse. Most people have never discussed mental health issues, let alone directly with someone who is suffering from depression. I know that at the heart of every reaction has always been well intentions and concern for my well being, but there is room for improve me in the delivery of those well intentions.

Discussing mental health is a learning process and I wanted to share some reactions that I would not recommend you say to someone who is suffering from depression.

What NOT to say to Someone with Depression: 

You should just go for a run. Have you tried yoga? 

Exercise? Oh my goodness! Why didn’t I think of that! Man, I could have skipped the three medical professionals that I am working with and are tailoring a treatment plan for me and just gone out for a quick jog to cure my depression!

Is exercise great for all aspects of physical and mental well being? Absolutely. Is yoga relaxing and a great way to relieve stress? Yes. But when you are clinically depressed doing yoga 24/7 will not cure you.

What is making you so sad?

When asked this question I answer very simply: the chemicals in my brain.

If someone had cancer would you ask them what made their cancer? Depression is not caused by the things in your life that are making you sad, it’s caused by the chemical make up of your brain. When someone is depressed, they are sick and need to find a treatment that is going to help their sickness.

You just need to try think positive.

We are trying. Every time a negative thought runs through our mind, we try to fight it with a positive one, but when you are depressed you feel like you are fighting a losing battle. The negative thoughts are recycling through your head so quickly that you can’t keep up with a positive rebuttal.

What do you have to be depressed about? There are people out there with worse problems than yours. 

Trust me, we know. I have run an inventory of how my depression stacks up against all the problems in the world and it only makes me feel worse that I can’t suck it up and get over it. The problem is that it isn’t my problems that are causing me to be depression, it is the chemicals in my brain and I can’t change them.

You are so strong, you will be fine. 

Strong is the last thing that you feel when you are depressed. You feel worthless. You feel weak. You feel defeated. You feel exhausted. You do not feel like Chris Hemsworth going into battle as Thor. They may be the strongest person you know, but telling someone how strong they are can only make them feel worse because they are not living up to that expectation.

You just need to get out of the house. 

Getting out of the house when you are depressed can seem insurmountable. Think about it this way, you know when you are on the couch and someone says “hey let’s go out”. You weigh if you have the energy and motivation to get up, dress up and show up. If you decide to get up and go out you get to your destination and are energized seeing your friends and have a great time.

When you are depressed, the getting up, getting dressed and showing up feels impossible, but the worst part is once you arrive, you have to mask how terrible you feel. The amount of energy it takes to fake that you are happy is exhausting and it only reminds you how badly you want to feel better.

Sometimes just the energy of convincing your friends that you don’t want to come out can be taxing. You mean well and think that because your friend is depressed they just need some encouragement, but this often only makes them feel worse and more likely to avoid you because you are pressuring them to do something that makes them uncomfortable.

Come out and drink with me, you’ll feel better.

Let’s look at this logically, alcohol is a depressant. You are suffering from depression. Why would you consume something that will alter your thoughts, feelings and actions in a negative way? Maybe you are lucky and don’t feel depressed when you are drinking, but I can guarantee the next day you will feel the withdrawals from the alcohol and feel worse than ever.

If you are taking medication to treat the depression, there can be terrible interactions with alcohol (I learned this the VERY hard way) and prevent the medications from working because alcohol blocks messages trying to get to the brain.

Do you really need medication? 

We shouldn’t have to justify what treatment works for us. You would never ask someone who is going through chemotherapy if they really needed it. You trust that they are under medical care and making the best decisions for their health, so please give anyone dealing with mental health the same respect.

What you SHOULD say to someone with Depression: 

  • You are not alone. I am here.
  • I will listen, whenever you feel like talking, I will always listen.
  • This is not your fault.
  • You are right, this sucks.
  • You are important to me and I value having you in my life.
  • You will not feel this way forever. We will find a way to help you feel better.
  • How are you feeling? (the key to this question is to stop talking and just listen after you ask)
  • What kind of thoughts are you having? (this can be a subtle way to ask if they are having suicidal thoughts)
  • I would love to spend time with you. Would you like any company today?
  • Is there anything that would help you feel a little better today?
  • Give them a hug. (Sometimes physical affection can be more powerful than talking)

No matter what you say, taking the time to show someone who is suffering from depression makes a world of difference. Your attention reminds them that they have value and gives them hope.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression there is always help available. Call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) 24/7 or visit Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

What To Do When You’re In A Funk

C L O U D

I have been in a funk lately. That is the best word that I can think of to describe it. A funk for a day or two is pretty normal, but when you feel down for several days (for me it has been since Thursday) red flags start to go off for me. I have to be vigilant to any symptoms of depression so that I can prevent it from stealing away as little of my life as possible.

I notice the start of the funk when the negative thoughts start sounding a little louder in my head. Those negative thoughts start playing on repeat more often and before I know it I can’t get them to turn off. When the negative thoughts are on replay they increase the anxiety and I feel overwhelmed and a bit like I am spinning out of control. Motivation goes to zero and I find myself ducking out of plans with friends and isolating myself. It is hard to explain to the friends why I am cancelling and it is even harder when they try to convince me to push through my funk.

Sometimes it is okay to just be in a funk. No matter what you do, you may not be able to speed up the funk.  If you are feeling low, it is okay to just ride out the feeling. Do your best to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself while you are riding it out.

The best advice I have been given during my struggle with depression was to just be nice to myself. I have to remind myself of it often because we are often our own hardest critic, but no time is more important to remember to be kind than when you are feeling low.

Some things that I find that help me while I am in a funk are:

  • Taking a walk or doing yoga
  • Writing in a journal
  • Cooking – this is a really relaxing activity for me, but you could immerse yourself into any task that you find comforting
  • Take a long bath
  • Listen to calming music – One of my favorite artists for calming me down during a funk is Explosions in the Sky

What works for you when you are feeling low? Share in the comments below.

The good news is that I knew that my funk was a result of my missing medication that I had to stop taking while I was waiting for my healthcare coverage to start. Knowing there was a light at the end of the tunnel was comforting, but it doesn’t make going through the funk any easier.

I can see this funk getting further in the rear view and I know that there will be more in the future, but I will ride them out the only way I know how, by being nice to myself.

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. This day is dedicated to bringing awareness to mental health as a public health issue with the hopes of bringing prevention and understanding. 1 in 4 people will be experience mental health issues in any given year and today is dedicated to bringing awareness to their battle against this illness.

This year’s World Mental Health Day is dedicated to schizophrenia, which affects 26 million people worldwide and about 90% of those go untreated, despite very effective treatments being available. Schizophrenia is an illness that is often misunderstood and still carries an unfair stigma because of the lack of understanding. The Huffington Post UK did a great job of addressing the stigma surrounding schizophrenia and I recommend that everyone learn more about it.

In a month when we paint the world pink in support of breast cancer awareness I think it is important to pause and reflect on the diseases that kill us versus the diseases that we donate to.

2014-08-27-Donating.vs.DeathGraph.0

Mental health is represented on this chart through suicide and the fundraising to suicide awareness and prevention is almost invisible, yet it is the 5th cause of death. In no way would I say that any disease is less important than the other, but I do think that successful marketing of one disease has led to the inequality in our donations. We donate to breast cancer because they have done a fantastic job of bringing awareness to the disease and it is time that we bring that same awareness to mental health.

When I was researching World Health Day I was disappointed to see that the US was not participating as much as other countries around the world in this very important day. In Australia the group OneWave is bringing awareness to depression and “other funks” through Fluro Friday. Surfers don their best florescent gear and gather at Bondi Beach to show solidarity and bring awareness to mental health issues. The images are simply stunning.

FLORO HANDS 

<a href=R U OK? 

 

In the UK the group <a href=Anxiety UK and MIND have launched the Don’t Panic Button campaign. Everyone is encouraged to wear a red button in a show of support for anxiety disorders. The goal is to remind those who suffer from anxiety disorders that they are not alone in a simple and non-intrusive way.

BzfzffjIAAAVQNZ

 

Last year in honor of World Mental Health Day Brandon Marshall, wide receiver for the Chicago Bears wore green cleats in support of mental health awareness. Brandon has borderline personality disorder and was fined $10,500 by the NFL for violating their uniform policy. What did Brandon do? He said thank you for the fine because it was bringing awareness to mental health and he matched the fine with a donation towards mental health. Brandon runs The Brandon Marshall Foundation and is dedicated to raising mental health awareness.

Brandon-Marshall-green-cleats-touchdown_20131011032155361_660_320

 

Want to make a difference?

  • Educate yourself about mental health.
  • Forget pink for a day, the ribbon color for mental health is green. Show your support and go green.
  • Speak up and break the stigma of mental health. Just having a conversation about mental health helps make a difference.
  • Make a donation to the National Alliance for Mental Illness
  • Become an advocate with Mental Health America and support public policy for mental health.
  • Tweet your support with the hashtag: #worldmentalhealthday
  • Show your support and post the image below to your social media on Facebook, Twitter, Tubmlr, etc.

stand-up-logo-hi-res

If you are looking for help for yourself or a loved one there are many resources out there that can help.

Every small step is moving us forward to removing the stigma from mental health and bringing help to all those who need it.

My Journey with Prescription Drugs and Depression

Untitled design (4)Over the past ninety days, I have been on a path to healing. For me, the best way to treat depression is to find the right chemical balance in my brain and to work through the way that it impacts my thoughts.

I have a therapist that helps me tackle my thoughts. She has used cognitive behavioral therapy to help me learn that I am not controlled by my thoughts, but that I have the power to control them. She has also taught me to learn my symptoms of depression and when it is time to let medication help me fight the battle.

If you can find a medication that treats your symptoms and does not have side effects, you have hit the jackpot. The problem is that the road to finding this pot of gold is one of the hardest you will go on. Doctors will say there is a method to the medication that they prescribe to treat different symptoms that you may have, but from my experience it is a very hard game of trial and error, with the biggest risk at stake, your life.

The truth is that as with any drug each of our bodies will react differently and because the brain is the last major organ that science has researched, we still don’t know how to find the right drug for each patient. The only way to find out if it will work, is through test and .

It can take up to 3-4 weeks to see if a drug is working, which means that you continue to suffer from depression as you wait to see if this will be the magical combination. Even more so, typically as you wait to see if the drug is working, you suffer from side effects. On one medication I suffered extreme mood swings, irrational feelings of rage that made me violent (you can imagine this made me very popular with friends and family). When a drug doesn’t work, you have to start all over again…before you know it, depression has eaten away at another 2-3 months of your life.  It took me three rounds of trial and error drugs before I found one that worked for me the first time.

These are some of the medications that I have tried over the years:

  • Pristique
  • Lexapro
  • Wellbutrin
  • Effexor
  • Xanax

After this episode of depression I was lucky and my psychiatrist was able to hit the nail on the head with my new medication. My current cocktail is Lamictal and L-methylfolate (prescription folic acid) and I have been so pleased with the results. I noticed the drugs working within 5 days of starting the medication and the side effects have been very minimal. (I am still working to get off the previous drug, Effexor, but that is a whole other story.)

While I have transitioned into a new job, I have been in that period of time where you are waiting for new health insurance to start and I had to make a decision which medications I could afford this month. I stopped taking the L-methylfolate because it was the more expensive of the two and I thought since it was more of a natural supplement I wouldn’t notice the difference. Man was I wrong! The Lamictal just doesn’t work as well without it’s friend L-methylfolate. I have not fallen into a severe depression, but I can definitely feel the difference in my mood, energy level and motivation. It is kind of crazy to see what a difference it has made removing one part of the cocktail.  I am certainly looking forward to October 1st when my new insurance kicks in and I can get back to feeling 100%!

Looks like I got lucky hit the jackpot on my medications this time around. Now my fingers are crossed that the drugs keep working and eventually I won’t need them at all.

 

 

How I Changed My Life

I can’t tell anyone how they can put change into motion in their lives, but I can share how I made it happen in mine.

When I was depressed my relationships with friends and family, my financial obligations, and my health had completely fallen to the wayside. Depression steals any energy that you have, so there is no energy left to take care of yourself and your life. I put what little energy I could into doing my best at work, so everything else outside of that fell to pieces.

I would come home from work and would be so exhausted and anxious to do anything. It would take hours to relax and release the tension from acting like I was fine all day, while trying to ignore the constant soundtrack in my head repeating how worthless I was. Once I was able to relax, all I wanted to do was sleep, then I would toss and turn all night and once the alarm went off in the morning, it would take an act of God to pull myself out of bed. I was lucky if I made it to work on time. I was even more lucky if I had time to get a shower and even more lucky if I had the time to walk my dog. I would then go through the motions at work, doing my best to cover up my depression and still trying to perform so I can advance in my career. The only way I could survive was to just keep repeating this same cycle, until the morning when I finally broke.

I realized that I was never going to be able to fix what was wrong until I stopped the cycle and took care of myself.  I drove home (after crying in my office’s parking lot) and was desperate to figure out what to do next. There is no how to guide on putting your life back together when you are depressed.The first step is to call a professional, but while you are waiting for that appointment, what are you supposed to do?

I was so overwhelmed that the only thing I could think of was to write it all down. I just started writing and every worry that had been plaguing me, everything that I was currently failing at and wanted to improve spilled out and filled the pages.

Here is what I wrote down that day…

IMG_1398

(Yes, I happened to have massive sticky poster board on hand.)

I am a little nervous showing this list to the world, but it feels good to be completely authentic about my experience. At the time it was every one of my deepest and darkest concerns that were plaguing me and I was embarrassed of them. Showing that I had goals like “Shower Daily” and “Become Financially Literate” aren’t easy skeletons to let out of the closet.

But the one that made me feel the most insecure was “Find someone to share experiences with – Stop being lonely”. Fact is that I am single and feel lonely sometimes, but I knew there was no way I was going to meet someone while I was depressed. If I didn’t like myself, how could I expect anyone to like me?

As I reviewed the list, I realized that I wasn’t desperate to just treat my depression, but I that I needed to change my life.

The first step I took was to get back to basics and to give myself something that I could accomplish. For the first couple days my goals were to do three things and three things only.

  1. Sleep
  2. Eat Well
  3. Exercise

These might sound so simple to you, but it was the first step to reset my life and stop the cycle that I was in. I knew there was no way that I could tackle everything on my list at once, but knowing that I had written them down allowed me to let them go and take them step by step, starting with step one.

There was one more thing that I had to take care during those first few days, I needed to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. Sounds simple, but my old psychiatrist had a 10 week waiting list and I didn’t have 10 weeks to give up of my life. So I took to the phone book and started dialing and finally found a doctor that would see me in 2 weeks. There was finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

While I waited to see my psychiatrist, I took baby steps and gave myself one new goal that I could achieve per day. Once I started achieving one goal, it empowered me to tackle another and by the time my appointment with my psychiatrist arrived, I was starting to feel like I was in control of my life again. The depression was still there, but without the pressures of work and keeping up the appearance that everything was just dandy, I was able to keep going.

My psychiatrist started me on new medication immediately and I started to see a change within 5-7 days. The better I felt, the more I wanted to tackle and I am happy to say that here is what my list looks like today…

IMG_2412

 

I was able to make some major changes in my life, including finding a new job and finding a medicine to treat the depression. I don’t know if it was timing or if it was my life re-boot that put the changes into motion or some combination of the two, but I couldn’t be more grateful.

Just because there is a check by the task doesn’t mean I am done with it. Many of the tasks on my list are ones that I will work at every single day, like “Be a good daughter” and “be nice to myself”. These aren’t one time tasks, but habits that you have to work at every day.

IMG_2414

 

I still have the list posted in my family room. It stays front and center (right next to the TV so I really can’t ignore it) and I am constantly reminded of where I have been, where I want to be and how I am going to get there.

If you want to make a change in your life, maybe you should try starting with a list. You never know what can happen until you give yourself a place to start.

This is Thirty.

 

Untitled design (1)

I recently hit that milestone that every twenty-something dreads, I turned THIRTY. I will admit, I was not looking forward to this birthday. Thirty felt like a looming deadline that you just keep trying to avoid, a clock ticking that the more you focus on it, the louder it gets and the faster the time passes.

For most of my twenty-ninth year I was dreading each month as they passed and inched me closer to thirty, but my attitude changed in July. It wasn’t the depression that was making me dread thirty (although I am sure that it wasn’t any help), it was the irrational view that society puts on this turning point. There seems to be a bucket list of accomplishments that you are supposed to have checked off during your twenties and if you haven’t, you feel like a failure and that your opportunity to achieve them has passed you by. As my new treatment for my depression started working, the dread of thirty started to seem more and more irrational and my excitement started to grow instead.

Instead of looking at turning thirty as an end, I started to recognize it as beginning to a whole new adventure. Instead of allowing myself to feel the pressure of society to meet their idea of what I should do before thirty, I decided to tune them out completely.  The only timeline in place to complete any bucket list is the one that you put on yourself and you get to determine what defines you as a success or failure.

I am so proud of all that I accomplished in my twenties! I moved to a city where I didn’t know a soul and today call this place home with many relationships, personally and professionally, that will carry me into my thirties. I spent much of my time in my twenties being introspective about myself and my relationships with others. What I learned about who I am and what I believe in is invaluable and I know that I will only continue to learn and grow in my thirties.

My viewpoint that turning thirty was the end was so immature and short sighted. It was so much more fulfilling to embrace thirty with open arms and excitement for all that it will bring. If there is one thing that I know for sure, it is that life is only getting better.

I am mentally healthier than I have ever been and I am ready to take the world by storm as a thirty year old woman. Watch out career, I am here to kick some ass. Family and friends, these relationships are only getting stronger.

I am ready for any adventure that thirty brings, but I won’t be sitting around waiting for them to knock on my door, I am going to make them happen.

1 2