A Letter to Myself

To myself:

I’ve recently realized that I’m still holding onto the expectations that I had for myself before the depression took hold. Those expectations weren’t a bad thing until I became unable to fulfill them. I’m mad and frustrated with myself for not being able to do what I was once very capable of doing. The loss of motivation, energy, and commitment has really eroded my self-esteem. I’ll admit my self-esteem regarding my physical appearance was never very high, I never struggled with it when it came to who I was and what I could do.

When my depression came along, it knocked me sideways. It completely ran me off the path I had placed ahead of myself and while I wasn’t exactly happy with the path that had been “chosen” for me, it was still a path I had planned around. I was taking a major just to have something to major in, but I didn’t like it. It was just a general degree so that at least I’d have a bachelor’s degree when it came to job searching after college; a degree I could do virtually anything with. Before the depression, I was on track to graduate a semester early with a double major, possible minor and a concentration. I was ambitious and driven, although not thriving socially in college as many people thought I would, most profoundly my parents. I was thriving in my academics.

How easily that all fell apart. I’m not sure if it was one special event that triggered it or if I was a depressive time bomb just waiting to explode; and explode I did. I stopped going to classes, I stopped eating, I stopped caring about anything. It had all fallen apart and I couldn’t seem to find the effort to care. What did it matter anymore? I wasn’t going to graduate early and I definitely wasn’t going to be graduating with a double major anymore, let alone a minor or concentration. Surprisingly, the fact that I didn’t care about everything going to pieces, didn’t surprise me. I didn’t want to be studying that major. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do after college. Sure, I had college all mapped out, but the future after that was a blur.

I have to forgive myself though. I feel like I let myself down. I’m 24 years old and I don’t have a bachelor’s degree. In fact, I’m nowhere near ready to even consider going back to school. But at least I know what I want now. At least I know what I want to major in and what I want to do with my life. My depression, despite it’s blackness and carelessness, has given me the push I needed to find my passion. And I’m planning on pursuing that passion for as long as I possibly can. I can’t and I won’t allow my depression to get in my way again.

This first time, I’d say my depression was a blessing in disguise. Now, I’m going to make it be the passion that drives me forward. My depression is no longer going to be allowed to hold me back. I’m going to fight it with everything I have in me and I’m going to live my dream. And I’m going to pass on hope to others suffering from this disease. It’s the only thing I can do now.

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Project Immersion

Before the depression hit, I was always diving into projects head first. I would come up with crazy ideas and hair-brained schemes and I would enjoy diving into a new project. Sometimes it fizzled out or I would grow bored, but often the project would be completed and I would have immense satisfaction.

After my depression, I could barely find the motivation to eat let alone do any projects. I couldn’t even get my school work done and I often found myself quitting whatever projects I had tried to start, before they had even gotten off of the ground.

During therapy on Week 2, Day 11, I was feeling much better. In fact, here is the journal entire I made for that day:

“I feel better today and I really can’t explain why. (Which is ok because there are times when you can’t explain why you feel the way you do.) I’m looking forward to things. I’m coming up with ideas that I’m excited about and that I want to implement immediately. Sometimes I want to just dive into a project which might be part of the problem. I dive in, then feel overwhelmed, don’t know how to continue so I quit in the middle. (Not necessarily that I quit but that I become distressed & depressed and can’t complete the project because my mood drops.)”

Why do I want to dive into projects? Why do I want to immerse myself into projects? Is it because the focus is then taken away from me? That I don’t have to look at myself?

Do I lose momentum and steam? Why? Is it because the project has gotten difficult or troubling? It hit a snag so I don’t want to continue?”

I’ve discovered that part of the problem now, is that when I dive into a project, I don’t focus on myself and right now that has to be the focus. I guess you could say that the project for me to do right now is me. I’ll never get better if I don’t focus on myself. Honestly, this is probably going to be one of the hardest projects I have ever attempted and it’s going to be one for the rest of my life. I’m going to have to work at myself, at being healthy, at being ok with being Talia, for the rest of my life. And it’s not something that I can give up halfway. It’s not something that I can lose momentum and steam at because then I’ll end up back where I started and seeing as I didn’t like square one in the first place, this project is my number one priority.

I have ideas. I have dreams, but I have to take it slow and be realistic. I have to allow myself to make mistakes and to realize that I’ve gotten in over my head. There are a couple of dreams that motivate me and push me onward but I have to go slow. I have to allow myself the time so that I don’t become self-destructive again. Projects are good. Projects are healthy, as long as there are healthy boundaries and you pull yourself out of that immersion every once in a while to see the realistic world around you and stay grounded.

Cutting

To this post I would like to attach a TRIGGER WARNING. This post will contain information about self-injurious behavior which may be triggering to some people.

I used to cut. I found it therapeutic and punishing. I felt like I needed to cut because I needed to be punished. I felt like I needed to be punished because I was a bad person, because I was always doing something wrong, because it felt like there was something wrong with me. There had to be something wrong with me, right? Afterall, that’s why I don’t have any friends. Right?

I was very wrong. Cutting or self-injuring as it is known, is the deliberate act of harming your body. Self-injury is an unhealthy way to handle your issues and is most often done impulsively. There are many ways to self-injure, but I don’t want to get into the how of self-injury. I would like to discuss the why.

For me, there were three reasons why I cut myself. The first was because I was feeling too much emotion and I couldn’t find a way to let it out. These emotions were negative, but I must admit that they were triggered by specific situations and instead of addressing these situations and facing my emotions, I cut to let these emotions out. The second was when I felt numb. I cut because I couldn’t feel any emotion and I wanted, no I needed to feel something, anything, even if it was physical pain. The third reason was because I felt a need to punish myself. There had to be something wrong with me and because I couldn’t figure out what it was, I cut and I punished.

I learned that self-injury wasn’t going to fix my problems. Self-injury could, if continued, make my problems worse. Often, it is seen as a cry for help. Self-injury is not meant to be suicide but it can often follow that path if the person doesn’t seek help.

If you see someone who is self-injuring, talk to them. Don’t accuse them of doing something wrong, just ask them what is wrong. Often times having someone honestly ask, ‘what is wrong’ or ‘is everything ok’ can open up the self-injurer to seeking help. Sometimes all we need to know is that someone cares.

Self-injuring can be a part of mental illness and needs to be treated as such. Therapy can help a self-injuring person with this issue. It can be a temporary, situational issue like mine or it can be a continuing circle. Self-injury is never the answer, and although I understand why people do it, I hope you’ll seek help. I hope you’ll find the help and treatment you need. You don’t need to hurt yourself, you don’t need to punish yourself. Everything will be ok.

Cutting

Mayo Clinic

My Life In Outpatient Treatment: Week 5

This is a continuation, part 5, of my daily journal while in outpatient treatment for depression, anxiety and avoidant personality disorder. Please click for Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4.

Week 5, Day 23:
They don’t think I’m ready to change. That I’m holding myself back but I don’t know what is holding me back.
I have a whole list of things I need to work on with my outside therapist. I will be discussing this in more detail in “Reprogramming Myself”.
I’m supposed to focus on myself. Focus on accepting myself, 24/7.
I’m holding onto ideals that I need to let go of. I have to let go of the old relationship with myself.
But I don’t want or like to put effort into something, unless I know the results.

Day 24:
How do you keep your mind occupied and/or disengaged from negative thinking? Especially when you’re doing something that doesn’t require much thought and your mind begins to wander.
Use games, distractions, ask myself what, and why; be logical about it, and breath.
“Rumination is like fire. You feed it fuel and it grows.”

Day 25:
I decided that I would like to write a letter to myself saying goodbye to the negative me and to the expectations that I had for myself before I became depressed. See letter.
How can I forgive myself for not meeting the expectations I set for myself? Or the expectations I feel are coming from other sources, namely my family? Is that what is holding me back from being able to change?
“He who angers you, controls you.”
We also talked about acceptance today. Acceptance is: “It is what it is”; making space; and letting yourself off the hook (from suffering).
Acceptance is not: denial, forgiveness, forgetting, letting it go, being ok, agreeing with it, allowing it or understanding it.

Day 26:
Today is my final day. I thought it would be more difficult than it was.
I discovered that May in mental health month and the ribbon is a dark green. One of my fellow patients is helping me create a logo for ADAPT. I’m so excited about that!!
After talking with my therapist, I realized I need to write down my goals. I need to have short term and long term goals. During session today, I felt very much in control of myself, my thoughts & my emotions. Let’s hope this continues!!!!
“Wake up from your thoughts and experience life!”

This is the end of journaling while during the outpatient treatment program. I’m interested to hear your thoughts and comments on my journey and I hope that my journey will help yours! Believe me, that it isn’t an easy fight. Sometimes you have to slog through mud, blizzards, ice and treacherous terrain, but I know that any fight is worth my chance of becoming a better and healthier person. You can view Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4 at each link.

Stuck

Sometimes I wonder why I’m writing this blog. Is anyone even reading it? Does anyone care? Is it making a difference?

I face these questions every day while I’m trying to write. As well as these: What should I write about? Will anyone care? And I suppose, even if no one cares, I should write anyway because I know that it helps. Writing helps me deal with my depression and often, putting things down on paper helps get them out of my mind. (Hence this post.) But I’m struggling with the fact that I feel stuck. I’m not sure what to write, even though I have an entire list. I’m not sure what people would like to know.

I’m trying to remember that this blog is the first step to bigger and better things. I’m trying to remember that this blog has a goal. A goal, that if reached could make a difference to millions of people. A goal that could make a difference in the field of mental illness. But sometimes, that goal seems so far away, it might as well be impossible.

I feel stuck in my life, in my therapy and in my head. I know the theories on what I need to do to get better and I’m taking my medication, but there are just days when I feel like they aren’t making a difference. I wake up and there are days when i just wonder why. Why me? Why now? Why this? Why?? And nothing I’ve learned, nothing I’ve tried has helped me on these days. These are the days when I struggle. I struggle just to get to the next day. I struggle with my brain and trying to keep it on the right track. I just struggle and honestly, I’m very sick of struggling so hard and so often.

It’s not fun and it isn’t easy. If I had a choice I wouldn’t be this way, but I don’t have a choice. Having depression isn’t my decision to make. It was made for me by my genetics, psyche, biology and environment. I can’t just ‘get over it’ and I’m not just lazy. I have limitations because of my illness. And right now my brain is telling me that I’m not important, that my ideas aren’t important and that this blog isn’t important. And maybe it’s not but I have to keep trying and I have to keep fighting. There is only one other alternative and I don’t consider that an option.

But I honestly want to know, what do you want to know about depression? What questions do you have regarding mental illness? Please message me or comment below.

Stuck

I Hate My Mind

I hate my mind. I hate the fight I have to start as soon as I wake up. I hate the frustration that builds up because of that fight. I hate the way my mind thinks. I hate the way my brain works.

Why can’t I just be normal? I’ve never really felt like I’ve ever fit in. I’ve always been the outsider; the hanger-on. I felt like I was never good enough to be involved; that everything I did and said was always somehow off; not quite right.

I’ve been told multiple times that I have an old soul, that I am an old soul. I think this is true. I don’t like partying, drinking; the normal activities of a 20-something year old. I like card games, and crafts; movies and cooking. I’d rather stay home on a Friday night and drink a bottle of wine with a friend rather than fight the crowds at an overcapacity bar.

I hate that my depression causes my brain to think in circular patterns. For example, my depression tells me I’m worthless, then maybe a friend has to cancel plans with me, so my depression tells me that it’s my fault. Maybe if I wasn’t a negative person, they would want to spend time with me. Maybe if I looked better, maybe if I was happier, maybe… My depression pounces on every small issue and compounds it until its a big weight in my mind.

I hate my mind because in many ways it is working against me. It isn’t allowing me to move forward with my life. I often feel like my depression is holding me back but at the same time, it led me to my dream and the life I would like to lead.

I hate my mind and I hate the battle, but it has given me a dream to look forward to. It has given me my motivation to win the war.

What Are Emotions?

Emotions are feelings that are felt during a particular situation or event.

Here are some facts you need to know about emotions:

  1. Emotions are neither good or bad, right or wrong. Emotions just are; they exist.
  2. Emotions don’t last forever.
  3. Emotions are not facts.
  4. When a strong emotion comes, you do not have to act on that emotion.
  5. You can’t get rid of emotions because they serve as important survival functions.

There are eight primary emotions.

  • Anger
  • Sorrow
  • Joy
  • Fear
  • Disgust
  • Guilt/Shame
  • Interest
  • Surprise

Secondary emotions also exist. These are an emotional reaction to a primary emotion. An example would be to feel shame when your primary emotion is anger. Secondary emotions are learned emotions from families, cultures and our environments. Secondary emotions are important, but it is more important to discover the primary emotion so you can get to the root of the problem.

Emotions have three jobs.

The first is communication. They can be communicated both verbally and nonverbally. Verbal communication of emotion occurs through words, voice tone and volume. Nonverbally, emotions can be communicated through our faces, posture and gestures. Non-verbal communication happens very rapidly and can often help us in certain situations. Even if we try to hide an emotion, it is often communicated through our nonverbal actions.

Emotions also motivate us. They tell us to ‘act now’ and to ‘stay focused’. They give us the motivation we need to change certain situations and strong emotions allow us to overcome obstacles both in our minds and in our environments. Emotions also save us time in important situations because we don’t have to think everything through.

Lastly, emotions can give us validation. Emotions can be informative about a situation. ‘Gut Instinct’ emotions can be used as signals and alarms. However, when carried to the extreme, emotions can often be treated as facts. This is where validation turns against us and this will be discussed in a future post.

Some last notes about emotions. To discover an issue, it can often help to discover where you ‘feel’ this emotion. For an example anger is often felt in the stomach, with a tensioning of the muscles.Urges to do something are natural, but not necessarily healthy. Everyone’s emotions are different so everyone will react differently to different emotions. Finally, unhealthy thoughts occur when we attach judgements to our emotions. You need to be willing to radically accept your emotions as they occur (Radical Acceptance).

Emotions are not bad. In fact, they often can be helpful depending on the situation. It’s how we react to our emotions that can cause us problems.

Emotions
Dealing with Negative Emotions