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.

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.

Hurt

Today I woke up hurting. My brain seems to have decided to review past events and people in my life while I’ve been sleeping. I end up dreaming about them and often wake up in a frustrated, annoyed or upset mood. While it’s helpful to review these people and events that have affected me, it also dredges up memories and pain that I didn’t realize I still had. It’s causing me to rethink past situations, which is what I’m supposed to do, but I’d prefer to do so under my own power, not in my dreams.

This first occurrence of this was just a couple of days ago. My brain decided to review an event that occurred near the start of my depression. I woke up confused and a little annoyed because this wasn’t a walk down memory lane that I wanted to take. But after reviewing the event over the past couple of days and talking with one of the person who had been involved in the situation, I realized that this event was probably the crux to my depression. This event is the most likely to have been the start of my depression and now that I have this information, hopefully I can use it to get better.

The second occurrence happened just today. I woke up after only a few hours of sleep and was so distraught and hurt that I couldn’t fall back asleep. This time my brain decided to include an old friend from high school in my dream. Thinking over it, I hadn’t realized how hurt I was by the separation that occurred our senior year of high school. I realize that people lose touch, but we had been best friends and being a naive teenager, had thought that we would be friends forever. At this point, I can’t ask her what happened, or why and there isn’t a reason to. People fall apart just as easily as they fall together. We were friends at the time, it just hurts realizing how easily that friendship fell apart.

It’s easy to feel hurt by the situations in our lives especially when things don’t go the way we planned. But how we deal with that hurt, makes all the difference in the world. Do we allow ourselves to be crippled by that hurt even if it occurs years after the event or do we move on and allow that hurt to make us into better people? I believe that these situations and the people who have passed through my life have occurred and been there for a reason. They have helped create the person I am today. And while that person is a flawed human being, I am trying to bring what little good I can to the world and I am trying to be a better person. Everyone is flawed, but it’s how you deal and cope with the flaws that makes the difference.

My Life In Outpatient Treatment: Week 2

This is a continuation, Week 2, of my daily journal while in outpatient treatment for depression, anxiety and avoident personality disorder. Click to read Week 1.

Week 2, Day 9:
Today was a continuation of the feelings from day 8. Even with a weekend between the days, I still feel worthless.
My homework for today was to write a journal post as if I was living 10 years in the future. My doctor told me to describe my life as it was happening, exactly 10 years from today.
We also learned about accountability and victimization. That lesson will be posted at a later date.
Parts of today’s journaling also became it’s own post and can be seen here.

Day 10:
I was informed by my group therapist that I’m getting a secondary gain by being in group therapy. Secondary gain can be defined as benefits received by not overcoming a problem. Secondary gains are problematic because while they make you feel better, they aren’t helping you fix the root problem.
I was also told that I need to have ‘Pinterest thinking’. Pinterest is all about uniqueness, and I need to remember that I am like a pinterest board. I am unique. I need to use “I am” statements, but nothing is really going to help me until I decide to ‘flip the switch’ and do the things I’m being taught.
We also had expressive therapy where we had to draw a picture of ourselves as a kite. It was a fun project, and you can view the picture here.

Day 11:
I’m in a good mood today!! 🙂
I’m feeling better; more like my old self. I have energy, some motivation and ideas. I want to do things! I want to make a difference! I’m thinking about starting an outside support group in my area. A group for people who can relate to each other & want or need outside support.
The Problem: When I have energy, I need to remember not to take on too much. I don’t want to become overwhelmed. I don’t want to crash in the middle of a project. For more information, please view the post on Project Immersion, here.

Day 12:
I had my family session today. I was a little nervous about it. I have had family sessions before, but you never know what someone else is going to say. My parents didn’t say much. It often seems like they don’t want to get involved. We talked about how I need to have a value base and a change in priorities. I need to do things for myself and live like I’m driving.
Living like you’re driving is like this: You have to look in the rearview mirror every once and a while and occasionally, you need to look far in front of you to see where you’re going, but for the most part when you’re driving, you have to pay attention to your surroundings and the environment around you so that you don’t crash.

I was in a pretty good mood until I met with my psychiatrist. He informed me that ‘people need people’, ‘I need to make social connections’, and ‘no one will do it for me’. While I agree with these statements, I’m still struggling with them. My doctors are really pushing me to be social and I just don’t do social. I haven’t been to a social outing since college.
I ended the day wondering why people needed people. My psychiatrist was pushing for me to get outside of my comfort zone and I didn’t like that at all.
He did make me a card though and it says, “Life isn’t fair however you, Talia, can be happy! :)”.
But I also learned that Feelings are not facts and thoughts have no power unless you let them.

Day 13:
I don’t really want to be here right now. I don’t feel like it’s helping. I don’t know how these coping skills are going to help. I feel like they’re not helping now. If all of this isn’t helping, what will? I keep trying and trying. What’s the point, if trying isn’t working?
Why do people need people?

Please stay tuned for Weeks 3, 4, and 5. Please view Week 1 as well.

My Story: The In-Between Years

After a year of trying to deal with my behavior and (I feel) a very minor attempt to understand my illness, my parents kicked me out of their house. They also confiscated my car, which I had been in the process of paying them for, so finding a job, my own apartment, even going to therapy was next to impossible. I crashed at a friend’s house for two months, trying to figure out my next step all while having no idea where to start.

At this time, I had fallen into a crowd that smoked marijuana. While not pressured to try it, eventually I decided to see what the appeal was and there was definitely an appeal. I now understand why people use marijuana. The high makes you feel so good. You forget about everything that is wrong in your life and you are just blissed out. It stopped my brain from going a mile a minute, and for me, there was freedom in that. But I also realized that smoking wasn’t going to fix the problems that I had, it was only making me forget them. And while at times, I do still miss that high, I know that smoking marijuana isn’t good for me and it’s not going to help me solve my problems. Only therapy could do that.

Luckily, an opportunity presented itself for me to move out of my toxic, temporary living space.. Through the church where I worked, I met and befriended an older woman, who with her husband, were not very good empty-nesters. After she broke her shoulder, she invited me to live at their house, a farm, in exchange for help with cooking and cleaning. We became very good friends and I lived with them for quite a few months.

While living there, I got back into therapy and managed, for the most part, to mend my relationship with my parents. The lady also turned me onto alternative medication. After previous disappointments with 2 psychiatrists and a variety of medication, I decided to go the alternative route. I began taking St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava. While it seemed like these medications worked for me, it was also summertime and my depression had always worsened in the winter.

A few months after moving to the farm, I met a guy who respected me and my beliefs. We began spending a lot of time together and eventually began dating. I fell in love with him and moved in with him and his family just months later. Unfortunately, the winter months took their toll and my depression returned with a vengeance, coupled this time with the feelings of inadequacy, and worthlessness. My boyfriend was so wrapped up in his work and extracurricular life, that I felt like I wasn’t a priority to him.

After a few months of living with him, I made the courageous decision to move out on my own. This would be my first apartment and while I enjoyed having a place to myself, it quickly became a problem. My boyfriend and I broke up at the beginning of the summer because we made better friends than a couple anyway. But I quickly found myself very much alone. My friendships were few and far between and while I initially attributed this to the amount of work I was doing, I soon realized how alone I really was.

By the end of the year, I realized I needed more help than I was getting so I made an appointment to be evaluated at a local psychiatric center. I was informed that I was on the cusp of needing help but with my work schedule, continued regular therapy should have been enough.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t and less than 3 months later, I was officially admitted into the psychiatric center for outpatient treatment.

A ‘Me’ Centric World

Today, I didn’t have the best of experiences at work. Functioning on a major lack of sleep (over 24 hours), that no medication can seem to penetrate, my mood has been very low today and my depression is definitely winning today’s fight.

My experience at work today wasn’t anything specific and nothing one wouldn’t expect from working in the customer service field, but it got me thinking. This world is so ‘me’ centric. It’s not that everyone is deliberately looking out for number one or even that it’s something that they are conscious of, but it’s an issue of today’s world in any case. It’s all about me. What I need, what I want, what is affecting me. Why are we this way? Where we raised to believe that the world revolved around ourselves or is it a personality trait that developed after years of social living?

We don’t think about others. In some aspects, we don’t care what others feel, how they feel, what they think and in other aspects, we care too much about what others think of us. In this case, I’m talking about everyday living. I’m talking about taking into consideration the issues that could be affecting other people.

Walking down the street, we don’t know that the man with the torn and baggy clothes just got the news that he has incurable cancer. We only notice that he looks sloppy and unclean. Or we don’t know that the woman who is crying on the subway just lost her husband. We’re judging her for showing a major display of emotion. We don’t know that the boy at the park is being bullied at school for his weight or that the girl walking down the street is a foster kid.

Everyone has a background story, most of which is invisible at a single glance. But most of us judge people with just that single glance. We make split second decisions about that person without speaking a word to them, without knowing them at all.

We need to consider each person’s possible background situations. After all, your history is what defines you today. It’s what has made you into the person you are right now. And who but your closest friends and family know what that history is? I certainly don’t.

All I’m asking is that you take a moment and realize that the cashier you’re yelling at because of mispriced item, might be dealing with other issues at home and that they might not have control over the fact that an item was mispriced or misplaced within the store. That the customer service rep who is trying to figure out the specific situation that has you upset is just trying to do their job. They can’t read your mind and they might not know exactly why you called, but (for the most part), they are trying to help.

I actually ran into this situation the other day at the pharmacy. I was waiting to place my order so they could fill the prescription while I shopped. I was tired, it had been a long day and I was ready to go to sleep. Suddenly, a lady stepped in front of me and asked the pharmacy assistant what the hold up was. Why wasn’t her prescription filled yet? The assistant tried to patiently explain that there were over 100 prescriptions that they were trying to fill in the queue. The lady looked at the pick up line and replied, “while why don’t you fill the prescriptions of those waiting in line first”. The assistant tried to explain that the queue was filled not only from drop-offs, but also from faxes and automated systems, so it was filled in that order but the lady got huffy and left.

I had overheard the entire conversation and while I sympathized with the lady waiting in line, I also sympathized with the pharmacy technician who had to deal with multiple people like this daily. She was just trying to do her job and while I wanted to get in and out, I smiled at her and joked with her about the situation, trying to show empathy and understanding. After all, I have been in this very situation before myself.

While rude, apathetic people will always exist in this world that doesn’t mean that it should be the norm. If more people had empathy and understanding, the world would be a nicer place. And personally, I would prefer to live in a world where people smiled at each other a little bit more. Wouldn’t you?

Changes

Today was surprisingly, a good day. While life is not perfect, I feel like hopefully, everything is in an upward swing, rather than a downward spiral. It’s nice to have something to look forward to.

I had a job interview yesterday. After filling out tons of applications and not hearing back from anyone, I was really excited to get the call for the interview. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, though, just in case I didn’t get the job. But today, I received a call and was offered the job.

This new job is going to involve a lot of change for me. I will now be working nights and despite being a night owl, it still makes me nervous. I’m having to change my complete routine. On the other hand, it will be so nice to leave a job that wasn’t healthy for me, mentally or emotionally. Hopefully, the shaking that I have been living with constantly, will go away and my hair will stop falling out.

I feel like this could be a step in the right direction. It’s a big change, but I’m hoping that working nights, will allow me to go back to school so I can finish my degree. I’m hoping that this step will allow me to follow my dream.

I am also taking a step by seeing my doctor. I am having a full physical done as well as blood work. It’s been a couple of years and I figured I should rule out some medical issues because I have decided to see a psychiatrist. I feel that after 3 years of attempting to resolve my depression with only my therapist, with little results, it’s time I tried anew. I am hesitant about this step because of my previous misfortunes with psychiatrist, but this time I am hoping to find one that I like.

I will be recounting to you, my current experiences with medication and treatment as they occur. I’m hopeful that this time around, we will find something that works.

My Story: The Initial Treatment

When I was first diagnosed, I did everything I could to get better. I saw my primary care physician, and had him recommend a psychiatrist. I talked to my parent’s pastor and had her recommend a therapist. I took my medications, kept track of my moods, but nothing helped.

The first diagnosis of depression I received was from a nurse practitioner at my college’s health center. She also prescribed my first anti-depressant, Citalopram, an SSRI. (I will be explaining the different types of medication in a later post). While on Citalopram, my depression continued, so when I got home from school, I visited my primary care physician and obtained a recommendation for a psychiatrist.

The first psychiatrist I saw diagnosed me with dysthymia. She switched my medication to a combination of sertraline, an SSRI and Wellbutrin, an NDRI. Neither medication did anything to fix my mood. Instead, I started shaking in my hands and my legs. Whether this was a side effect of my medication or a worsening of my depression, is still unknown. I was also seeing a therapist, weekly. The talk therapy was helping more than the medication, but not enough. I ended up having to drop out of school because of a loss of motivation and disinterest.

I stopped seeing my psychiatrist, mostly because I didn’t like her. I felt like she wasn’t helping me, that she wasn’t listening to me. I felt like another number to her, an experiment. But I did continue to see my therapist. I also stopped taking my medication. Not something the doctors recommend but I didn’t feel any different when I was on it. The medication didn’t feel like it was making any difference. About a year later, my therapist again suggested that I needed to be on medication. She recommended a psychiatrist and I went, hoping that this time the doctor would listen. He put me on Cymbalta, an SNRI, starting low but quickly increasing the dosage with each visit.

I did feel better, initially, but after a while, it was like I relapsed into a more depressed state. I stopped remembering to take my medication and then I stopped caring about attending my appointments. Again, I felt like the doctor didn’t really care about me. I was just another patient with a problem. How could he understand what I was going through and which medication to treat me with, if I only saw him fifteen minutes, once a month.

I stopped caring about anything and my parents, fed up with my behavior, kicked me out. While at the time, this almost devastated me, it ended up being one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Depression is A Lying Bully

Depression is a lying bully. It reaches into the darkest places of my mind and uses it against me. My depression tells me that I’m worthless, that I’m not worth anyone’s time, that I can’t do anything right and that I’m never going to make something of my life. In a nutshell, my depression tells me that I’m a loser.

And the worst part is that depression reinforces itself. Every time someone blows me off, my depression is right there, whispering that I’m not worth anyone’s time. Every time, I get ignored, my depression tells me that I don’t have any friends. And unless my definition of friendship is off, then I don’t and that is rather unfortunate.

I feel better when I’m around other people, because then I’m not alone. And when I’m not alone, my depression isn’t so all-consuming. Unfortunately, I am alone almost all of the time. I work alone, and when I am off work, I don’t have any friends to hang out with. I’m not sure why I don’t have friends. My depression makes me think that there is something wrong with me and that’s why there isn’t anyone. But maybe it’s because they don’t understand my depression.

I realize that everyone has their own life, but we make time for the people that matter to us and it’s just unfortunate that it seems like no one can make time for me. At the moment, I have one friend I can count on. One person who has been there for me no matter what and I want to thank him. I hope he understands how much I appreciate him and what a difference he has made in my life.

Some people say that I like feeling this way. That I like feeling down all the time. That I like having no friends. That I like thinking negatively about everything. But they are wrong. I can’t help the way I think. I wish I could, but there is something chemically wrong in my brain that affects my thinking and I can’t fix that on my own.

There are days when I wake up, and I don’t want to be alive anymore. It’s not that I want to die; there is no plan or intent, I just don’t want to be alive anymore. My life feels pointless, like I’m just wasting space. Othertimes, I want to die because then, maybe someone would pay attention to me. Maybe all of those people who were too busy when I was alive, would understand what they missed once I was gone. But I don’t actively want to die. There is no plan and I have no intention of creating one, there are just days when I don’t want to live.

So please, if you know of someone with depression, let them know that you care. Let them know that you are there for them; to listen and to hug them. Some people do lose this fight. Some people do have a plan and successfully carry it out, and you never know who that could be.

So I want to know. Do you suffer from depression? How do you cope?

Depression: A Personal Definition

While the clinical definition helps us understand what depression is, it is a totally different experience when you live with it. Depression is not some vague term that other people have to deal with. I used to view those commercials for antidepressants with casual disregard. Now, those commercials apply to me and often describe my very life.

I have my good days and my bad. It is worth noting that I am not on medication at the moment, but I am in therapy and have been since I was first diagnosed. Honestly, I probably should be on medication, but I will get into that more on a later post.

Lately, I have been having mostly bad days. Things in my life have not been going well. I used to have a plan, but unfortunately, my depression derailed that. For those of you without depression, this may be hard for you to understand, but depression seeps into every part of your life and turns it upside down.

It is not a matter of just “getting over it” or “thinking positively”. Telling me that “there are other people worse off than you” or “you don’t look depressed”, is not helpful either. Honestly, I mostly want you to listen and show me that you care.

Often, it is a struggle just to get out of bed and many days, I feel like I am fighting just to survive. One of the biggest issues I find with suffering from depression, is not the the disease itself, although that is a struggle. But the biggest issue from my point of view, is the lack of understand that the general public has towards mental illness. The stigmas attached to mental illness, are oftentimes more difficult to live with, than the illness itself.

I want everyone to understand that depression can get the better of us. It can be fatal, but it does not have to be. With more understanding, and tolerance towards mental health, we can ensure that more people survive. I want you to understand mental illness, and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Depression is not the same for everyone, but with a general understanding we can make the world a better place.