Family

Family. Almost everyone has a family, whether they want one or not. Family is usually there for you. They stick by you no matter what and often times they get on your nerves with their constant advice. They always have some sort of input on your life whether you want it or not. Families are there for each other and support each other.

So what happens when you are diagnosed with depression and your family has no clue what to do or even what that means? Oftentimes they try their best to help, but sometimes their ‘help’ consists of platitudes, cliches, or questions that don’t help the situation. This can be frustrating at best and at it’s worst, can actually worsen your depression.

Lately, all I’ve been hearing from my family is you need to stop doing this or start doing that. I want to tell them that all I really need is support not advice. You are not living my life nor are you standing in my shoes, you have no idea what I’m going through. Why is it that my two friends are better support than you are? Instead, I get asked when I’m going to go back to school or when am I going to get a better job. I just want to scream at them “I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got right now, is that not good enough?”

It’s bad enough that I haven’t been able to succeed at following my own life plan, I don’t need you to force yours on to me. Maybe I won’t complete school. Maybe I’ll never get a college degree, is that such a bad thing? Which is silly because I do want to go back to school and get a degree, I just want everyone to stop asking me these questions, because right now I don’t have the answers. Right now, I’m living day to day, just trying to make it through.

So I’m sure you’re asking yourself, as family, what can I do? Sometimes silent support is the best support. And as tempting as it may seem, giving advice isn’t going to help. Oftentimes, it only makes us feel worse. The best question you can ask is “How are you doing?”, followed by “Is there anything I can do to help you?”. These two questions show your support of the person and allows them to respond in a manner most comfortable for them.

These are the two questions I wish my family would ask me without judgement or criticism. I wish they would stop trying to give me advice, platitudes or asking me questions that I don’t know the answers to. I’m trying my best at the moment, why can’t that be enough?

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My Story: After Outpatient Treatment Part 3

Week 3, Day 1
Yesterday I hung out with the BF. We had fun visiting local downtown areas having lunch and then hitting up the mall. I was looking for a new swimsuit top for the summer. Now, I’m a slightly bigger girl, with a pretty large bust so it can be difficult for me to find tops that fit. So, after visiting the first of the 2 stores we were going to look at, I had a minor meltdown. I knew that anything I was going to find was going to have to be altered and that was if I found something in the first place. My BF dragged me over to some couches where we just sat and talked and cried. Well, I cried but he was so kind and understanding. He sees me in such a different light than I see myself and it’s amazing.

In the end, we didn’t find any swimsuit top that would work, so I decided an old bra and tank top would work for now, but the bonding experience we had was definitely worth the struggle we went through just in looking. I can’t believe I’ve found this amazing guy who is willing to deal with my ups and my downs and it’s amazing that he wants to be with me. I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

PS: Don’t teach BF any more coping skills!!! He knows way too much about rumination, and is consistently reminding me of when I do it already!! 🙂

5/12
I’m heading to vacation this week. I’m so excited to have a couple of days to relax and help my grandparents. I still haven’t found a swimsuit but that’s ok. I’ll just wear a bra and tank top. It’s not very warm out anyway so maybe the extra layers will help. I’m excited to get away from life for even just three days and spend some time out on the water. It always helps me relax and I always feel better afterward.

5/14
I only feel important, like I’m a priority when I’m needed/wanted for help with something. At least within my family, I feel like they only want me around when they need me to do something for them. Otherwise, I just feel like I’m in the way or I get the feeling that they want me to go away. I know that they don’t always like that I’m so open about my depression and my life on this blog but I just never understood hiding things. And I’m hoping that being more open about my struggle will help others with depression and promote understanding to those without it.

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Friends

When I was little, I didn’t have very many friends. I usually had the one requisite best friend and that is who I would hang out with. For some reason though, eventually this best friend would move and I would spend time in limbo before finding a new friend. This happened many times from 1st grade all the way through high school.

I was always on the fringe of any groups. Now that I’m older, I feel like I spent my childhood chasing after the other kids on the playground. I would invite girls to my birthday parties and they would attend but I wasn’t always include in outside events. As we got older, it became even more apparent to me that I didn’t belong.

My middle school years, 5th and 6th grade, I felt like even more of an outsider. In 5th grade, I became the teacher’s pet just so I could go back to my classroom instead of going out to recess. The few times I remember going to recess, I recall sitting in front of an old tree stump that was disintegrating and picking at it, watching all of the other kids. I tried joining in a couple of times but I honestly felt like I wasn’t wanted.

By high school the differences were even more pronounced. I wasn’t into fashion and I wasn’t ‘boy-crazy’. I was a musical nerd who enjoyed her classes and joined every extracurricular choral group possible. After I turned 16, I got a job but I still didn’t feel like I fit in. Looking back at pictures of myself from high school, I feel like I’m on the edges; on the outside looking in.

I’ve felt this way my entire life. I’ve often been told it’s because I’m more mature than others my age or that I ‘had an old soul’. But while that is great advice, as a kid, I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted to be part of the group; to feel wanted and involved.

Today, I don’t have many friends, but I cherish the ones I do. They are important to me because I know how much it sucks to not be  invited or to be forgotten or ignored. I want my friends to know that I appreciate that they are willing to be there for me, especially on days when my depression attempts to get the best of me. My friends are my support and for that, I thank them.

To My Boyfriend

To My Boyfriend:

I’m sorry. I know that it is difficult for you to understand my depression and what it can do to me. And I love that you want to understand and that you are making an effort to see past my depression to me. I don’t know what you see in me that you insist is so amazing and great and I might never see it but I’m glad that you do.

I love that you’re uplifting even when I’m at my worst. You refuse to let me begin my destructive circular thinking and you want me to succeed. You believe in me when I can’t.

You’re a good man. You have so much going for you and I often think that you can do so much better than a mess like me, but you insist that I’m the one who is out of your league.

I can be myself around you and not worry that you’re going to walk away. I miss you when we’re not together and I look forward to every time I get to see you. I’m looking forward to see what life has in-store for us. I’m hopeful, which is saying something for me.

I’m grateful that you’re there for me when I’m down and when I’m not. You’re a wonderful person, and I hope that we can grow together. Hopefully, one day I’ll be better and my good days will outnumber the bad. Until then, all I ask is patience.

Please understand that I am fighting. I want to get better and sometimes I can’t see that light at the end of the tunnel, but you say that it’s there and I’m willing to believe you. Hopefully we can reach that light together.

Thank you for everything you’ve done so far and everything that I’m sure you’re going to do. I appreciate it more than I can say. Thank you.

Acceptance

Acceptance is important in your life. It allows you to make peace with the your past and move forward with your life. The first step to acceptance is learning what acceptance is versus what it is not.

Acceptance is not forgiveness, forgetting, letting it go, being ok, denial, allowing it, agreeing with it or understanding.

Acceptance is making space, letting yourself off of the hook, especially from suffering and ‘It is what it is’.

There are 10 steps towards acceptance.

  1. Honor the full sweep of your emotions.
    1. Seek to fully feel your emotions and express those emotions that you feel. Understand your emotions, thoughts & embrace them as valuable feedback for your life.
  2. Give up your need for revenge but continue to seek a just resolution.
    1. Let go of your natural instinct to hurt back or take revenge from the person who hurt you. Revenge will give you a false sense of power over another, however this power is considered ‘cheap thrills’ & will ultimately hurt you more over time. Mindfully turn away from retaliation and look to empower, grow & strengthen yourself.
  3. Stop obsessing about the injury and re-engage with life.
    1. Gain awareness to stop & replace repetitive toxic thinking patterns which only cause ongoing distress, trauma and harm. You have to create a conscious awareness and be mindful.
  4. Protect yourself from further abuse.
    1. Accepting the wrongness of the actions allows you to learn how to distance and protect yourself in the future. Use the pain of the experience to learn & grow and take precautions to ensure your safety in the present and future. Make changes.
  5. Frame the offender’s behaviour in terms of their own problems and personal struggles
    1. Try to see things from the offender’s point of view. The wrongful actions are about the person who acted wrongly. “Their neediness to feel important by tearing others down”. The more you know about them and their situations, the more you won’t take their behavior personally. Never let another person’s actions dictate how you feel about yourself.
  6. Look honestly at your own contribution to the injury.
    1. Examine how your actions, approach & choices may have contributed to the situation.This is not about blaming yourself. Authentically examine your own life, self & issues to look at how your own fears, past experiences and beliefs, etc, prevented you from seeing that you deserved so much better. That you didn’t deserve to be hurt. Allow the pain of experience to teach you that you are more than a victim. The person who most needs your forgiveness is yourself.
  7. Challenge your false assumptions about what happened.
    1. Identify and challenge any limiting beliefs or false assumptions. Identify toxic or limiting patterns, and don’t edit or rationalize these ideas. Ask yourself, ‘Is it true? What toxic thinking pattern does it fall under? What limiting belief underlies this thinking? It is an empowering or a limiting belief?’ Is this typical of your thinking? If so, why? If not, why are you thinking in this manner?
  8. Look at the offender apart from his offense, weighing the good against the bad.
    1. Look at the person separate from their actions. Also look at the person & their behaviors for their impact on you and your life. Has their impact been mostly positive or negative?
  9. Decide carefully what kind of relationship you want in the future with the person who wronged you.
    1. How do you relate to this person overall? Is reconciliation possible? If not, is it possible to even interact with the person? Is forgiveness an option? Be gentle with yourself & take time to sort through your emotions. Learn to trust yourself and your feelings.
  10. Forgive yourself for your own failings.
    1. Fully forgive yourself for any of your own mistakes or failings related to the situation. As Maya Angelou has said, “When you know better, you do better”. Your mistakes or failings stem from ingrained old ways of getting your universally human need to matter met. Forgiving yourself will make it easier to let go of obsessive thinking patterns, such as blaming yourself for what happened, which would only keep you from living your life fully engaged with the people and activities you love.

Learning to accept situations, especially ones that are out of your control, will give you more control over your own life. Acceptance is not forgiveness but rather the willingness to allow yourself to learn from the experience rather than allowing the situation to continue to harm you.

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

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

My Dream

“I have a dream….”1 Ever since Martin Luther King Jr. uttered those words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, they have had a unique meaning. But in all honesty, I do have a dream. I have a dream that mental health will be regarded without stigma and prejudice. I have a dream that one day, people will realize that mental health is important and a mental illness is a disease much like cancer. However, unlike cancer, mental illness does not generally show major physical symptoms. There is no hair loss, no chemo or radiation treatments and a mentally ill person does not look physically sick. But this does not mean that they are not suffering just as much.

I truly believe that depression and mental illness is a disease. It’s like getting a tumor; it’s not your fault. Are you going to turn around and tell a person with a tumor or cancerous growth that it’s their fault for getting that? Would you tell a person with a broken leg to ‘just get over it’? Why would you do the same to a mentally ill person who also is struggling with the question; ‘Why me?’.

My dream is to start a nonprofit foundation to not only help those with mental illness, but to also fight the stigmas and cliches that have permeated the idea of mental illness. Those with depression and anxiety are sick, not lazy, crazy or faking it.

The name for this nonprofit would be ADAPT. Advocates for Depression Awareness, Progress & Tolerance, all of which is needed in the field of mental health. If I can educate or bring awareness to those who don’t understand depression, progress and tolerance will follow.

Martin Luther King Jr’s most famous words were uttered that day. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.1 Today, people are still judged by their looks and actions rather than their character. So let me ask you, how do you want to be judged? Or do you even want to be judged at all?

I have a mental illness; this makes me sick and I can’t just ‘get over it’ and I’m not ‘being lazy’. There are days that I struggle to make through. There are habits and behaviors that I have to change, but this is not a disease that I have to fight alone. Just as people support friends and family with cancer, people also need to support and help those with mental illness.

So my dream, to start a nonprofit; ADAPT, could change the world. I want it to change the world and I want it to change your mind about mental health.

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech “I Have A Dream”

Me Against the World

I often feel like it is me against the world. Mental health is still stigmatized, at least one hundred years after it was first considered a legitimate clinical diagnosis. I feel like people, including my family, look at me and see that I look normal and therefore think that there is no possible way that I could be sick.

I often wish that mental illness was like cancer, where you end up in the hospital or at least you look sick. I consider depression to actually be a cancer, but because you don’t look sick everyone says “you’re fine” and should just “get over it.”

There are times when I feel like crying for absolutely no reason. Or my mood will change at the drop of a hat. One little thing could trigger me, like it did today, and there goes my good or at least, baseline mood and I have to fight to get it back.

Today I walked into work and we have a log book so that each shift can know what major things happened in previous shifts. Unfortunately, this log-book is mostly used to list complaints and to nitpick people’s job performances. I worked my butt off last night, with the hotel being at almost full capacity and I feel like I did the best that I could possibly do. I walk into work today and there is a list of complaints of things that didn’t get done or weren’t done satisfactorily. My mood immediately went south. I was frustrated, I was angry and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. It took me 4 hours to bring me back to baseline. Four hours to come to terms with the fact that they were nitpicking because they wanted to find something wrong. Almost like they had to find something wrong. And now I’m starting to feel sorry for them and I wonder what misery in their lives is causing them to take it out on us at work.

I realize that I make snap judgements about things and emotions. I decide within seconds how I want to feel about something and it takes hours of turning it over in my mind, to change how I feel. I need to learn and I’m trying to learn to take my time to ride the wave of my emotions and not just settle on feeling only one, especially a negative one.

So while I often feel like it’s me against the world, in reality it’s not. I have many people rooting for me to succeed and many people believe in me and believe that I can get better; that I can become a healthier person.

Even in treatment, I feel like i’m struggling to tread water while I’m surrounded by boats of people, all shouting vague suggestions to me, including swim harder. All of these people are shouting suggestions at me rather than trying to help me into the boat. It’s like they’re afraid that helping me might tip their own boat over. But that’s not true. They just don’t understand.

So to that end, I’m writing these posts to promote understanding. Because I want the people in my life to at least partly understand what I’m going through. But I don’t think people understand how stressful it is to explain what’s going on in your head when you don’t even understand it yourself. But I’m going to keep on trying and struggling to promote awareness, progress and tolerance. There needs to be a change. We need to ADAPT!!!

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.