I Hate My Brain

Ever have a long day and think to yourself you deserve a treat? So you get ice cream and start to feel better? That sounds normal to me. My problem is that I think I deserve a treat multiple times a day. I constantly want to feel good. To feel happy. I compulsively eat to get that high and, enjoy that “treat.” Then I feel sick. After I’ve recovered, I look for another treat, forgetting how sick I felt earlier. It’s a vicious cycle.

I do this a lot but especially when the kids are away at my mother-in-law’s. I tell myself that I need to relax, enjoy the quiet and that I need to feel good. Last night, even after I had a big dinner, I sat there thinking of what I could eat that would make me feel good. And I even tried many things, despite being uncomfortably full already. M&Ms didn’t work. Neither did peanut butter crackers, ice cream or SweeTARTS.

But there is nothing I can eat that will make me truly happy.

Now, I’m trying to give myself a break because I am in need of an ECT treatment, which is scheduled for Friday. Usually the week before treatment I run out of gas, and I try to cope however I can. BUT this doesn’t just happen in the weeks leading up to treatment. This happens all the time, even when I’ve just had an ECT.

So I pose this question, “Why do I feel the need to be happy all the time?” Honestly, that question was asked by my therapist last week. She following up with, “Can’t we sit with other emotions? Nobody is happy every minute of the day.”

And she’s right. We don’t need to be happy every minute. I think my problem is that I HATE being uncomfortable, so I’ll do anything to push those negative emotions aside. Emotions like anxiety, stress, anger or sadness. It’s clearly not working for me to ignore these problems, and even if overeating has helped in the past, it sure as hell is not working now.

This may sound strange, but I think I need to acknowledge and honor whatever feelings I’m having. Maybe I need to grab my journal whenever I’m feeling negative emotion, talk about what’s going on and then release that feeling. I don’t know.

All I know if that I need to stop coping by bingeing. It’s made me gain a bunch of weight and really, aren’t I just eating my emotions?

Sometimes I really hate my brain, which I hold responsible for my debilitating-at-times depression and anxiety. I hate that it doesn’t respond to other treatments. I hate that my mental health is so precarious, and I resent that I have to be so careful as to not disturb it. I hate that happiness seems so fleeting at times. I’m not a big fan of my eating disorder either.

I don’t like to say hate; It forces a dichotomy with the idea that I should love and respect myself. I’m trying really hard to love myself, even almost 30 pounds heavier and a handful of mental disorders. But I feel betrayed by my brain. I know I need to reconcile those ideas. I know there is more benefit in loving all of me. I’ll get there. Despite everything that my brain has thrown at me, I’ve only become stronger. Take that, asshole.

And there are times that I think God made me this way because He thought I could handle it. I can, and I will. I remember this quote: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” I don’t mean to sound haughty, but maybe He knew I would use my voice and (hopefully) help others through my writing. That’s why I can’t stop blogging so much about mental health; there are so many who feel alone and haven’t found their voice yet. I certainly don’t mind lending mine in the meantime.

I guess my brain is just as much a blessing as a curse.

Millennials and Anxiety

I was on the phone with my mom yesterday when I brought up one of my cousins and how she too struggles with severe anxiety. Hers is so severe that she has had to drive herself to the ER because of panic attacks. Then my mom mentioned two other cousins who suffer from anxiety. My mom and I joked about how so many of us had anxiety and said that if she had mentioned having a headache or being nervous about something, she would be told, “You’re too young to have headaches or be nervous.” Basically, she and her seven other siblings would’ve been brushed off or told to suck it up. Not because her parents were mean or anything, that was just how it was back then. Because of this, my mom’s generation didn’t talk about feelings. I guess they bottled it all up or coped in other ways.

I had joked about it, but it got me thinking: why are so many Millennials (those born 1981 to 1996) so anxious? Why do (most) of us feel free to share their feelings and struggles when our own parents were taught not to? Do we overthink things? Am I overthinking this blog?

I don’t think so, lol.

Fun fact: Anxiety wasn’t even officially recognized as a condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 1980, so I get why there’s resistance among older generations to acknowledge it as a real disorder/disease, but it now affects more than 40 million Americans — it’s a serious and widespread disorder.

The American Psychological Association reports that 12 percent of Millennials have officially been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder—almost twice the percentage of Boomers who have been similarly diagnosed. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association also released a report in 2018 that showed that diagnoses of mental disorders had risen dramatically by 33 percent since 2013, and millennials make up 47 percent of that figure. 

“Millennials have seen two major economic collapses, higher rates of divorce among their parents, a skyrocketing student loan crisis and a widening gap between the rich and the poor,” according to culture critic Kalev Rudolph.

Byrdie.com says, “While every generation tends to believe that they lived through the hardest times, the spike in anxiety levels among millennials shows that they are indeed going through more periods of stress than generations before them.”

When talking to one of my besties, she mentioned that watching the shuttle explode in Kindergarten changed her, as well as watching the Twin Towers fall in high school. Understandably, it takes a toll. Some people may roll their eyes at what I’m saying because people say that Millennials are weak and spoiled. And while I personally can’t dispute the spoiled part, I can dispute the weak part. So many of us were taught to keep things inside and not be vulnerable, but also many of us have embraced being vulnerable and authentic in what we feel and struggle with. That’s not a weakness — it takes a very strong person to share her struggle and be open about what she’s going through.

It wasn’t easy for me to “come clean” about my major depression, anxiety disorder, eating disorder, personality disorder and suicidal thoughts. It wasn’t easy, because the stigma of depression and (other mental disorders) is still very prevalent in the U.S. That stigma is what kept me quiet during my struggles, which only made it worse. It’s lonely when you’re fighting a disease you can’t talk about with anyone. And now, people congratulate and sing my praises because I do share so much — and I’m beyond grateful for that. But it shouldn’t be that way — everyone suffering with depression or another mental disorder should feel supported and free to share their experiences.

So, no — Millennials aren’t weak, and Boomers/Gen Xers aren’t stronger for keeping their problems to themselves. I acknowledge that those generations were taught to “suck it up” and keep it to themselves. That’s what they knew and how they coped. I don’t mean to sound condescending, but they didn’t know any better.

But now, we know better — we’ve evolved…not as much as I’d like, but we’re getting there.

It’s not a coincidence that so many of my female first cousins suffer from severe anxiety. Obviously, there’s a genetic component but what else is at play? Personally, my parents never told me to suck it up or not to be honest about my mental disorders. But somewhere along the way — and I suspect it’s the true for my cousins — we were taught to aspire to a certain image (i.e. being skinny). I know this to be true because I’m not the only one in my family with an eating disorder. Also, that ideal didn’t include admitting to mental illness, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, etc. I suspect that’s why I stayed quiet about my issues so long. I can’t speak for my wonderful cousins.

It’s nice to know that I’m not some genetic anomaly (although that could be debatable), because it can be so lonely to fight anxiety alone. I’m in good company — my cousins are all successful, kind, empathetic, loving women who fight just as hard as I do on a daily basis. I so badly want us to come together, share our experiences and support each other.

That’s the hallmark of our generation — strength and empathy.

Not So Fun Times in Texas

We live in Corpus Christi in South Texas. Because we’re a South Texas coastal town, we don’t see much cold weather. Not like we have this past week. Temps have been well below freezing, then it rained. Ice was on the roads and pipes burst, making our water undrinkable. We haven’t had any power since Monday at 4 a.m. It’s actually like this in most of the state. And it’s been a complete shit show.

Mentally, I was doing OK, despite having been locked in my house with my kids all week with nothing to do. Despite not being able to go anywhere. Despite having power in only parts of the house (which is better than most, believe it or not). That was all until yesterday. Yesterday morning, I found myself losing my temper more with the kids and generally was in a pissed off mood. Then I got word that there would be no school for the rest of the week, which I expected but dreaded. My kids have been fighting all week long, and I just have no more to give today.

This week has just been shitty for millions of Texans. As I was talking to a friend about it, she said something along the lines of, “I am not good in these situations where nothing is routine or normal at all.”

And, boy did I feel that.

I too am a creature of habit. I get bent out of shape when even the slightest thing is off about my routine. I don’t like the unexpected. Hell, I don’t even like surprises most of the time, even if they’re good. When the pandemic hit last year, I thought I was going to lose my mind every single day. And yes, I did eventually adapt and we started a new routine. But with this shit this week, I have not adapted. I don’t enjoy sponge baths, I don’t enjoy having to entertain my two small children every minute of the day and I don’t enjoy being trapped inside the house (we can’t even take a car ride because of the icy roads). But this isn’t because I’m a creature of habit — this is because of debilitating anxiety.

My anxiety (a product of Generalized Anxiety Disorder) is more than a little nervousness about some things — it exhausts me, it makes me think worst-case scenarios about anything and everything about my life and it gives me panic attacks. That’s normal for me, in normal situations. In situations such as the one we’re in now, it’s so much worse. Little things, like repetitive noises and messes, send me over the edge. It’s hard to calm down once I’m already triggered, and it’s really hard to keep my composure in front of the kids, which I do attempt. It affects me mentally and physically. I’m exhausted and very tense. I’m so tired and frustrated, that I said “fucking” in front of the kids and my mother in law. My kids have definitely expanded their vocab this week.

I know it’s temporary and will all be over soon, but it doesn’t change how I feel. Some things are just harder for people with anxiety. I don’t wish it on anyone.

I had such high hopes for this week, because it’s my birthday week. Now, I’ll be lucky if they get the power back on by Saturday, lol. But I do know that it will all be OK soon. School will start back up Monday, and things will get back to normal. I’ll appreciate the structure and routine so much more than I did before.

If you have a loved one with anxiety, ask how you can support them. Avoid statements like, “calm down” or “don’t worry.” I always feel misunderstood and brushed off when my anxiety is met with statements like that. An anxiety disorder can be quite debilitating and should be considered serious. I have friends who have had a panic attack and had to go to the ER it was so bad.

I hope you are all warm and safe. If you’re not, I’m saying prayers for you.

Stay in the light, my friends.

Fragile…Like a Bomb

Last Friday, I had an ECT, so I was a little, rather a lot, out of it Friday and Saturday morning. I did something I haven’t done in well over a year —  forgot to take my meds. I got out of routine and just plum forgot. ECT can do that to you. 

Yesterday morning, as I struggled to get up and get going, I noticed my mistake and took my pills as I should, but a cloud of guilt and uncertainty followed me. 

I noticed a change in my demeanor almost immediately. I started my period (I missed my birth control as well as my psych meds).  I felt exhausted, scared and sad. I couldn’t believe a simple mistake could shake me this hard. I wanted to crawl in a hole and avoid my responsibilities and not think that this past ECT was a waste of time and energy. 

It hurts to admit this but my mental health is so fragile — not weak — but fragile like a bomb. I’ll do whatever it takes not to explode. Nobody wants a repeat of 2019, least not me. 

It’s just so frustrating that I do everything I can to maintain my mental health and just three days of missed meds can sink me down so low. It’s baffling to me. And it was an ECT that made me forget!! That’s what drives me crazy. I was doing shock therapy so that I’m the best version of myself, yet it made me forget my meds. For those of you who don’t know, retrograde amnesia is common after a treatment as well as confusion and disorientation.

In therapy this morning I told my therapist what had happened and that I felt overwhelmed because I’ve been trying so hard, but it feels like it doesn’t matter. She said something that struck a chord — that I can’t stand to feel uncomfortable. Not for one minute. And that I always tend to look at the bad in the situation while forgetting the good.

She’s right. Whenever I do feel uncomfortable, I try to stave that feeling off by letting my compulsions take over — overeating, shopping and other self destructive behavior. And I do it all just so I can feel good. But why do I feel the need to feel good and happy all the time? Nobody feels that way all the time, even someone with a “normal” brain.

She also said I needed to delay my gratification, that I’m all about a quick, easy fix, “instant gratification,” but that’s how a child thinks. She’s right about that, too.

Yes, I forgot my meds on accident. Yes, I feel uncomfortable and uncertain, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. I should continue to take my meds and take care of myself in other ways because taking care of myself only benefits me and my family/friends. The end result will be worth it. Logically, I know it will.

I don’t know if this blog makes any sense or if it has a point, but that’s OK for me today. I’m blogging and reflecting on/dealing with my experiences and feelings in a healthy way.

There is a lot of maintenance and self care I have to keep up with because of my brain’s stupid and ineffective wiring, but instead of getting overwhelmed with it all I have to appreciate everything good in my life and just take everything in baby steps. Maybe that’s what everyone does? I don’t know.

My therapist did say it was important for me to go back next week, lol. So, maybe I’ll learn more then.

Thanks for reading. Stay in the light, my friends.

8 Reasons I Have Anxiety On Any Given Day

Everybody has anxiety, but there are those who experience anxiety for prolonged periods of time and every day. Unfortunately, I fall into that category.

For the most part, my anxiety is controlled through medication and relaxation techniques. Mostly medication, though. Therapy also helps.

Some days I’m completely fine, but others are marred by anxiety and panic. When I start to experience anxiety, it starts small, like with a feeling that I forgot something or that something bad is going to happen. Then comes the obsessive thoughts, “What am I forgetting? What if a loved one is mad at me? Why did I say that stupid thing yesterday?” I might start to catastrophize or have intrusive thoughts that I’m going to die or my loved ones are going to die. My heart races and pounds. There are butterflies in my chest. If I can’t quell these thoughts, I have a panic attack where it’s hard to breathe. Thankfully, I haven’t had a panic attack in awhile, but the obsessive and intrusive thoughts are still there and can be difficult to manage. The thoughts are constant and almost every day.

I know anxiety affects people differently; this is only my experience, but I wanted to share a list of what gives me anxiety on a daily basis. Also, I wanted to point out that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the U.S., affecting up to 40 million people. That’s huge.

OK, here’s my list:

  1. Loud noises — It doesn’t matter what it is — my kids being loud, a pan being dropped, the TV volume — loud noises always put me on edge. So do repetitive noises. My anxiety not only manifests with obsessive thinking and physical symptoms, but also it makes me very irritable. I start to raise my voice when I shouldn’t or I snap at my husband or the kids. Sometimes I feel the urge to chunk something against the wall.
  2. I’m out of routine — I thrive in routine. Nothing makes me happier than doing the same thing everyday and doing it the same way. It helps prevent my anxiety, because I know exactly what’s coming up and what I need to do. Of course, it’s not very realistic to do the same thing the same way every single day. There are always kinks, and I deal with those but they usually put me on edge.
  3. Stress — This is kind of a no-brainer, but if something stressful is going on (like moving to a new house or the holidays ), I start to get irritable and panic.
  4. Interrupted or not enough sleep — I’m one of those people who just needs nine to 10 hours of sleep a night. Of course, I don’t get that, but it feels like I’m running on empty if I’m operating on fewer than seven hours. When I’m interrupted (which I often am), my anxiety flares up because then I start to think about not getting back to sleep or not getting enough sleep.
  5. Too much caffeine — I’m really bad about drinking too many Diet Cokes, as I often do when I don’t get enough sleep (Eli is on a 5 a.m. wake up call these days). I chug and chug until I feel some energy, but then my anxiety goes into overdrive.
  6. Conflict — I do not like conflict. I guess most people don’t, but I stress out so badly if I have to confront someone or if there’s any discord. The obsessive thoughts start to cycle and my thoughts race. Thoughts like, “Maybe I should say this? I wonder if they don’t like me now. Am I being mean?” I’ll play conversations over and over in my head, and the stress just mounts up.
  7. Not enough alone time — I need alone time. When I have quality alone time, I feel recharged. During this sacred time, I don’t want anyone touching me, because I’m touched out usually by the kids. I don’t even let the cats on me during alone time. I do things that I enjoy, whether it’s take a hot shower or bath, watch TV, read, etc. When I don’t get alone time, I get so short-fused. See a theme?
  8. Uncertainty — I’m sure this is a trigger for many, many people. Because I thrive on routine and structure, I’m not good with uncertainty. Take the pandemic, for example. When we were doing the quarantine at home, I was so stressed. I worried about the kids falling behind in school, our financial situation, whether we were going to get sick, when I was ever going to be alone again, among many other things. I know I’m not alone in this. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our collective mental health, but thankfully, there’s light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines becoming available.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the most common triggers I have. I hope that if you have a loved one who suffers with an anxiety disorder, you have a little more insight with this blog. Please treat anyone who has an anxiety disorder with respect and never downplay their symptoms and feelings.

If you have anxiety, I recommend getting a weighted blanket. When I’m starting to panic, I get my blanket and put most of the weight on my chest. It instantly makes me feel a bit better and I feel safe. I prefer this to meditating or breathing exercises.

Any questions? Drop them in the comments.

Stay in the light, my friends.

The Camera Adds 10 Pounds

This weekend I’ve eagerly awaited the arrival of our annual family photos. This year we opted to do them inside our new home, so I’ve been dying to see how they turn out.

I’ve also been dreading the new photos. It’s no secret that I’ve gained almost 20 pounds since the onset of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to see, especially in our family photos.

I know it’s been hard on everyone, and a lot of people have gained weight. I know that I should love myself no matter what. I hear others say that I’m beautiful no matter what, but my anxiety and eating disorders speak louder. They always have.

Because we just moved in, a couple of our bathrooms don’t have mirrors hung yet. At first it was annoying but now I’m relieved I don’t have to look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter how much positive self talk I spew — I just don’t like what I see. My weight is tied to my confidence, and sadly, my self worth. Right now, it feels like I’m worth nothing.

The family photos will just confirm what I’ve already been telling myself: I’m ugly, fat and unworthy.

Except, here’s the thing — my daughter is watching. And listening. If I admit these truths aloud, she will for sure hear them. And my voice will become her inner voice. My actions will becomes hers as well, and I’ll be damned if she cultivates this ugly self-hate that’s just rotting my worth and self-esteem.

I’ve talked about this before, many times. I have to change the way I talk to myself, treat myself. I’m raising kids, but really my goal— and what all our goals should be — is to raise healthy adults. I don’t know much about that, but I have my missteps to guide me.

The first thing I’m going to do is post the family photos — no matter what they look like. I’ll frame a couple in my house, not just because I’m trying to set a good example, but because damn, that’s what I look like now. This is what my family looks like after nine months of a deadly pandemic. We have survived, and even if I survived in a way that led to tighter clothes and an expanding waistline, I’ve survived. And that’s all that matters.

I want to thank Jennifer Stewart for capturing out family in our new loving home. I want to thank my body for supporting me during this time. I want to say that I do love myself and I’ll try harder to love it no matter my size. They say the camera adds 10 pounds, but maybe it’s time I stopped buying into that.

That I stop buying into diet culture and equating being then to being happy. I need to be happy now, instead of waiting until I’m a certain weight. Fuck that.

I’m going to be happy now, because both my daughter and son are watching. And that’s OK that they’re watching — it’s OK that they see me struggle, and even when I’m sad, but they’ll also see the fight in me, the determination and my grit. I’m all for them seeing me as human, because I am — just a perfectly imperfect human. That’s all we can be.

Edit: Our family photos were not available at the time of publication. I will add them in once I receive them.

Same Shit, Different Day

I watch the same TV shows over and over.

I listen to music from 30 years ago.

I eat the same things every week, without much deviation.

And that’s OK with me. Others, I know, need variation and to experience new things, but new things just throw me for a loop. I blame my oppressive anxiety — it’s just so comforting rewatching my favorite shows rereading my favorite books. There are no surprises lurking, waiting to send me into a panic attack or obsessive thinking. I actually hate surprises, which drives my husband crazy because he loves trying to surprise me.

But I love order, safety and comfort. It’s not boring to me. It’s home. It’s away to control my intrusive and obsessive thoughts. It’s emotional and mental control, and again, I’m OK with that.

Last weekend we moved into our new house. Don’t get me wrong — I was looking forward to it, but I soon discovered that everything was different. I didn’t know how to work the kids’ bathtub nozzles (they had two different ones) and I couldn’t figure out which light switches worked what. I think that’s normal, but it was especially frustrating for me.

It’s like that with almost every new experience, especially meeting new people. I definitely hate that, but experiencing new things are essential to live, lol. And I must do them, even if I don’t like it. I try and remember that when my children are confronted with new things — it sucks, but they have to do it. Our survival depends on it.

As much as I love my routine and structure, there’s something to be said for trying a new meal (and liking it!), reading a new book and watching a new movie. That’s how things become your favorite, but you have to try.

I’ll continue to listen to music from 30 years ago — I have a new speaker system on which to play it. I’ll likely be watching Friends when I get some alone time. And don’t think I won’t be rereading my favorite books: Summer Sisters, She’s Come Undone and The Red Tent.

And that’s OK, because I’ll be trying new things, too. It’s all a fine balance.

Stay in the light.

Addiction: Pills, Sedation and Numbness

It started with wanting to escape – the need and yearning to feel something other than pain every single day. At least, that’s how it was in my case.  

When I first tried Klonopin (Clonazepam), I truly needed help with my anxiety, which got worse after having my two kids, but it didn’t help with my anxiety, so much as it made me avoid my anxiety. With it, I became a more tolerable version of me – a sedated one. Klonopin is categorized as a benzodiazepine, which works to calm or sedate a person by raising the level of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.

With Klonopin, I didn’t care about my flaws, but looking back I see that I didn’t care about anything. It all just melted away. After a while, I began taking the pills to feel nothing and not for my anxiety, and it was always more than I should’ve taken. My depression and anxiety kept worsening.

I eventually built a tolerance to it, and after the kids would go to bed, I’d take six or seven a night just to get a high. I should say a low, because no matter how many pills I’d take, I’d always return to myself, where I didn’t want to be.

I didn’t mean to get addicted. I don’t even know if I’d use the word “addicted” so much as I’d say I abused the pills. I just couldn’t stop chasing that delicious feeling that I wasn’t actually myself and the warm flush of the medicine wiping away my dark, and sometimes scary, thoughts.

It’s sad when I think about it. I wonder if all addicts feel the same way, that they just want to be someone else. They just need to escape.

Even now, I catch myself longing for those pills, or rather for the ability to escape. It’s so alluring, going to a warm, happy place inside of you. But that place doesn’t really exist. Any happiness I might’ve felt was always frustratingly temporary. At midnight, I’d just turn back into a pumpkin – a sad, rotting pumpkin, with no glass slipper to speak of.

Now that I can’t rely on pills to make me feel better, I try to find other ways, but it’s no different than the pills. Everything is temporary. I might binge eat and take pleasure in the food that I eat, but that pleasure doesn’t last. Just another failed escape. It’s the same way with compulsive shopping – I always feel guilty for spending money, and the high of buying something disappears.

I’m sitting here wondering why the hell do I feel the need to escape? And I truly don’t know. I have a great life, with a great husband and amazing kids. We have a new house that’s truly a dream and I’ve never wanted for anything in my whole life. I’ve been fortunate, yet I know tonight I will take one of my anxiety pills (that I’m not abusing), and I’ll wish it would take off the edge.

My therapist has asked me the same question – why am I always trying to leave? Why do I crave a dissociative state?

And for once, I have no words.

Does anyone out there ever feel the same?

Stay in the light, friends. Stay present.

Real Me vs. Depressed Me

This past two weeks have been amazing. My demeanor has changed. My mood has lifted. And I’m able to do things that were near impossible before. The ECT treatment I had two weeks ago must have been a good one. I’ve seen a glimpse of my authentic self, who wants so badly to be set free from wherever she goes when a depressive episode hits. Before this past ECT, I was suicidal. I was unbelievably sad and anxious. I thought I was doing OK but I can see now that I wasn’t.

I didn’t recognize this feeling of joy and happiness, and I can’t tell you the last time I felt it either. I’m more familiar with “Depressed Me,” a slower, sadder, less efficient version of me, riddled with depression symptoms, who seems to be the reigning champion of my brain. But now that I am feeling happy and I see the “Real Me,” I’m going to fight tooth and nail for it. I refuse to go down without a fight. How I’m feeling and what I’m able to do right now — that’s worth fighting for.

In the mornings, I don’t immediately feel weighed down and already exhausted before even starting my day. I have energy and am excited about the day. The chores and tasks I absolutely have to get done don’t seem so taxing and annoying. Showering is now relaxing and not a daunting chore I’d put off for days (yes, days!). I don’t feel the need to stuff with my face with food that I don’t want or need, which is a battle for most everyone. I’m more cheerful and attentive to my kids. The Real Me is kind of a badass.

I could name so many more examples. I don’t know if it was the last ECT. I don’t know if it was a new medication I started the same day as my last ECT. I don’t know how long this will last, but again, I gotta make hay while the sun shines. And I have to fight.

Fighting looks like me not solely depending on my medication and ECT treatments. It means exercising, going to bed early, eating healthily, keeping a strict routine and reaching out the minute I feel like things are slipping. It sounds like a lot, or maybe it doesn’t, but I’m done with my rebellious, depressed part of me that refuses to comply with even the simplest of instructions.

When I’m not handicapped by severe depression, I’m so powerful. I radiate love and happiness. My writing flows onto paper, because my words are powerful, too. I utilize my limitless ability to care for my loved ones. I’m able to reach my full potential, instead of being a shadow or fraction of my true self. Like the phoenix, I am rising and there’s not a whole lot that can stop me.

Here are some examples of what the Real Me versus the Depressed Me are like:

The Real Me exercises, reaches out to friends, eats healthy foods, writes/blogs, goes outside, puts the TV remote down, reads for pleasure, sings all day (to the point where her family complains), cooks, bakes, showers, brushes her teeth, laughs loudly, plays with her kids even more, styles her hair, gets massages (or goes to any self-care appointment).

Depressed Me sleeps more, watches TV until having to get the kids, endlessly scrolls social media, gets in bed until she absolutely has to move, doesn’t shower, blows off doctors appointments, gives into sadness/anxiety, doesn’t smile as much, has a short fuse, is impatient and more.

Depressed Me goes to sleep at night because she can’t stand to be awake one second longer than she has to. She’s judgmental and mean about her appearance and body.

The Real Me looks forward to the future but enjoys the present.

I’m certainly enjoying right now, and although I’m cautious about the future, my outlook is finally optimistic.

As I’m writing this, I’m hoping that you don’t get the wrong idea about Depressed Me. While I would love not to experience depression and anxiety, I respect Depressed Me. She fights hard and doesn’t give into her suicidal thoughts. She’s a fighter. She’s scrappy. She has grit, and without her efforts, the Real Me wouldn’t appreciate what it’s like to be happy.

For that, I’m grateful.

To learn more about major depression and signs of depression, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website.

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website here.

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Me cheesing after a workout.
This is my happy face
.

A week ago I was in bad shape — severely depressed, anxious and suicidal. I went for an ECT treatment and my psychiatrist altered my medications. This week has been unbelievably better. I expected to feel a bit better because of how low I was, anything is an improvement when all you can think about is dying. What I didn’t expect was how good I’m feeling. I have energy, motivation, mental toughness and this fire in my belly that I haven’t felt in oh so long. I almost didn’t recognize it. Is this what it’s like to be happy?

Let me walk that back. I’m always happy with my life and everything I have. I’m so fortunate and grateful, even in times of deep depression. But this is something else — this is me acknowledging the “inner me,” my utmost self and she is fierce. She radiates happiness. She loves every inch of herself. She advocates for those who struggle with mental health. Her mission is to help and heal this world through whatever means possible (Tikkun Olam). She relishes in spending time with her family (for more the most part) and laughing loudly with her friends. She has grit.

I’ve been cleaning, planning and getting those annoying tasks on my to-do list checked off. That might not sound very fun but I’m doing it with joy because I just can’t do much when I’m so sad and fatigued.

This is what I aspire to and how I want to feel all the time but there are days where the only thing I can aspire to is getting dressed and taking care of the kids. But that’s OK. Not every day will be a good one but that’s exactly why I need to write this blog. I must remember this feeling when I’m down deep in the black pits of darkness and depression. I need to tell myself that happiness and wellness are attainable. That it’s possible to feel so good that your cheeks hurt from smiling and you can’t stop singing, despite complaints from your family. I just want to sing, for my heart to sing. I want to reach my potential. I want people to assume I’m manic (or on drugs, LOL) because I’m so productive and happy.

And maybe I am manic right now but I’m going to make sweet, sweet hay while the sun shines.

It’s a great day to be alive and not in bed. I cherish this day, this feeling and all of you who support me when I’m utterly depressed, manically happy and everything in between.

To learn more about depression and you can help others suffering, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.