Mental Health, Random

Sober November – Day 1

I’ve set some goals for my emotional and physical health that I started working on today (last night technically). I’d love for my WordPress family to cheer me along!

1. Sober November, Part 1. I mean this in a couple of ways. The first is the most obvious. I intend not to drink for the entire month. This seems easy to some, but I’m not sure it will be for me. I love me some whiskey! I don’t love me whiskey belly. So, while the guys aren’t shaving, I won’t be drinking. Mine is harder, I think.

2. Sober November, Part 2. My depression and anxiety have been getting the better of me again, contributing to the actions spurring goal #1. I nearly had a meltdown in my way home from work. That’s the second one this week. It’s Thursday! I need to relax more and chill out.

3. Lose 51 lbs. Those of you following along know of my weight battles. If you haven’t, here’s the recap. Out of high school, I weighed 185. I was always tormented for being fat, but looking back it was a comfortable weight. In college, I did the college diet of alcohol and ramen and the regimen of walking everywhere (The University of Maryland is built on a hill, so that was fun). Got down to 155. Got out of school. Got a desk job and took a happy combination of antidepressants and birth control pills. Blew up to 285 over the course of a few years. Got really into my health in 2015-2016 and lost 92, putting me at 193. Enter antidepressants again along with antipsychotics. Up 43. If I can meet by 100 pounds lost goal and get to 185, I’ll be happy. Back on the diet and already down 1.7 pounds this morning.

4. Related to that, I need to get back in the gym. I’ve been a lazy, depressed couch potato. Depression affects us in so many ways, doesn’t it?

5. Continue on this road to and through change, so I can be a happier person. Pick better friends, go on more dates, do things I love, and stop spending so much time alone.

Got my back out there? Lovely. I’ll keep you posted.

🖖🏾

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Mental Health, Random

Thoughts, Part 4

Apparently, yesterday’s post concerned more than one person. My bad, ya’ll. I just needed to vent.

In the past, I was never one to share my feelings. I would keep them bottled and let them fester deep until I lost my mind. I believe a lot of people are that way. I’m in my early 30s and I still struggle with sharing out of fear of what people will think or what they will say. Sometimes, I fear hearing the advice that I know I need. Sometimes, it’s lack of trust. Sometimes, it’s because I just don’t feel like talking.

I’m trying to curb that behavior.

I wrote yesterday about some deep feelings. The results of that were 1) I felt better for getting it all of my chest and 2) It helped someone else feeling the same way feel better. Unfortunately, I think it terrified some people. No need for that. We all have bad days, don’t we? Yes, I have people to talk to. Yes, I have a therapist. Yes, I’m on my meds (though I’m carefully weaning myself off of those). But, I won’t even attribute that post to mental health issues. I will attribute it to a couple of shitty things happening at the same time. You know what? That’s ok.

I’m learning to share. I’m loving this community of people that I’m getting to know through poetry, short stories, and even moreso, through their non-fictional stories. Do we question it when someone writes a very dark, concerning poem or story? Usually not. Well, I didn’t feel like putting all of that into the form a poem last night. Just wanted to get it out. I’ll have more bad days. I will share more with you. I’m baring my soul to all of you. It’s therapeutic for me and I’m actually happy to do it. We’re all going through a perpetual healing process because life constantly throws lemons and other bullshit at us.

So, yeah… yesterday was a bad day – the culmination of things on my mind. They aren’t on my mind anymore and I thank you for reading, listening, and caring. Lauren is good.

Mental Health, Poetry

Smile More

You look so serious

You used to smile more

You have resting bitch face

Guess I’m not wearing my mask anymore

Didn’t realize I’d taken it off

Suppose I no longer care

Fuck all this small talk

Ask me what’s going on, if you dare

People spend so much time on my face

Wondering but never asking what’s wrong

So, I walk on with my blank, bitchy face

Lost in my own private song

Mental Health, Random

Musings, Part I Don’t Know

“Now is the winter of our discontent.”

For some reason, this line echoes in my mind, alongside the ubiquitously quoted, “Winter is coming.” Winter is almost here. I’ve never been in fear of it before.

I can’t shake this state of depression that I’ve been in for the last year or so. I thought I had, but I find myself deeper in it. These last few days, my anxiety levels have been at an all time high. A couple days ago, I had to smoke half a cigarette just so I could sit still at work. It’s done wonders for my asthma.

I f ind myself at the edge of rumination, something that I struggle very hard with. I’m constantly stuck in the past, worried about something I said or did that I can do nothing about. That no one else is thinking about. I’m considering the consequences of it and making myself sad and angry at myself. I begin to think of myself as a bad person for the things that I’ve done that just purely… well, human. I remember my current therapist making that point to me when I first started seeing her. Do you that it had never occurred to me think that I simply was making human mistakes?

I am lonely. I want to date and I don’t want to. I wish that people met more organically these days. Remember when we used to walk up to someone on the street or in a bar and say, “Hi, how are you?” Shake hands. Exchange names and numbers go from there. Now, there’s so much pressure to have the right pictures, say the right things, divulge your entire personality in the matter of a couple of words and hope that you catch someone’s interest long enough to have a half-hearted conversation with you. Then the ones’ you do meet turn out to be something entirely different than how they portrayed themselves and they hurt you. I can only do this for a few weeks or so before I get bored of it all. I’m finally at a point where I refuse to settle for any man and his bullshit just to be with someone. All I really want is someone who is loyal and trustworthy. Why is that so difficult?

I want to find a depression support group. To be honest, though, I consider this little community it’s own form of a support group.

I remember moving from Florida to North Carolina in December. The cold weather and the snow hit me hard. It took me months to get out my depressed stupor. It’s occurred to me that I might have seasonal-affective depression. This is actually why I live in Florida. People ask me why I would live in this oppressive heat. Truth is, I’m happier when the sun’s out. I notice that when I leave my desk to take a break and go for a walk, I’m able to take deep breaths that I seemed to have been unable to take while sitting in front of my computer and physically (and probably visibly) relax.

But, lately, even that doesn’t help and I trade the sunshine for sitting in my apartment all day long watching cartoons. I’ve cut so many people out of my life that I have very few friends and I hate to burden the ones that I have with this perpetual mood, these clouds that I have over my head. They’ve noticed. They want the old Lauren back. F**k. I want the old Lauren back. Some parts of her anyway. But, I’m not entirely sure who she was or is.

Sometimes I fully believe that my experiences are due to karma because I get so into my head and believe that I have failed as a person. The way we treat ourselve sis vicious. I know this, but I can’t stop.

I watch these commercials on depression with people holding up happy faces in front of their actual faces like masks. I’m wishing I could go through life like that right now. I had a coworker recently get on me about having resting bitch face. I don’t think it occurred to her just ask me if I was ok. It doesn’t really occur to anyone these days, does it?

The hardest part is not being able to get my poetry out. I want so much to become a more creative writer and reach new heights with my poetry. One accomplishment is that I will have a poem published towards the end of this month! It will be my first. But, when I get into this space, the words don’t come unless there’s alcohol or 4am insomnia (see two posts ago). I wish that my mind could function well enough to write in all types of moods. Instead, I’m subjecting you to this devastating stream of consciousness.

Please forgive me.

Mental Health

Suicide Prevention Month/Day

It’s Self-Care Awareness month, Suicide Prevention Month, and Suicide Prevention Day. I felt like I should contribute something to the cause, so I will, in probably a rambling fashion, tell some of my story.

I’m not going to write the traditional post. It’s not going to end with the number to a hotline or by telling you that life is worth living. Every person has to come to that conclusion for themselves.

I grew up believing that suicide was a sin. In fact, I never really understood it. Why take away such a precious gift from God? Needless to say, it was something I judged others for. Well, now I don’t believe it is a sin (and I’m not sure I believe in God, either.)

I started struggling with depression, or at least I could put that word to my feelings, around 16. I hated my life and everything about it and wanted desperately for it to change. But, it never occurred to me to kill myself until I was 19 (2005-2006). I was going through some rough times with family, an ex-boyfriend, friends (or lack of them), and life, in general. I reached out to my congregation for help. They told me I would be fine. I’ve shared in previous posts that that was the day I shut down. That was the day I began to hope I would die.

I woke up everyday for the next year trying to decide how I would do it. Could I jump from my bedroom window? Maybe if I landed just right. Could I hang myself from my sheets? The knot might break. Could I down this bottle of ibuprofen? It might not be enough. Could I slit my wrists? It turned out that I didn’t have the courage. I tried to see if I could cut myself, but I was unable to. I confessed this to my parents, but the only thing that came out of it was loss of sleep for them. I began to drive more recklessly than usual. There is an old, windy road back home (or it was before they started building it up) that I could take to school, to congregation meetings. I would drive just a level below cautious. Maybe, I could make it look like an accident. I stopped talking to people. I retreated within myself.

I started getting professional help for my depression at around 20, in 2006. While the battle with depression raged continuously, the ideations settled down.

I had a love/hate relationship with Prozac, moved to North Carolina, gained 130 pounds, and began to deeply despise my job and getting up every morning.

I think one of the misconceptions that people have about mental health is believing that the things that trigger us are really unimportant. It’s amazing how simple a trigger can be. Also, what people don’t realize is how they can build up on each other. Mine were building rapidly. I stopped coming to work. I started to retreat again. My mood could change in a heartbeat (still does!).

The final trigger: There was a job that I really wanted. I found out that I didn’t get it and I, to my embarassement, wept in my boss’s office. I started to wonder why I bothered trying to improve my lot in life when nothing I did worked. What was the point?  Why continue? It just so happened that I had a therapist appointment that evening and I told her exactly that. She wanted me to promise that I wouldn’t harm myself when I got home? I would not. So, I spent 24 hours in the psych word at the hospital. Wouldn’t you know I actually enjoyed it? It was my first time around people that just got it. I didn’t have to explain myself or my feelings. In retrospect, I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity. I was working on my Master’s and I was too busy worrying about school to focus on my health and what landed me in the hospital in the first place. So, they let me out. It was enough to shake things up at work, though. This was March 2012. I was 25.

I’m overweight, miserable, don’t know what I want, and moved to Florida. I did ok for awhile, but as I said, I never really addressed my own issues. I had a fight with my father for the umpteenth time. I was missing my friends in North Carolina. I was unhappy with most aspects of my life and again I began to wonder what the point was. I was 27, single with no prospects, no children, not where I anticipated my life being. I would try to talk to my father about it, but blame always came back to me. I moved from therapist to therapist and from one medication to another and I was sick of it all. When I had that fight with my father (which wouldn’t be the last, unfortunately), I said to hell with it all. My 30th birthday surprise to the world was going to be to end my life. I wrote about it in my journal. For awhile, I was pretty content with that decision.

I moved back to NC and finally, in the deepest throes of depression, realized that I needed to get to know myself. I lost 93 pounds, got braces, became board President of a local art gallery, and friends with the mayor of the town. I felt something like happiness. And I felt that I needed to write that I would not kill myself at 30 because I had much to accomplish.

Since then, I’ve moved back to Florida, gained back 30 of those pounds (ugh!), been in an intensive outpatient therapy, and gotten a promotion at my job. Not in that order, but I put that way to show that the battle with depression is part of everyday life for some of us. It’s an ongoing struggle and we have to gird our loins for battle everyday we are able to get out of bed.

What can you do?

For starters, here’s what you don’t say to people suffering from mental health issues, particularly, depression, or suicidal ideations:

  1. Why can’t you just be happy? Life is beautiful. – Well, if it were that damn easy, believe me, we would do it. Whether it’s a chemical imbalance or something else, it’s not that simple. Saying this just pisses us off.
  2. It’s not that bad. It could be worse. – The point is that it doesn’t have to be. Everyone suffers for various reasons. Don’t judge triggers.
  3. Committing suicide is selfish. – To you, maybe. Most of us at the point of committing suicide, though, likely believe that those around us would be better off without us. We don’t want people to see us suffer and we don’t want to make others suffer because our brokeness has rubbed off. It’s not selfish, it’s self-sacrificing.
  4. You always seem happy to me. – I get this a lot. People seem to think I’m one big bottle of sunshine. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I’m faking it. That’s for you, not for me, because I don’t want you to see me sad. I don’t want to have the conversation about why I’m sad. I might always be smiling, but if you pay more attention to what I say, or don’t say, you’ll see I’m crying for help.
  5. Therapy is stupid. – This pisses me off. Why do people still think that you have to be crazy to see help? That it’s a weakness? It actually takes courage to see help for yourself and there have been a number of times for therapy has kept me from the edge.

There are many more, but I won’t go into them here.

So, that’s my story. I’m 32 now and still fighting and intend to keep on fighting. I hope that this story resonated with some of you and maybe helped a soul or two.

Mental Health, Random

Self-Care Awareness Month Activity – Day 1

Saw this on Annette Rochelle Aben’s page and figured I’d give it a try. Anyone willing to do it with me?

Today’s activity is to list all of your good qualities. Refer back to it twice a day.

1. I am a good listener.

2. I am generous.

3. I made it through school and have two engineering degrees.

4. I give good hugs.

5. I care about my friends and I make sure they know it.

6. I am kindhearted.

7. I make little gestures like giving gifts or kind words.

8. I am a leader.

9. Communication is one of my strongest qualities.

10. I motivate people to lead, work, and follow.

11. I see projects through to the end.

12. I can write fairly decent poetry.

13. I am open to new experiences.

14. I take care of myself on my own.

15. I am beautiful.

That was hard…

Mental Health, Poetry

Dictator

Depression at its worst
No, no
At its best!
It has sated itself
With my being
I am languid
Inert
There are things I could do
That I’ve no desire to do
There are things that I want to do
That I’ve no desire to do
My psyche is shattered
How can I be so shamed
By such an immovable
Intangible force
My willpower does not even
Begin to scratch the surface of it
In the battle of wits
It sees every move
Perceives every action
Predicts every counterattack
Beats me into the ground
Before I have the chance
To stand and say
No, not today
It says yes, today
Everyday
I am queen here
Ruler of your mind
Body, soul, and all else
She sits on thrones
Lavished in rich silks
Drinking fine wine
Having her feet alternatively
Washed and kissed
By those she walks upon
I hear the din of the feast music
From my cell below
Straining against bars and bonds
I am not my own person
Only a slave to this dictator
Free me
Take these shackles of my feet
I wish to dance

Mental Health, Random

Nameless

Old but timeless rant… I feel now I felt when I wrote it.

*****

It’s crazy how life is. Sometimes unimaginable what it does to you. Silly even. Everyone at some time or another thinks they know everything. Or if not everything, has some sort of expectation of what’s coming. You know what to feel and when to feel it. You know what you will wake up to. Tomorrow is promised and everything is just as you knew it would be. Knew it could be. Can’t nobody tell you nothing cause you’ve got it going on. Everything don’t change much. And then one not so special day, maybe because of an event or cause of nothing at all, there’s this feeling creeping in that you never felt before. It’s cold and unfamiliar. It doesn’t make sense. And suddenly you don’t know what you thought you knew. You know you exist but can’t tell if you’re alive. You know that you speak but don’t know if you’re words affect anyone. You know what you do but you don’t know the purpose. Mixed emotions are your day to day. Disquieting thoughts have become your comfort. Fantasy is your reality. Uncertainty is your way of life. Hell, you don’t even know your damn name. And you keep staring out the window trying to find what you lost but you don’t even know what that is and you hope the sky has the answers. But you’ve mastered pretending. You’re an artist and you can paint your face the way you want people to see it. The way you want people to think you are. They think they know. So you keep on feeling. You keep on doing. You keep on smiling. You keep on existing. Act like you still know it all. Skip in the hallways, show love and make the world laugh. Show off those big beautiful brown eyes and that one dimple you got from your mother. You’re just living like you always did cause everything don’t change much. And you don’t know if anyone realizes that you’ve completely lost your mind.

Mental Health

Awake, Part 14

Like many other nights, I’m wide awake long before I intend to get out of bed. You’re likely familiar with this. This is Part 14, after all…

For once, though, my mind is relatively quiet. I say relatively because those of us with depression, anxiety, and the like typically don’t know a truly quiet mind. In any case, I didn’t wake up in panic from my dreams (even though they were weird, as usual). I’m not in fear of going back to sleep. I’m not in fear of being awake with my thoughts.

For one blessed time, I’m just… Awake.

Progress?

Mental Health

Another Day, Another Diagnosis

As the years go by, more and more gets added to the fire:

Major Depressive Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (just a little)

Depression, Severe, Recurrent (I went up a notch!)

Then, recently, I was describing some recent behavior to my therapist and she says she thinks I had a manic episode. What does the doctor say today?

Bipolar Disorder II

What does this mean? It means more meds. Sad. Pills. Can’t sleep. Pills. Impulsive. Pills. Anxiety. Pills. Throw in my acid reflux medication and I have a mini-pharmacy. Is this really the answer? I fear that it is, sometimes.

When I left group therapy I was on a high. I could’ve walked on water. I felt accomplished. I was proud that I had seen it through. I was attached mentally and emotionally to my little family of strangers that I had shared so much of my life with. I was feeling hopeful. But, slowly, that high has gone down, down, down…. to the point where I don’t want to leave my sofa anymore. Does this mean that I’m meant to be a pill-popping, therapy-attending sloth forever? It feels like it. I don’t knock either of these methods. Some of us just need it. I, personally, am a completely different person when I’m not medicated. But, sometimes I tire at the necessity of it. Sometimes, I wonder if the doctors are really listening and actively helping us to develop coping skills outside of prescriptions. I felt that way today. Rushed. The doctor was filling prescriptions within five minutes of the session. She wanted me to talk to my therapist about a possible bipolar diagnosis. She knows me, so she should be able to do it, right? I said to her, “shouldn’t you?” I think this must’ve irked her because while she went on about not knowing me, she stopped long enough to listen to my symptoms and come to an agreement with my therapist’s concern.

I don’t know what the point of me writing this post was. Simply to express frustration, I guess, with the system and with myself. I just want to be happy all the time, one big f**king ray of sunshine. But, damn, it’s hard for some of us, isn’t it?