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.

Random

Thoughts, Part 3

Perhaps if I get it all out in writing, I’ll feel better. It won’t all be in my head. So, here goes my rambling. If you read it, you’re a trooper and I love you.

I feel ugly. I cut off all my hair. Decided to go natural. Everyone loves it. I love it because I don’t have to mess with my hair in the morning. But, I’m still getting used to it and don’t always feel like myself. I’m fat. In high school, I hovered around 185 pounds. I was made fun of for my weight thoughtout all my school days. In college, I got down to 155 pounds. Then, I began to work. Take antidepressants. Take birth control. Blew up. At my largest, I was 285 pounds. I stopped taking birth control and antidepressants. Got braces. Determined I was going to lose all the weight and managed to lose 93 pounds. I wasn’t quite at my goal, but I felt great. But, my depression and anxiety started to flare up again. Back on antidepressants I went. I’ve gained almost 40 pounds back. I feel gross. I feel disgusting. I feel unattractive.

I feel worthless. I wish the majority of people I know didn’t end up hurting me. I really liked a guy. He really likes me. He has a girlfriend. So, why tell me he’s into me? I told him we shouldn’t have anymore inappropriate conversation because I genuinely liked him. He hasn’t spoken to me since. We’ve been friends for years. But, now that I think about it… have we? I’ve always been the one to care, to check on him, to make sure he was ok, to love him as a friend for who he was. Now, we’re not friends because I’ve realized he’s a piece of shit. Another son of a bitch that wanted a side piece. Not me. I’m tired of that life. I’m tired of being used. I deserve more than that. But, I can’t help but feel like I’m not worth any man’s time.

I feel tired. I’ve been lethargic in a way that I’ve never been before. I can’t even get out of bed in the morning. I started weaning myself off of antidepressants and surprisingly, I feel better. Why do we take meds to feel better when ultimately we just become accustomed to them? The doctors just say increase your dosage, try something different. Well, I’m sick of doing that. I’d rather just not take them.

I feel a myriad of other things that I cannot put into words. I’m not sure where I’m going or what I’m doing. I feel like a shadow of myself. I used to smile more. I used to enjoy life more. I had more energy. Today, I feel like I’m just bouncing on the wind, going wherever it takes me, but not caring where I end up.

Poetry

Conflicted

Sick of this monotonous life
I wake to birds chirping and rivers flowing
The sound grates on my ears
I leave my room
Lethargic, sluggish
Not ready to face the day
No desire to face the sun streaming through my windows
It blinds me with its ephemeral aura
In my kitchen is my personal pharmacy of happy pills
They should taste like sunlight but they crumble like ashes in my mouth
To the sofa
I should go out, leave the confining space in between these walls
But this is my comfort zone, my safe place
My blanket and inane cartoons are my company
I know they will not hurt me
My stomach contorts in contradiction with the need for more than this and the fear of it
What has happened to my ethereal glow, my lust for life?
They seem like ghosts, remnants of a time long passed, almost forgotten
I begin to wonder if they ever existed, if I ever existed
Instead of just barreling through the motions like I lost control on an obstacle course
Overtaken my melancholia

Random

Musings, Part 2

Small talk. I despise small talk.

For some reason, thoughts about the weather, a randomly inserted joke… the triviality of all of it drives me crazy. I’d rather not say something unless there was something meaningful to say. I don’t care how many times I’ve seen you in the hallway today. I don’t care if we appear to be on the same bathroom schedule. I don’t care how humid you think it is. It’s Florida. Get over it. Sure, I’d like to hear the high-level description of your weekend, but I don’t really want to hear all the details, nor do I want to tell you all of mine.

Does that make me a bad person?

Often, I don’t know if this comes out of 1) my introversion and lack of desire to talk, 2) my depression and anxiety and lack of desire to talk, and/or 3) I’m just a total bitch. And, you know… lack of desire to talk.

Music

From My Playlist, Part 48 – Chad Valley

Moon Under Water by Chad Valley. Heard this one while having dinner at a restaurant. The song came to me over the cacophony of the crowd. It makes me happy.

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.

Random

Predictable

I’m not entirely sure how to capture the thoughts and feelings that are on my heart at the moment. So, I will start with a story that I think scratches the surface.

A couple years back, when I was living in NC, I was out at the local bar. I was in the midst of weight loss and myself on my own specific diet. Hot dogs with no buns and Apple Crown at this particular establishment. Before I could order, the bartender spouted of my usual. I was surprised. She said to me, “you’re predictable.” I don’t know why, but this deeply hurt me. I actually wanted to cry. I mentioned it to one of my friends and he was in agreement. He then told me I was an alcoholic, so I’m not sure I could put stock in his opinion. I remember being vastly irritated by the situation

So, I’m sitting at the bar tonight having dinner and a drink and I overhear the conversation of two ladies next to me – something that didn’t take any considerable effort. One of them mentioned predictability and it brought this memory to the surface. Then, I thought about how I’ve been feeling the last few weeks, hell the last year – bored, depressed, lonely, melancholy – and I started seeing the truth of something I would like to deny.

I’m predictable. But why? What’s made me this way?

I don’t think it’s intentional, but simply a rut I’ve gotten myself into. As a child, I did (mostly) what I was told. I was expected to be ladylike (though I love cursing and being in comfortable sweatpants). I was expected to be the best in my class (which I was to the detriment of my health). I was expected to adhere to the strict specifics of religion (though I didn’t believe any of it). I thought that when I was removed from this situation, that I would be a completely different person. A risk-taker. Someone who was wild and free. A person who brings the fucking ruckus to a party (I was told this once, actually). In some respects, I have changed. In others, I’ve stood absolutely still and let life and people pass me by.

This past weekend was a four-day weekend for me. I did absolutely nothing. I had no one to call or hang out with. I had no plans. I was restless and agitated and sick of being with myself. I fell deep into depression (partially spurred by PMS) and was miserable. Ironically, I went out briefly Friday night with one of my friends that I had missed seeing. After a couple hours, though, I didn’t want to be there anymore. It could’ve been that we hang out there all the time (predictable). It could’ve been the cacophony of a bowling alley/bar (which I can only handle so much of). It could’ve been that I was watching a bartender I like work with his girlfriend (a bartender who, mind you, confessed his feelings for me only a couple weeks ago, but I know nothing will ever come of it and here I am in the same situation I am with every guy – waiting on them and their bullshit). It could’ve been any or none of those things, but I went home. I spent the rest of the weekend pretty much with myself.

Some time Sunday or Monday, it occurred to me that I did the exact same thing last Labor Day weekend. I had gotten so caught up in work and reaching a major milestone that I hadn’t taken any time for my personal life. I hadn’t thought about it. I spent four days alone binge watching Hulu and Netflix and wondering how this had happened. A year later, I’m doing the same thing.

What happened to me? Or rather, what didn’t?

It’s not that I’m not a risk-taker. Hell, I’ve jumped out of a plane. I just don’t seem to find any risks that I want to take.

It’s not that I’m a loner. I love my friends. But when the depression and the introversion get me, I would rather be at home.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy working. Well… usually. It’s just that right now, I’m not overly fond of my job and I’d rather not be there.

It’s not that I want to be home alone in my apartment. I just don’t put any energy into thinking about what to do instead.

It’s not that I don’t want to date. It’s not that I think I won’t find “the one.” It’s that I’ve been so hurt by the last couple guys, so deeply hurt, that I don’t want to put the energy into dating right now. I’d rather meet somone organically.

I realize that all these things that it’s not and it is contribute to monotony. To predictability. Some people might envy this. You shouldn’t.

You know whose fault it is? Mine and mine alone.

It’s my own fault that as much as I love to write and be creative, that I don’t search out other like-minded people and go to that open mic a friend took me to once so that I can connect with people.

It’s my own fault that I go to the same restuarant because it’s easy even though it gives me no new fare, no new experience, and doesn’t help me lose the weight I so desparately want to shed.

It’s my own fault that I chose a career that I didn’t really want just for the money and that I’ve been in it for almost ten years because it’s relatively comfortable, even if I have transferred to locations across states.

It’s my own fault that I watch cartoons all day long instead of picking back up my long-time hobbies of going out to or watching movies or reading a good book, I’m killing brainn cells instead of feeding them.

It’s my own fault that I’m not making new friends because I’m stuck in the past on the things I’ve done wrong and the friends that I’ve lost. (I wrote this poem to describe what waiting on people you think will be in your life forever ends up like. Also, Lauren doesn’t drink vodka anymore. It results in bad decisions that result in rumination and anxiety.)

It’s my own fault that I’m sitting on my bed writing this article to you about how I seem to be doing nothing with my life. It’s not that I’m doing any wrong. But, I’m also not doing anything. That is a problem.

So, what should I do? Perhaps all the things that I keep thinking about doing. Get more tattoos, travel to foreign countries, read my poetry out loud, share more of myself with others, explore new places and things, make new friends. After all, I live in the happiest place on earth (Orlando). There’s plenty to do.

There’s plenty of life to live and I’m not living it.

So, I’ve gotten a few new tattoos, I’ve moved to a new apartment, I’ve redecorated to create a more inviting, cozy, bright space, and I’ve buzzed my head. But that’s certainly not enough.

Time to fly.

What would you do if you realized it was time for a change? If you realized you had been stagnant (or currently are) and you needed to get yourself out of a rut? I’d love to hear your thoughts.