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Archive for the tag “mental illness”

Day 105 of Isolation: Food Anxiety

I fear I’m on the verge of a serious eating disorder. I know it’s happening and yet…

The problem is I’ve developed a new symptom of whatever is wrong with me that makes me extremely sleepy any time I eat. Doesn’t matter how much I eat or when, as soon as I’m done, I’m falling asleep.

Think after-Thanksgiving food coma sleepy. Every meal. Every day. I could eat a sandwich or a bowl of cottage cheese or a handful of popcorn and instantly be nearly comatose.

I don’t know what’s causing it. Could be part of the anemia or maybe the hypertension or perhaps the beginning of diabetes?  I don’t remember exactly when it started, but I’ve been complaining about it for several weeks now, and only just realized last week how bad it was.

It’s so bad that I’m now avoiding eating because I don’t like napping all day. And by “napping” I mean lying in bed like a slug, unable to do much of anything but also not sleeping because my brain won’t shut off. I end up just simmering in anxiety over everything and get up four hours later just as tired as when I laid down and usually with a killer headache.

It’s actually, funny enough, exhausting. My whole life is exhausting. Being awake is exhausting, being asleep is exhausting, being alive is exahusting. WTF body? Why?

So now I don’t want to eat. I have so much anxiety over the lethargy that comes after eating that I can’t eat even when my stomach is rumbling and I feel sick from hunger. I wait until dinner and even then I don’t want to eat because 5pm is too late for a nap and too early for bed. I hold off eating until 7pm if I can then try to stay awake a couple hours after.

I managed the other night by downing half a pot of coffee at 8pm. Caffeine really does nothing for me.

My husband says I should just eat and sleep if that’s what my body needs, but I don’t know how to explain this lethargy/exhaustion. It’s not a fun kind of sleep. It’s more like being trapped in a body that can’t really do what I need it to do (stay awake) but my mind is racing all over. It just causes so much anxiety that I don’t rest. I can’t rest. I lie there, tossing and turning (when I can gather the energy to roll over) with my thoughts tumbling all over.

Normally, I fall asleep by thinking of story plots to focus on. I can’t even do that. I can’t grasp on to anything in my head. It’s a tornado of thoughts that won’t ever settle. Occasionally, I pass out from exhaustion but wake at every noise. I wake randomly in a sheer panic (heart racing) over nothing. I started taking old anxiety pills at bedtime just to get any rest.

I’m stuck in this cycle of being too exhausted to stay awake but too awake to sleep but not awake enough for my brain to make sense.

I literally cannot explain it. I feel like I’m going crazy. More crazy than I already am. I’ve suffered from severe chronic insomnia before (lasting years). This is different. It’s terrifying. And food seems to trigger everything so I’m afraid to eat now.

On one hand… that’s bad. You need food. On the other hand, I weigh 263lbs so I could stand to eat less. Except I know it’s still bad because starvation diets are just bad for your health. But but but… ugh.

I go back to the doctor on Thursday. I mentioned the food/sleep thing right at the end of the last appointment, but I’ll be bringing it up more this next time because it’s out of control and scaring me. I am no longer a functioning human.

 

Day 63 of Isolation: Unisolated

I left the house and went somewhere for the first time during lockdown, not including my trip to the ER which was unavoidable. Other than that, I’ve driven my daughter to the store twice and rode along with my husband when he got gas the other day just to get out, but I’ve never actually gone anywhere myself.

But the women of the house needed certain supplies my husband refuses to buy so out I went. Originally, I was just going to run to the Safeway in town to pick up a few things, but instead, my husband drove me to Walmart.

It was a weird experience starting with the fact the Walmart parking lot was practically empty on a Friday afternoon. My husband’s done all of the shopping the last two months. I haven’t been to a store since March 13. With my health issues (anemia and now severe hypertension), I’m considered high risk. It’s bad enough I have to worry about catching this virus from my husband and daughters who go out to work/babysit. We decided it would be better if I don’t put myself out there as well, upping my chances of infection.

This was just one of those essential trips that had to be done, though. I mean, my 19yo could have bought the stuff on one of her numerous snack runs or on her way home from work, but instead, she’s just been taking my personal supply. Then suddenly three of us had our cycles hit at the same time and we were nearly out. She still didn’t think to pick more up, leaving it to me. Figures.

So, yeah, I went out. And now I’m full of anxiety and guilt. Guilt because I’m still not completely sure I’m well and these symptoms are related to my hypertension. What if they’re not? What if I am sick and passing it to everyone? Nevermind my husband refuses to wear a mask (I was wearing mine).

I got us some groceries and other things we needed, and by the time we checked out, my chest was killing me. Coronavirus? Possible heart attack? Anxiety? Who knows. It hurt to breathe and having the mask on wasn’t helping. I was exhausted by the time we got home and then the anxiety kicked in. Every difficult breath, every slight cough, every scratch swallow makes me wonder if I caught something. Am I unintentionally passing it to my family? To my grandson?

The anxiety is making my blood pressure worse. It’s been way up the last few days to begin with, but I can feel my chest tightening the more I worry. I’m ready to dig out the leftover supply of anxiety meds I have except those are actually blood pressure medication that happens to help with anxiety. I no longer have a doctor so I have no idea if they would be safe to take with my actual blood pressure pills. This sucks.

I don’t ever want to leave my house again except to walk around my neighborhood. There’s just too much anxiety involved. Now I’ll be worried for weeks if I’m developing symptoms. I can’t deal with this right now.

If anything, mental health professionals are going to have a boon when this is all over and everyone needs to get their anxiety and depression treated. I’ll be in line for sure.

Day 49 of Isolation: Mental Health Awareness Month

mentalillness

If you or someone you know is struggling with your mental health during this stressful times, please reach out. You are not alone; you don’t have to be alone. Reach out to friends and family whether it’s in real life or online.

If you are in crisis, you can call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US at:

1-800-273-8255

For more information about mental illness check out NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

I wanted to write more, but this topic is hitting me pretty hard right now, so I’m going to go watch some Netflix and knit. Being mentally ill and unmedicated is rough.

Day 34 of Isolation: Project Semicolon

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
semicolon

Each year, on April 16th, our community celebrates World Semicolon Day. By sharing our stories and tattoos, we remind those with mental illness and their supporters, You are not alone and Your story isn’t over.

semicolon

I got my tattoo (my very first) in 2013. I’ve battled mental illness my entire life, knowing from at least 8 or 9 that there was something wrong with me, although I didn’t have the words to express that.

By 11, I knew I was depressed. I’ve battled suicidal tendencies since I was a teen (nearly walking in front of a speeding semi when I was 19 with my only worry being if it would hurt). In 2011 (at the age of 33), I had a complete breakdown that nearly put me in the hospital, and that finally spurred me to get treatment.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with bipolar along with depression and anxiety. Things made a little more sense then, and the meds I was put on actually worked (for a while anyway). In 2014, I ended up in the hospital on a 72-hour hold because I was having a hard time dealing with stress in my life (I won’t get into it).

Since then I’ve struggled to find meds that keep me balanced and have been completely unmedicated for the last six months because we lost our insurance and my prescriptions ran out. They weren’t really working anymore anyway and my doctor didn’t want to try anything else. I had planned to find a new provider once we got our insurance back but then the world fell apart so I’m just struggling to keep my head above water right now.

The semicolon on my wrist is a reminder to keep writing my story no matter how much it sucks right now. I can try to fix it later. As a writer, I love the metaphor of the tattoo and Project. Rough drafts are always a disaster but you can make them better with a little work and some rewrites. My story is currently in a rough draft state, waiting for a chance to be rewritten. I’ll get there eventually.

On this day, draw a semicolon on your wrist to remind yourself that your story isn’t over yet. Do this if you suffer from mental illness and/or have been suicidal. Do this if someone you love has a mental illness. Do this in memory of someone you’ve lost to suicide.

And remember, even in these trying times when we’re all forced apart, you aren’t alone. Keep writing your story.

[Originally published on my Facebook–it was too emotionally draining to write another account of my mental illness right now.]

Project Semicolon

No, this isn’t a grammar lesson.

Project Semicolon is a movement that promotes mental health and suicide awareness. The stigma that is attached to mental illness often prevents sufferers from speaking out or even seeking help.

The stigma needs to end. And that starts with all of us rising above and sharing our stories.

I’ve struggled with mental illness my entire life.

[cut for talk about suicide]

Read more…

My Thoughts on Robin Williams, Mental Illness, and Suicide

"Robin Williams 2011a (2)" by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams -  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Robin Williams 2011a (2)” by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

It’s been over a week now since the world was shocked with the news that Robin Williams, beloved actor and comedian, committed suicide. Celebrities die all time, but suicide? He’s not the first and won’t be the last. The rash of suicides filling the airwaves, from big name celebrities to small town teenagers, has had one positive effect: it has gotten people talking. Talking about tough questions like what does it really mean to have a mental illness, what pushed these people to suicide, how can we help, and what is wrong with our health care system?

For me, Williams’ death hit a very, very tender spot. Last month, I found myself spiraling into a deep, scary depression after my bipolar medications stopped working. Things escalated quickly from being just a little tired and sad to suicidal a week later. Even in my diminished condition I managed to reach out to people online. I posted a few comments on Facebook eliciting responses of “contact me” and “hope you are okay.” I emailed two friends to apologize for not being strong enough and made preparations to turn over control of my livejournal to one of them. I wrote down the passwords to my laptop and most important websites where I wanted my husband to leave a message about what happened to me. I wrote a letter to my husband explaining why I broke and couldn’t hang on any more.

Through it all, I cried. I cried because I didn’t want to die, but I could see no other way out of the constant pain. It was agonizing. I emailed back and forth with my two friends for twenty minutes, but the more they worried the worse I felt. At some point I had downed about ten Ativan, a few Klonopin, and two Trazadone (sleeping pills). I think in the back of my head I knew this combination at those doses wouldn’t kill me, but the intent was there. I told both friends good-bye, turned off my computer and laid down in my bed. I wanted to sleep and never wake up to the pain again.

It couldn’t have been ten minutes later when one of my kids came in and shook me awake. I was sleeping and confused, but followed him into the other room where the police were waiting to talk to me. They called for EMTs to transport me to the hospital because I had taken so many pills. During all of this, my husband and kids were in the rest of the house enjoying their lives and oblivious to the abyss I had fallen into. I couldn’t reach out to them. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t. It ended up being one of those email friends who called the police for a well check.

I spent the night in the ER–probably the best night sleep I’d had in weeks. There were no ill-effects from the pills I took. The next three and half days I lied in an inpatient treatment center where I had some therapy and got my meds straightened out.

So, you can imagine, hearing that one of my favorite actors committed suicide hit a little too close to home. Having just gone through the desperation, my heart broke thinking of how much pain Williams must have been in to end it all. In the days following I read articles and Facebook commentary on the death, mental illness, and suicide. Many times I had to shut my computer down and do something else.

While reading, I alternated between tearful joy at the number of people that understood depression–who had the same experiences I had–and rage at all the people that had no clue but spouted their opinion as fact. We’ve come a long way as a society in understanding mental illness, but we still have a long way to go.

I read some very hurtful and dangerous comments giving out false information and guilt trips equally. The outpouring of love from other sufferers and their family and friends, though, has outnumbered the haters, at least in what I’ve read. I have hope that in the future we will understand this awful disease and the people that suffer from it. No more will people have to languish in emotional torment with nowhere to turn. There will be no stigma in admitting you have a mental illness and people will all be willing to help you with only love and caring. No more will we hear news reports of ten-year-olds having hung themselves.

Robin Williams is sad. The world lost an amazing entertainer, philanthropist, and man. I’m not sure any one else could fill the hole left in his wake. It will take time for the country to mourn and heal from this emotional blow. In the meantime, we need to continue the discourse on mental illness and the lack of resources sufferers encounter every day. The best way we can do that is to simply keep talking. Tell our stories and not hide in the corner. It’s not easy, I admit, but the more people that share, the stronger we will be. Our voices will be louder than the ignorant haters that try to keep us down.

We are strong. All of us that suffer and survive every day–we are strong. And those that didn’t make it were strong until that last day when the disease won. They were strong to make it that long. 

When You and Your Teen Both Have a Mental Illness

I have dealt with debilitating depression since I was a child, although at that time I had no word for it. I knew I didn’t feel write, didn’t seem to feel happy the way the other kids did. By high school I’d developed severe social anxiety that has only gotten worse over the years.

Recently my doctor changed my diagnosis from clinical depression to bipolar with hypo-manic episodes. I’m the kind of person that stays depressed for long period of times then suddenly has a week where I feel really good and want to take on the world. I don’t go overboard with the manic stuff, but I do a lot of out-of-character things for me. It was my getting a tattoo back in October that made me realize something was up.

Right now I’m in the process of weaning off of certain anti-depressants and easing into some bipolar meds. It’s not going very well and causing me to feel a little nutty. So dealing with my thirteen-year-old daughter who also has mental illness problems has become an ordeal.

She’s been diagnosed (well, her counselor at school and her primary care doctor both agree) with depression and anxiety. Whether a therapist said it or not doesn’t really matter because it’s obvious she suffers from both. Her anxiety is more general whereas mine is mostly social. I have a feeling she’s bipolar, too. My dad has been saying for a long time he’s manic-depressive. That’s another way of saying bipolar. Looking back a lot of his actions when I was growing up fit the description of the illness.

Trying to deal with my daughter’s mood swings isn’t easy when I’m already a mess in my head. We get into screaming matches. Well, mostly she screams at me and I try to ignore her so I won’t say something I regret. When I do yell it’s because I have to get loud to be heard over her tantrums (which can flip on at any second over any trivial little thing).

We both need to be in therapy, but even with our medical insurance, we just don’t have the money. So far the best way I’ve learned to cope is to stay in my room and try not to piss her off. It works to a point. Night time is the worst. Right around bedtime she suddenly feels a need to scream at me in the face and tell me everything I’ve ever done wrong.

And call me Satan.

That makes her laugh.

Honestly I’ll take the new name if it gets her to quit screeching at me. With my meds not set yet my head is too muddled up to deal with her.

Mental Health Week

Apparently this week is Mental Health Awareness week. Funny how I didn’t know that. One of the few things I’m passionate about is getting rid of the stigma around mental illness. So I’m going to talk about my story.

My name is Jen and I’m mentally ill. I’ve suffered with depression my entire life and then got slammed with some severe social anxiety in high school that has only escalated over the years.

Image

The picture of depression

The first time I realized there was something different about me was when I was about eight or nine. I would see all the other kids happy and laughing and playing and I just didn’t feel. It just felt blah. And tired. I didn’t want to be around them. It wasn’t all the time but it happened enough that I noticed I was different, even if I didn’t understand why.

By the time I was twelve I knew I had depression. It was just typical teenage hormones as my parents wanted to believe. I would spiral into these terrifying pits of despair and somehow manage to claw my way out enough to fake it for my parents so they wouldn’t worry. Every person that suffers from severe depression learns to fake a happy smile, a normal life. Inside I was falling apart. I guess even then my anxiety was a problem. I wasn’t good a social interactions which meant I had no friends which fueled the depression and feelings of worthlessness. I was twelve and wishing I had never been born, that I would die, that maybe I could find a way out on my own.

Eventually my parents sent me to this psychologist because my parents were doing marriage counseling and they wanted to do some family stuff, too. So both me and my brother had to go on Saturday mornings. I fucking hated it. The chick was a cunt bitch. She was rude and condescending and looked at me like I was trash. There I was suffering from a severe mental illness and she was telling me to get over it and act my age. Her greatest advice to me was to stop hanging around my best friend who was five years younger than me (I was 14 at the time and she was 9 and we were like sisters) and find friends my own age. I told her I had nothing in common with those girls who only talked about celebrities, boys, clothes, shoes, gossip and other girlie crap. I did not fit in with them, nor did I want to try.

Then one day she pissed me off so I quit talking to her. I was so mad. I screamed and cried for my mom to not make me go but they forced me. So every week I wasted an hour of my Saturday staring at the ugly carpet in her office, arms cross defiantly over my chest. She tried to sooth me, cajole me, sweet talk me, bribe me, and when none of that worked she threatened to have me sent to a group home for bad girls because I was a bad girl. That hurt but I knew it was a bluff because she’d need my parents’ permission and they’d never in a million years send me away. My mom finally stopped making me go after that but I never told her about the threats. Read more…

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