Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

How to Make a Self-Care Package

My days in the USA are numbered. That sounds really dramatic, and I mean, we hope to be back for Christmas, but the reality is that I’m moving to a completely unfamiliar country in 6 days.

As someone with an anxiety disorder – albeit somewhat successfully treated – I need to be careful to take good care of myself so that I can really enjoy the opportunities that are being presented to me. Yes, I’m scared out of my mind. But I need to remember that once all that fear passes and the unknown becomes more familiar, I’m going to have the time of my life.

So, I’m working on creating my own self-care package. I don’t want to replace or overshadow the amazing cultural differences I’m going to experience. I’m sure that at some point, I’ll have a German comfort food, a comfort spot, a comfort shop… But for now, and with my brain, I need to bring some comfort with me.

Start by identifying what makes you feel peaceful. We’re going to look at my list, but grab a pen and make your own.

1. A book. Or 6.

For me, a good book is the #1 best coping mechanism for anything that ails. If I’m sad or going through a hard time, I tend to choose familiar books, ones I’ve read and loved. If I just want to distract myself while waiting for news, I’ll read literally anything that’s around. I once gave an ex a week to think over our relationship and I ended up reading everything my mom brought home from the library.

Because I recently drowned my Nook in the bathtub, I’m hoping to pick up a Kindle before I leave for Germany. I’m not one of those people that wants to talk to you about what I’m reading if I’m just sitting in public tryna get my read on, so an e-reader is perfect for me. Plus, it appeals to my need to read RIGHT NOW, not when I have time to get to the bookstore.

My picks: The Wicked Girls (this review made me really curious), the entire Harry Potter series (can’t beat that for comfort)

2. Comfort clothing.

On a bad day, the first thing I do when I’m alone is change into something insanely comfortable. For me, that’s usually a t-shirt or tank top and underwear. For you, that might be flannel PJs or your fuzzy robe. Dress up, dress down, do you.

I was tempted to pack my “best” clothes in my carry on suitcase, but then I realized that I don’t necessarily want to look my nicest while traveling: I want to be my absolute most relaxed. What did I end up with? Tunics, leggings, maxi skirt, tee shirts, and the one hoodie I’ve allowed myself to keep since normally, they make me look about 15 years old. My goal for the plane is to be comfortable enough that what I’m wearing isn’t on my mind. I don’t want to worry about uncomfortable waistbands.

3. Body-care products.

Working at Lush has turned me into a true believer in aromatherapy.

It’s no question that a good shower can turn a day around, and there’s no reason that you shouldn’t have that good shower experience every. single. day. Most of my favorite products are from Lush, but don’t let that stop you from sharing your own, whatever brand they are. (Seriously, tell me in the comments. I’m a junkie.)

I like to have essentially two shower collections: Rev Up and Cool Down. Most of the time, I shower at night to take the grime of the day off before slipping into bed. (Unless I’m drunk, then I just try to take off my makeup and collapse.) To relax, I like nutty, berry, vanilla, or earthy scents. No, those don’t all go together, but who’s going to stop me? Ain’t no shower police. Find a smell and a handful of products that make you exhale all the bullshit, and make you shower a sacred place. You’ll step out clean, refreshed, and calmed the fuck down.

If you don’t have time for a shower, a portable version of your favorite smell should help. I have a lip balm that I find very calming (Honey Trap), and you can almost always find a travel size of your favorite lotion.

4. A huggable.

You don’t have to show this kit to anyone, so don’t be afraid to get a little embarrassing. I brought my favorite stuffed animal to college with me (holla at my girl Lydia the basset hound) and it helped a lot on those days when it seems like literally everyone hates you and you’re going to fail at life. Sometimes you just need a good hug, and when there’s no one around – or when you have issues being emotionally available – an inanimate object will do the trick. Don’t have a teddy bear? Let me introduce you to the Amazon.com stuffed animal page. You don’t even need to be seen in public buying one. You’re welcome.

To be completely fair, I’m taking Daphne with me, and she’s counting as my huggable. She’s a snuggle bug, and I can’t fit Lydia in my suitcase with all my clothes, shoes, and body care products. Do as I say, not as I do.

 

What would you consider to be your self-care staples? Any tips for traveling while anxious?

 

Life Lately

After two weeks of medication, I am definitely on the upswing. Life is not super easy right now, working two jobs and trying really hard to pay bills and parking tickets, but at least I can get out of bed/the house now and bring myself to regularly dress like I’ve got somewhere to go. I’m so freaking grateful that I’ve received so much awesome support in the last few weeks, from people like Caitlin, Sugarcunt, the Redhead Bedhead, and even my partner’s mom.

Kennywood Black Widow

Saturday May 25th at Kennywood, a Pittsburgh staple. This is the Black Widow, which you could not pay me enough to ride.

This past Thursday, one of my dear friends moved to Albany, NY, with her boyfriend. She’s the one in the green towards the right, pictured above, next to the superblonde (another close friend, shout-out guuurl). I’m super sad about her leaving. She and I lived together last summer and have been through a lot together, but I hope she finds success up in New York. Also, her apartment looks rad so I’m kind of jealous. It has a gym! In the complex! What is this, adulthood!?

Steve and I are gearing up to get the final word on our future. We should have all the necessary information early next week, and I’m hesitant to share too much before that happens. He’s been told to consider it set in stone, but being as cautious as he is, I certainly don’t want to jinx it for him! (Unless I’m Jinkx Monsoon-ing it. Bad joke? I’m going through Drag Race withdrawal.)

I have a couple new projects I’d like to start, but I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon. After working a 4-6 hour shift at Chipotle (yup, second job), I am totally freaking exhausted. Like, sit on the couch and watch 4 episodes of How I Met Your Mother exhausted. God, give me strength. I want to learn to code and design WordPress layouts (I have basic HTML, CSS and Photoshop skills), sell some old clothes on Instagram, and make an effort to blog 2-3x per week. Finally, my ambition is returning!

How has your life been lately? 

Am I a Bad Feminist for Quitting My Anti-Depressant?

A while back, I posted about my anxiety disorder, and how I was weaning myself off of Celexa. It’s gotten to the point now where I don’t have any withdrawal symptoms, and I’m totally off the drug. The problem? I’m now definitely, without a doubt, depressed.

When I originally quit, I did it because I felt like my feelings were numbed, I had a hard time having an orgasm, and I had gained about 25lb. I loved how balanced I felt on Celexa, but I hated that my emotions felt confined to 3-7 on a 1-10 scale. It could take me an hour to have a weak orgasm, if I could have one at all. But if I’m being completely honest, the weight was the thing that bothered me the most.

I follow some amazing body-positive bloggers, so admitting that I apparently value being 25lb lighter over my mental health… well, it’s embarrassing. It makes me wonder if I’m a terrible feminist. Or, hell, a terrible person.

While the ability to orgasm was a factor – and has been improved since weaning off – toy testing has been slow because the desire to do much of anything with my time has dropped drastically. I’m 13lb lighter, but I still feel emotionally numb, except when I’m having an anxiety attack. The attacks are shorter and fewer than before I started on Celexa, but that’s hardly an improvement when you consider that depression has shown up in anxiety’s place.

As someone who understands how problematic it is that women are so frequently valued based on their physique, I can’t wrap my head around why I’m doing this to myself. Yes, my body is lighter since I quit the drug. Yes, I can now usually orgasm in under 15 minutes. Can I get dressed and motivate myself to do something fun? Not half as easily as I could have 3 months and 25lb ago. Even if you eschew morality, what’s the point of being vain if I never leave the house?

When I’m not working – which varies a lot in retail – I sometimes spend a day doing absolutely nothing. Invitations to get out of the house are sometimes accepted, but sometimes, I just feel too shitty to be around other people. Frequently, I wish I could sleep for a while, and wake up with a new set of circumstances under which I’d have no “reason” to be depressed.

 

 

Note: I have an appointment with a psychiatrist on Monday, and I’m going to get some professional advice. If you’ve experienced anything similar, I’d love to hear from you, especially if you found a solution.

Celexa, Anxiety, and Honesty About Mental Health

First of all, I believe in mental health transparency.  That’s not to say that I think it’s your responsibility to disclose the state of your mental health – privacy is very personal – but I don’t believe it’s anything about which you should ever feel ashamed.  I have clinical anxiety.

About a year and a half ago, I began taking a medication that changed my life (Celexa).  I went from a bawling wreck to someone who was emotionally stable enough to learn the basic coping mechanisms that I could never master before.  Before Celexa, I was constantly at a 6-8 on a 1 to 10 anxiety/arousal scale.  If you’ve never had anxiety like that, imagine that you’re constantly in fight or flight mode, constantly feeling like your next step could make or break your entire life.

I’m grateful that the final push came in October of 2011 and I began to take Celexa, and noticed an almost immediate difference.  My concentration improved.  My friendships improved.  My dating life improved tenfold.  It was truly amazing.  After a couple of months, I noticed some less than desirable side effects, but I figured I could live with them.  It became harder for me to orgasm, but I could still do it, so I didn’t want to rock the boat.  I was gaining weight, but I’d also just turned 21, so I blamed my craft beer habit.

I truly believe that without Celexa, I wouldn’t have been able to get to the point that I’m at right now, where I know how to cope when I do have infrequent anxiety attacks.  I know that the world isn’t ending, that I’m loved, and that I need to step back and evaluate objectively.  I know to breathe, play with my dog, grab a book, or go for a walk.  I know that text-barraging my partner will do nothing but annoy him or make him worried about me for little reason.

So, I want to quit.  Admittedly, I have no PCP (primary care physician, not angel dust), and I’m no longer permitted to see the doctor I had been seeing through my university.  I do not advise my readers to quit a medication without discussing it with their doctor.  However, I will be honest: I’m in the process of slowly weaning myself off of my medication.  I’m going from 40mg to 30, then 20, then 10, etc.  My goal is to be off of it completely by April.  (Weaning off slowly helps control withdrawal symptoms, and makes it easier to spot potential health problems.)

I want my sex drive back.  I want to feel up to it more than once or twice a week.  I want to lose the 20lb that Celexa tacked onto my tiny frame.  I want to manage this myself, because I feel up to it now.  I want to use what I learned in the last year and a half and prove that I can do it naturally, and with the help of the strong support group that I’ve built.

I wouldn’t be where I am right now had I not admitted that I needed help.  This isn’t a post about the evils of SSRIs.  If you feel like you’re drowning in worry, and you can’t control it, don’t hesitate to talk to someone.  I think it might have even saved my life.  Because this is a personal blog, and because I like to challenge the preconceptions that we have as a society about “TMI”, I’m sharing this.  I hope it makes a difference to someone.

I hope that if I have any readers who are struggling that they’ll feel comfortable enough to talk to someone.  Hell,email me.  I’m practically surgically attached to my phone.  You have nothing to be ashamed of, and everything to gain.

I am Angry

This post has been in my head for a long time, and I never really knew how to put it together.  I’m still not sure if I know how to put it together, and I’m afraid of it being taken the wrong way.  But I also need to write it.  And I hope that if someone needs to read it, they can find it.

I’m very angry.  I wish I could have done something to the boy (now a man, by some definitions) who abused me.

When I was 14, I met an older boy at church.  It was complicated in the beginning, but I believe he broke up with his older girlfriend for me.  In hind sight, it was probably because he couldn’t control her like he could me.  Because I met him at church, and because I trusted everyone there, I thought he was right, that he must have been right.  This was the basis for two years of emotional and sexual abuse.

I should have known something was wrong when we began dating.  He told me he was afraid he would end up hurting me.  It started with emotional manipulation, late nights on the phone convincing him that I would try harder and that the world wasn’t as bad as he felt it was.  One day during the first few months,  I said something that upset him, and he grabbed my arm, twisted, and left a bruise.  He told me that he wanted to hurt me the way that I’d just hurt him.

Every sign was there.  I stopped getting along with my parents and most of my friends – he didn’t like them.  I was anxious and depressed because I was constantly monitoring him, feeling like I had to somehow be better.

When he wanted to start doing things sexually that I didn’t feel ready for, that didn’t seem to matter.  He would either keep going past my “No” or guilt me, sometimes even raise his voice at me and berate me.  He used misattributed scripture and the words of his church leader against me.  (I later got a chance to talk to that leader alone – he never said any of the things that my abuser used against me, and felt terrible that he had no idea what had been going on.)

For two years, there were increasingly sleepless and tearful nights spent convincing him I would try harder, that I knew I was wrong, and that I was sorry I hurt him.  I never knew what I was doing to hurt him, but was convinced this must be the case.  My mother didn’t trust him, but that just drove me further from her.  When he would touch me, I would drift off and physically become tired so that I could at least try to get him to stop.  I was scared.

Finally, he graduated, and at the last minute was accepted to a school about an hour and a half away.  I didn’t have my license, so visiting him was blessedly difficult.  This was when the sexual pressure and emotional abuse skyrocketed.  I visited him once, where the entire day was spent in his room, trying to convince me to go farther.  I  think it was at this point that he started wanting to break it off.

That January, just after our second anniversary, he told me that he met a girl and she came onto him.  Within days, he wanted to take a “break” and decide what he wanted.  He broke up with me a week later, telling me that I’d been a bad girlfriend, that I didn’t love him, and that this girl knew how to take care of him.  I begged him not to.  For days, I received barrages of texts and phone calls, all telling me how terrible I’d been, and how much I’d hurt him.  How I needed to be a good friend and be there for him through this.  After two years of hearing these things, I believed them – they were all I’d known in a relationship.  I thought this was love.  This continued intermittently for weeks.

Finally, I told my mother something that he told me, and she lost it.  My mother is my hero.  She sent me to the movies with a friend and made me give her my cell phone.  She called him and told him that if he ever tried to contact me again, he would be facing a restraining order.  She called the phone company and had his number blocked.  And when I came home, I slept with the greatest peace I’d known in years.

I began dating one of my best friends, who was patient and kind and is to this day one of my favorite people.  He treated me like a princess.  He helped me get through therapy, which I started when I began having PTSD and depression symptoms.  I finally understood that the way my first relationship had been was not normal – it was abuse.

I am angry that this happened.  I’m still angry.  I’m not one of those people who has found peace with the situation, who has the grace to forgive her abuser.  If I saw him again, someone would have to hold me back.

It took me years to sort this out, and to figure out my own sexuality and my own independence.  I was afraid of it for so long, and I felt so guilty.  But I’m writing this, and writing it under my actual name, because it was not my fault.

1 2