What My Anxiety and Depression Feels Like…

Today is a bad day. I woke up and I instantly knew that today would be a bad day. What is a bad day? For me, it’s a day where anxiety and depression take over.

My bad days are different from others. Until recently, it never occurred to me that I had depression. From ‘y limited understanding, I thought of depression as someone who was constantly crying or sad. You know, the stereotypical depressed person. In my case, my depression looks different. I’m what is known as a highly functioning depressed person or persistent depressive disorder (PDD). To the outside world, I would seem just fine. I’m able to push through and go to work. What people don’t see is how long it takes me to get up, the sadness I feel, the desire to sleep that is almost unbearable, and the feeling of hopelessness.

Today’s bad day brings with it slight shaking (hello anxiety), feeling hopeless and trapped, and a general nervousness that won’t subside. It’s subtle enough to allow me to function, but loud enough to make it a challenge. My mind is racing. The thoughts that run through my mind have to do with not being good enough, trapping myself in a career that is not for me, feeling like there is no way out, and overall wanting to go home and falling asleep for days. At the same time, it feels like needing to do so much. I have a list of things that need to be done in order to “be happy.” There’s an inner voice that is judging me for being sad and for wanting to “give up.” My inner critic is shaming my inner child.

There is some disassociation to go with this. This feels like some numbness sprinkled into the shaking nervousness. Feeling like I have no control over my body. The challenge? Trying to remain fully in my body as this passes through. Another challenge? Remaining productive at work while this washes through.

Anxiety and depression look different in different people. Just because someone is able to carry through their day doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. In the last year, I’ve learned so much about my mental health. A year ago, my answer would’ve been “of course I’m not depressed!” Today, I know that I am. I know that there will be bad days and good days. I’ve decided not to take medications for my depression, as I feel like I can deal with it at this time. Will that change? Maybe. For now, I will breathe through it.

EMDR & Pain

The last few months have been full of pain. Every single Tuesday, I log onto my virtual therapy session ready to discover more. In the last 5-6 weeks, I’ve been able to recall memories and/or identify beliefs/patterns.

This past Tuesday, I went into therapy with extreme neck/shoulder/upper back pain. My therapist asked “how are you?” My answer was “in the worst pain yet.” We got into what happened leading up to my pain. My answer was instant… I lost a foster kitten.

As we talked about this loss, I identified the belief as “I’m not good enough.” In my mind, I understand that newborn kittens pass away, especially when they don’t have mom to provide important antibodies. In my heart, I felt at fault. For days, I kept replaying the scene in my head. Every single time I asked “what if?” “What if I was better at bottle feeding?” “What if I had stayed up all night instead of taking little nap in between feedings?”

My therapist suggested EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I was a bit skeptical. To be completely honest, I’ve always felt EMDR to be a bit silly. I’m not able to hold an image (hello aphantasia) and I get easily frustrated by that. I’ve also never quite felt a different after reprocessing with EMDR. I reluctantly agreed. I didn’t think it would help, but I also didn’t think it could be made worse.

My therapist brought up a video. I was to follow the moving ball with my eyes (the eye movement portion). I felt a bit hesitant, but decided I had to at least try. Through the process, I found my pain would go away as I was following the screen. We were also able to find that my mind knew one thing, but my heart was telling me another. The goal was to reprocess the emotion and go from “I’m not good enough” to “I did the best that I could.” It took most of the session. Once we were done, we talked some more. I realized that I felt that I should’ve done more. I understood that I did everything I could, but I also felt that I should’ve known more.

After a long talk, I left my session knowing that I need to be more compassionate with myself. The advice or comfort I’d offer someone going through something similar is not the same I offer to myself. I’m very hard on myself. It’s something I’m committed to changing.

As far as EMDR, I noticed a change. Within hours of reprocessing, I noticed my pain had significantly decreased. The next morning, I woke up with full range of motion. I didn’t feel stiff or pained. I was sore, but I wasn’t in excruciating pain. I’m glad I was open to trying. I’m also looking forward to trying EMDR for other memories/situations. Until then, I’m grateful for reprieve.

My First Year of Therapy

On 05/30/2019, I went to my first appointment with my current therapist. I had been to 5 different therapist. None of which lasted over 3 months. I was unemployed and looking for change. I knew I had so much to unpack, and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. After going to five therapists, I knew what wasn’t working.

During my search, I made a decision that I needed a younger woman of color. It was the only way this would work for me. My previous therapists weren’t all terrible, except the one that fell asleep, but they weren’t great. There was a true disconnect. We just couldn’t relate to each other. There were cultural barriers that we just couldn’t bridge.

It took a few days of looking online before I finally found someone who matched what I was looking for. I recall being so nervous about even reaching out. Even though there was a phone number, I decided to email. My nerves wouldn’t allow me to make the phone call. Through friends, I knew that most were struggling to find their “unicorn.” Would I be so lucky?

Within hours, I got a phone call. I recall thinking to myself that the tone/voice would tell me if I wanted to even give it a shot. The questions were direct and to the point. I didn’t feel judged (previous therapists made me feel judged). We decided to book a session within days. I just recall feeling anxious and excited.

It’s been a year since that conversation, and it’ll soon be my one year anniversary of therapy. Can I believe it? Not at all. Looking back, I had a plan. I was going to go in and do the work. I would be in therapy for 1-2 years. I had things to do and places to be. I had no time for a long drawn out therapy schedule. I knew what needed to be worked on and I had a timeline. I still remember the laugh I got when I said that to her face.

As I write this, I am using a heating pad for the neck/shoulder/upper back pain. My trauma is stored within these areas. The pain a reminder of what my memory has seemingly forgotten. I’ve been told the pain will get worse before it gets better. I don’t know that I can handle that. It’s one of the most scary aspects of this journey.

In the last year, I’ve found myself discovering what makes me tick. There are still many patterns that I don’t quite understand. There’s still a lot of anxiety residing within me. There’s still a sense of not truly knowing who I am. They say that trauma becomes part of the identity… I find this to be true. At times, I want to hold on to it, because I don’t know who I am without it. At other times, I’m fully ready to discover myself. I’m still dealing with the shame. One big thing that stands out from the past year is how much I’ve compartmentalized myself. I’ve hid away significant parts of my personalities only showing them to people who know them. Right now, my focus is on authenticity. I’m learning to show up for who I am. I’m learning that not everyone will like all of me. I’m learning that in order to have the relationships I want, I need to be vulnerable.

I don’t know where I’ll be in a year. I do know I’ll continue to grow. I’ll continue to shed a past I cannot fully recall. I’ll continue to grow.

Welcome Back!

I’ve taken a long break from my blog. Life has been pretty hectic. When I started therapy, I had a plan. I even had a timeline. I realized that neither would work.

During the course of this blog, I set out to document and share my therapy experience. I’ve come to discover that my therapy experience won’t be fast. It won’t be a straight line. It certainly won’t be easy.

Since starting therapy in June 2019, I’ve experience deep realizations, strong emotions, body pains. As I write this, I have a chiropractor, coach, primary care physician, and therapist. As I’ve gone on my therapy journey, I’ve realized how much I’ve held in. Those emotions are now coming out in the form of pain. A week ago, I was struggling to get out of bed. Those are the things I wish I knew going into this journey.

As I move forward with this blog, I hope to share my story. I hope to show up more authentically. I hope to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I hope to help remove the stigma around mental health. I hope to heal my soul through the written word.

A Year Later…

On April 1, 2019, I woke up like any other day. Alarm went off by 5:30am, and I got dressed to head to work. It was a cool Monday morning. Going into work was like every other day. There was loads of traffic and a real sense of dread.

I remember getting to work and having computer issues. I waited till 8am to contact help desk. No answer. I kept trying. No answer. I didn’t think much of it, and decided to just get back to work and try later. At exactly 8:58am, I got an instant message from my now former boss. She had a last minute meeting scheduled and was hoping myself and another coworker would join. At this point, I’m not surprised. My coworker and I walk upstairs ready to take notes. When we get to the room, we see members of Human Resources, our boss, and other members of the management team. We’re also joined by a friend from my department and someone else I’ve never seen thus far. This is where dread starts to settle in.

We’re either getting fired or laid off. The company had been having financial troubles, but we were always told as a department that we were “untouchable.” From this point forward, I remember time slowing down. We were told the news. Our positions had been eliminated. We were being let go. Best part… there was an hour long PowerPoint. In the meantime, we were to tell our current boss what we needed to leave for the day as we would not be allowed back to our desks for security reasons.

To this day, I look back at that moment with an array of emotions… anger, grief, happiness, shame, relief, and much more. During my career, I was working hard to find an out. I fell into a career that made me feel dead. There was nothing but dread. On top of that, the department was full of favoritism and lack of leadership. If you weren’t kissing ass, you didn’t matter. Yet, I was also in need of the benefits and money the job offered. Most importantly, I wasn’t leaving on my terms, I was being pushed out. I had no choice. I had fantasized about my exit so many times, but this scenario wasn’t one of the possibilities I envisioned.

I recall walking out with two of my coworkers. None of us wanted the job. To be honest, everyone in the room was uncomfortable. There was no tears. Just acceptance. As we walked out, we let out a laugh. We were free. Yes, there would be a lot to figure out, but we were FREE.

The following two months are a blur for me. I recall going home and crying. Again, I dunno that I was mourning the job as much as I was mourning the loss of control. For someone who has always been in control of her life, this was scary shit. Not to mention, my dog would be undergoing major and very expensive surgery within a week of me getting laid off.

I ended up getting a job in the same field. I ended up panicking about health care. I can honestly say that while some of the work is the same… the environment is not. There is no blatant favoritism from management. There is no drama. It’s pretty chill. Am I 100% happy? No, I’m not. Yet, I am able to have the space to go to therapy. I have the space to be able to leave work at home. I have the space to come home and do what I love (hello fosters). I have the space to find my authenticity. There are frustrating days, but those do not outweigh the “good” days.

Today, I write this from my couch. I’m currently in self-quarantine. There’s a stay at home order. I truly feel that getting laid off a year ago prepared me for this. I don’t feel the need to control and know what’s next. I feel like I can trust myself to see this through.

Anger Rising

I sit across from my therapist. I’m telling her about my relationship with my family. She looks back at me confusion taking over her facial expressions. I feel confused myself. She points out the disconnect between my body language, tone, and the event I’m sharing. According to my therapist, I look completely disconnected from the experience.

I look at her and pleasantly smile. I know why she’s confused. It’s easy for me to smile and laugh through my limited memories. For some reason, I’m able to fully disconnect. My anger comes in strong waves. I’m completely able to detach until it washes over me like hot lava. My anger bubbles to the surface and disappears just as fast.

For me, anger is something that is not easily embraced. I do love my anger and it serves a beautiful purpose, but the idea of fully feeling into it is terrifying. What if I lose control? What if I am consumed by it? What will I do with it?

I’m not sure I have the answers, but I am sure it’s time to explore my feelings fully. After all, the body keeps the score. My body has suffered enough. Today, I commit to use my anger in healthy ways, and to express it through exercise. Today, I no longer allow my past to consume me from the inside out.

How do you express your anger?

Spirituality & Trauma

For my first post of the year, I wanted to focus on my spirituality and how it relates to my trauma.

As stated in previous posts, I grew up in a catholic household. It was never something I related to, or connected to. I knew there was something else out there for me. The limitations and teachings simply were not me.

I was always curious. I think that curiosity stemmed from hopelessness. It’s easy to want something to rely on when everything else is hopeless. While the notion of God seemed quite wrong to me, the appeal of hope was ever present.

At the age of 16, my search began. I knew there had to be more. I was a spiritual seeker. I knew what didn’t work, but I had no idea what would work. At this time, I bought my first deck of tarot cards. At the time, it seemed like a good way to connect to something. Since then, I’ve been reading tarot cards as a way to connect to myself.

As my search continued, I found myself looking at Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Taoism, Shamanism, and many others. They were all interesting, but not quite right. Something was still missing.

To this day, I’m still figuring out what I believe in. It’s ever changing. What I have found to work for me is a melting pot of different things. Do I believe in God? I’m not sure. I’m still undecided, but I do believe in my own divinity. I believe in the power of my subconscious and my interconnected. I believe in the power of my of mind.

I use meditation, shamanic journeys, archetypes in the form of spirit guides and even deity, natal charts, reiki and other energy healing modalities, and tarot. I also use other forms of spirituality to help me heal. Overall, my spirituality is very psychospiritual. Growing up Catholic means that I still carry shame around these beliefs and practices. It’s been a reoccurring topic during therapy. It’s something I’m still coming to terms with, but it’s something I have to accept in order to accept myself.

Chaos Within

As I write this, my thoughts are racing. Why am I here? Why did you accept this job? Are the kittens ok? Is Dobby ok? Is this all there is? Run. Stay. Scream. Smile. Breathe.

In the last month, my internal state has been utter chaos. From being unhappy in my own reality to having more responsibilities than I should’ve accepted. To having friends that mean well point out my flaws. To trying to find a way out of my current life. Everything seems like too much, but yet it’s not enough.

There is a nervous tick within. I can’t sit still. I can’t take a break. For the first time in my life, I can’t even sleep much. It’s all chaos. If I look at my surroundings, I’m starting to see the chaos spread like a disease. My coffee table has bit too much stuff on it. My fridge isn’t very organized. My food choices are getting junkier by the day. I’m not able to keep up with my to do list. I’m actually missing things on my to do list, which has always been kept in my mind.

My chaos is interesting. It’s comforting and discomforting. It’s familiar yet excruciating. It’s energizing and depleting. It’s the meeting point of my childhood and the adulthood I must escape. It is the screaming child inside a very calm facade. A facade that is seconds away from crumbling into a million pieces.

As I move forward, I look to find ways to calm this inner chaos. Perhaps by finding ways to cope. Perhaps by running away from it all. Perhaps by sitting in it and acknowledging it. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I have to keep trying.

Sleeping Beauty? Give Me Maleficent…

Growing up, I was obsessed with Sleeping Beauty. It was my favorite book and movie. I don’t remember much of my childhood, but I remember going to my elementary school library and borrowing Sleeping Beauty. I also remember asking to watch it on tv whenever it was on.

If I’m honest, it wasn’t Aurora that I admired… it was Maleficent. I don’t think I would’ve ever admitted that growing up, as I knew it was “wrong.” I mean what normal kid likes the villain? It would be a terrible reflection of myself. Further proof that I was flawed.

Maleficent wasn’t the only Disney villain I enjoyed. One of my favorite Disney songs growing up was “Poor Unfortunate Souls” by Úrsula. Then there’s the Evil Stepmoms laugh in hag form. I really enjoyed her too. Until Mulan, my favorite characters were the villains. Imagine growing up and finding the villains to be the characters you admired.

Until recently, I was still refusing to really think about this. As I said earlier, wouldn’t admiring the “bad” characters make me bad? Wouldn’t that further reinforce the idea of my own “badness” and “unworthiness?”

In reality, I saw myself in Sleeping Beauty. Like Aurora, I was helpless. I was waiting to be saved. My savior was nowhere in sight. Unlike Aurora, there was no Prince Philip. Unlike Ariel, I had no Prince Eric. I had no hope. Of course Maleficent, Úrsula, and Evil Stepmother would appeal to me. They were… powerful. They were unapologetic about their needs and wants. They didn’t need to apologize for occupying space. In Maleficent’s case, there was anger and rejection. Even though I couldn’t describe those emotions, they were what I grew up feeling. Imagine being a child and not being able to express yourself out of fear, and here is Maleficent on the screen expressing those same feelings. Not only expressing them, but taking action on them. I saw what I wanted to be… a woman in full control of herself.

In my own therapy, Maleficent has played an important part. One of the techniques were using is a safe place and a container. Not surprisingly, Maleficent is in both of these exercises. My therapist has said she doesn’t find this surprising, which has been validating. Maybe I’m not as flawed as I think. Maybe there are many other girls who secretly looked up to these “villains.” Maybe just maybe they weren’t as villainous as we think. Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent is pretty much what I had imagined led Maleficent to the events that unfolded in Sleeping Beauty.

This year, my birthday cake was Maleficent themed. It felt right. After all, the evil queens are the princesses that were never saved… they simply saved themselves.

My 2020 Goals

I don’t like setting New Years resolutions, but I do like setting goals for the year. I find that it helps keep me focused. Next year, we’re going into a new decade, so I feel it extra important to set some goals.

When I work with goals, I tend to get impatient. I want to accomplish things a lot faster than is possible. This can lead to frustrations which eventually leads to procrastination. This upcoming year, I’m aiming for more achievable goals. I’m also planning on breaking my goals into smaller tasks.

Without further ado, my 2020 goals…

1. Switch Careers – This is probably my biggest goal and has been for the last few years. It’s also been the biggest cause of frustration in my life. I’ve been working in a field I don’t feel connected to. In 2020, I aim to finally make the switch. Since this is such a big goal, I’m aware that it may not fully happen in 2020, so the aim is to make progress. As I write this, I have a few projects that should aid in me moving forward.

2. Continue working on my mental health – I’ve finally found a therapist that I click with. In 2020, I’m committing to my mental healthy by continuing to do the work. There are days that I want to stay in bed. There are days that progress seems nonexistent. On those days, I want to give up. I know I’ll need to continue to go choose myself and therapy on a regular basis.

3. Be more involved with in the animal rescue community – Right now, I’m fostering, volunteering, and working on an internship. For many years, I’ve put off this work due to fears of not being good enough. Going forward, I want to continue to be as active as possible while still continuing to take care of myself. My long term goal is to operate my own rescue. In order to do that effectively, I need to learn about all of the aspects of animal welfare. The learning opportunities at the animal shelter are priceless. It’s also a way to directly impact the lives of animals.

4. Be more vulnerable – My attachment type is avoidant. It’s soo hard for me to be vulnerable. I do want to eventually have a healthy romantic relationship, so this will be essential for me to work on. Healthy relationships can’t happen if one person is completely shut off.

5. Be more authentic – My whole life, I’ve hidden a lot of who I am due to shame. I’m ready to fully show up and be seen even if that means losing certain people or being judged.

6. Develop my business – This year I want to put more time and effort into my business. It’s time to truly give it the time and attention needed. I think this will aid me with my first goal.

7. Establish a more consistent spiritual practice – Right now, I’m struggling to keep a regular practice. I’ve noticed that my mood and mental health are much better when I meditate regularly and partake in other spiritual practices.

There are other goals, but these are the main ones. My next steps is to break these down into smaller steps. Thankfully, I have a wonderful life coach that is great with that part!

Not Dating in the Midst of Healing

Yesterday, I had someone ask me out on a date. I initially declined, but I decided to agree. It’s made me ponder my dating life, so I decided to put in into writing.

For those of you who’ve known me for a long time, you know I was a bit of a serial dater. There were long term relationships, and for the most part, I was always in a relationship until I was about 23 years old. In all honesty, I wanted to be saved. I needed to be saved from my self-hatred, loneliness, and lack of self-worth. For this reason, these relationships failed. I’m a believer that like attracts like. Therefore, I dated nice guys, but guys who needed healing as well.

My last relationship ended in 2011. It was a decision that I made after not getting my way. In reality, it was exactly what I needed. I truly believe it was what he needed as well. We’re still friends, and he’s made great progress with his own healing journey.

Anyways, I find myself single, and I dated for a few months. I met someone who was very different from everyone else. I fell hard, but due to circumstances outside of our control, it didn’t work. That’s probably the biggest pain I’ve experienced. At this point, I found myself searching for myself. It was too painful to date. It was also a turning point for me… dating had led me nowhere. I was no closer to love or my idea of ideal love as I was when I was a young child.

I found myself delving more deeply into my spirituality. I found myself avidly studying Buddhism and eastern philosophy. I found myself learning about new age and psychology. My favorite section of the bookstore became spirituality and self-help. I realized that I needed to cultivate my own love, security, and be my own savior.

It’s been 8 years, and there are times where I want to date. There have been some dates. Overall, nothing has developed. I’ve also found myself more comfortable being alone. Truth is, growing up in a household without choices has left me unwilling to compromise. To be in a relationship, you have to compromise. I want to do what I want, watch what I want, and I’m being selfish around that. Part of my work in therapy is centered around being vulnerable. In my journey to self-love, I’ve become more independent than I aimed to be. For now, it’s ok. Will this date happen? Maybe. What will happen is my continued commitment to myself.