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September 16, 2013
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Away With Thee, Mental Illness

Journal Entry: Mon Sep 16, 2013, 12:07 PM


Oh, hai. So I'm gonna talk about something totally personal to me, yet something that's shared by millions of people every day. And I NEVER talk about this stuff. For the first time in seven years I've only just managed to talk about it to someone and it felt good, and after that I was able to tell someone else, which also felt good, so now I'm gonna tell all y'all.

(Please note that this isn't a cry for attention or sympathy. I'm just sharing my story with the kindling hope that it might help or comfort people who suffer in a similar way).

When I was seventeen I inexplicably developed a case of social anxiety. I don't know much about the hows or whys but I can tell you this: it totally messed me up. Back then I was in college (all you Americans call it High School) and although I had some awesome friends, some days I couldn't bring myself to leave the house much less go on crazy social adventures out of hours.

Schooling was an issue. I missed so mainly classes. Sometimes I'd be off for weeks. I got into so much trouble. People thought I was a slacker but I was happy to fuel this image because it was easier than admitting I actually had a mental problem. I ended up dropping a load of subjects that I loved simply because I couldn't bear to be in a classroom situation. I kept art because art was conducted in a studio. In an art class there's little conformity compared to an academic classroom, plus I could leave the room at my discretion when the situation became too suffocating.

At its worse, I finally decided I needed help. I went to the doctors. I was laughed off. I remember sitting in the surgery crying because I was so sad and terrified of that awful, dark anxiety that had such a grip on my life, yet the doctor told me it was a phase. My case was dismissed because I was young, I suppose. A raging ball of teenage hormones. I was made to feel like a complete idiot and decided not to talk to anyone about it again.

Two years later I decided I needed to rely on myself to change. What helped me? Buddhism and meditation. Herbal remedies and peppermint tea. I shit you not. I sound like a massive hippy but, hey, it helped me go to university (college for y'all 'muricans).

Don't get me wrong, it didn't totally disappear. I still got 'attacks' every now and again, but I learnt to wrestle it down, for the most part (I DID miss my first day of university though, heh).

So when, a month ago, I started getting the old Buddhism book out again, I should've noticed the signs. Too much going on at once: the anniversary of the death of my little sister, family confrontations, relationship issues and being bullied at work.

And then last night I woke up at 3am and had a panic attack. Yaaaaay /sarcasm.

BUT. This time, I actually TALKED to people using WORDS (and a few tears). My long term boyfriend (who had no idea what the heck was going on when I suddenly and inexplicably had to leave a dinner at a restaurant with a group of friends a few months back, bless his patience), who was actually really gentle and understanding and didn't tell me it was a phase. I feel so much better because now he'll actually understand when I become a stammering mess while attempting to merge with society, and then loosely blaming it on 'a headache'. I also talked to my co-worker, who offered very sound advice and has promised to support me 100%.

:boing: I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. :boing:

I don't think my anxiety will ever go away completely. I live primarily in sunshine, yet with the knowledge that rain will return at some point. BUT. I know that there are a lot of us out there. Depression. Anxiety. All dat shiz. And if you wanna talk or vent or cry you can in the comments. I'll listen. Maybe I can help. Maybe someone who reads your comment can help. Maybe it will help just to get it down in writing. If it helps you, you can keep coming back to this blog and venting over and over. I don't mind. That's why I've written it.

IT'S GOOD TO TALK. I wish I'd known that seven years ago but opening up is hard for me, especially in today's society where everyone is so judgemental and dismissive of mental illnesses such as depression. Don't you love the old 'Why can't you just get over it' response?

Here's a list of things that help me. Maybe they'll help you, maybe not. But it might open up some avenues that lead to partial if not complete recovery.

:bulletpurple: Herbal tea specifically peppermint. When I get anxiety (specifically before entering a situation that will give me an anxiety attack) I find it therapeutic to sip on peppermint tea. It calms an unsettled belly and focuses my mind.

:bulletred: Herbal remedies The one down from prescribed medication. Let's be honest: no one wants to be on medication anyway. Herbal remedy 'Kalms' helped me loads, though sometimes I felt that their effect was perhaps purely psychological.

:bulletblue: Meditation Clearing my mind allowed me to focus on my problems one by one, analyse them in a detached way rather than during a heightened state of panic.

:bulletyellow: Breathing exercises Particularly helpful when IN said situation. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Again, a calming effect.

:bulletgreen: Lingering on the outside of situations In particular, I always choose desks/chairs at the back of classrooms/workplaces. Near the door would be the best. It defeats some of the suffocation of being surrounded by a lot of people in a situation I can't necessarily escape from.  If I'm near a door I feel comforted.

:bulletpink: Lastly, talking. It helped. It helps.

So if you wanna talk, you can here. Share experiences, advice, lend an ear. What helps you through bad situations? How do you fight your way out of a rubbish situation?

If you don't wanna talk, then I hope you defeat your demons in a way that suits you best :)



  • Mood: Pride
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:iconunarii:
unarii Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
I don't mind talking about problems, I need to find someone I'm comfy with ^^
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:iconsomercet:
somercet Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2013
*hugs*
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:icongrendalunleashed:
GrendalUnleashed Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2013  Professional General Artist
Here are a few nuggets from my own experience with anxiety:

- most herbal teas lack the main element of regular tea and coffee which exacerbates the anxious state, i.e. caffeine, the choice of flavour comes down to personal preference...my own would be lemon and ginger.

- herbal medicine - Hops, being an hypnotic, constitutes the main element of Kalms and has long been recognized as having a mild neurological and physical sedative effect. There are lots of others and much has been written about them, I keep a supply of Jamaican Dogwood having found it to be productive at reducing the physical tension associated with anxious states.

- diet - I cook for myself, and have done since I was fifteen, my anxiety levels have always increased when I shortcut with prepackaged meals or fast food, so I try to avoid them. Anything the body can not process will put strain on the system, physical stress contributes to neurological stress thus being aware of what foods do not digest well can remove this factor from the anxiety triggers.

- meditation - this often gets lumped into the 'hippy dippy' category of anxiety therapy and I have never been one myself for the classic image of meditation, but then meditation comes in many forms. I find a meditative focus in constructive activity which can be anything from doing the washing up to artwork, for the relaxation state sitting at the park or at the beach with my dog watching the world go by serves this purpose (other pets are available if dogs are not your preference).

- putting yourself IN situations which cause you anxiety - no matter how hard a person tries to avoid these situations they will, more often than not, sneak up when the person least expects. Thus, rather than allow them to be an unpleasant surprise decide on a time and place when you will do the thing that brings up anxiety in you. Controlling when this occurs helps to prepare a person construct coping strategies for when the unexpected situations happen.

- Talking - Start with someone you trust, the more you talk about it the easier it gets, bottling anything up inside leaves it metaphorically bouncing persistently around the inside of the skull impacting on everything else in there.

And a final word...Anxiety can have a positive side, for me the heightened adrenal state comes in very handy when I am presented with an insane deadline for a project, it then becomes a motivator of productivity rather than the general populous' perception of an inhibitor of action.

 
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:iconlonelyzoner:
LonelyZoner Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist

Your journal was absolutely amazing. I find it very supportive, even more so since I use a lot of your helping methods (I love peppermint/licorice tea, and meditation.) I would like to ask though, How did you get out of your shell? I'm really shy, and it's really hard for me to talk to people, even if I don't get panic attacks. However, I really want to make some friends now that I'm going to a university, I just don't know how.

 

Thank you for such an uplifting post, and congratulations on your achievements!

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:iconhannah-alexander:
Hannah-Alexander Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
If you met me you wouldn't think I had anxiety! I'm actually really loud and outgoing, but that partly stems from a fear of not being listened to/not being noticed. That probably doesn't make much sense, heh XD Anyway, at school I was uber shy and quiet, and then I had to move to a whole new county (basically like another state in the USA) and I didn't know ANYBODY. It was completely up to me to put myself out there and make friends. I basically tried to be fearless in front of people. Even if it was feigned confidence, I'd still act it. Now it comes naturally to me. At uni I had to do presentations in front of 30+ people. At work I have to speak confidently and coherently to clients. To get to that level of confidence I volunteered for things in class (you know if a teacher asks someone to read aloud?). The best thing to do if talking to a group of people (like in those big presentations) is pretend that you're speaking to one or two of your close friends. Just talk normally, don't overthink things, make it conversational rather than rehearsed. It's important to be able to laugh and poke fun at yourself. So what if I stutter sometimes when I get nervous? I just point it out and laugh it off, like, 'Oh geez I'm really stuttering today, sorry about that!'. It will put the people listening to you at ease too. People will respect you more for actually speaking up and voicing your opinion than if you sit quietly in a corner. It's basically about confidence building. I'm afraid I can't explain it better! 
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:iconlonelyzoner:
LonelyZoner Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That was awesome advice! I will definitely try it out and hopefully make some friends. ;) Thank you so much!
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:iconj1star:
J1Star Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Don't let it beat you, just stay strong and confident and don't care how people receive the things that make you feel better. The most important thing is that you're well. I hope you overcome your anxiety. :)
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:iconhannah-alexander:
Hannah-Alexander Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much :hug:
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:iconcrida:
Crida Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
First of all congrats on your courage and your successes. ;)

I just wanted to vent out that I dislike very much society's urge to put labels on everything. Like giving it a name makes it any better. I read a book once, which opened my eyes. Veronika Decides To Die, by Paulo Coelho. He writes ( or the character thinks) that people these days are bored and start getting mental illnesses, cause there's nothing else to worry about, no war, no hunger (in Europe). That's kinda how he wrote it. Now please don't get me wrong, I don't mean to put away the seriousness of anything. I just dislike it when society tries to put people into boxes with disease labels on it. For example, somebody I know (somebody very close) has got movement and voice ticks and concentration issues. I don't know how, but the doctor decided to put on her the label of Tourette, which is bullshit in my opinion. But now that it's got a name it's like the big scary monster and some family members look at her like she was really sick. Ok, she got conditions and ticks and difficulties in school. But everyone got his or her flaws and differences. But some people just feel the need to put a label on it. It's like a huge society sickness. People-labelling. xD (See, now I did just the same thing. :P)

Something you did or rather did not makes me want to look up to you. You decided to deal with it on your own, instead of pushing it aside with some medication, taking away all responsibility from yourself, like : I'm sick, I can't change it, duh. My respect to you for taking the problem as it is and working on it by yourself. Society got lazy. People let some doctors who read a few psychology books label them and take the pills which fit the situation. It's so unnecessary in some cases. If people just would get away from this "I'm sick, it's hopeless, it's a mental illness." Like mental illness is some huge horrible monster.
Of course not everybody is like this. I'm only ranting about the people who are this way. And I know that some mental illnesses are real illnesses, with chemistry going wrong in the brain. Like depression. (Real depression, and not "I don't know what to do I got two problems at once, it's too much, now I've got depression")

What do I actually want to say? I'm not sure. xD I just think I wish more people were like you and could at least try to help themselves. And again, my respect for handling this so well yourself, because there are people who can't. Because of that, thank you for sharing this, there are probably people you helped with that. :)
I know from myself that sometimes it's more helpful to talk to a good friend instead of go to therapy and talk to some woman who gives a shit about you but is paid to listen to your ramblings.

I hope nobody gets me wrong here, I just wanted to let out my opinion about some things from my own experience and I thought that this place could be right.
Thank you for reading all this and good luck and strength to everyone who's got a problem of his or her own. :)
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:iconhannah-alexander:
Hannah-Alexander Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Your opinion is always valid :) And I totally understand what you're saying. Depression in particular is very well known nowadays and people are very quick to 'label' themselves as depressed, when in reality they might just be having a bad few months. They then grope about it to everyone, go to the doctor to get pills, then show everyone the pills. Now, I'm not belittling their problem, clearly they have their own issues, HOWEVER, when someone comes along with real, sickening, dark depression, friends and family don't take them seriously. I never spoke about it to my friends because I didn't think they'd understand. I was afraid of being judged and that is where the labeling thing comes in. Society would label me as 'DEPRESSED' and all the negative connotations would come with it. Talking to people is important, but I think you have to battle yourself first, really come to grips with what's wrong with you, before throwing labels around and branding yourself as mentally ill. 
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