Wednesday, June 3, 2015

On the Path to Healing

I was nervous about posting my last blog entry, but I'm glad I did. After I published it I felt relieved and got a sense of calmness. Opening up about personal things like that can be very hard for me, but the more I talk about my experiences I find that it makes me feel better and that I'm not alone.

So with this post I wanted to talk about some of the things I've been doing to cope with depression and anxiety and the healing process. I'll start with talking about the spiritual group meeting I mentioned in my last post. I found the group online and it seemed like an interesting group and something I wanted to learn more about. The day of the meeting I almost didn't go. I started making excuses as to why I should just stay home: didn't feel like driving an hour to get there, didn't feel like coping with meeting new people, didn't want to go by myself to a place I'd never been to before. Then the group organizer sent me a message about how she was excited to meet me. So I took that as a sign that I needed to leave my comfort zone and just quit worrying and go. When I got to the library and walked into the meeting room, I instantly felt pretty comfortable there. I felt soothed and comforted by the people and energy there, which was just what I needed. I won't go into the whole meeting but I did talk about some of the things I had been going through. I was actually kind of surprised at myself for opening up to this group of people as I'd normally rather listen and watch from the sidelines when I'm in a group of people. I'm glad that I felt comfortable enough to speak though. I was touched by many things that people said and by their own stories.

One thing that stands out to me is when one man started talking and one thing he talked about (and I'm paraphrasing here) was how I needed to look in the mirror and tell myself I was beautiful everyday. He said how dare we judge ourselves and question the way God made us. That really struck a cord with me. Part of what I've been working on is self love. I spent so long hating different things about myself. So after that I started to tell my body that I loved it, that I loved it just as I was now. Instead of thinking that I could love myself more if I was thinner, prettier, less flawed, I told myself I loved me now with all my flaws. Even if I didn't believe it deep down, I would keep saying it. I would say I love my fat belly. Haha Even though I don't, and I'm working on losing weight and being healthier. It's like I had to accept the person I was right now in order to heal and let go of those old thought patterns in order to become a better person.

We are so hard on ourselves sometimes. I am so much more critical on myself than any other person is to me. It's something I'm still working on, but I'm learning to love and care and nourish my body instead of punishing it for being human. My flaws make me who I am. I'm learning to accept and love all my flaws. I'm also learning to be patient with myself. I didn't get to this weight and unhealthy state overnight, so I shouldn't expect things to change overnight. I try to take one day at a time and if I make mistakes I accept them and tell myself tomorrow is another day and not beat myself up.

Another issue I've struggled with a lot is insomnia for a long time. My sleep patterns have always been off. I'm trying to regulate them more but I'm still a night owl and stay up all night a lot of the time and sleep during the day. It's so frustrating to be tired and just want to sleep at night. My body wants to stay up all night and sleep during the day a lot of times. Sometimes I just can't sleep no matter what, but another big part of it is that I just feel safer sleeping during the day. At night is when those old dark thoughts and feeling come into play sometimes and I don't feel at peace enough to fall asleep. The one good thing about staying up all night is that it seems like my creativity comes out then. I've started to draw and paint again after years of not doing that. It feels so good to pick up a paintbrush and swirl the color across that paper! It's something I've missed very much.

One thing I've found to cope with relaxing enough to fall asleep are sleep hypnosis videos on youtube. Jody Whiteley has so many videos and a lot of them are made specifically for depression and anxiety. They don't always work, but a majority of the time they do. Even if I don't always fall asleep, they do still usually make me feel more relaxed.

Another thing I've been doing a lot and learning more about is meditation. I've listened to a lot of guided meditations online. It's really been amazing how much that has helped. Prayer and meditation are my most important tools to healing. 

I also use some essentials oils. I have found some blends that really seem to help especially with the anxiety. It's something I'm still learning about, but they have made a difference.

I also use some supplements that help, especially when I remember to use them reguarly. One is inositol and another is magnesium.

One of the hardest things to be consistent with is exercise. I get bored with it very easily. Also I'm lazy a lot of times. Haha But walking really helps with the depression. Just being outside makes me feel better. I listen to fun music, or to something relaxing, depending on my mood and what I need at the time. Usually once I get outside and start walking I enjoy it. It's not even really about exercising to lose weight now. Being outside in nature has given me a lot of peace.

Being better and healthier is a process. I know I still have a ways to go. But I've started the process and that's the hardest part sometimes. I try not to beat myself up and quit after I have setbacks. If I quit things for a while, I just pick back up when I can instead of quitting completely.

I've also learned that all these things are things I need to do daily. For a long time I'd practice all this for a while and would feel better and then quit because I was feeling happier. Then of course I'd go through a low point. Then I'd start the whole process again. Even if I'm feeling good, I still have to do the meditations and all the other things. I have to do the upkeep and the work in order to stay better. It's not something just to do when I'm feeling bad, it's something to do all the time so that those low points don't come as often. It seems like common sense to know that it's a lifelong process, but when I'm feeling happy my brain wants to think that I'm better and don't need to do the upkeep anymore. But depression is not really something that's cured like that. So I'm working on making a better routine and doing the things I know that help keep me less depressed and anxious.

These are the main tools and things I'm doing now to get healthier. My mind is starting to change its old thought patterns. It's not always easy but I'm learning how to cope and what to do when the depression wants to come back. And that it's ok to just have a day where I hide away from the world as long as I know that I can't stay in bed forever and start going back to old routines and patterns.

I'm lucky to have my family and friends be supportive too. I'm very thankful for them. My boyfriend plays a huge part in my support system. I know he loves me and is there for me whenever I need him and that I can always talk to him about things when I need to. He can make me laugh and pull me out of my head when I'm feeling down. My best friend and her family are also a big help. They've done a lot for me over the years that I've known them and I love them very much. And of course my parents and sister are very supportive. My mom's strength has always given me strength. I remember when I was going through a rough spot, her telling me that we were strong and we didn't give up. She's always told me I could do anything I put my mind to. My dad's compassion for people and strong faith also inspire me. My sister who is one of my best friends. I'm so thankful to have a sister I'm close to. Someone who gets me and my weirdness. We always have fun together and I love her hugs.

So I'll close this now. Wasn't really planning on it being this long, but that's ok. It feels good to talk about it now. The more I talk about it and open up, the more it feels like I'm finally releasing all the negativity and darkness. I know it's still a journey, but I'm not scared anymore to work through my problems. And not having that fear is so freeing.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Into the Abyss and Climbing My Way Back Out Again

I've written some about my depression and how I've dealt with it, but this post will go a little more in depth. It is hard to write about, but I still felt led to write the words for some reason. Maybe it's just for me to put down the words for myself, or maybe it's for someone else to see.

I've looked back before and tried to pinpoint when it all started. I don't know if I can say there was one definite point that I can define when it started. I remember when I was young that my mom would call me moody sometimes, and I can remember just feeling kind of blue for no reason when I was a kid. I could be happy one minute and blow up in anger the next. It just got worse as I got older. I was in college when I started to have those really deep dark thoughts and feelings.  I think it was my second year of college that it started happening. I was getting burned out on classes and not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life. I changed my major several times, but I just couldn't figure out what I wanted to do for a career or where I wanted to go with my life. I got really down on myself. I stopped going to classes. I started failing classes, whereas before I was always a good student with A's and B's.  I started to really feel self loathing and self hate. I kept thinking why can't I figure this out? Why can't I get my act together when everyone else seems to know what they want to major in and what they want to do with their lives?

I can't say that I've always been the most confident person, and I have always been more shy and an introvert, but I've never hated myself as much as I started to hate myself then. I started to get so down on myself and started to shut down so that I wouldn't feel all these feelings. That was when I started to feel numb. I started to lose my sympathy and compassion for people that I have always felt. I'd see bad things happen to people on the news and I felt nothing. I knew that it wasn't normal but a part of me also didn't care because I was tired of feeling so much and feeling all these intense feelings all the time.

Now, this next part is the hardest to write about. And I hate talking about it. I've never really opened up about it to anyone before, although a few people do know about it. When I started to feel so much self hate but also the numbness, I started to cut myself. I think it was partly to feel something. I started to get so numb, that hurting myself was the way I could cry and release those emotions that I was trying to block. Looking back, maybe it was also a cry for help. I've always had a hard time asking for help with emotional problems. It was literally impossible for the words "I need help" to come out of my mouth. I still knew that I need help though.

I made an appointment to see the college counselor, which was hard for me to do. When I got there she was late, but had left a note on the door for me to wait for her. I almost ran away then, but I forced myself to stay and she showed up about 5 minutes later. I started to tell her what was going on with my depression, although I didn't open up about the cutting then because it was hard to talk about and I also felt ashamed about it. She was nice, but I just didn't felt like she helped much. She started to talk along the lines of how I was young and pretty and I had my whole life ahead of me. Yeah, maybe so, but that didn't have anything to do with my depression and how I was feeling. Maybe it would have helped more if I had opened up better with how bad things were, but I was just scared and not comfortable with talking about it. At the end of the session, I made another appointment to come back. I arrived for the 2nd appointment and again, she wasn't there. I don't think there was a note on the door, but there might have been, I don't really remember. I waited for a couple minutes, but then left. It kept running through my mind how hard it was to ask for help, and then when I finally did that they just couldn't bother to be there on time. She called and left a message later on the dorm room answering machine about me missing the appointment. So my roommate heard that I'd missed a counselling appointment. Her and another friend told me about the message and asked me what was going on. I don't really remember what was said, but I know I didn't really open up about what was going on. They went to one of the psychology professors to see if he could talk to me since I wasn't having good luck with the college counselor, but I never went because I was just frustrated and disappointed with things at that point. The cutting continued off and on for a while. I quit going to classes a lot of the time. The last semester I failed all my classes. I ended up going to another college and commuting for classes for the next year. Things weren't the greatest, but I wasn't feeling quite as depressed anymore, although I started to have panic attacks then. I made some new friends and was liking the change of scenery. I still wasn't sure on what to major in, and I changed majors a few times. I did ok with grades for the most part, although there were still a couple of of D's when I started to skip some classes. I finished the year and registered for fall classes to start my 2nd year there. At the beginning of the semester there was some screw up in the office and all my classes I had signed up for had gotten dropped. As I went to reregister for them again, I found a lot of them had already been filled up. I signed up for a couple of classes, but I was just frustrated at that point and starting to wonder if I should even stay there anymore. On a spur of the moment decision I withdrew from the classes and made the decision to go to tech school and get my Esthetician license. It ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I had always loved makeup and skincare and beauty, and had thought before about being a Cosmetologist. But I never really wanted to do hair, it was the makeup I was passionate about, but I hadn't known until then that you could just specialize in skin care and get an Esthetician license. So I started classes and was really loving them. I liked my teachers, and the small group of women that I had classes with. I still keep in touch with some of them now. I felt like finally I had figured out a career and life purpose. I remember being pretty happy that year, but then at the end of the last quarter when it was time to graduate and get my license, I started to feel the depression come back. Maybe it was because I was going away from the school and my friends there and having to look for a job, which I was nervous about, I don't know. I remember one day my sister went with me to be my model for practice testing, and me telling her a little about how depressed I felt. I remember going to the bathroom after we got to school and crying and just feeling so lost and depressed. Later after we got home she told my mom how depressed I was feeling. Mama came and talked to me and I remember sitting on my bed and crying. The thing I remember most is her telling me not to lose my hope and that there is always hope and I mustn't ever lose it. Those words have stuck with me over the years. I keep the word hope in my mind all the time, especially during those dark periods. My mom is a very strong person and she gives me strength and I thank God for her and for those words that day.

So I finished up school and got my Esthetician license. I worked at one spa for a month and wasn't happy there, so I ended up finding another spa to work at for a year, then when that job situation changed I found a job at a cosmetics store. I really loved working with makeup and making women feel beautiful and good about themselves. I loved the people I worked with and my clients.

Then about 4 years ago I think, I had one of my darkest periods. It was around Thanksgiving and I was having major insomnia. I've dealt with sleep problems a lot, but never that bad before. Usually I go a day or two without sleep or maybe get an hour here and there. Just enough sleep to keep me going. It's a bit of a blur but I went about 3-4 days with no sleep. I think I might have caught about an hour or 2 of sleep during that time, but that's it. Looking back, it's a miracle I didn't crash my car driving to work with no sleep like that. God was watching over me for sure. I started having bad night terrors, and I was too terrified to even attempt sleep. I remember at one point being so exhausted and sitting in my bathtub in the water in the middle of the night scared out of my mind and praying that the daylight would get here soon. It was a bad bad bad time. There's nothing worse than feeling that fear and not being able to get away from it. I started seeing and hearing and feeling all kinds of things. I won't go into details about everything because I don't feel its time to, or if I will ever need to share those experiences.  Towards the end of that period, I remember going into work and it was a day I was working by myself. I was about to open the store and I was standing at the computer and just thinking that this was it. I felt like I was dying. I felt so bad and so tired and I had no idea how I would ever get through this and get better. I remember praying to God to please just help me. I know God sent me people that day to give me hope. I had one person tell me "God bless you" and smiling at me and I know that's a simple thing that happens fairly often, but it made me feel a little better. Another person drew a little smiley face on the credit card receipt. Small thing, but it made me smile to see it. Then the biggest help I got that day was a client that came in for a makeover that morning. She was very sweet and we started talking about church a little and various other things. I don't think I even had any other clients to come in during the time she was there, so we weren't interrupted. I just felt a lot of peace from her and she soothed a lot of my pain. I'm so thankful for her and for God sending her into my life at my lowest point. He answered my cry for help.  I finally passed out on the couch one evening and got some sleep. I finally started feeling better after that awful dark time. I learned things about myself then, and even though it's not like I ever want to experience that again, I made it through and it made me a stronger person.

The years after that were up and down times. I'd be ok for a while and then I'd get depressed again. I lost joy in a lot of things that I normally loved. I lost a lot of my creativity. Things just looked really bleak a lot of the time and I started to believe that that was just how my life was and I'd just have to do the best I could with it. Then last August I started to get pretty depressed. I started thinking that I really just didn't want to be on this earth anymore. Everything was too hard. It was too exhausting to get out of bed and face anything. Like I've said before, I wasn't suicidal but I did start thinking that death wouldn't be that bad and that I was ready to die. And that was a very scary thought. I didn't want to take my own life, but I didn't want to live anymore either. I started thinking about seriously cutting myself again, and wanting to do that hadn't happened in years. I knew it was time to ask for help when those thoughts started surfacing again. So like I explained in a previous blog I opened up to my boyfriend and got some help. I also found a spiritual group that I went to one meeting before the woman that organized it moved away. That day that I was sitting in the group was the beginning of my healing process I think. I felt such positive and loving energy and met some really interesting people. Some of the things people said really resonated with me and really started to change my way of thinking about some things. I almost didn't go that day, until the organizer sent me a message saying she was excited to meet me. For some reason that really pushed me to go there and I'm forever grateful for that experience. It started me on my journey of alternative healing methods. In my next post I will write more about the things I've been doing to heal, so I'll save all that for that post.

So that's my story a little more in depth for you. Not the easiest thing to let people read about, but I'm putting it out there anyway. I'll probably go hide under my bed covers after I post this. Opening up and exposing myself in this way makes me feel so vunerable, but at the same time I feel a great strength about it too. This is my story. This is who makes me who I am.  I'm grateful for all my experiences, good and bad. I went through those bad times for a reason. Life is a journey, and for the 1st time in a long time I'm excited to see where God leads me next.