The thing I think we have to remember is that there is no finish line with depression, anxiety, or any other sort of mental illness. We’re on this path, and the path is constantly changing. Sometimes it’s flat and well-marked, and we can see all the way to the horizon. Other times, it’s so heavily shrouded in fog and mist, we can’t even see past our fingertips and we need someone to show us where the path is. And sometimes, we come to a wall that we don’t think we’ll ever get over.
tears in rain | WIL WHEATON dot NET

This is one of the reasons I love about Wil Wheaton! He is very open about his struggle with mental illness.

The main reason I wanted to share this post is because the conversation he shared, towards the end, really hit home with me.

Wil is also hilarious. This line made me laugh:

there is no such thing as a good morning at bullshit o’clock.

And also, this:

(If you can spell bananas without Gwen Stefani doing it for you in your head, you’re missing out on something great.)

Note: His post is really long and he is mostly talking about some game that I know nothing about, so I skimmed over that portion of it. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I’d recommend reading up to the part where he says, “We went on like this for a few more minutes, my anti-morning sass offset by Ashly’s relentless happiness and positivity.” You could probably go a bit further if you wanted to. Go as far as you want. Then skip down to about where he says, “Still with me? Good.” and continue reading from there. Even skipping that big chunk in the middle, it’s still long, but it’s worth it!

Wil has said on several occasions (on social media and interviews, etc.) that he hears stories like this all the time, which in some ways makes it feel less special, but for each of those people, it is deeply personal. At least it is for me. But knowing I’m not the only one also makes me feel good at the same time.

This is the paragraph that got me:

I extended my hand and thanked him for playing, because it was a genuinely fun and challenging match. He took my hand and he said, “I was really hoping that I’d get to play with you, because you saved my life.” Before I could respond, he continued, “everything you’ve written and shared about anxiety and depression helped me get treatment for my own mental health.”

If I ever get to meet Wil Wheaton, I hope have the opportunity to tell him he saved my life too!

He is also, all around, a pretty cool dude, so meeting him would be an honour!

I knew who he was and that he had been on Star Trek, but I only started following him on social media after he appeared on The Big Bang Theory because I discovered that he was a huge nerd and that is freaking awesome! I just wish I had figured that out before I attended my first (and second) convention (Calgary Expo 2012 and 2013) because he was there both times and I didn’t bother to get a photo op or autograph because I really only knew him from Big Bang, and that he was on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I wasn’t that big into it, so I didn’t care that much at the time. Plus, I was busy meeting Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, Richard Dean Anderson, and Nathan Fillion! Now wish that I had added Wil to my list of people to get photos with, or at least an autograph! But back in 2012 and 2013, he didn’t mean to me what he does now.

I’m sure I’ve written about it enough times on social media that by now most people reading this probably know, but I’ll share it again anyway.

I suffered for many, many years with self hatred, poor self-esteem, and basically zero confidence. I worried constantly about what people were thinking about me, whether they liked me or not, whether the group of kids on the other side of the room were laughing at me because of how fat I look, how terrible my hair is, my ugly clothes, or something stupid I said. I also had horrible situations constantly popping into my head, triggered by things as simple as one of my parents being 5 minutes late getting home from work which means they got in a terrible car accident and I’ll never see them again, or I forgot to lock the front door and now there could be a serial killer somewhere in my house waiting for the perfect moment to jump out of a dark room to murder me.

After moving over 3,000km away from the friends I’d known since grade 1, to a teeny tiny little town in the middle of nowhere, I began to retreat into my own little world inside my head where I pretended all those old friends were not slowly drifting away and losing touch and we’d all be together again some day, while in reality they were growing up and moving on with their lives. Today, very few of them are still friends with each other.

On the outside, I was completely miserable.

High school is traumatic enough without being the new kid who just moved from another province, and completely different culture. Moving across the country at 13 years old, when all the kids have formed their little groups and refuse to accept anyone new, add in anxiety disorders that have begun to create physical symptoms, but no one seems know be able to figure out what is causing them, so the mental illness remains undiagnosed, and you get a teenager who has lost all interest in the things she was once passionate about and struggles to find new things to be love, and thinks the entire world is against her.

Fast forward to adulthood. In November of 2014, at age 26, I was driving home from a convention for work. (A 7 hour drive! No joke. The joys of living in the Canadian prairies!) I had planned out all the podcasts I was going to listen to on my drive there and my drive back. I listened to Wil Wheaton’s episode of Girl On Guy on the drive home. I’m glad I didn’t listen to it on the way there! It would have made for a very rough weekend otherwise!

I had heard Wil speak about having depression in the past, so I was a little bit aware, and kind of expected the topic to come up, but I did not expect the reaction I had to it this time.

If you listen to the episode, at 1:24:58, Wil gets a notification on his phone which he then explains, “that’s my alarm telling me, ‘it’s six o’clock, you have to take your brain pills.'”And then Aisha asks if they can stop talking about Google+ and start talking about that.

So, he goes on to explain his situation, and then it ties back to their earlier discussion about how he was always so angry when he was younger.

As the conversation continues on in that direction, I am suddenly hit with overwhelming, brick wall of emotion. I’m driving in the dark, on the highway at 115km/h, and I can barely see through the tears in my eyes, I’m hyperventilating through violent sobs, my whole body aches, my nose is completely plugged up (does crying make anyone else congested or is it just me?), just trying to keep my car between the white lines. I debated pulling over, but I couldn’t seem to get my body to do that, and I knew if I did that I might never stop crying and then never get home, and I had to be at work at 8:30 the next morning, so I kept driving.

It wasn’t because I felt his story was sad or that I felt sympathy for him or anything like that. It was because it felt as if he was talking about me. He was describing my life. My situation. My feelings.

I was just so unbelievably stressed and overwhelmed with life, and had been for at least a year. I felt like I wasn’t going to survive much longer.

Something I realized recently: If it wasn’t for the fact that I had my dog, Mosley, depending on me to feed him and keep him safe, I probably would hate attempted suicide at some point in the past 3 years. I thought about it frequently, but the thought of Mosley being left alone with no one to take care of him before anyone realized I was gone, broke my heart and kept me from going any further, kept me from turning my thoughts into actions.

I know I said earlier that Wil saved my life, but obviously my dog did too. If it wasn’t for Wil talking about this on Aisha’s podcast, I wouldn’t have gotten help when I did.

Listening to Wil’s story made me realize that there was actually something wrong with me, medically, and no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t going to be able to fix it on my own. I needed help.

It took me about a week and a half to work up the courage to call my doctor’s office and book an appointment. If it wasn’t for the feeling I got listening to Wil, I never would have even talked to my doctor. I would have continued down the road I was on full of so much stress I was making me physically ill, completely irrational anger towards people and situations that were entirely out of my control, self harming because I didn’t know how else to escape the overwhelming hopelessness of it all, and hating myself so much that I just didn’t want to live.

If Wil’s story hadn’t encouraged me to take that first step, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I know things would have gotten worse. I don’t know if I’d be alive right now. It may have gotten to the point where Mosley wasn’t enough to keep me alive.

But I took that first step because of Wil Wheaton.

Wil Wheaton saved my life.

I had an encounter recently that reminded me how much people still don’t understand mental illness. Even though anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental disorders out there, and even with all the strides in spreading awareness, a lot of people still don’t get it.

A person I know was telling me about a time when they were so stressed out that it caused them to be physically ill, about a year ago. Since we were talking about stress, specifically relating to me, this person then said it was such a bad experience for them and they hope that I never have to experience that. That’s all well and good, but this person is aware that I have an anxiety disorder and that I am currently under a great deal of stress.

Now, here’s the thing. That sort of thing happening one time in a person’s life, or even a few times, is considered to be “normal.” Its stress. Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life. If you don’t, well……maybe you’re not normal. Or you’re just extremely lucky.

I so badly wanted to speak up to them about it, but I chose not to, given that it was not really appropriate to the situation.

Here is what I wish I could have said:

What you have just described is normal.

Stress happens to everyone at some point. It is just part of being human.

Our minds are connected to our bodies in more ways that most people realize. Our physical health affects our mental health and our mental health affects our physical health. There’s no question about it. It is a proven fact, and I experience it myself on a regular basis.

Coming back to your specific experience; it happened to you once. You told me you don’t want me to experience the same thing.

What you don’t understand is that, right there, is stigma and lack of understanding about mental illness.

That physical reaction to stress that you experienced that one time, I experience it anywhere from once a week to multiple times a day.

It interferes with my life on a daily basis, and that’s key. Sometimes it isn’t so bad as to cause a severe physical reaction. It can simply be thoughts racing through my mind, but am still able to look and act human on the outside, while inside is complete and utter chaos and panic. Other times it can be so crippling that I can’t get out of bed or am so physically ill that I cannot leave the house and am forced to stay near a toilet.

That is the difference between a diagnosable anxiety disorder and normal life stress.

This is the main reason I have this blog, and why I share links and stories on Facebook and Twitter.

There is so much stigma and just general lack of knowledge when it comes to mental illness. People just do not understand it. Everyone needs to be educated.

This is so extremely important! Being personally affected by it is the reason why I feel so passionately about spreading awareness and ending the stigma.

Also, because I went for so long without getting help because of the stigma, because I was embarrassed and terrified that I would be judged and even told that there was nothing wrong with me. I felt like I was going crazy. I don’t want others to go through that. I went on like that for years. Years that I could have been happy and living my life, managing my illness, instead spent suffering silently, keeping it all inside until it built up so much that I couldn’t hold it in any longer, hoping no one would see how I really felt and how much of daily life I could barely handle.

Trust me, I understand that if you have never experienced mental illness personally, it is a lot harder to truly understand what it feels like, but please, please do not think that you know exactly what it is like.

Sure, you may be able to relate situationally, and that’s great! If it helps you to even understand a little bit about what it is like to have a mental illness, that can go a long way to helping us feel comfortable opening up to you about our struggles and even helps you to understand it. But don’t compare your experience to our’s in a way that makes you sound ignorant and that our struggles are aren’t significant, because to us, they are.

This reminded me of something Beckie0 once said.

Our problems and achievements mean the world to us, and it’s not for somebody else to tell us that they don’t mean anything.

I know this doesn’t exactly match the story, but the general point is the same. I saw Beckie0’s video some time ago, and it really stuck with me, and it just made sense with this situation.

Does this happen to anyone else?

I can’t decide if its anxiety or depression or both (probably both) that causes it.

I feel so overwhelmingly terrified about having to do something I don’t want to do, or something that I feel like I need to do but my anxiety makes me avoid it. Then the thought pops into my head that the only way to get out of the situation is to die, because then I won’t need to deal with it.

I don’t want to kill myself. I don’t really even want to die. (At least not right now, in the past, I have actually wanted to.) But I so badly don’t want to deal with a situation that I feel like death is the only way out.

Please tell me I’m not the only one!!

I don’t want to feel this way. I want to be able to handle things like a normal person, but I just don’t know how, and it scares me.

This kind of thing also tends to trigger my self-harm urges. That can be triggered by lots of things though, this just happens to be one of them. It doesn’t always lead to me self harming, but it can, because the thoughts are there.

In addition to that, I had, what could, maybe, be considered a panic attack. I’m not sure that it actually qualifies. It wasn’t due to being in a particular situation (as it would be for most people who experience panic attacks) but thinking about a situation that could happen, but may not. The only panic attack symptom I seem to never experience in these “attacks” that I get is hyperventilating, which can probably be attributed to the fact that I started out hysterically crying. My heart is probably racing, but I’m too busy trying to breathe to tell. But I experience none of the other common panic attack symptoms, so I’m reluctant to say that I am actually having a panic attack.

Usually I struggle to get this to stop when it happens. Just when I think I’ve calmed down, a reminder thought pops into my head, and it starts all over again.

This time, all that happened, but I was suddenly more aware of my body than normal, just from all the things I’ve been learning about anxiety and breathing techniques. Took some time to find a way to make it stop, but I did! I ended up lying on the floor, on my back, with my knees bent, so my feet and back were flat on the floor (cuz you know, the bum gets in the way lol) and breathing deeply into my belly rather than my chest.

Within a few minutes I was able to sit up, and think about the situation without bursting into tears and hyperventilating again. I still don’t want to deal with it, but I am calm. My eyes hurt from crying and I now have a headache, but I’m calm. My nose also get stuffed up (like to the point of complete blockage) when I cry, and I can breath, partially, through one nostril now. Yay!

Now to go back to dealing with real life… *sigh*

Also, I would just like to share this article. I’m a Supernatural fan, so of course, I love Jared Padalecki, but I feel that this article came at the right time: Feeling Overwhelmed By Life? Jared Padalecki Has Some Important Advice For You

As I mentioned previously, I have a new doctor now, since I moved. And so far, even though I’ve only met him twice, I am really happy with him.

My previous doctor

I did actually like my old doctor. He was funny and always had good answers for things. Physical things, anyway.

I found that when I met with him the first time, about my mental health, he wasn’t giving me the full attention I needed. He was running almost an hour behind that day, but I was in a really rough place and I really needed help, and I didn’t feel like I got 100% of what I needed.

He said that was I was describing was “classic anxiety disorder” which, when you Google it, isn’t even a thing. Could be that it was renamed (I’ve done a fair amount of research into this area and have found that the DSM has renamed several conditions over the years) to generalized anxiety disorder, however, it would have been easier for me to understand if he had told me what it was. I had to research it myself because I did not understand at all what an anxiety disorder was to begin with.

In our discussion, he did clearly try to assess whether or not I was depressed, but I don’t think he went deep enough with it, because it took me coming back a second time, a couple months later with very little improvement in symptoms for him to now say that I have “depressive tendencies”. Whatever that means.

During that first appointment, he asked me if I had ever self-harmed, but that was something I wasn’t really prepared to talk about at the time.

Because I was sort of caught off guard, even though I wasn’t actually surprised that he asked (weird, I know) I tried to avoid answering while also answering at the same time. It wasn’t a conscious thing, its just how it came out.

Verbally, I tried to say that I tend to pick at scabs and stuff really bad, while physically, I found myself pulling my sleeve up as I said it (wasn’t even thinking about it, just did it), like I was trying to show him, but not say it.

Here’s the thing….. I’ve never done any like really bad stuff to myself. I used to try to punch or hit walls and things, hoping to injure my hand or arm or kicking things to injure my foot or leg but was always too scared of causing damage to what I was hitting and having to explain that. An injury is easy enough to explain away than a hole in the wall of my parents’ house.

I did actually kick a hole in my bedroom door once, but it was more out of anger than an attempt at self harm. Probably like 20% self harm, 50% anger at my parents (don’t remember why, now) and 30% anger at the fact that the door wouldn’t slam hard enough to my satisfaction.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I started, sort of, cutting. I didn’t really have anything handy that was sharp enough to really cut with, so it was more like scratching with whatever sharp-ish object was nearby, like scissors.

It started out small. Later it became a way to distract myself from whatever was going on, because I could focus on that tiny little thing, and I had full control over it. Except for the fact that it wasn’t cutting deep enough. I went over each scratch many times until I was distracted enough from the thing that was bothering me that I could go to bed or do something else.

So I do have some scars, but they aren’t completely obvious, unless you’re looking.

I’ll talk a bit more on something semi-related to this in a later post, because it isn’t entirely relevant right now.

Anyway, I think I was hoping he would see the scars, even though they really don’t stand out, so I wouldn’t need to say it. But all I could get out was picking obsessively at scabs and scratches and stuff and he cut me off saying, “that’s not self-harm” and moved on to something else.

In addition to that, I feel like he was just throwing meds at the problem without really trying to help me. He did mention cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and said it would be a good idea, but didn’t really make it easy. In addition to the three doctors that were based out of that office, they had a councillor two days a week (she worked at different offices in town on other days) and he suggested that I meet with her.

I met with her a few days later, and we had a good conversation, and she did say that it sounded like I was a worrier. She gave me a ton of papers with information and ideas for things to manage my anxiety, but she didn’t tell me that I should come back to see her again.

I kind of felt like I was left to fend for myself, which wasn’t much better than it was before I went to see my doctor in the first place. That’s partly why I ended up doing so much research on my own. I mean, getting a diagnosis (sort of) did kind of lift a huge weight off my shoulders, but after the first week or so, it all came crashing back down again.

My new doctor

My new doctor, is in an office that is basically a whole health centre. They have about 10 doctors, several nurse practitioners, a mental health team, and they run several different programs for various things. It is actually kind of cool.

Although we haven’t talked about the whole self harm thing, we have talked in detail about my anxiety and depression, and he gave me a referral to see one of their mental health workers.

My doctor has seemed genuinely invested in making sure that I get better. I’ve met with him twice now. He asks me lots of questions and has really seems like he’s trying to help me find the right solution.

One big thing he said, that I really hadn’t thought about or realized for myself, is that my depression and suicidal thoughts aren’t so much feeling hopeless and alone, its more that I feel overwhelmed. Figuring that out, he said he actually feels better about me getting better, because of that.

He did still feel that he should give me the local crisis number, just in case I needed it. That’s something neither my previous doctor or that councillor did.

But I realized, this is why I get stressed so easily and why my suicidal thoughts tend to come more when I’m stressed than anything else. They tend to be more along the lines of, it would be so much easier if I could just die, then I wouldn’t have to deal with all this shit anymore.

When we were talking about my past suicidal thoughts, he asked if I had ever attempted suicide or had a plan for it. It has never gotten that far because I always over think it (or at least that’s how I used to describe it, but I now know this was anxiety related) and end up thinking about if it doesn’t work, then people will find out and I have to explain it to them, and that scared the shit out of me. His response was, “you anxioused yourself out of it.” I laughed, because it is kind of funny, but it is totally accurate!

I also think that’s why I’ve always felt like people would say I wasn’t actually depressed, because I didn’t fit into the typical hopelessness type of depression. I also still, usually, feel joy and happiness in many things. Its just when there’s too many things going on I get very overwhelmed and that causes me to get super stressed out.

I’ve started CBT with someone on the mental health team at my new doctor’s office. The first appointment was just for him to get to know me and see what’s going on. Then we had a second appointment where we had our my first CBT session. I’m still a bit nervous about the whole thing. We joked a couple times about how it would be so much nicer if they made an “easy button” (like the old Staples ads) but its not. Its more like school. I always hated school. I have to work at it all the time, until it becomes second nature.

Light at the end of the tunnel

I feel like having these resources readily available to me now has given me a new perspective on things. I have a doctor who actually cares about what I’m going through and wants to help me get better. And the resources are available to me through my doctor’s office to help me work at getting better. That is so important, and I think everyone should have that!

I am still struggling. I’m not afraid to admit that.

I have good days and bad days.

I have good hours and bad hours.

Good minutes and bad minutes.

But I actually finally feel like I have a chance.

—–

It’s Mental Health Week! #GETLOUD
Find out more here: mentalhealthweek.cmha.ca
And also, here: getloud.mentalhealthweek.ca

When your mind is scattered full of thoughts, it is very difficult to figure out where the beginning is.

Let’s start with this: I’m struggling.

Wow. That was harder to get out than I’d expected.

I don’t like talking about my innermost feelings. It makes me uncomfortable. Extremely uncomfortable.

Even after that, I still don’t even know where to start.

I knew I had to write my thoughts down. While they were happening, there was a lot going through my head. I was having a breakdown in the shower.

Now, I’m sitting here on my bed, in my towel, hair dripping, down my back, picking at a dried up scab from a pimple I tried to pop a hundred times when I knew it wasn’t ready, holding my tablet, staring at the blank white screen of a new post in the Blogger app, trying to ignore the sound of my mom vacuuming upstairs and yelling at the dogs to get out of her way, and I don’t know what to say………….

Just like when I’m forced to talk to a group of people. No matter how much preparation I do, as soon as I go to start, my mind goes blank. Everything is gone.

All eyes are on me, analyzing everything I say and do. Every little detail.

That may not actually be true, and I’m painfully aware of that, but that’s how it feels for me.

Continue reading

I’ve been feeling extremely unmotivated lately. I just want to spend an entire day curled up in bed and do nothing. Maybe watch some Netflix or something. I just want to feel like I am not required to accomplish anything. At least for a few days. I need some recharge time.

I moved back in with my parents so I could sort some things out and pay off some debt. The problem is, I got very used to having my own space. Now, I feel like I have no time to myself. I work all day (I am also extremely busy with work right now, so that isn’t helping matters) and then my parents come home, and there is chaos with the dogs (they had two dogs, and my dog is super high energy compared to theirs, but when they all get barking at the garage door opening, its more like having 5 dogs) and my entire evening routine is messed up, and by messed up, I mean, it is completely gone, and I feel like I’ve had no time to be alone.

I need my time alone. I am an introvert. I don’t like being around people 24/7. I don’t like small talk, it makes me uncomfortable. I like to watch my TV shows and lose myself in the story, which is impossible to do when there are other people in the room, especially when they don’t know what’s going on, so they insist on asking questions at the worst moments. It drives me nuts!

In fact, I haven’t even been watching all my TV shows, because I no longer have my old PVR, with all my scheduled recordings, and my parents don’t like most of the shows I watch. Plus, they’re usually down in the family room before me, so I have no input on what channel the TV is on. We did get my TV mounted on the wall in the bedroom, but the family room is right outside my door, so having both TVs on at the same time is super annoying. I also don’t have cable hooked up in my room yet, so I’m limited to what is on my Apple TV and Netflix. Or I have to go upstairs and watch stuff on my computer….maybe if I had a couch in my office….

I lived alone, with my dog, for 3 years. Now I live in someone else’s house. Even though they’re my parents and I love them, I need my space! My private time. This is causing me to stay up later than I usually do, because the only time I can properly unwind is after they’ve gone to bed.

I am currently sitting in bed, with the lamp on. The only sounds are the creaks and cracks of the house shifting with the changing temperature, and the fans in my laptop. My dog is sound asleep, legs twitching as he dreams, at the foot of my bed.

It is after 11:30pm. When I lived alone, I was in bed, lights out, and teeth brushed most nights before the clock hit 10:00. Some nights, maybe it was closer to 11, but that’s ok. I enjoy sleeping, but when I can’t properly unwind, it makes sleeping very difficult. I was very tired today, because I was too wound up to sleep last night.

I am stressed about things that are coming up at work. I am still finding myself thinking and getting quite upset about things that have happened in the past few weeks.

I just want to have a few days where I can hang out in bed all day, and do nothing. Course, when I don’t get out of bed, living with my parents, I get in trouble for not doing anything with myself. I’m 27 years old. I can’t handle that. Apparently, there are people older than me who never left their parents house. I don’t know how they can do it! I couldn’t wait to get out. I’ve been back to a month, and I’m ready to leave again. I don’t like how my mom folds my t-shirts. I don’t like her laundry detergent. I don’t like my parents morning routine because it interferes with mine, which really isn’t much of a routine. It is a little different every day, and that’s how I like it. For most things, it doesn’t matter, but the water pressure coming into their house is a little crappier than their last house, so we can’t have two showers going at the same time. The tankless water heater makes the temperature all good. Problem is just the pressure. Someone can turn on the tap in the kitchen, and I’ll notice it in my shower in the opposite corner of the house, on a different floor.

Even our dogs have entirely different morning routines. Although, mine doesn’t seem to care much, as long as he pees, poops, and eats, he doesn’t care what order they happen in, as long as they all happen. And that’s one of the things I love about him. When it was just us, I could completely mess up my morning routine. Do everything in the wrong order, and he wouldn’t care. He would get confused and go to his kennel and wait for his treat too early, but he didn’t phased by it. He’s pretty easy going and happy-go-lucky. My parents dogs, on the other hand, have to get their breakfast right away and then go for their walk immediately. No questions. They bark annoyingly at you if you until you get the next thing done.

All that being said, I know there is a long weekend, only a few days away, but this has been going on for weeks.

Anyways, this is totally unorganized. I needed to rant. Now I’m sleepy…..ish. Probably enough to go to attempt to sleep. That, and my legs are starting to hurt from the way I’m sitting on my bed.