Coming Out Of A Depressive Episode

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This article spoke to me so much today: 4 Things That Might Happen When You Come Out of Depression

Speaking as someone on the up end of a spiral, this is bang on for me. I highly recommend reading it, as this is a little discussed area. It can throw you as off kilter as being in the grip of depression.

One thing I’d like to add, though: You may also find yourself surprised or appalled by thoughts you had or something you did while in the Rabbit Hole…this recent spiral marks the first (and hopefully only) time I’ve ever let my meds run out.

I know, not very bright. And while I know the feelings that led to it, “more okay” me can’t quite wrap my head around how I could do something that for 4 years of treatment I’ve been careful to not do.

I know the dangers of going off psychiatric meds suddenly. I know them intimately through raising two kids with mental health disorders. I know for myself what a bad place I was in before medication.

I know that my anxiety was still in the uncontrolled area–we were still tweaking meds and dosages. And that they were starting to help. Finally.

I know that by the time of my next appointment (3 days!), I’ll have been off my meds almost a month and will have to start over as far as waiting for the benefits of them.

My meds actually haven’t had any unpleasant side effects, which I know can be a common reason for wanting to stop them. And the kicker is, I DIDN’T want to stop them. I wanted them. I missed them.

But caught in the depths of the Rabbit Hole, I couldn’t bring myself to keep or schedule my appointments…couldn’t bring myself to make those calls or leave the house.

Couldn’t bring myself to care.

Even as I got worse…I couldn’t care.

And that’s the hardest part to get…that sick me, who I’ve tried so hard to keep at bay, just didn’t…care.

But I’m learning that sick me isn’t a lot like “more okay” me. I’m not sure I like sick me much; she’s a real mess. And the things that deeply matter to me are ones sick me blows off because she can’t muster the energy to do, or care about.

And hopefully, I’m learning things to keep sick me from making decisions for me.

My perfect patient record has taken a dent…but thankfully it didn’t break me.

In the end, that’s what matters most, I think.

Be well, friends.

– Selena

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Allies Wanted

#downtherabbithole #chronicillness #invisibleillness #allies

HELP WANTED:

Invisible Illness Allies.

This position requires an open mind, willingness to learn, loyalty, the ability to be flexible with plans and to not take changes personally, and a caring nature.

Sympathy and pity not required, but attempting to understand that you may never understand what we live with is essential.
References and experience not necessary. We are willing to work with you on anything you need to know.

Please apply with any person you know living with an invisible and/or chronic illness.

– Selena ..

Guest Post: There is Hope in Your Struggle with Panic Attacks

I’ve never done a guest post before, but this write by my friend Lynne Shayko is absolutely amazing. As someone who has been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks more frequently of late, I really relate and think others will as well, whether your attacks are one or more daily or less frequent.

The message of hope at the end is priceless. Thank you, Lynne, for allowing me to share this.

There is Hope in Your Struggle with Panic Attacks

By Lynne Shayko

You remember your first panic attack. Overwhelmed by life, suddenly you struggled to breathe. Your head floated towards the ceiling as you grimaced from the pain at your chest and the tight knot in your gut. As you wallowed in dizziness and nausea, the world vomited color and noise on you, then faded away to a dull blur. Terrified that you were having a heart attack or going crazy, you collapsed under the stress. After it ended, you struggled to find yourself, and prayed it would never happen again.

But it repeated. Another panic attack. The same terrifying sequence of symptoms. Then a third panic attack jolted you. Suddenly you find yourself standing in a hailstorm of panic attacks. Again and again, the attacks hit you with poetic violence, often when you least expect. You desperately try to isolate what triggers the attacks, how you can control them and how you can win this battle. Gritting your teeth, you develop elaborate strategies to beat the panic. You practice relaxation techniques, visualization, and meditation. Repeating positive affirmations to yourself, you put on your tinted sunglasses, your noise-canceling headphones, and the clothes that make you the most invisible. You want to survive the situation without anyone singling you out. With practice you learn to disguise your panic symptoms and become well-versed in excuses for any erratic behavior that slips out. But you still struggle.

After a while, the panic attacks and your strategies feel part of the fiber of your being. Every day you hang up your coat on a rack of memories, and comb anxiety strategies into your hair. Events, places, and songs trigger memories of panic. A parking garage triggers a traumatic memory, so you gather your strength and speak to the impending panic, This is not the same garage. This is a different day. Today I will not panic. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Infuriated at this invisible war you are fighting, that you never chose to fight, you rage at the attacks. You curse the panic that is filling your life with so much complicated pain.

Part of the pain is loneliness. Panic traps you within your mind, sending you to a place where no one can ever really touch you. Sometimes panic even imprisons you in your house. Tired of fighting panic attacks and losing, often it feels easiest to cancel plans, avoid triggering places, and order takeout instead of going to the grocery store. So you sit alone in your house, calm but missing the beautiful chaos of the life outside your door. You watch the world through social media and yearn to experience it.

Your battle with panic is laced with self-hatred and self-loathing. Every attack feels like an episode of failure. Once again, your strategy to beat the panic failed. You get angry with yourself for canceling plans, for walking out in the middle of the checkout line in the grocery store, for acting strangely and disappearing from your friend’s party. It all feels so stupid sometimes. It is such a simple thing, to go to a store and buy groceries. Everyone else can do it. Why is it so hard for you?

Because you’re not like everyone else. You have an illness. You have a type of illness that can make everyday things difficult. It’s hard because your illness is invisible, but your strange behavior in panic attacks is not.

Right now it’s awful. But there is hope. Panic attacks are difficult and traumatic, but they are not hopeless. And neither are you. You are still the same person that you were before this all started. You’re just sick right now. You haven’t lost yourself. You’re the same person, you are just fighting a complex and difficult illness right now.

Your struggle with panic attacks doesn’t make you weak. Each panic attack is a small trauma. You are enduring a hailstorm of trauma, and you’re still standing, you’re still reading this article and rehearsing coping strategies. You’re still getting up every morning and braving the world again. You are fighting an invisible dragon, and you are still holding on to the sword.

Over time, as you refine your coping strategies, as you find a way to balance your outside and inside worlds, things will get better. If they aren’t, if your world is getting very small and you feel like you’re drowning, get help. Find a therapist or a support group. Reach out to friends or family members. Read up on cognitive behavioral techniques to beat panic disorder.

You may feel very alone right now, but you are not alone. Many people have fought this same battle. They have suffered. But many have persevered and overcome, and you can too.

Try to be kinder to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for breaking commitments due to panic attacks, for leaving places early, and for acting strangely. You have an illness. This is not your fault. If you went to a party and suddenly got sick, would you feel guilty for leaving? If you sprained your ankle while shopping, would you feel guilty for leaving to get medical help? Having a panic attack is the same thing, a medical problem, that comes on suddenly, and requires you to rest in order to recover.

Things are hard for you right now. You are bearing a tremendous weight. But don’t give up. You can make it through this. You may just need some extra help.

When this is all over, you will emerge a warrior. You endured a traumatic series of panic attacks, a pattern that tried to keep you housebound, and still you kept your chin up, you found healing strategies and people to come alongside you. You will emerge from this chapter of your life and rejoice in your salvation. In that day, the world will be wide open for you, and the air will have never tasted so sweet.

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One of my poems…I think it fits well with how a panic attack feels to me personally. – Selena 

Anxiety, My Personal Demon, and an Un-suicide Plan

***WARNING–this post could be triggering if you have had/are having suicidal thoughts, are a suicide attempt survivor, or have self-harmed.***

 

This is a hard post to write.

I’ve written about my downswings with depression quite a bit lately, mostly because I’ve been struggling with one recently…going back over my posts of the past few weeks, it’s a reasonable guess that probably anyone who follows me on social media regularly can see that spiral plain as day. It’s as if a very different person is posting.

A very different person who needed help.

Yesterday, it all came crashing down and culminated in the worst anxiety/panic attack I’ve ever had. The worst one I’ve ever personally witnessed.

And it lasted for HOURS. Around half the day, actually.

I couldn’t be still. If I managed to be still, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t focus or concentrate. All I could do was pace the house, even though I was in excruciating migraine pain to boot and movement made it worse. There was no winding down despite my best efforts, and the less I was successful at it, the more panicked I felt.

It’s a given that I wasn’t thinking clearly; not only did I not recognize what was going on until a few hours in, I was having suicidal thoughts.

Worst of all, I didn’t even think of calling for help once I DID realize my anxiety was out of control, and I was terrified more by the thought of going to the ER and being hospitalized than I was of my mental and physical state. I was caught in my own mind, endlessly running in circles…rather like an animal in a trap.

And the more I mindlessly struggled, the tighter the trap clamped down on me.

The one mantra that made sense that my brain kept repeating was, “gotta calm down, gotta get rest.” At some point near the end, I took a dose of benadryl and melatonin in an effort to force my body to do just that. Luckily, it worked and I didn’t take too many in my confused state (just to be clear, I do NOT suggest this as a solution to an anxiety attack, ever. I was lucky. I may not be next time, and neither may you). I managed to sit down and rock in place until I dozed off.

When I woke 3 hours later, my mind was much, much clearer. I was appalled to see just how off-kilter I’d been and for how long.

Aside from a few rambling texts to my boyfriend (who I was certain was pissed at me for ‘acting weird’ and who was working) and one Facebook post about my anxiety, I hadn’t “reached out” at all. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t think at the time there was anyone I could ask.

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Clearheaded me knows better, and thinks it’s high past time I enacted what another blogger refers to as an Un-suicide Plan. (I definitely urge you to hit that link, it’s an amazing article.)

For me, that would be a plan with 2 or 3 people I can call in case of days like yesterday or suicidal thoughts…people who can talk me through until I’m in a safe mental place, or who can take me to the hospital if it comes to that. That way if one isn’t available, I’ll have another who is.

It makes sense- we have plans for our physical health going awry…why not mental health, if one is prone to getting derailed? And it helps to know what the plan is ahead of time in case someone is too worried to think of one off the cuff.

I’d like to suggest the same or variations of it for everyone who struggles with mental health issues–a crisis isn’t always being suicidal.

It can be anything that would put you in danger or lead to your danger zone–like say, a 5 hour unrelieved panic attack. Maybe the urge to self harm is yours, or a bout of severe depression, passive suicidal thoughts, or extreme anxiety you can’t tamp down on your own.

Hopefully by the next time we talk, I’ll have the details of mine in place and can have some more concrete suggestions for setting up your own plan.

Until then, be well and be safe.

– Selena