Updates: Mental health journey to recovery

Today I had to go for a blood test to check all of my vitamins, blood sugar, and hormone levels to see how my body is doing since gaining weight. I hate being monitored like this (especially since I’m terrified of needles) but maybe it will allow me to stop having so many doctors visits. I’m hoping that my blood tests will come back normal since I have gained all of the weight back (its true what they say about regaining everything you lose by self-starvation -_-) and since I have been eating pretty normally.

I also have a therapy appointment tomorrow which I’m really nervous about. My psychologist has decided to shift the focus of my treatment from my eating disorder to my self-harm since I have unfortunately relapsed into that recently. I guess she feels like she needs to tackle whichever issue is the biggest threat at any given time and since I’m not in full-blown bulimia mode right now I guess she thinks its okay to try to work on something else. But to be totally honest I would really rather focus on my anxiety and panic disorders because I feel like those are the real underlying problems. My eating disorder is at its worst when I am really anxious and paranoid. My self-harm is at its worst when my life feels like it is falling apart. I feel like I need to learn how to handle my emotions, anxiety, and panic in order to help in my recovery from my eating disorder and self-harm. I understand where she is coming from since those issues are more of a threat to my health than my panic and anxiety, but I think it would be better to get the underlying problems sorted out.

I also still feel as though I would meet the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ve done a lot of research and based on my analysis, I have enough of the symptoms to meet the criteria. At the time of my assessment my psychologist was not aware of my self-harm which is probably one of the reasons she did not consider BPD before, but I think it should be considered now. I kind of want to ask her about it but I don’t want her to think that I am looking for attention or trying to self-diagnose. I just need answers and I feel like maybe she missed something when she did my assessment initially.

The DSM dictates that an individual must demonstrate at least 5 (but it can be more) of the symptoms outlined as characteristics of BPD. In my case my symptoms include:

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment

2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships

3. Identity disturbances (ie. poor body image)

4. self mutilating behavior

5. emotional/mood instability

6. Impulsivity

7. chronic feelings of emptiness

So I meet 7 of the 9 criteria. That puts me over the minimum criteria to be diagnosed with the illness. Again, I don’t want to self-diagnose, but I want to make sure that I am getting the right treatment to deal with my mental illnesses and in order for that to happen I need to make sure I have the right diagnosis.

What do you think I should do?

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Therapy+school+work+social life=SWAMPED

Lately I’ve been trying to manage my school work, therapy appointments and work all while trying to maintain a social life. I feel like I’m going crazy. This is my last year of my undergrad and I’m definitely swamped with essays, midterms, readings, and everyday assignments. Add my two jobs on top of that and I have a pretty full schedule. And to top it off I have to go to therapy to manage the stress that I’m experiencing because of everything else.

Needless to say, something has got to give. I feel like I have to time for myself. I spend all of my time in front of my computer trying to do homework but I just CANT focus on anything. I am not getting any work done at all because I feel so overwhelmed.

Tonight I decided to take a little break because blogging usually helps me relax. Ironically I can focus on writing this no problem but as soon as I try to start tackling that next big essay my mind is in 1000 different places. This is especially annoying because I used to be able to focus so well when I was in high school and in my first year of university. I actually used to be so productive. But then again I still wasn’t healthy at that point because I was spending so much time on school work that I literally didn’t allow myself to have any time to myself. Eventually I would wear myself out to the point of a mental breakdown.

So I guess I’ve never really been good at balancing everything. I need to find a way to have some time to myself without compromising my study time and work schedule or I might actually lose my mind this year. Who knew 4th year would be such a step up!?

Those secrets will drive you mad my love

My entire existence revolves around secrets. My smile is a mask that I wear so that you won’t start to wonder what is really going on with me. My treatment is a secret because you cannot bear the idea that I am not the picture of perfection as you have imagined.

You could not possibly understand the amount of pain I have been in, and somehow that only makes the pain worse.

To be unable to express pain is a terrible thing. To be forced to suffer in silence day in and day out is a horrible experience. I hate to admit that my secrets have driven me to the brink of madness my love.

You see my scars but you accept my excuses. You feel my emotional detachment but you do nothing to help me. You see my love it is tearing me apart.

I cannot possibly begin to tell you how it feels to be in my mind. The sad reality is that if I let you in on my maddening secret, I fear you might just go mad along with me.

I am alone in my struggle, I am alone in my fight.

Sometimes I feel okay, almost normal. But the thoughts always creep back in when I am at my lowest points. The happiness is never here for long. The sadness, the anger, the grief; these are the emotions that I feel.

To be numb might be a blessing; maybe then I would not feel so out of control. But they say that feeling pain is better than feeling nothing; for nothingness is no existence at all. But I will never know the difference because numb is something that I am not.

The only thing I know for sure is that those secrets will drive you mad, my love. These secrets will drive you mad.

xo

Ayla

The other side of mental illness

I’ve recently come to realize that when people think of mental illness, they are often misinformed and tend to believe that people will mental illnesses are all raving lunatics who should be locked up in an insane asylum. While this doesn’t really surprise me considering the stigmatization of mental illness, it does disappoint me.

I have decided to fight back against these misguided beliefs and share some information about myself that people might not generally think about as being characteristic of someone with a mental illness. So here goes:

1. I am a straight A student (When you actually think about this one it makes sense; perfectionism is common among eating disorder sufferers)

2. I am musically inclined! I play three instruments, my favorite being guitar 🙂

3. I don’t drink or do drugs.

4. I love  writing and I hope to one day publish a book.

5. I am highly respected by my peers for being responsible and dedicated.

6. I do not have a criminal record of any sort (I know, shocker right? Do you really think mental illness is responsible for that much criminal behavior?)

7. I’m planning to move into my own apartment in the next year (yepp, that’s right, you can be independent even with a mental illness or five)

8. I love reading

9. I am capable of drawing relatively well when I put my mind to it

10. I consider myself to be a fairly creative person

11. Most of the time I am a happy person to be around (mind you some of this is a mask, but I am still capable of pulling it off)

12. I set goals and I know how to achieve them

13. I have had a job since I was 14 and until recently I was working 3 jobs (and you thought we weren’t able to contribute to society 😉 pfft)

14. I am terrible at sports

15. I am a relatively “normal” 20 year old woman who happens to be dealing with some struggles.

Now I know some of these points are rather mundane and don’t really prove that much, however, these points go to show you the normalcy in my life compared to individuals who might feel as though people who suffer from mental illnesses are completely crazy. My interests and talents serve to demonstrate that even “normal” people can be suffering from a mental illness.

While mental illness can and often is debilitating, I also wanted to demonstrate that it is entirely possible to function on a day-to-day basis while dealing with a mental illness. It is not easy and there are certainly ups and downs, but it is possible to have a “normal” life even if you have a mental illness.

I hope this proves that I am just as human as any other person out there. I am not crazy. I am still 100% capable of living my life, working my jobs, going to school, having a social life. Sure, these things might present extra challenges to me as a result of my struggles, but that doesn’t mean I should be treated as any less of a person because of it. I am who I am. I have my own battles to fight but I’m sure you do to. I won’t hold your struggles against you so please don’t hold my mental illnesses against me.

xo

Ayla

Creeps on the street

The other day I was walking down the street on my way to class and some middle-aged unhygienic man pulled his car up beside me and decided that it would be totally appropriate to start cat calling me. I was disgusted and angry, but I decided that it would be best to ignore him to avoid any further problems.

Thankfully, one of my close guy friends walked around the corner at that precise moment and the creep drove away.

What really bothers me about this situation is that some people think that it is okay to sexually harass women in this way. It also bothers me that they often try to pass it off as a compliment. In the words of Laci Green, “where the FUCK did you learn to compliment someone”? And oh yeah, I missed the part where I asked your opinion.

The fact of the matter is that this sort of harassment happens on a regular basis. Whats worse is that many people don’t even see how this is doing any harm. However, such sexual harassment often sends off red flags in the minds of the women who are being victimized who often fear that they might be assaulted by the individual who is harassing them.

So to all of the creeps on the street who think it is okay to harass women, you should think twice before you harass women. Its despicable.

I want to see you be brave

Today I heard an amazing song that really spoke to me. Its called “Brave” and it is by Sara Bareilles.

What stood out to me about this song is the message that you can really do anything, you just have to be brave. We all have struggles and we all get knocked down, but we need to be brave and get back up.

“You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up”

She also talks about how life can sometimes feel like a cage, but that there is a way to break free. To me, this speaks to the overwhelming expectations that I have for myself. I need to be smart and get straight A’s. I need to lose weight and be skinny. I need to be pretty. I need to be strong. I need to be independent. But at some point, these goals went from something to motivate me to something that controls me. This song really opened my eyes to the fact that I am my own worst enemy and that I can break free of the cage that I have put myself in.

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is”

Lastly, the song really speaks to my desire to raise awareness about mental illness. She talks about not letting your words be empty which is really important to me because I want people to hear my story and feel an emotional connection to everything I have been through. I want the compassion of the world to be brought to life and ignited through my words and I want this to help raise awareness about mental illness.

“Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?”

But most of all, this song gave me hope. The song inspired me to “be brave” even though I am fighting my way through the dark depths of depression. The song gave me a reason to believe that there are ways to be strong and recover. The song reminds me that no matter how alone I feel, there will always be somebody who is willing to help; I just have to be brave enough to let them know that I need them.

I want to see myself be brave.

I want to see you be brave.

xo

Ayla

Depression is in session

I remember a few months ago I reached out to a friend of mine who used to suffer from Bulimia. I told her what I was going through and how I didn’t know what to do. She told me that I can’t keep pushing people away because that will lead to isolation which can lead to other problems like depression.

I didn’t really listen.

Now depression is my reality.

I’ve been feeling alone a lot lately. I have nobody to turn to; all of the people who I used to go to for support have hurt me in some way or another over the last few weeks and I have shut them out because I can’t handle any more emotional pain. I couldn’t just let it go because I felt so tired of letting people walk all over me. Instead, I am stubborn and I refuse to give in. I refuse to let them make me feel like I am overreacting. But now I feel even more alone.

I literally have nobody to talk to about anything. I feel like I’m on the verge of tears 90% of the time. I have no motivation to do anything that I used to enjoy. Social interactions make me anxious. I push everyone away. I’m in a horrible mood all the time. I don’t even want to get out of bed. I don’t even really want to talk to anyone. And to top it off I freak out on people for no reason.

I feel like I’m losing my mind. I don’t know how to pull myself out of this. I don’t even know who I can talk to.

I never realized how easy it is to slip into depression. And I definitely didn’t realize how difficult it would be to bring myself back out of it.

Does anyone have any advice?

Crying in therapy

Up until today I was able to hold myself together during my therapy sessions. Even when I recounted the traumatic events from my past, even when I had to talk about self harm, even when I had to talk about everything that is going on with my family, I never once cried. But today I just broke down. I didn’t even see it coming. I didn’t realize how upset I had been over the last few weeks until suddenly I was in a position to talk about it. I finally had someone who was willing to listen to me and it just came rushing out and I just couldn’t hold myself together anymore.

But now I’m really embarrassed because I hate crying in front of people. I hate being vulnerable and I hate letting people see how upset I actually am. I know that counselors are there to help and that they are not going to judge, but its still really hard for me. I don’t know how I’m going to face her for my next session. I feel so humiliated.

That said, it did help to get everything off my chest. She listened and understood how alone I felt and she gave me some advice about how I should let go of people in my life who cause more harm than good.

She also helped me to understand that some people hurt their friends unintentionally. Some friends are worth keeping even though they have made mistakes. You just have to give them a chance to redeem themselves. So thats what I’m trying to do, but it wont happen overnight. It might take some time to forgive and forget. But I know that I need support and its not going to help me at all if I keep pushing everyone away. Its just really hard to let my walls down.

The Bracelet Project

I would have a purple ribbon with orange, black, and teal beads. What does your bracelet look like?

The Self-Harm Project

Each disorder has a color that corresponds to it.
Schizophrenia is Gold
Bipolar/mood disorder is Silver
Anorexia is Red.
Bulimia is Purple.
EDNOS is Pink.
Depression is blue.
Self harm is Orange or Black.
Fasting at the time is Green.
Suicidal is Yellow.
Overweight/Obese is Turquoise.
Anxiety/Panic disorder/OCD is Teal.
Adding 1 white bead means you’re trying to recover.
If your bracelet is half of the color that corresponds to your disorder and half white it means you’re in recovery.
You can also make the strand the main disorder you have then add beads to your lesser disorders, or if you have EDNOS, if you have more anorexic or bulimic tendencies then you can add a red or purple bead.

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Stop. Just stop.

My whole twitter feed right now is “I wish I had a body like those women #MissAmerica”.

Seriously people? STOP. You do not need to be a twig to be beautiful. Just because society tells you that you need to be skinny doesnt mean you need to be skinny. If society told you to jump off a cliff would you do that too?

No.