Keep Moving Forward

I know I’ve posted a lot about how difficult winter can be for someone who struggles with mental illness, but today I want to write a little more.

My first admission to a psych ward was when I was sixteen years old. I don’t want to go in detail because I’m scared to trigger someone, but I was in a bad place emotionally. It was December 20th, 2011. Ironically, I’m writing this on the same date seven years later. My anxiety was preventing me from sleeping more than two or three hours per night and it lead to a psychosis. I was hearing, seeing, and feeling things that weren’t there. I was terrified that those things would hurt me if I told anyone, so I dealt with it for a while before I broke down. I was admitted to a children’s psych ward and was inpatient for a month while they stabilized me on medications. I was angry at my parents for sending me there. I missed Christmas and New Years at my family’s house. I missed weeks of school. I missed my anniversary with my then boyfriend. But my family missed my funeral. My family didn’t have to miss me.

When I got out of the hospital, I switched schools. We thought that changing schools would fix me and there wouldn’t be problems anymore (I’ll save more of that connection for another post). It helped for a while.

During my senior year of high school, a friend committed suicide. He wasn’t my best friend or someone I hung out with all of the time, but he was a friend. He was someone who always knew when something was wrong, even if we hadn’t talking in weeks, and would make sure that I was okay. And when he needed someone, I wasn’t there. I didn’t even realize how badly he was hurting. He was always the funny guy, the person who could make anyone laugh. That was a tough time for our whole community. I was in shock. I couldn’t talk for days. For me, it hurt that he died, it hurt that I didn’t help him, but it also hurt because I realized how I would have made the people around me feel if I had ended my life. I promised that I would never again do something to hurt myself.

For a while I did really well. I’m talking years that I never self harmed or had suicidal ideations.

This next part isn’t as clear for me. I remember waking up in a different psych ward on December 20th several years later. What I do remember from the few days before that is just a compilation of stories that other people told me. This was the last time I have seen my father. He was there when I woke up at the hospital and he told me how selfish I was. I told him to leave and never talk to me again. He listened. The guy I was dating at the time never visited because he relapsed and went back to prison (after stealing money from me). I felt horrible. I felt alone.

To be discharged, I had to move back in with my mom and her husband. I returned to work a few weeks later and that’s when my now husband and I started hanging out. So much has changed since then, but I will never forget everything that I learned. I am so incredibly grateful that I wasn’t successful at committing suicide. I wouldn’t say my life is perfect (nobody’s life is), but it’s pretty damn good. I never would have thought I’d go back to school to be a nurse and get married. I never thought I would be in a relationship that builds me up instead of tearing me down.

There is so much about the future that is unknown. Things may seem unbearable now, but trust me when I say it’s worth it to keep moving forward. The darkness will eventually slip away and a better day will be on the horizon.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Practice Makes Better

When I was younger, I accepted things how they were. Don’t get me wrong, I had a million questions, but I always felt like most things were out of my control. For example, I thought that my bad handwriting was something that I would just have to deal with my entire life. In school my teachers would always joke that I should be a doctor because of my handwriting. It was barely legible and I would sometimes need to translate it to others. I was always jealous of people who had beautiful uniform writing while I scribbled words on the paper.

This year I have practiced both my print and cursive writing. My writing has changed a lot, but there is still room for improvement. In realizing that I had control over my handwriting, I was able to better myself.

My middle school band instructor used to always say, “Practice makes better.” I’m pretty sure he was talking about us attending band lessons, but it applies to a lot of things. Nothing is ever perfect, but with practice, you can make big improvements. I practiced by writing in my journal. I practiced by creating faux-calligraphy illustrations. I wrote to-do and grocery lists in cursive. I took my time and focused on each letter individually. I watched YouTube videos and read blogs about having beautiful handwriting. Sure, my handwriting is still messy when I am in a hurry, but now I can write beautifully when I choose to.

Are there things in your life that you have always “just accepted”? Are those things truly set in stone or is it something that you could work on?

Practice makes better.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Smoking Cessation

Everyone has their vice(s). I have been vaping for several years (I switched from smoking cigarettes to vaping) and no, I am not proud of it. But guess what, I finally quit last week. No more nicotine and no more chemicals. It is about time I took control over this part of my health. Habits are formed in 21 to 28 days and breaking habits take time too.

It has been a rough week. I have been more agitated and anxious in the past seven days than I have been in a long time. My patience has been worn thin and I feel on edge. This process has made me realize just how much I relied on my addiction. I always told myself “I’m not addicted. I can stop whenever I want. It’s not a big deal” (cliche, I know). This process has been so much harder than expected and I still have a long way to go. When I wake up, I crave nicotine. Not to mention after I eat, when I am in the car, and when I see someone else vaping/smoking. It sucks, but I don’t want to live another day “needing” something to handle life’s stress.

Additionally, as a nurse, I am supposed to advocate for patients’ health and educate them on how to live a healthier lifestyle. How can I, in good conscious, do that while being addicted to nicotine myself? Frankly, I’m a hypocrite.

There is no time like the present. Instead of thinking “maybe later” I am thinking “why not now?”. Once I get over this hurdle, things will be easier. My health will be better, my insurance will be cheaper, there will be less frivolous expenses, and I will be free from my addiction.

Are you in for the long-haul? It’s time to kick that addiction before the new year. Stop saying “later” and start acting toward your goals.

I am one week in the right direction; where are you?

Love Always,

Elizabeth

It’s All About Perspective

The outlook you have on situations in your life speaks to the kind of person that you are. I have been trying to focus on being a better person and a large part of that for me is changing my mindset. Today one of the nurses that I work with had an emergency and had to go home early. We desperately needed someone to cover her later hours and it didn’t seem like anyone was going to volunteer. Instead of thinking “why me?” I deliberately chose to think “why not me?”. If I can’t change the outcome of a situation, then my only option is to change my outlook on the situation.

When you have a bad day, try to remember that the bad days are what make the good days so magnificent. If you didn’t have bad days, you would’t appreciate the good days. This mindset goes for a lot of things. For example, I was in a very unhealthy relationship before I started dating my now-husband. It was my first exposure to a drug addict and I was completely unaware of what his behaviors signified.

Looking back, there were so many warning signs. He was stealing my seizure medication and selling it – when I approached him with my suspicions, he accused me of abusing my meds. I would wake up in the middle of the night and he would be gone (we lived together) and I would have to go out searching for him until he decided to come back. His stories never added up and he made me feel like a worthless human being. I lost my mind when I was in that relationship and I ended up in a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt that December. Those moments were heartbreaking, but they also changed my life.

When I was admitted to the hospital, the guy I was with relapsed and went to prison for parole violation. I now know that was the best thing that could have happened to me at that point. It was just the thing I needed to wake me up and get me out of that situation.

This is when I starting hanging out with Blake (my husband). We worked together for a while, but I was in a relationship at the time. After I got home from the hospital and eventually went back to work, we became friends. I told myself that I wasn’t ready for another relationship, so we just stayed friends for a while. But then we fell in love, I went to nursing school, we got married, and the rest is history.

For a while I was angry. I didn’t understand why I had to experience the things that I did. I thought about how “unfair” it was and wondered why God would let something like that relationship happen in my life. I did a lot of “why me?” thinking.

As my relationship with my now-husband blossomed, I realized why I went through the emotionally abusive relationship that tore me apart. It’s because those bad days and bad experiences make me appreciate my husband and what we have so much more. My husband is such a kind man and if it weren’t for my relationship with my ex, I don’t think I would have appreciated my husband the way he deserves.

I wish my ex all of the happiness and health in the world. Just because he is/was an addict doesn’t mean that he is a bad person. But I will say that I am so incredibly grateful that the chapter in my life that included him is long gone. I learned so much about people and myself during that relationship. I have decided that instead of dwelling on the terrible and scary parts of life, I will focus on what I learned from the experience and how I have grown from the challenges that arise.

I can’t change what happened in my past, but I can decide how I will use those experiences to better my future.

I hope that you can find the strength within yourself to do the same.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Friendship Values

I recently bought a book of writing prompts and one of the questions I answered today was about what kind of qualities would I want my personal assistant to have. This got me thinking about the qualities that I look for in a friend and the qualities that others may find in me.

I personally value integrity, honesty, loyalty, kindness, creativity, intelligence, self-motivation, among other things. After realizing this, I spent some time reflecting on myself and my character. If I look for these characteristics in the people I surround myself with, then I should probably be integrity-filled, honest, loyal, and so-on.

When working on ourselves, maybe we should strive to be someone that we would want to be friends with. If you don’t think that you are someone who you would want to be around if you were someone else, then maybe you should evaluate why that is and what you can do to become a better person or change your self-view.

If you value honesty in your friendships, be truthful. If you value creativity, allow yourself to have creative outlets. Better yourself by understanding what being a good friend means to you.

I don’t know if I believe that you become just like the five people you spend the most time with, but I do think that the people you surround yourself with influence who you are. If you surround yourself with negative people, that energy could bring you down and make you a more negative person. It can be extremely tiring for me to be around negative people. I’m not saying I am constantly positive and only have good thoughts, but people who are constantly negative take a lot out of me.

Surround yourself with good people who have similar values to you and work on being a person that you would want to spend your time with. There is no time better spent than the time used to work on your happiness.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Chronic Sorry-er

I am a chronic sorry-er. I don’t know why I say it, but “I’m sorry” is an impulsive response for so many things in my life. I don’t even mean to say it, but it come out of my mouth without thinking. It’s a work in progress.

I realize that saying I’m sorry so often not only makes me seem weak, but also makes the words mean less. I think it stems from being a perfectionist and never wanting to inconvenience anyone. Maybe it’s from always feeling like I was doing something wrong or at fault for something when I was a kid. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist. What I o know, however, is that over the years it has become a pattern ingrained in my daily conversations.

I need to stop being so sorry. Stop being sorry for doing my job. Stop being sorry for having a question. Stop being sorry for all of the mundane things that don’t need an apology.

I need to build other phrases in my vocabulary that can be used in place. Maybe I could say “excuse me” or just get right to the point. I talked before about “fake it until you make it” and I think confidence is another great example. If I’m not feeling super confident in myself, maybe I can just fake it until I believe it myself. Belief in having confidence and having confidence itself aren’t that much different in the end.

Can you think of someone in your life who is a chronic “sorry-er”?

If that person is you, maybe it’s time to stop the habit and start a new conversation.

You are strong and you are confident.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

 

Fake it ’til you Make it

There was a month break between my last job and current employment. In theory it sounds great, but in actuality I was going crazy. I am not good at having too much free time. I like to keep busy and with the break being a surprise, I didn’t have time to plan anything. By the time I started my current job, I wasn’t feeling myself.

Sure I had time to pick up the house, but I felt like I was losing myself. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I got clearance from my neurologist, so I spent the days in the house alone until my husband got home. I love my dog, but she was driving me crazy. I was losing patience because my entire day was spent chasing after her, cleaning up her messes, grabbing things from her, letting her inside (and outside and inside and outside…). Let’s just say she is a very high maintenance pooch. I felt horrible for being so frustrated with her, but I was becoming overwhelmed. I don’t know how stay-at-moms do it. They are amazing superheros.

My anxiety was getting worse. The more time I spent in the house, the harder it was for me to get out. I wasn’t a nurse. I wasn’t a hard worker. I wasn’t the things that I pride myself in. So I felt like I was nothing.

I was actually really excited to start working again and not only has it decreased my anxiety, but my self-esteem has gotten so much better. I feel like I am helping people again and my life has meaning. I am working toward appreciating myself more aside from my career, but for now I will take it.

For years my motto has been “Fake it until you make it” and that rings entirely too true for my anxiety. I am a high functioning person with anxiety, but I have learned over the years that when I stop making myself highly function, my anxiety creeps back in. If I don’t keep myself super busy, my mind wanders and it gets the best of me. It’s not the healthiest cycle to live in, but I am in a much better place than I was when first diagnosed with anxiety.

I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder when I was in tenth grade. My anxiety was worst in my history class and I ended up being placed in an emotional support class (independent studies) for the remainder of that class. I’m not proud of it, but at the time I couldn’t handle how my anxiety made me feel. Half way through tenth grade, I changed to a home-bound program where I did my studies at home with a tutor. I would learn independently and take tests with the tutor. At the time, I was going through therapy and trying medication (I’m notorious for being a non-compliant patient, so it wasn’t consistent). I was too afraid to go to the mall, car wash, elevator, and pretty much anything that wasn’t just sitting at home. After about two months of being out of school, I switched to a new district.

This was my chance for a new start and this is when my motto started. Nobody in my new school knew about my mental health (not that anyone in my old school really knew what was going on entirely anyway). I told myself that I had anxiety issues and that was okay, but that I had to pretend that everything was okay when I was in school. Overall this was successful for me. It taught me to acknowledge how I felt, but to not allow my feelings to overwhelm me.

Switching schools and changing my mentality was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I met so many new people and made a million memories that I will have for a lifetime. One of my best friends is someone I met from the school I graduated from and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to grow our friendship. Not to mention the fact that I graduated from high school instead of getting my G.E.D which was the other option at that point. The day I crossed the stage and received my diploma was one of the proudest days of my life.

If you are someone who is struggling with anxiety (or mental health issues in general), there is hope. It will be hard work, but it will be worth it. It’s okay if you have to “fake it ’til you make it” right now because one day you will make it.

Love Always,

Elizabeth