Y’all Are Crazy, and That’s Okay

Having a mental illness is a lonely thing.

Like most people, we want at least someone with whom we can talk. We want a friend to cry with, or even laugh with. We need a deep connection with another human, to feel loved and validated.

Unfortunately, we have a few things that get in the way of socializing.

Many of us are scared. We have trust issues. When we feel hurt, we feel very deeply and wish to avoid feeling that way again. Often, we’ve had a bad experience of someone breaking a promise or shying away when we shared how we think. Heck, a lot of us have a bonafide diagnosis from a doctor that we have social anxieties.

Besides the hurt and fear, we avoid people for their own benefit. We tell ourselves that we are flawed and unsafe. We justify our anti-social behavior with statements like, “I know I’m a downer,” “No ones talks to me at parties. They can see, in my face, that I’m no fun,” and “If they really wanted to be around me, they’d talk to me.”

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Those reasons and that voice are hard to work with, but our health and mental stability need to fight against them. I mean, did you know that human connections were rated the most important thing in a happy life?

So stop beating yourself up. Seriously. I’ll tell you why:

  • Most people are some level of crazy. They may not be certified, but they have issues. I can’t tell you how many people I talk with who have experienced some angle of what I have, if not the whole enchilada.
  • Even though you are crazy, what are you gonna do about it? I’ve tried starting over, but the person that is me always shines through. I am what I have to work with and I accept that.
  • Crazy people have options, like crazy-people doctors and crazy-people medications and crazy-people blogs. There are even …crazy people groups that meet and talk crazy together. It’s a blast.
  • You are you, and are a work in progress. Just think: are you still crawling around and stuffing car keys in your mouth? NO! You did that as a baby, silly. Now you are older and know better. You are knowing better every day.
  • The future will be better. The future will be even betterer if you keep moving forward -even if all you can manage is a shuffle.
  • If all else fails, there is chocolate.
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I have a few friends. Of those, a few have mental health challenges. Some struggle with depression and social anxiety like I do. One has panic attacks. Another is schizophrenic. A mutual acquaintance is bipolar.

Sometimes when I try to plan a get-together, a friend flakes and doesn’t show up. Sometimes I have a terrible week and have to cancel on one of them. Since we are all in this not-sea-worthy-at-all boat together, however, we get it. If not, we talk about it. We hug. We pull out the chocolate.

I need people. I need understanding. I need connection. So do you. Plus, your challenges and perspectives mean that you are more understanding and empathetic than other people.

I mean, we may all be crazy, but that’s okay. We’re as human as the next person and our needs are just as valid.

You are worth it. I promise.

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Photo Credits:
Sayo Garcia
Ethan Sykes
Anita Austvika

Finding My Antidepressant Match

In the late fall of 2016 I was at my lowest point mentally of my entire 25 years on Earth. I laid in bed most of the day, suicidal thoughts constantly buzzed in my head and I was struggling with self-harming on an almost daily basis.

My therapist was very serious when she told me it might be a good idea to get on antidepressants. I never in my life thought I would get to a point where medicine was necessary. I thought about the stigma behind taking antidepressants, that people who take them are “crazy” and “can’t function on their own”.

But you know what? I couldn’t function on my own so I started my grueling journey to find my perfect antidepressant match.

I called my doctor who took my condition very seriously as well which I am so thankful for. I swear without her and my therapist, I wouldn’t be here. She prescribed me a low dose of an SRI as well as Larazapam for my anxiety.

Immediately I got nauseous from the medicine. I already was having trouble eating so the added nausea wasn’t helping. I took it daily for weeks with no improvement in my depression. She increased my dose but it didn’t help.

To get me on the right track with my medicine I was sent to a psychiatrist who created a long list of medicines that he thought could help me. It started with a bunch of different SRI prescriptions but none of them worked for me.

For months I tried different pills at their highest doses but nothing made any difference in my mood nor did they decrease my suicidal thoughts. After 6 months, I was ready to give up. I had heard positive things for other people so I questioned why these pills didn’t work for me.

In spring of 2017 I saw my psychiatrist again hoping he would be able to figure out a better solution for me since no SRIs worked. He said to try a medicine typically prescribed for individuals with bipolar, Wellbutrin.

Starting that was the first time in months that I saw a change. I began to think more clearly, I wasn’t nauseous, I had more energy and my mood was getting better. It was a relief!

If you are trying to find the right medicine for your mental illness, do not give up. It is absolute hell until you get there but finding the right pill for you is possible.

I thought I would never find my perfect match. Even though it took a long time, I am glad that it finally worked out.

Stabilize

I sat in the waiting room clutching papers in my hand. For two weeks I had prepared to tell my doctor that I finally began seeing a therapist and that the diagnosis from her standpoint was leaning towards bipolar disorder. Awkwardly I gathered my things together once my name was called and followed the nurse for blood pressure and weight checks. Weighing in at 210 pounds threw me off guard at first, but I suppose that’s what happens when you stop drinking every day.

The nurse handed me the same GAD checklist that gets filled out each visit. I hadn’t seen my doctor in a little over a month so my numbers were up higher than in previous visits. As I would fill out “More than half the days”, I could feel that I was getting beside myself again. I should’ve been better than this. I should’ve been normal.

The doctor came in the room almost as quickly as the nurse left it. Before I could even allow the “hello” to escape her lips, the paperwork was extended in her direction and I told her I had gone to a therapist. “We think I may have bipolar disorder. I’m not throwing chairs or anything like that but after reading off the symptoms, a lot of things make a lot of sense. The high sex drive, the huge interest in hobbies only to drop them within a week or so, the days of not being able to make myself get off of the couch, my lack of focus and excess of indecision, it’s all here and then some.”, I said while pointing at the bipolar information sheet.

“Well I had my suspicions, but getting a second opinion from a therapist definitely solidifies a treatment option. Let’s try weaning off of one of your antidepressants and adding a mood stabilizer.”, she said.

I want to be clear by saying that I’m not glad that I am on another medication, but I am glad that I may be one step closer to finding a way to live life without my life getting in the way of… Well… My life. The problem I have with my mental health is that I wake up with either no motivation to get anything done, or so much motivation that I run errands and still not get anything done. I can have a great day until a derogatory comment is made to either me or a friend, and it sends my mood into a sullen, sarcastic, and depressing cloud for either hours or the rest of the day. I feel as though I have never had any control over my sensitivity or emotions, even as a child.

It has been four days since I have begun the process to stabilize. The new medicine I am trying is called Topiramate and if it’s anything like my Lexapro, it probably is something that will take time for my body to chemically register before a difference is noticed. Honestly, the biggest side effects I feel today are lethargy and extreme dizziness. It is as if I have hit the bottle hard enough to have woken up drunk and held onto it. This medicine is also used to treat seizures as well as migraines, so I feel that it plays with a different part of the mind than I am used to, so hopefully a change will come soon. According to other articles, it takes around five to six days for the side effects to dissipate.

This is only the beginning of this journey, and I write to keep you in the loop about this process in case any of you ever go through the same thing. If you feel as though you need help with mental health please reach out to someone. You are never alone. I am available for contact via social media if anyone ever needs an ear to listen. You can find my contact information as well as my other blog posts at www.outtodry.blog.

Take care everyone!

My Weekly Wrap-up

I figured out today that Sunday’s could be my weekly wrap-up sessions. I can use it to recap and link my other pages while analyzing the week behind me.

I learned this week that no matter how much the belief that things will eventually go right, that the reality is that in life we just have bad weeks. Life is not so simple because you can find good in any bad week. I think my mind would have exploded had it been all bad. Things certainly went wrong, but I finished my finals with confidence. I woke up every day this week wanting to be alive and to moving closer to my goals.

Depending on the point of view, last night I had a setback with my social anxiety. For the second time this week my anxiety led me to a bad panic attack late at night. My worst panic attacks are night ones because everyone is sleeping and I have no one that for sure will answer a text at night. I did at one point but that person hasn’t spoken a word to me in a week. I was alone last night. I did the best one can do in that situation. I rode out the panic attack until it was over.

It was bad and it was close to forty-five minutes before I could calm down enough to lay down and finally sleep. It took two Ativan and almost a third. I hyperventilated. I felt unease, restlessness, panic, my mind raced with catastrophic thoughts that I would have a heart attack, and I couldn’t keep still so I paced. I have this weird habit of drinking a lot of water during my panic attack because, in my mind, it helps me.

I did my best to work on my mindfulness breathing during the panic attack which helped. I could feel my heart racing as my heart beat reached 130 (I always have had a natural high resting heartbeat.) It was about five minutes of breathing to get my heartbeat into the 90’s. By the end, I was exhausted beyond comprehension and my last thoughts were if I would be able to get up in just a few short hours.

This week I have touched on more subjects like my struggles with insomnia that have plagued me most of my life. I happy to say that my sleep is back under control to a point. It still takes me two hours between taking my Seroquel to actual sleep, and I am only getting 4-5 hours of total sleep but it is better than not sleeping.

One of the best pieces I wrote this week was on the introverted side of my life and how there is a desire for me to expand the places that I call safe. It was great to get feedback for my fellow introverts and extroverts, but I regret to say that with my high anxiety this it was not possible to reach my goal this week. It is on my list of goals for the future. It also is getting cold, but I can’t use that as an excuse.

My second piece on the revolving doors of my psychiatrists was, I think, one of the most important blogs I wrote this week. I have dedicated a specific chapter in my memoir to this topic because it has shaped my life over the last ten years. The feedback was amazing, and I want to thank all of those who offered up advice this week on all my topics.

It is fitting that the last my last post was about the crossroads that I now find myself with my social anxiety. For the first time in since being diagnosed with Bipolar one disorder that my anxiety is on a level with my depression. My hope is in the coming weeks that my anxiety gets under control because my depression can get worse.

I have a long list of topics that will make its way into my blog this coming week. One important subject that I will discuss this week is how the changing of the seasons and how this time of year is the worst for my depression. I think the focus of this week will be specifically on depression at least two-three blog posts.

I seem to have a lot of opinions on mental illness subjects, mostly because of my long experience, but if anyone wants me to discuss my opinion on a subject feel free to drop a comment and I will consider it. I think it will be a great way to interact with those that follow me.

As always. Remember, Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: Reed Pearson

My Social Anxiety​ Life – Part One

Part One

I decided that this will be a first in a series of blogs about my social anxiety. After going to a live show for the first time in a year and a half I thought this would work as a series.

Anxiety comes in different forms depending on the person who is dealing at any given time. I have written on the subject of anxiety before, and I have written a poem on the subject. But, today I want to go in depth of my own struggle: Social Anxiety.

I can trace my social anxiety to my teenage years, and more specifically when I was a freshman in high school. Before high school, I had a decent amount of friends. When high school came around that changed. I had what people call “friends,” but they were always just at school, and I never hung out with these people outside of school. It became an isolation thing that I couldn’t control. A part of me is very introvert, but the other part of it was my social anxiety. There are times that thoughts cross my mind of what could have been if I knew what I know now about anxiety now, but I digress.

As an adult, my social anxiety has only gotten worse. I have people in my life that I consider family, and maybe a few friends, but it’s a very small group of friends. My social anxiety gets so bad at times especially when coupled with depression, that I have gone weeks, months, and even years of not leaving my house. The thoughts that overcome me in social situations have always haunted me and I can never really totally let them go no matter how well I can manage now.

To try and tackle to issue of social anxiety I have tried so many different things that have helped, but most of the time its temporary   solutions. Listening and focusing on my breathing when I am in a social situation has been helpful. Also, taking an Ativan right before a major social situation has been effective for me.

When I have met new people, it is almost instantaneous that I start to feel self-conscious about the situation. I can feel the judgments washing over me even when these thoughts are unfounded. I prefer to stay within myself because I’m an introvert. These feelings can make me feel inadequate or embarrassed because I feel that I can’t function in any normal social situation.

At times, I will make plans and then as the event comes closer, I will find any reason to get out of the situation. This happened this very weekend and it is what prompted me to write this blog post so that I can gain some perspective on why my social anxiety does this to me.

So far, I have been having catastrophizing thoughts about the event that will happen tonight (I have had tickets for the Jo Koy comedy show for months at my local theater.) My thoughts have ranged from thinking have a panic attack being in a room full of so many strangers, to what will those people think if I suddenly have a panic attack? Can I enjoy myself when I will immediately feel self-conscious about the situation? Will I have enough Ativan given the situation is  so many strangers? And ultimately can I enjoy myself?

It’s a lot to think about, as my social anxiety always does this to me. I know at some level these thoughts are worst-case scenarios and I will most likely enjoy a much-needed night out. I have worked so hard just to get out of my house for a couple hours a day lately, but it’s always in places that are safe like coffee shops. It worries me to be in a packed theater with so many people. The last time I went to a movie theater was well over a year ago, and I barely made it through the movie.

It will be a challenge for me, but I think that it will be important to see this event through to the end no matter the thoughts. I have canceled on so many plans recently I need to stick with it this time. How will I go about this? I can use my breathing techniques before the show starts and in the beginning, I can use what I have learned so far in CBT to change my thoughts and to analyze these thoughts that I can find the meaning being, and have my Ativan and water on me always because for me those two things make me feel better.

I would love to hear your take on social anxiety and anxiety in general. Are there tips that you use to get through something like this?

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit Joshua Earle

Depression Cycles

When I started this blog, I wanted the connections that I made here help guide the blog posts that I write. I didn’t imagine that it would happen right away, but sometimes it does just that when you least expected. I’m just going to see where the idea and direction of this blog post goes in the following paragraphs.

The last few days I found myself talking about depression cycles (or as some call them depression episodes.) To me, the two are one in the same, I think it depends on your psychiatrist and what they call these cycles/episodes. For the sake of this blog post, I will call them cycles.

To me, my depression cycles are defined by the deep feelings of depression that lasts more than a week (some doctors would say two, but hey I am no expert.) My depression cycles always bring out the worst parts of what I like to call depression me. It starts when I have trouble getting out of bed or doing the simplest of tasks.

There is the not eating and feeling hopeless every second that I’m awake. The strangest part for me when I am in a depression cycle is that I’m tired, and yet I have no reason to sleep. I know its bad when I go days without sleep. Instead, I just lay there for hours on end lost in an endless abyss of my depression. The worst part is that the depression cycle keeps me from leaving my house.

Depression for me has always been the hardest thing for me to deal with, and I don’t manage it well. I fail to fix the problems that make me depressed, and then I feed the depression by not getting out of bed or eating. It gets worse. I do nothing about it, and that is the worst part of my depression cycle.

I wanted to talk about one of my worst depression cycles with this blog post.

It started in 2007 and didn’t end until 2009. It would be one of the worst three years of my life. In late 2007, I was diagnosed after a failed suicide attempt, a psychiatric ward visit, and release. Around New Year’s 2008 I ended up once again in the psychiatric ward. I honestly don’t remember most of 2008, and I can count on one hand how many times I left my house that wasn’t a hospital visit.

There were many hospital visits in 2008. Several occasions I was taken by police car to the hospital from my psychiatrist’s office. There were late night hospital visits, but most of the time they released me if I had a “safety plan.” I must have been a convincing writer because most of the time the hospital released me.

Other than that, I spend most of my time in bed. I played video games when my concentration allowed it (although I have played video games my whole life so it doesn’t take much concentration) and I ate only when I had the energy. I was distant and I always felt hopelessness daily. I remember the bad things, like falling through a glass table after taking a double dose of my sleep medication. It wasn’t until late 2009 when I finally came out of this cycle, the longest of my life, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Why do I write about this? The goal I started out with was to share my experiences over the last ten years since my diagnosis. Do you know why my depression cycles lasted so long at the beginning? The simple answer I let depression control me during those times. In my journey, I have had to learn the hard way when it comes to depression.

If I can impart wisdom about depression cycles it’s this: always have a plan to get better, do the little things like getting out of bed, making your bed and eat some breakfast. If you can get out of the house for ten minutes, or more if you can. Seek help and work at making the help you receive work in your life. Listen. Listen to what your psychiatrist or therapist is telling you.

Smile more.

I am not saying do all these things, and that it will all be better. You have to put in the work. It took me years to get to a place where I could function as normal as possible, and still, I don’t function all that well well. But, the more you do can mean working towards getting out of the depression cycle.

I think in the future I will write more on this subject, and depression will always be a topic to be discussed in this blog. I would like to know your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to leave comments below.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: James McGill

The Revolving Door of Psychiatrists – Part One

I must walk through those doors again, they hold my memories not long forgotten…

In the ten years since my diagnosis, there has been a revolving door of psychiatrists in my life. Each has brought different things to my diagnosis.

I decided to write this because it is a topic that I felt tackling here would help me when this subject comes up in my memoir. One thing that has always haunted me in the many doctor changes over the years is that one thing you always must do when changing a psychiatrist—tell your story again—from the very beginning.

Anyone who has switched psychiatrists can understand this plight. For those who don’t the issue is having to drudge up old memories that you would rather stay dead. I am in the adult system of care in my local county, and I have been since my diagnosis. Over the years every doctor has taken notes (a few times in my life I got ahold of my medical records) so why can’t they just read about my history? It can be very frustrating!

I get it at some level. My medical history is quite long and the journey was not always pretty. But having to talk about my past suicides, my anxiety, my issues with sleep, and everything else that is a problem with me, can take an emotional toll even for one session. Then having to do it more than once can be a daunting task.

The revolving door of my psychiatrists started when the psychiatrist that first treated me at the adult system of care called Behavior Health. I first met this doctor in January 2008 a few weeks after my first suicide attempt. What was great about this doctor was that over the years he treated my symptoms with medications, alternative medicine, and with cognitive behavioral therapy. It was this psychiatrist that helped me get to a better place by 2012 and gave me the foundation to get through some tough times. I started school just as he was leaving in 2014.

Since then I have seen close to ten different psychiatrists, and my depression cycles during time have been bad. Some of the psychiatrists were a single session and also temporary. These psychiatrists still asked me to tell my story, and then they would refill my medication. That would be the end of that psychiatrist.

The funniest was in the past year where I talked to psychiatrists on the computer, which totally takes the face-to-face out of the equation. I am starting to realize that this might be the future of treating people with mental illness, on a computer with the psychiatrist somewhere else.

There have been a three, of what I believed what I believed at the time to be permanent, psychiatrist that helped me along with my journey to get me to today. One psychiatrist with Behavior Health got me to see a therapist for the first time in my journey, and she has been the only mainstay over the last three years. The second psychiatrist who I spent about eight months with just up and left one day.

The last “permanent” psychiatrist so far in my journey has been effective but, for some odd reason, decided to take a sabbatical for a year just recently. I have no idea when or if he is coming back. So, I am back to the revolving door of psychiatrists once again.

That is where I find myself at this moment. I saw another temporary doctor a couple months ago and it looks like there will be a new one when my next appointment comes around. It’s tough for because I am affected my depression more during the fall and winter month. This new doctor could prescribe new anti-depressants (my anti-depressants are changed often during this time of year, in the years past.) The worst part—I will once again have to tell my story.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: Carlos Martinez

Not My Favorite Subject…

*disclaimer* I am not advocating that cutting is right or wrong. For some, it is just a way of life for a time in our lives before we get help.

This subject means the world to me. My scars are a constant reminder of who I was, and how far in the last ten years I have come. It’s a sensitive subject but I would rather talk about then push it to the side.

Today I decided to touch a subject that most people hate talking about (or hearing about), and that subject is cutting. I saw some interesting posts today on social media that prompted this blog. I always believe that if people knew more about this subject, people would be less likely to ridicule someone who has lived through something so traumatic they chose to cut on their skin.

Humans are more connected than ever before thanks to social media. With so many people connected, it opens a floodgate for people to be more open about their lives. Our little lives are just out there on display for all to see. And yes, I realize people don’t have to put their lives out there, but I digress.

Some people want to post their every thought and emotion simply to make a connection. At times the result of people posting these types of stuff on social media, people can be harsh. I have seen people bullied because they need to talk about “cutting.” The comments that people leave are part of the problem, but the issue is deeper and darker. It saddens me because I understand, I have lived it, and people making horrible comments only makes it harder for people to get help.

People at times hate what they don’t understand. When the subject if cutting comes up on social media, people tend to attack it in vicious ways. Most are on one of two sides: the people that cut (I will call them us) and the people that criticize. In this world, there is not much grey area, and people see us as attention seekers. This is an untrue judgment, the posts we make might just be what gets us through a day. There is always a history for someone who cuts, and most people don’t know that person’s history. If you knew this history would you still judge us?

So that’s where this post is headed. I want people to know some of my own experiences with cutting. If you see the history of one us, you might understand what leads us down this path. It is not pretty, and it’s a subject that in the past I would rather not talk about here in my blog.

Emotions have always gotten the better of me. Being bipolar, my emotions are heightened to the extremes. It is a cruel world and most people prefer not to hear about your problems. They have issues of their own and that’s understandable. That is how it was for me since I was a teenager into my twenties. People saw the side I let them see, on the outside, I was an okay kid. I got good grades and interacted with people the best I could. On the inside, I was much different.

Dealing with my problems was never my strong suit (it still isn’t.) I prefer to shut my problems inside, and never deal with them head-on. I have never been a people person, and I prefer to be shut inside writing than out socializing with the world. In school, I had people I knew, and I guess you can call them friends. I could never talk about how I felt about cutting. Most days life just passed me by. This made me different, an outsider. My problems compiled in my head. I never talked about how I felt. I allowed my pain to keep building until it left emotional scars, and those are the worst kind of scars.

Emotional pain can be an unbearable experience. The world disappears. You get lost in your mind and escape seems impossible. You feel tired. Alone. It is a dark place. You feel like you are holding the weight of the world. I would lay there for hours doing nothing but staring into space lost in my mind. Social media was my way of escaping. People experience emotional pain in their lives, but for me, my emotions were magnified by a thousand some nights. The emotional pain would go on for days, weeks, months, and yes, sometimes years. The toll it took on me, it always led me to bad solutions.

It is emotional pain led me to do things like cutting for some of my teenage years and my early twenties. Physical pain, compared to the emotional pain, is easier to deal with because at least physical pain can be healed. That is why my solutions led me to cutting. My arms and a razor became my sanctuary. When I cut, the emotional pain was pushed out of mind for a short time. Physical scars heal over time, but emotional scars may never heal. I would hide my scars with hoodies that I never took off so that people couldn’t see what I was doing to myself.

The point I am trying to make is that life for some people like me, life can be very harsh. We are human just like everyone else. It has been many years since the last time that I cut. I got to a point where I could manage my emotional pain at a level where I didn’t have the need to cut. I have come a long way but the scars on my arms are still the reminders of a time where I couldn’t deal with life. It hurt. It cut deep. But ridiculing someone because they would rather have physical pain instead of emotional pain cuts deep.

There are so many people out there, especially at teenage level (when I started cutting) and I speak to them now. It will be okay. If you haven’t already get help. It would mean the world to me if you got help. If you would like to share your story with me please do. I will not share it with the world. If you need someone to talk to, I am always there for you. Cutting is not the end of the world.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:  Danielle Dolson