Tag Archives: mental illness

Sometimes I’m Sad Panda

16 Jun

This was originally published on Girl Go Glow, but I wanted it to live here, too. The timing is right to post it tonight. I let my meds lapse and have been trying to hold it together mentally for the past couple of weeks until I can get back to the doctor on Tuesday for a new prescription. I did what you should never do – took my meds all willy-nilly and let them lapse. I don’t know why I do this. I’m not ashamed of taking meds, I NEED them. But I think part of me feels some sense of failure that I have to have them at all to function properly. Like the real me is broken. This contradicts a bit of what I say below but that’s me, a walking contradiction.

On the worst days, I can’t get out of bed. The mattress becomes a magnet and my body morphs into a blob of iron. The bed is my safe haven, the darkness and blankets a shield. I’m surrounded by grayness and apathy. Zoloft. Therapy. Noting Triggers. Prozac. Negative vs. Positive Self-Talk. Mindfulness. Meditation. Wellbutrin. Breath Work. Affirmations. Citalopram. Visualization. Self-Help Books. Exercise. Sunshine. Worry Stones. Journaling. Lexapro. All of these are or have been in my arsenal. I won’t win, but I can maintain a truce sometimes.

I don’t purposely keep it a secret that I battle anxiety and depression. It is what it is, and it’s cool if it comes up in conversation. If I see a good resource, I’ll pass it along in hopes that others might benefit. It’s just not something I’ve spoken about in a public forum in a very long time. But as the co-author of a blog meant to empower others to live authentic and purposeful lives, if I can’t speak here about this huge part of who I am, then where and when can I? I SHOULD talk about it. Depression and mental illness are not talked about enough, as the stigma surrounding it makes evident. This stigma is real, and it bugs me that depression isn’t seen as a “valid” disease in the traditional sense. I mean, I can’t call off work and tell my boss that I can’t get out of bed because I’m consumed by sadness. It just doesn’t work that way and I’d prefer not to receive a call from HR. Yet for me and millions of others, depression is as debilitating as a migraine, the flu, or any other physical malady, but we have to pretend it isn’t and I’ve learned to hide it fairly well, except on the really bad days.

I don’t remember the day I was categorized or diagnosed as “depressed”. It seems to have been a gradual progression from childhood anxiety to bouts of depressed episodes in adulthood. I wasn’t what you’d call a troubled kid; quite the opposite. I did great in school, followed the rules, had friends, did the extracurriculars, all the normal stuff. I was shy and socially awkward except around close friends or family, but that’s pretty standard for introverts I’d say. I blame faulty genes for the most part and dumb luck for the rest. Research has shown that as many as 40% of people with depression can trace it to a genetic link and that those with parents or siblings who have depression are up to 3x more likely to also be depressed. Thanks, genetics, you’re a real pal.

So while the specifics of the beginning are foggy, I do recall the grayness getting worse as I entered the real world of career and full-fledged adulthood. Being an adult sucks y’all, no doubt. I remember coming home from the doctor one day in my 20s with a bottle of Prozac. Thus began my journey through the land of pharmaceutical wonders that I’d try for a while and then, due to side effects or tolerance or something, I’d switch to a new one. Make no mistake, I am not anti-medication. I am pro do-whatever-works-for-you. I’ll probably be on antidepressants for the rest of my life, and that is a-okay. For me, meds help with the surprise attacks of depression. Sometimes I can pinpoint triggers and other times there is no warning or obvious cause. One side-note – I do know that having a baby was one of the best and worst times of my life. Postpartum depression will knock you off your feet and is one of the many reasons hubs and I are one and done in the kid department (another post to come on this at some point). I can’t and won’t go through that again. Bottom line: Knowing your triggers is helpful for minimizing the damage but isn’t possible for me most of the time.

There is comfort in knowing you are not alone. I recently started listening to a podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression. John Moe talks to comedians about their struggles with depression. Sarcasm and humor, self-deprecating and otherwise, are coping mechanisms for many of us. The latest episode featured Hannah Hart and a lot of talk about not feeling worthy; of having achieved fantastic things but not feeling like you did it or deserved it; never feeling good enough. If I recall correctly, Hannah said she might get 10 days out of the month where she felt normal and ok. That gave me pause and I thought about what my number might be; how many days do I feel NOT depressed? It’s hard to say, but I’d estimate that on average, I feel “good” about 15-20 days out of the month. That’s a lot of leftover days as Sad Panda Jenn. Yikes.

What’s a typical day in the life of Sad Panda Jenn you ask? I sleep a LOT. Can’t get out of bed and if I do, it’s a massive mental undertaking. I may or may not shower. I’m irritable or silent. Prone to tears. Withdrawn. Unmotivated and apathetic. Feelings of failure about everything. If I make it out into public, I don’t want to interact with people (actually, that’s kind of just Regular Jenn but it’s much more pronounced on bad days). I eat my emotions, so bring on the junk food. I feel like absolute shit about myself. Worthless. I sit in my car in random parking lots as long as possible. I become very internally focused. Voices in my head bully me and I believe them. I question every past decision I’ve ever made and fear future ones. I don’t understand how I can feel this way when I am so fortunate in life and there are multitudes suffering so much worse than I. It doesn’t make sense and brings a sense of guilt on top of the rest. I crave darkness and small spaces that wrap themselves around me (like my car or bed. I want one of those weighted blankets, but am afraid I’d never come out from under it.) I hate everything. I’m not nice to myself. A sometimes-helpful tip from my therapist in regards to this last one is that if it’s not something I would say to my daughter or a friend, don’t say it to myself. Treat yourself with the same kindness. Easy to say, harder to do. But I digress. All of this lasts in varying degrees anywhere from a couple of days to weeks. My method of coping is to use whatever I can muster from my above-mentioned arsenal and just wait it out. I will rebound eventually and then the cycle will start over. I do my best.

Doesn’t all this make you wanna hang out with me? I’m a real peach, eh? I know this post isn’t particularly positive or uplifting, but newsflash – neither is real life all of the time. Real life is hard and ugly and well, depressing. But it’s also lovely and beautiful and fun. What’s that saying?  Stars can’t shine without darkness.

Thanks for reading and please know that if you’re having mental health struggles, that you are in good company; I mean, I’m here, right?!?!? Know that it is ok to build a pillow fort and stay there all day if you need to. Take advantage of resources available to you and don’t feel any shame! Take meds, see a doctor or therapist if you can, meditate, volunteer to help others, journal. Develop your own customized arsenal. Reach out to people who get it, reach out to me, someone, anyone.

Just a few of the many resources out there:

That said, I don’t want to make it sound as if all you have to do is ask for help and the cavalry will come to save you. I know that depression can “mute your ability to reach out” as someone else put it after the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. This article, Stop Telling Us To Ask For Help. Depression Doesn’t Work Like That speaks to that better than I can. And that makes mental illness all the more tragic.

sad panda goes to the doctor

21 Mar

Verdict: gained 10 pounds in a matter of weeks, change in meds, follow-up visit in a month, encouraged to seek therapy.

Hello mid-life crisis. The next one that comes around I’m just going to buy a red sports car and be done with it.

It sucks to know that the real you is so broken and messed up that it takes outside assistance to right it.

After my appointment was over, I, ever a fan of self-inflicted punishment and misery, went to the park where I used to run and sat in my car pounding powdered doughnuts (what ten pounds?) and concentrated really hard on not mowing down all the runners with my vehicle. Kidding. Really. Mostly. A little. Tiny bit.

I told someone the other day that I’m surprised that I have any friends left, as bitchy as I’ve been acting. To be honest though, withdrawing into myself is kind of nice sometimes. I don’t particularly want to be surrounded by people right now. Being alone is ok. Sleep is my best friend. Healthy? Maybe not. But for now its good. Almost a relief. As are sentence fragments.

Anyway, I’m not sure how much more I’ll post about this. Maybe a lot, maybe a little, maybe none.

sad panda

20 Mar

That title makes me think of the kid’s show/movie, Kung Fu Panda, which we are big fans of in our house. Of all the kiddie shows out there, that one cracks me up and I love it even more than my offspring. Yes, we let our 3.5 year old watch that show. I know I know, we are so going to hell in a noodle cart.

But dang, this was not supposed to be a post about Po…ohhhh, that’s catchy isn’t it??? Hello DIGRESSION!! Stop the madness. Nice segue way though…

Usually I would post a cutesie photo, a passive aggressive quote, some sarcastic humor, or most likely nothing at all when I’m up at 2:22 am with a mild panic attack and would not even tell the internet that I in fact, am having a freak out session. Because lets face it, we just don’t talk about these things much here do we? Mental stuff I mean. And by “mental stuff” I mean depression, overwhelming feelings of sadness, unexplained tears, anger, etc. I will be honest and say that the reason I don’t usually write about it here is for a couple of reasons…1. I’m a bit ashamed and embarrassed that I struggle with those things. The stigma is real. And 2. my parents read this blog and I don’t want to worry them. But hear me now, I am a 36 year old woman and mother and I struggle with these things. And right now, at 2:26am,  I want to write about it. Sue me.

I’ve always had some mild depression/stress/anxiety, whatever you want to call it. I’ve seen the doctor about it, I take meds for it. Antidepressants to be specific. Generic Prozac to be even more so. It helps. Or did until lately. This last episode has been the longest and worst that I can remember.

Disclaimer: To be clear, I don’t walk around in a constant state of sobbing and woe-is-me and I think that is a misconception sometimes. Except for close friends (and now the entire internet, or whoever happens across this post), no one would know that I am fighting this. It is subtle, and dare I say, undetectable to the masses. Most of it happens inside my brain, in private. Usually.

But, back on track now…The trigger for the last several weeks’ issues is, as you probably guessed, my broken foot and not being able to run at all, much less in the 1/2 marathon I was so looking forward to doing with friends. I was, and am heartbroken. But at first I pulled it together and kept up with the stationary bike and eating semi ok. I wanted to maintain my fitness and weight until I could run again. Such a smart cookie am I, right? Until I crashed and burned in a fiery ball of anger, chocolate, disappointment and tears. For whatever reason, I completely lost all motivation and have not regained it as yet.

I have let it eat me up. Envy, jealousy, ill will. And like the sneaky monsters that those attributes are, they have now morphed into something much bigger. My sadness is no longer just about not being able to do a race. Now its about me and how I define myself as a person, my self worth. If I have let this minor thing get me so down in the dumps, what kind of a person am I? A very very weak one. One who eats an entire box of Little Debbie’s for supper and then looks in the mirror and berates herself for not being able to hold on, not being able to stick with anything, for being fat and ugly and worthless. Who am I to think that I can be a good mother? A good wife? A good friend? A good strong person in general? If this little itty bitty thing has consumed me so, who am I to think I can handle the bigger problems in life? Nobody, that’s who. I can’t.

Face it Finnley, if confronted with real problems (serious illness, loss, etc) you will not be one of those amazing people you hear about who dig deep and find magical inner strength from their own problems and experiences and use it to inspire others. You will wither and die inside from self pity and feeling-sorry-for-yourself-itis. And you hate yourself for knowing that.

…..See how this progresses and grows in my brain? From a disappointing, temporary, minor life event that was no one’s fault into a complete mental self bashing of who I am as a person. Its madness I tell you. And if you are reading this and are fighting it as well, no matter how poorly, as I am doing, I am giving you a big ol’ hug in my head right now. Its not a joke, its a serious thing and should be treated as such.

Whew, big sigh.

This was a deeply personal thing for me to write and share. But it is real and I am dealing with it right now. And by dealing with it I mean that I will be calling my doctor in the morning to discuss options. New meds, change in dosage, possibly talking to a professional, something is going to change. It has to because I am losing it here. Going crazy if you will. I take comfort in the saying that legit crazy people don’t realize that they are going crazy. Well hallelujah then and katie bar the door because that means I am safe! Hahaha, see y’all, I can still joke about this. Because I’m pretty sure laughter is some good medicine. Well, that plus Prozac. Oh, and Reeses Pieces, those are good meds too. And cake. Cake is awesome.

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