New Year

So it’s Day 5 into the new year – technically, as I type this it’s Day 6 but since I  don’t count a day as ending until I turn in to bed, it’s still Day 5 for me – and I’m happy to say that I’ve had an eventful holiday/semester break.

Ever since Christmas at Chérie’s family’s, we’ve been inseparable. Below are some photos of us to highlight our stay together. She left for home a few hours ago and this apartment has never been quieter. After she left, I thought about how perfect this woman is in my life, and how she fulfills all of my needs, and more.I can’t imagine how my 2016 would’ve ended had she not entered my life.

I also thought about how great of a positive impact she’s had on my mental health. She’s been very encouraging during all my lows – and I discover that I am able to be vulnerable with her, and allow her to see me at my weakest, as well as allow her to help me. Much of what she says is still hard to believe but with repetition, I’m starting to build the habit of listening to her and to trust her. It’s been quite an experience.

I realized that having her around for the holidays, the impact of my depression has definitely been dulled. I still get into my low moods but they’re not as bad as they were back in the period of April – October. I see how important it is to have a significant other who understands my struggle as well as woks hard to help me in my walk.

Between the two of us, I have a more severe anxiety disorder, while she has a more severe ADHD, so it really works out well because I provide for her the coping skills that she lacks, while she provides me the coping skills I lack. She’s always able to see past my anxiety and help me see past it as well, while I’m always able to remind her to do the things that she needs to do (having poor short term memory is pretty typical in ADHD sufferers).

I know I’ve talked about Chérie a lot lately, and it seems like I can’t talk about anything else but her. However, if you have someone who’s impacted your life so drastically, I don’t think you’d be able to stop talking about them either…

In any case, I’m going into 2017 with more positive feelings. I hope that things will continue to go smoothly – I can’t help but feel like after such a shitty 2016, I need a breather, and I need a year that won’t keep pounding me down.

I hope everyone else’s year started out right! I hope that I will be able to have more time to blog.

On Guilt and Therapy

How many of you here always blame yourself for things and think of yourself as “crap” or “garbage”? Though I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I know I have talked myself down like that countless times and I still struggle with this problem.

In fact, this week in therapy, I went over time and I felt so guilty about it that I started feeling horrible about myself. I can’t shake the feeling that maybe my therapist is angry at me or that he is frustrated at me for taking up extra time – especially since he had another client after me. I had caused everyone an inconvenience and I feel horrible.

I feel like “crap”. I tried practicing self-compassion at the onset of these guilty and horrible feelings – though it helped me then, now I’m back to feeling guilty and bad. I can’t shake that feeling. I can’t shake the guilt.

Anyway… I came across this article/video and I’d encourage you to watch the video. Not only was it very well presented, it also contains an important message. I can’t say that I have overcome this acute feeling of guilt that I started feeling since yesterday (therapy day was yesterday) but the article and video sure does give some insight and perspective.

Resolving Guilt In Therapy

Sharing My Story So Others Can Share Theirs

I have social anxiety and though it’s actually improving now since I’ve started therapy, I’ve also noticed a thing where you can put me on a stage with a topic and I can talk people’s ears off while still making enough sense.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I had been exposed to public speaking since I was in middle school. I was forced into it and was never good at saying no so I was trained to do public speaking and was always able to bluff my way through my speeches despite not being able to remember what I’m supposed to say. I was later trained to be a debater and won many “Best debater” awards thence. Even in my first round of college, I was forced into the debate team for a year or so before I mustered up enough courage to quit.

In any case, since middle school, I’ve just been good at speaking in public despite my somewhat debilitating social anxiety. I was always able to bluff and pardon-my-language bullshit my way through things. That’s why I ended up being a teacher and loved every moment of it. I had a chance to just talk and people had to listen.

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Tonight, I was invited to a casual event on campus called the “coffee house” where other students are also invited to perform or speak as well. Tonight’s theme was “mental health awareness” in lieu of mental health awareness week. I was nervous about my speech because I’ve never spoken about mental health in front of strangers.

I was second to take the stage after an amazing acoustic guitarist. I have to admit, I didn’t prepare for my speech at all. I shouldn’t have mentioned it in my introduction but I’m always self deprecating to lighten the mood and prepare myself. Once I got into it though, the words flowed.

I quoted Glenn Close who had said that “it’s an odd paradox that our society which can now speak about many topics are still unable to speak about mental health” and said that mental health matters to us because 1 of 5 adults experience mental illness but 5 of 5 have mental health. I likened mental health to physical health and pointed out the fact that people so readily accept others’ physical illnesses but aren’t so ready to accept one’s mental illnesses. I spoke a little about my experience and what I was diagnosed with. I spoke of my amazing husband and his support while validating him publicly for the first time in our relationship. I told the crowd that it took me 7 years to realize that the best friend that I’ve been searching for my whole life have been there all along for me.

I also explained to the crowd that everyone thinks I look normal and fine but really, I struggle with my own version of depression – the irritation and anger, the feeling of being “hangry” all the time but no amount of food can change how I feel, the hopelessness and helplessness I feel all the time. I talked a little about the stigma and why I feel compelled to speak out about mental health. I told the people who were listening that I am now trying to get involved more on campus to raise awareness.

I also addressed anyone else in the crowd that could be facing mental illnesses that someone cares. It could just be one person but someone cares for them so they shouldn’t give up. That even if they only have one person who cares that they’re extremely lucky to have that person.

I then addressed the resources we have on campus that are invaluable and have helped me tremendously. I urged those who feel the need to seek help. I told them that if they’re afraid to speak to someone face-to-face that they can visit the website. I then thanked the student committee that made the night possible, thanked the crowd for attending and for caring about mental health enough to attend and thanked everyone for their time. I then said to end, that people shouldn’t feel alone and that it’s ok to not feel ok.

Overall, I felt like I was rambling. I felt like I was unfocused because my medication had worn off by then. I didn’t think I did a great job.

The applause was loud but I barely heard it as I walked back to my seat. It felt almost surreal. I couldn’t believe that I had addressed about 40 or so people tonight. I gave an important speech on an important topic but I hadn’t prepared for it. It was pretty dim so I couldn’t tell what people were thinking or what their expressions were like. It is both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because it didn’t throw me off my flow. Curse because now I’m left wondering if it was an effective speech.

When I got back to my seat, a classmate of mine who had turned up to support me – God bless her, we haven’t had much interaction except in class but she cared about me enough to come see me speak and support me – said to me, “That was unprepared??? Sure sounds really prepared to me!”. My husband who had also attended also said that I had the crowd enraptured, that everyone was very focused on what I had to say. He said that no one looked away at all through the entire speech.

I’m glad. As self deprecating as I am, I’m actually very happy to hear that people were listening. Even if I had reached one person, that’s good enough for me.

A few minutes after my speech ended, someone was reached. A girl came up to me, thanked me for my speech and asked me what she can do for her boyfriend who has ADHD and how she can support him the way my husband had supported me. I gave her some pointers about communication and told her how to clearly communicate to someone who has ADHD like me. I told her to forgive him for his lack of focus and messes around the home because he really isn’t doing it to make her mad. I also told her that despite that, it doesn’t mean that her feelings don’t matter. That both of them need to work together to have a harmonious relationship. I hope that what I had shared with her will help her.

I’m glad I shared my story. It wasn’t very specific though I did mention at one point that I was close to an attempt at suicide but it was specific enough to be relatable (at least I hope it was). In the future, should I be given another chance to speak, I’ll make sure to prepare better and to include more personalized information.

For now though, I’m just thankful for the people I reached. I’m thankful for the opportunity to speak and I’m thankful for this newfound passion of mine to raise awareness about mental health. I’m also thankful that I have found a new friend in my classmate. She used to be someone I just sat next to in Trig but after a 3-hour profound conversation with her tonight, I can see her being more than just another classmate.

Tonight has definitely been a night of small victories. Victories that in light of these past 6 weeks have been victories I desperately needed.

You Are Beautiful

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As my adorable rabbit, Comet, is suggesting in this photo, it’s time for bed! But before I go, I just want all of you who are reading my blog to know that you are all precious. You are all unique and beautiful in your own way.

So if you’re feeling down and depressed right now, I want you to know that you are loved! You are not alone! You are beautiful!

A Day of Small Victories

Today was a day of small victories.

I’ve been struggling through a depressive episode for the past 4-6 weeks now and it hasn’t gotten much better. In fact, last week itself, I was feeling quite suicidal through the entire week. No matter how much I tried, everything just seemed bleak and negative.

I didn’t know whether I’d ever get out of it or whether I could ever see who the post-depression me is like. I have several major stressors in my my life right now which are pressing down on  me and I feel like a spring that’s heavily compressed.

I feel really bad for my husband because he has to live with me and live with my negativity. I know it must not have been easy for him either. He also struggles with his own inner demons. Yet, he never fails to try and cheer me up. (He surprised me with two cute stuffed animals last night – gifts he had secretly bought).

When I’m down and negative, I know that I am. That’s the worst part for me – it’s knowing that I’m irrationally negative and yet not being able to stop feeling that way. I know I have a lot to live for and so many things I have still yet to achieve. Yet, all I want to do is cut myself, punch walls or die. It’s hard to accept that a “normal” person like me is struggling through so much for so long.

That said, like I said, today was a day of small victories. I had seen my therapist for my usual Tuesday therapy session and though it seems insignificant to most, my day was made when he recognized my “Firefly” shirt which features a somewhat obscure reference to the TV-show. His response which was immediately after he saw my shirt was, “Firefly now?” which launched us into a 2 minute conversation about the show and how I’m a latecomer fan. Therapy went well also, which I counted as another small victory. Then later, I managed to get an extremely satisfying upper body massage which helped release all the knots in my shoulders, back and neck. Another small victory. I then got three prompt email responses from people whose responses mattered to me. Another small victory. I was also invited to showcase my mental health series of artwork at a “Coffee House” session at my campus and to speak about my experiences with mental illnesses on October 9th. Another small victory.

I know some of those things may sound silly but to me, they are vital to the positive feelings that I am currently bathed in. My depression had crept up and whispered, “Enjoy it. It won’t last… I’ll be back with a vengeance” but for now, I am actually feeling calm. It’s the little things.

Update: This post was published on Project Semicolon‘s Facebook page! Whoohoo!!

The Impact Speech that Impacted Others

So I gave my speech today on depression and how it impacts me physically, emotionally and motivationally. I spoke about how tired I always am and how I get strange body aches. I continued by talking about how my depression causes me to be irritable and angry all the time – almost feeling like I’m “hangry” all the time but no amount of food helps. I also mentioned that I always feel hopeless and that I feel suicidal. That said, I also added two positive things that my depression has taught me. It taught me that I needed help and where to find it. It also motivated me to join The Mighty and to be an advocate for mental health since no one wants to talk about it.

I stumbled on some parts but at the same time, I also consciously slowed myself down and tried my very best to not say “um”. I probably accidentally said it about 3 times. When I was done, the applause was enthusiastic. Definitely not something I expected. I was so nervous over how people would receive my speech. After all, there is so much stigma around it. I was worried that people will treat me differently now because how they know I have depression.

My instructor told me that I totally rocked the speech. He said that before the next person comes up to speak (I went second), he had to erase his mind because it was so good that he didn’t want to unfairly grade future speakers. He said that he kept trying to find fault with my speech but couldn’t and commented that I had not only used transitions when necessary but also made connections to the audience, used quotes and citations as well as coherently spoke about every point. He said to the class, “Do the rest of you see, the way I did, how put together the speech was?”. He said it was refreshing to hear a speech that was so well prepared for.

I’m ecstatic. He was super excited about how well my speech went and I’m excited that for once, though I was off script, I was calmer than usual and didn’t use as many filler words as I usually do. I was, for once, not criticizing myself as I spoke – the way I did the first time I had spoken about three weeks ago. I was very hard on myself too. I couldn’t forgive my mistakes. Today though, despite some of the slips and how off script I was, I felt confident and I felt good in the end. I was actually proud of my speech!

After class, four of my classmates approached me and told me that they loved my speech. They also told me that they had depression too at some point of their lives and appreciated me speaking on such a sensitive topic. One girl told me about her struggles and we sat down to talk for half an hour about her boyfriend who she thinks is going through depression too. We ended up having a really serious heart-to-heart talk about depression and how to encourage a loved one to find help. We spoke at length and I really hope that what I said will help her speak to her boyfriend.

Wow. I didn’t think my speech would have that much of an impact! And I didn’t think that speaking about it would open so many more conversations! This makes me convinced that I need to keep talking to people about mental health and to keep encouraging others. I really never know when and who I will impact! It’s very humbling and I feel I humbled to know that my experience and a simple story can help others!