Tiny changes

So I’ve been taking antidepressants for a month now and I’ve seen a therapist three times in that time. Naturally all my problems aren’t solved yet, but I do seem to be more hopeful than I was before. I feel like the antidepressants help to stabilize my mood, as I haven’t felt incredibly low in a month. Sometimes I even feel happy and enthusiastic for some time, which is something I haven’t experienced in a very long time. I also feel less anxious a lot of the time, which is probably not only thanks to the antidepressants but also thanks to staying sober. Anyway, I have been trying to take advantage of my overall decreased anxiety by getting out of my comfort zone more, for example by driving a lot more. However, the beliefs I hold about myself that are at the core of my social anxiety can’t be changed by antidepressants alone, so I haven’t been able to make a lot of progress on that front. I feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface in therapy, but I always feel better about myself after a session. Last week we had a long conversation about my job interview anxiety and it felt good to articulate my fears and get it off my chest. She really put me at ease and job interviews don’t seem so incredibly daunting anymore. However, she seems to want to take it really slow, and doesn’t want me to tackle my job interview anxiety right away. She wants me to gradually work towards it as it’s on top of the list of my anxiety-inducing situations.

First I have to work on my depression, and she gave me the task of writing down in what exact situations I have which depressive thoughts, what my emotional responses are to those thoughts and how these thoughts influence my behaviour. As usual I have procrastinated on this task. I feel like it’s harder for me to analyze my depressive thoughts than it is to analyze my anxious thoughts. I know I’m scared of most social situations because I think people will judge me negatively, which causes me to feel extremely anxious and most of the time avoid the situation. But with my depression, I think it’s just a general belief of my life and life in general being pointless, which makes me a nihilist I guess. I think it’s an inevitable consequence of being an atheist and I don’t see how I can change these beliefs without having to believe in some kind of god, which I feel would just be fooling myself. I don’t want to insult anyone’s religious beliefs. In fact I envy the people who truly believe there is a God. However, to me it just rationally does not make sense and I don’t see the point in tricking my own mind to believe something exists when I see it as a fact that it doesn’t.

Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name

How come one man got so much fame?

To any me, it’s pointless to anybody

That doesn’t have faith

Give me the cloth and I’ll wipe my face

 

When it’s all gone, something carries on

And it’s not morbid at all

Just when nature’s had enough of you

When my blood stops, someone else’s will not

When my head rolls off, someone else’s will turn

And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth

 

So you can burn me cause we’ll all be the same, the same way

Dirt in someone’s eyes cried down the drain

 

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First therapy appointment

So yesterday evening I went to my first therapy appointment. Didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that. I arrived 45 minutes early and I sat waiting in my car for a good half hour before I worked up the nerve to go inside. My therapist opened the door and although I was still 15 minutes early she wanted to start immediately.

First she wanted some standard information like my address, phone number, etc. Then she asked why I wanted to start therapy. I didn’t know where to start and just told her my G.P. referred me for social anxiety and depression. Of course, she wanted me to be more specific and started asking me lots of questions about my life, my social anxiety and depression symptoms, my parents, my sister, my friends, etc. At first I was very uncomfortable and struggled to answer the questions but to my surprise I quickly felt at ease to tell this stranger all these personal details about my life. I suppose it’s not luch different from what I do here on my blog. I even think blogging about my mental health has made me more aware about everything going on in my head, which made it easier to talk to my therapist.

She told me that my depression and social anxiety were the result of a combination of genetics (my sister has depression as well), my upbringing and certain events in my life. She told me my inability to deal with my emotions is not a big surprise as my parents never taught me how to. I don’t want to blame my parents for all my problems but I’m tired of always blaming myself. I didn’t choose to be this way but I can choose to try to change. I’m pretty proud of myself for finally getting help, even though I was always taught that asking for help is weak. I’m also proud I drove to my therapist, as I have bad driving anxiety and I’ve never driven that far on unknown roads by myself before.

We didn’t have much time for practical solutions yet, but she did tell me to try and do stuff I used to love on set times each day, like taking a walk at 9 in the morning and crocheting at 2 in the afternoon. It soundes silly to me schedule these things but she had a point that I otherwise wouldn’t do them. With regards to my sleeping problems she told me to go to bed at a set time each day, to not do anything tiresome for my brain an hour before bed, and to get oud of bed again if I’m still having racing thoughts 20 minutes after going to bed, and only go back to bed when I get tired again. That way I won’t associate my bed with worrying.

She hasn’t given me any practical tips for my social anxiety yet, but she did ask me to list the situations I fear/avoid, and told me we would practice them in therapy with role-play. She said for now I shouldn’t jobhunt as it’s at the top of my list of anxiety-inducing things. Unfortunately today my parents both wanted to talk about my unemployment. My dad thinks I can claim benefits, which I’ve already told him lots of times is not the case, because I haven’t applied for enough jobs in the past year. He doesn’t seem to believe me and it’s very frustrating. My mom showed me a few job description for manager positions that required 3 years of relevant experience and I have none, which also frustrates me because she could have known I wouldn’t qualify before showing them to me. I was actually pretty happy this morning, more so than usual; I got up at 8 (which is ewtremely early for me), had a good night’s sleep, went for the scheduled 3k walk like my therapist told me to do, then went home and my parents managed to completely ruin my mood. Now I feel angry, frustrated and lethargic again and haven’t done anything all afternoon. I wish I could tell my parents about my therapy so they would shut up about my job hunt, but I can’t as they would never approve. It sucks I have to go to therapy and take my medication in secret, but if that’s what I have to do to get better than it’s worth lying to them.

With regards to my medication (escilatopram 10mg), I think it’s working already. My G.P. told me it would take at least two weeks in order for me to feel any effect, but I have been sleeping much better for the past week and have been getting up a lot earlier than I used to. Other than that my driving anxiety hasn’t been that bad this week, but all these things could also be a consequence of having stayed sober for the past 15 days. In any case, I’m feeling better than I have in a very long time, but I still have a long long way to go.

Finally getting help

So yesterday I decided on a whim to finally see a doctor about my mental health. The thing is, even though I claim to have social anxiety and depression, I have never been officially diagnosed by a mental heatlh professional, so it might as well have all been made up. Turns out it wasn’t.

Earlier this week my mom told me our G.P. was retiring in September. I never liked him; I always got an uncomfortable vibe from him. He’s a man in his 70s so I didn’t think he was the right person to help me with my mental health as he’s a pretty old-fashioned doctor. But hearing about his retirement somehow encouraged me to look for a new G.P. and get the mental health stuff out of the way at once. I found a young doctor in my neighbourhood and made an online appointment, as I still hate phone calls. I watched some youtube videos on telling your doctor about depression and anxiety, and decided it would be a good idea to make a list of key things I wanted to say in case I got so nervous I forgot things, which turned out to be a great idea. I had an appointment at 5.15 but she called me out of the waiting room 20 minutes early, which only increased my nervousness. I managed to keep my composure when she asked for my address etc. However, as soon as she asked me why I came to see her, I lost it completely. I told her it was very hard for me to talk about it and handed out the piece of paper with my key points to her. The rest of the conversation is kind of a blur. She was very kind and understanding and never made me feel uncomfortable. I was shaking and stuttering and trying very hard not to cry the whole time. She made me feel like my situation wasn’t as hopeless as I always think it is. So I have now been officially diagnosed with depression and social anxiety (surprise!). My doctor prescribed me antidepressants (Escitalopram) and therapy.

Today I had the impossible task of choosing one of the countless therapists in my neighbourhood. After a few hours of searching I got tired of all the possibilities and just randomly emailed an older female therapist nearby. I hope she’ll respond quickly and her waiting list isn’t too long. At €50/hour she better be worth it. I had no idea therapy was that expensive to be honest. The antidepressants were only €2.5 as they’re largely refunded but therapy isn’t. That doesn’t make any sense to me, as without therapy the medication is unlikely to help much.

This morning I took my first tablet with breakfast as instructed by my doctor. An hour or so later I got very nauseated and then got horrible diarrhoea (tmi, sorry). My head has been feeling a bit heavy all day but other than that I feel normal. It’ll take at least two weeks for the antidepressants to kick in my doctor said. My sister, who is also going through depression for unrelated reasons, was coincidentally prescribed the same medication by her doctor (a different one). She said she experienced the same symptoms during the first three weeks. I sure hope I won’t feel unwell every morning for three weeks though.

I haven’t told anyone other than my sister about my visit to the doctor. My sister told my parents she is home from work for a month because she has depression and their reactions were pretty hurtful. My dad told her she better not be taking antidepressants because “they only make you sleepy”. He doesn’t know she does take medication and she doesn’t plan on telling him. Neither do I. My mom told her “staying home from work isn’t going to solve anything”. So she doesn’t understand the exhaustion that comes with depression, which makes it impossible for my sister to go to work. My parents have always both expressed their aversion to antidepressants and therapy – “a stranger has no business with your problems”. So I’ll have to hide those things from them, which means more lies unfortunately. I feel pretty proud of myself though for making this decision to get help for my mental illnesses despite having always been taught that mental illness is essentially an embarrassing form of attention-seeking.

When I picked up my medication, my pharmacist told me it doesn’t combine well with alcohol, which is all too well to be honest as it’s another reason not to drink. I haven’t touched alcohol in a week now and I don’t miss it, or at least not the horrible anxiety and depression that comes after a night of binge-drinking. I’m determined to stay sober for at least a month, or until my mental health is better. I feel like this is the beginning of a new chapter, as finally I have a little bit of hope for improvement. I must admit it’s a little frustrating that I can’t share this with my family though. They won’t see the changes yet and will think I’m still stuck in my old ways.

Stay sober

Yesterday afternoon I had a hangover induced panic attack in the supermarket at the checkout. I had been feeling very shaky all day and then it all hit me at once. When I tried to insert my credit card in the machine my hand started shaking so badly and I felt like I was going to faint. I made it into my car, then waited for a while until the worst of it was over. However, it was very unsafe for me to drive home in that panicked state. I had promised a friend to come over for dinner and I couldn’t get out of it, so later in the evening I drove there and we drank a few bottles of wine together. I felt immediate relief from my anxiety, but of course today I have been in a very panicked state as a result of alcohol withdrawal again. Again it was very unsafe for me to drive home and I had to pull over on my way home because my foot was cramping up so badly I couldn’t drive anymore. I don’t know if that’s a result of all the drinking I have been doing for the past week but I know my body can’t cope with what I’ve been doing to it for much longer. I came home so panicked my parents even noticed, which has never happened before. On top of that they had company over and I was in no state to pretend I was okay. They asked why I was so out of breath and I told them I wasn’t feeling well. When they asked me why I just told them I didn’t know, then went to my room. I now feel like I’ve been rude to them by just leaving, but I really am in no state to hold a conversation. I can barely get a sentence out. Yesterday was definitely the last day of drinking for me for a while. I’ve had enough of this. It’s not doing me any good. It’s going to be really hard not to drink tonight as my body is getting so used to it, but I have to remember I’m going to thank myself for staying sober tomorrow. I do hope this alcohol induced anxiety is going to disappear soon because I’ve hit rock bottom. I can’t even pretend I’m fine anymore and I’m usually so good at it. So let’s hope I can keep this promise to myself and stay sober.

To think that I’ve wasted my whole life
Chasing my pipe dreams with shots and a whole lot of beer
A part of me figures there’s no fight left in the shell of a person I became this year
I wonder if my parents know why I’m a recluse and I don’t leave my house on most days
When my friends ask if am all right, I lie straight to their faces and say I’m okay

Drunk and depressed

I’m drunk, depressed and feel like killing myself. I drink to numb my anxiety but whenever I sober up my brain instantly panics and I wake up thinking I’m worthless and all these negative thoughts spiral through my head. Wine is the only thing that keeps me sane right now, but I’m already dreading sobering up tomorrow morning. I hate myself so much. I want to tell my mom I wish she never had me because I really mean it but I don’t want to hurt her or make her feel guilty. I just really really wish I’d never been born. I think that’s the most fucked up thing about living: the fact that you didn’t choose to do so. Somebody else decided for you. Somebody else decided you were to live and love and enjoy and feel pain. Somebody else decided your pain was worth their existential crisis. They felt like something was missing from their life so it was worth it to create something so capable of feeling pain. Which makes me feel ultimately powerless, frustrated and lonely.

I always thought you were cool

Just a message to anyone who needs to hear this right now:

 

People were mean to you

But I always thought you were cool

Clicking down the concrete hallways

In your spiked heels

Back in high school

 

It’s good to be young

But let’s not kid ourselves

It’s better to pass on through those years and come out the other side

With our hearts still beating

Having stared down demons

And come back bleeding

 

People were mean to you

But I always thought you were cool

 

You deserved better than you got

Someone’s got to say it sometime

‘Cause it’s true

People should have told you you were awesome

Instead of taking advantage of you

 

I hope the painful memories only flex their power over you

A little of the time

I hope the people who did you wrong

Have trouble sleeping at night

 

People were mean to you

But I always thought you were cool

 

Job interview

After a whole year of procrastination (yes I am the queen of avoidance) I finally managed to apply for a job. The only reason I did it was because the application process started with four tests on the computer, which applicants had to pass in order to be called in for an interview. I assumed I would fail the tests and would at least be proud of trying, but by some miracle I passed them. Now I have to go to the interview on Thursday and I’m absolutely dreading it. I wish I failed the tests. I have no idea what to expect from the interview. It consists of a case study and then a traditional interview. It is for a copywriting position, and I don’t see how a case study is relevant to that.

My fear of job interviews is probably linked to my dissertation defense last year, which was extremely anxiety-provoking and destroyed what little was left of my confidence. The setting of a job interview is much the same as that of a dissertation defense: a few people asking questions that I don’t know the answer to, judging whether or not I’m good enough. I absolutely hate being at the center of attention, even more so in an environment that is not meant to be friendly or putting me at ease.

I know I’m not suited for the job as any job requires confidence and motivation, which I don’t have due to social anxiety and depression. So I have little doubt it will take them long to see what a fraud and waste of their time I am. The question that I absuletely dread is what I have been doing for the past year since I’ve graduated, since the answer is nothing. How can I possibly justify such a huge gap in my resume without any mention of mental health problems? I can’t even explain to my friends and family why I’ve not been doing anything for the past year, let alone to a potential employer. I’m at a loss.