It’s Started

School, that is. Wednesday evening, I had my first class, New England Economic Environment. It was clarified that 1) I have a summer class next summer and 2) I have a spring Capstone in the spring of 2018. While I had hoped for it only being 18 months, I am not surprised.

And! While I am experiencing anxiety about classes and getting all of the reading and writing done (6 chapters so far for one week + a 4-5 page paper… so not massive. but definitely a lot to start off the semester with), I’m not super worried about the capstone. Because I’ve already done one at Wooster.

I was feeling overwhelmed at the amount of prep work that I would face for the policy workshop coming up in the first weekend of October this morning. So I went to meeting and did a bunch of deep breathing and I felt about five million times better. I can feel it creeping back in, but mostly because I’m not entirely sure when to start the readings to get the most out of the class while also not anticipating the amount of work too much now that I know what is being asked of me.

This grad school thing is definitely going to be a challenge to my anxiety and coping mechanisms. It’s a good thing I’ve been practicing for so many years!

How do you communicate with yourself?

About a week ago, I got stuck in my head. Recently, I’ve been having that happen a lot. It comes with the territory-depressed, anxious, etc. The way you perceive the world and how things are is different than the reality of it. Sometimes what I think is the issue isn’t actually what’s bothering me, but it’s what seems like it’s bothering me. I wanted to insert a metaphor here, but couldn’t think of a good one, so too bad for you. I know so many of you that get stuck in your heads in one way or another and it feels like a trap, like a cycle that you can’t get out of. Breaking this cycle is difficult and it played perfectly into my eating disorder: I get stuck in my head, worried about something and food soothes. It was a terrible cycle. And when I first went into therapy, my therapist introduced the concept of healthy coping mechanisms. There are many of them, so many more than I could list in this one blog post. But the ones that I learned and leaned on both in the beginning and now: pausing for a minute (delaying the unhealthy coping mechanism), meditations, going for a walk, and journaling. Another that she told me about and I ignored: creating signs to visually deter me from eating and process my emotions.

In the beginning, these tactics were all about addressing the negative behaviors I had developed (ED) in response to the mental health I was experiencing (Depression & anxiety). As time passed and I managed to reign in the behaviors (eating a jar of peanut butter), we transitioned more into addressing the mental health. Here is where journalling for me has become transformative. I have always been more of a writer than a speaker as a communicator. Writing helps me straighten out my own thoughts, allows me to dig past the surface thoughts to the kernel of discontent that is causing the waves of anxiety and paralysis in whatever I’m facing.

When I find that kernel, even if I can’t make it go away, identifying it is powerful. When I’m conscious of an issue, I can address it. When I’m avoiding it, I feel anxious for indiscernible reasons, I feel physically weird. It’s harder to resist the unhealthy coping mechanisms of eating (stuffing my feelings down) and avoiding.

Journalling is the clearest way for me to get to the truth of what is the cause of what I”m dealing with. Sometimes, I can journal out solutions as well, but even if I can’t, the identification is the most important part. It’s a way for me to communicate with myself, to take myself out of being stuck in my head and examine the world I’m living in. Kind of like in a video game where you scroll back and are looking at yourself from farther away or above you. That neutral landscape of you allows you to have a healthier analysis of what’s going on, makes it easier to assess and address.

Journalling isn’t for everyone, but it is well worth a try when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. If that doesn’t work, think about how you best communicate and try using that. Talking to a friend. Drawing. Movement. Whatever way shapes your words so that you can actually listen to yourself. Try it when you feel as if your mind is caged, banging and bruising against the bars. Good luck!

What does recovery look like today?

Today, recovery looks like a step back. It looks like I’m doing all the right things and still feeling like a failure because I ate a little too much and I’m now a little uncomfortable. I went to the gym. I went to work. I ate vegetables and grains and protein. But then I had something sweet. I had a little extra. I realized there was a hole in the center of my chest, just below my heart and I wanted to fill it, needed to fill it. I don’t know how to fill it except for food. So I ate some more food. And then when I went to bed, I felt bad. Actually, I felt bad the entire time, but I couldn’t stop it. But the difference between a few years ago and now? Now, the binging behavior is much milder and when I wake up the next day, I don’t try nearly as hard to ‘compensate’ for the binge nor do I feel as much guilt.

I acknowledge that I used a skill that I had to cope with the gnawing emptiness, even if it wasn’t healthy. I remind myself that I’m great and keep going with my day, eating what feels good, as close to a ‘healthy balanced diet’ as possible (while also including treats, because I love food of all kinds). I remind myself that recovery isn’t linear, it’s more like the stock market when it’s not crashing. It has some ups and downs but it generally goes up for a while. At least, I hope it’s not like the stock market and doesn’t crash. I’d like to avoid crashing back down.

Some days, I’m more depressed than others. Some seasons I’m more depressed than others. If it’s not winter, it’s a crap shoot on which days I’ll be down. Unless I’ve been overstimulated and over busy recently. Then I can predict an emotional crash that could trigger emotional eating. Other times, it’s more subtle. I think I’m doing ok and then I’m eating and I can’t stop and I don’t know why. Sometimes I figure it out and solve the problem. Sometimes I eat to fill the hole and too bad for me, I don’t know what the issue is to resolve.

If you have struggles with mental health, there are going to be dips. Recovery and living with mental illness guarantees it. Just remember though, that you’re not down forever but just for right now. Like the stock market, you’ll swing back up eventually.IMG_20150802_060757997