S.A.D, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety/Panic Disorders, oh my!

Good evening my lovely Voodoo Children,

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I do live with some mental health issues. I originally wanted to say that I “suffer” from said conditions, but I don’t suffer at all. Yes some days I endure crippling anxiety, panic attacks, and VERY vivid flashbacks – among incessant depression/S.A.D. Before anyone goes and makes the assumption that I “self diagnose”, I can assure you I have been to MANY doctors, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists that can all verify my issues. This post is intended to shed some light on my mental health issues, my coping mechanisms now vs. when first diagnosed/undiagnosed, the ways it’s affected me in my every day life, and any medications I’m currently taking for said issues.

† What is Depression? It is defined as a mood disorder that “causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.” There really isn’t much to tell, this was my first mental health diagnosis and I was probably 9 or 10. My coping mechanisms then were self harm, extreme self-deprecation, self loathing and suicidal thoughts/attempts, negative self image, negative body image among others – just simply naming a few of the big ones. All very negative and very unhealthy means of coping with a serious issue. Now, my coping mechanisms are writing, exercise, and talking to somebody about it. I’ve never been medicated for my depression, or any of my disorders for that matter, and I honestly feel a sense of pride in not relying on prescription medication for dealing with my disorders (I am NOT, by any means, knocking those who do take meds to help with their depression or anything. If you need it, then you need it, there’s nothing wrong with that.) I’ve come a looong way in the last 10 or so years, and to be able to see my progress really makes me proud. I’ve changed the way depression has defined me over the years and have taken a stand to no longer let it define who I am as a human being. Still, it affects my every day life, there are days where I just want to lay in bed and do nothing. There are days where I literally see no point to life. I still try to to my best and overcome it… baby steps.

† What is S.A.D? The Mayo Clinic defines it as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.” Basically, my favourite time of year (autumn, not so much winter) makes me depressed. When the days in the year begin to get shorter, the sun doesn’t shine as much, and when the weather is gloomy or dark outside is when I experience most of this depressive behaviour. S.A.D is caused by a Vitamin D deficiency in your brain, it has also been argued that a lack of Serotonin is also a cause of S.A.D. I was diagnosed with S.A.D shortly after being diagnosed with depression, I’ve lived with it for the better part of 15 years now. This was my second diagnosis from a Psychiatrist. This, mixed with depression, makes for a pretty long and s.a.d winter (see what I did there?) and before I was diagnosed with S.A.D, I didn’t understand why during the winter months I was almost unbearbly depressed and lethargic, which led to more serious coping mechanisms and the self harm, the self loathing got worse. S.A.D continues to affect me to this day, even right now as I’m typing this it’s affecting me. It’s more than just an emotional feeling; it’s a physical one too. I can literally feel the weight of the world on my chest some days, crushing my chest cavity and pushing me closer to oblivion. No, that doesn’t mean I’m going to kill myself, “Oblivion” is my term for basically bottoming out, rock bottom.It’s all about perseverance, S.A.D and depression test your limits; physically and mentally. Both of these disorders test you in every way possible until you feel like you can’t handle it anymore. It’s all about pushing through that, it shoves you and you have to shove it right back.

† P.T.S.D is characterized as “a mental illness, often involving exposure to trauma from single events that involve death or the threat of death or serious injury. PTSD may also be linked to ongoing emotional trauma, such as abuse in a relationship.” You mostly hear about Military Officers, Doctors, and Nurses who, due to their line of work,  have PTSD. I grew up in a very volatile and very abusive house hold. My father was quite abusive towards me, my younger brother and my mom. It often led to sleepless nights, living in constant fear, and being exposed to physical violence either taken out on my brother, my mom or myself. It affected me in such a negative way that I’ve mentally blocked out that part of my life but, under great deals of stress and anxiety, I experience very vivid and very life-like flashbacks to certain points in my past that have involved the abuse I lived with. To this very day it still affects me, a person raises their hand too quickly towards me and I flinch. I cry when people yell at me. It is still all very real for me. Unfortunately, this, for me is one of my most crippling disorders as some flashbacks can render me catatonic for a few hours (longest period of time it’s ever affected me was a month, I literally barely spoke or got out of bed for anything more than to use the bathroom and occasionally nibble on food when i felt like eating, it was bad.) This was first diagnosed by a Teacher when I was 13 and then validated by a Psychiatrist. My coping mechanisms, while in public school weren’t the greatest. Flashbacks often led to panic attacks and teachers had to escort me out of class, I was alienated by my peers and labeled as a freak. Nobody really understood why I was the way  was, therefore, they mocked me and bullied me throughout my entire 7th and 8th year. Also, another factor to contribute to my PTSD was the incessant bullying I endured through out public school and most of high school. My coping mechanisms currently are still a work in progress, honestly remembering what happened isn’t as much of a trigger anymore. Yeah it still hurts and scares the ever living shit out of me, but I’ve tried to instill in me that I have to face my fear. It doesn’t affect my life as much anymore because I try not to let it, after dealing with it for so long you kind of figure out ways to drown it out or control it.

† The final two disorders I was diagnosed with are going to be combined; they are General Anxiety Disorder (G.A.D) and Panic Disorder. General Anxiety Disorder is defined as “excessive, ongoing anxiety and worry that interfere with day-to-day activities”, this anxiety could be about nothing, most symptoms are constantly worrying about simple things and blowing them way out of proportion and even worrying about why you’re worrying. Restlessness and difficulty concentrating are big ones for me as well, this affects me in a lot of aspects today especially at my work. My job requires a lot of sitting and a lot of concentrating. Using a computer for 8 consecutive hours a day is mentally exhausting; I often get distracted and zone out when I’m doing something important and focus on all of the little static thoughts in my head. Even in my home life my anxiety causes me to worry about the state of my house. One spec of disarray puts me in an anxiety filled frenzy and once I’m there it’s really hard to pump the breaks. It often makes me angry or easily irritated. My coping mechanisms when I was first diagnosed, and the months prior to finding out, were unhealthy. I would find myself in fits of anxiety induced rage in which I would “black out”. I screamed a lot, I threw A LOT of fits. I cried oceans. Now, if you want the god honest truth, I clean. Cleaning gets my mind off any anxieties or worries I’m experiencing and I get to let off some steam. Finally, we come to the end of this crazy train (just kidding, I know I’m not crazy but the pun was irresistable.) with Panic Disorder which is characterized as “recurrent unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something really bad is going to happen. The maximum degree of symptoms occurs within minutes.There may be ongoing worries about having further attacks and avoidance of places where attacks have occurred in the past.” I was diagnosed with this when I was 15 or 16. This disorder affected me a lot in high school mainly due to all the pressure I was under to get above average grades as to not disappoint my family, fit in and have friends, be in extra curricular activities, making sports teams… the list goes on. When I feel like I am under a great deal of stress or pressure I tend to experience mild panic attacks. I’ve only ever had 4 major panic attacks in my life which had led to me being monitored by a physician. It affected me moreso in high school, my marks dropped and eventually I dropped out. I wasn’t mentally capable of handling something as simple as high school – I felt like my demons had won. I felt useless and defeated. It goes to show to this day because I haven’t completed high school (I’m six credits short of graduating and am currently in the process of filing paperwork for my GED so I can apply to college next Fall.) Now, my panic disorder doesn’t affect me on such a large scale, I still get panic attacks from time to time and my “fight or flight” receptors kick in but I do what I can to push through it. There are times where my panic attack can get to a point where I feel like I want to walk out of my job. The coping mechanisms I used in the past were once I felt a panic attack coming on I would scratch at my skin, intensely. While I still do this, it’s not as intense and it usually lasts about 30 seconds where as in the past I could scratch one spot on my body until it was raw.

In summary, I have come a long way from what I had been to who I am now. I don’t want to be defined by the demons I am working so hard on taming. I WILL NOT be defined by them. I am not medicated for any of my disorders solely by my own choice, the only “medication” I use is pot. It is the only “medication” I have come across that does not change who I am as a person. It mellows me out and gives me an appetite, it quells the anxiety and panic attacks and abolishes the PTSD.  It silences the depression and makes me forget about S.A.D. I completely understand and respect people’s choices to use medication, like previously stated, if it helps then it helps. Do whatever you need to do to help yourself. I just choose not to use prescription methods.I encourage anyone who is experiencing any of these disorders, or ones that I don’t have to please seek help. Reach out to friends, family, coworkers. Or even me. Sometimes you can find help in someone who’s experienced the same things.

So that’s all for tonight my lovelies, but 2,017 words could never explain fully what goes on inside my head but I did my best.

Keep it surreal folks, until next blog.
C.

 

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