On Anxiety

 

~This post contains a trigger warning for covering the topic of anxiety and panic attacks in detail, with allusions, metaphors and other literary devices from ninth grade English~

I’ve been away from reality and have even strayed from the safe, soft confines of this blog for a while, because I’ve been working on a book. It’s been exciting and daunting, because I usually write short fiction and poetry. (And also because saying “I’m working on a novel” sounds a tad pretentious at best.)
likeasir
(callofduty.wikia. com)

In any case, today I wanted to come back and talk about anxiety!

Anxiety has a large role in my life, and I’m sure many people can relate to this. Sometimes, anxiety can be so insidious that it’s hard to realize it’s even present until it balloons up into a full-blown panic attack and explodes.

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(video.adultswim. com)

I’ve dealt with a lot of generalized anxiety. It kind of feels like an allergic reaction to buzzing bees. Why? Well, there’s the buzz-buzz-buzz of racing thoughts, a tightness in the chest that constricts breathing, and an inexplicable feeling of dread. …Which reminds me of a certain Nicolas Cage movie…

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Then there are panic attacks, which are more like volcanoes that may or may not be dormant. Everything can be peachy for a week or even a few years, and then suddenly, in a supermarket and for no obvious reason, the volcano erupts and spills over. A lot of people fear their going to die when this happens, because there’s shortness of breath, sweaty palms, and/or a sudden need for water. I tend to be in the camp that believes I am going to go crazy and nothing will be the same. Luckily, neither of this circumstances are what’s really happening. The thing is, the responses triggered in anxiety attacks can be helpful, just not when they happen seemingly at random. Actually, they’re not even great when all the triggering circumstances are in play.
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I’d like to share some of the most helpful tools I have for dealing with both generalized anxiety and panic attacks, but before I go on I really need to stress that I’m not a medical professional and that I’m only sharing my personal experiences. Also, I need to say that the amount of resources and wonderful counsellors/psychologists/therapists, etc. that are out there when it comes to dealing with anxiety is pretty sizeable.  This is good, because often there’s an underlying issue at the heart of the anxiety that a counsellor can dig up and help deal with. (Such as: “I want to keep reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but I’m scared all of my favourite characters are gonna die.”)

georgemartin

(plus.google. com)

All that being said, here are my stop-drop-and-rolls for dealing with anxiety.
Sometimes, the first step is to acknowledge the anxiety is even there. If I’m having trouble focussing, or suddenly everything seems to be taking place in a 90’s alternative rock video, that’s my cue that something is up.
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(youtube. com)

Once that’s established, my favourite things to do are breathing techniques. Specifically, I like my feet to make contact with the ground, and then I like to breathe in whatever positive buzzword I need, and breathe out all the negative junk.
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Sometimes I go a step further and visualize myself as a tree taking root. I think the key is to get out of the racing mind, and back into the body. An astute counsellor once called me a walking, talking lollipop. I still prefer to imagine being Treebeard.
treebeard
(lotr.wikia. com)

If it’s still not working, then making little movements can be helpful. A great counsellor suggested that sometimes the remedy to “flight or fight” can be to mimic the movements your muscles would make, but very slowly and deliberately. So for instance, when I was on a flight at what I felt was at billion meters in altitude, there was no “fight or flight” option for me. (Unless you count that lame pun.) But what I could do, was bide my time by clenching my fists as if I was fighting, and moving my feet and ankles as if I were running.
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Finally, little mantras like “This too shall pass” and “Everything is temporary” might seem corny, but they can often do the trick.
Oh, and it’s also nice to have a lifeline; a friend or relative or hotline to reach out to. Sometimes just talking to someone and hearing about their shitty day is all one needs to shift focus away from one’s own anxiety.
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So those are some of my favourite tips. Of course, I have to say that regular exercise and cuddle times with people or animals are a great boon to keeping the racing bees at bay.
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Let me know if you have some tips or tricks I haven’t mentioned!

Much love,
Delani

 

Things you might not expect about living with Depression

(This post contains a trigger-warning for discussing some symptoms and experiences regarding depression. I also want to stress that I am not a health professional; I experience depression myself, but I’m not in a position to offer professional advice.)

Before one starts to feel the classic symptoms of depression, and much before one is even diagnosed, there are certain preconceptions one is exposed to surrounding depression. They’re sometimes based on depictions in literature, film, and television, popular psychology, and stories from friends and relatives.

…However dubious they may be.

eatpraylove
(facebook .com) 

Anyone can “WebMD” the symptoms of depression and come up with a pretty straightforward list of what one could expect from this condition. However, depression is not without its share of surprises. Some of the unexpected experiences downright suck, but others are kind of wonderful. If that seems hard to believe, I’ve compiled a list of my own “findings” below.

1. Expressing gratitude for things that might have otherwise been ignored.
Someone left you some pasta for dinner? That’s amazing. There’s a sudden, soothing breeze in the room you can’t seem to leave? Amazing. This cake tastes amazing. That guilty-pleasure rom-com? Amazing. Small things that might otherwise have been unnoticed or overlooked can suddenly seem especially valuable, and this kind of gratitude definitely contributes to one’s wellbeing.

picardyes
(startrek .com) 

2. Big, fat, belly-laughs are still possible, and they still feel great.
Depression is not always monotonous sighs. Those painful, ab-aching laughs can catch one off-guard, and even though they can be rarer, they’re still prone to happen in the presence of that hilarious friend or relative.

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3. Patience becomes one’s best subject.
You’ll know a thing or two about patience. Actually, you’ll be able to write and overcharge students for textbooks/footstools about patience. Because whether you’re trying to explain to others how you’ve been feeling, or you’re seeing if a new treatment will work out, patience is the key. Take the following scenario, for instance:

Counsellor: “So tell me more about when your parents got divorced.”
Patient: “But I thought we had already discussed this last week, and the week before.”
Counsellor: “Yes, but how did you feel about it?”
Patient: “Well, like I said, I kind of saw it coming. I mean, 50% of marriages end in divorce or something, right? I wasn’t too surprised.”
Counsellor: “And how did that lack of surprise make you feel?”
Patient: “It was …anti-climactic? Do you want me to say I blame them for my iguana’s death?”
Counsellor: “Ah. So your parents caused the pain surrounding the death of your iguana. How does that make you feel?”

Yeah. Patience required.

drphil
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4. Many people still expect the person with depression to behave the same way they did before they felt depressed.
Speaking of patience… others in your life are going to need a booster shot of it, too. Because sometimes, when one is depressed, they just can’t go out dancing with friends that night. But chances are, the person dealing with depression is already feeling guilty enough as it is, so the classic “snap-out-of-it” pep-talk is not really the most helpful in the pep-talk realm. (The “don’t-worry-we’ll-have-a-drink-for-you” talk usually works better here.)
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(comicvine .com)

5. The things that are supposed to make one feel better will be the hardest things to do.
What do going for a jog, waking up early, eating healthy, spending time with friends and not listening to sad music all have in common? They all freaking suck when all you want to do is stay in bed, in the dark, with or without a huge bowl of ice cream (It’s all or nothing). Yes, endorphins from exercise are a great pick-me-up, and waking up early is a good way to prevent feeling like the main character from I Am Legend at 3 a.m.. And having regular, reasonable portions of nutritious foods are a good way to keep mood-swings at bay. But if one was able to do all of this with ease, they might not be feeling depressed in the first place. It takes tremendous effort to go out and meet friends for coffee before heading to the gym, so if you actually manage to do it, celebrate that shit. (Here, have another hour of sleep, it’s on the house.)
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6. Animal cuddles will always feel great no matter what.
No matter how bummed out one feels, that cat or dog or bunny or old beanie baby will always deliver. Other than the sun coming up in the morning, and M. Night Shyamalan movies always being awful, wonderful animal cuddles are one thing that can pretty much always be counted on.
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So yes, there are a few unpredictable things about living with depression, and sometimes it’s those surprises that are the most memorable. If you’re dealing with or have dealt with depression, are there any experiences you didn’t see coming? I would be interested to compare notes.

Much love,
Délani

Brain-Shivers are a Thing

(This post contains a trigger-warning for topics such as depression and anti-depressants.)

I’m almost twenty-three. And for the great majority of these years, I was unaware of a thing called “brain-shivers.” Unfortunately, this is not the same thing as brain freeze.

jacksnow

(popmatter. com)

Brain-shivers are also known as brain-zaps, pulses, or, my personal favourite, cranial zings. It’s a thing that can happen when one reduces or stops taking certain anti-depressants in the SSRI category. (Like Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, etc.)

I’ve been trying to come up with some way to explain it, because I’ve been walking around like the town drunk and I have definitely not had my fair share of liquor to have earned the title.

Okay, so let’s see: imagine you’re walking down the street. For ambiance, let’s pretend it’s this road.

long road

 (wikimedia commons)

Badass. So you’re walking down the road, when suddenly your mom (played here by Susan Sarandon) blindsides you. She yells because you’re about to be late to your cousin’s daughter’s cousin’s wedding. You get a millisecond of darkness and can feel your brain “zapping” that forgotten information and, because you’re so startled, you stumble forwards a step.

Your mom is like, “What are you, drunk already? You’re not even at the wedding. Tsk, you don’t get that from me.”

“No, Susa– I mean, Mom, it’s so weird, it feels like I got hit in the chops by a rogue dodgeball,” you say.

But she’s already dragged you to her car. And then you make some small talk while you ignore the jousting competition your brain hemispheres are having.

sarandon

(rottentomatoes .com)

The reason I’m experiencing these “zaps” right now, is because I’ve stopped taking Celexa and I’m having withdrawals, since my system is getting used to the changing serotonin levels. I was on a Wellbutrin and Celexa cocktail, but I was getting a little tired of the compounded side-effects from both meds.

This will sound strange, but if I’m going to feel nauseated, I want it to be my nausea, not the Celexa-induced stuff. My nausea may not be perfect, but at least it’s mine, right? Right. Probably.

It took me awhile to realize that there would be side-effects both from going on and coming off medication. In fact, it was something I really didn’t expect. I’m going to write a list of stuff I didn’t expect about living with depression, if not a novel. But in the meantime, I’ll try to slow down the zings and zaps.

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Much Love,
Délani

It’s time to come clean

~This post contains a trigger warning. It deals with depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Also, shark-spiders.~

I’ll tell you a secret.

My worst fear—worst than getting trapped in an elevator with a million billion sharp-fanged, shark-spiders—is going crazy. Specifically, that special, almost mythical brand of crazy where one can feel oneself slipping from what others would all agree is solid, sane reality. (Just like how we can all agree that Joffrey is a tool.)

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IMDB  

Well, enter depression. Enter anxiety. Enter panic attacks. And, enter disordered eating, (just for kicks, at this point). When I’m not getting used to new meds (“I’m sure the walls aren’t undulating like maggots right now”), I’m pretending to be a tree to stop an oncoming panic attack (sometimes it works!) And if I’m not existing on an exclusive diet of green tea and cabbage, I’m trying to un-know the amount of calories in a row of Oreos. But these strange experiences have also given me some pretty hilarious stories. 

And that’s what this is about: creating dialogue about conditions that are still often perceived as flaws or weakness. The reasons people experience depression, anxiety, and/or eating disorders are as manyfold as the ways they can be treated. But it can be super easy to forget that, because depression can act as a kind of veil.

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 harrypotter.wikia. com

…Except with less wizards, unfortunately.

Therefore, I’ve decided to be honest about this whole weird experience. Honesty can be scary, too, but it’s a lot better than shark-spiders. 

 

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Much love,
Délani