Instant Gratification

Lincoln playing in the leaves last fall (trying to remind myself that it is going to warm up eventually…)

I hope you all like the picture of my boy. There is no real reason behind me choosing this picture today. It was 8 degrees out and Lincoln and I are both getting cabin fever. This picture reminds me of sunny days that will hopefully reappear soon!

Anyways, I wanted to write a bit about instant gratification because it’s on my mind today. What is it about my brain that is constantly giving in to short term fixes/rewards. For example, I am trying to get into shape for my cousins wedding. I know how to lose weight, I have lost weight before but I still eat way too much chocolate and carbs! Then I get annoyed at myself after and feel bad about it because I know the situation could have been avoided.

Drug use is another example of instant gratification that I have consistently engaged in. I never developed positive coping skills and the first time I experienced how drugs took every ounce of pain away, I was hooked. Why would I go to therapy and talk about my problems when I can use heroin forget them all? There are obvious answers to this, but for a very long time my brain was wired to turn to dope to deal with my anxiety and depression and any other emotion I could possibly feel. Cutting/Burning was always the same. I didn’t want to feel emotional pain and hurting myself took it away for that moment.

I am working on this day by day and focusing on my long term goals when my mind starts to wander towards drugs or self-harm.  Fortunately, I know what good coping mechanisms are and am learning to slowly develop and rely on them as time goes on. My impulsivity scares me sometimes, but for today I am okay.

You Are Enough: Mandy Hale

Book Review Disclaimer: These are my thoughts and opinions on books that I read related to addiction and mental health. They are in no way formal book reviews, that’s just the best way for me to describe them. Thank you for reading! If you have any book suggestions, I am always looking for inspiration.

“Sometimes it takes getting pushed to the very edge before you can find your voice and courage to speak out again. Sometimes it takes hitting that rock bottom to realize you’re done descending, and it’s time to rise. Sometimes it takes being told you’re nothing — being made to feel like you’re nothing — to help you see that you are complete.” – Mandy Hale

I came across this book on goodreads.com and the title itself was enough to draw me in. I have never really felt like I was ‘enough’ at anything.. Whether it was grades in school, relationships, friendships, sports, etc. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt me to pick this one up off the shelf.

This book was a bit of a change of pace for me because everything I’ve been reading lately has been about addiction with some mental illness thrown in but not as prominent. Mandy wrote extensively about her journey with crippling anxiety and depression. She detailed the events that led her to rock bottom, what rock bottom can feel like, and how she climbed her way back.

One thing I appreciate so much is Mandy’s openness when talking about treatment for her depression and anxiety. Although our society has come a long way there is still so much stigma around mental illness and reaching out for help can be very difficult. Mandy attended first a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and then an intensive outpatient program (IOP). For those who are not familiar with this level of care,  PHP is normally where individuals attend group therapy Monday – Friday for anywhere from five to eight hours and usually consists of individual meetings with therapists and psychiatrists. IOP is a step down, in my experience three days per week for three to five hours.

I have participated in multiple IOP programs for my mental illness and PHP programs for addiction so I could relate to Mandy’s anxiety when she first started. Walking into a room full of strangers and having to talk about such sensitive subjects is so difficult. Reading about Mandy’s success and the amazing friendships she made while in PHP and IOP really made my heart full. It also kind of made me want to go back. That may sound weird but when I was in IOP a couple years ago I felt like I could actually relate to the people around me and felt comfortable talking about my illnesses. While I love having the support of my family and friends, sometimes I just need someone to talk to who has been through what I have.

One aspect of the book that initially caught me off guard was the sections where Mandy discussed her religious beliefs. Normally the minute I start reading about religion I stop because I have had a lot of bad experiences and I don’t feel like being pressured to believe anything specific. This was not like that for me. While Mandy did talk about her own beliefs and road to spirituality I feel that I actually benefited from reading about it instead of being turned off like I have previously.

Mandy struggled with feeling like she was not good enough for most of her life. She really made me (and I’m assuming most readers) understand that we are enough. We may not be perfect, but who is. Even though I have this madness in my brain and have a history with addiction that does not mean I am not worthy of life and love.

Weekly Wrap Up – February 24, 2019

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and fun as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”

-Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

Such a photogenic pup!

There have been a lot of ups and downs this week, where do I even begin. I had a normal work week which was nice as I like having a routine. Work is still taking a bit to get use to right now because we now have two people on my shift three nights a week. Normally I always work alone so this is very strange for me. In all honesty, it is probably a good thing. I tend to not put in a ton of effort to interact with other humans besides my immediate family and the longer I go like that the harder it seems to get. The woman that now works second shift with me is great. She is also working on a graduate degree and is just very laid back and insightful and we have great conversations. Maybe I’ve made a friend? 

I haven’t written much about health and exercise on here but that was a big part of my week as well. I have also been very active (as far back as I can remember) so exercise is a huge part of my life. When I went to rehab in 2016 I gained some weight and have had a hard time getting/keeping it off. I have tried not to be too hard on myself about this because at least I’m not shooting heroin everyday but I still want to be healthy. The exercise part is not the problem for me, it’s food. It’s like as soon as I put drugs down I can’t stop eating carbs! I know there is a physiological component of this as well but it gets so frustrating! Anyways, I started a new workout program this week that I absolutely love and have actually done really well in terms of nutrition. I am trying not to be super strict because that never leads to a good place for me. I will definitely make a post when I finish the program and let you all know how I liked it/my results.

I did a whole post on my therapy situation this week so I won’t go into that. I can say that my mood this week hasn’t been the best. Over the last month or so I have been trying to be upbeat and optimistic about things but I’ve just been down. I get into this mindset about why I’m even bothering to stay off drugs and be productive when I am still depressed all the time. I have been trying to blame it on the season or on needing new meds but who am I kidding. It does not matter the season or what meds I’m on, this has been my life for so long.

Anyways, I was trying to keep this post light and apparently that did not happen! Ranting and raving makes me feel better though so something good comes out of it. I hope everyone has a great week.

Deja Vu?

I decided last week that I wanted to return to graduate school and transfer my credits to an online program so that I can stay at my current job but also continue my education. I feel like I’m having deja vu. In the fall of 2017 I decided to enroll in a graduate program that started last year in January 2018. At first I did great but I was also working full time and had to drive 4+ hours to school and eventually got so burnt out that I missed two many classes. I actually ended up relapsing shortly after all of this happened.

I don’t want to get to that point again so I’m trying to take precations and be aware of what I’m putting on my plate. I think having everything online and being able to do my school work at home or work (I work third shift 3 nights a week and am able to do homework) will be ideal for me. The four hour commute was torcher last year, plus being around people I don’t know makes me anxious.

I also am only going to take six credits to start out vereses the twelve I took last year. How I thought it was a good idea to be working full time while attending school full time is beyond me. I get in these stages where I feel invincible and like I can conquer the world. Historically though, it only lasts a few months before I’ve abandoned everything on to the next plan or idea. I’m really trying not to do that this time. I am going to plan out a schedule and try to follow it, as I’m much more productive when I’m organized.

I am suppose to start my online program on March 11, wish me luck!

Therapy Follow Up

I wrote a post earlier this week about my anxiety over seeing a new therapist today. I wanted to write a follow up post because a few people were interested in hearing how it went.

When I left for my appointment this morning I was in a good headspace and actually felt ready to talk about some of my issues. I had to drive forty minutes to his office and when I was about half way there I all the sudden started panicking about it. My thoughts started racing about how I always drop out of therapy after a couple sessions so why bother? Counseling never works for me so why am I trying? Who’s idea was it to see a man in the first place when I am so uncomfortable around men?

I had some how convinced myself that it was not worth my time and that I wasn’t going, but I kept driving. I was anxious about finding the place but it was relatively easy. I parked and sat there for a while. I was starting to have physical symptoms of anxiety and actually crying. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? How am I ever suppose to get better if I can’t even walk in the door.

I started thinking about my life and what I want and I just knew that it was the right thing to do. I texted my best friend and told her I was panicking about seeing a new therapist and she gave me some reassurance. I know this probably sounds so dramatic to people and you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy for being this worked up over one appointment. You’re right, I am super crazy – hence why I need therapy.

I somehow made it inside and met this new therapist and it was all okay. I filled out paperwork and then he asked me to tell him about my life which is hard for me because I never know where to start. He started asking questions and the hour flew by. I actually felt like he was listening and reassuring because he would ask clarifying questions, etc. I have had therapist in the past scroll on their phone the whole session, so this was nice.

I don’t know why I get so anxious about therapy but I am so proud of myself for putting one foot in front of the other and going. Now I just need to stick with it.

Asking for Help is HARD

As far back as I can remember, I see symptoms of mental illness.

I have had varying diagnosis from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to borderline personality disorder (BPD) and ore. The diagnoses are not as important to me now as they use to be. I don’t define myself by them anymore. Asking for help when I need it, regardless of the symptoms I’m facing at the time, is what I focus on today.

Asking for help has always been difficult for me, starting from a young age. I grew up in a great home, I have loving parents and an amazing sister. I had every opportunity and was given anything I could ever want. So why was I depressed? I did not understand that here didn’t need to be a triggering event or traumatic history in order to have a mental illness. I didn’t understand that it could happen to anyone, even me. I didn’t ask for help because I couldn’t face the “cheer up, your life is perfect” comments that would come from my peers and family. Instead, I struggled through school, engaging in extremely self-destructive behaviors with only a select few friends having an idea of what was going on.

Although I was struggling on the inside, I tried not to let it affect my outward appearance. I went off to college, as I had always planned, to become a social worker. These were some of the best and worst hears of my life. I got good grades and made amazing friends but I was struggling silently. I continued having the attitude that I needed to deal with my issues on my own, and that asking for help would show weakness. After graduating it became even harder as I began working at mental health agencies and having clients with significant trauma history. I compared my life to theirs and convinced myself that my problems were not worth talking about. I turned to self-harm behaviors and self-medicating in order to get through day-to-day life. This led me down a long road of what I can only describe as emotional turmoil. Eventually, it had to come crashing down.

The first time I really asked for help, I was terrified. I didn’t want to deal with the stigma around mental illness. I didn’t want to deal with the judgment I’d face as an addict. I didn’t want to let my family and friends down. Facing my fears and engaging in treatment was the best thing I ever could have done for myself. I realized my brain doesn’t produce enough of the ‘happy’ chemicals. I realized I have a hard time regulating my emotions and that those emotions can lead to rapid mood swings. I realized all of this is okay. I realized there are healthier ways to cope and that, with help from others, I could get better.

Asking for help is never an easy task, but today it is doable. Although I will most likely deal with mental illness for the rest of my life, I can see a brighter future for myself than I ever could before. A few years ago, I never thought that I could experience happiness. With the way y life was going, I never thought I’d live past 25 years old. I can only imagine what my life would have been like if I got help sooner. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of; neither is asking for help.

In My Skin: Kate Holden

I spend a very significant amount of time reading and learning. It has always been a passion of mine and I’ve decided that I want to incorporate it into my blog in some way. I am going to call these book reviews but they are mainly going to be made up of my thoughts and opinions on what I read and how I relate to them. The books I write about will focus on mental health and/or addiction in some way including memoirs, self-help books and educational resources. I am going to be doing about one of these per week!

I recently finished Kate Holden’s In My Skin for the second time. I didn’t realize until after I bought the book that I had read it previously when I was fresh out of rehab. I actually like to read books multiple times through because I always pick up on and learn new things.

Kate’s journey with addiction is very similar to mine. Like Kate, I had what people may call a ‘picture-perfect childhood’. Supportive parents, a great sister, ideal neighborhood and given every possible opportunity I could imagine. But addiction doesn’t discriminate. Kate began using heroin with her boyfriend occasionally while still holding a job and studying. It doesn’t take long for using only on the weekends to turn into a few times a week and then eventually to every single day. After stealing money from her place of employment Kate was fired and eventually resorted to prostitution to fund her habit. I could relate wholeheartedly to every stage of Kate’s experience. I know what it’s like to lie, cheat and steal in order to fund a habit. I appreciate Kate’s honesty about what heroin addiction is really like as well as being a sex worker.

Kate attempted to get clean multiple times and her parents were always there to help and support her in whatever way they could. Incorporating Kate’s parents struggle with boundaries and enabling made this book stand out for me. Families of addicts struggle to understand the disease of addiction and are often torn about how and when to help. I would recommend this book not only to those struggling with addiction themselves but also parents and families. Reading about Kate’s struggles and triumphs and her overall experience gave me hope.

Kate attempted to get clean multiple times and her parents were always there to help and support her in whatever way they could. Incorporating Kate’s parents struggle with boundaries and enabling made this book stand out for me. Families of addicts struggle to understand the disease of addiction and are often torn about how and when to help. I would recommend this book not only to those struggling with addiction themselves but also parents and families. Reading about Kate’s struggles and triumphs and her overall experience gave me hope.

This book was a bit triggering for me due to trauma I have from my own experience with prostitution and drug use but I still enjoyed it and am glad I read it again. Reading about someone’s experience that paralleled mine so much made me feel less alone.