A Positive Update

Hello, the internet.

I’ve definitely been neglecting this blog lately. Whoops. Cue the usual “I’ve been busy/ I’m low-key a piece of shit/etc” thing. Formalities, formalities, blah, formalities.

I was eager to get right into this post, but now I don’t know where to start. To be honest, I’m not writing this because anything especially update-worthy has happened recently. Although, now that I think about it, that’s true. But I am writing this evening because I finished my evening routines a little earlier than usual and I still have some time before the Seroquel knocks me out.

Typically, I am motivated to blog by misery. So I guess it’s a good thing that tonight I’m writing because of happenstance instead. Because I actually have some really great things to share.

Good Thing #1: I am a happy person.

Okay, I don’t know for sure what it means to be a happy person, because I’ve never been one, but I’m certainly not a sad person anymore. And it’s a really weird feeling, but it’s a good weird feeling. I’ve been fighting mental illness for so long that it has become my identity. I was the sad, cynical, sarcastic, beautifully-broken asshole. I’m still a sarcastic asshole, and I am acutely aware of the problems in the world, but I also have a sense of purpose to solve those problems and the hope that it can be done. I don’t know if it’s the daily meditating (yes, I’m that person), challenging my social anxiety, or making Dominique a smaller part of my life. But whatever the reason, I’m pretty pleased.

Good Thing #2: I am dating.

For a while, I got stuck in a pattern of ending my contact with someone as soon as there was any potential for anything. My therapist said I was scared of getting hurt again, which sounds better than me lacking any social capabilities, so I’ll take it. Eventually, I gave up on dating altogether. At one point, I was going to casually sleep with one of my guy friends just to feel some shitty, bootlegged version of love for ten minutes. But recently, I’ve really been trying to put myself out there and meet people. I went on a date recently, and the plan is for us to go out again. I don’t know for sure what I want at this point, but I’m having fun. So, there’s that.

Good Thing #3: I got a job today.

This is actually amazing, but I don’t think my excitement level accurately reflects it yet. Just getting a job is a miracle and a huge financial relief. But it involves limited contact with other people, and actually sounds really fun. I’ve had jobs that I have “liked” in the sense that I was able to experience moments of happiness while working at them. But I think I will ACTUALLY like this job. Like the people in TV shows that I never relate to. You like the thing you’re forced to do at a desk for half your waking hours? Okay…

But yeah, finding a job means my Summer is figured out, and now I just have to do the things for a few months.
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I actually feel so grateful for where my life is right now. For the first time in a long time, things are going well. Eight months ago, I was constantly suicidal, and now I’m here. I can function in school and can find employment. I go to social things and enjoy them. I spend my time talking to people who want happiness as much as I do. I’m doing all the things. I’m really doing them.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that I have cured myself of all mental illness with the power of positive thinking. More accurately, I have greatly reduced my symptoms of mental illness to a level where I can function, by working very hard for a very long time. I’ve been eating well (and enough). I’ve been going to the gym. I’ve been meditating, despite not really loving it. I made the terrifying decision to move out of my old place. I am pushing myself to endure anxiety-provoking situations many times per week. And at some point, all these actions got me somewhere pretty cool.

It has taken me quite a while to write this, and by now the Seroquel HAS kicked in, so that’s all for tonight. Hopefully I’ll have more good updates soon.

Sarah

The things I learned in Undergrad

My undergraduate experience hasn’t been very conventional. And I’ve hated myself for that since I returned to school in Fall 2015.

But I just finished a 10-minute guided meditation on self-forgiveness (because apparently I’m a person who meditates now), and as cringey and fluffy as it sounds, I realized something important. Namely, that I have learned so much more since I started university in 2012 than I ever could have if things had gone differently.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had graduated in 2016 with my friends from high school. If I hadn’t switched programs. If I didn’t take time off for eating disorder treatment. Maybe things would have been easier, but they wouldn’t have been better. Because I went to university to learn, and that’s what I did.

2012-2013

I began first-year as an anxious but generally happy super-Christian. I went to church twice a week, I volunteered with a youth group, and I planned to declare Religious Studies as my major in second year. I hardly know that 17-year-old version of me now. I feel compassion for her, because I remember that Christianity gave her a purpose and a community, before it gave her crippling self-hatred for being a sinner and stifled her dreams. I feel compassion for her, but I barely know her. These days, she rarely crosses my mind. Anyways, at some point, this girl decided God was telling her to become a nurse. When I didn’t get into the Nursing program for the following year, I decided to major in Psychology for my second year then transfer into Accelerated Nursing.

2013-2014

At the end of Summer 2013, after university education and life experience left me doubting Christianity for months, I made the decision that I was no longer a Christian. When I went back to school in September, all my friends thought I was going to hell, I had no hobbies or interests outside the church, and I had no direction or purpose for my life. I tried turning to science to give me some sense of meaning. I thought if I learned HOW our species and our planet ended up where they are now, I would also know WHY. I wanted to switch into Biology. Then Biochem. Then general Life Sciences. Then physics. Eventually, I decided to stay in psychology after all and do something to help those with mental illness. I developed Bulimia in the Fall, and barely attended any classes in the Winter. I went to the Psych ER three times with suicidal thoughts. At some point, I thought a change of scenery might help, so I applied to double major in Math and Writing at a different university in January 2015. Over the Summer, I experienced a trauma and my eating disorder became restrictive and took over everything. (When I talk about this, I like to clarify that my eating disorder COINCIDENTALLY became worse and more restrictive at the same time, but restrictive eating disorders are not generally more or less severe than other eating disorders)

2014-2015

Just typing in those years brings me immense sadness. This year must have been the most miserable in my life to date. In the Fall, I couldn’t work, and I was waiting until January to return to school. I watched documentaries under a blanket in my room all day, and had energy/motivation for little else. All I cared about was food and calories and weight. And to be honest, I probably needed it at that time, because everything else had gone to shit. I accepted a referral to a Day Hospital program, because I thought I would be magically better in 8 weeks and go back to school like nothing happened. I started attending classes in February, and relapsed immediately. I still only cared about food and calories and weight. I dropped all my classes in late March or early April because I didn’t have the mental capacity to learn anything. I returned to the Day Hospital program in April. While there, I decided to return to my original university, as it was closer to my home so my parents would be nearby and the trigger of commuting would be gone. This school doesn’t have a writing program, so I intended to double-major in Math and English.

2015-2016

I managed to mostly maintain my recovery through the Summer. I met Jenn in the Fall. She made me happy and was a great motivation for recovery. I’m still getting over our breakup, so I’ll just say the recovery stuck and Jenn did not. I also decided to only major in Math, as that meant graduating with a BSc instead of a BA, and the English courses at this school are not remotely writing-related.

2016-2017

Jenn broke up with me a few days before classes started in September, so I started the term suicidal. I was in the hospital a few times for overdosing, and was very nearly admitted as a psychiatric inpatient. I managed to get my shit together just in time, and got through the term. In the Winter, my roommate was admitted inpatient, and everything was about her for months. I sound unsupportive and I honestly am, but I had zero support and she was incredibly selfish during this time. I don’t want to get into the details, but our friendship became very toxic, and it was all very difficult for me. I made no changes to my program this year, believe it or not.

After 6 years of undergrad, I will (if all goes to plan) finally receive my degree in 2018. That degree will tell the world that I came to university and I learned about math. And I used to take comfort in knowing it wouldn’t say anything else. Like the fact that it took me 6 years to achieve, or the fact that I changed my mind on my program 20394 times, or the fact that I entered school wanting to be a missionary, or the fact that I lost a year of school to complete eating disorder treatment. But today, I kind of wish my degree wouldn’t just say I learned math. I wish it would say that I learned where I stand on religion, how to survive when I don’t want to, how to cope in unhealthy ways, how to cope in healthy ways, how to break and then put myself back together, how to love, the fact that I love women, what heartbreak feels like, how to put my life back together a second time, what I really want to do with my life, and how to work towards the life I really want. Because I learned all those things, and looking back, I wouldn’t change my path one bit, because those struggles and setbacks and detours made me grow into the person I am today. And I learned things about myself and the world that I will use for the rest of my life. So my undergrad hasn’t been conventional, but thank god it hasn’t been.

Sarah

In Transition

Today, a lot of things changed.

I moved out of a place I shared with my toxic best friend (whose best friend status is currently under evaluation). I moved in with 4 strangers whom I will live with during my final year of undergrad. Both my Summer courses began (I attended neither due to the move). I guess that’s not very many things, but it feels like everything.

I need my routines. My routines comfort me. My routines ground me in reality. But I’m in a new house now, and I’m taking different classes, so things will be different. My routines have to change.

This might sound bizarre, but I simultaneously feel like life isn’t real and that I’m falling off the edge of a cliff. I don’t know what to do with myself. What do I do tomorrow morning for breakfast? When do I shower? Do I need to prepare more for Wednesday’s classes? I just want to lie in bed on my laptop forever.

I was excited to use this Summer to fight my social anxiety, so I could be a happier person by Fall. And I still plan to do that. But everything feels so scary right now.

I can’t explain it. But I just feel so afraid. I’m afraid to socialize with the people in my house. I’m afraid of how my social situation will change as I rethink my closest friendship. I’m scared my Summer courses will be terrible, and that I’ll be miserable all Summer. I’m afraid to get a part-time job, and then have to do it. I’m afraid of finishing my undergrad next year. I’m scared to go to grad school, which will probably be in Germany. I’m scared to get a real job after that. I’m afraid of everything I’ll ever have to do for the rest of my life. And I thought facing my fears would feel liberating, but I’m remembering all these times I was forced to face them repeatedly and my anxiety did not improve. That’s where the depression sets in, where life starts feeling like a long list of things I don’t want to do. Usually, my efforts to avoid anxiety (like isolation) cause depression, so it’s a bummer when it’s caused by the anxiety itself. Like what am I supposed to do to live a full, happy life?

Clearly, my thoughts are now devolving into chaos, so I will take this opportunity to politely excuse myself from the internet.

Sarah

Recovery from Social Anxiety Disorder

Today was my last session with a counselor I’ve seen for over a year and a half. So that’s a bummer. But it was actually a really good session, and it helped me focus my goals as I continue my mental health treatment.

I have been aware for a while, albeit to varying degrees, that social anxiety is among my most pressing mental health concerns. I was only diagnosed with SAD around a year ago. Until that point, I attributed my social avoidance to not liking people. And the times I knew I was anxious, I assumed my Generalized Anxiety was to blame. But when I was finally diagnosed with social anxiety , it shed some light on my struggles, and on what I can do to overcome them.

I believe that my Social Anxiety Disorder is currently contributing to around 85% of my mental health problems. And I have many diagnoses among which I must distribute these 100 percentage points. So that says a lot. But my social anxiety causes me to isolate, which makes me incredibly depressed, and which can make it difficult to succeed in my life. It is also difficult for me to find employment, as customer service roles are currently out of the question, and the thought of ANY job greatly heightens my anxiety. But I think that SAD’s contribution to my depression is the most damaging.

The thought of conquering my social anxiety fears makes me want to retreat into a hole forever. It feels so impossible to face these situations over and over until they no longer scare me.

But there was a time when recovery from an eating disorder felt impossible. An age when I could not imagine ever loving my body at a healthy weight. And I accomplished both of those things. I took risks that terrified me and that felt horribly wrong, with the hope that I would eventually find something resembling happiness. So I need to do that again.

I am completely terrified, and I don’t remotely have the support I did when recovering from my eating disorder. But I need my life to be different, so I need to do the work. Here goes nothing.

Sarah

2 Years Later

I wrote this letter 2 years ago today. It had been 2 months since I had been discharged from an Eating Disorders Day Hospital program, and it would be 1 month until I began the program for a second time. I wrote this to my future self in Day Hospital, so whenever I started romanticizing my eating disorder (which I do a lot), I would be reminded that it was hell. I still pull this letter out sometimes, when I start looking back with nostalgia on my life with an active eating disorder. I am proud to say that, 2 years later, I consider myself recovered from Anorexia, and I have no plans of going back.Untitled

Coming Out to Myself (Part 1)

This post isn’t going to be about mental illness. Unless you view homosexuality as such, in which case you can go fuck yourself after first reading this. (I’ll take any views I can get)

But anyways, this is going to be a gay post. Because I suppose I am that. And somehow, I managed to live 21 years before figuring that out. This fact makes me fear that others will not believe me. It even causes me to occasionally not believe myself. Thus, I spend a lot of time reflecting on those 21 years, and how I missed something so important while living them. And the story I uncover is one I would like to share, if only for confirmation that my experience is valid. This story ended up getting long pretty quickly, so I have split it into 2 parts.

To avoid Rachel Maddowing you further with an infinite preamble, I will now begin the story about the time I thought I was straight for 21 years.

Chapter 1: Grade 7

The first time I remember considering my sexuality was grade 7. I thought I might be developing crushes on some of my female friends, and I was terrified. I was a Christian at the time, and believed homosexuality was a sin. I hated myself for even questioning my sexuality, and prayed every single day that I was indeed straight. I ruminated on the issue for what felt like months (but I was 12, so it may have been a week and a half), and then one day I definitively decided that I was straight and that I would not question that fact ever again. I thought that if I spent more time wondering whether I liked girls, the devil would somehow get into my thoughts and make it true. I don’t know how much of this ridiculous belief came from religion and how much from OCD-related superstition, but it was there, regardless. I forced the question out of my consciousness, and carried on with my wonderful, straight life.

Chapter 2: The Boyfriend Years

I have had a total of 3 relationships and one depression-induced hookup situation. You will soon learn that depression was a recurring theme during the boyfriend years.

My first relationship with a man was actually the best. I was 16, all of my friends were in relationships, and my best friend was a guy. Part of me always knew I wasn’t attracted to Liam romantically, but I had methods for dealing with this pesky fact. Sometimes, I told myself that this was a good opportunity to gain experience being in a relationship. I told myself that all high school relationships felt this way. But mostly, I shoved the inconvenient thoughts deep inside my mind, where they would resurface every few months only to be shoved away again. I actually look back on my time with Liam fondly. He was really sweet, he was my best friend, and we were just a couple of dumb kids living our high school lives. I broke up with him suddenly after becoming much more religious, more social, and less bored working at Christian camp. I still feel  bad about that.

In a way, Christian camp indirectly lead to my second relationship. I decided to stop taking my antidepressants (which I had started taking the previous Spring), because I needed to “trust God to help with my anxiety and depression.” To be clear, this wasn’t a message communicated by the Christian camp, I just have a way of taking things way too far. So I was depressed, and anxious, and lonely. And a guy in my history class started giving me attention. Conor and I were together for around 8 months, during which time we repeatedly broke up and got back together. It wasn’t a great relationship, but I couldn’t handle being alone, so I kept returning. The relationship ended for the final time just before I began my first year of university.

The things I learned in university began giving me doubts about Christianity. These doubts compounded over time, and the answers that used to satisfy me didn’t anymore. I stopped considering myself a Christian in August 2013, leaving me with no friends, no hobbies, no identity, and no purpose for living. I developed Bulimia that Fall, and experienced my first Major Depressive Episode in the Winter. I began sleeping with some jerk from gymnastics, because he was giving me attention when I desperately needed it. That ended when he left me at a pub for having a drink because apparently he didn’t want to deal with me being drunk in his car. Ah, the memories.

I met my third and final boyfriend during this same depressive episode. I was still desperate for some kind of attention, so I began dating this person despite knowing I was not attracted to him. The relationship was awful, but it was less awful than being alone with my depression. I don’t say this person’s name, because that relationship ended with a traumatic incident that left me incredibly mentally unwell and affects me in some ways to this day.

Chapter 3: Anorexia

As I mentioned earlier, I had been Bulimic since Fall 2013, but mentally I was not terribly consumed by my disorder. Bingeing and purging helped me cope, but the idea of stopping didn’t seem like the end of the world. But when the aforementioned traumatic incident took away my appetite and lead to quick weight loss, I was instantly hooked. I told myself I would not start eating more once my appetite improved, and I didn’t. I want to be clear that I do not think Anorexia is more serious than Bulimia. I am only saying that my eating disorder happened to become more restrictive and more serious at the same time. Anorexia took over my life, and I was not physically or mentally capable of feeling attraction for anybody. I had no desire to be in a relationship, as my only care in the world was losing weight. It took two stays in Day Hospital to get me on track towards recovery.

To Be Continued….

 

Feeling Positive

My desire to write is typically inversely correlated to my mood, turning my blog into a heap of depression. But right this second, I am feeling genuinely happy, and I want to write about it. This may be related to the fact that I should be studying, but regardless, here is happy Sarah.

I feel obligated to mention that objectively, my life hasn’t gotten much better. My roommate is out of the hospital, but our relationship is irreversibly damaged, and we have decided to live apart next year (aka May 1st). The Summer is a terrifying swirl of unknowns; I don’t know where I will live, where I will work, who I will hang out with, or whether I will enjoy my classes. So it’s an anxiety-provoking time, which conveniently follows a Wellbutrin increase (which is great for mood, not so much for anxiety). Blah blah negativity blah.

But today, right this moment, I feel happy. Maybe meditating for the past 6 days has caused me to achieve enlightenment, but I somehow doubt it.

Today is a snow day (because Canada), so I get to spend the day curled up in my apartment. If it didn’t lower my mood long-term, I would spend every day like this. Fortunately, I can enjoy this day indoors guilt-free with the certainty that I will resume my usual activities tomorrow.

I planned to go to the gym today, so I did something resembling a home workout with moderate kitten interference, because I want those gains. Then I showered and got right back into my cozy pajamas. Then I did my daily chores (feeding the cat, laying out tomorrow’s outfit, etc.) and meditated. The only thing left to accomplish today is studying for my midterm tomorrow, but I’m already feeling fairly confident about it.

So here I am, feeling clean and warm in my cozy pajamas, mindful and full of endorphins, hanging out with my cat and reading about commutative rings. Everything about this day brings me joy, which is something I haven’t felt in a while, so I want to appreciate it while it’s here.

I am facing very stressful situations later this week, and the uncertainties about the Summer will continue to cause anxiety, but right this second, I feel joy.

I don’t recognize myself and have strong urges to insert a bitter, cynical comment. But the things that make me cynical and bitter will still be around when this joy passes, so right now, I’m just going to enJOY it. I’m so funny.

Sarah