To Sparkle Punch...

That is the question

depression

FIFTH Blogiversary!

JessComment
public.jpeg

CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE?! How has it been five years?!

It’s also hard to believe how much my life has changed since July of 2014. Back then, I was still living in South Philly with Deena and limping around in a walking boot because I had somehow broken my foot. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Walking boot, but make it fashion?

Walking boot, but make it fashion?

I had been in a relationship for almost a year (and would go on to date B for another year and a half!). I was a year removed from inpatient and thus had only been in therapy for that long. Seeing a male therapist was laughably unrealistic. Yoga was in no way an important part of my life (although I had already met the woman who would become one of my YTT teachers, as well as my sometimes therapist). I didn’t drive at all.

What a difference five years makes!

Sometimes, it feels like inpatient is when my life actually began. Which I guess is somewhat accurate—inpatient forced me to finally be honest with myself and others about how I was feeling. So that tends to be the starting point when I reflect on the recent past. And when I look back over the past six years, the only “accomplishments” that stand out are driving/getting my car and completing yoga teacher training. Of course they stand out—they’re fairly momentous.

Interestingly, they’re both developments that 2014 Jess never would have seen coming.

Something else about 2014 Jess? She was not psyched about starting a blog to talk about ~feelings~ and deep stuff. Even after creating this space, it took her a good two months to actually, you know, post something.

My one therapist likes to remind me that fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin. Her theory is that, if you’re afraid of something, you actually have an interest in it, because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t react so strongly to it… with some caveats, of course. (Like, my absolute terror of bees does not mean that I actually have a deep desire to be a beekeeper.) But with the blog, I think her theory applies. Expressing myself creatively in this space ultimately excites me and leaves me feeling fulfilled in a way that few things do… even if publishing this post in August 2014 initially made me go, “Oh my god, I’VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE.”

But I didn’t. Posts like that need to be published. We as a society need to talk openly and honestly about mental health issues, and with my experiences + interest in writing, I guess I need to be one of the ones to do it!

I am so thankful for the supportive community that has welcomed me and formed in response to my writing. Mica, Bri, Lisa (my dear blog mom), Nicole, Tif, Becky, Crystal, Ashley (a true OG!), knowing all of you has brightened my life immeasurably. And for anyone who reads my blog anonymously or cheers me on via Facebook or Instagram, thank you. It warms my heart so much knowing that you are out there.

Let’s keep finding the sparkle! xoxo

Rebirthday #6

JessComment
3-20-13

3-20-13

Five years since inpatient felt like a big deal. Six… doesn’t feel like much of anything. I didn’t even want to write about it! Like, okay, yay, I did a thing six years ago. What am I doing now, though?

Clearly, there is a part of me that beats myself up for not being “further along” on this whole healing journey (even though I know full well that healing is non-linear). I’m also super aware that I’m not checking the boxes of a typical 30-something: marriage, kids, house, some combination thereof. I try to remind myself that I’ve never been one to do things on the “typical” timeline (hello, driving at age 27!), but I do get there eventually… which I guess means that my forties are gonna be LIT! 😂

In all seriousness, I don’t feel ready to check those big boxes. But that’s not as healthy as it sounds. Rather, I feel like I will crumble under the stress and uncertainty that come with those momentous life changes.

When I was a kid, my anxiety—especially about situations outside of my control—was at times accompanied by big emotional and physical reactions: not eating, not sleeping, crying all the time, obsessive worrying... so I started to avoid anything that would potentially set off that avalanche of symptoms. The only problem is that I’ve learned that coping skill very well over the years. If anxiety makes every one and every thing seem scary, how do you get yourself to do anything? Not to mention that a trigger can show up in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Traditionally, I would only do a “scary” new thing because I was forced into it (by, say, a graduation, or someone else’s life changes). But this past year, I’ve actually chosen the “scarier” option a few times, and although the situations wouldn’t seem like that big a deal to an outsider, they were momentous to me.

In one instance, I initiated a very difficult, emotionally vulnerable conversation with a friend who I would have normally ghosted (so as to not have said difficult conversation). I also started seeing a male therapist, a scenario I typically avoid due to some unresolved guy issues.

These experiences are teaching me that I can handle more than I think I can. Did speaking so honestly with my friend leave me feeling incredibly exposed? Yeah—I felt like I’d ripped off my own skin.

But I survived.

And when I made the initial appointment with the male therapist (a suggestion from a different therapist who was leaving their practice), it was just to cross it off—to confirm my belief that I would be too triggered seeing a male and thus can only see female therapists. But that didn’t happen. (Full disclosure: this particular therapist has a very calm and gentle way about him, and that helps a lot.) Being emotionally vulnerable with a male does freak me out, don’t get me wrong, but it’s giving me a chance to talk about these feelings with a trained professional as I’m experiencing them. That just wouldn’t happen in the same way with a female therapist. It also gives us the chance to try to make sense of what I’m feeling, instead of me just running from the feelings by default.

I guess I need to remind myself that growth and change come in all forms. It’s not always the big box life events or the celebratory moments you’d post about on social media. It’s driving somewhere new when driving isn’t your fave. It’s being your authentic self with someone who loves you… and being brave enough to do it when you’d rather run away screaming. It’s continuing to show up for a situation that scares you. It’s the willingness to look at what is going on in your mind and your life so you can understand it better.

It’s one hell of a ride. The fact that I’m still on it at all, I owe to the girl in the ER six years ago and her very powerful decision. 💜

IMG_7058.JPG

Rebirthday #5

JessComment
IMG_6847.JPG

FIVE YEARS. Wow. What a surprise, indeed. 

I could have died five years ago. Sorry to get all “seven strangers picked to live in a house” real right out of the gate, but it’s the truth. My thoughts had gotten so dark that they almost turned out my light for good. But I didn't let them. And today is the day of the year that I get to celebrate that for the huge freaking victory it is. I don't know if there is an accomplishment that I'm prouder of, honestly.

It's shocking that I can talk about all of this so openly now because I was terrified to admit how I really felt for a long time--eleven years, to be exact. Eleven years of hiding the impulses that scared me but felt like they would scare other people even more. Eleven years of feeling so deeply alone, even while I was with other people. I didn't intend to share my feelings on March 19, 2013, either, but I was so desperately in need of help that I just blurted it all out to my unsuspecting friend Kristin. She took me to the hospital the next day and has become one of my closest friends. (And we originally met through blogging! So if that doesn't speak to the power of blogging friendships, I don't know what does!) I talk to her (or at least bombard her with Pusheen stickers in fb messenger) every day. The whole wild ride ultimately made our friendship stronger. Certainly, this is just one person's experience, but I share it to show that it is possible to let people in to the dark and twisty parts of yourself, and not have them run away in horror. I have to remind myself of that on a regular basis, but I do know, deep down, that it's true.

If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal depression, I can say from my own experience that it was extremely heartening to know that my friends still supported me despite my dark thoughts. It must be scary, and possibly confusing, to hear that a friend or loved one is suicidal. But if you love the person, reassure them of that. This site has some great suggestions for things to text someone with depression. You can also just sit with them while they call the suicide hotline--that's where Kristin and I started. And you can go with them to the ER as a possible next step. We went to the ER at a hospital that she knew had a well-respected inpatient program in case I ended up staying. Which was my choice, by the way--the doctors didn't feel like I was enough of a risk that they had to keep me. My psychiatrist at the time told the ER doctor to just increase the dose of my antidepressant. But I knew that that would only make me feel the numb kind of "better" that eventually cycles back to suicidality. Over those eleven years, the periods of suicidal depression seemed to be coming closer and closer together, so I knew it would come back, and I wanted my life to be more than that.

So I said yes to inpatient, which is probably the most responsible, adult decision I've ever made. 

It's hard to imagine that good things will happen to you when you're trapped in the darkness of suicidal depression. But once I started taking my life back, a cascade of good things followed, and quickly too! Sure, we're not together anymore, but I met B a mere 50ish days after inpatient! DAYS! And in my depression, I thought for sure that I was unloveable! It's so wild to think that, at any moment, you could be meeting the people who will become very significant in your life, or you could be doing something that ends up being hugely impactful in the long run.

Let's recap some of the unexpected, wild, and wonderful things that happened after inpatient: 

April 2013: I start consistently going to therapy for the first time in my life.

May 2013: I start group therapy and meet B. 

June 2013: I move to Philly with Deena. 

July 2013: I go to my first ever yoga class, which is a total trainwreck BUT is where I hear about an upcoming retreat for women with trauma, which I attend--and that’s how I meet one of my current therapists! (She’s the one who does the retreats and the yoga teaching training.) 

July 2014: To Sparkle Punch is born! 

April 2015: I start exposure therapy for my driving phobia.

May 2016: I buy my own car. 

None of these things would have happened without that first step of seeking help.

Now, that's not to say that the past five years have been all rainbows and sunshine. B and I broke up. My uncle died of lung cancer and my cousin of a drug overdose. I moved back home. I had to find a new Philly therapist when my original one left her practice. The important thing, though, is that I don't turn to suicide on the non-sunny days anymore. I see my suicidal thoughts as being in remission--I'm not experiencing them now because I'm taking care of my mental health by going to therapy, journaling, doing yoga, etc. It's an ongoing process, and I still struggle in a great many ways. I mean, hello, two months ago, I couldn't eat, sleep, or sit still because I was practically vibrating with anxiety! I have a hard time leaving the house (aside from going to work or therapy). I struggle to see a future for myself, which I think is a known side effect of PTSD. But I'm working on those things. I haven't given up yet. And today, that matters more than anything. 💜

IMG_6848.JPG

When you can't calm down

JessComment

Today was supposed to be budget post day, but my nervous system had other plans! Writing about what I've been feeling has been cathartic for me, and I hope that sharing is helpful for anyone else feeling similarly. You're not alone!

Y'all know there was no H54F last week because I was away at a retreat. In some ways, the retreat was really wonderful. But it also made me feel things. A LOT of things. And that is not my jam.

I've mentioned before that I struggle with PTSD, and some of the healing activities we did at the retreat triggered my old PTSD symptoms. By Friday, I wasn't sleeping or eating much, I was crying over everything, I felt super clingy, I couldn't sit still... So once I got home, I basically felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. 

While in a perfectly safe environment, I felt scared to death. That's PTSD for you, I guess.

This onslaught of emotions has been especially hard for me because I'm typically living my best Elsa life: conceal, don't feel, don't let them know.

elsa gif.gif

And the most important one of the "they" is me. Now I know. Now I remember the full depth of emotional pain and terror that I felt as a kid, which makes it hard to stay angry at that part of myself. When we talk about my inner child in therapy, I tend to see her as the enemy, as the thing that's holding me back from living a full life. But now I see that my inner child is still super distressed from the things that she experienced and that that's why she gets in my way. It's not because she's trying to derail my life; it's a cry for help that I've been ignoring. 

My emotional state has been improving since Friday, but I still feel a jolt of panic when I stop doing something or am suddenly alone. Like, the fear pops right back up once distraction is gone. Feeling like your nervous system is stuck in overdrive is no joke. For anyone else feeling that way right now, you're a champ for just making it through the day. The biggest (and hardest) thing I’ve been trying to tell myself is that these feelings come in waves. That I may feel scared to death, but it does eventually lessen. Even if it comes back, there are moments of relief--something I struggled to see back when I was suicidal.

According to my therapists, all of this feeling is a good thing. I’m not totally convinced in my current, sleep-deprived state, but I'll take their word for it. :) One therapist said that this is the path to a full range of emotions that includes good emotions, like joy. I hope she's right. <3

How I journal

JessComment
FullSizeRender.jpg

Because I mentioned in my Rebirthday post that journaling has been hugely helpful in my recovery from suicidal thoughts, I thought I would expand on my journaling process a little. But it's not a "process" at all--it's surprisingly unstructured for a type-A person like myself! Here's how it goes (in case you want to take notes 😜):

 

1. Have an intriguing or emotionally-charged thought.

2. Write it down.

3. See what happens.

 

Seriously. I just write when I think of/realize something interesting or insightful (especially something that could possibly be explored more in therapy). And I just write for however long it takes to spit out that thought. And a lot of the time, magic happens--I get another, sometimes completely out-of-left-field thought or insight, which is pretty darn cool and often more interesting than the original thought I'd had! Or if I'm writing because I'm freaking out about something, in time, I'm usually able to start taking off the anxiety goggles to see the situation as it really is. 

I don't journal every day, and I never aim to write either a certain number of pages or for a set period of time. I also usually journal on the fly (while sitting on the couch, while on the train, etc.), which keeps it from becoming just another pressurized thing on my to-do list.

I've gone through a few journals since 2013... 😬 

I've gone through a few journals since 2013... 😬 

I have a hard time sitting still, and certainly sitting still with my emotions, but the act of journaling seems to make the "sitting still" less still and therefore more tolerable, you know? But full disclosure--journaling was a tough habit for me to get into. My first journal, which was just a marble notebook given to me by one of the nurses when I was inpatient, was more like a diary of what was going on each day in the hospital than how I felt about things. 

Where it all began. This quote from  My Darling, My Hamburger  really jumped out at me as I was working on my MA thesis (which I had just finished a few months before inpatient).

Where it all began. This quote from My Darling, My Hamburger really jumped out at me as I was working on my MA thesis (which I had just finished a few months before inpatient).

But once I started exploring deeper, "scarier" thoughts in writing, I started to understand myself and the seemingly incongruous things I did and felt more. Some things finally started making sense. The writing also helped to "tame" some of the scariness of the thoughts, as writing forced my brain to slow down and actually consider the truth of a situation or thought, rather than just believing it without question. And, on a purely practical level, the act of writing helped me to actually remember said thoughts to bring them up in therapy! 

So yeah, that's it! A super chill habit that's really paid off for me. ❤️

Real talk on Rebirthday #4 + things that have helped me to stay alive

JessComment

Four years ago this week, I checked myself into the hospital for suicidal thoughts and started to make major changes in my life. At the time, I just wanted to be able to feel more than "meh" and "totally freaked out or depressed" in my everyday life.

I'm not there yet. And honestly, it's frustrating. The past year has been tougher than I'd like to admit, largely because I can see ways to improve my life and mood, but I haven't been able to get myself to do them.

Like, I know that I'm still comfortably numb on routine and pessimism a lot of the time. I know that I settle and succumb to anxiety more than I would like. (I am definitely an introvert, but I've gone full hermit this past year, even for me!) I know that I eat horribly and don't get enough exercise or sleep, and that those shortcomings hurt my mood and overall health.

I know these things, and yet I don't change them--which doesn't really make me feel good about myself, you know?

But then March 20 rolls around and reminds me that I have been in a much much darker place than I am now and have come out of it. That I am capable of changing my life for the better. I may not be in love with my life at the moment, but hey, I'm still alive! So as much as I get annoyed with myself and wish that I could just FREAKING DO THINGS without battling anxiety all the time FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, at least the fight is between fear and growth these days, and not life and death. That is huge.

While my struggle with anxiety and PTSD wages on, here are a few things that have added stability to my life over the past four years and helped me to move away from suicide:

Admitting that I had a "problem"

This is the first step, right? No one else knew that I was feeling suicidal until I accidentally told two friends the day before going inpatient. Owning such an "ugly" truth and admitting it to other people felt awful in the moment but has been very freeing in the long-term. Before, I felt like I constantly had to hide my true feelings because they would freak other people out. But allowing myself to be a "burden" to a few trusted people and admit how bad I was feeling lifted a burden from me. Those friends didn't run, and one even took me to the hospital. In addition to saving my life, admitting my feelings helped me to then open up to other people and see that I don't have to hide my true wacky neurotic self from the world. :)

Journaling

This has probably been the number one game-changer in my life. I used to hate journaling, even just the idea of journaling. Any time I did try to sit down and write about my feelings, I would just end up writing about boys I thought were cute, HA! But post-inpatient, I started journaling regularly and found that it actually worked for me. I don't force myself to journal in any way (so no schedule or set number of pages per day)--I just write when I have an insight that I want to explore more, or when I want to calm myself down if my emotions are spiraling. Writing really helps me to slow down my thoughts and take off the anxiety goggles so that I can see a stressful situation as it really is.

Weekly therapy

I had never been in therapy (aside from the college counseling center) until after inpatient, and having a trained professional to talk to and unpack my feelings with every week has been incredibly helpful. Therapy has helped me to be less scared of my emotions, to begin to discover my authentic self (who dat?), and to understand myself better--especially why I do and feel things that never really made any sense to me before.

Discovering my path to healing

Once I started exploring my suicidal thoughts, all the stuff that was under them--the stuff I was trying to push down or run from--started coming to the surface. UGH. But honestly, it helped. The first time I read about the symptoms of Complex PTSD (at a therapist's suggestion), it was a big aha moment, like, "Hey, I'm not a freak! There's something real going on here, and a 'something' can be helped and treated! A 'something' can get better!" 🎉 It was an uplifting experience, like, oh my God, there's a way out after all! And I'm on that path now, thanks to therapy (of course), and also EMDR, inner child work, and bodywork. It's a bumpy road at times, but things are definitely better than they were before.

Final note: It feels important to mention that I am on medication, but I didn't highlight it above because a.) I was on medication pre-inpatient too and b.) I don't feel like it has been the biggest source of change in my life/mindset. 

 

There is certainly still work ahead of me, but that idea operates on the premise that I will be alive to do it, which is a very good thing indeed. Happy Rebirthday, self. 💖🎂

And for anyone reading this, your rebirthday could be today, or tomorrow, or any day you decide that enough is enough with something making you miserable. Progress is always possible; I am living proof of that. ❤️

She's a rainbow

JessComment

I have never been as enthusiastic about the start of a new year as I am now. I didn't quite realize it at the time, but I was feeling really blah in the waning months of 2016. And I should have known, because the evidence was right there in front of me: my unpainted nails.

As dumb as it sounds, the state of my nails often reflects my mental/emotional state. If I'm not painting my nails at all OR they're painted a barely-there color, I'm probably feeling scared or sad. I may really want to blend in and hide. My bffl (an even bigger nail polish enthusiast than me!) actually called me out on this tendency in college when I was taking a class that terrified me and, as a result, only painted my nails a pale opalescent pink the whole semester. (2017 must be off to a good start because my nails are currently this awesome shade of blue!)

So one of my fun self-care resolutions for 2017 is to try to paint my nails every week because having pretty nails just makes me happy! (And happy people don't shoot their husbands! Er, among other things...) And I have quite a collection of polishes, so I might as well use them!

This is as close to minimalist as I can get!&nbsp;

This is as close to minimalist as I can get! 

If you too love painting your nails, then you know that the struggle to find a good color AND formula is realer than real. So here are my go-to polishes, the tried and true ones I know will look good without 47 coats (and assorted expletives):

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender.jpg

Essie "Splash of Grenadine"

Zoya Pixie Dust "Tomoko"

Sally Hansen Triple Shine "Red Snapper"

Illamasqua "Jo'mina"

FullSizeRender.jpg

Maybelline Color Show "Porcelain Party"

Essie "Where's My Chauffeur"

Ginger + Liz Rock and Ice Collection "Is It Friday Yet"

 

None of these colors is particularly "quiet," which is a good sign! Jo'mina is probably my favorite color in my whole collection (hello, purple 💜). It's just such a pretty, vibrant lavender. I actually get compliments on it every time I wear it! A close second fave is "Red Snapper"--I wear it seriously all.the.time. Such a good cherry red. And the brushes on the Sally Hansen Triple Shines make applying a breeze!

I didn't include it in the pictures, but Poshe top coat is the only one I've used for the last four+ years. (Props to my pal Piper for introducing this magical potion to me!) It dries really fast, makes your nails super shiny, and lasts for days. What else could a gal want? 💯

The matte glitter polishes (like Zoya Pixie Dust, Ginger + Liz's Rock and Ice Collection, and also OPI's Liquid Sand line) are my go-tos when I need my nails to look perfect for an event or a vacation (when I won't be able to immediately change polishes or fix a mistake). They just don't seem to chip as fast as "normal" polishes. Bonus that they usually look great in just two coats and don't need a top coat! (The sandpapery texture is a little weird, but I can overlook it because, above all, I am LAZY with my beauty products.)

What are your go-to nail polishes that I need to try?

The "Phrase of the Year" that chose me

JessComment
FullSizeRender.jpg

Have you guys heard about this "Word of the Year" thing? The idea is easy enough: you pick a word that resonates with you to use as inspiration and motivation throughout the new year.

My initial reaction to that lovely concept was BLEH. (Although, to be fair, BLEH is my initial reaction to most things.) 

That is, until a word chose me. Or rather, a whole phrase chose me. It came to me out of the blue sometime in December, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. It just struck me as the perfect theme for how I'd like to grow in 2017:

FullSizeRender.jpg

Because, confession: I feel scared most of the time. And when I feel scared, I retreat into hiding. 

My knee-jerk reaction to most invitations or opportunities is "NO" (or "BLEH"), and I have a hard time getting out of the house for anything other than work or appointments. My anxiety seems to only sign off on obligations (particularly those that ward off conflict); it dismisses everything else as optional or frivolous. According to my anxiety, not much is worth the risk of venturing out into the dangerous, unpredictable world... so that leaves my house as the only safe place. Hiding also takes the form of silence, as my anxiety often causes me to second-guess myself, killing my enthusiasm for blogging and other forms of expression. None of this is new for me--I'm just able to see it now. To see that being a slave to anxiety makes for a pretty dull life. It doesn't rejuvenate or inspire me, and that's not good enough anymore. (Even though just writing that sentence spooks me!) I plan to use "out of hiding" as a reminder to question my anxiety and consider doing the scary thing, rather than automatically avoiding it.

As much as I also BLEH at New Year's resolutions, I can't deny that I need to do some things differently in 2017, so I bought myself the Commit 30 planner as a Christmas gift. My hope is that its focus on weekly and monthly goals will keep me from becoming a routine robot. (In 2016, I felt like I numbed out on routine a lot and hardly noticed the days, weeks, and months flying by.) 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Am I absolutely petrified to attempt to come "out of hiding"? Uh, YEAH. Especially because the first thing I want to do when I'm scared is to go INTO hiding! But my life in hiding is not very fulfilling, so I guess it's time to try something different. 💜

What do you hope to do differently in 2017?

Linking up with Nicole at Writes Like a Girl

Where are you going, where have you been?

JessComment

As I mentioned in my Day in the Life post, it's hard to see just how far you've come when you're caught in the day-to-day grind. I had a similar thought when I saw the band M83 a few weeks ago. Because I last saw them in 2012 (four whole years ago?!), it got me thinking about how much has changed in that time. It's so easy to focus on what we haven't done and to be disappointed with our lack of accomplishments when really, we're growing and changing all the time. The little things often turn out to be big things, right?

So in that spirit, let's revisit what I was doing in October 2012:

Hello, 2012 self with short hair and no make-up!

Hello, 2012 self with short hair and no make-up!

1. Living at home (ok, no change there!).

2. Working part-time in HR. (There's no way I would get a non-teaching job using my English degrees, right?)

Being very busy and important. 

Being very busy and important. 

3. Relying entirely on public transportation. (It helped that I was working much closer to home back then!)

4. Writing/editing chapter three of my MA thesis. I definitely remember listening to "Wait" by M83 on repeat while writing about gender and sexuality in Fun Home and Persepolis. Like, hearing it in concert took me right back there. (😭)

Getting those images properly formatted in my thesis was such a struggle!&nbsp;

Getting those images properly formatted in my thesis was such a struggle! 

5. Going to a psychiatrist every so often but not being in therapy.

5 a. Spending a lot of time with friends to avoid being alone and anxious after work (since I would get done at 2 in the afternoon).

6. Being single.

7. Visiting Chicago for the second time! 

Casually holding up the Bean with Timmi, as one does.  

Casually holding up the Bean with Timmi, as one does.  

I think that I hate change, but a lot sure has changed (some of it almost imperceptibly) since 2012:

1. I lived in Philly! (2013)

1 a. ...And then I moved back home! 😂  (2014)

2. I got a full-time (non-teaching!) job that requires an English degree! (2013)

Before I left on day 1 of said job, Pops took a picture of me as if it were the first day of school. 👌

Before I left on day 1 of said job, Pops took a picture of me as if it were the first day of school. 👌

3. I started driving consistently for the first time in my life! (2015)

3 a. I BOUGHT A FREAKING CAR. I cannot overstate how unfathomable that would have been in 2012! (2016)

4. I finished my MA thesis and passed my defense! (Ok, that did happen in 2012, but after October. And I seriously wanted to give up the summer before I finished.)

FullSizeRender.jpg

5. I addressed my depression and recurring suicidal thoughts by going inpatient. (2013)

5 a. I started regularly going to therapy for the first time in my life. (2013)

5 b. I went to group therapy. (2013)

5 c. I started doing yoga and somatic healing. (2013)

5 d. I started EMDR. (2015)

6. My relationship with B started! (2013)

6 a. ...And ended 😔  (2016)

7. I visited Timmi in Chicago for the fifth time! 

IMG_2748.JPG

8. I started this blog! (2014)

 

Ok so I haven't saved the world. Or written a best-seller. Or started a family. And some of my accomplishments were not exactly age-appropriate (like, say, driving). But if we constantly minimize the things that we do, what are we left with? Disappointment? Negativity? Let's instead celebrate the "little" things, the ways that we've grown. Let's celebrate how far we've come on this continuous journey forward. <3

Suicidal thought remission

JessComment

I've noticed a strange phenomenon over the past few months: I've felt more able to handle things. It's not like everything in my life has been spectacular. (Hello break-up, foot injury and other health scares, and new work routine! 👋) And in the past, I met any challenge with the mindset, "THIS IS THE WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ANYONE!!1!!." Lately, though, I've been more like, "Ugh, this is happening. Ok. Moving on..."

Most importantly, I have not felt suicidal.

To be able to feel sad or meh or super-stressed without the presence of suicidal thoughts is MAJOR. I've had suicide as an open escape hatch for probably 15 years. The thoughts didn't usually escalate, but they were my security blanket whenever I got scared or overwhelmed. As it's only been three years since I narrowly avoided the fate of Robin Williams and so many others who have acted on their suicidal thoughts, I talk about these things with the hope of normalizing them and showing that progress IS possible--because I certainly didn't feel that way before going inpatient three years ago. 

For me, I think that suicide and anxiety emerged as protective impulses after I experienced some things as a kid that were just too big for me to handle. When you have scary or traumatic experiences, the emotions that you feel are huge and terrifying. They swallow you up. And when you're a kid, you're genuinely not equipped to handle them... and so you might grow up feeling like you can't handle anything. I think that's what happened to me. And that intense vulnerability made the idea of suicide very appealing and comforting. Not only was it an "out," but it was an out within my control--unlike my emotions, or anything, really. Suicide gave me a way to escape if things got too heavy.

Considering how often things used to feel "too heavy," thank God I'm still alive.

I had never been in any kind of therapy until college (and that was just occasional visits to the counseling center), so the negative messages I had internalized went unchecked for a long time and became automatic, often manifesting as self-hate. Outwardly, I was a perfectionist overachiever, and inwardly, I was really negative, consumed with ever-spiraling worries (hence the need to "sparkle punch" now and actively find the good!). Since being inpatient, though, I've gone to therapy nearly every week. Therapy has taught me to question my negative thoughts. To stop reading into everything. To stop seeing myself as the "problem" in every situation. To stop blaming myself for everything. Thinking in a more positive way has been major in alleviating the suicidal thoughts.

Therapy also brought me back to reality, which I desperately needed, since anxiety always kept me in the future. Thinking that a situation will never change or improve is simply not how life works... despite what my ever-faithful anxiety tries to tell me. Scary or unpleasant situations do end. When my mind can't recognize stuff like this on its own, I need to take over and remind myself of what is real. I need to fight back against the steady stream of "protective" anxious thoughts that drag me further into the future, keeping me alert against every threat, however distant or illogical. I need to remind myself that I am safe in this moment, because most of the time, I am. My old therapist used to refer to the questioning of anxious thoughts as "reality testing," which drove me nuts because my anxious thoughts always seem so real! ...but they're not. I can see that now.

Reminders help. ❤️ &nbsp;(FYI: Pilot Precise Grip Bold pens are excellent for writing mantras on yourself!)

Reminders help. ❤️  (FYI: Pilot Precise Grip Bold pens are excellent for writing mantras on yourself!)

I used to be incredibly self-conscious of my mental health struggles, especially about feeling suicidal, since that is sometimes a tough thing for people to hear or understand. I did, and still do, worry about revealing more about myself and being judged as a total freak. But I know that I'm not a total freak, and openness is the only way to break the stigma. In the words of that great prophetess (and mental health advocateDemi Lovato, "I used to hold my freak back, now I'm letting go." I may feel nervous about speaking out about my issues, but in my everyday life, I'm totally fine with being in therapy and with having been inpatient. Therapy is just a way of life now. I look forward to EMDR every week. Intake forms are my bitch. Positive self-talk is my daily reality. 

Suicidal thoughts can always come back, but at least for now, they're in remission, and that is wonderful. Progress is possible. <3

Third Rebirthday

JessComment
image.jpg

March 20, 2013. One of the worst days of my life... and it made the next three years possible. It's the day I admitted that I'd been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts and checked myself into the hospital. 

It wasn't like those types of thoughts were new; I'd had them on and off since high school. But they were getting worse. Thoughts were forming into plans. So the best (and scariest!) thing for me to do was admit that I had them--to friends and family, not just to therapists. (Although I was in between therapists/psychiatrists in March 2013, so I wasn't even doing that.) I try to avoid feeling, and outwardly, I just want to seem happy so that I'm not a problem or source of stress for other people. I still struggle with these things, but it's less of an issue than it once was. (Exhibit A: this blog, where I am really open about how I'm feeling! :))

Five days in the hospital in March 2013 were followed by a new therapist (the one who just left her practice, actually), group therapy, exposure therapy, and somatic healing. In my last appointment with my therapist a few weeks ago, we revisited my intake paperwork from 2013, and even though I feel like I've stopped progressing, it's so clear how far I've come from that terrified girl whose main coping skills were beating herself up and thinking of escape. That therapist was incredibly helpful in teaching me how to deal with my anxiety and depression in a healthy way, and now, it's time to work on some other things patterns I'm stuck in, like avoidance. 

The work is never done, but at least I'm still here, trying. At least I still get to play the game. And while I'm feeling stuck in some areas of my life, the things that I've tried and done over the past three years are nothing short of amazing... and they did not at all seem possible on March 20, 2013. You really never know what is ahead when you think of giving up. <3

Depression progression

JessComment

I try to keep things mostly upbeat on the blog, but that's hard to do when I feel so blah. My anxiety usually keeps me in constant motion, but my depression paralyzes me. So at the moment, I feel like someone trying to plod through quicksand. HOORAY.

Now, here is my knee-jerk reaction to that hearing my psychiatrist officially say that I'm depressed again: WHAT THE FUCK. I've been "good"! I take all of my medications and I'm currently seeing three freaking therapists. I'm trying here!! What else am I supposed to do?! 

Oh, all of the scary "growth" things that I've been putting off. Oh, THOSE THINGS, THAT'S what I need to be doing.

In terms of doing things that scare me, I might jump a few hurdles and then just lay down in front of the next one. Or turn around and walk away, like "Nah." Take my on again-off again relationship with driving, for instance. My therapist pushing me to do exposure therapy got me behind the wheel after years, and I completed that with flying colors. Annnnd then I resumed doing nothing. I mean, I'm keeping up with the driving, but the next big thing would be to get a car, and for the past six months, I've just been like, "No thanks, I'm good running through 8 billion potential horrible outcomes of that decision and doing zero." It's the same with moving out. And other "grown-up" growth things that I'd much rather not think about. My EMDR therapist speculated that trying these "scary" things would be my antidepressant and get me out of my current malaise. I think she's right. But I also wish her directive was for someone else :)

On the plus side, I'm rolling with this low-energy, sad period better than I have in the past. For someone who previously lost herself in suicidal thoughts, the idea that strong, sad, scary feelings can pass is a breakthrough. I've been trying not to beat myself up about feeling blah. If I want to clean, I clean. If I want to watch 2 Broke Girls for hours, that's ok. If I want to sleep for 12 hours, I do. Stressing about being lazy just makes it worse. And I'm still seeing my three therapists and my psychiatrist, and going to yoga, and taking my new medication. I'm doing the best that I can right now. So if things are quiet on the blog at the moment, you know why. One minute, I think I'll never get off the couch and the next, I'm all in for writing a post. That's how it is right now: minute to minute. And that's OK. <3

Timehop reminded me that I saved this a year ago. How fitting!&nbsp;

Timehop reminded me that I saved this a year ago. How fitting! 

Comfortably numb

JessComment

Remember when I mentioned in last week's H54F post that staying at my friend's apartment with her cat was rough... Well, it certainly wasn't because of the cat! :) It was because my glass case of emotion runneth over.

You see, I love a routine. It's kind of what gets me out of bed in the morning: the familiarity, the comfort, the lack of surprise. It's all so wonderful! Familiar 4 lyfe. But while I was staying at my friend's, I had to leave at a different time in the morning. I had to go to a different el stop and rely on different buses. I had to feed the cat. These are not part of my beloved routine. 

Plus, with no one else around, I could cry, hyperventilate, FEEL. It was terrifying. I didn't realize quite how numb I was. It was also a wake-up call as to how much I use busyness just to get through the day. (Hello, four hour commute!) If I stop moving, if I get out of the familiar routine, then I start feeling. BLEH. Who wants that?!

But here's the problem with the routine I love so much: it makes no sense! Like, comically so. I should be making like six figures if I'm commuting four hours a day. (Spoiler: I'm no Scrooge McDuck.) AND such a long commute encourages me to do bad things, like miss meals, and be in a constant state of sleep deprivation, and never unwind. It's a constant cycle: my unhealthy commute causes me to keep up my unhealthy habits which numb me out so that my unhealthy commute is nbd. The routine makes me feel like everything is neat and predictable--less scary. But it's not good for me!

image.jpg

The problem with numbing out on routine is that I'm not actually LIVING. Instead, I'm just going through the motions, rather than changing or growing. In therapy last week, we talked about how I love to retreat into my mind--and its irrationalities--rather than live life. I'd prefer to contemplate something endlessly than make an actual decision. I'd rather watch TV than interact with real people. As a kid, I went inward to avoid pain, and I never really stopped. So my challenge now is to question behaviors and beliefs that just don't make sense anymore. (Luckily, I just embarked on a six-month healing course with my favorite yoga teacher, which will address a lot of these fears and unhealthy behaviors!) I have to find some balance (how novel!) between routine and real living.

So, how do you, wise reader, find balance? (Or do you...) How do you cope with feelings of depression and apathy? When do you catch yourself numbing out? And do you also now have "Comfortably Numb" stuck in your head? ;)

What are your anxiety triggers and tells?

JessComment

It's official, folks: the holiday season is here. *shudder* While it's normal for Christmas to not be not super exciting for a kid-less adult, the absolute dread I feel is a bit unusual... and largely tied to past bouts of depression and anxiety felt during the holiday season. Remember this post? Yeah, I was not in a good place then, hyperventilation-puking in the bathroom at work on New Year's Eve 2014. Christmas 2010 was even worse, a clusterf*ck of school stress, job stress, and personal stress. While I do plan to address these upsetting feelings and memories in EMDR, I've been wondering: wouldn't it be helpful if I could see these sorts of situations coming?

Like, wouldn't I be better prepared to deal with sudden intense anxiety if I know what in my life typically causes it? And how I normally react when I'm feeling it?

How am I supposed to cope when I feel totally helpless to anxiety's attacks?!

Enter "anxiety tells," an idea I got from Gretchen Rubin's podcast Happier, specifically Episode 27: The Bigger Life (8/26/15), in which Gretchen and her co-host/sister Elizabeth contemplate their own anxiety tells: the physical things we do that reveal our discombobulated inner state. They also point out how important it is for us to observe our own behavior, to become aware of the things that we do almost reflexively out of fear and anxiety. Self-examination?! What a novel idea!

With that in mind, I began looking at my own anxiety, in the hopes of understanding it, and myself, better.

What are my main anxiety triggers?

  • Being out of my routine (i.e. days off, change in normal schedule, WEEKENDS). This is no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog, ha.
  • Major life changes
  • Old painful memories (I have an excellent memory, which is bad when every subsequent Christmas reminds you of how awful and alone you felt FIVE years ago.)
  • Unfamiliar situations

What are my anxiety tells?

  • AVOIDANCE
  • Feeling trapped and wanting to be anywhere else
  • Not talking at all (which my dad and my bf have picked up as a red flag!)
  • Feelings of intense unease and loneliness
  • Obsessing over a task (no matter how important it actually is) and not giving myself breaks
  • Crying/hyperventilating
  • Shopping

What helps me get out of this mindset?

  • Talking to/texting/fb messaging other people, especially my bf and my friend Kristin (who knows to bombard me with Pusheen and minion stickers! haha).
  • Being creative. (Y'all don't even know how incredibly therapeutic this blog is for me!)
Let it go, let it goooo, that perfect girl is gone!

Let it go, let it goooo, that perfect girl is gone!

  • Checking out other people's blogs. (Apparently, you guys being creative is therapeutic for me too!) :)
  • Going to a yoga class. (I just won't do it at home!)
Ok, yoga AND cats, although I'm not sure that Ike would be welcome at yoga.

Ok, yoga AND cats, although I'm not sure that Ike would be welcome at yoga.

  • Listening to music.
  • TV as company/background noise, especially a show like Castle that is formulaic and familiar.
Thank god TNT has approx. 6 hours of  Castle  reuns on every night!

Thank god TNT has approx. 6 hours of Castle reuns on every night!

  • Googling whatever I'm struggling with (separation anxiety, for instance) to try to find ways to cope. It's calming to feel like I'm taking steps toward lessening the anxiety. #student4life
  • Fun/cute socks! (They just make me smile!)
I must say, most of my cutest socks are from Forever 21... including these!

I must say, most of my cutest socks are from Forever 21... including these!

  • THERAPY!
  • Stuffed animals (particularly my giant Snuffles--blanket babushka optional!).
image.jpg
  • Dancing!

image.jpg

So what are your anxiety triggers and tells? I think it's something worth observing, especially on the brink of a stressful time of year. How do you cope with anxious moments, or with the holidays in general? (I need all the help I can get! :D) I'm really curious if/how increased self-awareness will help me this year...

Grateful Heart: Thanking my negative coping skills

JessComment

Full disclosure: I have a really hard time practicing gratitude. So I'm glad I stumbled on the Grateful Heart linkup over at Ember Grey! My mind is usually on to the next-next-next thing, and I often describe feeling like "I'm not happy where I am" physically--if I'm home I want to be out and vice versa. That would seem to be an issue of not being present, and I just end up feeling anxious--which happens when you're in the past or the future, as Sheryl so beautifully points out. I hate that I can't be more mindful and present, but instead of beating myself up about it today, I'm going to look at my inability to be present through gratitude goggles and explore how it has helped me in the past.

I went through some tough experiences as a kid, things that I was too young to understand and process without the help of a trained professional. (I didn't start therapy until college btw.) Being present was scary, so my mind went elsewhere, taking me on adventures with The Babysitters' Club (#obsessed #loveMaryAnne), getting lost in movies, making up stories and characters in my head, planning out things to do later in the day... Going elsewhere mentally was my safe haven back then. Not being present deflected some of the pain from situations that I wasn't emotionally mature enough to handle. This defense mechanism reminds me of the (totally awesome) SNES game Earthbound and how you can add a teddy bear to your party to absorb blows from enemies. That's how I envision what my mind was doing back then. By getting me out of the present, it took me away from super intense emotions and situations that I was not remotely able to deal with.

image.jpg

So I'd like to thank my mind for letting me escape some really bad situations and getting me through them. But ultimately, those things are long over. Now, I can practice mindfulness and gratitude because the present moment is safe. I can be here. I have coping skills and a support system now, and things are much better. Something to keep in mind when I'm struggling to be present...

 

Please feel free to share any suggestions you have for being more mindful, or any ways you have made sense of your negative coping skills. As much fun as it is to talk about fashion or budgeting (ok, that part is not fun!), To Sparkle Punch is ultimately about self-help and was started by a girl (hi!) a year removed from being inpatient for suicidal thoughts. Your heavy stuff and vulnerability are always welcome in this space. <3 <3


Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey

High Five for Friday: July 31

JessComment

More like a low five for Friday this week, gang. It's been an emotional roller coaster, for no apparent reason. So I decided to focus this H54F on ways to deal with not feeling great emotionally.

I become utterly terrified when big feelings hit me out of nowhere, probably because I dealt with some very overwhelming and challenging things at a young age and became engulfed in intense emotions. I was too young to know how to deal with it then, and all I wanted to do was NOT FEEL... so I immersed myself in books, TV, ANYTHING to make the feelings stop.

But since I was so scared to feel, intense feelings still freak me out when they pop up seemingly unprovoked, as they did this week. With all the work I've done in the past two years, I still struggle to just accept my emotions and let them come and go. After this week, though, I think I have more insight into how panicking over my feelings makes things worse, while just accepting them helps me to return to a calm state quicker. 

ANYWAY, here are 5 things to try if you are caught up in big emotions too:

  • Try not to judge them. This is a huge hurdle for me--I mean, I was an English major twice over--analyzing things to death is mah jam! But when emotions start swirling and I heap the "oh no why is this happening what am I doing wrong what should I be doing??" thoughts on top, I panic. My therapist is always urging me to validate my thoughts and feelings, and I tried that instead this week: "It's ok that I'm feeling sad. It's O.K." Doing so seemed to help.
  •  
  • Aromatherapy. I picked this guy up at Reading Terminal last week, and I've been using it to death ever since. Relaxing scents help to ground me, to pull me out of my head/emotions, and back to reality .
image.jpg
  • Remind yourself that feelings do pass. This is incredibly hard for me to remember in the height of anxiety or sadness, and it's why suicide has looked so appealing in the past. "I feel horrible and I'll always feel this way." That is simply not true. This too shall pass.
  •  
  • The Pacifica app. Nicole mentioned it last week, and I promptly gave it a whirl. It's like therapy in an app; I'm so impressed thus far. You can chronicle how you feel throughout the day (a great way to get empirical data that this too DOES pass) and try out soundscapes and breathing exercises. But perhaps most interesting is the Thoughts exercise, where you write down how you feel in the height of big emotions, and then the app guides you through turning those negative statements around to more loving and realistic ones. I tried Thoughts out Wednesday night after my rough afternoon, and it was so interesting to see exactly where my brain goes when I panic, and how I can re-frame the situation.
image.jpg
Like, WOW.

Like, WOW.

  • Meditations. I actually printed a few scripts from here and recorded them on my phone. Supposedly, meditations are very effective when they're in your own voice. Huh! I'm willing to give that theory a shot. If nothing else, reading the mediation scripts out loud is a relaxing exercise!

 

I hope that these suggestions are helpful; they certainly helped me through a rough Wednesday. Hopefully, this weekend will be better for me. (I have a yoga class with my favorite teacher, so that certainly seems promising!) Have a great weekend everybody! xoxo


A year of sparkling!

JessComment
image.jpg

To Sparkle Punch turns 1 today! YAY! I can barely believe that it's been a year. A WHOLE YEAR?! I've had blogs before and watched them fizzle after a post or two, so I'm really glad that I stuck with it this time and connected with so many people along the way! :)

This time last year, I was limping around South Philly in a walking boot, packing up to move home, and cringing at the thought of launching this blog (which I'd been secretly planning since May). In the spring of 2014, I was part of Jen Sincero's online Badass Bootcamp (highly recommend, btw), and she was adamant that writers should have at least a blog to their name because it's such an easy thing to get rolling. In Bootcamp, I'd been happily writing pieces that, deep down, I never intended to show anyone, so the thought of starting a blog was like, "Oh crap." I'm glad I pushed through those feelings and did it anyway. And then I slowly began linking up with blogs I was already reading (like Franish and A Cup of Tea), and suddenly I was part of this awesome blogging community! No longer on the sidelines, where I love to sit timidly, surveying everything. (I'm often like Scotty Smalls when his mother is pushing him to go out and play and "get into trouble, for crying out loud!") That is largely how I lived my life, pre-inpatient. I don't think I was exactly depressed in those days when I would immerse myself in things like classic rock and scrapbooking at home--I truly enjoyed doing my own thing by myself. But that's because I was fully in control. It's hard to live life when you hide until a situation is perfect and safe or until someone/thing shoves you out of your comfort zone.

In that regard, it's pretty mind-blowing how much I've grown in the last year--namely speaking up about my history of anxiety and suicidal thoughts, and working through my driving phobia. I feel like I'm finally starting to discover my authentic self, the funny, compassionate, honest one hiding under layers of fear. I'm glad this space allows her to come out and play. :)

Most importantly, though, THANK YOU! Thank you for reading my blog and supporting me. We are all in this world together, and I hope I have been a bright spot in your day, as you have been in mine. For anyone reading while struggling with depression/anxiety/suicidal thoughts, I hope To Sparkle Punch provides some insight into the "other side" of those issues that can be reached by working through them--that seeking help (by going inpatient, opening up to a friend, starting therapy, etc.) can profoundly change your life, and that profound change IS possible.

Here's to another year! <3  

 

Sparkles! I had grand plans of a cool picture with a sparkle shower, but that&nbsp;did not work out at all, haha

Sparkles! I had grand plans of a cool picture with a sparkle shower, but that did not work out at all, haha

Am I depressed, or just an introvert?

JessComment

This thought came to me last week when I realized how "meh" and "dark cloud-y" (totally a DSM diagnosis) I've been lately. When I met up with my old roommate for dinner, there was nothing (aside from this blog, actually!) that I was super excited about. The commute is negating my job enjoyment, I'm exhausted always, and I can't put all of my hard work with exposure therapy to good use because, hey, I don't have a car! And that's the sort of thing that's going to require some savings and planning, i.e. no immediate fix.

Wah, wah, wah.

I started journaling about this topic, and, as usual, I came to a different revelation: I miss my Introvert Wednesdays. You see, I got to work from home on Wednesdays for the 2.5 months I was going to UPenn. It was SPECTACULAR. I could sleep in (til 8:00!), go to yoga, work in my pjs, tidy up my room, and just generally enjoy some quiet time that wasn't interrupted by ringing phones, or people yelling on Septa. I had time WITHOUT OTHER PEOPLE. (Word up, Sartre.) Not to mention that I finally had more than 3 non-sleeping hours a day at home during the week. It was delightful and gave me a chance to recharge. But that schedule is on hold at the moment due to co-workers' vacations and new project deadlines. Bummer.

Luckily, I am getting a bit better at recognizing signs of self-mistreatment (is that a term?) and taking steps toward self-care. Like, the day I was feeling super drained, I left work a bit earlier than usual, had some extra time at home, and tidied my room in delicious alone time. WONDERFUL. And I convinced my dad (with an assist from the Septa holiday sched) to let me drive TO AND FROM work on Friday the 3rd. It was so freeing and creatively nourishing to be able to sleep in, leisurely have coffee and blog, and take outfit pics, all before leaving for work... which I reached in 45 minutes, not 2 hours. It was a great reminder of what I'm working towards and what I will gain by saving for a car.

It also allowed me to dress up in this fancy skirt and sandals! Not having to worry about potentially walking a mile or sitting in something gross on the bus is really beneficial for my wardrobe! 

image.jpg
image.jpg
This was my first time using my tripod, and I was so proud of myself for coming up with this shot. I'm basically Nigel Barker, hahaha

This was my first time using my tripod, and I was so proud of myself for coming up with this shot. I'm basically Nigel Barker, hahaha

T-shirt: M83 concert tee

Skirt: MNG by Mango (thrifted; similar)

Sandals: Target

Necklace: Loft (similar, similar)

Watch: Target

image.jpg

I actually featured this skirt in my first-ever budget post (aww!), but I didn't wear it last summer because of my need to wear socks with my walking boot (not a cute look). It was worth the wait, though, as this skirt is even prettier and comfier than I remember! Who could ask for anything more? :)

Linking up with The Pleated Poppy!  

Don't believe me? Just watch.

Jess2 Comments

If you feel stuck with your fears and doubt your ability to overcome them, boy do I know that feel. I'm scared of lots of things (bees, the Bradlees logo, commitments of all kinds...), but let's just focus on driving. I spent 12.5 years trying to avoid driving whenever possible, and now, in 2 months of exposure therapy, I'm driving. It's annoyingly comical how much easier it is to do something than to avoid it. Sure, there's massive anxiety involved, but at least you're actually confronting the thing you fear.

I used to beat myself up a lot for not driving. I felt stupid for not being able to do this one dumb thing that seemingly everyone else does no problem. I'm a smart gal and I had taken driver's ed/driving lessons, hello! I passed my driver's test on the first try and parallel parked like a champ! But the thing I failed to acknowledge was that I never practiced driving in that 12.5 year interval. I walked everywhere, or took Septa, or relied on friends to get around. So how good could I possibly be at driving when I never did it?! Like, DUH.

The only time I took up driving briefly was after I got the job I have now (back in 2013), but then driving became part of my suicide plan. Obviously, I was not in a good place at that time and went inpatient shortly thereafter. But even as I embraced so many other scary things post-inpatient (living in the city, yoga, group therapy), my fear of driving was alive in a new way--I feared that driving would trigger my old suicidal thoughts. The brain is so fantastic at coming up with excuses and "logical" reasons for avoidance!

I say all of this to highlight the layers of mental crapola that made driving this huge pain-in-the-ass hurdle for the past 12.5 years. It just goes to show how berserk the mind gets in constructing walls of fear.

Ultimately, though, getting past fear IS POSSIBLE. When 2015 began, driving was not on my agenda whatsoever. When my therapist suggested exposure therapy back in January, I agreed to call Penn while fully convinced that it would never work for me. The day before I had to do my first driving assignment, I basically had a temper tantrum about how stupid it was and almost refused to do it. But I somehow pushed through and took a risk--something else I'm pretty scared of. It turned out that my anxious mind had not accounted for my past excellence in school (i.e. always doing assignments), my laser focus, my work ethic, and my resolve. So when "Uptown Funk" came on as I was driving (relatively calmly) to Penn last week, I was just blown away by the idea that I'm doing something that my anxious mind so strongly believed I couldn't--or shouldn't--do. Don't believe me, Anxiety? Just watch.

And if I can work toward overcoming my fear of driving, imagine what YOU can do!! <3

 

After doing part 1 of my first drive to and from work (with Pops) last weekend! Driving to work alone is the ultimate goal for my exposure therapy yikes!

After doing part 1 of my first drive to and from work (with Pops) last weekend! Driving to work alone is the ultimate goal for my exposure therapy yikes!

Second Rebirthday

Jess2 Comments

I consider March 20 to be my "rebirthday" because March 20, 2013, was the day I checked myself into the hospital. It marked the beginning of getting unstuck from the negative, destructive thought patterns and paralyzing fears that made my life feel so difficult. It was a dramatic change from how I'd lived up to that point.

Lately, I've been listening to the Alice Cooper song "I'm Eighteen," which always reminds me of being 17 (lol) and working on a research paper on the Vietnam War. That year (junior year) was my favorite year of high school, probably because it was so routine. I had two years under my belt and knew what to expect behind the doors at SHA. My homework was always done, my uniform always ready. Outside of school, I had created a safe, solitary bubble of classic rock, homework, and hockey games on TV. 

I'm 18, and I don't know what I want. 

I'm 18, and I don't know what I want. 

That bubble had to pop at graduation, but I formed another in college, and yet another in grad school. School was great--it gave my anxious mind something to focus on, gifted me a group of potential friends, and allowed me to create my own schedule. March 2013, a few months after finishing grad school, marked the first time I'd really struck out on my own--taking a full time job in my field, even though it came with no safety net of friends and was far from home. For the first time, I really had to face my anxiety and lack of control and make a choice: flee (through suicide or avoidance) or deal with it.

I broke down in 2.5 weeks.

Going inpatient was possibly the scariest decision I've ever made. While waiting in the ER, a big part of me wanted to bolt. I'd made it through 26 semi-turbulent years before; eventually, I'd get back into a routine and feel ok, right?

But that sickening thought was what pushed me to check myself in: I was just muddling through. Riding the waves from high to low and back again, unceasing, unquestioned. What kind of life is that? No wonder an "out" looked so appealing.

Inpatient didn't "fix" me, of course (clearly!). It just put me on the right road of actual therapy, not bullshit 30 minute sessions with a psychiatrist. Admitting I had a problem meant that I could stop pretending I was fine to the people closest to me. I could start working on my issues, rather than covering them up. But it's still tough. This year in particular has not been easy, mostly because living at home means I can barely get around without a car (as compared to city living). Feeling trapped and isolated is not great on the ol' depression/anxiety, and neither is a four-hour-a-day commute. But I'm working through it with my ever-valiant therapist, and I start exposure therapy next month for a HUGE fear of mine (and a key to increased independence): driving.

And in the spirit of doing something scary and new on March 20, today, I fly to Chicago to visit my high school BFF Timmi (ok that part is awesome, not scary lol) and to go to the Hay House Writers' Workshop this weekend. Alone! Writing! New city! STRANGER DANGER!! But facing fears and truly LIVING honors my rebirthday. I'm 28 now, and I still don't know what I want, and I still default to avoidance and wide-eyed Pusheen face more than I'd like, but at least I'm trying things and showing up to life instead of hiding all the time. <3

 

image.jpg