Mental Health

How My Panic Attacks Led to Being an Environmentalist

     How-My-Panic-Attacks-Led-To-Being-An-Environmentalist

    I would say that my first encounter with Anxiety was immediately after High School when I found out that my then-boyfriend was cheating on me. But no, don’t feel sorry for me. Even now, I refuse to let people pity me. But I didn’t know what it was or that it was even a thing. I just knew that I couldn’t sleep at night and that I needed some sense of physical movement. So I would escape from my bedroom window and wander around my city at night for a couple of hours.

    Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I was going through one of my roughest lows. What most people think depression is, is feeling sad. No. The reality of depression is that you feel worthless. Numb. Invisible. You try your best to get on with your day. People know something is wrong with you, and they ask how your day is going or if you’re alright, and your default answers are “I’m fine” or “I’m just tired”.  But nobody really knows that you have to mentally prepare yourself for your day. How many people I’m  going to have to interact with, whether I’m going to be someplace loud. Nobody knows about the shouting match going on in your head, and my panic attacks were constantly being triggered.

    There was the magazine section of Barnes & Noble. The tunnel vision and subsequent black out at work. There was the time I was walking home from work and a car of guys happened to drive by while laughing, that made me run home to avoid panicking out in public. Because when a panic attack happens I just want to be in a quiet corner where nobody can see me. There’s something about hiding in a corner, trying to escape what my mind has perceived as threatening, that’s comforting.

There is no such thing as quiet corners in public spaces.

    You know how in movies and TV scenes where someone gets shot and they’re taking their last breaths, gulping in as much air as possible? That’s what my hyperventilations feel like. Gasping in only so much air before there’s no other option than to exhale, but then I go back to hyperventilating.

So how does this lead to me being an environmentalist?

    Well, it was during that rough low that I decided that I was going to learn how to swim. It was something that I had always wanted to learn to do, but apparently, I was even anxious as a child because I didn’t trust anybody to teach me. Dad, sister, grandparents included.

    But here I was in the pool at LA Trade Tech determined to learn to swim, come hell or high water. I learned that ‘high water’ when it comes to learning how to swim at a school is really only about 3 feet. I didn’t realize that I just had to stand up to keep myself from drowning. My swim coach would do these exercises where he’d flip us around to disorient us, drilling into our heads, “Look for the light” which would soon turn into a metaphor for me.  Soon, I got the hang of it, and there was no stopping me. I loved it. I loved that in this sport I didn’t need to do anything but keep putting one hand in front of the other. That I could check out mentally on everything else and just focus on getting to that wall. Focus on breathing.

“Do I breathe every two strokes, or every three?”

“Two seems too much. Try three.”

“I can get used to three. Yeah, three is comfortable.”

“I wonder if I can go four. I’mma try it.”

“Nope. Not four. Don’t have the lung capacity for four.”

“Three is good. Stick to three.”

“Is my arm going too high? Reach, not windmill.”

“Follow that arm. Is my catch alright?”

“Catch, puuuulll. Catch, puuuulll. Catch, puuuulll.”

    The sound of the water flooding my ears. The distant, garbled yelling in the background. I had to deal with my thoughts in a way that wouldn’t allow the negative ones to come in. This was literally about survival. If I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing, I would soon be panicking in a 14ft. deep pool. You don’t want to panic in a 14ft deep pool. Believe me, it happened once. Thank God for DeAndre the lifeguard, that’s all I have to say about that.

    I like to consider myself a punctual person and usually aim to get to appointments, meetings, or classes at least 15 minutes early. I would arrive to class, change, then just lay around and float in the pool waiting for the others to come in. Soon a new ritual formed. I’d float around, my swim coach would yell at me, “Crystal, you better not be dead.” I’d reply in some way, usually with an, “I’m not” and then continue on, eyes closed, floating all over the pool.

Okay, Amanda nice story and all, but again, how does this lead to you being an environmentalist?

    You see the water that I was once so afraid of, was the same thing that saved me; Forced me to think about other things than how my brain was telling me that I was a failure. That I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, that nobody liked me, nobody loved me, nobody would ever love me. What was once one of my biggest anxieties turned into one of my biggest triumphs. It gave me the courage to face some of my other anxieties. And if the water saved me, surely there was a way that I could somehow repay that debt. And there was, by becoming an advocate for the water. By helping other people realize how much we’re destroying the ocean that provides 2 out of every 3 breaths. By teaching people that the amount of plastic and trash that makes its way into the ocean can be prevented by just making a few small lifestyle changes. By changing my own lifestyle, no matter how fast or slow it took me to adapt.

    And that dear readers, is how my panic attacks led me to being an environmentalist. It’s long-winded but comes back around just like everything else.

Amanda ❤

To The Friends Who've Stayed

Friends-Who-Stayed

    Dealing with mental illness is no easy feat. Not for the person who it afflicts nor for the people who love and care for said person. It is stressful, isolating, confusing, intense. The depths of one's depression can become impenetrable. Their Anxiety; uncomfortable and labyrinthine. But it is not yours to deal with. As someone who struggles with Anxiety, Depression and Panic Attacks, the only thing I can ask of the people who care for me is simply this: Be there. Be there to the point where you feel like you're being annoying, because no matter how many times I tell you I'm fine, or try to smile through it and tell you that I'm gonna be okay, I also don't want to be alone. 

    Not that I don't want to be alone, but because I CAN'T be alone. I can't be alone because that's when the chatter starts whispering. And the longer I'm alone, the louder those whispers become, until I'm enveloped by a looming shadow roaring an onslaught of all my insecurities at me. And trust me, It knows them well. 

Be there. Stay there. 

    Stop by with a small pizza. If I'm in the midst of it's clutches, my appetite is probably nonexistent, so really, the pizza is for you because I don't want you to be uncomfortable around me and I want you to eat. So even though you're coming to take care of me, I'm still trying to take care of you. And if I DO attempt to eat, don't be surprised by how little I eat before I say I'm full. Don't comment about how skinny I've gotten. If I've lost a considerable amount of weight lately, it's either because I'm currently in Its clutches, or am emerging from it. 

But to the friends who've stayed. Who've sent me private messages asking if I'm okay, or insisting that we hang out. I probably won't answer you or I most likely really don't feel like being out, but I go because I'm trying. I know that if I don't forge these connections, they'll sever. They won't be there the next time I need them. So if you could just bear with me and let me ramble about my cat, or whether we sit in silence, I appreciate it. I appreciate YOU. Don't think that I don't. 

Staying there, even when you feel like you might be annoying let's me know that you're going to be there when I get better, and can socialize with you more. Where I don't mind going out in a group or doing something more involved. When we'll be able to eat a large pizza together instead. 

Being a friend to a person with mental illness is probably one of the hardest, consuming things that you may ever do, but I promise it's also probably one of the most rewarding things you can be. 

To the friends who've stayed, thank you. 

Amanda ❤

Positive Thinking and The Happiness Project

Positive Thinking and The Happiness Project

 

Last week I shared with you how the Robin Williams tributes affected me by bringing me closer to my own personal ledge with depression. I realized that there were a few things that I could do to keep myself on my peak instead. 

Positive thinking and finding small everyday things that make me happy/thankful has been a coping technique that's worked for me in the past, so I thought I'd start that up again.

A friend of mine in New York is almost halfway through her #100DaysOfHappiness challenge, so I went and got myself a 5-year Happiness Project journal and I intend on filling that thing up. I started it last Thursday so I already have a few entries in there. That paired with the positive thinking affirmations and I've already seen a positive change in these last few days. 

Depression isn't about "just choosing to not be sad". It's a legitimate mental disease and everybody has their own coping techniques. This happens to work well for me. If you suffer from depression I high suggest you seek therapy to find a technique that works for you beings that every one is different. 

Remember, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, even the longest and most difficult ventures have a starting point." 

Amanda ❤

Drained

It's 12:15 AM and I just got done re-writing an English essay for my health class. I am precisely a week away from being done with the Fall 2013 semester and I couldn't be happier, yet at the same time, I am completely fatigued. I am both physically and mentally drained. Honestly, all I want to do is lay in bed, in my pajamas, and watch Netflix for 3 days straight, but I can't. I'm Sisyphus and this world is my boulder. Thankfully, it won't be forever. It's the final stretch and I have to force myself out of bed each morning. This morning I hit the snooze button 4 times. An extra 20 minutes of sleep, stretched out against the whole of my bed and under my warm blankets. My mantra this week has been "Just one more week. Just one more week. Just one more week." I've managed to stay on top of my studies for the last 15 weeks, I can handle one more. I must handle one more. And then, a respite from it all to enjoy the end of the year and to reflect on what I've accomplished this year, and what I want to accomplish in the new year. 

I'm poor, and I'm tired, but this will damn sure be worth it one day. I can promise you that.

Amanda ❤

Learning To Relax

Learn-to-relax

They say that the best way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans. While I don't have specific plans I've always had a road map of where I'd like to be. I like having plans. I like structure and goals. I have a hard time relaxing. 

I used to be the type of person that was very spontaneous, fly by the seat of my pants, and the last couple of years or so, I've noticed that THAT Amanda has been absent. I miss that Amanda. I miss the Amanda that rolled with the punches and whatever happened, happened. 

I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, but I like knowing the things that I have to/ want to, get done. I like achieving a goal and knowing what the next step is going to be so that I could work towards getting that done as well. 

I don't have a good relationship with change or the unknown. I like to know what's coming next. I like to know why people leave and come back into your life. The lesson behind situations, before those situations occur. I like black and white, spelled out, blatant. 

I know in person I come off as very confident, demanding and judgemental. I know that it's going to take a very strong man to deal with me. To WANT to deal with me, time and again. I know I need a challenge, and usually within minutes of meeting someone, I know whether or not, that person will be a challenge, or someone who's going to give into me. Someone I can manipulate. Because I know that's what's going to happen. If I detect even the smallest iota that I can run over someone, it's more than likely that I'll exploit that to the fullest. Mind you this is only with guys. 

So this demanding, structured personality of mine, no longer knows how to just relax. How to just lay down and watch movies on the couch with my partner, and not worry about what I would be doing at work, or what needs to get done, or what I could have gotten done. 

I no longer know how to be present and appreciate it. I know how to ruin moments and I do it a lot. I do it without trying to do it and then feel horrible when I realize I've just done it. I can't appreciate the fact that today was a really pretty day. 

I've been told that I need to relax. That I have to take things as they come. That I have to be patient and just wait to see how situations pan out, and I realize that those people are right. I have to learn to not dwell over the past, not fret over the future and relax and be aware in the present. 

Sorry for the jumbled mess of words. Just trying to figure stuff out. 

Amanda ❤

How To- Make Your Bad Day, Suck Less

How-To-Make-Your-Bad-Day-Suck-Less
 

This his how I pretty much felt today (Thursday) . I just had a really bad day. After spilling my guts to someone about the romantic situation we were in, and getting no response, I didn't know how else to feel. One thing about me is that I tend to make myself stress over things that I really shouldn't. I know some of you do the same thing too. It wasn't long after I finished work that I started thinking that I needed to turn the day around and I came up with this list. 

*Wear your favorite pieces of clothing. Even if you don't match. I'm fortunate enough that I work from home so that's exactly what I did. And let me tell you, I did NOT match. I'll spare you a picture but I'll just tell you what I wore. I light blue panda shirt from Busch Gardens that I kept after the break up with Art. A leopard print body-con skirt from Target, a pair of mocha wedges and my glasses. It wasn't pretty but pretty is not what I was aiming for today. Happy, was my intention. If you do have to leave the house, wear as many as you can while still looking presentable. 

*Drink plenty of water. Coffee, tea, juice and soda all have caffeine and/or sugar which are mood alterators. Drink those and once you come down from them, you'll feel even worse. Stick to the H20 today. Trust me. 

*Cry. If you need to. Or yell. Whatever helps you deal with your frustration. I'm a cryer. I cry when I'm happy, sad, elated and even angry. I was crying while I was working today. I was playing some He is We, and crying my eyes out. But I only did it for an hour. That's the trick. Allow yourself to feel that emotion as strongly as you can for a specific amount of time. Then as Jay-Z said, "On to the next one". We're human and we need to feel emotion. Keeping it bottled up inside and/or not talking about it, isn't doing anyone good. Especially yourself. 

*Take a shower. Baths are good and all but when I take a bath after having a bad day, I don't feel any better. I feel as if I'm only sitting in my problems, quite literally. The purpose of the shower is to wash it all away. Feel it drain from your shoulders, down your back, your legs, your toes and finally off of you and down into that wonderful drain. Better yet, take your shower at night so that you don't go to bed with your bad day weighing on you and you wake up the next morning refreshed sans that bad juju from the day before. 

*Go to the gym. If possible, walk there. Consider it a warm up. If you can't walk there, ride your bike. The point is to go out and smell the "fresh" air. We spend so much time indoors with stale or even recycled air. Go out and get the real stuff in your lungs. What does it matter that it's polluted? If you're not a gym member, go out for a walk or jog around the block. Take Spot to the local dog park and play for a while. You need to get those serotonin levels up which is the body's natural happiness hormone. 

*Marvel in Nature. I'm not a science genius here so I may be getting the terms wrong but think about those tiny atoms forming together in such a particular way that it creates that flower or that tree or bird. That's something to admire. 

*Watch a really sappy love story. Mine is "Big Fish" even though it reminds me of the person that I'm having a crappy day about. For me, it's just a reminder that there is still romance out there and that I'm deserving of it. We all are. Extra points: watch it while you're in bed cuddled with one of your favorite stuffed animals or real animals. 

*Write. I keep a journal/sketchbook so that helps. Right now, I'm having problems actually getting pen to paper. Sometimes it can be a small thing that makes you feel better. I added this phrase to the inside cover of mine, "I'm going to make mistakes, life's going to be messy, but that's okay". That small affirmation started making my day feel so much better. Some of you might not keep journals and that's perfectly fine. Just write what you're feeling on a scrap piece of paper. If you don't want anyone to read it or don't feel like keeping it, throw it away or even burn it! Watch them disintegrate. 

*Create a Radical Self Love Bible.  Gala Darling explains that one in her Radical Self Love Bible Excerpt.

I hope this makes your bad day begin to turn around and let me know how things are going. 

Amanda ❤