2018 has been a year of self discovery. That is to say: I think I know where I want my life to go, finally. And also: I have been exploring my past under the scope of mental health. So let's talk about my (past) mental health. Why not, right?
Earlier this year, I had a conversation with someone about anxiety. It was a person who I wouldn't have imagined having anxiety, since they were so strong. While they were describing it, I realized: wow, that sounds kind of similar. I see it everywhere now. I can label it myself now.
I missed a turn while driving and had to turn around, but I couldn't do a three point turn in anyone's driveway. They might see me. Instead, I had to keep going down the wrong street until I found an empty driveway or another street to make a U-turn. I could never be the first one done with my tests in high school or college. It takes me ten minutes to work up the nerve to call someone on the phone. Showing up at someone's house and going up to the door--trying to figure out which door to go to, how I'm going to knock or if I'll ring the bell, what I'm going to say when they answer. Horseback riding made me want to throw up. Which horse would I get? All day I focused on that one hour. It was my passion but it was also my pain. Ordering food. Making conversation and maintaining eye contact. Making conversation with strangers.
These things are all doable, of course. I do most of them every day. I "push through" all the time. This is not me complaining. This is not me saying, woe is me! (Although the poem in our downstairs bathroom once labelled "Wednesday's Child is full of woe" and I was born on a Wednesday. #accurate) But do I think it's interesting? Yes. Do I think it's also interesting that I'd never really known what anxiety should feel like, besides outward symptoms? Yes! It's so internalized for me, I would've probably thought that I was normal--or just shy, or introverted--if I'd never had that conversation. Which led me to my next "discovery"....
When I was either fourteen, fifteen, sixteen--somewhere in that area--I think I was depressed. I don't have too many good memories of that time, except that I had a boyfriend, I felt relatively happy occasionally, but mostly I lived in a fog for those years. I think I slept a lot. I cried a lot. I listened to harsh music. (I mean... just listen to Riot by Three Days Grace. Actually, listen to the whole One-X album, because that was practically my theme album. I listened to that every night.) I contemplated suicide for a brief moment. (No one freak out on me, please, it was ten years ago.) I remember drawing a "map" of my feelings like a roller coaster, up and down and up and down (a sideways S, if you will). I clearly remember labelling it for my boyfriend at the time. "There are my highs and here are my lows. And here I am," I wrote, drawing myself on a downward edge. Not quite at the bottom. Jeez, how embarrassing, right? But I couldn't feel it. I felt... nothing.
Coincidentally, I had been taking birth control pills to help my irregular period (later diagnosed and "fixed" in 2015, but for now... the pills). I've heard so many times that birth control can cause depression. It's actually embarrassing to me that I knew those facts off the top of my head about BC, and yet I didn't connect the dots until recently. It upsets me that no one thought, hmm, maybe these things are related. When I was sixteen (about the time that I went off of BC), it was 2010. I started my senior year of high school. To the best of my knowledge, things got better for me. I got happier. But still, I think that opens up a whole other can of worms (how women's reproductive healthcare had taken a backseat, how things like irregular periods, endometriosis, PCOS, and other BC options besides the pill weren't talked about).
Just a few months ago, I went in to see my gynecologist and mentioned that, once again, my period was "acting weird." A quick exam and she told me: you have a cervical infection. Oh. My. God. I had never been so HAPPY in my life. I had an infection! It was fixable! So many things aren't fixable (see before listed: PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, etc.) that I was thrilled that this would be cured in a 10 day round of antibiotics. Wow! That made me think, "I should've gone to the doctor when I first noticed the pattern in March instead of waiting until June!"
All of this is to say: pay attention. Pay attention to yourself, to the people you love. Who knew that my irrational pits in my stomach were anxiety? (Hell, it could not be anxiety, who knows!) Who knew that the birth control I was on made me depressed? (And gain weight, but that's another issue.)
And just so you know, I'm happy now. I'm about to release my first novel, I'm applying to grad schools, I have an awesome dog and friends and family. I know where I'm going, even if I don't know where I'll be, physically, a year from now.
"Chin up, buttercup."