I made a list of my mental health symptoms, so I don't just blank whenever I finally (hopefully) get to see a therapist. I really hope it happens soon because I'm so tired, but it's been so long that I haven't had access to mental healthcare that it still doesn't feel like something I'm going to get to have lol I'm super scared.
Anyways, I figured I would post it here because (1)this is my safe space, and (2) just in case somebody else is going through similar stuff, maybe they won't feel alone in their struggles, or maybe it can help them find words for their experiences.
I'm pretty sure I have some type of depression/anxiety disorder, so I've categorized my symptoms into more depression-seeming symptoms and more anxiety-seeming symptoms.
• Racing thoughts/intrusive thoughts/cringe attacks
• Complete lack of energy always
• Inability to leave the bed
• Burst of energy like one day of month
• Inability to sleep even though I'm always tired
• Then when I do sleep I oversleep
• Even the smallest task is overwhelming, and breaking it down into steps helped for a while, but I think I'm burned out from fighting my brain and being constantly exhausted, so that doesn't really help anymore.
• I can't do time. It's literally like I don't experience it the way anybody else does, and it makes it hard for time-oriented tasks or punctuality. You could say that I "loose track of time easily," but it feels more honest to say that I never had track of time to begin with. And it doesn't make me quirky or special; it makes me look irresponsible, like I don't care, or unprofessional. It's like I missed the lesson on time when we all went to "being a person" class.
• Errant eating habits, potentially ED related. Never really eating enough/feeling hungry enough, then hungry all the time complicated by food-associated guilt and dysmorphia.
• Constant feelings of despair and hopelessness punctuated by frustration and restlessness. I would say that I am an optimistic and positive person, well, not naturally, I sculpted that in myself, but I rarely experience happiness or satisfaction unless it is connected to food, hobbies (sometimes), my partner, friends(sometimes), my cats. Certain sensory stimulations also seem to provide relief from the sad feels.
• Wanting to disappear
• Feeling like an alien, not a literal alien, just never really feeling seen or experiencing authentic connection with others. I find it extremely hard to truly connect to others in a way that feels validating of my authentic self, and not just in a superficial customer service way. I often feel isolated and misunderstood. As unhealthy as it is,there is literally only one person in my life that I feel sees me for me, and that is my husband.
• Experiencing emotions more deeply than others, or so it seems
• Hyper self-awareness/ stuck in my own thoughts
• Extreme difficulty interacting with things outside of my comfort items--movies/music/food/clothes/places
• Intensely engaged with an internal dialog at all times: coaching myself, critical thoughts of the world/society, making plans, analyzing my own behaviors/past experiences, all of which results in me always being "the deep one" or "the weird one," but, really, all that means is that I'm hard to relate to, but interesting enough to keep lol *see "feeling like an alien"
• I have often been told I sound like a "foreigner," or like I'm speaking a different language because the person I am talking to doesn't understand me. Which is weird because I try really hard to communicate clearly because I hate being misunderstood. And this seems really easy to write off as "well most people are not good at listening and communicating," but if I am the only one good at communicating, doesn't that mean that I'm not good at communicating? Or, I've been told, "you're smarter than a lot of people, so you have to speak to them on their level," but that sounds so pompous; I'm just me, I know I'm smart, but idk about smartER
• Stuck in the past/difficulty getting over things or moving on
• A propensity for addiction- alcohol, caffeine/stimulants, sugar, pills, cannabis, social media, Anything that helps me to feel something other than heavy and tired or anxious.
• I've gotten a LOT better about self-destructive behaviors and self-harming. The impulse is still there, but I'm able to say no.
• Panic attacks:typically triggered by high pitched sounds, getting chilled/shivering, caffeine, rapidly changing lights, white/blue/cool-colored light, being in or around moving vehicles, car accidents, too many different sounds at once, crowds, the rise in ambient conversation in a room of people,(can also be triggered by cannabis, but usually it is not cannabis alone, it seems that cannabis can make me more susceptible to these triggers setting off a panic attack)
• I experience sensory overload easily
• Racing thoughts/intrusive thoughts/cringe attacks, all of which contribute to not being able to sleep, and typically are almost uncontrollable directly following a social interaction of any kind
• Shutting myself down a lot, sometimes I can talk through negative self talk, but sometimes the anxiety/depression brain wins
• Overthinking. About everything. Always.
• Hyperaware/Hyper attuned to any and all humans within my perception. Sorta like the idea of being an "empath," except I recognize that these traits are likely from trauma or illness and not magic. I literally cannot tune out of the people around me, even among strangers, and I notice every miniscule change in body language and tonality. I'm not sure where the boundary is between projected/assumed observations and true observations. I often assume I know how they are feeling.
• I don't trust easily at all, to the point where it takes forever to form any kind of friendship with me. I seem to be a hard person to be friends with because of my ups and downs, my proclivity toward hermiting, and my reluctance to go to social spaces. I can also be a little critical and defensive of my boundaries.
• Socializing drains me, and I can need anywhere from 2 days to weeks to recover.
• Always clenching my jaw/hand, comfort position is in a tight ball resulting in being extremely achey, and lots of leg pain
• Body anxiety: its easy to accidentally convince myself (or have to talk myself out of convincing myself) of having something medically awful wrong with me-- the typicals are blood clots, heart problems, cancer, something mysterious and awful wrong with my legs, my wisdom teeth growing into my brain, babies(pretty certain I have tokophobia)
• I don't like being touched. It makes me tense up and feel incredibly uncomfortable.
• I am hyperaware of the space between me and any other person, my bubble I suppose, and my bubble is rather large, and I get panicky and uncomfortable when people trespass into my bubble without my consent.
• I often do not understand "people." Nothing "they" do ever really seems to make logical sense to me.
• Not sure if this belongs under the anxiety or depression section, but I experience dysmorphia daily. Probably related to untreated ED leftover from late teens/early 20s/maybe even current, but I literally could not tell you what my body looks like. I even struggle to identify/estimate sizing for clothes. My body literally looks and feels different every single day, and I am rarely confident/comfortable in it.
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How to study if you're anxious/depressed/have a mental illness
1. Don't compare your progress with your other classmates. We live in a neurotypical world and sometimes we cant keep up. And that's okay.
2. TAKE YOUR MEDS. I have bipolar disorder and I used to not take my meds bc I wanted to have Lots of energy in order to study. The aftermath is awful. Not recommended.
3. Try to make a list of what you want to do every day. For example mine was: breakfast, run some errands, Lunch, study, break, etc.
4. Listen to classical music: It really helps. My favourite is the soundtrack of pride and prejudice and the this is liszt playlist on spotify.
5. Keep yourself hidrated! Water, tea, some Orange juice. I do not recomend coffee IF you have anxiety or bipolar disorder like me. Try also to eat nutricional foods with carbs that give you energy.
6. Take some time off during the day. I usually study after lunch, and at 5pm, I go to the Park near my house that is full of trees and its gorgeous. Be in contact with nature. Even if its just opening your windows and letting the sunlight in.
7. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY. I promise. All things must pass, like George Harrison said.
You are kind, you are Smart, you are important.
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4 Steps of Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is a psychological treatment that was developed to help people confront their fears. When people are fearful of something, they tend to avoid the feared objects, activities or situations. Although this avoidance might help reduce feelings of fear in the short term, over the long term it can make the fear become even worse. In such situations, a psychologist might recommend a program of exposure therapy in order to help break the pattern of avoidance and fear. In this form of therapy, psychologists create a safe environment in which to “expose” individuals to the things they fear and avoid. The exposure to the feared objects, activities or situations in a safe environment helps reduce fear and decrease avoidance. (source)
Before proceeding with the steps below, create a hierarchy ladder of situations or places you may avoid. Starting at the bottom of the ladder, write the places/situations you avoid, but don't bother you as much. In the middle, put ones that you may consider as in-between, and then at the top, the ones that you avoid at all costs. Give each of these situations a rating from 0-100% according to how anxious these situations make you feel if you were in them at the moment.
The way we can overcome these anxieties will start by overcoming the ones we've placed at the bottom of our ladder. Here's a visual to give you an idea of how it should be laid out:
Here are the 4 steps that outline what we will experience as we practice Exposure Therapy in our lives:
1️⃣ Enter the situation
Once you've identified what phobia you'd like to overcome, proceed into that situation, beginning with the first (bottom) step on your ladder, or with the one you last left off from. Continue to proceed into the situation, or up your ladder, until your anxiety begins to feel somewhat uncomfortable. Try to gauge your anxiety on a scale from 1-10. For ET to work, you'll want to keep your anxiety level between 1 and 4. If you find it going higher than that for a few minutes, do not fret. If it continues to be above that level, retreat from the situation and gauge whether or not it can be manageable. Remember, mindfulness plays a huge role in gauging how we're feeling during this time. Try and stay in that fearful situation until your anxiety begins to subside. Even if you feel uncomfortable, stay with it as long as your anxiety level doesn't get to a point of being unmanageable. The point is to not torture yourself to completely discourage yourself from going through with it. Think of it as dipping your toes in the water before getting into a pool. Allow some time to pass and let the anxiety diminish. To help you get through these uncomfortable moments, it can help to practice deep breathing methods to help diffuse some of your anxiety.
2️⃣ Retreat if (and only if) your anxiety starts to feel out of control
If your anxiety feels like it's exceeding a 5, then temporarily retreat from the situation. Doing so means that we are briefly leaving the situation until we feel better, but then returning as soon as we can. It's always best to try and stay in the situation, accept the discomfort we feel, and then wait for our anxiety to subside. If we start feeling ourselves headed for a panic or anxiety attack, we can retreat once more and return to the situation when we're ready. Please note that retreating is not the same thing as escaping. The idea is to leave temporarily and then come back to it.
Whether you decide to stay in the uncomfortable situations or temporarily retreat, you should eventually be able to stay in the situation until you allow any arising anxiety that comes up to subside. You need to make sure you give yourself sufficient time for this to happen though, because it may not be instant. Again, breathing techniques or possible taking a short walk to clear your mind can help with recovery.
After recovering, you should continue to progress deeper into the uncomfortable situation, or up your avoidance ladder by repeating the steps above. Remember to accept anxiety symptoms if they arise and allow them to subside. It's important to remember that you must not beat yourself up whenever you do feel yourself slipping. This is a great opportunity to practice self-compassion. Encouraging yourself in these situations is important to your success. It's also a common experience for you to feel like your performance after retreating turns out to be less than spectacular than initially thought. Remember to be consistent in how many times you do this, and in a day or two you will find that you'll be able to continue in your progression up your ladder. You got this!
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