I’m Feeling Much Better

I’m Feeling Much Better

I’ve been waiting months to finally be able to say this: I’m feeling much better now. Last month, I wrote about my decision to manifest less in my life. It’s proven to be particularly helpful in getting my life back on track. It was like I had bitten off more than I could chew and rather than spitting it out, I just kept chewing and getting frustrated that it was more than I could take. It’s been nearly a month since I shared that decision and I’m happy to say it’s really been working. But it wasn’t the only thing I’ve been doing to try to get myself balanced.
I’m really grateful to be part of a generation that has pretty much destigmatized mental illness. I’ve not really had any shame in sharing the fact that I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety. In fact, when I get help for those things, I tend to just do better. I started using antidepressants a little over a year ago to help get me out of this funk I’ve been living in. It’s been helpful. I tried a few things for my anxiety and found a way to live with it. When it was time to get my prescription refilled for my antidepressants, I figured it was as good a time as any to go ahead and check in with a psychiatrist and make sure we were doing the right things to support my mental health.
There’s this crazy thing that happens when you let professionals do their job. They can actually help. I know. It seems so obvious but to do that, I had to get out of my own way. I had to let my doctor give me a proper evaluation and be open and honest about all of my symptoms. You know what happened? My diagnosis changed. It’s not just anxiety and depression. I actually have PTSD. I was diagnosed back in July and I’ve been working for these past few months to fight back and get my life back. Here’s some of what I’ve been doing to help myself.

Medication

I was already using an antidepressant so medication wasn’t a hard sell for me. If I were to need insulin, I’d take that. If I needed blood pressure medication, I’d take that. So if my brain doesn’t wanna make enough serotonin on its own, yeah, I’m gonna give it what it needs. The thing about medication is that you really shouldn’t just rely on that to get better.  So I’m keeping all of my doctor appointments, giving feedback on my experience and trusting her advice to make adjustments to get the right combo in place. I’m pleased to say, I think we found my magic cocktail and I’m feeling much better because of it.

Talk Therapy

Twice a month, I meet with a therapist who actually specializes in PTSD. We discuss the progress I’ve made, experiences I’m having, and areas where I’m struggling. He gives me tools to help better deal with the stresses of life and learn how to live past my trauma. I have always been kind of resistant to the idea of paying someone to listen to me talk about my problems but that’s the wrong way to approach it. I’m paying a professional for his expertise, just like people pay me for mine.

Honesty

Ugh. So simple but so complex at the same time. I don’t think of myself as a dishonest person but I do have a way of spinning circumstances to make them easier to palate. It’s like I’m my own PR rep. For me, that means I often put on rose colored glasses about things that honestly just kind of suck. That includes things about myself. Do you have any idea how tough it is to identify your toxic traits and actually work on them? Maybe you do. Maybe I’m the only one who has a hard time admitting things about myself. Maybe… but I would guess not. This side of healing can be so tricky. I saw a tweet one time that said anxiety is just conspiracy theories about yourself. Finding the balance of admitting flaws while not hyperbolizing them into more lies… it’s not easy. Healing isn’t easy. But it’s so important. No… it’s a priority.

Human Interaction

I call it “peopling.” It’s a big reason I decided to put full-time entrepreneurship on the shelf and return to employee status. I needed to people more. After my PTSD diagnosis, I started shutting people out. Between being exhausted and overwhelmed, I didn’t have anything to give to my friendships. Being in the same room as people was draining. My friends finally started calling me out about it. I let some of them know what I was dealing with but kept others in the dark. I stopped engaging in the Facebook groups I used to be highly active in. I basically couldn’t deal with socializing for more than a half hour or so without alcohol to help make it tolerable. Probably not really a healthy way to approach it all.

What’s Next?

I’m doing a lot to get myself happy, healthy and functional. But I’m not just trying stuff just for the sake of trying stuff. I’m being very intentional in my healing. I made another decision last week that has had profound impacts on my day-to-day life. In fact, such an impact that I can’t easily cram it at the end of this post. Next time I write, I hope to share what my new secret weapon is and how it’s positively impacted my mental health journey.

Less Is More

Less Is More

First of all, if you didn’t start singing the Charmin song when you saw the title of this post, we can’t be friends. Now that that’s out of the way…. Recently, I’ve been evaluating my priorities and commitments and have come to the decision that for me, less is more. I’m manifesting less in my life. I want to really streamline my life in every way: emotionally, physically, professionally, interpersonally… all of it. For the longest time, I’ve felt really proud of all the things I’ve managed to keep on my plate. But guess what? I’m burnt out.

Last night, I was finally able to put into words what I have been feeling in my heart for quite some time: I would much rather do a few things with excellence than many mediocre things. The days of me bragging about holding down 3 jobs are over. Trying to be friends with as many people as I can make time for is done. Overcommitting myself is out. I’m done with all that. Less is more.

I keep bringing myself back to one question as I’m planning my day, my week, my month, my life:

What do I need less of?

Seriously. You ever catch yourself saying “man, I don’t need this.” Or something to that effect? Well… what is “this“?  That’s where I’m at right now. Identifying all of the “thises” that need to be cleared from my life. Here are some of the things that I’ve started to purge.

My Hair

Yeah. I cut off about a foot of my hair. It was still healthy and lovely but taking care of it everyday was such a hassle. I’m a messy sleeper and the whole thing gets tangled and knotted and just frustrated me to try to deal with it. I brought it down to a bob and I actually really dig it. Guess what else? When my hair is short, I have to wash it more often. This has lead to an improved personal hygiene routine. Not the goal but an awesome side effect!

Someday Stuff

Whether we’re talking clothes or project supplies or just random tools around the house… I have far too much stuff that’s taking up space and serving no function. I’ve started inventorying the things in this category of value and listing them online for sale. I went through and purged my dresser of clothes that don’t fit properly anymore or that I just don’t really wear. The kids have done the same and now we have 3 full garbage bags ready to be donated.

Bills

This one sounds silly, I’m sure, but I’m so serious. I went through a giant pile of mail I had on my desk and found every last old bill and invoice that I had open with someone and just turned it into an actionable list. As I went through these things, I found subscription services I had signed up for but wasn’t actively using (like this great Leggings of the Month club where I was starting to get duplicates of the leggings I already have…) price checked all the essential services I wanted to keep and even found some better values for myself out there. I left Verizon and T-Mobile and consolidated to one bill with Xfinity for home internet, cable TV and mobile phone. My cell phone bill is 1/3 of what it was with T-Mobile. My internet plan is $10 cheaper with just as good of quality and comes with a small cable package. Literally guys, less is more.

Emails

I spent the better part of 2 hours going through my personal email inbox to methodically clean it up. I started with just under 800 unread emails and cleared my inbox down to zero. I set a few guidelines in place for myself to make it work well. First, unsubscribe from newsletters. There’s an easy button on the bottom to do it with, so just unsubscribe. Copy the “from” address on the email and put it in Gmail’s search box. Select all from that sender and bulk delete. Bam. Down a handful of emails. Rinse and repeat until you’re unsubscribed from all the garbage. If something is worth keeping, it’s worth sorting. Using the label feature, I broke down the reason for why I was hanging on to a particular email. Was it an important receipt or log-in information? Something actually useful? Label it.

I’m working on getting myself back up to peak performance. But I don’t thinkI’m going to achieve that goal by keeping my plate overly full or by ignoring the pile of things that need to be tackled. What do I need less of?

Less mess. Less stress. 

Dear Friends

Dear Friends

Dear Friends,

It’s been some time since we last talked and part of me feels like I owe you an explanation. It’s been a funky year for me. It might have been a funky year for you too. I really want to tell you about something that I’ve walked through this year that was a new experience for me.

It’s my first year as a single mom and my entire world was flipped on its head. I found myself exceedingly exhausted. Just that to my bones tiredness. I went to the doctor to get my thyroid checked, certain I was hypothyrodic. Not only did we check my TSH but she checked my cholesterol and vitamin D to make sure a few things were working right. The next week, I had results and she told me everything was within the range of normal. I felt like I was about to cry. Why was I so exhausted all the time? Was I just lazy? Did I need to get over myself and just truck through? That sounded like the most overwhelming task of all– keep faking it until I make it. I just couldn’t anymore.

“You have many of the symptoms of clinical depression. I’d like you to try an antidepressant.”

My heart sank. I’m not depressed. I’m not sad. I can’t be depressed if I’m not sad. I love my life. I don’t want to end it. I don’t want to hurt myself. My life isn’t perfect but I’m not depressed. I was skeptical, to say the least, and certainly not depressed. You see, I’ve been depressed before. I spent my teenage years living in a group home feeling the lowest I ever have in my life. I only wanted to die. Having depression I could live with, that simply wasn’t possible.

But at the end of the day, I really just wanted to feel better. So despite my reservations, I gave the prescription a try. I was tired of fighting with my alarm clock every morning. I was tired of insomnia that kept me up until 4:00 am. I was tired of feeling like I was running on empty. I was just tired of being tired. I missed feeling like a boss for waking up at 5:00 am to knock out client work. I missed feeling like super mom. I missed feeling like me.

The first two days of the new drugs made me feel really off. I hated it. I felt nauseated. My mouth was dry. I had no appetite. My brain felt a little foggy. By day three, the only side effect that remained was a tremor in my jaw that made it look like I was shivering and some irritating sexual side effects. Within a week, I felt less tired but still tired. I kept with the drug for a month before I had a follow up appointment. I confirmed I was starting to feel better but still wasn’t quite there. I told her about my side effects and she reassured me that those tend to go away after your body regulates. She increased my dosage and we agreed to stick with it for another month. And wouldn’t you know, the strangest thing happened.

The side effects started dissipating. My energy started increasing. I was in bed at a respectable time and I would wake up before my alarm. Mornings stopped being a battle of Carlene against the world. My kids were less annoying with their never-ending barrage of questions and requests. My workflow improved. I was able to handle the demands of the day without shutting down. I started to feel like me again. My depression came on so subtly that I didn’t notice just how much I didn’t feel like myself.

Last Monday, I woke up and felt a fresh wind of life in my lungs. It felt like I had been sleeping for the past six months and was finally awake. I looked around my house and saw all the chores that had been neglected for months (let’s not talk about the state of my laundry room, please) and rather than feeling overwhelmed at the work to do, I simply got to work.

Friends, I say all this to say that I haven’t been okay for a while. But I’m getting better now. And I know I can’t be the only one who has dealt with this. This experience with depression has been unlike any I’ve had before. But the treatment is still the same– get my brain chemistry leveled out, catch up on the things that fell behind, make time for my loved ones and accept the help being given to me. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to give up.

Antidepressants are saving my life. My day to day life. My wake up and get shit done life. My not hating adulthood life. My actually enjoying my family life. My connecting with people I care about life. And friends, I want you to know what’s going on in my life. So if you’re near by, please call me and lets get coffee. If you’re struggling, shoot me a message and lets commiserate. And if there’s anything I can do to help you, let me know. I’m here for you.

xoxo

Carlene