When will I stop feeling like this?
I was captured while scrolling on Facebook by the words “since I lost you I am not myself anymore “ and followed that writing here. Both my parents passed in July of 2020. (Not Covid related) They we’re elderly and had lived wonderful lives. My sister and I both miss them terribly. In October of that same year my mother in law, very dear friend, also passed from a heart condition. My husband and adult children have grieved, and moved on. And I just can’t. I’m stuck. I’m walking thru life that doesn’t feel like mine anymore.
My husband of 30 years is just done with my sadness- I’m sleeping in another room with my dog. I have nothing to do with old friends and have lost interest in all my previous hobbies. It all just feels pointless and stupid.
I can’t sleep.
It’s been two years!! When will I stop feeling like this? I totally relate to “I lost myself.” #Grief
I Choose Recovery
Part 1 of 2 My childhood was like most girls. I was highly social, got my energy through being with others, and I had many friends. I played soccer, loved fashion and went to sleep away camp. Occasionally I would worry or get anxious, but it was mainly situational and nothing that concerned my parents at the time.
Then I proceeded to high school, and as 9th grade started, so did my mental health journey. This was the beginning of a new chapter of my life. I had uncertainty, as any 15 year old would, and had no idea what to expect. I was aware of the stigmas surrounding mental illness and feared that something was in fact wrong with me; something that made me different or not normal like my peers. I grew up in a town where everyone would put on a front, had perfect images on their Instagram stories, and would hide their reality behind closed doors. My picturesque hometown had many more problems than you could see from the outside.
When my Cognitive Behavior Therapist (CBT), at the time, recommended medication, shock ensued. I had this antiquated perception of what it meant to take medication and the impact on my future. I always wanted to be a “normal” kid, and I believed at the time that this would stand in the way of normalcy. I started regularly taking medication for anxiety, depression, and later ADHD, which presented a whole new set of challenges in terms of how I felt on a daily basis. One medication cocktail made me lightheaded, another made me nauseous, while another one gave me shaky hands. I felt hopeless. Something had to work. After a year of medications that either didn’t work or had intolerable side effects, my new psychiatrist performed a GeneSight test, a pharmacogenomic test which analyzes how your genes may affect medication outcomes based on genetic variations in your DNA. Results informed by the Doctor how I break down or respond to certain medications. After creating a better medication cocktail, I felt good. And this was the first time I had felt good in a while.
I am not kidding when I say high school was tough. I felt alone and no matter how many friends I had, I still had this constant state of loneliness. Without having friends who experienced what I experienced, I felt like no one truly understood my struggles. With this time bringing the rise of a variety of social media applications, I was exposed to other people’s stories, their struggles, and who shared the feelings I had. I suddenly didn’t feel so alone. During my four high school years I experienced anxiety attacks, migraine headaches, and what comes along with taking an ADHD medication, loss of appetite. I do have fond memories though of eating ice-cream for breakfast most mornings to keep my weight at a healthy level.
Everything was good for a while, but it was now time to decide if college was the appropriate option for me at that time. My family and college counselor weighed the pros and cons of attending college or doing a gap year program for those with similar struggles, to slowly adjust myself to the start of my independence. My therapist and executive functioning coach worked with me to establish a list of milestones that I would need to achieve to be college ready. I wanted to be “normal”, and I believed that attending college was what “normal” people do. My mind was set that I would attend college, I achieved all my milestones and my parents agreed to let me take this leap.
And a leap it was, attending a large university, a 13-hour ride from home. It felt great being independent, surrounded by new people, and fresh experiences. I loved making new friends and making new memories to replace some of the old ones. I worked hard, achieved good grades, rushed, and joined a sorority, created more friendships, and finally did not feel alone. Life was good, everything I imagined for myself and quite honestly, I was proud of how far I had come.
Well, not for long.
It was March 2020, and I was preparing for my first college spring break. As I was packing my bags, my parents warned me of a new virus that was taking the country by storm. I purposely shut out this looming reality and did not think this would impact me. I was finally happy with my life and didn’t want anything to disrupt that. Soon after that conversation, I received an email from my university saying that we would have a two-week class break due to the spread of COVID on campus and throughout the country. I sobbed. I didn’t want to leave the place that finally made me feel so happy.
I had a glimmer of hope I could return. I had so much hope that I only packed a small bag for my trip home. My trip home quickly turned into a trip into isolation, being alone in my room taking online classes that extended into my entire freshman year. I was devastated. No more independence, no more learning in classes with my peers, no more sorority e
I Choose Recovery
Part 2 of 2 vents, no more fun times with my new college friends. I finally had found my place and people, and after seven months, it all came to an end sooner.
Quarantine was an interesting time. I had a steady routine of waking up late, scrolling through Tik Tok, going on a drive with my sister, and baking cookies each night. I remained grateful that my family and I were not directly impacted by COVID but wanted to get out. As a social butterfly, my winged were clipped and I didn’t fare well with isolation. Not being able to see my friends destroyed me. I felt alone again. Alone in my thoughts. And would physically lock myself alone in my room and isolate myself from my family.
This is where I would like to say my mental health journey truly began.
Quarantine gave me plenty of time to stand in front of my mirror and psychoanalyze what I did and did not like about myself. This unhealthy habit led to unhealthy behaviors that ultimately led to an eating disorder. I spent a lot of time “covering” my eating disorder as I was so deep, I did not want my family to find out. I felt trapped, both physically and psychologically.
I returned to college in the fall for my sophomore year. I was ecstatic to be living in my sorority house and back in my college town with my friends. But things felt different. I had lost control of myself and was now one with my eating disorder. With my sorority house under quarantine and my meals delivered in Styrofoam containers three times a day outside my door each day, my eating disorder had taken over and my depression and anxiety heightened. My mental state was at an all-time low. I no longer enjoyed doing the things I loved and spent a lot of time alone in my room. Once again, I found myself covering my feelings with friends and I lived in a dark and lonely place.
Fast forward to February. First, I started asking my parents if I could stay at a hotel to get some alone time to think and a bit more independence. That did not help me in the slightest. Once a hotel night, or should I say morning, I woke my parents at 2:00 AM to tell them I needed to come home. My parents took this very seriously as they knew how much I loved school and being with my friends. Once I got home, went through another medication adjustment, I started attending IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). At this point, again my life was a mess. I finally had come clean about my eating disorder and was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I felt free knowing that I wasn’t hiding this secret anymore.
This is when I chose recovery.
I completed the IOP program and when I returned home that May with little sign of improvement, my family decided it was time for an inpatient program. I attended an intensive residential program in Illinois for 40 days. I am at a loss in describing how hard this was for me. It may be etched in my memory forever but what I do know is that it pushed me to choose recovery instead of falling back into bad habits. I learned new healthy eating habits, had some very helpful candid therapy, and learned how to deal with the things that trigger my anxiety. It was then that I started tapping into all the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) resources provided on Instagram and LinkedIn. I could see that I was part of a larger world with similar challenges. I can’t lie, my experience that summer left me with some bad memories, but I am working hard to replace them with better ones.
Going back to college my Junior year was rough, with adjustments to medications, but I added an incredibly helpful resource to my life, a DBT coach who instead of focusing on my experiences with anxiety, helped me create a goal-based approach to my therapy. I now focus on what is getting in the way of achieving my goals and work hard to eliminate those barriers. Those DBT skills, IOP, and the inpatient program were now really paying off.
Looking back now, almost exactly a year after I completed my inpatient journey, I am grateful for all the resources I have been afforded to come to the place I am at today. I do have some bad days, but I am now equipped with the knowledge on how to treat myself during hard times.
Mental health resources have made me feel less alone in this big world. It is critical to tap into these resources to help you through your own recovery to feel heard and understood.
Every day I choose recovery. I wake up each morning, and whether it is a good or bad day, I know I never want to return to that dark place. I have a whole great life to live with tremendous hope and inspiration for the future. I am stronger than my diagnosis. I choose recovery to be able to be the person to guide others out of their dark place and give you light.
Moving forward can mean leaving the past behind. We’ve come so far and yet we still have so much to learn. What is something helpful you’ve learned?
What is your favorite part of travel?
I promise if you only open your eyes to the goodness world, it is there! Regardless of how severe your pain is and this coming from a level 10