It’s Here and I’m Getting Help – Seasonal Affective Disorder and Psychiatry

My last post (which it has been such a long time since) discussed my long standing struggle with what I believe is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It has now starting affecting me, as I expected. The days are darker and now I find myself drawn to staying in bed, sleeping much longer, neglecting my readings, eating out of boredom and sadness, and feeling the urge to break out in tears every few hours. My emotions are becoming harder to control; I’m irritable, cantankerous, and emotional.

I realized how bad it had gotten after leaving my doctor’s appointment earlier this month, I sat in a Tim Horton’s forcing back tears as I contemplated sitting the four hour transit ride home. I had just gotten my referral for a diagnostic appointment that I have to schedule and a referral to meet with Dr. Tim Bilkey to deal with an ongoing struggle with focus and memory retention (I will be discussing this in a later post). I should have been happy, if not at least relieved. But I kept thinking over and over how my mum hadn’t woken me up to say goodbye, how I felt so guilty for not visiting more, how I missed my mom and my dog and even my brother a bit, and how I couldn’t go home yet. Even writing this post I’m fighting back tears. Maybe I’m just not letting myself feel things as I should be, maybe I just need a good cry, or maybe I need a distraction. But I’m at the point where I can tell that even though I can get up, go to work, and go to school, I’m not okay. I have the drive, but I’m not happy, at least not how one should be.

My anxiety is mounting and I feel myself sinking into the pattern of darkness and gloom. But luckily, within the next four days I will know when my psychiatric appointment will be and when I have it, I will have a professional opinion of what I have going on and what I should do. I’m tired of letting my grades slip and losing my temper and fighting back tears every day for four months. I want to be better and do better. Many people may tell me how I’m doing well because I am at least going to work and school. But how well can I be doing if I’m sleeping 9-12 hours a day and only going to work and school out of an anxious duty? I hope that by explaining this, someone may read this and see the correlation within themselves; and to that person who may be searching for answers, they are out there, I hope you are alright and coping as well.

I’m trying to get back into biweekly or monthly posting now that term one is over, but sometimes my stress and anxiety overwhelms me and I let it slip by. Once I have my psychiatric appointment I will give my thoughts. Til then, good luck and much love to you all.

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Getting back in rhythm

Starting a new semester can be very daunting and frustrating, I know personally I am struggling to find my rhythm in my last semester. This led me to finding ways to quickly find a good rhythm to start off my final semester right and strong.  Some ideas that I have found to be successful thus far are:

  1. Having and planner or agenda
  2. Print off your class schedules
  3. Plan your readings and week
  4. Go to sleep and wake up roughly the same time everyday
  5. Stay caught up on readings
  6. Plan ahead for major assignments
  7.  Set aside time for enjoyable things
  8. Turn off distractions when in class or studying
  9. Sit with people who won’t be distracting
  10. Focus on on task at a time

Hopefully some of these tips will help you keep on track as we enter another semester. Remember, planning is a big part of staying on top of many things in school.

Sea-Set

The End is Near… and the Anxiety is Real

Going into my final semester of my final year of University is well.. bitter sweet. I have worked very hard to get to this point but at the end of the rainbow is there really a pot of gold?

Now I don’t know if it’s the fact that I am pretty deathly ill and it’s just the cold medicine talking, or if I am still really just a little baby who does not want to adult, but the anxiety of this being over is super real and hard hitting. Do I want this to be over and all my hard work pays off and I get that beautiful piece of paper that cost me about 60,000 dollars or more? HELL YEAH I DO… but at the same time then I have to go out and get an adult job and what if that doesn’t happen?

Granted I mean I am taking another program (my family likes to call me the professional scholar) so that should give me time to reflect and take a step back and prepare myself for the future… but the future is scary and I don’t know if I am ready to get out of my blanket fort and put down the crayons. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.. maybe we can get a secret fort club together and try to one by one take it down eventually? Or we could just continue to color in coloring books until the inevitable happens. What do you say?

Positivity goes a long way, and hell so does a good nap and a blanket! Adulting can wait, til next time folks! PS. Join my club please, it’s lonely here haha

  • Trisha

 

 

Helping a friend in need

A few years ago my friend came to class with marks on his arms. It was clear these were from self-harm. Since I had met him, he never had such marks. Everyone in my friend group noticed, but none of us asked him about it. Later that day, another one of my friends told me that he had a rough night which involved a lot of tears and blood.

On the following weekend I was texting this friend, just having a normal conversation when he asked if I could call him. I was out running errands with my mom, and asked if I could call him when I got home. He said this was fine.

Many hours later, I got home. I was tired from being out all day and just wanted to go to bed. But, I knew my friend went through a rough patch earlier that week and wanted to talk. So, I called him. Almost immediately into our conversation he began telling me why he had self-harmed that week and that he used to do so regularly. I spoke with him for over an hour. I made it clear to him that I understood that he did what he did because in the moment it seemed like the only option. I advised him to first speak to someone when he’s upset, as this can often make people feel a lot better. I made sure he was alright before hanging up the phone.

After our conversation, I was very thankful he reached out to me. I was happy that I could be there to listen to him and offer a hint of advice. He has not come to me to for help since this incident, but I am still in contact and know he is doing much better today. I hope he knows I am always hear to listen.

My advice to anyone in a similar situation, is to call the individual. Even if you don’t feel like talking in that moment. Someone who reaches out, may desperately need you to listen. A call can save a life.

telephone-call-tree

The Never-ending Search for Motivation

Here we are, almost 3 weeks with no responsibilities, no classes, and no need to spend all night studying for exams. Sounds like paradise right? Too bad in a few days we will all find ourselves back in school, knees deep in assignments and textbook readings.

I’m fairly certain that I am not alone when I say that I think it will be very difficult to get back into the routine of being a student. So, how do I find the motivation to snap out of my current lethargic lifestyle? I am terrified that I will not be able to, and therefore have an unsuccessful semester. Deep down, I know that I have it in me, but my anxiety refuses to let me see that. It sucks.

I just wish that I could enjoy myself during these last few days; instead, I am constantly fighting with my anxiety and in a constant panic for what the near future holds. This is not out of the usual for me, I know that I have anxiety and that one of my most prominent symptoms is irrational fear of the future. But how do I stop it so I can enjoy the present? I have been told to stop and acknowledge any fear I may have and if it is irrational to let it go. However, this is so much easier said than done.

For the current time, I will continue to do my best to separate rational from irrational worries and hope to see that going back to school will not be as difficult as I think it will be. But I do hope for the day that I just automatically put the irrational worries to rest.

I’m Still Learning

2017. Another year, another semester gone. And that old saying is rearing its ugly head; “New year, new me”. This saying can hold different meanings to a variety of people. It could give those who have put off their goals for so long a bench mark of where to start. Marking a beginning and/or end for new and old relationships or habits. Or it could simply be a way for those who know they can’t commit to a goal another way to stall. And honestly, I have to say I’ve been both. But I’m still learning.

But I truly believe, as each year passes we all learn more and we get better. This may seem fairly obvious, but its true. There are still things for me to learn and improve on. But I’m working on it, and that’s the important part. As we progress and we work on things, we tend to improve even if we don’t realize it.

I do well in school, and have good study skills but they’re not the best. Over the years I’ve become less scared to talk in front of large crowds or even instruct a class on how to do something, but I still get nervous; the butterflies are always there. As well as, my ability to balance work, school, volunteering, and a family/social life leaves something to be desired. But I’m working on it, and that’s what’s important. I try my best to get outside my comfort zone, no matter how scary it is, and how much my anxiety fights to over power me. I try and take as many opportunities as I can, so they will help me develop and grow as a person. Even though, and it may not look like it on the surface, I am panicking on the inside. But that panic drives me. Because if the way to get rid of that anxiety, or make its affects less severe, is by taking more chances frequently and consistently, I’ll do it.

But once again, I’m still learning. I have not reached that point of confidence yet. I’m doing my best, all the while trying to convince myself that my best is good enough. So, I vow to myself that I will try my best every time all the time, to be better. And whether it takes months or years, or my whole life, I will continue to learn and be better than I was yesterday. I want to be okay with not being okay, or just being okay at certain things. I may not always be the best, even though I desire it, but I will always do my best.  So if your like me and don’t have everything figured out yet, that’s okay. We are all still learning, we will never stop learning and improving. The most important thing is to acknowledge and celebrate progress and know that your best is good enough. If not to be the best for others, be the best for yourself first. Because, for me right now, I’m okay with not being okay; I’m still learning. And I know this sounds like a bunch of motivational quotes, but they do hold true for some. Myself in particular.

Well wishes,

L.R.

Spoon Theory & Autism

Happy New Year! A lot has been on my mind since my last post (a while ago) and I want to take some time today to share with you all.

Perhaps you’ve heard of something called, “Spoon Theory”? Its origin can be traced back to Christine Miserandino (The Spoon Theory), a woman living with lupus, who takes the time to explain to her friend what it ‘feels’ like to live with a chronic illness. She further articulates that, “…the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to…a gift most people take for granted”. Even though her friend logically understood the physical symptoms of lupus, she was unable to grasp the daily impact of lupus on Christine’s life. Thus Spoon Theory was born,  

“[t]he spoon theory is a disability metaphor used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. Spoons are an intangible unit of measurement used to track how much energy a person has throughout a given day. Each activity requires a given number of spoons, which will only be replaced as the person “recharges” through rest. A person who runs out of spoons has no choice but to rest until their spoons are replenished”. (Spoon Theory_Wikipedia). 

I think this is a concise definition, however I’d like to explain ‘spoons’ in the context of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and how it relates to me.

spoon-theory

Spoon Theory as explained by Christina Miserandino

My last blog post was titled, Know your limit. Play within it. and I am beginning to really understand the interaction between knowing my limits (# of spoons/day) and actually playing within them (rationing my spoons to last a full day). The latter is something that I struggle with daily, especially since ASD is an invisible disability and I can usurp the ‘system’ and pretend like I’m NT; this nevertheless results in costing me more spoons and I’ve had to learn some very hard lessons along the way. Each day I ‘receive’ (not literally) a finite number of spoons and the quantity and quality of the spoons varies greatly. I can greatly empathize and identify with Cynthia Kim from Musings of an Aspie, when she explains what’s in her “spoon drawer” and how it affects her daily life.

my-spoons

Cynthia Kim’s Spoon Drawer

In my life, I must count the cost of work, social, home, and family obligations by prioritizing what ‘needs’ to get done that day, then I move on to evaluate if I have any leftover spoons. Since I’ve started teaching, the number of spoons I use up daily has increased, as a larger proportion of spoons are used up for work and the number of remaining spoons has significantly decreased. There are moments where I’ve not counted the cost of spoons needed for my day and have ‘run out’; unfortunately this has resulted in either a meltdown or a shutdown from being too overstimulated (see ‘High Functioning’ Autism: Social Energy & Overstimulation for more details). I am getting smarter at using strategies to help me manage my day well, for example, I use alarms on my phone throughout the day at work to prompt me of things that need to happen (starting/ending class on time, yard duty, meetings, planning etc.). These alarms help reduce the quantity of “Executive Function Spoons” needed for each day, as it frees up other spoons that serve as ‘buffer’ spoons (spoons that I don’t want to use unless it is an emergency). My goal for 2017 is to better refine my skills at being able to identify the cost of certain activities; it won’t be perfect, not do I expect it to be and it will be a challenge to stay within my limits because that sometimes means missing out on fun things (and who doesn’t want to have fun?). The reality is that some activities simply cost me too much and unfortunately, I end up paying for it that same day and/or the following day. This past year, I’ve definitely grown in my understanding of my limits and how disrespecting them is detrimental to my mental health. I hope to focus on respecting my limits so I can stay comfortably within them.

Cynthia makes some excellent points by reminding her readers that:

“One strategy that I think sometimes autistic people forget exists is borrowing someone else’s spoons by asking for help.”

As much as I strive to be independent, there’s no denying that life is easier (and more fun) by being part of a community. This community could be composed of family, friends, mentors, or counsellors and each fulfilling a different role, with varying degrees of intensity . The point is that, we all need help from time to time, and it is comforting to know that there are people out there that care and that it is okay to ask for help.

spoontheory2

Letting go of the fantasy that I can do everything I want all the time has been the hardest to accept. Cognitively I understand my limits, however having the strength of character to make wise choices for my daily life is what’s most important. It is okay to let go of things and in fact, your life will be better off because of it. Cynthia Kim is a woman with ASD (or Asperger’s, just like me) and so I’ll close with her words, as I think she explains it best:

“And finally, the hard one: let go. Sometimes, no matter how elaborately I structure, change, accommodate, plan and think about conserving my spoons, I’m forced to admit that something important will still have to go. This is really tough to face.”

keep-calm-and-save-spoons

Reflections on OCD

For the majority of my life, I struggled with odd sensations and compulsions, but only three years ago, did I really acknowledge that I had OCD.  Sure, it ran in the family, and what I was experiencing couldn’t have been normal.  And yes, I also suffered from more common symptoms, like feeling the need to have things feel even.  But my primary obsessions, which I still struggle with today to a reduced extent, were unlike anything I had ever heard or read about in the mental illness community.  I suffer from a unique manifestation of OCD called sensorimotor, or hyper-awareness OCD, which involves awareness of bodily processes.  I will not go into great detail, but essentially, I have fears attached to the feelings and frequency of my swallowing, blinking, etc.

Most people can’t tell that I have OCD, because I come across as confident and at ease for the most part.  Therefore, they wouldn’t imagine that this was the type of issue I deal with on a constant basis.  So why did I bring my disability up, to receive pity?  Not primarily, because I have already found strategies for dealing with it which have helped.  Rather, my reason for writing this post is to encourage patience and empathy, as at first glance you never know what an individual may be going through.  Even within the mental illness community, we often associate certain afflictions with behavioral expectations, and base our analysis of its severity off of those interpretations.  Instead, we should use a more constructive approach to recognize every case individually in working toward recovery.

Despite the pain OCD has caused in my life, it has been beneficial in at least one way: it put a chip on my shoulder.  I have been blessed in most areas of life, and if it weren’t for my mental illness, it would be easy to become complacent.  Because of it, however, I have learned not to take the good things in my life for granted.  Moreover, it has motivated me to work harder to compensate for my disability.  As I make efforts to eliminate OCD, I will become more grateful and hardworking than I would have been, giving me a greater capacity to get more out of life.