I’ve been off antidepressants for nearly a month now. And its been kind of a wild ride. I first went on about a year ago after my anxiety debilitated me to the point that I constantly thought I was having a heart attack and I couldn’t sleep every night for fear that I was going to die in my sleep. Despite a chest x-ray and an EKG, I visited the doctor’s office or the health center at least once a week with a different ailment in my head. I finally succumbed to medication, and it really made a difference.
Of course there were the side effects. I was numb, emotionless, I couldn’t concentrate. When I wasn’t in class or even if I was, I was asleep. But I stopped constantly believing I was on the edge of death, and honestly, it was worth it. My anxiety vanished.
The only problem was that I simply didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about my grades which I had previously lived for, I didn’t care about what I did with my body. And I became really impulsive. This continued until I nearly failed all of my midterms, and I saw that something had to change. At this point, I lowered my dosage slightly and more or less coasted to where I am now, not in a particularly successful way, but at least I made it.
I finally decided I needed to stop. I was sick of wasting my life sleeping all the time and honestly, I hated being dependent on medication and I was willing to do whatever it took to stop. I was worried that I would spiral into a depression, that my anxiety would again debilitate me, but I wanted to have control again.
So here’s what happened: I spent a few weeks more depressed than I have ever been. I considered cutting again and I spent more time crying than not. My anxiety came back too, slowly but surely, and I had one of my worst panic attacks ever. But I started caring again. I found myself truly smiling and being genuinely happy for the first time in months. My foggy thoughts disappeared and I was able to think clearly and logically. And lately, I’ve found myself experiencing really deep emotions, the gut wrenching tearing up in a good way kind. And caring. Really and truly caring. My anxiety continues and every day I still have moments when I’m certain that I’m about to have a heart attack or my eardrum’s about to burst (which is a whole nother issue), but its no longer constant, and I’ve been able to talk myself through the situation.
It’s taken a really long time to get here, but I’m finally starting to feel like me again. Not just a shell walking through life, but a person that really and truly cares. I’ll always be a work in progress and I know that with all that’s going on in my life I may still face some very large obstacles in my near future. But here, right now, in this moment, I’m satisfied. And that’s what matters.
This is my experience and it is in no way universal, but have hope. Sometimes, its all you can count on.
I don’t usually write about politics, but after working my first week on Capitol Hill, there are a few issues that have really gotten to me that I really just have to vent about. Today I attended a briefing on the crisis at the U.S. Mexico Border regarding the increasing numbers of adolescent crossings across the border. Statistically, there have been 47,000 crossings over the past year, a 92% increase since FY2013, originating primarily from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. I don’t want to alienate people on either side of the political discussion, but I do need to express my thoughts on why and how we can treat this issue with a little more humanity.
I think when an issue such as immigration becomes so overblown by statistics and the media, it ultimately becomes politicized to the point that people become entranced by what they hear from the news and lose perspective on what something such as “mass deportation” means. It has come to the point that kids are defined as a security threat and no longer acknowledged as human beings. In another life, they could just as easily have been you or me. And the fact is, when they choose to migrate to the U.S., they understand the risks, the likelihood of limb amputation, rape, trafficking, probably never seeing their mom or dad ever again. They choose to risk the journey because its still better than what they currently face. Rates of violence that are 160-180% greater than those of the U.S., possibly getting shot on the way to school. In numerous areas, fear of the police is just as great as fear of the gangs. These children aren’t crossing so they can pursue the “American Dream”, they’re just trying to find a safe place to live.
I understand and acknowledge the argument that there is poverty and violence in the U.S. as well, that we don’t have the money or time to deal with those that aren’t even citizens of this country. But who says we can’t deal with both simultaneously. Why can’t we treat all humans humanely? Is it really fair to say that it is more okay for 42,000 children (and probably more) to live every day in fear simply because they aren’t a citizen of a particular country?
The fact is that deportations and border security cost this country a significant amount. And based on what these children are willing to sacrifice to make it to the U.S., it seems as if these actions wouldn’t really be much of a deterrent to them. Why not consider spending money on a policy that would benefit all citizens? NAFTA and CAFTA had devastating effects on the countries where they were implemented. They actually spurred much of the mass migration because of their economic consequences. Yet, no one seems to addressing these issues. It just seems to me that instead of shutting out suffering children and pretending we don’t see them, we could implement policies and agreements that benefit their home countries so that they don’t have to choose between a higher life expectancy and being able to grow up with their mom and dad.
I don’t think I could endure in a lifetime what these kids go through at such a young age, and it really breaks my heart that they have no choice but to suffer. We’re all human so why can’t we treat each other with a little bit of humanity?
When hurt and pain approach us, our first instinct is to avoid it, to shove it somewhere deep and hidden where it can’t bother us. No one wants to feel these negative emotions, but they are such an important part of the experience of living.
I believe that those who experience the strongest emotions lead the fullest lives. Consider Van Gogh, Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, who accomplished so much not in spite of, but because of the pain that they experienced. I’m not saying that I envy that lifestyle nor that one ought to lead a life of negativity; however, there is a reason that emotions like these exist. Painful emotions help us explore parts of ourselves and to feel things more deeply than ever before. And when it is all over, we can experience and appreciate our positive emotions with the same ferocity.
One of my favorite articulations of this idea stems from a scene in Louie, a slightly dark comedy through which I have actually learned some fairly deep life lessons. After Louis’ love interest moves away, he is in a world of pain. His insightful neighbor remarks: “This is the good part. This is what you’ve been digging for this entire time. The bad part is when you don’t care about her. When you don’t care about anything. The bad part is coming so enjoy the heartbreak while you can.”
Don’t be afraid to embrace the pain. Don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t strong enough to block it out. Love yourself because you’re strong enough to take it in.
So today I spent 12 hours at orientation for my new internship that starts Monday. By 3:00, my anxiety started to creep, by the time I got off the metro, my head was about to explode. I took a shower and passed out and when I woke up, the thoughts started to creep.
Last week I was trying on my pants from last summer to see if they still fit. They didn’t. Today, after I woke up, I saw myself in the mirror and I burst out crying. I saw the fat and the eczema and the ugly. Just so much ugly. I was physically repulsed by myself.
And then the thoughts came back. Thoughts that I thought I had pushed away… because I was stronger than that. Thoughts that maybe just one cut would make me feel better. That no one could ever want to be with someone as ugly as me. That maybe the world would be better off without me. That no one would be miss me anyway.
And then guilt. Because I didn’t value my life the way I should. And because of how much my family needs me right now. Really really needs me. And here I couldn’t even get over myself. My thoughts spiraled and I honestly didn’t know how to get out.
I’m on Netflix now. Nothing like a little Orange is the New Black to distract me from my thoughts. But I’m scared. I’m scared about making it through the summer alone. Because lately I have not been kind to myself and my thoughts have only gotten scarier.
1. Find a way to stop my thoughts from spiraling when they seem out of control.
2. Stop caring what other people think. They’re only one of billions.
3. Learn to affirm myself.
It’s okay to wander off the path once in a while, as long as you eventually find your way back.
When I’m sad, I try to remember all the awesome experiences that still lie ahead of me. They might not last very long, they might just be one fleeting moment, but I take comfort in the fact that they are there, waiting for me to stumble on that moment. They are little presents waiting to be unwrapped. And I become the child waiting anxiously for Christmas Day.