On Medication and Mental Health III

Life has a funny way of coming full circle. I suppose I needed some closure, some sort of sign that I made the right decision with my mental health, and life sorted that out for me.

Hey all. Sorry for the delay.

In the last few posts, we looked at medication for mental health – from the various kinds to reasons why some people choose to (or not to) start a treatment plan involving medication. In this post, I’ll get into why I personally decided to give medication a try.

Now for the heavy shit.

Just about a few weeks shy of four years ago, I was driving home from a night out that involved a work Christmas party, as well as a few bars in Hamilton, ON. I had had more than a few drinks at the party, but stopped drinking several hours before a friend and I left to go out to the bars. I barely drank there (maybe a Heineken or two), and after another few hours, left the area to go home after dropping my friend off at his house.

Before we get into the rest of what happened that night, let’s preface it by summarizing my last few months leading up to it.

To start, I had gone through a rough (but amicable) breakup, and while we did talk often enough I was still struggling with the fact that she had moved more than half a world away. I had just begun to really get back on my feet again emotionally, but regardless of the reasons – losing any kind of support system is a bitch.

The romantic part aside, I was having a rough time with my life in the professional sense. Unsure of what I really wanted to do (or even if I wanted to stay where I was working), coming into the office everyday was a struggle. Once I would get there, however, there was enough work to keep the mind busy – at least until the end of the work day. To top things off – I was still adjusting to a move from the city to suburban living, and had to keep adjusting in the middle of the coldest winter I could remember. It was the first year that I really started believing that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real thing.

Now back to the night that would change my life, thankfully for the better.

Overnight, the weather had become incredibly colder and even icier. As I’m driving home, my thoughts are racing. What could I have done better in my failed relationship? How do I feel more fulfilled at my job? Do I even like it there, or am I only really actively going because I know it’s a distraction? These and what felt like millions of other thoughts shoot through my mind to the point where I don’t notice that the lane I am in is rapidly ending, and I need to switch over to the left-most lane to get on the highway.

I must have hit a patch of black ice, because my car just won’t slow down. I pump the brakes rapidly, but no luck – my car is sliding sideways towards the ditch between the on-ramp and the highway. A sign on the side of the road (one of those directional arrows that line the ramps) crashes into and through my driver-side window and nearly ends up in my lap after missing my face. My car careens off of the on-ramp, and ends up sideways in the ditch.

I have to escape out of my mangled vehicle through my passenger door, crawling through snow, ice, blood (from superficial cuts, thankfully), metal, and glass. I make it to the top of the on-ramp, where eventually a police officer shows up and helps me into his car and out of the cold. I admit to having a few drinks earlier, and blow and pass a breathalyzer (I still get a ticket for driving with alcohol in my system – didn’t have a full license at the time). Sitting in the back of a police car, regardless of why you’re there, is a sobering and humbling experience. Given what I had already went through though, I was just happy to be alive and warm.

I still had to get home, though. I ended up having to tow my car back – where overnight a branch from an iced-over tree fell through some power lines and cut power to my side of the neighborhood. No power meant no elevator, so that meant at least eleven flights of stairs just to get to my freezing apartment. I quickly change and jump under a blanket, still a bit shaken and absolutely done with that night.

At this point, I was already seeing a counselor every few weeks or so to try and get help with my mental illness. After these events, though, I decided I needed (scratch that, I owed it to myself) to give myself more of a fighting chance. Cue the medication, which I spoke to my family doctor about and have been on since.

Flash-forward to just over four years later, I’m driving back from Hamilton. Same sort of on-ramp (no booze this time, though – I’m still watching my intake very mindfully), same shitty weather. This time, the thoughts are different. I’m content and hopeful. I am excited to finally fly out and head back to The Bahamas for a few weeks to see my parents and friends I don’t regularly get to see. Same slippery black ice too, unfortunately.

I hit this patch at a much slower speed, but still couldn’t get my car under control enough to slow down and avoid a collision. This time, however, I don’t end up in a ditch. I hit a guard rail, break a fender and bend a rim just enough to where driving it home wouldn’t be safe. Not so bad, all things considered.

I end up having to tow my car off of the highway and back home again, but this time it’s to a house I own. There’s no power outage this time. I sort out the payment details with the tow-truck driver, step into my warm townhouse, take off my shoes, walk up one flight of stairs to my master bedroom, and fall into my comfortable bed.

Life has a funny way of coming full circle. I suppose I needed some closure, some sort of sign that I made the right decision with my mental health, and life sorted that out for me.

I hope if you’re reading this and are struggling, that you’ll make my advice and try and take care of your mental health. It’s always worth it.

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10 Things I (Sometimes) Hate About Me

I couldn’t stick to just ten, so here’s a bunch of random things about me. Maybe you can relate.

I initially had a longer and more emotional post lined up for this week, but I’ve been having a rougher-than-usual last few days (even by my standards). That being said, I decided to post something with a bit of a lighter mood.

I couldn’t stick to just ten, so here’s a bunch of random things about me. Maybe you can relate. I may make a “Part 2” sometime. Maybe.

  • Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with small talk. Like…do you actually want to know about my day? Because I accidentally spread a mask on my toothbrush this morning instead of toothpaste…Clarins tastes like shit.
  • Are we still talking or can I, you know, just walk away now. No? OK cool I’ll just stand here. Wait, was I supposed to say “You too!” or just “Thank you.”? Fuck!
  • I really love dogs and every one I ever dog-sit becomes my child. Sorry my son peed on your hydrangeas Kathy.giphy[1]
  • Being a neat freak and caring for animals is an interesting mix. I love dog sitting but do not love cleaning enough hair out of my vacuum to stuff a decorative pillow. Wait, do people do that? *Googles ‘can I stuff a pillow with my dog’s hair’*
  • I used to be a morning person. Then I became a night person. Some days it’s debatable if I’m even a person at all and I need a coffee IV to function like a human being.
  • One of my fears in life is not having a future or making a terrible decision and ending up alone and homeless and never being able to make beautiful, emotionally-and-financially-supported mixed babies.
  • Sometimes the most anxious moment of my week doesn’t have anything to do with my future, but ma’am you are ringing in that guy’s groceries way too fast and I can’t pack mine fast enough aaaahhhhh…
  • Ma’am I really do have two dimes just give me a second *shuffles in pocket* – NO it’s not OK I have it I really do just give a second *awkwardly places condoms on counter* – What? Yes I have an optimum card.
  • I’m usually very good at eating healthy, but sometimes I have a setback emotionally, can’t be bothered, binge eat, and immediately hate myself. #OxfordComma
  • I quit drinking for 4 months earlier this year. I lost a bunch of weight and it really helped the pockets. Since then, I don’t drink heavily or regularly…but will have a beer or a rum here and there.
  • After an eight-month layoff due to various personal ills, I finally made it back to the gym last week. Now I just have to make it back.
  • As of late, most of my depressive days have been manageable. Some days though, I just want to go home and hop into bed for an eternity. Sometimes, instead of bed, I make a blanket fort in my kitchen by draping a duvet over the bar and hiding under it.
  • Managing my medication and activity have been pretty good as well. Some days though, I forget and I’m just a mess the next day…which is a struggle. The recently-increased dosage isn’t helping the cause either, I’m sure.
  • Sometimes I leave my mom’s voicemail messages on my phone longer than usual…just in case I ever need someone to tell me I’m handsome.
  • Sometimes I use my sister’s Instagram account to check up on people I no longer am in contact with. Not because I’m stuck in the past or am holding onto something I shouldn’t…sometimes I care more than I probably should and am always back and forth on how I feel about that.
  • Most of my closer friends are a significant distance (e.g. a plane ride) away and sometimes it sucks (Hi Hanna). 
  • I think it’s cool that more and more people are opening up about mental illness, especially men. I hope this trend continues.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into my life, and the blog as a whole so far if you’ve been following.

Until next time,

xoxo (my love is very special),

Phil

 

Why I Took a Break from Social Media (Or Blocked You, Or Whatever…Sorry)

I’m not suggesting everyone should boycott social media. I am, however, suggesting that everyone could benefit from some time away. I know I did.

On or around March 30, 2017 I took an extended break from Facebook and various other social media outlets. After a short-winded post about me needing a leave of absence, I deleted my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter apps, and stopped posting to Snapchat. I had always toyed with the idea of taking a break, going offline for a while, and reconnecting with people, places, and activities that were important to me and my goals…but the circumstances I found myself in leading up to that day forced me over the edge (no pun intended).

Let’s be frank. I wasn’t in a good place. I was anxious and moody on good days, broken on the not-so-good days…and on the worse days, forgetting my medication (or taking too much) and drinking way more than I should have been. If depression, anxiety, and other darker things were all wrapped up in some sort of explosive package…the bomb had dropped, and I was at ground zero. It was my deepest, darkest depressive episode yet (I’ll save more on this for another time), and social media wasn’t helping.

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My Facebook post.

You see the thing about social media that hits home the most, especially for someone that’s struggling, is that no one ever really posts the bad stuff. The poster’s world – from someone looking in – is perfect, happy, and free from whatever might be ailing the other person in front of the screen. This “grass is greener” concept is especially harmful for users already experiencing depression and other forms of mental illness, and I was no different. I became tired of the happy couples posting engagement photos (congrats, though), expectant mothers posting pregnancy announcements (congrats again), and posts from friends and others at events I either wasn’t invited to or couldn’t gather enough energy and motivation to attend.  I ended up stuck in a debilitating cycle of comparing myself to others, beating myself down for not being in places I wanted to be, and struggling with a near-constant fear of missing out (FOMO). These things, combined with the daily battle with depression, were just too much for me to handle…and I opted outº.

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Bye social media!

Leaving social media – albeit difficult to do – was almost immediately relieving. With every press of those little X’s as I deleted apps, I felt more and more pressure lifted off of me. I didn’t have to check in anywhere, keep up-to-date on any news feeds, or browse any timelines. Better yet, I wasn’t bombarded by images of friends that never ever seemed to have problems, wasn’t tempted to lurk around other people’s pages (especially exes or mutual friends of exes), and was free to continue to focus on issues that were present in my actual, offline life. Not only that, but as time went on (I spent just over two months away), I began to experience other benefits that helped me deal with these issues. My sleep was better (probably because I wasn’t up at odd hours scrolling through my phone). My relationships with friends and family got better, as I had more time to spend working on communication and spent less time on the phone or tablet glued to an app. I had effectively put all my “online-only”, half-assed, and superficial relationships on hold and invested more time and energy into real, meaningful ones. I became way more productive at work. Better still, I put myself on a path for having a better quality of life by giving myself time to spend working on myself.

Eventually, I returned to social media – but with a different mindset. Now I try to remember that not everyone is perfect, and while the images and content people post may suggest otherwise, everyone has their ups and downs. While I still struggle with issues I’ve already mentioned, it’s getting easier and easier to pull back and focus on myself. I know I may have to leave again or make some other changes (sorry for blocking or unfollowing you), and I hope this post helps myself and others understand why it’s needed.

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone should boycott social media and go on a deleting spree. I am, however, suggesting that everyone could benefit from some time away. I know I did.

 

º Side note. Just wanted to shout out everyone that took the time to reach out back then and now. I hope everyone could take the time out to check on people they care about, especially your friends that seem like they have everything going for them. More often than not, your “strong” friend is the one hurting the most.

Until next time,

Phil xo

Why I’m Afraid Of Ghosts

So, in my growing list of fears, you won’t find actual ghosts or zombies or vampires.

I am deathly afraid of ghosts.

Not the paranormal kind, mind you (in fact, I enjoy a good horror movie). I’m talking about something – in my mind – a little more sinister.

I’ll give you a quick scenario. You just met someone, maybe at a bar or a restaurant or on the bus and you exchange numbers. You text back and forth for a while, and things seem to be going smoothly. Then, all of a sudden, nothing…you’ve just been ghosted.

“Ghosting”, according to Urban Dictionary, is the act of suddenly and inexplicably ceasing all communication with someone.  No phone calls, no texts, no bone threw or hint given. It’s been described as horrible, selfish, and inconsiderate, and I am in agreement with all three. I hate that this word exists in any sort of dictionary, and I hate that it happens to even the best of us.

I’ve been ghosted more than a few times, and my experience with ghosting ranges from mild to utterly heartbreaking. Once, I was texting back and forth over a few days with someone I met in a bar the month before. One day the texting stopped with no explanation. Bummer. Whatever, move on right?

On another occasion, I had already gone on a few dates with my ghoster. Things seemed to be progressing well, dinner was great, and so was the conversation. We planned another meet-up, and were texting up until an hour or so before I was to pick her up. Then the texts stopped. Cool, maybe she’s just getting ready right? “I’ll meet you at Kelsey’s,” I texted before I left the house. If you guessed that this anecdote ends with me eating dinner and tossing back rum and cokes alone in a dimly-lit restaurant, you’re right. I never heard from her again. The food was good, though.

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Actual text.

This next time resulted in the most depressive episode I’ve experienced to date, and it took me a long time to be able to even write about it. I had been seeing this person for months, and was on top of the world emotionally. I was feeling confident that hey…maybe I’ve got this whole life thing figured out.  While we lived a bit of a distance apart, we made efforts to see each other regularly. We had done the whole “hey let’s post about each other on social media” thing, had a collection of mutual friends, and were even planning to move in together. Needless to say, I was riding high.

One day, things stopped. I didn’t get a “hey babe I’m on my way to work” text, no “Good morning boo thang” snap, no phone call on her drive home. No response to my texts either…strange. Monday night would go by, then Tuesday, then Wednesday – the first night I got any decent amount of sleep (shout out to melatonin). I woke up Thursday and everything from social media was slowly disappearing. I was watching myself be erased from someone’s life, one post, one memory at a time. Eventually, there was nothing left. No photos, nothing.  The worst part was that it wasn’t like they ceased to exist as a person: the Snapchat stories, Instagram selfies, Facebook status updates all continued.

Did I dream that all of this had happened? Surely this must not have been real. I was crushed, and would spend the next several months trying to pick myself back up again (a story for another time). If not for a few good friends and some good old-fashioned therapy (I owe you Carolina) mixed with 10 mg of Lexapro daily, I may not have been around at the time of this writing.

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Thanks, Twist.

See…the problem with ghosting for me isn’t always the act itself, but rather the emotional fallout from being ghosted.  I’m not here to demonize people who ghost, but whatever someone’s reasons are for cutting someone else off completely…it’s disrespectful, cruel, and a huge blow to my self-esteem. It can take a huge emotional toll on your best days, and is devastating at it’s worst. I’m not saying I’m a perfect person (I’ve ended relationships in less-than-ideal ways myself – but always openly and honestly), or the perfect lover or friend, I’m saying I deserve better. We deserve better.

I read somewhere once that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference. So, in my growing list of fears, you won’t find actual ghosts or zombies or vampires. You’ll find rejection, indifference, and the thought that I could potentially go from meaning everything to someone to meaning nothing at all.