My favourite fixes for anxiety

So…I guess I’m back!  Guess who’s back…back again…guess who’s back, guess who’s back…

Nah but for real, this whole ‘fave anxiety fixes EVA’ blog post thing has been a little too long in the making.  Like, I’ve been having so many ideas for what I want to include in this for months now, but I just couldn’t stop myself from thinking, Hmm…but will people really care?  Will it truly be helpful?  And honestly, the main reason I’ve been having these thoughts is because of the fact that, well, anxiety is different for everyone.  To anxious people this is something which seems extremely trivial, yet I still come into contact with many people who don’t seem to really understand; anxiety is not one, continuous disorder.  Each person’s experience is different, and symptoms vary based on whatever the individual’s brain (or body) decides to latch onto at the time, the situation they find themselves in, outside circumstances, whether or not they’ve had their cup of coffee yet (jk that’s me), etc.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to really observe my anxiety and see the stages and cycles it goes through.  It’s day to day, and, apart from acceptance and self-love, there’s not much I can do to stop its shifting nature.  While this fucking sucks, it’s also precisely what’s kind of interesting about the worries knocking around this little noggin of mine; I like to picture them sort of like balls of Play-Doh; all able to take on their own shapes and influences, how and whenever they want to, for however long they want to.  When they, however, decide they’re sick of whatever form they’re in, or they bump into another worry which exasperates them, or for no apparent goddamn reason at all, they change.  This cute little process is a catch-22 for me because when a worry seems to dissipate there is, of course, an undeniable sense of relief.  The catch though, is that, the Play-Doh-worry-ball never seems to truly go away, but rather takes on a new identity and starts a whole new cycle of worrying about something new.  It’s great.  I love it.  Cheers, thanks a lot, anxiety.

So yeah, because I’ve been imagining the fact that each anxious person on this planet has different Play-Doh balls rolling around their heads, changing at different times (or not changing), leaving (or coming in), causing someone severe pain (or not), yadda yadda yadda, I kind of have been like, shit, this blog post is a bit pointless.  There’s no one common fix for anxiety.  BUT, there’s a BUT here.  The BUT is that I’ve had these thoughts before when I’ve written a blog post but decided I didn’t give a shit and posted it anyways.  And when I’ve done that, I’ve received so many messages of love, support and most importantly, of people who could immensely relate to what I was talking about.  So I figure, out of the whole list of things I’m about to compose, hopefully at least one of them can help most people.  If not, sorry.  Thanks for reading anyway, you little star.  All of that nonsense being said (seriously, Play-Doh? What the fuck is that?), here it is (dramatic drum roll, please)….my personal favourite fixes for anxiety!

1. Meditation

Okay, okay, I KNOW, okay?  Meditation is something that’s pushed onto people with anxiety and depression a lot, and it can become a bit tiresome to hear about, especially if you feel that you don’t have enough time to do it, or feel ridiculous doing it because you’re young and feel like you shouldn’t have to sit in silence for half an hour a day just to be a little okay (like seriously, what?), or because you’re too damn anxious in the first place to sit still in silence for any given space of time.  I get it, because I’ve had all of these same thoughts.  But seriously, I promise you, if you’re willing to give it a proper shot, meditation can work wonders.  It’s scientifically proven that regular meditation reduces levels of stress and subsequent bodily responses, so there’s a reason that we’re told to do it so often.

It took me a while to really get into meditation, but it’s now part of my daily practice (most of the time).  I think the prospect of meditating can be a bit daunting because when you’re starting out, you feel like there’s only one correct way of doing it and that you’re doing it wrong.  Don’t think this!  Like anxiety, meditation is different for everyone and you don’t have to be a monk to reap the benefits.  It’s okay to have thoughts when you meditate, and furthermore, it’s normal.  Any time you sit in silence or with music and just breathe, your body is benefitting.  I think it’s definitely easier to start out with guided meditations and eventually move to meditating on your own, so I am going to put my favourite guided meditations below.  Please keep in mind some of them have spiritual aspects to them such as chakra balancing because this is part of my practice, but you don’t have to be spiritual to meditate, and there are tons of meditations simply for anxiety or other issues all over the internet.  I’ll also put some links to my favourite unguided meditation music, too.

Guided meditations: 

Beginners’ Meditation for Anxiety and Panic Attacks – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t51bOh1mjt0

Sleep Meditation for Releasing Subconscious Blockages – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VttsLIfV2pM

Chakra Healing and Balancing Meditation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEgLw6bTtxs

Guided Visual Imagery Meditation for Anxiety and Stress – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vO1wPAmiMQ

Unguided meditation music:

Binaural Beats for Happiness – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvEX3Aniyxo

Tibetan Meditation Music – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmPmq-HlG5g

Native American Flute Meditation Music – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST56ATKfgfs

2. Going For A Walk

I feel like this one sounds a bit silly, but for some reason, walking really helps alleviate anxiety for me.  Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll choose whether I want to set myself a destination or not.  Some days not knowing where I’m going stresses me out, while others I like to just wander with no particular goal in mind.  I couldn’t tell you exactly why walking helps, but for me, not having to do anything except focus on putting one foot in front of the other and listening to some music is calming.  Going for a long walk also seems to always remind me of how fortunate I am; that I have the ability to walk at all, that I can sense my surroundings, and that I can think for myself.  It sounds trivial, but having these thoughts nudge into your consciousness can help lighten at least some worries by reminding yourself that you actually are okay and things really aren’t as bad as your anxious mind makes them out to be.

Also, a side note – exercising in other ways helps me in the same way walking does, I just…well…I don’t do it as often, because I’m a lazy sloth.  But in my experience, high intensity workouts, particularly those which involve a lot of cardio, can help distract the mind and give a sense of grounding.  Sometimes the best fix for anxiety is just to flat out make yourself tired, because I find that my mind hits a point where, if my body is too tired, it will give me a bit of a breather from my anxiety.

3. Essential Oils

Okay yeah, I know, essential oils can sound a bit kooky.  Like meditation, oils weren’t something I could really get myself into just because it all just sounded a bit too much like bullshit.  Like, oh, if you put this magical extract of a plant on the soles of your feet, you’ll feel less anxious.  I found it a bit far-fetched and, to my mother’s dismay, never used the host of oils she gave me for almost a year.  Recently, however, I decided to actually give them a chance because I thought, at the end of the day even if they don’t actually work, they smell fucking GREAT.  I started by putting the oils on my pillow before going to sleep at night, and eventually started using them on my body too.  I’ve been using essential oils for a few months now, and I can honestly say I’m completely converted.  I genuinely feel less tense when I diffuse them or apply them to my neck so I can smell them throughout the day.  Is the whole putting them on your feet thing working for me, too?  I’m not sure I can really say.  But, it doesn’t hurt to do it just in case, right?  There are tons of different essential oils used for different things, especially for anxiety, but I’ll list below my favourites.

Vetiver – I’ve come to realise that it seems as though a lot of people actually don’t like Vetiver’s scent.  I, however, absolutely adore it and it’s my all-time favourite oil to use for anxiety.  I’m smelling it as I write now to try and describe it, but I’m really lost on this one.  It’s kind of…musky, I guess?  With a hint of sweetness?  Anyways, depending on how good of shit you can get your hands on, it can be pretty expensive so you have to treat it like gold dust, but a few drops on my pillow before bed goes a long way, and I also put it on my feet once a day because I believe in its power.  There have been studies done on rats given aromatherapy with Vetiver oil, and they’ve found it can significantly lower levels of stress.  Now I know I ain’t no rat, but come on now.  That’s pretty cool.

Frankincense – Frankincense smells AMAZING, and honestly, that’s why I use it.  It’s another oil which is highly recommended to help with symptoms of anxiety, particularly when used in aromatherapy.  I like to put Frankincense on my wrists and neck, as I find its scent very soothing and it’s nice to be able to have a little sniff at myself to calm down if things start going downhill for me mentally (think I’m crazy yet?).  Again, pretty hard on the wallet, but ugh.  So.  Good.

Lavender – This is probably the most widely known oil used for stress and anxiety.  I remember as a kid my mom having those weird little eye-cover things which had lavender inside to relax you.  It definitely has a lovely smell, and who doesn’t like to feel like they’re lying in a field of flowers?  I like to use this one mostly in my diffuser, which is essentially a fancy word for a little contraption which creates a mist from water and a few drops of essential oils and releases it into the room.  It’s nice to put some lavender in it when I get home after a long day and inhale its calming scent as I settle in for yet another night of procrastination and Netflix.

You can buy essential oils from many different places both online and in stores, and there are tons of different companies which manufacture them.  My favourite essential oils company, however, is doTerra.  doTerra is committed to producing only the highest quality of essential oils through careful and sustainable harvesting and distillation processes.  The company also gives a lot back to charity as well as the environment, and incidentally, I happen to sell their products!  So if you’re looking to get started with essential oils, drop me a line.  I can hook you up with some good shit.

4. Talking

At any given moment in time, I tend to have (in my opinion) way too many different thoughts and sensations running through my mind, and although I’m pretty capable of managing at this point, it can all get too overwhelming if my mood is spiralling.  When this happens, I find talking helps a lot.  This is, again something which probably sounds a bit silly or obvious, but if I’ve tried everything to feel better on a bad day to no avail, I know that talking to someone close to me will help, at least a little bit.

I’m quite an open person, so I generally don’t find it difficult to talk about my mental state or whatever fears I’m having as a result of my anxiety.  I’m very lucky in this, because it means that I can call my mom or my best friend and start wailing on about some irrational worry that will realistically never happen and eventually calm down. However, I understand that talking about emotions isn’t as easy for everyone, so I will tell you that I believe talking in any form can help alleviate anxiety symptoms.  If you’re feeling trapped in a really worrisome or low place but don’t necessarily feel like sharing how your feelings with someone, call them anyways and ask about their day.  I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve been so grateful for a friend to just have a seemingly normal conversation with me even though I’m having a bad day mentally.  Hearing someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or ideas helps remind me that despite all the chaos happening in my head, life goes on.  Other people are dealing with things too, and my worries are not actually the only thing happening within my sphere.  It’s nice to be able to connect with the people you love in these moments, if only to get yourself out of your head a little bit.

Now obviously I should include therapy or counselling in this section, and I am.  I think therapy is extremely beneficial in a lot of ways, and can help anyone, whether they suffer from a mental illness or not.  BUT, there’s another BUT here.  The BUT is, sadly, therapy is not accessible to everyone depending on circumstances, and is simply not an option to many.  I, however, believe that the core reason that therapy is beneficial at all is because you’re able to articulate exactly how you’re feeling in that moment verbally, rather than keeping everything contained in your internal dialogue.  So, if you’re not able to have therapy, I will tell you, please just try and speak.  Speak to anyone.  Speak to a friend. Speak to a colleague.  Speak to your mom.  Speak to the smelly guy next to you on the bus.  Speak, because speaking helps.

5. Affirmations and Self-Love

I know you just read that heading and rolled your eyes, but for real, stop and listen up.  It took me a long time to learn and I’m still getting there, but making an effort to have a positive dialogue with yourself is critical when it comes to mental health.  I used to think that simply saying things to myself would never help make me feel better, but the truth is, if you start affirming positive statements to yourself every single day, even if they don’t feel true at first, you’ll eventually start to believe them.  This doesn’t have to be some complicated, dramatic process.  It can be as simple as listening to 5-minute long YouTube video which has you repeat affirmations (I’ll put the link to that below).

Daily Positive Affirmations – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAPxkHh73Lg

If you’re willing to delve a bit deeper, however, my personal favourite method of self-love is to write myself a letter which details my positive attributes and reiterates that I am okay.  Many of my anxieties stem from fear of not being able to handle a situation, so it’s important for me to remind myself that I’ve overcome every single obstacle that’s ever been put in my way, I’m still here today, and that I will continue on and handle whatever else I am dealt (and also that deep fried cheese is a thing so I really will be okay).  I like to write these letters and them read them out loud.  That way, you have your affirmations in writing and can use that same letter everyday before starting your day.  Here’s an example of one I wrote which I try to read to myself every morning:

I can get past anything.  I have so much power quelled up inside me that I’m not even necessarily aware of.  I can overcome any situation.  Most of my fears will never even happen, but it is important that I know and understand that even if they do, I am strong enough to handle them.  Whatever illness, rejection, or failure comes my way, I can deal with and overcome it.  I always have, and I always will.  I love myself completely and I will be okay no matter what.  I always end up on my feet.  I know myself and trust myself and understand how to make ME happy.  I express gratitude and love to myself for this fact, because it puts ME in complete control of my life and destiny.  And what is important is that I choose happiness and positivity.  I do not invest in energy or emotions which bring negativity to my being in any way.  I only invest in positive thoughts, emotions, and experiences and I am a beacon of positivity.  I accept my physical body, mind, and spirit exactly as it is in this moment and I give it my love.  I am perfect.  I am okay.  I will be okay.  I love myself.

If you’re able to write something like this to yourself and read it every morning, I can assure you you will notice a change.  Besides this, for God’s sake, tell yourself ‘I love you’. We spend so much time saying this to other people and never say it to ourselves, but it’s crucial that we do.  Remind yourself of how great you are and how much love and compassion you have for yourself.  You deserve to be reminded of it.

So…BOOM.  That’s it!  My favourite fixes for anxiety.  I only did five, because this blog post started feeling like it was getting as long as the fifth Harry Potter book, and we all have some other stuff to do today.  There are loads of other things I do to take care of my mental health, so maybe I’ll do a part 2 of this post.  Again, I don’t know how helpful any of the things on my list will be to people because we’re all different, but regardless, I really appreciate you taking the time to read.  If you’ve made it this far and are still reading, kudos and thank you, because I probably would have closed the tab by now. Whoever you are, I hope you have a fantastic day and I send you lots of love; from one Play-Doh filled mind to another.

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A year post-breakdown: on mental illness, pills, and the occasional moment of normality

As I think the majority of my friends and family know, about a year and a half ago I had a sort of mental…’breakdown’.  And, as much as I hate to call it that due to stigma and ignorance, I feel I have to to honour my integrity.  Because a ‘breakdown’ is exactly what it felt like; like each and every centimetre of the coils of both hemispheres of my stubborn, miscalculated, fucked up brain were in some sort of state of deterioration, and that because of that, my whole body was following suit.  What I’m about to say I’ve heard countless other anxious people say, and it’s because it’s the God’s honest truth.  I thought I was dying.  My symptoms were so physical and severe in nature that I was determined that I had a brain tumour, cancer, or both.  That even if this wasn’t true, I was a schizophrenic.  Or, maybe, still yet, I had some sort of degenerative disease which was causing my body to shut down.  Listen, I’m not a doctor; I had no fucking clue.  All I knew was, I was dying, and I had come to the point where I had accepted it.  And soon thereafter, I began to welcome it.  So be it, I’d rave to myself deliriously.  I’m obviously not meant to live, anyway.  This is what the universe wants.   Allow me to mention here that throughout that time, I never once thought the universe was being sadistic or cruel or that it had ‘got the wrong guy’ or something.  No, I just truly believed, with every fibre of my being, that I was meant to die young, for some godforsaken reason that I would perhaps never come to realise.  And the worst part about the whole thing was, to me, that was okay.

The ‘breakdown’ happened on a sunny Saturday morning in early February.  To this day I’m capable of vividly recalling waking up, glancing to the window where I could see the sun’s rays attempting to penetrate the shade pulled over the double glazed glass.  A friend of mine had stayed over the night before, and we were meant to be going for a hike that day.  I felt…disgusting; mentally and physically drained, incomparably sad and helpless…lifeless.  But that was normal to me by then.  I was accustomed to crying, on average, about three times a day.  I didn’t understand it at the time and still don’t, but I would suddenly be bowled over by overwhelming waves of pure despair that, previously, I could not have even imagined.  I would suddenly be physically unable to control the tears springing to my exhausted eyes or the shallow breaths just barely escaping my despairing lungs.  I couldn’t stop the pain, but it sure as hell could stop me.  I excused myself to the bathroom fairly often to cry back then.

I didn’t go on the hike that day.  In fact, I didn’t leave my bed much for the next three days, save for when my friend would chirp at me, Jack, you need to get out of the house.  You need fresh air.  For God’s sake, please just get out bed.  Ten minutes.  He would physically force my body out of the house to go on those walks…and although they really only were ten minutes, and just around the block, I’m forever grateful for them.  I’m still sane enough to walk, I’d think to myself.  My legs still work.  I didn’t eat for 48 hours; other close friends were notified of my state and would come to my house, padding gingerly into my room, gently announcing their love, support, as well as the food they had brought me.  I still don’t know why I didn’t want to eat.  I still don’t know why I couldn’t get out of bed.  There’s a lot I still don’t understand about the space I was in at that time, but what’s of importance is the fact that, eventually, I got out of it.

Upon flying home, diagnosis, showers of kisses from my mother, therapy, painstaking explanations to my father, and the receipt of a cute little card with the Outagamie County Suicide Hotline number on it (yes, it’s still in my wallet), I was reluctant to begin medication.  I shouldn’t need pills to be normal.  Normal people don’t need help to be happy.  I can do this.  But the truth of the matter was, I couldn’t do it.  Not at the time.  Although I never fully planned a suicide, it was something I thought about a lot.  How easy it could be.  How fucking ridiculous life is, how there was no point, and that I’d rather be dead.  I was lucky in the fact that my anxiety was more severe than my depression, so funnily enough I was too scared to fully want to end it, but there were many times that trip home that I pulled the Suicide Hotline card from my wallet and turned it over in my fingers, tracing the numbers considerably.  It’s a long phone number.  Someone who’s suicidal won’t want to call this shit.  Who would have the patience to dial every single number, wait for a connection, and listen to the rings from the other end as they waited to tell someone that they wanted to go straight through at a T intersection and smash into the pines next to the curb?  I knew then that I needed the pills.  I no longer had control over the irrationality my brain spewed every waking second of the day.

My doctor started me on a 10mg dosage of an antidepressant called Lexapro, a relatively ‘new’ drug on the market, taken daily by patients to treat anxiety and depression.  She gleamed at me as she promised that they were of ‘no street value’ and ‘not addictive’.  Whoop fucking whoop.  She also prescribed me something called Hydroxyzine, which is, in low doses, an antihistamine, and high doses a sleeping aid.  In moderate doses it is used to treat anxiety and panic attacks quickly.  If you start to feel anxious or sad and can’t handle it, just pop one of these, my doctor said.  It’ll calm you down in about 15 minutes.  Oh, but best not to drive or drink alcohol when on it.  God,  I thought, what the fuck am I about to begin putting in my body?  I was told the Escitalopram (the generic name of Lexapro) would take about four to six weeks to begin to work, which I thought was a fucking joke.  When you’re at your absolute wit’s end, physically can’t do anything, and are then told that finally, something will make you feel better, you get excited.  You get more excited than you’ve felt in ages.  And then suddenly, it’s dissipated in a moment; like a shriek in a soundproof room, because you find out that it will take time.  It’ll take weeks to feel anything close to ‘normal’ again.  Just hang in there, my doctor purred at me.  It’ll kick in soon enough.  Right.

While I waited for the Escitalopram to take effect, I experimented with the Hydroxyzine.  To my disappointment and mild horror, all it did was cause a weighted haze to settle around my mind and make me feel slow and lethargic.  Perhaps I didn’t feel anxious, but that’s because I didn’t feel much of anything at all when I took it; it was a still numbness that made you slip from your head yet keep you just aware enough you could speak.   It was no wonder I was told not to drive on it; almost every time I would take even half a 25mg pill I’d be asleep within half an hour.  I loathed its effects on me.

During this time, I was attending intensive therapy sessions in which a middle-aged, educated, white man would peer quizzically at me over his spectacles as he’d remark something like, I don’t know, is that what you think?  He tested me, and I liked that.  Most people to whom I would tell my feelings would simply respond with condolence or affection.  That’s horrible, people would say breathily.  I can’t imagine, they’d sigh as they enveloped me in an embrace.  But my therapist…he was different.  I would give him experiences and sensations and he would, in turn, throw them back at me; gently, but just hard enough to prod my awareness and make me think.  To cause reflection, something that used to be so familiar to me, but with what I had lost contact some time before.  He’d give me homework assignments and although I had just began taking time off university and thus did not want to even consider cracking a notebook or removing the cap of a pen, I did them.  I wrote about the past.  I jotted down my feelings.  Traced the outlines of my instability and stability and instability again…and then, piece by piece, I began the craftful process of putting myself back together.  Of clearing my mind of the debris strewn across my brain from the imbalance.  Of settling on the fact, decidedly, that I was going to get better.  I was going to be okay.  I had to be okay.  Try the pills for at least six months, my therapist reasoned with me at my last appointment before returning to London.  Six months, and if you hate them, then go off them.

My restoration of mental ‘normality’ did, in fact, take quite a bit of time.  Truthfully, I wouldn’t say it’s even complete yet, but then again I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully ‘normal’, and that’s okay.  Upon arrival back to England, I took some time off of university.  Although I was managing, I was still remarkably all over the place.  I decided that I was leaving, moving back to North America.  Toronto, maybe, I suggested to myself, or Seattle.  I vowed to never return to higher education and made big plans to become a working man in the city.  In a different city.  Back across the motherfucking ocean.  London was tainted to me, toxic.  It was London’s fault I had gone insane; I had to leave.

I didn’t leave.  Thank God I didn’t.  Because I realised that, despite how tactful I had become in tricking myself into believing I was okay, things were not all sunshine and daisies in my head.  I hadn’t magically repaired myself in the space of two months, and I certainly was not in the right frame of mind to be making more huge life changes.  As I removed the failed post on Gumtree advertising the room in my flat, I sighed to myself.  Oh, Jack.  You always think you’ve got it figured out…until you realise you don’t.  And that’s the truth.  Even now, my anxiety forces me into a torture chamber of worry and self-doubt.  I will implode myself with reasons to be fearful, nervous, or upset.  They don’t like you, the brain whispers in my ear.  They’re not looking at you because they don’t like you.

The dosage of both drugs I was taking was increased over the first few months.  The Escitalopram to 20, and eventually, 30mg and the Hydroxyzine up to 50mg.  Once I felt that the daily medication had truly started to take effect, I rarely used the Hydroxyzine due to how it made me feel.  If I couldn’t sleep I’d swallow one, but apart from that I didn’t find it worth taking.  I hadn’t found a therapist back in London (and honestly still haven’t), but I didn’t feel like I needed one.  To me, the fact that I was on pills was just enough to keep me sane.  I would grip my little pill between thumb and index finger every morning, now happy with the fact that I could insert a tiny module of artificial happiness into my body and it would actually, most of the time, some of the time, work.  What’s that for? my ex once asked me as I tossed the chunk of white solid into my mouth.  Oh, I’m just kind of fucked up, I replied comically, eyes wide, pointing to my head.  Nods.  Nods all around, and a swift change of the subject.  I still wasn’t okay, despite how happy I was to be taking my pill.  In the end, it’d be my perpetual instability that would cause the relationship to fail not long after that conversation.

Things kept happening and I kept living.  Fast forward to October and I returned to university, breaking the vow I had made to myself not even one year earlier with ease.  New course, new me.  Psychology is my thing now.  And even though I’ve never been particularly great at revision or doing coursework in advance, I was making it.  I was going to class and learning and meeting new people and things were…pretty normal, as it’d seem.  I was being, to the best of my personal capacity, the closest thing I’d been to ‘normal’ in over a year.  One week in late December, I ran out of my Escitalopram prescription.  It’d happened a couple times before, but I never went more than one to two weeks being off the pills.  I would get it filled, I knew I would.  I just had other things going on at the time, with the holidays and coursework.

Three weeks after punching the last happy pill out of its blister pack and into my hand, I started to notice a shift.  My mood was everywhere.  I was scatter-brained.  Almost every time I’d stand up, a tidal wave of dizziness would overcome me to the point that, many times, I’d have to sit back down.  My hands would shake uncontrollably for no reason whatsoever, even when I wasn’t feeling anxious.  I was having twisted, vivid dreams and headaches had suddenly become a common occurrence.  I wasn’t experiencing the exact same mental discomfort or sadness that I had the year before, it was just different.  I can’t fully explain it, but I suddenly wasn’t feeling ‘normal’ again.  The week the symptoms really escalated, a friend pleaded with me.  You HAVE to get back on your pills.  Why do you suddenly not care about your mental health?  But the thing was, I had already been considering going off of them before I ever ran out in the first place.  I was feeling great, many things were different in my life, and I felt that I was ready to attempt to live again without them.  The only thing that was barring me from doing that, however, was the fact that I had to talk to my doctor about it and I simply couldn’t be bothered.  Dude, I don’t want to though, I replied to my friend.  I was thinking of going off them anyways.  You know, au naturel and all that shit.  It was a valid reason, but I had gone about it wrong.  Escitalopram, like most antidepressants, is not designed for patients to simply stop taking it.  You are, of course, supposed to ‘come off’ it.  Damn.

I began to wonder, so I did some research; Google is truly a great thing.  Escitalopram withdrawal I punched into the search box.  I pulled up an article about a study that had been conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.  They had been doing tests to find out which antidepressants have high withdrawal levels, and what symptoms subsequently arise.  As it turns out, Escitalopram pulled in at a whopping second place in the ‘High Withdrawal Level’ category, with 75% of patients reporting that they had experienced withdrawal symptoms when coming off the drug suddenly.  Beneath this information was a list outlining everything I had been experiencing and more.  Withdrawal does not necessarily occur due to addiction or drug dependency, I read on another site.  Still though, what the fuck had I been feeding my body that made me feel like this once I stopped taking it?

When I first found out the information I did about withdrawal, I considered going back on the medication.  But seeing as the damage had already been done and I’d been wanting to come off them anyways, I didn’t.  My symptoms subsided in the coming weeks and pretty soon I was feeling generally content again.  Anxiety, at this point, is a part of my everyday experience so I know it’s always in the background somewhere, waiting for its turn to show up in my consciousness; just like any other human emotion.  And that’s fine.  I understand it now.

The reason I’m writing about coming off my meds at all isn’t because it’s some dramatic story.  Yes, I experienced withdrawal symptoms, but truly, that was my own fault and tons of people have shared this experience with me — not just the withdrawals, by the way, the whole thing.  The reason I wanted to talk about it is to just explain my personal experience with it.  I’ve now been off of antidepressants for about four months, and I can truthfully say that I don’t think I’ve ever understood my anxiety as well as I do now.  This is because, after stopping the pills, I had to learn how to manage it; the medication made me feel all right, but that’s because it was doing all the work for me.  I started taking them, was still miserable for about a month after, they kicked in, and then I was…more or less okay.  The issue with that, of course, was I had no other real coping mechanisms.  Yes, okay, I’d been told about breathing techniques and adult colouring books and stuff, but none of that was really part of my lifestyle at the time because, well, I had the pills.  I see the medication I was on as a sort of temporary life raft; at my absolute worst, I had no motivation to get myself feeling better because I simply didn’t care.  The Escitalopram helped get me back to a state where, no, I wasn’t 100%, but I was most definitely doing ten fold better than I was before.  Then, after coming off it, I had some very bad moments again, but I knew what was happening.  I began to understand my feelings better.  And slowly, I learned how to manage my anxiety on my own, without the help of anything synthesised in a laboratory.  I feel different without the pills.  I feel more in power, more natural.  Meditation is part of my everyday routine now.  I exercise.  I write.  I listen to certain types of music.  All of it sounds trivial, but it’s what works for me, and that’s the point I’m trying to make.

For anyone out there with a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, remember that everyone’s treatment is a bit different.  Some people swear by medications, and others wouldn’t dream of using them.  In my experience, it’s typical for a physician to automatically scribble you a prescription for an antidepressant, and if you’re willing to try it or see no other way out, then go on it.  Like I said, I would never be where I am now had I chosen not to start on my previous medication, and am grateful simply for the fact that it got me back on my feet.  However, experiencing withdrawals really made me speculate at what exactly was going on in my head when I was on the pills.  The truth of the matter is, we don’t know all that much about the treatment of chemical imbalance within the brain, so no one is fully aware of all the exact changes that occur when someone starts an antidepressant.  What I’ll say is this: don’t be afraid to try an antidepressant, but don’t be afraid to come off one either (as long as you do it the proper way).  I’ve lived with anxiety both on and off, and existence on either side of the spectrum is beneficial in its own ways.

As for me, I’m okay.  I still freak out.  I still panic sometimes.  And yeah, I do cry probably more than the average Joe.  But what matters is I’m on a new level of understanding with myself.  I’m more aware of my thought processes and how my mind can play tricks on me.  So now, if the brain ever hisses at me, You’re going to mess up, you know, you’re a bad person, I’m capable of shooting right back: You’ve never been more fucking wrong.

Why we need to stop giving so many fucks

Recently, a friend of mine made me ponder happiness and self-worth.  Of course, this is something I have spent an incredible amount of time considering anyways, but this time the spectrum was a bit different.  This particular friend was wary about their own happiness because of the fact that someone else in their life was happy…someone who they used to have a profound connection with, but with whom they no longer have contact.  My friend felt that because this person was happy in the present moment, it meant that they weren’t happy in the past when they knew my friend and that it was subsequently their fault.  I gently attempted to explain to my friend that someone’s happiness is never, ever entirely dependent on another person and that it made no logical sense to get angry at yourself because you’re preoccupied that, retrospectively, you didn’t give everything you could to contribute to someone’s well-being.

First of all, it is never our responsibility to constantly help people and pick up the pieces of other people’s lives when it seems they’re scattered or caught by bad fortune (aside from if you’re a parent, of course).  We can choose to do this out of love and compassion for others; we can decide for ourselves to provide these things to someone who we care about a great deal…but it is never a compulsory aspect of human relationships.  There are plenty of people in my life who I enjoy making happy, but it’s taken years of lessons and experience to finally realise that it’s not my place to do this out of responsibility or necessity.  And don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be genuine, kind-hearted people.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be selfless, or that we should walk around, noses upturned at the prospect of caring for someone.  What I’m trying to say is, we must come to terms with the fact that we can be friends or in a relationship with someone without the burden of their happiness upon us.  Because all too often we fall into this, and all too often it happens that we forget about our own happiness completely.  So much time and effort is spent on ensuring that someone else has their life in order that suddenly ours is shaken up and dismantled and we’re left thinking, Was it all worth it?

Probably not.  I mean sure, you can feel good about the fact that you have the ability to make someone else happy.  You can relish in the fact that you can make someone smile, or give them presents, or love them, requited or not.  But that feeling…that molecular burst of pride within your psyche is only temporary.  In the scheme of things, you won’t look back upon that relationship in 10, 5, or even 2 years’ time and feel the same swelling of energy in your heart as you did at the time of providing that happiness.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s one of the harsh truths of life…and that brings me to my next point.

Time.  One of the most puzzling aspects of human existence I’ve come across is the fact that our minds can do so much–we can think, decipher, ponder, retaliate, create, love, support, hate…I could continue the list of verbs for eternity.  And yet, besides the fact that we are so capable, so willing and adventurous and so full of life…time stops us.  Rather than sizing up today and deciding to make it the absolute best of our ability, too many  times we don’t move.  We sit, rooted to the spot physically, as well as rooted to old emotions stuck in our minds from time ago.  We wonder what we did wrong.  What we did right.  The things we could change now if we had known what we know now, and the things that we wish we could back and un-change.  We get ourselves into such turmoil, such frustration over the past.  But why?  Why on Earth do we do this?  As far as I know, no one has quite managed how to bend the space-time continuum just right so we can travel through time.  And even if someone had, would we truly want to waste the limited minutes we have now just to go back and pore over old, dead aspects of our life in hopes of creating a better present moment to return to?  I know I wouldn’t.  Surely it would be more productive to turn our backs and never look back.  Or, if we had to look back — only do it to reminisce.  To consider what we’ve learned.  To reflect.  But not to change.  Not to allow old pain back in.  And certainly not to put blame on ourselves for anything…not least of wish the worry if we provided other person with enough contentment.

I do not wish for people to stop caring for one another.  I do not want empathy to go extinct, and I certainly do not want love to cease to exist–far from it.  I want love to grow and progress and steady and reassure us…I want it to remind us of the beauty in this world we have the opportunity of living in.  Just how blessed we are to exist here in this place and time.  The lesson here, however, is that we must stop putting so much pressure on ourselves for other people’s emotions.  For once, just once let’s focus on ourselves.  Better ourselves.  Love ourselves.  Be present with ourselves here and now, feeling the saturation of the moment around us and not living in a life which has already passed over our shoulders.  Looking to what we can manage to accomplish in this day, this hour, this minute.  Not pondering what could have happened.  Not thinking, Couldn’t I have done more for them?  Enough.

 

02:56am

note to self [02:56am]: people lie.  people shut you out.  people will say they want to speak to you or confide in you or love you or think about you or send you things or take pictures of you or take pictures with you or drink with you or get high with you and fuck you and then maybe fuck you again a few days later (or not) and think about you but don’t tell you and then tell you they thought about you when you run into each other in a dank fucking club even though they never used to tell you when they thought about you when it really mattered.  you’ll probably reach out and you’ll probably never hear anything and then you’ll probably just sit there for minutes or hours or days and you’ll probably get mad at yourself for reaching out at all and then you’ll forgive yourself for a few hours while you do something else and don’t have time to think about how you fucked up but then you’ll remember that you did, in fact, reach out and you have, actually, ran out of your antidepressants and you should really get those refilled and that essay that you just submitted was most likely a pile of shit and you should really, truly get a damn job and you should e-mail your grandmother and you should contact your landlord about that broken wash machine and you should start thinking about what you’re going to do for your dissertation even though it’s a couple years away and you should should should…oh but also, also can you ever be sure that your friendships are 100% real and that people actually do give a shit about you or is that all an illusion and you’re ill and probably haven’t gotten enough sleep and you’re ill and shouldn’t have had that cigarette and you’re ill and probably should have eaten something more nutritious than pizza but hey you’re a vegetarian but guess what you know who wasn’t a vegetarian, you know who ate meat, that one person that you–jesus fucking christ why did you reach out you reached out and now it’s all fucked.  and people lie and people shut you out and people say all this shit that send you(me) into a frenzy and it’s 3am and you’re a moron

note to self [revised, 03:04am]: don’t ever write your 3am thoughts in a continuous uncapitalised streamline like that ever again

note to self [revised revised, 03:06am]: so i let that simmer for a few minutes and now that i’ve realised that i’m never going to allow myself to write my 3am thoughts again i figure i should get these last few out there because otherwise they’ll bounce around my head and it’ll explode and i don’t want my flatmates to have to deal with that mess.  so here goes: maybe it’s better to just be alone because if you’re alone you don’t ever really have to experience pain at all you know and like i know you think that i’m chatting absolute bullshit but hear me out you would never even know the pain of losing someone if you never had them in the first place so if we avoided just having people altogether then surely we could just miss out on all that pain and that would just be great and everything would be great except for the fact that then we actually wouldn’t get to experience the good bits of relationships which are probably actually more worthwhile than i think cause i’m probably just a 21 year old cynic realistically so okay scratch that whole thing but also why do i get mad at myself if i talk to people or if i laugh wrong or if i love myself too much and why is it such a big deal if i accidentally eat a whole bag of doritos or purposefully finish a bottle of vodka you know i just take life too seriously and i give too many fucks that’s my problem and if i actually post this i should kill myself because it’s absolutely horrific but it’s also kind of cool in a way because i’m typing the fastest i ever have and i’m letting all my thoughts out and that feels glorious but no one probably wants to read this either but then again no one really reads my blog anyways so i think i’m just gonna post it yeah i’m just gonna post it k i’m gonna post it but don’t ever let me near a keyboard again between the hours of 1 and 6am

p.s. get a fucking job

-j xx

Sunday November evening

Sunday November evening.

One of those days…those days?  Yes; one of those days where the sun did, indeed, present itself but merely to the backs of the effervescent clouds suspended in space above my consciousness.  And then…it leaves the clouds just as quickly as it met them.  Frigidity somehow sneaks itself in through the cracks in the windows, the cracks in awareness.  Silent Night drifts through the walls dividing the energies of this house but the night…could it ever be deemed as soundless?

The mind races and ponders and instills fear within the thinker.  The heart beats, persistent on keeping the human vessel alive.  The brain pulses to the rhythms of footsteps leftover from yesterday, trickling in one by one from a memory that is considering handing in its resignation; for the process of remembering itself can be all too much.  Burdening the self with distorted, intact recollections of times past which could cause detriment to the soul.  It’s self-destruction, and the memory realises that.  And so sometimes the memory stops functioning, just for a minute or two.  The memory attempts to give a well-deserved break to our human.  And this person…this reckless, perceivable, naive human…they persevere, if only to the best of their capability within the limitations of the present moment.  

The human sees shifts of space out of the corner of their eye but does not provide the logic system of the brain the satisfaction of moving their gaze.  Emotions, bountiful as the stars sheening in the violent expanse of the dark sky curse the human’s existence while praising it effortlessly.  They cause the being warped perceptions of the the folds of life opening around them like a paper fan; the ability to see the opportunities in the vastness of it is gained, yet the person is aware of the tragedies lurking in the shadows, lying in wait until the human breaks once again.  Until the being forgets to ‘be’ for a fleeting moment and the darkness can come out to play.  The eyes open as wide as physically possible to let as much light in as they can, moving in time as the chin tilts lightly upwards towards the source of artificial beams which settle on our human.  

The universe, heaving and wailing as it pushes forth support to the human, receives nothing in return.  It considers itself to be a selfless existence, merely because it’s never known any other state of being.  Our human, however…they lie in bafflement and confusion at the thought of allowing the universe to lift them up.  Is this not to be the job of the being themself, to conjure a state of peace and happiness?  The mind, again, begins to separate into distinct parts and argues with itself; a fruitless and losing wrestling match.  What is wrong with you.  Why do you do this.  Why do you feel this way.  Stop.  Stop it.  Please just…stop.  The mind continues to claw at its counterpart, unaware of the fact that a battle between two of the same cannot be won by a singular party.  Frantically, the hands come into view.  The right one shoves pills into the human’s mouth and the rest of the being follows through; swallowing and breathing and continuing to exist.  The hands settle and the mind pauses in its battle.  Perhaps not a solution, whispers the brain, but nonetheless an escape.

Sunday November evening.

On Living Across the World From Home

It’s days like these that make living an ocean away from home hard.  Those days that you wake up and a thick fog covers the billowing treetops outside your window as well as the consciousness within yourself. Those days when time seems to be moving too quickly yet also far slower than usual all at once and you’re frozen.  You want to spring into action; you want to live life like you used to. You want it to be how it was back when things didn’t have to make sense, they just had to be good. Back when you didn’t think about what you did because nature was able to take care of that for you.  Back when you lived with your parents and they lived with you; and that…that was enough.  Those days when jumping in the car and going to the local market was an adventure…and now not even living in one of the biggest cities in the world has you completely satisfied.  Ah, those days.

Living in another country is like being two people at once; a sort of bi-split soul forced into the vessel of one human being.  Half of me longs to return home.  To go back to a simpler life; to feel that special loving glow that only comes from a familial presence throb through my insides. Yet another part of me wishes to never return to my demons left behind there, shells of lifeless regret, swaying aimlessly in the midwestern wind.  This part of me is seemingly more rational in its age and philosophy.  This half, no matter how apparently melancholic or dark in its endeavours can force the other half out of my conscience most days.  The days it can’t, however, those are a sort of hell.  It’s those days when all I yearn for is to experience my position in space and time where I arose from.  To go back to what I know.  To immerse myself in the unending comfort of familiarity.

The thing is, though, nothing will ever be the same. Home isn’t just as it was before. The pivotal  difference now is I hold the ability to make comparisons.  No longer are the beaten pavements of Wisconsin country roads all I know and understand, for the enchanting London city streets have taken my heart and spilled it across their cracks (and one doesn’t simply forget where parts of their heart have been left). No longer will the crisp Autumn air tinged with the odour of farmland be the ultimate escape for my soul, as I now know the violent rapture of pungent pollution combined with cigarette exhalations, accompanied by the sounds of thousands of lives moving at once, all going separate directions but perhaps in search of achieving a common goal.  No longer will the feeling of loneliness in the middle of a soundless, deserted field ever be the same, for the solitary existence one feels in the middle of a multicultural, diversified and gentrified location is incomparable.  

No, nothing can possibly be the same once you leave whatever small piece of Earth you may call “home”.  It’s an irreversible process once it has begun, and perhaps not one that anyone can truly understand until they’re stuck in it for themselves for the first time, unable to look back…because that’s the thing.  There are days you feel you can’t manage.  There are days you feel that you made the worst possible decision of your life by moving to territory unknown to your heart.  There are days you wish you could take it all back or reverse time or days like today – days where you don’t want to be home but you also don’t want to be here.  You don’t know what you want or who you are or why you feel the way you do but taking a meagre break from existing would be pretty fucking lovely.

But you persist.  You force yourself to face forwards and pretend like your history has no tangible relevance in the present moment.  You focus on what you can to make breathing easier and think of any concept possible to hold back the tears…because, this is it.  This is your life.  And existing is funny in that it does not have a geographical location attached to it, despite how much your mind may trick you into believing otherwise.  Home is still there, and here is still here,  and you’ve managed to have a human experience that not many others will ever have the opportunity of dipping into.  And perhaps, if you can take comfort in anything, it’s that fact; no matter how much it hurts to live these two lives, the thrill of it can take you to heights never previously imagined.

A Letter to The One That Got Away

To The One That Got Away,

 

Look, I’m not one to write about romance…or love, or lust, or like or…whatever.  This is not my game.  I’m a contemplator; a realist, if you will.  I’m an independent being and albeit I’m heartfelt I choose not to waste many words on this topic.  But see, I just can’t seem to push you past the boundaries of my mind.  I still see you in my dreams and in all honesty, it’s uncomfortable.  It’s unfair of this mind of mine, and you know what?  It kind of pisses me off.  But even so, it seems the more I try not to regard your delicate features such as your pale face or your small frame or your careful demeanour as I sleep, the more they turn towards me, pull me in and beg for attention.

 

I previously believed I had managed to escape thoughts of you somewhat permanently but perhaps all I managed to escape was your physical presence.  The warmth of your soul.  The expanses of your body.  Though, I’m not even sure I ever wanted that escape.  I’m not even sure that the absence of your existence was what I wanted at all but it’s something you ensured took effect.  And I’m not saying you’re at fault or you’re a bad human being or that you are (were) a negative force in my life but, God damn it, you did this.  You smuggled your beauty through a secret passage into my brain and now it just can’t seem to find an exit.

 

Listen, what we had was short-lived.  I’m fully aware of that.  Through the eyes of others whatever existed between us most likely looked like nothing…and maybe it was nothing in the scheme of things.  But to me it meant something.  And we both know you’d be lying if you said it didn’t mean anything to you.  And perhaps it no longer means anything to you now but it sure as hell did at the time.  You told me so.  You told me that what we had was something like you had never felt before.  And that you wanted it to last.  That you wanted to try.  I’m not sure if you were lying, or if you exaggerated, or if it was just a slip of that cunning tongue of yours but you said it and I returned it back to you just the same.  But, I suppose…shit happened.

 

Because I understand.  I understand that things happened to you and life washed over the depths of your perseverance and panic became a common denominator and suddenly you didn’t feel in a space to love.  I understand that you realised you may have spoken too quickly.  That you put yourself on the line when you weren’t sure the line was ever there to begin with.  But something I don’t understand is why I still think about you.  Why I type a message to you and then press backspace even though there’s nothing written.  Because I don’t know what to say.  I know what you want me to say, and that…that’s nothing.  So I’ll keep the message blank.  Press the home button.  Leave it for another day…or leave it for another never.

 

Besides you permeating my thoughts, what further puzzles me is how someone I knew for such a short period of time could have such an impact on me; how they could become a tyrant of my thoughts and stretch the limits of my conscience.  I don’t understand how I allowed myself to be manipulated so readily…and yet I don’t even regret it.  In these 21 meager years I’ve learned that this life is about taking chances and throwing oneself into the obscurity of the abyss without looking back.  And I suppose this particular chance was merely a failed one…and that’s okay.  But it just sucks to perplex myself by continually pondering what could have been.

 

I don’t doubt that the universe will cause our paths to cross once again some day, and I won’t say that we’ll never speak again.  Silence is something we have for now wedged between us now but is never something capable of gaining momentum for long periods of time.  So for now I’ll think about you.  I’ll write about you, just this once.  I’ll see you when I sleep.  And most of all, I’ll hope that eventually you’ll either disperse as a distant memory or reconstruct yourself in my conscious existence once again if it’s what’s meant to be.

 

-Jack x