Today in Therapy…

Alright, so my therapist used new language in session today that helped me cope a bit more with what I’m going through. You see, I’ve really been beating myself up because I’ve been so sick lately. My physical health has been very bad since I had a procedure done on my liver at the end of this past year, and my mental health is hanging on for dear life. I feel exhausted all of the time, I have very little interest in things I used to enjoy (what’s up depression), and now I’m having issues with my gut, so eating is quite difficult. Which also means I have a hard time living the life I used to live. You know, going out all of the time, or even just hanging out with friends somewhere other than my house (usually in my bed). Not only have I cancelled, postponed, and rainchecked plans left and right, but now I just try not to make plans at all because I know I’ll be too exhausted or sick to do anything but hang out at home.

Of course, when things get this way, I immediately bee-line for the shame train. I have no energy to hang out and do fun things anymore, so therefore I am worth less, somehow, than I was before. I am “unfun,” “boring,” “broken.” You name the criticism, I have already told it to myself a thousand times before the word is fully out of your mouth. As you can imagine, shame hits you pretty hard after a long day of depression, guilt, loss of appetite, physical pain, mental stress, and using energy for daily life tasks.

Here’s where my therapist comes in. Today, she framed my life right now as if I were in survival mode. My physical health is poor, my mental health is on shaky ground, I’m unhappy with my professional life, I feel aimless, and I don’t have much money. I also appear to have high-functioning depression: I only do what I have to do to survive, and I use most of the energy I have (which isn’t a lot, because: depression) just to get through my day to day tasks. So, when it comes time for fun things, or hobbies I used to enjoy, I have already depleted my daily energy for the day. I am surviving.

Somehow, that tiny reframe that my therapist made on how I view my life right now had a significant impact on me, and a lot of that shame that I was carrying around lifted off my shoulders. It reassured me that it won’t be this way forever. That I just need to survive a little bit longer and then things will get easier, and slowly my depression will fade and my energy will return. I cannot wait until that day comes.

To my amazing friends and family who have come over with food or flowers or hugs, who have sent kind messages to cheer me on, who have shown up for me in so many other ways: thank you so much. To the bottom of my heart, thank you. You mean more to me than you know. To my friends who I’ve cancelled plans on, or who I haven’t seen in a while: I am sorry. If you are patient, I promise I’ll show up soon. I’m just surviving right now.

 

 

 

PS. I may make these “Today in Therapy” posts every so often with new stuff I’ve learned in session. Because, if you’re in therapy I’m sure you know, when you have a breakthrough or a big moment where you understand a bit more of the puzzle of your brain or your life or whatever it may be, that provides enormous relief. And I’d love to maybe offer some kind of relief to any of my readers who may be going through similar situations or feelings or times in their lives. And if that reader is you: you got this. You are so much stronger than you will ever know, I guarantee it.

2020 Vision

I’m stepping into this new year- into this new decade- feeling a sense of calm and clarity. I’ve realized that I finally have some semblance of a grasp on my health, both physical and mental. I was planning on diving into what led me to this eye-opening moment in my life, but decided to save it for a future post. Got to keep you wanting more, I suppose. Instead, I will say this:

I have never shied away from discussing my mental illnesses on this blog. And I’m not about to start now. 2020 will be the year I embrace the role of advocate, and start being more proactive about trying to help others who struggle with their mental health like I do. I have many goals for the new year. I aim to reclaim my identity as an artist, and embrace my creativity, however messy or even lackluster it may be at times. I aim to allow my individuality to continue to exist while I grow alongside another human, my partner, and recognize that I can do both at the same time. I aim to push myself to be the best version of me that I can be. I aim to pursue my passions, especially the new ones that terrify me. And I aim to work harder, and share more of my journey here with all of you.

When I created this blog during treatment for my eating disorder, I awakened part of myself I never knew I needed. Writing on this website helped me in ways I never imagined, and taught me a lot about myself and the kind of person I want to be. So, here we are in a new year and a new decade, and I’ve decided not to hold myself back. To acknowledge that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be, and that sometimes pursuing my dreams and pushing myself through depression and anxiety will be hard as hell. But I will continue to move forward. I will continue to pursue my dreams, be ambitious, write freely, and try not to judge myself too harshly along the way. I hope you will join me for the adventures.

Happy New Year, all. Congratulations on making it this far. Let’s keep going.

California, I’m Coming For Ya

After a few horrible days of mourning the loss of Southern California in my life, I have decided to do something about it. In session today, I made a plan with my therapist on what I need to do in order to get back to California.

I’ve got myself on a one-year plan.

Hopefully in one year I will be back in either Los Angeles or San Diego. I plan on getting a job, saving up my money, and getting healthy so that I won’t just be able to live in SoCal, but I’ll be able to thrive.

My goal for 2019 is no self-harm. I made a list of coping skills that I plan on practicing this year and beyond. I want to return to CA with no new scars as of right now.

Some exciting news is that part of my plan involves applying for graduate school! I’ve made the decision to go back to school for mental health counseling, and I’m terrified and so excited to see where this journey will take me.

I also plan on figuring out ways to incorporate the SoCal vibe into my current environment as some added motivation and comfort while I wait. I’m lucky that I’ve found somewhere I call my home, while it’s unfortunate that I discovered it after I left.

California, I can’t wait to get back to you!

Just Your Friendly Neighborhood Reminder that Gender is a Construct

Do you feel like binding your breasts today? Cuz I do.

What about painting your toenails? Me, too!

This is just a friendly PSA that gender is fluid, and just because society tells you that men have to dress like men and women have to dress like women, you don’t have to abide by that.

Wear heels, or boxers, or chest binders (please be safe), or makeup, no matter your gender identity! Wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident.

I need to hear this every so often, and I believe you should, too.

Love always,

K

Introducing #DBTDay

Hello everyone!

I’ve fallen off the wagon of my #MentalHealthMonday posts, so I decided to revamp that, and add something new!

Once a week, I will explore a DBT skill on the blog! For those who don’t know, DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and is used by many treatment centers and therapists across the country. It is a cognitive behavior therapy developed by the extraordinary Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.. As its name suggests, DBT is focused on dialectics; balancing opposites, and using “both-and” ways of thinking rather than “either-or.”

There are four sections of DBT: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Each section offers unique skills to help you stay in the present moment, tolerate stressful situations (without making things any worse), manage intense emotions, and communicate effectively in relationships.

In an effort to raise awareness about DBT, and increase my own personal use of the skills, I will strive to post about one skill per week. If anyone has heard of DBT and would like to request a particular skill, or if you are interested in any of the four models mentioned above, just send me an email from my Contact page.

I can’t wait to refresh my memory of DBT; these are skills that saved my life. I hope they will have some effect on you, too.

Intuition: My Sixth Sense

I recently started a new job that I expected to love. I ended up quitting after two days of orientation.

I originally wasn’t going to blog about this; I felt incredible shame and embarrassment and I didn’t want anyone to know that I had failed.

But now that I have done some reflecting, I don’t believe I failed at all. In fact, what I really did was trust my gut and made the right decision. And there’s hope on the job front! Keep reading to learn more…

 

I have had multiple therapists tell me that I have a great sense of self, and a great intuition. This week, I was able to use that intuition in a sticky situation. I started off being very excited about this job; I had an idea of what it would be like, and I was thrilled to start. However, when I did, I learned things about the hospital that sounded like they would push me to an unhealthy place. On my second day, I worried if I had made the right decision. The hospital seemed intense, and I was slowly feeling myself breakdown under the stress of it all. On my lunch break I had a full-fledged meltdown.

I managed to stick around for the rest of the day, all the while convinced I would not be returning once I left through the automatic doors that evening. I was a wreck that night and the following morning. After turning it over and over in my head, talking to my parents and one of my best friends about it, I decided not to return to work.

I was in agony, convinced I had failed and that no one was going to take me seriously in the mental health field anymore. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to go back to that place, but devastated that I lost out on an opportunity to grow in this field.

A day after I quit, I started thinking about opportunities elsewhere. And then I felt guilty for thinking those things. Who was I to start looking for another job, when I had just quit a perfectly good job? I started worrying about what other people would think, especially after my very public announcement of my new job. I knew I had a shot of interviewing at another hospital for a similar position, but I didn’t want people to think I was just going to quit that job, too, or not be able to hack it in a similar environment.

What I explored in therapy, today, however, is that doubt is the main thing that gets in my way. My fear of what people think stops me from doing great things. I think this other position will be a much better fit for me, and so I was able to set up an interview. After session today I am feeling so much more positive and confident in my ability to nail this interview and rock this new job. Much more comfortable than I was at the old job.

I’m trusting my gut.

My intuition has never led me astray before. I feel as though this is a “when one door closes, somewhere a window opens” thing. The job I left was not a good match for me, and I had an uneasy feeling going in. But this new potential opportunity feels totally different to me. So I’m running at it, with open arms.

My interview is next week…wish me luck!

Reframed: The Series of Hope & Bravery

My big exciting news that I mentioned in yesterday’s post has to do with my Reframed photo series (found here).

While I can’t say what the news is specifically (yet), I will tell you that the series is expanding! I have around 20 new models- many strangers- who have agreed to share the most vulnerable parts of themselves with me and my camera. It has been so inspiring.

I’m meeting so many people who have been brave enough to share their story with me; I can’t wait to share them with all of you. This has been an incredibly moving process, and I can’t believe that my small project may make such a large impact on others.

I want to thank those who have, and who will, participate in this project with me. I applaud your bravery for coming forward and making a difference in the world. This series is doing huge things when it comes to breaking down the stigma of mental health, and I am so happy you are a part of it.

Seasonal Depression…or is it?

I don’t remember the last time I felt like myself.

Great way to start off a blog post, right? Well, it’s true. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about seasonal depression; I thought it was something I’d face upon returning to a city that actually experiences changing seasons. And, while I have been struggling with depression, it certainly isn’t seasonal.

My previous therapist said to look at depressive episodes like I would a cold. They last for a period of time, usually a couple weeks, and then they end and I go back to my regularly scheduled life. Well, I don’t remember the last time I felt particularly motivated to do anything. It took me landing in the hospital to realize how little I was taking care of myself.

Of course, some of that was due to the fact that I wasn’t taking my medication as prescribed (meds are no joke, friends, don’t mess around with them) and therefore was messing with the chemistry of my brain.

Every day I struggle to get out of bed, and every day I have to fight myself to get through the day, at one point or another. I was reading the graphic memoir “Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me” about a young woman dealing with her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, when I realized I was actually jealous of the author. Because with her, at least she experienced episodes of mania, where she was productive. Granted, I don’t really wish I had bipolar disorder, but the days when I start crying on a hike I forced myself to go on, or when I wish I could stay in bed all day, I miss feeling “normal.” I don’t even remember what “normal” is nowadays. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have trouble showering every day, or when I didn’t have any issues taking medication. Now even taking Advil feels like I’m climbing Mount Everest. I wish my depression was seasonal. Because then I could at least foresee an end to all of this.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had any wins lately. I’m fast approaching 10 weeks with no self harm, and I’m using skills every day that I’ve learned in various treatment centers to push past the depression and continue to fight for my happiness and my life. I’m proud of myself. I even think soon I will reward myself with the semicolon tattoo, because I’m still here; my story is not over.

Feeling Depressed on World Suicide Prevention Day

Hello readers,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve published on the blog. I’ve been getting settled in LA, started a new job, and moved in to a new apartment. Life has been a whirlwind. On top of that, I’ve been dealing with some major depression lately. I felt it was appropriate to talk about on World Suicide Prevention Day.

It was my birthday a few days ago, one that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I’m officially in my mid-twenties, and I had wild ideas in my head of what this birthday would look like. However, when the day rolled around, I found myself unable to get out of bed other than to eat the breakfast my partner got for me. I had wanted to go to the beach, go out to eat, see friends, and take photos with my new camera…none of which I was able to do. I felt helpless. Worthless. Alone. Despite having someone by my side all day.

Fortunately, my having to go to work that night forced me to get out of bed and use my coping skills, and I ended up having a great evening; I was able to attend and enjoy my friends’ band’s tour kickoff with some of my good friends.

However, the next day I was right back in bed. I’ve slept more than I have in months, getting 12 hours of sleep a night and then taking multiple naps during the day because I can’t find anything better to do. I’m fighting every cell in my body to use the skills I’ve learned in my last couple treatment centers; my parents paid a lot of money for me to have access to these skills, and when I have to fight to use them, I feel like I’m letting them down. Which, of course, adds to the depression.

I’m not saying all of this to gain your pity. I’m doing this to out myself. Remember Sasha? She’s the one that’s been driving the bus lately, and I can’t seem to get her to stop. The only way I seem to know how is to expose her. That’s what I’ve learned about Sasha; she hates the spotlight, the shadows fuel her.

I’ve been in the hospital twice for having suicidal thoughts, both of which were fairly recent. I keep my hospital wristbands visible in my car so that I may be reminded of how glad I am that I am still alive. Even on my worst day, seeing my name on those two bands is a great reminder that I have survived worse, and that I will make it through today. (I plan on doing a separate post, or maybe even a podcast episode, on destigmatizing going to the hospital for suicidal thoughts. There is no shame in doing it.)

I am so endlessly grateful to my friends and family who have reached out to me lately to check in and see how I’m doing. You don’t know how much that means to me, even if I can’t fully express it in the moment. So keep reaching out to your loved ones. Continue making yourself available to your Facebook friends, your followers, even to strangers. That is the biggest piece of advice I can give today. Please don’t stay silent. Don’t assume your friends are doing ok. I’d like to think I can mask my depression pretty well, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has that capability. Depression is a terrible illness that is good at sneaking up on you and staying hidden in the shadows. When you reach out, you help shine a light on that depression.

Everyone has the power of helping someone feel a little less alone. Don’t forget that.

 

To those who, like me, are struggling today: I see you. You are not weak for having a mental illness. You are not weak for struggling. You are strong. You are brave. You are not alone, even though it may be the way you feel.

I take comfort in the fact that, while I feel incredibly lonely, I somehow know that I am not the only one who feels that way. Even in loneliness, there is community.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EXPOSURES!

Hello beautiful people!

Today was a very big day for me! A lot of people saw I made multiple Instagram Live videos to share some exciting announcements that I’ve got for y’all! I figured folks who don’t have Instagram would want to hear the news, too, so here you go!

First of all, drumroll…

I’m starting a podcast!

Yes, you read that correctly! I’m putting myself out there and am starting a podcast that will also be titled Putting Down the Rope. I plan on branching off of this blog and diving more into mental health and its relationship to art. I will be interviewing guests, accepting stories from folks who would prefer to remain anonymous (and I will read the stories on the podcast), and featuring music/poetry/writing/art in any auditory medium (and will even link to visual art in the description of the podcast).

If you would like to be involved, PLEASE send me an email at PuttingDownTheRope@gmail.com. I will always be available to chat, bounce ideas around, and hear your story. This podcast is about you as much as it is about me.

Now, second of all…

I am raising money to fund my new project that merges mental health awareness with art! You can see the inspiration for my project here.

Basically, I want to show others that art can be used as a coping skill for things like self harm, poor body image, recovery from eating disorders or addictions, and beyond. The concept is that my subjects paint their bodies on parts of themselves they find the most vulnerable, or parts of themselves they struggle with. For me, it was self-harm. I knew using paint would be a more effective skill than actually self harming, and it actually had a better result in the long run.

My overall goal is to show others that they are seen, they are beautiful– because I think folks with mental illnesses often get overlooked or don’t think they’re special or beautiful– and above all, they are not alone. 

The problem is, I currently don’t have the key ingredient to this project: a camera!

So, I started a GoFundMe! My anxiety was very much telling me not to publish that, but here it is. I need help to make this dream a reality. I plan on buying a super cheap DSLR and the lens my friend recommended for portraits. I believe wholeheartedly in this project, and I think it will take off.

I would so appreciate any donation you can give. You can find the link at https://www.gofundme.com/cameraphoto-series.

Thirdly…

I made today’s Instagram live videos an added exposure and I played a song I recorded on live video. Un-flippin’-real.

Those who know me are very aware that I hate singing in public, or in front of anyone, really. Yet, today, I did the thing I have been most terrified of for a many, many years now. And it feels awesome. Just had to share that with the blog. 🙂 #WarriorPrincess

Lastly…

I’ve had some major mental health setbacks lately. And here I am, coming back swinging. I am so excited about life and what life has to offer, and I want to inspire others to find that spark, that zest for life, too!

I’m telling you, when you put down that rope, the world opens up. I can’t wait to share all that will follow.

Endless love to all!

K