My Experience with Mental Illness

As you may have seen from my last blog, I was hard at work on a Library Science course for school these past few months. I have filled my evenings with schoolwork after the work days, and blogging was on the back burner. However, in the midst of it all, I was undergoing a major life transformation. In early May, I revealed to my family that I was suffering from depression. Though it is an incredibly common mental illness, my family did not understand how badly it was affecting my life. I had to teach them about what I was suffering from them and adjust to this truth. Again, I know how common it is but it turned my life upside down.

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As a youngster, I knew how to be myself. It took therapy and medication to feel this way again.

I had a traumatic breakup in January of this year and I think my whole brain went on airplane mode. I accepted my circumstances and felt empowered to move on. It wasn’t until a few months later that I began crying at work and could not control it. Why? I couldn’t tell you. It was a swell of emotions fueled by anxiety over the fact that I could not stop crying. My patterns of sadness and anxiety were circular, one always leading to the other but I wouldn’t know where one started and stopped – it reminded me of the chicken and the egg dilemma: which came first? It became abundantly clear that even with all that I loved and appreciated about my life, I was seeing the world in black and white. I found joy in nothing. I made myself do activities that I knew that I used to love, just for the sake of doing them to maintain a sense of normality. I later learned from my therapist that by choosing to take part in hobbies I normally love, it was a positive choice. But it wasn’t enough.

I later went to a psychiatrist. Though many people take antidepressants, the choice to discuss these options were a last resort. I hardly even take Tylenol! When I was prescribed Prozac, I was skeptical but was willing to try anything. Side note: I once tried a birth control that gave me anxiety so badly that I was scared to leave the house! These drugs are powerful but I was clearly desperate.

In addition to medication, I joined a support group that met every other week in Salem, MA after work. Nothing I learned was Earth shattering, but it definitely showed me what I should be focusing on my life. Most importantly, it showed me that I was not alone with my struggles. I have had to put these sessions off for about a month due to travel, but I think in a future blog post, they would be beneficial to discuss.

Lately, what I have noticed is that I have had an amazing transformation and I think it has to do with the Prozac.* At first, the effects were subtle. It was like every time I had an anxious thought surface, Prozac would keep me calm and not allow it to manifest. Over the course of months though, I feel like I have discovered my genuine self for the first time…in a long time! I used to love reading and would lock myself in a room with books when I was little but I think anxiety plagued my reading skills (in all seriousness). I would get to anxious to even start a book. Let me remind you I have a B.A. in English and am almost finished with my M.A. in English. This is a huge deal!

Most days, I can’t wait to lock myself in my room with a book, just like I used to. Is this very social? No. Do I care? No (and I’m not anxious about that fact). For me, I am catching up with what I lost due to depression, and re-discovering my joy for learning. When you do not constantly have a cloud looming ahead, it changes a lot. For me, this is a start and I look forward to the journey ahead.

*A disclaimer: I know this medication will not work for everyone who has depression (cue “ask your doctor if Prozac is right for you”).

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Reading News in 2017: Disillusioned, Lazy, or Proactive?

Ever since the 2016 presidential election, reading the news in the U.S. has felt like walking on hot coals. Leading up to the election, a large amount of people that may not had even been interested in politics prior became hyperaware of what each political party represented.

People nowadays tend to fall into 3 categories:

1) People continuously involved with politics and highly engaged;

2) People who have “accepted” the election results and want to continue as normal; and

3) Those who are neither active nor accepting of the results, but don’t know how to proceed.

I think I am a bit of option 1 and 3 because listening to the news some days feels like it ignites a fire deep within to promote change, while also placing me into a bit of a paralysis. This isn’t too say that I’m immune to sheer laziness as well, but when it looks like no one is able to work together inside or outside of politics, it feels disillusioning.

I think one thing that we can do in the meantime, is to continue a conversation about accepting others as people regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and other types of classification. In light of recent events in Charlottesville, an organization that I suggest to promote racial justice in your neighborhood is called SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice). SURJ is a “multi-racial, cross-class movement centering people of color leadership” that organizes in most states in the U.S., including in the Boston area.