I Love to Work, But Sometimes I Just Want to go on Vacation

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I’m the type of person that can only enjoy vacation for a certain length of time before I start itching to go back to work. When I am left with large amounts of time to “relax,” I get even more anxious sometimes. During vacation time, I don’t have a consistent wake up time or any kind of routine for that matter. For that reason, the uncertainty of how my days or weeks will pan out create even more anxiety in me. On the other hand, transitioning back to work after a vacation is just as bad sometimes because I have to transition into another routine. As you can probably guess, I have returned to work after a long vacation and I feel happy, but yet, kind of still wish my vacation hadn’t really ended.

I Love Work

As someone that suffers with anxiety, one thing I crave about work is routine. There is a set time to get to work and get off work. This gives my day a sense of direction and stability. As I have worked at my current workplace for quite a while, I find comfort in the familiarity with my coworkers’ personalities and work habits. Furthermore, I feel confident with most aspects of my job and my environment, so that also makes me less anxious. Overall, I think work makes me feel productive, and plus, I can help pay the bills, which just makes me feel happier overall.

I Just Want to go on Vacation

Returning to work after a vacation is always a struggle for me.  Even though work routines are familiar to me, the change in pace always stresses me out a bit. Imagine waking up without a alarm for weeks and then suddenly jolting awake with the alarm again. With anxiety, even though, you feel pretty competent in your job, you often always focus on the worst possible outcome.  I start thinking maybe I am not working hard enough. Maybe my boss doesn’t think I am doing my job well. Those insecurities return again when I go back to work. Furthermore, when you go back to work, you face more judgement as well from your coworkers. I know, to judge, is human, and I feel like I definitely care less what others think. However, does criticism still affect me? Of course. Lastly, I just feel more tired than usual and that is always a terrible thing when you also feel anxious.

Does anyone else have this conundrum? I love working, but yet sometimes I want to go back on vacation.

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Blogging About Mental Illness: The Double-Ended Sword

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My main objective for blogging about my mental illness was to share my story. I remembered sitting in my room for days just hoping that there was someone I knew going through the same thing. Therefore, I hoped that those reading my blog would feel less alone in their own struggles. I love writing my blog and reading the blogs of others. You have inspired me and given me strength. However, I want to be completely honest. As much as I love this space, sometimes when I log on too much, I find that it triggers my anxiety. So instead of being able to tuck it in the back of my brain, my anxiety becomes front and centre again. Do you find that blogging can be a “double-ended sword?”

The Good

Blogging Makes My Thoughts Tangible

If anyone ever has the unfortunate chance of entering my brain, it is basically like a hurricane sometimes. I struggle with anxiety the most and it usually feels like my brain continues to spiral around the one thought of that day. For me, blogging allows me to organize one of the spirals in a concrete way. When I write, I am able to take the thoughts and sift them into sentences and paragraphs. Somehow, when I’m finished, I feel like a section of those spiralling thoughts has been contained and dealt with. My thoughts become lighter as a whole.  Anyone else ever get this feeling?

I Feel Less Alone

To some extend, anyone can step into someone’s shoes as a fellow human being. However, there is another layer of closeness associated with someone that has had a similar illness to you. I feel that through reading the stories of others with mental illness, I feel less alone in many ways. I connect with their ups and downs, and feel like we can support each other. Moreover, since I might have gone through the same experience, I hope that I can provide a little encouragement. This is often reciprocal as well. The community gives me hope that we can fight this illness together and help break down the stigma.

The Not So Good Sometimes

It Triggers My Anxiety

I tried going to a face-to-face support group once, and barely made it through 5 minutes before I had to leave. I think this is different for everyone. With my anxiety, I tend to focus on the worst possible outcome for everything. For example, when I heard about how long some of the people had dealt with depression in the support group, I started to think that would be my situation as well even though I only had it for a few months at that time.

Sometimes, blogging gives me a similar feeling of negativity, and I have no idea what will necessarily trigger it. So I don’t choose to log on all the time, especially if I am already not having a great day. That doesn’t mean I will stop blogging.  As anyone with anxiety knows, you can only get stronger by facing your fears. So I log on as much as I can, and if I don’t answer your comments or read your blogposts consistently, this is the main reason why.

Thank you for reading and I would love to know if anyone else has these feelings as well.

Mental Illness and Invisible Illness

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This is the last video in this series where I talk about Youtube videos that have inspired me.  Once again, this is a video from Simon and Martina’s channel, a couple who vlog about their life in Asia.  Martina suffers from a chronic illness called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects her connective tissues and causes her joints to loosen.  In this video, her husband Simon talks about her struggles dealing with chronic pain even though she looks perfectly healthy from the outside.  This is what is described as an “invisible illness.”  Examples of this form of illness include lupus, multiple sclerosis, migraines, and of course, what I have, anxiety and depression.  Lastly, Simon goes on to talk about how Martina often can’t stand too long on the subway and has to sit in the priority seating.  She felt immense guilt because “outwardly” she didn’t look like someone that needed them.

I had never really heard of the term “invisible illness” before, but connected to some of the feelings that Simon shared about Martina in the video.  Before I started to “come out” about my mental illness, I felt almost like an undercover agent.  I thought that since my illness was “invisible” in some ways, I hid it from everyone except close family and friends.  In fact, at that time, I thought it was an asset, because I wasn’t ready to deal with the stigma.  However, over time, it became a burden because one lie (ex. I have a eye doctor appointment, when I really had a psychiatry appointment) often led to more.  Moreover, let’s not forget the shame that comes along with any sort of dishonesty.

I also connected with her guilt of having to “take that priority seat” because of her illness.  In my life, I have also chosen to work part-time and often don’t take on extra responsibilities at work due to the extra stress.  This usually leads me think that my co-workers must think I’m lazy.  I really want to tell them though that I am working at 100%, just to stay working despite my mental illness.  Over the years, telling others my condition has helped me alleviate some of this guilt.  However, you really don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want though.  Instead, I want to tell others not to judge someone so quickly, as oftentimes, you have no idea what might be hiding behind their smile.

What if There Was a Cure?

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What if there was a cure for mental illness?  Would you take it?

Another Youtube video and another reflection from me.  This time it is a video from Molly Burke, who is a Youtuber that makes videos about her life as a blind person.  As you watch her videos, you will be amazed at her strength, confidence, and tenacity.  Recently, as her channel as grown, she has been inundated with recommendations of how she could heal her retinitis pigmentosa.  Her response was surprising, but yet relatable to me.  She didn’t feel her disability hindered her in anyway and she wasn’t looking for a cure.  Furthermore, she felt that even if she did regain her sight, would her life then be perfect?  She didn’t necessarily think so.  In fact, she thought there might be new problems that will surface.

Wow!  After watching this video, I just had so many thoughts coming at me from different directions.

A cure!  How can anyone say no?

Would my life be really that much different?

I understand the mental exhaustion she must have gone through trying different remedies to no avail.  After a while, I think it must be easier to just choose to accept it than continue searching for an unknown cure.  As someone with anxiety and depression, I have also been offered advice about supplements and other types of remedies.  Some of them have been helpful and some of them not so much.  However, I am always grateful and touched when people try to help me.

So would I take the cure?  I don’t know.  Even thinking about it for the last few days, I still don’t have an answer.  Having a mental illness has given me a mission to stop the stigma surrounding it, but it has also made me unable to function in my daily life at its worst.  It has allowed to empathize and not easily judge others with mental illness, but has stopped me from doing some things in my life.  It has allowed me to slow down and learn to balance my everyday life, but has made me so stressed sometimes I want to cry.

I feel like I am torn between two camps of thought.  Mental illness has brought me to where I am today and the life I have now with both its positives and negatives.  If it is gone tomorrow, will my life be a million times better?  No one knows.  Will this blog no longer exist then?  That is part of the dilemma.  However, if it came down to someone handing me the cure tomorrow and saying it would work for sure.  I think it would be mighty hard to resist.  To be a guinea pig for multiple trial treatments though, I don’t think I would want to be a part of that.  Life is too short for that.

The Sun Will Always Rise

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“How you feel at your worst is not how you are always going to always feel.” — John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars

You may all know John Green from his book The Fault in our Stars, but I know him as one half of the Youtube channel, vlogbrothers.  He recently posted a video about visiting Venice after not being there for a few years.  He talked about how sick he was the last time he went, and how much he enjoyed it this time.  Then, he ended the video with the quote above.  As a fellow mental illness patient (he suffers from OCD), I often find solace in his videos.  Somehow, seeing him doing ok, makes me feel like I’m going to be alright somehow.

Do you ever find hope by watching other people’s stories?  At my sickest, I remember endlessly Googling for mental illness recovery stories.  Even though at that time, I just couldn’t fathom recovery actually happening to me.  Each recovery story gave me a glimmer of hope and made me think maybe this feeling of hopelessness wouldn’t last forever.  I hope this post will do so for those that they are enveloped in darkness presently.

Last year, around this time, I was not well to say the least.  All I could muster was brushing my teeth and just sitting at my desk for hours just watching Youtube.  I had decided to go back on medication again, and the first few weeks of adjusting to it was worst then the illness sometimes.  Fast-forward one year later, I am sitting at the same desk, still watching Youtube, but today, I am smiling, the sun is shining outside, and I am writing this blogpost.

How you feel at your worst is not how you are always going to always feel.

There is always hope.  Things will get better.  The sun will always rise and most importantly, there will always be a reason to live.

Feeling Sad Sometimes

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As I mentioned last week, I am going to continue to write about some Youtube videos that have inspired me.  Surprisingly, this week is a video from a beauty guru named Nic Chapman from her channel called Pixiwoo.  Although, perhaps it is not that surprising since behind every seemingly perfect life, is a human being.  In the video, she reveals that she has been suffering from multiple sclerosis for the last few years.  During the video, she talks about how she found out and how she maintains her health.  She also talks about hoping to help others by sharing her story.

"I don't know why I am crying"

Like others that have shared their personal stories on Youtube, I admired her courage, but more than that I connected to many of the emotions she had throughout the video.  When she began talking, she started crying and said "I don't even know why I am crying because I don't even feel sorry for myself because I live with it and I am totally fine."  Then, she continues to talk about how she has already shed all her tears and just wanted to get on with life and didn't want others to feel sorry for her anymore.

Throughout watching the video, my gut reaction was that I wanted to tell her that it was ok to cry sometimes.  It is sad to think that the life that you dreamed for yourself might not happen and grief is normal for anyone dealing with chronic illness.  However, I feel we don't often talk about what happens after the stages of grief.  Is it still ok to feel sad after you have accepted it?

"I don't cry about it because that's life"

Do I still cry about my mental illness?  Of course.  Have I accepted it?  Yes.  Like she said, "this was the card I was dealt and I live with it."  Since I can't change it, if I dwell on it, it will only continue to make me unhappy.  Like her, I don't really try to focus on the limitations my illness brings me.  Similarly, I also can't even remember the last time I have cried talking about it.   However, I think it doesn't mean you can't cry about it sometimes.  Having a chronic illness is devastating and sad, and you realize that things will never be the same again.  You will have new dreams, but being sad or regretful about things that didn't work out is about being "just human."

Pushing Through

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Depression can be lonely.  Not only because you feel like you are trapped inside your mind, but because it seems like no one else understands.  During my first bout of depression, I remembered feeling so afraid because I simply didn’t know anyone that had it.  More importantly, I didn’t know anyone that had recovered.  Somehow, I thought if I even knew one person that made it out of this darkness, it would give me hope.  Fast forward to today, and I actually know people that have shared their mental health stories with me.  Furthermore, even though the internet has been the springboard for some horrific things in the world, it has also been a saviour for many who realize that they are not alone.  Every story shared adds to the pool of ammunition against the stigma against mental illness.

In the next few blogposts, I thought I’d continue to share some Youtube videos that have inspired me and also made feel like less alone.  The first video I wanted to share is from Simon and Martina’s Youtube channel.  They are a couple from Canada who produce videos about living in Asia.  Martina suffers from chronic pain, and in this video below she shares her personal battle with chronic depression.  Her brush with suicide has allowed her to value the things she would have missed if she had succeeded.  It has allowed her to understand that she should live life to the fullness and make memories she will never forget.

I connected with this video a lot because as someone with anxiety I am constantly evaluating everything I do.  Will this make me super anxious?  Am I doing too much?  I don’t know if I have the courage to go all out to attempt things that may make me terribly sick, but I understand her train of thought.  If I am going to be sitting around being miserable, why not just go for it sometimes?  Make those memories that you will never regret.

This month, I really felt I made some great memories even though I was not feeling completely balanced and well all the time.  Was it worth it?  For sure.  I had some relatives visit from out of town all last month.  We went out almost everyday going to different places and experiencing different things.  For someone that has anxiety, you can’t believe how hard this can be.  I thrive on routine and not knowing exactly what was going to happen the next day was hard.  I did take a couple of days off here and there, but I pretty much showed up for everything.  As the days passed, it actually got easier.  As always, the only way to conquer your fears is to face them head-on.  Only when we push through them to we find that we are more capable than we think.

Terrible Week: Is it Really Though?

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Gosh, it has been a terrible week!

Is it really though?

This scenario happens to me quite often and my husband always has to remind me that it usually happens once a month.  Being a woman, half the population would understand what this can mean.  For me, it just seems to amplify all of my anxiety symptoms.  Everything seems harder and some of my darker thoughts seem to creep in more often.  These thoughts often scare me the most.

Am I heading into another dark period in my life?

I don’t want to do this again.

So, I thought I’d talk about how I endure and more likely, push through these moments in my life.

Just endure

I think sometimes I get obsessed with feeling well all the time.  I try to run away from my anxious feelings, through distraction, exercise, or whatever I can do, to not feel this way.  Sometimes (definitely not all the time), I will just let myself “feel it.”  In these situations, I remind myself that this is part of myself that I have to accept.  Like my doctor says, in order to overcome your fears, you have to face them no matter how awful it may seem.  That doesn’t stop me from complaining about it however.  Sorry to my husband.

This has happened before

I find that when I have a down day, I always make it out to be the worst day ever.  I always have to be reminded that there have been “way worse” days before.  When you feel a bit better, I find that every “not-so-good” day just seems ten times worse in comparison.  However, if I compare to other bad days in my life, it usually isn’t that bad and if history rings true, it always gets better.  Holding onto this belief helps me get through those so called bad weeks.

Self-care

I think self-care is one of the most important treatments for mental illness.  I find that I am hyper aware of how I am feeling everyday, which obviously has its pros and cons.  However, I do think that self-care is even more important during bad days.  Things can really take a “really” bad turn fast when you don’t take care of yourself.  As a woman, it can often feel like self-care is a selfish act.  Yet, only when you take care yourself can you take care of others.  As the years have gone by, I feel so much more confident about saying no and taking time out for myself.  Treatment can be medication, and exercise, but it could also be finding ways to take care of yourself, even if you don’t have mental illness.

How do you deal with bad days?

Working Part-Time and Anxiety: Do You Just Go Shopping on Your Day Off?

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I work part-time and I have gotten many questions and comments about it.

Are you going to go full-time soon?

So you like working part-time?

I wish I would could work part-time!

Why do I choose to work part-time?  There is no denying it.  A major reason is my anxiety.  You don’t know what an amazing difference that one day off is for me.  I work in an environment where I am constantly interacting with people.  I love it and it actually is a huge distraction when it comes to my anxiety.  However, it is also very hard to keep up that facade all the time.  I am not always cheerful and social at work, but I can’t be silent and reclusive either.  That one day alone is my day of self-care.  It allows to me to silence the constant “noise” and just kind of regroup.

Would I work part-time if I didn’t have an anxiety?  I don’t know.  I do sometimes think that North Americans work too much and I don’t think working full-time for a purely monetary reason is my goal in life.  For sure, I understand it is a necessity and not a choice for some people.  I do enjoy working part-time, am fine with spending less, and having my sanity.  I know that for sure.

I often get questioned about why I work part-time.  Like, what do I do on my day off?  Do I just go shopping?  I mean, sometimes, I do, but I used to find it really annoying when people would ask me why I worked part-time.  Mostly, because I didn’t want to explain that I had anxiety. Plus, sometimes I felt guilty and kind of lazy to say that I was taking time to take care of myself.

As time as gone by, I get that when someone does something out of the norm, it will be questioned.  It seems like all around me, people strive to work full-time.  It is sign of accomplishment.  As I have spoken more about anxiety, it has become an easier question to answer.  However, sometimes, I wonder, I like working part-time, do I really have to justify that?  Yet, as I am re-reading this, I do question, do I sound kind of “braggy” saying that I can choose to work part-time?  What do you think?

Thanks For Being my Mom

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Today is Mother’s Day and it has made me reflect a lot about the mental health journey I have been through with my mom.  Often, I find that I tend to focus too much on how to deal with my mental illness around friends and coworkers.  However, my family is probably the group of people who have to deal with it most on a day-to-day basis.  I find that I take for granted that they will automatically accept and deal with my illness no matter what.  Yet, it is perhaps these relationships that need to be nurtured more readily.

Since it is Mother’s Day, I just wanted to talk about how my mom and I have dealt with my mental illness.  There definitely wasn’t a period where I knew I had it and then I had to face the issue of having to come out to my mom.  When I found out I had anxiety and depression, we were already in the midst of it.  It was more like the deep end really.  Neither I, nor my mom, really knew much about mental illness.  When I was first told from a doctor, I had no idea that this type of illness even existed.  I mean, I knew what being a little anxious meant, but I didn’t know how bad it could get.

I think my mom’s reaction was just to attack it head-on and help me from which ever angle she could.  She yelled at me and spoiled me, hoping that something would break me out of it.  Even though to her, it seemed like nothing worked because I stopped talking for a longtime.  Her presence, support, and love was what kept me holding on.  She drove me to every doctor appointment even though she disliked hospitals and made sure I took my medication.  I can’t imagine what she had to bear to see her own daughter so ill.  I could never imagine.

Thanks for being my mom.  Happy Mother’s Day.