Important resources before we start - COVID-19 fund: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/donate - BLM funding: https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html
Hello friends! We've made it through 2020. And oh my gosh, haven't we all had a wildest time? Through all of this, I feel like mental health has been one of my biggest priorities. It always is, but through the negative aspects of 2020, it's been important for us all to improvise.
We all have gone through a wide range of emotions this year--anger about racial injustice, fear about our health, uncertainty about what lies ahead. Things are chaotic. But we are not alone in this. So for today's post, I wanted to update you guys on the different aspects of anxiety that I experience, how I've felt lately, and also how I've managed through this stressful year.
So first thing's first, let me remind you: people with anxiety normally have other mental illnesses linked with it. So for me, I have severe anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and depression. That's my glorious bundle brain things. Everyone deals with anxiety differently, so here's just my way.
As a preference for me, I take medication to help. My medication is more centered around the depression side of things, so I really only get mildly depressed, here and there. But it's definitely not as often as it was when I was in high school and college. I've been on that medicine for about two years now, so the depression part might be more settled.
At the beginning of the year, I worked as a barista in a local coffee shop. I feel like I used to be pretty damn good at my job. I also loved making coffee. It kept my hands and brain busy, and it felt like I was just making a craft! But when Covid started picking up, and when uncertainties rose, I began feeling more frantic and out-of-control at work. I'm someone who needs to have full control of a situation. Change and lack of control has been something that really scares me. So if I was working and things weren't getting done, I felt so stressed that I just couldn't talk to people. I just wanted to work quietly and breathe. So with a bunch of things in my life out of my control, I wasn't feeling well mentally. I remember trying to ask my boss to take safer health protocols, and instead she took me off the schedule entirely. A few weeks later, I got a text that I was done.
This was definitely a low point for me. Nothing hits quite like getting fired at a time of uncertainty. It really made me scared, because I didn't want to get another job that would pay me little to nothing. If I was going to find another job, I wanted it to be in the design field, because that's what my degree is focused around. So for about five months, I was applying to job-after-job, every day. I probably applied to three hundred jobs, honestly. Maybe even more. I was depressed, I was stressed because I couldn't comfortably visit my family. I couldn't see my friends, unless we were hiking or something distanced. I just felt so embarrassed and alone.
Through my job search, I was messaging a ton of businesses in the area, I was advertising my Depop shop, I was freelancing, I was unfortunately losing photo clients because of social distancing. I was also getting fake job offers left and right. I felt so hopeless. I didn't have a good sleeping schedule, I was eating way too much, I found out I have PCOS, so my body is just completely out of whack. It was definitely a difficult start to the year.
Something that's been a saving grace for me has been working out. I unfortunately have neglected to work out since it's gotten colder, and since I've been moving. But when spring started and through my entire unemployment, I made a point to get the Sweat app and go to the park and to just push myself to run, walk, or hike. Exercise is something that always originally sounds intimidating, but once you find a spot for it in your schedule, you realize how manageable it actually is. Not only that, but you realize how good you feel after a good workout session. So that is definitely something I recommend to help with any feelings of worthlessness and lethargy. I remember a guy at my gym would tell me, "Showing up is the hardest part." Be proud to show up!
I think my biggest personal struggle this year has been with the OCD part of my anxiety. I'm someone who's scared of losing control or experiencing change. Something that my friends Carra and Jake told me years ago is to imagine that I'm in a bubble. Me and the things in my life that I can control are inside this bubble. Things that are outside of my bubble are things I'm allowed to worry about, because I can't help it, but they're the things I shouldn't stress about right now. The world is a mess, but you have to help yourself through it. So compartmentalizing your priorities and taking charge of your wellbeing are huge.
Whenever I feel out of control, I get angry. And it's more of a quick, ticky, stressed feeling. When I go through this, I always try to think about how I interact with people, and I never say things I know I'll regret later. I try to remember that this feeling is temporary, and that I'll feel better eventually. So yeah, my OCD is where my stressed, agitated feelings stem from.
Along with this, I also have dermatillomania. I've had this struggle since I was in elementary school where I pick and pick at my skin. It's similar to pulling hair or biting nails. Normally I tear up my arms and my face, but this year I've been scratching at my legs a lot more than usual.
So how exactly do I cope with my obsessive compulsive episodes? There's a few things, actually.
Whenever I feel out of control and seemingly-spontaneously stressed, I often have to just ask for space. Vocalizing my stress helps. Just breathing and saying, "Hey, I feel a little overwhelmed right now," can help a lot, whether it be with coworkers, friends, roommates, family, etc. Having an understanding can help extinguish a potential breakdown or outburst. It can alleviate that tightly wound feeling I experience.
And, honestly, being vocal helps with my dermatillomania as well. I've grown up with a lot people people asking me what's wrong with my skin. I've been sent to the guidance counselor's office numerous times because people would be concerned about me. It's not in good health to pick at my skin, I know. And it's something I haven't been able to shake quite yet. But in the mean time, creating an understanding with people I date or people I work with can take some anxiety and stress off my shoulders. Not everyone needs an explanation about your personal situation, but sometimes building that understanding helps me feel less like I'm being gawked at in curiosity.
Another way to help feel more in-control? Notes. I've been someone who writes notes on everything, any time, anywhere. If I randomly think of a blog post: note. If I think of something I need at the store: note. If I have a budgeting idea: note. Detailed and repeated notes help me remember things and sort things out. It sounds like a simple trick, but it's therapeutic to me.
Some more things that have helped me mentally include self care, scheduling my eating and sleeping, and having hobbies. Allow me to elaborate.
If I get a stress headache or can't sleep, just hearing the oil diffuser and smelling the oils benefits me so much. It helps me unwind a lot. Another thing I'm excited to do in my new apartment is taking baths again. It's been too long! And finally, taking care of myself, physically. Sleeping and eating at appropriate times and amounts seriously impacts the way we think and feel so much. I try to only eat if my body is giving me actual hunger cues, instead of just my being bored. I also try to limit how often I game during the week because it makes me sleep a lot later.
Finally, know your hobbies. I feel so creatively inspired lately. I've been streaming, designing, photographing, filming...I'm just excited to be here, honestly. There's so much I want to do, and having these creative hobbies is an incredible outlet.
So how am I feeling right now, in life? Well, I'm better. I'm finally excited about change, instead of scared of it. I moved to a new place, I have a new job, I'm creating new projects, and I'm being the most responsible version of me. I'm trying to take time for myself, to explore what directions I want to head in with all these goals of mine. I'm just genuinely excited for the first time in my life.
If you're having a rough time right now, just remember that things will get better. Sometimes you have to try a few coping methods before you find one that works well for you! But don't give up, friends. Better days truly are ahead.
If you're struggling mentally, don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't know where to begin, in your search for better mental health? Click here to discover resource options.
Thank you so much for reading! How have you been through 2020?
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