Back to School

It’s back to school for me. Yesterday was the first day of the eleven weeks that will become my Fall Quarter. Now that the back-to-school anxiety has decreased, it is time to get back to work. My professors all seem nice, but this will definitely be a reading heavy quarter. I hope to keep updating this blog, hopefully on a more regular basis, but we will see how it goes.

I am starting to get used to getting up earlier in the morning and know that if I keep at it waking up early should become a habit. I am also trying to get back into the habit of get home, chill for a bit and then get down to work.  I hate working on schoolwork when everybody is home if I can help it, so I try to get as much done before dinner as I can. I also hope to get back into working on CBT because I could not commit to it over the summer easily, because it wants me to fill out my daily schedule and rank importance and enjoyment of what I have done. This was hard to do over the summer because I had no set schedule.

One thing I am excited about this quarter is that I get to be a part of “The Happiness Project”, which is a group on my campus that promotes self-care, mindfulness, meditation, and other mental health promoting things. I was a part of this group when it was an unofficial club for two quarters and definitely missed it over the summer. The group was originally based upon the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and I am excited to see where this new school year takes us.

That’s it for now.

~Star Crossed Daydreamer

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Any Advice?

So when I get anxious, I quickly move from anxious to depressed to wanting to cry. Does anyone have any advice as to how you stop this type of downward cycle?

I went through this same cycle often when I was on medications, so I am familiar with it, but I don’t like having my anxiety control me in this way.

Thanks Dad

So I am not as close with my dad as I am with my mom. He worked a lot when I was little and I didn’t really know him until he became unemployed almost 9 years ago. I am sad to say I have told him that he doesn’t contribute to the family before, often when I was worried about our family financially. Since then, he tries to help the best he can and even though he can’t contribute much, he is trying.

Me and my mom believe that I got a lot of my mental illness from my dad. We both have depression and anxiety, and we tend to have “off” days around the same time. This can be hard on my mom because she is trying to help both of us when we get randomly depressed. I am not sure if me or my dad has worse anxiety/depression, but I do know that we have some of the same ways of dealing with it.

Anyways, this isn’t about who has worse mental illness.

This post is a big thank you to my dad. My dad is an amazing guy even though he can drive me crazy, and he tries to help me deal with my mental illness the best he can, even while dealing with his own. He knows how to help calm me down during panic attacks and reminds me that everything is going to be okay when it feels like my world is falling apart. He tries to help whenever he can and understands that sometimes I need space, while others times I need comfort.

Considering he was working all the time when I was first diagnosed, he has been a big part of my support system and his involvement in my mental health has grown the longer he has worked from home.

He drives me to school when he can and gives me his spare change and even if all he can do to help me sometimes is listen, he does that. I am thankful for having him in my life.

Having Hope

With all the uncontrollable things going on in the world around us, it makes sense that a lot of people are afraid of what might happen. If you have anxiety, you likely know that one of the worst things you can do is give into whatever is making you anxious and letting it take control of your thoughts. While I mostly ignore things in the world around me that make no direct impact to me, I have found that there is one thing that works to help me conquer my anxiety. Hope.

I tend to get very anxious about things related to school. Papers, projects, midterms, and finals have gotten the best of me in the past. I have learned to have faith in my abilities and find ways of studying that work for me.

For papers and projects, I feel less anxious if I give myself enough time that I can read over it one more time before I have to submit it. While this means I have to get ahead sometimes, that also means I am not procrastinating.

For midterms and finals, I have to study the night before and do little to no studying before the exam. I found that I almost always forget what I tried to cram in in the 10 minutes before the exam.

The worst anxiety is always for the bigger tests. I was a complete wreck before my first SAT, ACT, and CSET (Multiple Subjects 1, 2, and 3). The days before were torture and I often panic so much that I just want to not go to the exam, even though I know how important it is for me to go and just do my best. My SAT and ACT scores were good enough to get into my first choice college, and good enough that I do not have to take the CBEST (a general education test for those who want to be teachers) to apply for the teaching credential program I want to go into. I haven’t gotten my CSET results yet, they should be reported this week, but I know that if I didn’t pass the first time, then I have time to take them again and focus more on studying.

Maybe I am more afraid of these bigger tests because it feels like they are more important for my future. Even when I was really young though, I would be nervous about things like STAR testing (it’s called something different now). I started STAR testing in second grade and had to complete it every year after that except my senior year of high school. In 4th, 7th, and 10th grade, these exams were even more important because those were the years they were measuring our school performance on. I always passed these exams with either advanced or excellent results, but knowing that, or knowing that they were just seeing what I know never helped, I was often a little bit anxious, from when I got to school to when I actually opened the testing booklet. That’s another thing, I usually panicked a lot less once I saw the actual questions.

Anyways, I have always had a bit of anxiety, whether it be academic, testing, social or even separation anxiety. It was harder for me to deal with when I was younger and couldn’t verbalize or understand my anxiety. I now know that there are some things that I can do to help control my anxiety. Taking two Tylenol before exams or presentations helps me to calm down, as does listening to music (listening to music can backfire because I often get parts of one song stuck in my head and they repeat over and over as I take the exam, even if I don’t particularly like the song, instrumental music or movies scores helps with this but I don’t find them as relaxing).

The biggest thing though, I having hope. I have to tell myself that no matter what happens, I will be okay. If I get a lower grade than I wanted, it will be okay, I just have to work a little harder next time. It I don’t pass the CSET, I have time to take it again. I have to have hope that things will be okay, as long as I do my best. And I have to have faith in myself. I know that I am smart, and that worrying does not help me remember anything. I just have to believe in myself and remember that there are so many people on my side who believe in me too.

How Disney Helps Me Cope With Mental Illness

So I recently came back from an amazing trip to Disneyland.

In the past week and a half since coming home, I have started an internship that requires me to fix my terrible summer sleep schedule and wake up at 7:00 am a few days a week. So I’ve been trying to consistently wake up by 8:00 am on days I don’t have my internship and its been difficult. Between being exhausted while trying to make this switch (I get depressed and borderline hysterical when I am tired), transitioning to going back to school (the internship I’ve started is for one of my classes), being trapped inside because a heat wave (its been over 100 degrees Fahrenheit most days this week), and  just normal everyday mood fluctuations, its been hard.

I grew up as a Disney kid and Disney has been a coping mechanism for me for as long as I could remember. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression young and as I started to get better, I saw more in Disney movies than just the stories that we see when we are little. There are three movies in particular that have helped me a lot since I was diagnosed and as I get more familiar with my mental illnesses, the more I feel connected to the characters.

These movies are:

Tangled, The Princess and The Frog, and Big Hero 6

Tangled- I have loved Tangled since it first came out. Rapunzel is book smart, but has some trouble understanding the real world. She goes on a grand adventure to see the lanterns. She is ambitious even though she doesn’t know what could happen. BONUS: Tangled: The Series has an amazing theme song, “Wind in My Hair” that has been my favorite song with this bout of depression. The lyrics make me feel hopeful and I have been listening to it on repeat.

The Princess and The Frog- Tiana is an inspiration to me. Everything seems against her, but she knows her dream and does whatever she has to to make it come true. She never lost sight of who she was, her roots, and that is what I feel made her so strong.

Big Hero 6- The reason this is one of my favorites is because they actually have Hiro experience grief and depression. This movie brings to light the topic of mental illness and that sometimes it is okay to not be okay. The support he receives from the rest of the group shows how important a support system is to have, especially when going through something really difficult. Also, how awesome would it be to have a real Baymax?

These are just a few examples of why I feel that I turn to Disney when I am depressed. They bring me hope and help me to remember that bad days can go away.

Hope is something that keeps me going.

Hope that my mental illnesses will get better. I know they won’t go away, but just be not as bad.

Hope that I will achieve my dreams.

Hope that my life will change for the better.

Hope that I will make a difference in someone’s life.

I live my life with hope and faith and try to go with the flow the best I can. And it has worked for me thus far.

I hope that if you are struggling with something, anything, that you have someone or something to turn to that can provide you with the hope you need to carry on.

Grief

On August 21, 2016, my paternal Nonno passed away at 86 years old. His health had been declining for several years and he had had many health scares in that time. On August 1st he had been placed on hospice and we were told that he might pass in a few months or as soon as a few days. In one of my classes that I had just completed the previous quarter, Adulthood and Aging, my professor told us that most people are on hospice for less than two months. The last time I saw him was on August 14th, and I could tell that despite being surrounded by his entire family, he was not present mentally. By August 19th, we were told that he was declining faster than expected and he might live one more week. My dad got a call from my Zia very early in the morning on August 21st that my grandfather was extremely irritable and that she was going to bring him to the hospital. My dad left immediately to go be with his dad. He passed that morning surrounded by his wife and kids. We had been running errands and immediately went to go spend time with our Nonna. I was instructed to try not to show how upset I was because everyone was afraid that my crying would make Nonna more upset. She seemed a little sad, but otherwise fine. She told me not to be sad because he wasn’t hurting anymore, but I felt as if someone had ripped a hole in my heart and couldn’t help crying.

Nonno was the first person in my immediate family that I had lost. And while I knew that he wasn’t in pain anymore, losing him was very hard on me. I had been having anxiety attacks for weeks before he passed because even though I have always known it was going to happen, I had never lost anybody that was such a huge part of my life growing up. Not only was finding out that he had passed hard for me, but everything became much more real during the interment. We were all gathered there for the interment; his wife, both his children and their spouses, his three grandsons and their wives, his two granddaughters, and three of his five great grandchildren. We had all seen him the week before on the 14th, but little did we know then that we would be saying goodbye to him on the 25th.

It took me almost six months before the overwhelming feeling of loss had begun to subside. Christmas had been hard on all of us, but me, my mom, and my sister had some special gifts in mind. After Nonno had passed, we had taken three shirts from his closet and his engraved set of poker chips. He had always worn plaid button ups and we turned these shirts into remembrance pillows. I have one, my sister has one, and my Nonna has one that she has since placed on his side of the bed. With the poker chips, we created a keychain for every single person in the family. Each generation got a different color and my grandmother got one with all three colors. The person who appreciated the keychain most was my three year old cousin. We have been told that he carries that poker chip around with him all the time and whenever he goes to my Nonna’s house (his great grandparents) he still goes around searching for our Nonno. He understands that Nonno went to heaven, but he doesn’t yet realize that Nonno is not coming back. School helped me from being upset during the day and gave me something to think about besides how much I missed my Nonno, but at night the raw feelings made their way to the surface. Eventually, I found myself thinking about him without breaking into tears, but it is still hard sometimes. I still miss him.

As my grief was starting to decline, my maternal Nonno’s health started to decline as did the health of my paternal Nonna. (Sorry if things start to get confusing. I am Italian on both sides of my family, so growing up I have two Nonnos and two Nonnas.) They both went to the hospital in November, and we were worried about both of them. Our weekends consisted of traveling two hours to see my maternal Nonno and Nonna and then on the drive home stopping to visit my paternal Nonna. I was worried that one of them would pass on November 21st, the day that marked three months since my paternal Nonno had passed. By November 21st, both my nonni had their health improve. As the new year started my paternal Nonna was seeing her health remain consistent, while my maternal Nonno began to decline more rapidly.

It had started with weakness in his legs and a loss of appetite and in February, my maternal Nonno had begun to fall more frequently and his kidneys were starting to shut down. If he did dialysis, his kidneys might get better, but it would make his heart worse. We were hoping that he would make it to the end of March, until spring break, but he was declining rapidly and was put on hospice before Valentine’s day. As February 21st came closer, I had a feeling that my Nonno would pass on that Monday (February 21st was a Tuesday, I had figured it out wrong, but I had a feeling my maternal Nonno would pass exactly six months after my paternal Nonno did). Almost every week in January and February, my parents went to go see him and me and my sister tagged along if we didn’t have too much homework. We saw him for the last time on February 19th, and while we were in the car my Zia called to tell us he hit his head early in the morning. We saw him and helped him bandage his head until someone from hospice came to check on him and talk to us. She was saying that he might have internal bleeding from hitting his head and that he might pass in a few days if there was indeed internal bleeding. I had to go take a walk to the park nearby because hearing the hospice worker talk about the possible timeline of the rest of his life was reopening the hole in my heart that had almost healed.

On February 20th, 2017 at just past 1 pm, we got a call from my cousin that my maternal Nonno had passed. He was 89 and 3/4 years old. I couldn’t believe it for we had just seen him the day before, just about 24 hours had passed since we had left. We were torn between driving going to be with my maternal Nonna and staying home. I didn’t want to go, but my family knew that they also couldn’t leave me home. Both me and my sister were taking his passing very hard. I went for my Nonna and my mom. My Nonna was angry that he didn’t say goodbye, while the rest of us were still in a bit of shock. On February 24th, we held the funeral. We had a private interment and again I found that the hardest part. We were all their, our tiny family; his wife, his two daughters and their husbands, and his four grandchildren. We used the flowers from the arrangements we had ordered to place at his plaque, my great grandparents plaque, and the plaque of my cousins’ other Nonna.

I still miss my Nonno greatly. School was a distraction, but I feel that it prevented me from grieving early on. It wasn’t until summer started that I finally felt allowed to properly grieve him. It was hard on his birthday in May because I kept thinking how he would have been 90 years old and how even though he had been saying he was 90 practically since he had turned 89, he would have been able to say it and we wouldn’t have been able to correct him. I find that I still think about him a lot and when we go to visit my maternal Nonna every few weeks I still expect to see him there about half the time.

Though we have not created any remembrance things for my maternal Nonno, we picked out some of his shirts to make pillows.

This past year my family lost two great men. My Nonnas are learning to live independently after being married for 62 and 54 years (paternal Nonna and maternal Nonna respectively). I still find it hard to think about them without crying, and visiting my Nonnas makes it harder. Whenever I visit either of them, it hurts all over again. They still both live in their homes, and it is so weird to be at their houses. It makes my heart ache all over again and sometimes I dread visiting. I know that my Nonnas like to see me and my sister. I always go even though it is hard for me because they lost someone who was much more important. Between visits it is a little easier for me, but when I am at their homes there is so much to remind me of my Nonnos. The photos are the hardest for me to look at because while they captured good memories, it just acts as another reminder that they are gone now. I can usually hold myself together while I am there, but once we are in the car I find it becomes harder to keep the tears at bay and I tend to be more moody/irritable as well. I still try to hide it because I don’t want my anyone to see how upset I still am about their passings. I feel that my maternal Nonno’s passing was harder because it was more unexpected.

I feel that the interments were almost as difficult as hearing about their passings because until then, I do not remember seeing my Nonnas cry. Having the whole family there made it a little better. After both interments, we went to have dinner before we left. After my paternal Nonno’s funeral, we went to a restaurant and then to see my maternal nonni until traffic let up. After my maternal Nonno’s funeral, the whole family went to Nonna’s house and ate dinner and have some drinks and just spend time with each other  and tell stories about our Nonno until we had to go home. I feel that this was the right way to spend the night, remembering my maternal Nonno and being with my Nonna when she needed us.

When it was time to go home I felt a sense of sadness, not because I was upset about their passings, but because I felt like we were leaving them behind. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to not have them around.

There are somethings that I find provide me with some relief from the sadness.

  • Both my Nonnos got to see all their grandchildren graduate high school.
  • Both my Nonnos got to see all their grandchildren become adults. (My sister was the youngest of all the grandchildren and had just turned 18.)
  • Both my Nonnas have family nearby to help them.
  • I have so many good memories to remember them by.
  • They are watching over us now. (We have even more guardian angels!)

Hard Days

Those days where you wake up and just feel off.

Today it felt as if there was something missing inside me, maybe the happy part, maybe I used it all up when my sister’s friends were over and I had to pretend that I enjoyed being stuck hosting a large group of people. The sadness usually presents in this way or as a numb sort of feeling. Eat breakfast, but not really enjoy it. Browse social media, but nothing seems to hold any meaning.

Distraction. Find something to do to keep my mind off the strange off feeling. Book. I’m about a third of the way through the book. Focus on the characters, the adventures, plot twists that are predictable and those that surprise me.

Lunch. Again, not very satisfying, but I enjoy it enough.

Back to reading. Dedicated to this strange book now. Want to see how it ends.

Finish the book. It ended good. It was worth reading even though it was kinda long.

Go outside with my sister and her puppy. Some of the other dog owners are there. The fresh air is good. Makes me feel content.

Come home, make dinner, eat.

Feel sad again, even as we run errands. Just feeling hopeless overall.

Get home and just feel sad. Wonder if my anxiety medication was actually helping and I didn’t realize. It seems that this is likely. Gonna try taking it for a little while.

Puppy comes to cuddle with me. Don’t feel alone right now.

Blog about it. Feel a little better.


I don’t know if you guys know how much sharing these things actually helps me. Today had been really hard, hence the several hours of reading. Like 6 hours of reading. I want everyone who reads to know that you are not alone, no matter how alone you feel.