My Escape

Sometimes I have to escape for a bit.

And there are several ways I prefer to escape either the reality of my world or the depressive thoughts running through my head.

Books

Reading has always been a hobby for me and I can’t wait for breaks from school and summer because I can finally read again! I have several authors that I love to read, but if a book sounds like something else I have read and enjoyed, I will often give it a try.

Some of my favorite authors/series/specific books that I have read and enjoyed include:

  • Rick Riordan-Mythology and Heroes, Action, YA
    • Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Five books)
    • The Kane Chronicles (Three books)
    • Heroes of Olympus (Five books)
    • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (Two books released so far)
  • Alex Flinn-Fairytales Retold, YA     *KC after the title means that this book is part of the Kendra Chronicles series by this author
    • Beastly (KC)
    • A Kiss in Time
    • Cloaked
    • Bewitching (KC)
    • Towering
    • Mirrored (KC)
    • Beheld (KC)
  • Pittacus Lore-Sci Fi, Action, YA
    • Lorien Legacies (Seven books)
  • Jenna Evans Welch-Romance, Finding Yourself, YA
    • Love and Gelato
  • Rainbow Rowell-Finding Yourself, Romance, YA (more for college-age young adults)
    • Fangirl

Puzzles

I’ve loved puzzles for about as long as I have loved books. And again, this activity is limited to breaks from school, so it doesn’t make for an everyday escape option. I enjoy completing puzzles, even though I realized yesterday that I can forget how stressful they can be.

I have completed a handful of 3D puzzles from Bepuzzled (a Level 1 Diamond, Level 2 Treasure Chest, and a Level 3 Pirate Ship) and hope to find more 3D puzzles because though they present a challenge, they are beautiful to keep once put together.

I also complete classic jigsaw puzzles. I can complete a 100 or 300 piece jigsaw in less than a day if I have unlimited time to work on it. 500 pieces would probably take me a few days. 1,000 pieces about a week. I have completed one 2,000 piece puzzle (Starry Night) and that took me three weeks working several hours a day.

I have bought an overwhelming majority from thrift stores, some may be missing a piece or two, but that is fine. A lot of them either have all the pieces or the box may have been cut open but the pieces are still sealed in their plastic bag. I currently have twelve puzzles of Thomas Kinkade paintings that I bought just over a year ago for less than $3 at a random thrift shop that will provide me with plenty of escape this summer.

The thing about puzzles is that I hate taking them apart. This isn’t a problem for 3D puzzles, but it creates a storage issue for 2D puzzles. I have resorted to gluing all my completed puzzles to foam poster board and currently have a large stack of completed puzzles in my closet. My favorites may get displayed in my garage one day when I have a place of my own.

Music

Music is one of the few escapes I can make use of all year round. I primarily listen to music on Spotify because I have found that even without a subscription, you have a nearly limitless list of songs at your fingertips. I like that Spotify allows me to make my own playlists and on my laptop or tablet, I can choose if I want to listen to a playlist straight through or if I want it shuffled. Spotify for cell phones is not as friendly and will only shuffle the playlists. Spotify mobile will also play recommended songs, so if a playlist is short or you’ve gone all the way through it once, it will start playing random songs that might not be related to what you were listening to in anyway. This might be a good reason to subscribe to Spotify Premium, but it doesn’t bother me much for I just switch to a different playlist. The only other differences between Spotify and Spotify Premium is that Spotify has ads roughly every thirty minutes and that you cannot listen to your playlists if you have no internet connection or data available.

Now back to music. I will listen to most music, but the playlists I listen to most often are Disney and musicals. Listening to music I know like the back of my hand helps me escape because I know the songs and find this calming in times of stress. I can tune it out if I am doing something monotonous and it almost always helps lift my spirits. When doing schoolwork I find that instrumental music or movie scores work best because there are no words to sing along to, but it follows the same patterns. It seems I can only listen to regular music when working on lab reports, which I think is pretty weird.

Walks

Depending on the whether, I can find my escape in nature. Either with or without music, I can be found walking around in the fresh air and within half an hour I usually feel much better. Sometimes I will settle at one of the many benches hidden in the green strip at the end of the court I live on. Other times I will walk to the nearby park and go to the swings. Sometimes I just walk. I feel that the fresh air helps to clear my mind and though I might still be emotionally stressed, the time away helps. This method works best in Spring, Fall, and on summer nights when it is cool.

My Cat

So in my house, we have two cats: Luna and Spice. Last year Spice bonded with me and if I am upset, she will try to comfort me. She does not always realize when I am upset or having a panic attack, but when she does realize, she helps me immensely. She will come to me and rub her face on my hands and face, trying to get my to pet her. She will usually settle down and just keep me company while I try to relax. During a really bad depressive episode last summer, she nipped at my face twice to get my attention and get me out of the spiral I was going into. She is an amazing cat and I am thankful for her keeping me company, especially at night when the dark thoughts try to keep sleep away.

Movies

Corny old movies from the 50s and early 60s, rom-coms, and many others fall into my comfort movies. These movies may seem like a random assortment, but I feel that each of them is comforting depending on what kind of mood I am in.

Some of my favorites actors/movies include.

  • Doris Day
    • Calamity Jane
    • The Thrill of It All
    • That Touch of Mink
  • Howard Keel
    • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Keri Russel
    • Austenland
  • Julia Stiles
    • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • Nia Vardalos
    • My Life In Ruins
    • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
    • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
  • Pirates of the Carribean
    • The Curse of the Black Pearl
    • On Stranger Tides
    • Dead Men Tell No Tales
  • Disney
    • Beauty and the Beast- Traditional and Live Action
    • Tangled
    • The Princess and The Frog
    • Big Hero 6
  • Studio Ghibli
    • Kiki’s Delivery Service
    • Ponyo

 

 

Music and Spice are two of the constants in my life that help me to deal with whatever comes my way at almost any time. All of these things I’ve listed could be considered distractions, because that is what they are. They help to distract me from the thoughts racing through my mind, they help to quiet those thoughts and give me time either to think clearly about them or to ignore them, to take care of myself and come back to them later. And I believe that the use of these things is what has helped me come to the place I am now, a place I hadn’t dreamed of being for quite a long time. I am relying on my knowledge of how my mental illnesses affect me, how they present themselves, and these methods in addition to others to help me cope when life becomes too much and for now, this is what is working for me.

Mental Health and Medications

I was diagnosed with my mental illnesses almost 10 years ago. Since then, I have tried several different medications that have worked for varying amounts of time, if at all. I am sharing my experiences with several of these medications with you today.

Lexapro

  • For: Depression
  • Dosage: 10mg- 30mg
  • Duration: almost 9 years
  • Side Effects: weight gain, fatigue
  • Why I Stopped: It stopped working. I was having mental breakdowns while my family was on the only vacation we had planned for that year. We went home one night early and it was only a two night trip.
  • Withdrawal: Little to none because it felt like the Lexapro wasn’t helping anyways.

Vyvanse

  • For: ADD/ADHD
  • Dosage: 10mg -50mg
  • Duration: 6 years
  • Side Effects: heart palpitations (flutters), hyperfocusing
  • Why I Stopped: It was supposed to help me focus, and it did. I hyperfocused, mostly on schoolwork. I had great grades, but did little of anything else. About 4 years after starting on it, I had a heart palpitation. As they became more constant, I mentioned it to my doctor, but I had to ween myself off of it because they wouldn’t. Upon talking to a different doctor when I thought about restarting it, she told me the dose I had been on could have stopped my heart.
  • Withdrawal: Tapered down dosage and then stopped all together, little to no side effects.

Wellbutrin

  • For: Depression (to help the Lexapro be more effetive)
  • Dosage: 150mg- 300 mg
  • Duration: about 4 years
  • Side Effects: None that I know of
  • Why I Stopped: It did nothing! It didn’t help with my depression or make the Lexapro any more effective.
  • Withdrawal: Do not remember any withdrawal effects.

Zoloft

  • For: Depression
  • Dosage: 25mg – 50mg
  • Duration: 4.5 months
  • Side Effects: Chronic fatigue, napping all the time
  • Why I Stopped: All I would want to do was sleep. I would even “fade” in class and end up with notes that were illegible. As a full time student, that is not good.
  • Withdrawal: Little to none, felt some of my energy return.

Effexor

  • For: Depression and Anxiety
  • Dosage: 37.5mg -75mg
  • Duration: 5 months
  • Side Effects: Thoughts of self harm
  • Why I Stopped: I was thinking about hurting myself a lot. I never acted upon it, but having these thoughts nearly everyday scared me. It was much worse on the 75mg dose than the 37.5mg dose.
  • Withdrawal: Terrible headaches, dizziness, and brain fog for 5 days, but some people experience these symptoms for months.

Seralax     *Seralax is a natural herbal supplement that I ordered online that claims to                           help with depression and anxiety.

  • For: Depression and Anxiety
  • Dosage: 2 capsules a day, but I usually only took 1 in the mornings
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Side Effects: Slight stomach upset
  • Why I Stopped: Stomach upset had been getting worse for the past few days. Did not notice a significant difference in mood when I am on it versus when I am off it.
  • Withdrawal: None, it is just to enhance mood.

This is just a short list of the medications I have been on, for I can’t remember every single medication I have tried. These are the ones that either didn’t work or caused memorable side effects.

Currently, I am taking Fish Oil Supplements (helped speed up the Effexor withdrawal), Vitamin D3, and a Vitamin B Complex. These supplements have helped to curb most of my depression, but they do not always help.

I am still searching for something that will help to reduce my anxiety and depression without causing the terrible side effects I have experienced on other medications.

My Misson

My primary mission for this blog is to help break the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. So many people have been diagnosed with mental illness in the past few decades, but there had been little to no change in how people view mental illness and many people still refuse to talk about it, either their personal struggles or talking with someone who has mental illness.

I have been very open with my mental illnesses toward those who I feel I can trust, but it was not always easy for me to talk about. I feel that this feeling of uneasiness was because of several factors, but the biggest one was that I didn’t want anybody to know that I was “crazy”. That was how I felt when not long after my diagnoses and starting on medication. I vividly remember being at an appointment with my child psychiatrist and my mom. He was going over what I had talked about during the session with my mom and when he said that he wanted to start me on another medication, I broke down crying. I remember thinking to myself that they kept adding new medications to the mix because I was crazy, but I didn’t want to be crazy. I did not know what all the medications did when I was that young, I just knew that crazy people had to take lots of medications.

It has been a long journey to where I am today and it definitely had its ups and downs. That is why I have decided to share my story, at least parts of it, with others. The story here is my own and I do not expect anyone who reads this to resonate with every single thing I say. As most people who have been diagnosed with mental illness know, everyone has different experiences. Not everyone will understand exactly, but being able to share your story with someone who cares and understands, even just a little bit, can make a big difference, especially when you are going through a rough patch.

Feel free to listen to my story.

Feel free to share it with others.

And most importantly, please help to break the stigma.

A Short History: My Experience With Mental Illness

It all began when I was only seven years old. I don’t even know how it was possible for my little brain to already be plagued with anxiety, but it was. My anxiety presented itself in the form of germaphobia during the winter. Little did we know at the time that it was going to become progressively worse from then on.

When I was eleven, my anxiety was so bad that my parents decided that it was time to get me help. I had gone to play therapy in the past, but this time was different. I was going to meet someone who would formally diagnose me with generalized anxiety disorder, and later on diagnosed me with major depressive disorder and attention deficit disorder (ADD). At only eleven years old, I began the daily routine of taking medication in hopes that it will make it easier to cope with my mental illnesses. I vividly remember that when my doctor put me on my second medication, I started bawling in the doctor’s office because I thought that it truly meant that I was crazy.

Throughout the years I have been on many different medications for my anxiety, depression, and ADD. Every time my symptoms got a little worse they increased my dose or added another medication to help my main medications work better. At one point I was on high doses of at least three different medications.

Around my 16th birthday, I began to experience abnormal heart rhythms. My chest would get tight and it would feel like my heart was fluttering like a butterfly’s wings. I was terrified. It became more frequent, but my doctor didn’t want to change my medications. It was only when we switched healthcare providers that they told me my heart flutters were caused by one of my medications, the one for my ADD. After an EKG and blood test to rule out other possibilities, I decided to wean myself of my ADD medication. This means that sometimes I have trouble focusing, but who doesn’t.

Eventually, I wanted to reduce the amount of medications I was taking and got off of the medication that was supposed to aid my main anxiety/depression medication. I was only on one more medication, but at one of my appointments, my doctor told me that the dose I was on was 1.5 times the maximum dose and that it is possible the medication could stop my heart. I freaked out I gradually reduced my dose to half the maximum dose.

This dose has seemed to work for quite a while, but it came time for me to change the medication I was on. Originally, I was on Lexapro, but I have since tried Zoloft, and I am currently taking Effexor. So far I like the Effexor the best because it helps to control my anxiety as well as my depression. Sometimes I wonder if my medication is working, but a lot of things have been happening in my life that could cause depressive symptoms in healthy individuals, so for now I am taking it day by day.

I am now 20 years old and have been battling my mental illnesses for over half my life. Luckily, I have an amazing support system that is conveniently made up of my nuclear family, a few other relatives, and a few select friends. These are people that I know understand my struggle either personally, or have been with me during a rough patch, and I am so thankful for them.

Due to my mental illnesses, I act differently than most people my age. I usually do not like going out of the house, especially to busy places or at night. The caveat to this is that I love wandering nature on my own, and the quieter it is the better. Fresh air and music can help a lot when I am having trouble coping, so I always have a pair of earbuds nearby, just in case I need to escape the real world for a little while. I have trouble dealing with a lot of noise in my environment, whether it be someone listening to music out loud, people talking when I am trying to focus, or even the disruptions of my sister’s puppy playing while I am trying to study. I have trouble talking to people, even sometimes people I know. I become obsessed with movies, video games, or stupid websites fairly easily because when I have something keeping me distracted it is much harder for my brain to wander. I like to continue to believe in Disney magic and love visiting Disneyland. Disney movies, Hallmark movies, or corny musicals (especially with Doris Day or Howard Keel) can almost always help me feel better on bad days. I love reading because it helps me escape reality, even just for a little while, but I am very picky about what books I read. I tend to be dead tired most of the day, but when it is time to go to sleep, my brain is wide awake and thinking about many things. For example, I originally typed this in my phone one night when I knew I was supposed to be asleep, but sleep evaded me because all of this was on my mind. Lastly, I try not to get too excited or get my hopes up about anything because when my crazy expectations are not met, it can trigger my depression, but I am slowly learning that even when things do not go as planned, there is a chance that something even better could come out of it.

I am actually one of the lucky ones, because despite all the challenges my mental illness has created for me, I have so many caring people in my life that no matter what I’m going through, they will be someone there to give me support.