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April 6, 2014 / kristicolleen

100,000

100k

I have written 100,000 tweets.

One hundred thousand.

At maximum 140 characters apiece, that’s…..well, someone smarter than me can do the math, but that’s a lot of characters.

The average novel (if you can call a novel average) is about 50,000 words. If each of my tweets was only one word, that would still be two novels.

My tweets are definitely not just one word, though. Come on, people. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that brevity is not really my thing. No, like the Native Americans and the buffalo (or so I was taught in History class), I like to use every part of a tweet.

That’s a joke. Please don’t start a hashtag to get my blog canceled.

So, if my tweets are more than one word; hell, probably more than, say, 15 words, that’s like….well, a lot of novels. Again, I’m not good with math.

I’ve been tweeting for 5 years. I actually did the math on that, and that’s roughly 55 tweets PER DAY. This is why you should never do math. It could show you things you don’t want to know about yourself.

The #1 item on my bucket list is to write a book (okay, I don’t actually have a bucket list, but if I did, that would be on the top of it). I tell myself that one day I will do it, if I ever find the motivation and energy. Writing takes discipline. It takes time. It takes thought. “I can’t write a book”, I tell myself, “I wouldn’t know what to say”.

However, apparently 55 times a day I know what to say. Or at least, I think I know what to say. Whether my followers agree with me is something you’d have to ask them.

I joined Twitter in 2009, about 3 weeks after my husband left me. I was sad, I was scared, and I was lonely. I had heard that people on Twitter might have some experience with that. I also knew that I was about to move all the way across the country, and I’d have to find some way to meet people. And, over the next 5 years, I did. I really, really did. I have met so many people that pretty much any time anyone asks me how <insert name of friend here> and I met, the answer is almost always “Twitter”.

The 3 people I call my best friends? I met them on Twitter. The last two guys I dated? Met them on Twitter, too. The last two jobs I’ve had were a result of meeting someone on Twitter. The first one turned out to be a nightmare, but it did allow me the freedom to spend every other weekend in Halifax with, you guessed it, people I met on Twitter. When I finally decided to move here, I moved in with two people I met as a result of Twitter.

I’ve met a lot of great people online. I’ve also met a lot of not-so-great people, but they’ve only made me appreciate the good ones more.

Twitter helped me discover that I’m funny. In fact, a few years ago I created an alternate Twitter account that I had hoped to keep anonymous, so I could post passive-aggressive comments about my ex-boyfriend, but it ended up getting too popular, and eventually everyone figured out it was me. And then it got fun. I started to embrace my sense of humour. I started keeping up more with current events, just so I could have something to make jokes about. I had a few tweets acquire thousands of retweets, and was even shown on CNN, TWICE. After 2 years, I had 8,000 followers, and had “met” some really great people from all around the world. One of whom I actually consider a personal friend, even though he lives in California, thinks all Canadians are part polar bear, and we have never met.

And then, during a particularly vulnerable period in my life, 2 years ago, a man told me I should delete my account. Because I liked him in a stupid girly way, and I never make good decisions when it comes to men, I did it. I deleted the account. And shortly after, he deleted me from his life, so yeah, I remind you that I don’t always make the best decisions. I regret deleting the account, and I tried to rebuild it again, but it didn’t go anywhere. It’s gone.

I learned how to combine that persona with my “real life” persona, though, and I started to better understand who I actually am. I started really trying to figure myself out, and finally started dealing with the thing I had been denying most of my life: my mental illness.

Twitter has been amazing for my mental health. There are millions of users talking about it, posting resources, sharing stories, and even, like me, cracking jokes. If you feel like you have nobody to talk to, go to Twitter.com and type #mentalhealth into the search box. You’ll find people to talk to. You’ll find websites to visit. You’ll even find podcasts to listen to. And, if you’re like me, you’ll start to understand why you feel the way you do, and realize that you’re not suffering alone, and you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

I still use Twitter to tell jokes, but I also use it to talk about current events, get the news, keep up with my friends, post photos, and of course, talk about my cat, Rory. Rory is not the cat I had when I started tweeting, though. Rory is new. 5 months ago, I lost my best friend of 20 years, my cat Sebastian. We had been through so much together, and I knew I was never going to be able to get through losing her alone. And I didn’t have to. My friends, and Twitter, were amazing. And on the days where it still hurts like hell, they continue to be supportive. I don’t think I could ever really express how much that has meant to me.

So, some people say I tweet too much. Some people say “It’s just Twitter. It doesn’t matter.” Some people say that social media actually makes us anti-social. As you can guess, I disagree with all of that. Twitter isn’t some mindless, useless entity. I mean, sure, there are a lot of accounts run by bots, or actual people with the personality of a bot, but there are also some wonderful, intelligent, hilarious, talented, and interesting people on there, with real lives, real feelings, and real opinions. Those are the people I follow, and who follow me. To you it might be just be a website, but to me, it’s like a coffee shop full of my favourite people.

So, I’ve written 100,000 tweets. Perhaps in another 5 years, I’ll be writing about having written 200,000.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll be writing about having finished writing a book.

But first, I need to go tweet about this blog post.

February 13, 2014 / kristicolleen

My Olympic Family

Calgary '88

I love the Olympics. I consider myself an Olympics “junkie”. I love the competitions, the camaraderie, the humanity, and the culture. I want to see all the events and hear all the stories. I know a lot of you like the Olympics, but I love them. And I think it’s because they make me think of my family.

I’ve written a bit about my family here, so I think you all know by now that we weren’t exactly the Brady Bunch. In fact, we didn’t even like each other, and the years we were forced to live together felt a lot like biding time until our prison sentence was over. They aren’t in my life now, and I do as much as I can to avoid even thinking about them.

But, as in most things, it wasn’t all bad. I even have some fond memories of our time together. Most of those memories, however, involve sports. We were a big sports family. Maybe it’s because it gave us reasons to not be home, but all of us were involved in multiple sports. For me it was figure skating, volleyball, horseback riding, soccer, track & field, biathlon, and even hockey, for a bit. But the sport that stuck was downhill skiing. The whole family got involved, and all of us even worked at our local ski hill at some point throughout the decade or so we all lived together. My mother, my oldest brother, and I even became ski instructors. I was, at the age of 11, the youngest ski instructor that hill had ever had (it helped that I always looked much older than I actually was, and we weren’t allowed to tell clients my actual age until I turned 16).

Ski School Staff

Skiing became my escape from my life. In the winter it became my life. I practically lived at the ski hill, and I probably would have if I didn’t have to go to school. There were more than a few times I was at the hill when I should have been at school. When I wasn’t teaching lessons, or off skiing with friends or by myself, I was taking lessons from the various coaches that I became acquainted with in my years there. I was never going to be an Olympian, and that was never my goal, but I loved the sport and I wanted to try EVERYTHING. I tried downhill racing, and it was terrifying. I love flying down the hill at high speed, but definitely not at the speeds those guys go. I tried aerials, and I was really good at them, until it came time to land. Let’s just say it was a good thing I was wearing a helmet. I learned how to do moguls, and the smaller jumps, and was fairly decent, but I had no desire to compete. It was all just fun for me. A way to make friends, see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, keep in shape, make some money,  and get out of my house.

Since my entire family was a ski family, we’d see each other around the mountain, but we didn’t interact too much. It was a big mountain.

But then, every 4 years, the Winter Olympics would be on, and like magic, the games brought us all together. We’d become obsessed with them. We’d eat all our meals in front of the TV, watching events or watching highlights of events. We had friendly rivalries (I was a huge Kurt Browning fan, while Dad preferred Elvis Stojko). I wanted to be Kristi Yamaguchi, and not just because we shared a first name. We’d all high five each other whenever Canada won a medal. We’d stand together in our tiny living room whenever the national anthem played. We learned the names of all our favourite athletes, and learned as much about them as we could. We’d have hockey tournaments against the neighbours on our skating pond and fight over who got to be Team Canada. This was before the internet, so we’d all eat breakfast together and share results we’d read in the daily paper.

We’d travel up to the ski hill together, listening to the games on the radio. We’d eat lunch together and catch up on what some of us might have missed throughout the day.

Every 4 years, for 2 weeks, we became friends. We had something in common. We were a team. We were a family.

A lot of time has passed, and my family is no longer a part of my life at all. I haven’t spoken to my Dad in almost 10 years. I hardly even think about him (except when I dream about him, or curse him for my PTSD), and I certainly don’t miss him.

But now, as I sit here watching the 2014 Olympics by myself, I wonder if my family is watching them, too. And I wonder, when Dad hears Kurt Browning providing commentary during the figure skating events, if he thinks of me, as I’m thinking of him. I wonder if my brothers are watching the mogul events and having the same “I could totally do that” thoughts that I’m having. I wonder if they, too, stand and sing Oh Canada when it plays.

We’ll never watch the Olympics together again, but I will never stop being a fan. And even though many memories of my family are painful and sad, the Olympics will always remind me that every 4 years, we liked each other a little bit. The Olympics made us a family.

And that is why I love them.

 

January 28, 2014 / kristicolleen

Keep Talking

By now, you’re likely aware of the Bell Let’s Talk campaign that has taken over social media here in Canada today. Admittedly, along with many others, I was annoyed that yet again a large corporation was using charity to garner praise and attention. I would have preferred that the campaign just be called “Let’s Talk”, while leaving the name of the company out of it. Or at least making it less obvious.

However, it’s no secret that one of the most important issues I support and advocate for is mental health, and I believed the message to be far too important, so I put my cynicism aside. A lot of people did. Today, people are talking about mental health. They’re spreading the message, sharing their stories, and supporting each other. Today, people are speaking out.

But what about tomorrow? Where were all these people yesterday? The stigma associated with mental illness is not something that can be fixed in just one day. It’s a long term project. It’s going to take everyone pitching in and working together.

Those of us with mental illness aren’t just affected one day a year. It affects us every day. We carry it with us everywhere we go. Some of us are comfortable talking about it, but many of us suffer in silence.

There are many reasons people with mental illness choose not to talk about it. Jen, on Twitter, says that having mental illness makes her angry.

I can relate to that. There are some days when I get so frustrated by the constant battles happening between the part of my brain that is happy, and the part of my brain that wants to do nothing but run away and hide. I wish the two parts would just take their fighting elsewhere and leave me out of it. I get angry at myself for not being able to control my thoughts better. Then I get angry at myself for being angry about something I spend a lot of time trying to convince people is nothing to be angry about. Did you get that? It’s a lot of anger.

Some people don’t want to talk about mental illness because they think it will make them look weak. I cannot stress enough how wrong they are about that. Talking about mental illness makes you stronger. Having the courage to admit that you need  help is one of the bravest things you can do, in my opinion.

I didn’t always believe that, though. I used to be embarrassed by my mental illness. I used to think there was something wrong with me; that I was a horrible person, or a loser because I was so emotional all the time. I used to think that anti-depressants were for freaks or drama queens. I didn’t think I had a mental illness; I thought I just had a shitty life. I thought that if I just kept trying to eliminate the things in my life that were making me miserable, I’d be happy. I moved around a lot, I quit jobs, I ended relationships and friendships, always believing that eventually I would just leave the pain and sadness behind. Admittedly some of that was the case. I did have a lot of terrible things happen, and a lot of horrible people in my life, but there were also amazing people in my life, and they stood by, helpless, as I refused to recognize that the biggest problem was inside me. I wasn’t going to be able to leave it behind, and if I kept trying, I was going to end up with nothing and nobody left.

I didn’t want to talk about it.

And then one day, my dear friend Andrew made me. He was sick of staying quiet, and he took a big risk and he spoke up. He told me, gently, that he believed I needed help. He told me I should see a doctor. He told me I needed to talk to someone. He showed me that he cared, and that got me talking. And I talked. And talked. I haven’t stopped talking. I’ll talk to anyone who will listen. He opened a floodgate and there’s no closing it now.

That was a year and a half ago, and the difference in how I feel now is like night and day. Talking about my mental illness with friends who care, with people in my support group, with my coworkers, and most of all on this blog, has opened up my mind in a big way. I don’t feel ashamed anymore. I feel stronger. I understand more, and with that understanding comes control. I’ve learned a lot, and I continue to learn more every day.

I asked Andrew earlier today how he felt about me giving him credit for helping me, because some people aren’t like Bell, and they get uncomfortable with praise and attention. He said he didn’t mind and that today “is a day to speak out, after all”. I smiled to myself, made a mental note that he was fine with it, and went back to what I was doing. But then I realized what he had said. “TODAY is a day to speak out” is only partly true. EVERY DAY is a day to speak out.

We can’t just talk about mental health one day and expect that to be enough. We can’t just do it because a corporation tells us to, or because it’s trendy. We need to keep talking. We need to talk about it so much that it becomes a normal, accepted part of our culture. We need to never stop talking about it. We need to remove the stigma.

It’s everyone’s responsibility. Not just the people who have mental illness, but those who love us, like us, work with us, interact with us, and care about us. If you have a mental illness, trust someone and confide in them. If you decide to keep quiet, you’re only hurting yourself. Give people a chance to help you. If someone you know has a mental illness, or you think that they might, let them know you care, that you don’t judge, and that you’re there for them.

My good friend Stéphane and I have a deal. We talk every day, and I asked him a while back to stop asking “how are you?” when he greets me. There will be times when I won’t have a positive answer to that question, and I know he only wants to hear that I’m okay. He argues with me on that point, but he agreed to stop asking (I can be a pain in the ass when we argue). But he asked that I be honest with him when he really does want to know how I’m feeling. He has a knack for understanding my brain that surprises me all the time, and it is almost impossible for me to hide a bad mood from him. So I’ve agreed to always be honest when I can tell he’s legitimately asking out of concern and care. Because of this, he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of sobbing and sniffling on my part. And he doesn’t mind. And I am grateful.

Having a mental illness isn’t all about take, either. I give as well. I’ve been the listener, the advice-giver, the shoulder-to-cry-on for others. I have friends who come to me to talk about their depression or anxiety because they trust me and know that I’ll understand because I can relate. Knowing you aren’t alone is the most valuable thing you can learn when you’re feeling the weight of the world. Helping others realize that helps me, too. We’re all in this together, and we need to help each other out in any way we can.

We need to keep talking about it. We need to keep learning about it. We need to stop being ashamed, or making others feel ashamed of it.

One day is not enough. Money is not enough.

So, please, keep tweeting about it. Keep sending your text messages. Keep posting on Facebook about it.

The campaign lasts until midnight, but the stigma will go on long past that.

So keep talking tomorrow. Keep talking the next day. Keep talking every day.

Communicate in any medium you want, but just please keep talking.

 

January 21, 2014 / kristicolleen

January 21, 2009.

Today is the five-year anniversary of the best day of my life.

Historically, it was Barack Obama’s first day as President of the United States. 

It was also the day my marriage ended. 

Obviously, that day didn’t feel anything like the best day of my life. In fact, I was pretty sure it was the worst. I was devastated. I was hurt, scared, and very, very alone. 

Up until that point, I had never been a very independent person. In fact, most would say I wasn’t independent at all. I had never really lived alone, and I was never the greatest at taking care of things on my own. When my husband left, I didn’t even know how to pay the phone bill. I mean literally, I didn’t know how people did it. Did they do it online? Did they mail in a cheque? And what about hydro (in British Columbia, that’s what we call “power”)? I had never seen any of our bills, and I had never been in charge of our finances. Before I was married, I had roommates, boyfriends, and parents that took care of all that stuff. 

I didn’t even know how to adjust the thermostat in our house. To be fair, we had a state-of-the-art system, but still. These are things a person should know. But I didn’t. 

Knowing how much I’ve grown up since that day makes it easier to admit that I was a codependent, spoiled princess. The first man I lived with even called me Princess. If a guy called me that now, I’d definitely take it as an insult. 

I know it’s cliché to blame your parents for these types of things, but in my case, they partly are to blame. My parents didn’t teach me the things parents should teach their children before sending them out in the world. In fact, my parents didn’t send me out; I escaped. And when it came time for me to live in the real world, there was always a man or roommate there to do a lot of things for me. I didn’t want to learn because I didn’t have to. 

When my husband left, and my parents were not a part of my life, and I had no close friends to speak of, I had to learn. And I was terrified. 

But I had no choice. It wasn’t even sink or swim, because I no longer had the luxury of sinking. Swimming was the only thing I could do. So, I packed myself, Sebastian, and everything I owned (which fit snugly into a u-haul trailer), and set off across the country from Chilliwack, British Columbia, to Moncton, New Brunswick. A place where I knew nobody, had no job, and no place to live. 

I always tell people that I grew up in British Columbia, but the truth is, I don’t think I actually grew up until I left. 

Over the past 5 years I have struggled to find my footing, and it took 4 of those years to realize the place I needed to be was Halifax, where I met people I love, found a job I love, and live completely alone in an apartment I love. For 3 of those years, I did everything on my own. I taught myself to be alone and independent. I learned how to be a responsible adult (although you’ll notice I didn’t say “mature”). I found strength I never thought possible. I discovered abilities and talents I didn’t even know I had. I became a different person.

I also learned not to expect help, but also that it’s okay to ask for it sometimes. And I found people willing to give it out of love and kindness, with no strings attached. I’ll forever be grateful to them.

I’m not the same Kristi I was 5 years ago. I don’t even look the same. If my mother could see me now, she wouldn’t recognize me. My ex-husband definitely wouldn’t (which will come in handy on the slim chance I should ever see him on the street).

So, while it didn’t feel like it at the time, his leaving me was the best thing he ever did for me. He forced me to finally become an adult, to be responsible, and to actually become a person people liked having around.

On that day 5 years ago, I felt like my life was over.

But it was just getting started.

And that was the best day of my life.

Oh, and for the record, I know how to pay my phone bill now, too.

 

 

January 2, 2014 / kristicolleen

My Year in Photos: 2013

2013 has been an interesting year. The night before last, on New Year’s Eve, my friend Andrew suggested we talk about how our years went, but then he realized we all already knew most of what there is to know. I’ve certainly blogged about most of mine. I mean, I haven’t blogged about everything, but a girl has to have some secrets, right?

I moved to Halifax at the end of 2012, and I spent most of this year falling in love with the city, and with the people in it. I found my home in 2013.

I said goodbye to my family in 2013. I realized I had created a new one. I felt a lot of love. Finally.

I lost my best friend. I lost part of my heart. I miss you, Sebastian, more than I could ever describe. Rest in peace, baby.

I started a new job in 2013. One that I really like. That’s a new concept for me, and I’d like to hang on to it.

Ditto on the new apartment.

At the end of 2013, someone very important in my life, who had been absent, came back. That’s still a work in progress, so perhaps that’s a story for a later date. Or not.

In 2013, I feel like I really started understanding my mental health. I also feel like I’ve maybe helped some others with that, as well.

I felt about a bazillion emotions in 2013. Fear, love, happiness, pain, confidence, loneliness, loss, grief, pride…I could go on.

I lost over 30 pounds in 2013. 5 of them I lost in one week after Sebastian died. I gained those 5 back over Christmas, though.

I made new friends. I lost a friend or two. I solidified friendships with ones I already had.

I had some high highs, and some very low lows. You’ve (hopefully) read about most of them already, so I don’t need to bore you further.

Instead, I’ll give you visual aids. Every year I like to do a post of my year in photo form, and had actually almost forgot this year until I was reminded by my friend Gwynedd to do it yesterday. So, in the photos below are some of my favourite people, places, and things. Perhaps you or someone you know are even in some of them!

November 28, 2013 / kristicolleen

Finally, some answers!

Everyone has been asking me when I’m going to answer the questions that were submitted in regards to my last blog post, and you’ll all be happy to know that’s what this post is about! Okay, so literally TWO people asked me, but still. The time is now. 

I’ve been procrastinating, which is actually one of my particularly special skills, because as most of you know this has been a particularly hard couple of weeks for me. I’ve been trying to stay busy and moving, because too much stillness gets the brain churning, and nobody wants that. Also, I’m running out of tissues. From the crying. Oh, you got that? Okay, moving on. 

There were only 8 questions, but they were good ones, so I will answer them all. I’d like to once again reiterate that my answers are based on my own opinions and experiences, I am not a medical professional (unless you count the ability to Google ailments as “professional”), and my answers should only be used as a way to perhaps get insight, relate, or just find out why I’m so weird on Twitter. 

So, here we go:

1. Do you ever feel guilty that your anxiety isn’t as bad as other people’s? 

I had a few reactions to this questions, and I’m still wavering back and forth about it. Initially, I thought, “Fuck no!”, because as anyone who has it knows, anxiety really, really sucks. My second reaction was, “How do you know it isn’t?”, but then I gave my head a shake and remembered that I’m able to leave my house every day, maintain a full time job, full time friendships, and a million other things that people with major anxiety disorders are unable to do. I even, occasionally, make eye contact with strangers. I know, right?! And that moved me into my third reaction, which was “Okay, yeah, kinda.” But I still don’t know. I mean, it’s not a competition. We don’t go around comparing levels of anxiety and expressing jealousy at one another’s disorders. “Oh, you only have panic attacks THREE times a week? You’re so lucky!”. It just doesn’t happen. An anxiety disorder sucks no matter how you slice it. We all have varying levels of functionality, and I am obviously high-functioning, but there are people who are higher functioning than me, and it still sucks for them. We’re all in this together, and in some way, we all know what it feels like to be debilitated by anxiety. So yes, I feel grateful that I’ve managed to overcome a lot, but I don’t feel guilty. I worked hard to get to where I am, and I still have a ways to go. Do I feel bad about my “success” (so to speak)? No. I’m damn proud. And I’m proud of everyone else, too. 

 

2. How would you help someone who is already diagnosed having a panic attack?

I wish I could have my friend Andrew answer this question, because he seems to be the Anxiety Attack Whisperer (I refer to anxiety attacks, because I don’t really have “panic” attacks, but I imagine the situations are similar). In fact, just the other day he managed to diffuse the Kristi bomb with just a few text messages. I was at work, and I suddenly started feeling really weird and anxious. I knew an anxiety attack was imminent, and I wasn’t entirely sure I could stop it. Andrew and I were already texting at the time anyway, so I simply told him what I was feeling. His advice was basically the advice I would give to anyone else: Change the scenery. Breathe. Get some fresh air. Go for a walk and try to think of something else. Remember how fantastic you are. Don’t be so hard on yourself. 

A lot of times, there isn’t much you can do to help someone in that situation. Some people require the use of medication (like Ativan, for example) to regain control during a panic or anxiety attack. Some people need to just let it ride and hope it sorts itself out. But there are some people who need help from a friend. My advice is to be a good friend. Hug them, hold their hand, say encouraging things (“suck it up” is not an encouraging thing), tell them you’re there for them if they need you (and they may not, but knowing is nice), and if you can, try to distract them. Don’t minimize what they’re going through, but help them talk it out, or ask them if there’s anything you can do. Andrew didn’t completely stop my anxiety attack, but knowing he cared, was concerned, didn’t minimize my feelings, and had some suggestions helped a lot, and gave me more ideas on what I could do to help myself. So, basically, what you can do to help is to ask THEM what you can do to help. Everyone is different, and they’ll let you know. And if you’re the one having the anxiety attack, you have to tell people what you need. We can’t read your mind. 

And, for the curious, it took about 3 glasses of water, a trip to the cafeteria, a funny cat photo, and about 6 Josh Groban songs to make me forget I even felt bad in the first place. 

 

3. If you recognize signs of depression in a friend who doesn’t seem to recognize it in themselves,what’s the best way to raise the topic?

This one is tricky. Mental health is a sensitive (no pun intended) topic, and though a lot of strides have been made lately, there are still a lot of people who either aren’t aware they have a mental illness, are in denial about it, or just simply think it’s none of your business. 

Is this friend a really good friend, or maybe just someone you know from work? If it’s someone you’re close to, and you feel like it’s your place to say something, then…well, you still have to tread carefully. There’s no real science to it, and there’s a good chance you could lose your friendship. However, if you’re truly concerned for your friend, maybe that’s a risk you should take. My suggestion would be to educate yourself first. Read books, blogs, articles, etc on depression. Learn the signs, think about how they apply to your friend, and maybe even compile some resources for your friend in case he or she needs them. Your friend may get angry. Your friend may blow you off. Your friend may say “I’m not depressed, I’m just sad”, and that may even be true. If you really think your friend needs help, though, you’ll take the risk. You asked the best way to raise the topic. I’d start with “How are you?”.

 

4. I would like to hear more about your PTSD. We hear about it from soldiers in the battlefield but not from civilians in day to day life.

I have a very mild form of PTSD. At least, that’s what the multiple mental health professionals I’ve seen have told me. I haven’t gone into detail about it with very many people, because frankly, it’s a tough topic for people to hear about. My PTSD comes from an abusive childhood. It’s not an illness I have to deal with every day (although, there was obviously a time when I did), especially since it has been years since the offending party(s) have been a part of my life. However, it still affects my life in a very real way. I have nightmares very often; sometimes for many nights in a row. I also have night terrors most nights (yes, there’s a difference). I get very vivid flashbacks, too, but can usually shake them off quite quickly. Occasionally they get triggered, though, and that becomes a challenge I usually have to suffer silently. Sometimes something a friend says to their kids can trigger a memory, or reading an article in the news, or even something someone says on Twitter. The word “bitch” can be a trigger. There was an incident between a friend and his son last winter, that to anyone would be absolutely ordinary and unmentionable, but to me it caused me to remember something very vividly to the point that I started shaking and crying. My friend didn’t notice, and I never mentioned it to him. I didn’t know how to bring it up, and it never happened again. 

My PTSD can be a jerk to me sometimes, and I really wish it would just let me get a good night’s sleep for a change, but I feel like it’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life. It’s just something I have to deal with and that nobody can help me with. I’ve accepted I’ll probably have some issues with it for the rest of my life. So, if I ever have a boyfriend again, he’s going to have to be okay with being woken up in the middle night when I have a nightmare and want a hug. Fellas? 

 

5. I’d like to hear your description of an anxiety attack. Have you ever tried going cold turkey off medication?

Well, first, I don’t take medication for anxiety (I do for depression, but you didn’t ask about that). I have a prescription for Ativan, but I never take it. I keep it around for emergencies, but I can count the number of times I’ve used it on one hand. However, the fact that it’s there if I need it is comforting to me. Even if I never take it, knowing I can helps. It’s like a weird kind of placebo effect, accept not at all…or something. 

So, what does an anxiety attack feel like? I’m going to do my best to try to describe it here, but feel free to jump in if I don’t make any sense at all. Although, when you’re having an anxiety attack, it usually feels like it doesn’t make any sense either. 

I get short of breath. My heart speeds up. My hands start to shake and my legs feel wobbly. I get sweaty in weird places. I start to cry. I can’t focus, even though I really, really want to. I get a burst of energy, either because I want to run or because I just want to run away. I cry some more. Then I laugh at myself for crying. I get a headache. I sniffle a lot. I fidget A LOT. You know in the movies when the camera is in close on someone and then it zooms out really quickly to reveal the field, mountains (I just watched the Sound of Music), city, vast universe, whatever, that they’re in, to give perspective of how very alone they feel? It’s like that. Or that scene in Jurassic Park where the water glass shakes, and it’s really fucking scary, but also really quiet? THAT, too. Basically, you can’t tell if you should hold still and hope it goes away, or if you should run like hell. Also, my stomach does flip-flops, but I also crave comfort food. The body is weird. Brains are weird. Am I just weird? 

Plus, when I feel an anxiety attack coming on, my mind goes in a million places trying to figure out the cause, and if I can’t, it is so, so, so, so frustrating. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Incredible Hulk isn’t angry; he’s just having an anxiety attack. 

 

6. How many different ways have people tried to tell you depression can be conquered if you just “suck it up”, you know what I mean?

Thankfully, I haven’t heard this at all, lately. I think it’s because I’ve surrounded myself with open-minded, smart, sensitive people. I’ve left behind the people who would say something like that, and I don’t miss them one bit. Hey, shout-out to my friends for being so awesome. Hi, guys. 

 

7. What mechanisms do you use to control your anxiety?

Music. Music is therapy to me. Nothing calms me down better than singing, or if I’m somewhere I can’t sing, then to just listen. Music holds the world together. Music calms me. 

If you had asked me this question 3 weeks ago, I would also have said my cat, but, well….I’m not ready to talk about that yet. 

My friends. My friends love me, and they accept me, and they let me know that it’s okay to be afraid, but that I don’t have to be. My friends are great communicators, which is very important to me. 

I also push myself a lot. I force myself out of my comfort zone, although if you have an anxiety disorder, you’re ALWAYS out of your comfort zone. But still. I realized a while ago that if I continue to let my fears and anxiety hold me back, I’m going to miss out on a lot of things. I want to have a fun, fulfilling, exciting life, and if I don’t work hard and push myself, I won’t get that. 

But sometimes, I push, and the anxiety pushes back. This is where my friends come in. Like the Beatles song says, I get by with a little help from my friends. Okay, a lot of help from my friends. The Beatles forgot that part. 

But, if all of that fails, a blanket, some tea, and about 50 BuzzFeed posts, or a Tumblr of funny pictures should do the trick. Sometimes, the anxiety wins. Or does it?

 

8. Does jogging help your depression? Like not only with self esteem but with the other aspects of depression too such as chemically?

It amuses me that this question was asked by my high school best friend Gloria, who has known me since the 9th Grade, and is perfectly aware that I spent more time coming up with excuses to avoid gym class than I actually did IN gym class. However, high school was a while ago, and people change. 

I’m not sure about the whole chemical thing, but there is that whole endorphin thing that people talk about, so it’s probably true. Someone else would answer that better than I can. However, yes, exercise does help with my depression. It makes me feel empowered, in control, and like I can do anything and run anywhere. For a few minutes anyway. Then I usually just want to lay on the ground and pray to a God I don’t believe in, while begging for water. However, I believe in the healing power of nature, and of wind. I love wind. Wind makes me a dreamer. So, while working out in a gym surrounded by machines and people with way better balance and fashion sense than me wouldn’t help my depression much, running outside on a trail does wonders. I love running. But I also hate it. But I love it, too. Our relationship is complicated. 

As for my self-esteem, well, that’s a work in progress. 

 

 

Well, that’s all the questions that were asked! I hope you found it helpful, or informative, or at least mildly entertaining. Thanks to Stephen, Joan, Gloria, Jennifer, Kate, and someone I know only as ‘R’, for submitting them. I did my best. 

Please share this with your friends, or strangers, or anyone, really. We need to keep talking about mental illness. Seriously, it’s important. 

And if you have more questions, I’ll answer them. Unless they’re weird. Don’t ask weird questions. 

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2013 / kristicolleen

Ask Me About My Depression

I’m far from being an expert on mental illness. In fact, some days I feel like I know nothing about my own brain, let alone anyone else’s. However, it’s something I love talking about and love learning more about, especially when it helps me discover something new about myself.

There are a fair amount of people who read this blog, or follow me on Twitter, and they often ask me questions about mental health that involve a lot more explaining than I can fit into 140 characters. Since they are important questions about an important subject, I’d like to give them the care and thought they deserve, so here we are.

Is there anything you want to know about mental illness? Do you wonder what an anxiety attack feels like? Are you curious about what I consider the best coping mechanisms? Do you have a loved one with mental illness and would like to know more about it? Would you like to know more about PTSD, or how I happened to acquire it (I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but I’ll do my best)? Would you like to talk about your own experiences with depression? Would you just like to know my favourite colour? (It’s purple. That one’s free.)

I will answer anything, to the best of my ability, but keep in mind that I will be using only my own experiences, opinions, my friends’ opinions, and whatever stuff I can find on Google. You can ask anonymously, if that makes you more comfortable, or not, if you don’t care.

You can leave a comment here (I believe the anonymous option is on, but if it’s not, let me know), or ask me on Twitter (send me a DM, if we follow each other and you wish to remain anonymous). I’ll take the questions, if there are any (and don’t leave me hanging, guys, or that’d be really embarrassing), and compile them into their own blog post.

Don’t be shy. This is something we should be able to talk freely about, so go ahead, ask me anything! Also, I’ve been having a pretty rough time lately (see my last blog post), so this will be a welcome distraction!

And if you know someone who might have a question, share this post. Let’s talk!

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