Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

It’s no secret I’ve been very open about my struggles with insomnia and restful sleep here on the blog. There are a lot of factors behind my sleep issues: anxiety, periods, and stress from work, but sometimes, you’re just going to have a rough night of sleep for no reason. If any of these struggles resonate with you as well, or if you also deal with insomnia from time to time, I hope this article gives you some insight or inspiration! Obviously I am not a doctor or a professional, but I do feel like I have built up some helpful tricks and coping mechanisms over time.

Create associations with sleep. Have you heard of the theory of Pavlov’s dog? Basically, he trained his dogs to associate hearing a bell ring with getting food, so that eventually every time they heard the bell, they would automatically salivate with anticipation for food. You can train your own mind to do the same thing with getting sleepy! For example, every evening when I’m getting ready for bed, I warm up a heating pad and light an apple candle. Because my brain has learned to associate those things with sleep, I now naturally start to get very tired when I smell my candle and feel the heat of the pad on my chest. You can find your own little rituals and habits to associate with sleep- maybe for you that’s listening to specific music, spraying a certain room spray, or drinking herbal tea.

Find a vitamin/medicine combo that works for you. I try to look at prescription sleep medication as a last resort because taking it for too long can become habit-forming, and that won’t be good for your health in the long run. However, if you are looking for something over-the-counter to take that won’t be habit-forming, I have a couple of recommendations. First of all, melatonin is always a safe bet. It’s safe, reliable, and highly recommended from every doctor I’ve ever spoken to. That being said, you may have to give it a few nights to work. I’ve been taking melatonin every night for the past six months, and it’s been working wonders for me. If I’m having a really rough night, or if it’s imperative that I get a good night’s sleep, I will take a unisom tablet as well. You don’t need a prescription to buy unisom, and it’s also non-habit-forming. 

Maintain a consistent nighttime routine. Because I usually get up at the same time every morning, it just makes sense that I should go to bed at the same time, too. Even on the weekends, when I don’t have to be up early, I still try to get up and moving around 8 o’clock or so. Doing so can help train your mind to have a more consistent sleeping schedule, and thus, make falling asleep easier. As I mentioned earlier as well, I also tend to go through the same motions every night to instill a sense of routine in my body, such as with the candle and the heating pad. Of course, make sure you blow out your candle before you fall asleep if you choose to do that! 

Don’t force yourself to sleep if you’re restless. Honestly, forcing yourself to try to sleep when you’re not sleepy is one of the worst things you can do. In most scenarios, all that’s going to happen is that you’re just going to get frustrated and have even more trouble dozing off. If you’re having trouble sleeping, change your goal from falling asleep to simply relaxing so you can take some of that stress off of yourself. Read a book, listen to a podcast, or even watch some tv to take your mind off things. Eventually, you’ll just get sleepy again and you should have an easier time going back to bed. 

Listen to audio. This sort of ties into the “don’t force yourself to sleep thing,” but listening to audio when you’re falling asleep can be a great way to distract your mind. My personal favorite thing to listen to before bed is Vsauce videos, because they’re interesting but not too stimulating that I can’t fall asleep. Nathaniel, on the other hand, does not like listening to Vsauce before bed because he “gets too interested in the videos.” When we’re together, we like to compromise by listening to the podcast 36 From the Vault, which is a podcast about the Grateful Dead. Regardless of what audio I have going in the background, it’s just helpful for me to hear anything to keep my mind occupied.

Anyway, those are my tips for falling *and staying* asleep. Like I said, I’m not a doctor or anything, but these are tips that have worked for me and I hope you find some solace in them as well! Sleep tight.

As many of you know, I’ve struggled with anxiety for my entire life, and I am very open and vocal about my struggle with it on this platform. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there are so many misconceptions people have about anxiety, and I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on what it’s really like to live with generalized anxiety disorder. That being said, everybody who struggles with anxiety will have a different approach and journey, so please know that anxiety can be vastly different on a case-to-case basis. What I personally feel about this issue could be completely different than the thoughts and feelings of another person with anxiety.

Self-Care Quotes - Because You Deserve Them | Hallmark Ideas ...


Misconception 1: “If you have anxiety, you must have depression, too.”

While it is true that anxiety and depression can go hand in hand, that doesn’t necessarily mean it always does. Even though I struggle with anxiety and it plays a large role in my life, I have actually never really struggled with severe depression or been diagnosed with it. Of course I have gone through rough periods in my life, in general, I am able to naturally uphold a positive, cheerful, self-loving attitude. I genuinely love life and view it through an optimistic lens- I just also happen to deal with anxiety along the way. 


Misconception 2: “If you eat healthy foods and meditate, your anxiety will go away.”

Improving your diet and your routines can help with anxiety, but if you have a real anxiety disorder, it’s not very likely that you can cure it just by eating more vegetables and practicing yoga. I’m not saying it’s a worthless practice, but if you suffer from severe anxiety such as myself, it takes years of therapy and even medication to maintain my health and help my anxiety become less severe. When people tell me to try exercising or drinking more water to “cure” my anxiety, I recognize the positive intent, but it is still frustrating to hear these things.


Misconception 3: “Oh, I have anxiety, too!” or something along those lines

Everybody struggles with anxiety from time to time, and it’s completely normal to do so. However, not everybody has an anxiety disorder. What differentiates normal anxiety from a serious medical condition depends on how severely it impacts the quality of your life. For example, it’s normal and expected to have anxiety before a big test or a presentation. But if your anxiety prevents you from enjoying your everyday life or if it interferes with your daily tasks and productivity, then it could qualify for an anxiety disorder. It’s important to understand that difference, because as with any mental disorder or condition, it’s common for those who really suffer to feel invalidated or one-upped. 


Misconception 4: “Taking medication for anxiety can make you become addicted to it.”

There is no evidence to support the claim that SSRIs or other antidepressants can cause dependent tendencies in those who use them, so the idea that anxiety medication can become “addicting” is a huge misconception. With that being said, it is possible to become dependent on benzodiazepines- or tranquilizers, such as Ativan or Xanax. However, just because you have a prescription for either of these medications does NOT automatically mean you will become addicted to benzos. I have a prescription for Ativan which I use very responsibly, and I only take my benzos if I am having an absolute anxiety emergency and I am afraid of passing out or having a panic attack (which only happens a handful of times per year.)


And finally, Misconception 5: “Anxiety is not a real medical condition.”

Even though anxiety is an invisible illness, that does not make it any less valid or severe than any other condition. 

Anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions- and should be treated just as seriously as any other condition, physical or not. Additionally, anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive of disorders in the United States. If you also struggle with having an anxiety disorder, your feelings are valid, and most importantly, you are NOT alone!

I hope you found this article helpful and informative. In the midst of the political climate and the pandemic surrounding us right now, it is totally normal and valid to be feeling anxiety. Remember that it is good to feel your feelings, even if they are not always sunshiney, and there are always people out there who want to listen to you and support you.

It’s hard not to feel impacted and potentially forever changed by a TED Talk. As someone who deals with anxiety and PMDD, I find hearing other perspectives on mental illness to be extremely enlightening and clarifying. Today. I’ve compiled what I believe to be the top five best TED Talks for discussing mental health topics, though there are several more amazing ones on YouTube and the official TED site. 

white and brown wooden tiles
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com


I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia | Cecilia McGough

Of all the TED Talks related to mental health that I have come across, I believe this was the first one I watched. I think that this is a great introductory video for those who don’t know very much about schizophrenia, like I didn’t when I first watched the video. I was absolutely amazed and shocked by Cecilia’s story, and she painted her life experiences in such a vibrant, graphic way that I was able to easily empathize with her and her struggles. Most importantly, the video shines some light on the unfair prejudice projected onto those who deal with debilitating illnesses, such as schizophrenia, and breaks the stigma that those with the illness are inherently dangerous or violent in some way. It’s an extremely important video, and I highly recommend it to everybody. 


Imagine There Was No Stigma to Mental Illness | Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman

I recently came across this TED Talk on YouTube, and what I enjoy most about this video is the fact that Dr. Lieberman explains the stigma against those with mental health in such a clear, well-thought way. I admire that he has spent a substantial amount of his career researching mental illness and how the societal stigmas against it can be damaging to vulnerable communities, and how we as a community can continue to advocate for those with mental health struggles. I agree with Dr. Lieberman that less stigma and judgment would lead to the improved treatment of millions of individuals, so I really hope this TED Talk receives more traction and attention.


What is Depression? | Helen M. Farrell

Kind of going off of the stigmatization of mental health, there seem to be a lot of preconceived notions about what exactly depression is. I’ve spent a lot of time with friends and family who are clinically depressed, and one important thing in particular that I have learned is that depression does not always equal sadly moping around. Often, people with depression can put on an upbeat face and even feel happiness, but predominantly, they feel numbness or disinterest in the outside world. I really appreciated this TED Talk because Helen Farrell summarizes this notion much better than I can, and her use of visuals in the video is really helpful as well. If you know someone who is struggling with depression, or even if you simply just want to educate yourself better on the subject, I highly recommend watching this TED Talk. 


How to Cope with Anxiety | Olivia Remes

I’ve struggled with anxiety for all of my life, and that’s initially what drew me into this video. Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders, and according to Olivia Remes, very few people who struggle with anxiety actually receive the help they need. My own journey with being diagnosed with GAD was a long and often painful struggle, so I really appreciate that Olivia Remes validates this experience for us. Although I personally have found medication to be extremely helpful, I understand where she is coming from when she emphasizes trying other alternatives first. For those who also struggle with anxiety and may want to learn more about it, I really recommend watching this video from start to finish.


How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime | Nadine Burke Harris

I’m very interested in childhood psychology and how the traumas of our past can influence the people we turn into, so it’s no wonder I was quickly drawn to this video. I’m really happy that society is shifting its views on how childhood trauma is handled; what was once viewed as something you can simply “get over” as an adult is now being treated as a legitimate source of trauma on young, developing brains. Incredibly, Nadine Harris also reveals that those who have gone through extreme trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. It’s an important reminder that we need to take PTSD and other severe trauma disorders seriously, and I really appreciate that this video is getting the attention it deserves.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article! Let me know if you have watched any of these videos, and what you thought about them as well in the comments. 

Sunday, April 19

Hi everyone, I hope you are healthy and well. I know it’s a strange sentiment to say, but I’ve been feeling much more like a woman and a grown-up this past month. I looked at myself in the mirror a few weeks ago, and I’m not quite sure why I felt so different, but it seemed to me like I had gone through some sort of metamorphosis without even realizing it. It’s also been tripping me up a bit that I entered high school seven years ago, and I haven’t been a teenager for so long. I know it doesn’t sound like a very important matter, and it’s honestly not, but sometimes it’s really clarifying and freeing to realize how much time has passed.

I have a bit of work to do today, including *another* ethics paper, an outline for my capstone class, and I need to get started on a presentation for my Wednesday business class as well. I’ve been feeling pretty productive the last few days, which is awesome, and it sort of feeds into my new realization of feeling like an “adult.” Even I am sometimes amazed by how positive and forward-moving I can be during these odd times.

Speaking of, does anyone else feel like they’re getting used to this new life now? I almost forget that the coronavirus is out there, believe it or not, because I’m so wrapped up in my little isolated life and busy with my projects. It’s really amazing what we can adapt to as humans, isn’t it?

In other news, I recently updated to a premium plan here on the blog, so you’ve probably noticed that things look a lot different. I’ve been wanting to upgrade for a while now, but it never felt like the right time to drop all that money. Now, even though it made a dent in my wallet, I’m so happy that I decided to upgrade! I absolutely love this theme and I’m really excited to see how my blog grows and evolves from here.


Monday, April 20

I feel obligated to say happy 420, even though I don’t smoke weed and I also don’t plan on it any time soon. It’s also Marathon Monday, but of course, there aren’t any festivities going on here in Boston. I can only imagine what college campuses would be like right now with the combination of these two holidays! I’m pretty sad to be missing it.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty good today. I thankfully haven’t exhibited any symptoms of coronavirus yet (though my allergies are quite bad) and I’m extremely grateful for that. My mom hasn’t shown any symptoms either, so I’m hoping things stay that way. I’m pretty excited to be moving in 11 days, but of course, I’m feeling a bit nervous as well! Of course I’ve been away at college, so I know what it feels like to be on my own, but I’ve never paid rent or had so many responsibilities placed on my shoulders. I have no doubt I’ll be just fine, but it’s still a bit scary not knowing what to expect. I’m lucky that my housemates are lovely, supportive friends from college, so at least we’ll have each other throughout this life change. I’m really excited for meal-prepping, decorating, and just being in the heart of the city in general.

By the way, being 21 is so weird! I feel like I’m breaking the law every time I pour myself a glass of wine. 


Thursday, April 23

Hey everyone, hope you’re holding up well. I’m doing pretty well today, albeit I was in a bit of an unproductive/anxiety funk for the last couple of days. I noticed while looking at my medication that I accidentally took a double dose of my combination pills some day this week, so that probably had something to do with it.

Related to that, I occasionally go through short periods of ‘brain fogginess’ where I just feel totally disconnected from everyone and everything around me, and I find it really difficult to be productive and get things done when I’m going through funks like that. Feeling like you don’t even know the people you love can also make you really paranoid, even if you know you’re being ridiculous, so I spent the last couple of days wondering if my loved ones even liked me at all. The best way I can describe this kind of anxiety is feeling like you’re about to hear some terrible news, or feeling like someone is going to leave, but the terrible news never comes and you don’t know what the terrible news is. So you just sit around in a state of paranoia and wait for awful news that never comes, essentially. It’s really not a fun thing to go through, and admittedly, I would have liked a little bit more support during that time, but you do what you can and you get through it. And I’m happy to say I’m coming out of that funk now, and I feel very comfortable with others again. 

Anyway, I wasn’t really blogging or doing a lot of writing during that time, but I did start my junk journaling hobby that I’ve been wanting to get into! That mostly occupied my time yesterday, and so far, I’ve completed three journals. I’m hoping to finish binding two more tonight, which I would then like to sell. 

IMG_2813.jpg
Some of my journals!

So in conclusion, I was going through a rough patch of anxiety but I’m starting to finally feel better. I still slightly feel like something terrible is going to happen, but I think everybody feels that way during a global pandemic, particularly other highly sensitive people such as myself. 

I probably don’t need to begin this by reminding y’all of these ‘unprecedented circumstances’ and I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing it, so I’ll just skip all of that and jump right in. As someone who struggles with anxiety and PMDD, it’s really important to me that I stay in-tune with my emotions and communicate with myself. If I feel like something is off or brewing inside of me, I try to confront it head-on and get to the root of the issue. Sometimes, of course, you just have to stop cross-examining yourself and give your mind a rest. Here are the ways that I take care of myself and practice self love, particularly in tough times like these. 

I know it sounds really simple and cliche, but reaching out for support and upholding communication with your loved ones is so important! It can be as simple as a phone call to a best friend, partner, or family member. Whenever I’m feeling a bit gloomy or unmotivated, I’ll usually call either my best friend, Eli, or my boyfriend, Nathaniel. It doesn’t have to be a vent or a rant; even just having an upbeat, casual conversation can really lift my spirits and make me feel instantly better. In fact, sometimes it’s actually really nice and helpful to take your mind off the things that are driving you crazy, and focus on some more lighthearted thoughts for a while.

IMG_2961

Another way I maintain my mental health and practice self care is by keeping up with a personal journal, and no, I don’t mean my weekly blog newsletter! I have several actual print journals I write in, and unlike my blog content, I don’t share my journal with anybody. I think it’s important to have a special place where you can freely pour your thoughts onto paper, and not have to worry about what anyone else may think. I’m also starting to get into the art of junk journaling, which not only entails writing, but also crafting and sewing! I think it’s really beautiful to journal to yourself, and in most cases, it can give you a lot of clarity about problems you may be having. 

This is one that I particularly struggle with a lot: reminding myself that I am trying my best. Particularly in these strange times with my normal schedule being disruptive, I’m feeling less motivated and focused than usual. I also have ADD, which is making it really difficult for me to focus during my online classes. However, even though I’m sufficiently stressed and sometimes doubting myself, it’s important for me to remember that I am doing the best in these bizarre circumstances- and you are, too! It’s totally okay to feel not on top of your A game, because frankly, nobody knows what they’re doing right now. All you can really do is remind yourself that you are working your hardest in the given circumstances, and try to be gentle with yourself.  

Along with taking physical actions to improve my wellness, there are also a couple of analogies that help me to put things into perspective when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed. The first one comes from a wonderfully funny Buddhist monk named Ajahn Brahm, who posts fascinating lectures on YouTube, by the way. He said something in a video once that really impacted me, and the analogy has stuck with me since. Basically, he compared having lots of different stresses in your life to carrying around lots of heavy rocks in a backpack. He reminds us that it’s important to evaluate what ‘rocks’ we are carrying around, and to decide what weight we can take out of our backpacks and out on the backburner for a while. For me right now, I’m dealing with the stress of online college, finding a job after graduation, coronavirus, moving into my first apartment, etc. Ajahn Brahm’s analogy helps me because it’s a great way to physically envision everything on my plate, and subsequently decide what I can put on hold for a while to make the weight of life more bearable.

Another analogy I really like comes from a book called When You Reach Me. Rather than try to explain the idea, I’ll just go ahead and insert the quote here:

“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.”

IMG_2086.jpg

I’m not sure what it is about this quote that means so much to me, but I think about it all the time (at least a couple of times per week.) Pretty much every time I am reminded of the ‘big things’ in life, I can almost see myself lifting my veil and observing life in a more clear view. The other day, I stepped out of my apartment and noticed that the sunset was absolutely gorgeous. For me, that was such a veil-lifting moment: observing the quiet beauty of the world and forgetting about the tiny stressors in my life for a few minutes. And honestly, since that day, everything has felt a little bit more okay. 

Animal therapy is a hugely successful way to alleviate stress in your life, and I’m very fortunate to have a dog around to keep me company. Sometimes, you really just need a support system but you don’t feel like talking, and that’s where pets come into play as wonderful companions. My dog doesn’t judge me or understand anything that’s going on- he’s just happy to be here, and that’s honestly all I can ask for. Petting animals can also help lower your blood sugar, so the next time you’re feeling stressed or upset, consider adding some animal therapy into your life.

Although it’s just a simple, little thing, taking bubble baths is one of my favorite ways to unwind after a crazy or overwhelming day. I really don’t understand people who say bubble baths are boring. Just bring a book or a podcast with you, or honestly, just scroll through your phone if you really want to. There’s just something utterly relaxing and wonderful about being immersed in hot water for a half hour with a few candles burning. Even better, it’s an easy way to avoid human interaction, so you can have some peace and quiet to yourself for as long as you want. For bonus points, go all out and have a complete spa night, with face masks and cucumbers on your eyes. 

IMG_8516

I suppose this sort of relates to the spa night idea, but lastly, I like to do hobbies and activities that make me feel beautiful- and I utilize that time for myself as being extremely important. For me, this is taking 30-60 minutes to put on my makeup, usually while I listen to a podcast or watch a video. I like the way I look bare-faced as well, but there’s just something about a full-glam face of makeup that makes me feel really pretty and confident in myself. I think makeup is also a great way to get to know your face and embrace your features, which ultimately means finding new ways to love yourself! 

Those are all my tips and ways that I practice self-love and take care of my mental health. I hope you found this article helpful, and maybe you can even draw some inspiration from it! Let me know in the comments how you like to practice your own self-care.

IMG_5698 (1).jpg

I’ve been on this earth for almost twenty-one years, and throughout that time, I’ve learned a few things. For one, twenty is a weird age to be. You’re definitely no longer a child, but you don’t have enough life experience to consider yourself an adult. You understand heartbreak and (maybe) taxes, but things like paying bills and healthcare still have a big question mark. Oh, and you learn that growing is painful. 

Life is so funny in the way it tricks you. The minute you think you have it all figured out, a new obstacle or adversity throws itself into your way. I’ve definitely had so many of these “a-ha” moments throughout my life, only to realize my vision was clouded by innocence and even ignorance. It took me many years to learn one singular important lesson: just because you’re a good person and you do good things, it doesn’t mean life will treat you any more fairly or kindly. We’ll all go through terrible things, and playing a martyr won’t make anything easier. All you can really do is roll with it and accept the reality that you are given.

I spent most of my life believing I was weird, different, unlikeable, and unlovable. In fact, I didn’t let that raw outer shell melt away until my senior year of college. It was a slow, gradual process, and it felt like I was shedding pounds of anger with every year I grew. Regardless of what my public school peers actually thought of me, I was absolutely convinced everybody thought they were better, smarter, and prettier than me. I was certain I would be everybody’s second choice, at best, and there was nothing I could do about that. I spent so much time wrestling in emotional anguish over what other people thought of me; did they think I was cool enough? Was I smart enough? Was I lovable enough? Was I, isolated, enough?

Coming from a loving, strong, mother, but a detached brother and father, I struggled with male-centric attachment issues throughout my life. I always knew I loved women from the day I even understood what love was, but my constant need to fill that male role (and my fear of judgment) prevented me from reaching that goal for almost twenty years. When I finally let myself accept the fact that I could love a woman just as much as I love a man (if not even more, if I’m being honest), those pounds of fear and resistance slowly began to break away from me. 

One of the worst pains I ever felt in my life was the day I decided to cut off all communication with my biological father. For years, the sadness and unease I felt surrounding our relationship plagued me from ever standing up for myself and what was best for my health. It would have been so much easier for me if he was completely and totally catastrophic; I think I would have had such an easier time pausing that relationship in my life if the pain was black and white. Unfortunately, even though the bad outweighed the good, a few happy memories and sensitive spots still lingered (and continue) to linger in my heart. One of the hardest things a person has to do is mourn the loss of a relationship, particularly with a parent who causes emotional and verbal harm. No matter how much you love a person and wish they could change, some things are just out of your control. I grew up about a thousand years that day, and even though I still sob into my pillow for feeling like “the worst daughter ever,” I still accept that this was I step I needed to take to protect my health and my well-being. If he died tomorrow, what would I do with myself? Would I regret ending this relationship? Would it be my fault? These are the questions I am still grappling with as I go through my own adult growing pains. 

Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be dingy and sad, so let’s switch topics. Let’s talk about the beauty of growing pains and going through dark times. 

I hated college for the first two or so years. I was very much still in my Me-Against-The-World mindset, and grew constantly paranoid of the laughing, happy students around me. I was absolutely convinced that everybody hated me; even the people I’d never spoken to in my life. I learned something very interesting this year: most people genuinely don’t even have a fleeting opinion. Secondly, the people who I judged and decided were just “bitches” ended up being the nicest darned people I’ve ever met in my life. And, most of the time, they were more scared of me– the ultimate resting-bitch-faced boss lady of Lasell. It’s kind of an embarrassing realization to come to, but also a very hilarious one. There are so many people I’m now best friends with that I never imagined would give me the light of day before. And it’s not because they changed- it’s because I’ve changed.

IMG_1535.JPG

I’ve definitely noticed a positive shift within myself this past year. Funnily enough, I didn’t even notice it happening- but other people did. “You’re so much more confident now,” my friends are saying to me. And I truly am. Like I said, it was such a gradual internal change within myself, I didn’t even actively notice it happening. That’s a huge thing I’ve learned about gaining confidence: you can’t just will yourself to be happier and then wake up the next morning feeling like a new person. It takes time and effort, and of course, it takes growing pains. But now that I’ve reached such a state of comfortability and gratitude for who I truly am, it’s almost like I don’t even have to put in the work anymore. I just live my life the way I want to live it, and the rest follows in suit. 

Since around the summer of 2016, I have been taking escitalopram (Lexapro) to manage my PMDD and anxiety. I’ve always been an open book about it; after all, it has definitely helped me tremendously and improved my quality of life overall. I know anxiety medication isn’t the best option for everyone, but for me, I tried everything else the “natural” way and this was the only thing that worked. So here I am, almost four years later, still taking 10mg of Lexapro per day. Sometimes people ask me if I ever plan on getting off it, or if I would recommend this medication to others struggling with anxiety. Today, I’m going to answer all those questions and tell you a little bit about my personal journey with this SSRI.

Before I was put on Lexapro, I was previously taking Zoloft for about two weeks. I had to stop taking Zoloft because it essentially turned me into a zombie: numb, exhausted, unable to focus, basically just walking around as a shell of myself. I remember at one point, I was taking a walk with my friend and I had to call my mom to come get me, because I was so fatigued and dizzy, I couldn’t walk anymore. So the Zoloft didn’t last long, and I switched to Lexapro shortly after that. This time, the drug was a great match for me and I didn’t have any intense side effects. I don’t remember very much about that time, because it was almost four years ago, but I know my anxiety started to greatly improve from there. I would still have anxiety from time to time, but it was nothing like the intense panic and irritability I was experiencing before. 

Last summer, in 2019, I decided to try weaning off of Lexapro because I felt like I was getting too used to it. My anxiety was still very low, but I was almost too numbed out, if that makes sense. I was starting to have a difficult time feeling anything at all, so I assumed that I had simply been taking Lexapro for too long. I talked it over with my doctor, and told her about the other side effects that I was experiencing. She told me that I could either slowly wean off of the drug, or we could switch to something else. I decided to wean off the drug to see if it was possible that my brain had adjusted to making more serotonin without the aid of the drug (that would obviously be the best case scenario). She also switched me to a new combination-hormone birth control pill, which she said would further help me with my PMDD.

87bed3649b2945a9efa38f6c54daa637

Weaning off of Lexapro, or any other SSRI, can be an extremely difficult experience. Many people go through critical periods of irritability, anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and upsetting physical effects as a result of being taken off the drug. In extreme situations, some people even have to be hospitalized until their bodies can adjust- even if you wean off slowly. I weaned off as slowly as I could over the course of 21 days, cutting my pills into smaller and smaller pieces. I didn’t experience depression or suicidal thoughts, thankfully, but I did have some really atrocious physical symptoms. One of the most common side effects of withdrawal is experiencing “brain zaps”, which are tiny, localized seizures that feel a bit like your brain is being zapped by electricity. For a few weeks, I was having up to hundreds of these brain zaps throughout the day, and I was so dizzy at some points, I would have to crawl around on the floor to get places. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through, and it was at that time I had a clear understanding of why people have such a hard time getting off Lexapro. Alas, my symptoms finally subdued and I decided that I had finally successfully weaned off Lexapro, and that would hopefully be the end of things.

But of course, it wasn’t. Around November or so, about three months after getting off Lexapro, I had an extremely severe spell of insomnia and anxiety, possibly caused by my PMDD. Regardless, my anxiety skyrocketed over the course of just a few days, and I couldn’t figure out why. It almost felt like somebody had flicked a panic switch in my body, and no matter what I did, my heart wouldn’t stop beating uncontrollably. I was constantly filled with a sense of edging dread and panic, and it severely took a toll on me during the last few weeks of my fall semester. Somehow, I managed to turn in all of my assignments and finish on the Dean’s List, but during that time I was only sleeping 1-2 hours per night and I was sobbing constantly. The only thing that could get me through the night without vomiting from anxiety was to constantly take Ativan (an oral sedative also prescribed by my doctor). My mom, obviously concerned about this downward spiral of anxiety, brought me a leftover bottle of Lexapro that I had kept from the summer. She assured me that my anxiety would probably improve, and if I ended up feeling better on the drug, we could talk to my doctor about getting back on it. 

Per usual, my mom was right, and my anxiety and edge gradually started to melt away over the course of the next two weeks. I also started to regain my normal sleeping pattern again, which was incredibly wonderful, and now I can average about 8-10 hours of sleep. I’m also constantly in a state of serene calmness, which I have a huge sense of gratitude for. I definitely needed to get back on the Lexapro, at least for the time being. I’m not sure what caused that bizarre spell last November, but I’m extremely grateful that it’s over and I feel “back to normal.” It’s so nice not to feel my heart pounding all the time. I feel more centered, alert, and of course, much more happy.

There’s still a chance I’ll try to wean off Lexapro again in the future, but honestly, that last experience was so traumatizing, it’s not even a possibility in my mind right now. At least, it’s not a possibility for 2020. It would be nice to feel perfectly happy and healthy without the aid of medication, but it’s also my responsibility to take care of my body and my mind. For now, I’m so happy with where I am, and I’m so grateful for having less anxiety. I’m also extremely proud of myself for getting through that difficult period. I don’t like writing about it and reliving that time in my life, but I think it’s important to share with other people. If I can aid or comfort even one person with my writing, that’s good enough for me.

Anyway, that pretty much wraps up my overview of Lexapro. As you can see, I’ve had a predominantly positive experience being on this medication, but it’s not the best choice for everyone, just as Zoloft happened to not be the best choice for me. Nonetheless, I hope you find this article helpful, and I’m happy to answer any more questions about my experience on Lexapro!

Monday, November 25

Good morning, everybody! I hope you’re all having a great day. I’m looking forward to a short week; tomorrow is my last day of classes before Thanksgiving break. Then, I come back for two weeks, and I’m done for the semester on December 14! Very exciting stuff.

I’m especially happy today because I got a lot of work done with my advisor this morning. We decided that Analog, the new publication I started, is going to be my capstone (for those of you who don’t know, my capstone is basically my big senior research project). So spring 2020 is going to be all about developing Analog, and managing some great content on there. With that being said, I’m going to start posting twice a week instead of thrice a week on The Diplomat’s Digest starting in January, because I’m going to have my hands quite full as it is. We also got some work done for my internship search, and I’ve started filling out forms for my graduation ceremony. So that’s all been very eventful.

I’m just finishing up my morning black coffee; next I’m going to print out some school forms and work on my writing projects until my 2pm class. It feels surreal that the semester is almost over, doesn’t it?


Wednesday, November 27

With the end of the semester in sight, I’ve been running around like a headless chicken trying to get all my work, academics, and projects wrapped up. I’m pursuing a directed study capstone, which means I’m going to be working completely independently on my final senior project. I’ve also been doing a lot of applying, interviewing, and researching for my spring internship. I’ve discovered some really interesting organizations, and I would be truly happy to work for any of them. I’ve never had a “big girl” job like this before, so I’m really excited about the prospect of having an internship. Many of them are looking for a person who can juggle multiple tasks at once, and that’s definitely my specialty, if I do say so myself.

Additionally, Eli is home for Thanksgiving and I’m SO excited to see him. We’re probably going to hang out tonight, and maybe take Duke for a walk downtown. I don’t get to see him very often, so I cherish the time that we spend together.

Speaking of Duke, he just came in from his afternoon walk, so I’m going to go cuddle him now!


Friday, November 29

To those who celebrate, I hope you all had a safe, happy Thanksgiving! I had a perfectly lovely time with my family. My mom and I spent most of the day cooking in the kitchen, which was a great bonding experience for us. The meal was also delicious, and my apple pie came out amazing. It was a very low-key, relaxing holiday, and I’m grateful that I was able to spend it with the people I love.

IMG_7050.jpg
My mom and Cooper being absolute angels!

Wednesday night was also a ball. Eli and I went to Olive Garden and spent some quality time together. We talked about how much we’ve changed since high school; I told Eli I found him to be more confident, and he said something along the lines of me being more comfortable with myself. I also asked my mom how I’ve changed since high school, and she said I’m more “reasonable.” I’d have to agree with both of those things.

My sleep schedule has improved a lot since being home, by the way. There’s something about sleeping in a big, comfy bed with my dog and some fresh-smelling sheets that always puts me to sleep instantly. Right now, Duke is sleeping by my feet while I write this. He’s had an exciting couple of days, too, rolling around with Cooper and playing hide-and-seek with me. We’re both a bit tired from all the festivities, so I’m happy to be doing some work in bed with him. I already had my morning coffee, but some wake-up tea might be in order as well.


Saturday, November 30

Thanksgiving break has been absolutely lovely so far; I’m already looking forward to coming back home for winter break in two weeks. Today has been a very relaxing, low-key day, and I’ve spent the entire time by myself (an introvert’s dream!). I’ve primarily been taking care of Duke, because my mom is up in Maine with my stepdad. Today I cleaned most of the house for my mom, scrubbing and vacuuming and all the such. Now the house is sparkling clean, and I’ve got the winter candles burning while I enjoy a cup of tea. By the way, Winter Wake Up tea from Trader Joe’s is AMAZING, and I highly recommend it.

For those of you wondering how my anxiety/insomnia is, both have greatly improved over the course of the last few weeks. I’d say the escitalopram is definitely back in my system and keeping me pretty calm, so that’s been very helpful. The insomnia is still a bit of a bother, but I can usually get about 4-5 hours of sleep when I’m at school. When I’m home, however, I sleep fabulously. These past few nights, I’ve been hitting the sack at 9:30pm and sleeping straight through 8am. It’s such a luxury!

My mom should be home in an hour or two; around the same time my old friends Mara and Eli are coming to hang out for a night of hot chocolate and Christmas movies. It’s never too early for the holiday spirit, as I say 🙂

At the time of writing this, we’re in the odd transitional period of daylight saving time and my mood is feeling a bit…off. I occasionally go through periods where I’m just in a bit of a funk, and this is just one of those times. And no, the sky getting dark at 4pm is not helping!

Anywho, with that being said, I wanted to write something cheerful today in an effort to lift my spirits. This isn’t my typical how-to post or informational piece, but I thought it would be nice to do something a little light-hearted, especially in the season of being thankful! I hope you guys enjoy.

Image result for happiness quotes"

Throughout my entire life, I’ve always felt an extremely strong connection to animals. I do consider myself to be an empathetic person, and my warm feelings towards others extent to (almost) every living thing. I say “almost” because I’m not the biggest fan of creepy-crawly bugs. Besides that, though, I’ve always felt an extremely strong sense of respect towards animals. I am fortunate enough to have my sweet family dog, Duke, and I’m looking forward to adopting my own animals once I graduate college and get my own apartment. The first animals I’d like to adopt are fancy rats, then I’d like to rescue cats and possibly birds. Once I move out of the city and (hopefully) start my own farm business, I want to rescue dogs, goats, chickens, and cows. Whenever I ponder my perfect life, I always see tons of animals in the picture. I hope someday I can live a simple life surrounded by my sweet animal friends, from teeny-tiny rats to giant bulls and cows. 

This is partially related to animals, I suppose, but I’ve also always had an extremely strong connection to nature. Being a New England girl, I’ve grown up surrounded by farms, mountains, snowy winters, beaches, you name it. There is so much diversity in New England, I’m grateful that I get to experience it all. It sounds cheesy to say, but I’ve always felt like the flowers and the trees were my friends, especially when I was growing up. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I did have my imagination and my flowers. To this day, I’m still so fascinated by plants and animals, and I love getting out into nature to take all the beauty in. It’s a really great source of anxiety relief for me.

Like many people, music has always played an enormous part in my life. Not only do I love listening to music, I also love expressing myself through singing. I remember first getting into music in the fourth grade, when my class sang “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks as our elementary school graduation song. That experience alone sparked my passion for singing, and since then, I’ve sung in two a capella groups and taken voice lessons outside of school. I don’t sing much anymore, but it’s still a huge part of my creative identity. And, of course, I love listening to music as well. I love to take walks around campus with my headphones in and pretend I’m in a music video. 

I talk about my mom a lot, but I still don’t think I give her enough credit on here. I feel very fortunate to have an amazing relationship with my mom, and I love her more than anyone else in the world. She’s been through some really tough things that could have knocked her down, but instead, she became stronger than ever and built an amazing life for herself. She’s a maternity nurse, and she’s loved by so many people for the amazing work she does. She’s also very accepting of me as a person, and remains open-minded to the decisions I make for myself. Above all, she takes great care of me. Whenever I’m sick, anxious, sad, or something in-between, I can always count on my amazing mom to comfort me and help me through adversity.

Lastly (but certainly not least), writing is a substantial form of happiness and peace for me. I write when I’m feeling down, when I’m flying high, when I’m bored, or really anything in-between. I would say I spend between 2-4 hours of my day writing, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Being an introvert who has always struggled to express myself, I cherish having my writing skill as an outlet to communicate with the outside world. It’s a very freeing experience to know I have a talent, and it gives me comfort to know I can always rely on my voice to get me through the hard times. 

Anyway, those are the top five things that make me happy, but there are so many more things I’ve left out. I’m planning on publishing the “50 Things That Make Me Happy” tag sometime later in January, so be on the lookout for that! I’ve had a really lovely time writing this, and fills me with gratitude to reflect on all of these beautiful gifts in my life, especially my family.

 

Monday, November 11

Today is Veteran’s Day, which means no classes. I am grateful for the three-day weekend, because my anxiety is still in rough shape and I’m in no condition to be in class as it is. I’ve talked about this odd panic spell I’m in a little bit, but I’ll give you the full story in case you’re confused/out of the loop.

About two weeks ago, I started to have some problems sleeping. I didn’t particularly feel super anxious at the time, but I was restless and frustrated with the insomnia. Then, throughout the rest of the week (probably due to sleep deprivation) I started to feel really…wonky. Crying, panicky, nervous, irritated, generally just “off” and “disconnected.” These are all very common symptoms of PMDD and GAD, so I was familiar with the feeling and tried to remind myself I’d be feeling back to normal soon.

I felt briefly fine when I went home for four days so I could completely recuperate, but it was basically hell again when I got back to school that weekend. Slowly, day by day, my anxiety would just sink worse and worse, my crying would intensify, and my overall feeling of “offness” and dread was seriously starting to interfere. These past few nights, I’ve been running on 4-5 hours of sleep, usually interrupted by horrific anxiety attacks, nausea, and even painful legs. It’s hard to get rest when your legs are killing you every night and you’re throwing up into your trashcan, all because of anxiety.

I’d like to make a very resounding note that this is anxiety, NOT depression. I’m not feeling emotionally distraught or hopeless or anything dangerous- I’m just extremely anxious and, as a result, unstabilized. With that being said, I’m not in any kind of danger (or a danger to anyone else), and I am trying my very best to take constructive steps in the right direction. This particular weekend has been a bit rough in particular- I was essentially bedbound today- but now I’m feeling a bit stronger and willing myself to set healthy goals for myself.

The first thing I did was reach out to my college’s counseling program to set up a therapy appointment. Even though my body seems to be having a physical panic reaction that a therapist likely can’t fix, I still think it will be helpful to talk to one and learn some insight. So I’m looking forward to that. 

I’ve also resumed taking escitalopram, or Lexapro, at 10mg per day. The medication may take a while to kick in, but I should be feeling at least a little less edgy by the end of the week. I also have my Ativan prescription, which I am utilizing in the absolute most panic emergencies.

Furthermore, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my friends and loved ones to have an extra source of support and reassurance. My mom has been an absolute angel, bringing my medicines and listening to me vent and cry. Eli and Lily, my good friends, have given me so much comfort and great advice! One thing in particular I love Eli said was along the lines of this: “You should not feel guilty about reaching out for help, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.”

IMG_6777.JPG
By the way, I dyed my hair blonde!

Eli is absolutely right. I have to advocate for myself and my health, because no one else will. I am going to set a concrete goal to go to all of my classes this week, register for my spring courses, and meeting all of my important academic commitments. Right now, that’s my biggest goal- just to get through the week academically.

I’ve already broadcasted to my friends via social media that my anxiety and panic is basically holding me hostage this week, and I’m going to need some extra space and distance to keep myself in check (unless I reach out to them first, such as Eli or Lily). I’m usually happy to help people with their problems and listen to them vent, but right now, I need to detach from that and spend some time taking care of me.

The past two weeks have been some of the hardest of my life, purely because of my anxiety. Like I said, I am not depressed or in a dangerous place- I’m just literally hinged and bedbound by my extremely intense panic. I don’t know why my anxiety has suddenly sparked to badly, but I’m going to do my very best to be strong. With any hurdle in life, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and I know this anxiety spell will pass soon!

 


Tuesday, November 12

It’s currently mid afternoon, and all of my classes are finished for the day. I wanted to jot down some quick updates about my anxiety, and how I’m holding up now that classes have resumed.

In general, I’m doing pretty okay right now. My anxiety is still higher than usual, but it’s not bad enough that I’m crying, bedbound, and throwing up. So I’d say that’s definitely an improvement. I can also go a few minutes without thinking about my anxiety, so I’m proud of that. 

In regards to sleep patterns, I’m still in a pretty tedious place. I felt pretty calm when I fell asleep last night, because I called my mom and I had Ativan in my system. I had some severe anxiety around 2am, but it wasn’t bad enough that I threw up or had to call someone. I sort of just waited it out, and distracted myself for a couple hours, and I was asleep around 4pm. So I’m not sure if that’s progress, but it’s definitely not a degression!

I’m hoping I’ll start to notice some positive effects from the Lexapro within the next couple of weeks. I know it takes a while to work, but I should start to feel relief from the edge soon. Tonight I’m going to work on a class project with a friend, then I’m going to take the rest of the afternoon to relax, light a candle, and focus on keeping my panic down. Updates to come.


Wednesday, November 13

I’m in relatively good spirits, albeit my insomnia was awful last night and I didn’t sleep at all. That being said, my anxiety is pretty high so I’m running on pure adrenaline, and I’m not sleepy at all. So, that’s good I guess?

Last night was actually very lovely, and I even made some new friends! (And my existing friends took very good care of me). I decided to go to my university’s pride club, and I had a really lovely time partaking in the discussions and meeting new people. I’ll definitely be attending more meetings in the future!

Anywho, today is going to be a bit busier than usual. I have three classes today, then a study group, then a house meeting. After that, I’m hoping I can find some anxiety relief and get a few hours of sleep. I’m looking forward to this weekend, because I’m going home to spend some time with my mom and stepfather. They take such amazing care of me, especially in hard times such as now.


Saturday, November 16

IMG_5095.jpg

I admittedly forgot to write Thursday, and yesterday I was busy travelling home, but now I have (finally) found the time to sit down and get some work done! I’m happy to report that I’m in very good spirits, and since I’ve been home, I’ve hardly had any anxiety. I’m even starting to feel sleepy, which is something I haven’t felt in a long time due to ongoing adrenaline.

Today I visited Mount Agamenticus in Maine with my family, with was really lovely. I’m not really a big hiker, but the fresh air felt good and I had a great time. It’s much later in the evening now, and like I said, I’m starting to feel veeery sleepy, so I hope I can get a good night’s sleep. I’m glad I decided to come home for a short break; it’s been so rejuvenating and rewarding to spend time with the people I love. I hope you all had a fun weekend, too!