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Tuesday, October 29

Right now, I’m taking a break from working on my research paper to do something a little less intensive- blogging! I’m a self-proclaimed ambitious woman, and it’s my goal to have a ten-page literature review finished by the end of the night. I feel like I need to work harder than usual today to prove my productivity because I missed both of my classes today.

I actually HATE missing classes and feeling like I’m getting behind, but today was definitely a necessity. For whatever reason, though probably PMS/hormone related, I could not sleep a WINK last night. I quite literally just rolled around in bed, wide awake, and every time I checked my phone another hour had passed. I wasn’t even tired, and I’m still not feeling tired. I finally managed to sleep intermittedly on-and-off from 7am to 12:30pm, but that meant missing my 11am class and my 12:30pm class.

From my understanding, estrogen basically equates to energy in a woman’s body, and with PMS in full force I can imagine my hormones are literally off the walls right now. My skin is also breaking out worse than usual, and the acne is big and painful. I’m also feeling cramps and heightened anxiety, but those two things are generally normal.

So, yeah. I am currently in the midst of a bad month for PMDD, but I’m grateful that my mental health doesn’t seem to be much affected. Yes, having a bad sleep schedule for the past three nights is no fun, but I’d rather deal with this than feel completely dejected and sad. At least there’s coffee to treat a rough night’s sleep!

Anywho, I feel a bit better now that I’ve vented. I’m going to work on my literature review for a bit more, than take a break and binge watch Stranger Things in celebration of Halloween. I’m also going to order some dinner, because I feel like my tired ass is deserving of some comfort food, and then I’m going to try to will myself to go to the gym. Let’s hope the combination of working out, essential oils, and some light reading before bed is enough to get me asleep!


Thursday, October 31

Gosh, what a week it has been! So, I know I had high hopes that I would be able to sleep on Wednesday night, but it was unfortunately just another night of awful insomnia, profuse sweating, and a lot of tears. Pretty much every woman I have spoken to has confirmed it’s probably related to my cycle, so that does make me feel a bit better knowing it’s completely hormonal related and it will pass soon.

That being said, due to the lack of sleep due days in a row, I was an absolute mess on Wednesday. Dizzy, incoherent, crying every couple hours- I was definitely overtired and it was a mess. I decided the best thing to do would be to go home for a few days and have my mom take care of me, and see if being home could help me get some rest. Just the thought of having a repeat of the last two nights and worrying profusely about making it to class was sending me on a mental breakdown, so I decided it was time to stand back and really just focus on my health.

Well, good news! That ended up being exactly what I needed to get back on my feet. My mom brought me home, bless her, and we had lasagna and watched Coraline to celebrate the Halloween season. Then I had Motrin and an over-the-counter sleep aid, and boom…I was fast asleep for about twelve hours. I did wake up briefly around 4:30 because my menstrual cramps were atrocious, but all that took was an Ibuprofen and then I was out like a light again. 

Today I’m working extra hard to make up for all the classes I’m missing being home, but the workload is manageable (and I’m just so happy I was finally able to have a good night’s sleep). I definitely needed that mini break, and I’m so proud that I decided to take care of myself, because I genuinely do hate getting behind in school. I’ve already done a few critical assignments, and now I’m going to work on wrapping up the first draft of my senior research paper, which is due tomorrow by midnight. I’m also going to see Eli tomorrow, which is very exciting!

No, I don’t have any Halloween plans this year, but I’ll probably take a bubble bath, put on a scary movie, and hang out with my dog tonight. I’m not a big party person anyway, so I’m perfectly happy with that plan.


Friday, November 1

I’ve now slept fine two nights in a row, so I’m going to say my PMDD hell week is probably over, and my cycle should be back to normal now! I am SO happy I decided to give myself a break to come home and rest up. Ladies and gents, if you’re ever struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out and get some help. Self care is the most important thing you can do for yourself.

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I had a really awesome time with Eli this morning. We visited one of our favorite homestyle restaurants, which serves food similar to that of KFC. However, they do have a lot of vegetarian options (I’m just vegetarian now, no longer vegan), such as macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. The macaroni and cheese, by the way, is AMAZING. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s only available at this one particular restaurant near my hometown. Needless to say, I ordered a pint of it.

Afterwards, we visited some cows on the side of the road, and gave the bulls some good scratchies. Then we finished off the afternoon by visiting a farm that is also located in our hometown. I always laugh so much when I spend time with Eli, because he’s such a naturally funny person to be around. I might see him tomorrow night too, if he comes to visit me at school. If not, I’ll see him next on Thanksgiving recession. 


Coming up this week:

11/4- The Story Time Tag

11/6- MASSIVE List of Product Empties + My Favorite Makeup in 2019!

11/8- The Relationship Between Anxiety & Fatigue

Wednesday, October 23

I didn’t have a chance to write yesterday, because the first half of my day was too busy, and I felt pretty disoriented for the second half. Yesterday was the day I had to give my four-minute speech, so I took an Ativan and forgoed my usual coffee. I felt pretty solid for the first half of the day, but by 3pm I was absolutely wiped and I had to go lay down. I woke up around 6:30pm, and because I’d skipped my regular morning coffee, I ended up with a pretty horrendous caffeine withdrawal headache.

So anyway, that was the long way of saying I didn’t get any work done yesterday. I’m sitting in my Communication Research class right now, and I’m feeling the anxiety creeping up on me. If my class has negative or chaotic energy, that almost always directly rubs off on me. It’s only 11:30 in the morning, and I’m already feeling overwhelmed by the stressful nature of this classroom.

Anyway, onto some good news! My good friend Eli is coming home for a visit next week, and I’m really looking forward to spending Halloweekend with him. We don’t have any solid plans yet, but I know we’ll inevitably find some fun or mischief to get into.


Friday, October 25

This has been a pretty mundane week, minus my usual bouts of anxiety popping up here and there. I am feeling a bit edgier than usual, and I can imagine that probably has something to do with my cycle and my hormones. Nonetheless, I’m pushing through, and trying to take extra good care of myself in preparation for Hell Week

I’m very excited to report that I will be taking part in my school’s chapter of DREAM, which stands for Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring. It’s still in its founding stages, but we have tons of good ideas so far for how we can get this chapter started. I love to serve as an advocate and use my voice as a tool for spreading change, especially when it pertains to something personally important to me. As someone with learning disabilities who has an easy time “passing,” it’s important to me to bring awareness to these issues. One of the biggest problems with invisible disabilities is that you often feel invalidated, or like your disabilities won’t be perceived as seriously as they deserve to be. I’m looking forward to taking part in this lovely movement on my campus. 

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Missing this cute boy right about now!

I’m feeling a bit like a hermit today, I’ll probably stay in for the rest of the day and watch a spooky Halloween movie and burn my favorite fall candle. I haven’t had a chance to partake in many fall activities, so maybe I can make up for that by having my own little spooky-themed night in my room. I’d also like to continue my research papers I’m currently working on, and potentially start another writing project. We’ll see how I’m feeling after binge-watching The Shining and The Keepers


Saturday, October 26

Yesterday and today have been quiet days. I don’t have a lot of friends on campus, and the friends I do have don’t seem to like to go out and do social things (no tea no shade!), so I’ve just been hanging out in my room working on some writing. Today I started a new writing project after being inspired by a dream I had last night, so that’s been taking up a substantial chunk of my day. It’s been a goal of mine to write another book, but I struggle with coming up with story prompts that are original and unique. That’s why I’m so excited to be basing a book, a collection of short stories really, off of my dreams. I’m basically winding a story out of my unconscious thoughts, which I think is a pretty cool idea! Do any of you write down your dreams as well?

I’m not sure if this is technically Halloweekend or if it’s next weekend, but either way, nothing exciting is happening tonight. Hopefully I’ll have some decent plans for next week when Eli is here! Happy Halloween-ish!


Coming up this week:

10/28- What if College Campuses Had Animal Shelters?

10/30- A Beginner’s Guide to The Sims 4

11/1- Giving my Friend a Vintage Makeover

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Monday, October 7 

Today has been a super chaotic, albeit fun, day for writing. I’m really excited about the articles I’m currently working on, because they branch out quite a bit from my usual subject matter. I’m somewhat more interested in “harder” news stories and controversial topics, like the early start time of school and the iffy nature of the Impossible burger.

Right now in my life, I definitely feel like I’m going through some sort of an identity crisis. One thing that makes me feel better is to pop in my headphones and go for a walk around my neighborhood, day or night (usually both). My ears are starting to get sore from constantly popping in my headphones, because I love having my music on while I walk and think. Like I said last week, I think it’s important to tear ourselves away from screens and just spend some time with our minds. It’s painful sometimes to just feel your feelings, but I truly think it helps me to approach things head on and just think about them and accept them, and maybe even eventually have some sort of sense of understanding.

Despite doing a LOT of thinking and reflecting, my mood is actually pretty high and I’m feeling stress-free. PMDD has not reared its ugly head yet, so I’m hoping this means I have finally adjusted to my Yazmin and I don’t need to add another antidepressant. It usually takes about three months to adjust, which is about how long it took for me to get used to my new combination pills. 


Friday, October 11

I’m home until Monday due to the long weekend, and I have to say, immediately felt such a wave of happiness and freshness once I stepped back into my home. I haven’t been back to visit in about five weeks, so it feels good to be in a new environment for a short while and spend some time bonding with my dog. My mom is away in Maine with her boyfriend until Sunday, so it’s just going to be me and Duke for a few days.

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Very happy to report that my mom didn’t kill my basil plant, Keisha, while I was away.

I was planning on writing a 400 word blog post about applying socialism to life simulation worlds, such as in The Sims, but it became pretty clear to me at the beginning of my research that this was going to be something MUCH bigger than a blog post. So now, I’m turning it into a research paper instead. I have an outline, an annotated bibliography- the whole shebang. And no, I will not be turning it in for any credit. Once I complete the paper, probably at the end of the month, I’ll probably shove it into my desk to rot until I clean out my dorm in May.

This is actually the second research paper I’m writing; the other one actually is for a class, and it’s about the detrimental mental health effects of cancel culture. I’m actually enjoying writing two papers at once, because it gives me something to do in case I start to suffer from boredom. The interesting thing about having ADHD, OCD, and GAD is that they all sort of feed into each other in a cycle. Because I have super-fast processing skills, I power through my school work quickly and get bored easily. Being bored subsequently enables me to engage in obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and the OCD then enables me to get anxious. Then, to combat my anxiety, I dive into new writing projects and schoolwork, and the cycle just starts over from there.

I know that probably sounds exhausting, but it’s working out great for me right now. I like being ambitious and busy. I do take quiet time every day to relax and practice self care, but the real highlight of my day is sitting down and tackling some new questions in my writing.

Duke is cuddling next to me in bed, and we’re listening to John Denver and Devendra Banhart and Taylor Swift. I’ve also listened to “A Horse With No Name” by America about six thousand times today. After this I’ll probably turn on The Office, because even I need a Netflix break every now and then. Goodnight, all!


Saturday, October 12

Today has been another productive day, and I’m really happy with the amount of schoolwork I have gotten done. My goal is to have six pages of my research paper finished by Monday, and ten pages finished my Wednesday. A large portion of my research paper is centered around conducting a survey, so I’ve also sent that out into the universe today.

This morning I took my dog for a long walk and really took in the beautiful fall foliage. Truly, nothing compares to autumn in New England, especially Massachusetts. After our walk I was super happy to discover that the second shipment from my ThredUp order came in the mail, so I was able to finish writing that review this afternoon. Keep an eye out for that article, it’s coming on Wednesday!

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Look at him being an absolute angel!

I’m starting to feel a bit icky, so I hope I’m not getting sick. My plan for the rest of the day is to consume copious amounts of vitamin C and take a boiling hot bubble bath, in an attempt to reverse the sickness from coming. I hope you guys are having good luck beating the fall cold as well! I know for a fact there’s a stomach bug going around my campus, and I absolutely do NOT want to catch that.


Coming up this week:

10/14- Why School Starting Ridiculously Easy is Not Good for Your Health

10/16- My First ThredUp Review

10/18- Challenging My Friend to Go Vegan for a Week

The first time I ever picked up “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was in my eleventh-grade English Comp class. This was a new, fresh experience for me, as the majority of literature I read in high school was written by men- usually pandering on about justice and freedom and the American Revolution. I’m not trying to say I don’t think that part of history is not important, but it bothers me looking back that I hardly ever learned about women’s lives in the 1800s, and additionally, their contributions to the founding of this country. Seriously, I started learning about the Boston Tea Party and the constitution and all those related events starting when I was ten years old, and where I come from, those are the only “American History” subjects I learned about every single subsequent year. I appreciate my English teacher for introducing literature written by African Americans and women, because by the time I reached high school, I was exhausted and bored from hearing about how our country is solely built on rich, white men.

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Anyway, this isn’t intended to be a rant on the public school system. This is going to be a different kind of a rant, I suppose, but it is backed by my unwavering love and appreciation for Gilman’s feminist short story. If you haven’t read “The Yellow Wallpaper” before, I’d advise finding a PDF online and giving this important piece of literature a read-through. 

First off, let’s talk a little bit about Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself, and how her life experiences ultimately inspired her to write this story. She was born on July 3rd, 1860, into a family of poverty after her father abandoned her mother. Her mother was not affectionate to her children, her schooling was often erratic, and her childhood was ultimately composed of isolation and loneliness. One of the ways Gilman found solace was through her love of literature, and she frequently visited her public library to expand her horizons. 

In 1884, Charlotte married and had a child- a girl named Katharine Beecher Stetson. After giving birth, Charlotte suffered from a serious bout of postpartum depression, though her symptoms were scoffed off and not taken seriously. She was ultimately believed to be a weak, fragile woman by her first husband, and thus, her interest in feminist literature was sparked. After separating from her husband (unheard of at the time), she had an extremely awesome lesbian relationship with Adeline Knapp, became active in several feminist organizations, and penned “The Yellow Wallpaper” in 1890.

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Ugh, what an icon.

Women’s reproductive rights and sexual health have always faced scrutiny, though perhaps the worst time to be a woman in this country was the 1800s. What we now know as PMS and PMDD was passed off as “hysteria” and “nervous depression”, and the believed remedy back then was to isolate women and confine them to their beds FOR WEEKS. Gilman herself was inspired to write this story after her postpartum depression, during which a male physician advises her a “rest cure” and told her to live “as domestic a life as possible.” After trying to live this way for three months and ultimately getting worse (because, as we know now, that’s not how hormonal-related depression is to be treated), she defied his commands and started to work again. Although “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an exaggerated version of her personal experience, there were certainly many women for who the story rang disturbingly true. Ever the badass, Gilman sent a copy of her story to the physician who initially prescribed her bed rest, but she never heard a reply.

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In short, the story is about a woman suffering from mental illness after three months of being isolated and closeted in her room (per her husband’s order, of course). She becomes obsessed with the ugly yellow wallpaper on the wall, and begins to imagine there is a woman on the other side, creeping through the paper, spying on her, and speaking to her. If that makes you feel unsettled, then I’m very glad. Paranoia due to being isolated is a very real thing women in the 19th century suffered as part of their “treatment.”

Charlotte’s story was published by the Feminist Press, and soon became a best-seller through that publication. Her story opened the doors to a new way of thinking- giving women control over their autonomy and thus power over their own physical/emotional well-being. As someone who suffers from hormonal-related depression and anxiety myself (PMDD), I cherish this story for shining a light on the power of women- not painting them in weakness. If you also suffer from severe PMS, PMDD, or have dealt with postpartum depression, you are entitled to a life full of vibrancy and freedom. Take care of yourself, socialize with the people you love, try to stay active, and most importantly, do what you need to do to feel better. Your health is the most important thing you own, so prioritize it and love it!

Read The Yellow Wallpaper here: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/theliteratureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Perkins_Gilman

Coming up next: College Snack Hall | Vegetarian & Vegan

I’m the first to say that my mental health does not define me as a person, but that doesn’t change the fact that it actively affects all areas of my life. I’m also not ashamed of my disorders- at this point in my life, at twenty years old, I have accepted them as a part of my identity, not all of it.

With that being said, anxiety, OCD, ADHD are not parts of myself that I immediately bring up to people when I’m meeting them. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it’s become “cool” or “trendy” to have a mental illness, and flaunt it at every opportunity. The reality is, most people who are actually suffering do NOT want their mental health to be the center of attention, and this includes me. I do not want to be defined by what is only a portion of who I am. The only times I really bring up my mental illnesses is when it’s relevant to the situation, and if disclosing it will lessen the amount of uncomfortable situations in the future.

Like many people, the neuropsych areas of my life that I struggle with tend to overlap. Generalized anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder almost always go hand in hand. I’ve written about this before on my blog- they all tend to cycle together and have very similar symptoms in my personal experience. If you’re interested in learning more about that, I’ll link that article below.

Today, I want to talk about how these conditions affect my day-to-day life. Certainly, many people have it much worse than me, but that doesn’t change the fact that my life comes with a unique set of challenges and adversities. I want to be open about these experiences, because I’m sure there are lots of other young people going through similar difficult things. My mission has always been to be an advocate and a voice, and that’s why I’m happy to be as transparent and honest as possible.

Anxiety really is the umbrella for quite a few of my problems, to be completely honest. Anxiety is extremely common in young and old alike, but when it reaches a point of disrupting daily functions, that is when it becomes considered a “disorder.” Anxiety has persistently plagued me since I was a toddler; it is both a genetic and situational disorder for me. This is one of the reasons Lexapro- an antidepressant- has been so impactful in my adult life. Antidepressants literally change the chemistry of your brain, which is incredible for people who were simply born with lower serotonin counts in their brain (such as myself). Obviously, medication isn’t the answer for everyone, but it has been a pivotal solution for my own health struggles. Medication does have some downsides, however, and I will be going into those shortly.

A lot of my anxiety is very survival based, and my fight-or-flight instinct always seems to be ready for action. For survivors of childhood abuse (again, including myself), the fight-or-flight anxiety is a often result of feeling terrified and powerless as a child, usually due to some traumatic event. I am extremely conscious of danger, realistic or not, around me at all times. Anxiety plagues me with paranoia on a daily basis- while I am at college, I find myself constantly jerking around, watching other people, afraid that they are laughing at me and whispering about me. As anyone with social paranoia will tell you, it’s an exhausting cycle of worry and self-doubt. It can also effectively destroy friendships, if you’re constantly critical of yourself and others on such an intense level.

On the subject of this type of anxiety, my fear is also heightened by something coined “climate grief”. This type of anxiety is extremely common in young people, because it’s centered around a fear for the sustainability of my future, global warming, etc. Like I said, I’m a major hypochondriac, and my obsession with survival takes up an exhausting part of my thinking. When I get into this state of particular anxiety, it entails a lot of deep panic, crying, hopelessness, and frustration. The worst thing about climate grief is that there isn’t much I can really do about it, except lean on my closest friends and family for physical support and soothing.

Another form in which anxiety affects me is panic attacks and anxiety attacks. It’s estimated that 1-2 percent of the general population is suffering with a panic disorder, and as you may have guessed, I am one of those people. Anxiety attacks are much more common for me; I’ve only had about three panic attacks since 2015. There are particular circumstances that can trigger panic attacks for me- hospitals, doctor’s offices, blood, needles, claustrophobia (usually in the doctor’s office), and even low blood sugar are all catalysts for me to have a panic attack. For this reason, I always need to have my mother, a friend, or a trusted adult in the room with me when I need to get a shot or even a finger prick. The dread I feel about going to the doctor’s can start even weeks before my actual appointment. There is a name for having a fear of hospitals and medical procedures -nosocomephobia- and earlier, this year, I was officially diagnosed with it. Having this fear can often make me think irrationally, because it’s very likely I would consider avoiding going to the hospital, even if I needed medical attention. Subsequently, I am constantly afraid of developing illness or sustaining an injury. Doing so would first of all give me panic that I am going to die. Then, I would work myself into a panic about potentially having to go to a doctor or hospital. Then, my panic would spiral into a fear of having a panic attack once I got to the hospital, which is one of the worst possible experiences I can imagine happening to me.

Everyone’s panic attacks are a little bit different, but mine always entail “visual snow”, impaired hearing, and difficulty breathing. Visual snow is a neurological disorder characterized by a continuous visual disturbance, described as tiny flickering dots that resemble the noise of a detuned analogue television. This visual “static” slowly begins as a couple of flecks, but quickly takes up my entire field of vision until I can’t see or hear anything at all. It looks a little something like this.

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The first time I had a panic attack in a high school classroom, where my teacher was talking about blood types, I had absolutely no idea what was happening to me. I truly thought I was dying. The terror that washed over me as my hearing and vision disappeared into static is probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me, and to this day, I work myself into intense states of anxiety, constantly plagued by the fear that it could happen again if I’m in the same room as someone talking about blood.

The second time this happened was in a church, and the priest was talking about the blood of Christ. The third time this happened was in a medical examination room, but the nurse was able to help me immediately by ducking my head to get the blood flowing again. This stopped the visual snow from happening, but I still threw up all over the floor. After having a panic attack, I’m always absolutely fatigued and feel lifeless for the rest of the day.

I normally don’t have sleep problems, but sometimes, my anxiety keeps me awake because I am worried I will have a panic attack. I worry when my mom is at work and I’m alone in the apartment, or when I’m alone at school- what if I randomly have a panic attack and nobody is here to help me? What if I collapse and hit my head? What if it’s not a panic attack, and I’m actually dying?

Welcome to the life of a highly anxious person!

So, that’s a look into my life with anxiety. We aren’t done yet. Now, we’re going to talk about Escitalopram, which is the drug I take to reduce my anxiety. My dosage of Escitalopram (my brand is Lexapro) started at 5mg, but about a year and a half ago I bumped it up to 10mg. Over time, drugs like Lexapro can slowly become less effective, so patients often have to amp up their dosage or switch to another medication. I have been on Lexapro for about two years, and it still appears to be working just fine for me. I still have anxiety, as you can clearly see, but it is much more manageable now than it used to be. I also used to struggle with depression, which is not something I have experienced since being on Lexapro. That being said, there are negative side effects that can come with taking antidepressant drugs like Lexapro. My side effects actually didn’t appear at the beginning of taking the drug- they started becoming noticeable to me about a year ago. The first thing Lexapro has affected is my overall sexual function. It may sound like a strange side effect, but it’s not uncommon for these drugs to lower your sexual libido and make it difficult to reach/sustain arousal with another partner. I haven’t had satisfying sex in about two years, which is when I started taking the drug. I know that probably sounds bothersome to an outsider, but it truthfully doesn’t bother me enough to the point that I would consider getting off the drug.

Another side effect with Lexapro that impaired memory and slow thinking. I have definitely noticed that my memory has gotten worse- sometimes, I can’t even remember what I did in the previous six hours. It’s difficult to describe how Lexapro has impacted my thinking skills, because it’s so frustrating and complex for even me to understand! The speed of my thought process is slower, my ability to think of relevant words is slower, and sometimes, my mind just feels completely blank. Again, for an outsider, I understand this probably sounds horrible and not worth taking the medication for, but like I said, these changes to my brain happened very slowly and I hardly even noticed them happening. At this point, I am used to it, and am even finding ways to adjust to this. I would love to be off lexapro in the future, because there are things about myself that I miss, and I also cannot drink alcohol while taking this drug (although that’s such a minor inconvenience compared to the other downsides). While weaning off lexapro is a future goal of mine, I have anxiety that my depression may return to me because of my compromised serotonin levels. Also, weaning off of this drug can have extremely intense withdrawal symptoms- some people are even hospitalized for this process. On the bright side, there is faith. It’s possible my brain has now learned how to make more serotonin on its own, and I may be able to continue living a depression-free life without it.

Moving on from anxiety and antidepressants, let’s talk about ADHD and my short-term memory skills. I was diagnosed with ADHD about five months ago, after going in for six hours of neurotesting at a nearby hospital. If you’re curious about my entire experience being diagnosed with ADHD, I’ll also link that article below. I’ll try to keep this segment short, because this article is already going to be crazy long.

I believe I inherited my ADHD genetically. My brother was diagnosed with it when he was in middle school, and though my dad has never been formally tested, I’m pretty sure that he has it, too. When I was growing up, I never associated myself with having ADHD, because I have always been a very well-behaved student and earned decent enough grades. It never occured to me that the fact I was working twice as hard as everyone was abnormal, because I never directly brought it up to my parents and teachers. I can remember, even going back to elementary school, literally not having a clue what was going on around me. I struggle following verbal directions, especially lectures, and usually need directions/instructions to be repeated many times for me to actually absorb information. The only reason I managed to get through school (and continue to get through school) with decent grades is because I am constantly observing what other students are doing, and copy their actions to yield passable results. Most of the time, I don’t actually know what I’m doing. I’m just sitting in a chair, surrounded by other students, completely unaware of what’s happening but still complying on a motor level.

I would say that about 80% of the time, I’m not really listening to my professor. I don’t read the textbooks, or worksheets, or anything else that I know I’m going to forget after ten minutes. If something does not have personal significance, or just doesn’t make sense to me, my brain doesn’t even bother making the memory. In more scientific words , I have “weak, albeit intact, performances for non-contextualized word list learning and memory.”

And that’s not just me assuming things about myself. It’s printed in my neuropsych report that I have impaired short term memory skills, and low “working memory” task requiring “arithmetic skills.” According to my report, I struggle to comprehend mathematics above a 6th grade level, which is about the time I started seriously failing math.

It’s noteworthy to add that my teachers in middle/high school never referred me for learning disability testing. Instead, they chose to litter my report cards with words like “distracting”, “not trying”, “daydreaming”, etc.

I really wanted to give you that much in-depth information, because I hope it will help you better understand how ADHD and anxiety are connected. When your life and savings are more or less dependent on completing your higher education, it can be frustrating and worrisome when you feel like you have no clue what’s going on. It’s ridiculous to walk out of a classroom and think, “I’m spending all this money to sit in a classroom and feel utterly confused.”

Like I said, I get through classes by copying what peers are doing and mimicking their actions. I work much, much better when I can be alone in my own space, working on my own time, and absorbing information in a way that works for me. I am excellent at writing essays, and have an easy time focusing on organizing my thoughts into words. This works out great for me, considering most of my college assignments just consist of writing essays anyway. I feel like I’ve earned the right to be proud of the fact that I can punch out a five-page essay in about an hour. Having ADHD isn’t all negative- I am also an extremely fast worker, and enjoy rushing through things as quickly as I possibly can. I don’t care about being the top in the class, or earning an A every time. I want to be quick, efficient, and…average.

So, that’s more or less the deal on my daily life with ADHD. If you’re interested in a more in-depth analysis, like I said, there will be a link at the bottom.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is something that used to plague me much more severely when I was younger, but as I have aged, it has become much more manageable. I attribute this somewhat to my medication, but also to the fact that I have been in and out of therapy to work on these obsessive issues with professionals. I have counting compulsions, and compulsions to do everything possible in even numbers. It used to be a lot worse when I was in elementary school and middle school- everything, everything I did, I was consciously aware of doing in even numbers. I stepped on cracks in the sidewalks in even numbers. I flicked lights on and off twice. I got up to check if the stove was off not once, but twice. Or four times. Or six times.

I sometimes still catch myself doing this frustrating habits, but the more aware I become of the ridiculousness, the easier it is to ignore my compulsions. OCD is significantly intertwined with anxiety, because ignoring these compulsions can literally litter my mind until I give into it. I know nothing bad will actually happen if I do something in an odd number, but it’s the fact that I’m going against it that makes me obsess over the diversion. Like I said, however, I have been able to manage this successfully to the point that it’s hardly noticeable anymore, especially to outsiders. I would say I have a compulsion about 1-3 times per day, but there are also days when I have no compulsions at all.

Lastly, I want to talk about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), because this condition feeds directly into almost all of my other mental issues (mainly anxiety and OCD). The easiest way to describe PMDD is as very intense PMS, that begins up to 7-10 days before your period and last for days afterwards. On an especially bad bout of PMDD, I can feel symptoms for up to 15 days, which can start to feel like it will never end. It’s common for people already suffering with anxiety to develop PMDD, and the symptoms are very similar. Interestingly, I will sometimes have a cycle with no PMDD symptoms, and feel generally fine for the entire month. And then, in the next month’s cycle, I will start to feel pretty shitty around the second week of my cycle and know that a rough emotional storm is coming.

The somewhat nice thing about PMDD is the predictability. I’ve had enough episodes of it to know when my symptoms are coming, and I am able to remind myself, “This is okay, you’ve gone through this before, you know it will be over eventually and you’ll go back to feeling like yourself.” Taking oral birth control can help with these symptoms, and that’s actually exactly what I do to regulate my PMDD. Before taking birth control, I would feel totally out of control and severely depressed in the days leading up to my period. Because birth control can regulate hormones and affects estrogen, it has actually been shown to help women suffering with the condition find emotional/physical relief. It’s important that everybody knows birth control is NOT just for preventing pregnancy. Birth control needs to stay readily available to women because it helps with so much more, like managing hormonal mental illness.

The symptoms of PMDD include lasting anger/irritability, sadness/despair, tension and anxiety, crying, lack of interest in people/activities, troubling focusing, low energy, food cravings, binge eating, trouble sleeping, feeling out of control, bloating, and headaches . Some women also experience frequent panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts, but thankfully, I have experienced neither of those as a result of PMDD. I have never experienced suicidal thoughts, and my panic attacks are few and far between.

Feeling the effects of my PMDD can be really scary at times, even if I know they will pass eventually. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and panic, because I don’t feel connected to myself, and like I’m in some sort of horrible dream that I can’t wake up from. The climate grief that I mentioned earlier, and my hypochondriac behaviors, become a LOT worse. My OCD compulsions in an attempt to gain control of my life become heightened during this time. I usually don’t want to leave my house, talk to people, or engage in the activities that I usually love doing. When my PMDD is at its worst, all I can do is lay in bed and try to distract myself with naps and emotional support. I can also become extremely paranoid while dealing with my PMDD- worrying that people secretly don’t like me, or that they’re out to get me, etc.

Like I have stated, I have never experienced suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and I know the pain is not permanent. It is not my fault I have a hormonal imbalance in my body that affects my mind. I remind myself that it is not the end of the world, I pull my family and friends close, and eventually, I do start to feel better. I truly want everybody reading this, especially the young people suffering with mental illness and feeling hopeless, to know that YOU WILL BE OKAY. There are people here for you who want to help you and support you in whatever you need.

Because I take an oral contraceptive, my PMDD symptoms are a lot less severe than they used to be. I’ve mentioned in other articles that when I was in high school and early college, a lot of uneducated authority figures tried to send me to hospitals and crisis clinics because they wrongfully thought I was a danger to myself and others. I’ve talked in detail about these traumatic, scary experiences, and how it is resoundfully dangerous it is to call the police on a person in mental distress.

I repeat, DO NOT CALL THE POLICE ON A PERSON IN A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS. (Unless they actually are a danger to themselves or others). For me and many others, however, calling the police or an ambulance on me when I am having an anxiety attack is the worst possible thing you can do. Even worse, making a person suffering in mental health distress feel like they are a nuisance, danger, or anomaly is a huge problem that I have seen across not only my college campus, but across the entire nation.

I’m not writing this article because I want pity or sympathy, I am writing this because I want to normalize invisible mental illness. I may have my privations, but that does not define who I am. I am a happy, healthy, and confident woman. If I can maintain my happiness, independence, and well-being, then I believe in you, too!

The relationship between ADHD and GAD: https://diplomatsdigest.wordpress.com/2019/04/12/the-relationship-between-adhd-and-gad/

Being diagnosed with ADHD: https://diplomatsdigest.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/being-diagnosed-with-adhd-at-19-my-experience/

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I’ve heard a lot of people say that “ADHD isn’t real,” and actually, I think that’s a really interesting point. Coming from a person who has ADHD, I can understand that point, and agree with it to some extent. I do believe that there are different learning styles, but to label ADHD as a “learning disability” just seems fundamentally wrong to me. I mean, 6.1 million American children have been diagnosed with the disorder, so at that point…is it even a disorder? Or just a vastly versatile and large demographic of people who all learn in a particular way which is different than the norm?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There isn’t a right answer to that question- at least, not one that I’ve come across so far. For all practical purposes, I do tell people I have ADHD when needed, but in the back of my mind, I can’t help but feel silly for even needing to label myself. After all, we all experience ADHD symptoms to some extent, and the numbers are continuing to grow. Why should we, the people diagnosed with this “disorder,” have to medicate ourselves and change ourselves to fit the mainstream society? Why is society not changing to be all-encompassing and open-minded to different learning styles?

That was a little bit of a tangent (and it’s mostly aimed at the American educational system), so let’s get back to the main point here: ADHD and anxiety disorders. Do they really go hand in hand? More or less, yeah.

In fact, ADHD is one of the most common disorders that usually go hand in hand with other conditions. ADHD and OCD tend to go together (I have both), and of course, depression and anxiety can correlate with ADHD as well. Generally, I would say my OCD, ADHD, and anxiety all feed off of each other, almost in a cycle. When I can’t focus, or I can’t interpret what’s going on around me, my fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, and I get anxious. When I’m anxious, I have a debilitating desire to control my environment. When I’m constantly trying to control everything around me, my world is out of focus. And so on, and so forth.

It is definitely an unfair cycle, but luckily, I have medications like Lexapro and Lorazepam to alleviate my symptoms. Medication obviously isn’t for everyone, but for me, I’ve found it to be extremely helpful and even critical to my mental health. Medications won’t banish all your problems and symptoms, but they do make an extremely positive impact, in most cases. I still struggle with anxiety, and occasional OCD symptoms, but they’re manageable and nowhere near as extreme as they once were.

Interestingly, even though I do have ADHD, I’m a generally high-performing student with decent grades. I’ve figured out a way to do well in classes without the help of anyone else, so taking Adderall  or something similar has never felt like something I needed. Sure, doctors and neuropsych doctors have recommended it to me, but it’s never something I’ve wanted to pursue (and probably never will). It kind of ties back into ADHD not being a “real thing”- why should I have to change, and literally alter my brain chemistry, just because society doesn’t want to change the educational structure to fit all learning styles?

On the flip side, I do believe in treating my anxiety with medication, because that is something I haven’t found an alternative way to work around. Therapy doesn’t really work treating my anxiety, and neither does deep-breathing, meditation, exercising, etc. No, the only way I have been able to reduce my anxiety long-term is through medication, and I’m totally okay with that. The changes I’ve seen in my attitude and energy levels are undeniable, and my self-esteem has also greatly improved in the two years I’ve been on Lexapro.

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

In a nutshell, what I’m really trying to say is, just do what’s best for your individual case. If you’re struggling with a tangle of emotional issues, you might not want to completely rule out the correlation between anxiety and ADHD. Especially if you’ve been diagnosed with one or the other, it increases the chances that there is something else going on there, too. I’m generally not a big fan of labels, but if a label is going to be useful to me and actually make my life easier, yeah, I’ll accept all these medical terms as a part of my mental health identity. I have ADHD, GAD, specific phobia, and OCD, and I’m completely, utterly happy with myself. No matter what you’re struggling with, I hope you can remember to love yourself, too.

If you’re interested in me doing more of these personal-mental health stories, let me know! I love to be completely open about my health history, because I’ve come to accept it and love it as a part of who I am. I also feel like mental health is still not talked about enough, so if I have the opportunity to make a difference, I will. Thank you for reading!

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To be completely candid, this is a difficult article to write. I’m not putting this up on the internet to be a role model or positive example- I’m using my blog instead as a form of therapy. It isn’t my choice that I’ve been bullied, but it is my choice to decide how I handle it. And frankly, I haven’t always coped in the best way.

Also, this is mostly about the emotional effects of bullying, but I also reveal a lot of my own mental health journey. Mental health is extremely relevant to how we socialize with others, and in my case, it plays a very large role in my life.

I’m also publishing this article as an apology. If you’re reading this and I have hurt you, scoffed at you, rolled my eyes at you, or made a bitchy remark, maybe this article will help explain why I turned out the way I did, and how I’m trying to fix that.

Since I was born, I’ve always been a highly sensitive person. Physical stimuli like pain and noise have always been extremely intense for me, and definitely contributed to my generalized anxiety disorder when I was little. There were other things going on in my early life that caused lasting emotional distress, but I’ve managed to deal with those issues separately and resolve them.

Anyway, bullying. I was bullied in elementary school for my extreme sensitivity, because it made me an easy target. There was a particular trio of girls who emotionally tormented me from 1st grade to 4th, no matter how much my counselors and teachers tried to intervene. Because I struggled so much with making friends, I learned to spend a lot of my time alone. I’ve always been mostly introverted, and enjoy doing quiet activities in my own company. This is something that I have carried into my adult life, through activities such as writing, reading, and knitting. I’m sure I speak for many other sensitive people when I say it’s extremely calming to spend time in your own company, away from loud stimuli and large crowds of people. My brain can’t focus on various sounds at once, so I do my very best work when I’m completely alone and undisturbed.

Like many others, my middle school years were quite hard for me. Cliques, cyberbullying, and rumors that spread like wildfire were rampant. Our middle school years are some of our most meaningful times for emotional growth, along with finding a sense of identity and self-esteem. I had some friends in middle school, but I was still overwhelmingly aware of my “outcast” status. I found myself being picked last for gym day after day, until finally, I stopped going to gym altogether to read books in the locker room. I knew it would be useless to talk about my feelings to a counselor or teacher; you can’t make people want to be your friend, and why should you, anyway?

I definitely had a reputation by the time I reached high school. My teachers thought I was gifted, my classmates thought I was a basket case, and I thought I was misunderstood. When my parents split up during my sophomore year of high school, I completely broke down inside, not knowing how to deal with the stress. I cut my hair short, dyed it black, and started living out a short-lived goth phase. I was sick and tired of being walked all over, and I wanted my public image to show that: “If I look unapproachable enough, maybe people will leave me alone.”

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Obviously, that didn’t really work out. I’m a total softie on the inside, and no amount of painting myself with black lipstick and bitchy smirks could stop that. Even if it fooled other people, I didn’t fool myself for a minute. During my “goth” period, other students ridiculed me by copying my dark makeup looks and posting them on Instagram, trying to embarrass me.

On top of feeling completely alienated by my peers, I had another privation eating me alive in high school. I had struggled my whole life up to that point with undiagnosed generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I lived the first sixteen years of my life not having a single clue that any of these disorders applied to me and my health. At Amesbury High School, you see, we weren’t taught that mental health could be a spectrum. I lived most of my life naively believing that you could only be happy or sad. If you felt somewhere in between, or even if you felt neither, well, you had to figure that out yourself.

I knew I wasn’t suicidal, or crazy, or hell, even depressed. I’ve always been a relatively happy person. But if I wasn’t depressed or crazy, what was wrong with me? Why did I find myself constantly having anxiety attacks in classes, eating lunch in bathroom stalls, picking fights with girls and obsessing over whether or not boys liked me? After one particular scary incident, in which I broke down in tears during school, my counselor and school nurse stuck me in a fluorescent-lighted room and locked the door. They made me call my mother and tell her what happened on speaker phone. And then, after that mess, they sent me to a hospital in the next town over, for a “psychological evaluation.” I remember my mother sat me down in a chair before I went to the doctor, and curled my hair for me. While I sat in my bedroom, feeling the heat against my neck, I heard my father come into our apartment uninvited. He was screaming and fuming, scared, and I was even more scared, crying and wondering what was wrong with me.

I told the doctor at the hospital everything that had happened to me in the past few years. I told her about my parents getting divorced, my completely random panic attacks, my social anxiety, and the increased levels of distress I experienced during my menstrual period. She scoffed when I told her that my school thought I was a danger to myself and my peers, which is when I realized my school was doing this to students to avoid being sued. I told the doctor about all the individual research I had done on anxiety disorders and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and after hearing me out, the doctor signed off on my medical forms and wished me the best.

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That horrible experience was actually one of the most life-changing turning points of my life. After I returned to school, the principal made my mother and I attend a meeting in a conference room with him and some other faculty. Essentially, I had to tell a room full of old men that my outburst was caused due to my menstrual distress.

Some good did come from that, I’m happy to say. I started seeing a therapist, who put me on a 10mg dosage of Escitalopram (Lexapro). That, along with starting oral birth control, significantly helped to reduce my anxiety and hormonal irritability. If I had just been aware of these options and earlier in life, I could have avoided a mile of pain and embarrassment. Maybe, if I had been screened correctly instead of immediately being written off as a “danger”, all of this trauma could have been avoided.

Since being on Lexapro, I’ve noticed significant improvements to my mood and overall health. Less anxiety means less social avoidance, which, in turn, has turned me into a more social person. I’ve decided, after processing the initial grief, that my parents’ divorce is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It opened a door for me that was scary at the time, but looking back, it needed to be opened.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, but it’s relevant to my current life at college. My anxiety was still around, but it was nowhere near as bad as it used to be. After high school, I was so, so excited for a fresh start, to surround myself with people who didn’t know my name, who didn’t think I was a basket case. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I should have assumed it wasn’t going to be as awesome as I thought it would.

Just like elementary school, I once again found myself being targeted for my anxiety and sensitivity, but this time, it was being carried out by grown adults. Freshman year of college was extremely difficult for me- I was bullied extensively by my former roommate and her posse of friends, by methods of manipulation and fear tactics. One time, I spent a night sleeping in the laundry room, for my own safety. I came into college with high hopes and visions of myself being appreciated and loved. Instead, I felt afraid to even leave my room, afraid to trust peers, and afraid to make connections. At one point, after suffering an anxiety attack due to the bullying, the campus police showed up and cornered me in a public space. As students crowded around the door to see what was happening, I had to sit through about twenty minutes of male police officers asking me what medications I was taking, what conditions I had, was I having boy problems? Did I want to go to the hospital? Was I going to hurt someone?

No, I said, for what felt like that 900th time. I have an anxiety disorder. I’m being bullied. I’m not a threat to you, myself, or the damn college. Similarly to the incident in high school, I was traumatized by this public mental health shaming. For months afterwords, I remained in the constant state of paranoia, feeling panic attacks come on just at the sound of a siren. It’s extremely difficult to be open with authority, and even peers, about anxiety, especially when the system doesn’t know how to properly understand those situations. I’m happy to say that all of the police officers involved were “reprimanded.”

I feel like this article is starting to sound too sad. Here’s a picture of my dog to cheer us all up! And don’t worry, there’s a happy ending.

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I’m a junior now, and I’m happy to say that group of toxic people have left my life completely, and according to my college, they have also been “reprimanded for their actions.” About a year ago, around the time I had moved out of that horrible situation and into my own room, I started writing my blog. I also started getting seriously interested in crystals, healing stones, knitting and period dressing- all things I have kept up to this day. I have something to take pride in, to strive towards, and build my name around. My writing has, and always will be, my saviour.

I am a cheerful young woman, filled with gratitude and silliness. When I’m around my friends, and even by myself, I’m full of smiles and creativity and energy. I am by far in the best place I’ve ever been, emotionally and socially. Despite my happiness, however, I am still held back by one thing. I’ve maintained a stubbornness, and furthermore, a streak of unforgivingness towards those who intentionally hurt me. If you want to be my friend, that’s great, but the minute I feel intentionally hurt or excluded, I will mercilessly cut you out. Sure, it’s necessary sometimes to cut the toxic people out, but I’ve reached such a level of hurt, I shut out everybody the minute they make a mistake. Even people who don’t even know me have gotten the cold shoulder from me- mostly popular people on campus, with swarms of friends, and even relatively nice co workers. If I feel unincluded, I take it painfully personally. I don’t forgive, and I certainly don’t forget. After you’ve spent more than a decade of your life feeling ridiculed, betrayed, and ostracized, it’s hard to suddenly gain trust and warmth towards strangers. As psychology has shown, it’s all a part of our fight-or-flight instinct. Here’s a few paragraphs taken directly from WhyTeamBullying.com:

“The human body responds with ‘fight or flight’ mechanisms designed to help us escape from dangerous situations, when we are subjected to bullying. This is caused by the feelings of fear that victims often suffer.

Additional stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline are produced leading to a faster heart rate, constricted blood vessels, and a tensing of muscles, and a release of the energy your body would normally store for fuel.

Systems which are not required for ‘fight or flight’ are often constrained by the body during this release, such as digestion, immune and reproductive systems. In a typical danger situation, this response only impacts the body for a short period, but the repeated exercising of this mechanism by a bullying victim both the frequency and the duration of the stress response can be dangerously high.

The link between this stress response and future health issues has not been proven, but is suspected by many experts to be one of the key factors at play in the health issues bullying victims go on to suffer.”

I also have a really awful impulse problem that has developed over the last few months. I don’t have a problem turning to someone and saying, “Excuse me, is there a problem?” If I see they’re staring at me. It’s not always the smart thing to do, and it certainly doesn’t win me friends, but again, it’s a power-dynamic thing for people who have a past of being victimized. It’s very much a “You can bully me if I bully you first” attitude.

Like I said, I’m not broadcasting this to pretend I’m a great role model, or anything like that. I’m putting this out as a way of healing and acknowledgment, and maybe, find another victim of bullying who feels the same way. Being bullied has effectively turned me into a bitch, and it’s one of the only things about myself I wish I could change. I have days where I feel happy and full of forgiveness, weeks, even, when I think I’ve finally let go of my scars. And then, after a minor incident or disappointment, the hurt comes rushing back.

Partly, this is my own conscious fault and wrongdoing. When I take interest in someone, I usually let them in way too quickly and spill my feelings too fast. And then, of course, I find myself shocked when the friendship/relationship doesn’t work out.

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If you’ve even gotten this far in my article, and if this strikes a chord in you as well, I want you to know that you’re not a broken human. I’m not broken, and I’m not damaged; there are things I need to improve on, and I believe in my heart and my abilities. If I can do that, so can you.

If you’re struggling with social anxiety and making friends, there are people who are happy to talk to you. I’ve had some shitty therapists in the past (one of them actually blackmailed me, but that’s another story), but I promise there are also a lot of genuinely good ones. Don’t feel shameful in talking about your feelings. I’m out her on a limb sharing my story, and it’s a little scary, but only good things will come from being completely honest with yourself. And I promise, no matter how hard things seem, they will get better. If someone had told me my junior year of high school that I would one day be this happy, I probably wouldn’t believe them. But I’m here, I’m full of gratitude, and damn, I’m so happy with who I am. The next step for me is to face this coldness I’ve developed, and hopefully, find peace with myself, my peers, and those who have hurt me in the past.

References: https://whyteambuilding.com/resources/the-appalling-mental-physical-impact-of-bullying/

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