Returning Reflections **Previously Posted**

Well, this is it. After almost three months at home, it’s time to go back to work. There are a lot of feelings.

I’m nervous, excited, anxious, happy, and fearful all at once.

I’m glad to be going back. It’s time to get back into a routine. And, I’m glad to be going back when I decided, rather than using up all of my disability time. I won’t say I’m at 100% because I don’t know what that is but I’m on the right track to there, if I’m not already. At this point, I don’t think additional time would have made a difference. And I’m going to need to get into a new routine at work and home too, so that I can make sure that I’m practicing self-care and keeping my mental health a priority. I’m loving feeling like a human being, I’d really like to keep it that way.

But today I want to talk about the process and how I got to where I am. I feel like Biblo Baggins; there and back again.

I still can’t believe that I even ended up on disability. I still can’t believe that I haven’t worked since October. Never did I think that my mental illness would make me unable to work. But I do think that time off was necessary. It is mind-blowing to think that I am now feeling better than I had for the first time in six years. I couldn’t legally drink the last time I felt this normal. It is wild to just feel pleasant throughout the day. Or rather, content. It is like a whole new world for me out there. Plus, I legitimately feel like a new person, and I’ve been getting to know myself which is weird.

It took a long time for me to really start seeing progress. It might seem like a long time to be off, but I got worse even after beginning my life. When the progress started, it was steady, but still slow. Originally I thought that I’d be back in two or three weeks. Then Thanksgiving. Then before Christmas. And now it’s 2019.

I lost a lot of days in the beginning. What I mean by that is that there were just days I simply existed. I would lie around or I would sleep. I slept a lot in the beginning; I was sleeping in and napping daily. Even then, I was still always exhausted. During this time, I felt like I was screaming at my brain to just do something. I felt as if I was screaming at myself to get up. But I felt frozen to the couch or bed; I was constrained. My mind was holding me hostage, even as I wanted to do more. I know it didn’t look good, it probably looked like I was just being lazy. But, God, it was painful. It was so painful to not be able to do anything or feel anything. It was like an emotional paralysis. I just couldn’t. I don’t know how to describe it. Even now, it’s painful to write about.

I lost so many days. Probably the first half of my leave is just a blur. I went through the motions. My memory sucked. I kept repeating myself, each time thinking that I hadn’t said it already. I was also forgetting words which would drive me absolutely insane. I’d forget the word “fork” and just talk in circles about it, like “the pronged thing you use to eat.” I felt like I was using so much brain power to put together sentences at times, as if I was completing complex math problems (I’m terrible at math) rather than…speaking.

But slowly, so slowly, I began to make progress. I started to get more energy. I started feeling more. I was even beginning to do things I enjoyed again. As I got better, however, I did notice I started browsing social media a lot less often. Also, my Coca-Cola habit suddenly became much easier to reduce and start to quit once I started feeling better.

It took time, but I was encouraged because I was at least seeing progress. And then I started to feel a lot more better at a quicker rate. This is when the changes really started becoming more noticeable- I was sleeping in still, but not napping during the day. And then, I was sleeping in less and less and still not napping, with the exception of the occasional power nap not long after I woke up; literally only 15-20 minutes, a spark that got me going. Eventually, I started waking up at five in the morning for no reason. And I was awake and ready to go. I had never been much of a morning, but non-depressed-me had different ideas or just didn’t know that. I didn’t know what to do with that. If it were summertime, I would’ve been going for workouts in the morning. Eventually, I started using the time to write, work on my self-care journal, or read.

Having energy was an entirely new concept for me. It was so weird to not feel tired all the time. This made me realize that I was really getting better.  But it also showed me how bad I had really been, something that makes me slightly sick to look back on. Every time I thought I had beaten it before, I was really just keeping myself afloat and paddling like hell below. I think that’s why it was always such a roller coaster. It amazed me that how I was feeling now was what was normal for most people. I felt as if I was looking at the world new and wide-eyed.

You know how in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we learn that Harry has been living his entire life with part of Voldemort’s soul latched to his? I kind of feel like depression was something similar. There wasn’t a piece a fractured soul on mine, at least I hope there wasn’t, but more like a parasite trying to suck the life out of me. And I had finally figured out how to pull it off and fling it far. I felt as if I was truly myself again, but I now had to figure out who that was. I still am. It’s okay though. Learning about myself through this non-depressed lens is fascinating. It is also something I’m thankful for; I can never take this for granted.

My treatment wasn’t any one thing either. It was like doing a puzzle, except you have pieces that definitely don’t fit at all. And everyone’s puzzle looks different.  Over the past six years, I had been trying really hard to use some of the pieces that didn’t fit. Here’s what helped me:

  • Therapy: I was not a fan of therapy. There are still times where the anticipation of a therapy session makes me anxious. I hadn’t had great experiences in the past. Because of those past experiences, I had put off going back to therapy for a long time. I didn’t seen a point. I thought it would just end up in frustration, like every other time. But, for whatever reason, this time something worked. It is a process. There are still topics I am not ready to talk about. But I feel as if first I had to take care of the worst of it and stitch those up first; the rest is able to be treated with a band-aid for now.
  • Medication: There can be a lot of controversy concerning medication. I get very frustrated and almost feel shame about it. Really, I don’t want to be on meds. No, they haven’t fried my brain or make me feel nothing. But, damn, I need them and really, I don’t want your opinion on me being on meds. I am on four different prescriptions right now to manage my mental illness. And you know? With the combination of other treatments, I’m honestly feeling better than I had in years. Progress began to speed up once my fourth prescription was added. I don’t think that’s a coincidental. Before, I think that my medications just kept me afloat. I don’t want to just be afloat. I want to live. Also, I found a great psychiatrist who really works with me
  • Meditation and Mindfulness: Meditation and mindfulness are definitely trendy buzzwords at the moment, but the impact they have had on me is astonishing. I won’t go too in-depth because I’d like to do an entire blog post on this. But mindfulness and meditation changed my life. I’m still struggling with anxiety, but mindfulness has helped me deal with it. I’m starting to get better and letting go of the things that I can’t control, and viewing issues from a different perspective. I read 10% Happier and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics (which I was) by Dan Harris, and honestly, those books are what made it click. He simplified it in ways I could better understand. I started using mindfulness subconsciously, in ways I didn’t anticipate. Only a minute or two could make a difference.
  • Knitting: My therapist thought I needed a hobby. So I looked up mindful hobbies, and this was one. I knew the basic knit stitch, took a class at Michael’s to learn how to purl, and I was off. It was simple enough that I could do it without much thinking, but tricked my mind into thinking I was doing something. I have a hard time sitting still. My mind keeps going and going, and I feel like I have to do be doing something. Knitting makes me think I’m doing a lot. Plus, it’s cool to be able to make stuff.
  • Writing: This got better as my mind cleared. I was writing out my feelings and made sure not to censor myself. Blogging helped too; it’s therapeutic for me. It has always been easier for me to write how I feel versus saying it out loud. So it helped. This’ll continue to help, and I think I’ll be a better writer in the long run for it.
  • Planning/Organization: Now that my head is clearer, it is much easier to stay organized. I don’t feel as if I am struggling as much to plan and keep organized. But keeping a planner and keeping up on it is helping me keep my peace of mind. Again, this is much easier than I realized. It helps when your brain is clear. I’m keeping things organized better which helps me in different aspects of my life. By not being apathetic towards everything, I can see more of the big picture and plan accordingly.

I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting, but these all really helped. Of course, I am also lucky to have supportive friends and family. Sometimes, that isn’t always the case. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some friends who have been there. Just because you aren’t always close doesn’t mean they don’t have your back. And of course, there have been people who haven’t been supportive. It’s unfortunate, it hurts, but it’s out of my hands.

So tomorrow – I’m slightly terrified to go back to work. But it is time to get back into a routine and see what kind of worker non-depressed Tori is. I’ll still have my bad days. I can’t focus enough at times to sit and read a book. I can’t wait for that. I am also looking to add to my professional life. With my return to work, I am going to start as a freelance writer part-time. I’m starting from nothing. But I have plenty of ideas already! And I’m looking forward to it. I spend a good bit of my free time writing anyways.

This took much longer than I anticipated. However, I couldn’t have anticipated that I’d be feeling so much better. I’ll take it. I’m hoping that this is a chapter ended, and this is the start of a happier chapter. As the new year is just beginning, I’d say it is a good time to start a new chapter. Here it goes.

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