Things I Want to Improve

As a woman battling depression and anxiety, it can be hard to enact changes in my life. I see things about myself and my life that I hate, but I can’t seem to find the strength to do anything about it. This has to change.

I’ve come to the realization that mental illness is like any other illness, in that it takes time and dedication to get better. You can’t do nothing and expect your circumstances to improve. That’s why I’ve tried to be more intentional about my life and my actions and the words I speak in order to battle my negative thoughts and feelings.

1.) Positive affirmation

I’m a firm believer that the words you say and the thoughts you think will come to be. So if I’m constantly telling myself what a failure I am, I’m going to feel like a failure. I will be a failure. 

So lately, when I catch myself thinking these negative thoughts, I counteract them by hand-writing in a notebook.

I love myself.

I’m doing my best. 

My friends do not secretly hate me. 

My family is not ashamed of me. 

Writing it down enough times, repeating the words in my head, has helped me to fight the negative thoughts and realize: it’s all made up. These things aren’t actually true. My parents have never told me or treated me like they were ashamed of me. My friends have never secretly hated me, although this false thinking has caused issues in my relationships. No one has ever told me I was fat or ugly. I tell myself these things enough that soon, I’m believing they’re true.

2.) Be intentional about sleep

Insomnia sucks, and can also lend itself to foul moods and depressing thoughts. I’ve struggled with it for years and have only just recently been successfully combating the crappy sleep cycle. Being more intentional about your sleep schedule and making sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day is so important.

Something that’s helped me tremendously is taking melatonin before bed. Do your own research on dosage and ask your doctor before taking it, but it’s an over-the-counter supplement that my doctor recommended to me. I take it about 20 minutes before bed and I’m out like a light. It’s absolutely incredible. As someone who struggles with falling asleep and staying up way past her bedtime with thoughts racing through her head, these gummies have changed my life.

My sleep cycle is a work in progress, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

3.) Listen to your body

I really think this applies to both diet and social life. Listen, diets don’t work for everyone, and most are extremely problematic. Focus on how the foods you eat react with your body. If you eat something and then 4 hours later you’re on the toilet and you see your life flash before your eyes, maybe don’t eat that. Carbs can feel really great in the moment, but I’m definitely kicking myself later that day.

Eat foods that make your body feel good, and pursue a healthy body rather than a “summer body” or whatever. Exercise is proven to have great effects on people with depression, but don’t take it too far. Don’t hurt yourself. Listen.

Same goes for your social life! I know that as an introvert, I love hanging out with friends and going to gatherings. Sometimes though, it’s good for your health to just say no. Listen to your body. Take that breather. Don’t push yourself.

4.) Don’t be so hard on yourself

You’re going to have bad days. That’s just a scientific fact. But don’t let that discourage you from the progress that you’ve made. Look at you! You’ve made it this far and you should be so proud of yourself. Are you the kind of person who thinks back on your younger self and cringes and then obsesses about it for hours on end? Same. But listen, instead of bemoaning your past self and dwelling on the mistakes you made or the dumb things you did, think about it like this: you’ve come so far. Look at how much you’ve grown and improved already!

We are never going to be perfect, and we’re going to spend the rest of our lives doing cringey things. Move on. You’re not the same person you were yesterday, and you can do better.

What To Do When the Dreaded, “How Are You?” Text Arrives

*trigger warning: pregnancy loss, death*

“You’re pregnant,” my doctor informed me over the phone, and my heart dropped from my chest and into the pit of my stomach. Typically, this is supposed to be joyous news, but I had been bleeding for about a week by then. Originally I thought I was on my period, which is why I hadn’t considered the possibility that I was miscarrying.

So the elated, wonderful feeling was lost on me because in this case, pregnancy was the worst news.

This wasn’t the first time this had happened. The first time, I knew I was pregnant, and I was at my very first appointment at 8 weeks when the bleeding started. I was terrified and immediately started crying in the bathroom; heaving, horrible sobs that I could barely mask from women in surrounding stalls.

I composed myself and went back to the waiting room where my husband, who had been so excited, waited. I told him about the bleeding, mustering everything within me to keep my face from twisting and the tears from falling.

Thankfully, we were seen immediately, and while the doctors remained positive and upbeat, I had lost all faith. I knew I was losing my baby.  That night, I experienced the worst cramps I’d ever had, and I cried both from pain and loss. The symptoms continued for another week or so, a constant reminder.

Now, two miscarriages later, I am paralyzed by fear and anxiety. I am terrified of doctor’s offices, of both being pregnant and not being pregnant. All I’ve wanted my entire life is to be a mom and have a family. And while I know it’s so early to worry, there’s that thought always nagging: what if it never happens? 

The only thing more anxiety-inducing than talk of pregnancy or hospitals is that “How are you?” text.

“Hey, girl! I’ve missed you! How are you doing?”

Honestly, not great.

But I’m not really supposed to say that right? I’m not supposed to talk about my crippling fears or the fact that I can’t stop thinking about the smell of the hospital or how aimless and broken I feel. Nobody wants to hear about that. They want to hear, “Doing great!” so they can get on with their lives and feel good about checking in on me.

That’s a terrible thing to say. They’re well-intentioned messages and I’m sure they do care. It’s more about opening up the dam that’s keeping all of my feelings at bay. If I say one thing, I’m going to say it all. So really, I’m looking out for them, right?

Or maybe it’s about another fear: the fear of being vulnerable with my friends. Of course they care about me, of course they want to hear how I’ve been doing. I’m making excuses because I don’t want to talk about it. I’m making excuses because if I do talk about it, I’ll fall apart, and I can only afford to do that in the confines of my own home.

I don’t even feel like I can tell my own family the truth, because how pathetic is it to admit that I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning? That I cry about the smallest things now, including car commercials on TV? That I quit my job at the YMCA because I couldn’t be around those kids anymore, thinking about my babies that I’d never get to meet?

It plagues my mind, invading every thought and feeling. My loss occupies every crevice of my brain, but I can’t bring myself to talk about it with even my closest friends because I’m afraid they’re tired of it. I don’t want to unload myself on my mom because she had six miscarriages; surely she doesn’t want to hear my whining when she has more reason to hurt.

I feel lost and lonely and broken, and I don’t know how to fix it. I have tried positive affirmations, trying to trick my brain into feeling good feelings. I have tried counseling, where I was made to feel like I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t depressed enough.

I don’t know what the typical grieving time is for someone you never met, but this feels excessive.

I know things will be okay someday, but right now, I would be having a baby next month. I probably would have had a baby shower and we’d probably know whether it was a boy or girl already. We’d have their little nursery set up, and we’d be so, so excited. I’d be 8 months right now, and my belly would be huge, and I’d be able to feel it kicking.

But I don’t.

My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced any sort of loss, but miscarriage in particular. Because so few understand, and the pain we feel is so sharp. You carried a child inside you, you felt hope at the prospect of new life, and it was dashed. They don’t make cards for stuff like that. So whether it happened last week or 10 years ago, my condolences. Because I know that pain doesn’t just go away.

“A flower bloomed already wilting.

Beginning its life with an early ending.”

-RJ Gonzales