find zen in a punching bag

It’s funny to think about where I was a year ago. Actually a year ago I was in a hospital bed trying to convince the doctors I rarely saw to let me go home. But on the other hand, I was also dead set on getting out of Maryland and moving to Colorado. And now, I’m here and I’m not sure why. Funny how something you thought you were so sure about ends up being the one thing you’re completely unsure about.

I was so sure that I just wanted to be here to figure my life out and just work. Well, I am doing that but it’s not nearly as glorious as I thought it would be. I did figure out where I want to be and want to do, but in the midst of that, I realized I needed to make an even bigger decision. Should I stay, or should I go?

Truth is, times are pretty tough. This whole “starting a new life” thing kind of has ended up being financial suicide, which is pretty untimely now that I’ve decided to go back to school. I keep wondering to myself, why didn’t I figure this all out BEFORE I decided to move here? Well, I guess I was just a bit naive. And that’s okay. Sometimes learning things the hard way is the only way. I followed my heart instead of my mind. In doing so, while this whole concept is incredibly freeing, it is incredibly terrifying as well. Staying out here is what my heart is telling me because I am free and I am afraid. My mind tells me to go back to Maryland because I might find myself out on the streets trying to teach my pet rats to do tricks to earn money if I stay here. But the fear and freedom I’ve found in being here in Colorado and finally figuring out what I want to do with my life has made me realize I’ve finally begun to think with my heart instead of my head. As irrational as the heart can be, I now feel free. Decisions are hard. I decided to follow my heart.

And I did make a few decisions. First, I made the decision that it really is time to get off of my meds and handle my anxiety in more holistic ways through meditation, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, and of course the biggie: limiting alcohol. After dealing with this bitchy psychiatrist that I decided I never wanted to deal with again, I went to my primary care doctor who ACTUALLY LISTENED TO ME. He was completely on board with my decision and after telling him that I’m applying to acupuncture school, he was in complete support of me using acupuncture as an alternative treatment to my anxiety. Coolest doc ever, right? Doctors who actually support the lifestyle that you think is best for you is what every doctor should be, unless your lifestyle is hurting you, of course. He’s also the first doctor who hasn’t tried to scrutinize me for eating a mostly vegan diet by pushing me to take supplements and get my blood tested to make sure I’m healthy etc. etc.

Basically, I decided to take control of my life for the first time. Getting off of benzodiazepines is really tough, I won’t lie. There’s the physical withdrawal in which sleeping seems impossible because you feel like you’re heart is going to thump thump thump its way out of your chest because it’s beating so hard, and then waking up feeling hungover every morning even if you didn’t even have a sip of alcohol the night before. And there’s the mental withdrawal. Always on edge. Always afraid. Finding your anxiety worse than you can ever remember it being. It sucks, but I know that this too shall pass because I now know how to control it. I will be free.

Earlier this week, I had made plans to go hiking with a couple friends. Today, I woke up to get ready for the hike and I felt awful. Racing heartbeat, suddenly not wanting to go out, and still feeling hungover even though I didn’t drink last night (unless I’m getting Buffy hangovers, maybe I’m binging too much, possible?) Still, I wasn’t going to back out on plans because I wasn’t going to give into my anxiety. Once I got outside and we were on the trail and I’m 15 minutes into the hike and dying and hating myself (see JP Sears’ video about Boulder: The Consciousness Capital of the World, which also sums up what Boulder, CO really is like. Goddamn trustifarians, aka rich hippies), I looked out at the mountains and breathed in the fresh air and felt an immediate sense of peace. Sometimes it really is that simple, sometimes not. For me, getting outside and feeling the sun hit my face and breathing the fresh, clean air of the mountains reminds me to just be here, now. Sometimes it isn’t that simple. Sometimes you have to go Buffy on a punching bag until your knuckles are bruised and blistered and your mom yells at you that you’re going to get arthritis to get out that nervous energy. Because that’s all anxiety is for me: pent of energy. I guess also slowly dying on a beautiful hike uses up a lot of the anxious energy too. But hey, the mountains are still beautiful even if you’re surrounded by an entire forest that was completely burned away in a fire about 5 years ago. Deciding to live with my anxiety is freeing, while also being ultimately terrifying.

The other decision I made is that I still want to be here. For a few months, I had convinced myself that nothing was ever going to work out here. The job market out here is horrific and I’ve found myself losing money instead of making money. Finding friends that I actually like in a town full of college kids is pretty hard too, especially when you don’t like people your age. But when I see the red light shining through my window in the morning as the sun rises, and seeing the sun set over Horsetooth Rock after a snow storm, I feel peace and I remember why I wanted to be here so badly in the first place. Maybe not being here in Fort Collins, necessarily, but being in a different place where I’m surrounded by mountains and being away from the place that I had grown too comfortable with is enough. I’m trying so hard to give myself reasons to stay because it is freeing and terrifying and I don’t want my head to make me go crying back to my mom in Maryland because everything out here isn’t working out.

How did I decide that applying for a graduate program in acupuncture here in Colorado was the right decision? Well, I felt freedom and fear. Freedom in the sense that I finally figured out who I really want to be and what I want to do, and the fear of everything that goes along with applying to grad school when you’re pretty low on funds and looking at a $60,000 program.

Here I am now, a year later. This time last year, the only future I saw ahead of me was my delusional relationship with Blob, feeling sorry for myself, not knowing who I was or what I was doing, but only knowing that I wanted to run away, and so I decided to do that. Now, I’m away from everything. Free from my past life, mostly, ambitious to follow my heart and take the next big step in my life and willing to take control of my anxiety instead of hiding it under medications.

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One year ago

I found peace on a mountain top. I found it letting loose on a punching bag. It can be found even when everything seems dark and scary. 23 years later, I am free.

*Most people know JP Sears as that guy who appears on your newsfeed once in a while sarcastically talking about veganism or how to be gluten intolerant. I found out the other day that he’s actually a certified holistic health coach who specializes in self-empowerment. See his video How to Follow Your Head (not your heart).

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Today. Grateful. Free. At peace.

 

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I just really don’t trust doctors

I kind of wanted to just leave it at that and not even write a post about it. Let the title be the end of explanation.

But for real, I officially don’t trust doctors.

After driving down to this really sad part of Colorado to see a psychiatrist, I basically spent my $20 copay to get yelled at by a psychiatric nurse practitioner about my health habits. I’ve been taking klonopin for about 4 years now. After I told her that, I sensed the KLONOPIN LEADS TO EARLY ONSET DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMERS rant at which I stopped her before she even started and almost yelled YES I KNOW THAT FROM MY 2 DOCTORS WHO DIDN’T SEEM THAT CONCERNED ABOUT IT. Clearly, my first psychiatrist didn’t seem that concerned about having me on 3 different types of mood stabilizers at once and another time when he had me taking Xanax 5 times a day in addition to taking Klonopin twice a day.

Here’s the struggle with mental illness and psychotropic drugs: finding one that works for you can be one of the biggest struggles of mental illness. It’s frustrating, time consuming, hard on your body, and endlessly exhausting. When you find one that works, that’s it. You don’t want to change because after all that struggle, why would you want to change? From weight fluctuation, to no libido to insanely high libido, to the seizure I had in high school, the manic episodes from the first SSRI I took, to the other drugs that I just felt like didn’t do anything except make me feel exhausted for no reason, yeah, when I found that klonopin was actually helping me and the side effects were bearable, no way did I want to change. Let’s be honest, who would?

Now there’s this doctor who wants to take away the one thing that’s worked for me and make me change my entire lifestyle after going through the health questionnaire. Stop drinking, don’t be vegan, don’t take the Klonopin, get my blood tested for 8 different things, start a “selective carbohydrate diet” for my IBS, take a B12 supplement… Um. I thought I was seeing a psychiatrist. Not a life coach or my physician.

Somewhere, in every psychiatrists’ education, it has slipped through the cracks that when people find a medication that works for them, that’s it. End of the road. No more trying new medications.

And then there’s my hatred for medications. I would love to not have to take medications. Honestly, I might be able to. I’ve been medicated for 9 years now, so how would I even know if there’s anything actually wrong with me?

After a lot of reading about traditional Chinese medicine, I’m starting to believe that the only way to heal myself, is by myself. Chinese medicine looks at the body as a whole, and how the body connects to nature. It’s not like modern Western medicine where we have separate doctors for each part of our body. Chinese medicine believes in having one doctor that has a complete connection with their patient, mind, body and environment. Everything is connected. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the basic concept of Chinese medicine which encompasses a life force that inhabits both the body and the earth. When Qi is not in balance in the body, the body will become ill. Having the perfect balance of Yin and Yang in the body is what will make the body whole and healthy. When both Yin and Yang are in balance, then Qi flows throughout the entire body and keeps the body in balance.

Some people may think that this whole Eastern philosophy is total bulls**t. But think about it, it really does make sense. When someone suffers from migraines, instead of treating the migraine, we should be looking at what is causing the migraine. Stress in any part of the body can trigger distress elsewhere. You know that whole thing about how depression can cause sleep disruption, appetite changes, and body aches? Well, there’s your proof that the body and mind are connected. Yes, doctors can argue that the chemical changes in a depressed person’s brain can affect the rest of the body. This argument is valid. Having taken neuroscience in college, yeah those little neurotransmitters in your brain can have a huge impact on your mind as well as your body.

But medication isn’t going to fix it. Medication is still only a band-aid and that band-aid can lead to worse problems. See the body as a whole. See the body as part of the earth. The body is an element. The body is a garden. It needs maintenance and care. If you have a garden, you would know. You can’t look at your garden, see that your tomato plants are dying and ignore the rest of your garden while you care for them. The key is balance. The key is balancing the energy in the entire body, not just one part of it.

My Yang is weak, while Yin rules most of my body. Yin gives me quiet and coolness, but in excess, it’s unhealthy. Restoring balance to the heat and activeness (Yang) and coolness and quiet (Yin) is what will eventually heal myself as a whole.

I don’t need medications to find balance. I don’t need a Western doctor to tell me to do xyz and my body will be better. Don’t see me as a brain that needs tweaking. See me. See me as a whole being.

I don’t trust Western medicine educated doctors.

2017 UPDATE: somewhat manic, mostly reasonable

Note to self: do not post manic ideas as a blog post.

That last post was pretty unnecessary. Manic induced ideas can be awesome. That’s how I came up with the idea to go to U of Edinburgh for school (to get out of taking the GRE) and the idea of painting skate decks for money (possibly still a good idea for side money). I actually did spend a large amount of time researching where to buy blank skate decks and what type of varnish to use, etc. etc. But as much as I would like to extend my artistic talents into the world of skating, I think I’m better off doing something more realistic now that my mania has subsided.

For the first time since moving to Colorado, I finally feel a bit settled. Why’s that? Well I’ll tell you why even if you don’t care.

I finally have a REAL JOB. I START TOMORROW. Like, big girl 9-5 job. Okay it’s actually 8:30 to 4 and I have to work at 7:30am on Saturdays but a set schedule? Damn I feel spoiled.

And then after spending a month and a half of unemployment, I had a lot of time to think about long term. Long term commitments are scary. I couldn’t even decide on what I wanted to major in in undergrad until I realized I might as well major in psych just because I had enough credits for it. Bad decision, but probably ideal for someone who wanted to graduate ASAP.

But anyway, I recently realized how much I hate modern Western medicine and practices. These drugs that doctors have been shoving down my throat since I was 14 have done nothing for my mental health besides permanently damage my brain and have only acted as a band-aid. Honestly, the happiest I’ve been is when I start with treating my body with respect. It’s cliche, but my body is a temple. Treating my body right is what will eventually lead to having a healthier brain. I decided a more holistic approach to my health would be a better long-term decision for myself. Through eating a plant-based diet and exercising regularly, I feel better. When I started getting outside more and more when I moved to Colorado, I felt even better. Waking up sober everyday (this is sobriety Day 9 for me!!) helps me feel more productive and overall better. Doing yoga and meditation before bed calms me down and helps control my anxiety. Drinking teas with natural and beneficial herbs in them have helped my body through this alcohol mental and physical withdrawal. And of course, I’ve been going to acupuncture every week for the last 3 months.

Initially, I went to an acupuncturist because my allergies since moving here had gotten so bad that I was getting sick every week and I felt like I was constantly miserable. Taking massive amounts of painkillers and Allegra and Mucinex would barely help and just felt like poison to my body. A month into acupuncture, I realized I hadn’t gotten sick in weeks. Either my body finally adjusted, or acupuncture really did help. Acupuncture can be used to treat an extensive amount of ailments so I decided I wanted to start working on my mental health since it seems that I’m finally no longer a prisoner of allergy induced sickness.

Leading this more holistic lifestyle based on Eastern medicine has began to fascinate me. Every time my acupuncturist puts a needle in my skin, I always wonder, “why there?” During treatment, I like to meditate. Yesterday, I told my acupuncturist that I wanted to work on my depression and energy levels, in which he then placed three needles in my head. My mind spiraled into a crazy, manic-esque state but at the same time, calm and reasonable. At the time I was still thinking about the skateboard thing but something in the back of my mind reasonably talked me out of it. Eastern medicine is my calling. Coming from a psychology background, this would be perfect. I want to treat mental illness with more holistic approaches instead of shoving drugs down everyone’s throat and telling them what they should and shouldn’t do to cope with their minds.

That’s the short version. Yesterday, I was a unstable and depressed mess. When I finally found passion in something, that finally subsided. I found a purpose. I found a goal. I ordered books off Amazon on traditional Chinese medicine and started my application essay for a couple of TCM schools. I’m suddenly inspired to learn again, and I’m excited. I can be the calm little center of our ever chaotic universe. Zen, focused, and passionate about something for the first time in my life.

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Also, no GRE scores required, did I mention that? Don’t worry though, I won’t ever abandon writing. My crazy mind will still be on the internet for all to see.

how to be human

Story time! And then some.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor to get my meds refilled. Finding a psychiatrist out here has been impossible. So, basically, this doctor thinks I’m insane. I had to answer all the normal questions of what allergies I have, what medications I’m currently on, any recent hospitalizations, medical history etc etc.

Doc: “So.. you know that klonopin is not meant to be drug used for long term use, right? How long have you been on it?”

Me: “Oh, yeah, duh, my short term memory is shot. I’ve been on it for over 4 years.”

Doc: “….have you ever tried anything else?”

Me: “Zoloft, lexapro, celexa, lithium, trileptal, lamictal, welbutrin, xanax, buspar, abilify, risperidone, effexor, cymbalta, aaaanddddd…. pristiq?”

Doc: “……………..”

Me: “Oh, and ritalin, adderall, concerta, and focalin.”

Doc: “And your diagnosis is…?” *queue the look of utter confusion*

Me: “Something between general anxiety disorder and Bipolar 1 and possibly borderline personality disorder.” Continue reading “how to be human”

Welcome to Emily’s second quarter life crisis

I think I like changing up my format for how I do my titles now. Or I guess, lack there of. I always hated making up titles for essays when I was in school but since writing a blog, titles can be the most challenging but most fun part because you WANT people to read your blog post. And what’s gonna get people to start reading? The title. Even if it’s irrelevant to the rest of the post like mine mostly am. But hey, that’s just my style. Off topic, random and sometimes not so PG. Continue reading “Welcome to Emily’s second quarter life crisis”

that time I realized I needed to be vulnerable

Despite a very long blog hiatus, let’s talk about something serious: vulnerability. Ok, so I just watched this TEDTalk that my therapist recommended to me and I’m still coming down from the feels that I got from it (I’ll post a link at the end). But think about it, how do you define vulnerability? And, how many people are actually willing to feel vulnerable? Continue reading “that time I realized I needed to be vulnerable”

that time it hit me that I’m running away from my life/that time I realized I’m going to miss my mom

All this talk about Colorado and making plans and meeting people and figuring out how to simplify everything has all become a blur. It’s finally hit me that I’m literally running away. And the timer to that is ticking fast. It’s only 3 months away! Holy. Shit.

It really just recently hit me that I’m actually leaving. And by leaving, I’m leaving everything behind. 2,000 miles is far enough that for the first time in my life, I have to learn how to adult for real. Whaaaaatttt?!?!!

But I’m leaving behind a lot of good memories. Part of me doesn’t want to leave my hometown because there’s still so much good stuff here, but I know I made this decision because I needed change. Everything’s going to change. Am I ready for that?

My mom and I had brunch recently, and she likes to do this thing where she reminisces about the good times of my childhood (like when I wedged a pencil into the front door lock or that time that I had a pet goat named Q-tip. Both true stories). I think she’s trying to piece my memory back together for me because I finally got it across to her that I don’t remember my childhood. Everything up until about 6th grade is just a fog or non-existent. What was I blocking? So yeah, apparently I did have some good memories. And all of those will forever reside in my hometown that I’m leaving behind.

It’s sad though, really. Now that I know I’m about to leave it all, I keep finding the things from this place that I really do or did enjoy, the places I remember, the people I knew. The dock at the boatyard that my high school best friend and I would get high and stare at the stars and dream of what was going to happen to us. The pavilion in the park where my high school friends and I hop the fence to and chug Miller Lite. The tattoo studio where I’ve gotten all my life-changing tattoos and formed some awesome relationships with the artists. The art supply store that I still technically work in and have since I was 14. The wonderful people there that will gladly welcome me back whenever I want to. There’s the community college where I spent a lot of time trying to figure my life out after I flunked out of the first college I went to. The park underneath the bridge where I’d climb on the rocks with my friends or by myself and watch the waves and sailboats go by. All of these things and all of these memories are all going to remain here.

But I’m also leaving my cat (temporarily), my neurotic pitbull 9 year old puppy, and most importantly, my mom. In the end, I wanted to get away from everything and everyone and start over, as if I didn’t ever live in Maryland. But in reality? I love my mom and I will miss her. She’s done so much for me and put up with all 22 years of my bullshit from climbing out of my crib as a baby to crashing her car multiple times. This woman will drop everything to have a conversation with me (like the time I completely fried my hair off with bleach and I called her while she was at a conference and she actually talked me through my crying and freaking out. Overdramatic, but my hair was past my shoulders and I had to get it cut the shortest it’s ever been. Yes, it’s traumatizing to see bunches of your hair break off of your head). So I’ve decided to take a piece of her with me.

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Before I leave, I’ll get this tattooed on my forearm to remind me of home. My mom is a closet Lord of the Rings fan (she wrote her senior paper or something like that about LOTR in college, before the books were even well known. Pretty hardcore if you ask me). LOTR will always remind me of my mother. I think she likes to live her life by these books when I think back on it. She’s always encouraged me to go after the impossible, knowing the setbacks, how far it is to climb to anywhere, but to know that everything is possible if I really want something. I hated her at the time for pushing me so much, but now I know that she only wanted me to keep going even when it seemed hopeless. She taught me that courage is found in unlikely places. I’ll keep that close to me.

So this is for you, Mom:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
– J.R.R. Tolkien