A Letter From Senior Year Me

I arrived back from treatment on Thursday and along with a Makar plushie from the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker sent from my brother, I had a letter written to me, from me. I didn’t remember writing a letter to myself recently so I opened it confused. It was a letter from when I was a senior in high school while I was doing this program called “Inward Bound”.

I was a speaker at this program for the middle school kids at my school about bullying. I went through a ton of bullying while I was in middle school and the therapist at school wanted me to share my story along with four other seniors. I had completely forgot that I wrote a letter and I didn’t expect to receive it nearly 3 years later. I thought I’d share some  of it and my reply now that I’m nearly 3 years older and in college.

“Dear Little Miss College, 11/8/13

So I’m currently at the Middle School participating in Inward Bound with the 8th graders here. I have to talk about what happened to me in 8th grade (note, it was horrible). Not gonna lie, it was one of the most difficult speeches I’ve ever had to write. A lot of feeling threatened to rise again, but they need to hear it. I’d be shocked if at least one of them wasn’t going through something similar to what I went through. We’re taking a trip on the emotion roller coaster. Woo! (Woo indeed).

Happy belated birthday miss a-dult! Its only been a few days, but the high of entering this new point of my life still hasn’t worn off. I just applied to Lewis & Clark College, Bard College, and Clark University 2 weeks ago (but I still haven’t heard from Bard…). I hope you are having an unbelievable time at one of these schools, and I hope you are using and taking advantage of all the tools college will have for you. 

I’m so jealous that you’re in college. I just can’t wait to get out of this fucking place once and for all. I can’t imagine missing it right now, but do you? Is college better than high school? Are you able to do all of the things I am hoping and dreaming of doing now? 

I hope that through all of this new, you are still sticking to some of the old. Please never lose sight of who you really are just because you’re in a new place. I like who I am now. Don’t change. 

Good luck with the rest of your life! -Zoey” 

Here is my reply.

Dear Little Miss High School,  5/29/16

I’m currently at mom and dad’s house in California (yes they actually moved) after being in treatment for that crippling anxiety and depression you ignored for that entire year. But I’m better now! I remember that day like it was yesterday, my friend. A girl came up to you crying her eyes out and thanked you profusely. I hold on to that memory dearly. One of your teachers wrote you an email that you never deleted thanking you for your words. You never realized what an impact you made and you won’t until you receive an award at graduation that you never expected. You will finally feel respect from that toxic community and its gonna feel weird as fuck.

I’m glad you enjoyed being 18, but let me tell you if you thought that felt weird, imagine almost being 21. I am now at the college you fell head over heels in love with and I am so happy. I am taking advantage of everything it has to offer, even if it gets overwhelming quite a bit. Its so worth it. I wish I could show you to shed some light on this dark point in your life.

To answer your questions: I do not miss high school. I have not missed high school ever since I walked across that stage. Yes, college is way better than high school. Better than you ever imagined. I don’t remember all of the things you were hoping and dreaming of, but if being in a cappella, rehearsing 15 hours a week and double majoring in things you love was part of it, then girl you are living the fucking dream.

Zoey… I needed to change. Yes, I am still still true to myself and some of that old of being whoever the fuck I wanted to be without other people giving a shit. But I finally let that wall you painstakingly built come down. I know it was so helpful while you were in high school, but it does nothing but create problems further down the road. I am so much happier not just because I’m in college, but because I’m finally loving myself. I know its so hard for you to fathom that but its actually happening and its wonderful.

You are going to have a very tough couple of years after this. You are going to feel that depression again and all of the toughness you felt isn’t going to go away; its just going to be manifested a little differently. But girl…you are so fucking strong. You survived that shit of a school. You can do anything now. You are so strong and I know its hard being strong, but you can do it.

Also you end up bisexual. Hope that’s alright 😉

Good luck with the rest of your life!

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

 

A New Chapter

Today was my last day of treatment in Sacramento. After 5 weeks of isolation, really hard work, crying, a break up, and panic attacks, I have successfully completed my treatment here. But this does not mean that my work is over; far from it. It means that I have finally gotten off my butt after falling flat on it and I’ve started to walk.

I resisted this program very much when I started. But I’m glad that I went against my gut for once because it was ridiculously rewarding.

I am incredibly grateful to my therapist and the people in group therapy who helped me. I grew every single day as a person from what I learned from my therapist, and from them. I had numerous accomplishments during that time.

♦Accomplishments!♦

  • No panic attacks for 2 weeks
  • Forgave people I thought I couldn’t
  • Dean’s List
  • Felt good about blog posts
  • Able to go roller skating after a panic attack
  •  Learned a new roller trick
  • Able to catch cognitive distortions
  • Didn’t beat myself up
  • Finally able to do mindfulness meditation
  • Wrote a thank you note to myself and believed it
  • Being really and truly proud of myself
  • Got to a zero in an exposure
  • Made it successfully through this program
  • Able to sing Adele with crying.

Although some of these accomplishments don’t seem like much, every single one of them was huge for me. I started treating small things like learning a new roller skating trick and able to sing Adele without crying as huge victories and that made me feel like a more worthy person. My therapist helped me with that. When I said that I learned a new roller skating trick after saying that I was able to catch my cognitive distortions (aka hating myself) she told me to write it down in my accomplishments. I guess its little things like that where it makes just living feel like an accomplishment.

Accomplished Goals:

  • Started self-love
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Said goodbye to my hurtful past
  • Started looking and loving the present
  • Stopped self-harm for good
  • No more suicidal thoughts
  • Stopped thinking of myself as fucked up
  • Learned mindfulness
  • Focused on the positive
  • Forgiveness

What did I learn?

So. Much.

I learned the difference between self-love and being egotistical. I learned that fighting anxiety will always make it worse, but embracing it and hugging it till it goes away actually works (lookin’ at you exposures). I learned that the wall I built doesn’t keep me safe, it keeps me closed and therefore when me and my therapist started knocking it down, I became significantly more open. Just because the wall is starting to come down doesn’t mean I’m in danger, it means I’m exposed; which isn’t always a bad thing. I learned that opening up to people doesn’t make me weak or exposed; it educates and gives people hope.

I learned how to treat myself like I would a best friend: tenderly and with all the love in the world. I’m still working on it and it will continue to be a work in progress, but I’m hoping that I will one day be able to love myself as much I will a significant other.

I learned fear can be turned into strength. I learned sometimes you have to do the things that terrify you in order to move. My therapist compared it to the “Going on a Bear Hunt” story. You encounter something; you can’t go around it, you can’t go below it, and you can’t go above it. So you got to go through it.

I learned that change doesn’t happen unless you make it. Just because I wanted to change didn’t mean that it was just going to come to me. I had to actually work towards the change and accept that change is scary. But its a good kind of scary. Like a roller coaster kind of scary.

Final Advice:

If you have started your first steps in treatment, I want you to know that it is okay to take them tentatively. This is a progress where you are going to change as human in a really drastic way, and its going to be scary and its going to be a little terrifying too. But please trust me when I say that it is going to be so worth it. Keep a journal so you can keep track of your progress. Also, when you finish your work isn’t done. You have started a new chapter in your life where you are using your tools that you have gained through treatment and you are applying them to your life. Now, you can start living.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

A Thank You Note to Yourself

I may be the Queen of Self-Hatred, but I am earnestly working on becoming the Duchess of Self-Love (Can I pleeeaassee have a crown now?) Since I’ve been the Queen of Self-Hatred for so long, its really difficult for me to see myself in any sort of positive light, because I find hating myself is a lot safer than loving myself and then having others crush it…like it did in middle and high school. So now that I’m actually getting appreciated for what I work my ass off doing (shocking, right? Its like there are stable and healthy learning environments!) I’m letting my guard down and letting myself love me (and truth be told, its really fucking weird).

So one way I did this was by writing a thank you letter to myself. I’m not going to post it, unless people want me too, because I thought it would be a little egotistical if I did. But I’m writing this post to say that all of you should! It was a little bit difficult at first. But treat it like you’re writing a thank you note to a teacher you really loved, your best friend, or a family member for all of the awesome things they have done for you. Treat it like you’re writing a yearbook paragraph to yourself.

Thank yourself for the little things first if you’re having trouble thinking of anything to thank yourself for. Thank yourself for doing the dishes that one time. Thank yourself for waking up every morning and dragging your ass to that job. Thank yourself for that one time you smiled at someone. Thank yourself for buying yourself that piece of chocolate. Once you start thanking yourself for the little things, you can start to open up about bigger things. Thank yourself for never letting your guard down, or being the best pet parent ever, or for your diction. Find the light that you always saw that maybe no one else did. Or, shine the light that people tried to cover up and sincerely thank yourself for it. You work your ass off being you everyday and gosh dammit you should thank yourself for it! You don’t need someone else to thank you because you are your harshest critic and the one who’s opinion really matters the most.

I was told a lot when I was younger by peers (not my parents or teachers) that having self-compassion meant you were selfish and that’s unattractive. Let’s be clear that there is a huge difference between being egotistical and being self-compassionate. A friend of mine said the difference is, “Selfish is when you do something for yourself at the expense of someone else while self-love is when you’re honest to yourself about your flaws and forgiving them, while still sternly maintaining discipline. Self-love has to be derived from the right sources .Compliments are iffy, the actions of others is bad, you have to find it just through your own thoughts and actions.”.

Self compassion is letting yourself be happy for your own expense in the long term. Its not self-indulgence, self-esteem, or self-pity. Its exhausting hating yourself. But rewarding yourself for things that should be rewarded is easy and is better in the long run.

Start small. I’ll start. Thanks Zoey for not letting people’s judgment deter you away from being your really weird, awesome ass self.

What do you thank yourself for? Comment below!

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

 

LDRs as Told by Zoey

While I was with my , now, ex-boyfriend, I kept logs of how I felt during our long distance relationship. It was filled with the ups and downs of what being in a long distance relationship between two continents was like and I thought it would be great to share once we finally came back to each other. We would be separated from each other by thousands of miles for nearly 8 months. I had already had one failed long distance relationship and I was absolutely terrified I would be experiencing my second.

I’m not going to share these logs. I deleted them. It brings back a lot of pain I am not ready to face right now. But instead, I thought that I would share at least what being in a long distance relationship (twice) was like. You can do what you want with my experiences, take it as a warning or take it with a grain of salt, but I wanted to put this out there for 0other people and also for me. (To keep things clear, most recent Ex: Ex 1. First ex: Ex 2.


In my opinion, the hardest part of long distance is goodbye. I’ve never felt words choke out of my mouth like they did when I had to say goodbye to my most recent ex. When he finally let go of my hand, I felt like my world crashed down around me.Saying goodbye is not easy and it doesn’t get easier. I would visit my first boyfriend  every 2-3 months and it hurt like a bitch every time. I kept thinking, “Its going to get easier, its going to get easier.” And it never did. I wish sometimes I could have seen my most recent boyfriend, but at other times I was very glad I didn’t.

Skype is an amazing invention, but keeping it at a minimum of once a week makes it much sweeter. That way, you actually have something to talk about. Nothing sucks more than staring at a screen with having absolutely nothing to say. Yes, seeing their face is nice and all, but sometimes it makes the missing worse.  Texting is also awesome, but again I was really thankful that he and I were on wildly different time zones. That way I felt like we were both having our own experiences and we weren’t texting each other while going on about our day. Instead, Ex 1 and I texted when we woke up and before we went to bed for about 20 minutes and then had to say goodbye.

I was with Ex 2 for 5 years before he finally left for school and we had never spent a moment a part from each other except for being on different campuses when he was in high school and I in middle school. When he went to college while I was in high school, the whole world shifted. I had never been this far away from him before for so long. With Ex 1, we spent every winter and summer break apart from each other for months and weeks at a time, so distance wasn’t foreign to us when we parted on our separate journeys. That being said, it didn’t make it any easier.

Maturity levels also played a lot into our relationship. I have grown significantly as person between when I was dating Ex 2 vs. dating Ex 1. And this may be just advice in general, but there is a huge difference between a high school and a college relationship. My relationship with Ex 1 was just a more mature relationship in general. I think if we had survived the distance, and I really wish we had, it would have made us stronger as a couple. We were tackling really difficult things a part and if we had stayed together, we would have been stronger than ever.

Something that actually made us feel more together was when we played video games together. Even something as simple as Words with Friends made me feel like we were doing something together, and when we played Civilization V together for hours on end, it made me feel like he was really there with me. We also were a gamer couple to begin with, but if you and your partner weren’t, it might be fun to try it anyway. Although Civilization V is a little pricey, you can find plenty of cheap coplayer games on Steam or even free MMOs online to play together.

One of the other hardest parts of a LDR is the fact that you don’t witness how much each other change. Both he and I were going through some really life altering changes from our own study abroad experiences, and many times this would make us butt heads and get into disagreements when we had never fought before. Be prepared for this, but understand why it happens so forgiveness (if needed) can be immediate. As a couple, you’re keenly aware of when one goes through a change and you’re most likely there to witness it. When you’re away, you don’t see it at all.

Communication about how you are feeling is key. You have to let each other know how you’re doing; tell them the ups and the downs. If you hide how much the distance is hurting you, like I did in my first relationship, then it will tear it a part from the inside out. If you feel like you’re falling out of love with that person, tell them. If you feel like things are going better than expected, tell them. Keeping each other clued in about how you’re feeling as a whole about the relationship is incredibly important.

I don’t believe in taking breaks, but I know a lot of couples who do. I witnessed most couples who “took a break” (meaning they still were together but saw people on the side) break up in the end and end up with the people they saw on the side. I know couples who have taken breaks who have been just fine. I don’t believe in it because it just didn’t make any sense. I didn’t have any interest in seeing anyone else and I felt like if my Ex 1 saw anyone else, even if we were on a break, I would still get tremendously hurt.

Last but not least, your mental health comes first before the relationship. I wish I had ended my first relationship earlier because I spiraled down into horrendous separation anxiety and depression and that LDR is what caused me to have my first panic attack at prom. When the idea of ending a relationship starts to take a weight off your shoulders, its time to take a break or end it. I am not sure if my depression and anxiety were worse because of my most recent LDR, but they certainly didn’t help. Take care of yourself.

In the wise words of Rupaul Charles: “If you can’t love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”

Amen Ru, Amen.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

Take it from a panic pro

So before I delve into this next post, I want to say something really important.

THANK YOU!!

The amount of positive support and kind words I have received not only from that last post but from this blog in general has been wonderfully overwhelming. There are strangers who I’ve never met tell me they relate to what I’m saying, old friends from high school, and even close loved ones all giving me support and honestly, its that kind of thing that tells my suicidal thoughts to shut up. So I can’t thank all of you beautiful viewers enough. Ya’ll are really wonderful.

Anyway back onto some shit am I right?

I’ve been doing exposure therapy and lately because feeling and sitting with the anxiety you try to suppress is really fucking awful, I’ve been getting panic attacks from them. My therapist gave me some really awesome stuff to read and to think about and I thought I’d share some of that awesome wisdom with you and also my tips from how I’ve been dealing with it for the past 2 years.

The Medical Facts

To start it off, you need to know some really key facts: a panic attack cannot kill you. A panic attack cannot lead to a heart attack. You cannot faint during a panic attack. A panic attack cannot make you “go crazy”. You will not suffocate during a panic attack. No matter what symptoms you may be experiencing, there will be nothing physically wrong with you during an attack. I cannot stress this enough because this information was by far the most important in helping me live with them.

A panic attack is your adrenal glands being a dick and being all like, “OH FUCK THERE’S DANGER HOLY FUCK YOU SEE THAT NOTHINGNESS? DANGER DANGER DANGER DANGER!!” And your brain saying, “Alright if you say so.” But your really just having a cup of tea and reading a book and there is absolutely nothing dangerous. Having a fight or flight reaction isn’t dangerous and therefore having a panic attack isn’t dangerous. Unpleasant? 100%.Scary? Oh fuck yeah. It may feel like you’re going to die, but take it from the girl who went to the hospital over a panic attack, there is nothing physically wrong. So that takes care of one catastrophe thought.

The Fear Channels the Event

I’m still struggling with this a lot because panic attacks really fucking suck. But, it is true that if you fear a panic attack, it is most likely that your fear will come true. Its happened to me multiple where I’m terrified that I will get a panic attack at so and so important event and because I’m so terrified, it ends up happening. Your brain predicts shit like that. More recently, I’ve been treating it like an annoyance. I don’t fear it coming, but when it happens my mind reacts like a stubborn tween.

“Oh my god REALLY? You HAVE TO DO THIS NOW? UGGGGHHHHHHHH WHYYYYYYYY… Stupid fucking brain doesn’t get me.” And then its like “Yeah that’s right fucker suck it up.” So I mutter, “OK whatever BRAIN. Ugh.”

There are some situations I do avoid because I’m afraid that it will trigger a panic attack, such as huge parties or dances, or night clubs, or heights (and lots of other things that can be avoided pretty much all the time). Sure it really fucking sucks to miss some of those things because they can be pretty fun, but I’ll be able to enjoy them when I get over this.

Coping Mechanisms

Some of these are my coping mechanisms to help you float through it, some of these are from that worksheet I was given.

  • Let your mind go blank: This is really difficult but its really nice. Its actually really unusual to have absolutely nothing going through your mind, (especially for me when I constantly have weird random shit going through it like potatoes wearing tutus) but it stops every negative thought in your mind. On the downside, there’s also no reassurance, but I take no negative thoughts over a chance of reassurance any day in this ol’ head.
  • Take your mind off the sensations: Not everyone shakes or trembles during an attack, but I definitely do. I tend to play the piano to whatever music I’m listening to (Chopin’s Nocturnes. Always.) and that stops them from shaking and it also takes my focus off from the shit that’s happening everywhere else in my body. It took me a while to find what that was, but it helps me calm down pretty damn well.
  • Breathe:  This is the hardest one, especially if your chest constricts (WHICH IS TOTALLY NORMAL) making it difficult to catch your breath. I tend to hyperventilate (which is bad). Since I normally don’t notice that I’m hyperventilating, I have someone tell me to take really slow, deep, belly breaths with them. If I don’t have them, I have a recording of my boyfriend leading me through that and telling me a bunch of other positive stuff. When you stop hyperventilating, the horrible sensation of being lightheaded will also subside which generally calms you down.
  • Listen to music: This, again, might just work for me because I figured this out on my own. Listening specifically to very complicated but soothing classical piano music (like Chopin, Brahms, or Debussy) really keeps my mind engaged and off of the panic attack.
  • Engage in physical activity: I have never tried this, but the book swears by it. If you walk around, even if it feels like you can’t (because you definitely can), gets some of that pent up adrenaline out of your system. I like to curl up in to a ball and shake but every person’s situation is different.
  • Find someone: I generally like being with someone while its happening. Having someone rub my back, breathe with me, and talk about things in their life really takes my mind off of it. (I always like asking the question, what took you breath away? I get great answers and stories) If you may be getting in a situation where you won’t be someone you trust, have a recording of someone you trust speaking to you. (NOTE FOR PEOPLE WHO HELP: Be. Calm. Let me tell you there is nothing that makes it worse than the person whose trying to help freaking out as much as you.)

Some Questions to Ask During

You can either have someone ask you these questions during or you can think of them on your own, but they may help with any freak out thoughts you may be having:

  1. Are these symptoms I’m feeling dangerous? (Hint: No.)
  2. What is the absolute worst thing that could happen?
  3. Am I telling myself anything to make this worse?
  4. What is the most supportive thing I can do for myself right now?

Final Things to Keep in Mind

  • YOU WILL NOT DIE. 
  • Millions of people have gotten through this a-okay and so can you.
  • You can handle these symptoms or sensations.
  • It’s not an emergency.
  • It’s not the worst thing that could happen (as much as it may feel like it.)
  • Take as much time to feel calm and relaxed.
  • It will not hurt you.
  • Nothing serious will happen to you.
  • Fighting and resisting it hinders it, so just try to let it pass.
  • YOU. WILL. NOT. DIE.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.

Getting Better is Really Hard

So for those of you who don’t know, I’m in an anxiety treatment center because yes, my disorders have gotten so bad that I need intensive therapy everyday for 3 hours. This is also why I haven’t posted for 2 weeks and for that, I deeply apologize. I’ve been sitting at my computer for the past couple of weeks with multiple drafts trying to think of something funny or encouraging or lighthearted to say while I go through this self-transforming process.

But let me tell you, its really hard to take this lightly because this shit is really fucking hard.

I’m receiving multiple kinds of treatment:

  • Exposure Therapy: Exposing me to my anxieties and various phobias and fears and making me feel the anxiety it gives me until it goes away (yes it is as awful as it sounds and I have to trust my therapist when she says it works).
  • Cognitive Distortion Treatment: So everybody beats themselves up and tells themselves things that aren’t true and makes themselves feel shitty. The difference between me and everybody else is that I do it constantly and I didn’t see it as wrong until I was told so. So I’m now analyzing every single self-deprecating thought until I can catch my cognitive distortions or bad thoughts (to be put in much much simpler terms).
  • Teaching Self-Compassion and Mindfulness: Fun fact: I hate myself. I don’t mean this in a joking way; I genuinely hate myself. And I am 100% cool with this fact even though I really shouldn’t be. I built this wall of self-hatred around me because I was sick of putting so much energy into my passions that weren’t getting any recognition while I was in middle and high school. So now I have to unlearn hating myself and recognizing that I actually have talent and I’m smart. Some would call this Impostor Syndrome.
  • Group Therapy

I’ve also been digging up my past and writing letters to people in my past that I have severely affected me but they’ll never get to read and I’ve been forced to let go of some habits that I felt keep me safe. I’ve had to learn that forgiveness doesn’t mean that it makes what that person did okay, but rather a part of letting go and letting that person go as well. There is one I still refuse to forgive, but maybe that will come in time.

Its not easy and its not fun and it doesn’t all start taking affect the first few days like I wished it would. There has been an immense amount of streaked eyeliner, one suicidal thought, an emergency family group meeting, and even some laughter. My therapist is hysterical and extremely helpful despite all my weird quirks and nuances.

I got through the first week of treatment, crying to my mom that I wanted to go home and I didn’t want to deal with this bullshit because it was making me worse and I didn’t believe it was going to help me. I wanted to drop out so badly because I thought I was hopeless and that I wasn’t ready for this kind of treatment. I had just finished my first exposure therapy session and it was the actual worst. Feeling something you’ve been repressing for years is the last thing I wanted to feel and I wanted to go home.

But I’m very glad I didn’t and I can’t believe I’m typing that now.

So heed my warning: I went into this thinking I was going to be fixed like kablamo! And I’m not. I am learning. Treatment Centers are not going to fix you for you; you have to put in work and a lot of work that you’re not going to want to do. Its like going through high school so that you can get into a college. High school (at least for me) really FUCKING sucked. But now that its over, I’m in a college that fits me like a beautiful dress. I just have to get through the high school part of my mental health so that I can graduate and go to the college part of my mental health that makes me feel as wonderful as actual college does. I don’t know if I’m going to get better after 2 more weeks. What I do know, is that I will have the right tools to help me get better, and that’s really really fucking important.

If you’re about to go into treatment for your disorders or anything, you have every right to be scared and even to doubt if you really need this. But if you’re considering it in the first place, that means you do need to. You have to do a trust fall with your therapist and trust that they will catch you and put you on your feet. It will be you though, that will have to do the walking.

Have a day filled with kittens, Okay?

Zoey K.