“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” 
― Laurell K. Hamilton

I think we all know what it’s like to be stressed, anxious, and depressed. Maybe not at the same time, but we have all experienced those feelings at some point or another. For some of us those feelings are a more constant companion and less of a visitor. The problem with these emotions is that very few of us know how to best deal with them. I certainly do not and I would like to share with you all my story and my struggles.

If I had to pick a moment – or the starting moment where I first felt depressed I think I would have to go back a long time now. Back to when I was real young and it was just my mom and I. No one likes to feel helpless especially when it comes to our family. So while I was growing up and I had to watch my mother in pain and in the hospital knowing there was nothing I could do, that weighed on me.  It has weighed on me my entire life.  So while I was in grade school periodically I would just feel down all the time. I would be stricken by this unexplainable sadness and sense of despair that looking back now I realize was my first experience with depression. That sense of hopelessness that grips you by the heart and holds you hostage to yourself. Given how young I was there was no chance I could have known what I was experiencing and there was no way I could have gone to anyone to ask for help because I didn’t even know what to ask. In a way I would say that I have gotten better with depression and handling it, but honestly it’s not true. There are periods now where I am just struck by depression most of the time there is no real reason for it asides from everyday problems, and every now and then there will be a big catastrophe which will cause me to be depressed more reasonably. Such as the death of family members, or if my mom has to deal with a particularly nasty kidney stone or other illness. Things that will cause normal people to feel sad and depressed. But most of the time I feel down it has nothing to do with what is going on around me. It’s just that black hand around my heart, tightening its grip once again just to remind me that it’s still there, and that I am not free of its clutches.

As for stress we all know what stress is, as we all have stressors in our lives. But many of us have ways of handling stress that help us cope with it so as to avoid having stress begin to cause health problems. For me, I like to listen to music, draw, read, and write. For as long as I can remember I have been crutching on those four things to get me through the stresses of life. The pain of feeling helpless that has been with me most of my life. Those four things have been my best friends as they’ve always been there for me. With that said, however, I must mention that there are people with whom I am able to talk to when I am feeling stressed, but sometimes they just don’t help, and that is not their fault. Because sometimes we encounter so much stress that our normal methods of coping don’t work, and all that stress starts to pile on one after the other until the weight gets to be much to bear. I’ve experienced that a number of times in my life where my coping methods have failed me, but I’ve generally just waited things out and they have fixed themselves. I’m at a point now where I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Over the course of 2012, 2013, and 2014 I have lost a family member each year, and I feel that the stress of those three deaths have begun to finally take their collective toll on me. With the added stress of college, and the huge life choices I have to make, that I have started to question, my health has started getting affected. Over the past few months I am so anxious and stressed over the decisions in school that I’ve made that it has begun to be the focus of my thoughts every moment of every day.

As of last week I have begun experiencing constant chest pain, and I went to get it checked out, because you don’t mess around with heart pain. The Doctor ran an EKG on me and informed me that everything was normal and after talking to me for a while informed me that I was more than likely experiencing anxiety attacks and that was the source of my chest pain. Which honestly makes sense given the amount of stress I have been under recently. I think last week was just too much for me given that it would have been my Grandfather’s Birthday on Wednesday and my Great Grandfather’s Birthday on Thursday, I think that combined with everything else just hit me harder than anything I could deal with. So now stuck with what to do. I am stressed beyond anything I have ever dealt with before, I am dealing with an anxiety attack that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, and I am dealing with the general depression of a grief that does not seem to be getting any easier. To be honest with you all, I have no idea what to do.

I understand that I cannot continue on like I am currently for an extended period of time. I understand that if I were to do that it would wear me down and my health would only get worse. So the question that is posed to be is what do I do? I would love to say that I knew the answer to that question to maybe help you all out with your own problems. But the truth is I don’t know, and for me all I can do is take things one minute at a time. Not one day at a time – no I have to take things one minute at a time because for me as it stands right now that is the only way I will continue go on.

Change: A Look in the Mirror

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. – George Bernard Shaw

Changing oneself is often one of the hardest things that we asman-looking-up-at-mt-everest people can undertake, but there comes a time in almost everybody’s life where we have to change or continue living our lives in a way that we don’t want. Recognizing and accepting the need for change is often as hard as the actual process of changing is itself.  Therefore, the whole ordeal is not an easy one, but a necessary one, and that’s what we have to accept.

So as I sit here writing this at 19 years of age, you might be wondering what I know of change, and you’d be right to ask because I’ve asked myself that same question many times before. Before I begin, let me try and answer that question. I consider myself a thoughtful person, and as such a reflective person as well. This has led me to think over the things that I have both experienced myself, and seen others experience that have helped to shape me into who I am today. I have seen members of my family destroy themselves because they refused to recognize that they needed to make a change in their lives. I have seen people I care about push me away because they are too afraid to make the change that they readily admit that they need, and all of it hurts. So I want to think that I know about change, and whether or not I do is up to you to decide.

So let me tell you my story.

When we are growing up we never think that anything will ever happen to us. We have a hard time accepting the fact that we aren’t invincible. Where I went wrong was thinking I wasn’t like this. I consciously thought that I didn’t think I was invincible, but I was wrong.  At some level I thought I was invincible in my youth and I could do what I want without fear of repercussions. This, as you can imagine led to some pretty poor outcomes. I’ve always been someone who does things to excess – I really don’t know when to stop. If I find something I like I will just continue to do it. For example if I find a new song that I really like, I will basically listen to it repeatedly until I can’t stand it anymore. However, the problem with that example is that unlike with music I don’t always end up stopping whatever it is I’m doing to excess. Another example would be when I get to college I didn’t want to change how I went about studying and participating in class, and that didn’t work. But college was another world entirely and it wasn’t something I was prepared for, honestly.

College for me was a place for me to hide from the things that had always brought me down at home. My social anxiety that had plagued me for moHIDING-BEHIND-A-TREE12st of high school, which essentially made my social life non-existent outside of the school grounds, because I was terrified to ask people to hang out. I realized one day that it wasn’t some outside factor that was holding me back from socializing, rather, it was me holding myself back. Slowly, I overcame that particular challenge.  To this day whenever I ask people to hang out, there is a part of me that is still terrified, but now I don’t let that hold me back. College has allowed me to start over and make new friends.  These friends were ones I could actually hang out with outside of class because that was pretty much the only opti on. College for me was essentially me looking away from the problems that faced me at home. There, I was introduced to things that I said I would never do, and yet I ended up doing anyways. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I didn’t struggle with doing things to excess. During my freshman year there came a point where it became essentially impossible to hide from the problems at home. As my grandfather was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, things only continued to deteriorate with my own struggles, I now realize looking back.

I entered into my sophomore year (I am currently a sophomore) a few weeks after my grandfather died, and that hit me hard – harder than I ecarcliff_1248817cven realized. Things got so bad for me that I brought myself to the very edge of ruin. I was basically in a car teetering on the edge of a cliff and if I leaned too far forward that would be the end of me. So when I hit my rock bottom, I knew I needed to change, and I knew I needed to do it fast. I’ve sought help and I’ve started to make the changes that I need to live the kind of life that I want to live.

There is a reason I shared this story with you – and that is because I want you all to understand that you don’t need to come so close to the edge of ruin like I did. I believe that all of us know when we need to change something in our lives and so the problem lies not in us figuring out that we need to change but in recognizing that need. If I had only taken the time to look in the mirror and think for a second I would have known what I had needed to do far sooner and I would have saved a lot of people a lot of hurt and worry. So I want to end this with a challenge and a quote – I want to all of you who know you are flawed and know you need to change to take a step forward the distance does not matter so as long as you are going forward and not backwards.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek – Barack Obama