Getting Anxiety In Public Places

The other day I went grocery shopping all by myself, the first time I have ever done this. I was excited to feel like an adult, shop for my own food and drinks, and without anyone telling me any differently. It was a nice feeling. I was ready for it.

As my roommate and I pulled up to the store, I got out and headed inside. At first, it felt nice. I’m walking around the store when I suddenly realized I didn’t have a cart.

Oh, I thought. Getting a cart might be a good idea.

Despite that little slip-up, I was still feeling positive. Knowing that first and foremost I wanted some Bolthouse Farms juice, I head to the back of the store where they keep the dairy, juice, and things along those lines. As I make my way back there, I soon discover that my said juice is not there.

It’s okay, I told myself. It’s got to me somewhere else in here. In the meantime, what else do I need?

This question left me stumped. It was at that moment I realized I made no list and had absolutely no idea what I wanted except my juice. While this is happening, I’m trying to reach into my brain to think of anything that I like to eat or drink.

Nothing comes to mind.

So of course, like any normal person, my heart starts pounding at about a million miles an hour, and I find my palms sweating, despite how cold it is. Deciding that it’s best to just go look for my juice, I start meandering around the store with no idea what I’m doing.

After finding my juice, I knew that I needed other things. One can’t survive with just juice. I once again ask myself what types of food I want, and again, my brain gives me nothing. I start talking to myself in the middle of the store, trying to calm myself down.

Do I like cereal? Yes, I like cereal. But what kind? Healthy kinds? Sugary kinds? And even if I get cereal, what else do I need? I can barely cook, so meat’s not a good idea, right? Then again, I should probably get meat because everyone needs it. But wait, I can just get the Bolthouse Farms Protein drinks. Yes, that sounds like a good idea. But what else can I eat? Fruit? And what kind? Pineapples, apples, oranges? There’s so many options. Will I even eat it if I buy it? Maybe I should just get some But again, what kind? Nah, I’ll just go get some bagels. But where’s the cream cheese? It’s not over here by the bagels.

Before I knew it, I was hyperventilating, tears forming in my eyes. I noticed several people looking my way, but were they really looking at me? I wasn’t sure. I’m still not. Maybe they were, or maybe it was just my anxiety telling me that their focus was on me.

After a good hour, I leave the store with $122 worth of food. I made it out alive. But did I get everything I needed? Maybe. Maybe not.

Fast-forward to today. I got my financial aid check from my college, and realized I needed some new clothes for the new year. Similar to my shopping experience at the grocery store, I went to Kohl’s and was dropped off by my roommate.

I enter the store, and spend a good five minutes trying to find the guys’ section. Once I get there, I ask myself, Okay, I’m here, now what do I want? What do I need? Some pants is a good idea. But what type of pants do I want?

And similar to the grocery store experience, my chest suddenly tightens up and my eyes begin to water. Instead of letting things get too far this time around, I picked up my phone, and called my mother, who was able to thankfully calm me down and help ease my anxiety through the whole experience.

Both of these experiences have given me some insight into the adult world, but I still have a long way to go. My anxiety is something that I deal with on a day to day basis, and probably will for the rest of my life. My mental illness is real, and regardless of what other people think, it exists in many others as well.

We are not alone. You are not alone.


Depression’s Like A Big Fur Coat

“Depression’s like a big fur coat–it’s made of dead things but it keeps me warm.”
This is a quote from Icon For Hire’s song “Iodine,” which has become one of my favorite songs over the last couple years. Most people here know my story, although some only know bits and pieces. There’s people I can encounter on a daily basis that don’t know me, or don’t know the struggles I’ve gone through, or don’t know the reality of what goes on inside my head.
Back in 2012-2013, I had one of the hardest years of my life. I came to the realization, after many hospitalizations, that I had depression. Some people still refuse to believe that depression is a real thing, but unfortunately it is. It’s not just sadness. It’s not just crying every once in a while. Sometimes it’s as simple as feeling completely numb. Sometimes it’s as simple as being tired all the time, no matter how much sleep you get. Sometimes it can be difficult to get out of bed in the morning and do things that you have to do because you’re supposed to be a responsible young adult.
Writing is something that’s always been important to be, but over the last few years, I’ve used it as a way to channel my feelings. It’s been one of my easiest coping mechanisms and it’s been incredible hearing from readers who tell me that my books have made them realize something about themselves, of that a book of mine has changed their life in some way. When I look back at everything I’ve gone through and then examine where I am now, I see all the obstacles I’ve overcome. On the one hand, it’s refreshing to know that I’m no longer in that place I once was. On the other hand, every phase of life comes with a new set of struggles, and we must learn how to deal with what life throws at us.
Although I’ve overcome many things, the one thing I wish I could say I’ve fully overcome I have not. My depression. Some people may be wondering how that’s possible. How I can seem like this happy person all the time, whether it be at work or somewhere else, and still be depressed. Some wonder how it’s possible to have confidence in myself, yet still have depression.
I wish there was an easy answer, but unless you’ve been in my shoes, it’s not. I made a post a while back about being an empath, and about how everything around me affects my emotions. I’m a highly sensitive human being, and it’s both a good and a bad thing. The problem is that we live in a world full of negativity. There’s not a lot of light that shines through. Several people have told me that they believe most people are inherently good, and maybe that’s true. Over the last two years, I’ve come to realize that even though deep down they’re good, they do not come across that way, especially to me. I’ve been treated poorly by people when I don’t deserve it. I’ve been abandoned by people who swore they’d never leave. I’ve fallen in love yet again, only to have my heart ripped out of my chest. I’ve been played by people who seemingly have nothing better to do than to mess with my emotions.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, as a person who struggles with depression, although a lot of it is internal, external forces have a tendency of making things worse. I always have these two conflicting sides in my head–do I become numb like everyone else and turn into an asshole with no regard for others’ feelings to protect my own, or do I continue to love, to feel, and to be in touch with myself so I don’t fall into the darkness this world creates in people?
When I wrote my novel The Long Road Home, it was one of the most personal books I’ve ever written, and it has reached so many people. It’s my favorite book that I wrote, because I wrote depression as it is. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it can be confusing. Often times it leaves the people surrounding the ill to wonder what the hell is actually going on inside their head.
Part of me feels like a hypocrite. Sometimes I wake up in the morning wondering what right I have to tell people that it gets better when I still have monsters in my mind. I wonder what gave me the right to write the things I do when I’ve not fully recovered myself, and potentially never will.
But that’s the thing about mental illness–it finds a way to tell you these lies. It finds a way to convince you that you’ll never be good enough and that it’s best to just keep quiet. Because if we keep quiet, no one will get better. If we ignore what’s there, no one will get better, and instead will only get worse.
September 2016 is National Suicide Prevention Month. On September 10th (which also happens to be my birthday) it is National Suicide Prevention Day, and my plan is to participate in the Suicide Prevention Walk in Reno.
We all have our battles, and this is mine. Every day I’m struggling, but I’m also overcoming the struggle every day I don’t self-harm or make an attempt on my life. Even though thoughts can be there, as long as I’m not acting, I’m winning. I’ve already won the battle.
Now it’s time to win the war.