It’s been a little quiet around here, huh?
As you may or may not have noticed, I took a bit of an unexpected hiatus from my blog. I didn’t intend to – it just kind of happened. I had the next post drafted and almost ready to put up, I had a list of ideas and fun things that I wanted to write about… and then I just stopped.
There’s no use beating around the bush here, so let me cut to the chase and explain what’s been going on with me. Things are mostly fine, but this post is a long one. You’re about to learn way more about me than you probably ever wanted to, so buckle up and keep reading, if you want 🙂 I also dug through the archives to find some old photos to include in this post to break it up a bit, so…enjoy!
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Being depressed is not something I have ever really written or talked about on this blog or much in my real life either. Unfortunately, it’s something I have struggled with basically as long as I can remember. I have always been an anxious person. Even as a child I always wanted to be in control of my surroundings. I was officially diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety in high school. I knew something was wrong back then because I couldn’t get excited about anything anymore, not even a new Harry Potter movie coming out, which was pretty much the most exciting thing that could happen for normal 16-year-old Kaela.
During that time, I struggled to find enjoyment in anything that normally made me happy. I was on a few different medications for a time, but it turns out that not all antidepressants paired well with my teenage mind and some of them actually made things worse. We tried different meds for a little while before eventually I got tired of trying and failing to find the right recipe, and we stopped. I threw myself into activities at school to keep my mind focused on something other than my feelings.
By the time I graduated and went to college, things seemed to be getting better, or at least tolerable. But I had an even harder time once I got to school. The first year was extremely difficult for me, even more so than I’ve ever told anyone. From the start I had a really hard time making friends and feeling included. I was always a very social person, but suddenly I was withdrawn and not myself. For some reason I was more scared of how people would perceive me than ever before. What was supposed to be a fresh start ended up making me feel more mentally unstable than ever. I became paranoid that all my friends were just pretending to be my friend because they felt bad for me, and that everyone secretly hated me. I always felt like the odd one out. I lost a lot of weight from stress and anxiety and became very self conscious about my appearance around this time. I fell into unhealthy behaviors and erratic, disordered eating habits. Everything made me feel anxious and like I didn’t have control over what was happening in my life.
I had an even harder time academically. I did well in high school and I was used to being good at it without having to try very hard – but college was a whole different story. I wasn’t prepared and did very poorly… when I was able to make myself get up and go at all. I ended up on academic probation because I failed too many classes. I was truly miserable, but I couldn’t get myself to care or change my behaviors. I just felt stupid, lazy and unmotivated. I felt so much guilt about it, like I was wasting everyone’s time (and my parents’ money) and in turn that just made me feel even worse about myself.
In my first semester of sophomore year, I found out about the Disney College Program. It seemed like the perfect time for me to escape for a semester and come back to reality afterwards. I think most people know what actually happened next – I left and never came back. Everything in Disney was so perfect and fun and exciting and I was happier than I’d ever been. It was easy to feel good about myself and everyone around me when I finally had lots of friends and lived at Disney World.
It was up and down after that – I had bad days and good days, but the anxious and sad feelings were always around. I just got better at pushing them to the back of my mind and not listening. But as I got older, they started getting better at pushing back. As I settled into a routine and the shiny nice feelings wore off, the bad ones grew stronger. And it was all made just a bit worse by the fact that I told myself I didn’t have anything to be sad about. I came from a privileged background and lived a seemingly magical life – why couldn’t I get over myself and my feelings, when there were people out there who had it way worse than me?
Plus, the reality of the fact that I dropped out of school and ran away to Disney was becoming extremely harsh. It really hit me hard when I saw my high school friends posting photos from their college graduations. I felt like a complete failure.
I don’t regret leaving school to come to Disney, because I have learned a lot about myself, made the best friends of my life, and met my husband here. I also fully believe that I was not ready at 18 to go off to school. I don’t blame anybody for this – it was what I thought was right for me. But I had no idea what I wanted to do or who I was at the time, and my mental health was in possibly the worst state it’s ever been. Despite all of this – I’ve always felt like I failed because I didn’t finish school. And despite THAT, I couldn’t make myself find the motivation to actually go back and finish. The longer I waited, the harder it was for me to return. It had been years since I was in school – what if I went back and I didn’t know how to do anything anymore? I was so scared of going back and failing again and letting everyone down.
Last year I actually started the process of going back. Tentatively. I was starting to feel stuck in my role at work, and wanted to work on bettering myself and my future opportunities – so I decided it was finally time to go back. And then Guest Relations happened. I got wrapped up in that instead and decided to put off school again til after I got statused in GR. By the time that happened, I was knee deep in another project – planning our wedding. These convenient (but legitimate) excuses kept popping up. I kept myself from thinking about it by staying busy with wedding planning and work, and decided I would get back to it after the wedding.
At the beginning of this year I celebrated 5 years since I moved to Florida and started at Disney. 5 years of happiness and fun memories – but also 5 years of feeling guilty and like I wasted all that time and potential. I told myself that this was the year I would go back. If nothing else, I needed to prove to myself that I could do it, and that I wasn’t a complete failure.
I obviously also got married at the beginning of this year – and it was the best day of my life. I’ve never been so purely happy as I was on our wedding day. I forgot about everything bothering me and was able to focus solely on being happy and enjoying the day. In hindsight I wondered if people without anxiety got to feel like that all the time.
Despite (or perhaps, because of) how amazing I felt on our wedding day and subsequent honeymoon, once we returned home and settled back into normalcy, I was quickly hit with a fresh batch of depressed thoughts. It hit me hard – suddenly life was just supposed to go back to normal after such an extreme high. I also had nothing to pour my anxious energy into anymore, now that all the planning was done. I joked that I was hit with post-wedding depression, but it was true. I had been distracted with other things and now it was coming back in full force.
I know that I’m best at fighting off depressed feelings when I’m distracted with something, so I started making fun travel plans and trying to do things on the weekends with friends, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from my own thoughts. I tried to pick up a new hobby for a change of pace – I decided I would start taking ballet class again. I danced my whole life and missed it so much, why not go back? I bought myself some shoes and a pretty new leotard – and never went. I couldn’t get myself to go. I was too scared.
See? Past Kaela danced for 16 years. But present day me couldn’t muster up the courage to go to class.
That’s been the trend for me lately – I’m scared. Of taking risks or doing anything I can’t control. Which is so sad, because I always used to say I would rather take a risk and regret it later than not try at all and regret not trying. It feels like I’m a completely different person now. I started to get such intense anxiety about ANYTHING I wasn’t used to that I convinced myself terrible things would happen. At least a few nights a week I lay awake in bed and think about every possible bad thing that could happen. I nearly talked myself out of going to hang out with some coworkers a few weeks ago because I was convinced they all secretly hated me and were just making fun of me. Suddenly the thoughts I had at 19 were coming back to me at 25. Except now, I’m self-aware enough to realize that that’s ridiculous, and I really am acting crazy. And then I start to feel bad about myself because of that, and the cycle starts over again.
It’s not like I’ve NEVER been happy these past few months. Obviously I’ve done cool things and had good days… it’s just that when I have bad days, they’re overwhelmingly bad. And I can’t seem to get my mind off of those negative thoughts. Happiness is so fleeting but I seem to have no trouble dwelling on every negative experience or feeling for weeks or months.
I’ve struggled immensely with feeling motivated, excited, happy, or even just…not sad. Anything but sad. I try my best to stop, put my best foot forward and just force myself to be happy. But it’s exhausting. I already have to be smiley and nice at work, and it just takes so much effort to do it all the time. There have been so many times I couldn’t find the strength to do anything but just sit on the couch and cry, because I’m just SO TIRED of being sad all the time. It feels like I’m living in a constant fog. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching the world go by around me so quickly but also everything is happening in slow motion.
So that brings us to here. To this post, my first in two months. I feel guilty for not writing and stopping so abruptly – honestly, I’m sorry about that. But I have said from the beginning that this blog is most of all for myself, and if I didn’t enjoy it I would stop. I couldn’t find the motivation to write anything at all, so I stopped. I waited for it to come back, to feel the familiar urge to click my wordpress bookmark and start working on a post…and it never came. I would try to make myself write a little bit here and there, but I felt uninspired and empty. Today is the first time I’ve been able to write anything in weeks.
I’m not writing this to get sympathy, and I don’t want people to feel bad for me. I just want to tell the truth about why I’ve been absent. I normally only write about the good things, but it’s about time I’m honest about the bad things too. Depression has been a part of my life for YEARS, and despite all the buzz right now about destigmatizing mental health, I still feel a bit embarrassed or even ashamed to talk about it. I know that I shouldn’t be, but it’s hard to justify feeling bad when there’s seemingly nothing wrong. It’s hard to tell people that the reason I can’t hang out with them is because I’m convinced that they hate me. Or that I still like them even if I don’t text back for several hours, because I was too worried about what to say to respond. At times it’s like I’m numb, watching myself from an outsider’s perspective, seeing myself be sad and begging for it to stop. On my worst days I just feel hopeless and lost and above all, just really really sad.
Okay. Pity party over. I’m pleased to say that this is not where the post ends. A few people have reached out to me asking what’s going on, if I’m okay? And the answer is, honestly – I don’t know if I really am? But I will be.
It took me MONTHS to muster up the courage to do it, but I’ve finally made an appointment to see a mental health counselor. My mom put it to me like this: if I had a physical illness, like breaking a bone or hitting my head, I would go to the doctor to get help. So why shouldn’t I go to the doctor if I have a mental illness? I don’t know what’s going to come of it but hopefully it will help! I know making an appointment doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it was intimidating and a big step for me. Also, figuring out insurance is HARD and it took me a long time to sort everything out there too. I’m really excited about and looking forward to my appointment, and hopeful that it’s the first step towards me feeling better.
I’ve also been taking steps at home and in my free time to focus less on negative thoughts. I’ve started meditating which has helped me immensely to calm down and worry less. I’ve also started taking melatonin to help me sleep better. I’m focusing on taking things one day at a time, and making short term plans rather than trying to always look at the big picture and overwhelming myself. I’m also making an effort to tell people about how I’m feeling rather than keeping it to myself, and being more open about mental health. Like I said – that’s part of the reason I’m writing this. It’s a personal issue but I feel like it’s important to share.
Something I’ve found extremely helpful in meditation is this app called Sanity & Self. It’s full of resources and guided meditations, specifically focusing on women’s health. It’s been extremely useful to me in feeling better these past few weeks!
Finally – I’m taking the necessary steps to go back to school. For real! I’ve even got a few friends going as well so I have people to hold me accountable. I took my placement test to sign up for classes, and it turns out I remember a lot more than I expected to! I just went to orientation yesterday and I’m officially signed up for some classes! And for the first time since I left, I actually feel excited to go back to school. I’m in a much better place now with a great support system and resources to help me – in fact, even now as I’m writing this I’ve gotten a TON of really nice and encouraging messages from people when I mentioned I’m going back to school ❤ It’s all happening!!!!
Oh, and I do plan on going to ballet class eventually, once they start up again in the fall. If any of my local friends happen to be reading this and want to come with me so I don’t feel so scared… please let me know 🙂
So that’s what’s been going on with me. Sorry this was so long, and probably a little TMI as well, but I had to let it out. Like I mentioned before this is the first time I’ve wanted to write in ages, so I had to bank on it and I kind of just typed and typed until I got all my thoughts out. I hope that this didn’t scare you off too much (hi to any new readers who have never read my blog before lol) but I felt like it was important to talk about. After all, I wanted this blog to document my life, and this is a big part of my life.
This post wasn’t meant to be like “I was sad and now I’m not!” but more of “I was sad, and I still am, but maybe soon I won’t be as sad.” And I am hopeful that I’m on the right track to doing that and being a better version of myself.
Thank you so much for reading all of this, if you did! I know it’s not my normal content but I plan to get things back to business soon 🙂