What Is Dysthymia? [Mental Health Monday]

In January 2010, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Ten years later, in January 2020, another diagnosis was added to my list: Dysthymia.

Mental Health Monday: What is Dysthymia? | Mental Health Matters | Mental Health | Depression | Dysthymia | Self-Care | RachelPoli.com

When I left my doctor’s appointment last January, I checked my updated chart and noticed a new diagnosis. My appointment was a routine check-up but I also wanted to touch upon my mental health.

Since being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2010, I never understood it. I didn’t take the time to learn about it, to learn about myself. I thought a diagnosis meant something was wrong with me. There’s no “cure” for such a thing, but I wondered how I could “fix” myself. It was until 2018 or so that I started to dive into researching this mental illness. I started to understand the way I think and why I think that way. I read stories from other people with similar problems and it was nice to see I’m not the only person who would react in such a way during a certain situation.

2019 was rough

This is no secret. I probably complained about 2019 as a whole, countless times – to friends and family, on the internet in live streams, social media or blog posts, and more. It was a weird year where a lot of things happened and my mental health wasn’t great on top of it. What bothered me the most was that I didn’t know what was causing my dip in mental health.

Was it because of all the hardships that 2019 brought with it? Was it my anxiety finding a new way to present itself? I wasn’t sure, but I was sad. All the time.

I still worked (for the most part – some things fell to the wayside, like this blog), I still went out with friends and family. Deep down, I was sad and moody though. Some days there was a reason for feeling like this and other times, there wasn’t. On most days it didn’t matter how I felt, I was tired. I was beyond drained all the time.

Anxiety does this to you but I had never felt like this before. I wasn’t sure if it was my anxiety getting worse for some reason so I tried all I could to keep it at bay, dong things I learned from my therapy sessions years ago. I wondered if I needed to go back on medication for my anxiety. I toyed with the idea of going back to therapy. I hoped I could figure it out on my own though.

In the end, I waited for my physical to arrive and I would get my doctor’s opinion.

From April 2019 to January 2020

The end of April was when it started. Each day, I kept thinking it would get better. A lot of real-life things were happening and I figured I was stressed out and my anxiety was having a field day because of it. Some days were better than others, of course. On those better days, I thought I was good and there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but it never lasted too long.

My grandmother was in and out of the hospital from November 2018 to February 2019. My sister had a baby in March 2019, which was great. Then my grandfather was in and out of the hospital from April 2019 all the way until December 2019. As you can tell, 2019 was filled with a lot of hospital visits, a place that already gives me anxiety regardless. So, as you can probably tell, this is why I thought I felt sad and stressed all the time. Things were weird.

I want to take a quick minute to apologize to 2019

I’m going to interrupt myself for a second.

2019 sucked, but I have to admit that I’m grateful now for all those things happening when they did. My grandparents are both home and well (as well as they can be, at least).

I can’t imagine my grandparents and my sister having a baby in 2020 in the middle of the Coronavirus. 2019 took one for the team, I have to say. If my grandparents didn’t have their problems in 2019, they would have had them in 2020.

Due to the virus, I wouldn’t have been able to visit them. My grandfather’s immune system is shot and my grandmother’s fragile. Both of them probably would have caught the virus and not been here with us today.

So, despite my complaining and nasty words to 2019, I’m changing my perspective and apologizing for being rude to 2019. It was rough, but my family got through it, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that it happened then and not now.

I’m lucky enough to save my thoughts and prayers for all those who are being truly effected by the virus right now.

I suspected I had depression

Anyway, I knew anxiety and depression can go hand-in-hand. I wondered if I was depressed (it was a question when I was diagnosed with anxiety ten years ago) but some part of me didn’t think that was the case. 2019 had a lot going on. (There’s more to it than what just happened with my family, but I’m not going into the other details.)

When I talked to my doctor, he mentioned Seasonal Affective Disorder – which is something else I’ve noticed about myself. I tend to get down more so in the winter months than any other time. However, since this was going on for nearly a year and it started in spring, he was hesitant about it.

Dysthymia was the conclusion

We had a good discussion and, honestly, I’ve felt better since talking to him. I still have my days, of course, but the sadness wasn’t as prominent once I officially was diagnosed.

Of course, I looked at my chart and noticed “Dysthymia” was listed. I didn’t even know how to pronounce it – my doctor never mentioned it. I Googled it when I got home and, according to Google, Dysthymia is “persistent mild depression.”

So, there we have it. After ten years, ironically to the month, I have a type of depression. After ten years, my suspicions about myself were right.

I knew there were different types of anxiety but when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, I hadn’t heard that specific type before. Dysthymia is the same way. I know there are different types of depression but dysthymia is not something I’ve ever heard of.

What a decade

While so many people were looking back at their decades from 2009 through 2019, during the month of January 2020, I looked back at my mental health from the last decade. I feel like I was just beginning to make strides and truly understand generalized anxiety disorder and myself. Now I feel like I’m going back to the drawing board.

This isn’t a bad thing – it’s who I am, it’s the cards I was dealt. I’m older and have a clearer head on my shoulders now at the age of 26 rather than when I was 16. I won’t shove my diagnosis aside and try to be “better.” I won’t wait eight or nine years to learn more about my mental illness and myself. Yet, while I feel a little better having an official diagnosis, I feel sort of bad at the same time. I thought I was doing great and, while I suspected this for a while, it seemed to have come out of nowhere.

But I’m okay and I’ll figure it out.

Mental Health Monday

This is another reason why I decided to turn Mental Health Monday into a weekly feature instead of monthly. I want to learn more about my mental illnesses. I want to learn more about myself.

I know I’m not the only person dealing with mental illness. I know I’m not the only person who’s trying to figure things out. I know I’m not the only person who is confused by their diagnosis. I know I’m not the only person who hates their mental illness one day and then is at peace with it and accepts it the next day.

I know I’m not the only person who sometimes feels I’m the only one in the entire world with generalized anxiety disorder and dysthymia.

Let’s learn about it together.

Let’s cope together.

Let’s talk about it.

Take care of yourself.

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What My Anxiety Attacks Are Like [Mental Health Mondays]

Thankfully, I haven’t had an anxiety attack in a while. I used to get them frequently when I was in school and, on occasion, I’ll get the feeling that I’m going to have one, but tend to talk myself out of it. If I do have an anxiety attack though, this is what it typically feels like for me.

Mental Health Mondays: What My Anxiety Attacks Are Like | Anxiety | Generalized Anxiety Disorder | Mental Health | Mental Health Matters | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Hot Flash

Usually, when I begin to have an anxiety attack, I start to get a hot flash everywhere. I get clammy hands, sweaty everywhere, it’s gross. And it’s not a nice feeling either. I think I start to feel this way when I get overwhelmed and my body is trying to tell me to step outside and just get some air. When I begin to feel this way, I try my best to find a bathroom just to splash some cold water on my face or anything to cool myself down.

I love the summer, it’s my favorite season. I also would rather be hot than cold. However, that doesn’t help when I’m out in public and get hot. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s the weather or I’m about to have an anxiety attack… in which case, I often work myself up to have an attack.

Shaking and Dizziness

These two go hand in hand sometimes. I’ll feel shaky and unsteady on my feet or get the feeling that the floor is moving or uneven. Then I’ll get dizzy and start to feel claustrophobic. I normally get this way in stores or restaurants. I felt this way all the time when I was in school. If I’m in a place that has little to no windows, then forget it. The entire room will be spinning for me.

I normally try to find a way out of where ever I am when I start to feel this way. Depending on the situation, I can sometimes stick it out, but I usually need to leave.

No Vision

If the anxiety attack gets far enough, I’ll lose my vision. I’ll basically blackout, but I’m not passed out. I’m still conscious and can hear things going on and such, but I just can’t see. It’s a weird thing and I don’t know if that happens to anyone else or not. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened in a while, but when it does, I just have to sit and let it pass. Once it does, I’ll be dizzy for a few moments while my body gets back to normal.

Shortness of Breath

This usually happens at any time, but mostly if the anxiety attack gets bad enough that I need to just let it pass and get through it. A million things can go through my head when I have an attack because it feels like I’m dying. Thus, shortness of breath. I also have asthma so mix that in with thinking I’m dying and… yeah.

Exhaustion

Once all of this is over, I’m down for the count for the rest of the day. It puts such a strain on my mind and body that I am super tired. The last thing I want to do is work, socialize, go anywhere, or do anything. It’s not fun.

Of course, tiredness comes with the package as a whole. Anxiety makes me feel tired all the time and having an attack just makes it worse.

Overall, anxiety attacks aren’t fun and I know people experience different things when they have an attack. I also know some are more severe than others. This is what I usually go through when I have an anxiety attack. Luckily, as I said before, I haven’t had one in a while. Usually, I tend to get them in the middle of the night too so at least it doesn’t interfere with work or anything else during the day. It doesn’t make it any less annoying though.

Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Going To The Movies [Mental Health Mondays]

When it comes to anxiety, some triggers for myself are known and some aren’t. Going to the movies is one of those known triggers for me. In fact, movies, in general, can be a trigger for me. However, I finally went to the movie theater for the first time in forever a few months ago.

Mental Health Monday: Going To The Movies | Anxiety | Generalized Anxiety Disorder | Mental Health Matters | RachelPoli.com

Why Movies?

Honestly, I have no idea why movies are a trigger for me. I’m not one for blood and gore and, I think, with the more serious kinds of movies, not knowing what to expect or what will happen throws me off. I used to be able to watch superhero movies like Iron Man with ease and now that kind of stuff bothers me. I still watch them though because I love those movies, but I can only take one or two movies at a time.

I can watch PG-13 movies to a certain point, but I’ve never watched a rated R movie before (not willingly, at least). Needless to say, I can’t and will never do horror. There are exceptions, of course, though when watching a movie for the first time, it can be rough for me.

Why they’re a trigger for me, I don’t know. I think a lot of it stems from school. We’d watch movies that, I personally believe, were not age-appropriate. In ninth grade, my biology teacher gave the substitute a movie for us to watch and it was similar to America’s Funniest Home Videos but it was called That’s Gotta Hurt and was totally bloody and people were getting hurt and screaming. It was not entertaining in the least bit. The sub happened to be the most infamous one among all the students and he refused to let me go to the nurse thinking I was trying to get out of class… because we were totally busy, right?

Long story short, I had an anxiety attack and passed out in front of the class.

More Examples

In eighth grade, we watched a rated R movie about some war and I have certain bloody scenes embedded in my mind.

In fifth grade, we watched Pirates of the Carribean. I love that movie now, but at the time, I was deathly afraid of the pirates and skeletons. I spent that whole time with my eyes closed.

In third grade, that was when 9/11 tragically happened. My teachers were in a panic and, rightfully so, couldn’t focus on work. They brought in the TVs to the classrooms and we watched it all happen on live TV. Their reasoning was that it was “history in the making.” Of course, they didn’t mean that in a good way. I can’t begin to imagine what people went through who were actually present and had loved ones pass away. However, for an eight-year-old watching that live on TV… it was pretty scarring.

Needless to say, whenever I saw a TV in the classroom, I immediately felt anxiety to the point where I would fake being sick or lie to my teachers and tell them my parents didn’t allow me to watch whatever it was we were watching.

I Shied Away From Movies

Throughout the years, I became more and more distant to movies. Cartoon movies and such are totally fine but rated R and some rated PG-13 movies along with live-action or even CGI are tough for me to watch. Despite all that I just said, I still don’t entirely understand why. Again, I think it may be the unknown of what’s going to happen in the movie but I haven’t pinpointed the exact reasoning.

This grew to affect the movie theater as well. I was never one for loud noises, crowds, or the dark – all of which can describe a movie theater. I stopped going to the theater when Fantastic Four came out in 2015. I went with Kris and our friend and I ended up leaving in the middle of the previews. I never went back to the theater after that. Only on the occasion when a new Disney movie came out or something. Then I might go, but I usually waited for the DVD. That way, I could pause and walk away if I needed a break.

Aside from the occasionally Disney movie exception, there was one movie in particular that I was determined to see.

Detective Pikachu

Detective Pikachu came out in May 2019 and I couldn’t resist not seeing it. It’s Pokemon, which I adore, and I’ve been waiting for this movie for so long. CGI and live-action have been daunting to me because there can be some scary or trippy scenes. (And there was.) But, I made it work.

I’ve never forced myself to work on going to the movie theater. One thing I learned from therapy was to pick and choose my battles. School gave me anxiety, but I needed to work through that as it was stopping me from doing something important in my life. Going to the movies is just a fun activity that I could live without. Plus, there are DVDs and streaming. In fact, it saves me money in the long run.

I didn’t want my anxiety to stop me from seeing a Pokemon movie though. It was something I looked forward to for so long. Being in the gaming community, I would have sorely missed out on Twitter conversations talking about the movie. It’s not the same watching it on a DVD for the first time months after everyone has stopped talking about it.

I Was Prepared

We got our tickets early and went opening weekend so we could get the special Detective Pikachu Pokemon cards (another incentive for me to go). So, I knew it was coming for a few weeks. I was mentally preparing myself.

When I go to the movies, I have my worry stone and bring a cold drink and a snack. The food helps me focus on something else if I need a distraction from the big screen in front of me. For Detective Pikachu, I hid an entire bag of cheese pretzels in my backpack – they were so good!

I sat in between Kris and our friend Nickie and we were also in the back, which I prefer if I need to step outside for some air. I also had two other friends with me to cuddle with – Detective Pikachu himself and Psyduck.

Kris and I went to Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks before the movie and I found plush toys from the movie. Psyduck talks and Detective Pikachu, oddly enough, doesn’t. I got both of them though because Psyduck is one of my favorite Pokemon and Detective Pikachu is the title character. ($40 later…)

I had both plushes in my lap throughout the movie (I even brought them into the restaurant with us for dinner before the movie). I had anxiety, yes. That was to be expected. However, when the movie actually started, all of that seemed to go away.

I’m Still Anti-Movie Theaters

After that, I’ve gone back to the theater to see Toy Story 4 and that’s it. I had a good time at Detective Pikachu, but I’m still not thrilled of the idea of going to a movie theater. As fun as seeing Detective Pikachu was, it took a lot out of me. I’m going to continue picking and choosing my battles.

But at least I can say I won that one.

Mental Health Monday: Going To The Movies | Anxiety | Generalized Anxiety Disorder | Mental Health Matters | RachelPoli.com

Can you relate to any of this? What was the last movie you saw at the theater? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around!

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Getting Out Of A Funk [Mental Health Mondays]

We’re back with another Mental Health Month talking about getting out of a funk. I’ve been absent for a bit so I thought I’d share some things I did to get out of my funk.

Mental Health Monday: Getting Out Of A Funk | Anxiety | Mental Health Matters | Mental Health Awareness | Generalized Anxiety Disorder | RachelPoli.com

Getting Out Of A Funk

An Accidental Break

I didn’t mean to take a hiatus. I knew I needed to take a step back but I didn’t mean to disappear for a bit. I was still working off and on but not nearly as much as I normally do. This isn’t a complaint – it’s definitely something I needed. It’s interesting to me how your mind and body just seem to know what’s best for you. I had no motivation, no inspiration, and honestly, I didn’t care that I wasn’t blogging or writing. I took the hint and, even though I still tried to work, the rest of me shied away from it.

So, yeah. I disappeared for about a month. Actually, I think it was over a month. I think my hiatus had started before I announced it because I didn’t realize I was on a hiatus. Even when I announced it, I’m pretty sure I said, “I’m not taking a hiatus.” Well… that turned out well.

Giving Up Social Media

One of the things I needed to do to get away from it all and take a break was to get away from social media. Sure, I still occasionally scrolled through Twitter and Instagram. I checked my personal Facebook from time to time. I never posted though. (My feed on Twitter and Instagram look really weird.) I stuck to the shadows, never engaged in conversation, and didn’t bother to post so people would start a conversation. I didn’t have any blog posts to promote at the time, so that was one less thing I needed to worry about as well. While it was weird to be watching my social media from afar, not posting or replying, it was a nice break. I wasn’t using it as much and it freed up so much more of my time.

What I’m Doing Now

With all that said, I’m back. I’m back to posting regularly on Twitter and Instagram. I’m engaging in conversations again. I’m participating and co-hosting #TheMerryWriter again with my good, patient friend, Ari Meghlen, as well as helping out with the #85K90 Twitter. I’m promoting my blog posts again as well as my writing. I’m talking about everyday life. I’m reading and engaging in other posts. So, what exactly has changed other than the fact that I took a break from all this for a month?

Believe it or not, I don’t post in “real time.” I use Buffer, like most bloggers, to set up scheduled Twitter and Instagram content to promote blog posts, books, and more. I have the Buffer Pro Plan in which I can schedule 100 posts per social media account at a time. I had my Twitter set up that I needed to sit down each week and set up my posts. This took up a lot of my time. I now have it set up so that I can sit down once a month and get my Twitter set up for the upcoming month. This has saved me so much time and sanity.

Of course, that’s just general promotion. I’m still on social media in real time talking engaging with others and talking about my day and things like that. But that’s another difference – I actually have time to do that now.

Blogging Break

I didn’t mean to stop blogging and I certainly didn’t mean to stop writing. However, there were so many things overwhelming me at the time and I felt like I was going to explode. I publish a blog post every day and that eventually takes a toll on you. I love publishing every day and toyed with the idea of cutting back on posting, but I honestly really like having content every day. So, where do I go from here? How can I continue this without burning myself out?

I’ve always wanted to be a month ahead. My Short Story Sunday and Writing Prompts are always done the year before. So, really, I only have five posts to write each week. I have a few monthly features – the quotes, mental health, healthy writer, and more – that I can write ahead of time as well. If you think about it, it’s only 12 posts a year. I actually got a good chunk of it done already. I just need to create the graphics, schedule it on WordPress, and figure out a sharing plan. So, instead of sitting down one day a week and doing the posts weekly and trying to squeeze in an extra here and there (I never end up sitting down each week – I’m constantly working on the blog). I said, screw June and got to work on July instead.

What I’m Doing Now

I’m actually blogging a month ahead. I made a list of “Summer Goals” for myself of things I want to get done in June, July, and August. During the month of June, even though I wasn’t posting on the blog, I was setting up the blog for July. I wrote the blog posts, gave my pages a make-over, and more. Of course, there’s still some work to be done that I’m working on, but for the most part, July is all set. Now I can start working on August’s content so that, I’ll be ahead.

In addition, different kinds of posts will be coming. During this break, I thought of so many other ideas for blog posts. This will no longer be a strictly writing and reading blog, but some lifestyle posts sprinkled in along with other things. I hope this keeps the content fresh and interesting for all of us.

Creative Block

No, I didn’t exactly have writer’s block. I still wanted to write, but I just didn’t want to write anything I was working on. Plus, I wanted to be creative, but I didn’t want to use the written word to do so. I wanted to work on my photography or find some DIY crafts to try. I wanted to create new skills for myself, try and learn something new and different. I flip-flopped so many times wondering what I wanted to do. Did I want to try something completely new? Or work on something I already had? The DIY section on Pinterest was y best friend for quite a while.

The thing is, I never actually did any of it. I bought some things to create something, but I never ended up doing anything with it. I still plan to in the near future, but I actually ran out of time to use it due to real life happenings. With that said, the planning was fun and I have that as a fall back if I ever get stressed and need a break from my other creative projects. In the end, though, it somehow put me back into the writing mood.

What I’m Doing Now

I don’t know why or how – maybe it was just the fact I took a month off. Maybe it’s because it’s Camp NaNo time this month. Maybe my characters have been impatient with me and are finally giving me a kick in the pants. Or maybe it’s all the Marvel movies I’ve been watching lately. Whatever it is, I’m writing again. And I have so many new ideas as well.

The thing is, even though I had been writing and going through the motions, I haven’t had any new novel ideas in a really long time. Normally, I start many projects and don’t know what to work on. But it’s been at least a year since I’ve come up with a new novel idea. Which is totally unlike me. Now, I’m rolling in ideas. I sat down and created a brand new novel timeline for myself for the rest of this year and into 2020.

I explained it to my sister through Discord, sending her a huge, long paragraph explaining my plans. Her response? “Wow, that’s a lot… Glad you’re starting to sound like yourself again.”

We all know I plan and over-plan things and this has felt good. It’s made me get back my mojo and I’m eager to get back to work.

Getting Out Of A Funk – What’d I Actually Do?

I don’t really know. I explained it all. I feel good. I don’t know what I did along the way to caused me to bounce back. This past month has been horrendous for my anxiety and, for a while, I thought all of this hard work – everything I’ve built since 2012 – was done. I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back at all.

But, I think, deep down, something inside me has other plans. I’m glad I was able to work through this on my own (with some support from family, of course) and I’m happy to be back to my normal self.

How’s my anxiety? Still present. But I feel much better than I have been.

How do you do when getting out of a funk? Also, tell me how you’ve been lately. Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Nothing’s Wrong With Me [Mental Health Mondays]

I’ve had Generalized Anxiety Disorder since I was 16 – at least, that’s when I was diagnosed with it. I’m halfway to 26 and I feel like I’m just coming to terms with the fact that nothing’s wrong with me.

Mental Health Mondays: Nothing's Wrong With Me | Mental Health Matters | Mental Health | Anxiety | Generalized Anxiety Disorder | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Somedays I’m Rough Around The Edges

There are days where I feel like I’m totally out of my element. I don’t feel like talking to anyone, but I feel lonely. Little things bother me, I take what people say the wrong way, I have mood swings. My mind is always spinning and I can’t stop thinking about things that are not too big of a deal.

But Somedays I’m More Down To Earth

Yet, there are some days where I feel the complete opposite. I might ignore text messages one day and the following day I try to talk to everyone in my contacts. Part of this is because I feel bad for ignoring them earlier, but it’s mostly because I actually want to talk to people. I feel good enough to engage in conversation.

Somedays I’m Sad

There are days when I get out of bed and move straight to the couch. I’ll try to get writing or blogging done, but I stare at my computer screen instead. I want to cry, though there’s nothing to cry about. I get zero things done during the day and at the end of the day, I’m angry at myself for not getting anything accomplished. Yes, I know it’s good to take a day off and take breaks, but my mind doesn’t see it that way sometimes.

But Somedays I’m Happy

Yet, there are some days where I’m all over the place. I’m extremely happy and bouncy for no reason. I get everything on my to-do list done and then some. I’m talkative, I’m awake, and I want to be around people.

Every Day I’m Me

Everyone goes through mood swings. Everyone has good days and bad days. We all feel like we have it worse than everyone else – and for some, that’s true. But we also have it better than someone else as well. We just don’t realize it.

So, yeah. Somedays I’m easy to be around and other days I’m not. But it’s me all the same.

Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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