What doesn't kill you, truly makes you stronger!
Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Welcome back! It’s been far too long and you’ve always been on my mind.
I hope you are well.
I am aware that my absence was longer than I initially mentioned in April. However, my life took an unexpected turn and I just couldn't write.
I have so many things to write about now. Therefore, this article is going to be really long…
The purpose of opening up about these experiences is to bring more awareness about mental struggles and recognising if you are going through similar ones.
This year hit me bloody hard and I am finally able to talk about it. Opening up about things that have caused me so much pain is very difficult, but I strongly believe that it is necessary for me in order to heal, I hope my story can also help others as well. I am done repressing and minimising my emotions!
Let’s start with the beginning. Remember what happened in Scotland? I remember feeling fine, then 1-2 hours that I can’t remember at all while I was so sick and shaking, and then I was randomly aware and terrified because, the mother of the child I was looking after, was wasted, very close to me, shouting and she almost hit me while she was holding a glass of wine. She also threatened me and called me names…
That day, my heart did not go lower than 130 even when I was doing nothing, I did not feel safe at all. I checked my phone and I took videos of myself for my friends in those hours that I can’t remember and I was completely fine, not intoxicated. So what happened? How does a person go from being sober and okay, to a blackout of 1 or 2 hours, and then to being completely aware with no hungover and yet terrified and feeling like something awful happened? Well, my mind doesn’t want to remember and maybe that’s for best. I thought I was okay but I am used to pretending that I am fine and minimising my emotions so it won’t look like I’m ‘making a big deal’.
Every time I thought about that night, my hands would start shaking and anxiety would take over. I had so many nightmares for months…
Until March, I had constant insomnia and I was exhausted all the time…
My appetite went down and I was barely eating while my weight went up suddenly.
I had random panic attacks and my body was always alert. I isolated myself because most of the time I was no able to leave the house. Everything was startling me and then my heart wouldn’t slow down for at least an hour. I could barely leave the house during the day and then I was trying to go for a quick walk at night, but the darkness made me feel unsafe. The only thing that helped was Xanax (quite high doses), which I am still using noways but a few times a month instead of daily. I considerably lowered the dose and I never felt addicted to it, but it this was the only thing that helped me sleep and stay asleep (I am aware of the side effects). However, it did not help with the constant exhaustion. No amount of caffeine could make me feel even slightly more energised, I was just drained. I felt like fainting randomly many times, even when I was seated or laying in bed. My body was in pain; even when my mind wasn’t racing, it was just foggy and empty. Eventually I decided to try a food sensitivity test and so many foods were affecting my body, it also showed that my B12 levels are low. I attempted to get some blood tests, and the doctor told me that my iron was so low that it was about to become iron deficiency. I had to take pills for 6 months, and I wouldn’t say it helped that much.
In May I decided to try the free counselling service offered by my university. I really tried to open up about certain things from my past and this counsellor made the following comment ‘You have seriously been through so much, you are lucky you are not in a mental hospital now.’ Ahm… that is not something that a counsellor should say, plus I did not even open up about the truly traumatic events. I had a few sessions with her but every time it made me feel awful about my life. During the last session she told me that I will need long term psychotherapy to start feeling better and see some improvements. Noted!
I found a great private holistic therapist in July and ever since I have been having weekly sessions with her. She has never made me feel bad about myself and I am finally doing better. However, I have been diagnosed with depression, dysregulated nervous system and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Let’s talk about PTSD and how I acted like I am fine when my body was screaming for help. I lost track of hours and days, everything was blending in for me. My most common symptoms: dissociation, depersonalisation, stuck on flight-or-fight mode, inability to focus, increased forgetfulness and disrupted sleep patterns.
Some of them are quite self-explanatory, however what is dissociation? In plain words, dissociation means disconnecting from your thoughts, feelings, memory and sense of identity. In my case, it would happen randomly, I couldn’t think at all and I lost track of time, it felt like daydreaming but unable to actually dream. I didn’t have so many episodes of depersonalisation but they would mostly happen outside when I was walking. Everything was fine, then suddenly I couldn’t feel my body. I was completely numb and it felt like I am dreaming and seeing myself.
It’s still difficult to describe these symptoms but I think I was quite explicit.
I lost eight months of this year unable to be present, being trapped in my own mind and constantly feeling like I am in danger. Ironically it took another traumatic event to wake me up from this state. At the beginning of August, I went to Bulgaria for a week. This was the first time in probably six years that I went to the seaside and wore a bathing suit. I have always been so self conscious about my body, now that I gained weight back I didn’t think I would be capable of feeling confident. However, I did not care and for the first time I didn’t feel the need to hide my body. Can you guess what else I did for the first time in public? I wore shorts! This is a huge accomplishment for me, I don’t hate my body anymore. So what If I gained weight back? A number on a scale does not define me and I actually feel good in my own body now. I had a great time and I was even taking naps during the day. I can’t do that normally.
For that week, it’s like my anxiety vanished completely!
When we were driving back home, something strange kept happening to the car. It kept decelerating on the highway and then start working just fine, this kept going on for probably two hours. I was sitting at the front, next to my step dad and I was reading, and then out of the blue I felt the need to look in front of me. The steering wheel is on the left so I was sitting on the other seat, we were on the left lane and the car randomly slowed down considerably. On the other lane, there was a truck and in a matter of seconds it would have hit us, me directly, if the car hadn’t slowed down in that precise moment. The truck driver was speeding and fell asleep while driving, it almost hit the car in front of us if it wasn’t for my step dad and his reflex to horn so fast. The driver regained consciousness for a bit, went back to the right lane and we managed to overtake. Probably two minutes later, we saw that truck hitting the guardrail barrier at full speed. The driver lost control but luckily no other car was hit. I could count my lucky seconds, because I cannot forget how fast that truck almost hit me.
I don’t think I would have survived that and certainly my family could have died from the impact as well…
The family car was checked afterwards and nobody could find anything that caused the car to act the way it did. Let’s just say that I believe a higher force saved me that day. After the truck incident, the car stopped having problems and we returned home safely. I am grateful to be alive today!
I returned to the U.K. few days later and I got so sick for over a week. Ever since, I have finally started getting better. My therapist seemed to be in shock when I told her about this and I was completely calm, I just couldn’t really think. After some time, it came to me, it’s like I was finally waking up. A wave of emotions hit me, I stopped feeling numb. I cried and thanked the Universe for making sure that I am okay. I stopped being in denial about my mental struggles, I found out that I had a high cortisol level all these months. For those that don’t know, cortisol is also known as the stress hormone, it’s created by the adrenal glands located on your kidneys. It’s responsible for regulating your metabolism. It sends your body into fight-or-flight mode and it’s essential for survival. However, when you get stuck in this mode, your cortisol level becomes excessive and harmful to you.
PTSD is also linked to high cortisol which can cause weight gain; insomnia and waking up in the middle of the night feeling like you didn’t sleep at all, and unable to fall asleep fast afterwards or not at all; constant fatigue and depression.
Let’s talk about depression, my therapist said that it seems to be mostly caused by the environment I live in and I should really move out.
Since I left London, I lived in the same house for almost a year. When I returned, I thought I will finally start getting better but I had no idea that it would become my prison. I don’t feel comfortable discussing this more, however, I felt like suffocating most of the time. I had so many intrusive thoughts to pack my bags and leave but it wasn’t that easy. That job in the law firm tied me down to this city and country and I was making less than the minimum wage. I couldn’t leave either or I would have had to pay them back for their useless trainings...
I didn’t even have more than a week of holiday so I had to take unpaid leave for seven working days to go home, and I ended up losing half of my salary. I was already struggling financially so it was difficult. I only had a 6-month contract which just ended few days ago so, I decided to actually pack my bags and leave. I will go back to my home country for a few months so I can recharge and then I will probably return to the U.K. for a few more months because I still have many things to solve before I can fully move to a new country. I am free…
In order to start feeling better, besides weekly therapy and attempting to journal, I’ve been meditating for 223 days, I’ve been prioritizing having a certain routine before bed, I try to express my gratitude and write it down, be more mindful when I’m eating so I can be present, really feel the flavours and enjoy the food. Another very important thing that helps with regulating your nervous system is dancing. If you think you can’t dance, start by shaking your hands, then your arms, legs….
Shaking activates the parasympathetic nervous system and the brain starts getting signals to relax and calm. Of course, I very much prefer just shaking my body with some music on. Even five minutes can make a huge difference and your mood will also improve.
Don’t forget that sometimes the point of having a routine is to hold yourself accountable, not just to track your progress, but please be kind to yourself. I promise that you will get there!
I don’t want anyone to worry about me. It’s been a very difficult year but I’ve learned so many lessons. I’m doing much better now. I don’t have panic attacks anymore, I can sleep without medication, I don’t get anxiety when I go out, I can focus and I don’t forget things anymore and most importantly, my body is no longer is constant survival mode. I am smiling daily, decreasing my anxiety has improved my knee pain which has gotten so much worse this year. I will write about this in the next article.
I feel stronger than ever, and I know that all past experiences have made me who I am. I’m learning to trust my journey and embrace the person that I am becoming because, she’s truly who I am meant to be.
I finally found my voice and I will not let anything and anyone ever dim my light again!
Someone recently asked me if I can keep being myself and it made me cry. All my life people have tried to change me, they bullied and mocked me for who I am and now, for the first time someone wants me to just be myself…
It’s such a wonderful feeling! From now on, my goal in life is to be unapologetically me!
I have been hurt many times, there are too many people that tried to bring me down. However, I will never become like those that tried to break me. I will always be kind because this cold world needs more kindness!
I will keep adding my favourite songs at the end of each article from now on, so today's choice is a Romanian song: https://youtu.be/goouTuQFEAc. Hope you will enjoy it!