Works in Progress // Taylor

Living a life filled with depression and anxiety since she was just ten years old, Taylor is a strong pillar radiating self-love and healing that comes from taking mental health seriously.

Graced with elegance and empathy, I’m proud to know this shining star. Meet Taylor.

IMG_5047

Name: Taylor Gornish  

Age: 24

 

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

 

It started around 10 years old. In general, that’s all I can remember is 10 years old and on. Childhood amnesia? Perhaps. However, I think it just escalated so quickly it was a defining moment in my life from then on. I started suffering from depression. My mother had displayed the same symptoms throughout her life, but never treated herself so I feel as though it was entirely genetic.   

Looking back, it was quite sad. It took 11 years to get help. I got home from school, fell asleep for hours and did my homework in the late hours of the night. All I would do was isolate myself in my room and read or write. I had friends I would hang out with at school or on the weekends but none of them really knew what was happening on an everyday basis. My parents intervened and sent me to a psychiatrist who thought I had ADD and prescribed me Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, etc – nothing made a difference. All that happened was I would get a dull never-ending anxiety, which made my depression worse.  

My depression has been constant for about 14 years now, going through waves of bad to a plateau.

  

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

 

I didn’t choose to get help at a young age and at times I went through gaps between visits that lasted years at a time. I did not like how medication made me feel and the side effects that came with it. My parents didn’t fully believe in medication or knew how hard I was struggling, as I wasn’t very open about it, and tried to help me cope in other ways such as meditation and therapy. These were temporary fixes and I truly think they help others but they did not work for me. My brain chemistry is just off.

When I fully chose to get help on my own, I was in college around 21 years old. There were several incidents when I tried to commit suicide, which is easier for me to talk about now in recovery but at the time no one knew. Most often I abused my anxiety prescription to make myself feel numb, which seemed better than negative or self harming thoughts. I had a particularly traumatic experience when I overdosed on said prescription in an attempt to take my life. It was a cry for help. My amazing, supportive roommate who I also traumatized, called an ambulance that rushed me to the hospital. I was alone and woke up groggy not knowing where I was, in a hospital gown, with an IV in my arm. I will never know what happened that night because no one can attest to if they made me throw up, pumped my stomach, anything. Part of me doesn’t want to know so I have never tried to find out. I didn’t see any nurses in sight so I pulled the IV out of my arm and walked outside barefoot to have my friend pick me up. Everything from there on was blurry and when I got back to my apartment my friends and roommates were hugging me and we all cried. They were so afraid for me and realized the extent of what was happening.

This moment was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The effect this had on my loved ones was so atrocious that it makes me cringe to this day. My dad flew me home to San Diego the next day. I spent a few days recovering and then when asked how I would get my stuff home, I refused. I wanted to go back because I knew I would regret not finishing off my senior year. It was the best decision I ever made. I finally got comfortable about getting better. I got a job my second semester working at a local boutique that I loved, got the best grades I had ever earned in college, and most of all I took care of myself more than ever. I’m not going to lie, I still suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts and that has not gone away and never will. However, I changed my lifestyle and got serious with myself. I never thought I would live past 21 years old, so to have made it this far at 24, I am prideful that I have realized this needed to be dealt with everyday step by step.

 

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

I feel much better these days. Lexapro and my lifestyle changes saved my life. I finally found a medication that works for me and I feel like an upgraded version of myself. I still have challenges daily. I still have trouble getting out of bed and beating fatigue. I still am my harshest critic and have low self-esteem. With that being said, I have learned to deal with it and fit into normal society. I still write occasionally and have recently launched a website with a best friend of mine that combines my love of beauty, wellness and travel with writing. It’s a hobby but I hope in the future I can get a little more deep with people who are suffering from depression and anxiety with wellness tips.

 

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you?

Even though I wish I could feel normal or be like everyone else at times, I think what depression has given me is empathy. I see others who might come off in a certain way and know they must be going through something. I feel for them. I also see the world in a bigger picture. I complain and vent but when it comes down to it there are people out there that have it much worse and I try to tell myself that everyday, that I am blessed with this life. I also think those experiences I have gone through have made me an entirely stronger person.

I am also a hundred percent more positive and my thought process has changed. It takes a lot of work to get to that point cognitively where you can reverse your negative or self harming thoughts when they arise.

 

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness?

 

I would let myself know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I can not even count the times I have laid in bed wishing I would never wake up or have just wanted some sort of peace, but there are ways to gain inner peace in the real world.

Check out Taylor’s new website at http://www.thesiennarising.com/ and follow her at @siennarising

Follow the blog to see the latest Works in Progress stories! Do you want to share your story with anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue? Leave a message in the comments of your journey!

Works in Progress // Grace

Hi friends! I’m beyond moved and excited to share the first in my new series, Works in Progress. While this blog is about my journey with anxiety, I wanted to share other stories. The stories of everyday people who are bright, shining stars constantly battling their own versions of mental health.

Today, I bring you Grace. She is not only a friend, but a raw, radiant soul who has been through quite the journey of severe anxiety and depression which ended in a realization that through therapy and nature, self-love can be achieved. I’ve had the privilege of working with her and becoming a close friend when she lived in San Diego and fun fact, she is a huge reason why I am currently in therapy. This bomb lady climber and world traveler has a passion and eloquence that cannot be denied. Meet Grace.

Grace

Name: Grace Olscamp

Age: 24

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

Although I think I always had some form of it, which I think is partially hereditary, I began fully experiencing anxiety in 2013. Looking back at the spring and summer of that year, it’s obvious that my anxiety was triggered by a set of significant events that happened within a three-month period (being present for the Boston Marathon bombings, my first heartbreak, and whisking off to New Zealand to study abroad).

My first panic attack happened out of the blue in New Zealand. While a very unhelpful counselor there explained that I was merely homesick, the panic attacks, depression, and debilitating fear over things I loved (i.e., camping, rock climbing, going on impulsive adventures with no plan, meeting new people) travelled back to Boston with me.

My life was drowning in loneliness, I was cutting myself off from friends, feeling unwanted, having regular panic attacks in the dark, and was suffocating from a sense of hopelessness. I sported the daily fake smile, even in front of my closest friends, so I wouldn’t draw attention to my suffering.

I was having stomach problems too which, at the time I didn’t connect to my mental health. I had constipation (TMI!) and there were times where I could barely eat more than five bites of a meal and would go for days on that alone. I saw a string of gastrointestinal doctors who could never diagnose what I had but still prescribed me plenty of medicines.

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I didn’t get help by choice.

I was finally climbing again my senior year of college when a climbing partner had a gnarly climbing accident. I now know that my anxiety is linked to feeling safe, so when this happened I spiraled out of control. Thank God/the Universe/the Great Spirit in the Sky/whatever you subscribe to, I broke down in front of my old boss. He took me for a walk and by the end, he had the school’s counseling service on the phone and was holding it up to my ear.

While I went to counseling at school, which involved switching counselors, never feeling comfortable enough to be honest with them, and a psychiatrist who was thinking about putting me on medication, I never felt better. Eventually I stopped going.

Soon after, I once again went through a string of sudden changes (graduating college, divorce, and moving to San Diego) and everything got worse. I don’t remember what led me to therapy in California, but I found a therapist in San Diego who I was finally comfortable with. Although I only saw her for a short amount of time, she kick-started my real process of dealing with my anxiety.

The biggest thing that helped, however, was traveling for four months with my boyfriend. At the beginning of the trip abroad, I was having daily panic attacks. But by slowly putting myself into sometimes extreme situations that took me far outside of my comfort zone, I learned how to manage my anxiety.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

My anxiety is still an obstacle in many facets of life. It pops up when I am in new situations, when I start to get overwhelmed with little tasks, in doing things I’m used to, and in the random, unprovoked moments that it decides to be present. The biggest challenge is remembering that facing anxiety isn’t about “getting better” or making it disappear, but is about learning how to healthily handle it.

The biggest skill I’ve learned is talk to people. Isolating myself only makes things worse and isn’t being strong, it’s a fear-based action. Talking to others is not some big admission or outpouring of feelings. It’s simple statements like “I feel anxious,” “I am overwhelmed,” “I feel sad,” “I am uncomfortable,” or (mainly when I am overwhelmed by others) “I need alone time.” Saying it out loud sets me free because I am not trying to deny my anxiety nor am I trying to proudly suffer alone. Talking to others also reminds me that my feelings are valid.

Having a few basic mantras that I can fall back on has also served me well. Whether I repeat them to myself or someone says them to me, they ground me in moments of high anxiety. Other little things help me like writing, going for a walk, yoga, reading, art, music, being outside, meditation. Anything that can help me step back from a situation and breathe.

I am constantly working on coping with anxiety. It’s a never-ending process that changes each time I feel anxious. And that’s okay!  

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you?

Without anxiety, I wouldn’t know myself. If I didn’t have anxiety, and more importantly if I didn’t seek help it, I might have been a stagnant human. Learning about my anxiety has forced me to grow, to learn about my past and present, and to question my thoughts, feelings, ideals, spirit, and the world around me. Meeting my anxiety has made me meet myself.

Not only has dealing with my anxiety let me flourish into a more self-aware being, but it has also been teaching me about self-love. I never even knew that loving yourself was even a thing until I started working on my anxiety. But as my journey with anxiety has continued, my eyes have been opened to what self-love is. There’s a lot of work to be done here but without my anxiety I would have ever considered loving myself. And as my idol RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love anybody else?!”

My anxiety can manifest itself in my intestines, stomach, back, and in general injuries. When I am getting anxious and don’t realize it, I get injured much easier (which is why in college I was constantly on crutches, in a brace, or otherwise hurt but now I rarely tweak things) and recurring problems will flare up. Learning about my anxiety has made me listen to my body and be mindful of its needs as well, ranging from eating better and being more active to eating more ice cream and being a bum, letting myself cry out anxiety and stress, or just having days where it does nothing but rest and decompress.

To the chagrin of a few, the exploration of myself has made me meticulously examine others close to me. I question other’s past and beliefs so that they too can start their own exploration of themselves (if they are willing).

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness?

You need to ardently and sincerely believe the following:

You aren’t alone.

TALK TO PEOPLE. Stop cutting yourself off because people love you and want to help you. You are not a burden. Friends want you to be there and family always love you no matter what.

Suffering alone is never beautiful or noble.

Every tear you have is valid and important.

You are a strong magnificent goddess who can do anything.

This will pass.

Want to learn more about Grace and her adventures? Go check out her personal instagram, @gracexplorationsand her travels with her boyfriend at @wandering_wonderers