Mylifesamess's Blog

My Mental Breakdown History

Posted in anxiety, motivation by mylifesamess on 06/15/2011

If memory serves, one of the reasons that I started this blog was to help with my anxiety as well as to help simplify and organize my life.  I wanted to post tonight, and as I thought through what I wanted to say in my head, it all kept coming back to my problems with anxiety, so I thought I’d take a post to share my history on this subject.

My “mental breakdown” (I know there’s some controversy about this term) occurred when I was 19.  I had actually dealt with anxiety issues most of my life, but I was fairly good at hiding it, and I honestly never realized that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal.

I was in my sophomore year at college when something in my brain sort of snapped.  It was sudden, and there was no build up or warning.  One morning, as I was eating cereal in the cafeteria, I decided that I had HIV.  I had never done drugs, never had a blood transfusion, didn’t work in the medical field, and had never had sex (shut up), so there was absolutely no rational reason for me to believe this.  I just had this almost gut feeling that I had to have it, and that I had been spreading it with impunity to my friends and small children.

I knew how HIV worked, and I knew how it was spread.  The remaining rational portion of my brain knew that the rest of my brain had gone off the deep end.  What I quickly learned is that rational thought means nothing against this kind of anxiety.  It was beyond control.  I was able to go to class that day and restrain my panic, but my friends instantly knew that something was wrong.  We were coming up on finals week, and I knew that I didn’t have the option of taking time away from my schoolwork to deal with this.

I got worse as the day progressed.  I was basically having a panic attack, but it wasn’t subsiding.  It actually went on for days, stretching into weeks.  When I wasn’t in class, I was laying in bed sobbing.  I was completely overwhelmed by fear, guilt, and self loathing.  My hands, chest, and face went numb, and I often found myself hyperventilating.  I was unable to eat or sleep.  There was no respite.

I went to see two psychologists at my college’s mental health center.  They both decided that I was stressed out from school work.  One tossed around the idea of prescribing me a sedative, but decided against it, as she thought it would interfere with my finals.  Through some sort of Herculean effort, I made it to the end of the semester, and even managed to do really well on my finals.

I went home for winter break and saw another psychologist, who made it clear to me that she felt that I was wasting her time.  By this time, weeks of constant panic had taken a toll on my physical health.  Though I was thin to begin with, I had lost about 15 pounds.  I had pains in my chest.  I couldn’t stand up without seeing black spots in my vision.  I had white, mucousy globs in my urine.

I finally went to see my family practitioner, who was the only one who realized that I needed help in a bad way.  He prescribed me Paxil and set up initial check up visits for every two weeks.  My mother had such a stigma against anxiety / depression meds that she initially refused to allow me to take the medication.  Luckily, that only lasted about five minutes.

It took a while for the Paxil to really kick in, but I gradually started to get better.  Today, I just had another med check up with my family doctor.  It’s been eight years and a few med modifications and counseling sessions since I first went to see him about my panic, and today I’m doing well.  I now only have to see him once a year, just to make sure that everything’s still working all right.  I’ve had flare ups since I went on medication, but the frequency and severity has decreased to the point where I haven’t had an attack for a couple of years.

I’m probably always going to have problems with anxiety.  I may be genetically predisposed to it, or maybe it was something I learned as I was growing up.  I think it’s probably a combination of the two.  I don’t think about it all the time, but it is something I have to consider in my day to day life, and I’ll probably be on medication for many years to come.

Decluttering my home and life, being organized and prepared, and writing about my experiences, both good and bad, are all ways that have helped me to deal with my anxiety.  I know that I’m not always on topic with my blog posts, but I do hope that, overall, I can create a blog that reflects this.

Buttercream Icing

Posted in baking, cooking, motivation, Organization by mylifesamess on 06/07/2011

I went to my mom’s after work today and baked a cake.  It turned out ok.  Tasty, but not very pretty.

Luckily, during my afternoon break at work, I took a moment to study my recipes a bit and discovered a difference that I hadn’t noticed when I first compared the Julia Child buttercream recipe to the one accompanying the Martha Stewart recipe.  The Martha Stewart recipe creates the syrup for the icing using egg whites and sugar.  Julia Child creates the syrup using sugar and water, then calls for it to be whisked in with egg yolks.  I’ve made the mistake before of using the wrong part of the egg because I didn’t read the recipe close enough, so I’m very glad I caught it.

The Julia Child recipe was much tastier, but it was quite a bit thinner and difficult to spread, even after whipping in additional butter.  Part of the problem could have been that the egg yolk / syrup mixture didn’t form properly while I had it sitting over the pan of simmering water.  I don’t believe I got the “ribbon” effect that Child describes.  I’ll also try to remember next time to make the icing ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge for a while to see if that might help with the firmness.

The cake portion turned out fantastically, as it did last time.  It turns out a beautifully moist cake with the perfect blend of raspberries.  I made two tiers and frosted it, then decorated the top with fresh raspberries.

I thought about posting the Julia Child recipe, but I hesitated as it may constitute copyright infringement.  The recipe I used was called “Creme au Beurre, au Sucre Cuit (French Butter Cream Made with Sugar Syrup)” from her book “The French Chef Cookbook.”

I don’t know if it’s true, but I often feel like being organized and prepared is still new to my life.  Today was a hectic day, but I enjoyed it because I had my shit together and was ready to go.  I was able to attack the daunting tasks I faced today with order and precision, and it was totally satisfying.  I’m wondering if my motivation for an organized life waxes and wanes depending on whether I feel challenged in my life.