The dark night that made me face my depression

 

It was a Wednesday night around midnight when I left my friend’s house. It was about a 10-minute drive to my apartment. That night though I was in a really broken spot. It doesn’t make any sense but I started driving and driving fast. I as I drove tearing up the empty roads I realized I didn’t want to go home.

So I drove past the road my apartment was on and got on the loop around my city. The speed limit was 65 but under the night sky I was all alone and I decided to test the limits of my car and my driving skills. The road was empty as I accelerated. Faster and faster I drove until I hit 105. For the first time in weeks, I felt alive. I couldn’t really remember feeling anything but numb in a long time. The feeling of speed, freedom, and control. The type of control I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was amazing for just a moment.

As I neared the exit to my apartment I began to slow down. The short high I was riding made me feel like I could finally go home, face going back to my room, and sitting with my thoughts and feelings. That was before I saw the lights come on behind me.

I was already on the exit ramp so I continued to exit then pulled over to the shoulder after getting off the ramp. The numb feeling returned immediately. I couldn’t find it within me to say much of anything or even care. I had no idea how long the officer had been following me or what he had clocked me at. He approached the window and I handed over my license. I felt the heat in my cheeks reminding me that I was still there but beyond that, I felt nothing. I didn’t have it in me to cry, to beg, to lie. There was nothing there. The officer asked if I had a reason to be going 90. The question barely registered to me. I mumbled no as I felt that saying anything else would have him arrest me or involuntarily admit me. I knew I couldn’t sound reasonable in that moment. I couldn’t be charming, or witty, cunning or intelligent. I couldn’t be anything. Just numb. I took the ticket feeling nothing and drove myself home.

The next morning I decided to call my Dad. He has always been a bit of a speed demon himself so I figured out that maybe he would be more understanding. His response was “Ninety? Ninety???” I didn’t know what to say. He was mad but not overly furious. After my confession, he figured that was it but then I just let everything that I had bottled up and tried to fix on my own pour out at once. I finally said the words out loud. Words I suspected were true but had avoided acknowledging for over a year. “Dad, I think I have depression.” 

I had kept thinking it would get better. That I could fix it. That I could find the motivation to start living again. To get out of bed. To go to class. To be a person. That night on the road though I realized that I couldn’t fix this on my own. That speeding ticket was a hard blow to my bank account but in some ways, I think it may have saved my life. It finally made me admit I needed help and seek it out.

Sobbing to my dad on the phone that morning as he sat hundreds of miles away was the beginning of my journey to healing. He was shocked, but he responded better than I could have expected. With his help and the help of one of his coworkers, we set up my first therapy appointment for later that week. I was nervous but now I was finally committed to getting help and I had the accountability of family.

Going to therapy helped me learn that I wasn’t insane or lazy or stupid but that I had a real condition that millions of others deal with too. Finally having someone who believed me when I explained that sometimes I just couldn’t get out of bed, or that I just couldn’t go to class, or I just couldn’t do anything was such a relief. While I still had tremendous feelings of guilt and shame I could see how being listened to rather than judged as many of my friends had done was helping me. I could also see how his understanding, not approval but understanding regarding that night on the road helped me forgive myself a little bit for one of the darkest moments of my life. My therapist also gave me hope in the pit of my despair that recovery was possible. I couldn’t see that future from the hole I was in but it was a small bit of hope.

He also encouraged me to seek help from a psychiatrist. I am currently taking an anti-depressant. I also moved home with my family so that I could have a stronger support network. While I still have ups and downs I am finally able to be a person again and act like myself the majority of the time. I have managed to hold down jobs, Be present in the moment most of the time, and feel positive about the future.

I wish that I hadn’t endangered my own safety and the safety of the people who could have been on the road that night but I have managed to mostly forgive myself. My bank account is a little lighter but so is the weight of depression now that I have sought help.

If you are dealing with depression or another form of mental illness I hope my story encourages you to seek the help you need long before you are looking at red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror and being handed a  citation with a court date. Seek help before you hit rock bottom. The sooner you get help the sooner you can start the path to healing. Asking for help is brave. Never feel ashamed to need help. You don’t have to hide this or face it alone.

With love,

Paige

Where have I been?

 

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Hard Feelings shirt from Kinship Goods

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here.

 

As you all know I have tried to be open about my mental health struggles here in hopes of helping others dealing with similar issues. I would like to be an advocate for mental health.

Despite my desire to end the stigma, I am still finding myself embarrassed to admit that I have had a relapse with my depression. The past month or two has been a blur of misery, crying, breakdowns, and frustration. I have barely managed to maintain a job I no longer find any joy in, I have shirked commitments to the detriment of people I care about, and I have cried a whole whole lot.

I wanted to be cured. I wanted to believe that the depression was behind me.

It came roaring back to life though, just as severe as ever. Because of this, I have found it hard to find the energy to engage with much of anything, including this blog and my social media which I love so much.

When you are depressed though even the things you love and are passionate about slip away.

The only positive thing through all this has been that I now have a name for what I am feeling. For a long time I wanted to avoid the label of a mental health condition but now I find it almost a relief to know that there is an explanation for the ways I have felt most of my life, to varying degrees of severity. I spent years believing I was just crazy or lazy when I had tough bouts of depression.

This most current bout I believe has to do with the uncertainty I am currently feeling about my future plans. I feel indecisive and it has built up a lot of stress for me. That coupled with my susceptibility to depression pushed me right back into the worst of it.

This time though I knew to ask for help.

I let my family members and friends see my breakdowns rather than hiding them behind closed doors. Depression is illogical at its very core but I do believe letting them see what it does to me helps them to understand a little more.

I called my psychiatrist and told her when things weren’t working for me. Through some trial and error, I am starting to come out of the fog of depression with new medications.

I have never made a suicide attempt or been actively suicidal but when negative thoughts of that nature flashed through my mind uncontrollably on my worst days I chose to vocalize them rather than keep them to myself.

After working with my medication and family things have been improving. I have been working on self-care by doing things like completing applications, making doctors appointments, doing yoga, cleaning my room and car, working on projects, spending time with dogs, eating depression-fighting foods and many other things.

Many of these tasks may sound insignificant, but to a person struggling with a mental health condition, they can feel like mountains.

Slowly but surely I am recovering again. I apologize for my absence. If any of you have tried to get in contact with me please know that I wasn’t ignoring you intentionally. Let’s just say for now that I’m back. I love connecting with people through this blog and right now I’m trying to get back to doing the things I love.

Forgive me,

Paige

PS: Here is the link to my t-shirt! It is one of my favs. And no I’m not getting paid for this, I just love cute small brands like Kinship.

hard feelings womens varsity tee

Claiming the title of Survivor

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So yes another cancer post. I promised this blog wouldn’t be all about cancer but it is definitely going to play a part. Cancer has played a part in my life but does not define it as a whole.

A few days after a CT scan revealed a tumor in my abdomen I began my “cancer journey” at MD Anderson. The experience of entering the hospital and being surrounded by so many sick people was surreal. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

Around the hospital, signs read “You became a survivor the day you were diagnosed.” It was a catchy slogan for a cancer hospital. Good branding, but not really something that I gave much thought to in the chaos.

Fast forward through finding out that my tumor was, in fact, pancreatic cancer and having four surgeries to remove the cancer and repair the damage the initial surgery caused.

I returned to daily life wondering how exactly I was supposed to navigate this world as a “survivor”. I certainly didn’t feel like I earned it. I was a whiney difficult brat through most of my treatment. My misery radiated around me and I made a difficult situation worse with my poor attitude.

Inspiring cancer survivors are supposed to have remained hopeful through their treatments. They do things like dance during chemo and run marathons shortly after. Good cancer survivors don’t spend months wallowing in self-pity and dealing with severe bouts of depression. I wasn’t one of those people.

I also didn’t want to be labeled “that girl who had cancer.” I wanted to be known for other things, not some illness I didn’t handle well. Meeting new people, making new friends, and dating all presented new challenges. Should I mention it and if so when?

I still don’t have a great answer on that. It doesn’t seem right to start a Tinder date off with “Hi I’m Paige and I had cancer.” All I can picture with that is the amusing image of boys running for the hills. Not that I wasn’t good at chasing boys away before but this would be a new level, even for me.

For a while, I stuck with almost a “No New Friends” attitude. It was Drake, me and only our day ones. I felt like a different person and that scared me. I only wanted to be near people who knew me before so that they would know I wasn’t always like this. It wasn’t a great policy but it was where I was at during that time.

I’m more open to new friends and possibilities now. I have met a lot of great people in the past year or so and I am grateful for those relationships. Looking forward, I am excited to meet new people. I promise I’m friendly now guys! Please contact me if you want to talk about anything!

While I still don’t open conversations with the whole “I had cancer” line, I have been trying to embrace my status as a survivor a little more. I am more comfortable with it now. I don’t like keeping secrets. My illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Realizing that took longer than I’d like to admit though.

I am also learning to forgive myself for the way I acted in the midst of the worst period of my life. I was drowning at the time and I handled it as well as I could. While yes I could’ve been a little less grumpy it isn’t the end of the world. There is no manual for being a survivor. There is no formula you have to follow to be one. The only thing you have to do is survive, which I am lucky that I did, even if I was downer while I was in the process of fighting it.

So now I’m trying to be more open and let people in a little bit. If you have challenges you need to talk about I would encourage you to share your story. You can share with your friends, you can message me privately, or you can utilize social media to create an internet community around you. Speak up, there are people out there who listen and care.

With Love,

Paige

PS: If you or someone you know is a young adult cancer survivor (Diagnosed between 18-39) definitely look into First Descents. It is a great program and really helped me process things a lot. Here is the link https://firstdescents.org/out-living-it/

 

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​On Lana del Rey, a Night in Milan and Kindness

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Me wearing my flower crown at a Lana del Rey concert in The Woodlands, TX  May 2015. Flower  Crown; Nordstrom

It may be a bit cliche but I am a Lana Del Rey fan. I will follow that statement with the even more cliched “she just gets me.”

Although when I think about that idea though I realize that the phrase “I just get her” may be more accurate. I find myself humming along to her songs and I can relate, even if not directly I can understand what she is trying to express and it speaks to me. I suppose that is what art is really but I digress. I’ve seen Lana twice in concert. And yes I wore a flower crown. Judge me, people!

 Today I find myself thinking about a moment in time where a simple phrase, not even from a proper song but from a music video of hers got me through a tough moment. The phrase was from the video for her song “Ride”. If You haven’t watched it I highly recommend it although I warn you that it is at times a provocative, profane and slightly troubling video. The line doesn’t come until 9:08 so you have to wait for it.

The phrase though is thisI believe in the kindness of strangers 

I am a natural introvert so this phrase never really stuck out to me until one night when I found myself far from home, and all alone, in a bad situation I hadn’t anticipated and suddenly I was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers. 

The story begins in Budapest.

I was studying abroad, in Verona, Italy as the only freshman on the program. On the weekends we were allowed to travel around Europe on our own. I was invited to go with a group to Budapest and while I wanted to go I hesitated in buying my plane ticket. By the time I did I found that the flight my friends were on had doubled in price so I chose to take a flight later that day.

That day I spent a glorious morning and early afternoon exploring Budapest more on my own. Then I headed to the airport and was off to Frankfurt to catch my connection. Unfortunately, though the flight was delayed and I made it to Frankfurt with only moments to spare. My brief moments in Frankfurt were spent in an all-out sprint to catch my connection.

I made it but when I landed in Milan, I discovered my bag hadn’t. I was directed to a Lufthansa help desk with a line about 30 people long. It should be noted here that I do not speak Italian and it was about 11 PM at this point.

The last train to Milan Central and then the last train to Verona were leaving in a few short minutes but I know I can’t abandon my bag. So I stood in the line absolutely panicking, swapping stories with a well-traveled Italian who spoke English about whether the US or Europe had worse customer service in air travel. I believe we deemed it a tie.

I continued to panic while he began speaking to two Italian women behind him in the line who also happened to be going to Verona. These women turned out to be my saviors. Having missed the last train I started talking with them and together we decided to rent a car together and drive to Verona from Milan, about a two-hour drive.

I felt scared as this seemed like a risky and idiotic thing to do but I also felt I had no choice so I went with it. Getting into the car I remembered the line “I believe in the kindness of strangers and began silently repeating it to myself over and over.

One of the young women spoke English better than the other so I mostly talked to her about a wide range of topics from their trip to Russia, and the vodka they purchased there, to the car rental business she ran and the ski cabin she owned.

I slowly felt my fear evaporating over those moments in the car and I began to accept Lana’s mantra in a way I never expected. Eventually, they dropped me off in front of the apartment building my college was living in. It was around three in the morning and I got to face hell from my parents, roommates, professors, and friends over how panicked I made them. Their reaction to the situation put into stark relief the true amount of risk I took. I didn’t feel that way in the car though. I didn’t feel that way as I learned a little piece of these strangers life stories, and as we helped each other get where we needed to be.

They rescued me, and while I know it could have turned out differently I have found it proven time and again that people as a whole are mostly good and sometimes you might have to count on them to rescue you from a bad situation you put yourself into. I will be eternally grateful for those two women, Claudia and Sara and for all the kind strangers I have met and will meet along the way.

XO

Paige

LA: What I wore + Discount Codes

Hi guys,

Sorry, this post is so late. Life has been a little crazy lately. When I started this blog I mentioned that I love clothes and fashion. It is something I want to talk about more here and on my Instagram. In LA I strove to channel a kind of LA cool girl vibe while also keeping part of my personal style involved. 

UCLA Exploring look:

This is one of my favorite outfits I put together.

 

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LA Look! Shop it here!

 

You can shop this look here  

I’m loving off the shoulder tops and this is definitely my favorite I’ve found because it is thick enough not to show too much and stays up really well. It is from Brandy Melville, which while problematic on the inclusivity front, does have cute basics if you are small. They also have a very LA aesthetic so it seemed like a good choice for wandering around the UCLA Campus. 

The necklaces are from my absolute favorite jewelry brand, Stargaze jewelry. They sell lots of great minimalist pieces that are great for layering. They also currently have an under $10 section with a ton of cute picks. I also recommend following them on insta for all your dainty jewelry gazing needs.

The best part though is that I have a discount code to share with you! Use code Paige15 at checkout to get 15% off your purchase! 

Malibu look:

Shop the look here

This look was a fun beach day pick. The tank is also from Brandy Melville. I also love the hat in this picture, despite the fact that I’m not a Dodgers fan (go Astros!). For me, this seems like a better choice than a souvenir t-shirt. It is super cute, trendy and I know I will wear it again. Plus it helps protect your face from the sun.

Cute + Sun Protection = Win!

The towel is from Sand Cloud. I particularly love them because 10% of their proceeds go to Marine Conservation. My best friend studies Marine Biology so I get tons of lectures on the importance of keeping our oceans clean. Save the fishies guys and check out their insta here.

The necklaces are again from Stargaze Jewelry. Use code Paige15 at checkout for 15% off. 

Swimwear Malibu:

Shop the look here!

In Malibu, we eventually decided to brave the cold waters of the Pacific. I had fun pretending to be a bikini model. The bikini top is from LA Hearts (the name was fitting) and the bottoms are from H&M.  Personally, I like to have a steady rotation of black bikini bottoms. They match everything. Usually, I buy from Target or PINK for black bottoms. Plus right now is a good time to try and pick up summer staples for low prices. Sales for the win!

The large horn necklace is the only piece that isn’t from Stargaze Jewelry. It is from Luxe Goddess . Luxe Goddess is an Etsy store that sells cute jewelry and also essential oil roller balls such as Destress, Energize and Deep Sleep. I haven’t gotten to try these yet but I hope I will soon! If you would like to purchase something from them use code Tori25 for 25% off your purchase. I love supporting small businesses! Also you can check out their insta here!

Santa Monica Swimwear:

In Santa Monica, I decided I would get some use out of my infamous red (yes that one) Sun Co swimsuit. After all, it is the Pamela Swimsuit and Baywatch was about the beaches of LA County right? The truth is though this is the first and the last time that I will wear this swimsuit. You will notice that in the pictures under the pier I am wearing a different suit. That is because I immediately changed out of the Sunny Co suit. It is super cute and sexy when you position yourself right. However don’t try to bend over, or sit down. You will flash the whole beach! Honestly, I am just glad I got this suit for free (well $7.95 shipping plus $1 for Alzheimer’s). That is the one redeeming factor of Sunny Co. They donate a dollar of every sale to Alzheimer’s research. As multiple members of my family have had this awful disease I do appreciate this gesture a lot.

After changing in the icky Santa Monica Bathroom we wandered under the pier. I was surrounded by professional bikini and lingerie models doing photo shoots. I felt awkward as I wandered around a bit and tried to look sexy. Unfortunately for us all, I am not a professional bikini model but I do love this swimsuit. It is from last year’s Victoria’s Secret Swim collection. I was so sad when they decided to end their swim line! Luckily we still have PINK swim and they have really cute choices too, including one pieces.

Santa Monica Pier dress:

Shop the look here!

This dress is technically a cover-up and that is how I am wearing it in the picture. Truthfully though it is thick enough to function as a regular dress. Also, it is on sale right now so grab it quick!

Alright, that about sums it up, I had another shirt I wanted to show you but unfortunately I spilled ramen on it before I could take a picture. Typical hahaha! The ramen was worth it though so I’m not even sorry.

Wishing you love and fashionable days,

Paige