mental health, Personal Growth

Waves of Change

I am the type of person who loves to learn more about myself. In fact, I will go to the ends of the earth to gather all the information I can about my personality, strengths, and what makes me tick. It’s essential for me to figure myself out so I can have a better understanding of how I journey through this thing called life. If you personally know me, then I have probably talked with you and shared resources about the following things:

Brené Brown’s work on Vulnerability and Shame
(ok, well, probably all of Brené Brown’s work because like it’s been mentioned here already, WE LOVE HER and her work has literally changed my life!)

Myers Briggs Type Indicator
(I’m an INFJ, if you were wondering)

Clifton Strengths
(Connectedness, Belief, Input, Responsibility, and Restorative are my top strengths)

Al-Anon

& If you know me personally, you are definitely nodding and hopefully experiencing an appreciation for what you’ve learned about yourself and others.

I love to dive deep, to explore the waters by going all in. I search for understanding, not just of myself, but of those I love. These different assessment tools and research have given me greater understanding of working with people, and I believe they have equipped me with tools to further understand myself. As someone who collects information (Input! HOoRAH!), I find myself knowing a lot about who I am as a person…

…until I didn’t.

In January 2017, I moved to a new city and started a new job to be with my then fiancée, Lindsey. I have always prided myself on being resilient and totally cool with change. I mean, I have overcome many hardships in my life, and I can handle anything that is thrown my way. For some reason, though, this transition was extremely difficult for me. I was sad. I was depressed. I was in a very dark place, wanting to die, and I could not figure out why.

I loved my new job and it was proving to be the healthiest work environment I had been in. I had left a job that led me to burnout, and one that had me on an emotional rollercoaster daily.

I was finally living with my love in our beautiful home, and we would be married soon. We were no longer 2 hours apart. Life. was. good.

BUT WHY? Why was I struggling so much with my emotions?

I finally made the decision to find a therapist in my new city, which was very difficult after parting ways with the therapist I had been seeing for 6 or so years before I moved. I didn’t want to start over, but I had to. I was thinking that maybe all the junk (trauma) I had been trudging around with was starting to surface as I had more time and balance in my life. I thought I was being selfish for having it all, yet feeling so awful. I met with my new therapist, and things went well. My fiancée and I had also started seeing a couple’s therapist, which was helpful for us in the new transition of living together and dealing with my walk in the valley. As I had been billed for the sessions, I noticed I could look back on the explanation of benefits and see what I had been seen for or what my diagnoses were. In looking through old records on my insurance claims, I found that my previous therapist had diagnosed me with Adjustment Disorder.

I’m sorry, what?!

I had never even heard of Adjustment Disorder before this, and I definitely had never heard from a medical professional that I had this. In fact, to my knowledge, I had be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Never had I even thought that I had problems adjusting.

Me? Struggling to adjust? NO WAY!

So, like my classic self, I dove deep and did some research on Adjustment Disorders, and here’s is what I learned on the Mayo Clinic web page on Adjustment Disorders:

“Adjustment disorders are stress-related conditions. You experience more stress than would normally be expected in response to a stressful or unexpected event, and the stress causes significant problems in your relationships, at work or at school.

Signs and symptoms depend on the type of adjustment disorder and can vary from person to person. You experience more stress than would normally be expected in response to a stressful event, and the stress causes significant problems in your life.

Adjustment disorders affect how you feel and think about yourself and the world and may also affect your actions or behavior. Some examples include:

Feeling sad, hopeless or not enjoying things you used to enjoy
Frequent crying
Worrying or feeling anxious, nervous, jittery or stressed out
Trouble sleeping
Lack of appetite
Difficulty concentrating
Feeling overwhelmed
Difficulty functioning in daily activities
Withdrawing from social supports
Avoiding important things such as going to work or paying bills
Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Symptoms of an adjustment disorder start within three months of a stressful event and last no longer than 6 months after the end of the stressful event. However, persistent or chronic adjustment disorders can continue for more than 6 months, especially if the stressor is ongoing, such as unemployment.”

A lot of these symptoms can also be seen with Major Depressive Disorder, which is why I kind of assumed my move had sparked depression. It turns out, THIS is more of what I was dealing with. It didn’t mean I wasn’t resilient or strong, it just meant that change is difficult for me because of the stress I feel when it happens. Also, I was going through A LOT of changes at once, which triggered these stress responses in me.

Why does this information matter? I now know that my mood is intensely impacted by change in my life. It can help me to prepare for life changes and better understand myself when I am experiencing change. I can offer myself some grace and understanding versus being frustrated and ashamed of feeling broken for no reason at all. This helps me to give a name to what I am feeling and why. It helps me to know me.

I think it’s normal for change to be difficult for people. What is not normal is having it affect your daily life. It was pouring into my work, my self-worth, and my relationships. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep forever. That’s when I knew I needed to seek help from a therapist, and I did. If this sounds like something you may be experiencing, I encourage you to seek help from a professional because you deserve to know and to heal. Finding new ways to cope and having an understanding of why you are impacted can make all the difference.

It was September when I finally found my rescue boat I had been out of for nine months. It turns out I needed to continue taking the medications I had stopped taking. I stopped taking them because I didn’t feel like they were helping; however, they WERE helping me to keep my head above water. Without them, I continued to sink. Medication, therapy, and love from my support system carried me through the dark days until I finally started to see the light. These may not be what everyone needs, but what I do know, is that when anyone is facing challenges in life, they do not have to do it alone.

I have realized that I will never reach a destination of fully understanding myself because I am constantly growing and learning (paddling). I will keep searching and learning to understand myself and others because it’s a journey…one with a beautiful view.

✌Kiley

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