Starting a blog has been on my mind for far too long. I wanted to wait until I felt ready. When everything came together perfectly, at the right time and the right place; then I realized there never really is a “right time” or right place. Truthfully I have simply been scared, terrified actually, of opening up and sharing this part of my life with the world, and that’s why I kept putting it off until now. Social media portrays my life as a constant Hawaiian vacation where I seem to be surfing massive North shore swells, searching for waterfalls in lush rain forests, and exploring every beach on the island. While the ladder may be true, the image I portray through social media is exactly that: an image, not real. My photos only show people the part of my life I choose to put on display, when the truth is that Instagram is far from my real life. Allow me to explain.
Prior to my senior year of high school, my life was seemingly perfect, or so I thought. I had a job I loved, I was doing well in school, had a huge group of friends, a college boyfriend, and I was one year away from starting a new chapter of my life studying Political Science in Los Angeles. From the outside, I had my shit together, but maintaining good grades, a social life, college applications, and two jobs was more than I could handle, and while I thought it was normal for high school students to be stressed, I never really realized just how stressed I was. My lifestyle was hit-the-ground-running, and I unfortunately could not keep up.
When August 2016 rolled around, my mental and physical health took a hit, and a severe one. I remember getting off work late on a Friday night, and rushing home to get to bed because I had the ACT early the next morning. I was exhausted from the day, and was ready to hit the bed, but after an hour I still wasn’t asleep. Another hour passed and I was still awake. And another, and another, and another. By the time my alarm rang at six, I hadn’t slept a single minute. This was the first of many nights I wouldn’t sleep at all. I assumed it was because I was so stressed for the ACT that I couldn’t fall asleep, but a week later the same thing happened again on a totally normal night. I tried taking melatonin, and then it happened the next night. I went three nights without any sleep before I finally took a trip to CVS to get some sleeping pills, and they worked. For a while.
After about a month of using sleep aids, the insomnia returned, and this time more severe. The sleeping pills prescribed to me at the time were the equivalent of seven doses of Nyquil, and yet I would still lay there wide awake. I went to my doctor, who ran multiple blood tests and found nothing. Frustrated and desperate, I then went to a new doctor, who ran more tests and discovered I was low in iron, which can affect sleep, so I began taking high doses of iron supplements, which did nothing. I went through doctor after doctor; primary care physicians, psychiatrists, a sleep specialist, acupuncturists, etc. I tried every home remedy in existence. No matter what I did, nothing worked, and no matter what doctor I went to, no one could figure out what was wrong.
Life as I knew it began to crumble. I was sleeping about two nights a week, still attending school full time, and still working. I lost my mind and I lost myself. My insomnia completely tore me apart, and I fell into the deepest depression I have ever had to face. My body could not function without sleep, and my immune system began to fail. I was sick everyday of every week, on top of being awake for 120 hours at a time. I used to feed off the energy of others, and loved being around people, but after a few months I had turned into a complete introvert. I isolated myself, no longer even turning to my family for help. My parents were as hurt by the situation as I was; they had taken me to multiple doctors and none of them could help me sleep. They felt completely helpless watching their child suffer, and I didn’t feel right putting them them through that, so I acted like I was more ok than I was. The same thing happened with my boyfriend. We were in a long distance relationship, so when we finally got to see each other for a few days, I felt pressured to act totally happy when the reality was the complete opposite. Pretending to be okay ultimately hurt me more. I turned to my “friends” for support and quickly realized that most of the people I thought I could rely on were only along for times of smooth sailing, not when I needed them most.
I was even hurt by the fact that no one even bothered to ask at times. Even though most of my peers weren’t aware of what was going on in my life, I was noticeably not myself. I couldn’t understand how none of them noticed such a drastic change in me. I felt utterly and completely alone, but it was in this solitude that I began to find myself.
I had to realize that it is okay to not be okay. And it is okay to put yourself and your own needs and your own health first. For months before this realization I was spreading myself too thin trying to get perfect grades, before I realized that my grades meant nothing if my quality of life was poor. If I wasn’t even healthy enough to go away to college how would I accomplish any of my ambitions? Health brings happiness. You have nothing without your health. I had to realize that it is okay to give yourself a break sometimes; that it was especially okay to give myself a mental break when I only got 10 hours of sleep a week.
After three months, I found a nutritionist who ran intensive blood tests and discovered that I had fallen victim to adrenal burnout, a controversial condition scarcely recognized by Western medicine. My adrenal glands began to flatline, because they had produced so much cortisol (the stress hormone) due to my fast paced lifestyle. The only way to recover was if I changed my diet, supplemented, and above all reduced my stress, two of which I did. Though I was finally on the path to recovery, I saw no immediate relief from my insomnia because I was still completely stressed and unhappy. I realized that I had to make a change.
After completely losing myself, I was able to find myself. I realized I wasn’t happy with my boyfriend, and ended things. I worked less. I let myself sleep in on days I slept even if I had class sometimes so I could catch up on sleep. I discovered that school in LA was not what I wanted at heart and so I decided to fulfill my childhood dream of attending school in Hawaii, which I had previously been too scared to commit to. I cut all fake friends and negative energy out of my life. By Summer 2017, I had found a few more doctors who were successful in helping me, and I began to sleep every night, and I slowly began to repair my immune system, and was finally able to function close to normal. However, this quickly ended when I left for college. My insomnia returned, and bad. I developed severe anxiety because of my cortisol levels, and couldn’t sleep for nights at a time again. On top of being 2,000 plus miles away from my doctors and support system, I began to hallucinate and sleep walk when I took prescribed sleeping pills. At home my whole family would look out for me at night, but alone in a dorm, no one was looking out for me when I was a zombie. I hit rock bottom in November, and I remember calling my parents begging them to come home. My Mom almost flew out to me that night, but my Dad called me and convinced me to see a psychiatrist for the third time (the first two had failed miserably). I then saw a psychiatrist the next day, who put me on the holy grail of anti anxiety sleeping medications, and combined with holistic lifestyle changes, I began to heal once again.
Since then I have been sleeping and feeling a million times better, and I love Hawaii. I have grown and matured infinitely as a person, and have discovered the more important things in life. I am building a life for myself based on love, positivity, and spirituality. I had to completely lose my physical health in order to learn to take care of my body through not only fitness, but nutrition. I had to lose my mental health in order to learn to take care of myself, and slow down in a society that encourages us to live to work rather than work to live. I learned that yoga is healing for the mind & body. The more I love myself the more I realize there is no room for anyone in my life who does not deserve to be there. But above all else, I learned that it is okay to not be okay, and that everyone is fighting their own battle, no matter how perfect their life may seem.
This story is incredibly personal and emotional for me to share, but I would go through everything I went through again, because it made me the person I am today. Everything happens for a reason, even though that reason may not be clear to you at the time. I wrote this in hopes that it would inspire or help someone else, so from the bottom of my heart thank you for taking the time to read this.
I could not have gone through this journey without the loyal support of my family and friends. I am eternally grateful for them.