You Need Help: What The Hell is Happening To Me

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 Okay! Phew.

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it.

This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.

For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today we get into some pretty serious stuff.

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Question:

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me but my perceptions are such that I basically have completely inappropriate emotional reactions (emotions are not lining up) to basic events, I have huge gaps in my memory spanning the last three-five months– a significant part of what I can remember (like days or weeks at a time) is comprised entirely of that staticky fuzz you get on television screens when the receiver goes out (and I know stuff was happening/I wasn’t in a coma or shit because I have journals that relate a variety of events I cannot remember at all) and the parts I do remember are wrong (information also provided by said journals–things that didn’t happen are inserted into real memories, or significant details are changed).

I’m suddenly afraid of everything, keep finding myself places with no idea how I got there or why I’m doing what I’m doing (basically I have almost no short term memory either), I perceive sensory input as flickering or thick or fail to interpret it (e.g. hearing some speak and not being able to process what they’re saying or anything more than that there is noise) and in the last several weeks have started hallucinating (only little things, mostly bugs, which has happened before but only during periods of extreme sleep deprivation) about once or twice a week and I’m kind of scared and I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t want to tell anyone in case something is wrong.

I used to struggle with anxiety and depression but I got better and it was never like this–everything was always clear, I could think then, and I know this is over the suggested word limit but you’ve talked about mental health issues before and it seemed like maybe you might see something in this I don’t.

Answer:

When I first got this question I wondered if attempting to answer it could be considered irresponsible or even illegal.

To be honest I’ve always wondered why so many of you consult me about your mental health issues instead of doctors or family members, but I imagine it’s got something to do with comfort level or maybe trusting me/us in a way you don’t trust other adults in your life. In other words, I fear that if I don’t answer you, you’re not going to ask anyone else. So I decided it’d be irresponsible to NOT answer it.

However, this is particularly complicated here because while it does seem to be an issue requiring medical attention, we can’t be certain that it’s a mental health issue, it could be a neurological issue. Not that I’m a mental health expert, but I am slightly crazy/on medication and have been very close to a shit-ton of other crazy people over the years.

It’s tricky to pinpoint the cause of the symptom of memory loss, especially if you’re very young. You definitely need to see not only a psychiatrist, but a physician too, and very soon.

You should consider (and tell your doctor) whether you’ve had any recent head trauma or injuries or are on any drugs (prescribed or not) as many have memory loss as a side effect, and think about how recently you’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety. Also consider any emotional trauma you may be dealing with.

Many depressives become forgetful simply because they lose interest in things and stop paying attention to their surroundings, people, events, etc., and attention is required to hold onto memories.

You say that you’re experiencing paranoia and hallucinations — that alone is enough to necessitate a doctor visit.

Now that we’ve covered the physical/medical aspects, I want to talk about this — “I’m kind of scared and I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t want to tell anyone in case something is wrong.”

If it’s a disinterest in life in general that’s enabling your resistance to improve your life by telling someone what’s going on, then that in and of itself is already a symptom of depression. (Trust me, I know!)

But please, if something is wrong, little wing, then you’ve gotta make it right before it gets more wrong. You sound self-aware — you keep a journal, you read Autostraddle — you have lots of things in your life worth remembering! It’s not weak or silly to ask for help. It’s weak and silly NOT to. Don’t let pride, or any internalized stigma about anxiety/depression, stop you. Honestly I think being a little crazy or totally crazy makes people much more interesting and creative. If it is a mental thing then you are so not alone, as I’m sure many commenters will attest.

You need to call someone today. If we’re dealing with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder then things could escalate and get worse really fast, to the point where you’re no longer rational enough to take action to get better or it could start damaging your relationships, work or school. I know that’s hard to imagine right now. But I’ve known a lot of beautiful, smart, caring people (both friends and family members) who left their mental illness untreated and the results have been both devastating and unnecessary (because they could’ve been avoided with treatment).

Of course it’s always possible that you’re completely okay! But you won’t know that ’til you check it out.

The good news is that there’s so many resources, so many medical advancements, and so many people who love you and want you to be well.

As Ever,

Riese

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To send your question via ASS personal messaging, choose an editor: Riese | Laneia | Rachel
Or ask any team member you’d like: Meet the Team
*If messaging is down, email us! There are so many options, you guys! You could send carrier pigeons!*
For 100% anonymity, contact us through Formspring:  Riese | Laneia | Rachel

Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.


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Profile gravatar of Riese

Riese is the 35-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City and mellowed out in California before returning to Michigan for reasons that are unclear to her now — she is currently plotting her return to the West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2400 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. great answer, Riese.

    I want to throw in my two cents: that things could get SO MUCH BETTER for this person if she can get past her fear and go to a doctor. I know a couple of people who had scary head/mind things – seizures, terrible headaches, memory loss, etc – and it was terrifying for them. and they got checked out, and even though it was a lot to deal with at the time, it helped a TON to know what they were up against and to get treatment.

    just having someone else in your life who knows about it and is there for you can really take the weight off your shoulders. it might not get better overnight, but doctors are there to help, and they know things that you don’t even know you don’t know (and not just bad things – mostly good things!).

    take care of yourself <3

  2. I think Riese is spot on. Get to a doctor, you need to tell someone precisely BECAUSE something could be wrong. I’ve dealt with crippling major depression for over 10 years, even going so far as to have electro-convulsive therapy. I’ve had huge memory issues, not to the extent you’ve described and never hallucinations; this worries me a great deal. I think you may be experiencing much more than depression but I’m no expert.

    There is no shame or weakness in seeking help, it took me a while to do it but I did. I hope you can do the same.

  3. I don’t know your name – do please go and see a doctor and talk with her or him about getting a referral to a shrink. I know you’re scared, but this really is something that needs to be shared with people who can help. None of your emotions are inappropriate; they just aren’t lining up with now because they’re not about now, they’re about some other time in your life. They won’t seem inappropriate one you know where they’re coming from. There are good reasons for everything you’re feeling. This sounds like a dissociative disorder, which is there for a reason and needs help. It can certainly get better with good help. I would recommend talking with your doctor about EMDR as well as therapy – I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful, and it could be right for you – please be advised by your doctor and therapist, take as much care of yourself as you can right now, and know that you can come through this. There are people thinking about you and wishing you love, support and healing – I’m one of them. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what’s going on – there are people who will know about it. When you can’t work it out by yourself, the most responsible and caring thing you can do for yourself is to get yourself to a professional who can help.

    Thinking of you! Sara

  4. I know it seems scary, but go and see a doctor. I have a family member who experienced something very similar and it was a form of seizure that was easily sorted by a change in medication. Be brave- often these things are not as bad as you imagine 🙂

    • A trip to the emergency room today is in order, as these are serious symptoms. I am not saying that to freak you out but I think you are realizing how serious this is. if you won’t do that, start with family doctor and here’s why–because often a referral is needed for neurologists and other specialties, plus a doc can start with some basic blood tests and work up while referring you.
      I would not start with a psychiatrist as they may have tunnel vision and not consider other causes. I hope you have insurance I read this kind of quickly and didn’t notice if you mentioned it. I wouldn’t even attempt to diagnosis you if I was a doctor, there are too many possibilities and tests are needed. Best wishes to you.

    • yeah i know, but i figured people would know what i meant by “medical doctor” vs. psychiatrist. is there a better word to use to make the differentiation clear?

      ETA: I changed “medical doctor” to “physician.”

  5. Thanks for this… Both the question and the answer. I also have a terrible memory; I can’t remember anything, ever, and when I look back to younger years, there’s massive gaps of time that I just do not remember. Riese’s explanation of depressives not making memories easily because of their general lack of attention to things was nearly a revelation. I was terribly depressed for years but I was functioning at almost 100%; looking back, I have a hard time picturing it at all.

    To the poster, you are so not alone. Like everyone I know has or has had some sort of mental health issues at some point… Especially younger, queer females… There’s a lot going on, ya know? Don’t be afraid to get help… It is very likely that it will get better. The medication I’m on is life-changing and I am not afraid to admit it. Good luck!!

  6. “To be honest I’ve always wondered why so many of you consult me about your mental health issues instead of doctors or family members, but I imagine it’s got something to do with comfort level or maybe trusting me/us in a way you don’t trust other adults in your life.”

    You answered your own question (correctly I might add). While it may be stressful because I know you worry and care when you read something like this, it says a lot about you and the the ‘straddlers. A lot of good.

  7. Yes, good luck and godspeed! <3

    I must say, however, that though the overall moral of the story, and of many stories here at Autostraddle (go see someone qualified always!), is important, I'm not sure why the answer is so public. And maybe I'm looking into this a bit too much, but there seem to be some details in the answer that could only be gleaned through viewing an AS profile and weren't included in the original text of the question. Obviously the advice-seeker was comfortable with having the question answered publicly, but I think some elements of privacy are still important.

    Aside from community members being able to support the question asker and hopefully helping many understand what I, and the AS team, usually view as a piece of advice applicable to all situations, could this discussion have been conducted in private?

    It is wonderful as always that you take time to craft careful responses and that you even chose to look into the question-asker in detail beyond her three paragraphs. Because the asker was already embarrassed and/or self-conscious about the things she was experiencing, however, I'm just hoping each party is happy with the circumstances surrounding this thoughtful advice.

    • she contacted me via ASS as a “you need help” question and after getting it and thinking about it, I asked her if she wanted it answered on the site or in private and she said either way was okay with her.

      I’m wondering, aside from age (which I’ve removed — I didn’t think it was a big deal b/c like, there are thousands of ppl here, that’s not very specific, and I only looked that up b/c it’s incredibly relavent when considering the question, like crucially relevant), what details do you think weren’t in the original question? I don’t think there are any…

      i wanted to post it here mostly because i don’t trust myself to be right, or half-right, or anything. i wanted to be fact-checked. i asked my ex-girlfriend for help right away and she offered some valuable insights, many of which i’ve shared here, but beyond that i think i wanted her to feel the love and support she has here, and also to give myself room to be incorrect, or only partially correct. i didn’t want to be the only voice b/c i’m not qualified to be the only voice. i felt uncomfortable about the absoluteness of a private response with all its potential fallibility.

      in general, i believe that making my personal problems public is helpful to people — sometimes 2 people, sometimes 200,000 people. and i think this is true for everybody’s problems. she said it was ok and so, here we are.

      Does that make sense?

      • I know you weren’t responding to me, but yes you make sense. She gave you permission and you were responsible in your reply in many ways, such as: you didn’t assume it must be purely psychiatric–you picked up right away the severity of these symptoms calls for a neurological work up and bloodwork among other tests and assessments. The psychiatric problems part may be a main issue or symptomatic of something else or both..but she needs to get herself help NOW as you also gently stressed to her.

        And by doing so in a nonjudgmental and supportive way, and giving her a safe place with additional support–I don’t know how you could have done better.

        Now, if we could just work on you trusting yourself a bit more…

  8. As far as the word choice of “psychiatrist” goes, I think possibly the word you were looking for was psychologist. You asked, Riese, what word you should have used and I’m thinking that may be it. As I understand it, psychiatrists are medical doctors and have more knowledge of medications and physical aspects; they can also write prescriptions. Psychologists are more of a counseling type of health professional and usually partner with an MD or DO to monitor the meds and such. So if you wanted a word for a mental health for strictly the emotional and mental parts, that might be the term you wanted… But I could be wrong. 😉

  9. I normally don’t post comments but I identified with this so much, I simply have to share my own experience.

    I want this person to know, you are not alone. You are not a freak. You NEED to seek help, while you still have your wits with you. AND you need a support system. Tell someone you trust, you love, who knows you well. You need someone to bounce off of while you go through this.

    I have been in this person’s shoes, and I would wish the experience on no one. In my case, I was living abroad and seeking help for mental illness (your garden variety depression & anxiety) when things started to take a turn for the worst. Due to the poor communication/wrong diagnosis with my foreign, non-English-speaking psychiatrist, the drugs prescribed to me brought on even more depression, along with paranoia, suicidal ideation, and general unwanted scary thoughts. I told no one about what was happening, not even my family. Things started to spiral out of my control very rapidly and my body reached toxicity with the wrong kind of medication. I spent 6 months in a foreign country slowly going insane with chemical imbalance.

    Once I came back to the States, unfortunately I was in no way able to take care of myself any longer. I couldn’t even communicate properly with people I loved anymore. My family started to think I had suffered permanent damage to my brain, and I finally checked into a hospital.

    In the hospital, because I couldn’t communicate with my doctor (I was already too far gone with so many of the WRONG medications), lack of communication with my family to intervene on my behalf, and severe jet-lag induced sleep deprivation, I experienced all of the things you are writing about now. I couldn’t remember anything, started to become even more paranoid and began hallucinating at night (I’ve seen the bugs too, you are not alone). It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I could literally *feel* myself parting with my sanity, and was fully aware of it while it was happening. No words can describe the helplessness, the terror you can feel when you can’t get anyone to help you because you literally cannot form words out of your mouth. Believe it or not, I can imagine the fear you are experiencing now because I have lived through it.

    What I want you to know is that my experience could have been avoided had I just TALKED to my mother about what I hard time I was having. While I was abroad for 6 months, I told no one about the pain of my depression and anxiety, and thus things spiraled out of control until the only option was a 2-week stay in two separate psych wards.

    I survived. I am so glad to be alive (albeit with some mild PTSD). I finally got off all the medications, started sleeping soundly again… while I would wish my experience on no one, I understand it takes time to undo 6 months of hell. It took a while to surface back out of that darkness.

    What you are experiencing is a REAL, physical problem – it could be due to some medications you are currently on, or it could be a naturally occurring imbalance, or a physical malfunction in your brain. Either way you need to know how to deal with it properly while you are still capable of communicating.

    I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to just TALK TO SOMEONE. Open up – I know it seems scarier to do so. I can tell you that the hell I went through before I got help was MUCH SCARIER. But you can do something now to prevent a much more dire outcome. DON’T let it get so bad that you are no longer able to ask for help. Get it NOW, while you still can. You are obviously an articulate, smart person. Use that ability to talk to a doctor, to your family, while you can still understand what is happening to you. Something can be done!

    You are not alone. Be strong. You CAN do this.

  10. You been around ticks lately? Sounds like some of the symptoms are similar to Lyme disease which is completely treatable but can also cause permanent neurological damage. Super easy to test for – I think a blood test or something – but can also return false negatives when tested. Just a thought.

  11. I’d also just like to add from my experience that we should let things get this bad before talking to someone. I recently went through a really bad bout of depression and anxiety. I was having crippling attacks over the smallest things, was too terrified to get out of bed, and made a huge mistake in my work life because I was afraid of an anxiety attack which lead to a just clusterf*** of an attack. I had tried some homeopathic remedies that I had heard worked, but they weren’t working for me. I told everything to my mother in the middle of it all, and I felt so much better. It was a very scary period for me, and could have been lessened or even prevented if I had spoken up about what I was feeling earlier.

    Questioner, I hope you find a doctor AND a friend or family member you can talk to about all of this. And I hope everyone speaks up more when they’re going through difficult things in their lives.

  12. hmmm as a med student, I would say psychiatrist is a better bet because it’s very probable you’re going to need medication because you’re talking about serious mental disarray. I hope everything works out for the better, please seek help though-as ikebana said, you’re not alone and be strong

  13. Same. As someone who went through a bout of truly awful and very dangerous anxiety/depression, and is still dealing with the consequences (mental and school-wise), the longer you let this lie the worse it gets. You will feel immediately better once you just talk to someone about it. If you’re not ready to face a doctor (I know how this goes, it took me a while too), even just friends/family/a student counselor of some sort will give you the chance to release some mental pressure and maybe even give you the courage to go to a doctor. But go for help, friend. Keep trying, keep fighting. Not to be all cliche/mix causes, but it does get better.

  14. My brother has paranoid schizophrenia, but was in denial/afraid to tell anyone that something was wrong for years. He dropped out of school and pretty much locked himself in his room til it escalated to the point that he attacked my dad. Now he’s been on medication for about six months, and though everything’s not perfect he’s really doing amazing, he has friends and a life again, and he’s not afraid to tell us if he’s not feeling good.

    Please please go and get help, don’t waste any of your life being afraid of what other people might think or being labelled with an illness. I was sketchy about telling people my brother was ill at first, but just about everyone I’ve opened up to about it has told me about their own experience/their friend/their loved one who was ill. It’s okay to need help, and you don’t need to deal with it alone.

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