I was well aware of the whole no kitchen thing when moving into apartments in Germany, but what I didn’t know about was the lighting situation…or rather, the lack of it. Upon walking into the apartment and flipping the light switch I realized we didn’t have any light. Actually all we had were some very scary looking wires sticking out of the ceiling. With the exception of the kitchen we paid for a few days before, HB and I were completely unprepared for living in our new home. Fast forward a week and our apartment is almost completely put together. All we need is a couch, coffee table, and a few little bits and bobs.

HB and I are finally feeling a bit more settled. I’ve had my first appointment with the foreigner’s office, and now have the correct application; which is, minus a few signatures and proof of insurance, filled out and ready to go. Now we just have to wait and wait, and wait some more for a second appointment. During that appointment I should finally figure out when and where my integration and language course(s) will be. FINALLY! It’s very isolating and annoying not being about to accurately communicate with anyone. I’m sure once I’m actively in a course I’ll be a lot less enthusiastic, but as of right now I am excited.

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Please excuse my absence last week. We moved into our apartment and we’ve been trying to get everything set up, so I’ve been a bit busy. There will be a new post up on Sunday, because we should FINALLY have internet by the end of the week. We should also have almost all of our furniture so our apartment will finally feel like a home, and we can stop sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Maybe in an upcoming post I’ll do an apartment tour. We shall see. Until Sunday, I hope y’all have a good week!

My Experiences with Mental Health Professionals

I’ve written about my struggle with mental illness before, but what I haven’t written about is my interactions, and frustrations, with mental health professionals. I want to be upfront with everyone, I am a proponent of seeing someone if you are struggling. Actually, I think it is of the utmost importance. I’ve encouraged friends to seek out therapists, just like other friends did for me; so, my complaints and frustrations are not meant to try to convince people not to go, or scare people out of going. Instead I want to be an example to people that if you do not mesh well with your mental health professionals to not stay because you’re scared of leaving. Let me reiterate that: DO NOT STAY WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS IF YOU DO NOT FEEL LIKE THEY ARE HELPING YOU. FIND SOMEONE ELSE. You deserve to feel listened to, and you deserve to have someone that is invested in your mental health.

I briefly visited a child psychologist when I was younger, but I don’t really count that, because: 1. I didn’t choose to go, 2. I went maybe four times, and 3. I don’t remember much besides drawing (I don’t even know if I was given a diagnosis).

My first counselor was one of my university’s counselors. I genuinely liked visiting with her. My only complaint would be that I lead the sessions, and she rarely added or asked anything. It was really nice to just get all the awful things out of my head, and to have to someone that didn’t judge me and just listened. I saw her for almost two years before I moved to Columbus to live with HB. She is the reason I am on antidepressants, and I will forever be indebted to her for that. She made the suggestion that I might benefit from them. I just kept putting off making an appointment until one day I told her that I thought I was ready, and that I’d call once we were finished with our session. She asked what was stopping me from calling now? She told me to get my phone out and call.  I walked out of that appointment feeling like I could take on anything. Diane came into my life and blessed me with the desire and the will to take care of myself.

I wish I could say the take-on-the-world feeling hung around until my doctor’s appointment, but it didn’t. Instead I went in feeling like a child. I was embarrassed and fragile. My doctor ran through the depression check-list/questionnaire, and “shockingly” I was, in fact, depressed. That was the first time, to my knowledge, that I had formally been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I’ve spent that vast majority of my life with depression, but now I had an official diagnosis. Together we went through medications and their side-effects. I have minor anxiety, so we decided on something that was more for depression, but would help with anxiety as well. We decided on Pristiq. I was warned to watch out for suicidal ideation as well as a few other things, so she suggested to keep a journal the first three to four weeks as the medication worked its way into my system to monitor my mental health.

I wish I could say that Pristiq worked for me. I thought it did, because I felt different. The reality, however, was that it made it worse. Several months later, my new general practitioner changed my prescription, due to unrelated issues, to Zoloft. Along with a new prescription I had an appointment with a new counselor.

Enter Ms. Grey: a young, outgoing, and talkative woman. I genuinely like Ms. Grey as a person, but as a counselor we didn’t click. During our first session Ms. Grey made it known that she thought it was weird how important my dog was to me. I know it sounds odd, but Nyx is extremely important to me. She also makes me leave the house when I can’t or don’t want to. Most of our sessions were dominated by her, and, truthfully, it was by design. I figured out quickly that she liked to talk and took advantage of it. Whenever I did talk I tried to steer the session in the direction of my depression and issues I was having, but she was so focused on my anxiety. No matter how many times I told her that my anxiety wasn’t the issue, and that I wasn’t all that anxious about moving to Germany at that moment that is all she wanted to talk about. It was both annoying and disheartening to not be listened to. I finally stopped going to see her, because I wasn’t getting anywhere, and, for the most part, felt relatively okay.

I didn’t see Ms. Grey again for almost six months. I originally tried to just make an appointment with an actual psychologist, because I thought they might be of more help, but due to the procedures of where I went I had to see Ms. Grey again and get a referral. This would be, probably, the most beneficial appointment I had with her. I was showing signs of mania. I was freaking out and worried, and I just wanted to figure out what was going on. I didn’t get a referral for a psychologist out of that appointment, but I did get one for a psychiatrist. After the referral she, once again, wanted to talk about my anxiety. I wanted to scream at her “ANXIETY IS NOT MY ISSUE!” That was our last appointment.

I saw my psychiatrist a total of three times before I moved. He was a very direct man. Think of a stereotypical military officer. Our first appointment he told me to go through my entire history. I can barely remember what I ate for lunch, and I almost told him that, but ran through what I could remember. The entire time he jotted down notes. I thought he was really listening to me. Once I’d finished he said he’d up my Zoloft prescription, and we’d see how I felt after that. We did not even mention my mania…you know, the reason I was there. I didn’t really think much about it at the time, but looking back now it just makes me angry. The following two appointments were formalities. The “how’s the medicine doing, do you feel like you’re going crazy again?” type appointments. I was in and out of his office in five minutes. Getting all my vitals beforehand took longer.

Fast forward to September 3rd. I have my novel-sized medical records in hand, and I decided to go through them to see what my diagnosis was. It turns out my psychiatrist changed my diagnosis to Adjustment Disorder. I was angry. I felt like he didn’t listen to me, or even my counselor who was the one that pointed out that I was showing signs of mania. He took the fact that I was leaving for Germany soon and decided that’s why I was depressed. He disregarded that I had been dealing with depression for the vast majority of my life at that point. Instead he just chalked it up to me having a difficult time adjusting. Even now it makes me angry to think that I wasn’t listened to by the person that was supposed to care about my mental health–as a side note the man was retiring at the end of the year.

Whether it was his readiness to be retired or just a general lack of concern I’ll never know, but what I do know is that I refuse to stay with mental health professionals that don’t listen to me. I was afraid to stop visiting, because I hate conflict of any kind. I don’t like to “fire” people, and that’s exactly what I would have been doing. I suffered for that, and I won’t make that mistake again. I need to take care of myself, and in order to do that I need to have a team of health professionals that want to help me do just that. If they can’t or won’t then they aren’t worth my time. Ms. Grey and my psychiatrist were a speed-bump in my mental health journey, but my negative experiences with them will not stop me from finding a new therapist and psychiatrist. My mental health is too important for that. Let my mistakes be a lesson to you, dear reader, as well. If you are struggling and you decide to seek help, do not be afraid to leave a therapist if they don’t feel like the perfect fit for you. Take care of yourself. You are important, and you deserve to be listened to, believed, and treated with respect.

To my dear friend that started his journey today: I want to say I am so proud of you. I know how hard it is to take that first step, but you did it. Be proud!

 

Differences Between the U.S. and Germany: 3 weeks

I’ve been in Germany for about three weeks, and I have noticed some obvious differences between the U.S. and Germany. They aren’t good or bad, per say, just differences between the two countries. I’ll try to avoid the extremely obvious differences that I’ve experienced before moving (like public transport or grocery shopping),  and focus on the not so obvious things.

  • Germany hasn’t joined the rest of the world in digitizing everything.

That’s not to say that Germany is not as technologically advanced as the U.S., because it is. Where Germany falls short, though, is when it comes to having all the info you need for, say, your residence permit, or something equally important, on an official government site. OR, if there is a site that just straight up lists what all you need it’s ridiculously difficult to find, because I have yet to find it. (I may or may not be an idiot at times, so it very well might be me.)

Their online banking is not as instantaneous as in the U.S., either. (At least it isn’t with Deutsche Bank.) It takes several days for your charges to be noted on your account. It’s not a huge deal, you just have to be more aware of your spending–which is never a bad thing.

You can’t get everything done online. For a lot of things you must mail something off. For example: Our AirBnB doesn’t have internet so we bought an internet stick at Aldi, but to register the internet stick in order to get it to work you have to mail off a form verifying you are who you say you are. It’s not a huge inconvenience, because the post system is relatively fast; but still, it would be so much easier to just do it all online.

  • Hours of operation are taken extremely seriously here.

Our Rathaus in Garmisch closes at 4 every day, except for Thursday when it’s open until 5. HB is in class from 8.30 until 4.30 or 5. He got to the Rathaus at 4:50 in order to register us with the Einwohnermeldeamt. The woman at the desk was livid that he came in so late and that she’d have to work a few minutes late. As soon as it was 5 o’clock the entire building emptied. It was like watching a fire drill. I have never seen a government building empty so quickly right at closing time. People just kept streaming out of the building. In the U.S. it’s not uncommon for the doors to be locked so no one else can enter, but for the people working to stay until everyone had been helped. And, if for some reason they couldn’t be helped, be offered an appointment for early the following day. Or if you’re shopping the sales associates to stay there until you are finished shopping. [If it’s only a few minutes it’s completely okay, but if you’re in there for thirty minutes we will give you dirty looks and follow you around with the vacuum so you get the picture to leave–been there, done that, don’t want to go back again.]

  • Going off my last point, some governmental hours of operation are an absolute joke

The hours for our local Auslaenderbehoerde are ridiculous. They’re open from 8 until 12:30, and you are not getting in if you walk in at 12:20 to just get info for what all you need to have for your resident permit application. Instead, you will be told to make an appointment…that may or may not actually work with your schedule, but oh well, suck it up buttercup! This is how it’s done. [This is a minor annoyance for me, because HB’s schedule is extremely strict. He has a little time to come home during lunch, but it’s not much. And I don’t know nearly enough German to go by myself to get it taken care of. It’s all around annoying, but I can’t imagine it’s much better in the U.S. Maybe the hours might be better, but I’m sure the hoops you need to jump through are just as annoying. Immigration sucks no matter where you are (I assume.).]

  • Dogs can go almost everywhere.

Okay, this one I already knew, but being in possession of a semi-loyal, four-legged friend, it’s so fantastic! It’s so incredibly nice being able to bring Nyx almost everywhere with me. There are times when having her with me is inconvenient; like, when it’s packed in Mueller and I’m trying to grab one or two things and get out, but Nyx wants to try to say hello to everyone we pass. But that is so much better than having to leave her at home.

  • Vacuums.

I’m not sure how I’ve gone so long without ever seeing a vacuum here, but I have. For reference, if you don’t know what each type of vacuum looks like here is a typical vacuum in the U.S. and here is a typical vacuum in Europe…or just Germany? I have no idea, but I assume most of Europe uses the same type. They are quite cumbersome for such small things, BUT they’re ridiculously quiet so it’s a fair trade-off, I think. It is, however, a bit odd that Europe still has bag vacuums, but that’s just because I’m so used to bag-less. I think the last time I used a vacuum with a bag in it was in the 90s. But when in Rome…er…Germany…do as the Germans do.

I have no doubt that more differences will make their appearance the longer I’m here, but those are the most obvious ones I’ve noticed so far.

I’m Alive, Just Lazy

HB, the furry kids, and I have all made it safely to Germany. We’ve actually been here for a little over two weeks. I’ve just been lazy so I haven’t uploaded. Well, that, and our AirBnB doesn’t have internet so we’re running off my phone’s hot-spot. It isn’t exactly ideal, but it’ll do in a pinch. I’m firmly planted in the honeymoon phase of our move, and probably will be for some time. I have no doubt that homesickness will eventually show it’s ugly face, but as of right now it’s nowhere in sight. Most likely because it still just feels like we’re visiting.

Life has been a lot less stressful since our move. Almost anything would be less stressful than our last week, hell, the last three days, of our time in the U.S. We sold or donated everything we could, packed up our house, and moved to Germany in three days. It was chaos, and just all around awful. But it’s all water under the bridge now, and we can both focus on other things. Like the blog! So far I’ve got a list of post ideas, and a couple already scheduled. I look forward to getting back into the swing of things. I’ve needed to do something creative for a while, and I’ve been neglecting the blog for far too long. For those that have stuck around: Thank you! Hopefully you’ll stick around for a while longer.

There are officially 12 days until we leave. I have avoided blogging, because, honestly, I haven’t been in the best place mentally. I have been in panic mode. I’ve felt like I was going to get sick for days, my heart has constantly been racing, and I have cried over anything, everything, and even over nothing. Suffice it to say, I am a train wreck of a person, and I think it’s time I’m finally open and honest with myself, and others.

I am terrified. Like knee shaking, voice cracking, horror movie terrified. And it is exhausting. I know that moving will be fun, and once things settle down I will be okay. But getting there is going to be a beast.

It also doesn’t help that we still have so much to do. HB has been in and out of town because of his job for the past six months, or so, which really isn’t conducive to moving furniture and the like. But, it is what it is. He’ll be home again soon so we’ll be able to knock it out. I must say, HB is fantastic and working under pressure. I end up ugly crying in a corner while he’s a one man powerhouse just trucking away at whatever needs to be done. I am convinced that I have been more of a hindrance to this move, rather than a help. But there are only twelve more days, and then we’ll be on to the next phase of our move: Air B&B life until our apartment is free. Until then I’m just going to multi-task by ugly crying and doing everything else for the move….that’s in twelve days. Everything is fine. No need to panic…I say as I’m panicking.

Brittany explores Georgia: Providence Canyon

Last weekend HB, Nyx, and I found ourselves in the back of my parent’s loaner car heading to Providence Canyon State Park for my step-dad’s birthday. Providence Canyon, also called “the little Grand Canyon,” is about a 45-50 minute drive south of Columbus, Georgia, not Ohio. It is an absolutely stunning sight, but unlike the actual Grand Canyon, it isn’t made out of rock. It’s actually made out of topsoil, clay, and sand. Water did have an important role in the creation of both canyons, though. Where it took millions of years for a river to carve out the Grand Canyon, it took what must feel like the blink of an eye for erosion–thanks to poor farming–to wash away the loose soil and create the canyon we see today in Georgia. I would be lying if I said I knew any of this before visiting the canyon. I, along with the rest of my family, thought it was a purely natural rock formation exactly like the Grand Canyon just in Georgia._DSC2583_DSC2576

Even if it’s not as awe inspiring as I would assume the Grand Canyon is, it’s still a breathtaking view. Especially when you think about how quickly it was formed in comparison to its larger, more solid cousin. I think it should also be noted that as beautiful as the canyon is, it should also be a reminder to take care of the land because if we don’t there can be drastic consequences…at least this one is nice to look at. We lose nothing by taking care of the place we live.

If you’re in the area, or like my parents and want to visit Georgia’s historical sites, I definitely recommend visiting the park. Although, I would consider waiting until it isn’t hot enough to melt your face off. Also, it should be noted that the floor of the canyon is wet and sandy–two things that never mix well–so be sure to wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. And don’t be like one lady we saw and wear fancy sandals. You will regret it.