MHAM #9: Christine

Today’s piece is written by the queen of social media herself, Christine. In case you don’t already know her, now you do. Like, I’m pretty sure she’s friends with Kris Jenner at this point, casual I know.

It’s hard to explain Christine in words because, like she says herself, she wears her emotions on her sleeve (and I mean that in the best way). I am never not hysterically laughing when I am with her. Her smile and cackle literally fill up a whole room. She genuinely instills happiness and positivity in everyone she meets. 

I’ve known that side of Christine for years now, but this may be one of the first times I’ve ever reached out to her about her deeper struggles.

Thank god I did. Christine’s insight into the stigma surrounding mental health is so powerful. I am so happy she agreed to share, because her words had such an impact on me and I know they will have an impact on all of you too.

Check it out: 

If you know me, or if you’ve even just met me once, you know that I am a very outgoing and sociable person. I tend to not hold back my feelings when it comes to expressing myself. When I think something is funny, I cackle. When I’m happy for one of my friends, I cry tears of joy. When I watch video compilations of dogs reuniting with their owners, I sob uncontrollably. I would say that I pretty much wear my emotions on my sleeve. What is usually surprising to people is that I struggle with anxiety and depression.

I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder when I was in 6th grade. I couldn’t go to class most of the time because I was too scared that if I was away from my family, something bad would happen. I would make my parents turn off the news in the mornings because that was an instant trigger. I spent the majority of that year in the guidance counselor’s office, where classmates delivered my schoolwork and asked what was wrong with me. My parents tried to get me professional help, but I refused. I was so embarrassed to even say the word therapy out loud. I grew up with the horrible stigma that surrounds mental health so ingrained in my mind by society, that I was too ashamed to even think that I could possibly need help. I spent the next few years trying my best to hide this anxiety, while simultaneously leading a normal high school life. 

I went off to college, still refusing any sort of therapy, just thinking things would fix themselves. Of course, I was wrong. I became obsessed with the fact that there must be something wrong with me. A reason why I wasn’t like everyone else. I developed a severe lack of confidence in myself and couldn’t even look in the mirror most days. I soon learned that anxiety and depression do not just disappear. They are not “fake illnesses” or “made up by someone who wants attention” – both phrases coined by society. They are extremely visceral and that’s something I have come to terms with over the years. 

Fortunately, I was able to get help during my freshman year of college. While I was home for winter break I went to therapy and saw a psychiatrist, and was then put on medication for anxiety and depression. This is something that took me almost eight years to act upon. Something I pushed off time and time again, panic attack after panic attack, because I couldn’t bear the fact that I would have to utter the words “I need help.”

At this point in my life, it’s still difficult for me to talk about out loud. Writing this is a little difficult, actually. Most people hear the word anxiety and think “Oh, they must be afraid of everything” and the word depression is usually followed by the question, “You’ve tried killing yourself?” It needs to be understood that this is not a black and white diagnosis. Yes, sometimes I’m scared. Yes, sometimes I think that people’s lives would be better without me here. Sometimes I lie in bed for hours thinking about everything that society says is wrong with me until I finally get tired enough and fall asleep. I still spend some mornings looking in the mirror pointing out all the things that could be better. I’ve spent these years at war with myself, and I know the only way things will get better is if we open up the conversation. The conversation that no one wants to have is consequently the conversation that is necessary for our well-being.

Think about your close group of friends; at least one of them suffers from anxiety or depression. Think about your coworkers, your teammates, your classmates. Close to 40 million Americans suffer every day. Luckily, both anxiety and depression are manageable. We have the medication, we have the therapy, and we have the technology. So, you ask, why are so many people still suffering then? It’s the stigma that surrounds this matter which causes so many people to shy away from the fact that they may have a mental illness. It’s our responsibility to start the conversation and break down the barriers that cause so many people to devalue themselves. Whoever you are – you are so valued, and you are so loved.

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MHAM Post #8: Jess

I met Jess (better known as Jschwa) through a friend a few years back. Knowing Jschwa has taught me that you can find comfort in people even when you’re not actively searching for it. Plus, it’s nice to know someone else who has an affinity for Tumblr the way I do (lol). 

I’m not even sure if her and I have ever actively shared our personal experiences with each other, but something in me just knew I should ask her to share her story, and I’m so glad I did. 

The way Jschwa writes is so poetic and I feel that her words and experiences have so much value. 

*I probably haven’t said it enough over the past week or so, but being this open and honest is terrifying. I have such a respect for everyone, including Jschwa, who has opened up about their darker moments simply in hopes of helping others. I couldn’t do this without you guys.*

Without further ado, here is her piece about loving and losing and finding some hope in the process: 

Growing up with a hole in your heart can pressure you to latch onto anything necessary in order for survival. All you knew was that something was missing and any way to fill the space was what had to be done. I can’t know for sure if this is why I began to let the darkness in, but I am sure that this is why I held onto it for so long.

My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was seven years old. I don’t remember much besides hiding in my room while adults tried to tell me how to feel, locking myself in the car when my dad tried to drag me to therapy before I was ready, and binge eating
whenever the pain became too much to bare.

By the time I was in high school I could still feel the emptiness I carried around but knew I wasn’t ready to make sense of it yet. I was not yet equipped to handle mourning my Mother but was drawn to a certain sadness that I could use to fill myself with for the time
being. Depression understood me at my worst and was always there for me in a way that I had refused to let anyone else be.

Back in September of this year, I found myself craving a better life for myself for the first time in probably my entire life. I was moving into a new apartment with a roommate I loved. I was starting a job at a company I admired in a field I was passionate about. After
years of failure, I had finally found the right mix of medication and therapy to armor me in my battle. I knew in my heart that I finally had the necessities to start becoming the person I had always aspired to be. It was time to let some of the darkness go and open my heart back up to someone who was pushed out many years earlier.

I could sit here and talk about the depth of pain from the depression, and the paralyzing fear of not knowing when the next anxiety attack would strike, but I’d rather write about what came next for me. I think one of the hardest parts about “getting better” is trying to
see yourself and learn about yourself as someone without depression, someone who deserves to be happy. For so long I clung to my depression and anxiety, letting it define who I was, letting it take up the empty space. It was warm and comforting in a way that I only knew because the only person who I had let in close enough to explain it to had been taken from me. I was left behind with a chemical imbalance that only she could have helped me navigate.

I was hesitant, as first, to begin the battle, and even after eight months of hard work, I still have days, even weeks, where I slip or indulge in my old habits of isolation and misery. All of these days are necessary to win the war, because that is still a part of who I am, but it is not the only person who I will let myself be. I’ve learned that instead of trying to fill the empty space that my mother had left, it makes more sense to finally mourn her death and let her reclaim that hole in my heart. It was always hers and always will be.

MHAM Post #7: Caroline

Today’s post is a piece written by, not only one of my closest friends, but also my roommate, Caroline.

Living with someone can be complicated. Their highs and their lows become, in a way, your highs and lows too. I’ve known Caroline for years now, but I’ve learned a lot more about her over this past year. I can genuinely say I’ve grown so much as a result of our friendship.

She writes about how she motivates herself when she’s feeling low, touches on some of her harder realizations, and expresses some of her most prized memories. 

I especially enjoyed her writing because, although we may share similar diagnoses, we cope very differently. It’s nice to remember that there is a multitude of solutions to the same feelings, you just have to find the one that suits you best.

ENJOOOOOY:

I once asked my psychiatrist if I was born this way, or if the events that happened in my life caused this. She told me, “well, I think you were born this way, but I don’t think those events helped”. That’s something I have had to come to terms with this past year. Although something tragic happened to me, I was born with anxiety and depression. Its like having an arthritic knee and running a half marathon on it. Insult adds to injury. Death of a sibling adds to depression. A break up adds to anxiety. And vise versa.

This year, everyone around me felt helpless. Not only did I push away certain people who were nothing but supportive, but I leaned too hard on those who were left around me. That’s probably the worst part of this “condition”. You act out, say and do hurtful things, and then when you’re falling apart, there’s no one left to help you put the pieces back together. That’s another lesson I learned. Only yourself and a trained professional can truly get you out of this rut. And although it feels so unfair, you are responsible for the things you’ve done while you were unhealthy. There are going to be people out there who can empathize and understand that anxiety and depression can cause this erratic behavior, but there’s only so much people can take. Why should they be expected to show love and support when they only receive hate and hostility in return?  I personally learned this lesson the hard way, but if I didn’t, I don’t think I would have ever changed.

Now, I am still a work in progress. But I’m much better then I was. I feel like my confidence is up, I don’t cry over everything, and I see everyday as a gift and an opportunity to have fun. That last one is probably something I am most proud of myself for. Before, I didn’t see the point. And now, I constantly feel alive and want to experience everything. I think a lot of that I owe to my brother.  After losing my him the way I did, I almost feel like I have a leg up in this world. That sounds weird, right? But I’ve felt that since the day he passed. I look at a day spent in bed as a waste. I have this constant nagging voice in my head of my brother saying, “Come on, get up. You’re not even trying”. And I get up. I shower. I go outside. I surround myself with fun people. If I feel anxious about something, I hear him say, “Just let it go, who cares?” And it genuinely brings me back down to earth and I don’t care. It’s the most freeing feeling, and that’s why I say I’m lucky to have endured what I did. He taught me that life shouldn’t be so complicated, it should be enjoyable. Your day shouldn’t be spent in bed, crying, trying to change something you can not change.

And here’s a little anecdote ~ I remember one day he got some bad news after a routine doctors visit. He came home, cried to me, and said, “it’s really bad this time, Caroline”. He sulked, laid in bed, and I held him through it. The next day he was up, and asking me if he could give my flash pass to his friend (uh sure, why not) so he could go to Six Flags for the day. Wait, WHAT?? Here I am, still recovering from the awfulness of yesterday and this kid wakes up with a smile on his face telling me hes gonna ride roller coasters all day? That’s when I really knew how amazing he was. And when he left this earth, I promised myself I would emulate all that zest for life, for the rest of my life. End anecdote ~

Although I would give anything to have him here with me, I am so lucky to carry him with me always. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I could make as much progress as I have. And if he was here he would yell at me for not giving myself more credit. So yes, here I am giving myself some credit. I’m killing it. 

Ok, thanks for listening. Hope you enjoy this beautiful day and go to happy hour and laugh with friends and smile at the sunshine!!

MHAM Post #6: Kaley

Sometimes you meet friends who teach you more than you ever expected. That’s how I feel about Kaley. 

In many respects, Kaley has a way of always keeping things lighthearted, but she also has this depth and sincerity about her that you just can’t help but be drawn to. She’s the kind of person that makes it feel so comfortable to connect with her, no matter the scope of the conversation.

I genuinely believe that Kaley’s words have such weight, and I am so happy she agreed to let me publish her raw and honest thoughts.

Here is her personal experience with mental health: 

My mental illness reared its ugly head when I was 18 years old, the second I got to college. Sure, I had some signs when I was little. Like being overly sensitive to the point where my mom actually had to say to me “try not to cry today”. Or like having a scene from a nightmare stuck in my head for days. Or complaining of stomach aches that didn’t actually exist because I just didn’t feel “right”. But when I think back to those instances now, none of them were really cause for concern. None of them were even close to comparable to what I experienced from the age of 18 onward.

The second I got dropped off at college, I started crying for no reason. I started crying, and I didn’t stop (for probably about 5 months). I talked to my mom daily, and she comforted me saying that this was normal and it would soon pass. As the weeks went on, and then as the months went on, she said that I was welcome to come home if college wasn’t for me. This terrified me even more, because I didn’t WANT to go home. What was for me at home? My life was at college – my old friends, my new friends, my classes, my future.

The depression soon developed into anxiety. I now know that these illnesses often go hand in hand. The anxiety, however, was unbearable. I couldn’t sleep, eat, think. All I could do was exist. The anxiety developed into what I now know is called obsessive thoughts. Some examples of the thoughts I wrestled with every second of every day were that I was going to commit suicide, that I was going to hurt someone I loved, and worst of all, that everyone was going to die someday, so what’s the point? These thoughts were not me. I did not believe these thoughts, I did not want these thoughts, and I really had nothing to do with these thoughts. However, my brain had convinced me I did.

Looking back now, I know that this anxiety and the accompanying obsessive thoughts were ultimately provoked by a major change in my life. The only solution was to get comfortable with the change in order to calm my brain down (easier said than done), and/or to turn to medicine for help. In my case, medicine was my answer. Medicine got rid of every single one of my symptoms and allowed me to be the person I wanted to be.

College was not my only rough time. There have been 3 more periods of misery since then due to other various life changes (ex. breakups with boyfriends). However, each of those times, I got back on my medication to fix my chemical imbalance. Then, without the crippling anxiety and terrible thoughts, I could cope and move on. At this point in my life, I have learned and come to terms with the fact that I might need to be on medicine my whole life, and I am completely okay with that. Life is FULL of changes, and with a little something to cure my chemical imbalance, I truly believe I can handle and embrace all of them.

Something very important to note is that, for each of the periods in which my mental illness took over, there was really nothing wrong in my life. This caused me to feel a lot of confusion and guilt. I had SO many things to be thankful for, so why was I so miserable? Even to this day, I feel guilty for what I’ve been through because I’ve been blessed with so many amazing things in this life, while there are people out there struggling for so many REAL reasons. I have to remind myself, then and now, that I couldn’t help it. No one chooses to feel this way. No one chooses to not be able to control their thoughts and emotions.

My mom always said to me, “this is happening to you so that you can someday help someone else”. I still like to cling to that idea to make a little bit of sense out of why I am the way I am (hence why I agreed to write about my story).

The last thing I want to say is that I could not have gotten where I am today without the support of my amazing friends and family. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am grateful for them more than they will ever know.

MHAM Post #5: Allie

Usually when I describe joking about my darkest moments with friends, I am referring to Allie (better known to me as Mcveety). She’s the person who always helps me lighten the mood with a laugh. She gets me on a wave length that not many do, and I’m so lucky for that. 

When I thought about making this month a collaborative project, Mcveety is one of the first people I asked to help. Something in me just knew she’d have a good experience to write about.

In her piece she talks about what her diagnoses mean to her. She also shares a harsh wake-up call she recently experienced, and how it has influenced her outlook moving forward.

I am happy to share her words here: 

Anxiety is, two hours ago, having to call your mom from where you were pulled over on the side of the road to talk you off the ledge because you could feel a panic attack coming on. Anxiety is your mom having to come home early from work to find you in the fetal position on the kitchen floor, unable to tell her what’s wrong. Anxiety is, at 7 years old, laying awake the entire night because every single little noise you hear you HAVE to go make sure your little brother is still alive and well in the next room, because you are deathly afraid something will happen to him. Anxiety is having a half hour conversation with a professor and not remembering what was said because you were in the middle of a panic attack and you tend to black out during your worst ones.

I do notice that I referenced my mom a lot. Other than the fact that she is my favorite person in the entire world and I literally couldn’t function on this earth without her (no literally like she fills out my FASFA for me), she has – earlier than I can even remember – always encouraged me to express my feelings. She has always made me feel that my feelings are valid, simply because that’s the way I feel. No other proof or evidence needed. That’s why, growing up, I never understood this unnecessary stigma against mental health issues. I literally came out of the womb with mental health issues. Like I wouldn’t be shocked if I was birthed and looked at my mom and said “girl u fucked”. But my mom never made me feel like it was something that made me different. It was the just the way I am.  And I truly never realized that not everyone else was like me.

Entering my spring semester of my second year of grad school, I slipped into a very deep depression. My grades were slipping, I never showed up to clinic, I was constantly crying. The catalyst was a breakup with a boy I had real feelings for. I couldn’t recognize my self worth. I didn’t understand why I felt the way I felt and he didn’t feel the same way about me (I have now subsequently realized that he MUST be gay, because I am an ethereal goddess with zero flaws). This is NOT an excuse for my depression – it is simply just what set me off. This large event had happened, and I was alone in Connecticut, a place I knew I would not thrive and didn’t belong, and I was just stuck.

However, I had been this low before, so I knew the actions I needed to take. I called my therapist and started back up with my weekly sessions, and I expressed to my primary care doctor that I wanted to start back up on my anti depressants and anti anxiety medication. I was extremely proud of myself that even at my lowest of lows, I took action. I did something to make myself stronger. 

After taking all of the above necessary steps, I also scheduled a meeting with one of my clinical supervisors to explain why I had not been at my best. When I thought I was in a safe, judgement free zone, I explained to my clinical supervisor what was happening in my personal life. I explained in detail what I was going through, how low I was feeling, and that I was finally taking steps to correct it. 

What she said to me next was when I realized that not everyone in the world is as understanding as my mother. She looked at me in the eyes, after I had spent the last 45 minutes inconsolable in her office, and stated, “everybody has mood swings”. Frankly, I was appalled at her behavior. Here I am, genuinely spilling my heart out across her desk, and she had the audacity to equate my clinical depression with MOOD SWINGS. 

Now, I have had my fair share of mood swings before. I am a girl, I have a period every month, I am also a self proclaimed drama queen. Hell, I have fucking mood swings every day when I get slightly hungry. Mood swings are not – by any means in the history of all the world – equivalent to your depression. If you are suffering, there is something that I need you to know: OTHER PEOPLE ARE NOT IN CHARGE OF TELLING YOU HOW YOU FEEL. YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID BECAUSE THEY ARE YOUR FEELINGS. 

My professor’s words were shocking to me. They literally rocked me to my core. But after a long time and a lot of self reflection, I began to legitimately feel sorry for her. And frankly, for her children. I am sorry that your daughter will never feel like she can come to you crying and not know why she is sad. I am sorry that you feel the need to belittle the feelings of others, simply because you do not understand them. I am truly sorry.

In a way, I needed this experience. I needed the experience because it helped me be not only more in touch with my attitude toward mental health, but it honestly and truly helped me be a better friend as well. This woman did not understand what I was going through, so she squashed my feelings like a bug. I do not ever want anyone else to feel the way that I felt that day. Your feelings are valid because they are yours.

Check out Allie on social media:
Twitter: @McTweeetMe
I
nstagram: @mcveetz


MHAM Post #4: Samantha

Although many friendships throughout life come and go, I’ve been fortunate enough to have known the writer of this piece since 3rd grade.

There is such a comfort in a friendship like the one Sammy and I have. We’ve known each other since we were eight years old. We remember each other’s best times, and we were there for each other’s worst times, too. 

Although, right now, we basically live on the opposite sides of the country, Sammy has been someone who continuously supports me, and even more-so than that, inspires me. She creates some pretty dope shit and somehow still has time to help me with my projects, too. I am so happy to share her piece about her mental health experiences. 

Without further ado… Here it is: 

When I finally realized what it was, I was too scared to define myself as it. I’d substituted words like “not feeling myself” or “I’m off today” or “I’m just exhausted”. I guess I was scared of telling people I was something that I couldn’t take back. How can I say I suffer from depression and be seen a week later, out with friends at a bar, smiling and laughing? When people think depression, they think isolation, and darkened rooms behind closed blinds. They think a deep pain, and their mind eventually brings them to the topic of suicide. Not everyone suffering from depression is aware they are suffering from depression. And not everyone suffering from depression thinks about ending their life to escape their mind.

When I told someone recently about my reoccurring struggle with depression, the first thing they asked was about the suicidal thoughts. “Wait you think about killing yourself?”. Haven’t we all? When you stand too close to the edge of a cliff, and you think how easy it would be to jump. I’ve thought about it, but I’ve never thought about acting on it. The biggest issue I have with my depression is that it is mine, it belongs to me. No two people share the same depression. When we talk about depression and the warning signs, we try to treat it and understand it in the same way. Depression comes with its friends, like anxiety and other disorders that occur in the brain and again, no two cases are alike. No two cases should be treated similarly.

My depression comes on softly. It starts with some negative thoughts about myself, and new thoughts start to add themselves to my head daily. Once the thoughts are regular, I start to mistrust the people around me because attacking myself is not good enough. After that, I cut myself off from real connection. I don’t answer texts. I procrastinate beyond comprehension. It’s this hopelessness that things aren’t going to get better. Sometimes I convince myself a witch put a curse on me or that I’m living in a vortex. Life begins to feel less real, almost like an endless dream. My mind becomes hazy. Sometimes I cry for no reason in my car or in the stream of water from my shower. Sleep becomes something I so desperately need, even if I’m getting 8+ hours, like I’m not truly sleeping even when I am. I stay in bed for hours if I can. I loose interest in my passions: singing, cooking, reading, cinema and most importantly, my photography. I don’t want to take pictures. I see failure and mistakes in each photo I take. I become a lesser version of myself. I feel I’ve let down everyone around me, including the ones I’ve lost to death. I feel their disappointment in my sleep.  

And then, I see sun. It’s like I awake from a slumber and I can feel again. And I cry out of happiness instead of sadness. I get excited for my future. Someone once told me depression is not being able to see a future. It’s hard to see pass the thoughts when it’s all that consumes you. It takes away any glimmer of hope for a future when you can’t dream up one. When I emerge from the depression, I feel strong.

But I know it’s not over. I think the biggest lesson I have learned with my depression is to seek help often. Tell your family and friends. You are loved even when your brain tells you you are not. My fears had always been being misunderstood, being judged, or not being taken seriously. Those fears subsided tremendously when I shared my burden with others. I sought therapy, and began building a relationship with my mom again, and with myself. I know my depression does not define me as a person. We are never just one thing and we are never ever alone. 

Check out Sammy’s work on her website: jvmpthegun.com
H
er Tumblr: jvmpthegun.tumblr.com
H
er Instagram: @sammykeller
& Her Twitter: @sammmyyyyk

MHAM Post #3: One of Many Who Inspire Me – Kelsey Darragh

After a weekend spent feeling unusually low, I wanted to get the ball rolling this week with a little inspiration from someone I have admired for quite some time now.

Kelsey Darragh, if you don’t know her, now you know. Female comedian, internet content creator, and Buzzfeed producer who, for some time now, has been generating some pretty dope and hilarious videos, and a lot of seriously relatable shit too.

The video above isn’t the only one floating around Buzzfeed’s many Youtube pages that features her discussing her mental health, but it’s definitely one of my personal favorites.

I know I say it all the time, but progress isn’t always linear, you guys!! Not with anything in life, but especially not with mental health. Don’t get discouraged if you feel like you’re running in place. Don’t give up if it seems like you’re taking three steps forward just to take four steps back. Change will come. There are people, medications, therapies, resources, out there that will help you. It make take time to find the right combination that works perfectly for you, but don’t stop now.

If you want to check out more of Kelsey Darragh’s stuff you can find her here:


Twitter: @kelseydarragh
Instagram: @kelseydarraghcomedy

And tomorrowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww…..keep an eye out for the first of
many pieces about mental health written by a friend of mine !!!

KEWL HUH? YOU GET TO HEAR FROM SOMEONE OTHER THAN ME FOR A
CHANGE.

K HAPPY MONDAY n shit xo