The Waiting Game

It’s hard to wait for things, especially if you know they’re coming. You can get antsy and nervous. Your mind can go to some crazy places jumping from one possible outcome to the next. There’s not shortage of things that can happen to you while waiting for something. I tend not to wait, and it’s bitten me in the ass quite a few times.

The most recent time was when I moved across the country in early 2017. Just out of college, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I had fallen in love with screenwriting my last two years in college and decided I’d at least try and pursue that. To me, this meant that I had to go to the one place where everything in the film industry happens: Los Angeles. At least, that’s what I was told.

There were a number of things I didn’t take into account when moving and as a result, after one month in LA I realized that this was not the place I wanted to spend my 20s. This didn’t meant that I didn’t want to pursue screenwriting anymore; I absolutely do, and writing screenplays still gives me a joy unlike any other. But in doing so, I ignored a number of things that were extremely important.

One of the most important things I neglected to take care of was my mental health. Since I was doing relatively well, I didn’t think about the impact that this seismic shift would have on my mental state. And it did not go well…to say the least. I had panic attacks every day, often to the point of becoming numb in my fingers and toes. I couldn’t think straight, see straight, and was not excited to explore this new place like I have been for every other new place I’ve been to in my life. So I left and moved home, because I didn’t know what else to do.

I don’t regret going; I got a feel for the city and understood what it would take for me to succeed in that town. But I wasn’t ready. And now, I’m doing better than I have been in a long while. I took care of myself and put myself first, even though it meant that I had to put some things on hold.

But this journey also reminded me of a few other dreams (namely, teaching English in Europe) I have that living in Los Angeles would not have allowed me to do. I’m working toward some of those dreams now but the thing is, they also require some waiting. So now I have gone from making my future happen to waiting on my future to happen.

What does this have to do with mental health? Sometimes when you’re depressed or especially anxious, you spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for things to get better. Waiting for the sadness to stop. Waiting for your mind to be at ease. But you don’t always know when, or how, it’s going to come. It makes some people (like me) hate waiting. But sometimes, waiting is exactly what you need. It helps you prepare for the good things about to come. Maybe you think that you’re not waiting for anything, that you’re just getting by day by day…but on the other hand, good things come to those who wait, right?

While I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the waiting, if you’ve got some good tips on patience and waiting in life I would love to hear them!

What I’m Thankful For

I know what you’re thinking. Another blog post about being thankful? On Thanksgiving? Pass. And I wouldn’t blame you. But I’m going to take another route.

I’m sure you’ve read it before, but gratitude is almost a necessity these days. The world moves so fast and things are so easily accessible that it’s difficult to stop and take a moment to reflect on things. Whether things are going well or…not so well, it’s important to remind yourself about the good things in your live. For people living with a mental illness, it’s probably a little harder. Let me explain.

People who are already prone to having negative or destructive thoughts find it quite difficult to think of good things that have happened to them. And even when they have, their memory can be so cloudy, so foggy from their struggles that they view those good things differently. I don’t want to speak to anyone else’s experience, but I run into that problem fairly often. There are the staples that we often take for granted. If we have a good family life or are financially stable, it’s sometimes hard to remember that not everyone has what we have. If we’ve been lucky enough to be in a relationship or find that someone special, we forget not everyone has a significant other. And if our mental health is in a good state, we can forget that that’s not the case for people all the time (or any of the time, in some cases).

Gratitude has been something that I’ve struggled with in the past, and every therapist I’ve met (and there have been a few) has suggested gratitude as a good way to bring myself out of the funk that depression can cause. However, there are some downsides to this (believe me). Remembering all that you’re grateful for can sometimes make a person feel that they should be happier because of all that they’ve been given. I’ve been blessed with many things, and when I remind myself of them I can sometimes fall into the trap of not feeling grateful enough to warrant what I’ve been given in life.

I’m not saying don’t be grateful or thankful for what you’ve been given, but if you’re struggling with your mental health and people tell you to be grateful for everything else you have, it’s okay. You’re allowed to be grateful for a good life while still being frustrated that you’ve also been gifted with a mental illness. Wait, gifted? Yes. Last Thanksgiving was the first time that my mental illnesses were among the list of things that I was grateful for. Why? Because I’ve been given so many talents in addition to it, and I can use those talents to amplify my voice and be an advocate for others like me.

I’m grateful for a lot of things in my life. And I’m grateful that I’ve been able to work at what I’m not so grateful for, and turn it into something positive. And honestly? That’s enough for me. At least for now. And that’s something worth being thankful for.

Out of the Darkness Community Walk

When I decided to take part in an Out of the Darkness Community Walk (put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) this past Saturday, I was pretty nervous. I knew there would be people who had lost loved ones to suicide, which is an extremely difficult situation that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. What I didn’t know is if there would be people there who’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts in their lives – like me.

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I was stunned by the number of people that showed up to walk – in a good way!

As I walked down the National Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, where the walk began, I was met with a sight that made me tear up instantly. Hundreds of people were milling around at registration, at the booths organizations had set up or were just talking with each other before the walk began. The number of people reflected not only how many people have been affected by suicide, but how many people were willing to fight against suicide even after someone had been taken from them.

I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts for most of (if not all of) my adult life. At this point, it’s just something that’s a part of me, no different than all the other baggage I carry around every day. But something about this walk changed the way I view myself. See, this year the AFSP decided to do something new: honor beads. People were given beads based on their experience. These colors showed each person’s connection to the cause, and it was a wonderful way to bring people together to show them that they’re not alone. I wore green beads, which represented having a personal struggle with suicide or mental illness. And I was honestly very afraid that I would be the only one wearing green beads.

 

 

Instead, I saw hundreds of people wearing green beads just like me. It was a very strange feeling because while I was cheered up that I wasn’t alone, my heart broke for all those who deal with suicidal thoughts – or even attempts. In a way, that was a microcosm of my day. One of the biggest problems in mental health today is this feeling that no one else is going through what you’re going through. Even when you know it’s not true, those thoughts are still prevalent and can affect everything you do. Being surrounded by so many other people affected by suicide, your heart can’t help but break for these people who have lost their love ones to suicide.

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Shoutout to my family (sans two siblings) for walking with me!

But it also gave me hope at the amazing response to tragedy. It gave me hope that even though darkness can hit all of us at one time or another, the light is still going to shine through. I’ve never been more simultaneously happy and sad than I was on Saturday, but I ended the day feeling full of hope and strength. I hope to continue the fight against suicide in as many ways as I can, and Saturday was a very good start.

There’s plenty of different ways to fight suicide. To learn more you can check out afsp.org

 

The Mental Health Tag

Hey, how’s your day going? Probably great if you’re reading this swell content. One thing that is very difficult when talking about mental health is to be blunt. Honestly, it’s my biggest problem if I’m discussing my mental health. It’s so much easier to talk around the subject and not get right to the point. Kind of like I am right now…

 

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So I’ll be more blunt; at least, today I will. I found “The Mental Health Tag” when reading a blog (shoutout to Jenny in Neverland!) and thought I would give it a try myself. You can read her post here!

What is your mental health issue?

My mental health issue is clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Do you have medication and/or therapy?

I’ve taken various medications over the past four years and am currently on medication. I’ve also undergone cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with various therapists and psychiatrists (I had to mix and match in college) but I’m not currently in therapy.

What therapy/medication have you tried and have any worked for you?

I’ve done CBT on and off for five years or so, and it’s been a mixed bag for me. They certainly taught me a lot not only about myself, but about different tips and tactics that I could use to tackle my depression and anxiety. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t (my friends can attest to that…for sure) but I would say that while it didn’t ‘work’ it definitely helped. I tried three medications before I found one that worked for me, and unfortunately it was guess and check for a few years before I found something that helped. It’s not perfect, but it gets me out of bed in the morning! Well…most mornings.

How long have you had problems for?

I was diagnosed in early 2013, so about four and a half years.

Do your family/friends know?

For a long time only my immediate family and closest friends knew, but as I got to know myself and my mental health better, I told more people about it. Now it’s something I don’t mind anyone knowing, and am very happy to talk about with anyone who wants to know.

Does this affect your work and daily living?

Does it EVER. Sorry, that was a joking way of saying that yes, it affects nearly everything I do. I like to say that I have high-functioning depression and anxiety; I can go about my day and get things done, but what’s going on inside my head is a completely different story. And that’s on a good day. It doesn’t affect the quality of work that I’m able to produce, but some days are harder than others. But yes, it’s safe to say it affects my daily life.

What makes you feel calm?

Watching Netflix (depending on the show), meditating, writing, working on my basketball website, biking, hiking, being in nature.

What do you do in crisis?

Typically I like to be left alone in times like that, because there’s really not anything anyone can do for me and that makes me feel bad. However, in college I met some amazing people who would be with me at my worst to keep me safe. No, they did not have to do that. And yes, I am forever grateful for that and will probably never be able to repay them for all of their generosity.

What advice would you give to others suffering?

Don’t go it alone. Depression makes you feel like you’re isolated and fighting this battle all by yourself, and for years I believed that. But you’re not, even when you feel like it. Especially when you feel like it. And once you open up about your struggle, it’s amazing who will help you out – some people will surprise you, and you’ll get help from the most unlikely places.

What makes you smile?

Writing (especially screenwriting!), exploring a new city, getting stuff done when I feel depressed, playing with my little brother, watching a good movie, and doing anything that makes me feel alive – which is super generic, but you never know what can make you smile.

Describe your mental health issue in 5 words.

Daunting, tiring, challenging, motivating and uplifting.

If you have any questions about my mental health or want any advice or support for yours, please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear it.

It’s #WorldMentalHealthDay!

#WorldMentalHealthDay means it’s another WONDERFUL day to talk about mental health! It’s the 25th anniversary of World Mental Health Day, which was founded in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health. Obviously any special day, week or month bringing awareness to mental health is important, but I feel like this day is especially important not only for those with a mental illness, but for anyone who is trying to maintain good mental health – which is everybody.

The theme for this year’s #WorldMentalHealthDay is Mental Health in the Workplace, which I personally love because I think the workplace one of the places where the taboo of discussing mental health is most prevalent. Mental health is JUST as important as physical health.

I don’t mean to be critical of workplaces specifically; there are tons of environments and situations where discussing mental health is far more taboo and uncomfortable. But the value of good mental health in the workplace is something often taken for granted, and only noticeable when someone’s lack of mental health begins to affect their work productivity. Mental health issues happen to people regardless of how much they can get done at work. Some of the most productive people I know have mental health disorders, and often have to work twice as hard to get the same amount of work done as their co-workers.

In a perfect world, employees would have good mental health and would come to work every day with a sound mind and body, ready to get to work. But as (I hope) we all know, it is not a perfect world, and we often bring out moods and attitudes into the office with us.

How can this change? Have a conversation with a co-worker or a friend. Ask them how they’re doing. How they’re really doing. While mental wellness can sometimes be more make or break for someone with a mental illness, taking care of your mental health is important for everyone. Please don’t ignore it. Your life truly does depend on it.

Walking Out of the Darkness

I thought it would be easier to write this. Honestly, I did. I figured I could just put my message out there, hope someone reads it, and do my thing from there. But rarely, if ever, is it that simple.

A month or so ago I found out about Out of the Darkness Community Walks, which are put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). I didn’t know much about AFSP other than what I could take from their title (key words: “prevention” and “suicide”), so I read some more about the Community Walks and what they accomplished. I was blown away. And I knew  that somehow, I had to be part of it.

Held in hundreds of cities in every state of the country, the walks bring awareness and raise funds for the AFSP and their programs, bringing together those that have been affected by suicide.

As I’ve said in earlier posts, mental illness – and suicidal thoughts – do not discriminate. They can happen to anyone. It could be your co-worker, your friend, a family member or a loved one. You probably know someone who has thought about suicide before. And if you haven’t – Hi, nice to meet you.

I will be taking part in an Out of Darkness Community Walk on October 28th in Washington DC, along with many other people who have been affected by suicide and mental illness in one way or another. If you’re in the area, feel free to come walk with me. You can also donate to the event in the link below.

But most importantly, if there’s anyone you know that would benefit from this, please let them know that things like this walk exist. There is a movement of people who will fight their hardest against suicide and mental illness – and we’re not going anywhere.

If you’d like to donate/share about this walk, my donation page can be found here.

 

Thoughts During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I really wanted to write a new post on September 10th, but I couldn’t. Not that I didn’t have the chance to; I mentally could not do it.

For those who don’t know, that day is World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s an awareness day that provides worldwide commitment and action to preventing suicide. Since September is also Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I didn’t want the month to go by without at least addressing suicide prevention and suicide awareness. I have a lot of experience in this world, which I hope to get into on future posts.

Like other mental heath issues, suicidal thoughts don’t have a demographic. It doesn’t matter what your age, sex, gender, race or religion is; suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone. Maybe it’s happened to you; I can tell you for a fact that it’s happened to me – but this post isn’t about me. This post is about you.

I might know you, I might not; that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know that you are valued. That you’re cared for. That you matter.

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Don’t believe me? That’s okay. I’ve learned that there is a stark difference in this world between what the truth is and what I believe to be the truth. You might not think you’re important; you are. You might not think you matter; you do. Because here’s the thing: you aren’t in charge of how people think of you. Yes, you can influence their perception of you, but you don’t get to think for them. If they think you matter then you matter, case closed.

There are so many resources available when it comes to suicide prevention. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a great page made just for this month. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a wonderful resource for so many reasons, and do a great job of working with your demographic if that is something you need. There’s a hashtag on Twitter (#BeThe1To) that offers encouragement and help for those struggling. There is no shortage of help available.

But I know it’s not that easy. I know that sometimes asking for help when it comes to this kind of stuff is extremely difficult. It took me years before I ever felt comfortable talking about my suicidal thoughts. That’s okay. Just know that when you’re ready, there’s a community of mental health warriors who will be there to help you. Who want to help you. Because. You. Matter.

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Info on the Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Self-Esteem vs. Self Worth

*Note: this post is based on my own experiences and opinions – not facts.

Self-esteem and self-worth are often used interchangeably or synonymously when people are asked how they feel about themselves. I’d like to offer up another point of view, which came after realizing my high level of self-esteem – and my shockingly low level of self-worth.

If I’m being completely honest – and I think I already did that by creating this blog – I’ve never thought that I was particularly important as a person. Whenever I would be complimented for doing something I would think, someone else could have done that. I was naturally inclined to not consider the things I do and say as important, which isn’t a great place for anyone to be…especially if you have mental health issues.

It didn’t matter what I accomplished, I would maintain that mentality. Someone else could have done that or someone else did that or better yet someone else is doing that right now. I knew I was my own person; I just didn’t think that person mattered.

But here was the differece: my self-esteem was never tied to my self-worth. I was able to accomplish a number of things that would have been impossible without some level of self-esteem. I was a varsity athlete and honors student in high school. I traveled abroad throughout college. I moved from one end of the country and back (there will be more on that in a future post – for sure). I’ve done many things in life that I wouldn’t have accomplished without having some level of self-esteem.

For me, self-esteem was tied to my actions; I was confident in my abilities, my skills, my gifts. My self-worth was (and is) belief in me as a person. My skills in sports, academics or anything else didn’t have anything to do with whether or not I believed I mattered in this world.

I lived a long time with the mindset that if I just grew my self-esteem, my self-worth would grow along with it. But that wasn’t the case. I would feel good about my talents and abilities but still feel worthless and not worthy of my place in the world. Now that I have realized that there’s a difference between the two, I can begin to attack that lack of self-worth and see it for what it is, rather than something that’s wrapped up in other feelings and emotions.

I realize my story might be unique; maybe for most people, their self-worth is directly tied to their self-esteem. But if you’re a confident person who doesn’t think they matter in the world, please trust me when I say that you are not alone in feeling that. And you absolutely do matter.

 

Anxiety, Just Because.

When I decided I wanted to blog about mental health, I did a lot of research. I wanted to see what other people were saying, what they were thinking, what they were feeling. Obviously there is good information to be found on the Internet (have you seen Wikipedia?) but sometimes its difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. That was the case when I researched anxiety.

There’s definitely no shortage of anxiety; you’d have to be living under a rock not to be the least bit worried about all that’s going on in our world. When I would search for articles and blog posts about anxiety, while I would find people who are definitely valid in their thoughts and fears, and could identify with their feelings of worry and stress, I noticed something: the anxiety typically seemed to be brought on by an external factor.

Let me first say that I am in no way trying to invalidate anyone’s anxiety about what’s going on in the world today – or anything you’re anxious about, for that matter. It’s warranted and totally valid. What I was looking for, though, was for what I could do about anxiety that’s not brought on by anything. What to do when feelings of stress, worry and fear overtake your body and mind out of nowhere, taking your brain to a place you don’t want to be for a reason that you do not know. I was looking for that because that’s what happens to me. I live in that mindset.

I know I’m not alone; anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in America, affecting more than 40 million adults aged 18 and older. However, only 37 percent of those people seek treatment. Why is that? That’s probably a topic for another post (or posts; we’ll definitely get into that more in the future). But unfortunately, my anxiety means that what I know to be true and what I feel to be true are two different things. I know I’m not alone, and yet I feel alone. I know I shouldn’t worry, but I live in a state of fear and panic.

This might go without saying, but it leads to a lot of issues. Some of these issues I can recognize, while others trap me out of nowhere. What’s taken me years to confront is the fact that though my anxiety might not be real to others, it’s very real to me. Though I haven’t accepted that yet, I know it’s true. It took a very long time, but I think it’s the first step to accepting the fact that my logic is flawed. That some of the things I’ve thought my entire life could be wrong. I know it won’t be easy but, someday, it might make my life a tiny bit better. And that’s a dream worth chasing.