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.

 

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.

 

When Did My Depression Start? I Don’t Know

The first time I went to see a therapist, she asked me when all of this started. “All of this” is a very non-descript way to broach the subject of depression, by the way. The answer seemed simple at first. But then I gave it some thought, and what becomes clear is that this is something that I’ve dealt with for much longer than I realize.

At first I believed that my depression and anxiety began in college. My first year of college was very eventful – to say the least – and it took quite a toll on me. When I started my sophomore year and things settled down, that feeling of being emotionally drained persisted. I didn’t enjoy anything – classes, hanging out with friends, anything I was involved with. I would work out constantly because it would take my mind off the depression that seemed to creep in day after day. I began to distract myself as much as possible from the constant state of anxiety I lived in.

The next therapist asked me about my childhood. How were my parents? Did anything traumatic happen to me? Did I undergo any trials or tribulations that – to me, at least – couple help explain my current state? And the answer was…not even a little bit.

Is that something I should complain about? No, not really. It must really suck to have parents who would do anything for you and enough siblings to always have something to do (I’m one of six children – a big old Catholic family. That obviously afforded me plenty of alone time with my thoughts).

I don’t regret anything I did growing up; I loved all of it. But what I think it did was distract me from having to think – really think – about who I am as a person. Maybe that was just because I was a kid, and couldn’t comprehend the fact that at the end of the day, I always felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything. That what I was doing with my life didn’t matter. That everyone else was better than me. As long as I can remember, I never thought I was all that important. I still don’t. But that’s okay. Now I know that this is part of me, I can attack it just like I do everything else. And that makes me feel pretty good.

My Brain Might Be Broken

Sometimes I think my brain is broken. I don’t know when, but at some point, someone got inside my head and turned the screws loose. Or they took stuff out and forgot to put it back in. Regardless, things are not as they should be in my head. I know that for sure.

It’s been hard to figure out what goes on in my head. I didn’t have a name for it until I was 19 years old, when I went to a psychiatrist for the first time. I went for a simple enough reason: I’d been sad for a long time, and there was no reason why. At least, it was that simple to me. The longer I was there, the more I realized that what I was thinking, what I was feeling, wasn’t normal. And so, I tied being normal to having normal thoughts. And that’s how my journey with mental health began.

This blog is going to be a lot of things. It’s about me, yes, but it’s also about mental health, about depression, about anxiety, about people, about life. My mental health has shaped me in ways that I could have never possibly imagined, and transformed me so many times into so many different types of people that it’s hard to keep count. It’s a big part of who I am, which is why I’ve decided to write about it.

But this will also about resiliency. About believing in yourself. About trusting that the path you’re on is the right one, or worse, the one you don’t like but need to be on. It’s about a lot of things, some of which I don’t even know yet. But that’s the beauty of this path that I’m on, a path I didn’t ask to take but am still going to travel. Because I’ve seen this issue from every possible angle, every side of the coin, every happy high and depressing low. I’m not saying I’ve made it out safely to the other side – I don’t know when that will be – but I do know that I’m not going to stop trying to get there. And this blog, this collection of writing and work and art that I plan to create, is the real-time, real-life depiction of that fight, that non-stop fight to live a happy and healthy life.

You want a one sentence description for what this blog will be? I can’t do that. Go ahead and try to describe your mental health in one sentence. I’ll wait.