Why Mental Health Is Important

Hi I’m Natalie, and I have anxiety. Chances are, if you’re already reading this, you already know that.

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I wanted to take a few minutes to drive home the importance of mental health.

Because of my experiences with anxiety, it has given me the drive to speak up about the subject. This is one that is extremely important to me. Dealing with a mental illness is a huge struggle — whether you have anxiety, an eating disorder, or depression.

With anxiety, your brain continuously constructs the worst case scenarios, sending your brain into a frenzy of what ifs. While anxiety is the mental illness I continuously struggle with, many others deal with mental illnesses on a daily basis. For example, those who deal with depression often have trouble getting out of bed. Those with anorexia destroy their body in the attempts of staying slim.

However, there is still a stigma floating around about those who deal with mental illness. You know, that if they are feeling upset, then they should stop complaining and just suck it up. That those with anxiety should just stop “worrying so much.” That self care should be the last priority on your list — even if you’re throwing up because of anxiety.

Frankly, those stigmas should go to hell.

But, sadly, they do exist.

This is why every week needs to be Mental Illness Awareness Week. This is why I continuously stand on a soapbox to remind readers that it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to put yourself first, whether it may be avoiding a phone call to get extra self, taking a break to eat, or doing something nice for you.

Mental health is honestly so important, and I feel we as a society often forget that. Sure, we’ve come a long way in terms of awareness and acceptance. But, we still have so much more left to do. We still need to learn to listen. We still need to make mental health care more accessible to those who need it — no matter what their economic status may be.

But, most importantly, we need to get rid of all of the stigmas and speak up for those who struggle with mental illnesses every day. It only takes one voice to do so.

And, as for me, I’ve come a long way in my journey of managing anxiety. I’ve learned to manage it — well, somewhat. I’ve learned to put myself first and not let others tell me otherwise. And I am extremely lucky. Over the past two years, I have developed a cast of characters who have been there for me as methods of support and shoulders to cry on. I thank each and every one of them.

And, for those who struggle with a mental illness, please note this: you are not alone. You can get through this. Why? Because you are strong. And, as long as I am on this earth, you will always have someone to listen.

So, while this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, let’s try to be more aware every week.

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6 Simple Ideas to Help Deal With Anxiety

For the past few years, I’ve been struggling with the effects of anxiety as they fluctuate up and down. However, it’s safe to say that anxiety will always and forever remain to be a part of me.

Over the years, the way I have dealt with anxiety has changed tremendously. When I first began experiencing panic attacks, the only way I could deal with them was to hysterically cry in the corner. Try doing that in the middle of a college campus. With that being said, I developed (thanks to my therapist) a list of methods to help cope with anxiety so I don’t have extreme panic attacks.

Are you experiencing anxiety? Here’s some things I do to manage it for you to try. Disclaimer: just because they worked for me doesn’t mean that they are something that could help you. Everyone with anxiety deals with it differently, these methods just help with mine. 

  1. Write in a journal.

I’ve been writing for as long as I could remember. It kind of makes sense whenever I am feeling down that I resort to journal writing (or poetry) whenever anxiety strikes. Typically, I write every single emotion that I’m feeling. Once it’s on paper, I feel better. Usually.

2. Talk to friends.

Over the past two years, I’ve had friends (or significant others) who I would turn to whenever I was feeling upset and need someone to cry to. I am so grateful to have a cast of characters in my life to hug me when I’m feeling upset or anxious to remind me that everything is going to be okay. Usually after talking to someone I trust, I almost always feel better.

3. Drink a lot of water — and less caffeine.

Let’s be honest, I love my Starbucks. And, my Panera. And, my Dunkin. What can I say? I’m a coffee drinker? However, I notice that when I drink coffee I tend to feel more anxious. So, I’ve been cutting back on the coffee, and drinking more water. It’s definitely helpful.

One of the things that my therapist actually told me to do is to drink more water whenever I’m feeling anxious. That is something that I’ve been doing lately, and it helps a lot. Plus, staying hydrated has some great health benefits as well.

4. Get a spinner . . . something.

I have a spinner ring, and I wear it on days when I know my anxiety is going to be higher. Having that ring is super helpful because it takes my mind off of whatever is causing me anxiety — and it’s really fun to play with.

Over the summer, one of the fads was to have a spinner toy. Those are extremely fun to play with when you’re anxious because it draws your attention away from what’s bothering you, and you’re doing something fun! 10/10 would recommend.

5. Be positive.

Have a Mantra that you repeat to yourself whenever you’re having a panic attack. You know something positive that reminds you that everything is going to be ok.

Looking for inspiration? Some ideas include:

  • Just Breathe.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • Everything will work itself out.

6. Have a distraction.

This is when puppy videos come in handy. Cute things always invoke a smile on my face. This is why I follow so many Snoopy and puppy accounts on Instagram.

Basically, if something makes you smile, it’s definitely worth having around — and indulging in having more of it in your life!

What I Wish Those Without Anxiety Knew About Anxiety

For those who are lucky to not have to experience mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or an eating disorder, I consider you to be lucky. There are so many things that you may not know – or even understand what it’s like to have to deal with the effects of one.

I have anxiety. Having anxiety means overthinking everything – from the way that you said hello to someone, to how you worded that text message, or why the guy that you like isn’t texting you back – the thoughts circling around your mind like an endless drain. Having anxiety means having panic attacks – often over something small or nothing at all. Having anxiety means living in a constant state of worry, even though you may have nothing to worry about. Having anxiety is often being scared over things that seem small to the naked eye, and not being able to do something because of that fear. And that is only giving you the Reader’s Digest version of what is truly like to deal with anxiety.

With that being said, there are so many things that someone who doesn’t have anxiety may not get. For example, if they see someone on the street having a panic attack because they are about to go on a date with someone and they are afraid of what may happen, they may think that they are crazy or over reacting.

I can assure you that they are not. I can simply say that it’s their anxiety. And, no they are not overacting. They are not doing it to get attention. They are not saying that so you can drop whatever it is you are doing to get your attention and affection. And yes, they are doing the best they can to control it, but sometimes their very best isn’t enough.

They are saying that because their brain is telling them that there is a danger of some sort. They are feeling that way because the fear of doing whatever has taken over their body like a parasite, and sucked everything else out of them. They are doing that because they cannot help it, and if they could, do you really think that living their life in that constant state of mind?

I don’t think so.

And the same thing applies to those who have other mental illnesses, although I myself can not speak to what it’s like to deal with those on a daily basis. I can tell you this, though: every day, someone with a mental illness is doing the best that they can to float through daily life. And, you should understand that, and remind them that they are awesome, and give them a hug.

11 Mantras Everyone With a Mental Illness Needs to Hear

Having a mental illness – or even just going through a rough time – can be the most isolating thing on the planet. It is like you are in a downwards spiral, and have no way out of it.

With that being said, it’s hard to think that there will be an end to the suffering and the pain that you are dealing with. So, I’ve decided to provide a list of mantras for those who are going through a mental illness or a rough time to serve as reminders that you truly can get through it.

  1. I am worth it.
  2. I can beat this.
  3. I am worthy of love.
  4. I am strong.
  5. I am beautiful.
  6. Everything is going to be okay.
  7. I am loved.
  8. It is okay not to be okay.
  9. I am going to get through this.
  10. My best is good enough.
  11. I am good enough.

Ending the Stigma Together

May is Mental Illness Awareness Month, and while it is great to have a whole month devoted to it, I think that every month should be. Anyways, I digress.

Mental illness has come a long way from being damning to being accepted. However, negative stigmas still exist. And, they need to not.

There are so many, myself included, that deal with the effects of a mental illness – whether it may be trauma, anxiety, bipolar disorder or depression. We struggle, and it’s much easier to throw in the towel instead of facing it. But, so many of us choose to be strong, and choose to say I’m broken, but I am not going to let it break me. And, with each passing day we get better. We repair the damage, bloom, and then we grow.

And, with all of us united as one, we too can end the stigma that comes with mental illness.

To all of those who are still struggling, please know that it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to say I need help and to accept it. It is okay to talk to a therapist, who will help you get you back on your feet again. It is okay to cry when you need to. It is also okay to talk about all of the things that are bothering you.

And, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Let’s use the month of May to educate ourselves and others about mental illness and what it is like to have one. Let’s change that stigma and talk about the issues that surround those who suffer with it day in and day out. Let us come together and bridge the gaps, so that no one is truly alone.

Note:

This will be the first post in a series throughout the month to spread awareness for mental illness, particularly anxiety. Stay tuned as we fight to #endthestigma

Anxiety and Booze: Why I Won’t Meet You For Drinks

I am 22 years old, a college graduate, and I’ve never been drunk or set foot in a bar. At parties, instead of drinking the punch, my red solo cups are filled with ginger ale or water. And no, it’s not because I am super religious or super innocent. It’s not that I am judgmental or a prude. It’s because I have anxiety.

Anxiety and booze don’t mix. I know many people who have anxiety or depression and have used drugs or alcohol as a crutch to get through their rough time. According to an article from Healthline, anxiety can worsen symptoms, and those who have anxiety can develop a dependence on it.

I was diagnosed with anxiety officially a year and a half ago – however, I’ve been in therapy for the effects of chronic stress and anxiety for almost two years. And since then, I haven’t touched a drink.

It wasn’t much of a loss, because I wasn’t much of a drinker to begin with. However, when you’re the only one of your friends not getting a beer with dinner, why I don’t go out for drinks with the cute guy I matched with on Tinder, or the only one at the party who doesn’t take anything from the punchbowl, it can cause some to wonder why isn’t Natalie having a cocktail like the rest of us?

Not drinking was a choice that I had to make, and I believe that it was the right one for me to make. Anxiety has impacted my life in so many different ways, and this is one of them.
However, often with choices that are abnormal, there are people that do not respect them. I have had people say to me it’s only one drink, what’s the big deal? It’s important to me, and it’s my decision. Just like I respect that you are spending all of your time and money at the bar. Plus, by me not drinking, I can be your designated driver.

I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to drink more than the Seagrams I had right before being diagnosed with anxiety, and the champagne glass I shared with my ex-boyfriend to celebrate my 22nd birthday. Some days, I think I feel like I am ready to have a drink. Other days, I still feel like I am not there yet. One day, I will get there.

A Thank You Letter To My Therapist

A few weeks ago, I left my therapist’s office for the last time. Leaving my therapist’s office, I had realized how everything had come full circle since I had first attended therapy about ten months ago.

It is safe to say that my 2016 was spent in a therapist’s office. I started going to therapy in February 2016 to find the cure for why I was a hot mess who cried at the drop of a hat, and why I was so stressed out.

What I got out of therapy was much more than that, thanks to my therapist Jessica. Going to therapy changed everything about me-who I was, who I am, how I approach the world and my perspective on it. I would like to think that Jessica was the catalyst of that change, however, I realized that I was the one who was doing all of the work.

Before going to Jessica, I had gone to my campus’ counseling center. For me, the experience was less than satisfactory. My therapist was nice and wanted to listen. However, it always felt that he had a game plan for me, one that was similar to a checklist with meditation and eventually anxiety medication. Those steps were the only steps. I had never had the desire to even attend my therapy appointments, because I had always felt that I was falling short of the steps that my therapist said. Little did I know, those were not the only options for curing anxiety?

When I met Jessica, what I liked about her was her approach to therapy. It was different. It was laid back, and she was approachable with an interesting take on everything. This was something that I really liked about her, because she was more interested in seeing what works for me, rather than a quick fix that was used on everyone.

Since going to Jessica, I began to notice a change in myself, and the way I perceived things. For example, I learned to take something that may not be the most fun, such as finals week, and insert a treat or something positive in to make it bearable. I learned to distract myself whenever I felt overwhelmed, whether it may be to take breaks when I feel overwhelmed, or to rub my hands in lotion to transport myself from the stressful office to something more positive.

Most importantly, I learned how to live with my anxiety, and become a normal human again who is truly happy. I thank Jessica for the ability to live without panic attacks, because I know not to let it get to that point in the first place. And for that, I thank Jessica every day.

It is safe to say that I am not the same person who I was when I first entered her office ten months ago. However, I am proud of the person I am now, as I am a strong person who was able to conquer her anxiety and learn to manage it.

And, I have Jessica to thank for that. Thank you Jessica for everything. You have no idea the impact our sessions had one me.