Hi Anxiety, Will You Let Me Sleep At Night?

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Month, I am going to write about having anxiety. But, if you’re a regular around here, chances are you know already I deal with anxiety.

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Me during my junior year of college.

Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since my junior year of college. That was the time when I struggled to maintain a normal, balanced schedule. At the time, I was taking five intensive college courses, as well as balanced two jobs. Needless to say, I quickly crashed. After dropping a course and receiving therapy from my school’s counseling center, I entered the summer feeling confident.

However, the following fall, I began to struggle with anxiety once again. Only this time, the fix wasn’t as easy as dropping a course or reducing my hours. My fall semester was a constant downward spiral of mental breakdowns. At the time, I was working three different jobs, and taking intense classes. And, I never went to my therapist, because I felt like he never listened to me.

This continued into the spring semester, where between coursework and work, I wasn’t able to even breathe. However, I saw some changes in the spring semester. For instance, I saw a new therapist who was much more open to my needs. I also began thinking about what’s best for me.

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Me, along with friends the night I gave the sermon.

Eventually, I began to get better. I became an advocate for myself, and truly tried to make sure that I was listening to myself. Furthermore, I’ve developed an attitude where I focus more on myself and my needs, and less on the expectations. I’ve also learned to be less critical of myself, and focus more on the good vs. the bad. Towards the end, I even delivered a sermon on how faith plays a role in mental health.

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Me at the beach, August 2017.

Since graduating college, I still with anxiety. Only now, it’s less feeling crushed by the weight of the amount of work I had. Instead, it’s overthinking every little thing and worrying constantly. It’s asking my boyfriend a thousand times if we are okay. It’s lying in bed at night and worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to accomplish everything. It’s crying because a rush of emotion comes to me all at once, and I need someone to give me a hug.

Can I be honest here?

Anxiety freaking sucks.

Although I still attend therapy semi regularly, I’ve come to accept anxiety as a part of my daily routine. However, I’ve somewhat learned to control it. Somewhat is the key word here. I still have moments where I call my boyfriend crying because I feel as though I can’t handle the stresses (to which I thank him so much for, because he not helps me get through it, but does a very good job of making me smile). I still have moments where I write everything in my journal as a release. I still run to get those endorphins pulsing through my veins.

With that being said, since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I write a post about my journey with anxiety. Since this is the second time I’ve done it, I like to look back at it and think about how far I’ve come. I’m not perfect, and maybe I’ll never be. And, that’s perfectly alright. There is no such thing as a perfect human.

However, I do ask one thing of every person who is reading this. And, that is to become more aware of mental health and mental health issues. That’s the main goal of me having this blog, although I’ve strayed to discuss other topics. It can be uncomfortable to talk about mental illness, which is why some don’t often do. But, just because it’s uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that we should sweep it under the rug, now should we?

Didn’t think so.

Furthermore, I ask that each and every one of you helps spread that awareness to others. Stamping out ignorance is the first step in trying to spread and develop a world where mental illness should be regarded as the same class as a physical one. So, if you suffer from a mental illness, be sure to reach out to me. I’ll be more than happy to help you get through it.

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Good Days, Good Mental Health

Did you know that May is Mental Illness Awareness Month?

If you didn’t, then today you learned something. To help raise awareness for mental illnesses, I am going to dedicate several posts to discuss the importance of mental health awareness as well as acceptance.

Why?

Well, mental illness isn’t as uncommon as you think it may be. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) page Mental Health By The Numbers, one in five adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with a mental illness in a given year. Furthermore, one in 25 adults experience a mental illness that is so severe that it disrupts regular life activities. ]

NAMI had an interesting info-graphic, which is included below:

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Not gonna lie, these are some big numbers here.

With that being said, what are we going to do about it?

There’s a common stigma that whoever suffers from a mental illness is someone who is tainted and is damaged goods. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

And, that statement is the very reason why so many refrain to get the help they need. When that happens, they are not given a chance for healing and for hope.

As many of you know, I suffer from anxiety. It developed when I was an overwhelmed college student, and despite having a kick ass therapist, continues to exist in my life. It sucks, but I overthink just like the best of them.

One of the main reasons why I’ve started a blog was to promote mental health awareness, and to say that it’s okay to admit that you’re not okay. And, sometimes you need a little help on the way. That’s fine too. I hope readers who read my blog regularly — assuming that is that there’s people that actually do that — are inspired to discuss their own experiences and even be proud of the journey that they’ve come.

Therefore, I make it a point to dedicate a few posts every May to Mental Health Awareness Month.

So, look out for more posts about mental health. And, to conclude, I’m going to quote Dr. Fraiser Crane: “Good day, and good mental health.”

Let’s Keep Talking, Folks!

I haven’t written much about my anxiety for a while, which is odd because this blog was formulated as a way to get talking about mental health issues. Part of the reason why is because I felt like I was always saying the same thing over and over again, and let’s face it — not everyone likes to hear the same thing over and over.

However, today I would like to discuss the importance of awareness for mental illness. Yesterday, there was a huge movement on social media — the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. The day raised $6,919,199 and created a huge conversation.

While that’s awesome, we should be talking about mental illness and mental health every single day.

Truth be told, we need to erase the stigmas that float around in the universe. We need to move towards acceptance and towards a world where one doesn’t need to be afraid when saying that they too are struggling.

Mental illness is much more common than you think — whether it’s an eating disorder, depression, and anxiety. And those are only a few of them. With a physical illness, you can tell that someone is suffering. However, with a mental illness sometimes you can not.

I have anxiety. Having anxiety sucks to be honest. It’s something that is similar to falling down the rabbit hole into Alice’s trip to wonderland. Unlike Alice, my anxiety can stem from anything. I deal with panic attacks — I guess you can say it’s my superpower.

As I grow older, I’ve gotten better at managing it. I learned that situations do change, anxiety does not. After all, what gives me anxiety? Stress. Fear of not getting enough done. Too much to do in little time. Anxiety can float in all situations. It hasn’t changed since my college days avoided my therapist at the school counseling center.

But what did change is my thinking pattern and how I think about a situation. Then — and only then — it gives me the power through it. Thank you to all of the books I read, my therapist and the people who remain to guide me through it.

With anxiety, though you worry. You worry how people perceive you. You worry that you’ll be judged. And, sometimes people kick you down. They tell you to suck it up and it will get better. Let me ask you this — if someone was throwing up would you tell them to still go to work? Or, if you broke your leg, would you be asked to stop limping around?

No you wouldn’t.

Therefore, mental health is just as important as the physical. Therefore, let’s change the way we talk about it.

However, let me say this. We need to erase the stigmas that come with mental health. How do we do that? We talk. So, let’s start a conversation. Let’s get talking.

That’s the first step to getting better.

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.

Ending National Mental Illness Month

Today is the last day of May — as well as the last day of National Mental Illness Month. Throughout the month, I’ve written a grand total of seven posts that discuss my experience with anxiety, as well as the perception that mental health has. We have come a long way from the days of mental illness being perceived as something to be ashamed of. With that being said, there’s still so much to be done.

If you’re sitting here thinking hey, I want to do more to make a difference, there’s so much you can do. Unsure what you can do? Here’s a list to help get you started:

  • Become informed on mental health issues and educate others.
  • Volunteer for your local mental health agency/suicide line.
  • Donate money to a charity whose proceeds go to mental health aid.
  • Write letters to your congressperson about important issues in mental health care and how they will have an effect on patients. 

However, most importantly, I ask you to remove all stigmas you have about mental illness and just listen. Yesterday, I discussed the toxic ways mental health is perceived. Now, I want you all to examine how you interact with someone who has a mental illness. I want you to do whatever you can to ensure that you treat them with both respect and kindness. Because, like you, they are human too.

With that being said, just because the month is over, doesn’t mean the conversation has to be. Keep talking, keep learning, and keep educating. Why? Because with every person who strives to make a difference can be crucial to helping the cause become stronger.

Why Mental Health Needs To Be Treated Like A Physical One

A couple of days ago, I saw this video that demonstrated what it would look like if we were to treat physical illnesses the way that we treat mental ones.

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For me, this video really brought home the message that both mental and physical illnesses have one word in common – illnesses. They are something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

My question is, why do we?

Clearly, we know it’s not okay to say to someone who has just hit their head to stop complaining because they are bringing you down. Instead, we ask them if they are okay. So, why do we think it’s okay to tell someone who is diagnosed as clinically depressed to just stop complaining? Or, better yet, why do we belittle them.

Newsflash, people. Mental health needs to have that same perception as physical. End of story.

Being told to suck it up is so last year. When someone has a diagnosed mental illness, it is almost the same, or even worse as a physical one. And, when you tell them that they are complaining too much, or bringing you down, it’s downright rude and disrespectful. They need to take care of themselves, and they are doing the best that they can to do that. Sometimes, people with depression struggle to get out of bed. Sometimes, people with anxiety panic to the point where all they dwell on are the negative. And, if you were their friend, you would do whatever you can to help them – not, disrespect them.

With an Italian upbringing, mental illness was perceived as just not being tough enough. Having anxiety, many of my family members often think that I am just complaining when I say that I am feeling anxious, or think that my therapy sessions are just a waste of money. Or, that I don’t need a therapist.

But, do I tell the person with a broken leg that they don’t need physical therapy? We don’t say shake it off, because you’re complaining too much? No, because that’s crazy. We shouldn’t be saying that going to a psychotherapist, therapist or psychologist is a waste of money, either. Like physical therapy, psychotherapy is trying to heal the mind to make them stronger. And, why would we try to knock down strength – physical or mental?

And, by these stigmas floating around in the world, it might be the very reason why someone is too afraid to get the help they need because they feel like they are complaining too much, or too ashamed or proud to admit that they have a problem. And, that is just tragic.

Mental illness and physical illness need to be on the same tier. Someone who complains anxiety or depression is not them craving attention. It doesn’t come from wanting to drown you down, which by the way is absurd. They come from living in that sea of depression daily. They come from living in a constant state of anxiety and they are not complaining. You running your mouth and saying those things to them is only adding fuel to the fire, and can easily make things worse for them.

Which is something that they didn’t need.

So, let’s not belittle those who suffer from a mental illness. Let’s not make them feel ashamed for getting the help that they need. Let’s applaud those who struggle, but are choosing to get the help they need? Let’s applaud each and every person who decides to fight whatever obstacle they face, instead of just allowing themselves to get swept up in the tide and drown.

Instead, let’s call them warriors, because they go to war with their minds every day, which sometimes can be a constant battle. Life with a mental illness isn’t easy, and therefore, they deserve to be treated with the same sympathy and respect that you did when you broke your leg, arm, or that any diabetic has.

It’s Okay To Cry Sometimes

Big girls don’t cry.

Stop crying now, men don’t cry.

You’re acting like a baby, stop crying.

Crying is showing weakness.

These are only a few of the stereotypes that are associated with crying. However, I disagree with each and everyone.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: it’s okay to cry. Crying does not make you weak.

I, on the other hand, think that by being comfortable enough with yourself to allow yourself to express those emotions in a healthy way is the best thing ever.

I don’t know where this concept comes from. Maybe it’s something that is passed down from generation to generation – something that a father tells his son, who then tells his son. Maybe it’s society. For instance, many men in television sitcoms, such as Frank Barone from Everyone Loves Raymond or Tim Taylor from Home Improvement proclaim that “real” men don’t cry.

With that being said, I would like to challenge that notion with this. By bottling that emotion up like that, it leads to an emotional explosion where you finally release everything that you’ve held in for so long. It’s not healthy, plain and simple.

I also would like to argue that crying shows strength, as I mentioned earlier. There’s something about allowing yourself to release those emotions. It’s your way of release in the moment, a method of filtering out all of the emotions that are making you sad and release them into the world. And, it’s healthy.

I remember when my grandfather died, and I had to give a bible reading during his funeral mass. During halfway through the reading, I broke down and cried, apologizing to the audience (mostly family) afterwards. My cousins gave me grief about it, but I think in that moment, considering that my grandfather and I were close, that it was okay to release the sadness that I was feeling in that moment. Looking back on it, I think it’s what I needed to do, and needed to feel. And that’s perfectly alright.

And, there are health benefits to crying as well. According to Psychology Today, crying releases stress hormones that build up throughout the body. The article then goes on to state that crying “stimulates” endorphins – you know, the stuff that makes you feel good. After crying, the article states that our bodies enter a “calmer biological and emotional state.”

Can’t argue with science, now can you?

So, with that being said, no one on this earth should ever apologize for crying – whether it may be because you’re going through a breakup, dealing with a loved one’s death, or just because you’re stressed out. I myself, whenever I am stressed out, scared, upset or dealing with PMS. And I say that you should too, if you want, cry it out and express your damn emotions – and don’t let anyone take that away from you.