Stigmatized – Part Two: Pursuit of Perfection

I have started this post about five times already. Each completely different, and each not enough to me. Each revision was completely deleted, and a new one started over the course of almost a week and a half. And I wasn’t happy with any of them. The topic that I want to forge a discussion about today is the idea of ‘perfection’ and the power that single word has over people with mental health disorders, but the problem I keep running into is that I have been borderline neurotic the past several days and I just can’t keep a single running thought in my head without jumping to something completely unrelated. This post may very well come out sounding scatterbrained, but I’ve also decided that’s okay. I’ve been in a very dark mental state since about a week ago, and allowing myself to write in this state will capture something I often can’t put into words. And even if I still can’t, perhaps the general feeling will somehow relay itself through my writing.

…anywho, I said I wanted to discuss perfection right? Yeah… okay let’s see…

So per my Barbie picture above, modern society has increased the pressure on both men and women to be a new brand of ‘perfect’. Perhaps most detrimentally to young adults whose self image is still developing.

We all need to be beautiful, to be smart, to go to college, to exercise, to eat right, to play a sport, to be wealthy, to always dress in new clothes, to have equally beautiful best friends, to have a perfect significant other, to have a perfect family life, to keep a busy social life, to be politically active, to be culturally literate, to be healthy…

There are so many ideas always being pushed at us of what a person absolutely should be that there isn’t a whole lot of room for our own opinions. The media, capitalism, and social media have taken our own thinking out of the equation and told us what we need to achieve.

What a dangerous thing, when we are taught what to think instead of how to think. 

In this mold that has been defined for us by society, where does any kind of mental illness fit in? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. 

So mentally ill people often go undiagnosed for years until finally reaching a breaking point, or worse, they never get the help they need.

Others often are in denial they have an illness, because who wants that kind of stigma attached to them? Who wants to be labeled as “mentally ill”.

So I’m going to do something I often don’t do, and I’m going to share a few more personal details about myself. Something I also said in a previous addition makes me feel very uncomfortable and exposed. But here goes.

I am a young, colleged-aged adult. Often struggling between the world telling me I need to grow up and be responsible but simultaneously not being trusted with such responsibilities because I’m “too young” – a very frustrating kind of limbo. I am pursuing a career in the medical field and am in my junior year of a very competitive program that ranks higher than Johns-Hopkins and Priceton’s same programs. (Although somehow outside of the profession my small school is not widely known). I work a part time job, am involved in a Greek organization on campus (it’s a love hate relationship, but it definitely gets me more involved), I actively participate in community service, bring dog and cat food to the local animal shelter when I have any extra cash, and am in a healthy long term relationship with my significant other; there’s a good possibility we might even have marriage in our future.

My life literally sounds perfect, doesn’t it? I sound like I have all of my ducks in a row.

Well, that might be what the world sees, but what they didn’t see is the panic attack I had last weekend because I was staying with family a mere 60 minute drive outside of my normal home and that being out of my normal environment made me so on edge my chest did that thing when I’m panicking where it tightens up and it feels like I’ve been strapped into a too-tight corset.

The world didn’t see the panic attack yesterday when I felt so misunderstod and isolated. Like I had no one to talk to that would accept the very ill side of me. The part of me that was hysterically crying, struggling to breathe, pulling at my hair as I drove to my SO’s house while my brain frantically searched through the people who just might answer the phone and calm me down if I called them right then. They don’t know that just getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed is its own huge feat and I constantly, actively have to put energy into pushing myself to do normal everyday activities.

I am not going to write the somewhat formal ‘conclusion’ to this piece as I typically do in my others. I just want to pose a few questions to anyone reading this to think on until I write again.

Where did this stigma of mental illness start?

How does it affect your daily life?

Why has the conversation of mental illness opened up so much, yet the stigma is as staunch as ever?

How did you feel during your last panic attack/ptsd episode?

Did you have anyone to talk to? If so what did they do to help you?

What is your biggest fear concerning your mental illness?

Will your coworkers look at you differently? Are you afriad to seek medical advice? Will your social circle outcast you?

Where does this stigma end?



Happy Anniversary from your GAD

I just had a not so gentle reminder that I am NOT cured from my condition.

“Happy Anniversary, from your GAD.”

It was October of 2015 when I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The diagnosis was like “well duh” to me. I couldn’t even tell the nurse what was wrong with me because I was crying and panicking in the office when my boyfriend told me very last minute he couldn’t make it to my appointment with me. ‘Crap’ I thought, and then felt the blood drain down to my feet. How ironic, I thought. He was the only reason I made the appointment in the first place. He knew the panic attacks I had been having over the previous months weren’t normal. And now here I was, panicking at my doctors appointment to address my panicking. If that isn’t some kind of irony I don’t know what is. The nurse asked me what I was there for, and through tears and gasps for air I told her “my anxiety”. I remember her not even being able to take my blood pressure because her first reading was through the roof, so they retook it at the end of the appointment when I had calmed down some.

10mg Lexapro daily and 0.5mg Klonopin as needed is what I was prescribed.

After my first 3 month check in we both agreed 10mg wasn’t cutting it and I was upped to 20mg daily.

I hate the stigma of being “medicated” just to deal with daily living. I hated feeling dependent on it. But here I am, a full year later, so grateful I made that appointment when I did.

I have been extremely successful in managing my anxiety for the past several months without incidence despite more stressors in my school and personal life. I felt awesome, bad ass that I had gone months without panicking no, I felt even better. I felt normal again.

Until today.

Today I had a panic attack. In the Anniversary month of my diagnosis no less. There isn’t one particular thing that really caused it. I definitely feel that it was a combination of multiple factors that finally did me in. But was that a humbling smack in the face from my diagnosis saying, “I really hope you didn’t forget. I am always here. Wether you are thinking of me or not.”

How sweet.

Happy Anniversary, GAD.

Let’s see how we are doing next year.

with love,

Miss lessanxiouslife

Stigmatized – Part One

I try to keep as much of my personal life out of my blog as much as possible; keeping details vague in stories and even using a pen name to conceal as much of who ‘I’ am as I can. Why? Well, the reason being is that I probably would be a bit embarassed if everyone in my personal life new I kept up a blog about having an anxiety condition. I could make something else up, and say that maybe by keeping my stories free of personal details it helps you, the reader, imagine yourself in my shoes better, but that would be a lie. It really comes down to fear.

It is very hard to try to be an advocate for those mentally ill when you are afraid to take a public stance on the issue. I kind of sound like a hypocrite, don’t I? However, I will say that the true roots to my writing really started out as a sort of journal or diary for me. I am too scatterbrained of a person to keep up with anything hand written, so I thought, why not just share these thoughts with whomever wants to take the time to read them. Someone out there might just feel the same way. And so, here we are roughly a year later.

While my writing has been hugely theraputic for me, I still am not where I need to be to take the pen name off and to completely share my story freely. And that of course I link back to the awful stigma that follows those who are mentally ill. I have my small support group that knows what all is going on with me, and I advocate for everyone to have at least one person they can share everything with. However, mental illness runs in my family. Particularly problems with forms of depression or anxiety. Both of my parents are affected in some way, as are my brother and I; but all of us have different manifestations of mental illness. So one would think I have the most understanding support group ever, right? Couldn’t be farther from the truth actually. I live in a household where there is someone with clinical depression, PTSD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and me, with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. (I know, we sure do sound like a fun time.) But the truth is, we all have had our diagnosed disorders for quite some time now, with mine being the newest. But we all have developed good coping mechanisms, some of us have gone to professional therapy, and on a normal day to day basis, you would never be able to tell there was anything different about us than a ‘normal’ family.

However, the real problem comes when our conditions get a little out of hand. Then all of the sudden the family member with depression is extremely frustrated with, say me, with GAD because they just don’t get what its like with my disorder. As understanding as I try to be, I can’t really wrap my head around why the person with PTSD can’t just stop thinking back to their traumatic experiences, especially when we are having a seemingly perfect day (Christmas, trip to the park, ect).

So I feel that I am in the perfect situation to talk about what I have lead up to thus far. If we are ever going to gain true understanding in society, we must first stop judging each other. 

The Stigma WE Cause

Before we can ever start working on how society views us, we have to stop judging others with mental illness as well. Maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone the same way it does to me, but lets look at current events and social media real fast.

Just as an example, let’s consider a very upsetting situation that makes the news all too often. A highschool boy or girl commits suicide because they were bullied. I see these stories on social media at least a few times each year, and it breaks my heart each and every time. But how many times, after you are done reading the story, you look into the comments and someone has said how ‘selfish’ that child must be to abandon their parents and their friends like that.

Seriously, let that sink in for a second.

Someone posted, on the story of a child’s death, that they were selfish, or not strong enough. 

We have all seen it before. Someone that was bullied so badly, feeling so alone in the world, that they thought the best solution, or maybe the only solution, was to end their own life. And then we have another person, who is judging what their final decision was.

Now let be extremely clear about something, I am not saying suicide is ‘okay’. But I am saying that once we have already lost a child in this world, likely dealing with mental illness, it is too late for us to help that specific child. Their family is already grieving, as are all of the people whose lives they touched.

What it is never too late for, is to take the most postive stance possible on the situation, and advocate for others who are mentally ill and who are in a very dark state.

How on earth can we take a positive stance on something so morbid?

Well, the first step is to stop judging. As I shared with you, I really struggle with understanding why my familly member with PTSD will have episodes during seemingly perfect days. But that comes from the perspective that usually my anxiety acts up more in response to stressful events. I will never understand what it is like to have anything but GAD, and even then I only understand my own manifestation.

So that is what we need to do. We need to STOP trying to understand each other’s mental illness. Doesn’t that seem counterproductive? Well, it actually isn’t. By trying to understand something that we never will, we take the focus off of the sick person, and put it on us. It is a sneaky way we can be unknowingly selfish. If we try to understand the illness that we don’t have, we instead focus on how it makes us feel trying to ‘deal’ with that person. We will complain about how frustrated we are, how we just don’t understand, how the person is “getting on our nerves”.  And that is how stigma breeds inside of the community itself.

Instead of trying to understand the illness, let’s just accept the symptoms.

Once I stop trying to understand why on earth someone is having a PTSD episode while we are at a park having a nice time, I can just accept the symptoms they are having, and that is when I can help them. I can say, “Okay, let’s go sit down on a bench by ourselves.” or “If you are comfortable with it, why don’t you tell me what is on your mind?” or even best of all, something I have not seen many people do, “What do you think will help right now?”

Like I said, most people do not live in a household like mine where everyone has some manifestation of mental illness, (although studies do show a hereditary link in mental illness), but for the average person it could be as simple as finding a story of an affected person online, and instead of calling them ‘selfish’ we say, “Wow, I have no idea what it must have felt like to go through what they did.”

Only once we start accepting each other, do we have the right to tell society that they need to stop stigmatizing us. It starts here.

Hugs and Positive Vibes,

Miss lessanxiouslife 

Stigmatized (An Introduction)

As I am writing this piece I am thinking back to a radical conversation I had with my dad the other night. This conversation was not specifically on the topic of mental illnesses but actually a civil problem in the United States right now. Without delving into too much detail, it came down to us both agreeing on one very strong point: “I would never tell someone how they should feel when I am not the one in that situation.”  

Even though my dad and I were talking about something completely unrealated, that statement verified two things for me that I already knew. The first, I was raised by some awesome nonjudgemental people that I am extremely grateful for. But the second is that it made me realize how many people out there don’t share our view point. It is extremely easy for one to say they are non judgemental, but how many truly are when it comes down to it?

About 6 months ago, I had a job working in a home decor store that sold all sorts of things from livingroom furniture to lamps or place settings. One of the very last shifts I had worked at the end of my year long employment term, I was unloading a new shipment of items for the spring/summer season. One of the items I unpacked was a handpainted wine glass that had fish on it (for summer). And I will probably never forget what one of the managers said when they saw that glass.

“Wow, look at how dopey this fish looks. He looks like he’s on antidepressants or something.”

I stood there and just stared at her for a second because I actually couldn’t believe out of everything in the world she could have compared a really poorly painted fish to, she chose a person with depression. So I asked, “And what exactly does someone on antidepressants look like?” She replied “All spaced out and stuff.”

I said, “Oh, that’s interesting… I’ve been on antidepressants for about 6 months now.”

Needless to say, she immediately started trying to negate the initial statement she had made, and obviously I had made her feel really uncomfortable, but it was too late. In general, and I am completely guilty of this as well, people just speak without ever thinking of the ramifications of their words. But to blatantly make a statement about people, sick people, who take antidepressant medication in a room full of employees whose personal lives she didn’t know, absolutely blew my mind. It struck me as bold but maybe it should have just registered to me as ignorant.

 So that is where I am returning to in my mind. A little peice of wisdom from my dad. “I would never tell someone how they should feel when I am not the one in that situation.”

I myself am going to work on applying that to others this week; particularly with people that I see often because I feel as if it is the people that you think you know best that you tend to mistreat the most.

This post is going to serve as my introducation to a new series, called Stigmatized where I am going to be focusing on the general perception of people with mental illness and how that general idea causes reprocussions in our lives. Even if it as simple as someone making an ignorant statement around you such as I experienced in my previous job; spreading awareness is going to improve our overall quality of living. I hope you are looking forward to the next few installments as muh as I am.

Sending out Hugs and Postive Vibes,

Miss lessanxiouslife

The Mighty

Mental illness probably never crosses a healthy person’s mind on a regular basis. Unless someone they personally know struggles with some form of it, they may never think about it at all. By not being aware of these problems, mentally healthy people also usually lack sensitivity towards the subject.

Recently, there was a day that I believe was called something along the lines of “Mental Health Awareness Day”. Which is awesome, I didn’t even know there was such a day of the year but it kind of make me feel good to log onto my social media accounts and see both the affected and unaffected people post about mental health awareness. That day is when I discovered this page called The Mighty which is about literally nothing but mental health awareness and a support group for affected peoples. There was this video about what High Functioning Anxiety looks like to those who don’t know what they are looking at. It talked about how it can be masked as preparedness or organization. Then it said when it gets out of hand it can be seen in nervous habits like nail biting, ect. It made me feel so GOOD that there were people out there who actually GOT it. They totally know what it is like to struggle with generalized anxiety day to day.

So, I super encourage everyone to go check that page out. Especially unaffected people would benefit from checking it out because I guarentee you, you know someone that is battling mental illness even if you are unaware of it.

Also, it is not just for anxiety, but that is obviously what speaks to me the most so that is the perspective I am sharing.

I am keeping this short and sweet tonight but I really hope someone can benefit from me sharing this site.

Hugs Always,

Miss lessanxiouslife 

Don’t Ever

Don’t ever tell someone with an anxiety disorder they need to just get over it.

Don’t ever tell someone with an anxiety disorder that they just don’t deal with stress well. My brain creates stressful scenarios on its own, most of which haven’t happened or never will.

Don’t ever tell someone with an anxiety disorder that they need to stop dwelling. If it were that simple there would be no disorder.

Don’t ever accuse someone with an anxiety disorder that they are medication-dependent. Whatever works for them and makes them feel better is a step toward a normalcy for them.

Don’t ever try to compare the stresses of a non affected person to an affected persons life. Trust me, you really don’t get it.

Don’t ever even try to compare one person’s anxiety disorder to another’s. It is not the same. Even those with the same disorder have different manifestations of the disease.

Why is it that we would never tell an amputee or someone battling cancer to just “get over” their disease? Would we ever try to negate the mere existence of their disease?

So why do we do it to people with diseases of the mind.

The brain is the most complex organ in the entire body, yet we have trouble accepting that it too can become acutely or chronically ill.

Tips for Calming Your Anxiety (Part Two)

Here is Part Two of my new series, Tips for Calming Your Anxiety. Before you start in on this post, you can check out the first one here if you missed it!

In Part One, I shared that my reason for beginning this new series was because I found myself stuck in this prolonged anxious sate that was driving me insane. I can thankfully share that it has since passed now and I’m back to feeling like my typical self. (Still anxious, but I’m at my own ‘normal’ level again). However, I know that just because I’m feeling okay for the time being doesn’t mean that others out there aren’t having these awful anxious spells and who knows when I myself will have another one again. (Plus not feeling like ‘You’ sucks, doesn’t it?)

Well since I’m full of tricks, I’m going to share some more of my favorite tips for calming anxiety. I think the focus on this installment will be about how to keep anxiety at bay longer between the heightened spells. (Whereas Part One’s focus was how to quickly calm anxiety during its peaks). Both are really important concepts here while we all figure out how to better handle our anxiety and to better care for ourselves mentally.

So, with this short introduction out of the way, here are more of my favorite ways to keep my anxiety at bay: (Seriously, that rhyme wasn’t intentional… but now that I’ve noticed it is there it is definitely staying for the final draft).

Tips for Calming Your Anxiety (Part Two)

  • Engage Your Mind. Whatever that means for you; challenge yourself mentally. You can read a novel or try coloring in an adult coloring book. The coloring books are really trendy right now. They are becoming so popular because they are being described as “stress relieving”. I myself have a cat-themed one from Amazon that I couldn’t find any more but I found this awesome one that has tons of intricate animal designs. The coloring books are a nice relaxing way to use your time productively that otherwise could be wasted on something mindless like idling on your phone or watching TV.
  • Strike A Pose. Child’s Pose to be exact. This is a very basic yoga pose that complete yoga virgins are capable of doing. Personally, even after learning some much more challenging poses, this one remains my favorite because of how relaxing it is. The yogi at my studio explained that when your forehead makes contact with something firm (usually your mat during a yoga class) it releases chemical signals in your brain to start relaxing your body. Which makes a lot of sense if you consider that about the only time your head isn’t elevated is when you are going to sleep (thus the only time your head makes contact with a firm object). Lie in child’s pose for at least 10 minutes or until you start to feel more relaxed when feeling particularly anxious. Not sure how to get into Child’s Pose? Here you go!
  • Essential Oils. There is plenty of controversy about the effectiveness of essential oils, which I’m not here to argue about. However, from my own personal experience, they can be a powerful tool for calming stress and anxiety. Right now I am using this 100% pure Lavender oil for my anxiety. I will add a few drops into my bath water for a nice aromatheraputic effect, or (and this is life changing so take note) I will add several drops to my pillow once a week so throughout the night I am surrounded by the soothing smell of lavender. Make sure you don’t put too much, so it isn’t distracting. But having a wonderful smell softly in the background of the atmosphere while you are falling asleep is amazing. And if you toss and turn in the middle of the night more scent is released! I also found this article that discusses some other commonly used essential oils for stress if lavender isn’t your thing.
  • Hug Someone (or something) You Love. Compressions also help release stress by sending chemical signals throughout the body to relax. Yes, there are other yoga poses that are specifically designed to do this, but you will get even better benefits from hugging it out with someone you love, or maybe by loving on a dog or kitty cat of yours. We tend to like to isolate ourselves when feeling anxious, which is honestly quite counterintuitive, but we are all guilty of it. Spending time with a loved one is a great way to make sure you are not isolating yourself when your anxiety is bothering you and irrational thoughts that run through your mind are harder to ignore.

Alright loves, that is it for now. Try this out and send me your thoughts and what worked/didn’t work for you!!

Hugs and Positive Vibes,

Miss lessanxiouslife