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Wellness & Personal Development

Wellness & Personal Development

Getting Real for World Mental Health Day

 

As much as I’m an advocate for mental health awareness, for taking the stigma away from mental illness, for being open and honest about mental health issues….. I never considered myself to be mentally ill. Or if I did, I was mentally ill in a way that was socially acceptable. I don’t feel ill, I don’t wake up and think about my illness, I don’t classify myself as ill. I’m not bi-polar, I’m not schizophrenic, I don’t have any of the illnesses that you think of when you think of “mental illness.”

But the reality is, I’ve been medicated since I was eight years old for a combination of anxiety and depression. That’s twenty years of a steady stream of anti-depressants & anti-anxiety meds. Before anyone gets on their soapbox about medicating children– let me note that when  I first started taking these meds, no one saw any reason to not medicate their children if it was going to help them.  I’m going to leave the circumstances as to why I was probably depressed & anxious aside, but for all intents and purposes, I was an eight-year-old hot mess–and probably really did need some help.

But here were are, twenty years later. I still need help.

I don’t think most people would look at me and assume that I have either of these issues. The anxiety definitely comes through a bit, and I’ve generally been pretty open about my issues with that. It’s easy to be self- deprecating with anxiety, it goes along with being high-strung and type A, and unfortunately, most people think of it as a “woman’s” mental illness; picture the archetypal anxious mother fussing over her children (this is bullshit and a stereotype that harms men too, as over 100 million men in the US deal with anxiety, but I’ll leave that for another day.)  Everyone does have some level of anxiety, the fight or flight phenomena is a real thing and can bleed through into your everyday life, but obviously, for some, it’s worse and can be crippling.

For me, it’s panic attacks, it’s hypochondria, it’s weirdly physical symptoms like heart palpitations & tics, its an underlying sense of doom, it’s thinking someone is dead when they don’t answer the phone (every single guy I’ve dated has had to deal with me thinking they’re dead at one point or another, don’t even get me started on family members).

But again, I’ve been open about my anxiety, and there are ways to manage it other than medication. Meditation has helped me a ton, and even though I’ve fallen off the bandwagon a bit with my daily practice, I know it’s there for me as a resource.

Depression is the issue I’ve kept hidden for the most part. I don’t look depressed. I don’t seem depressed, I’m not walking around bedraggled with sad eyes. Most of the time, I’m not depressed, because I’m medicated for it; but I still have depression. Depression has different connotations than anxiety, it makes people think you’re weak-willed,  you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps… you’re just a bummer. I’m none of those things, but I am someone who suffers from depression, and in all honesty, I carry a lot of shame around it. People are not always kind when it comes to this issue.

Probably because of the age that I’m at, the biological changes that come with aging (I’m assuming my brain has evolved somewhat since I was eight) a few months ago I found that my regular medication wasn’t as effective. It didn’t stop working, I just had to work a lot harder to maintain my equilibrium.

I noticed mood changes that seemingly have nothing to do with my life circumstances, because to be honest, right now, and even at the point in time I went through this, I’m the happiest I’ve been in quite a long time. The changes were like feeling horribly overwhelmed by the idea of washing my hair, like whaaaaat? It sounds ridiculous, but I felt so deeply tired that I was brought to tears when I thought about the day ahead of me. I’m a 28-year-old, unmarried woman with no kids and a very cute dog…. my life isn’t hard, by any stretch of the imagination.  But I’m telling you there are little things that just feel EXHAUSTING when you’re going through a depression period. It’s as if you’re moving through quicksand and every step, every sentence, every email, every trip to the grocery store and every human interaction takes an ungodly amount of energy. I know enough to know that feeling that way isn’t normal.

I spoke to my doctor, and she agreed I was probably developing a tolerance to the meds. So a few months ago we agreed to increase the dose. It was a nightmare. Headaches, worsened anxiety, super weird physical symptoms, like ringing in the ears, blurry vision, a feeling of my throat closing up, not being able to catch my breath. I stuck it out for two weeks and then decided I couldn’t handle any more of the adjustment period. My doctor said the symptoms would go away, and I’m sure they would have, but there is never a convenient time to feel like a complete basket case. I can’t put my life, my job and my relationships on hold until I’ve “adjusted.”It seemed like it was just a phase of depression, brought on by nothing I could remotely pinpoint, and about month later, it was gone.

So, I don’t know what the answer to this issue is, becuase I don’t think there is one. Maybe I just deal with random periods of feeling deeply exhausted & highly sensitive. Luckily for me, these episodes are just that, episodes.  Maybe I workout more, meditate more, try this new medication thing again. There’s no right answer, and there’s no cure. This is something I’ll need to deal with for the rest of my life, and sometimes that freaks me out.

I’m going to be fine, but there are so many peoples who aren’t fine, and I’ve felt like a little bit of a coward for not being more honest about my struggle with anxiety & depression, especially when I share a decent amount of my life on social media & on this blog (mainly my clothes and make-up and my dog, but still). I really pride myself on being authentic and honest, and so I hope that for anyone who reads this and struggles with similar issues, this makes you feel a little bit less alone. At the very least, it makes me feel like less of a hypocrite.

 

Happy World Mental Health Day, take care of yourselves, everyone.

-Brittany

 

-Brittany

Wellness & Personal Development

Review: Rising Strong

“MANIFESTO OF THE BRAVE AND BROKENHEARTED There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers Than those of us who are willing to fall Because we have learned how to rise With skinned knees and bruised hearts; We choose owning our stories of struggle, Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending. When we deny our stories, they define us. When we run from struggle, we are never free. So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye. We will not be characters in our stories. Not villains, not victims, not even heroes. We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings. We craft love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure. Showing up is our power. Story is our way home. Truth is our song. We are the brave and brokenhearted. We are rising strong.”


I had heard about Brene’ Brown’s work from one of my favorite podcasts I listen to, and had always been curious to find out why everyone raves about her.

Oh my god this woman is a genius. Go out and buy this book now, now, NOW!

I finished Rising Strong in week, and that’s only because I was alternating it with a mindless murder mystery so I could give myself a break from all the wisdom being thrown at me with this book.should be noted that I’m not new to self-help or personal development. I’m kind of a self-help junkie. Remember The Secret? I ate that shit up in 2006. It didn’t work for me.

Since then I’ve cycled through a ton of books, some good and some bad, each claiming to hold some other sort of “secret”. As a result, I look upon anyone who claims to be an authority on personal development with healthy skepticism.

But the difference with Rising Strong is that the tenets are based on actual research. Brown has PhD in Sociology and has focused her career in exploring how courage, vulnerability and shame shape our lives.

She uses years of research, both quantitative and anecdotal, to outline a framework on how to rise from failures, tragedies, heartbreaks, missteps and mistakes.

We all have a “face down in the arena” moment, as Brown calls it. It’s that moment when you’ve failed, and are trying to get your bearings, wiping dirt, blood and sweat off your face and summoning the strength to get off the ground.

Being “face down in the arena” can mean anything from a breakup, to a work misstep, a moral failing, a botched venture , or in any situation where the outcome is painful, and not what you expected—an emotional reaction.

My aspect of part of this book is how Brown delves into how humans are “wired for story”:

“Neuroeconomist Pau Zak has found that hearing a story—a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end, causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin. These chemicals trigger the uniquely human ability to connect, empathize and make meaning. Story is literally in our DNA”

Utilizing story, Brown provides us a framework for moving forward, to process and learn from our painful moments, and to “rise strong.”Her method is broken into three parts.

1) The Reckoning- understanding and identifying what has occurred, getting curious about your feelings and how they’ve influenced your behavior

2) The Rumble- engaging with the stories you’re making up about your struggle, challenging any confabulations and determining what’s true, and what needs to change for success

3) The Revolution- writing a new ending to your story based on learning from your Rumble, and using this braver story to inform how you move forward.

The process is simple, but completely changed my outlook on failure. How amazing to be able to learn from your mistakes, uncover pattern’s that continually hold you back and gain strength and clarity from failure.   To understand the magic that is rising strong, you really need to read the book in its entirety.

I’m now moving one of Brown’s earlier works Daring Greatly and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on it with you all.

 Click here for more info on Rising Strong & Brene’ Brown.