MHAM #9: Christine

Today’s piece is written by the queen of social media herself, Christine. In case you don’t already know her, now you do. Like, I’m pretty sure she’s friends with Kris Jenner at this point, casual I know.

It’s hard to explain Christine in words because, like she says herself, she wears her emotions on her sleeve (and I mean that in the best way). I am never not hysterically laughing when I am with her. Her smile and cackle literally fill up a whole room. She genuinely instills happiness and positivity in everyone she meets. 

I’ve known that side of Christine for years now, but this may be one of the first times I’ve ever reached out to her about her deeper struggles.

Thank god I did. Christine’s insight into the stigma surrounding mental health is so powerful. I am so happy she agreed to share, because her words had such an impact on me and I know they will have an impact on all of you too.

Check it out: 

If you know me, or if you’ve even just met me once, you know that I am a very outgoing and sociable person. I tend to not hold back my feelings when it comes to expressing myself. When I think something is funny, I cackle. When I’m happy for one of my friends, I cry tears of joy. When I watch video compilations of dogs reuniting with their owners, I sob uncontrollably. I would say that I pretty much wear my emotions on my sleeve. What is usually surprising to people is that I struggle with anxiety and depression.

I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder when I was in 6th grade. I couldn’t go to class most of the time because I was too scared that if I was away from my family, something bad would happen. I would make my parents turn off the news in the mornings because that was an instant trigger. I spent the majority of that year in the guidance counselor’s office, where classmates delivered my schoolwork and asked what was wrong with me. My parents tried to get me professional help, but I refused. I was so embarrassed to even say the word therapy out loud. I grew up with the horrible stigma that surrounds mental health so ingrained in my mind by society, that I was too ashamed to even think that I could possibly need help. I spent the next few years trying my best to hide this anxiety, while simultaneously leading a normal high school life. 

I went off to college, still refusing any sort of therapy, just thinking things would fix themselves. Of course, I was wrong. I became obsessed with the fact that there must be something wrong with me. A reason why I wasn’t like everyone else. I developed a severe lack of confidence in myself and couldn’t even look in the mirror most days. I soon learned that anxiety and depression do not just disappear. They are not “fake illnesses” or “made up by someone who wants attention” – both phrases coined by society. They are extremely visceral and that’s something I have come to terms with over the years. 

Fortunately, I was able to get help during my freshman year of college. While I was home for winter break I went to therapy and saw a psychiatrist, and was then put on medication for anxiety and depression. This is something that took me almost eight years to act upon. Something I pushed off time and time again, panic attack after panic attack, because I couldn’t bear the fact that I would have to utter the words “I need help.”

At this point in my life, it’s still difficult for me to talk about out loud. Writing this is a little difficult, actually. Most people hear the word anxiety and think “Oh, they must be afraid of everything” and the word depression is usually followed by the question, “You’ve tried killing yourself?” It needs to be understood that this is not a black and white diagnosis. Yes, sometimes I’m scared. Yes, sometimes I think that people’s lives would be better without me here. Sometimes I lie in bed for hours thinking about everything that society says is wrong with me until I finally get tired enough and fall asleep. I still spend some mornings looking in the mirror pointing out all the things that could be better. I’ve spent these years at war with myself, and I know the only way things will get better is if we open up the conversation. The conversation that no one wants to have is consequently the conversation that is necessary for our well-being.

Think about your close group of friends; at least one of them suffers from anxiety or depression. Think about your coworkers, your teammates, your classmates. Close to 40 million Americans suffer every day. Luckily, both anxiety and depression are manageable. We have the medication, we have the therapy, and we have the technology. So, you ask, why are so many people still suffering then? It’s the stigma that surrounds this matter which causes so many people to shy away from the fact that they may have a mental illness. It’s our responsibility to start the conversation and break down the barriers that cause so many people to devalue themselves. Whoever you are – you are so valued, and you are so loved.

MHAM Post #6: Kaley

Sometimes you meet friends who teach you more than you ever expected. That’s how I feel about Kaley. 

In many respects, Kaley has a way of always keeping things lighthearted, but she also has this depth and sincerity about her that you just can’t help but be drawn to. She’s the kind of person that makes it feel so comfortable to connect with her, no matter the scope of the conversation.

I genuinely believe that Kaley’s words have such weight, and I am so happy she agreed to let me publish her raw and honest thoughts.

Here is her personal experience with mental health: 

My mental illness reared its ugly head when I was 18 years old, the second I got to college. Sure, I had some signs when I was little. Like being overly sensitive to the point where my mom actually had to say to me “try not to cry today”. Or like having a scene from a nightmare stuck in my head for days. Or complaining of stomach aches that didn’t actually exist because I just didn’t feel “right”. But when I think back to those instances now, none of them were really cause for concern. None of them were even close to comparable to what I experienced from the age of 18 onward.

The second I got dropped off at college, I started crying for no reason. I started crying, and I didn’t stop (for probably about 5 months). I talked to my mom daily, and she comforted me saying that this was normal and it would soon pass. As the weeks went on, and then as the months went on, she said that I was welcome to come home if college wasn’t for me. This terrified me even more, because I didn’t WANT to go home. What was for me at home? My life was at college – my old friends, my new friends, my classes, my future.

The depression soon developed into anxiety. I now know that these illnesses often go hand in hand. The anxiety, however, was unbearable. I couldn’t sleep, eat, think. All I could do was exist. The anxiety developed into what I now know is called obsessive thoughts. Some examples of the thoughts I wrestled with every second of every day were that I was going to commit suicide, that I was going to hurt someone I loved, and worst of all, that everyone was going to die someday, so what’s the point? These thoughts were not me. I did not believe these thoughts, I did not want these thoughts, and I really had nothing to do with these thoughts. However, my brain had convinced me I did.

Looking back now, I know that this anxiety and the accompanying obsessive thoughts were ultimately provoked by a major change in my life. The only solution was to get comfortable with the change in order to calm my brain down (easier said than done), and/or to turn to medicine for help. In my case, medicine was my answer. Medicine got rid of every single one of my symptoms and allowed me to be the person I wanted to be.

College was not my only rough time. There have been 3 more periods of misery since then due to other various life changes (ex. breakups with boyfriends). However, each of those times, I got back on my medication to fix my chemical imbalance. Then, without the crippling anxiety and terrible thoughts, I could cope and move on. At this point in my life, I have learned and come to terms with the fact that I might need to be on medicine my whole life, and I am completely okay with that. Life is FULL of changes, and with a little something to cure my chemical imbalance, I truly believe I can handle and embrace all of them.

Something very important to note is that, for each of the periods in which my mental illness took over, there was really nothing wrong in my life. This caused me to feel a lot of confusion and guilt. I had SO many things to be thankful for, so why was I so miserable? Even to this day, I feel guilty for what I’ve been through because I’ve been blessed with so many amazing things in this life, while there are people out there struggling for so many REAL reasons. I have to remind myself, then and now, that I couldn’t help it. No one chooses to feel this way. No one chooses to not be able to control their thoughts and emotions.

My mom always said to me, “this is happening to you so that you can someday help someone else”. I still like to cling to that idea to make a little bit of sense out of why I am the way I am (hence why I agreed to write about my story).

The last thing I want to say is that I could not have gotten where I am today without the support of my amazing friends and family. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am grateful for them more than they will ever know.

alexkrump:

There’s no eloquent way to say this…or if there is I don’t really feel like trying (lol)… but I just wanted to say how weird it is to look back at old pictures I posted on my Tumblr during the first couple years I was using it. 

Someone recently liked a picture I posted during my freshman year of college (2011) where I stated, “a couple of the biggest changes in my life thus far have happened recently”. That comment alone boggles my mind.

I feel so far removed from that person I was 5 years ago, yet I am consistently having this crisis about feeling like I’m still an 18 year old trapped in a 23 year old’s body. 

I posted that picture in 2011 before my parent’s divorced, before my brother’s accident, and before my dad’s arrest. Since then, I’ve also made so many new friends, lived in 6 different houses/apartments, and worked in 3 different cities.

Sometimes I really have no idea who I am right now, because my life is basically just constant change. When I posted that in 2011, going to college was one of the first real HUGE changes in my life and I really craved it. Now all I crave is stability. 

No point to this post aside from the fact that LIFE IS WEIRD MAN.

It makes me excited and also extreeeeeemely terrified for the future.