I am forcing myself to sit down and blog right now for 2 reasons:
I had 2 heart surgeries at age 13, and since then it has been a ride to get my heart-healthy life to a steady pace. 2 years ago was my last appointment at Boston Children's Hospital. It went well, and my doctor said he would see me in 2 years!
So 2 years later, here I am! I only had one "episode" of a racing heart a year ago in my p.e. class, but other than that I have been pretty kick-ass.
The anxiety started to kick in when I entered my appointment. No reason in particular, I just wanted the day to be over with so I could breathe and know I was okay, and it was all over now.
My mom was excellent therapy. We were both overtired and extreme goofballs. We shared many laughs together and of course, were the loudest ones in the waiting room. Oopsies.
During my appointment, we discussed my blood pressure medication that I had been taking for over 4 years to keep my heart at a safe rate. We were going to determine the necessity of remaining on the medication.
I mentioned the year I have had struggling with anxiety and depression. I learned that my heart medication is very safe, however it can be known to cause depression. My doctor also stated, however, that being on the med could help my anxiety because it will prevent symptoms of a racing heart triggered by anxiety.
Help my depression, or help my anxiety? My mom pointed out that my anxiety is every single day, and helping that would be more beneficial than eliminating my depression spells-which are more rare.
Going off the medication would also put me at a greater risk of ending up in the emergency room again. Besides the one episode in p.e. class, I have had zero issues.
We decided I will remain on the medication.
My mom was extremely pleased to learn that Wheelock College is just 5 min walking distance from my hospital, in case I were to have an issue with my heart. Of course, I feel good about that as well.
I was pleased that the day ended on a positive note, and it was refreshing to see how far my heart has come after all of the hell it had put me through growing up.
To add to the good vibes of the week-
My MindBodyGreen article has reached 1K shares..I repeat 1 THOUSAND SHARES!
I am working on more contributions, and also keeping up with my blog as I am now.
Thank you all for the continuous support!!
To start: I'm blogging from Martha's Vineyard! I arrived yesterday and so far it has been great catching up with family and friends and overall being in a place that has always been a sanctuary for my mental health.
This past New Year's Day I was driving to the Vineyard for the weekend and ended up in a horrific car accident just 45 min from the ferry boat.
Being a 17 year old and having this be the farthest I would have yet to drive, my mom had good reasons to question my anxiety with my accident and when I would get back on the road again.
This trip, I did not drive, but I was ready for it. My mom was willing to meet my grandmother halfway instead. Looking at how far I've come this year (for many reasons) it feels good to see how I am prepared for a challenge. I know that I can handle the drive, I had just ended up in an unfortunate circumstance before. I know that it will be easier for me once I am able to prove to myself I can do it. Which I will :-) Maybe next trip..
I was thinking about "advice" to give about things I've learned from suffering with anxiety. The first thing that came to mind was: speaking up when I am anxious.
As I have mentioned in other posts, as a kid I hated to ask for help. I hated to complain, and I always wanted to appear tough and in control. My anxiety was a wimpy embarrassment to me.
I realize at this point in my life how people handle their anxieties in different ways. Someone close to me expresses her anxiety in an outward panic. She repeatedly talks about her fears- out loud, where as I am known to hold things in and run over my worrisome thoughts in my head.
No way is better than the other.
I'll call it "verbal" and "thought" anxiety just for my own comparison..
Pros: Speaking up, getting attention and understanding from others
Cons: By speaking through only worries, it is hard to stop and allow yourself to calm down or convince yourself you will be okay.
Pros: By being quiet you are also fighting it. You may be anxious, but at the same time you are trying very hard to be okay.
Cons: You are holding it in, and that is hurting you much more.
Either way, if you handle your anxiety in an obsessive "internal" fashion, or an obsessive "external" presentation, it is important that you speak up.
What I find is a major contradiction.
It helps tremendously when I talk about worries. When someone else is aware, it brings me comfort, even if nothing is becoming solved. I want support, I want someone to know I am struggling so that a weight is off my shoulders and my anxiety will lessen at the fact that I don't have to try so hard to appear okay.
The contradiction comes along with who you present your worries to.
Anyone with anxiety knows someone that helps or hurts their illness, whether those people intend to or not.
We have all experienced the "just snap out of it" "it's all in your head" "Just calm down" "You have nothing to be freaking out about."
Those comments can lead us to feel we are annoying, crazy, and that our feelings are invalid.
But we know that what we need most is support, and in a weird way our anxious blabber that we throw on others- helps us.
So what do we do?
What I've learned in my "struggle moments" is that certain people can handle it perfectly, and certain people just can't. That's okay. I have anxiety and I still don't understand it, so how can I expect others to understand what I'm going through as well?
Acceptance is key. Accept your struggle. Accept you are doing the best you can.
By doing this, you will be less likely to shut down when a comment is made with such little support.
So a message from me, your fellow anxious friend: It is okay to be afraid to be speak up, but don't let that stop you. You may worry about annoying others, or worry about what they will think of you. If you want to babble your anxious worries in the present moment to help yourself, go for it.
I have discovered support that I never knew I could have, just by opening up about my biggest insecurities.
Anxiety occurs in everyone's life at times. However, anxiety disorders can lead you to feel ashamed with yourself.
You should talk about your anxiety because you aren't alone, and you will definitely realize that the more you speak up. You should talk about your anxiety because you never know what help could come along.
I am not suggesting this because it was easy for me, I am suggesting this because it was beneficial.
Don't hold back from babbling away, asking for help, letting someone know when you "can't", and speaking up about your fears.
We can only hold on to so much. It can only help a little, if we share a little.
Yesterday's date is one I am going to keep on the calendar. June 21, 2016. I could not have had a better day.
Almost 2 weeks ago I became interested in contributing an article to my favorite blog site, MindBodyGreen. I read the terms in order to submit an article, and I just rolled with it. I chose a topic that was important to me and wrote an article (possibly) within 30 minutes. I went to my email and sent it off. That was all.
It was fun for me to try. I knew it was a popular site and that my chances were not too big in getting published on there.
I am known for getting my hopes up- always. I guess that also contributes to my insecurities regarding self doubt. I am afraid to be let down, so I prepare myself to be disappointed. Wonderful confidence tip, right?
This time, I had zero expectations. I almost preferred it that way, and I wish I could take more things in my life with that same perspective. I wasn't contemplating the what-ifs or worrying about not being good enough. I wasn't even expecting what would happen if I ended up being published. Days went by and graduation was approaching and I honestly forgot all about it.
Yesterday morning I woke up at 7 am. Usually when I wake up on days with zero responsibilities, I check my phone. I check the time, my social media notifications, emails, and then I go back to sleep.
When I checked my email, I had to blink a couple times to be sure I was reading it correctly. The editors from MindBodyGreen published my article??? What? I smiled HUGE, and knew there was no way now I was going back to sleep. My mom was still home and about to leave for work, I ran downstairs and told her about my publication in a hyper stream of chatter.
Throughout the day, I was receiving loads of support from family, friends, my past teachers, and even strangers. My article currently has 629 shares !! Insane!
I take pride in my own courage. I willingly shared some of my personal challenges, but all the feedback has been positive. It is a reminder of why I am doing this.
You cannot grow by remaining within your comfort zone.
My cousin shared the link to my article in a Facebook post and said: "We all have very different ways for expressing ourselves, whether it's through art, music, etc...But for many of us, it can become frustrating when thoughts become trapped and you can't figure out how to let them out. My cousin Haley began writing blogs simply for herself. Simply to let out feelings she felt were not even really that important to anyone else. Now, her simple advice has been published and overnight it has already inspired the possible thousands of people who have read it. I think everyone can relate to reading her post whether they suffer with mental health or not."
It is amazing to hear, but also very true. Months ago I was submitting anonymous articles to the school paper, and now I'm officially out there. To think this all began with private vomit journal of my worries..
I told myself when I got out of the hospital I was going to make some major changes. One of them was to no longer hold things back that inspire me.
I'm alive and I'm here, so why not take risks? Why not take chances? I want to see what I can do and what I can learn with this life I am choosing to live.
What will I write about next? :-)
I have grown more these past 2 months than I have all of my senior year.
"Senior year." It's supposed to be the best year? That is what I imagined. I can sure say that I will never forget my senior year of high school, but it is not how I would have wanted to remember it.
This year, I lost myself. I became disconnected from myself, and the world, and I found myself in a dark place that I never thought I would come out of. It was a rollercoaster. I would reach the top and I would feel powerful and hopeful, but it would only last a few weeks, and then I would be back down to the darkness again.
I always had this skill, you see. I was always able to hide my feelings with a dorky smile and a constant stream of chatter. This year, my friends discovered that I was not so good at hiding it anymore.
It has been a bumpy year.
The main reason why I became so invested in mental health awareness is not just because I struggle with my mental health as well. It is because I discovered something that made my life worth living. I became passionate about advocacy, and my dream to become a school social worker someday.
This is the first time I am saying this in writing, and the first time I am putting this out there...
This past March of 2016, I reached bottom. At 17 years old I found myself sitting in an ambulance all alone on my way to a hospital without my family, where I would be hospitalized for suicidal ideation. While my friends were going to school, and hanging out with one another, I was in a room with my zentangle coloring books and a pile of quarters for the payphone. I was at my lowest point, and I didn't know when I would be able to go home.
When I did return home and back to school, I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions. I never would have wished for that experience, but everything happens for a reason and in many ways the experience itself, and the truly amazing people I had met, changed me for the better.
Despite my social anxieties I am insanely proud of myself for advocating for myself this year. It was a long and painful process for me to get there, but it was all worth the effort. My support system helped me to get here, but it was I who had to make it happen.
Months ago I didn't think I would make it to Christmas, and then I didn't think I would make it to my high school graduation.
But I did, and I'm here. And if I am choosing to be here, I would like to use my voice and my time here for a bigger purpose.
I'm tired of hiding the struggles in my life. I want to celebrate every tiny victory they lead me to.
Thank you to my dear friends and family members for the ongoing support this year through it all. I am truly blessed.
MS, thank you for inspiring the idea of blogging for me. You have saved, changed, and inspired me more than you know.
The morning of June 16, 2015 I had just gotten to the top of my stairs to head down to go to school when I heard the worst sound in the world. My mom was breaking inside. I could hear her on the telephone and within that moment everything stopped, I just knew my Papa was gone.
It is weird to see where life takes you. I remember the day he passed I had my hair in a ponytail and I was wearing a scarf, and a long-sleeve blue dress. Today is June 16, 2016. It has been a year without him in our little world. Today was my last real day of school. I am wearing a "Wheelock College" t-shirt, and I feel pride that he is looking down on me. After our numerous college talks we had for years, I trust that he is happy with my decision and every next step that comes in my life.
An important thing I have learned to take in after losing someone you love is perspective.
It doesn't happen overnight. It is perfectly okay to let yourself fall apart at times and question life itself. I have; but I also have learned more than one way to look at it.
For example: This Sunday is my high school graduation. I have been imagining this to be very hard for me (it will be) , but I used to think the only way to view this was sadness. He won't be here to see me graduate, he is the one person I wanted to be there. However, this week I came to a realization that had made me smile. I had felt pity for my mother that Sunday is also Father's Day, but watching her first born graduate will be a healthy distraction. Also, how cool is that? On Father's Day, my Papa will see me graduate. He loves my school, and I know he is proud of me, so he wouldn't want it any other way. It will be a beautiful day.
This year has been rocky for many reasons, but I have gained the most lessons.
Before my Papa, I hadn't had much experience with loss. For him to be my grandfather, buddy, and father-figure all in one made it feel as though the world was ending. Everything just seemed darker without him, and I didn't view life the same way.
My first loss has taught me many things:
People will tell you "He is watching over you" "He is with you" and it is helpful, but awfully frustrating knowing that they are not physically here, and you don't really know.
I am just trusting his spirit, how he has always been the glue to our family, and how he has never missed an important event in our lives. This weekend I will be thinking of my grandpa very much, but I will be smiling reflecting on all he has taught me, and where he has brought me.
I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach and had hardly slept the night before. We hardly ever host parties, and now we will be! Not only that, but this will be the first time our family will all be gathered together at our new home.
For once this year I actually was beginning to feel like this is my place. This is my home. Soon people will be coming to my home.
My cousin Kristy had said something today that stood out to me. "After you have gone through so much shit in life, when anything good happens you just want to jump at it."
I related very much to that. My struggles have given be a broad perspective. I appreciate the little things often- (though I could more..)
So today, I was jumping at it. I hugged my mom often and told her and John how happy I was. Just walking through my house and seeing people out the windows and in all directions just made me so happy. Not once today did my mind wander, not once did I dissociate, and looking back I was completely focused and appreciative of the present moment.
Months ago, family parties would be absolutely draining for me. I would leave early, cry on the bathroom floor with an anxious stomach, or feel overly exhausted and zombie-like.
I'm jumping at this. This to me, is perfection. If there is such thing as perfection. I am enjoying and daydreaming about today like a dork.
I am incredibly grateful for my family. My cousins are my best friends, my grandparents gave me cards that made me cry, and I have an enormous amount of support.
With my mental health struggles, all that mattered to me is that people could see I was trying. In my lowest moments my mom would become frustrated with me being in bed 24/7 and say "you aren't even trying." That killed me. I felt like I was trying so hard.
Overall, if there is anything I have been taking for granted, it is that my family has seen my progress, and they know how hard I tried.
My Grammy wrote in my graduation card that she was proud of my strength this year when I was stuck in the "doldrums." My aunts, uncles, mom, grandparents, etc continuously tell me how proud they are of me. They understand all I have fought through, and all I have overcome. I take that for granted because I know if anything, it is easy to feel alone with a mental illness. As alone as I may feel at times, and though it may be hard to see at times, I know I always have people behind me.
I feel happy, strong, and emotional all at the same time. Tomorrow will be my last Monday of the school year. Just 1 more week of school, and then I'm free. It will be an exciting, but emotional week. I think it's perfectly okay if I get sappy and overwhelmed at the good things happening around me, because now I can reflect upon where I used to be.
When I woke up this morning and scrolled through my phone I saw the common headline everyone else was seeing: “Christina Grimmie shot and killed at 22.” At first, I didn’t believe it. It just didn’t seem real, but I knew it was too morbid to be a rumor.
When I noticed all of social media was flooded with the news of her death, I began feeling sick.
I have been watching The Voice for years, and turning to Christina’s covers on YouTube. I watched her journey on The Voice from beginning to end where she received 3rd place, but was just as talented as any other winner.
I remember being 15 and feeling on top of the world when my grandparents gave my cousin and I tickets to see The Voice Tour. The talent, and the overall sound that filled the room brought me to unexpected tears falling fast from my eyes.
So today, that is what brings me the most shock. Almost 3 years ago, I saw her in person. She was so close to me, and I was able to hear her perform live.
She was just a past YouTuber, brand new to the music industry. She was living her dream, traveling the country, and signing autographs when everything was cut short for her.
Besides the shock of losing a celebrity, her death has brought heartaches to so many in the world because she was more than her talent and her fame. She was a person. She had childhood memories, favorite foods, a loving family, friends, and fears like any other person. She was still growing up, and just beginning to live.
Those who follow her know of her infectious personality, and goofy sense of humor. If anything, she has taught me to be myself. Be goofy, be all that you are, and do not care one bit what you look like as long as you are having fun.
It is absolutely disturbing for me to grasp how many deaths by shootings occur each year. Any factor with: Impulsive decision, mentally unstable, under the influence, and holding a weapon can create a wound on the world, and take away innocent lives.
I try to avoid publicly speaking about politics as much as possible, however I will not hold back by saying I have strong opinions when it comes to gun control.
Guns are scary, and the way people use guns is scary. Guns can be a strong use of protection for our country, however they are also misused by many.
Today, we lost a beautiful angel with a voice that empowers your heart and soul. It is easy to become angry and devastated with all of this chaos and tragedy in the world. It is okay to pause at times and question, but we must keep going.
Those with strong opinions about gun control should speak up about it. Each year, innocent lives are lost for many reasons, but a well-known media covered factor is the focus of public shootings.
With most crimes committed, the criminal has a high chance of suffering a mental illness. Despite the reasoning behind these crimes, there are many issues that follow that need to be talked about.
Where do we go from here?
When a tragedy occurs we tend to take 3 large steps back. We want to believe that the world is a terrible place, life sucks, and we should be afraid.
But this is how I am looking at it:
Christina Grimmie’s death is leaving many in such denial because she had such a powerful and lively spirit that is unbelievable to imagine gone. If we want to take a different perspective from the shock of her death, I believe we should honor the energy she presented us. We should smile more, we should laugh often, we should make goofy faces, embrace our inner goofball, and dedicate our lives to what makes us happy.
We should fill the world with the positive energy that was lost. Any positive outlook, decision, or impact we choose to create in our day-to-day lives will be small steps working towards big changes in making the world a better place.
Any goal or positive impact we display from here, will be stronger than any tragedy.
Christina used her voice to reach hearts. You do not need to sing to use your voice in a positive way too.
RIP Christina Grimmie. The appreciation and support of your music will never end.
We can all find ourselves in a slump at times.
Slumps can be a pain. No motivation, no hope, just misery. Slumps can be very damaging to your mental health, depending on how you choose to handle them.
When I find myself in a slump I tend to ignore the little things that make me happy and refuse to acknowledge how much those things mean to me. I become grumpy, and stubborn and I go into "sloth mode." I tend to overthink everything in my past, and everything for my future. I find myself in an uncomfortable position with a never-ending "stuck" feeling.
When you feel stuck, you almost find comfort in staying there. You find it much easier to view the bad things in your everyday life, and ignore the good. It is a feeling that is so strong, that you generalize it and you can't imagine when you will be able to feel unstuck again.
But here's the thing.
It is all temporary. Any pain you feel inside; temporary. Any sadness, hopeless feeling; temporary.
We all know "This too shall pass" but that does not seem to matter to us in those terrible awful moments.
What is important is how we get through those times.
I decided to create a "Slump Challenge" for myself, but I am sharing it with you! When I feel stuck and overwhelmed by even the little things, I need to give myself a little boost.
The key with this is keeping it simple. Take everything one step at a time, and don't get discouraged by everything you can't do. Acknowledge the little things you are doing.
Instead of a "challenge" this is more of a list. A list to turn to with ideas, so no matter what..you can see that you are trying.
Today was the day I had been dreading all week. I didn't think I could emotionally get through the week, after today.
I found that with the worries I had been so worked up over, I ended up feeling relief instead.
It wasn't entirely relief. I felt guilt.
I started hating myself for getting myself so worked up over something that ended up being okay. I had been sobbing over this. I had been considering unhealthy coping strategies over this. I reached out for help over this, and now- I'm fine. Everything is fine.
So yes that's good thing, but it also isn't. Why do I do this to myself?
I sat in class with a sick feeling in my stomach and I did not feel safe with myself. I turned to my friend, "I'm going to lose it, and I'm really hating myself right now, can you please give me some kind of positive talk and tell me I'm okay." She paused for awhile. "I don't know what to say." "Just tell me I have nothing to worry about, and nobody thinks bad of me, and I am okay, and it is okay I reacted how I did because I didn't know-" "Haley..there you go..you can say it." "NO." I wanted her to say it. It sounded stupid but in those moments when I am losing myself I feel a desperate need to have someone look me in the eyes and reassure me I did what I had to because it needed to happen for me in the moment. I need someone to tell me it is okay, and nobody thinks of me differently, and I don't have to hate myself because people are understanding."
Now, do I need to hear that in order to be okay?
I can get by without reassurance, but I do seek it when I'm struggling with doubt.
I can be my own best friend, or my own worst enemy. Sometimes, or most of the time..it is only me who brings myself down. I create false ideas of others' perceptions of me- and that's not okay. Not only is it not realistic..why does that matter to me? Why do I need reassurance from others as a confirmation to feel safe in my own skin? In my own mind?
I so badly want to feel comfortable in my own mind, and skin. I want to be able to trust myself, and turn to others less for help or reassurance.
I always seek advice or reassurance and if the answer isn't what I had hoped for, I second guess everything. I'm not lost in this world. I know who I am, and what I want at times. My problem is that I feel safer with approval before I do things my way.
I only let myself down when I do what others think I should do. When I am inspired, those are my inspirations. I should tackle them. I shouldn't expect them to always inspire someone else too and have me receive the same response from them.
It's complicated. I don't view myself as a leader or a follower. I believe I lead more than follow, but I lead and then take 3 large steps back in doing so.
This must be a confidence issue.
I find that worrying about what someone may think of me, hurts me much more than knowing what someone thinks of me. It is the unknown that kills me, but I can brush off most snubs.
I want to be able to tell myself I am okay or it is okay, and believe it.
I want to be able to seek others' opinions at times, but also remember that everyone is different, and if I turn to my original thought- maybe I should go for it.
I frustrate myself with my own contradictions.
Anxiety causes you to create nonexistent worries, yes.
But this self doubt makes me feel like I have no power.
So how.. ?
Besides "faking it till you make it", and continuously trying..
how can I work on being strong-minded, confident, and not being so hard on myself?
I find myself with a pain in my chest having a meltdown or crisis because of my fears. How can I learn to trust myself?
I am working day by day to accept my struggles instead of hating myself for them. I need to forgive myself, I need to trust myself.
In those moments where everything is closing in on me..
how do I do that?
I'm seventeen. I turn eighteen in 2 months. I'm going to college in the Fall.
And I just had my mom email my teacher for me to alert her of my anxiety before my final presentation.
So here are the thoughts I want to be having:
"I'm pathetic. I can't email my teacher myself, so my mom has to do it for me."
"I can't just suck it up and tackle this, I'm a failure."
But this is what I should be thinking:
"Ok, I know I can do presentations. I have proved it to myself before. My anxiety is just too much for me to handle right now, and that's okay."
"I have every right to reach out for help."
"If I can't do this entirely on my own, it's okay if someone helps me out. It doesn't mean I am incapable of doing all things on my own. Just today, I need some help."
"Hey, I am okay now. My teacher is aware, she knows I may not be able to handle it, so I can breathe now, I don't have to hide anymore."
I get myself too worked up. I have been sobbing for over a week over this stupid presentation. It's for my Foods class. I would be fine reading a powerpoint, but for some reason making something at the front of the class seems terrifying. ON TOP of my social anxiety, my presentation is on my Papa's birthday. The last time I saw him was on his birthday last year. I am flooded with overwhelming emotions.
My mom started to get frustrated with me. "Haley you get yourself so worked up, if you say you would rather take a zero, then do it, I don't care what you do anymore I just want you to calm down."
I took it harshly. I want to be able to do this, doesn't she understand that? I just don't know if I can.
In many ways, though, she was right. If I am crying this hard and hating myself over my anxiety, maybe I should just stop doing this to myself. I just stop pushing myself so hard, and give myself permission to say "I can't."
Social Anxiety is a downright BITCH. Our social life is all around us. We need communication in the real world. When you have a social anxiety disorder and you struggle with little things in your social life, it can cause you to hate and blame yourself.
I grew up being ashamed of myself for the fear I faced in social situations. I grew up believing I was fighting who I was, and "who I was" was "pathetic."
At my age now, I am able to be more vocal about my social anxieties, and speaking up helps me to realize I'm not pathetic, I'm not weak, and I'm not alone. However, I still struggle with asking for help when my anxiety arises, and I still struggle with not blaming myself for my feelings.
This is what I want to point out. 2 Topics:
Social Anxiety does NOT define your overall courage. In fact, having social anxiety does not make you a coward. It can make you feel like one, and that is not okay.
When you are standing in line to order food and you feel your heart racing, or when you are sweating and stuttering during a presentation- you are not being cowardly. Anxiety is plain old discomfort. We tend to blame ourselves when we experience uncomfortable feelings.
Today, my mom needed to help me send an email. That does not judge how I will perform in college, or in life overall.
*When we begin to blame ourselves for our anxieties, we must take a step back.
- acknowledge the small successes in our day (whether it's "hey I got out of bed, I read a chapter in a book, I talked with a friend, I paid at the cash register, etc.")
- reflect upon times when we were proud of ourselves, or others were proud of us
- think hard if you have to, but think of qualities you possess that do show your courage.
Now here's mine:
I am courageous because even though I struggle with social anxiety, and even though I fall apart and breakdown because of it, I try. I may struggle, things may not always be presented perfectly, but I am damn courageous for trying, and trying shows that I am fighting against this bastard battle of mine. I am not quitting on this battle if some days it is too much for me to handle. All that matters, is that I breathe, relax, get back to being me, and pick myself up and start trying again.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.