It's here.. Mental Health Month is here!
May is here.
This post is going to be vulnerable because I am using photographs to tell the story.
I chose 3 pictures of myself in order to discuss mental health, and what it means to me.
Did I pick the best pictures of me? Ha. Nope. (As your eyes have already glanced down)
I chose the 3 pictures because of the memories they brought up for me.
I wish I could say I don't care what people think about me. Sometimes, I don't. In a way, though, we all do. We all do care. I care while writing this post, and I will care after. But when does the meaning of "normal" fall out of the dictionary? When does "beautiful" mean something you cannot visibly see? When does the internet become a safe place, a realistic view of what is, and not just what we choose to portray?
Did I send it? No. I kept it for me. Sometimes I think I took this photo to show myself "this. this is what you've become. this is who you are." and sometimes I think I took this picture because I had hope. [What?] I had hope that things would get better, and I knew I would have this picture to look back at and see how far I've come?
and then I have my awful reason. Maybe I took this picture, in case someone were to find it. Then they would know how badly I had been hurting when nobody seemed to understand.
The story at the time this was taken. It was November 2015. I am standing in my bathroom. I would go in there a lot, lock the door, sit on the rug, and lean up against the cabinet, falling apart, questioning every piece of my life. I hadn't showered. My hair looks greasy. I hadn't been taking care of myself. You can see mascara under my eyes. That was me trying. My face is swollen from tears. At school I would sit alone in the hallways and dissociate. I would bang my head against the lockers when nobody was watching. I would leave class to cry in a bathroom stall. I would text my mom at work, obsessively, throughout the day. Leaving her concerned.
I was sick.
I was pale.
I went days on end without an hour of sleep.
And after this picture? I most likely had wiped my eyes, washed my face, and opened the door again as if nothing had happened.
That is what happens when you have a mental health condition. You are just like the girl who decided to show her smartphone what her Instagram doesn't see. When you walk out those doors, there is no room for the what is expected of you. You get dressed, you go to work, you blend in with society, and you smile- because god forbid someone sees you not acting "okay."
And nobody knows that the one who smiles, and shows up, had reached their breaking point the night before.
I think when people see the words "mental health awareness" they think about depression, anxiety, or just the word "mental illness." I think many forget that mental health awareness, includes them too. It includes all in the topic of discussion. There are the sides of pain, the sides of fighting, but there are also those sides that do have pure genuine smiles. And that is an example of mental health too.
People may see me now and forget I have an anxiety disorder, and still struggle with depression at times. At my school counseling center, I take a mini questionnaire as their check-in. The numbers always confirm that I have severe anxiety, but when my counselor addresses it, she learns that those results are my constant. She reads "severe anxiety" but I say, "yes I'm anxious but I've been worse." My heart always races for no reason. I always am afraid I am going to have a panic attack in public. Anxiety is a part of my daily life, but I go about my life despite that. My mental health is also:
showing self respect,
snorting when I laugh, and then laughing even more!
It is the self-talk inside my head saying "this too shall pass."
It is advocating for myself by going to therapy.
mental health awareness IS self-awareness.
We can all feel sad, glad, mad, and we have the right to feel whatever we feel.
Mental health awareness is important because our minds are powerful, and fragile all at once.
Everyone deserves support, care, and treatment.
And unfortunately we still live in a world with oppression and stigma.
Unfortunately many forget there is always more to a person.
And unfortunately not everyone receives support, care, and treatment.
- But we do have a month dedicated to spreading awareness. A month so we CAN talk about it.
It affects everyone.
At times we have to ignore the fact that we care what people may think, and we must be vulnerable to get the attention the world needs.
Last year I was pretty active during Mental Health Month 2016, but this year I want to do even more! The awesome thing about this awareness month, is that the smallest effort you bring to make an impact will contribute to the greater voice!
This is what 2017's Mental Health Month is all about:
Source: Mental Health America
"This year for May is Mental Health Month, MHA is talking about Risky Business. We believe it's important to educate people about habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves. These include risk factors such as risky sex, prescription drug misuse, internet addiction, excessive spending, marijuana use, and troublesome exercise patterns. We hope the tools and resources that we've put together help individuals and communities to raise awareness of the risks that these types of behaviors present—especially to young people—and help people who may be struggling to detect early warning signs and seek help early, before Stage 4."
learn more at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may
Here is how I get involved, and how you can too!
My favorite mental health accounts:
#mhmchat , #SOSchat
2. Take the pledge.
Quick, easy, and making an impact!
If you go to Stamp Out Stigma's site, you can take the pledge to be stigma free. To recognize, reeducate and reduce. "It begins with me."
3. Share your story.
- With friends
- On your blog
- Contribute your writing on:
4. Wear green.
The green ribbon is used to open the conversation of mental health and to challenge the stigma associated with mental health problems. Something as simple as wearing the color can show your support!
5. Be mindful of how you use your words.
There is much stigma found in language. Never diagnose or attach a label to another person.
- Being "neat" doesn't always mean one has OCD.
- Being "moody" doesn't always mean one "is" Bipolar.
One may know this logically, but it is important to recognize how these words can affect others. Especially because mental health is invisible.
6. Have questions? ASK. Do not assume.
Want to know how to help a friend with anxiety? with depression? the difference between an anxiety or panic attack? more about mental health conditions you are not too familiar with?
You can find answers online, through research, and through people (respectfully)
Be open to learning about the experiences of others.
7. Be mindful of your own mental health.
Everyone has mental health. You do not need to have a mental health condition to be mindful of your mental health. Take care of yourself. Use kind word [to yourself]
Mental Health Month is for everyone. A healthy mind is a precious thing many of us take for granted. Check in with yourself. Do you have your own forms of self care? Or could you be doing more to take care of yourself?
You can take a free mental health screening online at:
8. Send a message to someone you know who is in recovery, and/or struggling.
A letter, in person, a note - reach out. Or just a person you care about in general! Let someone know you're thinking about them, and believe in them. They may not believe in themselves.
As for me, I will do my part as well.
In addition, I am still wrapping up my daily blog post challenge for May. I'm looking forward to this.
What is Say Something Week ?
Say Something Week (October 24th - 28th, 2016) was started after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT December 14, 2012. It is an awareness week for the school, and a remembrance day of the tragic event. Most importantly, it is a week to promote change.
The idea behind "say something" is that if you see something that doesn't seem right, say something to a trusted adult. By saying something you could prevent something bad from happening. Whether it is seeing a suspicious person on school grounds, or hearing or feeling as though someone may hurt others, or themselves.
I was introduced to "Say Something Week" last year, my senior year of high school. It is when I first heard of the message, but it is also when I was involved in the message.
The Friday of Say Something Week 2015, I was called down to my school social worker's office. Some of my friends, anonymously, and some openly, had reached out to someone out of concern for my safety and well-being. It was a day that had jumpstarted everything for me as far as my help and support goes. My mom was called to the school for a meeting, and later that night I met with a crisis worker from the "2-1-1" helpline.
That day happened during Say Something Week for me, but it can happen any day of the year. I'm grateful now that people cared enough to express their concerns for me, and to make sure I was getting the help I needed and deserved.
www.sandyhookpromise.org states, "Say Something Week reinforces the power young people have to prevent tragedies and save lives when they Say Something to a trusted adult."
Be a voice for others, and use your voice to make a change. You can not go wrong by saying something if you feel uneasy.
With the 2nd presidential debate just last night, and the destruction and devastation of Hurricane Matthew, there is a lot of hurt and conflict going on in the world around us.
I am from a small rural New England town. I grew up with deer in my backyard, tractors making people late for work, and always seeing at least 2 people you know at the grocery store.
I grew up sheltered.
My high school had challenged me to think outside the box. I was in a safe place, and difficult discussions were often out in the open. I could almost feel my heart grow bigger, and my mind opening wider when I was able to see things from another perspective. I wasn't much of voice back then; I was a learner. I was a listener.
It is not just a bad thing nor just a good thing to grow up sheltered. There are pros and cons. What had worried me was that I felt I could only hear or see things one way. I had to believe what the majority believed, because those were my roots.
This year, I left my small town for the city. As much as I have grown throughout the years, I have finally reached a stage that some of my peers had already gained confidence for within their freshman year of high school. Their voice.
I can now say, I have found my voice.
My Papa was a humanitarian. He had a "Type A" personality, but when it came to human beings he was able to show love for "as is." He most likely did not believe in the word perfect, however, he was perfect to me.
He was compassionate, a realist, and a patient man.
He spent his career as a counselor, which fit his demeanor greatly, however I do not believe you need to be a counselor in order to be the kind of person he was.
He was caring, patient, straight-forward, and determined.
I think of the three P's of things that he has taught me, and will use them to share with you all.
You just don't know what people are going through.
That cashier you were complaining about "being rude", who knows- maybe she's getting a divorce? Maybe she's losing her job? Maybe she's been fighting depression, but today she managed to get out of bed and show up for work. Maybe she was rude. Maybe there just aren't excuses. But maybe just maybe- that is not who she is.
That is just a random scenario that I refer to when thinking about perspective regarding others.
You don't know everyone's story. You do not know who you are passing on the streets.
To me, World Mental Health Day is everything about standing together.
We are all broken in one way or another, or we all have been broken in one way or another.
Approximately 1 in 5 in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year.
1 in 5 ?
There is no need for me to explain why there is something wrong with that. If that statistic is correct, and that many people are fighting for their mental health each day, why is stigma still an issue? It is happening all around us. No disability, no diagnosis, not ANYTHING, changes the fact that we are all human.
Mental Health does not just mean take care of yourselves.
It means take care of each other.
October 2nd 2016:
International Day of Non-Violence
October 6th, 2016:
National Depression Screening Day
October 10th, 2016:
World Mental Health Day
October 5-9th: Mental Illness Awareness Week
Month of October:
ADHD Awareness Month
Bullying Prevention Month
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
I didn't know Tyler. Mom said he was in his mid-twenties. I just remember laying on my bed texting Lydia about our plans for the night and meeting at our lake cottage with a bunch of kids. Mom came in my room with the phone pressed against her ear. She gave me a concerned look as she listened to my Nana on the other end of the phone. I knew something had happened. When she told me one of my cousins committed suicide my mind first jumped to the wrong cousin, before Mom corrected me and I realized I didn't know Tyler too well. My mind raced in many places. I have always been close with his sister. I see her at family reunions, but I never would see him. He was always disconnected from the family. She just lost her brother. Mom didn't say attempted, she said committed. He's gone.
I don't remember the last time I saw him. I don't know almost anything about him. Mom said growing up he was always getting into trouble. He was a risk taker, but he was in a long-term relationship and when she broke up with him he pulled a trigger. I do not understand. I do not understand how a break up could lead you to end your life. He had been drinking. He wasn't in the right state of mind. What if he didn't know what he was doing?
But what if he did? What if he always knew someday he would pull the trigger, and he just needed a breaking point, and now he had one.
I just listened to my Mom and I sat with her on my bedroom floor. I realized what time it was and I put my sweatshirt on, and grabbed my keys to head to the lake. I was okay, but somehow..halfway down my road, I realized I couldn't do it. I couldn't drive there. I was driving painfully slow. I didn't have the energy. I found myself taking a completely different road, and I realized where I needed to be. I sat at a park, far away from the other cars. I had my head against the window and I just cried. Lydia asked if I heard about Tyler. I texted Lydia that I would have to come another time. I wasn't even positive why I was crying. I had too many thoughts so I could not focus on just one.
I had an amazing weekend. I drove long distance on senior skip day, the farthest I've driven since my accident. I was happy. I was appreciative of the little things. I saw friends and family. I was feeling good, and now- this. He was family, but also a stranger to me. He was a person. Whatever thoughts were going through his head...
I just cried. What kind of world do we live in? I watched a group of boys from a distance play basketball on the court. What kind of world do we live in where somewhere out there..is someone taking their life. Where so many out there are fighting too hard to be here, and they can't just simply be here. They can't just enjoy this. Life can be so beautiful, but life can be a very dark place.
I drove home. I know my mom was worried about me when she heard I was sitting at a park at night in my car all by myself instead of seeing my friends. I went right to bed. I told her I was okay, I didn't tell her I had been crying.
I have been doing so well. However, many things have been a trigger for me lately. Certain words I hear manage to suck the life out of me. They are just reminders. Reminders of my lowest places.
But where do I go from here? How do I go about this? What are my options? I can fall apart and view the world as this dark and terrible place and accept the fact that when life becomes mentally unbearable it is okay to choose to leave it. OR, am I going to give myself permission to pause for a moment, and question all of these things, and allow myself to feel whatever I feel. Once I give myself that time, I will pick myself up again. Find ways to talk about suicide, and better ways to let the topic of suicide sit in my brain. It is a difficult topic, but what happens if we don't talk about it?
As great as I have felt this weekend, I am left feeling very drained. I am back to school tomorrow. This "living contradiction" has her mind consumed with
This blog has been jumbled just to symbolize those emotions.
RIP Tyler. I'm sorry you felt the world would be better off without you, but I know you won't have to hurt anymore.
Today started out on the rough end.
In art class I was fighting an anxiety attack. I recognized the symptoms. I was struggling to breathe, I got up to go to the bathroom twice, I had my head down on the table, I was filled with panic. My hands were shaking, my stomach felt sick, and I started fighting back tears. My friend could see what was happening and she rubbed my shoulder.
I doodled on the side of my sketchbook. Flowers, vines, and leaves. I tried to distract myself but the symptoms were not helping to ignore the discomfort. My mind went to the worst case scenarios. This was not a full on anxiety attack, but I was dreading reaching my breaking point. I didn't know where it was coming from, so I began to stress over the idea of needing to find words for it too.
For our final we are doing the glorious self portraits. My anxiety went away when my teacher had us take goofy pictures of ourselves on our iPads. Once I started laughing and being my expressive self, I became more calm.
By the next class I was telling myself: Ok Haley, you're okay, you're fine, it's all okay, it passed, it was uncomfortable for the moment, but you are okay now.
I need those moments of reassurance with myself. When I experience a heavy amount of anxiety I am consumed with fear, and then depression as I allow myself to question my capabilities and my happiness if I deal with moments like this.
Those moments have been infrequent, but they are still there. They still come back to me at times. Next time, I need to almost joke around with myself, if humor does help me. Not that anxiety is funny at all..but sarcasm to get me through the discomfort. "Ah well hello there anxiety, I have missed you my buddy ole pal. You sure are being one pain in the ass today aren'tcha? Ok anxiety I hear you, yes anxiety I feel you, but I'm going to keep doing me. You do you."
That is probably easier said than done, but because I KNOW it feels like the end of the world in the moment, but "this too shall pass" I need to treat the moment as it is going to pass.
On a brighter note:
I spoke up today. With writing, but still! I advocated for mental health issues. I participated in the twitter account @StampStigma's mental health month chat. I received more followers, and likes and retweets on my responses to the public questions.
I am very much enjoying Mental Health Month. This conversation should be continuous all year, but I thank this month of awareness for giving me a voice and less fear in the start to get there.
Alrighty folks !!
My Mental Health Awareness Month blog challenge has become a little shaky.
I have been pushing myself to stick with it considering the word "challenge", but the truth is..life gets in the way.
I had a rocky night in my household, therefore it was not appropriate for me to be blogging during that time. Family comes first! As much as i love the escape that writing brings me, sometimes the present needs to be the priority.
I want to look forward to blogging and though some topics on my challenge excite me to write about, some are just to "pass time" and that is not what i want this to be about.
I have decided that i will continue to make frequent posts dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Month, but i will pick and choose the topics that reach me the most, to make this a smoother process.
For a reminder of what this blog is for..
Thank you all for the continuous support !
unfortunately, i have to break or "adjust" my challenge. I will try to post tomorrow, but circumstances tonight do not make a blog post quite necessary. Bear with me!!
So there's 10 "interesting" facts about me
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.