What Alcohol Does To Me

One day, you turn 21.  You get your ID card and you want to go to this one place where people ask to see that card. The Question is “Can I see your ID.”  So many people want to be asked that on their 21st birthday and after. It makes them feel young when they’re asked that at 30 or older.

 

The place is the bar. You know what’s served there. One word, Alcohol. All young people like to get drunk once. Come home at night hungover the next day with that splitting headache when they wake up. Drinking all those shots of Tequila at the bar with their friends until their hammered. Just no binge drinking, please. Martinis, margaritas, and cocktails. Also, all varieties of beer to drink, have a good time and get drunk on.

 

But there’s a problem if you have mental health issues drinking alcohol especially if you take psychiatric medication. My doctor told me one drink when taking meds. I don’t take my meds if I have a certain amount of alcohol in my system. I knew someone who died from mixing medication and alcohol. That’s not going to happen to me. I won’t let it. After my hospital visit from being off meds, I’d rather take my meds than drink loads of alcohol and miss them resulting in going back. I remember the opening scene from the Marvel X-Men movie based on the iconic character Wolverine titled “Logan”. The scene was when Logan fights the guys who were trying to vandalize his limo. Logan was a limo driver in the opening scenes of the movie. When he fights these guys, he ends up on the ground with his claws up and screams AHHHH before he gets up. That’s how I act when I’m drunk except I don’t fight people. I do feel like Logan in that opening scene and as a matter of fact, he did have a drinking problem in that movie.

 

I remember a time I went out for a meal at this restaurant up the road from my old apartment. I had a Blue Moon beer there. It was a bigger glass of Blue Moon than I usually drink. Yes, Blue Moon is my favorite beer. I remember driving home after dinner and the beer plus a soda with caffeine in it. I got back to my apartment and I just didn’t feel right. I was living in an independent living home with staff on duty on that time. I kept acting like I was having a good time being silly, putting my arms in the air, closing my eyes, and saying WOOO quietly like I was drunk. I went up to my room falling on the ground and every time I get drunk I do something else.

 

My roommates were picking me up and my staff was trying to get me to go up to my room. I even shook one of them saying her name in a silly way. Just imagine what she was feeling when I did that. I overheard my roommates talking about me being drunk. I never asked even though she said she just thought I was being a goof.

 

I remember another time on Christmas when I chugged down a glass of Malbec Red Wine. Same thing. Acting silly and this time I actually touched someone’s pack of cigarettes when I don’t smoke and don’t plan to. I took the lighter as well. I wouldn’t do something like that if there wasn’t alcohol in my system. Once again, I kept falling on the ground and felt like Old Man Logan from that movie.

 

What made me learn about what alcohol really does to me as someone with mental health issues was a recent time I went to a wild bar. I walked in and ordered a miller lite beer on draft. I was sitting next to a guy. He didn’t seem like a bad guy. I complimented his hat and we talked for a little bit. I ordered another one. After that drink, before I ordered a third which was enough and my last beer for the night, I remember the guy offering to buy me a shot. I always like trying shots as I don’t do shots a lot at bars.

 

I’m not a liquor person. I don’t like lots of liquors and most shots I’ve done were very strong as most of them are. One person questioned the guy as I’ve heard from people guys don’t share drinks together. I don’t know much about alcohol, to begin with never mind what is right and wrong when it comes to drinking with other people.

 

I never go to bars and don’t have friends who do. I don’t know if people said “He’s weird” when they heard that but I shouldn’t care to be honest. Not everyone is the same. It was so loud in there and I was tired that I couldn’t quite catch the name of the shot that was ordered. I remember the lady pouring it and nothing went in it when I drank it because I didn’t see anybody try to put drugs in it. But when I drank the shot, I started to not feel right. I paid my tab and left. I walked home as it wasn’t far. Barking dogs were out as I was walking home but no creepy people thank god. My neighborhood seems pretty safe. I got home, took my clothes off that smelled like cigarette smoke and threw them on the ground. I fell on my bed with my favorite pea coat on the floor and laid there. I was saying a few lines from “Logan” once again. I acted like Logan and in the middle of the night, I thought I was having a heart attack. I was breathing heavy and not normal through the night.

 

I woke up the next day and had two cups of coffee that didn’t perk me up. Took a hot shower that didn’t help either. I went to a McDonalds and barely ate my food. I must have been hungover. I didn’t take my medicine either because I thought I would have died that night if I did. I did think about calling 911.

 

Sometimes I’m silly and sometimes I’m angry when I drink too much alcohol. It depends. But with my mental health, the mood can swing and with alcohol, you shouldn’t take the meds even if you need them. Drink alcohol at your own risk with mental health.

 

Talk with your doctor and please don’t drink anything too strong if you have mental health issues. And you can’t afford a drinking problem alone, never mind if you have mental health issues. It can probably kill you if you take psychiatric medication. Alcohol and mental health is not a good combo.

Louis Scarantino is a man on the autism spectrum. He started writing after meeting his favorite singer Shania Twain. He also hopes to become a motivational speaker one day.

Ask For Help

I have been avoiding life for the last couple of months.

I have been hiding from being ashamed. I have been hiding from accepting my own actions, and I have been hiding from taking responsibility. I didn’t crawl into a corner and get down into the fetal position. Though I have been posting happy pictures and using humor as my cover-up. That’s the magical part about social media.

This is the way I have always been; only this time it felt different. This time I had anxiety. I was so upset with myself that every thought I had was negative. My thoughts were racing and all over the place.

I kept trying to explain my feelings until one day, someone told me that everything I said was a bunch of bullshit. They told me that if I really felt that way, then my actions would show that. I can’t argue that. That makes perfect sense. What didn’t make perfect sense, was that everything I said was true, but I knew my actions would not support what I was saying.

After a couple of months of thinking this would go away, I honestly did not know what to do. I dug myself into a hole. I dug it so fast and so deep that I felt defeated and I didn’t see any way out.

One day I woke up and I felt so alone. Even with someone right beside me, with people surrounding me at work, with making my schedule as busy as I could.

I was alone.

The one person I wanted to talk to basically told me to go F myself and I deserved it, but I panicked. I created that, but why? It was driving me crazy.

That day, I called to schedule my first therapy appointment. I showed up and I was sweating bullets. “What if this guy thinks I’m crazy? What if I don’t like this? What if this does not help me? My anxiety was through the roof, but I knew I couldn’t walk out.

He calls me in and my shirt is soaked. We start talking and I just went on and on and on. I’m barely taking a breath, I don’t even know if what I’m saying is answering his questions, my answers are jumping all over the place, and I honestly just felt like a complete crazy asshole, who was very embarrassed by everything I just said. It was like word vomit that I have held in for so long. I was trying to get my life out in 60 minutes, have this guy tell me what I needed to do, the light bulb would click, I would do what he said, and I would be the happiest in all the land. Just kidding, it doesn’t work that way.

It was unbelievably difficult to have someone random call me out on my bullshit. It was very difficult to hear someone’s first opinion of me as a person. It was very hard to hear that these results won’ t come as fast as I want them to because I’m not ready to make the changes that I need to.

At the end, he looked at me and said he would like for me to come back. I sat there in silence for the first time the entire session. He asked me that scary question. “Do you want to come back?” My answer was yes.

I drove home still sweating and in tears. The overwhelming anxiety and what I learned about myself in one hour was a lot to handle. It was a major mind overload and I was so uncomfortable with myself.

I am not a person to ask for help. I think this will be a lot more difficult than I thought, but if I want to change my life for good, then I need to work on long-lasting results. I am obviously very bad at handling things myself.

Don’t be afraid to ask for or seek out help for anything. It’s okay to admit that you can’t figure something out. It’s okay to say that you want to be a better person. Don’t be ashamed of trying to create a better life for yourself. We all have our own battles, but are you fighting? I finally am.

 

 

 

 

 

Meghan Farr

Meghan has an Associates Degree in Human Services, Bachelor’s in Human Development and Family Studies, and a Minor in Psychology.

Late But I am Glad I Met You

Have you had any doubts about your relationship with yourself?

Its completely normal to feel afraid about the outcome of our feelings. Fear is within us and we have to live comfortable with it. All of the struggles and obstacles in life are preparing us for the real person inside us. Our trust and beliefs will help us break the barrier in front of us, so we can build the confidence to move on.

When I was little, I deposited my faith in my parents and they did the same in religion, but it never took root in my heart. I learned that I was looking for meaning, connection, and value using alternative routes. I was lying to myself by not recognizing the purpose of life, the purpose of being happy.

At the beginning of my journey [away from home and my family], I felt lonely and confused. I was frightened when doubtful feelings invaded my soul. I was lost in a maze with a vision clouded by despair. I dwelled within walls thinking about the road of incertitude.

Late but I am glad I found myself and my connection with the world around me.

Upon my arrival to this stage of life, I had to re-evaluate the real me, my purpose, my direction in life, my source of happiness, my growth, and my personal transformation. My definition of spirituality will adapt to my experiences and relationships.

As a result of this transformation I say to myself: “I am glad you are here and I hope you stay with me”.

When we are troubled by our choices, we need someone strong to guide us. We need a friend, a voice, a message, an affirmation. We need to believe in ourselves because we possess the sense of wonder. We have to identify the hidden mysteries of joy by doing the strangest things in life. In my case, I run. I run very early in the morning observing the beauty of the world in the darkness. I trust my next step and I never run alone because I am accompanied by the light of the moon and the stars, or the rain and the cold breeze filling my spirit and my soul with energy.

I run in a path where my heart is filled with love.

I am from Colombia and I am very proud to be from that beautiful country. One of my great passions is life because I have walked this path by sharing it with amazing people. People that have taught me to see the world in a very different way. Extraordinary individuals have showed me what I have never could discover by myself.

I am an eager reader of science, poetry, politics, and music (yes, the meaning and composition of song lyrics). I have a great appreciation for art, languages, and the expression of everyone’s perspective seen from the lens of a camera.

I love Astronomy and one day I will be in space. I am a Research Scientist in Corrosion Engineering and writing is a great way for me to tell the world how I feel.

When a Medical Professional Asked Me If I Have Any ‘Health Problems’

For an entire week, I braced myself for the inevitable question that invariably made my heart race and my cheeks flush red.

“Are you currently being followed for any medical conditions?” the psychiatric nurse practitioner would say gently, with warmth in her eyes and an air of neutrality.

“I have cerebral palsy,” I’d respond confidently, unhesitatingly.  “Mild left hemiplegia.”  No fear.  No embarrassment.  A perfect reflection of my burgeoning self-acceptance since publicly revealing my disability nearly 7 months before.

As a result of the omnipresent anxiety that prompted the appointment, I constantly rehearsed my potential responses to the nurse practitioner, my mind transforming into a scratched record long before I set foot in her office.

Cerebral palsy.

Mild cerebral palsy.

Mild left hemiplegia cerebral palsy.

Wait, where does the accent fall in “hemiplegia?”  

Oh my gosh, what if I pronounce it wrong?  

Will she still believe I have cerebral palsy?

What if she doesn’t know what cerebral palsy is?

Cerebral palsy affecting my left side.

No, too wordy.  I’ll take my chances with “hemiplegia.”  

Oooohhh, I’ve got it!  Mild left hemiplegic cerebral palsy.  Perfect.

But no amount of anxiety-induced rehearsal could have prepared me for the way my new psychiatric nurse practitioner took my medical history.

The day of the appointment, nearly everything had gone exactly to plan.  I sat on a large couch in a roomy office, fielding questions about the anxiety symptoms that brought me in, my family history, eating habits and sleeping patterns, attempting to provide sufficiently detailed — yet concise –answers.  However, I could feel my chest constricting and my pulse thumping against my skin as I nervously awaited the inevitable question about my medical history.

As soon as the long-awaited question arrived, it jolted me upright, leaving me awash in a peculiar mixture of sadness, anger, and shame.

Do you have any health problems? asked the nurse practitioner.  I immediately reeled in shock.  I had spent months cultivating appreciation and love for my life — cerebral palsy and all — and now, all I could hear was a ringing, pulsing reminder that my disability would only be valuable, lovable, when the “problem” could be resolved, when the symptoms could be remediated, when I could be cured of the unimaginable grievances of spastic muscles, poor balance, bodily misalignment and occasional physical pain.  I searched her face for any sign of her beliefs, her intentions.  A soft smile was spread across her face, and her eyes were kind.  She doesn’t know, I thought.  She doesn’t know how much her words hurt me.

As soon as the words escaped her lips, I froze.  I knew the answer I had to give for her to receive a fuller sense of both my physical and my mental health.  But, in that moment, disclosing my cerebral palsy seemed like an admission that my lifelong medical condition was a burden, rather than the blessing I had grown to love and accept as an integral facet of my identity.  I felt I was inadvertently boxed into a regressive mindset without any means of escape.

I… I don’t really see it as a problem, but… I… um… have mild hemiplegia cerebral palsy,” I stammered, frustrated by my hesitation, infuriated that my hours of preparation for this appointment were all for naught.  

The remainder of the appointment progressed smoothly enough, and eventually, it was time to leave, but I remained haunted by the lingering effects of the practitioner’s unintentionally ableist phrasing.  

Maybe I do have a problem, I pondered, as I examined my uneven legs in the mirror.  For the first time in months, I felt painfully self-conscious, acutely aware of the disconnect between the positive self-perception I had spent months garnering and the pitying way in which society often perceives those with disabilities.  I felt anxiety swell within my chest and tears form in the corners of my eyes as I fruitlessly attempted to wish away my medical history, the need to disclose my condition, and the societal perception that my disability, the worldview it provided me and the life it shaped, was nothing but an unresolvable lifelong problem.  My disability.  My life.  My problem.

It took days to restore my fractured self-image, to reconcile my ability status with a sense of self-love.  The time I devoted to rebuilding my crumbling self-perception, to convincing myself that my life has value and my disability should instill a sense of pride was crucial, but it simultaneously seemed so unnecessary.  Why was I left paying a hefty price for a medical professional’s ableist slip of the tongue?

In professional settings, the responsibility of speaking about medical conditions in a neutral, edifying way should not fall exclusively on the client.  It is the medical professional’s duty to use language that does not promote harmful, ableist stereotypes.  Referring to a client’s disorder, disease, or disability as a “medical condition” or a “health condition,” rather than as an “issue” or a “problem” removes the implication that the client’s condition is burdensome and the client would be significantly more valuable to society if their condition were cured.

Speaking to or about clients in a careless, ableist way can profoundly affect their self-image.  Clients living with medical conditions are often forced to fight the harmful societal perceptions surrounding their conditions, which can lead to unstable, negatively-tinted self-perception.  Using language that reinforces deleterious stereotypes can further clients’ negative self-image and cause their burgeoning self-esteem to crumble.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for medical professionals to understand the stereotypes and misconceptions with which their clients are faced and to avoid using language that promotes deeply-rooted ableism.  Medical professionals must recognize the power of language, exercise care in speaking with clients and, above all else, exemplify the golden rule: Treat others how you would want to be treated.

*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world — no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

Why I Chose to Share an Honest End-of-the-Year Reflection on Social Media

Anxiety.  Depression.  Rock bottom.

Not exactly the phrases most people would typically use on social media to highlight their year.  The majority of social media users choose to ring in the new year by regaling their friends and followers with the past year’s adventures and accomplishments — tales of vacations, graduations, promotions, accolades and successful career changes.

When reminiscing about the past year on social media, mental illness virtually never receives a mention.  It’s not glamorous enough.  It’s not flashy enough.  And, in a world focused on who took the most expensive-looking vacation and who outshone the rest in their extremely successful career, it could be seen as a real downer.

Every New Year’s Eve for the past few years, despite my constant struggle with anxiety and depression, despite spending a significant portion of the year feeling panicked, numb and emotionally shattered, I, like so many others, have posted a happy-go-lucky recap of my year on social media.  My year was amazing, incredible, wonderful.  I became president of an honor society.  I attended a conference.  I discussed climate change with members of the United Nations.  I graduated college a full year early, Summa Cum Laude.  I traveled across Europe.  I became a published writer.  And, most importantly, I was happy.  Not anxious.  Not depressed.  Definitely not mentally ill.  Wholeheartedly, unflappably happy.

Until this year, when I chose to be radically, unapologetically candid about my mental health.

This past year forced me to reevaluate my approach to discussing and treating my mental health.  It was my first-year post-college — a tumultuous whirlwind of temping through a series of agencies, frantically searching for a permanent job, and, with every rejection, sinking further into depression and a perpetual sense of anxiety over my uncertain future.  For the first time, I realized that in order to improve my mental health and garner hope for the future, I should remain open and honest about my struggles with mental illness, particularly on social media.

In the wake of the anxiety and depression that threatened to numb my mind, I wrote about the unending worry that consumed me.  I shared my sense of hopelessness with social media followers.  In opening up about my mental health, I had never felt so free, but my sense of liberation was not without consequence.

Social media soon became a minefield.  As my mental health faltered, I remained inundated by a sea of perfectly posed, smiling pictures and proud status updates about graduation ceremonies and dream job offers.  I lay in bed, my chest throbbing and my eyes damp, as I witnessed my former classmates moving towards careers before me — without me.  I wrongfully assumed that their bright smiles could not possibly hide any traces of depression or anxiety.  They appeared happy and healthy, already living the life I had been attempting to build myself for nearly a year.  And I was mentally ill, struggling to stay afloat in the wake of the storms that sent my mind adrift.  I was open and honest about my health, but I felt completely alone.

Even though I may have felt alone, I was certainly not alone.  1 in 4 American adults lives with mental illness.  40 million American adults live with anxiety and 15 million live with depression.  But, under the guise of carefully selected social media pictures, it’s easy to make any trace of mental illness vanish, which can amplify symptoms of anxiety or depression, particularly in those living with mental health conditions.

Which is why, this New Year’s Eve, I resolved to share an unfiltered, honest reflection on my Year.  I wanted to break down the unhealthy facade of perfection that inundates our social media feeds.  I strove to remind others with mental illness that they are never as alone as they feel.  I hoped that speaking out about my experiences with mental illness would encourage others to share their experiences, ultimately working to mitigate the mental health stigma.

I acknowledged that this year was difficult for many people — and that I was no exception.  I wrote about hitting rock bottom with anxiety, depression, and my lengthy unemployment.  I revealed that this year, I learned to prioritize my mental health.  I confessed that 2017 didn’t truly start to feel like a “good year” until October.  And, naturally, I shared the highlights of the year, too, to remind others that even in the most difficult times, there are always moments of joy and light.

My candor resonated with others, particularly those living with mental illness.  Some admitted that their years had been challenging, too.  Honesty bred honesty.  Hope bred hope.  In challenging convention by openly discussing our mental health, we all began to normalize being unapologetically mentally ill online.

This may have been the first year I shared the challenges of my mental illness in my end-of-the-year reflection, but it certainly won’t be the last.  I strive to continue to openly discuss my personal experiences with mental illness online, in the hope that I can encourage others to do the same. Together, by defying convention with our unfiltered honesty about living with mental illness, we will shatter the mental health stigma.

*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world — no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.