Lying to Myself

Lying to Myself

Depression lies. Every day is a struggle to determine what is truth and what is chemical fiction. Is today going to be the day where my brain wins or life wins? Before you even open your eyes and your feet hit the floor, you don’t know.

Everything is a struggle and a choice; even down to the smallest minutia. You don’t want to (insert verb here) but you can’t live with the guilt of not doing it so you suck it up, put on your “happy” face, and get moving.

But you don’t want to get up because your bed is the only place where you feel safe and not judged and found lacking. That’s depression lying. I know the world isn’t perfect but it is beautiful. There is value and goodness worth fighting for and kindness is needed. A cartoon character named Iroh from the Avatar/Legend of Korra series said, “If you look for the light, you can often find it. But if you look for the dark that is all you will ever see.” Humans are designed to look for the light, but depression lies and keeps us hiding in the dark. It’s a vicious cycle; a mental snowball that’s crushing and devastating.

You don’t want to go to work because it sucks so bad and what’s the point. The kids don’t care, parents care even less, administrators only think of you as a valueless sap on resources. There’s no paper and the copier is broken again anyway. Why bother? Again – that’s depression’s deceit. There’s value in the work that I do; I honestly believe it. I know how lucky I am that I get to do what I love so much. Depression is just like a big yellow highlighter marking up all the ugly. Sure we struggle but it’s not as bad as my brain is making it out to be. So I fight against myself so I can fight for education and my kids.

When you come home you’re exhausted because of the mental battle you’re in all day. I can’t wait to crawl back into bed to sleep and sink into oblivion. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. When I do, it takes everything I have to stay out and not race back home where it’s safe. I have a good time when I do go out, but getting out is a struggle. I’m like an old car that won’t start in the morning. Once I get going I’m fine, but it’s the getting going that’s the hurdle.

Depression lies. It tells me to pretend to be sick because no one wants to hear about how I feel. Because physical illness is more socially acceptable than mental illness. I make plans to find healing with my friends, but depression convinces me to break them. It’s a cycle of self-abuse that my friends get caught in the middle of. They deserve better.

Life becomes something you deal with every day rather than something you love and embrace. Depression wants you to throw that gift away.

So what do you do when you live with a liar? Your best. Day by day. Sometimes hour by hour. You stick your fingers in your ears and sing “lalalala you can’t hurt me” until you start to believe it. Platitude by platitude. Fake it until you make it. Put on a happy face for real when it naturally comes along. Hang in there until it gets better; because it does. Take a deep breath.

Depression lies, but you have to choose to listen to the truth.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

Mental Disorders Are Not Adjectives

Talking about mental health is important.

It’s even more important to make sure that we are supporting those diagnosed with a mental disorder (or any disorder for that matter).

With that said, there is something that I have been wanting to discuss because it has been bothering me a lot, especially lately.

To those of you that do not have a mental illness or don’t have any experience with how scary it can be sometimes or don’t understand how it can impact that person that has it, please do not use mental disorders as adjectives.

Let me explain what I mean by this.

When someone gets a little angry sometimes and can get upset pretty quickly, please do not say, “Oh my gosh, he’s so bipolar.” I know that you are trying to say that that individual can get upset fast, but that does not mean that he, or she, has bipolar disorder.

When you are having are having a bad day at work, and you feel like everything is going wrong, please don’t say that you are “so depressed.” You do not have depression, and having one bad will not suddenly bring an onset of depression.

When you are nervous about a big project, please don’t say that your project is “causing you so much anxiety.” If you haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you can’t begin to understand what those with an anxiety disorder, like me, have to endure every. single. day.

When your friend likes to keep their room clean and organized, please do not tell them, “Oh my gosh! You are so OCD!” Being clean and organized does not even equate to having an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

When you are out with your friends and you see something that you think is dumb or silly, please do not call it “retarded.” First of all, please just don’t ever use the R-word; it’s not nice. But especially do not use it when you think that something is silly. Just use the word that you actually mean to use: silly or dumb.

Now, I know that this one isn’t an example of a mental disorder word being used inappropriately, but it’s still an example that needs to be shared. When you think that something is uncool, please don’t call it “lame.” Lame means that someone has difficulty walking because of an injury or an illness. So if it’s uncool, say that it’s uncool.

But for now, I think that this is enough examples and you get the point.

The point of this article is not to reprimand you for using any of the above words or phrases in the manner in which I am asking you to not use it; instead, I want to educate you on what these terms actually mean, and bring awareness to the point that the words you use can have a profound and negative impact on someone.

Using mental disorder related words or conditions as an adjective or to describe something is not right. The problem is that this use of the language only adds to the mental health stigma.

By saying that someone is “so bipolar,” you are equating that person with being crazy, and that is not at all what bipolar disorder is about. But by using “bipolar” in this way, it is further creating this negative picture in people’s mind about individuals that have bipolar disorder.

When you say that you are “so depressed” because you had a bad day, you are lessening the experiences of someone that has been diagnosed with depression. It equates having a bad day to having depression, and it can’t even begin to compare. You see, those that aren’t diagnosed with depression can’t begin to fathom every day struggles that a person with depression has to endure, so please do not equate yourself with them.

Mental health has long had a stigma associated with it, and those with mental disorders, and any other disorder have long been fighting to break that stigma. We have been trying to show that having a mental illness does not make us “crazy” or “nonfunctioning.” And it certainly does not make us any less “able” than any other individual.

So in order to break that mental health stigma, we need to stop using mental health words or phrases as insults, because if we let this behavior persist, it will only lead to more negativity surrounding mental health.

Mental health is not an insult. Mental disorders are not bad. And having a mental disorder does not make us any less.

So please, I ask that you please stop using mental health words or phrases inappropriately, and take a moment to reflect on how individuals with those mental disorders, or disorders in general, would feel if they heard you use their condition in such a manner.

Please remember to always be kind, and to use positive, supporting language so we can continue to break the mental health stigma.

Emily Veith

Emily has her bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and has always believed in helping and serving others. She wants to make the world a better place, and aspires to be a politician someday to do just that. She is an old soul who loves Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Glenn Miller. When she isn’t writing about imperative news- and political-related, she can be found attempting new recipes, playing her guitar or reading a good mystery book.

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.

The Moment I Acknowledged My Disordered Eating

I smiled as my heart swelled with pride.  And then, suddenly, without warning, my heart sank as I saw myself reflected in her words.

Her recovery milestone was bittersweet.  I felt proud to see her conquer her battles, but a harsh reality immediately slapped me in the face.

I was reading about sustenance on an empty stomach.

I was reading about successful recovery with a wavering desire to heal myself.

I had spent years convincing myself that my maladaptive restricting behavior was perfectly normal, acceptable even.  That my disordered thoughts were symbolic of my strength and discipline, rather than a symptom of a mental illness.

In that moment, I discovered that with every movement, I felt lightheaded.  I realized I had spent the majority of my day drifting in and out of sleep due to the powerful fatigue accompanying my inadequate nourishment.  I was suddenly aware of the increasingly loud rumbling of my stomach, begging for satiation.

I could no longer deny the truth.

I am a disordered eater.

The perfectionism.  The feelings of inadequacy.  The desire to self-punish.  My lifelong, complicated relationship with my appearance.  

In a single moment, my symptoms collided with my reality.  It was a perfect mess, the orderly chaos of painful self-awareness.

Through my tears, I resolved to work towards healing.  At long last, I acknowledged that I am worthy of nourishment, that I deserve to take up space, that I am disciplined by virtue of my life circumstances alone and that my desire to heal, rather than my disordered eating, is ample proof of my strength.  I finally recognized that I am enough.

With my newfound desire to heal indelibly etched on my soul, I ate the meal I had previously attempted to withhold.  I could feel my energy slowly returning as the sustenance spread throughout my body.  Instead of longing for the gnawing emptiness of hunger, I relished in the sensation of wholeness that consumed me.  The idyllic warmth I felt as I sustained myself sparked my desire to heal from my disordered eating, to celebrate the progress and fight through the setbacks — one day, one meal, one bite at a time.

*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.

What It Was Like to Live With an Emotional Support Animal During College

I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was in high school. But when I made my way to college, I found that it was getting harder to cope with my anxiety while being away from home and trying to adjust myself to my new setting. During my second year of college, I found myself taking on more: harder classes and becoming a Resident Advisor. My anxiety wasn’t getting better, and I didn’t want to turn to medication at the time, so I asked my doctor about other options for me. She brought up the idea of an emotional support animal (ESA) to support me while at school.

When I learned about ESAs — which support those with health conditions but are not actually trained service animals — I reached out to the Disability Resource Center (DRC) on campus to find out how I could have an ESA with me at school. After finding out that I could have an ESA live with me in my on-campus apartment, I proceeded down the path to get an ESA. After going through all of the complicated steps (because bureaucracy is so fun), I finally had the stamp of approval and was allowed to have an ESA with me at school.

I chose to bring my dog, Sparky, who is a Corgi/Husky mix, to school with me to be my ESA. At first, I was nervous because having an ESA meant having a physical representation of my mental illness, and could possibly be an open door to ask me about what my story was since I needed an ESA. And that scared me since I was a Resident Advisor to 180 residents and worked with a staff of 20 Residents Advisors and two supervisors.

But Sparky quickly became my miracle.

Sparky was the best medicine I could have ever asked for. On days when I felt low or overwhelmed and didn’t want to get up for me or function, I knew I had to get up for him. We started to create our own little routine. Every morning we would get up at the same time, and depending on the weather would possibly put a sweater on him, and take him outside for a quick walk. Then we would go back inside and have breakfast together. (Sometimes I would spoil him and make us both some eggs.) I would take him on walks, and work outside on homework with him sitting on the bench next to me with his nose in the air taking in all the scents. Sometimes I would work in the Community Center in the community where I worked and would let him look out the window as people walked by, or let him sleep under the desk when I worked at the front desk.

If I had to go grocery shopping (on campus), I would walk him down with me and hook his leash up to the bench outside, and he would sit patiently until I was done (with a few people stopping to pet him). The workers at the small market even got to know the routine, and when I would stick my down the aisle to check on him outside the window, the workers would tell me that he was doing alright and still waiting patiently. And every night, before I would turn off the light, I would tuck him into his bed; then I’d turn off the light, and we would both go to bed.

And even though I was worried, my staff accepted him, and my residents loved him. Nobody looked at me differently. In fact, most people were just happy to have Sparky around.

The following year — my last year at the college since I graduated early — I was excited to bring Sparky with me. I knew that he would be my pal again and would support me, and let me hug him whenever I was on the verge of a panic attack.

When I brought him with me, my staff quickly accepted him and called him the “Cerro Vista Mascot” for our community. In fact, one of my coworkers admitted that she, too, battled with anxiety and that it meant the world to her that Sparky was here with her. Some of my friends on staff even cared for Sparky during times when I was in class or needed a break from walking him. My residents came to love him. Everyone wanted to pet Sparky, especially when he came to community events.

Sparky, however, came to support not just me, but other students around me. I remember when my coworker went through a breakup during our first quarter and came over to my apartment to vent. When my coworker started to cry, Sparky went and sat on their lap and licked them. Residents that were having bad days would often stop and ask if they could pet Sparky. Then, one day, a resident of mine so bravely opened up about her mental health struggles to me and asked me to help her in possibly getting an ESA. Sparky helped me so much, but I learned that he was helping others, too. And that meant everything to me.

As I was nearing graduation, I remember telling my parents that it would be nice if Sparky could walk with me on graduation day. He was, after all, pretty much the one thing that got me through college. He really was my savior.

My parents told me that I should ask. So I reached out to the graduation team to ask if I could have Sparky walk with me during graduation, and they said yes.

And on my graduation day, Sparky walked across that stage with me, holding his head high. My family and friends joked that I graduated with a degree in Political Science, but Sparky graduated with a degree in “Barks and Rec.” But I was so proud to have Sparky by my side that day. And I could tell that he was, too. He got me through some of my darkest days, and he deserved all the attention and love and honor on that day.

So when people ask me what it was like to live with an ESA during college, I tell them it was the best thing I could have ever done. Sparky was my miracle, my best medicine, my best friend. Sparky was what saved me.

Emily Veith

Emily has her bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and has always believed in helping and serving others. She wants to make the world a better place, and aspires to be a politician someday to do just that. She is an old soul who loves Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Glenn Miller. When she isn’t writing about imperative news- and political-related, she can be found attempting new recipes, playing her guitar or reading a good mystery book.