It Always Takes Time

All of this will be old news to many people by now. But, sometimes, the world needs a little help remembering important things. Right now, Earth has approximately 7.4 billion* people roaming her (the world’s birth rate is just over twice the rate of deaths), and a sizable number of her inhabitants live with some sort of mental disorder or illness.

“Just snap out of it” and “do something about it already” are two incredibly insensitive things that one can say to a person living with a mental illness or disorder. We’ve heard it countless times, and often from loved ones.

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing from family members that my depression will pass and that I’ve just got to get over it. There seems to be a lack of understanding or compassion when statements like these are given to me. Yes, they might feel like they mean well and it might actually be coming from a place of love, but the choice of words often can do more damage than good. Another thing that bothers me is that I can be, at times, treated with hostility, rather than love. When that comes from strangers, I am not effected. But, if and when the hostility comes from someone in my circle, naturally, I hurt.

I’ve spent twenty years dealing with depression. This clearly should tell my loved ones something. One does not just “get over” depression, nor can one “snap out of it.” If it was that easy, I would have been free of it 19.5 years ago. Mental health is a daily task for every human. It is in everyone’s best interest to check in with themselves every day, whether mental illness exists or not. For those of us who live with any kind of mental health issue (depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, etc.), we do have to be diligent about monitoring our environment, our nutrition, and our moods in order to maintain our health. When we don’t, the disordered mental health we live with can take over.

For the last three months (maybe four?), I’ve been going to a therapist. The time I’ve spent with her has been incredibly helpful. Not only am I learning a lot about myself and humanity in general, I am learning how to live with the mental health of others. Someone in my life has finally gotten the DSM diagnosis he deserves. An actual licensed psychiatrist said “you fit the criteria for this mental disorder and these are things that can be done to help manage it.” It’s a relief that he now has an official diagnosis and seems to be, at the bare minimum, attempting to manage it. Frankly, I feel that this person could benefit from weekly counseling sessions and other mindfulness based therapies, but I am not a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, so I can’t (won’t) consistently urge him to follow through.

It’s not my place to tell a person how to manage their mental health, especially if they don’t ask me how they should. I have always believed that it’s improper to hand out advice willy-nilly to people without being asked. If someone wants advice from me, I am happy to give it.

So, I am learning how to live with a person learning how to live with their own mental health concerns. I am also learning how to be mindful when I am given unwarranted or unnecessary advice (that is often lacking compassion, empathy, or validity). And, I’m learning how to let go of any hurt that may have previously been caused or continues to be caused at the hands of someone’s altered mind. One person’s experience usually doesn’t reflect my own, nor does it need to dictate my own. How I choose to react in a situation is my responsibility, and the reactions of others are theirs.

We should all be treating each other with kindness and compassion. It can be difficult at times, especially for those of us who sometimes find it difficult to feel love for ourselves (or even understand love and care).

Mental illness is rather common. This is why I am a huge supporter of mental health advocacy. [I’m also a huge fan of preventative and holistic health care. I’ll talk about my favorite places for healthcare, Northern & Western Europe, in another post.] If you or someone you know lives with any kind of mental disorder or illness, there is a wide array of information out in the world for you. By doing research, not only will you become better educated, you will be able to care for your community with compassion and an open mind. We appreciate people who are willing to take the time to understand where we are coming from and how we live our lives. Receiving compassion and love does actually alleviate a lot of stress we deal with. The less stress we experience, the easier it is for us to focus on being as healthy as we can be.

Here are some great resources to get started with:
Bipolar Disorder: Effects on the Family
NAMI: Mental Health Conditions (I love NAMI. It’s a fantastic resource for everyone.)
National Institue of Mental Health: Topics & Info
NIMH: Depression
NIMH: Borderline Personality Disorder
NAMI: Borderline Personality Disorder (Again, a great resource, especially for something that is under diagnosed, but more common than people realize.)
NEWSWEEK: How Colleges Flunk Mental Health (An interesting read, and has light a fire under my bum. I’d love to finish my college education with Social Work and do advocacy on college campuses for students.)
An Open Letter From Those of Us… (This is a go to piece for me; it might be BPD specific, but the soul of it can be applied to many mental health experiences.)

There are so many other resources out there, but these are trustworthy resources that can get you in the right direction.

Seriously, if you or anyone you know is experiencing any kind of mental health issue, help is out there. I promise, it doesn’t matter how large or small the issue is. There are a lot of trained professionals and support groups out there in the world. Utilize them! You and your mental health are essential and important! I know, first hand, that one can never just snap out of their mental illness. It takes time, care, compassion, and love.

*Worldometers: World Population

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When Time Stops

It’s been sixteen months since I created this blog. I started it with the intention to document my journey with PCOS. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. For the last year or so, I have barely taken care of myself and been focused on plenty of things that didn’t directly heal my heart and mind.

Six months after creating this blog, I decided that I would focus on every aspect of healing myself. Instead of just talking about my experience with PCOS, I decided to branch out and discuss my experience with my relationship with food. Well, that didn’t happen. I let this blog lay in wait, gathering dust.

So, sixteen months after setting up this blog, I’ve made an actual, logical decision. I commit this blog to the discussion of my experience with PCOS, my (physical and emotional) relationship with food, my relationship with exercise, and my take on my own mental health.

I plan on making time each week to write one new post. Who knows? I might even write two! Currently, I am reading a lot of daily meditation books, including ‘Beautiful You: A Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance’ – a book that was waiting around for months to be used. This is a book I highly recommend to anyone working on their self esteem. I’ll be sharing some of the activities or questions that I find most poignant.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained and licensed therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. All of what I discuss is in regards to my own experience, research, and education. When talking about someone else’s research or experiences, I will respectfully and legally cite them. If I misquote someone or cite incorrectly, please let me know and I will correct my error. Don’t sue me, please! Give me a chance to correct any honest mistakes.

Am I Not Valid? Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, twice in a couple months, I have been told that there are parts of me that are not valid or real. I have been trying to process being told this and coping with understanding why someone would say such a thing to another person, especially when both things are absolutely valid and part of my journey.

I was told by someone integral in my life that my job is not real and that I have wasted the past decade of my life in a job that is not valid.

Let me clarify that I do, in fact, work retail. In the last 12 years, I have made many attempts to climb the corporate ladder and work really hard to prove that I am worth promoting. I switched fields in retail a couple times, but landed back at the place I started and have spent the 10 of the last 12 years at the same place. My path at this company has not really evolved, and I do feel very much overlooked. Yes, retail usually isn’t a life changer, nor is it really a suitable career path. However, a job is a job, especially an honest one. I’m not out on the streets selling drugs, nor am I selling my body.

I honestly believe that my job is valid. The fact that I am working and paying taxes means I am a contributing member of society. While my role within the store is not ideal, it is still a job. And, it’s mine. I know that I’m going to be done with retail very soon. I’m a few months away from completing an Associates degree in Paralegal Studies, which will open up some doors. It will allow me the chance to do something more worthwhile. I will feel far more accomplished with the work I can be able to do with this degree.

But, I come back to the job I have now. It’s a job. It’s real. Someone has to do it. That person is me. I am very aware that I am replaceable and an 18 year old can do my job for far less money. The quality of service the 18 year old will provide might not be on the same level as mine, but legally, an 18 year old is allowed to do the same job as me.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we all choose to treat each other. This planet is covered with humans. For the most part, we are a good species of animals. Sure, there are a few humans that are less than favorable; that’s a given.

The words we choose to say to each other and the way we choose to say them are so important in life.

Instead of telling someone that something about them isn’t valid and that they have wasted their life, tell them, “I think you can do better than this, and I hope you find the right motivation to change your environment.” That’s direct without discrediting a person.

Instead of telling someone “you’re feelings are uncalled for and invalid, because you don’t know anything about relationships,” tell them “you are allowed to feel the way you do, however I don’t understand your emotions, and I think we are coming from two different places.” That honors the person’s natural instinct to emote, but clarifies the disagreement or misunderstanding in a respectful way.

I’m no psychologist. I’ve only taken a few undergraduate psychology and sociology classes. But, I’ve read books and I’ve experienced other human beings and I’ve had plenty of relationships, big and small. A few months shy of entering my 35th years, I own the fact that there is a lot about life that I still have to learn. I own the fact that I could have done something big with my life years ago. But, we all have our own journeys. We all approach life differently. For some of us, life seems just a little more difficult.

In a few months, I will be done with my Paralegal AA. In the meantime, I am looking for work. I applied for 12 different positions at a gym franchise. I’m popping in, at least, 8 more tomorrow. Sure, some might say that it is no better than a retail job. But, it is an environment I would rather be in. It is still an honest job. And, the fact I get to work out for free is a bonus. There would be no excuse to work out if I worked at a gym. [Here’s a secret: I kind of want to become a certified personal trainer and become a running coach for women. I used to be a competitive runner for 8 years, and would love to give back through running.]

This is wishful thinking, I know. If I do get a job at a gym, I will be happy to work full time there while I finish my degree. That will allow me to save enough money to start making it on my own. All the while, I will continue my search for administrative legal work, and fine tune selling myself well. Trust me, working at a gym will motivate me to exercise regularly. The more I exercise, the happier I will feel, and the more motivated I will be to become a certified personal trainer. If I do become a personal trainer, I can build my own clientele and schedule. I can work that around administrative legal work.

See, I have a plan. I just wish people would be a little more kind and patient with me. Being told that parts of me aren’t valid hurt, especially when I have spent so long believing my worth always was in the hands of others.

Remember, everyone, only we can determine our own worth. It’s no one else’s choice to tell us how valuable we are. We are all fantastic creatures, who deserve all the happiness in the world. We need to start gifting happiness and love to others to remind each other so.

Six Months Later…

After reading the very few posts I wrote, I decided that I want to revamp this blog. Instead of it just being about my experience with PCOS, this blog will be about my experience with my overall health.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is just one of many parts that make up who I am. It is the root of a few core issues I experience. Primarily, my reproductive health is affected. My mental health is affected. And, I have to work really hard to lose weight and keep it off. But, PCOS does not define me. I don’t let it. It is just a part of my body that exists.

My main focus is calorie input and output. It is the easiest way to take charge of my health. I have a history of, let’s be honest, disordered eating. During the first couple years of high school, I was restrictive with what I put in my body. I also ran cross country and (long distance) track. I put my body through the ringer those first two years. By the time I was 17, I started eating more and running less, but went through waves of restriction. The moment I went 1,000 miles away to college, I stopped running 5-6 days per week, started drinking heavily, and ate whatever I wanted. The Freshman 15 found me, plus some. That caused major confusion in my body, and myself.

In the last fifteen years, my weight has fluctuated. I have gone through periods of amazing health (bordering on disordered eating & exercise) to periods of complete lack of care for myself (again, disordered eating & lack of exercise).

I scare myself sometimes. There are occasional weeks that I find myself without much of an appetite. I’ll eat a piece of fruit or a salad and feel guilty for doing so. But, then there are weeks were I do the complete opposite. I can’t seem to stop eating. Psychologists have said and will say that this is classic anorexia-like thinking mixed with classic compulsive overeating. I’m the first to say that in those first two years of high school, I had a simple case of ED-NOS bordering on anorexia. The two therapists I have seen since then have agreed. At such a pivotal point in my life developmentally, I know and understand I was not setting my body up for success later in life. Our bodies are so intricate, and when we do more damage than good in our teenage years, it is scary how our adult bodies respond.

Here I am today, opening up about my history. A scary endeavor, but an important one. This is a way for me to heal and to find peace. And, this is one voice in a sea of voices. I’m giving you all my experience. And, I hope my experience touches speaks to someone, anyone. I’m a cheerleader for happiness. I feel that the happier we all are, the stronger our communities can be.

Please, reach out to me if you want. If you stumble across this blog and are feeling lost, do not hesitate to contact me. I’m lost, too. Instead of going at life alone, let us support each other and find joy.

Day Zero: Overwhelmed

Exactly a year ago I ran my first half marathon. It was the first time I had run more than 10 miles in approximately 14 years. After high school, I eschewed running. The thought of doing fartleks and hill sprints and making sure I jogged (at the very minimum) at least five days a week made me sick. Competitive running had been a huge part of my life for six years and the moment I left home for college, I decided to wash my hands of the emotional toll that running had become.

In the last year, I ran a very small amount. I had started the year wanting to train to do a triathlon for the first time. But, “life got in the way” (don’t you love that excuse?). Being a full time student and working part time, I allowed myself to get lazy. I went to the gym once, maybe twice a month. I’d go on the occasional walk around the neighborhood. I’d use the free weights very occasionally while I watched TV. I found myself getting frustrated and depressed more often, at a rate that was much quicker than when I was exercising regularly.

My cat died on July 28th 2014 and I had sunk into a deep depression in the following weeks, finding it really difficult to claw my way out. September arrived and I was feeling completely alone and hating the direction my life found itself in. Being poor and having nothing to do, I scrambled to get to the gym about four or five times the entire month. But, that was it. That was the only exercise I managed to make myself do.

That brings me to this very moment, Day Zero, the day that I have decided that I cannot afford to be sullen, depressed, and as overweight as I am. At 5’3″, I am not allowed to be 180lbs. That’s right. I said it. I am barely 5’3″ and 180lbs. Disgusting, right?

I used my fat to hide from getting painfully unwelcome attention from men I have no interest in, only to find that other men I have no interest in give me even more painfully unwelcome attention. On top of that, I have noticed that “fat girls” seem to attract all sorts of unwelcome “I met you 28 seconds ago, let me tell you everything that is wrong with my life and ask you incessantly to tell me what’s wrong with your life, even when you say no” people, people I had never encountered when I was healthy and taking care of myself.

So, it’s time I take back my life. I will take pride in my physical and mental health. I will be mindful of what I put in my body and when. I will make myself move for an hour a day, even if I’ve been on my feet for eight hours already. I will take time to journal and make sense of why I feel the way I do. I will go back to the clinic run by a graduate school that offers therapy at a price I can actually pay. And, in May 2015, I will run another half marathon. I have eight months to train for it. And, I absolutely need to train for it. I don’t want to just get through the 13.1 miles. I want to feel light when I run. I don’t want to feel like I’m running with three tires around my waist.

I may never get back to my 117lb 26 year old self. Until I can afford actual health insurance, 117lbs is an unreasonable target. By the time the half marathon happens, I’d like to have the scale read 148lbs. And, that is taking into consideration the physical change I will be doing to my body: transferring all of this excess fat into muscle. And, we all know muscle is more dense than fat. So, the scale can read 148lbs. More importantly, I want my body to feel healthy. I want clothes to fit better. I want to be able to look in a mirror and not hate what I see. That simple.

Here is a little preface:
If you didn’t read my about page, I share with you that I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago. The entire span of my menstrual life has been challenging. The only time I have ever had any semblance of a healthy reproductive system was for approximately a year when I was 25. That is often when women find their cycle evening out. Also, I was taking great care of myself then, which played a huge role in my reproductive health. Even then, my cycle was anywhere between 34 and 40 days. Never less than 34 days and never more than 40 days. Fast forward seven years, my cycle ranges anywhere from 25 days to 80 days. You can imagine how frustrating it is. Now imagine having aggressive PMS for an entire month. That happens at least twice a year. My body will get itself ready to have a period, then a month later, it’ll happen. Then three weeks later, I will feel like someone has taken a steel bar to my back and walking becomes the hardest thing to do. All of you Cysters out there understand, I am sure. PCOS comes with a few unfavorable side effects: excessive weight gain that is hard to control, irregular periods and many are extremely painful, PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder; if you’ve never heard of it, look it up), and the occasional burst cyst. Sometimes, when those cysts rupture, the woman experiencing that does need to see a doctor, however, in many cases, the only thing we can do is ride out the pain. For me, it is rare for me to get a burst cyst. I know exactly what is happening and that there is really nothing that can be done. I’ve never experienced the sudden pain, fever, or vomiting. In all of my experiences, the pain has aways been intense, yet a constant annoyance for about two or three days. I feel nauseated, but never enough to actually cause vomiting. My body and mind are always exhausted and I have a difficult time walking, and whichever side the cyst is on, the corresponding leg is always more difficult to move. Bending over is usually not an option and sitting down/standing up takes more effort than usual. This is what I know. This is how my body is. And, I know that if I actually take care of myself, my body will repay me kindly.

Here it is. I am back on a healthy path. In six months, my 33rd birthday will be here. I want to enter my 34th year lighter, mentally and physically.

Lots of love and light to everyone reading this. May your days be filled with laughter and joy.