Quit Being Ashamed of your Mental Illness

Why are so many people ashamed to admit they have a mental illness?

They are ashamed to admit it because mental illnesses have such a negative stigma.

It is 2017, yet society still can’t accept that having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re crazy.

Educate yourself people! Think of it this way, there are two individuals standing in front of you. Melissa is in her forties.  She is 5’6″ tall and weighs 165 pounds.  Angie just graduated from college.  She is 5’5″ and 150 pounds.  Both women are attractive and appear to be healthy. Melissa and Angie have both been diagnosed with an illness.

Both women were admitted into the hospital when they were first diagnosed with their illness. Their stays were very similar.  Melissa and Angie both went through a series of tests, they were educated on their illness, & given medication.  Follow up appointments were scheduled and they were sent home.

The illnesses these women were fighting were due to an organ in their body that was not functioning properly.  One organ was the pancreas and the other organ was the brain.  Melissa’s diagnosis was diabetes.  She went home and talked to her family about her illness.  Melissa explained what she needed from them and what her treatment would be.  She asked them for help and support.  Angie’s diagnosis was bi-polar disorder. She was devastated.  Angie kept her illness hidden from her family and friends.  She didn’t get the love and support she needed because she was too ashamed to tell anyone.  Angie felt so alone and her illness worsened.

Angie’s family would get irritated with her because she could be very moody.  She finally opened up to them and told them that she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and that it is a mental illness.  Sadly, they were skeptical about her diagnosis and told her that she shouldn’t take medication for that.  Angie was told that she just needed to relax more and to quit being so uptight.  “You just need to keep busy and toughen up a little”, they said to her.

Does this story irritate you as much as it does me? Can you imagine Melissa’s parents saying she didn’t need insulin and she needs to toughen up? Of course they wouldn’t say that. Melissa has an illness that is accepted in society.  People know that Melissa can’t help it and diabetes is something people are educated on. There is no difference in Angie’s diagnosis..  Angie cannot help it that her brain is not functioning at 100%. She is told to just keep busy and maybe it will go away.

Nothing will change unless more people are educated on mental illnesses.  Having anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder or any other mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.  I’m on a journey to raise awareness to mental health and to help change the negative stigma associated with mental illness.

Do your part.  Educate yourself, and always treat mental illness the same as any other illness.  God Bless.

 

 

Anxiety Medications & Weight Gain

Anxiety Medications & Weight Gain

Anxiety Medications & weight gain often go hand in hand. When I started gaining weight, soon after I was prescribed Paxil, I discussed my concerns with my doctor. He acknowledged that weight gain is definitely a possible side affect of anxiety medications.  As disappointed as I was, I knew I couldn’t go off the medication that was finally making me feel less anxious and much happier.

The Next Thing You Know, It’s 6 Months Later and You’ve Packed on Thirty Pounds

It’s like a double edged sword. You start taking anxiety & depression medication and the next thing you know, it’s 6 months later and you’ve packed on thirty pounds.  You feel better from a mental health standpoint, but the extra weight is really getting you down.  Trying to lose the weight seems like an uphill battle and you are feeling very discouraged.  What would you do? Would you get off the medication and feel miserable, like you did before, or make the same decision I made and struggle with your weight constantly?

I Obsess About My Weight and Think About it Several Times a Day

Thirty pounds turned into fifty.  Fifteen years later, I am 100 pounds heavier than when I started the medication.  Being overweight controls me.  I obsess about my weight and think about it several times a day. I look in the mirror and am disgusted with myself.  How could I have let myself get this way? Am I ever going to look good and feel better about myself?  I have tried dieting hundreds of times, without success.  Each time I get more discouraged.

Several People I Know Have Experienced Similar Side Effects

Several people I know have experienced similar side effects while taking anti-anxiety medications.  If I was asked my opinion on whether someone suffering with anxiety or depression should take a medication, such as Paxil, I don’t know what I would advise them to do.  Medication has helped me in so many ways, but it has created a different type of battle in my life.

So that is my story about anxiety medications and weight gain.  I would love for you to share your thoughts.  Do you have a similar story or suggestions?  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Hi! I’m a Kid with Anxiety

Kid’s Can Have Anxiety, Too!

“Hi! I’m a kid with anxiety and sometimes it’s hard to get through a day.  I always try to be positive and happy.  When I’m nervous, I kind of feel like I’m in a tight space. I also feel like it’s hard to breathe.”

Seeing these words that my child wrote made me sad, proud and determined.  I am so sad that my child has to fight some of the same battles in life, that I have had to.  I feel proud that she is wanting to talk about her experiences to help other children with anxiety.  But most of all, I feel determined to continue to raise awareness about mental illnesses, and help end the negative stigma associated with it.

Anxiety Can Cause Irrational Thoughts in Kids, Too!

“When I had the flu, I threw up on one side of the bed.  For weeks, I did not want to go off that side of the bed.  I thought if I touched that  same side, it would make me sick again. Now I know that the bed didn’t make me throw up.”

Trying New Things Can Be Especially Hard For A Kid With Anxiety

“Trying new things, like a sport, is hard sometimes.  Starting a new grade in school makes me nervous, too. I go out for dance and I love it now – I didn’t like it at first.  I’m doing softball, now, and I get really nervous.  I get scared that I might do something wrong. I might get used to it, like I did with dance.”

“My friends are sad sometimes if I can’t sleep over at a slumber party. I don’t like to sleep at their houses because I get really nervous. I don’t like sleep overs because I’m away from my family and not sleeping in my own bed. At night, Sometimes I don’t want to go to sleep because I’m afraid someone is going to break into our house.”

Advice From A Kid With Anxiety

“Everyone gets anxious sometimes, so don’t be mad if you’re always nervous.  I get nervous a lot because I always think of the future, and not the present.  I used to go to therapy and my therapist gave me a list of things to do when I’m feeling nervous.  When I did some of those things, I became busy and not anxious.  I play with my fidget spinner sometimes and it distracts me. When you’re nervous, you should always stick with a buddy.  You can stick with an adult that you trust or a close family member. “

Help Your Child Breathe Through Their Anxiety

“If you are a parent with a kid that has anxiety, you should have your child breathe in and out slowly.” 

Breathing exercises are a great thing to teach kids with or without anxiety.  Here is a link to some very helpful instructions on how to relax your body and mind.

Excellent Breathing Exercises

Subscribe to my blog and watch for more posts about anxiety in children. Learn what your child needs from you, and show them that you are there to support them, no matter what.

What Caused My Anxiety & Panic Disorder?

It’s In My Genes, But There’s More

Mental illness runs in my family. My great grandparents, grandmother, many of my great aunts, uncles, mother, brother, cousins, nieces and nephews have all been touched by this dreaded illness. I have even passed it down to some of my children.  So yes, I was destined to be diagnosed with some type of mental illness in my lifetime.  There’s more to this, though.  I began experiencing symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder at a very young age.  Three months before my third birthday, my little brother passed away due to complications of a heart defect.  My family was traumatized and I learned about death, heartache, and uncontrollable pain at a very young age.

Continue reading

Should Mental Health Be Taught in Schools?

Every Student Should Be Required to Take a Course on Mental Health

I often think how different my life would have been if we were taught about mental health in school.  Kids graduating from high-school would be aware of the symptoms, know how to support others, have learned some techniques to deal with stress, and know how to get help if they need it.  Mental health would lose it’s negative stigma – wouldn’t that be great?

I Wouldn’t Have Felt So Afraid

Thinking back on my very first experience with a panic attack, I wonder if it would have escalated to the level it did if I knew what was actually happening to me.  A mental health course would have taught me about anxiety and panic attacks.  If I suspected that was what was going on, maybe I could have reasoned with myself.

I Wouldn’t Have Been So Embarrassed

If all students were educated on mental health, and how common it is, maybe we wouldn’t be so ashamed to talk about it.  We wouldn’t be hesitant to get the help that we need.  Who knows,  it’s possible the suicide rate would decrease!

I Would Have Had More Support

Still to this day, I am very selective as to who I share my illness with.  I pretty much only open up to friends that are educated on mental illness or suffer with it themselves.  If more people were educated on the topic, I would feel comfortable talking to many more people about it.

Mental health illnesses are not going away. The world we live in can be a very scary place, especially to those of us who suffer from an anxiety disorder.  I am confident that everyone in this world could benefit from learning about mental health, whether or not they will be diagnosed someday, or close to someone that has a mental illness.

How Can You Help Someone With Anxiety?

We Don’t Always Know How to Ask For Help

Helping someone with anxiety can be difficult, especially if you haven’t experienced the dreaded illness yourself.  If your friend or loved one has let you in, close enough to share their illness, you must be a very special person to them.  Society has taught us with anxiety to feel ashamed of our illness, and we fear what others might think about us if we open up and reveal who we really are.  Very sad, but true.  We need support, but don’t always know how to ask for it. This makes it extremely tough for those that want to help us, but just don’t understand how. Below are some helpful tips, from an expert on anxiety,  on how to help those you know with this illness that has such a negative stigma.

  1. Show Them You Care – Learn About Their Illness! – There is nothing that would show us you care more than to know you took the time to learn about anxiety.  Knowing the causes, symptoms, and how to help us through difficult times is the absolute #1 thing you can do.  If you understand what we are experiencing is a normal part of our illness , we will be more reassured.  If you know what the symptoms are, you will be able to help us through attacks of severe anxiety.  All we need is for someone to tell us that what we are feeling is a normal part of our anxiety, and that we will be okay.
  2. Stay Calm! – We will do all the worrying, you just need to stay calm and reassure us that we will be okay. If I am feeling like my chest is tightening up and I am having trouble getting air, the situation could go one of two ways.  During an anxiety attack, I am very aware of my surroundings.  You can bet I am watching how you are reacting to my attack.  I might feel like I am going to suffocate to death.  If I see you panic, then that will reassure me that I am in bad shape, and a trip to the ER is eminent.  On the other hand, if you calmly rub my back, tell me I am okay, and that it is just a symptom of my anxiety, I will eventually calm down and be okay.
  3. Be Patient – Please be patient with us.  It may be obvious that we are being irrational, but it is so real to us.  We will be worrying that you are going to get tired of dealing with our illness and we will pick up on any frustration you may show.  Anxiety sometimes makes us irritable, unsocial, and insecure.  Just realize that we are trying our best and knowing you understand, and are patient with us, takes a lot of weight off our shoulders.
  4. Be Encouraging – Anxiety can talk us into believing we can’t accomplish anything.  It may even force us to stay home for days.  Encouraging us to get out of the house, even if it is just going on a drive together, will build confidence.  The more confident we get, the sooner we will realize we really are okay.  It might take a little push to get us going, but it is what we need.
  5. Show a Little Extra Affection – Anxiety can makes us insecure.  I have often wondered why certain people put up with me.  I sometimes feel guilty that I am a pain in the ass.  Show us a little extra affection to reassure us that you love us unconditionally.

Misunderstood

I am often misunderstood.  I am misunderstood by people that are very close to me, and people I barely know.  I blame my anxiety.

A few nights ago, I was making dinner.  I had a good day and was excited to spend some quality time with my family. I was listening to the television that was on in the other room as I was preparing the asparagus for the grill.  The volume was turned up so my husband could hear it over the the dogs growling & running around the house, sounding like a herd of elephants.  My daughter was sitting at the dinner table nearby watching a goofy Youtube video.  She was laughing and kept asking me to watch it. Her iPad volume was extremely loud, probably because of all the other commotion in the house.  I felt myself starting to tense up and shake.  The dogs come sliding towards me on the hard wood floor.  “DAMN IT! KEEP THESE DOGS OUT OF THE KITCHEN!  I’M TRYING TO GET SUPPER READY!” As tears are running down my cheeks, my husband looks at me like I am from some other planet.  As he walks away, he rolls his eyes.  Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Anxiety & Depression

There Are Times When I Can’t Complete Simple Daily Tasks

If you are like me, you have anxiety and depression. I have struggled with this illness most of my life, and I am pretty sure there is no symptom of anxiety I haven’t been nose to nose with. There are many times in my life where my illness is well controlled. There are also times when I can’t complete simple daily tasks because of crippling anxiety or depression. It’s during those times you learn what the true definitions of insecurity and vulnerability are.

I Find Myself Seeking Out People I know That Have Anxiety or Depression

Seeing a medical professional will always be my first suggestion. Whether a medication change is necessary, or you just need someone to talk to – See a doctor!  Next, I find myself seeking out people I know that have anxiety or depression. Those are the people I feel comfortable with. I can share what symptoms I am experiencing without the fear of being judged. I feel blessed to have some family and a few friends who can relate to me and I can always count of them for support.

Anyone with empathy for my situation is what I find myself searching for during my low times. Sharing feelings, fears, & symptoms with someone who understands has always proven to be the best therapy for me. The first time I almost passed out during a panic attack was one of the most fearful moments in my life. I thought for sure I was near death. Once I began to feel a little better, I started worrying about it happening again. I would obsess about it. I talked to a family member about my experience and she told me it was nothing to worry about. She experienced the same thing many times and gave me a paper bag to put in my purse to breath into in case it happened again. Once I knew she had the same thing happen to her, I wasn’t as afraid anymore. At that time, it just became a normal symptom of anxiety and I knew I would be okay.

We Need to Keep Talking to Each Other and Learn That We Are Not Alone

Anxiety and depression can be very scary, especially to people who have not experienced it before. Once you learn that your symptoms are typical for your illness, it lifts a huge weight off of your chest. We need to keep talking to each other and learn that we are not alone. Send me a private message if you need someone to talk to. I have been so fortunate to have people in my life who know what anxiety and depression can feel like. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through some very tough times if those people weren’t there for me. For those people who feel alone – I am here to talk to. I am not a doctor, but I sure have experience with mental illness, and I’d love to help you!

-Michelle

The Stress of Finals

Finals Can be excruciating for any student, but add a student with anxiety or any other mental illness to the mix, and it can be a total nightmare. Relax, count to 10, and keep on reading.

You do well in class, you ace all your homework, but bomb all your tests.  It seems like it’s a losing battle. I have known that I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t realize I had test anxiety until I was out of college. (Great time to realize that, huh?) I paid attention in class, always did well on my homework and studied several hours for an exam. A few hours before the test, I would start worrying. What if I studied the wrong things? What if I forget everything? What if totally bomb the test? All of these “what ifs” will make any person a nervous wreck. Once it was test time, I already knew I’d be lucky if I got a D.

For all of you anxiety sufferers that are getting ready for finals, here are some tips to try before your next exam.

1. When studying, make sure to take breaks often, to relax your mind.

2. Don’t overthink! You know this stuff so don’t second-guess yourself.

3. When you are prepared for your exam, exercise in some positive talk. Make it fun–anytime you think “what if”, or participate in negative self talk, you have to do 10 pushups!

4. Practice relaxation exercises often, up until you take your exam.

5. You are stronger than you think! You got this!!!

Don’t know how to relax? Click on the link below.  These are excellent breathing exercises that I use often.  Remember, you can do this…good luck!

6 Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less