Talking about mental health in Asian communities.

Happy to have been able to work with such a strong organization in blogging about my experience with being diagnosed with depression. I became acquainted with Mind while living in the UK to pursue my Master’s and finally had a chance to figure out a way I could help contribute to their cause in ensuring  everyone experiencing a problem gets both support & respect that they need.

This has been a project that had been in the works for a few months and i’m finally happy to share the result of having such a supportive organization help to share my story. I’m also incredibly humbled from the support I have received over the years in sharing my journey and to be fortunate to have helped others begin theirs.

While I have been fortunate to have the support of my family through my journey, I recognize that this is a prevalent issue amongst the Asian community in terms of stigma and the lack of support in terms of talking about  mental health. Hopefully by contributing to the conversation I can help other young people, especially minorities, find the courage and support they need to navigate and access an often complex mental health care system.

Cheers,

M

Read more “Talking about mental health in Asian communities.”

Michael Phelps on Life After Swimming and His Battle With Depression.

The most decorated Olympian of all time wants you to know he has bad days — some very bad days — just like so many people. “I’m not a superhuman,” Michael Phelps tells LIVESTRONG.COM. “I’m a human being who was very fortunate to find something that I love and find something that I’m good at and really never give up. But, really, that’s it.”

While he made success in the pool look easy, a shadow hung over the star athlete for years as he battled depression. Now Phelps is sharing more about his mental health issues. “These are things that have been a part of me for so long,” he says. “I just decided it was time to open up and talk about some of the struggles I’ve had in my life. Just being able to get out and talk about it and communicate about it — almost become vulnerable — I think is something that will help a lot of people,” Phelps, who will appear in a new documentary titled “Angst” to talk about his depression and being bullied, tells LIVESTRONG.COM.

Since retiring from swimming with 23 gold medals after the Rio Olympics in 2016, Phelps has had to readjust his routine and figure out what’s next for him. “For a long time, swimming was that thing that got me out of bed every morning early to go and jump in a freezing-cold pool. But now, kind of starting the next chapter for me, I’ve been asking myself where I want to be and what I want to do.”

Those next steps include working on a cause close to his heart: water conservation. “I obviously grew up in water and in around water for a very long time,” Phelps, a global ambassador for Colgate’s Save Water campaign, says about the world’s most vital resource. “I think it’s little small things that we can do together — no-brainers like not leaving the faucet running when you brush your teeth [and taking] shorter showers.”

His life at home with his wife, Nicole Johnson, is also becoming more of a focus, as their son, Boomer, is now 17 months old and they are about to become parents for a second time. But Phelps says he would never force his kids into the athlete life. “For me, I had an awesome mom growing up who was just so supportive of everything that we did,” Phelps says. “If I wanted to quit swimming, she was fine with it because she wanted us to follow our hearts. The only thing I’m adamant about is that [Boomer] has to learn to swim. Other than that, he can play another sport, whatever makes him happy.”

Reposted from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/13590348-michael-phelps-on-life-after-swimming-and-his-battle-with-depression/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=Keywee&kwp_0=599482&kwp_4=2116520&kwp_1=884107

The Depression Mask.

The depression mask. What I would define as a defence mechanism because if you looked like you felt, no one would ever want to be around you.

Depression has levels that is hard for people who don’t have it to understand. It makes me angry when I come across comments calling people like Chester selfish. To me, it’s a suicide is a failure of society to protect individuals for for letting them down to feel like this was the only viable option. Depression IS a disease. Sometimes medication can help and sometimes they don’t similar to any other sickness. The difference with depression compared to other illnesses is people think it’s okay to say things like: ‘get over it’, ‘stop being stupid’, ‘this needs to stop’, or even ‘you’re just being lazy’.

Depression isn’t simply being “sad”. It’s more than that. It’s a feeling of worthlessness and that you’re a burden to everyone around you. The most toxic feeling with depression is the utter hopelessness that goes with it. Not only do you feel worthless, but you have no reason to believe that it will change. Everyone’s experience will also be different, some people can still be high functioning while others struggle to get about their daily tasks. I can say i’ve been in both situations. I wouldn’t be where I am without the hardwork I put in to be here but I’ve also had days where i’ve struggled to even get out of my bed and have the motivation to do anything because I feel empty, unmotivated, and worthless. Its a spectrum condition where the word does not define the symptoms, the individual does.

I think in my experience one of the worst things about having depression or going through a cycle is knowing you have so much to be thankful for and that there are so many people worse off. But that feeling of feeling nothing and just finding no joy in life is horrible and isolating. Instead you start to feel guilty for feeling pathetic and rather than burden people with your feelings, you lie and pretend you’re fine to get people to back off.

I think one of the most important things for people to remember is that suicide is a behaviour. Depression often drives a person to the point they want to die, but not all depressed people have self harming or suicidal tendencies. Some people who are not recognizably or clinically depressed will commit suicide or hurt themselves in a sudden moment of sadness. It’s a tragically complicated issue.

To the unknowing eye, he doesn’t look like someone suffering from depression and severe PTSD from the traumas he experiences growing up and navigating the industry. To the experienced eye though, his eyes say it all. Sometimes moments like these make it worse; you’ve had fun with the family, a few hours pass and you still feel it. Then guilt, shame, and hopelessness creep in. You think, “If I’m still depressed after having fun with the people I love, will I ever feel better?”. To be honest,  it’s not easy to seem “happy” around people. It actually hurts more when you’re lying to yourself trying not to seem upset. The human mind can only take so much torment, either from others, or itself. Those like Chester weren’t weak and should NEVER be labelled as such. It still makes me sick to think about how I let someone treat me as such in a moment of cowardice. If you’ve never been through depression you have NO idea how much mental strength it takes to hold on, especially after prolonged or traumatic events. 

It still makes me sad to realize he’s gone. There’s apart of me that still can’t believe it and I honestly can’t imagine what his family, friends, and bandmates must be going through. His legacy will not be forgotten, and while his loss is horribly tragic, I do believe it serves as a warning and example for all that mental health is not imagined. I think this video shared by his family serves to remind people that depression doesn’t look the same on every person or at every point in time. This was Chester’s depression.

At the end of the day we must support those who suffer, and awareness is the first step.

This is what depression looked like to us just 36 hrs b4 his death. He loved us SO much & we loved him. #fuckdepression #MakeChesterProudpic.twitter.com/VW44eOER4k

— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017

RIP Chester.

M

Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges.

Approximately one-third of Ph.D. students are at risk of having or developing a common psychiatric disorder like depression, a recent study reports. Although these results come from a small sample—3659 students at universities in Flanders, Belgium, 90% of whom were studying the sciences and social sciences—they are nonetheless an important addition to the growing literature about the prevalence of mental health issues in academia. One key message for scientific trainees that are struggling with these types of challenges, write co-authors Katia Levecque and Frederik Anseel of Ghent University in an email to ScienceCareers, is that “you are not alone.” Beyond that, the authors encourage Ph.D. students to appreciate how important it is to take care of themselves. “Mental health problems can develop into serious threats to one’s wellbeing and career, and can have detrimental consequences in the long-term,” they write. So, if you’re struggling, it’s important to “[s]eek professional help or seek help in your personal environment, even if you think it’s probably a temporary thing.”

According to their survey, 51% of respondents had experienced at least two symptoms of poor mental health in recent weeks, indicating psychological distress. Moreover, 32% reported at least four symptoms, indicating a risk for common psychiatric disorders, which was more than twice the prevalence among highly educated comparison groups. The most commonly reported symptoms included feeling under constant strain, being unhappy and depressed, losing sleep because of worry, and not being able to overcome difficulties or enjoy day-to-day activities. The greatest predictor for experiencing mental health challenges was having difficulty taking care of family needs due to conflicting work commitments. High job demands and low job control were also associated with increased symptoms.

On the plus side, having an inspirational supervisor partially offset these risks. So did interest in an academic career, even among students who thought they had little chance of ultimately making it. Seeing a Ph.D. as good preparation for a nonacademic career and an added value for employers was also beneficial. “When people have a clear vision of the future and the path that they are taking, this provides a sense of meaningfulness, progress and control, which should be a protective factor against mental health problems,” the authors explain.

According to Nathan Vanderford, an assistant dean for academic development at the University of Kentucky in Lexington who also studies mental health in academic trainees, “[t]he study underscores what has long been presumed; that work conditions and career outlook plays a key role in the mental state of PhD trainees,” he writes in an email to ScienceCareers.

“[I]nstitutions, departments and PIs have long ignored the systemic mental health issues among PhD trainees,” Vanderford continues. “Data such as this should make the issues irrefutable and should, for ethical and moral reasons, force the hand of these entities to take on the responsibility of helping to provide PhD trainees with the support they need to navigate the very stressful journey of earning a PhD.” Levecque and Anseel point out that small steps such as facilitating work-life balance or “offering PhD students clear and full information on job expectations and career prospects, both in and outside academia,” could have a significant positive impact.

One message for PIs is that “investing in their own leadership competencies could really make a difference” for Ph.D. students, the authors add. They encourage PIs to take the issue seriously and learn how to spot signs of potential emotional distress. Gail Kinman, a professor at the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom who acted as a reviewer for the paper, agrees. “PIs should look out for students who isolate themselves, who seem anxious and withdrawn, who are not meeting deadlines. Nobody would expect a PI to be able to diagnose mental health problems but they should be able to spot changes in their students and have the knowledge required to refer them for support,” she writes in an email to Science Careers.

Although the survey is specific to Flanders, many of the characteristics of working toward a Ph.D. are similar around the globe, making the findings generalizable, the authors argue. They hope the study, which has generated conversation on Twitter, will help break the silence around mental health issues in academia. “[I]t is a public secret that fear of stigma, retaliation or the expected negative impact on one’s future career often inhibits people suffering from mental health issues to make it public,” they write. This lack of visibility is problematic because feeling isolated can cause students’ mental health to deteriorate even further. It also means that there is less pressure on institutions and people in power to tackle the issue.

Rather than demonizing academia, action should be taken, the authors emphasize. As academics, “[w]e have had our share of struggles and challenges to overcome, but still think this is one of the most rewarding and meaningful careers one can have. So, if there’s a problem, let’s do something about it and make this a great place to work again. For everyone.”

Spotting Addiction.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A former Ohio State University football player whose NFL career fell apart because of a painkiller addiction says he wants to become a college coach and help others avoid similar pitfalls now that he’s clean and has a degree.

Shane Olivea told The Columbus Dispatch he was high every day following his rookie year with the San Diego Chargers.

“At my height on Vicodin, I would take 125 a day,” said Olivea, who was briefly a Giant in 2008. “It got to the point I would take a pile of 15 Vicodin and would have to take them with chocolate milk. If I did it with water or Gatorade, I’d throw it up.”

Olivea said he obtained the pills from his own sources, including one in Mexico. He parked at an Arby’s restaurant and paid a cab driver he knew $100 to go to a Tijuana “pharmacy.”

“You could buy anything you want if you had cash,” Olivea said. “I’d go buy a couple hundred Vicodin, or by then I’d progressed to Oxycontin.”

Olivea said he spent nearly $584,000 on painkillers. He began to withdraw from teammates and his relationship with coaches and management suffered. He was benched late in the 2007 season and his weight rose to nearly 390 pounds.

Olivea’s parents worried after he became reluctant to respond to them, too. His mother organized an intervention, and the Long Island native in April 2008 checked into a drug addiction treatment center in California. He said doctors there told him he was lucky to be alive.

“They both looked at me and said, ‘We’ve never seen anybody living with that amount of opioids in you. You’re literally a walking miracle,’” Olivea said. “That was a punch to the gut.”

After being released by the Chargers, Olivea signed with the Giants while in rehab. He was released again after hurting his back.

Olivea re-enrolled in Ohio State in 2015, and graduated in December, at age 35, with a degree in sport industry.

He said he has a couple of job leads. And though he hasn’t coached before, he said his playing experience makes him think he’d do well on and off the field, including helping others thinking of turning to pain pills.

“If you got it, you can spot it,” Olivea said. “I can spot an addict in a public setting. I know the behavior. I know the tendencies. I know what he’s going to do. I’ll be able to notice somebody going down that slippery path and maybe catch them.”

Reposted from: http://nypost.com/2017/01/07/ex-giant-opens-up-on-drug-addiction-125-vicodin-a-day/

9 Inspirational Quotes from Carrie Fisher Fighting Mental Health Stigma

Fisher was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her 20s and was very open with her struggles throughout her life, including battles with addiction.

Since her death, fans have taken to social media to share stories of how Fisher’s honesty helped them come out about and cope with their own mental health struggles.Here are some of the most memorable and powerful of Fisher’s quotes on mental illness, delivered with the sharp wit and unflinching honesty that we will always love her for.

 

  1. “I used to think I was a drug addict, pure and simple – just someone who could not stop taking drugs wilfully. And I was that. But it turns out that I am severely manic depressive.”
  2. “I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital… I outlasted my problems. I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.”
  3. “Because I grew up in a public family, I never really had a private life. And so if those issues are going to be public, I would rather them to be public the way I’ve experienced them rather than someone else assuming things about me. It’s freeing to do it. Shame is not something I aspire to.” 
  4. “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
  5. “At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”
  6. “The only lesson for me, or for anybody, is that you have to get help. It’s not a neat illness. It doesn’t go away.”
  7. “We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges.” 
  8. “People relate to aspects of my stories and that’s nice for me because then I’m not all alone with it. Also, I do believe you’re only as sick as your secrets. If that’s true, I’m just really healthy.”
  9. “I don’t feel particularly messed up. I’ve always been quite sane about being insane.”

Original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/carrie-fisher-quotes-on-living-with-mental-illness_uk_5863bd2de4b0d590e44dfdae

The Aftermath of Bell Let’s Talk.

I think this is an insightful perspective into the impact Bell Let’s Talk day has on the mental health movement. I have to admit it is one of my favourite days on social media, it’s incredibly inspiring to see so many people open up for the first time and share their experiences or words of positive encouragement for those going through mental illness. However, it’s also incredibly sad and frustrating at the same time to see so many people suffering in silence and unable to find the resources they need to lead a meaningful life.

Mental health treatment is expensive. Trust me, I know. I was fortunate to have the support of my family in paying for a psychologist (not covered by OHIP), which would set me back about 110 dollars for every one hour appointment. At one point I was going 3 to 4 days a week for almost 4 months at my lowest point 3 years ago. Waiting for a psychiatrist (covered by OHIP) took almost 2 months to get an initial appointment and even so most of the time they just give you medication and direct you to other resources such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or other forms of talk therapy. For most people many of these resources are simply unaccessible and unaffordable. Even on campuses across Canada, there’s often long wait lists to get into counselling on campus. I was told to explore options off campus to gain faster access and because I was covered by insurance outside of the school, meaning I could try my luck and get covered somewhere else but it was unlikely.

Your brain is apart of your body. I don’t understand why people face so much discrimination to get a “check up” on their brain. We get yearly physicals for the rest of our body, why should someone feel ashamed to talk about what’s going on in their head. I mean any pain someone feels is subjective, so why is it any different on thought process. When we feel “sick” whether it be the flu, a cold, or even a migraine, many of us stay home to “rest” and feel better and don’t face any shame in doing so. But as soon as someone says I stayed home because my anxiety was too high, that’s when people’s perspective starts to change.

It’s great to see a national conversation and even international to some extent, but it is simply not enough to talk about it for one day. We should be talking about it every day until it’s normalized. But more importantly we need to hold accountability to our words. We say we want to remove the stigma and make care accessible, but yet people seem to stop talking about it as soon as the day is done. We need to do more than just talk, we need to take action. Whether it be advocating at your school to encourage more funding into mental health or encouraging and lobbying our politicians to integrate more funding into mental health resources. Mental health should play a bigger role in the renewals of the provincial health accords both in terms of primary health care but also in health education. Many mental illnesses begin in childhood, if we can find ways to remove barriers when children are young, train teachers and other child educators to recognize signs early on, we can save many people from going down a long road of recovery and give them the resources early on to cope later on in life.

The conversation shouldn’t stop today. We should be holding people with power accountable for their words of wanting to make changes to our mental health care system. PM Justin Trudeau wants to be part of the movement remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, so let’s hold him accountable in creating dialogue with our provinces and territories in allowing people to access the care and supports they need to feel right again.

Don’t stop the conversation.

M

——————————————————————-

Today is #BellLetsTalk day. It’s supposed to reduce stigma around mental health by getting Canadians to talk about. It also helps raise money for mental health initiatives and programs. Aside from the fact that mental health awareness gets coopted by a massive corporation for one day, I have other qualms about throwing my support behind the movement.

Bell Let’s Talk assumes that one of the major keys to fighting mental illness is simply by talking about it. By sharing my experience on social media, I’m supposed to be on my way to feeling better. By tweeting “Let’s talk, today and every day!” I’m supporting others dealing with depression, anxiety, and other issues in a way that’s helpful and meaningful.

But mental illness doesn’t work like that. And it certainly doesn’t work like that in Canada.

Last year, I went through a tough time. I spent days in bed crying. It was hard to feel motivated to bathe, feed myself, let alone venture outside. I wanted to disappear.

I was really lucky that my manager and workplace understood and gave me time off to deal with what I was going through. But many working Canadians aren’t that lucky. People who are paid hourly lose pay for missing work. Even salaried employees can be reprimanded, demoted and fired for having to deal with mental health issues. Each year on #BellLetsTalk day, a number of former Bell employees come forward with their own stories of how Bell doesn’t actually care about their mental well-being.

Eventually, I started therapy. It was expensive, but because I had a job and some savings, I was able to afford it. I also have health benefits, but it covers psychiatry not psychotherapy. Psychiatry tends to be more expensive, so $500 of insurance only gets you around two or three sessions. Plus, do you know how long the waitlist is to see a psychiatrist in Canada?

Once a week, I’d leave work early to make it to my therapy appointment. Again, my manager was amazing and never made it a big deal. I feel so lucky. I was never docked pay or asked to produce a doctor’s note. Many Canadians aren’t afforded the same luxury.

Months after starting therapy, I found that no matter what I was doing to help myself, I still couldn’t shake off feelings of sadness, panic and anxiety. It was difficult to imagine a future, let alone plan a week ahead. I felt anxious whenever I had to see people or be in social situations. I couldn’t focus on work or anything. No matter how much I exercised, I couldn’t feel confident or the jolt of endorphins that used to come to me so easily.

So I went to my doctor. I’m pretty lucky that despite moving to a new city, I was able to secure a family doctor by recommendation. Most Canadians don’t have access to a regular, family doctor and rely on walk-in clinics, which require waiting around for hours, missing work and other responsibilities.

My doctor prescribed me an antidepressant. I knew that giving it a try would be the best course of action, but it was still difficult for me to accept this reality. I kept wondering what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just feel like my old self again? I felt like a failure.

After thinking about it for a week, I filled the prescription. My pills are expensive, but my health insurance covers nearly the entire cost. I’m lucky that as a full-time employee, my workplace provides health insurance coverage. I can’t imagine having to pay for these medications otherwise. No wonder so many Canadians are never able to get the help they need.

At first, I felt just about every negative side-effect my doctor had told me about – drowsiness during the day and insomnia at night, heart palpitations, dry mouth, nausea and dizziness. But after about two weeks, those feelings went away, and now I can say with certainty that my medication has really helped me. I’m lucky to have found something that worked so quickly.

I still go to therapy and I don’t expect to be on antidepressants forever. But If I do, that’s ok, too. Mental health, however, is so much more than just talking about it. It’s more than a hashtag and getting Canadians to open up about it for a day.

It can be an extremely lonely experience. It can feel frustrating and seemingly inexplicable. I’ve found it helpful to talk to my friends about it, but I’ve also found comfort in online movements like #TalkingAboutIt, which is used 365 days of the year – not just one – and support groups like the Bunz Mental Health Zone on Facebook.

But to truly make a difference on the mental health of all Canadians, we need to be doing so much more. We need the government to step it up and make mental healthcare, including therapy and medications, available and accessible to everyone.

We need workplaces to get on board and really listen to and care about their employees. We need mental health days to be seen as just as important as regular old sick days. We need to start talking about it, normalizing it and letting kids know that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, anxious and depressed – and then provide actual help.

A few months into my therapy, I said to my therapist, “I can’t believe it took me so long to come here. Therapy should be as normal as going to the doctor or dentist for annual checkups. It’s like a check-up for my brain.”

I want other Canadians to be able to get the help they need – and not just talk about it for a day.

Reposted from: https://nowtoronto.com/news/think-free-blog/more-to-mental-health-than-what-bellletstalk-day/?utm_content=buffer3cc4b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

“Splitting” Mental Health From entertainment.

Split is marketed as a horror film where Kevin, the main antagonist, kidnaps three teenage girls. According to the teaser text online, those three girls must convince one of his 23 personalities to release them before the 24th personality, referred to as “the beast” emerges.

James McAvoy has been praised online for his portrayals of the various personalities, but the film uses these personalities as a warped funhouse carousel where viewers are left wondering which personality is to come next.

The film deliberately takes advantage of and reinforces a perception of mental illness as being dangerous, as the material for the film explains that one of his personalities “compelled” him to abduct the girls.

Mental illness as a plot point in movies, whether portrayed accurately or not, isn’t new. Movies like Psycho, Jekyll & Hyde, The Dark Knight and Fight Club include portrayals of mental illness as central to the film — often as the reasons behind why the villain acted as they did. The problem is that these portrayals of mental illness become how people think about mental illness, and often those representations aren’t faithful to the experiences of those who have them. This doesn’t exactly encourage people who have mental illnesses to speak out about their reality.

And who can blame those who suffer from mental illness for staying silent when the only representation that the general public receives about people with their condition is that they are are dangerous and violent?

Split goes one step further and uses DID as the monster in this monster movie. The title refers to the split in Kevin’s identities, and the posters reinforce this with imagery of broken glass or multiple shadows and the synopsis is deliberately sinister: “Kevin has 23 distinct personalities. The 24th is about to be unleashed.”

DID is the villain of the film and central to the marketing than the actual character of Kevin, who exists primarily to have DID. Granted, his various personalities are briefly explored, and we’ve only been able to see the trailer so far, but the entire way the movie has been marketed has basically been an exposé on the perceived dangers from people with DID.

I don’t think it’s likely that Hollywood deliberately chose to release this film just before Bell Let’s Talk day. The two events happening so close together highlights a double standard when it comes to de-stigmatizing mental illness. While mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are finally becoming normalized, mental illnesses such as DID and schizophrenia are still understood as dangerous and violent.

I’ve written about this double standard in the context of Bell Let’s Talk before — two years ago, in fact. It’s really unfortunate that this is still an issue. Bell Let’s Talk fundamentally can’t succeed so long as it only promotes talking about the issues we’re comfortable with. That goes against the whole idea of de-stigmatizing mental illness in the first place.

Anyone who goes to watch Split then supports Bell Let’s Talk Day should examine the hypocritical nature of their actions; the two are fundamentally incompatible, and supporting reductionist, negative promotions of mental illness present in films like Split guarantees that Bell Let’s Talk won’t be successful for all mental illnesses.

Original post: http://www.westerngazette.ca/opinion/splitting-mental-health-from-entertainment/article_23e58c10-dd03-11e6-93ea-5f7e63117d6e.html

You Are Not Weak.

Byline: Just because I look okay doesn’t mean that I am I suffer (that is the absolute best term to describe it) from anxiety and depression. I don’t choose it. I don’t want attention for it. I don’t wish it upon my worst enemy.

Do you want to know the worst part about it? Most people would never even know I had a problem. With many diseases and disorders, you can see the visible marks it has left on a person. You can visibly see the suffering they’ve experienced.

A mental disorder can go completely unnoticed. A day in the life of someone with anxiety: From the moment I open my eyes, I think about my checklist for the day. What do I need to accomplish? Will I get it all done? Is my boyfriend happy? Will I have time to workout? I worry that I am not being a good friend, or a good daughter. I think about bills that are due three months from now.

Did I blow out that candle I left burning?

And that is just the start.

I first noticed something was wrong my freshman year of college. It was my first “big” transition in life, and it hit me hard. I worried about everything. I missed my family and my own bed. I hated the change. I lost weight. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I thought I’d never be happy again. It felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I couldn’t describe why I was feeling that way, but I knew it wasn’t right.

After accepting the help from a therapist, I got on a small dosage of the anxiety medication Lexapro. All of a sudden, the fog cleared and I felt like myself again. It was crazy to me that a small pill could make all of those worries disappear. I got off the medicine about six months later when I felt “better.” This awful feeling happened once again after my parents announced their divorce my sophomore year of college.

This time, I chose to deal with the pain by controlling my eating. I developed anorexia and fought it for a year and a half. I pushed aside the fact that I was depressed, and replaced it with an eating disorder. After getting back on medication, I gained back the weight and once again felt like myself.

Without the consent of my doctor, I got back off the medication my senior year. I remember thinking I didn’t need medication anymore. I felt like I could finally handle life on my own.

This last time that the feeling happened, I denied it. Again. I didn’t want to accept the fact that this wasn’t something I could just “get over.” I felt weak. I felt like I wasn’t as strong as I should be. I felt like a failure. “I have done this so many times,” I thought to myself.

Once again, I was in the doctor’s office. My doctor said something to me that I will never forget. “If you have high blood pressure, you take medicine. If you didn’t, you would get extremely sick. It’s the same with this.”

Up until that time, I never looked at my mental disorder as an actual medical condition. I looked at it as a phase. I looked at it as a weakness.

The truth is, this is something I have to manage for the rest of my life. I have accepted it. It is my truth.

I still struggle on a daily basis with my mental disorder. I have had days where I don’t want to get out of bed. I have had days where standing in a crowded area makes my chest feels like it is being wrung out like a wet towel.

I have days where I don’t think I’m good enough. And I have days where counting calories seems like the only way I can gain some sort of control. I want people to know that just because someone looks OK, they might not be. It’s is so deceiving, because those who suffer have become masters in covering up their symptoms.

It is the masked disease, as I like to call it. You are not weak if you need medicine to handle your anxiety. You might hear that a thousand times a day. But let me remind you. Because sometimes I need reminded myself.

Original Post: http://elitedaily.com/wellness/youre-not-weak-need-medication-manage-anxiety-depression/1684665/