Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

I am not strong

I am not strong.

I am not this tough, battling warrior that some may see me as. I am scared. I am depressed. I am angry. The cards I have been dealt leave me no choice but to try to roll with the punches. I may do so gracefully on the outside, but on the inside I often find myself questioning, “why?” as I carry around the grief of living with a chronic illness.

Every day I wake up in pain and discomfort. Some days it is just my normal everyday life and I accept and move on. I get up and start my day, tucking the pain away. I ignore my reality of a failing heart and the dozens of risks that hang over my head. I sweep under the rug all of my nervousness and worries and I focus on what is good in my life. People think that may be admirable but really, it isn’t healthy. Also, what other option do I have?

We are always told to focus on the positive, while ignoring the dark and negative aspects of life that exist for all. For me, the only way out is through. Acknowledging and dealing with the darkness is healing. Society teaches us to suppress ourselves and our feelings, which leaves us depressed, hiding behind a smile. We are pressured to be put together and strong no matter the circumstances.

Other days, when I wake up, I can’t tuck away the pain. I can’t pretend that I don’t have this horrible genetic condition that eats away at me, that I forever have to live with. I look in the mirror, before my exhaustion is covered up with makeup, and I see how how hurt and tired I really am. I see how sick I look. I begin to hide it, first with my morning meds and then with makeup. I cover it all up.

You wonder how I am so busy? I have to be. I have to keep myself so distracted because the moment I sit down and stop moving, I feel it all: mentally and physically. When my mind has no distractions, I cannot help but feel the storm come. I think about, “what if I die?” and “I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired.” It’s not fair. My mind will go into dark places. And I just have to tuck it away. I have to “be strong” because that is what everyone wants to see, right? No one wants to see someone complain or pity themselves.

I don’t give up because I fight for my kids. I fight for my husband and my family. I fight for others that may one day be in my shoes. I fight for advocacy and healthcare equality.

I still have someone in my life who haunts me, tells me how much of a burden I am. “You always have something wrong with you. I can’t keep up with all your surgeries. What, am I supposed to carry around a calendar?,” he screams over the phone just 5 minutes before surgery, due to a delay and miscommunication in last minute changes (with the schedule with our child). Sometimes I let the past (and ongoing) emotional abuse of this ex get to me. I find myself questioning how much of a burden I am to others. This is often a question the chronically ill deal with. There is always someone without empathy that has a heartless opinion about you and your health.

Then, you have those “healers” who have the cure for you. “Try this holistic approach if you want to cure yourself and be free of illness and magically live healthy forever.” Apparently these people don’t know that I already eat a strict, clean diet without preservatives, dyes, additives, artificial ingredients. I am a certified herbalist. I don’t drink alcohol or caffeine. I take herbs and supplements. I am very knowledgeable on natural remedies, which I use for most ailments. What people don’t understand is that their basic education does not cover a vast amount of information on the human body. Sure, you can change your lifestyle, diet, and start supplements to reverse or mend many issues. But at the end of the day, it is not going to fix my heart and it isn’t a one size fits all answer. My heart is anatomically unable to be altered by herbs. This isn’t a lifestyle thing, stress or cholesterol induced issue. PLEASE FUCKING STOP sending your unsolicited “cures” to me and others. It is absolutely horrifically disrespectful and insulting.

——

It’s currently noon. My neck is stiff and I have yet to brush my hair or teeth. I glare at my heart meds on the dresser that I still need to take. My back is in pain, spasming and out of place. I am dizzy and know that my heart rate will shoot up and my blood pressure will drop as soon as I get up. Nausea and headache to follow, as I hold onto something to keep from falling. But, I will put myself together. I will suck up the pain, anger, frustration, sadness and make myself look strong with a pretty dress and red lipstick.

But I am not strong.

This is just my life.

Health, mental health

Psych Midterm on Obesity

Abstract

Obesity rates rise more and more each year, impacting over one-third of the American population. Health issues are prevalent in patients with a high BMI, also linking to earlier death. Mental illness can contribute to obesity and obesity can contribute to mental health issues; the two go hand in hand. It is suggested that the body is looked at as a whole, rather than individual units, to see where the domino fell first. The rising dangerous trend in obesity needs careful attention and a solution. With a lack of education, resources, and funds, there is little hope for change. Communities need create resources and advocate for the needs that are not being met.

Obesity in America

Obesity is a condition involving excess body fat, increasing the risk of health complications. Obesity can be influenced from a genetic or behavioral aspect. It can lead to multiple health complications and additional health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and sleep apnea. Eating too much and exercising too little can increase your chances of becoming overweight.

 

food french fries fries catsup
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In the past few decades, obesity has rapidly risen in America, becoming the leading cause of preventable death. It is presumed that $150 billion dollars are allocated towards the obesity burden in healthcare costs per year (2010). Obesity is not just an epidemic in America, but it is a global concern. Studies show that chronic medical conditions and early death are linked to elevated BMI. Fast food and conveniently long shelf-life foods have contributed to the epidemic. High trans-fat foods and poor eating habits are not the only contributing factor. American culture has long ago established habits for large portions, processed foods, high sugar content, additives, dyes, preservatives, and diets rich in meat, carbs, and dairy.

Together, mental health and obesity can create a morbid combination that worsens the other.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The same question can often be asked when it comes to mental health and obesity. Stigmatization and bias are experienced in both mental illness and obesity. The risk for developing the other goes hand in hand. There is also an apparent link in the statistics for obesity and disability (Littleberry 2017). The statistic may be influenced by poor diet and little exercise due to low income from being unable to work.

adult biology chemical chemist
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Viewing each patient as a whole is crucial in making an impact. Rather than focusing on just mental illness or just obesity, the entire picture needs to be examined. Emotional fat and physical fat are equally destructive (Littleberry 2017).  Serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter in the brain known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a contributor to the feeling of well-being and happiness. It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract (Caltech 2015). The human body is fascinating in the way it functions, everything working together to create homeostasis. However, if there is something off or not working properly, there can be a dominos effect. The intestinal tract has its own biosphere with microbes that modulate metabolites, playing a huge role on health and disease. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and other digestive issues can cause issues with serotonin production.

The emerging field of biological sciences is continuously exploring the link to the digestive biome and serotonin. Though serotonin plays a big role on mental health, there are other nutritional factors that can contribute. Having low vitamin D, for example, can cause symptoms like depression. Vitamin B deficiencies can contribute to anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity can increase many health issues, which include gastrointestinal issues.

The highest rates documented from American Medical Association are in 2018, approaching 40% of Americans being obese, with Mississippi and West Virginia being the highest rated. According to the American Diabetes Association, high-income countries are associated with higher obesity rates, whereas in America it is the opposite. In America, if a person has low income, chances are fresh and healthy food options are not affordable. Organic healthy food options are far more expensive than processed nutrient-dense food choices.

men and women standing infront of dining table
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Another factor to consider in obesity trends is nature vs. nurture in the sense of obesity in families. While genetics can play a role, so can intermediate family culture. Food choices, traditions, and styles are passed on from parents to their children, and so on. A meal can be considered comfort food because it is comforting; perhaps the meal is associated with a memory of being cared for by a loved one while sick. This begs the question: if a family who historically ate rich in carbs and fats were hypothetically raised to eat fresh healthier meals instead, would their weight have been affected had they been in a different culture, setting or environment? Do we pass on a particular gene or do we pass on the traditional family eating habits and food culture?

There are several ways to work on losing weight. Some are invasive, difficult, and hard work. Losing the extra pounds is well worth the result and will reduce health issues. Bariatric surgery is a procedure performed on patients with obesity by reducing the size of the stomach. This created the feeling of being full. Many high-risk patients are having bariatric surgery in order to lose weight. Mental health counseling is a great way to dive into what may be causing a person to over-eat or turn to food to cope. Some cases of obesity can be linked to trauma. Lifestyle change is an important part of reducing BMI, even if other methods are used to treat obesity. Lifestyle changes can keep the weight off and encourage healthier behavior long-term. Changing old habits that may have contributed to gaining weight is also important for the future generations, as habits can be learned and passed on.

vegetables stall
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It is crucial that the numbers and rates of obesity do not continue to rise, but lower. If Americans take a grassroots approach to changing the rising obesity risk, there may be more hope. Communities can help by offering fresh, healthier foods at food pantries. Crowd sourcing and funding could benefit low-income families by creating local programs that offer discounted or free fresh foods. Local community gardens with fresh produce would be a great community service or volunteer program that also provides families fresh produce. The community could also offer free healthy cooking classes and education on diet and lifestyle modification. Free local exercise programs should be offered to people of all ages to keep the community active and fit. Many gyms and fitness programs are unaffordable, even to the middle-class families.

 

Link with references:

Obesity in America

 

mental health

Phobia of Cows

Psychological disorders are mental processes connected to distress or trauma, behaviors, and impaired functioning. Phobias are the fear of an object or situation. My entire life growing up, I had an intense fear of cows. Yes, cows: the fuzzy fat creatures that are completely harmless. I never understood why, but I knew cows triggered my anxiety when I saw them. In a psychology class that I took when I was 19, I learned that phobias can be triggered by an event, having a source that causes the irrational fear. When thinking back into my childhood, I remembered that when I lived in Missouri we lived on a highway and had cows on our property. One evening a cow got loose and ran into the busy highway. My parents and brother ran outside to the road and suddenly a large semi-truck slammed on the brakes after hitting something. I remember falling to ground screaming, thinking the truck hit my family. Unfortunately, the cow was hit but fortunately, my family was fine.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem like an overly traumatic event as an adult. Everyone was fine, right? However, as a child, it was very traumatic. Learning that this event had caused me to subconsciously fear cows inevitably cured my phobia. Cows were suddenly not so scary anymore. Understanding the source of your anxiety or phobias can help manage your mental health by learning what your triggers are. Working with a therapist can also help with coping skills and the tools you need to get through stressful situations.

 

Links:

https://www.mhanational.org/conditions/phobias

mental health, Podcast

How To Work Through a Problem – Listen Now!

Podcast Link

Hello! This topic is important to me because so many of us go through life struggling and stressed, never learning the proper tools to work through an issue.

The original post How To Work Through a Problem has inspired the topic for episode 5 on my podcast, The Misti Blu Days of Our Lives.

Please be sure to subscribe and leave 5 stars so that others can stumble upon my podcast and blog! It is available on Spotify, iTunes, and iHeartRadio, or you can listen on the RSS feed link.

mental health

What Anxiety and Depression Feels Like

Anxiety is not being nervous over a big presentation at work. It’s not the butterflies in your stomach while you stress over what to wear. It’s not the feeling of having a hard time because you have too much on your plate.

Anxiety is a wave that towers over you, consuming your entire body. You tremble and shiver, your throat closes up and your palms sweat. Your heart races like a hummingbird. Many times it can be for no reason at all. It is out of your control. Your body is temporarily not yours. A state of panic sets in and you feel like you might die. Anxiety is neurotransmitters out of balance. It is the feeling of melting into quicksand. It’s feeling as if something terrible is about to happen. It feels as if you are about to implode.

Depression is not feeling bummed because you had a rough day. It’s not feeling sad because things didn’t go your right today. Depression is not being sad about that mean comment someone made towards you. It is not something that you can just suck up and get over. It is not cured by a simple attitude adjustment. It is a thick heavy blanket that drowns you. Sometimes it is devastatingly painful. Sometimes it is pure numbness, and other times it is the feeling of doom buried deep within you. It is like you are grieving the biggest loss you have ever felt. Even when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, this feeling can sink you. Oftentimes there is not even a reason. It’s like you’re missing a limb. Something is missing but you can’t place what it is.

Anxiety and depression does not make you weak, nor does it mean that you are weak. Mental health disorders are greatly misunderstood by a majority of society. The stigma must end and something needs to change. Generations are losing many to this epidemic. Addiction grows from mental health disorders and the need to self-medicate to escape from suffering.

My Amazon Recommendations

Little ways to make a small difference:

  • Listen when someone needs to talk
  • Don’t tell them it will “get better” or to “suck it up,” as these are dismissive comments that are not helpful
  • If you don’t understand, then try to empathize
  • Toxic positivity can be harmful. Pretending to be okay is not productive or healing.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Available 24 hours everyday

Health, mental health

Drunk Dad and Mental Health

Father’s Day is not always the easiest day for everyone. Some have lost their father and some have had an absent father. It can be an emotional day for many.

Today is a day that I think about my dad, who has his phone turned off so that his kids can’t call and wish him a happy Father’s Day. The last time we spoke was the previous week. I make sure to keep in contact daily but lately he forgets and sends hateful messages my way. When we spoke last week, everything was fine at first. As he drowns his mind in his fifteenth can of beer, he turns into a broken man. His self-hatred consumes him to the point of misery.

My dad gave up on himself years ago. Each year that passes by, his mind and body transform more and more. Once a lean, handsome and charming man to an overweight and grimy shell. He never made it to my wedding and he can’t even make it to the end of his driveway.

In Eric Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development, Generativity vs. Stagnation is when a person between the ages of 40-60 either volunteer, raises children, mentors or contributes to society; generativity is finding your life’s work and meaning. If you fail to accomplish this stage, you reach stagnation. Having little connection with others, lack of self-improvement and no motivation can be qualities of stagnation.

As my father transitions from that stage, into the next stage, I realize he is clearly coming from stagnation. The next stage is Integrity vs. Despair, from the 60s till the end of life. Reflecting on your life at this age, you feel a sense of accomplishment or failure. My dad lives in a state of despair. People in this stage feel as if their life is wasted.

Though my dad has children and family who love him unconditionally, he takes his misery out on those he loves. I know when he calls me the worst names imaginable and repeatedly tells me that he hates me, that really he just hates himself. I know that he is a hurt man that feels hopeless with no answers. Maybe he carries regret for the years he was not sober; years went by where we lived with a growing pit in our stomach of what the night would bring as he sucked the whiskey out of his mustache. I believe he is a prisoner to his own mind and body.

Though he damaged my brother and I throughout our lives, we still remember our sober dad. We remember the road trips, Sunday breakfast, camping trips and his great laugh. He has always been a Jekyll and Hyde. His soul felt the sunshine and other days he felt cold darkness.

I blame everything on the ignored mental health crisis that no one talks about. I blame it on alcohol and how it can poison an unstable mind. I blame it on the world for looking the other way while others suffer, because they don’t understand. As this elephant sits in the room, crushing others, we pretend to be fine.

My dad lies on his disintegrating bed, drinking his sixteenth beer as his body gets sicker. His hate burns in his belly while he curses life. I don’t know how long he will be around but I already grieve idea of not having a father. I grieve that he won’t let anyone help him and that we have to watch him slowly kill himself from afar, while his lasts words are that he hates us.

We just respond, “I love you too.”

mental health

How to Work Through a Problem

Life can be unpredictable, chaotic, stressful, out of balance and just straight up crazy. It is vital to our mental health to be able to manage the stress in our lives in a healthy manner. Unfortunately, we are not born with the knowledge of balancing mental health and the inevitable stressors that life throws our way. We surely did not learn this in home economics class either. We are thrown to the wolves and some of us figure it out, while others are hiding in their bathroom with chocolate and tears.

People naturally gravitate towards a way of relief from the lemonade raining in our lives. For some, that relief is alcohol, drugs, shopping, gym, sex, and so on. Addictions come in many forms and with many masks. You may not even realize that you have your own demons because it is packaged neatly in a decorative glass that says “Mommy’s Sippy Cup.” Your addictions may be something with healthy attributes, like going to the gym. Only, you work out more than you do anything else and you have developed an obsession with your workout routine, schedule, nutrition and progress to an unhealthy level. Or, maybe you don’t self-medicate but you isolate yourself from your friends, you stop doing the things you enjoyed once, and maybe you started having anxiety attacks.

In a nutshell, stress makes us do weird things. It makes us sick, or sicker. It steals the joy out of life when it is not under control. It tears relationships apart. It throws hurdles in our way and derails our plans. It imprisons us in a haze of distractions while our problems pile up.

In my Introduction to Healthcare class, our first assignment involved the problem-solving process. I am sharing what I learned so that you can apply this five-step process to areas in your life that may benefit from finding a solution.

 

Problem:

 What is your problem? Maybe it is something huge and overwhelming or it could be something small and petty that could get swept under the rug. Regardless of the size, every issue should be dealt with because they add up and they grow. They fill up your cup and overflow. The next thing you know, you are drowning.

Tip: Keep a small notebook. Create lists of goals, tasks, issues, solutions, progress, failures, etc.

Fact: It is okay to fail. Think of it like you just took one for the team and learned something from it; now you can share your failure and knowledge with others so that they can grow from it like you did. Failure is awesome. It builds character and wisdom. It’s a challenge and it comes with lessons and stories. It is far from boring and it fuels fire and births bravery… if you allow it. Perspective is everything. Many successful people would not be where they are today without the failures that happened throughout their journey.

Step One – Identify the Problem

Observe the full picture. What is the root of the issue? What is the cause? Are there other factors involved? Look beyond the obvious.

 Example: I hate my job and it makes me miserable.

Step Two – Gather Information

Decisions influenced by opinions and emotions may result in poor outcomes. What are the possible solutions and outcomes? What are the facts? What do you feel? What do you want? What or who would be a reliable source of information in reviewing options? What could be the consequences or risks? Ask yourself some questions. Write it down if you need to.

Example: Why do I hate my job? Is it the environment, coworkers, boss, career field or the hours? What is causing me to be unhappy at my place of work?

Step Three – Create Alternatives

We are finding solutions to our problem, not problems with our solutions. Create a list of options, both positive and negative.

Example: Ask for a raise. Go back to college. Update your resume and actively search your job field for opportunities. Find out if you can move to a different position; perhaps you don’t feel challenged or fulfilled in your current position. Do some soul-searching: are you depressed and your job is affected by your mood instead of the other way around? Try changing up your environment by promoting weekly group challenges to boost morale, or doing squats before lunch while answering phone calls, or getting to know coworkers better by planning a night out.

Step Four _ Choose an Alternative and Take Action

This is an important step. What is the point of steps 1-3 if we aren’t going to actually get our hands dirty and make a real effort to resolve this issue? If some of your alternatives are extreme or risky, try the other options first if you want to be on the side of caution. Multi-tasking solutions is also a possibility since some alternatives may take more time than others. Some alternatives may be a quick fix while you work on another alternative that may be more of a long-term solution.

Example: “I really want to go back to college and change careers but it would be a huge process, expensive, a lot of work and a big challenge. I am going to try to make friends with my coworkers and build those relationships and then ask my boss for new responsibilities and a raise.” This is a great start, but keep in mind those were problems for the first solution. Going back to college may be a big challenge but it could be worth it and it could be the best solution. Don’t create problems to scare off a possible solution. However, working with the other alternatives first is a great idea while you investigate the other options.

Step Five – Evaluate and Revise as Needed

Now it is time to review your results. What has been effective or ineffective? At this point, you can adjust your alternatives or fine-tune them. Revise your plan until you sort out the best solution.

Example: You decided you are just not passionate about your job and your boss can’t afford to promote you. You decide to go back to school but this will be a process, so you enroll in online classes. To make the long-term process more enjoyable, you build relationships with your coworkers and convinced your boss to allow casual Friday pizza day to boost morale. You also started listening to podcasts while you work and got a cat to help improve your mood when you go home.

 

*Hopefully this outline has helped or inspired you to work through stressful situations or problematic times in your life. If you still find that you can’t manage stress, look into getting professional help like seeing a therapist. There may also be local resources in your area to help get through certain issues. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. 

Health, mental health

The Invisible Diaries Podcast and Show

I am so excited to announce the upcoming launch of a show with my dear friend Amber, called The Invisible Diaries! The show will be shedding light on invisible illnesses. We are going to interview guests as well.

If you are interested in being on our show, please emails us at theinvisiblediaries@gmail.com and introduce yourself.

Instagram and Facebook Daily Topics

  • Mental Health Monday – Mental health awareness, support and education
  • Teach Me Tuesday – Education, information and learning
  • Words of Wisdom Wednesday – Quotes and inspiration
  • Thankful Thursday – Focusing on the good and finding balance
  • Favorites Friday – Favorite things and product highlights

Stay tuned and follow us on social media for updates on our official launch!

mental health

Sage

Oftentimes when others walk away or inflict hurt upon us, we are left questioning ourselves. We dissect every memory, moment and action to search for answers of what went wrong. Our self worth begins to crumble.

Sometimes, what happens is that the toxic person who hurt you is bringing you down in order to justify their actions. People don’t like to own up to their mistakes or take responsibility for their actions, and they get away with it by adding insult to injury.

While you are feeling blindsided, broken or down, they get you to believe that it is all your fault. Just remember that you are going to get through this and you will look back and appreciate your growth and outcome, as hard as it may be to see now.

mental health

Can psychotherapy change sexual orientation?

Can psychotherapy change sexual orientation? 

*Written for my Psychology 2 reaction assignment

            The topic of homosexuality being a psychiatric or psychological issue has become a taboo discussion, criticizing therapists as being homophobic or prejudice. Many homosexuals struggle with rejection, violence, hatred, and shame for their orientation. When a field of professionals label sexual orientation as an illness or deviation as a result of a developmental defect, it is harmful and dangerous.

Research has shown that homosexuality in animals is more common than we thought. There have been discoveries of homosexual behavior in animals in more than 10% of species throughout the world in over 450 different animals (Yale Scientific). The existence of particular animals displaying homosexual behavior is not only prevalent but may also be an evolutionary advantage by strengthening social bonds and reducing competition.

The human species is obviously more complex than animals when you factor our environment, upbringing, and many other aspects make our lives much more diverse. That being said, how can animals exhibiting homosexual behavior be compared to humans? It simply cannot be a logical comparison; therefore stating that homosexuality is psychiatric for a human does not make sense when you include other species. You don’t look at the two beautiful male giraffes necking one another at the zoo and think, “what is wrong with them?” In nature, it is not an obscure thing to see two same-sex creatures together.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) made history by removing homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses. However, forty years later, the LGBTQ community is still struggling with achieving that reality as they are denied services, rights, employment and so on. The APA continues to advocate for the homosexual community, opposing conversion therapy and opposing the Trump Administration ban on qualified trans-gender people serving in the military (Human Rights Campaign).

Efforts to change homosexual orientation lack medical justification since it cannot be considered a pathological condition (Gantt). Sexual orientation has a natural variation that is not harmful, nor does it have any effect on those around them. Conversion therapy, a pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation, is a dangerous and discredited practice.

In biblical times, being left-handed was a curse and a weakness. Throughout history, children were forced to use their right hand. Sinister is the Latin word for left-handed and was considered a defect and a carrier of misfortune. Attempts to treat this “defect” resulted in humiliation and learning difficulties (Gantt). When you think about how ridiculous this seemed, consider how ridiculous it is to ridicule any species for their sexual orientation.

 

 

 

References

Fereydooni, A. (2012). Do Animals Exhibit Homosexuality? Yale Scientific. Retrieved from: http://www.yalescientific.org/2012/03/do-animals-exhibit-homosexuality/

Gantt, E. (2018). Taking Sides, Clashing Views on Psychological Issues. United States: McGraw-Hill Education.

Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Retrieved from: http://hrc.org/blog/flashbackfriday-today-in-1973-the-apa-removed-homosexuality-from-list-of-me