mental health

Spring Home Makeover 

*Published in The Beachside Resident February 2019 issue

Throughout our lives, we receive gifts and collect items. Whether it is from a vacation, retail therapy, your birthday or hand-me-downs, we accumulate a lot of stuff! It piles up and consumes our living space each day. Think about your junk drawer or the to-do list pile on your desk, the back of your closet or even your pantry. There is so much that we do not utilize and yet we still continue to shop for useless items. 
Chances are, 80% of your junk draw is trash or has another place it belongs. If you haven’t been maintaining your clean home groove, your living space may start to feel a little disorderly. A cluttered or chaotic space can cause anxiety. Getting your stuff in order gives you a pleasant feng shui, which is like a positive energy flow. 
Most of us have a busy life juggling kids, school, a relationship, friends, work or whatever other million things you have on your plate. The last thing you want to do is add cleaning your entire home to the list. Don’t. Do not overwhelm yourself. There is no need to turn your house upside down, lose sleep or forget to shave your left leg because your brain has turned into jello. Relax and watch some Netflix. 
The plan is to find small projects weekly, monthly, or whatever routine you can handle. I personally love to do these projects on Sundays. I let the sun shine through the windows, play Alabama Shakes on my speakers, light some incense and get to work. I make the process feel therapeutic. I always have a little box tucked away to fill up; my goal is to fill it throughout the month and donate it. I also have the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality of old belongings. Unless they are sentimental or something of use, throw it away or put it in the donate pile. Now, the “does this bring you joy?” question for each item is not always relevant. My hammer doesn’t bring me joy (that would probably be a red flag) but I need it. However, the ugly snowman candy dish from 2011 can probably find a new home. 
Organizing your items in a way that they can all be seen is brilliant. Marie Kondo’s method uses shoeboxes as dividers and folds shirts in a way that you can view them all instead of digging around and unfolding everything by accident, to find what you need. Personally, I love using baskets to add another shelf to a surface, such as a desk or end table. You can stack them for more storage space and they are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to change up. 
While you are decluttering, you can simmer hot water on the stove with orange peels, cinnamon sticks and cloves as a natural way to make your home smell amazing. Now you have learned how to be productive without getting overwhelmed! What home project are you going to do first while you get your dance on?
Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

The Cycle of Grieving a Chronic Illness

The Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief was pioneered by a Swiss-American woman named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Her book On Death and Dying elaborates more on this theory and her studies. Her model of the five stages were my inspiration but I put a twist and my own touch on the stages in the perspective of living with a chronic illness.

For chronic illnesses, this model is not linear. It is a circle that loops back around, over and over. Identifying these feelings helps to not feel alone and to make sense of what we are feeling, that it is actually normal. If you don’t have a chronic illness, maybe you want to understand what goes on in the mind of someone who does, and thank you for that!

*Photo by Winship Photography

Shock and Denial

One moment you are thumbing through what to wear in your closet, the sun is shining through the window and the entire day is ahead of you. The next, you are rolling out of bed in agonizing pain after waking up at least six times throughout the night; this is your norm. Perhaps you have lived with chronic illnesses for most of your life and it has always been your norm, only you have been dismissed by doctors and left without answers.

When you finally get a name or answer to your health issues that were ignored for decades, while you were labeled as a hypochondriac by people you thought cared about you, it can be a shock.

There are times when I go into my doctors office and beg for another set of labs. “Please, test me for metals and maybe my vitamin levels again. I know my thyroid is perfect and my electrolytes are beautiful but I can’t accept that I am stuck with this pain forever. Maybe, just maybe there is something else,” I said to my doctor last week. Usually, I get the results and they are perfect or maybe a few small flags but nothing to be causing my body to feel like I was thrown down a flight of stairs just before getting trampled on by a stampede, when all I did was sit at my desk or get ready for bed. That’s denial, my friend. It’s like you finally get that answer you have searched for and you want to light it on fire and ask for a redo.

Denial is also working full time when your body should not work at all, but you have bills to pay. So, you work all day until you literally collapse in bed, too tired to shower, muscles spasming everywhere and every atom of your existence is in agony.

Denial is smiling and listening to your friend’s conversation while your vision fades and your hands and lip go numb but you don’t want to say anything because it’s normal for you and you want to be normal for them.

 

Anger

There are moments you are doing something mundane, like brushing your teeth, and you just start sobbing.

“Why me?

You question everything, combing through your past and present to investigate where you went wrong or what if you had taken better care of yourself when you were younger.

“Why me?”

Why, though? Why, when you are such a fighter and you were always so positive and you did everything by the book and still, here you are, suffering. It isn’t fucking fair.

The cherry on the cake is when people tell you that maybe exercise would help but when you exercise, your heart rate skyrockets and you get chest pain and bronchial spasms and feel like passing out. Or, “you need to heal your childhood traumas” gets thrown at you for the 5th time but you have done nothing but read inspiring self-help books, healing and even see a therapist. “Maybe if you changed your diet or took this supplement…” Sure, nutrition is important but what haven’t we tried at this point? Even after two solid years of eating clean, cutting out preservatives, processed foods, dyes, additives and fillers and eating a strict anti-inflammatory diet, juicing, supplements, etc. the changes are minimal.

Yes, there is some relief and my migraines are minimized but that doesn’t put a fucking dent into this mountain of health issues. I have tried all the protocols, diets and supplements and will probably continue trying new ones throughout this cycle of grieving. Maybe Karen could help her arthritis if she stopped drinking her diet coke and did yoga, or Steve could lighten up on the drinking and late-night fast food binge, but we are not all Karens and Steves.

There are moments when I am pissed. I am furious. I am exhausted and in pain, and I am so very angry. But these moments pass and I continue to fight and be positive. Let us move through the steps and keep your advice to yourself unless it is requested. We don’t live in this stage but we visit it often.

 

Bargaining

“I promise I won’t eat anymore chocolate peanut butter cups in my car, on the way home from the grocery store. I am going to juice every morning. If I do better, maybe I will feel better? I will be more spiritual, more positive and even do yoga.”

That is the sound of bargaining for a better outcome. Yes, lifestyle changes are important to our health and especially balancing stress. Don’t confuse this with not taking responsibility. Be responsible! But know that this roller coaster of being disheartened and motivated is the pattern of grieving. We often think that maybe we didn’t try hard enough and part of the denial aspect is thinking that maybe if we tried harder there could be a solution.

The individual is clinging to the threads of hope, however thin and worn the fabric may be. Breakthrough treatments in medicine or intervention by a spiritual being or force are seen as a source of a temporary suspension of the inevitable outcome.eCondolence

 

Depression and Anxiety

Depression is the feeling of impending doom, but that feeling sticks around, even when you are happy. It slithers into your existence and it isn’t always tied to a memory or life experience, it just exists. Even on a good day, that feeling can hang around. You can hide it and you can pretend it isn’t there, but it’s the nervous butterflies in your stomach that grow into your chest. Positively thinking it away is not a thing. Depression is not always a mentality that you can control, it’s also chemistry.

Though depression and anxiety do not discriminate, they can be more prevalent in the disabled or chronically ill community.

Imagine building up your goals and life-long dreams. Your ambitious personality and positive mental attitude kicks ass and you have the world at your fingertips but you keep getting knocked down due to uncontrollable circumstances, like your health. Sure, you can dust yourself off and try, try, try again! However, it’s fucking hard and it sure gets old when decades go by and you watch your peers buy houses, new cars and live successful lives. Meanwhile, you try to figure out how you can afford not having income for weeks or months at a time as you recover from surgery, balancing which medications you can afford while making sure there is enough money left over for a cheap dinner. You then start over, just to ride the big wave till you crash again.

It can also be lonely, even when you have supportive friends and family. It’s a place that not many people understand. It’s an unpaid full-time job. It’s exhausting. It’s scary. Support groups are very helpful; finding a community of people with similar health issues helps you cope, not feel alone and also educates you on your illness.  

Anxiety is an issue as well because having a chronic illness can be traumatic. For example, I had WPW Syndrome and my heart rate would get in to the 250s. I have also had many scary arrhythmias so when I hear the hospital heart rate beeping sound on a TV, it gives me major anxiety. It is a trigger for me, as well as fast rhythmic tapping.

Acceptance

Put your warrior paint on! You have your medical records organized, tests and labs done. You are making progress with answers or even starting new treatments. You got this! Or maybe you don’t, but you have just accepted the cards you are handed and will make it work. This stage varies for many and is a sliding scale. For some, it could mean you are managing. For others, this stage comes and goes, varying on what condition your health is in. Again, this process is not linear… it’s a scribble!

You might visit the land of acceptance often. Maybe you have a beach house here or maybe you are planning a vacation here but more than likely, you never retire here. We are nomads of this grieving process. We jump around, visit, flip flop between two stages and circle around.

Acceptance is the best place to be. It’s when we feel really positive, and not just faking it. It is when we fight for awareness and advocacy. It is when we make progress or actually have a less painful day. It’s when your treatment is manageable and you’re coasting.

These are the five stages of grieving your chronic illness. Keep a journal, see a therapist regularly and join support groups. This ride is tough but you are not alone. It’s important to manage your mental health as well as your physical health.

———-

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

tel:1-800-273-8255

Health, Healthy Food

Energy Sprinkles, Healing Sprinkles and My Health Story

Energy Sprinkles are the energizing sprinkle sister of Healing Sprinkles. Healing Sprinkles were created to help replenish essential minerals and vitamins, balance hormones, promote brain and heart health, reduce inflammation and stress. Energy Sprinkles became a reality after customers asked for a product that would help with energy. This blend is alkalizing, full of electrolytes, flushes toxins, boosts energy and improves overall mood.

Both blends are gluten-free, organ and vegan! Read more about Healing Sprinkles here.

My story:

These are blends that I have personally used over the past two years to heal my body. At the beginning of January of 2017, the 5th to be exact, I almost went into cardiac arrest. With a history of cardiac issues and years of medical negligence and misdiagnosis, my body was going into shock and continued to for months. Every day I worried that is was my last. I lost 30 or more pounds without trying, my skin tone was pale and colorless. I was complimented on my new figure but it was so frustrating because I was very scared. I learned about Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and remembered that I was diagnosed with it as a teen. Because I never had a good cardiologist or medical team on my side, I never learned about it or how to manage it. It was my normal and less scary than my other heart issues like Supraventricular Tachycardia and Neurocardiogenic Syncope.

My heart rate would jump from 40bpm to 160bpm within seconds. I was going into circulatory shock because my heart was misfiring signals due to my other complex cardiac issues. Thankfully, I got a pacemaker six month later after several other opinions and searching for the right doctor. Dozens upon dozens of ERs dismissed me with anxiety. After finally getting an event monitor and a Tilt Table Test to prove my “anxiety” was something else, I was able to get the care I needed. I was so malnourished and my bloodwork was all over the place. I was always told to avoid salt because of my heart but the truth is that I needed to be on a high salt diet to expand my blood volume and raise my low blood pressure.

I also did more research, advocating and begged for more testing and finally found out why I have had a lifetime of heart issues (I have already had four cardiac ablations and open heart surgery), digestion issues, chronic migraines, multiple sensitivities, dysautonomia (dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system), chronic pain, joint hypermobility and subluxations, and so on. I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I wish more than anything I had the right doctors who were educated and that could have helped me manage my debilitating chronic illnesses much sooner.

It is my mission to help others, to educate and advocate. There are 12 million misdiagnoses per year. My misdiagnosis of anxiety almost killed me multiple times. I am lucky to be here to stand up for our future. I am currently in school to get my prerequisites and finish a degree to get myself into the medical field where I can make the most of my mission.

 

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Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

How To Be There For Someone With Chronic Illnesses

Don’t ask an open-ended question in regards to helping out.

    An example is asking someone if there is anything you can do to help; this is too broad of an offer. Though it is very kind, most likely the person you offered help to will feel too embarrassed to think of a specific thing. Instead, offer specific help, such as a housecleaning or dropping off dinner on an assigned night. Not only is this assistance incredibly helpful, but you also surpassed the uneasy ice breaker. No one knows what scope of help you are willing to give, nor do they want to feel like they might be asking too much. So, if you truly want your assistance redeemed then don’t give them the option to think and ask… just tell them when and how.

Let them vent.

    You don’t have to have any answers or advice, just listen. We are used to small talk and the autopilot response, “I am fine, and you?” Advice is usually not something we are looking for unless we ask. It is likely we are very familiar with our health and have been living with chronic illnesses for some time. We tend to research, educate and advocate for our health. However, if we don’t feel like talking about it then just being present and distracting us from our health is a nice break. But when we do want to open up and vent about our health, just listen.

We are not lazy.

    “It must be nice to be in bed all day,” is going to get you the asshole award. Trust me, we would rather have a life or be out at the beach, out with friends or working on a fun project, but instead, we are prisoners to our own body. Be mindful that spending the day in bed is not as glorious as it sounds for a chronically ill person… that means it was a rough day.

“You don’t look sick,”

    or “you are too young and healthy to be sick,” is something that we hear often and it only shows ignorance and a lack of empathy. Invisible illnesses are not obvious or blatantly apparent and because of this, we are often dismissed by medical professionals or deemed drug seekers. When you say that, it feels like a betrayal and a reminder that no one understands. We may post our good day selfies or fun outing but what you don’t see is the 24/7 pain, depression and grieving, the tears, the complications, and multiple doctors visits. You see a mask, warrior paint and the fake normal version of ourselves. We just hide it well.

Gift suggestions:

    • If we are in the hospital or recovering from surgery, there are many little gift suggestions. After being asked by a friend what to bring to a hospital visit, I came up with some awesome go-to items: face wipes, lip balm, books, magazines, fuzzy blanket, essential oils, snacks, headphones or anything from my

Amazon Spoonie List

    • or

Wildling Apothecary

    .

Patience.

    We feel guilt and a whirlwind of emotions for having a chronic illness and for anyone who is involved. Your patience and support mean the world to us, even if we have a hard time showing it. Don’t be afraid to point out our flaws but please try to be understanding and forgiving, as sometimes we don’t realize our suffering is showing in ways that can affect you, like an attitude or resting bitch face. Just tell us it’s okay and help is through instead of getting mad and angry.

The Spoon Theory

    . We have a name that we call ourselves: spoonies. There is a spoon theory. In a nutshell, we have about twelve spoons per day. Each spoon represents our energy. Taking a shower might cost 2 spoons and cleaning our bathroom is about 5 spoons. Running errands and a doctors appointment takes about 5 more spoons. Then we are out of spoons that day, meaning we are tapped out and exhausted. Sometimes we even have to borrow spoons from the following day, leaving us bed-bound. Many of us are trying to stretch our spoons out through the day, so when we cancel last minute, try not to get upset. Chances are we are pretty bummed about it but ran out of spoons. We still love being invited though!

Thank you for caring enough to read this.

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Moving Forward in 2019

2018 was a good year, despite having cancer, multiple surgeries and a few ups and downs. 2017 was awful and scary. My heart was at it’s worst. My POTS flare was the worst I ever had in my life. No doctors were on my side. I was having potentially fatal heart arrhythmias and I am shocked that I am here to tell about it. I am forever grateful for my pacemaker and supportive family.

2018 was the year I got my health under control. I learned my body and what I can handle. I take care of myself and minimize toxins in my life. I advocate for myself and after 33 years I found out what was wrong with me and that it isn’t normal to feel pain every day, among a million other things. Despite no cure, simply having an answer has made my life better by educating myself, spreading awareness for others and learning about what is best for my health, as opposed to being in the dark.

2019 is here and we all say that each new rotation around the sun will be the best ever, but I have learned that it is okay to feel. It is not okay to plaster fake positivity over emotions. I set goals daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and will continue to work on every aspect of my life whether it is day 1 or day 365.

Sometimes I have bad days and I hate that it affects others, especially those who love and care about me. I am not going to share just my perfect moments and give people Sunday’s best version of myself. I am human. I know I am not easy to deal with sometimes. I am sorry, but this is me. I’m working on it.

This year, for me, is about acceptance and moving forward. I have been grieving the reality of my health and the limitations and life changes that come with it. I was angry. I was in denial. It is important to focus on the good things in life but that doesn’t mean you need to pretend that tough times exist…. just don’t dwell there. I accept the cards I am dealt. I refuse to be in denial, ashamed or to hide, and will learn how to cope better and continue to improve the things that I can control.

I hope you all are inspired by a fresh start but don’t forget that you can start fresh anytime. Each day is a new story to write. We are in control of how we navigate through our story and how we handle the things life throws at us. Pick your own adventure and make it a good one.

Health, mental health

What Are You Thankful For?

Throughout my life, I have struggled with depression. Actually, I am lying. I am underplaying it; I have struggled deeply my entire life with depression. I never felt like I was enough. I never felt worthy. I was born with serious health issues and minimal care due to negligent doctors and lack of insurance. I chose the wrong people to enter relationships with because I had no self worth so my standards were nonexistent. I sabotaged relationships as well because I felt like I was doing them a favor. I let friends take advantage of me because I was happy just to have friends. Twice, I had to get expired food out of a pantry and I mastered making meals out of what was left in the cupboard. I cursed the universe because life was not fair. I have bottled childhood trauma up and carried it with me throughout my life.

I am grateful that one day I decided to wake up and appreciate what was good in my life instead of numbing my pain and feeling like a failure. I cut out toxic people in my life and raised my standards on what I expected out of a relationship. I stopped letting negativity consume me and tried being positive for once. I took my health into my own hands and advocated for myself and educated myself. I stopped eating like shit and corrected imbalances and deficiencies and taking care of myself and my body. (Also, huge props to correcting my MTHFR mutation which really was a significant part of depression for me).

I am now in the most loving, abundant and stable relationship I have ever been in and my heart is full of love and happiness. I don’t feel worthless and I know I am a good mother and if anyone tries to change how I feel about myself, they will fail miserably. I am strong, determined and passionate. I am thankful that I never gave up. I almost did, many times. I am grateful that I pulled myself out of the dark and loved myself. I never would have known this beautiful life I have now. I don’t know who needed to read this but I felt a strong urge to share this. Never give up! You never know what is around the corner for you. You are worth the love you give everyone else and everything is going to be okay.

Health

Healing Sprinkles

Food is medicine! We are destined to age, but why not do it well? This blend of herbs and spices have been around for a long time. The selected blend has many anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties that also reduce risks for heart disease and brain diseases. Antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins also encompassed in this healing mix.

Sprinkle it on your cereal, oatmeal, toast, or mix it into your smoothie blend. Add it to your desserts, muffins, brownies and baked goods. Top in on sweet potatoes, coffee or fresh fruit. This is an easy way to maximize your health and get natural plant-based benefits.

Shop

Carob

  • Rich in calcium
  • High in fiber and protein
  • Diarrhea relief
  • Antioxidants
  • Caffeine free
  • Tastes like chocolate
  • Excellent source of vitamins and minerals

Maca

  • Increases stamina
  • Balances deficiencies
  • Supports fertility
  • Balance hormones for both men and women
  • Immune support and circulation
  • 19 essential amino acids
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Alleviates Chronic Fatigue
  • Reduces signs of aging
  • Enhances memory

Cinnamon

  • Loaded with antioxidants
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Great for diabetics
  • Reduces high cholesterol, lowers lipids
  • Helps metabolism
  • Protects neurons and brain health
  • Anti-microbial and anti-cancer

Turmeric

  • Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory
  • Used in medicine for thousands of years
  • Improves brain function and reduces risk of brain degenerative diseases
  • Lowers risk of heart disease
  • Can help prevent cancer
  • Helps with arthritis and pain
  • Helps with depression
  • Anti-aging

Ashwagandha Root

  • Ancient medicinal herb
  • Anti-cancer properties
  • Reduces cortisol level
  • Reduce stress, depression and anxiety
  • Improve muscle mass and strength
  • May reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol

Lemon Balm

  • Eases stress and anxiety
  • Great for heartburn and indigestion, cold sores, insomnia and high cholesterol
  • Excellent use for brain health
  • Calming

Nutmeg

  • Relieves pain
  • Soothes indigestion
  • Improve skin quality
  • Reduce insomnia
  • Support immune health
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Improves circulation

Ginger

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-nausea
  • Antioxidants
  • Reduces muscle pain and soreness
  • Helps with joint health
  • Reduce heart disease
  • Helps with indigestion
  • Reduce menstrual pain
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Anti-cancer properties
  • Improves brain function

*Please consult with your doctor before adding spices into your diet if you are on certain medications

Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

The Invisible Battle of Chronic Illness

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is an umbrella of many ailments that fall beneath it. This genetic disorder manifests in many ways; various joints and organs are affected and there is a large range of severity on each spectrum. None of us EDSers are the same. We call ourselves zebras because most doctors think of horses when they hear hooves, but rarely it can be a zebra. We are the zebras in the medical world. There is no cure for EDS but each symptom can be managed separately. It is tricky because we sometimes have several specialists to manage each symptom, or comorbidity, which can resemble having a full time job. Juggling this health conditions not only takes a toll on our energy but it also takes up most of our time. 
On a regular basis, I see several specialists: cardiologist, electrophysiologist, pulmonologist, cardiothoracic surgeon, rheumatologist, neurologist, otolaryngologist (ENT), endocrinologist, gynecologist, gastroenterologist, and of course my general physician. I also sometimes see a chiropractor for traction and the use of some machines to help build strength in my lower back. I don’t have access, but need to see a geneticist, nephrologist, ophthalmologist and orthopedic specialist. That is about 12-16 specialists every 3-6 months. If I see fourteen doctors four times per year, just as a guess, that is fifty six doctors appointments in a year! I also end up in the ER, on average, about six times per year and usually have one or two hospital admissions… on a good year. This year, I had a few surgeries already and last year I had a pacemaker put in. Last year I probably had close to fifty emergency room visits so we won’t count that year. 
An average day for me is waking up around 2am-4am with lower back pain, thirst and several bathroom breaks. I never truly sleep through the night. I have a dysfunctional nervous system (dysautonomia) and suffer from Neurocardiogenic Syncope, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, sleep apnea and issues with my body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and more. My pain level has NEVER been under a five on the 1-10 scale. Not even for a moment. I usually have to be out of bed by 7-8am because my body is so sore when lying down for a long time. Even if I am sick, I have to get out of bed or the pain is so severe that I can not breathe. This means that I can not sleep for over six hours without a break, or the pain is unbearable. 
I take most of my medications and supplements in the morning. I usually start my day off with a headache, nausea, low blood pressure and a general feeling of being hungover but without the fun tequila shots. As I make it to midday, my entire body aches. Every cell in my body hurts. I feel so fatigued and exhausted, even if I didn’t do much. My head hurts and if I am around strong perfumes, chemicals or exposed to any chemicals in my food, I will have a runny nose, body aches and migraine with aura (visual disturbances). My lips and left hand go numb, simultaneously, about five times a day. No one knows why. My symptoms often mimic a stroke so I fear that one day if I have a stroke, I wouldn’t know the difference. I have chemical sensitivities that are hard to avoid. Wearing a mask and watching what I eat helps. Usually by 5-6pm, I am ready to collapse. Sometimes I make it through, with a smile on my face, because I try to live my life to the fullest. Despite how I feel, I push it to the limit to be the best mother, wife, friend, student and so on. I refuse to give up no matter how hard it gets.
By evening, I have made it through the day and usually my body temperature is low and I am freezing but somehow feel like I am burning up and running a fever. My temperature usually will read 96-97 degrees. It is incredibly uncomfortable to feel hot and cold at the same time. My chest feels heavy at night and if I lie on my back I start to feel fluid in my lungs. On a tough day, I will breathe so shallow while I fall asleep that I jump up gasping for air, with low oxygen and a racing heart. Other nights, I can’t sleep because memories flash back from the past when I was in the back of an ambulance or in the ER with chaotic arrhythmias. I close my eyes and hope to get to the next morning. It all starts over again in the morning. 
Depression can be a struggle for those who suffer with daily pain or frequent traumatic hospital visits. I recently came up with the term “Post Traumatic Health Disorder.” Depression can also be a factor because we feel like we have lost the person we once were and are prisoners to a body that doesn’t feel like it belongs to us. Our friends drop like flies the more we cancel on them, relationships are strained and many physicians don’t take us seriously because oftentimes these symptoms don’t show anything in blood work and we are passed off as a mental case. Many doctors are not familiar with rare, genetic disorders so they typically label us with anxiety or a catch-all diagnosis and send us on our way. We feel alone and like no one understands. It is scary, disheartening and frustrating. Seeing a therapist is important, as well as finding a support group.
Having an invisible illness is a battle and we all think of ourselves as warriors. We are warriors. We battle and fight every damn day. Tears are shed on the battlefield often and we watch our tribe through ups and downs on our online support groups. We have lost some and watched others give up. We keep fighting and supporting each other and raising awareness while we struggle to make it out of bed.
Always be kind to others, as you have no idea what they are battling under all that makeup and forced smile. And to those who are my fellow warriors, I believe you.
mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Unveiling Invisible Illnesses – Depression and PTSD with Emily

You never really understand something unless you have lived it. Many of us don’t know how to respond when we know someone is deeply hurt and struggling. Saying something like, “be positive” or “everything will be fine” is not a bandage to anyone who struggles with mental health. It doesn’t make them a negative person. As a society, we are never told that it is okay to feel. We all are trained to suck it up with a smile on our face, making mental health a truly invisible illness. Take Robin Williams for example. He was charismatic, funny, talented and all around a great guy but yet he took his life.

Emily shares her story in hopes of raising awareness, letting people know they aren’t alone, and teaching others how to be a friend to those who struggle with mental illness.

What is your official diagnosis and when were you diagnosed?

I have depression and PTSD. I was diagnosed by my therapist this year around March. However, I have been diagnosed with manic depression since I was 14-15 years old.

Looking back, how long where you having symptoms before you got diagnosed?

My depression started when I was really young, I would say about 8 or 9. When you’re younger, not a lot of people take mental health seriously. It wasn’t until I was 15 or 16 that I saw a therapist for the first time.

What do you do to keep your symptoms managed?

I go to therapy. I’ve tried almost every depression and anxiety medication but they don’t work well with me. CBD tends to be the only medication that helps manage the symptoms. But I have to see my therapist once a week, we also do coping skills, like grounding, to help through panic attacks or flashbacks.

For my PTSD, I avoid obvious triggers, block certian things on social media, and I make sure people around me know my main triggers. I have to make sure any movies or places I go won’t have those triggers involved, so there is a lot of work to do before just going somewhere.

What advice could you offer to someone who is currently struggling with the same illness?

That the fight isn’t over, but you have an army beside you even if you think you don’t. Treatment is expensive but there are orginizations to reach out to help. I know it’s really mentally taxing to always have to think about your mental illness. You have to stay on top of it because one slip can spiral you. Life is so worth it though. The next week will never be the same as this one.

What is the scariest moment you have experienced because of your illness?

When your life is in your own hands, and you don’t want to be alive. When you are in a really bad low in your depression, your PTSD isn’t managed. It’s really scary being on that edge of giving up and letting yourself fade away. When I wouldn’t eat, or even move was my scariest experience. It lasted for a few months until my support system got me to a doctor.

How do people react when they discover you have an invisible illness and how does that make you feel?

As soon as someone hears about my illness, their face changes. They get this look in their eyes of pity, like I just turned into a glass rose in front of them. They never talk about it and pretend it’s not there after a while. It’s not everyone, but it’s the majority of the time. It makes me furious, mostly because I want to talk about it. I want people to know it’s not just me and there are other people that need you to talk about it too.

What way can others show support to someone with an invisible illness?

By being around and a voice for people with depression and PTSD that can’t reach out. With my illness, sometimes I can’t reach out, it stops me from getting help. Be educated in knowing how to read the signs of your friend or partners mental illness. Also know it’s not something that you can “fix” or help someone get better from. It’s a life-long illness that doesn’t always have a magic pill to fix it. So the best way to support someone, is to just be there. Talk about mental illness, keep talking about it because that’s what supports the idea therapy and help should be more mainstream and accessable.

I know you lost someone close to you who has also battled with depression. How has that affected you?

Losing Nate was one of the biggest eye openers of my life. Not only with him leaving like he did through suicide, but everything after. I learned about the responsibilities loved ones have after someone passes. Seeing everything I had to go through with his death made me realize how much my loved ones would have to go through if I died the same way. It’s unbearable. I joined a support group of people that lost someone to suicide almost immideately because it felt like I either wanted to join him or wanted to live to give that to him. The extremes in your grief are insane and almost impossible to understand because everyone feels them at different times.

Is there anything you wish you could say to him?

Oh, there is so much I would say to him. A good summary would be that I forgive you, and I am working on forgiving myself even though you told me it wasn’t my fault.

What are your triggers and do you feel comfortable explaining how you developed PTSD?

I developed my PTSD when Nathanial died. I did have previous PTSD that I didn’t know about yet, but this was the big set off. My triggers include suicide, blood, abandonment and certian trigger words like promises.

What type of advice would you have for anyone in the same boat?

You have to keep going. Even when you think you were doing really well, but have a panic attack for 6 hours crying one day before work. You still go. You remember that attack will not last forever; you will be okay. You get your “war paint” on, as I call makeup, and go to work. We push through but never forget to work through it too. Learn from every emotion you feel, learn what will make you happy and to start weening out the things that set you back into the dark. Because your light is so bright and it deserves to be out in the world for everyone to see.

Biggest inspiration? It can be music, anything…

Honestly, the people I am closest to are my inspiration. My friends and support group do things like invisible illness blogs, that help others who think they are alone, get connected. Nothing is more inspiring to me then helping people live their best life. My personal inspiration, having something to look forward to is Live Action Role Play (LARP). Making costumes, characters, relationships, meeting new people, being in the woods for a weekend fighting with boffer weapons. It’s absolutly an inspiring experience that helps as a coping teqnique too in a lot of ways.

Favorite quote:

“Everything’s gonna get lighter, even if it never gets better.” -Mates of State.

Three things you can’t live without:

My best friends, Spotify, LARP

What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s crazy to want to do something so far away as 5 years with my illness. Recently, I see myself getting ready to open and own a bookstore/venue with my best friend. A goal is to finish becoming a licenced sign language interpreter. Mostly, in 5 years, I want to have lived so much, but still say that I have so much more living to do.

1-800-273-8255

Health, mental health

Sunday Unplugged – A Day Without Social Media

It is so habitual to see then number in the red bubble grow and to get rid of it. Or, we simply can’t just be in thought; we have to see what everyone else is up to or what we may be missing out on as opposed to actually letting our imagination wander. How dare we sit at home while others are checking in and posting their exciting life. This make us thirst for constant activity and new experiences rather than realizing that life is also intertwined with down time.

It becomes burned into our subconscious, to click the icons we constantly open on autopilot. We are addicted to superficial, instantly gratifying encounters behind a screen, rather than engaging on a personal and intimate level. When is the last time you made direct eye contact with someone and held a conversation? We so easily pour out from our fingertips but walk by with our heads down in person.

I started boycotting social media on Sundays and as my first day in, I already accidentally clicked the icon three times by 1pm. It’s not even that I must check it but that it has become so habitual to stay caught up. While working on my assignments, I picked up my phone a few times to distract myself. What urges us to pick up our phone to indulge in something rather that the task we are currently doing occupied with? We constantly need to disassociate our presence with life around us, to travel in a virtual wormhole into other’s polished and edited moments.

In the long run, it creates the need and urgency to produce experiences for our feeds to show and tell, pausing to capture it all in real time. Instead, we should share our memories after the fact. These habits can also be dangerous as to expose so much information from where our kids go to school to when we aren’t home, and so on. Many will struggle with insecurities from comparing their low times to everyone’s highlights. We often forget that our friend’s lives are also filled with low times as well, only they just aren’t published.

It’s time to start setting restrictions on ourselves, not just our kids. Setting times to check our phones or milestones throughout the day to allow us to indulge in social media and our online world is a great way to start. For example, checking social media on our lunch break and before dinner rather than all day. Would you be embarrassed if you knew the number of minutes per day or per week that you spend on social media? I know I sure would. Make it a point to engage with others in person or contact someone via text, call or email to see how they have been. How often do you communicate to those who do not have social media? Another way to help get the reigns on your addiction is to start by giving up a day per week to focus on yourself and your family. Creating these healthy habits will allow us to live in the moment and view the world in front of us rather than through a screen. So, the next time you are at a concert or wedding, put down your phone and enjoy the experience. Take it all in because the view is much better without a device in the way.

From my day without social media, I have discovered that even just by lunchtime, I got through my school assignments faster, I was inspired to write a lot and without distractions; my day was much more productive. I feel as though I gained many hours of my life.