Hello, everyone. I hope you all have had a lovely school year. I am officially a college sophomore and man, does it feel good. Other than working this summer, I don't really have much planned. I am working on a lot of new content for you guys which will be fantastic. I know I said I was gonna try and blog more often this summer but I think I'm gonna stick to the one post a week schedule, for now at least.
In other news, May is the awareness month for lots of things that are close to my heart. Amongst them are Anencephaly Awareness (May 15th) and of course, Mental Health. Which as today is Mental Health Blog Day that's exactly what I'll be talking about. I asked on my social media platforms for people to ask me mental health related questions and here are my answers to them. Enjoy!
My biggest advice is to be upfront with your friends, family or significant other about your mental health. Let them know what a day in your mind might be like. Set boundaries if you need to. Share what you feel comfortable with. Be open to any questions they may have. And let them help you if they ask. I wouldn’t be able to get through my anxiety if it wasn’t for the support of my friends and family. I know everyone says that, but it really is true for me. Talking to my Dad, Mom and my sister Jaimi, when I’m having a bad mental health day makes a huge difference.
Also just in general, in your mignd, watch how you act from a third-person perspective. If someone who didn't know you saw you act a certain way, what would they think? I'm not saying to care what others think, but thinking that way before you act helps you control actions that may seem off or rude.
2. How can I stop panic attacks?
BREATHE! I cannot stress how important it is for you to regulate your breathing when you have panic attacks. Hyperventilating will only make it worse. Breathe, repeat to yourself affirmations such as “Fear is nothing more than a feeling of uncertainty” or my personal fave “This too shall pass." Try distractions if you can. Engage in a game on your phone. The apps Happify, Mindshift and What’s Up? are all amazing apps for anxiety. And they are all FREE (you can pay for a Happify membership if you want but you don’t have to).
3. Do you have any homeopathic anxiety remedies you swear by?
I swear by Bach Rescue Remedy. I have been using it for quite a while now and it helps at lot with my panic attacks if I take it at the first signs of one.
I also swear by aromatherapy and essential oils. I currently have an essential oil diffuser by my bed in which I diffuse lavender oil at night. I also have an essential oil rollerball from the company Taspen's Organics. It's something I keep in my purse and when I need to relax I just put a bit on my wrists, like you would any perfume. (The "Earth" one is what is recommended for anxiety and stress).
I also just got into this company called MonQ which makes portable essential oil diffusers you can carry with you and inhale whenever you need it. (I have the "Zen" and "Happy" one).
4. Do you ever get nervous around large crowds of people and if so how do you handle it?
I don’t really get nervous in big crowds but it does make me uncomfortable if I'm in a large crowd for a long amount of time. (i.e. a full day at Disneyland). In that situation, taking breaks are essential. Even something as small as sitting in the (largest) restroom stall for five minutes can do wonders.
I used to get super nervous before performing in front of big crowds (to the point of almost passing out) and the thing that helped me a lot was just constantly rehearsing whatever it was I was performing. When was performing my senior year I told myself before every dance that I was doing this for God and no one else. That really helped ease my nerves .
5. Do your mental health issues affect your social life and did you ever had problems in your relationships (may it be boyfriend or friends or your job) due to the mental health issues you're struggling with?
It somewhat affects my social life. I don’t really go out much because I can’t drive which is fine with me. And when I do there is always slight anxiety about getting a major panic attack and not being able to do anything about it. But that slight anxiety is so easy for me to push aside. I’d never do all the things I love to do if I listened to that fear. Once I'm out in town, say at Starbucks or wherever doing homework or whatnot I get so absorbed in what I'm doing that I completely forget about my fear of panic attacks.
The hardest part for me socially is going out to eat with friends. While one might eat and entire plate of food, I’ll probably eat only half. This is only because of my sensitive stomach. And at least once, I will have to use the loo, even if I’m not having a panic attack. It’s just a habit of mine that food = stomach ache = use the loo. I’m working hard to break this habit, though. (And no, I do not have an eating disorder).
6. What advice would you give someone like me who suffers from social anxiety, or has ASD and has trouble making friends or feels left out?
I wouldn’t really say I have “social anxiety” per say, but I’m definitely an introvert in new social situations (but I can be super extroverted when I’m with my close friends. The term is an ambivert). The easiest way to make friends in class is to compliment someone on their outfit. And then introduce yourself. Start talking about conversations of general interest such as the class you're in, what have you been up to, and the classic “the weather” question. If you enjoyed talking to this person in the class, give them your number and say, “Let’s study together sometime.” That’s a great way to make friends.
Last semester in my bio class I had just gotten out of an exam and outside were some girls from my class. So I walked up to them and asked how the exam went for them. That led us to talk about other classes and as more people joined us we all decided to go out for sweet potato fries at the cafe. We had a great time chatting about this and that. Since then we have all be really good friends, helping each other out in class, texting etc.
7. What are some ways to get out of a social situation without seeming rude?
The easiest excuse is “I gotta go write a paper for (insert class here) or “I got to study for the exam in (insert class here). Don’t use this excuse if you’re not in school though or the person you’re wanting to get out of a social situation with is in the class you’re gonna talk about as an excuse. (I hope that made sense).
8. Can you explain the differences between OCD, anxiety and depression?
(note - all answers in this question are from my Abnormal Psychology textbook, paraphrased in my own words of course).
a. OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by obsessions (intrusive thoughts) and compulsions (habitual behaviors).
b. There is a really fine line between depressed mood, depression, and major depressive disorder; and they all kinda lead into each other. Depressed mood is just general feels of gloom and despair but when that feeling consistently lasts for at least six months then a clinical diagnosis of "depression" can be given. If the depression lasts for at least two years along with the following symptoms:
1. Poor appetite
2. Insomnia or hypersomnia
3. Low energy or fatigue
4. Low self-esteem
5. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
6. Feelings of hopelessness
then a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (also known as dysthymia) can be given.
c. Anxiety is a more general or diffuse emotional reaction - beyond simple fear - that is completely irrational. Anxiety is also associated with future problems.
9. What is your opinion on medication for mental illness?
I think medication can be beneficial as long as you also are in therapy for it. Look at other options too as medication can have serious effects after prolonged use. I always go the holistic medicine route first before I go into man-made medications.
My main thing with medication personally is I don't want to be "doped up" on so many meds that I can't function in real life. I don't want it to dissociate myself from reality. I want to live my life to the fullest without medication seriously interfering with that. The medication needs to aid me in functioning in society without constant panic attacks, not make me numb to everything.
10. Do you think that it's okay for someone with a mental disorder to have kids?
Of course. Just because you (the mother) has a mental disorder doesn't necessarily mean your child will get it too. The environment, experiences, social interactions, genetic makeup all play into who develops a disorder and who doesn't. Some people have very mild symptoms of a disorder which are easily dealt with while others have a harder time dealing with said disorder. It all depends on the person. And if you're not comfortable having your own child for fear of them developing the disorder you have, you can always opt for a surrogate or adoption.
11. Do you think seeing a psychotherapist is worth it for someone with a mental disorder?
YES. I highly encourage someone to see a therapist. You have to give it time, though. You many not see an immediate difference because essentially you're retraining your brain to think and work a certain way. Always do research on a therapist first. You can even go in and just ask the therapist a bunch of questions about what they do before you decide to see them consistently. And for whatever reason, if you begin to take medications, you must be in therapy. The medication won't be as effective if you're not seeing a therapist at least once a week.
12. How can I let go of a past of suicide, cutting etc? I feel like it's shaped me into who I am today. I'm happy for the most part but when I think of my past, it makes me sad.
Letting go of the past is hard. I lost someone close to me in Winter 2014 and I was depressed for five months. Within that time, I grew a lot as a person. While I've definitely "let go" of that situation (mainly the TV show that brought it on), I haven't let go of this person. I always think about her and wonder what she's doing in heaven. I've also written stories about us which has definitely helped me cope.
My best advice is when the past calls, let it go to voicemail if it has nothing new to say and let go of the past so God can open the door to your future.
Yesterday was history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that's why we call it the present. Staying in the moment really helps me not dwell on what has happened in the past or what could happen in the future.
13. Can you link all your mental health related posts here for others to read?
Of course I can. Here you go!
August '15: Dancing Through Life's Lessons: Anxiety and Mantras
October '15: Mental Health Disorders: A Public Health Concern
December '15: Anxiety: A Warzone
February '16: Dancing Through Life's Lessons: Emotional Regulation
April '16: Anxiety: The Black Swan
14. Do you get tired of people assuming you are making it up/being a drama queen/being lazy? Do you get tired of explaining to people that yes, you know it's irrational, but it's still real to you?
YES!!! I could go on for hours about this question. For the longest time, my parents, thought I was making up my depression and anxiety, just so I could get "attention". Not at all the case. I don't think they fully understood the extent of what I was going through until I had a major breakdown last year. My dad sat with me through the bulk of it and my mum stayed with me in my room until I fell asleep.
Since then they slowly have been more willing to help me deal with my issues, and I slowly have opened up to them about it. From, taking me to therapy appts, to spending some alone time with me after dinner, to staying up with me during the night if I needed them, to simply talking me through a panic attack on the phone.
As far as my friends are concerned, they have been really supportive of my anxiety/depression. They have helped me through a lot and I am so grateful for it.
I try not to "overdramatize" my panic attacks. I try to deal with them myself first because some of them end up not being as bad as I thought. If later, I need someone, I'll turn to one of my parents or a friend.
So that sums up my mental health Q&A. If you want to follow me on social media, my links will be below. If you all enjoyed it please give it a +1 on Google+ and leave me a comment below if you have any other questions for me about mental health. See you in a week!
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