Vulnerabilities Part 2

Whenever I first started therapy in my junior year of high school, now 4 years ago, I was embarrassed to say I started therapy. I didn’t want to go to begin with, but as I’ve continued my mental health journey I got more comfortable with sharing my life story. That being said, I’ve become very open and have encouraged people to start therapy. I am the first to start stories with “So in therapy the other day…” or “My therapist said…” I have become someone that is transparent about my struggles and about my mental health journey – and have truly become a mental health advocate. I’ve posted on Facebook about my struggles, and hell, I’ve dedicated an entire blog to my anxiety.

All of that being said – I am still vulnerable.

Yesterday I had to do a presentation in my Business and Professional Speaking class. Yes, you read that correctly. I identify myself as an anxiety ridden little bean, and yet I’m in a class where I have to speak in front of other students. That statement alone shows how much I’ve improved in four years’ time, considering my senior year of high school I had to deliver a small speech from Great Gatsby and nearly threw up. Anyways, whenever it came down to choose a topic, I decided to talk about my anxiety.

Going up to it I was super confident, my professor was eager to hear what I had to say, I talked about it with my therapist, and I felt like it was a really good topic. Making the PowerPoint proved to be difficult, but while practicing my speech I was finishing around 8 minutes – over the set time limit. With a flash drive in hand, I wasn’t nervous until I sat down in my class and looked around at the other students. What would they think of me? How would I go to class afterwards with everyone knowing I have a mental disorder? Would they think differently? I have slowly grown with this class of 12 students, and yet, I was being so raw and open with a group of strangers. Sure, I had other classes with some of the other kids, but they didn’t know me.

When it came time to present – nothing was helping. Breathing techniques, meditation, telling myself that every other person was also nervous, absolutely nothing. By the time I got up to present, my hands were shaking as I turned in my notes to my professor, anytime I pointed to the board my hands visibly shook with fear, and my voice stuttered the entire time. I rushed it so much that I was below the required time frame of the speech by several seconds. What turned into a speech that could be stretched to 7 minutes and 51 seconds turned into a rushed and anxious speech ending in 5 minutes 55 seconds. I felt as though I was going to vomit and felt extremely anxious before, during, and after the presentation.

I don’t regret it in the slightest.

I got to open up my journey to a class of only 12 students. I got to tell them about my struggles. I shared photos of me dancing on stage and showed pictures of my picked to shit fingers after an anxiety episode. I was open. It was raw. It was me showing my demons to the classroom. It wasn’t easy, but it was vulnerable. I could’ve talked about the history of ballet class, I could’ve talked about how to sew pointe shoes. Instead I showed my struggles. In my research statistics show that someone, if not several, of those students needed to hear what I had to say. They needed me to come out and be vulnerable, if not for me, then for themselves.

Being vulnerable is in no way easy. It is not a walk in the park. I did it with shaking hands, busted up fingers from picking, and a speech shorter than the 6-8 minutes required. But I did it. I opened the room up for discussion. I helped open the eyes to students to show that even ‘normal’ students struggle, and hopefully I made those people realize that they weren’t alone.

Self-Love in Moments of Chaos

We live our daily lives in a constant state of chaos – sometimes it is just a more controlled chaos. Sometimes it is a calm chaos and the other times it feels like there is no end to the craziness in sight.

Our chaos can come in many different forms – whether it be endless deadlines on top of bills to pay, it may be as a waitress with the tables that just keep coming in, working while knowing there is an exam to study for on top of three other homework assignments. It may be having three exams in one day and you were so busy studying that you forgot about the three homework assignments due as well.

Whenever we get caught up in chaos sometimes we are so focused on other people’s needs. Your boss receiving what they want on time, your professor receiving the paper on time, your tables getting waited on in a certain amount of time, etc. These are the times where you forget about the most important person to take care of – yourself.

You do not even have to be a personality that is high strung and constantly stressed out to forget about things such as self-love and care for yourself.

It has been 10 days since Valentine’s day, and I planned on writing a whole blog post on why you should be primarily concerned with being your own ‘valentine’. While I ran out of time endlessly, this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to even open my laptop in weeks – probably since my last blog post.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the craziness of life.

As mentioned previously – it is easy to forget about yourself. It is easy to just go through the motions and to do what you can to meet deadlines, to be friendly with everyone, to be there for your loved ones, to study, to do work, to go to appointments, etc.

Sometimes it is hard to come to terms that sometimes you just need to step away from everything. To put down the book for an hour or so.

Self-love must always come first – among the chaos.

Sometimes you need to step away – even if that means just sitting in the tub for 30 minutes in the middle of the day.

Find time to love yourself and to care for yourself.

It is whenever we forget about ourselves that we become our most stressed, our most unhappy, and the problems of the world seem to push on us until our final breaking point.

So put your bills and deadlines down for a moment. Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself calm again – even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.

Me Minus Anxiety – Who Am I, Really?

What I wouldn’t give to be normal. To live in that bubble, the reality of the naive.

What would my life look like without anxiety?

How much would be different?

What would change?

This is a question I have asked myself time and time again. However, I can never come to a real answer.

Maybe I would have more friends, maybe I would go out more, and maybe I wouldn’t be afraid to speak in public. Maybe my schedule would be filled with less appointments with different doctors for different reasons. Maybe my grades would be better, and I wouldn’t stress myself out before exams and maybe I wouldn’t pick my fingers until they are bloodied, gross, and running the risk of infection.  Maybe I wouldn’t sit in silence for hours on end – not knowing how to contribute to a conversation. Maybe the fear of making myself look dumb wouldn’t exist.

Back whenever I feared going into gas stations and before whenever I was scared of leaving my home, I would ask myself the same question and come up with nearly the same possibilities. Maybe I would’ve been able to walk into the store later at night to get the ice cream I was craving. Maybe I would’ve been fine to walk into the bank and do a cash deposit instead of waiting in the way longer line at the atm in my car.

I have struggled with anxiety since I was a little girl. It only came to a dramatic point whenever I was in high school. At that point in time I knew anxiety was apart of my identity. It was a character trait. It was a character flaw. I related to the quote that said, “I am anxiety, fear, and panic”.

So, yes, anxiety has been in my life for a long time. I was an anxious seven-year-old, an even more anxious high school student, and expected it to sort of just disappear in college. If it was in my life for so long and apart of my identity for so long… who am I without it?

I have come to realize now – anxiety is not apart of my identity. Yes, I am a college student and yes I have severe anxiety.

Because, after all, my blog posts are mainly about anxiety. My very first blog post ever is titled “The A word”, where I then begin to describe what anxiety is and what an aberration is.

Who am I though?

I’m a full-time student and I work three jobs that I love. I am an avid concert goer. I am a movie guru. I am someone that has a small quantity of true friends – those that I don’t see often. I am a girl who has a lot of internet friends and spends too much time on YouTube. I love nerdy things and also love makeup. I love sitting and gaming. I am a hard worker – even with my anxiety flaring up. I am honest and compassionate – with the tendency to put everyone’s needs before my own. Sometimes I care too much about what others think and other times I care too little.

I am not anxiety and I am not panic. My life story is not going to go down as the girl with anxiety.

Anxiety does live within me and I have known her well. Anxiety can sometimes be an extension of my personality – but it will never describe me. At the end of the day I am still the busy, hard working, full time student, who also loves to dance, go to concerts, meet like minded people, and be free spirited.

 

“Feeling on the Verge”

A lot of times whenever I sit down and talk to my therapist I often at times can reflect and tell her about the moments where I had a breakdown, often telling her that I could “Just tell that I was on the verge”

But how does one explain these feelings?

On the verge is feeling as though you are standing on the edge of a cliff, half of your foot over the edge already – the arches and your heels remaining on stable cement while your toes hang right over. It is standing there and knowing that one simple gush of wind will send you over.

It is feeling the tears well up in the backs of your eyelids and constantly pushing them back – but also knowing that if one person says the wrong thing that it will release the tears.

It is a constant burden on your chest with an accelerated heart rate that beats almost too quickly against your chest wall.

It is sweaty palms – always.

It is feeling the quickened heart rate, the sweaty palms, and it is the burden on your chest – but you are also feeling numb and the constant switching between the two of them.

It is feeling the work you have to do physically piling on top of you – and you feeling as though that no amount of time in the world could get it done and knowing that one more paper is going to push you over the edge.

It is the feeling of begging something to happen, so you could just get over with it already.

Being on the verge means that you can feel yourself almost to the point of no return. On the verge it is the difference between crying and being okay. Being on the verge is knowing you just need one final push to send you spiraling. Sometimes it can feel as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Some of us live our daily lives on the verge – almost waiting for that straw or for that gush of wind to send us over.

While we can be on the verge, we also know how it feels to come back down and to recover from our falls. That is what is most important to try to remember.

Why it is Okay to be Selfish

The word selfish is typically one that is looked down upon and looked at in a negative light. Not one person likes to be described with the adjective of selfish, but ultimately, in the world of mental illness and health – it is an adjective that is one of the most important things to be.

There are a lot of people that suffer with a form of mental illness, whether it be anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ptsd, or so on. Some people have it in the slightest forms while others suffer in a more extreme way.

Those that suffer are typically those that you do not expect as mental illness can affect anyone – it does not matter your age, race, or gender.

Most people, like myself, give and bend over backwards for everyone and anyone – often at times putting others peoples needs before their own. So much so that they wind up shoveling emotions and feelings underneath almost convincing themselves that the needs and wants of others are more important than their own. Often at times they will put their needs on the back burner, convincing themselves that the needs of someone like a friend is most important, more important than their own emotions and feelings.
This leads to the burial of emotions and stress that eventually boil up – ready to be set off by the most minuscule things.

Not only does the selflessness of mental health mask our own feelings, it also is extremely exhausting. Some of us will hold ourselves to an insane number ,of standards when it comes to being there for others. We are not catering to our needs but to the needs of others and ultimately draining the energy needed to keep ourselves afloat.
I read somewhere once that the development of mental illness can also contribute to a development of a selfish personality.

Do I consider myself selfish? At times. Am I open about my need to be selfish? Always.

For those of us that have mental illnesses we need to constantly be aware of our wants and needs as humans due to the smallest change causing what could be a downward spiral.

Not only do we need to be aware of our bodies, but our mood as well.

Sleeping and eating on a regular schedule are vital to keeping our mood as stable as possible whenever it comes to self care.

For example, in mental illnesses such as Bipolar Disorder, tracking your mood is essential in staying up on it. It is noticing the most minute of changes in mood. It is essential to notice the changes so that those who are medicated can report it to a psychiatrist which may require change in medications as soon as possible.

You must be extremely aware, not only in your alone time, but when with other humans while being social.

Is my speech slurring due to talking too quickly? Are my conversations bouncing from place to place constantly due to my inability to focus on one topic? Are my responses appropriate? Is this how I act on the daily?

We must be in constant awareness of our mood and how we are feeling, why we are feeling, and to try to judge how long we will be in this state of feeling.

Mental health may also come with a selfish behavior, but that is okay.

I am not telling you to only look out for yourself and no one else, and to push people around for your own advantages – being selfish does not always have to be that negative.
So be selfish. For those that know you and love you – they will understand your need to be selfish and will be there to support you and will still be there whenever you come back.