Stop Making Sense

As humans, we try to find logic in things we don’t understand. We envision patterns and concepts and labels that are of our own musings, just to satisfy our hungry curiosity. It’s hard to accept what just doesn’t make sense.

As is the case with anxiety. And wow, has mine been bad lately. All it takes is one little misstep or inconvenience to really throw me into a mental tizzy. A dentist appointment, an usually not-so fun situation, has been a trigger enough to get my mind on an endless race except nobody is winning. Just one hour to be away from my normal workday schedule has me on the verge of tears at all times, hardly able to get a full breath in my lungs.

As with any other time I’m in a frenzied state, I always seem to turn to this space. To try and refocus my mind on something practical instead of just letting an endless counting of numbers consume my mind as I fear the worst of everything, just from going on the normal one-hour break to go to the dentist. Which, as it usually seems to be, sounds ridiculous. Why make a fuss over a shortened work week and putting in enough hours? Why automatically assume the worst results from my appointment without even going there yet?

I like to think that by thinking the way I do, I am preparing myself for the worst. I’m worrying about whether or not I’ll need my wisdom teeth removed and the potential aftermath from that so maybe it’s easier to accept if it truly is the case. I’m obsessively counting through my hours of work each day multiple times just to be extra sure I’m getting my time in to make sure I’m doing my best at my job and pleasing my coworkers. My mind trickles down winding paths that fall into the drenches of my fears.

For example, if you aren’t lost already, let’s go through my wisdom teeth logic. I picture myself going to a new dentist. Taking the procedural x-rays that leave me gagging on those random stints they stick between your teeth for the best image. The appointment takes longer than expected because the dentist won’t stop scraping. They find cavities to fill. They want me to take out my wisdom teeth immediately. Which would be the first time I ever go under anesthesia, having no clue how I react to those drugs. I wake up from surgery sick from them. I cannot work, so I fall behind in everything. I can only eat soft foods, which limits my diet, which triggers me to restrict food again after my longest time in the recovery phase of my eating disorder that doesn’t cease to nag me every day. The voice only gets stronger. And if it’s during the summer, I’m missing out working on hours. I’m disappointing the people that have given me this great opportunity. They get frustrated with that and fire me. I’m thrown into the depths of severe depression.

If that didn’t throw you for a tailspin, then you must have a twisted mind yourself. I rationally know that feeling on edge by a scenario that would most likely never reach fruition is a waste of my time and energy, cleaving fractures between myself and those I love when I trap myself inside my trembling shell, somehow kept safe by conjuring up nightmares.

I have faced my fair share of triggering moments like this where I lose all control I have over my anxiety. That voice can take on various personas depending on the setting, a nagging ache or a whisper of unease or a false caregiver keeping me safe. But in its worst moments, it feels like the only grip I have on keeping myself together, fashioning myself together by a flimsy thread that can barely be considered a functioning human form. I feel reliant on that feeling. Otherwise I would just cower under the covers of my bed and never leave. Somehow the anxiety is both debilitating and necessary. A twisted balance of extreme highs and sinking lows. A continuous game I play that keeps going into overtime, no winner in sight.

So I just go through the motions. I have no choice but to keep on moving, no matter how much I’d love to take a week off from everything, from living. But that would just make more anxiety for myself about the world turning without me there. that I’m wasting my life away. It never ends. Which again, what sense is there in that? To spin every situation into something terrifying like a magnified news headline. Then to eventually find out the truth, putting on your glasses to read the blurry figures and feel exhausted, only to worry again.

And just like anxiety, this post probably makes no sense. This train of thought has fallen off the rails long before ever putting it onto virtual paper. But when anxiety is dependent upon our internal debates, it’s hard to understand that perspective when all you see is a tapping foot, a dazed expression, a restless mood. While this example is only one of many faces anxiety might take on, an inside perspective is better than none. A realization that yes, anxiety lacks any sort of reason for those only seeing its repercussions, but it’s real to the person experiencing it. They’re illogical but valid thoughts. Anxious people don’t ask for you to find the patterns and sense of reality behind our thoughts; we only ask that you empathize, you support us, and you stop making sense from nonsense.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Starting Young

A common theme for people who have transitioned into accepting and treating their mental health is that they wish they had started earlier. That if they had any inkling of how their mental health might need extra support, they’d do more and learn more in a heartbeat.

Mental health treatment and therapy is too often an afterthought, a response to a realization that perhaps medication or counseling might help dig us out of a deep abyss. It rarely seems to begin as a proactive effort. But that makes me wonder, could it be? Could we avoid hitting those lowest moments before they even drag us down?

Except that means we need to include all people in our perception of what mental illness looks like. We assume that depression and anxiety are conditions that bubble up during adolescence, a repercussion of hormonal changes during puberty. That teenage angst that might seem to go too far. Or we just picture adults who struggle getting out of bed and functioning at work. It’s as if there’s a cut-off for how old you have to be to receive a diagnosis or suffer from the emotional turmoil.

But are we leaving out an important population of mentally ill people in the process? At what age is it appropriate to pinpoint mental health’s effects on individuals and how to find balance? If we want to see mental health differently, we need to include everybody into the mix. Children suffer, too.

When I was in elementary school, I don’t remember having anybody who took any medication, who went to therapy, who had any major issues that affected themselves or anybody around them. This environment I remember seems very different to what classrooms look like now, where kids are medicated, sent away to facilities for treatment, and face difficult challenges in life I wouldn’t wish on anybody. I don’t know whether behavioral and emotional issues are more prevalent now or they are now actually classified and treated. Either way, I empathize with those young people and genuinely hope they receive the care they deserve.

Even with this increase in awareness, how much do we really know? How are we communicating this to people of all ages? How can we prepare and educate children to know when and how to support a healthy mindset? We cannot approach mental health to children the same way as adults. Their developing minds are vulnerable to resorting to forms of coping that harm themselves and others if left to their own devices, including bullying, self-harm and suicide.

According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 15 million of our nation’s young people can currently be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Many more are at risk of developing a disorder due to risk factors in their biology or genetics. There is a great need for mental health professionals to provide the best available care based on scientific evidence, good clinical expertise, and that takes into account the unique characteristics of the child or adolescent. However, it is estimated that only about 7 percent of these youth who need services receive appropriate help from mental health professionals.

Quality healthcare at every age is a basic human right, not a privilege. Insurance for healthcare services, especially for young people, is questionable in its availability and quantity. Families that cannot avoid the expenses of counseling or in-residence therapy options for their children shouldn’t be punished. In fact, we’re lacking in mental health resources that don’t completely disrupt a child’s life by uprooting them from their familiar family, friend and school dynamic to be placed in an institution.

In the battle to improve mental health treatment across the nation, we need an entity within that specifically for children’s mental health. This not only includes community-based programs that could easily be included at after-school locations like the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club, but also in educational curricula that is less standoffish and clinical and more personal for kids to grasp and relate to. We need to not only emphasize the importance of yearly checkups at the doctor’s office and staying up-to-date with vaccination schedules, but also emphasize the importance early diagnoses and awareness of mental illness.

It’s easy to play off certain behaviors in children as just a need for greater discipline. An excuse to send them to the principal’s office. A mention at parent-teacher conferences that a child might be more withdrawn in class and social situations. Which yes, they can easily just be those things. But what if they’re not? What if those little signs are a signal to a greater issue that is holding a child back from a full, balanced life? That isn’t fair to anybody.

Cliche as it is, but let’s think about the children. We’re raising the next generation. What do we want to teach them? How do we want them to lead their lives and treat themselves and others? How can we support these young people so they have a better upbringing than those before us? We cannot take these questions lightly. This is a narrow window of time we need to utilize. I don’t think it’s ever too early to start teaching others these crucial ways of taking care of our well-beings. We can avoid wasting precious time and help young people make proactive steps to avoid those regrets later on.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

To Feel Attractive

I’ve been doing quite well lately. My mood hasn’t dipped down too far lately. I’m kept pretty busy at work, which I really crave and enjoy. My anxiety has been okay, but I still clam up in stressful and/or crowded situations. Even eating has continued to feel more normal. This has to be one of the longest periods where I haven’t felt consumed by food rather than the other way around.

However, I do have an aspect of myself that just feels very weird to me to think about. I don’t know if others feel similar about themselves, but that’s why I want to write it out, and if you resonate with anything I say, at least know that you aren’t alone.

My relationship with my physical body is practically nonexistent. I personally think it would be much easier if I was just a floating soul, a gust of air moving through life. And it’s not that I’m unappreciative of my health and the abilities I have, being able to move and think and all that jazz. It’s more of my actual appearance that bamboozles me.

It’s very complicated to explain. I guess I feel indifferent. I don’t bash myself down like I used to, but I also don’t have much emotion when people say I’m pretty or attractive or whatever compliment they throw at me. I don’t know how to really respond. In a polite situation, I thank the person, but if it’s someone I’m close with, I either just let the comment roll off me or try to disprove it.

I’ve come to be comfortable with myself. I’ve found some sense of balance that I can not always yo-yo around with my weight. And I like where I’m at. But with my set point, I realize that I’m still a smaller person. I don’t necessarily consider myself petite or whatever word out there, but I also think that can be a good thing, to be content with yourself at a healthy state.

I am just me. But “just me” isn’t appealing to others usually. I joke that I slightly look like a young boy, and that’s just how I’m built. I along with most people am not a representative of what the media and society deem as “attractive” or “sexy.” I think what bothers me the most is not believing people like my boyfriend, who says he’s attracted to me and I’m completely dumbfounded by that. My face is fine, but everything else? Just pretend it’s not there. There isn’t that much there, anyways.

While it’s not the obsessive focus I’ve had with my figure, it can feel like a complete avoidance of it altogether. I flip-flop from one end of the spectrum to the other and cannot seem to reach a balance. Rather than needing to weigh myself every chance I get, I completely avoid it altogether. It’s an anxiety of knowing just one little misstep could lead to potential relapse, and that scares me.

All of this inner debate makes me wonder then, how skewed is my body image still, even when I’m on a great track with food? This is where body dysmorphia comes in. No amount of counseling can “cure” me of that. It’s just another included feature of imbalanced neurotransmitters. I can accept that. I can still fully enjoy my life and feel content. I don’t feel like I’m missing out by never putting on a pair of shorts or a swimsuit. There are so many important things in life to think about. All I care about at this point is that I’m physically and mentally healthy.

As you can see, it’s a delicate bridge I walk on. I carry on my days hoping people notice me for my work ethic and personality, but we’re so geared to observing our “book covers” before taking a read inside. That’s just human nature. I can accept that, but it’s more difficult for others to understand my different perspective.

Personally, I’m never one to comment on others’ bodies not knowing how they’re feeling inside. That’s not important to me, as long as you’re a good person. But in a romantic relationship especially, I don’t know how to comprehend the simplest positive comments from my partner. I feel almost shameful about that. I feel like I sound ungrateful or even rude for not wanting a reminder of how my body looks. It seems like such a normal thing in a relationship, but being considered attractive is something I cannot grasp. I dwell on it far too long.

We focus so much on recovery for eating disorders and body dysmorphia, as conditions people can completely overcome and lead normal lives. I wish there was more awareness about that minority that struggles more often, that still takes it a day at a time. Too often we think of that mental voice as a clear indicator that you aren’t “healed” already, but if it’s just part of your anatomy, an aspect of yourself you can’t completely change, what then? You cannot tell me all the hard work and effort I’ve put in and continue to put in to take care of myself isn’t enough.

I wish I had a solution to my problem. A way to convince myself that my body is a part of me that looks a certain way and I can clearly see that in the mirror or believe it when someone tells me so. As with anything about myself, that is just a work in progress.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie