Prescription for Chris Connell

Last week was certainly shocking. While I’m not a big fan of Soundgarden, I at least appreciate their impact on the Seattle music scene. So I was taken aback as everybody else finding out that the lead singer Chris Connell completed suicide.

It’s not like I’m jumping to conclusions and it’s a big mystery to solve. Unlike comparisons made to Kurt Cobain’s death, this one is cut and dried. I don’t see any room for conspiracy. The night before, he performed a concert in Detroit, the last song of the night being Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.” That just gives me chills up my spine.

Connell was found in a hotel room, a band around his neck. The verdict was very quick after finding the evidence that he hanged himself. I’m sure people might question how upfront I’m talking about this story, but it’s necessary. We need to see this clearly. Yes, Connell was fifty-two years old, seemingly a late time to consider taking your own life, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The thing that is bothering me the most with this, however. Is the response from his family. That they say he wasn’t suicidal, wouldn’t do such a thing. They actually claim that the anxiety medication he was taking was the reason why is “judgment was impaired.” Ironically, the medication he was on, Ativan, is one I just recently prescribed myself for anxiety. Side effects for these types of drugs are inevitable and sometimes all over the place, but it makes me uneasy how quickly they made that statement.

Here’s how I see the family’s response. They’re willing to shift the “blame” away from themselves, that he might have been depressed and they didn’t do anything to help, and instead blame outside sources. This is a typical pattern with suicides. The fact that suicide is in fact something that requires placing blame or ownership on the tragic situation, that it was one main factor at the root of the fatal decision.

Why do we have to go through the same pattern over and over again? We are unwilling to accept that mental illness is the cause of suicide, just like other diseases killing people. People die from heart disease, cancer, a multitude of diseases out there, and never would we say to them, “It’s selfish of you to die from this. Even if you are treating your illness in any way you can, you aren’t doing enough, so try harder.”

Because I agree, there’s nothing so bad, so unmanageable in life that it requires escaping life completely. However, in a suicidal state, that’s not on the forefront of your logic. Otherwise you wouldn’t be suicidal.

Many medications, even antidepressants, list suicidal thoughts as a side effect. So if that IS the reason for Connell’s death, once we get back a toxicology report back, that’s one thing. But when you come from a past of depression and agoraphobia like Connell does, the family’s statement feels like a defense mechanism. Going through the emotions and grief of losing a loved one to suicide, the last thing you want to be thinking is that you’re at fault. That if did one thing differently, he would still be alive. This isn’t even solely based on Connell’s career. More local suicides still go from similar patterns that, once you notice them, can feel like society is just running around in circles to avoid discussing this serious topic.

It’s almost shameful itself to accept suicide for what it is. That if we close everybody off and not say a word, or completely deny that the suicide resulted from an individual’s mental health, we’re responding normally. I wish we would take an opportunity like this to be open and honest, utilize the tragedy as an example and lesson for others to understand the complexities of mental illness.

Even if mental illness truly wasn’t the key player here, this update to the Connell story demonstrates how the stigma surrounding mental health is an active force in reporting and responding to suicide. I should just be glad that we didn’t leave Connell’s cause of death up in the air. But the aftermath is just as important to address and be mindful of how we can about it.

Those of know the victim, family and loved ones, are emotional. Heartbroken. You cannot deny them that. But their role is crucial in how the rest of the world perceives suicide. They have tragic experience with it. Not everybody has to be a vocal advocate, but I think simple words and actions resonate the loudest of all.

So where do we go from here? Suicide is all too common. Inevitably, a situation like this will arise again. But how are we going to react to it? What will the aftermath look like? How will the conversation surrounding the suicide sound? We’ve made bad habits with suicide. Our public relationship with it is still a hazy line to jump across. Something common, and yet so shameful and secretive.

Obviously the news is writing up stories on a 24/7 news cycle, so who knows what the next headline will be about Chris Connell and really anybody else in this situation. Regardless, these thoughts still stand. And we cannot forget them.

Sending my thoughts to Chris Connell’s family. May he rest in peace.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Virtual Support

It is far into May already, and I have yet to observe this month as one for National Mental Health Awareness. Silly me. Luckily others have taken notice and have brought light to this important time.

Except…sometimes I don’t know how I feel about it. Of course, I appreciate any effort people take to bring attention to mental health. Earlier this week I even read an article in USA Today about mental health services on college campuses, an encouraging sign that it’s a growing issue we cannot help but discuss.

Another form of support and attention is actually just right at our fingertips. Instagram is trying to help users find more support on its platform by having certain hashtags dedicated to people and groups that help those in need. Apparently, searching for a hashtag like #HereforYou will bring up results that break through the expected facade of social media for more intimate, helpful posts.

It’s no secret that social media isn’t the healthiest pastime to depend upon. It can be depressing to look at photos of others out doing amazing, fun activities with others. Of course you’re happy for others just enjoying life, but it’s very easy to have this acknowledgement turn into comparison. Even when it’s normal to have “FOMO,” the fear of missing out, the phenomenon is extremely isolating.

And what is isolation known for leading to? Anxiety of not doing enough with your life. Feeling hopeless about it. Not to mention how mental illness is often portrayed on social media as “trendy” or “glamorous.” A sadness that isn’t crippling. A problem that is simultaneously tragic and beautiful. Sorry, but if you’re feeling especially depressed or anxious, you probably won’t feel like posting at all unless you’re mooching others for sympathy which won’t help anybody.

We’re still biased. We still use filters before sharing with others. Many other platforms besides Instagram have begun including tools that anonymously flag any content that appears emotionally troubling. By enabling users to project the highlights of their lives, while ignoring the lower moments, social media likely contributes to feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress, particularly in young teens still trying to understand themselves and their emotions. Trust me, if I had this much social media at my disposal throughout my high school years, I’d be asking for trouble.

I don’t want to sound too critical. I am beyond glad that social media is using its great potential for good causes. But I don’t think that it’s enough, at least in this case. I mean, Instagram isn’t exactly the leader in actual conversation, which I think is much more productive. A lot of what we’ve tried to do thus far in breaking the stigma is more passive, despite using social media to communicate it. 140 characters doesn’t fully get the point across. Watching one video probably won’t change your outlook on depression or anxiety.

But it’s certainly an opportunity to start a conversation, to spark an idea for more. It’s wonderful to find people physically out of reach who you can connect with on a vulnerable level. We’re in a different era than even ten years ago when talking to others online was a recipe for disaster. Now we don’t even question it. We are less hesitant opening up about our struggles for anybody with a wireless connection can see. My blog would be nothing that it is without me letting down my guard and openly discussing my most painful moments.

As a writer, I’m biased toward long-form prose to express myself. Others might gravitate toward music or art or whatever else floats their boats. But I do have to question how these other mediums might affect others. Since there is more individual interpretation involved, less words overtly said, do we fully realize what might be behind a song or painting? Even when I’m rambling on about my feelings, I cannot fully explain my thoughts. So I expect nothing less with an Instagram post, no matter how artistic or “raw.” We might feel something when looking at a photograph, but how often do we act on it? Rarely. We keep scrolling. And we still see a majority of content that is usually surface-level.

Social media, as I’ve said numerous times, is a double-edged sword. Perhaps it can provide the necessary connections for learning more and spreading a positive message, but it shouldn’t be relied upon as an end-all solution. It’s a noteworthy effort that, while with good intentions, ignores the explicit association between social media and mental illness. Real life is not always “worthy” of being on an Instagram story (do people even use those? And if so, why?) or sharing with lots of friends expecting to receive a flood of “like” notifications. It probably feels worse to take the time to post something and receive less like’s than expected. Or compare like and follower numbers to others. It really is a mess when you think about it.

The quicker we can amplify the mental health movement beyond hashtags into other forums for active change and acknowledgement, the better off we’ll be. Social media posts tend to end up in a hamster wheel, creating some conversation but always fading away and remaining stagnant. We cannot afford to let mental health fade away as if it’s a trendy topic. We need conversation and action. Once we take mental health stigma to our real lives, I’d say I would be truly #blessed.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Counsel Some Coverage

I still cannot forget last week’s tearful opening from Jimmy Kimmel about his son’s heart problems and the health insurance that could leave so many people helpless.

I’ve always been a supporter of the ACA. I think healthcare is a basic human right we all deserve access to when we need it. I’m blessed enough to be able to visit my doctor when I need to and get the medication I require to feel balanced and sane, but so many others cannot.

But that’s not even the overarching topic today. I want to address a service health insurance still has yet to fully cover: counseling and therapy services. 

Now I’ve had two major experiences in a therapy setting. The first time was before college. That summer, I dropped to a severe low, so much so that I was actually considering suicide. I had been terrified of medication at that point, but my insurance covered five free sessions of counseling. 

I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for that counseling either because it was not for me. Giving me papers about mindfulness and positive affirmations isn’t that helpful. Fully knowing I was only a patient for a short frame of time, the quality of care was definitely surface-level. 

My second go-around was through my university’s student health and psychological services. This experience was better in the fact that there was actually some personal growth involved from going to the same person once a week for a solid 4 months.

However, there was a point where I felt like my own necessities for recovery, at that point for anorexia, were steering me away from counseling protocol. I felt more in control of my health knowing that I didn’t have to dread listing every food I ate and step on a scale on a regular basis. Veganism was a form of treatment my counselor didn’t quite grasp. Also, my sessions rarely delved into the reoccurring depression and anxiety I finally addressed after starting antidepressants. I’m grateful for those moments of clarity therapy provided, but right now, medication is my best route.

Except so often, when prescribing medication, doctors also suggest doing some form of counseling, too. Especially when first being diagnosed with mental illness, therapy can be very helpful in being able to pinpoint your emotions and how to handle them.

Everybody is different in how they best treat their mental health. Some do therapy, medication, or both, or neither (although not recommended). When mental health is still a tricky area of coverage with most insurance, options become even more limited. Which means people actively seeking help are being turned away from what they need. Depending on the severity of the illness, people could end up leading a very difficult life when they don’t have to if they received the respect and recognition they deserve. 

I don’t care if your mental health is great or not, I believe everybody, at least one point in their life, should do some counseling. It can be uncomfortable to think about yourself, your life and hard emotions, but the insight you can gain is indescribable. Except knowing how expensive therapy is without any means of insurance, it just doesn’t seem practical to try, especially if it takes some trial and error to find a counselor you click with. 

Mental health stigma transcends beyond just societal hesitation. Many aspects of life overlook the importance of mental health, including healthcare and health insurance. Mental illness is just as detrimental to individuals as physical illness is, and yet we continue to treat them as very different, distinct things. As if psychology is not science and proven fact. As if wellness only pertains to your visible condition, discluding your brain as an organ.

I might not be using therapy right now, but I could easily see myself going back to it in the future. And everybody should be able to rely upon counseling services if that is what works best for them. People should not have their only insurance-covered therapy be an awkward experience that steers them away from any future counseling. We need affordable means of seeing top-quality psychologists and counselors who have the potential to save lives. If we want to think about mental health differently, we cannot change much without support from professionals. That requires healthcare and insurance. That requires action.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Relieve the Study Stress

Whether you’re about to graduate with your high school diploma or your Bachelor’s degree, there are some aspects of education that we don’t learn much about. That education comes from experience, some trial and error, and hopefully we each stumble upon something that works best for us.

Yes, I’m talking about stress, an inevitable part of life. Getting assignments done, studying for tests, writing papers, somehow balancing every other area of life…it’s not easy. Except we all go through it. The real deviant is how we handle it.

I’m certainly not an expert. If you think I have my life together, then I must be a good actor. However, I do place a very high value on mental and emotional wellness. When we neglect to address and take care of the less visible signs of health, everything else suffers the consequences.

Wondering how much stress affects the body? Research from Mayo Clinic shows stress negatively affecting your body, mood and behavior. Stress can result in a wide range of consequences, including headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, sadness, restlessness, irritability, and much more. The American Psychological Association even goes on to list how chronic stress wreaks havoc on every single system within the body. For those who might not take stress seriously as a dangerous condition, perhaps the physical manifestations of stress will be convincing.

High school was certainly stressful. I don’t know how I managed to wake up by 6 AM every morning and make it through until after school activities. So with a freer schedule, college seems to be a slight break from constant work and focus. However, with college also comes independence. Living away from home and learning how to balance the academic, social, and other areas of life isn’t always easy. Classes add on tests and long essays to the plate, and life can feel like an endless conveyor belt piling on more and more stress.

Although there is a heavy focus on getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising, learning how to manage stress can feel very foreign. Yes, stress is helpful and stimulating, but excessive amounts that are present in a college environment. Wellness should be thought of as a scale with equal weights on each side. Throw one side off its alignment, and the other side becomes more precarious.

The same representation goes for stress. Someone who is always feeling overwhelmed, eats poorly, and doesn’t get enough sleep, a stereotypical and realistic description of many college students, usually has a limited ability to cope with stressful events. A college campus may be a temporary situation, but the environment should be utilized as a tool for young people to learn how to prioritize their well-being whilst feeling fulfilled with their education and relationship with others.

This is where I’ll probably end up sounding like a mom. However, just two short years ago, I was just another high school graduate off on a new adventure. Like so many others, I wasn’t entirely prepared for what my daily routine would become. Not only was I worried about living up to my inner expectations of what college “should” be, or how shows make it out to be, I was also prioritizing my schoolwork above everything else. Obviously this combination didn’t turn out well.

It’s helpful to know that this occurrence is very common among all college students, but that fact doesn’t excuse the concern of this severe stress happening in the first place. By learning how to manage individual stress in whatever way works best before moving into a dorm room, students may alleviate the severity of stressful times and become more resilient, conscious people.

To prevent some stress before it ever reaches fruition, organization and time management both act as valuable tools. Yes, that means not procrastinating everything to the last minute and actually learning how to study effectively. Canada’s York University lists the importance of goal-setting, tracking time spent in daily activities, and using a planner to keep things in order.

Stress management is not a one-size-fits-all skill. Finding whatever self-care activities or practices work best for individuals will probably take some trial and error. Some classic relaxation techniques include deep breathing, listening to music, and reading. Ultimately, whatever takes the mind off of the hectic noise of everyday life should be incorporated into students’ weekly or daily routines.

Also, the power of talking with counselors or empathetic loved ones shouldn’t be underestimated. According to counseling resources from the University of Florida, it’s easy to get caught up in a problem or a narrow view of something and feel that a failure or roadblock is a catastrophe. Discussing problems with a trusted professional or helpful ear allows people to gain new outside perspective and move out of what might seem like an isolated and negative internal world. The act of verbalizing or just jotting down concerns and putting them together often provides a sense of grounding control.

Nobody is perfect in handling stress. I’m certainly no master of zen. Everybody is always in a state of change, learning and growth. In this state, however, individuals can choose to be aware of what may lie ahead. We each only have one body and one life. A certain test or situation is only temporary, but our health is always there. Underlying every new experience, no matter how stressful, let’s prioritize maintaining balance. The degree will come, but let’s make the journey getting there a little easier and healthier.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Ask Me About Mental Health

With everything I’ve ever discussed regarding mental health, which I’m sure I’ve run the gamut of mental health topics over the past year, there’s something I’ve noticed recently that I just feel like pointing out.

When discussing how important it is the end of the stigma surrounding mental illness, there’s a lot of discussion. Sharing posts on your Facebook page about some relatable article or video. Tweeting something out on designated days of mental health observance. But beyond that? That’s where it gets questionable.

I don’t want to be someone constantly harping on about mental illness because with any topic, it isn’t appropriate in many settings. However, on a regular basis, rarely do we go in-depth. Perhaps that is simply a reflection of the conversations and interactions we have anyways, making small talk about approachable things.

Because talking about mental illness isn’t comfortable. It feels awkward, outside of a therapy setting, to talk about how you truly feel. A few close friends and I have gone into the depths of how mental illness affects each other, but that was it. And how are we supposed to understand how mental illness uniquely affects each of our lives, how will we learn? How will we grow?

There’s a reason why I have difficulties with small talk. No, it’s not just social anxiety nor my introverted tendencies, but those certainly play a role. I find the words I speak very valuable, and I feel wasteful when I talk about topics I don’t really care about. Don’t come to me expecting gossip or even a mediocre ability to talk about personal stories. It’s not my thing. Although I do realize it’s a basic part of social interaction, it doesn’t come naturally to me, and I end up thinking often about how I wish conversations were like. The cliche “let’s talk about the universe” and all that jazz.

I think lots of hesitancy comes from not wanting to be “triggering.” Not wanting to set something off, not knowing how they might react to questions or concerns. So we dance around it, keep things very simple to avoid going in a potentially unknown direction. Which I do think you should be smart about how you go about discussing mental health, but how will we know unless we try? Maybe we say something wrong, but the effort in wanting to genuinely know how others think and live is important.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the phrase, “Talk a walk in someone else’s shoes.” Except I don’t believe that to be true. Even if you’re an empath like me, you cannot truly and completely understand somebody else because you aren’t them. There are so many factors involved in how they go about their lives, but it’s more realistic to walk alongside someone and devote attention to others that goes beyond the surface.

We put up fairly tall walls for ourselves. It’s hard to trust others. Mental health, it’s really personal. Obviously not everyone is busy writing on a public blog about their mental illness -cough, me-. But for people who don’t have a history or any experience with mental illness, who might be trying to understand somebody else who does…heck, even if you do have a personal past with it and trying to understand somebody else’s unique illness, I think we need to practice becoming comfortable with it.

We can take the baby steps. Even just seeing it on social media and elsewhere is very encouraging. But we shouldn’t just stop at the surface level and call it a day. One person’s admittance of mental illness won’t be like somebody else’s. You can’t simplify mental health as a cookie-cutter stereotype of what symptoms you might expect because they might not always be true. It’s about trying to find a middle ground where it’s appropriate to be open and honest with others whilst still respecting their privacy.

Have I made any sense today? I just feel like we shouldn’t be afraid to let our guards down more often, to ask some tougher questions, and dig deeper to understand each other better. From both ends of communication, we need to be open-minded and create a space that welcomes everything, ugly or not.

We’re trying to sugarcoat mental illness. Glamorize the symptoms, make the diagnoses more “trendy.” But that isn’t helping anybody. There are so many resources out there to learn about mental health, but the best resources are people, unfiltered. Not professionally produced content. Not viral little articles from the Odyssey or Thought Catalog. And official, educated places aren’t going to dig deep beyond the common symptoms and treatments.

It’s up to us to keep fighting the stigma. It’s not an overnight process. It won’t always feel great. But for those strong individuals willing to break through the static and spread awareness, and those kind individuals willing to listen and support a cause that might not even directly affect them, we have the power to make lasting change.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Serving up Intuition

Once I learned about the concept of intuitive eating, especially in the thick of disordered eating, I was simply appalled. In pure disbelief that there are people who are so in-tuned with themselves, they don’t overthink the food they eat. That sounds like a fantasy world where we all frolic through fields of wildflowers and chase rainbows.

Admittedly, intuitive eating is recent phenomenon that, on the surface, looks like a passing trend. But I could also say that about the rise of veganism, as many people see it, but I would beg to differ.

In a world obsessed with new diets popping up every day, intuitive eating could almost be described as an “anti-diet.” Essentially, those who follow the lifestyle listen to their natural hunger cues. They don’t count as calories or macro-nutrients. They don’t consider foods good or bad. They don’t stick to a strict time schedule of eating at the exact same time every day. They don’t obsess over the size of their plate or going in for seconds.

Maybe it’s just me, but living this lifestyle sounds like being some sort of zen master. The fact people can feel zero guilt for listening to their cravings and knowing when they’re hungry and satiated is mind-boggling to me. And yes, I do see that as blowing every other diet out of the water.

Although the terminology is recent, intuitive eating is really a basic concept. It’s not like other species are thinking about the amount they’re eating or what energy they’re burning. They innately know what they need to survive, and they don’t hold themselves back from that. Humans started out like that, too, contrary to the weird Paleo trends of “eating like a caveman.” Food is a source of energy and shouldn’t have a strict hold over your life.

In an ideal world, we would all be intuitive eating. We’d naturally be at our optimal sizes and shapes, we’d accept each other and ourselves as is, and we’d just strive to be our healthiest selves. But that would be way too easy on us. We’re already so ingrained with counting and measuring, it’s not easy to let that go and just be.

Ask anybody, and you’re going to struggle to find someone who hasn’t at one point gone on a diet or struggled with a form of disordered eating. Especially if you’re in the thick of recovery, don’t try to convince yourself that you can successfully eat intuitively. Trust me, I’ve tried. It didn’t work.

When we binge or restrict, we completely throw off our natural hunger cues. Even if you’re simply trying to follow some fad diet with a specific meal plan, we teach ourselves how to ignore the signals. We distract and discipline ourselves with controlling rules. Your mind and body become out of sync. Worst case scenario, you lose any sense of hunger or satiation all together as your body loses trust in your actions. Again, trust me, I’ve been there. In the disorder you seek control, and yet that’s the complete opposite of reality.

When I say I see intuitive eating as a monk-like practice, I mean that it indeed takes trust and patience because it’s very against the grain of modern diet culture. For so many, saying that food is truly just food, a part of being a living organism, it’s not easy to let that reality sink in. You must gauge your emotions and how your body feels before and after eating. You must avoid distractions to actually notice the signs of hunger or fullness. You actually slow down and become mindful of the activity that is eating and nourishing your body.

Obviously this isn’t an overnight change, and you cannot truly eat intuitively until you have some sense of normalcy if you come from a disordered background. But I think that once you can develop that natural, healthy relationship with food, you don’t overeat or restrict. Your weight doesn’t yo-yo regularly. Your mind isn’t chained to the empirical data or potential effects of every bite you eat.

I’m saying all of this out of admiration for those who successfully let themselves live and eat. Intuitive eating has definitely become an ultimate goal when it comes to my relationship with food. Since going vegan, it’s definitely gotten better, but I accept that it may never be perfect. The principles of the lifestyle, however, are very encouraging for anybody struggling: food is nourishment, and constantly monitoring your intake is not sustainable in the long-term.

I wish dieting didn’t exist. I wish so many people didn’t look in the mirror with disgust at their bodies. I wish we didn’t lust after certain “goals” based on how others live. I wish we didn’t stick on a label on every single food and attach “goodness” to them. I’d certain frolic if that were the world we live in.

Now more than ever, we need to relearn the habits we’ve picked up from magazines and click bait articles and commercials promoting the newest weight loss system. We’ve learned that the way we may naturally want to eat is wrong and must be regimented to fit specific standards. Instead, let’s learn that there is nothing wrong with our body’s cravings. There’s nothing wrong with how we look or the place our unique bodies individually thrive. If there’s anything wrong, it’s the belief that we aren’t good enough and need to change how we look and eat.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

For the Ones I Love

Note: I’m writing this in finals week. Simply put, it’s been tough. I can hardly sleep. I feel so overwhelmed and the worth I place in grades is really driving me to a dark place. I’ll be done with the semester once this post is published which will surely be a relief, but as always, I’m not here to sugarcoat my ups and downs. I want to show the reality of mental illness, how ugly it can make me feel. My intentions and gratitude, however, are especially raw and always relevant.

Mental illness, in all of its dark control over the minds of those affected, ends up controlling a lot of what’s going on outside of our heads.

On my better days, I don’t realize fully I was having bad ones until I clearly see the aftermath. In the thick of that aftermath is the people I love and care about.

Although I am very goal-oriented and a tad perfectionist when it comes to my work and education, but as I get older, I put increasing priority in my family and friends, the people I choose to keep in my life that enrich it and make it worth living. I place self-worth in the goals I accomplish and the impact I make, but at the end of the day, it’s the people who are there supporting you that matter.

Except when I’m too anxious to fall asleep at night, or I feel beyond empty and lonely, I cannot tell you the resulting guilt of being such a negative energy to my family, or I face an intense fear of leaving my house or answering messages or letting others down.

In the darkest moments, we feel like a burden to our loved ones. We feel like we have to be strong and put on a face to support those people and help them with whatever we need. But then we end up neglecting our own health as we try to pour from an empty cup.

For me and many others, it’s easy to resort to isolation. Nobody to hurt or disappoint, nobody to see us when we’re our weakest, when we have barely any energy to just be a functioning human being.

So when I feel fine enough again, it’s a sea of apologies, for feeling like I was a shell of my true self who innately pushes everyone away. Sometimes it feels like an endless cycle.

Admittedly, when I was younger and didn’t even know I was struggling, it was much harder for me to see the cycle and know what I was doing. And although I was ignorant, it was simpler on myself not knowing. I didn’t address how I was feeling. I figured it was normal constantly yo-yo between craving solitude so I wouldn’t have to deal with others while being stuck in a figurative void, and manically pacing with worry thinking I was all alone and nobody cares about me and I’m failing at life. Which then leads back to sadness. Fun, right?

It has helped tremendously to know what I face on a daily basis and acknowledge it openly with others. But it still doesn’t necessarily help how it affects others. Actually, it makes me feel more guilty knowing what I’m doing and struggling to manage it.

So why am I rambling today? Why the stream of consciousness? Because I want to say thank you. Thank you for still sticking around when I shut down and can no longer find words to explain myself. Thank you for your kind words and gestures when I admit a difficult day. Thank you for understanding when I struggle to simply reply to a text message, or when I cancel plans unexpectedly because I’m too anxious to leave my house. Thank you for your affirmations even when it’s hard even for me to understand why I do what I do.

I still worry often about my place in the world. That I’m forgettable, a small, mediocre being who doesn’t have much to offer. But the people who see my worth when I’m blind to it, who still think of me with thoughtful little gestures, who see strength in me when I’m falling apart.

No matter what the depression or anxiety may try to convince me, I am enough. I have enough. The high quality of friends and family in my life are far beyond I could ever hope to have. And if I can make a difference for just one person, it’s worth it.

Because yes, those with mental illness are so strong, the people who choose to support those who are mentally ill have just as much strength. It’s not easy. It’s easy to walk away and be sick and tired of the emotional absence. The people who look beyond the ugly and still see beauty in others who may be suffering, you are a blessing. The world needs more of you. You don’t have to completely understand the ins and outs of mental health. You just have to be there.

So again, thank you does not begin to cover it all. Thank you a million times over.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie