Let’s Talk about Mental Heath

Hi. My name is Andrea and I have borderline personality disorder. (All together now… “Hi, Andrea.”) My disease is characterized mainly by the extreme spectrum of emotions that I experience every day- when I’m happy, I’m really happy. When I’m sad, I’m really sad. With these severe highs and lows, I am particularly sensitive emotionally. A stranger can shoot me a mean glance for whatever reason on a Tuesday and I’ll be depressed the rest of the week because it. I go through periods of intense loneliness and feel rejected when someone doesn’t return a text message or cancels plans. Because of my lack of emotion regulation, I often come to extreme conclusions and I have a pretty negative opinion of myself (even though deep down, I know that I’m attractive, smart and a decent human being). Also, because of my lack of emotion regulation, I have a hard time expressing feelings. On the days I have an especially hard time at work or school, I want to hole up in my room, not wanting to talk to anyone. This silence can last for days as I usually spend that time sleeping. When I don’t have any responsibilities, I can spend about 22 hours of one particular day sleeping.

I don’t know why I’ve been blessed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Some medical professionals claim that BPD is genetic while others say it is situational, often caused by lack of care as an infant. I don’t know anything about my life prior to my adoption when I was a toddler. However, I have done some research. Even though I have never been formally diagnosed with these disorders, I believe that I suffered from attachment disorder and selective mutism as a child, which developed into social anxiety as I’ve gotten older (there is a recent and interesting CNN special that stated 79% of adopted children, adopted domestically or abroad at any age, suffered or will suffer from some form of mental illness).

the Depression Monster (by Toby Allen)

the Depression Monster (by Tony Allen)

My illness has affected everyone in my life: my family, my friends, roommates, every single relationship I’ve been in. I don’t know how my parents managed to handle me growing up, raising me and my other sisters to become functioning, productive members of society. It has been a long, bumpy road and even though I do get depressed and down, I do like to believe that I have a good handle on things. I stay balanced with moderate excercise, I reach out for help when I need it and I’m considering the one-step-further option of taking anti-anxiety medication. Most days, I feel great.

In our society, we are told that being sad is a bad thing.  Of course, we don’t like to see the people that we care about feeling blue so we tell them to suck it up and stop crying; to get out of bed and move on; to see the sunshine through the rain clouds. Look, I know that talking about depression is, well, depressing but depression shouldn’t be something that we gloss over with a simple phrase. Often times, those small words hurt, not help. I understand that these words don’t intentionally support the cruelness associated with joke but they’re still painful. Mental illness, in whatever form, is not something to make fun of. It’s something to take seriously. People shouldn’t be ashamed to tell the people that they love that they or that they have a psychotic disorder or battled through anorexia. They should be welcomed with open arms and be encouraged to seek out proper help and share their story. We listen and sympathize with those who have cancer or a fever- mental illness is just as common as a cold. So, let’s talk about it and figure out how we can help people we care about.

According to the Associated Press, Aaron Alexis, the shooter in last Monday’s incident in Washington D.C. suffered from mental health issues- post traumatic stress disorder and paranoia with claims of hearing voices. If we have learned anything from these last several shootings across the United States and about the mental health conditions these people faced, we need to start addressing such diseases and conditions, making things like schizophrenia and depression less taboo, and caring properly for those who unfortunately suffer with such illnesses. Instead of focusing on gun control, can’t we focus on getting the funding to support mental health research and treatment? Let’s morph the stigma into awareness.

the Anxiety monster (by Tony Allen)

the Anxiety Monster (by Tony Allen)

I shared my story. I know that this one account won’t make everyone feel better about discussing mental health. But I do hope it inspires to change beliefs- your beliefs, the ones of your friends, the ones who make decisions that affect our country. Beliefs become thoughts that become actions. Those actions become habits and habits make up our life. The so-called “shame” of mental health must be erased.

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For more of Tony Allen’s work, visit zestydoesthings.tumblr.com

Keep Fighting the Good Fight

I write this 20Something post, gulping down a 1.5 liter bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon while haphazardly watching “the Departed.” Yes, it’s been one of those days, slowly turning into one of those nights. I had a couple of friends bail over the last few days, been insanely stressed at work and really didn’t feel like waking up this morning.

My brain is spinning with too many issues to worry about. I have $25,000 in debt right now- student loans, an eviction, a cell phone bill I should have paid off years ago. Thinking about my debt keeps me up at night, wondering how I’m going to pay it- if I’ll ever pay it off. I spent those sleepless nights wondering if I’m ever going to get married and have a family- a dining room table full of my sons; if I’ll to move back to New York City- the one place in the world where I felt like I could be completely myself; if I’ll ever write for something bigger, actually do something bigger with my life; why did I choose journalism as a profession to begin with; wondering why I push myself so hard when I see little results; why I do I feel the need to be Superwoman and do so much every day with no break; why I bend over backwards for others when I don’t receive the same treatment from them- I need more friends but where did this recent social anxiety come from…

Is this as good as it gets? I think about that all the time. From the moment I wake to those sleepless nights, I asked myself that question over and over again.

My friend, Annamae, author of the awesome fitness blog, Miss Mae Dae, came over to hang out last week. We talked about future plans and having too much on our plates, agreeing that the end, everything we do right now will be worth it. After we said our goodbyes and I watched her walk to her car, she threw over her shoulder, “Keep fighting the good fight.”

My mom calls me “her fighter.” I’m her daughter that fought a 12-year battle against self-mutilation and issues with my body and food. I left rehab three years ago brave and strong. I conquered New York City and am facing the challenge of finishing my degree while trying my best to kick ass at my job. When I think about the cinematic warriors I’ve seen on movies and television (everyone from Wallace in “Braveheart” to Katniss Everdeen in “the Hunger Games”), they charge on, waving around axes and sword, shooting every arrow in their quiver until they win. They don’t stop. They may see people die around them and their dreams fade but they carry on.

There is nothing to do but to keep going forth. Fight those battles. Conquer the crusade against your doubts, fears and the people slip those things into your mind and heart. Continue attack that struggle we all seems to put on ourselves. The end is worth all battle scars and kinks in our armor.

In closing to this entry, dear reader, I want you to know that I’m on your side. I am your cheerleader, your soccer mom handing you juice boxes after practice. Life is hard. Life is painful. It can be bloody with severe casualties just like a battlefield. But keep fighting that good fight. I’m sure you’ll defeat the anguish and win victoriously.

Battle on.