24/7 Anxiety (Yay)

Trigger warning for anxiety, OCD, and violent intrusive thoughts

I have been so anxious lately and nothing has been helping. Everything makes me anxious. Talking to people makes me anxious, being near people makes me anxious, people’s expectations make me anxious, and even thinking about those things makes me anxious. Knowing how behind I am in school makes me anxious, and thinking about how I’m disappointing people by not being my normal self is making me anxious, and feeling like I have no one who really likes me at school is making me anxious. It’s making me anxious that my birthday is coming up, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when I become an adult next year. Even being alone in my room makes me anxious because I’m just avoiding my anxious thoughts and the thought of having anxiety makes me anxious.

So yeah, literally everything is making me anxious.

My obsessive thoughts are not helping. Most of it is stuff like people are going to die because of the socks I picked out, my family will get into a car crash because I used the wrong color pen, or that I didn’t step on an equal amount of cracks with both feet and so now my leg is going to get amputated. I get super anxious about everyday actions causing harm to people I love or to myself. I can’t avoid the anxiety even if I’m not thinking about other people and their thoughts of me, because even my brain has turned against me. It’s really hard to keep the obsessive thoughts away, and not doing the compulsions that come with them gives me so much anxiety that it’s overwhelming.

Basically, it feels like I’m in a sinking ship and nothing is working to help me learn to swim and nobody is hearing me when I ask or scream for help and everybody hates me. Anyways.

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The Ups and Downs with Life

As time went on, my emotions started to grow into something not so pretty. My thoughts and feelings followed me everywhere, even when I wanted nothing to do with them. I was trapped and claustrophobic. I would come home from school and sit in silence, and do nothing. My motivation was gone, my happiness was fake, and my mental health was non existent. Sometimes it would hurt to cry because the mental pain I was in.

Photo credit: Joey Guidone

I was getting better. I wanted, no I needed to get better. I talked with someone, a couple someones, and I worked on my mental health. I started feeling bursts of happiness and motivation. These feelings that I have not felt in a long time. I thought I was getting better, I thought life was treating me well. Until it was not.

This time I understood what I was feeling, and I wanted it to stop. I did everything I could to get better, and I knew it was going to be a long process with setbacks. I was kind to myself, as well as patient. It took a while, and I still have ups and downs, but I am getting better. It is a day-by- day process.

I am finally able to say that I’m truly happy with life.

Pressure of Life

Life is hard. Life is not fair. Life has many ups and downs, especially growing up.

Once you reach a certain age, responsibilities pile up and you are expected to become more self-reliant. The teenage years are rough- balancing school, friendships, and family life. Then add the prospects of mental health and relationships.

Mental health is really important and life could take a toll on one’s mental health. Anxiety due to school and other things. Depression or sadness due to life and the tolls that life brings onto someone.

photo credit: Medical News Today

Relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships are really hard to navigate during the teenage years. Finding a connection that works is hard, and is really important to keep one sane.

School is very stressful. Teachers and parents put pressure on students and kids to do well in school, so they can do well in life. Students and kids also put pressure on themselves to get into great colleges.

Life is full of ups and downs, full of scary and fun moments.

Reflecting on the past

Recently I have found myself looking back and reflecting on life before March 13, 2020.

Prior to that date, i was busy being social, going out with people, even sharing drinks from friends waterbottles. But today, that all seems so bizzar.

Its crazy how much seven months can change someone.

I now can’t seem to remember how life was before we had to wear masks or make sure we obsessively washed our hands.

I am now so used to making sure I put my mask on before I enter a building or if I am around people, but why was it so easy to completely re-program the way I live my life.

I do miss the days where I did not have to think twice about approaching someone. I miss long hugs with friends and family that you haven’t seen in a long time. I miss meeting someone for the first time and shaking their hand. I miss being in a room with people all together and seeing smiling faces. I miss it all.

I miss life before March 13, 2020. It was simpler and there seemed to be less evil in the world, even if that was not the case.

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Statistics

Everyone on my mom’s side suffers from depression. Some members on my dad’s side are alcoholics and suicidal.

Addiction is 50% genetic and 50% due to poor coping skills.

Depression is 40% genetic and 60% environmental.

Due to this, I am 90% screwed.

Mental health is something that has affected my life for years and will continue to.

When I was thirteen I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD.

By fourteen I was engulfed in an eating disorder that controlled and altered my life. My eating disorder was a blend of all evils, a coping skill for all my problems.

I hated my body, felt out of control in many aspects of my life, experienced great anxiety around food, and believed people would love me if I was skinny.

Starving myself fixed my problems, or at least I thought it did. I lost weight rapidly. I felt in control when I refused to eat. I got hooked in my ways.

But like for all things, the high only lasted so long… Even after losing sixty pounds, being underweight, and having every rib and bone in my spine visible, I still looked in the mirror and thought I was fat. My anxiety began to get worse, the panic attacks were hourly occurrences, and my heart began to fail due to the lack of calories and nutrients. I felt out of control once again, so I restricted even more.

It was a vicious cycle, and it continued… leaving me falling deeper into darkness, insanity, and sadness.

By the summer of that same school year, I was in the hospital. My struggles with mental health were close to taking my life.

Years have gone by now, and much has changed.

I no longer cope with anxiety and depression by restricting my food intake, I no longer weigh 80 pounds. I’m back in school, back in sports, and am much more emotionally stable.

But some things haven’t.

I still have anxiety attacks weekly, I still hate my body and worry about weight, and I am still extremely insecure and it affects how I act (making me seem full of myself when in reality I just need someone to reassure me that I’m not absolute shit). And lastly, I still feel out of control around food. I am unable to stop myself around certain types of food and it scares me.  I feel like my previous ability to say no to food has disappeared, and it scares me. I feel like I have gone from starving my self to binging. It scares me a lot.

I need to find balance and balance is hard to find.

Due to statistics and my past, mental health is something I am going to have to deal with for the entirety of my life.

I don’t like this, but I can’t change this. So every day I strive to find healthy ways to cope with the way my brain thinks, the emotions I feel, and my general outlook on life because I believe, with effort and dedication,  everyone has the opportunity to be happy, no matter how hard it may be.

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Warr;or

I think semicolons are beautiful.

The definition of a semicolon is a punctuation mark indicating a pause between two main clauses.

Semicolons are useful in writing and are taught in English class, but, to me, they are much more than a punctuation mark.

A semicolon is a moment where a writer could have stopped, but they decided to continue on.

I am the writer and life is the sentence. I write a semicolon because I could end, but I will choose to keep on going.

I have struggled in the past with self harm and this metaphor helped guide me through it and become the happy and healthy person I am today. Although I no longer struggle with the impulses to end my life, the semicolon metaphor still applies to me more than ever. The semicolon is most commonly equated to mental health, suicide, and depression. To me, this symbol can be applied to everything.

In life ,I strive to be the best I can. The best athlete I can be, the best student I can be, the best person I can be, the best friend I can be.

When I’m on a run and want to stop, I picture a semicolon. I have the power to stop, but I have the power to keep on going. I will keep on going.

When I see a person who is sad, I picture a semicolon. I could just keep walking, but I can help them. I will help them.

When debating between taking the easiest route or the route that is harder but strengthens you as a person, think of a semicolon and always remember:

You are the writer and life is your sentence. Embody the meanings of a semicolon and keep on striving forward.

 

Photo Credit: Dictionary.com

“sometimes it takes more courage to live than to kill yourself”

i hope you’re okay.

i miss you.

you seem happier now, we both do.

but, we both know deep down that we will most likely never be fully okay.

i ask myself all the time… what could i have done better?

how could i have helped you, made you see what i saw in you?

you sat on the edge for a while, staring over the ledge at the busy freeway. i stood starring at you from below, sobbing.

in your mind, there was nothing to live for, nothing worth living for.

live for me, i thought. live for me. please live for me.

it’s selfish, but i needed you, in all honesty, i still do.

i loved you then, i love you now.

you didn’t jump because you knew that if you did, it wouldn’t kill you. you’d survive the fall and, when you woke up, you’d be sent to a place far worse than the center we were at.

i lived with you for two months in a residential treatment center for eating disorders until we were both discharged.

we suffered together, we cried together, but we laughed together too.

we’d talk in spanish complaining about the staff, we’d talk about boys, we’d talk about all the things we’d do once we got out of center for discovery (the treatment center we were at), and all things we would do together.

at the center, all sharp objects, from knives to pen caps, are locked in a cabinet which only the staff has a key too.

i remember that one night in our room. i heard a noise coming from your side of the room.

the staff who watches us at night had fallen asleep and someone had forgotten to lock away a pen cap.

you lay in bed, a broken pen cap in your hand, and blood on your wrists.

i ran to you and tried to take away the cap. you pushed me away, i lunged at you again and took it.

i grabbed your arms and forced them around me. you sobbed, begging for the cap. i could almost hear you internally begging to me, “end this please, end me please.”

you kept on saying please in between sobs. over and over again: “please.”

“shhh,” i whispered crying. “shhh”.

you were seventeen at the time, i was thirteen.

i was a ninety-pound, anorexic, thirteen-year-old girl living in a metal hospital.

you were a bulimic, suicidal, seventeen-year-old girl living in a mental hospital.

i held you for what felt like hours, i hugged you until you stopped crying.

you’re nineteen.

i don’t see you much anymore, we talk sometimes though.

you were sent back to the center twice because you relapsed.

you seem better now though, you seem happy now, but i worry a lot.

Photo Credit: peakviewbh.com

you’re nineteen. if you go back to your old ways, you’re parents can’t legally force you back to the center, you’re an adult.

if you wanted to, you can find a bigger ledge, one that could end it all.

i can’t protect you anymore, i’m not there to grab the pen cap.

you are happy now, but we both know how fast things can change.

i hope you stay happy forever. please stay happy forever.

if you are ever sad, please tell me.

thirteen years old in a treatment center, fifteen years old in my room writing this, twenty years old wherever i’ll be then, no matter what age or what place, i will always be here to hold you.

Dear Netflix

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE, EATING DISORDERS

Dear Netflix,

Please stop making shows/ movies about mental illness willy-nilly. Coming from a girl with clinical depression and anxiety, your depictions never get it right. I’m a sucker for any entertainment, especially your notoriously binge-worthy shows, but your new affinity for “starting a conversation” and “bringing awareness” to such prominent issues is doing more harm than good.

Photo Credit: hollywoodreporter.com

First, let’s start with the insanely popular 13 Reasons Why, which follows the events that “led up” to junior Hannah Baker’s suicide. Back in May, when I watched the show, I felt disgust whenever it was brought up. I had watched it because I was so excited to see how a major platform, like Netflix, could start a trend of accurate representation of mental illness in the media. To my dismay, this show became another failure. I wrote a lot about this show in a previous blogpost, but I have a few things I forgot to mention. Besides being extremely triggering for those with suicidal ideations and/or depression, the show’s creators forgot to think about the very real consequences of putting out what they did. In the two weeks following the show’s release, searches relating to suicide, such as “how to commit suicide” or “how to kill yourself,” went up over 19%. To put it into different numbers, about 1.5 million more searches were made relating to suicide. Yes, these statistics aren’t exactly the show’s fault, but such a dramatic spike had to have some catalyst. Also, many teenagers and adults started performing “copycat” suicides or suicides that resembled that of Hannah Baker’s. For example, a 23 year old man committed suicide and left behind 13 audio recordings assigning blame to people he knew for their part in his suicide. You can’t possibly tell me that he didn’t have any persuasion from either the book or TV show. Since the show did not follow guidelines from the World Health Association, a very reputable expert of health in my opinion, on how to portray suicide in a healthy, non-triggering way, many people have faced grave fates on the creators’ behalves.

Moving on, Netflix most recently released a show, Atypical, about a senior in high school with autism. I, again, watched the entire season, very quickly I might add. Sam, the main character, navigates the new world of dating, which involves getting his first girlfriend. He and his girlfriend, Paige, have a sweet relationship, but it all ends when he admits his love for his therapist, Julia, in front of her entire family. Writer Matthew Rozsa writes about how grotesque this specific incident is, among the many others of show. “These aren’t classic signs of autism — they’re violent, creepy, cruel and make the autistic character seem like a monster. When the show then shifts gears to make us feel sorry for Sam, the characterization becomes more offensive. Arguing that those with neurological conditions shouldn’t be held accountable for hurting others is as patronizing as it is socially irresponsible,” he said. Sam even says that autistic people don’t lack empathy, which is very true even though many on the spectrum can’t physically or verbally express it, but some of his actions contradict that. The Olive Garden scene is an example of it, Sam, being as high functioning as he is, couldn’t realistically not see his wrongdoings, as shown by his overall awareness throughout other parts of the show.

Photo Credit: collider.com

The show also follows the lives of Sam’s family and how they have to accommodate him. This is one of the only things that is represented fairly and realistically, as an autism diagnosis doesn’t mean that loving, sarcastic, silly dynamics of family go away. However, this notion that autism is an issue that affects everything about a family’s dynamics is very harmful. Although I don’t have anyone in my family with autism or personally have autism myself, I know that living with this disability is tough. Not only is it hard to function in the world, the stigma that comes along with it is also extremely hard. That’s something this show forgets about. In trying to make an accurate representation of autism, the creators forget to get to the true depths of the disability. While writing this post, I had a long conversation with one of my friends about the show. While she doesn’t have autism herself, some of her family does. What the show misses is the fact that autism has a huge toll on the families it affects, but also the person. Actor Mickey Rowe tells of the gross misrepresentation of this notion. “Sam is a high school senior at a regular school, and he doesn’t use an assistant or paraeducator, so he’s largely independent. Yet his parents seem to hint that they haven’t been able to go on a date since he was born, implying that they’ve sacrificed their own lives to help him through his. What’s more, they talk about Sam as if they don’t have anything in common with him and at times appear to present their son’s autism as a tragedy,” he said. The show lacks the rough toll autism has on the individual, even though there are plenty of first-person accounts they could’ve included in it.

The show claims Sam is high-functioning, but his symptoms are all over the place. In a series of interviews with autistic viewers of Atypical done by The Mighty, Lamar Hardwick, who is on the spectrum himself, explains this perfectly. “There were parts of the episode where I felt some autistic traits Gilchrist [Sam’s actor] displayed were a bit too overstated. While the actor did a pretty good job overall, issues such as lack of eye contact and taking things literally started to feel like a caricature of autism. I’m not sure that an autistic person would always see themselves in that light,” he said. Although the show means well, it makes autism into an anecdote, focusing on common symptoms, to provide a goofy portrayal of Sam’s autism.

You’re left with a character who is kind of a jerk and has an overly-dramatic version of what autism really is. It’s even worse when you see how his family’s characters are much more developed and multi-faceted than his. Possibly the biggest fluke in this show is that none of the creators have autism or a family member with it. Instead, the screenwriter and executive producer, Robia Rashid, “had to do a lot of research.” Research doesn’t always lead to accurate findings, though. Sadly, this show missed the mark about how real autism really is.

Photo Credit: ew.com

Now, I may be coming off as extremely negative, but there is one show (well, movie actually) that I wanted to finish my letter with. That would be To The Bone. Again, this movie doesn’t get the eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa 100% correct. The main character, played by Lily Collins, is a young, privileged, white, and skinny girl who has divorced parents and extreme family issues. This movie had the opportunity to showcase a fat, unprivileged grown man or a person of color with the same disease to show that it doesn’t just affect those that look like Ellen, Lily Collin’s character. As far as eating disorders go, anorexia is very prominent in the media. There are so many movies and books talking about this disease. What I liked about this movie, especially compared to 13 Reasons Why and Atypical, is that the director and the main actress both have had anorexia. An article from Variety magazine describes Marti Noxon’s, the director, accurate portrayal of the disease as, “ [not an] especially pleasant movie to watch, but it is one that just might save a few lives.” What you get when you watch To The Bone isn’t some linear progression to recovery, but an extremely up-and-down diegesis that ultimately shows that recovery, something that is desperately needed when dealing with an eating disorder, is worth it in the end.

One thing I like to mention before I finish, can you tell me one thing these characters have in common? I hinted at it in the last paragraph. Still guessing? They’re all white! Not only is the media containing a complete lack of representation of mental illness, gender, sexuality, and people of color, but you never see a culmination between any of these themes. GLAAD does a very well-rounded data analysis of misrepresentation in media overall and I recommend you check it out. Netflix had a wonderful opportunity to create shows with directors and actors with these disabilites/diseases. They have all different kinds of actors willing to be a part of any media they create and while I applaud Netflix for their overall diversity, they still missed the mark when it came to these shows. The only people of color I remember in these shows are Ross Butler’s character in 13 Reasons Why and a fellow member in Ellen’s inpatient facility who happens to be black. The representation of these characters would’ve done way better in terms of conversation if they changed the way society traditionally sees these challenges. Make Hannah Baker a lesbian, Asian girl who has unforgiving parents. Make Sam black and underprivileged, not having the ability to hug his older sister. Make Ellen/ Eli an adopted, obese girl whose family couldn’t see her illness because they weren’t educated. Create new conversation by adding in REPRESENTATION. Youtuber Annie Elainey puts this into perspective perfectly.

I finish with a plead. While these movies and shows are indeed raising awareness, they have to deal with their subject matter delicately. Mental illnesses, eating disorders, and other disabilities affect too many people to be taken so lightly. What all these people need is a positive, accurate depiction of their lives. They don’t need uneducated producers and directors making stories that they can’t connect with. I love that Netflix is trying to help, but I suggest, like what To The Bone did, that the creators of these shows know what their subject matter is like. Research and conversations don’t even compare to those living with it. No amount of paper can match the grief of another hospital visit. In order to create something with truth, real experiences need to be showcased.

13 Reasons (Why?)

*WARNING: 13 Reasons Why spoilers*

About two weeks ago I sat down on my bed and opened Netflix. I kept scrolling and scrolling until, wait. I scrolled back up. In the Netflix Originals section there was a poster for 13 Reasons Why. I remember hearing so much hype for this show and seeing so many pictures from it. Not to mention, Selena Gomez, a producer for the show, raved about it on her Instagram a month ago. Almost impulsively I clicked play and listened to those first words, ringing through my ears.

“Hi, I’m Hannah Baker, live and in stereo.”

my dog eating a tangerine
Photo Credit: hollywoodreporter.com

I was instantly hooked and stayed that way until the last episode. However, by the time I was done, I was shaking and crying. No, it didn’t move me or inspire me to donate to suicide prevention lines. It gave me a panic attack. That’s the hook. The show slowly, mysteriously arises, making you want more. The end comes in flashes and ends with a bang.

Up until this point, I’ve loved most shows I’ve watched on Netflix. Stranger Things brought a retro spin on an eerie missing child’s case, and Netflix also revived some of my favorite shows from my childhood, like Degrassi and Bill Nye. However, 13 Reasons Why seems rushed and overly dramatic. They took Jay Asher’s book and made it a sloppy real-life version.

Obviously the show can’t be exactly like the book, explaining the various character changes, such as Sheri and Courtney, and depicting some timeline and technology differences. Of course, they had to spread out Clay listening to the tapes to supplement an entire season of episodes. It makes sense that they’d show different perspectives to create more depth and keep interest at bay. In 2007, when the book was originally published, social media wasn’t as popular as nowadays, which makes the technology advancement sensical.

That doesn’t explain why they changed Hannah’s suicide. When I saw her death scene, my stomach twisted into a pretzel, with a cold, hollow feeling. I started crying and hyperventilating. Yes, there was a warning at the beginning of the episode, but nothing could’ve prepared me for seeing her slit her wrists and bleed out in a bathtub. My full-body aching became worse when I found out that they changed it from Jay Asher’s original story. In the book, Clay simply mentions that “Hannah swallowed some pills.”

Some have said that this scene only makes the show more powerful. However, seeing something as graphic as that does more harm than good. In fact, Hannah’s suicide could be a risk factor for those on the edge. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states, “Exposure to another person’s suicide, or too graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide” could be an environment stressor that could trigger a suicide attempt. While it is given that there will be mentions of suicide, it isn’t publicized that a graphic suicide attempt is present in the show.

Many mental health professionals have spoken out about the negative affects of this show. Along with Hannah’s suicide attempt, the story itself glorifies suicide. The entire show is buzzing all around social media for its amazing cast and storyline, so it’s hard to detach it from all the talk, to talk about what it’s actually worth.

The entire premise is that a girl kills herself and blames it on other people, which is usually the opposite of what actually happens when someone takes their life. There is usually a feeling of helplessness and worthlessness, but suicide is (and always will be) the choice of a single individual. Viewers also miss the internal struggle that most people on the edge experience – the constant back and forth decision-making of whether or not they’ll commit.

Other less prominent issues are in play. Clay’s childhood friend, Skye Miller, tells him that suicide is for the weak and cutting is for those who are strong. Despite being grotesquely wrong, this glorifies self-harm, as a “strong” thing to do. Self harm is never a healthy, safe choice and can cause numerous health problems, besides leaving scars. The school’s health counselor’s, Kevin Porter,  lack of training is appalling. He doesn’t recognize obvious signs of Hannah’s suicidal thoughts and doesn’t report that she was sexually assaulted after he pressures her into giving out the name of her assailant, which she refuses to do out of fear. This scene will discourage many students to seek help in times of need, which could cause many lives to be lost.

Finally, Alex’s suspected suicide attempt is unnecessary and a cheap way to obtain a second season. He obviously exhibited signs of suicidal ideation, but this was uncalled for. The story has no mention of Alex killing himself and for a show that wants to honor the original story, this makes zero sense. My hope is that if they make a second season, they will be more aware of how to handle his suicide in a more appropriate (and less triggering) fashion.

For what its worth, this show does open up a dialogue about suicide awareness. While the information in this show isn’t all factual, it at least depicts suicide as a very real, very horrible thing. If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, please get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Equine Therapy- Reigns of Hope

“Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is one of the most effective forms of experiential therapy,” according to the organization Reigns of Hope.

Reigns of Hope is an organization based in Ojai.  Julie Giove, a well-known therapist in Ojai and Ventura, is one of the leaders of this group. Equine therapy allows for a very powerful emotional relationship and connection to develop between the horse and the person.

The objective is to first establish a comfortable relationship with the horse, then proceed to touch it and lead it through an obstacle course created with objects you choose from a bucket. You then must use the objects to lead the horse through the set course without touching it with your hands. This requires a great deal of communication.

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