My PSDit Joey

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

World Bipolar Day

Although I don't have bipolar disorder, I still feel a strong connection to World Bipolar Day. Some of the most incredible people I've met on my journey with mental health issues are fighting bipolar disorder. When I was hospitalized in Boston, I had never been so far away from family and friends. The wing of the hospital I was placed on specialized in treating bipolar disorder, so most of the people I associated with were bipolar. Whether they were in a manic or depressive state, they were kind, caring, and comforting. From having deep conversations about life to just playing cards, they became my friends. They were the ones who helped me realize that having a mental illness didn't have to change who I was as a person, and they taught me that I had nothing to be ashamed of. Today, I'm thinking of them and all they did for me.

My experiences living with mental illness have been eye-opening. I've learned so much about myself, others with mental illness, and how people and society view mental health issues. One of the most valuable lessons I've learned is to look beyond the diagnosis and get to know the individual. When people begin to practice this, mental health stigma will no longer be. We can be the change.


Friday, March 25, 2016

A fresh coat of paint and a fresh start

My family has lived in our old farm house for 13 years, since I was 10. Since then, I've had the same pink walls with a butterfly border and the same hot pink furniture. My bulletin board was filled with old pictures, and I still had all of the books I needed in college. A few days ago, I realized that I was finally feeling mentally strong enough to take on the project of transforming my bedroom.

A big motivator for me was seeing my close friends moving into houses and apartments. I have accepted that I'm not ready to live on my own yet, but I was inspired to make a change. My bedroom can serve different purposes: a place for sleeping, an area I could relax and unwind, and somewhere I could use as an "office" for writing and corresponding. I could create a space where I would feel more independent, but I would also be able to have the support from my family.

Once I began organizing and going through my old things, I realized how far I've come. When I was struggling the most, even carrying downstairs the cup I used for water was too overwhelming for me. I couldn't make my bed or clean up my clothes. I would have never imagined I'd be able to completely overhaul my room in just a couple of days.

Right now, the new paint is drying and my closet is organized for the first time. I've parted with clothes that I kept saying I'd wear someday, packed away my cheerleading bows from high school, and laughed over the papers I still had from college. Although I'm physically exhausted, I've never felt so mentally strong. If I could take on 13 years of memories, I can accomplish anything.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Letting go and moving on

"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
- Joseph Campbell

When I came across this quote, I wished that I had heard it earlier. I was one year away from completing my teaching degree to be a high school social studies teacher. When I became mentally ill, I was admitted to a hospital. I remember sitting with a therapist and crying the day I had to withdraw from the classes I had scheduled for the first semester of my Senior year. It was devastating for me, knowing that I wouldn't be graduating with my friends. When I was in a better mental state, I tried going back to college. I got through two classes, but I didn't have the same passion for school, focus, or ability to juggle different assignments. I went back for a third class, but I knew that it would be extremely difficult to maintain my mental health and handle the demands of the class. I accepted that my mental health is more important than a degree, but it was heartbreaking to put a pause on my education.

Soon after I decided to take a break from college, opportunities began popping up. I learned about psychiatric service dogs and found my Joey. Having him in my life drastically improved my mental health. Since I was feeling better, I was offered the chance to assist a family member prepare for her show in NY Fashion Week. I began feeling more confident in myself, and it was becoming noticeable. I was then offered a spot in a writing workshop where participants wrote about personal stories from their lives. Surprisingly, I found comfort in expressing my thoughts through writing. At the end of the 10-week workshop, we read our pieces to a large audience. That performance was a turning point in my life. I was asked to read at other events, and I realized that I was meant to be a mental health advocate.

My life is at a great point right now. I'm blogging about my journey with mental health, documenting my service dog's life online, and educating people about mental health issues and stigma fighting. I would also like to expand into more public readings and speaking events. Your dreams and goals may change, but know that what's meant to be is waiting for you. Letting go of the past will lead you to a brighter future. Never give up on yourself.


Friday, March 18, 2016

It can happen to anyone.

Mental health issues do not discriminate. They are seen in any gender, ethnicity, religion, age, socioeconomic status, or any other life category. The media tends to portray people with mental illness as either homeless and/or having an extremely high IQ. This is not the case. Throughout my journey with mental illness, I have encountered people from all walks of life. While I have met some who would fit society’s perception of someone with a psychiatric disorder, the majority of people break the stereotype. It can happen to anyone, and I believe that I am a good example.

I had always been a slightly nervous person, but it never got in the way of being able to function or live the way I wanted. I didn’t have a traumatic experience, and had never touched drugs or alcohol. Music and performance were important parts of my life; I had been singing and dancing for as long as I could remember. High school was a great experience for me. I was a varsity cheerleader, the lead in my school play, and an honors student. College was going very well too. I was on the Dean’s List and one year away from receiving a degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in social studies. I had always been a trusted employee at my part-time job and an active part of my community. Relationships with my family and friends had always been strong.  

Up until May 2013, having a mental illness had never crossed my mind. I and the people in my life were shocked when I suddenly developed a crippling psychiatric disorder. We quickly learned that the stereotypes and judgements people have about those with mental illness are not true. Mental health issues can happen to anyone. When people learn and accept this, the topic won’t be so taboo to discuss. There is nothing to be ashamed of or afraid of; now is the time to end the stigma.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Physical illness and mental health

I have been pretty sick for the past few days, and it is really taking a toll on my mental health. When the body is hard at work fighting a physical illness, it becomes more difficult to keep psychiatric illness in check. For me, my anxiety goes through the roof. I have serious anxiety issues when it comes to my health, so when I'm not feeling well, I tend to think that I have every illness. If I see or hear about a certain illness, I'm sure that is what is wrong with me. That leads me to develop more tension and stress in my body, which makes me feel sicker, which ends up making me more nervous. It is a horrible vicious cycle.

People throw around the term hypochondria all the time, but unless you have to deal with it on a personal level, you wouldn't understand how detrimental it is. Hypochondria is not the same as being over-dramatic. Be more understanding instead of critical.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Struggles and strength

I often get told that mental illness doesn't change who I am... but I disagree. Mental illness has made me more caring, understanding, open-minded, selfless, compassionate, and enlightened. It has put things into perspective for me. I can now see what is important in life. My goals are now aimed at directly helping others. I've learned about the world and those around me. I would've never known my strength if I hadn't been through my struggles.

Mental illness did change me. It made me a better person, and put me on the path I was meant to be on. Don't let a diagnosis ruin your life, you never know what you will learn about yourself.

"Where there is no struggle, there is no strength..."
-Oprah Winfrey

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Diagnosis or No Diagnosis

Personally, I have felt uncomfortable whenever the topic of my diagnosis comes up in conversation. People ask me, "What do you have?" I honestly don't have a definite diagnosis. I've received mixed opinions from even the most qualified mental health professionals in the country. They seem to agree that I have traits from different disorders, but I don't show all the symptoms for one specific disorder.

Unfortunately, this is something I have struggled with; I've wanted so desperately to have a definition of what was going on with me and to feel like I had a place and a voice in the realm of mental health. I thought that I would be able to identify myself if I could identify my mental illness. I am now learning to accept the fact that I don't have a distinct diagnosis. It does not invalidate my psychiatric disorder, and it doesn't mean that I don't have a voice.

Some people have symptoms that fit the "textbook definition" of a specific mental illness, and others don't have a clear answer. Just because someone is undiagnosed, it doesn't mean they shouldn't be taken seriously. We all feel things differently.

"You never know what someone is going through. Be kind, always..."


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"The rest is still unwritten..."

I'm not a mental health professional, but I'm a mental health warrior. Those who live with mental illness are warriors. I know what it is like to fight everyday. I created this page, and other social media pages, to bring awareness to what it is like living with a psychiatric disorder. Whether I'm giving some insight to issues, sharing a quote or picture that touched me, or telling parts of my personal journey, everything will be honest and open.

Some future topics will include: my experience with mental illness, hospitals and hospitalizations, therapeutic writing, public speaking, psychiatric service dogs, medications, portrayals of mental illness in the media, and many more...

Right now, I am in a place where I feel as if I can help people grasp the realities of what life is like for a person living with mental illness. I have good days and bad days, but I'm never giving up. Please join me on my journey toward wellness and fighting stigma!

"Life is tough, but I'm tougher."