We’re shifting. I’ve been running on movie quotes this year and JP and I have been watching A LOT of movies. The spring was tough and there were more date night’s in,s o we revisited some of our favorites and found some new ones. Some inspired me and struck something that made me want to write.
But I’ve been working on writing more in a different way. Not just blogging or the workbook, but journaling and writing just to write. My friend Kara started a writing group for about a dozen of us using a writing challenge that prompts us daily. The prompts may be quotes, it may be a photo, but regardless you’re encouraged to write what comes to mind that day.
There have been some where I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of my head on paper and others that frustrated me and left me pondering for most of the day.
This was Day 8.
My first thought was self-demeaning.
I am not brave.
I then thought of all the times that I’ve been told I’m brave.
I reached out to Kara and said in not as many words, this post was something I wanted to expand on outside of the group. I asked her to co-write a blog post with our view points of bravery.
As you read through our perspectives, I want you to ask yourself what brave means to you now. Has it ever changed it’s meaning? Do you think it can continue to evolve for you?
I also want you to consider its Google definition – you know, when you search Google like this: def:bravery.
Here’s Kara’s point-of-view.
Moments of bravery go unnoticed every day, while moments of pride and vanity are heralded as heroism. Because bravery means something different to each individual, because we all have our own fears – both acknowledged and hidden – bravery takes many forms.
The definition of bravery that resonates the most with me is from Merriam-Webster’s latest edition, “Having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty”.
Is it brave to commit yourself to defending your country?
Is it brave to put your life in danger to save the life of another?
It’s also brave to get out of bed in the morning when every part of you hurts, and you just don’t think you can do it.
It’s brave to try something new that takes you out of your comfort zone, knowing failure is the likely outcome.
It’s brave to find the lesson in the failure and try again, over and over.
It’s brave to speak up and share your truth when you know your perspective is different.
It is brave to form your own path, often walking away from what is comfortable, expected, and accepted.
In the last year, I have been called brave more than perhaps any other time in my life. Due to a series of localized tragedies that the CDC has deemed a “suicide contagion,” I decided to share my story.
I spoke to my high school classes, and eventually to the entire student body, about being a survivor of multiple suicide attempts.
I have always been open about my experiences with mental illness, both in person and on social media. Hiding who I am and how I am struggling is something that I decided long ago that I would not do. Pretending that they don’t affect me every minute of every day isn’t helping anyone.
During moments of openness about mental illness, I have often been told how brave I am to share my struggles. To me, this isn’t brave. This is just being who I am and not being ashamed.
I share my experiences because I hope to find connection with others, along with understanding. I do not want pity, but I do want others who may be fighting their own battles silently to know that they are not alone.
Ironically, the moments in my life when I have felt the most brave probably wouldn’t be what most consider brave actions. It was the moment that I stepped away from a relationship that on the surface looked perfect, but underneath was damaging. Or the first time that I put myself first, rather than fulfilling my lifelong role as a people pleaser. It was finding genuine happiness for a friend at her baby shower, days after I had miscarried. It was willingly putting myself into a situation that I knew would induce panic, because I know it’s part of the process of healing.
Each of these moments were terrifying and overwhelming for me. In every instance, I convinced myself that catastrophic repercussions and failure were imminent. However, these moments of self-doubt ultimately became moments of self-discovery.
The grandiose and the quiet moments of bravery should be equally celebrated and appreciated. Growth, both individual and societal, can only come from moments of bravery.
Here’s Cristina’s point-of-view.
I hate the word brave.
I know we all have our own definition, but I feel like people confused bravery with doing the right thing or doing what it takes to be successful or doing what is necessary to live your life fully.
I’ve been brave for putting on heels and a bikini.
I’ve been brave for talking about my PTSD.
I’ve been brave for calling out online bullies.
I’ve been brave for telling people about my bad days.
I’ve been brave for wearing stripes.
I’ve been brave for having skin removal surgery.
I’ve been brave wearing “that color” or “that style”.
Why are these things brave?
I think that many people view behaviors that they wouldn’t exemplify as brave. They wouldn’t wear stripes or talk about mental health – so it must be brave. For me, I know it has nothing to do with things I wouldn’t do.
I think it has to do with things that leave me in awe.
I saw brave in my older sister who stepped between me and mom when I was in third grade. It was the first time my mom hit me, and it was the first time I realized that if my big sister was around I would be safe.
I saw brave when a friend told me she went back to therapy. She’s capable of problem-solving and she’s capable of making connections and then making a plan, but I also believe that this assistance will guide her to peak greatness. I believe that she will be able to grow more fully and asking for help and putting trust in someone else is brave.
I saw brave when a client told me she was leaving her corporate job to be a stay-at-home mom and teach her sons herself. This was a powerful declaration of “I can” from this client and my heart clapped and cheered for her because while I knew she was terrified inside, she was still taking this step.
I have felt brave when getting out of the shower on days I thought I couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes I stay in the shower longer because I’m thinking and when I’ve come to my conclusion I’ll feel ready to step and out go into the world. But on days when it’s bad, getting in to begin with is a project and the feeling of readiness to take on the world (as it feels) seems like a burden.
I have felt brave when I trust myself to be capable in the gym, as a coach, as a partner. I have more doubt than I want to admit, but writing it out makes me face it and makes me think about where it comes from.
I feel brave when being myself. Growing up, if I was bullied my dad always asked what I did wrong or what I did to draw the bully’s attention. It was never about the wrongness in their behavior but identifying that there must be something wrong with mine. I am not wrong and it took a long time to see that and to feel that.
When I was a kid, I think I just wanted to be happy. As an adult there has never been a point in my life where I have thought, I want to martyr for the cause.
I don’t want to be brave.
I just want people to look at me and see normal people can do extraordinary things when they work hard. That normal people change the world. That we can live our lives to the fullest without labels of our accomplishments.
❤ Cristina and Kara
I’ve talked about Alicia before. She’s younger than me. She’s a junior in college and I’m 27. Without social media our paths would have never crossed. Without peanut butter we would’ve never started talking. Without talking we would’ve never seen past the social media posts and learned that we are more alike than we could’ve ever imagined. At the beginning of the summer, Alicia was struggling with mental health and I suggested she use resources on her college campus. I had used these resources as a student and at my last job, I knew students who had also used them. After many conversations and her sharing her experience, I bit the bullet myself and went back to therapy in July as well.
We push each other in positive ways and this semester Alicia has had to be an advocate for herself, especially when she was being pushed to the aside when seeking help for her anxiety. Her story isn’t very unique, but it’s a perspective that people brush aside.
Her story dabbles in her own blogging series I’ve let her write here and the It’s Your Turn Series. I think it fits both perfectly. So her post makes the IYT Series a perfect dozen, just cupcakes and doughnuts and sugar cookies.
Being a student and trying to juggling life is not easy, being a student is not easy in general. These past couple of weeks have honestly been the most difficult time I’ve ever had in my school career, between the mental breakdowns, anxiety attacks and all of the stress of the school work. Actually, I might be able to say that this has been the most difficult semester that I have had while in college. It’s at that point in the semester where there is only 2 weeks until Thanksgiving and every professor is trying to get all of the last tests, quizzes and assignments in before the week break. After Thanksgiving there is only one week left of the semester. Obviously there has been a lot of stuff going on in my life in general, my boyfriend moved out of state, I moved out of my parents house, officially decided on a major (even though I am still doubting it), applied for internships, and picked up another job – as you can see life has been crazy.
As I have said in previous posts in this series, I suffer from severe anxiety, trying to juggle life and school is not easy, but my anxiety skyrockets during school. The moment I get to school I feel anxious and as classes go on it begins to hit its peak. I can’t even count the amount of times that I came home and had a mental breakdown because of all of the homework and studying I had to for the following day. Even the slightest bit of work makes me anxious because I want everything done right and I want to do well. Tests make me anxious, I can honestly say that I have not gotten above an 80% on a test yet this semester. When I go into a test I blank, when I say I blank on everything I studied i mean sometimes I just sit there and stare at the test for a while before it actually comes to me. During tests I suffer from the physical symptoms of anxiety too, I mainly get the chest and muscle pains/ cramps, there are times I get muscle twitches or eye twitches too.
This is what I’ve been working on this semester to help me balance my mental health and school work as well as life in general because we know that gets in the way too.
- Being brave and seeking help, if you find yourself struggling with anxiety or depression or some type of mental illness don’t be afraid to get help. Most schools have a well-being center with free counseling, take advantage of it, it will help in the long run.
I started seeing a counselor on campus this year and while they are busy, they want to help. Recently, I followed my counselor to her own private practice off campus so I have access to more flexible hours. This is helpful for my situation since I not only go to school full-time, but I work part-time off campus at a retail job.
- Learning to take study breaks, if you find yourself studying for hours at a time take a break, you can’t just sit there and study all day, you do need to take a break, go for a run or go to the gym or even just sit outside for a few minutes. Anything will help you just need to give yourself a moment to relax.
This is something that I’ve truly had to come terms with. Sometimes, studying for extended periods of time makes me question or doubt my knowledge of the course. Taking a break to walk across campus or get a cup of coffee has allowed me to clear my head and come back with new perspective.
- Deciding to cut down on caffeine, trust me, I know I am a college student and most college student survive on coffee, but if you become anxious sometimes caffeine makes it worse. I am not saying to cut out caffeine completely just cut back
I still get my latte every now and then, but I’ve noticed that for me at least, cutting back has given me a clear head and taken away some of the jitters. It’s not a perfect science, but I’ve been drinking more tea (decaf) and water to fill in the void that was once a higher coffee consumption.
Finding balance between mental health and school work is not always easy. Not all people understand it either. It’s important to find balance because without it you, might not succeed in school. If you are a college student, tuition is expensive and you don’t want to waste that money or time to not be successful. GPA does not always matter, sometimes you need a break from school work, especially if you’ve been studying for days. I actually have a professor who allows you to take “mental days off” if needed. Mentally you need a break, taking on too much at once may not actually be effective in the long run and may hurt you. Talk to your faculty about this, they understand more than you know. Don’t be ashamed to get help, you have to understand that it will get better, but remember that you have to do something to make it better. Going to therapy is one of the greatest things I have done, trust me at first I was a little on the edge about going, but it ended up working out very well and I really enjoy going. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and know that you are not the only one who is going through this, there are plenty of other people who are going through the same thing.
This is my friend Ahmad. He pretty much started this series. What I mean is it was his words that set something off in me that made me think about the larger problem at hand. Yes, I am working through my own anxiety, my own PTSD, and I have no issue talking about it. But, there’s a but. But what about those who don’t share their stories. They don’t have an outlet to do so. They don’t think someone will listen or understand or care. What about the others out there who are also suffering silently. Maybe they need a place for their voice. He doesn’t realize that he sparked that in me, but he did. I wanted his story too though. So Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, an Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He speaks and writes about Mental Health, Wellness, Support, and Social Justice. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on instagram and Facebook .
Ableism – are the practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities.
There have been quite a few who have reached out to share their stories and how mental health has impacted them, their families and what they believe to be their ability to be a mother. We know that events trigger us to develop these disorders we’ve been talking about in this series, but I don’t think we truly realize how the symptoms really crossover and not only confuse us, but our therapists and doctors. It’s possible that a diagnoses is completely wrong or is missing a piece – maybe it’s two or three disorders like mine with post traumatic stress disorder AND anxiety AND binge eating disorder. As you grow up and the brain becomes more evolved and there are more experiences, things can change.
Meet Courtney, she’s a stay-at-home mom of two and has been diagnosed with different disorders at different times in her life, but all have similarities.
I’ve always been a worrier – it could be from the years of living in a home with domestic abuse. I’d watch my Dad filled with rage and my mom would sheepishly try not to detonate the ticking time bombs of his own shattered childhood. I’ve spent my life never feeling good enough, and less than. My saving grace would be meeting my husband when I was 17, and in a whirlwind by the next year having our daughter.
My life changed and all my emotional burdens were now tucked away and my life’s goal was to do right by this little baby girl. It wouldn’t be until she was 2 that I would realize something was off. In my eyes everyone was out to get her, I knew for sure that something bad was going to happen – these thoughts filled my mind and the pictures they paint could bring me to tears.
See as a young teen I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), then attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), then I stopped taking all those medications because the side effects either had me feeling like a zombie or so filled with energy I could not sit still. I sat in the doctors office naming off a laundry list of horrific things I knew would happen and that’s the first time in my life I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, for which I was put on medication, was examined by a psychiatrist and finally the horrible images started to become less and less. I was on this medication for five years up until the time we decided it was time to try for one more baby.
My doctor told me to immediately stop my medication and honestly, it almost felt freeing. Don’t get me wrong, I spent my pregnancy an anxious mess, but the thought of being medication free made me happy.
Flash forward to after giving birth.
Being a failure at breastfeeding my awkward body and staying at home, I started to feel hopeless. I let this fester until one day when my son was about six months old, I told my husband it would be better for my daughter and son to be raised by someone else. I could never do them justice and they deserved better, he deserved better. I remember that weekend my Mom came and took the kids so I’d have a “break” and a break is what I had.
That was the weekend I thought about killing myself. Just typing that gives me a nauseous feeling because in those moments I’d felt outside myself watching somebody that wasn’t actually me. Still, two months passed and I would put on my super woman cape in crowds. In a crowd of one, just with my thoughts, I’d be this self-loathing bitch.
Christmas time came and on Christmas Day, my Mom had gotten me a couple bracelets I felt were too expensive for my stay-at-home lifestyle. In that moment I asked her to take them back – I didn’t deserve them , I didn’t deserve anything. I let it get so bad before I was diagnosed with postpartum-depression and the anxiety I’ve always carried since childhood. I’ll never get those months back where I was in a fog, but if I can help someone else then it doesn’t seem as bad.
After that Christmas I started to take my mental health as seriously as I was my physical health. I started back on medication and visiting a psychiatrist weekly (for about three months). I still struggle EVERYDAY, but the two little people that I would never stop fighting for, need me, the healthy ,physically and mentally me. They deserve that and I am worth that. Some days are hard because I didn’t ask for this disease. I struggle with a lot still, but no where near as bad as a year ago. Postpartum-depression and anxiety changed the person I once was. I’ll have triggers from my childhood that can still put me in a depressed funk, but now I can say ” hey I’m anxious” or “hey, I feel like I suck at life” – being able to talk about it has made a big difference. I plan to start seeing my psychiatrist again with the holiday season approaching.
October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I’m sure there’s a third cause out there that was also supposed to be highlighted and educate the public. I will not downplay that both of these causes are important. 1 in 8 women are impacted by breast cancer. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men are impacted by domestic violence. Whether it’s 12% or 30%, doesn’t truly matter, lives are impacted. But, there’s a but, one is more warm and fuzzy than the other. It’s more common to talk about breast cancer, screenings, a loved one passing away from an illness that has no cure than to talk about something that has been considered shameful and personal. Both are important and both need to be talked about.
Mental health has a stigma, just like domestic violence. It’s considered shameful, personal and must only impact those that are “crazy”. But according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, just looking at adults – 1 in 5 adults are impacted by mental illnesses that range from anxiety disorders to personality disorders.
Below is the story of a 40-something female and how she has lived with her illnesses.
It blows my mind the selfish-instant-gratification society we are living in. Consideration is hardly ever taken to those silently suffering with chronic illnesses. Mental illness has been my scarlet letter and a major part of my life ever since I was 15.
It all started when I was sexually assaulted one afternoon in front of the school library by a random stranger while waiting for my mom to pick me up. It happened quickly and something broke inside of me. A light went out and darkness filled my mind like a fog. I didn’t say anything right away to my mom thinking it was my fault because she told me to wait for her inside the library and I had disobeyed her like a careless little girl thinking the world was a good place helping a strange man take his books to his car around the corner. The guilt was so intense that two days later I attempted suicide.
When my mom found me, I had no pulse. I was rushed to the hospital and was saved by having my stomach pumped twice and put on a ventilator. At that time is when I revealed what had happened. Many people think that was my nightmare but my true nightmare began after that. I spent a week in a mental institution and after many evaluations, I was sent home with scheduled therapy sessions twice a week and a ton of pills as well as a new illness I had never heard of and my mom made me keep to myself.
An invisible illness that didn’t make you look sick. An illness that did not respond to diet and lifestyle change. An illness that caused intense pain that somehow not even the strongest painkillers can touch. An illness that can not be cured and carries a horrible stigma: Bipolar I with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The violent attack traumatized a part of my brain causing an inevitable imbalance. I wanted to fix it and make it go away. I wanted to run and hide. I did both things.