Posted in Life Lessons

#MeToo: What is it DOING?

This past week we have been bombarded with reports of harassment and assault that were buried in favor of preserving the power of manipulative, coercive, dangerous, and abusive individuals. As both a reader and someone who can relate it left me feeling really helpless. There were all of these reports and minimal action. Action that only occurred after it was clear the public wasn’t going to let the trauma Harvey Weinstein inflicted be swept away with the next headline.

Enter Alyssa Milano’s poignant tweet, continuing what Tarana Burke began:

I think she knew before putting it out there that almost every other women alive (if not all of us) has at one point or another experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. I don’t think she knew how powerful #MeToo would become and neither did I, but then it started spilling over into every form of social media I used. There was/is no escape from the thousands of women who share similarly painful stories.

For a while I debated whether or not I should join and post the two words uniting so many. Leave it to Nikki Nigl’s ABOUT WOMEN to give me the answer I needed. She posts a question of the day every single day and for her 701st question she asked the group how they felt about the #MeToo movement. Some women struggled with what I did. They wanted to speak up too, but did not want to deal with inquiries on the incident from well meaning friends and family. Others felt it was pointless, what was the point of us confirming what we already knew? Others felt that it was important to expand the movement to men who also experience sexual harassment and assault. Others felt it was important to keep it as something for solely women. I appreciated every single one and chimed in myself:

It’s forced me to confront a lot of my own feelings on the matter. Never spoke a word of any of it, mostly because I blamed myself and made excuses for them as I had seen other women do my entire life. As far as change, I think it will help some women find their voice with the support of other women. Even if it’s as little as me realizing I have to stop blaming myself for something that was never my fault and that so many go through, isn’t that worth it?

And then I posted it. I waited anxiously for the world to crumble around me, but it didn’t. Instead I saw more posts, more strength, and more collective healing through confirmation. What’s next? I don’t know, maybe nothing, but I’m hoping this conversation we’re having will lead to some sort of revolution that will change the way women in our society are treated.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

Comedy Can Be Cathartic

Pain is often expressed through art. We can point to exhibitions of torment across almost all mediums, but comedy is an area where it’s still uncomfortable to explore difficult topics. There’s a social understanding that certain topics are off limits. If a comedian speaks about loss, suicide, or their own mental illness there’s a chance that the joke is going to be met with awkward silence.

One reason is that the joke might not be funny (haha). More likely, though, the audience tensed up as soon as the subject matter was announced. We’re conditioned from a young age that these topics and feelings are meant to be worked out internally and go unspoken, but that isn’t healthy. There are many comedians that have been making efforts to add these ‘dark’ topics to their comedic routines.

I’ve mentioned Paul Gilmartin’s Mental Health Happy Hour (MHHH) in a previous post on podcasts and it’s worth bringing up again. No topic is off limits. People of all ages (over 18) and backgrounds come on the show and talk about the really dark things they have thought and experienced. And there’s laughter! A term of theirs I love is “awfulsome” and it’s something that is truly soul-crushing, but looking back on it there’s something kind of awesome about it, even if it’s just the riotous laughter that sometimes happens when one reflects on life experiences.

Anna Akana is a former guest of MHHH and one of my top five favorite humans. Her younger sister committed suicide at age thirteen and Akana actively advocates for suicide prevention. Whether it’s through skits on her YouTube channel, her larger creative work like Riley Rewind, or a regular part of her comedic routine she challenges us to talk about suicide and the darkness we can easily be consumed with. She has a book out called So Much I Want to Tell You: Letters to my Little Sister that I cannot wait to get my hands on during winter break.

Maria Bamford is my hero. She is an established stand up comedian, an incredible voice actor, and she’s the star of Lady Dynamite, a Netflix show she stars in that’s loosely based on her life experiences. Bamford has bipolar two and is open about her struggles with hypo-mania, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and her recent hospitalizations. On the show she whirls though dark lows to vivid surreal highs and everywhere in-between. It’s one of the first pop culture representations that has found a way to joke about mental illness without making mental illness the joke (if that makes sense). It’s also the hardest I’ve ever laughed, possibly because of how close I can relate. I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to listen to and watch someone with a similar diagnosis be so raw and honest.

I think what I’m getting at here is that pain no longer needs to be a solitary experience. If isolating during your troubles helps you process, that is amazing and I am not trying to take that away from you. I’m merely suggesting that there are plenty of people out there who don’t necessarily want to be alone while they are in pain or going through something, but have been so culturally reinforced that it’s something they need to do alone. You don’t need to be alone, we can suffer together and find the laughter in the lows.

Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

Hour of You

I challenge you to spend one hour each day in November focusing on your dreams. Why? In conversations lately I’ve been running into people who get themselves stuck in the same situation that I find myself in now. There are so many things that we WANT to do, but when we get home from work/school/social obligations we readily let go of those things we hunger for and settle for the quick escape that presents itself instantly in the form of television, movies, and social media. It makes me wonder what we could accomplish if we spent the first hour we got home tuning into ourselves.

You might be wondering what that looks like and I don’t have an exact answer for you. For me it’s going to be writing as my dream is to one day be a published author. Here are some questions that will help you determine how a daily action can bring you closer to achieving your dreams: What are your dreams? What is a goal that you have wanted to accomplish, but never had enough time for? What are your values and morals? What do you want your life to look like in 5 years? In 10 years? What’s something you’ve wanted to do that you never allowed yourself to believe was possible?

If there isn’t anything you want to work on that’s fine, but you should still take an hour to be present with yourself. Spend some time meditating, go for a walk, journal, the options are endless. Who knows, maybe when you’re taking this time a desire or passion that you weren’t aware of might present itself! For more on the power of connecting with yourself check out this interesting read on Wired written by Robert Wright: How Mindfulness Meditation Can Save America.

Posted in Life Lessons

Feeling S.A.D.?

As soon as the temperature dropped into the sixties and the scent of fall permeated the air around us I felt myself sinking. The changing season means that the sun will be dipping into the horizon earlier and by the time we leave work the landscape surrounding us will be shrouded in darkness. It reminds us that winter is right around the corner and we’ll soon be shivering as we shuffle from place to place. It’s understandable these changes can lead to seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.).

There are a few ways to combat S.A.D. One option is to talk to your doctor and see if medication or therapy might offset some of your symptoms, but it’s not the only route. In research for this post I came across a recent article from Columbia Chronicle and it suggests looking into getting a, “specialized SAD box or light box.” It’s a small box that emits an artificial light that replicates the sun. Stennett notes that, “The benefits of light therapy, also known as phototherapy or helioptherapy, have been proven to replace medicine for those with SAD.” This is something I’ve never looked into so I took some time looking at options. I’ve put a random photo as an example of one type of light therapy box:

509481625_1280x720

I’m not done shopping around, but so far it looks like the minimum cost for a light therapy box is around $70. It seems steep, but if it alleviates some of the S.A.D. struggle it might be worth it. When I do select a model to try I’ll post an update on the blog after a month of use. In the meantime I’ll keep learning and practicing self care.

If you’d like some holistic suggestions I found a nice article at Jackson Free Press that has some good tips for preparing for winter, particularly the segment on taking a few moments to breathe the air in as the temperature continues to shift.

Posted in Life Lessons

Separating Food from Feeling

Food is comforting for many of us. Whenever we feel sad, stressed or lonely we try to stuff the feeling down by finishing an entire bag of chips, eating an entire frozen pizza, and a whole pint of ice cream (if you can’t tell, these three in that order are my regular comfort food combo). We fill ourselves until we’re sick and before we know it the ‘bad’ feeling returns, so we reach for another treat to take the edge off.

16524-illustration-of-a-slice-of-pizza-with-toppings-pv

It’s problematic for many reasons. For me the main issue is that it fuels my self loathing. When I’ve finished binging and I’m sitting there feeling sick I beat myself up. I criticize being unable to check my impulses when it comes to eating and then I start to pick at my fitness routine. It’s a spiral that only leads to more food and more shame. There’s also a physical fallout. My stomach is extremely sensitive and consuming certain foods can lead to a lot of pain. And that leads to more shame…. the whole situation is a mess.

cartoon-chips-2029737_960_720.png

How does one go about separating food from feeling without developing disordered eating habits? I have tried logging food before and while it’s been helpful it became obsessive in a very unhealthy way so I’m hesitant to give it another shot. What are my other options?

sundae-309657_960_720.png

There isn’t a quick fix, trust me, I’ve tried. I can follow a new routine successfully for weeks or months at a time, but when my feelings become too burdensome I drown them out with food. It will take time developing healthier eating habits, but there are some methods we can use to get there. Hope to Cope has a post about Emotional Eating Food vs. Feelings that lists some strategies to get there, the most helpful being to face the feelings you’re trying to fill. Wish me good luck, and good luck to you if you struggle with emotional eating!

Posted in Life Lessons

Mental Healthcare is a Struggle

For the past year (maybe even more) I have been struggling to get back into regular treatment with a therapist. It’s something I don’t talk about because it’s a frustrating process. I won’t waste much time on how hard it is to get access to healthcare. Seeing a regular doctor for a routine health issue can be a complicated process with numbers, carriers, referrals, approvals, co-pays and so on. Access to treatment for specific illnesses involves more complications. Without insurance it’s nearly impossible to afford treatment. 

Beyond the issue of access there’s the problem of stigma associated with mental illness that can make reaching out for help incredibly difficult. I talk a bit about the weight of stigma is in my post Bouncing Back From The Blues.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) put together an excellent fact sheet on mental illness statistics in the United States and it’s saddening yet not surprising to me that Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year.” To put that percentage into perspective there are approximately 43.8 million people living with mental illness in the U.S., which breaks down to approximately 26 million people without care. 

More than an individual’s mental health is at stake when mental illness goes untreated. Lack of treatment is a risk to physical health. NAMI notes, Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.” Lack of treatment can lead to traumatic outbursts and, “Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.”

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. indicating that there are countless people out there without hope for the possibility of healing.

Let’s pretend you have great insurance and can get right to a mental health professional without a referral. Then there’s the chance that they might not be a good fit for you. There are innumerous horror stories about providers that fail to help. I heard something that really touched me in a podcast from Psych Central. Their guest Natasha Tracy recalled an incredibly painful comment that a provider made when she was feeling suicidal, “You’ve tried every treatment and they’ve all failed, what’s the point in you having a doctor?” For Natasha those words, “drove me into a place where I felt like suicide absolutely was the only option for me.” I haven’t been in the exact situation, but I have been in similar situations where I was searching for hope and help and instead was met with judgement and defeat.

Recently thanks to a random series of circumstances I have been linked with a therapist that wants to help and fits my needs. A friend begun treatment and loved it so much that she gave me their information. I had given up on finding a provider because each referral was for a clinic I could never make it to since they were only open during regular business hours, but my friend’s excitement about tackling her anxiety gave me the courage to reach out to the contact she gave me. I was impressed at how quickly they responded. Not only did they take my insurance, they had me setup for an appointment in less than a week. I’m still slightly apprehensive about the process since I’ve been burned before, but I know how helpful it is to have that support while I sort out my thoughts and behaviors and aim for a happier life.

If you’re out there struggling with your mental health you are not alone and there is hope, even if you can’t see it right now. Call the suicide line at 1-800-273-8255 if you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, they’re there to help. You matter.

Posted in Life Lessons

Chaos is My Constant

I’ve posted a lot about the importance of setting a routine and planning ahead, but I have failed to follow my own advice in a “do as I say not as I do” kind of way. It wasn’t  intentional. I went into this semester with a positive attitude determined to use all the tools to help change my habit of procrastination and become a more productive individual.

The reality that change is slow and hard has fully sunk in. A lot of our habits are developed in adolescence so I’ve spent over a decade handling responsibilities in a similar manner: avoid it until you have no other choice.
Continue reading “Chaos is My Constant”