What I’m reading over & over again this week:
Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up by Eponis
Sometimes recovery is waking up early to write in coffee shops and practicing yoga and eating lots of fruit and chocolate and sometimes it’s staying in bed all day and hiding from the world until you can stop crying. All of this is okay. What’s important is that you take care of yourself no matter what kind of day you’re having. –via.
No matter what your recovery may be — heartbreak, mental illness, your plans for life being flipped upside-down — take care of yourself, remember this most of all. Take care of yourself.
When I came across the following satirical piece I wanted to climb on the nearest chair and slow clap. What a brilliant way to express what it feels like when your suffering is misunderstood, seemingly minimizing it. I wrote a piece on just that. You can read it here.
New Strain of “Super OCD” Sweeping the Nation
By Holly Tousignant || The Toast
Experts across the country are warning that America is in the throes of a new mental health epidemic. Over the past decade, psychologists have reported record numbers of those who suffer from being, like, suuuuper OCD – and the figures are only getting worse.
“Super OCD” is not to be confused with textbook obsessive compulsive disorder, which can be characterized by unwanted compulsive rituals and disturbing intrusive thoughts that detract from one’s quality of life. Rather, those who are super OCD report experiencing symptoms that include adherence to conventions of basic human hygiene and really liking their pencils to be sharp.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Amy Smith, whose harrowing journey to acceptance began when she took an online quiz that one time which gauged her reaction to disturbing images like crooked pictures and floor tiles that don’t match up.
“When I see something that is uneven, it kind of bugs me. Almost no one else feels this way; I am very unique,” Smith confessed. “I’m able to forget about the uneven thing as soon as I look away, but for those few seconds the mild displeasure is overwhelming.”
Jane Lee first suspected she was super OCD after she spent a leisurely afternoon alphabetizing her collection of cookbooks. Her fears were confirmed when a co-worker wore mismatched socks to the office and she felt compelled to look away.
“I’ll be out with friends and everything is going fine, and then something will happen – someone will drop a slice or pizza or spill wine down my shirt, so I’ll say ‘better clean that up.’ And everyone will just go silent,” Lee said. “It’s like the elephant in the room.”
Lee experienced the stigma associated with the illness firsthand when her cousin Jen, who has conventional obsessive compulsive disorder, suggested that Lee was not, in fact, super OCD.
“For some people mental illness means debilitating panic attacks and uncontrollable, repetitive actions, and for others it means preferring your jackets face the same way in your closet,” Lee said. “It’s a spectrum.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Frank Black studies the disorder and deems himself a pioneer in the field. According to Black, super OCD is still considered a fringe issue, with many health professionals unwilling to classify it as “something that exists.”
“Some of my colleagues would define mental illness as that which ‘interferes with people’s lives,’ but I think that’s a narrow-minded way of looking at things,” he said. “I had this one patient who would sometimes double-check that he’d locked his car. The seconds it took for him to do that are seconds he’ll never get back.”
Black has dedicated his career to developing treatment strategies for patients like Amy and Jane, and he hopes other brave sufferers will continue to come out of their immaculate closets and seek the therapy they need.
“If I can help even one person hang their blue sweaters next to their red sweaters, I know I’ll have done my job.”
If I said things were going just peachy at the moment I think you could probably sense the fact that isn’t true from 10 million miles away. Things are tough. Yes, I have a job I am beyond thankful to have. Yes, I have family and friends that love me. Yes, I have a place to rest my head at night, a place to escape the plunging temperatures.
But when your heart is heavy and your mind is racing with anxieties, it’s hard to take a minute to enjoy much of anything. Especially when you try to focus on your breathing to deter panic attacks that are always one small trigger away. It’s pretty scary. And the fear climbs on and clings to your bones like its your koala baby and its life is dependent on its ability to latch onto you. Maybe a parasite metaphor would have been more appropriate…
Here’s a inconclusive summary of my mind as of late:
I miss Munich. I do. I wish I could have gotten my Visa. What if that was it? What if I won’t find my dream job again? What if I’m supposed to be there, but I am here? What if I could have done something? Where is my life going? Why is everyone else so calm? How are they? There’s obviously something wrong with my mind. I’m always a thought away from a full-on panic attack. I am bad at life. I miss him. I can see he wouldn’t miss me. Does he? He might. Does it matter? Is this as good as it gets? Was that taste of my dream life just God being cruel? Do I really trust that everything happens for a reason? How can other people be so good at this life thing? I can barely function. I need to exercise more. That would help. I need to change. I need to figure out my life. Everyone else has it figured out. What can I do? I miss them. I want to tell everyone who has been hurting my feelings lately that they have been doing just that. But I can’t. It’s my own problem. I’m too sensitive. I miss Munich. I wonder what life would be like if I were there now. I have to stop analyzing everything so much. I haven’t heard from them in a while, I bet they are mad at me…I need to change.
I think exhausting is too simple a word.
Maybe you feel the same way? Or have you before? How do you get by? And, I’m truly stuck on this notion: Do you believe in fate? Do share your wisdom!
I arrived back in the States last week and while it’s been wonderful reuniting with those I love here, I have probably never cried so much in my life as I did last week.
But all in but the time of a week so much has started changing, things are looking up. So I really, truly, honestly want to say to those of us hurting, don’t give up. Please, please, believe that with time things will get better. Don’t you dare give up. Push on, love.
If I can do it, my God, so can you.
P.S.. Oktoberfest photos to come, promise. xx
People always say that it hurts at night
and apparently screaming into your pillow at 3am
is the romantic equivalent of being heartbroken.
it’s 9am on a tuesday morning
and you’re standing at the kitchen bench waiting for the toast to pop up
And the smell of dusty sunlight and earl gray tea makes you miss him so much
you don’t know what to do with your hands.
— Rosie Scanlan, “On Missing Them”
Mental illness is just one of those topics that remains a bit taboo though it’s 2013 and it affects more people than we could possibly realize.
From depression to hypochondria, there is so much we, as society, don’t understand. Of course not. It’s not as simple as a diagnosing a broken arm, nor is it as commonly curable as strep throat. We aren’t even sure if mental health is curable.
That’s the thing: there’s just so much we don’t know.
But just because we don’t know doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand, and even more so, sympathize. And for those of us who can, empathize.
So when I see insightful articles and essays being shared and passed around among the masses it makes me feel as though there is hope. Hope that the more it’s talked about, the more awareness that is brought to the issues, the sooner we will be able to more openly discuss these hardships, the sooner more therapies and cures will be found.
So here are just a handful of aforementioned articles/essays I’d love to share with you. (These are the ones I had bookmarked here and there, so I know I am missing many that I had meant to save. Please share any that you have saved, or happen to come across, and I will happily include them in the list!)
Adventures in Depression Part 1. and 2. by Hyperbole and a Half
At first, I’d try to explain that it’s not really negativity or sadness anymore, it’s more just this detached, meaningless fog where you can’t feel anything about anything — even the things you love, even fun things — and you’re horribly bored and lonely, but since you’ve lost your ability to connect with any of the things that would normally make you feel less bored and lonely, you’re stuck in the boring, lonely, meaningless void without anything to distract you from how boring, lonely, and meaningless it is.
In Which We’re Up All Night by Elizabeth Gumpert
A cure that leaves you groggy or hungover is no cure at all. The point of sleep, after all, is that it is supposed to restore energy, and hope. It makes you alert enough to do things, and optimistic enough to believe they are worth doing. If you wake up feeling otherwise, what’s the use?
On Depression after weaning:
The Two Hardest Months Of My Life by Joanna Goddard
One afternoon, while taking a walk along the Hudson River, I told my mom, who was visiting us, that I wished that Toby had a different mother. He deserved more, I thought. I felt like such a failure: I had always wanted to be a mother. I always had baby fever. I always looked forward to having children. But now that I had a sweet, curious, beautiful baby, I suddenly couldn’t handle motherhood. I felt exhausted and inept.
On Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
OCD: ‘Clearly My Doctors Were Off Their Rockers’ an essay by me about my OCD
This chapter had my name written all over it. At first I was relieved, and then I was mad. Mad that Barbara Walters had never even addressed the fact that this kind of OCD was real. And then I was even more pissed that I didn’t have the hand washing compulsions, because then, at least, people could see what was going on in my mind, instead of seeing me act normal, while my mind was full of intrusive, terrifying thoughts.
And, please, if you feel hopeless, remember these things:
How To Take Care Of Yourself When You Feel Suicidal
Just because your life feels unbearable now doesn’t mean that it will feel this way forever. Try to remind yourself of all the times in the past when you felt miserable and hopeless and lost and how each time, the pain eventually passed and life worked itself out — maybe not in the way you imagined, but things got better nonetheless. Now is no exception. This pain you feel can and will pass. If you give up now though, you’ll never discover that better place — so keep holding on.
You are so loved.
“When tough times come, it is particularly important to offset them with much gentle softness. Be a pillow.”– Vera Nazarian