I Wish People Understood _____ About Mental Illness

Someone on my Tumblr asked me “is there anything that you wish people understood about mental illness?” I knew I could come up with some answers for them, but I wanted to take it a step further and ask my fellow Stigma Fighters and see what they wish people understood about mental illness.


I won’t always look like something is wrong.

There is no one “look” to mental illness. No one’s symptoms show the same way.


I didn’t ask for this to happen to me.

I wouldn’t even wish this on my worst enemy so what makes you think I would’ve asked for this for myself?


Just because I’m smiling doesn’t mean I’m happy.

I smile because I don’t want you worrying about me, because I don’t want to be a burden. But sometimes my smile truly means that I’m happy.


We’re not “making it up.”

Similar to the second point – I couldn’t come up with the terrible things my mental illness tells me if I tried to.


It can’t just be turned off.

We cannot “snap out of it”, or “get over it”, we also can’t “take a chill pill”.

We are not faking it and can’t always “just get over it”.

Just like you can’t turn your broken bone off when it’s inconvenient, I can’t tell my mental illness to take a break.


A mental illness diagnosis is not a sign of weakness.

To make it through each day when fighting a constant mental battle takes incredible strength.


Know that telling someone who is bipolar that “what?!? Everyone has mood swings” is really insulting.

Bipolar Disorder is more than just mood swings!


Many people with mental illness have full, productive lives with plenty of happiness, love, and fun.

Perfect example – Demi Lovato. Yes, there are many, many, many more but she’s always the first to come to mind. Also, John Green.


Treatment is not a sign of weakness, but self-care.

A cast for a broken leg is perfectly understandable, so why isn’t medication for a mental illness? We’re just doing the best we can for ourselves.


Using terms like “bipolar” and “OCD” as adjectives is incredibly insulting.

Mental illness diagnoses aren’t just adjectives to be casually thrown around. Honestly, I want to yell at people and/or hit them when I see/hear it.


The link between mental and physical pain is read and proven. Never tell me I’m imagining it or dramatizing myself.

Look up symptoms of mental illnesses and then try to tell me that my physical pain isn’t related…


Yes, I do need those special accommodations for work/study if you want me to function in the real world.

I can’t always focus in class/the office. I space out when working on projects. I just can’t function some days to be a productive person.


Yes, all this medication is necessary.
Yes, I do know what I’m taking.
No, I wouldn’t be better off trying <insert crazy therapy here>. 

I researched the medications I was prescribed. I asked friends who take them questions. Not every medication or therapy is right for everyone, so let me find my own path.


Issues that are so called emotional/psychological are also physical, because they come from the brain. Though they can be affected by the environment, they are, by nature, brain disorders and that’s why a lot of people require medicine to get better (yes, not everyone, but many.) Also, though meds are often over-prescribed and have bad side effects, they are often necessary and worth the price. I want the stigma to not just be taken away from people with illnesses, but also taken from those who choose to (or have to) use medication to cope. Therapy is preferable and meds are a last resort ideally, but they can save lives.
Also, specifically with schizophrenia: it is not about being finicky and unreliable, and definitely not the same thing as multiple personality/dissociative identity. Furthermore, mental illness can be a result of trauma but isn’t always. I have so many people say to me “I don’t get it, you had a great family and a nice life, why do you have a mental problem?“

Pretty sure this one speaks for itself..


Borderline Personality Disorder is not always a result of trauma, sometimes it’s genetic.

I’d never heard that BPD could come from trauma.. Sometimes mental illness just happens with no explanation. Other times it comes from trauma (PTSD, Panic, Anxiety) and sometimes it’s genetic, meaning that it runs in the family.


The fact that it’s not visible doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Cancer isn’t always visible. Asthma isn’t always visible. Mental illness isn’t visible, but it’s not treated the same. Why?

Do mental illness labels matter?

Sometimes I wonder about the mental abilities of some psychiatrists when I read things like this. When you’ve had a diagnosis for 10 years, like Marisa has, it’s incredibly hard to believe someone who barely knows you saying that you have a different diagnosis.

I send lots of love and strength, and maybe some patience too, to people who have encountered this kind of situation.

Mad girl's lament

I’ve been thinking a lot about diagnoses and whether or not the label of a mental illness really matters. Within the mental health community and advocacy work, we like to separate the person from the disorder. We encourage people to say: “I have bipolar disorder,” instead of “I am bipolar.” You would never say “I’m cancer,” but you would say, “I have cancer.”

Label Jars not PeopleSome mental health professionals believe that that diagnostic labels don’t matter, as long as you’re receiving treatment that’s right for you. However, I would suggest that learning about your particular illness in conjunction with studying yourself you can learn a lot about what triggers particular episodes. So when my psychiatrist told me that I “do not have bipolar disorder,” I felt like a piece of me had been ripped out.

It’s no secret that I have no love for psychiatrists. I have yet to meet one that I have…

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Back to School

I’ve been dealing with a whole bunch of anxiety about school starting soon. So I did some searching online – I went to Tumblr and Pinterest and typed studyblr into the search bar – and found all of the information I have typed up below.  


Studying Hacks

  1. Before you take a test, write all relevant info on an index card
  2. Before you start an exam, write down all your formulas
  3. Use a website/program to block websites that distract you
  4. Mnemonic Devices are helpful for remembering pesky material
  5. Vamp up your notes with colored pens, highlighters, imagery
  6. Do practice tests, look over old papers, make note of frequent questions
  7. Don’t stress
    1. Don’t do all-nighters
    2. Drink lots of water
    3. Take a bath
    4. Listen to upbeat music
    5. Smile

What’s in My Backpack

  • Laptop + charger
  • Notebook(s)
  • Textbooks
  • Pens/pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Sharpies
  • Planner
  • Phone charger/batteries
  • Small makeup bag
  • Hair ties
  • Kindle

Planning Your Study Time

  1. Outline the big chunks
    1. Identify the topics to be covered & studied
    2. Those topics are your tasks
  2. Break down & list subtasks
    1. Identify & list the steps that need to be taken in order to complete each task
    2. Ask: What and How
      1. WHAT are you trying to accomplish?
      2. HOW will you accomplish it?
  3. Weigh the tasks & subtasks
    1. Which section did you teacher emphasize the most?
    2. Which section did you struggle with the most?
    3. Highlight & remember these tasks, for they need more attention`
  4. Decide when each subtask needs to be done
    1. Follow THE SEVEN DAY STUDY PLAN
      1. Organize your study materials/Check if anything is missing & Study/Review materials emphasized in:
      2. Lectures
      3. Textbook
      4. Lectures & Textbook
      5. Lectures
      6. Textbook
      7. Review all & catch up with what you couldn’t do days 1-6

Tips:

  • Study a maximum of 2 hours per night, total hours must be ~10-14
  • Review constantly before the test/exam approaches
  • Try to complete all the tats planned for the day before you go to sleep
  • Sleep at least 6 hours night before the test

Studying Tips

Take Notes!
Good studying practices begin with taking notes. If you don’t have notes, you have already limited yourself. Jot down the important things and the things you may not remember later on when you’re in class. Not taking notes is like shooting yourself in the foot.

Highlight It!
A lot of teachers and professors give study guides. These are important, don’t lose them. Highlight the things in your notes that correspond with the study guide, or the outline of your textbook. Color coordinate your highlighting to themes, subjects, and main ideas. It helps to see all of the material that is related in the same color, but different things in different colors. 

Write It Down!
Writing things down is crucial to studying. If you’re trying to remember that the Earth’s axis has a tilt of 23.5° and that the ecliptic is the sun’s path through the celestial sphere, write it down. Write it several times. If you can’t remember the difference between SMDP and STV electoral systems, write them down. Write down things about both and compare them. For things like dates, this is honestly the best way to remember them, write it and repeat it in your head as many times as it takes until you remember it like your own birthday. May 7, 1945? VE Day. April 15, 1865? Abraham Lincoln dies. The more you write it, the easier it is to recall it at a later date. {The education department says it takes repeating something 3 times for it to stick in long term memory vs. short term memory, but you may need more for certain things!} 

Practice!
Doing math? Conversions in chemistry? Practice. The rule of three applies here as well. Practice the ones you know, but spend more time on the ones you don’t. Repeat it. Try to work it out without looking at the steps or solutions. Doing this on your own is the best way to learn, and down worry if you mess up! That’s why you’re studying!

Think About It!
This is probably the second most important step in the studying process. Think about what you’re studying. Think about how the information relates to the main ideas. Think about why this information is important, and what implications there are from the process/event/systems. Relate main ideas and try to see the cause and effect relationship of things. Being able to remember information is just one part, you actually need to know it and be able to manipulate the information for tests and papers. A really easy way to do this? Outline the chapter and your notes. Generally textbook authors write fairly well and outline this stuff themselves before they write, and also in your books. The outline can show you a different aspect than what your teacher has given you.

Break It Down!
Make a list of what you need to study. If you need to study for a test where you will have to write 4 essays, make each one a task. Break everything down into smaller parts and study them one at a time. Breaking things down does a couple things – it helps you know what all you have left to do, and what you have time for. It helps you know how much you have left, and it also helps you not become overwhelmed with too much information. Compartmentalize things when you study and when you finish a few tasks and cross things off your list take a little break! 


I’m really hoping that all of those things will help this semester…


Self Love via Selfies with Stigma Fighters

I have been hanging out with a friend of mine over the weekend for her bridal shower and birthday. Early Sunday afternoon my phone went off with a notification that I was tagged in a photo on Twitter that Marisa, of Mad Girls Lament, posted. She also posted the same picture on Instagram with a longer caption about selfies and self love.


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I was super anti #selfie because I thought it was narcissistic. But you know what? I think it’s a form of self-love. I was so self-conscious about weight that I’ve gained because of medication that posing for a picture used to embarrass me. Well fuck that! My body and me are pretty amazing & that’s what the selfie represents to me. Plus my hair and makeup are pretty awesome today. Love yourself & tag me in your selfie. #selflove #bodypositive #Sunday #beauty #red #lipstick #loreal #blakelively


I never really thought about the reasoning or thought behind selfies before. But my friend Sarah Fader has written a post about selfies that I absolutely adore – click here to read. I absolutely adore this piece by Sarah. She discusses being confronted by a stranger on the street about taking a selfie – she had the best comeback and they wound up laughing and walking away.


Marisa challenged some of the fabulous ladies of Stigma Fighters to take selfies and tag her in them. Here are the pictures that appeared in response.

Mine:

CMjSWxjWsAE8u0qSarah F:

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Jess:

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Sarah C:

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Nicole:

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I retweeted every picture from these gorgeous ladies. I felt that these faces needed to be shared. Because so many people seem to think that we shouldn’t post pictures of ourselves when we’re not fully made up. I don’t understand what the problem is with a woman exposing her naked face. I personally think it’s empowering for a woman to put her face out there without makeup on because it’s strong proof that she loves herself the way that she is.

And that’s what a selfie is. 

Marisa then concluded the whole thing with this beautiful picture of her naked face:

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I adore how happy she looks there too.


Go out take selfies whenever you freaking feel like it!!

Share them with me as well – tag me on Twitter or Instagram coffeetattoos

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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Courtney of Courtney’s Voice has awarded me the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!! I’m shocked and honored almost beyond words that someone of her caliber would think of me as inspiring. When I got the Twitter notification informing me, I was blown away. Some of the other women she’s awarded/nominated have been blogging about mental health for longer than I have, so I almost feel a bit out of place. Especially because of how strong Courtney is with everything she’s been through and every incredible thing that she’s doing. The fact that she finds me, and what I do with my blog, inspiring encourages me to keep going with what I talk about.


Here are the rules of the award for me and for those I nominate.
Rules and Courtesies
1. Thank your nominator by posting a link to their blog on your Award post
2. List 7 to 10 Facts About Yourself
3. Nominate up to 15 other blogs for being inspirational
4. Post the rules so people know them
5. Notify your nominees via their About Page and send them the link to your Award Post with the rules on it – I will do so once I choose the lucky ones and I finish this post (or notify via twitter)
6. Post the award badge on your blog anywhere you like on your pages or posts.


I suppose I should commence giving you facts about myself… So here we go:

1) By the time I turned 20, I had had 7 eye surgeries on my left eye. The first of which was when I was 7 months old. My eyes have been two different colors pretty much my whole life, and we think that something happened during that first eye surgery that caused it.
2) For the last few years, I’ve wanted to write a book. I have absolutely no clue what I would write about, but the desire is there.
3) I am the middle child of three – four year gap on top, seven year gap on bottom. My older sister and I write letters back an forth, even though we live within driving distance of each other.
4) I was in swim classes for 9 years, from age 3 to 12.
5) I carry books around with me like they’re a security blanket. Even if I know I probably won’t have time to read, there’s still guaranteed to be a book in whatever bag I’m carrying.
6) I’m studying American Sign Language Interpreting at my local community college. There is no history of deafness in my family however. My sister took ASL in high school and loved it. So when I sucked at Spanish, I thought I’d give it a try. I fell in love with it too. When I was applying to colleges at the end of my senior year, I decided that I would make it my job. And I haven’t changed my mind since.
7) Even though I absolutely promote going to see a therapist in conjunction with taking medication for mental illness, I haven’t seen one in almost two and a half years. The reason for that is that the last therapist I had reacted in such a way that I walked away not trusting therapists anymore. However, recently I’ve started going to family appointments with someone’s therapist and I feel comfortable with them. They offered to do full session with me if I want, and I’ve begun thinking about it. I’m not sure at all when I’ll go in for a full session on my own, but the offer was made and I’m seriously considering it.
8) I was part of the Stigma Fighters community before it became its own website, when it was just a subsection of CEO Sarah Fader’s personal blog.


Now it’s time for me to nominate some people for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award for everything they do and how they’ve helped me along my journey. BTW, There’s no specific order to this list.

1. Sarah C of The Real Sarah C – for her amazing work in the Deaf community, and for being real about being a mom with bipolar disorder.

2. Nicole Lyons of The Lithium Chronicles – for her beautifully honest posts and the way she describes her bipolar disorder to her children – it’s just amazing.

3. Sarah Fader of Old School/New School Mom, the author of Three-Year-Olds Are A**holes, the CEO & founder of Stigma Fighters. She’s also an amazing person to talk to when you’re struggling.

4. Marisa Lancione of Mad Girl’s Lament – even when she’s struggling, she still finds the words to express herself. And she’s written some amazing pieces on depression and bipolar disorder.

5. Allie Burke – author of Paper Souls, founder of the OCH Literary Society

6. JC Hannigan of Sarcastica – author of the Collide Series, blogger for the MHE Coalition, and fabulous mother to 2 young boys and 2 dogs.

7. Amy Walker of Under the Surface – for her work toward shedding light on a lesser known mental health condition called dermatillomania.

Conversations About Mental Health Aren’t Easy

163HWith a friend of mine, it’s difficult to have conversations about how I’m dealing with my mental illness. It’s not that he doesn’t care about me and want me to do well, it’s just that we’ve never really been the kind of friends that talk about feelings. And we don’t see each other as much as we’d like, so conversations are usually via text and things often get misconstrued.

I had a conversation with him the other night, and it was rather emotionally raw. I shed several tears – which is something I hate doing in front of other people. Words were said in anger, but he knew I didn’t truly mean what I had said. Comments, which cut deep, were made about where he was at my age. We grew up differently, and we’re very different people. It took some time – some in silence, some in conversation – for us to get to a point where we were able to calmly say what we meant and have the other understand. It was emotionally draining for me, and difficult for both of us. The end result of the conversation was realizing that there are things we both need to do more.

I have a tough time opening up and telling him when I’m having a bad day. So in turn, he doesn’t know how to interpret what I’m saying. That leads to misinterpretations and arguments. Someone usually winds up feeling hurt or offended. It’s just never a pretty ending.

I’ve asked him to make sure that I’ve taken my meds at night if it’s been a particularly bad day. I want him to kind of keep an eye on me and let me know if he’s noticing any changes that might point to a an episode creeping up. If I’m with him and he asks me if I’m ok, I say I’m fine (because I can’t stand the idea that people are worrying about me), and he can see right through it – I just want him to hold my hand, look me in the eye and tell me it’s gonna be ok, that he’s there for me.

SplitShire-3037-1800x1200-970x500It’s painfully difficult to reach out for help, to admit that this is too much for me to handle and battle on my own. I want to be an independent person, but my mental illness makes it incredibly challenging.

Asking for help makes me feel like I’m weak. But the reality is that asking for help actually proves that I’m stronger than I think – by admitting that it’s too much on my own and someone else’s assistance, however minimal it may be, will make it easier.

Slowly Processing, Slowly Progressing – But I Am Moving Forward

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When you’re feeling as low as I have lately, there’s really only one way you can go. And that’s up. You may feel like you’re not getting anywhere, even though you’re giving it everything you have. It may be taking time to process what happened to get you down where you are. But you know that you want to get back up and keep moving.


Honestly, that’s where I am. I don’t know how I slipped this low without noticing it at some point. I don’t have a clue what triggered it. That pisses me off.  I hate being here and not knowing how or why I am. But as I sit writing this, and think about what my summer has looked like, I’m starting to come up with something that makes sense. That it has something to do with the fact that it’s summer, I’m home with my brother all day, and there’s not really a schedule to anything. I have nothing to do that can’t be put off till later in the day or even tomorrow.

The rest of my summer doesn’t stretch out much further – I have this week, a week at the beach, a bridal shower, a week at home, and then I’m back in classes.

Hopefully being back in classes will help with this constant feeling of being lost and pointless. I’ll have things to do, and people to talk to face-to-face instead of via words on a screen. And as I say this, I realize that part of having slipped to where I am is not really having social interaction with people besides my family. It’s isolating and, quite frankly, depressing. Having homework to do, projects to work on, textbooks to read – that kind of thing makes getting through the day easier.

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I tried to keep up my posting through the summer, but as you’ve seen, I haven’t been very good at it. I’ve had 7 posts go up May-July. I only had one go up in June. One? Seriously? Looking at that makes me feel like I’ve failed with my blog. At one point I had a goal of one post per week, but I don’t think I was ever really able to keep up with that.

So now I don’t really have a goal for how frequent my posts are – I just want them to go up as often as I’m capable. I don’t think that’s ridiculous. It’s more realistic given what I’m dealing with.