Mental Health Awareness in the U.S

Robin Williams recent passing is truly sad and unfortunate. I don’t believe I have seen one of his movies, but I remember being exposed to his humor throughout my childhood. I remember he was on an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? And I thought he was a hilarious man.

I think Robin Williams and his passing opens discussion for mental health awareness. A lot of naive people seem to be confused about how a talented, funny, seemingly well-off man could have such problems. He was a man in the entertainment industry and he made millions of people smile. He never really looked depressed.

I think it is important to know that depression looks a lot like how asthma looks or how a brain tumor looks or how type one diabetes looks. Mental illness knows no gender, character, physical appearance, or income.

When I was younger I was told I didn’t look anxious. When I was younger I was really pleased to hear such a thing and would actually take it as a compliment. I felt anxious all of the time and at very severe levels. I thought I did a poor job of disguising how I felt. But now, when someone tells me that I don’t look anxious I become offended. When you live with a mental health disorder, you become accustom to the feelings you constantly are experiencing. I’m so used to being nervous all of the time, which is probably why it doesn’t show. If you knew my “tells” it would probably be more noticeable, too. And sometimes people feel the need to put up a façade to assure others not to worry about them.

I think a lot of the time people with mental health disorders don’t want others to worry about them because they feel there isn’t a lot other people can do. If mental health was taken more seriously in the U.S and was recognized more as an ailment, equivalent in severity as a chronic physical condition, than perhaps Americans would actually seek or better their treatment. The unfortunate truth is that the U.S does not recognize mental illness as anything worth fixing, and if they do they don’t appear to care all that much. About 60% of adults and almost one half of persons aged 8-15 with mental illness have received no help in the past year.

Approximately 61.5 million American adults experience mental illness in a given year. Approximately 20% of people aged 13-18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year and 13% of people aged 8-15 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. A severe mental disorder could be schizophrenia, severe depression, and bipolar disorder. The website I am using to gather these statistics (http://www.nami.org/factsheets/mentalillness_factsheet.pdf) also mentions anxiety, which I personally believe could be noted as a severe mental disorder in certain cases.

It surprises me that so many people with mental disorders walk among us everyday, and yet there is still an incredible amount of ignorance on the topic of mental health.

And if you are still unsure that mental health disorders deserve more attention and that the general population should be informed on the topics, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, which is more common than homicides.

People with mental health disorders need to speak out about their problems and inform those who are ignorant on the topic of how life really is. People need to be informed that a lot of people who have mental health disorders live among us, and that we aren’t all “crazies” who have violent ways and deserve to be in jails. Mental illness is a serious thing, equivalent to physical conditions and deserves the exact same attention and respect as physical conditions receive.

RIP Robin Williams.

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The Grossest of the Gross

Lately I have had to face my phobia a lot. I can’t say I love it.

You see, I’m phobic of throwing up. The proper term is “emetophobic” but not a lot of people are familiar with that word.

It’s complicated, but basically, I’ve been experiencing a lot of digestive issues that have been leaving me miserable and uncomfortable. Part of this new digestive issue is that I throw up about every two to three weeks, sometimes four. It may seem pretty infrequent to an outsider. When a person has the flu they vomit many times in a 24 hour period (ordinarily speaking) and are done being sick until the next virus gets to them. But my vomiting is pretty unpredictable and unpredictability and anxiety do not go very well together… or they go very well together…depending on how you look at it.

I’m ordinarily woken up in my peaceful slumber with nausea, shakes, chills or an uncomfortable warmth, amongst other symptoms before I actually do the deed.

I am very proud of myself for handling these moments so well. There have been two occasions where I have gotten sick at my boyfriends house. It may not seem like a huge deal to another person, but getting sick, alone, is scary for me, much less being away from home while getting sick. I’m becoming an old pro at it, which is awesome and concerning at the same time. I don’t want to be throwing up so much that it’s something as casual to me as peeing is.

Just because I have been experiencing my phobia more and have found that I can handle throwing up does not mean that the phobia has magically disappeared into thin air. I am still phobic of throwing up. Do I sound crazy? Probably. Allow me to explain.

Although I am handling throwing up far better than I could’ve ever dreamed before, I still think about it all the time. I still feel the urge to apply Germ X before an outing, during an outing, after an outing…basically all the time. I want to use Germ X all the time. Before I go on outings I always think of what I have heard is “going around” or what my friends might me sick with. After outings I think of all of the people who may have acted remotely strange. My strange scale is way more sensitive than your average person’s strange scale. For example: if I’m at the movies and someone leaves there seat quickly to exit the theatre I wonder if they are getting up to throw up or not. Throwing up is always on my mind. Throwing up through over excursion, over eating, food poisoning, illness, air born illness, constipation, alcohol consumption, gagging (provoked in any sort of way, be it the “chubby bunny” challenge, brushing of the teeth, coughing, etc.). I think about throwing up all of the time.

I can not stress that enough. I think of throwing up all the time

I wish I felt better physically and emotionally speaking.

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23 More Days

By all technicalities I begin college the 25th.

Yes, I have been accepted into college. I have known for a while, now, but my life tends towards pure chaos and I have hardly any time to sort out my seemingly intertwined thoughts, much less find the time and patience to post in here.

A few weeks ago my school of choice told me they needed me to come over to take some tests so they know I’m smart enough for college classes and so they know what math classes to put me in. The testing was computerized, as most tests are nowadays. However, before the testing began, the teacher(?) told me that my testing was being filmed and pointed towards a camera behind the computer facing where I was going to be. After reading a handy sign on the wall that said something along the lines of “Testing is filmed and can be viewed from the main lobby”, I unconsciously decided to take my placement testing in an incredibly dramatic manner. Just because I knew, or was under the impression, that people were watching me downstairs. Hooray for looking like a lunatic!

After the computerized testing I was asked to write a quick essay on the fly based off of a writing prompt, taking no more than twenty to thirty minutes to write my quick essay. Of course, I went completely off topic, but later found out that it must’ve been good enough because, after all, I was accepted.

Then I was lead to a room where a man and a woman interviewed me. I thought it was a bit odd because we sat in rocking chairs for the interview. Not the chairs that they have in classrooms that you can lean back in, but rocking chairs similar to what a grandmother would sit in while she knits. Although I nodded so vigorously that I flung my sunglasses off of my head and behind my rocking chair, the interview somehow went well.

Now that I have endured all of the embarrassment and anxieties associated with that situation I face very new and big challenges.

The fact that I am eighteen-years-old and that I am, in a nutshell, $40,000 in debt is a bit overwhelming. It makes me angry that society traps you into being in debt no matter what path you decide to take.

I’m angry and stressed because my college over accepts so much so that they have more students than beds. Which is weird because they require all freshmen to live on campus to “experience college life to the fullest” or some uniquely worded phrase that actually means, “We want as much money as we can get from you”. Since I wasn’t accepted until July for the upcoming fall semester, and there is currently a waiting list on housing, I will most likely have to commute forty-five minutes (one way) every day until enough people drop out and make room. BOGUS.

Then there is the harsh reality that I will be attending a week long orientation on August 25th and classes start September 2nd. It hasn’t kicked in entirely. In regards to actually being a college student, I am all of the emotions. I am emotional soup. Heck yeah I’m excited! Meeting new friends, more freedom, being able to visit people… But it’s going to be a completely different experience than what I’m used to. I will have to be around PEERS. I find people my own age TERRIFYING. I’ll have to do things alone, I will have to be in environments that I consider germy. I’m sad because I feel like I’m abandoning my family. My grandmother wants to make sure she spends time with me before I go off, my parents want bonding time, and among that I am also trying to see my friends and my boyfriend who I won’t be able to see as much, presumably.

Every emotion possible is being felt. And there’s 23 more days.

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Prescription for Adventure

I’m in desperate need of adventure.

A while ago I had made plans with my boyfriend to visit a place he once lived in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania may not seem like a super special place, but it’s about one thousand miles away and new scenery is good scenery, if you ask me. To make a long story short, the plan was to stay with my boyfriend’s friend whose parents decided I could not stay with them because my boyfriend and I are dating.

Ordinarily I could understand this, maybe, but both my boyfriend and I are pretty responsible people and both of our families allow us to stay the night at each other’s houses because we live two hours away from each other.

Being booted off of the trip last minute really bummed me out. I was sold on going on a plane for the first time with little commitment (I’m scared to fly, so ideally I would like to commit myself to as little flying time as possible the first time), and being able to experience new places and people. All of that vanished.

It is sometimes very difficult to be from rural Maine…which is basically the entire state. There isn’t much to explore. There isn’t a lot of excitement. I feel like you make yourself familiar with the people and the things to do in the area and you just rotate around with who to talk to and where to go.

I would love to be in Pennsylvania with my boyfriend and his friend that I was excited to meet right now. I have been trying to distract myself from the fact that I am not there by keeping myself busy, but I’m running out of ideas.

I think I would even be okay with a friend taking me out for a surprise. I just am in desperate need for adventure.

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Stereotypes

It saddens me quite a bit that folks around my age group tend to succumb to foolish stereotypes. I am not saying that I am not guilty of surrendering myself to the silliness that is (primarily) teenage-hood. In fact, I have had conversations with my family, where my sister asks what we think she is, which is normally a hippy, and where I have asked what my family thinks I am, which is normally a hipster.

Then I realize that I am far more complex than that. I may like to listen to my record player, play piano, and play ukulele. I may have an antique camera collection and own a typewriter, too. I may even dress like a hipster at times. But there is definitely more to me than that. My best subject is math, so does that make me a huge nerd? I like to write even though I’m awful at it, does that make me a nerd? I like being in nature (minus the bugs), does that make me a hippy? I want to dye my hair unnatural colors, does that make me emo? I like to roller skate and I go running sometimes, does that make me a ‘jock’?

I hope my point is being made.

I feel that so many people limit themselves simply because they need to have a label or allow other people to label them. It may not be conscious, but I feel it is something people do.

Most commonly, I find that girls in particular submit themselves to all of this nonsense. There are some girls who feel that their only asset is their body which I find rather unfortunate. Not that you shouldn’t love your body, you should! But, because some girls feel that they are only good for their body, they limit themselves. I feel that if you are advertising your body, people become less interested in who you are as a person. You aren’t giving your personality a chance and therefore are limiting yourself to more personal relationships you could be forming.

I can understand that I might be coming off as encouraging women not to embrace their sexuality and to expect all men to be pervs, but this is not my intention at all. As a woman with a curvy body, herself, I like to wear clothes that accentuate my womanly figure, simply because it makes me feel good about myself.

What I am trying to say is I wish more women (and men) would realize that they are complex creatures. You are more than your body, you are more than a previous stereotype that you have been labelled, you are more than your past, you are more than the things you have or don’t have. A collection of all of those things make up who you are which is a wonderful person, I’m sure. Never let one thing define you.

I have made the mistake of allowing my anxieties to define me. I am not anxiety. I have anxiety, but I am not anxiety. Anxiety has shaped me into who I am, but it is not who I am. It’s a small slice in the pie of Elrino.

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Reflection

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Disappointment

Life is undoubtedly full of disappointments. They will happen, they have happened. Disappointments are inevitable. Some, of course, are bigger than others. But they will be there and they are most certainly not fun.

For an eighteen-year-old I have been faced with my fair share of struggles and disappointments. I sway back and forth from trying to look on the positive side to the negative side. It is so terribly easy to be negative and so horribly difficult to be positive. On good days I tell myself that one of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion was that, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So if something really horrible happens, I have already had or will have something equal in power, but awesome, happen. 

Then, of course, there are bad days. Like today. 

When I kind of wish lives were something you could choose and trade in at a department store. Sometimes (a lot of the time) I don’t feel that this life suits me. It has caused me too much trouble and I am very done with it all. It feels like every time I take a step forward a brick wall is slammed in front of me, inches from my nose, and I have but a shank to chisel my way forward. Similar to a prison escape. I feel a prisoner to my body and to my life at times. 

I have learned that it is more difficult to be disappointed if you simply do not care. You have nothing to lose when you don’t care but you also have nothing to gain. 

A flaw of mine (of the many) is that I care too much. A lot of whiny girls say it, I know, but I really do care too much. No, I’m not easily impressed, and because of that I have a stone facade, but I care incredibly deeply about really stupid shit. 

But I’m in a place right now where I do not want to care because I do not want to lose and be disappointed. 

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