Self-Care is Important When You Suffer From Depression

Adulting, Author: Claire Greene

I have suffered from depression for over 15 years. Part of the catch-22 of Major Depressive Disorder is feeling a lot of guilt. You may feel guilt over what you think you’re putting family through, guilt that your friends might not want to spend time with someone who is a major buzz kill, and most of all, guilt that there are so many people who seem to have it worse, yet you’re completely miserable.

This guilt, in turn, can just feed into your depression, making you feel worse and worse until you’re in this downward spiral that’s extremely hard to pull yourself out of it. But what can you learn from this experience and guilty feeling? When you are going through a battle in life, such as you are with mental illness, you are what is the most important. You can love yourself when you’re going through depression — and you need to. Be proactive over this, and these little tips may help. They helped me!


Talk to a therapist
It’s hard talking to people who don’t understand. By talking to a therapist, you are talking with a professional who knows what she’s doing, and wants to help you. My therapist taught me that my depression was not my fault, but a result of my brain chemistry and genetics. Once I stopped blaming myself, I was able to focus on the things that I needed to do to help myself. Yes, it does take a lot of courage to get yourself there, and a therapist does in a way have to break you down to build you back up, but once you do, you will be much stronger for it.

See a Psychiatrist
This one may be a bit controversial, I get it. But, I would not be who I am today without finding the psychiatrist that finally understood my brain chemistry and found the right medication for me to be on. I do not abuse my medication, and I stick with my prescribed dosage. But, my medication changed an imbalance in my brain that would not have fixed myself otherwise. If you do not abuse it, you are responsible with it, and you go through the right channels, medication can certainly put you on the path to wellness. However, medication isn’t for everyone, and psychiatrists can also give you psychotherapy treatment and in some cases, light therapy, to name a few other options.

Take up a new, creative hobby
A creative hobby that you learn to love can give you something to be proud of, and it slowly can bring you back to who you were before. Find a creative project that does this for you, to give you something to concentrate on so you don’t become your own worst enemy, and you can focus on something other than your depression. When you have a final product, you’ll have something that you’ve created, with no copy, that is impossible to replicate exactly. Find whatever is healing for you — whether it is sewing, adult coloring (a great one), jewelry making, even something like painting or building something from wood.

Do what you love, and have always loved
This can be anything that releases negative energy for you and has always made you happy no matter what — and can be a complete release of sadness, grief, anger, and shame. Maybe you love sports. Maybe you love to write. It can even be as simple as playing with your pet or spending time with your friends. But it is so important to have a reason to get out of bed.

Be kind to yourself
Did you have that extra donut? That’s okay. Were you not able to leave the house today? That’s okay, too. You are going through a fierce war within yourself right now, and it’s alright if you lose the occasional battle. Sometimes, all you will be able to do for the day is just take a shower. Sometimes, just making the effort to text a friend and have a minimum of social contact is a huge win, and you should be proud of yourself for it. Be proud of yourself for accomplishing the small, little things. It’s all of those little things combined that will lead up to those big milestones. By just making a small effort, you are taking a big step towards believing that it will get better. It’s about the small steps that add up to a huge leap.


Pain is different for everyone. Yes, there are those less fortunate who have been dealt some terrible cards in life, and you should feel for those people. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t in pain, and it doesn’t make your pain less important. Be kind to yourself, and you will make yourself better to help others.

Mental Illness is Real and Frightening

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Real Life Stories

My mental health is not at its peak.

Mental illness is something that I have struggled with for most of my life, especially as I entered adolescence. I’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, depression, an unspecified personality disorder, and I have frequent bouts of dissociation. I spent two years misdiagnosed as bipolar. Yes, misdiagnosed. Casual, right?

I have been to edges that I don’t like to admit. I have felt like my brain is broken and doesn’t work “right.” I have experienced days that are just one panic attack after another. I have been frightened by the status of my mind. I have to keep a list of things that make me happy on a wall so that I don’t lose sight of them.

When my mood crashes, I can become uncharacteristically mean or distant. I have a nasty habit of isolating myself when I feel low, which can lead to extreme breakdowns. Cutting myself off leads me to make projections of my fears and anxiety. Essentially, I believe my friends are replacing me even when they aren’t. 

My panic attacks can be triggered by almost anything. A lot of times it’s caused by social situations, but not always. Each panic attack presents itself in a different way. While I can normally identify when one’s coming on, I’ve had other moments where I just genuinely thought I was having an asthma attack only for a doctor to find my lungs fine. When I panic, nothing makes sense. 

Being afraid of your own mind is something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

When the irrational part of my brain takes over, I lose control. In a moment that I’ve only recently become more open talking about, the irrational part of my brain led me to slice open my hand with a butcher’s knife because that part of my brain wanted me to use my blood as paint. What was terrifying in that moment was that I didn’t consciously make that decision; the knife was already making contact with my skin by the time I realized what was happening. Even by the next morning I wasn’t sure if I had dreamt the event or not.

I have come to terms with my illnesses, my hand is completely healed, and I’m taking the proper measures to control them. I share these to show how much can be going on in the human brain at one time. While there is so much going on in my brain, and anyone else’s brain who suffers from a mental illness, I have to continue to go to school, have a social life, and deal with the everyday responsibilities of being a human.

But I’m in constant fear that my mood will crash and suddenly I won’t be able to do anything, or I need to give myself a ten minute pep talk before I’m able to go ask for help in a store. I have to pretend everything is okay if I suddenly begin dissociating in class and don’t know what’s real anymore, which is really difficult to pull off convincingly.

And I am not alone. I know many people who suffer from depression, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and even moments of blackouts. Mental health is a part of life in every possible way that it can be.

But, there’s still a misconception out there that our generation is making mental illness “fashionable,” or a fad — and that even celebrities are using mental illness as they would fashion accessories. This a gross and potentially harmful misunderstanding. Carrie Fisher, everyone’s favorite and much missed space princess, was very vocal about her struggle with bipolar disorder… and nothing about it was ever for publicity.

Mental illness is not a new thing. And yet, the phrase “it’s all in your head” is thrown around constantly. There is so much fundamentally wrong with this phrase.

When you tell someone that their struggle is “all in their head,” it invalidates what they’re feeling and can even cause the person to not believe that they have a problem, which will prevent them from getting help. 

There is a stigma surrounding mental illness that states that if you just “think happy thoughts” then everything will be cured. But there’s a lot more to it than that. It consumes your body. More than once I have found myself unable to move because of severe anxiety sending waves of nausea and dizziness throughout my body. I have been trapped on the couch because my depression has drained me and I lose all motivation. I can’t simply “think happy thoughts” in those situations, because my mind and body are completely overridden.

Millennials are one of the first generations to actively seek help for mental illness on a wider scale. Previously, it was often seen as something that you kept to yourself. Because we are now seeking help, it is perceived that mental illness has become a trend and is something that has been publicized in every possible way.

I am not ashamed that I go to therapy. I’m not ashamed that I am on medication. And nobody should be. Why should we be subjected to live in a society where mental health isn’t taken seriously until it is too late?

This is just one of many questions we need to be asking ourselves everyday in order to be living our best lives. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about — being the best you you can be?

If you think you may be suffering from mental illness and don’t know it, I implore you to do some research on mental health facilities near you.

If you or anyone you know experiences suicidal thoughts or tendencies, whether related to a mental illness or not, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


13 Reasons Why is Making Schools Notice

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Entertainment

13 Reasons Why is sweeping the nation, in more ways than one.

The Netflix series, based on a young adult novel is causing millennials to really think about their high school experiences — and is also causing current high school students and their teachers and parents to raise alarms.

Now, why is it raising alarms? Because it’s a graphic tale of suicide. Hannah Baker, a high school junior, has committed suicide. However, before doing so, she recorded 13 cassette tapes, one for each person who contributed to her decision of ending her life. By the end of the series (and the novel) we’ve heard each backstory, and untangled a web of lies, secrets and tragedy.

The plot is eye opening. The show is raising metaphorical red flags in schools across the country as well as the following questions.

Does bullying — whether physical or non-physical, how overt or covert, taking place IRL on online — affect the mental health of teenagers to that degree?
Based on my own high school experience, I can offer firsthand testimony that it does. As I truly didn’t fit any type of mold in the social landscape of my very small high school, I became a target for hallway taunts and passive-aggressive stares. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re a teenager who is fearful to walk through the front door of your school (a place where you are ultimately supposed to feel safe), dealing with those feelings on the daily takes its toll.

What do schools have to say?
Schools across the country are sending home notices about the show, are discussing action plans in conferences among educators and administrators, and are intent on making sure that parents are “aware” of the series.

Are schools trying to cover up what goes behind closed doors?
What is the motive from the perspective of the schools? Are they genuinely concerned about the welfare of their students as the show “romanticizes suicide” or could potentially promote “copycat suicides?” Or is the motive something else altogether… perhaps guilt that anti-bullying programs in schools in our country are — to put it nicely — not what they should be? They sure weren’t ten years ago when I was in high school. And based on the show alone (the writers had to base their ideas and interactions between students off something, after all), it doesn’t seem like it’s getting any better.

Without getting into too many more plot details, it can be perceived that the fictional school’s guidance counselor turned a blind eye to Hannah’s situation. Good to know that that aspect of school administration also hasn’t gotten better since my mother visited my high school principal and he informed her that I was “happy” in the hallways. And while this report from the Huffington Post is from 2012, it seems my situation was not unique.

What do high school students have to say?
“I think that it’s incredibly important for a TV show to accurately portray when someone feels so hopeless to the point that suicide is their only option,” said high school senior Elizabeth Zarb. “Many teenagers suffer from mental illness that is often stigmatized or goes unnoticed, and hopefully this will encourage schools to stop the stigma and take mental health as seriously as physical health. The show isn’t without its flaws, but it gets the ball rolling because of how it resonated with teenagers and adults alike. It’s important for schools to be able to know the signs BEFORE a situation like Hannah’s happens, as that was an underlying theme in the show.”

What can we all learn from Hannah Baker?
We can understand that mental illness is real and should not ever be banned from conversation. We can continue to work toward a greater culture of acceptance. We can hope that our awareness will keep the conversation alive in schools and we can witness an influx of better anti-bullying policies. We can remember — even as 20 and 30-somethings in adult lives — that bullying is verbal, too. We can all actively work to be there for one another, and put some good back in the world.

Remember you are never alone. Need to talk? The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

The Real Deal: Working in Mental Health

Author: Kerrin Frappier, Career Advice

For almost six years, I have worked as a Mental Health Professional on the adult inpatient psychiatric unit of my local hospital. For most, the phrase “inpatient psychiatry” conjures up images of lobotomies, “electric shock therapy” without anesthesia (thanks to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestand animalistic behaviors from would-be patients.

Well, I’m here to tell you that 90% of what you would expect from a “psych ward” does not occur, at least not where I work. Some days are adrenaline-filled and hectic while others can be boring and tedious.

You’re in charge of the safety of others
The most important task done by every member of our unit staff is that of “observation rounds,” wherein the whereabouts of each patient are verified and documented at regular intervals. The person holding the all-important clipboard is the eyes and ears of the unit, and is responsible for the safety of the patients, visitors and staff on our unit.

You will be doing things outside of your job description
As a mental health professional, I complete my rounds before or after I help pass out breakfast. While the majority of my job involves running groups throughout the day, I also pass out lunch and search for contraband in the belongings patients bring in with them. As with any job, mine is not without paperwork — mental heath professionals complete notes detailing patients’ participation in group activities, as well as any problems that might have occurred through a patient’s interactions with their peers.

It’s fun!
It may sound strange, but it can be a lot of fun! We invite patients to play games with one another, we watch movies together, and getting to know people from all walks of life are some of the perks of the gig. The older patients we serve have an endless amount of stories from their younger days, and many times we are able relate to our patients through our common interests or similar backgrounds.

But, it can be difficult as well
That is truly the nature of mental illness — that it can strike any person at any time regardless of what kind of education you’ve received or the title you hold. It does not discriminate between sex, age or race.  It is disheartening at best to hear patients admit that their families understand very little of what they are going through. Surely, if anyone could simply choose not to be depressed, anxious or overwhelmed by strange compulsions or thoughts of suicide, no one would have a mental illness.

You do give out medicine and other treatments
Yes, doctors prescribe medications (antidepressants and antispsychotics among them). And yes, patients are restrained when it is deemed necessary for the safety of themselves, their fellow patients and the staff. And finally, yes, Electroconvulsive Therapy (not electric shock therapy!) is still used today and I have seen first hand the benefits of such treatment. As a professional at an “acute care” facility, I see patients at their worst and lowest and once they are stabilized they are sent off to their next level of care — either a day hospital program or their own therapist and psychiatrist or some combination of those.

You’re having such a strong impact on people’s lives, and your own
To be in a field that helps people through some of the most trying times in their lives, to keep them safe and send them on their way when the time comes is not only worthwhile but rewarding as well.


Millennials, Remember Self-Care

Adulting, Author: Kerrin Frappier, Author: Kristin Frappier, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Author: Michelle Ioannou

We’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about self-care. I’ve seen it discussed by the likes of The Huffington Post as well as our friends at GenTwenty (which devotes an entire, highly informative section to it).

Why? Well, some would say it directly correlates with our recent Presidential election. Additionally, with greater awareness of mental illnesses, more voices are recognizing the importance of self-care.

All of that said, we couldn’t ignore the need for us to discuss self-care any longer. Here are some of the tried and true methods that work for us.

Growing up in a household where two out of the four people are confined to wheelchairs, you tend to learn quickly to put others before yourself. I am the first to admit I’m not good at self-care, and I do tend to not make time for it like I should. How did I figure out a way to change this, though? I try and take a couple vacations a year. That’s right, I need to get away from everything and be in my happy place — on the beach, with no wifi, with no care in the world. This is how I rejuvenate myself, finally am able to relax, and come back to real life with a fresh new perspective.

Now I know that this is not feasible for everyone. But what’s your happy place? Is it simply laying in bed with a good book? Eating a bowl of ice cream while watching your guilty pleasure? Going for a walk and getting fresh air? Figure out what activity makes you happy — preferably one that gets you away from real life for a while — and go for it.  – Michelle

I’ll admit — I’m not particularly good at self-care, and as a Highly Sensitive Person, I truly shouldn’t avoid it as much as I do. But when I do make time for it (or when I have no choice but to make time for it — part of the HSP life is emotional and sensory overload) I have a few favorite activities that help me get out of my own head. Of course, writing — for #NAMB and just for my eyes only — is my first, somewhat obvious, go-to activity. I also have a somewhat secret passion for crafting (ironic because I can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler), especially collaging, scrapbooking, anything that has to do with photos and making homemade greeting cards. Photos are good reminders of just how many people in my life are always there to support me. – Mary Grace


First thing’s first: A regular sleep schedule. You laugh! But sleep is our most vital pastime! It helps us to organize our thoughts and keeps us feeling well. Haven’t you noticed how grumpy and sometimes irrational and sick you feel when you are low on sleep and coffee? Keeping a regular sleep schedule can help make you feel more productive and make the most of your nights and days. So, limit your caffeine intake after dinner, try not to snack too late, shut your phone off at least an hour before bedtime and get some shut eye.

Pamper yourself! I am the queen of showers! I love feeling fresh and clean but I also love being warm and having a place that is quiet and relaxing to collect my thoughts. I seem to come up with the best ideas in the shower! Take 20 minutes to yourself to paint your nails, do your makeup, take a bath, dress up to the nines, cook yourself a favorite meal (one that reminds you of college, or even a Thanksgiving favorite) or an indulgent treat (holiday throwbacks are perfectly acceptable)…whatever makes you feel good about yourself! – Kerrin

Let go of the drama! As painful as any separation might be, toxic people have no place in your life! You do not need someone who lies, puts you down or uses you. Life is too short and we millennials are busy enough without the added stress of people who treat us poorly.

Have a hobby. We all need our (healthy) outlets! When we are working hard to achieve our dreams it is important to remember to do the things we enjoy! Whether it’s hiking or heaving heavy stuff at the gym, reading a book or both mine and Kerrin’s favorite hobby — writing. You can journal about your day, wax poetic, write creepy stories about the patients you took care of (as Kerrin did). You can play an instrument, or listen to boy bands (also Kerrin) or volunteer to better yourself and your community. – Kristin