More Articles from The Mighty

For anyone unfamiliar with The Mighty, it’s a great website where individuals affected (whether directly or indirectly) by disability, disease, chronic illness or mental illness share their stories of triumph as well as difficulties.  It’s also a great website to dispel stereotypes and educate the public about your disability/disease/mental illness.  It’s a great community and whether or not you are affected by disability, I recommend checking it out! I love being able to read other’s stories that, although they may not relate to my life, they help me better understand the daily life of another.

Below are links to a couple of my articles, although I have also written others.

http://themighty.com/2016/01/manic-doesnt-always-mean-happy/

http://themighty.com/2016/02/10-important-lessons-from-eating-disorder-treatment/

Dear OCD…

Honestly, I usually don’t feel a lot of anger.  I spend a lot of time feeling anxious, euphoric, depressed, and content, but I don’t find myself angry often.  But as life goes on, I’m finding that I’m pretty unhappy with OCD.  While I’ve previously written about embracing my mental disabilities (and these writings still hold true), right now I just need to vent TO my disorder about what a pain it can be for me.  So here goes…

Dear OCD,

Seriously, stop being so mean.  I’m tired of you being a [insert not so nice expletive here].  I wish that you’d just cooperate with me and get out of my life for a little while.  You do disappear sometimes, but just not enough.  You never really go away.

You’re always lurking behind every corner.

And I hate you for that.

You’ve tried to ruin relationships that I’ve had with both others and myself.  You’ve made me question my sanity, my intentions, my sense of being, the world around me, many, many times.  It’s the nature of what you do– “the doubting disease” being your other name.  

You used to make me engage in more obvious compulsions but these days most of them are silent and internal… covert.  In some ways this is more torturous, as others don’t see the pain that goes on over and over again inside my head.

I used to think the worst part about you was the anxiety, but lately I’ve decided it’s the guilt.  The guilt and the doubt.  The constant state of confusion you leave me in.  It’s torturous and I’ve described it countless times as it feeling like having thorns scratch and poke through my brain.  

While you change your shape and form, I’m often able to recognize you and your irrationality.  However, just because I know you’re full of lies, it doesn’t mean I can escape your grasp.  Medicine helps alleviate you, but only a little.  My therapist and I are going to work harder to stomp out the fires you’ve been creating inside my head.

You make me feel uncertain and fearful, and oftentimes, it leads to self loathing because I never really feel sure.  I’m going to keep fighting you, but it’s my right to tell you I’m pissed.  I’m tired of your games.

Sincerely, someone who’s exhausted

P.S. I believe I’ll be okay… it’s you who should be worried.

2016 Resolutions

Almost a year ago I shared 14 lessons I learned in 2014 along with 15 things to look forward to in 2015.  This time, I would like to write 16 resolutions/goals I have for 2016.

I recommend doing something similar for yourself (of course, it doesn’t have to be the number 16– any amount will do!).

  1. Stay in recovery for anorexia/eating disorders.
  2. Continue down the non-drinking path for now.
  3. Work on coping better with my OCD/mood swings.
  4. Get my fiction novel published this year. 🙂
  5. Write down something good about each day before bed every night.
  6. Do more volunteer work in DC with APO (volunteer co-ed fraternity that I am in).
  7. Run the 10-mile Cherry Blossom race but focus on proper nutrition and not obsessing about times/numbers: do it just for the experience of running among the gorgeous flowers.
  8. Tell more people how much I appreciate them.
  9. Become more politically aware so I can make an informed decision during the election.
  10. Meditate (I tried that somewhat this year but I wasn’t very good at it haha).
  11. Listen better to others when they speak to me.
  12. Slow down.
  13. Go to church every once in a while.
  14. Spend less time on Facebook.
  15. Maintain my French and keep learning Portuguese on my phone (while of course taking my Spanish classes for my minor).
  16. Keep writing!!!!! (most importantly!)

To whoever may be reading this, feel free to comment and let me know what you plan to do with your 2016! Hope everyone got something good out of 2015.  It was a tough year in many ways but amongst the difficulties were many precious and beautiful moments.  I also learned a lot too.

–Kelly

[Featured image taken by me on a running trail in Washington D.C.]

Coloring my moods

Aside from writing, I’ve also discovered this past semester that coloring and drawing is an amazing way to relieve stress and express your feelings.  You don’t need to be Van Gogh or Picasso to do this– While I do think my patterns look cool, it’s more for the action than for any other purpose.

Feelings stressed or overwhelmed (or bored)? Pick up some markers and see what you come up with!

 

MIA

I’ve been MIA on here lately but I’m back!

I want to share something personal that maybe others can relate to, or if not, something than can help those who don’t get it, better understand.

Being a newly minted (as of September) 21-year-old and a college student and as someone who attends parties… things get tricky when you make the ‘choice’ (yes, technically a choice, even if I wish I didn’t feel like I needed to) to abstain from drinking alcohol.

I’m trying this no drinking thing.  How long will it last? I don’t know.  How long should it last? I don’t know.  Why am I doing it?  That much I do know.  Also, has it been easy for me so far?  No.

But I’ll tell you why it’s so important right now:

  1. I’ve never had a good history with alcohol. Ever.  From my first sips at 15 while living in Europe to a negative experience in high school to drinking to numb before medication and then drinking post medication … yikes. It’s been bumpy.
  2. The fun doesn’t last for me.  9/10 times it doesn’t.  Usually I drink and my mood goes up and I catch an intense high, higher than most (and people tend to think I am drunker than I actually am because of this).  Then, after having what feels like an insane amount of fun, I crash harder than most.  I cry or feel worthless and empty.  I question things.  The pain is loud.
  3. Bipolar disorder (and mental illness in general) do not go well with alcohol.  Hence why reason #2 happens for me more than most people.  Every single time I drink.
  4. On that note, psychiatric medication, particularly mood stabilizers/antipsychotics, do not go well with alcohol either. The alcohol reduces the effect of my medication quite a lot.  I learned this semester, after going a few weeks where I would drink every weekend, that one drink (with or without medication) would set my mood off for the entire week– depression, hypomania, or mixed, as well as rapid cycling.  It was rough, and I finally realized that maybe it isn’t worth it for me.
  5. Addictive and obsessive personality. That’s me.  Between having an addictive personality (hence eating disorder history) and having OCD, I know that drinking is a very, very fine line for me.  I always want more, and never feel satisfied.  I feel like I need to achieve a certain feeling or high, and I have enough self-awareness to realize that for me this could go too far very easily, as it did with food and exercise in the past.

So now that you know WHY, I’ll tell you how I got there: negative experiences having added up, strongly encouraged by therapist and friends, medically in my best interest according to my psychiatrist etc…

I don’t want to be an addict.  And I’m not saying that everyone with bipolar or everyone that is in college or everyone that drinks is going to become an addict.  I just know myself, having gone through this mental health journey in the past year.  I don’t want to make that risk.  I’m going to struggle during certain moments at parties when the temptation is high, but I’m going to do my best to fight it.  I figure telling people that I am sober is the best way to start– accountability is super important with things like this (my prior experience having been with my eating disorder).

ON THE POSITIVE, I have awesome, supportive friends and family, as well as my mental health team.  Maybe I’ll write my next post on ways I can still have just as much fun without alcohol even while attending parties where others are drinking– I had my first experience with this just this past weekend at a wedding for a relative.  My mom (WHO IS AWESOME) got me cranberry juice in a cocktail glass, made it look all fancy, just so I would feel like I had a drink and no one would ask me if I wanted or needed one.  I’ll admit, I did feel isolated and trapped in my thoughts, but my mom had a great way to solve it.  Plus her being sober/reassuring me also helped a lot.  🙂

Until next time—–

Kelly

My Articles from The Mighty

Hi all.  I published a couple of articles on an amazing website called The Mighty (a website full of articles, stories, and opinions from those who have been affected or are a part of, the disability community.  This is not limited to just mental illness).

http://themighty.com/2015/08/how-my-ocd-isnt-like-someone-saying-im-so-ocd/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=MH_Facebook_Page

http://themighty.com/2015/07/when-a-taxi-driver-called-people-like-me-crazy/

Both links above cover my experiences with mental illness.  I write to spread awareness and to instill a greater compassion in others for this community, as well as general empathy for anyone going through something difficult and unfamiliar.

Thanks!

-Kelly

“It’s okay to not be high all the time”

I have a very great therapist who said those words to me recently.

“It’s okay to not be high all the time.”animals-001

And no, I’m not a recovering drug addict.  I’m recovering from different addictions.  I’m recovering from a different method with which I used to create or prolong my own personal highs.

Everyone feels ups and downs.  It’s a normal part of life.  Since my mid-to-late teens, I’ve been experiencing my own highs that soar to even greater heights than those of most people: hypomanic highs, an inevitable part of bipolar disorder (which I was not diagnosed with until this past January).  The funny thing about hypomania, is that although it can be distracting or painful at times, this mostly is not the case.  Majority of the time, when I’m in a hypomanic state, I’m happy, feeling incredibly creative, energized, and having a great time.  My confidence soars and my thoughts are faster than I ever could imagine possible.  It’s all fun and games until I crash.  Boom.  And then I no longer feel so high and happy, but rather depressed, cognitively slow, and lost in a sea of self-loathing thoughts.

I have medication to help this.  During my depressive episodes, I’ll do anything to help me take away the pain.  So I gladly take my medication without question.  On the other hand, the medication also calms the hypomanic episodes so that I can sleep better and feel calmer and more productive.  But once you’ve gone as high NATURALLY as I have, you don’t want it to go away.  And that’s why many bipolar individuals turn to drugs or alcohol.  Or in my case– Restricting, exercising, and purging.  An eating disorder.

As my psychiatrist has finally leveled me out to the correct dosage for my mood disorder and OCD, I feel so much better than I ever have in my life.  It’s tempting for me to fall back into negative behaviors, such as restricting, to feel the high that enters your mind from using this addictive action– the addiction to feeling hungry.  The addiction to withholding yourself from something your body and mind need to function.

I know I can’t do this though… because the further you fall into the eating disordered behaviors, the higher your highs become, but with that, you receive the lowest of lows that only sink deeper into a dark abyss as your body starves.

So, as my therapist says, it’s okay to not be high all the time.  Life isn’t always crazy and thrilling, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be boring either.  Both times will occur, as it is part of the natural cycle of life.  I think this is a message that can apply to anyone and not just those mental illness.

210bddccf16c0f273954afdc04b7a76bNote: Images taken off of Google Images (except for featured image– taken with my Nikon Camera)

The Body Image Talk … TIME FOR A CHANGE

It’s time for a change when it comes to the way we (as humans, as adolescents, as adults, as kids, as Americans, as students, as celebrities, as writers, as men, as women, as blacks, as whites, as hispanics, as teachers, as parents, as doctors, as social media users…) CHANGE the way we talk about body image.

I’m so tired of reading about bashing skinny people.  I’m tired of seeing posts that call perfectly healthy women fat.  I’m tired of seeing models that emphasize that men need abs and women need an ass or an hour glass figure.  Everywhere you look you get a slightly altered message about what’s good, what’s hot, what’s healthy– but here’s the reality: each of these seemingly different messages are really all the same.  Underneath each message is the portrayal of “what you have can always be better.”  AND THAT JUST ISN’T RIGHT.  tumblr_mltz1oST6U1rbf2mto1_500 images

I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I have been in eating disorder treatment in the past year, so I can say that I have both felt in myself and witnessed in others the distortion the media and society has been playing on our perceptions of body image.

First myth I want to exploit: I don’t care who you are- man, woman, teen, senior citizen, poor, middle class, educated– you most likely have experienced some sort of body image dissatisfaction at some point in your life (the myth being that only teenage girls experience body image problems).  If you haven’t THAT’S AWESOME and keep doing what you’re doing.  If you have, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong… it’s simply a common product of our society to feel this way.

SO HOW DO WE CHANGE THIS???images

I mean I’m just one person and I know I’m far from holding all the power, but I know that change starts with individuals.  Here are some of my thoughts of things that YOU (whoever you may be, happy or unhappy with your body.. doesn’t matter!) can do:

1) Remember that what we see on the covers of magazines is usually exaggerated and/or touched up.

  • Think about all those tabloids you see about Jennifer Aniston being pregnant??? How many times have those headlines been accurate… (here’s a hint: Jennifer Aniston doesn’t have any children).
  • The same goes for images…. not only are stories often fake or exaggerated, but so are pictures.  Photographs are touched up with a computer to make models look ‘glamorous’ or ‘fit.’  Those pretty people on the magazines are still pretty in real life, but in a more realistic way.  The magazine companies make them look unattainably beautiful or athletic or skinny or tan.  It isn’t real life.  And why try to be something that isn’t real?

2) Don’t put so much emphasis on the number.

  • Now I know this is easier said than done cause with my OCD and history of anorexia, I personally struggle with this. But in the big picture, at your funeral, are your friends and family going to be talking about how skinny you were and what number the scale said when you stepped on it, or are they going to be recounting times you made them laugh or smile or were there for them?

3) SKINNY doesn’t equate beauty.  Nor does “the perfect butt”.  Or the “athletic body.”  Or an hourglass figure.  Or well defined muscles.  

  • This is something that takes time to accept and embrace for certain people such as myself, but I’m learning how true it is.  Corny maybe, but beauty really is someone who’s confident and healthy.  
  • And what does confident and healthy look like??? Different on different people.  Some people are naturally thin while others are naturally curvy.  But genuine confidence usually looks the same– a smile, but also honesty about your inner and outer struggles.  Self-appreciation without narcissism.  Being comfortable in your own body and not negatively judging other’s for who they are.  Taking compliments and handing them out when appropriate.  Confident doesn’t mean you have to have your life together… it just means that you’re not afraid to admit when you are afraid or lost. And that you love yourself for who you are physically and mentally.beluga whale!

4) Negativity is contagious.  But so is positivity and being realistic.

  • I once thought that being positive meant smiling and saying you’re okay despite the pain.  I now know that that isn’t the case.  Being positive is admitting when you need help and feeling hopeful about receiving that help.
  • Let’s stop talking about “that fat girl” or “that scrawny boy” or “that anorexic looking woman.”  Instead, remember that everyone’s built differently.  Now if you’re concerned someone you care about has a problem, then that’s different.  You wouldn’t refer to them like that; instead you’d reach out to them.  Otherwise, let’s not talk about our bodies so much.  Like yes, we all HAVE them, but most of the time not much needs to be said about the subject.

5) Let’s talk about something else: the beauty of personalities or the beauty of nature or the beauty of artwork…. etc.

  • The list goes on.  So many things and people are beautiful.  Let’s talk about his beautiful personality or her beautiful painting or the beautiful sunshine.

6) Last challenge: five people

  • I challenge you to walk away from this and tomorrow tell five people they’re beautiful (don’t mention specific body parts… just say “you are beautiful”)
  • 5 people: 1- yourself.  2- a family member.  3- a close friend.  4- a not as close friend.  5- a random person/people… via post-it note.  Stick a note on a public bathroom mirror saying “you’re beautiful” and walk away. Who knows– you’ll most likely touch more than 5 people right there.

I KNOW THIS WAS SAPPY BUT I THINK IT’S SO SO IMPORTANT.  START THE CONVERSATION; SPREAD THE LOVE… BEGINNING WITH NOT JUST THOSE AROUND YOU, BUT ALSO, YOURSELF. Next time you hear some people gossiping about someone’s size in a negative way, stop them.  Say something.  It doesn’t have to be a giant speech… just a few words: “Hey, that’s not cool,” or simply changing the subject if you are a part of the conversation.  Or bringing up good qualities about that person.  There are countless ways to combat this.confidence-beautiful-size-weight-large

As for social media, be careful what you post.  Remember that tweeting something like, “Ugh I’m fat,” won’t help you change the way you feel about yourself.  In addition, it may end up harming someone else reading it.  They may be larger than you and begin to compare themselves… Not to mention, posts like that put an unnatural emphasis on the body and gives certain bodies a very negative connotation that they aren’t deserving of.

ANYWAYS SORRY THIS POST JUST KEEPS GETTING LONGER AND LONGER BUT BE BODY POSITIVE and if you or someone you know is struggling with food, exercise, or body image, learn more and/or seek help at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

We’re all beautiful here.

images-1

One Day At A Time

So, I, like many people, struggle with the concept of taking things one day at a time.  One day… at a time?  What does this even mean!? And why is it relevant to my life?  Or anyone’s for that matter?  Why take one day at a time when you can pull out your calendar and plot down things to do for the next seven days!? TEN!? FIFTEEN DAYS!? HELL, WHY NOT PLAN OUT THE REST OF THE SUMMER?????????

I mean, certain things do need to be planned out in advance.  But the answer to that last question: because TOO much planning stops being fun.  Too much planning begins to take you away from the present moment.

About a year or so ago, I would plan EVERYTHING.  And when I say everything, I literally mean everything.  I would open up my planner and write down what I was eating for each meal, when I was exercising and how much, when I was supposed to “relax” and “have fun” and a giant list of unattainable, crazy, totally-not-necessary, goals for me to try and achieve before a certain date.  This was planning to the point of obsessive– I was no longer just using my planner for homework and the occasional social function… I was using my planner to plot out every moment of my life so that I could “maximize usage of my time.”  Well friends, I wish I could say I did use my time well… but I’d be lying if I said that.  I really ended up using 18/24 hours of the day obsessing over things both large and small, important and unimportant.  When I was with friends I wasn’t in the present moment… Instead I was mechanically going through the motions while my mind zipped 100 miles an hour, obsessions and racing thoughts and compulsions taking over my existence, as well as a looming internal calendar with a ticking clock to match.  My mind wasn’t on that one day; it was focusing on that day, the days before, and the years to come.  It was hyper-focusing to the point of pain.

What I just described was my life when I craved perfection, when I lived in an eating disordered mind, when my OCD and anxiety had the best of me, and when my moods oscillated like crazy.

Today I’m trying to take one day at a time, planning some things a week or so out, but only the big things– projects, classes, events, and appointments.  Everything else is falling into place.  I exercise when I have the time and want to; I eat without planning the specifics of it; I relax when I’m able to and without forcing it; I’m social when I run into friends or make plans the day before.  I no longer live in the “taking six months at a time” world but rather the one that focuses mostly on “one day at a time.”

If you’re anything like me, even if just in the slightest, I dare you to try something new today.  I dare you to (without blowing off important and necessary tasks… cause let’s be real, we all have things we have to do) eat something really different or spontaneously call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while.  Or maybe go explore a new place.  Create something.  Do something off the schedule.

Happy Monday Y’all!!

College Student “Epiphany”

Okay so this isn’t an actual epiphany.  It’s actually something quite obvious.  

The past few days I’ve been taking really good care of myself: sleeping about 8 hours, exercising for 20-40 minutes (but not every day), and eating a variety of food while still eating desserts.  And my mind and body have NEVER felt this great.  Especially during finals week.  So yes, this may seem like a “duh” moment, but after witnessing many of my college friends go through nights of 3 hours of sleep, 2 large meals and no snacks, and little exercise during finals, I can see the toll it takes on them mentally and physically.  They’re exhausted, stressed, and just plain cranky.

I think this is a good lesson in life but especially for college students– do your work during the day or night (don’t wait until 3 am), go for a walk or jog and get some fresh air, and try to eat breakfast.  Obviously not every day has the time to do this, but it’s certainly doable most of the time.  It’s important for anyone, and I know especially for someone like me who suffers from mental illness.  Taking care of myself but also not being hard on myself has evened out my mood swings, reduced my OCD, and kept my eating disorder at bay.

So yeah, I’m not trying to sound preachy, and many of you are probably already doing this.  But I just wanted to share what’s been helping me feel good and succeed!

As my boyfriend said (laughing at me) when I told him this, “There’s a reason doctors tell you to do these things!”