Posted in Personal Post

Humbled and Amazed

Yesterday began as a rough day for me. I decided to go have a genetic test to see if I had the same genes that make me a high risk for cancer. As some of you know, my mother died of ovarian cancer when I was 13, and just a few years after that my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My father has been cancer free after undergoing a long process of surgery and treatment, so he was extremely lucky and I try to remember that every day.

Because of my depression and anxiety, the nervousness that one experiences doing something like this is compounded. I couldn’t help but think of the worse possible outcome, I was terrified the entire time, and I just could not get a handle on myself. It was all I could do to keep my composure and not burst into tears. I just wanted to go home and hide from everything, cry, scream, anything but talk about the fact that I may have the same genetic compound that could give me cancer.

Then, as if the universe was feeling my pain, something amazing happened.

My editor at YattaTachiKaty (AKA Harley Gin), sends me a message saying that Funimation has just tweeted my article, not only that they shared it on their Facebook page!

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I was floored. Naturally I was overjoyed, I could not believe that my article was recognized by one of the most popular anime streaming services in the US. It was just the news I needed to get out of this cloud that I was in. Not only was it recognized by Funimation, but a well-known Anime and Manga Vlogger, HappiLeeErin, also shared and tweeted it.

As the title entails, I am humbled and amazed. I want so much to help create a world without the stigma against mental health. I want people to know that this is an illness and it needs to be treated like any other illness. I want people with a mental illness to know that they are loved, that they are important, and that it’s okay to say “I’m hurting and I need help.”

I know that this will be a challenging few weeks but I have my family and friends behind me. I won’t know anything for at least two weeks so there’s nothing left to do but wait.

Posted in mental health

What its like to Live with Depression

This is an older article that I had published in the local newspaper, it’s something that I thought I still should share.

First of all, I am not sad. I hate it when people make the assumption that just because I have depression I’m sad all the time like Eeyore. I’m depressed not sad, there’s a difference believe it or not. The “official” definition of depression, from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is this:

“Major depression is also known as clinical depression, major depressive illness, major affective disorder and unipolar mood disorder. It involves some combination of the following symptoms: depressed mood (sadness), poor concentration, insomnia, fatigue, appetite disturbances, excessive guilt and thoughts of suicide. Left untreated, depression can lead to serious impairment in daily functioning and even suicide, which is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Researchers believe that more than one-half of people who die by suicide are experiencing depression.”

Now for my definition: Depression is the inability to do the things that you used to love, you can’t seem to wake up, you feel like nothing you do is right, and there’s this immense cloud and/or void that feels like it’s going to swallow you whole. Yes, sadness does play a part in it but it’s a different kind of sadness–the worse kind: the kind that doesn’t go away no matter how many funny movies you watch, or how long you hang out with your friends. Your brain is your worst enemy because it can’t produce enough happy juice to get you through the day and it constantly reminds you of how much you suck, how awful life is and how nobody cares about you and your pathetic life.

My brain was telling me two different things; see I have this logic thing that was telling me the exact opposite of what my emotions were. It was like Jekyll and Hyde: the light side was telling me that I was loved, I had no reason to want to die, and I needed to talk to someone; the dark side was telling me that I wanted to die, and I wouldn’t be missed. The thing about depression is that there is so much that people don’t know, they seem to think that people can help it and when they finally do pull that trigger, pop that last pill, or tighten that noose; they think that they have a choice and they don’t. They can’t stop it, they are ashamed of themselves. They’re terrified that they’re going to be seen as weak, over-dramatic, or silly. It’s this stigma that people have about depression that makes people more depressed!

Depression is a disease, an illness. It’s just as serious as high blood pressure or diabetes. It needs daily medication just like the said conditions. I take medication every day, and I’m not ashamed to say so; I need these medications like a person with diabetes needs insulin. If I don’t take the medicine I am a horrible person to be around, when I don’t take my medication I sink back into a deep, dark place; I become moody, lethargic, I can’t concentrate, and I don’t enjoy things that I used to. It makes me so angry when people have this idea that having depression is the person’s fault. You wouldn’t blame someone for having cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure; stop blaming people who have depression, stop telling them to “cheer up” or “get over it.”

I hope that in reading this you can get a new idea on depression. That you see it’s a disease, not a fleeting illness that can be treated for a week and then expect the patient to be all better. It requires patience and as much understanding as you can muster.

Posted in mental health

Anxiety: It’s not just “Worrying”

Many people seem to brush anxiety off, saying it’s nothing but “overreacting” or “worrying.” People treat it not as an illness, but as something for someone to just “get over.” The National Institute of Mental Health states that “Anxiety Disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18%) in a given year, causing them to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty. Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as speaking in public or a first date), anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated. Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol or substance abuse, which may mask anxiety symptoms or make them worse.” A person with anxiety is always second-guessing, always worrying, and always fearful. Here’s how the mind of someone without anxiety works, take for instance turning the coffee pot off or wondering if you locked the door: “I’m pretty sure I locked the door, yeah I did. I just don’t remember because it’s something that’s second nature to me.” Now someone with anxiety: “Oh God, did I lock the door? What if I didn’t? Someone’s bound to notice and break in! What if they’re waiting for me there when I get home? I’d better go double check that door.” It may seem a like the person is over-reacting, but those are, in their mind, legitimate fears that could come to fruition.

I will be discussing the most common anxiety disorder: Generalized Anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health defines Generalized Anxiety Disorder as this: “People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months. People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.”

Now I know you must be thinking: “Why can’t they just tell themselves that it’s all incessant worrying and move on?” The reason is not a question of will, but a question of brain chemistry. Anxiety is natural, it works as a motivator and it acts as a warning system for danger in someone who doesn’t have a hiccup in their brain chemistry. In the 6.8 million American adults with GAD, it’s an inhibitor; the chemicals in the brain are on overdrive and high alert. It’s not something that can just be brushed aside, it needs treatment; just like someone with high blood pressure. I suffer from GAD, and it’s a constant struggle to keep my brain from going mad with worry. I do take my medication every day, but some days it isn’t enough and I need to focus on myself for a few hours. I meditate, do breathing exercises, and avoid loud or over stimulating places. This didn’t come easy; I never thought I could just focus on my breathing when I was in the grips of an anxiety attack. It took practice, and years of therapy to achieve this. I had to learn that Anxiety wasn’t who I am, but just a hiccup in my brain that couldn’t be helped, but could be treated if I wanted it to be.

Now, how can you help? When a person in the middle of an anxiety attack is suffering, the worst possible thing you can say is “Calm down.” What you should say is “What can I do?” Listen to them, even if you don’t know what to say, they need to be heard and acknowledged. Someone who has anxiety already feels silly because they know they’re worrying for nothing but can’t help it. The last thing you want to do is make them feel worse because this in turn makes their anxiety worse. A person with anxiety is just like you, they’re not some medical anomaly, after all you wouldn’t treat someone with diabetes or high blood pressure like that; so why treat someone with a mental illness like that?

I hope that this has opened your eyes to Anxiety; I hope that this has helped those with anxiety. My goal is to do just that: Promote understanding and aid. Mental Illnesses are no different from any other medical condition and should not be treated as so.

Posted in mental health

Mental Health: Why I am an Advocate

It’s no secret that I am an advocate for Mental Health Awareness; I’ve sort of made it my goal to promote awareness and education on the subject. Mental Health has had a pretty bad reputation since, well people first learned to speak. It’s been associated and portrayed in our society as a negative thing; television shows and movies depicting horrific asylums, crazy killer patients, and perverted psychologists (sometimes referred to crudely as “shrinks”). It also doesn’t help that a stigma has been in place for centuries. While researching the subject, I discovered that the first recorded Lunatic Asylum in Europe was the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, and it has been a part of London since 1247 when it was built as a priory. It became a hospital in 1330 and admitted its first mentally ill patients in 1407. Before the Madhouse Act of 1774, treatment of the Insane was carried out by non-licensed practitioners, who ran their Madhouses as a commercial enterprise and with little regard for the inmates. The Mad House act established the licensing required to house insane patients, with yearly inspections of the premises taking place. Back in America, the U.S. Library of Medicine states that the mentally ill in early American communities were generally cared for by family members, however, in severe cases they sometimes ended up in almshouses or jails. Because mental illness was generally thought to be caused by a moral or spiritual failing, punishment and shame were often handed down to the mentally ill and sometimes their families as well. As the population grew and certain areas became more densely settled, mental illness became one of a number of social issues for which community institutions were created in order to handle the needs of such individuals collectively.

Imagine being ostracized because you had high blood pressure, or a broken arm. You were so afraid of being criticized or laughed at, or even worse told to “just get over it.” If you had high blood pressure eventually your head would start to feel like it was going to explode before you had a severe heart attack, with a broken arm the bones wouldn’t heal properly without a splint or some other form of support and you would be in pain for the rest of your life from the severely deformed bone. Mental Illness is the same thing, it’s not a physical condition but it is still a medical condition that requires just as much attention as that broken arm. Yes the asylums were horrendous. Yes the patients can become dangerous. But don’t let American Horror Story be your point of reference for learning about the Mentally Ill. When it comes down to it, we’re all carrying around some sort of hurt. Sometimes that hurt becomes a wound that won’t heal but festers and we need help to make it better. How is that a bad thing? Why are we so conditioned to try and do it on our own when it’s nearly impossible to do so? I’m here to say that it is okay to say that you hurt, that you matter very much, and you are no different than someone with any other medical condition; you just hurt in a different way. That’s the key to getting a handle on your Mental Health: remember that you matter, that there is someone out there who does care, and you story is an important addition to this world we live in.

Posted in feminism

Online Harassment

The Internet is probably the most influential and fundamental invention of my lifetime. I’ve seen the birth of America Online, Macbooks, iPhones, and Androids; I’ve seen obscure websites like Facebook and Twitter grow into the juggernauts they are today. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of something like that.

However.

I’ve also seen the darkest parts of the Internet and what it can do to people. How it can ruin and sometimes end lives, and how one click of a button can change everything. I was watching a popular show on HBO called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and he was covering a story about Internet harassment. It’s mind blowing the amount of harassment that goes on, and if you don’t think that it does or that it’s not a big deal well congratulations on being an average white guy. If you are a woman and you make the “mistake” of trusting someone, or if you dare to have a thought in your head and post it on the Internet then you are probably going to face some sort of harassment or even worse. Take Anita Sarkeesian for instance. Those of you who are not familiar with her probably aren’t into video games; she’s very popular amongst that group of people, sometimes for the wrong reasons. Sarkeesian is a voice for women in video games and a critic as well; she frequently posts her reviews online and vocalizes the obvious sexism in the video game industry. She has not only received lewd remarks for doing so, but some of these are much more serious and threatening. She has received death threats not just geared towards her, but her entire family. She has also received rape threats that often are graphic and way too disturbing for me to even quote. Despite the threats she still keeps going, refusing to let these threats of violence deter her from her end goal.

Amanda Hess, a writer who posted a critique on the harassment of women online, received threats that were along the lines of “I’m going to rape you and cut off your head.” She went to the police, (it is against the law in California where she lives to make threats of bodily harm) and the police officer that came to her door didn’t even know what Twitter was. The officer didn’t really think that a crime had been committed even though clearly it had. When the police don’t understand something they cannot investigate it,if they can’t investigate it and come to a conclusion, then the person who committed the crime gets away with it. How would you feel if you were that person? Knowing that this sick individual got away with doing harm to you or your loved one?

Online harassment doesn’t just stop at threats of violence; there is another way women are harassed and humiliated: it’s called revenge porn. Revenge porn is where private and/or nude photos are posted online for the world to see without their consent. Now I can hear the response already: “Well if you don’t want that to happen don’t take those sorts of pictures!” First of all, not all of the pictures are taken; some are stolen from hacking webcams. Secondly that statement is what I like to call “victim blaming.” What you do in your own personal time with your partner is YOUR business, the news and other sources have hard-wired this sentiment in our brain. What victims are often told are “Sorry about your luck, but you trusted the person so it’s kind of your fault” or if it’s about general harassment some victims are often told “Just turn off your computer, it’ll go away eventually.” Okay first “turn off your computer” is not practical because we use the internet almost every minute from our PC’s to our phones, I mean somewhere in the world right now there is a sheep herder in some remote location using wifi; secondly blaming a person for something because they trusted another person is stupid, what if that person stole from you or worse? How would that make you feel? “Oh sorry about your loss but it is kind of your fault for trusting that person.” Insert any other crime into this situation, “I mean if you don’t want to get robbed, don’t live in a house!” “If you don’t want your identity stolen don’t shop online!” See what I mean? It’s all about the way we think about these things, and how they are presented to us. It’s always the victims fault until suddenly you are the victim. What you do with your significant other is your business, and if they betray that trust then our response shouldn’t be “well you shouldn’t have trusted them.”

If a woman goes to the police stating that someone threatened her life on Twitter, or if she goes to a lawyer because her vindictive lover posted nude photos of her online the response should not be “What in the world is Twitter?” or “Well you should date better people.” This is 2015, and the fact that women are still being harassed just because of the simple fact that they are women with thoughts is ludicrous.

The purpose of this article is not to rant or rage, the purpose is to get people to think of things differently. We need to raise our daughters to be strong and independent, and our sons to be respectful and upstanding. If you go to John Oliver’s YouTube page and watch the video on Online Harassment, you’ll see it has a 40% “downvote.” Why? Because people don’t want to talk about it or acknowledge that it’s happening and that’s the major part of the problem. We can be part of the solution by bringing it out in the open, talking about it, and teaching our children that these things are wrong.