Posted in mental health, Personal Post

Shelter

My first post in the new year is going to talk about a short that I discovered last year that impacted me in such a way that I am just now coming to terms with how much this piece of art is important to me.

This short tells the story of Rin,  a 17-year-old girl who lives her life inside of a futuristic simulation completely by herself in infinite, beautiful loneliness. Each day, Rin awakens in virtual reality and uses a tablet which controls the simulation to create a new, different, beautiful world for herself. Until one day, everything changes, and Rin comes to learn the true origins behind her life inside a simulation.

Now why would something like this impact me so? Why should you care? It’s quite simple really: It all goes back to my mental health.

If you haven’t watched the short, do so now. I will be venturing into spoiler territory beyond this point.

Rin’s journey, is my journey. I lived in a world where I thought everything was fine, repressing everything that I was feeling and running from my past. I was trying to create a world where I didn’t hurt, where I was safe. It was like a trying to paint over a black wall with white paint and expect it to not bleed through. Eventually no matter how much paint you add, your wall will always be black.

When Rin finally learns the truth, that her father sacrificed himself to save her, she is devastated. The memories are painful, they wash over her like the ocean waves.

That’s how it is with me.

See I have my own share of painful memories, from my mom’s death to being sexually abused by a teacher at my high school. Those memories haunt me, and even though I can’t fully comprehend my sexual assault yet–it’s still there, like a dormant volcano. The memories become overwhelming, they hit me like a truck and knock me in the mud, then they drag me through said mud and leave me there to rot. That’s when the depression hits, that’s when my demons come out and tell me I should just end it all and escape from this ocean of pain and misery.

The thing about the ocean though, is that it waves to and fro, the waves always recede back to the ocean. That’s what I have to remember, is that those memories are a part of me, they formed who I am, but they are not me. Those memories of my mom give me strength, they’re what keeps me here–they are responsible for that tiny dollop of hope that I have in my darkest times.

Even if those memories make me sad, I’ve got to go forward believing in the future. Even when I realize my loneliness, and am about to loose all hope, those memories make me stronger. I’m not alone…because of you.

As I type through my tears, I want you all, all who are struggling with something, to remember that it is worth it. I know it sucks, it hurts, and it doesn’t seem like it. But, to quote Samwise Gamgee, there is something good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.

Whatever that good is, fight for it. Find shelter in it.

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Posted in mental health, Personal Post

Farewell my Princess…

I don’t think I’ve been this upset about an actresses death since Liz Taylor and Lauren Bacall.

NPR broke the story for me, it popped up as a notification on my phone. I had to pull over and cry. Luckily I was on my way to my therapists appointment so she understood why I was a little late. See Carrie Fisher meant more to me than just Princess Leia, just like Lauren Bacall and Liz Taylor I related to her. I adored her. I grew up with her.

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I can’t really remember how old I was when I first saw A New Hope, maybe 6 or 7, but I remember vividly my reaction to first seeing Princess Leia. I was enamored by her! At first it was “Wow she’s so pretty!” then I saw her kicking ass and taking names with the Stormtroopers and I was done. It impacted me in such a way that I only now realize, Princess Leia taught me that gender didn’t matter when fighting for what was right. She taught me that I could be that little girl who saved the galaxy. Let’s face it, Han and Luke would’ve been lost without Leia. Han probably still frozen in carbonite and Luke falling towards the Dark Side. You know it’s true, don’t deny it.

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Not only was Carrie Fisher a bad ass in movies, but also in life. She was unapologetically outspoken and in many ways, mirrored Leia’s personality on and off screen. She didn’t care who she offended, if you couldn’t take it leave. I loved her for that.sub-buzz-350-1482868843-3

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But as I grew older, I began to realize that I loved her for a much deeper and more meaningful reason: Her strong, outspoken stance against the stigma surrounding mental health.

See Carrie Fisher struggled with her own mental illness for most of her life. She was an alcoholic, and suffered from bipolar disorder…which probably lead to the alcoholism in the first place.

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Now I have depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I’m not bipolar but I have met people in my journey who have suffered from it and from what they tell me, it’s basically like a roller coaster ride from hell. That’s simplifying it of course, but I can’t in good conscience talk about something that I have no idea what it’s like. I know what it’s like to feel like you have this demon on your back constantly telling you how worthless you are, how stupid you are, how you are not enough no matter how hard you try. I know the crippling fear one faces while they’re in the midst of an anxiety attack–the feeling of gasping for air right as you’re about to hit the floor but you never do, it’s that feeling of falling without any resolution. I can imagine that both of those fall into play with bipolar disorder, and dealing with it takes immense strength and courage.

To speak up as a woman, and take no shit for it means you’re always under scrutiny of some kind. Carrie Fisher didn’t give a flying fuck about it, she was as real as they came. That is why I’ll miss her, that is why I love her. My life was impacted in a positive way by Carrie Fisher.

I’ll close with the first line of her obituary–as she would have wanted it:

Carrie Fisher found dead in moonlight, strangled by own bra…

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May the Force be With You, General Organa.

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Posted in mental health, Personal Post

Graduation: One Year Later

I must warn you all that I’ve had at least three beers (and working on my fourth) before writing this so it may be a bit more expletive than usual.

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It has been a year since I’ve graduated college and as I sit here unemployed, in crippling debt, and broke I tend to let my mind wander. I allow it to wander across the plains of my fucked up brain and explore, explore the good, the bad, and the really ugly of what led up to that piece of paper that now collects dust in a frame–why I went through all of the blood, sweat, and tears to get the damn thing.

Let me start off by saying that I’ve never been the ideal student, I’m the daydreamer. I’m intelligent…when it comes to things I really like, things like literature or history, or the arts. Math? Fuck that shit. Letters and numbers are separate entities and should remain so. My mom was the one who showed me that all subjects mattered, whether I thought so or not. After my mom died, I became a volatile force, I was excelling at my literature classes but failing everything else. To this day I’m pretty sure my shitty Christian school gave me a diploma so they wouldn’t be held responsible for my farce of an education because there’s no way I could have graduated with the grades I had. But that’s neither here nor there, the point is that I was a terrible student after my mom died because I didn’t have a reason to live and get good grades anymore. I only went to college because I was terrified that she would haunt me the rest of my days if I didn’t.

I spent four years in a community college where most people spent two and six years at a university where most people only spent four. I had no fucking clue what I wanted to do with my life, and if I’m really honest about it, I really didn’t even want to live it because of all the shit I was going through. During my time at the university I was hospitalized twice for my mental health, and suffered several suicidal ideations (of which I never acted upon). I had to re-take several classes and spent many a minute in the bathroom suffering from panic attacks. I suffered in silence because I was afraid of ridicule. I didn’t reach out because I was a loner and trusted few.

It wasn’t until I had a creative writing class that I felt it necessary to share my story, I don’t know why and to this day I can’t give you a reason why I did it. Maybe because I felt safe there, maybe it was the amazing professor, maybe it was the students in the class, hell it was probably all of that. I think I was also just so tired, tired of hiding, tired of carrying this burden on my own. With ink and paper, the encouragement of my professor and peers, I was able to release. I was able to share my burden, even if it was just on the page.

Throughout the rest of my college career, I kept that class in the back of my mind. And on December 19, 2015, I was able to walk across the stage and get my degree that I had worked my loving ass off for.

So why did I go through all of that? Why did I even bother?

See when you have a mental illness you’re constantly reminding yourself of the things you can’t do, things that seem impossible. It’s not you saying those things, it’s your illness lying to you–daring you to even try to defy it. It tells you that you’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not enough. I believed it some days, and others it was silenced by the little spark of defiant hope that I had.

My point is this: Defy the voice that tells you that you can’t. Defy the voice that tells you that it won’t get better. I got my degree to show myself that I am capable of doing great things, that even if I never get my dream job (novelist preferably), or I never get out of debt–I can still put my feet on the floor in the morning and say I’ve lived. I woke up. I breathed. That’s a huge victory for someone who didn’t think life was worth it.

So live my friend, breathe the air of life and suck it all in. For it is beautiful.

 

Posted in mental health, Personal Post, Uncategorized

Thanksgiving

When I think about this past year, it’s hard to not get discouraged. I’m talking about my own personal struggle–not the political turmoil and rampant depressing events that occurred this year (though some of that played a part). My mental health has been the forefront of this year, especially towards the latter half of it. I struggled with suicide and deep, dark bouts of depression and crippling anxiety. I questioned whether or not it was worth even continuing this life that I was living, and a small part of me still challenged that thought but it was exhausting and I was beginning to lose hope.

I enrolled in the Partial Hospitalization Program to avoid a full term hospitalization where they would keep me for god knows how long. The PHP is a program that helps people who have been hospitalized for mental health issues get back on their feet, and it serves as another way for those who are on the precipice of a hospitalization. I was there for two and half weeks, I won’t go into detail of the therapy or the medication changes–but it helped me immensely.

I say all of that to give a background as to how important my friends and family are to me. When you’re going through a depressive episode, you can be very reclusive and isolate–because you don’t want to be a burden to others, or you feel scared that they won’t love you anymore for whatever reason. I pushed people away, people that I shouldn’t have, people that I love dearly, and would rather die than hurt them.

But my family and friends persevered, they knew that it was not me but the illness that was doing this. They loved me, they called me, they kept pushing against this wall that I had built until it came crashing down. I wanted so much to just fall off this precipice, to make the pain stop but they kept pulling me back. They never gave up on me, nor did they allow me to give up on myself.

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with you how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. It is hard sometimes to remember them, especially when I’m falling back into depression. I remember them, I remember the coping skills that I learned, but most of all I feel that love searing through my veins. It keeps me grounded when I want to fly off the handle, and it keeps me sane when I want to curl up in a ball and give up.

I want to let you all know that you matter to someone, more than you ever know. You are their entire world and you are important. Someone is thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving dear friends.

Posted in mental health, Personal Post, Uncategorized

And so she placed a semicolon at the end of her sentence and turned the page

If I were to think of my life as a book, it would be infinite. I would never run out of pages to write new things on, nor would my pen ever go dry. If you would have asked me just a month ago what my life would be like, I would have simply said “Nothing…I can’t see any hope right now.” Or I would have put on a brave face and tried to look happy—pretending that I wasn’t thinking about suicide or dying; Pretending that I was okay and I could “handle it.” Each night I would go to bed and secretly hope that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning so I wouldn’t have to face my life again, so that I could get some real peace and rest because I was so tired. I was tired, I was beaten down, and I was beginning to think that death was the only release from all of this.

However…

On the other hand I was still grasping on to the that tiny little sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe tomorrow would be better. That I would wake up and actually be okay—that dying was easy, living was harder and I could do this. I had to do this. I didn’t really want to die, there was a desperate part of me that wanted so much to live…no matter how painful it was.

This is the real struggle of someone with a mental illness. Someone who is trying each day to try to see the positive through all of the fog and muck, through all of the intrusive and obsessive thoughts—the feeling that you “should” be able to control this but can’t. The facade that you play a part in is society thinking that mental illness isn’t really a thing, it’s not real—and if it is you’re really crazy and belong in a home. If you can’t see it, then it can’t be real right?

Society doesn’t give people who suffer from a mental illness nearly enough credit. Imagine having someone follow you all day long and say things like:

“You’re stupid.”

“You’re worthless.”

“You are not enough.”

Then imagine this person getting louder and more aggressive, and there’s nothing you can do to defend yourself or make them go away. You can’t get away because they follow you where ever you go, and they continually berate and taunt you. Pretty scary isn’t it? That’s the closest analogy I can use, that’s what it’s like—those voices, those thoughts—they can be dangerous and all encompassing. You start to believe them even though you don’t want to, because it’s woven into your very heart—or so you think.

“You are not enough!”

That’s what I kept hearing over and over again, no matter how hard I tried to not think it—I did. I had no idea that there was any other way to think except negatively about myself. If I was too confident I was arrogant, if I was too humble I was annoying and didn’t know how to take a compliment. I wanted so much to just run away but you can’t run away from you—no matter how hard you try or how fast you run. I hated the person in the mirror, I hated the person in the shoes I was wearing, I hated everything about myself because I had sunk so low in my depression that I couldn’t really think of anything I liked about myself. I couldn’t really do anything that I wanted to do because I didn’t want to be around people and bring them down either. So I isolated, I regressed slowly into solitude because that was where I thought I belonged.

That’s when things really got bad.

Human beings are not solitary creatures. We are not meant to isolate and escape for long periods of time. I would spend hours upon hours in my room alone, either playing video games or sleeping because those were the only things I was good at. I sunk deeper and deeper into depression. I became more and more anxious, and suffered from more and more flashbacks from my past that I had pushed away in hopes that it would just go away and I wouldn’t have to face it. If I hadn’t continually went to my doctors appointments or lived with my dad, I shudder to think what may have happened. It was about the end of September when my therapist flat out said to me: “Lauren, I’ve never seen you this low...” That’s when I realized that I was in desperate need of help. I knew that if I continued down this road it would lead to my suicide. My consciousness had become so warped and collapsed….

You’re stupid

You’re worthless

You are not enough

That I believed in my heart that I was worthless and there was no point being here in this life because I really had nothing to live for. Even though I knew it wasn’t true, that I had a family that loved me, friends devoted to me, and a future ahead of me (even though I wasn’t sure what it held)…I still had to fight with this demon that told me:

You’re stupid

You’re worthless

You are not enough

That is depression. That is anxiety. That is mental illness. You feel so much and you love so much that you’re so afraid of loosing it all.

I enrolled in a local partial hospitalization program for mental health. Basically it’s 2-3 weeks of intense group and individual therapy that gets you to look at what you’re real issue is. The big issue for me was unresolved trauma, trauma that I don’t want to go into here, but know that it was bad enough for me to be diagnosed with PTSD. That’s the other thing I struggled with was acceptance. I didn’t want to admit that I had PTSD because I felt as though I didn’t deserve it because I hadn’t been in a war zone. The truth is that PTSD can happen outside of a major war zone, it’s called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” for that exact reason: It happens after someone witnesses or experiences severe trauma. That trauma can be sexual assault, witnessing something deplorable, etc. Society has no right to dictate what is traumatic for some and not others—we are human but we are also very different. It has taken me a long time to accept that I will have this illness for the rest of my life and I will always have to monitor it like someone has to monitor their blood pressure or blood sugar or diet. Acceptance is huge in the path to wellness, and I am learning that I can’t just run away and avoid past trauma. I didn’t get here overnight, and my journey is still well on the way—however I’m in a much better place than I was a month ago.

I’ve become fascinated with the semicolon. The purpose of a semicolon is to start a new sentence where a period would go. There’s a project named after it and as a writer I have to say I approve, because it’s an excellent way to promote hope.

To those of you struggling right now I have this to say to you:

You are enough. You are validated. You belong. The best part of your story is still being written my friend. Stay and find out what you were made for and find out what happens after the semicolon. Turn that page, I promise you it will be worth it.

Posted in mental health, Personal Post

An Open Letter to Those considering Suicide

Dear Friend,

I want you to know that you are validated in your pain. My feet are a different size than yours, but I have walked in your footsteps. You’re hurt, you can’t bear the ache in your soul–it has penetrated and left you weak, and exhausted. You may not even want to die–and yet you do. It’s not a black or white issue I know that, it’s not simple or everyone would understand. Your brain has collapsed, your consciousness is foggy, and you feel nothing but the sheer agony of whatever pain your depression brings you. It’s so…loud.  Louder than any voice you’ve ever heard, it’s deafening, and it’s so powerful that you believe everything it’s saying to you:

You’re stupid.

You’re worthless.

You are not enough.

You would be better off DEAD! 

Friend I’ve followed down this dark path for many years…I’ve struggled with those thoughts that you may be feeling now. And I say feeling because they burn, and sear through your mind like molten lava. I want you to know that your pain is real, that you’re not crazy–your feelings…they are important. I want you to know that it is okay that you hurt, it is okay that you cry “for no reason.” It is okay that you feel so much, and you wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s okay my friend…

You are a human being. You are not depression. You are not your diagnosis, you are a human being of this universe who has a purpose. Human beings were meant to feel friend, to not do so would take away an integral part of you. An extremely wise individual told me once that our emotions are not us. Yes we are responsible for our emotions, but they are not who we are.  You are the greatest person in your world friend, you are important and you matter. You are enough.

I know it sucks, it hurts like hell and you are broken–but you can rise dear friend. You are not just an empty space, you have something beautiful to give to this world. I know you’re teetering on the precipice right now, and it feels so agonizingly lonely–but you’re not alone my friend. I want you to know that there is hope, for someone to feel so much you must know that. To have made it this far…that’s an accomplishment. You have made it to a new day each day, a new hour, a new minute–all the while having those demons following you. Do you know how much strength it takes to do what you have done? Do you know that you are one of the strongest people in this world? To challenge, even a little bit, those thoughts and feelings of worthlessness takes a tremendous amount of strength and hope.

Whatever plan you have at the moment, or even if you don’t have one, I am begging you to not go through with it. Please friend–you would create a void in this world, you matter to someone, even if you don’t think so.

You are not a sinner, you are not evil, you are not a bad person, and you’re definitely not selfish. You ache, you long, and you’re suffering. You’re sick, not selfish. If you had cancer everyone would understand, if you took medicine for high blood pressure everyone would accept it. Just because you can’t see a sickness, doesn’t mean it’s not valid or real.

Put it down friend. You are a beautiful story, a story that is continuing. You are at the semicolon, not the period–please don’t end your story now. Your story is important, you may not think so but I’m here to tell you that it is. It took two hospitalizations, many suicidal thoughts, and a bunch of medicine to help me realize this.

Life isn’t easy friend. It will beat you down and break you. But don’t loose hope, there is something in this world worth living for. You matter very much friend. To have a mental illness–it means many things to different people but you are the author of your story no one else. That’s the beauty of it friend, no one can take your pen from you. You are the author! You can continue, there is hope.

So take up your pen and begin again at the semicolon;

Posted in mental health, Personal Post, Uncategorized

You’re not Powerless to Help

I have been really struggling with my Depression and Anxiety lately, so this may seem like jumbled mess of thoughts and feelings. Be gentle with me.

I don’t really know how it started, I don’t know why I have this feeling of impending doom or why I feel like I’m sinking but I do. I can’t explain it or give people a reason as to where it originated. That’s the root of all frustration for me, I know that I’m okay and that I’m safe. I know I have every reason to be happy and satisfied with my life…but I’m not. I don’t feel happy, I don’t feel safe, I feel like there’s constant turmoil in my brain, and I have no appetite, nor have I been sleeping.

This is what it’s like to live with a mental illness. You know for a fact that there is no goddamn reason for you to be sad or scared but you are and you can’t control it. No matter how many deep breaths I take or coping mechanisms I use–the anxiety goes away for a time but it leaves me mentally and physically exhausted, and often depressed.

I can’t “chill out” or “get a grip” believe me I would if I could. I just need someone to tell me that they are here and not try to fucking fix me. I need you to hug me and not try to talk or anything, just hold me and make me feel like someone out there cares. I need you to just let me know that you’re thinking about me, no advice (I pay money for that) just let me know you will think of me. If you see me isolating, call me and tell me “hey would you like to go somewhere?” doesn’t have to be fancy or far, could just be to your house to watch a movie.

Often people who don’t have a mental illness feel powerless and scared when confronted with it, especially if it’s someone they love. I’m here to tell you to just love me. Love me, don’t try to fix me, love me. Love is powerful and it’s all encompassing. I’ll feel it and I’ll know.

I don’t hate any of you, I’m not mad at any of you. I’m just trying to figure myself out and it’s fucking exhausting.

Posted in #AniMentalHealth, anime, mental health

Anime and Mental Health: Shattered Fragments

Anime has been one of the only few mediums that openly deals with issues like depression, anxiety, psychosis, PTSD, and many other conditions. It unapologetically portrays it in a raw, gritty manner, not pulling any punches and it’s just…real.

As someone who has been in this world for some time, there is an authenticity to it, an authenticity that you just can’t find anywhere else. I never set out to be an advocate for mental health, it was never something I was passionate about because I didn’t understand it. As a matter of fact, it terrified me because of the stigma that is associated with it. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety that I really began to understand what it’s like to live with something like a mental illness, what pain really was, and what it’s like to live in a world that fears and misunderstands you. I may sound a bit dramatic, but when you’re constantly told that your condition is something of an imaginary concept and these feelings that you have aren’t valid, you get fed up and want to speak out what is in your soul.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to someone who doesn’t have a mental illness what it’s like to have one. I only know how I feel on my darkest days, and I am very different from someone else with a similar condition. That’s what makes this so hard: no two people with a mental illness are exactly alike. What works for one may not work for another, it’s not an exact science; it’s mostly trial and error because the human brain is one of the most mysterious “organs” of the body.

Here are just a few characters that I relate to, and characters that I think portray what it’s like to live within this often dark world. I have done my best to explain how the subjects of anime and mental illness relate.
The following character analysis contains spoilers so read with caution!

Yuki Takeya: School-Live!

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Yuki is a classic case of someone dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and psychosis. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) classifies PTSD and psychosis as so:
PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.”

The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. When someone becomes ill in this way it is called a psychotic episode. During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not. Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear). Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsense speech, and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation.”

She sees the world as she wants it to be and not how it really is. After witnessing both her classmate Kurumi kill her senpai because he turned and her favorite teacher sacrifice herself to the zombies, Yuki completely shuts down. She enters a psychosis where it is not the apocalypse and everything is as it should be: she’s at school with her friends, she regularly goes to classes, and she enthusiastically bounds through the hallways as if nothing has happened. The most tragic part of this situation is her dealing with the death of her favorite teacher Megumi. She still speaks and addresses her as if she is still there, even having hallucinations of her.

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As the show progresses we find that Yuki’s world is slowly collapsing around her and she is forced to accept the fact that her favorite teacher is in fact dead, and her life as she knew it has changed. It’s often very hard to watch and even the most experienced doctor has trouble with patients suffering with these conditions.

Shinji Ikari – Neon Genesis Evangelion

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Shinji, like me, suffers from major depression and anxiety. If he’s not isolating himself and questioning his will to live, he’s constantly seeking approval from his peers to make up for his lack of self-worth. (Source) Going back to the NIMH, it has several definitions for depression, so I’ve somewhat formed my own: It is a condition where you feel worthless; no matter what you do, it doesn’t amount to anything. You hurt and you want to cry, but you have no idea why, nor is there a good reason for it. It’s like a dark cloud hanging over you that is constantly telling you how stupid, worthless, and insignificant you are. Add anxiety into the mix and you have this feeling of falling and seeing the floor coming up fast on you—all the time.

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Shinji is constantly questioning his worth, he’s always worrying about what others think of him, and he’s contemplating that he’s just not worth anything. The creator, Hideaki Anno, suffered from depression and psychosis. He actually wrote the original ending during a psychotic break; the show is said to be a projection of the author’s own mental state (Source).

Sakurako Kujō : Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation

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Sakurako comes from a prominent family, is incredibly smart, and is beautiful. She also is a perfect example of what some people do when faced with mental health crisis: they repress. Repress is a fancy term for “holding stuff inside.” This can be catastrophic to your health, and I’m not just talking about your mental health; physically you begin to decline as well. Now I haven’t read the manga, but I have watched the show so I’m going off of what I learned from that.

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From what I can gather about Sakurako, she is the antisocial type because of something traumatic that happened in her past. She briefly mentions that her little brother died when they were kids, but we don’t really know the circumstances beyond that (unless you’ve read the manga…in which case don’t spoil it). She rarely lets her emotions show, but when they do, they are often strong and very direct.

In the case of Shotaro, with whom she has grown quite attached to, I’m assuming because he reminds her of her younger brother. She seems very distant often referring to him as “shōnen” (“boy”) instead of his real name. However there are two distinct instances when Shotaro has either put himself in danger or has become seriously injured, that Sakurako shows just how much the death of her brother has affected her. Especially when Shōtarō becomes injured protecting her, she shouts “DON’T DIE! DON’T DIE SHOTARO!” using his name, or is it the name of her brother? It’s intentionally meant to be confusing because that’s how Sakurako’s mind is: it’s a contradiction of analytical processes and overpowering emotions.

If you are one of the 350 Million People Worldwide that suffer from depression, if you are suffering from anxiety, if you are suffering from any sort of mental illness I want you to know something:

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 your story is an important addition to this world we live in.

Your story is important; you have something wonderful to give to this world. Sometimes anime can be a mirror of someone’s heart and soul. This is not weird; it doesn’t make you a freak. It makes you human.

What are some of your favorite shows? Who in an anime has spoken to you? Let’s have a discussion. That’s how change happens, that’s how stigmas gets kicked out.

If you want to read more on this topic, here are a couple of great articles done by Shrink TankWhy Troubled Youth Love Anime, and Why You Should Too (Part One) & Why Troubled Youth Love Anime, and Why You Should Too (Part Two)

If you or someone you know are experiencing similar feelings or thoughts to please contact a medical professional or your local suicide hotline. For more information, please visit the MentalHealth.Gov Website for more information.

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.