There are so many myths and misconceptions out there about mental illness. These mislead people and often cause people not to seek treatment. So much stigma surrounds mental health that people are ashamed or embarrassed by it. Someone can have asthma because their lungs and airways don’t work quite right. A person can have diabetes because their body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Neither of these illnesses are judged or have a stigma attached. So why is it different because someone brain doesn’t make enough serotonin?
Michelle Obama said “Whether and illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness and there should be no distinction”
So often when someone finds out that my daughter has OCD they say something like “oh so she washes her hands a lot?” or “Her room must be so clean!” Yeah, not so much. This is her room. It looks like a bomb went off.
There are different types of OCD and it is very different for everyone. What my daughter thinks is dirty really isn’t but she loves playing in the dirt and is a big slob. It’s very illogical and that makes it all the harder for all of us to deal with it.
The simplest things in life cause me great anxiety. I have trouble making a phone call. I make plans to meet a friend but cancel at the last minute or I just keep declining invitations. If someone doesn’t answer my text or email quickly I think I did something wrong. I don’t participate in a group conversation. Sometimes people think I’m rude for this behavior but it’s the anxiety. Most days I can fight it and win, or at least fake it pretty well, but some days I’m just too exhausted from the fight.
Stop the Stigma
Please don’t take how the media portrays mental illness as the end all be all. Ask questions, learn about it, and support those suffering. Offer help. One of the best things you can say to someone when they share that they are suffering is “How can I help?” They may turn you down but just asking will make a difference.
A few months ago I started listening to personal development podcasts in the morning while getting ready. Before I used to listen to music but I decided this was a better use of my time. Lately I’ve been thinking that music has its importance too.
I’ve been struggling with my anxiety and confidence lately so the last few days I decided to listen to what I call my anthems in the morning. These are songs that I really connect with. They speak to me. I feel stronger after listening to them. I sing along with them, loudly (I can’t sing so I know it sounds terrible but I don’t care!)
These are the 4 that are on my “Anthem” playlist right now. Let it Go(yes the one from Frozen) by Idina Menzel
The lyrics of this song resonated so strongly with me I cried in the middle of the movie theater. You can read more about that here. Don’t Put Dirt on My Grave From the TV show Nashville
This one really hits home for me with my anxiety and helping my daughter fight her OCD. I keep getting stronger and if you push me I’ll push harder!
This time it’s goodbye trouble I feel the light at the end of this tunnel I get stronger with every step Come Hell, come high water You push on me I’m going to push back harder I got a whole lot more than a little bit left Oh, so don’t put dirt on my grave just yet Oh, don’t put dirt on my grave just yet
Roar by Katy Perry
Things can hold me down but I’m always going to get back up because I’m a fighter!
You held me down, but I got up (hey!) Already brushing off the dust You hear my voice, your hear that sound Like thunder, gonna shake your ground You held me down, but I got up Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough I see it all, I see it now I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter Dancing through the fire ‘Cause I am the champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar Louder, louder than a lion ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!
Fight Song by Rachel Platten
I’m taking back my life and proving that I’m going to be alright!
This is my fight song Take back my life song Prove I’m alright song My power’s turned on Starting right now I’ll be strong I’ll play my fight song And I don’t really care if nobody else believes ‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
They are my anthems. What about you? What song hits home for you?
It’s been a hard week in our house. The OCD monster is back with a vengeance. Dealing with that is causing my anxiety to go through the roof. It’s been a major struggle to get through a day. But it has helped to remind me just how much support we have.
I’m not looking for pity or sympathy. I’m looking for support and understanding. Don’t judge me when you see my child having a meltdown and I don’t seem to be dealing with it the “right” way. Don’t judge her when you see her do something strange. It might be the only way she can cope with the situation. Until you’ve spent a day in our shoes, don’t judge. To give you a glimpse of our life, here are some things that happened this week.
I had my first 504 plan meeting at G’s school. We’ve always known it needed to be done but the staff worked with us so well we just decided to wait. Things have gotten bad enough, and she only has one more year at this school, so it was decided to start the process now. I know it’s what’s needed, and I know the school only has her best interests at heart but it’s so overwhelming to try to lay it all out; makes me feel like a failure. Every day I have to hear from the staff or other kids about all the things she’s doing “wrong”, all the things she’s struggling with. I know I need to know this stuff, and I ask to be told, but that doesn’t make it any easier to hear.
We spent her lunch time in the office trying to calm her down so she could eat. She was having a melt down because even though she wanted to be in the lunchroom eating lunch she couldn’t. All because the lunch before hers got out a little late and the benches and tables didn’t get wiped down like normal. You might think this is silly (and she knows it’s not logical) but the OCD will not let her and sometimes she’s just not strong enough to fight it. And when I ask her what I can do to help she just screams at me because she is so frustrated because she doesn’t know or understand. Imagine trying to fight a bully 24 hours a day. How many adults are strong enough for that? She’s 8!
They are doing the M-STEP standardized tests this week. After dealing with the lunch problem it was her first day of testing. She couldn’t even step into the computer lab because it wasn’t the same lab they always use. When they were finally able to get her in the room she couldn’t sit in the chair or use the mouse since she didn’t know who touched it before. Once they got her a new mouse and got her going she still had to take this test (standing, by her choice) with all that anxiety. (Thank God our school has such supportive and understanding staff!)
Meanwhile, during all of this stress with G, I’m trying to help L get ready to leave for a 2 night camping trip with her school where it’s going to be in the mid-40’s and rain constantly!
Wednesday was a stronger day. I received so many comments and messages of support I was overwhelmed. It helps more than people realize. Some times on this journey I feel so alone and I forget how many people have my back and support us.
As usual, I have recess duty 4 days a week. Often people comment about how they don’t know why I do it. The kids! That’s why. It’s Staff Appreciation week, just out of the blue, a boy handed me a note. “Dear Mrs. Springer, Thank you so much for being a great person and watching the 3rd graders and taking time out of your day” At pickup another boy and mom handed me one of those large Ikea shopping bags and inside was a Costco size bag of coffee (now explains the strange questions about what I like to drink )
More lunchtime issues but she is able to pull it together and eat lunch in the cafeteria. After lunch we try to take her to the office, just to talk with her and get her to give us input to help her but she has a meltdown. First because she thinks she’s in trouble, then it builds because she doesn’t want to talk about it (it’s really hard for her) and all she wants is to go back to class. I ended up crying on several shoulders that I never would have thought of crying on.
Even with all her issues, G can always make me laugh.
Bedtime conversation with one night:
G: (out of the blue) I’m going to miss you when you’re dead.
Me: um, ok?
G: but I call dibs on your car…… oh! And your jewelry!
I guess my point in all this rambling is just to give you an idea of what we go through. And to remind everyone that it is OK to ask for help or just to say “I’m not OK” You probably have more support out there than you know.
Music can be so powerful. It can make you smile, laugh and cry. It can bring back memories. I know whenever I hear songs from the 90’s I’m taken back to high school sock hops. Music can be therapeutic too.
Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness Month? I decided it was the perfect time to share what I call…
My Coming out Story
Obviously now I’m open and posting about my and G’s struggles with mental illness. Sure didn’t used to be that way. Instead I was embarrassed and ashamed. I must have done something wrong for us to be like this.
I remember the turning point for me. As silly as it might sound, seeing the movie Frozen changed it all. I still member sitting in the movie theater with tears running down my cheeks. The whole concept of Elsa hiding her magic, concealing it so others wouldn’t know she was different, just really related for me. When she sang, “Let it Go”, so many of the lyrics resonated with me.
“It’s a kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen” I felt so alone in this battle.
“The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside. Couldn’t keep it in; Heaven knows I’ve tried” We tried so hard to keep it all in and keep it hidden but it was hurting us and getting harder.
“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” Don’t let anyone know about our problems. Be good and keep it hidden.
“I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway” Why are we worrying so much about what other people are going to think?
“The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all. It’s time to see what I can do to test the limits and break through” What could I do if I talked about it openly? How much different could things be?
Let it Go
It really hit home for me that it was time to stop hiding and “Let it Go”. I was expending so much energy trying to be “normal” that I should be using to help G, and myself, learn to live with the illness. Once Elsa embraced her magic, she learned that she could control it and I felt once we embraced our illnesses we could do the same.
Now anxiety and depression are just a part of me, they don’t define me. OCD is just part of who G is. She’s 8, she’s blond, and she has OCD. It just is. I often relate it to being diabetic. Our bodies, and a diabetic’s body, don’t produce the right amount of a chemical that we need to function. We need to learn to modify our life (eating differently, fighting the compulsions) and sometimes take medication to help us; and that’s OK. There’s no shame, no stigma to physical illnesses. There shouldn’t be any with a mental illness either. If I can share our story, our struggles, and our victories and help others who struggle and educate people, why shouldn’t I? After all, if I don’t speak up, who will?
Do you have a song that really resonates with you?
Have you been asked that? “What’s your why?” Why are you trying to get/stay healthy and fit? What’s your motivation?
I was always trying to get skinny. I wanted to have that body society says we should have. Yes I needed to lose weight to be healthier but that wasn’t why I was doing it. And more often than not, I wasn’t enjoying the process or getting good results.
When I started using the Beachbody programs and products they talked about finding your why. So I dug down deep and I found it. I’m doing this because I need to be strong and to set a good example for my girls.
I don’t want my girls to grow up with the weight problems I had. I want them to be healthy. I don’t want them to get picked on or to miss out on things because of their weight. I remember many times missing out on something because of my weight or my knee problems (or using them as an excuse). It’s not about them being skinny, it’s about them being healthy and happy.
I want, no need, to be strong both physically and mentally. With my own battles with mental illnesses and my daughter’s I need to be at my best to fight our demons. In October 2016, I drove across several states with just my daughter to take her to an Intensive Anxiety/OCD Treatment program at Mayo Clinic (you can read about that here). If I’d have had to do that in the past I couldn’t have. I wasn’t strong enough. I was worried about how we’d both handle it but we did better than I thought we could. I know if I wasn’t feeling at my best things would have been a whole lot harder on us.
I’ve got a strong why now and now I enjoy the process of being healthy (most of the time!) and I get results!
What’s your WHY? Comment below and tell me! I’d love to hear from you!