Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reaching out is hard.

Reaching out to people is hard for a lot of people to do. It's scary just to think of being that vulnerable with another person. It's scary to open up and let another person see raw emotions, especially when those raw emotions are pain and sadness or anything that's generally seen negatively. It's even harder to reach out when you're struggling with mental illness.

When suffering from anxiety and/or depression, I have no idea how many times I've typed out a text message when I needed someone around or needed someone to talk to only to end up never sending it.

Messages just like these.

I'd type them out and then I'd re-read them checking for spelling errors or autocorrect mistakes. Then that voice in the back of my mind would chime in.

"Why are you bothering them with your nonsense? They have enough going on without you adding more to it, you know."

"You know how stressed they are right now, why do you want to make it worse?"

"You know sitting there watching TV with someone won't fix anything so why pretend?"

"You know they have better things to do than come sit with you."

"You're just being dramatic."

"Why make them worry about you like that over nothing?"

"Do you really want them to see you like this?"

"Of course they're going to say they're not busy and can talk, they'd feel guilty otherwise."

"They have their own problems, what makes you think they have time to deal with yours, too?"

"What if they say no? Won't you just feel worse then? Why do that to yourself?"

"They're probably busy and don't have time to deal with you right now."

I could go on and on with 100 other ways I've talked myself out of reaching out to someone when I was struggling and needed help. That little voice was all too happy to always come up with a long list of reasons not to press send or to put the phone down and not make that call.

Then I always felt worse than I already did because now I'd convinced myself that I couldn't reach out to the people that care about me for whatever various reasons that little nagging voice decided to throw out. Which usually brought on feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and isolation.

I couldn't stand to be struggling through things alone but I couldn't bring myself to ask anyone to help me either. It was a painful cycle to go through and never failed to make things worse. I'd type out a message and then I'd talk myself out of sending it. I'd go to a person on my contacts list and stare at the little green phone that would make the call and then I'd talk myself out of it. Not because I didn't want to but I felt guilty for putting myself and my needs over the feelings and needs of the people in my life. I'd think about how they were doing and I'd decide I could wait, that I didn't need to put this, me, on their plate of concerns, too. Other times I'd look at how well things were going for them and couldn't be the one to bring their spirits down. I always worry about myself second. This is great for depression and/or anxiety because it makes it easy for the illness to convince you to keep things to yourself. 

I'd gather my courage up and prepare myself to reach out, to be vulnerable and then that nagging voice that tells you all those lies when you're struggling through depression or anxiety would beat me back down. I'd end up either feeling numb, like an empty shell and feeling so unbelievably broken. I'd sit there just staring off and wondering how I could be so dumb. Or I'd end up feeling too much, getting overwhelmed, and I'd wind up sobbing on the floor because even sitting up felt like it required too much energy. I'd cry until my eyes hurt, until I was shaking and sick at my stomach. Then regardless of either response, I'd be angry with myself for being so weak. I was weak for not being able to ignore the nagging little voice, for letting it talk me out of anything. I was weak for having no response, for feeling broken. I was weak for having such an emotional response, for curling up and crying until I couldn't cry anymore. I was weak for letting my mind get the best of me. I was weak for not being able to send a text or make a phone call. I was so angry at myself for not being able to do more and do better that I ended up feeling a lot of resentment and self-loathing.

None of that is reality. I am not weak now and I wasn't weak any time I was struggling with these things. It takes a great deal of strength to battle with mental illness every single day and keep doing it every single day. It beats you down, day after day. I wasn't weak and no one else is, either. It's hard battling an illness every day. It's hard battling an illness every other day or once a week or however often it happens. I was stronger than I ever realized or gave myself credit for and if you're struggling right now, so are you.

The people that care about you are never too busy to be there for you when you need them. Depression and/or anxiety will try to tell you they are but they're not. They're not too busy. You are not bothering them. Yes, they might be dealing with some stuff too but that doesn't invalidate what you're struggling with. Their good day won't be ruined because you needed someone to talk to or to be there for you. There is no "perfect" moment. There is no "better time." You are not a burden. You are not a hassle. You are not "another problem" or "more stress" for them to "deal with." You don't need to feel weak or guilty for needing help. You don't need to feel angry or loathsome because you can't do it on your own. You are not hopeless, broken or beyond helping. Don't listen to that nagging little voice in the back of your mind telling you how broken you are or how much you're a burden to those that care about you because that voice is lying and so unbelievably wrong.

You don't have to struggle alone. Even if you don't have anyone or don't feel comfortable reaching out to someone in your real life, there are so many online resources available for you to connect with someone. Therapy chats, apps like 7CupsofTea, groups, message boards, text message help/support and helplines you can call. Once you get passed the fear and uncertainty the first time, it's easier to ask for help and reach out when you need it. 

Please just know that you're not your illness, it doesn't define who you are. No matter what that little voice tries to tell you and no matter how loudly it tries to tell you it's lies, you are worthy, you are strong, you are capable and you are brave. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. I came out as pansexual this Summer after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Most people in my life already knew that I'm not heterosexual but then there was a big handful of people that didn't know.
A lot of people don't understand that coming out in any capacity is still a big deal. A lot of people think "it's 2016, who cares, it's so common now no one cares whether you're straight or not!" In theory that's a lovely thought but it isn't reality.
Since coming out pansexual in June to everyone that didn't already know, I've faced some derision and negativity from people I had in my life that I didn't expect it from. From 7 different people that decided I'm no longer welcome in their lives just because they found out I'm attracted to and have had relationships with other females.
Most recently on Dallas Pride Day, a person I've known for 10 years "didn't realize" I wasn't straight. He blocked me because he's so vehemently against everything LGBTQ+. I knew he had issues because his religious beliefs have him believing it's wrong but I didn't know he was so hate filled that he'd accuse me of being a bad person, of being "wrong" for just being who I am. It hurt and even though I know absolutely that I'm better off without someone like that being part of my life in any capacity, it still hurt that this person I considered a friend for so long could just say "eww you're disgusting" and be done with me just like that.
I recently participated in the Walk To END Alzheimer's. I send emails as well as posting on social media to gain donations. A couple that has supported my Walk fundraising efforts every year until this year as well as helping with my Toys for Tots fundraiser for the entire time I've done that, responded to my final email to let me know they hadn't in fact deleted their Facebook accounts but had blocked me after my coming out post. "You're a great person but we didn't know of your sexuality all these years and unfortunately we cannot continue supporting you in your fundraising efforts for the Alz Walk, Toys for Tots or anything else as we deeply disapprove of your lifestyle. We can't in good conscience continue giving money to you for these causes as long as you are a part of the gay agenda. If this ever changes, feel free to contact us again. This is hard for us and I am sorry it came to this." No paraphrasing there, I copied that directly from their email.
My third and last recent instance (although I have 3 more but this is so long already) came from a female friend that decided that despite the fact I've never once flirted with her that she couldn't be near me anymore because she could no longer "trust my intentions." Which if I might remind everyone, being attracted to more than one gender doesn't mean you're indecisive or greedy or just want every person you see. So not true, please stop associating this way.
Like I said, I know I'm better off without these people in my life but it was still hard to deal with when it's so unexpected from people that have been part of my life for years. From people that supported me and seemed to care about me. Usually in years passed (since I was around 15 when I first started tentatively telling people) this type of negativity comes from people I don't know well so it's never really bothered me since I had nothing emotionally or mentally invested. But, I thought better of these people and had connections with them. And I thought I was strong enough to not let any of it get to me so I was angry with myself ob top of everything else every time I let one of these recent instances hurt me. It's okay to be hurt, though. It doesn't make me weak to be hurt when someone does something upsetting even if that person is being toxic toward me. In these cases I think the letting myself be hurt once I got passed being mad at myself helped to let go.
Even if a person faces zero negativity or falling out from coming out, it doesn't make any fear or apprehension they felt prior any less valid. You don't get to belittle the emotions they felt because you personally don't think it's a big deal. For them, it likely was. For them, it was likely scary and unnerving.
You also don't get to out a person if they're out to you but not everyone else. You don't get to tell a person they need to "just come out already" because they will when they're ready, in their own time, when they're comfortable doing it. Or they won't and that's fine, too. Do what's best for you. It's never wrong or selfish to put your well-being first & take care of you. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day so please remember your mental health & emotional well-being are just as important as your physical health is.

Mental illnesses are as real as physical ailments & just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean a mental illness doesn’t exist.
I talk about mental health a lot because I want others to feel like & know that it’s okay to talk about it. You’re not alone, not a freak, not weak, not broken, not a burden, not useless, not crazy, not less worthy as a person in any way because you’re struggling with a mental illness. It’s a disease, not a character trait or flaw in your personality.

It’s hard finding courage to speak up & reach out but YOU CAN DO IT. If you can’t face to face tell someone, do it over a phone call. If you can’t find the words to vocalize, write it out. If you don’t feel comfortable or safe talking to anyone you know, there are helplines you can call & online chat services you can use.

Mental illnesses can make you feel like no one understands, no one cares, no one will miss you, the world would be better off without you & your problems & all of that is so very wrong. I care & I’ve met so many other people like me out there that care & we care even if we barely know you because we know how painful, isolating, heartbreaking & damaging it is to feel like no one cares or understands. We know what it’s like to battle our own thoughts & feelings & we just don’t want to see anyone thinking they have to go through it alone.

Also remember that you’re never being selfish for putting your health first & taking care of you. You need to fo that the same way you need to breathe and eat to keep on living. Anyone that tells you you’re being selfish for taking care of you in whatever way you need to is not someone you need to listen to.

People who make life changes to physically better themselves are praised for it while people who have depression, anxiety, ptsd, bipolar disorder, eating disorders & other mental illnesses are told to get over it or told to not talk about it at all. It shouldn’t be that way & I’m fighting to see a change made in how mental illnesses are seen & treated. The more we talk, the more we break down the barriers of stigma that surround mental health & the people struggling. The more we break those barriers down, the more we normalize what should be a regular topic of discussion for our own health and well being. The more we do that, the easier it will be for people to open up without the fear that they’ll be judged, ridiculed, dismissed, labeled, written off or ignored.

Lastly, remember if you think someone you care about is struggling, reach out to them & ask how they’re doing. Kindness is free. Sometimes just knowing someone cares helps so much.