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To the People Who Say ‘I’m Tired’ When Someone Asks How You Are

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“I’m just tired.”

When people ask you what’s wrong, that’s what you say.

You say I’m tired.

Like you just didn’t get enough sleep last night. Like maybe if you get a couple extra hours tonight, or rest up this weekend, you’ll be better on Monday.

But deep down, deep beneath all the fake smiles and the jokes you make to lighten the mood, you know that’s not it.

You might be tired, yes, but you know sleep won’t fix it.

Because it’s life you’re tired of. You’re tired of people treating you like you don’t matter. You’re tired of feeling like you have no future. You’re tired of getting lost in your own head, of drowning in the thoughts and self doubts that pester you every second of every day, while you fight to keep your head above the tides.

Those same tides that threaten to wash away the makeup you carefully paint on every day so you look more like a person and less like a hollow shell of who you used to be.

Can’t they see that what you’re really tired of is pretending? How do they not notice that your porcelain smile is chipping more every day, your body armor has dents in it, your face paint is running, and the rivers in your eyes are bursting the dams you so carefully construct so as not to drown everyone around you.

So when they ask you, “Are you OK?” you just say “I’m tired.” Because you believe it’s the only way to keep them safe as you self-destruct on the inside, the only way to protect them from the disaster that is you. You believe you have to lie so the ones you love don’t look too close.

But you’re so, so tired.

And that’s OK. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that it’s OK to be tired sometimes. “Normal,” even. And you don’t always have to have a reason. Because sometimes just keeping it together is exhausting.

When you feel like this, it’s important to know you’re not alone. You are not the only one who feels this way. In fact, I think most people would be surprised at the number of people around them who feel the same way. I was. I started reaching out to those around me who often answered with, “I’m tired” and found out they feel a lot like I do.

And the funny part is, knowing that others felt this way helped me start to feel more awake. It’s like we all share this secret code now — when we say “tired,” we really know it means “I’m not OK.” And then we talk, and maybe cry, and sometimes we laugh. And we feel better.

So to all of you out there who feel like being tired is just the way you have to live now, I tell you this: You are all members of a club, and yes, the key to membership is kind of awful. But the plus side is you now have hundreds of allies who fight the same battle you do. You know the code word. Reach out to them. Talk to them. Accept their support. And maybe tomorrow, you won’t feel as tired.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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How My Dog Saves Me Every Day in My Life With Mental Illness

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There are so many days I wake up and spend at least an hour talking myself into getting out of bed. There are also days, which could easily stretch into weeks, of not leaving my home at all. I’m not even sure I would get dressed most days. Showering? Ha, maybe but probably not.

To those who have never suffered with chronic pain, mental illness, chronic fatigue or a host of other ailments, those statements might seem disgusting. I would be called lazy. I would be told to pull myself together. This is one main reason I do not often share my stories. The labels, the assumptions, the ignorance and, most of all, the stigma silence me.

Black dog looking up to camera

Luckily for me, I have a hero in my life. A little, four-legged faithful friend who has been with me for almost 12 years. His name is Papi. He was named after David Ortiz, aka Big Papi of the Boston Red Sox.

My dog has been a godsend on more occasions than I would like to admit. When I wake with no desire to get out of bed, he will wait patiently. After a while, he will come up to my face, as if to say, “So, you ready?” If I roll back over, then he will crawl back under the covers until I am ready. Eventually, my love for Papi will make me drag my sorry behind out of bed, get dressed and take him out for a walk. When I first throw back the covers to get up, I am greeted with a fiercely wagging tail and an escort to the bathroom. How could anyone resist that?

During the periods of sleepless nights or when my mania dictates I stay awake for two or more days, he complains very little. He will put his paw on my computer chair, which means several things, one of which is, “Wouldn’t you like to go to bed now?” Because of my love for him, I will usually lie across the bed and rub his belly. On rare occasions, I may even drift off to sleep for an hour or so.

Without saying a word, Papi has been my cheerleader, confidant, shoulder to cry on and sounding board. He gives me unconditional love, no matter how I am feeling each day. One look at his sweet little face has stopped me from ending it all on more than one occasion. He knows when to stay close and when to scram.

During those times when my patience is low or non-existent, he will normally lie on the bed in the other room. He has had no formal “service dog” training. Rather, he learned just by living with me. I am also deaf, and he alerts me when someone is at my door or the phone is ringing. He is amazing.

It has been documented that having a pet can reduce blood pressure. They can be trained to become service dogs for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other ailments. Even without formal training, as my dog has proven, they can be lifesavers. Each and every day, I get out of bed, and I stay alive because of Papi. He is not just my dog. He is my lifesaver and my hero.

 

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 
 
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What You Should Know Before You Roll Your Eyes at Pokemon Go

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It’s easy to look at new technology, especially extremely popular technology, and be judgmental. Video games in particular have taken a lot of flak for being a waste of time, for keeping people buried in their computer or phone and for getting in the way of socializing. What many people don’t realize is that as someone with a mental illness, technology is an integral part of how I stay healthy.

And while it might seem trite, Pokemon Go is revolutionizing my self-care.

So for those who might roll their eyes at why all these young adults are suddenly reverting back to children, here’s a little explanation of why Pokemon Go is more than just a video game: it’s a serious tool in my wellness toolbox.

I’m currently in recovery from an eating disorder and depression. It’s still pretty new, which means I have to pay careful attention to a lot of things in order to keep my mood stable and my food intake steady. Some of the most important pieces of my recovery are regular exercise, getting outside and connecting with other people.

Unfortunately, in the last month or so those things have been really hard to do. Sometimes you can’t explain why it’s a struggle, it just is. You can’t will yourself into just doing it when you’re fighting depression. You have to have strategies that get around the listlessness and disinterest. I’d tried nearly everything I could think of to get myself back outside and moving, to help get my energy up, to spend more time with my fiance and my friends. Nothing was working.

Enter Pokemon Go.

I love Pokemon. I played the games when I was a kid, so there’s a strong nostalgia factor, plus the obsessive side of my brain loves grinding to level up my characters. My fiance has been freaking out about Pokemon Go for months (so much so that I created a Pokemon scavenger hunt as our proposal, but that’s another story). It seemed like a perfect fit for us. And boy howdy was it ever.

I have literally never in my life walked as much as I have in the past week. I’m hitting my activity goals, or doubling them every single day. I barely even notice though, because I’m having so much fun. Exercise is a delicate balance when an eating disorder is part of the mix: it’s really important to mood, but it’s so easy to become obsessive. Now I’m not even thinking about the distance I’m going or the time I’m spending moving. Instead it’s all about catching em all, and I still get the benefits of exercise.

I’m even connecting with friends in ways that are challenging for me as someone with social anxiety and autism. I discovered one of my friends lives just a few blocks away, and we’ve gone hunting together, spending one-on-one time that would have been terrifying if we didn’t have these adorable creatures to talk about. My fiance and I are spending tons of quality time together. I’m even talking to strangers, which is basically number one on my list of terrifying things. I’m typically not a fan of talking to kids, and the other night as I was walking down the street one hailed me with “Pokemon Go?” and I yelled back, “Heck yes!” It’s amazing the kinds of connections I’m making that seemed not only impossible but unwanted just a few weeks ago.

All of this because a simple game has turned these events into something my brain understands. It has created a world I understand and enjoy — one that allows me to connect with the larger world around me. Sometimes when your brain doesn’t work in typical ways, you have to hack it a little bit. If a kids game is what works to get me outside, moving, connecting and having fun, then I will embrace it.

Thank you, Pokemon Go.

Follow this journey on We Got So Far to Go.

leadphoto source: PokemonGo

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To My Husband, and Countless Others Fighting Mental Illness: I See You

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To my dear husband,

I was thinking back to when we began talking six years ago about psychology, mental illness and our various struggles with what we’ve both been through. We connected back then through our shared enthusiasm for the mind and how far the medical profession has come in the advances within the mental health field. We shared our counseling experiences, our medication experiences and our desire to be better people who will work together to end the stigma attached to mental illness.

You made me feel safe and less broken. You understood a part of me no one had ever dared to acknowledge. You made me feel whole for the first time in my life. I had no idea at that time the depths of your own illness. You’d explained it to me, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). You expressed your history in terms of the guinea pig syndrome we all go through when trying different medications, the therapy sessions and the attempts to take your life that you sought help for by going into a mental institution.

We talked at length about your recovery. You told me about all the things your therapist had done to help you and that you were on this path to wellness for the first time in more than 20 years. I did not know at that time what a roller coaster ride of emotions we’d ride together. I only knew I loved you with a fierceness that left me breathless. I wanted nothing more than to be by your side.

I’ve been here for six years and I’ve never contemplated getting off this roller coaster that is our life because I see you. I see you in the moments when you think no one does. I see you when you are striving so hard to fight your illness on a daily basis and it sometimes wins. I see you when you are euphoric because you learned something new or you’re in your element of directing, acting or asking the big questions from some of the biggest minds we admire.

I see you in the quiet moments when the world disappears and there is only you, me and some music playing. I see you when you are railing against the injustices of the world and declaring a war on ignorance. I see you in the moments of despair when it is so dark and your mind has left you drained. I see every part of you even when you think I don’t.

I want you to know you are so much more than your mind leads you to believe. You are the best part of all my days. You are the reason I am on a mission to change the face of mental health and why I know I will be successful. You inspire me to keep going even on the days when it’s hard and I want to rail against the world with you. You make me and so many others want more out of life.

You change minds even when you think you don’t because your mind won’t allow you to see it. I see it. I see the spark in people after they’ve encountered you. You don’t give up and that, above all else, is what I see. I love you with everything I have and am eternally grateful for you.

To the world, I am sharing this with, I want everyone who experiences mental illness to know someone sees you. You are not your illness. It does not define you. It is only a part of you, and, even though it may get the best of you sometimes, it does not have to take all of you. We, my husband and I, are fighting for you and alongside you. We are striving to make this world safer for those who wish to speak out by being open ourselves. We see you.

As I see my husband, I also see the mother working hard to provide for her babies while simultaneously juggling multiple diagnoses. I see the artist being driven half mad by the voices in his mind that tell him he’s not good enough. I see the anxious woman who wants nothing more than to enjoy her life but is plagued by constant doubt and fear. I see all of you who refuse to give up, just as my husband refuses to give up. I see you all put on brave faces and face each day. You are seen and you are so much more than you realize.

 
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
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Mental Illness, My Life Is Not Yours

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I notice you most when I am alone
Like most, I find you have been masquerading around my cheerful days.
Just when I think you’ve disappeared completely,
You’ve already climbed your way back in.

Look what you’ve done to me.
Do you like what you see?
This shell of a person I never thought I would be.

My conscious moves in circles around each conversation, every word.
You see what you’re doing to me?
You scowl, you shake, you don’t want to leave.

You take my hand and drag me to this place I can’t leave.
You snicker in the corner, as I attempt foolheartedly to gather my things.
I take my strides with confidence, as I head toward the door.
It’s so close. I can feel the air,
Seeping through the crack where it breaks from the floor.
My hand reaches out to turn the knob, only to find it’s no longer there.

I turn on my heels and find you there,
Reaching for me like a comforting friend, ready and willing to welcome me back in.
I begin to ask why but you’ve already begun
Your brigade of my sins and the Hell I’m in.

“You’re no good.”
“You’re damaged, my friend.”
“No one could ever love the thoughts in your head.”
“You’ll never recover.”
“Just curl up in bed.”
“Take your life from their hands.”

I beg and plead that you let me go free.
My life is yours, so you let me believe.
I’ve broken this curse you’ve brought down on me!

I run.
I sprint.
I drive gallantly.
I’m in a world where sun shines vibrantly.

The light hits my shoulders.
My life is not yours.
I am free of you now and will never return.

I am good.
I am happy.
I am free.
You will never find me.

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To the People Who Ask Me When I'm Going to Have Kids

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To the people who ask me when I’m going to have kids,

Ever since I got married three years ago, it comes up in almost every conversation.

“When are you going to have children?”

This is a question I’m quite familiar with. Friends want to know. Family wants to know. Coworkers want to know. Whenever you ask me this, I try to answer as politically correct as possible.

“Well, it’s in our five year plan, and we don’t want to rush into anything. We want to start a family, but on our time.”

Usually that’s enough to make you understand, but what you hear from that response and what I actually mean are two completely different things. What I hope you hear is my husband and I want to make sure we are in a good place to raise a family. We want to have a good foundation built before we bring a child into this world. That’s all fine and dandy, and mostly true, but what you don’t know is there is more to this puzzle. The answer I want to give is too complicated, too drawn out and widely misunderstood. Why bother? It got me thinking, how would I answer you if I was able to truly express how I feel?

Well, I’d imagine it’d go a little something like this:

Well, I have emetophobia, which is the intense fear of throwing up. I know with pregnancy and motherhood comes a lot of throwing up. Whether that’s through morning sickness, gestational diabetes, the actual moment of childbirth and, of course, the spit up and stomach bugs kids, without fail, almost always get. Many emets, like myself, struggle with not only themselves getting sick but others getting sick too, which means pregnancy and motherhood is the most terrifying venture an emet mom can take.

When my husband and I got married, we said we wanted to wait five years before having children to allow ourselves plenty of time to get ready for the thought of children and to enjoy our lives the way we wanted before settling down. On top of that, I wanted to be able to work on my mental health, specifically my emetophobia. This way I could care for a child without boundaries or limitations. I didn’t want to be constantly living in fear of my child, or possibly injure it if it got sick, panicked and dropped him on accident.

I wanted to make sure when I become a mom, I’m prepared on a mental health level so my well being and the child’s best interests are kept at the forefront of my mind. Many people tell me, “Well, a kid will set your mind right. Everything will change when you have a kid.”

They aren’t wrong, because it’s 100 percent true. Everything will change, and I see many emet moms tackling motherhood head on and doing it as well as they are able. What they don’t know is while many emet moms put on a great front, it doesn’t help the emetophobia go away. They still struggle with the same anxiety, if not worse, knowing they have a small bundle of joy, who is to them, a ticking time bomb. It helps them face it, but without the proper tools to cope and handle those intensely stressful moments, progress cannot be made.

Simply put, it helps them face it because they realize they have to, but it does not take away the panic, the anxiety and the obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) rituals that follow every single moment after a child mentions his or her belly aches or after a sickness. To me, motherhood is not just something I can enter into without first fixing myself. I want to be a mom so badly. Yet, it seems selfish to put myself into a position simply because I want to without first thinking of how it may affect my child or others around me. I want to be ready for anything and handle the moments of anxiety that come with a sick child with the same level of distress as any new mom who is concerned. I don’t want to be packing a bag and heading to a hotel the moment my child starts to cry from a tummy ache.

This is why we aren’t having children yet. This is why it is important to me to focus on my mental health first because I want to be there for my child, no matter the situation. Many emet moms have children, and it’s inspiring to me. I don’t think they are necessarily doing anything wrong. Honestly, if they were happy and willing to have a child, I’m happy for them. It’s just not the path I wanted to take, and I wanted to make sure that my path will be as anxiety free as raising a child can be.

I have to get my head right, and I don’t think it’s wrong of me to focus on my own personal healing. I am so close to achieving my goal. I’m far closer than I ever thought I would be thanks to hard work and four years of counseling, but I still have a little ways to go.

So the next time you ask me or someone you know when they are going to have kids, remember maybe their answer has more depth than meets the eye. Perhaps their delay on waiting comes from mental health or a physical issue. Maybe they were just diagnosed with a life-changing disorder and need time to process before they open up and bring another life into this world.

In this moment, I need your understanding and to remember my emetophobia battle is the final piece to the puzzle before I achieve my ultimate goal. If I can get rid of that, or at least manage it effectively, then I will, without a doubt, be able to answer your burning question of when I’ll have children. I understand you want me to have children, but I also want you to respect my personal journey needs to come first.

Sincerely,

An Optimistic Emetophobic

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