Alana Saltz

@alana-saltz | contributor
Alana Saltz is a writer, freelance editor, and occasional ukulele rocker residing in Los Angeles. Her essays have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Bustle, and more. She is a passionate advocate for mental health and chronic pain awareness.
Alana Saltz

I'll Try to Be Kinder to Myself About My Chronic Illness

This year, my chronic pain reached new heights, and I was formally diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses. I spent a substantial amount of time in waiting areas, exam rooms and pharmacies. My illnesses can be limiting, and this year they were more debilitating than ever before. I’ve spent the better part of the year feeling sorry for myself, judging myself and beating myself up. I haven’t been able to meet my own expectations when it comes to employment or creativity. I constantly worry I’m not living up to society’s expectations by falling short of the norm of the 40-hour work week. It feels like the whole world is judging me for not being productive enough, not earning enough money and not being independent enough. Even though I know my pain and illnesses are real and incapacitating, I say horrible things to myself every day and berate myself for my inability to live a normal life and do what I imagine the rest of the world is doing with no problem. I tell myself I’m worthless. I tell myself I’m useless. That’s why I only have one New Year’s resolution this year: to stop judging myself for being chronically ill. I want to be kinder to myself and more understanding of my limitations. I want to stop imagining that the world sees me as useless and recognize that I always do the best that I can. I work through my pain every day. I take care of myself. I’m lucky to have support systems that allow me to pursue medical treatment and rest when I need to. And I won’t necessarily feel this way forever. Although none of my conditions have a set end point, and I’ll likely struggle with them to some extent for the rest of my life, all I can do is be gentle with myself and work as hard as I can. I know it doesn’t help when I tell myself I’m a waste of the world’s time and space. Dwelling on my pain and all the things I can’t do only makes it worse. I resolve to be more understanding of myself the way that I hope others are understanding of me. Just because I struggle and can’t do everything that healthy people can do doesn’t mean that my life isn’t worthwhile or valuable. I will continue to seek opportunities that work for me and my body. I won’t push myself too hard just because that’s what’s expected of me. I’ll do everything I can to keep up, to earn money, to be social and to live a happy life. As long as I do those things and as long as I try my best, I’m accomplishing what I need to accomplish. I resolve to take care of myself and give myself permission not to be perfect, to take breaks and to ask for accommodations when I need them. I will not be embarrassed or ashamed of what I go through, nor will I allow anyone to make me feel like I’m faking or “not really sick.” Including myself. In 2017, I resolve to be more accepting and patient with myself, even when things get tough or seem hopeless and when it feels like the pain is unfair or will never end. I resolve not to let my illness define me and the way I live my life, but I will also accept when I need to slow down or stop to take care of myself. It’s a lot to ask, but in 2017, I’m going to try to be kinder to myself about my chronic illness. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Alana Saltz

When Depression Makes it Hard to Write

No matter what else was going on in my life, I used to have words. Even through the worst of my depression, the words spilled out of me, tumbling into rambling journal entries and poetry, into essays and memoirs. I could always reach inside and come out with raw emotion that bled onto the page, pulsing, aching and harsh. That emotion could be frightening, but at least I could see it. I could share my experiences. And in that way, I wasn’t alone. I don’t know what to do now that depression has stolen my voice. I poise myself over a blank page, clench a pen and notebook in my hands, and nothing comes out. My brain is full of white noise that drowns out anything I might say. It’s like a switch has been flipped. Where there used to be words, there is emptiness. All I find are a swarm of thoughts that say nothing matters, nothing ever mattered. I find thoughts that tell me I have nothing to say, I’m no one and there’s no point in even trying. I don’t know what to do now that I’ve lost the only comfort I’ve ever had. I’ve lost the ability to write. Without words, I can’t express what’s going on inside of me. I can’t reach out for help. I can’t do anything except watch television and movies, allowing myself to get lost in voices that can still speak. Depression isn’t always an abundance or an outpouring. It isn’t always tears, sobs and screams. Sometimes it’s a silence where there once was noise. It’s a frightening absence of something that used to be there. For some, it’s a loss of passion or interest. For me, it’s a death of words. My body isn’t numb. I still feel pain and sadness. I still feel fear, anger and defeat. Those things haven’t been lost, as much as I wish they were. My ability to express myself has retreated instead, leaving months of wasted time, of blank pages, of voicelessness. So much of my identity is wrapped up in being a writer, someone who’s been able to capture her experiences, to share them and connect with others through them. Without that, I don’t know who I am anymore. A huge part of who I am has been stolen from me. I don’t know how long this will last. I hope it’s something that will eventually pass. However, if I know anything about depression, it will have ebbs and flows like everything else. Some days, I might find my words again, and others they’ll vanish like they were never there. In the meantime, I try to be gentle with myself. I let the silence settle over me and don’t force words where there are none. I do my best to keep the hope that this will someday pass. The words will return to me, and I’ll have a flood of new stories to tell. Image via Thinkstock.

Alana Saltz

A Letter to My 15-Year-Old Self in the Psych Ward

Dear 15-Year-Old Psych Ward Me, I’m the person you’ve been imagining. I’m the one you write about in your journal, the one you think about during those sleepless nights in your hospital bed. I’m you in the future, the one who makes it out of this alive. I’m the one who gets off the ground, pulls herself together and steps forward into the world. I’m the one who graduates high school, stops cutting herself and stops wanting to die (well, most of the time, anyway). I’m the one who falls in love with boys who love her back, goes on trips and adventures, writes, reads, plays music, creates, studies, works, drives and dreams. I’m the one who spends years piecing together all the painful moments of our past, weaving them into a memoir of all that we went through. I’m the one who relives what you’re going through now, in the hopes of sharing our story with the world, to bring new understanding to depression and anxiety disorder and the way mental health is treated. Unfortunately, I’m also the one who has to put our opus aside when too many agents tell me I don’t have a big enough “platform” to have it published. (Don’t worry, you’ll learn what that word means soon enough, and you’ll come to hate it.) But when that happens, I don’t stop writing. I keep going and keep trying because that’s what I do. It’s what you’ll do too. I won’t just tell you it gets better, because in some ways, it doesn’t. Our story remains untold. I still struggle with depressed and anxious thoughts. I continue to worry about the future, whether I matter, whether any of this matters. But I haven’t hurt myself in 10 years. I haven’t tried to end my life or even gotten close. I’ve learned how to cope with the worst of my dark thoughts and how to ask for help in a way that people will actually listen to. I want you to know this time in your life will end. You’ll leave the hospital. You’ll struggle at your new alternative high school at first, but eventually, you’ll find your way. You’ll graduate high school, then college and finally grad school. You won’t find a job right away. At 27, that’s something you’re still figuring out, but you do have words. You always have words. You’ve written three novels and a memoir. You’ve written essays and articles, a few of which get published in semi-impressive places. You’ve started to share your story in whatever way you can. You try to stay hopeful the memoir will someday find a home. The important thing is you wrote it. The important thing is you survived. Feel the pain of these moments, but know they will pass. The dream of sharing your story will come true, even if, as of now, it’s only with a few people. Most importantly, you’ll soon know and feel like you aren’t alone. You’ll connect with people who relate to you, or at least try their very best to. You’ll see the stigma around mental illness slowly start to crumble, and you’ll find others who have been through what you’ve been though. They’ll appreciate your courage in sharing your experiences. You’ll remain determined even when the odds are against you. You’ll find strength where you thought there was none. Deep down, you’ll believe in yourself, even when your mind lies and says you have no reason to. You’ve already made it through so much. You’ll make it through so much more. I promise. All my love, Future Alana This post originally appeared on GERM magazine. 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.