Bridget Greenfield

@bridget-greenfield | contributor
Bridget lives in Chicago and has a degree in professional and technical writing. She enjoys listening to podcasts and spending time with her family, friends, and two feisty cats, Clementine and Little Sox.

5 Mental Health Tips From 'Another Round With Heben and Tracy'

I love listening to a variety of podcasts, from hilarious conversations with comedians to true crime stories. When I recently experienced a major depressive episode, my therapist advised I stop listening to podcasts about criminal activity because the disturbing content might be harmful to my recovery. One podcast I continued to listen to though was “ Another Round with Heben and Tracy ,” produced by BuzzFeed Audio. The hosts, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton, discuss a range of topics, conduct lively interviews with guests and offer insight and tips on coping with mental health issues. 1. Self-Care in Response to the News In Episode 7, “Living In America” , Heben and Tracy discuss taking time to care for yourself, especially in the wake of constant news stories about police violence and mass shootings. “Be kind to yourself,” Tracy states. She also recommends that people “take a break, disengage, log off” from Twitter when it’s inundated with stories of violence. The week before I was hospitalized due to a major depressive episode, there was a horrific mass shooting, and stories of the shooter and victims flooded social media. I was already experiencing depressive symptoms before the shooting, and then I chose to read every news article I came across about the murders, which worsened my depression. I also became paranoid about being out in public, thinking I would be killed by a hateful person with a gun. In the episode, Heben notes she’s “trying to get better at a healthy amount of human interaction” so that she doesn’t disengage from people for too long. I also have a tendency to watch Netflix for too long instead of socializing. Although it can feel like such an effort at times, it’s important to spend time with family and friends to take my mind off the news. 2. Take Your Medication In Episode 11, “Bob Loblaw” , Tracy opens up about the difficulty of finding a psychiatrist and anti- anxiety medication that actually works. “I started and I stopped so many times,” Tracy says. She also addresses the stigma associated with mental illness. “The thing about anxiety and depression is that they’re physical conditions, so you should treat them the same way (as you would a physical illness),” she explains. I have struggled with consistently taking medication for anxiety and depression as well. It often feels like a daunting task to even find a psychiatrist. I’ve found it helps when I open up to my parents about how I’m feeling, so then they continually encourage me to find a psychiatrist who will prescribe me medication that improves my mood. 3. Exercise as Self-Care In Episode 28, “Madam Secretary, What’s Good?” , Heben and Tracy interview Hillary Clinton and ask her what she does for self-care. “I really love yoga,” Clinton responds. “I love long walks.” Although I know exercise eases the symptoms of anxiety and depression, I often lack the motivation to exercise. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to be someone who runs regularly or lifts weights in order to exercise. As the current Democratic presidential nominee reminded listeners, exercise can be as simple as going for a walk. 4. Starting Therapy In episode 34, “The Most Introverted Sasha Fierce” , Heben and Tracy interview their co-worker, Arianna Rebolini, about her article, “ A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Therapy .” As Heben notes, “Finding a therapist is overwhelming.” I have gone to therapists who I didn’t click with, which was stressful because I then had to begin the process over again of searching for a therapist who is taking new patients, located near where I live and covered by my health insurance. “It’s important to realize that it’s not always going to be immediately good and you just (need to) keep trying,” Arianna states. Tracy also reminds listeners, “If you don’t find a good fit right away, it’s not a reflection of you. It’s just personality differences.” 5. Celebrate Yourself In episode 36, “U Mad?” , Heben and Tracy suggest an alternative to New Year’s resolutions: rememberlutions. “The idea is that throughout the year, you take a little slip of paper and whenever something good happens, when you’re feeling good about something, you write it down and put it in a jar,” Tracy explains. Then, at the time you would usually make your New Year’s resolutions, you read what you wrote throughout the year instead. “I’ve learned that the trick with resolutions is that you have to keep them super, super small and manageable,” Heben states. Every year, my New Year’s resolution was to work out regularly so that I lost weight. Depression has caused me to gain weight and I used to believe if I became physically fit, my mental health would change for the better, too. However, it’s important to recognize the small achievements, such as going for a walk when I would rather be laying on the couch, instead of fixating on overwhelming goals. It’s also important to hold onto these small achievements when I’m feeling depressed, so I can reframe my negative thinking about myself to be more positive. Today’s rememberlutions: I went on a walk with my Dad, I ate a delicious dinner with my family, I watched a movie with my Mom and I listened to several episodes of “Another Round with Heben and Tracy.” Lead photo courtesy of the “Another Round” Facebook page.

5 Ways That Mr. Robot is Similar to My Depression

“Mr. Robot,” the excellent USA show that has garnered critical acclaim and several awards, follows the plight of Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer and hacker who struggles with mental illness, specifically a hallucination of a man known as Mr. Robot. After eagerly awaiting Season 2, I found myself comparing the show to my recent major depressive episode. For instance, in Episode 2, Season 2, Elliot comes to the following realization, “Mr. Robot has become my god and, like all gods, their madness takes you prisoner.” Just as Elliot feels trapped by Mr. Robot, I often feel imprisoned by my mental illness, unable to reach out for help. 1. I lose control of my mind. When I experience a major depressive episode, my depression takes hold and controls me. Similar to Mr. Robot, my depression likes to take control of my mind for long stretches of time. It changes the way I think and act. I become a different person to the people who love me. However, instead of becoming a technology sabotaging genius, I drift into a cloud of darkness, withdrawn and uncertain of my every step. 2. I self-medicate with alcohol. I often drink to self-medicate when I’m depressed, which results in the loss of chunks of my memory. I’ll wake up wondering what I did the night before. While Elliot cannot recall the periods of time when Mr. Robot seizes control, I cannot recall every moment of when I drink to subdue my feelings of worthlessness. Most recently, I posted a lengthy drunken rant on an online mental health forum. Aside from the misspellings and skipped words, I genuinely expressed how I was feeling in the midst of a depressive episode: “I go to a psychiatrist who prescribes me medicine, but then I forget to get it refilled. I feel sick when I stop taking it. I feel barely better when I am taking it. I think about how this is how my whole life is going to be. I feel uncomfortable all of the time, at work, at home, with friends. I’m tired of feeling this way. I’m tired of feeling that my life doesn’t matter. That I’m a f*ck up. That I’ll never meet someone who I can truly connect with, who I can truly open up to.” I reread my post the next morning and cringed, much like Elliot does when he learns of Mr. Robot’s actions after a blackout. I cringed because I chose to self-medicate with alcohol, instead of cope with my depression in a healthy way. In Season 1 of Mr. Robot, Elliot often self-medicates with drugs. He sees a therapist, but rarely opens up to her about how he’s really feeling. 3. I withdraw from family and friends. Elliot’s mental illness causes him to forget his connection to the people closest to him. A major plot twist in Season 1 was when Elliot realizes that Darlene, a fellow hacker, is not a mere acquaintance, but his sister. Although I do not completely forget who my friends and family members are, I often forget they love me. Depression makes me think they resent me and I’m a nuisance to them. 4. I self-harm. In Season 1, Elliot as Mr. Robot harms himself in anger and awakens in a hospital to learn about his injuries. I’ve overdosed on medication after drinking to drown out the thoughts in my head, screaming I was worthless. I hurt myself in anger and frustration, thinking there was no other solution to my pain. Characters in Mr. Robot voice their concern for Elliot when they notice his downward spiral. Similarly, people in my life are worried and upset when I self-harm. However, depression blinds me to the love that my friends and family have for me. 5. I isolate. While Elliot thinks he can block out Mr. Robot by taking Adderall and staying awake, I often think I can hide from depression by sleeping. I go to bed early and have difficulty waking up for work the next morning. I think about getting up and trying to be productive, but I’ll remain in bed feeling fatigued. I avoid socializing, thinking that I wouldn’t be fun to be around. Depression dominates my life in the same way that Mr. Robot becomes the focal point of Elliot’s life. When a mysterious new character, Ray, tries to talk to Elliot about Mr. Robot, Elliot becomes flustered and gets up to walk away, telling Ray he doesn’t want to talk about this. Ray replies, “Yes, you do. Because you’re smart enough to know that keeping this inside isn’t going to last.” I’ve also learned it’s important to talk about how I’m feeling when I’m depressed. If other people are aware I’m beginning to descend into a depressive episode, then they will encourage me to talk to a therapist and psychiatrist. My parents will remind me to deal with my depression in healthy ways, instead of ways that are harmful. “Mr. Robot” is important to me because I feel less alone while watching it. Now that I’m feeling better, I can watch “Mr. Robot” and recognize the unhealthy ways I’ve dealt with my depression in the past. Although I can’t predict Elliot’s fate, I can look ahead to a more hopeful future for myself knowing I have a support system to guide me and helpful tools to fight depression. 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. Lead Photo via Mr. Robot Facebook page.

Depression: Rating Your Mood and Being Honest

“How would you rate your mood?” is a question I’ve become accustomed to hearing since being hospitalized due to a major depressive episode. “One being the worst and 10 being the best.” I think critically about how I’m feeling in the specific moment I’m asked and reduce my mood to a number. This evening, nearly a month since being discharged from the hospital, I’m at a seven. Today was my first day back to work after being on medical leave for the last several weeks. I’m easing myself back into the working world by attending an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in the morning and then working for a few hours in the afternoon. Today, the first IOP group therapy session focused on daily goal setting. The therapist also asked about each group member’s weekend. I listened as others relayed snippets of their weekend activities, including personal successes, such as how they used their coping skills during anxiety-inducing situations. I waited nervously for my turn, knowing I would have to be honest about how I began my weekend. I did not have plans on Friday after IOP in the morning, so I was left alone with my thoughts that began to spiral out of control. I felt anxious and near tears as I pondered my worthlessness. I was at a five by the afternoon, thinking no one in my family would notice if I retreated to the basement with a bottle of wine. I slid to a four as I gulped the Riesling and thought about how much I hated myself. I dropped to a three as I distractedly changed the channel to a movie, turned on Netflix and then returned to the movie. Thankfully, my racing thoughts were disrupted when my brother asked if I wanted anything from McDonald’s. In a drunken stupor, I fixated on my crispy chicken sandwich instead of the possibility of self-harming. Finally, it was my turn to talk in group. I spoke in a low voice as a I confessed my Friday night relapse. I hadn’t used alcohol to self-medicate since the night before I was hospitalized. “It’s brave of you to admit this,” the therapist said encouragingly. She offered ways I could have coped with my feelings instead of drinking, but her voice was muffled by my thoughts of failure. “And how would you rate your mood?” “A six,” I whispered. I sat in the rest of the session unable to focus on the group discussion. The topic of the next group session was values. The therapist handed out a “What Are My Values?” worksheet to each group member and asked us to select five to six of our most important values. I studied the list of more than 60 values, ranging from attractiveness to world peace, and checked off adventure, family, friends, independence, justice and self-esteem. My thoughts returned to the weekend, but instead of focusing on Friday, I thought about Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday morning, I awoke with a headache and wanted to remain alone in the basement, hidden in shame. As I lay on the couch, I foggily remembered hearing about a local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) that meets on Saturday mornings. I Googled to find the address and time of the meeting, and excitedly began to get ready to attend. I suddenly had a reason to get off the couch. I was at a five. Although exhausted from my unsettled sleep the night before and from emotionally opening up at the DBSA meeting, my mom encouraged me not to isolate that night. I went to a friend’s birthday party and laughed with people I hadn’t seen in months. My mood climbed to an eight. The next morning, I spent time with family at my grandma’s house to celebrate her birthday. She smiled as we sang happy birthday to her and watched lovingly as her great-grandson blew out her birthday candle. A ten. After IOP, I drove to work, my mind moving away from the weekend. What will my co-workers say when they see me? Will they ask me questions about what I’ve been doing? I parked my car in the lot and text my mom: “I don’t think I can go into work (anxious face emoji).” “You can do it,” she responded, “Don’t avoid it.” I waited in the car for another minute. “Practice the techniques you’ve learned,” she reminded me. I reluctantly walked into the office, hoping no one would notice me. My co-workers greeted me with warm smiles and cheerful hellos. They said they missed me and were glad I was feeling better. I sat down at my computer, relieved and began to check the hundreds of unread emails in my inbox. A seven. I’ve learned my mood will change and circumstances that affect my mood will change. My number may even change several times throughout the day. However, although the number is important, how I cope with my mood is most important. Being honest about how I’m feeling is also important. It’s hard in the midst of a downward depressive spiral to think and act logically, but if I can learn to redirect my negative thoughts, then I can cope with my anxiety and depression in healthier ways. Just typing that hopeful sentence pushed me to an eight. 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.