Emma Anne Atwood

@emma-anne-atwood | contributor
We are all threads in the fabric of life. The unraveling of the smallest gossamer fiber is felt by the universe. We matter. We belong.

Why Dr. Phil’s Discussion of Clostridium Difficile Is So Important

On Dec. 3, 2019, Dr. Phil aired an episode about the dangerous and life-threatening bacterial infection, Clostridium difficile ( C. diff). In the middle of my own personal battle with this terrifying superbug, I recognized the importance of bringing attention to this harmful infection. During the program, Dr. Phil interviewed a woman named Dayle who lost her mother and grandmother to C. diff. Dayle had also contracted the disease and shared her story of recovery. Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Pfizer’s Chief Patient Officer, was present to provide information about how C. diff is acquired and what we can to prevent infection. C. diff is a highly contagious bacterium. It causes inflammation of the colon and delivers an array of symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. It can lead to serious complications or even death if not properly treated. During this program, Dayle and Dr. Lewis-Hall clarify common misconceptions about C. diff. In the past, doctors assumed C. diff could only be contracted by a stay in the hospital, nursing home or other healthcare facility. These are risk factors; however, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall explains that today, we know many C. diff infections are “caught or acquired” in the community. C. diff is spread through fecal matter. This means an individual can potentially infect themselves by touching contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs, toilet seats, shopping carts, etc. Dr. Lewis-Hall educates us on how to protect ourselves from contracting this infection. It can live on surfaces, including fabrics, for long periods of time. Proper hygiene is imperative. Washing your hands with soap and water is critical as alcohol-based sanitizers will not kill C. diff germs. Dr. Lewis-Hall confirms the disease is more common in elderly patients, but anyone can be affected. She emphasizes that recurrence of this   disease is not uncommon. C. diff bacterium is stubborn and tenacious. In many cases, it can and will return multiple times. In fact, Dayle was a young woman when she acquired C. diff. She experienced a relapse before finally reaching recovery. Other risk factors include antibiotic use, which can upset the balance of good bacteria in our gut. (Strangely enough, the treatment for C. diff is antibiotics.) Dr. Lewis-Hall stresses to only “take antibiotics as directed” by your doctor. I was pleased that Dr. Phil addressed Clostridium difficile on his talk show. However, the public needs more insight into prevention and the recovery process. Antibiotic prescription and use are key points which I believe need more consideration by patients and the medical community. Healthcare providers need to reevaluate when and how antibiotics are prescribed in order to prevent future complications, including C. diff. As patients, we must take responsibility for ourselves and question medical professionals, working with them before deciding or agreeing to a treatment plan. Oftentimes, there are alternative solutions that may work equally as well or better. “Taking antibiotics as directed” is excellent advice…except when it’s possible that antibiotics are not needed in the first place. Some patients will contract C. diff, receive treatment and recover without further complication. For others, restoration of gut health and digestion is a nightmare which can take months or even years to reclaim. Post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can settle in, producing many of the same symptoms as C. diff. Oftentimes, dietary and lifestyle changes are required to help with the healing process. Numerous patients need several courses of treatment and even then, the infection still returns. Fecal matter transplants (FMTs) or surgery may be necessary to recover. I am currently fighting to recover from a C. diff infection. I am not a geriatric patient. I had not taken a course of antibiotics or spent time in the hospital when I was diagnosed with C. diff.  For these reasons, I felt recognized and validated by Dr. Lewis-Hall’s information regarding  community acquisition of this illness. I have been on multiple rounds of antibiotics and am still working on the recovery process. C. diff is an obstinate and dangerous superbug. Dr. Phil and his guests furnished crucial information to viewers regarding this bacterium. Although the clip was short and to the point, it highlighted many important aspects about how this disease is acquired or spread and worked to bolster public awareness. To watch the full segment on Dr. Phil, click here.

Paige Kezima

I Don't Have a 'High-Functioning' Mental Illness

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about “high-functioning” mental illness. What does that even mean? Who gets to decide what “high-functioning” means? Is it defined by so-called productivity? Who chooses if productivity is what we should strive for? Today I’m digging deeper into the notion of “high-functioning” mental illnesses and what it means. A lot of what is eluded to in these articles I mention is the non-realization or hiding of one’s mental illness. Suffering in silence. Putting on a front. Is that something we should be striving for? When I was working full-time and only crying at work, sometimes I considered myself to fall into this category of “high-functioning.” Now that I’m unemployed, I don’t see myself relating to it anymore. But the only thing that has changed is my lack of employment. This is more complicated than it initially seems because I am led to question whether or not the circumstance of being unemployed has deepened my symptoms (which it probably has) and I no longer can be defined as “high-functioning” because of it. Back to the notion of productivity – if I’m not actively contributing to the economy by working, does that mean I am not able to reach my full potential? Find support in our community. Join now. In a capitalist world where we are seemingly obsessed with money and the means in which to make it, the notion of being “high-functioning” by far outweighs the life-saving importance of self-care. In much of the reading I’ve done on this topic, productivity is defined as making an income, maintaining an acceptable appearance, having or appearing to have positive relationships, etc. Are these things we really strive for or things we are pressured to achieve? Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong and the claim of being “high-functioning” with a mental illness is something to try for. Right now though, it seems shrouded in shame and secrecy. I think we need to look at our society’s basic ideas around mental illness and disAbilities in general and the stigma that still surrounds them. Independence is the supposed gold star standard, whether it be economic or otherwise. That’s not really fair to us folks with disAbilities who need any type of assistance to have a chance at living a fulfilling life. It seems that we live in a world where apparent self-sufficiency is the motivating factor to a successful life. It’s a world where we’ve been told to fear our neighbors rather than embrace them. This is the new “American Dream.” Crush or be crushed. Personally, these ideals aren’t ones that motivate me. Perhaps it’s time for those living with mental illnesses to focus on the most important thing: recovery. If it means we aren’t what is classified as “high-functioning” because we don’t have a job, can’t keep a clean house, or struggle with self-care, then so be it. We are simply trying to live our lives the best we can. Screw these labels and superficiality surrounding them. To end, I want to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a mental illness and having things you are proud of achieving. Many people find passion and motivation in work. It’s just my belief that it isn’t necessarily a goal everyone needs to share. There are many other things to find passion and motivation in.

Community Voices

Simple self-care ideas?

I've been struggling the past week or so and know that I need to do something for self-care to help myself get out of this funk. However, I don't have any ideas for simple self-care (things that don't cost anything and are easy to do) because I don't have much energy. What are your simple, low-cost self-care ideas? #selfcare #CheckInWithMe

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Renee Collett

23 'Habits' of People Who Experience Emotional Intensity

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Feelings come and go.” This motto can be reassuring for someone feeling emotional or overwhelmed by uncomfortable feelings because it lets them know those feelings are only temporary. But for someone who experiences emotional intensity, this phrase might not bring much comfort. Experiencing emotions with such intensity can be exhausting. It’s tough to control your emotions and even tougher to control the intensity of which you feel them. Some people cope with their emotional intensity through distraction ( “I can zone out and create my own little world”), while others are thankful for this ability (“ I love to feel emotions truly and deeply; this is what makes us alive”). We wanted to know how those with emotional intensity react or cope with their emotions, so we asked our mental health community what “habits” they may have because they experience emotions so intensely. Here’s what they shared with us: “Dissociation. I get so overwhelmed with emotions I literally go numb and my brain shuts down.” — Leena S. “Because I feel things so deeply, I take on the intensity of other people’s emotions. If they’re anxious, scared or nervous, I absorb it until I can feel it physically.” — Jody M. “I often get sucked into games on my phone, I can zone out and create my own little worlds. It distracts me from my emotions so I don’t have to deal with them.” — Dianna M. “When my emotions are intense, I spend money on things I don’t need.” — Amanda S. “I obsess way too much. I meet up with someone and days later, I’ll still be analyzing the details of the day, like the little things they did and said to see if they had given me any hidden insults or disapprovals over my behaviors that day.” — Melissa A. “I can sleep for hours after something that was emotional draining for me. Or if it is a deep conversation with someone, I will need to nap.” — Leesha K. “Meditation. But I love to feel emotions truly and deeply; this is what makes us alive.” — Nadine H. “Overthinking and isolating myself.” — Jolene E. “I scratch my head. Once my emotions and thoughts get going, I make my head itch and it’s always the same spots. I can scratch for awhile before I realize what I’m doing.” — Jordyn O. “Emotional eating, isolating myself, shutting myself down and not talking. If it happens when I’m around people, I’ll hide in the bathroom or somewhere else away from everyone.” — Natalie V. “Silence. I shut myself off and keep quiet so I don’t have the chance to overreact. Music and my headphones are my best friends.” — Juniper R. “When I’m nervous or anxious, I pick at the skin around my nails. I also can’t stop bouncing my right knee up and down.” — Meagan B. “I tend to think everyone’s going to leave me. When it comes to expressing my interests, I tremble and find it hard to articulate words.” — Genkidama K. “When I get bursts of anger, I become very sensitive to any noise, even if it’s just the sound of the TV. I have to sit in a room in complete silence in order to calm down.” — Lisbet F. “Fear. Because of my own intense emotions and being empathic and feeling others’ emotions so hardcore, it scares me. I can’t control the feelings and it gets far too overwhelming.” — Phaedra M. “I shut down and go numb. When I can get out of the situation, I break down and cry.” — Emily H. “I have to disengage from situations and conversations, sometimes abruptly. It can appear rude. But if I don’t walk away I can lose control and let my emotions carry me away.” — Mary C. “I have established grounding locations. When I feel super intense emotions, I drive there and wait it out. It gives me a good routine and a safe place to let my emotions wind down.” — Clara S. “I can’t watch regular shows or most movies. I watch mainly documentaries with a monotone narrator. Shows have too many emotional ups and downs, characters, etc., and it’s too stressful and upsetting for me.” — Christina M. “Crawl in bed, stay under the blanket and sleep.” — Michelle B. “I isolate myself. I can’t handle interacting with people because I take on their emotions as well. Mine are overwhelming enough without anyone else’s being thrown into the mix.” — Sara-jayne S. “I have to physically distract myself to prevent outward expression.” — Hailey T. “I feel like I can’t trust myself, or at least my emotions. I tell myself, ‘This will pass,’ but in the meantime, I feel like I’m drowning in a deluge of feelings.” — Lauren S. Whatever habits you may have because of your emotional intensity, just know that you’re not alone. Your emotions, as intense as they may feel, are valid.

Rosacea: The Physical Condition I Didn't Realize My PTSD Could Cause

“Do you have a good dermatologist? I mean a really good dermatologist?” A female co-worker had pulled me aside, peered grimly at my face and waited for a response. Pride died quietly inside the caverns of my being. My answer was short. “Yes, I do.” I continued to work, hoping the subject would drop. She pushed ahead. “I mean, how long is this going to go on?” For a moment, I blinked in disbelief. A generous portion of tactless, insensitive gruel had been dropped on my plate. This woman was unaware of the struggles I faced — antibiotics, gels, creams and endless doctor visits. She assumed a horrendous case of acne was to blame. It was Rosacea; the manifestation of a deeper, more serious condition… Complex-PTSD. According to The National Rosacea Society, emotional stress is reported to be one of the most common rosacea triggers. My psyche had raged against my dermis. I was shocked. I had managed to hide the emotional turmoil for more than a year. Buried deep inside an internal, seemingly dormant volcano, lava had quite literally bubbled to the surface. Eruption was imminent. I remained polite, yet tight-lipped, when my co-worker pushed the name and number of her “qualified” dermatologist into my hand. I saved the tears for later. This was not the first uncomfortable and intrusive encounter involving the state of my skin. A previous visit with my dry cleaner had left me embarrassed and deflated. The clerk suggested numerous homemade remedies for my imperfect complexion. I wanted clean clothes, not unsolicited medical advice. Complex-PTSD is an illness that can have numerous physical side effects. While outwardly battling visible symptoms, I secretly fought impalpable demons. Rosacea caused embarrassment. I felt conspicuous and unsightly, especially when my job brought me into public view. I found it difficult to socialize and concentrate as people indiscreetly stared at the lumps and bumps on my fiery red cheeks. While my pores continued to burst forth one heinous creation after another, my employer prepared for a company-wide award ceremony. Annual sales ratios had been calculated. My department head called to inform me I ranked as a “top performer” in the retail division. Forever the master of disguise, I excelled in the workplace. My personal life was an insufferable closet of secret skeletons. Sales representatives belonging to this elite category would be honored at dinner party in a function hall. An appointment had been scheduled for a head shot, so my photo could be projected on a jumbo screen while I was presented with an award from the CEO. To quote Alanis Morissette, “Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?” Raw, red, covered in painful pustules, cysts, blotches and burst veins, I begged to be excused. I was mortified and refused all photographs. I looked like I had gone 10 rounds with a meat grinder. Although I was allowed to provide my own “pre-rosacea” photograph, the ceremony was obligatory. I showed up, faced my co-workers, gracefully smiled and accepted the award. Years of denial along with unmanaged, untreated symptoms were finally catching up. Other health problems quickly presented and it became even harder to maintain normal daily routines. Mentally and physically, I struggled to keep up the charade. A month later, my doctors would not allow me to continue to work. My face was sore, swollen and painful to touch but the emotional agony of mental illness was comparatively worse. Eventually, I stopped caring about my appearance. Depression tightened its grip. I was numb to any concern about personal vanity. I took steps to remedy my skin, but the rigorous undertaking of emotional healing was front and center. Oftentimes, mental illness is an invisible illness… until it leaches out like infection from a wound. Disguised as other ailments, these maladies are warning signs of deeper, more complicated problems. The mind/body connection is real. When you are mentally unwell, the physical wiring starts to short circuit. Today, my rosacea has improved. Seeking mental wellness continues to be a bumpy and treacherous journey, much like an odyssey through a bubbling, cavernous lava field. Once you accept the disturbance is there, navigating your internal volcano becomes clearer. Magma and ashes are part of the process.  Even after eruptions, the mountain is usually still standing. And, it helps to have a therapist… I mean a “really good” therapist.

When Doctors Are Insensitive to Mental Illness

“I noticed you have complex PTSD (CPTSD) in your file. Have you ever had any sexual trauma?” “No, no. Nothing like that,” I quickly answered, trying to hide the shock I felt by such a blatant question. “Well, I’m only asking because pain during sex can be attributed to abuse,” continued my doctor. This question was not posed during a therapy session, a psychiatric visit or a GYN exam — all of which would have been more appropriate environments to raise the delicate subject of trauma. I was sitting in the office of my allergist. Her assistant coolly typed session notes on a laptop as this exchange took place. My doctor resumed our discussion, which involved testing for a possible latex allergy. I was stunned. This test had been recommended by my GYN due to discomfort and irritation during intercourse while using a condom. I experience environmental and chemical allergies, receive monthly immunotherapy shots and take daily antihistamines; not a stretch that latex could be the culprit. In her attempt to rule out other possibilities, my doctor meretriciously posed a question with little regard for the sensitivity of the matter. The impact of this commentary did not hit me right away. My quick response had been a defense mechanism to hide discomfort and move on from the topic. Later, I repeated the encounter to my therapist. She exclaimed how inappropriate my allergist had been in asking such a personal question in, quite frankly, the wrong environment. So, have I had sexual trauma? No. But what if I had? What if my CPTSD diagnosis was, in fact, due to rape, abuse, or molestation? My doctor had fired off a remark with little tact or consideration regarding privacy, emotional safety or her own qualification to enter the territory of trauma or mental health. This was certainly not the first time I had encountered such disregard for emotional well-being. During an annual gynecological exam, the doctor commented on my low BMI. She alluded I had an eating disorder. I explained my clinical diagnosis of CPTSD, accompanied by severe anxiety and depression. I had left work, I was in therapy, I was trying medication and under the care of a psychiatrist. My primary care doctor had referred me to a nutritionist. Vitamin levels were checked and blood work assessed to ensure an eating disorder or other medical problems were not at play. I received a thumbs up for good diet, healthy eating habits and normal labs. The doctors concluded that my brain remained in constant “fight or flight” mode; this made for exceedingly high calorie burn. It was a struggle to eat more and more in order to maintain a healthy weight, especially with acid reflux compounding the issue. Pounds were being worried away with no direct intent on my part. CPTSD was the diagnosis; the result of childhood physical, verbal and emotional abuse from living in a home embroiled with extreme turmoil, stemming from the inadequacies and poor mental health of my parents. The disbelieving eyes of my gynecologist looked me up and down while I recounted this information. “You have to watch out for the anorexia,” she responded, turning her back to me as she removed exam gloves and washed her hands. “It’s math. Calories in, calories out.” Do I have an eating disorder? No. I realized this doctor had little to no understanding about mental illness. She saw a symptom, jumped to a conclusion and looked no further. I immediately left her care and began to see another, more sensitive, gynecologist; the one who subsequently referred me for latex allergy testing. She assured me not to worry. Once my anxiety became more manageable, the weight would come back on. But, again, what if I did have anorexia or bulimia or purging disorder or avoidant food intake? Some terse words and a warning to “watch out for the anorexia,” were by no means helpful, supportive or an invitation for help. It was like saying, “You have to watch out for the cancer.” Dismissive, reproachful statements can make patients feel defective and less likely to seek help for a disease or illness they did not cause or ask for. If a doctor truly thinks a patient has a serious medical condition, I assume the mere warning or pointing out of said condition does not fall under the protocol of good medical treatment. It’s shocking that healthcare “professionals” are so unskilled and uneducated when it comes to mental illness. They question the authenticity of your words. Your ailments are suspicious. Their delivery of so-called “advice” is less than considerate. If it’s not their area of specialty, why don’t they proceed with caution? Why do they jump to conclusions instead of listening? What if everything I relayed to my allergist and GYN was not true? What if I was raped or had an eating disorder?  How do they think a few careless words could offer me the help I would desperately have needed? Would any of these exchanges at a doctor’s office help the victims of sexual abuse or those who struggle with an eating disorder? Assuredly, no. To be listened to, to be heard, to be treated with respect and understanding — these are things a person with mental illness does need, whatever the root cause. Managing mental illness is difficult and challenging. Being treated like it’s no big deal by insensitive doctors touting callous comments can make the road to recovery harder to navigate. Conceivably, the constant flow of patients and daily health assessments create a hardened immunity among healthcare professionals. People are no longer people, but problems; a file folder of symptoms where “human being with feelings” has dropped off the chart. It’s time for patients to take back their identity. It’s time to speak up and remind our healthcare providers that bed-side manner and respect is not optional but compulsory. Fortunately, I have a brilliant therapist, a skilled psychiatrist and a network of supportive physicians who continuously help me navigate the complexities of mental health. I remain focused on the excellent care I do receive and leave the inappropriate interactions and subsequent bad feelings behind; they don’t serve me. I am thankful for every provider in the medical field who practices because they care and their calling to heal is a sacred undertaking. If you are a doctor, nurse, or health practitioner, I hope my words have served as a reminder that every patient deserves respect. Every patient deserves kindness. Every patient deserves help and care and if you don’t know what to do, follow the Hippocratic oath and refer them to someone who does; don’t pass judgment or fling thoughtless, dismissive words at people struggling. As the grade school saying goes, “Think before you speak.” There are human sensitivities behind every lab result, every symptom and every illness. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via andrei_r

When You're Left Carrying Your Parent's Emotional Baggage

In 2005, my husband and I picked up a connecting flight in Puerto Rico on the way to our honeymoon destination, St. Lucia. I remember standing at the ticket counter when a porter kindly offered to help us with our bags. Being young and naïve we allowed him to do so… and he literally rolled them a few feet to the gate, a task we easily could have managed. Feeling foolish and slightly taken advantage of, we paid up when the man held out his hand for a tip. The Caribbean is replete with citizens in need of work and income. Lack of jobs creates competition and islanders have learned to become resourceful and assertive in their approach to make a living. We quickly realized our few dollars had helped not only a struggling economy but a human being, a man trying to put food on the table for himself and his family. The porter had been so eager to take our luggage. The task and weight of carrying bags for tourists added value to his day, his life, his wallet. Our baggage was necessary for his survival. Flash forward to 2017. I am in the process of working through and living with the struggles of Complex-PTSD, severe anxiety and depression. My siblings and I were raised in a home by a mother with borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Each of us struggle with the trauma embedded in our sense of self. Feelings of guilt, shame and not being “good enough” continue to dog us in our adult years. At a young age, our brains were wired to believe the standards my mother set were true and if we didn’t meet them we weren’t acceptable. Now in our 30s, three decades of unhealthy behavior have been spent in the form of people-pleasing, self-condemning, unjustified “answerability.” We continue to struggle with learning healthy patterns. After a recent session with my therapist regarding “emotional and psychological baggage,” here is my takeaway… only porters should take on baggage. Let me say that again. Only porters should take on baggage. This intangible burden, a weight I had picked up and carried for three decades, was not mine at all. I had been carrying my mother’s baggage, her standards, her insecurities and the last time I checked, I wasn’t a bellhop. This weight was hurting my survival, not sustaining it, as it did for Caribbean porters in crowded airports. I didn’t finish college, my sister wasn’t skinny enough, my brother married the wrong girl… hefty luggage that never had our tag on it. But, we picked it up, dragged it around and rolled it from one metaphorical gateway to the next, making restitution for unmet standards. This behavior was not only limited to relations with our parents but overarched the structure of our lives. Each of us developed different coping mechanisms. We became excessive worriers, doers, helpers. We spent money, bought gifts, became obsessed with perfection and sacrificed our mental and emotional health. My siblings and I thought we were “getting paid” in a co-dependent way of compensating acts, trying to elicit positive feedback. Any hint of accord was like a coin in our pocket, a tip, small compensation that never added up to much. We had been lugging around my mother’s trunk of skeletons our whole lives, trying to carrying a weight that didn’t belong to us to begin with. I’m not upset I didn’t finish school, my sister is a beautiful and accomplished woman and my brother is happy with the partner he chose. The suitcases full of expectations and standards can be left at the ticket counter. The tags don’t have our names on them. The contents are not ours to claim. So, unless you are working for an airport, hotel or transportation service only take what you need for your journey. Everything else will drag you down. Leave the unclaimed baggage on the carousel. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty Images photo via kotoffei

Megan Ferrero Shares Photo of Her Nails to Spread Anxiety Awareness

On Facebook, Megan Ferrero posts about makeup, skincare and positivity. Last week, she took a break from her popular makeup posts to share something many people try to hide — what anxiety looks like. Accompanying a photo of her chewed up nails, she wrote: Anxiety isn’t just chest pains, crying, and the inability to relax.It’s biting your nails until they bleed, then picking off the skin on your fingers once you’re out of nails to bite.It’s driving to the store only to sit in the parking lot for 20 minutes before turning back around, without even going inside.It’s getting a text message and forgetting to respond promptly, so instead of responding explaining you were busy, you leave the notification there for days, weeks, even months, getting a knot in your stomach every time you scroll past it or every time that person’s name comes up Anxiety isn’t just chest pains, crying, and the inability to relax. It’s biting your nails until they bleed, then…Posted by Megan Lynne Ferrero on Sunday, July 8, 2018 Her post has been shared over 190,000 times. Ferrero said while it was embarrassing showing a picture of her nails, if even one person can relate, it’s worth pushing past her comfort zone. In a world where we try to be “picture perfect” online, it can be hard to share parts of our lives that aren’t so pretty. In the piece, “ 18 Honest Pictures People With Anxiety Want to Post on Facebook, but Don’t ,” Mighty community member Tia D. explained why she doesn’t talk about her anxiety on Facebook: I never share things like this on Facebook as I feel friends might think I’m doing it for attention and [worry] they won’t believe this is an actual illness. Whenever someone challenges the fact I have anxiety, it just makes the anxiety even worse so I never post pictures like this to avoid the chance of this happening. Most of my friends don’t even know I have anxiety as I have a fear of people not taking it seriously. That’s why sharing information about your own anxiety can help those who don’t feel comfortable posting feel less alone. One person commented on Ferrero’s post, “My fingers look exactly the same. Thank you so much for sharing awareness, big hugs to you.” Another wrote, “Thank you so much for sharing this and making at least one other person know they are not the only one going through the same thing.” Ferrero said it’s easy for people to look at her “so done up” and think, “She’s got it all together.” “The reality of it is that you can look one way on the outside yet feel the complete opposite on the inside,” she told The Mighty. “That’s why I very often share pictures of me bare faced, and it’s why I decided to include the picture of my fingers post-anxiety attack when I shared my story.” When we get specific about how anxiety affects us, we challenge the misconception that anxiety simply means worrying a lot or just being stressed. Check out t his list of photos that show other ways anxiety manifests. You can read Megan’s full message below: Anxiety isn’t just chest pains, crying, and the inability to relax. It’s biting your nails until they bleed, then picking off the skin on your fingers once you’re out of nails to bite. It’s driving to the store only to sit in the parking lot for 20 minutes before turning back around, without even going inside. It’s getting a text message and forgetting to respond promptly, so instead of responding explaining you were busy, you leave the notification there for days, weeks, even months, getting a knot in your stomach every time you scroll past it or every time that person’s name comes up. It’s hearing a noise and planning in your mind where you’ll hide, what doors you’ll lock, and how you’ll secretly call for help if someone broke into your house. It’s asking your partner several times a day if they love you, partially kidding, but mostly needing to hear it because you find it so hard to love yourself in that moment. It’s putting off washing the dishes until there’s no dishes left, but then feeling overwhelmed by how many dishes there are to wash, so you just leave them another day. It’s understanding that what you’re worrying about is often irrational and not as extreme as your reaction warrants, but not being able to control your response. Often times, it even means you CAN’T understand that what you’re worrying about is irrational or not as extreme as your reaction warrants. Anxiety isn’t just chest pains, crying, and the inability to relax. It’s taking everyday parts of life and intensifying the excitement or fear they result in times a thousand, to the point that they seem impossible to face. Some days are more manageable than others, and it’s on those days I try to remind myself that I CAN get through whatever anxiety throws my way. It’s hard for me to share this and a little embarrassing to include this picture, but if even one person finds comfort in knowing they’re not alone in this, then I’m going to push past my comfort zones to do that. If you could post on Facebook about how anxiety affects you, what would you say? Tell us in the comments below.

When Doctors Are Insensitive to Mental Illness

“I noticed you have complex PTSD (CPTSD) in your file. Have you ever had any sexual trauma?” “No, no. Nothing like that,” I quickly answered, trying to hide the shock I felt by such a blatant question. “Well, I’m only asking because pain during sex can be attributed to abuse,” continued my doctor. This question was not posed during a therapy session, a psychiatric visit or a GYN exam — all of which would have been more appropriate environments to raise the delicate subject of trauma. I was sitting in the office of my allergist. Her assistant coolly typed session notes on a laptop as this exchange took place. My doctor resumed our discussion, which involved testing for a possible latex allergy. I was stunned. This test had been recommended by my GYN due to discomfort and irritation during intercourse while using a condom. I experience environmental and chemical allergies, receive monthly immunotherapy shots and take daily antihistamines; not a stretch that latex could be the culprit. In her attempt to rule out other possibilities, my doctor meretriciously posed a question with little regard for the sensitivity of the matter. The impact of this commentary did not hit me right away. My quick response had been a defense mechanism to hide discomfort and move on from the topic. Later, I repeated the encounter to my therapist. She exclaimed how inappropriate my allergist had been in asking such a personal question in, quite frankly, the wrong environment. So, have I had sexual trauma? No. But what if I had? What if my CPTSD diagnosis was, in fact, due to rape, abuse, or molestation? My doctor had fired off a remark with little tact or consideration regarding privacy, emotional safety or her own qualification to enter the territory of trauma or mental health. This was certainly not the first time I had encountered such disregard for emotional well-being. During an annual gynecological exam, the doctor commented on my low BMI. She alluded I had an eating disorder. I explained my clinical diagnosis of CPTSD, accompanied by severe anxiety and depression. I had left work, I was in therapy, I was trying medication and under the care of a psychiatrist. My primary care doctor had referred me to a nutritionist. Vitamin levels were checked and blood work assessed to ensure an eating disorder or other medical problems were not at play. I received a thumbs up for good diet, healthy eating habits and normal labs. The doctors concluded that my brain remained in constant “fight or flight” mode; this made for exceedingly high calorie burn. It was a struggle to eat more and more in order to maintain a healthy weight, especially with acid reflux compounding the issue. Pounds were being worried away with no direct intent on my part. CPTSD was the diagnosis; the result of childhood physical, verbal and emotional abuse from living in a home embroiled with extreme turmoil, stemming from the inadequacies and poor mental health of my parents. The disbelieving eyes of my gynecologist looked me up and down while I recounted this information. “You have to watch out for the anorexia,” she responded, turning her back to me as she removed exam gloves and washed her hands. “It’s math. Calories in, calories out.” Do I have an eating disorder? No. I realized this doctor had little to no understanding about mental illness. She saw a symptom, jumped to a conclusion and looked no further. I immediately left her care and began to see another, more sensitive, gynecologist; the one who subsequently referred me for latex allergy testing. She assured me not to worry. Once my anxiety became more manageable, the weight would come back on. But, again, what if I did have anorexia or bulimia or purging disorder or avoidant food intake? Some terse words and a warning to “watch out for the anorexia,” were by no means helpful, supportive or an invitation for help. It was like saying, “You have to watch out for the cancer.” Dismissive, reproachful statements can make patients feel defective and less likely to seek help for a disease or illness they did not cause or ask for. If a doctor truly thinks a patient has a serious medical condition, I assume the mere warning or pointing out of said condition does not fall under the protocol of good medical treatment. It’s shocking that healthcare “professionals” are so unskilled and uneducated when it comes to mental illness. They question the authenticity of your words. Your ailments are suspicious. Their delivery of so-called “advice” is less than considerate. If it’s not their area of specialty, why don’t they proceed with caution? Why do they jump to conclusions instead of listening? What if everything I relayed to my allergist and GYN was not true? What if I was raped or had an eating disorder?  How do they think a few careless words could offer me the help I would desperately have needed? Would any of these exchanges at a doctor’s office help the victims of sexual abuse or those who struggle with an eating disorder? Assuredly, no. To be listened to, to be heard, to be treated with respect and understanding — these are things a person with mental illness does need, whatever the root cause. Managing mental illness is difficult and challenging. Being treated like it’s no big deal by insensitive doctors touting callous comments can make the road to recovery harder to navigate. Conceivably, the constant flow of patients and daily health assessments create a hardened immunity among healthcare professionals. People are no longer people, but problems; a file folder of symptoms where “human being with feelings” has dropped off the chart. It’s time for patients to take back their identity. It’s time to speak up and remind our healthcare providers that bed-side manner and respect is not optional but compulsory. Fortunately, I have a brilliant therapist, a skilled psychiatrist and a network of supportive physicians who continuously help me navigate the complexities of mental health. I remain focused on the excellent care I do receive and leave the inappropriate interactions and subsequent bad feelings behind; they don’t serve me. I am thankful for every provider in the medical field who practices because they care and their calling to heal is a sacred undertaking. If you are a doctor, nurse, or health practitioner, I hope my words have served as a reminder that every patient deserves respect. Every patient deserves kindness. Every patient deserves help and care and if you don’t know what to do, follow the Hippocratic oath and refer them to someone who does; don’t pass judgment or fling thoughtless, dismissive words at people struggling. As the grade school saying goes, “Think before you speak.” There are human sensitivities behind every lab result, every symptom and every illness. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via andrei_r

Rosacea: The Physical Condition I Didn't Realize My PTSD Could Cause

“Do you have a good dermatologist? I mean a really good dermatologist?” A female co-worker had pulled me aside, peered grimly at my face and waited for a response. Pride died quietly inside the caverns of my being. My answer was short. “Yes, I do.” I continued to work, hoping the subject would drop. She pushed ahead. “I mean, how long is this going to go on?” For a moment, I blinked in disbelief. A generous portion of tactless, insensitive gruel had been dropped on my plate. This woman was unaware of the struggles I faced — antibiotics, gels, creams and endless doctor visits. She assumed a horrendous case of acne was to blame. It was Rosacea; the manifestation of a deeper, more serious condition… Complex-PTSD. According to The National Rosacea Society, emotional stress is reported to be one of the most common rosacea triggers. My psyche had raged against my dermis. I was shocked. I had managed to hide the emotional turmoil for more than a year. Buried deep inside an internal, seemingly dormant volcano, lava had quite literally bubbled to the surface. Eruption was imminent. I remained polite, yet tight-lipped, when my co-worker pushed the name and number of her “qualified” dermatologist into my hand. I saved the tears for later. This was not the first uncomfortable and intrusive encounter involving the state of my skin. A previous visit with my dry cleaner had left me embarrassed and deflated. The clerk suggested numerous homemade remedies for my imperfect complexion. I wanted clean clothes, not unsolicited medical advice. Complex-PTSD is an illness that can have numerous physical side effects. While outwardly battling visible symptoms, I secretly fought impalpable demons. Rosacea caused embarrassment. I felt conspicuous and unsightly, especially when my job brought me into public view. I found it difficult to socialize and concentrate as people indiscreetly stared at the lumps and bumps on my fiery red cheeks. While my pores continued to burst forth one heinous creation after another, my employer prepared for a company-wide award ceremony. Annual sales ratios had been calculated. My department head called to inform me I ranked as a “top performer” in the retail division. Forever the master of disguise, I excelled in the workplace. My personal life was an insufferable closet of secret skeletons. Sales representatives belonging to this elite category would be honored at dinner party in a function hall. An appointment had been scheduled for a head shot, so my photo could be projected on a jumbo screen while I was presented with an award from the CEO. To quote Alanis Morissette, “Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?” Raw, red, covered in painful pustules, cysts, blotches and burst veins, I begged to be excused. I was mortified and refused all photographs. I looked like I had gone 10 rounds with a meat grinder. Although I was allowed to provide my own “pre-rosacea” photograph, the ceremony was obligatory. I showed up, faced my co-workers, gracefully smiled and accepted the award. Years of denial along with unmanaged, untreated symptoms were finally catching up. Other health problems quickly presented and it became even harder to maintain normal daily routines. Mentally and physically, I struggled to keep up the charade. A month later, my doctors would not allow me to continue to work. My face was sore, swollen and painful to touch but the emotional agony of mental illness was comparatively worse. Eventually, I stopped caring about my appearance. Depression tightened its grip. I was numb to any concern about personal vanity. I took steps to remedy my skin, but the rigorous undertaking of emotional healing was front and center. Oftentimes, mental illness is an invisible illness… until it leaches out like infection from a wound. Disguised as other ailments, these maladies are warning signs of deeper, more complicated problems. The mind/body connection is real. When you are mentally unwell, the physical wiring starts to short circuit. Today, my rosacea has improved. Seeking mental wellness continues to be a bumpy and treacherous journey, much like an odyssey through a bubbling, cavernous lava field. Once you accept the disturbance is there, navigating your internal volcano becomes clearer. Magma and ashes are part of the process.  Even after eruptions, the mountain is usually still standing. And, it helps to have a therapist… I mean a “really good” therapist.