Brain Mush: Or Practicing What I Preach: Or A Step Inside An Anxious Mind.

Hi guys,

And welcome to the new living space. Please don’t traipse mud on the expensive shag. It’s a Parisian import ;)

…But for reals, make yourself at home. Take your coat off and have a look around. 

So, straight down to business because I know you guys prefer these mental health chats without all the BS! 

As some of you know, I started a mental health awareness campaign on Twitter/IG/FB called #InShadowSelfie. The whole point of the campaign is to get people talking about mental health/invisible illness like it isn’t taboo, and also to show the world there is more to suffering than blood and bruises.

In the interest of practicing what I preach, I’m going to use my blog to talk about weird/interesting/scary moments of brain mush!

::Please note:: This post is not intended to be used as medical advice. If you’re concerned about something, please reach out to a medical professional/doctor. That’s what they’re here for.

The day before yesterday…

Thanks to the parasite that’s invaded our water supply, I’ve been all kinds all over the place lately anyway. I keep dropping things. Bumping into stuff. Burning myself. I’m generally unfocused and out of sorts right now. 

Anywayzzzzz…. 

As a rule, I can’t cope with stomach bugs, sickness, anything catching that contains bacteria with the exception of a cold. Like, I REALLY can’t cope with it. But my dad got home from work on Monday and said he wasn’t feeling well. What happens next is what everyone is expecting. I break down, and it goes a little something like this:

“What’s wrong wrong with you?”

“Have you been sick?”

“How many people have gotten sick?”

How long have I been in the room with him?

Does the air suddenly seem warmer…thicker?


*covers mouth*

*backs away slowly*

You really don’t have to tell me how selfish and insensitive this is. But I do have to tell you that I CAN’T STOP IT! I wish I could. My dad is the greatest. I want compassion, not fear, to be my first thought. (I also should mention–and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person suffering from OCD/Anxiety who can tell you this–for as much as I want to run away and hide from the thing that is frightening me, I simultaneously want to stay close and find out everything so I can feel more…. prepared.)

I don’t know. 

It’s weird. 

I don’t understand any of the thought process. As much as try.

So, I retreat to my room for the rest of the day, don’t eat because I’m scared. I shake visibly and chew holes in the side of my mouth until bedtime, when my dad cautiously pops his head into my house to tell me he’s calling it a day.

“How are you feeling?” I ask, before he can shut the door. Then I brace myself for his response. If he says he’s been sick, I will happily hide in a blanket fort for three days with a bottle of sanitizer.

Instead…

He says, “I’m okay. I just keep going really dizzy.”

The parasite situation in the water has had me dreaming up Erin Brockovich type situations for almost four weeks, so my brain soaks up this revelation like a parched sponge. Before I can complete a blink, my overactive mind assumes call-to-action status and I conclude that he is really sick. REALLY SICK.

I don’t sleep, but I lie down. My heart thumps at the back of my throat. Every time I close my eyes, I end up at my dad’s graveside. It wasn’t a dream–for, God only knows what reason, I don’t dream unless I’m sick myself. Plus, I’m conscious of being in my bed. But it looks real. And I can feel the weight of grief as if it were steel strapped to my chest.

Between 10.30 p.m and 6.00 a.m, I check on my dad 12 times to make sure he is still breathing. I’m exhausted, my bones ache like they’re fighting the flu and my brain has turned to mush. 

— and that’s how that happened.

Happily, my dad got up in the morning with a snotty nose, but feeling much better. Head cold. I can’t change how I responded to this whole thing, but next time I will use this, and its outcome, as ammunition to fight any morbid direction my mind tries to move in. I might now win, I usually don’t, but I will try.

Thanks for letting me share. Remember, mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. If you want to talk about it, I’m always listening.

Chat soon,

xo.

A quick Q and A with my very own self about that shadow thing I keep talking about! 

Hi Party People, 

  
  
  
 

So, I’m here to field some Q’s about the #InShadowSelfie project:

1.) First of all, what is it?

The #InShadowSelfie project was just an idea I had about raising awareness for folks — thousands of folks — that suffer from an invisible mental illness. 


2.) Yeah, but…why?

Because I read this article that listed a bunch of illnesses that weren’t considered physically debilitating by the DWP (the guys in Britain who decide who should receive welfare for their illnesses). I suffer from three of the illnesses they list, and I’m plenty physically impaired by them.


3.) But what’s the point of an #InShadowSelfie? I mean, what good does it do?

Okay. So posting a selfie of your shadow isn’t going to cure anyone of a mental illness. Unfortunately. But what it might do — what I’m hoping it will do — is get people talking. Another article I read tonight said, “57% of teen girls [aged 11-16] said they felt awkward talking about mental health.” That number rises to 66% among teens aged 17 to 21. That number is too high. Any number is too high. It’s not taboo to talk about suffering. It’s not taboo to talk about your sore throat or upset stomach. Why should it be taboo to talk about this? There is no shame in admitting your mind is some wannabe evil overload, trying to take control of your brain. And what with suicide rates up, it is important that we keep pushing this message, that we keep encouraging people to talk about what is happening in their head, without them having to endure feelings of shame, or ridicule.


4.) And you thought a selfie of your shadow was the best way to start the conversation?

Why not? The #NoMakeUpSelfies were a huge success for Cancer Research, and seen as we’re heading into Fall, I didn’t think folks would warm to the idea of dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads. I’m kidding. Those were two amazing campaigns that I would never to try to imitate. I just thought this would be cool because A.) A selfie costs nothing. B.) They’re super easy to get. Plus, I wanted to appeal to teens. I want to tell them it’s okay to talk about this stuff, and as they’re the guys that introduced us old folks to selfies, it made sense. 


5.) Why a shadow?

Two reasons. The first is because it’s a metaphor for how some people view Invisible Illness. And the second is because it’s symbolic of all that you can’t see. Your shadow is always there, right? Even when you can’t see it. Well, we don’t have cuts or bruises to represent what is wrong with us, so I thought this was the next best thing!


6.) Can I participate if I don’t have a mental illness? 

Of course you can. There is no criteria for jumping on board the selfie train. This is open for anyone and everyone. The more the better.


7.) Sounds legit. How much is it going to cost me?

Not a damn thing.


8.) I’m kind of busy right now. Will it take long?

It took me about 2 mins. 


9.) Sweet! But wait… I live in the shadow of Mordor. There’s never any sunlight. How am I gonna take part?

You can use always use a lamp or candlelight (supervised if needs be). It doesn’t have to be natural light. And it doesn’t have to be your whole self. We’ve gotten a lot of hands making hearts/shapes, a couple of adorable kitties casting shadows, a friend even drew a peacock in shadow. The brief is a shadow, posted with the hashtag. (Just…keep it clean. This is a family show.)


10.) Okay. I’m in. How do I do this thing?

Ta-dah! Here is a graphic I prepared earlier. Although, please don’t feel obligated to tag friends if it makes you uncomfortable. First and foremost we want YOUR selfie! You can check out the #Hashtag for some support, encouragement or even inspiration. 
  

We have over a hundred selfies so far. I’d love to see that number double.

  
   

Chat soon,

xo

What Has Happened, What I Knew, What I Learned

Originally posted on The Shadow Sanctuary:

When I was a preschooler, because my mom worked, she arranged for another woman to look after me in the afternoons, until my mom could pick me up. This woman, Mrs. O, had a little boy about my age. We played together and mostly had a good time.

Sometimes, another little girl who lived in the neighborhood joined us. Those times were not so good for me. The little boy liked her better than he liked me. They were preschool “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” The little girl teased me, because she wanted to make her primacy clear. The little boy joined in, because he wanted to impress her. It hurt.

I knew hurting me meant nothing to them.

I learned people who claim to be your friends can be cruel.

Later, when I was in third grade, my school merged with another school and I met a whole new group of…

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Yo, Louise! What on earth is an #InShadowSelfie, and why should I do one?

Guys!

Another one of those accidental things happened yesterday, and I was wondering if I could get your help to keep it moving?

So, I was reading a thing, this thing in fact >>>  http://www.welfareweekly.com/sanctioned-jobseekers-with-mental-health-problems-are-not-vulnerable-says-dwp

Man, that list of conditions that some folks don’t think cause a physical impairment… ARE THEY SERIOUS?! It’s an age old attitude that people with “invisible illness” are becoming over familiar with… because of course, if we can’t see it, you’re not suffering. Barf.

As most of you know, I’m an agoraphobic with OCD… what some of you might not know is that recently, the area where I live has been put under a “Boil Water Notice” by our service provider because they’ve found a parasite in our supply. NICE!

Let me outline my days for you while this has been happening:

Passing out. Lots of that.
Panic attacks. Lots of those too.
Bandaged hands from bleeding skin. (Careful not to overuse that hand sanitizer, kids.)
Sleep deprivation.
So much sleep deprivation I’ve been hallucinating.
Dizziness.
Some eating.
No eating.
Some days, a fear so substantial I’m too afraid to leave my bedroom. Think conspiracy theories, terrorism fears, an impending apocalypse, or simply having to move to a different part of the world because our water is gone forever —  if you you can’t relate to this, I am beyond happy for you. Really, I am. But for me, and for millions of others, morbid thought is real. And it is all consuming. Everyone is frightened of something, maybe to get a glimpse of what this feels like, you could consider what it would be like if that one thing you’re afraid of became a constant in your life. Consider always being trapped in a small space, or living your life 35,000 feet in the air, or seeing spiders everywhere you go.

Anyways, you might say over this last couple of weeks I’ve been physically impaired. (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Physically+impaired)

Honestly, if I hadn’t had my parents around, I would be as close to a corpse as you can get.

And now… the campaign. I just want to put mental health in the spotlight again. I NEED to. Not everyone has someone to take care of them like I have. Thinking about how those people struggle tears a hole right through my heart. I want other people to care that much, you know? Or even just to care at all.

Do people rip off the system? Of course they do, but it’s THOSE people that should be punished, not the sick. Just because you can’t see sores, scars, cuts, bruises and bleeding… doesn’t mean it’s not as painful as all hell.

So here’s what I’m asking…

In Shadow
The response has already been unreal! And I am so grateful to everyone that has participated. Thank you so much <3 But I bet we can make this bigger… So, what do you say, wanna help me try?
Chat soon,
xo

(Trigger Warning) Life of Suicidal Tendencies… by Anonymous #TalkFear #MentalHealthAwareness

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Genderfear… by Suzanne van Rooyen #TalkFear #MentalHealthAwareness

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I have to start by saying a gigantic thank you to Louise for making the #TalkFear tag happen, and for encouraging a discussion about topics that aren’t usually easy to talk about.

When I first thought about fear and what fear meant to me, this quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune immediately came to mind:

Fear

As a teenager, I had this on my bedroom wall, sandwiched between Gothic poetry and maudlin song lyrics. I don’t think I really understood what Paul Atreides was on about though until fairly recently. But that’s because I didn’t really know who I was until fairly recently as well.

I’m genderqueer. This is a gender identity often covered by the trans umbrella term – you may have seen it written like this: trans* – and it means I don’t identify with a binary definition of gender. My self-expression includes aspects of what could be considered traditionally masculine and feminine. I guess what I’m aiming for is a more androgynous look – as much as my wide-hips and short stature will allow.

Fear has hung over me like a giant guillotine for most of my life. The fear of not being ‘normal’, the fear of being ridiculed and ostracized for being different, the fear of disappointing others, the fear of being who I am, and the greatest fear: the fear of not being who I truly I am and living a claustrophobic, miserable, dishonest life.

Since embracing my genderqueer identity, my gender dysphoria (the feeling of being in the wrong body) is a lot better because I’ve given myself permission to express my true identity. This means giving myself permission to appropriate my husband’s clothes, shop in the guy’s section at stores, cut my hair, and not care about how un-girly I am. And while life is so much better and I am so much happier, fear still persists.

I still fear ridicule and rejection, especially in professional environments, and still worry when I meet new people and how they might react to knowing how I identify. I also, somewhat strangely, fear that I’m not genderqueer enough, that I’m not radically anti-binary enough to truly claim the identity of genderqueer. While judgment from outside the LGBT+ community is half-expected, there is also judgment within the rainbow community, and that absolutely terrifies me.

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Without fearing who I am and the odd looks I might get for dressing like a boy and not conforming to societal ideals of the feminine, I can simply be who I am. And that is both comforting and liberating. Everyday I will face my fear and permit it to pass over me so that I can continue to be my authentic self the best way I know how.

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I Can’t Be Saved… by Michaele Stoughton #TalkFear #MentalHealthAwareness

MSUntitledBesides the somewhat normal – and widely felt – fear of spiders, which results in a flailing dance of the heebie jeebies, I suffer from a fear that is much more debilitating: Religiophobia. (An irrational or obsessive fear or anxiety of religion, religious faith, religious people or religious organizations.)

What may seem like a simple thing can send me into a panic: church music, accidentally turning on a religious TV show, Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door. I see people on social media respond to an illness or death and say something about Jesus (or God) taking him/her in his arms, and I know that others find comfort in these words. Not me.

Anxiety and panic.

The funny this is I think churches are beautiful. On the outside. Just don’t make me step inside.

This fear stems from an event that happened when I was eleven-years-old, separated from my family, and subjected to hours of religious scare tactics, all in an effort to “save me.”

I was truly terrified I’d never see my family again.

You can read the whole story here.

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I find my fear difficult to talk about. Not many people know. For one thing, religion can be quite controversial, even taboo.

I’m afraid you’ll judge me or think it’s an invitation to tell me about your church, because your church is good and friendly and I’d love the people. Please don’t. (Yes. This has happened.)

I’m also afraid you’ll think I’m judging you. But that REALLY isn’t the case. (If I’m going to judge you, it’ll be on how you treat other people, and animals.)

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My mother understood my fear, but didn’t truly see how it affected me until around ten years ago. We’d decided to treat ourselves to a day at a spa, an hour from home. It was a colorful autumn drive to a beautiful converted hundred-year-old house. We’d had a wonderful, relaxing day.

At the end of the day, we were checking out the gift shop and chatting with the owner. She mentioned we were the day’s last clients, but told us to take our time. I’d noticed a few people come in, but I never really got a look at them. The owner would say hello and direct them to the larger, main room of the house. Then, as I went to leave, I walked past the main room. There had to be almost a dozen people gathered … every one of them held a Bible in their hands.

Sheer panic.

I turned toward the exit.

Heart racing.

Two more people were walking through the door, each with a Bible tucked in the crook of their arm. They meeting for Bible study.

CAN’T BREATHE.

In those few seconds, all the good from a day of relaxation and massage escaped my body. I was sick, shaky, and tense.

The worst part of what happened when I was little was that these were people I trusted, a family in the neighborhood who had a daughter around my age.  At first I blamed them; that family, and their interpretation of the Bible and misguided ways of spreading its word. But then I saw that it wasn’t just their interpretation, but a whole religion. And that’s how religion works. It endorses herd mentality. Then the herds clash, causing countless wars and killings.

Did you know there are roughly 4200 different religions around the world? This terrifies me.

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Live with Fear… by Patrick Sant #TalkFear #MentalHealthAwareness

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My Fear of Being on Submission… by A Writer #TalkFear #MentalHealthAwareness.

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I messed up…. #TalkFear

You guys, I’m so so so so sorry.

I scheduled a #TalkFear post for today and it didn’t go live!!!! I should have checked, but I’ve been up to my eyes in work. That’s no excuse. All I can do is apologize and tell you that the post WILL be up at Midnight EST!