Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Young entrepreneurs start clothing brand to raise awareness of mental illness

Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed (WearYourLabel.com)
I've seen so many people wear pink ribbons and pink articles of clothing to symbolize breast cancer awareness. Even the NFL is in on it. And I think this is great!

One of the most significant ways to raise awareness and increase acceptance of a disease or any campaign is to literally wear it on your back.

And now, one company is doing the same thing for mental illness, with shirts that say things like, "It's okay not to be okay," "Sick but not weak," "Your story is not over," "Stressed by well dressed," "Self-care isn't selfish," "Struggle vs. Strength," and "Sad but Rad."

The brand Wear Your Label was founded by Canadian entrepreneurs Kyle MacNevin, 22, who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Kayley Reed, 21, who is recovering from Anorexia Nervosa.

The pair met in December 2013 at the University of New Brunswick and, soon after sharing their own journeys with mental health, came up with the idea to start "Wear Your Label."

Reed said in an interview with People Magazine, "When you start being open about your own mental health and take ownership of your own struggles, more and more people feel comfortable sharing their story with you."

MacNevin said, "People have Tweeted at us saying, ‘This garment is the best antidepressant I have ever had.’ It really makes your heart skip a beat to know that something you made means so much to someone else."

Ten percent of their earnings are donated to mental health initiatives. To check out the clothing line, visit http://wearyourlabel.com/. Like their page on Facebook.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What I admire most about David Letterman

With David Letterman's final show last night, I wanted to share what I admire most about him — that he was open about his battle with depression.

While Letterman rarely opens up about his personal life, I am glad that a couple years ago, he decided to talk about this.
AP photo - Letterman's final show

In an interview with Oprah, he said, "I never knew what depression was. ... (Depression), I'm telling you, is — you get on an elevator and the bottom drops out. You can't stand looking at the sunlight, you can't wait to get back in bed at night."

He said he went through this crippling depression for about six months and describes it as "seeing the world with 20/20 vision."

"It's a sinkhole. People who have gone through it know exactly what I'm talking about."

In another interview, Letterman said, "For years and years and years – 30, 40 years – I was anxious, and hypochondriacal, and an alcoholic, and many, many other things that made me different from other people.”

With the help of medication, which Letterman said he was reluctant to take, he pulled through his depression. And he now has compassion for others who are battling this.

"I always thought, 'Aw, you're depressed? Go do some push-ups and you'll feel better,'" he said. "But it's not that."

I have found that many times, the people who seem happiest are the ones who have the biggest inner demons to fight. They use jokes and a goofy demeanor to mask how they're really feeling.

But I believe that, in order to overcome this, you first have to admit it. By hiding it, you're giving power to your depression,
you're not allowing others help you and, even more importantly, you're not helping yourself. By hiding it, you're not treating it as exactly what it is — a disease.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How 'Humans of New York' movement shows you're not alone

I remember, while in college, one of my journalism professors assigned her students to write a story based on interviews with strangers.

So I went to Great Lakes Crossing Mall in Auburn Hills and approached shoppers with the question, "How have you been affected by mental illness?"

This was one of the most nerve wracking things I have ever done. Yet nearly everyone I approached had something to say. They didn't know me, yet they sat with me and explained these heartbreaking stories. I remember one girl specifically, who worked at the Sanrio (Hello Kitty) store, who sat with me on a bench outside for about half an hour, talking about her sister's suicide.

This moment is what solidified my decision to become a reporter. It showed me that everyone has a story to tell — and I wanted to make it my job to tell more of these stories.

That's why I have become drawn to the "Humans of New York" movement — where intimate profiles are written of random people approached on the streets of the Big Apple. I love this idea of approaching strangers and asking them to share their stories.

"Humans of New York" was created by Brandon Stanton with the goal to photograph 10,000 people on the street — which he has since far exceeded. Standon admits that he suffered from depression while in college and said, by making himself socialize with others, it helped. He moved to a city where he knew no one, and while he was working on this project, that's when he felt less alone.

He said about the movement, "It constantly amazes me how brave these people are, and how much they choose to disclose."

Photo: HONY
"I've found that there's very little a person won't disclose. You know why I think that is? Because so much of our life revolves around small talk. Weather, finances, things like that. And here comes somebody on the street really digging at the marrow of your life and your experience. I think it's validating in a deep sort of way."

This project shows the power of human interaction and how people just want to be listened to. I think it has become so popular because these stories show people that they are not alone. There are people who feel the same way as we do and aren't afraid to share this information about themselves to a complete stranger.

Here are some of "Humans of New York" posts about mental illness, bullying, suicide and self acceptance:

• “I had a rough time in high school. I was in a very deep depression. I’ve always been on the heavy side, so I got bullied a lot because of my size. I didn’t have any friends. There wasn’t a male figure in my life to talk to. Some people cared about me, but I blocked them out of my life. Someone told the school guidance counselor that they'd heard me talking about suicide, so I got sent to the psych hospital for nine days. I was the oldest one there. I met kids who were a lot younger than me, and who’d been through a lot worse things. One of the girls had been raped. The younger kids would come to me for advice, and for the first time I felt like a leader. I left the hospital with a different mindset. I realized that I wasn’t on earth to be helped, but to help others.”

Photo: HONY
• "I struggled with body image my whole life. As a young teen, I was diagnosed with Polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS makes it incredibly hard to lose weight, and spikes up your insulin levels which can lead to diabetes and other complications. ... I realized that my size or weight is not something to be ashamed of, it is a part of me. Health and weight are not synonymous, and I know that to be healthy means to manage my sobriety and PCOS the best that I can. I may not ever be thin, but that’s okay. It’s all about progress, not perfection. So I posted a picture of myself in my underwear with a message to all the people who’d ever bullied me about what I looked like. Amazingly, in less than a week, it got over 50,000 likes and reblogs. ... My dream is to go back to my middle school, where all my body im
age issues began, and work with young girls on the issues of self-esteem, body image, sizeism, and bullying. I want to give these girls something I never knew, which was that your body does not define who you are as a person. To people who judge people on their size, weight, pants size or health - shame on you. No one is the authority on beauty, and everyone has a different road to trudge to happy destiny."

• "I'm a therapist and a social worker. I specialize in trauma-informed care."
"What frustrates you most about your work?"
"Probably the stigma that society attaches to mental illness. Neurobiological diseases are often viewed as a step below physiological diseases, like diabetes. The stigma can be very harmful to patients."

• "After my best friend committed suicide, I spent a year answering phones at a suicide prevention hotline. I worked the midnight to 4 AM shift."
"Why did your friend commit suicide?"
"I think like most people who take their own lives, he was just feeling very isolated. He'd just come back from college, was living with his parents, and was in a very bad place. I've always felt guilty about my last words to him. I visited him at his parents' house, and as I was leaving, I told him: 'This is a bad situation. You've got to get out of here.'"

Photo: HONY
"I wish I'd been more compassionate toward my mother."
"In what way?"
"My father committed suicide when I was nine. I wish I'd understood and accepted my mother's depression, instead of reacting against it."

• "I'm always sad."
"Are there certain thoughts associated with the sadness?"
"No, the sadness is under the thoughts. It's like when you're on a camping trip, and it's really cold, and you put on extra socks, and an extra sweater, but you still can't get warm, because the coldness is in your bones."
"Do you hope to get away from it?"
"Not anymore. I just hope to come to peace with it."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Former childhood actress Mara Wilson teaches that it's OK to have anxiety

When I was little, I felt drawn to the character "Matilda" and I watched the movie over and over again.

I even started a trend in my elementary school of wearing a red ribbon around my hair, just like she did. Soon, I started handing out pieces of red and pink ribbon to my classmates so they could wear their hair like this too.

Now, almost 20 years later, Mara Wilson, who played the role of Matilda, is sharing an even more important message for youth — which I hope becomes more widespread than the hairstyle trend she started at St. Joseph School in Lake Orion when I was 7 years old.

Mara has partnered with Project UROK, a nonprofit that launched two months ago whose mission is to create funny and meaningful videos for teens struggling with mental health issues.

The 27-year-old shares her story of mental illness in a recently posted video to teach breathing techniques to help anyone who suffers from panic attacks.

I heard about this video from Julia, on-air personality at 98.7 AMP Radio, who said, "I also deal with anxiety and even just hearing someone else speak about going through it helps."

I have also learned that I have more in common with Mara than I thought.

"I've basically been an anxious person all my life," she said, adding that she has also dealt with OCD and depression. "I wish somebody had told me that it's okay to be anxious, that you don't have to fight it and that, in fact, fighting it is the thing that makes it worse."

I know exactly what she means. If ever I'm anxious and I think to myself, "You're being stupid. You have nothing to worry about! Why are you being like that? Just stop it!" I feel so much worse. Really, the only thought that ever makes me feel better is, "This anxiety is not your fault. It's in your brain and it will pass."

Mara said, "These are things that so many people go through. And this is something that everybody can deal with and can overcome."

"You are not the only one who has this. Other people can and have fought these battles before."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Can a mental illness physically hurt?

Photo from WebMD
For anyone who has gone through a broken heart, at that moment, you could almost be sure if you were to get an X-Ray, you'd see a fissure in the middle of your chest. That's how badly it hurts.

Sometimes, emotional pain can be so extreme that it actually hurts physically.

So, the answer is yes — depression, as well as any other mental illness, can translate into physical pain.

I have even heard of people going to the hospital, complaining of a pain in their chest or another physical ailment, not even realizing they are, in fact, suffering from a mental illness. I'm not sure how anyone could ever think, then, that mental illness is a weakness. I think this shows proof that mental illness is a disease when it actually affects your physical health as well — so much so that some people actually misinterpret it for a heart condition or other ailment.

According to the WebMD, here are some of the physical symptoms and pains that may go along with mental illness:

• Stomach pain
• Back pain
• Headaches
• Muscle aches and joint pain
• Chest pain
• Digestive problems
• Exhaustion and fatigue
• Sleeping problems
• Change in appetite or weight
• Dizziness

"These physical symptoms aren't 'all in your head.' Depression can cause real changes in your body," the article states.

"Depression seems to be related to dysregulation of nerve cell networks or pathways that connect brain areas that process emotional information. Some of these networks also process information related to how the body senses physical pain. So many experts think that depression can make you feel pain differently than other people."

In many cases, treating your mental illness will also make these symptoms go away.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it could be a mental illness or another kind of illness. Either way, make sure to tell your doctor ASAP.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Do you feel like you're giving away a piece of yourself to each person you date?

When I was younger, I had this naïve view that I would marry my first boyfriend. I didn't want to kiss a bunch of "toads" until I found the person I was meant to be with.

I’m not sure if there’s an actual term for this phobia, but I was terrified of getting my heart broken. So I was very cautious.

I went on a few dates during high school, but not many because I wanted my first boyfriend to be “the one.”

I obviously didn’t marry my first boyfriend. Or my second. Or my third. Or my fourth. Almost 10 years after graduation from high school, and I’ve lost count of the number of men I’ve gone out on dates with. Obviously, that “fairy tale” I had when I was young didn’t come true.

I know now, even more, why I felt this way when I was younger. Because each time I’ve let someone into my life, it felt like he took a piece of me with him when he left.

In relationships, people give so much of themselves, both emotionally and physically. You spend so much time with that person, tell him or her your secrets. And then you both move on. After all you went through together, it’s like you’re strangers.

Sometimes, when I’m alone, I will remember a random fact about a guy I once dated who I haven’t heard from in months or years. And it always makes me so sad.

Since my last break-up, I’ve gone on a record number of dates. And after about eight months of this constant cycle of men coming into my life and then leaving, I feel empty.

I have learned a lot in the last decade, but maybe I need to take a page from the book of my younger self.

I think, in today's culture, it’s easy to feel like we need a significant other to be worthwhile. So much importance is put on this. And so we waste time with people we really never should have been with in the first place just so we don’t feel alone.

But I’m sick of losing parts of myself to person after person. I’m sick of wasting time learning about others, opening myself up and sharing secrets with those who, in the long run, really don’t care.

There’s nothing wrong with being alone. And, for those who aren’t dating anyone, you need to stop letting society pressure you into thinking that you are nobody until you have a significant other. I know I need to take my own advice when it comes to this.

For me, for the first time in a long time, I’m going to spend time “dating” myself. After all, my relationship with myself is one that I know is going to last the rest of my life. Yet, this is the relationship I spend the least amount of time fostering.

Instead of thinking about what’s best for me, I have been thinking about what’s best for men who, more often than not, I only end up talking to for a couple weeks before I never see them again.

In two weeks, I will be 27. And I need to spend time relearning who I am – finding out what my own dreams are, what I really want in my life and rediscovering my own worth. I need to stop giving away pieces of myself.

While it is good to be brave and throw caution to the wind, sometimes it is good to keep your heart guarded. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with being cautious, being a little bit selfish, and saving love for yourself instead of giving it away so easily to people who don’t deserve it.

As relationship expert Dr. NerdLove says on his blog, “We’re not encouraged to appreciate the value of being able to be alone, or that sometimes no, you shouldn’t be dating anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact – more often than not, we’re taught to cling to our relationships like a love-sick barnacle to an especially sexy rock.”

"But sometimes we need to be single for a while. Part of being successful in dating means knowing yourself. You need a certain level of self-awareness if you want to avoid the mistakes you’ve made before and not inflict more unnecessary pain and hardship on yourself or on the people you want to date.”

Thursday, April 30, 2015

400 strangers show up to girl's birthday party after classmates cancel

Photo by Keighla Anderson
After hearing about a member of my family having a birthday party and none of her classmates showing up, I was always terrified that this would happen to me.

There's something so heartbreaking about imagining a child, excitedly waiting in her home, decorated with balloons and streamers, for the doorbell to ring. And, hour upon hour, no one shows.

This, likely, could set the tone for how a child views herself for the rest of her life.

So, what do you do if this happens to your child?

After all the girls invited to her daughter's birthday party either cancelled or failed to RSVP, a Minnesota woman took to social media to rectify this — posting on several community Facebook pages, inviting strangers with children the same age to stop by the party.

ABC News reports that more than 400 people showed up — including Minnesota Vikings player Charles Johnson, characters Elsa and Snoopy from a nearby amusement park, and local firemen.

Mackenzie Moretter, who turned 10 years old last week, is diagnosed with Sotos syndrome, a genetic condition causing physical overgrowth during the first years of life and learning disabilities.

Mackenzie’s mother, Jenny, told ABC News that she hopes her daughter's story encourages tolerance of children who are different.

“I just want people to know they should accept their children for who they are,” she said. “And for kids who see other kids alone, I’d love to encourage them to go say hi and definitely not make fun of them.”