Self Care

Self care is getting out of bed in the morning.

Self care is hitting snooze one more time.

Self care is taking your medicine.

Self care is taking an amazing hot shower and washing your hair.

Self care is throwing in some dry shampoo and throwing your hair in a messy bun

Self care is dressing up to feel better.

Self care is wearing sweatpants.

Self care is doing your best at work.

Self care is “adulting”.

Self care is acting like a child.

Self care is taking work off if you need it.

Self care is calling and making a doctor’s appointment.

Self care is asking for help with tasks you struggle with, like talking on the phone.

Self care is fuzzy blankets and sweaters and socks.

Self care is walking the dog.

Self care is messaging your friends to talk about what you’re going through.

Self care is telling people you can’t answer right now.

Self care is salad and healthy food.

Self care is pizza and chocolate.

Self care is cleaning your room and lighting candles.

Self care is sleep.

Self care is vacation.

Self care is staycations.

Self care is stretching.

Self care is exercising.

Self care is telling yourself it’s ok not to exercise.

Self care is saying nice things to yourself.

Self care is closing your eyes and listening to what your body needs.

 

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End the Stigma

Content Warnings: self harm, anxiety and depression, body image issues (no graphic details of anything)

This week is National Mental Illness Awareness Week as started by the national alliance on mental illness. As someone diagnosed with mental illnesses, it was important to me to add My voice in the hope of ending stigma as the theme of this week.

First I’ll start with an update on how I’m doing in general I’m doing quite well. This past week I went to a situation that would have often triggered a lot of anxiety for me with crowds and people. I did better than I imagined and was able to give myself what I needed. I got through it with lots of love from friends and frequent breaks. I still definiely am a work in process. I woke up this morning with the seed of anxiety in my stomach, so I am anticipating a possible attack soon.I’m being careful. Two days ago, I had a psychiatrist appointment where we raised my dose of Zoloft to 75mg from 50 and will possibly raise to 100 at the end of November.

At the broadway flea market, I also had the chance to thank Patti Murin for her candidness and interview here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s48ZyrWTPQ&feature=youtu.be&t=10235. Extraordinarily, the same day before I watched it, I had the same conversation with my best friend that Patti described where my best friend answered that Yes, I am different. It is a huge relief to me. I choose, like Patti, to speak up about the role medication plays in order to end the stigma against it. It’s no difference than the medication I take for my allergies or my other health issues.

It took me many years to learn to accept my brain chemistry. There is so much stigma and misunderstandings around mental illness that I feel it is important to educate people of every age on what the realities of living with these disorders is like. This could’ve been instrumental in helping me when I began experiencing this even as a child. The first panic attack I remember having I was only seven or eight years old. I had no idea what was going on so I never spoke to anyone about it and it only continued getting worse and worse until I ended up in a full-blown spiral by the age of 13 or 14. Hatred of myself and the real diseases that I didn’t know I was living with led to me harming my body and experiencing issues with diet and exercise. (In addition to self harm, I can’t say I had a full fledged eating disorder, but unhealthy body dysmorphia definitely manifested in unhealthy ways). Meanwhile, those close to me just didn’t understand and continued to try and help by telling me to “calm down” and “stop being dramatic”. By the time it became so clear that I needed help at 17 that I was briefly hospitalized and diagnosed with major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. The stigma and the voices of those close to me still told me these weren’t real. Those close to me who knew discussed that I should not go on medication cause “I could get addicted” or “it could mess me up”. At this point, I started counseling. It definitely helped and I highly recommend. There were a lot of things I didn’t address, but I definitely survived my senior year of high school and first year of college due to it. During that year, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through panic, loneliness without any friends, and struggling with suicidal thoughts.

I shared in my essay about Frozen about how when I was 19 and saw Frozen I finally began talking about it. Until that point, I was more scared of people finding out I was sick than the illness itself, which anxiety and depression feed on. I began to become more self aware. I got hurt. I graduated college. I had a pretty bad relapse shortly after. And three months ago I began Zoloft and am, like I said before, feeling better than I have in years.

If you need help or want to learn more, the National alliance for mental illness can be found at https://www.nami.org. If you want to understand more of what it’s like to live with these illnesses, watch pattis interview and read Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig. The suicide hotline is 18002738255. And if you need to talk to a friend, I’m available on twitter @allyobrien .

 

True Love: Friendship and Siblinghood vs. Romance

I was recently made aware of a discussion about whether two male characters who are very close in a musical were in fact in love with one another. An actor clarified that his character loves the other character like a brother. I was incredibly impressed by this. Recently I realized the need for more representation of close friendships in media. We are surrounded by love stories- companies constantly write and sell these stories of people finding happiness through romance.  While this is important ESPECIALLY when it includes LGBT representation, I have something important I’d like to discuss. Intimacy and love in friendship is just as important.

It’s completely possible to adore someone more than life and not love them romantically or sexually, but love them like a sibling. For years, I bought into the need for romantic love. Society tells us, particularly women, that we should crave attention from romantic partners (and unfortunately this is also damaging as heteronormativity). To start, this is harmful to people who are asexual or aromantic because it insists that this is a “need” or there is something wrong with ace relationships, which is entirely untrue. For men, any ounce of affection is immediately met with snickers of “GAAAAAAAY!” which is harmful on so many levels. Affection is not only a female trait,to insinuate that is derogatory to women AND men, as affection is not weak, and this feeds into unhealthy ideas of masculinity that kill and harm many people. Equally harmful Ideology that women “need a man” has been around for centuries, and still persists. I know so many girls who define themselves based on how men see them. I definitely suffered a lack of self esteem because men never gave me the time of day.

Then I fell in love with my group of friends. I have a group of women who I adore and who fulfill every need I could ask for. They make me better, encourage me, and inspire me by being amazing. I can’t think of too many examples of that. While I have never experienced romantic love, I look forward to it, but I know that I will always love these people just as much. I love watching shows like The Bold Type and movies like Frozen which show that true love is found in sisterhood, and if you’re lucky enough to find that, maybe romance too. Our social needs as human beings are to be met not just by romantic and sexual attraction, as that diminishes so many other types of intimacy. Love your friends as much as your partners, show them that affection, and be an example of positive relationships.

Words of Wisdom for People Like Me who Struggle

Today I got a message that read “you seem like such a happy person and I’m just having a really bad mental health time right now do you have any tips or ways to get through it?” I’m honored that someone came to me for advice. Here is what I responded after taking some time to think.

 

  1. Give yourself a break! If you can’t do something, sometimes you need to accept that and rest. Get plenty of sleep, lay down, watch tv, breathe, take things easy on yourself. I like watching happy things or superhero movies!

 

  1. Talk to people! Sometimes I just need to vent to get things out.
  1. Tip from Patti Murin: remember the voices in your head aren’t you
  1. I use a ton of breathing techniques for anxiety. The one I use most: breathe in for the count of 8, hold for 4, breathe out for 8.
  2. Christy gave me the tip of writing down every single thing you accomplish every day and it’ll make you feel better. I love this for when I feel useless and horrible. I can take stock of what I’ve done, even if it’s just get out of bed in the morning.
  3. I’ve struggled a lot with body dysmorphia and image issues and for that the accomplishments thing helped and I try and think of things that my body can do, and things I am completely independent of my body (I am good at my job, I enjoy theatre…)
  4. Also yoga and meditation have been super helpful! I just youtube search yoga or meditation and watch a video (i like yoga with Adrienne and I’l google meditation for calm)
  5. I also read a lot! I recommend everyone to read you are a badass by jenn sincero, reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig, and fulfilled by Anna Yusim
  6. TURN OFF SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE NEWS! I am always someone who will speak up for injustice. But sometimes the world just hurts my heart way too much. It’s okay to let yourself breathe.
  7. If you’re privileged enough to be able to, get professional help! Counseling and medication- I now take 50 mg of Zoloft daily largely covered by insurance- my copay is less than a dollar- is such a blessing.

 

All of these work for me sometimes, and sometimes don’t. It depends on your need, day to day. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here. You can do it! Keep trying until you find what works for you.

What I Weigh

41331382_273902356561888_6409203804025126912_nThe  I Weigh movement started by actress Jameela Jamil encourages women and girls to accept themselves and define themselves by more than simply the way society dictates: the size of their waist. I weigh more than just my body and so do all of you! When I saw the movement I was initially scared out of my mind to share which means I had to do it. Although I’ve been doing well lately, I’ve been incredibly body conscious and insecure lately. Scales terrify me and being exposed to mainly thin girls most of my life means I don’t know that many size 12s like me. I constantly work to make myself at least look thinner. This is partially due to my own anxiety, due to bullying I was subjected to from peers for the first 18 years of my life, and some recent social media comments and comments by family members/strangers/etc. As I’ve lost weight. It’s also due to a lot of things in the media. Society teaches us that women need to be thin to be valuable (of course, God forbid, not too thin, or that’s an issue too, and also not okay.) I’ve spoken before about how my weight has been an issue both ways since I was literally in third grade. I’ve always thought there was something wrong with how my body and my face LOOKS in addition to the fact that I have health concerns. I’ve been told I’d never find love or do certain things because of my weight. I’ve only recently discovered that although I’ve been attacked by society, that I am worth absolutely more. Regardless of how I look. THERE IS NEVER- LITERALLY NEVER- an excuse to comment on someone’s body. You don’t know what they’re going through. There is always good, though, and I’ve found some amazing women on social media who have helped me through these struggles.

 

Today, I watched the new Netflix film”Sierra Burgess is a Loser”  and SOBBED. I saw actress Shannon Purser, who was very much like me in high school, and looks like me, find herself and win the heartthrob Noah Centineo, who I saw last month in To All the Boys I loved Before, and thought “Wow, I wish I was pretty enough for a romcom story like that”.

 

Shoutout to Shannon and these amazing beauties:

 

First, hats off to eating disorder survivor Jameela Jamil @jameelajamil on twitter and @jameelajamilofficial and @i_weigh on instagram. She is an amazing advocate and badass for body positivity.

 

Second, actress Carrie Hope Fletcher (@carriehfletcher on twitter and @carriehopefletcher on instagram) is an amazing actress who is currently on the West End, as well as an author, who proudly rocks her curves and shows that women who are not skinny can be celebrated onstage.

 

Carrie also introduced to Megan Jayne Crabbe, or @bodyposipanda, who wrote the book body positive power, which comes out soon in the US and is out already in the UK! Megan is an ED survivor and amazing activist. She and @iamdaniadriana are Queens!

I also need to thank my amazing friends, my students, who I strive to be the best me for, and particularly my best friend and sister, for always being there for me when I need to talk about how I’ve felt about being in my body, and for inspiring me with badassness. I’m very lucky.

 

R&R: Reading and Relaxation (LiterALLY me #1)

Happy National Really laxation Day! Today, I kicked off my vacation to Florida and spent almost the whole day by the pool. This is huge for me because heure’s the truth: I am not good at relaxing. My anxiety thrives on idleness, which is why I constantly search for things to occupy myself. Today was the first day in a long while that I found myself able to set my mind free for long times. I spent a long time by the pool listening to music and doing something I have been trying to spend more time doing: READING! So in honor of National Relaxation Day, here are my Florida family/Disney vacation for August 2018!

1. Cinderella ate my daughter by Peggy Orenstein . I found this feminist critique of Disney princess culture in 2011 so fascinating! In many ways it rings so true and in so many ways our culture has changed so much. A great look at how we raise our children.
2. The Animated Life: a life of Walt Disney- biography by Michael Barrier. A very good comprehensive look at Disney’s fascinating life.
3. Who do you love by Jennifer Weiner. A novel recommended by my friend, it’s about love and loss. I’m excited to read it.
4. A little life by Hanna Yanagihara. another novel I saw recommended online. It follows four friends navigating life, and from the description is something that will hit close emotionally and is a long, deep read.  
5. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I loved Hannah’s “The Nightingale” and “Night Road”.This is about a man coming home from war and the changes he endures readjusting. I am the granddaughter of a WWII vet and this sounds similar to “Bandstand”, which means the world to me as someone who knows we need to do more for our troops.
6. East of Eden (reread)- John Steinbeck. I told my tenth grade students when we read Of Mice and men to read this one after. It’s SO good. Steinbeck gives you soap opera levels of drama. A classic that more people should read in this world. And finally 7. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. As someone coming to grips still with my feelings about my mental health diagnoses, Haig’s “Reasons to stay alive” was a game changer. I just know this is going to be super illuminating and helpful to me. Grateful!

 

This should be a fun reading list to tackle. I may do a review/recap later! If anyone reads this and has read these let me know what you thought!

Also, I think I will be sharing more of what I’m reading and my fave literature on a blog segment I’ll call LiterALLY me! Stay tuned for more nerdiness.

It’s Fate that Brought Me Here

There are no accidents in life. Some of you may know how many times I’ve seen Frozen, but few of you know how often it’s almost an “accident” I end up there. I’ve won lottery twice, been offered tickets, been in the city when an understudy is on, etc. Yesterday I saw it because I was late to the city and it was the only show with an 8:00 curtain.

Yesterday was a big day for me. I recently started seeing a psychiatrist and yesterday I began taking Zoloft for anxiety and depression. It was a long road to get there. I had been considering this for at least five years and it was only after this movement I saw starting that I had the courage to make that appointment, take that step, and after a few days, take the medication. After work, I was invited to see the show. It was such a magical day. I couldn’t believe it, but I really ended up where I needed to be. I feel strong and blessed that I have access to care.

This blog is titled after the song Journey to the Past from Anastasia. “One step at a time, one hope then another, who knows where this road may go?”  Patti Murin, who plays Anna in Frozen, recommended a calendar last year. And look at yesterday’s page.

There are truly no coincidences in this amazing world. I’m so grateful to God for the constant signs that I am on the right path and in control of my life. Taking a giant step forward like Anya does in Journey to the Past or Anna does in First Time in Forever feels magical!

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