Allow Yourself To Feel Your Sadness

Allow Yourself To Feel Your Sadness

It's okay if, some days, the only thing you did was wake up.
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One out of four adults over the age of 18 live with a diagnosable mental health disorder.

In college students, this number is even higher. A quarter of college women will experience an anxiety disorder, and 1 in 12 college students make a plan for suicide. I am that statistic. I am most mental illness statistics, in fact.

My mental illness developed around the time I turned 14, I am the one in four with anxiety, and I am the one in twelve who have made a suicide plan.

I am medicated, working through therapy and my own feelings and choosing to put myself first. But the most important thing I learned about my struggle wasn't about knowing when to scream for help at the top of your lungs, or how to talk about your struggles without triggering others. It was learning to accept my sadness.

My depression manifests itself in a soul-crushing elephant sitting on my chest, making it impossible for me to get out of bed. I can't do anything to change my brain chemistry, but what I can change is how I respond to my bad days. If I spend time beating myself up for not making it to my attendance-optional recitation, then the cycle will only continue rather than being interrupted.

You have to understand your illness, your mind, and your life -- no matter what medication you're on or how great your therapist is or how good things are going in your life, you're going to have bad days.

You're going to have those days where you wonder if you made any progress at all with all the hard work you've been putting in. Know that you are making progress, and recovery isn't true recovery without setbacks. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to forgive yourself.

Allow yourself to feel that sadness, allow yourself to take the time to deal with those feelings and that heaviness in your bones without worrying about the other things you have going on. A hard lesson to learn is loving yourself enough to put yourself first, and moreover, having enough respect for yourself to allow yourself to feel that deeply.

It's okay if, some days, the only thing you did was wake up. It's okay that some days you feel hopeless and like nothing is going right, and it's okay that sometimes you have to take a mental health day. It's okay to accept your sadness and use it on your journey to balance.

So put on your sad playlist, curl up in your favorite blanket, and have a good cry if that's what you need. Or surround yourself with friends who make you laugh. Or do whatever it is you have to do to work through what you're feeling so you can return to the long, painful but ultimately important road to recovery.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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'Sierra Burgess Is A Loser,' And So Am I

The latest of the Netflix rom-coms, "Sierra Burgess Is A Loser" spoke to me for reasons other than the relationship.

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When I watched "The Kissing Booth" and "To All The Boys I've Loved Before," I watched them for the sole purpose of enjoying them. I watched "Sierra Burgess Is A Loser" because I wanted a distraction from my reality for a little while. I thought it would be a mindless two hours.

Instead, I found myself really emotional while watching it.

As Sierra struggled to fit in, I found myself remembering how I felt coming into high school and then again while coming into college. I don't really make friends easily, and while I haven't really been bullied since freshman year of high school, Sierra's struggles with being bullied and picked on for how she looks and acts really hit home. Even being far removed from my own experiences, the feelings all came rushing back to me.

Her sole friend at the beginning of the movie is Dan. He accepts her how she is and does the typical best friend things. Yes, he makes jokes at her expense (as many friends do), but he also supports her in all things. She tries out for the boy's track team, and Dan joins her. He doesn't let her wallow in self-pity.

Just as real friends though, he can't do everything. As she loses herself in the middle of the film, Dan distances himself. She doesn't accept his help, and he's hurt by her actions. I'd be lying if I hadn't done that to multiple friends. I didn't have many friends before high school (and even in high school), and I often hurt them without really thinking.

I understand her lack of self-confidence (it's something I still struggle with.) I understand comparing yourself to cheerleaders. I understand looking at myself in the mirror and not seeing what people wanted to see.

It isn't a fun feeling. In the movie, Sierra's feelings push her to attack one of her new friends because she believes that this friend is getting what Sierra wants. While I don't think I've done what Sierra did, I've definitely lashed out when my friends "got" a guy I liked or got a role that I wanted in a musical.

Right near the end, Sierra writes a song called Sunflower. If you haven't heard it, google it. I almost started crying while I listened to it in the movie. I have often felt like a sunflower in a world that wants roses.

This movie isn't perfect. In fact, there is an extremely problematic plotline where she pretends to be deaf to avoid talking to Jamey, her crush. Not cool. But in the grand scheme of rom-coms, this was one of the few where I didn't care what happened between Sierra and Jamey. I cared how Sierra thought about herself. I cared about if she and her friends made up.

I'm still struggling with some of the feelings Sierra struggles with, so I think part of the reason I liked this movie so much is that it ends with her fighting through her problems and trying to find the beauty in being Sierra and not Veronica.

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