Looking Out For Your Own Mental Health Is Just As Important As Looking Out For Someone Else's

Looking Out For Your Own Mental Health Is Just As Important As Looking Out For Someone Else's

How do you save someone else's life without putting yours at risk?

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I have always been the friend that everybody goes to for advice or for counsel.

I had learned from my parents to be empathetic and understanding of others; to always see the good in people even though their actions may reflect differently. I was taught to put others before myself; to always make sure everyone was comfortable though I may not be. I was raised to always make room for others, even if meant sacrificing your own space. Sounds like a good virtue to learn and live by...right? My parents meant no ill-intention when they taught me these core values. However, constantly giving away pieces of yourself even when you don't have any more pieces to give or letting people pour their issues and problems into you even when you're about to overflow is an extremely unhealthy practice.

At one of the darkest moments of my life, I found myself desperately trying to help others before myself.

Particularly, I was caught between the lines with a "friend" who latched on to me and depended on me for their survival. My emotional availability became their only reason to live. I felt like I was saving a life. I thought this was a good thing to do. This was the only way for my friend to stay alive, so I should do it.

Slowly but surely, however, my own mental and emotional health deteriorated. Everyone around me could see it. I was constantly sleep-deprived and anxious. My friends and mentors would encourage me to take care of myself, but I would respond with: "She needs me right now. I can't! If I don't call her or text back she'll threaten to kill herself again." I began to distance myself from my other friends. I felt responsible every time she lashed out and became suicidal again. She threatened to harm herself when I didn't text or call back. She would blame me for being a bad friend if I couldn't hang out. If I didn't provide emotional support, her death would be my fault. My best friends urged me to distance myself because I was becoming affected by it too. I refused to listen. I thought they were ignorant and apathetic to mental health. Little did I know that I was the one who was ignorant and apathetic to my own mental well-being.

One day, after an emotional break-down, my mentor called me and requested that we have a chat.

Sitting at her office, she looked stern but sympathetic. Without her saying anything, I knew that she understood the position I was pinched in between. She let out a sigh and said: "Right now, you are not responsible for anybody else's life except your own. Sometimes, it's necessary to be selfish. You have to understand the boundary between being a good friend and letting yourself be manipulated by someone who needs serious help. You focus so much on rebuilding her when you're the one falling apart. Abusive relationships don't just exist in romantic relationships; friendship, at least a true friendship, is NOT like this. You need to wake up. You need to seek help from a professional who can handle her. You cannot save someone who does not want to be saved. At this point, you're the one who needs saving."

After months of denial, my mentor's words suddenly reawoke my sense of reason.

I reflected on all the toxic behaviors I experienced in the friendship and decided that this pattern needed to end instantly. I reached out to my friend's parents and siblings and explained to them what had been happening. Together, we found the best therapists and psychiatrists in the area. We confronted my friend about her mental health and explained the urgency for her to be admitted to a rehabilitation center. Though she did not take it smoothly, we eventually came to a consensus. With the support of her family and mental health professionals, she was slowly, but surely recovering. I found myself sleeping peacefully, knowing that she was in safe hands and that her life no longer depended on my availability. Personally, I started seeing therapists and counselors as well just to make sure I was in a good mental and emotional state. I began researching mental health resources on the college-level, city-level, and even national level. When friends or family would reach out to me with critical signs of mental-health issues I immediately referred them to the resources I found while assisting them every step of the way throughout their mental-health recovery journey.

Today, I continue to become inspired by the core teachings of my parents; now, however, with much more caution.

I realized that being a supportive friend does not mean letting yourself become someone else's emotional outlet. It does not mean being responsible for making your friends happy, but rather helping them find a plethora of other ways to become happy again. With the intense academic culture that surrounds college campuses worldwide, mental health is something that needs to be recognized.

Luckily, there are many resources available.

The issue is educating people about them and teaching people the proper way to handle situations similar to the one I was in. I often reminisce the destructive situation I was put in and I now realize that it could've been solved immediately if I had just reached out to my friend's family members and mental health professionals who actually have the authority to take action. Though this experience was frightening, it opened up an opportunity to educate myself about mental health and the resources available to those who suffer from mental health issues. I learned more about how to better take care of myself and how to look out for others. Most importantly, it taught me how to save a life without putting my own life at risk.

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What They Don't Tell You About Top Surgery

Top surgery was anything but rainbows and sunshine.

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November 23, 2016, the very day before Thanksgiving, the day I seemed to have waited for my whole life was finally here; I was getting my top surgery. I got my top surgery date 3 months or so prior and every day I would jump out of bed eager to change the countdown I had going on a whiteboard.

Once it got down to single digits the days seemed endless. But it was finally here, it was finally happening. I remember laying on the gurney waving goodbye to my nervous mother and best friend as they wheeled me away. I burst into an extremely brightly lit room, the light hurt my eyes and caused me to squint, when I opened them back up I was directly underneath the largest light I had ever seen, it was blinding and intimidating. Suddenly a nervous rush washed over me as a nurse instructed me to count back from 10 while she was giving me anesthesia.

This was it, it felt as if someone had stood me up and slowly dipped me into a warm bath of water. Here we go, my last breath, my last thoughts as a man with a chest. As the water began to consume me, everything went black.

When I wake, I'll be free.

I woke up to the same nurse patting my cheek telling me I "really needed to stay awake this time, Logan." I couldn't grasp consciousness. I kept sinking in and out. Everything was groggy and I was completely unaware of everything that was going on in my world. I felt different, I couldn't open my eyes or come to reality but I knew, I felt free. I felt like I could breathe for the first time and I hadn't even looked down yet. When I could finally stand on my own two feet I braced myself for the uncomfortable 3 hour car ride home from Albany.

Uncomfortable is such an understatement, but I didn't care: I was free.

I remember snapchatting all my friends selfies of my doped up, post-op surgery smile letting them know I made it out the other side. Any time I caught a glimpse of myself in the car door side mirror I had a smile permanently stamped on my face. This was beautiful, this was living.

After arriving home, the first thing I did was unbutton my shirt and look at my new body in the mirror. The reflection looking back at me was finally starting to align with the thoughts that clouded my head and screamed at me every day. I was elated, the drugs I was doped up on helped a little bit. I made my mom take a picture, I don't even need to pull it up to see the goofy smile that stretched from ear to ear that's been engraved into my memory. I posted it right away captioned "I waited 19 years to post a shirtless picture." I had never been so proud. I inspected my bandages and my drains for at least an hour, still so far in shock; was this real life? Did this really happen?

But what they don't tell you is that recovery is hell.

I've never opened up about my recovery process before, but it was far from rainbows and sunshine. My recovery would last a week; a week of not doing anything. When I say not doing anything, I mean nothing. I was trapped in a recliner for the first 2-3 days before I went stir crazy and then the only movements allowed were walking for shorter periods of time. I couldn't lift my arms, I couldn't go to the gym, which if anyone knows me knows is my second home. I couldn't even comfort myself with a warm shower. I was going insane. It was driving me mad. The first night was smooth sailing- until the drugs wore off. My mom had woken me up in the middle of the night to empty my drains and when I woke up I was in a world of hurt. She practically had to carry me to the bathroom because I was too dizzy to stumble my way there without assistance. She had asked if I was okay but I was in too much pain to even speak the words. Something was wrong, it wasn't just painful but it was uncomfortable. It felt like my chest was fighting itself from the inside out. I looked in the mirror and got scared at the extremely pale and sunken face staring back at me. I stumbled backwards onto the closed toilet and that was all I can remember of the first night. The rest of the week had me feeling like I was trapped in the same dull loop.

It wasn't that I was being overwhelmed with emotions all week like I had expected to be, it was more of being emotionless. One of the last days before I got my drains out, I made a Walmart trip with my mom where we ran into someone I knew and she asked me how I was feeling. I threw on a fake face and attitude and told her I was elated, happy, lucky, blessed, cliché stuff. The truth is I was, absolutely I was, the emotion and feelings in my body just weren't confirming that. I felt empty, like a shell.

When we finally made the trek back to Albany for my reveal, I was so excited to see my bare chest for the first time, I couldn't contain myself. I had a complication with the left side of my chest that caused a lot of swelling. It looked like I had only gotten one breast removed. Dr. Rockmore (highly recommend by the way) numbed my chest just to cut me back open and vacuum the fluid out. You know those spit suckers at the dentist that takes up too much space in your mouth? Picture that, except larger. Imagine feeling that move around inside your chest, feeling like a huge spider was just dancing around trapped inside my body. It was the most uncomfortable thing I've ever experienced, just thinking about it right now makes me cringe. I had to have my left drain in for another week because of it. I could shower this time now, thank God.

I was standing in the bathroom, drain wrapped up (my mom helped me and almost fainted at the sight of the entry spot for my drain tube) and ready for a shower, letting the steam roll out and the water run. The chest I expected to see was nowhere in sight, instead, I was left with a chest that looked like I had just gotten steam-rolled. I was completely black and blue until mid-rib cage, my stitches looked horrific, I got scared. I expected tears of joy and overwhelming happiness when I saw my bare, post-op chest, but instead I felt anxious, nervous. I was so glad I went through with the procedure, I knew I hadn't regretted it, I don't know where these feelings were coming from. I was happy but my mind was not allowing me to be, instead, it pointed out everything that was wrong, it was trying to convince me I had made a mistake.

The last week droned on and I finally got my second drain out along with my stitches. Nothing else was weighing me down, just a bare chest. Every time I went to the bathroom I would take my shirt off, button downs because I still couldn't quite lift my arms, and examine every square inch of my new chest. As I started to heal, the negative thoughts did too. A chest that looked and felt so foreign to me was now the most beautiful part of my body. The first time I applied cream to my scars, I did it with such pride and had tears in my eyes. Finally, my mind was letting me enjoy the body I had just gone through hell and back for. My scars are the greatest accessory I have and I never feel the need to try to hide them. Every time I see them I am reminded of how hard I fought to get them.

Post-op depression is real and I believe I experienced it for a good portion of my recovery. Thankfully it was only temporary, and now I flaunt my chest at every possible moment.

I love my chest, I love my scars, I love my journey. Its been anything but easy, but it's never been a question of "is it worth it?"

Hell yes, it's beyond worth it. You are beyond worth it.

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To The Girl Who Wants A Change

First of all, you're beautiful and girl, I relate.

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Every person on this planet has thought about what they would do if they could change something about their appearance. It may just be me, but there seems to be this stage of depression where you look yourself in the mirror and don't want to be you. You want that bright colored hair if yours is dark. You want your nails done and your makeup on point. You want to have the body type and looks to wear that one outfit you've had your eye on but just can't pull off.

You become almost overconcerned and overly-conscious about how people see you and how your image is projected upon the world.

Honestly, when you get to this point, there's really no going back. Some people are very skeptical of changing things when in this stage of itching for something new. They believe that as soon as it's done that you're going to regret what you've done and now you're gonna hate yourself even more.

My advice is that if this action that you want to do isn't going to hurt you or anyone else, why not? Put some thought into what you're doing and then go for it. Color your hair purple, make your nails into those claws you've loved for so long. Get a tattoo. Although, you might want to think absolutely thoroughly on that last one.

It sucks to live in a society where you feel like you're constantly being scrutinized and just aren't able to do the things you want to. Maybe you're too scared of the outcome. A little nervous. Maybe you grew up with people telling you to stay natural and not do that thing that you want because your body is a temple and you shouldn't disgrace it.

Even temples have murals, sweetheart.

Nobody can tell you how to live. No one can tell you how to look. Never be afraid of change just because someone else wants you to be. Never be afraid to express yourself because people have silenced your voice. Speak loud, proud, and often and you'll be just fine.

And hey, even if you do get your nails done a new way, get your hair dyed or anything else, that isn't the end. You don't have to stick with it if you don't like it. Just find something you do like, something that makes you happy, and always pursue it.

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