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Mental Health

How Therapy Helped Me Overcome Depression

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A young lady with very long curly hair with a long white shirt on, sits down in front of the camera, while discussing her success with therapy.
Ithaca, NY

I think how people deal with fear tells a lot about their character, the real content of their guts. When I moved to New York City after four very intense years of college, I buckled under the pressure of fear. My usual outgoing and loud demeanor were replaced with a cautious and shy one. I stopped loving to do anything I used to.

Although that period of depression gave me a mix of a restful and anxious time to write and think about past trauma, it also gave me waves of self-doubt about my abilities as a writer, friend, daughter, girlfriend, artist, and sister. I spent my first year in New York in a haze of anxiety, which leads me to believe I didn’t like a city that I had wanted to move to since being a little girl in rural Upstate New York.

This haze eventually turned into a cycle of bad decision making and guilt, which lead me to take this past summer and fall semester off from work under the guise of ‘working on my writing,’ but what was actually a time that I worked on myself.

During that time of recovery, I began seeing a therapist weekly, I began exercising, and focusing on things I loved cooking, dancing, and art. Alongside my regained confidence, I started to write more.

If it wasn’t for my incredibly supportive and motivating partner, Noah, I’m not really sure how these past two years would have turned out. Alongside being vulnerable with me that he was scared too, he encouraged me to see a therapist, to exercise, to make friends, and be vulnerable.

I highly recommend that anyone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or PTSD first and foremost not be afraid to ask for help or admit that you aren’t feeling okay. As a tough-exterior person, I can tell you that even admitting I wasn’t myself was the hardest part of crawling out of the depression hole I landed in.

Once you’ve found yourself comfortable enough to admit how you’re feeling, your next step should be to seek out a therapist or counselor. I recognize that not everyone has access to counseling and that this is definitely a privilege that I’m exercising.

But as someone who couldn’t afford to even pay copays out of pocket, I can tell you that if you are someone who cannot afford to counsel, there are people who want to help you.

Many colleges and graduate programs offer 10 sessions if you are in their health care program: use this resource. Many high school counselors have the ability to point you in the right direction of finding a group and one-on-one therapy.

There are even therapists who go for a ‘pay what you can’ model if you do not have insurance. It’s so scary to even start the process, but the results are truly life-changing.

Talking to someone, especially a professional as wonderful as my therapist, has truly changed some of my negative thinking patterns. When I was in high school and college, I would have panic attacks almost every day.

That led me to be irritable, unkind, and careless with my words. Since seeing a therapist, I cannot remember the last time I had a panic attack.

My last piece of advice is to be gentle with yourself. We live in a world where everyone wants to be noticed for their craft. And sometimes that can make even ‘getting started’ seem terrifying.

Give yourself time to blossom. Have moments of vulnerability and fear, and then turn that into art or magic. We are all capable, but we are all also allowed to be weak sometimes.

So, I’ll leave you with this: this year is your year to take care of yourself in the most loving way you can. Now do it!

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Mental Health

How I Overcame My Bipolar Disorder

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A young white man with a beard and brown hair shares how he overcame his bipolar disorder in his life.
New York City, NY

I became aware of my bipolar disorder when I was sent to a mental health institute after telling people I wanted to take my own life at the age of 16. They diagnosed me with it there after monitoring me for about 30 days and put me on medication.

Having bipolar disorder has made everything more difficult. Because of my severe ups and downs, irritability, anxiety, loss of interest/pleasure in things, difficulty concentrating, and tons of other issues that come from it, I had problems with skipping a lot of class in high school and ended up dropping out.

I’ve quit multiple jobs because I can’t deal with stress very well. Having a mental illness in general drains a lot of energy just to ‘stay alive’ & be ‘okay.’

Depression especially lies to you and tells you that you’re worthless, so that affects your mindset and outlook on life a lot , and when you think of the things you tried to do and failed, it makes it more believable.

But, that’s not to say that people can’t manage it better and be successful, because people can and do, especially with the right treatment.

I’ve learned a lot of coping skills over the years, both by myself and through therapy. Mainly, including calming myself down from anxiety by wording things differently in my brain, like if something didn’t go entirely right I can say ‘this part did go right’ or something.

I have to try to keep my mind busy/distracted from the negative thoughts, which sometimes even results in temporarily ‘disconnecting from reality’ by playing a game, watching science fiction once in a while, listening to new music, or just sitting/laying down trying to relax.

Other times, it’s great to have people who can relate to talk to about it; having social media where a lot of people relate to me has helped me a lot, and I feel good about being able to help them at times too which makes me happier. I’ve learned to manage my illness better by understanding it.

Instead of giving up on something because I’m frustrated, I take breaks and believe/know that I can do it. So failure is usually more successful now for one thing.

By becoming more positive in general, telling myself those things, reading them, telling them to other people, it’s actually made me feel more positive. I’ve also become a more sympathetic/caring person because of what I’ve gone through and deal with. And I have learned how it can affect other people too.

I used to be a lot more of an angry person and took out some of my problems on other people. Now, I often care a lot about and make some sacrifices for other people, but ultimately if my mental health needs care, I have to put that first to be okay, then come back to what I was doing.

Sometimes you take some steps back, I suppose, but you don’t really lose the mental progress in what you’ve learned, and what’s made you strong to be able to deal with the future. It’s just more like a bump in the road, even when it’s a rather severe one that can send you off the road completely, you can get back on it with time/healing and keep going.

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Mental Health

How I Learned to Manage Stress

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A young lady with a dog explains how to manage stress.
Harrisburg, PA

Google defines stress as the ‘state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.’ As a student, I certainly know this feeling along with the emotional and physical damage one can experience due to significant amounts of stress. It can lead to severe mental disorders, like depression or anxiety.

Although I do not believe I have ever been affected by depression, I have experienced the side effects of increased amounts of stress. A time I remember being the most stressed took place in my senior year of high school. During this time period, I had not decided where I was going to attend college which scared me due to the unknown approaching so quickly.

At that time, I was president of two clubs and sat as a student representative on my districts board, while working two jobs to save money for my college expenses. All of this, on top of a relationship, where I felt trapped and unhappy in, pushed me too far.

I experienced shakiness in my body, increased heart rate, headaches, a loss of appetite, sociability, and disinterest in activities I used to enjoy. I believed that in order to get through this hard time in my life, I had to keep pushing through my stress, which I later found untrue.

A huge part of my stress came from being in this relationship. If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell her to break off this unhealthy relationship because of the anxiety he caused her.

I would tell her to learn to eliminate her stressors and learn to not wallow in her sufferings, but to advocate for herself and eliminate unnecessary origins of stress.

This, of course, does not mean stop studying for classes because they stress you out, but to learn to plan your day and better manage your time.

I believe one should push themselves to achieve great things, and put in the work to achieve those things, but always know that there are ways to lessen your stress. Through accommodating to your situation and eliminating people or extra activities out of your life that are triggers for stress.

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Mental Health

How I Learned to Control My Negative Thoughts

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A young lady explains how she has learned how to control her negative thoughts.
Orange County, NY

Going to an all-girls high school, you would think I did not have to deal with the normal problems most high school girls deal with. Wrong! I dealt with the same kind of issues just in a different way.

One of the many problems I dealt with was academics. During high school, I had to transfer from my old school because of budget cuts to a new school, outside my district, that I struggled with adapting to the new environment.

My teachers felt that I hadn’t had the proper education because of the district I came from. They treated me differently. I wouldn’t receive the same attention as the smarter kids.

Making friends was also hard since students tended to group up with who they thought were going to look good in terms of popularity, so I always felt like an outsider. Everything in school felt like a competition. It was very challenging.

My struggles at school led to anxiety and insecurity issues. I would always overthink everything. And I started stressing with the fact that I wasn’t good enough to attend my high school or even attend college.

The only thing that helped me get through this was talking to my friends and getting a lot of unhealthy thoughts off my chest. But even then, that wasn’t enough.

The thoughts of me not ‘being good enough’ for school escalated to ‘me not being good enough at all.’ These thoughts isolated me from my friends.

I thought nobody was ever going to like me, and that I would never develop a love life. I had to teach myself about self-love. It was not easy.

I tried really hard to make sure that any negative thoughts that would come to my mind would be replaced with positive ones. I had to constantly remind myself that if I cannot love myself then how can I expect anybody to love me. Repeating that to myself everyday helped me a lot.

Little by little, I started realizing that I was valuable. That I was good enough. I realized that I was loved and that I had supportive friends that were there for me.

My daily routine of just reminding myself that I am good enough has transformed my life. Since then, my insecurities and anxieties have slowly vanished.

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