The emerging blogger series is aimed at community building by giving new mental health a chance to have their work seen by a wider audience and connect with other members of the blogging community.
This week, we have have Alyssa from Glass Half Full.
A Drop of Knowledge
I have what feels like a laundry list of diagnoses, and many of them are completely misunderstood, misrepresented, or mocked in a way that causes harm. So today is all about the mental disorders I have, what they actually are, what they certainly are not, and what I wish society would stop doing. I’ll also give you a sneak peek into life with them and how I manage everything.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
What it is: persistent and excessive worry that seems uncontrollable
What it isn’t: being nervous
What’s the difference?: Anxiety feels like a pit in your stomach, a lump in your throat, and the fear that something bad is going to happen…except you don’t know what. It’s worrying about money, your job, your family and their health, or simply worrying about life despite the reality of the situation. Being nervous for a presentation or a meeting is not anxiety (unless, ya know, you’ve been properly diagnosed).
Stop saying “I’m so anxious” about every little inconvenience in your life because it minimizes the struggles of those battling GAD daily.
What it is: a type of anxiety disorder that makes one feel out of control, coupled with physical symptoms
What it isn’t: a minor freak out
What’s the difference?: Panic attacks are the scariest thing I have ever experienced, to the point that I once went to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe and my body was depleted of oxygen. That was the first time 911 has been called for me, and I needed to be hooked up to oxygen. I was hyperventilating, my heart was racing, my blood pressure was through the roof, I was shaky, and it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.
Stop saying “omg I’m having a panic attack” when you damn well know you aren’t. It’s often tossed around as something light, but it’s a terrifying situation.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
What it is: a chronic condition involving recurring thoughts and behaviors
What it isn’t: being organized, tidy, or clean
What’s the difference?: Imagine not being able to sleep because you have to check that the door is locked every 5 minutes because you think someone may break in. Imagine standing in front of the mirror for hours at a time body checking and nitpicking every single perceived flaw. Imagine your hands getting raw and cracked because of excessive hand-washing. Imagine your thoughts racing so much that you can’t catch a break and you think it’ll never end.
Stop saying “I’m so OCD” because you like to color-coordinate everything or like to keep a tidy house. I promise you, if you had OCD you would never think of it that way again. It’s not something to make light of because it is so damn exhausting and controlling.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
What it is: recurring flashbacks, nightmares, and/or anxiety caused by a triggering experience
What it isn’t: fear or stress due to a slight inconvenience (or that time you threw up from drinking too much vodka and now the smell gives you PTSD)
What’s the difference?: PTSD is rough. Let’s get a little personal, shall we? I have PTSD from a few events in my life, first being a sexual assault that occurred when I was 19 years old. I used to have daily nightmares about the event and the man’s face, and I would wake up in a sweat. I felt uncomfortable walking alone, and I always carried mace on me. I still have anxiety from it, but thankfully the nightmares have almost gone away. Then, I was in a horrific car accident where I saw my life flash before my eyes. To this day, I have issues when other people are driving. I force myself to sleep because I’m so afraid of getting into another accident. Most long car rides, I have to take a Xanax to keep me somewhat calm, otherwise I freak out the entire time.
Stop relating PTSD to a bad drinking experience where the smell reminds you of that time you threw up. PTSD is real, and it’s very hard to live with.
Bipolar Type 2
What it is: periods of highs (hypomanic episodes) and lows (major depressive episodes)
What it isn’t: mood swings, a way to describe an ex (unless they’re diagnosed)
What’s the difference?: Let me break it down for you – my highs are super high and my lows are incredibly low. Depression is hard. I have no energy, no will to do anything, sleep a lot, distance myself from others, lack concentration and focus, am irritable…the list goes on and on. But when I’m in a hypomanic phase, it’s entirely different. I function on minimal sleep and feel like I have tons of energy. My mind is racing a mile a minute, and it feels like I can’t catch my breath. I talk excessively fast and feel like I can’t stop. My mind jumps from task to task to task and nothing gets done. I go on spending sprees, have reckless behavior, and overextend myself.
Stop calling your ex or that random person bipolar because they had a mood swing. Bipolar disorder is debilitating and can lead to serious consequences.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
What it is: obsessing over perceived flaws in one’s body
What it isn’t: does my butt look big in these jeans?
What’s the difference?: Imagine getting out of the shower and staring in the mirror for excessive periods of time picking apart your body. Or physically pulling at your skin and perceived fat because you wish you could just cut it off. Imagine comparing yourself to everyone else because you think they look better than you. Imagine cancelling all plans because the thought of showing your face and body to the world is too much to bear.
Stop telling your friend they’re crazy because of how they perceive their bodies. BDD is a real disorder and often coincides with having an eating disorder.
Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED)
What it is: an eating disorder characterized by many symptoms that don’t fit the mold of one of the specified eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, etc.)
What it isn’t: a choice, a fad, a lifestyle, a diet, a white girl disease, emaciation
What’s the difference?: Eating disorders are chronic health conditions, and they are the leading cause of death in the mental health space. They are not a choice but a reaction to other issues going on in our lives. It’s our way of coping with other situations or other mental health disorders. They impact all walks of life and don’t discriminate against anyone. Thin people can have eating disorders. Fat people can have eating disorders. Men can have eating disorders. Women can have eating disorders. POC, LGBTQ+, and literally anyone with a pulse can have eating disorders. You can’t simply tell who has one just by looking at them.
Stop thinking that eating disorders are a choice or a lifestyle. Stop assuming that it’s only a thin, white girl disease. And for the love of god, stop saying “Just eat” to someone who has one.
How I Cope/Live with My Diagnoses
Shoutout to my therapist for being the real MVP. Having a nonjudgmental third party to help with life has made a world of difference. Also, shoutout to my psychiatrist for being patient with me. I have been medically noncompliant for the majority of my life, but he hasn’t given up on me. I now take my 300mg of Zoloft and 10mg of Abilify with a semi-smile on my face. Okay, so there’s no smile but I take them because I need them to live a comfortable life. I’m not going to say “normal” life because there’s no such thing as normal.
I also have a badass support system. My parents are incredible and have learned so much during my journey. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but our relationship is so much stronger due to my recovery and ability to be open and honest with them. I also have the best friends a person could ever hope to have. They lift me up when I’m down and don’t judge me when I suddenly cancel plans or am having a panic attack. And super shoutout to the most patient, loving, caring fiance in the universe. I went into residential eating disorder treatment two months into our relationship, and instead of running, he stood by me and supported me through the entire thing. He continues to support me and keep me on track. I am so grateful for him.
Thanks so much Alyssa for participating in the emerging blogger series!
You can find a listing of all of the series posts in the community features directory.
Do you want to be the next emerging blogger?
- you have a personal (rather than business-oriented) blog that’s focused primarily on mental health/illness
- you’re a new(ish) blogger, with WordPress following <100 preferred
Interested? If you fit the criteria above:
- email me at mentalhealthathome (at) gmail (dot) com
- let me know the topic you’d like to write about and include your blog name/URL