Hi! I'm Danielle (known to most as “D”) and I head taudrey's creative marketing and communications, and all that falls under that pink-and-gold, personalized umbrella.
I’m taking over the #taudblog today to talk about mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and since we’re all about getting personal around here, I’m doing just that.
While I’m far from an expert, I’ve lived with at-times-crippling anxiety for nearly eight years. I’ve learned a lot on my mental health journey and hope my honest words can bring some awareness, at least, and help someone, at most.
Here’s a little background...
I’ve always been a sensitive worrier. But things took a turn from just “cute and concerned” in my 24th year. I was working as a morning breaking news reporter, seeing more crime-scene tape daily than I now see pearls. That year, I also experienced a health scare. And then, quite literally from one day to the next, something changed in my brain. I was all of a sudden extremely anxious AT ALL TIMES and noticed the transfer of germs EVERYWHERE. I was absolutely petrified of EVERYTHING.
I missed days of work, barely left my house and quickly lost about 25 pounds, as eating with “dirty” hands and utensils wasn’t possible. Scared to lick my “exposed” lips, they would crack and bleed, as did my over-washed hands. Lucky for me, my loved ones sought help right away.
I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My OCD’s cup of tea is “contamination.” Basically, my brain is constantly interrupted with irrational thoughts that cause me to do compulsions (distinct behaviors) to appease the anxiety. My “flight or fight” response is broken, and so, the same physical reaction many would have to the sound of a gun shot, I can experience in a public restroom. And like many who have anxiety disorders, every once in a while, my OCD likes to hang with a fun gal named depression.
But I've come a long way and refuse to be a victim. Yea, this mental illness sucks. And yes, there have been some ridiculously hard times in my journey. Days when my husband has literally had to lift me off the floor. But you know what? My disorder doesn’t define me and even with sporadic tangos with depression, I’m doing pretty great at this thing called life. And hell, most days I even do it with a giant smile and some grace.
If you are suffering, know there is hope. Be patient. Things always get better. And if you’re not suffering, be aware that many are, even that girl who’s always smiling and has a million things to be grateful for and happy about.
Here are my mental-heath-related thoughts/tips.
These opinions are based solely on what works for me. I understand that everyone is different and those suffering with severe mental health issues should always seek professional guidance.
Mental illness is very real. I try not to mind those who say to “get over it” and “just think positive.” Would they tell someone with a broken leg to “walk it off?” Nope! We need to break the stigmas attached to mental health. And I believe the first step is acknowledging that these issues are as real as ice cream is delicious. Shout out to Jen Gotch and the Bando gang for doing amazing things in this regard.
Move it. Move it.
I used to roll my tired-and-anxious eyes when someone suggested exercise as a way to fight anxiety. But then a therapist got me to see movement as a means to expel my nervous energy. She asked me to try to "move" for 30 minutes, at least four times a week. And guess what? It made me feel better!! I’ve never been a gym gal so my go-to workout simply involves a nice Beyonce playlist, a few weights and my favorite dance moves. It’s really fun and well, free! Also, I recently started meditating! I can’t sit in silence so guided meditations have been key for me. The Apps Buddify and Headspace are great!
What’s goin’ in?
When I feel like 10% of myself, nutrition (and basically eating in general) flies out the window. But I’ve learned that my brain needs fuel (balanced food and plenty of water!) to fight those pesky intrusive thoughts. It’s all connected! Oh, and I’ve also come to pay attention to what I’m not putting in my body, like the proper vitamins! I now take several different supplements to give my mind and body what it needs. Brands I love are Standard Process, Thorne and Charlotte's Web.
Do more of what makes you smile. Laugh until you're crying and can’t breathe. It feeds the soul. For this, I personally call on my hilarious husband and loved ones. When my soul is happy and occupied, my brain follows. Not always, but often. Something else that’s helped me is keeping my brain busy learning new things (I kick it old-school with books!) and finding new ways to relax (I started acupuncture in December and it changed the game!).
From therapists and psychiatrists, to support groups and friends, surrounding myself with those who make me feel accepted, safe and hopeful has been extremely important in my journey. I believe in the power that comes from a caring community.
What’s always been harder for me is finding that compassion within. But self love is crazy important. I now have a “notes” saved on my phone with a list of things I love about myself. And self love includes forgiveness. My mantra these days is “grit when you can, grace when you can’t.” I even have a sweet taudrey bangle personalized with it. The piece reminds me to push myself when I feel strong, but to love myself when I'm unable to push or have a setback.
I hope my honesty can inspire, or at least help bring some understanding and awareness.
If you’re having a hard time, don’t forget to treat yourself with the level of compassion you’d offer a suffering friend. And remember, progress is not linear. Some days, I feel on top of the world. Other days, I’m lucky if I step outside. But no matter what, life is pretty amazing and I’m thankful for and proud of the woman I am today, OCD and all!
And for those non sufferers, be there for your loved ones and be patient. I got really lucky with a supportive family and so many wonderful friends. And shout out to my ridiculously amazing (and hilarious and good-looking!) husband who's been by my side since day one of this wild ride.
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