Mental Health Checkups?

Everyone knows that you are supposed to go in once a year to get a physical checkup, but why aren’t we required to get a mental health checkup? Mental health affects you on a day to day basis and can even cause there to be physical pain, so why isn’t it addressed as thoroughly as your physical health? It isn’t just me who asks this question. Below are a few articles that talk about this idea as well as my thoughts on the articles.

Why Don’t Americans Get Regular Mental Health Checkups? It’s Complicated.

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/why-aren-t-mental-health-screenings-part-our-annual-physicals-ncna839226

Mental health is just as important as physical health. I will continue to say that over and over for the rest of my life because I think it is important for others to understand. Your mental health can even affect your physical health. Going to see someone to talk about your mental health at least once a year would be incredibly beneficial. Even if you don’t feel like you are having a tough time, it doesn’t mean there aren’t stresses in your life that you could talk through. Having checkups could also help those who feel too embarrassed or uncomfortable to go to therapy. I especially think this would be helpful for teens. Helping them to deal with all the stressors that come with growing up and giving them tools to ease their anxiety is an important thing to do. I am definitely an advocate for mental health checkups.

Students Can Now Miss School for a “Mental Health Day”

https://www.edutopia.org/article/students-can-now-miss-school-mental-health-day

I’m actually in the midst of taking a mental health day right now. I think it is extremely important to give yourself a day on occasion where you can regroup and catch up on things that life has caused you to push aside. I don’t think it helps students to go to school when they’re having a day where they feel particularly anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed. If they go, they won’t take in the information being taught and they will only get more added to their plate. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and therefore I agree with students having excused absences for mental health days. It’s important to know when you need a break and schools should support students in those decisions. I hope that this becomes the case in all 50 states in the future.

Five Reasons Americans Fail to Get Mental Health Checkups

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/patient-engagement/5-reasons-americans-fail-to-get-regular-mental-health-checkups.html

I really hate that there is such a stigma around mental health because it not only gets in the way of people going to therapy when they need it, but it also affects the coverage provided by insurance. Not everyone can afford to go see someone because you have to be clinically diagnosed before insurance will help you out. If mental health checkups were seen in the same way as physical checkups, this would be less of a problem. But because insurance doesn’t place the same weight on each type of health, people will continue not going to therapy. Stigma must be dealt with before we can move forward.

Mental health is important. We should make sure to pay attention to how we are feeling and act accordingly. Even if mental health checkups don’t become normal, checking in with yourself will remain important. Take a mental health day when you need one. Get help when you need it. Be kind to yourself.

Rachel (:

Reading Roundup #3

It’s that time again! This time around I had a lot of books that were just so-so, but these three stood out among those and I liked them all for different reasons. Hopefully, you feel the same if you decide to read any of them. As always, I love getting book recommendations so feel free to leave a comment below telling me what you’ve been loving recently!

#3 Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I wasn’t sure I would like this book. It was a dystopian YA novel that was recommended to me by a friend. My favorite book series in that genre will always be the Giver series. This book reminded me a lot of the first book in that series. The premise is that at age eighteen everyone gets a procedure that gets rid of love. You can no longer feel love for anyone in your life. Love is considered to be a disease that destroys people. They read Romeo and Juliet in Health class (haha) and have their own handbook that they study in school laying out the rules and regulations. The city is separated from the Wilds (where people who survived the bombings live without the cure) and they are said to be dangerous. Lena, the main character, has been looking forward to the procedure. While her family history is a complex one (and one of my favorite subplots) she has a sister who is cured and living a perfectly happy life. She has never questioned whether or not love is as dangerous as they claim until she meets Alex. While a lot of this book is fairly predictable, the characters are well developed and there are no real lulls in the plot. It is always moving. I also just really like the theme. Love is always going to exist even if you try and stop it and watching that concept unfold really makes you think about how important it really is. It is the first book in a series and I look forward to seeing if I like the next book as much as the first!

#2 Hideaway by Nicole Lundrigan

This book is suspenseful, quirky, and pretty dark. It wasn’t what I expected it to be which made me love it even more. Gloria seems like a doting mother to the outside world, but she is actually pretty emotionally abusive. She is going through a separation with Telly who has his own set of flaws. Rowan and Maisy are the typical brother and younger sister, but Rowan does feel more protective because of his mother’s antics. The story revolves around Rowan who runs away with a man named Carl (a really interesting character battling a mental illness) and Gloria trying to win back Telly’s affection. It all goes downhill from there. It gets pretty dark as it continues, but the writing is quirky and you almost don’t notice how horrific it really is. The characters all have interesting arcs and the simultaneous plots are well done. It all comes to a climax that is both unexpected and gut-wrenching. I’m a sucker for a suspenseful book, and this was not a disappointment. It looks into the idea of family and what you’re willing to do to keep it together or to get out of it. It also illustrates that strength can come from unlikely places. Definitely read it if you love the thriller/mystery/suspense genre!

#3 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My roommate wanted me to read this book and I did no real research into it before I read it. It surprised me how much I enjoyed this book. The book tells the story of Evelyn Hugo, an actress who had a long career and was also always in the news because, by the time she retired, she had seven husbands. At the beginning of the book, she calls on Monique Grant who is a low-level writer at a magazine and says she wants to give an interview for the first time in years, but only if it is Monique. There are two twists in the novel. One comes near the beginning and it changes the tone of the book. The second comes at the end and knocks you off balance. It is incredibly well written. What stands out for me is the character development achieved in the book. The characters are rich and in-depth. You understand them and hurt for them as the story goes on. They feel like real people. It also talks about the complexity of a human being. It plays with the idea that everyone has good and bad in them and sometimes people do bad things because they decide it’s for a good reason. It shows how doing something to save your family from hurting, can hurt somebody else. It also discusses topics that are relevant to today’s society. It talks about the LGBTQ community and discrimination. It talks about the inequality that exists between men and women at work. It looks at depression, domestic abuse, and alcoholism. It doesn’t shy away from anything. Evelyn Hugo is finally telling her life story and she is telling her whole truth. Nothing is held back which is what makes this novel so great. She is unapologetic which means that the book is that way as well. When you read the title and start the book, you may have thoughts on what it might be like, but I assure you that perception is wrong. What unfolds is a story focused on love, both romantically and for your family, and what you would do to protect that love. It is one of the most honest books I have read which makes it a must-read!

Thanks for reading and as always leave some recommendations below! I love discovering new books and reading things I wouldn’t have picked for myself. Follow me on GoodReads to see all the books I’m reading. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/101673175-rachel-hutchings

Rachel (:

Senioritis

It’s a few weeks into my senior year and senioritis has already set in, which bodes well. It has hit in a lot of different ways, some educational and others personal. With each passing day, I feel it a little bit more. My anxiety has grown stronger as the senioritis sets in, and I’m working to find ways to calm myself down. It’s a new stage of life which always brings along challenges that I have to face. As my therapist has reminded me and I try and remind myself, I’ve gotten through life so far, so there’s no reason to doubt I’ll get through this time as well.

I always heard people talk about senioritis in my classes, but didn’t fully understand what they were talking about or thought they were exaggerating. Now being a senior myself, I see that they were not. In terms of strictly education effects, I feel far less motivated to do my work than I have in the past. From day one, it has been a struggle to make myself sit down and focus on getting an assignment done. At this point in my school career, I have written more papers and done more presentations than I can count. I feel burnt out. This is a weird feeling for me because I have always been a student who tries hard and been a straight-A student. The ambivalence that I have toward school is a new feeling. I still want an A, but I feel no desire to do the work that would get me there. My roommates and friends are feeling the same way and therefore there is not a lot of motivation happening. It’s more just complaining. I’m trying to switch my mindset to being more positive, but it’s difficult. I want to enjoy my last year of college, even my classes. I don’t want to look back and regret not doing my best work just because I was tired. It’s a daily struggle and one that I hope to overcome in the days to some.

My senior year has also given me senioritis personally. This is my last year of college before I enter the real world. Just writing that sentence stresses me out a little bit. Even though it is only first semester, I can still see the finish line up ahead and it isn’t far off. I got an email about applying for graduation the other day. That’s insane. College has gone by so quickly and I don’t think this year will be any different. That scares me a little because it means I have to think about my future. I’m taking a Business and Professional Communication course this semester (sounds super interesting right?) and it is all about applying for jobs and getting ready for interviews and finding a career. It makes everything seem even closer. I am not a person who does well with uncertainty. Most of my anxiety comes from dealing with the unknown and not having stability. Those are the two biggest things you struggle with as a senior. I have no idea what job I’m going to have. Plans I thought were semi-stable with friends have started to shift and suddenly the ground beneath my feet is starting to move. I’m trying to picture what my life will look like, and I can’t and that doesn’t feel great. I’m really working with my therapist to talk through all of this and remind myself of the things that I can see and feel in the moment. I live in the future and play scenarios over and over in my head until I can’t see what’s happening right in front of me.

That’s the other part of senioritis. Trying not to miss out on moments. There’s a lot going on. All of my friends have school and jobs and internships. But I don’t want to look back on my last year of college and only see those things. I want to see concerts and eating ice cream and driving with the windows down. Trying to balance everything is difficult. Trying not to live in the future what-ifs and actually experience what’s happening now is difficult. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Often senioritis, and in turn, my anxiety feels like a looming presence unable to be shaken. As cliche as it sounds, it can feel like a rain cloud is following me around. With each new assignment or each new thought about the future, I feel myself deflating. But this isn’t forever. Also, in the now it is important to focus on all of the fun things about senior year. About all the memories I get to make. About that last assignment being written. As each day passes, I want to try and look at the bright side instead of worrying about all the stuff that hasn’t even happened. Senioritis is a frame of mind, I just have to climb my way out of it.

Hopefully, some of y’all can relate to these feelings whether you are in your senior year or you are just worried about the future. We’re in this together and we will overcome it. That’s the goal.

Rachel (:

Mental Health Medication Stigma

I didn’t have a blog post idea today and then something happened that really made me mad. My friend was working today and was telling a coworker that her new medication was making her a little nauseous. Another one of her coworkers walked up and decided to insert himself in the conversation. He proceeded to tell my friend several things that made her angry (and subsequently myself and my roommates angry). I wanted to break down what he said and then talk in general about mental health medication stigma.

Things he said:

#1 Anxiety/OCD/etc. are “just personality traits.”

It really annoys me when people try and tell you that what you are dealing with in regard to your mental health is not valid. By saying this, he invalidates the seriousness of mental health problems. Mental health issues are not just personality traits. They are recognized as disorders by psychiatrists and medical professionals worldwide. It is something that is treated by mental health professionals. It isn’t something easily changed or something you can just move on from. A personality trait like getting nervous before a big event is not the same as having a generalized anxiety disorder. A personality trait like cleanliness is not the same thing as having OCD. Having a personality trait like pessimism is not the same thing as having depression. These disorders are not just personality traits and it fully invalidates someone’s struggles when you say that they are.

#2 “I know exactly how you feel.”

Unless you also struggle with a mental health disorder, this is false. This is another way to invalidate someone’s struggles. Even if you also struggle with anxiety and depression, you don’t know exactly how that person feels. It affects everyone differently. This is especially the wrong thing to say before you proceed to give your unwanted and unsubstantiated opinion on mental health in general.

#3 Medicine is just not the way to help. It basically is unnecessary for mental health disorders.

This is what the remainder of my post is going to discuss because my friend’s coworker is not the only person to think that mental health issues are not serious enough to require medication. People often try and tell you that if you exercised more, ate better, meditated, did yoga, or thought more positively you would be fine. That’s not how it works. Don’t you think that we would all do these things if it magically cured us? You can’t just think happy thoughts and get over depression or meditate and get over anxiety. There are a lot of different treatment options from medical professionals because it is an actual disorder. Therapy is an option and one I highly recommend. It has helped me a lot. But medication is also a valid option for people who are really struggling. Sometimes people feel like taking medication means that they have failed in some way or that they’re weak, but that isn’t true. It just means that you need some extra help in dealing with a disorder. When you take an Advil for a headache (physical health), you don’t have guilt, so you shouldn’t put guilt on yourself for taking medication that helps with your mental health.

It is always important to consult with a doctor or a therapist when you are thinking about medication. It’s important to make sure you are a good candidate for taking medicine to help. Once you and a medical professional have decided it is the right next step, it could take some time to figure out what medication works best. There isn’t one magic pill that is going to be an easy fix to your problem. There are side effects to medications and it is important to find the one that works the best in your body. But it is possible to find a medication that helps you a lot.

Saying it is unnecessary is an uneducated point of view. As our friend who is in pharmacy school who heard about this statement said, “there are decades of research and clinical studies that show how medications do what they do.” There are many medications that are proven to help with a variety of mental health disorders. No one should feel ashamed or judged for taking medication. If you feel the need to shame someone who does take medication, I would encourage you to put that energy into researching mental health disorders and research instead. I believe your opinion would change. Medication is not the only answer, but it is a valid option for those who are struggling.

Here are a couple of other articles that talk about mental health medication:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-internal-debate/201812/breaking-the-stigma-taking-meds

Rachel (:

Let’s Talk About Therapy

There is a lot of stigma that surrounds the idea of going to therapy. It has been lessening some in past years particularly when discussed by the younger generations, but the stigma still stands. Today, I want to talk about some of the common myths about therapy versus the realities and how I personally have found it helpful.

Myth 1: People who go to therapy have serious mental issues or are “crazy.”

Reality: There are a lot of reasons that people go to therapy. Is it true that there are people who are in therapy because they are struggling with a serious mental illness? Of course. But even these people aren’t “crazy.” Them suffering from a mental illness and going to see a therapist is just as normal as someone being diagnosed with a physical illness and going to a physician. They shouldn’t be labeled negatively. But to my main point, different circumstances lead different people to therapy. Sometimes, someone had something traumatic happen in their life. Sometimes, they are grieving the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, they are having work or relationship trouble. Sometimes, they just feel a little off-balance. Sometimes, it is just good to have someone to talk to who can give you more concrete advice than your friends or family. There are so many reasons that people go. I went because of my anxiety, but life happened while I was in therapy and now in addition to tackling my anxious thoughts, grief and the inability to control what happens to us have become topics of discussion. Therapists can help a lot of people on a variety of issues.

Myth 2: Going to therapy makes you seem weak.

Reality: I actually think going to therapy makes you incredibly strong. Allowing yourself to open up to someone and admit that you need a little help is difficult. Stepping into your therapist’s office for the first time takes a lot of guts. It also means you want to take of your mental health. People always talk about taking care of your body, but it is just as important to take care of your emotional and mental health. When we don’t address those problems, it can actually affect our physical health. So going to therapy literally makes you the opposite of weak. It makes you stronger in all aspects of your health.

Myth 3: Going to therapy is something you should be embarrassed to admit or talk about.

Reality: I firmly believe that talking about mental health issues as well as mental health support is incredibly important. That is one of the reasons I started this blog. Going to therapy is a difficult step to take. I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to go when I first started. A lot of people who are struggling go back and forth. The worst thing that can happen for someone who is on the fence is for someone to make therapy seem like something that needs to be hidden or kept secret. That makes it seem like going is some taboo thing. I understand if you want to keep therapy private, but you shouldn’t actively be embarrassed about talking about it because there is nothing embarrassing about it. When someone asks you if you can get lunch with them and you can’t because you have a therapy appointment, be honest with them. Just saying, “Sorry, I can’t today. I have therapy.” can be powerful. Talking about it normally normalizes the idea for people and it no longer feels like something that should be talked about in hushed tones. I personally am extremely open with the fact that I go to therapy. My friends and coworkers know who I’m talking about when I bring up my therapist’s name. They don’t know the intimate details of what we talk about, but they know I go and that she has been helping me. Talking about it may help someone take the next step in reaching out to a therapist. You never know. So don’t make it seem like it’s embarrassing. Normalize it and hopefully one day the stigma will cease.

Myth 4: It’s a waste of money if you have friends and family to talk to.

Reality: I’ll speak personally for a moment and say that while I love my family and my friends, they cannot always look at the events unfolding in our lives from an outside and objective standpoint. When an event happens, like a death in the family, talking to the other people affected can be helpful, but the advice or support you get in return comes from a very personal and biased perspective. Talking through your feelings and really understanding what they are and how to cope with them, is something that a therapist can do better than a friend or family member. They are trained to help people. It is also sometimes hard for me to express my emotions to those around me. It is something I’m actively working on in therapy. Also, sometimes being able to talk to someone confidentially about issues you are having with friends and family, makes it easier to talk about. Talking to family and friends has the tendency to become a sticky situation if you are talking about people the other person knows. Often issues surrounding friends and family pass, and keeping those things confidential allows you to move on in the future without those things hanging in the air. It is a safe space to vent which allows you to process your emotions more freely. Don’t get me wrong, talking to family and friends is important and can be helpful, but that doesn’t mean a therapist isn’t necessary or an important extra level of support.

Myth 5: Therapists just tell you what to do so you can fix your problem and move on.

Reality: Therapy is helpful because the therapist guides you in a direction, but allows you to come to conclusions and revelations on your own. Therapy is work. Just like you work out in order to stay fit physically, you come to therapy to stay fit mentally and emotionally. You will not walk into a therapist’s office, state your problem, get handed a list of ways to fix it, and then leave. Therapists rarely tell you exactly what to do. Often they give suggestions, but it is up to you to take them up on it and usually, the suggestions don’t lead to your problems being solved immediately. To really get the most out of therapy, you need to be willing to put in the work. Also, be prepared to be in therapy as long as it is necessary. Some people go for a few weeks, some a couple months, while others have been in therapy for years. There is no right or wrong amount of time to be in therapy. That is at the discretion of you and your therapist. But no one is only in therapy for a couple sessions and then is able to walk out worry-free. It is important to be open with your therapist for them to provide the best support. The need for that type of support to continue is determined on a case by case basis. Find the right therapist for you, expect to put in the work, and be prepared to be there as long as it takes.

Therapy has been a very important thing for me. It has helped me a lot and continues to help me work through all sorts of life changes and issues that come up. I personally think that anyone can benefit from therapy, but don’t go until you are ready. When you are ready, be open to the process and really open up to your therapist. That open communication is what allows them to really help you. Also, don’t be ashamed that you are going, be proud of the fact that you are taking the next step to be the best version of yourself. Being happy and healthy is the goal, and therapy can be a useful step to getting there.

Rachel (:

Faith When You Don’t Have Control

My dad was a Methodist pastor and is now a chaplain in the army so I have always grown up in church. I watched Veggie Tales when I was little, joined youth group when I started middle school, and went to church almost every Sunday. It has always been a big part of my life. As I got older, I started to look at it as much more than just a routine. God is incredibly important in my life. While that remains true, it doesn’t mean that my faith journey has only been smooth sailing.

Over the past couple years in particular, I’ve had to wrestle with my faith. I mentioned in a previous post that my family seemed to be getting hit with one thing after another. A cousin in her thirties being diagnosed with ALS and my granddaddy declining in health; both of them recently passing away in a span of three months. My classes becoming more challenging and overwhelming. The realization that I’m only a little over a year away from graduating and the fact that I need to start looking towards the future. A lot of concepts that I have zero control over. During these events, my anxiety has only increased. All of this has been difficult. I often find myself knowing that God is the only one who can help me through this period, but resenting Him for letting everything hit me all at once. It’s a constant tug of war in my mind between relying on Him fully and questioning whether He is really working everything together for good.

I’ve been trying to work on prioritizing God like I should. I pray every day and read my Bible, looking to Him to make sense out of the chaotic nature of my life. I still find verses that I like and that help me when I’m feeling anxious. God is still incredibly important to me. I don’t doubt that He is with me. I know He is. But I also don’t think it’s wrong to question why things are the way that they are. If everything was going perfectly in my life, I would have no reason to dig deep and try and grow in my faith. Not having control is something that I struggle a lot with, but it helps me to think that there is someone who loves me who is in control. That doesn’t mean I have found all the answers I’m looking for. In fact, I’m not even close. But, it does mean that I can lean on Him when I feel myself spiraling out of control. He will be there to walk with me on my journey, wherever it may take me.

I thought I would share some of my favorite verses that I look to when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed by life:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” – Psalm 56:3

I would love to hear about your own journey with faith. What do you struggle with? What are some of your favorite verses? Let me know. Thanks for going on this journey with me!

Rachel (:

Apps for Your Emotional Toolbox

Over the last few years I have discovered several apps that have helped me with my anxiety. I found most of them on my own and others were shared with me by my therapist. Some are games that help calm me down and others provide tools to track my anxiety and improve my outlook. Below I give a run down of what each app offers. Bonus: They’re all free!

Fear Tools

This app is specifically designed for people with anxiety. This one was recommended to me by my therapist and has been beneficial for me. I use it for the “thought diary” feature. It allows you to write down exactly what is making you anxious and work through the thoughts in order to lessen the anxiety you’re feeling. There is also a breathing feature that you can follow along with to help you calm down. It’s a great way to keep track of the emotions you are feeling.

Smash Hit

This is a game that I started playing about two years ago. The goal is to get through as many stages as you can without running out of balls. There are various glass obstacles in your way that you smash by throwing balls at them. There are various things to hit along the way to give you more balls. The reason I love this game so much is because it is so soothing. The graphics are great, the colors are muted, and the ability to smash things lets off some stress. If you like playing with the sound on, the music is low key as well. I play this game sometimes when I’m struggling to fall asleep. That should tell you how calming it is. This is the game I most highly recommend.

Happify

This app tailors their approach to you. There are games, meditations, and goals to work towards in order to reduce stress and overcome negative emotions. I’ve only been using this for a few days, but I really like it. It gives you tasks to complete everyday to increase your positive thoughts and emotions and lessen any negativity you are feeling. It also includes articles to read about mental health and forums to share with others who may be feeling some of the same things you are. This is the most well rounded app that I have found.

Kami 2

This game is one of my favorites mainly for the aesthetic. Like Smash Hit, the colors in this game are also subdued. The goal is to figure out how to make each level end with just one color on the screen. It’s a strategy puzzle game, which are some of my favorites, and it is also one that does a good job at calming me down. There is an origami feel to the end of each level that is also satisfying to watch. Visually relaxing.

What’s Up?

This is an app similar to Fear Tools with a couple of other features. There is information on mental health within the app, coping strategies, forums to talk to others, breathing control, helpful websites, and a diary to work through your emotions. The design is a little less crisp than some of the others, but the information is great. For a lot of these apps, you just have to figure out which style you like the best. I personally like Fear Tools a little better, but this app is still great!

Colorfy

This is basically an adult coloring book in app form and is a great way to unwind and take your mind off of all the stress you are feeling. There are all sorts of things to color: mandalas, animals, flowers, and various other drawings. There is a new feature that lets you draw your own pattern to color in. A great way to calm yourself down.

These are some apps that have helped me when I’m feeling particularly anxious. Try them out and let me know what you think! Also, let me know about the apps that you use! Thanks for reading!

Rachel (: