Reading Roundup #4

I read a lot of books since my last reading roundup so I figured it was time for another one. My goal for this year is to read 100 books. I read 55 from June to the end of last year, so I’m hoping I’m not shooting too high. Being in school always slows me down some, but I’m graduating in May and then I’ll have some more time on my hands (which I’m pretty anxious about, but we’re not going to think about that right now 😅). As always, let me know if there are any books you are loving at the moment as I am always looking for recommendations!

#3 The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

I had heard good things about this book before I got it and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a literary fiction novel that looks at the lengths a parent will go to in order for their children to get into a new “gifted school” that is being built in town. It follows four families who have been friends for years, whose relationships are tested as they all compete to prove their children belong there. It’s a page-turner and you get fully invested in these characters. The characterization was extremely well done. There is also a twist later in the book that I definitely didn’t see coming. It’s witty, sad, and heartwarming all at the same time. I think anyone can relate to this story because of all the different family dynamics portrayed throughout. The author did an amazing job of describing all the insecurities and intricacies that come with familial relationships. I particularly connected with this book because it reminded me of one of the places I lived that held kids to an almost impossible standard and had a dog-eat-dog mentality. This book does a good job of showing the pitfalls of that kind of thinking. I’m all about doing well in school, but you should never overextend yourself to the point of it being detrimental to your mental health. This book is funny, yet poignant and I would definitely recommend you put it on your list!

#2 The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

You may remember from a previous roundup that I talked about how much I loved The Night Circus, so I was super excited to hear that she came out with a brand new book. I loved this one as well! Like her other novel, it is mainly a fantasy novel, but other genres are woven throughout. It follows Zachary Rawlings who picks up a dusty book one ay only to find that a story about him is hidden inside. As he reads more and follows the trail left by the words on the pages, he discovers another world made up of underground libraries and the protection of words and stories. He finds himself in a battle with a group of people who are looking to destroy this world and prevent the Starless Sea from reaching its full potential. Erin Morgenstern does an impeccable job of describing the universes she creates. Like The Night Circus, I could picture it vividly. It pulls you in. Especially as someone who loves reading and writing, the world she creates feels like paradise. Much like we all wish we could get a letter to Hogwarts, Morgenstern makes you wish you could find a hidden door and enter this secret world. Definitely read this book whether you usually like fantasy or not. There are aspects of the story that will resonate with everyone because in one way or another the words that are said and stories that are shared connect us all.

#1 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

This book was one of the most honest and engaging things I have ever read. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I go to therapy. I think therapy is an important thing. I advocate for everyone to take care of their mental health just as much as they take care of their physical health. Therapy is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their life. The connection you have with your therapist is different than any other relationship in your life. They know everything about you and help you come to conclusions about your life and your struggles on your own. This book perfectly encapsulates what this relationship can feel like. It is written by a therapist and details accounts of some of the patients she is working with, as well as following her own journey through therapy that she is experiencing at the same time after going through a hard break-up. It not only gives you a look inside the head of the person on the other side of the couch, but also shows you that therapists are real people who are also going through problems. Everyone can benefit from therapy. It is funny and real. She has some powerful ideas but doesn’t take herself too seriously. It doesn’t shy away from the truth and it is cool to watch the progress of the patients. There are moments that made me tear up and other moments where I couldn’t stop laughing. If you support mental health in any way or are struggling yourself, I highly recommend this book!

Bonus: Songs I’m Loving at the Moment

Here are six songs that I have been listening to a lot lately. Definitely check out these songs and check out the other songs from these artists as well!

-The Last Time I Was Yellow is by my roommate and it is one of my favorite songs that she has written. It really speaks to how it can feel when you are struggling, but desperately want to feel peace and happiness.

-Guidance is a really honest look at what the relationship can feel like between man and God.

-Slow is a chill track that details how it can be difficult to move on.

-I love Alec Benjamin, and his newest song Demons is no exception.

-I truly believe everyone should listen to First Last Name for the songwriting alone. She went to Belmont and I still remember how impressed I was the first time I heard it. It talks about the special relationship between a father and daughter.

-Even When You’re Home is another chill track that details a feeling we all feel at some point: loneliness.

Books and music are two of my favorite things, so I always love discussing what I’ve been reading or listening to. Let me know if you have any book or music recommendations! I hope you have a great week!

Rachel (:

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 (:

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 (:

Your Problems Are Enough

I’m happy to be back and am ready to talk about some of the things I’ve learned as my semester came to a close. My semester was difficult, both in my education and in my life personally. It has been my hardest semester in college so far, so getting through is a major accomplishment. Going to classes was difficult in those last two weeks because my mind was constantly on projects and things that I wasn’t getting done by sitting in a lecture for an hour. However, about a week before finals, my personality psychology professor began his lecture on personality disorders. Before diving in, he began to talk about how important talking about mental health is and shared some of his own personal struggles with us. As he opened up, others started to do so as well, and suddenly that is what the class became. An hour where everyone talked about the ways they have been affected by mental health issues personally. One big takeaway from this conversation was something that my professor said that made many people (including myself) nod their heads in agreement: Sometimes your problems don’t feel big enough to be talked about. But he assured us that while he also felt that way, after seeking help, he discovered that any problem you have is enough. Nothing is too small if it is affecting you.

When you are struggling with your mental health, it can be tricky to talk about. It isn’t something people can see from the outside. You aren’t walking with crutches or wearing a cast. People can’t see what the problem is. That can make talking about your mental health scary. What if they don’t believe me? What if they just tell me to get over it? What if I’m judged? What if I’m just overthinking or overreacting? Is it really that big of a deal? All of those questions have popped into my head at one time or another and a lot of it stems from that feeling of my problems not being enough.

It’s easy to compare yourself to others. Especially now, with social media, you can literally do a side by side comparison of what another person’s life looks like next to your own. We also tend to do this with our mental health. I know that I have met other people with anxiety who seem to struggle more than I do. They have panic attacks frequently and I don’t. They’re on a higher dose of medicine and I’m not. Things like that can make me start to feel like my own anxiety isn’t as important. But it is. It affects me and how I live my life, and therefore it is just as important as the struggles they face.

A lot of times this feeling can stop a person from seeking help or confiding in their support system. My professor talked about how it took a while for him to go to therapy because he didn’t think his problem was big enough. However, after he went the first time, he realized that he wished he’d gone sooner. He described it as going to the doctor for a check-up. Everyone should do it and check in on their mental health. Even things that seem like small issues can affect your life, so it’s important to get them out in the open. Talking about it, either with a therapist or just the people around you, can make you feel less alone and feel like your struggles are valid. Everyone can benefit from therapy. I truly believe that. Don’t let the stigma surrounding mental health keep you away. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Your problems are enough. You are not alone.

Hearing other people in my class talk about their struggles really did make me feel less alone in my struggle, so feel free to leave a comment below telling your own story of your mental health journey. Thanks for reading and supporting me! Let me know if you have any suggestions for future posts now that I’m back!

Rachel (: