Is it Okay to be Okay in May?

May is my month!. It’s my birthday month. It’s also when I would get a break from college, and it’s usually when the weather starts getting warmer in Wisconsin. More importantly, May is Mental Health Awareness Month aka a time when I want all of you to bend a knee because I have a healthy relationship with antidepressants and you all should be made aware.

Okay I’m kidding, but a part of me does want to throw some confetti for all of my brothers and sisters who also deal with the daily ups and downs of mental health.

I’ve already beat it into your head that we’re not waiting for a new day, week, or month to start celebrating the little things. But, sometimes we need that little life sign to jump, ya know? I feel moved to write this and something compelled you to read it. There’s your sign. If you’re not celebrating your mental health for EXACTLY what it is, this is your sign.

Nala, this is not what it looks like…. but look, I’m always cute in May! It’s my month! (18 years old)

Let me explain. Just like I have friends in all shapes and sizes, I have loved ones at all different points of the mental health spectrum. I have friends  who don’t always approve of talking about mental health all the way to friends who write, sing, or podcast about it just like I do. I have family that have gone through similar diagnoses or experiences, and friends who have never even imagined going to therapy. This is a month to celebrate you, your mind, and your mental health.

More importantly, it’s a month all about understanding that no one mental health is identical to another. It’s about awareness – which is so damn cool if you think about it. It means that if you say you’re an ally, no one is expecting you to be an expert. It means that you want to be a part of ending a stigma of the past for people struggling in the present. It means that you want to understand someone other than yourself, which is so important in this society.

I have been talking about and attempting to understand my mental health for years now. Each year, Mental Health Awareness Month comes around and it means more and more in my journey to recovery. When I was diagnosed, I wasn’t aware that there were others like me. My parents weren’t aware of how they could best support a teenager that was doing all she possibly could to push everyone away.

It took me far too many years and far too many Mental Health Awareness Months to realize that I am not defined by the medicine that I took, the diagnoses that still sit in my Mercy MyChart, or even by the stories I already share about my mental health.

For so long, I told myself that one of the first labels that was important for people to know about me was “depressed” or “anxious”. For so long, it felt like the only thing I could talk about, the only thing that was worth listening to. Maybe I wanted them to know that because I wanted to prove the strength that I found. Or, maybe I still hadn’t found a label that really feels right.

Each day, I can choose a different label. I mean, that’s the beautiful thing about the world, right? You don’t ever have to be the same person you were the day before. I’m a daughter, sister, voter, friend, blogger, college graduate, photographer. Saying that I’m one of those things, or all those things, doesn’t change the fact that I know I’m a warrior.

My 22nd Mental Health Awareness Month & birthday when I’m starting to actually realize that time, acceptance, and great company heals wounds. I felt so good. It’s okay to be okay!

I mean, what about when I’m doing really well? Do I still have to talk about depression when the bad days aren’t very often? Do I still have to blog about panic attacks when I haven’t had one for months? Talking about that part of my life is important, especially during months when we aim to spread awareness. The beautiful thing about Mental Health Awareness Month is you get to see people in all aspects of their journey – the confusion, the pain, the anger, the loneliness, the acceptance, and even the recovery. So, a big part of my mental health journey now is understanding that I don’t have to keep validating myself as a warrior. I wear my armor everyday.

Are you feeling okay during May? Or, are you feeling like your mental health might need some extra love? Contact me at any of my socials below – I want to hear your story!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page!

A Goodbye to 2019

The last few New Years, I’ve entered feeling a sense of dread and emptiness. I always thought that the year had been this big failure. I didn’t get skinny, rich, or super successful…. so it was a wash, right?

I will say, I looked good at the start of 2019. But, I had my doubts..

This year, I felt different about the promise of a new year though. Maybe I’m still on this high of graduating and feeling like everything is going to change in this big ah-ha moment. I just felt like this year I learned a lot that was actually substantial to who I’ll become.

This year, I learned that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re lonely. I spent the first half of the year talking to, seeing, and worrying about my ex – as if one day, our broken foundation would just fix itself and we could be happy. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t really me that chose to move on either. It was thrust upon me with words that felt like bullets. It was like I had hit rock bottom so many times, that I was numb to the feeling. If someone can say things and treat you in ways that they don’t even value your life or safety, RUN FOR THE HILLS. I was with him because it was comfortable, because he was all that I felt I deserved in my moments of self hatred. However, 2019 showed me that being alone isn’t necessarily this scary thing that I’ve built it up to be in my head. My value doesn’t come from men messaging me on dating apps. I must feel my value if I want to attract people that will uphold that standard. I spent time with some amazing guys & past Emily probably would have been into anyone that even breathed in her direction. 2019 taught me that being alone is an opportunity to find yourself, rebrand, and reenter the world as the person you want to be. More importantly, being single gives you the opportunity to fully understand the people that are worth your time and those who are not.

2019 also taught me that sometimes, you have to be fucking selfish. For a long time, I thought that being an ally in mental health meant being understanding of every action someone has against you. Part of being an ally, though, is being an ally for yourself. It’s being empathetic and compassionate without allowing your dreams or goals to take a back burner. For most of my adult life, I’ve been so emotionally invested in others or their struggle, that I failed to deal with my own. I realized that decisions that effect those around you are going to work out when made confidently and from a place of love. I have this business where I just want to help as many people as I can… but part of that is knowing when to say no, when to step away, and when to just chose you too.

2019 taught me who I really want to be – not who I want to be with someone, because of someone, or because it made the most sense. 2019 taught me that I don’t have to get married to my high school sweetheart, pop a couple kids out, and live in my hometown to be successful. If anything, 2019 made me realize that going off this path that I had felt like was my own for so long, was actually the best thing for me. It made me realize that I was achieving for everyone else but me. I had goals in my life purely because I wanted to be better than the girls my ex was sleeping with behind my back. I had some goals purely because “that’s just what you do” as a Midwestern girl. 2019 made take a crazy path of starting a new blog, starting a podcast, and having this unwavering belief that it was going to explode.

2019 taught me how to forgive and move on. It made me realize that I had to feel that anger, hurt, and hatred for those toxic forces in my life in their entirety, before I could allow myself to forgive them. Before I could move on. 2019 gave me a reason to believe that something much bigger and better is out there, even if it’s just a feeling in the pit of my stomach right now. 2019 is learning to forgive the people that you never ever want to see again – even if it’s only so that you can deal with the anger and walk away. 2019 was forgiving a man that I felt destroyed by, only to be thankful that he made me learn strength and perseverance. The year was about forgiving myself for being someone I wasn’t for so long. It was about dealing with the hatred that I had for past decisions and actions, so that I could finally move on and reach a potential meant for me.

Most importantly, 2019 taught me to not give a single fuck what anyone else thinks. It taught me to dive so hard and powerfully into the unknown, regardless of what anyone around me thought. It taught me to say what I meant, without this worry of rejection. It taught me to post what I felt good about, wear what I felt good in, and only be around people that made me smile. 2019 taught me the one and only person I need to have on my side, is myself.

Test Anxiety, No More!

So, you’ve read a lot of blog posts about how I’ve grown into this kinda effffed up person….. but, I finally have a reverse of that! I never thought I would see the day, but here we go. I outgrew (idk if that’s the right verb, but stick with me, okay?) my test anxiety.

When I was in high school I used to make tests my bitch, for lack of a better term, of course. I didn’t crack a textbook, but I was just so positive that I knew what the fuck I was doing that I didn’t sweat it. When I went to college, I got a pretty rude awakening in not knowing how to organize notes, study, all that jazz. My first college exam I thought I was going to pass out. You know that rumor that if someone dies in your exam period, you get an A for the semester? I was actually looking around like “These lucky bastards, I’m gonna keel over and they’re going to ace Comparative Politics.” Sure, there was more material and it was harder, but the problem wasn’t my intellect. The problem that I no longer believed that I could make the tests my bitch.

Suddenly it wasn’t just the grade, it was “I’m not worthy of being in college”, “I’m not worthy of my parent’s pride if I don’t know this multiple choice answer”, “Everyone else in the room knows it, you’re the ONLY one who doesn’t”. Like most of my anxious moments, I can now look back and realize it was irrational, but in the moment, it’s all you can think about it.

I was lucky in the fact that I had a therapist who told me to talk to the disability services on campus. Did you know that test anxiety is considered a disability and most campuses have specific programs to help students who struggle with it?! I didn’t.

I was able to take my test in a small study room. I was given more time. And listen, PEOPLE ACTUALLY DID THIS FOR THIS FOR THEMSELVES.

One good thing about my transfer was that I was forced to give a shit about myself. I was kind of forced to either care about my academics or sulk in the fact that I was alone and hitting rock bottom. So, even if I didn’t necessarily feel confident my body or my voice or my life, the first thing I was confident about was my brain. For so long, my brain had gotten me through classes without a second thought… because I let it. I let myself believe that I was the shit. I allowed positive thoughts in about my intelligence, knowledge, and logic when I was taking tests.

Most importantly though, I DIDN’T CARE. I know that this seems really counterproductive. But, I knew I was going to graduate. I knew I was probably going to get an A in the class in the end…so the test didn’t really make me lose a ton of sleep at night. At that, is what I lost when I went to college.

I mean, truly, what was the worst that could have happened? I had to take the class again? Yeah, that would have sucked – and guess what, that did happen!!! I’m still sitting here typing a blog, getting ready to graduate and hold two Bachelor’s degrees in 5 days. It didn’t kill me. I failed so many of my Intro to Psych tests because of my anxiety that I failed the class, but walking into the class when I retook it, I realized just how much it didn’t matter. It got replaced on my transcript. I had a quick cry for the hours of studying and money I put into the class. Life went on.

You may or not believe it by looking at this picture, but I had just failed my third and final exam in Psych which made it the class. I had tweeted my anger about classes that relied solely on test grades, cried, called my mom, fixed my makeup, and MOVED ON. Because I could either keep crying…. or get a cute pic…

This semester, I’ve absolutely needed every single one of my classes to graduate. I would still say this is the semester I have the been the most chill about tests though. Every time I walk into a test shitting my pants about it half-asleep from an all nighter of studying, it never goes well. Truthfully, you can ONLY do your best and that’s all you can expect of yourself. If the information didn’t stick or maybe you didn’t get your butt to class, you might pay the price – AND THAT’S OKAY! I walked into every single test with the most negative thoughts about myself, so of course I’m going to convince myself I don’t know it. With this new approach, though, I’ve started walking in saying that I know it because I already learned it and if I don’t know it right away then I’m smart enough to figure it out. And no matter what, I’m a worthy student, daughter, and person regardless of the percentage of multiple choice answers I get right on a test.

I watched my little brother stress about taking the ACT recently, and vividly remember that terrible feeling. It’s so easy for me to say that “no matter what, it’s not the end of the world”, but sometimes it really does feel like it might be.

So, maybe don’t take it from me. Your brain makes connections that you don’t always even know are there. When you read a question or prompt, it can ignite these little connections so you remember what you learned, read, or talked about. Our minds are so fucking strong and powerful if we just allow them to be. Anxiety is this big slug that tries to block those connects with negative thoughts and insecurities. But pushing through, finding a little confidence in yourself, and letting go of what you can’t control is SO empowering.

SO, happy finals/end of the semester, my loves! Even if you feel like you can’t do it, your brain and I both know that you can!