Tag Archives: youth

I Am Not My Mental Illness, And Neither Are You

September 28th, 2018

seacoast sceneI am most certainly not my mental illnesses.

Although I have ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and most likely an upcoming OCD diagnosis, I am not defined by those labels.

I am a lover of poetry. I get lost in the words I write, pouring the bottled up emotion onto paper, and making it sound like a symphony. I love to sing, love to hear music flow through my headphones, a form of escape sometimes, and other times indulging in sadness.

I am empathetic. I love to help other people. It’s what I know I was born to do. I am an advocate. I have advocated locally, statewide, and nationally, and it’s all a result of my burning passion for being a voice. I am a voice for those who have a hard time speaking out, for those who are growing tired of being treated like they don’t belong.

When I tell people I have a mental illness, it is an immediate judgement when that person doesn’t know what it is like to feel like there is no hope. Sometimes, hope seems so far away. It feels like I will never earn the right to be happy. However, there is strength within me. So when I feel like I don’t belong, I tell myself there must be a reason I’m still here. I think that reason is to pursue a better future, both for myself and others.

So yes, I am not my mental illness. No one is defined only by their mental illness. We are all warriors. We fight this battle bravely every day. We are not just “patients”, we are people who need our voices heard, for there is so much to be said.

By: Rachel LaBrie

 

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Body Image: 3 Years Later

August 29th, 2018

Start a revolution, stop hating your bodyMy name is Rachel LaBrie, and I wrote a blog about my struggle with my body image for PPAL three years ago. In that blog, I realize I sugarcoated a lot of things. Let me tell you the truth. Well, the full truth.

I have bulimia, and have since I was seven years old. It all started in dance class. The constant pressure to be long and lean took a serious toll on my mental health, and then my physical health. I started off hiding in the back of the room, so that not as many peers could see me. That transitioned to me emotionally eating whenever I’d get anxious. And as the guilt set in, that’s when the purging started.

I’ve been told seven years old is so young to form an eating disorder, but you’d be surprised. I’ve hated how I looked since I was 5 years old. It’s also a super common thing to have an eating disorder as a dancer.

I probably read how to purge in a book; I was an avid reader, and I often read books meant for teenagers. I never told anyone until I was 9, and it was my nutritionist, who didn’t believe me about my bulimia. My dance teacher continued to ignore the signs. So I did what I thought would stop all that…I quit dance.

However, the behavior was already developed and I just got more and more lost in my disorder. The Eating Disorder “Voice” kept telling me to eat. Chocolate, cookies, candy, whatever I could get my hands on. Then all of a sudden, “STOP!! GET RID OF IT! GET RID OF IT ALL!!” It yelled a lot.

I gave in for so long. I followed my eating disorder into fire until I felt I was igniting into flames.  That is until I hit a breaking point. I finally told my Primary Care Doctor, and she referred me to an outpatient eating disorder clinic. I did the Partial Hospitalization Program twice in 6 months.

It really did help. I haven’t purged in about 9 months. I feel better physically, but the “voice” still comes into my head from time to time. I’ve learned some techniques to shut it up.

It’s still hard. I still hate my body. I still insult it more than I should. But I recognize it does so much for me. It carries me around, lets me accomplish my goals. I need to thank my body more often for what it is, instead of criticizing it for what it isn’t. And maybe that time will come soon.

For everyone who has struggled with their own body image, I stand with you. I understand how hard it is to make that negativity in your head stay quiet. But we can do this.

Say something nice about your body to your body today. The littlest compliments help. It seems silly, but sometimes you need to convince yourself and your body that your body is worthy of love from you. I let my body become my enemy, but now, I feel like we are building a friendship. And I cannot even begin to tell you how good that feels.

Here’s to another 3 years of growth.

By: Rachel LaBrie

 

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Reaching Out

April 27th, 2015

rowofkidsReaching out and helping youth and young adults is very important. To give us attention shows us that you really care. Reaching out and helping is one of the best things that anybody can do. Look at all the trouble that happens to youth on the streets every day or that’s caused by youth and young adults.  We search for support with our actions. We speak out to you with no answer. It’s our cry for help.

I am amongst the youth and have done things in the past in an attempt for attention and support. I have set fires and even fought at school. I’ve been to different programs in three different systems. I stuck with a few programs for a while but eventually ran or decided they were not for me. One program has been helping me for five years now. I think they will always be there for me.

I have been going to PPAL and Youth MOVE for five years. It is a wonderful placed to go that reaches out to you. They talk to you, ask you how you’re doing, and offer you help whenever they can. PPAL has helped me a lot. Helped with things such as getting my ID, helping me find a job, and given me people I can talk to.  PPAL has groups every week for youth and young adults. It’s a good place to talk because it’s not run by doctors or people sitting in the corner with a clipboard, it is just youth talking to each other. We have dinner together. I can also hang out with other youth and young adults that are around my age group and listen to their experiences. I can get feedback about how I can deal with some of my experiences in the past or even problems I have now.

Before coming to PPAL I was really scared to talk about anything and when I opened my gates and started talking, I felt so much better. I began coming constantly and kept getting support emotionally and now I help as well. I help set up the groups and run parts of the meetings. Sometimes I stay away for a while and am worried about going back. I worry about how I might be judged. PPAL doesn’t judge me for why I was away. They welcome me back and help me get back on track. They offer to help.

I am a troubled youth just like a lot of youth. Many of us feel alone and like we have it the worst, but you are not alone. Talk to somebody. Open up. You might find somebody who is reaching out to you. I can personally say that a lot of people at PPAL know what they are talking about. We don’t fake it. We know how you feel. We will help.

 

This blog was written by a 19-year-old young adult member of Youth MOVE Massachusetts. They have lived experience in mental health, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems. Their strengths include leadership skills and writing poetry to name just two.

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Hope for the Future

October 23rd, 2014

RedUmbrWhen I look deep down inside, I find myself somewhat of a pessimist. Not just any pessimist though, an anxious pessimist. Anxiety girl, able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound. I usually don’t watch the news, because I don’t want to hear about how the world outside my own head is messed up. When there are issues inside my head, it’s just that. Inside my head. My problem. When there is a war overseas, an oil spill, or a school shooting, it’s the world that’s messed up, and that’s not something any amount of meddling on my part can fix.  That’s the secret to life, though. Don’t meddle in outside affairs. Find your circle of friends, or even just acquaintances, who you can work with together to make each of your lives’ better.

Last semester I was in a program called “The Art of Leadership.” In this program, I got to spend Wednesday nights with fourteen other student leaders from campus. We did things like take personality tests, learn about ethics, and were taught to use our leadership styles to better ourselves. And, to my surprise, after two weeks my outlook on this world that we all live in brightened. Because this was the room on campus with fifteen people who were most likely to actually change the world. And, one week later, I came to the realization that I was one of those people. I can change the world.

Since that realization, I have seen around me the ways that we can all change the world in a little way. Every time someone smiles at me, my world is a better place to be. It is also better when someone compliments me on something. Anything. So, now it is my goal to change the world for one person a day. I interact with people at school, at work, at the coffee shop, and even on the bus.

When I get down and begin to believe that I am just one person, that I am shy and that there is no way that I could possibly make anyone better, I fight back with a mantra:

From the beginning I’ve always been shy
But I knew that someday I’d learn to fly
As days go on and events unfold
I know I’ll someday change the world.

And, even if I’m the only person like this, I still will leave a legacy. I will change the world. There is hope for the future.

Patricia Woodbury just graduated from college. She is currently living in central Massachusetts and is still writing.

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Heartache By the Number: My life with Dyscalculia

March 19th, 2013

staring-25819-mdys·cal·cu·li·a  (Diss- Kal-cue-lee-ah) n. Impairment of the ability to solve mathematical problems, usually resulting from brain dysfunction.

It can be very hard for me to speak openly about the struggles I have endured because of my learning disability, but in the interest of giving others like me hope, I have decided to really speak out. Ask the average person on the street what dyslexia is and most of them will have at least a general idea and acknowledge it as being a legitimate disorder. Ask that same person about dyscalculia, and they will usually not have a clue what you are talking about. When you try to explain, often they will just wave it off and say “Well a lot of people are bad at math.” But, what I’ve come here to explain is: it is so much more than that.

Since I was very little, I was always ahead of my age in terms of reading and writing. I was the type of kid who was reading Stephen King novels by the time I was ten, and constantly trying to write down my own stories and poetry. But if you asked me to do my multiplication tables on command, I would literally burst into tears after a few minutes. It isn’t that I didn’t want to learn. I actually really enjoy learning new things, and I understand how important mathematics is to living in the real world.  I just plain couldn’t. It doesn’t just stop there either. To this day I can’t read an analog clock, I often have to have my younger brother or another family member help me count up my money, and to date, I have never passed a single math class. I’ve gotten through school by using class substitutions and working around requirements with my IEP plan, but that can only take me so far.  One way or another, the phantom that is math will find me. Bus schedules tend to make me dizzy just looking at them, and I have to have a special application on my phone that does the math for tips at restaurants because I am terrified of not doing the math correctly and offending my server.

It’s hard to live in such a number-based world when numbers cause anxiety at every turn. Out of habit I am always early for appointments because I am in constant fear of being late.  I have to be careful to count my change well when I go to the store so I don’t get ripped off, and people are constantly annoyed with me over how I have to count on my fingers, and how slow I can be at that. But before even those things became the big issue, my self esteem was what took the biggest blow.

I didn’t get an official diagnosis until I was in senior year of high school. I was told by teacher after teacher that I was lazy, I wasn’t paying attention, I wasn’t studying hard enough or sometimes even that I was just plain stupid. The other kids would laugh at me. They didn’t know that I would stay up all night before tests crying over my textbook, or that I would constantly get into fights with my parents because they would get so frustrated when they tried to help me with my homework. I used to hear, “You’re so smart, and this really isn’t that hard. I don’t understand how you can memorize all 151 Pokemon but you can’t tell me what 8×12 is?” And the truth is, neither did I. I had no answer for anyone, I legitimately believed that I was just dumb, and I was doomed to be dumb forever.

I can’t really explain what it’s like to someone that doesn’t have it, but imagine that every single time something having to do with numbers comes up in your life you freeze like a deer in headlights. Your brain goes blank, you sweat, and eventually you cry or scream, or maybe you walk away from the counter in shame even though you really needed to buy that cough medicine, or you really need to pass this exam. It is paralyzing, it is humiliating, and it feels so hopeless sometimes that it can be hard to get out of bed, knowing you have to face the world. Knowing people might laugh when you get an answer wrong in class, or scream at you when they ask you what time it is and you’re not sure because you don’t have a digital watch on you.

On a whim one night, I got so frustrated I googled “Why am I so bad at math” and there was my answer: Dyscalculia. A learning disorder! I took a short test on a website and brought it to the school, begging them to give me a test. They scoffed at first, telling me that clearly this was just some internet thing someone made up, and I was making excuses. My suspicions were right, and I can remember crying from relief when I realized for the first time in my life that I wasn’t some inferior person.  I was just struggling with something that is so little known and so misunderstood that even the special education department wasn’t aware. The irony is that it is just now being more widely discussed, and it is possibly a very common problem which goes unrecognized in so many people  for their whole lives like it had in mine. I sometimes wonder if I’d made this discovery earlier, how much it might have changed my life.

Of course I still struggle. This will be a lifelong issue and I will always be different because of it. However, it is my hope that with advocacy and research, I can do my part to ensure that maybe in the future no kid will have to go through so much pain. Nobody should have to feel inferior because they have a mind that works differently, and I end this blog with a message of hope for those who are aware and struggling, and a call to the world to do your research. We are not lazy, and we are not making excuses. Our disorder is legitimate and painful and we would like to be treated accordingly.

For people who are curious they may have this learning disability, or that their child or student may have it, this web site has a treasure trove of information on the subject.  That site may have saved my life when I was in the lowest point, and I can only hope it will change yours as well.

Brittany Bell is our guest blogger.  She is a 24 year old youth advocate at Youth MOVE Massachusetts who is studying to become a youth counselor.  She hopes to bring awareness and support to the learning disability and mental health communities by sharing her experiences. 

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