Tag Archives: youth voice

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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Embrace It

July 26th, 2018

manGrowing up in a town where mental health was almost kept quiet among families made it hard for me to be accepting of the fact that I had some mental health issues of my own. Not only mental health issues, but behavioral as well. I used to struggle with the fact that I had to retain my feelings and invite my demons as guests rather than fight them. It came to the point where my behavioral issues developed. Doctors and clinicians, who were all strangers to me, would come and tell me that I was an angry person. Why? Because there would be days I would cry so loud like no one could hear me, days when I would run as fast as I could to my room and close the door so fast that a loud slam would follow. I would hide in my room hearing two voices, the one in my head speaking words only I could hear, and the other was the voice of my adoptive mother at the time screaming “Why are you like this!” before the inevitable holds that would soon follow each episode.

Why am I like this? Why am I the one of among three (at the time present) brothers who sees my past as if it were in front of me? Why am I the one who hears the voices whispering in my ear that nobody else seemed to hear, deceiving me to a path of self destruction? I was scared, alone, confused, and let down. At the time I had a very religious adoptive mother. God’s word was what I should live by, and most importantly, god makes no mistakes. If god makes no mistakes then what am I? Why am I not perfect? I dreaded the day I saw coming, the day she had no more fight in her. I was given up for adoption for the second time at the age of nine. I remember feeling at my all-time low, that there really was something wrong with me.

I was sent to a residential program where I learned that I was not the only one with issues that needed to be worked on. I remember residential programs to hold both my fondest and darkest memories. I learned how to accept that I have mental health issues. I learned to forgive and move on. Through building relationships with those who have been on, or continue to be on the same journey as I was, I learned that there was nothing for me to be ashamed of. Today I know that if I was in an environment where my mental health could be embraced and not repressed and shamed, things would have turned out differently. I guess I can now say I am proud to have mental health issues because it has made me resilient, strong, and a fighter. Characteristics I may not have developed, given a “normal” life. I stand proud with my mental health, do you?

Matt Anderson is a young adult whose focus is on supporting and advocating for youth and families of mental health. He is currently working in the peer support field.

 

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A Reflection After the Deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

June 15th, 2018

Silhouette of hands and the horizonby Rachel LaBrie

Recently, we all got the news that both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain died by suicide.

I feel a certain emptiness right now. But I also feel like I would like to speak more about my experience with suicide and spread a message.

I lost my best friend to suicide. She was the kindest, gentlest person you could ever meet. I remember the day she died, it felt like there was a black hole encapsulating me. I could barely talk, my tears would not stop. How could they? Losing her was like losing a part of myself.

In my lifetime, especially after losing my best friend, I contemplated suicide. A lot. It’s all I could think about. But for some reason, I knew my friend would be heartbroken for me to be with her so soon. I knew she needed me to carry on her legacy. So I did.

I became a peer. I became a voice for those who found it hard to speak. So here is a message I want everyone who reads this to remember.

It is not as easy as saying “reach out for help if you need it.” Sometimes, depression makes you isolated. It makes you disappear into the background, fall to the ground, and you feel you cannot get up. In my experience, in times like that, I needed someone to reach out to me, because I was incapable, or at least I thought I was incapable, of reaching out.

Ask a friend today how they are feeling. If they say “fine” or “okay” try and find out the truth behind those words. Sometimes the saddest of hearts hide behind a smile and “I’m fine” passing through their mouth. Sometimes, they need you to show you truly are reading the messages they need you to hear.

Rest in Peace, Anthony and Kate. Your legacies will carry on forever. Thank you for all you have done.

Rachel LaBrie is a young adult who has a passion for advocacy. They are currently working on writing a book of poetry about mental health.

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Anxious Mess: Thoughts of Someone with Social Anxiety

May 16th, 2018

personI often think of what it would be like if I went to a party like a lot of young adults my age do.

In every scenario I can imagine in my head, I see myself crying in the corner, hands covering my ears because it was too loud in the house where the party was taking place. I see myself having panic attack after panic attack because there are people I don’t know, and my social anxiety can be crippling if I am not used to a situation.

Most people don’t really think I have any real social anxiety. I’ve had people tell me “You are so social. How can you possibly have social anxiety?” I suppose that is because I don’t really go to new places alone, and people don’t get to see me try tons of new things. I’m always at a familiar place with familiar faces that I know and feel comfortable around. It hurts me when people say the things they do. There are lots of people who are social but have social anxiety. I am simply good at hiding my anxiety at this point in my life. However, a person telling me I can’t possibly be socially anxious makes me upset, but also angry and annoyed.

People keep urging me to go new places and try new things. And I’m trying. I really am trying so hard. But I am scared to death of “new.”

What if I have a meltdown in public? What if I fall to the floor screaming because I am terrified of my surroundings? And walking in the city? Any city? Never, not me. What if someone talks to me on the street that I don’t know and something bad happens?

These are just a few of the questions that go through my head when thinking about going to experience new places and meet new people. The scenes that play out in my head are one of a horror movie in which a young girl finds herself bombarded with scary people who don’t understand. A movie where a young girl is hated by a whole new group of people.

Next time you think someone doesn’t have social anxiety, you may want to reconsider. Everyone has demons. Everyone has something that terrifies them. And for me, it’s social interaction, among others, and it’s real.

By: Rachel LaBrie

Rachel is a young adult who hopes to someday be a peer mentor or a peer specialist.  They are currently working on writing and publishing a book of poetry.

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