DEALING WITH LONELINESS: THE LONELINESS CHRONICLES

Human connection is an essential need for survival. We will always crave a sense of belonging, and, because of this, when we cannot satisfy this need, a feeling of loneliness is inevitable.

Now, I hate to be a cliche, but a time where I felt the most alone was when my three-year relationship came to an end. My ex-partner was a kind person, but we weren’t good for each other. At that point in my life, any spare time I had was dedicated to my significant other, which meant that I neglected my relationships with friends, family, and myself. When we broke up, I had to face a harsh reality that I didn’t have much of a life beyond our relationship. So for the first time, in a long time, I was alone — and I was lonely.

I’ll spare you the details of a very long sob story, but going through this specific season of loneliness left me with a lot of life lessons that I feel compelled to share with my fellow vinas. Here’s what did and didn’t work for me:

WHAT DIDN’T HELP:

  1. Isolating Myself – Yeah, this one seems obvious, haha. If you’re feeling alone, isolation would be counterproductive. When I was feeling lonely, I thought my best bet was to “tough it out,” but this only validated the fear that I was alone and didn’t deserve love.
  2. Meaningless Hookups – I am all for recreational sex with whoever, whenever. What I don’t recommend is seeking physical relationships to fill the void caused by loneliness. This was my go-to M.O. every time I was craving intimacy, but temporary solutions don’t fix long-term problems. When I sought out partners for this purpose, I was always left feeling emptier than before.
  3. Alcohol – I went on a three-month-long bender of going out to the bars and clubs at any given opportunity. Translation, I was filling the void yet again, but this time with too much alcohol. Your objective of a fun evening out shouldn’t be to drink until you don’t feel anything anymore.

WHAT DOES HELP:

  1. Reaching Out – Initially, it was really hard to reach out to my loved ones. I felt that because I neglected our friendships that it would be insulting to try and lean on them for support. I’m glad that I didn’t listen to that voice for long because I would have missed out on some really great moments with my friends. These people provided me with the reassurance I needed the get out of the dark place I was in. In the long run, reconnecting with those I cared about has taught me to be a much better friend in return.
  2. Creating New Relationships – Alongside the rebuilding of my current relationships, I also made it a point to try and meet new people. It was extremely daunting to put myself out there, but it was a necessary step to self-healing. Also, shameless app plug, but that’s actually how I stumbled upon Hey! VINA! Nothing brings two vinas together more than a broken heart.
  3. Doing Things I Loved & Trying Out New Things – In my relationship, I neglected a lot of my personal hobbies that used to bring me a lot of joy. Now that I had more time for myself, I decided to pick them back up. I got back into reading, attending story slams, and traveling. It also gave me a chance to try out things that always wanted to do painting (I wasn’t very good at it). Filling up my calendar with things to do meant I didn’t have much time to dwell upon the loneliness. Which brings me to my next item:
  4. Being Kind to Myself – A lot of the loneliness I was feeling was fueled by negative self-talk, which is why it was unsettling to be by myself. I had to learn to change the narrative and replace my harsh words with affirming ones. This isn’t easy for anyone, but sentences like, “I am deserving of love” or “I have an amazing support system that cares for me” made all the difference.
  5. Embracing Solitude – Not to be confused with isolation, but it’s important to solidify your relationship with yourself. How you go about it will be different for everyone. For me, sometimes it meant taking days off to sit in bed and read or dedicate a day to pampering myself. Time to time, I’d make plans to travel and explore new cities with me, myself, and I. This opportunity for quietness, peace, and self-reflection lead to such clarity and self-growth. After all, being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely.

Unfortunately, loneliness doesn’t have an expiration date. You might have many periods of loneliness in your lifetime, but I hope that this list gives you some insight on how to tackle it. Just remember vinas, you may feel lonely, but you’re never alone.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and make new friends. Download the Hey! VINA app today to do so!

MENTAL HEALTH CHECK-IN

I don’t mind sharing the fact that I’ve been clinically diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression. Although I’ve managed my anxiety through medication along with removing things that make me anxious, I still battle depression on a regular basis. Some days I’m the stereotypical can’t-get-out-of-bed-to-adult-today type of depressed and other days I am the I-have-no-friends-and-everyone-is-married-but-me depressed. Either type of depressive feeling sucks! The one cliche that everyone notes is “you are not alone.”

It’s easy to feel alone when you’re facing your own battles and situations. Feeling lonely can make you depressed; being depressed can make you lonely. Unfortunately, our natural instinct is to meld one into the other. Loneliness is not the same as being alone. When you’re alone, there’s literally no one around. When you’re lonely, you’re experiencing a feeling. Regardless of how many people are around, you don’t feel as though you’re connecting with anyone. I have children, so it’s safe to say I’m never alone. However, I do feel lonely when I have no one to talk to about the unnecessary door slamming at 7 a.m.

I’m not a medical professional, and always recommend that you speak to a professional regarding your feelings of loneliness or depression. It’s the best thing you can do in the name of self-care. However, I’ll share what’s worked for me in overcoming my loneliness and depression.

WRITE IT OUT

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Journaling is a popular method for logging a lot of different things, from writing out things you want to manifest to jotting down your feelings throughout the day. Start simple. Use the Notes app on your phone to write down a feeling and the time. Later you can expand on how you felt in that moment and what was occurring. I’m big on technology and apps, and there is one app I highly recommend called MoodNotes (currently available on iOS) by a company called Thriveport. According to its website, “Thriveport’s mission is to create helpful, intuitive, and scientifically sound tools to improve people’s lives.” Try it out.

TRIGGERS

A huge way to analyze and get through a feeling of loneliness or depression is to learn and understand your triggers. If seeing a picture of a normal happy moment triggers a feeling of depression for you, you need to analyze why you reacted that way. One of the reasons it’s so important to keep track of how you feel through the day is to help you find the source of your feelings. Once you learn what triggers certain feelings, you’ll be better able to overcome moments of loneliness and depression. Being able to change your thought patterns around sadness will help you maintain a level of control. We often fall into mental traps by personalizing, blaming, catastrophizing, and so on. Sometimes re-thinking the situation to avoid these traps will help you see a way out.

YOU AREN’T ALONE (REALLY)

Two women on a dock.

The awesome thing that I’ve learned is that I’m really not alone. I’m unique. My situation may seem unique, but I am not alone. And neither are you. The Hey! VINA app shows that there are so many women out there who are looking for support, looking to have fun, and looking to make real connections. There are people that care about you. There are people that want to be around you. You are a good person, regardless of the decisions you’ve made that aren’t. Not everyone judges a book by its cover. You are loved, even if you may not know it yet.

Finding a support system can be a challenge when you’re in a slump where you feel like you don’t deserve one. Always remember, your support system starts with you. Put a smile on your face (Go ahead, I’ll wait. No I don’t care if it’s fake). Pull your shoulders back, and take control of your life and your emotions. You and only you have the power to reclaim your happiness and be everything you want to be.

And you deserve it. That and so much more.

Head over to Hey!VINA to find some genuine connections and start building your support system today.

TABOO TOPIC TUESDAY: MENTAL HEALTH

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to feel like you have to stay in bed for a couple extra hours when it’s rainy outside. It’s okay to seek help from a therapist, a friend, a parent, a teacher. It’s okay to not be okay. Let’s slash the stigma regarding mental health and remind ourselves that our brains matter!

Mental health and physical health are one and the same; If you’ve broken a leg, you’re not going to be able to participate in a 5k until it’s healed. If your brain is “broken”—or, just not working properly—it’s okay to sit this one out. So, why don’t we view these two in the same light? Why do we prioritize physical health?

Two years ago, I faced many debilitating fears that would not allow me to face my day with 100% ability. I had experienced intrusive thoughts that would constantly linger in my mind, despite trying to tell myself that they were completely irrational.

My mom provided me with a sense of solace when she told me, “If you think something bad is going to happen, it probably won’t happen. And if it does, you’ll at least be prepared and see it coming.” Though these words allowed me to breathe a little more deeply, I didn’t feel fully okay. That’s when I decided to seek help with a therapist. My mom is a social worker, so she was very supportive throughout this process, encouraging me to prioritize my mental health.

Talking to a therapist helped me get some of these weights off of my chest. It’s so special to have someone to vent to and to be completely honest with. After multiple sessions, my therapist decided it’d be a good idea for me to try a mild dosage of an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).

I started taking the lowest dosage of an SSRI last January, and it has helped me to see more clearly. It has put an end to my crippling anxiety, and I feel more like myself again.

Anxiety and depression are just as real and just as valid as a broken bone. We don’t make people with broken bones take on physical activities, so why should we make people with mental illnesses take on mental activities without seeking help first?

The bottom line is this: it’s okay to not be okay sometimes, but do yourself a favor and get help. It has made my life feel whole again. It could make yours feel the same.

Here at Hey! Vina we support taking mental health days to make sure each vina is reaching her fullest potential!

I HAVE A S.O. AND FRIENDS … WHY AM I STILL SO LONELY?

Loneliness is a bigger killer than obesity. Think about that for a second. More people die because of illnesses related to loneliness than obesity. That probably comes as a shock, especially if you consider the fact that we are living in a world that is more connected than ever before. But it is the kind of connection that matters. There is a big difference between having a virtual connection and having an actual human connection. We have reached a point where the average individual has more friends on Facebook, and more followers on Instagram and Twitter than ever before. But how many of those “friends” are actually your friends? With the ability to connect with pretty much anyone on the planet, why is it still so hard for us to make that deeper connection? Why do we engage in the virtual world but withdraw from the physical world?

It has become clear that loneliness does not come from a lack of humans around us, but rather a lack of quality interaction with those humans. And it turns out, it may be partly due to the global trend of people rejecting this interaction to “stay in and chill.” What this basically boils down to is that we are voluntarily becoming lonely! Psychology Today points to some possible reasons why such as depression, avoidance, anger, burnout, and reflection and re-centering. Let’s unpack.

DEPRESSION

The first possible cause of this disconnection and loneliness you feel is depression. If you tell yourself something enough times, your subconscious will eventually become convinced and accept it as a fact. The world has gone from mental illness being a complete taboo, to being high-fashion. We treat these illnesses as something we can self-diagnose, but the more you dwell on that initial feeling of sadness or loneliness, the more likely you are to actually become depressed.

AVOIDANCE

Another possible explanation is being in a state of avoidance. The more you avoid people, the more people will avoid you. And the more comfortable you become avoiding people, the easier it will be to avoid the issues that caused this cycle in the first place. We are so used to chatting online that it makes having a conversation in real life seem like torture. It’s almost like we are losing the basic ability to interact with each other. We put in our headphones, use self checkout lanes at the grocery store, order things online, choose a seat that is farthest from anyone else in the room, and abandon a fundamental part of our human nature: human connection. I for one, would much rather engage in a group chat than actually go out and talk to those same people in person. And it’s become so easy too. Staying home alone has almost become a preference for us as a society, and the funny thing is, we endorse it. #Homealone has 1.7 million posts on Instagram, #alone has 16.1 million posts, and #withmyfriends has a minuscule 279k posts.

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ANGER

You may be angry. People will often times give you advice to “just ignore it,” but in reality, most of us have a pretty hard time ignoring something that truly upsets us. That is why when you search Google for “how to let it go,” 2.9 billion hits come up.  Everyone has something they’re dealing with, and letting it go is simply not as easy as “just ignore it.”  If you can vocalize it, do it in a healthy way.  Holding on to anger evolves into much bigger issues.

BURNOUT

Let’s face it, we are a tired species. Most of us are on the clock from the moment we wake up whether that means getting your kids to school, heading to your 8am Psychology class, finishing up that big project your boss is waiting on, or simply carrying out day to day tasks in the upkeep of your overall life. We are always busy, which kind of means we are always tired. Our minds are constantly working, and when we get to that point where we feel completely spent, the last thing we want to do is entertain people, hang out, or even be entertained. This leads to choosing to be #homealone, and eventually being lonely rather than making the effort to find those connections that will give us a sense of community and fulfillment.

REFLECTION AND RE-CENTERING

This step comes at a time when we begin to renew ourselves and possibly change perspectives. A time when we take a good hard look at our current state of mind, and make the necessary changes according to what is right for our own well-being. During this time we may start to feel disconnected from what used to feel familiar, or what should feel familiar. A lot of the time we look inward for answers, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can represent a turning point of inner growth. We just have to understand that we cannot stay in that place forever. In order to truly continue to grow, we have to look outside of ourselves and our own perspectives, and engage in the world around us. And yes, that means the people around us too!

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If you think about it, it is easier to remain broken than it is to be renewed. Someone who is broken doesn’t have to put the energy into living up to a certain standard, when the only standard they hold for themselves is survival. Much like a broken toy, they welcome rust and obey deterioration, and nobody really expects anything more from them anyway. So why would they want to change? Remember your worth and the importance of sharing it with others. You never know who might need that connection just as much as you do.

Is this the story of your life? Download Hey! VINA now to break the vicious cycle and reconnect with the real world. We are on a mission to put an end to loneliness. Swipe, join communities and make plans–it just starts with one match!

 

THREE MONTHS, THREE DEATHS AND A PHONE CALL

So, I’m back from my three-month hiatus and all I can say is it’s been rough. I decided that this will be my first piece I write because not only will it bring some sort of final closure to probably the hardest three months of my life, but I also wanted to give someone out there who might need it a little bit of hope and a guarantee that there is light at the end of any tunnel. Every pit has a way out. We just have to stay calm and try to find it.

CHAPTER ONE: THE DEATH OF A DREAM

On Friday, July 13, 2018, I was told that the dream that I had to become a candidate attorney will have to wait a little while longer while I finish my degree. You see, this is a problem for me because I had already accepted the job—not knowing that there was one tiny prerequisite that I do not have. I did not pass matric (final year of high school in South Africa) with a full exemption, and the conditional age exemption my university offered does not qualify as a full exemption. I was devastated. I was crushed. I had had this whole thing planned out. I had had a lifetime of dreams poured into this decision and all of a sudden, because of something that I did 15 years ago, I couldn’t get it. I had worked so hard to get halfway there and now all I am is disappointed. I was so mad. I mean, why does everybody else get to live their dream and I don’t? (I don’t know who this “everybody” is I was referring to since everyone I know has had their dreams crushed at some point or another). I had told everyone of my great news and now I have to tell them that it didn’t happen and then deal with all the questions and recommendations. I was just not ready to deal with all of it. So I told no one and kept a brave face for the weekend.

CHAPTER TWO: THE DEATH OF AN ALCOHOLIC

On that same day, we were traveling to a far-away land to the funeral of a man who lived most of his entire life as an active alcoholic. Every cent he has ever earned contributed to his addiction. Why this is important is because this man was also an excellent handicraftsman and a brilliant student who, in his time, obtained top honors for the best language student in the country.  That is spectacular. The importance of this story is that I resented him. I resented him for being so brilliant and yet wasting all that brilliance on an addiction. If I could have had but a fraction of it, I wouldn’t have to fight so hard. I was angry. I was mad. Why does he die with his talents and I must live without any? (I know, I know, but stay with me). I knew it sounded ridiculous, so I told no one. I kept it to myself and put a brave face on.

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CHAPTER THREE: THE DEATH OF MY BABY SAUSAGE DOGGY, JUICY

On that Sunday, on our way back, we received a phone call from my brother who had been house sitting for us that Juice had died. At first, we thought that he had been run over since he was an excellent escape artist. A report from the vet later revealed that he was not run over by a vehicle but rather died peacefully in his sleep. It was a relief. At least it was not painful for him. He had only just turned 2 years old. I knew I didn’t have forever with him, but I didn’t expect to only have two years with them. It took me a long time to be able to talk about it. This kind of pain is different to the kind of pain I am used to. I knew there would be very few people who would understand what I was feeling and once again, kept it to myself and white-knuckled through it on my own. I told no one about how I really felt.  I didn’t deal with it and brave-faced myself through it. I had him cremated and still have not pulled together enough courage to fetch the ashes. I have, however, made a conscious decision that I will have to pick him up at some point. I suppose that is progress.

CHAPTER FOUR: THE PHONE CALL

On September 5, 2018, I received a phone call from Lora Levison, VINAZINE’s Community Manager. We spoke about the above and a few other things. As we spoke, I realized that I have actually been shutting myself off from the world. That nobody really knew the actual pain that I was going through and that by not using VINAZINE as a platform to deal with my emotions, that I was actually just making it worse. While we spoke, I told her that I feel disconnected and that I would have to make a big decision pertaining to my field of study.  She told me, and I will never forget it, to make the decision and to tell her and to remember that I am not alone. That I have this big support system of vinas who are ready to get me through whatever I was going through.

CHAPTER FIVE: HEALING

I knew I had to do something to get my mojojo back. That next morning, I made my decision. I sent her the message and I went for a run for the first time in a long time.  Little by little, I started to take control. I still couldn’t write about anything because everything was still extremely overwhelming. I celebrated my 33rd birthday with family and friends recently and I think that extra year made a big difference. I’ve been exercising more regularly, getting back into my regular running routine, which is excellent for the healing process. I think a lot of my spiritual injuries limited my physical capabilities and, in a way, stretching my physical limitations created a shift spiritually to the point where I am now able to talk about it without feeling completely broken. I’m not perfect yet, and still very far from where I would like to be.  But I’m doing what I love again and that makes me feel extra good.

In conclusion, it’s important to note that had it not been for a few special people in my life, I would not have been able to start living again. My career is still not where I would consider it to be perfect, but it has taken a step forward. I still have a lot to do before I am 100% back on track again. The most important lesson I’ve learnt through out this experience is to deal with things as and when they happen. Life is not perfect and it will never be. Stuff will always happen and we will always have to fight a battle at some stage. To know that you are not alone is essential. And to get back up as soon as possible is key. Staying down never won anybody any trophies. Realize that there is a problem, talk about it for as long as you need to—even if it hurts and even if it feels like people are getting tired of hearing about it. They need you too, so don’t feel bad. And lastly, actively make a conscious decision to work on yourself—regardless of how you might be feeling at the time. After all, the best person to learn from is yourself.

No matter what you’re going through in life, there are vinas who are waiting for you and have your back. Download the app today. 

DEPRESSED OR JUST STRESSED?

The first thing you need to know about depression is this: it is so OK to be depressed and you are not abnormal or crazy if you are depressed. According to the ADAA, “in 2015 around 16.1 million adults aged 18 years or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year. That represents 6.7 percent of all American adults.”

So if you do find yourself thinking you might be showing signs of depression and may need to seek treatment, don’t put it off or convince yourself you don’t need it. So often, people are embarrassed or unwilling to admit that they have a mental disorder because they think that it automatically separates them from “normal” people or somehow changes the premise of their entire life. What happens then is that person sinks deeper and deeper into a state of depression trying to fight their own mind, all the while showing more and more signs of the original underlying depression. Trying to mask these initial feelings will likely end up in avoiding social situations, sleeping too much or calling in sick often or using alcohol or any substance abuse as a distraction. All of these are actually some of the most common signs of depression.

One of the most challenging factors about clinical depression is that it mimics the symptoms of other less concerning issues. In the same way that anxiety and panic attacks can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack or other cardiovascular complications, depression can have the same effects as a strenuous lifestyle.

Here’s how to tell the difference:

If you no longer have time in your daily schedule to enjoy hobbies, social activities, or just “me time” in general, it’s probably time to sit down and take a look at your schedule. It might be too full, causing you to be stressed. If you find yourself no longer having the desire to do anything fun or even anything at all, (i.e. eat, shower, talk on the phone, or even watching TV) then this is a sign that you could be depressed.

If you notice yourself being extra tired at night, not getting a good amount of uninterrupted sleep, or sleeping late, take a look at your daily life. Are you always on the go, running from here to there with your mind constantly racing? Stressed.

Are you spending more time on the couch, eating lots of empty carbs, sugar, and saturated fats? Are you regularly worrying about anything and everything and end up doing nothing because you don’t even know where to begin? Depressed.

Both stress and depression can cause you to become physically drained and interrupt your REM cycle, but the root problems should be addressed differently.

There is a definitive line between being overworked physically and overworked emotionally, but that line is just as easily blurred. The thing is, the solution is different for everyone. So don’t automatically assume that you’re going to be on a medication regime the second you reach out for help. In some cases just talking things out with a professional makes a world of difference and can also improve your mental health and wellness. However, stress should not be minimized. Putting a strain on your body both physically and mentally can have serious long-term effects.

Among other remedies are lifestyle changes such as improving your eating habits, increasing your amount of physical exercise, or taking up a new personal hobby. (Especially one that connects you to the earth, like gardening or adopting a pet/volunteering at a shelter, can change your mood and overall outlook on life.)

There are also many herbal treatments that have proven great success for individuals diagnosed with depression. Ask your doctor to look into homeopathic and other natural remedies, or make an appointment with a naturopathic specialist.

Whether you have taken on a little too much in your personal, educational, or professional life or have a deeper emotional issue that needs healing, there is a fix for you. That is why it is essential to make yourself, and your healing, a priority to find that unique fix. What works for one person might be totally different for the next. Be well, vinas!

Surround yourself with vinas who support your healing journey by swiping left!

THIS IS MY STORY: LIVING WITH DEPRESSION AND SEVERE ANXIETY

It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but there are almost no days where I don’t wake up or go to bed feeling utterly and hopelessly overwhelmed. The feelings can present themselves in different ways, but the root is always the same; have I done enough? Am I ever going to feel like I’ve done enough and how can I get more done? What does the future hold and have I properly prepared for it? Have I done all that I can for those I love, for my coworkers, for the world?! I imagine that it was something similar for Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain.

I think I’ve suffered with depression and severe anxiety since I was 9 or 10 years old. I first sought help when I was a sophomore in high school, but because of a lack of resources, we were told that my condition wasn’t dire enough to warrant getting therapy at that time. The circumstances did eventually become dire a year or two later when I swallowed a bunch of pills. I’m not sure why, but I told a friend and she immediately took me to the nurse’s office. I was sent to a crisis center where they determined that I was at low risk for harming myself again and sent me home with my mother. At this point, therapy became mandatory for a year. I finished therapy and got better, then I went to college and relapsed a bit. My university was a blessing since it had mental health staff on site. I received therapy once a week and for the first time, saw a psychiatrist. I was prescribed Xanax for daily anxiety medication needed for my panic attacks.

With age comes the ability to gain hindsight and wisdom. Now I can say that I’ve always been a highly functioning depressed person. While most people can’t get day-to-day tasks down when depressed, I can now do those and more. Maybe it’s my way of seeking approval… approval from who, you may ask?

There was a time when I focused on receiving my parents’ approval. It was my way of proving that I was worthy of attention. While my parents were always around, they were absent. Early childhood was a back and forth. I describe it to friends now as the best/ worst childhood ever.

It’s true, my brother and I were highly praised and I don’t think I’ve ever doubted that I was loved. I just wasn’t sure that I was seen. Even now, sometimes I feel invisible. That has never gone away. My parents had what would be called a tumultuous relationship. I have no doubt in my mind that they loved each other, probably still love each other, but they didn’t know how to properly convey that love. There was screaming, yelling, hitting, drinking, and—unbeknownst to me in my childish eyes—drugging, and so much more.

We were never left alone, but you can say that at times, it felt lonely. My parents would go on to spend almost my entire lifetime on and off with each other until I was 28 or 29. I’m 31 now.

When I was 9 or 10, that was the turning point for me in which I became super anxious. My parents had a physical altercation and I spent the next few years thinking that one day, I’d come home and my mother would be dead. I remember really loving the song “Love is Blind” by Eve because it was a glimpse into my life.

Nonetheless, being highly functional kept me away from it all. I’d be anxious, but at least I wouldn’t be in the middle of everything. In high school, I think we were homeless once or twice and that added to my anxiety.

I said that with age comes wisdom and after seeing so much, it was easy for me to determine that my parents didn’t need to be together. Times were better for my mother, brother and I when my dad wasn’t around. I didn’t have to live in fear of what I’d come home to. My mom was there both physically and emotionally. Sophomore year when I swallowed those pills, it was after my dad had come back into our lives. While the physically violent nature of their relationship was better, the emotional abuse continued. I wanted out: I wanted off the roller coaster ride of fear, anxiety and invisibility.

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I imagine that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain felt what I feel a lot, being included but not connected. I felt like I was never doing enough, like I was invisible to those most important. That the fear, anxiety and invisibility are unshakeable.

In the years since those dark times, I’ve been able to get off of medication, but the depression and anxiety are still there. What I want people to understand is that by no means do I think my life is lacking or not enjoyable. Most times when I think about it, I really am happy. The problem is, my mind doesn’t turn off and it’s not something that I’m in control of. I’m constantly thinking about the future and how I can become a better person. Please make no mistake, that is what this is, feeling like you’re constantly disturbing others.

I don’t think I’ve ever talked about all this in it’s entirety, but in light of recent events, I wanted to share my story. Anxiety and depression are hard. Our minds are powerful tools and we can fall victim to our insecurities or even our own good intentions. Money, large families, nice clothes and great shoes do not solve the tricks of the mind. If you see someone succumbing to the recesses of depression and anxiety, reach out. Listen to them. Force them to talk. Remind them that they are not a burden. They need help to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you need a vina to talk to, reach out here. Also, if you live in the U.S., someone is always there to talk to you at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

🙅WHAT NOT TO SAY TO YOUR FRIENDS WITH DEPRESSION OR ANXIETY 🙅

Did you know that millions of American adults are affected by depression and anxiety? Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. These disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including but not limited to, life experiences, brain chemistry, and genetics.

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you’ve heard the crap people have said to you regarding your mental health. This post, however, is for the well-intentioned vinas who don’t have depression or anxiety and are trying to support their sisters who do. Here are some things not to say to fellow vinas with depression or anxiety.

“Just be happy!”

Depression and anxiety aren’t a choice, so your vina isn’t choosing to be sad or nervous or anxious or listless or ANYTHING. This is like telling a paralyzed person, “Just get up and walk.” The inability to cheer up or smile or chill out is an integral part of the anxiety or depression your vina is suffering from.

“Just relax.”

For most vinas with anxiety, telling them to relax is about the most unhelpful thing you could say. Period. Because at times, we literally. cannot. relax. No matter how hard we try or how much you tell us to.

“Everything will be fine.” 

lucille-portable

This might sound like a helpful statement, but to someone who suffers from depression and/or anxiety, this feels like a dismissal. Try and tread lightly – don’t dismiss her issues by telling her it will all be okay. Listen, and talk through it!

“You’re overreacting.” “This isn’t that big of a deal.” “Why are you so sensitive?!”

Regardless of their mental health, does anyone like to be told they’re overreacting? No. So stop telling us we’re overreacting.

And hearing something isn’t a big deal doesn’t actually stop it from being a big deal to your vina. It’s a part of her having depression and anxiety. Again, do your best to not minimize the struggles of others. Try and be empathetic, especially if you don’t suffer from anxiety or depression.

“Get a job/change your clothes/go to the gym/insert wellness tip here.” 

Perhaps try to be more helpful than just telling your vina to do or to not do something. Please and thanks! Part of what her anxiety or depression likely entails is a crippling fear of the unknown or a fear to starting new things or a fear of failure or any combination of these things. Be empathetic, and try to help your vina take the baby steps she wants to take. Don’t prescribe a cure for her.

“There are some people that have it a lot worse than you.”

Repeat after me: I will not minimize my vina’s experiences in any way, shape, or form. Everyone has unique experiences, including you and your vina. Sure, some people may have it worse, but nothing feels more like, “I’m not listening to you, and I don’t really care about your problems” than the above statement. It’s all about empathy, vinas!

Share tips on how you stay a supportive friend on the Hey! VINA app

(Featured image via pbteen.com)

TABOO TOPIC TUESDAY: DEPRESSION

This is Taboo Topic Tuesday, a weekly series that tackles a “taboo” subject and gives tips on how to talk about it with your vinas (sans judgement). Have an idea for a topic? Tweet us @ilikevina using the hashtag #TalkingTaboos, and we’ll get talkin’!

Getting close to someone faces many challenges, one of which can be disclosing if you’re dealing with a mental illness. For me, having depression is not something I frequently openly discuss, however once I feel comfortable enough with a new vina, I think it’s an important part of me to share. Plus talking about depression is the best way to realize you’re not alone in your struggle. Opening up the conversation with your friends may bring you closer to someone similarly struggling.

From my personal experience struggling with this illness, one key tactic for managing depression can be opening up to your vinas, your partner, or other supporters in your social circle (besides getting professional help, of course).  We all know by now that vulnerability is the thing that can bring you closest to your vinas, and part of being vulnerable is opening up about life’s difficulties. Remember that you are not alone in this.

In addition to bringing you closer to your vinas, reaching out to your community can have amazing mental health benefits. Helping dissolve feelings of loneliness, discouraging long periods of unhealthy isolation, and encouraging yourself to be social and active are just some of the few positives. Remember, seeking support from your community and/or mental health professionals is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength. Self care is THE most important thing, so please don’t forget to love yourself and to always take care of yourself.

Have a friend struggling with depression? Keep in mind that it’s not your job to “fix” or “save” them, but rather offer acceptance, compassion, and understanding. Emotional support, a hug, and letting them know they’re going to be okay will go a long way in the route to recovery.

Do you have any additional advice for how to make these conversations easier? Tell us in the comments! Don’t forget to tweet us your ideas for a future Taboo Topic and participate by using the hashtag #TalkingTaboos. 

(Feature illustration by Emma Olswing)