Mental Illness and Invisible Illness

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This is the last video in this series where I talk about Youtube videos that have inspired me.  Once again, this is a video from Simon and Martina’s channel, a couple who vlog about their life in Asia.  Martina suffers from a chronic illness called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects her connective tissues and causes her joints to loosen.  In this video, her husband Simon talks about her struggles dealing with chronic pain even though she looks perfectly healthy from the outside.  This is what is described as an “invisible illness.”  Examples of this form of illness include lupus, multiple sclerosis, migraines, and of course, what I have, anxiety and depression.  Lastly, Simon goes on to talk about how Martina often can’t stand too long on the subway and has to sit in the priority seating.  She felt immense guilt because “outwardly” she didn’t look like someone that needed them.

I had never really heard of the term “invisible illness” before, but connected to some of the feelings that Simon shared about Martina in the video.  Before I started to “come out” about my mental illness, I felt almost like an undercover agent.  I thought that since my illness was “invisible” in some ways, I hid it from everyone except close family and friends.  In fact, at that time, I thought it was an asset, because I wasn’t ready to deal with the stigma.  However, over time, it became a burden because one lie (ex. I have a eye doctor appointment, when I really had a psychiatry appointment) often led to more.  Moreover, let’s not forget the shame that comes along with any sort of dishonesty.

I also connected with her guilt of having to “take that priority seat” because of her illness.  In my life, I have also chosen to work part-time and often don’t take on extra responsibilities at work due to the extra stress.  This usually leads me think that my co-workers must think I’m lazy.  I really want to tell them though that I am working at 100%, just to stay working despite my mental illness.  Over the years, telling others my condition has helped me alleviate some of this guilt.  However, you really don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want though.  Instead, I want to tell others not to judge someone so quickly, as oftentimes, you have no idea what might be hiding behind their smile.


What if There Was a Cure?

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What if there was a cure for mental illness?  Would you take it?

Another Youtube video and another reflection from me.  This time it is a video from Molly Burke, who is a Youtuber that makes videos about her life as a blind person.  As you watch her videos, you will be amazed at her strength, confidence, and tenacity.  Recently, as her channel as grown, she has been inundated with recommendations of how she could heal her retinitis pigmentosa.  Her response was surprising, but yet relatable to me.  She didn’t feel her disability hindered her in anyway and she wasn’t looking for a cure.  Furthermore, she felt that even if she did regain her sight, would her life then be perfect?  She didn’t necessarily think so.  In fact, she thought there might be new problems that will surface.

Wow!  After watching this video, I just had so many thoughts coming at me from different directions.

A cure!  How can anyone say no?

Would my life be really that much different?

I understand the mental exhaustion she must have gone through trying different remedies to no avail.  After a while, I think it must be easier to just choose to accept it than continue searching for an unknown cure.  As someone with anxiety and depression, I have also been offered advice about supplements and other types of remedies.  Some of them have been helpful and some of them not so much.  However, I am always grateful and touched when people try to help me.

So would I take the cure?  I don’t know.  Even thinking about it for the last few days, I still don’t have an answer.  Having a mental illness has given me a mission to stop the stigma surrounding it, but it has also made me unable to function in my daily life at its worst.  It has allowed to empathize and not easily judge others with mental illness, but has stopped me from doing some things in my life.  It has allowed me to slow down and learn to balance my everyday life, but has made me so stressed sometimes I want to cry.

I feel like I am torn between two camps of thought.  Mental illness has brought me to where I am today and the life I have now with both its positives and negatives.  If it is gone tomorrow, will my life be a million times better?  No one knows.  Will this blog no longer exist then?  That is part of the dilemma.  However, if it came down to someone handing me the cure tomorrow and saying it would work for sure.  I think it would be mighty hard to resist.  To be a guinea pig for multiple trial treatments though, I don’t think I would want to be a part of that.  Life is too short for that.

The Sun Will Always Rise

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“How you feel at your worst is not how you are always going to always feel.” — John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars

You may all know John Green from his book The Fault in our Stars, but I know him as one half of the Youtube channel, vlogbrothers.  He recently posted a video about visiting Venice after not being there for a few years.  He talked about how sick he was the last time he went, and how much he enjoyed it this time.  Then, he ended the video with the quote above.  As a fellow mental illness patient (he suffers from OCD), I often find solace in his videos.  Somehow, seeing him doing ok, makes me feel like I’m going to be alright somehow.

Do you ever find hope by watching other people’s stories?  At my sickest, I remember endlessly Googling for mental illness recovery stories.  Even though at that time, I just couldn’t fathom recovery actually happening to me.  Each recovery story gave me a glimmer of hope and made me think maybe this feeling of hopelessness wouldn’t last forever.  I hope this post will do so for those that they are enveloped in darkness presently.

Last year, around this time, I was not well to say the least.  All I could muster was brushing my teeth and just sitting at my desk for hours just watching Youtube.  I had decided to go back on medication again, and the first few weeks of adjusting to it was worst then the illness sometimes.  Fast-forward one year later, I am sitting at the same desk, still watching Youtube, but today, I am smiling, the sun is shining outside, and I am writing this blogpost.

How you feel at your worst is not how you are always going to always feel.

There is always hope.  Things will get better.  The sun will always rise and most importantly, there will always be a reason to live.

Feeling Sad Sometimes

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As I mentioned last week, I am going to continue to write about some Youtube videos that have inspired me.  Surprisingly, this week is a video from a beauty guru named Nic Chapman from her channel called Pixiwoo.  Although, perhaps it is not that surprising since behind every seemingly perfect life, is a human being.  In the video, she reveals that she has been suffering from multiple sclerosis for the last few years.  During the video, she talks about how she found out and how she maintains her health.  She also talks about hoping to help others by sharing her story.

"I don't know why I am crying"

Like others that have shared their personal stories on Youtube, I admired her courage, but more than that I connected to many of the emotions she had throughout the video.  When she began talking, she started crying and said "I don't even know why I am crying because I don't even feel sorry for myself because I live with it and I am totally fine."  Then, she continues to talk about how she has already shed all her tears and just wanted to get on with life and didn't want others to feel sorry for her anymore.

Throughout watching the video, my gut reaction was that I wanted to tell her that it was ok to cry sometimes.  It is sad to think that the life that you dreamed for yourself might not happen and grief is normal for anyone dealing with chronic illness.  However, I feel we don't often talk about what happens after the stages of grief.  Is it still ok to feel sad after you have accepted it?

"I don't cry about it because that's life"

Do I still cry about my mental illness?  Of course.  Have I accepted it?  Yes.  Like she said, "this was the card I was dealt and I live with it."  Since I can't change it, if I dwell on it, it will only continue to make me unhappy.  Like her, I don't really try to focus on the limitations my illness brings me.  Similarly, I also can't even remember the last time I have cried talking about it.   However, I think it doesn't mean you can't cry about it sometimes.  Having a chronic illness is devastating and sad, and you realize that things will never be the same again.  You will have new dreams, but being sad or regretful about things that didn't work out is about being "just human."

Pushing Through

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Depression can be lonely.  Not only because you feel like you are trapped inside your mind, but because it seems like no one else understands.  During my first bout of depression, I remembered feeling so afraid because I simply didn’t know anyone that had it.  More importantly, I didn’t know anyone that had recovered.  Somehow, I thought if I even knew one person that made it out of this darkness, it would give me hope.  Fast forward to today, and I actually know people that have shared their mental health stories with me.  Furthermore, even though the internet has been the springboard for some horrific things in the world, it has also been a saviour for many who realize that they are not alone.  Every story shared adds to the pool of ammunition against the stigma against mental illness.

In the next few blogposts, I thought I’d continue to share some Youtube videos that have inspired me and also made feel like less alone.  The first video I wanted to share is from Simon and Martina’s Youtube channel.  They are a couple from Canada who produce videos about living in Asia.  Martina suffers from chronic pain, and in this video below she shares her personal battle with chronic depression.  Her brush with suicide has allowed her to value the things she would have missed if she had succeeded.  It has allowed her to understand that she should live life to the fullness and make memories she will never forget.

I connected with this video a lot because as someone with anxiety I am constantly evaluating everything I do.  Will this make me super anxious?  Am I doing too much?  I don’t know if I have the courage to go all out to attempt things that may make me terribly sick, but I understand her train of thought.  If I am going to be sitting around being miserable, why not just go for it sometimes?  Make those memories that you will never regret.

This month, I really felt I made some great memories even though I was not feeling completely balanced and well all the time.  Was it worth it?  For sure.  I had some relatives visit from out of town all last month.  We went out almost everyday going to different places and experiencing different things.  For someone that has anxiety, you can’t believe how hard this can be.  I thrive on routine and not knowing exactly what was going to happen the next day was hard.  I did take a couple of days off here and there, but I pretty much showed up for everything.  As the days passed, it actually got easier.  As always, the only way to conquer your fears is to face them head-on.  Only when we push through them to we find that we are more capable than we think.