little inconveniences

Drip drop, drip drop.

I’ve heard it a million times from a million people before.

“Oh, there it is again, the stupid sink dripping water all night long, waking me up in the middle of the night, keeping me where I can’t sleep. I’ll ask him to fix it but he’ll probably forget, or when he does fix it the next thing will pop up, probably on my way to work–it’ll be the engine, but when I get to work it’ll be my phone or when I get home from work it will be the big, loud fat drops of water dripping from the ceiling onto the kitchen table–or is it the sink again?”

Drip drop, drip drop.

Every day something new pops up–a new inconvenience to my ordinarily smooth-sailing life, a new form of drip drop, drip drop, drip drop like the incessant noise all night long from the sink, slowly letting one drop hit the bottom before the next one crashes out, staying with me all night long, echoing in the back of my mind.

I think about how that little inconvenience feels so huge–how that little inconvenience, all those little inconveniences daily, add up to a life riddled with inconveniences of the smallest scale. The person who doesn’t go immediately at a green light. The 30 seconds too long I popped the popcorn. The glass bottle I dropped and shattered and now have to clean up. I’m constantly inconvenienced.

But then, I think of what I could be hearing: that barely-there whisper of the drip drop, drip drop, drip drop, except this time it isn’t the sink slowly letting out water on to the drain, but the IV bag slowly, carefully, measurably dripping poison into my veins. It’s the IV bag keeping me alive, resisting desiccation, or tumor growth, or infection. An inconvenience so large that I must rely on it to live–suddenly, I think of all those other inconveniences–the broken phone, broken engine, broken roof, broken glass, broken house, and suddenly they all become overwhelmingly insignificant compared to the prospect of a broken body, a broken soul.

I’ll be thankful for my little inconveniences every day.

mentality

There’s an epidemic coursing through America, silently capturing the lives of many people. It leaves them internally harmed and demoralized. It is stigmatized, looked down upon, and often viewed as unacceptable. I am personally responsible for contributing to the growth of this problem. But sometimes, life has a way of exposing you to situations and people that will dramatically change your perspective. This happened to me, and I feel obliged to correct my previous ways by being a voice for those experiencing this silent killer.  We can treat it with awareness, compassion, and support. I boldly stand behind the notion that these illnesses are real problems that need real solutions. I want to be a part of a system and country that seeks to address awareness and answers. I refuse to continue being a part of the problem. There’s an epidemic coursing through America, and it’s called depression and anxiety.

As an aspiring physician, I hope to treat patients holistically and with a purely patient-centered focus one day. I am particularly interested in heart diseases. Who knows what type of physician I will become, but I find it fascinating the heart is uniquely connected to other body systems and plays a fundamental role in regulating normal functions. If a patient presented to me with symptoms of cardiovascular disease, I would certainly identify the origin of the problem and seek to address it with a canon of treatment options. It would be absurd to think that physicians would allow their patients to carry around undisclosed symptoms due to fear. If a patient came to me and failed to mention severe chest pain, it would greatly alter the course of treatment and would likely lead to poor outcomes for that patient. Why is it then, when a patient presents with a mental disorder they often feel restricted or discouraged to tell their family members and physicians? Like our hearts, kidneys, lungs, and immune system, alterations in the mind can lead to a “sick” mental state as well. These problems are real. I was someone who paid little attention to mental disorders before this summer. I don’t really know why there was a disconnect for me, but I do know that I wasn’t convinced that mental disorders were real. It gives me great shame to say that. We as individuals, communities, and a country must seek to understand the needs of patients with mental disorders and try to alleviate the deeply rooted stigmas these individuals are faced with.

From a humanistic standpoint, I previously thought anxiety and depression could be controlled and cured by an individual person. A lack of willpower, I suppose, would cause a person to suffer from chronic mental illness. I am revealing these very derogatory  ways of previously thinking to illustrate what I believe to be a common theme throughout American opinion; however, from a purely scientific standpoint, a chemical imbalance in the mind cannot be controlled by individuals. Chemicals, specifically these types called neurotransmitters, control so many of our regular processes in the mind and ultimately throughout the rest of our bodies. A deficiency or over-production of certain neurotransmitters can wreak havoc on a person’s homeostatic levels of these chemicals and can lead to subsequent pathway activation or inhibition. I am not a brain biochemist, and I’m certainly not claiming to be one, but I can at least attest to the fact that the brain is infinitely complex and chemical imbalance theory likely plays a significant role in depression and anxiety. This means that in combination with other factors, chemical imbalance is a problem that people cannot control. Neuroscientists across the United States and world are working tirelessly to understand the basic mechanisms of depression and anxiety to hopefully develop better treatments and cures (insert: future blog post on the necessity of basic scientists vs. clinical and translational researchers). Furthermore, we can do something as non-scientists and as friends, family members, and individuals that interact with people who have mental disorders on a daily basis.

I propose a few key points.

The first: Let’s stop stigmatizing people who struggle with chronic illnesses of the mind. My initial point was the synonymity between cardiac diseases and mental disorders. Maybe this is hard for some people to understand (as it once was for me), but these are both simply problems that happen to the human body. I had trouble even typing the words “mental disorder” because the word disorder has such strong negative connotations surrounding it. The main reason I chose to use that term, though, is that I would not hesitate to write heart disorder or kidney disorder. In order to eliminate the stigma associated with depression and anxiety, we must treat them as we would treat any other human illness: as just that. It is a disorder. One that we must fight to normalize and identify. Mental disorders happen, and they will continue to do so as long as our brains hold the ability to change (which they will continue to do so). So let’s work hard to make these individuals feel less like outcasts in the world and accept them for being just like we all are: highly imperfect and flawed.

The second: Anxiety and depression affect a combined 25.1 million people in the United States (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). That’s a lot of people. It is very likely that you will encounter someone who struggles with these illnesses at some point in your life, probably daily. I suppose that these people look as if they have no struggle, they likely speak positively, and may even deny any kind of illness. Instead of trying to identify every person with a mental disorder, let’s seek to create a welcoming environment for someone who may need to talk about their mental struggles. Let’s become a more openhearted community and country and invite these special people to share what they’re going through. Much like a person with the threat of a stroke should let their family and friends know, we must be able to accept the responsibility of trust from these people. I desire to be a comforting hand, listening ear, and unbiased friend to anyone who needs to talk about what is happening with their mind. We can all be these types of people.

The third, and the last: If you find yourself struggling with a mental disorder, please know that it is okay. Someone with heart disease would have their health compromised if they felt the need to hide it from others as well. The best way we are going to solve this problem is if we have people come forward to be ambassadors for change. Mental illnesses are real. We all experience them at some point in our lives, maybe temporarily or perhaps chronically. Know that what you are experiencing is okay and be open to reaching out and talking with someone. We can all spread awareness, and we can all push for ending the epidemic that harms so many lives each year.

As a future physician, I pledge to create a welcoming environment for my patients to tell me about these things. I will seek to treat a patient holistically, including issues of the mind. Until I am a doctor, I will be a friend to those who need me, pray for those who are struggling, and try to spread awareness of the highly stigmatized illnesses of depression and anxiety. Our friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, pastors, professors, aunts, colleagues, and the world need us to band together and fight to end this epidemic.

 

a post about ANXIETY

I am not afraid of spiders, snakes, or heights. I am not afraid of masks, or strangers, or wasps. You can throw any arachnid or insect at me and I might jump, but I will not experience fear. My most threatening and prevalent fear is the fear of failure. The fear of inadequacy, the fear of mediocrity, the fear of settling. The fear of not reaching my goals, the fear of not being enough. Those fears, to me, are towers and skyscrapers compared to the fear of an insect or an airplane flight. I have big aspirations for myself (I want to be a physician), and with these great demands and expectations from myself comes that great ever-known fiend of anxiety. I think its safe and acceptable to say that everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their life. I am blessed to say I do not get entangled in anxiety very often, but when I do, it kills my typically optimistic attitude and really makes me feel just blah. Last night and today was just one of those days. SO, as I battled that internal struggle in my mind, I thought of some ways that I choose to deal with my anxiety and stress. Knowing that so many people experience these inconveniences and struggles, I wanted to share my little tips with you guys 🙂

EIGHT TIPS TO KILL ANXIETY AND CULTIVATE INNER PEACE

  1. breathe. Relax. Inhale in, exhale out. Close your eyes. Breathe. You are alive, breathing, and functioning. Sometimes I spend longggg moments just taking deep, refreshing breaths. This is a great way to remove yourself from the web of anxiety and gain a clearer perspective.
  2. exercise! Get those neurotransmitters functioning and pumping out dopamine! Grab a friend, or a couple, (thanks to those who worked out with me today), and do something that makes you sweat and feel good. If you are overwhelmed, like I often am about feeling insignificant, then performing and completing a strenuous workout will certainly leave you with a sense of accomplishment. When overwhelmed with anxiety, work it out!
  3. put on your favorite pair of pjs, take off your makeup, and wrap yourself in a big soft quilt. This may be a personal favorite, but my favorite part of any day is the time I spend in pjs with an all natural face. There are few things more comforting to me than wearing something soft and casual while being tangled up in my favorite quilt. It’s a great way to just relax and step away from the chaos of life.
  4. draw a bath, light some candles, and play some music. I definitely did this one today. Isolate yourself from your family, light a few candles, turn out the bathroom lights, and listen to some music. My favorite music preferences during rough days are John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, needtobreathe, Kodaline, The Head and the Heart, Jack Johnson, “Calming Christian” radio on Spotify, among many other artists! During this time, I encourage you to put. down. the. phone. (It’s hard for me, too). But this isn’t a time to scroll through twitter, instagram, or facebook. It’s a time to just sit and relax and gather yourself. This is also a great time to breatheeeee!
  5. DON’T eat crappy comfort food. The temptation is sooo real. Grab a carton of ice cream, a box of cookies, or a bag of chips and sit down in front of the TV. I highly discourage eating like this during times of stress or anxiety. First of all, our bodies naturally activate high levels of a stress hormone called cortisol that make huge impacts on our bodies in a negative way when we are in a prolonged state of stress. Eating foods high in sugar and fat will only increase the negative effects on your body. SO resist the temptation and eat something healthy but equally delicious. My favorites are a few strawberries with 1 tsp of all natural maple syrup (I had this tonight! No high fructose corn syrup, additives crap either!), some raspberries & bananas, a chocolate or caramel gluten free rice cake (gluten is a gut irritant and has virtually no health benefits, I have personally found that removing gluten from my diet as much as possible has helped with stomach and digestive problems.) with 1 tbs of all natural peanut butter, or even – dare I say – some Nutella on a rice cake for those extremely stressful days.
  6. watch Netflix. After all that exercise, you’re going to be exhausted. Sit down and watch some Netflix. Just choose something to get your mind off of what’s bothering you. My favorite is Grey’s Anatomy 🙂
  7. think about the good things. Write them down. Almost every day I write down ten things I am thankful for and ten things I love about myself. I don’t do this in a narcissistic way, but as a sincere way to remind myself that I am valuable and that I have SO much to be thankful for, and NOTHING to be anxious for. Self love is a great remedy for anxiety. Try it out!
  8. pray. This is without a doubt the best solution for my anxiety and stress. I am here to offer you true confirmation that God will deal with your problems for you. You just have to take the first step and give them to Him! Even if you don’t believe God is there, just try talking to Him. I promise you that you will feel better after the conversation. If you’re nervous someone will judge or ridicule you, just try it in the shower! Honestly. Give God thanks for what you have and give Him the duty of protecting you from your greatest fears. Talk to Him about what is stressing you out or causing you anxiety.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ” Philippians 4:6-7

I hope this helps you guys, because doing these things honestly help me so much. Have a great evening – I hope it is stress free 🙂