Worth Living Ambassador Cat Davis


Hello. My name is Cat, and I am a 21 year-old diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Reading and writing became my solace during the darkest times in my life: the times when my journal seemed to be my only friend, the times when my jaw forgot how to make sounds, and my mind failed to form relationships with others. I decided to post my journals on a personal blog, both as a way of releasing my emotions and as a way to continue the mental illness conversation. Through writing out my experiences, I hope to provide hope—even the teeniest tiniest amount, even to only one person—because one cannot survive without hope. Hope is the genesis of recovery. Hope inspires hope. Thank you.

Bipolar v Anxiety

Why is it easy for me to talk about bipolar, but hard to talk about anxiety?
Since my diagnosis with bipolar disorder in January, 2017, I’ve become
more and more accustomed to talking to people about my mental illness.
People tend to take the word “bipolar” seriously. It’s uncommon,
unusual, misunderstood, or not understood at all. Besides statements
like “the weather is bipolar today” or “my teacher was acting so
bipolar,” I never thought much about the disorder until it plagued me.

Bipolar disorder has quickly become easy for me to talk about. People
are fascinated by bipolar, and I am more than happy to educate and
inform them. I enjoy helping people understand and I really think it
is one of the reasons why I am here. Reading textbook definitions of
mental illnesses is rendered useless compared to speaking with those
with firsthand experience them. Mania, euphoria, grandiosity,
recklessness, hallucinations, delusions: these are just words. Funny
anecdotes about spontaneously chopping all of my hair off or being
hospitalized for a rash across my entire body (that was much later
attributed to a visceral reaction to my bipolar mania) help people
relax and feel more comfortable and confident asking me more. Or quite
serious stories about the time I really, truly thought I had a
miscarriage (there was no child) or when I really, truly imagined an
old ex-boyfriend entering my gym and watching me (there was no boy):
those incidents have meaning. Those stories get down to the grit and
raw emotion of a truly debilitating mental disorder.

I rarely talk about my secondary diagnosis of generalized anxiety
disorder, or GAD. GAD doesn’t come with funny stories about absurd
shopping sprees or blackout nights at the bar. It doesn’t come with
highly unusual events like hallucinations or delusions, which intrigue
and fascinate people. You can’t see it in my constantly enlarged
pupils or my bright red skin rashes. Anxiety is a silent disorder,
unnoticed by most, except for the person it inhabits, controls, and
attempts to destroy.

Anxiety embarrasses me. I don’t want to bite my nails or twist my hair
the moment I feel uncomfortable in a situation. I don’t want my heart
to race when I see or hear something that triggers the memories I try
so hard to forget. I don’t want to become paralyzed by the thought of
an upcoming social event, or an important exam, or a rapidly
approaching deadline. Anxiety tells me not to bother my friends with
my problems, that no one will understand, that no one will care.

Of course they care.

My rational mind knows they care.

My anxious mind tells my rational mind to shut up, no they don’t,
leave them alone, your feelings are stupid, you just need to get over
it. Get. Over. It.

People don’t expect me to get over bipolar. They hear that word and
expect the worst. On the other hand, the word “anxiety” is thrown
around, considered a more common term and used as a synonym for
stress.*

I am not stressed.

My anxiety is a mental illness, too.

It is just as important as my bipolar disorder, just as horrifying,
just as obscure and unimaginable.

But for me, it is so, so, so, so much harder to talk about.

I don’t want to feel weak. I don’t want to be seen as weak. I want to
be just as strong as my support group thinks I am. All the time.
Unwavering. Forever.

I know that keeping things bottled up, that allowing my mental
illnesses to be silent killers, only makes things worse. I know that.
I do. But knowing doesn’t make it any easier. Speaking out, ignoring
the pangs in my gut telling me not to, not hiding behind the stories
I find easiest to tell, will make it easier. Listening to other
stories will make it easier, too.

*Stress and anxiety fill up college campuses and are often ignored or
at least not properly dealt with. Whereas stress can be a healthy
reaction to challenging, uncomfortable situations, anxiety can
psychologically and viscerally affect your ability to perform everyday
tasks. If you are at all concerned with whether or not you experience
extreme stress or have an anxiety or panic disorder, please reach out
to a licensed professional. He or she can give you study tricks and
relaxation tips to better manage your stress, or help provide or find
therapy and psychiatry treatment for an anxiety, panic, or other
mental disorder. I only wish I had reached out sooner.


Worth Living Ambassador Dale Vernor

Dale is a writer and researcher in the field of mental health and substance abuse. After a battle with addiction, Dale was able to earn his Bachelor’s degree and become the first in his family to earn a degree. Dale was able to find a job doing what he loves, and enjoys writing about substance abuse and mental health to help lift the stigma associated with both of them. You can find more of his work on Twitter.

My Life Worth Living

Lots of mornings I still wake up amazed to feel so full of light and hope. I admit this amazement is sometimes followed by familiar darkness and anxiety. Thankfully, I am able to master my anxiety myself and not be drowned by how I feel.

Anxiety is not something new to me. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) some ten years ago, just a few months shy of my 20th birthday. This is apparently early since the average onset of GAD is at 31 years old.

Then again, my life was a pressure cooker and I believed I was destined for that anxiety. I was one of a handful of pre-med students in an Ivy-league university.  Not only were we required to have high grades, and please professors, we also had to have a social life.

So I embraced my fears and compensated by taking more pills than my doctor prescribed, by upping the dosage of my meds on my own, and by combining my prescription with sleeping pills or any other pills I could lay my hands on. I told myself I was merely curbing my anxiety so I could function properly.

All Lies

It was all a lie. Even then, I knew I was becoming dependent on the drugs I took. I was a very bright pre-medical student, after all. I realized early on that aside from having GAD, I was becoming a drug addict.

I’m only fortunate that during one incident when I had again taken one pill too many and overslept, my lab partner had the audacity to rummage in my bag. She found my phone and called my older sister, whom she knew was a doctor.

My parents had died when I was young and my two much older sisters mothered me ever since. When they found out what happened, my sisters descended on me and promptly enrolled me in a drug treatment facility.

This was, of course, the height of embarrassment for me and I really hated them at that time. I took longer than most to allow them to visit me.

In retrospect, I proved that they really did think of themselves as my parents. My sisters never faltered in their affection towards me even in those dark times. When I finally got over myself and the three of us hugged for the first time after almost a year, I could literally feel their internal celebration. The whole time they were thanking me over and over again because I came out of the ordeal as healthy as I did. They thanked me!

By then, I had already realized that I was blessed to have my sisters. Plus I was lucky to be alive at a time when there were already many forward-thinking rehabilitation centers. The one that my sisters sent me to had a design to treat my dual diagnosis, or a co- morbid condition, as it was called then.

My rehab program was designed to treat my General Anxiety Disorder simultaneously with my substance addiction and not one after the other. The facility recognized early on that this would be the most effective way.

After I recovered, I didn’t go back to that Ivy- league school to finish my medical degree. However, I still became a doctor. I figured I owed it to the universe who had conspired to make me feel that my life was worth living. I don’t like to talk about that part of my past because the few times I do, they say I made it sound so easy. It really wasn’t. I lost many opportunities and I had to work harder at putting my life back in order.

But I strive to be an inspiration in many other ways. And most days, I actually think I’m able to make a small positive difference.

 


Worth Living Ambassador Tylia Flores


Tylia Flores is a 23-year-old born with cerebral palsy. Although her condition has affected her mobility, it has never affected her will and determination to make a difference in the world. Through her many life challenges and obstacles, she discovered her passion for writing. Tylia’s goal in life is to share her stories with the world. In doing so, she hopes to help others with disabilities realize that they too have the potential to make their dreams come true.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Dating for me has always been a challenging part of my life considering the fact that I am in a
wheelchair and have cerebral palsy. Finding my perfect prince charming hasn’t been the easiest
task.

I sit here and think about it and I could blame many things. Society, the way people look at us
as people with disabilities especially able-bodied people who don’t want to deal what the
responsibilities of being a caregiver to someone that they choose to love.

Or are they just don’t have very much awareness on what it is like to have a disability or they
don’t have hearts to look past our disabilities. For me the chair has always been the biggest
obstacle.

When it came to putting myself out there as a young woman with cerebral palsy in the dating
Scene, it always made it much harder because once the young man noticed my cerebral palsy
and my limitations in regards to my condition because of my being in a wheelchair and that is not all
that comes with my cerebral palsy.

I have spastic attacks and I need 24 -hours of care. I have to go to several doctors’ appointments.
So of course it’s hard for me to find someone who understands that.

But on top of that, I have adjustment disorder which is an abnormal and excessive reaction to an
identifiable life stressor. The reaction is more severe than would normally be expected and can
result in significant impairment in social, occupational, or academic functioning. Adjustment
disorder is sometimes referred to as Situational Depression.

So it makes hard for me to date because I overthink things while I am in a relationship because I
have a deep desire to find my “real life” Bud Davis who would sweep me off my wheels and
dance with him to Mickey Gilley’s Stand By Me.

But overall having both a disability and disorder have made my journey of finding my picture
perfect cowboy a little bit more difficult. After getting diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder and
all, I thought I would be single for the rest of my life and no young man my age would be
interested in dating someone with my special needs

But a few months ago I stopped looking for love in all the wrong places because I met my
boyfriend, Bobby , just by a fluke while online and we have dating ever since. The
key to dating with Adjustment Disorder and Cerebral Palsy is being yourself and expecting who
you are because, to be honest, you got to love yourself before you love others