Worth Living Run Ambassador Sarah Eisan

Graduating from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce, Sarah worked as an IT professional until she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Over the last year since her diagnosis, she has been on a leave of absence, learning how to navigate the Mental Health system and becoming an advocate for others struggling with Mental Health. Sarah has found exercise and running to be an important part of managing her Bipolar Disorder and hopes that sharing her journey can help others find the courage to get help.

Through the Darkness

Mental health is something I’ve always been aware of, even from a young age. Several members of my family have struggled with various mental illnesses so it wasn’t taboo in my family, it was just part of day to day life.

You would think this would have prepared me for the mental health challenges that I would face during adolescence into adulthood but instead I bottled everything up, put on a brave face, determined I would be the success story, I would be the person in my family who wouldn’t have mental health issues.

Through my teen years and into early adulthood, I remained steadfast that I wasn’t experiencing mental health symptoms despite feedback from those close to me that maybe I was. It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter,  that I admitted I wasn’t as strong as I let on. It had been a difficult pregnancy that resulted in my daughter suffering a stroke during childbirth so at least now I felt justified in my struggles; surely going through this situation would be enough to make anyone struggle so I reached out for help, taking the first step of what I didn’t realize then would be an incredibly long and strenuous journey.

I was initially diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I accepted this and took the medication expecting that to fix me, I wasn’t interested in talking to a stranger about my struggles, I wasn’t ready to accept that there may be more pieces to this puzzle I was dealing with. Over the years I continued on medication but also continued to struggle. It wasn’t until several years later when a co-worker introduced me to running that I found an outlet for the depression and anxiety I was still continuing to experience.

Now before you picture a typical runner, lean and athletic, let me assure you that was not me. I was overweight, short and slow, in fact my best time ever for a 5k race was 42 minutes, but the benefits running gave to me were immense; it was during runs that my mind would briefly clear, the racing thoughts and negative self- talk would disappear for a short time and it was magical, for a brief time, I didn’t feel depressed or anxious.

For the first time in a long time, life was becoming manageable and I thought I was finally starting to get better, then life happened… a freak painting accident left me with a severe concussion and now I couldn’t run. I tried and failed miserably setting back my concussion recovery which caused the depression to become worse than ever. I was off work for over a year and even when I was well enough to work, I still couldn’t run without the post-concussion symptoms taking over, sidelining me and I am ashamed to say, I just gave up. The years that followed were the darkest that I could ever have imagined and it all came to a breaking point the day my husband said to me, I think we should take you to the hospital.

I thought this day would be my lowest point, my rock bottom but it wasn’t. There would be several more “rock bottoms” I would experience but on this day, at the hospital, terrified, talking about my darkest thoughts with strangers. I received a diagnosis that would change everything, Bipolar Disorder. This day, this diagnosis, set my life on a new path consisting of new medications, individual and group therapies, and despite my best efforts, more hospital visits.

By this time I had gained even more weight, feeling less athletic than ever, but over time, seeing Facebook posts from a local gym inspired me to give it a try. Maybe I could get that part of me back and maybe it would help my mental health. I started at The Barn, a small local gym with an amazing supportive community feel and slowly I began to regain my confidence and my strength. Now with my newfound confidence and strength I’m beginning to run again, slowly and with lots of walk breaks mind you, but I’m doing it and I can feel the mental health benefits already. I know I still have a long road ahead of me and there will be ups and downs but I also know that I can help myself by going to the gym and running, I know now I can do this and that my life is worth living.

 


Worth Living Ambassador Tylia Flores

Tylia Flores is a 24-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.

Warning : Suicide is mentioned   Spoiler Alert too.

How A Star is Born Should Have Ended

I was sitting in my wheelchair cringing as I saw him prepare a plate of steak for his beloved dog and only a few minutes later to do the unthinkable.  That was the ending to A Star is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

My jaw dropped to the floor as I was in disbelief. After all the struggles and tribulations that Jackson Maine had gone through, he decides to do the unthinkable and commit suicide.

I held on to the handle of my chair and I began to become angry and full of emotion not so very much triggered to have suicidal thoughts. But I became very angry because I felt like the character Jackson Maine could overcome the obstacles he was faced with.

He didn’t decide to end the chapters of his life just because he was going through the trials and emulations. It is all part of everyone’s story to have to deal with battles in their own way since not everyone battle is the same in life.

Everyone that we look up to secretly has their own battle like myself who has spastic cerebral palsy. It sometimes it feels like I am trapped within my body because my condition affects my left side but it doesn’t affect the way I live and what I set out to do

Along with having cerebral palsy come the issues of anxiety and depression but I refuse to let that be the reason my story ends.  I will continue to tell my story with my journey with cerebral palsy and how I’m able to stomp on depression and anxiety.

I could have easily been Jack. But I choose not to be and if it ever becomes a thought to want to die and be from my body, I tell myself I’m not ending my story, it’s just getting good.

I think A Star is Born should have ended by Jack’s  overcoming his challenges. He could have written his story through doing what loved the most which was singing and performing for people that loved him. He could have reminded people that he has a life worth living


Worth Living Ambassador Michele King

Hi! My name is Michele and I am 30 years old. Living with both depression and anxiety, I want to be a positive force of change to help end the stigma associated with mental illness, with hopes that what I share will help at least one person who comes across it.

 

Healing

Healing isn’t black and white.

It’s all g r e y matter.

And just when you think you’ve mastered it

there will be another layer to unfold.

 

People think healing is easy

but true healing is

raw

often painful

and

requires hard work.

It’s demanding.

Expecting you to show up for yourself every day.

It’s going to therapy

and confronting

the deepest parts of yourself.

The parts you would like to keep tucked away and never speak of.

It’s choosing to love yourself,

despite the voices telling you

that you’re not enough.

 

It’s letting go

knowing you’re doing the best you can.

It happens on an individual basis

and is very much

an inside job.

 

It’s making strides, a little at a time,

falling down,

and

then

deciding to

get back up again.

 

It’s good days and bad days.

It’s crying one minute and letting yourself laugh the next.

It’s giving yourself grace.

It’s messy.

It’s real.

It’s beautiful.

No healing isn’t black and white, it’s all

g r e y matter.

 


Worth Living Run Ambassador Charlotte Flewelling


I am many things wound into one, the sum of my parts. A human, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, dog auntie. A runner, visual artist, communicator and community maker, a Worth Living Run Ambassador, sharing lived experiences with autism and mental illness (anxiety and depression) and a learning disability (ADHD). A person living her best life here and now, one step at a time. I am Charlotte Flewelling (CharFlew23)

Disclaimer this blog is my opinion based on my lived experiences. If something is stirred within you, seek help.

Suspended

I’m sitting here in a moment in suspension, a moment between the worlds reality and my reality. Floating in a state of bliss but not ignorantly. This is where I’ll start… my bliss is a form of daydreaming. I tend to have my head in the clouds most of the time. I am far from the clouds. I observe life and people very deeply. I’m curious by nature and always have been.

I’m in love with the idea of stories about others or other things. This is the reason why I love writing, taking photos and posting to social media. I’m a huge word nerd and memory maker at my core.

I’ve been challenged and surprised by the community I’ve built. Everyday I’m grateful for it and most days without even knowing, it helps me!

Some of my favourite moments have been on the run. This is why I proudly represent you, Worth Living, as a Run Ambassador. Running has given me a reason to continue and not give up. I’ve had many struggles and continue to go with the ebb and flow “ups and downs” of life.

Growing up and in adulthood, being active has been key to my sanity. I’ll admit, I’d be in a vastly different mindset and spot. Actions speak volumes and for me it can be as simple as an outdoor adventure, run, walk, bike or hike. Sometimes it’s treating myself to a solo coffee date, where if I want, I’ll randomly strike up a conversation with another person. Taking photos of what I’m doing or seeing around me is another creative outlet.

My autism is the biggest mystery still. My diagnosis was in February 2014. I get that some traits, like talking to myself (scenario repeating) can be scary. It’s not scary, just my way of compartmentalizing all the virtual and real noise of life. It’s how I make sense of the world. It’s key to helping me with my creative and memory making moments. It also can be a worse nightmare.

I was left alone on a group hike in 2017. This was the first time I had an extreme rolling thought experience. I’ve been taught to think best case scenario, not in this moment. The rolling thoughts were how to survive the hike, figure out my path to safety (end of trail), and would my parents see me again. I was only 10-15 mins behind the group. The worse part…I was in Fundy National Park with a group of on duty and off duty park staff. This is where I survived and thrived. Mindset from that moment on was challenged, flipped, and served. I was considered lost in the park according to some other staff. I was on my way up to the last rally point when I found that out. I learned that my survival instinct is pretty apt and that I was ready to challenge myself. Later that year, tripping on an uneven sidewalk on my first half marathon, I was challenged again. I’m proud to say that I am a half marathoner.

The moral of all the situations and moments I put myself into is this…expect the unexpected, know that there’s something there to remind you and that as a human, we are able to do and be whatever we set our minds to. Go ahead! The world needs more real and less fake! Your story is part of you, not the whole you. We are in this together ~~ Charlotte Flewelling


Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier


Hello, I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. I strive to connect with others and share my struggles of mental health and trauma.

Warning: These are my experiences alone and I do not speak for all survivors of sexual violence. Please be warned that the following content may be triggering and discusses sexual violence as its topic.

I am just quietly surviving. And at this point in my life it is all I can do. There is no right way to be a victim. But there are better ways to be a victim. A better victim than I was, than I am. The world wasn’t built for people like us. People who float somewhere between victim and whatever it is that I feel that I am. Someone deserving of what happened to them. Someone who asked for it. Someone who wanted it.

I did say stop. I did push his hands away. Sometimes. But there were times when I just lay there still, unsure of how to navigate the trespassing of my body. But you can’t say no to a question that was never asked.

It could have been worse. It could be worse. I could still be stuck in a violent situation. I could have been held at gunpoint, been a victim of sex trafficking. But my story is plain, and it is simple. I was violated by a man who mistook my kindness for willingness, my silence as agreement. He mistook my desperate need for validation as something more than simple teenage confusion that it was. It may not seem that bad, but it was bad enough to leave seething wounds. Bad enough to leave me living life in fear of bad men dressed in good men’s clothing.

Some people ask, “Why are you so angry?”
All I can think of is “How can you possibly not be?”
With other trauma the crime scene belongs to a car or a house or a battlefield
With rape your body is the crime scene
You can’t ever leave it
You must learn to live in the wreckage
The dress I wore I can no longer wear without feeling his hand slide underneath it
I pray for a day my body feels like it belongs to me instead of just property
I pray for a day I stop flinching every time my lover touches me
I feel like a collection of puzzle pieces made up of every man who’s ever hurt me
But the pieces never fit together quite right and the edges are sharp
Each a piece of glass I am now trying to extract
I never threw out the underwear, but I washed the blood stains out
I’m still trying to figure out what kind of bleach works best for the wounds in my heart.

My body has been through so much.
I’ve cut it, I’ve burned it, I’ve starved it.

But no matter what I do, my body is still here. Still standing. Still breathing. Still not giving up.

Quietly surviving.


Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Fawcett

 

 

Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a student attending Ryerson University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am dedicated to being able to work in a juvenile detention centre in order to help aid youths who are struggling with their own lives. Mental health has always had a huge impact on my life and I’m finally starting to be able to share my story in hopes to help others who are also struggling with the same issues as well as shedding some light onto mental health

Even in the Darkness, this is a Memory I Would Not Change

If you were to ask me what my fondest memory is, it would not be one that you would guess right away if you know me well enough. Some of you would probably guess that time where I sang in front of one hundred people in the fifth grade on a school trip. Others would guess the time that I won some awards for plays that I participated in during high school. Maybe you would guess that it was the night of my prom or the first time I saw Marianas Trench live. Most of you would probably assume that it was when I met Marianas Trench for the first time a couple of months ago. Although these are some great memories and experiences that I had the privilege of being a part of, none of these qualify as my “fondest memory”.

The day that I hold dearest to my heart is graduation day. It was not because I was finally leaving high school (as most of you may think). It was not because of the gifts I received in honour of this momentous event. It was not because there was a party to celebrate afterwards. It was because of the environment. I never enjoyed being at school, at least not really anyways. Going to school was always a hassle for me, I never wanted to be there. But the evening of my graduation I had almost all of the people that I held dearest to me in the crowd supporting me. I was anxious and I was a little bit scared. Clearly, since my leg was jumping up and down like the energizer bunny. I hate crowds and audiences. I wish I could say that I always have, but the matter of the fact is that I was once actually very outgoing and loved being in front of people. Sadly, that went away. But that didn’t matter. Because even though I was nervous, I was still excited. I was with the people that I had spent the past fourteen years growing up with. My close family members were in the crowd cheering me on. Having both of my parents as well as my sister and brother there for me during big life events is always heartwarming to me. People that I cared about very much and who cared about me at the time were also there. That is what made it so damn amazing.

I was also valedictorian which was absolutely terrifying since I was so nervous, as previously stated. But I was finally able to do something memorable during my high school experience. I got to recount funny and meaningful memories that I had made with my classmates. I got to express my gratitude towards my teachers and thanked them for their knowledge and dedication. However, I think my biggest achievement during the speech was making nearly every spectator in the audience cry or at least shed a tear. Either from laughing too hard or hearing something incredibly deep coming from me. Either way, I still believe it to be an accomplishment. But it was not just the ceremony that makes it my fondest memory. I was finally able to share something with someone that I cared for very much afterwards. It was a moment that I will never forget.

I’m sure you are wondering why any of this matters. Well, even though that night will always be my favourite memory, it still pinches when I think about it now. It hurts me to think of this night because it went by so quickly and so much has changed since then. It has only been two years since I graduated high school. It is weird because it feels like just yesterday but a million years ago too at the same time.

I thought that once I graduated that I would be happy, and that life would get better from then on. I definitely overshot. Because even though I was struggling as badly as I was in high school, that pain does not compare to that of today. My heart aches at this memory because I have burned bridges with the people I cared about the most. It aches because I have not been as genuinely happy as I was since that day. It aches because I cannot go back. It aches because everything has changed. I still hold this memory close to me, but it is one that hurts the most too.

I am thinking back on the people that were once there; the compliments I had once received and rightfully earned; the smile that had to be pried off of my face. I think back on this most often even though it hurts I can feel happiness in my pain. At least, somewhat anyway.

I am not okay right now. I think I am worse than I was in high school. I don’t know what to hope for anymore. I wish I could take things back. I wish I could recover completely from this illness and maybe one day I will. But, for now, I just need to be hopeful and keep on thinking that if I got through the hard times once, that I can do it again. The road to recovery is not straight; it never was. I guess I am taking a detour once again, except this time I need to do it by myself. Even if I no longer have some of the people that I could always count on, I still need to keep fighting. I need to do it for myself. Because I am not living in this world to please other people, I am living so that I can continue to prosper in life for myself. If that means I need to let go of things that I cannot change, then I will learn how to do so.

I will leave you with this.

I Lay Here

I lay here,
In a body of water.
Nothing but water surrounds me
For miles.

I have no life jacket.
I have no rope.
I cannot see the shoreline.
I have nothing,
But an anchor,
Attached to my ankle.

The water is not clear.
The water is not blue.
The water is not polluted.
The water is black.

The black darkness engulfs my body.
It consumes me.
I do not scream.

Not because I am unafraid.
On the contrary.
I am terrified.
I am paralyzed completely.

I lay here in the water,
Floating on my back,
Screaming from the inside.
There is no point in screaming,
No one can hear me.

Even though I am paralyzed,
I can feel myself sinking.
The weight of the anchor,
Slowly pulling me down.

The sky above me is bright.
I stare at the clouds,
As they drift away in the sky.
I can feel it.
The emptiness of sinking,
Being alone.
I float into the abyss of nothing,
As if I had never been there before.

When after all this time,

I had never left.

By Jessie Fawcett


Worth Living Ambassador Michele King

Hi! My name is Michele and I live with both depression and anxiety, I want to be a positive force of change to help end the stigma associated with mental illness, with hopes that what I share will help at least one person who comes across it.

 

12 Things I Have Learned from My Anxiety this Year

  1. Just because you make me FEEL like there will be impending doom doesn’t make it true.
  2. I can sit WITH you. I don’t have to avoid you or try to overpower you. In fact the more I sit WITH you the more I realize that I am safe and the more clarity I get.
  3. Never underestimate the power of taking slow deep breathes. Inhale for 4 counts exhale for 4 even slower counts (don’t forget to really push your belly out on the exhales—this is a calming technique, not a bikini competition).
  4. You do not play nice with physical symptoms from other medical issues. Actually, sometimes it feels like you guys are tag teaming against me.
  5. Speaking of medical issues…Because I am open about having you in my life, when I do have physical symptoms and medical things come up you are going to be blamed first and I am going to have to trust myself and advocate 10x more.
  6. Diet plays a large role with you. I recently found out I have Celiac Disease and have noticed a difference in you when I am eating gluten verses when I am not.
  7. Removing you isn’t the goal, learning to co-exist with you is.
  8. I don’t have to follow you down the catastrophizing thought cycle of worst case scenarios. I can get off this ride at any time—I just have to make the choice to.
  9. When you get really bad I need to, in my therapist’s words “Up the meditation”. Seriously, taking a few minutes to be present really takes away your power.
  10. Being in nature and “unplugged” really helps put you at ease.
  11. How to have Faith more and trust God. In my own personal experience the more you come at me, the more opportunities I have to lean on my faith and trust that God is in control.
  12. The more I am open about you, the more I am finding others who live with you too. It’s easy to want you out of my life but the reality is at some point everyone experiences anxiety to some degree. Talking about it helps.

 Shannon LeLievre – Co-Lead Worth Living Run Ambassadors & WL Event Planner

Shannon is an event planner and teacher who focuses on creating event experiences for fitness and health-related businesses. A graduate of the University of Ottawa, she has a degree in Human Kinetics and a Bachelor of Education which allows her to combine her passion for fitness and health education as she inspires others to pursue an active lifestyle. Her website showcases her event history and features a blog addressing hot topics in the fitness and health industry. Shannon is an avid runner and  has launched a podcast called Run For Your Life with a Phoenix-based blogger, Melissa Kahn, which shares stories about the power of running and fitness in maintaining mental health.

The Power to Choose

I’m a 40 year old mother of two little kids so driving by myself is a luxury, and aside from putting on a one-woman show for passing drivers, it’s also my time to think. On my drive this evening, I couldn’t help but think about a post I saw on Facebook earlier today which mourned the loss of another first responder. As the sun set behind me, I kept wondering why did I escape the darkness and he didn’t?

I’m a former military spouse so the struggle our veterans and first responders face is always on my mind and today’s news hit me in the gut. I’m also a teacher and a mother, so when I saw a Twitter account dedicated to encouraging a 15 year old who has survived eight attempts on her life, I felt like screaming in frustration! Why are we failing these people who don’t hesitate to serve us? How can we make a difference and help young people who are unable to see that tomorrow will bring a brighter day?

As I drove along, singing to my carefully curated playlist of uplifting songs, I realized that maybe the only way to help them is to keep helping myself.

I won my fight over the darkness but it’s a daily battle not to let myself sink. Tragic stories in the news threaten to knock me off course but decades of cognitive behavioural therapy and reading and listening to podcasts and surrounding myself with motivational people have taught me that although I didn’t choose depression or anxiety, I can choose to heal. I get to choose to find health and happiness.

There is so much power in having the opportunity to choose the direction your life is going in. Talking to my doctor back in 2000 and telling her I was struggling was a choice. Joining the Worth Living team was a choice. Sharing my story and writing this blog post are choices. I find healing in every word that hits the page and if my words can help even one person make a different choice, then maybe I don’t need to scream in frustration anymore.

Why did I escape the darkness? I don’t really have an answer for that and I doubt I ever will. I accept that we will lose more first responders, and veterans, and teenagers to the battle we fight too silently. We need to make noise. We need to scream out our stories of victory and of happiness. We need to scream out that we’ve been there too and no human on earth is ever alone in the challenges they face.

I choose to not read those news stories because I know my sense of peace depends on not knowing the details. I choose to run and exercise because I know my heart and head depend on it. I choose to see the kindness in the world while the darkness looms. I choose to live because I’ve decided that life is worth living.

If you are not sure you can choose to face tomorrow, choose to trust me when I tell you that there is hope. There is healing. There is health. There is happiness.

 

 


Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Fawcett

 

Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a student attending Ryerson University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am dedicated to being able to work in a juvenile detention centre in order to help aid youths who are struggling with their own lives. Mental health has always had a huge impact on my life and I’m finally starting to be able to share my story in hopes to help others who are also struggling with the same issues as well as shedding some light onto mental health

 

Being Scared of Life Saving Procedures

Firstly, I need to begin by stating that I have not been diagnosed with a specific phobia, nor do I condone self-diagnosis. This information and these opinions are based on academic knowledge and research with correlations to life experience.

Have you ever been so scared of something that is has impacted your health and/or your day-to-day life? Unfortunately, if this is true you may want to seek professional help. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by intense fear of an object or situation that persists for more than six months. They typically cause panic attacks and can develop into panic disorder.

Have you ever heard of the term “white coat syndrome”? To put it simply, a person with white coat syndrome gets extremely elevated blood pressure levels known as hypertension when in medical environments. This phobia can have detrimental and life-threatening impacts on people with this disorder.

Ever since I was a child, I have always been afraid of anything that is medically related. Doctors, dentists, hospitals, needles, nurses, clinics, and the list goes on. It was not simply just being afraid of these people and these places, it was the fact that I would have panic attacks, nightmares, and fits when having to experience these situations. Uncontrollable fear and anxiety overtake my body. I feel as though I have no control over my body or emotions when in these environments. I have incredible mood swings, unfathomable fear, uncontrollable crying, exacerbated pain, and intense stomach aches. There is very little that can be done to comfort me in these scenarios. I will share multiple examples and stories with you of situations that I have been in that have caused extreme and unnecessary duress for myself.

My fear and extreme anxiety are always invalidated and undermined when I am in medical environments. I have been made fun of at school for having panic attacks when receiving vaccines, I have been diminished by health practitioners and professionals when refusing certain treatments and procedures, I have had eyes rolled at me and prolonged sighs, I have had irritation and impatience from nurses that did not have the time for my “outbursts”. It seems as though medical professionals have no respect for those with this type of fear. Not only is this unhelpful, but it also aggravates the situation by causing more discomfort and panic on patients that is absolutely unnecessary.

The first story in which I am sharing is one that I often get made fun of and ridiculed for. “It’s not a big deal, get over it, how old are you?” are comments that I was subjected to and still am to this day. I was seventeen years old at the time, returning to the dentist after nearly five years. Dentists give me intense panic attacks even for the most remote things. I went to the dentist for a simple cleaning. I was panicked regardless. Luckily, in this particular situation, the dental hygienist was profoundly understanding and empathetic. She let me calm down before beginning, she explained every step of what she was going to do, she let me listen to music during the cleaning, and she talked to me in a reassuring and soft voice. She did not treat me as a burden, she did not roll her eyes at me or give me attitude, rather she empathized with me. She could see the fear in my eyes was not fake and was definitely not exaggerated. Then when the dentist came in he discovered a cavity. That did not go over well for me. I had a panic attack because I knew what a filling entailed; a large needle being pocked into my gums while wide awake. Instead of getting frustrated with me she consoled me. Yes, I am aware that these are small procedures that will most likely not cause me any harm. Unfortunately, anxiety does not listen to logic and I cannot always reason with myself or others. I apologize if my anxiety is embarrassing to you! Imagine what I must feel like having parents stare at me in the waiting room while I’m crying, and their small children are not. I can feel how annoyed they are, and trust me I am just as annoyed, discouraged, and embarrassed with myself as anyone else there if not more; I do not need more ridicule.

The next situation infuriates me every time I think of it. I think that we can all agree that having our wisdom teeth removed is a big deal for most people, especially those with a fear of it. Having someone slice into your gums, remove giant teeth, and sew them back up all while being wide awake is unappealing to almost anyone. There was not a chance that I was going to let anyone near my mouth while being conscious. I explained profusely to my surgeon that I had severe anxiety and that I would need to be put under general anesthesia in order for the surgery to take place. The surgeon reassured me that I would be fine and that they would sedate me enough that I would not need to be put under. I had no choice in the matter because the procedure was being performed through government funding and general anesthesia costs more, so the dentist made the final say. The day of the procedure, I arrived at the office and had one of the most severe and extreme panic attacks that I have ever had. I was crying and trembling uncontrollably and there was nothing that could be done to soothe me. After an hour of this, the surgeon finally called us into the back (my mother and I). Once he saw me, he refused to perform the procedure on me and blamed my mother for the situation. He said, “I would never put my daughter in this situation if she was this upset.” My mother was dumbfounded by this comment since we both insisted on general anesthetic. He finally realized how serious my anxiety is and rescheduled the surgery for a month later under general anesthesia. I was put into that highly stressful and debilitating situation for nothing just because a medical professional did not take my disorder seriously.

The final story that I am about to share definitely shows the lack of empathy and training that nurses and doctors have when it comes to mental illness. I had woken up in the middle of the night with something feeling wrong. I did not know what it was, and I was not in pain, but I was uncomfortable. I tried to fall back asleep and ignore the feeling. I woke up in unimaginable pain, pain so bad that I thought I was going to die. My roommate and her boyfriend rushed me to the hospital where I continued to moan and vomit in pain. They wanted to run tests on me which included taking blood. I had never had my blood drawn before because I never allowed it. It was just one more thing for me to panic over. Now, not only was I in severe pain, but I was also terrified out of my mind. I was five hours away from my family, in a hospital where I knew and trusted no one, and thought I was dying. This sounds stressful enough right? Well, to make matters worse, the doctor on call and the nurse who was assigned to me were as cold as ice. They were unfriendly and uncaring. They seemed bothered by my anxiety and tears. They barely checked on me during my eight-hour wait and were distant when they actually did. They needed to do more testing and so they sent me for an ultrasound. The technician wanted to perform another procedure on me that was invasive. I went into another intense panic attack, but after making a couple of phone calls home, I gave consent for the procedure. I was still very shaken by it and so the technician refused to perform it after finally convincing me. I was infuriated; I tried to push myself to do something that petrified me, and I tried to wrap my head around it and he just abruptly changed his mind. The cause of pain was a kidney stone. For those of you that have not experienced this, a nurse compared it to labor pains. Even though the other procedure would not have been necessary to diagnose this, the doctor was extremely annoyed with me for not doing it.

Therefore, the point of this post is to bring awareness to how serious and intense anxiety can be. I am constantly made fun of and diminished by friends and medical professionals for my extreme fear. Let me just remind you all that pain is exacerbated exponentially when in fear. Not only am I embarrassed with myself, but I am usually in a great deal of pain. That being said, before being ashamed of someone for crying at the doctor’s office or dentist’s, think of how frightened they must be, put yourself in their shoes. Always choose kindness. There is no need to put anyone down especially for something that they cannot control.


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.