Mental Health

I’m Messy, But I Still Have OCD

Being OCD isn't a cute way of saying you're fussy. It's a disorder, and it comes in all flavors.

I purchase a pretty planner at the start of every year, but I find that this turns out to be a waste of money.

I don’t use it. Instead of using it to keep track of my life, I stuff them improperly in the cubbyholes of my mind.

But I buy the planner anyway. It seems like the sort of thing I should be good—even meticulous—about using, having OCD and all.

Because people with OCD are clean and well-organized. Aren’t they?

What OCD Feels Like

As a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s extremely difficult to explain the rationale behind my compulsions to others.

But of course, the stereotype that everyone with obsessive-compulsive disorder is extremely well organized is just that… a stereotype. We’re not all well-organized, and we’re definitely not all neat freaks.

The stereotype that everyone with obsessive-compulsive disorder is extremely well organized is just that… a stereotype.

My mom asks why I keep flicking on and off my phone’s ringer, as we drive with the radio volume knob turned specifically to between 17 and 19. At night, I twist the dial of my bedside lamp and knock on my wall––incessantly––to the count of a random number thrown into my mind, just not an even one. This prevents a future crime from happening.

There’s no reason for any of this, except that I can’t really help it. If I were to somehow ignore these compulsions, either my mom could die in a car accident, or I could wake up with the flu. It makes me nervous to even write this down, forever in text, but I hope that tunneling my thoughts through this cyberspace will possibly help others understand.

A freckled, ginger-haired girl stands in front of the water on a cloudy day wearing a blue sweater.
Author Kelsey Fredricks has struggled with obsessive-compulsive tendencies her whole life.

OCD Isn’t The Same As Being Neat

The one thing that people think they know about OCD is that everyone with the disorder is clean, tidy, and organized. They think that the day-to-day challenges of having OCD are comparable to being particular about coasters, or cleaning out the spigot on your bottle of dish soap, or extricating every last strand of hair from your brush between groomings.

In other words, people mistake having a mental health disorder with being fussy. Which is kind of an insult all around, if you think about it.

This is not to say that cleaning rituals, like the common handwashing one, are non-existent with people who have OCD. They do exist, but compulsions come in all different forms, and being OCD is not just a cute way of saying that someone is a highly-functional neat freak.

When you have OCD, compulsions become as irresistible as heart attacks.

When you have OCD, compulsions become as irresistible as heart attacks. If I try to resist the compulsion to twist the dial on my bedside lamp at night, my mind will intensify the thought or fear behind it–in this case, a future crime–until I exist in such a state of elevated tension, I have no choice but to complete the action.

Stop Reducing OCD To A Stereotype

My compulsions, however, have nothing to do with neatness. So I don’t neatly fold and put away my clothes, instead leaving them sprawled on the floor until I wear them again. This doesn’t bother me at all, but if I don’t turn on and off the sink a set number of times before I walk out the door, I’ll risk a breakdown.

Why is this important to say out loud: that people with OCD aren’t all neat freaks? Because by stereotyping people with obsessive-compulsive disorder in this twee way, you avoid actually trying to empathize with us. And without empathy or understanding, we are isolated.

By stereotyping people with obsessive-compulsive disorder in this twee way, you avoid actually trying to empathize with us.

So yes, I have OCD, even though filled garbage bags are stacked up in the corners of my room, verging on toppling over. Yes, I have OCD, even though I step on bobby pins and receipts that litter my floor when I climb into bed at night. And yes, I have OCD, even though my penmanship is messy, and my pretty planner is disorganized.

I realize that these are not habits imagined for someone with OCD, but I want you to understand that this life of mine is not squeaky clean and smooth to the touch. Because the reality is, even if you are clean and neat, the experience of having OCD is messy… and the compulsions in my mind are far too set-in to wipe away with Clorox.

Mental Health

Flipping The Script On A Mental Health Condition

Is there a way to turn the compulsions and symptoms of a mental health disorder and channel them towards recovery?

Like many people with anorexia, I have perfectionist tendencies That led to a dietician once telling me: “Great… why don’t you try to be perfect at recovery?”

It got me thinking – are there parts of me and my condition that are being used for bad, and could be flipped into something positive? For example, we often hear of people replacing  an unhealthy addiction to alcohol or drugs with something more socially acceptable, like exercise.

So is there a way to flip the script on a mental health condition like anorexia? I went looking for answers.

Using Your Will Power To Recover

The first person I spoke to was Tabitha Farrar. Tabitha is a coach, author, and activist who battled anorexia for 12 years before recovering, then dedicating her life to helping people recover from eating disorders. She says that the same commitment she had to being anorexic was something that could be flipped into being great at recovery. And she thinks this is true for most people.

“I promise you that you have the willpower to do anything that you want to. Including recover.”

“One complaint I hear quite often from people in recovery is that they don’t have enough willpower to be consistent with the rewiring process of taking the opposite action to what their disorder tends them towards,” she explains.

“This always makes me chuckle. Really? If you have the stubbornness to restrict food, to compulsively exercise, to avoid any situation, person, or thing that threatens your eating disorder, I promise you that you have the willpower to do anything that you want to. Including recover.”

Study Your Systems, Then Hack Them

But it’s not as simple as just doing the “opposite” of everything you did before. Instead, you need to be aware of how your personality traits and routine feed into your illness. Once you under the system, it’s easier to hack.

This is what Lucie Manning, age 30, did. In her early ’20s, she struggled with borderline personality disorder, but has since recovered from the condition by studying the system, then flipping it.

“So the trick is: if you can direct your capacity for compassion inwards, you can help heal yourself with self-love.”

“With borderline, your personality splits between good and bad, positive and negative. When you’re feeling good, you’re extra compassionate; when you’re feeling bad, you can flip and be an uncaring bitch. So the trick is: if you can direct your capacity for compassion inwards, you can help heal yourself with self-love. ”

First she had to become aware of what she was doing, and the underlying motivations that drove it. Then it was a case of actively directing it in a different way. Not easy to do, but with focus and commitment, entirely possible.

Turning Symptoms Into Positives

Nor is recovery the only goal of flipping the script on a mental health condition. For example, my artistic friend Georgie, 27, has autism… and while that sometimes causes her issues, it can also be a positive.

“There’s something called super-focus which is sort of like obsessiveness,” she says. “So I sit down in front of my laptop or paper for hours, forgetting about everything except the task in hand, until I feel better.”

Acknowledging The Journey

So yes, you can flip the script on a mental health condition, within certain parameters. But it’s still important to be careful how we fame this idea. Recovery is not as simple as just choosing not to have  a condition anymore. Likewise, while some conditions may have weird perks—a person with OCD might have an easier time getting through their bucket list, for example–that doesn’t mean that that condition itself is any less hard to manage or deal with.

Perhaps, then, it’s less about “flipping the script” then acknowledging all aspects of the journey that an illness takes you on.

Perhaps, then, it’s less about “flipping the script” then acknowledging all aspects of the journey that an illness takes you on. Long term illnesses are difficult and burdensome. But they are part of a life, and like the individuals with them, have many different facets. Sometimes it’s possible to flip it round and find a bright aspect, or see it from a different perspective to find something positive. Attitude isn’t everything – but it can help.

Mental Health

How ‘Russian Doll’ Unpacks The Daily Pains Of An Anxiety Disorder

Netflix's latest smash has smart things to say about mental health.

In the Netflix Original Russian Doll, a 36-year-old woman (Nadia, played by co-writer Natasha Lyonne) is trapped in a time loop set around her birthday. Within her strange predicament, Nadia endures a multitudes of random and violent deaths: she’s hit by cars, falls down stairs, is blown up, and has heart attacks. Every time she dies the time loop resets to the same time and place, with Nadia staring herself down in the mirror of her friend’s bathroom. On the surface, it’s a familiar time loop narrative centered around the same central trope as Groundhog Day. But as the title suggests, Russian Doll has layers upon layers to unpack. And, for me at least, one of the most glaring ideas nestled within this Matryoshka of a show is it’s exploration of anxiety disorders.

As someone who has struggled with General Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Panic Disorder since I was a child (with a few years worth of PTSDand Social Anxiety in my twenties, for good measure), I saw the familiar traits of the five main anxiety disorders at the core of the show. Chronic anxiety and panic have driven me to to live in a constant state of dread– as though death is as omnipresent and looming as it is in Russian Doll—and given me the sort of heart palpitations and shortness of breath that actually kill Nadia in the seventh episode.

Like Nadia’s fellow time loop victim Alan (Charlie Barnett), I’ve also been ruled by routine and compulsions, becoming so preoccupied with germs and contamination that I’ve spent hours cleaning and “correcting” the same spots. And I’ve spent days, if not entire years of my life, attempting to party my way out of PTSD and social anxiety symptoms just as Nadia does in episode two – only to discover imbibing a cocktail of temporarily feel-good substances serves only to exacerbate symptoms in the long term.

At their most chronic, an anxiety disorder can make you feel trapped within a pattern of feelings and behaviors as persistent, endless, and isolating as a time loop.

At their most chronic an anxiety disorder can make you feel trapped within a pattern of feelings and behaviors as persistent, endless, and isolating as a time loop. I don’t need to be dying over and over and reliving the same day to understand exactly what Nadia means when she tells her ex-boyfriend, “I don’t know how to convey … to anyone who really cares about me that I’m experiencing something truly terrifying. That I am f*cking scared, that I’m questioning my own sanity,” because in the penetrating fog of my worst anxiety, I’ve lived this. Anxiety disorders amplify your fears, dread, and traumas. They magnify the worst and most terrifying parts of your mind and can leave you barely capable of functioning. You’re trapped in a loop of negative thought patterns and behaviors and as a result, you relive the same struggle time and again, desperate to take back control of your life.

When we meet fellow time-looper Alan in episode three, it’s never outright stated that he has an anxiety disorder but all the clues are there that he’s struggling with mental health issues and a chronic case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Throughout his narrative arc, it’s clear that Alan has an obsessive desire for perfection and exactness. He even asks his cheating girlfriend, Beatrice: “Do you think it’s possible to correct your life?”—as though his misery and missteps are as easily fixable as the furniture he repeatedly adjusts in his home. But moving a cushion an inch to the left does about as little to give him control over his life as maintaining the same routine does.

Despite being stuck in a time-loop and repeating the same day over and over, he (at least initially) changes little about how he lives it. Instead, time and again, his day maintains the same order. He packs his bags for a romantic vacation he knows he won’t take, he goes to his girlfriend’s apartment despite knowing she’s about to break up with him, and he repeats the same affirmations to himself, stating “I am beautiful. I am loved and deserve love. I am in control.” Except, Alan is definitely not in control and no affirmation or obsessively implemented routine can change that.

At the peak of my own anxiety disorders I found myself repeating affirmations and maintaining rituals in a bid to prevent intrusive thoughts and the dread and panic of potentially not surviving the day. I had my routine perfected to the point that stepping out of those self–made rituals spelled certain doom and frantic panic for me. Maintaining the same habitual behaviors made me feel momentarily in control of my mind and life – but any deviation from them would push me closer towards chaos and what I believed was certain death. It’s like Alan tells Beatrice: “Routine is an incredible thing … We become what we repeatedly do.” If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, then Alan is slowly driving himself insane in the show. During the years I was ruled by my OCD, so was I.

Russian Doll is a show about breaking patterns – of time loops, destructive behaviors, addiction, and inherited trauma. But so are anxiety disorders.

At its core, Russian Doll is a show about breaking patterns – of time loops, destructive behaviors, addiction, and inherited trauma. But so are anxiety disorders. I found the only way out of my own heinous predicament was in actively breaking the patterns I found myself repeating on a daily basis and to accept help and intervention, just as Nadia and Alan do. Through Cognitive behavioral Therapy, I’ve learned to limit and control the distorted patterns of thinking that have ruled every anxiety disorder symptom I’ve ever suffered through.

I still occasionally find myself staring down the barrel of my own mortality – intrusively envisioning death in benign everyday objects like a staircase, a meal, or a bar cellar hatch wide open in the middle of the street  – but I’ve also rewired my brain into rejecting the fear and dread that looped through it for so long. Truthfully, none of us are in control of our lives – that’s a message Russian Doll makes clear. But we can, at least, take some control of our minds and the way in which we engage with the world around us. Life may not be possible to correct, but it’s definitely possible that anxiety disorders can be.

Mental Health

Raising Children When You Have ADHD

Does having ADHD yourself affect the way you parent your own kids? Author Timothy Denevi had first-hand knowledge with both.

Diagnosed with ADHD when he was six years old, Timothy Denevi was the kid who couldn’t sit still, who spoke out of turn in class, who was humiliated by teachers who didn’t have the training or temperament to manage his issues constructively. He saw therapists and once threatened to kill himself in front of his mother after being put on Ritalin. Yet underneath all the madness was a sweet, vulnerable boy with an unusually high degree of self-awareness who was struggling to gain control over his life.

Denevi chronicles that fight in Hyper, a moving and thoughtful memoir that tells parallel stories of his own personal experience of ADHD alongside a clear but critical exploration of the medical history of ADHD, and the psychological theories, drug treatments, mistaken beliefs and advances surrounding it.

The kid who was ejected repeatedly from his third-grade classroom and made to sit by himself in the hallway is now a 39-year-old assistant professor at George Mason University. Married and the father of an 11-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, he is also the author of Freak Kingdom, a recently-published book on Hunter Thompson. We wondered about the legacy of ADHD on his life and how it influenced his role as a parent.

What form does your ADHD take now as an adult?

Probably a form of restlessness and difficulty with a sense of consequences and boundaries [or] the best way to estimate the effort I should put out and the time I should allot to do so. Like, pushing myself too hard at a sport or pushing myself too hard at writing.

What are some consequences these days of that restlessness or putting too much energy into a sport? What’s the effect on you?

With a sport, it’s fine, because as long as I don’t get hurt while I’m doing it, it tends to burn off the restlessness. [Other times,] it can throw me out of whack, like either trying to complete or finish a work of art I’m struggling with or by overreacting to and having a tough time planning out my work schedule at the university I teach at. I just [went through] a situation where for almost every instant of the day I felt overwhelmed and at the end of my abilities to be able to achieve all the different tasks I had to, because of poor planning and of overextending myself.

You’ve said that you believed that members of your family, particularly your grandfathers, struggled with ADHD-related issues. Do you see any of those traits in your own children?

I don’t see the need to burn off this excess restlessness in my children that I see in my family tree.

My son is a sweet boy. Like anyone his age, he can get distracted. He can play a video game for like 12 hours. I think he’s a normal kid. My daughter—she’s [more like me]. She’s like many of the women in my family. Her personality is very vibrant. She’s brilliant, but she is very fierce and determined and willful and exuberant. I think there’s a chance she may have some conflict because of her personality within the strictures of school, but it’s hard to say. Sixth grade was a nightmare for me, but my son is halfway through it and he’s doing great. My daughter is brilliant. She’s different than I ever was, she can sit and color a full book. She did blocks the other day. I always had to be active. I would make, like, sports games. My son is not like that. My son likes video games or he just likes to chill out. So I don’t see the overactivity. I don’t see the need to burn off this excess restlessness in my children that I see in my family tree.

You wrote a candid and revealing essay for Time magazine called “ADHD in Adulthood: To Prepare for a New Baby, I Had to Prepare My Mental Health.” You said that you thought ADHD was part of your past, but that understanding changed when your first child was born. How so?

You want to serve yourself in terms of rhythm and you’re afraid that people around you will suffer. It was a really hard time when my daughter was born. I had a new job. I was suddenly working more than I ever had. I didn’t have time to write. My wife was busier. We suddenly were strapped financially because we just bought a house, which was lovely but was difficult. It’s finally only gotten better in the last six months because my daughter’s over four years old now, we can just talk and engage, where she would just scream in the past and I would get really upset by that. I’d never been so overwhelmed as I was these past four years, working as much as I was, having a job that I didn’t understand that I’d be so busy and having that take away from my writing time.

You’re afraid that people around you will suffer.

Yet you took on another book project on Hunter Thompson. How did you manage all your responsibilities without super stressing out?

To finish the Thompson book from November 15 to March 15 of last year, I put myself on a nighttime schedule. I woke up at 5 PM and worked until 10 AM and went back to sleep. It was good because I saw the family from 5 to 7 in the evening and saw the family from 7 to 9 in the morning, but I didn’t see anybody else. I was close with them, but it was a way to avoid email distraction and politics and Internet distraction. I didn’t think I was going to make the deadline, and I was glad when I got it done.

To finish Freak Kingdom while managing his family and ADHD, Denevi had to put himself on a night schedule for six months.

After taking a deep dive in your life in Hyper and trying to make sense of your early years, how did that knowledge influence you as a parent or the way that you parent?

You start to see yourself as older versions of your children.

It helped with my son Jack. I think I was aware at the moment during which you stop seeing younger children or even 18-year-olds that you’re teaching as younger versions of yourself, but you start to see yourself as older versions of your children. And that gave me a lot more empathy toward students that I was interacting with. My son and I have a very nice relationship. [Because my wife traveled so much for her job, I spent a lot of time alone with Jack after he was born.] I spend a lot of time with [my daughter now], but I have to go to Virginia three days a week to teach, so I don’t have that luxury of time I had with my son. I have to manage things better.

In Hyper, you write about the time you were on Ritalin and threatened to kill yourself in front of your mother with a butter knife. You go on to write: “How would you respond if your own son, in the midst of taking a stimulant for hyperactivity, told you he was going to kill himself?” As a parent yourself now, how would YOU answer that question?

I would just try to do whatever I could to be there for them. The brain is often at its worst when the child is between 11 and 18 or between 9 and 20. Those are difficult times. The brain is the most complicated thing we’ve ever studied. The problem with the brain is that the variables are as many as the atoms in the universe. What’s fascinating when writing about ADHD is to see doctors really struggle to understand how to interact with these young men and women who are having such a tough time. There’s no right answer.

Whether they inherited his ADHD or not, Timothy Denevi just wants to parent his kids with understanding.

For parents who don’t have children with ADHD, what should they know about parents who are raising a child with ADHD?

The behavior is variable. Just because someone comes over to your house and has a tough time and might cause a scene or might be difficult doesn’t mean that that’s the version of the child that always exists. I think it’s pretty easy if you don’t have kids to be like, “Oh, your child is the child who can’t sit still,” when in fact it’s all about environment. There are moments when a child who is deeply overactive can be very still and engaged in a way that would surprise those parents.

It always gets better. It really does.

What advice would you give to parents of a child with ADHD-related issues?

It always gets better. It really does. The effort that’s put out by the parents will pay off exponentially down the line. If you’re a parent who can minimize the conflict that comes from ADHD in order to help your child through the conflict or to get perspective on the conflict, that’s the best way. Here’s a parent that the child knows will always be there and is not going away. I think that’s the best thing because it’s going to get better later.

Essays Mental Health

What My Students Don’t Know About My Mental Health

Being a high school teacher is challenging enough before you add anxiety, depression, and ADD into the mix.

By 8 a.m., sweat has soaked through my shirt. I am overweight, so most people assume the sweat is because I am out of shape. The secondary students in my English Language Arts classes are particularly rude about it, pointing out the dark stains on my chest and underarms.

“Mr. Sweeney, why you sweatin’?” a student says in the underdeveloped vernacular of the poverty-stricken area our school serves in Richmond, Virginia. “You ain’t doin’ nothin’.”

A ruder student grins and shouts, “Mr. Sweeney, you sweat ‘cause you fat.”

Then they laugh. Always, they laugh.

The students’ assumptions about my sweat are only partly true–I am out of shape, after all–but there’s more to the sweat that I am afraid to tell them.

“I get hot when I’m working hard,” I reply. On rare occasions, when I’m feeling especially chipper, I may say something more combative, like: “Mature people sweat; you’ll find out one day.” This usually gets a laugh out of one or two students.

I forgive them. They’re just kids, after all. Most of them don’t see me as a person: they see me as their teacher.

Still, the remarks sting. Because I am a person: in particular, a person struggling with mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and mild ADD. And while my sweating may draw attention to my weight issues, it’s not caused by it.

I sweat because it’s a side effect of Effexor, the go-to medication to treat anxiety. Ironic, really. It forms a perfect loop: the kids notice me sweating, they make comments about it, which makes me more depressed and anxious, which makes me need Effexor.

But, of course, I can’t tell anyone this.

The education industry values mental acuity and communication over all other skills. What this means is that I’m afraid to tell people about my mental health issues, especially my superiors

The education industry values mental acuity and communication over all other skills. What this means is that I’m afraid to tell people about my mental health issues, especially my superiors, lest they think that my mental acuity has been somehow compromised. It hasn’t, but the stigma around mental health in education runs deep.

My mental health challenges can often make my job more stressful. My principal wants me to appear organized and clean, but my ADD often leads to clutter. When I grade students’ essays, parents me to challenge them to succeed to greater heights, but my depression sometimes affects my mood while grading, making such efforts difficult. Students look to me for answers, but my anxiety causes me to sometimes make mistakes, like muddling my words or misspelling something on the blackboard.

“How you gonna teach us to write and you can’t spell?” a student says. In response, I tell the student that writing isn’t as much about spelling as it is about putting ideas across.

Mental acuity, communication: these are the most prized skills in education. Anxiety and depression may occasionally effect little things like spelling, but they do not impact my ability to communicate ideas or think critically.

As I’ve learned in therapy, life is a series of coping skills. My mental conditions are nothing to be ashamed about.

The truth is, I can be a stellar teacher in spite of mental illness.

The truth is, I can be a stellar teacher in spite of mental illness. What one may call clutter, I like to call systemized chaos.  When students want advice, I can empathize to the best of my ability and be honest.

A plump young girl in glasses taps my shoulder.

“Mr. Sweeney, doesn’t it hurt your feelings when these other students call you fat?”

“It does hurt,” I admit.

“How do you deal with that?”

I have rehearsed the answer many times in my head. I’m almost excited that she asked.

“I remind myself that I have ideas and abilities that make me unique. And I work in a profession where I get to show off my intelligence and pass these valuable things on to others. That feels better than the hurt.”

She adjusts her glasses, and makes my day.

“Mr. Sweeney, it doesn’t matter if you sweat,” she says. “I like your class.”

Essays Mental Health

Watching My Way To Wellness

My mental health drove me to my mother's couch. What drove me to recovery was the relationship with her I formed, watching birds out her window.

I had never really been very interested in birds. Except ducks. I liked ducks. But birds, I thought they were not for me. That was then. Over the last few months, things have changed. They’ve changed a lot.

For most of my life I’ve struggled with severe anorexia. Late last year I had a significant relapse, which saw me requiring hospital. Desperate to avoid a return, I decided to give up my job, flat, and life in London to return back to my parents in Kent, England, at the age of 30, and have them help me eat again and gain weight. The process has not been without its challenges, as I’m sure you can imagine. But one silver lining, and there is always one, is that my mum and I have become even closer than we were before. One of the ways we’ve bonded is through birds.

My mother has always been interested in birds, and would try to impart her knowledge to us children as we grew up. Now there was a new opportunity to do so.

Becoming A Twitcher

It started over breakfast. The thing about recovering from anorexia is that you have to eat a lot, even by normal standards, and move very little, barely at all. Added to this that I was very frail and cold, and it didn’t make any sense for us to be going out very much. So my early days as a ‘twitcher’ happened from the comfort of our living room.

Sitting there with cereal in one hand and coffee in the other, we’d watch the dark November skies get brighter. And with no job to be running to or place to be, I had the time to sit, and watch. Watch the birds out there in our small suburban garden. For many the little sparrow isn’t exciting, but it was the first bird that I learned to properly recognize. The colorful goldfinch was another frequent visitor, and I loved to see their bright red faces frolic in the low sky.

The thing about recovering from anorexia is that you have to eat a lot, and move very little… So my early days as a ‘twitcher’ happened from the comfort of our living room.

One of the first trips out involved a visit to the local Poundstore for some peanuts for the birds. Dad filled the feeder and hung it up with wire. Now I could watch the birds eat breakfast whilst I did the same. We had to be careful, as the large magpies would barge some of the smaller birds out of the way. I’d always only known magpies by people’s muttering or saluting. Now I knew them as the bully of our garden. And of course, there were the red breasted robins. As Christmas came that year, for the first time I had seen more in the garden than I had on cards.

There was one bird that we didn’t init≈ially recognize. The reddish crest and black streaked eyes of this small bird were not familiar to Mum, and we had to leaf through the large bird encyclopedia. All the way to ‘W.’ It turns out that waxwings only come to the UK gardens in winter once every seven to eight years when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds 2017 Birdwatch survey waxwings were seen in around 19 times more gardens in the south east of England in 2017 compared with previous years.

The Health Benefits of Bird Watching

Many of the health benefits associated with bird watching are related to the fact that it encourages people to get out in the fresh air and have a change of scenery. Near us is Singleton Nature Reserve, a small community space consisting of semi natural broadleaf woodland, new woodland planting, mixed scrub and lowland meadow areas. It was a great space for some fresh air for the patient, and a gentle walk with my mum. The community woodland is home for a number of birds including endangered species such as skylarks and yellowhammers.  We were lucky enough to see the latter, and the brightly colored yellowhammer was an arresting sight against the grey skies of January, its white tail feathers fading into the clouds in flight. There’s also an excellent café at the visitor centre. It was time for tea and biscuits.

I had a memory from my childhood of driving through purple carpets. It turns out that the location was King’s Wood in Challock, Kent, and that magical carpet, bluebells. The 1500 acre wood was once a royal hunting ground, and a herd of deer still roam the wood. We didn’t see any of those, but by now I was more a fan of winged creatures anyway. The resident tits were in abundance – blue, great, coal, marsh and longtail – and if we listened closely the song thrush could be heard. Sweet Chestnut, Corsican Pine and Douglas Fir make up most of the woods, and along the trunks we watched treecreepers hopping up and down, heard the drumming of great spotted woodpeckers, whilst it was out in the carpark that we spotted green woodpeckers hopping along, looking for some sustenance.

Creative Commons photo by James Sensor.

As the days grew brighter and I grew stronger we ventured further afield. April saw us head down on the marshy coast of Kent to the Dungeness Bird Sanctuary. With open flat land filled with rushes and shingle, willow scrub and bramble bushes runs along a moat and bank and a shingle trapping area, the landscape is ideal for spotting both native and migratory birds. Walking the paths where purple orchids blossomed we saw and heard yellow chests of willow warblers and the slender green chiffchaffs. I was unable to tell the difference, but Mum is both more keen eyed and musical than I am, and recognized the difference in their melodies.

Dungeness is on the narrowest point of the English Channel, and is an important migration point. Out above the grey sea there were swathes of the common terns vying with gulls for our attention – or more likely some fish. The speckled down of the tern reminded me of the shingle of the beach, so different in size to the seagull we see all the time trying to get into bins and wrestling with tourists for their chips. And on the drive home through the Romney Marsh we were lucky to spot a peregrine falcon hovering above a stream, ready for dinner. Just like I was.

Recovery Through Watching

As summer came and the breakfasts grew bigger, the birdlife in our garden changed. With more energy I became more animated, and excited to see the latest visitors. It was over some dippy egg and soldiers that I first learned of the grey plume of jackdaws, and just why the pied wagtail got its name. We saw the white Vs on the wings of the great tit as it tried to beat away smaller birds from the bird feeder. I was going out and about more, and on gentle strolls I would see the bright little heads of moorhens, and recognize the familiar coo of woodpigeons. I would get excited at seeing a sparrow, just because I knew what it was.

I still struggle to tell the difference between a blackbird, crow and magpie at a distance, but I’m getting there.

It’s not only me that has found health benefits through bird watching. A 2017 study by the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology, and the University of Queensland, published in Bioscience, found a positive correlation between the number of birds, trees and shrubs that people could see, and their mental health. It’s a meditative pursuit that can reduce stress levels and encourage awareness.

I still struggle to tell the difference between a blackbird, crow and magpie at a distance, but I’m getting there. Certain foods still scare me, but it’s a process. And Mum and I have always been close, but now we have a shared interest. It’s been a journey.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user Airwolfhound.

Disability Mental Health Roundups

5 TV Shows That Get Disability Right

From Stranger Things to Keeping Up With The Kardashians, here's five shows that refuse to look at chronic illness and disability through an able-bodied lens.

When it comes to representations of disability and chronic illness in popular culture, it’s easy to be frustrated. Anyone that knows me will attest that I often lament the lack of realistic depictions of disability on TV, which is all too glaringly obvious when you spend the majority of your life propped up in bed with your laptop, like me. (I could probably get up: I just choose Netflix).

Any disabled or sick person will tell you that seeing an inaccurate depiction of the condition they’re toxically glued to for the rest of their life hurts. For instance, I found ballet show Flesh & Bone gripping until one of the dancers discovered she had MS, and her diagnosis was as hamfisted as a Joss Whedon rewrite.

But all is not lost. There are shows that are getting accurate representation right. These television shows refused to be lazy, and instead dared to get disability right… in some cases, even daring to cast disabled actors in disabled roles (Eddie Redmayne, take a seat).

If you want to support the change you’d like to see in television, here are five television shows that get disability right.

Breaking Bad

A man with cerebral palsy talks to a bald man in glasses in a living room with plaid curtains in the background.

RJ Mitte as Walt Junior in Breaking Bad.

RJ Mitte’s depiction of drug lord Walter White’s son remains one of the strongest examples of a disabled actor being cast in a role which doesn’t focus on his disability. That’s important, because the part could’ve so easily gone to an able-bodied, Mickey Mouse Club reject. Living with cerebral palsy in real life, Mitte’s character had the condition, but it didn’t have him. Walter White Jr. was never defined by his disability, and is basic proof that just as Shonda Rhimes employs colorblind casting on all of her shows, an actor’s physical or mental impairments shouldn’t limit their chance to audition for any part. Plus, Walter’s dad, as a person with cancer who’s undergoing aggressive therapies, is a literal disabled badass, and I invite you to fight me.

American Horror Story

Jamie Brewer, who has Down Syndrome, is one of the core cast members of American Horror Story.

Actor Sarah Paulson recently said of American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy (via Variety): “His unfaltering commitment to telling the stories of women is noteworthy. This is a man who wants to tell the stories of women over 40.” And the same is true when it comes to casting disabled actors in unexpected roles. One such disabled actor is Jamie Brewer, a woman with Down Syndrome who’s played clairvoyant witches, cult members, and creepy dolls, and continues to recur on the series even now. Plus, Inside Edition recently called Brewer the “First Woman With Down Syndrome to Star in Off-Broadway Play,” and if that’s true, it’s no mean feat that the prolific performer is blazing a trail and hopefully, instigating a major change.

You’re the Worst

Gretchen Cutler of You’re The Worst struggled with depression.

Gretchen Cutler could’ve been a cookie cutter anti-rom-com heroine, breezing through her character arc on too much booze, sex, and witty repartee. Instead, when You’re the Worst returned for a second season, Gretchen revealed herself to have the sort of show-stopping depression that ends lives, and destroys relationships. For anyone familiar with clinical depression, breakout sitcom You’re the Worst became agonizing to watch because its representation was so damn close. When viewed next to fellow character Edgar Quintero’s PTSD, You’re the Worst significantly defined itself as the sitcom that wouldn’t sugarcoat mental health even for a second.

Keeping Up With the Kardashians

Kim Kardashian struggled with anxiety on Keeping Up With The Kardashians after being robbed at gun point.

Love them or hate them, the Kardashians are honest when it comes to the truly negative and difficult-to-handle aspects of life. And when Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint in Paris in 2016, she developed a serious case of anxiety as a result, and viewers were given glimpses of her agonizing reality with the disabling condition. And despite mainly being off-camera these days, Rob Kardashian’s diagnosis with diabetes punctuated his own reality series, Rob & Chyna. Whether or not you agree with the Kardashian brother’s approach to handling his chronic condition, his denial and refusal to face up to the realities of the illness were endlessly relatable for any of us who have ever struggled to come to terms with our own diagnoses.

Stranger Things

Gaten Matarazzo of the Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things.

Gaten Matarazzo finally got his big break when the creators of Stranger Things decided to write the actor’s disability—cleidocranial dysplasia, a condition which affects the development of a person’s bones and teethinto the script. In a recent interview, Matarazzo revealed that he’d lost out on several auditions in the past, “Because they couldn’t write in a disability into the show because they had already written the script” (via HuffPost). However, as the casting process for Stranger Things proves, there’s literally zero reason that any role should be defined as able-bodied in the character description. It just shouldn’t, and doesn’t need to, happen anymore.

What These Shows All Get Right

These shows might all be majorly different in content and tone, but they’re linked by the fact that they’re not framed through an able-bodied lens. Instead, each depiction, regardless of genre, explores the highs, lows, and mundane details of disability, chronic illness, or mental health. Even more important is the fact that actual, real life, bonafide disabled people were cast in roles that were rewritten completely or simply created for them. Rather than farming out these roles to able-bodied actors, casting directors, creators, and show-runners took the time to consider disability. And in the cases of Matarazzo, Brewer, and Mitte, character arcs were altered for the better thanks to the actors portraying them.

These shows might all be majorly different in content and tone, but they’re linked by the fact that they’re not framed through an able-bodied lens.

Whether there’s strictly a “right” way to handle disability in the arts is questionable, but thanks to the growing number of crucially truthful roles for disabled and sick performers, the television landscape is getting more and more relatable. For instance, the first show by and starring Maysoon Zayid, co-founder of New York’s Arab-American Comedy Festival, is called Can-Can and is currently being developed at ABC. The autobiographical sitcom will (per Variety) follow a “Muslim woman who has Cerebral Palsy (Zayid), as she struggles to find love, the right career, and discover who she is separate of her opinionated Muslim parents,” which sounds super promising, and a little overdue.

It’s time that the stories of chronically ill and disabled human beings weren’t erased, glossed over, or summarized in a “case of the week” episode on a generic medical show. Sick people are tired as it is without having to fend off another inaccurate, depressing, or infuriating depiction of their well-worn diagnosis. And thanks to the television shows above, that’s slowly starting to change.

Chronic Illness Features Mental Health Roundups

The Best Podcasts For People With Health Conditions

Five podcasts that will make you laugh and feel less isolated as you deal with a chronic health condition or disability.

You can already tell: it’s going to be one of those days. Your symptoms are spiking, it’s impossible to focus on anything and you’ll be lucky if you make it out of bed. On days like these, sometimes it just helps to feel understood. Other times, a motivating kick in the pants is what’s required. That’s where podcasts come in.

Isolation can be a major side effect of chronic illness, but fortunately, podcasts are trying to change that. Just ask Michael James, an avid podcast listener who has lived with a balance disorder for over 19 years,.

“Probably the best thing about the Internet has been that it connects people who may have previously felt completely isolated and alone, and this is especially true for people with health challenges,” he says. “At their best, health-related podcasts remind me that I’m not alone; relax or shift my mood and/or perspective; and clear new paths for thinking about my health challenges.”

Here are some of our favorite podcasts for people managing chronic health conditions.

Made Visible

Made Visible podcast logo.

Made Visible

What it is: According to founder Harper Spero, “Made Visible is a podcast that gives a voice to people with invisible illnesses. The podcast aims to change the conversation around invisible illnesses, helping those who experience them —whether as patients, caregivers, or friends or family members — feel more seen and heard.”

What to expect: A 40-ish minute interview with an individual about their invisible illness, how they cope and what they’ve been able to achieve despite their setbacks. Recent topics included Job’s syndrome, depression, addiction and narcolepsy. Listener Jennifer Rapp comments, “The openness of Harper and her guests gives me insight into the experiences of those who are managing illnesses in their lives. I feel a great sense of gratitude for the generosity of the guests sharing their stories.”

Good for: Hearing about other people’s journeys with chronic conditions.

Listen and subscribe to the Made Visible podcast here. 

The One You Feed

The One You Feed podcast logo.

The One You Feed

What is is: This podcast is based on a parable about two wolves and how the one you “feed” is the one that survives.

What to expect: Host Eric Zimmer begins each episode by asking the guest for his or her interpretation of the parable. Then the interview continues, focusing on how other people keep themselves moving in the right direction. Topics center on mind-body connection, wisdom, motivation, and philosophy.

Good for: While not specifically a podcast about health conditions, this is a fantastic one to tune in to when you need to work on your mindfulness.

Listen and subscribe to The One You Feed podcast here.


Mr. Sickboy podcast logo.


What it is: Three friends get together in this podcast to break down the stigma associated with illness and disease.

What to expect: Irreverent, funny and graphic, this podcast makes you feel like you’re instant friends with the hosts and their guests. A warning, though: it can be medically graphic and cringe-inducing. This is one of our favorites: “I appreciate how dark humor can help shift my perspective on what is a pretty unfunny situation (chronic illness),” says Michael James.

Good for: when you need to laugh about the situations that occur from chronic illness.

Listen and subscribe to the Sickboy podcast here.

Invisible Not Broken

Invisible Not Broken podcast

Invisible Not Broken

What it is: Host Monica Michelle describes Invisible Not Broken as “a podcast that interviews people with chronic and often invisible illness along with panel episodes about issues that affect us with disabilities.”

What to expect: A casual, hour-long conversation covering a range of topics—from sexuality to travel to holiday survival—all within the parameters of invisible illness. Episodes are often filled with practical tips and advice, like good gift recommendations for “spoonies,” (people with chronic illness) and how to travel.

Good for: when you feel like sitting with friends and chatting.

Listen and subscribe to the Invisible Not Broken podcast here.

Mental Illness Happy Hour

Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast logo

Mental Illness Happy Hour

What it is: Whether you suffer from mental illness on its own or as a side condition to another chronic ailment, Mental Illness Happy Hour was designed to make you not feel so alone. Comedian Paul Gilmartin aims to break down the stigma associated with anxiety, depression, phobias and more and brings the listener into a welcoming cocoon of solidarity.

What to expect: Each episode lasts at least an hour, and contains an interview with a guest who discusses his or her own particular struggles. Paul then reads listener mail and discusses issues such as shame, keeping secrets, and struggling with depression.

Good for: when you need to feel like there are other people out there who struggle.

Listen and subscribe to the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast here.

Advice Explainers Mental Health

How To Go To Therapy

Think you don't need therapy? Think again: therapy is for everyone. But there's a right way to do it, and a wrong way.

A lot of people think therapy is only for people who have psychological problems.

Let’s put that stigma to rest. Everyone can benefit from therapy. It’s like going to the gym: going to therapy helps you live a happier, healthier, and more productive life, even if it seems like a drag at the start.

“The biggest misconception about therapy is that you need to have a problem or that there is something wrong with you in order for you to go,” explains Justyna Wawrzonek,  a licensed social worker at the West Hartford Holistic Counseling Center in Connecticut. “That is not what therapy is about. Therapy is basically learning to come home to yourself and be as close to yourself as you can be.”

So even if you think you don’t need a therapist, you should consider making an appointment to see one. It’s an investment into your own wellness every bit as important as eating right, exercising, or the myriad other things people do to improve their quality of life.

But how do you start? How do you find a therapist? And how do you make the most of it?

How to Find a Therapist

First things first. Before you begin the search for a therapist, check with your insurance company.  If you choose to work with a therapist in-network, your insurance company may only cover a certain amount of sessions per year. If you select a therapist who is out-of-network, it is essential to understand your deductible as well as what can and cannot be submitted for out-of-network reimbursement.

Your insurance company’s list of eligible therapists can be overwhelming, so review their specialties. As an adult, you can cross off any therapist that specializes in children or adolescents. Depending on your age, you can either seek out or cross off those who serve geriatric patients. If you are confident that you do not suffer from a specific condition—such as an eating disorder, substance abuse, anxiety, or depression—you can eliminate those specialists as well. However, it’s important to recognize that while you think you understand why you are seeking therapy, once in therapy you may discover there is a different reason entirely.

It’s important to recognize that while you think you understand why you are seeking therapy, once in therapy you may discover there is a different reason entirely.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, ask your primary care provider for recommendations. You can also check with friends and family if you feel comfortable. Next, rule out deterrents such as location, cost, or lack of appointment flexibility. Then set up initial interviews and ask a series of questions about their approach. This will help you determine if the therapist seems genuine and empathic, if they listen well, and if they ask good questions. During this interview, pay attention to how you two interact: some patients, for example, prefer their therapists to be blunt, while others want their therapists to be more affirming.

What to Expect from Therapy

“In an ongoing therapeutic relationship, you will develop a stronger bond with a therapist,” explains Brian Cassmassi, an adult psychiatrist. “You may not become best friends, but there is definitely a friendlier and easy rapport. Plus, it’s a lot easier to talk about what happened with your days and for the therapist to recall things that may have happened in your past that can clarify a current situation.”

As you become more comfortable with your therapist and continue to learn about yourself, you will develop a growing awareness of the patterns in your life, and how these patterns influence the way you feel and behave. This is what therapy is ultimately about: to gain a deeper understanding of the way everything in your life ties it together.

“Therapy should be challenging and hard—that’s when you know that you are growing.”

“You are the expert of your life,” Wawrzonek explains. “You know where you need to go, what you need to do, and what you want out of life. But you may not know exactly how to get there. It’s the therapist’s job to walk along with the client and help them sort through all the different roadblocks. It is not the therapist’s job to take the client’s hand and lead them somewhere. The client is always in the driver’s seat, and the therapist is using their best judgment as to what may be helpful for their client.”

“Therapy should be challenging and hard—that’s when you know that you are growing,” Wawrzonek continues. “But it also has to have a component of feeling safe, nurturing, and supportive. Without it being hard, safe and supportive, there is something that is missing. All of those components are important.”

What Not to Do in Therapy

Believe it or not, self-sabotage can be common in therapy.

Some of these examples of self-sabotage are obvious. It should go without saying that if you are chronically late or miss the majority of your appointments, you aren’t getting the full benefits of therapy.

But keeping secrets and not being totally honest will also sabotage your therapeutic goals. If your therapist isn’t working with the truth, it’s hard for them to understand what is happening in your life. Therapists aren’t there to judge you or your actions, regardless of their personal beliefs, so don’t be afraid to share.

Your therapist can’t change the world, but they can help you to change yourself.

“If there is a topic that is way too sensitive for you to discuss with your therapist at the moment, but you know it’s important, it may be helpful just to say, ‘there was this rape that happened when I was a teenager, but don’t touch that right now,’” Cassmassi recommends. “During a later session, if you say you were uncomfortable with your boss touching you a certain way last night, the therapist may ask if you want to talk about the rape now or if you still want to talk about your boss.”

Playing the blame game is just as bad. Instead of blaming others for a problem, your therapy should focus on the things you can control. Your therapist can’t change the world, but they can help you to change yourself.

Don’t Be Afraid To Switch Therapists

It’s common to develop a strong connection with your therapist over the years.  Because of this, it may be hard to recognize and accept that you are no longer progressing with your therapist. But if therapy has become a weekly obligation and you are no longer growing, then it may be time for a change.

Remember, therapy is for you, and you should always put yourself first in this relationship. When it is time for a switch, don’t worry about how the therapist will handle the news.

“By the time that somebody is a practicing therapist or psychiatrist, they have gone through thousands of hours of supervision and training,” Cassmassi explains. “While you may think you will hurt our feelings if you leave us, that has been hammered out of us from our training. We are usually well-trained to adapt, and you aren’t going to completely break our hearts if you want to switch.”

Remember: Therapy Is For Everyone

When people haven’t gone to therapy before, they tend to believe it’s only something you do when something is “wrong” with you. But there’s nothing wrong at all with wanting to gain a better understanding of your world, and the tools that therapy teaches us to use—like mindfulness, or coping skills–have broad applications in everything from your career to your love life. .

“One of the things I often hear is, ‘why didn’t someone tell me this in elementary school so that I had this defense skill in my repertoire when I became an adult?’” Cassmassi recalls. “When people finally go to therapy as an adult, they feel like they wish they had at least known a simple trick to help them get through their teenage years. Patients also say, ‘I wish I had that under my belt when I was going through all of this. Maybe those skills would have helped me with some of the minor things, and I would have felt slightly less anxious.’”

“The most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself.”

And, it provides a safe place for you to learn and grow under the guidance of a professional who has your best interest in mind.

“The most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself,” says Wawrzonek. “And when we can nurture and foster and grow and have a healthy relationship with ourselves, that is going to mirror every other relationship that we have in the world: work, family, and friends. The deeper you get to be yourself, be okay with yourself, accept yourself, love yourself, and be your own best friend, that greatly benefits every area of your life.”

Essays Mental Health

My Threesome With An Eating Disorder

Dating is hard. Dating while trying to keep your anorexia in check is even harder.

First date jitters are normal. But when you’ve spent your life wrestling with an eating disorder, those jitters can quickly overpower you.

On my first date after a long hiatus, I was consumed with anxiety, not about my date, but about the menu. Instead of worrying about witty banter, or getting to know my date, I spent all my time trying to figure out the calorie content of each dish. Would I go over my calorie limit if I ordered a cocktail? If I asked him to split an entrée, would he think I was cheap? Would it be weird if I ordered something off the kid’s menu?

Fighting against the tidal wave of neurotic thoughts, I finally managed to order a salad.

My date immediately scoffed. “Oh, you’re one of those girls.”

Is it too late to swipe left?

How To Tell Your Date About Your Eating Disorder?

Telling potential love interests about my illness is something I’m never ready for, never quite know how to do. When’s the “right time” and how should it be done? If they ask me to dinner, should I say I’d rather go to the park? If I have to cancel my date because my body dysmorphia suddenly renders me incapable of leaving the room, should I explain why, or risk seeming unreliable? Would it be better just to put it on my dating profile and be done with it:  Hi, I’m a Virgo, my Hogwarts House is Hufflepuff, and I’m battling anorexia.

I’m not ashamed of my illness—I’m managing it as best I can, and actively working to be healthier. But when you tell someone you have anorexia, it changes their opinion of you: suddenly, instead of being the woman who can quote from every line from Moonstruck, you’re now the woman with a mental illness. Both things are true about me, but I feel like I have to choose between the two—to appear normal, or to appear ill.

You can tell someone what an eating disorder is, but they’ll never be prepared until they experience it.

And that never necessarily goes away. You can tell someone what an eating disorder is, but they’ll never be prepared until they experience it.

In my last relationship, I met my significant other at a conference where I led a panel my first-hand experience with anorexia. Afterwards, I was deeply touched when he came up to me after and told me how powerful my presentation was. But two years later, at the bitter end of our relationship, he cited my eating disorder as a reason. “You knew what you were getting when you met me!” I shouted at him.

He shrugged: “I thought you were over it.”

Meet Edna

I gave the violent being inside me leeching off my body the name Edna.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. I am one of them. My severe eating disorder affects my both my physical wellbeing and my emotional health, and spills into every aspect of my life, including dating.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate than any mental illness, yet I am still called one of those girls for ordering a salad.

I’ve had an eating disorder since I was fourteen years old. It started as bulimia, then turned into anorexia by the time I was 18. No one ever told me about eating disorders, so I didn’t know I had one: I only knew that something was wrong with me, a deeply-rooted internal wound I could not reach. To describe what was wrong with me,  I gave the violent being inside me leeching off my body the name Edna. It was a coping mechanism of sorts: these thoughts are so intrusive, so never-ending, it’s like they’re coming from another source, so giving it a name helped me deal.

Author Ellen Ricks.

An Uncomfortable Love Triangle

Edna was, and still is to this day, a constant voice in my head. She tells me what to do, what to eat, and how much to weigh. She calls me names: fat, lazy, unlovable. When I cave to her wishes, she holds my hair back while I throw up, telling me what a good job I’m doing. And when I’m in a relationship with someone… well, like it or not, they’re in a relationship with Edna too.

When I’m in a relationship with someone… well, like it or not, they’re in a relationship with Edna too.

So when I date, what my partner might want me to do is the exact opposite of what Edna wants. If they want me to eat, Edna wants me to lie. If my partner tells me I’m beautiful and sexy, Edna tells me I’m hideous. It’s a constant tug-of-war between a boyfriend who wants to save me, and the illness that wants to consume me. And both of my partners are powerfully jealous of one another.

So I suppose it’s no surprise when the men who tell me I’m beautiful and brave eventually call me suffocating and a burden. I imagine it must have been hard to watch me slowly kill myself by loving an illness over them. But Edna doesn’t want to share me.

Dumping Edna

A few months ago, I was talking with an ex of mine when he said something insightful about my illness. “You’re like a junkie,” he told me. “It’s difficult to be in your life.”

I flinched. The comment hurt, but he was right. I am very difficult to be with because I love Edna more than anything else in my life. I’m stuck in my own abusive relationship: I keep coming back to Edna, even though I know she could one day kill me. And when I do so, I did not choose my mental illness, but I made a choice to not get better.

I feel like I’m finally ready to ditch the third wheel and swiping right on a healthier me.

After many years of failed romantic relationships, forging a healthy relationship with myself felt nearly impossible. But I think I’ve finally learned that being well is like learning a language or playing an instrument: it’s a skill.  It takes a lot of practice, and you have to practice every day. I started out being terrible at stability, but with years of practice, I’m slightly less bad. And I hope that means something.

After years of falling for the unwell voice, I feel like I’m finally ready to ditch the third wheel and swiping right on a healthier me.