Thursday, May 19, 2016

Broken vessels

This May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, so I guess it's only fitting that I scheduled an appointment to start getting counselling again.

I've been open with my mental health struggles, but usually only after they've passed. Why is that? I think it's because of a few reasons. First, stigma. I don't want to be seen as attention-grabbing. It's a shame that I fear that so much while writing this. It feels more clear that that isn't my purpose when I'm not currently struggling. Second, it's hard enough to realise that you are having a mental health problem. When I had too much dairy, I notice. I know why it happens. I know it isn't my personality or who I am. It's the fact that my body doesn't produce the needed lactase. When my carpal tunnel bugs me, I don't blame myself. I blame my dang wrists and the repetitive writing and typing involved in everyday life as a student and a TA. But when I'm anxious, I blame myself for lashing out at Ben for dumb things. I feel sorry for him in his decision to marry me. I don't realize that it's a chemical imbalance due to a need of a break and a slower pace and some self care until I remember that I am an anxious and depressed person. I feel things deeply in my nature. It's okay. I'm sensitive. I just need to take care of myself.

I came to terms with the fact that I needed to see a therapist again a couple weeks into this semester. Last semester was horrific. That's all I'll say about that. Then I went from that, packing all my stuff and taking finals early and leaving town and not sleeping the whole drive and getting married and having a reception and leaving home and camping in Arizona and camping in Utah and coming to Rexburg and moving in with this man and starting school and starting work and I haven't breathed in almost a year. The morning after my wedding, Ben and I had breakfast and watched some Netflix and we were just hanging out taking it easy when the most utter, deep, unbearable depression came over me. I started sobbing. I literally felt as though I didn't want to carry the burden of my mortal body any longer. I had never been so far gone that I actually would have preferred to not be alive. Ben is a sweetheart though; he understood it wasn't him or anything and he held me tight until it eventually passed. 

But since that moment, I haven't been the same. I've fought my temper and I've cried basically every day. I've been incapable of sitting down and being productive if Ben isn't there to make me feel obligated to actually do things. I feel like I'm not succeeding in school, work, or being a wife, but rather that I'm scraping by at all of them. I blamed it all on myself, too. I didn't realise what it was. I couldn't see that it was anxiety and depression because I was living it. It crept on me without the realisation that it would be there to stay. 

I wanted to write this because I feel it is important to tell those that don't know what mental illness is like that it is so hard to comprehend. It's hard to understand when you haven't lived it. It's difficult to see it when you are living it. The world needs more love. Those that struggle need all the love and cookies and friendship that you can offer them. 

I also wanted to write this so that if someone who reads this is wondering if it's their fault they can understand that it isn't. I want people to know that mental health is just like physical health. Treatment is never embarrassing. It is necessary and it is so helpful to take care of yourself and love yourself.

I put on Elder Holland's talk "Like a Broken Vessel" the other night, when Ben and I were getting ready for scripture studying and going to bed. His words in general conference back in 2013 were incredible, but I didn't yet understand their depth. Elder Holland is such a passionate speaker so he always strikes a chord in my heart. I've included some highlights from that talk, but I highly recommend listening to the whole thing, which is the link that follows.

I know that through counseling and the other things that my body and mind need to overcome this challenge, I will make it through this again. I did it before, and it will work out this time too. I also know that the only way I can make it through and become stronger by it is by understanding the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He has endured my pains and my weaknesses and my sins and sorrows. He is always here for me and understands better than anyone else. It is through His healing that I will be able to experience the greatest joy.

Great places to get some great gear to help raise awareness and get people support:

Some facts and how to help
Another talk about this
Talk to people you love and ask them how they are doing. Actually invest in their answer. Look for ways to serve. Sit and think about people in your life and who needs help and whatever name pops into your head, help them. New moms? Show them some love and give them a hand.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It's okay to not know things

Last semester, in my Principles of Physics II class, I asked a question. I was one of 4 women in that class of 35-40 people. It was the last week of school, and we had just taken a test and were reviewing it in preparation for the final. The exam had been on optics. There was a question about a dual-lens system and in the problem I had found the following: to focus on an object farther away, you had to bring the lenses closer. Well, as the daughter of someone who had minored in photography and the sister of another who had majored in it, my experience through my whole life was that to focus on something farther away, you make the lens longer. The thing is, cameras are more complicated, and I knew that, but it had definitely caused an inner conflict when I was in the testing center. Therefore, desiring to understand exactly what the difference was, I raised my hand to ask my professor to explain.

He called on me. I phrased my question based on the information I had provided. I never expected the result: immediately upon wording my question, before the professor started to speak, there was a chorus of probably 20 men behind me starting to yell the answer at me. I was shocked. "What is this word-vomit going on?" I remember asking in disbelief. I'd never had this happen in a classroom. I'd never heard anyone ask a question and get that kind of response. Eventually everyone became quiet so my professor could tell me what I wanted to know, which was basically just that camera lenses have more going on (so really didn't quite answer my question but rather confirm my hypothesis), and class moved on.

I still don't know what happened. Women in my classes don't often ask questions -- if they do at all. I've been trying for a long time to teach myself to ask questions in class. It's almost always men, and yet, through my entire education, when a man has asked a question in one of my classes, my previous experience has never occurred.

Which leads me to my current field of study: it's okay to not know things. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but after 12 years of public education where it felt like I constantly had to prove that I was smart and where I felt as though asking a question would show everyone that I don't know things and that therefore "smartness" no longer applies to me, I'm trying hard to teach myself that it's okay to not know things. That's why we go to school. That's why we take classes. We are supposed to push past the wall of what we know to expand ourselves.

I'm a TA for my Physics I professor. It's hard work, answering questions from students that look no different than I do. I'm not old and wise and experienced, and sometimes, I don't know what answer to give them. I have to remind myself that it's better to show weakness and ask my professor to help because I don't know things than to act like I know things and tell them all sorts of wrong stuff. I have to remember that my professor knows I'm just a student and that he's the nicest professor I've ever had and that he probably appreciates that I'm humble enough to turn to him for help. It sure does take a lot of humility, though.

So I guess all I'm trying to say here is that asking questions is hard. Teaching yourself that it's okay to not know things is difficult. But I'm a physics major; not knowing things is basically the prerequisite for this. It's okay to have questions. That's why we have professors. That's why we have a Heavenly Father who is willing to listen, who will never judge us, and who will always love to give us answers. Our life is one giant learning experience. When we ask questions, we figure out where to go and we learn so many cool things. It's okay to not know things; it's the perfect place to start.

Also, I found some hilarious stock images in my first attempt to find a good photo for this post. Enjoy.
no caption needed

me after that one time with the camera question

"how is the top part staying up when I'm only holding up the dot"

modern physics got me like
gurl....... up top.