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Living with Chronic Illnesses

by Liz_ReachOut Community, Health

Coping with Chronic Illness

What does it mean to live with chronic illness? Here's how one ReachOut forum member put it into words in a recent post:

"I'm 15 and for most of my life have struggled with chronic illnesses from Depression and anxiety, to fibromyalgia, asthma and chronic migraines along with things that the doctors don't understand. Its been a constant journey or being diagnosed with one thing after another and never finding an answer for anything. I don't like to talk about it, and usually try my best to ignore everything because it makes me feel different. To be honest, it is very scary for me and I feel very alone."

Below is a response from another member, who can clearly relate to exactly what has been said:

"Hi crying_in_the_rain!
I want you to know that I really feel for you in your situation. I suffer from five mental illnesses and chronic joint and digestive pain that has mystified doctors for years. In high school, I felt like a freak -- I couldn't do stuff with my friends because I wouldn't be able to walk the next day or simply just couldn't keep up. I went to so many doctors who wouldn't believe that my pain was real (six years later it's still very real) or had half-assed solutions that put me in more pain. When I finally got a diagnosis for all my mental illnesses, and there were FIVE of them, I felt so overwhelmed and had no clue how to deal. Thankfully, my parents pushed me to see a therapist, who not only helped me with my mental illness, but also helped me reframe how I thought about my body. Instead of looking at all these diagnoses as separate, she encouraged me to see my body as a whole thing, working as best it could to function, and to love it because it's doing the best it can.

I also want you to know that you are NOT alone. I promise. One thing that gave me hope (the whole chronic illness thing doesn't help the depression as I'm sure you know) was finding a community. I was fortunate enough to have a disability alliance at my university, and they introduced me to local and online communities of people with chronic illness. I suddenly found a group of people who not only understood my experience, but they LIVED it. And because they lived it, and came together in a community, they had an abundance of resources for meet-ups, self care techniques, crisis resources (like they do on this site), and so much more. If you are interested, Tumblr has a huge community of disabled folks (these are people who have chronic illnesses, physical handicaps, and mental illnesses who all identify under the umbrella term "disabled"). They blog, talk together, create memes, spark political conversations about what it means to be disabled and how isolating it is, and even meet up locally. A great compliation of blogs on tumblr can be found here :http://chronic-illness-support.tumbl...sability-blogs. You don't have to be a member of tumblr to view their blogs either, so feel free to browse away.

I really hope that you know there are people out there who understand the frustration with doctors, the exhaustion of being in pain all the time, and the hopelessness mental illness leave you with. I also hope that you can find a community that can give you some hope. Know that there are people on this site and elsewhere that understand and can support and care for you!"

This is just one example of the kind of help and support you can find in the ReachOut forums. If you are suffering from a chronic illness and want more info, read this fact sheet, or are worried about someone else who is, click here.

Read other supportive responses in the forums here, or register to respond.

Processing the Passing of Robin Williams

by Meredith Mental Health

"Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"

As we all start to process the passing of Robin Williams, this quote from Plato seems especially apt. While the comic actor was open about his ongoing struggle with depression and addiction, he was much better known for brightening up the screen with his unique energy and skill for silly voices. From Aladdin to Jumanji to personal favorite Mrs. Doubtfire, many of our childhoods were filled with his memorable performances. He was a master at throwing himself into roles so completely that even a simple shrill "Hellooo" could convey volumes about a character. For that talent, already being captured in slideshows and lists across the internet, he will always be remembered.

But the "hard battle" Robin Williams fought is also important. It brings to light a truth many of us know firsthand or from seeing someone we love experience: Depression is real and can affect anyone, regardless of who you are or what your circumstances are. There are no simple explanations for depression and the feelings of severe sadness and thoughts of suicide it can cause, but there are MANY ways and people who are willing to help you cope. If you're feeling triggered by the news and social media around Robin Williams, it is especially important to keep that in mind now. There is help available 24/7 from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

One way to start coping? Sharing any difficult feelings or thoughts you have with others in the ReachOut Forums. It's normal to be affected by the passing of a public figure and by talking it out you can help yourself and others better understand the emotional process. You may also hear from others who have discovered their own coping strategies for times like this.

Another way to deal is by keeping in mind that not all media coverage is created equal. Some reporters and commenters have a limited understanding of the complex issues behind suicide that may be reflected in sensational headlines, graphic details or insensitive questions that suggest there was "nothing to feel depressed about." The best way to combat these misguided discussions online or in print is to seek out alternatives with a more nuanced understanding of mental health and the many resources available for support such as Lifeline and The Trevor Project.

You may also want to apply this approach to real life conversations around mental health. If you encounter someone who says something hurtful or demonstrates a lack of understanding around what it means to live with mental illness, it is completely okay to say something. By sensitively sharing your views (rather than attacking theirs) you may be able to impact how someone thinks or even open a thoughtful dialogue. Of course, if you don't feel comfortable, you can also change the subject or walk away. Whatever you need to do to take care of you. You may also find it helpful to read up on the facts around depression causes and common myths.

No matter how you deal with potential triggers for depression, know that you are not alone. 

You may also find some of these fact sheets helpful:

After someone ends their life by suicide: how you might feel
How talking to someone can help
Experiencing grief

Do you have thoughts or feelings you’d like to share? Comment below or join our discussion in the ReachOut Forums.

Gay but no one knows

by Liz_ReachOut College, Friends, Mental Health, School

Two young teen boysWhen a forum member told the ReachOut community they were gay but their friends all thought they were straight, and said, 'I need someone to know and to tell me its going to be okay,' this is what they got:

"Thank you for being brave to come out to us here! You're great, and it will all be okay! There's no need to rush into coming out, especially if you don't think you are in a safe environment to do so. But I promise it will all be okay, and we still love you <3"

"Not only will everything be okay, but it is MORE than okay to be you. That is the one and only thing we will always be growing with until we die. Being you. If people dont like it. That is their issue. Does not mean those poeple are everyone. There are so many people that will love you for just being you. I already love you. You are my friend. Because no matter what size, shape, gender, race, or sexuality. We are all one, and need to respect that. I would youtube the word. "sonder" It ia an amazing 2 minute or less video on this new and fascinating word. It was posted on my birthday, and ever since. My life has changed. You are loved. Being attracted to someone is NOT a bad thing, and expressing your feelings neither. If anyone has anything to say about anything? It is a mirror reflection of something they can't fix in themselves. It will be more than okay. because there are towns out there that have more LGBTQIA that "straight" couples You are loved, and if you need to be reminded again. Hey you. I love you"

When the original poster wrote back to say, "...i feel like because im older that i should have came out by now but im just starting to figure myself out," the supportive responses just kept on coming: 

"Hey, starting to figure yourself out is a really great thing! If it makes you feel better, I came out only last year, and I was a sophomore in college then!"

"I just wanted to tell you that it WILL be okay. :} ... I can tell you it will make you hella happy to finally put a step in the direction of your real self. If you're not certain yet, then don't come out so suddenly; just go at your own pace. Sometimes it is pretty hard admitting something to yourself, or even digging deep enough into yourself to find the real you. When you reach that point, all you'll feel is liberation in finally finding everything. So it will be okay Danielle, we're here for you and we hear you; now smile? All will be well!"

"I understand that feeling of "I should have come out already or had myself all figured out way sooner." I've had that same feeling before. The thing is, nobody has it all figured out. And we all come to terms with things at different times. I came out in terms of my sexual orientation at 12, but didn't start really exploring my gender identity until like ten years later. Everything has its time. So, no pressure, okay? Give yourself time to explore and ponder and reflect. You don't need to come to a certain answer or conclusion. There is no deadline. Getting to know yourself is a lifelong project."

If you need support around coming out or exploring your sexuality and/or gender identity, register here for the forums or post in the LGBTQIA thread and get the help you deserve.

How To Maintain A Positive Body Image This Summer

by Meredith

For many of us, August is the time to savor those last few precious vacation days before the school year. But if this includes the prospect of swimwear, it can also bring on feelings of self consciousness. That's why in today's blog post we've asked Healthline writer Adrienne to share some tips for shoring up confidence in the summertime.

As good as it can feel to watch the snow melt away along with the layers of bulky winter clothes, the warm weather can also trigger some anxiety. It’s funny how the need for less clothing and being surrounded by all those bare arms and legs can make you feel self-conscious.

Summer is just too short to let body image issues rob you of the fun in the sun that you should be having. Take it from someone who’s lived it and learned it when it comes to body issues and eating disorders! To help you make the most of your summer, here are a few tips to help you maintain a positive body image this summer:

Stay away from that scale! You’re a person—not a number! Staying off the scale makes it a whole lot easier to focus on the stuff that actually matters. 

Move that body! I’m not talking about hitting a gym or doing some crunches in the basement—it’s nice out! Go for a walk with your friends—furry and human—and enjoy exploring your town or a park. And don’t forget that you’re never too old to enjoy the swings!

Dress to impress yourself. When shopping for summer clothes, don’t worry about having to buy a specific item just because you liked it on someone else. We’re all different shapes and sizes and trying to work against what we are never looks or feels good. Choose clothes that work with your body and make you feel good about yourself. Half the fun of shopping is trying stuff on anyway!

Celebrate yourself! Who better to toot your horn than the person that knows you best—you! Write a list of 10 things that you love about yourself and look at it daily. Yeah, I know it sounds cheesy, but it can work wonders when that little voice in your head—that doesn’t know what it’s talking about anyway—starts getting all negative on you. Focus on more than just appearance since there is so much more to you than just what is on the outside.

Enjoy the moment. Summer is so short, so make sure you stay in the moment and savor every last second while it’s happening. Enjoy what you’re doing right at that time and the people you’re doing it with.

Now grab that sunscreen and get out there while it’s warm!

About Adrienne
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she's not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals for Healthline, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board. You can connect with Adrienne on Facebook.

Looking for more support around body image? Check out our newest fact sheet on finding peace in your body or join the discussion on eating issues in the Forums.

Photo from Shutterstock

Who is your role model?

by Liz_ReachOut Family, Friends, Relationships

Who inspires you?

One ReachOut Forum member asked, tons answered! Below, we feature a few thoughts on the qualities, lessons and impact that make for a memorable role model. In the words of Danaye, who started the discussion, "I know that everyone goes through tough times as well as good times. I know that there is someone in your life that you look up to or try."

Read some of the responses below, or add your own role model to the discussion:

Demi Lovato"I know that many people have probably said this but, my role model is hands down, Demi Lovato. She's a really inspirational person and she's been through so much and has struggled with the same things that I'm struggling with. She's recovered and she told her story, she's saved so many lives. She's inspired people t save their own lives and get help. The reason why I say she has inspired and not like helped is because one day at her concert, she said that many of her fans come up to her and tell her how she has saved their life, she then said that she didn't save their lives, she just inspired them to get help and that they saved their own life. Demi is probably one of the only reasons why I'm still alive right now, I mean yeah there are other bands that helped me but she is one of the main people that have helped me in so many ways and even though I am still struggling with self harm, she still inspires me and her music is beautiful to listen to." - Savemefrommyself

"My role model is my grandmother....she's an angel. She's the type of woman who cooks for a party on HER birthday,she's the woman who's happy to be at work with a huge smile on her face,the type of woman that says treat people with respect and reminds you to not be cruel. She has nothing but love to give and not a bad bone in her body,she has shown me to treat everyone with love and to be happy to be alive. <3" - LexusGal

Eminem"My role model is Eminem. No family members, teachers, or anyone else has taught me as much as listening to his music has. I learned that I should always be strong, no matter what happens, and that I can get through it. No matter how bad I feel, somebody is always going through worse, always feeling worse than I am. If I just do what I love doing, life will be okay. - Shayd

"One great thing about Eminem, or Marshall, is that so many people throughout his life told him he couldn't do it. He'd never amount to anything. He'd never be a good rapper. Now he is arguably one of the greatest rappers alive. I think his entire essence is sticking it to the man."  - SnowyWeather

"My role model is my mother (the old her anyway). The one that supported her kids no matter what... No matter how hard she struggled she provided a way for us to me happy and she showed us that she was trying. She taught me that I can't truly depend on anyone else in this world when something has to be done but myself. She taught me how to survive on my own with little money. Although when I was young I thought that I had to grow up to fast it was for a reason. It taught me to be strong and use my head. She made me strong:-)" - Danaye

Read the full discussion or contribute yours here »

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