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  • Articles, Confidence, Depression,, Puberty, Tough Questions

    Redefine Your Life: My Story

    Getting off the bus after the first day of kindergarten, I remember feeling so overstimulated and overwhelmed I ran straight to my bedroom, ignored everyone, and sat on my bed crying. Thirty minutes later I came back to the kitchen, had my afternoon snack, and everything was back to normal. Reactions like this were normal for me throughout all of elementary school. I was the girl who would restrict my playdates to two hours, call my mom to pick me up at sleepovers and disappear for hours at a time into the woods. The consensus I eventually came to was I just enjoyed being alone. Other people made me tired and anxious, so at a young age I put myself into a box: I was an introvert.

    I was happy in this box for most of my life going on my own adventures and living in my own world until I realized that many of my classmates were going on the same adventures but bringing other people with them and they seemed to be having more fun. Fixing this issue was easy as I just started bringing my neighbor with me on my adventures. Soon we were inseparable; however, I still saw myself as an introvert: I was now just an introvert with a best friend. Because I had a best friend I never felt the need to meet anyone new; therefore, I never learned how to interact with new people.

    This lack of social ability was not an issue for me until I moved in eighth grade. At first, it was exciting, everyone was intrigued with me, boys were asking for my number, girls were complimenting me, and I had already learned everything I was being taught: life was great. However, I had no idea how to actually form relationships, so eventually when I was no longer new, I was all alone. Soon the box I had put myself into for so long began to backfire, I found myself feeling constantly depressed and alone. All I wanted was to climb into my bed and go to sleep. Furthermore, I was extremely confused as to why I was feeling this way as I still believed that I was an introvert and loved being alone.

    This period of depression continued into high school. I was constantly pushing people away, refusing to participate and then seeing pictures on Snapchat or Instagram and finding myself jealous or upset. This situation continued until one day I decided I was not happy and I did not fit into this box I made for myself so long ago. I clearly remember one of my first yes moments. I was at a football game that my older sister had dragged me to standing uncomfortably at the top of the student section, everyone around me was cheering, laughing, and getting involved in the game. However, because I still have no idea how football works there was no way to get involved even if I wanted to leave me wanting to just cry and run away. At halftime, people started to leave the student section and I was about to call my mom and beg her to pick me up. Right as I was reaching for my phone a random guy from my grade came up to me and asked, “Hey, do you want to walk around with me and my friends.” Instead of pretending I didn’t hear him I just said, “sure.” Although that may seem so minuscule, it was a major change in my life. It was the first moment I let myself venture out of my box. It was the first time I found myself having fun and actually wanting to stay somewhere in years.

    Throughout the rest of high school these yes moments continued to occur: saying yes to a dance, yes to a party, yes to getting involved in my school and community. As a senior, I have completely redefined myself. I am no longer the quiet, introverted girl who could not get out of her comfort zone. In fact, when I tell people that I used to be extremely shy they laugh in my face and ask, “Do you know what being shy means?” or respond “I don’t know about that.”  Now instead of being the girl unable to talk to anyone, I’m the one going up to that random person so that they can finally have a yes moment too

  • Articles, Depression,, Poem, Tough Questions

    Poetry // Pain Doesn’t Last Forever but Suicide Does


    She leaves as she lives, without being noticed
    Many wish that she could’ve known this:
    She was loved truly and deeply by many of her peers,
    Though it was hard for her to see this through her depression and her tears,
    She left many scars the day that she committed,
    More than all the scars she had previously hidden,
    She left her family in turmoil, stuck wondering why,
    All her pain couldn’t have just vanished but they could’ve tried,
    To do something or anything but this,
    Now they no longer have their baby girl to hug and to kiss,
    I left this character only as she,
    Though there are many names that this could be.
    Many wonder now for a simple solution,
    What’s the best way to kill all the confusion,
    How can we promote awareness without hurting the cause,
    How can we put self-harm plans on pause,
    I don’t have the answer but someone will soon,
    In the meantime know that someone loves you,
    And if you’re struggling please use your voice,
    Know that you’re not alone, and suicide’s not the right choice.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, the crisis line offers confidential help and someone to talk to.

    Crisis Line: 205.323.7777; Teen Link: 205.328.5465 (specifically for teens).

  • Articles, Depression, Lifestyle

    How to Free Yourself When Feeling Down in the Dumps

    Down in the Dumps Girl

    We all have those days when we’re feeling less than stellar. Whether it’s about ourselves, our job or just a current life predicament;it’s completely normal to have moments or days where you’re just not feeling as amazing as you deserve to feel. Since your wellbeing is so unbelievably important, here are some ways to get yourself out of the dumps and into a better mood ASAP! 

    Plan a Vacation 

    Everybody needs a vacation every now and then. Finding time to get away from your daily stresses is so important, especially for your mental wellbeing. Whether you want to plan a weekend getaway or an elaborate trip around Europe, take time for yourself and map out a fun vacation. If you’re not in the place where you can afford a vacation, use the time to plan a stay-cation or simply get out of the house and do something you’ve been dying to check out. No matter what it is or what you end up planning, this will give you something to look forward to along with giving you a chance to enjoy new experiences andget yourself out of the daily rise and grind.

    Embrace Color 

    Color has more of an effect on us than we’re aware of. If you’re going through a phase where you’re not feeling like yourself, color can help be a solution. There have been many studies performed showing the psychology of different colorsand how if you surround yourself with the right colors, it may just help elevate your mood. The most immediate places to add more color will be throughout your house and your office space. Doing little things like adding brighter decor to your desk or swapping your sheets for a more vibrant set can improve your wellbeing. If you’re more of a beauty guru, don’t be afraid to add more color into your beauty routine either. Spicing up your look with a turquoise eyeliner or bright pink lip can be more than enough to give you an extra spike of confidence. The same goes for your hair color. If you’re not afraid of being bold with your hair, apply a vivid new hair colorthat will leave you surrounded by color no matter where you go! 

    Give Yourself a Mental Health Day

    If the way you’re feeling is drastically affecting your day to day, don’t be afraid to take a mental health day for yourself. While trying to give your mind some cool down time with work and other things can be a wonderful distraction, some people find that they need a whole day to reset themselves so they can be the best they can possibly be. Whether you spend the entirety of your day watching reruns of your favorite show or just using the time to get some Vitamin D in with a little extra sunshine, your mental health is all about you so use your mental health day to do whatever makes you feel good. 

    Talk it Out

    One of the worst things you can do for yourself if you’re not feeling great is to keep it all to yourself. To help you feel better, talk to friends, family, your significant other, your therapist, whoever you’re close to in your life about what you’re going through. Some people don’t like to open up for fear of being vulnerable or “being a burden”, but you have to ignore those worries because in the end, that’s what they’re there for! It can be hard to be honest about what you’re going through but opening up will make you feel loads lighter in the end. 

    What are some of your recommended ways to get yourself out of the dumps? 

  • Depression

    Know The Signs – Teen Suicide

    Teen Suicide

    Know The Signs

    Teen Suicide Symptoms and Causes

    What causes suicide?

    Research shows that approximately 90% of people who have died by suicide were suffering from a mental illness at the time. The most common mental illness reported was depression. Impulsivity and substance use, including alcohol and drugs, also warning signs for elevated suicide risk. It is important to remember that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are not the natural consequence of serious life stresses. People who experience a stressful life event may feel intense sadness or loss, anxiety, anger, or hopelessness, and may occasionally have the thought that they would be better off dead. In most people, however, experiences of stressful life events do not trigger recurring thoughts of death, creation of a suicide plan, or intent to die. If any of these are present, it suggests that the person is suffering from depression or another psychiatric disorder and should seek professional treatment.

    Who is affected by suicide?

    Unfortunately, suicide crosses all age, racial, and socioeconomic groups in the US and around the world. In the US, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among children and adolescents ages 10-24, and the 3rd leading cause of death among 12 year olds. Nearly one of every eight children between the ages 6 and 12 has suicidal thoughts. The suicide rate is approximately 4 times higher among males than among females, but females attempt suicide 3 times as often as males. When a suicide occurs, everyone is affected, including the people who are left behind.

    What are the symptoms of suicide?

    The primary symptom of suicide is talking about suicide or doing something to try to harm oneself. If your child expresses suicidal thoughts or exhibits self-harming behaviors, seek professional help.

    There are many warning signs and risk factors for suicide. The list below is not exhaustive, but is intended to provide insight into what factors might elevate a child or adolescent’s level of suicide risk. This does not mean that if your child or adolescent has some of these risk factors, then s/he will automatically take his/her own life. Suicide risk takes into account many factors and needs to be continuously monitored by a mental health professional. Remember that many factors combine to lead to a suicidal crisis and may include some of those that are listed below.

    Risk Factors:

    • Mental illness/psychiatric diagnosis
    • Family history of suicide and/or exposure to suicide Family history of mental illness
    • Physical/sexual abuse
    • Losses
    • Aggressive behavior/impulsivity
    • Lack of social support/social isolation
    • Poor coping skills
    • Access to ways of harming oneself, like guns, knives, etc.
    • Difficulties in dealing with sexual orientation
    • Physical illness
    • Family disruptions (divorce or problems with the law)
    • Traumatic event

    Warning Signs:

    • Preoccupation with death (e.g., recurring themes of death or self-destruction in artwork or written assignments
    • Intense sadness and/or hopelessness
    • Not caring about activities that used to matter
    • Social withdrawal from family, friends, sports, social activities
    • Substance abuse
    • Sleep disturbance (either not sleeping or staying awake all night)
    • Giving away possessions
    • Risky behavior
    • Lack of energy
    • Inability to think clearly/concentration problems
    • Declining school performance/increased absences from school
    • Increased irritability
    • Changes in appetite

    How common is suicide?

    Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. In 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), over 40,000 suicide deaths were reported in the United States. During that year, someone living in the U.S. died by suicide every 12.9 minutes.

    How can I tell if my child is suicidal?

    You can start by asking your child if he or she is thinking about suicide. Be sure to ask them in clear, straight-forward language like, “I’m worried about you. Have you been having thoughts about wanting to die or killing yourself?” People who attempt or complete suicide often exhibit a number of warning signs, either through what they say or by what they do. The more warning signs a teenager exhibits, the higher the risk of completing suicide. If you think your child might be at risk for suicide, you should have him/her evaluated by a professional. You could call your primary care physician, your child’s therapist or psychiatrist, your local mobile crisis team, or visit the closest emergency department. In an emergency, you should call 911.

    What is the difference between suicide in children and suicide in adults?

    Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in young people between the ages of 10 and 24, but it is the 10th leading cause of death for the overall population. Although firearms are the most frequently used method for death by suicide in the United States, the most frequent methods used by teenagers are hanging, jumping from high places, and overdosing on pills or other poisons.

    How can I prevent suicide?

    You can prevent suicide by being on the lookout for the warning signs mentioned above. You can also prevent suicide by asking about it. Studies show that people do not start thinking about suicide just because someone asks them about it. If you suspect your child or adolescent is suicidal, tell them that you are worried and want to help them. Remember, sometimes children or adolescents who are thinking about suicide won’t tell you because they are worried how you will react. Your direct, non-judgmental questions can encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Regardless of their response, if you suspect that the person may be suicidal, get them help immediately.

    What is the long-term outlook for a child who is suicidal?

    With the right help, a child who is suicidal can make a full recovery and live a fully productive life.

    Where can I go to learn more?
  • Depression

    Understanding Depression and How to Overcome

    Understanding Depression and How To Overcome

    Understanding Depression and How to Overcome

    Today’s society often overlooks mental health, the main component of everyday life. Being mentally healthy is often taken for granted. There are many mental illnesses affecting millions of people, and depression is a major type. Depression acts as a prison, holding one’s mind hostage with its chains. Although depression has various causes and harmful effects, many effective coping mechanisms exist.

    Depression stems from many causes. First, genetics and hereditary factors often play a role in the causes of depression. People with immediate family members suffering from major depression are three times more likely to have the disorder themselves. Also, major life changes can cause depression, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or a miscarriage. Chronic medical problems or loss of a job can also result in a form of depression.

    In the article “Causes of Major Depression,” Stubbeman states that “Childhood trauma can cause an individual to be depressed for a prolonged period of time. Examples of such traumas are severe illness; isolation; physical, sexual, or mental abuse; witnessing a traumatic event; and neglect. The exact causes of depression remain uncertain, but the effects are clear.”

    The effects of depression range from mild to severe.

    For example, many physical symptoms accompany depression. Headaches, back pain, and muscle aches are all fairly common. Chest pain and digestive problems can also occur. Other physical symptoms of depression include exhaustion, fatigue, and sleeping difficulties. Furthermore, depression affects people mentally and emotionally. Persistent, sad or anxious feelings of hopelessness exist as part of depression. Pessimism and irritability remain common.

    Those affected by depression lose interest in activities they once found enjoyable. Thoughts of death and/or suicide plague them. However, not all people with depression have every symptom. In “Depression: A Family Matter”, Hana Marano writes that “Depression is not just a medical matter. It’s a family one, too.” The behaviors and mood of a depressed person affect the whole family. Constant irritability causes conflicts and derails family dynamics. Negative thought patterns become a prism of pessimism for everyone. This withdrawal literally disrupts relationships and breeds wholesale feelings of rejection. These damaging effects can have lasting impacts on a person’s life.

    Fortunately, there are numerous coping mechanisms available for those affected by depression.

    First, learning about depression and its condition can be motivating and empowering. Also, paying attention to trigger symptoms helps. Avoid recreational drugs and alcohol, as they will generally worsen symptoms. Lastly, taking care of one’s physical and mental well-being by eating healthy, staying physically active, and getting plenty of sleep. By following numerous guidelines and suggestions, those harmed by depression can eventually overcome it. Additionally, if affected with depression, one can use medication to relieve the symptoms.

    Numerous types of medicine and antidepressants exist that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist or primary care doctor. Patients may need to try several different types or combinations of medications in order to find one that is effective. In the article “Depression”, Belinda Rowland affirms that “Patient education in the form of therapy or self-help groups is crucial for training patients with depressive disorders to recognize early symptoms of depression and to take an active part in their treatment program.”

    For those afflicted with depression, therapy and other similar coping mechanisms are highly beneficial.

    Although depression can have detrimental effects, using coping mechanisms assists with the return to stable mental health. Because of depression’s recurrent nature, various solutions exist that have the ability to repair one’s mind, body, and family. Eventually, with effective treatment, one can break free from the chains of depression.

  • Photography

    Surviving Grief as a Teen

    Surviving Grief as a Teen

    The Holmes-Rahe Inventory, a world-renowned tool that documents life’s most stressful events, lists the death of someone close to you as one of the Top 5 most difficult life events. If you lose a parent, it can be particularly tough because your main support system may be lost as well. Recent studies have shown that when a parent dies suddenly, most teens experience grief that subsides over time. However, some teens find it difficult to survive the loss and may experience an increased risk of depression or inability to function normally.

    Why is getting help important?
    If you have very persistent grief, it is important to seek professional help. As mentioned above, strong grief can lead to psychiatric problems. Researchers warn that after two to nine months, if intense grief continues, it is a sign that a teen is not surviving grief well. The findings are also a wake-up call to the importance of preventing severe grief from taking over a teen. Even though grief can make us feel powerless, this time is also one in which we are often required to remain strong or think clearly. You may notice your surviving parent making financial arrangements or discussing changes for the family, which may include downsizing your home, changing your residence, etc. During this time, your input counts so the more mentally clear and strong you are, the better you can express yourself and handle the changes that the loss of a loved one may bring to your family.

    The right of teens to grieve
    Receiving help does not mean eradicating your right to grieve. The Mourner’s Bill of Rights for Children and Teens, created by The Bereavement Team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Notes that youths have fundamental grieving rights that should be respected by others. These include: the right to be sad and cry even if other people think you shouldn’t; the right to make some decisions for yourself; the right to be angry because of the death of a loved one; the right to ask for help from teachers, friends, or other adults; and the right to be a teacher. If you feel like living, laughing, or playing, do so. You are only a teen once and you should take advantage of the beautiful moments of inspiration you may have during this tough time.

    Understanding that grief involves different stages
    Grief can be complicated because you may feel so differently from one day to the next. You may start to feel stronger, only to feel totally down in the dumps the following day. Try and do a little reading, in particular into the work of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, one of the most famous thinkers and writers on the subject of grief. Kübler-Ross said that there were five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Her research showed her that human beings do not necessarily go through these stages chronologically. Sometimes, we can spend a long time in one stage then go through others quickly, or go back, for instance, to feeling depressed after we have already felt acceptance. It is important for teen girls to understand that all these emotions are normal.

    Lowering your stress
    To enable you to withstand grief, try to instill as calm a state of mind as possible by adopting stress busting methods such as meditation, yoga, or even breathing. Studies have shown that these holistic practices can help teens with anxiety and depression. Research has also shown that social support is very important. In addition to finding support from friends and family, try to take part in community activities – anything from sports to worship. These activities will open your circles and help you feel less alone when the pain feels like more than you can handle.

    The loss of a loved one can make you feel like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet. As a teen, you are at a crossroads in life in which parents in particular play such an important role, though the loss of a sibling, grandparent, or good friend can be devastating as well. Realize that grief is a cyclical thing, get help if you need it, and rely on other loved ones to help you feel like you aren’t alone at one of the toughest times in life.

  • Health

    How to Handle Seasonal Depression

    How to Handle Seasonal Depression

    As my freshmen year of college was coming to an end, and my summer of returning back to my hometown was there in front of my face, I felt an immediate shift of sadness for the things that were to come of my life. I felt that I had made so many great strides in self discovery, while away from home. I had felt that all of the self reflection wouldn’t be worth living up to because of how trapped and isolated I was post the first college experience that I had been given. On the ride back home, I thought of all of my friends that I would miss and the experiences that I would miss out on simply because of distance. I was stricken with grief and longing for how my life had been on my own.

    That same summer I had dealt with serious bouts of anxiety that put me in the hospital. I could not stop overthinking. I could not stop thinking less of myself, or stop myself from being high strung on the things that weren’t even real. However, after a visit with my doctor where I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, I decided to take my depression and anxiety into my own hands.

    In order to prevent the constant, never ending thought cycle I started to read books and allow my imagination to wander through that realm instead of focusing on things that I could not control. Books gave me the opportunity and outlet to feel free again. I liked that words created that type of safe space for me in order to express myself in the way that I wanted to do it.

    Music was another aspect of my life that gifted me with the outlet to allow myself to be as imaginative and free spirited as I wanted to be. On my favorite episode of Steven Universe, Garnet and Connie perform a song called “Mindful Education” that touches on surrendering to our fears. Also, in a way to deal with my environment, it was the only thing that created a sense of healthy boundaries.

    Whenever I feel my seasonal depression approaching, I make sure to pay close attention to my immune system since it is closely associated to our emotions. Nutrition is an important part of who we are and not many people know or understand that. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, “individuals experiencing depression are also not necessarily getting the carbohydrates, proteins, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that they need.” Before anything else, make sure to include a balanced meal in order to take on the day and be the best person that you know that you can be for yourself.

    Tackling depression is an ongoing cycle and something that we all have to experience one way or the other. An important part of my growth and development in this area was understanding that I was not alone. And in order to feel like I was not allow, I needed to take proper steps to make sure that I was taking care of myself in the way that I needed to be doing.