Zero to Hero Challenge-Day 1: Introduce yourself

Standard

Welcome to 2014! Like many, I feel motivated by the fresh start of a new year so I will be participating in WordPress’s Zero to Hero 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Today’s challenge is to write a post to introduce yourself. My blog is about a year old now, so I guess its about time for a proper introduction.

Image

The Basics.

  • Name: Kaitlyn
  • Age: 21
  • Occupation: student
  • Sign: Sagittarius
  • Obsessions: books, Reese’s cups, British TV
  • Currently reading: Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • Currently listening to: Myth by Beach House

Why I’m here.

My reasons for starting a blog are not unlike many others. I wanted a place to document various creative endeavors (mail art, photography, DIY projects) and personal growth that allows me to interact with other people. I also want to use this blog to share my experiences in the mental health world, both as a student and a patient as I learn to manage my depression and PTSD. I hope that by being honest and open about these things I can paint a clearer picture about what it really means to have a mental illness and maybe even provide a bit of comfort to those who are in situations similar to mine. I am going to think of this blog as an experiment- I’m excited to see where it goes as I get in the habit of posting more regularly.

Image

Just in case that isn’t exciting enough for you, there will also be the occasional portrait of Charlie to keep things interesting.

Check out the Zero to Hero challenge and come back tomorrow for my day 2 entry! Leave a link in the comments with your introduction post.

The Stigma of Depression

Standard

Although nearly 30% of Americans over the age of 18 suffer from mental illness, they are still surrounded by stigma and misinformation. Here are some of the most common misconceptions I have encountered in my years as a patient and mental health student.

1. People with depression are suicidal. 

Although many people who experience depression do attempt suicide or other forms of self-harm, it isn’t fair to assume all of them do. Being depressed doesn’t necessarily mean a person has lost the will to live or has any desire to hurt themselves. Many people with depression never even consider suicide or self-harm; its different for everyone.

2. Its just an excuse to be lazy and apathetic. 
Over the years, I’ve missed out on a lot of things because of depression or anxiety, particularly in high school. I was absent from school frequently, I ignored homework, and I avoided certain social situations. Many people began to assume this was out of laziness or a lack of caring, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. I cared deeply about succeeding in school and I would have loved nothing more than to be able to do all the “normal” things someone my age was supposed to do. Many people with depression (or other mental illnesses for that matter) have difficulty leading regular routines in terms of work and school because their symptoms get in the way. Its incredibly hard to do anything when your mind is full of worry and self-doubt.

3. Being depressed just means you’re sad. Its a normal thing that happens to everyone.
There’s no question- depression is pervasive. According to the CDC, an estimated one in ten adults in the U.S. experience depression. However, it is far from being “normal”.  Feeling sad for a short period of time in response to something in your life isn’t depression. We all get sad.  Depression is what happens when feelings of sadness, in combination with other symptoms, get out of control and effect multiple areas of daily life and hinders overall functioning over a period of time. Depression is a medical condition and does not effect everyone.

4. People with depression just need to “snap out of it”.  If they can’t get over it, that means they’re weak.
Anyone, regardless of intelligence, strength (physical or emotional), or level of success can be effected by depression. It doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t go away without a fight. Learning to manage depression can be incredibly challenging. For some people, finding the right treatment involves going through dozens of different medications, many with harsh side effects. Many people have to address deep emotional issues in therapy and make significant lifestyle changes before truly feeling better.  Mental illness can’t be willed away by even the strongest individuals.

5. Depression isn’t a real medical condition.
Depression effects brain chemistry and can have numerous different physical symptoms. Some psychologists think the condition is actually caused by flawed brain chemistry or a genetic predisposition. Its no different than having a physical health condition like asthma, diabetes, or arthritis.

6. It will go away by itself.
There are many ways to treat depression, but wishing it away isn’t one of them. The most common forms of treatment include therapy and medications, but everyone heals differently. Some people benefit from alternative therapies like art therapy, meditation, acupuncture, and even exercise. Lifestyle changes such as adjusting diet or sleep schedule or avoiding drugs and alcohol can also improve the condition.

If you think you have depression, don’t be afraid to speak up and seek help. You are not weak and you are not alone. Talk to a friend, family member, or anyone else you trust about what you’re going through. There is no shame in asking for help. To find a mental health professional, visit this page or ask your doctor for a referral. Most colleges offer some type of counseling and most cities offer free or sliding scale based services for people without insurance. Be strong!

If you know someone with depression, be patient. Being a loved one of someone with depression can be extremely frustrating; its hard to see someone you care about suffer.  The best thing you can do is to stand by them through the worst and offer support. Give them a shoulder to cry on when they need it. Do your best to put yourself in their shoes and arm yourself with knowledge. Encourage them to pursue treatment options. Most importantly, let you know you care.

For more information about depression and mental illness, visit this page. IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-TALK). 

What are your experiences with depression? What stigma or misconception have you encountered?

Mail Art Challenge!

Standard

I recently received a mail art challenge from one of my pen friends. The idea is to send one piece of art to the first person on the list, and your own information to the end of the list, and pass it on to 10 people. That means once your name reaches the top you get a mail box full of artwork! Who wouldn’t love that?

This not only sounds like a lot of fun, but also a great way to enter into the world of mail art, so I wanted to share the opportunity.

Whether you’re brand new to mail art or a seasoned expert, feel free to join! Just send an email to singingshipwrecks@gmail.com with your name and address (this information won’t be shared). Don’t forget to put “Mail Art Challenge” in the subject line.

Update: You can send a piece of art in any medium if you choose to participate. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an envelope.

A Very Late WBN USA Post

Standard

In April I was lucky enough to be selected as a bookgiver for World Book Night USA. Every year they compile a great list of books and work with stores, libraries, and volunteers around the country to deliver free copies of each book on the list to people who don’t normally choose to read or who don’t have access to books. 

I was really excited to have been chosen. I got a copy of Favorite American Poems a few weeks before the event so I could read it before giving it out. I don’t normally go for poetry, but I actually enjoyed this compilation. It was my second choice of the books on the WBN list (the first being Bossypants by Tina Fey) but it seemed like something that a wider variety of people would be interested in. 

The experience of actually handing out books to strangers was interesting. I didn’t think I’d have to convince anyone to take free books but everyone was hesitant. Some thought I was trying to sell or promote something or that the books were stolen. 

We dealt with a lot of rejection, but in the end we were able to get all twenty copies of Favorite American Poems into the hands of strangers. 

Image

I’ll never forget one man I offered a book to on his way into a grocery store. He looked at the cover of the book and simply said “No. Who has time for that nonsense?” and continued into the store. A minute later he came back out and said “Aw hell gimme one of those”

On our way home we drove passed him sitting on a bench, reading his new book. 

Image

 

World Book Night only happens once a year (unfortunately), but you can still check out their book lists. Keep an eye on their website next April for more information on how to apply as a Bookgiver. 

 

MD SPCA March for the Animals

Standard

There aren’t too many things that would make me voluntarily get out of bed at 7:00 AM on Sunday, but MD SPCA’s March for the Animals is one of them. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to raise quite as much money as I did for last year’s walk, but I’m so grateful for all the sponsors I did get and I was so happy to be able to bring to awesome dogs along for the day!

Meet Chloe and Lia

Meet Chloe and Lia

Druid Hill Park

Here are just a few of the adorable dogs we got to meet. Other highlights included a wolf/German Shephard mix and a herd of bulldogs in dresses.

Here are just a few of the amazing dogs at the event.

The scenery wasn’t too bad either

And the best photo of the day…

Lia, the sweetest dog in the world!

Thanks to generous donors, the SPCA raised over $355,000 for animals in the area. Thanks to everyone who donated to my fundraising page or to anyone else’s, the animals are better off because of you! Next year I’ll be forming a pack so we can raise even more 🙂

Find your local SPCA to learn about similar events or other opportunities to help.

One Rainy Saturday

Standard

Two weeks ago I went to Baltimore for the final day of the Fun-a-Day exhibit at the D Center. I heard about the project from Michelle, my first pen friend. The idea of the project is for artists of all skill levels to commit to spending time working on their craft every day for the entire month of January and then displaying the results. I had never heard of any type of exhibit like this before so I was curious to see what the exhibit would really be like.

Since I didn’t do my research beforehand (whoops) I got to the D Center a little over two hours before it opened so I had to kill time by going to The Book Thing– not exactly a hardship. I dropped off a stack of books and somehow managed to leave without taking any new ones with me, which was a first.

Can I live here?

After a late lunch and a little wandering  I made my way back to the exhibit. The gallery space was full of pieces from dozens of different artists. It was really cool to see art from such a variety of different people, nearly all of whom aren’t professional artists.

DSC_0710

The back of the gallery complete with a movie screening and a live band in the corner

The back of the gallery complete with a movie screening and a live band in the corner

Mother/daughter display = cutest thing ever. I was tempted to buy a few of these.

Mother/daughter display = cutest thing ever. I was tempted to buy a few of these.

Michelle's table- complete with dinosaurs!

Michelle’s table- complete with dinosaurs!

I might be biased since this was the only display by a person I knew (at least kind of), but I really enjoyed Michelle’s table. She had all the supplies you could need to decorate envelopes plus copies of some of her zines. I took full advantage of both and decorated an envelope with cute monster duct tape and rubber stamps. It didn’t come out quite as nicely as the examples she had on display, but it was fun.

Next to Michelle's table was a street art installation by Mary.

Next to Michelle’s table was a street art installation by Mary.

Here’s where things get kind of odd. Mary had a box on her table for guests to leave their addresses so she could send them postcards, which I did. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had already written me a postcard that day after finding my address on sendsomething. A few days after I sent a reply to that one, I got a postcard in response to the exhibit and finally made the connection. Crazy!

Street art props

Street art props

The exhibit was awesome, to say the least. It was inspiring to see art done by “regular people” and not only professional artists. They even had goody bags full of paper and fabric so you could start something creative of your own at home. I’m definitely going to participate in the Fun-a-Day project next year, I just have to think of something to do!

Feel the Warmth of a Cold Nose: Give to the Maryland SPCA

Standard

This April I will be taking part in the Maryland SPCA’s March for the Animals to raise money for homeless dogs and cats in the area. Please consider making a contribution if you can or sharing this with others. Even the smallest donation can make a big difference. 

 

To help animals in your area, get in touch with your local SPCA or Humane Society chapter.