YouTuber Brenna Burk blogs about life with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Years ago, if you’d asked me what OCD is, I would have given you one of two answers: “Isn’t that where people organise stuff a lot?” or “I don’t know, I’ve never heard of it.” If you ask me today, however, you’re in for a much longer, detailed, and knowledgeable explanation, because I was diagnosed with this disorder approximately eight years ago.

Before I go into detail about my mental health, let me introduce myself. My name is Brenna Burk, I’m a 19 year old college student from the United States of America, and I am probably the most smiley and fun loving person you’ll meet. I grew up playing sports and dancing, which developed into a passion for fitness and personal health/nutrition; something I now regularly practice to create a better version of myself everyday. I also really enjoy the arts – in so many different forms – drawing, writing, film, and makeup, the last two being a merged passion that turned into one of my most exciting hobbies – my YouTube channel. If you happen to be a girly girl, or are just bored enough to watch me talk, you can check my channel out with the link provided with this post.

Now that you know a little about me, let’s move onto the reason you’ve arrived at this post: my OCD.

I had just finished sixth grade when one certain event during that summer (that I don’t tend to discuss, but am willing to in more personal situations) made me feel immensely guilty. Being so young, the only type of guilt I’d ever experienced was the kind where you steal your sister’s toy and then lie about it to your parents. But I felt in my naive heart that this was something new, something so heavy that I couldn’t keep it to myself. I told my mum, via email. Yes, email. I couldn’t face the confession of this horrid feeling in person. This was the turning point of my mental health; I went from carefree to guilty as could be. I felt guilt over everything – and I mean everything.

“I felt guilt over everything – and I mean everything.”

 

As the days went by, I started getting more and more intrusive thoughts about everyday actions that my mind told me I should feel so shameful about that it made me sick. That one email to my mum turned into multiple per day, until one day I broke down and felt frantic because the amount of confessions I felt I needed to make to her were more than I could keep up with. These thoughts (the “obsessions”) not only manifested themselves in these confessions I speak of (the “compulsions”), but in weird ways that I couldn’t explain. I had to take nine steps in the living room. I had to count all stairs. I had to look over my shoulder six times. I had to stop breathing if I looked at someone that had a disease or was injured, because I thought breathing while laying my eyes on that person would give me their health problem (and I’ll admit, this is still one of my compulsions to this day).

“I had to take nine steps in the living room. I had to count all stairs. I had to look over my shoulder six times”

 

My mum eventually sought counselling for me, which was absolutely the right thing to do, but I stopped going soon into my treatment because I felt it was too shameful to talk about my thoughts. I do remember that in my first couple of sessions, that counsellor was able to diagnose me because my symptoms were so severe and obvious. By the time 8th grade rolled around, I was feeling lots better and I was convinced the OCD had mostly gone…wrong. So wrong. Fast forward to my junior year, where it came on stronger than ever before, and my confessions were aimed at my then-boyfriend this time around. I repeated the my past actions and I stopped going to my counsellor. I am not proud of that, but I can thankfully say my confessions have eased up again. I did, however, decide to start attending therapy again in my freshman year of college to address my depression and general anxiety, and I’m happy to say that this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. Finding the right therapist who relates to you deeply can make a world of a difference. Though I’ve come a long way, I still carry excessive and unnecessary amount of guilt, shame, and self doubt with me. To this day, I continue to live in fear that another episode of constantly confessing will haunt me in the future.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/unnamed-15.jpg”]

 

Now, at 19, I can say I’ve learned so much about OCD and its ability to make your mind take over your body. I’ve learned how immensely isolating it is to feel like you are living a double life, putting up a front for everyone around you while your head spins with self-destructive madness. I’ve learned that OCD is so powerful, and even more terrifying, because it truly feels like you have lost control over your own actions. Like I said, I’m doing loads better now, but I still have little compulsions everyday that simply feel routine now after all these years.

“Finding the right therapist who relates to you deeply can make a world of a difference”

 

If you suffer from OCD or love someone who does and you’ve read this far into my story, you’re probably begging me to reveal the magic cure. I resent to tell you that there isn’t one, but I will tell you the number one thing that has helped me to cope and get past my ugly, dark thoughts: Every time they invade my mind, I say to myself that it is the anxiety talking. This is not Brenna, this is OCD. It is trying to convince me that I don’t have the power and strength to not give into my compulsions. It wants to take me over, but I will not let it. Accepting my thoughts and resisting my compulsions, as frustratingly difficult as it is, is the thing that has healed me most. I’ll also tell you what has been the most challenging part of having OCD, and that is loving myself. I want to say I have learned how to, but the guilt and shame that comes with this disorder makes it feel nearly impossible. With that being said, though, I want to beg you to never stop trying to love yourself. I have made a promise to myself that I won’t give up on trying, even on the days where there is not an ounce of progress in sight. As humans, we give so much love to the people and things that matter to us. They all deserve love, just as every being on this planet does… so tell me, why don’t you? You would never rip someone else to pieces, pick out their every flaw, and tell them they are not worthy of love, so why do you do this to yourself? Next time you look in the mirror and start the self destruction, think about the questions I just asked you. I hope more than anything that you will find the power to love yourself someday.

Let me reintroduce myself: My name is Brenna Burk, I’m a 19 year old college student from the United States of America, I am probably the most smiley and fun loving person you’ll meet, and… I have obsessive compulsive disorder. I left this out the first time I introduced myself to you, as I do with every other person I meet. Why? Because as much as OCD feels like a part of me, one thing I will never do is let it define me. This disorder and I have driven a long path together, but I’ll never stop fighting it- even if this road trip lasts the rest of my life.

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Stutter, stuttering, speech impediment

Juan V Lopez blogs about how he went from hating his speech impediment to embracing it, and using it to his advantage

“He can’t read!” kids would say when I was asked to read out loud.

“You don’t know the plays?” coaches would yell at me when I couldn’t call a play in a huddle.

“You don’t know your own name?” people said while laughing after introducing themselves.

I still hear these insults so clearly in my mind…

I’m 27 years old and for every conscious moment in my life, I’ve stuttered. At the randomest times, I’ll have the hardest time saying the simplest sounds. It’s totally unpredictable. And it sucks.

Being a kid is already difficult enough when you don’t look like, act like or sound like the rest of the kids around you. So me, with my rambling and hesitation and hard breathing, I was an easy target. When I was called on in class to read out loud or present a project, I could feel my body going into shock. I could literally hear my heart pounding, my palms would get sweaty. All I could think was, “Please let this fire alarm go off…”

“I hated talking. I hated opening my mouth. And I was starting to hate myself.”

 

But, eventually, I’d have to talk. And it usually went awful. I’d struggle so much to the point where some teachers would run out of patience and ask me to sit down. And then came the laughter, the ridicule, the teasing, the pointing…

“He can’t read!” “He doesn’t know his own name!” “Dumbass can’t even talk!”

I hated talking. I hated opening my mouth. And I was starting to hate myself. And the worst part about this, is that I couldn’t “fix” it. Trust me, I tried.

Throughout my childhood, and even in college, I went through speech therapy. I was taught to speak softer…I was taught to take deep breaths before I talked so I wouldn’t be gasping for air at the end of my sentences. For the most part, these strategies helped a bit. I would apply them in a conversation…but then I’d start to stumble and everything would go to waste.

No one understood my problem, so their initial reaction when I stumbled on a word was to chuckle. I was in a constant cycle of trying to fix something, only to be ridiculed for it. I was miserable and frustrated. But as I got older and was exhausted of being dragged through the mud, I had a simple reflection – I realized that 100% of what I had been taught about my stutter was wrong. I was taught to view my stutter as a wall I had to climb over in order to have any kind of happy life. I was taught to see this as something that was wrong with me. But over time, I’ve realized that stuttering was not my problem. The way I viewed my stutter – that was my problem.

I always thought the biggest reason why my stutter was a problem was because other people didn’t understand it. “If they knew what I was going through, maybe they’d show mercy,” I would say to myself.

But now I know that my biggest problem was that I didn’t understand it.

I was taught anything and everything to help me overcome my stutter…except to understand, accept and embrace it. So, I made a mindful choice to do just that. I changed my perspective on it and it changed my world.

Nowadays, instead of getting mad at my slow speech, I’m grateful for it, and I appreciate the opportunities it’s given me. My stutter has given me the opportunity to speak slower and think quicker. My stutter has given me the opportunity to understand others without judgment. And my stutter has given me the opportunity to share my story with thousands of people inflicted with a handicap and inspire them.

Today, I’m an empowerment speaker (I speak at schools, businesses, colleges and events), I have a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Nevada, I am an entrepreneur digital marketer, and I’m the CEO of a non-profit organization. I could have never imagined any of this when I was crying in front of the mirror throughout my teenage years because I had zero self-confidence as a result of my stutter.

“I was taught anything and everything to help me overcome my stutter…except to understand, accept and embrace it.”

 

Here’s what I learned that changed me forever – and this is what I want you to take away:

The more you know about yourself, the less anyone else thinks they know about you matters.

The people that bully you may or may not have a revelation one day and decide to leave you alone. But that doesn’t matter. When you put your emotions and mental condition in the hands of others, you have zero control. They dictate how you feel and what you feel.

But when you choose to embrace yourself for everything that makes you unique, you are in control. You decide how you feel. What the people that bully you think of you doesn’t matter. What you think of yourself does.

If you’re reading this, know that I still stutter. Heck, look at my TEDx talk from January 2015 and you’ll see my stutter in full form:

Today when people chuckle at the sound of me saying “Uhhhh” when they ask for my name, I smile and firmly respond, “I have a speech impediment.” They quickly apologise. Nothing has changed. I still get laughed at from time to time.

“What the people that bully you think of you doesn’t matter. What you think of yourself does.”

 

And yet, everything has changed. Because I know who I am – I love who I am – and I do not waver. Everything changed for the better when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and took control. And I challenge you to do the same. Whatever is holding you back today, whatever people might be making fun of you for, you have a choice:

You can continue to allow it to overshadow your life…

Or you can choose to learn so much about yourself that you’re unfazed by people’s negative thoughts. You can choose to take control of your life and stop feeling sorry for your circumstances. And you can choose to understand, accept and embrace everything about you. Then, you might be able to create a life you’re truly happy to be alive for.

Either way, the choice is yours.

 

Follow Juan on Facebook and Twitter.

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We interviewed Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer Rachael Sage

DtL: What has been your proudest moment so far?
Rachael: My proudest moment so far has been when a young man approached me at a show in San Francisco and told me my music had kept him from taking his own life. While the details of why are too personal to share, let’s just say nothing is more gratifying – and humbling – than knowing something you’ve created has helped remind someone why they want to live and endowed them with renewed purpose.

DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying? If so what happened and how did you deal with the experience?
Rachael: Yes, I was very badly bullied in an all-girl grammar school between 2nd and 6th grades; basically the entire time I attended that particular school. It was 5 prolonged years of emotional and often physical abuse that was, sadly, enabled by the adults at the school to whom I confided, and unfortunately it never really got better. However, through all of it I had things outside of school that helped to define my mostly positive sense of self-esteem such as ballet class and my songwriting. I threw myself into both and the worse “regular school” got, the more intensely I applied myself to my extra-curriculars and couldn’t wait until the bell rang and I could go to New York City each day to do what I loved. I did complain to my parents but they felt helpless and didn’t know how to improve the situation. Finally, in 6th grade I came home and simply refused to go back. At that point, thankfully, they “got” it and we all agreed the next year I would switch schools. Better late than never!

“The worse school got, the more intensely I applied myself to extra-curricular activities”

 

My next school was the complete opposite, co-ed (which immediately seemed to foster a kinder environment) and the staff and students had a much more holistic, transparent relationship which inspired responsibility and curbed meanness. Positive values of compassion and encouragement versus meanness and bullying were openly discussed, and kids were held accountable for negative behaviour – which was far more rare. It was truly an exemplary place, almost like a young college, and knowing the difference between the prior torture and relative heaven of a positive learning environment helped me appreciate it all the more. I thrived there, and I will always be grateful I basically was given a second chance to become a happy, expressive young person, at age 12.

“I was very badly bullied in an all-girl grammar school between 2nd and 6th grades; basically the entire time I attended that particular school”

 

DtL: Our research revealed that 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative effect on their career. What are your thoughts on this, based on your experiences in the music industry?
Rachael: I have always been the kind of person who strived for success and to achieve very concrete goals. Likewise, I grew up with a very feminist mother who taught us the history of women who had trail-blazed so we could have the rights we do as women, and encouraged us to continue to be part of that history. She set an example by being a leader in our synagogue and pushing for women to be able to have the same honours i.e. rights as men within our temple service, and later on she encouraged me when I wanted to be the first girl to perform my entire Bat Mitzvah service, without help from the Rabbi or Cantor. So by the time I grew up, it was normal to me to lead by example versus dwelling on the negative of what has transpired before, and I’m sure that much of that is why founded my own label, years later. So in short: yes I’ve always been aware of the challenges of being female whether as a producer or a self-managed artist or a CEO; but I’ve tried to never dwell on any of that or use it as an excuse. The only way change happens, it seems to me, is by embracing exactly who you are, what you have to offer, and standing up for yourself and your vision every chance you get.

DtL: Have you ever experienced sexism/stereotyping in the industry based on gender? If so, how did you deal with it?
Rachael: Yes, I have…an internship in my teens, in particular, was fraught with sexism and I had a very intimate look at how it thrived in the music industry at a very young age. But I’ve also experienced competitive, negative behaviour – perhaps even more so – from other women! Women, like girls, can be incredibly petty, cruel and dismissive of each other’s talents and I think the only way to deal with it is to acknowledge it, not engage in any of the negativity, remain singularly focused in your purpose and show others at least as much respect as you hope to receive.

The other power one has is the choice to never work with a certain individual again, if they really seem to be sexist and offensive; I’ve made that choice a handful of times and chalked up the experiences to “growing pains”. As long a you learn from them, there really are no mistakes. But if you know someone will dampen your voice, water down your vision or dismiss your ideas simply because you are a woman and you walk into that situation repeatedly for whatever reason, well…then you may need to look deeper at the root of why you’d choose an oppressive situation. Is “success” really worth that kind of degradation? In my 20’s I had lower self-esteem, but I would do my very best to never remain in a a sexist work or personal environment now.

DtL: What advice would you give to young people who might be experiencing bullying?
Rachael: I actually recently wrote a piece about this exact subject, wherein I strongly encourage young people to tell an adult they trust (whether it be a parent, religious leader or teacher) what is going on – as well as to channel the emotional pain they are feeling into a hobby or something they love to do. I never really could figure out how to STOP the bullying admittedly; so really, my only hope became my own family protecting me, which eventually they did. You can read my story here.

DtL: What is the most exciting thing you are working on right now?
Rachael: The most exciting thing I’m working on right now is a video for my single “Try Try Try”! It’s almost complete, and I can’t wait to share it because it features a world-class ballerina named Abigail Simon who’s danced with American Ballet Theatre and The Joffrey Ballet. It’s so exciting to see an incredible dancer bring my music to life – and to integrate ballet with performances by myself and my live band. Look for it soon on my YouTube Channel!

“I think I would tell my younger self to give myself a break”

 

DtL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?
Rachael: The older I get, the more I believe it is a myth (perhaps for the self-help, therapy and morning talk show businesses) that we “overcome” our challenges. I think I will probably be facing and struggling with my challenges in one way or another my whole life, by addressing them through my art…and that how you move gracefully through them, in spite of never really overcoming them, is what defines your character. Nonetheless, here’s a short list:
– Perhaps due to a self-diagnosis of ADD (which certainly runs in my family), I am and have always been terrible at keeping organised, in general. However, I have taken on a lot of responsibility running a record label and helming my own music career. Therefore I have to work very diligently and consistently to keep my business in order, my home environment reasonably uncluttered, and my mind clear. I suppose I do this primarily by limiting my social activities, making sure I have enough “free” time to reorganise as inevitably I become disorganised, eating healthfully and sleeping enough as when I am overtired is when my mind becomes too cluttered to make sense of my external environment.
– I don’t love being a boss, but it is a necessary aspect of running a company and being the leader of one’s own career. I find it extremely challenging, ongoing, but I also know that the inverse i.e. being told how to be, what to do and how to do it less amenable to me. So I suck it up, push myself through the uncomfortable challenges that arise in that role, and remember that the reason I do it is to grant myself the privilege of being a creative artist and nurturing other like-minded, creative artists as well.
– I am often lonely and it is hard to maintain long-term romantic relationships. I have come to realise this is simply part of the lifestyle I have chosen, voluntarily, and that the people I know who also tour and have found complimentary partners may not also run a business; the combination of the two seems to be what is particularly challenging not only for me to balance but for someone else who loves and misses me to accept, due to the sheer workload and that I rarely “shut it off”. On the positive side, I’ve had many short-term relationships, loved and been in love often, and written many songs about it all!

DtL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?
Rachael: I would tell myself to get more sleep and be sick less. I used to literally make myself sick because I had so much drive and wanted to please everyone. I think I had mononucleosis three times…and they said you could only get it once! I was a very stressed-out, young overachiever and I didn’t have enough fun. Part of this was certainly because I was bullied – but part of it was also because I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best at everything I tried. Granted, my parents had very high expectations too – but nonetheless I think I would tell my younger self to give myself a break, and take a nap once in a while haha! I probably took a year or two off my life just worrying about the repercussions of getting a bad grade, which seems insane to me now. Especially in the field of music…well, it simply hasn’t been relevant. If anything, I should’ve been listening to more of my Dad’s old ’45s!

‘I Don’t Believe It’ taken from the EP ‘Home’ is released November 18th through MPress Records with all the proceeds going to Ditch the Label.

 

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Ambs blogs about life with Asperger Syndrome

I was officially diagnosed with the syndrome in 2009, when I was 13-years-old. I didn’t know anything about autism back then; in fact I don’t think I had ever heard of the condition before, and all of a sudden I was told I have this life-long ‘disability’.

I remember my mum sitting me down and telling me. I just said ‘okay’ and left the room. I didn’t process it and I didn’t accept it. I wouldn’t accept it for a long time to come and this would cause me to suffer from depression and anxiety. I constantly felt like I had a sign hanging around my neck declaring to the world that I was ‘different’ from them. I always felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb when in reality I didn’t.

For a few years after my diagnosis I was in a pretty dark place, I moved schools a lot as those schools couldn’t accommodate my needs. I was bullied in year nine and that definitely took its toll on me when I was already feeling low. This is where it got really bad for me, I started to self harm and I completely withdrew from everything, and ended up getting signed off from school.

“I constantly felt like I had a sign hanging around my neck declaring to the world that I was ‘different’ from them”

 

Unfortunately I never got my GCSE’s despite having once been on fast track to get them.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/unnamed-12.jpg”]

Four years later, I still hadn’t accepted my diagnosis. I couldn’t even hear the word without feeling disgusting – like I was a freak. I went to college and successfully passed my course but I was still so unhappy and in denial about my condition. I struggled to make friends and maintain any friendships I managed to form. I didn’t really leave the house.

Now I’m 19 and although I still struggle with my mental health and diagnosis at times, I am much happier than I have ever been and have some really great friends. I go to film conventions and have met lots of people through these events and my old theatre company.

“I couldn’t even hear the word without feeling disgusting – like I was a freak”

 

If you are being bullied, please tell someone! Remember that you don’t have to tell your teacher or parents if you don’t feel comfortable, but DO tell someone who is going to be able to help in a positive way – like Ditch the Label!

In life there will always be challenges to overcome, whether big or small. The biggest challenge that I have overcome so far is being confident enough to try new things and actually commit to them. I am so proud of myself for how far I have come in the past few years; I’m most proud of writing a manuscript, I haven’t done anything with it, but I stuck with that one project until it was complete.

If I could tell my younger self one thing, I would tell her to keep pushing for what you want. It may not feel like you’re getting anywhere but one day you’ll look back and see how far you have come.

On my down days, and I’ll be honest with you, I have my fair share, I put on my favourite film or tv show, or read my favourite book and listen to my favourite album. And I read through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s good morning and good night tweets – they never fail to give me a boost when I need it. I don’t know what I’d do without the lovely Lin’s tweets to read when I’m feeling low, they always get me motivated and out of bed.

If you are having a bad day and just want to stay in bed, try to get up for at least an hour and get something done; make yourself a cuppa tea or bake a cake. Don’t let days go to waste because they soon start merging into one and that is a dull existence. Believe me!

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  • i have a question.
    what would my therapist say to me if i cry in therapy session today online in the afternoon.
  • any1 like watching mha, the promised neverland, demon slayer, hunterxhunter or yuri on ice??
    im bored and dont have a lot of friends who like anime wut r ur thoughts????
  • I have a crush on one of my friends
    i want to tell them but my other friend also has a crush on them, a little bit ago she asked the friend we both like out but she didn't kno how to react and never really said yes or no to her what should i do?????
  • i need help
    TW I guess, nothing graphic I've been feeling more and more suicidal with the past month or two. I've gotten worse with sh too, more than before. but i dont have anyone to talk about these things , cuz my mom denies that i need a therapist or that anything is wrong with me. My […]
  • Problem with teachers (shyness)
    Hi everyone, this is my first post here. I have a problem that's making me feel rather down, so I thought I should share it here. My problem is related to my college teachers. Namely, I was always rather shy when in the presence of teachers. I have attended all the lectures I needed some […]

Ryan Woollard was bullied the whole way through school, but he wants you to know that you are not alone and things do get better

It all started at primary school…

First came the odd, flippant remark about my physical appearance, then came the name-calling and the homo-hate because my mum is married to another woman. It seemed childish at first, but it started to happen on a regular basis and every time it did, my confidence diminished that little bit more. It got to the point where I didn’t have any self-belief; I hated my appearance and I constantly doubted my abilities. My school work began to suffer because I couldn’t concentrate – the stress constantly distracted me.

I had hoped it might be different, but at secondary school things got even worse. In my first year, a boy that had bullied me in primary school came up to me and told me that a teacher would like to see me in the cabins where our classes took place. The cabins were at the top of a hill. As I started walking up there I noticed there were a few boys loitering near the top but I thought nothing of it. I guessed they were just hanging out.

As I approached, one of them stepped in front of me and said, ‘Let’s forget what’s happened between us and shake hands’. I had never met him before in my life, but I thought if I just shook his hand he might let me carry on walking. He didn’t. As I reached out, he punched me, and as I fell to the ground he got on top of me and continued punching.
Luckily a girl saw this happening and managed to intervene, but I was so embarrassed by what had happened, and that I had fallen for their trick – I couldn’t bring myself to tell anybody.

“The stress constantly distracted me”

 

As I was leaving school, two boys taunted me about how I had got beaten up earlier that day. I didn’t understand how they knew? I hadn’t told anyone. I thought maybe the boys who had done it had boasted about it to their friends, but later that night I discovered the incident had actually been filmed, and posted on YouTube for everyone to see.

I didn’t go to school for the following three months as I was too afraid of what might happen. The boys that attacked me barely got reprimanded for their actions. There were days when I considered ending it all, but I knew I couldn’t do that to my family, it just wouldn’t have been fair on them.

I eventually went back to school, but because I was so scared of rejoining my classes, the head of year decided to keep me in isolation for a while. It was just me and a few textbooks in an empty classroom.

It wouldn’t be the last time I was physically attacked at school.

I felt so alone, like no one understood or cared. Dealing with bullying is something no one should have to go through. The people doing the bullying just don’t see the long-term consequences and how it affects those they target. I used to bottle a lot of my feelings up, but now I write songs and poetry as a way of dealing with what happened to me. I was lucky that I had a supportive family around me in my time of need, but I know that some people don’t have that support network and that’s why I want to share my story, so you know that you are not alone. No matter how dark some days may seem, there will always be someone there to believe in you so please, never give up hope – the future will get better.

I am slowly rebuilding my confidence and learning to believe in myself again.

Written by Ryan Woollard

If you are being bullied don’t hesitate to contact Ditch the Label.

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Autism, Disordered Eating and Bipolar – Joe Plumb shares his story

From the very first day of school I was treated differently. Other kids didn’t seem to want to talk or interact with me and neither me or my parents understood why.

I felt so alone.

At the age of six, I was diagnosed with Autism, a social-communication disorder. Although I am really low on the autistic spectrum, people are still able to notice the subtle difference in my characteristics. Because of this, school was a very difficult place for me to navigate. I received both verbal and physical abuse, not only from other students but also from teachers – the people I was supposed to be able to depend on for support.

Things got worse during secondary school; I was beaten up, cyber-bullied and even received death threats. I started to skip meals and purge, because of the remarks people made about my looks. I felt so depressed and started to self-harm. At the time, I couldn’t see a way out – I felt like I had no one to turn to, no means of escaping the misery. I was suffering in silence – too embarrassed to speak up or tell anyone what was happening to me. At my lowest ebb, I tried to take my own life.

Because of my erratic behaviour and intention to harm myself, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and put into the care of a psychiatric hospital for almost three years. Looking back now, I wish I had opened up and told somebody what I was going through, maybe I would have been able to process what was happening to me if I had just sought help.

Personally, I found my eating disorder the hardest thing to open up about, mainly because of the stigma attached to it. I honestly thought ‘no way could a guy have an eating disorder’, even though I was living proof that we could! I just tried to shrug it off as something else, rather than label it. In my mind, it was something women and women only suffered with; traditional stereotypes that enforce how a man should look, or act, makes us feel as though these things can’t happen to us, and if they do, then we can’t talk about it without compromising our masculinity, or being judged. It’s ridiculous. Talking about my problems has made my life so much better.

I now campaign and run my own organisation, helping hundreds of people open up and talk about their feelings. I want to make people realise they are not alone! I implore those that are being bullied, or suffering from a mental illness, to not be afraid to speak up! Help is out there! Things do, and will get better. Stay strong.

Written by Joe Plumb

Follow Joe on Twitter: @TheJoePlumb 

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Lauren Rose on living with anxiety and agoraphobia

If you had told me at the age of 22 that I’d spend the next three years incredibly anxious and housebound, I wouldn’t have believed you.

My issues with anxiety seemed to come completely out of left field – one day I was a normal twenty-something; enjoying life, working part-time and travelling abroad multiple times a year, and then a few short months later I was too afraid to leave my house.

What happened?

I started having panic attacks. My first one was not triggered by anything in particular; I didn’t even know what was happening to me when it occurred. I was at work and suddenly I felt faint. My heart started beating faster, and I thought I was going to be sick. I went to the bathroom, looked at my face in the mirror and I actually watched as the colour drained from my face. I figured I must have eaten something bad, so I wrote it off as no big deal. But the next day, it happened again. I felt so unwell all of a sudden, and so nervous because of the attacks. What was happening to me? Why did I keep feeling so faint and weird? Panic attacks are tricky things, and the more you fear them happening, the more they happen – that can start the vicious cycle of a panic disorder.

I would freak myself out so much at the idea of having another ‘attack’ that I’d have them daily, sometimes multiple times a day. I started to associate having panic attacks with leaving the house – as that was when I seemed to have them – so I figured the logical thing to do was to stop leaving the house. I didn’t realise at the time, but this was the beginnings of agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a condition whereby the sufferer avoids being in places or situations where there appears to be no escape. For many, including myself, it leaves us unable to leave our ‘safe place’, which is usually our homes, or in more extreme cases, even one’s bedroom. Maybe you’ve seen agoraphobics depicted on TV or in movies, where the agoraphobic is perfectly OK inside, but then as soon as they open the front door, the world starts spinning. Unfortunately for sufferers, agoraphobia is a lot more than a bit of wonky vision.

I would wake up anxious. Before I’d even opened my eyes, the anxious thoughts in my head would be on loop. ‘What if this happens? What if that happens?’ I would think about going out that day, only to have the thought immediately shut down by both my physical and mental self. My hands would shake. My gut would churn. My mind would start visualising every possible bad outcome. You can’t go out, I’d think. You might panic. You might get sick. You might not be able to get home. You might embarrass yourself. And then I’d spend the rest of the day feeling resigned, failed, and trapped. Because that’s the problem with agoraphobia – you spend all of your time desperately trying to feel safe, and yet the more you isolate yourself, the more fearful you become.

“I would wake up anxious. Before I’d even opened my eyes, the anxious thoughts in my head would be on loop.”

 

After agoraphobia took hold, my life changed dramatically. I stopped working. I stopped going out. I missed going to birthday parties, I missed weddings, baby showers, holiday parties. I missed going on dates, I missed socialising with friends and family, I missed out on every single thing that happened beyond my front door. I said no to absolutely everything, because I was too scared of what might happen if I said yes. My anxiety became so bad in 2014 that I became too anxious to eat, too anxious to be awake, too anxious about any sensation in my body in case it meant something terrible. I was so afraid of the outside world that opening the door to my house seemed terrifying. The worst part was when people would tell me I just needed to calm down, or relax. Panic disorder and agoraphobia is irrational. Have you ever tried arguing with someone that cannot see logic? That’s what it is like having someone tell you to calm down during a panic attack. The body goes into fight or flight mode, a physiological response which sends adrenaline coursing through your bloodstream. It is survival mode at the most instinctual level. Agoraphobics know that their fear is irrational, but the body has already become trained to respond to the imagined threat.

In 2015, I gave birth to my daughter. The hardest part about it was getting myself to the hospital! After we brought her home, something changed in me. I knew I couldn’t continue living the way I had been. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up saying ‘Mummy is too scared to go outside’. I started to work on exposure sessions, which is where I would go outside and ‘expose’ myself to the fear, until I began to feel less afraid. At first I could only make it outside the front of my house. After a week I could walk a few houses away. After a couple of months, I was able to go to my first mothers group, which was a five minute drive from my house.

“Agoraphobia is an extremely difficult and uncomfortable disorder, but it isn’t a life sentence”

 

In the last year I have made huge progress with my agoraphobia – I was even able to spend Christmas away from home, with my family. In a lot of ways it has gotten much easier over time to face my fears, although I still have bad days. The most important thing that I’ve learned is to be consistent, because if I let myself believe that ‘I can’t’ enough, then I begin to struggle. The trick is to surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you, and to realise that it’s okay to be human. It’s perfectly okay to be afraid, but you cannot let that stop you from moving forward. Shutting yourself off from the world doesn’t keep you safe, it only keeps you locked inside your own fear.

If you are struggling with agoraphobia, be gentle with yourself. The idea of recovery may completely overwhelm you at first, but there is still progress in baby steps, just like there is in leaps and bounds – you just need to believe at some level that you are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. Agoraphobia is an extremely difficult and uncomfortable disorder, but it isn’t a life sentence. You can and will recover.

Written by Lauren Rose
http://anxietymamma.com

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Susie never expected bullying to happen in the workplace; here she talks about how she coped as an adult after she was bullied by colleagues

I had always thought, upon leaving school, that I would cease to encounter people that bullied. I thought, once the school gates had closed for good, I would be free of torment and prejudice.

Unfortunately, I would come to realise, I was wrong. Over the years I have worked in many different places, and much like school, the office can be a tough environment. I have been bullied and watched other people being bullied and not known what to do about it, or how to combat it. As an adult, you are inclined to talk through these problems, to see if you can find a resolution in a quick and efficient manner – but in my experience, these matters did not get taken seriously – I never found one understanding person to talk to at work; there didn’t seem like there was anyone who could help me.

I spent days upon days crying and hiding in the office toilets, but eventually I decided enough was enough and handed in my notice. Some people may disagree with this, and believe I should have stayed and stood my ground but, it was honestly too much to bear.

I took years out of work to have children, and it was during this time that I happened upon a lovely article in a magazine about a mother and daughter who were interviewed about body image and self-esteem. The mother was a life model (someone who holds poses while artists draw them), and well into her 50s – she talked a bit about her work in the article and it inspired me to research further. In my youth I had trained as a dancer, and felt that life modelling was probably something I would be good at, as I already had the practice and core strength required to hold poses for a long period of time.

Compared to my previous places of employment, I have found the art-world to be full of polite and respectful people, and in all the years I have worked there I have never once witnessed any forms of bullying. Everybody is treated with the utmost respect, regardless of age, race, gender, class, disability or sexuality. I often wonder why it is such a different environment from my other places of work; is it because people are more at ease with themselves in this industry? Are they more fulfilled? The happy, self-confident people I have met just don’t feel the need to belittle others. It is so refreshing. My new career has given me the most valuable gift of all; confidence. People that bully can take that away from you, but if I overcame my insecurities, so can you!

I no longer think about, or give energy to the people who once called me ‘worthless’. I like to think, that one day, as they are wandering around a gallery or museum, they will happen upon a painting or a statue and recognise that it is me; someone who has now found happiness and success, and is quite the opposite of ‘worthless’.

Charities like Ditch the Label are a marvellous and vital source of support and advice, and can help you combat bullying. Growing up, these online resources were not available – I didn’t even have the internet! The more that people unite against bullying, and stand up and speak out – the easier it will be to eradicate it altogether.

Written by Susie

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Rufaro Mazarura lists 6 things she is tired of hearing as a black girl

1. Is that your real hair?

Okay, my hair, whether it be natural, relaxed, extensions, a weave, braids or even a wig does in fact, belong to me. I’ve paid a lot of money, dealt with a whole-lotta nonsense to get products that work for me, and spent hours pushing through the pain barrier while someone pushes and pulls at my hair to get it the way that I like. So, whether it is synthetic, styled, or just naturally growin’ out of my scalp – yes, this is and always will be, my hair.

2. We are not all ‘rude girls’, and not all of us hail from the ‘ghetto’

Similarly: Not all Asians are clever, not all Indian people have arranged marriages and not all Muslims are terrorists. Let’s ditch the stereotypes.

3. Not everything is about race.

If somebody feels confident enough to talk about race and the part it plays in their life, which is actually really difficult to do, maybe try and listen. Race affects us all, even if you don’t see it, or haven’t personally experienced the negative side of things, try not to devalue the experiences of others and the stories they are brave enough to share.

4. You’re so strong and independent! *shocked face emoji*

I know this is meant to be a compliment but this is a line rarely (if ever?) said to men. It’s as if being ‘independent’ and being a ‘woman’ are mutually exclusive. If you haven’t already, it is probs time to Youtube ‘Destiny’s Child – Independent Women’. Amen.

5. You’re really pretty, for a black girl.

Just no. There are so many things wrong with this sentence. #Checkyourself

6. I don’t want to sound racist but…

If you think that what you’re about to say is going to sound racist, it probably is. Saying that you’re not racist at the beginning of a sentence, or trying to convince me that what you’re saying isn’t racist by precursing it with some sort of disclaimer, is not going to make what you’re about to say any less racist. In fact, it’s going to make whatever you say sound worse, because now I know that you intentionally said something that you understood to sound racist…to conclude, it’s probably better left unsaid.

Written by Rufaro Mazarura
Twitter @rufarofaithh

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Paralympic Footballer Matt Crossen on suffering a stroke at 23 years of age, qualifying for Rio 2016 and masculinity in sports

I was just a typical 23 year old man.

I played football semi-professionally for Marske United in the northern league division, I went to the gym, enjoyed going out with my mates and was regarded as very fit and healthy. On the morning of my incident I left the house as usual for work, and expected the day ahead to be just like any other.

I was at a college nearby, talking about my work to students, when at 1.23pm I felt a tingle on the side of my head, above my ear. My eyesight started to blur, until I could only see out of the corners of them, and then my left side went completely numb. It was at this point I turned to my friend and said “I think I’m having a stroke”. That was the last sentence I was able to get out, because the weakness on my left side had taken over.

You’d think, considering the circumstances, that I would have felt panicked and worried but, as much as I was in shock that this was happening, I remained totally relaxed. I don’t know why this was the case, it could be down to the area of my brain that was being affected by the stroke.

I was rushed to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough where they performed a thrombectomy. I awoke to my family around me, and the doctors confirmed I had suffered a stroke. To this day I owe my life to Dr. Bergen and Dr. Padmanaban, and all of the nurses on the ward that helped get me back on the go again.

The stroke has left me with limited mobility and sensation on the left side of my body, but I absolutely refused to let that stop me from playing football. It’s my passion, it’s who I am – I couldn’t give that up. After rehabilitation, I managed to get back to training, and it was there that I was spotted by talent scouts from the England Cerebral Palsy squad.

Success is more important to me now, than ever before. I wholeheartedly believe positivity breeds success; if you put 100% effort and commitment into what you want to achieve, and never give up, you have a great chance of achieving your dreams. Everyone faces challenges along the way; as well as the stroke, I have also suffered other injuries whilst playing for England, but I believe you learn from these hardships. You just have to use what you have been given to the best of your ability. That is all I have done.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/JS92894821-1.jpg”]

 

The best thing about playing CP football is that I get to encourage people with disabilities to keep going. I get to reassure them that a disability does not mark the end of a dream – I wouldn’t be playing for England now, if I hadn’t of suffered a stroke! It is so rewarding when people tell you they have been inspired by you, or the sport, and have tried something new because of it.

I know Ditch the Label’s Annual Bullying Survey revealed that people with disability were at high risk of bullying, and sadly, I have seen examples of this first-hand. However, I have also seen people with a disability turn these negative experiences into a positive – I have seen them grow stronger in the face of adversity. If you have a disability and doubt yourself, or feel like you don’t fit in, my advice would be to try and not overthink it; everyone, at some point or another, disabled or not, feels this way.

There are a lot of stereotypes associated with sport, and men in sport, but masculinity to me, is just a phrase. I’m not the biggest or the strongest, and I don’t mind showing my emotions – there is nothing wrong with being honest about how you are feeling, whoever you are! Maleness and ideas of masculinity have always plagued the sports industry – football in particular, but I feel this is improving.

I honestly can’t put into words how amazing it is to know I will be playing at the Paralympics in Rio this year. From having my stroke, to being told I was definitely going to Brazil – I am really proud of what I have achieved. I am getting goosebumps thinking about it now!

Never give up and never regret! You can turn almost anything into a positive if you want to!

Thanks to Ditch the Label for allowing me to share my story.

 

 

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    i want to tell them but my other friend also has a crush on them, a little bit ago she asked the friend we both like out but she didn't kno how to react and never really said yes or no to her what should i do?????
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  • Problem with teachers (shyness)
    Hi everyone, this is my first post here. I have a problem that's making me feel rather down, so I thought I should share it here. My problem is related to my college teachers. Namely, I was always rather shy when in the presence of teachers. I have attended all the lectures I needed some […]