How old were you when you first noticed mental health popping up in your life and how did it present itself?
For me personally, my anxiety became apparent at a pretty young age. I would say the earliest I remember would be around 5 years old. Of course being that young I didn’t know what anxiety was and everyone around me would just say ‘oh she’s just shy’ but I knew it was more than that. I remember having a deep fear of getting I trouble or getting yelled at, and there really wasn’t a reason for it. I would avoid asking adults for permission for anything. One vivid memory I have was going to a birthday party when I was probably 6 or so at an indoor amusement park. I was so thirsty from playing so my mom told me to just go to the snack bar and get a water. But I was petrified. I remember thinking they would yell at me for asking or refuse to give me anything. So I stayed thirsty and waited until someone else went up for something. That fear stuck with me my whole life and only grew worse as I got older and my anxiety started appearing in more aspects of my life.
How have you learned to handle your symptoms and how do you prepare for difficult or triggering situations?
Well for the past almost 4 years now I have been taking medicine to help cope with my anxiety. It took me over 20 years to come to terms with myself and actually say out loud that I had a problem and I needed help with it. Before I took anything, I had the hardest time handling stressful situations that would trigger my anxiety. Things that seem so simple to others like, ordering at the drive thru or presenting a project in class or even going to the doctor could send me into a full on tail spin. My symptoms would differ but my common ones were sleepless nights (before triggering events like presentations) loss of appetite, lightheadedness, upset stomach, racing heart, shortness of breath and one of my dead giveaways-one I still get even now when my body reacts to my anxiety- a bright red rash that creeps from my chest up my neck and onto my cheeks. Since being on medication, I still get some symptoms like the rash, shortness of breath and racing thoughts but I am able to calm myself down. Something that I’ve found helps me is focusing my nervous thoughts and energy into one place. For me that’s my hands. If I keep them busy, like rubbing or my pressing my thumbs into my fingers or making a tight fists and releasing them, helps me control my anxiety and thoughts. One thing I’ve learned throughout all this is that everything is temporary. The feelings I could be experiencing aren’t going to last. And for me when the stressful thing is over every single one of my symptoms disappear. So I keep that in mind when I’m anxious. I also have a tattoo on my wrist that reads- Take a Breath. It’s from a Jonas Brothers song (shout out!) and it has gotten me through so much. It’s something that helps me through my anxiety because for me focusing on my breathing helps tremendously. It may seem cheesy but it’s gotten me through so much.
What are some positive lessons you’ve learned from overcoming different mental health challenges?
One of the best things I’ve learned from a lifetime of anxiety is how strong I am. There have been times where I think I’ve hit rock bottom and the entire world is crashing around me but I’ve pushed forward and gotten through whatever it was that was scaring me. It takes a lot of courage to face your biggest fears and even though I’m only a couple years into handling my anxiety better, it feels amazing to see how far I’ve come. I’ve also learned that anxiety is going to be with me forever. I may be able to handle it easier and aide some symptoms but it’s a part of who I am. And I think it’s a good thing to accept that. Something’s can’t be changed but if you can find it in yourself to overcome that and continue to put your best self forward, you won’t be controlled by your mental health.
Why do you chose to be open (or closed) about mental health?
For over ⅔ of my life I chose to be closed about my anxiety. I didn’t want to accept that I had an issue. I thought it was just who I was and there was nothing I could do to help it. I almost gave up. But I hit a really bad low point around four years ago. I was having a crippling panic attack and finally realized this wasn’t normal. This was more than me just worrying about things. This was a problem. So I reached out to my mom, broke down and asked for help. Soon after I met with my doctor and that’s when I changed my thinking on anxiety. Since then I’ve been SO open with it, I’ll literally tell anyone I have it. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I used to be embarrassed but now I think of it as a way to educate others. When people don’t understand why I’m anxious or panicking about ‘nothing’ I can take that as an opportunity to tell them what I go through. I don’t see a reason to hide a part of me. And also being open about it could help others who could be living with the same thing. I’ve had many friends admit they struggle with anxiety too-after I mention I have it. There’s a sort of comfort and feeling of safety that comes with finding someone who can relate to what you’re going through.
If you could pass along advice to someone struggling in a similar way, what would you tell them?
My biggest advice would have to be, ask for help. If you’re struggling, you don’t have to go through it alone. I regret waiting so long to reach out and admit I needed help. It’s a hard thing to do, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s something that can change your life. Honestly just saying I had anxiety for the first time was like a weight being lifted. Once I said the words out loud, it was like it made it real. And once it was real I felt I could take it on. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone and I am so glad I reached out to my family, friends and doctor. I know medicine or therapy might not be for everyone and that is fine. But I think giving them a chance as your figure out your unique way of handling your personal mental health is so important. If you’ve been struggling for a while it’s time you let the ones who love you help take some of that weight off of you. No one expects you to handle everything on your own. You may have to live with your anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue but you don’t need to suffer in silence.
Curvy and Contoured
What inspired you to create Curvy and Contoured?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always looked up to different women/celebrities for being open about their struggles or sharing their stories. I like having inspirations come from people who may be going through something similar or someone just being brave enough to put themselves out there. And with social media being as big as it is right now, it’s easy to find so many strong, empowering women to look up to and follow their journey. I personally never thought I could do something like that and I would always envy people who did. But just over a year ago I decided that I wanted to face another fear of mine and just put myself out there. I knew there had to be other people going through the same things I am and if I could help even just one person, I would be happy. So I took to Instagram and combined my battle with PCOS, being a plus sized women in a world that’s just learning to accept us and my love of makeup and made Curvy And Contoured. Working more on my Instagram and reaching more people is my biggest goal for 2018.
We both suffer from something called PCOS, for me it has played a pretty large roll in my mental health. How do you take care of yourself physically and emotionally with PCOS and what have been the major changes you’ve seen in your health since being diagnosed and treated?
PCOS has had countless impacts on my life. I went undiagnosed for around 5 years and have been working on treating it and figuring it out since I was 16. For me, seeing my endocrinologist has made a huge difference. I take a medicine commonly prescribed for PCOS called Metformin and have been on it since I was diagnosed. It has helped with some of the symptoms of PCOS, and the biggest thing it has done for me is help me have my menstrual cycle naturally again. For two years I went without getting it and that’s when I knew there more going on with me then just growing into a teenage body. I personally deal with weight gain with PCOS and have been working with my doctor to try and help me manage it better but it is still a struggle. Emotionally it can be hard living with PCOS, my anxiety can be tied to it and I’ve dealt with depression for most of my adult life which also can come from PCOS. There have definitely been times where I’ve felt discouraged and helpless when it comes to PCOS since there is no cure and it’s just something you have to manage the best you can. But I’ve found a lot of support groups online that help. You can talk with women who go through the same things as you and it makes you feel less alone.
How do you hope to inspire others with Curvy and Contoured?
I would love to show other women and men as well, that there is more to someone than meets the eye. Seeing someone post snippets of their life on social media doesn’t truly represent who they are and what they might be going through. PCOS and it’s side effects are hard to deal with and SO many women go undiagnosed, so I’d love to spread more awareness about it. And I’d love to show people that every ‘BODY’ is beautiful, whether you’re size 2, or 22. Plus sized women have been shamed for their weight and bodies for so long and it’s about time we get to be proud of who we are and what we look like. So I’d love to be able to inspire someone to be confident in the skin they’re in.
How do you handle the vulnerability of being so open on a social media platform?
I am a fairly shy person at first glance, I don’t tend to open up to others until they get to know me, but with this platform online I’ve found that I’m more open than I’ve ever been. I didn’t think too much about what others would say or think about me when I first started posting. I just wanted to put myself out there and hope for the best. So far I haven’t faced too many harsh critics, which has been nice but I also knew that with anything that goes online there’s going to be negativity. I just choose not to acknowledge it. My posts are meant to inspire and educate people, and that’s what I focus on.
Say something nice about yourself!! I am…
No longer afraid to be myself. I am strong, caring, and beautiful and want to help others see the same things in themselves.