FEELING BETTER ZIGS AND ZAGS

Who wouldn’t love a miracle cure that could make us feel better in an instant? In our current times medications are on the rise as a more popular solution to illness or unhappiness rather than lifestyle changes. And while medication can be helpful, there is still a great lack of understanding in our society about the real process of recovery. One pill or one therapy session may start the process of recovery, but the road is often long with many ups and downs for most of us. Read more to hear about Peer Educator Aditi’s personal journey of healing and how she managed the zigs and zags along the way.

FEELING BETTER ZIGS AND ZAGS

by Aditi Sheth

A friend and I were recently discussing a Psychology course that she took that seemed to double as a kind of therapy session for her, and the students that were in it. The professor often had his students share “how they were doing” with the class, and encouraged them to dig deeper beyond the impulse to simply say, “I’m fine,” or “life isn’t great, but I’m ok.” He wanted his students to know that the common impulse that we have to push our feelings away aren’t healthy in the long run for our emotional development and well-being.

It was hard for me to see that at first, as I’ve always had the thought that the best thing to do not just for myself, but for everyone, was to carry on as if everything was ok. It saved people the stress of worrying about you, and If you can tell yourself that everything in your head is ok, eventually you’ll start to feel that way, right? Recently I have found that if you don’t give yourself to really process your emotions, they’ll begin to rear their ugly heads again sooner rather than later.

A few years ago, something happened to me that was extremely difficult for me to process. I was still in high school and I was reluctant to talk to my parents or friends, or reach out and seek professional help. Instead, I found myself attempting to distance myself, to distract myself, to pretend that what happened was unimportant, or didn’t have any real effect on me. The truth is that it did. And I still struggle with the feelings of regret and hopelessness to this day, even after so much time has passed, and even after things had gotten theoretically better, and I had become stronger.

I’m still not sure why I still struggle with these issues. I wish I could give a professional opinion about the various ways I did and didn’t process my emotions, about what I was supposed to do or what I could have done better. All I can say is that there were days that I felt like nothing had ever happened, that I could go days, weeks, months, and feel fine. And then suddenly, it all, very recently, came crashing back to me, and I’ve been struggling with how to reconcile my feelings.

All I know is that whenever anyone goes through an ordeal that weighs on them emotionally, all they want is some way to feel better. For me, the way I did was eventually letting the passage of time help me block everything out. But as far as I can tell, the passage of time isn’t the cure to all problems, even if the old adage goes “time heals all wounds.”

I’d like to share a quote from one of my favorite books, The Mothers, by Britt Bennett. “Grief was not a line, carrying you infinitely further from loss. You never knew when you would be sling-shot backward into its grip.” The process of feeling better about anything isn’t a simple and straightforward. It’s easy to fall into the trap of having to appear strong, about having to tell everyone that everything is always, constantly ok. I know that I’ve done it, and I know that it’s not my truth.

I would encourage you not to fall into this trap. Instead, recognize that feeling better is not a straight line, it’s more like a zig zag.

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PROACTIVITY OVER REACTIVITY

We would be lying if any one of us claimed that we had never said, “I wish I had thought of that earlier!” Many of the difficult experiences that we face in life are avoidable in the hands of a proactive community. Meaning that if we work together to look a few steps ahead, we have the power to prevent some of life’s most terrible tragedies. Read on to learn more about the importance of proactivity and how you can make it a bigger part of your life.

PROACTIVITY OVER REACTIVITY

by Madison Wright

Earlier this month, the series “13 Reasons Why” premiered on Netflix and has sparked controversial conversations ever since (spoilers ahead). The series tells the story of a girl, Hannah, who was bullied and assaulted throughout high school, which ultimately drove her to the decision to commit suicide. However, Hannah left 13 tapes behind, each with an individual reason explaining her decision. The show dives into uncharted territory for television with vivid depictions of serious issues like bullying, victim shaming, depression and suicide. Though many aspects of the show are disturbing, the most disturbing thing presented, in my opinion, is the lack of resources and assistance for the mentally ill at Hannah’s high school.

The high school in “13 Reasons Why” follows many stereotypical high school tropes for cliques, jocks and cheerleaders. Although Hannah’s initial conflicts might appear to be trivial and classic forms of high school drama, her mental state quickly deteriorates as she starts her battle with anxiety and depression. Hannah is frequently publicly humiliated and neither her peers nor her teachers offer her any support. Lastly, she visits the school counselor and confides in him about the bullying, assault and her thoughts of suicide and asks for help in how to prosecute her assaulter. The counselor proceeds to victim shame her and tell her that her case is hopeless and that she will have to get over it or learn to live with it. After Hannah’s suicide the high school starts a campaign against suicide and hangs various posters advocating against it, to mourn her death.

The campaign the school launches after the tragedy is a form of reactivity. The school did not offer any help or resources for Hannah, but in reaction to her death they try to raise awareness in the community. Proactivity would have been for the school to already have had resources publicly available to students and to have a counselor who is trained in crisis intervention. The counselor undermined Hannah’s experiences instead of recognizing that she needed serious and immediate help. If the school had been more prepared for serious situations with mental illness like this, Hannah could have gotten the help she needed before it was too late. What does this mean for mentally ill students around the world that don’t have the will to seek help on their own? And the students that don’t have social support to seek it for them? These students are invisible to the school system and serious changes should be done to prevent further tragedies, like Hannah’s.

Luckily, here on campus at UCSC, there are a variety of resources for those struggling with mental illness or having a rough time. CAPS offers online resources, counseling by appointment, Let’s Talk, and a 24 hour phone service. If you visit the UCSC CAPS website (https://caps.ucsc.edu/), all the services offered are listed by categories. The website also has a self-help library that offers information and tips on specific issues; like stress, anxiety and trauma. CAPS provides a free online resource called WellTrack with a mood check feature to track how your mood varies from day to day. CAPS is here for the students, but if talking to a counselor doesn’t suit you, there are workshops put on by peer educators to offer help as well.

Although CAPS is a proactive resource at UCSC it is also up to everyone else to be proactive as well, in engaging in self-care and looking out for their peers at all times to ensure that UCSC is a safe and welcoming community for everyone. This kind of proactivity makes all the difference for someone who is facing a battle with mental illness like Hannah was.

SMALL WAYS TO MAKE BIG CHANGES

In our present day surroundings and our current political climate, it is very overwhelming to think about all of the things we would like to change. Where do we start? It is easy to feel powerless when this question comes up, because what power do we really have as college students? Read on to learn about very small things you can do to make changes around your own community and how those small things can have a big impact.

SMALL WAYS TO MAKE BIG CHANGES

by Emma Burke

When our world is chaotic and we have a million things on our own plates, it can be really hard to stay motivated to get involved. We may feel powerless to everything that is going on, and it might feel hopeless that any of us can really make an impact. However, there are some small ways in which we can make an effort in our daily lives that have the potential to make a truly big impact on our own sense of purpose and motivate those around us!

  1. Stay informed. I’m sure that you’ve heard this a million times, but I can’t stress enough just how important it is. When you are thinking about your own mental health, it is important to foster a sense of knowledge and purpose within yourself as much as you can. And this is a great way to do this! Make sure that you get well-rounded information from a variety of different sources. Foreign news can often be the most reliable during this time period. However, that being said, it is also important to make sure that you are not taking on more than you can handle. While staying informed of what is really going on can decrease your anxiety and increase your sense of purpose, much of our current news is very disturbing and alarming. So listen to your body and your mind and make sure to turn off your computer or your TV when you’ve had enough for the day.
  2. Start a conversation. If you’re feeling disturbed about current events (like most of us are on a daily basis) try talking about it with the people around you. While our first instinct may be to take this unpleasant news and immediately stuff it down so deep that we no longer feel it, a better way to deal with it is to talk about with someone. Share your feelings out loud and connect with someone about your feelings, whether they may be worried, anxious, frightened, or angry. Furthermore, if you feel that you are in need of more help than a friend can give you, be sure to reach out to CAPS for free and confidential services.
  3. Use The Resistance Calendar. This calendar is updated hourly to bring you information about events happening every day that you can be a part of. Pick an issue that is important to you and check the calendar a few times a week to see what you can get involved in. If being involved is important to you, try setting a goal of going to one event a month or something along those lines.
  4.  Take Care of Yourself. As it reads at the beginning of the article, make sure you listen to your limits. We live in a very disturbing political climate and this is not something to take lightly. Getting involved can be a great way to find purpose, and to feel slightly more in control of the chaotic world around you. However, it is extremely important to use your knowledge and emotions to fuel connections with others, rather than festering inside of you. Furthermore, leave a little bit of time every day to not think about these issues. Whether you are deep breathing, meditating, or reading a good book, it is always a good idea to find a healthy way to escape for a small part of the day.

And finally, for more information check out http://UpHoldTheseRights.com for updated information about more small ways you can stay involved. Bonus: This site was created by one of our very own UCSC Psychology Professors, Veronica Tonay! So be sure to check it out.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Ghandi

ESTABLISHING BOUNDARIES IN RELATIONSHIPS

Navigating personal relationships can often be much trickier than even our most difficult courses. When do we draw the line and say “no” and when do we ask for help from our friends? One of the key factors to answering these questions is having a solid understanding of the boundaries that you want in your relationships. Read on to learn about establishing boundaries in your relationships!

ESTABLISHING BOUNDARIES IN RELATIONSHIPS

by Camara Chea

Establishing boundaries in personal relationships can be tricky, but it is essential to a state of positive well-being. Whether this applies to family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, peers, or even yourself, boundaries are an important stepping stone to better understanding your needs and limits and having healthy relationships with those around you. Here, communication is definitely key. Sometimes, in order to maintain a stable mental state, it may be best to commit to setting certain boundaries. These boundaries may be fluid or static, and they may look different for the various people in your life.

Additionally, your boundaries may need to be communicated in different ways, depending on the person you are talking to (from more indirect to more plainly stated). Perhaps for a family member or friend that engages you in toxic interactions, it may be best to limit your time with them and state clearly what you are comfortable and not comfortable with (e.g. you wish to not be treated poorly, and were this to happen, you will have to take some time to yourself). Or maybe you are in the early stages of a romantic relationship, and you are noticing the other person doing things that are incompatible with your comfort levels. In such instances as these, it may be helpful to respectfully and clearly communicate your boundaries and maintain them as needed.

 Of course, there are a lot of gray areas around setting boundaries, especially when cultural influences, power dynamics, and socioeconomic factors come into play. I understand that it can be challenging. It is also important to remember the distinction between setting boundaries and establishing “controlling” rules. Please try to avoid using boundaries as a way to manipulate or control other people’s daily lives. It’s one thing to voice your feelings and detail potential choices and consequences, and it’s quite another thing to expect your partner to not do a certain thing for unfounded reasons.

 While setting boundaries can be seen as limiting, it can also be viewed as very empowering. Personally, I have seen a positive transformation within myself after establishing and maintaining boundaries with the people in my life. I try to limit my time with people who drain my energy or bring negativity to my life. It can be difficult to be assertive in those moments, especially when it’s with people you care about, but at the end of the day, you have to remember that you are the one and only person living your life.

 For more great tips, check out these two helpful articles:
1) https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-way-to-build-and-preserve-better-boundaries/ and 2) http://new.ipfw.edu/affiliates/assistance/selfhelp/relationship-settingboundaries.html. With that, I wish you the best of luck in cultivating healthy relationships in your life and employing boundary setting as a method to achieving this!

SELF REFLECTION

Do you ever wonder what small things may have changed about you over time? We often don’t take the time to stop and recognize our own slow progression, whether it’s intentional or not. Becoming more aware of your own self may help you to live a more fully realized life. Peer Educator, Kimberly has some great tips on how to practice self reflection and make it a part of your life!

SELF REFLECTION

by Kimberly Balmorez

Self reflection is a great way to be honest with yourself. It can also help you grow and improve in areas that you feel need more attention. Expressing internalized frustration can help better yourself and the communities you’re involved in. Keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of your self reflection. Over time you’ll be able to see how much you’ve improved and changed.

Life is all about personal development. It’s easy to get caught up. Next time, instead of dwelling or ruminating on what happened or didn’t happen in your life, journal about it and let that thought go physically and mentally. Identify the issues and remember what you have control over as an individual, then you can begin to create a plan that best fits your needs and take action. Sometimes as an individual all you have control over is the way someone makes you emotionally feel or how you are going to react, and that’s okay. Taking control over what seems to be small and simple can make a huge difference in how you approach life and the life you choose to live.

Self reflect and be better for you. Don’t just be the person you want to be, but be the person you need to be. Realize that there are folks around who share the same sentiments as you, but they are probably waiting for someone else to make the first move. Self reflect and be that person for you and in turn for others as well. You’re amazing! — Remind yourself that often.

THE INVISIBLE STRUGGLE OF HAVING A HIGH-FUNCTIONING MENTAL ILLNESS

Most of us have heard about bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety, and while a strong stigma still persists, and more education is still needed, these are all illnesses which most of us recognize. However, mental health is a complicated subject which exists on an ever changing spectrum for each individual person. And while you may not have a full blown mental health condition, that does not mean that you are not deserving of help. Peer Educator Melissa shares her story of what it is like to deal with a mental illness as a high-functioning person and the way by which she came to accept her own deservingness of treatment and help.

 

THE INVISIBLE STRUGGLE OF HAVING A HIGH-FUNCTIONING MENTAL ILLNESS

By Melissa Newton

Growing up I had family members and friends with severe mental illnesses and learned small ways how to show them love and support, and I learned how to see some signs that they were struggling. I recognized that these loved ones always deserved more support, love, and care, just as people dealing with physical illnesses did. That being said, there were sometimes that I wasn’t sure of the best ways to support them. How do I help someone who has depression? Bipolar disorder? Anxiety? This can be quite challenging but there are resources out there to know the signs of when someone is struggling, and I slowly learned them.

My own life was different. In high school I averaged two hours of sleep each night but no one knew unless I told them. I was anxious about everything and became an extreme perfectionist ,while also dealing with unexplainable visual hallucinations and body image issues. Eventually I realized I had trichotillomania, which is a compulsive hair pulling disorder related to OCD. Hours upon hours I spent focused and obsessing over my body and skin, and it caused physical destruction and injury to my body. And I simply could not stop.

I felt like an absolute mess, but none of these issues were very noticeable to other people. My friends and family never talked much about any of the things I was struggling with and I never wanted to bring it up. After knowing what more severe mental illnesses were like, I never felt like mine was worth discussing or that I needed help, despite feeling awful, lonely, out of control, and terrified. I thought I was just a weirdo. But I had a 4.6 GPA in high school and I still had wonderful friends, and so I could not actually be struggling, right? I could beat it on my own.

This mentality—that if others could not see my problems they did not exist—kept me from taking care of myself. I did not seriously seek any kind of professional help or even talk to my friends more openly about my mental health experience until college and I really wish I had earlier. Many people had told me that mental illness only really exists if it is debilitating for the person and affects all aspects of a person’s life. I felt like a zombie on a daily basis and had panic attacks often, but I had very happy moments and was academically successful, so I thought that professional help was not for me and that the label did not apply to me.

Eventually I talked about it to people I trusted and asked questions. I accepted how I was really feeling. I slowly started seeing a therapist. While these steps felt awkward at first, I quickly found that it was the right thing to do. I feel much happier and now I have a lot more freedom. I feel comfortable. While my symptoms have not completely disappeared, I do not feel alone or stuck anymore.

IN SYNC WITH MY HAPPINESS

Happy Spring Quarter everyone! The beginning of the quarter is a great time for some self reflection and thought about the things that make us happy. We often feel torn between wanting to do things that make us happy, and trying to stay disciplined in our daily lives. While discipline is helpful, if we are constantly denying ourselves of the things that make us happy, we are in for some serious inner turmoil. Read on to hear about how Harsimran has learned to deal with this balance in her life.

IN SYNC WITH MY HAPPINESS

by Harsimran Kaur

 

We all have our own happy places; however, I found mine in the one place I feared the most, a stage. For the majority of my high school – and my life – I was the quiet girl in the classroom. I dreaded classes that graded you on participation and presentations. I was the girl who smiled at you, but preferred to speak through my actions rather than words. Nonetheless, in my sophomore year I found myself standing backstage, waiting to perform in front of thousands of my peers. I was terrified. My mind was racing, regret and fear flooded my emotions and washed away my optimism, and I searched for a way out, yet, once I set foot on the stage, everything dissolved. My love for dance and I finally became one.

Growing up in a traditional Punjabi family, I wasn’t allowed to explore my interest in dance, because bhangra, a Punjabi dance, was not for girls. Today, this dance has become co-ed and is pursued by both men and women, but traditionally, women. On top of this, there was a pressure to have to choose between my religion and culture. I am a practicing Sikh, and for me, that is the lifestyle that I find the most peace and love in. Over the years as my dedication to Sikhism grew, I felt the pressure to fit an image of an ideal Sikh women, and this excluded dancing.

Overcoming this battle in my mind, I was finally letting myself embody the love for dance I had held inside my heart for as long as I could remember. Slowly, through dance, I was able to blossom as a person and open up in all parts of my life. I gained my voice in this world, and found another happy place of mine. However, when I started my freshman year at University of Santa Cruz, I moved away from my dance team and thought that I would no longer have this happy place. Because of cultural pressures, I felt that I had to let go of dance at one point, and college was the time of new beginnings, one that began with the death of dance in my life.

I believed that my dancing days had come to an end. I tried to fill in the gap with other activities. I occupied myself in painting, writing, DIY’s, and more. While I enjoyed these hobbies, I realized that bhangra just had its own place in my heart. For months, I stayed firm in my decision to live a dance-less live, but gradually it found its way back to me. During fall quarter, one of my friends within the dorms had expressed how they were hoping to audition for our school’s bhangra team, but needed help preparing. Since I had taught dance my senior year, I offered to help them learn the routine for auditions and before I knew it, I myself was auditioning for the team.

After months of refraining from indulging in dance, I felt the music move through me and I simply couldn’t contain my joy. For the weeks prior to auditions, life had hit me with some of its worst, and I felt myself grow lonelier by the day. However, dance found me in my dark place and helped me out step by step. Bhangra gave me a family to go to, and forced me to constantly spoil myself with new choreography and became my anchor. It gave me hope, when I had nothing and it became one of the happy places that I could find within any corner of this world. Listen to what your heart beats for, (not what others say) and you will see parts of your happy place wherever you go.