Finding Help for Complicated Grief

sad woman looking into sunset

Grief is one of the most intensely personal emotions we experience, and also one of the most public; not for nothing does every culture on Earth have rituals associated with grieving. Many of those rituals unfold over a series of days or months — Shiva in Jewish tradition, prayers in Buddhism — reflecting the fact that grief takes time. In a fast-paced society, there can be tremendous pressure to “get over it” as quickly as possible, and those who take more time than others may be viewed as suspect.

When does mourning cross the tipping point between a natural and healthy response to an intense life event and into something more dangerous? That’s a question that challenges researchers interested in a phenomenon called “complicated grief” or “difficult grief,” in which people become “stuck,” as Talkspace therapist Cynthia Stocker terms it. Whether an adjustment is related to the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or another dramatic change like something that affects someone’s sense of identity, some people have difficulty processing and moving through their grief. It can become overwhelming, and that’s when grief may transition into something harmful. Continue reading Finding Help for Complicated Grief

A Guide to College Mental Health for LGBTQ Students

LGBTQ college student yellow shirt red backpack

Beginning your first year of college can inspire several emotions. From the first day of classes to finding your place in a sea of new faces, entering a university can be extremely exciting or exceptionally stressful. This can be an even more difficult transition when you are entering college as someone who openly identifies as LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) and needs support navigating your academic journey.

Whether it’s finding the right academic club or LGBTQ+ resource that can aid in the transition from high school, being LGBTQ+ and new on a college campus can be fraught with troubles. For some students, the first question that comes to mind might be how inviting the college campus is or how truly accessible these LGBTQ+ resources are. This concern often leads to conversations around the need for queer students to be informed of what programs and services their campus offers when speaking specifically about mental health and wellness. Continue reading A Guide to College Mental Health for LGBTQ Students

The College Student’s Guide to Mental Health (What I Wish I Knew)

female college student stressed grabbing hair holding binder

Society and pop culture portray college as a wild time loaded with sleepless nights and packed with parties, but I’ll tell you the truth. College is filled with a different type of sleepless nights when you’re suffering from mental illness — nights filled with long anxiety attacks and horrible thoughts and mornings filled with dread of attending class for fear of having an anxiety attack in the classroom.

There are things I know now that I wish I knew then, but the good news is, now I can share my tips with all of you. If you’re feeling hopeless about getting through college alive, here’s a guide for you. Continue reading The College Student’s Guide to Mental Health (What I Wish I Knew)

A Parent’s Guide to College Mental Health

Asian mom daughter holding college books near car

I remember the transition to college as one of the most emotionally challenging times of my life. I wanted all the freedom and intrigue I knew college could offer me, yet I still felt very much like a child. Suddenly being out on my own felt jarring.

I was not alone, according to Amanda Rausch, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Rausch says the transition from home life to college life isn’t easy for most college kids. In fact, explains Rausch, the transition can be experienced like a series of losses for your college-bound child.

“They leave their home, regular schedule, high school relationships, and even pets they have grown up with…it is a lot to process!” Rausch also mentioned the huge decisions young people are responsible for during college. “They experience the adjustment of being on their own, figuring out finances, new classes, new people, new places and, oh yeah, the decision of what to study, which determines their career and the rest of their lives!” Continue reading A Parent’s Guide to College Mental Health

Why Mental Health Conditions Shouldn’t Be Pejorative

people pointing fingers at sad woman with back turned

My then-boyfriend and I were at a hole in the wall pizzeria that served the greasiest pizza in town. We were with some other guy that he knew, whom I’d just met that night. Somehow, conversation turned to a discussion about mental illness, so I opened up about my depression and how it was resistant to most medications.

This guy looked back and forth between me and my boyfriend, an expression of confusion in his eyes. “How do you deal with her? She’s crazy.”

Never in my life had I been overcome with such an overwhelming urge to punch someone. I excused myself from the table, pretending I was receiving a call. I ran down the block into an alley and called one of my best friends and then it all came pouring out — the sobs and garbled words barely audible between gasps of hyperventilated breath. Continue reading Why Mental Health Conditions Shouldn’t Be Pejorative

What Is Schizophrenia?

male heads illustration yellow blue red

Although the popular perceptions of schizophrenia have changed, the mental health disorder — it’s not classified as a disease, as it can’t be verified as a physical condition — is still not clearly understood outside of the medical profession. This is largely due to the fact that schizophrenia is a complex condition that can manifest as a wide variety of symptoms in different people. To complicate things further, symptoms can also differ in individuals at different stages of the disorder.

The cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Although there are various theories, it’s generally diagnosed when symptoms meet the standard definition of the disorder, and when other similar conditions — such as bipolar disorder — have been rejected. Continue reading What Is Schizophrenia?

Mental Health Diary: PTSD

woman journaling on table with coffee

Talkspace’s Mental Health Diary series provides an intimate, anonymous week-long look inside the lives of those struggling with mental illness. Our first diary entry is from a Digital Content Producer and Journalist coping with the lingering effects of sexual abuse. Female // 30s // Los Angeles.

Diagnosis: PTSD; Secondary: borderline personality disorder, OCD, depression
Occupation: Digital Content Producer; Journalist
Location: Los Angeles
Medication: Luvox, Abilify, (Prozac); Xanax as needed
Therapy: Two 90-minute in-person therapy sessions a week; Talkspace therapist; Bi-weekly trauma group therapy; Weekly DBT skills group
Health Insurance: Cigna; (Blue Shield)

DAY 1

7:45 a.m.
I get out of bed on the fifth alarm and throw on clothing to get out the door in 10 minutes or less to make it to work on time. Basic self-care stuff baffles me, so I do the best I can in jeans and some rumpled shirt that really should be washed. Continue reading Mental Health Diary: PTSD

What If No One Likes the New Me After Therapy?

businessman co-workers excluding gossiping

When I started therapy, it seemed like it was only about feeling better, expelling the poison of my depression and anxiety, and learning to manage my symptoms. After a few months, however, I realized I was changing bit by bit, becoming a better version of myself.

The first time I noticed was when this editor marked a draft of a piece I had been working hard on with a bunch of negative comments, some of which attacked me personally. Once I finished reviewing her criticisms, I began fuming and typing a defensive reply. The desire for retribution briefly overtook my ability to think logically. All I could think about was making her rue the day she insulted me.

Right when I was about to send a response that surely would have made the situation worse, I stopped. To calm down, I took some deep breaths and left my desk for a bit. It was a beautiful summer day and my office was near Bryant Park in New York, so I took a walk, my rage dissipating with each step. When I returned, I was able to reply politely and use the feedback to improve my writing. The outcome was refreshing because the old me would have gone on a digital rampage. I was surprised that self-improvement was actually a major component of working with a therapist. Continue reading What If No One Likes the New Me After Therapy?

Living with Summer Depression: ‘Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder’

summer sky shadow over woman

When people talk about seasonal depression, we usually think of the “wintertime blues.” But there are those who live with a rarer form of Seasonal Affective Disorder known as “summer SAD.”

What was previously known as Seasonal Affective Disorder is now under the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder with a specifier for a seasonal pattern. Referred to as “wintertime blues,” those living with seasonal depression report episodes of fatigue, depressed or sad mood, and a host of other symptoms. For most, this occurs when the days are shorter, darker and cooler, usually during the fall and winter months.

What is less common — yet still valid — is summer SAD. Much like it’s wintertime counterpart, summer depression leaves those living with the condition feeling fatigued, hopeless, and lethargic. The difference is it has this effect during months when people are expected to be bright, happy, and excited. This can be frustrating for those with summer sadness. The pressure to seem well can exacerbate the depressive symptoms they may be experiencing. Continue reading Living with Summer Depression: ‘Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder’

In Defense of Stress

stressed woman on computer

Upcoming dinner plans, a half-baked trip to the beach, and a hold waiting at the library are all small stressors I keep in the back of my mind and contribute to my anxiety. My planner is full of scribbles of upcoming plans and reminders to make future appointments. I’m preoccupied by mild rashes, engine lights, and sudden sounds. In an average week, every member of my immediate family and a handful of close friends tell me to “chill” or “relax.”

My baseline stress level is above average. A reminder “not to stress about it,” whatever it may be, is sometimes helpful. More often, it’s an annoying comment, a directive that actually increases my anxiety. And yet, it’s a comment that many of us toss out to our stressed friends and family members without a thought. Indeed, the pressure to “chill” is increasingly another stressor anxious people deal with. At this point, ads for wellness, mindfulness, and relaxation cures increase my blood pressure. Continue reading In Defense of Stress