Please don’t ignore my ‘invisible’ illness

Hi, I’m Hannah, and I’m not your “typical” person living with anxiety and depression, according to society’s standards anyway.

When I was younger, I didn’t know much about mental illnesses, albeit my dad is a clinical psychologist. Throwing around phrases such as “they’re crazy!”, “omg you’re so insane”, or “just get out of bed already!” without knowing how hurtful or unproductive certain words can be to someone. Fast forward through an average childhood, awkward adolescence, a couple painful teenage years and a crazy college experience and here I am – a 24-year-old with a good job, fabulously decorated apartment, adorable rescue pup, loving boyfriend, supportive family and the very best friends a girl could hope for. Sounds like a perfect life, am I right?

Wrong.

More often than not, I struggle getting myself up in the morning. Some nights I hardly sleep at all due to my anxiety; I worry if it’s too quiet, I worry if it’s too noisy. I’m afraid someone is going to break into my apartment and hurt me or my dog. The couch becomes my bed half the time because that’s where my TV is and I have a clear view of the front door, you know, in case anyone tries to break in.

Other nights I fall asleep after dinner and don’t get up until the following morning. Joking about always being late and walking into the office, Starbucks in hand, I play it off as if nothing is wrong and I’m just one of those “late people”. In reality, I’m anxious. Did my boss see me? Are my coworkers whispering about me, calling me a slacker because I’m always late? I wish more than anything I could get up when my first alarm goes off instead of lying there pressing snooze for two hours. On days where my depression seems to be having a party in my brain, telling me I’m not good enough and my job isn’t worth it and I should just hide in bed all day, I finally make it to the office – sans makeup and a semi-decent outfit on.

Living with anxiety and depression can be debilitating. Trust me, I still have my days every now and then where I give into the little voice in my head telling me to stay in bed and hide from the world. However, most of the time I come across as a free-spirited, happy and successful twenty-something. This is where the dilemma lies: a thoroughly optimistic, naturally loquacious, blonde-haired blue-eyed privileged white girl walking around as if she’s got her shit together, when in reality her mind is constantly racing and it feels like there’s a raincloud right above her head.

But, this does not make my mental illnesses any less important or easier to deal with than those whose symptoms aren’t quite as camouflaged. Just because six out of seven days of the week I seem all right, doesn’t mean I really am. On days where I am more quiet at work and wear my oversized headphones that scream “leave me alone!”, I’m not mad or annoyed. I may not even be working that hard. I just need my space because it’s one of those days where dealing with myself is already too much effort and there’s no room for putting on a smile and asking how my coworker’s dinner was the night before.

The more we talk about mental illnesses in general, especially ones that are “invisible” 99 percent of the time, the easier it will be for those living with them and their loved ones, who may not understand. High-functioning anxiety is real; those of us living with it still have the same horrible worrisome thoughts, nervous habits and paranoia. However cliche “don’t judge a book by its cover” may be, it rings true for those who struggle with “invisible illnesses” on the daily.

Reach out a hand and open your ears for your loved ones when they do finally decide to spill their heart out. Take them seriously and listen – you just may end up saving their life.

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The summer I fell in love…

with the world.

7.5 billion people on this beautiful planet. Can you even fathom knowing that many souls? Maybe you wouldn’t want to know everyone on Earth, but I do. Yes, I’m aware that may sound a bit crazy, but hear me out.

Would I want to meet every single person on this planet? Yes. Not because I’m trying to win Miss Popular over here (although that would help my awkward teenage self feel a little more validated), but because I want to know each individual story. Geeze, Hannah, crank up the cheese factor a little more, will ya!

I digress.

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2014 was a magical year for my adult self. A year filled with adventures, new beginnings, lessons, struggles, and accomplishments. It began with major excitement – I visited my brother in California for the first time and found my first true love: San Francisco. Sunny skies and a light breeze were the norm. You’d unknowingly walk past millionaire techies on the street because they dressed like your average joe. Food, music, and art filled this effervescent city. I’ve always been a huge fan of travel, but this trip kicked off my deep, everlasting case of wanderlust.

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Fast forward a couple months and I’m living in the city center of Regensburg, Germany. It’s a truly picturesque town where the cobblestone streets intersect with the Danube River and traditional German culture seeps out of centuries-old buildings. I lived above a cafe, which later became the namesake of my sweet pup, Ritz. Street bands were audible each afternoon and the corner ice cream shops were open seven days a week – a rarity in Bavaria.

I was studying there for a semester to help complete my German studies minor (yes, I can speak German; no, I’m not going to “say something” for you). This storybook city of roughly 190,000 residents stole my heart in less than a week. But that was only the beginning.

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München, Frankfurt, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Mallorca, Strasbourg – even Split, Croatia! I visited more countries in those six months than thousands of people do in their lifetimes, and trust me, I know how lucky that makes me.

Throwing yourself into unfamiliar situations makes you grow; navigating a foreign place sans internet and the native tongue can put some wear and tear on a person. Living overseas on a foreign continent opened my eyes more than I can put into words. They say challenges lead to growth and I sure see why! Travel can change your perspective; not only on certain places, but on people and cultures, too. You learn to wander with a sparkle in your eye and an open ear, just waiting for the next memorable moment to occur.

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Terms like “wanderlust” and “the travel bug” fill thousands of blogs, social posts, websites, you name it. More often than not, I wonder if those using the terms truly encompass what they represent. To me, wanderlust is a way of life, not a phase where you’re obsessed with going new places and seeing new things. Once you’ve experienced even a fraction of this world, you can’t stop.

Experiencing several European countries on my own, in my early twenties, with half a college degree and some (un)forgettable nights under my belt, I found myself more accepting than ever before. Everyone is different. Each place in this world means something, for another reason than you may initially think. I encourage you to listen and observe. Stepping back, making yourself feel like a tiny fish in a large pond molds your sense of self and sheds a whole new light on just how big, or small, our wonderful world truly is.

Cheers to new adventures!

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Saturdays are for mind wandering…

Happy weekend, my lovely friends! Saturdays are my favorite day of the week – no alarm clock, casual plan for the afternoon, maybe going out at night, maybe staying in for movies and dog snuggles. Today I sit in a coffee shop in Little Rock, after devouring a delicious lox & toast and sipping my almond milk mocha, doing a little self reflection.

I know it may sound a bit silly, but I have to let myself relax and do a bit of self reflection or mind jogging down memory lane at least once a week. It gives me a sense of peaceful happiness remembering past adventures.

After re-watching my video of my semester abroad in Regensburg, Germany, I’m feeling extra thankful. Traveling to new places and experiencing foreign cultures is exhilarating and I’m so grateful to have started this adventure early on in my adulthood.

To more happy times with new people and fabulous atmospheres!