True
Extra Chewy Mints

I’d always been an anxious person, but it wasn’t until grad school that I realized something was very, very wrong.

After getting an acceptance letter to my dream school, it felt like everything was finally falling into place. Eager to leave my hometown behind, I crammed everything I could into a single suitcase and embarked on my new life in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But the life I’d pictured — exploring the Bay, hanging out at the beach, making new friends, and trying every single vegetarian restaurant I could find — looked nothing like the life I walked into.


Photo by Camila Rubio Varón on Unsplash

Every time I tried to leave my new apartment by myself … I couldn’t.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. I was in a totally new place, so it made sense that I’d be nervous to venture out on my own. I was lucky to have found an apartment with roommates that were eager to show me around the city, so it was easy to forget that I’d eventually have to navigate this new life alone.

I had no idea how much I’d later come to rely on these connections in my recovery.

When classes began and I had to take public transit to get there, my panic about the outside world took over.

Knowing I’d have to take two busses alone to get to campus left me shaking, dizzy, nauseous, and terrified.

Photo by Andy Mai on Unsplash

What if I needed help and no one was there? What if I got lost? What if I got attacked? What if I had a panic attack in public and humiliated myself? The “what if” became so daunting in my mind that staying home seemed like the only safe and certain option.

I started missing classes.

The more I avoided going out, the more relief I felt, but staying home only worsened my condition, until I stopped leaving entirely — not for groceries, not for medicine, not for anything or anyone.

That’s when my friends encouraged me to get help.

I was diagnosed with Agoraphobia, which is a panic disorder that develops as a response to fear. It’s fueled by avoidance, and can include an avoidance of public transportation, open spaces (like bridges or parking lots), closed-in spaces (like movie theaters), crowds, or in cases like mine, a fear of going anywhere alone.

Agoraphobia can be completely debilitating, leading a person to isolate themselves, even if it means going without basic necessities like food. My disorder actually led me to drop out of graduate school altogether, a wakeup call that made me realize that enough was enough.

While things like therapy and antidepressant medication were an important part of recovery, it was the small acts of kindness that made the biggest difference.

I found this kind of generosity often where I least expected it — like when I met a hairdresser who struggled with the very same disorder that I did.

I had reached out in an online community, desperately looking for a haircut from someone who wouldn’t judge me if I cancelled at the last minute or arrived in tears. That’s how I found Jane.

When I made it to Jane’s salon for the first time, I was greeted by a tattooed woman with a pixie cut, a beaming smile, and her adorable little dog. It was the first time I met someone who knew what I was going through.

“You made it!” she exclaimed. With those three simple words, I immediately felt safe.

We talked about the endless cycle of making plans and cancelling them, stepping outside only to turn right back around, how embarrassed we sometimes felt to be ordering our groceries online, and the frustration of how “simple” tasks — going to the pharmacy, taking the bus, making and keeping friends — were huge obstacles for us.

Photo by Hai Phung on Unsplash

It was an unexpected miracle to not only find a hairdresser who was understanding, but who knew first hand what it was like to live with agoraphobia. That connection motivated me to make the trek to an entirely different city — even when it felt impossible — not just for an awesome haircut, but for that hour in her tiny salon, when I could forget how alone I felt.

It was people like Jane, who refused to give up on me, that kept me connected to the world that I would have otherwise cut myself off from.

It was friends who kept inviting me to brunch, even though they knew I might not make it there. It was loved ones who stayed on the phone with me while I braved public transport. It was roommates who encouraged me to step outside, even when I didn’t believe I could.

I won’t lie — getting my life back was difficult. I started by just trying to make it to a coffee shop down the street. When I finally reached the door, my loved ones were waiting for me, cheering for me. The little things — a study date with a classmate, taking the subway, or just an afternoon of binge-watching Netflix at a friend’s house — became huge victories for me.

One of the best humans + me 💖💖

A post shared by Sam Dylan Finch (@samdylanfinch) on

We might not always understand what someone’s going through. But a little compassion can go such a long way.

Even small gestures, like a morning text cheering a friend on before their big test, a small gift to remind someone that we care, or asking “how can I help” when someone seems to be struggling can go a long way.

In spite of a debilitating disorder, I’m finally getting my life back — and that’s due, in no small part, to these seemingly insignificant acts of kindness.

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

These small moments of connection can be the lifeline that reminds us there’s something worth holding onto. And every single day is filled with opportunities to offer that lifeline to someone else — to the barista that makes your morning coffee, the cashier at the corner bodega, or the neighbor struggling to carry their groceries up the stairs.

Moments like these offer us a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of a helping hand. You never know who might need it.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by TR on Unsplash

Companies and organizations are on the side of their employees in light of stricter abortion laws.

The leak from the Supreme Court about overturning Roe v. Wade caused many people with uteruses to go into a tailspin. People began scheduling appointments for long-term birth control. Some opted for permanent birth control. Others stocked up on Plan B or called in preemptive prescriptions for the abortion pill mifepristone. In addition to making tangible plans for what the future might hold in some of these trigger states, people took to the streets to make their voices heard. Protests were held across America against the proposed overturning of Roe v. Wade, which protects people’s right to abortion under the 14th Amendment.

People are also organizing over social media. They’re helping locate nonprofits that will help cover the cost of travel from a restricted state to states where abortion will remain legal. Secret Facebook groups are popping up to help arrange transportation and accommodations for those who need access to safe reproductive care. People are coming together in ways you see in movies, all in an effort to prevent inevitable deaths that would occur if people attempt home abortions. It’s both heartwarming and heart-wrenching that this is something that needs to be done at all. It doesn’t stop with determined activists and housewives across the country, this fiery spirit has reached corporations as well.

Keep Reading Show less

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

Keep Reading Show less