mental illness depression
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When it comes to living with mental illness, the notion of gratitude may seem obscure. After all, depression hasn't always made me a good person, or parent. It has affected my friendships and relationships, making me a shitty daughter, mother and wife. It has negatively impacted my work. I've quit (and lost) jobs due to my poor mental health. And I withdraw from everyone — and thing — when I'm in the midst of a depressive episode. I turn off the lights and hide beneath the covers, shutting the door on those I care about and love. In short, depression sucks. Living with a long-term mental illness sucks. But it's not all bad. In spite of the hurt, loneliness, isolation, shame and pain, there are many upsides to living with mental illness, and I am thankful for depression — and my diagnosis. I am thankful for my mental health condition.



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You see, depression has given me many gifts. Because of my illness, I am able to appreciate the little things more. When I am well, I stop to smell the proverbial roses. I take in the "sights." Because of my illness, I know my value. I realize my worth, i.e. when I am well, I recognize my power — and my strength. I know that I am more than a feeling, mood or diagnosis. I also know that I have survived "episodes" before and can survive them again because I am a fighter. I am strong. And I've made friends because — not in spite — of my illness. Some of the best relationships in my life were forged in the fire. They were formed during depressive episodes and solidified over shared struggles. Over the difficulties we faced and our plight.

Depression has made me resilient. My mental illness has taught me that no matter what life throws at me, I have a chance. It might not be the best chance, or an opportune one, but it is a chance. And it's what you do with those chances that counts. (And yes, sometimes getting up is resilient. Showering and showing up is courageous and strong.)

Depression has made me passionate. When I am well, it is clear to me how lucky I am and I do not want to waste one moment. I pursue my dreams with fervor and intention. I live life like tomorrow was not promised. I fight for my ambitions, aspirations, happiness and dreams.

Depression has made me humble. Over the course of two decades I've learned that I cannot do this alone. I need — and deserve — help. If you live with a mental illness, know that you do too.

Depression has made me appreciate my friends and family more because their love is vast and endless. Even when I am sick and withdraw, from them and the world, they do not give up on me. Their love knows no bounds.

Depression has made me empathetic. Having struggled — a lot — I sympathize when others are hurt or in pain. My capacity for compassion is like a well, endless and deep.

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And depression has made me a better person and parent. Because of my depression, I am a better mom. How so? Because my depression is teaching my daughter many things. During my episodes, she learns about self-care, and how to ask for help. It's okay to take a break, for example. She is learning the power of self-awareness and the gift of saying no. When I am well, my daughter and I talk (ad nauseum) about her feelings. We discuss emotions like sadness, anger, hurt, and pain. And she is learning how to process each one.

Make no mistake: I don't like living with depression. I wish I would wake up one day and the veil would be lifted. My disease would be gone. I also know I'm extremely lucky. I have the tools and resources necessary to combat my illness. My therapist and psychiatrist are excellent. My medication is well-managed and working, at least right now. But after 20-plus years living with depression — and a smattering of other mental health conditions — the lessons which I've learned which cannot be dismissed. I wouldn't trade my experience for anything in the world.

So take that, dearest depression. Take that, my old "friend." Because I'm living better with you and in spite of you. I'm surviving and thriving today because of my diagnosis and disease.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."