- Before I became an author, I worked in the Behavioral Health field as a Program Coordinator and Peer Support Specialist at a day program that catered to mental health and substance abuse clients. I created and taught groups, helped with life skills, and offered support as a peer. I held that job for about 3-4 years and was pretty good at it.
- I attended college and earned my AA in Psychology. I was also taking online classes for Chemical Dependency.
- I was a qualified class instructor for a few N.A.M.I (National Alliance of Mental Health) classes, trained to help provide support to not only those dealing with mental health diagnoses, but also to family members.
- I have attended countless training sessions and work shops.
- I have read a ton of articles for both education and work purposes.
But my experience doesn't end there.
- I have been the recipient of mental health services, receiving my own personal list of diagnoses.
- I have worked hard through YEARS of therapy.
- I have attended countless support groups.
- I have sat in meetings discussing care.
- I have been prescribed medication after medication.
- I've waged a war, faced personal demons, and WON.
So professionally and personally, I've been exposed to a particular book called the DSM, which stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental illnesses. I studied it in classes to help me for a future career in counseling. I looked through it to understand the labels I was given from doctors. I became familiar with the coding as I filled out daily paperwork for billing.
I think it's pretty safe to say I'm not a newbie when it comes to mental health and all it's intricacies. For the most part, the DSM in any version, was simply a book that offered information to help professionals categorize their clients. Find what label matches the symptoms and you were one step closer to understanding how best to support the person.
Or in my case, it was a pain in the ass definition that made me feel embarrassed and ashamed. Not everyone feels the same way - everyone experiences things differently. But I always saw it as evidence that I was broken. While it was merely a book of definitions and policy codes, I took it a step further.
It defined ME for years until finally I healed enough to place aside the labels and be me, again.
Anyway, I digress. Seriously, I'm getting to the point for this, I promise. Sometimes I like to ramble ... like now. Ha!
An article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed yesterday that made me chuckle, cringe, and feel a little sad -- it looks like the DSM has had a new disorder added to the list ...
Like any inquisitive person, I instantly went to Google and did some research. Sure enough, I found a ton of links that said it was in fact a hoax, but still, it got me thinking.
I love taking selfies. If you took on my phone and looked in my photo gallery, you'd see a bunch. Most are of me either smiling or pulling some kind of face, but they're there.
And I'm not embarrassed to admit that.
While it might not actually be a real disorder, the act of taking selfies has definitely stirred up people's opinions. Some have no issue while others hate them ... and hate those who take and share them on social media. It's not uncommon for me to stumble across comments and posts about it, and for the most part, I scroll past. But it has made me ask myself what's so appealing about selfies.
I'm sure this isn't anything life altering and it won't solve any world problems, but just in case anyone's interested, or can relate to the following ... here's how I feel about it:
I'm not going to lie. There was a period last year where I turned to my hubby and asked him, "Am I vain? I swear I keep looking at my reflection!" Then he'd sit and watch me pull faces for my camera. I wouldn't have blamed him if he'd replied, "Ahhhh, yeah!" but he didn't. He understood.
For years, I quit acknowledging my reflection. I hated photos. I would avoid looking in mirrors and shiny surfaces. I seriously stopped registering what I looked like. Why? Because I HATED what I saw. Years of medication and eating my emotions had lead me to being over 350lbs. Whenever I DID see myself, it was instantly followed by a barrage of personal insults and derogatory comments. I was disgusted so I tuned myself out. While I healed from a lot of past trauma, my self image remained fractured.
Then two years ago, I made a life changing decision -- I had weight loss surgery. It wasn't a decision I made lightly, first trying diets, nutritionists, consistent exercise. But when I realized time was running out on getting pregnant and knowing my weight was a HUGE detriment, I opted to do something drastic.
BEST. DECISION. EVER.
Welcome back, my life. Oh how I missed you.
Want to know what happens after that kind of surgery? You lose A LOT of weight. 100+ lbs for me.
Want to know what happens to the girl who hated her reflection because she felt fat and gross ... but now looks different?
She doesn't stop looking at her reflection. Partly because I seriously couldn't believe it was ME. I became this whole new person and for the first time in a LONG time, I didn't cringe at what I saw. My confidence grew. My smiles grew. I ceased being this "thing" and became a person.
So you better believe I took more photos. And yes, that meant selfies. For a while there it seemed every selfie I took appeared different -- revealing pieces of myself. It was like being introduced for the first time.
"Wow, I have cheekbones."
"I lost five chins!"
"Damn, I can actually see the cords in my neck!!"
The most profound one for me? "Wow ... I'm a person!"
So while others may joke and be opinionated about how narcissistic people are who constantly take selfies, I focus on MY truth ... I worked DAMN HARD to get where I am today. If taking a selfie reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for, then watch me take a bunch! Whenever I feel myself slipping back into old negative self image patterns ... my selfies will be a powerful reminder of the sacrifices I've made.
I am ME.
If someone needs to judge that harshly, or heaven forbid, throw a diagnosis at me then so be it. They can place the label with my others ... they're over there, collecting dust, unimportant. They are what they are ... mere words.
Anywho, I just thought it might be interesting to get an insider's point of view. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!