Episode 5: Destigmatizing Mental Health


Carrie: All right, welcome back, lit nerds, to this new edition of Modcast. Tonight we are going to be talking about mental health because it’s just really important. Um, 1) to talk about it, and 2) so that we can help destigmatize it. 

And tonight joining me are going to be Leigh Ann, Forest, and Lane. Um, and so, yeah, actually

Leigh Ann, you just got back from a mental health break where you took a week off.

Leigh Ann: Yeah. Um, this past week I took a whole week off. I didn’t–I was off social media, I didn’t go to class, I didn’t go to work. 

I was able to take the whole week off, and I’m really grateful for that because since the beginning of the semester, things have–like, not even, like, really big things. Just like these little small things just build up and build up and build up until it feels like I’m going to explode in the middle of class as soon as anybody doesn’t accommodate me. 


Leigh Ann: I would kill somebody. Um, so I just decided to take the whole week off because I have a history of mental illness in my family, especially my paternal side. Because my grandfather committed suicide, my father was the one to find him and he was never the same after that. My younger brother has already tried twice to commit suicide, so he’s doing therapy, he’s on medication. Now he’s doing much better. 

But I knew that, you know, given that history, I needed to take some time for myself and take care of myself. 

Carrie: And I think that that’s really important. Right, yeah, you have to take time for yourself. And like it is okay to take, um, time off. And I have to tell myself that, too, because as a teacher I only get so many days per year. I get 10 days, and then after that, like, I lose pay. Um. But I can’t–I can’t take care of my students unless I take care of myself. 

Um, and Leigh Ann, you mentioned that your brother was, um, going to therapy and he was taking medications and, like, that is totally okay. Like, there is nothing wrong with that. At all. 

Forest: And it’s actually part of his routine now. You know, it helps him feel better about himself and his environment, the people around him, you know. Like, it’s just another source of support. 

Carrie: Absolutely. Um…

[Long pause.]

Carrie: Yes, um.


Carrie: I’m kind of like, I guess that was the awkward laugh there because we do find that talking about mental health can be uncomfortable. 

Forest: Yes.

Carrie: Right. Um, but we have to know that, um, it’s okay to talk about these things. And

it’s okay to talk to people about what you’re struggling with! Whether it be, um, a friend or a therapist or a counselor or a professor or somebody just so that you don’t have to feel isolated.

Forest: The constant checking in is very important, especially if you’re struggling with something, you know, deep down inside. You may not feel like you should say what you

need in order to help give your brain some relief, but at the end of the day it’s better to come to terms with it and discuss it so that you don’t have that weight sitting on your chest, or like the fog that is constantly surrounding your brain. Like, you don’t have to live like that. 

And I think that’s really really really important because if you do, then you just–it bubbles and it grows and it’s–it’s not okay.

Carrie: Yeah, definitely.

Um, like, when I was in my undergrad, I struggled a lot and I isolated myself to the point where when I did reach out for help, it was almost too late. Um. But you have to be, like, the second you know that you’re just not your normal self, reach out for help. Right? 

Even if it’s not like something that’s, you know, you’re in the throes of a really deep depression or anything like that. If you’re down, just…It’s okay to talk to somebody.

Um. Something else that’s really interesting: if you’re not comfortable, like, going face-to-face with somebody, there are a lot of new virtual counseling, um, apps out there. And I see them all the time, um, being advertised on my Facebook. Um, and maybe it’s because, like, I myself have been, like, looking for counselors, um, as well. But there’s like–

[Clears throat.]

Like, Better Help is the one that keeps, like, breaking, or that keeps, like, breaking through, like,

that algorithm. And Talk Space and stuff like that. I’ve checked them out. They’re actually legit. 

Like, they’re recommended by the American Psychological Association. 

Leigh Ann: And I’ve actually done, um, 7cups. I actually paid for that online therapist for, like, a month, and it was really helpful. 

Carrie: Awesome. 

Forest: So, also, on campuses, at universities and colleges, they have this nifty little center that’s, uh, you know, for student psychological services. And half the time they’re going to be counselors which are free to students. And then you can also see a psychiatrist so you can get

on, maybe, some meds that you probably need like I do. And you can talk to somebody at the same time so that you can help to reset your brain, to get it going back to those, like, optimal serotonin levels. Yeah. 

Lane: That’s what I did when I was an undergrad. I used the counseling services. 

And it was during my senior year of college, and I was going through just a really rough point. And I knew I had to talk to someone. But I think that a lot of us worry about worrying someone else–

[Noises of agreement.]

Lane: –and so we don’t reach out to them. And so it was much easier for me to talk to someone that I didn’t know, and I actually went for the majority of that year and I got a lot better. So that was very helpful to me. And yeah.

Carrie:  Absolutely. 

So, like–like, I know, like, as college students and just people in general, money is really tight, right. 

[Sounds of agreement.]

Carrie: But this is money well spent, if you reach out to somebody. Whether it’s you’re paying through–if you have medical insurance, and you’re paying through medical insurance, or you’re

subscribing, like, to a monthly like virtual counseling service, or you’re taking advantage of the services on your college campus, um, there are always–

There is somebody there to talk to you. They want to talk to you. Um, and like, you have to take care of yourself. 

[Sounds of agreement.] 

Carrie: You have to. 

Like, I was, like, in a job interview today, and, uh, they asked me what is one thing you would improve upon? They left it completely open, and I didn’t know how to answer what I would

improve upon in my job because I think I’m pretty great at my job. 

Um, but I know one thing I need to do is I need to take better care of myself, um, because if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of anybody. 

Forest: Mm-hmm.

Carrie: And that also means saying no. 

Leigh Ann: Yeah. 

Forest: Yep. 

Carrie: Yes. Right. So, like, sometimes there’s already so much on your plate, and you feel

obligated when somebody comes to you with something to rearrange what’s on that plate so you

can fit it on there, right? 

Um, but you have to be able to say no. And there’s, like, real, like, liberating power in saying no.

[Sounds of agreement.] 

Carrie: That’s a lesson I have to work on. 

[Laughter and overlapping speech.] 

Leigh Ann: Huh?

Carrie [repeats more clearly]: The Rosa Parks Effect. 

Leigh Ann: The Rosa Par–yes!

Carrie: Yes! Right. 


[Long pause.]

Carrie: It’s gonna be okay. 

Everyone else: Yeah. 

Carrie: At the end of the day.

Forest: Yeah, you just gotta take some time for yourself, figure out what you need, and then, you know, help yourself so you can be okay. 

Carrie: Yeah. 

Lane: And I would say one thing that works for me is taking time out of my day just to breathe. I find that a lot of times I get so wound up and stressed and anxious about something that I’m not

even breathing. And so then I actually take a minute and take deep breaths. 

The other day at work, I was feeling really stressed out, and my best friend kept telling me, “Just take a minute. Go out into the hall and breathe.” And finally I listened to her. And when I came back in, I was like, “Oh my god, I feel so relaxed, like, this is great.” Yeah. 

Leigh Ann: Yeah, sometimes I’ll be sitting there and then all of a sudden just like [silly gasp] and I realize I wasn’t breathing. 


Carrie: My apple watch reminds me to breathe occasionally, and like…It’s really, like, it’s never at the same hour or the same time in the day. But I wonder if maybe it’s, like, because it picks up my heart rate, if it’s picking up on, like, an elevated heart rate. And it’s like, like…Maybe, like, “Calm down, you’re stressed out!” 


Carrie: “You’re having a heart attack. Just breathe, just breathe.” It’s like, “Oh, I’m cured.”  

[Sounds of agreement.]

Carrie: But you would be really surprised at how much just remembering to breathe can make a difference. 

Lane: Right. Well, and one thing, um, I mean I’m sure we’ve all had these experiences, but I’ve been struggling with anxiety for a really long time, too. And as I was saying, during my senior year of college it was just a really rough time for me, and I was just so surprised. I always thought that it would just be mental, but it got to the point where I hurt physically. 

[Sounds of agreement.] 

Lane: Like my ribs, my shoulders, everything would hurt and it–I had just never realized that before, how much pain I was letting myself go through without reaching out to anyone. 

Carrie: Absolutely. And like, I totally get the anxiety thing because I deal with that frequently. And I can tell when I’m super anxious and stressed out because I’ll wake up and I’ll have been grinding my teeth, and I have a headache from grinding my teeth all night. 

So, yeah, like…When you are–when you are struggling and you are, um, mentally and emotionally drained, you do experience a physical, like, manifestation of that pain.

Forest: You know, I figured the best way to do it, because I’ve always told people the best way you can tell when I’m really anxious, or when I’m really just, like, not in a good head space, is by looking at, like, the skin around my fingernails. And if they are torn to shreds that basically just means, like, let me be for a minute. 

And so when, like, I’m feeling very anxious what I do is I do two things, and they’re very strange,

but, like: I’ll be walking around and if I feel that anxiousness creep in, I take, like, a very large,

deep breath, and then I let out, like, a really huge sigh. And sometimes it turns into like a

screaming sigh. 

Carrie: Mm-hmm. 

Forest: And so I’ll just, like, literally be in my house and people will be, you know, family members will be in the living room. They’re doing their–minding their own business, and I literally walk down the hallway and it’s just like the largest sigh that you’ll ever hear. And they’re like, staring at me, and I’m like, “I need to release some of this negativity that’s inside of me.” 


Forest: Or like, when I’m at work or when I’m somewhere where I don’t think it’s very, uh, polite to let out a very large sigh, I’ll start walking around and I’ll start meowing because I find that when I do it people turn around and look at you very strangely. And so then you kind of have to sit there and be like, you know, “Hi. Yes, I did that. Okay.” And then when I get that look, it’s like, “Okay, you’re here. You’re in this moment. You’re fine.” 

Carrie: So that must be why my nail beds are always ripped to shreds. Because I pick at them. 

Forest: Mine are always, like, bleeding. Last night in class, I bit off this piece on my thumb, and it started bleeding. And so I was, like, holding my finger like this during one of the presentations because I was like, “Oof. Awkward.”


Carrie: Yeah. I do that, too, I do that, too. Like, you said it. 

Forest: And I was like, [makes whoo noise.] 

I know people that have anxiety tend to, uh, pick at their skin. So their lip skin, their nail skin–

Carrie: Yeah. 

Forest: Or it’s like a auto…My psychiatrist said it was like an auto…like, something to do with, like, a movement of something. So like, when you’re wringing your hands or when you’re, like, tugging on your hair, or like, pulling on your ears, or that leg shake that we all have–

Carrie: Yep!

Forest: –that we’re all doing right now. 

Carrie: Mine’s going right now!


Forest: Like, where, like, when you move your fingers a whole lot, that’s basically stemming from the anxiety because your brain doesn’t know what to do with it. And so it translates into, like, these muscle tics. 

Leigh Ann: Huh. Now I’m going to be like real conscious of all–

[Laughter and overlapping voices.]

Carrie: Yeah. Oh, goodness. But, um. Yeah, I mean, I think we can tell from our experiences and our anecdotes, like. Feeling anxious or stressed or even, um, depressed they–these are normal, human, sometimes everyday emotions. 

Leigh Ann: Right. Like, it’s just–you can’t let it continue to build up. 

You have to take care of yourself. 

And you know, um. I read somewhere about a survivor of a suicide attempt who said, “I didn’t want to die. I just wanted the pain to stop.”

[Noises of agreement.]

Carrie: Yeah. I can relate to that right. 

Leigh Ann: But you have to get help before it goes that far. Because you don’t want to die; you just want to end the pain. 

And there are people who understand that, that you can reach out to and help yourself. 

Carrie: Absolutely. Um, and some of those people are at the National Suicide Prevention lifeline. They are there–this has been established, um, federally. Um, you can reach out to them at 1-800-273-8255, um, if you’d like to talk to somebody on the phone. 

But they also have a chat available if you would like to reach out to them at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. 

We’re okay? 

Leigh Ann: Yep.

Lane: Yep.

Carrie: And you’re okay?

Forest: Yeah. Feeling good. 

Carrie: And i’m feeling good and it’s gonna be great. All right, lit nerds, we’ll see you next time. 

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