If you’re anything like me, at this point you’ve probably felt your jaw physically drop at the absurdity of a year the world has experienced. It’s like someone had taken plot lines from every single one of our favorite binge-worthy drama series, threw it all at 2020 (and some of 2021) and said “this should be interesting.”
As someone who has dealt with anxiety for most of their life, I can say that this hodgepodge of random, scary, and uncertain information is not so far off from the chaos that someone with a mental health disorder may experience in their own mind.
For me, it’s like having your brain flash through all the terrifying and confusing news headlines of your own life.
On bad days - these headlines act as a puppeteer - guiding me blindly through life against my own “wise mind.” Trying to navigate this chaos is exhausting, – being pulled in so many different directions and spread so thin that life can be anything but enjoyable.
Thankfully, because my older sister, Lindsay, had dealt with similar struggles, I was encouraged to find the resources, like those provided by ADAA, to ask for help; to ask someone else how I was supposed to deal with my mind because I definitely couldn’t figure it out.
My name is Emily. My sister, Lindsay, and I are both living with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety (clearly it runs in the family). Through years of sharing one anxiety-ridden saga after another, we’ve come to learn that, though our OCD came in many different forms or “flavors,” we shared very similar mindfulness techniques to help us cope with our anxiety.
What I found extremely useful was cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. Quick psych lesson: CBT is a form of therapy that helps you understand how thoughts and feelings influence behaviors. Basically, I was able to understand why my brain was so cluttered with upsetting thoughts, and how my behaviors perpetuated these unhealthy thought patterns. This starts a vicious cycle of bad habits all around.
In therapy, I had spent so much time building the muscles in my brain to be strong enough to actually apply what I’ve learned. One of my go-to phrases is “my thoughts are passing clouds.” Every time I thought of this phrase I would immediately imagine my anxious, intrusive thoughts as white fluffy clouds, innocently floating in the sky. At that moment I felt my body fill up with oxygen again, and I was able to put some distance between myself and my mind.
There was only one problem. When in moments of intense anxiety, rarely did I remember to actually use that phrase. While in quarantine, dodging one scary headline after another, I realized I needed something to remind myself to pause, take a deep breath, and use what I've learned to redirect my attention. Something within arm’s reach that I could look to when I needed it most. Ahh – a bracelet!
After realizing there were no bracelets out there that actually had effective, therapy-inspired, mindfulness phrases, we decided to make our own.
Presently bracelets bear affirmations that are rooted in this cognitive-behavioral approach to remind us to disrupt the spiral of unproductive thinking that consumes so many of us and redirect our thoughts to the present moment.
But, Presently isn’t just a jewelry brand. We wanted to start a platform to open up the conversation around mental health disorders. What better way to support this effort than to contribute a portion of our profits to ADAA, an organization that works every single day to do exactly that – to spread important information and resources to those who are struggling.
I am an ADAA ally because I know how important it is to have access to resources and knowledge about mental health disorders. It’s the first step towards healing. I was lucky enough to have had the support of a family who was already well-versed in the topic of mental illness because of my sister who had been diagnosed 11 years earlier. But, there are so many people who know absolutely nothing about what they are dealing with internally. Because of the stigma that still exists around mental health disorders, we are not properly taught how our mind works, how it breaks, and how it heals. That is why organizations like the ADAA need our support.
With every feeling, every fear, and every story we share, we give others the opportunity to share their own struggles. We want to empower those who suffer silently to discover real, effective ways to feel less overwhelmed and removed from the present moment.