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Crossing Thresholds: #4 Emerging Adults with Mental Illness

Young woman long blond hair, red dress talking to camera

Annie Schneider with Bipolar II, experiencing abrupt and slow simmering transitions from home, hospital, school. Develops agency, control, and trust. Powerful!

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Episode Notes

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Find FULL TRANSCRIPT at the end of the other show notes or download the printable transcript here

Contents with Time-Stamped Headings

Proem

Introducing Annie Schneider 02:18

Podcast intro 03:18

Something’s wrong 04:07

Self-reflection 06:49

Something helps! 07:47

Diagnosis 09:32

Who is ‘we’? 11:31

Underwater 13:15

Friends 14:43

Hospital friends/peers 16:17

Not a medical hospitalization 16:47

Abruptly in 17:21

Survivor’s guilt 21:45

Abrupt hospital exit – discharge 22:46

Abrupt re-entry back to school 24:21

Familiar with what others may be experiencing 26:06

Just get over it 27:07

A word from our sponsor, Abridge 30:15

Toolbox 30:58

Physical tools – medications 32:56

Tools: sunshine, friends, and pets 34:26

Alcohol 35:29

Apps 36:27

What change would you make for best life? 37:57

Reflection 43:03

Next episode: Matt Neil 43:46

Podcast Outro 45:09

to listen where you want to listen or read where you want to read (heading. time on podcast xx:xx. page # on the transcript)

Please comment and ask questions

Credits

Music on intro and outro by permission from Joey van Leeuwen, Drummer, Composer, Arranger including Moe’s Blues for Reflection

Web and Social Media Coach, Dissemination Kayla Nelson @lifeoflesion

Intro photo of Vulture Couple by Rich Rieger used with permission

Image of emerging adult with mental illness from DALL.E

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash underwater

Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing on Unsplash reentry

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash Meditation

Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash High school

The views and opinions presented in this podcast and publication are solely my responsibility and do not necessarily represent the views of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute®  (PCORI®), its Board of Governors or Methodology Committee. Danny van Leeuwen (Health Hats)

Sponsored by Abridge

Inspired by and grateful to Emeka Chima, Erika Blair, Sue Donnelly, Matt Neil, Bonnie Englebart

Links

Headspace’s website:  https://www.headspace.com/

Related podcasts

Young Adults with Complex Conditions Transitioning from Pediatric to Adult Medical Care 

Series: Emerging Adults with Mental Illness

About the Show

Welcome to Health Hats, learning on the journey toward best health. I am Danny van Leeuwen, a two-legged, old, cisgender, white man with privilege, living in a food oasis, who can afford many hats and knows a little about a lot of healthcare and a lot about very little. Most people wear hats one at a time, but I wear them all at once.  I’m the Rosetta Stone of Healthcare. We will listen and learn about what it takes to adjust to life’s realities in the awesome circus of healthcare.  Let’s make some sense of all this.

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The Show

Proem

Looking down dark school hallway to bright day outside. Black and whiteWe continuously cross thresholds in our lives; a beginning, a change – before we weren’t, now we are. We transverse a physical threshold when entering a building, a room, or a town; when we enter a community, a relationship, or an experience. We step over a threshold as we enter a clinic, go for a test; when the doctor or nurse enters the room or responds to a text; when we call our insurance company; when someone asks, how are you? We cross a threshold when we feel a lump, hear a diagnosis, throw up, panic, feel pain, or fall. Before, we didn’t. Now we do. Thresholds can be barriers or opportunities or barriers and opportunities. Crossing a threshold can present us with limitless possibilities. Who knows what might happen? Anticipation, excitement, hope. Some thresholds upset our sense of balance, our inertia. Why me? Distraction, hopelessness, annoyance, frustration, fatigue, even rage. Crossing a threshold can energize or suck energy, depending on the moment and perspective.

Welcome to the fourth episode in a series about Emerging Adults with Mental Illness. We met Emeka Chima and his mom Erika Blair. They shared a story of fear, hope, and recovery. You can find the introductory episode and Emeka and Erika on my website health-hats.com/pod with links to the YouTube versions.

Introducing Annie Schneider

My friend, Sue Donnelly, introduced me to her niece, Annie Schneider, a recently emerging adult with mental illness. When Annie and I met, I felt disoriented as I don’t associate bubbly and major depression. What do I know? Annie readily agreed to record a chat with me. Annie lives in “Sunshine City,” more formally known as St. Petersburg, FL, with her boyfriend and a Blue Quaker Parrot. She enjoys writing, watching documentaries, eating chicken Pad Thai, and taking her coffee black. Annie works as a content creator and copywriter at a small marketing agency downtown. Notice Annie talks about thresholds, abrupt and slow simmering, home, hospital, and school.

Podcast intro

Welcome to Health Hats, the Podcast. I’m Danny van Leeuwen a two-legged cisgender old white man of privilege who knows a little bit about a lot of healthcare and a lot about very little. We will listen and learn about what it takes to adjust to life’s realities in the awesome circus of healthcare. Let’s make some sense of all of this.

Health Hats: Annie Schneider, thank you for joining us. I’m delighted that you’re here. Of course. How did you experience that something was wrong, seriously wrong?

Something’s wrong

Annie Schneider: To be honest with myself and my story, I always felt a little different. But my parents came to me to talk about my health and get me on a journey to figure out what I was going through. And I remember it happened in the summer when I was, I believe, 15. I feel a little bit bad cause my parents aren’t here to share their side of the story. But from what I remember, when I was 15, over ten years ago, things were not right, and I was not my best self in many ways. And I was struggling a lot. And I think my parents noticed it in me first. But eventually, I very quickly saw a lot of it. I was unfocused in school. I had a quick temper. I just had a lot going on that was not healthy.

When we’re teenagers, we have mood swings and all kinds of ordinary things. We’re all humans. But I was not like other 15-year-olds. I had a lot of preoccupation and obsession with negative thoughts and patterns and was unfocused in school. Later, I find out from my mom. She, of course, didn’t tell me at the moment. Later, I found out I had a very glassed-over, glazed-over look on my face and in my eyes a lot of the time, I didn’t have a lot of I know it sounds kind of cliche and kind of dumb, but I just didn’t have a lot of my spirit. I was kind of a shell of myself starting at 15. At least that was when it turned into a healthcare journey to recover and get well.

Health Hats: You’re describing what’s going on in your life, and you’re doing what you’re doing, and sometimes you’re miserable, and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes life is okay. I’m just interested in that self-realization part of it. It’s tough for me to relate. Recently, I took a medication that made me so despondent, and I was like, oh my God. I said to Ann, my wife. Something is wrong. This is not me. But that was dramatic. Something dramatic changed.

Annie Schneider: Something acute.

Self-reflection

Health Hats: Yeah. On the other hand, if things are slowly deteriorating. Sometimes it’s hard to know. Hard to see that and self-reflect. Was it when your parents said something to you that you began to like self-reflect? Yeah.

Annie Schneider: I’m 26 now and have a hypersensitive A person with smudged eyes holding a piece of paper with a drawn smile over mouthexperience when I know something’s not right in my body or mind. But when I was 15, I think I just thought that like life was just like this. Yeah, it wasn’t an acute experience. Yes. I think what you’re saying, like you took medication, so you were very like, whoa, I feel different. Yeah. It was not an acute experience. It was a slow simmering. Yeah. Something’s not okay, and my brain’s not firing in the healthy ways it needs to be.

Something helps!

Health Hats: Was there a place where you started to feel this could be helping me? This is helping me. I am feeling better. What was that like?

Annie Schneider: Oh. Weirdly, it’s hard for me to remember a moment to realize I wasn’t well. Yeah. But I can remember the moments when I realized, oh my God, this helps. Or, oh my God, I’m feeling terrific. It shows you don’t know if something’s wrong until something gets fixed, or you don’t have something anymore.

Health Hats: Contrast is amazing, isn’t it?

Annie Schneider: And then you’re like, I’ve been feeling this way all this time, and all I had to do was X, Y, Z. So, I can remember particular times and situations that I realized something was helping and making me feel much better. But I can’t remember when I started not to feel well. I’ve taken all kinds of medications before. And some medicines did help, so that would be noticeable. Some medications didn’t do much for me. The journey with medication is very up and down when you’re figuring out something that’s working for you. I’ve probably tried maybe nearly ten different types of medication. But as soon as we realize something isn’t working, don’t take it anymore. Figure out something else. Therapy is something that always made me feel better after. It still makes me feel better when I go now. I think treatment makes you think of surgery or medication, but there are a lot of like treatments that, after the fact, you realize that it helped. Yeah.

Diagnosis

Health Hats: Were you despondent, and then you got a diagnosis of depression? Yes. Your doctors want to get paid, so they must label it to bill for it. What is that?

Annie Schneider: Yeah. A lot of the symptoms that I was showing were very much textbook depression. I was a little bit hyperactive; now you use the word manic. But I was heavier in depressive symptoms. Fit that like a perfect puzzle piece. But I got diagnosis with Bipolar II. The generic understanding of bipolar is the equivalent ups and downs of mania and depression. Your manias up here and your depression’s down here, and it’s a big wave. Bipolar II is still bipolar disorder. There are still manic episodes, but they’re much smaller, less severe, and less frequent. And depression is what is the more serious piece of it. That was my diagnosis. So, we treated it a lot like treating depressive episodes and mood stabilizing. I tried taking antidepressants when I was younger. They didn’t do much for me because I didn’t have clinical depression. Mood stabilizing medications take my waves from being like this, giving me more normal. I don’t want to use the word, maybe normal is not the

Health Hats: No, normal. The human condition is variable.

Annie Schneider: The big waves that if I’m not taking care of myself, it takes me more down to what other average people who don’t have a mood disorder exhibit.

Who is ‘we’?

Health Hats: So, it seems like you say a lot, we. Are you and your parents, or is there a larger team when you say we?

Annie Schneider: Yeah. I do not realize that I’m saying we, but I think because I have such a supportive and loving family. I believe we is the word I’m going for, mainly because I was young, like when all of us were coming to fruition—very much still part of my family unit, in an integral way. But yeah, my team, I’m incredibly fortunate that I had such a team when I was younger and later in my hospitalization. My team included my fabulous psychiatrist, who I was so sad about when I grew too old to see him anymore and had to go to an adult doctor. But he works at a children’s hospital, and when you turn 22 or 23, they’re like, you must go. But he was incredible. And he’s known me since I was probably younger than 15. Maybe 11, 12. And then my therapist is still my therapist, so he’s also known me for a considerable part of my life. When you’re the age I was when all these things were happening, you’re at school just as much as adults are at work. Your school team is just as much always there—they’re such a large part of your life. So the guidance counselor at school was really important to me at the time and still is important to me and my story. Then my parents, all of them together, really looked after me.

Underwater

Hand reaching out of the lakeAnnie Schneider: I was just in such a funk. To people that don’t understand how depression feels, I always describe it as feeling underwater. It’s like you, and maybe other people would describe their experience like that too. But that’s the best way to describe it because it’s like you’re underwater. And you want so badly to get out of the water and everything above you. You can see the world around you, but things are blurry, and you don’t even really hear the same sounds you would if you were above water. Not literally, but just that notion of you’re in the world, but then you’re not. You’re underwater. I still describe it that way.

Health Hats: Very descriptive,

Annie Schneider: Thank you. Yeah. So, while underwater, if I’m going to use that expression. And because I was at the age that I had many caretakers that all have been so important to me. And now that I’m 26, I still would call them my team, but I’m much more of an adult now who understands my body, probably even more than if I hadn’t gone through what I had gone through. And I do still see a psychiatrist just for a regular check-in. I don’t see my therapist regularly, but if I’m going through something where I feel like my mental health is starting to tank, I go, Hey, you want to talk? And so I still have a team, but it’s less hands-on, less intensive because I was a teenager then. I was not on my own. I did not have the wherewithal, I guess, to navigate all this alone.

Friends

Health Hats: Did you have friends at this time? And I guess I would say let’s define friends. On the one hand, peers that sort of got you, cared about you, and were there for you. And then some peers don’t. What was that experience like people you went to school with, or I don’t know if you went to church or whatever, wherever you went?

Annie Schneider: Yeah, it’s fascinating. And it might even be peculiar. Although I was not my fullest self at this time during high school, and not well, I was underwater, and all those things. I did have quite a normal healthy social life. I had a lot of the same friends that I had for years and years. I was dating. My social life was not impacted. I don’t know if maybe you’d ask my friends today if, perhaps, they noticed that I was off or something. I’ve never really talked about it with them; go back to those times. But it’s funny. It’s until someone points out something wasn’t right, maybe you didn’t even realize it cause you’re like, this is just my normal. I did not have enemies or bullies. I’m very fortunate that I did not face anything like that. So those kinds of things were not detrimental to my mental health situation.

Hospital friends/peers

When I was hospitalized, many of the girls I housed with there, although we had distinct situations, there was a camaraderie because we all were in this uncomfortable, scary, and intimidating place. I didn’t come out of it with friends per se, but people I bonded deeply with because we were all going through something life-changing together. We were doing hard work, exploring ourselves and our health.

Not a medical hospitalization

This isn’t going to the hospital and laying in a bed hooked up to cords and machines. It was like a behavioral rehabilitation kind of hospital. It’s kind of like a little campus. There are dorms, and there’s a place where you eat together. I was in school while I was there. I was in the local public school system technically while I was there. So, it wasn’t a college campus, but it felt like a campus. So, when I say hospitalized, I’m shortening it to explain that experience.

Health Hats: Okay. Good. Thank you.

Abruptly in

Annie Schneider: It is not like a medical setting hospital. It wasn’t like that. But yeah, just as much as I abruptly went in. I also abruptly came out, and I abruptly went in because, again, I was underwater, unaware of anything happening in my world. I was very numb. I was, my, my grades were just tanking. I was just not sleeping. I was not even eating regularly. I was having trouble managing my anger and temper—just a slew of things. I’m sure my mom and dad have their recollection of all of that, but I was just a mess. And one night, it was maybe late in the afternoon, my mom and dad wanted to talk to me, and they had been working with, I believe, my team that I was referring to earlier—my doctor and therapist and the guidance counselor in the school. Everybody was on board with this plan that a great place for me to get away from all the distractions of regular teenage life, be with myself, work on my health, and get the help I needed was to go to this rehabilitation center. And, of course, I despised the idea. I was angry that my parents wanted to send me there. I did not want to be ripped from my friends. I did not want to be ripped from my school. I felt like I was just being plucked out and put in prison. That’s how severe it felt at the time. So, I very abruptly went in. It was a bad day. Sorry, I didn’t know I was going to cry.

Health Hats: It was a bad take a moment. It’s okay. You’re fine. Just take a moment.

Annie Schneider: It was a bad day. I just remember very specific memories from that day, so that’s why I’m just kind of getting choked up. But it was a bad day, and my mom and dad were doing what they could do to do the best they could do for me. It was tough to be dropped off there. And yeah, I still see physical scenes in my head of seeing them leave, and I remember what I ate that day. It’s incredible. And so that was October 10th, 2012. And just as much as I was scared to go in because I felt like I was going into prison. It felt like that for me at the time. Cause I was just so miserable. And it was a place where the system. That’s a whole other conversation, probably, but it’s a place where they were doing the best they could, is the nicest way to say it. I have no negative thoughts towards the staff, how the hospital was run, or things like that. There’s only so much that healthcare, especially mental healthcare, can do. So, it was a perfectly fine place for what they had the resources for. But it felt like a prison. We were very protected. There was not a lot of privacy because of the concern of patients harming themselves or others. And again, people came in with all kinds of different situations. So, it was not even just depression; I had roommates with anxiety, eating disorders, trauma victims, the PTSD. I mean, like the gamut of all the awful things that people might face in their life. We showered with the door open, with no privacy. So, it felt prisony. We got one 10-minute phone call every day. I thought at the time that seemed cruel. We’re told that the reason is to keep yourself focused on what you’re doing here. The work you’re doing here. It’s rehab. It’s the same way you would, I don’t want to say it’s the same way you would treat people recovering from drugs or something, but any focus on anything outside of your recovery was possibly not going to be helpful. Yeah, so 10-minute phone calls and the people that could come to visit you were a very strict select group of people. And for many patients, that was important because you wouldn’t want bad influences from the past or harmful family members to come by or things like that.

Survivor’s guilt

Annie Schneider: I had felt like this in the hospital too, where I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the people and resources I had with my story. Because I feel like I’m in the rare category of people with the resources and abilities to be properly cared for. And I’m humbled and feel very privileged to have those things. In the hospital, I was the one that always got mail. I was the one that always got solid, happy, healthy phone calls with family. Like it was almost embarrassing. I almost felt survivor’s guilt sometimes in the hospital.

Our conversation shifted from abrupt entry to abrupt re-entry.  Entry into hospitalization and re-entry into life before hospitalization

Abrupt hospital exit – discharge

Annie Schneider: Reentry. So I went on October 10th, 2012, as I said. And then I assume it must have been somewhere around November 8th or November 9th. A staff member. I just remember it was a woman. Oh, my goodness. I don’t even know her role at the center, but she wanted to talk privately with me, and she was like you’re going home. And we’re preparing like a, it wasn’t called a reintegration plan, but essentially that’s what it was. It was a big fat binder of exercises and things to remember to do to maintain my health and everything. And at the time, I was just what they thought. I’m ready to go home. This is like great news, all this. And I was so excited to go back. And then I find out later that it’s not that they thought I was completely ready to get back. It’s that it’s all the insurance. The 30 days were up, right? So that’s why it was October 10th. November 10th. And naive me was like, oh, yay, I’m better. And it’s just because if I stayed there, my parents would be in debt. And that’s a whole other system topic about healthcare and mental healthcare specifically because I think a lot of the world still doesn’t take mental health care as seriously as other parts of your body healthcare.

Abrupt re-entry back to school

And then the other significant component was that I was not returning to class. I was going to return to restart junior year the following year. So, where I was supposed to finish my junior year and become a senior soon with my friends, I stayed back. I redid my junior year. Academically looking back, it was really smart for me to do that. I got a much more solid school year out of doing another year rather than scrambling to catch up with what everyone else was doing and where I was supposed to be. But socially, it was tough. I never made a bold announcement or anything to tell my peers what I was doing. My close friends knew what was happening, and the school knew what was happening. But my average classmates I wasn’t close with just found out by accident. Oh, I guess she’s just not in our class anymore. So, it just was socially weird to start the senior year and not do all the same things with all the people I grew up with. It was weird to be at their graduation and sing at their graduation, but I didn’t have a cap and gown on. So just a lot of strange little things like that. But I never got any kind of like negativity from it. Just a lot maybe confusion in my class. But ultimately, it ended up being one of the best things I did. I was 19 when I graduated from high school, but I didn’t care because I got to have another solid year to do my schoolwork. And I was a musical theater and an athlete student, so I got more time to do those things. And I got another prom. There were perks to it. Yeah. But also, it was vital for me to do that.

Familiar with what others may be experiencing

Health Hats: You’re like ten years out or seven years out. You’ve had this experience. I’m sure in your world, whether at work or socially, you might look around the room or meet people, and you can tell they’re going through this familiar world. Then what do you do? Do you interact?

Annie Schneider: I have a very hypersensitive sense of myself, as I said earlier, but I can tell when others aren’t. If I thought to myself, this person seems a little off, or they’re, I would put money down that they’re going through X, Y, Z, yeah. I’d say I’m probably correct almost all the time.

Just get over it

I remember very distinct situations and different times, but maybe I remember two stories. I’ll start with college. Just go chronologically. But I had a wonderful friend who lived in my building, and she was just not well. She was very much in her room, in her bed all the time. She was crying a lot. She was very despondent and very, very numb. She just wasn’t okay. And there was one time when we were hanging out, and I talked with her. I tried to gently open the conversation by saying, ” I’m sorry that you’re going through things right now. Have you ever talked to anybody about it? That’s usually my first go-to thing. Yeah. Have you ever spoken to anyone you trust about something you’re feeling or going through? And if I remember correctly, she almost explicitly told me I was depressed. And I believe she told me that she had been trying to tell her family that she didn’t feel well, and she hadn’t felt well for a long time, and her family just did not want to discuss mental health. There’s, unfortunately, still, in 2022, a ton of stigmas about whether it is real or should people just get over it. Or yeah, and those things make me angry. I can say it nicely because don’t you think if people wanted not to feel that way, they wouldn’t? Cause if it was in your control, wouldn’t you just wake up and stop feeling that way?

Health Hats: If my pancreas isn’t working, it’s your problem. You’ll get another pancreas. Work on it, for crying out loud. Get your pancreas to produce insulin.

Annie Schneider: But anyway, it humbled me to hear this friend in college say that like she’s telling people, and no one’s listening. I got her turned on to thinking; it’s okay to feel like this. Lots of people feel like this. I’m not sure where she took that. But I feel confident that we left certain conversations on that theme of she was, oh, and having realizations of I’m not crazy, and you’re telling me I’m not crazy. You can go through this, and there’s hope to feel better because you feel better. I’m not sure where she’s at now, but she stuck with me and humbled me hearing about her situation. And then another person I know, something similar where they were just very aware that they were not well. And I went through the same thing with them. Do you have resources? Do you have people you’re talking to? It didn’t go anywhere. But there was a feeling that I got when I did too much. There’s a threshold for humans to be caring. And then there’s also a threshold, though, where you’re like, I can be caring. But maybe when it gets to this point, it’s not my business anymore. I can’t micromanage somebody to get help. You don’t want that anyway. If they want help, they have to do that for themselves. It sucks to say, but it’s just true.

A word from our sponsor, Abridge

Now a word about our sponsor, ABridge. Record your healthcare conversations with doctors and other clinicians with ABridge. Push the big pink button and record. Read the transcript or listen to clips when you get home. Check out the app at ABridge.com. or download it on the Apple app store or Google play store. Let me know how it went.

Toolbox

Health Hats: So, let me ask you a different question. So, it sounds to me that part of the work that you did was to develop a toolbox of things that would be helpful and that you ended up with a reasonably robust toolbox. I have MS, and I have a toolbox. I feel confident that none of my tools will work every time and that I can usually find something that will work. I can try three things when I feel like my toolbox is together. Yeah. Then I’m rich. Because stuff doesn’t work, and you want the second level. What are some of the tools that you developed in your toolbox?

Annie Schneider: I think I first would say just generally on the toolbox topic, I would sum up a lot of this by saying that if there were a magic pill or like a magic spell or like a magic thing to eat, there would be no mental health issues because we would know the answer like and that, and I think you could say that to any issue or disability. Or illness or syndrome, or there are no perfect answers. Cause everybody is different, and then everybody’s resources are different. Regarding my toolbox, I’ve never written down a list of everything I do. But my toolbox, I guess, is a combination of physical, actual things and behaviors or refraining from certain behaviors.

Physical tools – medications

Health Hats: So, like physical things, does that mean going for a run, breathing deeply? Is that what you mean by physical things?

Annie Schneider: Physical things? I’m saying like medications. Okay. Maybe primarily medications. Cause a lot of it is also behavioral and like action based. Medications did change everything for me. I’m taking much less medication than I did when I was younger. Some of it I’ve discussed with my doctors due to my age and my brain maturing, but also, many environmental factors still influence everything. I’m very fortunate right now that I’m in a stable, successful life with good friends, a boyfriend who takes care of me and loves me, and a job in which I’m good. Medication, though, still is vital and especially for many people. I want to be careful not to preach medication in a perfect situation. It’s not perfect. They’re going to come with side effects. I’ve taken some that made me gain weight and some that made me lose too much weight. Some made me dizzy and feel awful, and some made it hard to wake up. And so that’s what I was talking about earlier. Medications are magical. It’s great that we have that medical technology, but some aren’t going to be good for you, some will be okay for you, and some will help. So, medication is a piece of the toolbox.

Tools: sunshine, friends, and pets

But sunshine and daylight and fresh air have always been essential to me. My loved ones, like my friends and boyfriend, sometimes tease me that I always have open windows, so it’s so bright here. I don’t want to feel like I’m in a cave, but too much of being in the dark all the time would start to influence my mental health. So, there’s that in my toolbox. I don’t even know what that would be called. I guess just like seeking natural light. But the sun is a natural thing our primitive bodies and brains need. Yeah. It’s not natural for us to be in the dark all the time. I’d also say something that helps is being around loved ones, family, and friends when I am struggling. Pets are very powerful. I’ve had some hard times here in our apartment now where I’m like. I’m going to go pick up the family dog, Lucy. Having Lucy around will instantly lift me a little. So that’s something that I do.

Alcohol

I love to drink alcoholic beverages and drink alcohol and socialize. And I love to celebrate with alcohol. But I am careful with it. Too often, I had too much, maybe not too much in a way like too drunk or something. But too much in that the next day and even days afterward, I felt emotional effects from the depressant nature of alcohol. I’m careful not to drink, especially if I’m already going into it in a negative mood. I only want to touch alcohol if I feel neutral, happy, celebratory, or whatever. I’m never going to drink to make myself feel better if I’m sad or angry or to escape from something. I’ve never had the desire to, but I’ve also just pledged myself, like, I’m not going to touch that stuff because that’s going to be awful for the next few days of getting through whatever I’m going through.

Apps

A stack of rocks on a beachHealth Hats: There are all these different apps out there. People say these apps are for meditation, for social networking. Are there any virtual tools that you use?

Annie Schneider: Virtual tools. Not so much. I’m a traditional paper and pen girl, to be honest. So, I do like to journal, especially if I’m going through tough episodes with something. But as for apps, I guess one that is quite relevant to my mental health and mental health for users would be Headspace.

 There are probably a lot of resources within it, but essentially, it’s a lot of like meditative, like narration and music. It’s kind of like podcasting. You just turn something on while you’re trying to meditate. It’ll be like guided meditations, stories that help you just lull into sleep and get into a dream-like mindset to relax. There are products to listen to, focus on, rest, elevate creative energy, etc. But I always almost religiously used it for sleep. I would play like the relaxing nighttime featured things.

What change would you make for best life?

Health Hats: I ask you one more question. So, what change would you make for young adults with mental illness that would help them live the best life they could live?

Annie Schneider: My role as a patient and someone who’s been through a lot, I’ve always thought like I have a unique voice that can help people by just starting the discussion, keeping the discussion healthy and accurate, helping people adjust skewed perceptions of what mental illness can mean and what it looks like. And it’s not just stuffing pills down your throat. There are a lot of still nasty misperceptions and flawed perceptions out there of what it all means. If the question is what I would change, right? Yeah. For youth?

Health Hats: I can feed you what I’ve heard you say. Okay. I think what you’ve talked about is you’ve talked about family. You’ve talked about getting help early. You’ve talked about hope. But if you were king for a day and you could wave your wand, something would be different that would benefit young adults with mental illness.

Annie Schneider: I’m geared into wishing that mental health was better understood. And I don’t know if that’s something I would have to say to the medical or general community. But something really big, and I wrote this down because it’s like the theme of everything that I want to talk about most in general in life, but also here is that treatment doesn’t have a face, and recovery doesn’t have a face because treatment and recovery are going to be so different for everybody.

Health Hats: Really, it’s what you’re saying; it’s not one face.

Annie Schneider: One face. Yeah. I want to destroy any perception that this mental illness looks like this, and this is how you treat it. I think that is such a, you don’t do that with cancer, and you don’t do that with heart disease, and you don’t do that with MS. It’s not a good way to look at health. Health and the human body are so much more complex than that. I think a lot of people fear, like, maybe they don’t want to talk about something that they’re struggling with mentally because they’re afraid that they’re going to get prescribed medication or something.

And while that might be something that helps many people, cognitive behavioral therapy also is therapeutic. And it can genuinely impact you. Also, surrounding yourself with healthy family and friends and a healthy environment will affect you. In addition to what I struggle with in terms of mood, I mainly suffered from panic attacks for episodes in my young adulthood. And I changed certain things in my life. , I changed jobs, and I got out of stressful situations and stressful social situations. And I didn’t do that to get out of panic attacks, but since I made those changes, I haven’t had panic attacks. So, the environment is crucial as well. So, any perception that like treatment looks like this. I think that’s my biggest hang-up. Yeah. Is that it? It’s not cookie cutter, not cookie-cutter. It shouldn’t be intimidating because there are a dozen ways to help. And it’s about finding what mix of all those things works with you, your situation, and your body.

Health Hats: That’s brilliant.

Annie Schneider: It was nice to talk about all this. Yeah. And I just celebrated my 10th hospital anniversary on November 10th. Yeah, and so it. I do.

Health Hats: Congratulations

Annie Schneider: Because those days were already burned in my mind anyway. Right the way a birthday or something is burned in your mind. I’ve accidentally been counting them, and I realize it’s 2022, which means this is ten years. I was not expected to graduate high school, and I wasn’t supposed to go to college. My future was super unknown, and I graduated from high school. I graduated from college. I’m in a healthy relationship. I have friends and a job and care for my health independently. And a lot of it was me doing that for myself and my team and all the support I had when I was young. And it’s a combination, but. There’s hope. I don’t hope such a cliche word. If other people who might be listening have been through certain things that sound like mine, it’s not the end. Like, where you’re at right now is so not the end.

Health Hats: Thank you. Thank you so much. This has been great. Oh, thanks, Danny. I appreciate it.

Reflection 43:03

Person entering dark room with neon beams from bright hallwayAnnie decides whether to cross a threshold. The threshold of helping. She has agency and control. Powerful! Annie also started with a foundation of trust with her family, even if that trust took a body blow when she went to inpatient psych.

Next, we will hear from Matt Neil, a high school teacher who builds belonging. High school students cross a threshold to an unfamiliar place and purposefully belong.  Here’s a clip from that inspiring episode.  Thanks for joining me.

Next episode: Matt Neil

Two high school women sitting and speaking to each other

I have a group of kids at our school called the Ambassadors running our new student program.  About six years ago, our principal came to me and said, we have this population of students in our school that we miss. They are lonely and being dropped into our school community; even though we’re all very well-meaning and everything, they’re not being supported. Will you do this?  I said I would love to do that work.  Our group takes a heart-centered approach. We just want to scoop these kids up and bring them on board. We have 78 current members. Every student in that group is teacher recommended for their ability to work with others, their kindness, their heart, and their willingness to improve the lives of others.  When a new student comes in and gets a tour of the building, that’s a detailed tour and the opportunity to connect with people. , they get somebody to eat lunch with, and they get a check-in at the end of the day. And those three points of contact, as opposed to no points of contact before, make the student feel welcomed into our school community. And then the goal is to have that student remain as a contact and a first friend for those students in our building,

Podcast Outro

I host, write, edit, engineer, and produce Health Hats, the Podcast. Kayla Nelson provides website and social media consultation and manages dissemination. Joey van Leeuwen supplies musical support, especially for the podcast intro and outro. I play bari sax on some episodes alone or with the Lechuga Fresca Latin Band. I’m grateful to you, who have the most critical roles as listeners, readers, and watchers. See the show notes, previous podcasts, and other resources through my website, www.health-hats.com, and YouTube channel. Please subscribe and contribute. If you like it, share it. See you around the block

Danny van Leeuwen

Patient/Caregiver activist: learn on the journey toward best health

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