Article: Lena Dunham Tackles The Stigma Of Mental Health…

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Posted: 04/13/2015 9:49 am EDT Updated: 3 hours ago

Lena Dunham shared a powerful “workout selfie” on Instagram yesterday. “To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it’s mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen,” she wrote. “I’m glad I did. It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain.” There’s a lot to take from this selfie, beyond her “slim figure” and the fact that she is wearing a sports bra. Yet again, Dunham is working to combat the stigma surrounding mental health.

Dunham has been candid about her mental health in the past. “I have obsessive compulsive disorder and it started manifesting itself when I was five,” she said in an interview with The National in 2014. “It’s not like I had an opportunity to exist in a carefree way.”

In her book, Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham wrote openly about her experiences. “It’s hard enough to have a child, much less a child who demands to inspect our groceries and medicines for evidence that their protective seals have been tampered with,” she wrote. “I have only the vaguest memory of a life before fear. Every morning when I wake up there is one blissful second before I look around the room and remember my daily terrors.”

These efforts are not confined to interviews and personal essays (and/or selfies). Perhaps her most notable effort has been the nuanced description of OCD featured through her character Hannah on “Girls.”

In Season 2, Episode 9, Hannah’s symptoms flare up when she is stressed by a rapidly approaching deadline. She starts counting (for Hannah, performing activities in sets of eight combats harmful thoughts), eventually traumatizing her ear after applying this tactic to the use of a cotton swab. Instead of reducing her struggle to the all too familiar excessive hand-washing we usually see in pop culture as indicative of OCD, Lena rewards Hannah with a measured depiction of anguish in need of attention.

“Maybe any show that depicts mental illness has to come from a firsthand account in order to do it well,” Dr. Jeff Szymanski, Ph.D., wrote at Psychology Today following the episode. “Lena did a service not only to herself by letting the world ‘see’ what the struggle looks like, but to the entire OCD community at large by showing some of the pain, stigma, and struggle any person with mental health issues has to endure.”

There’s this idea of Lena Dunham as the pinnacle of “over-sharing,” an attention-seeker armed with TMI as a guerrilla tactic for publicity. Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti went so far as to criticize Not That Kind of Girl by saying Dunahm’s “willingness to shock” has the “unfortunate side effect of nullifying the idea that she has something important to say.” But when it comes to discussions of mental health, Dunham cannot be so easily dismissed.

Since information is the most important tool in battling the negative perceptions which categorize mental health, this kind of visibility makes it increasingly difficult for OCD to be dismissed based on fear of that which is different or unknown.

Dunham’s continued efforts to promote an accurate portrait of OCD, both as a celebrity and as an artist, are important regardless of whether or not you agree with her method of transmitting seemingly every bit of personal information for public consumption. Mental health is surrounded by a stigma that leads to a lack of empathy and discrimination. With every thoughtful, accurate image Dunham sends up on HBO or Instagram, she chips away at the shame and the misunderstanding. That’s the kind of over-sharing we can definitely get behind.

on a mission from god… not really

Sorry for the blog delay – I have been ferrying between doctor appointments and family members bouts of influenza. ugh. I also have surgery scheduled for this Thursday.

Please enjoy the elevator music (above) while my life is placed on hold, again.


download 44I have been writing a bit less because I am feeling better.  I actually feel normal again, whatever that is, and I can walk up stairs without being out of breath!  It is the simple things in life that make one happy.  I have a few lingering problems like insomnia and low blood pressure when standing up, but otherwise I am okay.

images hhhhHaving the right physician makes all the difference.  He really listened and considered all the data even though my test results kept showing “Normal.”  I am also glad I was persistent and advocated for myself. I will soon have a whole new group of doctors interconnected and communicating with each other, in one practice – which is helpful in complicated cases.  My husband is also switching over to them. 

I have a fluid diagnosis so far, meaning it is subject to change – adrenal insufficiency (primary?) and severe vitamin D deficiency.  There is plenty of new data about vitamin D in theimages lazyliterature, especially regarding mental health and well being. However there are many online adrenal resources that are bogus and simply trying to sell you a treatment. Be careful!

National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases
Information Service (NEMDIS)

Adrenal Fatigue: Is It Real?

Low vitamin D levels, depression linked in young women, new study shows

Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency Most People Miss

Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults: When to Test and How to Treat

stuff and earworm

Today’s earworm is brought to you by:

Strange Magic (The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO))

I get a strange magic,
oh, what a strange magic,
oh, it’s a strange magic.
Got a strange magic,
got a strange magic…I get a strange magic,
oh, what a strange magic,
oh, it’s a strange magic.
Got a strange magic,
got a strange magic…

download (18)Insistent little bugger this morning.

My checkup went well. I am feeling better and getting out more. I finished the antibiotics so I am back on Hydrocortisone; I feel jittery and a bit anxious which are listed as possible side effects. My doctor lowered the dose because of insomnia so now I take it once a day in the mornings.

images111Anyone else out there get anxiety with a lot of muscle tension or teeth clenching?  Throughout the day I often feel my muscles have tensed and I try to relax but then soon after I find that I am tense again. It happens repetitively and I do not notice until I am tense again. In other words, I find myself having to check in with my body to relax. I do not want to start taking clonzepam again. I meditate each morning; some mornings are harder to relax than others.  I have also tried therapy (CBT) but I think it is something biological perhaps my sensitive (slightly out of whack) endocrine system.