May is Mental Health Awareness Month - and you best believe we are taking full advantage of this small gap of time to bring enlightenment to the outside world, as well as further identify within our own. This month, we decided to kick off our newsletter and blog by giving May's "Speak Series" featured Outsider, Sasha Pozzuoli, full creative control. Sasha is one badass chick on the outside - but we had no idea how far beyond that she is - inside. This week, we're giving you the inside look into Sasha's inner world by letting her write this month's feature. Enjoy. Take it away, Sasha...
May 1st, 2018
A Piece Written by Sasha Pozzuoli
"At some point in our lives, we are all "Outsiders." A survey compiled by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2014 indicates that 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental health issues each year. An overwhelming number of people in our society feel like they are outside of the circle of inclusion because of their mental health state, making loneliness one of the most common epidemics in the United States.
Depression is thought to stem from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Growing up, I often felt ostracized and alone. I lacked the tools and emotional intelligence as a child to understand the complexity of my situation and I felt alone in my experience. This feeling lasted well into adulthood and influenced my sense of belonging on a much bigger, and much more damaging scale.
I was obsessed with being an outsider. For a long time, I identified with my feelings of not-belonging. Feeling like an outsider created a loneliness in me that has taken years of therapy to repair. I pushed people away out of sadness, anger, and fear of not belonging, further ostracizing myself and reinforcing the belief that I didn’t belong because I was flawed or less-than.
For years, I couldn’t accept that my depression and anxiety were bio-chemical issues that I couldn’t control. It had to be environmental. I had to have control. I told myself what I was experiencing was normal. I was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and extreme anxiety in my twenties and began taking medication for both just this past year.
My journey has been long and it’s been grueling, but mostly it has been so fucking rewarding. I am proud of the work I have done and the tools I’ve developed to cope with my anxiety and depression. Struggling with my mental health has in many ways,been a blessing rather than a curse. Although I don’t suffer from OCD, being an "Obsessive Outsider" is something I identify with at an almost primitive level.
We are afraid of not belonging because of the primitive feelings of fear that result from feeling isolated or alone because of your mental health. Feeling displaced or marginalized can elicit a fight-or-flight response when you lack the proper tools. Feeling like an outsider insights fear because we aren’t taught the value of emotional intelligence until we discover we have something to “fix.”
Maintaining a healthy understanding of "Self" is the foundation for my various coping mechanisms. Yoga became my outlet at a young age, teaching me body awareness that sequentially developed into Self-awareness. I learned to use pranayama, the practice of controlling the breath when I started having panic attacks in my twenties.
In 2015, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Hoffman Process. The Hoffman Process is a week-long personal growth retreat that helps participants identify negative behaviors, moods, and ways of thinking that developed unconsciously and were conditioned in childhood. The Process helps you connect with "Self" and disconnect with patterns of thought and behaviors on an emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual level in order to make significant positive changes in your life.
Eat clean. IT MATTERS. And as much as I’d rather not…45 minutes of cardio every day.
Every night, I do a mental gratitude practice before bed. Simply acknowledging three things you are grateful for and three things you appreciate about yourself, is scientifically proven to re-wire the neurological pathways in your brain.
And lastly, be Self-ish! You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm. Be proud of your "Self" discovery and personal growth. No one knows how hard you’ve worked more than you do.
- Sasha Pozzuoli
More on Sasha