KATIE BROCK AND HER ONGOING JOURNEY TO A HEALTHY MENTALITY
By J1 Reporter Maggie Churilla
Meet 25-year-old Katie Brock, assistant director of alumni and student engagement at the Nebraska Alumni Association at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Growing up, Katie played sports, sang, and was largely involved in her youth group. She described herself as being a social butterfly, always surrounding herself with friends. Taking a glance at Katie, you’d figure she’s a healthy young adult. Katie may appear healthy on the outside. On the inside however, she faces unseen struggles.
Katie Brock has not only had to overcome one condition, but two. When she was just a child, Katie began her life long battle with mental health. Unaware of her diagnoses until the last year or so, Katie discovered she had Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In addition to her anxiety disorder, she also was diagnosed with EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). The definition states that an eating disorder is present, but does not fit into the diagnostic criteria of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. However, she still had an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.
Katie’s eating disorder certainly corresponds with her anxiety disorder.
“My food and exercise was the way I controlled my body and the way that it experienced the anxiety. Anxiety can make you not hungry at all, and I would choose not to eat because ultimately my anxiety would make me sick,” she said.
Her anxiety manifested its way through her body. For example, many symptoms of her anxious behavior are,
- Dizziness and random fainting
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Panic attacks (anger outbursts, hyperventilating, heat flashes, feeling trapped, and shaking)
- “Spacing out” and inability to focus well
- Chronic muscle tension and soreness
Mental health reflects the physical health of an individual more than society portrays it.
“We don’t talk about it until it’s too late. People are all angry and upset about suicide and mass shootings and behavioral disturbances, and the reality is that people don’t just wake up one day and decide to do those things. If we can destigmatize the way our society thinks about and treats mental illness, then people wouldn’t be so hesitant and fearful about getting the help and the treatment that they need,” Katie said.
By discussing the facts, feelings, and effects of mental health, society can begin to accept and treat mental illness with the same compassion as cancer, or other fatal ailments.
“Mental illnesses are LETHAL. People die from them every single day. Eating disorders are the most lethal psychiatric illness with one person dying every HOUR in our nation. We talk about shark attacks more than we talk about mental illness and far fewer people die from them,” Katie said.
Because of Katie’s personal experience with mental illness, she has made the brave and selfless decision to share her story. She hopes people walking in the same shoes as her will follow in her footsteps and get the help they need.
“Ultimately, I want to help people with my story, and with my experiences. I don’t really care what people think or say about me when I believe in something this strongly, and in this sort of thing I think that is a blessing,” Katie said. “I want to speak out for those who can’t speak for themselves and bring them hope that recovery is possible, and that mental illness won’t be so badly judged in the time to come. I want to help them find recovery and help their loved ones learn how to help them.”
“I would love to speak publicly about these things on a regular basis and for my blog to reach the people who need it the most. If I could get the attention of policy writers and the government to make changes in the way we approach these things in school at a young age- that would be a dream. I just want to advocate for change and see it happen,” Katie said.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness in a given year. Mental health is something so common, yet no one wants to discuss it. Why is that? Is it because people fear they’ll face judgment or shame? Do they hold feelings of inadequacy? Do they have a lack of insight towards their struggle?
Katie’s mother, Linda Brock is a beloved science teacher at Marian. Below are her eight steps of advice from a mother’s perspective.
- Listen to your child’s concerns. They know something isn’t right but don’t know what it is or what to do with it.
- Love and support your child where they are and throughout their journey. It will be a life time of recovery. It is a dynamic illness that changes with age.
- Mental illness is not contagious;. There is no need to fear or hide it.
- Physical symptoms that are recurring and don’t seem to get better are probably caused by anxiety. It isn’t always “normal” or “fine.” Examples, grinding teeth, locking jaw, acid reflux, throwing-up, muscle weakness, extreme tiredness, not hungry, irregular or no monthly period, etc. are just a few. It can be a combination of these, all of these or just one or two.
- Seek treatment for your child. You can’t fix it. Your child can’t fix it. They can, with the correct help, discover their triggers, learn coping skills/mechanisms, gain confidence, learn they didn’t bring it on themselves – and so much more.
- Don’t fear medications for treatment. They help to put the body back to a physiological balance that is lacking. Would you deny someone glasses if they needed them to see better? Would you deny insulin to a diabetic? Would you deny anti-seizure medications to a person with epilepsy? Deny Tylenol for a headache?
- Get genetic testing for the correct medication to use. This eliminates the trial and error of the many classifications available. It saves frustration, time, money and anxiety.
- To be in good/great shape means all aspects of our lives must be in good working order – spiritually, mentally and physically. Keep them all healthy. It will take effort and hard work to get into and to stay in shape.
Know the signs and look for them in a family member, friend, or classmate who appears to be struggling. If this is you, take a step back and ask the questions, speak out, and seek help.
As Katie said,
“The reality is that we are all together in this fight. We should be more scared of what will happen if we don’t start speaking out and reaching out for help. It’s the first step in really fighting the lies that we believe.”