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Anxiety Strikes Again

I’ve talked about my anxiety in the past and how it can make me do things that would seem extremely irrational to a normal person (like that time it spiraled out of control on a day trip).

Well, my anxiety has once again made me do something that in hindsight, was a bit ridiculous. Monday night, my boyfriend and I were having leftover turkey burgers. We reheated them in the microwave, and we sat down to eat them together at the dining room table.

Things were normal. Fine. Dandy. Then, I swallowed a piece and suddenly my throat was sore. The best way to describe it was it felt like something was stuck in my throat. I continued to eat and said nothing, as this is something that has happened to me in the past. But then, the feeling started to make my skin crawl and I fed the rest of my food to my boyfriend.

About ten minutes after we had finished dinner, I asked to my boyfriend “Do you ever feel like you have something stuck in your throat after eating?” and he was like “Yeah.” So, I told him well it felt like that for me while we were eating dinner and that’s why I fed him my fries.

Mistake Number One: Turning To Google

More time passed. We went to Dairy Queen and get some Blizzards. Thinking maybe something was indeed in my throat, I thought maybe eating more would push it down. My throat still felt a little sore, and while I finished up my Blizzard at home, I went to Google (mistake number one). I started Googling “How do you know if you have food stuck in your throat?”

According to the internet, it’s pretty common. Due to anxiety and the need to know everything because the unknown is scary, I kept digging. I read medical websites stating symptoms and saying it’s an ER trip because it might not pass on its own and cause damage. Eventually, I ended up on forums and I found horror stories. So naturally, my anxiety got worse and I started to convince myself I had food just stuck in my throat.

A Trip To The ER

I reasoned with myself that I should just go because I’d rather be safe than sorry. And I’m sure some of you might be thinking, why not just wait until morning to not pay for an ER trip for something so ridiculous that also might not be an actual emergency? Well, I am SO POOR, I get free services at any Yale New Haven Health medical center. Also on the off-chance I did have food stuck in my throat, waiting until the next day would have been a bad idea and I might die (anxiety logic).

So I grabbed my Kindle and headed to the hospital at 8pm on a Monday. Thankfully the hospital is 15 minutes away and there was no wait when I got there. The doctor came in, looked in my throat, and said it’s fine. He also felt my neck and told me one of my lymph nodes was swollen exactly where I said the pain was. He asked me if I was sick and I told him no, it just happened while I was eating dinner and otherwise I felt fine.

Later when the nurse came in, I told her the same thing and she at least believed me when I said I wasn’t sick. She said I probably just irritated my throat when I was eating dinner. Anyhoo, after a little bit of “observation time” and waiting for them to fill out my discharge paperwork, I was out after determining there was no food stuck in my throat. Woohoo!

Cue the Secondary Anxiety

So you’d think my anxiety would go away after being told the thing I was anxious about was not a concern. Nope! I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about this on here, but I’m a bit of a germaphobe. So naturally, an emergency room does not feel like a safe place for me. I wore a mask when I went, I stripped my clothes and immediately put them in the wash when I got home, and I instantly went into the shower to cleanse myself.

This anxiety lasted for days and I’m still honestly anxious that I might get sick from that pointless visit. And then comes the anger with myself that I was so anxious I went to the ER for no reason and exposed myself to germs. At least the last couple times I was in a hospital it was because I was visiting family (although I will say that made me so anxious every single time) and then my trip due to my primary care sending me for my throat.

I don’t even know why I’m so afraid. I have autoimmune issues, but they’re not to the point that I’m immunocompromised. But the potential of getting sick makes me so anxious. It honestly might be residual anxiety from the pandemic. My anxiety around this was not as bad before the pandemic. But I now constantly do everything in my power to not get sick, sometimes even being anxious to go around my niece and nephew who are a toddler and baby because they always have some plague from daycare.

Reflections Post-Anxiety

I’ll start off by saying my throat was literally fine the next day. I must have just irritated it while eating dinner. Looking back, I should have just waited until the next day. It wasn’t like I was struggling to breathe or swallow. But, me reading in a forum that one person had food stuck and could breathe and talk fine sent me into a panic that it could be like that with me.

But, now I can laugh at it. We were out to dinner last night with my brother and my boyfriend said “I feel like I have something stuck in my throat” and he wasn’t saying it in a mocking tone or anything. He actually had the feeling. I looked at him and I was like “Oh I didn’t tell my brother about that” so then I told my brother and we all laughed about it when I retold the whole story. It’s funny to look back on now, and honestly even in the moment I knew I was probably being a bit ridiculous, but I just wanted to be CERTAIN I didn’t have anything stuck in my throat.

Anyhoo, I survived the ordeal AND I didn’t have to get an endoscopy done to search for and remove food from my throat. There’s a reason why I named my blog on TurningPointCT “Combating My Anxiety” because my anxiety can get a bit out of control…lol.

-Kailey

Anxiety Reels

Check out some anxiety Reels we recently shared.

The first Reel shares a few things that people can try to help combat their anxiety. The second Reel is a funny, relatable meme. Enjoy!


5 Ways to Help Combat Anxiety


Going To The Store When It’s Busy

Navigating Social Anxiety As A Young Adult

I’ve talked about my experience with social anxiety in a previous post here on TurningPointCT. It’s been about two and a half years since I wrote that previous post. I thought I’d give you all an update on how my experience with social anxiety has gotten a bit better.

In 2023, I really had to push myself through my struggles with social anxiety. As you become an adult, there are more events that you really want to be at. Or, if you don’t want to go, you might feel obligated to go. In 2023, I had three weddings to go to.

I’ll be honest, the thought of having to go to weddings was really intimidating for me. This is because I’m introverted and someone who struggles with social anxiety. I think one thing that really helped me was knowing I’d have my boyfriend at two of the weddings. The other thing that helped was that one of the weddings was my cousin’s wedding. So at that wedding my whole family would be there.

The First Wedding of The Year

The first wedding of the year was my cousin’s wedding. I was on my own for that wedding because my boyfriend’s out of state friend was here. Thankfully, this was the wedding where not having him was totally fine since my family would be there. At this wedding, I had my parents, my siblings, my niece and nephew, my cousins, as well as my aunts and uncles. 10/10. I was actually really social. I even spent a lot of time on the dance floor, which was something I never did at previous weddings I went to.

Picture of my posing with my niece

The Second Wedding of The Year

The second wedding I went to was Ally’s, who was previously a blogger and more with the project in the past. After working on the project together, Ally and I stayed really close and I’m so thankful to have her as a friend. I was so excited to be able to be there for her special day! However, I definitely did have some anxiety about going to the wedding because I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of people I knew. But, thankfully I had my boyfriend there with me.

Turns out I didn’t need to rely to heavily on my boyfriend for support. Why? Because Ella, another young adult who worked on the project was also there with her boyfriend and so was Michael (who I also met while working on the project) with his partner. It was like a fun little reunion! It was awesome getting to catch up with them and celebrate Ally together! I spent a lot of time on the dance floor at this wedding too!

Wedding Number Three – The One That Really Tested My Social Anxiety

The third wedding I went to, I was the plus one. And to make matters worse, my boyfriend was the best man so I knew there would be a lot of time where I’d be on my own. I remember being so anxious because I wasn’t sure how I’d do on my own for hours.

Before The Ceremony

I showed up to the venue completely on my own. My boyfriend had to get there before me to get ready with the groom and groomsmen. When I got there, I noticed I arrived at the same time as someone I had known who’s husband was also in the wedding party. So, we walked in together. However, they were staying at the Inn, so she went to put her suitcases in their room when we got inside.

After she went upstairs, the groom’s parents greeted me because we had met the night before at the rehearsal dinner. The groom’s parents were super kind so I sat and talked with them while we waited for wedding things to start happening. Later, the woman I had walked in with came back and we started to chit chat again.

During The Ceremony

During the ceremony, I sat with the woman I knew. It was nice to be with someone I knew. I was shocked that not only was I doing fine without my boyfriend, but I was actually socializing and feeling comfortable. It’s not something I would have ever thought I’d be able to do.

The Reception

During the reception after the ceremony, I was finally reunited with my boyfriend. We were sitting at a fun table with the bride and groom’s siblings who were all around our age. They were a lot of fun and also super kind. And just like the other two weddings I went to, I spent a lot of time on the dance floor! It still blows my mind because in the past, I never wanted to be in the action.

Picture of me dancing with my boyfriend

All in all, I had a really successful year being a wedding guest! I really got myself out of my comfort zone because I was tired of being on the sidelines. I still don’t love big social events, but I’ve found ways to be comfortable. Having people I’m comfortable around definitely really helped me out at each of the weddings. It also helps to not feel like you’re surrounded only by strangers.

My Social Anxiety Today

Honestly, I’m still really introverted. When I hear about parties, I’m instantly like ugh I don’t want to go. But, I usually end up fine. I went to my niece’s second birthday party and I was social with people who I didn’t know. I had my boyfriend with me, but we were socializing with my brother and his friends and honestly having a lot of fun. It helped that they seemed to have the same sense of humor we did, which I suppose isn’t surprising since they were my brother’s friends. My sister-in-law was so shocked to see me actually talking that she said from across the room “oh my god Kailey are you actually socializing??” because my family knows I’m notorious for not socializing with people I don’t know.

So, what changed?

Honestly, I think meeting new people at some of the weddings I went to last year really helped me to realize that for the most part, people are really kind. Before I was too shy and afraid to talk to people I didn’t know. But, now I’ve learned that there’s nothing scary about it. I’ve also found it helps me if others are the first to start engaging in a conversation with me because I’m still not keen on approaching people I don’t know.

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.

A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

I never thought I’d be someone who could ever be comfortable in a social setting, but I’m definitely learning. I get so excited every time I notice how different I am now. I’ll literally say to my boyfriend “did you see how social I was being!?” I think he has also helped me a lot with it. He’s aware of my struggles with social situations. And, he’s always really patient with me, trying to never put me in an uncomfortable situation. It also helps that he has really kind friends who immediately accepted me!

Is social anxiety something that you’ve struggled with? If so, what’s helped you?

-Kailey

Driving on the Highway for the First Time

Hello there! A couple of months ago, I shared some wins I had against my anxiety, which you can check out here, and wanted to share another win I recently had. After having my license for about 7 years but only driving on residential roads, I finally drove on the highway for the first time.


Quick Context

Learning to drive was quite scary, as I’m sure it was for most folks. However, since I only have one fully functioning eye, I found myself trying extra hard to drive as safely as possible, maybe even too safe lol.

During the dark times, aka peak COVID days, I chose not to drive anymore after hitting a curb, and planned on not driving for the rest of my life. The first part of this decision was also based on the car I was driving in that moment not being mine, but my mom’s, and I didn’t want to risk causing serious damage to her car.


Fast Forward

During summer or fall of 2023, I changed my mind by getting behind the wheel again for the first time in a few years.  Of course I had to get used to that stressful feeling once more, but I adjusted quicker than I thought I would.

I had been thinking about driving on the highway for a few weeks.  I knew it’d be more intense than residential roads, so I needed a lot of time to build up to it.  Finally, after finishing a grocery shopping trip, I felt it was time.  To be honest, though, I only went for it because I only needed to drive from one exit to another to get home, so I wouldn’t be on the highway long.

The experience was definitely pretty stressful. I had to quickly adjust to a faster than what I’m used to speed.  I stayed in the slow lane which did ease a tiny sliver of stress, and as you might imagine, I was very glad when I got off at my exit. Even though it will probably still be intimidating for a while, I know I should do this again soon to keep the momentum going.

Wish me luck. – T

A Fun Trip…Until My Anxiety Spiraled Out Of Control

On MLK Jr. Day, I decided to make the most of having the day off with a day trip to the Hudson Valley in New York. I like to take solo day trips when I can. It’s something I’m actually really comfortable with even though it stresses my family out that I travel hours away all by myself.

The day of the trip, I was so excited I practically sprang out of bed. I got up and made myself breakfast, which is something I almost never do. Usually the only reason I eat is because my boyfriend will make me something. But this day, I was up before him and I made an egg sandwich for me AND for my boyfriend.

Not only did I make myself breakfast, but I also made myself a sandwich for lunch. I had all of my camera gear charged up. Everything was packed and ready to go. I was off to a great start and ready for my waterfall adventure in New York.

The Trip

My two and a half hour drive was great I was passing the time with my Spotify liked songs on shuffle. Most people hate driving, but driving for hours and hours doesn’t bother me. It’s really just another way I get my me-time. I especially love driving to the mountains because the views are always so breathtaking, even from the road.

What’s not to love about this view as you’re driving?

I made it to my destination in one piece. And, the conservancy I went to was even better than I was expecting it to be. It featured two stunning waterfalls. One was 150 feet tall! You can view the video of my visit, but I’ve also attached photos below.

After this, I drove an hour west to the Catskills to check out another waterfall. The drive through the mountains on the scenic byway never fails to take my breath away. I got to the waterfall and enjoyed an awesome partially frozen waterfall.

Anxiety Joins The Trip

Now, I’m going to get into the anxiety. It started with me getting anxious about the fact that I hadn’t peed since 6am (it had been like 7 hours). It was manageable anxiety, but still anxiety. Since it’s the winter and I was in the middle of the mountains hiking, there were not bathrooms at the trailheads. Due to the lack of access to bathrooms, I was not drinking as much water as I should have been. Mistake? Probably.

I then stopped at a coffee shop in Catskill, NY and get a hot chocolate hoping there was going to be a bathroom. I didn’t see one, and the anxiety rises slightly. But, it was still manageable. Since I paid for a parking meter, I decided to explore a bit downtown. On my walk I stumbled upon a needles and syringes disposal box. I immediately went back to my car.

I looked at the map and noticed not far from downtown Catskill there was a small park on the Hudson River. So, I drove there. When I’m out, I like checking out little parks I find. But, there was definitely a little part of me that was hoping for a bathroom… But, as I said, it’s the winter so of course when I got there, there was no open bathroom. I pulled the handle of the bathroom at the park and it was locked. So, I left and continued heading back to Connecticut.

Views from the park in Catskill, New York.

The Journey Home

I sent my boyfriend a text to let him know I was officially on my way home, while also letting him know I hadn’t peed since I was at home earlier in the morning. He was like “no way” and for whatever reason his disbelief intensified my anxiety. I started to get a little panicky, but continued onward because what else was I supposed to do?

So, I was driving through no man’s land on some state routes in the mountains and hills of New York. I drove by some gas stations and grocery stores and then got pissed at myself for not stopping at them to go to the bathroom. For some context, I hate using public restrooms because I am a germaphobe. I don’t even like using the bathrooms at work or at other people’s houses.

Finding A Bathroom

Finally, I reached the little town of Millerton that’s on the New York/Connecticut border. It’s a super cute small town, one that I’ve stopped in before. I finally decided to just attempt to go to the bathroom in one of the gas stations. First, I tried a Cumberland Farms, and of course the bathroom was out of order.

My honest reaction when I saw it was closed: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

After, I got up the courage to go to the gas station that’s two buildings over. Thankfully, that one had a bathroom. It smelled like cigarette smoke, but I was just thankful to have a spot to go to the bathroom since I was still 100 miles away from home.

I didn’t want to be that person that used the bathroom and bounced. So, I bought a lemonade and a hand sanitizer because I was out and ya know, it’s a necessity to a germaphobe.

When I got outside, I noticed that the cap to the hand sanitizer (it was one with a pump) was unscrewed. I didn’t want to go back in and ask to swap it out because of anxiety of being a burden. My brain was definitely like “what if it’s tampered with or poisoned” but then I was like whatever. I just wanted to go home.

I got into my car and I cracked open my lemonade and immediately chugged some. SUDDENLY, I started to panic because I didn’t remember hearing the snap that typically happens when you open a brand new bottle. I started to panic thinking that the lemonade was poisoned or drugged. Full blown anxiety attack ensues and I’m 100 miles/2 hours away from home. I cannot make this up. This is…living with anxiety.

Reaching Out For Some Opinions To Try And Soothe My Anxiety

I texted my brother in a joking tone about my little predicament, asking if I should not finish my drink. He responds “Probs not lol.” Queue more panic because I already drank some. I was not expecting that answer and I started to really spiral. The anxiety symptoms hit me like a freight train. He then tried to tell me it was probably fine and to not worry about it. But, it was too late.

I then texted my boyfriend and I was just honest. I told him I was basically having a nervous breakdown. Thankfully, he didn’t tell me I’m crazy, even though I was acting completely irrational, convinced I’d been poisoned or something. He even went as far as doing some Googling for me and asking me some questions and he told me I was likely fine since I didn’t have any symptoms. He said he doubted someone would drug or poison some random lemonade since there’s no motive. Not once does he make me feel bad or insane.

Stuck With My Anxiety & My Thoughts

I was stuck with myself and my thoughts for hours. Lots of time to think about it. I started getting mad at myself saying I shouldn’t have stopped at the gas station. Or, I shouldn’t have bought anything there. Then, it was “why didn’t I check to see if the seal was intact on the drink?” I refused to touch the drink for the rest of the ride. I wanted to throw it out, but then I was like “well I can’t, what if they need to test it for poison or drugs?”

Then for some reason during this meltdown I start to panic about touching the handle at the park back in Catskill. I thought about the needle and syringe drop off and I thought that seemed it seemed like a bad area. So naturally, my panicked brain was like “what if there was fentanyl on the handle and you’re going to OD?”

I literally had thoughts of wrapping my car around a tree because I was just so overwhelmed that I wanted to die. All of this stemmed from not being sure if the seal on my lemonade was secure or not. Odds are it was fine, but I couldn’t see reason. There was just an impending sense of doom and despair. If you don’t have an anxiety disorder, this kind of spiraling probably makes no sense to you. But this is the reality of having an anxiety disorder.

So, What Happened After?

I got home safely and I immediately washed my hands and then rinsed my mouth with mouthwash. Even as I was doing it, I knew it was irrational. I was terrified to kiss my boyfriend, thinking I might have some dangerous substance on my lips that would harm him too. I got into the shower ASAP because I felt like I was covered in dangerous germs and poisons.

This happened yesterday, and happy to report I’m totally fine and still breathing. I can look back at this now and see just how irrational it was. Honestly, I can kind of laugh about it now. But in the moment, it was definitely not funny.

I’ll leave you with this: Anxiety is wild. Please be nice to your anxious friends and family. We are not okay😂😭

BUT ALSO, if you had the day off for MLK Jr. Day, I hope you enjoyed your day!!

– Kailey

Looking Back On 2023

The Rock in the Road

Anxiety has always been a huge rock in the road for me, especially during the past few covid years.  It’s made it extremely difficult to do a lot of things, even things such as interacting with folks in social settings, and making or answering phone calls. 

However, 2023 has been a very successful year for me; I feel like I’ve accomplished more this year than I have in the past 3 years combined.  I’ve become a lot more capable of pushing back against my anxiety in order to progress in life. I’ve learned a lot of coping skills from others, and have even created some of my own, that have been a big help.


Comeback Season

I’ve traveled by myself for the first time, moved into my own place, and started driving again.  These, along with many more, are things I know I would have been very unlikely to do even last year.  So being able to check off so many goals in the span of one year has made me feel very proud of myself.  I even signed up for an event in town, which would have been way more unlikely last year than the first three things I mentioned in this paragraph.  In fact, I’d go as far as to say signing up for social events wasn’t even a consideration, while the other things were.

Something that’s been a huge help to me is changing my environment more.  During my school years, besides going to classes during the week, I did next to nothing else.  There were rare occasions where I’d go to the gym, but it wasn’t enough to make a physical or mental difference.  Even up to this past summer, I wasn’t changing my environment enough, and this caused me to have a huge creative block.  And as someone who prides themselves on their creativity, this made me fear for my future.  Now that I’ve been going outside my home more, the creative block has decreased significantly.


Feeling Hopeful

At this point in time, I’m at a place where I feel content with life.  I’m hoping to keep up this momentum as we transition out of 2023 and head into 2024.  For now, though, I wish you all a happy December!


Did you know I make music? Check out my Spotify page with all music!

– T

Conquering Holiday Social Anxiety: Your Comprehensive Guide

Social anxiety can be a formidable adversary during the holiday season. With an influx of social gatherings, increased expectations, and the general chaos of this time of year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

This comprehensive guide is here to arm you with practical strategies and tips to navigate through the holiday season with confidence and joy.

Understanding Social Anxiety

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is more than shyness or a fear of public speaking. It’s a persistent fear of being observed, judged, or scrutinized by others, causing significant distress and impairing one’s ability to function in social situations.

Common Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety symptoms can be psychological and physical, varying from person to person.

Common psychological symptoms include:

  • Fear of interacting with strangers
  • Worry about others noticing your anxiety
  • Fear of physical symptoms like blushing or a shaky voice
  • Avoidance of situations where you fear embarrassment
  • Anticipation of the worst outcome in social cases.


Physical symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate

A person with social anxiety may experience some or all of these symptoms, and their intensity can fluctuate based on the situation. Understanding your specific triggers and reactions can help you develop strategies to manage your anxiety.

The Impact of Holidays on Social Anxiety

The holiday season is often a time of increased social activity, which can exacerbate social anxiety symptoms. The pressure to attend large social gatherings, navigate unfamiliar social situations, and handle potential triggers can make the holidays less cheerful.

Moreover, with the COVID-19 pandemic in recent memory, many people are finding it challenging to reintegrate into social situations after extended periods of isolation. The sudden return to large gatherings and parties can trigger a spike in social anxiety symptoms.

10 Strategies to Manage Social Anxiety during the Holidays

While social anxiety can be daunting, especially during the holiday season, you can use proven strategies to manage your symptoms and enjoy the festivities. Here’s a roundup of 10 practical strategies to help you conquer holiday social anxiety.

1. Educate Yourself About Your Social Anxiety

Understanding your social anxiety is the first step towards managing it. Familiarize yourself with your specific triggers and reactions, recognize the physical and psychological symptoms, and understand how they impact your daily life.

2. Define Your Boundaries

Having clear boundaries is crucial when managing social anxiety. You don’t need to accept every invitation that comes your way. Determine which events are important to you and only commit to those.

3. Bring a Trusted Friend

Having a trusted friend or “wing(wo)man” at social events can help you feel more comfortable and less anxious. They can facilitate conversations and provide a sense of familiarity and security.

4. Request a Task

If bringing a friend is not an option, ask the host if there’s something you can do to help during the event. This can give you something to focus on, reduce feelings of being observed, and provide opportunities for easy conversation.

5. Prepare Conversation Starters

Having a few conversation starters up your sleeve can help alleviate the stress of making small talk. Think of neutral topics or current events that you can discuss.

6. Take Breaks

If you start to feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to take a break. Step outside for fresh air, take a quiet moment alone or engage in a brief mindfulness exercise to help you re-center.

7. Be Honest About Your Feelings

It’s okay to acknowledge your social anxiety. If you feel comfortable, let others know that you’re feeling anxious. More often than not, people are understanding and supportive.

The holiday season can be a challenging time for individuals with social anxiety. However, you can navigate the holiday season confidently and grace by understanding your triggers, setting boundaries, and employing effective coping strategies. Remember, asking for help and caring for your mental health is okay. After all, the holiday season is all about joy, peace, and well-being.

Written by Sarah Edwards, Project Associate of TPCT.  Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Disclaimer: Sarah Edwards is not a certified or licensed mental health professional—instead, someone sharing real-life experiences and findings for others to find commonality and seek actionable steps.

Footnotes

National Institute of Mental Health – Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness

New York Times – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Holiday Social Anxiety

Envision Wellness – 7 Ways to Manage Social Anxiety During the Holidays

Sharecare – How to Survive the Holidays When You Have Social Anxiety

Finally Catching Some Wins (Reel)

I’ve been at war with anxiety for as long as I can remember. For the situations in which anxiety applies itself, it’s felt like my arch nemesis has defeated me in every battle we’ve had for the past few years.

Recently, however, I managed to push back and score two significant victories in this seemingly never ending war. I came out feeling very proud of myself, and I wanted to share them. Check out the Reel below to hear about those wins.

Remember that it matters not if your wins seem small to others. As long as you are proud of what you have accomplished, that’s all that matters. 🤠 – T

A Long Overdue Update

Howdy, it’s been a while since I’ve written here on my blog. So, here I am with an overdue update after ten months. I’ve had a lot of life changes since my last post here on my blog. There’s been a lot of good that’s happened since, but unfortunately, there’s also been some trauma.

This year, I’ve left relationships that no longer served me well and that were just not great for me. I’ve been better about protecting my own peace and being more mindful about who I surround myself with. Some of the people I removed from my life were people who I had been friends with since childhood. But, I learned that’s not a great reason to stay friends with someone. There were a lot of things these people did to me that I let slide, things that hurt me. I had finally had enough. So, I removed them from my life and I can say I have not regretted my decisions since.

Additionally, I left a romantic relationship I was in for five years, leaving behind five animals that I adored. But, it was what was best for me and my mental health. I left with next to nothing money wise and living situations were shaky for a bit. But, I did make it out on another side and I’m now living somewhere safe.

While I did have a lot of big changes and some traumatic events happen that I won’t get into here because they’re things I haven’t really dealt with yet, I am in a safe place now. I am happy with an absolutely amazing partner who I’m extremely thankful for.

I wish I could say that having a safe place and a great support system is enough to make my mental health great, but when you’ve had as much trauma as I have throughout my life, it can creep back up when you least expect it. Right now, I’m currently going through it. It’s to the point that my anxiety is affecting my day to day life and it can be crippling.

I’m finally to the point where I’m ready to get back into therapy to work through things that I never really processed. I’m ready to deal with things that I’ve shoved down to not deal with. I reached out to some therapists who specialize in anxiety and PTSD. I specifically looked for ones who are in the town I live in because I want to make sure it’s not a stressful thing for me to get myself to and from therapy.

I’m nervous, but also excited to be taking the step to go back to therapy. I know there are things I have to work through with a professional because my anxiety is starting to really affect my quality of life at this point. The traumas that happened earlier this year I really need help working through.

So, that’s what’s new with me. I’m hoping to write again soon as I start the process of going back into therapy, write some more in depth posts about some of the traumas I’m comfortable sharing publicly, and things I’m doing in my day to day life to help in my healing.

-Kailey

Back to School Anxiety


Good luck to all students this school year! You got this!

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Want to find more free mental health support services made by and for teens and young adults in Connecticut? Check out our website!

Check out the Previous Episode where Dez talks about the BS of Labor Day!

After Domestic Violence: Relationships & Breaking Cycles

A while back I posted a blog about “Recovering from Domestic Violence“. And throughout that writing process, I was sure that I wouldn’t be interested in anyone for a VERY long time. But I found myself oddly attracted to a few people and found my intuition leading me. So this is how I experienced the formulation of a new relationship after domestic violence.

Scroll all the way to the bottom for the key take-aways!

We’re Attracted to Familiarity/Potential

When I first experienced attraction to a person after domestic violence, I questioned myself what I liked about them. I couldn’t pin point what at first, but with time I understood that they were familiar to me. AND I can’t forget about potential. In the past, when I experienced familiarity, I went for it because I saw potential. The familiarity I knew was typically by how they were internally. Which was in need of healing, stagnant in mindset, lower vibrational, addictive, etc. but with a little deception of appearing higher or better.

I can confidently say that my last relationship taught me that familiarity isn’t always a good thing. And to never fall in love with someone’s potential.

What I’ve been seeing and have experienced is that, familiarity attraction has led to more low vibrational, stagnant, domestic violent, toxic and emotionally damaging relationships. And because of how we perceive different things, we stick with what we know.

Reminder: Just because someone is familiar and you like them, it doesn’t mean you have to stay with them if they are treating you like shit. We may not be aware but families teach us that we should be tolerant of toxicity. That’s even though we don’t like how it feels.

My Experience with a New Relationship After Domestic Violence

The second person I found myself attracted to, my attraction to them was extremely strong that it really surprised me. I wasn’t familiar with anything about them. This attraction actually scared me. My brain was trying so hard to find anything that was familiar about this person that was rooted in trauma. When my brain couldn’t find anything, something made me question my attraction to this person. I questioned myself if it was obligation to stay or genuine interest to grow. Sure as shit, it was genuine and not obligation like my other relationships where I felt bad for leaving.

The First Kiss: Listening to Intuition

As cheesy as this sounds, I’ve always said that I’d know when a person is for me by the first kiss. In my past relationship, I knew for sure and deep down that the person I was with, wasn’t for me by the very first kiss. I was actually confused when I felt nothing kissing this person.

But I ignored my intuition. Never ignore intuition.

With the person I felt this strong attraction to, the first kiss made me feel everything. Through my experience of trying to see if our connection was genuine, I kept going back to that moment.

Other Moments I Visited

During the talking stage, I needed to understand my emotions I experienced with this person. I literally sat down and thought about every possible thing. It was because I was afraid to lose myself again in a toxic, emotionally damaging and domestic violent relationship. I was still finding myself.

I stopped myself in the dumps of anxiety and fear to visit the moments this person and I shared. I wasn’t going miss out on a person who was loving, kind, vulnerable, genuine, straightforward, understanding, and just everything I dreamt of. We even share the same values, have similar views on the world, and want to grow!

My Nervous System After Domestic Violence

My therapist described my experience response under the polyvagal theory. Which basically explains that my nervous system was conditioned to think that I wasn’t going to ever get what I wanted/dreamt of… So, in the moment, my nervous system was like “Now what? We didn’t think we were actually going to get what we dreamt of or wanted.”

Key Take-Aways

If you’re going to take away something from this blog, remember:

  • Never ignore intuition.
    • Don’t get into relationships out of obligation and/or because you feel bad for someone.
  • Familiarity isn’t always good for you.
    • Just because you like/love them, it doesn’t mean you have to stay with them if they are treating you like shit.
  • Never fall in love with someone’s potential.
    • Potential is an idea that aren’t typically acted on.
  • It’s normal to freak out or not know what to do when you get in a healthier relationship.
    • Take the time to heal to be your best self!

Gabe H.

From Plate to Mind: How Sharing a Meal Can Boost Your Mental Health

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of a shared meal. Essentially, opting for quick and convenient options instead. But have you ever considered the profound impact that breaking bread with others can have on your mental well-being

meal

The simple act of eating together fosters a sense of belonging and connection. It provides a natural antidote to feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

Dive into the fascinating science behind this phenomenon and discover how embracing the age-old tradition of sharing meals can nourish not only your body but also your mind. 

Embark on this culinary journey with me. Let’s unravel the secrets to a happier, healthier, and more connected life – one plate at a time.

Personally, after becoming a Christian I had an entirely new viewpoint on food. My taste buds and mind was shifted into a new fascination with food resembling more than just nutrients. 

Not just in the antidotes provided in Scripture but the act of fellowship itself, the bonding ties of doing an act that for myself and many others has become chore like, and downright redundant. Yes, food has always been an essential part of our daily lives. It sustains us.

But it also brings us together, and can even have a significant impact on our mental health. 

Don’t worry, we will also touch on hosting dinner parties. And potlucks to build social networks (seriously, my favorite thing has become hosting). By the end of this article, you should have a greater understanding of the importance of shared meals for better mental health.

The connection between meals and mental health

It is not surprising that the food we eat can have a significant impact on our mental health. After all, our brains require various nutrients to function correctly. And a well-balanced diet can help provide these essential building blocks.

Research has shown that a well-rounded diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders. Such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants, have been found to play a vital role in maintaining and improving:

  • brain function
  • mood, and
  • overall mental well-being

However, the connection between food and mental health goes beyond the nutrients we consume. The act of eating and sharing a meal can also have a profound impact on our mental well-being. Particularly in terms of fostering social connections and promoting a sense of belonging. 

In fact, studies have shown that individuals who regularly share meals with others tend to have lower levels of stress and depression. As well as higher levels of overall life satisfaction.

The importance of social connection in mental well-being

Social connection is a fundamental human need

We are social creatures, and our brains are wired to seek the companionship and support of others. Research has shown that strong social connections can boost our mental health. It can increase our resilience to stress, and even improve our physical health. 

Conversely, social isolation and loneliness can have detrimental effects on our mental well-being. It increases the risk of depression, anxiety, and even cognitive decline.

One way to promote social connection and foster mental well-being is through shared meals. 

Eating together is an age-old tradition that transcends cultures and geographical boundaries. It serves as a powerful means of strengthening relationships, fostering a sense of community, and building social networks. 

By sharing a meal, we not only nourish our bodies but also our minds. Especially, as we engage in conversation, share stories, and create lasting memories.

How sharing a meal fosters social connection

There is something inherently social about eating together. Whether it’s a casual lunch with coworkers or an elaborate family feast, sharing a meal creates a sense of togetherness and belonging. When we eat together, we are more likely to engage in meaningful conversations. We are more likely to share experiences, and form bonds that can last a lifetime.

Sharing a meal also encourages us to be more present and mindful in the moment, as we focus on the food, the company, and the atmosphere. This mindfulness can help reduce stress, increase feelings of happiness, and promote a sense of gratitude for the food on our plates and the people in our lives.

As someone with severe anxiety, staying present feels almost possible, but when I am sharing a meal or in an atmosphere with others revolving around a seated space, I actually feel present.

An underlying benefit is shared meals can help create a sense of routine and stability. When I have a terrible work day, or am battling a state of very high stress, I find an ease gently into the expected comfort of sharing a meal with my husband.

The comforts of freshly baked bread on a Wednesday night laced with the scent of cooking wine, and real wine of course, can remind us what matters. We are alive another day. We are given the ability and gift to eat. And we are with the ones we love. 

When we share a meal with others, we have the chance to discuss our feelings, share our experiences, and offer support and encouragement to those around us. This can help create a sense of camaraderie and understanding, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Moreover, the act of eating together can also promote feelings of trust and cooperation. When we break bread with others, we are more likely to feel a sense of shared responsibility and a desire to work together towards a common goal. 

This can help strengthen relationships, build social networks, and contribute to a sense of community and social cohesion.

Nutrient-rich foods that promote mental health

While the social aspect of shared meals is undoubtedly important for mental health, it is also crucial to consider the types of foods we consume during these gatherings. I have chronic health conditions and over the years I’ve come to learn and appreciate deeply the power of food.

Educating yourself on foods that can work from the inside out in a positive way can have a profound impact on changing your life in a significant way.

Eating a well-balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods can have a significant impact on our mental well-being, providing the essential building blocks for optimal brain function and mood regulation.

Some key nutrients to consider for mental health include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as in nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flaxseeds, these essential fats are vital for brain function and have been linked to improved mood and reduced risk of depression.
  • B vitamins: Found in whole grains, legumes, leafy greens, and lean proteins, B vitamins play a crucial role in energy production and neurotransmitter synthesis, helping to support mood regulation and cognitive function.
  • Antioxidants: Found in colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as in nuts and seeds, antioxidants help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation, which can contribute to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Fiber: Found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, fiber can help stabilize blood sugar levels, which can have a significant impact on mood and energy levels.

By incorporating these nutrient-rich foods into shared meals, we can not only promote social connection but also nourish our minds and support optimal mental health.

Cooking meals together as a bonding experience

The act of preparing a meal can be just as important for mental health and social connection as the act of eating together. Cooking together can be a fun and rewarding experience that allows individuals to bond, share knowledge, and create lasting memories.

For adults, cooking together can provide an opportunity to unwind, engage in meaningful conversation, and strengthen relationships with family members, friends, or romantic partners.

Moreover, cooking together can help individuals develop essential life skills, such as time management, problem-solving, and teamwork. By working together to create a delicious and nutritious meal, we not only nourish our bodies but also our minds and relationships.

A few tips for deeper meal times!

Regular family or even single mealtimes can have a profound impact. Studies have shown that families who eat together regularly tend to have stronger relationships, better communication, and higher levels of overall life satisfaction. This can include establishing a routine for yourself!

  • Establish a routine: Aim to have family meals at the same time each day, creating a sense of predictability and stability for all family members. For yourself, a routine of eating can help promote the other parts of your routine (hygiene, workouts, cleaning).
  • Make it enjoyable: Keep mealtime conversations light and engaging, focusing on positive topics and avoiding conflict or criticism. If you’re solo, this also includes the content you consume on social media, or watching negative shows/news.
  • Minimize distractions if you’re in a group: Turn off the television and put away electronic devices, creating a distraction-free environment that allows for meaningful conversation and connection.
  • Try new foods: Encourage children and adults alike to try new and varied foods, expanding their palate and promoting healthy eating habits. If you’re single, order from a new place or cook a new meal!
  • Make it a priority: Prioritize family mealtimes, even if they have to be quick and simple. Remember that the act of eating together is more important than what is actually on the menu. By yourself? Feed yourself. When I was on the grind in NYC I would commonly skip meals and this was only having a negative effect on my body – and I wasn’t giving myself rest. I was feeding a high workaholic nature.

Hosting dinner parties and potlucks to build social networks

Don’t freak out. As someone with social anxiety and more introvert tendencies, I get it, this is scary. But I found this was one of the best things I could do for myself! Learning how to host, and inviting people into a shared space – especially since I consider myself someone who is more isolated than others. 

Hosting dinner parties and potlucks can be a fun and rewarding way to bring people together, share good food, and create lasting connections.

To host a successful dinner party or potluck, consider the following tips:

  • Plan ahead: Decide on a theme or menu and make a shopping list in advance. Consider any dietary restrictions or preferences of your guests. Sometimes coming up with a theme really helps!
  • Keep it simple: Don’t try to prepare a complicated or elaborate meal. Stick with dishes that are easy to prepare and can be made in advance. Or dinners and recipes that you know very well, and are comfortable making.
  • Create a welcoming atmosphere: Set the table, create a cozy ambiance with candles or soft lighting, and consider playing some background music to set the mood.
  • Encourage conversation: Provide conversation starters or games to help break the ice and encourage guests to engage with one another.
  • Allow for flexibility: Don’t stress if things don’t go exactly as planned. Allow for flexibility and go with the flow, enjoying the company of your guests and the shared experience of a meal together.

Whether it’s cooking together as a family, hosting a dinner party, or simply sitting down to a meal with friends, sharing a meal is a powerful means of nourishing both our bodies and our minds. So the next time you sit down to eat, remember that you are not just nourishing your body, but also your relationships and your mental health. Bon appétit!

Written by Sarah Edwards. Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Overcome Your Inner Critic: The Ultimate Guide to Silencing Voices of Doubt and Unlocking Your Full Potential

Every individual inevitably faces moments of self-doubt and criticism throughout their life. It is during these instances when our inner critic, a voice that questions our abilities and worth, emerges. This internal monologue can be detrimental to our self-esteem, confidence, and overall well-being. However, with the appropriate tools and mindset, it is possible to silence these voices of doubt and unlock our full potential.

inner critic

The inner critic is a natural part of the human psyche, serving as a defense mechanism to protect us from perceived threats and failures. While it can occasionally be helpful in pushing us to strive for excellence, the inner critic can become overly harsh and unrelenting, hindering our personal growth and development. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding the origins of self-doubt, recognizing common traits of the inner critic, and implementing strategies to overcome these limiting beliefs.

We will also discuss the impact of silencing voices on personal growth, building resilience against negative self-talk, and unlocking our full potential through self-compassion. Success stories of individuals who have conquered their inner critic will be shared, as well as a discussion on when to seek professional help. Ultimately, this guide serves as a reminder to embrace our journey to self-acceptance and success.

Understanding the origins of self-doubt

Self-doubt often stems from a combination of past experiences, societal expectations, and personal beliefs. To effectively silence the inner critic, it is important to understand the various factors that contribute to the development of self-doubt.

Childhood experiences play a significant role in shaping our inner critic. For example, overly critical or unsupportive parents, teachers, and peers can instill feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Additionally, experiences of bullying or rejection can have a lasting impact on our self-esteem and confidence.

Societal expectations can also contribute to the formation of the inner critic. We are often bombarded with images of perfection and success, leading to the belief that we must adhere to these unrealistic standards in order to be valued and accepted. This can result in a constant fear of failure and a persistent need for validation from others.

Lastly, personal beliefs and thought patterns are crucial in the development of self-doubt. Negative self-talk and all-or-nothing thinking can perpetuate feelings of inadequacy and hinder our progress towards personal growth. By identifying these beliefs and challenging their validity, we can begin to dismantle the inner critic and silence the voices of doubt.

Recognizing common traits of the inner critic

In order to effectively silence the inner critic, it is essential to recognize its common traits and manifestations. The inner critic can take various forms, including:

  • Perfectionism: The belief that anything less than perfect is unacceptable, leading to a constant fear of failure and procrastination.
  • Comparison: Continuously comparing ourselves to others, resulting in feelings of inadequacy and envy.
  • Self-sabotage: Engaging in behaviors that undermine our success, such as procrastination, neglecting self-care, or avoiding new opportunities.
  • Rumination: Obsessively dwelling on past mistakes or perceived flaws, preventing us from moving forward and focusing on the present moment.

By recognizing these traits, we can begin to identify the specific instances when our inner critic is at its loudest and develop targeted strategies to silence these voices of doubt.

Impact of silencing voices on personal growth

Silencing the inner critic can have profound effects on our personal growth and overall well-being. By freeing ourselves from the grip of self-doubt, we can cultivate greater self-confidence, resilience, and self-compassion. This, in turn, allows us to pursue our goals and dreams without fear of failure or rejection.

Additionally, silencing voices of doubt can improve our relationships with others. When we are no longer consumed by our own insecurities, we can be more present, authentic, and empathetic in our interactions with friends, family, and colleagues.

Moreover, by overcoming the inner critic, we can tap into our innate creativity and resourcefulness. Without the constant pressure to conform to unrealistic expectations, we can explore new ideas and possibilities, ultimately unlocking our full potential.

Strategies for overcoming the inner critic

a. Mindfulness and self-awareness

Cultivating mindfulness and self-awareness is a crucial first step in silencing the inner critic. By developing a greater understanding of our thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns, we can identify the specific triggers that exacerbate self-doubt and begin to implement targeted strategies to overcome these negative thought patterns.

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, journaling, and deep breathing exercises, can be helpful in fostering self-awareness and promoting a non-judgmental attitude towards our thoughts and emotions. By observing our inner critic without judgment, we can create distance between ourselves and our negative self-talk, reducing its power over our actions and decisions.

b. Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring involves identifying and challenging irrational thoughts and beliefs that contribute to self-doubt and the inner critic. This process can be facilitated through tools such as thought records, which involve documenting triggering situations, the associated thoughts and emotions, and potential alternatives to these negative thought patterns.

By systematically challenging and reframing our negative self-talk, we can begin to develop more balanced and rational perspectives, ultimately silencing the inner critic and fostering greater self-confidence and self-compassion.

c. Affirmations and positive self-talk

Incorporating affirmations and positive self-talk into our daily routines can be an effective strategy for combating the inner critic. By consistently reinforcing positive messages about our abilities, worth, and potential, we can gradually rewire our thought patterns and cultivate a more empowering and self-compassionate mindset.

Affirmations can be tailored to address specific areas of self-doubt or insecurity, such as career success, relationships, or personal growth. By consistently practicing positive self-talk and affirmations, we can counteract the damaging effects of the inner critic and unlock our full potential.

Building resilience against negative self-talk

Building resilience against negative self-talk is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and practice. The following strategies can be helpful in fostering greater resilience against the inner critic:

  • Strengthening self-compassion: Treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, particularly during moments of self-doubt or failure, can help to cultivate a more resilient mindset.
  • Developing a growth mindset: Embracing challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning can foster greater resilience.
  • Establishing a support network: Surrounding ourselves with supportive and understanding individuals can provide a valuable buffer against negative self-talk and reinforce our inherent worth and abilities.

By consistently practicing these strategies, we can build greater resilience against the inner critic and protect ourselves from the damaging effects of self-doubt.

Unlocking your full potential through self-compassion

Self-compassion is a powerful tool for silencing voices of doubt and unlocking our full potential. By treating ourselves with kindness, understanding, and empathy, we can create a safe space for personal growth and development.

Self-compassion involves acknowledging our mistakes and shortcomings without judgment, recognizing that we are only human and that imperfection is a natural part of life. By embracing our imperfections and treating ourselves with compassion, we can foster a more supportive and empowering internal dialogue, ultimately unlocking our full potential and achieving our goals.

Practicing self-compassion can involve a variety of strategies, such as:

  • Mindful self-compassion: This involves acknowledging and validating our emotions without judgment, and treating ourselves with kindness and understanding.
  • Self-care: Engaging in activities that promote our well-being, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature, can help to cultivate self-compassion and reduce the impact of the inner critic.
  • Self-acceptance: Accepting ourselves for who we are, flaws and all, can help to counteract the damaging effects of self-doubt and cultivate greater self-compassion.

By practicing self-compassion consistently, we can overcome the inner critic and unlock our full potential, both in our personal and professional lives.

Success stories: Individuals who conquered their inner critic

Many individuals have successfully silenced their inner critic and achieved their goals, despite facing significant challenges and setbacks. These success stories serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for those currently struggling with self-doubt.

One such individual is J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Rowling faced numerous rejections and setbacks before finally finding a publisher for her first book. During this time, she often struggled with self-doubt and the inner critic. However, through perseverance and self-compassion, she was able to overcome these challenges and achieve incredible success.

Another example is Oprah Winfrey, who overcame a difficult childhood and numerous obstacles to become one of the most influential figures in media and entertainment. Winfrey has spoken openly about her struggles with self-doubt and the inner critic, emphasizing the importance of self-compassion, resilience, and a growth mindset in achieving success.

These success stories demonstrate that silencing the inner critic is possible, and that with the right mindset and strategies, we can achieve our goals and unlock our full potential.

Written by Sarah Edwards. Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Second Batch of April 2023 Reels (3)

Hi everyone! Please enjoy our latest Reels from the past week! This week we have 3 reels, two from Sarah, and one from Therell.

The Reels

In Sarah’s first reel, she shares some tips for people who experience anxiety while giving presentations.

In Therell’s reel, he acknowledges National Only Child Day.

In Sarah’s second reel, she reassures everyone that it is perfectly okay to keep learning the basics as an adult.

Thank you for keeping up with The TurningPointCT Team! If you missed the previous week’s reels, watch them here!

What Changing Seasons Can Teach You About Healing From Unseen Pain & Trauma

There’s a short beauty in the transition of the seasons — and it’s a type of beauty easily overlooked. Through it, I learned one of my most important lessons. And the biggest tool in my toolbelt for mental health and relationships.

The Spring Season

The air slowly increases a degree or two warmer every passing week as we enter the spring season. Two weeks go by and suddenly you crave sun on your skin and can sleep with the windows open. 

But you don’t realize this until you notice the top of your air conditioner has collected dust. You realize how fast time has passed since last summer. 

The tree’s gently buds new leaves, practically unnoticeable, and uncaptured by your eye and camera.

The sun gives a few minutes back every day, but it escaped your notice. You light a few candles, flip a switch, disregarding the few minute difference. Until, suddenly you are shocked at the day’s sudden longness. Which is full of opportunity.

The day turns into a deep inhale, instead of a quick breath. 

You wonder where the time went. But we’re adaptable creatures, so we move past it. We embrace the days to come, romanticizing the smell of grills and the sound of birds in the morning.

The Transition of Spring Season to Ourselves

While the transitioning of the seasons is sometimes like falling asleep next to someone you love, seamless and with little remembrance of the moment when you slept, or for how long in your comfort and safeness — this can have a bigger magnitude with the harsher moments of life — the unseen gaps that creek beneath our heavy steps before the floor gives out.

Two things:

  1. As forward projecting beings, the transitions and smaller details of life may go unnoticed. That is due to the bigger moments or romanization we envision about the future. We then become more prone to disregard the smaller pains, moments and conversations in our days.
  2. We are adaptable, survivors, with grit and willpower. Oftentimes we have a strength that we do not give ourselves enough credit for, but it is there nevertheless. While useful, powerful and brave, we also develop an achilles heel. Of flying past the smaller pains, details and moments that will eventually become our vaster, bigger, enemies.

The “Small Wounds”

I refer to these pains as “small wounds”. If you have any suffering, anxiety, trauma or trials, I’d encourage you to take a moment to reflect on this idea of small wounds.

Small wounds, metaphorically, for me are in the moment not as dangerous as the big, sudden, catastrophic wounds. But, just as dangerous when mixed with time. Small wounds can compound, and create resentment; confusion, fear, triggers, anxiety and so on, and eventually, become more complex. 

By recognizing this, we can prioritize the importance of healing from small wounds. Don’t worry, I’ve learned that the seasons provide us the wisdom we need to address this. And put in efforts into a detailed and more aware mindset.

Something “Minor” Can be Something Big

I’ve grown up with a lot of health issues, and I’ve let a decade of minor daily nausea control me, but in subtle ways. I didn’t think this was a big deal. I would cancel plans, eat wrong food choices, arrive late to class, or have my mood be affected for years.

Each time, I would adjust and adapt. Eat different foods, eat through stomach discomfort and make excuses. Eventually the issues started compounding and I got sicker and sicker until some days I was in bed all day, terrified of what was happening to my body. 

Multiple doctors appointments later, we realized I had a big ball of yarn to untangle to get to the core of the problem.

The Importance of Our “Small Wounds”

In other situations, I would be “small wounded” by the words of a loved one. I would repeat the words over and over again in my mind until they triggered new words, bitter thoughts and changed my perspective of them. 

I would be triggered in other, unrelated, conversations and let the emotions build up until I imploded. Creating a new wave of issues and things to work through and talk about — having to invest much time and tears into resolving them.

I’ve learned it’s the small wounds that turn our neck slowly. Taking us a few degrees off path each passing bit of time until we end up at an entirely new destination. Suddenly autumn becomes winter. And we aren’t prepared for winter. Or spring becomes summer and the days are sweltering.

Imagine your small wound as a physical one, that requires attention. Perhaps, it’s a conversation with someone to express how you felt after they said something hurtful. 

Or, it’s apologizing to someone after a heated text message was sent at that moment. Maybe, it’s journaling, to write down how something stressed you out or made you doubt yourself.

Seasons are Meant to be Looked at in Detail

I’ve learned this is very true with trauma. Learning about my small triggers is just as important as my big triggers to find a more impactful way of healing. It’s also given me the grace I need to understand that the conversations that harm me may be due to my past. And that is okay.

I have taken the power back and set up a stronger future due to acknowledging that truth.

The seasons are designed to be gradual in many places — and while this is not true or possible for all climates, nature has an art form. Thanks to our loving God, to display the importance of small details and microlessons. 

The temperature change slowly provides signals to the trees and small animals to begin certain tasks, and prepare for the season to come.

Small adjustments and time can create big things for you, including in your healing process.

Moving Forward with Understanding

My friends, sometimes God uses small wounds to prepare us for big sufferings and trials in life. While this isn’t as cheery as the spiced latte you are now surely craving (sorry) it’s TRUE. 

Not all good things are exciting, beautiful, and warm. Sometimes they are scary, and that doesn’t automatically make it bad. It might just mean we need to take action.

For those that don’t know me personally, at the time of this article I am engaged. This is a sweet and fruitful time, and I can say that with confidence, because I taste the sweetness due to the bitter days. I know it is fruitful because some of my sins and struggles have rotted. 

Tearful conversations have been had, small wounds have been made but also addressed and we are soon exiting the season to marriage better prepared, more in love and more sanctified because of this time. I would not trade it, return to go, or reverse the clock.

Like the small animals stretching their legs for summer, the seasons can prepare us, strengthen us, and bring attention to something that needs our time and love. 

It signals us to have the hard conversation, to notice the pressure points in a relationship or situation.

What small wounds have you had recently that you should take time to address or reflect on?

Oh, did I mention you get a free month of Skillshare when you click the link?

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator.

Navigating Anxiety & Overcoming Intrusive Thoughts | Planting Vlog

In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, join me while planting different flowers🌷 and herbs! We discuss intrusive thoughts, making space in the heart and mind, and navigating stress and feeling overwhelmed. 🌱

Don’t forget to check out our other ➡️ videos ⬅️ too!

– Sarah

Navigating Happiness with Mental Health

Happiness is almost always for me in the small, mundane moments of life. The moments you will miss if you don’t stop and be present for them. The smell of rain and a warm breeze through the window. The laughter of your best friend, or even not overcooking your favorite pasta. When I think about meaning, I like to parallel that with thinking about value. I think the small moments for me take a lot of steps to achieve. I’m naturally am not a present person. I’m an anxious overthinker. So if I’m able to achieve gratitude for a single life moment, that might be one of my biggest accomplishments of the day.

Which makes me want to ponder on how valuable happiness is. Especially why so many of us are yearning for the experience. How much do we think about happiness? As someone with or without mental health challenges, happiness can seem hard to come by at times. Happiness is so precious when it does come by. 

To be honest, I’ve spent a chunk of my mental conversations trying to uncomplicate the idea of happiness. I think a lot of us are chasing, gripping, holding onto happiness in some way, really everyday, and are trying to decide if happiness is a hypothetical, fantastical construct or if it’s something we actually have control over.I think I obsessed more over why I wasn’t always happy or desired to elongate my happiness that I totally hop-skipped over those small joyful things, and missed out.

I believe it is in our nature as humans,  and a deep desire to become perfect. If we’re not happy the moment we wake up or during a “beautiful day” or “event”, we think we’re broken, or something is wrong with us. Ask yourself:

  • How often do I think I miss out on good moments? (Because I’m too obsessed with wanting to make it last longer).
  • Why do I not experience a happier feeling in the first place?

That was and sometimes is still an issue I have at least.

I have friends as well that cling onto happy-memories, and try to replicate them. For example, something from childhood. Then we feel continuously let down that it’s not the same experience or feeling.

Many of us try to cram real happiness in a space in our mind that is compared to our fantastical happiness. We put it next to an unreasonable expectation. Or a comparable time when we were different, or in a different season. We set our happiness up for failure. 

I used to get so upset that many mornings I didn’t wake up energetic and happy, and that’s because I was influenced by constantly seeing “peaceful” or  “perfect morning routine” on social media to the extreme where I thought I was supposed to be like that all the time. So instead of waking up, acknowledging my weary, discontent, maybe stressed emotions, I got angrier and more upset because I wasn’t joyful. When really, all I had to do was acknowledge those emotions then choose to be happier to the best of my ability. 

The key here is the best of your ability in that moment, not your imaginations ability. Which is probably a lot higher of a bar and a standard.

By choosing my happiness, and not expecting to just feel a certain way, I became actionable to implement things that made me happy. Such as, taking a break in my work day, making my favorite food, calling a friend or saying no to something I didn’t want to do. Therefore, I created my own happiness. Not based on what’s in my head, but the reality of what I could conjure up that day.

Saying no to something or even saying no to an emotion doesn’t automatically cancel out the potential joy you can have in an experience or day! Sometimes, I have a lot of built up thoughts or anxiety, and I just say, no. I’m instead going to go do, insert activity, or be productive to assist my anxiety. I tell myself I will readdress those emotions after. We don’t need to solve all our feelings in one moment.  I’m not saying the emotions or thoughts don’t exist, I’m not denying the need to be cared for, I’m just prioritizing my tasks or potential joy over them, as best I can.

To be aware of where you are in a day and then creating change or choices based on that and not your desirable, escapist mind (where we can get so distracted imagining the better) made such a big difference. It’s made me more observant and grateful because now I’m in the present actively looking for good things. So I notice beautiful flowers when driving, when the sun pops out, when my friend says something encouraging.

Instead of chasing happiness I am constructing happiness. You don’t need to chase happiness, you have it instilled in you already! Give it the environment and the right soil and the water to grow it. Take a moment to see the season, the day, the sun and you base your choices and thinking off of that, and not your assumptions as to what the weather will be like, and how people are going to treat you.  

If you have a fun idea, or something that will bring joy to someone’s heart, I encourage you to go do it! Plan it, be actionable, and make friends with your happiness. You don’t need to wait for what society deems as an “important moment.” Every moment is important if you want it to be.

Ask yourself – How much happiness am I losing by fantasizing a false expectation that I’m in a certain season of my life when I’m not? What amazing joys am I not appreciating now because it’s not perfect joy?

Sometimes we need to go through the weeds to find our bits of happiness. To find joyful things. Even when stuff just…sucks. Going through the weeds is not reserved only for the “bad days” but every day in my book. It requires us to get painfully honest, and hold up a magnifying glass in order to be more aware of these gifts, of the blessings, and to re-define what makes me happy. To renew my heart in realizing that so many things and blessings have the potential to put a smile on my face, and my heart. Instead of always wanting more.

As a spiritual person, I also pray deeply for others’ happiness. But for the non-spiritual, this is similar to thinking about elevating others happiness. Doing an act of kindness or planning an activity (or small moment) in the day to bring them higher. This takes the attention away from ourselves, the pressure, while remaining actionable about thinking through joy and small moments.

Imagine what the world would evolve into if we all focused on not just our own happiness, but how we can create happiness for others?

But hey, let’s get real. There are days, moments in a day, when joy seems so far. When intrusive thoughts are so overpowering, we feel broken beyond repair. I also find myself falling into the constant thought process that my emotions impact others deeply, and that makes me anxious. That I have to be happy in order to be loved, to be desired or wanted around. I overthink, and over-read others reactions to my emotions or how I act in a day. This creates a pressure cooker mentality, I start clawing for happiness, and panicking when I’m not for the sake of my relationships. 

I’ve really tried to grasp onto this idea of a new day. With mental illness, a new day used to feel truly useless. I would say, “I have a chronic illness. Who cares about a new day?” I would fear sleeping, and waking up and the cycle would continue. This is in reference to the throws of my deeper Harm Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (hOCD). 

But when a new day comes, new opportunities and moments present themselves. New laughter, small jokes and fragile seeds. And with every passing day, wounds, big and small heal. So that terrible day you had? Where you fear you may have negatively impacted another person? Where you fear you’ve wounded yourself beyond healing? It’s already far away in their minds, and it should be in yours too. But I find negative thinking, and even the strongest moments of mental health are temporary. It’s slipping away, like sand on a beach. It’s probably smaller than your mind is ruminating it to be. Our minds love to make everything feels like everything is a big thing. Because we are the center of the universe, in our heads. But we have the power to change that narrative.

People don’t observe your happiness with a fine tooth comb, because they’re already trying to do it for themselves. 

You don’t need to be embarrassed. You don’t need to feel like you need to conceal your suffering. It took me a long time to learn this. I often need to remind myself that an “unhappy” version of myself (or day) is just a day of growth and learning. We’re all emotional in our own ways and trying to find that bit of happiness – and broken and imperfect. However, in those cracks are beautiful lessons, experiences and moments of joy. Go find yours.

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator

January: National Mentoring Month

January is National Mentoring Month. Mentoring others is a passion of mine that started by being mentored. Through TurningPointCT, I have been able to mentor youth and young adults all across CT. It has been an incredible experience and although I will be leaving this position at the end of the month, I am looking forward to the ways I will continue my mentorship skills in the next job.

For me, mentoring means to guide someone in the direction of their desires and dreams. It means to meet someone where they are at and help them see their strengths, reflect on areas they want to improve quality in, and encourage them through every part.

Oftentimes, I feel as if I am most successful as a mentor when I allow the mentee to lead. Although as a mentor I need to uphold role-modeling behavior, one effective way of creating a good relationship is to show my human side. Being transparent about my own life helps break the ice and creates a safe space for vulnerability and trust.

Mentors that I seek support from accept me in all ways. They are never judgmental and always embrace every part of me. Whether I’m seeking direction or a space to vent, having a mentor has not only helped my quality of life, but also has helped me become a better mentor to others.

-Ally K

The Environmental Crisis and Mental Health

Have you ever experienced anxiety around the environmental crisis we are currently facing? Well, turns out there is a term for it…eco-anxiety. Read the article below, written by a Yale student, to learn more about eco-anxiety and what it means.

Take A Self-Assessment Of Your Choice

self-assessment

Click here to take a self-assessment of your choice (depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar, eating disorder, PTSD, ADHD, addiction & more).

Visit our Q&A page to learn more!

Alternatives to Suicide (Alt2Su) Support Group

Alternatives to Suicide is a free peer-led support group! This is where people can talk openly about suicide thoughts, attempts, or experiences like self harm. It’s a safe, non-clinical space where people ages 18+ come together to talk about their experiences and emotional distress. And without judgment or fear of unwanted interventions.

We do not assume suicidal thoughts are connected to mental illness, and you do not need to be experiencing a current crisis to attend. You are welcome to join us with no need for a referral or requirement to be connected with mental health services.

Feel free to just show up to a meeting, or call 203-227-7644 or email Ally at Alt2Su@positivedirections.org for more info.

If you would like additional Alternatives to Suicide groups in CT, visit toivocenter.org/alternatives-to-suicide or click here.

Social Anxiety and Shame During the Holiday

“Oh, you’re like a delicate little flower who always needs gentle care. It’s okay, honey. You’re just fragile,” a family member once cooed to me in a baby voice. She held my hands with a confident smile, as if what she said would not bring shame and would soothe my worries like a hot cup of cider.

I’m sure she had the intention of being encouraging. But, all it did was crush my “delicate” petals.

Fighting Battles: Mental Health & Shame

As someone with Harm Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Severe Anxiety Disorder, and a newly developed Social Anxiety Disorder, I feel like anything but delicate. You can read how I learned to live with my mental health diagnoses here. The unseen battles I fight on a day to day basis — and the energy and courage it takes to do what is seemingly normal to someone else — has given me a calloused heart. 

If you have a mental disorder, you probably feel the same way. However, the shame I started to feel at social gatherings grew so strong that I began to believe in what shame was whispering to me in between the holiday music crescendos. The hardest part of it all is that shame often puts you in a lose-lose situation. 

Hypothetical Examples & Options

Here’s a hypothetical example that I have experienced the likes of, time and time again:

You spend some time at a gathering and run into triggers and stressors. This causes you to react, and now you have all of this worry and fear that you are “a burden” or “bringing the mood down.” So what do you do?

Option 1: You Power Through it All

You slur in a few apologies or explanations, further exposing your struggles to the people around you. You remain in your distress, and feel like you need to keep saying sorry. As the shame gets stronger, you start to wonder if you even belong. People might start treating you differently in an attempt to accommodate, which leaves you feeling humiliated. Or worse, they say something that is actually a bit insulting. You compare yourself to the other people in the group who are “normal” and seemingly having a good time. You use the last of your energy to mask all these feelings, and aren’t mentally present to what’s going on in the room.

Option 2: You decide to remove yourself from the event or group.

This can look like leaving early or not going at all. At first, you have a sense of relief that you can “run away” from revealing more of your disorder, receiving more judgment, or avoiding even more triggers. Then, a tidal wave of sadness hits you. You didn’t actually want to be alone — you wanted to be with your friends and loved ones. And wanted to do that activity you were excited about. You start to have FOMO, or fear of missing out.

You panic and imagine the surrounding people having a great time. And you feel the envious emotions creeping in. Worst of all, you begin to believe that perhaps you not being there is best. You are a burden anyway, so without you, they can have more fun. The remainder of your day might be ruined. And you start to question who you are to others. 

The Aftermath of Both Options: Anxiety & Shame

No matter what you choose, you ultimately wonder if you’re missing out on life. Both options make you fill with envy and confusion. And this is even more jarring during the holiday season, when you’re expected to be full of cheer. The long term damage of this shame is that you start to constantly contemplate who you are to others. Shame convinces you, that because you experience these public moments, other people only see you as the “anxious” or “depressed” person. Then, you relay the events in your mind on repeat; even months later. All of which impacts your decision making about social ability during the holiday season.

Tips on Navigating Anxiety & Shame

For me, despite being an extroverted character, my anxiety disorders have made me feel exhausted after long periods of time with others. This eventually accumulates to me feeling physically unwell, and because of that, I have spent a lot of time meditating and practicing solutions that I’d like to share. 

1. Be aware of when you’re overbooking yourself.

Saying “no” or leaving an event early is okay. Acknowledge that social gatherings are a lot to deal with, especially after experiencing a pandemic. You are completely normal for feeling overwhelmed at times, and know that you’re not alone. Check your calendar and commitments to find if you are overworking yourself socially or spreading yourself too thin with other obligations. Some of your anxiety may be because you have overcommitted to too many things and need to spend more time with yourself.

2. Know when to say no to “anxiety builders.”

Even after you have decided to attend an event, you are still allowed to turn down something that may increase your discomfort and stress. If you feel pressured to play a group game you don’t like or eat food you don’t want to try, know that it’s okay to not participate. 

3. Find someone that makes you feel safe.

Don’t be afraid to bring a plus one to the event that can help you feel more comfortable. Work together to enjoy the gathering, and if able, let them in on the triggers you may have so that they can help you navigate them.

4. Plan when you will leave, especially if you’re going with other people.

If you’re going alone, create an end time for yourself. If you’re going with other people, have a discussion so that you can agree on what time to leave together. We all hit social limits, and your limits should be respected just as much as someone else’s. Be detailed with your plan, including methods for how to temporarily remove yourself if needed.

5. Investigate the itinerary beforehand.

Before committing to a gathering, don’t shy away from asking the host what’s happening. By knowing the schedule, you won’t be surprised or feel stressed by any sudden plans. This will also help you decide if you want to commit to the event, politely decline, or prepare accordingly.

6. Offer to host.

Offer to host an event this season if it brings you a sense of excitement. For some people, hosting is a nice way to control the narrative, but moreso, be in their own space. You can decide what food and activities to plan, and have the comforts of your home around you.

7. Make time for self care before or after the event.

Don’t be afraid to cut out time to unwind or prepare for an event. Plan something super relaxing ahead of a busy day ahead, or do an activity you love as a reward for when you’re done. I love writing even the smallest rewards in my planner (like a face mask), because we deserve to love ourselves.

8. Create a safe space for everyone to talk about their mental health.

If you feel comfortable, open the floor to discuss mental health topics. It doesn’t have to be super clinical. For example: “What is something you’d like to learn about yourself this season?” “Is there anything you’re worried about during the holidays that we can help with?” “Are you missing someone this year?” Finding common ground allows us to help one another, and brings in the reality that many of us are struggling with something.

9. Address judgmental comments.

If you feel hurt by something someone said — whether at the event or in the past — set aside five minutes with them when you feel safe and prepared. Explain that you are not placing blame or accusing them, but that you want to inform them about how their statement made you feel. By pointing out hurtful comments, you can remind others that their words can cause unintentional harm. Create a space for forgiveness, and provide some statement examples that may be more encouraging or helpful. 

10. Do an act of kindness.

When in a state of stress, I find a great antidote is to shift the attention from myself to someone else. You can offer to help clean the dishes or decorate before the gathering. Sometimes, I like to bring little handmade gifts or letters to make my friends feel recognized and appreciated, and to start comforting conversations and memories.

11. Reflect with a gratitude list afterwards.

Regardless of how the event went, I find there is always one little thing I can write down and be grateful for. 

12. If you decide not to attend an event, it’s okay to prioritize something else.

Just because you have time to go to an event, doesn’t mean you have the energy to socialize. Turning down invitations doesn’t make you less than or incapable, it just means you’re choosing to put your limited energy into something else. This could mean deciding to rest, because that’s just as important as being social. Remind yourself that the other people at the event will miss you, and a lot of the intrusive thoughts you have about how they perceive or feel about you are untrue. By establishing more boundaries and limits, you can find yourself enjoying the time that you do spend together.

Reminder to You!

Remember, you are not a burden, and you do not need to defend yourself to others. Spend time with your mindfulness exercises, a therapist, or a professional to sort through the shame and intrusive thoughts that can make social experiences difficult for you. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, educate yourself, and bring love to the front of these gatherings. And who knows, your experiences may allow you to help someone else this holiday season. 

– Sarah

Receiving & Accepting New Diagnoses 

Depression & Anxiety

I have made friends with my diagnoses, anxiety and depression, about 5 years ago. For me, depression was an easy one to accept. I had researched countless hours about what depression was, the varying symptoms and how to cope with it – all before telling anyone I was struggling. I went as far as taking online quizzes labeled “Do I Have Depression?”. Not to my surprise, each came back saying “highly likely” or “see a provider”.

Anxiety was another easy one to accept. For me, it actually felt like a relief. Looking back at my childhood, I thought I was just being difficult or worried too much. Oftentimes, I felt I was just too sensitive. But, in reality, many times I was feeling anxious and overstimulated. During high school, I would stay home by myself when my family was at work and extracurricular activities. Unlike other kids who could walk around the house freely and relax in the silence, I would be frozen. My anxiety told me at any second someone would break into the house. I would sit and go through different scenarios in my head and how I could get out of the house if something happened. I kept 2 phones with me at all times and stayed in the living room until someone came home. And I just thought I was being crazy and needed to calm down, but I couldn’t. So, when I was given the label of generalized anxiety disorder, I felt like what was happening in my head had been rationalized.

My Journey of Accepting my Diagnoses

Recently, I have developed more prominent signs of OCD. For me, it’s been in the form of contamination OCD or what I like to call “germ OCD”. When I come home from being out in public, I immediately have to wash my hands. Not once, but multiple times until they feel clean. I also need to change my clothes immediately in fear of sitting on something and getting it “dirty” from being outside of my house. I have also been obsessive about numbers, specifically the volume of music playing in my car or on the TV. They all have to be odd. If not, I will continuously think about it until it is fixed. After talking through these symptoms over many weeks with my therapist and healthcare provider, we decided what I am experiencing is most likely OCD. I felt so discouraged when this label was first brought up. I felt as though all the hard work I’ve been doing in therapy was wasted. Honestly, I felt like it was one more thing to add to the list of “what’s wrong with me”.

Over the past few weeks I have come to realize it’s not just “one more thing that’s wrong with me”. For me, talk about diagnoses and a new diagnosis is a way to explain why I am thinking the way I am. I also try to remind myself that just because I am experiencing these symptoms now, does not necessarily mean I will always experience them. But, if I do, it is okay and I will continue to learn ways to cope.

– Maria

Learning How To Live Again

When most children age, parents begin to leave them home alone. This is when my earliest memories of OCD began. While my parents were comfortable going out to do quick errands, I was home alone with the golden retriever, given I was an only child. I was a pretty average kid. I would indulge in a ton of writing, reading or video games. While snacking on goldfish or playing tug-a-war with my furry friend, my mind would wander — but not in the normal way.

Despite my parents going out to grab an extra gallon of milk or attend a parent-teacher meeting, I was convinced they were in some horrific car accident. I’d run to the phone multiple times in an hour, panic-calling my father’s cell phone in a crying fit to make sure they were still alive. Sometimes, my mom would be outside planting in the yard when the sound of an ambulance would suddenly pass, causing me to drop my snack on the ground and run to the window. I was always certain the ambulance was for her and not someone miles away.

My Experience & Reaction

I’d pace around the house, sweating, anxious, then usually would run to the bathroom feeling sick about the hypothetical trauma I just endured. It felt as if I was in some terrible 4-D movie theater. If we left on a family outing, I’d feel the need to run upstairs manically making sure no candles were lit, all things were unplugged, and no windows were open. My brain would always tell me, “What if you start a fire and your dog dies?” Or “What if you leave your windows open, and then your home is robbed and someone gets hurt?” This happened every moment of every day, and it was unbearable.

I could never relax and be in the moment, no matter how wonderful it was. I rubbed the skin off my hands from anxiety. I picked and clawed at my arms until blood ran down them and would call them mosquito bites. I often had to lay down and hide from all the extra noise because my mind couldn’t take it. The only antidote was a good fictional book, or soundtrack music, so I’d read about three a week and get headaches from the non-stop escapisms and loud headphones.

Searching for an Answer

My parents quickly noticed I had some unneeded levels of stress, so they took me to the doctor. The first one said I was just going through puberty. The second gave me a medication for my stomach acid saying my upset stomach (that was actually caused by high stress) was the thing bothering me and making me scared. The third said I was lying for attention. The fourth said it was my hormones. The fifth said, finally, “Oh, your daughter has anxiety.” This wasn’t unexpected for me as I was a premature baby, and easily overstimulated and emotional. Of course I would have anxiety! So they wrote me a prescription and sent me away. Problem solved, right?

But neither myself nor my parents were convinced. I could never relax and be in the moment, no matter how wonderful it was. Obviously, it didn’t work. I didn’t just have anxiety, I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A subset disorder of anxiety that creates a weeded field of intrusive thoughts in one’s mind, but it would take over a decade to finally get someone to tell me that. So in the interim, I got worse.

I didn’t let that stop me from trying to see what the doctors couldn’t, so I would sneak into the “no” sections of the school library and open the few medical books we had. I read and I kept reading, clawing at the pages, desperate for an answer. Then, I would sneak into the computer labs to look up terminology I didn’t understand from said books. I was desperate to find a little line that could give me some hope I wasn’t slipping into manic insanity and that I was somewhere, even an outlier, on the normal spectrum.

Coexisting with OCD

Digging took a decade, but that digging eventually saved my life. I did, in fact, find the phrase that would help me get not just professional help but also the right kind. The phrase was “intrusive thoughts”. It’s been over two years now since receiving a Harm OCD diagnosis after a lifelong fight and recovering from a suicide attempt. I often have to re-teach myself the most basic elements of life, like how to eat and enjoy breakfast now that I’m not sick from anxiety in the morning anymore. I’m learning how to have enjoyable dinners despite all the triggers of “potential” allergic reactions and “dangerous” steak knives that have been born out of my Harm Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, another subtype.

I’m still trying to trust doctors after over twenty years of misdiagnoses and wrong medication. I’m working on letting people see my anxiety, crying and hand ringing, and accepting that I am not a burden. I’m letting the intrusive thoughts into my wonderful, intimate relationship with my significant other, and I bask in the fact that I am loved, and worthy of it. I used to spend so much energy trying to evict my chronic and lifelong issues such as OCD out of my space, but I found more joy once I became “friends” with them through coexisting.

How I Coexist with OCD

One of the definitions of “coexisting”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “to live in peace with each other.” Coexisting comes with mutual understanding and acceptance — and that includes even the most violent, horrible thoughts. When you practice coexistence, you realize your value and potential don’t lie in how few or many thoughts you have (or how scary and irrational). You are a separate being, learning to share a space. And being at peace does not mean being in a season without questions. It is accepting that even in spite of not knowing all the answers, life goes on anyways.

The more you practice a state of coexistence, which in the first stages feels like pulling teeth, your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder becomes more of a nuance. Obviously, getting professional treatment is what ultimately taught me this – giving me valuable exercises that I still practice. While these were difficult, it pulled me into a world without as much anxiety, and I see everything differently now.

Grieving Myself

The second battle one has to face when getting a diagnosis of any sort is the grieving of themselves. Sometimes we grieve what we lost through the diagnosis. We take note of how drastically our minds or bodies change and the abilities or lifestyle we used to have. Sometimes we grieve the life we never had because of the condition(s) that we had to walk through. Currently, I am still learning how to grieve and find gratitude for my childhood. Sometimes I wonder what or who I could’ve been without this weight on my chest. However, I would walk through the shadows of all of those years again to discover what I know now, and make it my goal to pass that information to others.

This is why it is imperative to support funding and resources for mental health education; discussing and promoting the taboo terminology, uncomfortable questions, and realities to upcoming generations. The earlier we can pinpoint the type of struggle a child is facing, the earlier we can intervene and get them proper resources, professional help or support. If you’re currently on a path of trying to re-learn even life’s fundamentals after a diagnosis, I can promise you, it gets easier in time. I hope you someday feel empowered to share your newfound wisdom and understanding with others so we can begin to broaden mental health understanding together.

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator

Adventuring Alone

I really feel like I hate the world sometimes… but then I realize, the world is beautiful. What I really hate is people (I don’t really hate people, I’m just very anti-social because of my social anxiety).

I spend a lot of time exploring and adventuring alone because I get super anxious that people might not want to go and do things I want to do. I like to stop at all the random parks and things that catch my interest along the way without feeling like I’m dragging people to places they don’t want to go. Honestly if I could, I would pull off at every sign I saw if there was enough time in a day LOL.

As much as I love having company when I go exploring new places, my anxiety stops me from asking anyone because of the fear they might not want to do all the random things I want to do. I have one friend who is always down to do the random stuff I want to do, but it’s tough to find times we are both free because of ~adulting~ and work.

Honestly, this is part of the reason why I got a dog, so I would have an adventure buddy who I knew would always be happy just to be with me, no matter where we were.

Do you

Healing Doesn’t Mean The Damage Never Existed

The truth is…healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed.

I wish I could tell you when you heal, all of your trauma and the memories of those traumas goes away, but the trauma is something that sticks with you for the rest of your life.

Healing is finding ways to cope with the traumas and the damage those traumas caused. Learning to cope and healing doesn’t mean that the damage never happened. It just means you’ve managed to move past the damage to create a fresh start for yourself.

National Humor Month: How Humor Helps Your Mental Health

You know what they say…laughter is the best medicine. It’s not just a silly saying. Laughter really is some of the best medicine. It can really help your mental health in various ways.

Some of the ways laughter can help your mental health are:

  • it diminishes pain
  • it protects you from the damaging effects of stress
  • it brings your mind and body back into balance
  • it lightens your burdens
  • it inspires hope
  • it connects you to others
  • it keeps you grounded, focused, and alert
  • it helps you release anger and forgive sooner
  • it strengthens resilience
  • it improves mood
  • it adds joy to life

If you’re wondering how laughter can do all of these things, it’s because your brain releases endorphins when you laugh — hormones that cause a feeling of pleasure and a relaxed mind. Laughing also activates your body’s stress response mechanism. This process changes your heart rate leaving you in high spirits. Additionally, laughter stimulates rapid blood circulation. When this happens, you may experience a calming sensation that takes away tension and stress.

Humor is definitely something that has helped me when my mental health has been bad. Growing up, my brother and I used to laugh SO MUCH. When the two of us are together, we just act so immature, even now in our mid-twenties. We have inside jokes from childhood that still make us laugh until we cry. We find the dumbest things funny when we are together. But, there’s nothing better than laughing so hard that I’m literally crying. It’s one of the best feelings.

I get this way with my friends too. It’s easier to laugh and have fun with people who you’re comfortable around and who have the same sense of humor as you. My best friend Robyn is one of my favorite people to go to when I just need a laugh. We will just laugh and laugh at the dumbest things, but it’s so good to just laugh and act like idiots together (which this has definitely happened in some of the podcasts we have done together here on TurningPointCT). Humor really does help you connect to others.

Another way humor has kind of helped me deal with my mental health is through memes. I am actually in a group called Aborted Dreams: Share Your Memes where I can always count on finding some mental health memes with dark humor. A lot of people who don’t struggle with their mental health don’t get these memes when I show them to them, so I will only share these memes with certain people. But, the dark humor is not only hilarious to me, but it helps me realize that there are tons of other people out there who just get what I’m going through – they’re another way to feel connected with others. Humor (and memes) are one of my favorite ways to deal with my mental health.

Below are just some examples of some of the dark humor memes I laugh at (being mentally ill for as many years as I have has given me a very, very dark sense of humor):

this would be an example of one I’d only send to certain people – ps, I am fine, but I have definitely struggled with suicidal ideations in the past

If it’s not memes, I’m scrolling through funny reels on social media. I also have comfort TV shows, most of which are comedies. The Office, Parks and Recreation, and BoJack Horseman are some of my favorites to watch when I’m in a depressive episode.

Anyhoo, I will leave you with this. Laughter really is the best medicine. Find people you can just laugh with for hours and hours. Find people to send memes back and forth with. Find shows that make you laugh until you cry. Follow funny accounts on social media. Your mental health will thank you.

Ignoring My Responsibilities

When I’m overwhelmed, I tend to avoid everything by mindlessly scrolling on social media.

I’m not saying it’s the best coping skill, but sometimes it works and it feels a lot better than dissociating staring at the wall for hours paralyzed by my anxiety🤷🏻‍♀️

Does anyone else do this?

How Trauma Has Changed My Life

Nobody likes thinking about how trauma has affected them. But, there’s no hiding the fact that trauma has had an impact on my life. Whether I like it or not, there are a lot of things I do and don’t do because of past traumas.

Trauma isn’t always one event. Sometimes it’s repeated events. Anything can be trauma, it’s different for everyone. There are some things that I would consider traumatic that I have flashbacks about that people would probably argue aren’t trauma. The problem is, they are traumatic because those events have completely altered me.

Before I get into how trauma has affected me personally, I’d like to give you a list of some of the effects of trauma:

  • Flashbacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Dissociation
  • Unable to relax
  • Sleep problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Grief
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Alcohol and substance misuse

I’d love to tell you I’ve only dealt with a select few of the issues on that list, but I have struggled with all of them as a result of traumas in my life. I’m sure a lot of you are thinking there’s no way someone who’s only 25 has dealt with that much trauma in their life. But, due to a lot of mental health issues, I put myself in a lot of really bad situations, but there were definitely things that happened to me that were completely out of my control.

I think one of the worst things I’ve dealt with are flashbacks. There are days when it’s constant. I’ll have periods where they won’t be an issue, but then they’ll come back full force out of nowhere. This typically leads to anxiety or even panic attacks as I relive the traumas.

The flashbacks also lead to dissociation. Sometimes the dissociation is not being able to differentiate the flashbacks from reality. Other times, the dissociation is literally my brain completely shutting down in an attempt to protect myself from my own thoughts. In other words it’s a bunch of nothing-ness while I stare at a wall with no thoughts for hours. Dissociating is something I’ve even turned to during traumatic events to escape the reality of what was happening to me.

Oh and don’t forget how the flashbacks also negatively affect my sleep. The flashbacks love to come as I’m trying to fall asleep at night. Some nights they will be so bad, I will be terrified to close my eyes. So instead of taking the chance of closing my eyes and getting sucked into a flashback, I’ll keep my eyes open and stare at the ceiling until I’m too tired to fight it anymore.

My traumas have lead to a lot of suicidal feelings. Sometimes when I think about the things that happened to me, I can’t help but think why? There were many times when I thought about ending my life after traumatic events.

Another way I tried to deal with my trauma was by using substances. I used alcohol and marijuana to numb myself. I didn’t want to feel anything. Getting so stoned or drunk that I was barely there was an escape for me. It was my way to avoid the flashbacks and the anxiety.

That’s the other thing about trauma. A lot of traumas are tied to people, places, and things. I avoid a lot of people and places because of my trauma. I have lived in the same area since I was a kid and there have been a lot of times that I have honestly thought about moving away because I drive by triggering places just in my everyday life.

I avoid places where I might see someone from my past that I went no contact with. If I can’t avoid these places, I am anxious the whole time. There have even been times where even going to one of these places was mentioned and I’ve had a panic attack that lead to hyperventilating and tears. How do you tell someone that you can’t go a certain restaurant or another normal place without feeling like you’re going to die? How do you explain that to someone who has never been through it?

While I don’t want my trauma to control my life, I feel like it definitely does sometimes. Sometimes, it makes me feel completely helpless. It’s like a never-ending hell. I hate that there are places I can’t go to because they’re attached to certain things that have happened to me. I hate that I have to live in fear going to certain towns because I might see someone who did something to me.

But, this is the reality of being a trauma survivor. It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by, the effects are always there. Sometimes the symptoms are in my face, other times it’s subconscious because I’ve been living with these things for so long. This is my life with CPTSD from years of repeated trauma.

If you’ve dealt with something traumatic, I am so sorry. I really would not wish any of these aftereffects of trauma on anyone. I know how hard it has been for me. But, if you are struggling, there is help out there. Check out some of our resources to find help.

If you liked this post, be sure to check out Sasha’s post My Thoughts On Trauma right here on turningpointct.org.

When You’re Just Trying To Have A Good Day

Anxiety Stuff

The Stress of Having A New Puppy

Last week, I became an aunt. This week, I became a dog mom to an 8 week old German Shepherd puppy! While becoming a dog mom is extremely exciting, it comes with a lot of responsibility…and stress. There’s creating a structured schedule, house training, and crate training, just to name a few. It is a lot, but even more when there is a blizzard. We happened to get him the night before Winter Storm Bobby. Due to my boyfriend being a lineman, I was pretty much on my own for the first night/day. I’ve never had a dog before, only cats, so this was extremely stressful for me.

I did all kinds of research and the breeder gave us lots of information and tips, but, I was still so nervous and worried about screwing it up. My only experience has been with adult German Shepherds who have already been house trained. My anxiety was through the roof, but I had to step up to train and take care of the pup because I didn’t have a choice but to do it on my own.

The first night, I only got 4 hours of sleep. That made the first day of training immensely hard because I honestly felt like dog poop. My anxiety was through the roof due to lack of sleep. I was being extremely hard on myself because while he was going to the bathroom outside, he was still having accidents in the house. I knew this was normal and to be expected, especially in the beginning, but that didn’t stop me from telling myself it was my fault.

Not only was I trying to train a puppy, but I was also trying to keep up with shoveling the snow outside on my own and we easily got 2 feet of snow where we are. I had to shovel the backyard consistently for our tiny puppy to be able to go to the bathroom comfortably, and I had to keep up with the driveway so my boyfriend could make it into the driveway when he got home (which, there’s no way of knowing what time that could be).

There was one point during the first day where I just completely broke down. I was crying just feeling like a complete failure and texting my boyfriend about how frustrated I was with myself. Even though he was at work, he took the time to remind me to take a break, relax, and that things will be okay. Even when he’s not here, he is still my biggest support system. By now, he knows that I can be really hard on myself, and he has had dogs his whole life so he knows how this whole process can be.

After that, I took some time to compose myself while the puppy took a nap. I reminded myself that puppies have accidents, and it’s not my fault and it’s not his fault either. He is a puppy. After he woke up from his nap, I immediately took him out and he went, I was so happy! I started taking him out as soon as he woke up and anytime he went to the door. We didn’t have anymore accidents that day! I finally felt less defeated and I’m sure he was happy to be able to go outside to relieve himself instead of having accidents.

While having a puppy is a lot of work and it can be really stressful, it is so worth it to put in the time and effort to properly train them and get them adjusted to their new home. The first month is probably the hardest as he adjusts to his new home and gets house broken. Once he gets house broken, I know it will get easier.

He is worth the stress. I mean, look at that face!

In this post, Kailey talks about the stress of having a new puppy. She talks about how she's dealt with the adjustment.

Living With Health Anxiety

Have you heard of health anxiety? If not, you’ve probably heard the old term for it…hypochondriac. Hypochondriac has such a negative connotation around it, so I’m actually pretty glad that they have stopped using that term. It’s now recognized as a somatic symptom disorder and an anxiety disorder.

So back to what health anxiety is, for those of you that haven’t heard of it before. Health anxiety is the misinterpretation of normal bodily sensations as dangerous. Healthy bodies produce all sorts of physical symptoms that might be uncomfortable, painful, unexpected, and otherwise unwanted — but not dangerous.

Normal sensations in the body that can produce fear and worry include changes in heart rate, blood pressure, saliva levels, depth of breathing, balance, and muscle tone, just to name a few. These can be normal and harmless bodily changes, but when a person believes they are symptoms of some horrible disease, it causes anxiety.

People who suffer from health anxiety can be people who are always at the doctors, or people who are so afraid to find out if they have a terrible illness that they just don’t go to the doctors. I have been on both sides.

Most recently, I have been kind of convincing myself that I probably have skin cancer because I go outside all the time. I look at every spot on my body and wonder to myself if it’s skin cancer. The fear stemmed from seeing Snapchat news stories saying things like “Woman’s Acne Scar She Had For Years Was Skin Cancer” and also someone I went to high school with’s mom died of skin cancer last year.

I have been wanting to start getting a yearly skin check for years, but I have been too afraid to call. In October, I asked my primary care doctor if I needed a referral for to get a skin check, but due to having eczema and having gone to the dermatologist within the last year, I could call and schedule it myself. It is now January and I have not scheduled that appointment. I actually wanted a full skin check while I was there for my eczema, but as soon as the dermatologist was done checking my hands, she left and I didn’t even get a chance to ask if she would also do that.

At the end of December, I got sick with what I assumed was COVID. I was SO SICK. I had a horrible fever, my head was pounding, my throat was so sore, and even just hurting my eyes moved. In terms of COVID…it was mild. In fact, it never even got into my lungs, I had no congestion or cough. But, I convinced myself I was going to be one of the unfortunate people who died. I thought I was going to become another statistic. The anxiety was unreal.

A lot of my anxiety symptoms are physical. Before I understood this, it used to cause me a lot of anxiety. I would find myself on Google searching things like “shortness of breath” or “rapid heart rate” or “heart palpitations.” And of course…while sometimes anxiety would come up in Google, other times, horrible diseases would. The worst thing I could have done was run to Google, yet anytime ANYTHING feels weird, I have the urge to Google and then get lost in Web MD, which promptly tells me “you’re dying.”

I’m not going to lie, there are nights that I literally can’t fall asleep because I start thinking about things like the impending doom of skin cancer I might not even have. There are nights I am terrified that my teeth are all going to fall out of my head. I worry about my thyroid getting worse even though while it’s not optimally functioning, it has not been in the red zone ever and I’ve been regularly getting tested for years due to family history. If I’m abnormally tired, I automatically think something crazy like “cancer, I’m probably dying.” The thoughts never seem to end.

If you do happen to have health anxiety, there is help out there. The most effective treatment for health anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT aims to help you overcome fears by correcting irrational thoughts and changing problematic behaviors. It is possible to have anxiety and a serious medical condition, so do be sure that you’re yearly getting a physical exam so if you are ill, it can be caught early.

If you’re struggling but you’re not sure where to get help, be sure to check out our resources page.

High Functioning Anxiety

My Newfound Fear of The Cold

I’ve lived in New England my whole life. You’d think by now, I’d be used to the cold. You also would think that I know how to deal with the cold at 24 years old. The truth is, when it was ridiculously cold, I usually just avoided going outside because I have Raynaud’s Disease. Due to my avoidance of the outside in the winter, I never had to think about how to properly protect myself. For whatever reason this year, I have started to brave the cold because I want to experience fun winter things.

kailey in the catskill mountains
me experiencing ~fun~ winter things in the Catskill Mountains

It all started last week when I took an impromptu trip to the Catskill Mountains. My friend and I were really just going to New York to go to some bakery she had read about in one of her baking books. From there, we were only 20 minutes away from the Catskill Mountains so we decided to take a drive through them on the byway and we stopped at Kaaterskill Falls. It was so cold that the 200 foot waterfall was completely frozen. When we were in the mountains, it was a mere 18 degrees. I was bundled up pretty well, but the paths were pure ice and I did not have spikes for my boots.

kaaterskill falls
Frozen Kaateskill Falls

I didn’t feel how cold it was until I got back into my car. Once I felt how cold my face was, I began to get anxious. My heart started to race and I was on my way to having a panic attack in the mountains. I felt my chest start to tighten and I had intrusive thoughts telling me that I had somehow damaged myself by being out in below freezing temperatures. I didn’t even have anything covering my face and my anxious brain was convinced we caused permanent damage in the mere 30 minutes I was outside. I was able to calm myself down thankfully because I was the one that drove. Being anxious while driving is never a good combo, especially when you’re driving on curvy mountain roads in the winter.

A couple days after my trip to the mountain, I was on the phone with my grandfather. I call him every time I drive by a local spot to check for eagles because I always get excited when I see them. On that particular phone call, I was talking with him about my trip to the mountains and how cold it was and how cold my face got. He then mentioned how the cold can literally damage skin. After learning this fact (which is something I had obviously assumed, but never thought much about), I began to really fear the extreme cold. Over the last week while it was literally in the single digits, I opted to not leave my house in fear of somehow destroying my skin.

eagles
a picture I took of the Bald Eagles yesterday in the 24 degree weather

After this conversation with my grandfather, I recounted it to my boyfriend over dinner. He was like, yeah Kailey, it’s called frostbite. We live in New England, this is something you should have been taught. And honestly, it’s definitely likely that somewhere along the way, someone probably warned me about covering my skin in the cold, but my brain could have just shoved it away.

After the conversation with my boyfriend, I (stupidly) went to Google and typed in “frostbite” in an attempt to educate myself. While I was definitely educated, I also managed to make myself more afraid. I went on to Amazon and ordered all kinds of protective gear for the cold to protect every inch of my skin from the cold because as afraid as I am, I still really want to go outside and experience outdoor winter activities. In fact, this week I am taking a trip to Vermont’s Green Mountains with a friend, so that’s why I wanted to make sure that I am completely prepared with protective gear from the cold.

While the knowledge that the cold can damage my skin permanently gave me some pretty serious anxiety, I have chosen to try and use the knowledge to prepare myself for situations where I will be exposed to the cold. There is a certain beauty that comes with the cold winter months. As someone who loves photography, I want to be able to get out and capture that beauty. I spent years avoiding things because of my anxiety and I missed out on so much. I am trying to make up for lost time and missed experiences. So, I am choosing to face my fears in the safest way possible.

I Have Anxiety

When Someone Says “But You Didn’t Seem Anxious!”

@turningpointct.org when someone says “but you didn’t seem anxious!!” … I’M JUST REALLY GOOD AT HIDING IT🥴✌🏼 #mentalhealth #anxiety #fyp #imanactor #fypシ ♬ Stephen Glickman LIVE in NYC Dec 17th Link in bio – Gustavo Rocque

When Someone Tells Me “Just Choose Happiness!!”

Do not confuse my bad days as a sign of weakness…

I feel like people with mental illness get a bad rep. Everyone always feels like they need to walk on eggshells around us. They feel that we are oversensitive, weak. But, the reality is we are fighters. We keep fighting even on the worst days.

Having feelings doesn’t make us weak. Having bad days doesn’t make us weak. It’s easy to look at someone who is an emotional wreck and just assume that they can’t handle life. But, you have no idea what could have happened to them that day. Something awful could have happened to them. They could have had something trigger them to having flashbacks of past trauma. Their anxiety or depression can just be really heavy and overwhelming that day.

As someone who has suffered at the hands of my mental illness, I can tell you people like me are not weak. I have pushed through and continued on days when my brain told me to just end it. I have gone to school and work on days where my anxiety was making my skin crawl and had me in fight or flight.

I’m sure there were days that it was noticeable to those around me, like the days I couldn’t stop the silent tears from streaming down my face while I was at work or school. If I were weak, I would have not showed up to work. Instead, I showed up and I pushed through those days.

I have had people treat me like absolute shit and walk all over me. I have been physically and emotionally abused. Sure, those things have done a lot of harm to me, but instead of letting them break me, I’m still here. There were a lot of days I did not want to be here, but I fought so hard to continue. Despite everything that I’ve been through, I still try to be a good person. I also still try to see the good in people.

At the end of the day, we are all human. We all have good days and bad days. None of us should be defined by our bad days. You never know what someone is going through.

“Do not confuse my bad days as a sign of weakness. Those are actually the days I’m fighting the hardest.”

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If you need help now, but you’re not sure where to start, check out our resources page.

The Stress of Being A Young, Anxious Pet Owner

Last week, my kitten Ash got neutered. I had been putting it off for months because I was so anxious that something would happen to him during the surgery. I was so worried, I took him to our actual vet for the surgery. I wanted to make sure I had as much assurance as possible that there wouldn’t be any complications. I took him for the pre-operation blood work and paid the extra money to go to the vet even though everyone told me to take him to a mobile clinic because it’s cheaper.

The morning of his surgery, I was a nervous wreck. I was so worried that something was going to go wrong. I made sure I gave him all kinds of kisses and pets before I took him. He cried the whole 10 minute ride to the vet. I gave him lots of pets while we waited for the vet to come get him.

I hated having him be away from me. It was just so weird with him not being home. At 11am, 3 hours after I dropped him off, the vet finally called. I was so stressed that something happened because of how soon they called me, but I was relieved when they told me that everything went perfectly and he was recovering post-surgery. They told me I could come pick him up at 2-2:30pm.

When I finally got to go pick him up, the vet brought him out and they told me he is the friendliest kitten with the best temperament (which I already knew, of course). After she was done telling me about how much she loves Ash, she went through the after-care. I of course was a nervous wreck. I had never done this before. My mom took care of our family cat Treasure when she got fixed because I was only in 5th grade. It is so weird having to be the adult now.

When we got home, I brought him into my office where he would be staying separated from our other two cats while he recovered. Despite him being separated from the other two so he doesn’t play and open his incision, I was still a nervous wreck. I spent a lot of time Googling how to care for your cat after it gets neutered and got lost in that and of course it just made me more anxious.

Ash really does have the best temperament and he has been such a happy kitty since he got home. He still loves to snuggle with us and he’s still a little purr machine. He’s great about taking his meds and he’s being a good sport about being confined to my office and having to wear the cone of shame.

It kills me having him separated so I’ve been spending a lot of time in my office with him. He spends a lot of time sleeping, but he also likes to hangout in my lap while I work. I’ll take off his cone while he’s in my lap because I can keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t lick his incisions.

Ash kitten hanging out in my lap

I am so happy he seems to still be happy, but I cannot wait until I can let him out and be a free kitty again. I miss waking up to him sleeping in the bed with me. I miss coming home and immediately being greeted by him at the door. This is honestly the longest two weeks of my life, but it’s worth the wait to make sure that he heals perfectly.

comfy and content in my storage bin of clothes, he has claimed it as his bed for the time being

Things I’m Tired of Hearing As Someone With Mental Illnesses

For those of you who are new here, I’m Kailey and I have struggled with anxiety, depression, social anxiety, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I have had a lot of people say things that are pretty invalidating, but I’ve also had a lot of people who really did mean well say things that were just not helpful. Below are some of the things that I am extremely tired of hearing as someone with mental illnesses.

“Other people have it worse”

There is nothing worse than having your feelings invalidated. I am allowed to be upset by things. Everyone reacts differently to different things / situations. Also, just because people have it way worse than me doesn’t mean I have no right to be upset about my situation. Not everything is a competition. Also, the world doesn’t have to be ending for me to be depressed or anxious. Sometimes it hits me out of nowhere and I don’t even know why it’s there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been doing absolutely NOTHING and I’ve been so anxious out of nowhere to the point I couldn’t function. I have a literal chemical imbalance in my brain. It doesn’t always have to do with my situation, but obviously stressful and upsetting situations are definitely triggers and can make them worse.

“You don’t look sad”

In my 24 years of life I’ve had a lot of practice with putting on a mask. Just because I look like I’m not anxious or depressed doesn’t mean that’s not the case. I only show people what I want them to see. Of course, the people around me can read my face like a book and they’re able to tell. But for the most part, I try to post the good and I try to post positive stuff. I try not to go into the bad things going on in my life because I really feel that it’s nobody’s business but my own.

“Choose happiness!”

I know most of the people who say this are genuinely trying to be kind and positive. But, don’t you think if it was that easy that I WOULD choose happiness? Why would anyone choose to be miserable? Everyone wants happiness. As I said before, someone like me who struggles with various mental illnesses has actual CHEMICAL IMBALANCES in their brain. I did not choose this. I wish I could just choose to be happy. Sometimes I wake up depressed or anxious and I have NO IDEA why. I have no reason. The chemicals in my brain are not okay.Additionally, trauma has literally changed the way my brain works. Trauma isn’t always visible, it’s not always a giant event that people on the outside can easily point to. For people like me with complex traumatic stress disorder, it’s lots of continued trauma that’s happened over time.

“Don’t worry”

Ah yes, I hate when my anxious self is told to not worry. I have been a worrier ever since I can remember. I grew up on a lot of land and my dad and my brother would often go into the back of the woods. I would constantly think that something bad had happened to them and I was only in middle school. I would honestly think they had been seriously injured or somehow killed. That’s the thing about having anxiety. You get all of these intrusive thoughts that to normal people don’t make any sense. A “normal” person wouldn’t understand why I would think some horrible thing happened to my dad and brother after being out of my sight for 30 minutes. Just yesterday I didn’t see my kitten for a majority of the day and I had convinced myself that he had somehow escaped to the point that I was checking my ring cameras to see if he had slipped out when I went to the post office. These worrying thoughts are constant and they’re about everything. I try to shut them up, but they’re constantly swirling around in my head sometimes to the point where I cannot focus. I wish there was an off switch for my worrying.

“You’re so lazy”

Depression can make you not want to do anything at all. If it’s not depression, it’s my anxiety. Sometimes my anxiety is so intense I cannot get myself to do things. The anticipation / thought of having to do things can bring serious anxiety, which causes me to procrastinate. It’s not that I’m lazy. Sometimes my anxiety is so intense, the physical symptoms can literally be paralyzing. My heart races, I get a numb and tingling feeling in my fingers, and it becomes hard to focus on anything besides these extremely uncomfortable physical symptoms. I tend to end up sitting doing nothing staring at a wall or scrolling on my phone trying to distract myself from the anxiety. Sometimes it lasts over an hour. Sometimes it lingers for the entire day. When it won’t go away for the whole day, I will go out into nature to try and ground myself. This could come across as I’m a lazy POS who avoids her work and goes and does fun things, but the reality is I’m mentally struggling and going into nature away from work and electronics is the best way for me to come back to myself and calm down.

“Mental illness isn’t a real thing”

This one really just drives me up a wall. There’s science, and people like me who are living proof. I’m telling you, none of us choose to be like this. Mental illness is not something anyone would choose. It’s crippling. It effects every part of your life from your relationships (friends, family, romantic partner), to school and work. I feel like a burden to those around me when I am having a depressive episode where I won’t leave the house. When my anxiety is really bad and I’m convinced everyone hates me, I’m not purposely convincing myself everyone hates me for fun. Having suicidal thoughts during those dark times are terrifying. There is nothing worse you can tell someone who suffers with mental illness than “mental illness isn’t real.” I live it almost every day. It’s not made up for attention. I’m not telling people I have mental illnesses because I think it’s cute or I think it’s an “aesthetic.”

“You’re doing it for attention” 

I heard this a lot growing up. When I was in high school and college, I shoved my emotions down for long periods of time and then I would suddenly just snap. I would go into hysterics and cry uncontrollably. I would scream things like “just fucking kill me” in a rage. I would throw furniture and I once punched a hole in my closet door. During one episode I even grabbed a pair of scissors and went for my wrist. As you can imagine, these are not positive ways to get attention. WHY would anyone do something like that for attention? I was literally just at my breaking point. Those “episodes” always ended with me leaving my house on foot and just walking with no plan except to escape. These were never thought out plans for attention. They were just explosions of negative emotions I had shoved down for months or years. Additionally, I would like to point out that I do not speak out about my struggles for attention. Some of it is embarrassing to share, but I share it because I know there are people out there who need to hear that they are not alone in their struggles. Believe me, those explosions are not my proudest moments. But, when people shove down their emotions like that, a reality is people snapping and when that happens, people think the person exploding is crazy or doing it for attention. It’s really just not the case, the reality is usually that person is having a really hard time and they’re overwhelmed by intense emotions and they’re just not sure how to deal with them in a healthy way.

The Takeaway

Next time someone chooses to confide in you about struggling, try to choose your words wisely. Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at all. A lot of the time, when we open up, we really just want someone to listen. But, getting validation for our feelings also helps tremendously, so try not to question someone and how they’re feeling. Do not make them feel bad about they’re feeling. Just listen and validate.

Reflections – Surviving Crippling Depression

Around this time last year I fell into one of the deepest depressions I had ever been into. It was a crippling depression. I don’t want to go into the details of what caused the depression, but the depression was so bad, I was ready to end my life.

**Trigger warning; Talk of Suicidal Ideation

I’m not just talking about thoughts of suicide. I felt worthless. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for anyone. I felt like I was a burden to everyone around me. I felt like my life was never going to get better. I felt like I was going to be a screw up for the rest of my life.

As I said, these were not just thoughts. I was beginning to make arrangements. I planning who my savings were going to because I wouldn’t need them when I was dead. I started to go through my room so my parents would have less stuff to go through. I felt like I had no other option than to end my life. I thought it was what was best for me and everyone around me.

Every time I closed my eyes, I pictured myself dying. It was never something that brought me peace. It was more of an intrusive thought. It was how my longing to die was manifesting. I would stay up most of the night just to avoid closing my eyes. I was honestly terrified to sleep. I was afraid of the images that came into my head when I tried to close my eyes and I was afraid of nightmares.

During the day, I was a shell of a person. I was very much just going through the motions. I would spend the entire day on the couch doing nothing. I would mindlessly scroll on my phone to try and distract myself. If I wasn’t scrolling on my phone, I was dissociating. I was straight up just staring at the wall for hours.

I was listening to the same playlist over and over again, my Machine Gun Kelly playlist. The music was depressing as hell, but I was here for it. Some of those darker lyrics I just really resonated with at that time. The lyrics honestly made me feel understood. Those songs were pretty much my anthems.

As I said, I was staying in the same spot all day. I was barely eating. I didn’t leave the house. I was terrified to go out and do anything. I was afraid of being out in public by myself. I had lost the part of myself that used to love going out and to explore and hike alone. I was no longer finding comfort in having time with myself. Being alone all day with my thoughts was a living hell. I was crippled by not only my depression, but also by my anxiety.

As I mentioned, I was afraid to go out and do anything alone. I did miss getting outside, so I begged my brother to go explore with me. This was the first outing I made during that time.

The reason I was home all day was because I had already graduated from school and I was working from home. But, I was so depressed, the working part wasn’t really happening. I had to literally fight myself to even get an hour or two of work done. It was causing my anxiety to be unbearable because I knew I should be working and because not working meant no money. It was just a vicious cycle of crippling depression and non-stop anxiety.

While that was absolutely one of the most difficult times in my life, I pushed through and I am still here to this day. I am so happy to say that I am in a much better place mentally than I was a year ago. A year ago, if you had told me that I would become the project coordinator of a mental health project that helps teens and young adults who are struggling, I would not have believed you. A year ago I did not feel like I was even worthy of being hired by anyone despite having a college degree.

If I had ended my life then, I would have never accomplished everything that I have in the past year. I made it to 24 years old. I finally moved out of my parents house. I became Turning Point CT’s Social Media Assistant. More recently, I became Turning Point CT’s Project Coordinator. I got a kitten. I learned that I’m going to be an aunt. I went to Oregon.

If I had ended my life a year ago, I not only would have missed these amazing opportunities and successes, but I never would have met my niece. My niece would never have known me. I would have never met my kitten, who shares my birthday with me. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now where I am able to help others like me who have struggled with their mental health.

my little Ash Kitten

I am thankful that I have made it this far. I doubt that will be the last depression that I go through. Recovery isn’t linear and there are so many ups and downs. It’s a part of recovery and it’s also just a part of life. You have to keep pushing forward even when you don’t want to.

Think about your friends and your family. You might think they won’t care if you end your life, but they will. They will miss you and they will spend every day wondering if there was anything they could have done to avoid it. They will wish you were there every single day probably for the rest of their lives.

If you are struggling, there is help out there. Check out our resources page for crisis hotlines and other helpful resources.

It’s Okay To Ask For Help!

My parents split up when I was about 12 years old. After my dad left, I really started to struggle with depression, and soon after came its atrocious best friend, anxiety. I was so overwhelmed that I constantly felt like I was drowning. It all really started to control my life. I spent hours in bed, not feeling like I was enough and like I was a burden. I hated having to go to school and pretend like everything was okay like my life wasn’t falling to pieces. It took me a long time to learn that it was okay to ask for help. Can you imagine being 12 years old and trying to hide the world of hurt you were feeling from everyone? It wasn’t easy. I fought like hell to get to where I am today, and I am so proud of myself for not giving up.

dominique with her siblings
This is a photo of my siblings and me when we were younger. They are practically my children!

While I am a fighter, I still struggle with my depression and anxiety on occasion. I try my best not to let it get the best of me because it’s nothing but a big ol’ heartbreak dealing with it and sometimes it’s hard. Depression’s almost like a person who’s constantly in your shadow, just following you around. It tugs on you, and it begs you to shut down for a little while so that it can take over and flood your mind with thoughts of loneliness, not feeling good enough, and sometimes, unfortunately, suicide.

Anxiety’s no better. It looms over you like a dark cloud and makes you feel trapped. Trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve been through the tears and sadness, the physical and emotional scarring, even the suffering and the pain. Sometimes I felt like my anxiety was suffocating me. Your depression and anxiety want to see you suffer and that’s not okay. They want you to give up. It’s just simply not worth it. It’s not worth giving everything up or not trying to be better. You shouldn’t have to miss out on all the wonderful things you know that you can and will accomplish. And it’s certainly not worth taking your life over. 

We must learn to reach out when we are struggling, even when we feel like nobody might listen. We don’t have to take on the world alone, it is okay to ask for help sometimes. It’s not easy dealing with both depression and anxiety. Especially by yourself. If you’re anything like me, you’ll know how hard asking for help can be when you’re used to depending on just yourself. It is okay to put your pride aside and say, “Hey, I really need some help”. Someone will be there to listen. Someone will take the time out of their day to check on you. Just know that there is somebody out there who feels a little better knowing that you’re in the world.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression, there is help out there. Check out some of our resources here.

If you’d like to learn a little bit more about how to cope with anxiety and depression, you can check out this article.

Dissociation: Common Trauma Response

Post written by Kailey

**trigger warning, sexual abuse/rape

Have you ever heard of dissociation? Dissociation is one of the most common responses to abuse and trauma. It involves feeling numb, detached, or unreal.

While it happens to everyone once in a while, it happens frequently and severely in trauma survivors. Dissociating looks different for everyone. My experience with dissociation could be completely different from one of my peers.

I wish dissociation wasn’t something I have experience with, but unfortunately, it is something I have dealt with. It tends to happen to me when I’m feeling extremely overwhelmed, but I’ve also had it happen during a traumatic experience.

For most, dissociating makes you feel numb. It’s like you’re not even there and sometimes your mind is literally just silent, which for someone with anxiety who is used to the whirr of intrusive thoughts constantly, it’s a bit unsettling. When I dissociate, there are no thoughts, it’s just a bunch of nothing. It’s like spacing out, but to the extreme and with no thoughts bouncing around.

It’s hard to understand what dissociating is if you’ve never experienced it. When I’ve tried to explain it to my boyfriend, his response is always “HOW CAN YOU HAVE NO THOUGHTS?!” which is a pretty fair point. But, it’s just a coping mechanism where my body just shuts down so I don’t have to experience the intense emotions. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s healthy, but it’s product of repeated trauma over years and years. When you can’t physically escape it, your body eventually learns to just shut down to make you not present.

To give you an idea of how powerful dissociating can be, I’ll share a traumatic experience that I dissociated through. I was hanging out with someone I considered strictly a friend, but he wanted us to be more. He was convinced that we were made for each other and I just did not feel the same.

One particular day, he kept asking and asking if we could have sex. No matter how many times I told him no, he kept making advances and I finally just stopped trying to say no even though I absolutely did not want it. Long story short, he helped himself and my body went into shut down – I dissociated through the whole thing.

While I was in fact there, it was like I was not. It was my mind and body’s way of trying to protect me. I spent the whole time staring at the ceiling with no thoughts. I could hear the episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia playing in the background, but it sounded so far away. Physically, I didn’t feel anything even though I was being raped.

Dissociating is your body’s way of trying to protect you, and that is what my body did that night. I didn’t have to feel it and I felt like I was watching it happen from another world. I didn’t feel like I was actually in my body during the abuse.

While physically, I didn’t feel anything, the trauma still happened and it had lasting effects. The dissociating was powerful enough for me not to feel it, but I still ended up traumatized despite my body’s efforts to protect me. Still to this day I have trouble being intimate and I will find myself dissociating during sex with my partner even though we have been together for years. My body is still trying to protect me after all these years even though I’m in a loving, safe relationship.

While dissociation can be involuntary, there have been times I have forced myself to dissociate because I couldn’t handle what was going on around me. This is not something I would recommend you do because it is so unhealthy and there are so many healthy ways to cope besides making yourself completely numb.

But, I would force myself into it because it was what I knew and it had helped me survive so many things in the past. A lot of people with anxiety can’t make their thoughts silent and make themselves numb, but it was something I had learned to do when things were just too intense.

While dissociating can be becoming numb, sometimes it’s intense flashbacks that feel very real. Coming out of those flashbacks can be intense and startling because you’re basically coming from a different world back to reality. You might feel startled or confused when you’re finally aware of your surroundings again.

There are been so many times when I’ve been alone where I have relieved trauma over and over again in my head. For me personally, it’s typically before bed, and it makes it very difficult for me to fall asleep. Reliving trauma over and over through flashbacks is not something I would wish on anybody. Even just flashbacks are enough to send my body into fight or flight.

Takeaway

Dissociation is a common response to trauma and a component of many mental health issues. Regardless of the cause, it is important to know that you are not alone. If you’re concerned that you are experiencing dissociative symptoms, talk to a healthcare professional or someone knowledgeable you trust.

If you need help now, but you’re not sure where to start, check out our resources page.

What is Sensory Overload?

Post Written by Kailey MarcAurele

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by everything around you that you almost feel paralyzed?

Sensory overload happens when you’re getting more input from your five senses than your brain can sort through and process. It could be a multitude of things – multiple conversations going on in one room, flashing overhead lights, or a loud party. All of these can produce the symptoms of sensory overload.

What Causes The Sensory Overload?

When there’s competing sensory information, your brain cannot interpret it all at the same time. For some people, this feels like getting stuck – your brain can’t prioritize what sensory information it needs to focus on.

Your brain then sends your body the message that you need to get away from some of the sensory input you’re experiencing. Your brain feels trapped by all the input it’s getting, and your body starts to panic in a chain reaction.

Who is at Risk?

In terms of mental health conditions, sensory overload tends to happen to people with:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
    • Sensory information competes for your brain’s attention. This can contribute to symptoms of sensory overload.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD
    • Anticipation, fatigue, and stress can all contribute to a sensory overload experience, making senses feel heightened during panic attacks and PTSD episodes.

Other conditions that sensory overload are associated with are:

  • Autism
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Tourette Syndrome

Symptoms of Sensory Overload

  • Difficulty focusing due to competing sensory input
  • Extreme irritability
  • Restlessness and discomfort
  • Urge to cover your ears or shield your eyes from sensory input
  • Feeling overly excited or “wound up”
  • Stress, fear, or anxiety about your surroundings
  • Higher levels than usual of sensitivity to textures, fabrics, clothing tags, or other things that may rub against skin

What Sensory Overload Feels Like For Me

If you’ve experienced sensory overload, you’re not alone. Sensory overload is something that I have experienced firsthand.

I come from a big family and honestly, although I love them, they are pretty loud and they tend to all talk over each other during our family events. There were so many times that I would get anxious and really irritable. Sometimes at these events, I would get so stressed out and uncomfortable, I would literally go hide in the basement just to get away from the noise.

For me, I always had a really hard time doing my work in the library and sometimes even in the classroom because even the sound of people writing would stress me out and make me unable to focus. In the library, there were conversations going on, the sound of typing, the sounds of backpack zippers, etc….all at once. And not only could I not focus when I was hearing all these VERY normal sounds you expect to hear in a library, but I would also get furious. The sound of people typing would make me so angry and I would have these off the wall thoughts about how I wish everyone would stop typing because I couldn’t focus.

When the sensory overload happens, I tend to just shut down. I can’t focus. I get irritable and everything starts to piss me off. It probably makes me sound like an asshole saying everyday sounds quite literally drive me insane, but all of them at once are just too much for me to handle.

Because of this, I’m the most comfortable at home where I can control the environment and what’s’ going on around me. I don’t like going to loud, crowded places. Loud sounds, convos, and environments are probably one of my biggest triggers. Those are the kind of places where I tend to shut down.

I used to think I had ADHD because the sensory overload would cause me to lose my focus. When I told my therapist this, she told me that anxiety can make it hard to focus too. That had never occurred to me, but considering the constant intrusive thoughts in my head throughout the day, it makes sense why focusing would be hard.

Take Aways

Experiencing sensory overload doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. It just means there’s too much going on around you and your brain is having trouble sorting through what it needs to be focused on. Your brain being overwhelmed is what causes the panic.

If you’re experiencing sensory overload, the following may help:

If you need help now, but you’re not sure where to start, check out our resources page.

What is High Functioning Anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety is a form of anxiety that is not a clinical disorder but can still be detrimental. Someone with high-functioning anxiety is able to function relatively normally and appears fine on the outside but still experiences regular symptoms of anxiety and is struggling internally.

Signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety are often associated with desired characteristics by onlookers, so someone with high-functioning anxiety may even be successful and seem like a high-achiever. In reality, their anxiety is one of the driving factors for their success.

Some signs and symptoms of high functioning anxiety are:

  • People pleasing
    • inability to say no
    • fear of disappointing others
  • Always busy (full-schedule)
  • Unable to switch off and relax
  • Need for reassurance
  • Over working and over-committing to responsibilities
    • workaholic tendencies
  • Overthinking, nervous chatter
  • Discomfort when routine is disrupted
  • Having unrealistic expectations
  • Difficulty staying present
  • Neglecting own needs
  • Constantly comparing self to others
  • Mental and physical exhaustion
  • Overanalyzing, overdoing
  • Always early

My Experience With High Functioning Anxiety

I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life. The thing is though, I’ve been really good at hiding it.

I’ve always excelled in whatever I’ve done. I always got straight A’s and I always excelled in sports. I played All-Stars softball, and I was varsity for the sports I did year round from the time that I was a freshman in high school. I was captain of the field hockey team. On the outside, I looked like I really had it together. But the truth is, internally, I was suffering.

Nobody knew that I had really bad anxiety. I was able to hide it really well. I have always been really hard on myself because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’m the biggest people pleaser and I’m terrified of letting those around me down. I never put my needs first and I always did what was expected of me. Even though I was excelling at sports, I began to hate them because they became my life. Between work and school, I had no time for myself and that became my normal.

When I graduated high school and went to college, I stopped playing sports. Since I was so used to the go go go, when I started working, I picked up all the hours I possibly could. I was that person who ALWAYS picked up people’s shifts, even when I didn’t want to. Between my college courses and my job, I still had no time for myself. But, this is what I was used to. I didn’t know anything else. And honestly, I think part of me was just trying to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t have to be alone with my thoughts.

I’m still a bit of a workaholic to this day working two jobs and doing a bunch of “side gigs” from home. But again, to everyone, I’m just a hard working, successful individual. They don’t see the anxious person on the inside with excessive worrying going on and horrible intrusive thoughts.

But the thing is, all of these qualities that come with being a high functioning anxious person are praised. People praise the “hustle” with no breaks and climbing the ladder to success. To most people, if your schedule isn’t jam packed with work and projects, you’re not doing as much as you should be. But the nonstop working is so detrimental to both our physical and mental health.

I’ve spent so many nights staying up and working until midnight because I felt like I had to. I’ve realized now that I don’t have to do that to be successful. I’ve learned that breaks are important and necessary.

Living with anxiety is hard. It’s harder when on the outside you look like you have it together, when really you’re struggling day to day. It’s tough because people will ask you how you could possibly be anxious or depressed when you have all these things going for you. I’m here to tell you that you can both be successful AND anxious. The two can coexist. Don’t let anyone invalidate your feelings. You know what goes on inside your mind, they don’t.

The Two Sides of High Functioning Anxiety

What They SeeThe Reality
High-AchievingFear of Failure
ProactivePerfectionist
SocialSelf-critical
Ability to Appear CalmRacing Thoughts
Meets DeadlinesOften Exhausted or Fatigued
OrganizedAfraid to Disappoint Others
HardworkingProcrastinates When Stressed

Although high functioning anxiety isn’t recognized by doctors, all anxiety is valid regardless of how functional someone might seem on the outside. 

If you’re feeling anxious, there is help out there. Check out our resources page to find ways to get help.

Gaslighting

Have you ever heard of the term gaslighting? To put it simply, gaslighting is a form of manipulation that occurs in abusive relationships. It can be between family members or in other types of relationships. It is an insidious, and sometimes covert, type of emotional abuse where the bully or abuser makes the target question their judgments and reality. Ultimately, the victim of gaslighting starts to wonder if they are going crazy.

Gaslighting can cause a lot of damage. I was a victim of gaslighting growing up and there were times I started to really question what I thought I knew about myself. It’s had such a lasting effect where I still have a very warped reality of myself.

I remember being in middle school and having one of my parents telling me they knew I was smoking pot. The reality was, I had never even seen pot and I also didn’t know where one would even get it. I did not have contact with it until I was already out of high school.

There were so many other times I was told “stories” about myself and things I had supposedly done that weren’t true and it really messed with my head. My abuser REALLY believed that these lies were the truth and they would repeat them over and over, telling me they KNEW I was doing these things. I began to question my own memories and questioning if I DID actually do the ridiculous things that I was being accused of.

That was just a little bit of my own experience, but gaslighting can take many forms. Some gaslighting examples are:

  • lying to you
  • discrediting you
  • deflecting blame
  • minimizing your thoughts and feelings
  • shifting blame
  • denying wrongdoing
  • using compassionate words as weapons
  • twisting and reframing conversations

All of these things can be damaging. Unlike physical abuse, the scars that emotional abuse leaves are invisible. This can fuel the feeling of being crazy. I can’t tell you how many times my feelings from the abuse were invalidated just because I was not being PHYSICALLY abused. I’m hear to tell you that those emotional scars are just as valid as the physical scars.

Being a victim to gaslighting can cause anxiety and depression. It also has been linked to panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. For this reason, it is important to recognize when you’re experiencing gaslighting. If you think you might have been a victim of gaslighting, there are some warning signs to look out for:

  • You doubt your feelings and reality.
  • You question your judgment and perceptions.
  • You feel vulnerable and insecure.
  • You feel alone and powerless.
  • You wonder if you’re stupid and crazy.
  • You are disappointed in yourself.
  • You feel confused.
  • You worry that you are too sensitive.
  • You have a sense of impending doom.
  • You spend a lot of time apologizing.
  • You feel inadequate.
  • You second-guess yourself.
  • You assume others are disappointed in you.
  • You wonder what’s wrong with you.
  • You struggle to make decisions because you distrust yourself.

Gaslighting is horrible, but there are some ways that can help you feel less crazy and anxious. Something that really helped me was keeping evidence when things happened so I would know that things DID happen the way I thought so when they tried to deny, I would know it was them and not me. It was a great way for me to assure myself that it was not all in my head

If the gaslighting is negatively effecting your mental wellbeing, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You can go to a school counselor or reach out to a hotline.

Sometimes gaslighting can lead to physical abuse. If you feel that you might be in danger, create a safety plan. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a safety plan may include:

  • safe places and escape points
  • the contact details of people someone can call upon for help
  • self-care activities that help someone to cope
  • a plan for safely leaving the abusive situation

There are so many ways to get help. If you need help now, but you’re not sure where to start, check out our resources page.

Q&A with Kailey About Growing Through The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has effected us all in many ways. There were a lot of downs, but there were some ups. We asked our social media assistant, Kailey, how she has grown since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Describe the ways you have grown since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Think about things you have been able to do that you wouldn’t have ordinarily, ways you have overcome personal struggles, etc.)

I think I’ve definitely had more time to do things for me during the pandemic. When the pandemic started, I was in my senior year of college and also working my job at an audiobook company. I had to start doing school virtually, which was definitely an adjustment, and my job also closed down so I was out of work and I had to figure out unemployment. I had all this time to myself that I had never had before because I had been so used to school and work taking up most of my time.

Honestly in the beginning I fell into a really deep depression and I wasn’t really getting out of bed or eating. I had been using the go go go lifestyle where I filled my time with work and school to kind of not be alone with myself. Distraction was my way of (not) dealing with my depression and anxiety so when I couldn’t go to work or school, I crumbled.

I spent a lot of time in bed in the beginning of the pandemic

Eventually, I told myself that had to stop letting myself stay in bed and that I had to start eating. I have no idea how long the unhealthy habits actually went on, but I know I was just in a really dark place. Finally, I forced myself to leave the house to go for a hike (because doing outdoor things was actually within reach during the pandemic). After that first hike, I got really into hiking and I was going out pretty much every single day with my camera. My photography has really gotten better because I’ve had time to actually do it. I got really into long exposure shots of waterfalls so at one point I was hitting all of the waterfalls in Connecticut.

My Connecticut pandemic adventures

Later, I got really into bird photography because bird watching was something I could do from the comfort of home. I ended up investing in a super telephoto lens to photograph birds. I am now known as a crazy bird lady and known for my bird photos. I’ve joined more bird Facebook groups than I can count and it’s my way of connecting with people who also enjoy birds as well as learning from the others that are in the groups.

The birds – the pandemic turned me into a crazy bird lady

Another new thing I started doing during the pandemic was actually starting to cook. Cooking was something that I just never had the time or energy to do before (I was lucky my boyfriend would have meals ready for me when I would get home from work and school). I love looking for recipes online to try and I also love the Tasty app.

As far as school went, I really was doing the bare minimum and I was spending a lot of my time outside and hiking. Sometimes I would have to set rules for myself like “you can’t go for a hike until you do your audio project for the week” and of course I was doing all of my assignments at the very last minute despite having all the time in the world because I wasn’t working. Finishing up that semester was definitely rough.

In terms of work, I was so stressed out about not having a job because obviously I had bills. In the beginning, unemployment and stimulus checks were very backed up so in my mind, that just was not something that I could rely on. I had been reselling clothes since 2015 very casually, but since I was really stressed about money, I decided to try and do it more seriously to support myself while I waited for unemployment to come through. I invested in a class that taught the ins and outs of selling on Poshmark and I was actually able to support myself that way and sell a lot of clothes I had listed for years just by learning how to make them more searchable with the course. It was the most I had ever made with selling clothes and that’s still something I am doing to this day.

Poshmark Adventures

My job I had been working at the audiobook company ended up never opening again. It was really hard for me to accept because they had offered me a full-time position that I was supposed to start once I graduated college. It was devastating and I was stressed out about having to find a post grad job in this super weird pandemic world where so many people had already lost jobs and in a world where so many businesses are closing. I was extremely discouraged. I applied for an insane amount of jobs and I just got nothing. After not hearing back on anything, I gave up. I ended up working staying working my mom, which I had been doing VERY part-time through college. I upped my hours working on her blog to make it viable for a main income. In February, I was hired to be Turning Point CT’s social media assistant. I hadn’t applied to a job in at least half a year, but the job really spoke to me and I went for it, which for me was a huge deal because I really just had so little confidence in myself in terms of finding a job that wasn’t with my mom. I couldn’t be happier that I went for it because I am so happy with what I’m doing.

I managed to GRADUATE COLLEGE during the pandemic!

What are you still learning?

I’m still learning how to adjust to being at home all the time and having a super flexible schedule. It’s so easy for me to tell myself, it’s nice out today you can put off your work today and catch up tomorrow, but obviously, sometimes work needs to be the priority. I’m still learning to find balance, which is something that I’ve always struggled with. At least pre-pandemic, I had structure because of work and school, those alone kept me on a schedule. The problem before though was the schedule I had was so jammed packed I left no time for myself. Sometimes I feel like I am trying to play catch up with myself because everything used to be about work or school for me so that’s why I want to do things for myself and get outside just because I actually have the freedom to do that and the time. I just really need to be better about balance. I need to find a better balance of work and play.

This post was an excerpt from our spring newsletter. For more content about growing through what we go through, check out the newsletter!

Just for Today

Hi guys,
These past few days have been okay for me. The internship at Turning Point was a great opportunity for me, and it also allowed me to confront some of my own demons as well as helping others acknowledge theirs.
A few weeks ago, we were brainstorming ideas for a podcast and we came up with the following title: Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness. The idea was to look back on our childhoods and think about parts of them that had seemed normal at the time, but that we now realize were early symptoms of our mental illnesses. Most of the time, I am perfectly fine talking about mental illness, but this time, I felt small and lonely, just how I had felt when I was a kid. This was my first time feeling emotionally triggered by a discussion around mental illness. We recorded the podcast, and I was okay, and we all moved on. (You can find the podcast in the media room archives).
Except I had therapy last week, and I was talking to her about it, and she said, “Why do you think it made you so uncomfortable?”
I had no idea what to say. She suspected that I had some demons lurking in my subconscious, that were preventing me from comfortably talking about my mental illness growing up. So, she asked me a question that forced me to confront the demons.
“What would you say to your younger self, knowing what you know now about your mental health?
I immediately started crying. I was crying, so I don’t remember all of what I said, but here was some of it:
you have a mental illness.
it’s okay.
you are not alone.
there’s nothing wrong with you.
it’s going to be okay.
i am crying again writing this (don’t worry they are tears of growth and self-acceptance;) ) but I got so emotional because that was exactly what I needed to hear when I was little. When I was a kid, I felt so alone, I felt like there was no one else like me in the whole world. it meant so much to comfort my younger self, to both offer and receive words of hope and healing. we often tend to be very critical of our younger selves, thinking that we didn’t like who we were at a certain time. it can be helpful to ask yourself why. forgive yourself, and heal yourself, one step at a time, just for today.

The Beginning

The scene is all too familiar. I am in bed, paralyzed by my anxiety and held down by my depression. I’ve been here too long but I am still tired. I think about the outside world and instinctively pull the covers over my head until there’s darkness and silence again. I close my eyes tight and hope that sleep will come soon to get a break from my mind.

Would you have thought that this person is in recovery from reading this? Probably not. Recovery is painted as the other side of the fence where the grass is finally greener or the place beyond the finish line where you stand on a podium and receive a medal for all of your hard work. This image we have in our head couldn’t be further from reality. Recovery is ugly, it is difficult, it is uncomfortable. It presents a whole new set of challenges that you never could have anticipated before embarking on this journey.

And please, don’t get me wrong. Mental illness and addiction is no walk in the park. It is a dark and lonely place. It is insidious because it doesn’t take the things that give you joy away from you, it just makes you completely disinterested in those sources of joy and even resent their existence. You suddenly look around you and find yourself in a world that you can no longer recognize and you start to forget that your life was anything more than the personal hell you are experiencing. You have withdrawn yourself from everything and everyone that you have cared for or about and you find yourself alone. This is absolutely fucking terrifying. All you are left with is your mind which feels toxic and unwell. It tells you that you are no good, unworthy of those things or people that brought you happiness. And the worst part? The worst part is you believe it.

But, despite this happening to you, there is something inside of you that makes you keep on fighting. So that’s what you do. You fight. You tell the people who have still stuck around you what has been happening. You go to therapy and find out a lot about yourself that you had been holding down. Soon, you begin to catch glimpses of the person you used to know, someone who isn’t plagued by their own mind. But, mental illness is not that simple. It won’t release you from it’s grasp even if you really want to get better and return to your life. It takes grit and determination to drag yourself back up everytime that you are pulled back down by it. This is recovery. It is doing what is uncomfortable for you because of your illness and doing it anyway because you know that on the other side is the life you have been dreaming of.

This is my story. I have been battling chronic depression, generalized anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, dissociation, and self harm since I was 15 years old. After 7 grueling years of trying just to survive, I can finally say I am in recovery. Not too long ago I didn’t even know you could be in recovery for mental illness. I thought that my life would be a relentless challenge, and I didn’t see any way forward. The most I could handle was surviving another day. After a stint in a psych ward, years of therapy, medication, dropping out of art school, and barely holding a minimum wage job down, I am here. I think of my future and I have hope, plans, drive, and determination. I am working at my dream job and I feel more like myself than I maybe ever have done.

However, this is not where my recovery story ends because despite the hope, the healthy coping skills I have learned, and the wonderful support network around me, I still have to consciously make healthy choices for myself. At every turn I am confronted with making a choice that feels comfortable for my mental health, or the choice that I know will be difficult but that will help me in the long run. Believe me when I say that choosing the uncomfortable option is not easy, but I like to think of these decisions as turning point moments, because I know that with every decision I can be brought closer or further away from my goal. Something as simple as drinking water can send me into a tailspin some days because even though the action of it is easy, it takes all the might that I have to choose myself rather than my illness. I have to remind myself that my illness is my enemy and I should not be catering towards it. It has taken everything away from me before and it will do it again if I do not continue fighting it.

At the beginning of this year, my boyfriend and biggest cheerleader was deployed with the US Army and I began setting myself up to reinforce my healthy habits to deal with the challenge up ahead. I started my job here at Turning Point CT, journaling everyday, going to the gym regularly, going on hikes with my dog, and regularly practicing yoga at a local studio. I began to feel in a position where I could handle this upcoming 9 months, if I was only able to keep the momentum going. Little did I know that this plan was about to be turned on its head during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine. Suddenly, I was bound to my bed like I had been in the midst of my mental illness. I was forced to be isolated like my mental illness had done to me. On top of all of this, my anxiety is screaming at me telling me that I can lose someone I love and care about. I was shaken to my core and experiencing real grief for those all over the world dealing with this global trauma. I felt myself slipping into my mental illness again. So I had to scramble and figure out all new ways of keeping myself on my path to recovery. I still haven’t figured it out yet, but I am trying to be gentle with myself while I do.

So I hope that you will join me in my recovery journey while I continue fighting this fight. I am going to try everyday to do something that shows myself that I am still here, showing up. Somedays the only thing I might be able to do is make my bed, or make sure I have fed myself enough food and water. Some days might be bigger and I manage to fall back on healthy coping skills rather than unhealthy ones during a panic attack. What I am saying is, that recovery is not a straight line because it requires constant effort. There will be times where it looks like I am not making progress, but even a small step forward is still a step forwards.

#TurningPointMoment Ella Gets Up Out of Bed

Join Ella, the Turning Point CT Project Coordinator, on her mission to make choices that benefit her mental health! Follow along and share your own story on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube by using the hashtag #TurningPointMoment

If you want to find out more about her mission, visit her blog HERE !

Click HERE to talk about it in the forum !

#TurningPointMoment Ella Cleans Her Room

Join Ella, the Turning Point CT Project Coordinator, on her mission to make choices that benefit her mental health! Follow along and share your own story on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube by using the hashtag #TurningPointMoment

If you want to find out more about her mission, visit her blog HERE !

Click HERE to talk about it in the forum !

Ella’s #TurningPointMoment at Sherwood Island State Park, CT

Join Ella, the Turning Point CT Project Coordinator, on her mission to make choices that benefit her mental health! Follow along and share your own story on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube by using the hashtag #TurningPointMoment

If you want to find out more about her mission, visit her blog HERE !

Click HERE to talk about it in the forum !

SMART Recovery Spanish

You Are Not Alone – Find Information and Support

Young People Recover: Vered

Young People Discover: Shaquiel

Young People Recover: Kevin

Young People Recover: Michaela

Social Anxiety Disorder PSA

Suicidio Adolescente PSA (Producido por United Way)

If I Had Known…

What to Expect From Group Therapy

What to Expect at a Psych or Detox Unit

Recovery Poetry: EZ’s poem: Through the Poems Within Me

Recovery Poetry: Patrick’s Spoken Word, 2

Recovery Poetry: Patrick’s Spoken Word, 1

Recovery Poetry: EZ’s poem: What Is and Isn’t Normal

Getting Started, Part 2: Tips on First Therapy Session

In this animation, our website, TurningPointCT.org explains how to set up and attend your first therapy session. Furthermore, we talk about what you should bring to your therapy session. You can visit this website here for more information on your first therapy session and how to get the most out of it. Remember to be open and completely honest so your doctor can do the best with what they are given.

Getting Started, Part 1: Find a Therapist

How Do You Know You Need Help?

What is Wellness?

What Does it Take to Recover from Mental Health Issues?

 

Lost at the Moment…

The days continue to pass, my mind remains in a daze,
Other times I’m in such a fast-paced rush that I forget my surroundings
I want to do more, I know I can do more
Yet I feel so lost, so empty, so ungrounded
Who am I, why am I here, do I even belong?
WHAT IS MY PURPOSE?
I thought it had it all figured out
Things come and go,
People, places, occasions
I want to change the cycle
I know others understand this feeling
There will be a better tomorrow
Just as the sun sets it also rises
Yet as quickly as the positive thought enters,
the despair storms in and the silhouette of the unknown takes over
WHY AM I SO ANXIOUS?
What is the next step?
I can hear those around me,
Sometimes in whispers, sometimes in yells
Feelings surrounded by many
Sometimes feeling completely alone
I don’t even recognize myself anymore
Is this who I have become
This is not who I wanted to be

Podcast: How Culture Shapes You

This weeks podcast is with Adrianna , Cindy, Emma, and Nahjeera . We had a special guest Woodeline, who is Adrianna’s aunt. Woodline is a 23 year old student at  CUNY Medgar Evers College. She came into talk about her experiences in life and gave her views on the topic of how does your culture shapes you as a person.

Everyone had different ethnicity and different views on current topic questions.

Emma is half Brazilian and Colombian. Adrianna, Woodeline , and Cindy are Haitian American . Nahjeera is African American.

Everyone gave their input about how if you act differently because you need to change your identity or show less of your culture to the world, everyone gave their honest opinion about how they show  themselves to the world.

We hope you enjoy this podcast click here to watch

What is your culture? How do you define your culture? How has it shaped you as a person?

To check out our Summer Interns other podcasts, click here

New Story: Nahjeera’s Journey with Self-Harm, Depression and Anxiety

Hey guys! We have a really great new story about depression, anxiety and self-harm.

Nahjeera is a senior in high school and this Summer she is interning with us at TurningPointCT.org

Her journey will mean something to anyone who has ever felt alone- she talks about her struggles with depression and anxiety, and how she used self-harm to cope with things.

Nahjeera also talks about her hope and recovery– how she no longer self-harms and instead helps other people at her school who might be struggling, too.

If you have ever felt alone, know that you are not. Check out our stories page to read about other young people just like you.

Click here to read Nahjeera’s story

And, click here to talk to Nahjeera and welcome her to TurningPointCT.org. Join TurningPoint to reach out to peers like Nahjeera.

Furthermore, if you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, or self-harm, visit this website. Here you can find information and resources to make the most out of your treatment.

Vaping Podcast

In this podcast we spoke about vaping and smoking. All of us are in high school, some of us just finished our freshman year and Nahjeera is is graduating this year.

Emma, Adrianna and Nahjeera all vape, but Cindy doesn’t and really does not like smoking.

We all talked about why we vape, and when we started. Some of us were in middle school when we started, and others tried it and then stopped for a while.

We spent a lot of time talking about why people vape, including our friends. Vapes come in a ton of flavors, and a lot of us only do it for the taste, or because friends suggested it for stress. Eliza lead us in a conversation about why our friends like to vape, and if we want to stop.

our views on vaping and smoking, why we smoked and why don’t.

Some people smoke because of popularity or  as a coping mechanism. We also talked about how advertising makes people smoke more, and why some of us wouldn’t try certain flavors, like tobacco.

A lot of our friends in high school vape, and we talk about how addictive it is and if we think we are addicted.

We all talked about how we would quit if we ever decided to, and how we could help our friends quit if they asked us for help.

If you have ever vaped and want help, or just want to hear about it from the perspective of a high school, then check out our first summer podcast!

 

 

A few months ago, Eliza and Diamond (our SMART group facilitators!) were at one of our high schools, talking about vaping during lunch. To check out what that was like, click here.

Growing Up: The Coming of Age Podcast

growing of age podcast

In this podcast we talk about coming of age as teenagers and growing up. Also we explain our experiences and stories of coming of age.

Check out TurningPointCT’s newest podcast- our Summer Interns are here! And they are introducing themselves and taking about Coming of Age. What does that mean? What defined coming of age for you? How do you navigate growing up and becoming a teenager or a young adult? Click this link to watch their podcast, or if you would prefer to watch it as a video, check out this link!
Please welcome Adrianna, Cindy, and Nahjeera to the TurningPointCT team and check out their very first podcast and video!

 

If you want to say hi to us go to our forum here

It’s Been A While

Great song by “Staind” by the way, “It’s Been A While” I believe they actually just started going back on tour, anyway I’ll drop the lyrics below:

It’s been awhile
Since I couldn’t
Hold my head up high
And it’s been awhile
Since I first saw you
And it’s been awhile
Since I could stand
On my own two feet again
And it’s been awhile
Since I could call you
And all the things I can’t remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that are rendered
I stretch myself beyond my means
And it’s been awhile
Since I could say
That I wasn’t addicted
It’s been awhile
Since I could say
I loved myself as well
And it’s been awhile
Since I’ve gone and
Fucked things up
Just like I always do
And it’s been awhile
But all that shit
Seems to disappear
When I’m with you
And everything I can remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I’ve rendered
Have gone and fucked things up again
Why must I feel this way?
Just make this go away
Just one more peaceful day
It’s been awhile
Since I couldn’t
Look at myself straight
And it’s been awhile
Since I said, “I’m sorry”
And it’s been awhile
Since I’ve seen the way
The candles light your face
And it’s been awhile
But I can still remember
Just the way you taste
And everything I can remember
As fucked up
As it all may seem to be
I know it’s me
I cannot blame this on my father
He did the best he could for me
It’s been awhile
Since I couldn’t
Hold my head up high
And it’s been awhile
Since I said, “I’m sorry”

Here’s the link to the music video on YT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=araU0fZj6oQ

I like to give this song a listen when I’m feeling alright, because it really has been a while since last I’ve really f*cked things up in my life. It serves as a reminder to me, to make sure I keep on top of my stuff, gives me a little taste of what things used to be like. Just enough however that it doesnt send me into a dark place for the rest of the day. As I’ve mentioned many times before, music has such an interesting impact on the human brain. If you want to learn a little more about how music can be a wonderful tool in your journey through life, check out my earlier blog post on it -> here <-

Stress Awareness Month

Hey guys! April is stress awareness month.
Stress is something we all cope with, some of us cope more effectively than others, and some us us have more manageable amounts of stress than others.
So, lets check in!
On a scale of 1-5 (1 being not stressed and 5 being losing it stressed) how stressed are you?? What’s going on?
And on a scale of 1-5 (1 being coping really badly, and 5 being coping super well) how well are you coping?? What are you doing?

I’ll go first.
On a scale of 1-5, I am teetering between a 4 and a 5. I have a lot of days that feel unmanageable.
My stress levels make sense to me in the context of my life right now. I just moved a few months ago (still not unpacked), I am full time at school (almost done for the summer!!), working 2 part time jobs, and of course, motherhood- which doesn’t stress me out itself, it’s feeling like I am missing out on my child’s life that is stressful. But, then I have amazing days, like yesterday, I took a mental health day and stayed home from school after staying up until 4 am doing homework. Why? Because I needed to. And I didn’t feel bad.
How well am I coping? I would say between a 2 & 3. More days I’m a 2. I’m not falling back into all my old coping skills, but I’m not on top of myself and using coping skills or self care the way I know I should. But, then I have better days and remember it’s not the worst thing I’ve lived through and it’s not forever!

So, after all that, how about you guys?? This is your chance to check in with yourself and let a little steam out if you’re feeling stressed!
Also, I found this really cool site. So, if you are feeling really stressed and are having a hard time, check this out.


Mental Health video by young adults!

Guys, check out this awesome video!

“From award-winning documentary filmmaker Arthur Cauty, comes Faces of Mental Health, a short film which challenges stigma and encourages open conversation around mental illness and suicide in young people.

Students in Bristol were offered a space to open up and share their thoughts and personal experiences of mental illness and suicide, with a view to encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds across the country and around the World to step forward and speak out.”

It’s on vimeo, and definitely worth a watch and a share!!

Check out the video here on vimeo

Disconnecting for a Connection

What is disconnecting? Is it when you detach with love? Terminating a relationship? Isolating yourself? Unplugging an electrical device? Is it rejection? Not having a bond with something or someone?

Many times, people assume that someone who is disconnected find themselves in a difficult and challenging place to be. This can definitely be true, but what if disconnecting can be healthy and form a different connection?

When I have felt disconnected to the people, places, and things that help me stay sane, I start to get pretty down. I start feeling each of my insecurities creep into my mind and heart to convince me that I either don’t deserve the connection, or that it’s lost because of me.

Being disconnected can be very dangerous for my recovery and overall wellness – mentally and physically – however, it can also be extremely helpful, when used the right way; when I disconnect in order to connect.

One way I do this is by going to the beach and I shut out my thoughts and ground myself by using all of my senses to connect with the beach. I’ll disconnect my phone, my racing thoughts, my rapid heart rate, my loved ones, my responsibilities and allow myself to be vulnerable so I can connect to the calmness that the beach brings me. When I do this often, I’m able to balance the other connections in my life and have the strength to mend the disconnections in my life that I’m unhappy about.

Another way I’ve been disconnecting to connect is by getting to a quiet place, getting on my knees, and closing my eyes to start praying. I’m disconnecting any distraction so that I can build my spiritual connection. When I do this, I’m able to stabilize my emotions and welcome healing.

I’ve also been disconnecting electronics. I have been actually for once turning my phone on complete silence – no vibrate, nothing. When I do this, I’m able to enjoy the moment I’m in and be more in that moment. Sometimes, the moment is simply being alone. Sometimes I disconnect with others because I’m taking time for self-care. I’ve been realizing lately how important self-care really is.

This tool that I’ve learned and put into practice has had amazing benefits:
-the symptoms of my anxiety and ptsd have been more manageable
-I am able to take full advantage of EMDR Therapy
-My self-advocacy skills have increased tremendously
-I feel more empowered
-I feel confident in my ability to say no
-tasks are less pressuring and overwhelming

How will you disconnect to build a connection? What does that look like for you?

Walking Paradox

I’m supposed to be a resource
The source of remorse
Has a force that endorses
reinforcement of goreish wars
Of course my coarse core
is forlorn;
It conforms
And morns the form warm dorms
That adorned in storms
More torn than scorns I’ve worn
Since I was born..

I wish I could endorse what I reinforce

Long time, no see!

Hi everyone! It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote in this blog.

What’s kept me away?
• I started school and became a full-time student (I made honors last semester!)
• Willow and I left the shelter and moved into our own apartment.
• Willow turned TWO.
• I’ve been taking on more responsibilities at work and I’ve been working hard in school.

There are a lot of days that I’ve been happy and hopeful and staying afloat with a lot going on.

There have also been a lot of days that I’m busy all day. When I wake up early and stay up late and I’m exhausted and stressed. And that has been hard.

But I’m also staying afloat, in fact I’m doing well, too. Not all the time, of course, but still, I’m not giving up. If this were a few years ago, normally in a time like this, I wouldn’t be ok. I’d run at the slightest feeling of defeat, self-destruct then hide away.
At a time like this, I would be doing the worst I’d ever done, again.

But, I’m not. I’ve been doing better than I remember being for a long time. And I’m so grateful for that. I feel like I have found who I always was underneath the things that glued me to the floor.

Every so often though, I feel scared. Scared because I know I have so much at stake, and because I know I have come so far.
I wonder, sometimes, why am I ok? I wonder not if but when I will fail?
Then I remember the same things that scare me also help me be ok. They motivate me, support me and remind me to keep working. I think about the things that make me want to be ok.

I think about Willow, about being able to do more than just function, about being hopeful for our future, about school and my job, and I think about peer support. I think about the things I went through, the journey of shifting between the fine lines of patient and peer. About getting to speak with people who I understand, people who are struggling through high school with depression or anxiety or while fighting with their family every night. I think about how much peer support and the opportunity to use my story to better empathize with others, which have helped me be ok in times like this.

And I even though sometimes I feel scared, anxious, or doubtful – I feel good about continuing to move forward. I don’t feel tempted to stop, or give up, I feel excited to see what comes next; that fills me and keeps me going forward through fear and doubt.

We need your help! Donate today to TurningPointCT.org

We are asking for your help! 

Donate to TurningPointCT.org today or on Giving Day (Thursday, February 28)!

 

TurningPointCT.org is Connecticut’s peer support community by and for teens and young adults. We’ve got your back!

 

Our website offers a safe space online to share your story, talk about your problems, get information, and connect with resources. Our staff runs SMART Recovery support groups for teens in Norwalk and Fairfield… with more to come! We connect with other young people at schools and colleges across the state through speaking events, workshops, and resource fairs.  Whatever you’re struggling with–mental illness, addiction, homelessness, bullying, family problems–we’ve been there too.

Help us raise $10,000 to support our small part-time staff of young adults in recovery to be able to keep reaching out to schools, making connections with young people, improving our online support, and running support groups! We want every young person to know that they are not alone.

Donate to TurningPointCT.org today or on February 28th–Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

 

Click this link to Donate today, and share this page with your friends and family so we can reach our goal.

 

Giving Day runs from 12:00am to 11:59pm on Thursday, February 28th. Help us to reach our goal of raising $10,000. 

Your donation may even help us get a bonus grant if you’re one of our first or one of our last donors on Giving Day! If we get at least 25 donations of $25 right after midnight when Giving Day starts, we can win an extra $1000. So think of us Wednesday night before you go to bed and just stay up a few minutes past midnight! If you miss that chance, then please donate Thursday night between 9pm and 11:59pm. If we get enough donations during that time period, we may even win a $2,500 bonus!

Whether you can give as much as possible, or you know people who care about mental health who can donate, we need your help. Click the link to give what you can, share this page, and ask your friends to give what they can.

Together we will raise $10,000 to support young people struggling with their mental wellness! 

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

Click the picture to donate!

 

(If you want to learn more about Fairfield County’s Giving Day overall, click here.)

 

Random Acts of Kindness Day

February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day! That’s this Sunday!

In celebration of this day I wanted to share a video and ask a question.

The video is on Youtube, here Random Acts Of Kindness random acts of kindness

And this is my question: what was on time that kindness had a profound affect on you? It could have been something kind you did or something kind someone else did for you.

A couple weeks ago when I was surveying for the Youth Count I walked out of Dunkin Donuts to see an adult man sitting outside asking for change. Having been in his shoes not so long ago my heart ached for him, I wanted him to understand that he was understood and cared about. I wanted him to feel as though the weight of the world was not on his shoulders. That he was important, valuable. Anyways, I ended up going back and fourth in my head about what to do for a few minutes while I was inside. When I went to left I sat down next to him. I told him that I didn’t have any change and that I was sorry, but that I had been in his shoes before and I wanted him to know that I cared about him, even though I didn’t know him. We talked for a few minutes, and I felt so, so connected to him. I felt as though he did not frequently have experiences of being treated humanely by others. He looked deeply into my eyes and said thank you before I left, and it just struck me so much. It made me both happy and sad. But I know that we both had an affect on each other that day. That’s what kindness is to me! An exchange, a moment when caring for another person makes you feel just as loved. It’s a special thing.
So, how about you guys?

Random Acts Of Kindness Day

"Busy" – Overwhelming? or Productive?

First let me say, wow what a leap since last time I’ve released an update. Lot’s has gone on, holidays have passed, school and work has continued, as has life. One thing that I’v been saying for the past few months especially has been “I’m so busy”, and in that time it’s meant one of two things at multiple points. The first being “I’m so busy, it’s overwhelming. I’m so stressed out, I can’t take this anymore!”. And the second being “I’m so busy, I am knocking sh*t out! I feel so productive!”. We’ve all felt both, we know how stressful and rewarding being “busy” can be, sometimes both feelings at the same time even. But if we look a little closer, that “busy” follows us around, manifests in our emotions. Allow me to give an example, if I’m really busy and everything’s a mess, I’m going to be drained I’m going to be very irritable and quick to snap, I might be unproductive in my off-hours. Where as if I’m really busy and I’m able to knock everything out with the might of Zeus, I’m more likely to be more productive in my other activities, I might feel relieved, or fulfilled, my emotions are more likely to feel good.
No one wants to feel bad, just like no one wants to be drowning in assignments, but here’s a little something I realized over the past few months, especially as I made the transition into Overwhelming, to Productive:

Your productivity level has EVERYTHING to do with your mental health

If you don’t force yourself to get your sh*t done and it doesn’t bite you in the ass on the way home, a beast will awaken inside of you and rock, your, sh*t, HARD! I have ADD/ADHD, plus I’m an 18 year old guy, I’m not always ready to sit down and focus on nothing but what’s in front of me, but that’s why I try to think ahead and do whatever I can in the moment to help myself prepare for whatever my next task is. If you haven’t picked up on it, these are all umbrella effects, as soon as you focus and work on better one thing, other things typically follow. So if you’re struggling with your mental health, instead of focusing solely on it maybe it’s time to give some of the other aspects in your life some attention. Chances are they can probably help steer the whole ship around.

Pessimist II

Pessimist II

Blood drips from the cysts of blistered slits
On a wrist that pissed fits and missed bliss quit
When reminisced, the pessimist’s remnant deficit sifts;
Though shifts amidst its wits persist
This insists to admit the relevant element
Of inconsistent assistance for evident impediments…
Sentiment and venomous resentment remiss…
With this shit’s gist, I desist.

Ambiguity

Ambiguity is my foe
It goads and gloats the high and lows that I MAY not know
It shows prose to those who sold cold holds
Though eb and flow grow a mold with scolding folds,
I’m told I hold bold tolls from the sole rogue hole in my soul
I yearn to let ambiguity go

Music & Emotions//Opening My Library

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you know i looove music. I love to listen to it, write it, record it, watch it, hear about it, and i absolutely love everything guitars. So with this post I want to open it up to all of you as a library, allow me to explain.

1.) Tell me how you’re feeling/times you’re feeling a certain way

2.) Tell me how you WANT to feel, OR if you’d like music to help feel said feelings all the way through

3.) Tell me what kind of music you currently enjoy/listen to OR a genre of music you’d like to explore farther

Now these three steps (in a responding post below) would be applicable if you’re looking for my recommendations on music and how it affects our emotions, HOWEVER I have a very broad taste and relatively extensive knowledge on a lot of music genres and sub-genres so if you’re looking to explore one farther or ask music related questions I have no opposition to that either!

Now, allow me to speak more on Music and their relationship with our emotions. Music is an international language. It is spoken through all races, sexes, communities, ages, etc. In many cultures it is described as the “language of emotions”, that’s also why when we watch films, for example, music typically accompanies specific moments or scenes to give the viewer a better sense of the emotional atmosphere and let us know how we should be viewing what’s going on. The experience of “Music” has the power to evoke emotions that is absolutely incomparable to any other sense. When our brain processes music, it can be related to a “collage” of sorts. There are different sounds in a specific structure, in which when combined in said sequence, create a piece of art that seems to make sense to us compared to it’s singular sounds alone. Music is primarily rooted in the primitive part of the brain’s structures that are tied to emotion, motivation, and reward. The response that our brain’s have our almost unconscious in a way, and musical artists themselves have the ability to manipulate our emotions and expectations whether they realize what they’re doing or not. According to psychcentral.com, “More than any other stimulus, music has the ability to conjure up images and feelings that need not necessarily be directly reflected in memory.”. If you sit back and just read that sentence over a time or two again, it really truly is amazing how Music can draw pictures in our heads and evoke such strong emotion, and yet, those things MAY not even be related to any past memories or experiences, providing you with a whole new experience through nothing more than sound. Our own preference even on the kind of music we’d like to listen to at some time has an effect on its perceived experience to the listener.

“It could be this heightened level of experience in certain people and musicians that allows them to imagine and create music that others simply cannot, painting their very own sonic image.”. – Malini Mohana on “Music & How It Impacts Your Brain, Emotions”

SO, with all of this being said, I open this up to you, as I encourage you to ask for any of those beautiful experiences through music that I may be able to share with you.

Luca’s Recovery Month

Hey Guys! It’s Recovery month this month, check out what Luca’s got to say about it and check out his blog “Heavy Metal Recovery” on our forums

Recovery Month Videos

We want to see your videos for Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month! Check out Eliza’s video of why she fights for recovery and post yours here! We will share them on our facebook and twitter (if you want!)

Eliza’s Recovery Video

September is Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Month.

Eliza is talking about why she fights for recovery, what her life was like, and how it has changed.

Share your recovery story with us, too and tell us why you fight.

Submit your video here

Watch the video on Vimeo, Youtube, and TurningPointCT.org

21 day anxiety challenge

anxiety

Check out this 21 day anxiety challenge from popsugar! What better time to practice new ways to cope? With school starting, lets commit to our self care! Whos going to take the challenge with me?

Plans for the Fall

August is almost over… HOW?!

summer

It’s almost time to kiss Summer goodbye, and say hello to wonderful, amazing Fall!
I love the Summer, but I love the Fall so much.
Still, even though I love the Fall, and I’m no longer in High School, the end of Summer gives me a knot in my stomach… I get so nervous and anxious, no doubt because school was so anxiety provoking for me as a child and teenager, and Fall often meant depression, anxiety, hospitals… a lot of pain.
With time, my love for Fall is beginning to come back into the forefront when I realize Summer is nearly over- but I still cannot escape the dull lull of anxiety that sits within my and grows bigger as leaves begin to change and nights become long.
It’s also kind of sad!

fall

So, how do you guys feel? Are you happy/sad/nervous/etc? What does Fall mean to you and what are your plans this Fall?
If you struggle with this time of year, what specifically do you struggle with? What makes it better?

We are here for you all during this seasonal transition and transition back to school!

"Just For Today"

Here’s some dirt to chew on, I haven’t gotten any sleep at all last night, I’m feeling a little drowsy but I’m not at the nodding off point yet. My work is about 25 minutes away, I decided I would go in early today, and leave earlier since I had to drop off a package and then drive to work when traffic is supposed to be bad. Well I should’ve went home because it’s 8:30, I thought I’d get here around 9:30, and no one’s in the office. Screw me, right? But you know what? It’s fine, no biggie, I’m here, we’re doin this, I’m taking you guys down with me. So I want to talk about something really inspiring I heard at my NA (Narcotics Anonymous) Meeting last night, and yes the “thing” is applicable even if you don’t have a drug problem. The topic we were sharing on was “Just For Today.

What I had to share on that topic went something similar to this: Because of my generalized anxiety I had to teach myself not to look too far into the future, that doesn’t dismiss setting goals for some things, but not to focus on things out of reach that will cause me unnecessary worry. Take it day by day, tell yourself just for today. In NA we say,
“JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on my recovery,
living and enjoying life without the use of drugs.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in someone in NA who
believes in me and wants to help me in my recovery.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have a program. I will try to follow it
to the best of my ability.
JUST FOR TODAY, through NA, I will try to get a better
perspective on my life.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be unafraid. My thoughts will be on
my new associations, people who are not using and
who have found a new way of life. So long as I follow
that way, I have nothing to fear.

But sometimes, you don’t have the capacity to handle the day, sometimes you need to take it hour by hour, or maybe even minute by minute, and that’s okay. You do whatever you need to do to keep your disease tamed.

Willingness
The shares that really spoke to me were people talking about how they were having a bad day, or a bad few days, or a bad week, or even couple of months. At first I thought, “jeez, what is it that time of year or somethin??” but what they all ended with was… “but you know what? I didn’t use” or “I’m still clean”, and that shit is powerful. I want you right now to think of yourself in the past, present, or future, having had dealt with or are dealing with a difficult situation(s). Now I want you to think of an unhealthy behavior you use as an outlet, maybe it’s drinking and drugging, maybe it’s hurting yourself or others, maybe it’s internalizing your emotions and pushing them on yourself, whatever. Final step, think about how it would feel to talk about all the shit you’ve been through, and finish with “but I didn’t XXXXXX”, think about how proud that would make you feel. If you need living proof take me for example, I’m 17, and for years I just couldn’t get my shit together, and when I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired, I heard someone share a story that went like this, “my son of 22 got into a tragic car accident and died, my son of 18 got into a motorcycle accident and he’s a paraplegic for the rest of his life now, and just two months ago my wife told me she was leaving me because she was in love with another man. This all has been in the span of the last ten years and I haven’t picked up a drink” (and remember, that “drink” can be substituted with any behavior or substance). That man told that story without a tear in his eye, he stood up there and shared that all to a room of people who want to get better, and did it without a pout or a frown or a sigh, he showed true strength and resilience. It was after that story just last year that I heard the “pop” of my head coming out of my ass and I thought to myself “I want that…I want the strength to be able to handle the inevitable events that will occur in my lifetime without the fear of falling into a deep dark hole powered by my habits and emotions”. And so those people sharing reminded me of that powerful experience and I can only HOPE some of the newcomers in that room last night felt what I felt about a year ago.

“Stare too Long” – Corrosion of Conformity
“Walk With Me In Hell” – Lamb of God
“Closer to the Heart” – Rush

Stress

Stress.

I have been stressed.
Not every day, and not all the time.
If my stress were a rock, I would be small but very dense and very heavy.
Small, rigid, bumpy, sharp, molten lava.
Bouncing around in my pocket all the time.
Some days it feels so heavy that my hips hurt and my gait is off.
Some days I forget it’s there until I bump my leg against something and the rock digs it’s raged corner into my thigh.
And then I feel like falling over.
But I can’t- and so then I become sad- no, angry.
Hot and heavy, scared and tired. My chest gets tight and my breath becomes hot and thick. So that it weighs down my chest, and constricts my lungs.
I feel suddenly as though I am drowning.

And then I lose it.

Maybe for a moment, because someone needs something from me.
But how dare they need me, don’t they know there is molten lava in my pocket?
Of course, they don’t know, it’s too small to see.
Although, maybe they notice it ripping a hole in my pants, and they ask me if I’m ok, with a certain sincerity that rips my heart from my chest and makes my knees heavy. And then I just want to cry.
And then it becomes an ocean.
An ocean with huge waves and I’m stuck in quicksand being pummeled by huge gusts of cold, salty water.
And my eyes are red and burning, and I cannot see.
My lungs are full of salt and water, so I cannot breathe.
My mouth is full of sand and seaweed, so I have no words to say.
And I’m too scared to figure out how to move.
So like a deer in headlights, I let myself get hit by a car.
And I see it coming but cannot move or speak.

I am alone in a crowd.

A crowd of people who feel the same way as me.
But its all a big secret, and so together we all feel alone.
Then one day I find a word- or all the words. And I find someone to tell.
Maybe they are the right person; they give me goggles, so I can see through the waves. And give me a snorkel, so I can breathe. They show me my feet and tell me how to pull myself from the thick, sticky sand.
And they cannot stay with me the whole time, but maybe they can sit with me on the shore while I catch my breath.
And then the sun can begin to rise, and the mist may clear and life begins to feel ok again.

But it always seems to cycle.

And soon again, I’m drowning.
Or maybe not always, but often enough that my knees are bruised and my elbows are scraped from falling again and again.
But I feel ok for just long enough to catch my breath.
And one day, I hope, I will have my goggles and snorkel with me always- and I won’t need someone to bring it to me. My legs will be strong enough to carry my small, heavy rock. My thigh will be calloused enough so that when my molten lava hits it, I do not fall over.
Until then, I feel happy to know there are lifeguards on the shore, and that some days my rock sits quietly in my pocket and I’m able to forget that it’s there.

And there are other things that make me feel strong and steady and very happy.

Like Willow.
And I’m not always perfect, and sometimes she throws my rock in my face and I melt into the ground and grow into a monster. And when the rock shrinks back into my pocket I feel so sad and guilty.
But I can hug her and say sorry.
She always seems to forgive me for being imperfect. And I’m learning how to forgive myself.
She seems to feed me a steady stream of light and love, which gives me strength and makes me feel safe and happy.

And I tell myself again and again,
“I will be ok, I will be ok”.

Willow Moon, my sun my moon  and my stars.

Embracing My Turning Pointe

At such an integral turning point in my life, I find myself struggling

majorly.

I find it exceptionally difficult to transition out of “teacher mode” and back into “regular person” mode.
The end of a school year is always challenging for me. This is the second year in a row that I have had to say goodbye to a group of kids that mean a whole lot to me. (These have been the first few years of MANY more “goodbyes” to come.)

When I am in front of a classroom, I feel very similarly to how I feel when I’m on stage. I am fearless. Nothing can touch me. I feel like it is my

purpose.

180+ days of being “Miss”; you get used to that. You get used to someone relying on you, you get used to someone needing you. I compare hearing a child call out my name to putting on a warm sweatshirt.

Additionally, this time of year is another transition, as the dance year has ended, and we are on our own summer vacation. They say “Distance makes the heart grow fonder”, and time away from dance makes me love it even more. 8 months out of 12, I get to live out my ballerina dreams, dancing in a studio I love with people I love. But the 4 months that we have off allow me to ground myself, and think about how much I love dancing.

In this time, I struggle with my identity. I struggle with my purpose. Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want others to see me? This brings me back to my winter thoughts on who I am and how my identity affects me daily.

So, to conclude my rambling brain dump, today I am going to take a step back. I am going to embrace my struggling and embrace this turning point. And today, I am going to identify as the following: Cat Mom, drinker of tea, Bones™ Binge Watcher, girlfriend of an Airman, teacher of small humans, reader of Harry Potter, living with Anxiety and Depression. And surviving each day.

(Side note: rereading “This is from me to you. This is the truth.”, my own writing, gave me that validation I was looking for. Highly recommend reading your own writing when you are looking for comfort from someone who knows your struggles. After all, who knows you better than you?)

When the Mask Comes Off

Check out this awesome video that gives insight into the perspective of mental illness according to youth in the United States.

“When the Mask Comes Off is a video documentary featuring young people from New Mexico discussing their experiences of living with mental illness. We hear stories of struggle on their journey from misperception and alienation toward self-acceptance and healing. The documentary comes with adaptable discussion guides for use in communities and schools.”

Find the video here.

Things You Are Worried About

What are you worried about today? It can be big things or small. For example, I am worried about going to work later on today. I know there is a lot for me to do there and because I am terrible at managing my time I often stress about getting it all done. Writing about my concerns and worries always helps me find a solution to them or at least calm me down enough to deal with them. Share your thoughts!!!

I’m Working On It

Most mornings, the moment I open my eyes, I can tell what kind of day I am going to have.

Lately, I have had some bad days.

My Anxiety has been a part of me my entire life. Most of the time, I do not allow her to be my whole life. Lately, she has been trying extra hard to take over. I am exhausted fighting her. She is not making my days easy.

Having Generalized Anxiety Disorder means that my Anxiety doesn’t discriminate. She doesn’t care if I have 37 things to do that day. She doesn’t care if it’s sunny or raining. She doesn’t care if I’m having a good day or a bad day. She fights for my attention, and she is relentless. She stops at nothing. She wins when I lose.

I keep a longgggg list of things that are giving me anxiety. I am worried about my transition into the real world, as a teacher rather than a student. I am worried that I won’t be able to handle adult responsibilities. I am worried about my upcoming travel plans.
These worries are useless. I KNOW I will be able to transition.. I KNOW I will be able to handle adult responsibilities.. But that’s where a Generalized Anxiety Disorder comes in. I cannot control being worried about things that are out of my control (or even sometimes IN my control).

I can’t help it.

But I really wish I could. I really wish I could take the daily/weekly/monthly anxieties away from the world (myself, included). I wish that it was easier for me to ignore this screaming Anxiety. I wish I had an advanced skill-set that allowed me to live peacefully with my Anxiety every day. I don’t.

But, I’m working on it.


The little bean that gets me through my hardest days.

Twenty Years

October 1997
Age three. My first dance class.
Picture an exceptionally small little girl with all of the worries in the world.
I didn’t know how to accept my feelings. I didn’t know how to process my emotions.

October 2007
Age thirteen. In therapy for eight years. Still learning how to deal with my anxiety. Still learning how to accept that I was living with a mental illness. Still learning to admit to myself that I was living with a mental illness.

October 2017
Age twenty-three. Celebrating twenty years of dance in the studio I love so much.
I have finally learned how to live with my mental illness. I have finally learned how to accept that my Anxiety and my Depression do not define me.

Two weekends ago, I had the honor and privilege of celebrating my 20th year recital- living my life on stage surrounded by the people I love the most. When I look back on my life, there is no possible way for me to do so without thinking about how much dancing has saved me.
Living with a mental illness (or illnesses, in my case) means that I treat every day a little bit differently than someone without a mental illness does. Some days, I have to cancel plans. Some days, I run late. Some days, I’m stuck in bed. Some days, I don’t leave the bathroom. Some days, my emotions get to me, and I cry for no reason.
But, some days are good. Some days, I am excited to take on the day. Some days, I look forward to what the unknown will bring me.

I have worked hard to learn how to live around the type of day I am having. I am still working at it. It’s not an easy process. I am still learning how to live my life despite my crippling anxiety. As I have lived with myself for 24 years, I feel pretty confident knowing how to read my body and my mind, and knowing when I need to fight, and when I need to take flight. Some days, my anxiety gets so bad that I am in flight even before I step out of bed. But other days, other battles are worth the fight.

Dancing is a part of me. I am the best me when I am dancing. My Anxiety and my Depression know they aren’t allowed in the studio. They don’t get to me while I’m dancing. Anxiety has taken so much away from my life- but she will never take dancing from me.

I won’t let her.


2013. 15 years.


You lift me. You make me a better woman.


Thank you for twenty beautiful years of love, dedication, and dance.

My Humiliation is Finally Over

The other day I took my last drug test for probation.

I know it may sound strange to be proud and happy about this, but I am for so many reasons.

When I take a supervised drug test for probation, this is what happens:

I walk into the facility having to use the bathroom SO bad because I’ve been holding it in so I can actually pee when I get there. I have to sit and wait (about 10-15 minutes) for a female to take the test. But why would a female have to take the test? Because this is a supervised test. Aka a complete stranger is going to watch me pee.

Thankfully I’m not “pee-shy” as they call it, which is probably due to me having to use the restroom literally three feet away from someone’s bed when I was incarcerated. But ladies… if you’re on your menstrual cycle you better believe they watch you when you need to practice hygiene for that. Aka this stranger watched me while I changed my tampon. Awkward.

I’ve been on the other side of this situation; the person supervising. It’s awkward for this role as well, but I’m tired of hearing professionals say, “it’s just as awkward for me, as it is for you.” … Ummm… it’s really not. It’s so much more awkward and humiliating for the person taking the test. The person taking the test is not getting paid to do so. The person taking the test does not have to have their privacy invaded. Oh, and the person taking the test doesn’t get reminded of all of the things they did wrong and why they are there in the first place each time doing this. And then they will turn on the water from the faucet as if that’s supposed to work some magic. Yeah, right. And please don’t have a conversation with me while I humiliate myself because I cannot concentrate on carrying on a conversation with you while you stare at me pee and change my tampon… just saying.

I’m also tired of hearing, “but you know the results are going to be negative, so you have nothing to worry about.” Really?

Every time I take a drug test(negative or not), my past comes into my mind like wildfire. A negative test result does not eliminate the humiliation of the process. I wish people would respect that more, especially providers. It’s not that I’m worried about the test results. Is the anxiety of the whole process increased if I know the results will be positive? Absolutely. But whether it’s negative or not, I’m anxious of the thoughts that come creeping into my mind before, during, and after a test. I’m anxious about the humiliation of the whole process. I’m anxious about the judgement, discrimination, and stigma that comes along with the process. There have been several times I have been looked down upon because I was on probation, there to take a test.

The harsh thoughts that my mental health disorders flood into my mind are awful. I try to shut them out (it’s a daily thing), but they’re there and they are NOT always easy to ignore. Sometimes I’m unable to eat or function the best that day (work, school, social life, home life) because the whole process has an aftermath effect. It really didn’t get easier for me as I continued taking them (weekly for 9 months, every four months for three years).

I try to change my perspective into something positive as I usually do, but it’s definitely difficult. The thoughts still come and the emotions still follow. I try to look at the situation with gratitude. I’m thankful that I’m sober. I’m thankful that I’m not in prison. I’m thankful of where I am in life. I also allow it to be a moment of humility. But there is a difference between being humble and being humiliated. 

Quora defines the difference of humility and humiliation:

Humiliation is the act of being humiliated by something or someone, so in a sense, it’s embarrassment or self loathing. Humility is the understanding or will to accept yourself and to not be egotistical or arrogant, not to mention being accepting.”

So I guess it’s a mixture of both for me.

But now, to end on a positive note, I’M DONE TAKING THESE SUPERVISED PEE SESSIONS!!!

I did three freaking years of them and I can finally close that door. I am still on probation, but the next test would have been scheduled when my probation time had already elapsed. I’m looking forward to being able to post about probation being terminated in July. Until then… I’ll be enjoying shutting the door of every bathroom I go into haha.

humiliation

My Best Self

As part of my journey toward mental wellness and stability, I have suffered through many of these times- feeling like I am not good enough, not being happy in my own skin, not even wanting to look at myself in the mirror.

I have not been feeling like my best self.

And when I’m not feeling like my best self, it’s really easy to start going down a path of terrible thoughts, spinning out of control. Once those thoughts start spinning, it’s really hard to think anything else.

When you live with a mental illness, not every day is going to be great. Not every day is even going to be good. Some days just suck. It is hard to find the motivation to complete mundane tasks.  It is hard to get out of bed.

It is hard to be me.

It is hard to be you.

I think it’s very difficult to be cognizant of the battles that everyone fights, whether they be on the inside of their heads or on the outside of their heads. Living with a mental illness doesn’t make this battle any easier. In fact, it makes it harder. Not only are you in constant Fight or Flight mode with every decision, every move you make- you are also fighting the battles that occur outside of your brain.

Each day, I wake up and for that brief five seconds, my brain forgets that she has to fight. She is not worried. She is not scared. She is not running. She is at peace.

I wish that I could extend those five seconds just a little bit longer every day. Because if I get to a point where my brain feels like she is safe and she doesn’t have to fight, maybe she will decide she likes herself. Maybe if she decides she likes herself, she’ll like me, too.

For now, I can count on my brain to like me when I am dancing. She loves me when I’m dancing. She is free when I’m dancing.

Forgiving My Younger Self

Last night, as I was just about to fall asleep, an anxious thought invaded my mind. Then several others came flooding in right after. I tried to ignore them, but they were so strong. Mainly, they were specific memories of times during my active addiction that I completely broke my morals; all for drugs.

I kept reassuring myself by saying, “No, Ally, you weren’t in your right state of mind. You were in a bad place. You aren’t there now. You don’t do that now. Focus on now.”

But depression and anxiety (and for my faith followers: the enemy) doesn’t want you to be reassured. It doesn’t want you to be calm, to let go, to focus on the positive. Instead, more invasive thoughts came in to add onto the pain of the already existing thoughts. Did they keep coming because I was fighting them?

So here’s a breakdown of the thoughts in a dialogue form:

Starter thought: “Do you remember the time you (insert memory of the time I degraded myself)?”

My fighting thought: “No, Ally, you weren’t in your right state of mind. You were in a bad place. You aren’t there now. You don’t do that now. Focus on now.”

Invasive thought #2: “But you still did it. (insert degrading name-calling: whore, stupid) You can’t take that back.”

My fighting thought: *deep breaths* “I did it, I’m not proud of it, I’m still in the dark with that time and I’m not like that anymore.”

Invasive thought #3: “But does your boyfriend know about it? What do you think he would think? Does your mother know about it? What do you think she will think? I’m sure this will come to light eventually and you know everyone will judge you and definitely leave you.”

My fighting thought: *trying to ignore the lump in my throat* “I don’t think he cares much about my past. I think I’ve told him about this time, but now, come to think of it, I don’t know if I have told him. Am I being dishonest? My mom would be disappointed, but she has my back. Jen. Must text my best friend Jen. She will reassure me and comfort me and not judge me.”

Notice how I already started to entertain these invasive thoughts?

Shortly after texting my best friend, the tears came, the guilt came, the shame came. Stupid thoughts, stupid anxiety, and stupid depression had me all in my feelings. The enemy is pretty smart; he knows exactly how to trip me up.

That one dark memory reminder caused me to remember and think about several others. I started beating myself up and feeling awful for things I had done.

And then I realized: I need to forgive that younger me.

So Dear Younger Me,
It’s not your fault. I’m sorry I didn’t protect you better. All of this will be for a reason one day, you’ll see.

Signed,
A Much Wiser You

So although I may be a little uneasy still about the choices I made when I was younger; under the influence or not, I can’t let them destroy the current choices I have. I can’t change the past. I repeat, I cannot change the past. But I can do something today. I can do something in the future. I can protect that inner child of mine. My guard might be up a little extra until these emotions relax a bit, but that is ok. It is ok for me to have to do some extra breathing. It is ok for me to write out my feelings. It is ok for me to lean onto my best friend. It is ok to remind myself that God has forgiven me.

Is there something you need to forgive your younger self for today?

My Definition

My quest to find mental health and stability has stretched over a period of years and years and years. I have no secret to happiness. I have not yet discovered all there is to know about my mental health.

And I think that’s the point.  

We are each on our own separate journeys that are made up of unique twists and turns. We all have faults. We all make mistakes. But what’s important is that we

push forward.

We keep going. We soldier on.

It was not an easy feat to come to terms with the fact that I live with a mental illness. It was not easy for me to first accept that my brain functioned in a different way than the “normal” teen. And it was not easy for me to accept that I live with my mental illness- my mental illness does not define me and it does not consume me.

That is a tough pill to swallow. (No pun intended. Okay, maybe a little pun intended.)

It is really, really, REALLY hard to accept who you are every single day of your life. I admire those who can and do. I admire those who have worked so hard to bring light to the fact that we are all different, we are all unique, we are all beautiful.

I have spent many days under the covers, not wanting to be a real person because I couldn’t accept who I was. I couldn’t accept that my mental illness was something I needed to learn to live with. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have just been born “normal” – without this looming black cloud that I will never be able to get rid of.

I have come to a point in my life where I have realized that I am a person living with a mental illness. My Anxiety and my Depression do not define me. I am not Olivia, mentally ill. I am not Olivia, anxious. I am not Olivia, depressed.

I am Olivia, dancer.
I am Olivia, cat mom.
I am Olivia, teacher.
I am Olivia, sister, daughter, granddaughter, girlfriend, cousin, friend.

I am so much more than who I thought I was doomed to be because of my mental illnesses.

Today, I encourage you to look at yourself in the mirror, and be kind to you. You deserve kindness and compassion. And you deserve to know this: no one gets to decide your feelings. They are yours. They are real. They are valid.

You are valid.

You are not your mental illness.

Isolations Belong in the Studio, Not in Our Heads

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is isolating. It is lonely.

But it is not quiet.

It is loud. It screams in both of my ears constantly. It never lets me forget it’s there. Not at 9 in the morning, not at 4 in the afternoon, not at 3 in the morning.

My anxiety disorder has left me stranded in bed. It has left me to fend for myself on my hardest days. My anxiety disorder has singled me out in many situations that I couldn’t handle.
I have left many lunches, because I couldn’t finish my meal. I have stopped many rides, because my anxiety went into Fight or Flight mode. I have missed out on concerts, vacations, events, you name it. All because my anxiety told me I would be better off sitting out.

I wish that my brain would give me peace. Just for a few minutes. I wish that it wasn’t such an isolating part of my life.

**

Holidays are hard. They are a constant reminder that I am no longer the child I once was- that my anxieties have intensified. Even in a crowded room, my brain has this incredibly annoying way of separating me from the rest of the crowd.

One of the puzzle pieces that makes up my anxiety disorder is its empathic ability to drain my energy just by being near others. It is not something I enjoy. I don’t find enjoyment in being exhausted by others. When this happens, it is hard for me to communicate effectively. It is hard for me to walk down the street and meet someone’s eyes. It is hard to be around other people whose energies are so powerful. I am not ignoring you. I am not mad at you. I am just too exhausted to form a conversation.

I am writing today so that maybe you might not feel as lonely, knowing someone in the world is experiencing a high-anxiety day. Just like you.
Maybe if conversations about our mental illnesses were accepted and welcomed, this disorder wouldn’t feel so isolating. Maybe if we were taught coping mechanisms from the moment we are born, this disorder wouldn’t feel so isolating. Maybe if we did research to help our loved ones who are struggling, this disorder wouldn’t feel so isolating. Maybe if we learned language to help others who are feeling this way, this disorder wouldn’t feel so isolating. Maybe if we put more energy into loving and respecting those who are different from us, this disorder wouldn’t feel so isolating. Maybe if we worked together to end the stigma, this disorder wouldn’t feel so isolating.

Photo by KEP.

Maybe.

Anxiety Chart

Hey everyone!

I came across this blog post about how someone living with anxiety who struggles to explain her anxiety to her peers/family/loved ones. She talks about how frustrating it is and how people don’t seem to understand the actual condition. So she decided to make an “anxiety chart” to help explain her anxiety. I looked at it and thought it was AMAZING and described it PERFECTLY. Here’s the article in case you want to read it: https://themighty.com/2018/03/anxiety-chart-help-other-understand-anxiety/

And here is the anxiety chart (let me know what you think and if you think it can be or is helpful!):
anxietychart

Flight

My chest is tight.
I am screaming out loud to a room full of people, and no one is listening.
My eyes are wet with tears. I am crying out for help. I am getting nothing from the people surrounding me. No response. No sign of help.

My vision is blurring. I am desperately searching for a focus point, but I am having trouble finding one. Fight or Flight is kicking in. Flight is going to win. Flight always wins. I have to get out of here.

This is a panic attack from the inside. These are the feelings that take over my body. I lose control. Everything I had been working so hard toward slips away from me. I am no longer in control of me.

It is terrifying.

***

I was humbled to be invited to be a speaker on the panel at Norwalk High School’s showing of Angst, a film that explores anxiety, its causes, and its effects. I was asked to provide a description of my reactions to the film, as well as invited to answer questions from the crowd. 

Someone in the crowd asked a question that went something like this:

what advice would you give parents with children who are battling an anxiety disorder?

My immediate thoughts came together and I responded with my go-to response, which is generally the following: Parents who are looking to help their children fight the good fight, I would encourage you to explore all options before deciding to medicate your child. I understand that when a doctor you trust tells you to put your child on any kind of medication, you listen to them. You want the best for your children. Who wouldn’t?

I stand by this. As an adult who was medicated as a child and is now dealing with the lifelong consequences of a decision that wasn’t mine in the first place, I want parents to be able to find the information that they need and the skills that they need to be able to provide the best care and support for their children.

As I was thinking about this question after the discussion was over (and for most of today, because, you know… anxiety), I would like to add more to my answer.

Parents, I encourage you to talk to your children. Speak to them with a real voice, and speak to them with intent to listen. And then listen, really REALLY listen to what your child has to say to you. Encourage your child to speak his or her mind. Make “talking about your feelings” a regular topic of conversation. (“How is your noggin doing today?” is a good way to get started if you are stuck. Thanks for that, Matthew.)

As an adult living with an anxiety disorder, I have mastered the art of wearing different costumes in different situations. I wear several costumes- including (but not limited to): Miss Tangredi-teacher of fifth graders, Olivia the Ballerina-fearless while dancing, Sunny’s Mom-the hired help assigned to feeding my cat…. the list goes on and on.

These costumes are my protective gear. My armor. They are what I wrap myself in to protect myself from harm that the outside world brings. I imagine most children living with an anxiety disorder have their own costumes that they wear. As children, we are not taught how to use language to describe the anxiety disorder we are living with. Most of us don’t even realize there is a problem. For a long time, I thought everyone was terrified of elevators. Why wouldn’t they be?

Encourage your children to build their own armor. Help them build it. Learn and teach them coping skills. Teach them to ask for help when they need it. Create an environment that makes your child feel safe. Ask them questions that make them feel valuable and important. Make sure your child knows that their feelings are valid- that THEY are valid.

Bearing the Bang of the Bells

It was July 2014 and I was being transferred into a new building to be housed in. I was put in the back of a van and driven through the York Correctional Institution’s back roads. This was the first time I was able to see the entire campus and was able to see the difference between the high security and low security sections. I was leaving high security and entering into low security which I was very happy about. Rumor had it that I was able to have my cell door open and I was able to roam around the building for many more hours of the day. Another bonus rumor: I was able to go outside every day.

I arrived at the new building I was to call home and the Correctional Officer looked at me and said, “well, looks like they put you in the building with the drug addicts. So that must mean you are here for drugs and alcohol huh?” I shook my head and walked up a few steps to the brick building. After being let into the building, my senses were igniting. I heard a sound that gave me a sense of comfort immediately; laughter. True, genuine laughter. I saw that the wall had painted letters on it, spelling out, “God is good, all the time”

My heart felt an easiness the second I read that. I knew with every bit of my heart that God was right there with me.

After settling in and meeting the other women, I got the scoop of what this building was all about. It was a program building for women that were incarcerated because of a substance related crime. AKA DUI’s, DWI’s, Possession, Sale, etc. There was structure, schedules, mentors, “friends”, counselors, recovery meetings, and group therapy. This was my first taste of what rehabilitation would be like.

On weekday mornings, the entire building met in a room and we had “morning meeting” which consisted of a meditation, sobriety anniversary recognition’s, announcements, etc. In order to get the room settled and prepared for morning meditation; a counselor would take hold of a black rope string that had two bells on each end and ding them together to make a “calm ringing bell” sound. It would get our attention and when meditation was over, they would ding it again. If we got too rowdy, they would ding the bells together to bring the attention back to the subject.

For 6 months, I would listen to those bells. I hoped that I would never hear that specific bell noise or see their unique design ever again. Not because I didn’t enjoy the program, because I did, but because the constant feeling of being in captivity and confinement lingered over me, despite the good times that I did have in that building. Those bells reminded me of those feelings and all of the pain that came along with incarceration; to my family and to myself.


First semester of college, pursuing a degree in Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counseling, August 2017. I was so excited for my first day of classes. I hadn’t been to school in 7 years and I was happy to be in a place in my life where I had recovery, employment, and kicking The Monkey’s ass.

As the classroom fills and the professor arrives, I was chatting with the people around me awaiting for class to begin.

And then I heard it.

DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING.

The. Bells. Were. Back.

PTSD IMMEDIATELY. HEART RATE ELEVATED, TREMBLING STARTED.

You have GOT to be kidding me. These damn bells were back in my life.

And again I heard, DIIIIING.

It was THE EXACT bells, design and all, that was used at YCI.

Immediately I had a flashback of sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs with the prison uniform of a maroon tshirt and baggy jeans. I could see the sea of women with maroon shirts on and I could hear the keys clanging as the CO’s walked by.

Breathe, Ally. Breathe.

It was a little humorous to hear my classmates enjoy the method of the professor getting our attention and to settle us down. But for me, it wasn’t pleasant.

I’ve had this professor for 4 classes so far and she uses them in each class. Each of her classes are 3 hours long. Dinging, dinging, and more dinging.

As I got to know the professor, I gained an admiration for her and her professional experience. She told the class that she does work at YCI and I immediately wished that I had known her while I was there; she would’ve been a tremendous help for me during that time.

So, during a break, I decided while few of my classmates were in the room, I was going to face my fear of the bells. I picked up the string and banged the bells together. My heart filled with gratitude and my eyes filled with tears. I left the room and went into the restroom to collect myself.

I immediately found a place to lower my head and close my eyes to pray. I thanked God that I was able to bang these bells again, in a completely different mindset and situation in my life. Three years ago I had to bang these bells as in inmate, feeling trapped, ashamed, and discouraged. Now, I was able to bang them and listen to them as a full time college student, feeling brave, empowered, free, and safe. I used this as a moment to reflect and embrace humility. It was a moment that I was able to relieve the anxiety that came with the noise of the bells. Although it still brings me back to YCI sometimes, I’m now able to bear the banging of the bells.

Stages of life

This week I have been thinking a lot about the different stages in my life.

Luz posted something on the forum about changing your expectations of yourself, and reaching goals you may have never thought yourself capable of. She talked about what her life used to look like, and how she once did not believe she was capable of achieving “normalcy”.
That made me think a lot about my past; where I’ve come from, where I’ve gone, where I’m at now. And most importantly, how I got there, and here. What did it take to go through each age and stage of my life? Where did I go (both good and bad) that I never imagined myself going? How did it change me?

Then today something else happened that hurled me years and years into my past.

I met someone- well didn’t meet, more met again. When I introduced myself she instantly remembered me- we were roommates and friends in the hospital together when I was 12.

That was over ten years ago, and the first time (of over 15) I was put in a psychiatric hospital.
At that point in my life, it was one of the most profound experiences I’d ever had. So much happened in those 7 months (it was technically 3 separate stays, but with only a few days of being discharged in between) that shaped and transformed me.

I cannot help but find myself entombed in thoughts and memories. Reminiscing about a time in my life that was both incredibly painful, scary, and difficult; but also comfortable, safe, and sometimes even very happy. These memories are similar to falling in a rose bush. I’m surrounded by beautiful flowers, and covered in wounds. I feel a small light in my stomach, but enclosed within a deep pit full of sadness.

And then I begin to think about what happened after I left the hospital.

From there my life fell apart.
From there my journey with mental illness began; and has not ended since.
And from there I grew and changed in many ways- both good and bad.

From memories of my first hospitalization, come painful memories of all that ensued afterward; essentially my entire family falling apart both separately and together over a period of 5 years.
What each tragedy encompassed.
How it felt, and I don’t just remember the feeling, I experience it.

I am once again a 14 year old girl stuffing 200 pills down her throat.

Then, I am 16 years old, saying “no” to a 24 year old man, who was too high to listen.
I am 17 years old and waking up from a coma after a suicide attempt I don’t remember making, because all the seizures that resulted from it damaged my memory.
Again and again I am experiencing the traumas I left behind years ago.

And it’s like being beaten with a bat.
I cannot catch my breath enough to beg for it to stop.

Where am I in time and how do I find my way back here?

How do I accept all that’s happened and the place I’m at now when all I want to do I reject it and bury my mind in a deep pit of sand?

It’s so strange how things continue to change at such a rapid pace. It’s all the time and we have no say as to whether or not it happens. Against our will we are under a constant transformation that will only cease to exist when we do.

How do I swallow the fact that I once wanted to die?
That many times I tried to kill myself?
That I hurt myself every day for years?
How do I move forward knowing at one time in my life I would cry thinking about how much I hated myself?
And that at one time I was a teenager and watching my life crumble before me; terrified and powerless.

I ask how do I do this because really, it wasn’t that long ago. And really, I’m still the same person.

Except now I have a daughter and life and set of responsibilities that I was never supposed to have.  I was never supposed to be here. I don’t think I ever planned on being 22.
Yet against my own will, transformations occurred. And somehow, without my knowledge or consent, I began to get better.

What about the times that that old, familiar dark place seems most comfortable?

It’s funny how small things can begin large, unmanageable spirals. Like hearing a song, or smelling something vaguely familiar. And how simple things, like writing this blog post can begin to bring me back into realignment- even if it’s without my consent or intent.

I come back to a place of normalcy where I remember that sadness is not safety. And that I’m no longer a child, and no longer without control or power.

And most importantly, I am responsible for a little girl. Who needs me and wants me. And it’s my job to be there for her, and be good to her. And I promise to her, and myself, and the entire universe that I will not fail her and I will always try as hard as I can to be what she needs.

How I Had Thought Heroin Cured My Anxiety

Wake up, pray, deep breathing, wipe sweaty hands, notice how much they are shaking, tell myself I’m good enough, and then attempt to get out of bed.

That’s just one version of part of my daily morning routine, in recovery from a heroin addiction.

Morning routine in active addiction:
Wake up, grab needle, grab heroin, shoot up, and go about my day.

Notice no prayer, no deep breathing needed, no sweaty hands, no shakey hands, no convincing myself of self-worth, and easily able to get out of bed.

Heroin not only helped quiet my anxiety, but it completely eliminated it.

The second I felt anxious, one bit of heroin erased it. No rapid heartbeat, no shakey and sweaty hands, no irrational thoughts and beliefs, no intense amount of fear and panic, no loss or shortness of breath, etc etc etc.

My favorite thing that heroin solved was my thoughts of truly believing that I am worthless and not good enough for everything and everyone (no matter how many times they reassured me of my importance). All of the self-loathing went away.

But when I wasn’t high and just maintaining my habit, those thoughts came stampeding into my head and worked their way down to my heart.

The same heroin that eliminated those thoughts ended up bringing worse thoughts in.

It was no longer “you’re not good enough, you’re a terrible person, you’re ugly, blah blah blah”.. now it was “your family hates you, you ruined their lives, you ruined your own life, you’re a junkie, you look sick, you’ll never get sober, you’ll never have a job, you can’t have a job, you can’t have a family, you can’t get married, no one will love you, etc etc etc”

The worst part is that most of these thoughts were now completely true. I most definitely couldn’t get a job, I ruined my life, I was a junkie, I looked sick, etc… So all those thoughts that used to be gone with a shot of heroin, was now worse, true, and destroying me even more than before.

The thing that I thought was the cure ended up being a poison.

Although it was poison, it did have some purpose, so letting it go was a little bit of a grief process. Now, being in recovery, when those thoughts come, I can’t help but wonder if the poison would be worth it to shut the thoughts and emotions down.

But then I remember that I have found a cure for the poison and the thoughts that works perfectly for me.

That cure is my faith. God, Jesus, prayer, scripture, church, my Christian friends and family, my bible study.

I’ll never forget when those thoughts came creeping in and anxiety was paying a visit for the first time since I no longer had heroin. Man, it was scary. I literally thought, “How am I going to cope with this without heroin?”

2 years and 2 months later, I’m coping with it without heroin.

Prayer helps the most. Grounding exercises help. Squeezing a stress ball helps. Essential oils help. WoodWick candles help. Baths help. Work helps.

I had to accept my anxiety, I had to accept my depression. But acceptance doesn’t mean I like it or want it or will be chained or controlled by it. It means that I simply acknowledge its existence and learn how to function with it.

There are absolutely very difficult days. There are days that I go to work late, that I struggle through homework, that I have a couple of panic attacks before doing what I had to do, that I let the negative thoughts live in my head and travel in my ear for hours, that I have mood swings, that I lash out on the people that love me the most, that I use dry shampoo instead of washing my hair.

But, those tough days end, they pass. Sometimes it’s a prayer that helps them pass. Sometimes it’s my best friend telling me how valid my feelings are and how beautiful I am. Sometimes it’s hearing my mom’s singing and watching one of our shows together. Sometimes it’s hearing my dad say, “sweet dreams honey” at the end of the night. Sometimes it’s my boyfriend saying in a soothing tone that he loves me. And a lot of time, it’s my cat sitting on my chest and purring, begging for attention.

I learned that recovery doesn’t solve or eliminate everything. Being a Christian doesn’t solve or eliminate everything. I have a cross to bear, I have struggles, I have weaknesses, I have defeats. But faith, my sobriety, my loved ones, my passions, my purpose, my dreams.. are what turns these difficulties into beauty and make them bearable.

heroin

Defining My Character

I have been on both sides of a depressive episode, many, many times. In 24 years, the mountains in my life have been really high, and the valleys have been really low. I’d like to think both my mountains and my valleys are part of what make me who I am.

I have always viewed my Mental Illnesses as a disability, as a hindrance, as things that stood in my way of being who I was meant to be.

Until so very recently.

I read in passing somewhere, “viewing my mental illness as a gift”.
My initial thoughts: A gift? Really? Who would want crippling Anxiety for their birthday? Who wants to open Depression on Christmas morning? That thought process is a mistake. No one would want either of those things if they were given the option.
And then I thought about it more and more as each day passed. My Anxiety and my Depression have shaped who I am.

“To feel everything so very deeply.”

My Mental Illnesses have given me empathy. They give me the opportunity and the blessing to be able to feel what others are feeling. They allow me to be open and welcoming and compassionate. For so very long, I had to create a safe space inside my own head, to hide from the Mentally Ill demons that tormented me each day. I can now provide that safe space and comfort to those who need it. I wouldn’t know how to think those positive thoughts and create that safety if it weren’t for my Anxiety and my Depression following me and cackling at me like the hyenas they are.
My Mental Illness is part of who I am. But is not all of who I am.
It is a gift. But is not the best part of me.
It gave me the opportunity to grow as a human being. But it is not my defining characteristic.

Trying to be perfect in an imperfect world

I am a perfectionist.

 

Many people may believe that perfectionism is a good quality to have. Yet those who live with unrealistic standards and crippling anxiety understand the plight of someone who sets standards they cannot possibly reach, and the sorrow of the continuous failure and disappointment they must deal with when they believe everything must always be perfect. This is what it feels like to be a perfectionist…

When I was a little girl, I had so many ideas about what my life was supposed to be like. I thought everything had to be perfect; especially me. I had a carefully arranged and thoroughly thought out plan of what perfect was. When things deviated from that, I fell apart.
As I got older, it became harder and harder to live up to the expectations I had created for myself. People rarely lived up to my ideals. Slowly, this began to break me.
It was strange, the way I fell apart; in many ways, my demise was self-created. Yet, even with a sense of recognition, I could not stop myself. It was a cycle that I had made with my own two hands, stepped in willingly, but could not find the strength to jump out of. My brain had begun to betray me at a young age and has not stopped since.

I remember being in Elementary school, and deciding quite concretely what it took to be ‘successful’, which was synonymous with being ‘good enough’.

I had to get good grades, which meant I had to get all A’s because being good enough wasn’t good enough and in order to succeed, I had to be the best. When I graduated High School with my perfect grades, I had to go to college. But not just college; I had to go to Harvard. I had to follow the expectations I had set, and thrive within the pressure cooker I had built around myself. If I faltered in even small ways, it was a massive, unforgivable failure on my part. And worse than failure was being a disappointment, which was, by all means, the absolute worst thing I could do.

Unfortunately, the world did not follow the standards I expected it to, and I felt powerless to change it. I could not stop my mom from dropping me off to school late every single day, yet I still cried like a baby and yelled that I would never go to college if I couldn’t get to second grade on time. People would put things back in the ‘wrong’ place, and I would crumble. I, like everyone in the world, would lose control constantly. Yet, unlike the rest of my peers, I seemed unable to swallow this and move forward without first falling to the floor in a puddle of tears, or hitting my head against a wall, or screaming and screaming until my little lungs cracked and burned.
As I got older, I began to reason that if things were imperfect, out of my control, or lower than my standards, that rather than accepting the loss of control and disappointment, I would willingly fail. Willingly handing over my power was easier than having it fall from my grip, despite my efforts.

Now, I am no longer a little girl.

I still struggle with the expectation of perfection I unconsciously set for myself. Yet, consciously I fight the notion and try to set new standards.
If I ever spoke to Willow the way I used to speak to myself, my heart would shatter into a million pieces. If she ever spoke to or thought of herself in the way I used to think of myself, I don’t believe I could carry the sadness that would veil my heart. So instead of teaching her to love herself, I will learn how to love myself. She will watch her mom be kind and forgiving to herself, see how she accepts the ebbs and flows of life, and witness her open her palms to the universe to receive what is handed to her. And with time, she too will do the same.

perfectionist

My mom and me in my Great Aunts’ house in Jacksonville, FL.

perfectionist

Me, in my favorite hat

perfectionist

My anxiety due to the high standards I constantly set for myself peaked in my freshman year of High School

perfectionist

My beautiful daughter, who is and will always be perfect simply for being herself

Guilt, Anxiety, and Fear: Motherhood

When I wake up it starts.

I probably didn’t sleep very well- or maybe I did and I wanted to sleep longer.
I probably got woken up a few times last night to nurse you back to sleep. There were probably a few times you were restless and tossed and turned while you tried to get comfortable.

Guilt;
I remember being woken up over and over again, exhaustion, panic because I know I’m tired and need so much more sleep than I will get. Frustrated because I so desperately want to sleep as peacefully as I imagine you do. Anger because I cannot and anticipation of how exhausted I will feel in the morning.

Fear of never being able to sleep again.

Dread;
I dread waking up in this place, putting you in daycare, being alive and monotonously going through the day.

Collapsing into a puddle, I break, I lose my patience. I’m not fully awake and not fully human. Maybe I harshly say,
“stop.”
Or angrily beg you to go back to sleep. Or worse, maybe I just lay there, don’t look at you or talk to you, just sit in a heaping puddle of uncomfortable emotions.

When I wake up, probably a little while before you did, a realization comes to me as I see how beautiful and peaceful you are. I realize the impatience that took over me hours earlier.

I’m a terrible mother- a terrible person, in fact.

I lost my patience. I scared you, upset you, and damaged you. An intense wave of sadness covers me and I feel desperate to go backward in time. A pit grows in my stomach as I know I cannot do that and must only go forwards. I want to hold you, I want to cry, I want to be perfect for you and I want to be happy with you always.

Regret, fear, dread, anger, exhaustion, guilt, sadness.
Over and over again, every day.

I wonder what I am doing wrong. There are many, many things I know; many mistakes. I wonder how much they are damaging you, and in what ways.
I want to fix them all- be perfect and wonderful and exactly what you need and want. But when I try to think of my wrong-doings I cannot pinpoint them all.
It’s looking for hay in a haystack- it’s all there and it’s all the same, and it’s all wrong. I can hardly do anything right for you. Maybe I do what I believe is good, but soon I will find it is, in fact, wrong. I have hurt or damaged you in some unknown, and therefore gigantic, way. Worst of all, I cannot take any of it back.

Paralyzed with fear but continuously pushed forward by the current of life.
I’m stuck in a riptide.

But my love for you grows each day. It’s a painful love that fills me simultaneously with joy, and a deep despair and fear.
I wonder about all the things I must prevent. All the possibilities. So much can go wrong. So many scary, seemingly unpreventable things swirling around us in this world. I want to protect you but fear I cannot.

I feel out of control.

But then a beautiful day happens.
You grab my checks with two soft, warm hands and look into my eyes.
Or you crawl to me, laugh, kiss me.
You let me hold you and hug you and you hold me back.
And for a moment, my fears melt away, so that I’m standing in a deep puddle, soaking wet but dripping dry. We stand alone in the dark for a moment, and my brain gives me time to love you in peace.

I realize that these moments can grow. That if I make myself a farmer and equip myself with fertilizer and pesticides and gain the knowledge to grow a garden that we can be happy. I can rake out sadness and anxiety to make room for big, bright, beautiful happiness.

I will call myself a farmer and you will be my seeds, my water, and my sun.

2018 Awareness Calendar

Hi everybody! To celebrate the new year, Turningpointct.org has made a calendar showcasing mental wellness awareness days to share with you!

Below is the entire calendar

Share with your friends, or enjoy it yourself! Some of the days may be familiar and some may be new!
We hope you all enjoy it!

Happy New Year!

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time, there was a girl.
When she was born she was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. She had a brother, a mom, and a dad.
Very quickly the world began to creep through the stone walls surrounding her. The world was dark, and black, and thick. It oozed through the walls and lay heavily on and around her. It weighed her down and made her sad. Sometimes the world was nice and bright, it shone through the windows of the house and melted some of the black goo away. But the black goo was always there, it would never all melt away. Even still, sometimes when the goo was gone it left thick, dark, painful scars. It hurt her a lot, but made her happy, too.
The girls father went away. She was too young to know what it meant to miss someone, so she didn’t. Then another man came to be her dad. He went away too, though. Her mom got sick and sad. Her and her brother built and armor for each other. It was thick and strong, but very dark and heavy. Nobody could get through the armor. That was good sometimes, they thought they were keeping out all the goo of the world. But one day they realized they couldn’t get out, and when they tried to let someone in they had forgotten how to take it off. So their skin grew hard and clung on tightly to the metal around it- soon the armor wasn’t really armor, it was just them.
Inside the armor they were very sad, and angry. And underneath that they were scared. And under that, they were small soft babies who needed love and warmth. But the world was mean. It pushed them over and looked away when they reached out and cried. So they learned not to.
One day they left the stone walls. They fell into the goo. The girls brother swam out, but she was stuck. Her brother tried to tell her how to swim, but she couldn’t hear him; he tried to throw her a rope, but she couldn’t see him. When she looked around, she couldn’t see how he had swam to safety just to help her. The world grew into a monster and whispered in her ear. It told her he left her, he abandoned her. She was alone. He told her that he wasn’t ugly, but all of them were. All the ugly people, and deep down she was hideous too.
So she pushed out the sadness and fear. She nursed her anger and helped it grow big and strong. She climbed on his shoulders and she felt big and strong too. But he sucked the life out of her. He made her smaller and sadder, but from her perch on his shoulder she could not tell.
One day she fell. From the hole in the bottom of the goo, she could finally see where she was. And she knew she didn’t want to be there anymore.
She started to try to climb out, to reach for people to help pull her out. She kept coming close. But she fell many times. She fell hard, and sometimes it was a very long way until she stopped falling. Sometimes she felt so sad in her hole that she took a very long time to pick herself back up.
One day she found out she would have a baby. She was so happy and scared, and very sad because she didn’t want her baby to be born in the goo. She started trying harder and harder to climb out. One day when she was halfway up, the baby was born. She was still in the goo, but she wasn’t stuck. She realized it would take her a very long time to get all the way out, and when she made it, it would still take time to clean the goo off of herself and her baby.
But the baby was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. And the girl wasn’t a girl anymore, she was a young woman. And the armor didn’t stick to her skin so much, in fact some of it fell of on its own. And one day she realized the goo was lighter some days, and that even from the pit the light could come through.
Once Upon A Time There was a warrior. She had a baby who was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. And each day together they fought off the goo of the world, and searched for the light. She knew one day they would find their way out together.
The End

Me and My mom

Me and my brother, Harry

My mom and me

Harry and me in Montana 

Harry, my mom, me

Me and Harry after he graduated Naval Boot Camp (Chicago, IL) 

Me, 8 months pregnant- the night of my baby shower

Willow, 1 day old

Me and Willow, first day home

Willow, 1 week old

To those who helped me

Having anxiety feels like I’m swimming. I’m in a giant ocean, and my body is heavy and exhausted. I’m doggy paddling and struggling to keep my head up at all times. I keep swallowing water, and going under, but somehow I don’t drown. Somehow I’m able to keep going. There are moments when big waves swell up and carry me where I need to go, with little effort on my part. Sometimes I get to dry land and lay there, exhausted, and rest until I’m able to swim once again.
Having anxiety with a baby is like when you were a kid in the pool, barely swimming yourself, when your friend suddenly grabs hold of your shoulders for stability and pulls you under. Its a terrifying moment, and you can’t yell for help without swallowing water.
Being angry, and overwhelmed, and tired, and hungry are normal. They’re parts of everybody’s life. When you have a child, sometimes you feel like a child, too. On the verge of a meltdown, with no way of calmly expressing your feelings or needs, feeling like they don’t matter, anyways. And you have to push away what you’re going through because it’s not your child’s fault, and they need you, and if you were to break, who would be there for them? But sometimes it feels like I need my mom. Sometimes it feels like I want to sit and cry because its almost 6 pm and I barely ate, and I’m tired, and life is too much in this moment. And I want my mom to hold me and tell me she understands and loves me.
Being a mom feels lonely sometimes. It feels like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and I’m the only one who can hold it, and if I were to put it down something terrible would happen.
Sometimes I feel guilty. So guilty I feel like I cannot sit with my feelings or thoughts without breaking.
Sometimes I feel angry and I don’t know why.
Sometimes I feel stuck; so stuck. And so angry that I feel stuck, and guilty that I’m angry, and lonely because I must be the only person going through this and everyone else must be handling their lives and their feelings so much better than I am.
And then I remember, this is not the first time in my life I felt as though I was drowning.

Right before my family reached a climax of suffering, and we all broke, and then somehow, although not perfectly, rebuilt each of our lives seperately; we moved. We moved from our house in Redding that we had lived in since I was 8, to an apartment in New Canaan. I was 16. The suffering that we as a family experienced both induvidually and seperatley increased rapidly, and would not stop or slow down. I was so scared. And sad and angry and confused.
I described this feeling as being in the middle of a big ocean. I was on a rickety raft that was barely afloat. Holes kept popping up and threatening to drown us, somehow I stuffed whatever I had into these holes and kept us alive. I kept calling out for help. Screaming frantically with tears streaming down my face; but it felt like no one could hear me. Like those nightmares when you’re yelling, but nothing comes out. Sometimes a boat or Island would pass and I would scream and wave my arms for help. Most of the times we would pass by unnoticed- sometimes a life jacket would be thrown, just missing us, and we would float away.
I remeber one time the police got called. We were all fighting. 211 came. We were referred to see a counselour in Stamford. His name was Larry.
Immediately he recognized the suffering and dysfunction we had all learned to cope with. He spoke to my brother and I as though he knew we were drowning, but also knew we were too afraid to ask for help- or maybe too beaten down by life to expect it. My brother clung to him- I pushed him. He told us he understood what we were experiencing- all of it- even the hideous anger I had learned to greet the world with. He didn’t hate me for it, even though I hated myself for it.
We were at an odd age, where the state allows you to refuse help, and I did exactly that. He could not force me to take the life jacket he was offering. So I didn’t, even though I had hoped for it, and I don’t really know why I did that. Maybe I thought it was littered with holes, or filled with sand. Often I told myself my suffering wasn’t that bad. I remember not wanting to get my mom in trouble, or tear our family apart. So I became big and strong enough to push him away.
I wouldn’t go to school. He came to my house one day. He told me he wanted to help me. I told him I didn’t need or want any help. He said that he knew me, he knew that when I said no, I didn’t mean no, that sometimes I was too afraid to say yes. I told him he didn’t know anything about me, and that that wasn’t true; even though I was shocked by how true it was, and by how much he must have truly understood me. In my head I was begging him to help me, to disregard everything that came out of my lying, terrified mouth.

He knew I had little motivation to do anything, much less go to school, he said he would believe that I didn’t need help if I went to school every day that week. We both knew that was as likely as one of us hitting the lottery. But I said I would. I asked if he would leave me alone if I went to school every day that week, and believe that I was fine. He said he would.
For some reason I went to school every day that week. It was the first time in years.
I never saw him again.
It’s something I’ve felt regret, guilt, shame, and sadness about many days since then.
In the past two or so years, I’ve thought about Larry many days. I’ve wanted to call him. To thank him and apologize, and tell him about my life now, and cry to him about how everything fell apart shortly after he left. But tell him that I was ok, that we were all ok, and he was right.
But I have never been able to do it. I don’t know why.
On Thursday, I found out that Larry died last year.
I was immediately filled with guilt. Guilt for pushing him away when all he wanted was to help me and my brother, to understand us, and give us what we needed. And sadness, a lot of sadness. Because I would never be able to thank him, or more importantly, to apologize for my anger and fear.
I sat outside a little after finding this out and closed my eyes, I allowed my head to become filled with sadness. I tried to connect my spirit with the universe to send him a message. Tell him what I would have over the phone, not with words, but with my love and energy.
If I could speak to you right now, Larry, I would only be able to thank you. You pulled me out of the depths of the ocean, and brought me to dry land. I only jumped back into the waters because it had become my home. Larry, you showed me what was, and what could have been; you accepted my anger, and reminded me I deserved to be taken care of.
You took part in a life-long task many amazing people have attempted; which is to heal me.
I’m so much better now, and I’m still trying to go further every day. I have a beautiful daughter, and I will be so much better than our moms were to us.
Thank you. S.I.P.

There are many people who come into our lives for both short and long periods. I’m reminded constantly, that its not the quantity of time these people are with us, but the quality. Death and regret remind us to be calm and be slow. To say thank you and I love you and I’m glad that you’re here.

Point Your Toes in the Direction of Your Dreams

Today, as I enjoy my mini celebration of being alive for exactly 23.75 years, I cannot get some very specific thoughts out of my head. So I am going to share them with you.
Because maybe if I write them down, and maybe if I have someone on my side, I’ll be able to battle their intrusion.

I am tired. My body and my head and my soul are tired. I feel like I am being pulled in 27 different directions. I am spreading myself so so thin to satisfy everything and everyone. I’m not complaining. I was MEANT to be on this earth to make people feel loved, and to help them realize they don’t have to walk this life alone. I am eternally grateful that fate has chosen me to fulfill that duty. It is my purpose and caring for people is what gives my soul strength.
I am just tired.

The end of the year is always an incredible whirlwind of emotions and I don’t know if I can physically/emotionally/mentally handle all of those emotions this year. As December unravels, it is getting harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. My body is craving more hours of sleep, but my mind cannot rest.
I don’t know how to, or if I even want to, take part in the Christmas festivities that are supposed to be so warm and so joyous and so loving. I don’t know if I can put on my “social interaction doesn’t terrify me” costume and be a joyous Olivia.

I have come SO far in the last year in terms of my mental health and my mental wellness. I am SO proud of who I am and who I have become. Every day I am reminded of the incredible things I have done by someone who sees who I really am. I am surrounded by so much love and support, and I still manage to forget that I am not alone.

So if you are reading this today, I get it. I get you. It’s not easy to be able to recognize the wonderful spirit you bring to this world. But I promise, it’s there.

As for me, I’ve cordially invited my Anxiety and my Depression to take the rest of the year off. They have worked hard enough from January until now. I am done with their misbehavior. I am done with the way they make me feel.
So from now until the end of this year (and hopefully well into 2018), the smile that you see is raw and real. It’s genuine.

And as for Anxiety and Depression- you may have won a few battles, but you are not winning this war.

Sad girl; strong mom

When I was a kid, there was a lot of uncertainty in my life.
One day things would be amazing; hopeful, happy, and calm. Suddenly, without warning or clear cause, things would dramatically change. Whether it was my family’s financial situation, my moms mood or pain, or my own mental wellness- there was no stable branch for me or my brother to lean on; if there was, the continuance of that stability was always unknown.
I think we both learned at an early age, that it was our expectations which caused the greatest disappointment, and our disappointment that caused the greatest pain.
I remember when I was about 7, my mom got sick. I remember it like a dream; I know there is a vivid memory somewhere deep within my subconscious, but I cannot assess it, so when I try to retrieve it, it’s choppy and blurred. Regardless, I remember feeling as though nothing was wrong, and then suddenly everything was. I remember a lot of confusion. I was scared, and I missed my mom; I remember confusion and fear mostly. She was taken to a hospital. We had no family, and my mom had very few friends, most of whom she barley talked to. So for a week or so, I went to our closest family friends house. They lived in the city, we used to go to school together. It was fun to be there, it felt like a long sleepover. Then after a short time, they had to go on vacation. From there, we had various babysitters who stayed with us and watched my brother and I. Most of them we didn’t know as well as we should have, some of them we barely knew. That is one of my first “black-hole” memories. When I think of that time I feel a deep pit, that extends from my heart to my stomach and makes me close my eyes for a moment. Its hard to think about.
When she came home a long time later, I had turned 8, and she had turned very, very sad. She had more than one back surgery while she was gone, gotten a severe staph infection, and began to suffer from chronic, debilitating pain. She was so different.
I had barley seen her that entire time. I was so happy she was with us again, but she was so different.
We had babysitters stay with us because she was too sad and in too much pain to fulfill her duties as our mother. She had her own black hole.
She wore a brace, and took a lot of medication that made her sleepy. When it wore off, it made her very sick and uncomfortable. She yelled a lot, and was hardly happy, it felt. I took on a new role. I don’t remember if I decided to take on the role, or whether it was shoved into my arms and was simply too burdensome to place down. Regardless, my job suddenly became to make her better. I don’t think I knew exactly what that role entailed or how I would fulfill it. I began desperately trying to pull happiness from her, take away her pain, make our world happy and light.
I, of course, failed over and over again. I became a failure. Yet, I could not stop myself from delving into this role each day. Although each failure brought new and more intense sadness upon me, this was a disappointment I could not seem to walk away from.
Even as a teenager, angry and solemn and horrendously resentful against my mother and life, I continued to step into my heavy shoes each day and walk into fire. I laid down each night, still burning, and woke up to once again be the fixer.
Although I no longer live with my mom, and I’m no longer a confused child or angry teenager, I find myself fighting the pain it created each day.

I don’t know how to be a good mom. Most days I wake up and try to wing it, or go with what feels natural and right. I feel sure that I’m failing once more each day. And yet, like I did as a child, I continue to throw myself into a role I’m quite uncertain of how to fulfill.
I pray to the universe, or whatever I believe in, that I don’t fail Willow. My heart is so heavy at times and my head full of thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams.
I know for certain there are many ways to be a good mother; to raise Willow to be a strong person and healthy adult. I’m quite sure as well, there are even more ways to fail her.
I wish I could read a book, take a class, or swallow a pill that would turn me into the mother and person I wish I were.
I guess the only way to become that person is to continue to do what I’m doing; wake up each day and dive into the flames. Although I know there are things I ought to leave behind as I move forward, perhaps I will shed them naturally, and evolve organically into the person I’d like to be.
I hope that as each day ends I become a stronger, happier, and better mother and woman; and that one day Willow remembers her childhood will happiness and love.
Until then, I will continue to walk through flames for her.

Willow and I on Thanksgiving, Willow on Thanksgiving, and me when I was six

The Piques and Pits in My Life

This is the first moment in the last 24(ish) hours that I’ve sat down and actually formed a thought. In between putting on my “socialization doesn’t scare me” costume, Christmas shopping, wrapping Christmas gifts, and studying for a giant test that I have to take tomorrow, I haven’t had a true moment to myself to reflect on my week and my peaks and pits.

So here it goes.

This week (month/year) hasn’t been easy. I’ve been swimming through an ocean of stress, which stems from my school anxiety, my lack of organization, the weather changing. I haven’t been my best me. There are all kinds of changes happening in my life right now and I am struggling to find any kind of constant. This is an everlasting cycle that has occurred for 23 years. I stress, I search for a constant, I find a constant, I get attached to my constant, something gets in the way of that constant, I stress. It repeats. On and on.
I have a mountain of homework that I can’t find any motivation to do.

I am almost done with classes in my Master’s program. This is terrifying. I don’t know how to not be a student. I may not be the best, but all my life, I have always been a student. My identity is changing and I don’t know the best way to deal with that.

My peaks:
I am going to start by getting out of bed every day, rather than hiding like I usually do. I am going to dance twice this week, which is making my heart happy just to think about. There is one month until Christmas, my favorite holiday. Almost all of my Christmas shopping is done.

This week, Eliza said to me, “You are going to be the best teacher.”. I bought Sophia and I Ugly Christmas Sweaters and we are going to be the hit of Christmas Eve. I’ve spent time with family that I don’t get to see often, and I was reminded of how proud I am of my last name. I’ve held three babies this week. I am going to see my favorite nephew man tomorrow afternoon. The butterflies I get just by seeing your face.

This coming week, I am going to focus more on my peaks than my pits. And to you, my reader, I encourage you to focus more energy on your peaks than your pits. Because the peaks will always outweigh the pits. And as always, if you need help finding a peak, I will happily give you one of mine. Remember how important you are in this world. Remember that you are here for a reason, that you are strong and powerful. Remember how much this world needs you in it.

Balancing work and school

Does anybody go to school AND work? Full time or part time for both? I am always amazed at how people can balance both. I really want to go back to school this semster- but with a new part time job I wonder if I could make it work? How do those of you who do this make it work? What are three tips for somebody struggling through this or wanting to begin both?

Overthinking and How to Deal with it!

One of the things I tend to struggle with the most is the amount of time I spend overthinking. If someone doesn’t answer my message, I immediately assume something’s wrong. If something seems off within my family, I automatically feel like another tragic incident has occurred. I feel like this definitely stems from the amount of trauma I’ve had throughout my life, but I also think that although it helps to know where it is coming from, it is still hard to deal with the fact that I always worry about EVERYTHING! Some things that help me stay focused on the present moment include blasting music, binge watching TV shows (as long as I’m not isolating and not keeping up with commitments), cooking, coloring, getting a pedicure, watching funny videos, talking to friends, and playing board games. This may not be a part of my life that I can control, but I can definitely control how I react to these VERY intense feelings.

Have any of you guys ever struggles with the anxiety that comes from overthinking or worrying too much? If so, what kinds of things help you out during these times?

Raising the Barre Since 1997

Anxiety has taken many things from me.
She has taken my sanity, my comfort.
She has robbed me of experiences.
Anxiety screams at me constantly. She is louder than the voice inside my head.

There is one thing in the world that settles her.
As soon as I slide my feet into one of three pairs of shoes, she knows her time is up.

She can’t get to me when I am dancing.

I have been many, many things in the last twenty years. I’ve taken on different roles. I’ve played many parts. My weight has fluctuated. My face has changed. I have grown in so many different ways.
Three things in my life have been constant.

Anxiety.
Depression.

And dancing.

My favorite me is who I get to be when I am dancing. I am fearless. I am safe. I am free.
I am any personality I want to be. I am anything I want people to feel when they watch me perform.
I can feel the music move through my soul. My world is whole when my body is in a rhythm.

The hour and a half I get to spend in the studio on Wednesday nights is the only hour and a half of peace I get all week.
Peace of mind.
Peace and quiet.
The speakers could be shaking because of the volume of the music, and it is still the quietest my brain will be all week.

This peace wouldn’t be possible without the support of the greatest group of women in the entire world. Wednesday at 6:30, you are my entire heart. It’s been 8 years, and every week is better than the last. You make me a better dancer, and a better person. You push me to move, create, inspire. Each of you holds a place in my heart, and your love gets me through my darkest hours.

My mental illnesses have constantly let me down, disappointed me, hurt me, and stopped me from living my best life for the last twenty years, but that’s okay. Because at least dance has never given up on me.

Letting go of the past and looking forward to the future

It was another hard week. It moved slowly yet quickly, and I struggled to catch up with myself almost every step of the way.
I met with my psychiatrist on Tuesday. We talked about starting medication again. It was a continuance of an ongoing conversation; one I will probably never stop having with my providers.
When I got pregnant I was taking a handful of different medications. Each did something different, and supposedly they held hands and worked together to safely guide me through my days. I didn’t really know how they made me feel. It was hard to tell if they helped or not, and which ones worked: or if only one worked and the rest simply hid behind one another. When I decided to keep Willow it was clear that I had to come off of all my medications.
So, for the first time in nearly ten years I was raw. I had had periods of not being medicated in the past, but these were short-lived and unsupervised.
Being pregnant and un-medicated was Hell. Not just for me, but for everyone around me. When I reached a peak of suffering, I ‘gave in’. I know, really, I was only doing what was best for me and Willow; the stress I was under was worse than what any medication could have probably done to her. The relief I felt from only a little bit of Zoloft was almost miraculous. For the first time in almost 7 months, I finally began to enjoy my pregnancy.
After giving birth, I was on a cloud; I was incredible, strong, and resilient, I was a powerful woman, and needed nothing. I was in awe of my perfect, precious baby. Seeing her in person made her seem so much more fragile. How could I take medication while breastfeeding, not knowing the potential risk? Besides, I felt amazing. So once again, I stopped taking my medication because I thought it was what was best for my daughter. Almost nine months later, I am still not taking any medication.
But I wonder sometimes. Is this really the right thing? I know I could feel better than I do, that taking a small dose of something would probably lift me up a little, relieve me of some of my anxiety; of the obsessive thoughts and worrying I have about Willow. But what would it do to her? Her brain is still developing-what would messing with her serotonin levels do to her? Once I start down that road of thoughts- I have to shut myself down. Instantly, I begin to worry, to panic. I get a headache and my eyes feel heavy. The unknown is too much for me. Maybe the stress I feel every day is worse for Willow than an antidepressant creeping into my breastmilk. Maybe it’s fine. But what about the vast grey area of the unknown? The area where I’m falling and falling, and reaching for something to grab hold of- but can never quite grasp? That space is too frightening for me. As scary as life is sometimes for me right now, that area is much more terrifying. So my doctor and I decided that right now I’m ok without medication, I’m not as good as I can be, but I’m ok. I’m in a place where having control over whether or not I take the medication is ok. And that feels good to know. Still, some days I’m unsure.
Am I being the best mom I can be? Am I damaging my amazing daughter? How much of my anxiety is she picking up on, and what is it doing to her?

Yesterday, I cried in front of a stranger. I didn’t mean to; The tears had been building for a few minutes- but I kept catching them. Snatching them and stuffing them down as quickly as I could. But as I sat in front of a guidance counselor at NCC, talking about school, and time, and energy; things I don’t currently have enough of; I could do little to hold back my intense sadness. I cried for a moment, then moved on; embarrassed of how crazy and out of control I must have looked to her. I knew she was probably judging me. Thinking about what a poor, uneducated, helpless young mother I must be. My poor child.

As I sat in the cold waiting for my bus, with Willow sleeping on my chest, my sadness grew. I thought of my life. The life I had before my pregnancy, and the life I was supposed to live; or at least the one I expected to live. Not the part of succumbing to my mental illness, but the fantasy and hope I had, that one day, I would get better. I imagined going to school, having some fun, making money. Building myself up so that one day, I would be able to grow up and have a family. Then I thought about how none of that was possible anymore, at least not how I had wished it would be.

I couldn’t sit in a dorm room with my peers and do homework, and smoke weed, and go to class; couldn’t save up for silly vacations or go on road trips; I had to rush back “home” to make my 6 o’clock curfew. I had to give my daughter a bath and put her to bed; take community college courses one by one, while working, and raising Willow. I have to throw aside my selfish wants and needs and drudge forward for the well-being of my child.

In that moment, I regretted becoming a mother. Not because I hate it, or because I don’t love Willow with every force within me; but because I wasn’t ready for motherhood. And I had to sit with the sadness of knowing I had committed to a life-long task I wasn’t prepared to take on. Knowing that I can’t turn back, or press pause, or share the weight of Willows life with anyone but myself. And again, I cried. In front of many strangers. Except this time I couldn’t wonder what they must have been thinking because I was too full of sorrow.

When I got on the bus I called my brother. He and I went through Hell and back with one another. The Hell I’m referring to is our childhood. But he had a separate burden to bear. One that I had the privilege of ignoring. That burden was watching me self-destruct. Nonetheless, he never once left my side; even though I accused him of doing so many times, even though I tried to push him away and lock him out, and even though at many times, I was a horrible sister.
He made me feel better. Not just because he spoke in an Australian accent and made fun of Trump. He and I are proof that even the most traumatic and damaging childhoods do not have to ruin a person. That despite prolonged suffering, a hurt child can still grow into an intelligent and kind adult.
And that reminded me of another thing, although I’m “not where I (want) to be, (at least) I’m not where I used to be” (Joyce Meyer). In the past years, I have grown tremendously. I remember in my adolescence, one of my best friends told me, in a very serious but loving way, that she felt certain one day I would kill myself. That was not the last time somebody told me they were prepared to mourn my death. And I knew, too, that one day I would die, and I felt certain it would be by suicide.
That girl is no longer me, I know she still lives deeply inside, sad, and scared, but she no longer greets me in the mirror. I have made progress in my life I would have never imagined possible, and come to a place I dreamed of several years ago. So while I know where I want to go, and know there is a long way to go until I get there, I find peace in the knowledge that I can look back and see the tremendous mountain I have managed to make it up. I know that it won’t be long before I can look down again, and bask at the progress I made. That will make me a better woman, and a better mother. And although my life won’t ever be perfect, it can be good, and I won’t stop until it is.

Willow Bear thanks you for reading this week!

My Attitude and My Outlook

I am tired of the ever-mind-numbing question, 

“Are you okay?”

I’m even more tired of meekly replying,

“Is anyone?”

Most days I have to put on my “socialization doesn’t terrify me” costume, and pretend that the world and its inhabitants don’t horrify me.
The days are growing darker earlier, and if that isn’t a metaphor for my depression, I don’t know what is.

I read a post this morning that said, “There is a difference between being happy and being distracted from sadness.”
So, so often I find myself falling victim to this truth. For a few hours a day, I’m able to distract myself from the depression that sleeps on my left shoulder. Sometimes it’s by reading, or dancing, or even working. But for the other (approx.) 19.75 hours, my brain is thinking of all the reasons that I am sad. Or anxious. Or nervous. Or curious. Or obsessive. Or irritated. Or angry.
For no particular reason.

19.75 hours of the day, my depression sleeping on my left shoulder battles the anxiety that is screaming at the top of her lungs on my right shoulder.
They fight.
My brain is a war zone. It is a battlefield.
I am caught in the middle of their aggressive altercations.
I am the collateral damage that is left behind after my mental illnesses have exhausted themselves by arguing.

I wish I was able to see myself as the rest of the world sees me. I have an unbelievable support system that make me the person I am. The encouragement I receive from my Earth Angels is the closest thing to magic I will ever have. I am able to wrap myself in their love and kindness, and most of the time, that is enough protection from the Dementors that linger around me.

I have not always had this overwhelming support. I didn’t always have a place where I felt I could fit in. I battled many, many years seemingly alone. I spent many, many days dreaming of a better world, a world that accepted everyone for exactly who they were- a world that embraced the differences that make us so beautiful.

But I am living proof that help is given to those who ask for it. So today, know that you are worth getting help. Know that you are worth being happy. You are worth the whole world.
And if you know someone who maybe, like me, needs people to lean on- reach out to them. Let them know you are thinking about them. Or tell them a joke you heard. Or send them a picture of a cat. That will always work for me.

Good momentum leading to bad days

Do you ever feel like the more you go, the easier it gets?
Until suddenly you realize you’ve built so much momentum that you’re rolling down a hill full speed and can’t stop. Suddenly, you hit a tree, or a wall. And you sit there exhausted, hurt, and dazed. Suddenly, a bunch of debris comes tumbling down the hill and smothers you.

And for a while, you just lay there, underneath it all, unable to bring yourself back up.

But leaves and branches fall from the tree, more debris comes down the hill.

You tell yourself,

“it’s ok”

You’ll take care of it all when you’re able to pick yourself back up.

Then suddenly you’re ten feet deep, and you have no clue how you’ll get yourself out. And the thought of getting yourself out is so overwhelming, that it takes all your energy to even consider getting up.

By some feat, you end up getting up and out. You clean up some of the pile, and the less imposing parts get swept aside. You start back down the hill, and the cycle continues.

Is there a way to stop that cycle? To slow yourself down? Breathe a little more everyday? Be a little more productive? Some how stay on top of your tasks, and your child’s tasks, and your wants and needs, as well as your family’s, and have fun, and eat well, and sleep 8 hours, and go for walks, and plan for your future, and so on and so fourth? Is that possible? Or do you simply gain momentum, moving forward amazingly in one area, or a couple areas of your life, while sneakily neglecting the less pressing parts of your life. Until suddenly, it all catches up with you, and you get knocked over.

I had a hard day today. Nothing in particular happened, or was wrong. A couple of small scratches on top of an old wound and suddenly it’s infected.

I’m worried about my brother. I’m always worried about my mom. I’m mad at Willow’s dad. I hate where I live. I wish I could make more money, go to school, and be the perfect mother. I have about 7 trash bags of clean laundry sitting in my closet that I need to fold and put away. The next 2 days are going to be very busy- and so is most of next week. I have about ten things on my mind that I need to remember. But I know I’ll forget them. I can’t write them down; if I write them down, it’s another to-do list to add to my 20 or so existing to-do lists. I was short with Willow today, all day, because I was so stressed out, and I’m mad at myself for that. It’s the holidays and I’m wondering how I can have a happy thanksgiving and Christmas with my daughter and make it back to the shelter for my 9pm curfew. There are are lot of things about where I live that I dislike and disagree with, and I feel helpless to change them; and angry about that. Willows dad has to move from our old apartment at the end of this month. And even though it’s a new beginning for all of us in a way, I’m heartbroken over the symbolic permanence of the end of our family.

And more and more.

And my mind won’t let up.

I keep trying to remind myself to release these difficult emotions into the universe. To allow my higher power to take some of the weight off my shoulders. But I resist letting go of these thoughts and feelings; I hold on tightly to my anxiety and stress. Why? I don’t know.

I close my eyes, take a deep breath in and out. It’s a relieving breath, that makes me realize I haven’t done that nearly enough today. I open my hands, palms up, to the sky, and allow my mouth to relax and lips to curl into a soft smile (thank you, DBT).

Today wasn’t all bad. I had a small win with my bank (they reimbursed me an overdraft fee). Then I celebrated by getting subway since I was technically $40.00 richer (not really, but I let myself pretend). I talked on the phone with my twin brother, which I do not do nearly enough. He made me laugh, and forget about being angry. I got my laundry done (even though I didn’t fold it or put it away). Willow took a nap in her crib for about 15 minutes; which was incredible considering it’s happened only a handful of times in her 8 months of life. I felt loved by willow. I ate Halloween candy.

I guess what I need is, is to have these days.

Days where everything is hard and stressful and I barley make it through. The kind of day where, when your mom asks you how it went, all you can do is cry.

Sometimes all I can do is open my palms and allow them to come. Sit through the hard days, weeks, and months. Do what I can to survive, and be ok with just surviving.

I can give myself permission to struggle and get behind, and stay behind for a while.

And know that when I’m able, I’ll stand up, pick up the pieces around me little by little, and move forward once more.

I need to keep enjoying my small wins, and finding happiness where it finds me.

I must remember that although it may feel like forever, it’s only for right now.


And this, too shall pass.

Forgiving myself for Willow

Hi everybody- I hope you’re all having a good week! Willow and I have been really busy- I’ve started leaving her in daycare a few days a week to work a few hours at turning point, and life is continuing to race past me at an extraordinary rate! Thankfully, Willow seems to be enjoying daycare a lot more than she did a few months ago. She’s also starting to move a lot! She’s pulling herself up really well, taking small steps while I hold her hands, and looking like she might crawl after all! I also attended a meeting on ending youth homelessness yesterday, and told my story.
So, it’s safe to say I’ve been really busy, but doing well!
So why do I feel so anxious?
Before I became a mother, I felt anxious constantly. It was like a dull hum in the back of my mind that followed me everywhere. Some days I was better at ignoring it than others. I couldn’t always pinpoint what my anxiety was about, and when people would ask,
“what’s wrong?”
a wave a nausea would come over me- because I often had no clue what I was anxious about. This would set off an avalanche of thoughts.
“Why am I anxious? I must be anxious for a reason… if I forget what I’m anxious about I’m forgetting something important! Am I anxious about nothing? Why would I be anxious about nothing? What’s wrong with me? Will this go away- will I feel like this forever? *Cue panic about feeling uncomfortable for the rest of my life and never being able to escape my thoughts…”
I used to tell people I could feel anxious over a doorknob or lightbulb.
Now, my anxiety feels different. It feels more important, heavier. At times I think maybe it’s not really anxiety, because I’m worrying about something that matters; I’m worrying about my daughter. Many times I can reach out and grab my thoughts and identify what it is I’m worrying about. Although sometimes it feels stupid when I think about it, or I’ll try to put it into words and get confused. But is it really anxiety if I know what I’m worried about and it really matters? These are rhetorical questions. I know it’s really anxiety. I know it’s really not very different than the anxiety I felt as a teenager. The difference is, now I worry for two (kind of like when I was pregnant I ate for two).
I constantly question if I’m being a good mother, am I screwing Willow up? Wasting her potential or brain by using my cell phone in front of her or not having enough toys for her? Am I allowing her to be free? What am I modeling for her? What is she watching that she will pick up on- are these good things? I have a constant barrage of thoughts overwhelming me throughout the day- the dull hum is more like a headache that never goes away.
But then I see my daughter fake laugh to get a reaction, or pull herself up on a toy, I hear her get into a screaming match with someone, or lay with her on my chest and close my eyes. I see her funny, beautiful personality, or look into her kind eyes. I watch her play with another baby at the shelter. She does something independent, but looks back at me for approval. A swell of hot, red love fills my heart and overflows into my chest. I feel like I’m floating, I’m so happy that I’m sad (if that makes sense). I love this beautiful girl so much it hurts. And she loves me. I feel happy and at peace in these moments. I see the beautiful life I created- this beautiful little girl that is becoming an amazing little person. I created her, carried her, I gave birth to her, and now I feed her- my body is so powerful and strong- I am powerful and strong. And I give myself the credit I deserve. I feel happy.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that people weren’t kidding when they warned me how fast time goes by; how quickly babies grow into toddlers and continue from there. Although I can allow myself to panic, trying to beat a clock I will always be running behind, I instead try to be still and watch.
I know several years from now, I will look back and hoped I had soaked this time in more, enjoyed it more and worried less. So when I catch myself ruminating about my baby’s growth spurts, development, or well being, I try to encourage myself to give my brain a warm hug. Remind myself that this time is so special, and give myself permission to enjoy it.
So today, as I lay in bed with my 7 month old sleeping on my chest, writing this post on my iPhone and thinking about how busy I will be in an hour, I instead chose to close my eyes for a moment, hug my daughter, and set my intention for the day.
Today I will catch myself in worry, I will take time to watch my daughter play, and join in with her. I will enjoy these small moments, and free my mind of the expectations I place upon it. Today I will be still. I will be a mom, and if that’s all I’m able to do, it will be a good day and I will have succeeded. If at the end of the day I still have bags of laundry to fold in my closet, a to-do list to complete, and phone calls to make- I will forgive myself. Because one day, my daughter will need to forgive herself, and I hope to be the person who teaches her how.

"This is from me to you. This is the truth."

I reflect sometimes on how to identify myself. I wish there was one word I could maintain as my title, but truthfully, there are at least 50 words that come to my mind as my identifying features. I am up front about myself upon meeting people. I think the humans of the world are entitled to knowing what they are getting themselves into by letting me into their lives.
I have struggled for a long time with my own self-worth and purpose- most of my 23 years. I am a constant work in progress. I have good days, and then bad days, and then a few more good days, and then a few more bad days. My entirety is made up of many pieces that I am proud to own.
Identify me as a woman. Identify me as a daughter, a sister. Identify me as a warm-hearted spirit. Identify me as a fiery personality (that’s how my mom sees me). Identify me as a dancer. Identify me as a teacher. Identify me as a cat-mom. Identify me as a Hufflepuff. Identify me as a feminist. Identify me as a student. Identify me as a writer. Identify me as the girl dancing in her car as you pass me on the highway. Identify me as a tea-drinker. Identify me as a “follower of cats on Instagram”. Identify me as a hard worker. Identify me as the number-one-grandchild (that’s how I see myself). Identify me as someone who posts way too much information on Twitter. Identify me as someone who owns way too many mugs. Identify me as a crafter. Identify me as a giant hairless cat that can’t fend for herself (that’s how my cat sees me). Identify me as a reader. Identify me as someone you can trust. Identify me as someone who lives with a mental illness.
But don’t just identify me as one thing. I am made up of them all. All of those pieces add to my ever-growing puzzle.

Click on Sunny to read my story! 

To the Moon and back

My name is Eliza, I am 22 years old and have a 7-month-old daughter, named Willow.
My life is certainly different in almost every way than I had once imagined it might be. Struggling with mental illness throughout high school, my focus was blurred and my vision of myself and the world seemed an abysmal tomb of hopeless sorrow and pain. After a very proud graduation, 6 years in the making, I thought I had begun to creep from the shadows and began to feel ‘normal’. This feeling of normalcy was a great relief, although it was short lived. I soon found myself overwhelmed with a full-time schedule at college and work, coupled with a life that continued to rush past me at speeds I could not keep up with, despite my efforts. I turned inward, and reached for drugs, alcohol, and self harm to give me relief from life, which seemed to berate and beat me until I was left laying in the dirt, begging for mercy. A deep sadness and resentment towards the world and everyone in it filled my being. Finally, I could no longer stand it and sought help. After 45 days of detox and rehab, I emerged, beaten and wary- but grateful for both my life and sobriety.
Soon after coming home, I met someone, and quickly rushed into a relationship. We officially started dating in April of 2016. By July 6th, 2016 I was 7 weeks pregnant. Feeling I could not face the thought of abortion, I decided I would have my baby. Looking back, its a decision I made quickly, and without brutal honesty with either myself or my boyfriend. Nonetheless, I committed, and though many urged me to terminate my pregnancy, I continued to move forward- sure I was making the right decision. Nine months later, on February 26th, I gave birth to a beautiful, 8 pound 6 oz, girl, Willow Moon. After less than five minutes of crying, she laid silently on my chest and took in the world for hours.
Five months later, my relationship with her dad had been crumbling for what felt like years. How long it actually took, I don’t remember, all I remember are the feelings. Sadness and anger. Suddenly, I was forced to decide to leave or stay in a situation were I feared for our safety at times, and our happiness constantly. Willow Moon and I took what we could, and left quickly. We now live together in less than 100 square feet at a shelter for pregnant women and mothers. And battling life together, we try to be brave and learn what we can from each other. This is our journey to the Moon and back.

Know The Warning Signs

Suicide Prevention

Know The Warning Signs for someone who may be at risk of suicide:

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

Crisis Resources

If you or someone you know is an emergency, call 911 immediately.

If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficulty or suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Fear or Love?

“In life, you are driven by either fear or love.” I heard someone say. It was such a powerful statement for me. I started reflecting on how easily I can get caught up in fear, rather than love.

I started the process of going back to college. As I began the application process, I became discouraged about the whole idea of school very quickly. This discouragement turned into doubt, then the doubt turned into despair. My addiction was feeding me lies, or even half-truths that turned into lies. I started believing the lies for a bit. My mother then noticed how I went from being really excited to go back to school, to suddenly completely losing my drive. She called me out on it. She asked me why I was doubting myself and becoming so discouraged. I recognized it and then decided to dig deep to find out what exactly was going on with me.

I was afraid.

I was afraid to go to back to school. I had fear of doing it sober, fear of the new school scene, fear of failure, etc. I was being DRIVEN AWAY from school by FEAR! Five minutes before starting the application process, I was DRIVEN TO school by LOVE! So, I had to focus on that part; love. I love recovery. I love helping people with their addiction. I love watching the transformations and testimonies addicts have.

Now, I’m starting to recognize that when I’m feeling a certain way about a person, place, or thing, I need to figure out which feeling it really is; fear or love. A lot of times other emotions stem from that, like anger. I’ve also noticed that with me, sometimes pain turns into fear, or even the other way around.

So, I ask you this… are you driven by love or fear?

Love has always gotten me in the better place I want to be. I also constantly remind myself that the Bible mentions to NOT BE AFRAID 365 times. So, for each day of the year, I can read a verse that reminds me to not be afraid and instead; love.

One verse that I recite often when I’m feeling anxious and afraid is found in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

LOVE. A SOUND MIND. Exactly what I need to focus on!

Great Playlist to help face FEAR, PANIC and ANXIETY

1) Weightless by Marconi Union

2) Final Countdown – Europe:

3) We Are The Champions – Queen

4) Gonna Fly Now – Rocky Theme:

5) Unwritten – Natasha Bedenfield:

6) People Help the People- Birdy

7) Details in the Fabric by Jason Mraz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdIw6tEjyEg

9) Car Radio by Twenty One Pilots

10) We Fall Down – Donnie McClurkin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A5s2feN6Yk

Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent

I found this article very insightful. It covered some really important topics regarding why American young adults get depressed and find it difficult to deal with depression. One reference for example, is the conversation about keeping up with a social media identity and how that is affecting us… there is so much to this and its more demanding than I could ever imagine.
I think its a good read, so I recommend it. Of course this link will take you to TIME Magazine’s subscription page but if you are not a subscriber and don’t wish to subscribe, just be reminded that you can also borrow a free copy of the November 7th Edition of the magazine from your local library.

November 7th, 2016 | Vol. 188, No. 19 | U.S.

Grounding

So I came across this article, “How Nature Helps Me Stay Grounded in Moments of Anxiety”, which I think was really interesting. The writer pointed out a coping skill for anxiety which I think is pretty clever, easy and really helpful… Its just a great way to master your focus. You can see the link below and a description of the technique:

How Nature Helps Me Stay Grounded in Moments of Anxiety

“One of the coping methods I have learned is called grounding. It involves looking around and identifying five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This technique gets me out of my own head, so to speak, and it pulls me back into my surroundings. I am required to get in touch with my own senses and realize I’m still here. That reconnection with my senses, my surroundings and myself has sometimes been enough to stave off a panic attack.”

An Evening with Kevin Breel @ Yale

Did you attend the recent Kevin Breel Talk at Yale? 

If you did…

Lets talk about it! Join the discussion here by sharing what you thought about the event. 

But if not…

Get a scoop of some of the great things that happened!!!

Mind Matters in Partnership with TurningPointCT.org featured comedian, writer and mental health activist Kevin Breel last Monday, September 19th for a 35-40 minute talk in Sudler Hall!

To learn more about Kevin Breel and the amazing work that the youngster has been doing for the mental health community, you can watch his  TED talk “Confessions of a Depressed Comic” here (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3yqXeLJ0Kg), which is one of the most popular TED Talks. 

“It was def a great night. Great sense of humor… Huge shoutout to Mind Matters too, they are doing such great work on campus.” -Rai

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Anxiety

Hey everyone,
Get to know Hayley!

Read her amazing story here about dealing with anxiety. She also offers some great advice on living a better life.

“…There is going to be a tomorrow that is better than today. It won’t happen in a day, a month, or even a year. But just know that one day it WILL happen. Don’t give up!”

Click the here to read about her amazing perspective:

Hayley M. on Overcoming Anxiety, Fear and Panic

Four Ways to Use Nature to Overcome Your Fear of Detours

The world of nature is filled with “detours.” The best part about being a “Detourist” is taking an unexpected detour in life, and catching the unexpected beauty along the way.

Four Ways to Intrude on Nature:

Eat Outside: You don’t need fancy picnic baskets or a farm to table meal – just move away from the kitchen table, pack up some dips, roasted vegetables and festive salads, and sit in the backyard or a neighborhood park.

Get Active Outside: You don’t need to go on a camping trick, or seek out the steepest mountain biking trails.  Take a nature walk.  If there’s some spring in your step, take a little jog – or, i you’re completely uninhibited like me, hear a song in your heart and dance on the beach! I promise that no one is staring at your as much as you think they are!

Create Outside:  All it takes it a notebook and crayons – even one little pencil! Check out these seen simple ways to get in touch with your creative side – all of this can be done outside!

Breathe Outside: That’s right. Nature can naturally improve your health.  Breathe in Mother Nature, and instantly feel more relaxed and refreshed.  You can even think affirmations to yourself as you breathe in and out.

How have you intruded on nature today?

Using nature is a powerful tool to overcome fear.  Being in nature can give us perspective and remind us not to always get worried about the little things!

Let that fear transform who YOU are.  Let that fear be your compass on your beautiful detour.Fear is a valuable tool in a Detourist’s resiliency toolbox.

Watch my TEDx Talk on how I transformed my fear into more fuel to travel all of my very scary “detours…”

Remember – it’s the twists, turns and difficulties in your path that can transform you and your journey.  Those fears, hardships and detours are what makes you human and…YOU.

That’s why we share our stories.  We share our “detours” instead of running from them.  We share to cheer each other on in our journeys. We share to encourage our fellow Detourists to reach that beautiful clearing – perhaps a different one than they planned for themselves, but perhaps an even more beautiful sight to see.

Get out in nature, and you’ll be surprised at what you can discover!  Tag your travels with #LoveMyDetour!

Quilt Squares – Accidental Art

Quilt Squares – Accidental Art – When life hands you water and markers, you make a mess!
This piece created by Val was designed to look like patchwork found on a quilt. Each layer is full of colors smeared together, but that’s okay. The anxiety was worth it! 😉

– Val

What It Is Like To Have A Mental Illness

“For some recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite disability.”

“Daily Life as a College Student” blogger, Kelly recently she shared her story on Odyssey, which is a platform for millennials to share their voices on topical issues that impacts them.
“People with mental illness should feel like they can get the help they need and not be judged for it…”
READ HERE: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/what-it-is-like-to-have-mental-illness

https://turningpointct.org/lets-talk/forum/blog-daily-life-college-student/

NAMI walk and Summer Job

First I want to talk about NAMI walk. I had an amazing time on Saturday being able to be around people who understand what it is like to suffer from a mental illness is huge. I am vocal about my mental illnesses. I want to make sure that everything I am doing in life really helps me and anyone around me that needs support. Going to the NAMI walk I know that I was helping. My team made over $130. It was exciting to see how many people came out to support mental health. Either for themselves or for friends. I am going to do it next year with hopefully a bigger team. Mental Health awareness is a huge part life and I just want to be able to talk about now and stand up for people who can’t to make it easier for them to get the help they need.

Second those who are home from college and looking for a summer job I totally understand how hard it is for you!!! Having anxiety, I need a job that I can handle. Surprisingly I can talk to people, I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to certain situation. So I really can not work in a restaurant. I have a job in a school that I love so much!! But I need something else. Going through the stress of finding a job that means something to me has taken a lot out of me. If any of you guys have done jobs that you really enjoyed let me know!
Hope you all have a good week!

finals week

Finals week in college are probably one of the worst weeks for every college student adding mental illness into the mix doesn’t make it fun at all. Being as stressed I am I almost just shut down. Its honestly so scary for me. I have worked so hard for more then three months and I may not have done as while I wanted to. I work so hard in school so finals are no different. I hate them because everything is so close together. I am trying to study for one final while writing a paper for another because my mind will not stop telling me all the thing I have to get down in a four-day span. I go back home on Friday and on top of stressing about finals, I am sad to leave for the summer. I have living in the house for a year and being at school is my safe place I walk to the beach everyday maybe twice a day on really nice days and now I have to leave for the whole summer and not be anywhere near a beach. It sucks. Also I am leaving friends. I know I am going back in 3 months but that’s what sucks about college friends you don’t see them for so long. They can always visit but people are so busy in the summer that its almost impossible to meet up. So in short this is a hard week for my depression I am living my beach and my support group of friends here for 3 months and I have to wait and find out how I did in school which on top of everything is so stressful because of how hard I worked. Also because most of you reading this are from CT, I would love to let you know about the NAMI walk in Hartford. It is on May 21st and I would love you guys to make a team or just donate money. Its all about breaking the stigma around mental illness.

Part Two of Week 4/18/16 & Part One of Week 4/24/16

So when I posted on Monday I was having a horrible panic attack because of how stressful my week was going to be. So I did do horrible on my Spanish test but on the upside the lowest one is dropped so yay!… I guess… So then Tuesday came it was just like a normal Tuesday and I was able to do most of my Thursday night class homework that day during work. Wednesday was the worst day of this week. I had another Spanish quiz I went and took that after I rushed to interview 2 people for a project due Thursday. After interviewing I had about 15 minutes to eat and run to my event. The event I did was amazing. The group of performers we had were so kind and happy to be here sharing their story which meant a lot to me. I finally relaxed during the performance then after I got all stressed out again because I had a quiz and a paper due Thursday. So Thursday come and I get to sleep in a little I go to class and get a little stressed because my teacher wants us to work on our final paper in class. I don’t feel comfortable working on my papers in class because I have to map everything out and it doesn’t look like I’m doing what I should be, but I got through the class and did my best. Then I look my quiz for my one of my psychology classes and got a 92 (GO ME!!!). After class I went home and finished up typing up the interviews I took Wednesday and finished another paper for that class. After class Thursday I started studying for the quiz I had moved to Friday. Then I realized my teacher was doing a full moon meditation and I decided to go. Usually I wouldn’t but I knew my teacher would do a great job so I went and it was amazing I had an amazing time. Then I woke up Friday took my quiz and then set up for an event called Groove Boston. It was a lot of fun the people we set up with were so kind and helpful. We set up from 12pm-5pm and then went back and took it down from 1-3:30am. It was a long day but the people made it a good experience and that is what mattered the most I think. But it was a pretty stressful week but clearly I turned out okay and made it though
Week of 4/25/16
My plan is so part the first part of this week with the second part of last week if it makes sense to everyone if not okay let me know
So tomorrow ( Monday) I have my oral part of my Spanish final so I am kinda of stressed out about it but I know I will do my best and that is what matters. After that I have my boyfriend’s induction into his first honor society. Then I have a banquet after the banquet I am going home to work on my final paper for Philosophy class due next week but the sooner its due the less I have to worry about during finals. Tuesday I have class all day then work till 12am so I am going to study all night on my Spanish because I have my final Wednesday when I take a break during the 6 hours I am working I will be studying my psychology. My Spanish teacher didn’t want us to have our final on the final day so we are doing it this week which personally I am happy about. So that is what I am doing Wednesday after that I am writing a paper due Thursday night when I finish my paper I will be study for my psychology quiz I also have on Thursday. On Thursday I am going to relax after class before this weekend is going to be hell. We have a huge concert on Saturday night so I have to help out setting that up. It will be okay because we have such great people but it is going to be a lot to set up. In between shifts of setting up I’m going to be studying because of finals so wish me luck this week I will post the second half Sunday.

Introducing Our Newest Blogger: Kelly!

Introducing Our Newest Blogger: Kelly! – Learn more about Kelly and join her in discussion as she talks about life in college and dealing with anxiety, depression and OCD in her blog, “Daily Life as a College Student.”

She recently shared her inspiring story, which you can find HERE or at https://turningpointct.org/story/kelly-r/. In her story, Kelly tells us about her past and some of her future plans as she sets out to complete college and help other young adults who are struggling with mental illness.

“From getting through a panic attack to resisting the urge to do more than she really should, Kelly has been forthright about her everyday college experience and all the challenges that comes with being a passionate and dedicated student.”

Part One of Week 4/18/16

This is the first part of my blog for this week because my week is so stressful I want you guys to see how even though I feel so stressed, anxious and depressed this week I will get through it the second part will be posted Friday afternoon and I will be a reflection on how I thought this week really went. First off does anyone feel this week is so stressful? This is my second to last week of class and all of a sudden I feel like my life is falling apart its like someone pulled the rug out from under me and I just landed right on my face. I’ve been doing so well all semester and now I don’t know what to do. Today is Monday and looking at the week I’m trying to be positive and think maybe I can handle all of this but I have no idea how. This is my week… Monday (today) I have a Spanish test I should be studying for and I have but me and Spanish don’t really click. So I have studied the best I could. Then I have promo for an event I have on Wednesday but more on that later. Tuesday I have class all day then I have work till 12 am. Which is hopefully when I get most of my stuff done. Wednesday I have another test in Spanish and then I have an event, which I am really excited about but before the event I have to interview two people I only have 40 minutes to do it. Thursday my interview notes are due also I have two quizzes which I have to find time to study for because my event on Wednesday is going to till around 11:30. Having anxiety, I never know if I am over reacting about the stress or if I am really drowning. People around me without mental illness are also stressed so a feel a little bit better but I still feel super stressed. Being as stressed out as I am my depression is hurting me I want nothing to do with anyone. I want to lay in bed alone which is something I never ever want to do I want to be able to feel like everything I am doing throughout the day is meaningful but here I am wanting to skip class tomorrow to lay in bed. Well thanks for reading this guys. Wish me luck for this week to go by as quick and painless as possible. Look out for my next post on Friday.

3 Types of Music that Improves Sleeping Quality

Regardless of how much we have to do in one day, it’s important that we get enough sleep.

Less than 7 hours of sleep can affect your concentration and can also lead to mood problems.

But can music actually help people with sleep disorders?

I’ve been doing some research on the types of music that helps to improve sleep quality.

Three particular genres of music always seem to stand out, this includes: Jazz, Classical Music and Folk Music.

But outside this listing, I’ve also come across some other interesting facts:

 Bedtime music does help people with sleep disorders but it may take up to three weeks before you see actual improvements
 Music can help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer and feel more rested
 Music can lower your heart rate and slow down your breathing
 But if you are used to sleeping in a quiet room, any music might be disruptive for a while

Last year, around this time, Spotify released the World’s Sleep Playlist consisting of popular music… the playlist included artist like Ed Sheeren, Sam Smith and Passenger.
See here: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop-shop/6531669/ed-sheeran-spotify-sleep-playlists

But traditionally, Jazz Music has been one of the best sleep remedies.
Arguably, a Jazz song, one of my favorite Jazz songs is, ‘No Ordinary Love’ by Sade.

Classical music, however, has been pointed out by many research as just the finest sleep aid.
‘Good thing we can access classical masterpiece at just the click of a button.

Also, from my findings, Folk Music is also a great sleep aid. Songs like ‘You’ll Never Leave’ by Harlan and ‘Appalachian Hills’ by Dirt Wood Fire (paying attention to the instruments and melody), works if all you need is just a good night sleep.

My Day 4/12/16

First thing I heard this morning was someone throwing up in my bathroom. This really affected my anxiety, because I have OCD about cleanliness and germs. At home I don’t have control over my environment, so if the house is messy and unorganized I can’t do anything about it. Instead I have to keep my room at home unorganized so that I am less stressed about the mess around my house. But at school everything needs to be clean because I have control of my life here. I need everything to be clean, but when I wake up to someone throwing up it makes me really anxious and annoyed. today I had to get up at 7am and clean my bathroom.

The second thing I got to do today was deal with college loans. Loans are stressful, without having anxiety and depression, so having them makes it all so much worse. The reason I had to deal with loans unexpectedly was because I was behind on payments to my school, and I am scheduled to pick classes tomorrow at 8:30am. I would be unable to pick classes when my time arrived unless all my payments were in. Last year my registration day was the worst day I have ever had, and I had a panic attack to the point where I didn’t go to class for the next two days it was so intensely stressful. I had all of my classes picked out, but then none were open, the school I was at last year was huge! All my classes even second and third picks were taken. I never wanted to go through that again, so all I did was stress out about how this loan was not going to keep me from getting to them in time. The school was extremely helpful, and made sure everything was sorted out and I will be able to register tomorrow as planned.

The third thing that happened to me today day was that I came home and found my kitchen in a huge mess. As previously mentioned I have OCD. I feel dirty all over when my house is dirty, something which I just cleaned which made it all the more frustrating that it was already this gross again. So instead of writing a paper I needed to write for class I cleaned the whole kitchen. I also cleaned everything out of the dishwasher, and put it all away because once I start I can’t stop. After that I took everything from the sink, and put it in the dishwasher. It was now that I found that every piece of silverware we owned in the house was in the sink. It never occurred to anyone that they should wash any of it. Finally, once the entire kitchen has been purged, am I able to sit down. I just needed to write about my day, because sometimes it feels the world needs a few more OCD people to clean up for those who are not blessed with even just simple kitchen etiquette. I hope you have had a better day then mine went. Does anyone else have to deal with dirty roommate, whether they bother you because of OCD or just because it is gross? Anybody else want to open up they won’t know. I’m all ears!

Stay Safe <3

About Me

Hi my name is Kelly. My blog is going to be about daily life as college student with mental illness. I have anxiety, depression and OCD. I am a transfer student and transferring to the school I am at now as changed my life in incredible ways. Ways that makes it much easier to talk about my mental illnesses and help others who are suffering. I want to have you read my blog and understand that I go through the same things you all have at one time or another. I plan to blog about my week and how I got through a panic attack or when my OCD got really bad and I didn’t clean when I really wanted to. I want you to see that even though what you are doing seems very small it is a huge deal and I have no shame about sharing my daily life with you if I can help you in any way. I want you, who are reading my blog to understand you can always get help even when it seems impossible. College saved my life. Having help that was free to get changed everything it is amazing and works wonders for me and others.

Challenges

Every now and then I’ll see someone on my Facebook/Instagram newsfeed post photos for a challenge they are trying out. Whether it’s a 365 day photo challenge, or a 30 day workout challenge, I tend to check in to see how they are doing. Many times a person gives up after the first 10 days, so here’s a question for you…

Was there a “challenge” that you’ve tried and actually finished? There’s a challenge I came across Pinterest which involves 21 days of taking control of your nerves. (Great for people with anxiety).

Anxiety Challenge

http://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/How-Stop-Being-Nervous-39753929/?crlt.pid=camp.kapRtMUSspQp#photo-39753929

I want to try it out, but I have commitment issues and I don’t want to disappoint myself if I don’t complete the challenge. I guess I start it…tomorrow!

For those who have been successful with challenges, what has helped you complete them?

Coping Techniques

For the past couple of years, I’ve been receiving therapy treatment through EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing and works for those who’ve experienced trauma. It’s honestly saved my life and has helped me function enough to the point that I can actually drive a car now after a car accident and begin to trust again.

I came across an amazing article on how to “Self-Administer” EMDR when alone and I had to share it!
EMDR done at home is different than the therapy in an office with a licensed professional, but it does offer a new coping mechanism and a familiar option to help push through the anxiety.

Check it out! http://hubpages.com/health/How-To-Do-Self-Administered-EMDR-Therapy

What other techniques have you adopted to help you cope?

Catastrophizing

If you’re like me, I tend to think about everything I said, did, etc. and obsess over it. I replay everything in my head about 100 times to see what I did wrong, what others now think because of what I said or did (or maybe I didn’t say or do enough etc.) Unfortunately, this can cause so much anxiety that it disables me from focusing and getting my work done because I will be more preoccupied with everything going on around me.
Does this happen to you?
What does catastophizing look like for you?

Catastrophizing