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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

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week!

Today marks the start of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week! From February 25th- March 5th we can try to commit to being happy with ourselves and our bodies the way they are, not the way we think they are supposed to be. Instead of trying to fit into a box, we can appreciate the utility of our bodies, the way they function to keep us living. The amazing strength we have. The unique beauty each of us posses. We are all amazing!

Today, I thank my body. But, I also thank myself. Because for a long time I hated nearly everything about my body. The things I focused on we small details of perceived perfection I wanted so desperately to achieve. Yet, no matter how much I forced my body to change, no matter how unkind I was to myself, using food and weight as my weapon, I did not grow to love my body any more. I grew to hate it more, to see my flaws as being bigger, more unmanageable, more important and glaringly obvious to everyone. How exhausting it was to fight a battle for years against myself and food, a battle I had no idea was impossible to win.
So, I thank my body and myself. Because today I am a person who has recovered from an eating disorder, and it is such an incredible thing to say!

Even if you have never suffered from an eating disorder or known someone who has, this week is important. We all face stigma, shame and “rules” about our bodies, beauty, and standards. Isn’t it an exhausting ride to be stuck on?
So, instead of trying to fit into some arbitrary ideal of beauty, which doesn’t truly exist, lets love ourselves. Lets love our bodies, even the parts we sometimes hide. Because our bodies love us, they are for us, they do everything in their power to take care of us. Lets thank our bodies with some well deserved love, and reap the benefits!

If you are concerned you or someone you care about might be struggling with eating or with their body image in some way, help them out by suggesting they take a screening and offer your support. Help is out there. Recovery exists. Here is the link to a free and confidential screening that you or someone you know can take online, click here.

For even more resources on Eating disorders, check out our map or go to “resources” and click “support by topic”

If you have ever struggled with an eating disorder, how are you doing these days? If you have found recovery, what helped you?
If you have never struggled with an eating disorder, in what ways do you struggle with your body? In what ways do you love your body?

Recovery Month

Hey guys! September is recovery month- and that means that we get to celebrate the incredible changes our recovery has welcomed into our lives.
This is also our chance to reach out to those who are struggling, who have not yet realized how to begin the lifelong process of healing and growth.
In the wake of many recent overdoses and suicides, this is an incredible time to break stigma, celebrate life, and help those who are struggling.

What is the best thing in your life after recovery?

I am finally able to move towards the many goals I’ve had for years and years. When I was struggling, I knew I wanted to be different, I knew I wanted to go to school, to be happy, succeed, work, and more. Yet, I believed it wasn’t possible. I thought I was doomed to a life of “sickness”. And the times I tried, and wasn’t able to continue were only evidence of my inability to grow. Yet today, I am breaking the stigma attached to many of us. I am happily raising my daughter, going to school, and working- something that several years ago I thought would not be possible.

Share your hope and why you love recovery with us.

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.


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.


I Have a Name

Junkie. Loser. Low-life. Bum. Drunk. Piece of trash. Worthless. Crack-head. Meth-head. Those are just some of the names that society often calls people who suffer with addiction. It’s one way that people help fuel stigma and make the situation for the person they are calling names even worse. I have been called those names.

I remember a time when I saw a man who was homeless, sitting outside of a convenient store. Occasionally he would ask someone walking by for money or food, other times he would stay silent. I had watched people ignore him, roll their eyes at him, and walk in a pathway that would have them avoid him completely. He had a brown bag in his hand that wrapped around a can of beer. His clothes were filthy and his face was dirty. His hair needed grooming, along with his beard. He looked to be around the age of 60. I then saw a man, mid-forties, dressed in a suit and tie, step out of his black BMW. The homeless man had asked him for food as he walked past him. The man in the suit looked at him with disgust and replied, “No!”

My heart instantly ached for this homeless man. I got out of my car and walked over to him. I bent down so that I could be at eye-level with this man. I was the only one who wasn’t “afraid” to get close to him.
I outstretched my hand in hopes of shaking his and kindly said, “Hi sir. I’m Ally.”

He gripped my hand gently and responded, “Hi there young lady. My name is Fred.”
“I couldn’t help but notice you would like some food. What would you like? Will you allow me to purchase it for you?” I asked.
“Really? That would be great. Just any ole’ sandwich will do, thank you.” Fred replied with gratitude in his voice.
“Do you have any allergies or anything?” I asked.
“No ma’am,” He said. His manners put a smile on my face.
“Wonderful! I’ll be right back!” I eagerly said.

I had entered the store, purchased a sandwich, drink, and candy bar for Fred. I exited the store and handed the items to Fred, explaining what each one was. I sat down with him as he examined each item. As he thanked me, I told him how it was not necessary to thank me. As Fred shoved the food into his mouth, I started up casual conversation with him about the weather and sports. I noticed that he had a tattoo on his hand that I recognized very well. It was a Purple Heart, a military decoration awarded in the name of the President, to those wounded or killed while serving, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S Military. I recognized this symbol because a family member of mine had received it as well. I asked him about it and he began to tell me a bit about the story behind him receiving it. He had mentioned how he got it tattooed on him because he wanted to “always see it and remind me of my fellow hero’s”.

As Fred told me some of his stories of being a soldier, I noticed that people looked at me sitting next to him with the strangest looks. Those strange looks didn’t bother me, but remember that man, in the suit, who rejected food for Fred? He bothered me. He came out of the store, walked up to Fred and me and said, “Girl, you better get away from this man! He’s a drunk and will con you into money to buy him more booze. I don’t know why you even helped this man! He doesn’t care what you do; all he wants is your money. I would leave him alone before he tries to rape you!” I looked over at Fred, who was preoccupied with eating his food. Although he had no vocal reaction to The Suit Man’s words, I saw his eyes squint and I could visibly notice his pain, despite his ability to hide it.
“With all due respect, sir, this is Fred and he is not a rapist. I watched you turn him down when he asked you for FOOD. Not money, not booze, but food. You interrupted our conversation about how he earned a Purple Heart. Yeah, I bet you didn’t know that Fred is a veteran, huh? And to be honest, I’m more afraid of being close to you than I am to Fred. So please, if you have nothing nice to say or do, allow us to continue our conversation over his lunch, thanks.” I answered. As kind and respectful as I tried to be, I had a snotty tone in my voice while speaking to Suit Man.
“Alright lady, but you’ll understand when you get older to never help a drunken bum,” Suit man said. He got into his BMW and drove away. I looked over at Fred and said, “Sorry Fred, please tell me the rest of your story.”

Fred had openly told me about how he suffered with the disease of alcoholism. At the time that I had met Fred, I was in recovery from addiction myself. I told Fred about my experience. I knew the struggle he was facing every second of every day. I remember being in Fred’s position, but instead of a can of beer, I had a needle and heroin. We have different drugs of choice, but are battling the same demon. When I first saw Fred sitting outside the convenient store, I remembered when someone had bought me food. I remembered when someone had asked me about my life. I remembered when someone wasn’t fearful to come close to me. I also pictured his family. Fred is someone’s son, as I am my mother’s daughter. Despite the disease he has, Fred is a human. Fred has feelings. Someone cares for Fred, as someone cares for me.

I bring up the topic today about name calling, labeling, and feeding into the stigma of addiction. Too many times I see people bury their loved ones due to this disease. However, all too many times, despite all of the people that love and care for the deceased and addicted, there is always that person and those people who call them a name, just like Suit Man did to Fred. Yes, we are addicts and alcoholics, but we also have a name, which we prefer to be referred to when you talk about and to us.

So next time you hear the names, or see that “bum/junkie/loser/drunk”, remember their families, remember Fred. Ask them what their name is and remember the parents that gave them their name. No parent named their child those cruel names that society labels people who have an illness. If you met someone with cancer, would you think it is kind and fair to call them “cancer-head”, or maybe something like “baldy”, for someone who has lost their hair due to their cancer? Doesn’t sound very kind, does it? What about calling someone a name that society names them because of a condition or appearance they have, such as autism, a mental disability, ethnicity, or race? Try to think of that, the same way as someone with the illness of addiction and/or alcoholism. Behind that “bum/junkie/loser/drunk” is a person, and they have a name. I’m Ally and I’m not a “junkie”. It hurts me when people have called me that name and still continue to, despite where I am in my recovery. Notice how when someone introduces themselves as, “Hi my name is, and I’m an addict/alcoholic,” they mention their NAME first? Notice how they don’t call themselves those stigmatized names? Society gasps and shames people for calling someone “retarded”, but what about those who call someone “junkie”? Why is that more acceptable?

We, the people that suffer with addiction, have a name. We are NOT “losers”. We are NOT “junkies”. We are NOT “bums”. We are NOT a “low-life”. Most importantly; we are NOT worthless, but we are very worthy to be called by our names.

I Got Rid of All My Demons

To listen to a black artist sing about depression is a little thrilling.

To hear a black artist speak about mental illness, about eradicating stigma and encouraging men, especially black men to disavow the age-old belief that they are somehow immune to mental illness, is groundbreaking.

Lyrics can reveal pain, sorrow, frustration and depression in a very artful way and here is a rapper who is fearless and bold enough to bring out the trauma that is intertwined in his thoughts and feelings through his music.

Vic Mensa, was on medications while he was dealing with his own deep darkness. He talks about the shortfalls of drugs and prescribed drugs but the natural healing of being honest and forthright about your struggles.

In acknowledgement of men’s health month, I encourage you to watch this interview.

Addiction Has No Face

Today is actually Prince’s birthday. Today he would have been 58 years old.

Prince, as we know, has had a tremendous impact on music. As we celebrate his life and legacy there is a new conversation, in which he could be just as impactful.

We learnt last week that Prince died of opioid-related overdose (Fentanyl -pain killer). Prince was not a known drug addict – publicly, he was portrayed as being entirely clean – not even a drinker.

What may have been a prescribed pain killer turned out to be the cause of addiction and the untimely death of a beloved music icon.

What this teaches us is that addiction has no face. We are at a point where addiction or death from addiction is no longer entirely oriented with low-life culture.

Obviously we have a universal issue that affects everyone and anyone and more people will help to demolish the stigma of addiction by getting help or educating themselves especially about prescription drugs.

Where do we go from here? How do we use the story of Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse to save lives and dismiss the stigma of addiction?

Pain-Killers are becoming some of our biggest killers – for a similar reason that we listen to music, many musicians seek comfort and ease of pain (whether physical or mental) from the use of drugs and alcohol.

Maybe drugs have a way of driving musical talent through its physical and psychological impact but it’s also a threat to our music and musicians.

Live Through This

As a survivor of suicide, sometimes it’s hard for me to not think about it again…and again. In the past, I’ve thought about what I did wrong that failed my attempts and what I could have done to succeed (what my other alternatives were).
Today, I am focusing more on what I am doing to better myself so when I do have suicidal thoughts, I don’t act on them. It’s a very difficult thing to do, but it is possible!
I have also tried thinking more about what my purpose is here on Earth. Now that I’ve been through this, it’s my turn to give back to prevent this from happening to someone else.

I came across this amazing blogger (Dese’Rae L.Stage) who shared her story about going through a very difficult time while staying in an abusive relationship. When Dese’Rae’s depression consumed her, she hit rock bottom and attempted suicide. After her failed attempt this is what she did: “I’ve collected the stories and portraits of attempt survivors across the country, people just like you and me, and I’m finding that the louder I yell, and the more people I convince to yell with me, the more we inch toward breaking down those walls of stigma and shame, and the easier it becomes to just live through this.”

Out of all of the survivors, the person who I felt connected to and who expressed very similar thoughts of survival was Tile Celeste.
She talks about her rethinking process after her attempt. She needed to figure out what part of her was worth holding onto. She says: “I started figuring out who I wanted to save: the Tile that I didn’t want to be gone.”

Which person do you feel most connected to? Who stood out?

Check out the project here: Live Through This
or here ->>>>> http://www.refinery29.com/2015/09/82628/live-through-this-suicide-attempt-survivors#slide

Mental Illness in the News

Lately there has been a lot of talk about the airplane crash by the German Airliner into the French Alps this past week killing everyone on board. However they are linking this violent act with mental illness, not helping that already strong stigma on mental illness. Check out this interesting article on the stigma related to the airplane crash.

Using Language to Reduce Stigma

As mental health issues gain more attention in the news today, we hear the word “stigma” thrown around quite a bit. There are various campaigns aimed at reducing mental health stigma—”Stop the Stigma”, “End the Stigma”, “Fight Stigma”—to name a few. But how are we using these campaigns to inform, educate, and impact people? More importantly, how can YOU change your language to reduce stigma? What are some ways in which language affects attitude?