Rooting for Recovery (Hip-Hip-Horray!)

There are days where I wonder how long it will take me to feel “normal.”

Are those damn bees ever going to stop buzzing around in my head and chest?

What about the drunk butterflies in my stomach (not the lovey-dovey butterflies either; the kind that makes you feel like you’re going to throw up your lunch)?

When will I get a decent night of sleep?

When do the depression and suicidal thoughts go away?

The fact is that I can’t answer those questions for myself or for you. All I know is that I didn’t get this way overnight, and chances are neither did you. That means that you can’t expect everything to get better in a day. Recovery takes time, patience, and determination.

Did you know that about 5-6% of adults in America have a serious mental illness? Additionally, around 2% have disorders that are considered long-term and debilitating. Only 40% of those diagnosed with a mental illness seek out treatment. Only 40%!?

Look, I know how scary it can be to reach out to others for help, especially when it’s about mental illness, but I’m here to tell you it’s the first step to recovery. Treatment, whether it’s support groups, therapy, and/or medications, has proven to be extremely successful in helping people recover from serious mental illnesses like Bipolar (80% recovery rate), Depression (80%), Schizophrenia (60%), and addiction (70%). Those are amazing recovery rates!

I shared those statistics with you to show you that there is hope and to get you wondering, “How can I find help and what are my options?”

Finding A Support Group or Therapist:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is a mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans who struggle with mental illnesses. They offer free peer-led support programs, education, and training. Click here to find your local NAMI.
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) works to improve access to health care. The website offers information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.

Mental Health and Insurance Coverage:

Find an Online Therapist:

  • Better Help offers plans that start at as low as $35 a week. Plus they offer financial aid! Counseling options are super versatile, letting you choose between texting, phone calls, or video chat. If for whatever reason you’re not happy with your counselor they’ll switch you to someone better suited for your needs.
  • 7 Cups charges $150 per month and sets you up with a licensed therapist. If you decide it isn’t for you, you can cancel within the first 72 hours. They won’t charge you until after the 72 hours is up.

Stick to it, even when you don’t want to. Some days I really just don’t want to go to therapy. I’m even guilty of occasionally using BS excuses to cancel, “So, uh…my dog’s birthday is today, so we’re doing something special. Sorry I won’t be able to make it.” If you find something that works for you, stay consistent with it.

Remember you’re not alone. Even on the days that you feel like no one is listening to you or like you have nobody to turn to, there are always people you can reach out to for support.

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Stop, Drop, and Assume the Fetal Position

Statistics say most people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of snakes and dying. Personally, I think I would rather take my chances in the desert with an angry rattlesnake than I would speaking in front of a large crowd of people. If I’m being 100% honest with you, in some cases, speaking in front of a single person can prove quite challenging. That’s because…

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     To be specific, since anxiety manifests in many different ways, I experience severe social anxiety because I have avoidant personality disorder (AvPD).

Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy, and sensitivity to negative criticism and rejection.

More than just a feeling of shyness, social anxiety can make you feel like there’s actually a colony of bees inside of your chest, buzzing around angrily because obviously, bees don’t want to be inside of your chest. Sometimes even seeing friends and family can feel like you’re being lined up for the firing squad. It can be very difficult to manage social anxiety because of the intense feelings of panic it causes. How can you cope with it then when you just want to stop, drop, and assume the fetal position?

Step out of your comfort zone and socialize. Yes, really. Believe me when I say it is way easier to sit in the comfort of your own home, chilling in your favorite PJs, and binging on Netflix. Realistically though, isolating yourself because of your fears isn’t doing you any favors. Start by dipping a toe in the water and try downloading an app like Bumble to meet new people in your area.

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Turn off your imagination. I was disappointed many years ago to learn that I don’t have psychic powers. I suppose I shouldn’t rule anything out because they could just be untapped powers, but as of now, I definitely can’t read minds. I’m going to take a stab in the dark here and guess that you can’t read minds either. Therefore, it’s easy to assume you know what someone is thinking about you but you really don’t. Even if you could read minds and knew for a fact what someone was thinking about you, you can’t control or change how they feel.*¹

Go easy on yourself. Social anxiety can make you overanalyze your every breath, word, and movement. Some typical self-conscious thoughts I have include:

  • “I can’t believe I just said that.”
  • “What if I say something wrong?”
  • “I hope no one notices how jittery (or tense) I am.”
  • “I probably should just stay quiet. No one wants to hear what I have to say anyway.”
  • “I wonder if anyone can smell that fart?”
  • “If I get up and throw this piece of garbage away everyone will look at me.”

Chances are no one is analyzing you that way, so why are you still dwelling on that weird thing you said 3 weeks ago? Hell, go out and say more weird things because that brings me to my next tidbit of advice.

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Be yourself. Sorry, I know it’s about as cliche as cliche gets but it’s solid advice. Confident people are not perfect anomalies who never say the wrong thing or act a little weird; they just embrace it. Learning how to be yourself is like polishing rust off of an old decoration. Once you scrape away the tough layers, you and everyone else can see your real beauty and who you’re meant to be.


*¹ If you can read minds I guess I shouldn’t say you can’t control people because if you can read people’s thoughts who am I to assume the extent of your psychic abilities? I’m just making an educated guess.

 

 

 

 

The Social Media Trap

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Social networks are the perfect way for people to put their perfect lives on display, or at least they know how to make their lives seem “perfect.” I used to follow a lot of girls on Instagram just because I wished I looked like them. I’d wish I had a face more like theirs, a life like theirs, or a body like theirs. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to others that we forget to love ourselves, and instead tell ourselves we’re not good enough. The thing about social media is that most of what you see isn’t real. Photos are staged, selfies are posed for, and many are even photoshopped. No one is perfect and no one has a perfect life, regardless of what you see on social media. You’re beautiful the way you are and you create your own happiness.

We spend so much time comparing ourselves to others that we forget to love ourselves, and instead tell ourselves we’re not good enough.

Wondering how you can escape the social media trap? The good news is that it’s nothing like trying to escape from a bear trap. You won’t have to chew your leg off or anything like that.

     Start by weeding out some of the people you follow. Ask yourself why you’re following each person. If it’s because you spend your time comparing yourself to them and that’s it, that’s a pretty good sign you should unfollow that person. I don’t follow anyone anymore unless I really, truly, enjoy their content and personality.

     Do a social media detox. Taking a break from all social media for a while is amazingly refreshing. It’s incredible the things I get done now that I can’t spend my days scrolling through the same three apps over and over. On top of that, it’s really helped build my self-confidence back up and lowered my stress levels.

     Be able to be disconnected. Thanks to social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat we’re constantly connected with people, even while you’re sitting on the toilet taking a dump. The important question is, how long can you go without checking your phone? If you’re anything like me the answer is probably about 30 seconds. Try taking some time every day to just be disconnected from your phone. Put it out of sight, out of mind if that helps (like in the junk drawer that I keep saying I”m going to organize but never do).

     Ditch the “if only I could have that” thought. It’s human nature to occasionally be jealous or envious of another person. There will always be people who have something you wish you had, whether it’s a sweet pair of Jeffrey Campbell’s, a fancy designer bag, fancy cars, or a pretty new haircut. But, did you know, that a lot of the fancy-schmancy crap that influencers post on Instagram doesn’t actually belong to them? In many cases, a company will send an influencer a product so they can take a cool picture with it, hype up the product in the caption, and then send it back. On to the next promoter.

See what I mean now about “perfection” being a lie?

You’re beautiful the way you are and you create your own happiness.


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The Difference Between BPD and Bipolar

As someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I’ve noticed that more often than not, people don’t have the slightest clue what BPD is or they have very little understanding of it. When I discuss how batshit crazy* I am with someone and mention that I have BPD the person will nine times out of ten exclaim, “You’re Bipolar?!” The two are often confused with each other and improperly diagnosed because they share some very similar symptoms. With that said, I feel like it’s pretty important to address the differences between these two mental illnesses.

Instead of writing a ridiculously long post about how BPD and Bipolar differ I decided to make a spiffy little compare and contrast chart. Creative, right? Thanks, I try.
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* I’m aware it’s typically frowned upon when people with mental illness call themselves crazy. That’s why I chose “batshit crazy” instead. Loop holes.

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Bring Change to Mind

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There is something amazingly hopeful about fresh starts. Let’s be honest though. Change is scary and most people aren’t really a fan of shifting from their ‘daily norm’. So many people avoid change because they fear the unknown or that something might not work out. People are terrified of the F-word. No, not fuck, that doesn’t even make sense. I’m talking about failure. Remember the 26th President of the United States? Yea, I’m talking about good ol’ Theodore Roosevelt. The man was a wise sage who once said,

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Sounds great, right? Now you’re probably wondering how to take Teddy’s advice and “dare greatly”. This is the part where I give you some of my own advice.

Don’t downplay the positives. It’s important to celebrate your successes, even the little ones. Finally called the doctor and set up that colonoscopy you’ve been putting off? Great, healthy bowels are awesome. Dug your dusty yoga matt out of the closet for the first time in weeks? Make it the beginning of a habit. Completed a project that you’ve been meaning to finish? Congratulate yourself!

Set S.M.A.R.T goals and achieve them.
Specific – What is it that you’re trying to accomplish? Make sure your goal is clear and defined.
Measurable – Setting measurable goals can keep you moving in the right direction. Try keeping track of your goals and growth with a productivity planner or take some inspiration from Pinterest and get creative with a bullet journal.
Attainable – Make your goals attainable, exciting, and realistic. Then, with all your heart, believe that you can achieve them.
Relevant – What areas of your life do you want to change the most? Create goals that will help you cultivate that change.
Timely – When you set a deadline for your goal it can increase your motivation and help you stay on the right track. It’s easy to say, “I’m going to do ____ thing” but when you say, “I’m going to do ____ by _____ time/date” you add a little more solidity to your goal.

Cut out the negative self-talk. I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. What do we gain though from only focusing on the negative? Start by making little changes in the words you use. Stop using words like nevercan’tfailure, and any other self-deprecating words you use.*

Don’t let fear keep you at a standstill. Sometimes our lives have to be completely shaken up, recreated, and reimagined to make us who we want to be. Think of a situation that causes you fear or anxiety. Picture that fear as a hurdle in a race that you can’t quite jump over (that’s okay, I have short legs too). Then imagine yourself pouring lighter fluid all over the hurdle, throw a match on it, and burn that bitch to the ground. From there, you keep on moving.


* I 100% support the use of dark humor as a coping strategy. However, I don’t condone belittling yourself in a serious matter. Please only insult yourself jokingly and lovingly.

 

Simple Introductions

I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Yet. We’re going to change that though, right? Right. I’m Heather. Nice to meet you! Disclaimer: my blog is going to have some pretty heavy stuff about mental illness. If that makes you uncomfortable then you’re in the wrong place. Or, maybe you’re in the right place and my blog will help eliminate whatever stigma you might have about mental illness. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, whether you’re struggling with your mental health or not, I hope you keep reading.

Now, a little more about me, since I promised you’d get to know me. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. At 18 I got an official novel’s worth of diagnoses including Borderline Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Social Anxiety, OCD, and Depression.

When you let mental illness take control of your life you start to forget who you are– that you’re even really a person. I lost interest in things I once loved, I isolated myself, and I lashed out at everyone around me.

Last year, I decided I wasn’t going to let it control me anymore. I started going to individual therapy again and I’m in a Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) group. I’ve been prescribed what I can only describe as an experimental-cocktail-of-various-medications until my doctor and I can find what helps for me long term (trial and error). Personally, I think ’17 was a victory. But, I can do better. ’18 is the year for new beginnings. This year, I want to really find myself again. I don’t want to be a “new me” really. I just want to rediscover the good things about myself that I know are already there and build off of that. I hope you’ll join me on my journey of self-discovery and can find some solace in the fact that I’m bat-shit crazy and am still going strong. That means if I can do it, you can, too.