Category: Mental Health

Mental Health Resources in Edmonton

Mental Health Resources in Edmonton

Hello all! Unscheduled blog post, but I’ve been inspired to make a write up with some details about the mental health resources here in Edmonton in the hopes that it can help someone start the right steps towards recovery. So here we go. First off, I’m going to outline the steps to getting help in our healthcare system.

The best thing you can do for yourself is find a good family doctor. Having a family doctor that you trust and is informed of your situation is the first line of defense. I didn’t realize how many resources out doctors in Edmonton really have. One of the main ones being – the PCN, or Primary Care Network. I have personally used this resource quite a few times and I can’t say enough good things about it. They have psychiatrists, dietitians, counselors, etc. And the best part? It’s all free! This is paid for by our government here in Alberta. The other aspect of finding a family doctor is they have to be the ones to refer you to a psychiatrist. So, this is the first and most important step.

Next step would be getting the psych evaluation done. This is important for an accurate diagnosis, as there’s only so much our doctors know about mental health. Psychiatrists are specialists in mental health issues and therefore it’s best to be diagnosed by them. The other great part of getting this evaluation done is that they can give your doctor medication recommendations. This is important in sustaining and stabilizing your mental health problems. Sometimes it takes a while to get in to see a psych, so while you’re waiting for that appointment, start seeking therapy from a counselor or psychologist.

Now, I’ve discussed this before but I’ll go over it again. Counselors are great, don’t get me wrong. But I do believe they are better suited for people with more generalized issues, such as general depression and anxiety. Another thing they’re good for is stress management. However, for people with more intense problems such as myself, who deal with childhood trauma or PTSD, or specific mental disorders such as bipolar, psychologists truly are the better way to go. Yes, they are more expensive. But I’ve personally found it so much more beneficial to my mental health. They also are a lot more trained in specific disorders/issues which is a comfort to know you’re in the hands of someone who is very experienced in your particular area you have to work on.

Alright, let’s discuss medications folks. Patient compliance is so freaking important. A lot of people have the issue where once they start feeling good on their medication, they stop taking it. They feel as if they do not need it and have cured themselves. Now, I have issue with this. The reason you are getting better is because of the medication my friends! PLEASE do not stop taking medications unless advised by your family doctor or psychiatrist. Do yourselves that favor. Because medication withdrawal is a real issue.

These are the first steps to maintaining a health mind! I’ll follow up with a list below of specific resources here in Edmonton and make sure I include price points where applicable.

 

Suicide Crisis Lines:

(780) 342-7777 or 780-482-HELP (4357)

Therapy options:

Community Counselling Centre http://www.communitycounsellingcentre.ca/

(780) 482-3711

10534 124 St #202, Edmonton, AB

($120/session but work on a sliding scale depending on your household income)

Equinox Therapeutic https://equinoxtherapeutic.com/

(780) 885-6454

Multiple locations throughout Edmonton

(beginning at $95/session-$180/session based on sliding scale)

Group Therapy:

Momentum Walk-in Counseling https://www.momentumcounselling.org/#

  • Have a variety of drop-in support groups for different disorders/mental problems

CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) https://edmonton.cmha.ca/

  • Have a variety of support group options

Royal Alexandra Hospital 

10959 102 St NW, Edmonton, AB

Addiction and Mental Health Access 24/7

Recently the Royal Alex opened up their addiction and mental health center that runs 24 hours a day. They have on site counselors and doctors.

Finding a Family Doctor

Go to https://search.cpsa.ca/physiciansearch and find yourself a family doctor to help you through your mental health issues

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July – Dissociation

July – Dissociation

July Mental Health Discussion

Dissociation

It’s that time again folks, welcome to our next mental health discussion! This month, my suggestion comes from a new friend of mine, Danielle. Thanks girl!

Today we’re going to talk about dissociation. Now, many of you might not necessarily know what this means, especially if you do not suffer from mental illness (or a mental illness that can cause these episodes). So, let me explain what dissociation means and try to give you insight into how it feels.

Dissociation is defined as: a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity.

Now, some people think that this is the same as psychosis. But it is not. Psychosis is defined as: an abnormal condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is real and what is not. Symptoms may include false beliefs (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear (hallucinations).

Personally, when I am dissociating, I have a hard time connecting with my emotions. I feel a lack of anything, which includes fear. This becomes very dangerous, as I get suicidal thoughts/ideations and am not afraid of the consequences of my actions. I forget all of the reasons I have to live. I forget that I don’t actually want to die, that death actually scares the heck out of me. This has always been what has held me back from choosing to end my life, so when those fears go away, it’s not a good situation to be in to say the least. As my friend puts it, “It’s like the worst auto pilot ever and you can’t get access to the controls”.

Another symptom of dissociating is not understanding time. Not knowing how much time has passed, what day it is, or even what season it is (for me anyway). This can be really unnerving, especially if you’re alone. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the couch, head in my hands, trying to calm my breathing during an episode. I’ll look up and see 3 hours has gone by since I last looked at the clock. It almost feels like time stands still, but the world keeps going on without you. Time is frozen, yet it’s also moving way too fast. I even forget sometimes that I’m in my own apartment.

Now, lastly, here’s something I’ve touched in briefly before about dissociating, and it very common in people with bipolar disorder like myself. There is a lack of identity. You feel as though you’re meant for more or meant for greater things. For me, this comes out as an obsession of mythical creatures. A want for them to be real so you can be a part of something bigger than yourself. Something that explains why you’re “not normal”. For me, I start to feel like I’m waiting for someone to just show up and tell me there’s this secret and hidden world that I’m being called to, like out of a weird fairy tale. You have a hard time identifying with other people around you or who you identify as when you’re not going through an episode. The person you were, is left behind. You feel like that’s not even the true you.

I hope I was able to shed some light on what dissociating feels like so you have a better understanding of how people feel when it is happening. It is just as scary as it sounds. In the event that someone you know is going through this, the best advice I can give is make sure they are not alone. There’s no telling what someone will do in that state and most cases require hospitalization until it passes. Thank you for taking the time to read today.

 

I was hesitant to write about this subject. There’s still a little bit of shame in me regarding dissociating. It makes me feel like I’m “crazy”. Like there’s something wired wrong in my brain and I should be committed for thinking a vampire is gonna come up to me one day and say “Hey, where have you been? We’ve been searching for you”. Those aren’t “normal” thoughts. It’s scary and confusing and weird all in one. It can be very hard to explain to someone, so I hope I did an okay job expressing myself today. And please remember that I am writing based on my own experiences/symptoms.

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June – Not Letting Mental Illness Define You

June – Not Letting Mental Illness Define You

June Mental Health Discussion

Not Letting Mental Illness Define You

 

Hello all! And welcome to this month’s mental health discussion. This month was a suggestion by quite a few of the readers over this last year. I haven’t written about it until now because honestly, I’ve let it define me and who I am as a person. It’s been the sole focus of my life for a long time but I’ve finally learned how to let it be a part of me without it being the whole of me. Now, let’s get started.

Ahh good ‘ol mental illness. Sometimes it can feel like you’re not even in control of your own thoughts and emotions. It can feel soul crushing, quite frankly. Some days it’s all I can even think about. How do we go about changing this? It controls every second of our lives it seems and I never really knew how to think of myself as more than just somebody who suffers from Bipolar Disorder and anxiety. It just seemed like such a huge part of me that all the others aspects of my personality kind of faded away. Personally, I’m not the best when it comes to not letting mental illness define you. I’ll be the first to admit that. However, I’ve definitely improved over the last 6 months. It’s been a work in progress but if I can do it, so can you! I think the biggest struggle I have in not letting it define who I am is the fact that I am such a huge advocate for mental health and talking about the tough things. It’s such a main goal and focus on mine to destigmatize mental health. Now, when you’re this passionate about something, it can be hard to remember I’m an average person with every day interests. Yes, I suffer from mental illness. Yes, it affects me every day. No, it does not need to be the sole focus of who I am.

One of the first things that really helped me get out of my slump of letting it define who I am was finding other interests outside of my blog. It’s so nice to get lost in something I enjoy and take my mind off of the struggles. Personally, I enjoy painting, drawing, writing, and reading. These are things that are not only therapeutic and good for my mental health, but it lets me remember that I’m good at things! I’m not an artist by any means but I would say I’m pretty okay at the hobbies I have and enjoy. It gives me a sense of purpose and makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something once I’m done. I think it’s so important to have hobbies and interests. It gives you an escape from your own head and I think it’s really beneficial to everyone, not just people suffering.

Now, the biggest things that helps when it comes to this topic honestly, is just being open about your struggles. Tell your friends and family that you struggle. Tell your doctor and health care professionals. Tell the whole world! I know this is so much easier said than done to be this vulnerable, but it’s so important. One of the reasons mental illness has consumed my life so significantly is because the only person that really knew how much I was struggling for a long time was my mom. I didn’t really tell my friends that I was depressed or potentially had bipolar. I didn’t tell them to reason I don’t drive is because of anxiety. I was not ready to tell the world. Looking back on it now, it really hindered me in so many ways. It put distance between me and my friends, it affected my grades and motivation, it even affected my sleep. It’s hard not to let something define you when it’s this big secret. When it’s something that is out there and in the open, it just becomes common knowledge. The “coming out” if you will about mental illness can be very uncomfortable. But I really encourage people to do so. It completely changes your head space and feelings about it.

Now this part is going to be some tough love, so get ready. SUCK. IT. UP. Let me explain. Sometimes you have to have the tough conversation with yourself. While I do not want to belittle mental illness in any way, I think we really need to lighten up the situation sometimes and count your blessings. When I feel really overwhelmed by my disorders, I like to count out the things I have and am thankful for. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, a partner who loves me, amazing friends, a great therapist, my mom, etc. It gives a lot of perspective into how lucky we truly are, despite our stupid chemical imbalances. When we’re struggling, it’s hard not to feel like the victim. It’s so easy to say “poor me, this is so unfair”. I am the first to admit I am so horribly guilty of this, but I’m doing my best to work on it. But honestly, you have to just deal with the cards you’ve been dealt in this life. No amount of self pity is going to change your reality. The best you can do is pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and say a big “fuck you” to your mental illness.

Lastly, one of the things to do if you’re really struggling with this is to seek therapy. Therapists and psychologists have so many amazing tools and knowledge on a wide variety of things, including how to help with issues regarding your identity. I think it can be hard to do without professional help, so don’t be afraid to bring it up in your next session. I think everyone who suffers from mental illness struggles with letting it completely consume them. And it’s hard to fault them for that. Mental illness dictates your whole life. It affects relationships (with yourself and with others), emotions, trains of thought, etc. It literally affects you every second of every day, even if you’re managing it well. It’s always there, lingering, waiting. So please, see if your counseling resource has any tips and tricks for you, or even just talk about it. Sometimes it’s just nice for people to listen. It brings this big weight off your chest and afterwards you feel a little freer.

Thank you so much for reading this month’s mental health discussion. I hope it’s been a helpful read for those of you who were requesting to hear about this topic. The main take away – only you can control how you feel about yourself and your illness. Remember to be kind to yourself.

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May – How the Media Portrays Mental Illness

May – How the Media Portrays Mental Illness

May Mental Health Discussion

How the Media Portrays Mental Illness

Hello all! Welcome to my May Mental Health Discussion. This month’s idea was given to me by my friend Cait (Thanks Cait!) and I couldn’t be more excited to discuss this topic. This month’s blog post will be more of an opinion piece rather than advice or scientific fact, so let’s jump right in!

My earliest memory of seeing mental illness in the media was watching Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 ‘Psycho’, which to this day is still one of my favorite films. I remember thinking “wow, this guy is crazy!”. Now, I was a silly 12 year old at the time, not realizing that this portrayal of mental illness was the extreme, so bare with me. I automatically

Retrieved from imdb.com

assumed anyone suffering from mental illness was also this ill. In reality, MOST mentally ill humans are not in this same kind of state that Norman Bates was. Most people can stay in their right mind and not deal with this severe of a mental episode. There are the unfortunate ones who deal with disassociation, hallucinations, multiple identities/misidentify, etc. (Raise yo hand if you’re like me!). However, most people suffering from a mental disorder do not have these sorts of issues. I did not realize this until I was about 15 or 16 years old, when I first started going to therapy. Going to therapy and speaking to a professional, I came to realize that I was mentally ill. But I did not relate at that time to Norman Bates. I began to question everything! So, I did my research and started to understand that mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes.

Now, fast forward to today – I am an advocate for mental health. And I DO NOT like the way that mental illness is portrayed in the media (for the most part; there are always exceptions). The majority of cases, I see mental health patients portrayed as absolutely batshit insane. And this makes me so mad! A lot of the people who suffer from mental illness, you wouldn’t really notice until you get to really know them. Even then, you may just notice a few oddities, nothing overly prominent. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone tell me, “you don’t seem sick”. While this is an innocent enough thing to say, the way it makes people such as myself feel is not great. It almost belittles the struggles that we go through. But it’s hard to fault people for this, as I really do blame the media for this misconception. The media only wants to show people at their worst and lowest point – they like the dramatic. What you see isn’t generally real. It’s not relatable to people like me.

One of my biggest pet peeve’s is (obviously) how bipolar disorder tends to be portrayed. We all have had people refer to something/someone as “bipolar”. Now, usually when this is the case, they are referring to the weather changing dramatically in a short time frame or someone who’s anger goes from 0 to 100 in a second. Because of the media, people have generalized bipolar as someone who has an issue with anger – they will be happy go lucky one moment and the next, they’re yelling and screaming at you. This could not be further from the truth. “He’s so bipolar” has become way too common of a thing (for those of you who do not understand bipolar disorder, please refer to my blog post about educating on bipolar). I think the first time I had bipolar disorder betrayed in a way that I actually felt/understood it was when I read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven last year. For the first time, it felt like reading about my own life. So while I am irritated with how mental illnesses come across, there are exceptions to every rule.

I’ve noticed a theme when it comes to mental illness in the media, and it’s that almost every time there is someone who is mentally ill, they end up in a psych ward. This enrages me to no end and here’s why. First off, as I just explained, a lot of mentally ill humans are able to maintain and manage all on their own with the help of medication and therapy. It is a very extreme case that someone ends up in a psych ward but the media acts like that’s the go-to when it comes to treating mental disorders. Another reason is that it’s completely inaccurate. Anyone who suffers

Retrieved from http://www.tv.com/news/penny-dreadful-a-blade-of-grass-review-psych-ward-blues-photo-recap-146396481078/

with their mental health can tell you how messed up the health care system is. Nobody takes your concerns seriously and it takes a lot for people to even agree to put you on medication for anything. Nevermind going to a hospital and begging for help during a psychotic episode. As someone who experiences these episodes, I have never been admitted to the hospital for it. I have gone through emergency and “been treated”, but no doctors have seemed concerned over my suicidal episodes and usually send me home. So to say that the first time someone reaches out for help they end up being forced into a psych ward involuntarily is very unlikely.

The reality is, you might not be able to tell what’s going on in someones head. Even the most severe cases, you may never know what someone is going through. We become experts at hiding it honestly. We like to hide the struggles because it makes us feel like a burden to reach out and show our vulnerability. So before you get any “education” through the media, make sure it’s accurate. It’s better to educate yourself by doing your research through accredited sites or asking someone who personally goes through it (I’m an open book, ask me anything!).

I am extremely hopeful that the more we try and end the stigma and have these conversations, the more accurate portrayals will become and the more informed people will be.

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April – Avoiding a Caregiver Relationship

April – Avoiding a Caregiver Relationship

April Mental Health Discussion

Avoiding A Caregiver Relationship

Retrieved from Stock Video Footage – Storyblocks Video

One of the biggest struggles that I have found in my marriage is making a conscious effort to avoid it from turning into a caregiver type relationship. You get into a routine, you have someone who maybe needs their significant other more often than not, someone who is mentally ill while the other is not. It’s a tough balancing act, and after 8 years I’m still definitely not the perfect partner. However, I have always done my best to ensure that my husband is not my caregiver. For anyone struggling with this dynamic, I have a few recommendations that have helped for myself and I hope they can help you too. So, here we go!

My first tip is the most important one, which is making sure you use some of your good days to show your partner how special and appreciated they are. I know that’s hard to do when you’re feeling ill, trust me! You can barely take care of yourself, let alone cater to someone else’s needs. On my good days, I try to do lots of chores and maybe even make my hubby a nice roast for dinner. They appreciate this more than you could ever understand because it really shows them that you’re making an effort to be an equal member of the relationship. I also try to vocalize my appreciation as often as I can, to make sure he knows how important he is to me and my recovery. Another good idea is planning a fun date that involves things that they really enjoy – whether it’s a movie night in (they pick the movie and the snacks) or going out and trying something they’ve always wanted to do. Arrange a day to say “hey, it’s about you. Thanks for letting it usually be about me”.

Another thing that I think is important to do is join a support group. One of the best things I ever did was partake in a Bipolar Support Group run by one of the local counseling companies. This allowed me to lean on others and find like minded folks to talk to when I needed it. One of the things I like about this is that it takes some of the pressure off of your significant other. Of course they will always be there for you and listen when needed, and they’re more than happy to do so. However, it’s crucial to understand that they have their own things going on too – their own stresses and emotions. While they may or may not also be mentally ill, they still have every day things they deal with. Sometimes it’s good to give them a break to regulate their own mental health, and even be the one to listen to them.

One of the hardest things to do, is one of the most necessary when it comes to avoiding a caregiver relationship. Learn to be self sufficient sometimes. Obviously that is unrealistic to ask of someone who suffers from mental illness all the time, but I think that on the less awful days, we need to learn to stand on our own a little bit. We can’t go our entire lives being solely dependent on another. What if things don’t work out, or they pass away? Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. This is just as important for us as it is for them. It is very unfair to expect someone else to be the reason you’re alive and getting through the day. Obviously, lean on your loved ones during the tough times, there is NOTHING wrong with that. But we also need to know when we’re strong enough to do it on our own and weather the storm.

Lastly, keep the romance alive! It’s so easy to become complacent and stop putting in as much effort as you did in the beginning. It happens in any relationship. But if you don’t try to keep the sparks there at least a little bit, it can really start to feel more like a roommate arrangement than a couple relationship. We need to continue to show that love and affection towards them so they know we don’t see them as just our caregiver. We love you for it, but that is not all you are to us. You’re a lover and a best friend. If this is not something you excel at or if certain mental illnesses and issues keep you from being affectionate or intimate, be open to going to couple’s therapy. Your partner is an equal member of this relationship and have their needs that ought to be met as well, emotionally and physically.

 

I realize some of these points can be a little controversial, but this is just what I have written based on my own experiences and have found help me and my marriage. By no means am I saying to put someone above yourself and fully understand not everyone can accommodate these tips.

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Update – April 8, 2019

Update – April 8, 2019

Hello all! It has been a hot minute since I last posted to my blog, and there’s a few reasons for that.

One, I was going through a rough patch. As you all know, I had a last minute trip to the mountains in February after a pretty severe suicidal episode. Shortly after, I was rediagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, after thinking for years I was Bipolar II. This was a very confusing time for me, as I had never felt just how wrong things were until that episode. My way of thinking is so different from others and I don’t think that fact had really sunk in for me until that breaking point. It was the first time I was honest with myself, those around me, and medical professionals. Lots of emotions followed my last blog post – shame, internalized resentment, feeling out of place, isolation. It has not been an easy last 2 months, to say the least. This caused me to feel very uninspired to write, when really I should have been using this as a therapeutic time to write. But, such is life.

Second, I’ve honestly just been busy! I have been trying to travel and take as many trips as I can, plus my birthday was a few weeks ago as well. I’ve been busy taking care of myself as much as I know how to. I have been focusing on self care and giving myself the time I needed to heal a little bit after February’s shenanigans. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. As passionate as I am about this blog and being a mental health advocate, I also need to be a regular human who sometimes needs a break. Do I love writing? Yes! Do I love being honest with my ups and downs? You bet. But, there’s only so much of myself I can give to this blog and to others.

And lastly, I have not been able to find many Warriors for my Warrior of the Month segment. This has been frustrating in a few aspects, the main one being that I am saddened how little we open up about mental health still. The fact that people are still scared to share their struggles with people, especially their loved ones, makes me so upset. I hate that this is still an issue. As you all know, I believe it is so so important for people to be vocal about mental health, especially those who personally suffer. It is the only way this silly stigma will end. Time and time again, I reach out to multiple people on social media to see if anyone is willing to share their story, and 95% of the time, I do not get a response or get turned down. I also advertise a post looking for people, which also has a very low response. Why are we so dang scared to be authentically ourselves? There’s nothing wrong with us. We were born into something we did not wish for and are doing what we can do get by.

I am really planning on throwing myself more into my blog again with book reviews, monthly mental health discussions, and Warrior posts. I owe it to my followers and to myself to continue this never-ending journey. And I refuse to be silenced by anyone who still believes mental health is made up or an excuse or whatever else these people think. Mental illness is real and alive. Let’s keep breaking down the barriers and give them something to talk about.

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Update – Re-diagnosis, February 2019

Update – Re-diagnosis, February 2019

Well, I’m not totally sure how to begin this update. Last I posted, I was stable for months. I was feeling good and I was optimistic on where everything was going. It’s been almost a year since I was first officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The problem? I was misdiagnosed.

For years, I have not only been dishonest with medical professionals, but also myself. I have been re-diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder. For as long as I can remember, I have had a difficult time relating to the real world. I have always felt this sense of grander, if you will. I have always truly believed I am meant for something more in this life. People like me often think they should be famous – we strive to be actresses or singers. We have this sense of being meant for a bigger purpose and the world we live in feels too mundane for us. Often times, I get lost in my books because I feel I can relate more to this fantasy world than I can my own life. These big quests, these super-humans or vampires or faeries.. I feel so much more in tune with my books than I do with the world surrounding me. I have hidden this part of me and my thoughts for too long. How can I get better and improve myself when I’m not telling the whole truth?

I think the reason I have had a hard time deciding to write about this is a sense of shame and guilt. I have never meant to lie to my readers or the people who love me. I think in a lot of ways I have been in total and utter denial. I feel.. embarrassed.. I feel like there’s something seriously wrong with me most days. What kind of person identifies more with being a vampire? Someone who genuinely hopes and believes they were meant to be born in some fantasy universe as a faerie? Someone who thinks they should be saving others and is meant for fame? These are not normal thoughts to have; yet they come. Every day. And the knowledge that that will never actually be my life and that I am just an ordinary girl with a mundane life is a hard pill to swallow. I have always buried these feelings deep within myself out of fear of not being understood. Not accepted.

As much as I preach destigmatizing mental health, I feel like a fraud. When the words “Bipolar I” came out of the new psychiatrist’s mouth, I was shocked. And I won’t lie, I felt crazy. For the first genuinely real time in my life, I felt like I was insane. And it was a horrible feeling. I’ve so often said you should never be ashamed for what you struggle with and that it’s not our faults; it’s just chemistry in our bodies dictating how we act and think. After a brief moment of feeling crazy, it sunk in. And it felt.. right. It felt as if there has always been this question and it was finally answered. I felt so authentic in expressing myself to this psychiatrist and even though I still feel a little embarrassed, I’m relieved. The truth is out. Maybe I am a little crazier than most. But I’m still me at the end of the day. The way I treat people, what I enjoy, my hobbies, my love for others; none of that has changed because of my new diagnosis.

So, there it is y’all. I have Bipolar I Disorder. I am a manic depressive. I’m either way too high, or way too low. I am never really stable. I am never “evened out”. I am suicidal more often than I would like to admit to anyone. But I am doing what I can to get by. I am pushing through it and thriving every single day, continuing my fight against myself. I am back on medication and plan on continuing therapy and being more honest than I ever have been before. I am trying to rely less on drugs and alcohol, but sometimes it’s the only thing that shuts off my mind. And for now, I’m okay with it. I can only battle one thing at a time, climb one mountain at a time. I have my whole life to figure out how to manage this in a healthy way.

For anyone else who may be a little less honest with themselves; don’t be. Be truthful, be authentic, and for the love of God do NOT be embarrassed or ashamed of something that you have zero control over. We did not choose this life. All we can do is decide what to do with the cards we’ve been dealt.

Thank you, truly, for reading this post. I was hesitant to talk about it. But I felt like I had a responsibility to use my platform accordingly.

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December – Burn Out

December – Burn Out

December Mental Health Discussion

Getting Burnt Out – How to recognize it and tackle it head on

 

Hello all! Welcome to my December Mental Health Discussion. Something I wanted to talk about this month is getting burnt out – dealing with something for so long and putting so much effort into it that it just exhausts you to the point of giving up. Specifically pertaining to mental health struggles. So, let’s get started.

The amount of effort people with mental health issues put into their lives is intense. There’s the every day things such as taking your medication and attempting to manage/track your mood. And then there’s the big picture stuff – maintaining relationships, scheduling self care, going to doctor and therapy appointments. It can be seriously exhausting to keep up with everything. Especially for those who also deal with addiction on top of mental illness, like myself. You have to fight every single day just to stay “normal”. You fight with every instinct you have to just stay in bed and feel sorry for yourself. Some days, I’m just glad to have showered and brushed my teeth. Some days that’s just all I can manage.

So, what does the burn out feel like? Well, you basically just feel completely hopeless. You feel as if everything is too hard and too much effort. You just want to give up because you’ll never be “normal”. It’s horribly exhausting to constantly be fighting a battle against yourself. It feels like you’ll never get ahead in life or in your head, and it’s so defeating. Another aspect of the burn out is feeling like you’re totally alone and have nobody to rely on, nobody who understands what you’re going through. Some people that don’t suffer from mental illness can also experience burn out. Others are more sensitive to it than others. So how do we get out of this slump? Well, here are some things that work best for me:

Scheduling in social time

This to me is so important! Getting out of my apartment and just talking to someone about my problems and getting lost in conversation. I always feel so refreshed after meeting someone even for just a cup of coffee. It’s a nice way to reboot sometimes.

Alone time

On the opposite end, I find that I need my alone time. Quiet time with just myself and my thoughts. Although when I’m depressed, this is not always a good option. It totally depends on the person and the situation. I find that sometimes, just being alone and reading my book is exactly what I need to decompress from all of the daily fighting.

Self Care

I know I sound like a broken record, but self care is soooo important you guys! Take yourself out for a pedicure or lunch, do a face mask at home, have a relaxing bath, go to the gym. Whatever it is that you need to feel important and prioritized. It’s so relaxing to just focus on yourself and do something that you enjoy.

See your GP or Therapist

Sometimes your slump can’t be fixed by yourself. You need your professional support in place for certain times like these. I find that talking to my doctor or my psychologist is the best medicine. I feel like a weight has been lifted afterwards and I know I can be totally open and honest with them.

Exercise

Seriously, I know this is a hard one. When all you wan to do is crawl into a hole and die, this is a tough one to get motivated for, but I swear it works. Get those natural endorphins pumping through you and just get into the groove of your work out. I promise you won’t feel worse than before you started.

Spend time with your loved ones

Nothing feels better than sitting back and watching a movie with the ones you love. Whatever activity you feel like doing, make sure to schedule in that time with the people that mean the most to you. It will make you feel refreshed and like you have a shoulder to lean on when you’re feeling helpless.

 

Thanks for reading this month’s mental health discussion. I think it was an important one to talk about, even for those without mental health issues. Everyone experiences the burn out, so hopefully these tips are helpful to you!

See you again in January.

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Update – December 2018

Update – December 2018

Well folks, I’m back! It’s almost the end of the year and I’ve got to say, I’m glad to see this year be over. Between being hospitalized and suicidal, to having to make some big life choices, I can honestly say that I’m ready for 2019 and all it has to offer. It’s a new beginning for me.

So, the latest update is that I am a few months stable. Yes, plural! I feel so lucky to finally feel back to my old usual self. It’s been a huge relief to feel “normal” and be getting back on my feet. Quitting my job in September is one of the best decisions I made for myself. I was skeptical at first on how things would go when I was no longer working but I have to say, it’s really been great. Taking the time to focus on myself and my needs is exactly what I needed. Will I be able to ever go back to work? I’m honestly not sure. At this point I’m just happy to be feeling better.

I’ve been in the Calgary area visiting my friends and family over the holidays and while I’m glad to see everyone, it’s been pretty draining. I’m constantly tired and fighting exhaustion, no matter how much sleep I get. Plus I’m pretty sure I’ve gained like 10 lbs since being here. The holidays will do that to a person I suppose. As much as I have loved catching up with everyone, I’m ready to go home. But, I still have 5 more days to go. Sigh. I’ll be home soon enough though with my kitties.

My goal in January is to read 5 books! I’ve been seriously slacking on the reading front and I need to get back into my habits so I have more material to review for you all. My next review will be on the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas. I have 200 pages left to go on the last book, but I’m very confident in my recommendation for you guys. The other book I’m reading right now has been hard to get into – it’s called Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined. It’s a slow burner for sure but it seems to be starting to pick up. I wanted to read it because it’s about young adults having issues with drugs or mental health (some of my favorite topics as we all know). I’ll keep you posted on how it is.

Anyways, that’s all for now! Thanks for reading and I promise to be better about blogging in the new year.  I hope you all had a great Christmas and have a happy new year!

 

  • Cierra
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October – Addiction & Mental Illness

October – Addiction & Mental Illness

October Mental Health Discussion

Addiction & Mental Health

Retrieved from http://shanghaicounselingservices.com/addiction-therapy/

Sometimes it’s hard to understand. How can someone be an addict? How can you put a substance above anything and everything? The answer is tricky; It’s not so black and white. It’s never a matter of a substance being more important than something else or someone else. It can be hard to explain to people, so let me try. I am an addict. I know the fine line, I’ve walked it. Let me tell you how it feels and why people with mental illness are so prone to becoming addicts.

Here’s a statistic for you; when you have a mental illness, you are TWICE as likely to develop an addiction than the average person. This is referred to as having a concurrent disorder. But what does that mean? Concurrent disorders are mental disorders and substance use problems that happen at the same time. For example; I have bipolar disorder primarily, and concurrently am an alcoholic. Some of you may wonder why this happens. Why does someone who is already suffering, end up suffering even more? It can be hard to express, but I’ll try my best.

The first time I got drunk, I was 14 years old. My dad had just left us, and I was lost. I felt hopeless and unworthy of love. I felt as if I wasn’t very important; how could a father leave his daughter so easily? I’ll never be able to answer this question sadly. I will never understand, and it haunts me even to this day. I have struggled with this for as long as I can remember. The first night I ever got drunk, I was with my friend and was trying to get the attentions of an older boy. He was 16 and his name was Alex. I remember feeling like if I got the attention of Alex, everything would feel complete. I would stop feeling so empty inside. So, when he offered to have us come over when his parents weren’t home and have some drinks, I immediately accepted. He had a bottle of rye and I was ready for it. From the first sip, I could feel myself getting tingly. I felt alive, weightless, unstoppable. I felt so confident and like nothing in the world could bring me down.

Later that night, I was throwing up in the bathroom at my home and my mom had caught me. The punishment was minor, as my mom knew what a difficult time this was for me. She tried to go easy on me. Although I was grounded, I don’t know that I fully regretted it. I chased that feeling; the feeling of being invincible, of the pain going away. For the next 4 years, I would find people to boot for me and buy me alcohol, including my mother. I manipulated her into thinking it was a fun teenage thing, just wanting to experiment and have just 4 coolers. What she didn’t know is that every time I went into the kitchen to get another cooler, I found the tequila in the top cupboard and would take a shot. Most of high school, I was drunk. And as a result, I did not graduate. I was constantly either drunk or high.

I don’t know how I managed to hide this. The late nights, the partying, the numbing. And oh, did I feel numb. It was blissful. I thought, “wow, I never have to feel this pain again”. I chased the high and the buzz because it was easier than dealing with reality. My dad didn’t love me. I always felt out of place. I always knew something wasn’t right with my emotions and lack of stability. But I never had an interest in figuring out what was wrong. I was young. I was scared. I was confused.

I remember filling out a questionnaire with my old counselor when my dad left. She told my mom I was likely to have some sort of mood disorder and she suspected bipolar disorder. This was horrifying to hear as a young teen. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I fit in with the other teenagers? Why was I so moody and constantly tired? I was so up and down, and I couldn’t understand and comprehend what was going through my head. It was so unnerving and uncomfortable. Again, I turned to alcohol to calm my nerves and anxiety about this issue. All I ever wanted to do was drink. I remember on weekends I had no plans, I would ask my mom if we could have one of our regular movie nights. This consisted of going to Blockbuster, renting some movies, eating popcorn, and her booting for me. I insisted. “Mom, it’s just a few coolers”. To this day, I still feel guilty about the role I got my mother to play in my alcoholism. For how would she have known where I was at mentally? Everyone else my age was drinking. Why should she be concerned? Especially when she didn’t know about my regular drug use.

This may seem like a story about childhood trauma – I get how it would seem that way. But this is my story of bipolar disorder. The average age that bipolar disorder symptoms come out to play is, yes, 14 years of age. I can say as someone with this mental illness, it makes you prone to the dramatics. Everything is felt so intensely and deeply. Your emotions are heightened. This made me exposed to becoming an alcoholic.

My relationship with alcohol is very complicated. I am capable to just having casual drinks. I am capable of socially drinking without going into the excess. However, most of the time, I am depressed. I feel helpless and like all I need is to numb the sadness and emptiness. This is the sad reality of mental illness. We need to numb ourselves because it can be so horribly, irrevocably, ridiculously… overwhelming. To feel everything you that feel with a mental disorder is entirely all consuming. So, this is why mental disorders lead to addiction people. Did you know it can take years to find the right medication combination to regulate your mood? Years. Not exaggerating. So why would someone wait so many years feeling so exposed and vulnerable when there is instant relief?

As someone who goes through this struggle every day of her life, I can tell you, instant relief is so much more gratifying than dealing with the reality of mental illness.

Another factor is how people and doctors take mental disorders these days, even now. I was hospitalized not once, but twice, in the month of September. Want to know how many doctors took my claim of being suicidal and harming myself seriously? ZERO. Both of them sent me home because I was not “severe enough” to keep overnight. Why should I be to the point of an emotional break and be in a psychotic episode to receive help? Why would I suffer through this alone as opposed to turning to alcohol and other substances for relief?

So next time you see that homeless person who has lost anything and everything that means something to them, think about this. Think about my story and what you’ve read today. Addiction is not simple. It’s so complex and we never even try to understand where they are coming from and what they’ve seen or dealt with. Addiction shows its potential in all of us.

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