Category: Mental Health

My Journey with Sobriety

My Journey with Sobriety

Hello all, and welcome to my next blog post. This month, I wanted to write a post about my addiction and sobriety. It is something I felt ashamed of for so long, and now I’m embracing it as part of my journey, and I want to share my story for others who might be struggling. So, here we go.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been addicted to alcohol. Starting from the first time I used it to numb my feelings. I was 14, and my dad had just left a few weeks prior. I was so confused and angry and, well, an unmedicated bipolar teenager. I wanted to forget my problems. I wanted to escape.

An older boy invited me and my friend over to hang out, so we went. And I got drunk for the first time. We drank rye. An entire bottle between 3 teenagers, me having had a bit more than the others. I remember watching a movie and then it all goes dark. I have bits and pieces from the night; being half dragged home, trying to get to my room and not wake up my mom, and puking. A lot. I had the worst hangover the next day and I got in a huge amount of trouble, as my mom had walked in on me throwing up the night before and knew what had happened based on the smell. I remember thinking “I am never drinking again”. And I didn’t, for a while. Until I realized I missed being drunk. I missed the freedom I felt, I missed feeling numb to what was going on in my life.

By 16, I was drinking fairly regularly. Whether it was at a party, at a friend’s house, or sneaking alcohol into my own home. At this point, being 27 now, I barely remember my life before alcohol. It has always been a part of how I dealt with my emotions when it all became too much for me. And once I turned 18 and could buy my own alcohol, everything changed.

I don’t recall a lot of my early twenties. Ages 18 to 24 honestly are a bit of a blur for me. I was so drunk all the time, that I have holes in my memory. Most nights I drank, were to the point of being a stumbling drunk mess. I said and did things I would normally never do. I would drink every day, and it would always be in large amounts. I didn’t understand moderation. I chased the numbing effect alcohol gave me, as I had not confronted any issues from my past. I was in total denial that I even had a problem. I always had the excuse that all my friends drank as much as me, and as often. I kept bad company and fed off their addictions too. All I ever wanted to do was drink. I stopped having other interests.

I spent my mornings hung over and embarrassed. I was so humiliated by my actions the night before and it seemed every day there was a reason to be ashamed of my actions. I hated the feeling, but I was addicted so I kept drinking. Once I turned 24, I started trying to get sober. Trying and failing, many times over. The longest I could seem to stay sober was a week. I struggled for 2 years, when finally, as we all know, I started having some terrible stomach issues. I had caused permanent damage to my body and could no longer drink in excess. I physically couldn’t anymore. While I was annoyed at the time, it ended up being the biggest blessing. I HAD to stop drinking. I no longer had a choice, because I physically couldn’t keep it down long enough to get drunk.

Alcohol had its claws so deep in me, I literally never thought I would be able to get sober. It seemed impossible, and the temptation would always be there. In some ways, I was angry when I thought about getting sober. Angry that I would have to be “different”, even more than I already was. I was so annoyed that I wouldn’t be able to have a glass of wine at a nice dinner or have a drink when I went camping. I was so angry at the world for dealing me these cards; bipolar, GAD, childhood trauma, AND addiction? It felt so unfair. I spent so many years fighting the urge to drink and being told by every single program that it had to be all or nothing.

When I started therapy in November 2017, I was so damaged, so broken. And it took almost 2 full years of therapy to prepare me for sobriety. While I had tried and failed many times to be sober, this time was sticking. My stomach issues started March of 2019, and by August, I was so ready for sobriety. Since August 23rd 2019, I have had 3 relapses. 3 relapses in 10 months. I didn’t realise I had progressed so much in therapy until I tried to get sober this one final time. I had learned to regulate my emotions, I had learned a bunch of different coping tools, and overall, my mood had improved thanks to medication and therapy. I was no longer depressed. There literally just stopped being a reason for me to drink.

The fact that I have been “mostly” sober for 10 months feels surreal. I don’t identify with the girl I was before. It feels like a totally different past life of mine that I don’t care to remember. I’ve truly grown so much, maturity wise and in how I deal with my emotions. My last relapse was in mid February this year, so I am 4 months sober now. 4 months is the longest I’ve been sober since I was 14 years old. And I am extremely proud of that. I have a long way to go still, but I’m so happy with the way my life is going and how much my outlook has changed.

For anyone trying to get sober, it’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But I can tell you that it will be worth it.

The Reality of Concurrent Disorders

The Reality of Concurrent Disorders

Hello & welcome to my totally unscheduled blog post!

I’ve debated sharing this information with not just my readers, but my friends and family who follow my blog. However, in my opinion, sharing the information and spreading the message far outweighs any negative impacts this may have. So, here we go.

I’ve spoken about concurrent disorders before – a concurrent disorder is when someone struggles from both mental health issues and substance abuse issues simultaneously. As most of you already know, I not only have bipolar disorder and anxiety, but I am also an alcoholic.

Now you may be asking, if we already knew this about you, why are you so nervous to share about it? Well, alcoholism is something I am extremely ashamed of. It is not something that I take lightly and I’ve been a not so great person in the past because of my alcoholism. But recent developments have made me decide I needed to make a post about this, and spread the word on the dangers of being an alcoholic. Here’s my story:

In March 2019, when I was on a trip with my husband to Toronto, I started spontaneously vomiting. Waves of nausea would hit me, and I would throw up almost immediately. Now, projectile vomiting is not something I was used to, so I knew something was wrong. This continued my whole trip, and when I returned home. I saw my family doctor who assumed, because of my alcoholism, I was experiencing alcohol induced gastritis (essentially my stomach was swelling and red and irritated). I decided I needed to try and get sober, for real this time. After some ups ad downs, and dealing with these stomach issues almost daily, I decided in August 2019 I would no longer drink excessively. I had been “sober” (still having an occasional glass of wine) starting August 22.

Fast forward to February 2020 – my relapse. I was hanging out with friends and I genuinely forgot for a minute that I was an alcoholic. I over drank and have been paying for it since. Time to see the doctor again. My doctor decided to do a blood panel in January (for other reasons) and unfortunately, the results were abnormal. So, I was ordered some more specific testing to recheck some values and hopefully see what was going on. Well, this week, I got a call saying my results were in, and my doctor needed me to come in and see him.

The results of my blood work were consistent with liver damage.

I am a 27 year old woman, who has drank so excessively that I am already damaging my body.

While my doctor suspects it is reversible and likely just alcoholic fatty liver (as my values have gone down since my Jan blood work vs. my March blood work), it was still a very scary reality check. You never think you’ll be the one these things happen to. And being only 27, I figured there was no way I would be even close to liver damage yet. I was extremely wrong. I  now have to get my liver enzymes checked every 3 months, and potentially get an ultrasound to get to cirrhosis.

So, why am I telling you all this story that is my unfortunate reality?

I am hoping by sharing my experiences, I can persuade others to truly think about how damaging alcohol is. While not everyone is an alcoholic and plenty of people drink in health moderation, not everyone is so lucky. In 2018, Stats Canada recorded that of people between the ages of 18 and 34 in Canada, 28.7% were heavy drinkers. That is a pretty terrifying statistic in my opinion. More than 1 out of 4 people has an issue with alcohol consumption.

Alcohol is literal poison to your body, and I think I realize that now more than ever. PLEASE consider what you’re putting into your body and how it can affect you. And if you are an alcoholic like me, please seek help and get sober, before it’s too late. Being young does NOT exempt you from the health issues that occur from excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is not worth losing your life folks, no matter how dark times may get.

  • Cierra

Building a Safety Plan

Building a Safety Plan

Building a Safety Plan

 

Hello! And welcome to my new website.

As part of my new and improved website launch, I wanted to write a post about how to build a safety plan. I want to spread the knowledge that I’ve learned in the hospital with my readers. So, first things first, what is a safety plan? A safety plan is a document that you keep on hand with guidelines on what to do or who to call when suicidal thoughts or ideations hit. This way, while you’re in the middle of an episode, you have all the resources right there in front of you.

The first thing I want you to do is write down the local numbers for the Crisis Lines and hospitals, as well as your therapist and family doctor’s information. This is one of the most important sections of any safety plan. It’s hard to reach out for help in the moment, but sometimes having the information readily available can help.

Next, I want you to write down the signs and symptoms that occur during a suicidal episode/when you know it’s coming. These are things such as irritability, disassociating, anxiety, and any physical symptoms as well, such as heart palpitations. It’s important to be able to identify when things are starting to go sideways in our brains.

The next step is writing down things that help you cope or can take your mind off of suicide. For me, these are things like painting, drawing, hanging out with a friend, having a bath, listening to music… Anything that you find helpful to keep your mind occupied while you work through what you’re going through. Hobbies and activities are very important for people suffering with mental illness, I can’t express this enough. So if you’re at a loss of what to put down, start thinking about things you’ve always thought of trying and give it a go! See how you like it.

Along with the numbers of crisis lines etc., I want you to write down a few numbers of friends or family members you can call to talk to. As nice as it is to have the crisis numbers, sometimes you just need to talk to someone who knows you and can talk you down. One thing I would recommend is asking before putting someone’s name down – it can trigger someone else into an episode when they are dealing with someone else going through it, so make sure you’re checking that the person is comfortable with talking you down when you’re struggling.

Lastly, I want you to list places you can go when you’re feeling suicidal. Whether it’s someones house, or a river close to your house that has your favorite bench, pick places that make you feel at ease. Surrounding yourself with a positive feeling environment is key when you’re feeling lost.

 

Hopefully there’s someone who will find this information helpful, and thank you so much for checking out my revamped website! Until next time..

 

Update – February 2020

Update – February 2020

Hello all! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written a blog post so I figured, no better time than the present. Let’s dive right in..

I have not been okay. I have not been myself. I have not been thriving.

I have been broken. I have been tested and challenged. I have been, well, depressed. Again.

People sometimes say to me, “I don’t know how you do it”. If I’m being totally honest with you guys and myself, I don’t know how I do it either. All you can do is survive. All you can do is take it day by day and hope that you’re strength doesn’t waiver. All you can do, is live.

Some of the darkest days of my life have happened recently. I genuinely didn’t know how I would make it through the day, let alone having my whole life ahead of me. Sometimes, I didn’t know if I would make it through the hour. When you’re in a depressed state of mind, you truly don’t see an end to it. You don’t remember all of the other times you’ve gotten through it; they seem so far away, they feel like a different life almost. All you feel is pain, sadness, and sometimes, you feel nothing at all. And sometimes, feeling nothing is the scariest feeling of all.

Now, I’ve talked about this before, but here’s the reality of mental illness;

I haven’t showered in 4 days.

I haven’t had a well-balanced meal in a week.

I haven’t exercised in months.

I have recently lost 12 pounds, without even getting up from the couch most days.

I have been cancelling 90% of my plans.

Right now, all I’m focused on, is surviving. And you know what? THAT IS MORE THAN ENOUGH.

Society puts so much pressure on us; we have to work out regularly and have an “accepted body” (because god forbid you don’t fit society’s mold), we have to work over 40 hours a week, we have to eat and cook only organic, we have to keep a spotless house otherwise we’re “slobs”, and we have to be full time parents on top of it all.

Well, you know what, I reject all of it. You do not have to work in order to be successful in life. You do not have to be a specific size in order to be worthy of love and acceptance. You can eat whatever the fuck you want. You can put off your housework for another day or another week, who cares.

It has been so ingrained in us that we HAVE to do or have certain things in order to have a good life. And I refuse to partake in that mindset any longer. All it has done is hinder me in so many ways. It has made me feel unworthy, useless, and just flat out terrible about myself.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this dreaded question.. “When are you going back to work?”

The short answer, I’m not. Would I love to go back to work and contribute to my household finances? Absolutely. Can other mentally ill people who are struggling maintain full time employment? You bet. Am I one of those people? No. So please stop asking. My full time job is working on myself and prioritizing my mental well being. And guess what? That usually takes up my entire day.

So all I can ask is for people to be more sensitive to what others are going through. You don’t know what we go through every day. You don’t know the kind of internal battles we’re struggling with right now. We may look polished and fine on the outside, but I can tell you right now, we are great actors. So let’s all be a little kinder to one another.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.