A Message Of Hope

In grade 10, I was depressed. There’s no doubt in my mind that what I experienced for a few years in high school was one of the lowest experiences I’ll probably ever face in my lifetime, although there’s still much time ahead of me. I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD, as some of you may know from other blog posts/by knowing me, and had a general indifference towards life and being alive.

I’m sharing this as a message of hope.

I know there are lots of protestations when the phrase “It Gets Better” gets thrown around but, for myself and many others, it really can get better. Thanks to counselling, my openness with my experience, amazing friends and family, and my passion for mental health and helping others, my life really has gotten so much better since then & I have healed so much!

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I was talking about this with one of my best friends the other day. We’d both gone through very low lows throughout high school, which was a mere few years ago through both of us. While we were discussing it, we realized how remarkable it was that a few short years ago, we experienced so much self-loathing and truly thought nothing would ever get better. Today, we’re both overall happy people and are surviving and thriving, and I think it’s just so cool to look back on how far we’ve come.

Of course, I still have many dark days where I don’t feel like I’m good enough and feel hopeless. I think everyone does. The important thing is is that I’m no longer forcing a smile on my face and pretending that I’m okay – I actually am. You can be too!

If you’re in a dark place right now, I hope you are able to reach out and overcome what you’re going through. I hope you can one day realize that, not only is life beautiful but that you are too. There are so many resources available to you. There’s no shame in accessing them! If you ever need help or someone to listen, I’m here.

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Good luck in your journey!

Feel Good Friday: Creative Outlets

[Note: if anyone’s interested, I’m going to casually stick a few of my own recent poems at the bottom of the article]

Hey all! Haven’t gotten around to updating in what feels like forever… Has it really been 2 months since school started (ew… finals in a month)?! Happy to be back, even if my posts are few and far between.

The purpose of today’s quick little update is twofold. The first reason is because it’s feel good Friday, and I’ve noticed a lot of people aren’t feeling so great as of late. It could be because of the inevitable change of autumn to winter (shorter days, colder weather, the works) or maybe because of school and work stress that always seems to accompany this time of year. Regardless, here’s a little remind to try and do something for yourself every day that lifts your spirit and benefits your mental and physical health!

The second reason for today’s post is for positive coping strategy awareness [and a fair bit of shameless self-promotion].

“Coping strategies refer to the specific efforts, both behavioral and psychological, that people employ to master, tolerate, reduce, or minimize stressful events.” –MACSES

Creative Outlets for Coping

I think it’s safe to say that every single person reading this will have gone through some sort of stressful (or at least upsetting) event/feeling within their lifetime. A lot of times, it feels like there’s a jumble of emotions in your head that you just can’t seem to express, or feel uncomfortable talking about.

These feelings can be completely overwhelming and an utter distraction to any task you might actually need to accomplish. Rather than curling up in bed and crying (sometimes a totally valid way of dealing with the world for a little bit), it can be therapeutic and very beneficial to channel these thoughts into a creative outlet. Personally, as of late, I’ve rediscovered poetry and songwriting, which have helped me through some very stressful times and allowed me to clear my mind and move forward with the other stuff on my to-do list. Check out these few articles about the benefits of creative outlets and art: 1, 2, and 3.

[Sidenote: uh, hello education system… creativity is important, too!]

There are tons of things that you can do to express your creativity, so I hope this post served as an important reminder to express your emotions, but in a HEALTHY way! Take some time for some creativity, and it may reward you in many ways (including a sense of pride after creating something beautiful!).

My Recent Coping…

to my true loveweary heart

Have a great Friday!!

xox

This Song Perfectly Describes My Experience with Mental Health Issues

As much as I love to empower and uplift people, it is extremely important to me to talk about issues in truthful ways, raise awareness, and destigmatize the conversation surrounding controversial topics. It’s a necessity to encourage empathy and understanding, and I hope that by listening to this song/reading the lyrics, people can sart to see how difficult and overwhelming living with mental health issues can be (I discuss my own interpretations of the following at the end of the article. Thanks for being open-minded.

“Lovely Sad” by The Maine

Ugly little feelings
Crawl inside my head
What’s the point in leaving
This California king-sized bed?
What-if’s
And the should-have’s
They start to eat my brain
The shadow of my youth has
Made the sun go black again
I look around and I don’t see the pretty things
The evil thoughts upstairs they don’t need company
This broken glass it reflects back
The person I’ve become

And now
Here I am
I feel numb
On the fence
On the run
Spill my guts
What an act
I am sad
But to me I’m lovely sad

Imaginary numbers
Control the ones we love
Fooled by affectation
And something up above
If you’re in love with diamonds
A simple death you’re dying
A wasted life to me
Here we are all liars
Just hoping to get higher
Than everyone we meet
Huxley said we live together but we’re always by ourselves
If you don’t like this type of weather you can move to someplace else
Significance is rarely found underneath your couch

So now
Here you are
Feeling numb
On the fence
On the run
Down and out
Such a drag
We’re all sad
But to me we’re lovely sad

I’m not at all claiming that everyone’s experience with mental health difficulties is the same as mine, and it’s important to not expect all individuals with mental illness to act the same. Everyone is affected differently, and each person’s experience is valid and should never feel invalidated. I learned about the importance of validation through Sashbear‘s creators in the context of helping those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), but it’s also extremely important in day-to-day interactions with anyone and everyone.
What is BPD?
“Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness that causes unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. It usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood.” [Source]
Back to the Song…
To me, this song is a perfect representation of a lot of what I feel when I’m at those low points of mental health. The entire first verse is accurate and easy to relate with. It’s difficult to understand for those who haven’t experienced it, but at times people who have mental health issues find it hard to complete what may seem like the simplest of tasks; for example, getting out of bed can seem impossible and having a conversation can feel extremely tiresome. These feelings are all exhausting, but it can be really hard to confront them and break the cycle of negativity, since the sad/low can begin to feel comfortable, normal, or easier to deal with than the effort it would take to get out of the funk (hence “Lovely Sad”). That’s what the song means to me, at least.
Even though this week’s Song Saturday wasn’t as uplifting as they usually are, I really hope I made some people think, and others feel heard.
xoxo

Exercise Your Body, Help Your Mind

Lately, I’ve been on a little bit of a health kick–by health kick, I mean going on 20 minute jogs now and again and trying to eat healthy, but I digress–and I’ve been feeling a lot better ever since it started. I didn’t really become aware of how great I feel until the “Stress and Health” unit of my psych course came around, and I learned just how beneficial working out really is, aside from trying to fit into those pesky limits of “beauty” (I don’t know about you, but I know my body will never look like most of those girls’, regardless of how much I work out).

Here are a few things I learned about aerobic exercise:

Note: “Also called aerobic exercises. ( used with a plural verb) any of various sustained exercises, as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling, that stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs, thereby improving the body’s utilization of oxygen.” (Source)

  • Reduces risk of heart disease by 30%, stroke by 400%, and breast cancer by 200% 
  • Increases life quality, well-being, self-esteem, and your immune system
  • Nerve growth factors are stimulated and thrive (these basically rescue your neurons from imminent death and helps them grow and function properly = proper function of the nerves in your body, including your brain)
  • Increases brain function–it is shown that people who do aerobic exercise receive better grades 
  • Shrinkage of brain may be stopped and/or reversed (this is like… a really big deal. As you get older/use your brain less, brain tissue will be lost and your brain will shrink. This contributes to losing your memory and becoming unable to do certain rather basic tasks in your old age. Basically, there are studies which show that aerobic exercise can work against this)
  • Helps A LOT to reduce stress as they affect neurotransmitters. This is because exercise reduces epinephrine, and cortisol (stress hormones) and produce norepinephrine (healthy levels can improve memory, concentration, attention, and confidence), serotonin, dopamine (pleasure molecule), endorphins (natural opiates), and glutamate (leads to higher cognitive functioning).
  • Can help with psychological illnesses, such as depression and anxiety

Citation: Myers, David G. Psychology, Tenth Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 2013.

I know it seems scary to start exercising if you don’t do so already, but there are tons of little steps that you can take to help you reach your goals. A little is better than none, and your ability and confidence will build up pretty quickly if you stick to it! I’m definitely no exercise expert, and won’t pretend to be, but here are some things that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Have realistic expectations. For example, if you’ve never run before, or haven’t for a long time, don’t expect to run for thirty minutes straight–it may not seem like a long time, but it is for someone who isn’t used to it. It takes a while to build up stamina and ability, so don’t get discouraged if you have to take it slow and take a lot of breaks.
  2. Make use of technology! This one has been seriously helpful for me, as someone who doesn’t know much about working out (like… at all). Upon recommendation, I downloaded RunKeeper which is an awesome app for android and iPhone users. It tracks your progress and helps you to set realistic goals and plans to achieve them. There are tons of other workout apps which seem awesome as well, and can be hugely beneficial to you.
  3. “Werk Out, Twerk Out” [sorry, I have a thing for rhymes]. MAKE A WORKOUT PLAYLIST. There are actual reasons why this can help increase the success in your exercise AND it helps you to have more fun.
  4. Involve a Friend. Whether you’re actually going to exercise with a friend, or just tell a friend about your workout plan, their involvement will help keep you motivated and on track. If it’s a more experienced friend, you may even learn something, which will make you feel more comfortable.
  5. Learn the Right Way. This is definitely the most important piece of advice on this list. Make sure you know that you’re doing your workout the right way so that you aren’t hurting yourself. You can make use of YouTube, Pinterest, a knowledgeable friend, or a personal trainer to do so, but make sure you know what you’re doing or you can be seriously injured. This includes having proper equipment and clothing!!

If you don’t trust a beginner like me (I don’t blame you), here are some other sources with tips: 1, 2, 3 (2 give a lot of good advice and number 3 walks you through a lot of exercises step-by-step and gives examples of workouts for every level)

I never used to care at all about exercising. I’m lazy, I’m anxious about trying new things, and I’m just not an athletic person. I told myself that I was protesting against the typical standards of attractiveness and that it shouldn’t matter whether or not I work out, but I realized that this is the wrong way of thinking. A healthy body does more than just give you a nice looking body–it can improve your health in general, and that’s pretty rad.

Keep Your Head Up

This song is really cheesy, but it always makes me smile. Today, try to remember that the stresses you’re facing are going to end and you can get through them. Take a step back and look at things positively before continuing with whatever’s difficult for you right now. I know it’s hard, but it makes a huge difference. You can do. “You’ll turn out fine”. Have a great weekend!