Everyday Warriors: Stephanie Mitchell Hughes

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There is no secret that I am passionate about talking about mental health.  

My journey started back in 2014 when I was diagnosed. For years I thought that I was the only one in the world who suffered from a mental health disorder.  I had gone through a range of emotions trying to figure out where I “fit in” as I navigated my way through life while dealing with a mental illness. I am always amazed and intrigued when I meet and talk to other strong, brave men and women who are thriving and surviving despite their mental health disorders.

This brings me to the reason of this post.  

I met a woman named Stephanie Mitchell Hughes on Instagram a few months ago. She is amazing!  She is a mother, attorney, speaker, and she also lives with a mental illness.  She is very passionate about helping others and spreading the word about mental health and mental illness.  I want share a podcast from the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) in which the talks about her mental illness and how she was able to find recovery and stability.  

The link to her story is below.

https://soundcloud.com/aba-colap/aba-colap-voices-of-recovery-podcast-series-episode-7-featuring-stephanie-mitchell-hughes

Please take some time to listen to this enlightening, and inspirational account.  

There are so many pearls of wisdom, and I know that you will find her story powerful.   


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Sunday's Are For......?

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For years I was on the go a lot.  

I was going here and going there. Making plans with this one and then planning something else with another one. It was non- stop.  I thought that on my days off I had to take advantage and to me that meant that I had to be constantly on the go. On my off days, I had to be “on”.  It is amazing how much your perspective can change over the course of a couple of months, or even a year.


This past year has been a year of great exploration and transformation.  

I am so grateful for that. I have come to terms with the fact that I am an introvert.  I have also come to terms with what I need to be in charge of my mental health. As an introvert, I need time to recharge and recover from the energy that I expel when I am out around loads of people.  There is nothing wrong with this. This is just who I am and I have come to accept this fact. I also know that when I do too many activities, I need to rest! Everyone has different remedies that make them feel better, the key is to find what works for you.


Now that I know and accept this part of myself, I can manage myself and my expectations accordingly.  This is an act of self- awareness, self-compassion, and the ultimate act of self-love. Figuring out who you are and what makes you tick is half the battle.  


I love Sunday’s!

Those are the days that I reserve for quiet time at home to rest and recharge. I work on content, catch up on my TV shows, prepare meals for the week and I stay at home and relax and connect with my spiritual self.  I love it. This is the needed when the rest of the week can be so busy.


I encourage you to take some time for yourself and just rest.  You need it and you deserve it. Your body will thank you and so will your brain!


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Yes, I take Meds!

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Before I started blogging…….

about mental health and sharing my story about my own mental health journey, I was uninformed.  I was uneducated and no idea about mental health and mental illness. I was pretty clueless. Was it my fault? Maybe. But there are so many misconceptions perpetuated by society surrounding people who live with mental health disorders.  I can admit that I was a part of the problem.

When I received my diagnosis, I was in a state of shock.  

I was in denial and I was concerned with what other people would think about me.  When the doctor that diagnosed me offered me medication as a means of treating my illness, I fell deeper and deeper into denial.  I succumbed to the stigma of mental illness that was so rampant. I thought that to take medication would admit that I was crazy. I was not keen on the idea of taking medication right away.

When I finally did take my medication,

I would take it, feel okay and then stop.  This was a pattern that repeated itself for a long while. What I did not realize was that I was doing myself a disservice and I was only hurting myself and delaying my stability and mental health recovery.  The problem was that I was giving into pill shaming. I was so focused on what people would say about me, that I let other people’s opinions become the focus. .

Pill shaming must end now.  

Or we need to at least continue the conversation on how shaming people who take medication for their mental illnesses are affected.  I can say, I take medication and for me it was the right thing to do. This does not mean that medication will be right for everyone.  But, for the ones that do decide to take medication, they should not feel ashamed because they do so.


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Grateful

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On Saturday,

I woke up with the greatest feeling of gratitude.  I speak about being grateful very often on my social media feed, and I see this message of gratitude all over social media.  But on this particular day, I woke up feeling full and feeling happy. Happy for all of the things that I do have with no thought about the things that I did not have or the things that I want.  Those things were nowhere near my mind. My feelings of gratitude left me smiling and in a wonderful mood for the rest of the day. As I thought more and more about it, I am extremely blessed and grateful.  I am grateful that I have a healthy child, friends and family who love and care about me. I am grateful that I have a place to live and a job to go to and a home to live in.

What I am most grateful for is the relationship that I have worked on and developed with myself.

I am so happy to say that I have put in so much work to make some discoveries about myself, that were previously uncovered. This has been one of my biggest accomplishments thus far and I am looking forward what is to come. As we approach the holiday season, I urge you to think about the things that you have and are grateful for and not dwell on what you do not have or would you would like to have.  Doing so will bring you a sense of content and calm.

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Pampering vs. Self Care

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I think that self-care has got to be one of the buzz words for 2018 

Everywhere I turned I saw the words “self-care”.  On everything.  I saw them on Facebook feeds, and Instagram feeds and everywhere else.  2018 is the year of self-care.  In many of the posts and articles that I came across about the topic there was an allusion that self-care meant getting a mani and pedi, or getting your hair done.  Now, let me say this before I go any further, I love a good mani and pedi and I LOVE to get my hair done but as I think more and more about the topic of self-care, these activities to me do not fall under the category.   These acts of self-kindness or maintenance fall under the category of pampering in my humble ole opinion. 

When I think about self-care I think about the things that I do to recharge my mind, get my energy in a place of calmness, reconnect with myself and listen to my intuition.  These things help me keep my illnesses under control. These are some of the outcomes of my self-care rituals.  My actual self-care practices include: going to the therapist, reading self-development books, watching funny tv shows or movies, and listening to podcasts.  All the things that I just mentioned have a great effect on how I feel mentally and allow me to recharge so that I am ready to face the world head on.

I think that we need a balance of self-care and pampering.  We need to take care of our minds and our bodies, and I think to be well-rounded and in a state of contentment, you cannot have all of one without the other. So just know that from now one, I will be pampering myself, while reciting my affirmations, and participating in my self-care activities. 

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Do You Boo!

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Everyday as I move deeper and deeper into my mental health recovery,

I learn something new everyday.  My stability has made me more mindful and aware of what is happening around me instead of living in a bubble.  While I have become more mindful and aware of what is going on, this time has also allowed me more time with myself, I have had much more time to think and actually listen to my spirit and my intuition. During this time of discovery, I have had to think about what the key to my happiness really is?  Can a person with a mental health disorder actually be happy?


Yes!  The answer is yes.  A person with a mental health disorder can be happy and have a great  life. Do you boo! The question that you need to answer and think about  is what will make you happy? What actions would you need to take so that you can live your best possible life.  I know that the answer for everyone will be different. For me, when I started to do my own thing, that was the moment that I set myself free, and found my own happiness.  

Do you boo!  That’s what I tell myself.  That is one of the mottos that I live by.  It is okay to say yes to myself. It is okay to say no to myself.  But the most important thing about this is that I am authentic to myself.  I am making decisions that are in alignment with the life that I want to lead.  My goal in life is to live a great life while managing my mental health disorder.


Photo by Rodrigo Borges de Jesus on Unsplash

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Step out of your Comfort Zone, You might just like it

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Last Saturday I had a chance to go to a paint night event.  

I had made the commitment to attend weeks before and I was interested in going.  Then Saturday afternoon came and my anxiety set in. I started to doubt my interest in the event, and was beginning to come up with excuses and reasons on why I did not want to attend.  This was a charity event for a non-profit that spreads the words about mental health and suicide prevention, yet I almost let me anxiety take hold of me for no good reason.


I decided to take control and say no to my anxiety.  

I decided to stand up and be the one in control. I made the decision that I was going to go to the event.  Friends had told me that it was fun and that I would enjoy it. I am glad that I did. I really enjoyed myself.  I had always enjoyed painting and drawing so this would be the perfect event for me to express my creativity. And that is exactly is what happened.  I had never been to anything like this so I did not know what to expect.


When I arrived there were tables full of easels, brushes, paint, and canvases. I took my seat at a table with my family.  Once the instructions began on the creating the painting, I felt myself become instantly calm. I was engrossed in what I was creating and making sure that the colors blended together nicely.  I was transported to another place. A place where I was not thinking about anxiety, bipolar disorder, or medication. It was just me and my creation. I fully enjoyed myself and my finished product was proof of that.

 This was the picture that I had to paint!

This was the picture that I had to paint!

 This is my painting!!!!!!!

This is my painting!!!!!!!


I learned a couple of things from this experience.  One of the first things that I learned was that I have the power when anxiety sets in and tries to tell me lies and take over.  I have control over what I do when I am afraid or when fear sets in. I also learned that when you step out of your comfort zone, you may actually like it.  


Give new things and experiences a try, you never know what you will end up liking.

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Recovery equals happy and content

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I have been on this mental health recovery journey for over a year and a half now.

It has been a series of ups and downs.  When I began this journey, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I wanted to manage my mental health issues in a healthy manner. That was the extent of my expectations.

My recovery started with going to therapy weekly, and seeing my psychiatrist every 8 weeks.  

I made a vow to myself, to continue therapy and my psychiatry appointments even when I started feeling better.  In the past, there were times when I would start treatment for my mental health disorders and then as soon as I started feeling a little better I would immediately discontinue my treatment.  This I now know was a big mistake.

This last attempt (over a year ago) at regaining my stability was different,  I wanted this to be a success and I was willing to do so at all costs. Before I found my current therapist, I had talked to several therapists before making a decision to work with her.  Finding a therapist alone can be a stressful situation. There is the stress of looking for the therapist and the wondering if the two of you will mesh well together.

Working with my current therapist has been life-changing for me.  

In therapy I have learned the skills that I need to manage and maintain my illness.  Beyond that I did some much needed work on myself. I really got down to the core of some issues and baggage that I have carried around for many years.  

Recovery has brought me stability, happiness and a sense of contentment.  If it had not been for the decision that I made to make my mental health a process, I would not have uncovered my best life.  


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Your Mindset is Important

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As I navigate through my mental health recovery journey,

I learn new things about myself every day.  Even on the days that I am not experiencing symptoms of anxiety or bipolar disorder I learn something else about myself.  When I started this journey over a year and a half ago, I knew that I wanted to make a change and I wanted mental stability.  The only way to get the mental stability that I was looking for was to be intentional about the recovery process. 

For me, therapy was so very important and useful for many reasons. 

The main reasons were to develop skills and strategies about coping with my illness, as well as investigate past traumas and occurrences in relation to my mental health and behavior. When I first started going to therapy, it did not dawn on me that my past and my mental health disorders did play a role in my behavior, and at times they went hand in hand. Realizing this made a lightbulb go off.  I wanted to explore this more. I was devoted to bettering myself and becoming a better person.

One of the things that I began to realize when I started therapy on a regular basis was that attitude and mindset are so crucial in seeking stability on the road to recovery.  Our minds are so powerful, and we truly do become what we think.  I never thought about this.  I was too concerned with acting and reacting and not really paying attention to my attitude at times.

Mindset is so very important when traveling on road to recovery and creating stability. 

I know that for years, I carried a lot of negative thoughts and didn’t see any progress.  I then began to realize that having a positive attitude would greatly impact my treatment and make getting better a little bit easier.  Every day is not going to be easy.  Having a mental disorder is no walk in the park, but once I began to change my mindset I discovered that I can have the stability that I so desperately wanted.  There was no longer room for negativity.

The shift in my mindset has been one of the greatest things that has help me maintain my mental health disorder.  Positive thoughts yield positive outcomes.

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Having a Mental Illness Made Me A Better Person

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Having a Mental Illness Made Me A Better Person

When I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and anxiety over 4 years ago, I thought that it was the end of the world.  Because of the stigma and negative images portrayed about people with mental health disorders, I too believed the awful narratives.  I did not of course, want to be one of them.  I know that was a terrible way of thinking but, it was from lack of knowledge and information.

For years I was in denial about my illness. 

I did not want to admit having an illness that so many viewed in such a negative way. After years of partially maintaining my illness, it did not yield the results that I desired.  I wanted to live a normal life and “be okay”.

Last year I made a vow to myself.  I vowed to take my mental health seriously.  This included going to therapy on a regular basis (once a week) and seeing my psychiatrist at least every 8 weeks.  What I did not realize when I started on this new path, what I was in for. I hoped that I would feel better but never in a million years did I think that I would feel like a brand-new person.

In additional to learning the coping skills needed maintain my illness…….

I also dealt with many of the issues that had plagued my past.  As much as I denied dealing with these issues, dealing with them really helped me.  I began seeing things more clearly, developed a greater relationship with myself, and increased my self-awareness and self-love. 

I do believe that had I not received my diagnosis, I would not have had the chance to really take the time to focus on my mental health and my past issues.  I truly believe that my mental illness has made me a better person, and I am so grateful for it. 

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How Can You Be More Kind To Yourself?

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How Can You be more Kind to yourself?

This seems like such an easy question with what appears to have an even simpler answer “Just do it”! But, I am afraid that the answer to this question is not as simple as it appears. I know from experience.

Dealing with what I thought was just depression for over 20 years and later learning that I had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and anxiety all played a major part in my unkind behavior towards myself.

The thing about mental illness is that it can wreak havoc on your thoughts.

You begin to believe things that are not true, and you know what they say, “You become your thoughts”. So, if you think and tell yourself repeatedly that you are not good enough, and that you are a burden, you will eventually believe these untrue statements.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned on my mental health recovery journey is that I must repair the relationship with myself. I am with myself 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, I need to like and love this person.

Your relationship with yourself is a special one, and it needs to be guarded and treated with the utmost respect. One of your jobs is to take care of yourself and make yourself happy. And introducing kindness into this relationship is a great way to do so.

Here are a few ways that you can be more kind to yourself:

1. Say NO – No, is a complete sentence. Stop agreeing to things that you do not like or really do not want to do. It is okay to say no without feeling guilty or wondering what the next person is going to think or feel about you.

2. Take some alone time – Schedule some time, daily or weekly when you can be alone and have time to think without interruptions. You will find that when you give yourself some alone time, your soul will begin to whisper to you.

3. Honor your feelings – There are times that we are in good spirits and there are other times when we may be in not so good spirits. Depression may set in or symptoms of your mental health disorder. The point is to remain present. In the moment, to honor the feelings as they come, process them and let them leave you. You do yourself a disservice when you try to compress or battle the feelings that you are having.

4. Find your Happy – What is it that you find true happiness in doing? Is it reading, or singing, or maybe drawing? Maybe you have no clue what excites you. Now is the time to figure out what brings a smile to your face.

5. Say YES to YOU – No more putting restrictions on your life and your dreams. Say yes to the things and experiences that you want to have. After all, it is your job to make yourself happy and find your sense of contentment.

6. Compliment yourself – On a day that you are in good spirits. Take some time and list 5-7 things that you like about yourself. Save that list in an important place or better yet, make it visible. When you are feeling down in the dumps, take out your list so that it will remind and of how awesome you really are.

Incorporating these things into your everyday life will yield positive results. The way to strengthened self-esteem is to start with kindness. Self-kindness. Don’t think for one minute that because you have an illness, that you are not worthy. You are worthy and can live a great life, despite a diagnosis.

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The Power in Affirming

The Power in Affirming

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Mental health recovery all begins with a decision.  A decision to begin taking care of your mental health and peace of mind.  It can however take a long while to get to the decision to want to start on this journey.  This is by no means an easy task and you are not “healed” overnight.  This is a process that takes time and will require work and maintenance as time goes on.

When I decided to take my mental health seriously, I really did not know what I was in for.  I knew that I was tired of being a mess, I knew that I was tired of the up and down mood swings and feeling like I was out of control all the time.  I knew that I needed to be in control of myself, my body and that was the first step for me.  Knowing that I wanted something different. 

For Years, I was so used to being unstable…….

For years, I was so used to being unstable, that when I finally got into a routine in the early moths of my journey, I felt “funny”.  I had never been stable before and it made me feel strange, I felt like I was a different person.  I wasn’t a different person, it was still me, but I was experiencing a sense of calm and stability that I had never ever really know before.  That was a huge adjustment.  Eventually I began to like it.

As I became more, and more comfortable with my newfound person, and this stable frame of mind, I was able to think more clearly, and rationally and not fly off the handle in 0.2 seconds.  This was amazing, and whatever I needed to keep this feeling, I was going to make sure that I maintained. 

Once I reached a place of stability, I was then able to deal with all the negative things that I and my anxiety had told myself over the years.  Anxiety is a big ass liar.  Oh, it made me second guess my intelligence, my abilities, and it wreaked havoc on my self-image and self-esteem.  Enough was enough. 

I wanted to pull myself out of the pattern of negative thinking………

I wanted to pull myself out of the pattern of negative thinking, and that was one of the many things that I worked on with my therapists help.  What helped me, and is still helping me to this day, is my affirmations.  I speak to myself on a regular basis, but I try to use the kindest words that I can.  I even use my affirmations when I am taking about myself to other people, that’s how much I think they help.  I do have different affirmations for different situations, but my two favorites are “All will be well” which I borrowed from Aunty O, and “I am fucking awesome”, and that’s because well, I am LOL! 

These are the affirmations that I have chosen that are working for me right now, they may change and that is okay.  I think that the moral of the story here is to affirm how powerful, smart, and awesome you are.  You can be all those things despite your diagnosis. 

I created a special workbook called the Affirm and Reflect workbook. This is a free downloadable workbook that includes 5 affirmations, and 5 reflections.  This workbook is designed to get you into the habit of using affirmations and getting more in tune with yourself. To get your free copy, click on the link below.

 bit.ly/affirmreflect

I hope you enjoy!

That’s all for now !

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Letter to Little Lady A

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My Dearest Little Lady A,

I love you.  I really, really love you. I cannot help but love you when I look at your beautiful face and your bright eyes.  I see your light.  You are filled with such promise, creativity and sweetness.  I see that thing that so many other people saw, that you did not even see. When I look at the picture of you, I feel sad.  Sad because of all of the times I allowed other people to hurt and disappoint you and accept it as if it was okay.  I feel sad for all of the times that I did things to you and did not act as your advocate; when I was more concerned with the opinions and thoughts of others over your feelings.   I apologize for all of the times when our gut tried to show us the way, but instead I chose the opposite.  For all of these things I truly apologize. I’m here now.  I am here, ready to be all of those things that I failed to be over the years for you, for us.  We deserve so much more, and I will see to it that we have all of the things that we truly want, need, and desire.

 

With All of My Love,

Lady A

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Let Michelle Williams Be a Lesson to All

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When I learned that singer Michelle Williams had voluntarily checked herself into a mental health facility. I was happy for her for two reasons.  First, in recent weeks we have been hearing stories of celebrities who have lost their battle with mental illness. Her story was the opposite of what we have been seeing in recent weeks.   Second, in my opinion she is so in tune with herself and her needs that she knows when to stop and ask for help.  This was a commendable and courageous act on her part.  This really got me thinking.  I see a lot of posts on social media that promote self-care, and self-love.  But what do those things really look like?  My idea of self-care and self-love will vary greatly from the person next to me. 

Michelle’s story was a reminder to me that the ultimate form of self-love and self-care is getting to know yourself, and your illness so intimately to the point that you know when you must stop, acknowledge that you are not well and get help.  I have said this before and I will say it again, dealing with a mental health disorder is no walk in the park.  However, mental illnesses can be managed with the correct tools and support systems in place.  Let this story be a lesson.  Get to know yourself and your illness so that you can make the best choices for your care.