5 Amazing Reasons to Attend A Support Group

Ever since being diagnosed, I have done a lot of research on things that would help me manage my mental health.  Support groups are a great way to manage your mental health in a positive way.  I have attended many support groups and I love all that support groups stand for.  Below are 5 great reasons to attend a support group.

  1. Shared Experiences – When you attend a support group, you meet up with people who share similar experiences and circumstances as you.  This allows you to feel comfortable. 
  2. Open and honest communication – You can engage in honest communication about your experiences with people who are familiar with what you are going through without the judgement you may face from those who are not in similar circumstances.
  3. Sense of community – You feel like you are a part of an exclusive club when you a part of group of peers who share a similar experience.
  4. Comparison of resources – Being in a support group is a great way to share tips, resources, and advice on your illness and treatment.
  5. Developing and understanding of your situation - When you surround yourself with people who share similar expeiences as you, you are able to look at your situation in a way that you may not have done so in the past.  This gives you a new outlook on your circumstances, and this may be for the better.  

If you are dealing with a mental health issue and are looking for a healthy way to deal with it.  Consider a support group.  It may be just what you need.  

5 Intangible acts of self-love

What is self-love?  It is defined by dictionary.com as a regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.  While this is a great definition of what self-love is, what does it really mean to engage in acts of self-love?  Self-love and self-care have become very popular topics as of late and people are becoming very involved in investing time and energy in their own happiness and well-being.  This got me to thinking.  There are many tangible things that you can give to yourself that would fall under the self-love and self-care categories, but what about the intangibles?  The intangibles are just as important when you are trying to keep your mental health in order.  As I have been on my journey to maintain optimal mental wellness, I have compiled a list of 

5 intangible acts of self-love to incorporate into your life.  I have incorporated these things into my own routine and I have noticed a great shift.

1.Forgiveness for my past mistakes, and for those who have wronged me.
2. Non-judgement of my actions and thoughts.
3. Quiet time to just be.  This allows me time with my thoughts and for my spirit to talk to me.
4. Patience with myself and others, and recognizing that things take time.
5.Celebration of even the smallest wins. 

It is important for me to mention that I while I exercise these qualities on the regular basis, they require work and do not come easily.  I find myself in some situations where it comes easier to exercise and a little bit more challenging in others.  Life has gotten better because of my new practices.  I am very grateful that I found a new way of handling myself with love and care.  I am also excited to see what these new-found actions have in store for me.

The role of gratitude during the recovery journey

As a child, I’d always heard adults and wise older people say to “Be thankful for what you have”.  When I was younger, I never really paid much attention to the jewels that the older people would drop on me.  I never took the time to actually think about what those words really meant.  As I got older, I was engulfed in a haze of anxiety and I was caught up in the symptoms that my bipolar disorder was inflicting on my life.  I was never in a mental state to do any heavy thinking.  Or in a place to really ponder the wisdom that the world offered.  I was trying to stay above water and maintain myself from the happenings of everyday life. 

When I made the conscience decision that I wanted to get serious about my recovery and become stable, I began incorporating several mindful, and wellness practices into my routine. As I began on my journey, I did a lot of reading in the self-help genre.  This helped me so much with the way I viewed myself, and the way that other treated me, and how I treated myself.  Many of the books, and articles that I consumed all shared a common thread.  Throughout many of the readings that I had come across, a large percentage of them all spoke on the power of gratitude.  This was not a new concept to me.  Surely, I knew what gratitude was, but I had not been a person that included giving thanks in my daily routine.  I thought about it and decided that I was going to do something new.  The way that I had been doing things for the last 10 + years had not really been working for me and it was time to do something new. 

When I started giving thanks for all that I had on a daily basis, things started to change for me.  It was almost like everything was coming together.  Not in a shallow, materialistic way but in a personal, happy kind of way.  I was beginning to feel better about myself.  This was something that I had not felt in so many years.  Here were just a few benefits that I noticed as a result of incorporating gratitude into my daily routine:

  •          Increased sense of awareness
  •          More compassion, for myself and others
  •          More kindness
  •          Better relationships
  •         Better self-image  
  •         Increased clarity
  •         Sense of calm

While there are several other benefits of incorporating gratitude into your routine, these are the benefits that I have personally noticed.  Practicing gratitude is a great thing and will only enhance your situation.  So, go ahead and give gratitude a try, you will not be disappointed. 

5 Possible Solutions to Combat Overthinking

What is overthinking?  Well, simply put it means to think about something too much.  I can tell you that I have spent so much time and energy thinking and overthinking about topics that would have taken other people 5 minutes to decide on.  There was one point in my life not so long ago when I had to consult 4-5 people in my inner circle to get their opinion on a situation, discuss the problem, rehash what was going on, get their feedback and then decide.  Only to maybe rethink the problem a little more before making a final decision.  I went through that for years.  It was exhausting.  It was stressful and quite honestly, it gave me a headache. 
I exhausted myself, and I am pretty sure that I exhausted my friends and family with the fact that I could never make a solid decision on my own.  I need a consultation on everything from what style I should wear my hair to more serious decisions like should I go back to school.
Since I have been in recovery, I have had the opportunity to explore several subjects and ideas with my therapist as well as self-reflect.  The root of my overthinking was attached to the fact that I was unsure and not confident.  I also did not trust myself and my instincts.  Therefore, I kept overthinking every single decision that I was faced with.  Since I have taken the time to do some excellent work in therapy and taken the time to self-reflect, I have complied a list of 5 possible solutions to combat overthinking.

1. Redirecting – When you find yourself involved in a pattern of overthinking to the point where it is becoming stressful or too much too handle return your thoughts to the present moment.  What are you currently involved in that you can focus on? 

2. Meditation – When your mind becomes to cluttered and overwhelmed with thoughts, meditation is always a good idea.  This is a great way to clear the noise from you mind and rid yourself of all the overwhelm.

3. Pros & Cons – If you find yourself faced with a decision that you need to make, and it is the reason for all the overthinking, making a list of pros and cons may be a way to help you come to a quicker decision.

4. Talking to a Friend – Do you have a trusted friend or family member that you can go to with your dilemma? Talking to someone who can give you an objective opinion is a great way to get to the bottom of your situation and alleviate your stress. 

5. Strengthening Your Intuition – This is one that takes some work but is well worth it.  When you take the time to be still with yourself, you begin to develop your inner GPS. 

I have had the opportunity to utilize all the above solutions to combat overthinking.  They all worked well for me, but as I am becoming more in tune with myself, I gravitate more towards meditation and trusting my own intuition.  All the above methods are great as overthinking can lead to unnecessary stress and worry.  Any remedy that will rid me of stress and worry are fine with me. 

Photo by Kat Smith from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-alone-black-and-white-dark-551588/

Publication Alert!!!!! Publication Alert!!!!!

I am a magazine junkie!  I love physical magazines, and I even love online magazines.  What I love most about magazines is the creativity that it takes to put one together.  Many years ago, I had the opportunity to work for a children’s magazine and I also freelanced for some women’s magazines.  My fascination for magazines run deep.  I am always on the lookout for the next best thing.  For me that is something that is creative as well as informative.  These days, my passion is mental health and demystifying the stigma surrounding mental illness.   When I found Blueprint, I knew I had struck gold.  This is an online and print publication that covers all topics related to mental health.  It was started by students from Cambridge University.  The website contains great articles and stories as well as creative works and beautiful pieces of art.  They tackle subjects such as drug addiction and sexual assault.  This was a breath of fresh air to see such a beautifully produced zine that focuses on a topic that is so near and dear to my heart.  It is worth a visit to the website for a fresh perspective on the issues that face those dealing with mental illness.

Walk in Mental Health Clinics, Are they Necessary?

I read an article online from The Huffington Post about the lack of walk in mental health clinics.   The writer of the article lives in Canada.  A couple of years ago, when the article was written there was really no place for people to go if they were having a mental health crisis in Canada.  This has since changed.  A quick google search revealed there are several walk in mental health clinics in Canada.  This does not seem to be the case here in the United States.  Just thinking back to all of the times that I considered myself to be in the midst of a severe mental crisis, I never had a place that I could go to right away and seek the attention of a mental health professional.  I would have to wait to be “squeezed” in for an appointment and by the time that would happen, my feelings of rage or despair would wane, or I would have already acted on my impulsive and irrational feelings. Something about this picture is just not right. 

Photo by Erkan
When I am physically ill, and have symptoms, I can call my primary care physician for a “sick appointment” and get an appointment rather quickly.  If it is more urgent, I can go to the nearest hospital emergency room and get immediate attention.  This should be the same case when a person is experiencing a mental health emergency, and not just in the event of a person experiencing homicidal or suicidal feelings. Although these are very important situations to be in that require the utmost care and attention as well. 

I can recall several times in the past when I felt like I was at the lowest of my lows, and I reached out to my therapists for help.  I had some therapists who were able to see me the same day, and others who would not be able to see me for a couple of days.  When a person is in the middle of an emotional downward spiral and feel like they are losing total control, the last thing that they want to be told is that they need to wait a day or 2 before they can see a mental health professional.  Hearing this may exacerbate the patient’s condition.  I think that there is an immediate need for walk in mental health clinics.  These facilities need to be readily available just like walk in health clinics.  People are suffering in silence and once these types of services and facilities are readily available, this will be a step in the direction of accepting that mental illness is real and that people do need help for their mental health issues.  

Photo by Erkan  Utu from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/architecture-daylight-door-entrance-239853/

How Art Portrays Mental Illness

I am an art lover.  I get instantly excited when I see an artist tackle a subject so dear to my heart such as mental illness.  While we know that there are so many people dealing with mental health issues, many people still choose to turn a blind eye to this subject.  My love of art passion for shattering the stigma collide in this series that was created by artist Eisen Bernard Bernardo.  The series is called “Keep it Together”.  What is so interesting about this particular series is that he works with paperclips in each piece.  He depicts anxiety, depression, and several others in the series.  It is very interesting his use of the paper clip, and even the reason behind using the paper clip.  Above, is just one of the images from the series which depicts Anxiety.  The complete series can be seen by clicking on the link below.  I love how artists use different mediums to get their point across on such a serious subject matter.  I would love to know what you think about this series?


Whatcha Reading? My 2018 Reading List

While the start of a New Year is a great time for people to make resolutions, and lists of things that they are going to incorporate into their everyday lives, I have never been one for resolutions.  In the past I have never been any good at following up on the plans that I would make. My procrastination was world-class.  For the sake of not disappointing or embarrassing myself, New Years resolutions were never in my cards. 

This year is no different, there will be no resolutions but not for the reasons aforementioned.  I much rather prefer the idea of a lifestyle change.  I like the idea of implementing positive habits that will allow me to grow, learn, and ultimately become a better person.  As I began thinking about the upcoming new year and the positive habits that I wanted to achieve, one of them was to read more.  As a blossoming entrepreneur I have decided that I wanted to read more.  I have an innate curiosity, I love to learn, and research and reading will do that for me. 

I have compiled quite a reading list for the year and I wanted to share it with you below.

Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt
Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuck
Writing as a Path to Awakening by Albert Flynn DeSilver
The Misfit’s Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch
You are a Badass by Jen Sincero
Changing My Mind by Margaret Trudeau
Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton
Soar by T.D. Jakes
The 12 Secrets of Highly of Creative Women by Gail Mc Meekin
The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein

These books run the gamut and deal with a myriad of subjects from mental illness to entrepreneurship.  I am looking forward to learning new things and applying all that I learn to make 2018 my best year ever!  I am curious.  What’s on your reading list for this year and what are you looking forward to reading?  Drop me a line and let me know.

Out List : 2018 Edition

I have never been a person to make new year’s resolutions.  I have known that for as long as I can remember that my chronic procrastination would swoop in and my so-called resolutions would be out of the window, and I would be on to something else within a couple of weeks. 

I often speak about my recovery and the progress that I have made over the last couple pf months.  I am very excited about the positive changes that I have made, and I am equally excited about the continued progression.  I am looking forward to the New Year that is rapidly approaching.  As I look forward towards the new year, I have compiled an “Out” List.  The out list are actions that I will no longer allow myself to participate in or be a part of.  This list is also very much in line with maintain my positive progress for the upcoming year.
2018 Out List 

2018 Out List
Sleep Deprivation
Ignoring My Intuition

While I am absolutely clear about the behaviors and actions that I no longer feel the need to participate in, I am curious what is on your “out” list?

Embracing the Holiday Spirit After Loss

After the loss of my mother back in December of 2002, I lost my enthusiasm for the holiday spirit.  Growing up as a child, Christmas was one of my favorite holidays.  As an only child, I have fond memories of grand Christmases with beautifully decorated trees, presents, treats for Santa, and opening presents early on Christmas morning.  When I lost my mother at the age of 24, I was the mother of a 4-year-old child.  I went through a deep depression, and frankly I think that is when my bi-polar disorder reared its ugly head.  As a parent to a young child, I still had to hold it together and celebrate the holidays and maintain a sense of normalcy for his sake.  I must admit, I was relieved when he would spend the Christmas holiday with his father.  Christmas was difficult for me, but it was important to me that I give him the same special Christmases that I had as a child. 

As my son got older, less interested in Christmas and realized that Santa Claus was not real, my pseudo Christmas spirit waned off.  The holiday decorations become less and less to the point where there was no longer a Christmas tree or stockings.  There was always an exchange of presents, but the decorations and holiday spirt had faded away.

This year the holiday spirit came to me.  I did not decorate, but I was compelled to do things for others, which is what the holiday spirit is about to me.  I decided to send off Christmas cards to people who are in mental hospitals, and I also donated new winter coats to children in need.  These things made me feel so good. I got to focus on someone other than myself. I had a renewed sense of the holiday spirit. 

I made the decision rather late this year, that come next year, I am going to put the past behind me and embrace the holidays.  I can never forget the past and how it has shaped me, and helped me become the person that I have grown into.  Next year, I want to fully embrace the Christmas season complete with decorations and all the trimmings. 

I am very hopeful about my continuing road to recovery and what’s to come.  I look forward to all the new possibilities that awaits me.

Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net from Pexels

What’s in My Recovery Arsenal?

As I navigate my way through this journey called recovery, I learn many things along they way.  I have begun the habit of finding the lesson in every situation that I am faced with.  When I allow myself time to be with my thoughts, I can make connections about my illness, symptoms, triggers, and past behaviors that I now must take responsibility for.  I believe that self-discovery is the byproduct of recovery.  I have found that I am learning so much about myself and in awe at times.  Many of these beliefs and thoughts were always embedded in me.  Now, I can clearly recognize and identify them.  I have devised a list of the tangible and non-tangible items that are in my recovery arsenal.
Avoiding Negative Energy
Recognizing My Triggers

For all of you who are in recovery, what items are in your recovery arsenal? 

Photo by David Bartus from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/analogue-art-box-chest-366791/

7 Last Minute Holiday Shopping Tips

With the Christmas Holiday rapidly approaching, I decided to share a few tips for those who will be out this weekend with the packs of last minute holiday shoppers.  This blog post was inspired by my solo shopping trip at the mall this past weekend.  This is actually a list of things that I should have utilized myself.  This would have made my trip a lot less stressful and anxiety ridden. 

When I was younger, I could shop literally all-day long.  I mean from 10 am until the time that the stores closed.  I do not know if that was youth, or if it was simply undiagnosed mania.  I could go all day with little concern for food or nonsense like that.  That was then, and this is now.  If I do not have food, or some sort of snack in my bag, I get hangry. 

I decided that I would do some holiday shopping on Sunday since, I had gotten nothing done.  I had a mental list of what I wanted to get and who the gifts would be for.  I did know, that I wanted to arrive at the shopping center early to avoid the dreaded parking spot hunt.  This is one of my least favorite parts of going to the mall.  When I arrived, to my surprise there were several parking spots and I did not have to go on a manhunt. 

The whole experience lasted several hours, and when I left I was bogged down with many bags.  It was definitely an experience to forget.  

This experience gave me the idea to compile a list of 7 tips for last minute holiday gift shopping:

1. Make a list of who you are shopping for – Be Prepared with a list of all the gifts that you need to purchase.
2. Map out your trip – Strategically park your car near the entrance by the stores you need to go to.
3. Go with your friend – If shopping or being around large groups of people makes you uneasy, go with a friend.
4. Bring earplugs or headphones – These may be used if you have a noise sensitivity.
5. Give yourself a time limit – This will ensure that you do not spend too much time in one store.
6. Bring a snack – Have a snack handy in case your blood sugar drops.
7. Know your budget – Make sure that you know how much you will be spending before you get to the mall.

I hope that these tips will help you as you navigate your way through the crowds.  Happy Shopping!

Living a Good Life with Mental Illness is Totally Possible

After I came to terms with my diagnosis, I began doing more and more research on the topic of mental illness and mental health.  I wanted to know what kind of information was available, and was there a glimmer of hope that could be shed on my situation. Would I eventually be a person who would end up in a hospital with a grim future to look forward to? The thoughts were sad and depressing.

In my research, I came across the Ted Talks video that was presented by Elyn Saks on her experience living with schizophrenia, which is a chronic mental disorder that affects a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  While this disorder is not as common as many of the other mental illnesses, this can be very disabling.  As I watched her speak about her mental condition, her experiences, and her accomplishments, she gave me hope. She is a law, psychology, psychiatry, and behavioral sciences professor at USC Gould School of Law, she is an adjunct professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego; and faculty at the New Center for Psychoanalysis.  She received her law degree from Yale Law School and her PhD from New Center for Psychoanalysis.  She is quite an accomplished scholar.  She has written many books and published several articles.

She gave me hope that I can live a good life despite having a mental health disorder.  Let me be clear about something, living well with a mental disorder does takes lots of patience, and hard work, but it is definitely worth it.  You are not doomed, and your life is not over.  Once the shock and denial of this type of diagnosis wears off, that is when the real work can begin. 

The stigma of mental illness in my opinion is the deterrent of so many people to living their best lives. 

There is still so much shame and embarrassment around these illnesses and are often looked at as less serious than other illnesses. The time has come to have these conversations about mental illness and educate all of those who are afraid and uneducated about the subject.   

My New Morning Routine

As I become more and more comfortable with my new-found stability, I have decided to incorporate some positive daily rituals in my morning routine. These practices make me feel better throughout the day, and I also feel that this leads to more productivity overall.  Here are four things that I have added into my routine to make my mornings more positive.

1.Wake up at the same time every morning.   Waking up at the same time has made my body adjust to a schedule. 

2. Read something positive and spiritual.  I have book that has a message for every day of the year.  I read this book and I can reflect on the words as they relate my life and my situation. 

3. Say a daily prayer. Every morning I say a daily prayer for my friends and family, I also express gratitude at that time.

4.Do a morning meditation.  Incorporating a morning meditation has helped me immensely in clearly my mind and setting my goals and intentions for the day as well as ridding myself of negative energy.

While recovery, and mental maintenance are a work in progress and need to be worked on every day, these daily practices help me maintain good spirits and a positive outlook overall. 

Mental Health First Aid for All

I have a natural interest in defeating the negative stereotypes and stigmas that surround mental health disorders.  One in five adults will experience a mental health illness in each year.  While many people are still oblivious to these statistics, it is imperative to let everyone know the truth about mental illness and mental health disorders.  Mental illness does not discriminate and can strike anyone at any time.  This information is crucial for everyone to know if they or a loved one experience a mental health crisis.

While doing some research on the topic, I came across a mental health first aid class.  The class was created back in 2001 in Australia.  It is an 8-hour class and at the end of the class participants can identify warning signs, and risk factors for someone who may be in crisis.  The class teaches you strategies on how to deal with individuals who are dealing with mental health issues and how to assist them. 

After reading about the class, I decided it would be a good idea to take the class and see what I would learn.  As a person who has experience with mental illness, I thought that the class was very informative and would be very beneficial for the masses to have access to this type of training.  The mentally ill are often mishandled and many times mistreated and that may be because there is a lack of knowledge and empathy on the part of the public with how to deal with them.  This mental health first aid class should be mandatory training for authorities, law enforcement officials, and educators should they ever find themselves faced with this situation. CPR classes are readily available and mental health first aid should be as well.    

There was so much information, and this is a good way to get the word out about mental illness and what to do if one encounters a person who is in the middle of a crisis.    

For information on classes, please visit: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/

You are NOT Crazy

Crazy. Psycho. Looney. Nutty. Wack-Job. Hack.  These are some of the negative words that are used to describe people with mental health problems.  These words are negative, hurtful and an inaccurate description of people who live and struggle with mental illness on a daily basis.  Using these words do 2 things, firstly it demeans the mentally ill and it also perpetuates the negative stereotypes that are associated with mentally illness.  The stigma surrounding mental health is alarming and the lack of knowledge and compassion adds to the fact that many mentally ill people are suffering in silence and are not getting the assistance and empathy that they need.  They fear being judged and also viewed as weak. A mental health issues can be debilitating, just as devastating as a physical illness if not more.  The time has come for those of us who have been dealt the mental disease card to be accepted, understood, and embraced by those who have not.