Category Archives: Self Help

Mental Wellness Week

Hello all! Thank you for your support, compassion and kind messages over the past week. Each one meant A LOT!

This is a week dedicated to mental health. Some people call it “Mental Illness Week”, others say “Mental Health Week”, but, you know me, I must be different and I choose to call it “Mental Wellness Week”.

Mental illnesses and mental health issues are so often at the forefront of conversations and in trying to get help out there to those whom need it the most.
Of course I support both of these conversation but I wonder what sort of world would we have in 20 years if mental wellness was taken seriously as well? Teaching our youngest children to our oldest senior how to better care for their mental wellness.

Rather than focusing solely on what to look for in society to point out the mentally ill person and help them before it is too late, what if we began to encourage positive mental wellness messages as well. How do you spot a person who takes excellent care of their own mental wellness? How do we take that model and teach it to those who’ve never understood or been taught how to or fell off the rails somehow?

A lesson such as compassion for oneself would radically change our world for the better. I know from my own journey and watching others going through the same journey that the people who are able to show compassion for themselves and can accept their humanness in all its glory and its gory are the same people whom are more able to extend compassion towards others.
I know for certain that I was a far more judgmental and harsh person when I had no compassion for myself. I didn’t have it for others either even though I thought that I did.
When I finally realized that I was just a human being with so many facets, I was able to start being more accepting of others as well.
Imagine a world where we show compassion towards ourselves and then for others. I can’t even think of how much that woudl change our world for the better.

And self-care. Remember being a teapot 2 weeks ago? The importance of keeping yourself full and taking care of your own needs so that you would have the ability to offer goodness from within yourself to others.
What if we began to teach children how important they are. Not due to any ability or level of cuteness but being a worthy human being just for being alive?
Could that child become a teenager that put their own needs for safety and wellness above the needs of a group? Could they make better choices about where to spend their time and who to give their time to if they only knew to put themselves before the boyfriend, girlfriend, groups or others?

Worthiness. Teaching people that they are worthy.
Worthy of a good life, worthy of safety and protection, worthy of being heard and believed, worthy of exactly what anyone else has emotionally…
Worthy even if they are not being taught that at home? How long could abuse last if the person being abused saw themselves of being absolutely worthy of a better life? Never blaming themselves or taking on responsibility for the other persons behaviour. Can you imagine?
Even as a very young child, knowing this one skill would have propelled me in to speaking out more and not stopping so quickly. If I’d known that I was worthy of better… wow.

There are so many life skills that we just do not often teach at home or at school. This is not done neglectfully. It is bypassed because most of today’s adults don’t know what mental wellness includes or how to go about getting it. I didn’t! As a parent, I never taught my children much at all about becoming or staying mentally healthy and well. I did not teach it to them because I hadn’t been taught it yet myself. This needs to change in my opinion.

Wouldn’t it be terrific to one day wake up and realize that we now lived in a happier world filled with people who really knew how to care for themselves and considered themselves worthy of such treatment?
Bullies woudl hold far less power.
Abusers would have a much harder time convincing someone that horrible treatment was deserved somehow.
Pedophiles would be at a huge disadvantage if there was no hidden need for them to prey on. Children would already feel special.

John Lennon sang “Imagine” so many years ago but I’d love to add to those lyrics. Just imagine a world where most people are mentally healthy and skilled while far fewer suffer mental illness because they can catch it when it starts and get help immediately rather than putting it off for days, weeks, or years.

imagine

Today you are a teapot.

Please choose a teapot.
This teapot will be you until you finish today’s blog. 🙂
Since I am asking you to BE a teapot I will at least give you some really cool ones to choose from.

Teapot5 Teapot4 Teapot3 Teapot2 Teapot1 Teapot

Got one?

Okay… so today you are a teapot. Have you ever thought about the personality of a teapot? Not its looks or where it came from but what sort of person is a teapot on the inside? The first word I think of is “giving”. Very few other objects can connect people as quickly and as easily as a teapot can.

That said, the teapot is also a master at self-care.  It is perfect at it. When it is full and warm, it shares and shares but when the teapot is close to empty, it won’t even think for a moment before wanting to be refilled. It does not feel guilty for needing more water or a new teabag. It does not berate itself for having those needs. It does not deem itself stupid or selfish. It just needs a refill. Period.

Since you are a teapot today (a very nice looking teapot I must say), I want to think of yourself as cozy and warm. Filled to the brim with delicious tea. You are happy and content.
Then along comes the cups. Small cups, larger cups, beautiful cups, cups with a chip in them, kinda ugly cups, decorative cups and plain.
These cups represent all the different areas in your life which you give your energy to. Everything from walking the dog or petting the cat to going to work or taking care of your family. Don’t forget that there are usually a LOT of cups. Some cups (children, spouses, caring for your home, dealing with/making money…) are larger cups and require more of your tea. Others are  smaller (food shopping, going to the library, taking a walk…). These require less tea but they can not be ignored.

So back to you, my teapot friends.
You can only fill so many cups before you run dry. Even the biggest and best teapot runs out of steam eventually. It can only hold so much.
So what do you do when you begin to run out of water?
Let the last drops fall and pray for more?
Berate yourself for running out of water?
Get angry at the cups?
Call yourself lazy, stupid or selfish ?
How helpful is any of that going to be?
The teapot is empty and needs be refilled. Period.

The teapot needs to be refilled on a regular basis if it is going to be of any use at all to the cups. It is only by refilling on a regular basis that there is an endless stream of tea for everyone to enjoy.

Filling the teapot is no different from self-care.
In order for you to be of use to anyone else, you must refill yourself on a regular basis. It can not always be the very last thing on the list because you’ll have nothing at all to share. You will be empty and that is no good for anyone.

Self care is not selfish AT ALL. You are only taking enough time to refill yourself so that you will have more to share. Empty teapots can look cute but they are really of no use are they? Don’t allow staying empty to be okay with you thinking that you are just a generous person who puts others first. It is a great idea but if you don’t put you first? Who will?
Coming first and taking time for self-care is necessary for good physical and mental health. When you are a happier and more fulfilled person, those around you only stand to benefit from that.

How you refill your teapot is up to you. It is different for everyone. For me it can be doing my artwork, chatting with a good friend, playing a game on my computer… it can be anything at all that makes you feel happy and calm. Anything that truly feels like you’ve had a break. Sometimes it can be 5 minutes while you might occasionally get an hour or even a whole afternoon but no matter what you get? TAKE IT and do self-care.

A short life lesson from a former bone dry teapot…
I used to say that there was no time to take care of myself.
Then I learned that I MAKE time for everyone else so I need to MAKE time for me too.

Elanor

Attachment

IC

I never understood how attachment theories worked nor how they affected me personally. I just knew how I felt inside and felt this deep longing to belong somewhere in this world but no matter what I achieved or who cared for me, I still felt that ache just as strong as the day before. It was a deeply lonely feeling as though I was separate from every single other person around me.  I’ve heard others describe it as “being alone in a crowded room”.

About a year ago I had a conversation with a doctor who has taken a keen interest in attachment issues. He explained to me that a child attaching to its mother is not just a good thing, it is a biological need that MUST be met. It is not a want or a wish, it is a need.
In healthy infant development, the baby will attach to mom first for food and comfort. The father is usually the next attachment and then gradually over time after the age of about 6 months, that infant will gradually begin to expand his or her circle. If mom and dad have given the child everything they need, this attachment to others is a very natural process. Auntie Kate to visits the most regularly may be the first outside attachment perhaps Grandma and Grandpa are next. It will usually just be whomever the child sees the most often and has positive interactions with.

The trouble for neglected infants is that when the mother and/or father do not adequately bond with  or care for their baby, that infant will still have that biological need. Generally neglected infants do not have good support systems either. There might not be an Auntie Kate or a set of grandparents that either live close enough or perhaps care enough to be there on a very regular basis. Even if these people do try and do care, that infant is still going without. He or she needs mom for certain and in the best circumstances, dad too.

To explain the gravity of this situation… if this was to happen in the wild? The infant would die. In some ways this is also true for human beings.

If you watch this short video, it shows how a good and connected parent affects the child and then this same parent refuses to engage at all. Watch the difference in the child.

So what happens as these babies turn in to preschoolers, become school age, turn in to teenagers, and then become adults??? That unmet need is still there and it will never leave unless that need is met somehow. Some people will say they do not care what happens to their parents and that may be absolutely true but they will still hold that biologically unmet need within themselves.

Quite often these people seek out acceptance to a much greater degree than those with healthy upbringings. “Looking for love in all the wrong places” as the song goes. We can grow up, get in to deep relationships too young and sadly even accept abusive relationships easier than most people would because that need for a bond is so overwhelming.

I recall my thoughts after my first marriage crashed and burned… I realized that I had not chosen well or been picky enough. I had my children when I was not yet old enough  or fully equipped to handle them (I was married and in my 20’s but I really wasn’t equipped). I just wanted to be married and have children because I was desperate for a connection of my own. Sadly this rarely ends well so I got a divorce then swung to the other extreme where I need NO ONE for ANYTHING and totally shut myself off from anyone outside of my own children. That doesn’t end well either just in case you are thinking of trying it. 😉

So here I am at 46 years old and I know many others just like me who are even in their 60’s and yet they still wish for a unconsciously look for a mother to take care of them. We attach to others too quickly. We can force bonds which can often freak other people out. We can be seen as needy, sometimes even childish or many other varieties of “messed up”.
Please do not blame yourself if you see yourself in this situation. Your needs were not met and you are behaving as your mind feels that you need to in order to get that need met. It is not acceptable to continue this behaviour long term but do not berate yourself for needing something you couldn’t get.

I am not a professional on this in any way so I can’t give a laundry list of suggestions but perhaps even just being aware of your reactions and accepting them for what they are, an unmet need, could be helpful.
In my own life I am still in mourning for the things I never had but I am also getting healthier and being sure that my boundaries are as appropriate as possible.
A spouse is a spouse.
A therapist is a therapist.
A friend is a friend.
A sister or sister-in-law is a sister.
Those are the lines and attempting to put these people in a mothering or fatherly position holds our progress back. We will be once again seeking and not finding what we need and this can be devastating even if you are not totally aware of what you are doing.

The only true healing comes from beginning to give ourselves what we need. Starting to mother and/or father ourselves. Accept that there is that little girl or little boy in there that really needs to be shown true parental love. I will admit that I am still at the point where I feel like this just sucks and I shouldn’t have to be my own parent after everything else I’ve had to do for myself… but I know cognitively that this is where I need to go and I have started in some ways.
I just found this post and think it might be helpful to say to ourselves. Either this or something like it but we need to start to nurture that inner child.

IC1

A Healing Space

I know that it is not always easy to carve out your own space within your home for many reasons but I also know that without it, we suffer. It is easy within my home now with no children left at home and a whole house to fill. I have a bedroom, an office AND my art studio. I consider myself super fortunate and also realize we will downsize at some point and I will be back to trying to carve out a small space for myself.
I also remember having children at home, having a much smaller place (I raised my 3 children for several years in a 2 bedroom place with a shared kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry) and it can feel like nothing is yours. How often do you even get to have a shower without someone at the door (or in the shower with you)?

All that said? It is IMPORTANT to have a little corner just for yourself. A room is great but if that is not possible, take a corner. Each room has 4 corners so just pick one and let others know that this space is for you. I know you give everyone else their space right? We need to teach those around us to offer us the same. I did not do this when I should have and I felt very squashed for years. Nothing was really mine. I had no space just for myself. This was my own doing and I lived first hand with the damage this eventually causes us. I don’t even care if the space you choose for yourself is a rock out in a field… just so long as you choose a space for you and only you. Let others know that when you are in this space, you need a bit of quiet time.
In most homes, this request will be ignored at first so a lot of gentle reminders may be needed. Putting on headphones, closing your eyes and turning your back towards the world helps too. 😉

So what do you put in this space? Anything at all! Whatever makes you feel calmer or more at peace with yourself. For me that includes plants, rocks with special words on them, pretty pictures, my rocking chair and a cozy blanket, photographs of my grandmothers, quotes that I love, music… I don’t need a lot of space for these things. Just enough for a chair and some small shelves. Just arrange your special place with anything that brings you joy or offers you comfort.

A sweet friend of mine posted this picture on her blog a while ago and it is PERFECT for this blog today. It gives you a lot of visual ideas of things you could do as well.

Remember that you are important and need to treat yourself as such. ❤

Healing

Schools lack…

School

Schools try their very best to teach children all the skills they need to learn in order to lead full and successful lives. I really believe that for the most part, educators really do care.

That said, I think there is one area that schools and society lacks attention that is absolutely critical and would change the way that our society worked as a whole. We all went to school and now we are all “society”. One day these kids will be taking our places.Will they be as prepared as we were? Were we prepared?

Bullying is a HUGE issue that receives a ton of attention but the education about it isn’t working. I’ve sat in school auditoriums, listened to very passionate speakers on the effects of bullying and then as we leave, I hear kids calling each other names, pushing each other, basically ignoring every lesson they just learned. I would hate to even fathom a guess at the hours a principal spends dealing with bullies, bullied children and their parents. Yet it is only getting worse.
And much worse than bullying? Having no respect for your own self, beating yourself up for finding life challenging, feeling like you are less than or not worthy of better, harming yourself in ANY way because you just don’t have the skills to cope.

I am not usually one for coming up with ideas that basically throw what we  are already doing out the window but in this case? I think we need to strongly consider it.
What do I think we should teach instead?
I think we could do wonders for our youth and our society as a whole if we taught about good mental health.

  • Teach and do projects on self-esteem, help kids figure out what they really love to do and how to be proud of it.
  • Teach lessons on being resilient. You CAN teach someone how to gain skills that will make the ups and downs of life easier to manage.
  • Explain to our youth that they are worthy of love, attention, and support. If they are not getting that at home, parents can be led towards parenting classes that are not done to be punitive but rather done to make all of their lives better. It is very obvious to me that the parents needs as much consideration as the child.
  • We need to teach children about self-care and self nurture. I was 43 before I even knew what this meant. I assumed if I showered and brushed my teeth? I was all good. I had no idea that I needed to also nurture myself, treat myself well, do things that I enjoy like being creative or spending time writing.
  • Teach some behaviour therapy. How to see the world with realistic but not dirtied glasses. Help them see the good that surrounds them and actively push further away from the bad.
  • Teach these children about mental health issues. Let them know what is “normal” and what is not. Help them learn the signs of anxiety or depression so that they can be proactive far earlier. Many youth and many adults graduate from anxiety and/or depression to more serious concerns such as self harm, suicidal ideation, and eating disorders. Give them the local support numbers to call if they ever feel the need to reach out for help. Don’t make them (or anyone) have to go searching for it when they are at their lowest.

My personal belief (and that is all this is although I would LOVE to change the world with it) is that youth who are taught and helped to mature with a good self-esteem, an ability to be more resilient, know that they are worthy and important people in this world, take an active role in doing things that make themselves happy and feel fulfilled, youth who are taught about mental health and have no fear or stigma attached to it will reach out sooner, get help quicker and not fall so far before trying to catch themselves.

Mentally healthy children, youth and eventually members of our adult society will require less interventions, they will become happier workers, more positive people, they will be resilient and good at taking care of their own needs.
I think it is worth taking the time to make this a part of the curriculum and if they don’t? We parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, caregivers, friends, doctors, nurses, etc. need to start teaching it if we can.
I also firmly believe that these stronger, more self-assured youth won’t need as much help with bullies because a bully will be far less likely to upset them as easily AND we will have fewer bullies in the first place. Mentally healthy people do not feel the need to stomp on the feelings of those around them.

Stop and look…

I have something that I have been doing for the past few years and it makes a HUGE difference in my life. I suppose I have danced around the behavior many times but I’ve never done a blog on it. So here it goes. 🙂

When we are in recovery or even in the most stables of lives, we make constant changes and decisions. We learn. We move forwards, we fall backwards. We feel great and then horrible. We work hard and do a great job working on a task then it doesn’t work out. That is life. Up, down and all around.

I don’t know about you but for me? Recovery and wellness seem to take a LOT of work and each time that I reach a goal, the list of goals still yet to achieve seems to grow longer rather than shorter.
So here is what I started doing 3 years ago while hospitalized. I can not take credit for this. It was taught to me and I am very grateful for this lesson. Mind you, in all truth, this whole blog is about what I learned. 🙂

I was encouraged to make an “Accomplishment List”. Each time I felt that I had done something well, learned something new, made some good choices, or anything else that was a step forward in my mind, was to be written on this list. I know a lot of people who didn’t bother doing it and even more who stopped doing it after leaving the program but I have found it is immeasurably important to do on a constant basis.
I also stop and take time to look over how far I have come every once in a while. I ignore the work yet to be done and forget about the future as a whole. I take that piece of time to just pay attention to the right now. Today. This moment in time.

I do not do this on a schedule. I actually find that I like to do it after I have gone through a really rough time. It is nice to stop and think about how much better I handled it, how I felt more at ease… whatever.
I really like doing this with my therapist, a friend, my hubby, quite frankly, anyone who will listen to me because it is so easy to only report the negative to all of those people. It is an easy habit to fall in to. Sharing complaints only. It is nice to stop and say “Look how much better I am doing!”

I just went through a really hard anniversary, I’ve been ill with 8 infections and used 12 prescriptions to solve the issue since January 10th (and I am normally healthy as can be), my birth father sank to new lows, a good friend stopped contacting me, and a few other thing. I ended up falling in to a deeper depression than I have in quite some time. BUT… this is where my “Accomplishment List” comes in…

While dealing with all these things, I did not go silent which I normally do. I can write anything at all but actually opening up and speaking when times are tough has not been my strong suit. In the past few months I HAVE reached out. I told my husband why I was feeling down and admitted that I was having a hard time. I talked to a couple of friends and brought the tough stuff to my therapist.
I stayed on top of each infection as it happened and even though I got really fed up with it all, I just moved forwards each day.
I also set a couple of HUGE boundaries in my life which were very stressful because there was a lot of emotion involved in both decisions but after making them and respecting myself, I started to feel much better.
There is even more than this but I’ve been “braggy” enough already. 🙂
It just feels really good sometimes to stop and look at the changes you have made.

Do you keep a list of the positive things that you do in your life?
This list need not be huge things.

  • If you find it hard to get out of bed each day but do it anyways? That should go on your list!
  • If you manage to make a healthy meal 5 days out of 7?
  • Keep a boundary or set a good one?
  • Still alive even though you had days where you didn’t want to be?
  • Start a new healthy habit?
  • Take time for yourself?
  • Have another day, week or month sober? (I am 17 years in yet I still celebrate it as an accomplishment.)
  • Find time to create/write/sing…?
  • Deal with a tough subject.
  • Go through a hard time and manage to avoid doing what you usually do? Maybe you reached out this time? Tried something new?

Your list can be the smallest of efforts to the grandest of gestures. The important thing is just to stop and look at where you were a few months ago and how far you have come. Even tiny changes add up over time so you may suddenly be in a situation that would have crushed you a year ago but now you deal with it better than you expected to. Stop and congratulate yourself. You are making progress.

I hope you will try doing this for a while and let me know how it goes.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Web

Value Your Survival Skills

Value

It can be really tough to look at the symptoms that are caused by whichever disorder we’ve been burdened with and feel thankful. Who would feel thankful for dissociations, unexplained body pain that never ceases yet a mind that feels nothing? Anger, depressions, anxiety, feeling absolutely crazy, and afraid to make friends or trust anyone at all. There are so many different symptoms that I just can not cover them all but you know what you deal with and it really sucks doesn’t it?

So let’s look back a bit to the time when those behaviors were not symptoms yet.
Back to a time when they are what helped us survive.
They were not symptoms then, they were SKILLS.
We needed them. Quite often they saved our lives.

Any good therapist or doctor will tell you that although these skills were useful in the past, they are not helping us now. We know that but we need to be taught how to cope without using them.

It is in that in-between time that we often feel very critical of ourselves.
Why can’t we feel things?
Why can’t we trust someone who we know is trustworthy?
Why do I struggle with addiction? (Food, alcohol, drugs, sex…)
Why do I hurt myself to feel better?
Why do we feel such anger that it is more like a venomous rage?
Why do we then feel nothing?
Why do we eat so much or so little?
Why can’t we stop zoning out?
Why are we depressed when everything seems to be going well?
Why are we so anxious that it can be hard to leave home?
Why do we say or do things to cause distance with others?
We can often feel dead inside. Why can’t we feel?
Why do we want to be alone yet feel shunned?
What the heck is wrong with us?
Why can’t we just be “normal”?

Those questions haunt so many of us and I am sure you can relate to at least a few. It feels awful to be stuck where we do not want to be. It is very easy to be unhappy with ourselves and we want to do better but it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time to change.

Maybe we can do something a little different when we feel like being hard on ourselves for our now dysfunctional coping.
Perhaps we can look at these “symptoms” and see that they were not born out of weakness but rather born our of the will to survive. We are not weak or frigged up because of them. These symptoms just show how incredibly resilient we were.  We made it through all that we dealt with thanks to those skills.

We also know that we need to work towards healthier coping skills in our lives now but I find that making steps forward is a lot easier when we stop putting ourselves down for who we are at that moment.
Accept yourself for who you are and where you are. You are a survivor. Nothing less. You are strong and good and kind. The people who’ve been hurt the most almost always are.

You will change in time. You will make healthier choices and move forward in positive ways. Allow yourself to accept who you are right now and that change will happen faster.

I learned to value my skills and it changed my life. I had more compassion for myself. I was no longer sorry for how I acted or felt. I had every good reason to be exactly where I was. Any person who lived through my life would do no better.
Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.”
Wherever you are right now is the best you can do. As you learn? You can do more.
Maya Angelou also said “When you learn. Teach.”
One day you will be in a place where others will look at you and learn from your climb.

You survived. However you achieved that? Good for you!!!