frame of mind
The silence and the stigmas that surround mental health makes this place that much darker, and that much scarier. If we open up the conversation, we can ease the guilt and shame that comes with having a mental illness -- it's as if battling with your own mind wasn't already hard enough.
Maddie is my glitter. I find her every day in little nooks and crannies when I least expect it. And most often uncontrollable tears rise in my eyes and my heart cracks even further, but the smile for the memory eases the pain. May her sparkle never dull and may we continue to find her glitter in the least expected places.
We speak in platitudes about the "road to recovery" with eating disorders, like there's an easily-replicable strategy, like winning a board game. My recovery was a hellish game of snakes and ladders: I'd make progress and then have a setback and slide back to start.
I try to stay calm as my heart starts to race and my legs begin to shake. I feel nauseous and I might throw up. It's happening. Right here, right now, at work. A panic attack. My first one happened in my mid-20s. Thought I was dying. It runs in my family. My father has anxiety and panic disorder.
We need each other. We need these connections to survive and we need to talk about mental illness to share light and hope. We need to stop stigmatizing mental illness. We need to survive mental illness. You need to survive it. You have to keep moving. Keep fighting. Keep dreaming.
The holidays can be great for some, but for me, and many people I know, they are more of a nightmare. So how do we move past this? I am going to share with you a couple ideas that I have had that have worked for me ( they may not work for everyone). I am sharing these things in the interest of conversation.
"I think the opportunities to access help are just not there for people in the north."
This yo-yo or extreme dieting may be seen as harmless or even vain but we must recognize it stems from a very dangerous place. Negative body image is the negative self-perception of your body. It is often accompanied by shame; the unworthiness we feel due to our flaws. This combination of negative body image and shame is what leads us to take desperate measures with our bodies.
If there is someone reading this who is in that dark place of having a plan -- a plan of how they want to exit this life and when they want to exit it. Please wait and listen to me when I tell you that these thoughts are not with you forever. I know they are excruciatingly painful, but they do pass. I promise you they pass. I promise you are worthy, and that you are not alone. You are loved. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are brave.
There is so much pressure on these kids to not only thrive and compete but to be perfect. And our sense of balance is gone. Competition and excelling is good but what about having fun? Commitments are skewed. Genuine, quality family time is compromised because parents are stressed, pressured and rushing to get their kids to and from programs and to do too many things at the same time.
Suicide is hard. It is hard to even say the word let alone imagine that someone close to you might think that is the only path forward is to take their own life. It's hard to relate, surreal on many levels. But take a minute to imagine. Imagine losing one of the people you love the most by suicide. Does your stomach drop, your heart race, tears come to your eyes or even fear race through your bones?
The key to my mental health isn't just one thing. It's a combination of many factors all playing an important part in keeping me healthy. Contrary to popular belief, strong mental health isn't just "toughening up," "smiling more," or "staying positive." Let's give the brain a little more credit, it's a far more complex machine than something to solely run on cliché and ignorance.
Throughout the teen years, vulnerabilities crop up. That, in turn, makes them susceptible to controlling friends. To identify negative relationships your teen needs to clearly understand the attributes of possessiveness, isolation and jealousy. These are strategies used by others to control a person.
Anxiety is constant, it doesn't just go away. Sometimes it may be heightened... making it essential to learning self-regulation of my thoughts. This involves acknowledging my triggers, knowing what scenarios or environments may cause my anxiety or panic to heighten.
The first person I told asked me, "What does that even mean, to have a mental illness?" I struggled to explain how I felt. That was three years ago. Today, I think I have a better grasp on what it means to live with a mental illness. So now I'll finally try to answer that question.
These thoughts I have are irrational and uncontrollable. They're more than overthinking, and they're more than overanalyzing. Most people will tell me to "stop overthinking" or "if you're trying so hard, you shouldn't have this anxiety." Believe me, if I could stop them willingly, I would. But for now, trying is all I can do.
Parenting expert Alyson Schafer and Gale Brown from Kids Help Phone reveal what to look for.
To the people who care about them, once this young person chooses "the other way", all the people around them see is the consequences. "Didn't you know that if you did "X" you would end up "Y"". It is understandable for those around you to feel this because the process of suffering is so often done in the dark. The sufferers try to protect those around them and some feel that by minimizing it, it may go away.
For parents, the healthy relationship boundaries talk is a topic that can be revisited many times during the teen years. They need to understand what it means to have boundaries. Take the time with your teen to explain emotional and physical personal space, dealing with privacy, and what to do when someone crosses a boundary.
I had the honour of speaking with Catherine, and she listened intently as I answered her question about what I think is the most important message to share about mental health. She was incredibly down to earth, and the care and interest that she showed towards me made the situation all the more memorable. To see such high profile individuals -- real life royalty -- advocate for youth mental health... gave me great faith that they will have tremendous success in breaking down barriers.