Category Archives: Anxiety

5 Ways To Stop Caring About The Number Of “Likes” Your Posts Get

Your last profile picture on Facebook has received 64 likes so far.  13 people also commented that you were looking pretty darn hot in that selfie.

The sillouette photo of your family playing in the sunset got a huge response on Instagram. 85 hearts and counting. Half of those are from people you don’t even know!

Your latest rant on Twitter isn’t getting much feedback though. You are thinking about taking it down.

Since you last logged into the POF dating site, 53 new members said they want to “meet you” by clicking the green check mark under your photo, as they scrolled through many. You have 4 new messages in your inbox. You wonder how many of them are going to say how beautiful you are.

64, 13, 85, 53, 4.

We are a society obsessed with receiving validation from numbers via the Internet. Validation of our good looks, that our opinions are intelligent, that our philosophies are admirable, that we are living life in an impressive way.  The problem with all of this external validation, is that the positive feelings you get from it are short lived. Soon, you start craving more “likes” so you make another post. Or log into that dating site again.

For many of you out there, I would be willing to bet your internet behaviour is bordering on addiction. You need those “likes” to brighten your day, to feel good about yourself.  You might even feel anxious and low whenever you don’t receive them.

It isn’t healthy!

This is why I have made a New Year resolution to break my addiction to external validation, and work on building my feelings of self worth from the inside.  I have no idea how successful I will be,but here are my ideas on how I will achieve this goal:

5 Ways To Decrease Your Cravings For External Validation By Numbers On Social Media:

1.) Practice Random, Totally Secret Acts Of Kindness:

I had a psychology professor once question the class if we thought it was possible to commit a truly unselfish act. His argument was even when we do kind deeds for others, we get something back, praise and recognition.  But what if you do something good, completely anonymously and secretly? The only person who will ever know about it, is you? I have a feeling it would be a very rewarding, invigorating experience. Yes, an element of selfishness would still be there. But the positive feelings you would gain would run far deeper than 73 likes if you proclaimed your kind deed in your Facebook status. I think random, secret acts of kindness are an excellent way to build internal feelings of self worth. Why not give it a try?

2.) Keep A Private Journal, Photo Albums, or Scrapbooks:

You know you had an amazing time with your kids at the museum last week. You know you baked a darn delicious lasagna for your date, all the while looking spectacular in that new outfit. You know these things. Does anyone else really need to? Try documenting these memorable moments of your life the old fashioned way. In a diary, personal photo album or scrapbook.  Your memories deserve more than being scrolled by 300 people, ” liked” by a certain percentage, and forgotten 3 hours later. Honour your memories, for you. Perhaps share the odd one, but keep the majority for you. They are yours to treasure more than anyone else, after all.

3.) Pursue A Passion Or Learn A New Skill (Secretly):

Learning a new skill is a fantastic way to increase self esteem. Even better is doing it only for yourself, not to impress others. Do it just for you, because it is something you are passionately interested in. Go for that amazing run without telling a soul. Paint that picture and frame it, just for you. Speak that new language to yourself in he shower.  Honour your achievements by holding them dear.  Don’t cheapen it by making it the newsfeed post of the day.

4.) Limit Your Time Spent On Social Media:

The best way to depend less on something is to distance yourself from it.  If you find yourself craving a surge of social media attention, refrain from signing in. Limit your activity to an hour or so per day. Carry on with your life, in your physical being. Be mindful and present. Save screen time for a designated, small portion of your life. That’s really all it needs to be.

5.) Share Your Life With Your Most Beloved People: 

Have you ever had a loved one tell you they wished you told them something personally before you posted it on social media? Try making those close to you feel special by sharing your special photos, the highlights of your day only with them. It is bound to give you a deeper, longer lasting feeling of esteem and worthiness than 17 hearts on Instagram ever could. Not to mention, it will strengthen your relationship with your loved one by increasing intimacy and communication.

So, those are my strategies for decreasing my cravings for external validation by numbers on the Internet. I will let you know how it goes. I think this article is pretty darn good. I am going to try really hard to stay firm in that belief, without checking the number of likes it receives, or that Facebook share button. Please wish me luck with this. Deep Breath. Here I go!

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Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

10 Ways To Repair An Injured Self Esteem

If you suffer mental illness, chances are pretty high that you also battle low self esteem. Self esteem is very hard to change.  It sure isn’t a matter of waking up one morning and deciding to love yourself. It takes a lot of conscious effort and perseverance, but it can be improved. Whether your self esteem has been damaged by traumatic life experience, a less than stellar upbringing, or the wear and tear of physical or mental illness, here are 10 things worth trying to help repair your injured self esteem.

 

1.) Spend Time Doing Things You Love: 

Doing what you love automatically makes you happy, which helps you feel better about everything, including yourself. The things you love doing are likely also the things you are good at. Be brave, and choose hobbies and work with your heart. You get one chance at this thing called life. You might as well spend it doing what you love, and being awesome at it.

2.) Use Social Media Wisely:

Participating in groups, making plans with friends, keeping in touch with loved ones are all positive ways social media can affect self esteem. Comparing your posts to others’ , or depending on a certain number of “likes” of your selfie or status update to feel good about yourself, or spending so much time on social media that you aren’t meeting your responsibilities, might not be so great.  When you log off of Facebook, ask yourself honestly if the time you just spent put your heart at ease, or made you feel low. Then adjust your habits accordingly. (Easier said than done, I know. But try! Try hard. You are worth it.)

3.) Help Others:

It’s hard not to feel good when your actions have improved someone else’s day/week/life. Just make sure the helping you do is on your own terms, and not the result of someone guilting/ pressuring/ taking advantage of you. The important thing here, is the acts of kindness you practice must be for people who will appreciate it, and done because you just really felt like doing it.

4.) Throw Negative Thoughts In The River:

If your self esteem is low, there are probably a lot of negative thoughts running through your head at any moment. When you catch them happening, visualize yourself physically taking those thoughts and throwing them into a fast flowing river. Picture them flowing far away from you, down the river. It might sound silly, but with practice this technique can become an effective tool to help fight the negative thoughts that torture you when your self esteem is low.

5.) List Evidence For/ Against:

If the river thing doesn’t work for you, try confronting negative thoughts head on, with logic. Maybe you think nobody likes you. Write that thought down. Then, list all of the evidence you have in favour of that statement, and all of the evidence against it. Think of everything! This should help you see that your negative self talk is not accurate, or logical.

6.) End Toxic Relationships:

This can be a tough one, but it’s vital for self esteem.  If you dread interacting with someone, if they put you on edge, if they treat you unfairly (directly or passively) the relationship is toxic, and you must get away from it. This takes a lot of courage, but if you can manage to let the person go, you will feel free and empowered.  Remove them from Facebook, delete their phone number from your phone. Walk away, and don’t look back. You NEVER have to entertain someone who brings you down. Cut that crap out of your life.

7.) Nurture Positive Relationships:

If someone makes you feel cared for, respected, listened to, important, hold on to them and never let them go.  Whether it’s a family member, friend or romantic partner, take time to show the people who make your life better that you care. Remind them how thankful you are for the things they do. And of course, spend quality time with them whenever you can.

8.) Take Care Of You:

It’s tough to feel good about yourself if you haven’t showered in a few days, or your toenails are an inch long. Eating nothing but chips and ice cream for 3 days is also not ideal for self esteem. Care for yourself as you would a newborn baby. Keep yourself clean, hydrated, nourished with healthy food. Make your environment comfortable and soothing. Moisturize your skin and floss your teeth. It takes effort, but the energy you put into caring for yourself is so worth it, because it comes out as improved self esteem.

9.) Forgive Yourself:

its way easier to say it than to do it, but you have got to move past your regrets and mistakes if you are ever going to have healthy self esteem. Admit to yourself that you messed up. Take whatever steps you can to correct things, then LET IT GO.  Promise yourself to learn from the experience, then leave it in the past. Agonizing over what you should have done, putting yourself down for wrongdoing is like poison to your heart. Forgive yourself. Yes, you have flaws, but so does everyone. You are worthy of forgiveness. You are worthy of love.

10.) Follow Your Heart:

If you suffer low self esteem, you likely try hard to make other people happy, at your own expense. Continually putting your needs and desires below someone else’s kills your identity. It drowns the fire deep inside that is who you are. Listen to what your heart feels. Muster up all the courage you have, and follow it. This is the only way you will ever figure out who the amazing, strong, loveable you truly is.

 

 

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Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

The Story of Your Life

Somehow, somewhere along the line you started feeling like your life mattered a little less than everyone else’s.  You started assuming everyone else was just a little better than you.

You took responsibility for the happiness of the people you love the most.

To you, love started to mean doing whatever it took to keep them safe, to keep them happy, to be by their side as the story of their life carried on.

Somehow, somewhere along the line the story of your life got lost.

You were comfortable that way. To be the loyal, caring companion who gave control over to your Love freely was what you knew best. You felt safe that way. If you could make your Love happy that meant you were good enough. Pretty enough. Worthy. If you could make your Love happy that meant you were also happy. Didn’t it?

There is no doubt about it, you are a caring, nurturing soul. Empathy pours from your heart and overwhelms you all the time. People love that about you.

But you have this habit of tying your life to someone else’s.  You live in their shadow, one step below them. A loyal servant.

It’s okay if sometimes you get forgotten.

It’s okay if sometimes you get hurt. Your pain doesn’t matter nearly as much as theirs does. They must never be disappointed. They must never be in pain. It’s your job to keep them happy, so you press on beside them in that lonely shadow.

You try to ignore the heavy feeling that grows within your chest. You try to ignore your white knuckles and clenching jaw.

Every now and then guilt threatens to boil out of you. You swallow it down, ignore the deep burn and wonder what in the world is wrong with you.

You pretend you don’t know the answer. But you do.

Somehow, somewhere along the line you’ve got to realize your life matters just as much as everyone else’s.

You’ve got to stop believing that everyone else is just a little bit better than you.

You must learn that love means being true to yourself before anyone else.

Although it may end up being quite uncomfortable for a while, somehow, somewhere along the line the story of your life must be found.

And the only person who can find it, is you.

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Thanks for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

Your Lion On A Leash

Although nobody ever sees him, you walk this world accompanied by a lion on a leash.

Most of the time your fierce, ferocious lion is very well behaved. He saunters beside you, you hardly even notice he’s there. He’s your silent companion. He makes you feel safe, most of the time. He makes you feel beautifully, heroically tragic. He makes you feel unique.  He keeps you company at night.

You hold on to his leash tightly at all times. You cling to his frightening, but familiar presence. You need him. Even though every now and then he gets pretty darn mean.

Sometimes you lose control of your lion on a leash. His roar rattles you, his teeth glint in the sunlight and threaten you, his wild stare breaks your heart.

In these moments, you wish your lion and you had never met.

In these moments, you wish more than anything that you could figure out how to let him go.

But you remain bound to him with that twisting, burning, invisible leash. You struggle to tame his wild fury. Nobody else notices a thing.

In desperation, you feed him until he’s satisfied, and once again at peace by your side. You sigh with relief.

Nobody knows you better than your lion on a leash. He is your most intimate friend. He owns the most vulnerable parts of your soul.

You relish him. You love him. You fear him. You loathe him.

Whether his name is Perceived Failure, Heartbreak, Grief, Traumatic Life Experience, Regret, or Anger,

your lion does not belong bound to you on a leash.

He isn’t meant to be a secret, chained forever to you.

Your lion has taught you strength. Your lion has taught you courage. Your lion will forever be a part of who you are.

He isn’t you though.

You’ve got to stop feeding him. You’ve got to set him free, before one day his wild rage devours you whole.

You will never forget him, and he may never be fully done with you.

But never give up trying to set him free.

He doesn’t belong bound to you with a leash.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

 

 

 

Take It All In (Celebrate Earth Day)

 

 

Even though we’ve ravaged this majestic planet, miraculously, it’s beauty shines on.

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It’s no surprise that taking in the splendour of the sunset over crystal waves, hearing the leaves crunch under your feet as you explore the peaceful forest, feeling the thrill of ice cold water as you dive into the rippling lake are the most effective forms of relief for mental illness and stress.

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Being in nature quiets the cruel voices within. It soothes your soul with its splendour. It touches your heart with hope.  It ignites your will to live, and helps you see what truly matters in this existence.

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There is a whole lot of beauty in this world. Remember this. Appreciate this. Take it all in.

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When anxious breath catches in your throat, when irritability furrows your brow, when frustration clenches your fists, stop what you are doing and go outside.

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Because going outside is going HOME.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

 

 

 

 

Anxiety Induced Procrastination: 5 Ways To Overcome It

A pang of guilt, mixed with dread, mixed with fear shoots through your stomach.  You have so many things you should be doing in this moment, but you sit frozen on your couch, staring at your phone instead. You just don’t know which thing to start with.  You push away the anxious thoughts that tug at your brain by scrolling through some old photos on facebook. The nagging continues though, so you wander to the kitchen, eat a cookie and stare blankly at your fridge magnets. You open the fridge and stare blankly some more. What were you looking for in here again? You feel so confused.  You let the fridge slam shut, take a deep breath that catches in your throat, and makes the weight that sits on your chest even heavier. You try to deep breathe again. Nope. Still no relief. You scurry around the house, find a notebook and pen, start scribbling down a to-do list.  For some reason this reminds you that you are out of cheese, and really need some for tonight’s dinner. You abandon your list and rush out the door. The to-do list can wait another day. It has waited this long, after all. You’ll get it done. Tomorrow.

It’s a vicious cycle: Avoiding something because it makes you uncomfortably anxious, getting more worried as time goes on because you haven’t done it yet, putting it off some more. Procrastination. Sometimes it just seems so hard to force yourself to get stuff done. Here are a few ideas to help you escape the Procrastination Chains of Immobilization:

5 Strategies For Overcoming Anxiety Induced Procrastination:

1.) Think of a reward/condition for each to-do list item:

When anxious thoughts of all the things you need to do start haunting you, write them down immediately. Don’t stop there though. Include a bribe for yourself, or even a threat for each item. Maybe as soon as you make that doctor appointment, you’ll reward yourself with a latte from Starbucks. Maybe you won’t allow yourself to watch your favourite T.V show until you pay that parking ticket. Whatever you decide, follow through with the rewards. Overcoming a fear ( it is NOT laziness, in my opinion) is worthy of celebration. Make sure your list is posted where it’s visible. If you see it often, you will be reminded to complete it often.

2.) Tell someone else you need to do it:

Force yourself to be more accountable by sharing your to-do list with someone you trust. Ask this person to give you gentle reminders, or to push you hard to do it, whichever you think will be most effective.  Anxiety/procrastination can be a tough battle, and like any battle, it’s better if you don’t have to fight it alone.

3.) Feel less overwhelmed. Spread the items out on the calendar:

It’s extremely overwhelming to look at a list of 20 important things that kind of scare you, but also really need to get done. Grab a calendar and try spreading things out over a week or so instead. Write no more than 2-3 items per day. Looking at the calendar will still be intimidating, I know. Investing in a flip calendar might be a good idea for this. The expression “take it one day at a time” is an important one to remember here. Pretend the only day that exists is today. Try hard to focus on nothing else. Get those 2-3 things done, and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

4.) Make it a game: channel your anxious energy.

If you suffer anxiety, you’ve likely got a ton of nervous energy travelling through your body at any given moment. I would bet much of this energy ends up getting wasted, through fidgeting, pacing, inefficient completion of tasks. You just can’t sit still, but ironically you can’t seem to get anything done either. What you need is a bit of focus. Okay, maybe a lot of focus. Choose an item on your to-do list. Set a timer. Make it a goal to get it done before the time runs out. Channel your energy into completing the task. Tell yourself to focus and don’t stop telling yourself to focus until it’s done. After, if you still have anxious energy coursing through your veins, jump up and down in celebration.

5.) Try using fear to motivate you:

If the dose is right, fear can be an effective motivator. Choose the one thing you most urgently need to complete. Think of the worst case scenario if you don’t get it done. Don’t worry about any other item on your list. Give yourself permission to actually obsess about the most urgent thing until it pushes you into action. You could even try writing the worst case scenario down on a piece of paper and holding it in front of your face until you do it. It’s worth a try.

Procrastination affects everyone from time to time, but it’s especially frequent in those who have anxiety. I hope these ideas help you.

Now, I must get going. I’ve got an appointment to make, library books to return, a parking ticket to pay, phone calls to make ….. I need to take some of my own advice and stop putting things off.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

 

Do You Experience A.S.M.R? ( Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)

Although my grade 7 French class was often the most chaotic part of the school day, with students speaking out of turn and generally taking advantage of our kind, soft spoken teacher, for me it was the most relaxing time of day.

As the other students flirted, doodled in their notebooks, did anything but pay attention, I zoned right in on the lesson. This wasn’t just because I was ultra respectful, I must admit.

It was because the gentle sound of our teacher’s voice, the soothing way her delicate hand wrote on the chalkboard, her incredible focus despite all the disruption going on all made me feel profoundly relaxed. My scalp would tingle, and my shoulders would feel like I was getting a massage. Had my grade7 French class been longer than 40 minutes, it very well may have put me to sleep each day. Not because it was boring, but because it was blissfully peaceful and relaxing.

I didn’t tell anyone this of course. It seemed too bizarre. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a weirdo, getting pleasure from observing a sweet old lady write on a chalk board and talk.

It wasn’t until years later that I got my first opportunity to discuss this strange phenomenon with someone, and realize I was far from alone in my experience.  I suffer anxiety, and before I started taking medication I often had a lot of trouble falling asleep.  One night as I sat up surfing the Internet at 3 a.m. I noticed my brother was awake and online too. I started up a chat to complain about my insomnia, and he offered me amazing advice.

“You’re probably going to think this is really wierd, but try watching this. It’s super relaxing.”

He sent me a link to an instructional massage video by a lady called “Lita”. As I started watching, I realized my brother was right. The sound of her voice,  and watching the calm, focused manner of her massage gave me the same tingly, relaxing feeling I used to get during gr. 7 French class. After my brother and I exchanged a few humorous messages making fun of ourselves for enjoying watching someone else get massaged, I read through some of the video comments, and realized many others were experiencing the same sort of thing.

ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is defined as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or cognitive stimuli. So feeling tingly when someone brushes your hair, or whispers in your ear counts as ASMR. Triggers for ASMR vary slightly between those who experience it, and not everyone does experience it.

There isn’t a lot of scientific data available on ASMR yet, although a quick internet search will show you there are many anecdotal reports of it out there.

What interests me the most is how it can be used to help relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. First of all, if you are lucky enough to experience ASMR, you will realize that when those sensations are being triggered, you automatically become mindful.  You totally focus on what you are hearing, seeing, feeling, because it feels so darn nice. Unpleasant feelings of sadness or anxiety are pushed away.  Watching videos designed to bring on ASMR can give great relief to someone suffering mental illness.  I think it’s a worthwhile place to start trying out being mindful for someone new to the practice.

I also do not believe its a coincidence that many common ASMR triggers involve someone giving some sort of care to another.  To be cared for is a universal need among animals.  It is also something that lacks in the lives of many who suffer mental illness. Perhaps indulging in some ASMR could encourage sufferers to put more effort into their own self care, or even to seek out care from others.

My goal for this article is to bring awareness to the topic of ASMR. It’s a real thing.  Although it’s not widely recognized, if you experience it, you are not strange, you are fortunate! I encourage you to explore how it can help you feel less anxious, less lonely and how it can help you relax enough to fall asleep. Check out the links below to see if ASMR can benefit you. Unlike alcohol, drugs, or other potentially harmful methods you might use to cope, this is 100% safe. It is certainly worth a try!

http://www.last.fm/music/ASMR

http://www.tingle.fm/mobile web/channels/

http://www.asmrlab.com

http://www.m.youtube.com/watch?v=UedaJPNGzoo

Also search “Disney Collector”  videos on You Tube.

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Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

How To Support Someone Suffering An Eating Disorder (from someone who has made it down the long, hard road to recovery.)

She runs frantically back and forth in the basement. She hopes she is being vigorous enough. The 3 big bowls of cereal she just ate must be burned away. A cramp pierces her side, she presses on angrily.  She despises the bloated feeling in her stomach. She hates herself for being so disgusting, bingeing like that on sugary cereal. She must have taken in at least 1000 calories. She feels the fat filling into her cheeks, visualizes the double chin that must be forming.  She speeds up, swings her arms harder, lifts her knees higher. She glances at the clock. 45 minutes to go. At least. No music plays as she does this desperate exercise. This is not for her enjoyment . This is for her punishment. Her motivation doesn’t come from a desire for health. It comes from fear. Fear of gaining weight. Fear of losing control. And anger. Anger that she lost control by eating all of that cereal.

She won’t be eating anything else for the next 2 days.

The cramps in her side get sharper. She cries out in pain, but doesn’t stop. She must finish this 2 hours of calorie burning. She hates her body for trying to stop her. The cramp twists up toward her rib cage. She speeds up in frustration. Tears stream down her face. She hurts. She is thirsty. She is soaked with sweat. She is exhausted. She is desperate. Desperate to maintain control. She was doing so well, for so long. But she got too hungry. She gave in. And now her disorder has control of her.

5 Ways To Support Someone Suffering / Recovering From An Eating Disorder:

1.) Be There: Help them break the habit of secrecy.

When someone has an eating disorder, they are extremely secretive with their behaviours. Counting calories, any eating they do, bingeing, purging behaviours all happen when they are alone.  They might hoard and hide food, dispose of it in sneaky ways. You can try to help break through the secrecy by offering to be there. Offer to eat meals with them, offer to go with them on calm after dinner walks. It’s really important to offer without forcing the issue. Putting pressure on will drive them further into their secretive behaviour. Ask how they are doing often.  Try opening up to them about something in life you are struggling with, and it might help encourage them to start talking. If you are lucky enough to get them talking, listen without judgement. Eating disorders come with feelings of self loathing and shame. Compliment them on their bravery in opening up, and just listen.

2.) Invite Them Out Often: Help reduce their isolation.

Eating disorders are very isolating. Sufferers often turn down social invites to spend time obsessing, compulsively exercising, recovering from binge eating episodes. Try to reduce this isolation by inviting them out often. Keep on inviting them no matter how many times they reject you. Dont give up on them. Try organizing team sport events with friends, or invite them for a yoga class. The exercise might appeal to them, and is much healthier than the compulsive exercise they do alone.

3.) Choose Topics Of Conversation Wisely: Avoid perpetuating their obsession.

Someone who suffers with an eating disorder is haunted by and obsessed with food, calories, and body image. When they are with you, you can help them be a little less preoccupied by avoiding ALL discussion of these topics. Ignore any comments they make about their body, redirect the conversation. Even telling them you think they are “too skinny” is a bad idea, because it can motivate them. It’s like positive reinforcement.  Refuse to feed into their obsession. This means no talk of dieting, “fattening” foods, body weight and size, even if you are talking about yourself.

4.) Help Them Feel A Sense Of Control

Someone suffering with an eating disorder longs for control over their lives. Eating disorder behaviour is an attempt to gain control over their body, but ironically the eating disorder ends up controlling them. Even though you are concerned and just want them to eat, never try to force food on them, or tempt them with food. This will only increase their desire for control, and make them very unlikely to admit they are suffering. It’s also very important to avoid investigating them, or accusing them of abnormal behaviour. These things will only drive them further into isolation and secrecy. Instead, encourage them to be honest by saying you are there for them whenever they might be ready to talk. Say you are concerned and ask them what you can do to help. This turns some control over to them, and might help them feel more ready to talk. Ultimately, the decision to seek help is entirely up to the sufferer. You will never be able to talk them into it. What you can do is offer to go with them, to be there for them when they decide on their own to open up and seek help.

5.) Have Realistic Expectations: Be aware of how serious the fight for recovery will be.

Realize that recovery from an eating disorder is not a matter of simply deciding one day to eat normally. Getting better is a long, hard, physically and emotionally painful fight. Eating disorders are very powerful addictions and it is almost impossible or overcome them without professional help. You can help your loved ones by making sure you have realistic expectations. Take it one day at a time. It will take them a long time to recover, and there could be many relapses on the way. Praise their brave efforts, let them know you believe in them. Be there, to listen , to hug, to show empathy. Never give up on them, and hopefully they will never give up on themselves.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

If All Illness Was Treated As Mental Illness Is

If all illness was treated as mental illness is; with prejudice, with lack of empathy, with frustration and fear, how very sad and lonely this world would be.

We’d have T.V shows that make freak show spectacles of sick people. Perhaps we’d have one for people with arthritis and call it “Shakers.” Or one for men with prostate cancer called “Urinators.” How about one for those with A.L.S called “My Strange Condition”?  Just like in the real shows, “Hoarders” and “My Strange Addiction”, the audience would sit back and laugh, judge, be entertained by the suffering of others.

Similarily to when some call those with mental illness “psycho” and “crazy”, they’d call people with cancer “mutants” and those who have suffered strokes “deformed”.

They would have the same level of insensitivity for those entering palliative care as they do for those entering psychiatric care, and say they were sent to the “death house” and the “nut house”, respectively.

If someone were to splurge and eat too much sugar, they’d say “go inject yourself with insulin ” the same way they tell people who are upset to “take a pill”.

If all illness was treated as mental illness is, we’d have a hard time believing that anyone actually gets sick. We’d accuse them of seeking attention, of being weak, of making excuses.

We’d yell with frustration at someone with multiple sclerosis, “Just stop sitting in your wheelchair and walk!”

We’d roll our eyes if someone called in sick for the flu. We’d whisper to each other that they need to toughen up. Suck it up. And if this person with the “flu” was a man, our reaction would be even stronger. We would think he was downright pathetic.

If all illness was treated like mental illness is, we’d be baffled every day by deaths we just didn’t see coming. After living months, or years hiding symptoms, pretending they didn’t feel pain, loved ones would succumb to suffering we likely would not have been able to handle or understand anyway.

Not long after their passing, we’d start making comments about how selfish they had been. How could they do this to us? How could they just up and die like that?

If all illness was treated as mental illness is, how (even more) sad, lonely, cruel this world would be.

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Thank you so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Holidays Aren’t Happy For Everyone…And That Should Be Okay

Waking before dawn, sneaking into your siblings’ room to whisper excitedly about what special treasures you might soon find hidden downstairs.

Snuggling on the couch with a full belly, surrounded by the comforting sound of loved ones’ laughter.

Photographs flashing.

Wine glasses clinking.

Wishing time would pass just a little more slowly, so you could take it all in, relish it, savour it.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But for some, this coming and going can’t happen fast enough.

Waking before dawn, your stomach sinking with dread as you remember the day ahead will be filled with forced smiles, the hiding of shaking hands, and drinks taken in secret.

Clutching your blankets, breathing deep to hold back the nausea, as you long for the comfort of your lost loved one’s laughter.

Photograph avoiding.

Wine glass refilling.

Wishing time could just skip over this day, so you wouldn’t have to put on an act, so you could avoid the guilt, escape the pain.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But there are people out there who would rather the holidays didn’t come at all.

Perhaps it’s because they grieve a great loss which only gets highlighted when the holidays arrive. But they endure it with a smile so they don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.

Perhaps they suffer anxiety in silence and feel overwhelmed and exhausted by pretending they’re okay throughout the flurry of family activity.

Perhaps they suffer depression, and attend holiday events out of obligation. Expectations to enjoy and be happy force their face into a smile, but inside their feelings of guilt and self loathing only grow.

Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice if those who are unhappy come holiday time didn’t have to pretend?

Of course we have the best of intentions when we expect and encourage full, enthusiastic participation in holiday events, when we wish everyone a “Merry Christmas”,  we certainly don’t mean to make anyone feel bad.

We just need a little more awareness.

We just need a little more acceptance.

We just need a little more openness and honesty.

Although we’ve made progress, our society still feels rather uncomfortable being open about things that aren’t sunshine and roses, and this is especially true at holiday time.  And what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We judge, we avoid, we ignore. This makes things much harder than they have to be for people who are grieving or suffering mental illness.

Pretending is exhausting. Pretending is lonely. Pretending makes you feel ashamed of your reality.

Let’s take the pressure off holiday happiness.

Let’s ask honest questions about how loved ones are feeling.

Let’s extend invitations that are truly optional, and come with alternative plans for later.

Let’s acknowledge our loved ones’ struggles with respect and empathy.

Although we can’t make things all better, we sure can make the holidays easier by being real. Not everyone loves holidays. And that is okay.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk