Category Archives: Relationships

7 Ways To Support Loved Ones Going Through Separation/ Divorce

Separation/ divorce is a period of great life upheaval and emotional turmoil. It’s heartbreaking to watch loved ones suffer through it, and it can be stressful trying to figure out how you can help, and what you should or should not say or do. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. The best way to help your loved ones is actually pretty simple: it all boils down to empathy.

7 Ways To Support Loved Ones Going Through Separation/ Divorce:

1.) Realize You Don’t  Have To Choose A Side:

It takes two people to make a relationship, and it also takes two people to cause a relationship to end.  Whatever the story may appear to be from the outside looking in, chances are the reality is much different. You truly never know, nor do you need to. The details of everything really aren’t your business. Being a supportive friend is your business though. If you loved both spouses before their split, it’s okay to love them both after. Losing a husband/ wife is painful enough, they really don’t need, or deserve to lose their friends too.

2.) Let It Be All About Them:

When experiencing great life upheaval and loss, what a person needs more than anything else is to be heard. To tell their story to a fully engrossed, empathetic, nonjudgemental listener. A listener who keeps the story focused on their friend, without constant interruption, or interjections of anecdotes of their own relationship troubles. This can be tough to do, but if you are able to do it, you will be giving your loved one a rare gift indeed.

3.) Try Not To Take Their Distance Personally:

If your loved one withdraws during their time of separation and loss, please try not to take it personally. Perhaps seeing you would cause them too many emotions they aren’t ready to face just yet.  Perhaps most of the time spent with you in the past was with their spouse, and the memories are still too raw and painful. Whatever the reason, if your loved one seems to be avoiding you, they probably are doing it to protect themselves during an extremely vulnerable time.  They still love you. They still think of you often. They still need you, and they will come around in time, I promise. Please just be patient and give them that time.

4.) Remember Every Situation Is Unique:

When confiding in someone, nothing is worse than being met with a “been there, done that” sort of attitude. Yes, hearts have been breaking since humans first walked the earth. Yes, separation/divorce has happened millions of times before, maybe even to you. This is the first time it is happening to your loved one though. Every headache, every heartache is very unique to them.  Please be sure to dignify their experience, to honour their feelings, rather than diminish them by reminding them how common their situation is. Your loved one is aware they are not the only person to ever go through this. Reminding them is unnecessary, and sure doesn’t make them hurt any less. Please honour their feelings. Treat their suffering as something as individual as they are, rather than with stereotypes and generalizations.

5.) Remember They Are Mourning A Loss As Real As Death:

Experiencing separation/divorce is very similar to experiencing a death. It’s death of day to day life as you know it. It’s death of a future you had planned and taken comfort in. It’s loss of arms that held you, a partner you thought would be there unconditionally. It’s loss of materials, family members, time with children, family traditions and inside jokes. Years of once pleasant memories become torturous. A social status you took pride and comfort in vanishes, and is replaced with potential judgement and loneliness.  Despite separation / divorce being a choice, it’s still a huge loss that causes very real grief. The fact that it’s a choice can also make it even harder, when feelings of guilt and self doubt creep in.  Help your loved one by acknowledging how huge heir suffering is. What they are going through is a really big deal.  As serious as death is. Remind them of this, and offer your sympathy often.

6.) Offer Advice Only When It’s Requested:

If your loved one is looking for advice during their separation/ divorce, they will ask for it. Even then, it’s very likely they won’t do what you say, unless deep down they have already made the decision to do it on their own anyway. Giving unsolicited advice (unless of course, you feel their safety is at risk) to your loved one during a time of such turmoil is likely to make them feel misunderstood and disrespected. Instead, you can encourage them when you think they are doing the right thing, and be there to offer a hug when they realize they have made (very importantly, their own) mistakes, which will teach them far deeper life lessons than following your advice ever could.

7.) Give An Abundance Of Encouragement and Praise:

It’s very easy for those going through separation/ divorce to feel like they have failed somehow. Remind your loved one that the real failure would have been to continue on living life feeling miserable, resentful and hopeless. To admit something just can’t work any more, and resolve to make extremely difficult changes in the hope of long term happiness is very brave. To face the emotional and financial consequences of separation, and dive all alone  into a new life that is completely unknown takes guts. Never stop reminding your loved one of this. They have not failed. They have taken control of the one life they get to live on this earth. They are carving a new path. Praise and encourage your loved one every step of the way. Be their greatest fan. Most importantly, be you. Their life has completely transformed. That doesn’t mean your relationship with them has to.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

The Thing About Grief

It’s a deep, twisting, vertical cave, and you cling somewhere to the side of it. The Rock is slimy, cold, covered with a residue of something quite foul. You are frozen, unable to climb up toward the light.

You can hear them calling you from the light at the top of the cave. You rest your cheek for just a minute against the icy rock. You despise it here. You wish you could feel their love, and that it could save you. You wish you actually wanted to live, for them. But right now, all you want is to let go of that jagged rock, and be free. You are desperate to stop hurting. You didn’t know this type of torture was even possible.

The thing about grief, is that it can be caused by many different things:

Death of someone you love, care for, admire.

Loss of a beloved pet.

Loss of a close friendship.

Loss of/ ending of a career that gave you a deep sense of purpose.

Loss of a romantic relationship.

The end of a marriage.

A parent leaving.

The ending of a dream, vision you had of the way your life would be.

Loss of your life as you know it, as you are comfortable with, as you have come to depend on.

Love and care in any form that you had once relied on, suddenly taken away.

Those things all cause grief.

And the thing about grief, is there is absolutely nothing that can be done to make it go away. Grief is awful beyond belief. Period.

You have to feel it, in all it’s miserable, hellish agony, before you can even begin to think about healing. That means for a certain length of time, you will exist without joy, without a sense of hope, without anything except your will to keep clinging to the inside of that cave.

And that is okay.

Don’t you dare put on a fake smile to make others feel comfortable.  Don’t you dare pretend you are okay. Don’t you dare let anyone tell you “it could be worse.” Don’t you dare let anyone tell you to “be strong.”

Because, my dear, the very fact that you still live, enduring the hell on the inside of that cave, clinging despite your stiff, tired hands, and exhausted heart. ……..that, my dear, proves you are very, very strong.

As you exist, feeling ill, exhausted, angry, full of sorrow on the side of that cave, take comfort in the fact that you are strong. Yes, you feel helpless, because pretty much, that’s exactly what you are. Helpless. Unable to gain back what you have lost. Unable to escape your pain, except during sleep, if you are lucky.

It sucks very, very badly. It probably will for a long time. The last thing you want to hear is some hopefull, flowery quote telling you to think positive and it will be okay in the end. So I won’t do that.

But I am going to say that one day (when you are ready and not one moment sooner,) you will remember that you are alive, and that your life belongs to you. You could not control the devastating loss you have suffered, but you can control what you do with the life that still exists within you.  It is your life that those voices coming from the light at the top of the cave are calling for. Over time, those voices will get stronger, and that light will get brighter, because you will have started your careful climb upward.

An important part of your heart, of who you are, has died. The suffering you have endured is indescribable, and you deserve every ounce of sympathy you receive.

But, you have not died. You still live. You have full control over what you do with the days you have left on this Earth. I really hope you choose to (eventually) have some fun, find a new purpose, and love again. You deserve love. And just because you have lost love in the past, does not mean you will lose it again.

The thing about grief is, the reason it hurts so badly is that at one time you had something very, very special. At one time, you had something that made your soul happy. Try to remember that. And keep gripping to the side of that cave.

 

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Thanks 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

You’d Feel No Envy

She looks immaculate. Her white teeth literally glint in the sunlight. You aren’t sure which sparkles more, her gorgeous sapphire eyes, or the rippling waves of her hair. She wears $300 shoes, and a $700 dress. She walks gracefully and confidently.

You pass her by awkwardly, in your flip flops and $10 t-shirt. She stares straight ahead, as if you don’t even exist. You feel self conscious, wishing you could look more like her, be more like her. You envy her, in all her beautiful, perfect, confident glory. You feel pathetic and small, compared to her.

But you would feel no envy if you could see the rare skin disorder she hides beneath her designer outfit. You would feel no envy if you realized the reason she stares straight ahead is that she is trying with all her might to hold back tears, because last night she caught her husband cheating on her. You would feel no envy if you knew that she will never have the strength to leave him. Her Facebook photos will tell a story of a gorgeous couple, madly in love. Her reality will be far different.

Your heart sinks. You try not to watch the family enjoy their picnic at the park, as you sit like a lonely loser feeding the birds.  As the children giggle and gleefully chase each other about, you become acutely aware that your window of opportunity to have children of your own is quickly closing. You don’t even have a girlfriend, let alone a potential mother of your future children. You feel more than envy. You feel resentment at how unfair life is. You feel anger toward the family, in all their loving, laughing, hugging, picture perfect glory.

But you would feel no envy if you knew the couple is only together for the sake of the children. You’d feel no envy if you saw the father soak his pillow with tears every night, because the youngest child was just diagnosed with cancer. You’d feel no envy if you saw the mother soak hers because she is in love with a man she will never be able to have. The family photos on Facebook tell a story of a loving family that always has fun together. Their reality is far different.

Next time you sit beside a perfect looking couple in a restaurant, browse an old friend’s photos on social media, or pass a beautiful body on the beach, try to stop yourself from feeling that envy.  Reality is usually far different than appearance.

Give a warm smile, or type a sincere compliment. Because chances are, these people who seem to have it all are checking YOU out, and envying YOU.

(Oh, if only they could live a week in your life! They would feel no envy.)

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

 

If Only They Had Known

She is 18 years old. She sprawls out on her bed, reads his letter for about the 9th time that day. His words make her shiver with excitement, and her heart feel heavy with loneliness and longing. She gazes at the calendar. Only ten more days until she will see him again, thank goodness. This long distance relationship is killing her.

Her brow furrows as she rereads a concerning part of the letter.

….as long as you are with me, I will always be the luckiest guy in the world. I don’t know if you know how much you have shown me and taught me. You made me realize how great life can be and you showed me how life should be lived. I am so much more full of joy. Remember that time I got all quiet and wouldn’t talk? That was the only time it happened while we’ve been going out, and it only lasted a couple of days. It used to be so bad before. It would happen constantly, a lot worse and last for days, even weeks. The feeling is so awful, and I’ve always hated it. The more I’d hate it, the worse it would get and usually I wouldn’t feel like living, or feel I deserved to live. But it will never happen again. If there is one thing I can promise you it’s that it will never happen again in my life. I have no reason at all to feel that way, and in fact I have every reason in the world to feel the exact opposite, because I have you. …..

She breathes deeply to relieve the tightness in her chest. Why did those feelings happen to him? Is she really going to be enough to keep it from happening to him again?

She subconsciously clenches her fist and decides that she is enough. She will love him with all of her might, and it will never happen to him again. She will save him.

If only they had known.

In their innocence, these young lovers believed the torturous thoughts and feelings that plagued the young man could be cured by love. They believed it was in their control. They believed life circumstances determined if his days were good or bad.

They had no idea what the terms “mental illness” and “bipolar disorder” even meant.

He was okay for a while. His visit at Christmas was romantic and passionate as ever. They decorated his family Christmas tree together and he whispered in her ear that she belonged atop the tree, for she was the true angel.  He drank a bit too much, but she shrugged it off as typical college student behaviour. Sometimes she felt embarrassed by his often inappropriate intensity in social situations, but she shrugged that off too, accepted it as part of who he was.

She did start worrying though, when he suddenly stopped returning her calls. As if a switch went off in his heart, he went from Adoring, Dedicated Boyfriend to Arrogant, Cruel Jerk.

He seemed to have a headache all the time.

He made rude jokes.

He got angry at her if she said the wrong thing.

He hung up on her when she was in the middle of a sentence.

He went days without sleeping.

One day she came over and found him standing in his underwear on the steep roof in the pouring rain, hands stretched out to the sky, screaming.

He missed her prom and her high school graduation because he was lying in bed, unwilling and unable to get up.

She thought it was because he didn’t love her any more. She thought she had failed him, and it broke her heart.

If only she had known.

They had no idea what the terms “mental illness” and ” bipolar disorder” even meant.

If only they had known.

All the love in the world would never have been able to help this tortured young man.

Awareness and Education could have though.

Mental illness is not a feeling.

Mental illness is not a choice.

Mental illness is real. It rips lives apart. It breaks hearts. But it doesn’t have to.

Awareness, Education and Acceptence. Let’s keep striving for these things in the field of mental health. It very well could stop a heart or two from breaking.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

10 Depression Symptom Analogies For Those Who Have Trouble Understanding

If others don’t believe you when you are certain you speak the truth, if you get blamed for something you know is not your fault, if no matter how many times you try explaining something the person just doesn’t get it, how does it make you feel?

Pretty frustrated, I’m sure.

Sadly, this is the case for many who suffer mental illness, like depression. Imagine being accused of creating your own illness with your negative attitude, laziness, or self pity. It’s pretty awful. Those with depression long to be believed, long to be understood. Depression is NOT a feeling. It’s a very real disease, and I’m going to attempt to describe it to you with some analogies below.

10 Depression Symptom Analogies To Help You Understand:

1.) Irritability (The Sandpaper Bed)

You stand beside your bed. It looks cozy and inviting. You climb in and are startled by the feel of the sheets on your skin. They are rough, like sandpaper. Your pillow is hard as a rock. You roll over, nothing changes. The sandpaper sheets hurt your skin, the rock pillow makes your head hurt. This is what irritability is like. You know you should not be bothered, but everything annoys you, angers you, makes you very uncomfortable. You wish with all of your might you could relax and feel peaceful, but it just won’t happen. You want to explode at everyone around you, but you hold it in as best you can. You press on, try to appear normal. Like a night spent in the sandpaper bed would be, it’s totally exhausting.

2.) Empty/Numb (The Worst Comedy Show Ever)

Depression frequently makes you feel…absolutely nothing at all. Imagine you’re at a comedy show, but you’re the only one who finds nothing funny about it. Everyone else cracks up laughing at jokes that evoke no response in you at all. You wish you could enjoy yourself as they are, but your heart and mind are void of all feeling, You throw back a few drinks, to try to ignite a spark of life within you, to no avail. You just want to go home so you can stop pretending you actually feel something other than numbness. Depression often makes you feel as though someone has reached in and ripped your soul out of your body. It’s not fun.

3.) Extreme Fatigue (the 500 lb lead weight suit)

Picture yourself wearing full body armour made of lead. You try to go about your daily activities, but every movement requires tremendous effort. You want to move. You try your best to move. It’s just completely exhausting. No matter how hard you try, you seem unable to take off your lead body armour. It only removes itself when it feels like it.

4.) Self Loathing (tied with a rope to someone you really dislike)

What if that person you can’t stand being around, that person you have a hard time finding good qualities in, that person you just can’t seem to like was tied to you with a 3 foot long rope for an entire day? “No way in hell,” you are probably thinking. Well, if you suffer depression, that person is tied to you permanently. That person is yourself. It is a very sad, but very true reality of depression. The majority of the time during a depressive episode the sufferer thinks very negatively about themselves, and they might even have feelings of self hatred.

5.) Guilt (A body covered in long whiskers that bug everyone around you.)

Imagine you walk through the mall, or attend a family function, and all of a sudden your body grows huge, prickly whiskers that poke at everyone around you. You’d feel the need to apologize an awful lot. You’d probably feel pretty bad. Guilty. Guilty for being your prickly, whiskery self. Depression doesn’t make a person grow whiskers of course, but it certainly brings on constant, tremendous feelings of guilt. It makes you feel as though you are letting everyone down, that everyone is annoyed at, or disappointed by you.

6.) Physical Discomfort (The Constant Hangover)

Headache. Body Aches. Joint Pain. Nausea. Dizziness. If it gets bad enough, depression makes you feel like you have a constant hangover. If you haven’t experienced a hangover, think of how you feel when you are coming down with the flu. Many cases of depression/anxiety are diagnosed only after the patient has sought medical help for physical symptoms.( I myself was one of those cases.) Those “Depression Hurts” commercials do not lie.

7.) Confusion (partially soundproof, translucent glass box.)

If you spent an hour surrounded by glass that was hard to see through, hard to hear through and tried to go about life as usual, things would get pretty darn confusing. Depression often feels exactly like this. Focusing on anything becomes very hard. You find yourself holding your head in your hands all the time. Your vision literally blurs, and you have a hard time understanding what anyone is talking to you about. This confusion just increases other symptoms, like irritability and fatigue.

8.) Strong Desire to Hide (avoiding a telemarketer who is always callng)

You know that feeling you have when you see a telemarketer’s number on the call display? Someone with depression feels this way pretty much all of the time. They don’t want to answer the phone, or the door. They don’t want to go get groceries, they don’t want to go to your party. All they really want to do is hide under the covers and stop pretending everything is alright. They want to hide away so they can be depressed without fear of judgement, or feelings of guilt.

9.) Dread (a colonoscopy is looming, every minute of every day)

I think it’s safe to say nobody out there looks forward to the day they need a colonoscopy. When you suffer depression, you always feel like something unpleasant lies in the near future. Dread. Dread for reasons you can’t explain. In fact, knowing the dread was caused by an approaching colonoscopy would probably be an improvement over the nonspecific, sinking, scared feeling you often wake with, eat lunch with, go to bed with when you suffer from depression.

10.) Hopeless/Trapped (drowning)

Imagine you are trapped in a tank of deep water. You tread water for a long time. You start getting tired. You aren’t sure how much longer you’ll be able to keep your head above water. You try to stay afloat, try to conserve your energy and pray someone will come along and help you. Time ticks on. You are so tired. You sink below the surface, hold your breath for as long as you can. Nobody is coming to save you because nobody notices you need help. Desperately, you pull to the surface, gasp for air, sink back down again. You aren’t going to make it. You have lost all hope.

Depression is a very lonely, often desperate battle to feel alive.

But it doesn’t have to be lonely.

It doesn’t have to be hopeless.

There is plenty of help available for those suffering depression. They just need to feel comfortable enough to seek it out. All of the stigma, the fear, the lack of empathy and understanding toward mental illness in our society needs to end.

The best thing you can do for someone with depression is let them know you believe them, and you are not afraid to talk with them about it openly and honestly.

You can be that arm that pulls them out of that tank of deep water with a few powerful words.

“I am here for you.”

“I am listening.”

” I believe you.”

 

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Thanks so much 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

7 Ways To Show Love To Someone With Anxiety/Depression

The hardest people to love are the ones who need it most.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas for showing love to friends and family members with anxiety/ depression:

1.) Give Compliments:

Chances are, someone who suffers from anxiety/depression also struggles with self esteem. Help her challenge her feelings of self loathing by giving her sincere, specific compliments. Being specific is really important, because it will make her more likely to remember what you said later. It will also make her more likely to believe you. For example, instead of saying, “You’re a good mom,” you could say something more meaningful: “You are so patient with your children. I love how you encourage them to keep trying. They are so lucky to have you.”
One thoughtful, genuine compliment has more power than 10 careless comments that feel like flattery. Put your heart into what you say.

2.) Offer Your Company:

Appointments, trips to the grocery store or mall can be very trying for someone with anxiety. If your friend has someone he trusts to come along with him, it can be quite helpful. It offers distraction, support, and ensures he won’t have to face unforeseen events, such as a panic attack, all alone.

3.) Send Texts or Email To Ask How They Are Doing….Really:

Text and email might be better for this than a phone call. It can be very hard for someone to open up if they are going through a tough time. Text or email gives her all the time she needs to respond honestly, and might help her be more comfortable. It also takes the pressure off to say she’s “good” or “okay” when that’s not actually the case. In the depths of depression, it is easy to feel like nobody cares. Ask how she is doing, and really listen. Make it all about her. Let her know you believe everything she is saying, and you are there for her whenever she needs. She is not alone.

4.) Take Care Of Him:

Depression can make even the most mundane tasks absolutely exhausting. Self care is often neglected, because the person just doesn’t have the energy, the ability to focus, or the desire to do things for himself. You could cook him a nutritious meal, pay for and send him for a massage or haircut, take care of his kids while he takes a bath. Remind him that he deserves TLC just as much as anyone. This just might help motivate him to start loving and caring for himself.

5.) Invite Her For A Walk Outside….And Keep On Inviting Her:

Being in nature is soothing to the soul, good medicine for anyone. Exercise increases the body’s production of serotonin, which helps reduce anxiety and depression. Exercising outside just makes sense for someone with mental illness, but the hard part is getting her out there. Invite her often, and if she declines, be sure to not make her feel guilty….she probably has plenty of guilt in her life already. Just shrug it off, and invite her again in a few days. Your persistence will let her know you care, and hopefully she will one day accept.

6.) Hug Him….The Longer The Hug, The Better:

We are all familiar with the healing power of a hug. What you may not know, is loving gestures like hugs cause the body to release oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin causes relaxation, and aids sleep, perfect for someone with anxiety/depression. So hold him tight, for as long as you can, and you will be helping him feel better on an emotional and physiological level.

7.) Let Her Be

The hardest, most isolating part of mental illness is trying to live up to real, or imagined pressure from family and friends to be happy.

Accept that she is not happy today.
Offer no advice on how to change her mood.
Be with her when she is irritable, and don’t make her feel guilty for it.
Let her know that although you don’t fully understand what she is going through, you believe every complaint she has, and you respect her strength in living through it.

Let her be.
Don’t force her to pretend.
Love is unconditional, after all.

Thanks for reading!
Be Brave, and Talk
Please scroll down if you would like to follow me on facebook, or to read more from me.

For the opposite perspective, please see my follow up post, “7 Ways Someone with Anxiety/Depression Shows Love”

http://www.bebraveandtalk.com/2015/03/04/7-ways-someone-with-anxietydepression-shows-love/

Worth Celebrating

It’s what every single one of us needs, desires.

It keeps us up at night.
It soothes us to sleep.

It saves us.
It redeems us.

It’s the reason we live, and the reason we’d die.

It’s powerful.
It’s universal.

It’s the beauty within our souls.

You saw him just an hour ago, but you’d give anything to bring him right back here. His touch lights a fire within you, the beauty of his face fills you with awe. You hear his voice, it makes you shiver. You breathe him in, it makes you heavy lidded and weak. His kiss is an intense rush, you can’t get enough. You bask in the heat that is your attraction, you never want it to end.
It’s a marvel.
It’s an addiction.
It may not be the deepest, but it’s certainly the most fun.
It’s physical.
It’s electrical.
It’s I-need-to-exchange-as-many-of-my-bodily-fluids-with-you-as-possible
Love.

You get that promotion at work, and the first person you think of telling is her. The touch of her hand comforts you, the beauty of her face makes you feel at home. You hear her voice, it makes you cringe, or miss her like crazy, depending on circumstances. Her kiss sends you to sleep each night, it wakes you up each morn. You relax in the laughter that fills your home, you never want it to end.
It’s taking for granted.
It’s appreciation.
It’s not always brimming with passion, but she’s certainly your best friend.
It’s intimate
It’s emotional.
It’s i-think-one-day-soon-I’m -going-to-ask-you-to-marry-me
Love.

You hold her close in the rocking chair, you’ll keep doing it as long as she needs. The touch of her soft skin brings you to tears, the beauty of her face fills you with awe. You hear her cry, you jump, ready to serve. You feed, you soothe, you clean until you are heavy lidded and weak. Her kisses are full of slobber, but still you can’t get enough. You savour the days you’re her number one, you never want it to end.
It’s exhausting.
It’s a gift.
It may not be the easiest, but it’s certainly the most powerful.
It’s unselfish.
It’s pure.
It’s I-didn’t-know-I-was-capable-of-this-much-feeling-until-I-had-you
Love.

You doze in the chair beside his bed, you’ll be there when he wakes up. The cold feel of his frail hand brings you to tears, the beauty of his face fills you with nostalgia. You hear his voice, you smile with relief. He smiles back, heavy lidded and weak. His gentle kiss gives you strength, you help him to stand up and walk. He leans on you, as you’ve leaned on him, you two will endure til the end.
It’s a thousand private jokes.
It’s connection of your souls.
It may not be the most sensual, but it’s certainly the most beautiful.
It’s rare.
It’s forever.
It’s Yes-Dear-of-course-I’ll-apply-the-hemmorrhoid-cream-for-you
Love.

You gaze at your reflection, appreciate every feature, accept every flaw. You know the person beneath the skin, her beauty fills you with pride. You’ve quieted the cruel voices within, fought til you were heavy lidded and weak. You forgive yourself, you take care of yourself, you remember you’re more than enough. You give thanks for each day, try to truly live each day, you’ve got one life and never know when it will end.
It’s victorious.
It’s essential.
It might not come easily, but you’re certainly worth the fight.
It’s all knowing.
It’s all accepting.
It’s before-you-give-your-heart-to-anyone-you’ve-got-to-realize-it’s-worth-yourself
Love.

It’s what every single one of us needs, desires.

It keeps us up at night.
It soothes us to sleep.

It saves us.
It redeems us.

It’s the reason we live, and the reason we’d die.

It’s powerful.
It’s universal.

It’s the light that endures all things.

I Am Safe With You

The most heartbreaking lies, the ones that in the end cause the most sorrow, are the ones we tell ourselves.

A while ago, I wrote about the ways people hide. This poem describes a hiding place I failed to mention before: in unhealthy/ one sided relationships.

I dedicate this to everyone who has ever had the courage to leave an unhealthy situation.

I dedicate this to everyone who is in need of just a little bit more courage to break free.

Follow your heart. Trust in your heart. You are worthy of real love. You deserve a chance at weak-in-the-knees, vulnerable, scary, unselfish, jumping-for-joy love.

**********************************************

I Am Safe With You:

She adds more mascara
Sips on her predrink all alone
Angles around in the mirror
Satisfied with skin and bone
She’s excited to be going
She wants to be seen
She wants the envy of other girls
But confident, she’s never been
He’s picked her up, he’s made her hot
He doesn’t show tonight
She takes off her shoes, checks her watch
Tells herself it’s alright
She takes a deep breath
She drinks a stiff drink
She is comfortable with this
She ignores the screams somewhere in her head,
And thinks to herself instead

I am safe with you
As long as you are happy, so am I
I just look the part, play the role
Smile into the mirror and pretend I am whole
You never have to grieve if you never say goodbye
You never fear failure, if you never even try

She stares up at the ceiling
Rolls over in a crowded bed
She considers going home
Snuggles up to him instead
He’s her main companion
Without him, she’d have no friends
Since he’s wanted by so many others,
Her need to prove herself never ends
He often makes her do things
She doesn’t want to do
Tells herself the lack of feeling
Is because the love’s no longer new
She gets out of bed
She drinks a stiff drink
She is comfortable with this
She ignores the screams somewhere in her head,
And thinks to herself instead

I am safe with you
If you are not happy, I am not
I try my best for you, let you twist my arm
Ignore the guilty thoughts that swarm
I laugh extra hard to make sure I’m not caught
Deep down I know it’s yours, the sole identity I’ve got

She drops him off some money
Although he mocks, and he sneers
He says that she deserves it
And cracks another beer
He shows up in early morning
He threatens suicide
She gives in to him once more
To keep him alive
He clings to her tightly
He begs her not to leave
“Tell me you love me”
“Make me believe”
She gets out of bed
She drinks a stiff drink
She’s not comfortable with this
She listens to the screams that fill her head,
And says to him instead,

I am trapped with you
You are not happy, and neither am I
I dread the part, despise the role
Cry into the mirror and long to be whole
I’m scared of where I’ll be when I reach freedom from this lie
I might achieve failure, but I know I’ve got to try

Be Brave, and Talk