Tag Archives: anxiety

7 Ways Someone With Anxiety/Depression Shows Love

Follow up post to “7 Ways to Show Love to Someone with Anxiety/Depression”

http://www.bebraveandtalk.com/2015/02/12/7-ways-to-show…ietydepression/

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You lean back against the door you just slammed. You slide down to the floor, rest your head in your hands.

You are so tired of this. You give, and give, and give, but it feels like you get nothing in return. You don’t know how much longer you can cope. Does he have any idea just how much you do for him? Does he even really love you at all? Does his anxiety/depression render him incapable of love?

He knows.

He loves you.

He is capable.

Loving someone with anxiety/depression can be stressful, frustrating, exhausting.  It can also be heartbreaking. You might feel alone, helpless, and taken for granted much of the time.

I’m here to tell you that you are loved, more than you know. You are loved, and so, so important. Your loved one is extremely lucky to have you. And they know it.

7 Ways Someone With Anxiety/Depression Shows Love

1.) They talk to you about what they are feeling:

When someone admits they are struggling, they become vulnerable. It requires courage on their part, and it also means they have an awful lot of trust in you. It may not be a daily occurrence, but if they attempt to communicate with you openly and honestly, it means they want your relationship (friendship or romantic) to work. It means they need you. It means you are someone special.

2.) They thank you:

Your loved one may be irritable. They may be unreliable, break plans, or reject invitations often.  They may go long periods of time without calling you. But do they thank you when you text or call? Do they thank you for extending invitations? That “thank you” means more than they have good manners. It means “please don’t stop calling.” It means they want you in their life, and they hope one day soon they will have the energy, motivation, courage to take you up on your offers. It means “please don’t give up on me.”

3.) They participate in social events with you, even if it’s only sometimes:

Merely leaving the house can be a huge achievement for someone with anxiety/depression. Social events are often the last thing they have the energy or desire for.  Meeting new people, or being around ones they are uncomfortable with can be quite distressing. But they do it, for you. They do it because they love you and want to make you happy. Please try to remember this.

4.) They apologize often:

Anxiety/depression usually comes with an abundance of guilt. You probably hear your loved one say they are sorry an awful lot. They mean this from the bottom of their heart. They don’t want to be causing you pain. They don’t want to be making things hard. They want to be there for you just as you are there for them. They are sorry because they love you. They are trying their very best.

5.) They try to appear happy and “normal”:

When someone has anxiety/depression, the smile on their face, the joke on their lips, the clean clothes on their back are often an act, a costume. You may visit their home and see it is spotless. This is likely not the norm, and they probably spent a great deal of energy getting it that way to impress you. They want to look good in your eyes, because you are important. They pretend everything is okay, for you. This act is absolutely exhausting, but they do it. They do it because they care about you.

6.) They say the words:

Actions speak louder than words, but sometimes the internal battle someone with anxiety/depression is fighting leaves them with little energy to spare for actions. If they tell you they love you, please believe them.  When a better day comes, they will show it. Please trust them, be patient, give them a chance.

7.) They seek treatment for themselves (and stick to it) :

Asking for help with mental illness takes guts. Sticking with therapy, practising learned techniques for coping, and being open to trying new strategies requires determination and perseverance. There is no easy way to overcome anxiety/depression. With hard work though, symptoms can be greatly reduced. Is your loved one with anxiety/depression trying to get better? I bet a huge part of their motivation comes from their love for you.

Love is always there. It may often be buried beneath layers of struggle, confusion, exhaustion, but it is always there.

Love is more powerful than any mental illness.

You just need to believe in it.

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Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

Sleep Like a Baby?….I Wish! 8 Ideas To Help Those With Anxiety/Depression Catch Some ZZZs

You’ve been longing for this moment all day. Exhausted, you burrow under your cool, crisp sheets, snuggle into your pillow. Sleep at last. A few moments pass. All of a sudden, you are more alert than you’ve been all day.  You are so alert in fact, that your eyelids can’t even relax enough to close.  You get itchy all over, feel too hot and too cold within the same minute. Your mind races.  You look at the clock and start worrying about the precious moments of sleep you are losing. There’s no falling asleep now. It’s going to be a looong night. Again.

If you suffer anxiety/depression chances are this situation sounds familiar. Sleep deprivation is one of the most damaging symptoms of many mental Illnesses.  Over time, it changes your hormone balance so all symptoms of anxiety/depression get worse. These changes also make it even harder to get a proper sleep.   It is a torturous, terrible cycle. It makes you absolutely miserable.

There is hope though. The cycle can be broken.  Some of these ideas you might have heard of.  All of them are worth trying. Your mental health is worth it.

1.) Shut all screens off (including T.V.) at least 1-2 hours before bed:

You may have heard this one before. Have you tried it?  It’s hard, I know. At the end of the day all you may feel like doing is zoning out with TV or Internet.  The thing is, you don’t actually “zone out”. There’s a whole lot going on when you look at a screen, and it stimulates your brain, putting it into “fight or flight” mode. If you suffer anxiety, your brain tends to be in that state already.  Screen time before bed and anxiety do not mix. Try cutting it out.  Whenever I muster up enough willpower to do this, I must say it makes a huge difference.  Save the last hour or two of your day for a relaxing bed time routine instead.  You won’t regret it.

2.) Stop eating 2 hours before bed time:

Our digestive system creates a lot of heat when it digests our food for us. This extra heat in our bodies makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep, because body temperature naturally lowers during sleep. If you must have something, make it small and easy to digest, for example toast or yogurt.

3.) Be careful what/how much you drink before bed:

Cut out the caffeine as early in the day as you can.  Be sure you know which foods and drinks you enjoy contain caffeine.  Sodas, many teas (including green tea) have caffeine; and sadly, so does chocolate.  Alcohol might be something you’ve come  to lean on if you suffer from anxiety/depression.  This “self medication” does help you fall asleep easier, but it disrupts the deep, restful, REM sleep that starts happening approximately 90 minutes in.  So, you fall asleep easier, but are likely to wake up and be restless later in the night.  Try your best to avoid drinking alcohol before bed.  Camomile or Valerian tea are excellent alternatives.

4.) Definitely Exercise… just not close to bed time:

Psychiatrists urge sufferers of anxiety/ depression to exercise daily.  It increases the body’s production of serotonin, which helps you feel better, and is important for sleep.  During and immediately following exercise though, our body also releases the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, which stimulate your brain. So following your workout your body may be exhausted, but your mind will be wide awake. Make sure there are at least 2 to 3 hours between your workout and bed times.

5.) Try taking a calcium/magnesium supplement:

Among other things, calcium and magnesium relax the muscles and calm the nerves. Many people with anxiety/depression actually have a magnesium deficiency.  Stress hormones cause the body to lose magnesium, and if you suffer anxiety/depression, you have lots of stress hormones floating around. Try taking a calcium/magnesium supplement at supper time.  Adults can take 1000 mg calcium, and between 600mg to 700 mg magnesium.

6.) Go to bed in complete and utter darkness:

We produce a hormone called melatonin when our bodies prepare for sleep. Lack of melatonin can cause sleep problems. One way to help your body produce more is to be sure your room is totally dark. Even go as far as covering up light from digital clocks or charging phones. It’s worth a try.

7.) Have a good, long snuggle within 2 hours of bed time:

Snuggling causes your body to produce oxytocin, which causes relaxation and sleepiness.  Think of how many animals in the wild sleep curled up with each other. Snuggling and sleep go together, naturally. Plus it just feels nice.  So, snuggle up to your partner, your children, your pet every night.  The longer you snuggle, the better. The healing power of love is real, and immense.

8.) Create a relaxing sleep routine for yourself, and stick to it:

You may not do an awful lot for yourself if you are suffering depression.  Make bed time the time you show yourself a little love. Take a warm shower or bath, moisturize your skin, listen to relaxing music, light candles, do breathing exercises and some stretching.  There are many excellent relaxation exercise recordings out there.  Find one you like, listen and practice it every evening.  Children are not the only ones who benefit from bed time routine. Do the same things, in the same order each night to help signal your body and mind it’s sleep time. Try to go to bed at around the same time each night too. Consistency is key. It will help relieve anxiety around sleep, and you might even start looking forward to bed time if you stick to the routine.

Sleep is vital for our mental health. When I look back, I realize the times I’ve suffered most with anxiety/depression were times I was also sleep deprived. If you suffer sleep deprivation, put all the effort you have into fixing it. If you have tried everything and still can’t get relief,  please make an appointment with your doctor.

Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

*Please feel free to add your ideas to this list in the comment section. I would love to hear them.

Sources used: dr.lwilson.com, livestrong.com, webM.D.com

*I also used information I learned as part of my education (Hon. BSc Nutritional Science)

 

 

Long Lost Friends

Maybe you both work too much.
Or it’s distance.
Busy family lives.
Maybe you grew apart.
Maybe you can’t really find a reason at all.

She vanishes from your life without warning. Your phone calls are unanswered, unreturned. Birthdays pass, holidays pass, time ticks on. Sometimes a song comes on the radio that reminds you of her. You wonder how she’s doing, and if she ever thinks of you. You miss her. You wonder why you weren’t good enough for her to keep you in her life. You shake your head, shrug off the sadness. Oh well. It’s her loss.

Her loss.
Her nagging guilt.
Her deep regret.

You came into her life at a time she desperately needed a friend. Heartbroken and alone, she leaned on you without you even knowing it. You confided in her, invited her to follow along in your life. Your friends and you even called her “Little Sister.” You helped her feel like she belonged when her life was falling apart.
She trusted you.
She admired you.
She loved you.
She loves you still.

She cried the day you said goodbye. She moved to another city. New responsibilities, new relationships. She was absorbed, and overwhelmed. She listened to the messages you left, told herself she’d call you soon. Time moved on, and the thought of phoning you got harder and harder. Cold with anxiety, unsettled in her stomach, she held the phone and took deep breaths.

What if you were mad at her for taking so long to call back?

What if she sounded awkward, had nothing interesting to say?

What if you didn’t really like her anymore, and were annoyed by her call?

What If……so many What Ifs…

What if she called you at home when she knew you’d be at work?

She left you a message, so she’d stay safe, and you would know she still cared. She promised herself she’d answer if you called back, pushed the guilt aside. A few days later your call came, she stood frozen with fear. She realized her lack of action was not the norm. She hated herself for being such a coward. She hated herself almost all the time. Her self loathing made her believe somewhere deep inside that she was unworthy. She truly thought she didn’t deserve you.

If only you could have known.

Her anxiety was too much for her to cope with. The consequence was losing a dear friend.

If only you could have known.
You could have told her she was more than worthy.
You could have told her she had no reason to feel afraid.
You could have told her she deserves friendship.
You could have told her she deserves love.

She tells herself even still, that one day she’ll contact you. Maybe she’ll send a letter, maybe a birthday card.

She says she will do it tomorrow.
But tomorrow never seems to come.

I hope one day you long lost friends bump into each other by accident. I hope you give each other a big hug. I hope you become friends again.

This may not happen of course, but one thing will always remain true. You shared laughs, tears, a special kind of love. You affected each other’s lives for the better. You were great friends.

“Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened. ”

It happened. And that’s never going to change.

Thank you for reading.
If you would like to join my facebook page, or read more from me, please scroll down past the comment section.
Be Brave, and Talk

**Quote by Dr. Seuss.

Please Stop Saying Sorry

Facebook Status: Today was a terrible day. -feeling lonely.

You leave it up for 10 minutes, check it, see no feedback, then hit delete. People don’t want to be brought down by your negative status.

Facebook status: Whoa! I got 98% on my term paper! Yahoo! – feeling proud.

You leave it up for 3 minutes, then hit delete. You don’t want anyone to be annoyed and think you’re bragging.

Facebook status: My heart literally hurts. Why did she have to do this to me? -feeling heartbroken.

You leave it up for about 30 seconds, then hit delete. You picture that meme with Leonardo Dicaprio wearing sunglasses and laughing at people who post “problems” on Facebook and shudder. People hate drama. What are you thinking? You take a cute picture of your puppy and post that instead.

So much insecurity.
So much guilt.
Why do we feel so uncomfortable being real?

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You stare blankly out the bedroom window and wish it wasn’t sunny. Maybe then you wouldn’t feel like such a loser, lying in bed in the middle of the day while your husband takes care of the children. You hear them laughing as they get shoes on for outside, and your heart sinks. You try willing yourself out of bed to join them, but your aching body doesn’t want to cooperate. You place cool hands on your forehead, try to relieve the throbbing pain. Precious moments pass by wasted, as your family plays in the back yard without you. You bury your head in the pillow, squeeze your eyes shut. There’s no way you’re going to be able to fall asleep. You haven’t slept properly in months. You are sleep deprived beyond belief, but your racing mind keeps you awake any chance you get to catch up. Cursing yourself, you jump out of bed, angrily swallow down some Tylenol, and rush outside.

Your daughters race to greet you, giggling, fistfuls of dandelions in their hands. You put on your best smile, kneel down and let them crash into your arms. You squeeze them tight until they fight to get free and run off again.

“Did you get any sleep?” Your husband’s brow furrows with concern.

“No. No, I didnt.” You snap.

“Why not? Why don’t you go back and lie down?”

“Because! I can’t sleep! My head hurts too much! I’m not well, don’t you understand? Something is very wrong with me! I’ve felt absolutely awful for MONTHS!”

You turn your back so your daughters wont see, and sob into your hands. Your husband gives you a tight hug, you cry into his shirt. You indulge in the comfort for a minute, dry your face with the back of your hand.

“I’m sorry, Love. I’m okay, don’t worry. I’m just really tired, that’s all…..Did my mascara smear?”

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Oh, how I wish I had the power to travel back in time, to you as you stood in the dandelions and apologized to your husband for crying on that sunny day. As you looked him in the eye through your tears and lied, pretending you weren’t breaking inside. If I had the power, I’d hold you tight, I’d whisper in your ear that your pain is not weakness, your anger is not a sin, your tears are not a burden. I’d tell you I admire your determination, caring day after day for your family, when you desperately need care yourself.

I’d tell you to let it out, scream if you have to.
You hurt.
You are afraid.
You are strong beyond words, but you are tired of being strong.
You just want to be truthful.
Please stop saying sorry.
Be truthful. Be real. Be brave, and hold your head high.
This world needs more truth.
And the truth, in time, will set you free.

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.

A Big Deal

A Saturday grocery store trip. A family reunion. Holiday weekend picnic at the park. Visit to the rec centre. Pampered Chef party with the girls. Two hours in a crowded doctor’s office waiting room with sick kids.

People do these things all the time.

They’re just part of life. No big deal.

Or are they?

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“You coming for supper?” Your petite coworker looks at you through amber curls. She doesn’t slow down. She knows your answer already. You’ll make a lame excuse, like you ate a late lunch, or you’ll act like you you’ll be right there, but never show up. Your place of part time employment offers you a free meal with every shift, but aside from the training shifts when you were with someone, you have never taken them up on it. A university student, you don’t have an abundance of extra cash for food. You’ve even gone a week living on microwave popcorn. So, why on earth do you pass on free food?

Because you are absolutely terrified.

You’re sure you will be awkward when the cook gruffly asks what you want to eat. You’re sure you will be unwelcome at the table with the housekeeping or banquet staff. You’ll put your dirty dishes in the wrong spot, you’ll forget to say thank you, you’ll annoy everyone around you. You get a creepy crawly feeling every time you picture yourself going back to the staff kitchen. So instead, you take an extra long washroom break, eat some licorice you’ve got stashed in your purse, and spend the second half of your shift pretending you’re not hungry.

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You stare at the shiny black braid on the girl 3 seats ahead of you. There aren’t many boarding the bus at this time of night, so the steady movement lulls you into a comfortable daze. The bus passes your place, but you do not pull the cord. You are taking the long way home, hoping with all your might that your roommates will all be in their rooms when you finally get home. Your mind wanders, carefully avoids addressing the vague loneliness that rests on your chest. Your stomach grumbles. You lean your head on the window and try to remember what time your first class starts tomorrow. You are relieved the house looks dark as the bus circles back around. You pull the cord at the last possible moment. Part of you really wishes you could just ride the bus around all night. You bid the driver farewell, and scurry across the street.

The smell of some sort of Italian food greets you as you open the door. Perhaps one of your roommates made pasta sauce today. You consider checking if you have any food in the fridge, mount the stairs instead. You haven’t prepared a meal, washed a dish in that kitchen in months. You haven’t wanted to risk your new roommates noticing your lack of skill, your clumsiness while cooking and cleaning.

Safely in your room, you flop on your bed. On your dresser sits a half jar of peanut butter, a spoon, a container of jujubes with only the black ones left. Zoning out, you eat a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, hide it under the bed, and change into your pyjamas.

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Your leg shakes impatiently as you wait for the air conditioning to kick in. You reassure your daughters the car will cool down soon, and give your husband a grateful squeeze on the arm. The new splash pad will no doubt be busy on this scorching Sunday. The temptation to stay home and play with your girls in their wading pool is great. But no, you can’t. This little (actually, for you it’s huge) excursion will be a lot of fun for them. It will give them a chance to interact with other kids. They will love it. You may hate it, but it doesn’t matter. You are doing it for them.

You arrive, and see that all is just as you had feared. It is packed. To your left, a group of teen girls stare at you with heavily lined eyes, smirk (at least that’s what you think they are doing) and smack their gum. To your right, a couple of 12 year old boys whiz past, almost knocking your youngest child over. The sound of delighted shrieks fills the air. You are hard pressed to find a spot to set down your bag. You take a deep breath, remind yourself your family has just as much right to be there as anyone, take your daughters by the hand and lead them to a small duck shaped fountain.

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A Saturday grocery store trip. A family reunion. Holiday weekend picnic at the park. Visit to the rec centre. Pampered Chef party with the girls. Two hours in a crowded doctor’s office waiting room with sick kids.

People do these things all the time.

They’re just a part of life.

But for some, they are a very big deal indeed.

Next time you are at the splash pad, or the grocery store, or the doctor’s office, take a look around. Maybe that mom (or dad) who smiles at you has fought an internal battle just to get there. Maybe they still fight it as they smile at you.

Smile back with encouragement. Help them feel proud.

Because proud is exactly how they should feel.

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.

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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

Actually, No. It Is Not All In My Head!

It is estimated that 50% of visits to the doctor for physical ailments end up being rooted in psychiatric causes.

Does this mean that half of a doctor’s patients are imagining their symptoms, or faking it?

No. No, not at all.

As you know, the brain is the “control centre” for the entire body. There are hormones, receptors for hormones, proteins involved in making these hormones and receptors…it is all quite complex, and I’m not going to pretend I know how to explain it. The main idea here though is your brain, along with your endocrine system (hormone system) controls your whole physiology. So, when something is not quite right with hormones, or hormone receptors, or the inticrate pathways these things take throughout your brain and entire body, you are going to experience physiological symptoms: mental, emotional, and physical.

The mind-body connection is a strong one. Not because we have vivid imaginations. Not due to the power of the placebo effect. The mind-body connection is a strong one that is based on real, live, scientifically observed biochemistry.

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

You awaken to the sound of your baby’s hearty grunting. Normally, this would make you laugh, but your head is pounding. You feel like you can’t move. Cramps squeeze hard on your lower spine. Pain radiates into your pelvic bone. Your sheets are soaked with sweat once again. Taking deep breaths, you carefully roll your body over, wincing at the back pain. You just need to relax a bit, and the pain will ease. The same thing has happened each morning lately.

You loosen up enough to move just as your baby starts crying for you. Standing up makes your head spin, so you sit back down, take more deep breaths.

It’s Okay. You can do this.

You sigh with relief and feel grateful your baby’s bassinet is right beside the bed as you sink back into your pillow and hold her close. You nurse her, and feel comforted, despite the pain in your head. Your mind wanders. Every time you start thinking of what might be wrong with your health, you desperately try to shake it off. Tears sting your eyes when you picture your two sweet little girls trying to make it in this world without their mother.

No. No. No. You do not have a spinal tumour. You do not have ovarian cancer. You do not have leukaemia. You are not dying.

A sharp burning prickles over the skin on your left upper chest. It slowly fades into numbness. Shingles. Your defences are down, your body is tired, your immune system is weak. The chicken pox virus you had as a kid has jumped on the opportunity and come back with a vengeance. You have been enduring it now for 2 months, which you know is a lot longer than normal for a person your age.

Shingles is for weak, old people, isn’t it?
Why did you get it?
Why won’t it go away?

You gently burp your baby, being careful to keep her against your right side. You bend your fingers and notice your hands are slightly swollen.

Maybe it’s your kidneys. That would explain the back pain. Maybe your electrolytes are out of balance. That can cause heart failure.

A wave of nausea crashes over you. Your heart thunders. Your body is rubber. Your bedding feels like it has been stuffed with massive lead bars as it rests upon you. You see black spots rimmed with twinkling light in front of you.

You are going to pass out. Frantically you call to your husband. He needs to wake up and take the baby! When she is safe in his arms, you roll onto the floor. Remembering your lifeguard days, you put yourself into the recovery position. Your frail body rocks back and forth. You suck in air, trying not to pass out. Your stomach churns. You tingle all over.

Your husband has rushed to bring you some juice. He asks if he should call an ambulance.

“I don’t know.” You cry.

You press yourself into the cool floor and will yourself to stay conscious. You take deep breaths, and sip the juice. Your husband kneels beside you, cradles the baby in one arm and rubs your back. Slowly you start to feel better. You stand up, feel an urgent need to visit the washroom, pass loose stools. This has been an increasingly common health concern for you.

You wash your hands and gaze into the mirror. You look green. You lift up your shirt and examine your stomach. At least the hives that covered you the night before are gone now. You step on the scale: 95.8lbs. You have lost all of your baby weight, plus at least 10 extra pounds in only a few months.

Just add it to the list of reasons you think you are dying.

In the living room your children lie on the baby’s play mat and giggle.

Your husband pulls you into a tight hug.

“What’s wrong with me, Lovey?”

You apologize for wetting his shirt and look up at his concerned expression.

“I don’t know, Cutie, but you need to make an appointment with the doctor. No more putting it off.”

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

When you first walked into the examining room, your blood pressure was through the roof. 180 over something. You could hardly speak without your voice breaking.

Now, you’ve been waiting for a while, you feel a bit better. You grab your purse tightly. You mutter prayers repeatedly.

The door opens, and you jump. The familiar sight of your competent doctor, his warm greeting threaten to unravel you. You smile weakly. This is it.

Your doctor produces the paperwork from the extensive testing he had ordered for you.

Abdominal and pelvic ultrasound: normal

Chest x-Ray: normal

2 pages of blood work: all normal

Urine test: normal

Tears stream down your face and you sigh heavily.

You aren’t dying. According to the tests completed, you are perfectly healthy.

But why have you been feeling so awful?

You expect your doctor to reassure you and dismiss you, but he doesn’t.

He asks you if you have a personal and / or family history of anxiety and depression.

Yes. Yes, you have both.

“How has your mood been lately?” He asks gently.

Then, you unravel. Your kind doctor passes you the box of Kleenex and waits.

You’ve been feeling scared. Scared for no reason, almost all of the time. You are tired beyond words, but can’t catch a good sleep. You have trouble focusing when talking on the phone, when getting groceries. You get irritated very easily, and take it out on your husband. Never your daughters though, never. You are so worried that your days with them are limited that you try to pack a lifetime worth of love into each day you have. You read to them as your vision blurs. You take them to the park as your limbs tremble. You hold them close in the night, and cry.

You picture your own death far too often. You’ve even gone as far as sprinting home from the park, looking over your shoulder, convinced the man in the white van was coming for you.

Your doctor listens attentively. When you finish, he produces more paper. Information on the emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.

You read and realize you have been having almost all of them.

“This is not your fault. It is nothing you have done or not done. Things are imbalanced in your brain, but I can help you. It is going to be alright. ”

Tears spill onto your cheeks once again. You dab them with a mascara streaked tissue.
You listen as he discusses medication and counselling, and sigh deeply.

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

Humans have a great ability to lie. They can also tend to attention-seek, exaggerate, and be self absorbed.

I think it’s because of these things people often have trouble completely trusting someone when they say they feel sick, anxious, depressed, or are experiencing pain.

“Oh, it is just in your head.”

Or

“Just stop dwelling on it, and you’ll feel better.”

Or

“Some fresh air and exercise will shape you up in no time.”

They might say.

Although saying these things may be well intentioned, they are quite harmful. The person who has confided starts to doubt themselves, to blame themselves, to feel ashamed.

And they stop talking.

The best thing a person who suffers mental illness can do for themselves, is talk.

The best thing a person who listens can do, is say,

“I believe you.”

Be Brave, and Talk.
Be Brave, and Believe.

** stat on number of doctor visits obtained at www.nursingassistancentral.com

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Diving into work, coming up only to breathe.
A magazine quality profile picture.
An immaculate front lawn.
A spotless home.
A 4th drink in your hand.
A joke on your lips.
A text message instead of a call.
A 3 times edited facebook status.

We have “reality” shows, and viral videos. We have phone apps that allow us to confess deep, dark secrets, without the accountability of our name attached. We take selfies, posting only the prettiest ones, and write on walls.
We are experts at hiding behind our carefully constructed images, but we long for just a little bit of uninhibited truth. Just a little bit though, because too much makes us rather uncomfortable. We want to watch from a distance, so we can laugh, so we can judge. It’s great entertainment, but it doesn’t affect us beyond the minute or two we watch it on a screen.

At least, that’s what we pretend.

We are a society that loves to hide, and if you suffer from mental illness, you are probably an expert.

***************
You lean back against your dresser drawers and stare at the floor. A stretched out rectangle of sunlight makes each fiber of your worn beige carpet visible, highlights the tiny hairs on your big toe. Your finger nails dig into your palms, they may even break skin. You want to slam your window shut, so you don’t have to hear the laughing voices, the snapping of flip flops, the clicking of 12 speed bikes outside.

As your friends and classmates have a blast, you spend this hot summer evening alone in your room, wishing you could disappear. Part of you is wondering if any of them wonder where you are, part of you is trapped, praying in a compulsive manner.

“Please, deliver me from evil, dear Lord. Please protect us from harm. Please forgive my sins, in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen. ”

You inhale as deeply as you can. The air seems to get caught in your throat, and you gag. If only you could take one proper breath, maybe you’d feel better. You seem to have forgotten how.

You close your window, draw the curtains. Safely hidden, you sob into your pillow until merciful sleep takes over.
**********
20 years later, you lean back in your cool plastic chair and stare at your lap. Your anxiety group therapist turns out the lights. You relax your clenched fists, and focus on her instructions. Together with the other group members, you listen to her count, and breathe. You inhale as deeply as you can. The air seems to get caught in your throat, and you gag.
That’s okay, you get to try again. Your therapist is here to help, and you are not alone. Inhale: 1-2-3-4, Hold it: 1-2-3-4, Exhale: 1-2-3-4… You are doing it. The lights come on, and you listen to a group member who reminds you of your Dad share a success from his week.

Your turn comes. With a shaky voice and tears on your cheeks, you explain how you have a hard time being spontaneous. You usually reject all activities unless they are planned well in advance. This week though, you took your daughters swimming at a friend’s pool with only 20 minutes notice. It was a whole lot of fun, your husband was proud, and once you got there, you weren’t anxious at all.
As you speak, you feel grateful for the looks of understanding from the other group members.

There’s no need to hide here.
You feel proud, instead of ashamed.

If only it could always be this way.

We are a society that loves to hide, because we fear things we don’t understand. Fortunately, we are also quite curious by nature, and ever so slowly, we are gaining understanding of what mental illness really is. We post supportive statements on our facebook wall, we participate in walks for children’s mental health, we show our support for campaigns like tomorrow’s “Let’s Talk” by BELL.

We have a long way to go, but at least we have started.

The truth cannot remain hidden forever.

Understanding will slowly break down stigma.

Love will slowly replace judgement and fear.

Come out, come out, wherever you are hiding.

Please,

Be Brave, and Talk.