What Recovery Means in Terms of Mental Health

Hey y’all! Since I’m on spring break and currently visiting one of my friends at college, I have waaay too much time on my hands, so here I am, back again!  What’s good about this break is, I get to relax before getting back in the rhythm of school, next week.

Nah, but in all seriousness, I’m ready to start refreshed and anew.

So tonight’s blog post is going to be about what recovery means in terms of mental health.

So… Mental health, as we know it, is nothing to fuck around with. I mean, think about it, if we aren’t mentally okay, then how are we able to focus on the task at hand? We all cope with our mental health and unwind on our days off-from school, work, or both- in different ways.

Some people go shopping…

Some workout…

Some even just sit at home, heat up some tea and read.

Whatever you do to unwind, you get the picture. The thing is though, not a lot of people pay attention to their mental health or stress levels. In fact, it is something that people need to do, but many feel like they don’t have time to do so.

At least that’s how I saw it before I got depressed.


Not too long ago, I remember talking to someone about my mental health and how I dealt with it. I kept it brief, because: a) I do not remember everything when I was struggling with my depression and b) it’s too much to even talk about, it’d probably take a whole day to talk about it (but even then, I’d unknowingly leave out some important details). Regardless, this person noticed that I kept reiterating the lighter side of my depression, when I was in recovery.

“Karen, you keep saying ‘recovery’. What does that mean?” They ask.

I get it. It’s a questionable thing because mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety, can come back at any point in your life. It’s all in how you deal with it, that makes all the difference. I think this question speaks for anyone who is wondering what “recovery from depression and other mental health illnesses” actually means if it is something bound to come back.

Recovery in terms of mental health, means that you have been able to deal with your illness without the help of medications and instead, with a knowledge of coping skills (fancy word for ways of dealing/coping with depression and anxiety or other mental illnesses).

Coping skills are, but not limited to:

  • Deep-Breathing Exercises
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Making To-Do Lists
  • Writing
  • Working Out
  • Grounding Yourself
  • Reading Self-Help books
  • Petting your dog/cat
  • Visualization

You can make anything (that is good for you, of course) a coping skill. Like I said before, it’s all in how you choose to deal.

You learn these coping skills, as you take medication or as you see a trusted therapist.

For me, when my depression hit, I was on medication for it. I had mild to moderate depression. Regardless of the severity in my depression, I believe it needed be treated and needed to be looked at as a serious problem. End of story.

The positive thing about my recovery, was that once I ran out of Paxil, I didn’t need to continue taking it. Medication goes a long way, but it can also become a crutch. That crutch can be a good thing and a bad thing, but if you feel like you’re doing so much better mentally, then ask your doctor if you can ween off of your medication. By ween off, I mean lowering your dosage of your anti-depressants or anti-psychotics under the supervision of a Doctor/Psychiatrist. The way I see it is, you don’t really want to be on crutches for the rest of your life, if you know that you are doing a lot better. You want to recover (there’s that word again) and possibly go back to a life where you didn’t have to worry about taking medication. This also means that you apply the coping skills in place of it.

The subject of medication and whether or not people with mental illness need it, is kind of a double ended sword and I don’t want to come off as anti-medication, because I don’t know what each person’s needs are. I’m writing this as an informative post and if you have something to add, please feel free to leave a comment below!

There are some people who need to take their medications, because if they don’t, they break out in hives or get weird bodily sensations that don’t help them focus on the task at hand and that is when medication is necessary. That is completely within their needs. Everyone has a different brain chemistry.

The thing about many of these medications, is they alter your brain chemistry. For example, when I was on Paxil, it gave me more of an appetite. With a significant increase in appetite, came my sleeping patterns. Essentially, the more I ate, the more I was able to sleep well.

Even though I gained 45 pounds, Paxil did its job as my anti-depressant and with the help of my family and medical professionals, I was able to recover from my depression. Because of this, I am forever grateful. Recovery ain’t pretty, but it’s well-worth the effort.

A good bit of recovery consists of 3 things:

  1. Having a good support system (friends, family, doctors, significant other, etc)
  2. How well the medications are and If they are doing their job (If they aren’t, then talk to your doctor about it)
  3. If you’re doing your part in remembering and working on your coping skills (making the effort in talking to a trusted therapist).

If you’ve hit a crossroads in your recovery, then try re-evaluating what is missing in your recovery. Do you need to start looking for new friends? Do you need another kind of medication? Do you need to see someone different? Speak up about it and make it known, because the sooner you know, the better off you’ll be when dealing with your mental health illness.

Make it a priority to check in on how you are doing and what you’re doing to cope. Life comes with all these crazy twists and turns, it’s up to us to decide whether or not we want to continue going with the fast paced lifestyle or to take a break.

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Staying Mindful

First off, I just want to say thank you so much to everyone for your kind words, advice, and overall encouragement for my last post. It really means a lot!

I’ve been so busy with school, applying to colleges, volunteering and yet somehow managing to have an active social life.

But in the midst of all of this, it’s so easy to feel like “ugh what’s the use”, “why do I keep trying?”.  I noticed that I was doing this a ton, in response to all the things I had to do or was straight up overwhelmed with. Last Friday, I felt like I just didn’t care at all, like my entire mood for the day was; I don’t feel like doing anything, I have nothing to do, I’m bored, and all I wanna do today is sleep. It was a feeling all too familiar to me. I was in a funk, under the cloud of my depression. So that day, I went out, got a pint of Ben & Jerry’s  and a little snack for movie night. That night, I ended up going out to see the new Black Panther movie with my little brother and best friend.

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Jamie and I out at the movies. (not pictured: my little brother, who refuses to have pictures taken)

It wasn’t bad at all, I had an amazing time laughing, enjoying the movie with my brother and Jamie. These were definitely things I needed to lift me out of the funk that I was in.

It wasn’t until later that night when I  was sitting on the kitchen table flipping through the latest issue of In Style Magazine, that I came across an article about film maker, producer, director, Ava DuVernay. In it, she talks about the amazing power of optimism. DuVernay grew up in the wrong side of town, but her parents? Two of the most happiest people on the planet! They helped shift her worldview to a more positive one.

Granted, it wasn’t like she was living her life through a rose colored lens, but rather she’s acknowledging the sole fact that there is a lot of bad things that go on in this world, she doesn’t allow that to be her primary mindset or allow it to make her think of the world differently.

After reading that, it really made me think… Do you ever just stop and think about how you are perceiving things?

I mean seriously, we live in a world that seems to make light of how unbelievably fucked our mindsets are.

Am I wrong?

As we’re increasingly plugging more and more into apps, electronics, our phones, we don’t realize the shift in our mindsets. It’s a gradual shift. Not to mention, the experiences that we have had in our lives, has contributed, in great part, and has led us to have either a negative or positive outlook on life.

But it’s also very important to note: We aren’t the things that we have done or haven’t done. More specifically, we are not our past.

Our past doesn’t and should never define us.

So in life when we are given experiences, people, places, and lessons, depending on the severity of how bad or how good the situations are, we plug into that mindset. Our mindsets shift almost everyday.

What comes with every experience is a different attitude of how we would perceive the next experience if something, similar or identical, were to happen again.

Did I lose you? haha.

I’m going to use an example that’s been used a lot.

Say there’s this really sweet guy. Guy meets girl. He realizes that they have a lot in common and a friendship begins. Somewhere along the way, he falls for said girl. HARD. So he’s buying her flowers, making her feel like a princess, just basically being an amazing guy. Guy finds out that girl doesn’t feel the same way. He feels hurt, like he wasted his time, money, and overall head space over this girl.  So he adapts his mindset to, “well, if I’ve been fucked over once, I don’t want to be fucked over twice. Let’s see how girls like it when I’m a fuck boy.”

Sound familiar?

Now, I’m not saying that all guys are like this, nor am I disregarding the fact that all girls are always going to fuck a guy over, but this happens. Regardless if it’s guys doing this to other guys, girls doing this to other girls, etc. It’s one of the many examples of how certain experiences in our lives alter the way we think about love or how we think about future events as a whole.

Sometimes, these experiences serve for the better, Sometimes they’re realistic (can be a good or a bad), or other times they’re experiences that take a while for us to realize if it was a bad thing or a good thing.

But what I’m getting at is this: you’re never really the same person twice. You’re always changing. Your goals, aspirations and everything else changes. They could be for the better or for the worse, but those are ultimately based on the decisions you have made in your life that have led you to where you are today.

You-are-under-QUOTE

Another thing I learned today was this: Often times, expectation and reality will never really meet at the same point at the same time. Very rarely do these two things come together and even if you think these two things have lined up (at one point or another), they may be off by a tiny bit.

Almost every goal that I’ve had in mind, I’ve either:

  • made them realistic

 or

  • changed them, modified them a bit, in terms of where I am now in my life.

I’ll give you an example!

So awhile back, I realized that I really wanted to pursue communications at school, come out with my bachelors in communication and then go on to art school where I could get my master’s of fine arts in Visual Arts and then work in the fashion magazine industry as a creative director or director of photography.

It wasn’t until I had to take a step back and sit down to talk with my parents about my future plans. That night, I was asked a ton of questions and learned a lot about myself.

Yes, I can have dreams, but there comes a point in my life that I needed to be realistic with them. When I had talked with my parents about my future, my dad told me that I can’t expect to end up in a position of power, when I, myself, haven’t even had the experience to begin with!

Now that’s the stuff that got me thinking, “well, if I’m undecided with what I wanted to do in the realm of art, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be” and it took me awhile to find exactly what it was that I really wanted to do.

From that moment on, I realized that I needed to make my goals realistic, but yet stay mindful of the fact that sometimes my career path may change.

We are often afraid of the future and afraid to stay mindful about the events that happen in our lives.

I genuinely believe that the more we stay mindful about the things we are working towards in the future, the more open we can be to what life throws at us. In time, we can diminish that fear of the unknown and not be tied down by our doubts and anxieties.

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“She is clothed in strength and dignity. She laughs without fear of the future”- proverbs 31:25

Have faith and stay mindful of the fact that everything will work out.

For more of my thoughts on the future and on expectations , check out these posts which talk more in detail about these ideas!

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Cutting Ties

I don’t know about you, but there comes a point in life where we need to cut people who have gone dormant in our lives.

Why should I even spend time thinking about people who really don’t spend a second thinking about me? If someone genuinely cared, they would reach out. I recently realized that it’s okay to cut out anyone who isn’t playing a positive role in your life or is leaving you hanging every time.

Family included. Crazy. But not uncommon.

On Christmas eve, my family and I went to go drop off gifts at a relative’s house. As we pull in, we saw the car of a family member that basically shut themselves off from the family. We walk in, lo and behold said family member was sitting at the table, eating

“Feliz Navidad” (Merry Christmas), they said.

My brother and I went to go say hi, talk with them and another family member. Before I knew it, it was time for us to leave. Through the brief conversation, here’s what was exchanged:

“Wow, did you cut your hair? looks cute.”

“Yeah, I did, thanks.”

By that point, I had to leave. So I basically told this person to not be a stranger.

But how can I tell someone to not be a stranger, if they’ve already made the decision to be one? How can someone just wake up one day and just shut themselves off from someone?

It’s surprisingly simple and unfortunately, it happens more often than not. The other day this week, I went on a LITERAL delete/unfollow/unfriend-ing spree on ALL my social media accounts. I had already made a mental list of all the people I don’t talk to, people who I have given endless chances, people who don’t deserve my time, etc. It’s not worth wasting my energy, getting mad and bent out of shape over them. I distance myself from people like this.

Distancing myself from someone is a way of saying to them “hey yeah, I dropped you, now let’s see if you care as much as I did”. Not only that, but it also shows that I’ve finally chosen myself over the person and as sad as it is, that is my choice to let them go. If the person, however, notices then it’s a good thing because then you can clear the air with them. Communication is key in every relationship.

Granted, in deleting all the people from my life, I didn’t take it as “I hate them, so let me unfollow them, because they piss me off”. I don’t hate anyone nor do I hold any grudges. What is the point in holding a grudge about something someone did months/years ago? While they’re out living their best life, you’re here, hating them and what they did to you ages ago. You are hurting yourself more than the person you’re hating. Make the choice to forgive.

Forgive them and also forgive yourself. Sometimes in forgiving them and yourself, you make the decision to cut ties or continue your relationship with the person. With some people, you shouldn’t make the rash decision of cutting someone out of your life, if you’re not in the right head space or have yet to forgive them and what they did to you, then hold off on doing so. You don’t have to say anything to them. But also keep in mind, cutting someone out of your life is a mental and emotional process.

I mean think about it, if you don’t see anything positive coming from the relationship you have with the person or you simply don’t talk anymore (because let’s face it we all get caught up in life), then cut them off. What good is having a person who won’t call you, catch up with you, in your life? You have the choice to end the friendship, relationship, whatever, and just move on. In this way, you are able to make room in your life for people who definitely see it the way you do, will give you the satisfaction of catching up with you and be a positive influence in your life.

Sometimes it hurts, but it hurting is part of the healing process and a fact of life. If you want to move forward in your life, what is holding you back? Is it the grudges that you hold against other people? If so, learn to Let. It. Go.

You deserve people in your corner, but most of all, you deserve all the good that there is in this world.

The Drawbacks of Social Media

Hey, I know its been a while, I’ve been so busy with end of the semester stuff, but I’m happy to be back on here doing what I love! I hope you enjoy what I have put together in this post!

So Social Media… Is it all it’s cracked up to be? What’s its purpose? Is it used to show people up?

The whole purpose that social media serves is for us to keep in contact with the people we have had the pleasure of knowing throughout the years. but because life happens, we don’t have the privilege of seeing them as much as we’d like. That’s why creators of many social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and the like have created these platforms because they had a concept that we resonated with: we want to stay in contact with friends from childhood, family, and colleagues. But in the process of doing all of that, have we become so connected to the social media world, that we forget about the real world face to face contact we should be having with someone?

I watched this video on Facebook about the effects that social media has on our society, a while back(ironic, right?). In the 3-5 minutes of this video- that’s how long it was- it outlined the main problem with social media: as we become more connected to what’s happening, we’re passing up face to face contact with people and plugging into a world where we think we’re connecting with people, via (*insert Social Media site here*) but in reality it could be drawing us apart.

But don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I live under a rock and refuse to use social media. I use social media and personally, for an outgoing person like myself, I find absolute joy in posting pictures and sharing little snippets of my life.

But there comes a point where there should be some level of privacy. Like for example, I used to post just about anything and everything I was doing on Facebook, who’s birthday it was on Instagram (before they had that ‘stories’ feature), and any random thing on Twitter. I began to plug myself in and realize that these likes were ones that would determine my worth and I thought that the more I’d share, the more recognized I would be. In all seriousness though, now I look back at this and just think “boy, was I naive or what?”. There are certain things that should definitely be kept on the DL(down-low). Like if you are out with bae on a date, don’t snapchat your whole date with the world, because where is the fun in date night if you’re too focused on your post?

Part of the reason why I stopped posting a whole lot on social media was because I realized that in the end it doesn’t matter who liked my post and I really shouldn’t seek validation from a group of people who really only like a status update or a picture for the sole purpose of approval. I stopped caring a long time ago about it. Now, I’ll login to Facebook, post something new, some pictures from an adventure, or share something that really speaks to me, etc. but that’s it. I don’t worry too much because frankly it takes up too much head space. I don’t go on social media as much, and that is well within my rights.  On some days, I’ll post highlights and on other days, when I am doing something exciting, I’ll document the whole day. But it’s all in moderation.

Back on the subject of seeking validation, I learned that back when I took a Mass Communications course, my professor told me that there is a theory called Social Comparison Theory. Social Comparison Theory is a psychological theory that happens as we are looking at magazines, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat,(basically engaging in any form with the media) and we base our own self-worth on how we stack up against others. We look at these posts and think, wow that’s really cool how her bathing suit fits her or wow that vacation house looks like a dream. Sometimes, when we take it too far, it becomes a problem. That’s part of how eating disorders, mental illnesses, and other stresses happen. The media can be a dark place.

You have to keep in mind that while all these photos look glamorous and professional, they’re only showing you one perspective of their world. Sometimes, Social media sites can be a little biased, in that the people who share bits and pieces of their lives,  they only will post the photo that holds up this outer layer of ‘how ‘glamorous’ their lives are. You don’t know what could be going on in their lives. So don’t always assume that someone has a life that you dream of living, because there could be some underlying issues that they refuse to talk about with the rest of the world. In short, people will most likely post about whatever successes they have had in their lives. So just because you see someone having a greater success than you, doesn’t mean that you haven’t had any successes of your own. Never compare yourself to people. You’re doing all you can to achieve your goal and they’re doing all they can to achieve their own.

I like to think we all live some pretty cool lives. Each person you have that follows you has an opportunity to see a little bit of your world. Don’t down play that. Always keep in mind that, there is more to life than being on social media the whole time. When you choose to disconnect from it, life can be just as, if not more, fun.

Why I Blog

Hey guys, I know its been a while since I posted my last blog post and I’ve been pretty busy this past weekend, but I am so happy to be back on here and just post my thoughts.

So without further-ado, I’m gonna talk about Why I blog.

This idea came from watching Demi Lovato’s new Documentary called “Simply Complicated”. In it, Demi talks about her early childhood, how her singing and acting career took off, and more importantly how her mental illness all started as well as, where she is today. Demi talks candidly and unashamed about the events in her life, which was very eye opening to see in a girl who basically had to grow up in the spotlight. She opened up about how and when she started with drugs and alcohol, as well as her sobriety and how it really hasn’t been easy, but how it has been worth it. But the one thing I was able to resonate with the most and the one thing I am going to hone in on, was the fact that she deals with bipolar disorder, or manic depression, and how she was able to find her outlet in music.

From a young age, Demi was always involved in or with music, to her it was this thing that really kept her sane, it was her outlet and I find that to be absolutely amazing and impressive. The thing about bipolar disorder is that the people who suffer from it, they tend to have mania, or manic episodes where they will throw themselves into one thing and will spend countless hours doing the one thing they love or want to do. So for Demi, it was staying up all night making music. For people going through this it’s something that while it is a manic episode, sometimes they have no memory of said manic episode.

While watching this, I remembered a couple of times of when I  struggled with my depression. When I had depression the first time around, I remember not wanting to do anything and not wanting to do anything that would eventually help me in the long run. I felt like I didn’t have any options and felt completely and utterly hopeless. In the midst of the cloud of depression I was under, I managed to find one outlet, and that outlet became writing. Much like Demi, if I really needed someplace to vent, I would go to my journal and just try to write anything.

But unlike Demi, I wouldn’t sing, I would just write until my hand got tired. To me, there were no rules that were associated with writing in my journal, it was something that I learned throughout my recovery process. Writing wasn’t just something that I picked up during a time of need, for me, it was always there. Ever since I was about eight years old, I remember just being so fascinated with writing that I would write about things that happened to me on a daily basis. Writing became more enforced when I was a high school sophomore and I had this awesome English teacher who made all of his classes have a marble composition notebook.  In them we could write about anything, he would even have essay prompts up on the board. So when I was given that freedom, at 16, I knew I had to run with it. Writing’s been the most constant thing in my life, friends and boyfriends may have come and gone, but my writing has been something that has always stayed with me.  I am so happy that I get to use it as a tool to not only reach out, but also as a cathartic way to let my emotions out.

Writing began to have a big impact in my life and it was this moment where I decided to turn my writing into blogging and blog about my thoughts on various things. When I first started out blogging, I was in my freshman year of college. I remember feeling the need to vent, to write out something, and I just went for it, I blogged about the first things I could think of, which was about how I dealt with depression, panic attacks and the importance of success (if you want to read the first posts I made on here, I will put the links at the bottom of this post!). I remember feeling really happy after telling my story and wanting to tell everyone I knew at the time, about this new thing I discovered, called blogging. To every person who passed my way, I would promote my site to them and tell them, “Hey! Read my blog!”, I think I still do that today, but mainly over the social media and I’ll ask a select few friends what their thoughts were while reading it.

One of my main goals, is to create a blog, have people read it and feel empowered by what I write.  I find a clearer meaning in something that either bothers me or something that I really care about.  I really hope that telling my story will help other people in similar situations too. I thank God everyday for giving me an amazing outlet and I hope that He helps you find your way through other creative outlets! Mine just happens to be writing, but for you it could be anything. An outlet is something that really takes your mind off of the stressors in your life and can be super cathartic, examples include, but are not limited to: art, photography, dancing, working out, writing, coding, sketching, editing photos, singing, writing your own songs, driving, making food, baking, going outside, and many more!

With writing, I am able to feel sane and comfortable in myself, knowing that I have a voice. When you find your voice through any outlet, the benefits can truly be life changing. Make the decision to find your voice through your own outlet and you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish in your life.

So my questions for all of you are:

What are your outlets? How did you discover them?

 

Heres the link to some of my first blog posts!

My Definition of Success

An Inside Look at Depression

Panic Attacks: What’s the Big Deal?

Also here is the link to Demi’s documentary on youtube!

 

If you or someone you know is suffering a mental health illness or is struggling with drug/alcohol addiction, please reach out!

Suicide Hotline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or log on to your browser and contact a trusted mental health professional, you are not alone in this and if you really do need help, please do not hesitate to pick up the phone!

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA):  https://www.samhsa.gov/

 

 

 

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