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Going Back to Therapy

In light of today being World Mental Health Day, I thought I would use this day to be open about my journey thus far and something I have not talked about too much. In June of this year, after extensive research, I decided to go back to therapy.

I don’t mean to say it as if it’s this big thing. It’s not. It’s a step for myself in the right direction, and it took a lot of courage to go back after some less than ideal experiences, previously.

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My Previous Experiences with Therapy

The first time I went to therapy was during my time in my undergrad when I was first diagnosed. I believe he was a psychiatrist and he was amazing. Maybe because I was vulnerable opening up about my symptoms, I felt comfortable telling him more about my life. He was the person I went to go see after my dad passed away. He was the person who helped me through three difficult years of living with a new diagnosis and all of the stresses I was dealing with at the time.

When I graduated, I was unable to continue to see him since he was at the school’s Wellness Centre. It’s awful. I can’t even remember his name. My nurse practitioner referred me to a free service through my family doctor if I wanted to continue seeking therapy. That lady ruined therapy for me. In just three sessions, I hated it. I felt so judged – a feeling I don’t think one should ever really feel during therapy. Not when you’re at your most vulnerable. I immediately shut down after my third session with her and stopped going for three years.

Why I Wanted to Go Back to Therapy

I decided to go back to therapy because my anxiety and depression were not in a good spot. My moods were all over the place. My thoughts were all over the place. Mood swings were wild. My physical health was suffering. I knew I couldn’t continue in the same routine. I needed something to change.

How I Found A Therapist 

The resource I used to find a therapist was Psychology Today. You can use the site to search for local mental health professionals in your area and read their bios to see what they specialize in, what kind of techniques they tend to use, and how much they charge. Many can be covered if you have insurance, but if you don’t have insurance, some charge on what is called a sliding scale – I tend to look for ones that have this as an option. I was interested in ones that specialized in areas such as anxiety, depression, and grief. I was also interested in developing more of a mind-body connection since I somaticize psychological symptoms into physical symptoms. I have found an excellent choice for me, which might not be best for you. We all may need different forms of help based on our needs.

What Sessions Are Like So Far

Since June, I have had 5 sessions. For my first session, my therapist did a hybrid of an “intake session” and an actual session so I could see if her methods fit with my expectations before going back to see her.

No one ever really tells you this but your first session feels like crap. I mean, I obviously found it valuable and have gone back since my first session. But for me, the first session was terrifying. I had to go to a new place, meet a new person, come in wearing my “people-person” smile and greetings, sit on a couch, and re-open wounds I thought I had healed but had really just patched with a band-aid. Although I’m not ready to disclose some of the things I talked about, I will say I cried so much in the first session. I cried happy tears, sad tears, and mad tears. I was all over the place yet again. But you know what? I left feeling so much lighter than when I had arrived. And every time I go, I feel a little bit lighter. She gives me strategies for getting through the days when I feel awful. She is an outlet to talk to things I have repressed from a very young age. I am listening to my body more. I am motivated to become a better version of myself.

The Stigma Around Therapy

Juan Pablo Galavis once said, “There’s a stigma on the word ‘therapy.’ People relate it to big problems. That’s something we have to change. Going to therapy can be very healthy. It can change the way you see things and treat others.”

Going to therapy shouldn’t be seen as this “big deal.” Just because you go to therapy, it doesn’t mean you’re mentally unstable. Sure, I may have a mental illness I’m living with, but you don’t NEED one to go to therapy. Therapy can be for everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re weak either. I am so strong for wanting to feel better. I’m proud of that. Psychology Today offers an article about The Stigma of Therapy that is worth reading.

If you are thinking about seeking help, know that you’re not alone. There are some excellent resources available through easy Google searches. We live in a world where there are e-counselling options. This is fantastic! You are not “crazy” for wanting to talk to someone. If you could be the best version of yourself, wouldn’t you want that? On World Mental Health Day, may we be reminded to continue to break the silence and fight the stigma.

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I’m Not There Yet & That’s Okay

People say that in your 20s, it’s your prime time to “find yourself” and “discover who you are” because “these are the best years of your life.” Wow, I may have overused the quotation marks just a tad there but that was probably to mask the nauseating feeling I get whenever I hear the words “find yourself.”

As I veer into my “late” 20s, it is apparent I have hit the stage where large life changes are happening around me. I’ve experienced a few of them as well. But many of them I haven’t and you know what? That’s okay.

I’ve had many discussions with friends of mine about the rush for getting married, having kids, buying a house, getting the dream position at your dream job, travelling the world, and having life figured out before the age of 30. That’s bullshit. Life isn’t a race. Yet we’re forced into this snow globe where we make our lives look so pretty on the outside and meanwhile we’re trapped in a bubble of self-comparison to others’ and where they are in life.

Allow me to self-reflect:

  • I’m 26 turning 27 in a few months
  • I’m not engaged
  • I don’t have kids
  • I’m not even remotely thinking of having kids
  • I am still paying off OSAP
  • I’m still paying off my car
  • I’m still in school
  • I recently obtained my master’s degree
  • I am still very early in my career, but am blessed to be working in the field I want to be working in
  • I have an amazing partner (now roommate)
  • I do not [entirely] love my body in its current form
  • I have some good habits (i.e. meditation, yoga)

It’s so much easier said than done to say “I’m not going to care what others think of me” or “I don’t care that I’m not as far in life as other people” but how can we not fall into the traps of self-comparison when social media has taken over our lives? It seems like everyone is trying to “one-up” each other by having a bigger, better wedding, or posting the better selfie, or posting how wonderful their lives are because they are part of some pyramid-scheme business (probably) and making “so much money” before the age of 30. Meanwhile, my life feels incredibly uneventful because I’m being unapologetically selfish about having to work and do school because I am one of the few people in any of my friend circles still in school.

In the list above, the things I don’t have yet or have not done yet are not things I’m bothered by. And I am proud of myself for being able to say that. I’m not in a rush for things to happen. I have been working so hard on different aspects of my life and have done so in private. I’m not ashamed of where I am in life. And I am SO incredibly happy for my friends and family who ARE at different stages of life. It’s a messy time. Everyone is doing his or her own thing, and I honestly think that is so awesome. I think we need to support each other for what they are doing or where they are.

I found this picture on Instagram a while ago, and I think it sums it up what this rambling post hasn’t said yet: the definition of “behind in life” is subjective and the “timetable of life” is really individualized.

As my dad always used to tell me (from one overly anxious individual to another), “don’t worry about the things you can’t control.” I’m choosing to enjoy every moment of every day instead of rushing towards “the next big thing.” The things I can control, I’m working on them. I’m happy for others and where they are in life and am open to listen if they are unhappy. I’m happy where I am and where life is going. There will always be something where I will say “I’m not there yet” and it really is okay. 69603287_667367610428598_8774124848604512256_n.jpg

 

The First Monday of 2019

Happy New Year, everyone! Today is the first Monday of 2019. A new year, a new set of goals, and new opportunities.

I tried to write a post last week about the things I learned in 2018 and I could not bring myself to finish.

To my friends and family I did not get to see much of in 2018, I am sorry.

I was rotten at returning text messages. I didn’t attend as many events as previous years. I shut myself out. It was truly a year of self-care and introspection.

To be honest, my mental health took a bit of a dive in 2018. I had panic attacks in the frequency and intensity as I used to have when I was first diagnosed in 2012. It scared me. I felt as weak as I did back then, times. I tried to push through it. But everything just felt so busy. In the past year, I worked full time, was in school part time, both completing my master’s thesis and then starting coursework, and trying to balance other responsibilities. I made it through, relatively unscathed. And now, I’ve been trying to reframe my overwhelming schedule as passionate ambitions.

Old Resolution: Social Media
One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to post less on social media. On my personal instagram, I posted about 80 times this year which works out to be about 6.9 times per month or 1.6 times per week. I liked not posting much on social media. However, when I would see people I hadn’t seen in a while, they would often say to me, “wow, it seems like you’ve been up to a lot of exciting things lately!” And naturally, I’d laugh and agree.

I, along with other millennials, embellish things on social media. No one posts the bad stuff on social media. On my blog page (@frompanictoplate), I have posted some more honest pictures and quotes, and honestly, that was refreshing. It was also comforting to have people inbox me and share their experiences and feelings with me. While social media can feel embellished and fake at times, sharing some of the vulnerable parts of yourself, the real parts of yourself, can be empowering.

New Resolution: Goals For Me and For Others
Something I started in the last quarter of 2018 was to say no to one extra responsibility a week. This meant saying no if asked to work an extra shift in an already busy week or maybe not doing the “suggested” reading for school so I could make more time for myself.

To continue this in 2019, I want to instead do (at least) one thing a week for me and just me. This may include saying no to an added responsibility or an act of self-care.

I also want to do (at least) one thing a week that improves my relationships with others. Maybe this is texting a friend I haven’t talked to in a while to see how they are doing. Maybe it’s making plans with someone for a coffee or other inexpensive outing.
I want to do better. I want to be a better friend.

Mental Health Meets Physical Health

A goal I would like to especially prioritize this year is taking better care of my mental health, especially due to the toll it has taken on my physical health in the past year. I was sick quite a bit and not just like, a little cold here and there. I had laryngitis (at least twice), one of the most painful UTIs I have ever experienced, and now, I am writing this while on the couch wincing at the overwhelming pain that comes with shingles.

To avoid feeling like this in the future (or ever again), I know I need to take care of myself and not push myself because I “like being busy.” I am learning to accept that taking care of myself is not selfish.

So here is to a new year and new exciting opportunities for growth and to make memories with those we love. 6fe48211174875e2cc330edb2519d971.jpg

Four Years Later.

The concept of time is so strange. I’m laying in bed and it feels like no time has passed while simultaneously feeling like a lifetime since I last heard your voice.

Grief has no timeline. There are the five stages, sure, but past that, there is no telling when one feels certain emotions and thinks about certain things. I haven’t stopped missing you. I could never stop missing you. You gave me life. You gave me two sisters who I am also so grateful to have in my life to check on me and be there for me as I continue to transition through new stages in my life.

I had a breakdown the other night. I sobbed and sobbed over the first major snowfall and having to drive without snow tires. It was a bad breakdown. One of my largest in a while. And it wasn’t just because it was dark out and I had to find my way home. It wasn’t just because it was my first time driving in the snow all season. It reminded me of that day. This day, just four years ago. Except I was getting my tires put on. And the garage was down the street from the hospital. And instead of going straight home, I stopped in to visit. And it was my last time holding your hand and saying goodbye. Then, it started to snow harder. Although you did not have the energy to tell me, I could hear your voice telling me to drive home before it got worse. And it did get worse. The snow diminished the visibility on the road. I drove slow. I made it home. And I got the call.

The reoccurrence of the heavy snow, the limited visibility, it all brought me back to that day. And it felt like I was re-living it all over again.

But then I sit here and think about how it has been four years. So much has happened in this time that I wish you were here for and I mean, physically here for.  I would love to hear your voice during the dark times. To get advice. To have you listen. To tell me when I’m overreacting. To tell me not to worry about things I can’t control, even though I do. I can’t help it. It’s a trait I got from you.

For the limited time I did get to spend with you, I am grateful. I am so grateful. It wasn’t all good. And that is something I have been coming to terms with a lot in the past year as I continue to grow and learn about who I am. But I did gain some valuable life lessons from you, many of which I am only coming to appreciate now, at this point in my life, and memories I will hold near and dear to my heart forever and for always.

Love forever, your little leftover.

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October Goals & Thoughts

1c44ec573cf32b667c07692f6fe40770.jpgAs #MotivationMonday comes to a close, I am finally in bed with a chance to reflect on the past month and what’s to come.

September was a month of re-adjusting to a busier work schedule, catching up with friends, and catching my first cold of the season.

Today, on October 1st, I added the BCBA (Board Certified Behaviour Analyst) Course Sequence to the mix as I started my coursework through Florida Institute of Technology. It is supposed to be a demanding set of courses, requiring a minimum of a B to pass. I’m excited as it is particularly applicable to my career and the direction I want to go with my career, but I am nervous for the same reasons. I want to be knowledgeable in my field and do well in the courses that will lay the foundation for that knowledge.

With that, I will have to re-introduce the juggling act of balancing a social life, coursework, and my job while also continuing to eat well and try to get in some exercise.

I have continued to practice gratitude daily and meditate at least once a day, typically in the morning, and occasionally just before bed to help me sleep.

This blog will continue to be a safe place to share my anxious thoughts and keep my goals in written form so I can stay accountable. Stay tuned for a new soup recipe this week and weekly rants about my progress.

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Get Em to the Gym

Earlier today, I was sitting outside my client’s house thinking, “wow, it’s already almost September.” The month of August has seemingly flown by so quickly we are almost onto a new month and a new school year.

While I am taking an academic break until October, I have had the opportunity to work on some personal goals including one that is difficult for so many people: going to the gym.

I was on a roll before! I was going to yoga twice a week, or working out at home, or doing yoga at home. In August, I have made more of a conscious effort to start going again regularly. While I am not proud of how little I have been to the gym, looking at today in isolation, I am proud that I made it there.

Prior to the gym, I was sitting in my car thinking about what I was going to do after work.

I could go home and make something for dinner. 

I could see if one of my friends wants to meet up. 

I could go to the gym. 

It certainly wasn’t my first thought. In fact, after work, the entire drive to the gym, I was making up excuses in my head.

I didn’t bring headphones. 

What if the gym clothes in my bag aren’t clean?

Well, I have an extra pair of headphones that have taken permanent residency in my gym bag and I also have two pairs of gym clothes in my bag (and yes, they are clean). So realistically, my excuses were useless. I parked my car, went in and hopped on the elliptical.

The gym was empty. Maybe 3 more people trickled in while I was there. I love when the gym is like that. I don’t have to fight over machines. I don’t need to be self-conscious about people watching me while working out. I put on my Spotify playlist and off I went.

Why is it so difficult to get yourself to the gym?

Honestly, as a goal-oriented individual, I struggle with this thought a lot. I want to lose weight, have better endurance, and build strength. To do this, I should eat better and go to the gym. It’s simple, really. I’m doing really well with eating better but why is it so hard to get myself to exercise?

There’s an article outlining the scientific reason behind this and it’s interesting to read about the evolutionary basis for it. Here’s a link to the article: https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/the-scientific-reason-its-so-hard-to-make-yourself-go-to-the-gym.html 

I will remind myself of the reinforcing feelings that accompany this goal and continue to strive for a better self.

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July Check-In

The month is just about halfway done so I thought I’d do a mid-month check-in to see how I’m doing so far in July.

Mental Health

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While I have not been super relaxed so far this summer, my anxiety has had its ups and downs thinking about the future. My dad’s words of “don’t worry about the things you can’t control” are being replayed in my mind but I can’t help but worry sometimes. I think that’s human nature amplified by the effects of living with anxiety. I haven’t had any major breakdowns and my best friends (and my boyfriend, who doubles as a best friend) have been absolutely amazing.

Goals

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I really didn’t set any specific goals this month, which is a bit unlike me. The only goal I had in mind was to enjoy my time not in school, work hard, and take some time to enjoy myself with the company of friends and family. I’d say I have done that so far. I’ve made plans with friends more after work and made more of an effort to check in on friends and see how they’re doing. I have also been reading more books for pleasure. This is often something I complain about not having the time for when I’m busy with school work.

Goals in mind for the upcoming weeks:

  • Less emotional eating – I see myself starting to slip on this. Stress eating chocolate or unhealthy things to cope with certain emotions. I need to nip that early.
  • Practice more gratitude. I fell off the Five Minute Journal train. I stopped practicing daily gratitude. I need to start back up on that to start and end my days on positive notes rather than anxious ones.
  • Do more active things. In Montreal, I went for a walk with my aunt every night I was there. I have started doing more of this here, usually in the evenings when it cools down but it has been great to get out and take a nice 20-30 minute walk in the neighbourhood.
  • Focus more on my weight loss journey. While I haven’t been very strict on food choices in the last few weeks, I may look towards making smarter choices rather than be super restrictive. My work schedule has not been very consistent so far this summer but maybe next week I will get in the groove of when I can go to the gym after work as well. It’s never too late to try again.

In a couple weeks, I will write out my goals for August and share them. HM_press_release_infographic-1001x1024.jpg

 

Low Carb Bagels

Like several people I know, I have hopped on the keto train in attempts to keep myself in check like I did with Whole 30 but be free to eat cheese and yogurt and indulge in the occasional glass of red wine.

I am on Day 5 so far and honestly, it feels very similar to Whole 30. I was tired the first couple of days, had a little brain fog, but those feelings have faded. My eating habits prior to this decision weren’t too bad. I had continued to follow a mainly paleo lifestyle until going to Cuba. I did eat a few more bags of chips than I would have liked but such is life. I have heard really good things about the keto way of life and since it didn’t differ too much from the paleo lifestyle, I figured I’d give it a try.

What’s the Difference? 

Get Healthy U has this great info-graphic to break down the basic differences between the two.

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Why Did I Start?

I have had some underlying suspicions that I may have some sort of gluten sensitivity or intolerance. I removed eating gluten as part of the Whole 30 plan and I didn’t want to eat in such a restrictive way again. With Keto, I am free to eat cheese and cream cheese and yogurt and butter and all that dairy that I love but couldn’t have before. There are a lot of great recipes with stevia and other natural low-carb sugars that I can’t wait to try. For more information on what the ketogenic diet is, here’s a link for you: https://www.ruled.me/guide-keto-diet.

Am I Going to Cheat?

Probably in the future. I mean, everything is good in moderation and it might be a little unrealistic to cut out everything bad forever. I understand it is a way of life for many people, but I am still learning how it fits into my lifestyle. By being strict at the beginning, I hope to create good habits and remember all the lessons I learned from Whole 30 and make better choices at restaurants. After a few weeks, will I have a scoop of ice cream? Absolutely. It’s nearly summertime. If I’m at someone’s house and they’re serving non-keto friendly options, I will probably eat some of the non-compliant options anyways. Will I eat an entire loaf of garlic bread? No. Will I have a glass or 3 of sangria? More than likely. It’s all about making smart cheats and not “eating a whole bag of chips” kind of cheat.

Low-Carb Bagels

Now that I have rambled about my lifestyle changes, let’s talk bagels. I am trying to find easy and quick breakfast options since I usually am up and out the door in the morning. I made some flaxseed cinnamon bun muffins last week and they were delicious. This morning, I tried making low-carb bagels.

I used the recipe from WholesomeYum which can be found here: https://www.wholesomeyum.com/recipes/low-carb-bagels-with-almond-flour-keto-gluten-free-5-ingredients/ 

It was so easy to make and had only 5 ingredients: almond flour, baking powder, mozzarella cheese, cream cheese, and eggs. I added Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel spice to the top and it was perfect. My mom really liked the bagels too. I’m surprised in how quick and easy it was. Kneading the dough was difficult with it being super sticky but it combined well. (See pre-oven photo above).

The recipe makes 6 bagels and each bagel is 360 calories. Carb counts: Total Carbs: 8g | Net Carbs: 5g | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g

An everything bagel at Tim Hortons, in comparison, is 280 calories but has 53g of Carbs.

I would definitely make this recipe again!

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It Ain’t All Bad

I think I get so caught up in the moment, especially while I am running on the adrenaline rush of an anxious moment (fight or flight), I sometimes forget to stop and realize that although I have moments where I feel like nothing is right, everything is wrong, and things are falling apart, in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t all that bad.

(Can you tell by that run-on sentence I still have residual anxiety from the weekend?)

Here are a few of my “It ain’t all bad” thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. I have a job I love with people I love working with.
  2. My clients may have bad days, or bad moments, but they are humans too, just like me. I have bad days. I have bad moments. I am making a difference in their lives. But life, as we know, can have its share of hiccups.
  3. My thesis is hard work right now, and I may feel like I don’t have much of a social life because of it, but in the future, I will be looking back, not remembering the negative feelings of it all, but just the satisfaction of getting my master’s degree that I worked so hard to get.
  4. I don’t feel guilty about eating that chocolate chip cookie because it was delicious.
  5. I get to hear birds singing out of my window every morning. Nature is beautiful.
  6. Money can be earned and saved in the future. Seeing the world and traveling with my best friend has greater value than the cost of the trip.
  7. My car gets me to and from the places I want and need to go.
  8. My friend group talks every single day in a group chat and I think that it’s wonderful that even though we are growing up and don’t get to see each other all the time that we still make time to send funny pictures or share things about our lives each day.
  9. I love having friends who know that even though we don’t talk every day, love and support is just a text or call away no matter what.
  10. The same is true for my family members.
  11. I’m learning to accept a lot of different things in my life. I am stronger than I ever was.
  12. I have access to delicious food each day.
  13. Soon it will be summer and I will likely be complaining that it is too hot rather than it being too cold like it is now.
  14. My boyfriend makes me feel loved, respected, and beautiful. I have never felt so comfortable being myself with someone. I wish everyone had the chance to feel the way I feel just by hearing his voice.
  15. I am 25 years old and I still call my mom for help with things like making gravy. She also knows how to pick my clothes out for me better than I can. My mom is my favourite person in the whole world.

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