mental health

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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Wellness Wednesday: March Check-In

There has been so much I have wanted to say in the past month but the words don’t come as freely to me as they did before. It has been quite the month to say the least but what I can say is I’m exhausted, I’m worried, and I’ve been fighting the fight since day one.

But before I get into that, let’s check in with my February goals and see how that’s going:

Goal #1: Be more physically active

I am so happy to say I have actually done well in this area! I am continuing to do yoga every day when I wake up, and am doing another form of exercise (usually HIIT or another more intense yoga video) three times a week.

While I haven’t been following Yoga with Adriene’s March calendar, I have been selecting videos based on my mood or muscle groups to target and have still maintained this habit.

I feel lighter, taller, my posture is better, and I’m overall feeling more awake in the morning.

Goal #2: Eat better 

So far so good for this one too! Woohoo! I am still keeping track of the meals I eat. Rather than strictly counting calories, I am also being more mindful of eating more vegetables and meal prepping more. I am not skipping breakfast (for the most part) and with my Hidrate Spark water bottle, I am also drinking more water and reaching my water intake goals for the day. Although they are a little more on the pricey side, the glowing reminders and the graph tracking my progress throughout the day has been very reinforcing.

 Goal #3: Keep Going

With this mindset, I am feeling proud of the work I have put towards improving myself. I have lost about 8 lbs since February 2nd but even more importantly are the non-scale victories I have been achieving:

  • my clothes fit better
  • my energy levels are much higher
  • I have continued sticking to a routine
  • I am more mindful of what I eat, do, and how much I sleep

Other Events in My Life:

I may have mentioned this in the past but I work as an instructor therapist with children with autism and other developmental disabilities. If you aren’t a resident of Ontario (or even if you are), you may not have heard that the provincial government has changed its autism program in terms of funding.

To quickly summarize: children were previously assessed on need and several children were on a waitlist to access services such as IBI (which is work I do – Intensive Behavioural Interventions). This plan claims to clear the waitlist and provide families with more choice.

While on the surface, it looks to be more fair and equitable, it isn’t. The only way it IS fair and equitable is that NO children will be able to access the treatment they need for success. Here are Mike Moffat’s 10 short reasons the new Autism Program should be scrapped. (I could honestly write like, 10 more blog posts on this subject ALONE)

For a more detailed look at what the Ontario PC government has claimed and the truth behind those claims, check out this article.

Here’s how it affects me:

  1. I am so worried for the children and families. I have worked in adult services and that is no walk in the park (honestly, I could also write a few blog posts about this as well). I have so much hope for these children, especially those I have worked with and I want the best for them and their futures. Families are being put in a difficult position financially, emotionally, and mentally. They have a hard enough time with day-to-day activities but are now forced to spend what little spare time they have to fight against the government on social media, through emails, meetings, and other efforts. Being an empathetic person by nature, it is impossible not to take these feelings to heart and feel what they feel. I continue to fight with them for a better solution.
  2. Job security – Families pay for services which then pays us. Lack of access to services due to insufficient funds means lack of work. It is very uncertain in the field of ABA how companies will be able to stay strong financially throughout this crisis. This is widespread across the province with layoffs beginning in companies already. While I have faith in my organization and the strong, dedicated leaders, the uncertainty is not something I am good at handling as someone with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. I am a planner. I like to know what lies ahead. I don’t have that. I am nervous. I am trying to remain positive.

That is just scratching the surface of all of the thoughts and feelings I have about this today. I will be releasing an infographic I created talking more about the Ontario Autism Program for those interested.

I’m off to do a night yoga routine before going to sleep. I need it tonight, especially.

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February Check-In

It has been a quiet start to 2019 thus far. January knocked me off my feet, quite literally, as I had shingles for the first part of the month and spent a lot of time quarantined in my bedroom.

Now that I am feeling much better, February has become the new January in terms of putting goals into action. To hold myself accountable, I am sharing some of my goals on here (as I usually do).

Goal #1: Be more physically active

I have mentioned Yoga with Adriene before but if you’re hearing about her for the first time, she is my go-to yogi on YouTube. Her videos are easily accessible, and each month, on her website she posts a calendar and an overall focus for the month. This month’s focus is Care. Here’s the link to check out her website: https://yogawithadriene.com/calendar/ and one for her YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene. I promise, there is something for everyone.

I am doing the Care videos every day this month and haven’t missed a beat. I have even started waking up at 6:30am every day to squeeze it in. This weekend, I will be away and I will be swapping out the longer videos with the short 5-7 minute practices so I can still stay in my routine.

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I recently cancelled my gym membership. Although I have nothing bad to say about the facility, I don’t live close to it anymore. It wasn’t convenient, especially not with work and school right now. Driving 20 minutes to the gym seemed a bit out of the way and it was wasted money. So I thought about it and if time to go to the gym is the biggest barrier, how can I make up for it? As a two-in-one kind of way, I decided to take 20 minutes away from screen time (phone, laptop, tablets), 3 times a week. I have chosen 3 times a week so I can still prioritize school and watch lecture videos and study when I am home from work. I am using the Nike Training Club app. It’s free and I can cast it to the TV. Afterwards, I can shower and head to bed. This routine is going well so far.

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Goal #2: Eat better 

I decided against doing a February Whole 30 this time around. I was going to do one to “cleanse” my system out and create some good habits. Alternatively, I have decided to use what I learned from Whole 30 and really try to be more mindful of what I’m eating. I’m keeping track my meals. Each time I put an entry in, I think, “I would rather not be doing this, I think ignorance is bliss.” But the awareness is eye-opening. I have been trying to make better choices. And my partner has been doing the same, which has been motivating for me as well. We’re not really restricting anything from our diets but just being mindful of portion, type of food, and eating more fruit and vegetables. 5f46d950-f1c8-4718-afa9-a1e370e036c9.jpg             5b9051cf-ae0d-47fe-9be6-21a068eea2d0.jpg

 Goal #3: Keep Going

These are goals not new to me. I’ve had them for a while. I will keep working at them. This time around I have set up reinforcement systems in place for reaching both non-scale and scale victories to keep myself motivated. I put so much effort into other areas of my life: work, school, friendships, family – why can’t I put that much effort into myself?

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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

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

 

Men’s Mental Health

Today is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day. This week leading up to Father’s Day is an awareness week all about men’s mental health.

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It’s hard being a female in society with a mental illness; due to the gender stereotypes that have formed over the years, women are perceived as emotional beings. These same stereotypes have also acted as a barrier for males suffering from mental illness as they are supposed to be the strong ones who don’t let things get to them.

Regardless of gender, race, or age, mental illness can affect all of us. Social stigma inhibits individuals from sharing their stories or getting the help they require.

Examining males, specifically (taken from Movember Canada):

  • 1 in 10 Canadian men will experience major depression in the course of their lives
  • 3 of every 4 suicides are men

What can we do?

  • Talk about it. Ask questions. The more we talk, the more we combat the stigma as we build an understanding.
  • Listen. Listen to their stories. Listen for cries for help. Listen to your friend.
  • Encourage action.
  • Check in with those you love.

Here are a list of articles and resources I recommend taking a look at:

https://ca.movember.com/mens-health/we-need-to-talk

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/talking-about-men/201702/mens-mental-health-silent-crisis

https://headsupguys.org/

Hitting the Reset Button – Cuba 2018

I have been absent for what feels like a long time as my thesis draft deadline approached sooner than I anticipated then a few days later, I was on a plane to Cuba.

I am back and I am starting this Motivation Monday off on the right foot.

Going to Cuba for a week was like pushing a reset button. My stress and anxiety had been slowly approaching peak levels but I escaped just in time. We were away for a full seven days. For four of those days, I completely unplugged. No phone use (except for occasionally using it as a clock) including no emails, no social media, nothing. I, along with other individuals my age, have become increasingly dependent on my phone. I use it for work constantly – we have apps for communication, scheduling, and timesheets. I use it for emails and texting and social media use. Not having access to these things was refreshing. Yet I come back, and I look through my photos and wonder which one will I post on instagram.

You would think I would’ve done a better job of embracing the lack of social media when returning but I think that will be a goal for May – to use social media less.

I am happy to have returned back home and have the weather be sunny and warmer than it was when I left it. I can’t wait to go on my evening or early morning walks (we’ll see how ambitious I get).

I hope you did some sort of self-care in the past week. We all need it. Have a wonderful week!

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Let’s Talk About SAD

It feels like the middle of January but is somehow the middle of April. This past weekend, an ice storm hit, seemingly out of nowhere (I am clearly not a meteorologist and am probably embodying “fake news”). It has been dark and dreary out, and not in the rainy spring days kind of way.

There are so many beautiful things about spring – there is a feeling of re-birth, fresh beginnings, and growth. The sun is out for longer periods of time, the flowers are growing, and even the smell of rain seems to bring a sense of comfort (except the sight of it while driving does not).

This darkness we’re experiencing, however, reminds us that the sun may be out (sometimes) but it is still frigidly cold out. The plants are still dead. And, at this moment, there is still snow on the ground.

It becomes increasingly difficult, it seems, to break from the grasp of seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (sometimes referred to as SAD), as the name suggests, is a type of depression that appears at different parts of the year, which may align with the changing of the seasons.

Common symptoms, as outlined in the DSM-5, include:

  • Feeling of sadness or depressed mood
  • Marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
  • Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
  • Increase in restless activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide

It’s important to note that these symptoms are very similar to major depression. Before you try to self-diagnose yourself with SAD, seek help from a professional as you may be feeling depressed, but it may not necessarily be SAD.

It is also important to note that seasonal affective disorder is a real psychiatric disorder. However, scientific research continues to be conducted to clarify the debate.

For some more resources about Seasonal Affective Disorder, go to:

https://cmha.bc.ca/documents/seasonal-affective-disorder-2/

http://bodyandhealth.canada.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/seasonal-affective-disorder

Hopefully spring is right around the corner (for real this time) so we can get some good old sunshine and vitamin D. Until then, stay warm, friends.

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Mid-Month Checkup: March Goals

Here we are at another Monday. January seemed to drag on so slowly and now here we are more half-way through March.

Let’s reflect on how my March Focus goals have been doing so far:

Focus on my work and school work:

  • I downloaded an app called HabitBull to track my good habits. I love it because I’m very data driven and it creates graphs based on your performance!
  • I’ve started breaking down more of my tasks into smaller parts to make them easier to complete. I have completed quite a bit of work on my dissertation so far because I’m made it seem more manageable.
  • I have tried to take on more of an active role at work while also trying not to spread myself too thin. I know when to say no and how to prioritize things a little better.
  • To keep myself engaged in what I’m doing, when I do work at home (school or otherwise), I set a timer for about 30-45 minutes. I work on one task for that time, take a break, and then switch gears to something else. It seems to be working so far.

Focus on my health:

  • Well, if you asked me how my immune system is doing, I’d say not great. But judging by the last three months, I’ve started seeing a pattern of when I start getting sick: the week leading up to my menstrual cycle. In the past few days, I’ve started taking supplements daily to help kick my immune system and overall health into gear: probiotics, Omega 3’s, Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, iron, and a multivitamin.
  • I got a gym membership at a new gym this month and have been twice already and have created a fitness journal and written down workout ideas. I am hoping to start going 2-3 times a week (perhaps more).
  • I started stretching every morning!
  • My skin care routine is great! Feels like a normal part of my morning and evening and it feels so soft.
  • I have written in my Five Minute Journal every day this month so far! Haven’t missed a day. It has been a great, positive way to start and end the day and it has become more of a habit than it was in the past.
  • My anxiety has been up and down this month with a few more down times than I was expecting. Meditating and remembering to stay grounded has helped and I have been looking up other strategies to get through tough moments of panic.

Focus on my relationships with others:

  • I have taken more of an active effort in my friendships – spending more time answering texts, talking to them on the phone, and making plans to see them.
  • I continue to reflect on these friendships and welcome new ones into my life.
  • I am appreciating times with my mom more. She has always been my best friend and my number one support system in my life and as I grow up, I want to return the favour and support her in any way that I can.
  • During this incredibly busy time of year, my boyfriend and I despite distance and responsibilities manage to appreciate the time we do get to talk and spend together even if it’s working on things together, sharing things about our day at the end of the day on the phone, and support one another with all that we do and I am so grateful to have him in my life in such a positive and loving way.

I still have some work to do this month in each of these three aspects, but there is still time to “focus” on them.

Happy Monday, everyone and have a great week!

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March in Like a Lion

Today is the first Monday of a new month March. Can you almost smell spring in the air? Other than the large heaping of snow we received on Friday, I can feel spring coming and I am nothing but excited.

I am looking forward to floral prints, sunny rays, spring flowers, rain boots, and driving around with the windows down.

This month, I have set my intention as Focus. I will Focus on the following three key areas:

  1. Focus on my work and schoolwork.
    For those who don’t know, I am currently completing my Master’s degree and am in the writing process of my dissertation. To make this task a little more tolerable, this weekend, I broke down what I need to do into smaller steps and will push myself to put my best efforts into my work and get it done quickly and efficiently. IMG_1662.GIF
  2.  Focus on my health.
    February was a rough month for me health-wise. I had that stomach bug at the end of Whole 30 and soon after, I caught the flu and am only now feeling better from it. With being sick, however, my healthy eating habits slipped a bit. I ate unhealthy food and justified it because I was sick – a habit I thought I was doing a good job breaking during Whole 30. Well this month, I’m already back to meal prepping and sticking to an overall paleo lifestyle (with a few exceptions here and there).  Tonight I prepped lasagna stuffed chicken with asparagus for the week. IMG_1732.JPG
  3. Focus on my relationships with others
    I have found myself to be distant from some of the people in my life. Not because I don’t want to spend time with them but because I have been busy, sick, and have spent a lot of time dedicating quality time for myself – something I have failed to do in the past few years. Over the next few weeks, with March Break coming up and Easter at the end of the month, I am hoping to spend more time catching up with friends and family as they too are a priority in my life. I am also going to reflect on how relationships in my life make me feel – am I growing as a person with this person in my life? What do they bring to my life? What do I bring to theirs?

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Happy March and Happy Motivation Monday! I hope you start March off like a fierce and powerful lion!