Check out more posts from me on Healthy Minds Canada!

I am very pleased to be a volunteer blogger for Healthy Minds Canada. Any opportunity for me to share my experiences, knowledge and help others is always a great opportunity. To date, I have published 2 blogs. I would love it if you would check them out and also check out the other blogs from other Canadians.

Self-harm free! 

“*Content Warning: Talk of self-harm, no details* My name is Kristen and this is my first blog post for Healthy Minds Canada. I am beyond excited to be able to announce in my first post that December 2016 is the month I celebrate 2 years of being self-harm free! Wow!”

You are perfect how you are in this moment.

“A popular picture “pinned” by others on my Pinterest account reads, Note to self, I am doing the best that I can with what I have in this moment. And that is all I can expect from anyone, including me.”

 

Vision Board 2016

My therapist, D, suggested I create a Vision Board. She makes them herself and I do enjoy creative self-help activities so I thought I’d give it a try. My Vision Board is based on my 10 goals for 2016. When I have some more money and an idea I want to create a physical Vision Board that I can hang somewhere in my apartment and, for now my virtual one will do just fine 🙂

I would like to present, Kristen’s Vision Board for 2016!

 

Vision Board

Relationship

Finding calm when B goes out in my relationship is probably my top goal for 2016. I have written frequently about the stress I experience when B goes out and I have seen more and more how this stress not only affects our relationship but also other parts of my life like my job and friendships. I will try and find this calm by using my DBT skills and asking B to work on areas in his life such as commitment. I know will have found this calm when B can go out (and I can go out) without feeling like I am being ripped apart from stress and feeling a desperate need for him or myself to come home quickly. The thoughts of being unworthy and unloved will disappear and be replaced with thoughts of worthiness and love.

Reading

In 2016, I would like to read 50 books. This is completely possible if I also include comics which totally count as books! My track record for reading is good. In 2012 I read 26 books in 3 months, 2013 I read 70, 2014 I read 56, 2015 I read 40 books and I’m almost done my first book of 2016! Reading is a passion of mine and reading a lot is what helps me stay sane! I have learned so much from books and I can’t wait to find out what I learn in 2016!

Physical

I am going to do yoga in my home using YouTube 3 times a week! I got a yoga mat for Christmas and I have a good YouTube channel to use that has a variety of different yoga videos. I would like to increase my flexibility, specifically, and will be using a yoga to do that. I want to use yoga weekly in 2016 because I know it helps my body and mind feel good.

Friendship

I will go out with a friend at least once a week. This also includes having a friend over. This goal will help my friendships and also my relationship with B. I used to go out a lot and fear has greatly held me back. I do have 3 friends in the city that I would see on a fairly regular basis, including one that I am seeing tonight! I will also put my family and my bestie in this category because my fear has stopped my from going to see them given they are 45 minutes away in another town. I need to see them as going back home and seeing them recharges me :). Job and what not permitted, I will aim to go back to see them once a month (like I used to).

Family

Those who have been reading my “Motherhood & Madness” posts will know that B and I are trying to become pregnant. While this goal is less in my control than the other ones it is still a goal nonetheless. We have been trying since July 2015 so hopefully, 2016 is our year!

Education

I spent a lot of 2015 leaving online classes and I want that to change this year. I will complete 1 online course this year so I can keep learning and adding to my resume. In the past, I have done online courses on AIDS, leadership, addiction and abortion. All have been extremely helpful in life. I wonder what I will learn this year?!

DBT Dear Man

DEAR MAN is the one DBT skill I am not really good at (this also includes GIVE and FAST). My goal for 2016 is to use DEAR MAN at least twice a week as situation arise. I do have my proof that DEAR MAN is an effective interpersonal skill I just still have my fears and need to get over them. I will know I am effective at using DEAR MAN because I will be using it, it will work or I will use it and be able to cope with an undesirable outcome.

Cat Fostering

Fostering cats has changed my life. I have been fostering for a month now and it has already resulted in 1 resident cat and a foster I really wish I could keep! My goal for 2016 is to foster a minimum of 2 more cats with 2-3 week breaks in between each foster. I really enjoy having the cats around and it feels great to know that the cats are happy in your home while they wait to be adopted. Fostering is one of the best decisions I have made and I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring for this part of my life.

Career

I need to go to work! My goal is to go to work unless I am actually physically or emotionally fairly unwell. Because of my fears and insecurities, I have missed a lot of work. I give into the sadness and lay in bed when I really should get out there. I am going to push myself harder as going to work will help me accomplish others goals on my vision board as well.

Blogging

I want to blog at least once a week. I usually do this anyway and I want to make sure that I am writing quality blog posts. This blog is important to me, all of my readers are important to me and I always want there to be forward momentum on my blog.

Did you or would you create a Vision Board for 2016? Did you make any New Years Resolutions? I would love to hear what your goals are for 2016!

30 Day Mental Illness Awareness Challenge: Day 20

Day 20: Where do you get your support?

I predominantly get my support from friends and family. I am a people person so I automatically want to go to people when I am upset about something.

Two other ways I get support at through blogging and reading books.

Blogging isn’t just about the writing but the connections you make with others online and the knowledge you get from reading others’ blogs! I have learned so much and been helped by so many since I started Pride in Madness a few years ago.

Books support me by providing a fun escape! How can I think about the troubles in my life when the characters in my book live in a zombie apocalypse?!

 

Fell Off the Face of the Earth

Yes, I haven’t been blogging again. Not having internet access regularly is a major factor but so is not really having anything to say. I could revert to my usual activism but I am not motivated. I am fine, just overwhelmed and the best thing for me to do has been to step back. Once I’m back in a stable living situation and my life stays on one path I will be able to get back to regular self.

Social Media and Mental Illness

Below is an article I was interviewed for by The Social about the positive social media can have on your mental health! I thought of our massive and amazing mental health blogging community the whole time 🙂 The cons are there as well.

Enjoy!

Bell Let’s Talk: Social media and mental illness

By Sarah Robinson  |   January 28, 2014

Social media can be an emotional double-edged sword. It can make you feel more connected to people – the ones you love or those you’d like to know – and in tune with what’s happening around the world at any given moment. It can also make it easier to ignore the people in front of you, focussing instead on what you’re missing out on and how your life pales in comparison to the glamorous, manufactured personas that live online.

And those are common feelings without a mental illness. These advantages and anxieties can become even more amplified for those with mental health issues. Relevant resources and support are a click away. So are hashtags and accounts that encourage dangerous disorders. The Socialspoke to two women that have both personal and professional experience with mental illness about how it has shaped their relationship with social media.

As told to Sarah Robinson

 

“It’s equalizing”
Kristen Bellows, 24
Peer-support facilitator, Young Ones Breaking Barriers; Blogger, Pride in Madness

I started using Facebook shortly after it came out. It’s been very friend-oriented, but my relationship with social media has definitely expanded since I started using it. Now, I use it as a platform. I’m in charge of promotions for the Young Ones gala in May, so I’m on the Facebook page posting updates and pictures.

Through my blog, I talk to people in the UK, in the United States, in Australia, New Zealand. I get to hear from them and hear what’s going on with them and what’s going on in their countries. It’s overwhelming, but in a really good way. Nothing replaces seeing someone’s face. If I could gather up everyone I know in the blogging world and meet them, I would love to do that. But that’d be really expensive, because they’re from all over the world.

You develop relationships with the people that are frequently commenting, because in some cases, those people have a secret blog, they don’t use their real name. I bare it all on my blog. But other people don’t want to lose their jobs, they don’t want to lose their friends, they don’t want people to know the nitty gritty details of what’s going on. So it’s cathartic in the sense that even if they’re using a fake name, they’re still being themselves, maybe even more so online than they can in their everyday life.

I think having social media and the blogging community around when I was younger would’ve made things easier, because back then, the only people I had to talk to were the ones that were making fun of me. You feel so alone. But now it’s different. A couple days ago, I posted a blog about how I hide my scars from self-harming, and I got a bunch of supportive comments. This whole conversation gets going that wouldn’t have happened before. Before, it was just, “Why are you showing those? You shouldn’t do that.” So I listened.

“Even if they’re using a fake name, they’re still being themselves, 
even more than they can be in everyday life.”

And if a comment someone makes online upsets me, I don’t have to respond. I can walk away, I can think about it and cool down. That can be a huge asset when you have borderline personality disorder, and sometimes have issues with impulse control. Someone said to me once that I shouldn’t consider having children or having a family until I’ve “fixed” myself. And I should stay in therapy for the sake of my future children, because borderline women make horrible mothers. I got to walk away from that comment for a couple of days. Eventually, I came back and just decided to say something along the lines of, “Thank you for your concern. I’ll make that decision for myself.” Initially, I just wanted to swear at them. But I don’t want to be that person, who acts first and thinks later. It’s helpful for me to be able to show myself that I can constructively be upset, because that can apply my life online and offline, as well.

I’m aware that there are people and sites out there that discriminate or marginalize people with mental illness. Everyone has an opinion. Obviously, social media and the Internet don’t discriminate about who gets to say what. But I can also use that to my advantage. I can write a response. The people who hate me get to say what they want, but so do I. It’s equalizing.

Social media helps in getting resources and recovery tools out, too. Not everyone wants to go to the library and sign out a book on self-harm or eating disorders, or they wouldn’t know what to Google. Some people might find it to be backwards, but keeping it to yourself for a while and connecting with people that don’t know you is a much less scary way to start tackling it than telling the people you’re close to.

“It can be a trigger”
Jessica Cockerill, 25
Coordinator, Consumer/Survivor Network, Friends & Advocates Peel

I started using social media around six years ago, when I was 17. My first experiences were not the best. When you’re already trying to create an identity in our world, trying to capture that and portray all that on social media is really hard. It’s even harder when people are putting up their identity in the best possible light that they can, and you feel like you have to try to compete with that. Emotionally, it was hard. When I was 17, I was already starting to experience some mental health issues. Anxiety was bad. Social situations were scary.

I got Facebook originally because of peer pressure. My boyfriend actually signed me up for Facebook, and I didn’t even want it. But a lot of things started revolving around Facebook invites or funny statuses, a lot of things that people would bring into reality. You feel so socially isolated if you’re not a part of it. If they can’t access you online, you don’t exist to them. That can be really dangerous for someone who’s already feeling isolated.

A lot of times, I just tried to avoid social media. Or tried to create things that I thought others would like or appreciate. You’re not really connecting with the real you, you just want to put up the nicest, hottest picture you can find that will compete with someone else’s seemingly exciting life. It took a long time to realize and understand that other people are creating their image and identity, too. You really don’t know what their life is like. But it puts out this unrealistic expectation that our lives are not good enough for other people.

“If they can’t access you online, you don’t exist. 
That can be really dangerous when you’re already isolated.”

I think it can be a trigger for people with mental illnesses. One of the most common things with mental illness is that your perception is wrong, so it’s very easy to let your anxiety take over your feelings and perpetuate unhealthy thoughts like, “They went out partying without me, that means they don’t like me. I’m not worthy and no one wants to be my friend, so why am I even here?” It can really worsen some of the mental health feelings and symptoms.

Then you have social media accounts and hashtags that encourage self-harm and eating disorders. Working in the mental health field, I can see why those are very, very dangerous. When things are encouraging poor coping mechanisms and there’s no one there saying, “You should ask for help, let me see what I can do,” people are only saying, “Yeah, go for it,” it’s really easy to take those people’s advice and go along with it than to hear the hard truth, which is that you need help.

Now, I really only use social media to read about things that are going on in the world, or for professional reasons. I connect my life with other people’s. I’ve stuck to the platforms that I feel the safest in, Facebook and Instagram. I used to feel like I was missing out when I was younger. But once you’re okay in your real life, you can forget about missing some things online, because that doesn’t make or break my identity.

For the most part, I think if the proper ownership and responsibility is taken with social media, it can be a great thing, but the lack of compassion and responsibility people have, and ownership people take over what they put out on social media is what really can destroy people’s mental health. Be critical of what you read and who’s posting it, who it’s meant for and what the overall message is.

Pride in Madness on Pinterest?

A friend of mine mentioned that Pinterest could be another avenue in which to share my blog.

I have a limited understanding of Pinterest other than people like to “pin” things they like such as wedding dresses and cute puppies.

So, in terms of using Pinterest to blog (the same way I would post to Twitter or Facebook) does it make sense? I do have the Pinterest button on my posts which would lead me to believe it can be another way of sharing.

Help please!

30 Day Mental Illness Awareness Challenge- Day 3

30 Day Mental Illness Awareness Challenge

Day 3: What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?

I have been doing some sort of treatment or engaging in some type of coping since I was 13 years old. While I believe the Day 3 prompt is 30 day challengemeant to be positive I believe it is important for me to talk about the “maladaptive” coping skills I have or have used and explain them. I am in NO WAY PROMOTING these techniques.  I will then proceed to talk about the positive treatments and coping skills that have worked for me.

“Maladaptive” (I use the quotations because poor and good coping is culturally based and I should really be the one determining whether or not a skills is beneficial to my life.)

– Self harm: cutting, burning, overdosing, starvation, ingesting inedible objects, freezing, punching walls, hitting myself

Various self harm techniques worked or have worked for me in the past because they provided a relief from what I was feeling, gave me a sense of control, allowed me to punish myself or allowed me to focus on physical pain rather than emotional pain. The only self harm technique I still currently engage in is cutting

-Drugs/Alcohol

I used substances as an escape. If I was feeling upset about something that was happening in my life then I would go get high or binge drink to relax and feel like I could have fun again. I enjoyed who I was when I was drunk (I never really got into drugs because they quickly stopped making be feel good) and everyone seemed to enjoy me for the most part when I was drunk. It was a way to bond with my friends and it made me feel “cool”.

-Sex

I used sex as a way to show myself that I was worthy of “love”. I made sure to go out of my way to do things other girl wouldn’t do so more guys would talk to me and be with me. It made me feel good to know that I was wanted by boys.

It is painfully obvious to me that while I used self harm, drugs/alcohol, and sex has ways to make me feel better they also made me feel worse and I live with the consequences of those behaviours to this day. Depending on harmful techniques and behaviours to help me get through the day is not how I want to be living. What positive things have been working for me?

Positive Treatment/Coping

Talk Therapy

Singing

DBT Workbooks

Blogging

Public Speaking

Zen Music

Baths

Sex with the Man I Love

Playing with My Cats

Reading

Wonder Woman

Talking Myself Through Negative Situations

 

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