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.”

 

It’s not a fantasy, it’s one possible reality

Photo: “One day you’ll wake up next to the love of your life in a pretty house with puppies and cute kids and all the hard things happening now will be worth it.”

 

I saw this picture this morning and it warmed my heart. I was waking up next to the love of my life, with my son moving around in my belly (he’s due this month) and my cat wandering around our apartment. All the hard things I went through were worth it for this moment. Scrolling through the comments on the picture I saw that a lot of people were not happy about this photo.

“Hate to break it to you, but this is not a guaranteed outcome! I use to fall for this sort of thought process/mentality…”

“Fantasy is not a good coping mechanism for mental illness.”

“Doesn’t sound like people are impressed with the false hope idea. Besides, unless you face and fix the underlying issues now, all that “puppies, kids, etc” won’t help much. You’ll still be struggling, expect now you have more to lose than before.” (although to the credit of this comment the person went on to say that if you do find these things in your life you have more to fight for which is good)

I get it. I really do. I have been in the mindset that I will always be suffering and that I cannot have what I want and need. It pains me to read comments that illustrate to me that many people think they cannot find things to make them happy, find the things that will make their horrible experiences worth it. It shouldn’t be a “fantasy” to live happily ever after in whatever form that may take for you. There are many possible realities and we can find the one that suits us. It is productive to have goals about how we want our life to look and it is very good for our mental health to have goals.

When B and I first started dating it was my goal to become more in control of my emotions to improve our relationship and my relationship with myself. I knew we wanted children and I would not put a child through my emotional chaos while I had no coping skills. I spent about a year learning and practicing DBT. Our relationship went up and down because that’s what happens and when we finally decided to try and have a baby it came from a strong and confident place. Even in the early spring of this year when our relationship briefly ended I modified my goal and began to work towards it while also managing the extreme emotional pain of a breakup. Our relationship, fortunately, was repaired so I know that my reality will constantly be changing. There are no guarantees to how your life will turn out and there never will be. We can only do what we can in the moment to try and create the best possible outcome.

We decide what is “worth it” in our lives. To think that reaching that satisfied moment in your life is a “fantasy”, “false hope”  and something you “fall for” is what will probably be a part of what stops you from finding and getting what you want/need. I know I am probably making it sound like this is easy. I know it is not. I have been on this journey since I was around 12 years old and I am still young. I have fallen down many times and almost didn’t get back up. I have had to push myself, accept the pain and find the lessons to help me become better.

Check out these mental wellness apps

A friend of mine recently sent me a list of mental wellness apps. I personally find technology to be a very useful tool in creating mental wellness (in moderation, I also believe in unplugging from technology). I have used a few apps myself and when you commit to them, which I admit I struggle to do, they are very helpful and can offer a lot of support and insight.  Here are the apps! If you try one or use one I would love to hear what you think about them.

Living Well App for Men’s Wellbeing

For Apple & Android

Free

“The Living Well App is specifically designed to assist men who have been sexually abused in childhood. We know that childhood sexual abuse can have a profound impact on men’s lives and relationships. However, we also know that men who have been sexually abused can live rich, full lives, develop healthy relationships and make positive contributions within our communities.” 

What’s Up?

For Apple & Android

Free

“What’s Up? is a fantastic free app utilising some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Stress and more!”

Optimism Mental Health Apps for Self-Tracking

For Apple, Mac, Windows & Web

Free

“…self-tracking applications, designed to help you increase your understanding of all the things that affect your mental health. The apps act as a springboard to detect patterns in your health and develop strategies to proactively manage depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.”

TruReach

For Apple & Android

Free

“TruReach is mental wellness on-the go. We’ve broken down cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) into quick, 5-minute lessons and packed them into the TruReach app…TruReach includes 18 CBT lessons that cover the following topics, all of which are important in the treatment of anxiety and depression…”

DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach

For Apple

$6.99

“DBT Diary Card was created by a Ph.D. psychologist trained directly by Dr. Marsha Linehan and at the Duke University Medical Center; we are experts in DBT, providing consultation to many in our community.”

MoodPanda- Mood Diary and Mood Tracker

For Apple, Android & Web

Free

“MoodPanda is your Interactive Mood Diary. MoodPanda helps you track how you’re feeling, with personal analysis, visualisations and interpretations of your mood, and a lovely, friendly and anonymous community of people there to support you if you need them.”

buddhify- Mindfulness and Meditation

For Apple & Android

$2.99

“Mindfulness & meditation for wherever you are…With over 11 hours of custom meditations for 15 different parts of your day including traveling, being online, taking a work break and going to sleep, buddhify will help you de-stress, sleep better and bring more awareness and compassion to all parts of your life.”

MoodKit

For Apple

$6.99

 

“MoodKit is a one-of-a-kind app designed to help you apply effective strategies of professional psychology to your everyday life! With four integrated tools, MoodKit helps you to…Take action to improve your life, feel better by changing how you think, rate & chart your mood to monitor progress, develop self-awareness & healthy attitudes…MoodKit draws upon the principles and techniques of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), one of the most effective and scientifically-supported methods of psychotherapy.”

MoodNotes

For Apple

$3.99

“Capture your mood and improve your thinking habits through an innovative approach to journaling! Moodnotes empowers you to track your mood over time, avoid common thinking traps, and develop perspectives associated with increased happiness and well-being.”

iMood Journal

For Apple & Android

$2.62

“This beautiful app is an ultimate mood journal, personal diary and charting tool. It will help you discover causes of your ups and downs, and get surprising insights into yourself!”

Stigma- Personal Journal, Gratitude Diary and Mood Tracker

For Apple & Android (Coming soon)

Free

“The personal journal is a lost art…journaling enhances self-awareness and helps us grow. But we still don’t do it.
There are two problems with the traditional journal. First, it is a difficult habit to keep (we hold the expectation we must write out hundreds of words). Second, it is impossible to reflect on and grow from the thousands of bygone experiences trapped between the unread pages. Stigma solves all that. Take 15 seconds to add a journal entry. The app organizes your entries into word-clouds to make self-reflection simple and meaningful. In short, Stigma is the personal journal, reinvented.”

 

When did things stop feeling like shit?

Things still can and do feel like shit. That’s just life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There comes a point though in our lives when things stop feeling like shit all the time. We have those moments of where we realize that we’re going to be ok.

I’m reading Hyperbole and a Half and in the second section on depression that author, Allie Brosh, explains the moment she realized things can stop feeling like shit. Brosh was having a cry on the floor when she noticed a shriveled up, lone piece of corn under her refrigerator. For reasons she cannot explain, seeing this piece of corn made Brosh laugh uncontrollably. Something about this piece of corn and that moment told her that things can be less shitty. This got me thinking about the moment in my life when I realized things can be less shitty.

I was 18 years old and was dating a complete idiot. For online purposes, we’ll call him “S”. S and I dated for 2 months or so and I even took him to prom (which was a shit-show). He was a few years older than me, in his very early 20s,

Image: a happy-faced ball surround by sad-faced balls.

Image: a happy-faced ball surround by sad-faced balls.

and was first generation Canadian to Italian Catholic immigrants (which is relevant from a cultural difference stand-point). I met S through my ex’s friend when I went to see a movie with them. S tried to engage me in a conversation about the movie after it was over and I blew him off. A few days later I was told by my ex’s friend that S liked me. Silly, vulnerable me, thought that, that was amazing and because of that fact I must like him back. Oddly enough I was actually dating B, my current partner, at the time and justified leaving him for S because S lived closer to me. Very quickly I saw that I had made a mistake dating S. He was extremely controlling and demeaning. He expected me to be like his mother, a “wife” that would serve his needs and not question him. It was some hardcore Italian Catholic ideologies (I am well aware that not all Catholics and Italians are like this, this is just what he and his family were like and those were the reasons he identified). After 2 months of being told what to do and made me feel horrible and, confused S broke up with me over the phone after I called him to let him know that I was going to spend a second night with a friend. Apparently, I had no right to spend multiple days in a row with my friends. I got off the phone with him, cried for 10 minutes, and then carried on with me life. This was the moment things stopped being so shitty.

While the situation was horrible, it was extremely different from other situations I had found myself in even a year before when I was 17 years old. I had never questioned my poor treatment by others as strongly as I did with S. Everything he said and did to me I found myself saying, and sometimes even to his face, “No, that’s not right.” Then, not only did I say it or think it, I stood by it. This was also the time I decided to stop taking psych drug. The exact moment I realized though that I was going to be ok in my life, that I would not die young or be miserable forever, was when S broke up with me and I didn’t fall to pieces. The 10 minute cry was for myself, not for him. I cried out of love and compassion for myself. I cried because I was sorry that I had put myself through such a horrible time with such a horrible person. I cried because I was happy the relationship was over.

From that moment on things have only gone forward. My path towards being the person I want to be isn’t a straight one and trust me, yours will not be straight either. There were many moments of where I fell and felt like I was losing it but since that moment with S, I have been able to bounce back faster and come out stronger. I can only describe it as a being like a switch. That time when I was 18, for some reason, flicked the switch in my mind that let me know things will be ok and that switch has stayed on.

No, we are talking. Are you still not listening?

Image: Captain Picard, from Star Trek, doing a face palm.

Over the past week or so I have seen a handful of posts on Facebook about Kristen Bell sharing her experience of depression and anxiety. I adore Kristen Bell as an actress, person and someone who shares my name. She is one of many who have experienced the horrible sadness and dread the comes with depression and anxiety. There was one article headline that required a face palm. It read, “No One Talks About This Type Of Illness — But Kristen Bell Says She’s Done Staying Silent“. At first, I thought to myself, ‘What illness? Does she have one of the diagnoses that no one really talks about?’ As I mentioned above, Bell experienced depression and anxiety. Que face palm. What do they mean “no one talks about this type of illness”?? Depression and anxiety are the most experienced and spoken about mental health diagnoses! Not only are they the most talked about experiences but the same information about them is fed to us over and over again. Are people not listening? This is starting to feel like a broken record.

I know that I’ve been talking. I know that many of you have been talking. Where are our voice getting lost?

I don’t exactly have a solution for what I’m writing about. I think I’m still emotionally charged. I know that when you’re in activism, your issue surrounds your life. I guess for many people, mental wellness is not a daily conversation. It needs to be.

Stay loud, stay proud!

 

 

 

Mad Pride Toronto 2016: There is nothing wrong with me. Something happened to me.

Here is the third piece I have written for Toronto Mad Pride! I am especially attached to this piece and it related to another recent blog post I wrote where I looked at how realistic trauma is portrayed in The Hunger Games. In this piece I come to terms with what trauma really is to, evidence that something has happened to me, not that something is wrong with me. I think many of you will be able to relate.

I was on a constant quest to fix myself so people would like me. I believed that people treated me poorly because I was difficult, sad, annoying, and impulsive. It never occurred to me that the poor treatment I received meant there was something wrong with them and how they saw me as a person. – Kristen, 2016

Here is the link to the full post: http://www.torontomadpride.com/2016/05/there-is-nothing-wrong-with-me-something-happened-to-me-kristen-bellows/