I’m Way Too Sick to Write a Post This Week

Hey everyone!

I woke up on Monday with a 101.7 fever (yuck!) and haven’t been feeling much better, so I didn’t quite have it in me to write a solid post this week. Instead, I’m going to leave you with Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability.

You should probably drop everything and watch it right now.

I’m reading her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, right now, and it’s pretty life changing. For more on her work, check out her website at http://brenebrown.com/.

Take care of yourselves, and have a great week!

 

Advertisements

What to Do When You Backslide

So you have your self-care plan, and you’re taking the right medication, and you’re feeling great. You’re well-rested, happy, and healthy and it’s fantastic! In fact, so fantastic that you figure missing a day or two of your self-care or your medications or your healthy eating or whatever your self-care plan includes will probably not be a big deal. And you feel totally fine for the first couple days. Yay!, You think, I can finally relax a little on the self-care!

And then the third or fourth day comes around, and you’re dragging a little, but you still feel mostly fine. And then a week or two goes by and BAM! You’re lying on your couch, crying at a video of a raccoon and binge eating peanut butter straight out of the jar.*

I have a tendency (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) to continue indulging in whatever bad habit I’m indulging in instead of changing anything because I already feel like crap, so it doesn’t really matter at that point. Obviously, this isn’t a great solution. It doesn’t matter how many times I go through this, I always feel completely helpless and hopeless. I manage to convince myself that I have no idea how to get back to that awesome, totally in control feeling.

The last time I had this feeling (which happened to be a couple days ago), I talked to a friend who is much, much wiser than I am, and she gave me some really wonderful advice. She said that a bad day doesn’t mean the healing process doesn’t work or that you’ll never be better. It just means you need to go back to the basics and start your healing process from the beginning again.

See? I told you she was wise.

So I made a plan for what to do when I inevitably backslide, and now I’m going to share it with you.

What to Do When You Backslide

Ask for help. I don’t care how you do it, but this is the very first thing you need to do. Call your parents, call your best friend, tell your partner, post on Facebook, shout it from the rooftops. It doesn’t matter, just tell someone (anyone) that you’re struggling and you need a little extra support. On Wednesday, I posted on Facebook, “Dear Facebook, I’m having a really rough day. Can you say nice things to me, please?” You know I hate posts like that, but in this case, it was the absolute best way for me to get the help I needed. The comments came pouring in with love and support and kind words and it really, really helped. It can be hard to be honest about your struggles, but more often than not, it’s the best way to get the help you need.

Break the cycle. Put away the peanut butter,  dump the wine, throw out the cigarettes, stop online shopping for things you don’t need and get your ass off the couch. Whatever your particular brand of self-sabotage, you have to break the cycle if you ever want to feel better. Stop doing whatever harmful thing you’re doing and get out of the house for a little while. Go have coffee with a friend, explore the stores in your neighborhood, or just take a short, mindful walk. Pay attention to your surroundings: the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the world around you. You might be surprised by how much it helps.

Go back to your self-care basics. Bust out your self-care list (and if you haven’t made one yet, go to that post and make one now. It’s so worth it.) and check in with how you’re doing. My guess is that you probably aren’t sticking to it very well, if at all. Do your needs, and if possible, do them immediately after you get back from your mindful walk. If it’s safe and healthy for you with the energy you have, throw in as many of your wants and bonuses as you can.

Write affirmations and post them everywhere. Sit down with a post-it pad or a bunch of note cards and write down all of the nice things your best friend would say to you if he or she was there. “You’re beautiful.” “You’re brilliant.” “You’re so talented.” “You have a seriously fantastic ass.” “You can rock this day!” Then post them all over the place. On your bathroom mirror, your dresser, your bedside table, your kitchen cabinets, your fridge, your car. Make your favorite one the background on your phone. Your friends can’t always be there to tell you how fabulous you are, but you can do it yourself.

Treat yo self. Do something nice for yourself that doesn’t involve eating or spending money. My therapist sent me this awesome list a couple days ago (have I mentioned how much I love my therapist?) and I love it. Not only will whatever you do make you feel happier, just taking the time and effort required to do something nice for yourself will remind you how important and worthy of love you are.

Be kind and patient with yourself. Health and happiness isn’t an end goal, it’s a continuous process. You’re allowed to backslide, fall into bad habits and have bad days. It doesn’t make you bad or less than; it makes you human. Remind yourself of that when you backslide, and remember that you are still a wonderful person and everything is going to be okay.

Your turn! What do you do when you have a bad day? As always, you can comment here, or reach me via email at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Take care of yourselves!

*This is a totally fictitious scenario that is 100% made up and not at all based on my own life experiences**

**Just kidding.

Block Your Annoying Friends (And Other Tips to Improve Your Screen Time)

We all have that friend right? The one whose posts drive you crazy, make you feel guilty, or just plain bum you out, but you keep them around because you feel like a jerk blocking them. I talked about this a little over here, but today I’m going to talk about why you don’t need to feel guilty and why you absolutely, 100% definitely can and should block those folks.

Block Your Annoying Friends

There are a million different kinds of people you should probably block, but these are the big three:

  • The constant complainer. They always find something to complain about, whether it’s their health, the weather, their partner, their children, or anything else. No matter what happens, they seem to have a special skill for finding the negative and throwing it all over social media. It’s annoying and depressing, and there’s no way anyone is benefiting from that. 
  • The drama queen/king. The people who post stuff like “OMG, had the worst day today. I can’t even. 😦 😦 😦 ” and wait for the attention to come rolling in. That kind of negative attention seeking doesn’t serve any purpose except to bring everyone else down. If it’s someone you really care about, you can still be supportive, but take it off of social media. Block them, but text or call periodically to check in. Because really, your newsfeed doesn’t need to be filled with “I HATE my new hair! What do you guys think?” with 50 selfies. 
  • The aggressive believer. Whether it’s Christianity, atheism, veganism, or healthy eating, they know that their way is right and will use every post to convince you to join their cause. If their posts stress you out, block them. Even if someone is fighting for a great cause that you believe in, if their posts make you depressed or anxious or otherwise upset, it’s okay to block them, at least for a little while.

No matter how close you once were, how much you like someone in person, or how related to you they are, unless someone’s social media posts actively add to your life and make you happy, there is no reason to have them in your newsfeed. If you’re uncomfortable unfriending them completely, just block their posts or unfollow them. That way, you don’t have to see their posts and they’ll never know. You just get to reap the benefits of a more positive social media experience. If you want some mental health positivity in your life, you can follow FTWTWBlog on Instagram and Twitter or like Finding the Way to Well’s Facebook page.

Want more tips for cleaning up your screen time?

Set limits on your social media and connection time. I don’t check my phone before I leave the house in the morning, except for the time and the weather. Once you’ve showered and eaten and gotten dressed, you’re better prepared to face the day, which includes the potential stress of social media/texts/e-mails/calls/etc. At night, cut yourself off at least an hour before bed. This will give you some time to wind down without being inundated with potentially upsetting or stressful stuff, and the blue light is terrible for you at bedtime anyway.

Go off the grid during new, exciting experiences. I know it’s tempting to Instagram every moment of your vacation or every course of an expensive meal, but resist the urge. If you’re so focused on documenting and sharing everything, you won’t be able to be fully present and enjoy the experience. Take pictures, and if you want to, you can always post them later.

Know your boundaries with emotionally intense TV and movies. Pay attention to the way your body and brain react to upsetting, graphic, or scary TV and movies. I love scary movies, but I noticed that my anxiety levels would skyrocket for a few days every time I watched something scary. Now that I know that, I can make the choice to expose myself to scary stuff and ratchet up my anxiety if I want to, but mostly I avoid it. It took me a long time to accept this, but it’s okay to stop watching something if it upsets you. Turn it off. Leave the room. Leave the movie theater. Your mental health is your first priority, and it’s always okay to make the healthiest choice for you.

Avoid, avoid, avoid. Don’t click on the link to the blog post about animal abuse. Scroll right on past the heartfelt video about the deaf baby hearing its mother’s voice for the first time. Ignore the blog post about rape culture. I’m not suggesting that you live in a bubble and completely cut yourself off from anything that could ever upset you, but why are you willingly clicking on things that you know will make you cry? Are you going to solve the world’s problems by reading one more article? Probably not. It all goes back to that whole should/shouldn’t issue. You feel like you should read those articles and get worked up about those issues, but all it’s doing is upsetting you. I may have mentioned this a time or two, but your mental health is your first priority. If reading upsetting articles or seeing violent movies is making you feel worse, stop doing it. At least for a little while.

It can be a hard process to control your media intake, but ultimately it is so worth it. As always, let me know how it’s going via email at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Take care of yourselves, and keep fighting the good fight.

One Thing You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

DISCLAIMER: Please do not EVER adjust your medication without first talking to a mental health care professional. I’m not a professional, and this isn’t intended to be medical advice. Please, please, PLEASE talk to your psychiatrist before making any changes.

I went to see a new psychiatrist last week. I’ve struggled to find one that’s a good fit, and I think I’ve finally found the right person. If you’re someone who’s shared that struggle, you know what a big deal that is. My appointment was an hour and a half long, and I’ve never met with someone who was so thorough. As is always the case in a first session with a new psychiatrist, I struggled and dug in the deep recesses of my brain, trying to remember nine years’ worth of trial and error with psychiatric medications.

I laid everything out for her as she just nodded, took notes, and occasionally asked follow-up questions. At one point, she asked a question that I had never thought very hard about.

“Have you ever been on an antidepressant that helped for more than a couple months?”
“Um, no?”

That’s just the way antidepressants work, right? After a while, they stop working and you have to up your dosage or switch medications, right? …Right?

She didn’t comment on my answer, she just added it to her notes. Finally, after over an hour of this, she sat back from her desk and looked at me.

“Well, no wonder you feel awful. You should never have been on antidepressants.

Uh. What?

Bipolar Pills

It turns out that there is a sizable chunk of evidence that antidepressants shouldn’t be used to treat bipolar disorder. There’s all kinds of info out there that suggests that antidepressants can increase manic episodes, which is pretty scary. The real kicker for me though, it that antidepressants can actually lead to or worsen rapid cycling, which in a nutshell means that while it may shorten the depressive episodes, you’re more likely to relapse sooner and more frequently.

This isn’t even new information. All it took was a quick Google search to come up with a whole handful of articles on why antidepressants shouldn’t be used to treat bipolar. While we (obviously) shouldn’t rely on Google to make our medical choices for us, the fact is that the information is out there. So why the hell have I been on antidepressants for the past 9 years to treat my bipolar disorder?

What does this mean for you? Well, it depends on your diagnosis and history. If you’re someone who’s diagnosed bipolar, you’re on an antidepressant that’s been working for you for a long time (like, over a year), and you aren’t experiencing rapid cycling, you’re probably okay. If you’re taking antidepressants and you’ve noticed any of the following (whether you’re officially diagnosed bipolar or not), it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a conversation with your psychiatrist:

  • Rapid cycling (more than four mood episodes in a year)
  • Irritability/agitation
  • Severe insomnia
  • Increased manic episodes
  • Antidepressants only seem to improve your mood for a short time before getting worse again

We all know that I’m not opposed to medication. This post isn’t meant to scare people with bipolar disorder into going off their meds. For the love of God, DON’T DO THAT. Every person is different, and the right care plan for you might look completely different than the right care plan for me, even if we have the exact same diagnosis. If you’re someone who’s been put on antidepressants, it’s entirely possible that your psychiatrist knows about the risks and has decided for one reason or another that antidepressants are the right fit for you.

Don’t call your psychiatrist up and scream at them for being an irresponsible charlatan and screwing up your care (even if you want to). Just pay attention to yourself, your mood, and your medications and share the information with your psychiatrist. It never hurts to ask more questions and get more answers.

Part of me wants to be so angry with every psychiatrist who has put me on antidepressants (and there are a lot of them), but I’m trying really hard to focus on the positive: I’m finally in competent hands and getting the care I need. We’re (slowly) weaning off the antidepressant I’ve been on since I was released from the hospital and adding a mood stabilizer. I’ll let you know how it goes.

As always, I would love it if you would let me know how you’re doing via e-mail at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Take care of yourselves, and keep fighting the good fight.