mental health

How to Work Through a Problem

Life can be unpredictable, chaotic, stressful, out of balance and just straight up crazy. It is vital to our mental health to be able to manage the stress in our lives in a healthy manner. Unfortunately, we are not born with the knowledge of balancing mental health and the inevitable stressors that life throws our way. We surely did not learn this in home economics class either. We are thrown to the wolves and some of us figure it out, while others are hiding in their bathroom with chocolate and tears.

People naturally gravitate towards a way of relief from the lemonade raining in our lives. For some, that relief is alcohol, drugs, shopping, gym, sex, and so on. Addictions come in many forms and with many masks. You may not even realize that you have your own demons because it is packaged neatly in a decorative class that says “Mommy’s Sippy Cup.” Your addictions may be something with healthy attributes, like going to the gym. Only, you work out more than you do anything else and you have developed an obsession with your workout routine, schedule, nutrition and progress to an unhealthy level. Or, maybe you don’t self-medicate but you isolate yourself from your friends, you stop doing the things you enjoyed once, and maybe you started having anxiety attacks.

In a nutshell, stress makes us do weird things. It makes us sick, or sicker. It steals the joy out of life when it is not under control. It tears relationships apart. It throws hurdles in our way and derails our plans. It imprisons us in a haze of distractions while our problems pile up.

In my Introduction to Healthcare class, our first assignment involved the problem-solving process. I am sharing what I learned so that you can apply this five-step process to areas in your life that may benefit from finding a solution.

 

Problem:

 What is your problem? Maybe it is something huge and overwhelming or it could be something small and petty that could get swept under the rug. Regardless of the size, every issue should be dealt with because they add up and they grow. They fill up your cup and overflow. The next thing you know, you are drowning.

Tip: Keep a small notebook. Create lists of goals, tasks, issues, solutions, progress, failures, etc.

Fact: It is okay to fail. Think of it like you just took one for the team and learned something from it; now you can share your failure and knowledge with others so that they can grow from it like you did. Failure is awesome. It builds character and wisdom. It’s a challenge and it comes with lessons and stories. It is far from boring and it fuels fire and births bravery… if you allow it. Perspective is everything. Many successful people would not be where they are today without the failures that happened throughout their journey.

Step One – Identify the Problem

Observe the full picture. What is the root of the issue? What is the cause? Are there other factors involved? Look beyond the obvious.

 Example: I hate my job and it makes me miserable.

Step Two – Gather Information

Decisions influenced by opinions and emotions may result in poor outcomes. What are the possible solutions and outcomes? What are the facts? What do you feel? What do you want? What or who would be a reliable source of information in reviewing options? What could be the consequences or risks? Ask yourself some questions. Write it down if you need to.

Example: Why do I hate my job? Is it the environment, coworkers, boss, career field or the hours? What is causing me to be unhappy at my place of work?

Step Three – Create Alternatives

We are finding solutions to our problem, not problems with our solutions. Create a list of options, both positive and negative.

Example: Ask for a raise. Go back to college. Update your resume and actively search your job field for opportunities. Find out if you can move to a different position; perhaps you don’t feel challenged or fulfilled in your current position. Do some soul-searching: are you depressed and your job is affected by your mood instead of the other way around? Try changing up your environment by promoting weekly group challenges to boost morale, or doing squats before lunch while answering phone calls, or getting to know coworkers better by planning a night out.

Step Four _ Choose an Alternative and Take Action

This is an important step. What is the point of steps 1-3 if we aren’t going to actually get our hands dirty and make a real effort to resolve this issue? If some of your alternatives are extreme or risky, try the other options first if you want to be on the side of caution. Multi-tasking solutions is also a possibility since some alternatives may take more time than others. Some alternatives may be a quick fix while you work on another alternative that may be more of a long-term solution.

Example: “I really want to go back to college and change careers but it would be a huge process, expensive, a lot of work and a big challenge. I am going to try to make friends with my coworkers and build those relationships and then ask my boss for new responsibilities and a raise.” This is a great start, but keep in mind those were problems for the first solution. Going back to college may be a big challenge but it could be worth it and it could be the best solution. Don’t create problems to scare off a possible solution. However, working with the other alternatives first is a great idea while you investigate the other options.

Step Five – Evaluate and Revise as Needed

Now it is time to review your results. What has been effective or ineffective? At this point, you can adjust your alternatives or fine-tune them. Revise your plan until you sort out the best solution.

Example: You decided you are just not passionate about your job and your boss can’t afford to promote you. You decide to go back to school but this will be a process, so you enroll in online classes. To make the long-term process more enjoyable, you build relationships with your coworkers and convinced your boss to allow casual Friday pizza day to boost morale. You also started listening to podcasts while you work and got a cat to help improve your mood when you go home.

 

*Hopefully this outline has helped or inspired you to work through stressful situations or problematic times in your life. If you still find that you can’t manage stress, look into getting professional help like seeing a therapist. There may also be local resources in your area to help get through certain issues. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. 

Health, mental health

The Invisible Diaries Podcast and Show

I am so excited to announce the upcoming launch of a show with my dear friend Amber, called The Invisible Diaries! The show will be shedding light on invisible illnesses. We are going to interview guests as well.

If you are interested in being on our show, please emails us at theinvisiblediaries@gmail.com and introduce yourself.

Instagram and Facebook Daily Topics

  • Mental Health Monday – Mental health awareness, support and education
  • Teach Me Tuesday – Education, information and learning
  • Words of Wisdom Wednesday – Quotes and inspiration
  • Thankful Thursday – Focusing on the good and finding balance
  • Favorites Friday – Favorite things and product highlights

Stay tuned and follow us on social media for updates on our official launch!

mental health

Sage

Oftentimes when others walk away or inflict hurt upon us, we are left questioning ourselves. We dissect every memory, moment and action to search for answers of what went wrong. Our self worth begins to crumble.

Sometimes, what happens is that the toxic person who hurt you is bringing you down in order to justify their actions. People don’t like to own up to their mistakes or take responsibility for their actions, and they get away with it by adding insult to injury.

While you are feeling blindsided, broken or down, they get you to believe that it is all your fault. Just remember that you are going to get through this and you will look back and appreciate your growth and outcome, as hard as it may be to see now.

mental health

Can psychotherapy change sexual orientation?

Can psychotherapy change sexual orientation? 

*Written for my Psychology 2 reaction assignment

            The topic of homosexuality being a psychiatric or psychological issue has become a taboo discussion, criticizing therapists as being homophobic or prejudice. Many homosexuals struggle with rejection, violence, hatred, and shame for their orientation. When a field of professionals label sexual orientation as an illness or deviation as a result of a developmental defect, it is harmful and dangerous.

Research has shown that homosexuality in animals is more common than we thought. There have been discoveries of homosexual behavior in animals in more than 10% of species throughout the world in over 450 different animals (Yale Scientific). The existence of particular animals displaying homosexual behavior is not only prevalent but may also be an evolutionary advantage by strengthening social bonds and reducing competition.

The human species is obviously more complex than animals when you factor our environment, upbringing, and many other aspects make our lives much more diverse. That being said, how can animals exhibiting homosexual behavior be compared to humans? It simply cannot be a logical comparison; therefore stating that homosexuality is psychiatric for a human does not make sense when you include other species. You don’t look at the two beautiful male giraffes necking one another at the zoo and think, “what is wrong with them?” In nature, it is not an obscure thing to see two same-sex creatures together.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) made history by removing homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses. However, forty years later, the LGBTQ community is still struggling with achieving that reality as they are denied services, rights, employment and so on. The APA continues to advocate for the homosexual community, opposing conversion therapy and opposing the Trump Administration ban on qualified trans-gender people serving in the military (Human Rights Campaign).

Efforts to change homosexual orientation lack medical justification since it cannot be considered a pathological condition (Gantt). Sexual orientation has a natural variation that is not harmful, nor does it have any effect on those around them. Conversion therapy, a pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation, is a dangerous and discredited practice.

In biblical times, being left-handed was a curse and a weakness. Throughout history, children were forced to use their right hand. Sinister is the Latin word for left-handed and was considered a defect and a carrier of misfortune. Attempts to treat this “defect” resulted in humiliation and learning difficulties (Gantt). When you think about how ridiculous this seemed, consider how ridiculous it is to ridicule any species for their sexual orientation.

 

 

 

References

Fereydooni, A. (2012). Do Animals Exhibit Homosexuality? Yale Scientific. Retrieved from: http://www.yalescientific.org/2012/03/do-animals-exhibit-homosexuality/

Gantt, E. (2018). Taking Sides, Clashing Views on Psychological Issues. United States: McGraw-Hill Education.

Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Retrieved from: http://hrc.org/blog/flashbackfriday-today-in-1973-the-apa-removed-homosexuality-from-list-of-me

 

 

mental health

30 Day Mental Health Challenge

Check off each day as you go. If you miss a day, go back to it and complete at the end.

Feel free to share any of your challenges and activities on Instagram with #30DayBlu

  • Day 1: Write a list of your goals for the month
  • Day 2: Put your headphones on and go on a 15 minute walk.
  • Day 3: Treat yourself! Whether it is a concert, hot bath, massage or ice cream… you deserve it.
  • Day 4: Write a letter to someone who hurt you and then burn it.
  • Day 5: No phone for the evening! Shut off your phone before dinner and don’t touch it till morning.
  • Day 6: Start a new book or continue reading the book that you haven’t finished yet.
  • Day 7: Compliment 3 complete strangers
  • Day 8: Plan a mini adventure for your next day off. Check out a nearby town. Go to a museum or garden, for example.
  • Day 9: Reach out to a person you have been out of touch with; ask them how they’ve been.
  • Day 10: Clean your closet and donate what you don’t use or wear anymore
  • Day 11: Try something new! Go to a yoga class or an art class.
  • Day 12: Look in the mirror and tell yourself 3 great things about yourself
  • Day 13: Cut something toxic out of your life. Examples: a bad habit, toxic relationship, sugar addiction.
  • Day 14: Health day! Smoothies, salads and clean eating. Focus on health and nutrition today.
  • Day 15: Spend 15 minutes stretching and focusing on breathing.
  • Day 16: Do something nice and unexpected for someone.
  • Day 17: Be present. Make eye contact all day, with each conversation you have. Even if it is the cashier at the grocery store. Be aware of your surroundings and listen.
  • Day 16: Get a jar and fill it with all the loose change you find throughout the day. Label it with your choice: vacation, anniversary, Christmas funds, new shoes, massage…
  • Day 17: No social media till noon! Check on your list of goals for the month or catch up on a day you missed.
  • Day 18: Learn something new. Spend 15 minutes reading or researching about an interesting topic.
  • Day 19: Art day! Create something: a drawing, poem, painting, or anything of your choice. Check Pinterest if you are drawing a blank.
  • Day 20: Think of something you have done that you regret or are ashamed of. Forgive yourself. You are human and we make mistakes and grow from them. Think about what you learned. Follow with a self-care activity.
  • Day 21: Send a card or letter to a good friend or family member.
  • Day 22: Clean your nightstand, wash your bedding and plan to go to bed early tonight. No tv or phone! Focus on breathing and visualize the ocean or mountains.
  • Day 23: Forgive someone who never apologized. Think about how you were hurt and let it go. You owe it to yourself, not them.
  • Day 24: Donate some items to the Humane Society, local food pantry or women’s shelter.
  • Day 25: Do something outside of your comfort zone.
  • Day 26: Make that doctors appointment you have been putting off… your annual check up, routine bloodwork or that follow up and never went to.
  • Day 27: Check on your strong friends. Ask them how they are doing, reach out and give them an opportunity to open up. Those who appear put together sometimes have silent battles.
  • Day 28: Clean your vehicle. If you don’t have a vehicle then clean your bathroom or office.
  • Day 29: Photo day! Take photos of throughout the day to show your perspective through your eyes, but in black and white. Get creative.
  • Day 30: Pay it forward
mental health

Are Antipsychotic Medications Safe?

I am a firm believer that everyone should have genetic testing done. Genetic testing will show which medication you do or do not metabolize as well as which medications you may have an abnormal reaction to. This includes blood thinners, seizure medications, pain medications and psychiatric medications.

Pharmocogentics testing for CYP450, CYP2D6, CYP2D19 genotypes will show personalized information on metabolism for antidepressants and antipsychotics. The MTHFR gene mutation is common in up to 40% of the population and can also alter the response to medications and actually can be the culprit of mental illness alone. The CACNA1C gene is responsible for flow of calcium into neurons and is linked to 5 mental health disorders.

Doctors treat mental illness like a one-size-fits-all standard diagnosis and treatment. Mental illness can be a result of many factors, such as a biochemical imbalance (vitamin deficiencies) rather than simply requiring SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or blocking certain receptors. You have to ask yourself, “why does this medication’s adverse reactions include reactions that you are trying to treat?”

Some of these medications can increase the risk of getting diabetes, lower sex drive due to hormonal changes, cardiovascular disorders, involuntary muscle movements, seizures and even a drop in white blood cells.

FDA approval of an antipsychotic medication does not mean it is effective. The FDA only sees one or two of the best studies shown for short-term effectiveness. After 1987, doctors were shocked to have to admit that SSRIs could cause fatal reactions and induce psychosis, mania and depression (Gantt 2018). In fact, none of these drugs are allowed to claim that they may prevent suicide.

In Taking Sides: Psychological Issues, it states that at least 90% of the infamous homicidal school shooters were already under the care of a psychiatrist (or psych drug prescriber) and were either taking or withdrawing from one or more psychiatric drug. The other 10% are simply unknown due to their medical files being secured by authorities.

It is safe to say that these medications can do harm and may not be safe for everyone.

References:

Gantt, E. E., & Slife, B. (2018). Taking sides: Clashing views on psychological issues, 20th edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

http://www.mensahmedical.com/what-are-biochemical-imbalances/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033318206700299

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-integrationist/201409/genetic-mutation-can-affect-mental-physical-health

Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Rare Disease Day

It is Rare Disease Day so obviously I am jumping on this moment to raise awareness. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and a rare type, called cardiac-valvular EDS or cvEDS.

Hypermobility is very common with EDS. There are many, many other health issues that fall under the umbrella due to this collagen defect. Imagine your joints are like rubber, frequently popping out of place from even just a hug or rolling over in bed. Sometimes these joints stay out of place or wear down. It is a painful disease to many.

This does not only affect joints but can also affect your organs.

We are all different and we call ourselves Zebras because in the medical field, doctors and nurses are trained that when they hear hooves to look for horses not zebras. This mentality has caused me to go undiagnosed and medically neglected for my entire life, up until I had genetic testing last year. Despite my heart issues and frequent ER visits, being young and seemingly healthy has had me labeled as drug seeking or having anxiety attacks.

The reason why is because EDS and dysautonomia (dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system) does not show up on routine blood work. I have never done drugs, besides cannabis, and even after open heart surgery and a broken sternum I did not even finish my pain meds prescription. I have been treated as if I were an IV drug user, because in my area that is the only reason someone of my age would have this extent of damage to their heart. I am so incredibly thankful to now be taken seriously with a diagnosis, but it is bittersweet because this syndrome is progressive and for me, my heart is always at risk. In my recent echo, I have developed a dilated aortic root. This is beyond scary to me because EDS, especially cvEDS comes with aneurisms. Dealing with this type of diagnosis as well as chronic pain and illness is mentally exhausting.

I am passionate about awareness is because it took so fucking long to be heard. I suffered for so long not taking proper care of myself and not knowing the correct treatments. I have been called a hypochondriac by exes and have hidden behind a mask for years. I want others to know they are not alone and I want medical professionals to see us.

Health, mental health

How Can Anyone Heal With Toxic Positivity?

We are programmed to praise positivity and joy while shunning grief and sadness, which isolates those who need help. As children grow after years of being told to behave and smile, they become adults wearing masks. Our bodies suppress anger, pain, sorrow, suffering and negative emotions that we are not allowed to acknowledge. These buried feelings grow with no release as we walk rampant, showing our teeth to the world to presume only happiness exists within us.

Relationships deepen through vulnerability. People need to open up about their fears, not tuck them away to pretend life is perfect. The world sees strength defined as being tough and resistant to anything other than joy. Sensitivity is seen as weakness.

People need to open up about their sorrows, not hide them with a smile that says “I’m fine.” People need to discuss their anger, not bottle it up. People will explode. People will crumble.

How can anyone heal in an environment that doesn’t allow basic human emotion to breathe?

We are all responsible and need to change our way of thinking so that we can make others feel safe to talk and reach out.

Our culture is designed to suppress half of our basic human emotions, leaving us depressed actors.

It is time to face the reality that life is not perfect and human emotions are not linear. Life is hard and pretending that we are all okay is dangerously exhausting.

Stop telling people to suck it up or that they will be fine. Ask how you can help, listen, and pay attention to the subtle details. Check on your strong friends, your happy friends, and your quiet friends.

Take off your masks and let others know it’s okay to not be okay. It is okay to cry, to grieve, to be angry, to feel lost and to feel frustrated.

We are not robots.

We can’t heal by dreaming of rainbows to swallow our pain and trauma. We heal through a process. We prevent crumbling by expressing emotions. We cannot continue to build a stigma that negative emotions equal weakness. It is time to change the rules.

Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Waking Up in Pain

Mornings are hard. When you think of Sundays, you think of sleeping in and waking up to the sun finding it’s way to to you. You think of sitting up, a nice stretch and a moment to admire the open window sharing hints of a beautiful day.

The reality is that you wake up from pain. And you have woken up several times already but you hurt too much to go back to sleep and the sun is up now, so you may as well get out of bed. Lying in bed hurts. It isn’t this relaxing thing where you can leisurely sprawl out in bed and feel like you are on a cloud, melting into your mattress. No, you have to move because one position makes your tailbone go numb and another hurts your collarbone and lying on your stomach makes your back feel broken.

So, now you get up and everything pops back into place. Almost everything. Your left hand and lips are tingling and numb but it only last a few minutes. You walk to the bathroom, holding on to everything you pass for stability so that you don’t fall. Even when you sit down, reaching to wipe is excruciating and demoralizing. It breaks you just glimpsing into the future, wondering if are going to need help wiping your own ass one day. Then, as much as you want to crawl back into bed and melt into your significant other, you quietly walk out of the room so you can find something to do and walk off the pain of sleeping.

Your head is killing you and you are nauseous as if you are hungover. As you walk to the kitchen, everything fades away and you can’t see. Your body starts to feel fuzzy and go numb, just like before you pass out. You don’t typically fully pass out so you know you can just keep walking through it as long as you hold on the way there. You are a pro and have smiled and held conversations while on the brink of passing out but you know it passes and this is your norm.

When pain levels are high, your morale is low. Your dreams and ambition slide over to the back burner. Sometimes they even get put away into Tupperware to decay in the back, hidden behind the fruit. Sometimes the sunshine creeping in through the window looks so far away. But you just get through this. You hold on to the idea of your next good day, whenever that may be. You find hope in new remedies and whatever ways you can try to have control over your health. You find hope in the people who support you and your loved ones.

“Mornings are hard. When you think of Sundays, you think of sleeping in and waking up to the sun finding it’s way to to you. You think of sitting up, a nice stretch and a moment to admire the open window sharing hints of a beautiful day.”

*On the pain scale of 1-10, I have never been under a five. My one is a five. I am not wanting sympathy but what I am wanting is to be honest about how I feel instead of hiding with an autopilot response of “I’m fine.” I want to raise awareness for people like me so they don’t feel alone, and for people without chronic pain so that they can understand their loved one or friend. We live in a world of sucking it up and smiling through the pain. We are suppressed and depressed with a bottled soul. It isn’t right. Be real and let others be real so they they aren’t lost and alone.

mental health

Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity is a thing. We are raised to suck it up and smile. Well, fuck that. I want my friends and family to be real. I want to know about your shitty day. We all have those days. I want genuine. Raw. I don’t want you to fake anything for me or anyone else. Let people feel safe! Break the stigma of bottling shit up and autopilot responses like “I’m fine, and you?” Mental health is an epidemic because we all participate in hiding, making everyone feel alone. It’s time for change.