Self Care Club // Therapy Threads

Guys, life has been seriously chaotic lately. With new opportunities and adventures around each corner, I’ve been almost on standby – waiting to embrace the unknown of certain areas of my life.

I had reached out to Therapy Threads – a fantastic, meaningful company that combines aromatherapy and wellness with fashion – to be part of their Self Care Club a few months back because I truly believe in their mission, and the inspiring founder, Dani Singer.

Self care is something constantly discussed in the mental health community and what is so beautiful about it is how different it looks to everyone. While it can be marketed over social media as taking a bath, using bath bombs or a facial – it’s so much more than that.

Whether it’s reading your favorite book, going for a drive without a destination, exercising, or taking a nap – the focus isn’t really on the activity itself. It’s the meaning and purpose behind it.

Whatever it may be, self care is an active way that those with mental illness nurture the practice of putting ourselves first.

While I swear by my own forms of self care now, I didn’t always practice it actively. I still find myself having trouble truly focusing on myself. More recently, while learning about a new flyer my therapist gave me, my first thought was, I would love to share this on the blog – people would learn so much from it! But, what about me? I had to process it and learn too. I was completely skipping myself and my therapist didn’t hesitate to remind me.

It is companies like Therapy Threads that also help to remind me of the real mission. I’m so glad I get to partner with this wonderful brand that has come from such an authentic place.

Delivering hope and healing one thread at a time, Therapy Threads is the product of passion for using fashion as a foundation for wellness. Combating mental illness, their patent-pending aromatherapy scarves aren’t just super cute – you are literally wrapped up in the benefiting power of essential oils when wearing one of these bad boys. Cool, right? 

Dedicated to fighting the stigma against mental illness, Therapy Threads even gives a portion of the proceeds from each purchase to health and wellness organizations near and dear to their hearts.

An impressive woman, entrepreneur, designer, mental health advocate, and psychotherapist, Dani Singer created Therapy Threads to combine “scents of style and purpose.” Making it her life’s mission to introduce alternative therapies that empower healing, Singer is a survivor of sexual abuse, bullying and domestic violence. Spending years struggling with PTSD, depression and anxiety – she was determined not to let her past define her future. Now, she has decided to use her experiences to help others heal.

What is the Self Care Club? 

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Friends, I’m so stoked to talk about this. Not only are the shirts way cute from this brand – these brand ambassadors are kicking ass. A mental health advocacy club curated by Singer herself, the powerful people that make up this group help to build awareness and end the stigma associated with mental illness and sexual assault.

Promoting strength through the struggle, Self Care Club shows everyone that stigma isn’t cool and most importantly – we aren’t alone in this fight.

I’m so proud to have found my way to all of these courageous brands fighting the same cause as what drives this blog each and every day. I could never have dreamed that in starting this blog back in May I would be repping for such an empowering company, but pinch me – here we are.

 

 

Want to be part of the Self Care Club? Click here to share your story! 

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby // 4 Ways To Be More Sex Positive

For the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling like I want to start having sex again. That’s right, I said it. 

It’s been about four months now since my breakup, and I haven’t had any partners in the meantime. I needed this time to focus on my own growth, get past the pain. But since I’ve moved out of the acceptance phase, I no longer feel an attachment, or guilt at the notion of being intimate with another person.

Recently, I’ve had the option to engage in sex again, but haven’t taken it. I wanted to speak with my therapist about it, and honestly – that’s something I have trouble with. I consider myself a pretty open person in general, but when it comes to sex, I tend to get uncomfortable. I’ve bought into the idea that sex is something you don’t talk about. While in therapy, I’ve made a conscious effort to venture past my comfort zones and that includes talking about sex. Awkward, bumbling and instantly embarrassed, I finally got the words out:

“I think I want to have sex again, but the idea of another man in my space makes me a little uncomfortable.” 

To which my therapist replied, “If you have hesitation, wait. Write about it, think on it. Sex is okay – it feels good.”

This was exactly what I needed to hear, and what prompted me to write this post. My therapist was so sex positive in that statement, and it inspired me to become more positive about my own pleasure.

Before I ever had sex, I always thought it would be with the love of my life. It would be this amazing, fantastic, super special event. In reality, it was with my first boyfriend and it wasn’t anything to write home about. I had held sex on such a pedestal my entire life (or as long as I had been aware sex existed) that my expectations were shattered. Eventually it got better, but the first boyfriend and I broke up down the line. It would be two more years until I ventured out again.

Honestly, the reason I waited so long was because of shame. As women, we get such a negative label attached to being sex positive, we are called names: 

Whore

Trashy

Slut

Naughty

Attention-seeking 

 

While men get names like fuck boy, women really have the brunt of the shaming. These puritanical ideas about sex, that having a lot of it is bad, nasty, and shameful, causes us to feel guilty for liking it.

But why? For years, I gave into what society whispered in my ear that I was shameful or “slutty,” for sleeping around, but no more.

I am a woman that knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it. 

I protect my body and practice safe sex, regardless of what men in the past have tried to “talk me into.” I know how to say no. Just because we enjoy sex, doesn’t mean we don’t have standards. Embrace your sexuality, don’t allow other projected ideas to hinder your experiences.

I wasn’t always this way, and I still struggle. Getting back into having sex two years ago was a challenge. I slept around, but I had literally never done that before. It started off very empowering – I was exploring my sexuality. But, after it stopped with one particular person, I sought it out in anyone, and that’s where the growth and empowerment ended.

I was seeking it out in random men, when I wasn’t in the mind frame to be engaging in that form of sexual activity anymore. Sleeping with random people is okay, if you are okay with it. I would leave feeling empty, unfulfilled and anxious. It wasn’t until a friend gave me some guidance, and my therapist told me that I was seeking validation in the wrong places, that I made a conscious effort to stop. Months later, my second boyfriend and I smacked into each other and 9 months later, here we are. Single and ready to mingle.

Being sex positive means engaging in open and honest communication. It means being accepting of all people’s consensual sexual lifestyles. It means breaking down the concept that one kind of sex practice is better than the other and building a community of people who respect each other and are thoughtful, rather than judgmental. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to become more sex positive:

 

Make room for the asexuals 

Having sex is healthy, but so is not having sex. Some people are asexual, which means they do not experience any sexual attraction. Close to 1% of the population identifies as asexual and while that may seem like a low statistic, it’s still human beings. People with hearts, souls and bodies who have a right to be respected. Others might be gray-sexual, which is a more fluid orientation between asexual and sexual. Not everyone is a completely sexual being, and sex isn’t always essential.

 

Consent is crucial

When there are two consenting adults, anything is possible. Respecting consent is an essential part of being sex positive. Everyone has the right to have sex – or not – on their own terms.

 

Say no to slut shaming

I’m sure you’ve heard someone call women who take birth control pills a slut before. While it’s unfortunate, slut shaming is still alive and well. I’ll admit it, I’ve participated in it as a young woman in my early 20’s. The word was very popular and people threw it around a lot. You were a slut for sleeping around, taking birth control, or even engaging in sexual behavior that wasn’t “the norm.”

Since close to 80% of American women take birth control, including myself, I guess we are all sluts. Whether it’s “feeling bad” for the women who work in pornography or saying that girl was “asking for it,” we must check ourselves before we shame people for voluntarily showing their sexuality.

Take the right and wrong out of being turned on 

So many of us are taught that sexuality is supposed to look a certain way. Instead of relying on porn, the media or what your friends like to do in the bedroom, focus on what you like. Write it down, delve deeper into your own mind, you might like what you find.

BDSM, fetishes, role-playing – all completely acceptable and okay when it’s among two consenting adults. Just because more unknown or unexplored sexual practices could turn you off, doesn’t mean they are wrong. This form of knee jerk reaction is what keeps people discriminated against and marginalized. Let’s respect and acknowledge everyone!

 

Having – or not having – sex is a healthy part of life. Sex can be a form of intimacy, linked to relationships and complex experiences, but there can also be many other forms of intimacy without the act of sex. Whether you do everything, or nothing at all, it’s important to keep ourselves in check when it comes to sex.

While you should never police others for their sexual activity, keeping track of what does or doesn’t make you comfortable is key. Questions like: What is this doing for me? How do I feel afterward? How is my sexual activity affecting other areas of my life like my anxiety/depression/ other mental illnesses?

When we ask these questions of ourselves, we are not only engaging in sex positive behavior, we are closer to being happy healthy sexual beings. So get out there and seek pleasure, but be respectful of others and aware of your actions.

 

 

 

Do you struggle with shame when it comes to sex? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

 

Skin Deep // Linn

A secret shame for most people with mental illness, skin picking isn’t a disorder regularly talked about – until now. Picking her skin for as long as she can remember, Linn’s habit began innocently. Growing into a full forced act that seemed to calm her anxiety, it felt like something she needed to do.

Sharing her story of recovery piece by piece, Linn is constantly conquering dermatillomania. Opening up about her journey through Instagram, meet Linn and learn some tips on how she battles the body image challenges that come with skin picking. 

 

 

 

Wounds. Scabs. Loose skin. Spots. Blemishes. Imperfections. We all get them, and I’m willing to bet we’ve all picked them at some point. In itself, this isn’t a problem. However, if you – like me – feel the need to pick to ease uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, intrusive thoughts, stress etc, it becomes one. When you – like me – often don’t realize you’re picking until the damage is done, it’s a problem. When this leads to a vicious cycle of thoughts and an urge to pick even more, it’s definitely a problem. So why don’t I just stop? That, my friends, is where it becomes an issue.

I have been a picker for longer than I can remember. I guess it started as an innocent habit of picking at loose skin around my fingernails to smooth it out. Seems harmless enough, and it is – until it turns into a compulsive act – something you feel like you need to do. And why stop with loose skin when there are so many other imperfections to “sort out”?

I often catch myself picking, and often I don’t even realize I’m picking until someone snaps me out of it by telling me to stop. I zone out. I get into a trance-like state where my fingers wander over my skin on autopilot as if they’re searching for something to pick at. Despite the resulting damage, the picking does help ease the discomfort in my mind that triggered it in the first place.

It was only a few years ago that I found out there is a name for what I thought was just an anxious habit. Dermatillomania, skin picking disorder, excoriation disorder, compulsive skin picking – call it what you will, it’s not pretty. This is closely linked with anxiety and OCD, and for me, anxiety is definitely a big trigger. The truth is, there are a number of reasons why I do it. A perceived need for smooth, flawless skin, which is ironic considering the damage it causes. A need for control, which I don’t possess when I’m searching my skin for spots to pick. Relief from anxiety, which it does give me most times, but only until the regret kicks in. And on the cycle goes. With time however, I’ve gotten better at dealing with the aftermath of my picking. Most times I can forgive myself and move on but other times, I get extremely self-conscious and feel like everyone can see how broken my skin is, when in reality it might not even look that bad.

Thankfully, there is help for this condition, and there are things you can do if you struggle with skin picking. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now, but I would like to share some tips that help me.

I try to be mindful of where I put my hands when I’m bored or anxious. I sometimes use a fidget toy to keep my hands occupied instead of tracing my fingers over my skin. I also try to keep my nails short, but what I think helps me the most, is taking care of my skin. In all honesty, I was never that big on skincare and skincare routines until I was shown the benefits it can have. Cleansers, moisturizers, facial scrubs, masks – you name it, I’ve probably tried it. What this does for me is it makes me associate touching my skin (mainly my face) with something positive – something I do out of love rather than discontentment. It doesn’t always stop me picking but it does reduce it, and sometimes, that’s enough. After all, a small step forward is still a step forward.

 

 

 

Do you struggle with a skin picking disorder? Share your story in the comments below. 

Works in Progress // Sanya

***** Trigger warning: sexual assault*****

Since she was just 11 years old, Sanya has been combatting suicidal thoughts. Moving from the U.S. to India at a young age, she was forced to adapt to countless changes. Suffering through anxiety with school, depression and sexual assault, Sanya eventually made the decision to focus on her mental health.

Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she still has her low days. The difference is, she now has the tools to save herself when slipping. Raising her voice and sharing an important story of strength within the mental health community online, meet Sanya.

 

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Name: Sanya Singh

Age: 25

 

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time? 

The first time I thought of committing suicide was when I was 11 years old. My parents had moved us from the US to India and the cultural shock was too much for me to handle. I was bullied in school, I didn’t know the local language and basically everything sucked. While going through puberty I had a lot of angst, I started self-harming and even attempted taking my life multiple times. I thought all this was normal teenage angst. I didn’t realize that this was not the norm. I struggled with body image issues throughout high school, more bullying, erratic relationships and a mess of other things.

I thought going away to college would solve all my problems. I enrolled myself into Boston University. The first semester there, I tried drinking away my sadness. I felt isolated, misunderstood and like my soul was being sucked out of me. Second semester I tried taking several pills, I tell everyone that I stopped because my mom called me but in reality I called her. I didn’t want to die, but I also did? The summer after my second semester I went to a psychiatrist – he diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I didn’t like him at all, I was defiant and found him to be callous and kind of smug, but I went. They wanted me to start medications but I was resistant, I would skip doses and eventually stopped taking it completely. I went back for a third semester, thinking maybe things would be okay. But they were not.

I started smoking pot everyday. My grades were slipping and I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly. Winter 2011 I went back home and had a major breakdown when it was time to head back to Boston. I think that was finally when my parents realized I needed more help. So I withdrew from college, started going for therapy and Reiki healing. I started feeling better, but I still had a lot of emotions I couldn’t deal with. Therapy helped, but when I started college in Delhi, I stopped therapy. I convinced everyone I was okay, I didn’t feel like my soul was being sucked out, so I must be better. I still had intense mood swings and anxiety attacks but I thought those were just normal now.

Three years of college, with a lot of ups and downs, more self-harm, but all this was kept a secret – to everyone else I was better. I didn’t need medication or therapy anymore, I was over my depression. After I graduated, I took a gap year and was working at an organization and out of nowhere all those thoughts came back.

“I hate this job, maybe I should hurt myself so I can quit. Maybe I should die so I don’t have to deal with this? I am worthless, I am useless.”

I spent hours crying on the bathroom floor wondering “Why am I like this?” I told my parents and they kinda freaked out, but were far more supportive. So I met a new psychiatrist who I loved, and he referred me to a therapist who changed my life. She did a bunch of tests and diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder. I loved working with her, she didn’t put up with any of my bullshit. I worked through a lot of issues with her, including some trauma I had faced as a child. I had been sexually abused by my grandfather on visits to India when I was younger. And when my family moved back to India, I had to see him and pretend nothing happened. That was one of the major issues I always struggled with, and even then I didn’t come to peace with it. I spoke to her about my past relationships, one of which was emotionally abusive. I told her about all the issues I had with my body and self-worth.

For a few months I worked on therapy, I was doing well in general. So I decided, “Hey let me apply to grad school!” I did, and got into University of Chicago, which was so unexpected. I was ecstatic, I thought “YAY! I am gonna go to Chicago, it’s gonna be awesome cause I am well now.” I got here, and I thought things would be good. But two months in, I started feeling isolated again. I stopped taking medication, again. I stopped therapy, again. I met this guy, and we were in a “non-relationship,” but I would spend all my time with him. And he would drink and smoke pot a lot, so I would drink and smoke pot a lot. By a lot, I mean five to six times a week. Sometimes, even every single day. I wasn’t eating well; I wasn’t sleeping well.

I went to visit my parents in Malta for Spring break and I had to spend the week sober. I also got news that I had failed a class that week. When I got back to Chicago after that week, I broke down. I spent hours crying and called my uncle and told him I need help. I got to Naperville on Wednesday night and Thursday morning I admitted myself into an In-Patient program. During program, I told myself, listen to what they say, do what they say, tell them what they want to hear. I started medication again and went back to campus. Two weeks in, I still hadn’t made any appointments for therapy, I was taking my medication but wasn’t eating. I was sleeping 14 hours a day. I wasn’t bathing or taking care of myself. I had a presentation in class which I broke down during and I knew I was not ready. I went back to Naperville, and then admitted myself into a Partial-Hospitalization Program. I took a leave of absence and decided that I had to focus only on my mental health.  

 

 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I was in class, trying to give a presentation on material I knew, but I was so tongue-tied and anxious that the professor told me to stop talking. That day I knew I had to do something. I didn’t want to suffer my whole life. I wanted to do so much to help so many people, my goal is to become a teacher and I can’t do that if I am not well. I decided I needed to get my shit together.

 

 

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

The last few months after getting discharged from the program have been relatively easy because I have been spending time with my family. I still have days when I get extremely anxious. I still have days when I worry I won’t be okay or that I am not good enough. There are days when my thoughts overwhelm me and I lay in bed wondering if everything I am doing is wrong. I have my sob-fests. But now, I know what to tell myself, I know that I have to use positive self-talk, that I have to be self-compassionate. I know that I should just ride the wave and let the emotions flow. I’ve been reading a lot about DBT and I have been practicing my skills and they actually help! I never thought they would but they do! I am going back to school in a few weeks, and I know a lot of stressors are going to come my way. But I feel like I have an arsenal ready for all the stuff that life can throw at me. And I know what I have to do if I feel myself slipping. I am also getting a cat, so yay! 

 

  

 

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

I think that it has given me the ability to empathize with people. I feel like when you struggle so much in life, you have a little bit of an understanding of other’s struggles. I also know that it has given me strength, if I can survive all the shit I have done to myself, I can survive anything. It has also helped me figure out what I want to do with my life, I feel like I could really use my experiences to help adolescents with their struggles and plan to pursue a career in guidance counseling.

I also think that it has given me a new voice. For a long time, I was silent about my struggles, but recently I have started speaking out through Instagram. The mental health community on Instagram has been so supportive and kind. We all cheer each other on and it is so beautiful to see. Mental illnesses can be so isolating, it is important to see that you are not alone. 

 

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

Do not give up. Things actually can get better.

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below to be potentially featured on the blog! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Finding My Fire

I won’t lie to you guys, it’s been a rough going for me lately. With life and my anxiety reaching an all-time high last week, I decided to take the long Labor Day weekend for some much-needed self care and rest. Boy, did I need it. 

I’ve always had a problem with stopping. Taking the time to reflect and knowing everything will be alright in the “in between.” Over the entire holiday, my anxiety was triggered with fearful thoughts.

 

What if your writing isn’t as good when you come back? 

What if no one cares anymore? 

What if you stop relating to others? 

 

Swirling around my mind like a toxic milkshake, these thoughts overwhelmed me – but only for a little while. Therapy has taught me to be mentally stronger, so I know how to combat these irrational thoughts. Speaking of my fantastic therapist, I was beyond ready to have my bi-weekly session today. Getting emotional even on the drive there, I knew I needed to pour out my feelings.

Starting off the session explaining my day to day triggers and stressors, the discussion eventually turned to the topic that has been giving me the most anxiety: writer’s block. 

One of the reasons I decided to take this pause from the blog was because I was completely drained. Barely making out the words, I was sobbing even at the thought of saying I couldn’t write for Anxiety Erica – it’s everything. Why I come home excited, how I heal through my words, a safe space.

With an almost saint-like grace and wisdom, it was like my therapist knew that was the root of my issues. Her immediate response was to make the most of “me” time.

Embrace the pause 

 

“We must learn to be okay with, and embrace, pause time.”

Learning to completely stop is something I’m not good at. I will go and go until I can’t anymore – and I found out exactly what that feels like this week. It’s essential to spend time within ourselves and nurture the passion we have, rekindle the fire.

Whether that means staying in bed most days powering through a Netflix marathon, being around family and close friends, or even getting outside on a hike – do what you need to feed your soul. Reclaim your motivation.

 

Master the art of compartmentalization 

 

Writing has always been something I live and breathe. Not only a passion, but a purpose. It has been a goal in the past few years to make it a career, and with my current position being a Copywriter – I would say I can check off that to-do on my list.

Unfortunately, once writing became a daily part of my position, it turned from a passion to a chore. Where I once wrote about things that gave me fire, connection to others and authenticity, I was becoming completely drained from the “work” aspect of an entirely different form of the written word.

While I cried on the couch, feeling hopeless and like nothing would help me find my fire again, my therapist said these words:

“Just like we have different types of friends, we have several forms of writing too.”

Then, it clicked. Through the art of compartmentalizing, I could cultivate my fire again. When obligation and timeframe wanders its way into writing, the passion can immediately be sucked out. In order to find my fire, I needed to categorize my creativity, like so:

Work writing 

The creativity surrounding the writing I do during the day, i.e. Copywriting duties, any writing involving my work or company.

Passion writing 

Authentic, vulnerable and emotional words that I write whenever I feel inspired or motivated in life. It is where my connection to others starts, and ultimately – it’s for pleasure. 

 

The motivation to get up each and every day and slice out a piece of your soul for the world to read is fucking hard. Most people don’t realize the extent to which writers will go for authenticity and sometimes, a break is needed.

I’m proud of myself for taking this time to pause and reflect because now that I’ve rested, I’m quickly gaining back the energy and inspiration to hold my heart in front of you all again – finding my fire and coming home with my own words. 

 

 

Do you have trouble with writer’s block? Share your own tips on combating it in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Sarah

Growing up in a family with mental illness, Sarah was no stranger to suffering. Living with anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia since she was just four years old, she didn’t reach out and get help until the intense hypomania of her undiagnosed bipolar disorder took a dark turn. 

Trading in her straight-A student role for an out of control musician, this creative soul eventually realized that medication would save her life. Not just surviving, Sarah is thriving through bipolar disorder. Writing music around mental health, performing at high schools to educate teens, and even practicing aerial yoga, these fantastic forms of self care have kept her going, while helping others heal as well.

 

Meet Sarah. 

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Name: Sarah Jickling

Age: 26

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

I’ve had anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia for as long as I can remember. I come from a family with mental illness on both sides, and I grew up watching grown ups struggle, panic, and lose control, so I thought my experiences were just par for the course. When I was four, I slept with a fisher price knife under my pillow because I was scared someone would crawl through my window. When I was eight, my parents gave up trying to find a way to help me sleep after exhausting all their resources. When I was fourteen, I had one of my panic attacks, the one where suddenly everything is in slow motion and I forget basic motor skills, during a french class and failed a test for the first time. No one seemed to think any of this was out of the ordinary, and I never went to the school counsellor because none of the teachers even knew my name. I was too quiet.

But the quiet was about to end. In my late teens and early twenties, I went from a shy straight A student with an artistic side to a university-drop out musician who drank wine on the bus and had screaming matches in the streets. I felt completely out of control. One day I would feel excited, and feel sure that I was in the right place at the right time and it was only a matter of time before I would be opening for Feist on the big stage at a festival, and then I would wake up a few days later feeling heavy, feeling empty, and for the first time, suicidal. I would go to band practice and lie on the floor in tears. Everyone realized something was happening before I did. My behaviour pushed away my best friend, every boyfriend I had, my bandmates, and my roommates. People begged me to get help. People told me that I was broken and I needed to be fixed or no one would ever want anything to do with me. This was bipolar disorder, a new beast that was harder to ignore than anxiety and panic attacks. 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

The thing about bipolar disorder is that it can seem like so many different illnesses depending on when you go to the doctor. The first time I decided to get help was when my best friend told me she wouldn’t be my friend unless I went on medication. I went to my family doctor who promptly diagnosed me with depression and put me on a waitlist to see a psychiatrist. But of course, soon I felt better, I felt like I didn’t need a doctor and I couldn’t imagine why I thought I ever did, and I would cancel the appointment. The second time I went to the doctor, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2. I rejected this diagnosis because I knew I was “crazy,” and I really didn’t want my ex-boyfriend to be right. Bipolar was something people had been teasing me about for quite some time.

The third time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I found myself at the hospital on boxing day, a week after my soulmate told me he couldn’t watch me suffer anymore. The doctor spent some time tracking my moods and finally asked me if I had ever “heard of bipolar disorder before,” worried she would scare me away with that big word. By that time, I had done enough research and read enough books to know that I had bipolar disorder. I accepted the diagnosis without a second thought. The doctor said that treating the bipolar might take away my ability to write songs, and that a lot of people miss the creativity of hypomania when they go on medication. I didn’t care about being a musician anymore. I didn’t care about anything but getting better.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

It’s true that medication changes the creative process for people with bipolar disorder. Before my recovery, I would black out and wake up with a song. It was the only easy thing in my life. But bipolar doesn’t provide me with my creativity. Hypomania provides artists with a chance to write without our inner critic. I’m now learning to write songs thoughtfully, with extreme focus. It’s harder, but not impossible. 

My medication has completely stabilized me, but it does have it’s unfortunate side effects. I sleep a lot. I am constantly dehydrated. I can’t drink alcohol anymore. And of course, the unexplained ecstasy of hypomania is gone from my life forever.  But I can have a steady job, a real relationship and a working memory, so I think it’s worth it. My life is still all about coping with bipolar, anxiety and panic attacks though. I exercise every single day, I take mindfulness classes, I go to DBT groups, I see my therapist and my psychiatrist often. I put my mental health before any job or other responsibility. I think back to a time not so long ago when I was overdosing, praying I would never wake up, and I remember that vigilant self care is the only thing that has kept me from returning to those life or death situations. 

I also write music about my mental illness and share them with others. I’m lucky to have an outlet, and I’ve found a community of artists also dealing with mental illness who help inspire me to keep going.

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

Living with anxiety has forced me to learn how to rationally face my fears. When your fears are every where, you can’t help but bump into them at every turn. Now I feel as though I can do almost anything, whether that be travel to a different country or play on a stage to thousands of people. Learning to treat my anxiety has introduced me to all sorts of fantastic coping mechanisms… from mindfulness to aerial yoga to pole dancing! 

Living with bipolar disorder, on the other hand, has given me an ability to help other people. I have learned to live with a severe mental illness and now I get to help others, whether that’s through releasing my new album “When I Get Better,” or performing at high schools with the BC Schizophrenia Society’s musical/educational show “Reach Out Psychosis.” It’s also a great way to weed out fickle friends. If you have friends who will stick with you through bipolar treatment, you have very good friends.

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

You are worth loving, even with your mental illnesses. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be forgotten immediately. 

 

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you may be featured on the blog! 

Keep It Grape Art // Self Care Pack Review

Today was a great day. I decided to attend an event in my area called San Diego Festival of Books, where I walked around and did some networking for the blog. I met fantastic, creative people and I’m so excited to collaborate with them.

Putting yourself out there is not only draining – it can be a challenging task. While everyone was thrilled to hear about Anxiety Erica, my anxiety can find it easy to get worked up about whether everyone truly is interested in what I have to say. Paired with the fact that one or two posts I did on my Instagram didn’t go over as well as ones previously in the week, my anxiety was looming over the fact that I wasn’t good enough. That not enough “likes” equates to the caliber of my writing, my healing process. That’s not reality. I fought it in my ANT journal, because this blog is way too important to me to let a silly, trivial thing like social media likes bring it down. But, I was still a little drained.

Then my Keep It Grape Self Care Pack arrived in the mail. Game changer. 

Almost like mental health mail from the gods above, this package came right at the moment I needed it most. It made me realize I am making a difference – I’m connecting with creative, sensitive, and strong women like Katherine. 

Located over at @keepitgrape, Katherine is one of the purest souls I’ve ever encountered. Just 17 years old, Katherine is a freelance artist with her own online store filled with positivity prints, self care packs, custom commissions, zines, stickers, and poetry. Pouring her heart and soul into each piece she creates, she does it all while battling paranoid schizophrenia.

In addition to her art, she has a blog where she interviews other bloggers on the importance of mental health, recipes and positivity. You can check out her interview with me here! 

Madly in love with her fire, I’m beyond grateful to know this young, talented treasure in some shape or form. She sent over one of her wonderful Self Care and Realization Packs and boy was it filled with some goodies! Take a peek at the photos below to see some of the beautiful artwork, prints, info, recipes, stickers, and helpful mantras she included:

Self Care & Realization Packs 

Intended to promote relaxation and self care, these powerful packs get you to understand the importance of caring and maintaining your body. Focused on the essential mantra that we all deserve self care, Katherine showers each and every customer with love, positivity, and encouragement.

Tip Cards 

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Self care is important, but what if you don’t know what that means? While it’s different for each individual person, Keep It Grape has some great starter tips to delve deeper into what works for you!

Recipes

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This was a wonderful reminder for me, honestly. While I can be really good at self care involving reading, bath time, and relaxation – I’m lacking in the food department. I can be pretty lazy when it comes to cooking or prepping of any kind, so these recipes were a welcome sight. I plan to try this one out!

Prints 

Positivity can be hard to find sometimes. Not only great reminders to love ourselves, these prints are just gorgeous. Promoting and symbolizing self care and relaxation, I will be hanging them on my cork board next to my bed – that way I see the important words when I wake up and fall asleep at night.

Drawings 

I won’t lie, these were my all-time favorite. I adored everything in this package but these small, simple drawings were perfect. Encouraging self love and growth, they are beautiful and tiny enough to keep in your car, purse, tote bag, or on your bookshelf. Anywhere you are, there is a constant reminder of love, hope, and positivity!

Personal Thank You Note & Sticker 

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As if all of the goodies in the package weren’t enough, Katherine sneaks a lovely, personal note and sticker into my Self Care Pack. Reading through it filled me with inspiration, hope, and honestly eased my anxiety from the day. Job well done. 

 

With a combination of creativity and heart, Katherine makes it her full time job to bring others happiness with Keep It Grape. From opening up her package today, it was clear just how much she lives and breathes this work. She gives each person a piece of her heart. I’m proud to know such a talented, motivated and beautiful young woman – she is truly the future of mental health.

 

To learn more about Keep It Grape and Katherine’s art, visit http://keepitgrape.tictail.com/. Head to her blog and Instagram to see her latest pieces! 

Learning To Be Alone // Tips on Battling Loneliness

Recently, I’ve had a few friends and followers ask me to share some tips or advice on battling loneliness and how to be alone. I’ve had coworkers and friends commend me on my healthy ability to spend multiple nights completely alone in my studio and while I appreciate the kind words, I truly believe that being alone should be second nature to us all – but sadly, it’s not. Not even for me.

It was only until recently that I’ve come to terms with being alone. I still struggle with it sometimes. It’s not a perfect science by any means. Growing up, I was raised to believe that if you were alone on a weekend, or a night where you could be out “having fun” with friends, you were sad. A loser. So, I’ve always had a hard time spending time with myself. I made excuses and avoided it by calling a friend to hang out instead, or going out and being miserable because I wasn’t listening to myself – I needed to be at home, alone.

Sitting with yourself – flaws and all – is incredibly difficult. But we must. We have to do this for ourselves, because in time, I’ve realized I prefer it. Once you cross the scary, oh my god, I’m so pathetic for being home alone on a Saturday night mindset, it becomes apparent that you enjoy being alone. I love hanging out with myself – I’m actually pretty fun. We all need to come to this realization that we need ourselves – not anyone else.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned on being alone and battling loneliness:

 

Be Productive

I’ve learned that when I’m completely alone in my studio, being somewhat busy helps my mind to distract from any negative, anxious thoughts. Come up with a small checklist with tasks like: clean your room/space, wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, make my bed, go for a walk, make myself dinner, etc. These are very simple tasks, but once you hunker down and get them done, you’ll feel majorly accomplished and productive – plus, you’ll have a nice, clean space all to yourself, that’s always exciting!

 

Go Easy on Yourself

The act of being alone is really difficult for people who aren’t used to it. For myself, it took awhile for me to adjust and I actually didn’t even do it at first. In the very beginning, if you find yourself getting too anxious or even having a panic attack at the thought – call a friend to come over and be with you, or go to their house. Things like this don’t happen overnight, take it a day at a time. You’re not a failure for it, you’re just listening to yourself. The next time, you might be more able to accomplish being alone.

 

Alone vs. Lonely

Know the difference between these two crucial words. The act of being alone can be extremely freeing, and I’m even coming to learn, necessary for growth and self discovery. Being lonely can happen anywhere. You can be surrounded by all your “friends” or even a partner and feel utterly lonely. It’s like Rupi Kaur’s poem always says,

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A post shared by rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) on

 

When we get these intense feelings of being lonely, it’s usually always a sign we are in serious need of looking within. Of giving ourselves the right amount of attention. Sometimes, it takes a certain amount of pain and heartbreak to become self aware. To know when you need to be alone and when you want to go out with close friends and feel their company. There’s nothing wrong with wanting company and loved ones around – we are human that’s instinct. But, knowing the difference between healthy want and a need that calls for a closer look at your emotions and mental health is key.

 

Don’t Date 

Now, this may seem like a harsh statement, but there’s a reason for it. When you’re in the realm of feeling such intense loneliness, it’s a mistake to jump into the dating world. Most people use dating as an excuse not to sit with their feelings. It’s like the poet Kiana Azizian says,

us.: collection of poetry is on amazon now🌹

A post shared by kiana azizian (@kianaazizian) on

 

I’m incredibly guilty of this. A little over a year ago, I was this person that jumped from Tinder to OkCupid to Bumble, scrolling and swiping for the next guy who could fill the lonely void I had. Did it work? Absolutely not.

It takes a certain amount of strength to reject the idea of dating and staying alone – by yourself. Making a choice to be single goes against every ideal that we as women are taught. Find a good man, fall in love, get married, raise a family. Well, what if all that isn’t what will make you happy right now? What if you need time alone? What if you need to fall in love with yourself instead?

It’s a difficult decision to make, but it’s one worth trying. Learning to be alone with yourself and going through the trials of online dating just doesn’t add up. In order to battle loneliness and successfully being alone – you need to actually be alone. This way, when the time does come – and it will come – for the right match to enter your life, you’ll be ready. You’ll know what you deserve because you’ve been giving it to yourself all this time.

I have a close friend who tells me that it’s essential to know the difference between wanting and needing someone in your life. When you’ve spent time on your own, getting to know and loving yourself – you will never need a person. You have you. You’ll want someone to share your life with, someone worthy of entering the wonderful world you’ve created and built for yourself, but you won’t need it for your own self worth.

 

 

Spend a night in with yourself – you might actually like it. 

 

Do you struggle with being alone? Share how you battle loneliness in the comments below. 

Self Care Sunday // Wisteria Fox

I’ve always been a believer in the beauty of a great bath. Soothing and relaxing, it can help to heal the stresses and anxiety of a bad day. That being said, I also don’t believe that throwing a bath bomb in the tub solves all your issues associated with mental illness. Self care – however you practice it – is just one part of the picture. Therapy, journaling, cognitive behavioral tools. All of these things together is how I battle my anxiety.

Suffering from anxiety and depression, Alyssa Vicari –  the woman behind Wisteria Fox – truly understands the importance of self care. Baths always had the ability to calm, relax, and escape Vicari away from the stressers in life, so she created beautiful bath products that could help distract and benefit her skin. Eventually, she began selling her products so others could have this escape as well.

Researching different brands that spread the important message of self care, I stumbled upon Vicari’s shop and got to speak with the woman herself. A kind, gentle soul with a passion for healing others, I was all too happy to purchase a box.

Not only does Vicari sell these wonderfully scented products – she hand makes them. Vegan and cruelty-free, all the products are completely natural, using SLSA, an alternative to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. But don’t worry, the bath bombs still foam and fizz to your heart’s desire. Derived from coconut and palm oils, they smell heavenly.

This month, Vicari unleashed a new idea: Self-care boxes. For June, the theme was, “Goodbye Negative Mind, Hello Positive Life.” Loaded with a potential mix of bath bombs, bubble bars, bath soaks, body scrubs/shimmer scrubs, the box also comes with tips and tricks for coping and dealing with mental health issues/anxiety/stress, handmade stickers, drawings, and quotes.

While my box was a little bit different than the others, here is what was inside!

Amber Sunset // Mind Over Matter Bath Bomb

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A soothing, salmon colored bath bomb, Mind Over Matter is scented with base notes of raspberry, cantaloupe, and watermelon, middle notes of jasmine and violet, and fresh top notes of grapefruit and kumquat.

To say the least, it’s a serious plethora of scent. Last night, I used this bath bomb and it made for an extremely calming, content experience. I finished up watching GLOW on Netflix, and just soaked in the tub, smelling like an array of wonderful scents, it was great.

As an added bonus, once your bath bomb is all fizzled out, there’s a Carnelian stone inside of it! While I’m not super informed about the healing benefits nor do I practice, I’m always up for learning new information!

Providing protection from negative emotions from others and within yourself, the Carnelian stone is a great guide to a renewed love of life, increases inner strength, and grounds energies to the present. I even received a little note in the box on tips and best practices for using the stone!

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Wild Spirit // Essential Oil Bath Bomb 

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Scented with lemongrass essential oil and topped with dried lavender buds, this bath bomb is the perfect recipe for a Saturday night in. Notes of eucalyptus and spearmint are included for the utmost of relaxation.

On top of the beautiful bath products, I also received two adorable tips and reminders for my mental health:

The first was this super cute ornament saying, Without rain, nothing grows. I just love it! I ended up hanging it on my cork board next to my bed, so I can see it when waking up and falling asleep at night.

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And lastly, there was a really creative activity in the box! I received a bunch of cut out, white paper butterflies with a note that told me to write a negative thought on the butterflies, place it under a thin layer of soil, water, and watch as that negative statement or word turns into something beautiful. What a wonderful message, I absolutely loved the idea and will be trying it out soon.

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I absolutely loved all the different products and activities in my Wisteria Fox Self Care box! It was so beautifully packaged – I would definitely consider ordering another one. It brought some excitement and healing to my day in a simple way. It’s so essential to practice self care and when a company – and its founder – are part of this wonderful mental health community, it seems like a no brainer.

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If you want to treat yourself and learn to practice more self care, order a Wisteria Fox Self Care box to help heal your heart and soul.

Visit https://wisteriafoxshop.com/ to shop the many soothing smells.

 

Do you have a specific routine for self care? Share your practices in the comments below. 

5 Tips on Tackling Your Period With Anxiety

Mother Nature is a real bitch. Ladies, this post is just for us. Battling the PMS demons can be hard enough, add on a mental illness and it can seem like you’re going through a week of pure, unadulterated hell.

Nearly all women suffer from the sudden mood swings and amplified emotions that come with the Lady in Red (whatever you may call the broad), but paired with the beast that is anxiety, it’s almost unbearable. But, it doesn’t have to be.

When anxiety starts to creep in, here are a few tips on caring for yourself while you ride the crimson wave.

 

Say It With Me: Self Care!

This is a big one – especially when it feels like your uterus is being punched over and over. Kidding aside, self care can help to combat the heightened sensations in the days leading up to your period. Exercise can benefit the body and does wonders for diminishing PMS symptoms. If you’re not really a fan of the treadmill, you can take a little walk outside, go to a yoga class, or even work out from the comfort of home while you binge Orange is the New Black.

Self care comes in many, many forms. There is no right way to do it. Just do something – anything – that makes you feel good. For me, it can be different for different emotions or days. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly emotional during my period, mixed with my own anxiety, I like to go to a bookstore. For me, it’s calming and it’s a safe space. I feel happy surrounded by books. Sometimes I blog while watching Netflix and destroying a California burrito. Other times, I like to lay down in my dog’s bed and cuddle with him. Do what you need to do to feel better and remember that this is cyclical – it will pass.

 

It’s Okay to Struggle

You’re not going crazy, or losing it. You’re actually going through a tough cycle, and that’s okay. Don’t ever let yourself feel undermined or less than because you’re having a hard time with your emotions or thoughts. It’s the journey of living with an anxiety disorder – self-sabotaging thoughts will pop up and you will struggle with them.

Remember that you’re not alone. Not only is there a large community that tackles mental health each and every day – almost all women battle their period each month. You’re not alone in your suffering. 

 

Embrace Your Emotions

While these symptoms can be temporary – your anxiety isn’t. Like I’ve always said, it’s crucial to feel the emotions you are feeling and meet them head on. Whether that’s anger or sadness, allow yourself to experience it. If you don’t, you’ll just bottle it up and it will explode. You could also project your own emotions and issues onto other people, which is never a fun situation.

 

Write It Down

It’s important to feel your emotions, but it can also help to write them down. Fully feel your feelings first, with no narrative or story. Once you’ve processed, you can start to see the real reason you’re upset. Rather than writing yourself off as “hormonal” or “crazy,” realize there’s an intuition and potential wisdom with these fluctuations. Jot it down during your period and take the time to think about them after your cycle is over.

 

Give Your Period Props

When you really think about it, we are pretty amazing as women. Take a second and pat yourself on the back simply for being badass enough to function at all when you’re bleeding, hormone levels are constantly shifting, and battling daily anxiety. I mean damn, we are some strong, sensitive bitches.

 

If you feel those intense mood swings and emotions coming on, remember this: you are not weak for struggling. You are not weak for getting emotional. It’s something we all – as women – go through. It’s our ability to navigate those fluctuations – along with bouts of anxiety – month after month that’s a huge part of what makes women so empathetic, compassionate, and resilient.

Embrace the power of the period. And go ahead, have a Netflix marathon all weekend, you deserve it. 

 

How do you handle getting your period with anxiety? Share your tips!