I Choose to be Happy

Five little words have been making such a difference to me as of late. I’d always thought affirmations were a little silly until I found the right ones and I decided how to ingratiate a few into my life. One of my favourite affirmations is as follows:

I Choose to be Happy

It seems too simple to make a difference. Had I been told to do this at my deepest, darkest points of depression I likely would have scoffed, rolled my eyes and been irritated, feeling like my mental state was being oversimplified, misunderstood. I likely would have cried and called it a bullshit solution.

In many ways I would have been right. Maybe it was too soon for me. Perhaps this mantra is something to work up to with a therapist or Doctor or maybe there comes a time in recovery when one can finally see that happiness can be a choice. If you can bring yourself to believe it sooner or even just pretend to believe it, fake it til you make it as the saying goes, you might be able to speed up your recovery.

It’s easy to be beaten down by the tumult that insists on messing with us all. Some times are worse than others but there will always be tumult and irritation about. So why not choose to look for happiness and positivity in spite of tumultuous times?

Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean sunshine and roses everyday, all day and to ignore all problems and potential conflict. No, Choosing to be happy means laughing and finding the humour, sometimes even in the face of adversity. It means smiling for yourself not because you’re, supposed to, but because there is a lot of good in the world if you choose to see it.

Choosing to be happy means finding as many reasons to belly laugh as possible. It means surrounding yourself with people who make you happy and who you also make happy. It means seeing opportunities for negativity and choosing to tackle those opportunities with a different attitude.

The trick, for me, has been to embed the message, I Choose to be Happy, into the everyday so I can’t help but remember it.

Here’s a list of some of the ways I’ve embed the phrase into my days so I see it enough and make it so memorable I can’t help but begin to hardwire this notion into my brain.

– Write it on sticky notes and leave them strewn around your home and office.

– Turn the phrase into a daily appointment on your calendar so when it pops up the reminder is there and the happy circuit is again reinforced and helps rewire the brain. This method has been particularly helpful to me.

– When you come across the phrase where you’ve written it down say it out loud. Hearing the phrase instead of just reading it engages another sense and reinforces the idea again.

– scrawl it across white boards and mirrors. Place it everywhere and anywhere you might catch even a subliminal sight of it.

– Make an effort to do one or two things that make you happy everyday.

– Be creative – even if you insist you, “don’t have a creative bone in your body.” Trust me, deep down you do, it’s just a matter of finding your creative style; maybe you decorate cakes, or create recipes, or love interior decorating, creating model train terrain or you’re actually great at drawing but you’re too stuck try… unstuck yourself, unfuck yourself! You can do this, use your creativity to find activities that make you happy.

– Create a space you’re happy to live in. You don’t have to spend big to redecorate. Sell or give away what you don’t want and spend time browsing thrift stores and garage sales. There’s something satisfying about finding the perfect items at a reasonable price and bringing your unique treasures home.

Admittedly I’m not perfect. I have times where depression and negative emotions take over and I can’t help but cry and write bad poetry. Sometimes it feels like the bleakness and black will never leave my tired bones.

This photo reminds me that sometimes things must fall apart to fall into place. I could have been sad this flower lost a bloom but I chose to be happy about how lovely it looked. I couldn’t have placed it better if I tried😊

As the saying goes, this too shall pass. I find myself drawn out of the depths of depression a lot easier now that I’ve finally found tools that work for me. It’s been a long, hard road fraught with out-patient care, multiple psychologists and psychiatrists and nurses, medication changes, being suicidal, long stays in the psych ward, and, most recently, coming to terms with the end of my marriage.

I’ve found myself a soft place to land and truly begin to heal and figure out who I am and what I value most. It turns out I value kindness, empathy, belly laughing, honesty, integrity, my friends, family, and unbridled happiness, to name just a few.

This is just one of many techniques out there and I’ve had good results over the past year since I really started working on healing emotionally, building self-confidence, finding independence, growing inner strength, loving myself as much as I love others and finding happiness.

I’d love to hear if any affirmations work for you, perhaps some examples and alternative ideas💚

K


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Gaming Addiction – Freakin Mental Monday

Watch as Another Freakin Athiest and I co-host our weekly show regarding mental illness. We discuss Gaming Addiction and it’s placement in the new DSM and with the WHO. We also spend time discussing what defines addiction with regards to gaming.

If you’re looking for more info regarding possible gaming addiction and recovery ideas check out http://www.gamequitters.com

The Psych Ward – Let’s Get Into It – Part 2

Going to the hospital is never pleasant, whether you walk or wheel through the front doors or come via ambulance, the experience can be down right scary as there are so many unknowns. In my opinion there are even more, seeming, unknowns when it comes to going to the hospital for mental health reasons as we’ve only just begun breaking down the stigma surrounding psychological medicine.

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Allow me to tell a few truths;

-You may not be admitted to the psychiatric ward or you may only stay a day or two, some folks stay much longer. My longest stay of the two was 2.5 months and that’s hardly a record. It takes as long as it takes to get back on your feet and ready to face the world and stay safe and alive.

-Ideally the medical staff want to see patients out in the world rather than cooped up on a ward. If you go to the hospital because of suicidal thoughts, delusions, anxiety… whatever, you will be assessed by someone from the psych team as well as one of the ER docs. During the assessment be as honest as possible. If you feel safe leaving and can come up with a plan for continuing care on an outpatient basis along with the psych team you may not have to be admitted. If you are scared about your mental health don’t be afraid to seek help. Nobody wants to lock you up and throw away the key.

-It has been my experience that most patients seeking psych help or being brought in involuntarily are nervous. Not only is the turmoil of coming through emergency triage in crisis frightening, the prospect and act of perhaps spending time in the stark ER beds guarded by Peace Officers and closely monitored via video camera and visual checks is also nerve wracking. The rooms are usually void of any equipment or much at all  aside from a non-adjustable bed, as the rooms are meant to be free of anything one might use to harm themselves or others. Patients brought in under arrest or from jails may also occupy rooms in this area. It can all be rather overwhelming, exhausting, and unsettling.

-it’s likely you might feel resentment or guilt at the prospect of being admitted either voluntarily or involuntarily. You might feel scared of what to expect. Perhaps you don’t feel “crazy enough” for the psych ward. Rest assured you have rights as a patient and you will be able to tell the Dr and psych team your perspective, the job of the hospital is to heal not to harm. It’s best to be a patient patient;) and assume you will be treated fairly and respectfully and to keep an open mind. Having said that, don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re not getting the help you need or if you feel unheard, shamed or abused.

-While the Psych Ward can be wacky and wild place at times, it’s also a place full of strength and wisdom and creativity. I’ve met some of the most talented, intelligent, creative, loving and passionate people ever in the psych ward and in psych groups. From concert pianists to artists to writers to engineers to Drs to athletes to rappers. “Crazy” is not a diagnosis. Everyone is different and your type of different is no more or less important than another person’s type of different. Mental illness is blind to religion, race and wealth

– I used to worry constantly I was taking up space needed by someone else and that I shouldn’t be admitted for treatment because of that. The truth is, if you’re not in need of treatment you won’t be admitted. Trust the Dr’s and nurses to know how best to care for your condition. Do make sure to fully express how dire you feel your condition has become. If you feel absolutely unsafe leaving make that incredibly clear to the psych team.

– As I’ve mentioned before the psych ward, in my experience, takes a little getting used to at first. People are patients for a variety of reasons and this can be disconcerting as many patients may behave strangely socially, perhaps manic or deeply depressed, or have delusions, hallucinations, be catatonic or any other myriad of conditions. Keep in mind you’re seeing patients in acute distress.
Patients conditions will improve as their treatment moves along, just as yours will if you let your psychiatrist and the supporting staff do their jobs and help you with changes to your routine, a calm environment, possible med changes and more.

– For everyone there are good days and bad days and the bad days are far more trying than the good but overall improvement comes in waves until the raging ocean in each of us becomes a little more placid and it’s felt a patient is ready to transition to outpatient programs.

Just remember every patient is fighting a different storm and it’s tricky business lulling some oceans out of crashing and raging.

Please don’t let fear of the Psychiatric Unit deter you from seeking help. Think of it the same as if you needed to be on the cardiac ward. The psych ward is a ward like any other and nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about.

If you need treatment it’s imperative you get to the hospital, call an ambulance, speak to your Dr immediately or contact your provincial Health Link for direction to the best course of action. Do whatever you need to do to save your life or trust your loved ones have your best interest at heart if they’re insisting you be admitted.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts and questions as always. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

K

 

The Psych Ward – Let’s Get Into It🌻🌼🌻🐙🌻 -Part 1

The Loony Bin, The Boobyhatch, The Funny Farm, The Madhouse, The Nuthouse, The Cuckoo’s Nest, Bedlam, The Bughouse.

Here’s a strangely monotone drawing I did while staying in the Boobyhatch (I think that’s my favourite silly expression for the Psychiatric Ward😜).

With so many bizarre, somewhat amusing, but mostly offensive, ways to refer to the Psych Ward it must be a pretty special place. Memorable for sure, lol! It’s not like there’s a huge list of alternate names for the Orthopedic Ward.

So if you end up needing a stay in Psych know you’re among the “lucky” few to experience it first hand, and add your own unique character into the mix that makes for such a storied reputation😉

If you or someone you know is in psychiatric crisis; a stay in a hospital psychiatric ward may be something to consider. If you’re unsure about whether or not such a drastic step is needed ask your family GP, Psychiatrist, Counsellor or any other health professional knowledgeable about such things or with easy access to relative information.

In Alberta, Canada if you need help but are unsure where to start you can contact Alberta Health Link by dialing 811 within the province or you can check out http://www.MyHealth.Alberta.ca, another brilliant resource in Calgary and Southern Alberta is http://www.thedistresscentre.ca They can also be reached by phone 24 hours a day at, 403-266-4357(HELP).

If it’s decided a hospital stay is recommended don’t panic! You’re getting help, which is of vital importance. You’re choosing you and you’re choosing life.

Don’t fight the stay, fight your inner demons instead❤ Take advantage of the help being offered in a safe, professional place where the goal is to patch your battered spirit up enough to get you back to slaying dragon’s in your regular life. Accept and embrace the help and rest and wierd that will be your world for a while.

Psych wards are endlessly entertaining if you open your mind and embrace the neurodivergent tea party as best you can. I’m not saying to laugh at others. Please be as empathetic as possible. I’m just saying wierd shit happens ALL THE TIME on the Psych Ward and since you’re a captive audience it’s better to appreciate the humour rather than being overly bothered by it.

You needn’t take abuse though, if another patient or staff member is bothering you tell a senior staff member or your Psychiatrist immediately to stop it before there’s drama. The goal is to rest and regain your footing not to cope with conflict on top of your, already full, emotional plate.

If you are checking in voluntarily or involuntarily don’t be afraid. Just as the cardiac ward is the right place for cardiac patients, the psych ward is the right place for psychiatric patients. While it can be a little frightening not knowing how long you’ll be admitted remember there are many benifits to a longer stay.

I’ll tell you about these benifits in lovely, monotony-breaking, point form;

-A longer stay allows you to spend more time with your psychiatrist adjusting meds, devising solutions for living better in your community, devising crisis plans, working on specifically troubling traumas, working on ways to cope better with your challenges, and offers a plethora of other personalized therapies.

-Having a little time away from tech distractions like cell phones, tablets and computers is good. These aren’t accessible on the many Psych wards, although once you’re able to go off unit for breaks you may check your phone for a short time.

It may feel strange, even scary, to unplug but the act is actually quite liberating and calming. Social media can be entertaining but it can also be incredibly stressful. You may not even realize how much of your time social media, endless browsing or game playing is sucking and how much stress it’s adding until you’re forced to take a break.

-A longer stay gives more time for both Drs and nurses to spend time getting to know you better and so they can fully understand how best to help you.

It may seem as though you’ve things to do and better places to be, but nothing is more important than taking time to focus on healing yourself. If there was a serious problem with your intestines you wouldn’t just leave the hospital. Taking health problems seriously is never frivolous or ill-advised. You are important enough to make caring for yourself a priority.

Fight for yourself. You’re worth it. If you need treatment of any sort please don’t be afraid to start.

If you’ve any stories relating to psych admission or being open to treatment in general I’d love to hear from you. Later next week I’ll have more information about the Psychiatric Ward, my experiences, some myths debunked, and some words of wisdom and encouragement. If there is anything in particular you’re curious about please ask and I’ll get back to you. If you comment directly through the WordPress site you can do so with anonymity, rather than having to post your name via Facebook or Twitter, if you wish.

K

Social Anxiety- A Self-Portrait in Texts

Me: Holy cow! I’m freakin’ vibrating from caffine overload! Lol!

Me: I am so sorry. I think I talked too much this morning and didn’t pay enough attention to you, your baby or (other friend). I was behaving selfishly and I’m really sorry.

Friend: Stop that! We enjoyed your visit. I didn’t respond to your message sooner because we are at ikea.

Me: No I wasn’t talking about u not responding, it didn’t take long anyway. I just keep playing the visit over in my head and realized how annoying I was being. Ahhh I hate anxiety. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have mentioned this. I’ve been really nervous lately and it’s fucking with my head. I’m sorry for being a freak and sorry for being sorry. Ok I need to chill out. Not sure why I’m not hitting delete rather than send.

It was really nice being there with you three. Just when I think I’m past ruminating and beating myself up it comes back and reminds me I still have a mental illness. Frustrating. I suppose I should appreciate that it happens with less frequency now. Thank you for understanding my crazy weirdness💜

Friend: Lol, all good my lovely. We were saying how nice it was to have you there this morning and how much we enjoyed your visit. So don’t worry at all. Never stop being you.

This is a text conversation I had after visiting with a friend, her baby and another friend from out of town. I think it’s a pretty good example of how social anxiety affects my life.

Fortunately the friend I was texting with has known me for more than 20 years and is familiar with my anxieties and pretty adept at helping me to dismiss unnecessary, repeating thoughts.

Here’s a little bit more about how this situation came to be:

I’m heading home after a nice visit with a huge smile on my face. There had been laughter and many old, inside jokes and stories, lots of catching up on each other’s lives, witty banter, genuine affection amongst ourselves, and a sense of ease together that only comes with long-standing, well-nourished, mutually appreciated relationships. It was an especially nice visit I’m thinking as I pull into my driveway.

I begin playing parts of the conversation from the morning back and I realize I forgot to ask about ongoing issue one of my friends was having at work. At first I’m starting to rationalize this oversight as we hadn’t seen each other in a while and there was a lot to catch up on. I’m able to tell myself I’ll be sure to ask about it next time we visit.

Next I realize how long I spent prattling on about some story about my husband. My friends were probably bored to tears. At this point my ability to rationalize away my subpar social skills begins to fizzle and I feel the familiar, but never comfortable, sensation of panic flip-flopping like a slippery fish in my belly.

Soon I am obsessively going over the entire visit with a fine toothed comb and analysing stupid jokes I made, things I now think I shouldn’t have said, other things I should have asked about and on and on and on.

I even begin to assess my mannerisms and actions; did I hug too hard or too long? did I gesticulate too wildly? was I warm enough or too familiar? did I stay too long or not long enough? Was I over-dressed or under-dressed? and on and on and on.

I consider possible consequences; they won’t invite me to visit again, I’ll lose two good friends, they’ll talk about what a crazy, selfish bitch I am, they must be mad at me, and on and on and on.

These thoughts and questions swirl round my mind and I’m rapping my knuckles against my temple to make it fucking stop. It doesn’t stop. I try distracting myself by painting but the thoughts keep interrupting.

I try reframing the situation and using my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills. I classify my thoughts; Mind-Reading-As in, I cannot predict if the others noticed my missteps or if they would even categorize them as such. Fortune Telling-As in, I’m predicting outcomes when I cannot know the future. Catastrophizing-As in, I’m making something small into a much bigger problem than it is.

Unfortunately I’ve never been able to make CBT work for me no matter how many times I write down my feelings, categorize and rate them. I know this type of therapy works for many but I’ve been trying to make it work for the past 10+ years and it’s yet to actually help.

Finally I decide to text my friend. Impractical as it is, this is what usually helps. I confront the situation and apologize for what I think I did wrong. As I mentioned before, my friend is familiar with my anxiety, sees it for what it is and easily calms my mind.

The frustrating part is, in other situations I can’t always go back and apologize, I generally haven’t done anything wrong anyway and I already apologize far too much as it is (I have anxiety about over-apologizing too. Lol!). Sometimes I just think things to death until it either goes away on it’s own for a while or until I’m having a full-blown panic attack and have to take medication.

If this is familiar behaviour to anyone out there I am truly sorry as nonsense like this is a waste of time and energy. Even if I actually had done something I needed to apologize for there’s no need to punish myself in this manner. Making the apology and meaning it is enough.

This is just one facet of how my social anxiety manifests but I thought it was a good example. If you’d like to share a comment, similar story or if you’ve got a coping technique that works for you I’d love to hear about it.

K

Ode to my Anxiety Monster

To me, anxiety is a monster and the monster is made up of an infinite mouth space filled with infinite steely, sharp teeth, all the better to gnaw me with, and infinite blood-shot eyes, all the better to follow me with.

The more relaxed and calm I am the further away the monster feels from me. Sometimes I might even forget the monster is around at all.

As soon as anxiety creeps in the mouth filled with sharp teeth and eyeballs begins to close in on me. The more panicked I become the tighter the space around me gets until soon I’m not just anxious about what’s worrying me I’m also anxious about the anxious monster.

Below is a drawing and a poem about what it’s like to feel trapped in the monster with the anxiety moving in closer and closer and closer…

Anxiety has its teeth in me
Stabbed in my back where u cant see
I’m alone but it’s with me
Despite my trys to set it free
I’m battered, beaten&broke down
In depression I may drown
Alone&useless but that’s me
Trapped inside my own body

Can you relate? Tell me what anxiety is to you? what does it look like? How does it feel?

K

Sage Advice From My Father For 2018

To kick off 2018, Here’s some amusing advice from my Dad to make dealing with others a little easier 😉

“It’s better to lower your expectations of others and be plesantly surprised, than to set your expectations too high and be diapointed.”

Happy New Year!

K