No Longer Hiding my Emotions

Over the years I’ve become extremely good at hiding my emotions from others.

I grew up with the belief that sadness & tears made me weak so I did my best to never cry in front of people.

I believed that my problems didn’t matter because out there in the world there was someone else with bigger problems than mine.

I believed that people wouldn’t care about what I was going through or that I would be considered a burden.

These beliefs have stayed with me up until this very day. While I’ve gotten more & more comfortable sharing my emotions & problems with others, it’s still something I struggle with today.

This has probably been one of the most difficult habits for myself to break because it’s become natural for me to just hide my emotions & bottle them up never sharing with anyone.

My entire life I’ve done my best to remain strong through all the difficult situations I faced up until now. I didn’t let others see or know the true pain I was in. There were periods where I would spend many nights crying myself to sleep at night. I didn’t want to dump my own problems on anyone else because I didn’t want to be a burden. I ended up not only carrying my own weight of problems, but the weight of those closest to me as well. I put off working through & healing my own issues, to help the ones I loved most.

It’s taken me up until now to realize that it’s important to take care of our own selves first. I neglected my own healing & stuffed my emotions deep down inside of me. In order to be of service & help to others in our lives, we must heal ourselves from within as well.

Because of the difficulties & pain I’ve faced, I never want others to feel alone or feel like they’re a burden. I am here for anyone and can be that shoulder for you to cry on. Never feel like you are a burden to others or that your problems don’t matter because they do! No matter how big or small the problem you’re faced with, it still matters.

Confronting Your Shadow Self

“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” – Carl Jung

This last month I stumbled upon something new called shadow work. It was something I’ve never heard of before and it intrigued me. Shadow work is when you take a closer look within yourself at the parts of yourself that you hide. The “dark side” of your personality; the negative parts you might be ashamed of, fearful around, or feel guilt around. It’s something we all have inside of ourselves, but it can be hard to acknowledge and address it.

The psychologist Carl Jung was the one who coined the term “personal shadow.” This is the part of the psyche a lot of people tend to neglect and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Even when you pretend it doesn’t exist your personal shadow can operate on it’s own without us being fully aware. It’s when the unconscious mind assumes control while our conscious self goes on autopilot. The longer you repress your shadow the more you start to see those qualities in the others around you.

At the beginning of the year, one of my resolutions was to work on my self-awareness and to heal myself from within. I spent the last three years focusing on my physical health; I didn’t spend as much time on my mental health and inner work as I should have. Something I’ve learned through my journey is that the mental transformation is just as powerful if not more powerful than a physical transformation.

Shadow work is for everyone, as humans we all have parts of ourselves we like to hide or feel embarrassed to share with others about. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles like the abuse my mom put me through for almost 18 years. All of those painful memories & experiences I had growing up, I pushed so far back in my head wanting to never think about them again.

When I stumbled upon shadow work it made me realize that I need to stop pretending that the memories don’t exist. Yes they are painful and I’m embarrassed about some of them, but they are going to resurface at some point in time so I can fully move on and continue my growth. Diving into the shadow work and committing to the process was a little scary for me. What scared me the most was fully addressing all those memories & allowing myself come to terms with them.

One of the first steps of shadow work is addressing the memories or emotions you’ve hid from for so long. You also must figure out and identify possible triggers that cause certain emotions with those memories. When you’ve identified the memories & triggers you can start to work on moving on from those to create new beliefs that will bring positive light into your life.

For me this is just the beginning of my own shadow work and bringing awareness to those dark parts so I can bring in new light. If this is something that does intrigue you I encourage you to look more into it as well. It’s something that everyone can benefit from and will only bring in more positivity in the long run.

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A Special Thank You to my Friends & Family

Right now I’m at a period of my life where I’ve been focusing more and more on my own inner work & personal development. It’s something I neglected and put off for far too long. I held the belief that if I pushed away the painful memories & experiences I could forget about them forever. I’ve learned though, that’s not the truth. At some point they will resurface and force you to deal with them.

For being 23 years old I feel I have experienced so much already in my lifetime. I grew up in an abusive household for almost 18 years being abused by my mother on a daily basis. I was sexually assaulted at the age of 19. I struggled with an alcohol addiction during that period as well. I hit rock bottom and almost killed myself. I was hospitalized for my mental illness. I was in & out of depressive episodes along with manic episodes. It was only two years ago when I got the help I needed & became stable again.

During the years when I was away at college and struggled with my alcohol addiction I stopped caring about the others around me. I stopped caring when my friends voiced their concerns about me and wanted to help me. My actions became careless and reckless that cost me friendships at that time.

I think back and wonder that if I did listen to them or if I showed more compassion maybe some of those people would still be in my life. I wonder that if I didn’t struggle with alcohol and mental illness that some of those people would still be in my life. It also showed me, who my true friends were, the ones who stuck by me through it all and are still in my life today.

It’s why I want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to my family and closest friends who stuck by me through my darkest moments. I thank you for not giving up on me when I was at my lowest points. I thank you for not getting mad or leaving when I wouldn’t listen to your advice. I thank you for always being there to support and show me love even when I didn’t want to receive it.

I believe it’s always through our darkest struggles and moments that shows us the people in our lives who truly care. It strengthens us to rise up even higher than before. So again, thank you to all those who showed me support and love through my darkest moments.

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Why You Should Start Practicing Mood Hygiene

We practice personal hygiene, dental hygiene, etc. But have you ever thought to practice mood or mental health hygiene?

The word hygiene was derived from the Greek goddess of health, Hygiea. Hygiene is defined as the science of the establishment and maintenance of health. Mood hygiene is when you practice and build habits that will promote good control of your mood symptoms. For those who have a mental illness this helps take preventive measures to improve the symptoms over time.

Living with mental illness, I never thought to add mood hygiene into my routine. The more I learned about it made me realize how beneficial it can be. Practicing mood hygiene doesn’t have to be just for those who have mental illness; it can be for everyone to practice. There are a few ways to practice mood hygiene and incorporate it into your daily life.

  1. Stress and conflict management

When you find yourself in stressful situations, it can sometimes trigger symptoms of your illness like a depressive episode or anxiety attack. There are several ways that you can take to help and prevent stress in your life such as exercising regularly or meditating.

I’ve learned that when I find myself in stressful situations is when my depressive episodes start to surface again. It’s why I’ve added exercise and meditation into my routine because it does help eliminate the stress and lifts that weight off of your shoulders.

  1. Lifestyle regularity

Having structure in your day-to-day life is extremely important. By establishing and sticking to a schedule will help build that structure in your life. For example, I wake up at the same time everyday and have a morning routine that I stick to everyday. I start my mornings by journaling and listing out a few things that I am grateful for each morning. By practicing that gratitude also helps get me in a positive mindset for the day. I then get my workout in before I start my workday.

By having a schedule you stick to on a regular basis builds the structure in your life that will help you feel in control of your life.

  1. Track your moods

By keeping track of your moods will help you determine if there is a certain pattern or cycle in your moods. I started tracking my moods a couple months ago in my journal and it has helped me become more self-aware. It’s helped me notice a pattern in my moods and it allows me to get my moods more under control. It allows me to prepare for the month so I can be strategic with my commitments and make sure I don’t over extend myself.

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These are just a few ways on how you can practice mood hygiene and start implementing them into your own daily life. Practicing mood hygiene on a regular basis will help immensely in the mental health recovery process. It allows you to have a new sense of control in your life and can be empowering for the individual.

My First Time Dining Out in a Year

So, I don’t dine out. The last time was a year ago when I moved to my new place (which by the way, I have been here for exactly a year.) We celebrated the move, but I felt anxious and on the edge of a panic attack. It sucked.

I decided no more dinner out, and I eat in when I am hungry or eat food here. I still go to coffee shops and breakfast at the place that I have been to forever, and the crowds are less when I decide to go.

Today I took a leap and considering that I have a ton of summer plans it is better to get it out of the way now before things are busy again in my life. So I went to dinner to celebrate some family leaving town that was here for a couple of weeks. I was okay at first, and it is always important that I get my water so it is there and its the first mental hurdle when I am out dining. It took longer than I would have liked but, it is not like I can control the waiting staff.

I took my Clonazepam at my regular time at 1pm, but I knew there was a chance I would need it sooner and halfway through dinner I needed it because I could feel the panic rising. I was able to calmly go to my car and take my dosage at 7:45pm which was sooner than the 9pm that I need, but it should last me until early morning which fine.

One issue that I have is a deep seeded fear that I will have a panic attack in the middle of a crowded place, and this was a very crowded restaurant. Crowds are just another issue to go along with my panic disorder issues. I usually eat in, or order take-out preferring the comforts of home. For the last year I have turned down dozens of dinner invites, and most of my limited amount of friends do not ask me to go places anymore.

I have created this world of fear of going out, but I have been feeling left out, and it is easy to blame my mental illness, but there come a time and place where you have to find the courage and figure out what the causes.

For so long now I have hidden in my safe places like coffee shops or the place where I always eat breakfast every three to four months with my best friend. Crowds scare me, and they used to not be that way. I used to go to concerts and hang out with friends. But that was 20 years old me and before I knew about depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. The knowing, and actually experiencing having a panic attack in the middle of a crowd I have some basis for that fear.

Tonight I just got by, and I was lucky everyone was a quick eater. I want to live again. I have plans after graduate school, and that means this summer I have to take the help that I was given and get my recovery moving forward with my panic disorder, because like is passing me by. I am going to be a published author this summer. Things are good, but I need to take this next step in the process. More to come as always.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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When Mania Gets in the Way

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Last week (June 10th-16th) was a tough one. I was picking up my nieces at an early time about an hour away at the airport, and I had to drive my best friend up to pick them up.

I tried my best to get all my school work done before the week started, and then proceeded to stay up for about 32 hours straight so I could sleep Tuesday afternoon, and wake Wednesday at around 2 am morning refreshed and ready to travel.

Part of the issue is that I generally get to bed between 12 am and 2 am, so it was impossible to try and sleep without being exhausted. If I sleep at 2am and had to wake at 2 am therein lies a significant problem. I thought the plan made sense. Sleep 12 hours and wake up better rested and then Thursday was a later pick up around 10 am so I can sleep at my reasonable time. The problem? I never anticipate that staying up for that many hours is inviting mania into my life. Mania is precisely what happened, and it was not pretty.

First off, it was a crazy week. Full-time graduate student, working on my next fantasy fiction novel writing 5,000 words a day and finishing the second edits of my book that is in the publishing phase so that I can reach the final edits. All these things got done at the expense of my mental health and my work for the week. I bombed both assignments, something I have never done as an undergraduate (I graduated with 3.92-grade average) or in the three-plus courses of my graduate studies.

I did what I always do, overextended. It is possible that I was already manic. It tends to happen more during the summer months that the winter months. But, no matter how I slice it, mania and depression took me over, and I let it get to me without knowing. It took this week, and learning of the failure of the last week, to hit rock bottom. I considered quiting this semester. I looked into alternatives, and I think I found some solutions which will allow me to stay in school. It would be all bad to quit this semester.

I got back to work the last two day finishing my paper, and I am hoping that things will get better from here with my editing, which was the major issue last week. Mania tends to sneak up on me, and when it gets too much, I crash. I am a fighter, and I will continue to do what I do best–all that I can to be the best mental health me.

Stay strong in the fight,

Always Keep Fighting

James

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The Dark Side of Social Media

We live in a society today that is ruled by technology. We have access to so much more than we did ten years ago. There are a number of ways for us to stay connected these days thanks to social media. Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. There are times when social media can get toxic and bad for your mental health.

 

Living with a mental illness, I’ve found at times that social media has been toxic for myself. When I find myself feeling negative towards social media or I start being overly self critical; I know it’s time for me to take a breather from social media. While there are many positives for having social media, there are also some negative aspects to it.

 

Social media has been a blessing for staying connected with family and friends across the globe. It’s great being able to stay connected with those in your life who you don’t get to see as often as you would like. I love scrolling my feed seeing pictures of my family and friends enjoying their lives. Social media has been an incredible tool for staying connected with those in your life.

 

There are situations where social media can get to be toxic. We have the Internet at our disposal and it can be so easy to get lost in that void of being stuck behind a computer or phone all day long.

 

One way that social media can be toxic is cyber bulling. Cyber bullying has become more popular in a negative way. Unfortunately, it’s become more common for individuals to go through cyber bullying. Cyber bullying has made it easier for those bullies to target more people since they aren’t face to face and are doing it from a computer or phone.

 

I was cyber bullied during my years in high school. Experiencing it first hand, I know how hurtful it can be. It caused my depression to worsen and it dropped my confidence levels. It’s heartbreaking to see others go through that because I know how hard it can be facing a situation like that.

 

Another way social media can be toxic is comparing ourselves to others we see on social media. Majority of people on social media only share the “highlights” of their life leaving out the behind the scenes and not so pretty moments. I’ve gotten caught up in the comparison game numerous times especially on Instagram. I will catch myself comparing my body to another girls, wondering why my stomach can’t be flat like hers.

 

I’ve now learned that the comparison game gets you nowhere. The comparison game is only toxic and harmful to your mental health. It’s when I remind myself that what that person shares on social media is just a tiny part of their life. We don’t know their entire story or what their current life situation is. We are all uniquely and individually made so no two people are the same.

 

When you find yourself getting caught up in those negative thoughts or find yourself feeling negative towards social media; give yourself a break. It can be so refreshing to take a breather and focus on the other areas of your life. Spend a little extra time giving yourself love and attention that you deserve.

My double sidedness

I originally started my blog – Haelim’s Couch with an intention to be vulnerable and raw with my audience.

Don’t get me wrong, I still am. I share openly about my mental health, and faith as it is a big part of my life.

However, is it selfish of me to wanting to start another blog anonymously – just so I can use it as a space to vent?

I’ve been noticing lately (especially after stop seeing my therapist) that I feel a strong urge to scream into an empty space. I have great friends and have a great relationship with my family members. Nevertheless, there are things in life that I just don’t think it’s either the right time for me to share or just would make my friends and family worry if I do.

As I was driving back home today, I had such a strong urge to go instantly create a new blog anonymously so that I can use it to share whatever I need to get off my chest without worrying about “scaring” anyone away.

Now, before you say the people that get “scared” away by the things I share doesn’t matter whether they’re in my life or not, hear me out.

I’m about to start graduate school training to become a social worker this fall. I am in no means trying to be “fake” and pretend that I have everything all together. However, I feel the need to have a sense of calmness without having to share any “dark” thoughts that I sometimes just need to.

Fellow bloggers, what are your thoughts? Am I being selfish?

When are you done?

I initially refused to start medication because I was afraid I might have to take it forever.

Now, being on it – my fear is gone. I am no longer afraid to be medication for the rest of my life. I appreciate the change it brought to my life, and I am rather very thankful for the help it gave me.

However, not everyone seems to see it this way.

One most frequently asked question from my family and friends would be – “When are you planning on cutting it off? Do you still get anxious and sad if you miss a dose?”

Truly, I don’t know. I don’t know when I would be getting off these pills and yes, I think there are some effect that takes if I miss a dose for few consecutive days.

Why is it that me, the one who is actually facing this is OKAY, doing life with my psychotropic medications have to reassure others that I am okay?

I understand my families and friends are coming from a place of care and compassion.

However, I don’t know how to tell them I don’t plan on getting off this medication anytime soon without giving them the thought that I am “dependent” on it.

What am I supposed to do?

The Many Faces of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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When I ask people that what they think about what chronic anxiety is, they respond that it is just a person who is anxious all the time and they have trouble with dealing with their anxiety all the time.

That is part of anxiety, but what they fail to understand is that there are many faces of a person who deals with anxiety daily. One of the most common I see is the I’m okay on the outside face. This face is the one where we tell those that know we suffer that “I am okay, don’t worry about me” because they feel like a burden on the ones that they love. I wear this face it because I don’t want people to worry about me, I feel like I am not worth it.

Anxiety is all in the mind, but it has real physical features. Some that I have experienced is hyperventilating, the cramping of my hands, shortness of breath, and unable to keep still. The worse part is your mind is telling you things like your going to die because of this, and there is nothing you can do–I call this one my panic attack face. It is funny because people have seen this face and they don’t understand what is happening.

I don’t blame someone who has never had a panic attack when they say, “You just need to calm down.”

Thanks! That is the cure all! They mean well but I have had panic attacks last for hours at a time (and I have had anxiety non-stop for days and even weeks at a time.) It means not having a moment of peace and it the face I wear when lost in my anxiety is the I’m not doing well face. The problem is that is it not much different than my I’m okay face and it can be deceiving because people think that there is nothing at all going on and in the inside of my mind I am falling through space with no end.

I hate my anxiety more than depression. I could watch movies and lay in bed all day. Anxiety can cripple you and drain you of your energy. When I am out in the world, I have my I am doing my best with my social anxiety face. I consider this my brave face because it is so hard for me to function for long stretches of time with my anxiety. I try my best to be a better person when I am around people who always bring up the worst thoughts in my mind because you fear so much with anxiety.

The worst part are the thoughts of having panic attacks in public, which is the worst fear that I face daily.

One time long ago I had a bad panic attack in public it was the worst in my life. I honestly thought that it was it, that I was going to die. My mind raced with the idea that I was going to have a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, and my hands went numb. I couldn’t close a fist if wanted to, and the image of the ambulance and firetruck all around it still haunts me, and I fear that happening again.

Those of us struggling with chronic anxiety, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety are ordinary people. We have trouble living healthy lives, and for so many of us, we do live normal lives even with our crippling anxiety. So if a friend, family member, or significant other tries to talk about their anxiety you should listen. It might be just what gets them through their anxiety that day. Stay strong in the fight.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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