How I Learned to Love My Dark Side

demon in mirror cartoon image

How I Learned to Love My Dark Side originally appeared on Shine, a free daily text to help you thrive.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m sensitive. Like, we’re talking so sensitive that I can get stressed out from watching The Great British Bake Off because I see the stress in the competitors faces as they race to put a Victoria sponge cake in the oven.

I’ve had people in my life give me flack for being so sensitive, and often I’m self-conscious that I’ll come off as weak or unable to handle what obstacles come my way. That’s why I consider sensitivity my “dark side.” Continue reading How I Learned to Love My Dark Side

7 Self-Care Tips for When Stress Affects Your Body

stressed sore woman working on computer at cafe

Since I was a boy, my body has been extremely sensitive and reactive to both physical and emotional stress. When my parents announced we were moving away from my hometown, my muscles tensed up so much I could barely use the bathroom for many days. Eventually I learned these health issues were a combination of a rare muscle tension condition and psychosomatic symptoms from my depressive-anxiety disorder.

Because my body usually felt like a car that had driven hundreds of thousands of miles — parts constantly requiring maintenance, always creaking, sputtering, or breaking down — I became a master of self-care. I spent hours every week making a conscious effort to heal and recuperate. This lifestyle was the only way for me to survive and function well enough to graduate from college and find employment. Whenever I neglected proper rest or pushed myself too far, new symptoms arose. Continue reading 7 Self-Care Tips for When Stress Affects Your Body

Here’s How Street Harassment Affects Women’s Mental Health — and How We Heal

two men cat calling woman on street

I remember what I was wearing: A blue tank top with a picture of a peacock, jean short-shorts, and flip-flops. I remember the weather: High summer, sweet grass scenting the air and the sun just beginning its slow descent to the horizon. I was walking down a country road, lost in my thirteen-year-old daydreams, when suddenly —

Honk honk!

A car horn split the air with its grating clamor. A group of men in the car waved their hands and heads out the windows, hollering at me.

It felt like I jumped a mile. My body flooded with shock. Fear. Self-consciousness. The moment before, I was at ease in my space, my body, my summer daydreams. Now, my sense of peace was ripped away like a wax strip torn from the heart. Continue reading Here’s How Street Harassment Affects Women’s Mental Health — and How We Heal

Am I Going to Be on Meds Forever?

pills on counter

After being medicated for 12 years, it feels like my pill bottles have become an extension of my own body. Pill popping has turned into an art that comes as naturally as breathing. At this point in my life, coming off of my meds isn’t something I can see happening anytime soon, or anytime at all, for that matter. As my 24th birthday rolled around, and I realized I’d been medicated for exactly half of my life so far, I couldn’t help but wonder — am I going to be on meds forever?

In middle school, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and started seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed me an SSRI to take daily and a benzodiazepine to take as needed — which ended up being almost daily. The doctor didn’t tell me how long I’d be taking these prescriptions, but I also never asked because it wasn’t something that crossed my little mind. All I wanted was to stop feeling so horrible. Not to mention, growing up and becoming an adult was unfathomable to me. With anxiety and impending doom clouding my mind, I could barely picture getting through the day in front of me. Continue reading Am I Going to Be on Meds Forever?

When to Disclose Your Mental Health Issues (And When Not To)

anxious woman at conference table with co-workers

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues. It can be hard to determine when it’s the right time to talk about your conditions, and when it’s the right time to sit back and stay tight-lipped. How do you decide?

In the Workplace

My clients often discuss the challenges of dealing with mental health issues in the workplace. They sometimes ask, “Should I tell my employer about my depression?” A lot of times, it depends.

There are some positive signs that might foreshadow a favorable reaction when it comes to talking to your employer about your mental health. The first question I always ask my clients is, “What do you expect or stand to gain from making this disclosure?” Sometimes the answer is direct and concrete, such as more time to complete an assignment or task. Other times it might be about being able to schedule a break in the work day to make a weekly therapy or doctor appointment. Continue reading When to Disclose Your Mental Health Issues (And When Not To)

The College Student’s Guide to Mental Health (What I Wish I Knew)

female college student stressed grabbing hair holding binder

Society and pop culture portray college as a wild time loaded with sleepless nights and packed with parties, but I’ll tell you the truth. College is filled with a different type of sleepless nights when you’re suffering from mental illness — nights filled with long anxiety attacks and horrible thoughts and mornings filled with dread of attending class for fear of having an anxiety attack in the classroom.

There are things I know now that I wish I knew then, but the good news is, now I can share my tips with all of you. If you’re feeling hopeless about getting through college alive, here’s a guide for you. Continue reading The College Student’s Guide to Mental Health (What I Wish I Knew)

How To Survive Wedding Season Stress

bride planning wedding on tablet

Life transitions — regardless of whether they are happy or sad occasions—are inherently stressful. And yet, they are something we all go through at one time or another, whether it’s a job change, a break-up, a big move, or the birth or death of a loved one. Watching others go through these transitions can be stressful as well, especially if they trigger our own difficult memories or feelings.

While wedding season can be a time of fun and merriment, it can unearth all sorts of mixed emotions. Weddings are a major life event jam-packed with feelings of fear and high expectations — expectations that can be easily crushed.

If we are the ones getting married, we will likely have our own deeply personal set of fears about this transition: Will life ever be the same as it once was? What if our feelings change? Will our marriage last? These questions are natural, but extremely stressful nonetheless. Continue reading How To Survive Wedding Season Stress

Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries

woman in bed anxiety light on

Despite advances in neuroscience during the past several decades, sleep continues to remain mostly a mystery. We know we need it as much as water, food and air. We can go weeks without eating food, but what would happen if you went weeks without sleep? Maybe you have. Various degrees of insomnia, and official sleep disorders, are serious conditions. But, what about periodic anxieties that are significant enough to disrupt our sleep. Missing one night of sleep can disrupt our normal biorhythms enough to disrupt the next night’s, and the next!

Anxiety, for the most part, originates in the mind. The body sensations and feelings we have surrounding anxiety occur because of the psychosomatic nature of our mind-body system. In other words, when we think about situations, even if subconsciously, that appear to be in some way a threat or potential danger, hormones and chemicals are secreted from glands which then give rise to the physiological experiences of tension, tightness, constriction.

These are useful in fight or flight situations, which we believe, at a subconscious level, exist — even if they don’t. The perceived threat or danger is mostly psychological and consists of “what if” statements and pictures in the mind, that are at best unpleasant, and at most, lifestyle threatening. Most all, anxiety is about a future that is, factually, unknown. Anxiety is based on a lot of conjecture.

If you’re too anxious to sleep, there are things you can do to help set up an environment, both internal and external, more conducive to sleep. Consider these tips: Continue reading Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries

5 Things You Should Know About Depression and Christianity

man praying church bible

“Why doesn’t the church know what to do with depression?” That’s the question I’ve been asking myself since the moment I experienced my depressive episode. The perspectives about mental disorders vary greatly throughout the church.

This isn’t to paint the church with broad strokes, but generally, depression is a topic Christians tend to avoid in the community. Misconceptions about mental illness are pervasive throughout all aspects of our culture. Nonetheless, some of the “church-y” misconceptions about clinical depression come from a genuine desire to understand them through the scriptures. There are things, however, that well-meaning Christians tend to get wrong.

To sort out the conflicting rhetoric and misconceptions, here are a few things you should know: Continue reading 5 Things You Should Know About Depression and Christianity

Summertime, and the FOMO’s Not Easy

woman smartphone summer

I’ve always dreaded holidays like the 4th of July — and this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m lacking American pride. Occasions that aren’t family-centric like Christmas or Thanksgiving generally come along with an obligation to have plans with a group of friends or significant other. As a result, we feel the need to have something special planned (because you know everyone’s going to be asking you what you’re doing for the 4th) and make what we do look epic on social media (because getting a lot of “likes” means that we’re doing something right).

It’s a lot of pressure. Hello, anxiety!

FOMO, or, fear of missing out, goes hand-in-hand with the uneasiness that can arise from the holidays or the onslaught of summer fun in general. FOMO is so real that it was recently added to the Oxford Dictionaries, and defined as, “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

There’s SO much pressure to attend events and socialize on the 4th of July…and every other weekend throughout the summer season. Naturally, this can be rough on anyone’s mental health, but the FOMO dynamic is taken to another level when mental illness comes into play, when sufferers may already feel on edge about social situations. In this case, summertime events can definitely be a trigger. It’s hard enough for someone with social anxiety or depression to face interacting with others. Add on the resentment and guilt that comes with the fear of missing out, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous, and combustible combination.

Here are a few pointers (tested by yours truly) to keep your FOMO at bay. Continue reading Summertime, and the FOMO’s Not Easy