How Do You Embrace Vulnerability?

Showing your feelings to others can be difficult. There are fears behind it that others may not see and/or understand. Those fears and feelings can be used against you by the wrong people, which is one of the worst things that can happen to your emotional well-being.

This can make you want to withdraw into a shell and shut people out. It can seem easier to shut people out than to let them in and see your not-so-amazing side. Showing others your tears, anger or even your deepest thoughts, can be mentally tiring and tough.

A Big Word with a Bigger Meaning

It is hard to predict who will and will not be the right person to open up and be vulnerable around. Let’s start with the definition, according to Webster’s:

capable of being physically or emotionally wounded: open to attack or damage. (The third definition doesn’t apply to this situation)

Who really wants to be open to attack? Not me. I’m not a fan of being capable of being wounded either way mentioned. My immune system wounds me enough, thanks. I’ve been emotionally wounded enough for a lifetime, starting with my parents’ split when I was a kid and its aftermath.

Basically, my dad literally said in court that my mom could have my sister and I because he didn’t want us. To this day, we still aren’t very close. He didn’t walk me down the aisle when I got married in 2005 and has missed out on a lot of events.

That will mess a girl up and create some trust issues. If you can’t trust people, there goes the idea of vulnerability.

Rose quote

I used to have a huge circle of friends, thanks to school, work and later college. This continued until 2015 when my life took a very sharp left turn. It took losing a lot of my friends after Jake’s death to realize who my friends really are.

Clue: it definitely isn’t anyone who flips on you at a funeral home. If someone asks you how you are doing (at the wake of someone you were in love with) then says, “This isn’t about you”, then maybe you should look into a new circle of friends.

I opened up to a circle of people that I shouldn’t have. They talked about me behind my back, didn’t believe in me at all, but I didn’t see it that way. I was too busy drinking away my problems.

In response, I blocked about 100 people from my social media and quit my job. I don’t normally recommend this, but it was a matter of my immediate mental health and I do enjoy having a clean legal record.

I have a bad temper, even after therapy, and I knew I would never make it back to that job without someone getting hurt. I also stopped talking to almost everyone that I still spoke to. I didn’t trust anyone and I wasn’t in the mood to try it again anytime soon.

Two things happened: therapy and Sara. She was the first person I was able to open up to in the time after my life blew up, and I had no idea if she was truly as nice as her cousins (Josh and Jordan) told me she was. Learning to be vulnerable again would have to start with her and Matthew.

Break quote

A Flower in Bloom

I consider embracing vulnerability as being somewhat like a flower in bloom. It starts out slowly because you have to take your time. It doesn’t happen overnight. This also requires patience, something Matthew had to learn the hard way. He didn’t understand that I couldn’t just forgive him and move on.

I needed space and time to deal with all of the events that made our marriage go bad, figure out if I wanted to stay and what we needed to do to change. This was a huge task to take on, with grieving Jake’s death added to it.

I had to basically relearn how to trust him with my thoughts, feelings and my body again. I also had to work on the anxiety of old thoughts returning, something that I still struggle with. Sometimes I’m like, “Did I really just say that? Is he gonna be pissed? What if he starts yelling at me?”

I learned, however, that if you don’t give yourself the chance to be vulnerable to others, people can see you as cold, as fake. They might see you as something that you aren’t, and that isn’t something you want.

Jake once told me that when he first tried flirting with me, I barely paid attention to him. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I brushed him off repeatedly. He went home, rethought his approach (he was not used to being ignored) and talked to Jordan, who knew me a lot better. I felt so bad because that isn’t me. I apologized. Luckily, he kept speaking to me.

What can you try to be vulnerable to others?

  • Choose people that you can trust. Who is there for you? Who can you talk to about anything? Let trust build over time.
  • Start with small things. You don’t have to tell people everything that has happened in your life. Start with the smaller things- like if you’re having a bad day, if you’ve got a stomach bug and need soup, etc. This helps you build trust in others and realize it’s okay to show a softer side. Over time, it will be easier to let others in and be okay with risking yourself.
  • Remember that you’re not clingy or needy. Opening yourself up to others does not automatically mean that you are clingy or needy. There’s a difference.
  • There might be setbacks, but take the time to learn from them, pick yourself up and move along. This sucks. Mistakes are made. Feelings get hurt. You can and will get through this.
  • If you need to, talk to someone. This was a topic that I worked on for most of my time in therapy. For further reading, please see Rebuilding Trust in Others

If vulnerability is difficult for you, it may be holding you back from some great connections. Consider which parts are the hardest and work on them, either alone or with a therapist. This may take work and time, but your emotional wellbeing is worth the work.

5 Rules for Mental Strength

It is not always easy to be mentally strong. I struggle with this a lot. I’m still working on this one. There are days that I feel fantastic and days that I can barely get out of bed because I feel so badly about myself. I’m sure that many others feel the same.

How does this “being mentally strong” thing work? It’s a little different for everyone, but here are a few ideas:

59de3c3f71b94747e5787a97b5a89720.jpg

Being yourself. This is number one for me. I have fought very hard to be accepted for who I am by my own husband and that’s something nobody should have to do.

People change, and sometimes people can’t accept that. When you are comfortable with yourself, it’s much easier to be strong, because you have more faith in yourself. You know you can get through things. You know that you can tackle what is in front of you.

c4072694c052dcc4730a671e631fe603.jpg

Trust yourself. Many of us tend to underestimate ourselves, including me. I’ve made many decisions and second guessed myself, even on picking clothes, shoes and maybe even mascara. This tends to occur when you have low self-confidence.

I’ve learned to trust myself a lot more through therapy-working more to shut down that voice in my mind that says “That’s a bad idea, Wrae. Don’t do it. You can’t pull this off”. When you trust yourself more, you will believe in yourself more. You will make decisions with a lot more confidence, even about the small things.

754468abfe60cda46970411143bcef66.jpg
Build confidence. As Demi Lovato once said, “What’s wrong with being confident?” First of all, I love Demi. She has an amazing voice, has great style and she’s one of my sobriety role models.

She had a point with that lyric. What is wrong with being confident? I’m not talking about crossing the line and being all-out cocky or anything like that, but knowing what you are capable of and what your limits are.

Everyone has them, physically and emotionally. Don’t feel bad about those limits. For sheer example, I hate spiders, extreme heights, and public speaking.

I had to take public speaking in college and almost had a panic attack once. I was also hugely pregnant with Cameron. My professor wasn’t in the mood to send me into early labor, so he allowed me to give my speech from my seat and things ended a lot better than I had anticipated.

Confidence is good. This also helps with looks and body image- I’m a size 14 now and weigh in at around 170. I do not care to disclose that. I weighed 125 in 2015 before my life imploded and I was a size 4. I have been confident both sizes and weights.

Like every other woman in existence, even the awesome Tess Holliday (my favorite model), I have days where I think I look like crap, but then I remember what my body has been through and will continue to do and move on.

This took a lot of work because, at some points, I didn’t take my 60 lb weight gain well. This confidence can be hard to attain, thanks to social media and Photoshopped images of models. It’s tough to look at, so I tend to look at body-positive models.

4512c5137253b47a037466234a29d921.jpg
Daily reminders. I remind myself daily to take care of myself- this is a must do. If I don’t take care of myself, who will? I have two chronic illnesses and self-care is a must for both. I also remind myself “One day at a time” because that is how I have set my life up.

I just can’t plan far in the future anymore. Whether it is a phrase, app, or something else that helps, once you set your mind on something daily, it becomes a daily habit to take care of yourself and that leads to and supports mental strength.

0b0c2c047792ddfc4e82ef75967f1301.jpg

Not caring so much what others think. My mother is 62 and does not care what anyone thinks of her. She has always been like this. She’s small, very feisty, and hilarious. Clearly, these genes have passed on to me.

It took me a very long time to get to the point that I really didn’t care what others think of me, but that’s where I am sitting. It’s not healthy at all to care so much what others think of you, because it will break you down in the end. It erodes your self-esteem when you don’t meet their standards.

Your individuality will fade as you try to be more like others and less like yourself. This isn’t good for anyone.
These tips may be what you need to move forward onto becoming stronger. Take them and consider what else you may need to form more strength within yourself.

Essential Facts to Know About Bipolar Disorder

**Trigger warning: this post discusses mania, depression, suicide and other topics that may upset those who have lived experience. Please read with caution.**

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health illness. It affects millions of people (2.6% of the American population), but yet, you may not see the signs for a long time. I have friends that live with this illness and while they do struggle, they also have great days, weeks and even months between episodes.

It hurts my heart when they are not doing so well, but all I can do is support them if they want it. The disorder and its many presentations differ among people, even among episodes. One episode can be a mixed episode, the next can be full-on depression. There is no way of knowing, even if there is a known pattern of episodes.

There are facts that can expand your knowledge of and help someone you know that has bipolar disorder.

Shadow pic

More Than Mood Swings

Almost everyone has mood swings- some days we are happy, some we are sad. In the case of bipolar disorder, these changes affect a person’s ability to function in daily life- work, relationships, school, etc. These changes include mania (“highs”) and depression (“lows”). Suicide attempts are common in those with bipolar disorder, especially during a depressive episode. The risk is even higher when there is a history of previous attempts.

Bipolar disorder can be treated with therapy and medication. Some have issues staying compliant with their medications because of side effects and/or once they feel better, they don’t see the need for medications.

It is vitally important that once medications are started to stay on them unless otherwise directed by the prescribing physician. Many people with this disorder can live full, productive lives. Most people see their first episode between their late teen years and mid-20’s.

What does mania look like?

  • Feelings of euphoria and elation, in some people- this can come out as irritability or anger
  • Impulsive, high-risk behaviors- this varies among people, but this can include spending sprees, sexual promiscuity, daredevil-like behaviors, and drug and/or alcohol abuse.
  • increased energy, rapid speech
  • decreased sleep and appetite
  • disorganized thoughts and difficulty concentrating

What does depression look like?

  • Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • Inability to sleep/sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in regularly liked activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness/guilt
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or appearance

Causes, Types and Risk Factors

There isn’t a single cause for bipolar disorder, but there are multiple contributing factors.

Genetics- This disorder tends to run in families. Please read Mental Health and Genetics: The Main Connections for more information on how genetics play a role in certain mental health illnesses. Scientists are working on finding abnormalities in specific genes in this case.

Biological- Researchers believe that some neurotransmitters don’t work correctly in the brains of those with bipolar disorder.

Environmental- Outside factors, like a major life change, may trigger a biological reaction or genetic predisposition. It’s hard to know for sure, but it is seen as a possibility.

The Different Types of Bipolar Disorder:

  • Bipolar I: An individual has both manic and depressive episodes of different lengths.
  • Bipolar II: Less severe manic episodes than Bipolar I, but the depressive episodes are the same.
  • Rapid-cycling: experiencing four or more episodes of mania, depression or both within one year
  • Mixed episodes: Mania and depression occur at the same time. This means someone can feel hopeless but yet energetic enough to do risky things.

Risk Factors:

  • A family history of bipolar disorder or other psychological disorders
  • Alcohol and/or substance abuse
  • Major life changes
  • Stress
  • Medication interactions- for example, some antidepressants can induce mania.

Angry cat

Knowing When to Get Help

When someone you care about seems a bit “off” for a period of more than a few days, it may be time to get them to go to a mental health facility, therapist or other assistance. The concern can be sudden or gradual after seeing someone not taking care of themselves, acting out of character, spending large amounts of money, or showing other signs of mental distress.

It may be hard to talk to them about it, but it may be what they need most. Knowing that someone cares for them may be the push they need to get help. Bipolar disorder does not get better on its own.

Their treatment may include medication, CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) or other options as needed. They may even have a co-occurring condition that may also need to be treated. The most common conditions are ADHD, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

If you or someone you care about is in a bipolar episode and experiencing thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide, please get to an ER immediately, or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. You can also text HOME to 741741. Both are free.

Support and Love

Those with bipolar disorder need two major things from those they love and care about: support and love. It’s not easy to battle your own mind every day. It can get exhausting. I’ve watched my friends battle through issues with medications, hallucinations, depressive and manic episodes. This is not fun, but they did not choose their chemical makeup. They just try to get through life like the rest of us.

If you love someone with bipolar disorder, please read Mental Illness and Relationships

It can be a bumpy road, as I learned, but it’s entirely worth it.

Pics courtesy of unsplash

Information courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Psych Central

The Benefits of a Daily Routine

Routines can get a bit boring…day after day, we get up, eat, go to work, come home, hang out, go to bed…or some variation of this. Some of us stay home with kids, some travel frequently for work, etc. Either way, almost everyone has a routine.

Clock

My Attempt at a Routine

I’m at home with the kids and we have a routine. It’s pretty stable because Julian and Lily do their best with one. I do okay with a routine, but if things get shaken up, I am okay. The kids require a bit of notice. Otherwise, one or both can get quite upset and nobody wants that.

They like knowing what will happen when they get out of school- snack, homework, dinner, shower, TV/screen time then bed, with some outside time thrown in if the weather is okay.

This changes when there are school breaks, of course, or in case of horrible flu outbreaks like the one in January. In that case, nobody moves and we watch a ton of TV when we are awake to do so.

We don’t schedule much on weekends- those are open for fun things with friends, family, and my weekly Yoga for Recovery class.

Why Is Routine Important?

Would you want to go through your days not knowing what’s happening next? This does not sound fun, in fact, it would likely create a lot of anxiety. You would become anxious at not knowing where to go, what to do, or even when to eat (besides your stomach telling you).

Routines can create a soothing effect, even if you don’t realize it. It can be comforting. You can leave work or otherwise come to the end of your day knowing that you can relax, however you choose to do so.

Having a routine is also great for kids. It decreases anxiety and creates stability. They can eventually learn to plan things around their routine, like extracurricular activities, with your help.

Routine is also helpful for major life changes and trying to adjust after them- it helps restore a sense of normalcy. It helps make you feel like you’re getting back into real life, not the event that you are coming out of- divorce, a death in the family, moving, or other changes.

Sleeping cat

How Can I Start a Routine?

If you aren’t a routine-based person, it’s okay. Not everyone is. If you want to try starting one, it definitely requires small steps. Throwing too many changes at yourself can cause overwhelm.

Try these tips:

  • Try a small breakfast, quick meditation or other activity in the morning. It can be good to try something new while building a routine.
  • Don’t get angry at yourself if you get out of routine. It happens.
  • When coming home from work or going out for the day, try an activity to help shift to being home. Most people go through the mail, change clothes, listen to music, etc.
  • Try to stick to your routine as much as you can but stay open to change. Rigidity increases anxiety and even anger. Example: having to stop amd pick up a forgotten ingredient for dinner or pet food isn’t the worst thing that can happen in a day.

Results

Depending on why you decided to change or create a routine, your results may be a bit different than someone else’s. Everyone can benefit from a routine, from kids to the elderly.

Have you changed or created a new routine lately?

Self-Care Isn’t Just Bubble Baths

I love the idea of self-care. Everyone needs to take care of themselves. It can, however, become somewhat of a burden, when you are struggling just to get out of bed. Those are the days that brushing your teeth seems too hard.

I’ve had those days. I don’t like them, but then who does?

Putting Effort into Yourself

You are worth the effort you put into yourself. Even if it is rolling out of bed at 2 PM and putting on a pair of sweats. That means you’re moving and attempting to put yourself together. This, to me, at least, is a form of self-care.

Bubble baths and face masks are fantastic. I am not knocking them at all. I do a face mask once a week. The self-care that I discuss in this post is a bit deeper.

Bed

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. When was the last time I made an appointment for or went to my annual physical checkup?
  2. When was my last gynecological/prostate checkup?
  3. When was my last dental appointment? (I know lots of people hate the dentist, but this is an important one.)
  4. If you have a chronic medical condition, when was your last appointment for it? (Some have as needed check-ins, like migraine, and if you don’t need appointments for that, then give yourself a pat on the back.)
  5. If you are in therapy when was your last session? Are you on track?

After answering these questions, take a moment to make a list of the appointments you may need to make. Taking care of your physical and mental health is key. These appointments may not be delightful but you may feel better after.

Fruit

An Easier Daily Routine

In the midst of a hard time, it can be hard to get out of bed. Motivation can be hard to come by when you feel like there is a mountain of chores and/or work in front of you.

How can you get past those thoughts? How can you do the minimum and still function?

  • Give yourself a certain time limit in bed. After that, it is time to get out of bed. That’s it.
  • Eat a small meal or snack.
  • Try a small task first, like sorting mail or picking an outfit, then build up.

Take a break if this seems to be too much, then come back. If it feels okay, build up to a shower. Maybe try the dishes. The idea is to not push yourself too far because that can create even worse feelings.

The more self-care you do, the better you will feel about yourself, even if you don’t see it at first. In time, you may want to do more.

Expanding The Knowledge

If you do enjoy pampering yourself, manicures and spas might be a good place to go. So are bookstores and parks just to walk around- quiet, peaceful and just as fun.

Self-care is also about finding things that you enjoy and doing them. These activities help combat feelings of stress and depression among other emotions.

I do want to make something very clear: self-care isn’t selfish. This is about doing what you need to so that you are the best person possible. It can even be the steps that occur so you get out of bed.

Take these tips and get a checkup. You and your health are worth it.

Do you have any helpful self-care tips? Feel free to share!

Pics courtesy of unsplash