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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Love Through Bipolar

This post might be triggering, as it discusses loving someone with a mental illness, so here is the official **TRIGGER WARNING** Topics discussed in this post include bipolar disorder and loss.

I Was Enchanted

I could go on for a while about all the good things about Jake because there were so many.

But yet, he struggled, like many of us do. When I met him, I really had no idea. Mental illness really isn’t the first thing most people talk about when they first meet someone. In fact, our first conversation was about Julian. However, ADHD and autism is a whole different story from bipolar disorder.

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Jake had beautiful blue eyes and a smile that would melt your heart. I didn’t know that he hid so much, even up until the very last day I saw him, the day before he died.

Meds and the Truth

I’ve tried many medications for migraines and one just happened to be Depakote. This is also used to treat mental health illnesses, including bipolar disorder. We were talking about this one day and finally…

I take that too, but not for migraines.”

What?? Was this it? I’d been waiting for Jake to say something. I’d seen signs of something going on, but I wasn’t sure what. Sometimes we would talk constantly and then go days without speaking. His birthday had just gone by and instead of wanting to hang out, he had said he’d rather be alone. He’d even told me he considered himself as a “project” for me to take on. I didn’t see him like that at all and made sure he knew it.

“What do you take it for?”

He looked away for a minute and then back. “Because I have bipolar disorder.”

Well, then, that was explained. He actually asked me if that changed how I felt about him (nope, not even a little). Apparently, this had caused issues in the past. Some people just aren’t equipped to deal with it, but that’s still really painful for the person involved.

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“The stakes are high, the water’s rough..” – “Ours”, Taylor Swift

Jake’s darker side did make a few appearances, but never once did he get aggressive towards me. We argued a bit, but that’s it. In two years, he only yelled at me twice. Me? More. But then, I’m just naturally loud.

Meds? It’s a well-known fact that many people that have bipolar disorder (and other illnesses) have compliance issues with taking medications, and he was one of them. Along with his brother, I tried to remind and encourage him to take his medications, but it didn’t always work.

Jake and I learned how to read each other- I have always been good at reading others. Thanks to this skill, I was able to tell when he was or wasn’t taking his meds, or when he was or wasn’t having a good day. This helped on his end when I was deeply upset and didn’t want to talk.

He tried so hard to hide this from me, but I still saw everything. I told him that I wasn’t scared of what he was trying to hide. I needed to see it to know what I was dealing with. There were days he just wasn’t the person I knew. He wouldn’t talk or return my texts, but everything was in his eyes.

In his manic episodes, he’d barely sleep, get paranoid (this went really bad a couple months before he died and we didn’t speak for a month), and other things would happen. In a depressive episode, he basically shut down. I would literally have to wait for him to come out of these periods.

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Google Became My Friend

I started researching. I knew a lot already about mental illness, but how to love someone with one? Totally clueless. I learned to give Jake his space, even though it hurt. I made sure he knew I was there when he needed me. I learned not to take everything so deeply, especially if he was agitated and it just wasn’t him. None of this was easy, and it hurt so much to watch him struggle.

This wasn’t perfect, not from the first day. Let’s start with the fact that I’m married. Jake was a huge flirt, and that’s a whole different post. I had to learn that just because he didn’t show me that he cared in the ways I thought he should have didn’t mean he didn’t care at all. He just cared differently. He made sure I took my migraine meds and had breakfast at work, asked me daily how Julian was doing, let me cry, and among many other things, he cared about me for me. That is the best thing he could have done. I did exactly the same for him.

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I know you can’t love someone out of a mental health situation, but you can definitely help them through it. Love helps with that. Jake was a bit quiet and distant in the days before his death, but none of us saw anything like what would happen on September 1, 2015, coming.

It is entirely possible to love someone with a mental illness. Just remember to take care of yourself, don’t let them get away with everything because of whatever they may have and as always, reach out if you need to.

NAMI

DBSAlliance

A Lesson in Respect for Today’s Kids

Kids have to learn a lot while growing up. One of the biggest lessons is respect- for themselves, us as their parents, and others. This can get a bit difficult, as some feel entitled to everything they lay their eyes on.

I’m not really sure where this begins, but it happens quite often. Sometimes it begins with getting everything you want as a small child and it continues, sometimes it is out of guilt, maybe both. It’s a combination of factors that differ with each family and situation.

Disrespect is not cute, it’s also not funny. It can be a sign of worse things to come. I’m not talking outbursts during arguments with a preteen, because those things happen often (in fact, this happened last night with one of my boys) but if it isn’t handled, laughed off or otherwise ignored, it grows. Kids pick up things very quickly and easily, and when they realize they can get away with being rude and disrespectful to their parents, it can snowball.

While I am on the topic of what kids pick up…

Manners

They’re Watching Us

Kids watch us from day one, even when we don’t think they are. They pick up on how we feel about them and the rest of the world. They can develop their worldview from ours- they also learn how the world sees them.

One way to teach respect is to give it to your children. Listening to them, actively listening, is the best thing you can do. This makes them feel important, valued and loved. They might be telling you something that is huge to them, and not-so-huge to you, but still, want you to know. This means looking into their eyes and asking questions- they can read your interest by these actions. Try not to interrupt unless you need to.

Try not to brush off their feelings and emotions. This can make your child feel a lot worse than they already do- if they can’t find the words, help them figure it out. This encourages honesty and open communication.

This one is huge at my house- respect boundaries. If your child asks you to knock before coming into their bedroom, do so. If you have a kid who hates hugs or other forms of physical affection, find other ways to show affection. Julian doesn’t do hugs, but he will give a high-five or fist bump.

Of course, I’d rather have the hug, but it makes him terribly uncomfortable, so I’ll take the high-five. If you respect the smaller boundaries, chances are, your child will learn to respect you and the rules you set.

Let them be who they are. We may not always like what our kids choose to like- I can’t stand half the things my sons watch but they like them and they’re not harmful. One kid may be extremely artistic, but the other can barely draw a stick figure. This is okay. Each child is different, with their own personality and talents. Don’t try to mold your child into who you want them to be- this usually backfires.

Let them see you being respectful. This can be a small act, as thanking a waitress or someone in a store. It does matter, because, again, your child is watching. The more they see you doing things like that, the more they will want to do it. Some kids will need a bit of prompting, and this is okay.

Own your mistakes. Parents make mistakes- lots of them. If you mess up, apologize and move forward. Kids need to learn to accept responsibility for their actions and apologizing. This can be hard but is a necessary lesson.

Find the cause. If there is a pattern of disrespect, find the cause. Is your child angry about something? School? Something at home? Friends? Talk to your child and see what is going on. The need can be addressed minus disrespect.

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Teens can be a challenge when it comes to disrespect- what are your tips/ideas for this topic? Leave a comment!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

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Information courtesy of Parenting For Brain

A Fine Parent

5 Steps To Create a Life Audit

Life can get a bit overwhelming. Work, relationships, hobbies, friends, family, kids, and more. There comes a point in which you may need to stop and take a look at what is working and what isn’t. This can happen after a major illness, life change, or just being tired of how your life is going.

You also have to figure out what you want more and less of. This might sound super easy to think out, but once it hits paper, your thoughts make a lot more sense.

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What Is a Life Audit? How Can It Help Me?

Looking at your life on paper can help you realize where you are, where you want to be and how to get there. You may be able to understand what needs to change to move forward. An audit looks at the four main sections of your life:

Physical, Social, Mental and Professional Health

A physical health audit can help you take a deep look at your health, what needs to be changed, and how you can do so. You can also set goals and reminders to get you to your best health. For example, I could make a list of appointments I need to make so that my thyroid and RA meds are where they need to be so that I stay healthy (as possible).

This includes blood work at my PCP and rheumatologist’s office. This also includes a checkup with my new rheumatologist (same practice- my former one moved). This can also be a time in which you can decide to try a new sport or class that is fitness based or get back into the gym.

Social health is important, and this part of an audit can help you look at your interactions with others. How do you give back to the community? Do you get out with friends often, even if you are an introvert? Do you network with others? Socializing can get tiring but can enrich your life in many ways.

A major part of your life audit is looking at your mental health. If you are not healthy in this area, the others will suffer in some capacity. This isn’t about having a full mental health evaluation completed, but more about where you are at the moment. Are you taking time to check in with yourself? Are your relationships with others healthy?

In the post 5 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries there are tips to help with setting boundaries. In this section, list the issues that you want/need to work on and how to do so.

Professional health entails looking at your employment, the perks and not-so-good points. How secure do you feel in your career? Is there something else you would rather be doing or are you pleased with where you are?

Look at your income- is it time for a raise? How is your work/life balance? Does it need to be better? How can it improve? These are just some ideas that you can ponder.

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What’s Next?

This is the fun part- deciding what needs to go and what can stay. Ask yourself these questions:

What is making me happy? 

What is stressing me out that I can get rid of without major impacts? 

Would I sign up for this now if I wasn’t doing this? (This is meant for volunteer or other non-mandatory things in your life.) 

What would I lose by not doing this anymore? What am I gaining by doing this? 

Do I enjoy this? 

After going through the elimination process, the list of your life’s tasks should be a lot more manageable. If not, go through the four sections again.

Going through what is important in your life may show you that there may be things that you don’t need, want or enjoy. Why live the one life you have that way?

Have you done a life audit? Did it help? Leave a comment! 

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of Elanalyn

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Toxic Family Members: Handle With (Self) Care

Holidays are great and all, but what about the relative(s) that you don’t want to see? You can choose to avoid them completely, or if you’re stuck being around them because you don’t want to skip a gathering entirely, you have to handle them in small doses. I’m in the second category. Anyone else? Raise your hand then keep reading.

I get that this happens year-round. I have a whole side of my family that I don’t see because of this topic and, well, that’s not entirely heartbreaking. I talk to one cousin on that side, Bethani. I’m a decade older than her, but we have a blast talking. She’s super smart and I’m really proud of her. Our Twitter chats are EPIC.

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How does one handle toxic family members? With (self) care. In my case, I have to do this sober- yuck.

Every family has their issues and the holidays tend to bring out the worst. What can you do?

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I Got New Rules, I Count ‘Em

(Many thanks to Dua Lipa, from “New Rules”. If you’re familiar with the song, read the list to the tempo of the song as an added bonus.)

One: Set boundaries and stick to them. Whatever and whoever it is that bothers you, write it down, make a list on your phone.. do what you need to create boundaries. If you need to, set a time to show up and leave. Everyone has limits on what they can and can’t deal with. If people can’t deal, then they need to look at themselves and think about why they can’t respect your needs. If you don’t drink, or only want so many, don’t hesitate to turn down the drinks at the party. Same with food, if you’re watching what you eat.

Two: Take a time-out. This can be from a person or the whole gathering. Take a short break outside, if the weather is okay, or just go to a quieter area, if possible. Holiday gatherings can get loud, noisy and somewhat overwhelming. It’s okay to need a break.

Three: Remember that their issues are not your fault. This is incredibly important to remember. You cannot take on someone else’s issues. Everyone has to take control of their own life, in one way or another. You cannot fix them, but can possibly be there when they are in a better place to work things out.

Four: Know the topics that may trigger issues and that some topics are just off limits. Some people do not have the ability to discuss certain topics without things going rapidly downhill- politics, sometimes sports, children, old issues, etc. If you know those are bad topics, don’t go there. If someone you have issues with brings it up, tell them you’d rather not discuss it and change the topic.

Five: Remember that YOUR wellbeing comes first. It’s not fun to be stressed out during the holidays, or any other time of the year. Take time for yourself before and after holiday gatherings to de-stress. It is worth it and so are you.

May your holiday gatherings be fun and drama/fight-free. Eat great food and have some laughs!

Leave some comments about how your gatherings went- did they go well?

Information courtesy of Psychology Today

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Pictures courtesy of Unsplash