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.

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.

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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.

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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

Going to Therapy: Setting and Smashing Your Goals

Therapy is rough work. Some sessions are great, some will leave you in tears.

Everyone goes to therapy for different reasons- for anxiety, depression, substance abuse (in some cases, this court-ordered), grief, and other issues.

I began therapy in 2015 for three out of four of those reasons- the substance abuse part came in later.

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Not As Much Fun To Pick Up The Pieces

That’s part of a Nine Inch Nails lyric from “The Perfect Drug”, one of the best songs from the 1990s. Therapy helped me pick up the pieces of my life- I found Rachel thanks to PsychologyToday. My life had just fallen apart in front of me- Jake died, I quit a job I loved, cut a lot of people off, I had no idea on what to do with my marriage and I was a complete wreck.

Let’s just say my first goal was to manage the grief. I started therapy in October 2015. The tears flowed so much that I wasn’t able to wear any makeup for two months after Jake died. I ate my feelings and started gaining weight, and the alcohol didn’t help.

One of the first things I did was make a list of all the things that I lost when he died. This was heartbreaking, but it helped me come up with ways to make something good out of something so awful. This led to creating this blog, volunteering for the AFSP and other great things.

My other big goal was to figure out what the hell to do with my marriage, or what was left of it. I was supposed to meet with my divorce attorney on September 9, the day before our 10th wedding anniversary (the irony) to sign the papers to file divorce paperwork.

I never made it to this appointment- Jake died September 1 and I didn’t have the emotional strength. I’m almost certain I spent that day crying in bed. This was a tough decision because our marriage was in a terrible spot. Matthew and I were barely speaking, and when we did, all we did was fight. I wanted out. The divorce had nothing to do with Jake, and I made sure he knew that. Our marriage was basically screwed before he ever came into my life.

So where was I supposed to go from there?

Rachel encouraged me to think.

A lot.

I emailed my attorney, who was very understanding about the change in my situation.

Over many sessions, lots of tissues and candy later, I decided to give my marriage a shot. I had changed a lot over the last couple of years, and I figured Matthew deserved a chance at who I had become. As he once said, Jake “fixed what I broke.” I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I emailed my attorney again and told her that I wouldn’t need her anymore.

I began working on myself- the third main goal. This was work on self- esteem and self-worth. I’d already learned what I would and wouldn’t take, thanks to both Matthew and Jake. This time, I was working on watching for patterns of repeat behavior that I knew I didn’t deserve, feeling better about myself, among other things.

I finished therapy in May 2018. I knew it was time- I have processed Jake’s death as well as I can. None of us know what exactly made him decide to take his life, but I have been able to find some peace with it. This was not easy. I still have days where I feel crappy about myself, but I think everyone does. I’m able to lift myself out of it. I’m sober- Rachel was thrilled when I stopped drinking. My marriage isn’t and probably never will be perfect, but it’s okay. I think I still like Matthew, and honestly, I’m lucky he still speaks to me.

I told my story about therapy for a reason- to explain why having goals is so important.

Tell Me What You Don’t Like About Yourself

If you’ve ever seen the show “Nip/Tuck”, this is what the very handsome plastic surgeons asked their patients when they met them.

In a way, therapy is a time in which you can work on the things you may not like so much about yourself and may want to change.

If you don’t have goals when you get to therapy, your therapist will help you set them according to your needs. Be ready to do the work- it may not be fun. You might even be asked to do “homework”, small assignments outside of your sessions. For example, I was asked to open up to people more, to talk to my friends and Matthew more to help me trust others more.

I developed trust issues after Jake’s death- the people who I thought were my friends were the first people to show me they really weren’t. After that, I stopped speaking to a lot of people and now, I just don’t welcome a lot of new people into my life.

I don’t want to risk that again. I have a hard time telling those closest to me when I’m struggling because I figure they have heard enough of my problems over the last three years, so I tend to not say much.

This is still a work in progress.

These goals will help guide you and your therapist in sessions, help track progress, and most of all, help you see that you are moving forward. Your therapist can help you think of ways to get through your issues and develop coping skills- this is where I was given the idea of adult coloring books for anxiety. It does help and I have at least 10 coloring books and two sets of coloring pencils. It’s soothing and helps take my mind off whatever is bothering me.

Some issues take longer than others to get through and this is okay- smash your goals on your own time. It took almost a year for me to get through a session, talk about Jake and not cry my eyes out. It doesn’t matter how many goals you have- everyone’s needs are different. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.

You’ve Got This

I liked to treat myself when meeting a goal or just after a rough session. Sometimes I would go home, color and listen to a podcast as a way to decompress or reward myself. If I had met a small milestone, like when Matthew and I completed an assignment that Rachel had asked us to, we would go out to dinner. It’s the small things that keep us going. She was very helpful in getting us through some of the worst times in our marriage.

The goals can be big or small- but they are yours.

Have you been to therapy and would like to share your story?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Two Years of Sobriety

I’m here, and I’m sober.

A Bit Of A Flashback

Two years ago, I woke up from drinking for the last time- I drank until Sara and her husband, Paul, were worried that I had alcohol poisoning.

I was a bit hungover.

Not at all surprising.

I was used to this- so were Matthew and the kids. I’d been drinking steadily since 2013 and after Jake died, it only got worse. I had to escape the pain. Even with therapy, I still had a hard time seeing the days ahead of me.

I cried constantly. I was still trying to move forward from the grief. Losing a man I loved so deeply was something I never saw coming. Drinking took that pain away, if only temporarily. I didn’t realize, however, the internal damage I was doing to myself.

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The Wake-Up Call (Literally)

It’s a well-known fact that I have RA and hypothyroidism. The journey to detect and solve both issues began with blood testing in late 2016. I have a great PCP- she later found the nodule that was removed from my thyroid in 2017, along with other issues. She knew I had been drinking but not the whole story.

I’ve met many alcoholics and addicts and not one has been super honest with their PCP if they have one.

Dr. Tobe called me herself- not her Medical Assistant, Stacey.

YIKES.

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I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but let’s just say my labs looked pretty interesting, especially my liver enzymes.

You see, the liver is an interesting little piece of your body. It can grow back from being removed, injured or otherwise messed up.

In my case, as Dr. Tobe explained, if I stopped drinking right then, I could stop the damage and not end up with cirrhosis.

I saw that as a hard pass. Matthew’s best friend’s mom died from cirrhosis, and it is a terrible death.

I thanked Dr. Tobe and hung up.

Some Serious Thoughts

I’ve got kids, y’all. Nobody is grown yet and somebody’s gotta be here to get Julian to adulthood. This isn’t saying Matthew couldn’t but he knows he would be lost without me.

I don’t think I’m quite done living, so I decided to have one last night of drinking and be done. I did just that.

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Having a bit of sober fun

I also discussed this at great length in therapy. I won’t say sobriety is easy, because that would be a huge lie.

My liver gets tested every few months thanks to Plaquenil because it’s known to affect liver functioning. So far, it seems to be getting slightly better. This process can take years.

It’s A Hard Life

I read The Big Book cover to cover once and part of my plans for this year is to read it again. I’ll be tracking that reading in my bullet journal.

The 9th step talks about amends and making then except when it would hurt the person to hurt more. This one has been hard. I’ve apologized to my kids, Matthew, my friends and even my mom.

Jordan is that one person I hurt terribly. I wasn’t sober when I attempted to apologize and I am almost certain he wouldn’t hear it now. He’s Jake’s younger brother, the one whose now ex-girlfriend I seriously upset.

I never meant to hurt him- you couldn’t pay me to. I’m hoping one day he realizes that and maybe we’ll speak. I haven’t seen him since Sara’s mom’s funeral in May.

This is the kind of thing that happens in alcoholism and addiction. I know I’ve tried and that’s the best I can do. I also know he’s okay and that’s enough for me.

I struggled a lot with apologizing to my kids and not feeling like a good mom. I’m a lot more present these days. They’ve brought me all kinds of stress, but that’s how parenting works.

The Sober Life

Relapse is part of recovery. I’ve come close. I’ve had horrible days in which all I want to do is go to the closest store and grab a bottle of vodka, but I’m able to talk myself out if it.

I remind myself of the progress I have made. My kids haven’t really said it but I know they’re proud of me. I would lose that progress the minute I opened the bottle or took a shot. That would be heartbreaking.

I also know one wouldn’t be enough because I would become horribly depressed.

Also, I’m pretty sure that alcohol doesn’t agree with my meds.

I recently joined a 12 Step Yoga for Recovery class and I love it. I realized that I needed a bit more support, plus, yoga is great for me. It helps a lot and I look forward to each class.

Two years has gone by so quickly! I still take this one day at a time- it’s what works best for me.

Photos courtesy of Pinterest

Other pics are mine.

Growth in therapy

Online vs. In-Person Therapy: Which is Right for You?

Therapy is THE BOMB

Therapy is a good thing. I’m a “therapy graduate”, as one of my friends referred to both of us. (Thanks, Melanie. You also rock.) I was in therapy for two years following Jake’s 2015 death and I wish I had gone a long time before then. I had gotten to a point in which my grief had gotten too big to handle- and thankfully, my former therapist was able to give me the tools to get myself and my life back together.

I still have bad days, but not nearly as bad as when I started therapy. I do realize, however, that not everyone can access and/or afford therapy. This entirely sucks, and it’s why I’m a fan of alternate forms of traditional therapy or other kinds of help, like the crisis text line (text “home” to 741741) and apps like 7 Cups. Note: I’m not endorsing any of these.

Growth in therapy

Going to therapy can change your life. It works. It really works if you work at it. Do the homework. If your therapist challenges you like mine did, do it. Don’t start it if you aren’t prepared to do the work. You’ll cry and even get mad at your therapist. It happens. I cried my way through a lot of my sessions. I went through a lot of candy and Kleenex.

What kind of therapy did I go to? In-Person therapy.

What kind is right for you? I have no idea, but the rest of this post can help you decide.

Therapy is Cool, but Which Kind is For You?

I’ll break down the advantages of both for you:

In-Person therapy:

  • In an office, possibly someone’s home.
  • Can feel like a break from daily life- walking in can feel like turning on the “off switch” to your life
  • More accountability for your actions and making appointments
  • Some conditions require in-person treatment, like PTSD, severe schizophrenia, etc.
  • Ability to see the body language of the therapist, which is helpful

Online therapy:

  • Easier for those with disabilities
  • Easier for those in rural areas
  • Can create a constant connection versus only while in the office or certain times while not in the office
  • Easier to find a better match (not having to base search on distance, insurance, etc)
  • Can save money and time (depends on certain factors)

There are some issues with online therapy that remain to be sorted, mainly about insurance coverage and confidentiality. I recommend looking into your coverage before starting either kind of therapy. If you don’t have insurance, I recommend looking into local community resources for assistance.

Of course, this isn’t a full list of the good parts of in-person and online therapy. Online therapy is still relatively new. Many insurance companies won’t cover out-of-state therapists- for example, I’m in Kentucky, but if I picked an online therapist in Louisiana, my insurance might not cover it. I’m assuming they’re still working out the kinks in the process, which might take a while.

In the meantime, if you need therapy, please seek it. You’re worth it and you will be glad you did.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Information found on Very Well Mind and Talkspace

Have you tried online therapy? Would you like to share your experience?