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

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

Homeschooling: Is It Right for Your Family?

Homeschooling is a topic that has been debated for years. Studies have been done to determine how well those who have completed school in this way have functioned in society emotionally and academically.

Parents choose this for a number of reasons- they may have children with special needs that aren’t reasonably accommodated by the school system near them, bullying, religious, not liking the school system near them, along with other reasons.

A Friendly Story

I happen to have a friend that homeschools. Madonna (yes, everyone, that is her real name, but these days she goes by Dawn) has five kids. FIVE. She’s a stay a home mom and homeschools all five of her kids, which has to earn her some sort of medal.

Her kids vary in age from 15 to 4 and even the youngest is in school. She decided to homeschool after she decided that she didn’t like the school system of the county that she lived in (at one point she lived in a different county than me, and now we live in the same county, but she still homeschools).

Her oldest did attend public school for kindergarten but both she and her daughter absolutely hated it. One of her kids had leukemia a few years later, so her oldest was placed in private school while Dawn cared for the son that had leukemia. I’m happy to say that he’s in remission.

Once he was better, everyone went back to homeschool. Her kids are happy and doing well in school. They have been involved in outside activities so that they are able to meet other kids their age- her oldest daughter was heavily involved in cheerleading until ankle injuries stopped her. In fact, our kids get along pretty well. Our boys are very happy playing video games and riding bikes together and Lily loves her younger girls.

The point of this story is that homeschooling can be great if it is done correctly. Dawn is part of a whole community of families that homeschool. Per Kentucky law, she had to write a letter to the county’s board of education stating her intent to homeschool. She then had to create a curriculum, which she goes by very closely.

Benefits and Drawbacks

This information is from Education Corner

There are many benefits to homeschooling. Some of them include:

  • Strengthening the bond between you and your child.
  • Flexible scheduling for education. For example, Dawn and her kids went to Florida to visit a family friend right after my kids went back to school after Winter Break. There isn’t a strict timeline for their education.
  • The ability to streamline their child’s education to their needs- this can come in handy with special needs.
  • Developing special talents- musical, artistic, or other areas.
  • Parents can touch on controversial topics in their own time and in their own way with their children.

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • My personal struggle- the patience factor. Being around your kids all day and trying to educate them? That’s a lot.
  • Explaining your choice to homeschool to people who don’t understand and/or approve
  • The cost of materials, books, etc.
  • The social factor- trying to find other kids for your child to socialize with, especially if you move around a lot or live in a rural area. This can be easier if, like myself and Dawn, you live in a city.
  • Constantly having to adapt to new teaching methods

What Do I Think?

I’m a very open-minded person. Every parent has the right to choose how to educate their kids. If you want to homeschool, go for it. It’s not my thing and my kids are sitting in a public school as I type. I don’t have the patience to teach my kids. I would entirely lose it.

Public schools aren’t perfect, especially not in Kentucky. I live in Louisville, home of the biggest school district in the state. There’s a lot of changes that our school district could make.

As long as you’re homeschooling the way your state designates, then I’m okay with it. Kids need to be educated to be able to make it on their own as adults, and this can be done in various ways.

Education is the key to the future- kids need the tools we give them to succeed.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling? Leave them in the comments!