A Thank You To Foster Parents

Foster parents, we wish they didn’t have to exist but we are so glad they do.

If you look up the word foster, it has two major definitions. 1. To encourage the development of something (or someone in this case). 2. To raise a child you did not give birth to. I found that interesting because a good foster parent does both: they raise a child they didn’t give birth to, and they encourage and nurture the development of that child.

Why do I wish foster parents didn’t exist? Well in a perfect world parents would not only give birth but raise their own children with love and care, looking after their physical, emotional and mental needs. In such a world kids wouldn’t have to be protected from their own parents, and have the trauma of being removed from such ones.

Aren’t we glad that since we aren’t in that perfect world, that some good hearted people exist to help fill in that gap? To fill the void of those parents and offer the care and nurturing these children need to exist and thrive. With that said, I know not all foster parents are good or safe so this is dedicated to those good ones.

I met a woman who fostered children for some thirty years, who is now retired. She and her husband volunteered to help an infant whom they were told would only survive a few months, and as time went on this child continued to thrive and lived for some nine years! This child required a lot of extra care to live even those nine short years and so with this extra experience they didn’t plan on, they were able to care for many foster children with serious disabilities. They sold their comfortable log cabin home to build a custom home to suit children with these disabilities out of the kindness of their hearts. I was baffled to hear their story and yet I know they are not alone.

While raising her own young children (and even being forced to look after her younger siblings after her parents left them), my maternal grandmother became a foster mom. She, to this day is very much a natural nurturer. She told me one simple story of a little boy, about two years old who was so afraid of taking a bath because of the abuse he received (among his mistreatment included scolding hot baths, which naturally left him terrified). He would not even let her undress him. What she did was told her two boys to climb in the bath and play and let the little boy see how safe it was and instructed them that if the boy should want to climb in, to let him, even in his clothes. After a while observing the older boys having fun and happy in the bath, he gave it a try himself, and he never gave her any issues about bath time ever again.

It was such a simple story, but it highlighted to me the love and careful thought that has to go into raising children not your own. These are children who come with baggage, left with trauma and extra fears, perhaps FAS/FASD, attachment disorders, mental health struggles or possibly some serious health concerns. These foster parents take on more than your fair share, and have to be prepared to say goodbye at any given time. It can be heartbreaking.

I myself, along with my one younger sister was in foster care. My foster parents were my aunt and uncle. They had been approved as foster parents, so when my sister and I were taken from our home by children’s aid- they naturally placed us with them. I can’t imagine two teenagers would be easy to take on, especially as they were trying to grow a family and learn to take on new foster children whom they would later adopt and yet they did. They took us on without question, and provided that care and nurturing after the initial shock of leaving our old home behind.

I observed in their home, infants, toddlers and children who would come for a weekend as a respite or for several months with each their own unique struggles. I would help sing them to sleep and give them bottles… I found myself attaching to each of them, learning to love and accept these new figures in my life and then have to watch them leave.

I’ll never forget a little blonde curly haired boy named Tristan. Anxiously attached, he had such strong separation anxiety, making it so difficult to do simple chores like the dishes while watching him. There was something about his sweet little way that I loved, and then he was approved to live with his grandparents and left.

In time as my aunt and uncle were growing a family of their own, it was then that another couple volunteered to take us on. Our time with them helped prepare us for the final stage of childhood, to venture out on our own. Simple tasks like how to prepare dinner, keep a job, be responsible with money and looking after a home seem so small and yet without them where would we be? They took the time to teach us these valuable lessons all the while loving us, sacrificing for us and enduring the crazy outbursts from my mother when she found out where they lived.

I so appreciate the ones who make these sacrifices, who learn to love and nurture children who are not their own. It takes a special sort of person to take on this huge undertaking. I’m thankful for the fostering I’ve experienced, the fostering my little brothers are experiencing right now, and for all the rest.

Thank you.

Why I Don’t Subscribe to: Follow for Follow

I’ll follow you if you follow me back, no or you follow me and I’ll follow you back. Something I didn’t hear of or think of ten years ago. I’ve also, as a disclaimer, usually been late to the party when it comes to whatever new fads or social media pages come up.

I see this all the time now that I’ve created work social media’s and even a blog site. People coming and going. There’s this fickleness, and a sense of pressure, and they come and go.

Why did you set out to create a page in the first place? Was it to have the most followers or catch some short sighted form of fame? Or was it to reach people with similar views, to share creative works or ideas and hopefully touch someone, or create a network for learning and growing from others insights?

I sit with myself and question what’s most important to me. Is this what I want? What’s my goal here?

Out of kindness, and feeling pressure… feeling naive and new to the game I’ve sunk into the follow for follow game and I hate it. The kind of people following are not the ones genuinely interested in me or anything I have to say or do, and again, they’re fickle. Here one day and gone the next. You start to question yourself, was that post bad, too honest? It’s all to easy to fall into feeling personally rejected.

On the flip side, out of pressure you could follow a page that does not serve you because of feeling pressured. Being overloaded with too much information (I get overwhelmed by frequent posts and I can’t keep up, so I back out), or information that doesn’t fit you… doesn’t make you feel good, and then what’s the point of that?

I don’t like the follow for follow, eager, and anxious to build up an empire… To me it looks like an empire of vanity. What good is it to sit on a mountain of cardboard boxes? You might sit high for a while, but your foundation isn’t stable and it’s bound to crumble underneath you.

Less is more.

Less follows, with more quality people. Doing what serves you and feels good for you, putting aside pressure and vanity. Less overload.

I understand some people are out there trying to create a business and they need more followers, more potential clients, but again- you need quality to get there. I’m not a business woman and I’m not out here even trying to make money, I’m just here to enjoy the ride and find creative outlet. However, I do know that a fickle crowd won’t help you grow a business either.

Always remember that your follows do not amount to your worth as a person. I’m not sure who needs to hear that, but I’m saying it anyways. Happy Tuesday!

-Nadia Liisa

Oh the freedom from the weight of pressure to perform

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

More than a popular quote, or a phrase to put on your wall… these words speak the truth. How grateful I am that I went out of my comfort zone. Are you contemplating a big move whether it be in your profession, location, or in some other way? Are you holding back?

Fear. Fear of the great unknown. Fear of change. Fear of failure. These fears can be suffocating.

All I had known was my small city, isolated in a rural area with many hours to the next small town. All I had known was my own comfortable language and culture, and my convenient job that paid well. I had my friends, family, everything I needed in one comfortable place.

Change was forced upon me when my sister got married. My roommate, my buddy, was leaving me- for a boy! This is an important reminder that change will happen sometimes whether we like it or not. This can come in the form of someone around us making a big change who’s a part of our life (a move, marriage, you name it!), or in the form of unexpected life events (job cutbacks, pandemic, illness, accident, etc).

It is then we learn to roll with the punches because there is no other choice. Considering that however, made it apparent to me that change would happen regardless. If I stayed, life would continue to change around me, and I had to decide if I wanted to stay or be a part of the change.

I remember the wise mentor who happened upon my life when I was 17 but then later moved in my early twenties. She was a traveller herself, having lived in Ireland and the big city, she had crazy stories of roommates and cultural lessons that I admired so much. She told me “You need the people who stay, and the people who go”.

I am one of the ones who go. I knew it in my gut. I was a big fish in a little pond and I needed to explore, to test my comfort levels. I was the quiet awkward one, who never said boo. Just another one of the girls. I wanted to grow and learn more of what I was capable of.

The rest is history. I moved to a busier, bustling area 16 hours away with all of my belongings in one van. I had to start new work and save. For what? My next adventure: living in a foreign country.

I had read that three months abroad was enough time to get the sense of a place and to really understand it and what life is like there. That was my plan. I wanted to really feel the sense of what it was to be somewhere else.

I booked a plane ticket to Mexico, and set my sails for adventure. The three months came and went, and I didn’t want to leave. I extended my stay and all in all spent about a year in Mexico and in and around Guatemala.

I met new friends, experienced new roommates from different countries and cultures. I gained perspective for other people. I saw more suffering and poverty, and questioned the life we were supposed to swallow as ‘what we ought to do’… to settle and buy a home, work full time until I retire and then I could travel. I decided it wasn’t for me, I would be a nonconformist. I could decide my own life, even at the disapproval and bewilderment of others.

I felt free, and alive.

I learned I could be funny, and loud, and adventurous. I didn’t know these things about myself before, back in the life of my safe bubble. I learned to roll a foreign tongue off my lips, clumsily, and understand new speech, new expressions and understanding.

I didn’t stay because another adventure awaited me. Adventure continues to await, and I’m so thankful that so many years ago now I decide to say “yes” to my dreams.

No more “should I” or “shouldn’t I” and lots more “I can do this”.

Would I imagine as a little girl, that I would have adventures in Mexico and abroad? That I would sing spanish songs to Mexican taxi drivers? That I would learn Chinese eat squid, or learn to make dumplings? Would I have imagined I would learn carpentry and help build a gym, or a studio for filming? Never in my wildest dreams.

I reflected on these lessons after a morning on zoom with a dear friend of mine from Mexico’s daughter. Special friends made so long ago are still meaningful to me, and now their beautiful children. It’s a blessing is it not?

What adventure awaits you?

The best is yet to come, and it’s right outside of your comfort zone!

The Past, and You

We cannot change the past but we can be like my friend Jamila and change the ending.

That was then and this is now”. How much stock should we put in the past? We can’t change the past, and we certainly don’t want to live in it but does it affect us?

This is something that baffles me because it seems at this day and age it shouldn’t be a question.

I will take you back to the past with one memory sitting in my doctors office. We were discussing the book Mind Over Mood together, a cognitive behavioural therapy book I was encouraged to use in counselling a few years prior. My doctor was keen to spend some time to continue the book with me since I had moved and it was part of her training, although not a therapist herself.

We were looking at some current sources of anxiety and she asked why it was a source of anxiety, and I thought to myself, and said perhaps it’s because such and such happened in the past and maybe it’s connected that way. “No, that can’t be because that was a long time ago.”

At that moment I knew these sessions couldn’t continue.

I am a firm believer that we don’t have to let our pasts define us. Just as some abuse and behaviour might carry on through generations, I know we can (with much effort) break the cycle. We don’t have to become our parents.

At the same time, I am forced to recognize that the past does affect us. Otherwise post traumatic stress disorder would not exist. Trauma and life experience can shape how people think and behave. I even think of attachment theory and how childhood experiences affect how we form relationships, in healthy or unhealthy styles.

For some people, maybe you are one or can think of one… talking openly about trauma, struggles or anything vulnerable is too uncomfortable. For others it’s necessary to share to be able to move past it. Both valid, and you can go too extreme in either direction so it’s not that one is inherently better than the other.

A friend of mine, let’s call her Jamila, grew up in a home where she experienced all forms of abuse from her father. She grew into a thriving young woman, met the man of her dreams, married and then past trauma started to resurface. As much as she loved her husband, the close relationship brought up a lot of uncomfortable parts from her past she had pushed down for too long. In her 30s now, she was experiencing difficult mental health, and physical health problems (our emotions and stress can actually affect us with serious ailments). It was then she was able to get help from a therapist, and learn to successfully cope with her past.

Others can come out of tough backgrounds seemingly unscathed. My mom’s mom, once told me they didn’t have things like depression in her time and she had experienced a rough life herself but she just got on with it. Does that invalidate Jamila’s struggle?

What do you think? Can the past affect us today? Is this a valid question?

Do we need to let things go? Yes of course, but some things take time and may require extra assistance… and there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone has their own load to carry, and their own unique makeup so we can’t impose our way of doing things or our experiences on another.

It can be helpful to learn from one another. To understand you are not alone. Hopefully that’s what this blog has done for you.

Want to let go of the past but having a hard time? Here’s an article for you.

Learn to write your own happy ending and use your past to fuel your ambition to be better and make a better world. It’s entirely up to you and it’s all in your hands. It’s exciting, and it’s all yours.

-Nadia

Feeling Good: The Book Club

This is a first for me

I just joined an informal book club with a group of friends two weeks ago. Our goal is to read a chapter a week and share parts that we enjoyed. I’ve only ever known book clubs to be something fictional, from movies or books, or something only highly sophisticated people did with too much time on their hands.

Does anyone watch The Office? Do you remember the “Finer Things Club”? No? It’s just me? Okay…

Like me, my friend had gone through some counselling and been recommended a cognitive behavioural therapy book. The one she was recommended was: Feeling Good by David D. Burns, M.D. After discontinuing counselling she was going to continue the book on her own but with no accountability, it was left on the shelf to collect dust for some years.

This pandemic has brought out some of the worst in us through the isolation, uncertainty in the world, fear, and anxiety. If you have any baggage that hasn’t been dealt with, you’re looking it straight in the face right now. Even for the relatively healthy and stable ones, they’re being tested like never before.

So it seemed as good a time as any to start the book club. She reached out to our group chat. Four of us women have all moved to different places, and are each living our separate lives but we love to keep in touch and up to date on each other’s lives. Amazingly, we all agreed to join the club.

I hit chapter two and there was a test, a depression checklist. It was a little alarming to receive my results. I had to be honest with how I was really doing and it’s a little discouraging but at the same time I feel grateful to be facing this head on because obviously I have some work to do.

I have learned in my very short experience with the book club that Bibliotherapy is real. Also, it can be just as effective as medication if not more… and even more if used in conjunction with medication and or therapy. So basically, you will only benefit yourself trying, and it can add to whatever treatments you are currently doing and it’s just the cost of a book.

I wanted to mention this so that I can occasionally write some insights I’ve learned and any noticed progress. As part of the book, it’s recommended to take the test to gauge progress with our mental health at regular intervals (even weekly).

If you would like to see the test yourself see here.

If you score between 0-5 this is considered normal, you’re relatively happy and content. Scores between 6-10 are still normal but could use a little improving. Scores between 11-25 are considered a mild depression, and if it persists should be treated professionally. Between 26-50 is considered moderate depression, which while labeled moderate is not to downplay anyone’s suffering. Scoring above 50 is considered severe to extreme depression!

With that said I should mention Doctor David Burns says: “it is not wise to try to treat a severe depression on your own.”

We shall see how it goes. It seems promising and perhaps I’ll do a monthly update on my progress. For now it’s a very interesting journey four friends are on together. If nothing else we educate ourselves a little more, learn a few coping techniques and draw closer in understanding as friends.

What do you think? Would you try something like this?

Are You Comfortable in Your Own Skin?

Are you? I am trying to be.

The human body is incredible. Just think for a moment how fantastic it is to have hands. Hands can create, write, carry, caress a loved one, and build. Or what about our legs? They can lift, dance, bounce a baby, and carry us to the top of a mountain! We have so many wonderful parts to us, and granted they all may work differently from one to another but we have an amazing gift to live inside the human body.

Why is it so difficult to love? I read a beautiful quote saying “I love that part”. We can say that about a song, but why not say it about our body? We have so many parts to love and cherish.

Our society, culture, family, the media all play a role in how we see body image. My friend was a missionary in Africa, and the women there would call her a fat bottom. This woman was a healthy weight, and to a Canadian-those words could cut. “They think I’m fat?” Except, in this particular area to have fat, or a “fat bottom” meant that you had enough money to eat well. It was a compliment.

I think too of the models in media displayed as the ideal… now think, how common is it to have such tall and slender people in your area? Is it not more of a rarity? How can we all strive to meet these expectations? Is it realistic?

My husband is a wonderful man, and always helps me to reason better on these issues. He used a few men we know as an example, and how each of them have wildly different builds. Adrian, for example is a very slender man. Unable to gain much weight but still muscular and lean. Another man, Jeff is revered for his muscular build, while actually not being a very tall man. He looks like a typical strong man, a “Samson” if you will. Then we have Caleb, a very tall man reaching the heights of 6”5, neither very muscular or too slender. Each man has different characteristics that the other just cannot reasonably attain because of their make and build. Yet, there is nothing wrong in any of them, they’re just different.

Take too, the example of an image I saw of six women all of the same weight: 154lbs. They have all different heights, from very tall to short, and different ways of carrying weight… some women with bigger thighs, smaller thighs, bigger chests to smaller chests- you get the picture. They all weigh the same, so it’s not as though one weight could be seen as the ideal- even for the same age category of women. We come in all shapes and sizes, how can we hold to the same standards?

It’s for this reason I don’t own or use a scale. The idea of a number, for me personally, cannot control or define me. My mother had unhealthy ideals. “I never let myself pass such and such a number”. If she ever did, or was getting close, she would stop eating for a couple of days. She would reign herself in. I hated that she shared these warped standards with me because they would haunt me.

One boyfriend of my mothers’, who became my second stepdad… told her he would pay her a dollar for every pound she lost. She would pride herself in her self control to be able to meet these standards. Yet I saw how the tore her up inside.

This is the woman kids would point to in a mall, tugging on their moms coat and saying “Look mom, it’s Barbie!”. The woman, young teenage boys at my high school would open doors for and grin dirtily and tell me “your mom’s hot”. The woman who had her breasts augmented, her eyes lifted, got her skin Botox injected, and hair coloured bleach blonde, clinging to the youth and beauty she never ever wanted to let go of.

The sad part? Her beauty will fade, and then what? What will she be left with?

Is it the worst thing in the world to be called “fat”? Or “ugly”?

I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?

J.K Rowling

I believe in taking care of my body. Giving it enough food to work hard, and to function properly. I don’t want to deprive it, because I need my body, and love it. I believe in exercise, it helps my mind think clearer and makes me stronger (remember, I do work in the trades…). I will not work myself to the bone, exercising for weight or image ideals.

I cannot look like you, and you cannot look like me. We can try to be the best versions of ourselves. Possibly by learning to love ourselves a little more… loving the skin we are in.

This is a reminder for me. The little girl raised by Ken and Barbie, who both lived a life of vanity. I cannot and will not be Barbie, but I can be me.

Ken and Barbie.

You’re not ugly, you just feel that way.

-My husband, bless his heart.

Learning to say no and setting boundaries can make you happier

Happier? It’s worth a shot.

This is something I wish I had learned earlier. Boundaries, and saying no, are so important for our mental well-being. Had I learned these skills earlier I could have avoided a burnout. If only I could go back and change everything but I can’t. The sad truth, is the physical and mental affects of burnout last for years after. With that said, if I could share just a little from my own experience to help someone else avoid the same pitfalls I made, I could at least make some lemonade out of the lemons from my life.

Prior to my burnout I was taking on a lot of extra responsibilities that I didn’t have to. I wanted to learn another language and so I chose Mandarin Chinese, one of the most difficult but I’m sure I could find some contenders. I also was being offered more and more students to tutor, which I didn’t have room for but I was told there was no one else available. Naturally, I felt like I had to then, there was no other option (or was there?). I also was going above and beyond with my lessons trying to make learning fun, motivating and deeply inspirational because I only expect the best from myself. I have to be everything- is the kind of pressure I would put on myself. I was your typical perfectionist. In addition to that, I had other work, and a long distance boyfriend. Talk about a perfect storm! Oh, and add in some past trauma that was resurfacing for an extra spice of chaos.

Some things are unavoidable, I cannot choose how I was raised or what I was exposed to as a child. I unfortunately was unable to pick my parents or environment. There are many other factors in life that fall into this category of things we have to learn to work with, but that does not mean we have to relive those old patterns or that we cannot break the mould.

We also have the categories in life that are completely up to us to change and do as we see fit. We can decide what to take on and say yes to. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to say yes to every plan. You don’t have to help people through all of their traumas either- have you heard of messiah complex? It’s basically the belief that you need to save everyone around you (it’s not limited to a religious sense, even with the title). You know the ones who believe that they have to be the ones to fix everyone’s problems all the time, even at the expense of their own health and well-being?

A good friend respects another’s boundaries. Sometimes we, or I, can feel scared of disappointing others by not being available every time they need me. I on the flip side, don’t expect that of my friends or family. There are obligations we have in our own lives, our work, our relationships, schedules, etc. We all have different capacities as well. Nobody should be expected to be on call all the time, it’s not healthy for us or them to have those sort of expectations. Losing yourself for a relationship is not healthy behaviour. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

A mistake I made early in learning to set boundaries was not being clear, and giving too much information. Some people, while well meaning, may not see your need for a boundary and will try to find a way to squeeze their needs into your life, even helping you schedule your life for you. Some wise friends explained to me that you can say “I have plans” or say “I would love to, but I can’t this time, maybe another time”… and you don’t have to explain what those plans are or why you can’t. Maybe you are feeling at the end of your rope with all your other responsibilities and your plan is to stay at home, and do nothing. Nobody has to know what your plan is. Learning to take care of yourself, and knowing your own limitations is something only you can do and only you really know how to. You don’t have to feel guilty!

After burning out, I understood that I don’t have to feel guilty for taking time to take care of myself. The idea of limitations used to make me furious- I wanted to be and do it all and nobody would stand in my way. I was superwoman, but not really. To have limitations is only human, and there is wisdom and peace in learning to accept this fact of life. I want to help others when I can but I can’t do it at the expense of my own health. When you burnout, you’re no good to anybody. It was a slow and painful climb out of that hole…

How do we know what our boundaries are? Ask yourself: what do I want from my relationships? Listen to your body: what do you need? Do you want to take on this extra responsibility and can you realistically make space for it?

To illustrate: imagine you are on a hike with some friends, and you each have backpacks with supplies. At times you may feel good, the weight in the bag is not too much, the path you’re on is not too strenuous and should someone ask if you can add their water bottle to your bag you might agree. There is enough space in the bag, you have the energy- why not help. At another point the hike may incline, and even without the extra load from others, you may not feel you have the energy to add someone else’s load to your backpack. Your bag has the extra space, but you cannot sustain the extra weight at this point and time. It’s too much.

In different circumstances our level of capacity may vary. Sometimes we can take on more, and other times we cannot. We may technically have the space in our schedule for something but may not have the emotional, physical or mental energy for it. Learning our boundaries requires paying attention to ourselves and how much we can reasonably carry on our journey.

This is a process, but the reward is well worth it. There is a freedom that comes from knowing your limits, and staying within it. Pressure and guilt from others don’t affect me the same because I more clearly understand what works for me and I can say no confidently. That kind of confidence and self awareness is what I’m all about these days. Try it, it feels good.

If you want to learn more on boundaries or even try some helpful worksheets see here.

Are you curious by what I mean by “burnout”? See here.

– Nadia Liisa

Could You Be Toxic?

An article for self reflection

If we can be honest here, I want to point something out to you. In our life and in relationships, and interpersonal conflicts it can be so easy to feel wronged. We can’t imagine why someone would behave a certain way, and we can see clear flaws in the others’ character. Why do they have to be that way, and why do I always end up in these situations?

A wise person once said that when you point a finger at someone else, you have more pointing back at you. The point? It’s easy to discern the misgivings of others but not in ourselves.

It’s uncomfortable seeing our flaws. It’s easier to protect ourselves and our characters and point all the blame elsewhere. However, it takes emotional maturity to recognize our part in any conflict.

The balanced side is to recognize that there are three sides to the story, yours, mine and the truth. To believe that we are always in the wrong, and always to blame would be just as unbalanced to think that others are always the one to blame. How can we look past our side? Our hurt feelings?

For me, it helps to talk things out. Some friends are able to call it like they see it and call me out when I’ve made a mistake that I conveniently overlooked. It can be difficult to do sometimes because we might share the story in a way that highlights our side, of course. Do you know someone who is able to call you out when you’re in the wrong?

I’ve been thinking about this because there’s lots of material on toxic people these days and clearly, many of us have dysfunctional patterns of behaviour for more of these articles and discussions to be taking place. It’s good to recognize these signs if we have a friend who is mistreating us, and to learn to protect our boundaries of course! On the flip side, could it be possible that we too are guilty of some sort of toxic behaviour?

What does this even mean to be toxic? I’ll share a small excerpt from this article in Time magazine:

Dr. Lillian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert who says she coined the term in her 1995 book Toxic People, defines a toxic relationship as “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.” (For more, click here)

Webmd also had these warning signs to look out for:

• You feel like you’re being manipulated into something you don’t want to do.

• You’re constantly confused by the person’s behavior. 

• You feel like you deserve an apology that never comes.

• You always have to defend yourself to this person.

• You never feel fully comfortable around them.

• You continually feel bad about yourself in their presence.

(For a further read, check here.)

Now again, it might be easy to read this and think: I know who this is talking about! Yet wouldn’t it be scary to think someone ever thought this of you? Perish the thought! Not to be the bearer of bad news but we all are imperfect and may say and do things to upset others without even knowing. Is it possible to talk it out and understand how we may have had a role to play in any conflict without piping up in our defence? Without thinking while they speak of all our rebuttals in our defence. Honestly listening and trying to understand another perspective.

It never ceases to amaze me, as much as I love discerning people’s behaviour, how many times I can be surprised. Surprised in the sense where, I learn a new angle I would have never seen before… and I see how limited my vantage point really is.

It takes humility to own up to our own mistakes, to apologize, and hopefully we’ve found the kind of friends who can reciprocate the same understanding and apologies when necessary. If not, then maybe they really are the toxic one haha. No I don’t want to point fingers now, because you remember what that means don’t you?

This is my food for thought on this Tuesday morning. Nothing like some deep reflection to chew on early in the day and early in the week. Sorry, not sorry.

Social Media: a Double Edged Sword

We live in a social media age! It’s never been easier to connect, stay in touch, and keep up with what everyone is doing. More than that, you can learn new tips and tricks, from therapists, home diy specialists, find community, learn new recipes, get ideas, the possibilities are endless. What do you use social media for?

A while back I had a work account for our renovation business. There was (and is) a strong community of women in the trades, only growing… but I noticed a common thread with all of them. Men making distasteful remarks objectifying their bodies, and or discrediting their hard work. I would see many stories where these women would express their frustration for this clearly unacceptable behaviour. It’s not just trades women.

Trolls: It’s all too easy to hide behind a screen and feel we have carte blanche to say and do as we please as free people. People feel more freedom to shock, to hurt, to unleash everything behind a screen. Behaviour they likely wouldn’t do to your face in person. This is only one of the things that upset me.

Comparing: We see an unrealistic side of life, and it’s all too easy to compare. Why can’t I have that lifestyle? Those looks? That happiness and ease in life? I’m not as talented… I don’t have as many friends or followers… Even though we know people post and share their highlights, it can still eat away at us.

Misinformation: There is so much information at our finger tips, we can learn now more from the comfort of our own home than ever. Not every piece of information we read is fact, and some sadly misrepresent themselves and their credentials, misleading vulnerable ones. Have you noticed this?

Time waste: A documentary I highly recommend is called The Social Dilemma. Various people who were part of the creative behind the scenes work, who contributed to different social media pages share their concerns over the shift of these programs to constantly grab for more and more of our attention. Have you ever spent some time on a social media page and came out only to realize an hour or more had passed to your surprise? It even includes how they can be detrimental to our relationships in life.

It’s not all doom and gloom and obviously I still use these pages to varying degrees. I have really had to take a close examination of myself and my personal use of these, deleting some accounts that were bringing more stress to my life than benefit. These are new difficult aspects of life we need to navigate but it’s important to take stock and recognize what we need to do in our best interests.

Some things we can do to have a healthier social media experience:

1. Be choosy in who we follow. We want to look for friends and accounts that make us feel good, that don’t have us questioning our worth.

2. Take a break from time to time, some even schedule weekends off social media, or put their phones away when spending time with friends or family (at dinner, etc).

3. If we find ourselves feeling angry, and disliking someone’s content, we can unfollow. We don’t need to take it out on them, making conflict or hurting them, just remove ourselves. No drama.

4. Stay grounded. Remember your worth is not defined by social media likes or follows. There is so much more to life.

It can be especially difficult if you have anxiety, depression, or low self esteem. If you find it tough, I get it! I’ve been there. These points may seem simplistic but it is really important to just take the time to listen to yourself and your needs, and being strong enough to set boundaries for yourself to protect your mental health and well being. Hang in there.

What else might you suggest? I feel I could probably say a lot more but I don’t want to talk your ear off. Happy Tuesday.

When You Can’t Afford Therapy, Then What?

Does therapy feel like an unattainable luxury to you?

A lot of therapists on social media are advocating to make your mental health a priority, as they should, but also clearly stating that therapy is part of that. Even on this blog from time to time I’ve mentioned that for some issues therapy is the best solution. Even though these points are valid, therapy can feel like a luxury to most people.

You might be recognizing that you are struggling more than normal, perhaps before you were able to bottle things in easier but now everything seems to just be spilling out. It could be that you are experiencing new troubles or symptoms of repressed trauma. Maybe you feel finally ready to work through it, and then you see the price tag…

Therapy seems to range from $100-250 an hour, is that the case where you are? For some with a little reprioritizing, maybe they could budget this in. For others, it’s simply out of the question. I get it, and don’t lose hope because there are some other options.

Do you have insurance that could possibly help cover it? Could you ask if they offer any discounts? Discounted rates are easier to find in community therapy offices. Some regions will have their own offices with government therapists that have more flexible fees. In my area, the wait list is long for this therapy, about 6 months, but putting your name on that list could get you closer to your goal than giving up. Be patient.

In this day and age we also have online therapy which is offered at a fraction of the price of private therapy offices. Have you heard of Better Help, Calmerry, or Talkspace? If you do a little digging you might find something that suits you, in your price and area. These services can be stopped at any time and you can fill out their online forms to look into pricing without any commitment.

Lately I’ve discovered some apps even for smartphones and tablets that are- FREE! Yes, that beautiful little word, free. In Canada, AbilitiCBT is being offered for free in a couple provinces because of the pandemic (aren’t we seeing an epidemic of anxiety because of the world situation?!). The wait list is getting longer just to set up an appointment with a therapist to set up your app with the appropriate homework and lessons geared just for you however, but again, worth the wait for free. Or, internationally we have my little friend called Woebot. It’s an automated robot, that discusses cognitive behavioural therapy tips and tricks for you, through depression and anxiety, grief and pandemic fatigue. One thing to keep in mind with Woebot is the responses are automated, the conversations have preconfigured responses for you to choose from so don’t expect it to be perfectly tailored to you. The way I see it is just as some extra help, which is always useful but not perfect. Remember that little word we love so much? Free? Yeah, we can’t expect perfection with free but if you’re like me, you’ll take what you can get.

Along the lines of technology we also have websites, youtube, social media posts provided by actual therapists. Some really enjoy content from ones such as @evolveandbloom or @micheline.maalouf. These two provide little tips and tricks that everyone can benefit from and gain a little insight from as well. They’ve also created a podcast, Anxious Like You, that is free to take a listen to. Are there any podcasts or sites you follow for professional advice?

Educating yourself is still important. Micheline Maalouf recommended a list of books for those with trauma you can take a look at: The Body Keeps the Score, Complex PTSD from surviving to thriving, Befriending Your Nervous System, and Healing Trauma by Dr. Peter Levine. What if you’re not dealing with trauma per say? This book: Mind Over Mood, is a great workbook for both anxiety and depression using cognitive behavioural therapy. That book was recommended to me in my community based therapy years ago. Any other books you might add to the list?

It’s a difficult feeling, needing help but facing setbacks in your road to recovery because of things like finances. You are far from alone, but hopefully these other resources can be useful to you in the meantime. Hang in there!