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!

Attachment Theory and You

How we form these attachments starts very young

Attachment is how we form relationships (romantic, friendship, or platonic) based on what we learned as children. I knew a tiny bit about this as a teenager, after being placed in my aunt and uncles home by the Children’s Aid Society. Actually, it had nothing to do with me though. My aunt and uncle were fostering children, and so we learned about different styles of attachment these kids had learned from their own dysfunctional upbringings.

I came away knowing we have attachments but not understanding anything more than just that. It’s good to understand because if we have an unhealthy form of attachment, this can make relationships much harder for us, and for the other person. It affects how we view relationships, what we expect, how we respond to conflict, and how we communicate. This is why it’s important to know about attachments, because knowledge gives us the power to improve!

Here are the four styles:

Secure. Avoidant. Anxious. Disorganized.

A securely attached person doesn’t worry about the relationship needlessly, and isn’t afraid of rejection. This is a healthy attachment. For someone to have this security, they would have felt safe and protected as a child. More than that, they would have felt seen and heard (even you think of how they would’ve been responded to as an infant- attachment is formed so early on!). Their parent(s) comforted and soothed them while they were in distress- they knew they could rely on them for security. Last but not least they would have felt valued (praise for who they are, not actions alone, but them as a person) and encouraged and supported to go out and explore!

Actually as I go over this, I can see how learning about attachment styles is so important for parents to realize how to give their children the best start in life. Unfortunately we all have our own struggles, and perhaps imperfect attachment styles which may make it difficult to share the most healthy attachment with our children. Any effort in the right direction, despite our misgivings, is better than being defeated by our mishaps.

Avoidant/dismissive, this style stems from children feeling like their needs were not met. It could be the parents were super strict, emotionally distant and tough. When a child questions whether or not their needs are being met, they have a harder time trusting people, having a more independent style- feeling they don’t need others. As adults those with this attachment may be happy, have lots of friends and independence, on the surface. However in reality they may find it difficult to let people in, finding reasons to end or close relationships. Growing up they felt like others cannot be relied on and so this trickles into adulthood making relying, and trusting in someone else very difficult.

Anxious/ambivalent attachment stems from an inconsistent parenting pattern. Perhaps the parents were sometimes attentive and supportive, but at other times detached and unavailable. The parents emotional hunger for love and support may have been based on the child, presenting a perfect parent picture at times but then removing this… the inconsistency making it difficult for the child to understand where they stood or what was expected of them. Adults with an anxious attachment may have a low self esteem, being sensitive to the needs of others but insecure about their own worthiness- needing constant reassurance. A fear of abandonment may make them suspicious, jealous, clingy, and afraid or incapable of being alone.

Disorganized attachment is usually the result of childhood abuse or neglect, where the parent is the source of fear, but it can also stem from a parent with unhealed trauma themselves. This style is called disorganized because it is difficult for a child to understand a parent that is frightening/abusive so their response to the parent is less predictable. The other styles might display a consistent behaviour (or organized), but not so with the disorganized type, hence the name. This style may display itself this way: unpredictable behaviour/moods, a combination of anxious and avoidant styles- wanting to be close but pushing away at the same time, disassociation, angry outbursts, boundary problems, etc.

As a side note: please don’t use this to self diagnose yourself, but use it as motivation to learn more or talk to a health care professional (which I am clearly not). If you suspect you may have an insecure attachment style, don’t worry, you are not locked in it for life! Many are actually able to reverse an insecure type through a secure relationship or through some help and effort (I know, there’s always so much work to do on ourselves!).

Also it is key to remember that your childhood, while it does impact you, does not define you. You cannot change what happened in the past, don’t we all wish we could- but you can change how you deal with it. We don’t have to stay victims, we can become victors/warriors!

You cannot change what happened in the past, don’t we all wish we could- but you can change how you deal with it.

Helpful tools: making sense of the past, and understanding/acknowledging its affect… developing safe relationships (therapists are great for teaching us how to), learning social cues and social skills, and learning to regulate those emotions of ours (again therapy, learning CBT hacks).

I really appreciated learning about this, for my own path to healing. I hope you enjoyed it too! Happy taco Tuesday- the day I taco’ bout the blog!

What to do when you are Lonely, and the Power of Hope

You may be alone but you don’t have to be lonely

What if you had it all? But nobody to call? I’m so lonely, lonely.

Justin Bieber- Lonely

This song has been playing all over on my social media feed. There are all sorts of videos highlighting mental health and the struggles people are feeling more than ever now. The song is highlighting how fame can be isolating, but what about now with a pandemic that is so isolating? Are you feeling lonely?

If you are- you are far from alone. At first, I enjoyed the excuse for extra isolation. Plans? Sorry, it’s a pandemic. I could catch up on all these shows I had no time for, I was loving it. After a while I started to realize how nice it can be to get together sometimes, meet at a restaurant, enjoy live music, and then crawling into my bed was a nice reward after a busy evening.

Some live on their own, and of course this can be extra isolating. However, it is possible to feel lonely even in a household. It can be nice to see others besides family members. What about you? Are you on your own? Are you a busy parent now navigating homeschooling with little to no time for yourself?

Hope: a small four letter word that carries so much strength and weight. An anchor is small, in comparison to a ship or boat, but in a storm, that anchor can help steady the vessel, protecting it from dangerous reefs or shorelines. Do you have hope?

In times of deep trial, we as humans can be amazingly resilient. We can overcome amazing feats. We can find purpose, answers, and hope. Hope can carry us through, just knowing that whatever we live through now is temporary and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

While in a tunnel, as it were, a person might spot a light peaking out far in the distance and realize that there is in fact a way out. Would it be enough to just see the light and wait patiently for a rescuer? Or would that person need to make their way towards that light even with much effort and strain?

With effort we can fight the loneliness, while we look beyond our current circumstances with hope. We can stay occupied, realizing we are not alone in feeling lonely. Who can I reach out to? What new project can I take on to improve myself, a new skill to pick up? Can I make my friendships, relationships stronger? Can I adopt a pet, saving a little life and in turn having a little friend to keep you company?

Making those efforts ourselves will bring us closer to the end of that tunnel, as time passes, and before long we are on the other side. They say trials make us stronger and maybe they do in some respects. I find from personal experience that they more help me to grow more in understanding and empathy.

When I think of the loneliness we might feel now, imagine what it is like to be elderly. Why? There are many who already felt isolated before a pandemic, with many friends and family already passed… whatever family they have busy with their own lives and family. I used to work at a retirement home and what I saw broke my heart.

The point? This loneliness may give us more empathy to those isolated by poor health, age and other limitations. With the extra time on our hands we could give these older ones in our family or neighbourhoods a call, or deliver a meal.

I don’t know about you, but the world looks a little brighter after I’ve had a good meal.

Actually this reminds me, this past Friday some friends left a meal at our door. I was taken back, what a kind thing to do! They said if it weren’t for the lockdown and pandemic they’d be having us over so they wanted to show their hospitality by dropping off a meal. That night my hubby and I enjoyed a delicious chilli, fresh baked bread, wine, and a slice of cheesecake to top it all off. I felt happier for it even without their physical company just to have been thought of. We have the power to bring that sort of joy to others too.

I’m not usually a fan of zoom but also this weekend I planned an anniversary for a sweet couple of friends who’ve been having an exceptionally hard year. We kept it small with a handful of friends, some online games and we actually had a blast. I think it was the first time I laughed, and really relaxed on zoom. It was as if we were in the same room. That’s not my every zoom experience but we kept it small (easier for us introverted folks), and light.

What is an introvert?

By doing our best to stay busy, thinking of others, enjoying getting together online, texts, calls… getting out for a walk, some exercise- we don’t have as much time to dwell on negative feelings. They don’t go away completely but it sure makes the time pass a lot easier.

In summary, if you are lonely- find your hope. Search for hope. Stay busy. You got this.

When Anxieties Overwhelm You (in the Epidemic of Anxiety)

I always see “overwhelm” as myself in a body of water, just trying to keep my head above the water level.

Is it the pandemic? Is it the instability on the world stage? Is it the economic crisis? Is it all the isolation playing on your mind? Is it just a series of unfortunate events happening to you right now?

Whatever the case, be it noted or not, are you feeling overwhelmed? Trapped? Anxious?

What can make us anxious? The uncertainty of the times and circumstances we are in can make us think in black and white terms sometimes. This kind of thinking pattern is sort of all or nothing, and we can paint things to be all bad, all doom, making us anxious.

Sometimes I can pin point a series of black and white thoughts that are causing me to be anxious. I should get this done, I should be better, I am bad, I can’t do anything right, nobody likes me. These thought patterns are in black and white, and not very helpful. Viewing yourself (or myself) as a complete success or failure based on one task alone. It’s an extreme, binary way of seeing the world.

These negative thought patterns about ourselves, others, or situations are distorted and not true reflections of reality. Except they feel true and make us feel awful! When this happens it’s good to talk it out, or write out everything we are thinking or feeling and challenge it!

When a friend comes to you, feeling really bad about themselves we can usually identify warped thinking patterns and help them to realize their value and worth, and assure them that the expectations they put on themselves are not always reasonable for little humans like us. We all make mistakes, we just have to get back up. Talk to yourself, on paper, or let it out with a friend, and challenge these thought patterns. My little robot friend Woebot (from the free app) has been very helpful for me.

Sometimes I can’t pin point what it is. It’s not a thought, maybe I’ve been doing too much. I’ve put too much on my plate and I’m trying to be superwoman again. Happens all the time.

Stop. Take some time to recharge. Can you get outside? Go for a walk? My heart was racing like a madman from little to no activity, I decided to go outside for some fresh air. I took a walk through the snow, observing the snow covered trees and the cool winter air filling my lungs. I even bent down to pick up some snow and pack it into a snowball (there are in fact two types of snow, the sticky snowman/snowball sort of snow, and the light and powder like/fluffy snow which is wonderful for skiing. I held that snowball my entire walk, the cold penetrating through my mitts as a further grounding technique to make my mind more present, and let go of whirling thoughts and feelings.

I’ve read some countries experience lockdowns where you cannot go outside, except for your allotted grocery time. Some places we might live or different circumstances may make it difficult to go outside. I remember this beautiful, bittersweet story of a woman who was confined to a prison cell for her faith (yes she actually lived in a country where her religion was against the law). The point is, she recounted one thing that helped her to get through. She would look out the window through the bars and watch the birds in the sky. She said it was almost as if the bars had disappeared for those moments as she watched those birds flying freely high up in the clouds.

Nature has a very calming effect on us. Looking out the window, the warmth of the sun and vitamin D, the reminders of the joys of wildlife… these bring us joy even in the gloomiest of times. Animals aren’t affected by rent or mortgage, they don’t have office jobs, and yet they find food, they have clothes (aka their fur/feathers). I haven’t seen any squirrels running around with face masks, or social distancing. These are reminders that we don’t need a lot, and not all is lost.

Every day we have a new struggle, and the day passes and the next day brings new struggles. We need not take on more than that. The weight of the world is too heavy for our small shoulders to carry. Sometimes we take it one day at a time, other days I take it ten minutes at a time.

I have lived through trauma. I have lived through times on welfare, living in hotels. I have loved and lost. I have worked multiple jobs trying to just keep a roof over my head. I have been without a car, and with a car that was always breaking down. Single and on my own, through burnout and health scares. Through all of these circumstances joy was possible, and so was hope.

Are you trying to keep your head above water? If you feel overwhelmed these days, let this blog be your virtual hug for the day. You are not alone!

Tormented By Cringe Attacks? I am…

First off, what is a cringe attack you ask? I’m talking about those embarrassing memories you may have- or at least I do, that seem to pop up out of nowhere making you relive all those awful embarrassing feelings all over again. You might physically cringe, but for me I have actually made a bad habit of saying “no” out loud when these memories come back, giving me even more reason to be embarrassed.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about and your brain doesn’t have the habit of tormenting you with these embarrassing moments then you can leave. Haha. I wish I was you! If only I could be carefree and at home and ease in my own mind… Instead, I can be laying in bed trying to sleep, in the kitchen cooking, in the shower, just going about regular business and all of a sudden this random memory from how many years ago (or the same day gets re-lived and dissected sometimes) and I’m stuck cringing at myself. Why?!!

What makes you cringe? For me, and my daily cringes… I’ll look back on things I said or did: I said too much, I appeared like a know it all, and another common one is when I try to prove my weird points. Why do I have to do that? I have this irritating sense of justice in my head and feel I somehow need to be the one to bring someone else back to reality or kindly and subtly bring them down a few notches with another perspective if I feel they’re lifting themselves up too high. It often goes undetected, or it seems so, until I rant to my husband how embarrassing my motive is for some of the things I say or do and then he realizes what a crazy person I am.

For my years old cringes, it’s similar but the embarrassment feels stronger. For instance, I was at my friends house, 12 years old and I knew her and her family well. Her cousin comes by, I think he’s cute, and he asks me a question and I stammered and said the weirdest thing and the family just looked at me. I felt like they had x-ray vision and could see right through me, they knew I was turning to mush because of this boy and I just hated it. I want to run away from that moment in my head, even though it’s from how long ago? I can’t even tell you because a lady never reveals her age…

Expressing this to you dear reader, if you’ve made it this far, doesn’t seem like a big deal. Little stupid moments like that happen to all of us, and 12 year old emotions and embarrassments are different from that of a grown woman. So why do these memories come back to torment us?

I have read that it has to do with how we processed these memories in the first place. These seem to get stored because of unfinished moments, or the intense emotion associated with it. So if that is how these are stored is there any way around it?

Helpful hacks if you’re also tired of cringe attacks:

1. Try to dig deeper and remember the whole memory. Look back at the whole day. For the one I shared, I spent the day playing with my friend and we had fun, nobody ever brought up that awkward moment again. I came home feeling like I had a good day… Play it out and remember in the grand scheme of things the embarrassment is quite insignificant.

2. Write it out, or share it with a friend. Let some of the embarrassment go. Some of these moments like I mentioned, aren’t as embarrassing later as they were in the moment. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously, something I am pretty much guilty of 100% of the time.

3. Laugh about it. Maybe it actually was a solid embarrassing moment… give it less power by having a laugh at yourself. “That was embarrassing…. but, that was then, and this is now.

If you go through your whole life without doing something embarrassing, or having a cringe worthy moment are you even human? Being humble enough to admit your own foibles or embarrassments makes you more relatable to others. Nobody enjoys when someone pretends as if they’re above everyone else. Be real here. You’re human too so take a moment to feel good that things like this, actually make you more likeable to the rest of us.

Another comforting thought? If you have ever witnessed someone else’s embarrassing moment, do you get flashback memories of those and feel disdain for that person? Never. More than likely, you don’t remember 99% of others peoples embarrassing memories, so remember- they’re not remembering yours either… and for the 1% you do remember, for me at least, I feel more endeared to that person “ugh, that really stinks for that person”.

So take comfort! For those of you who suffer from cringe attacks you learned: 1. You are not alone! 2. Why it happens 3. How to put these memories in proper perspective.

Let’s have a good laugh at ourselves. You’re in good company

Happy taco Tuesday, where we taco ‘bout the blog!

What You Can Learn From Love Languages

We all express ourselves differently

My husband speaks two languages fluently. I barely speak the one. Although I have learned basics in French (his mother tongue), Spanish (I lived in Mexico for a year or so), and Mandarin Chinese (an amazing feat that almost killed me).

He (Pierre) always tells me that the music is what draws him to a song more than the lyrics, and I’m always tied to what the song is about, letting the words move me. The other day though while at work, I played some music in French for him, French versions of English songs he and I already knew. As we listened, he perked up and said “I never really understood what the song was about until now.” Even though he is completely bilingual, hearing the words of the songs in his mother tongue hit different.

I’m fascinated always with human behaviours and relationships. There is lots of advice that changes and tips and tricks come and go because humans don’t know everything- we only pretend to. “Fake it till you make it”, a motto an old friend used to live by seems to hold true in society today. One day something is good the next it is bad. Needless to say, I don’t take stock in everything I read.

The idea of communicating love through different languages made me curious. Not literal languages but ways we communicate our feelings i.e the five types: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. I notice these communication styles of love through friends, family, and with my husband.

Let’s dig in to see what these types are, and how you might recognize them in your own loved ones. Also look for what these expressions of love tell you about someone… and last, why understanding these matters.

1. Words of affirmation. I love to write for one, and a hobby of mine is writing cards, letters, even songs that express how I feel for others. I am often moved to take a moment and express verbally how I feel, breaking up a conversation with my “Squirrel!” moment to lay my appreciation on the table in the form of verbal diarrhea. Growing up, my friends would laugh at me for these moments. We would be on a road trip and I just wanted to convey how the experience was and how much they all meant and the response was roaring laughter at the emotional one, spilling her guts from the passenger seat. I was defeated. (“I can live for two months on a good compliment”- Mark Twain)

2. Acts of service. There are the friends out there who will be the first to help you paint your apartment, give you a ride to the airport (remember those days?), or send you a meal when you’re sick. These are other ways we might express our love. It could even be simple things like sharing chores around the home, ways we physically can serve another person and meet their needs. My sister would love when I would visit her and give her home a clean. To someone else that might be invasive but I knew it was important for her if I helped in some concrete ways during my stay.

3. Receiving of gifts. Have you noticed the friends who seem to always treat you? Gifts can come in various forms- some through more obvious ways like treating you to a meal, bringing you a coffee, little gifts, but there’s also gifts in the form of ourselves, our presence when others need us the most. Not all gifts need to be elaborate or expensive, but small ways that communicate that we are thinking of the other person. Learning generosity can be a challenge, and there is a balance but we are happier when we share what we have with others.

4. Quality time. This is my husband. Quality time can be including someone else in your day, thoughtful texts or pictures sent throughout the day “I saw this and thought of you”. Another way it can be expressed is by sharing in an activity that maybe isn’t your preference but that means a lot to someone else, taking time to catch up in conversation (not checking social media, putting down our devices and being present with another person), or doing a project together. For my husband, when I take the time to show interest in his sports like hockey, or road biking, even if it’s uncomfortable for me- he’s over the moon happy, making every bit worth it for me in the end.

5. Last but not least, physical touch. For some of us, these physical displays of affection can mean the world. There was a little friend of mine who loved to be as close as possible, she needed to sit side by side for a movie… I even look back at my grandma, she would never express emotion but as kids, she would play with our hair, scratch our back, and actually give foot rubs before bed. These little actions conveyed her love.

Okay okay, so what does all of this mean? You already know that these are ways people show love- you didn’t need me to tell you that! Just as my husband can communicate fine with me in English, things hit different, more deeply, in his mother tongue. What’s the point?

We may use all of these ways to communicate our feelings for others but usually one hits different. If we received four out of the five, but not words of affirmation (like me for example), it feels a little empty and I question just how much these friends or others care for me.

My mom would spend a lot on gifts sporadically and use these examples of displays of her love, but to me I was screaming for more. I needed to know why I was special to her, otherwise these gifts felt meaningless.

It’s good to observe which of these “languages” your friends/family or significant others express because it may give a clue as to what hits them the hardest, what they need the most from us. When we all take care to put others needs ahead of our own from time to time we can find our relationships are stronger and happier. You can learn more here.

To quote a cute little snowman named Olaf “Love … is … putting someone else’s needs before your own”.

Ps. If you think of someone who could use a little boost, even from a distance don’t forget to reach out during these trying times. A text, call, or card could mean a lot to someone right now.

Pss. Learning love languages is good, it’s not a cure all, but it is informative. The best advice? Well, I’d go somewhere else for that :). Happy Tuesday!

Signs someone you love is in trouble

Your mind doesn’t have to be a prison

Let’s talk about something that might make you uncomfortable. If you haven’t noticed yet, I tend to do that…. but all jesting aside, this is something that’s really important to me and it should be for you. What? Suicide among the young.

**Also- I should mention that all of us are feeling this isolation now. So any who might’ve been prone to these feelings before will no doubt be even more susceptible. There is a global pandemic, they may have lost work, there are riots and huge social issues on the world stage right now. Not to mention, friends are really important to all of us- especially the young. The isolation from peers is enough, never mind all the other chaos in the world right now.

This doesn’t only affect the young, but we see it more and more. It’s an uncomfortable topic but it’s close to my heart for 3 reasons. 1. My older sister committed suicide 2. I struggled with suicidal thoughts since the age of 12 (and it continued until my early 20s) 3. Through my volunteer work, I come into contact with many young girls who struggle. Thankfully, I’ve been able to mentor many, and see them make progress, stop self harm, and regain some balance. However, there are many who don’t receive that help, who suffer in silence, and this is who this article is for.

When we have been through something ourselves, it’s easier for us to detect the signs and warnings in others. It’s easier to empathize and understand. What if we don’t understand depression? It seems simple, “don’t feel that way, everyone loves you, it’s all in your head” right?

Not so.

Is it really that common? Just to emphasize the importance of this topic, let’s consider some alarming numbers. Almost one in eight children between the ages of 6-12 (!!!) experience suicidal thoughts at some point. The rates of suicide are higher among males, but females attempt suicide more often than males. What do we learn? It starts younger and younger, and it affects all genders.

More often, the root cause of suicidal thoughts is a mental health condition like depression, but not always. Other causes may be confusion, hyperactivity, anger, and sadness (not the same as depression).

Other contributing factors: bullying, family history of suicide, exposure to violence, experiencing loss/rejection, aggressive behaviour, and feelings of hopelessness.

Signs to look for brought to you by this site

  • changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • frequent or pervasive sadness
  • withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
  • frequent complaints about physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • decline in the quality of schoolwork
  • preoccupation with death and dying

Now you have some of the causes and warning signs, now what?

Open the door to communication. If you are feeling this way, try talking to someone. From personal experience, everything feels louder in your own head. These vicious patterns of thinking circulate and it can be easy to convince ourselves there is no way out, it’ll never get better, we are a burden and it would be better off this way… having come out the other side, I can say that all of the above are not true! It helps if you can talk it out with someone else, a parent, a counsellor, mentor or friend (I will say though, that peers aren’t often prepared to handle these situations and they may not offer the best support)-and your family doctor. I’ve had repeated encouragements from my doctor growing up and presently to talk about these issues, and one went through some counselling tips with me.

If you are a friend, or parent: ask them how they are doing. Ask if they have been feeling depressed, if they’ve ever thought about suicide… don’t be afraid or surprised by the answers, and don’t berate them for feeling this way. You need to put on your most sympathetic listening ear to have these conversations, listen, lend a hug, support, and care.

Ultimately they need medical attention. They may need medication, or therapy but in addition to all of that, they need your love and continued interest.

It makes me terribly sad how many of these conversations I’ve had with young girls who were never able to have these open conversations with their parents. The older I get, the more time that passes, the more I meet.

When I was twelve I had experienced trauma, moving, bullying (girls at school ganged up on me through calls, ostracized me, and the weight of these experiences started to feel too heavy). I got in trouble at school for the first time, my grades were suffering…. but I had a sympathetic dad who listened. Even though I continued to experience these thoughts and feelings through my early twenties as life got increasingly harder (children’s aid removing me from my mothers home, more violence, heartbreak, and the like) I was still able to come out the other end. You, or your loved one can too.

Helpful resources: right now in Canada, in the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario, a counselling service is being provided for free due to the pandemic. The services are monitored by therapists via a new app called AbilitiCBT. There’s a hotline, texting services with a therapist (including occasional calls), and interactive programs to work through. Outside of those provinces or Canada, there’s another app called: Woebot. Woebot is not monitored, and is not meant to be a crisis service. An automated robot works you through mood tracking, a gratitude journal, etc. What other resources have you found helpful? Please share in your comments so others can benefit as well!

Finally, for those of you who may be struggling right now- I feel you. These terrible experiences and feelings appear insurmountable but they only seem that way. Self harm, drugs, alcohol, and suicide feel like they will mask the pain, and maybe will for a moment but the long term repercussions for yourself and those who love you will be long lasting. They will only exacerbate the situation. Trust me. By staying longer, I was able to find hope, and faith, to meet my best friend and husband, and to be able to share my story to help others like you. Sharing has provided me something beautiful, that came from something so dark and ugly. ‘There is more happiness in giving’ I find when I’m able to help someone else in need. You can make it, you can be happy, and you are not alone.

Thank you for reading, and please share with others who could benefit.

For Tamara/Kalaya my older sister.

Daddy’s Girl

“Daddy’s little princess” is how he used to call me (and my sister)

Pictures and memories are what I hold onto of the man who was, and is, my father. Memories of his voice, his smell, pictures of his smile, and the home we used to share so many years ago. The time passes, but I still will forever be a daddy’s girl.

I would like you to picture a man- medium build, not too short or too tall, middle aged with a rounded middle, white and somehow forever tanned, short straight brown hair, green eyes, a strong nose- you got it? Now add a black v-neck tee, a black leather coat, a thin gold necklace, blue jeans, and the pièce de résistance… cowboy boots, but tucked under the pant leg. This is how I best remember my dad.

My dad was raised in a small little shack in the far countryside. His mother immigrated from Finland at the ripe young age of 19, pushed by her parents to seek a better life. She was alone. His dad was also Finnish, but born in Canada to immigrants… and deaf. The story was that he became deaf after a bad fever coming back from army duties with some young men celebrating on the train. When he and my grandma met, they would write notes to each other until she learned to use sign language.

While not dwelling on his past too much, my dad grew up in a troubled home. His own dad had come from a troubled home himself, a very common story. My grandma, or as I call her “mummu”, says her husband was not a very nice man. He would become violent, and was mentally unwell. At some point he drove to the US, seeking rights to the Atomic Bomb, which he claimed was actually invented by him.

I wanted to include this little detail because it’ll tie in later when you understand his past.

Fast forward, this young man strikes out on his own, tastes marriage and fatherhood for this first time and loses it. A brief modelling career, a carpenter, a father of two more children, and now a second divorce.

While never taking claim to my older sister from his previous marriage, my dad does something curious the second time around. He fights and wins. It is very rare for a father to gain sole custody of the children after a divorce, and yet that is what he did. Is it perhaps a sign of the kind of mother and past she had? Either way, we now have a bachelor and two little girls.

I’m not refined because my childhood and formative years were spent with my dad. We would have cake and pie for breakfast, Coca-Cola at any time of the day, we would play hide and seek in our clothes- we were wild. How would we hide in our clothes you ask? They were piled on the floor in our closet, with no real method to the madness- we lived in chaos. I didn’t understand cleanliness until much later.

I remember renting multiple homes in the country, we would play for hours outside, climbing the trees and crossing creeks, feeling the warm sun on our skin and the wind through our uncombed hair. We were free. We were happy.

My dad would do pony rides up the stairs with us on on his back, which I loved so much. Some times before bed he would sing “Love me tender”, a song that makes me cry to this day. All three of us were Elvis fans, we loved his films and music. My dad even frivolously bought us Elvis Barbies. They were fantastic, except being as wild as we were they were not kept in mint condition. We left them outside one night and our dog chewed them up.

He was so generous and too much so with us. Buying us beautiful clothes, these expensive gifts, even though we lived in simple rented homes he wanted us to have the best. Neither of my parents were good with money and later we would have neither the gifts nor the homes together. Just the memories.

My father had beautiful kind eyes. The kind of eyes I see when I watch a Robin Williams movie, full of life, safe and kind. He was loving, but he struggled as well. Unexpectedly, he would begin to pace the room frantically. His brows furrowed, his fists clenched, and his face beet red from a flush of blood and rage. I would sit silently and still waiting for the storm to pass until my dad would resume normal colour and we were safe again.

This would happen while in the car or truck driving. You can imagine the fear watching your father clench the wheel, and the fiery rage from these kind eyes. It was as if I watched the transformation from man to Hulk in real life. Where had my father gone?

After my father sustained a workplace injury things went downhill. We slowly downsized into smaller and smaller places, until we had no place at all. We were left with my mother, and those happy days were now gone.

I realize now looking back, my dad and mom would drink heavily together just like their own fathers until we were born. My dad stayed sober during these beautiful childhood years but struggled (struggles) with mental health (undiagnosed). I’ve come to my own conclusion that it is likely the same as his father dealt with. I do know that trauma (like my grandfather experienced), and drinking can encourage the illness but also it tends to run higher in the males in the family (a great relief to me, but something I watch for anxiously as my little brothers grow).

The same tender, kind eyed man would angrily talk about killing some woman he thought was after him with a machete, out of fear and imagination that these people were against him in some way. He would even have episodes verbally attacking my sister and I, and then he would come back later and apologize, lucid and sincere.

At twelve years old I was no longer able to live with my father, in his dilapidated home two doors down. When I was able to realize these episodes were not my dad but an undiagnosed mental health condition. It brought me peace and understanding, but he wasn’t going to seek help just at my own bidding. He has to want to.

Could this be partly why I am so interested in self discovery? Understanding the issues from my own dysfunctional upbringing from mental health, to addiction, has helped me understand my parents more. Also, finding studies on the children in these homes, and researching on my own mental health, helps to make the experiences I face less scary. There’s a reason, there’s help, and there’s others who understand.

Maybe you’re coming to a self discovery about your own upbringing or your health… Or you know someone who struggles, or has a difficult past… Learning more can help you to understand, and equip you with tools to help. I’ve seen people labeled as “bad” because of their mental health or upbringing, but really they could be struggling and not have the tools or awareness as to why or how to get help. In either case, that doesn’t mean that being hurt from someone who has one of these struggles is okay.

I hope my sharing can encourage your own conversations and awareness about these issues. If you or someone you love is struggling, don’t be shy to reach out for professional help. Wishing you a happy Tuesday, and thanks for sticking around.

My dad

Are You Wishing This Pandemic Would End?

Not another article on pandemics! Aren’t we sick of this? Not going to lie, as an introvert I may not have minded all the quiet time and isolation at first but even for me this is dragging on.

Discussing pandemics: I read an article back in 2005 about the 1918 Influenza and it discussed scientists predictions of another pandemic, how they occur, and how lethal they can be. There were little threats here and there, aka we remember the Swine Flu, but we seemed to always come out the other side rapidly. It felt like we were invincible.

2020 has altered all of our lives greatly, no matter where we live. Of course, some of us greater than others, but we still can’t get away from it entirely. In fact, the numbers now are higher than they have ever been right now.

We know all of this now, I’m sure you’ve read and reread countless articles that say the same thing. We know so much about the word quarantine than we ever had. “Social distancing” is a new concept we’ve had to learn. How are you coping?

It may have been a shock initially, but we saw people rise to the challenge and put into practice the guidelines from health professionals. We were eager for it to end and so we were doing our best, but it’s dragged on longer than we may have initially thought. I remember reading “Summer 2020 cancelled”.

Did you have plans and dreams that were cancelled because of this pandemic? I can tell you how it has affected my life. In short, my husband and I lost out on a large contract, which ended our living arrangement put on by our workplace. I was planning a trip to Finland, where my family is from… I was also planning on using the experience from the said job (that now cancelled) to hopefully aid us in applying for construction volunteering in international locations. I really had my eyes set on these goals.

What happened instead? We had to move, we crashed with family, we had to find new work, moved provinces (equal to moving to another State), and start life all over again in the middle of a pandemic. I’ve missed family, whom it’ll be a year since I’ve seen very soon (I am glad we somehow made trips to see both sides of our family in February right before everything went sideways).

This is not my private pity party however… I had my moments, but I learned to adjust my thinking and make the best of this time and my new circumstances. How can we do that?

1. Clear your head outside. When I’m in nature, I see so much peace. The birds aren’t wearing masks or social distancing, it sounds silly but out there I’m reminded that there are still some things right in the world and it’s going to be okay. Get out and breathe the fresh air if you can, find a path, a lake, some trees and go. I don’t let the cold weather or snow stop me either.

My friend, who lives in a dense city still makes time for walks to the lake nearby and she’s been finding it really grounds her. She’s actually been doing a photo blog and including the amazing wild life she’s been seeing right in the city (a snowy owl, mink, just to name a few). If you want to see here, it may provide some inspiration and motivation to explore your area.

2. Exercise is so helpful to improve your mindset. My husband swears by exercise to improve his mental health because as he explains, during a hard workout your body is just focused on getting oxygen so all of the things you’re worrying about have to take the backseat while your body is in focus mode. I find it helps if I have some fun music because I’m not always motivated, and now after setting a routine by body craves the movement.

3. Keep a routine. I feel better when I’m showered, I do my hair and makeup and put on something besides my sweatpants. You feel more alive and ready to take on the day. Not going to lie- when the day is done those sweatpants are coming back on but it’s all the more rewarding this way.

4. Stay productive. I’m not seeing as many friends before, we have more evening and weekend time and there’s only so much Netflix and reading one can do (or is there?). There is no better time to take on a new skill like learning an instrument, a language or hobby than the present. The nights where my husband and I play music together are among my favourites even if it takes a little motivation to get it started. I’ve also enjoyed DuoLingo for making language learning entertaining and rewarding. What do you like?

5. This last point I really love, and that is looking out for others. We know there’s more happiness in giving than receiving. Taking the time to reach out to others who may be struggling or isolated takes our minds off of ourselves, and makes us feel good in the process. At the beginning I was enjoying my own pity party until a young girl I’d met before reached out to me to tell me she’d been having a tough time with her family. It was actually hard for me to call at first because I felt so low myself I didn’t know how I could muster up any encouragement for someone else but as my empathy grew listening to her it came naturally. I hung up the phone with my own situation in proper perspective realizing I’m not the only one struggling. Can you think of someone who could use a call, a card or email these days?

These are just SOME of the things that have kept me going. I’m also big on spiritual pursuits because it fuels my need to find purpose and answers. I also enjoy a good laugh, which is also good medicine. Thankfully my husband is a goof and I have some crazy friends only a video call away.

This pandemic has lasted longer than we planned and perhaps our plans or goals have had to change or wait. The amazing thing is people the world over are all experiencing this at the same time. None of us are alone, even if we feel like it in our isolation. Aren’t we thankful that this time around, we have technology to still connect us together?

I’m really proud of you for making it this far through 2020. If you have made sacrifices for the health and safety of others, thank you. If you have felt more anxiety or depression, I feel you. If you have felt like quitting and stayed, I applaud you and I’m cheering “Keep going!”. If you are disappointed your plans have changed, I hear you.

You are not alone.

Just a reminder that the outdoors are calling you ;).

What Being a Highly Sensitive Person Means For Me

HSP, or Highly Sensitive Person. Have you heard this term before? It was new to me up until a couple of years ago.

It does not mean being super sensitive in the sense you might imagine, it’s not a frailty, or even a disorder. If you’re curious there’s more details here.

Why do I appreciate this or think this might be of interest to you? If you are like me, that means you may have felt different from others and wondered why. Maybe you’re curious what makes a person tick, what makes for certain behaviours or experiences, are there groups of people who experience the same thing? I don’t like to feel all alone in my experiences, and if I know that others can relate it brings a sense of relief.

15- 20% of people are thought to be HSP’s, and more and more interest has grown in these studies because people are having these relatable moments while reading these studies. Let me share som experiences you might relate to if you are a Highly Sensitive Person:

1. You might feel things a little more intense than others can relate to. In my teen years I avoided a lot of social activity in favour of study, but from time to time I felt the impulse to be like the others and do as they did. One of these nights I went to see a scary movie. Nothing grotesque or too shocking, a murderous man in pursuit of a baby sitter. It was tame for most but for me, it was horrifying.

All her fictional fears became mine, as I placed myself in her position and then felt her fears for her own life as my own. I came away sobbing. I cried the whole car ride home and for an hour or so in my room after.

This is not uncommon for me, and in fact lots of people enjoy a cry after a sad movie. Films, music and novels can evoke emotion in us but for some it’s all too intense and real. It can actually take me a couple of days to detach myself from an intense movie. I actually avoid any scary movie altogether, no crime shows or movies for me.

1. Loud noises/strong scents/ bright lights may bother you. The loud noise aspect makes for a challenge on construction projects. It’s definitely harder for me on a larger job site with multiple trades coming in and out, loud tools and lots of activity. I usually take a break and get some fresh air for a while, wear even two sets of ear protection (a plug and an ear muff), and sometimes ask if the music can be turned down or off (some play music on their phones from their back pocket).

I have walked out of restaurants with loud music. If I wanted to go to a club, I would be in one. Alternatively, I’ve also been the annoying customer asking them to turn the music down. I love being able to enjoy a conversation without the sound of my loved ones voice fighting for attention with the sound of loud music. I enjoy music but if you’re blasting it, I won’t stay long… the same goes for weddings.

Strong perfumes and certain chemicals bother me. I never use a fabric softener, it’s too strong, and I’ve switched to a more natural detergent which uses essential oils for fragrance. Some people have severe allergies to these scents, I don’t, I just find it really offensive to the senses.

Bright lights flashing, too much screen time, too much zoom give me a headache and really irritate me. When cars started switching to LED lights, night driving was a nightmare with all the lights piercing my eyes as if everyone was using high beams all the time now. Back when I was dating my husband, we lived an hour and some apart and I spent way too much time on the highways. I’m so thankful those days are over.

Sound, aromas, and lighting can be so pleasurable in the right amounts but in extremes they become offensive. A guitar around a fire, the smell of a lavender field, candle light, all of these are so enjoyable to the senses. Balance is key for me.

3. You absorb others emotions unintentionally. I can walk into a room and be part of a lively conversation, good music and food but start to feel really down. Not because I feel down but someone else in the room is feeling gloomy. It takes me a while to realize where this feeling is coming from until you see it on their face. Ahh the source….

As a child, I felt responsible for the emotions my parents had and felt it was my duty to fix it. If my mom was crying I tried to soothe her… if they were angry I tried to be good and give them no more reason to be upset. Walking on eggshells trying to cater to everyone’s emotional needs forgetting about my own…

Feeling negative things might come a little easier but the wonderful moments are also a little more spectacular. A moving song, piece of art, a dance, all of these things illicit such beautiful senses. An HSP may appreciate these in a more sensitive way, so my friends- it’s not all bad.

These are only some experiences of a highly sensitive person. I’m always on a quest to learn more, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Can you relate?