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8 Things to Remember When You Doubt Yourself

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Your confidence can be knocked in so many ways when you’re living with a mental illness. You can feel like you aren’t good enough to do anything, not even the things that you used to do or love.

Shaking out of that mindset can seem like a huge task, but it’s an important one. Even if you stop thinking negative thoughts for just minutes, taking action against them is worth doing. Here are eight things to keep in mind:

1. You are your own worst critic.

Your very own mind can be your own worst enemy. If you’re feeling low, then it can be easy to slip into a low opinion about yourself. Emotions are much more powerful than we give them credit for, yet we allow them to completely take over.

When feeling sad, frustrated, angry or anything in between, blaming yourself for those feelings is how things tend to go. This makes you feel like less of a person because it’s you that’s getting in your way of good feelings or even having a good day.

2. Small changes can lead to big changes.

However much you would like to stay in the feeling-sorry-for-yourself pit (which is probably your bed or couch, mine is either/or), the only way to get out of that pit is to get out of that pit.

Doing something small like cleaning your apartment (or even smaller like doing the dishes ) will move your body and mind out of the pit. It’s not an instant or long-term cure, but small tasks will get your self-doubting brain thinking about something else, even if it’s just for five minutes.

3. Nobody else sees you how you see yourself.

Remember you have people who love you in your life: family, friends or a significant other. And they love you for a reason. You bring something to their lives, which makes them care for you and want you to stick around. You bring value to their lives. That value is what you should try to focus on.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to somebody close to you. I bet they’ll be happy you got in touch for their help.

4. You have talents that are unique to you.

That thing that you used to do? Yep, you can still do it. If you can’t physically do it, then I bet you can do something else that’s similar. Self-doubt is the biggest killer of creativity.

Sometimes I can’t bare to put pen to paper because I feel like either a) nothing will come out or b) whatever comes out is going to be worthless. What spurs me on to get back on the writing horse is the nice things people say to me about my writing, plus the fact that I actually need my writing more than I need validation from it. It’s how I express my feelings and how I make myself feel better.

Don’t let that Negative Nelly in your head tell you that your talent isn’t worth anything anymore. Nobody can do what you can do the way that you do it.

5. Everybody’s paths are different, so stop comparing.

Easier said than done, but comparison can be such a confidence killer. When I see successful writers on Twitter, I’m green with envy at first, and then the self-doubt kicks in, telling me that my writing will never be that good nor that successful, so I should probably stop now and never publish anything again.

Comparing what your friends, family or old school friends’ lives to your own is never going to make you feel good about your own life. Believe it or not, somebody out there is always going to seem to be doing better than you. Slowly step away from Facebook, LinkedIn or any social media platform and go about your daily life as you wish to live it. You’re doing great, trust me.

6. Think about how far you have come.

There’s a very old philosophical quote that says, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” When I first read it, I realized a year or so ago I would have been so jealous of the life I lead now — I’m living in a beautiful city, in a lovely apartment with a very handsome and kind SO. How lucky am I!

Sometimes it can be really hard to appreciate the life around you, especially in this modern day and age when everyone is looking to the future and always making plans. When you’re feeling low about yourself or your life, try to remember what you dreamed of as a kid or a teenager or even just a few years ago. There will be something you have done or have now that you had always wished for when you were younger. Hold on to that.

7. Take good care of yourself.

Sometimes feeling better about yourself can be achieved by simply taking better care of yourself. It may feel like you’re not worth the effort — which as silly as that sounds, I have thought the same, too — but you very much are. Putting on a piece of clothing that makes you feel good — a dress you only wear for special occasions or t-shirt that brings back a lot of good memories — is a great start.

Taking a bath, doing your nails, putting your hair in a style that you’ve always wanted to try — they’re all good little things that will at the very least change the way you see yourself (quite literally in the mirror). Doing things for your body is a good way to go to. Yoga, walking, drinking herbal tea, cooking something delicious are all positive things you can do to nourish your insides.

8. It’s not forever.

Letting your self-doubt stir inside your head can drain your confidence and energy. Writing down all of your self-doubt may seem like you are just bringing it to a boil again, but it can help relieve yourself of all those negative thoughts.

Getting them out of your head and onto a piece of paper can feel like a weight off of your shoulders. But whatever you do, do not keep this piece of paper. This piece of paper needs to be destroyed. Tear it up. Scrunch it into a ball. (Safely) burn it. Show those bad feelings who’s boss. These thoughts won’t control you forever if you decide not to let them. It just takes that bit of courage to let them go.

However impossible it may seem, you can be in control of how you feel. It just takes a little step into the right direction for a happier mindset and a happier you.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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To Anyone Considering ‘Coming Out’ About Their Mental Illness

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In this stage of my life, I’m open about my mental illnesses. I haven’t always been though. For many years, I kept them to myself. My parents knew because they drove me to counseling, but that was it. Then, I told a close friend. Then, I told another friend. Eventually, it became less and less of a “thing” to tell someone. I kept talking until I felt comfortable doing it.

It sounds easy, like I woke up one day and decided to say something out of the blue. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. It takes time to come to the decision and work up to speaking. A recent article from The Washington Post, titled “Unwell and Unashamed,” uses the phrase “coming out” to describe publicly identifying as a person with a mental illness. The term “coming out” is typically reserved for defining one’s sexual orientation. “Coming out” is a process, not just a moment. It’s often approached with stress and not always met with understanding, to say the least.

“Coming out” about a mental health condition comes with its own difficulties. Telling someone you have a mental illness can be nerve-wracking and painful, even if you’re telling someone you trust and not screaming it to the entire world. Whether it’s telling one person, a crowd or the internet, it’s still hard.

There are many decisions people with mental illnesses have to make when choosing to talk about their mental illnesses, whether to attribute your name to an article you wrote about your illness at its worst or to put a face to the Twitter profile where you talk about your personal experiences. These sound like simple decisions, but they’re not.

There are a lot of fears that run through your mind when thinking about disclosing a mental illness:

  • How will this person react when I tell them?
  • Will this change how they think of me?
  • Will they still want to be my friend/significant other/co-worker/boss/spouse?
  • Will I be fired from my job?
  • Will my family be angry if I “go public”?
  • Will the entire process trigger my mental illness?

The list goes on. Unfortunately, these are realistic questions. The only way to end the stigma against mental illness, though, is to speak about mental illness, to give it a face and a story. For many living with mental illness, the issue comes down to one question: To tell or not to tell?

To anyone contemplating speaking about their mental illnesses, this is for you, from someone who has been there:

1. Be comfortable.

Telling someone doesn’t just mean opening your mouth to say something; it requires strength. It means looking stigma in the face and laughing. It means confronting the prospect of discrimination, ridicule and change. It means convincing yourself you don’t care about the possible consequences, even if deep down they terrify you.

This isn’t easy and requires some working up to. Where you are in your recovery will also play a role in when you have the strength to speak. The timeline depends entirely on an individual, so give yourself time. Go slow if you have to.

2. Don’t overthink it.

Think about the big questions and the repercussions, but don’t dwell on them. There are a thousand reasons you can come up with for coming out with a mental illness and a thousand possible reasons to keep quiet. You can really go around and around in circles trying to decide.

Try to separate the “cons” from cultural stigma against mental illness. That is something we can change and is changing. Don’t let the stigma hold you back. Here’s one thing you can put in the “pro” column: People like me will rally around you. You will have a support network of people you’ve never met, who care deeply about your well-being. We’re out there, in your cities, on social media and here for you.

3. Be prepared.

A little preparation is always a good thing. Have a plan in place in the event that telling someone goes south. What can you do to take care of yourself in the event someone reacts poorly? If you have some good friends who know about your mental illness and support you, then let them know you may need some extra support after “coming out” to someone. You can also turn to local support groups and organizations, like the  National Alliance on Mental Illness, who have your back and understand.

4. When you’re ready — just do it.

Above all, just do it. Maybe not today or even next year, but make it a goal for someday. I think you will be glad you did. Stepping out of the darkness is one of the best decisions I’ve made. It felt like an elephant was lifted off my chest. It’s something I had to do to stand up for my experience and the experiences of others with mental illness. I think it would have been worse if I let the fear and stigma stop me.

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8 Things People With Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors Wish Others Understood

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Everyone has picked at a zit or pulled a loose strand of hair from time to time, but these behaviors are not always rare or harmless. Body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) are disorders that cause people to compulsively damage their bodies, usually through hair-pulling, skin-picking and/or biting. Between 2 and 5 percent of Americans live with some form of a BFRB, and the effects BFRBs can have on someone’s physical and social lives can’t be ignored.

While many treatments are available for the physical problems BFRBs cause, the social problems they lead to often go unaddressed. Many people do not understand BFRBs and unfairly ostracize people with visible marks from their disorders, which only makes things worse. To help fight this stigma, we teamed up with the TLC Foundation to ask people living with BFRBs in our communities what they want others to know about their disorders.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I can’t ‘just stop.’ Although I am not picking or tearing at this point, it doesn’t mean I am not thinking about it — it’s in my head constantly.” — Julia S.

2. “Just because I pick my skin doesn’t mean I’m flawed or broken. The scars and marks on my body may share a bit of my story, but they do not define me.” — Laura B.

3. “It is unconscious — I don’t even realize I’m pulling at my hair or gouging my skin. It is a reaction to anxiety, and the pain of it offers a relief from the mental pain. I have tried therapies and methods to redirect the anxiety, but I still have to buzz cut my hair so I don’t pull it all out.” — Kathryn R.

4. “I wish people understood the lengths we go to hide it and how much it affects our self-esteem. This year I decided to stop hiding my trichotillomania. I stopped wearing my hairpiece, stopped wearing makeup and most recently shaved my head. That was a huge deal for me, and people don’t realize how long and hard it was for me to get to this place of self-acceptance.” –Gessie P.

5. “I wish people would learn to empathize with what trichotillomania means for us — that in a larger context, the amount of hair and how healthy it is are all social norms that can affect our mental and physical health. Often times, when people try to comfort me with ‘it’s just hair,’ I ask them how they would feel if they had sparse growth or bald patches visible every day for the rest of their lives.” — Erin T.

6. “I wish there was more awareness among professionals in the beauty industry. There is a lot of sensitivity training for hair stylists, makeup artists, estheticians and the like that goes into working with those who have alopecia and who have gone through chemotherapy, but very rarely do they know about trichotillomania.” — Sierra N.

7. “I, like many others with dermatillomania, did not realize I had an illness that caused this behavior. I thought it was normal and harmless. It’s not.” — Kat E.

8. “Yes, I’m wearing pants in the summer, and yes, I’m hot. But I’m too afraid of feeling your eyes scrutinizing my skin, even if you don’t say anything about it.” — Melani S.

For more advice, news and research on BFRBs, visit The TLC Foundation

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When I Stopped Taking My Depression Medication

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The line between jumping off a bridge and not is just that: a line. It’s not a mile wide and it’s not an impenetrable wall. It’s a simple line.

It’s a line I’ve never even edged my toe over. But I know it exists.

For years, I worried my dad was scared before he died by suicide. Alone and scared. But now, I’m not so sure.

“Normal” people do not understand this. My husband Nick cannot imagine it. For Nick there is no line and no bridge. 

A month ago I learned I was pregnant, and stopped taking both my antidepressants. I didn’t know how safe my meds might be; I didn’t want to take any chances. I could’ve emailed my shrink. But I didn’t. I just quit. I was on such low doses anyway.

And then, a couple weeks later, I miscarried. I was devastated. It was a loss, no matter how fleeting the hope.

I didn’t restart my meds.

Then I saw my friend Leigh. We stayed up late talking over bottles of wine. In the last couple years, I’ve felt like hell the day after one glass of alcohol. But I was OK. Hungover, certainly, but not incapacitated.

And I realized: I wasn’t too old to drink. It was the antidepressants! How nice to have a glass of wine without severe consequences!

I shared my discovery with Nick, who said, “But you’re going back on them, right? Today?”

(What? When I’m doing so well without them?) I said, “Sure, sure.”

I told Leigh, who said, “It’s nice to not feel anger that isn’t really there. He’s right about your medication.”

So I restarted one, but not the other — Wellbutrin — which I’ve come to hate. My shrink and I had agreed to discuss dropping it this spring anyway.

My goal was to quit entirely, though I tell people that mental illness is the same as any other. Taking antidepressants is like taking thyroid or blood pressure medication. My dad quit his medication repeatedly. And attempted suicide repeatedly. The last time I quit I’d sworn that I wouldn’t follow that pattern.  

But I was doing so well without them!

I just cried really easily. Which was understandable. I was recovering from a miscarriage

I just got angry easily. But children push all your buttons. So can your mom. And your husband. It’s hard to live with people.

I just hated my life. Why did I choose such a pointless life? Why had I married a man who didn’t view me as a priority? He’d be happier with someone normal. So would my kids. 

Other than that, I was great!

The worse part, I told Nick, was that I’d done it to myself: I’d made choice after choice that had led me to this particular place of utter, suffocating futility. He was offended, and we fought.

Nick said he didn’t want to be my second choice. If I wanted a different life, I should go live it. Sobbing, I said I’d chosen the kids and him as my whole world, but they didn’t value me. My world was pointless, utterly meaningless, as was my life.

He suddenly said, “Can we change the conversation?” 

As he spoke, he plucked a Lego head from the floor. Our son occasionally decapitates his Lego people. Sometimes he stacks the heads in oddly compelling Lego totem poles.

I waited for Nick to criticize my housekeeping. One more shortcoming in a bleak sea of… nothingness.

“Are you on your medication?”

I cried harder, but with relief. Could that really be the answer? 

Yes. You’d think I’d know this by now. But when you’re barely hanging on, you do not see past the desperate grip of your fingertips.

“One of them. I see my shrink in two weeks anyway.”

 “Would you please start the other?”

I’m on the lowest doses they prescribe. How can they matter that much? But oh, they do.

My dad refused to talk about his mental health, about whether or not he was taking his medication. I think: What if mental illness weren’t so stigmatized? What if he’d talked instead of hiding? What if he’d accepted he had a mental illness, instead of trying to deny it?

What if we were allowed to ask? Would he still be alive today?

I have no idea. But I know that for me, I need someone to ask.

Follow this journey on Lemon Gloria.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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When You're Exhausted From Living With a Mental Illness

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My wife and I were talking last night, about… I’m not sure, something, we talk about a lot of things and the topics either get very silly or very serious. Last night was serious night and we talked for a little bit. Then I told her I loved her and hoped that she truly understood just how much I love her and how sincere I was and am when I do so.

Anyway, last night we were talking about our life of various mental health problems (we tend to flock together easily), and how one thing people tend not to realize is just how exhausting it is to have depression. Hell, to have any kind of mental health problem. It’s physically draining to be like this, even if it’s just for some of the time, and it causes other physical symptoms, too. Like I’m having a bad anxiety day, and I slept, but not peacefully, and I know I slept curled in a ball for a lot of the night because my legs ache so much today. My knees aches and my legs are sore, just from one bad night’s sleep brought on by anxiety.

The anxiety was caused by having a strange cat in my house, who did not want to sleep in my porch (he wanted to be outside), and would bang on the door every now and again. Waking me up thinking we’re being attacked or broken into.

This morning my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t move. I was immobilized by my own panic. My wife had to physically sit me up, stand me up and help me walk to the shower, step by slow step. I could move my own legs, I was holding onto my glasses so tightly she had to take them out of my own hands because she thought I was going to break them. If I hadn’t had so much to do today, I would’ve begged her to leave me.

I’ve begged her to leave me before. Actually God damn begged. Desperately asked her not to pull me out of bed, not to get me, not to help me because I can’t stand to face the world outside because the panic is so overwhelming the only part of my body I can move is my damn mouth and I can’t even breathe and just because I am actually breathing doesn’t mean I can breathe. I can’t breathe.

But I had the cat to take to the vet, and a letter that needed to be written at the charity where I volunteer and I was supposed to see the “The Lego Movie” (my niece was too ill to go in the end) and for the first time since I’ve had a panic attack that bad, I beat it. I got up, went into into town, did the stuff I needed to do, and came home, with the anxiety reduced to the low level I tend to live with on most days.

And when I came home and cleaned up the bathroom and made tea and sat down, I started to panic again because I was so freaking tired. I was too tired to play Skyrim (I kept dying) and I went to bed and slept for four hours (despite the cat crying in the bedroom with me).

I’m exhausted. Right now, I’m physically, and even more so, mentally exhausted. I’m writing this because I’ve had tea, and dinner, and I’m on a writer’s roll. I have words, I will get them out, or I will not sleep. And I really need sleep (lie-in tomorrow though).

And that’s just anxiety. Depression, for me, has always been exhaustion but with self-harm and suicidal tendencies thrown into the mix. When I have depressive days (and I get them still), I get sad to the point where I can move again. Or can’t face a five minute walk to the garage for food (even when there is none in the house), because all the energy is gone, even if I slept well, even if I’ve had all the sleep in China (like the tea, but lazier). I think that makes it worse. All that energy, it just gets sucked into the atmosphere and I lie there, unable to move again, though, able to breathe at least.

I used to get anxiety attacks. Like panic attacks but much more physical. Rocking, violent rocking. The self-harm meant blood loss and, well, anaemia and blood loss are pretty tiring in their own way. And the pain, all that pain takes up the energy I tended not to have in the first place because, well I’m depressed, and in pain — and even on the days where I’m so numb I swear even my heart has stopped working — it’s tiring because you spend all your time trying to figure out why the hell you feel (or don’t feel) like this.

Why you?

You spend all your time thinking, overthinking and then thinking some more and only about this. You think and obsess and get no where because sometimes there is no answer (and more often than not, a diagnosis is not an answer) and you are always desperate for understanding and meaning and change. Change. Better. To be better, but it never comes and your brain never stops.

It never stops.

Once, I suffered from some psychosis mixed with my obsessive compulsive disorder. For six months I didn’t step on a line or crack. Not a single one. I had all sorts of rules for what counted as lines and where I had to walk, and I did this for six months. And do you know why? Because I was convinced, without a moment of doubt in my mind, that the devil was sucking up my soul and my “good things” through the pavement every time I stepped on a line or crack. And sometimes that devil was my dad, and sometimes he was red with horns and the reason my bank account was empty so often. I actually should’ve been on antipsychotics or in a hospital at some point during those six months, they were pretty bad (and I don’t talk about it much), but I was working in temp jobs in Warehouses, sweeping, putting boxes together, etc. I was self-harming every day (at work), I was suicidal and trying (and failing) and while I was in therapy, we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with that or anything else. Because I was convinced it was the devil and that was all there was to it.

And I managed to work, and stay out of hospital and convince my boyfriend at the time (who I lived with) and my family that everything was normal, and I was (mostly) fine and not going freaking “insane” on them. Which is something else that is exhausting.

Trying to be normal.

Either trying to be normal, or pretending to be normal, or even just trying to stay under the radar of normal people. That is exhausting. Trying not to have a panic attack until you’re alone or at home. Cutting and hiding the cuts and scars from everyone, all year round, including the man you live with. Trying to hide the fact that you are walking funny for six months because if you step on the line the devil will have your soul and if you tell anyone, they’ll put your in hospital and the devil will own you. Own you. Just trying to be normal because you don’t want to explain anything, or talk about it because you can’t guarantee a good reaction, or even a non-reaction and you are so, so scared about being laughed at, or picked on even though school’s been over for years and you’re in your 20s, and if you tell people they might put you in hospital and you don’t want to go there, don’t want to go there and you can’t go there because you have to work and pay the bills some how and you still owe the gas company £300 because you were too scared to leave the house for six months and pay the bills and they took you to court and put in a meter and it all went wrong and you’re so, so tired of it all and would really like it all just to go away.

And this is just me, and just some of my stuff. I was tired for 10 years and I didn’t even sleep for most it because I suffered from insomnia from the age of 13 onwards until a few years ago and after a year of full-time and exhausting therapy.

I am still so tired sometimes. For a few years I was napping in the afternoon. Every afternoon. Even when I slept in until noon, I would have to nap around four. I was really worried about going to America last year because I was still napping at the time. Being in the U.S. for those three weeks actually got me out of that habit or need. I manage my days much better now, manage to stay awake all day, most days now, unless they’ve been particularly tough (today) or a I slept really badly (day before). Yes, all these things are terrible, I’ve been suffering since I was roughly 16 and I’m still tired, still suffering a little and still tired.

Still exhausted. But less so. It’s getting better. But, you should know, if your friend with the depression, or the anxiety, or the OCD is tired a lot although they may be sleeping just fine, it doesn’t matter. It’s exhausting being like this. Trust me.

Check out Bread’s blog — Weird and Important — for more.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.  

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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To the Doctor Caring for My Dad, the Man With the Sad Eyes

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Dear doctor,

You don’t know me. We have never met. Tonight, you are taking care of someone very special, my dad. I know to you he’s probably just another patient, another aging, silver-haired man with sad eyes. But, he’s more than that.

This is the man who used to take me to Baskin Robbins for ice cream every Saturday. The man who pushed me and my little brother on the swings and the merry-go-round at Dry Lake Park. The man who read me a story every day when he got home from work, even though I was interrupting him from his newspaper.

He taught me how to make french toast. He never failed to bring me breakfast in bed on my birthday and sometimes just because. He made me hot tea when I was sick. He would crush up my pills in a spoon and mix it with honey to make it easier for me to swallow.

He always called me his buddy and his rainbow after the storm because I was born after two miscarriages. He cried like a baby when I left for college and again when I got married. He does an Incredible Hulk and Arnold Schwarzenegger impression spot on. He dances like James Brown at parties and is always the most interesting man in the room.

If you had met him under different circumstances, then he might have told you how he was born in a refugee camp in Austria during World War II or how he sailed on a big ship to America when he was just a boy. Maybe he would have told you about the time he was drafted to the NFL and had a run-in with the mafia in New York City. Maybe he would have told you about the time he opened his own gym and actually met Arnold himself. He might have even shown you the picture to prove it.

That is the man you see before you. Legendary. Heroic. Of epic proportions.

Don’t be fooled by the hospital gown. Just knowing he’s having a hard time right now is a difficult pill for this daddy’s girl to swallow. So thank you for taking care of him for me since I can’t be there. Please, make sure he knows he can pull through.

We are all rooting for him. We are all rooting for you.

Take care,
His buddy and rainbow after the storm

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My dad and Arnold Schwarzenegger

This post originally appeared on “Following the Fifields on the road less traveled…

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