Ameera Ladak (They/Them)

@ameeraladak | contributor
Super Contributor
Pronouns: they/them. I've run a blog called "Surviving by Living", which is the story of how mental illness didn't claim me for the past 5 years. Now I'm here to share that story with The Mighty community. Visit ameeraladak.wordpress.com and Keep Surviving by Living!

These Song Lyrics Help Me Cope With My Depression

For most of my life, music has been a coping mechanism. The sounds often soothe me, and the lyrics frequently give me the words to say what I’m feeling when I can’t articulate it myself. Sometimes the lyrics are what I need to hear, or what I wish someone would tell me. Music is like a friend, or a shoulder to cry on, or a hug on a bad day. Over my many years of having depression, I’ve found songs along the way with words that help me immensely. These are those songs. What I Wish I Could Say / What I Feel These songs (and specific lyrics) are things I feel, or wish I could say about my depression. 1.”Three” by Sleeping At Last Lyrics: “Maybe I’ve done enough / Finally catching up / For the first time I see an image of my brokenness / Utterly worthy of love.” I don’t always feel like I’ve done enough, or like I am enough, but I hope that someday I’ll start to believe I’m worthy of love even while broken. 2. “Flags” by SYML Lyrics: “I’m hurt, I’m hurt you didn’t know / That there’s no pretty way to tell you so / I’m tired, so tired I’m letting go” and “I’m hurt, not hurt enough to die / See I was born to raise, born to fight / I’m tired, not tired enough to sleep / So, devil on my chest, don’t sing with me / Take my breath, let me be.” Sometimes I wish I could just tell the people in my life how much I’m hurting. It’s hard to talk about, and something as simple as “I’m hurt” is impossible to say. 3. “Float On” by Modest Mouse Lyrics: “Well, we’ll float on, good news is on the way.” 4. “Lost” by Kodaline Lyrics: “Take me away make it all better / If not for a day then maybe forever / Is it all in my head cause it’s getting harder.” 5. “The World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies Lyrics: “I woke up and wished that I was dead.” I feel like I can’t say this out loud, because it seems so harsh, but it’s something I experience often, and I wish it was OK to be honest about how depression makes me feel. What I Wish I Could Hear The lyrics in these songs are what I need to hear on a bad day from a friend or loved one, but can’t always have them say it to me. 1. “Alone With Me” by Vance Joy Lyrics: “Everything’s good / Everything’s just as it should be.” Now, I hate being told things are OK when they’re not by a friend, but this feels very reassuring to me. I listen to this when I’m really anxious, and repeat “everything’s good.” 2. “Look After You” by Aron Wright Lyrics: “When you think you’re all alone / I’ll wrap you up and I’ll take you home / No matter what you’re going through / I will look after you.” Every line of this song is like a hug. Sometimes we just need someone to take care of us, and depression makes it hard to believe anyone is there for me. 3. “Stay Alive” by Jose Gonzalez Lyrics: “I will stay with you tonight / Hold you close ’til the morning light / In the morning watch a new day rise / We’ll do whatever just to stay alive.” Staying alive is hard work with depression, and it gets really lonely. Night time is always the worst, and on bad nights I listen to this and imagine I’m being held close. 4. “Don’t Give Up” by Foreign Fields Lyrics: “Don’t give up / I have been there when you fall apart / Don’t give up / I have seen you crawl back to the start.” 5. “Fix You” by Coldplay Lyrics: “I will try to fix you.” Depression has broken me in more ways than I can describe, and while I don’t think I need to be “fixed,” I hear it more as trying to help me or put me back together again. 6. “Open Up” by Matt Simons Lyrics: “What can I do / To build that bridge to find you? / I don’t know what to say / Come on and open up, open up my love / Why don’t you tell me what’s really on your mind?” Opening up is hard, especially when I feel ashamed about my depression. It’s so nice when someone truly wants me to let them in, and encourages me in a safe way. 7. “You Are Loved” by Matthew Mole Lyrics: “You are loved / You are loved / And nothing’s gonna change that I will / Love you ’til we’re old and grey / And I’ll love you when we’re young.” Depression convinces me I’m unloveable, and that no one loves me. I need reassurance that I am loved by my friends especially, because their love never feels guaranteed. 8. “Dim” by SYML Lyrics: “The world got a little more dim tonight.” This song is special in a different way for me. It came out shortly after someone I knew died by suicide, and I truly felt the world was dimmer. The EP this was on was all about grief, and on the days I’m feeling more suicidal, I imagine my friends feeling this way if something happened to me, and it helps me hold on for them. 9. “Two” by Sleeping At Last Lyrics: “Tell me, is something wrong? / If something’s wrong, you can count on me…It’s OK if you can’t find the words / Let me take your coat / And this weight off of your shoulders.” 10. “For The Widows In Paradise” by Sufjan Stevens Lyrics: “If there’s anything to say / If there’s anything to do / If there’s any other way / I’ll do anything for you.” These songs make me feel less alone in an experience that is inherently isolating and lonely, and sometimes we can’t hear the words we need from the people we need to hear them from, or we can’t say what we truly feel out loud. In those moments, I’m grateful that songs can help fill that gap. Does someone in your life need to hear one of these songs? Can you send it to them? What lyrics help you when you’re at your worst? I hope that if there’s something you want to say, that you’re able to say it, and I hope that if there’s something you need to hear, that you hear it. And if that’s not possible, I hope there’s a song that can say it for you.

Travel Hacks if You're an Anxious Flier

I’ve never really liked flying. I’m a pretty anxious traveler, and I don’t like the idea of speeding around in a tube 40,000 feet above the ground. A lot of my anxiety about flying stems from not being able to get out if I start to feel sick; I’m stuck until we land. I’ve found that some people who perhaps weren’t nervous fliers before are more nervous about travel since COVID-19 . Some people are anxious about not having to wear masks anymore and getting sick, while others experience anxiety about having to wear a mask for so long because it can feel suffocating. I wear a mask, but I find it hard to breathe when I’m anxious and sometimes my mask exacerbates those feelings. I’m much better about flights under five hours, but long-haul flights cause a lot of anxiety . Over the years, I’ve cultivated some tips that help a bit. 1. Plan your flight times. My anxiety is worse in the morning, so I don’t like flights before 8 a.m. I’m also more anxious if I don’t have a good sleep, so waking up early to catch a flight and having to rush out the door isn’t great. I also don’t like flying late in the evening because I’m anxious the day I travel, and I’d rather get the flight over with. I find a flight between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. is best for me, but it depends on where I’m going. 2. Get to the airport early. My friends and family definitely give me a bit of a hard time for this one, but I like getting to the airport early so that I don’t have to rush. I hate the feeling of being late or worrying I’m going to miss my flight. 3. Have a routine or ritual. Because I like getting to the airport early, I’ve made a habit of having a beer or drink near my departure gate. It’s a chance for me to relax before the flight, and calm my nerves a bit. Maybe for you, it’s getting a particular magazine and reading it in the lounge or getting a specific pre-plane snack. The consistency and familiarity of the routine are calming. 4. Be ready for security. I get anxious about going through security, even though I never have anything I’m not supposed to. I always get stopped for random searches, so that’s been a big source of travel anxiety . My strategy now is to be ready for going through security before I get to the front. I make sure my pockets are empty, my liquids are out, and my shoes are loose so they can slip off. I mentally walk myself through how I’m going to go through security and tell myself the steps again and again so it feels easy. 5. Wear comfortable layers. Anxiety makes my body temperature fluctuate, and planes are always cold to me, so I like having layers I can take on and off to ensure I’m physically comfortable. It’s important to have comfy clothes; I like sweaters with loose collars so I don’t feel suffocated, and loose pants so I don’t feel constricted. 6. Have plane snacks. Because I get nauseous when I’m anxious, I always feel sick before flying so I don’t like to eat much before the flight. But once I’m on the plane and getting more comfortable, I get pretty hungry. Instead of eating before your flight, pack a meal or snacks, or plan to buy it at the airport so you can eat when you’re feeling less anxious. 7. Have a bit of water in a disposable water bottle. I like to carry a plastic water bottle with just a few sips of water in it. You can’t take water through security, but I always need some for the security lineup, so I can drink a bit in the line and once I get to the front it’s easy to finish the rest of it. Then, I refill it once I’m past security so I have water at all times. Thanks to COVID-19 , I’ve developed an anxious cough — when my anxiety is bad and I feel like it’s hard to breathe, I start coughing and choking. Layer in the fact that coughing is now associated with having COVID-19 , and I start having anxiety about my anxiety cough which makes me more anxious. Sipping water reduces the need to cough, which subsequently helps my anxiety . 8. Bring multiple sources of entertainment. I like to pack a couple of books, my laptop, and make sure I’ve downloaded games and captivating shows and movies on my phone. Being occupied during the flight distracts me from my anxiety and makes the flight go by faster. 9. Check in early and choose seats carefully. Checking in for your flight as soon as you’re allowed means that you have the best access to seat selection. I like picking an aisle seat at the front of the plane. I like the aisle because I don’t have to ask anyone to move when I need to use the restroom; in the window seat, I wonder, “what if they’re asleep and I have to get up,” or, “what if they’re angry that I need them to move for me?” I like the front of the plane because it means I get to get off the plane faster, and I also once heard that the front of the plane experiences less turbulence; I have no idea if that’s actually true or not, but I’ll try anything to avoid turbulence. Ultimately, flying still makes me anxious with these tips, but it’s slightly easier when I follow these steps. It’s totally OK to feel anxious about flying, especially when so many of us haven’t traveled in a couple of years, and have COVID-19 fears lingering as well. If you’re not ready to fly, take your time, and start with a short flight to see how it goes. My first flight after lockdowns was especially difficult, but now I feel a lot more comfortable and have been on a plane every few weeks, for work and pleasure. Allow yourself patience and grace if you struggle with traveling; you deserve to feel comfortable and safe, and it’s OK to need time or support to get there.

The Struggle to Feel Good About My Gender Nonconforming Identity

A couple of years ago, I came out as gender nonconforming (GNC). It’s been a struggle, but I’m much happier in my own body now that I can truly express myself. It wasn’t that I discovered I was GNC recently; I always knew I was different from other cis girls, but I didn’t have the words for it. Once I did have the words, I didn’t have the courage to say it out loud. Coming out as gender nonconforming, non-binary, or trans, comes with a certain level of risk. A level of risk that I wasn’t comfortable taking, and honestly, I’m still anxious about it. But the alternative — hiding and forcing myself to be something I wasn’t was so detrimental in terms of depression, anxiety, and self-worth. I hated myself, and I hated seeing a strange woman staring back in the mirror when I knew that wasn’t who I was. Coming out has been life-saving for me. I look at clothes on my body and feel like they’re for me, I’m so much more comfortable expressing my masculinity, and I am less anxious and depressed. For the first time today, I walked into a store, marched into the men’s section, and started picking out clothes to try on. I held my head high as I asked for a fitting room and made my purchases. I never felt comfortable doing that before because I was anxious about the weird looks I’d get. I was always worried I’d be told I can’t shop in that section, or something much worse. When I first started wearing men’s clothing, I knew I was making a choice to have my gender identity seen more visibly, which led to a number of safety concerns. Every time I decide to do what feels comfortable internally, there’s a certain level of discomfort I have to accept externally. I have to choose to not be myself and be depressed, or be myself and be anxious about my safety. In 2019, I visited Trinidad and Tobago, a country where being gay was illegal and punishable by law with 25 years of imprisonment until 2018, only a year prior. I was terrified wearing swim trunks on the beach, and was constantly looking over my shoulder. At the same time, I knew that I would feel beyond depressed if I forced myself to wear a bikini. I often find myself having to choose between what feels right, and what feels safe. We’re at a time where trans rights are under more fire than ever before. Anti-trans legislation has been sweeping across the U.S., and politicians and public figures are becoming emboldened in sharing their transphobic rhetoric. As of March of this year, 238 anti-trans bills has been put forward, making it over 600 proposals since 2018. These bills cover anything from banning trans athletes from participating in sports, to a Texas bill which calls for child services to investigate “child abuse” if parents support gender affirming and life-saving medical treatments for their children. Trans rights, which are human rights, have been under attack. The mental health toll and trauma as a result of these transphobic messages has been staggering for myself (despite me being in Canada), and trans folks worldwide. Even if these bills get overturned or shut down, damage has still been done. Data from The Trevor Project shows that when anti-trans legislation is proposed, crisis calls from LGBTQIA+ youth, and particularly trans youth, skyrocket. And it’s no wonder, because what kind of message are we supposed to receive when these kinds of anti-trans movements gain traction? It tells us that who we are is inherently wrong, and what makes us feel happy and OK is wrong. It tells us that we don’t deserve to be who we are. Fifty-two percent of trans youth considered suicide in 2021, far greater than any other demographic segment, and 94% of LGBTQIA+ youth said politics has a negative impact on their mental health. As I become more comfortable in my own gender identity, and see the beauty in my transness, the limitlessness of being gender nonconforming, and the freedom of living exactly who I am, I struggle to reconcile my small world with the systemic and societal structures that make it exceedingly difficult to be who I am. While my mental health has improved drastically since accepting myself and finding acceptance in my communities, I cannot remain unaffected by the violence my trans siblings are constantly subject to. Black trans women are for more likely to be murdered than white, cis women, and five times more Black trans people have experienced homelessness than the general population. When the trans community is subject to higher levels of violence, homelessness, unemployment, and harassment, it’s no wonder it becomes harder to be who you are. I carry a lot of privileges — I can choose to pretend to be a woman in spaces where I need to preserve my safety, and I have a job and a home, but I always carry that fear with me. I fear for my future, my safety, and for the safety of the trans community. I fear that one day, being who I am, will come at much too high a cost. But yet, I know progress has been made, and I’m reminded of my friend Lisa’s words, who said:“’We stand on the shoulders of giants’ is said to mean that we see farther, understand more, and reach higher than ever thanks to those who came before us and did the work. Usually said with gratitude, I think, but I can’t help but think about how, in this context, the shoulders of those giants are tired, and many are dead. We stand on the graves of our guardians. We stand on the scars of our siblings.” I am eternally grateful for each of those giants who made it safer and more acceptable than before for me to be who I am. I still get scared sometimes. I make my voice higher pitched, or when trying colognes I say I’m shopping for my brother. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it to be who I truly am. The answer is yes, it is worth it. We deserve to feel safe and accepted for who we are. Being gender nonconforming has been, and will always be, one of the best parts of who I am, and one day, the rest of the world will see that, too.

11 Anxiety Relief Products to Always Have in Your House

For many people with anxiety , myself included, there are certain anxiety relief products that can help a bit. They might be comfort items or tools for coping, but they can look different for everyone. I found that I didn’t really find people giving me advice on what to use helpful, but rather, I had to “discover” it for myself. The self-care and wellness industry will try and convince you that if you buy all of these things, you will magically feel better. It doesn’t quite work that way, and I’m wary of products or items to purchase being pushed down people’s throats as an easy fix. That being said, there are some anxiety relief products that genuinely help me, and that I feel are worth the investment for me. Whether I need to use them regularly or not, it’s nice having them just in case (because anxiety loves the “what ifs” and “just in cases”). 1. A Weighted Blanket Weighted blankets are pretty heavy and can be a bit expensive — over $50 for the cheapest ones, or over $100 for the more expensive ones. Anxiety makes me feel really lonely sometimes, and I live by myself, so a weighted blanket helps when I wish I could just be hugged. I don’t always want to be around others when I’m anxious, so a weighted blanket sort of fills the need for physical touch when I’m by myself. Is it perfect? No. Is it just like a real hug? No way. But is it good enough? Yeah, I’d say so! 2. Lavender Supplements So this might be a total hoax, but years ago when I saw a naturopath, she recommended taking lavender oil capsules. I thought it was a bit hokey at first, but I gave it a shot, and it actually really helped my anxiety ! I wouldn’t recommend starting supplements like this without consulting a professional to see if there are any interactions you need to be aware of, but it worked great for me. I don’t take it every day anymore, but I like keeping it around. 3. Essential Oils Whether I pop a few drops into my diffuser or rub it into my skin, I’ve found essential oils to be comforting and soothing anxiety relief products. I have a few oil roll-ons that I like to keep around for when I’m feeling extra anxious. Some of them help with nausea and pain relief, two things I need when I’m anxious because anxiety makes my muscles really tense and I always feel like I’m going to throw up. 4. Muscle Rub, Topical Pain Relief, or Muscle Relaxants Since anxiety makes me clench my muscles and tense up, I often experience sore muscles. I’ve found that muscle rubs not only relax my muscles when they’re really tense but also help with the soreness from being uptight all day long. Muscle relaxants can help too because sometimes my anxiety is so bad that I can’t relax my muscles even if I try, but the relaxant helps me unwind, which helps my anxiety . I find if my body is relaxed, it can help my mind relax when I can’t do it the other way around. 5. Fidget Toys Fidget toys are some of the best anxiety relief products I’ve tried. I don’t know what I’d do without my fidget cube. Anxiety makes me extra fidgety, so having something to play around with or fiddle with keeps my hands occupied and scratches that itch. If I can fidget a lot, I can appear much calmer than I am inside, which really comes in handy when I’m working and in meetings. 6. LEGO Bricks For me, LEGO bricks are really calming. But really, this can be any activity that you find calming or relaxing. I like LEGO because it keeps my hands and mind occupied without requiring much effort at all. It holds my focus without being too complicated, and I like that it’s methodical and comes with steps. 7. Frozen Meals or Instant Noodles Most people will say that if you’re not feeling great, mentally or physically, you should have a “good” or “healthy” meal. But honestly, when I’m anxious, I can’t possibly think of trying to make something complicated. I know I need to eat, but the idea of something taking more than three steps or five minutes stresses me out when I’m really anxious. Chicken nuggets are my favorite. 8. Headphones My headphones are my lifeline. Music is incredibly calming for me, and I find it quite helpful. Using headphones instead of speakers can help me zone out and relax. I have a few playlists that I like to rotate through and the repetitive nature of the songs is grounding. 9. Comfy Clothes Almost all my clothes have been chosen for comfort, but I have a few items that are extra soft, or extra comfy. Sometimes they’re just clothes that I like, and I immediately feel better and more comfortable in them. Anxiety heightens my awareness of everything, so pants feel a bit tighter, shirt labels dig in a bit more, and clothes that usually don’t bother me become irritating. 10. A Robot Vacuum On a good day, I barely have the energy to clean up after myself but on an anxious day? No chance at all. Being able to send my robot vac, Vincenzo, out for a spin makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something without having to do anything. It crosses something off my to-do list, which eases my anxiety a bit. 11. A Heating Pad / A Fan Anxiety makes temperature regulation go out the door, so one second I’m too hot, and the next I’m freezing cold. In order to ease my anxiety , I need to be able to adjust the temperature quickly, so I often use a heating pad or a fan to quickly warm me up or cool me down. These are a few anxiety relief products that worked for me, and while the cost of these can add up quickly, it’s taken me years to find what works best and it is worth the investment for me. I hope that you have a few items around your home that help with your anxiety because you deserve to feel safe and comfortable in your own home.

Hacks to Help You Get Through the Workday When You Have Anxiety

Work has always been a big trigger for my anxiety about my performance or how I’m perceived. This is partly because I take a lot of pride in my work, and have often derived much of my self-worth from my productivity or output. I’m working on that, but sometimes it can still be tough to get through the day. Sometimes I wake up and I’m just having an anxious day, even if there’s nothing at work or in my personal life to be anxious about. Since I feel like I have to be consistently performing every day (or most days, at least), I’ve had to come up with some hacks to get me through the workday when I’m feeling really anxious. Whether it’s work anxiety , personal life anxiety , or any kind of anxiety , these can make it a tiny bit easier. 1. Basic needs: food, water, and meds. Chances are if I haven’t eaten enough or had any water, I’m going to feel anxious. A great first step when I start feeling anxious is to try and grab a bite or a glass of water. I try to keep a protein bar and a bottle of water by my desk for busy days. If you take medication for your anxiety , don’t forget to take that too! 2. Watch out for caffeine. I used to drink three cups of coffee a day because I would get groggy if I didn’t, but I found it made me so anxious and jittery. I eventually cut out caffeine from my diet and have decaf instead, which has really helped with my anxiety . 3. Confide in a coworker. Whether it’s your boss or someone on your team that you trust, it can be helpful to share your anxiety . I’ve always found it helpful to have someone I can go to when I’m anxious about a certain meeting or task because it helps calm me down. Often they give me a pep talk or help me with my work, but sometimes it’s just nice to talk it out. 4. Book shorter meetings. If a meeting is usually 30 min, I’ll shorten the invite to 25 min. This gives me a few minutes in-between back-to-back meetings to collect myself or my notes and take a deep breath before the next call. 5. Ask clarifying questions. I often experience anxiety around if I understood someone’s request properly. Whether you have questions in the moment or think of them later, it’s OK to ask for clarification! I’m always anxious my coworkers will think I’m incompetent or annoying if I ask questions, but it’s much better to ask if you’re doing it right versus having to redo it later. 6. Manage your schedule to reduce anxiety. My anxiety is always at its worst in the morning when I first wake up. Knowing this, I try not to book meetings that will make me nervous, such as ones where I have to present or have to speak to senior leadership, at the beginning of the day. Booking them mid-day when I’m sharpest reduces my anxiety about messing up or saying the wrong thing. 7. Set boundaries for working. Protect your time, and don’t answer messages during off-hours or on weekends. Disconnect when you’re on vacation, and don’t agree to consistently work overtime for free. It’s OK to say no and be assertive if too much is being asked of you. We need downtime so we can perform better and avoid burnout. 8. Ask for a meeting agenda, or set one. Another source of anxiety for me is the unknown — if I don’t know what I’m going into in a meeting, I get nervous that I will be unprepared. It’s best practice to include an agenda if you’re planning the meeting, and it’s acceptable to ask for one if you are attending it. 9. Know your preferred communication style, and understand others. I like sounding excited in my emails, and using exclamation marks! To me, this shows I’m more friendly and relaxed! Other folks have different ways of communicating and 99% of the time there are no issues, but my anxiety can get triggered by more blunt communication styles. Once I understand someone’s style, I can try to ease my anxiety by reminding myself of that. I had a coworker that used “k” and “…” — I thought he was constantly irritated with me, but he was just being quick with communication and really liked ellipses! 10. Consider different communication methods. Virtual communication such as emails or IMs can be especially anxiety -inducing because you don’t have tone or body language to use and go off the words and punctuation alone. If I find an email or IM is causing me anxiety , it can be helpful to jump on a call to chat about it instead. Sometimes I find that when I’m really anxious, I’m not as articulate and stumble on my words. In those moments if I’m on a call, I find it helpful to say something like: “I have some further thoughts on this, I’ll organize them into an email and we can discuss more later.” 11. Take breaks when they suit you. Whether it’s a lunch break or coffee breaks, taking a few minutes to step away from work can be immensely helpful for dissipating anxiety . Find something that gives your brain a break – maybe it’s going for a quick walk or meditating at your desk. 12. Take a mental health day (if you can). If you’re really having a hard time managing anxiety , see if you can take a vacation or personal day. Sometimes it’s exactly what you need to reset, and while I recognize not everyone has the privilege to be able to do this, if you can, don’t feel bad about taking care of your mental health. Being anxious at work sucks, and sometimes nothing we do helps. There are times when my usual coping tips and tricks don’t work, and I’m still an anxious ball at the end of the day. On those days, I try to just take it minute by minute, and make my life easier where I can. Whether it’s rescheduling a meeting or asking for an extension, sometimes we have to give ourselves that grace and compassion. I hope that we can normalize more conversations about anxiety at work because when we spend so much of our day at work, we deserve to feel good while we’re doing it.

Positive Reinforcement at Work Has Actually Improved My Depression

I’ve always believed the strongest catalyst for improvement is constructive feedback. Hearing or giving myself negative feedback has made me improve or try harder. Maybe it’s my perfectionism or people-pleasing tendencies, or my deep-seated fear of inadequacy. If I dig a little deeper, I think it’s actually a coping mechanism. I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had low self-esteem, and not seen myself as good enough, so I’m exceptionally hard on myself. I don’t enjoy or celebrate my accomplishments and instead nitpick at what I should have done better or what I didn’t do right. Having a more negative outlook of myself also protected me from others catching me off-guard with criticism, which is my worst nightmare. I also have ADHD, and people with ADHD are estimated to receive 20,000 more negative messages by the time they’re 12 compared to other kids. I felt like I had to use negative messages or constructive feedback as a motivator, otherwise, I’d just crumble under the weight of my perceived inadequacy. Professionally, I’ve constantly heard things like “feedback is a gift” and that when you receive difficult feedback, you should be happy about it. I believed that negative feedback was necessary for me to grow and improve, and without it I would become complacent or stagnant. I’ve even said I need to be constantly improving because if I’m not moving forward, I’m moving backward. I’ve also said things like “constructive feedback is an act of care” because it means you believe in someone’s capacity to be better (which I still believe). So over the course of my career, I just filtered out any positive feedback or reinforcement. I ignored the “good work!” and “you’re really intelligent!” type of comments I would get because I either didn’t believe them, or thought they were useless. But recently, that all changed. I started a new job, and noticed pretty quickly that my teammates and boss are quick to compliment each other and recognize each others’ successes. At first, I didn’t really think much of it, but as I settled in more and started to get a lot of positive reinforcement, I started to feel better about myself. My confidence increases with each positive comment a person makes. That confidence and positivity have motivated me so much more than fear or feeling inadequate ever did. I get positive reinforcement every single day. Sometimes multiple times per day, and it’s a total game-changer. It doesn’t have to be grand; a “great job in that meeting” or “it’s so awesome having you on the team” go a long way. It’s also important to point out that positive reinforcement always feels genuine and not forced. I’ve noticed myself offering positive comments more now, too, and my energy at work is a lot higher. I’m more excited about the work I’m doing because I feel excited about doing a good job. And sure, there’s still an important place for constructive feedback and I’m always open to it, but it’s not the only way to grow and evolve. I got a lot of messages — from myself or others — about what I was doing wrong, and what to stop doing, but I was missing consistent messages about what I was doing right all along. That was a problem. Imagine you’re driving and the directions your passenger gives you is just “don’t turn right” — OK, but do I go straight? Turn left? If we only focus on what isn’t working, we don’t notice what is working. I’ve noticed that with all this positive reinforcement around me at work, my own self-talk has improved in all aspects of my life. I find myself complimenting the things I’m doing or at the very least satisfied with myself — I hear my boss’ voice in the back of my head reminding me of what I’m good at. When I have those positive reminders, I’m so much more productive because I’m less depressed. Sometimes I have fleeting moments where I feel adequate. It seems small but it’s huge for me; It’s so foreign and new but I want to hold onto it. That feeling has made me realize that I actually really need positive reinforcement. I need to know what I’m doing right, and I need others to see my efforts. While I know that ultimately I need to recognize my own worth and accomplishments, it’s not easy with depression , so sometimes I need help and others to do it for me. It’s a big step for me to even be open to receiving positive reinforcement; I never felt deserving of it. The fact that a teammate can compliment me and I actually believe them is so contrary to the way depression has conditioned me for over a decade. The positive reinforcement from my team and work environment have made me feel like I belong. Depression is so isolating, and the sense of belonging that’s been cultivated from all these comments along the way is the healing balm I didn’t know I was missing. So if you’re a boss, consistently provide positive reinforcement. Don’t just save it for quarterly reviews or when you’re trying to “sandwich” constructive feedback with two positive comments. Compliment your team. Celebrate the small wins. Encourage them and tell them what’s working really well. Confidence, effort, and engagement will soar. Call out members of your team for doing a good job, whether you’re a manager or not. Compliment your colleagues in front of them, and also to others. Remind each other that you’re capable. Notice what others do well before you notice what they don’t do well. Beyond the workplace, tell your friends what you like about them. Don’t wait to put it in their birthday card. Tell them why they’re wonderful. Talk about what makes them a great force in your life. And while you’re out spreading positive reinforcement to everyone in your life, spread some within, too. You are more than enough, and you deserve it.

Best Social Media Accounts for Depression

Navigating social media can be a bit tricky when you have any mental health conditions. For starters, there are studies linking social media use to mental health issues. This can be due to a number of factors such as FOMO (fear of missing out), comparing yourself to others, and feelings of isolation. In addition, as more influencers and creators are talking about mental health, there’s been an increase in misinformation. Social media can be triggering for some; constantly being inundated with tragic headlines or trying to dodge trolls can take a toll on our mental health . It’s important to use discretion when on social media, unfollow accounts that make us feel worse, and limit our time or take breaks. That being said, it’s not all bad! Social media has been amazing for helping folks with isolating health conditions feel less alone and is a great tool to spark further education and conversations. In fact, some of the most comforting content that has helped me with my depression has come from social media. Here are the accounts that I recommend giving a follow if you don’t already! Educational Accounts 1. The Depression Project Facebook: RealDepressionProject Instagram: @realdepressionproject This account is awesome because they consistently share posts about what it’s like to experience depression . Posts answering, “What does depression actually feel like?” or titled, “Someone In The Depression Fog May…” do an excellent job explaining the realities of depression . There are also posts about what to say or not to say to someone with depression , or tips for coping. This account is great for people with depression , but also for their loved ones who want to learn and understand more. 2. National Youth Advisory Council Facebook: NYAC Instagram: @nyacmdsc Twitter: @nyacmdsc Run by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada’s National Youth Advisory Council, this account is focused on youth mental health and I appreciate the holistic lens of discussing other issues impacting mental health , such as climate change, domestic violence, and LGBTQIA+ identities. Disclaimer: I have been affiliated with MDSC and supported them over the past 8 years. Visual/Art Accounts 1. The New Happy Instagram : @newhappyco Twitter: @newhappyco What I love about this account is the way it uses simple ideas and simple visuals to create posts that I always find calming. The use of white space and bright colors brings a lightness to talking about complex issues. When I find myself feeling more depressed than usual, I like to scroll through their posts because they are visually appealing. 2. TheLatestKate Instagram: @thelatestkate This account feels a bit like a hug. Beautiful cartoons or art of animals are the focal point of each post, and include a reassuring phrase that you might need to hear today. The phrases range from believing in yourself to not feeling like a burden, and it can be nice to read these things from somewhere else when you’re too depressed to say them to yourself. Short-Form Content That Makes You Think 1. We’re Not Really Strangers Instagram: @werenotreallystrangers Twitter: @wnrstweets The official account for a conversation card game of the same name, WNRS posts a mixture of reassuring signs from the “real world” (taped to a lamppost, on the side of a building) and questions from their conversation card game. They often make me reflect on my life and current mindset and can provide a gateway to meaningful conversations when my depression is making me feel isolated. Depression makes me feel disconnected more than anything else, and this account inspires connection. 2. Notes From Your Therapist Instagram: @notesfromyourtherapist Depression has made me feel bad about a lot of my relationships ; it’s made me feel like a “burden” to others, or like I’m “too much,” and ashamed for having emotional needs. This account posts pictures of small notes scrawled on plain paper and help quiet those feelings. The notes are simple, but they’re often the things I’m aching to hear from someone else or make me feel less alone in my experiences. One note reads, “feeling like emotional pain makes you unloveable is a hard thing to get over,” while another says, “I care about you and that includes your pain, your grief, and the things you’ll never be over.” OOF. Talk about relatable content! Meme Accounts 1. Fear of Going Out Instagram: @fearofgoingout Because sometimes, you just gotta laugh. Depression makes me cocoon into myself, so this account describes me perfectly. It generally consists of compiled tweets, Tumblr posts, and texts guaranteed to give me a laugh on a bad day. The best way to get back in touch with friends after a depressive episode is to send a few of these memes for us to laugh together. 2. Anxiety Within Instagram: @anxiety_within Using humor to spread mental health awareness, this account is similar to the previous one in terms of type of content. I often find myself sending these to friends, or receiving them from others with responses like “IT ME” or “I feel seen/attacked.” Sometimes it’s hard to talk seriously about the things we’re dealing with, so this is a way to shed some light without it becoming too intense. Of course, struggling with mental illness shouldn’t be reduced exclusively to funny memes, but it can be helpful to cope. Professional Accounts 1. Yolanda Renteria Instagram: @thisisyolandarenteria Twitter: @ThisIsYolandaR Yolanda is a therapist and somatic coach, and her Twitter threads are excellent. She carefully describes complex experiences in an easy-to-understand way, on topics ranging from expressing emotions, to loneliness , to rejection. 2. Sahaj Kohli Instagram: @browngirltherapy Twitter: @sahahkohli Sahaj Kohli speaks to the unique mental health challenges faced by children of immigrants through numerous threads and puts into words what so many of us experience but have never been able to articulate. Social media can be a powerful tool for connection, healing, and support when used in ways that make us feel better about ourselves. Following these accounts won’t replace therapy or other tools used to manage depression , but it can help get your mind thinking of things differently or teach you something you didn’t know. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the dozens of accounts I love, but it may inspire you to find some more that you like! Have a favorite social media account we should follow? Let us know in the comments!

How to Tell People About Your ADHD Diagnosis

I remember when I was first diagnosed with ADHD, I didn’t know how to talk about it. I wasn’t sure what to say, and I didn’t know if telling people would change their perception of me. Part of me was worried they wouldn’t believe me, while another part was worried that they’d see me differently or judge me. Ultimately I decided that I needed to tell people about my diagnosis because I needed support and I didn’t want to hide it or carry it alone. I also knew that my ADHD caused behavior that wasn’t fair to others, and I didn’t want my telling others to come off as if I was making excuses or not taking accountability for my actions. If I had to do it all over again, here’s what I’d do. Before you decide who to tell (and what to tell them), consider the below questions: Can I trust this person? Why do I want to tell this person? What do I hope to get out of telling them? How do I think they will react to this information? What is my plan if they don’t respond in a way that feels good? Are there any risks if I tell this person? How to Your Friends, Family, or Loved Ones About Your ADHD I didn’t have the best reaction from some friends — a couple took it as a joke and made jokes about recreationally using my medication, while others didn’t recognize the gravity of it. Over time, my friends have learned a lot more about my ADHD, and are so accommodating and understanding. Sometimes ADHD makes me a bad friend — I miss important things, forget commitments, zone out when they’re talking, or talk too much about myself. When telling a friend, follow this formula: 1. Find a convenient time to talk, when you won’t be interrupted and you can both speak freely. 2. Tell them your diagnosis, and how it impacts you : “I have ADHD, which means that I struggle to focus and sometimes zone out. It also makes me sensitive to rejection even if I’m not being rejected, and I can be really forgetful.” 3. Show you’ve thought about how it may impact them : “I know I forgot your birthday this year, or I am late to our plans. I also realize that I often cut you off when you’re speaking, and I’m really sorry that this impacts you too.” 4. Indicate ADHD is an explanation, not an excuse: “Many of these things are typical symptoms of ADHD, and are the cause of my behavior. It’s not because I don’t care about you or what you have to say. That being said, I know it’s not an excuse and doesn’t make up for the times I’ve hurt your feelings.” 5. Discuss your game plan. If you have one: “Now that I have this diagnosis, I can work on getting better at these things, but it won’t happen overnight or be 100% different. I’m starting therapy and medication to learn to manage my ADHD.” If you don’t have one: “I’m not really sure about what I’m going to do next with this new information, but I wanted to share it with you.” 6. Ask for their thoughts: “Now that I’ve shared this, are there any thoughts you wish to share or questions you have for me? Does this come as a surprise to you? Is there anything you noticed about me that makes more sense now?” 7. Let them know how to help you: “I could use some help in remembering things — would you mind reminding me the day we have plans?” Or if you aren’t sure, say that too — “I don’t know how I want to be supported right now, but it’s just nice to know that I have your support and I’ll let you know when I know what I need.” Telling Your Boss or Coworkers About Your ADHD You have a few different options about how to approach this at work — if you want to at all. You can reach out to HR to go through a formal accommodation route, or just have a casual conversation with your boss if you just want to give them the information. No one at work is entitled to knowing your diagnosis, so it’s up to you to decide how much you want to share. If you want to be super open: 1. Book some 1:1 time to discuss it: “Thanks for meeting with me today. I wanted to share that I’ve just been diagnosed with ADHD, and while I feel confident that I can perform to the best of my ability, I wanted to make you aware.” 2. Explain the work impact it may have had: “You may have noticed that sometimes I have a hard time staying focused in meetings longer than 2 hours, or that I prefer different, novel work to mundane repetitive tasks.” 3. Show a commitment to feedback: “I’m still learning about this myself, and if you are open to it, I’d appreciate some feedback about anything else you’ve noticed about my performance that may be related. I am committed to performing to the best of my ability, and am open to constructive guidance.” 4. Ask for accommodations: “I’ve learned that the following accommodations will help me succeed even more at work: assistance with assigning priorities for my workload, frequent short breaks, and a quieter workspace or noise-canceling headphones.” 5. Show your strengths: “Having ADHD uniquely sets me up for success with certain things, such as changing tasks because I like new and novel activities, responding well to pressure, and managing multiple priorities at the same time.” As you tell people about your ADHD, both personally and professionally, remember that you have complete control and agency over who you tell what to. If you want the people you tell to keep that information to themselves, let them know you’d appreciate their discretion in keeping it confidential. Subsequently, if you’re comfortable with them sharing the information, let them know that you’re open about it and don’t mind if they tell others (this is helpful if you’re not interested in having the same conversation multiple times). ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of and it doesn’t make you any less of a person, so don’t feel like it’s something you have to hide. Sometimes, sharing can really help develop a strong support system where we can thrive with our ADHD, and our own insecurities shouldn’t get in the way of us getting the care we absolutely deserve. I hope that as you tell more people, you are met with love, kindness, and understanding and that you never feel like your ADHD holds you back. There are so many people in your life who would be happy to support you, we just have to let them.

How My Seizures Have Shaped My Identity

I had my first seizure 10 years ago. It was terrifying. I don’t remember it, and that’s part of what makes it so terrifying. I know I was confused and didn’t feel in control of my body at all. What followed was a long and harrowing journey towards a diagnosis. After my fourth or fifth seizure, the doctors determined my seizures were non-epileptic — a stroke of luck that I happened to have a seizure while undergoing an EEG. At the time, seizures were the most prevalent part of my life — I’d have them daily, sometimes multiple times a day, and would lose control of my body. They hurt, they made me physically sick and weak, and I am filled with dread every time I feel one coming on. Ten years, hundreds of seizures, and six concussions (that I remember) later, I’m at a new point in my life. It’s been months since my last seizure, and it’s no longer a constant risk at the back of my mind. Sure, I know the possibility is still there — it will always be there, but it isn’t a part of my daily existence. I’ve waited 10 years for this moment, and now that it’s here, I’m surprised that I don’t feel more… recovered? Healed? I don’t know how I thought I would feel, but I thought I would feel better somehow. Some medical conditions have cut and dry timelines; many types of cancer consider five years cancer-free to be “cured,” while some medical conditions require only a few months of being symptom-free. It can vary for seizures — some say two years, some say five years, and some say you can drive after just one year. I’m not sure what my timeline is, but I do know this is the closest I’ve ever been to “seizure-free.” Getting here hasn’t been easy — the past year has been exceptionally difficult because as much as I hated having seizures, they provided a reset of sorts. It was intense, extreme discomfort and pain for a relatively short period of time, followed by some fog and disorientation, but ultimately felt like a cathartic release. It was the only way for my body to release pent-up stress and trauma when I had no other tools. Not having seizures means I feel things that much more intensely, and the pain and trauma stay in my body until I work through them. I want to be clear on something: I am immensely grateful to have gone this long without a seizure. I never thought this would be possible, and even if it doesn’t last forever, I’m glad to have made it this far. I’m proud of myself for setting a new record every day. But for better or for worse, my seizures are (were?) a part of me. Without them, I feel incomplete in a way. A part of me misses them. Having seizures became weaved into my identity, a “Fun Fact” about me, and a defining characteristic that led to my strength and determination. I’m beginning to wonder how long it will be before I can no longer call myself someone with seizures. It took me a long time to not be ashamed of my seizures, and now that I’ve made it here, I haven’t had a seizure in months. When I think of not having seizures altogether anymore, I begin to wonder who I am or who I will be without them. It’s almost like I’m having a mini identity crisis. In accepting my seizures, I began to see them as any other characteristic — the same way I see my thick, dark hair, or my short stature. If I don’t have those defining characteristics, am I still me? Am I still strong if I don’t have to deal with seizures? Am I still inspiring if I don’t have that hurdle to overcome? Am I still worthy of love and care if I don’t struggle in the ways I used to? I’m not asking to have seizures again, I’m happy to continue racking up seizure-free days until I can officially consider myself seizure-free, but I think it’s important to talk about this strange middle ground we go through when we heal from something that has been so central to our identity and being. When I look back on the last 10 years of my life, I can’t look back without seeing my seizures as a central part of my experience. Now, when I look forward to the next 10 years of my life, I’m trying to imagine what it will look like without having to consider seizures. It feels a bit new, unknown, and scary. I never thought that I would be seizure-free, and I still don’t know that I will ever be. I could have one tomorrow, or next month, or next year. But this is the closest I’ve come to entertaining the possibility that perhaps there’s a future for me without seizures in it. With that possibility comes a lot of questions. Who am I without seizures? What will my life look like if I don’t always have to plan for the possibility of a seizure? How will my body change now that I may no longer have seizures? How will my mind change? Will the muscle fatigue, chronic pain, and other physical challenges that came from seizures go away, or is that going to be a different battle to face? How will I move from seizures being my reality to being my past? Will people still love me and want to care for me or show up for me? Will I still be seen as strong and determined and a fighter? Will I become weaker, or be seen as weaker? Will I lose the right to talk about how hard it’s been because it’s in the past? Part of me feels silly for asking these questions when I know I’m nowhere near being considered officially seizure-free, but these are new feelings and questions that have been coming up as I heal more and more every day. I wish there was more space to talk about the potential fears and losses that come with healing. We think of healing as this amazing thing (which it absolutely is), but we forget that there are two sides to the healing coin. And I wish I felt more support and space to talk about how scary and lonely it feels to be losing something that has felt so integral to my being, even if my goal all along has been to lose it. I hope that we can begin to see healing in a nuanced way as a complicated journey, versus an amazing endpoint that feels amazing all the time.

Tips for Coping With Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria With ADHD

I’ve always found that the hardest part of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is rejection sensitive dysphoria ( RSD), which is an intense or heightened sensitivity towards perceived rejection. It’s not the executive dysfunction, the lack of memory, or the susceptibility to distraction — it’s the overwhelming reaction and fixation on something that may or may not even exist. Because I know RSD is “all in my head” — meaning that I can logically recognize that my friends or loved ones don’t actually hate me or want nothing to do with me — I find that I have to get creative with ways to reassure myself that I’m not being rejected since what I feel and what I logically know to be true don’t match up. The challenge with RSD is that from an objective, outside perspective, there is probably no reason to suspect rejection, but it’s so easy to be convinced that you’re being pushed away when you aren’t. Over the years, I’ve cultivated some tips that occasionally help me, or ease the overwhelming intensity of rejection sensitive dysphoria . Full disclosure, I’ll admit that even though I know these tips can help, it’s sometimes hard to use them and they don’t always work. Such is the nature of RSD — you just have to roll with the punches (even when you aren’t being punched). 1. Talk about it. OK, so I definitely struggle with this one because it’s hard to be vulnerable and tell your friends, “Hey, I feel like you always hate me,” when they’ve done nothing to deserve that assumption. But telling people you have rejection sensitive dysphoria can be helpful because it can make them understand you better and make them more open to reassure you. While it is not your friends’ job to deal with your RSD for you or walk on eggshells around you, I’ve found that simply letting my friends know can remind them that I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, but rather that I’m dealing with something that makes it harder for me to think they still love me. 2. Know your triggers. Rejection sensitive dysphoria can be triggered by different things, so if you can notice any patterns regarding what makes you perceive rejection the most, it can help you identify an RSD pattern versus true rejection. For example, if one of my triggers is people showing up late, when I start to feel intense rejection when a friend is running late I can tell myself “hey, a friend running late is an RSD trigger. This doesn’t mean they’re not coming or that they don’t want to spend time with you.” Knowing your triggers and recognizing when one is being activated can cut into that cycle of telling yourself stories based on the idea of rejection. 3. Track the moments you don’t feel rejected. When a friend says something nice to me, sends me a cute present, or texts to tell me they love me and are thinking of me, I try to memorialize it in some way. I’ll take a picture or a screenshot so that I can keep it for when I feel rejected. That way, when something inevitably happens that makes me feel rejected (i.e., an unanswered text, or a seemingly short reply), I can reference back to those images and remember “oh yeah, maybe I am loved after all.” I have countless screenshots of little things — a friend texting “I love you,” or “you made me laugh so hard,” or “I can’t wait to see you” — that seem so small but actually make such a big difference. In the moments my RSD is going off the rails, I use my arsenal of evidence to show myself I’m not being rejected and calm myself down. 4. Don’t deny or minimize your emotions. With RSD , it’s so easy to fall into patterns of telling myself I’m “stupid” or silly for feeling the way I feel, and I end up being really hard on myself. RSD is a real thing, and just because I may not truly be rejected by someone doesn’t minimize the validity of what I’m feeling. It’s important for me to acknowledge what I’m feeling and work with it in order to move through it, rather than deny my emotions and stuff them down because the rejection isn’t real. In short, the rejection may not be real, but my feelings still are, and I deserve compassion and grace to work through that. 5. Ask someone else for their opinion. I know that sometimes I can’t rely on myself as a good judge of whether someone is rejecting me or not because RSD can skew my reality, so in order to cope with this, I sometimes rely on others’ judgment. I might reach out to another friend — either someone who knows the person I feel rejected by, or a more objective third party, and ask them if what that person did was out of line and my feelings of rejection make sense, or if it’s RSD acting up. Having their understanding and explanation can help in two ways: 1. If I am being rejected, it helps me recognize that I’m not making it up and there is something happening that may need to be looked at more seriously. 2. If I’m not being rejected and it’s more so a manifestation of rejection sensitive dysphoria , I have another voice telling me I’m not being rejected versus having to rely on myself for that reassurance. At the end of the day, RSD can be really hard to deal with, and it can feel isolating if you’re constantly having these internal arguments with yourself about what is true rejection and what is all in your head. I’ve found that when friends are more conscious of my RSD and considerate of it but don’t feel like they have to watch everything they do or say, it actually makes for much healthier relationships . When they are aware of my RSD , I am more resilient to those RSD triggers because I know they’re generally thoughtful about my needs. I often feel like I have to cope with my RSD alone because I don’t want to “burden” others with how sensitive I can be, but when I do that, I actually feel rejected more. So, if this is something you deal with (or something someone you love deals with), talk about it. Talk about how you can help each other out and share the love because that’s what really matters. There will always be RSD noise, but if you can get to a place where you feel safe and secure, your relationships will be that much stronger and less susceptible to the RSD rollercoaster.