Heidi Fischer

@heidi-fischer | contributor
Mighty LeaderSuper Contributor
Find me on Instagram @mentalhealthyxe and www.mentalhealthyxe.com I am a mental health advocate. I enjoy exploring and sharing my mental health journey. I write about depression, anxiety, C-PTSD, and more. When I'm not doing that you'll probably find me watching tv or napping.
Heidi Fischer

Trauma Recovery Tools: How to Use the Body Sensations Wheel

There are two questions I often don’t know what to do with. “Where do you feel that in your body?” and “Can you describe that a little more for me? My reply is typically a shrug of the shoulders. I’m not attempting to be aloof, I’m genuinely unsure of how to answer. Whether the questions are coming from my therapist, a doctor, or some other sort of other professional — I struggle to find the words to explain what’s going on inside of me. I used to think it was just a weird quirk, but eventually I learned this is common for folks with a history like mine. In my case, this trouble stems from past trauma ,  trauma that also developed into complex PTSD. Disconnecting my mind and body was a useful survival skill, especially when it was needed. It turns out that once safety is found, reengaging the mind/body connection is not like flipping a switch — it takes patience and hard work. I’ve now reached a place where I notice what’s going on with my body a lot more, but I still get a little stuck on understanding what the feeling is exactly. Cue my therapist. Have you heard of the Body Sensations Wheel ? Nope! I’ve heard of just about every other type of therapy wheel. Heck, I’ve created my own scales , cards, and similar things. But I hadn’t heard of this one. So naturally I had to have it. It looks like this: Each card represents an area of the body. It then expands to what sensation you might feel there and what that could represent emotionally. I find it to be straightforward and (at least in my case) pretty accurate. I use it in a few different ways. 1. Random check-ins. I started off using it this way, as I was unsure if I would remember to look at it when I was feeling upset or disconnected. This has helped me realize that even when I’m in a neutral place, if I slow down and scan myself, there are still things to notice. 2. When I know I’m feeling something, but don’t know what. As I mentioned prior, I’ve had more success with general awareness of sensations — but I tend to struggle with naming them. So with this tool, I can pick out the body part without much effort, then look over the card and search for a match. Most of the time I find one, and that simple act of naming things can be a stabilizing force when things get wobbly. 3. When I’m feeling a lot, but need to connect to my body. On the other hand, there are also times when I know exactly what emotion I’m feeling, but fail to connect it with my body. In this case, I can use the wheel in a bit of a backwards way — find the emotion on the outer part of the card, then do a little detective work and see if it corresponds to a sensation and where on the body it is. This backwards method doesn’t always work, but even so, it engages my thinking brain in a way that is not the norm for me. I also sometimes figure out what something is based off what it is not. It’s a useful experiment! 4. Figuring out what to do about it. The natural last step for me seems to be asking myself if I’d like to do something with this feeling. Sometimes the answer is no. It just needs a place to exist, it wants recognition, or it’s already passed. Other times I need to experiment. OK, maybe this feeling would like a nap or a gentle walk. I try it and get to learn what ends up being helpful. Then there are the times I know exactly what’s needed, like ice cream or a hug. And sometimes, because life is like this, I choose to acknowledge it but then not really do anything with it. Sometimes we are busy or don’t feel we have the energy to “do the thing.” And that’s OK too. I’ve only been using these cards for a little over a month, so I know I will continue to learn and grow as I use them. I also know they are not a magic wand, for me or anyone else. Yet like most things mental health related, they can be another awesome tool in our toolbox. If you like the idea, but find what’s provided doesn’t mirror your experience, you could even get creative and make your own. And how cool is that? Have you heard of a Body Sensations Wheel? Have you used this one or something similar? Did you learn anything that surprised you? Any tips or tricks on ways to use it? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to  check out some of my other articles  here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on  Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe .

Heidi Fischer

How 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' Shows the Role of Connection in Trauma Recovery

This whole writing is basically a massive spoiler for all things “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and “Star Wars” in general. Please note that I enjoy explaining such things in a slightly cavalier way, so don’t come at me with pitchforks if I don’t perfectly follow canon. To top it off I’m also going to assume you are familiar with the general “Star Wars” plot. At the end of “Revenge of the Sith,” Obi-Wan chops Anakin in half and leaves him burning in lava, effectively killing him (or did he?). Not because he wants to, but because he feels he has no other choice. Yes he’s defending himself, but Anakin has become evil personified, awkward. “You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you,” cries out Obi-Wan breaking the hearts of “Star Wars” fans across the galaxy. Cue Darth Vader’s mechanical breathing. We didn’t precisely know what happened next… until now. Disney+ has favored us with a new Obi-Wan series. It takes place about 10 years after the whole lava situation. We rejoin this former Jedi Master and discover he’s been laying low. He’s also been suppressing his Force abilities, chopping meat for a living, and is ignoring the conflicts around him. Hello, there! As per usual, there are some fans that aren’t happy. I think I know why, they want to see Obi-Wan, Jedi Master, being a badass. And I get that, at least on the surface, but come on y’all, he hasn’t had it easy. Am I able to clinically diagnose Obi-Wan? No. Am I going to do it anyways? Yes. He has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We’ve clearly established the traumatic history, so let’s shift to looking at the symptoms. He’s reexperiencing the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks. He’s engaged in avoidance, he is not connecting with others while working a monotonous job. We can see hyperarousal in his extra security measures and disturbed sleep. And last but not least, there have certainly been negative changes in thinking and mood, which is especially noticeable when we see him refusing to help a fellow Jedi who has been discovered by the Inquisitors. Understanding that Obi-Wan likely has PTSD is helpful because it portrays what I believe is an important lesson. I have some theories to share, and I promise it all links up. It’s my opinion that when it comes to trauma, a part of what causes so much pain is that it disconnects us from ourselves and others. We don’t see the humans in the world as safe, and we lose our ability to trust.  Trauma is so powerful that it can cause us to dissociate, the ultimate form of detachment. Therefore, if my theory is correct, connection has the ability to be healing. It’s also my theory the story of Star Wars is fundamentally about connections or lack thereof, and how these impact the life of the characters. There is always a Master leading a Padawan (on a good or bad path), the rebels persist because they love their friends, Darth Vader himself is pushed along due to the hate and anger he feels over his mother’s death. Arguably every character has elements of their relationships driving their story. And as I promised, this does all come together, so let’s return to our Obi-Wan. As the series progresses, he begins to change, he collects up new friends and allies. He chooses to trust, he allows himself to care, and in the end, he seems to forgive himself for his past failings. Fret not fans, he’s a Master once again, and he is not alone. The series has many powerful scenes, and there is one final moment that especially sticks out in my mind. Obi-Wan comforts Reva, a former antagonist, and as he does so, he declares that by choosing mercy, she has become free. There’s a pause, and then he proclaims “ we both have.” There it is again, connection. Immediately after this, we see a contrasting conversation. The Emperor asks Darth if his feelings for Obi-Wan are causing him to fail. Darth states Obi-Wan means nothing to him, disconnect. And if you know the story, we know Darth continues on a dark path. So to circle back to our hero, at the end of six episodes, is his PTSD gone? I’d guess, probably not, but I would suggest he’s doing much better. I think this story arch is a beacon of hope. Particularly for those of us who, like myself , have also experienced trauma and resultant mental illnesses. We are shown in this series that even a superhero can be harmed in the face of horrible events, we aren’t weak — we are human. We are also shown the path forward. It’s a path that is not always easy, but that leads us back to ourselves by not walking alone. There is hope, even if just like Obi-Wan, it takes us a while to see it. If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of  my other articles here on The Mighty . If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as  @mentalhealthyxe .If you also enjoy Star Wars you may also like to read my other writings about it, located here  and here .

Heidi Fischer

How MLMs Prey on Women With Mental Health Conditions & Chronic Illness

“Hey Hun, long time no see!” You’ve spent plenty of time on social media, so you instinctually know what sentence is coming next in your DMs. “I want to invite you to my upcoming skin-care party… and if you RSVP today you’ll receive 10% off and guaranteed lifelong happiness.” OK, maybe I added in that last part – but the point remains the same. You are being invited to participate in multi-level marketing (MLM). Maybe you read your DM and find yourself thinking, “what’s the harm?” and “those leggings do look pretty sweet!” I am here to tell you that the harm can be immense, and whom it harms is particularly disturbing. That is because MLMs and the folks who recruit for them consistently target a certain type of person. They target emotionally vulnerable women. This can include stay-at-home moms, single parents, low-income individuals, minorities, and folks with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t recruit others, but take a look at who is selling and buying from MLMs and you’ll start to recognize they often fall in the above demographic. As a woman and as someone diagnosed with mental illnesses, I have previously been on the targeted-end of folks trying to sell and recruit me into MLMs – and I am not OK with it. Luckily I was never tempted, but many like me have been significantly harmed by MLMs. This is why I want to ring the alarm bell and why we need to stop ignoring this. When it comes to emotionally vulnerable women, we need to talk about the harms the lies and deceptions of MLMs inflict. 1. “You’ll make great earnings.” There is something that is readily available, from MLMs which in most cases they are legally required to have, Income Disclosures. To quote this consumer awareness document from the FTC, (which I highly recommend reading): “The loss rate for MLMs is at least 99%. This means that less than one in 100 MLM participants make a clear profit, and at least 99 out of 100 participants actually lose money!” Also, don’t forget a profit doesn’t have to mean much; it could mean the person is making a salary of $1/year. Therefore, it stands to reason that most folks who have to pay any amount to be a seller are in fact in the red. Yes, some make a profit – often the initial sellers do the best. Regardless, one thing is for certain, there are no guarantees of earning anything and there is a high likelihood of actually losing money. Even at the most unpleasant job you at least know how much you are earning and when you’ll get that paycheck. 2. “Be your own girl boss! Make your own hours!” Sure someone working for an MLM may be “making their own hours,” but what are those hours? Are those hours more than 40 or on the weekends and evenings? Do they have holiday pay or sick days? Are they tied to their social media 24/7 doing “promotion?” That doesn’t sound like freedom to me. As far as being a  “boss” (or girl boss) – according to the above data, the majority of MLM sellers should in fact be considered an unpaid employee (or worse, a person who goes into debt for their boss). Another thing to consider is whether or not they have control over products, production, cost, design, packaging, or any of the usual things a boss or entrepreneur would control. 3. “MLM products are high-quality and unique.” It may be true that many MLM products are not available in conventional retail settings, which could render them “unique.”  Beyond that though, I doubt most claims of superiority, as do plenty of researchers.  When it comes to supplements and wellness products, do a little digging into if they are FDA-approved. This may not be that big of a deal if you are buying leggings or a mop, it’s a much different story if you are buying products that are making health claims. It’s a sad reality that many of these products can actually harm people’s health, give false hopes, and delay appropriate treatments, all while ruining people’s finances. 4. MLMs are cult-like. You may be surprised to learn that in fact MLMs regularly use tactics that are on the same level as cults. It can be usual to experience things such as psychological manipulation, financial exploitation, relationship control, internal watchdogs, special jargon, odd mantras, magical thinking, an esteemed unquestioned leader or figurehead, and to face guilt or fear over leaving. Yikes. I feel bad for anyone who gets caught up in an MLM, especially emotionally vulnerable women who have a mental health condition, chronic illness, disability, or other condition that makes working a conventional job difficult. People in this demographic which includes me, are already likely to be financially vulnerable. So this isn’t a matter of losing a bit of pocket money, it could be a matter of paying bills or rent. Likewise, folks in this group may be more vulnerable to work-related abuse. MLM selling can mean tolerating treatment that violates labor laws or causes burnout. For medically vulnerable people who chose to use products with dubious claims, it could mean worsened health outcomes. For those vulnerable in their relationships, it could mean isolation, manipulation, or control. These are real and scary consequences and we need to stop ignoring them. So if you are wondering if something is an MLM or if you should join it — you may want to use this search tool and then really sit down and consider who and what you may be getting involved with — and if it is worth it. And if you happen to be part of the one “magical MLM” that isn’t awful, spare me. I don’t want to hear about it. If you’d like to get out of an MLM or just learn more about the topic, here are a few excellent resources: MLM Truth

Heidi Fischer

Trauma Recovery Tools: How to Use the Body Sensations Wheel

There are two questions I often don’t know what to do with. “Where do you feel that in your body?” and “Can you describe that a little more for me? My reply is typically a shrug of the shoulders. I’m not attempting to be aloof, I’m genuinely unsure of how to answer. Whether the questions are coming from my therapist, a doctor, or some other sort of other professional — I struggle to find the words to explain what’s going on inside of me. I used to think it was just a weird quirk, but eventually I learned this is common for folks with a history like mine. In my case, this trouble stems from past trauma ,  trauma that also developed into complex PTSD. Disconnecting my mind and body was a useful survival skill, especially when it was needed. It turns out that once safety is found, reengaging the mind/body connection is not like flipping a switch — it takes patience and hard work. I’ve now reached a place where I notice what’s going on with my body a lot more, but I still get a little stuck on understanding what the feeling is exactly. Cue my therapist. Have you heard of the Body Sensations Wheel ? Nope! I’ve heard of just about every other type of therapy wheel. Heck, I’ve created my own scales , cards, and similar things. But I hadn’t heard of this one. So naturally I had to have it. It looks like this: Each card represents an area of the body. It then expands to what sensation you might feel there and what that could represent emotionally. I find it to be straightforward and (at least in my case) pretty accurate. I use it in a few different ways. 1. Random check-ins. I started off using it this way, as I was unsure if I would remember to look at it when I was feeling upset or disconnected. This has helped me realize that even when I’m in a neutral place, if I slow down and scan myself, there are still things to notice. 2. When I know I’m feeling something, but don’t know what. As I mentioned prior, I’ve had more success with general awareness of sensations — but I tend to struggle with naming them. So with this tool, I can pick out the body part without much effort, then look over the card and search for a match. Most of the time I find one, and that simple act of naming things can be a stabilizing force when things get wobbly. 3. When I’m feeling a lot, but need to connect to my body. On the other hand, there are also times when I know exactly what emotion I’m feeling, but fail to connect it with my body. In this case, I can use the wheel in a bit of a backwards way — find the emotion on the outer part of the card, then do a little detective work and see if it corresponds to a sensation and where on the body it is. This backwards method doesn’t always work, but even so, it engages my thinking brain in a way that is not the norm for me. I also sometimes figure out what something is based off what it is not. It’s a useful experiment! 4. Figuring out what to do about it. The natural last step for me seems to be asking myself if I’d like to do something with this feeling. Sometimes the answer is no. It just needs a place to exist, it wants recognition, or it’s already passed. Other times I need to experiment. OK, maybe this feeling would like a nap or a gentle walk. I try it and get to learn what ends up being helpful. Then there are the times I know exactly what’s needed, like ice cream or a hug. And sometimes, because life is like this, I choose to acknowledge it but then not really do anything with it. Sometimes we are busy or don’t feel we have the energy to “do the thing.” And that’s OK too. I’ve only been using these cards for a little over a month, so I know I will continue to learn and grow as I use them. I also know they are not a magic wand, for me or anyone else. Yet like most things mental health related, they can be another awesome tool in our toolbox. If you like the idea, but find what’s provided doesn’t mirror your experience, you could even get creative and make your own. And how cool is that? Have you heard of a Body Sensations Wheel? Have you used this one or something similar? Did you learn anything that surprised you? Any tips or tricks on ways to use it? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to  check out some of my other articles  here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on  Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe .

Heidi Fischer

Trauma Recovery Tools: How to Use the Body Sensations Wheel

There are two questions I often don’t know what to do with. “Where do you feel that in your body?” and “Can you describe that a little more for me? My reply is typically a shrug of the shoulders. I’m not attempting to be aloof, I’m genuinely unsure of how to answer. Whether the questions are coming from my therapist, a doctor, or some other sort of other professional — I struggle to find the words to explain what’s going on inside of me. I used to think it was just a weird quirk, but eventually I learned this is common for folks with a history like mine. In my case, this trouble stems from past trauma ,  trauma that also developed into complex PTSD. Disconnecting my mind and body was a useful survival skill, especially when it was needed. It turns out that once safety is found, reengaging the mind/body connection is not like flipping a switch — it takes patience and hard work. I’ve now reached a place where I notice what’s going on with my body a lot more, but I still get a little stuck on understanding what the feeling is exactly. Cue my therapist. Have you heard of the Body Sensations Wheel ? Nope! I’ve heard of just about every other type of therapy wheel. Heck, I’ve created my own scales , cards, and similar things. But I hadn’t heard of this one. So naturally I had to have it. It looks like this: Each card represents an area of the body. It then expands to what sensation you might feel there and what that could represent emotionally. I find it to be straightforward and (at least in my case) pretty accurate. I use it in a few different ways. 1. Random check-ins. I started off using it this way, as I was unsure if I would remember to look at it when I was feeling upset or disconnected. This has helped me realize that even when I’m in a neutral place, if I slow down and scan myself, there are still things to notice. 2. When I know I’m feeling something, but don’t know what. As I mentioned prior, I’ve had more success with general awareness of sensations — but I tend to struggle with naming them. So with this tool, I can pick out the body part without much effort, then look over the card and search for a match. Most of the time I find one, and that simple act of naming things can be a stabilizing force when things get wobbly. 3. When I’m feeling a lot, but need to connect to my body. On the other hand, there are also times when I know exactly what emotion I’m feeling, but fail to connect it with my body. In this case, I can use the wheel in a bit of a backwards way — find the emotion on the outer part of the card, then do a little detective work and see if it corresponds to a sensation and where on the body it is. This backwards method doesn’t always work, but even so, it engages my thinking brain in a way that is not the norm for me. I also sometimes figure out what something is based off what it is not. It’s a useful experiment! 4. Figuring out what to do about it. The natural last step for me seems to be asking myself if I’d like to do something with this feeling. Sometimes the answer is no. It just needs a place to exist, it wants recognition, or it’s already passed. Other times I need to experiment. OK, maybe this feeling would like a nap or a gentle walk. I try it and get to learn what ends up being helpful. Then there are the times I know exactly what’s needed, like ice cream or a hug. And sometimes, because life is like this, I choose to acknowledge it but then not really do anything with it. Sometimes we are busy or don’t feel we have the energy to “do the thing.” And that’s OK too. I’ve only been using these cards for a little over a month, so I know I will continue to learn and grow as I use them. I also know they are not a magic wand, for me or anyone else. Yet like most things mental health related, they can be another awesome tool in our toolbox. If you like the idea, but find what’s provided doesn’t mirror your experience, you could even get creative and make your own. And how cool is that? Have you heard of a Body Sensations Wheel? Have you used this one or something similar? Did you learn anything that surprised you? Any tips or tricks on ways to use it? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to  check out some of my other articles  here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on  Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe .

Heidi Fischer

Trauma Recovery Tools: How to Use the Body Sensations Wheel

There are two questions I often don’t know what to do with. “Where do you feel that in your body?” and “Can you describe that a little more for me? My reply is typically a shrug of the shoulders. I’m not attempting to be aloof, I’m genuinely unsure of how to answer. Whether the questions are coming from my therapist, a doctor, or some other sort of other professional — I struggle to find the words to explain what’s going on inside of me. I used to think it was just a weird quirk, but eventually I learned this is common for folks with a history like mine. In my case, this trouble stems from past trauma ,  trauma that also developed into complex PTSD. Disconnecting my mind and body was a useful survival skill, especially when it was needed. It turns out that once safety is found, reengaging the mind/body connection is not like flipping a switch — it takes patience and hard work. I’ve now reached a place where I notice what’s going on with my body a lot more, but I still get a little stuck on understanding what the feeling is exactly. Cue my therapist. Have you heard of the Body Sensations Wheel ? Nope! I’ve heard of just about every other type of therapy wheel. Heck, I’ve created my own scales , cards, and similar things. But I hadn’t heard of this one. So naturally I had to have it. It looks like this: Each card represents an area of the body. It then expands to what sensation you might feel there and what that could represent emotionally. I find it to be straightforward and (at least in my case) pretty accurate. I use it in a few different ways. 1. Random check-ins. I started off using it this way, as I was unsure if I would remember to look at it when I was feeling upset or disconnected. This has helped me realize that even when I’m in a neutral place, if I slow down and scan myself, there are still things to notice. 2. When I know I’m feeling something, but don’t know what. As I mentioned prior, I’ve had more success with general awareness of sensations — but I tend to struggle with naming them. So with this tool, I can pick out the body part without much effort, then look over the card and search for a match. Most of the time I find one, and that simple act of naming things can be a stabilizing force when things get wobbly. 3. When I’m feeling a lot, but need to connect to my body. On the other hand, there are also times when I know exactly what emotion I’m feeling, but fail to connect it with my body. In this case, I can use the wheel in a bit of a backwards way — find the emotion on the outer part of the card, then do a little detective work and see if it corresponds to a sensation and where on the body it is. This backwards method doesn’t always work, but even so, it engages my thinking brain in a way that is not the norm for me. I also sometimes figure out what something is based off what it is not. It’s a useful experiment! 4. Figuring out what to do about it. The natural last step for me seems to be asking myself if I’d like to do something with this feeling. Sometimes the answer is no. It just needs a place to exist, it wants recognition, or it’s already passed. Other times I need to experiment. OK, maybe this feeling would like a nap or a gentle walk. I try it and get to learn what ends up being helpful. Then there are the times I know exactly what’s needed, like ice cream or a hug. And sometimes, because life is like this, I choose to acknowledge it but then not really do anything with it. Sometimes we are busy or don’t feel we have the energy to “do the thing.” And that’s OK too. I’ve only been using these cards for a little over a month, so I know I will continue to learn and grow as I use them. I also know they are not a magic wand, for me or anyone else. Yet like most things mental health related, they can be another awesome tool in our toolbox. If you like the idea, but find what’s provided doesn’t mirror your experience, you could even get creative and make your own. And how cool is that? Have you heard of a Body Sensations Wheel? Have you used this one or something similar? Did you learn anything that surprised you? Any tips or tricks on ways to use it? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to  check out some of my other articles  here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on  Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe .

Heidi Fischer

Why Conventions Can Be a Healing Experience for Neurodivergent People

Convention season has arrived, and I’ve come to a new realization. It now seems so incredibly obvious to me, but the truth is I didn’t see it until now. Conventions can be a healing experience for people who are neurodivergent.A group I include myself in. In case you aren’t familiar with the term neurodivergent, it falls under a large umbrella, something I’ve written about previously. Let me share how I arrived at this theory. For my fifth year running, I walk into my local entertainment expo, ready for a weekend of volunteering. I see the cosplay, the laughter, and the purchasing of artwork. Ah yes, I smile to myself, I am amongst my people. Friday night begins with a fellow volunteer spending 40 minutes excitedly informing me how critical it is that I one day visit Universal Studios during Halloween. We’ve never met before; it doesn’t matter.  He is fully immersed in sharing his experience, so much that I’m unsure when he has time to breathe. I don’t disagree, it sounds like it would indeed be awesome. Saturday, I volunteer at the photo ops booth. I chat with fans as they await their turn for a picture. I admire an attendee’s cosplay and enthusiasm. When I run into him later I ask to see his pictures. He does so happily,  proceeds to gift me a special rainbow Star Trek pin, and tells me how he started a 2SLGBT+ Star Trek scholarship. It’s all so awesome to hear about and I pop the pin on my backpack with a smile. On Sunday, I run into a friend. Over our overpriced colas, he tells me about some of his recent projects. He laughs and says how nice it is to not have to explain what the various Star Wars ships are that he’s talking about. I nod knowingly. Somewhere in the middle of those three days, it dawned on me that these conventions are a place of acceptance, kindness, and unapologetic nerdy joy… and that a good portion of folks who attend them are likely neurodivergent. I think about how in “the real world,” we are often teased or ignored when it comes to our enthusiasm for beloved fandoms and special interests. It’s common for the things we’re fans of to be seen as uncool when we’re kids and teens. As adults, in some circles, we may be scorned as being juvenile or weird. Here at conventions, our quirks are met with love and enthusiasm. A few weeks later, I headed to the Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim, and I made a note to myself to continue looking for proof of my new theory. The first thing I do is await a photo with Ewan McGregor (swoon). I immediately make a line buddy when a nice fellow mentions he likes my makeup. We chatter about Star Wars and swap convention tips for the 30 minutes or so we are in line. I feel like I have a new best friend. In that same line, I mumble something about how I didn’t get a lanyard. Within seconds I get a tap on the shoulder and the person behind me hands me an extra. Nice. Later over lunch, I sit at a table with some friends and folks we’ve just met. As we eat, we are given tips on every topic from the best strategies for a Disney trip to where to buy the best and most affordable fabric for costume creation. Other folks ask to see our photo op pictures and become a cheering section as to the pictures’ awesomeness. We feel great. I could share many more stories but I’ll leave it there. I know not all people at these conventions identify as neurodivergent, but the kindness and acceptance that is offered to all in attendance can mean a lot to those of us that are. These spaces aren’t perfect. They can also include things that are regularly challenging. There are large crowds, long waits, bright lights, confusing directions, accessibility issues, lots of noises, and more. I do find though that a lot of conventions are actively working on making improvements so the experience can be enjoyable for all. When it comes to convention time, I do love meeting celebrities. It’s fun to get photos with them or have little chats. What I also cherish though is the experience of being in this funny little cosmos that encourages gender-bending cosplay, jumping up and down over getting exclusive merch, and where you can be an all-out nerd without fear of ridicule. There is also a recognition and acceptance that even though we may not share the details, we have deep reasons why we love our particular thing. To me, that’s the very definition of healing.

Heidi Fischer

When You Get What You Want and Happiness Still Eludes You

Congratulations on starting your dream job, for making a new friend, or for finally perfecting home baked bread!  You are amazing! Yes, cheers are in order! After all… You do feel happy…* shifty eyes *…* ominous music*…don’t you? Ok, I guess we can drop the ruse. Yes, you feel at least a little happiness, but for some reason you also feel awful. And it’s right about at this juncture you ask yourself this question: I got what I wanted, why can’t I just be happy? I’m not a mind reader; I know the details of your situation so well because it’s familiar to me too. I’ve asked myself am I a broken human? so often, that I’ve settled on some answers. I’d hazard a guess my thoughts apply to others, especially if you also experience a mental illness or chronic condition. So let’s do this… The four reasons why you can’t “just be happy.” 1. Stress The body and mind doesn’t always correctly identify the difference between positive or negative stress. So whether you have a test tomorrow or you won the lottery — your insides can perceive this as overwhelming. That flooding can lead to the various classic stress symptoms as well as trigger or worsen a mental health concern. So, having some happy stress? It could help to do a little stress management, even if that seems out of place for the situation. Your body and mind may just thank you. 2. Routine Most nervous systems love routine, and likewise a lot of folks with illnesses benefit from the same. When something exciting occurs, it’s not uncommon for our routines to change. When on vacation we may go to bed late, when packing for a move we may forget to eat, while busy being newly in love, we could forget to take our medications. You get the point. As much as possible try to find ways to keep the same routine during happy times. This isn’t always controllable, but you can attempt to prioritize the things that you know are key to you remaining functional. 3. Happiness or excitement can be a trigger For some folks these types of feelings can be a trigger due to past trauma or abuse. I know, because this is me. Folks who have a history of trauma/abuse commonly have to keep their guard up in order to survive. This can mean that the nervous system adapts from the usual order of things, and helps keep an individual safe by changing the baseline towards being disconnected from others. Don’t connect, don’t get hurt (as much or as badly)… makes perfect sense actually. Ergo, happiness, trust, excitement, can all feel scary — even long after a person is safe — because our insides still view these emotions as dangerous. In this case, I’d suggest: therapy, positive self-talk, and learning about trauma. With time and patience we can learn how to inform our nervous systems that the old way is no longer needed. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but as humans we can always change and grow; personally, I’ve improved a lot. 4. Acceptance How helpful was it the last time someone told you to “just not worry”?  Usually not very, and yet we utter similar things to ourselves all the time! Saying; I should be happy isn’t going to magically cause cheery feelings to arrive. Acceptance can often be learned through meditation, yoga, and similar practices. A therapist would probably help here too. I’ve needed to work on understanding that things which are seemingly contractive can exist at the same time. And they don’t have to cancel each other out or make the other less true. I CAN be thrilled while at a concert and stressed about the drive home after. I can give both space and both are valid. I’d also like to throw in here that if you find that you never feel much of anything, it’s possible you could be experiencing a symptom that is called anhedonia — which is a whole different thing. It’s typically a symptom of depression or can be a side effect of certain medications.  This symptom is about losing the ability to be interested or find fulfillment in anything. You can read my writing on anhedonia, and if it sounds familiar, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare team. In order to conclude, I’d like to offer you the good news that in my opinion… you are not broken. I’d also like to suggest that you are not ungrateful or a permanent downer.  Happiness and success are commonly on a spectrum, and some times that place coexists with a bit of stress, depression, or even fear. Whatever accomplishment you’ve achieved, it is still amazing and all emotions are OK. Truly. Have you had the experience of a happy moment turning into something else, like stress or sadness? Do these explanations make sense, or would you explain it in another way? Other thoughts? Please share them in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Heidi Fischer

Eating Healthy: Why It's a Struggle With Depression

There are certain familiar symptoms of depression we often hear about, such as sadness, oversleeping or isolation. There are other symptoms though, that aren’t as out in the open, and I struggle with one of them. I have difficulty feeding myself adequately. I struggle to get enough calories, nutrients and variety. While these may seem like the symptoms of an eating disorder, and certainly can mirror them, for me, it isn’t about body image or weight. This struggle stems from the lack of motivation that I experience during depressive episodes. There will be times that I’m hungry, but lack the will to make a meal. Other times I can’t fathom the thought of going to the grocery store, or taking all the steps necessary to prepare a dish — so instead I eat fast food. This issue reaches far into my life, and can cause additional depression and shame due to unstable blood sugars and my perceived inability to properly care for myself. I recently had an appointment with a nutritionist, with the goal of discussing this problem. I wanted to learn some tips on the types of healthy and convenient foods I could eat, that would help me get my daily requirements. If I’m being honest though, the appointment was not at all helpful, and I felt very dismissed. In the end she told me to eat my vegetables, and photocopied 10 various articles and worksheets on meal planning and how to make soup. I left feeling that she didn’t understand my fundamental complaint, that I lack the energy to prepare things that are beyond one or two steps. I can’t very well make a soup, if cutting carrots feels the same as climbing a mountain. Unfortunately I’ve been left without a lot of answers, but it is an issue I continue to work on. I’ve discussed it in therapy, it’s on the radar of those around me and I do ask for help when needed. I want to be vocal about it, because I know I’m not the only person who lives with this symptom. It should be voiced so no one feels alone or ashamed. Prior to my nutritionist appointment, I had started to gather a list of some easy food items, and subsequently have continued to add to this list. I’m aware that not all of them are the pinnacles of healthiness, but they are all convenient, which is my main criterion. So I’m going to leave you with my list as well as some additional tips that might be helpful. I’m interested to hear some of your meals and tips, so please leave them in the comments. Without further ado, I present to you my list: Easy one and two-step meal and snack options: 1. Canned tuna 2. Cereal 3. Frozen dinners 4. Peanut butter 5. Hummus and crackers 6. Protein shakes 7. Nuts 8. Granola bars 9. Eggs 10. Instant oatmeal 11. Precut veggie/fruit 12. Popcorn 13. Soup 14. Bananas 15. Cheese 16. Premade salad 17. Yogurt 18. Sandwich Ideas for when you have more ability: 1. Simple crockpot meals (Soups, Stews) 2. Smoothies 3. Pasta and homemade sauce 4. Pita and baked fish 5. Omelets 6. Quesadilla 7. Pancakes 8. Stir-fry Tips: 1. Always cook enough to have leftovers and freeze for later 2. Eating something is better than nothing. If all you can manage is something that’s considered “unhealthy,” consider it healthy for the moment 3. Try to keep your kitchen stocked with foods you know you can and will prepare, to avoid the ease of takeout. 4. Don’t judge yourself for purchasing prepared items, especially if it makes your life easier. Precut fruits and veggies can remove a big step in cooking, and may allow you to get the nutrients you need. 5. Keep healthy snacks within arms reach in the areas you spend most of your time 6. Talk about it and don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for help We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via Zulmaury Saavedra

Heidi Fischer

Eating Healthy: Why It's a Struggle With Depression

There are certain familiar symptoms of depression we often hear about, such as sadness, oversleeping or isolation. There are other symptoms though, that aren’t as out in the open, and I struggle with one of them. I have difficulty feeding myself adequately. I struggle to get enough calories, nutrients and variety. While these may seem like the symptoms of an eating disorder, and certainly can mirror them, for me, it isn’t about body image or weight. This struggle stems from the lack of motivation that I experience during depressive episodes. There will be times that I’m hungry, but lack the will to make a meal. Other times I can’t fathom the thought of going to the grocery store, or taking all the steps necessary to prepare a dish — so instead I eat fast food. This issue reaches far into my life, and can cause additional depression and shame due to unstable blood sugars and my perceived inability to properly care for myself. I recently had an appointment with a nutritionist, with the goal of discussing this problem. I wanted to learn some tips on the types of healthy and convenient foods I could eat, that would help me get my daily requirements. If I’m being honest though, the appointment was not at all helpful, and I felt very dismissed. In the end she told me to eat my vegetables, and photocopied 10 various articles and worksheets on meal planning and how to make soup. I left feeling that she didn’t understand my fundamental complaint, that I lack the energy to prepare things that are beyond one or two steps. I can’t very well make a soup, if cutting carrots feels the same as climbing a mountain. Unfortunately I’ve been left without a lot of answers, but it is an issue I continue to work on. I’ve discussed it in therapy, it’s on the radar of those around me and I do ask for help when needed. I want to be vocal about it, because I know I’m not the only person who lives with this symptom. It should be voiced so no one feels alone or ashamed. Prior to my nutritionist appointment, I had started to gather a list of some easy food items, and subsequently have continued to add to this list. I’m aware that not all of them are the pinnacles of healthiness, but they are all convenient, which is my main criterion. So I’m going to leave you with my list as well as some additional tips that might be helpful. I’m interested to hear some of your meals and tips, so please leave them in the comments. Without further ado, I present to you my list: Easy one and two-step meal and snack options: 1. Canned tuna 2. Cereal 3. Frozen dinners 4. Peanut butter 5. Hummus and crackers 6. Protein shakes 7. Nuts 8. Granola bars 9. Eggs 10. Instant oatmeal 11. Precut veggie/fruit 12. Popcorn 13. Soup 14. Bananas 15. Cheese 16. Premade salad 17. Yogurt 18. Sandwich Ideas for when you have more ability: 1. Simple crockpot meals (Soups, Stews) 2. Smoothies 3. Pasta and homemade sauce 4. Pita and baked fish 5. Omelets 6. Quesadilla 7. Pancakes 8. Stir-fry Tips: 1. Always cook enough to have leftovers and freeze for later 2. Eating something is better than nothing. If all you can manage is something that’s considered “unhealthy,” consider it healthy for the moment 3. Try to keep your kitchen stocked with foods you know you can and will prepare, to avoid the ease of takeout. 4. Don’t judge yourself for purchasing prepared items, especially if it makes your life easier. Precut fruits and veggies can remove a big step in cooking, and may allow you to get the nutrients you need. 5. Keep healthy snacks within arms reach in the areas you spend most of your time 6. Talk about it and don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for help We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via Zulmaury Saavedra