Making Amends & Self Care Promises

I never used to talk a lot about religion.  It just never really had a place in my life.  I come from a long line of atheists and agnostics including my parents and, while they never discouraged me from exploring things for myself, they never really brought up religion or God ever (my mom, however, does believe in angels but it seems pretty far removed from any kind of specific theological beliefs).  I was pretty comfortable identifying as atheist or agnostic for much of my life, even as I developed a greater and greater interest in religion from an academic perspective.  I spent grades four through eight in a Catholic school and that period affirmed for me that I would not be converting to Catholicism (or any kind of Christianity).  To make a long, long story… kind of short:  I discovered that my background was filled with Crypto or “secret” Jews (Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions but secretly continued to practice Judaism and privately identified as Jewish), and suddenly things made sense to me.  I continued to dig around and, by the time I moved to Toronto for university, discovered that I am “Jewish enough” to identify as Jewish.  From there, I became very active within the Jewish community:  I became a member of a Reform congregation, headed up the Jewish Student Life club at my campus, and graduated from an Orthodox fellowship program.  Needless to say, being Jewish is a really important part of my identity.

So, why am I posting about this on a blog dedicated to mental illness and self care?

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I feel so… ??

It’s been a while since my last post because I just haven’t had the energy to write.  My anxiety has been at an all-time high, I’ve been depressed, school has been stressful, and I’ve had to deal with the loss of a good friend and multiple family members within only a month and a half.  I’ve been so emotionally exhausted that I haven’t really been able to address what’s been going on, let alone begin to recover from it all.  Friends have noticed that I’ve been withdrawn and difficult to contact and I’ve been laughing it off with comments like “oh, I’ve just been in the middle of a mental breakdown” and “muddling through the worst summer of my life!”.  Don’t get me wrong – these statements are both totally true, but I purposely downplayed just how horrible I’ve been feeling by making it seem like a joke.

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Well, that happened: the story of my terrible first psychiatric appointment

It’s been a few weeks since my first appointment with my psychiatrist (who I’ll refer to as “Dr. G”, for simplicity’s sake) and I’ve truly needed that time to rebound from it.  The experience was absolutely devastating for me and left me feeling invalidated and embarrassed.  I wasn’t expecting anything significant to come from this first appointment, but I also wasn’t expecting what I got:  a lot of nothing, really.

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My Mental Health Self Care Kit

Self care is really important for everybody, but especially for those of us who deal with mental health conditions. We have to be mindful of things that trigger crisis situations, attacks, or meltdowns, but it isn’t always easy (and it’s often impossible to do – not all mental health issues have noticeable triggers at all and so many are constant, chronically present, and we have to do our best just to function at all). Because of the frustrating ways my symptoms interact with each other, I find myself forever in need of down time to take care of myself and one of the things I find helpful is to have a “self care kit”.

What’s a self care kit? It’s a collection of things (physical or otherwise) intended to make you feel better. What that means specifically will differ between everyone because of varying interests, symptoms, brain chemistry, feelings, etc., so the things that I have in my kit may be totally useless to you. And that’s okay! It’s important to remember that everyone’s mental illness treats them differently, so the way their mental illness is treated should be different, too.

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Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

I’m the kind of person who can speak at great length about something in casual conversation, but when asked specifically about it… I draw a blank. This happened to me the other day when I finally got a call that I’d been approved to see a psychiatrist (I was on a waitlist for almost six years!). I had to give the admin assistant some basic information about myself while booking the appointment and I struggled to come up with anything valuable (“I have anxiety, and that makes me feel, like, anxious?”). Awful.

Luckily I have some time before my appointment so I can make a list of my relevant symptoms and experiences. I think it’s important for anyone to have a list when they go to a doctor’s appointment, but especially for those of us with anxiety or processing disorders; it makes the process a lot more streamlined and then we don’t have to worry as much about remembering every single detail we need to talk about.

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My Struggle for Support in Academia

With all we know today about the severity of mental health conditions, it’s baffling to me that it’s still so difficult to navigate systems that are supposed to be in place for us, and that includes those available in universities. My recent (and still ongoing) experience left me feeling so many things – defeated, frustrated, angry, pathetic – but, most of all, it motivated me to start this blog and share what I’ve been going through. I’ve been in university for some time now and I understand the processes involved with declaring myself a student with disabilities and accessing my accommodations, but it’s not an incredibly user-friendly process for the average person, let alone for those of us who struggle with attention, anxiety, or processing disorders. Academia is not inclusive or accessible for a lot of us (which is a shame because I personally love taking classes and would gladly be in school my whole life if I could).

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101 things in 1001 days

I recently created an account on Day Zero Project to take part in the 101 Things in 1001 Days challenge. This is a fantastic tool for tracking your achievement progress and improves upon the popular Bucket List idea by giving you an allotted amount of time to complete your goals.

Having goals is a great way to focus on the things that are important to us and our general well being, helping to create a vision of what our lives could be and motivating us to be more productive and active in general. For those of us with mental health conditions, goal setting is often an integral part of treatment – we learn about the importance of tracking our progress and creating realistic goals to increase our chances of achieving them.

If you have a Day Zero Project account, let me know if we have any goals in common and post your username below! You can follow my progress here or look out for the occasional update right here on my blog. Check out my list below; it contains serious goals as well as lighter fare meant to make me (or someone else) happy.

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