10 Mental Health Resolutions for 2016

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Everyone has different opinions about the New Year. Some people think it is a fresh start, a new chapter, a time to reflect on life. But others may find the new year hard, like a reminder of past failures or “just another day.” As 2016 starts, it’s no doubt that we will be inundated with people’s new resolutions for what the new year will bring. Too often, these resolutions are focused on things that can be unhelpful- or even harmful- to one’s mental health. So here are 10 resolutions for 2016 that have potential to help your mental health.

1. Make time for real self-care.

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I’m not talking about the frilly self-care that is all over the internet (which is still important- do those things too!) I’m speaking to truly taking care of your whole being: getting enough sleep, fueling your body with food, drinking more water, going outside, taking your medication, whatever entails wellness for you.

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5 Ways to Care for Your Mental Health on Halloween

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Halloween is a big holiday. It seems that as soon as it hits October, the entire internet is decked out and ready for Halloween to happen.

Everyone wants to go to haunted houses, watch scary movies, and do other fear-inducing activities leading up to the actual night of fright. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys feeling scared, so this holiday can be unsettling.

For some, it can even trigger panic attacks, induce high anxiety, and cause trauma flashbacks. But Halloween doesn’t have to harm your mental health — here are some tips on how to take care of yourself during this time!

1. Pick a fun costume (or just stay in your PJ’s)
Halloween does not have to be scary! There are plenty of costumes that are not bloody, gory, or frightening- there are also plenty that are not “sexy.” Pick something that feels comfortable to you. Some ideas are: a role model of yours, a cute animal, a character from a book/movie/show, or a funny pun! If you don’t feel like dressing up at all, that’s okay too.

You can be as cute as this dog.

2. Stay in if you don’t want to go out
If you don’t feel up to a party, don’t go! Drinking tends to be a big part of the Halloween experience, especially in college, but don’t feel pressured to partake if you don’t want to. It’s totally okay to stay in with some not-so-scary movies and candy for yourself.

All the candy!!!

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Why I Promised to Take Care of My Mental Health in My Wedding Vows

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WeddingOne month ago today, my partner Rich and I stood under a big tent during the loveliest late-summer rain storm and did a really wonderful thing:  We got married.

Our wedding was beautiful and special and fun and silly — all the things we had hoped it would be during the months of planning. We stood under the alter in front of our friends and family, and I promised all the typical things you promise in your wedding vows — to love him and support him and take care of him when he’s sick, etc.

But there was one thing I added that wasn’t so typical: that I would take care of myself and my mental health, too.

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Suicide Prevention Month: A Handful

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

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“In the past, have you ever attempted to seriously hurt yourself?”

She means have I ever attempted suicide.

I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans.

“Um, yeah. I’ve attempted,” I counted with my fingers in my lap. “…about, a handful of times.”

A handful. A neat five little fingers. I summed it all up to that.

What couldn’t fit into a handful was the nights on the cold linoleum tiles of my dorm room floor sobbing, imploding, tucking all my body parts into each other in hopes that if I became small enough, I could cease to exist.

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Suicide Prevention Month: The Happiest I’ve Been

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here

Please Note: The following post mentions childhood sexual abuse.

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From a very young age, I had to fend for myself and protect those who were around me, whether it was my little brother from my mother’s beatings or my cousin from my step-grandfather’s sexual abuse.

I was never looking out for me.

I never had anyone to turn to. In school I was bullied by so many people including people I called my friends. Even my teachers bullied me because in their minds I wasn’t “smart” enough.

I would go home and be abused whether it was sexually, physically or mentally. I would go through everything, and afterward I would pretend I was okay.

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Suicide Prevention Month: Love Letters to Myself

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

love-letter-e1393478060868Walking back to my apartment one night, I passed by the fluorescent lighting of the local hospital. The combination of the sight of the emergency room and the sour, medicinal smell made me remember my suicide attempt in a way that was so visceral, I started shaking, feeling my lungs tighten around my ribcage and wondering when the tears would start.

I will spare the details of my attempt because for some time I hated anyone who knew what happened that night. I hated my friends for calling the EMTs. I hated my college’s crisis counselor for holding my hand in the ambulance. I hated the nurse who gave me crackers when I woke up the next morning in a hospital bed, embarrassed and terrified they would force me to leave school for the rest of the semester.

I wanted to hate myself, too, but they told me not to do that anymore.

I was able to leave the hospital the next morning and go back to school, but not without the pain of being abandoned by friends who believed I was too dramatic. This resulted in my habit of pretending nothing happened at all. The rest of the semester was shaky, filled with constant uncertainty and regular reminders that the word “survivor” now applied to my life.

But I slowly started to learn what it meant to be a person, to be alive. I began to journal. “Dear Self,” the first entry started. “You have been pissing me off a lot lately. No, really. I try to coddle you and make you feel comfortable, and you repay me in panic attacks, suicide attempts, and an inability to leave bed. This letter is your final written warning that I will not put up with your bullshit anymore.”

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Suicide Prevention Month: Combating Stigma with Compassion

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

Active Minds mental health compassionI am currently a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno, majoring in English Creative writing, Philosophy, and Psychology Research. I am finally graduating from my university with all three majors after five years of school and battling my mental health illnesses.

I am a success story, and because of this, I wanted to share my experience.

I think it is important that people continue to change the conversation about mental health because it can help people who struggle, like me, succeed and overcome impossible hurdles to fulfill their goals. I think the most important thing about changing the conversation starts with humanizing the survivors and sufferers and demonstrating how vital it is to show compassion–even in the smallest ways.
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Suicide Prevention Month: A Life Worth Living

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

you are not a burden active minds suicide prevention monthAccording to the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (Van Orden et al., 2010), desires for suicide arise from a combination of perceived burdensomeness (i.e. “the world would be better off without me”) and thwarted belongingness (i.e. “no one will ever truly love or understand me”).

The capability for suicide is a separate, yet crucial factor that interacts with these desires. Where capability is present, there is the most acute, immediate, and serious risk for suicide. However, many people experience persistent desires for suicide without capability for it. That was the case for me for most of my life.

I’ve almost always felt like a burden –which makes sense considering that my father, frustrated that I didn’t have the attributes he had wanted in a child, frequently said I was a burden.

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Suicide Prevention Month: Reasons to Stay

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This post is part of a Suicide Prevention Month blog series. Read the other blogs here.

IMG_1297I am alive.

Some days, this surprises me. I think of all that has happened in the 20.5 years of my life and am shocked to find myself still standing, still breathing, heart still beating. If you asked me a couple years ago if I would live to see 21, I would have laughed in your face. I would have said that my illnesses would probably take me before I even reached 18.

My illnesses are not physical; they are mental. That does not mean that they are any less serious, life-threatening, or difficult. It means that everyday I was fighting a battle against myself. I was at war with my own being and that was difficult on its own.

At age 17, after spending three years trying to balance my eating disorder, depression, borderline personality, anxiety, and self injury alongside of high school and being a “normal” teenager, I decided it was time to give up. I was tired of trying medication after medication. I was tired of going through so many different therapists. I was tired of fighting. I thought that it was never going to get better and that treatment was failing me. I felt hopeless. Continue Reading