Today I went back to therapy. I am now home, and able to return to my work at home.
For a brief moment we talked about the difference between prevention and intervention.
In life, do you start brushing your teeth after you get a cavity? Do you start washing your face after you breakout? Ok- maybe some people do, but ultimately no. You do these things to prevent a certain outcome.
But for some reason- people often forget about preventions when it comes to their mental health. Mental health in its existence, is often forgotten.
Or like many: You wait until an issue blows up before you seek counseling.
In August, I had an intake at the campus counseling center. I wasn't in crisis. I wasn't even nervous about college. But I knew myself and I wanted to seek help before I needed it. I advocated for myself. I was using prevention techniques without even being told to.
Just like that decision, one week from today I emailed my therapist on the car ride home from Boston. I wanted to check-in with her and give myself that reminder that she is there if I need her.
Ok, but besides counseling how can you prevent a fallout with your mental health?
I mentioned to my therapist how I live inside my head. My mind has a mind of its own. I can be a space-case, and concentration can be difficult for me. I have said in previous posts how I struggle with this in my classes, and how it then affects my self-esteem as I tend to punish myself for it. I have learned ways to accommodate for this, though, leaving me less overwhelmed so it is easier to focus.
My therapist asked if anything has been bothering me, (or that I have been anxious about.) I had to think. I realized, I did not have anything. Not a single thing. "Honestly, I've been in a really good place. I just want to keep things this way." I laughed, saying that if I thought too hard about "if" something had been making me anxious, I would only create reasons to be anxious.
Some people may assume that when you've reached this enlightenment or overall content place in your life, that you can say "see ya" and counseling is no longer needed. I have learned that this is one of the best times to go to counseling. The challenge, is finding things to talk about (or vent about), but this way you can listen and build on skills to work on any day despite what current state you're in.
This summer, I am taking a 1 month course, 3 days a week at my local community college in order to get some credits out of the way that go towards my major. My therapist found this as "good timing" weirdly enough. I will have just one course to focus on, and study for, instead of 3 or 4 other courses to follow. With this, I can work on mindfulness this summer with my therapist, and practice skills to use in and out of the classroom.
This is where therapy + prevention come together. You learn skills, not just to get you through the moment, a shitty week, or mid-life crisis. It is recommended you treat these skills as "homework" (many therapists actually give homework) so they can be implemented in your life, and one day these skills won't feel like work- you will just find yourself doing them.
Since I have been doing well, I decided to do counseling every other week instead of every week this summer. We'll see, or maybe I will push it back even more!
Until then I want to create goals for myself that relate to mindfulness strategies. I will start with 3 for now.
Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.
- Teddy Roosevelt
** And a question for crystal using folks, Which type of crystal would you find most suitable for bringing into the classroom? Best for grounding, focus, anxiety..
Please comment or contact :-)
Those who follow my social media may know that I decided to take a break from blogging for a little while.
I got stuck, but I'm working on becoming unstuck.
With everything going on in the world, it is overwhelming.
On top of that, a family member of mine was in the hospital, and I was written down as their power of attorney.
Racing thoughts, mixed emotions, and I hadn't slept for 24 hours, still getting up to go to class..
I didn't know what to think or how to feel because I was feeling and thinking so many things at once.
I spent a few days after feeling lifeless, and sad and just crying often even when I wasn't sure why. I was watching TV with 3 close friends, and all of a sudden I just let some tears fall. I scooted back and rested my head on my friend Amanda's shoulder. In that moment it was all "Are you okay?" "What's wrong?" "Is Haley okay?" I don't like that kind of attention; those needy moments. I like being the happy, silly one. But I was overwhelmed and I just let it happen.
It's hard to talk when you don't understand things yourself. All that you know, is that you hurt.
In these times I pull out my "toolbox" of options. My self care/self help strategies.
The only one I used: Friends. I wasn't alone, I went to the movies, out for dinner, and I had continuous distractions.
Distractions only work for so long, and then you may need to face your problems to fix them.
Writing is my savior. When I'm falling out of place and can not talk much, I turn to writing. In this case, I couldn't even write. I felt lost without words and thought that was a problem. I was then told that it was okay if I couldn't write for now, and that I will feel up to it again. That helped me give myself permission to take a break from writing, instead of putting pressure on myself.
Within that time I still went to my campus counselor, and I was told I did a great job at explaining how I felt, and what was going on. I did okay without writing.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to take those few steps back, and trust that we will get caught up again when we are ready to.
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How is taking a break when you feel stuck a form of self care?
A lot has happened while I have been away.
The Mighty published an article I wrote as a high school senior, and Teen Vogue republished it to their site. During a time when I wasn't writing, my writing was still being shared.
One of the comments:
Your story hit so close to home. You see I have a 14yr old and he has everyday that sounded just like yours. Just tell him he's not alone that there are so many more students that deal w these same things. Thank you for your story, gone to have him read it. It will help him alot to see that what I been saying isn't just MOM saying those words!
It's why I keep doing this. My story, can help others feel less alone.
That same week I went to an information session at the Samaritans in Boston. I have been interested in volunteering at a mental health agency/organization in the area and came across Samaritans.
From the site:
Samaritans has been providing compassionate suicide prevention programs for over 40 years. We have provided caring, non-judgmental support on over 2.5 million calls from our community’s most vulnerable individuals. We have trained over 4,500 volunteers with befriending skills that benefit them, not only in their service on our 24/7 Crisis Services, but also in their ongoing relationships and within their communities. We have provided workshops and trainings on suicide prevention to more than 100,000 individuals in human service organizations, churches and community groups. And we have supported over 10,000 individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide.
After the session, I became interested, and that same night I had an interview where I was told I would do very well there. If all is good with my schedule, I can begin training either September or next February.
I want as much experience as I can so I can be a successful and knowledgable social worker, as well as a better human being in a world where mental health is so prominent.
veryhaleycom I have discovered that every time I throw my hands in the air and smile really really big it creates an extra amount of #happiness 😁🌬☕️ I'm serious, try it, it's fun!
It feels good to be back to blogging. When asked what I did that helped me gain my energy back I really had one true answer. I just needed time. I needed time to take in all that I was feeling, and process it.
This is a speedy world we live in. My message to you is to care for yourselves by slowing down when you need to. It's not quitting, or being lazy. It is a self care act of taking a break to recharge, so you can get back to conquering the world again soon.
As always Ask Haley is available for questions for submission. Questions can be taken anonymously as well.
Thanks for your support!
To start off, I have a perfect excuse to blog over anything else. I got my wisdom teeth removed yesterday and as fun as this is, I'm happy to be covered up in blankets, watching movies, computer on my lap, and snow falling down outside my window.
I am known for carrying self help books on my shelf, pinning wellness hacks on Pinterest, and doing crafts to boost my self esteem. I try to educate myself the best I can to learn new ways that may help myself.
In my dorm at school, I have a book on crystals and their healing power.
The power of energy healing is new to me, and when I first heard of it I did not have much interest in it. Because how much could it really help? Still, the idea intrigued me. I did a lot of research on the 7 chakras, and the influence they have on the human body if there is an imbalance.
This article from yoga.com explains how you can tell if your chakras are blocked.
It had been recommended by many people that I try reiki.
We have had reiki on campus, but I hadn't signed up for it. I was planning on trying it when I returned to campus and finding a reiki master nearby, but then I thought- why wait? Why not try it while I'm home?
My aunt gave me the name of a local reiki healer about 15-20 minutes from my house.
I went online, read her site, her services, and booked the appointment just like that.
I filled out some of my medical history online prior to the appointment as an intake form, and the next day I went for 11:30 am.
When I got there, the lady greeted me in her driveway. "I was surprised to see your age." she said. "I don't usually get too many young people for reiki."
She also said, "I was surprised after reading your medical information too. For a young girl, your cardiovascular history, and hashimotos disease." I laughed, "yeah I'm a grandma."
It made sense for me to be there. It made sense to try it out. My overall health, and my body can get out of wack, and I'm still young. Why not learn these things now? Even if it is "surprising."
She brought me inside and explained exactly what she was going to do. "All it is" she said "is energy." The movement of her hands, the use of a crystal pendulum. I was lying on my backside with a cozy blanket over my legs, and meditative music playing softly in the background. I kept my eyes clothes and tried my best to relax. It wasn't difficult to.
It was weird. I could feel a buzzing sensation over my lips, at times I wasn't sure if she was even touching me, and her hands would get much hotter against some places in my body than others. I had read that would happen.
All it is, is energy. Energy that is already within us, that is in some places in our bodies more than others.
I was incredibly relaxed as the time went on, and very curious to hear what she would say when she was finished.
I almost fell asleep.
She told me when it was time to sit up slowly and I wiped my hair out of my face.
She said that the 2 chakras that were the most blocked, and needed the most time spent were crown and throat.
So what does that mean?
If your Crown Chakra is blocked, you may feel indecisive; worry that your life is meaningless and suffer from depression. Also, this chakra is negatively affected when we get too attached to material things and lose the ability to let go. To start healing, meditate and do more of those things that make you feel peaceful. Learn to think of yourself as a part of the Universe (as opposed to, for example, being a professional belonging to a company).
Blocked Throat Chakra is usually associated with self-expression problems, deception, manipulative communication. The key to healing your fifth chakra is to be honest with yourself and others. Sing, talk to yourself, write a blog - do things that stimulate your ability to communicate with yourself and with the world.
When this was explained to me, it made so much sense. I struggle with self confidence, and self expression. I often hold things inside, and don't say as much as I am thinking.
How can I help this?
I need to have faith in myself.
I need to find ways to express myself. Little did I know that writing is a way to open up your throat chakra as well. To push myself even further I can share my writing with others, read aloud, and get my message across.
It was an interesting experience. These things that I could tell about myself inside, were confirmed by a test of the energy balance inside me.
"Do you worry a lot?" she asked.
I nodded and jokingly gave wide eyes.
"yes, that came up a lot."
Came up a lot?
How? How does this work?
I'm still learning about the practice, and the little adjustments I can make to my lifestyle to improve my overall wellness.
Would I try it again?
Maybe, down the road, yes. It would be interesting to see how things would change.
So whether I had this reiki session or not, I do know I have the same areas to work on.
Faith, and self expression.
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Which will bring me to my next post very soon.
We are all so quick to give advice to others when they open up about the tough stuff.
People don't always take advice very well when they see things from only one point of view.
From experience, when it comes to mental health, do not give advice unless someone asks you for advice.
Don't pretend you understand.
simply be there for support.
"I'm here for you."
"I'm sorry you are going through such a difficult time."
"I'm not leaving."
"I care about you."
"You are so important to me."
Those words can go a long way.
It's hard to know what to say when someone is going through a tough time.
Instead of risking the wrong words, at an attempt to just say something, turn to confirmation of your support first.
During my therapy sessions back home, and my counseling sessions in college I have found that I frequently bring up creative self care ideas. I have my stress ball, but do I pull it out when I really need it? I have my positive quotes, but do I read them? During a walk-in appointment this past week I said, "I almost need to fill a box of self care/ coping techniques so I can just have everything there when I need it." The counselor said, "That's not a bad idea!" I smiled and said, "Oh I know, I'm serious."
"OH I'm great at coming up with ideas to help myself, It's just doing them that is my problem."
I went home for the weekend, and returned to campus with a wooden box that I had found in the craft section of Walmart.
Just by doodling on it in colorful sharpie marker has been zen enough. Coloring is very relaxing for me. Whether it appears "artsy" or not, I just wanted to fill it with color. I'm still working on it.
SO FAR, This is what I have inside:
I haven't had an anxiety breakdown or "crisis moment" since I put it together, but it's all set. I can't always prevent my anxiety attacks. I can only ride them out. Instead of hating myself for them and fighting against them, I can be prepared to care for myself during that time.
My roommate is aware of my "self care kit" as well. I told her to redirect me to the box if I am having a down day, and she is on board.
I find it difficult to always tackle these battles mentally when I am mentally struggling.
I am becoming more knowledgeable and creative about physical plans to make for myself.
Since I've been on campus I have:
She pointed out everything I've been doing right that has shown I have been working against ending up where I was this past year.
She genuinely asked how I have been getting my work done and making it to my classes even with the anxiety I have had these past 2 weeks. I just shrugged, thinking I didn't have a choice. But I did. She looked me in the eye and said, 'I'm serious. You're a rockstar." I laughed a little but it was the mood booster I needed.
I left acknowledging the hard work I've put in, whether it feels hard or not. It felt fun to be called a rockstar, but I'm definitely in agreement that I'm doing okay. I'm liking this "college me." She has grown- big time.
Ok folks, to start I wanted to update you that as of this morning I have been accepted into the Bridge program at my college and will now be leaving 2 weeks earlier !!
Time is going by too fast.
How am I holding up with all of this change?
Weirdly. I would say my mood is "Bob Marley chill", with a burst of anxious what-ifs that eventually show up like a bird hitting a windshield.
But mostly "Bob Marley chill" which is good I guess considering I'm throwing my adolescence at the wind.
So there is a picture I found on the lovely Pinterest this morning. I posted it on my Instagram account and shared it to the blog social media accounts as a #mondaymotivation tag.
It's strange how some things just sound so simple, yet we don't use them.
Of course, I have control over how my day goes (most of the time), I know what makes me happy; So why am I not designing my days to be the best for me?
On my Instagram account I mentioned I would create my own list today (instead of just preaching it to you all.) To make sure I get it done, I am going to do it right here, right now, on the blog!
In my previous posts I wrote a long list of things that make me happy.
I'm sure I can add more now, but I wanted to use a pre-made list as an example.
My average (summer) day is really not that exciting.
I almost don't even want to share my daily list because it is really that uninteresting. BUT, let's make it interesting !
I saved everything from my "happy list" that can be incorporated into my day, any day no matter where I am.
Ok, so clearly I'm easy to please. These may not be "bucket list ideas of extreme happiness" but they are important things to me that make me happy, and a simple and beneficial task would be making sure they fit in with my daily routine.
I did my part :-)
Now it's your turn! What makes YOU happy? How do you want YOUR days to look?
We can all find ourselves in a slump at times.
Slumps can be a pain. No motivation, no hope, just misery. Slumps can be very damaging to your mental health, depending on how you choose to handle them.
When I find myself in a slump I tend to ignore the little things that make me happy and refuse to acknowledge how much those things mean to me. I become grumpy, and stubborn and I go into "sloth mode." I tend to overthink everything in my past, and everything for my future. I find myself in an uncomfortable position with a never-ending "stuck" feeling.
When you feel stuck, you almost find comfort in staying there. You find it much easier to view the bad things in your everyday life, and ignore the good. It is a feeling that is so strong, that you generalize it and you can't imagine when you will be able to feel unstuck again.
But here's the thing.
It is all temporary. Any pain you feel inside; temporary. Any sadness, hopeless feeling; temporary.
We all know "This too shall pass" but that does not seem to matter to us in those terrible awful moments.
What is important is how we get through those times.
I decided to create a "Slump Challenge" for myself, but I am sharing it with you! When I feel stuck and overwhelmed by even the little things, I need to give myself a little boost.
The key with this is keeping it simple. Take everything one step at a time, and don't get discouraged by everything you can't do. Acknowledge the little things you are doing.
Instead of a "challenge" this is more of a list. A list to turn to with ideas, so no matter what..you can see that you are trying.
I'm seventeen. I turn eighteen in 2 months. I'm going to college in the Fall.
And I just had my mom email my teacher for me to alert her of my anxiety before my final presentation.
So here are the thoughts I want to be having:
"I'm pathetic. I can't email my teacher myself, so my mom has to do it for me."
"I can't just suck it up and tackle this, I'm a failure."
But this is what I should be thinking:
"Ok, I know I can do presentations. I have proved it to myself before. My anxiety is just too much for me to handle right now, and that's okay."
"I have every right to reach out for help."
"If I can't do this entirely on my own, it's okay if someone helps me out. It doesn't mean I am incapable of doing all things on my own. Just today, I need some help."
"Hey, I am okay now. My teacher is aware, she knows I may not be able to handle it, so I can breathe now, I don't have to hide anymore."
I get myself too worked up. I have been sobbing for over a week over this stupid presentation. It's for my Foods class. I would be fine reading a powerpoint, but for some reason making something at the front of the class seems terrifying. ON TOP of my social anxiety, my presentation is on my Papa's birthday. The last time I saw him was on his birthday last year. I am flooded with overwhelming emotions.
My mom started to get frustrated with me. "Haley you get yourself so worked up, if you say you would rather take a zero, then do it, I don't care what you do anymore I just want you to calm down."
I took it harshly. I want to be able to do this, doesn't she understand that? I just don't know if I can.
In many ways, though, she was right. If I am crying this hard and hating myself over my anxiety, maybe I should just stop doing this to myself. I just stop pushing myself so hard, and give myself permission to say "I can't."
Social Anxiety is a downright BITCH. Our social life is all around us. We need communication in the real world. When you have a social anxiety disorder and you struggle with little things in your social life, it can cause you to hate and blame yourself.
I grew up being ashamed of myself for the fear I faced in social situations. I grew up believing I was fighting who I was, and "who I was" was "pathetic."
At my age now, I am able to be more vocal about my social anxieties, and speaking up helps me to realize I'm not pathetic, I'm not weak, and I'm not alone. However, I still struggle with asking for help when my anxiety arises, and I still struggle with not blaming myself for my feelings.
This is what I want to point out. 2 Topics:
Social Anxiety does NOT define your overall courage. In fact, having social anxiety does not make you a coward. It can make you feel like one, and that is not okay.
When you are standing in line to order food and you feel your heart racing, or when you are sweating and stuttering during a presentation- you are not being cowardly. Anxiety is plain old discomfort. We tend to blame ourselves when we experience uncomfortable feelings.
Today, my mom needed to help me send an email. That does not judge how I will perform in college, or in life overall.
*When we begin to blame ourselves for our anxieties, we must take a step back.
- acknowledge the small successes in our day (whether it's "hey I got out of bed, I read a chapter in a book, I talked with a friend, I paid at the cash register, etc.")
- reflect upon times when we were proud of ourselves, or others were proud of us
- think hard if you have to, but think of qualities you possess that do show your courage.
Now here's mine:
I am courageous because even though I struggle with social anxiety, and even though I fall apart and breakdown because of it, I try. I may struggle, things may not always be presented perfectly, but I am damn courageous for trying, and trying shows that I am fighting against this bastard battle of mine. I am not quitting on this battle if some days it is too much for me to handle. All that matters, is that I breathe, relax, get back to being me, and pick myself up and start trying again.
OK. Sleep has been a SERIOUS problem since October 2015 for me. I would go a straight 7 days without an ounce of sleep. Since then, it has been better. My anxiety has decreased which has helped A LOT, but my sleep pattern is still a mess. Lately it has become an issue again. I haven't been grumpy, or overemotional, if anything I am so overtired that I laugh at basically anything even if I don't know why I am laughing. Besides my humor in my daily life, the lack of sleep is a major pain in the butt. I get tired by 5:00pm, in bed by 8:00pm like a grandma, but then spend 3+ hours just trying to turn my brain off. Once I do fall asleep, I wake up around 2:00am with my mind racing again. Sometimes I can go back to sleep, but not all times.
It is not healthy for me to be taking melatonin, or Z-Quil every single night. Part of the problem as well is my constant need to scroll through my cell phone that is under my pillow.
I'm going to try something different here. Instead of just looking up funny insomnia quotes and alerting the world I am 4 days past my bedtime, I am going to try and change up my routine.
Instead of making this a "chore", I will try to think of it as my "zen." I will think of bedtime as MY time to relax and clear my mind as much as possible.
As a teenager, a consistent sleeping schedule just doesn't happen. I need to find a way to make this work. I am coming up with a routine to "test-drive" as I am typing. In 1 week, the night Memorial Day ends, I will record any noticeable changes from this week's adjustments. That is what's great about beginning on a Monday!
My Afternoon/Night time Routine Plan:
Alrighty! We will see how this goes. I'm not quite following my technology rule tonight considering the current time, however, I am going to make myself read in bed tonight instead of scrolling through my phone.
Wish me luck!! I will do a blog post for a sleep update next Tuesday to see if my tiny changes have made a big difference.
I have 2 skills i am trying to work on.
They both can go along with each other, but they are also quite different.
I tend to focus on 1000 worries all at once. You can not decide to not worry in general when you have valid reasons, but you can choose what worries are rational and separate the ones that are irrational.
Example: Just this past week i was crying all day long about a presentation i knew i had the next day. Not only was i stressing about something the day before it even occurred, i was also generalizing that worry. If I can't handle a presentation in high school how can i handle them in college? Or a job? An interview? I will always be this socially anxious mess.
So now my presentation worry became worrying about my future capabilities.
What should i have done?
Well, i should not relate things together so easily. Me struggling about one thing, does not mean i will struggle with every single one to come after that.
I should have just breathed. I should have talked to someone (earlier) about my concern, so it would not take up the innocent day before the event.
Today: Avoiding specific details, but i was texting someone during school and things that were being said were making me uncomfortable. The conversation was about graduation. I was stressing over the situation and the person's intended actions.
I chose to take a step back. I was having a good day. Is this a valid worry to consume me right now? I put the worry aside. No, i shall continue to have a great day. Graduation is 2 months away. I need to focus on now.
In therapy a while back we discussed my "therapy box." I put my future concern in my therapy box, and i will close it for now, and open it when it is valid to discuss.
My other skill i am trying so very hard to work on (and not doing too well.) I realize that i spend 99% of my time focusing on either the future or the past. I do not recall a day where i didn't turn my brain towards a past or future worry, and just simply stayed in the moment.
To do this, you have to very much be in tune with your senses.
As I was driving to school today i was feeling the warm air against my hands. I was feeling the texture of the steering wheel. I was listening to the song on the radio, and i did not let my mind go elsewhere. I chose a sense and stuck with it.
A question as simple as "what did you do this weekend?" is very difficult for me to answer. Unless it is something i worried about, i have zero memories of the little things.
That's sad. How is that living my life if i am skipping forward in control instead of moving with the flow?
Writing is very helpful. I am here. I am focusing on the now. I can write about the past or future but in the present i am feeling the keys and hearing the tapping sound.
I shall work on this. If I'm going to live, i might as well make it meaningful.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.