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Monday, December 15, 2014

(Unconventional) Ways To Cope With Depression

Photo by keeva999 via Flickr
There are a lot of people out there offering advice on how to cope with Depression. With all of the different techniques that you can try to relieve the symptoms of your Depression, how do you decide which ones to use?

The coping techniques that you should use are the ones that work for you. Kind of a no-brainer, right? What I mean is that just as each of our Depression experiences are unique, so too are the coping techniques that will work for us.

The majority of the advice out there pertaining to coping with Depression includes things like eating healthy, exercising, sleeping well, and using relaxation and meditation techniques. In all honesty, when I was in the midst of one of my darkest episodes of Depression, none of the standard advice was helpful (or even do-able). Exercise, eat right, and sleep regularly? Yeah, right! 

Now I’m not saying that this is bad advice. Some of the advice out there is great, and maybe it works for some people. But for me, it was as if the people giving this advice didn’t understand that when you’re spiralling out of control into a deep, dark place (called Depression), you can’t do any of the things that will make you happy.

So, here’s what I did: I did what I felt would make me feel better. I didn’t force myself to do the things that I was “supposed” to do to feel better. I did what I wanted to do.

Here is my go-to list of coping techniques that helped me through some severe episodes of Depression:

1.    Cry
2.    Sleep
3.    Eat comfort food
4.    Watch Sex and the City re-runs (or Dexter, or Family Guy…)
5.    Find yourself a helpful mantra or affirmation (mine is THIS TOO SHALL PASS)
6.    Hug or pet your cat (or dog, or bird, or snake…)
7.    If you don’t have a pet, get yourself a nice blankie (I have about 7)
8.    Reach out to someone
9.    Be kind to yourself
10. Write

I did (and still do) all of these things. Yes, sometimes they only offer a second or two of relief, but it's enough to break up the constant pain and misery of being Depressed. These things work for me, and I hope they work for you too.

What are some of your coping techniques?

Don’t forget that someone you may know may be suffering from Depression or Mental Illness in silence. Share this post throughout your social media networks, because you just never know who may need to see it.

Much love,


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top 3 Expressive Therapeutic Writing Tips

Photo by Julie Jordan Scott via Flickr
In my last post, I gave you a taste of the history and benefits of Expressive Therapeutic Writing. My hope is that those of you who read that post have developed an interest in writing, and perhaps you may be wondering how to get started. Lucky for you, I am extremely passionate about writing and am sort of a self-proclaimed expert.

Many writers talk about needing to be inspired to write. Well, so do I. But my inspiration is slightly different than the average writer’s. My inspiration comes from within. When it comes to Expressive Therapeutic Writing, what inspires me is the need to express myself. Whether it's good, bad, or ugly, I can tell when I need to write. No matter what it is that I am feeling, writing offers me an outlet to express that feeling. This has proven to be very calming for me, and when I am calm, I can deal with whatever is on my mind.

Writing can give you a sense of relief, it can clear your head, it can give you a voice, and it can help you understand. Whatever your reason for wanting to write, I know that you have the potential to benefit from it. So, how can you tap into these benefits?

Here is a list of my top 3 writing tips (in no particular order):

1. Write now!

As soon as you have the urge to write, do it! Keep a journal or notebook beside your bed, in the living room, in your desk at work, and anywhere you spend a lot of time. That way, as soon as you need to get a thought out of your head, you can do so with ease.

2. Write often.

On that note, make sure you write on a regular basis. If you let your emotions build up without releasing them, you will run the risk of hampering your creativity. With all of those thoughts milling about in your head, you are bound to feel confused and lose your desire to write. But, if you write regularly, you will avoid that buildup all together.

3. Write freely.

Don't worry about spelling and grammar (yet)! If you are writing for yourself, then spelling and grammar and all that fun stuff isn't necessary. If you plan to pursue publishing your writing, then this is a step that will come much later. Unless you plan to use your very first draft as your final manuscript, then don't worry about it!

For even more tips, stay tuned for my free download (coming soon)!

What are your top tips for Expressive Therapeutic Writing? I would love to hear about them!

Please comment on this post and spread the word!

Much love,

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Expressive Therapeutic Writing

When I began writing poetry, I had no intention of ever sharing my work. It was for my eyes only. Writing was my therapy when I couldn’t find the help I needed, and nothing I did seemed to work. Recently, I began to wonder about the science behind it. Why has something as simple as writing been such an essential outlet for me during my darkest hours? Is writing something that might be as useful to others as it was to me? 
Photo by Denise Krebs via Flickr
In an effort to satisfy my curiosity, I have done quite a bit of research on this topic. I would like to share some of this research in order to encourage others to give it a shot.

While terms such as “expressive writing,” “journalling,” “writing therapy,” and “therapeutic writing” are often used inter-changeably, I have chosen to use the term “Expressive Therapeutic Writing”. For me, Expressive Therapeutic Writing involves using the written word, in any form, to relieve the negative symptoms that you are experiencing. This could mean pouring your feelings into poetry, writing short stories with an uncanny resemblance to your life, or recording your thoughts and feelings in a journal. In my opinion, Expressive Therapeutic Writing is much like Depression: it looks and acts differently for everyone.

Many people who write on this topic credit James Pennebaker for pioneering the study of Expressive Therapeutic Writing. He stated that "when people transform their feelings and thoughts about personally upsetting experiences into language, their physical and mental health often improves" (source). In other words, when you can put into words, or onto paper, whatever it is that is troubling you, you will usually experience a relief from symptoms.

So, how does this work? Well, like most scientific inquiries, there is no conclusive answer. While researchers don’t know exactly why it helps, they do know that it is likely a combination of many different theories and factors. In my experience, and as far as science can tell, putting confusing or troubling thoughts into words (and onto paper) can help you make sense of a situation, identify what might be causing you distress, and define what you need and want to find relief (source).

For example, I often find myself feeling troubled without really knowing why. It is almost always helpful for me to write down my thoughts, step away, and then re-visit what I have written to try and find out what is troubling me. I might not be able to figure it all out right away, but writing it all down usually gets me on the right track. I also find that writing is very cathartic. While most research debates this, I know that it is a relief for me to take all the negative shit out of my head and put into onto paper. It’s almost like I’m taking out the trash, only mentally.

Long story short, the research doesn’t have much to say about why writing has been such an outlet for me. It does, however, reassure me that the benefits that I experience from writing are real. They aren’t imagined, and they don’t live in my head. 

The beauty of Expressive Therapeutic Writing is that it doesn’t need to make sense. There doesn’t need to be theories and explanations behind it. It works for me, and that’s enough. I hope it can work for you too!

Here are some other great resources on the topic of Expressive Therapeutic Writing:

Did you find this interesting or helpful? I would love to get your feedback! Comment on this post, and share with your friends!

Wondering how you can tap into the benefits of Expressive Therapeutic Writing? Stay tuned for my next blog post, “Top 3 Expressive Therapeutic Writing Tips”!

Much love,
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Confessions of a Hypocrite

I have to confess something. And it’s not easy for me to do. But, here goes nothing.

I have never engaged in regular therapy or counselling.

Photo by John Hain via Flickr
There, I said it. It’s out there. Feel free to judge me.

I did connect with a counsellor over the phone once, through my dad’s EAP benefits. I was young and terrified. I was confused about what was going on inside my head. And this woman was awful. She minimized my concerns and silenced my voice. Needless to say, I didn’t call again.

About a year later (I think), I connected with another counsellor in my hometown. She was nice. I met with her 3 or 4 times. She helped me come to a few realizations. Then, for whatever reason, I stopped going. At the time, I probably blamed it on my busy schedule. I was in school and working a meaningless job, both full time.

If I were you, I would be questioning me. My credibility. My stability. My expertise. Who the hell am I to tell you, or anyone, about Depression? About therapy and counselling? About how to cope?

I don’t really know why I’ve never gotten help.

Have I been afraid of what I might find? Have I been afraid to look at myself? Have I been afraid or unwilling to do the work to get better? Have I been skeptical of the potential benefits of therapy? For fuck sakes, I went to school to become a counsellor and practically dedicated my life to the profession. And I haven’t even done the work myself. How can I sit here and tell other people what it’s like and what they should do to help themselves? I’m a fucking hypocrite.

Maybe I just never thought I deserved to get help. I always had a sneaking suspicion that all of the pain and misery I lived with every single day was deserved. I used to joke that I must have been Hitler in a past life to deserve this suffering. With that in mind, maybe I just thought this was my burden to bear. I thought I wasn’t worthy of wellness and happiness.

I think it’s time. I think it’s time that I break down this last bit of the wall that I was holding onto for dear life. It’s time to allow myself to access the means to get better. It’s time to get help.

The first step will be getting my blood work done, and following up on the results with my new Family Doctor. Then, incorporating some supplements into my diet (like iron and vitamin D). Then… finding a therapist.

It’s time for a new adventure. And fuck, I’m scared. 

What have been your experiences with therapy or counselling? Share and comment below.

Much love,
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Depression Is Not Being Able To Let Shit Go

If you search “Depression” on Google, I can guarantee that the majority of the search results will have something to do with the question “what is Depression?” This seems silly to me, as Depression does not look or feel the same for any two people. And even if it was the same for everyone, what would defining Depression do for us? Would it help non-Depressed people understand us? Would it help clinicians diagnose us? Would it offer us any kind of relief? I don’t think so.

***That’s not to say that I don’t believe in the value of diagnosis. In fact, being diagnosed with Depression (even by a shitty almost retired family doctor who didn’t care about my suicidal ideation) gave me an incredible sense of relief and hope for my future.***

If I had to define Depression, I would likely get overwhelmed and have a panic attack. I simply could not do it. For me, Depression is different every day. Every minute, even. But I can tell you about the bits and pieces that make up my Depression.

Photo by Live Life Happy via Flickr
One of the biggest (and often times worst) component of my Depression is not being able to let shit go. I am the Queen of obsessing over something that happened or that I did, to the point of insanity. I’m talking being completely consumed by it. For example, I had an unfortunate misunderstanding with my landlords a few years ago, which resulted in me (and my partner at the time) being forced to make a midnight move. Now, for most people, this would definitely be a shitty situation, and would undoubtedly cause some significant stress, anxiety, etc.

But for me, this event sent me spiralling into a nose dive. After enduring the actual ordeal of moving in the middle of the night, I should have re-grouped within a few days. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t move on. I thought about it all day, every day. I didn’t eat or sleep. I could barely leave the house. I was terrified to run into the landlords in the hallway. I had multiple panic attacks every day. And there was just no reason for it. It was crippling, debilitating. It almost resembled paranoia. I was paranoid that the landlords hated me and were out to get me. I was paranoid that I would see them in the hall and they would yell at me. It‘s funny how anxiety and paranoia seem to mimic each other.

(Note: This was also before I was diagnosed and began taking medication.)

I don’t remember how I finally overcame it. In time, I suppose, I simply slipped back into my old, regularly Depressed self. However, even now, with having my diagnosis and taking my medications as prescribed, I still experience this. It can be devastating. 

I don't know if this is an issue that is unique to me and my Depression, or if other people experience this as well. But it is definitely a huge part of my struggle with Depression.

What is Depression for you?

Keep reading to find out more about the bits and pieces that make up my Depression. Share and comment below.

Much love,
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My View On Medications (For Depression)

Some people say “I don’t believe in medication.” That is a ridiculous statement, because medication exists, regardless if you believe in their proposed benefits/effects. But that’s just me being a technical word snob.

This post is not meant to demean anyone or their opinion on the subject, and it is not endorsed or sponsored by any type of pharmaceutical company. This is about my personal opinion of the proposed benefits of medication for mentally ill individuals. Ugh, I hate that term, “mentally ill.”

But, I digress.

For now, let me focus on anti-depressants. It’s what I know personally.
Photo by e-Magine Art via Flickr
There are some people out there who truly believe that anti-depressants are not necessary, or they act as a placebo, or they give people a “crutch”. While I won’t speak for anyone else, I can tell you in all honesty that anti-depressants saved my life. Not in the sense that they stopped me from committing suicide (because I don’t know if I ever really wanted to or would have gone through with it if I did want to), but because they allowed me to live my life.

Let me give you some context here. When I was 14 years old, I realized that something was wrong. All of my friends at school seemed like happy, normal people (which I later learned was not necessarily true). And then there was me. I never smiled or laughed, because I had no reason to. I was cynical, pessimistic. I was also really sad, all the time. Now, this wasn’t just your run of the mill teenage angst. I was extremely sad, all the time. I had no energy. All I wanted to do was sleep. I used to drag myself out of bed in the morning, get ready, and walk halfway to school, to my friend Dan’s house. At first, I would try to wake him up to go to school. Then I just stopped trying, and would crawl into bed with him to sleep the day away (don’t worry, he’s gay).

This was also one of my first experiences with the all-encompassing obsession over something small.

I was dating my first boyfriend, my first love, and he lived an hour away. This was my first taste of the dating world, and I quickly realized that there was more than one guy I liked. I had been talking and flirting with another guy, and I felt awful. When I couldn’t take the guilt anymore, I told my boyfriend about it. Naturally, he was upset, and wanted his space. Now, from what I have learned, this should have been something that a normal teenage girl would have been upset about, sure, but not to the extent that I was. I was living in a black hole. It was all I could think about, all I could talk about. I couldn’t eat, or sleep, or go to school. My only comfort was sleeping in my parents’ bed, reading old horse magazines to distract myself. I couldn’t be alone during the day, so my mother took me to my grandparents’ house. This was clearly not healthy.

These anomalies developed into patterns. At first, I thought it might be seasonal Depression (more on this later). I seemed to be alright from late summer, through the fall, and through the winter. But, when spring came around, I spiralled, big time. So, I thought, I get depressed in the spring. I began to wonder if I was getting depressed in the spring because that’s when my first episode happened. Weird, but I could live with that.

After a few years, it became evident that it wasn’t just during the spring. It was all the time. Every minute of every day, I was sad. I couldn’t cope with even minor negative events. My doctor and my mom suggested taking Vitamin D supplements. I didn’t notice a difference. My mom suggested I get some sunshine, so I forced myself to sit outside and cry in the sun. No difference. I spoke to my doctor countless times, and each time he told me to take Vitamin D. Finally, I stopped trying. I figured I would just have to live with this demon. But how could I? I wasn’t really living. I was simply existing.

Finally, years later, after (or was it during?) a particularly awful breakup, I went to see my doctor. I told him, yet again, what my symptoms were, and he advised me, yet again, to try taking Vitamin D. That’s when I broke down. I was sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t believe that he still didn’t take me seriously, or just didn’t care. At last, I was able to compose myself enough to tell him that if I ended up dead, it would be my blood on his hands. Finally, he agreed that I might be suffering from Depression, and agreed to prescribe me an anti-depressant. It saved my life.

Within a month, I was seeing improvements. Contrary to popular belief, the anti-depressants didn’t turn me into a zombie, and they weren’t simply “happy pills.” They allowed me to cope with everyday living. They allowed me to feel the sunshine again. They allowed me to feel at peace.

So, for those of you out there who don’t “believe” in medications that address mental health concerns, how else would you explain all of this?

What's your opinion of medications for Depression? Share and comment below.

Much love,
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Monday, August 18, 2014

When Depression Feels Like Drowning

source unknown
Sometimes, as someone who is extremely sensitive to pain and suffering, I find an image that I can’t let go of, no matter what I do. This is one of those images.

I came across this image while doing some research for the redesigning of the title page for “and the lilies fall still”.  This is simply a woman who is just below the surface of water, with the bright sky and clouds swirling above her. I can only imagine the events leading up to and following the capture of this image, and I assume that this varies from person to person. The way I relate to and interpret this image is that this woman has fallen into a blue abyss. She doesn’t struggle or fight to break the surface. She simply accepts her place. She can see the sky through the clear blue water, the brightness, the possibilities, and the life she could have. But she doesn’t reach for it. She accepts her existence in the blue abyss, and waits for the day when she can finally breathe again.

For me, this image is Depression. This is how it felt for me. It was as if I could see the possibility of living a happy life, and all I had to do was break the surface of that water. But I didn’t. I don’t want to say that I couldn’t, because I don’t think that I tried. And people judged me, and blamed me for not trying. It wasn’t that I couldn’t break the surface; it was that I couldn’t try.

It took all of my strength, in fact it took more strength than I thought I had, just to get up every day, go to school, go to work, and crawl back in to bed. It was a living hell. They were right, I wasn't trying. But they didn't understand that I couldn't. I wanted to, I really did. I just couldn't.

Now, to end on a positive note, that was several years ago. Thanks to modern medicine and a select few people in my life, I now have the strength to try. And that’s all that I needed.

What does Depression feel like for you? Share and comment below.

Much love,

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Share My Depression Story

Often people ask me why I share my experiences with Depression. There is still so much stigma around mental illness that people are shocked when I willingly and freely discuss my own experiences with it. They assume that I am ashamed of it, and that I should hide it away from the world. I disagree.

When I was going through the darker times in my life, I felt alone. On top of dealing with the actual Depression, I lived with the belief that there was something wrong with me, and that everyone else was “normal”. It was a crushing, lonely feeling. Now I know that Depression is extremely common, and that there are many others out there like me. My hope is to reach even one person who finds comfort in knowing that they aren’t alone.

Even with all of the facts, the media ads, and the movements to end the stigma of mental illness, people still ostracize and shun those of us living with mental illness. I still can’t figure out why. Is it because they don’t understand mental illness? Is it because they have never experienced it? Is it because they’re afraid they will catch it like a virus?

I came across a picture the other day that really hit home with me. What if we treated people with physical illness in the same way that we treated people with mental illness? 

Take a look:

Photo via Imgur
How ridiculous is this? The sad thing is, it’s true. Mental illness needs to be taken more seriously. We can’t keep living in a world that ignores mental illness. The first, and most important step, is to educate yourself. Chances are, if you haven’t experienced mental illness, then you know nothing about it. There are tons of resources online that will give you an idea about what mental illness is, what causes it, and what it looks like. The next step is to just keep an open mind.

Sometimes, someone living with mental illness is no different from you than someone who has a different skin colour, or speaks a different language. Would you treat them the same way that you treat someone with mental illness? Likely not.

I share my Depression story in order to educate others, to give hope to those like me, and to give a voice to those who haven't yet found their own.

Much love,
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Monday, July 21, 2014


Photo by Nathan via Flickr
and thanks for visiting my blog!

I don't want to bore everyone with a long winded, rambling first blog post (there will be plenty of those in the future) so I will attempt to keep this one short and sweet. This is my first serious attempt at public blogging, so please be gentle and patient with me. 

So who the hell am I and why should you read my blog?

I have decided to start this blog in order to share my Depression story. I have been living with Depression since I was 14 years old. I have experienced excruciating lows, panic attacks, never-ending anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and plenty of the other fun symptoms of Depression. But, I have also experienced relief from these hellish ordeals. I am currently quite stable and in a good place, where I am able to think back on my experiences so far without being triggered. I want to take this opportunity to share my experience with others, both good and bad. If you are living with Depression or any other mental illness, you should read my blog to find resources, anecdotes, coping strategies, and much more.

OK, great, so what is this blog REALLY about?

This blog is about Depression for the most part, but also mental illness and recovery in general. In addition to being a mental health "consumer", I also work in the field. This presents me with many opportunities to learn, to change my ways of thinking, and to develop opinions about controversial and non-controversial topics. This blog is about my personal and professional experiences and thoughts regarding Depression and mental health.

Oh, I get it. So who is this blog for?

This blog is for anyone living with or without Depression or any other mental illness. This blog is for anyone who has ever felt unable to cope. This blog is for me, 2 years ago. This blog is for you.

Why on Earth are you sharing such a personal experience with strangers?

My goal for this blog is to share my Depression story with the world, in hopes of motivating, de-isolating, comforting, educating, and making people laugh. I am not looking for fame or fortune. During the lowest points of my Depression, all I ever wanted was a break from it all, even if it was only for 10 seconds. I never got that break. If I can do that for one person, and ease their pain, if only for a moment, then I will have achieved my goal.

Again, welcome, and thank you for visiting my blog! Please feel free to explore, and don't hesitate to contact me any time.

Much love,
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