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A Creative Alternative to Self-Harm That Actually Works

Self-harm is not something I talk about often, however, it is part of my past and my journey living with bipolar disorder. I can tell you that it was not a cry for help. No one noticed, and the majority of those who are closest to me will find out through this post that it even happened. I believed cutting would release the pain, almost as if it was trapped in my body and needed a way to escape. Therapists used to give me a list of coping skills that lasted for a day and then ended because they did not work. Take five deep breaths and count to ten! The main issue with these types of techniques was that I could not visually see the progress.

Coping with art is something I genuinely believe works and encourage when it comes to living with a mental illness. There is something about seeing what you have written created that gives you a sense of pride even though it may not wholly take away the internal pain. I believe it reminds you of your color in those moments when darkness takes its place. Drawing instead of cutting is an alternative to self-harm that has been gaining popularity over the last couple years. In my opinion, it is a technique that works, and there is proof to justify it’s success in helping people who struggle with self-harm.

The Twitter Pic That Went Viral

Amelia Hall painted Vincent van Gogh’s “Cafe Terrace At Night” instead of self-harming and shared the picture on Twitter which ended up going viral. Amelia is 18 years old and lives with depression. She has been self-harming for years, but one day decided to turn her pain and urge to cut into art. It took three hours to finish the masterpiece on her leg. In an interview with The Independent, Amelia explains, “Painting helped me realize that there are far less destructive methods of coping with depression that self-harm. I wanted to create something positive.” Amelia and the photo have inspired many individuals around the world to utilize this alternative.

The Butterfly Project

I wrote about The Butterfly Project when I first started this blog. It is an initiative in mental health focused on providing a unique coping technique for individuals struggling with self-harm. Those who struggle with self-harm are encouraged to draw a butterfly in the area they feel the urge to cut, and naming it after a loved one or a person who wants them to get better. It’s a blog that gives followers the opportunity to submit pictures of their butterfly, share their story and reveal the positive impact it has had on their lives.

I can tell you from experience, self-harm never did anything except make my pain visible in a devastating way. Our scars are part of our struggle; our struggle is rooted in our success. Get the help you need to live the life you deserve. No storm lasts forever. Reach out or check out resources such as the non-profit organization, Self-Injury Outreach and Support.

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Life with Schizophrenia: A Letter to My Younger Self

Article By: Greyon Fernandes

As my 24th birthday approaches marking the end of my adolescence, I thought I’d reflect on the grimmest but strongest years of my life.

Dear 16-year-old Greyon,

It hurts me to no end when I realise how young you were when it all began. A large part of your adolescence was stolen. Maybe on some level I’m trying to console myself by preparing you for the future. However, I know this isn’t possible. No one’s ever prepared for psychosis. Nothing can prepare them for what awaits.

Those blinding migraines you’re experiencing as you try to study for your final exams, those are symptoms of the onset of schizophrenia. So, take those naps, little cherub. You’re not weak for doing so.

You’re going to become a recluse. At first because of a lack of motivation but later due to the paranoid ideology that your mind was being read and controlled. That girl whom you really care for, you’re going to miss her granny’s funeral. That girl whom you don’t care for, you’re going to miss her granny’s funeral as well. That sweet guy who used to drive you places, you’re going to ignore catching up with him at the bus stop. That driven girl who used to take you on adventures, you’re going to avoid her invitations. As you heal, you’ll realise that it’s never too late to make amends. Those who care about you will understand the same.

Your mind is going to be saturated with thoughts that originate from the depths of hell. You’re going to hear things and feel things that are not there. This cruellest of disorders is going to eviscerate your love of children. This is going to result in fights, hospital admissions and slit wrists. In hindsight, it couldn’t have happened to a more fitting person. You’ve always been the epitome of strength.

You’re going to mistake your best friend, your brother, for your enemy. When the marriage equality referendum arrives, something you hold so close to your heart, you’re going to be too plagued with thoughts to vote. You’re going to envy your peers who are progressing academically while you experience turmoil. Chin up, little cherub and understand that the labyrinth that you’ve waded through comes with no accreditation. No PhD can compare to it. At best, it’s met with respect and compassion.

And as for the luck of the Irish, well little cherub, if you flick back through your history book you’ll realise that it’s non-existent. So, maybe you’re more Irish than you think.

Lastly, little cherub, you are going to be inexorably tested. The torture. It’s worse than GITMO. After all, it’s coming from within. It’s why the caged bird can’t sing. However, you see life as an adventure and an experience. You don’t allow yourself any regrets. Go boldly, baby.

Love Always,

Grey.

About the author of, Life with Schizophrenia: A Letter to My Younger Self:Greyon Fernandes is a 23 year old college student from Dublin Ireland.Greyon Fernandes is a 23 year old college student from Dublin Ireland.

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‘Van Gogh Is Bipolar’ Cafe: How a Restaurant Explores and Empowers People with Bipolar

I jumped from the couch spilling cereal all over my shirt reaching for my computer both excited and in disbelief when I saw my moms text message, “Must check out this restaurant-Van Gogh is Bipolar!” A small restaurant located in the Philippines named after Vincent van Gogh and designed to capture features of a bipolar mind.

These are the stories of people living with bipolar disorder that get left out of the mainstream media. These are the stories that could one day create a much larger platform for individuals living with mental illness to feel empowered by what makes them different. I have spent the last couple days gathering information about this restaurant, but to start for those of you who are curious about Van Gogh’s connection to bipolar disorder let me explain.

The Connection Between Bipolar and Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was a Post-Impressionist painter who is considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time. He is known to have over 2,100 works of art which include oil paintings, watercolor, self-portraits and various drawings and sketches. His artwork illustrates his eccentric personality, however also his emotional battle with mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. He endured many psychotic episodes which became more frequent towards the end of his life. One of his most famous paintings, The Starry Night, was designed during his time at Saint-Paul de Mausole, a psychiatric hospital in France, from May 1889 to May 1890. Tragically, Van Gogh’s mental stability only worsened and in July 1890, at the age of 37 years old, he committed suicide. It has been 128 years since Van Gogh’s death, yet he still lives on through his artwork.

The Van Gogh is Bipolar Restaurant

Van Gogh is Bipolar is a restaurant located in Quezon City, the Philippines. Jetro Rafael is the owner, head chef, and mastermind behind the restaurant. He also lives with bipolar disorder. Rafael was encouraged by those around him to expand on his mood-altering dishes made from all natural ingredients that he now creates to share with the lucky customers who come to his restaurant.

Although the restaurant is highly praised for its cuisine, its the experience and atmosphere of Van Gogh is Bipolar that leaves an everlasting impact on visitors. It seems to capture the taste buds, hearts and minds of patrons. I imagine that Van Gogh is Bipolar is Rafael’s visual look into his bipolar mind, and how he perceives the world around him.  Like Rafael’s restaurant and Van Gogh’s artwork, it is not only meant to be seen; it is intended to be felt.

The Experience

It’s a small restaurant, seating around 15 customers. Before entering, visitors are asked to take off their shoes. The menu dishes and drinks are uniquely named after famous bipolar personalities such as the Virginia Woolf’s Tear’s drink, the Axle Rose Egg Shot, Mel Gibson’s Darkest Sin, Courtney Loves Potion of the Day and Larry Flynt’s Cabbage Surprise, to name a few. Artwork, clocks, and trinkets that Rafael has collected over the years give the restaurant an unconventional look.

The Red Graffiti Wall is a sitting area where visitors have the option to mark the deep red walls with their thoughts and feelings. The Dark Room, located near the washroom, is where customers also have the opportunity to write their deep dark secrets. The Tea Bar offers a variety of teas from unique and antique teapots. Looking at the pictures and reading the reviews it reminds me of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in “Alice and Wonderland.”

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20 Inspiring Quotes for People with a Mental Illness

When I am too low or too high or insecure about the things that make me different in this world, the one thing that always seems to speak to me, no matter the mood, is quotes and poems. A collection of words, so elegantly put together, that they inspire those of us who can feel them the deepest, and need them the most.

The things that make us different-those are our superpowers. -Lena White
My scars tell a story. They are a reminder of the times when life tried to break me, but failed. They are markings of where the structure of my character was welded. -Steve Maraboli

Just let go. Let go of how you thought your life should be, and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness. -Caroline Myss
I shall take my pain and turn it into beauty so blinding the stars will dim, the sun will fall, and even the heavens will weep. -Nicole Lyons

After the aching has stopped and the tears have dried up, this is where you begin again. This is where you pick yourself up off the floor, put your heart back in your chest, and dare to put one foot in front of the other. -Kayil York
It’s ok if you fall down and lose your spark. Just make sure that when you get back up, you rise as the whole damn fire. -Colette Werden

There’s no need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections. -Ziad K. Abdelnour
My dark days made me strong. Or maybe I already was strong, and they made me prove it.  -Emery Lord

What matters most is how well you walk through the fire. -Charles Bukowski
Do not lose hope, please believe that there are thousands of beautiful things waiting for you. Sunshine comes to all who feel rain. -R.M. Drake

Arise in hope, my darling. Arise in beauty, dear one. You are anything but ordinary. -Kayil Crow
Never apologize for burning too brightly or collapsing into yourself every night-that is how galaxies are made. -Tyler Kent White

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s not about how we fall, the way we fall, or how hard we fall. It’s about how we get back up, it’s how we rise, and how we get back on our feet. -Kayil Crow
Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow. -Vincent van Gogh       
The people who consider you weak have not yet noticed the wolf hiding behind your eyes, nor the flames inside your soul. Let them think you are weak and do what wolves and fire do best. Surprise them when they least expect it. -Nikita Gill             

No matter how dark it gets, the signs will always provide you with directions of which way you need to go. Stay strong and continue down the road even if there is no light. -Zachry K Douglas
My darling, You are only human, and you are allowed to make mistakes. You are allowed to fall apart sometimes. You are allowed to hurt and feel pain too much. You are allowed to ache and get jealous. Be easy on yourself, and let yourself grow. Let yourself learn. Let yourself be. You are only human, and you are allowed to make mistakes. -Nikita Gill

Never be afraid to fall apart because its an opportunity to rebuild yourself the way you wish you had been all along. -Rae Smith
The storm that was sent to break you, is going to be the storm that God uses to make you. -Unknown

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Want to Start a Mental Health Instagram Account? Heres How to Do It

You want to become a mental health influencer and create an account on Instagram, but do not know where to begin? Don’t worry, you are not alone! When I published my blog, and created an Instagram account for it, I was in the exact same boat. Advocates are utilizing Instagram to talk about mental health, because it is dedicated to users who want to spread awareness about issues that matter. You have a voice, a story and a unique message that deserves to be shared. Once you’ve created it, make sure to message me on my Instagram so I can follow! So lets get started!

Create Profile @NameYourAccount

Coming up with a a catchy name for your account profile is an important step. Look up other mental health influencers on Instagram to get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Always check to see if the account name you’ve come up with is taken. Here are a couple more tips:

  • Consider using your name or the name of your website/blog if you already have one.
  • Connect words related to mental health, social justice, self-love and positivity to your objective or your name. Words like mindfulness, mindset, mind, inspiration, hope, truth, empower, influencer, authentic, honest, advocacy, influencer etc. 
  • Consider using your condition within your account name (@bipolarmomlife@anxietysupport, @ptsdjournalmag, @beatingeatingdisorders).
Bio

The Bio is a brief description box that gives users an idea of who you are and the purpose of your account.

  • Who are you? A Mental Health Advocate, A Yogi, A Wellness Blogger, A Body Postive Advocate etc.
  • What is the point of this account? Spreading awareness about mental health, Sharing inspiration and coping skills, Sharing my life with ____(anxiety, depression, ocd, ptsd, bipolar) etc.
Utilize the Link in bio

If you have your own blog, YouTube channel, or any other online platform definitely utilize the part of your profile where you can place the link. Go to “Edit Profile” and add your link to “Website.” Also in the “Bio” section, let people know the link is there ie. “Click link below to check out my____.”

Switch from “Personal Profile” to “Instagram Business Profile”

In my opinion, I would switch to “Instagram Business Profile.” Go to your profile, and under “Settingsand make the switch from a personal to business.

What Type of Mental Health Content Do I Want to Post?

Figuring out what type of content to post is totally up to you, but have a general idea before starting an account.There are many different types of content to post–quotes, personal stories, imagery, tips, video clips (1:00 minute long) etc. You don’t have to stick to one specific type, in fact it is better if you mix it up a bit. My account is a mix of quotes, artwork, video clips, and imagery all relating to mental health.

Mental health is colorful, deep and personal. It is important that you create posts that capture users attention in an inspirational way. If you are sharing your personal experience and life with a mental illness, look at your page as a way of taking users into your mind. Create content that tells a story, makes you feel and gives users a glimpse of who you are.

Content In Captions

When it comes to mental health sharing parts of your own experience or journey to self love is really important. You can highlight your thoughts, advice, experience and words of encouragement in the caption. You do not have to do it every single post because sometimes quotes say it all.

Be Creative & Connect

Creativity is the foundation of mediated platforms, so do not hesitate to be spontaneous and share your lifestyle with your followers to build a personal connection. A great way to establish this connection is utilizing Instastory. Pose questions to followers, and utilize Instastory’s polling feature.

Be Authentic

Authenticity is key to becoming a successful mental health influencer on Instagram. If you are sharing parts of your personal story, your life is your content. Instagram, like most social media platforms is a two way dialogue between influencers and their followers. Users can communicate directly back and forth with one another. Do your best to respond back to comments and messages. Your followers want to get to know you and you should want to get to know them. If you are disengenuine, and want to gain a bunch of follows and likes to impress people, it won’t lead to long term success. Instagram is serious about authenticity as users have noticed with the platforms recent algorithm change, which is something you want to read up on.

Build A Community

Start building a community as a mental health influencer on Instagram by tagging, using appropriate hashtags and communicating.

Tagging

Tagging other accounts in your posts is a great way to build community, but do not overdo it! When I see a post that has a ridiculous amount of random and irrelevant tags it comes off as thirsty for likes.

#Hashtags

#Hashtags are important for your content to be seen. Make sure you use relevant hashtags according to what you post. Search hashtags that correlate with what you are posting, and look at what hashtags other mental health influencers use. Remember it is better to be authentic than it is to trend so try to use unique hashtags. It will most likely get your content seen by more users.

Communicate 

Commenting, reposting, tagging and sharing other individuals content is a great sense of community. A major part of advocacy on social media platforms is building community and supporting other mental health influencers. It is a selfless attitude that leads to all of our success. If you are in it just to promote yourself, you won’t go very far in this area of media.

Apps to Use

Apps give influencers the opportunity to create content that is unique to their account or brand. All the apps I use are good quality and guess what? Free! Do your research and check for reviews before downloading any app especially if it costs.

Photos

PhotoShop and Visco are great for enhancing technical aspects of the photo such as lighting, clarity and filtering. It gives my photos a unique touch. I do not use or suggest apps that allow you to alter your physical appearance. It is not healthy or helpful.

Graphic Design 

I am obsessed with the graphic design app, Canva. It’s a great app for all social media and blogging purposes. It gives me access to different layouts, fonts and style to create quotes, logos, banners and content specific to my account.

Analytics & Management 

A lot of people get analytics to track their followers and collect data that helps with marketing their account. Currently I use Instagram Insights which is free and inside the Instagram app. when you switch from Personal to Business on your account. Other quality and free apps are Buffer: Social Media Manager, Hootsuite and Social Stats for Instagram.

If you are looking for a more in depth explanation go to my Amazon shopping cart and check out, #GetSocialSmart: How To Hone Your Social Media Strategy by Katie Lance.  This book is my social media go to and has helped me tremendously. Definitely recommend!

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The Dog Days: What Its like to Live with Schizophrenia

Article By: Greyon Fernandes

Since my diagnosis, people have asked me: ‘What is it like to live with schizophrenia?’. Until this point, I’ve responded in a very clinical manner: ‘I had and still have intrusive thoughts’, ‘My speech gets distorted at times’ – clinically known as word salad or schizophrasia, ‘I suffer from tactile hallucinations’. I could go on.

Recently, however, I came across an event from the 1960s that accurately describes my experience with schizophrenia, “A visceral event – the kidnapping of Barbara Mackle”.

Barbara Mackle was a 20-year-old Emory University student. While recovering from the flu, she was kidnapped, placed in a coffin-like box and buried on secluded land. My onset of schizophrenia was more gradual. It emerged during my final year of secondary school. Six years later, I descended to my most vulnerable point.

While Barbara was held captive, she had limited resources – a fan, a light-source, water and food. I, too, had limited resources. My sense of reality was depleting. My mind developed a core belief that it was being read and controlled. I withdrew from society and isolated myself in my own mental box, which was similar to Barbara’s coffin-like existence.

Barbara and my experiences are similar in that our fear was palpable. Barbara screamed for help as did I and pummelled the coffin lid searching for psychologists, without considering psychiatry. No one in my family had ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition. The Irish school system had also failed to provide me with a comprehensive mental health education. Psychiatry was never even mentioned, let alone explored in detail. I find this to be ironic, since conditions such as schizophrenia usually onset in late teens and early to mid-twenties. Psychiatry was a foreign subject to my younger self.

Both Barbara and I suffered relentless mental anguish. The loneliness and suffocation of being trapped in a coffin-like box, while friends and family kept you in their thoughts and prayers was highly relatable. Barbara resorted to imagining Christmas with her family as a source of comfort while I sought comfort in my dogs and my childhood photos.

After 83 hours, Barbara was rescued, and this is where our stories diverge. No one put me in my mental box, so, to some extent, no one was going to get me out. Recovery requires willpower, positive-thinking and hope. It’s very achievable.

I may be high-functioning, I may be a straight-A student, but I’m also on the highest possible dosage of my medication. You’d be wrong to assume my experience was any less traumatising. To many of my peers this would be the first time they realise I have schizophrenia, as they never witnessed any external symptoms of my psychosis.

Finally, I would remind the people who are curious about schizophrenia that medication isn’t magic – people with schizophrenia still carry their coffins. So, don’t judge, undermine or ignore us. Don’t assume we crave your attention or seek your validation. Don’t apply your absurd fallacies to us! Instead, celebrate our strength. There are simply no words to describe our strength, our courage and our perseverance to continue with day to day life which most people take for granted.

I recommend the following documentary on Barbara Mackle:  “A Crime to Remember” – Coffin for Christmas.

About the author of The Dog Days: What Its like to Live with Schizophrenia: Greyon Fernandes is a 23 year old college student from Dublin Ireland.

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When you are a woman with a mental illness, you feel misunderstood in so many ways, and struggle to find things that make you feel settled in your wilderness of emotions and forest of a mind. As a woman living with bipolar disorder the one thing that fulfills this part of me is words written for women like us. Here are some of the most beautiful quotes that speak to women with mental illness.

16 Beautiful Quotes for Women With Mental Illness

Girls like her were born in a storm. They have lightning in their souls. Thunder in their hearts and chaos in their bones. –Nikita Gill

She was fierce, she was strong. She wasn’t simple. She was crazy and sometimes she barely slept. She always had something to say. She had flaws and that was okay. And when she was down, she got right back up. She was a beast in her own way, but one idea described her best. She was unstoppable and she took anything she wanted with a smile. –R.M. Drake

There are parts of me that will always remain untamable, messy and reckless; but I refuse to apologize for it anymore. –Kaitlin Foster

Yes, Im not easy to love but one day, someone somewhere out there might just be brave enough to touch my hardness, caress my darkness, and sleep in my scars. -Madalyn Beck

But sweetheart you’re a wolf, no need to howl over the loss of weak men incapable of accepting you. -r.h. Sin

She feels more than you. You have to understand that about her. She feels the edges and the details of things and when she gets close to someone, she feels their happiness and their pain. -JmStorm

I love the person I’ve become because I fought to become her. -Kaci Diane

She was never crazy, she just didn’t let her heart settle in a cage. She was born wild and sometimes we need people like her. For it’s the horrors in her heart which cause the flames in ours. And she was always willing to burn for everything she has ever loved. -R.M Drake

I loved her most for all the things she hated about herself, for everything she hated, made her different, and it was the different that I loved. -Atticus

Every night her thoughts weighed heavily on her soul but every morning she would get up to fight another day, every night she survived. -r.h. Sin

He says you are too much. You talk, laugh, smile, sing, dance, feel too much. But baby, here is the real problem. He is too little to appreciate that an entire galaxy came together to make you. -Nikita Gill

The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.-Joybell C.

She was born wild and curious. A cage is no place for someone like that. ‘I play with the fire of my own truth,’ she told me, ‘I will burn for the things I love.’ -Mia Hollow

She wore her troubled past like scars-she had been through battle and though no one could see her demons, they could see the face that conquered them. -Atticus

She brought out the storm in people because she knew that wherever there were dark skies and wild winds, lied a truth. A truth that described how much love once can leave behind the moment they accept all the pain they had lived. And that is all she ever wanted. For everyone around her to embrace her storms and make them fall in love with their own violent winds. –R.M. Drake

Some days I am goddess. Some days I am wild child. And some days I am a fragile mess. Most days I am a bit of all three. But every day, I am here, trying. -S.C. Lourie

To all the women out there who are struggling to accept the parts of them that are different from others. You are unapologetically beautiful and don’t ever stop fighting for the love and life you deserve. Sending my love to you. XOXO

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6 Truths Society Needs to Know About People with a Mental Illness

Mental health is a topic that many people in society think they know so much about when in reality they know too little. Ignorance is the most devastating illness that plagues our society. The only cure is knowledge, so let me save you a co-pay and share the truth about people with a mental illness.

We Are Not Violent People

Even though facts and stats say the opposite, the “People with a mental illness are violent” myth never seems to go away despite the information provided. Yes, there have been individuals with a mental illness who have committed a violent act, but that does not represent the whole, and other factors contribute to a person’s violent behavior outside of mental illness. People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violent acts that occur in society. The world isn’t flat, dinosaurs once roamed the earth, and people with a mental illness are not violent. These are the facts, with evidence to back it up.

We Can Contribute to Society

When you live with a mental illness, you are labeled as someone with a “disability.” The problem is that society only looks at the dis and not the ability part of the word. There are many people with bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety that are successful, however, the majority of them have not publicly revealed their mental illness due to stigma. When you live with bipolar disorder, you have a unique perspective on the world which allows us to contribute in ways that others cannot. However, the stigma of mental illness prevents people from acknowledging our capabilities. When society stops focusing on what we cannot do and focuses on what we can do, people with a mental illness will be able to contribute to society uniquely.

We Are Empathetic Individuals

Many people who live with a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, are incredibly empathetic. We cannot even watch a commercial about starving children without blaming ourselves for this injustice and being consumed by our emotions. When I meet people, I can sense their feelings and take on pain of other individuals. This is why it remarkably concerns me that those of us with a mental illness are portrayed as monsters. When I went to the mental hospital, I thought I would be greeted by these “monsters,” but instead I was greeted by empathetic angels. When I walked in, I was immediately hugged by a 50-year-old woman living with schizophrenia who had been homeless for ten years. She cradled me like I was her daughter and said, “My dear, you are going to be okay. I can feel your pain, and we love you.” If you consider her to be a monster, then you are insane, not me.

We Are Suppressed By Stigma

The stigma prevents people living with a mental illness from getting jobs, building relationships and living an authentic life, which is a good life. The worst part about stigma is the majority of the information you hear regarding mental illness is fabricated and false. It keeps people from seeing what those of us living with a mental illness have to offer. Every day people die at the hands of stigma. It is the reason why we are so misunderstood, and silenced as a community.

We Are Not What You See in the Media

Ever since I published my blog and opened up about living with bipolar 2 disorder the most common thing said to me is, “You don’t look bipolar!” to which I respond, “What does bipolar look like?” No, we do not look like the deranged individuals you see in the media. The negative portrayal of mental illness in the media, both in imagery and on the screen, only increases stigma. The Be Vocal Collection, created by Getty Images, Demi Lovato, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and other mental health organizations, is a library of images that portray a realistic image of mental health. It is an initiative that fights against these unrealistic images that persuade the general public to have a negative perception of people with a mental illness.

We Are Individuals

We are your neighbors, teachers, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, best friends, lovers and people who are involved in your everyday life. We are individuals who live with a condition similar to someone who lives with diabetes. Our mental illness is a part of us, but it does not define us as an individual. We are some of the most gravitating and vibrant individuals who have so much to offer this world.

This is our mind. This is our truth.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.-Edgar Degas

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How to Emotionally and Mentally Survive a Breakup: Stay off Social Media

I am not a relationship expert, but I’ve had my heart broken more than I’d like to admit. On this journey in heartbreak, I realized that a significant part of emotionally surviving a breakup is to take a break from anything that could be toxic in your environment, including social media. No, you do not have to delete everything or go into hibernation, but you do have to stay off them as much as possible and take the initiative to block or unfollow your ex to prevent you from seeing their posts. It relates to the old saying, “Out of sight out of mind.”

Get off Social Media? What Kind of Sick Suggestion Is This?

Trust me; I am not anti-social media or someone who believes it’s destroying humanity. It’s the opposite. I am a blogging millennial with a pro-social media stance. However, I am not naive to the harm it can have on a person’s mental health. Social media connects us to everyone, including people we are “suppose” to move on from at some point.

Think about it like a physical wound. If you don’t allow yourself to heal, you only do more damage. A broken heart is an internal wound, and social media keeps that wound open and exposed. After a breakup, we torture ourselves by staying connected to our ex via social media. We check to see whose pics they liked, who they are following and analyze every new post on their feed. It gives us a false sense of hope that we may still be relevant to our ex-lover. Snapchat views, Instagram and Facebook ‘Likes’ suddenly translates as he or she may still have romantic feelings. We inflict emotional and mental pain on ourselves. It keeps us from shutting a door that is desperately waiting to be slammed shut.

I highly doubt you have ever heard someone going through a breakup say, “Following him on Instagram has given me closure.” It’s more along the lines of, “Did you see his post the other day…” It’s a constant reminder that we are not with the person we once loved, which makes us more insecure.

My Social Media Experience After a Bad Breakup #LessonLearned

I was in a toxic relationship for two years, and I am not sharing this to evoke empathy, but to give you a personal example. When it ended, I kept everything inside. It’s the type of breakup that has little to do with losing love, but more to do with losing yourself. I was angry and felt like a fool. I used social media as a way of showing him that I was unaffected by his abuse. Posting pictures of myself with friends and appearing as though I was utterly unbreakable when inside I was completely shattered. I did everything I could to make sure he would see my posts. I believed it would give me closure. Nope! Less than two months after our breakup I saw a Facebook post of him smiling on the beach with another woman with the caption, “In paradise with this beautiful girl.” I felt overwhelmed with such intense anger it was suffocating. It was apparent he had no remorse for the pain he caused me.

I blocked him on all my accounts and stepped away from social media. I confronted the mental pain of a broken heart and an abusive relationship that I tried so hard to ignore. I realized that I was relying on social media to do the impossible. It’s like trying to mow the lawn with your car and expecting good results. In reality, it ends in disaster.

When Do I Get Back on Social Media After a Breakup?

Let’s say you read this post while you’re going through a terrible breakup. You take my advice and tell yourself that you will keep off social media for 30 days. You do it, and on day 31 you grab your phone and open up Instagram. If one of the first things you do is unblock your ex or search their username @personthatbrokeyourheart, you are not ready. It’s like going on a diet for 30 days, and on day 31 you go back to eating junk food. What happens? You gain all the weight back and probably feel even worse. When you don’t feel the need to use social media to connect or check up on your ex-lover, then take a selfie and announce your social comeback. #ImBackBetch

Following your ex, or someone who romantically rejected you, on social media has no benefits, so why do it? You are traveling on a road that leads to a dead end. Social media is meant to share epic moments and periods of our lives with those who deserve it. Breakups suck, but guess what? You are going to be okay, and you are going to find a love that will make you look back at your exes and think, “Holy sh*t what the f*ck was I thinking!” I can’t wait for you to find that type of love. Social media isn’t going anywhere don’t worry!

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How Does Financial Stress Affect Your Mental Health?

Article By: Chrissy Phelps

Nationwide, around 33% of Americans are in debt, though percentages vary significantly from state to state. In Louisiana, for instance, around 46% of adults have debts in collection, compared to only 17% of those living in Minnesota. Debt is considered the number one source of stress and it doesn’t look like the situation will be improving anytime soon. Statistics indicate that for around 20% of people, mortgages are the largest source of debt, followed by student loans. Among millennials, however, student loans are the leading source of debt with median amounts owed hovering between $10,000 and $14,000.

Graduating with debt can be a huge source of stress because it stops young people from buying a home, car, or other essentials. Often, one’s personal goals (including settling down) also need to be set aside.

Money and Mental Health

Various studies have been carried out on the subject of financial stress and mental health. In one study published in theCommunity Mental Health Journal, it was found that worrying about debt at university significantly increased the risk of mental health conditions such as depression and alcohol dependency. As noted by the study’s lead researcher, “The findings suggest a vicious cycle whereby anxiety and problem drinking exacerbate financial difficulties, which then go on to increase anxiety and alcohol intake. Interventions which tackle both difficulties at the same time are therefore most likely to be effective.”

Students often feel passive against the burden of debt, sometimes failing to understand that there are options such as consolidating existing loans so as to be able to obtain a better interest rate or even extend payment times without significantly increasing one’s loan amount. Universities should take student’s mental health seriously, providing them with both psychological and financial counseling so they can learn more about how to pay less interest, work part-time to settle debt early, and use available technology to save more efficiently.

The Link Between Financial and Mental Health Among Adults

It isn’t just students and young adults who are affected by financial stress. One recent data analysis found that a significant percentage of adults report symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to their finances. These respondents admitted to indulging in destructive behavior as a way to escape from the reality of their problems. Other researchers have concluded that depression and anxiety are three times more prevalent among people who are in debt.

Psychological Distress and Physical Illness

There is an inexorable link between our mental and physical health. One recent study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that financial stress can contribute to inflammation by increasing levels of C-reactive protein, which is linked to heart disease. Chronic financial stress can also lead one to make poor lifestyle choices (for instance, in diet), inadvertently leading to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Loan consolidation, a reduced reliance on credit cards, and receiving financial advice are just three ways to fight debt, but the problem must also be dealt with from a psychological perspective. Chronic stress of all types can lead to issues like obesity, depression, and anxiety, but financial stress can be particularly difficult to deal with because solutions take time. In addition to benefiting from professional therapy, those affected should aim to reduce stress through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and the performance of stress-busting activities such as yoga, meditation, or even Tai Chi.

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