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Grieving: Do It The Right Way

Grief: (noun) a deep sorrow caused by a great loss

March 19th 2012 marks the worst day of my life. That was the day that I lost my best friend, my heart, my angel…my grandmother.

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(My cousing/bff, myself (on the right) and my grandmother)

Her death happened so fast, but deep down I knew it was coming and I didn’t want to face it. Months before her death I stopped calling her (totally regret it) like I used to because it broke my heart to hear her sound so tired and in pain. Though my calling made her happy, I was started to form memories of her like that and I didn’t want to. I know I never, even to this day, processed her death properly. In the beginning I was trying to be strong (because everyone was telling me I had to be) for other people. I never knew when the right time was for me to stop being strong and start taking care of myself and my feelings. I’m always thinking about her and it brings a smile to my face no doubt, but it also brings tears to my eyes when my heart starts to ache for her voice, her smile, her touch. I haven’t experienced many deaths of people close to me (or deaths in general) to make me cold-hearted or insensitive to the subject. The loss of a life is always sad simply because that person will not longer be there. I’m so scared to even attempt to grieve her death at this point, 6 years later…in my “condition”.

To grieve doesn’t mean to get over or to forget (because I will never forget her or get over losing her). To grieve means to come to terms, a sort of peace, with the situation because you know that you can’t change it and that person is free and no longer hurting.

There are 5 major stages of grieving:

  1. Denial: grief1-01
    • When you first learn about the situation you may go into a state of shock and say things like “this can’t be happening”. That is your mind’s way of dealing with the overwhelming emotions, like a way to protect yourself from what’s really going on. My family received a phone bright and early in the morning saying my grandmother was in the hospital and the doctors said she wasn’t going to make. My family that was with her put the phone to her ear so we could say our final goodbyes. Believe it or not, I couldn’t do it either. Part of me wanted to think that she was going to wake up and I would be like “yeah I knew she was a fighter”. Another part of my couldn’t believe that I was about to lose my ride or die and I didn’t want to say goodbye because that would be too final and I was not ready for that. They called back again after she had passed away, and I remember sitting on the couch watching Spongebob but not being able to hear anything as my body went completely numb. Somehow I gathered the energy and courage to go to school and gather all of my work and came back home to be with my mother and sister (it was my mother’s mother). When I went to school people were looking at me sideways wondering what I was doing there, and to be honest I didn’t know why I was there myself. I did know that my grandmother did not want the show to stop because of her (had she been able to, she would’ve told everyone to stop crying and get on with their day). I think I pretended like it wasn’t happening and took on this “protector” attitude for my mom almost immediately and that’s how I found my strength.
  2. Anger:grief2-01
    • Once it starts to sink in that this is real and there is no changing it, people grow angry, blaming everyone and everything for what has happened. We sometimes blame ourselves because we think there was something we could have done to prevent this from happening. (I can’t stop you from thinking this, but know that there was nothing that you could do. If it was meant to happen, it was going to happen no matter how you tried to interfere.) I didn’t go through this stage until months after her death. I blamed so many people, including myself, for her death. I thought that if I had just continued to call her then it could’ve kept her happy enough to stay alive. This stage didn’t last long for me.
  3. Bargaining: bargaining.in_.india_
    • It is during this stage that people start making deals and promises to get their loved ones back. Saying things like, “take me not ___”, “I promise I’ll ____ if you bring ____ back”. I think that I’m stuck on this stage. I made those same ridiculous promises and statement. (I say ridiculous because there was no way, logically, a person came come back to life.) I made promises to keep going to school, to stop drinking, etc. Of course nothing worked. Now a days I just wish to hear her voice, see her face or feel her hugs again. It gets pretty bad on my low days. What can I say…she was my best friend. I talked to that lady about everything.
  4. Depression:grief-01
    • After a while, once we know that there is nothing that we can do to get that person back, we sink into a depression as we start thinking about the old times, digging up every photo, video, memory we can (almost torturing ourselves to a point). People start abusing drugs or alcohol, getting into all kinds of trouble trying to find ways to cope with their loss. Even though my bipolar symptoms appeared after her death, I still don’t think I went through this stage because I made myself not think about her for quite some time because I knew if I did, I would be depressed. I have to figure out how to go through a stage similar to this without causing any issues for myself.
  5. Acceptance:grief5-01
    • This is when we have come to terms with what has happened and have made our peace with the situation. For some people this stage doesn’t come for a long time, and that’s okay because you can’t rush it. People have to deal with things in their own way and own time. #FACTS

HelpGuide.org has an article about coping with grief and loss…of all kinds. They focus on all things mental and emotional health. In their article (that you can check out here) has a list of common myths and facts about grief.

Myth: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.

Fact: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing, it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.

Myth: It’s important to “be strong” in the face of loss.

Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.

Myth: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.

Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.

Myth: Grief should last about a year.

Fact: There is no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person.

Myth: Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss.

Fact: Moving on means you’ve accepted your loss—but that’s not the same as forgetting. You can move on with your life and keep the memory of someone or something you lost as an important part of you. In fact, as we move through life, these memories can become more and more integral to defining the people we are.

Grieving is not an easy process. There are emotional and physical symptoms of grief that you should also be aware of. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people you love and who love you during that time so you can have that emotional support you need. You can turn to family and friends or take comfort from your faith. Don’t be ashamed to go and seek a support group or talk to a counselor. Some losses are harder to handle than others and require professional, outside, or extra help. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you are taking care of yourself during the entire process.

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Happy Birthday

RIP My Angel

Stigma: We Have to Keep Fighting

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When I was first diagnosed with depression, I didn’t want anyone to know. I was only about 17/18 and was already considered to be the weird one among friends and family…I didn’t want to make things worse. I knew that my friends wouldn’t understand because 1) majority of them have never been through something like that, 2)they couldn’t understand things that didn’t fit into their world. My family…if they couldn’t see or touch it then it didn’t exist (this went for physical illnesses as well, and this only applied to most of my family). I knew the most common phrases would be:

  • It’s just an excuse/phase
  • Just get over it
  • Stop being so dramatic
  • Grow up and take responsibility for yourself

For a long time I was too scared and ashamed to confide in anyone. So I kept it to myself and tried my hardest to act normal. Some days it took all the energy I had, but I felt like I had to keep up the charade. The day  decided to “let people in” wast the worst, but it wasn’t the best either. I got many of the reactions I knew I would, and then some kind ones I wasn’t expecting. I was called cray and asked so many uncomfortable incriminating questions (as if this was my fault and my choice). After the big reveal, a lot of people either kept their distance or started treating me different as if I announced that I had some horrible contagious disease. For a while I was actually okay with that because I didn’t have to deal with people. I grew tired of the stares and whispers but at least people stopped bothering me about the situation. After a while I got lonely, but once I reminded myself of what happened after I let people in, I just accepted that living the lonely life would be better. I actually stopped taking my medication in fear of extra ridicule from people (especially now that they know of my condition). It took me what seemed like forever to get over that and learn to ignore what other people said and thought about me so I could do what was best for me. I still face judgement from people who know about my circumstances, the only difference is now I don’t care (at least I try not to).

Negative thoughts/marks about a particular person (group of people) based on certain circumstances is called stigma. Mental health stigma has been around long before people really knew what mental health was. There are 2 distinct types of mental health stigma: social stigma (prejudicial attitudes and behaviors directed towards people with mental illness) and perceived/self-stigma (internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination). Due to the fact most people don’t understand mental health, they view all symptoms and people who have mental illness as threatening, unpredictable and uncomfortable. Stigma comes in many forms: unwarranted assumptions, distrust, avoidance, pity, rejection, fear, dislike and under-estimation of abilities. Because of the stigmas people will often tell those suffering from mental illness that they’re crazy, weird, faking it, that it’s just a phase or (somehow) it’s their fault. Disclosing that you have a mental illness can keep you from obtaining a job (or if you have a job..a promotion). It’s not right (or legal) but people find loopholes and ways around everything. The stigma people face keeps them from seeking or continuing treatment, worsening the conditions and jeopardizing recovery. Stigma causes people to feel self-hatred, confusion, self-doubt, shame, anger, sadness, loneliness, etc. These negative thoughts can just be the fuel someone needs to commit suicide, which is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

(If you or someone you know is thinking or harming yourself, please seek help immediately. You are not alone and there is someone out there who cares and is willing to listen and help you!)

imagesThese negative ideal about mental health didn’t come from nowhere. Long ago before mental health was mental health, people thought those who were “different” were possessed by demons and other spirits. If this was your “explanation” for a person acting “different”, it would be easier to understand the fear, caution and discrimination. However with today’s medical research and scientific advancements, we know a lot more about mental health (and yet for some, it means absolutely nothing). Even with all of this knowledge, people still have their misguided views about mental health and mental illnesses. Compared to physical illness, mental illness is taken less serious in the medical field. The biggest perpetrator of misinformation comes from the media (movies, books, tv shows and the news). Movies will have characters portraying different mental illnesses, displaying overly dramatic symptoms to make the movie seem more interesting. Some media outlets are doing better at conducting more thorough research and watching how they display and talk about these illness, but some still don’t care. The news is the worst at making people with mental illness seem like dangerous criminals by calling every criminal they report on a psycho or blaming their horrific actions on being mentally ill. films-about-mental-illness

Why is stigma so important anyway? Stigma encourages prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviors. Stigma hinders treatment and recovery. Mental illness is the biggest economic burden of any other health issue. It’s expected to cost $6 trillion dollars by 2030 with majority of the costs being attributed to disability and loss of work. Funding for mental health research is low and that is why people with mental health problems are ten times more likely to find themselves in prison than in a psychiatric facility. At the end of the day, simply put, stigma is bad. But what can we do to fight back?

There are many things that we can do to fight against stigma. The first and most important thing we can do is educate ourselves, and take that knowledge and share it with others. Becoming educated on the matter and raising awareness on the issues helps counteract and eliminate stereotypes. When we see someone using stereotypes we need to call them out on it and get them to understand why what they are doing is wrong, and let them know how they can fix and change their ways. There are 9 efficient ways to fight stigma.

 

  1. Talk openly…I use my blog to talk openly about my battles with depression and what it’s like to have bipolar disorder and PTSD. Talking openly lets people know that I’m not ashamed or scared, and hopefully it lets other people know that they don’t have to be ashamed either.
  2. Educate yourself…That old saying that knowledge is power is true. The more you know the better you do. Many people make rude comments about mental health because they simply don’t know anything about it other than what they see on TV or hear on the news.
  3. Be conscious of language…Even I’m guilty of this one from time to time and have to remind myself that words can hurt. Changing the world I use and how I use them can make a big difference. Using words like “crazy”, “weird” and “psycho” can be hurtful.
  4. Encourage equality between physical and mental health…It’s no secret that mental health is not taken as seriously as physical health. Because it’s hard to “see” mental health, people don’t understand it. If people could learn to see depression and bipolar disorder the same way they do a broken arm or cancer, then attitudes would change.
  5. Show compassion…Compassion and pity are two different things. Offering a hug, kind words, a shoulder to cry on or lending an ear are all signs of compassion. It’s just the simple gesture of letting a person know that someone cares. It can make all the difference in the world.
  6. Choose empowerment…Don’t let others tell you how to live and feel about your own life. You need to own your illness. Don’t let others make you feel ashamed about something that’s not your fault.
  7. Be honest about treatment…When we say we have an appointment with a normal doctor, most people don’t even blink twice about it. At least there’s no judgement because everyone goes to the doctor. Say that you’re seeing a therapist and people give you those crazy looks and stares, immediately judging you. They start to whisper about what could be wrong with you to other people and come up with their own assumptions about you.
  8. Let the media know…You have a voice and it’s okay to use it. Letting people, including media outlets, know that the way they are portraying mental health is wrong and offensive is in a way our responsibility. We can’t expect others to speak up for us, and you don’t have to use foul and negative language just to get your point across.
  9. Don’t harbor self-stigma…Let those negative thoughts and feelings go!!!

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Fear has driven mental health stigma for the last 400 years. It’s time to get rid of this fear. Fear has created several myths about mental health.

  • Mental health problems do not affect children or youth. Any problems they have are just part of growing up. Facts: 1 in 5 children and youth struggle with mental health.
  • It is the parents’ fault if children suffer from mental health problems. Facts: Mental health disorders in children are caused by biology, environment or a combination of both.
  • People with a mental illness are “psycho”, mad and dangerous and should be locked away. Facts: People with mental illness have normal lives, but their feelings and behaviors negatively affect their day-to-day lives.
  • Depression is a character flaw and people should just “snap out of it”. Facts: Depression results from changes in brain chemistry or brain function.
  • People with mental illness never get better. Facts: TREATMENT WORKS as long as you are consistent in following the treatment plan.

Explaining why getting rid of stigmas is so beneficial for everyone involved could take days. It’s not a very important topic of discussion right now, and it’s not just mental health stigma (though that is the focus of this post). Fear is number cause of stigma and it’s time to change that. We all have a voice and it’s time to use it for good. The change won’t happen overnight, but it needs to happen. Let’s keep fighting to end stigma together.

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The Importance of Journaling

I don’t know about you, but I (clearly) love to write. I’ve always loved to write. Writing was my way to escape the bad reality around me. Writing allowed me to turn the bad and ugly into the good and beautiful. I would write for fun some days, and other days I wrote because I felt like I wouldn’t have a voice otherwise. As I got older, I started keeping diaries, like most young girls. At the time I would write about my hopes, dreams and secrets. I noticed a change in my writing once I started high school. I started writing less and what I would write became dark. It actually got harder and harder to find the inspiration t write. When I found out about the depression, it made sense. When I started therapy, my therapist told me to start  journaling (again). She encouraged me to first write down what happened between my appointments with her so we could discuss them during our sessions if necessary. Even though my time with her was short, I continued to write, as much as I could anyway. At first I would write about things that happened in my day (especially things I wanted to remember because for some reason my memory became horrible). Then I started writing about the changes I started noticing in myself. My depression has gotten so out of control, I loss interest in writing again because I couldn’t see a purpose. It wasn’t until I started this blog that I became determined to find and maintain inspiration to keep writing. I created a purpose for my writing…to share my stories with other people in hopes that someone will find so help, hope or inspiration from it. Though I’m not encouraging you to share you personal and intimate thoughts with the world, I am encouraging yo to keep a journal, especially if you have a mental illness, or find yourself going through a difficult (or joyous) time. Why? Let me tell you a few reasons why.

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There are many benefits to keeping a journal. For a person who has mental illness like myself, keeping a journal can help you control and manage your symptoms. Knowing your triggers being able to distinguish patterns in your behavior is important, and keeping a journal will allow you to just that. Journaling also encourages positive self-talk, while at the same time identifies and eliminates negative thoughts and behaviors. When I noticed my writing getting darker and the negative behavioral changes in myself (thought it took a while thanks to avoidance), I began searching for positive things to surround myself with: quotes, books, movies (I started watching, and still do, a lot of cartoons), music, etc. Journaling also helps you get a clear perspective on what’s most important in your life, and it helps you prioritize things.

For a while, my journal was my only friend. I was able to write whatever I wanted to inside and not have to worry about judgement, “friendly advice” that I didn’t want, or anything else like that. I was free to think and write what I wanted. It helped get a lot of things off my chest, removed a lot of frustration I probably otherwise would have kept bottled up. Just like there are some things you just can’t bring yourself to say, there were things I couldn’t bring myself to write. It was either because the memory was too painful and I wasn’t ready to deal with it, or it was something I truly wanted to forget, or the fear of someone reading it one day and knowing the truth. Keeping a journal is great and though it may seem simple, some people find it hard to find a place to start. So how/where do you start? question-person-clipart-1

The key to getting started is simple; just pick up and pen and a notebook and write. What should you write about? Whatever you want, whatever you feel. Your writing doesn’t need to be on the level of a Harvard graduate, and you aren’t trying to write a masterpiece like Harry Potter. What you CHOOSE to write about is completely up to you. Make it easy for yourself and remove all the pressure. Besides no one will ever see what you have written unless you show it to them. Start off with simple things like how your day went, plans you may have for the weekend, the last movie you watched or the last book you read. You’re writing doesn’t have to follow any specific structure…you’re not in grade school anymore. Let the words flow freely. Incomplete sentences…go for it. Run on sentences…why not! Writing outside the margins, all over the paper, doodles…have fun with it. The hardest thing for most people is making it a habit. In order to do that, try writing something everyday. Doesn’t have to be 10 pages long. It can be as short as a few sentences, as long as you get something down on paper for that day. Some people find it helpful to keep pen and paper near them at all times so when they feel the need or find the inspiration to write, they are prepared.

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At first writing down what you feel may seem scary and hard to do, but it’ll get easier overtime as you start to see and feel the benefits for yourself (it’s kind of like exercising…you hate doing it until you start to see the benefits yourself). If you need to find inspiration you can take a look at some of my journal entries posted on here (they usually have a date as a title). Again you don’t have to share your writings with anyone. I share my writings to let others know that they are not alone in the things they are going through. Journaling can be a fun, eye opening and positive experience if you let it be.

Warning: you may start to learn things about yourself you didn’t know before and don’t like what you learn. Writing may also uncover some bad memories, memories you may have once forgotten about. It can cause some unwanted pain. Be careful.

 

New Content Coming Soon!

Hey everyone! I wanted to apologize for the lack of content in the last month. I’ve been dealing with some things, but I have been working on new pieces for you all. I didn’t want you all to think that I had abandoned you or my blog. I’m taking the rest of this month to get things in order for myself and I promise that I will return with more content than you can handle! Don’t worry I won’t overwhelm you with post after post, but just there are some posts coming.

I hope everything is going well with you all and I hope you are enjoying your summer thus far. I also wanted to thank everyone for their continued support. I love you all.

See you  next month.

Happy Mother’s Day

**I’m posting this early because at the end of the post is a list of gift ideas for Mother’s Day so I wanted to make sure people had enough time to read it if they planned to use any of my ideas.**

Mother’s Day…a celebration for mothers and mother figures all across the world. It is the biggest and most celebrated holiday across the globe. Most people think that Mother’s Day was created by Hallmark to profit off of people’s love for their mothers, but the origin of Mother’s Day goes much deeper and is a lot more sentimental than that.

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The earliest Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to ancient Greece where the Greeks would bring gifts and offerings to honor Rhea, the mother of the gods. Many years later a woman by the name of Julia Howe (1819-1910) would try to create a “Mother’s Day” dedicated to peace. Her idea of Mother’s Day never really caught on. That is until another woman by the name of Anna Jarvis came along. Her version of Mother’s Day is similar to the version we have come to celebrate today. Thought it was originally Anna’s mother’s idea to create a Mother’s Day, it was Anna who is credited to founding the day. It was her idea that the purpose of Mother’s Day would be:

To revive the dormant filial love and gratitude we owe to those who gave us birth. To be a home tire for the absent. To obliterate family estrangement. To create a bond of brotherhood through the wearing of a floral badge. To make us better children by getting us closer to the hearts of our good mothers. To have them know we appreciate them, though we do no show it as often as we ought… Mothers Day is to remind us of our duty before it is too late. This day is intended that we may make new resolutions for a more active thought of our dear mothers. By words, gifts, actions of affection, and in every way possible, give her pleasure, and make her heart glad every day, and constantly keep in memory Mothers Day.

http://legacyproject.org/guides/mdhistory.html

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The widespread of Mother’s Day didn’t happen until after Anna’s mother passed. Anna wanted to create a day of peace and a day to honor her mother every year, to carry on her dream. Due to Anna’s perseverance, the holiday quickly reached a national level. By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an offical holiday to be celebrated every second Sunday in May. He stated that mother’s were the greatest source of the country’s strength and inspiration.

The wearing of a fower- colored if your mother was living and white if not- was also started by Anna Jaris. To her it was an inexpensive way to show love, respect and honor.

Remember how I said that her version was similar to the one that we celerate today? The overall idea of celebrating mothers in general changed over the years to where people only celebrate thier mother (which isn’t the bad part). The bad part is that Mother’s day changed into the commercialized, money hungry holiday we all know and take part in. Unfortunately, Anna lived to see the ruining of her once beloved holiday. She was so upset that she even filed a lawsuit to stop a Mother’s Day festival and was arrested for disturbing the peace at a cenvention. She was hurt that the day had turned away from her original plan of sentiment to profit. Years later, Anna confessed that she was sorry she ever started Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis died in 1948 at the age of 84.

Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated in several countries, but on different dates. According to Legacy Project:

In the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Belgium, and Japan it is celebrated on the second Sunday of May.

In Great Britain, Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent. But Mother’s Day is now observed in England as it is in North America, and the traditions associated with Mothering Sunday have been largely forgotten.

In Mexico, Mother’s Day is always celebrated on May 10. When the holiday falls on a weekday, mothers take the day off from work and children stay home from school. Other countries that celebrate Mother’s Day on May 10 include Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

In Spain and Portugal, Mother’s Day is celebrated on December 8, which is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mothers are honored along with the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Other dates for Mother’s Day celebrations: Norway – second Sunday in February; France – last Sunday in May; Sweden – last Sunday in May; South Africa – first Sunday in May.

I do hate how comercialized Mother’s Day has become given insight to the original idea behind the day, but that’s just the world we live in now. We don’t have to let the greeting card and flower companies ruin what’s supposed to be a wonderful day for us and our mothers. People need to go back to the elementary school days where they made cards and gifts by hand, gifts that came from a true place of love and gratitude. Over the years, I’ve given my mother some of everything but a car and a house (I’m not financially there yet). I’ve run out of ideas so many times that I simply had to ask her what she wanted, and there’s nothnig wrong with that because at least I knew that what I got her she would love and appreciate. Below is a list of gift ideas that you could use if you can’t come up with any on your own. I have found that these make some of the best gifts…gifts that any mother would be happy to receive.

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  1. Massage/Mani-pedi/spa day (plenty of coupons on Groupon…as well as other gift options
  2. Eddible Arrangement
  3. A mini vacation to her favorite place…just to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life
  4. A clean house…go over and clean the house for them so they can just relax
  5. A home cooked meal…it’s hard to get a reservation on Mother’s Day. Therefore just stay home and cook her favorite meal and surroufamilynd her with all the people that love her.
  6. Gift cards to her favorite places to shop
  7. Jewelry (check out my jewelry page if you would like to order one from me)

You can also try some of these DIY gifts:

  1. A “Mom Box” filled with their favorite things (slippers, snacks, a book, candles, etc.) to encourage relaxation
  2. A photo album of all your favorite memories
  3. Wood sign collage
  4. Spa basket

**A link to my Pinterest board will be here so you can check out examples of other DIY Mother’s Day gifts.**

If you are a mother reading this, I hope that this Mother’s Day is filled with nothing but love for you and you are reminded just how much you are indeed appreciated and cared about. To my own mother…I’m sorry that I can’t celebrate Mother’s Day with you. I hope you know how much I love and appreciate you (even if it doesn’t seem that way). Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers and mothers-to-be.

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