Why do we feel the need to reinvent ourselves in the New Year?

new-year-2017-png-12I used to be among the people who followed the “New Year, new me” mantra each year. I viewed the New Year as a fresh start to change the things that I don’t like about myself which, in a way, meant starting off the new beginning on a sour note. After all, finding things to change about myself meant focusing on the negatives rather than the positives which ultimately goes against my goal of self-love.

For this reason, I’ve decided for the past few years to focus my efforts on elements of myself that I like and want to continue to invest my time and energy into rather than finding things that I need to change about myself. I don’t set resolutions because to me the word has a negative connotation; instead, I set goals. Of course, this is not to say that setting resolutions and setting goals are two separate entities for everyone, but for me, the change in phrasing makes me think much more positively about myself and self-improvement rather than resolving to negate or eliminate parts of myself that I do not like.

Additionally, I don’t entirely agree with the idea of “reinvention” every year. What’s so wrong with the You that you were a few days ago in 2016? Why do you feel the need to completely reinvent yourself? For me, I find it much more positive to focus on how I want to improve the Me that I was last year by building on my strengths or working towards my goals for the future rather than trying to completely change who I am as a person. I think we as a society have come to view reinvention as this exotic, glamorous evolution when in reality, it might mean losing parts of yourself that make you wonderful. In my experience, any time I’ve tried to “reinvent” myself, it has been for the wrong reasons. I didn’t do it for myself or my own wellbeing; instead, I did it to make other people happy and, in the process, ended up making myself miserable. In every instance of self-reinvention that I have ever attempted I can now look back and see it as self-suppression during which time I lost parts of myself that I can now appreciate and even love.

So, I guess what I’m saying here is: why do you want to reinvent yourself? Why not try to improve yourself instead? Surely you’ve got a solid foundation of wonderful attributes, so why not try to build on those and add to yourself and who you are rather than focusing on the negative and taking away parts of who you are? I’m not naïve enough to believe that no human on the face of this planet has some bad habits or characteristics that could use changing, but I also believe that many of you out there who want to destroy (ahem…”reinvent”) parts of yourself are blind to the fact that those parts of yourself aren’t all that bad. Sometimes the things that you see in yourself as weakness, others see as a strength. It’s all about perspective.

Now ask yourself, do you really need reinvention?

Just some food for thought.

Ayla

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7 Things to expect in the first month of living in a new city

Hello lovely readers!

As some of you may already know based on my previous post, I’ve recently moved to a new (and much much MUCH larger) city! As such, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to share my experiences of transitioning to a new city. This will be the second time in 2 years that I’ve moved to a new city so it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about the transition, the highs and lows, and how to get acclimatized to a new environment. So, without further ado, here is my list of 7 things to expect in the first month of living in a new city!

Chicago skyline aerial view at dusk

  1. Sadness

I know, this definitely isn’t what you want to hear if you’re preparing for a big move, but you’ve got to be realistic. As with any big life change, moving to a new city means leaving behind parts of your life that you’ve become accustomed to. As a result, you might feel sad in the first few days or even weeks or months following your move. But don’t worry, once you get settled into the new city, meet new people, and put down some roots you will soon move past this sadness and embrace your new life!

  1. Excitement

At some point in the first few weeks of moving to a new city, you’re probably going to feel a huge rush of excitement and the urge to explore. On my very first day here I went for a 3 hour walk to explore (I’ve still got the sore muscles to prove it…). With that being said, this excitement did not come during my first move to a new city until I had been there for 2-3 weeks. My first transition was a lot harder for me so it took a little longer for the excitement to kick in, but it did come along eventually!

  1. Feeling lost

Getting lost in your new city is bound to happen at some point. If you take public transit you’ve got to learn all of the new bus routes that you will need to take and on top of that you’ve got to find your way to essential locations such a grocery stores, the pharmacy, the bank, school (if you’re a student), and work, to name only a few. While getting lost can be a little (or a lot) scary, try to have fun with it and embrace the adventure. And if you’ve got a smartphone with a data plan, you’ll at least have the peace of mind of having a GPS in your pocket at all times to help you out if you really need it.

  1. Stress

Stress is an inevitable (but manageable) part of the moving process. The actual moving day in and of itself is stressful, but then you’ve also got the financial stress of paying for the move, the stress of adapting to a new city, the stress of feeling cut off from your old life, and (in my case) the stress of having to find a new job. With this in mind, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself and do things that you enjoy that will help you manage your stress level. It’s also important to remember that even though you’ve moved to a new city, you’re not entirely cut off from the people you love who will support you; pick up the phone and call someone when you need to! You don’t have to go through all of this stress alone! (And if you find that you’re really struggling, perhaps consider finding yourself a good therapist who can help you through this life transition.)

  1. Loneliness

Loneliness is something that I personally have been struggling with over the past few days. I don’t really know anyone in my new city aside from a few classmates. I’ve moved even further away from my already far family and while I’m closer to my best friend, she’s still an hour and a half away. As a result, I’ve been feeling pretty isolated even though I actually tend to prefer spending time alone. So, to deal with this loneliness I’ve been distracting myself by embracing the excitement of the move and forcing myself to go out for at least a few hours every day and explore a new street/neighborhood every day. Not only is this helping me get a better grasp on the layout of the city, but it’s also keeping my mind busy and giving my body some much needed exercise to help with my stress.

       6. New experiences

A new city means new opportunities and tons of new experiences. There are new places to explore, new restaurants to try, new adventures to go on with friends! You might feel like turning into a hermit and staying in the safety of your warm bed with the company of Netflix, but try to challenge yourself! Get out there and enjoy all that your city has to offer you!

7. Personal growth

Moving to a new city means forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone and that means you have opportunities for personal growth. You get to experience a level of courage and resilience that you may not have known you possessed until you managed to move to a new place and survive the transition! Congratulations! You’re stronger than you knew and now you can take on even bigger life changes that you might have previously been afraid of! Now give yourself a pat on the back and take a moment to recognize and appreciate your strength! And, of course, enjoy your new home.

xo

Ayla

Grad School Semester #1: Check!

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At the beginning of 2016 I made a page-long bucket list of things that I wanted to complete this year. And as of one week ago I can officially say that I checked off the last item on the list: completing my first semester of grad school.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted on here (grad school homework + part-time job= no free time) so just to catch you up on what I’ve been up to for the past four months, I’ve been work work working away on my Master of Social Work degree. As someone who does not have a background in clinical work, there has definitely been a HUGE learning curve this semester, but I can honestly say that I worked hard and I feel like I learned A LOT that will be useful in my future career as a therapist.

One thing that really surprised me over this past semester is the fact that I have an interest in more than just one area of social work. Initially, I was completely against working in hospital social work; however, after an inspiring shadowing opportunity in a major Canadian hospital, I feel compelled to explore this as a possible area of social work that I might work in. While my primary goal is still to work in the area of mental health as a therapist, I feel a lot more open to exploring a wider range of social work settings before settling down into one role for the rest of my career.

Interestingly, I’ve also realized that I might not be as much of a suburbs and country-side person as I once thought I was. In fact, going to school in such a large city has completely changed my outlook for where my life will take me in 5-10 years. Before beginning this program I thought for sure that I would hate the big city but I’ve absolutely loved it. This was something that took me entirely by surprise as I was so sure that I would hate it. I guess that just goes to show how much people can change even in a short time!

With all of that being said, the biggest lesson that I’ve learned over the course of my first semester of grad school is that life changes so fast. Change is inevitable. I shouldn’t try to fight it and neither should you, my lovely readers! Change is terrifying and exhilarating and wonderful! As I am writing this I am preparing for a massive change tomorrow: I’m moving to the city that just four months ago terrified me. Looking back I can hardly believe how much I have grown and how much stronger I am for all of the challenges I’ve overcome. Change is a challenge, but change is necessary. How can you expect to grow if you never change?

xo

Ayla

 

Bookworm Bloggin’: Little Deaths by Emma Flint

Synopsis

27845924It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone–a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress–wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.

As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth’s life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth’s little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman–and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children’s lives.

Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case. Pete’s interest in the story develops into an obsession with Ruth, and he comes to believe there’s something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as a promiscuous femme fatale. Did Ruth Malone violently kill her own children, is she a victim of circumstance–or is there something more sinister at play?

Inspired by a true story, Little Deaths, like celebrated novels by Sarah Waters and Megan Abbott, is compelling literary crime fiction that explores the capacity for good and evil in us all.

Review

IF YOU LIKE SUSPENSEFUL PAGE-TURNING BOOKS, YOU MUST READ LITTLE DEATHS.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want to start off by saying that I loved this book. I was a bit hesitant at first when I was trying to decide if I wanted to read it because I wasn’t sure if I would like the classic crime noir feel. With that being said, I’m so happy that I decided to give Little Deaths a shot!

When I initially started to read this book I did not realize that the story is based on details from a real case. For me, this added a whole new level of excitement to the book and it caused me to spend entirely too much time looking up details of the case. The story is just that compelling!

One reaction that I was not anticipating when I initially picked up this book was the pure rage that I experienced as a result of the prejudice and scrutiny that the main character experienced from the police and the media. As a feminist, I became enraged with the idiocy of the way that Ruth was treated and the unfairness of it all. I am aware that women were often subjected to harsh judgments, prejudice, and inequality in the 60s; however, this book brought these issues to the forefront of my awareness in a way that I had never experienced before and the anger that I felt as a result was extremely overwhelming at times.

In terms of the story itself, I found the character development to be superb and while the plot was a bit slow it still achieved the suspenseful purpose of shocking me entirely with the unexpected ending. Seriously, I did NOT see that coming… So, if you’re in the mood for a good suspense novel with an old classics feel, look no further.

Happy reading!

Ayla

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Bookworm Bloggin’: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

Synopsis

28575699For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to keep everyone at arm’s length. And when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.

As the walls of Mel’s compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst–that her friends will abandon her if they learn the truth about what she’s been hiding. Can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?

In A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, Eric Lindstrom, author of the critically acclaimed Not If I See You First, examines the fear that keeps us from exposing our true selves, and the courage it takes to be loved for who we really are.

Review

For those of you who are long-time readers, you’ll know that my passion in life is mental health. So when I was given the opportunity to read and review a book that deals with a serious mental health condition, I jumped on it!

I want to start off by saying that I have never personally struggled with bipolar disorder so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the book’s portrayal of the disorder. With that being said, a quick scroll through the growing number of reviews on Goodreads reveals that many individuals who have read the book and who struggle with bipolar disorder found it to be accurate and realistic in the depictions of the illness. While this may not be such an important detail for people who are just in it for a good story (which you will definitely get, but more on that later!) it is extremely important to me because accurate media content helps to end stigma and raise awareness about mental health. For this accomplishment alone I think the book deserves 5 starts.

Moving on to the the storyline itself, I found this book to be engaging and heartbreaking at the same time. The main character, Mel, deals with so much isolation and fears of abandonment and the sadness involved in this experience is so authentic. On top of this, Mel goes through a tremendous amount of family turmoil and loss which makes her story that much more heartbreaking (but in the interest of remaining spoiler-free, you’ll have to read the book to learn more about that particular detail).

Another element of the story which really stands out is Mel’s inability to trust. She distances herself from her friends at school and as the reader it felt so easy to empathize with this distrust and understand why she would feel that way. Recently being diagnosed with bipolar disorder would be hard enough to deal with on it’s own without adding in all of the additional life changes that Mel is facing. Throughout the entirety of the book I found myself feeling a rollercoaster of emotions from extreme sadness to compassion to anger at the unfairness of Mel having to go through so much on her own. Mel felt so REAL to me. I didn’t feel as though I was reading a work of fiction; I felt as though I was looking through a window into the life of a real girl going through real pain, and for me this felt like a very helpless experience. I wanted to reach out and help her!

With all of that being said, I think it’s safe to say that I loved this book. It is a fast-paced story full of ups and downs; yet, somehow Mel manages to make it through. I found this book to be inspiring and educational at the same time which is not an easy feat to accomplish. If you’re looking for a good book to learn about bipolar disorder, or if you’re looking for a place to feel understood as someone going through the disorder I would highly recommend reading A Tragic Kind of Wonderful. Eric Lindstrom does a magnificent job of dealing with tough issues in a realistic and powerful way that left me feeling such strong emotions!

My overall rating: 5 stars.

Thanks for reading!

Ayla

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

The LENA cup review: Making “that time of the month” easier for young girls and women alike

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When I was roughly nine or ten years old, I remember my Mom and I driving to the local Walmart to pick up a few things and suddenly, “the talk” happened. No, not THAT talk; the period talk!

At the time, I had been very wide-eyed and curious about the whole idea of a menstrual cycle. What do you mean girls bleed out of THERE for a few days every month? How long will it go on for? Is there a way that I can make it stop? Why does it happen to girls but not boys? My initial reaction was one of confusion, anxiety, and fear. However, after I started to learn more about the process and discovered that it is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of, I started to actually feel excited about the prospect of menstruation.

At this point, in typical Ayla fashion, I decided that I wanted to be prepared so I asked my Mom to buy me supplies just in case. The next day, she came home with a package of pads and showed me how to use them. A few years later when I started high school, I discovered tampons; however, there was (and still is) a bit of a taboo about using tampons. Some people feel as though there is a certain age at which a girl is finally old enough to use tampons while others are completely against the use of such products because they pose a threat to the socially constructed concept of virginity.

Not surprisingly, when I discovered menstrual cups eight years later, I was faced with many of the same taboos that surround tampons…only much much worse. Initially, I experienced many of the same feelings of fear and anxiety that I had experienced when I first learned about periods. However, these fears were quickly dismissed after I did my research and discovered just how safe and convenient menstrual cups really are! Even still, I had an insistent voice in the back of my head telling me that I was too young to use a menstrual cup. Now, looking back, I wish I had known what I know now: any menstruating female can use a menstrual cup, no matter her age! Which leads me to the whole point of this post: the LENA cup.

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The LENA cup is the third menstrual cup that I have used and I can honestly say that it would be perfect for anyone who is just starting to use a cup, as well as anyone who is looking to switch things up for a more user-friendly and comfortable option. For starters, the flexibility and smooth rim design make the insertion process so much easier than other products such as the Diva Cup. Additionally, the LENA cup is the only menstrual cup that I am aware of that features slanted suction holes which not only prevents leakage, but also makes it much easier to clean than other menstrual cups.

Speaking of leakage, I personally find bell-shaped cups like the LENA cup to be better for avoiding leaks than cone-shaped cups like the Diva cup. I personally have not experienced any leakage with the LENA cup so far; however, if you’re new to using cups it might take you a few tries to get the positioning right so that you don’t experience any leakage. I recommend wearing a pad or liner for the first few attempts at using the LENA cup just in case you don’t quite have the positioning right. Additionally, it’s important to empty the cup every 4-12 hours (depending on your flow) to ensure that the cup does not overflow and cause leakage. In other words, if you use the cup according to the guidelines in the instruction manual, you should be leak-free!

In terms of removal, the long stem coupled with the grip rings around the base of the LENA cup make removal of the cup a lot easier than you might think. Before using a menstrual cup, my biggest fear had been that it would somehow get lost inside of my body. However, this is actually impossible based on the anatomy of the female body and the removal process becomes much easier with practice. Depending on your preference, you might choose to keep the stem or cut it off. The LENA cup features grip rings on both the stem and the cup so either way you should be able to get a firm grip on the cup to make the removal process much easier, which is definitely a plus when compared to cups with a smooth base or shorter stem.

The cup comes in two seizes: LENA small (for first-time users and normal flow) and LENA large (for a heavier flow). While other companies advertise the sizing based on whether or not you have given birth vaginally or not, LENA bases the sizing on whether you have a light/normal flow versus a heavy flow. Personally, I like this about the company because I know of women as young as 15 or 16 who use the larger sized menstrual cup despite never having given birth. With that being said, if you are new to using menstrual cups I would recommend using the LENA small to start out because its smaller size makes insertion easier and a bit less daunting.

Overall, the LENA cup is an excellent menstrual cup and I believe that it would be perfect for younger females (teens and preteens) as well as adult women. As the company claims, I can confidently say that the small LENA cup is the perfect starter cup for women and girls who are new to menstrual cups! I absolutely love the LENA cup and I would recommend it to all of my friends, family, and readers! Having your period is nothing to be ashamed of and neither is the use of a menstrual cup! So with all of this in mind, you might still be wondering:

WHY USE A MENSTRUAL CUP?

100% safe!

The LENA cup is made of medical-grade silicone and is hypoallergenic so it is completely safe for you to use. Unlike other feminine hygiene products like pads and tampons, you never have to worry about harsh chemicals entering your body.

Maintain your natural balance

Unlike tampons, the LENA cup helps you maintain your pH balance and natural moisture which can help you avoid discomfort, dryness, and itching.

Comfort

Once inserted, you cannot feel the LENA cup. This coupled with the 12-hour capacity means that you might just forget that you’re on your period while using a menstrual cup!

Convenience

Menstrual cups have a much higher capacity than pads and tampons so they can be left in for up to 12 hours without needing to be emptied. This means that you could empty your cup in the morning and leave it in all day while you’re at school or at work without worrying about leakage. Plus, there is no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) which means you can leave it in overnight!

Save money

While the cost of a menstrual cup is higher upfront than the cost of pads or tampons, you can re-use them for years which means that in the long term you save hundreds of dollars! The LENA cup sells for $35.99 on their website.

Better for the environment

Pads and tampons create a huge amount of waste that ends up in landfills, oceans, and lakes. Menstrual cups, on the other hand, are re-usable and much more environmentally friendly.

ARE YOU READY TO MAKE THE SWITCH TO MENSTRUAL CUPS?

If you are interested in purchasing your own LENA cup, visit their website and enter promo-code LENAMOON to get 15% off of your purchase on lenacup.com! 

Remember, there is no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed about menstruating or using a menstrual cup! The cup tends to get a bad reputation and is often viewed as unhygienic despite all off the research which demonstrates that menstrual cups are actually much more sanitary and safe in comparison to other feminine hygiene products! Whether you’re 10 years old or 35 years old, it’s never to early or too late to make the switch and reap the rewards of using a menstrual cup!

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, comments or feedback!

xo
Ayla

Note: I received a complementary LENA cup in exchange for an honest user review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

 

Grad School week one: success!!

apply_nowThe past week has been a whirlwind of excitement, anxiety, uncertainty, information overload, and incredible opportunities. Tomorrow marks the first day of official classes which means that I successfully managed to make it through the orientation and introductory conference days! Week one of grad school was a success!

One week ago I was full of anxiety and nerves. I was terrified of navigating the city and such a large campus and I was equally concerned that my panic attacks would get in the way of me being able to truly enjoy the experiences. While the first day was certainly a day fit for a few panic attacks, the rest of the week went relatively well which was great! Much better than expected!

Additionally, I managed to find two other women with similar interests and lifestyle habits who I instantly bonded with and spent the rest of the week with. Having someone to sit with, talk to, and eat lunch with made a world of difference for staving off my worries and anxiety. Plus, I had added the bonus of travel buddies to help me navigate public transit and get used to getting around the campus.

Overall, I am excited about this new chapter in my life and I am completely exhausted. I can officially say that I am pursuing a career in social work after years of thinking that my own struggles posed a barrier to my ability to achieve this dream. I finally feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. I am becoming a social working and I am going to dedicate my career to helping people who struggle with mental illness.

I can’t wait to develop my skills and gain the knowledge that I need to be an effective, empathetic, and supportive therapist. Here’s to making the most of an incredible opportunity!

Ayla

Detached by Christina Kilbourne Review

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Synopsis

Anna has always been so level-headed, so easy-going, so talented and funny. How could anyone have guessed she wanted to die?

Anna is not like other people. For one thing, she’s been an accomplished artist since she was a preschooler. For another, she’s always felt like she didn’t belong: not with other kids, not with her family, not in her body. It isn’t until her grandparents are killed in a tragic accident, however, that Anna starts to feel untethered. She begins to wonder what it would be like if she didn’t exist and the thought of escaping the aimless drifting is the only thing that brings her comfort.

When Anna overdoses on prescription pain killers the doctors realize she has been suffering from depression and start looking for a way to help her out of the desperate black hole she never thought she would escape. It’s then that rock bottom comes into sight and the journey back to normal begins.

Review

I want to begin this review by first recognizing the author’s dedication to writing a book of hope rather than writing for the purpose of glamorizing mental illness. While I believe that there can be tremendous value and inspiration found in the pages of books about mental illness, I also believe that if authors are not careful, their work can do more harm than good. Christina Kilbourne not only recognizes this fact, but she does a wonderful job of harnessing the power of written words in a way that inspires the reader to seek help or empathize with the character rather than triggering copycat behavior.

While I was in the initial stages of researching this book, I came across a quote from the author which states, “I wanted a story that would be sensitive, but not suggestive. I wanted a story that would appeal to teens, yet not scare off parents, teachers or librarians. I wanted a story that would show the despair suicide brings to family and friends without being preachy […] I wanted to write a book about suicide that would bring hope, understanding and perhaps a measure of comfort to anyone who might be reading and want to end their life. At the same time, I wanted those who had lost a loved one to suicide to realize it wasn’t their fault”.

My reader’s note to the author (if she ever happens to read this…) is that Detached absolutely 100% without a doubt achieves each and every one of these goals. I did not find the book to be the least bit suggestive or preachy and as a mid-twenties reader I could definitely see myself referring Detached to teenagers and older adults alike. The story is written with such finesse and the reader truly gets to experience an inside look at depression, suicide, and the debilitating reality of mental health conditions. If you are someone who has personally experienced depression, suicidal ideation, or suicidal behaviors, you might just find yourself feeling incredibly understood  and inspired by the pages of Detached. Alternatively, if you are someone who has not personally struggled but has a loved one who does, you might begin to better understand what your loved one is feeling by reading Kilbourne’s novel.

Detached is both deeply saddening and yet somehow powerfully inspiring. I felt such a strong connection to the main character, Anna, due to my own experiences with mental illness and I can honestly say that Kilbourne did an excellent job of depicting Anna’s struggles realistically rather than glamorizing it for a more dramatic storyline. But don’t let that statement convince you that the story is not dramatic; on the contrary, I found Detached to be an entirely gripping novel to read. I could NOT put this book down! In fact, when my alarm woke me up at 9am the morning after I finished Detached I mentally scolded myself for staying up until 3am reading, but it was definitely well worth staying up to finish!

One unique element to this book which I have not previously found in any young adult fiction about mental illness is the inclusion of an adult point of view. The story is told from the rotating perspectives of Anna, her best friend, and her mother. This aspect of the book is both intriguing and functional because it allows the reader to approach the story from their own perspective whether they are the person who is struggling or the person who is looking in trying to help. In my opinion, this element of the novel makes it more appealing to a wider audience because adults might actually find it easier to relate to the story from the adult perspective. Of course, this is just a theory as I am not a parent nor an “adult” (I refuse to embrace that title until I’m at least 25) but I might test this theory by referring the book to a few of the more “adultier” adults in my life to see what they think!

On another note, I also wanted to take a moment to appreciate the applicability of the title of Detached. When I think of my own experiences with depression, the first thing that comes to mind is the overwhelming feeling of being detached and isolated from the world around me. While no two people will experience mental illness in the same way, I know many people who have expressed a similar feeling of detachment from both themselves and those around them. I can think of absolutely no better word to describe Anna’s story in this novel and if I’m being completely honest, it was the title which initially drew me to this book and inspired my decision to contact the publisher for an advanced reader copy. So in this respect, I suppose you might say that I began empathizing with this book before I even turned the first page.

Overall, Detached is an incredibly remarkable story about grief, suicide, substance abuse, and learning to rebuild a shattered life. Upon further reflection I realized that this book is reminiscent of one of my favorite quotes by J. K. Rowling which states, “rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”.  This quote has been something of a mantra that I have adopted into my own life when I am struggling and I found myself relating to Detached in the same way that I relate to the quote. The story allowed me to feel as though my struggles are valid while still recognizing the fact that it is possible to overcome even the darkest of depressive episodes.

I honestly believe that this story has the potential to save lives. If you or someone you know is struggling, perhaps you might consider reading this novel. It might just help you shine a light on all the darkness in your life.

Lastly, I would also like to point out that the Detached blog tour is perfectly timed to align with the approaching World Suicide Prevention Day which occurs on September 10, 2016. I can think of no other book which would be better suited to raising awareness about suicide so it seems especially fitting that Dundern Press has arranged for this book tour to take place in alignment with such an important day. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be part of this book tour and I would like to encourage all of my readers to not only read Detached which was recently released, but also to raise awareness and start conversations on World Suicide Prevention Day. Every voice counts in the fight to end mental health stigma!

xo
Ayla

Note: I received a complementary copy of this book from Dundurn press in exchange for an honest reader review and participation in the Detached Book Tour. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own. 

When a house doesn’t feel like a home

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How do you make a house feel like home?

I’ve been living in my current place for over a year now and try as I might, I just can’t make it feel like home. I’ve got my belongings here; I’ve tried redecorating numerous times; I’ve lived with a roommate and without. Nothing seems to make a difference.

I think part of me really just can’t get past the temporary nature of my living arrangement. While I technically have my own “apartment”, I live in a house with other people and there are a few common areas. The apartment is intended only for students which means that as soon as I finish grad school I will have to find somewhere else to live. Furthermore, because there are shared common areas in this house, it doesn’t feel like my “apartment” is truly a private space.

Similarly, in my previous living situation I had moved into a condominium with two other women who had been living there for three years. When their roommate moved out, I moved in, but because they had been living there for so long already, I felt like a guest in their space. In this case, I could understand why I felt this way, but it’s so frustrating to feel similar experiences in my current apartment as well.

Am I going to feel this way about every space that I rent? Will I never experience the feeling of “home” until I actually own my own house?

I feel as though I’m in a very transitional period of life in which I changed career paths, quit my previous job, and am going back to school in a new (and terrifyingly huge) city. Everything is changing and I don’t even feel as though I have the comfortable familiarity of home that I did growing up. So, I wonder, how do I make a house feel like a home? How do I make my space feel like my own personal haven rather than feeling like a storage bunker for my clothes and furniture?

Have any of you ever felt this way? What do you do to make your space feel like home? Will this feeling go away once I finish school and move into a more “permanent” space? Ideally I’ll be living here for the next two years, which is a long time, but just knowing that there is a predetermined end to my stay here makes it feel so temporary.

Any advice?

xo
Ayla

We all have those days: A how-to guide for getting out of a rut

tired

We’ve all had those days (or weeks…or months as the case may be). You know the ones I’m talking about. The days when it feels like everything is going wrong, life is a disaster, and the day seems lost from the start, so why even bother getting out of bed? Well, for those of you who really just don’t know how to get yourself out of the rut of bad days, here are some of the ways that I try to make my bad days just a little bit better.

Get out of bed.

Seriously. Pull back the covers, sit up, have a stretch, and GET OUT OF BED. How can you expect your day to get better if you just stay in bed wallowing for hours on end?

Treat yourself to a nice breakfast.

Food can improve your mood. When you wake up in the morning after 8+ hours of sleeping, your body needs food to start the day right. If you skip breakfast, your body will stay in starvation mode which can increase your anxiety.

On top of alleviating anxiety, eating breakfast can be a great opportunity to treat yourself to a nice home-cooked meal, or maybe if you’re feeling up to it you could even take yourself to your favorite cafe or breakfast restaurant! A nice yummy breakfast is bound to improve even a small portion of your day.

50-ways-to-take-a-break-printableGive yourself permission to take a break.

Sometimes you just really need to take a break. Burnout can happen when you forget to take care of yourself or take time for the things that you enjoy. Make sure that you’re giving yourself permission to take time for yourself each day to recharge.

Spend some time with friends.

Spending time with friends (whether its in person or via phone/skype) can be a great way to pull yourself out of a rut. It gives you an opportunity to talk through whatever might be dragging you down. Recognizing the problem and putting it into words can often be a great way to help yourself brainstorm ways to get through it and feel better.

Look at pictures of baby animals.

Seriously, I was skeptical about the actual effectiveness of this one initially; however, it is scientifically proven that looking at images of baby animals can improve your mood! And the effectiveness of this mood booster increases even more if you can spend time with a real animal such as a puppy or cat. Animal therapy is a real thing. How can you resist a face as cute as this?

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Go for a walk.

Fresh air can often work wonders on a negative state of mind, not to mention the scientifically-backed idea that exercise is a great way to improve mood and reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.

Take it ten seconds at a time.

For this point, I give full credit to the writers of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In the TV show, Kimmy explains that when she is having a hard time, she focuses all of her energy on getting through the next ten seconds. This can help make the day seem more manageable and it can also act as proof that you are strong enough to get through whatever you are facing because you will get through those ten second intervals time and time again.

Think of the things you have to be grateful for.

In moments when it feels like everything is going wrong, I find it especially helpful to remind myself of the things that I am grateful for. I am grateful for my family and friends. I am grateful for my place in grad school. I am grateful that I get to pursue my dream career. I am grateful for my hopes and dreams. I am grateful for my therapist. I am grateful that I am alive. I am grateful that I have a roof over my head, food to fuel my body, and air to breathe.

By reminding myself of everything that I have to be grateful for, I can re-frame my negative mindset and remember that even though it feels as though nothing is going right, this is not the case.

♥♥♥

These are some of the tricks that I use to get me through those days when it feels as though everything is chaos and nothing is going right. Let me know in the comments what you think and also feel free to add on any of your own tips!

Happy long weekend!

xo
Ayla