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. 

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

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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

5 Tips for Getting Grad School Ready (when you have a mental health condition)

It’s hard to believe that in less than one month I will be a graduate student. I’ve waited a year and a half to make this dream come true and now it’s finally here. Am I excited? Sure. But if I had to pick one word to describe how I’m feeling right now, I would say “terrified” is a better descriptor.

A few months ago I visited one of my undergraduate professors who wrote a letter of reference for admission into my graduate school program. While I was visiting she told me “if something both excites and terrifies you, you must do it”. Looking back on this conversation, I realize just how true these words of wisdom really are. When it comes to pursuing grad school, I know that I am not just pursuing a higher education; I am chasing my dream. Getting my master’s degree is the next big step that I have to take to become a mental health therapist. Recovery is another (although that has been an ongoing battle for the past few years…)

So, despite my fears and the incessant worried thoughts in the forefront of my mind, I know that I will push through the difficulty of this transition to make my dreams a reality. So without further ado, here are some of the ways that I’ve been getting grad school ready while struggling with anxiety and depression:

Plan ahead

If there is one thing that I know to be an effective way to deal with anxiety, it’s planning. Plan your schedule out ahead of time; get to know when your classes are, when you’ll be working, and when you’ll be able to have some free time. Also, plan your budget and finances so you’ll know what to expect in terms of cost, income, and any revenue or debt that you might incur.

Backpack with school suppliesPurchase your school supplies

If you want to feel ready for grad school, what better way is there than to actually get ready for grad school? Last week I went out to my local department store and picked up some composition notebooks to get myself ready for classes. I already have a stockpile of other necessary stationary, but if you don’t already have some then it would be a good idea to also stock up on pens, paper, sticky-notes, and a good quality backpack!

clean-up-grocery-cart-rules-healthier-shopping-ftrStock up on non-perishables

During my undergraduate degree, I often struggled to find time to go and buy groceries which meant that my cupboards were looking a little scarce towards the end of the semesters. In preparation for the inevitability of my hectic school schedule returning, I decided to go out and stock up on food products such as pasta, cereal, drinks, and other groceries to ensure that I’ve got enough supplies to last me for a while. If you’re going to be living in a dorm, you can probably skip this step, but if you’re going to be living off-campus and preparing your own meals then I highly recommend stocking up!

Make a list of reasons to keep going when the going gets tough

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety or depression, then chances are that you understand just how hard it can be to stay on track and keep going when you’re feeling your worst. As a preventative measure, I’ve written myself letters and enclosed them in envelopes labelled “for when you’re feeling sad” and “for when you feel like giving up” to remind my future self why she is going through the stress of grad school in the first place and to reinforce the goals that she is working towards. Sometimes it can be helpful to remind yourself that the struggle of the present moment won’t last forever and writing a letter to your future self can be a great way to do that.

talkingEstablish a support system

If you know that you’re going to have a hard time adjusting to the first few weeks or months of grad school, let someone who cares about you know that you are concerned. Talk to people about your struggles and let them know that you might need some extra support. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help when you need it and sometimes having someone to call for a quick pep-talk is all you need to get yourself out of a rut. Some people you might consider talking to could be a parent, sibling, close friend, or therapist.

♥♥♥

I know that major life transitions can be really stressful and they can often have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if you’re already struggling. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the way you are feeling will not last forever and there are things that you can do to make the transition to grad school easier. I hope these tips are useful for you and be sure to let me know if there are any other tips and tricks that you have for coping with transitional phases of life such as starting university or heading off to grad school.

Good luck in the new school year to all of my fellow students out there!

xo
Ayla

 

 

 

25 things that make me happy- #tag

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I’m not usually one to follow tags or trending topics; however, I recently came across the 25 things that make me happy tag and I thought I would give it a go. I could definitely use some positivity right about now!

  1. A warm cup of coffee in the morning
  2. Listening to music during the bus/train ride to work/school
  3. My family
  4. My friends
  5. Memories of my dog
  6. Reading!! 
  7. Journaling and self-reflection
  8. Playing my guitar
  9. Tea
  10. Me-time
  11. Imagining the future
  12. My therapist
  13. Going for a walk
  14. Watching YouTube videos that cheer me up
  15. Thought-provoking conversations
  16. Learning/school
  17. Talking to my best friend
  18. Playing with my brother’s cats when I visit him
  19. Warm, cozy clothes on a crisp autumn day
  20. Autumn
  21. Pumpkin spiced everything
  22. Photography
  23. Cuddling with my Dad while watching TV (forever a daddy’s girl)
  24. Blogging
  25. Feeling loved and supported

This list is obviously by no means exhaustive, but it includes a lot of the things the little things I do all the time as well as some of the things that I don’t get to do often but I cherish when I can.

It truly is amazing how much of a difference it can make to your day if you take a moment to sit down and think about things that make you happy or joyful. Writing this post brought a smile to my face more than once and it made me realize the value in keeping a gratitude journal. The power of positive thinking is a tremendous thing.

xo
Ayla

Nostalgia: A secret anxiety-fighting weapon

balance-childhood-nostalgia-photography-favim-com-138417Nostalgia. It’s that feeling that takes you back to a happier moment in time; perhaps a more peaceful moment in time.

Sometimes I feel like a small child longing for that treasured item that brings comfort. It could be a stuffed animal, a favorite toy, or maybe even a blanket.

For me, my comfort blanket is quite literally a blanket. It’s a relatively new item, not one from my childhood; but the fabric and texture is identical to that of the blanket which I used to wrap around myself while cuddling with my dog on the couch at my parents’ old house. Now, when I’m lying awake at night stressing out about who-knows-what, I wrap myself up in this blanket and I can almost imagine that I’m hugging my childhood dog.

nostalgic-quotes-1For many years my dog was often the only source of companionship or support that I had in my home environment. There was always a lot of tension in my family but my dog was always a source of undying love. Or at least he was until he died in September 2015. His passing broke my heart and absolutely shattered me for months. Nearly one year later I’ve come to treasure the memories that I have of him and I’m able to find support in the love that exists in those memories as well as in the love that I still have for him even though he is no longer physically here.

When I think of my fur-brother, I feel many things. I feel sadness, grief, and loneliness because he is no longer with me, but I also feel peace and comfort at the idea that he is somehow watching over me and wagging his tail. When I’m going through really hard times, often the only thing that gets me through the day is wrapping my arms around a pillow and imagining myself hugging him. It’s not the same; but nostalgia is a powerful feeling and the memory of hugging him has helped me get through many rough days.

Alternatively, there are certain fragrances and tastes which bring back memories that are soothing. For example, my best friend loves the smell and taste of peaches so whenever I visit her she always has peach-scented candles. So, when I was at work yesterday and I came across a package of peach tea in the clearance section, I knew that I needed to break my no-spending rule for the sake of anxiety relief. Tea is soothing in and of itself a lot of the time, but this one in particular reminds me so much of my best friend. I don’t get to see her very often because we live so far away from each other for university so anything that reminds me of her also reminds me of all of the wonderful things that I love about her. One of the traits that I cherish about her is her support. So, in a roundabout sort of way, this tea reminded me that I am supported and loved because it reminds me of my best friend.

While the feeling of nostalgia is by no means an absolute cure for anxiety, I have been finding it rather soothing when I’m feeling extremely sad or stressed out (as I have been a lot lately). But just because it is not a cure does not mean that it is not a useful tool. On the contrary, finding things that bring about moments of nostalgia for you can be extremely effective for reducing anxiety and depression as well as fighting off panic attacks. Just try to find things that trigger happy memories or calming memories rather than thinking about things that will make you feel even more depressed or anxious.

I know first hand how difficult it can be to struggle with mental illness and I truly do find some relief in nostalgia. Sometimes it works better than others and sometimes it does not work at all; it really depends on how I’m feeling in a given moment. But the one thing that I think is really important to remember is that this moment is temporary. Things will get better. You won’t feel this way forever. Maybe you won’t feel better today or tomorrow, but eventually you will look back and see how far you have come.

Don’t give up.

xo
Ayla

Grad school anxiety

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Lately, I’ve been struggling. And I mean REALLY struggling; the kind of struggling that involves spending days on end laying in bed trying desperately to hide from the world and the impending stresses of life (read: impending doom).

I knew this was coming: grad school anxiety. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be this bad. I had anticipated that I would feel anxious for maybe a week or so leading up to the first week of school but that the excitement would triumph over the nerves. I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

My anxiety started eight weeks sooner than I originally predicted and the excitement most certainly did not win out. On the contrary, the excitement has virtually disappeared and in it’s place I’ve been feeling this overwhelming sense of fear and uncertainty. Will I be able to handle grad school? Will I be able to manage the workload? Will I be able to afford to support myself on top of all of these additional costs? And, most pressing of all, how will I survive such a huge transition?

I thrive on stability; I need it. Without stability I feel as though my life will implode. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that grad school is starting to feel like a life threatening situation rather than a new adventure for the coming years. My stability has been compromised and I am now in full blown fight or flight mode. But the problem is that I don’t feel strong enough to fight and I don’t have the energy for flight. So instead I stay in bed. I stare at the same four walls of my bedroom and feel endlessly sad. Whereas the time leading up to grad school admissions decisions seemed to slow to a crawl, time now seems to be flying by impossibly fast and I am desperate for it to slow down and give me time to breathe. September is just five weeks away. I start classes in just over a month. One month. How is that even possible? And how will I cope with the reality of that situation in five weeks when I can hardly cope with the idea of it right now?

Honestly, right now I don’t have an answer to that question. But that doesn’t mean I’ve decided to do nothing. On the contrary, after months and months of steadily increasing anxiety I have decided that it’s time for me to go back on medication for anxiety and depression. I’ve been avoiding medication for the past two years ever since my first experience with a different antidepressant; however, I’ve got to at least give it a shot. My doctors claim that this medication should drastically decrease my anxiety and at this point I really need some relief, especially with grad school starting soon.

My only source of hope at this point is the fact that I went through this before starting my undergraduate degree and I somehow managed to pull through that. If I could get through these feelings when I was 17, surely I can get through these same feelings six years later.

As Dory would say, “Just keep swimming”.

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xo
Ayla

The Isolation Paradox

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Have you ever felt so completely alone that you’re left wondering how nobody can see how much your suffering and then felt anger as a result of this which then causes you to push people away?

I have.

It’s a bit strange/unfair/unrealistic to expect that people will just know how you’re feeling without you telling them (especially if you’re like me and you mask your emotions); yet, I constantly find myself feeling this way, particularly when depression comes knocking and feelings of hopelessness set in.

As an introvert, I tend to welcome isolation. My idea of a perfect day off would usually include a warm cup of coffee, a good book, and blissfully silent alone time. However, when it comes to feeling lonely, isolation becomes a point of sadness and distress which causes me to think that nobody cares about me. As a result, I start to feel anger and resentment towards friends, family, and even my therapist, none of whom suspect that anything is out of the ordinary because isolation is generally the norm for me. Unfortunately, this anger and resentment then leads me to push people even further away and cut off contact for extended periods of time until I start to feel better–a feat which often takes weeks or even months due to the tremendous self-imposed lack of social support.

After much thought and self-reflection, I’ve decided to call this experience The Isolation Paradox.

It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

a4dcfebdb50bccb1c0f013d565dd5111To put it in metaphorical terms, The Isolation Paradox is like being in a prison cell cut off from the rest of the world. But the difference between the paradoxical prison and real prison is that you–the inmate–are the one holding the key and the cage is locked from the inside out. You feel trapped but you’re too afraid to ask for help; you’re afraid that nobody will listen; you’re afraid that you’ve finally pushed everyone away for good; you’re afraid that even with help you won’t feel better.

But it’s not just fear that keeps you locked away; the anger you feel towards others as a result of their inability to know how you’re feeling adds fuel to your raging internal fire. It’s completely irrational and unfair to those around you; yet, you can’t seem to tame the anger. As a result, the irrational voice in the back of your mind tells you to isolate yourself from the people who unknowingly caused you so much pain in order to somehow exact your revenge. It does not make rational sense, but it’s as if you expect them to once again recognize that your social isolation and distance is a silent cry for help rather than the normative solace of an introvert. And so the cycle continues.

Have you ever felt this way? It may not be the exact same experience as what I’ve described above (for example, you may not be an introvert) but I’m almost certain that I’m not alone in this irrational and self-damaging behavior and thought process.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve also experienced The Isolation Paradox or if you have any thoughts on it!

Thanks for reading,
Ayla

Summer sun and staying busy

 

Hello wonderful readers of the internet!

Today I’m feeling inspired to write despite the fact that I’m still feeling quite unwell. I’ve been having a bit of a rough few weeks but the last couple of days have been wonderful! I’ve been reading a ton (no surprise there…), watching a lot of Glee on Netflix, and yesterday I got to spend the day at the beach with my best friend who I don’t get to see very often since we live so far apart. And to top off the excitement of yesterday I am going to see Finding Dory tonight with my sister who I also haven’t seen in a few months now! I am so excited! It’s a nice change of pace to have things to do and people to see rather than feeling so unwell that I spend days in bed watching boatloads of Netflix and YouTube.

Right now I’m feeling content and happy while enjoying the beautiful summer day today. I think I’m learning to appreciate the good days more when they arrive because I know that life can so quickly throw you a curve ball and turn you upside down. Conversely, I’m also learning that it’s important to try and push through the days when I’m feeling terrible and stick to my routine because staying occupied can actually help you feel better much more quickly than staying in bed for days on end ruminating on negative feelings. One of the reasons that I think this week has been so much better than the last month or so is the simple fact that my therapist has pushed me to get up, get out of the house, and keep myself busy rather than staying in my own little bubble of a world at home in my room. Even simple tasks like going for a walk, reading a book at the park, going to the mall, or writing a blog post can be good distractions and force you to focus on something other than anxiety or negative emotions for a certain amount of time. So if you plan your days out and make yourself to-do lists for each day to keep yourself busy, it just might help you to start feeling better in the same way that it has evidently helped me in the past few days.

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Additionally, making yourself get up and complete various tasks on your to-do list will make you feel so much more productive. For me, this meant searching for scholarships and writing essays for those scholarships to possibly earn some financial support to help me pay my way through my master’s degree. I’ve also been getting a lot more chores done and spending more time doing things that used to bring me joy such as playing my guitar and writing.

In addition to setting myself daily goals/to-do lists, I’ve also started setting monthly goals. Usually this includes reading X amount of books, writing X number of blog posts, and crossing off tasks that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time such as finding a new family doctor or buying my textbooks for school. These tasks don’t have to be monumental to be useful to your mental well-being. I feel a sense of satisfaction even crossing off the simplest tasks such as going for a walk.

Evidently, keeping myself busy has helped me in more than one way. I’m hoping to keep this up for the remainder of the summer and then use this approach to completing my school assignments and readings rather than procrastinating like I did throughout much of my undergraduate degree. Here’s to staying busy while also finding time to enjoy the sunshine and smell the daisies.

 ♥ ♥ ♥

xo
Ayla

“it’s all in your head” and other ignorant thoughts

Recently, I came across a video response on YouTube which was produced by Laura Lejeune in response to a video by Julia Boer who claims that eating disorders, anxiety, and depression are all choices, not illnesses.

In her video, Julia Boer claims that “[mental illness] is all in your head” and inferiorizes the suffering of individuals who experience the latter illnesses when contrasted with so-called “real” mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Boer claims that she is “trying to help” and “[has] the key to success” when it comes to recovery from eating disorders. So, you ask, what is this magical key to success? Well, dearest reader, according to Boer, it’s very simple! All you have to do is stop making the “choice” to have an eating disorder and BAM problem solved, you will no longer have an eating disorder.

a4ac53f6ee31931b81ca88238df5e816Now, wouldn’t that just be so nice? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all just wake up one day and decide to recover? Or, better yet, wouldn’t it be great if we could decide to stop the disorder before it even begins?

Yeah, that would be fantastic; however, it is ignorant to suggest that this is the “key to success”. Mental illness is not a choice. Recovery does require you to make the choice to fight for your life to get better, but developing a mental illness in the first place is not a choice. To suggest such a thing is offensive and –quite frankly– naive.

In the video, Lejeune makes a great counterargument to the “it’s all in your head” statement that I hear so frequently. She states:

“I never really understand when people say it’s all in your head. It’s kind of like, well yeah it’s in your head. It’s in your head because it’s a mental illness. It’s not called a mental illness because it’s physical. If you’ve got a pain in your leg you don’t say ‘it’s all in your leg’. That doesn’t make it any less severe. […] yes it’s in your head, but so are you”. 

When I heard this I actually had to pause the video and play it back three times to let that really set in. It’s so simple and yet so true. It’s in your head, but so are you. You can’t just remove yourself from your own mind. If you had a limb that was slowly killing you then you could amputate the limb. This may not be ideal, but it is at least a possibility to save your life. The same cannot be said of your mind. If you have a diseased mind threatening your life (i.e. depression causing suicidal thoughts) you can’t just amputate your mind. You’re stuck with it. You can’t escape from it. You cannot live without your mind and you cannot replace it in the same way that you might replace a defective organ with a transplant. So why is it that people say “it’s all in your head” as a means of diminishing the suffering of people who experience mental illness? Should that statement not act as a justification for why an individual should seek help immediately? Why is it so hard for people to grasp that mental illness is a serious, potentially life threatening issue that is most certainly NOT a choice? Why?!

Listening to what Julia Boer had to say about mental illness brought up a lot of emotions for me, but the two most prevalent of those emotions were anger and disappointment. I was angry that someone who is so obviously ignorant and uneducated about mental illness would speak out about an issue that she clearly knows absolutely nothing about and I was disappointed that we live in a society in which these oppressive opinions are relatively widespread. My mission as a future social worker is to break that stigmatization and educate people like Julia about the reality of mental illness.

If you have a mental illness it is not your fault. You did not choose to suffer. And if you are suffering but you do not believe that you deserve help, please reach out and talk to a doctor, a friend, a teacher, or someone else that you trust who can help you get the support that you need. Mental illness is not a choice, but recovery is. You did not make a conscious decision to suffer but you do need to make the choice to fight for your life and for the happiness that you deserve.

Remember, mental illness is in your head, but so are you.

xo
Ayla

New job excitement and coping with anxiety

Hello lovely readers of the internet!

Yesterday marked my very first day of employment at my new job and I think it went really well! I had a lot of anxiety leading up to 5pm when my shift started, but once I got there I felt relaxed, welcomed, and at ease with the environment.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been hired at a bookstore, but not just any bookstore; it’s my favorite store on the entire face of this planet! I love books and I love reading and I absolutely LOVE the atmosphere of the store where I’m working. For me, bookstores are my happy place. Therefore, my new place of employment is my happy place! Now I have an excuse to spend hours upon hours in a bookstore talking to people about books and making recommendations as well as receiving recommendations from customers!

i-can-t-keep-calm-because-i-got-a-new-job-5With all of that excitement out of the way, I’m still experiencing a lot of anxiety in the lead up to my next shift. I work again tomorrow and I’m extremely nervous. The rational part of my brain knows that I really enjoyed my first shift, but the anxious part of my brain is hung up on all of the things that I still have to learn and all of the co-workers that I still have to meet. I know that this anxiety will fade as I get accustomed to the new environment and learn the ins and outs of my role, but I’m still having trouble fighting off the anxious thoughts and I’ve spent 95% of my day today sitting in bed reading and browsing the internet in order to distract myself from my anxiety. Today is just one of those days where I need to take a break from the world and withdraw into my own space to ease my worries and feel more at ease.

The one thing that is really helping me keep the anxiety at bay is the memory of how enjoyable the job was during my first shift. I remember feeling calm and comfortable and I remember being capable of performing all of the assigned duties without too much of a learning curve. I feel as though I will learn the job really quickly and I’m very comfortable talking to people in a customer service role so I know without a doubt in my mind that I CAN do it. I know that I am more than capable of doing the job and being an excellent employee for my new place of employment.

Positive self-affirmations like the latter thoughts are really helping me stay grounded in reality. The anxious thoughts try to pull me into the unrealistic worst-case-scenario and I just have to keep reminding myself of the reality of my experiences during my first shift. My first day of work serves as proof that I am capable of doing well. I will get through my shift tomorrow just as I got through my shift yesterday. I feel anxious now and I will probably feel anxious tomorrow morning, but chances are that I will feel totally fine once I get there and get back into the swing of things.

Plus, this job will be good for me because it will force me to get out of the house. I’ve been off work for 6-7 weeks now and the majority of that time has been spent sitting alone in my apartment on my computer or reading a book. This job will force me to have more social interactions and get out of my apartment into the hustle and bustle of life which will be a good transitional step between now and September when I start my Masters degree.

Here’s to hoping my shift tomorrow goes well and is as enjoyable as my first day!!

Thanks for reading.
Ayla