Many are feeling a weight lifted; but how do we deal with the pressure to attend holiday parties?

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No one is saying it. You know, that feeling. That feeling of relief.

Relief? During the holidays? In 2020?!

Yes. Exactly that. Many are feeling safer this year as the obligation to show up to a family gathering where one might have to act a certain way, play a certain part, or tolerate certain people is lifted.

For folks who are used to their identity in their families being less than authentic, you might know what I’m getting at. The holidays are a difficult time for a lot of people with dysfunctional or unsupportive families. …


Tricking your brain, avoiding bargaining, and practicing self-compassion.

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Trigger warning: Mention of body dysmorphia/restrictive eating.

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With the pandemic entering its second wave and folks using terms like “The Quarantine-15,” I find myself facing down familiar adversaries: Dysmorphia and a long-dead eating disorder, which still sometimes manifests as “Did you work out enough to eat that?” And “Good job you forgot to eat until 1 pm, that should help you lose a few pounds.”

When I was 17, I had an 18-year-old friend buy me green tea diet pills from Walgreens. Stretch marks began showing on my body. At work, at the front register, there was a mirror faced opposite of me — I would pull my shirt tight around my stomach to see how much it protruded in between customers. I would cry on shopping trips with my mom in the dreaded fluorescent dressing rooms where no flaw went undetected or unscrutinized. I begged her to buy diet foods and I wouldn’t eat most of the day, show up at the gym, and pass out after 5 minutes on the elliptical. …


You can’t; and that matters in the midst of another national mental health crisis

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It is a running joke in my personal relationships that I am a walking contradiction. Working in the mental health field, it’s my job to help folks build self-care plans and practice my own. Last night, I failed miserably — and yes, I had a face mask on. I guess I missed the part of the label that reads: “This product does not chase away Election anxiety, you’ll just smell like lavender and be out $20.” Kinda want my money back though.

So there I am, purple clay on my face, a lap full of hot Chinese food, talking with someone on my Facebook feed who is asking for proof that anyone’s life has been affected in the last four years by this administration. …


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Edit: Since this article was published, a few folks from the autism community have come forward to let me know that people with autism prefer to lead by their diagnosis; that their diagnosis of autism. I felt this edit was important to make, as this article does not appear to include this community.

“Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.”

-Louise Banks, Arrival

After a couple of years of telling my partner that I had no interest in sci-fi movies, watching one actually proved useful. This quote is taken from Arrival, a film that follows a linguist as she tries to help the military figure out what aliens who recently landed on Earth want; she is tasked with not just deciphering their language, but teaching them English. She stresses the importance of understanding how others who do not speak our language understand words, and how those words dictate the way we think and perceive others. And, suddenly, we have the power to make peace or to wage war. …


The waters of communication are muddy; jump in anyway

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I hate when words start vibrating. You know — “buzzwords.”

Sorry.

But really; I feel like the buzzword trap door comes with the territory when we try to write about hot-button issues. I can’t not use them; culture decides the trend of colloquial word use, I’m just a millennial trying to keep up with the lingo. …


Lives depend on mental health interventions free of fatality. We aren’t there yet, but we can get there eventually.

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I come from a family of cops. My grandfather was a cop and was killed as a result of an injury on duty. My uncle is a retired cop, and my aunt worked in police department administration, sometimes being brought on ride alongs for calls involving women. Life for me was filled with positive messaging about cops. In my grandmother’s hallway hung Norman Rockwell’s painting, The Runaway. I remember vividly my aunt pointing to it and telling me how good, kind, and concerned the cop was for the little boy who ran away from home. The image is burned into my memory. …


Suicide is a community issue, not an individual one, — and we can solve it.

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Trigger warning: This article is explicitly about death by suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

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Two Years Earlier

When the ambulance arrived, EMTs loaded Khel in the back and strapped her down to a gurney against her will. I swung my foot up inside the back to climb inside with her. The driver grabbed my arm and yanked me out.

“You can’t go back there with her!” he said. “You have no idea what she’s going to do in this state, you need to ride up front.” …


Mistaking common life experiences with mental illness is dangerous for everyone

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Does the doctor make home visits anymore? Maybe not, but your psychiatrist may have an Instagram account now. In the age of tele-therapy, I suppose this feels somewhat par for the course, and hey, I’m pro-accessibility. Let’s face it: The folks who need mental healthcare the most cannot afford the session fees or medication, sometimes even with insurance.

Moreover, Over 26 million individuals experiencing a mental health illness are going untreated in the U.S as of this year. So it may be easy to imagine a person suffering coming across an instagram photo of a bulleted list of reasons why they may be traumatized and think, “Oh my god, these are all me, this makes so much sense, and I feel so validated!” I love validation too, I really do, it’s critical to the work I do as a Certified Peer Specialist as well as my own recovery. …


Knowing the difference between adverse life experiences and PTSD is crucial in how we cope, heal, and live life after trauma.

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TRIGGER WARNING:

This article includes themes of suicide, depression, trauma, and other related topics. Reader discretion is advised.

I handled the day-to-day of my life post-trauma with denial, the good-ol’ grin-bear-it method. I became adept at avoiding memories and feelings at all costs. I acclimated to the repetitive, violent nightmares about my family, in which I saw my sister die over and over again. The nightmares where I called 911 but couldn’t get through. The obsessive replaying of events, of words exchanged and things done to me. Stay busy enough, be normal enough, excel at every achievement, survive, survive, survive. That was life for me, from the time I was 15 or so until that June, just a few days after my twenty second birthday. I started calling out of work almost every day. I slept until one in the afternoon and when I got up, the first thing I would do is cry. And cry. And cry and cry and cry. Pain was alive inside of me, viscerally, so much so that I felt that I could reach into my chest cavity and remove some kind of pulsating viscous of black tarr and cartilage and solve the problem that way. But medication and hospitalization and treatment were for people way more incapacitated than I was. I had 2–3 jobs at a time and was attending college and living on my own. High functioning as they call it. …


“I think there’s still a prevailing idea that recovery is very black and white. I think there are very few things in life that are that cut and dry.”

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CONTENT WARNING: This interview contains explicit, graphic discussions of self harm, alcohol use, and other mental health related topics that may be triggering for some readers. Please proceed with caution.

It is not uncommon for a person to deal with both a substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental illness. In fact, they sometimes go hand in hand. Studies have shown addiction has become a means of coping with emotional stress. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Association (SAMHSA), 20% of individuals with a severe mental health disorder will develop a substance use disorder during their lifetime. But, of these individuals, only 7.4% receive treatment for both disorders, and 55% receive no treatment at all (SAMHSA, 2015). …

About

Kristen Higgins

Certified Peer Specialist in MA. Recovery Community Manager & Writer/Editor for Marigold Health. BSW student & photographer. She/her

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