If anyone has ever called you crazy, this is for you. You’re not alone.

mental illness becomes mental wellness
, , , , ,

[Day 21] Understanding Mental Illness

mental illness becomes mental wellness

It’s Day 21 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge. My topics to choose from are:

1) How does Invisible Illness affect your life and your business, whether it’s yours or someone in your family’s?

OR

2) How do you balance acknowledging Invisible Illness while still staying positive and not making your whole entire life about your disability?

As you know, I’ve been diagnosed with several mental illnesses. My chart would tell you I have:

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bi-polar disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
  • ADD (attention deficit disorder)

So I very intimately understand what life is like with an invisible illness. Undoubtedly the lack of understanding is what led me to self-harm (how else could someone know how much I was suffering?), which is why I’ve dedicated my life and this site to helping teens and their families understand, cope and thrive with mental illness.

Through journaling and the other alternative practices shared on this site, I am positive that you too can learn to appreciate these “illnesses” and the people afflicted with them (even if it’s you).

In everything I do I emphasize that those experiencing mental health challenges (or any challenge for that matter) are not their problems, but the person experiencing the challenge.

These are people who are just a little more sensitive, whose minds work a little different, but most of all who really need our help and understanding.

To me, saying I have borderline personality disorder sets me free. Not so I can use it as an excuse, but as a reminder that I process things differently, I react more strongly and must be gentler with myself.

We must learn to love and accept all parts of ourselves – especially those most difficult to love.

That’s when the healing happens.
That’s when you understand what the situation has taught you.
That’s when you won’t need the “disease” anymore.

It’s a process. And we are all works in progress.

Here are some images I found from mollysfund.org, a site dedicated to breaking down the stigma of invisible illnesses such as lupus, digestive disorders, mental illness, etc.

They act as a reminder to be compassionate not just towards others, but to ourselves as well.

10-Things-NOT-TO-SAY-Invisible-ilness-revised-4.14-400x72dpi-web

10-Things-TO-SAY-Invisible-Illness-revised-400-72dpio-web

You might also enjoy a very similar post I made here.

What are your thoughts on this? How has invisible illness affected you or someone you love? Leave me a comment below.

Also: For those who love journaling, sign up for my friend’s 30 Day Digital Journaling Challenge here.

Life lessons for teenagers
, , , , ,

[Day 12] 10 Things I Wish I’d Known as a Teenager

Life lessons for teenagers

I’ve had to learn a lot of things the hard way. Partly because I didn’t have any support and partly because I was too stubborn to ask for that support.

But had I known the following ten things then, I would have most certainly been happier, had more self-respect and felt confident enough to say no to the things that were hurting me.

These ten things are exactly what I teach and encourage the teens I work with to embrace through my coaching programs, so if at any time you’re feeling like you (teen or parent) are ready to take it a step further and get the support you need, you can go here to fill out the form for a free discovery session with me.

Now, the ten things.

#1 Getting other people to like me will never be a substitute for liking myself.

My primary motivating factor in my younger years was to get people to like me. I was able to feed off others’ love or infatuation for me, but the moment I was alone I would lose my mind. Had I known how to accept myself first rather than looking outside for validation, I would have been able to help myself. Instead, I gave other people the power to determine how I felt.

#2 My body is beautiful and sacred.

I did a lot of stupid things to my body because I didn’t really care about it. I thought I was fat and ugly and tried to numb myself in any way I could. Sex, drugs, cutting and starving myself were my (very ineffective) ways of dealing with pain. Had I known my body was sacred, I would have cared more about how I treated it and how others did too.

#3 It’s okay to be angry, just make sure I know what I’m really angry about.

I was incredibly bitter and pissed off as a teen. It was my normal state. And while I had every right to be, I also took it out on myself and other people who crossed my path. I thought I was mad because of what other people did, but I was mad that I didn’t know who I was or how to express what I was feeling. I was mad because I was disconnected from my true self. Had I known how to connect with the real me, I’d have been able to process my emotions instead of adding another layer of “I shouldn’t feel this way” on top of the challenging emotions I was already experiencing.

#4 I have the right to feel everything I feel.

I thought I was just supposed to be happy. I thought I had to be happy so everyone else would be happy. No one validated my feelings so I learned to invalidate my own (classic borderline personality disorder). I was sad and pissed off, but because no one else thought I should feel that way I denied it and my behaviors became the only means of expressing my pain. Had I known I had the right to feel what I felt, I would have made better choices because they would have come from me and not my unexpressed pain.

#5 I’m not responsible for how other people feel.

Manipulation and guilt trips were used frequently in my home. I felt like because of me my parents were fighting, because of me my mom had to work her butt off after the divorce, I thought because of me everything was screwed up. With no one to tell me otherwise, I truly believed that I had to change to fit everyone else’s needs. Had I known I wasn’t responsible for how other people felt, I would have stopped carrying all the burden of other peoples feelings and been free to be more of who I was.

#6 I’m not the only one with problems.

With all this burden and thinking everything was my fault, I had convinced myself that I was the only crazy person. I would isolate myself from other people because I felt like a disease. I felt as if somehow being around me would ruin someone’s life. Had I known I wasn’t the only person with problems, I would have stopped trying so hard to fit in and embraced (and therefor accepted) myself and others more.

#7 The world does not revolve around me.

Because I was so isolated I started to become self-obsessed. My ego, in an effort to protect me, convinced me I was better than everyone else. I walked around like I was so cool, but felt like I was dying on the inside. I didn’t realize or understand how much others around me were struggling too. Instead, I made sure everyone knew how bad I was feeling. Had I known the world didn’t revolve around me I would have been much nicer to the people around me.

#8 My worth does not depend on anything outside of me.

With my inflated ego running the show, and no connection to my true self, everything became about what I wore, the kinds of cigarettes I smoked, the bands I listened to. I was constantly trying to prove my worth to other people – especially my peers. Had I known my worth didn’t depend on anything outside of me I would have never given up on the things that mattered to me. I would have been able to hear what my soul really wanted.

#9 Friends don’t make friends do drugs.

As you may know, I struggled with addiction. I thought doing drugs with people made them my friends. Not true. We were never friends. We were just lost teenagers trying to feel like we weren’t so alone. Had I known friends don’t make friends do drugs, I would have chosen better friends and not taken such a long time to overcome my addictions.

#10 I deserve to be happy.

During my teen years it never occurred to me that happiness was an option. Real happiness. I could chase the next guy, have adventures and be reckless to simulate happy feelings, but I was never really satisfied. Had I known I deserved to be happy, I would have stopped waiting for something to change to be happy. I would have set myself free.

As you can see, what we believe impacts how we show up in the world, the choices we make, the actions we take. All the things we have ever done are because of what we were believing about ourselves and the nature of the world. The good news is, with practice and support we can rewire our brains, change our beliefs and begin to have a say about what we will and won’t allow into our experience.

We have a choice in every moment.

What will you choose?

If you’re an adult, what are some things you wish you’d have known as a teenager? And kids, if a future version of yourself came to visit you today, what would he or she say? Leave me a comment below.

Help for borderline personality disorder
, , ,

[Day 11] Making Friends with Borderline Personality Disorder

Help for borderline personality disorder

A lot of young people I work with struggle to find and maintain healthy relationships – whether it be with friends, family or boyfriends/girlfriends – because they suffer from borderline personality disorder.

Here’s a breakdown of the major symptoms from Psych Central:

  • They have turbulent and stormy relationships, making it difficult to keep a job or maintain a close relationship.
  • They have frequent emotional outbursts, often expressing their outrage with verbal abuse, physical attacks or acts of revenge.
  • Though they’re acutely sensitive to being abandoned and rejected, they’re harshly critical of those closest to them.
  • They view others as “good” or “bad.” A friend, parent or therapist may be idealized one day, yet viewed the next day as a terrible person for failing to live up to their expectations.
  • They may act out with self-destructive activity (i.e. reckless driving, compulsive shopping, shoplifting, cutting, binging with food, alcohol, drugs or promiscuous sex) as a way to fend off feelings of unbearable emptiness.

As a teen, I was diagnosed with BPD and struggled with all of the above. Over the past 10 years I’ve worked hard to understand it, accept myself and shift my behaviors. This post will tell you everything you need to know to start the healing process.

Legal disclaimer: The information provided below is not intended to replace the medical advice of a qualified health care professional or to be used as therapy. Carrie Leigh Sandoval assumes no responsibility for the results generated.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Nothing changed until I was ready and willing to recognize I needed help.
  2. In order to make changes, acknowledging the problem is the first step.
  3. Next, increase awareness.
  4. Then, accept what is.
  5. Then, and only then, take steps to change the behavior.

Tips for communicating with someone with bpd:

  • Be straightforward.
  • Come from “I feel…”
  • Don’t validate the victim mentality. If they go into a story about how someone did something to them, validate the feeling, but not the story. “It sounds like this hurt you” instead of “I can’t believe he did that to you.”
  • Be consistent.
  • Don’t try to rescue the person.
  • Don’t let yourself be manipulated.
  • Don’t put everything on them because “they’re the one with the disorder.”
  • Be willing to learn from the experience.

What you can expect a friendship or relationship with someone with bpd to look like:

I’m not going lie, it’s turbulent and unpredictable, but there is much to gain in having a relationship with someone with BPD. Here’s what you need to know.

  • It’s never going to look normal.
  • There will be a lot of misunderstanding.
  • You may never get why the person with bpd reacted the way he or she did.
  • He or she often doesn’t understand the reaction either.
  • You can cooperate with someone with bpd. You may not be able to reason with this person initially, but with practice and the right skills you’ll be able to get along.

If the relationship is becoming too toxic, one of the best things you can do is walk away. Make sure he or she is safe, if safety is a concern, but sometimes it gets so bad that the only choice is to walk away. He or she will have to reassess and ultimately deal with what’s happening. It’s the hardest thing when it’s someone you love, but sometimes feeling the pain is the only thing that can set this person free (and you too).

BPD is no one’s fault. It is a combination of genetic causes, environmental factors and an individual’s biochemistry.

The most critical thing to understand when dealing with borderline personality disorder is that the person experiencing it cannot regulate their emotions. It takes a long time, a lot of patience and understanding to relearn or possibly even learn for the first time appropriate responses and boundaries. DBT has been found to be most effective in the treatment of borderline personality disorder. What I love about it vs the traditional cognitive behavioral therapy is that it’s main goal is teaching the patient how to accept what is rather than saying, “this behavior is wrong and it needs to be fixed.”

Behavior is simply a way to communicate. The person who is doing these things is not a bad person, they just never learned how to express their feelings in a healthy way. And remember, the more you react to their negative behavior, the more it reinforces the same behavior.

While I am not a therapist, my approach is based on the same principals as DBT in that my goal is to teach emotional regulation through self-acceptance as well as teach the skills necessary to both the teens who have been affected by this as well as the adults in their lives. If this sounds like what you’ve been looking for, I encourage you to sign up for a free discovery session with me.

If you’re a teen, you can do that here.

Parents, go here to sign your son or daughter up.

Do you have a question or comment about this post? Share it with me below.

, ,

[Day 5] Bucket Lists

bucket list

Today is Day 5 of the 30 Day Magic Up Your Blog Challenge <— click to join.

My two topic choices are:

1) What’s on your bucket list? What are you absolute “Must Do’s” in this lifetime?

OR

2) What’s on your Vision Board?

Since I’ve done a post on vision boards, I’ve decided to choose the bucket list.

(To see my vision board and learn how to make your own go here)

But before I get into this post, I want to talk about how yesterday’s post impacted me and the miscellaneous thoughts in my head right now.

image

Because I know if I don’t I’ll be doing the same thing I often do and…

Doing the same thing = getting the same results

Yesterday I talked about my greatest accomplishment. I LOVED writing this post, I loved how many people commented on and shared it and I loved reading it again after the fact.

It was really good.

And yet, those nagging thoughts I exposed in the post came up even stronger.

“It wasn’t that good.”
“Don’t get too confident.”
“You can’t write that well all the time.”

Tunnel vision.

And then my mind proceeded to bring up all the times it thinks I’ve failed and all the people who are doing what I do, but are doing it so much better.

So I frantically:
Attempted to shake it out
Write it out
Get into the feeling
Breathe it out
Eft?!?

Then I paused and asked,
“What is really going to help me?”

This part of me wants to be seen and loved.

That’s it.

I can help her be seen by sharing this publicly (rather than hiding my deepest and most vulnerable thoughts and feelings in my journal [what I’ve always done]).

Even though right now she’s screaming.

image

I can quietly repeat “I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. You’re safe. I love you.”

I can breathe.

And I can start writing my bucket list.

I haven’t written one of these in a long time, but I went back not too long ago to look at an old one and was so excited to see how many things I could cross off the list.

Some of those included:

  • Having a non-traditional wedding
  • Writing a book
  • Quitting drugs

But, it’s time to make a new one. Plus, it’ll be fun to come back here later and cross them out as I go.

I will…

Travel to

  • Europe (Stonehenge please)
  • Egypt
  • Ireland
  • Northern California to see the giant sequoias (this is happening at the end of the month [pictures to come])
  • Legoland again
  • Sacred places
  • All the oceans

Business

  • Publish my journals
  • Write another book

Life

  • Go to an opera
  • Have regular adventures with my family
  • Make music
  • Make enough money to live comfortably and ensure all of our needs are met
  • Make art – paint, draw, crafts
  • Buy whatever food I want without worrying how much it costs
  • Dine out often
  • Allow myself to be seen and heard – even when I’m not being “perfect”
  • See a tornado in real life
  • Get a cat
  • Milk a goat?

Material Things (because we are living in a material world…)

  • Get equipment to make music
  • Get a new macbook air
  • Get an imac
  • Buy a video game system (I’m all about the love, but sometimes I just wanna fight…)
  • Buy a new home – one with a fireplace, hardwood floors, 3 bed, 2 bath, safe location, good vibes
  • Buy a new car with manual transmission (don’t know what kind yet, but I miss driving stick)
  • Buy cute furniture and home decor (etsy?)

My Body

  • Chop off all my hair (pixie cut!)
  • Wear vintage clothes
  • Find an amazing holistic doctor in Oregon
  • Weekly massages
  • Weekly acupuncture
  • Mommy retreats

Spirituality

  • Go to church because I want to not because I think I have to
  • Find my own way to practice faith

Family

  • Have another baby
  • Have a happy marriage – honest, open, loving, accepting, communicating
  • Learn with and from my family
  • Honor one another – by giving compliments, random gifts, calling just to say “I love you”

I’ll continue adding to this as things come to mind and crossing things out I’ve done, but now I want to hear from you.

What’s on your bucket list? What’s the biggest thing you wish to be or do or have in this life? Leave me a comment below.

While writing this post, I found this site with a bucket list for teens. Check it out.

Panic attack help
, , , , ,

How to successfully release worry, anxiety and other sucktastic emotions (includes 3 journaling prompts)

Your thoughts are happening non-stop. And if you think something long enough you’ll start to believe its true. This is how beliefs are formed.

Those of us prone to depression and anxiety tend to dwell and obsess about anything and everything – especially the negative. It’s not usually a conscious choice, but something that became default when we were small children.

Negative thoughts and beliefs are therefor louder and more burdensome because:

1. We are acutely aware of them
2. We think we shouldn’t have them (perfectionism and unreasonable expectations)
3. We think too much in general

For those diagnosed with anxiety disorders and a plethora of other mental illnesses, the mind chatter is incessant, overwhelming and really really annoying. And we make the mistake of believing this is all there is.

Because it blinds us if we let it.

Folks who experience a lot of anxiety are incredibly intelligent, usually perfectionists and almost always highly sensitive people. They feel things (everything) down to the core of their being. So it’s easier to stay in a head space because it feels safer.

But it’s a trap.

Self-created.

Sometimes intentionally, usually unconsciously.

There is, however, always a choice.

Even when something better seems unobtainable, exhausting, impossible. You do have options.

You know how to make yourself feel better, but you forget how when you’re trapped in the infinite thought loop of impending doom.

And I’m not kidding. It can get that bad. Very quickly. You know this.

But if you can remember and demonstrate your power of choice the moment you notice what is happening, you can (lovingly) hijack your thought process and start a new one.

For example, start telling yourself, either in your head or out loud, things that bring you even the slightest bit of relief. Nothing is going to get resolved by you freaking out about it. And the longer you hold yourself in that place, the worse it’s going to get. So try saying something like:

“It’s just an illusion. It’s not going to last forever. I’m just freaking out about nothing. I made a mistake. It’s just my mind. Even though my thoughts feel very real, very scary and true, I love myself anyway. They might be true. Even if they were true, I’d be okay. I always land on my feet. I always get through this…”

And keep going until breathing becomes easier and you start to feel lighter.

Always keep a list on you, that has at least ten things you can do instead of freaking out, or being depressed or whatever it is you struggle with the most.

For me it’s anxiety. So much like the list here, you can create one that says:

“My go-to list of things to do when I’m ______________ (insert poison here).”

Here’s mine:

Panic attack help

And here’s a blank one for you to fill out and keep on you:

image

Don’t be afraid to question the accuracy of your thoughts and fears. Your fear thinks it knows everything, but there is a part of you that knows better. Listen to that part, no matter how faint it is.

And the more you do, the better you’ll feel.

You deserve that.

You deserve to feel good. For absolutely no reason. Even when you make mistakes. Even when everything seems wrong.

Here are some journaling prompts for you to explore. These are also questions that can stop negative thoughts in their tracks, so keep them nearby.

1. My fear – is it a legitimate fear? If yes, why? If no, why?

2. What can I do to accept myself even if the worry stays?

3. What am a believing about myself? Is it true?

Let me know how it goes in the comments section below.

helping someone who self-harms
, , , , , ,

Helping someone who self-harms (part two)

helping someone who self-harms

This is part two of helping someone who self-harms. The first post can be found here.

Despite what many think, most teens who self-harm don’t really want to hurt themselves. They just want to stop feeling the immense pressure and loneliness that comes from not feeling safe to express who they are. The most common reason anyone self-injures is as a last resort. There is literally no other option available in the moment someone makes this decision.

When they feel like they need to be okay so you’ll be okay this creates increased pressure and anxiety and makes the urge to cut even stronger.

As a parent or someone who is working with a teenager who is self-injuring, of course you want them to stop. But here’s the thing: they want to stop too. It just becomes such a natural response to stress – the go-to thing and in fact the only thing that brings relief.

Yes, it’s a bad decision. Yes you want them to stop. But the cutting is here to show you something. Where is your child not feeling safe to express his/her feelings?

Be willing to explore this. And be willing to go through your own feelings about the situation.

Do you feel like you’ve done everything and start to question your parenting and wonder what went wrong? When did this happen? Why did this happen? These questions and the thoughts that follow generally bring you to a place of needing to fix it right now, but let me tell you something:

It’s less about what you do and more about who you are when you’re with your son or daughter. They want you to see them for who they are not what’s happening to them. The more you can do this and the more things you can find to appreciate about your teen, the faster his or her recovery will be.

You have to accept and surrender to the fact that he or she is not okay. And you also have to know it’s not your fault. Absolutely create a plan to keep your teen safe, but when it comes to talking about it, don’t press.

Here are three things to do instead:
1. Acknowledge

Say something like, “it’s good to see you,” or “how was your day?” (don’t ask “did you have a good day?” – keep the questions open ended), or “You look upset. Would you like to talk about it?” Be okay if they say no and make sure to say this out loud. Possibly even say something like “Well that makes me feel ________, but I understand and respect your decisions. You make good decisions and I know you’ll find a positive way to express it if you need to. I’m here if you need anything.”

2. Listen

Be willing to hear what your teen has to say without offering advice or trying to fix. Make sure to try to make eye contact. If they don’t want to look at you, let that be okay.

3. Appreciate

Deliberately look for things to appreciate about your teenager. Find and focus on all the little things your teen does well. It could be anything from the way they handled a situation to doing the dishes without you having to ask a thousand times. Even if it was 999 times, focus on the improvement.

Ultimately this is a collaborative effort where all parties must learn how to cope, communicate with and appreciate one another. You’re in this together and can start to change the family dynamic. I know you’re going to get through this.

Journal prompts to explore
For parents: What fears do you have as a parent? Where are you taking responsibility for these fears? In what areas aren’t you?
For teens: What is the feeling that most often leads to you cutting? 
How can you allow yourself to experience this feeling without needing to cut? i.e. Write about it, talk to someone about it, scream into a pillow, etc. In other words how can you express this feeling in a way that doesn’t hurt you?
Would you like additional support from me? Sign up for a free consultation below.

Teens go here.

Parents/Teachers/Counselors go here.

Space is limited so please take advantage of this offer as soon as possible.

 

Questions or comments? Submit them using the form below.

 

, , ,

Let’s Talk About Suicide

suicide

Today my husband Alex and I participated in a local walk for suicide prevention. One of my biggest realizations? Not many people want to talk about it. And not many people care about it until it’s too late.

I would like to be part of a movement which changes this. One that says, “Let’s talk about it. Let us understand it so we can do something about it.”

And so…

To all the people who have ever wanted to end their life:

The ones who think they’re a waste of space.
A lost cause.

To those who have given up on the world.
Who have lost hope.

You are not alone.

I was insane.
Maybe I still am.
But I’d rather be insanely honest with myself,
Than a liar.
I’d rather be me.

I’d rather tell you that thoughts of suicide still creep in from time to time.
Because it makes the truth and importance of my words much greater.
My voice is louder than the voices of the past.
My heart is stronger.
My mind is clearer.

There is hope.
There is help.
People might tell you you’re crazy,
But not nearly as often as you tell it to yourself.

Don’t believe the voice that says you don’t matter.
But don’t try to pretend it isn’t there.
Instead say proudly, “I hear you,
But I am not you.”

“You are just a part of me.
And yes you’re really loud.
And yes I know you want my attention.
I love you.”

All this part of you wants is love.
Acknowledgment.
A precious moment of silent sincerity.
In which all that is required is a sigh of relief.

We’ve got to take time to celebrate ourselves.
And each other.
And all the annoying details and differences in between.

I don’t know why people wait to celebrate others lives until they’re dead.

Find a reason to celebrate your life right now.

Journal time. Grab something to write with and on and…

Make a list of at least 20 things you love about your life.

 

Today, reach out to someone who might need some encouragement. Be an uplifter. And allow others to uplift you. When you allow others to help you, you help them feel good too.

It’s not about being perfect.

It’s about being you.