The really tough stuff that’s affecting us as a nation and especially our youth.

bullying quotes
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Is fighting bullying creating more bullying?

bullying quotes

Bullying has been a huge issue and has been on my mind a lot recently as I have been doing research for a chapter I’m writing. What strikes me as odd is how there are more laws in place than ever before and yet kids are only getting meaner, the bullying more intense.

Why is that?

Well, as we’ve seen in the past, fighting something or someone only makes it grow stronger. With all the focus on the problem and all the negative emotion it stirs up, the issue has no choice, but to expand. We have to pay attention.

But what if these young people are presenting us with an opportunity? What if they are a mere reflection of the hatred and social injustice that has plagued this planet for centuries? How can we expect kids to respect each other when as a whole our society preaches to us that anyone who is different is to be rejected?

We learn to judge ourselves first, then we start to judge others. These kids are showing us what we do to ourselves and each other on a daily basis, only it has become magnified and they are suffering greatly because of it. The anti-bullying movement, for the most part, is just another way to reject what is, rather than getting to the root of the issue.

Yes, all forms of abuse are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. But by saying the bully is wrong and the kids being bullied are just victims, we are setting them up to believe those things about themselves for the rest of their lives.

Now the bully believes “I’m wrong and everyone knows it so why should I even try” which feeds his or her every action.

The bullied believes “I’m just a victim and I need other people to take care of me” which means he or she will almost always let his or her fear run the show.

No one wins. The bullying has stopped temporarily, but will most likely appear again and again in a different form for the rest of their lives.

Unless we start teaching something different.

So what is the root cause of this epidemic? Or at least a major contributing factor?

Disconnection.

Many young people do not have a strong connection to who they really are. It’s no wonder so many feel lost and alone.

They are longing to feel a real connection to themselves and to each other, but have no idea how to express this in a healthy way.

So they act out.

With a life full of shoulds…

  • “I should be skinnier.”
  • “I should be more outgoing.”
  • “I should be better grades.”
  • “I should go to college.”
  • “I should be more like so and so.”

They feel trapped.

There is no perfect human being.

But we teach young people to tie their worth to how they look, what grades they get, how much money they have, etc.

And if we don’t teach them it’s okay to feel what they feel, they will deny an essential part of who they are.

I see it all the time.

Young people denying their feelings for the sake of others.

Automatic disconnect.

Quick tip to help kids reconnect to their feelings:
  1. Acknowledge – Ask them to identify the feeling
  2. Accept – Validate the feeling saying things like “you have every right to feel this way”
  3. Change – Let them know they have the power to now decide how they’d like to feel instead

Many people try to jump right to changing it because it’s uncomfortable to feel bad, but in truth the only way for the feeling to be released is to actually feel it.

Additional possibilities for schools to consider:
  • Make emotional intelligence courses part of the school curriculum
  • Teach empathy and acceptance
  • Teach resiliency
  • Teach self-respect
  • Teach self-defense to increase confidence
  • Teach kids how to stand up for themselves
  • Encourage self-expression – help kids discover the best way for them to get it out
  • Encourage positive self-talk to fuel self-worth
  • Don’t encourage helplessness
  • Help young people find and acknowledge their strengths
  • Create a safe environment for self-expression
  • Bring more programs designed to do all of the above to schools (i.e. Challenge Day)

These things are all easier said than done. And in a perfect world this would not only be taught in schools, but at home too.

But it’s not. Which is why it is up to as as individuals to commit to “being the change.”

And not just do everything we can, but be all of who we are.

Next time: Helping kids connect to who they really are

Some questions to ponder until then:

What part of this can we take responsibility for? In what areas are we not modeling the kindness we wish to see?

How has “fighting” bullying created more bullying?

How will knowing ourselves better impact those around us?

Journaling saved my life
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Journaling saved my life (includes journal writing prompts)

Journaling saved my life

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.

Journaling saved my life.

When I couldn’t speak my truth, I wrote it.

I always had trouble talking. Some would call it being “shy.” Many thought I didn’t have anything to say.

But I did.

I was just so overwhelmed by my surroundings and my thoughts and emotions were so strong that my mind felt constantly bombarded.

My journal then became the place to process all this stuff going on.

When I was having panic attacks on the regular writing helped me get through it.

When my addictions got the best of me, I found my way back to myself by way of my journal.

How?

Because it allowed me to identify what was going on within and around me. Self-awareness is the key to changing anything about ourselves. If we don’t have a clue why we’re feeling the way we are, there isn’t any (healthy) way to release it.

Some people can talk to others, but because I was (and am) so sensitive I had trouble telling the difference between my own thoughts and feelings and those from the people around me. I had to process everything in solitude.

For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me, but I’m just an introvert.

Some might also call it being an empath.

Whatever you want to call it, it was unbearable during my younger years because I didn’t know how to manage it.

Which you would soon discover if you were to read any of the 20+ journals I have stacked in my closet.

But I digress…

The reason I’m sharing this with you is because I want to encourage you to find your “thing.”

You know, the thing that keeps you going.

The place you feel you can be unapologetically you.

Where you don’t have to censor your thoughts or your feelings or emotions. A place where you can say screw the filter, THIS IS WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.

We get so caught up in what other people think about us or what we believe others think of us that we lose pieces of ourselves.

This quote comes to mind:

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” -Wayne Dyer

But what you think of you is completely your business and it’s up to you to decide how you feel about yourself.

You have the right to feel how you feel.

More importantly, you have the right to be who you are.

It’s up to you to find the “you” you want to be.

Some questions to ask yourself:

When do I feel I am most myself?

How do I really feel about this situation vs. what I would say if someone asked me?

Where am I not being true to myself?

My favorite journaling people & their websites:

Nathan Ohren @ Write4Life

Mari McCarthy @ CreateWriteNow

Lynda Monk @ Creative Wellness Works

 

So tell me…

What’s your thing? Let’s get the conversation going!

helping someone who self-harms
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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.

 

Suicide prevention tips for the holidays
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3 Suicide Prevention Tips for the Holidays

Suicide prevention tips for the holidays

So, I’m a member of the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention and this is an article I submitted to them to be used in a statewide newsletter, but I also wanted to make sure it reached my readers first. Please share these suicide prevention tips with as many people as possible. You never know who might need them.

The holidays are meant to be a joyous time for all, but let’s face it, it’s also when a lot of emotions get stirred up for many of us. Whether it’s memories of those we’ve lost, a family gathering gone wrong or the disappointment of not being able to afford gifts. But I’d like to offer a new perspective on this. What if instead of viewing these events as wrong or bad, we allowed the memories to surface and gave ourselves permission to express how we truly feel? And what if this created opportunites for forgiveness and deeper connections with those we love?

Perhaps this holiday season can be a time for healing and connection. Maybe our love and presence and choice to uplift others will lend hope to those who need it most. And maybe when we allow others to uplift us, we’ll give them a sense of purpose and belonging. You never know.

Here are three simple guidelines to experience more joy and connection for the holidays – two things that may just save someone’s life.

#1 – Have keen awareness.

This is a time to be really tuned in. To yourself. To the world around you. And to all those you love. Each person you encounter is a reflection of you. Every human being on this earth is unique and offers value to the world. When we choose to look at our life in this way, it appears a little brighter and in turn has a positive impact on those closest to us. So, be present to the gift each moment has to offer. And be aware of the gift that is you. As you know and feel your own worth, you inspire others to find it within themselves. YES, you are that powerful!

#2 – Let connection be the priority.

Before your interactions with others, set the intention to connect and experience more love, laughter or anything you’d like. For example, if you’re about to have a conversation with your best friend, first make it clear in your mind (and your heart!) that you want to feel connected – imagine the two of you laughing and enjoying one another’s company. You can also make your intentions known by sharing them with your family and friends. Tell them what you want and how you feel and ask them what they’d like to see and feel more of in their life. A lot of the time we assume others know what we want, but the only way to be abolutely certain is to speak up. You might be surprised to discover it’s all the other person wanted too, but he or she was afraid to ask.

#3 – Let love be what fuels you.

Actively look for evidence of love in all people, including yourself. If something is going on with someone you love, you can feel it. If you notice something is up, don’t take it personally, but definitely take it seriously. Offer to help (not fix) in any way you can and ask for help when you need it. Find little things you appreciate about yourself and everyone you encounter. At the grocery store, while you’re waiting for your food or even by offering a smile to the person sitting in the car next to you at a stop light. When you make a point to put love at the top of your list and are driven by the desire to love and be loved, anything is possible.

As you keep these three concepts in mind and practice them on a daily basis you’ll create healing for yourself and your entire family. You are such an asset to this world. We all are. And we’re all in this together. So this holiday season give those you love something greater than presents or the “perfect”occasion – give them the gift of being seen and heard and allow others to see you and hear what you have to say.

 

Journal Time:

As a journaling exercise for today, write about some other ways you can deepen your connection with those you love…and even those you don’t.

How can you deepen your connection to YOU?

 

As always, thank you for reading and please leave your comments below. How did this article impact you?

addiction in teenagers
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The Art of Becoming Bigger Than Your Addictions – 5 Tips to Help You Clean Up Your Act

addiction in teenagers 
 
This post is relevant to teenagers, parents of teenagers, teachers, therapists, social workers, life coaches or anyone who works with teens and anyone who has ever struggled with addictions. 

 

As a teenager, I had many addictive behaviors. I was a cutter, I smoked stuff, I snorted stuff, popped pills, drank and was completely out of control.

There is nothing cool about this.

These things will never be cool.

And they will definitely never make you cool.

But I get why you might think so. That’s what I thought.

 

Part of it was wanting to be accepted (not so much with cutting, but I’ll save that for another post).

Part of it was not being able to process my emotions.

Part of it was because I didn’t like who I was – and actually had no idea who I was.

But I think (know) the bulk of it was I didn’t feel like I deserved any better.

In other words, I had given up on a better life because it seemed impossible.

 

So I let myself become lost in my addictions.

They became stronger and more powerful than me.

Because I let them.

It was easier to just be high all the time.

You get it.

 

I had friends who weren’t my friends.

Who made fun of me.

Who talked about me behind my back.

 

And it’s okay.

 

I wasn’t very nice myself.

Because I didn’t know how to be nice to myself.

So how could I be nice to other people?

How could they be kind to me?

We just didn’t know anything else.

 

When I decided to stop, I had one person by my side. My boyfriend at the time was the only person there when I was ready to quit. In fact, he saved my life. Well, he helped me save my own life.

 

By believing in me.

By believing there was more to me than my addictions.

And by just being there until I could learn how to be there for myself.

 

So that brings us to…

 

Tip #1: Have Support

Find someone who will reflect your beauty and perfection back to you. Someone who won’t judge you and who will encourage you. This person is there to support you in becoming more of who YOU are. It doesn’t have to be a boyfriend or girlfriend. And in fact that can sometimes get messy. I recommend (if you’re a teenager) finding an adult you feel comfortable talking to. It could be a therapist, counselor or life coach who specializes in working with youth (that’d be me).

 

Tip #2: Write in a Journal

Remember when I said I couldn’t process my emotions? Journaling made it possible for me to do so. Let yourself feel your emotions and express them without holding back. Get it all out. I loved writing throughout my recovery.

 

Tip #3: Know What You Want and Why You Want It

See this as an opportunity to go on an inward journey. As you release your addictions, you unravel layers upon layers of false beliefs. About yourself. About the world. About the entire nature of reality. Every time you do this, more of your truth is revealed. This is the time to dream about a better and brighter future. Write down everything you want to be, do and have and start taking steps towards your goals. Remember why you want to achieve them because the more you can connect with your “why” the quicker and easier you’ll reach your goals.

 

Tip #4: Meditate or Find Some Other Relaxation Technique

The goal of meditating is to get you connected to your wise inner self. Some benefits of meditation include: improved concentration, better health and a calmer + happier disposition. When you practice stilling your mind, you become more self aware and better able to recognize and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and therefor increase your power and ability to let them go. You can start by sitting in a quiet place for just a couple minutes and breathing very slowly and deliberately. Listen to the sound of your own breath and if any thoughts come up, imagine putting them in a bubble and letting them float away.

 

Tip #5: Eat Good Food, Sleep Well and Take Supplements

One of the first things I did when I stopped using was focused on eating right. I was already a vegetarian, but now a very healthy one. I received many benefits from fasting, doing cleanses, taking vitamins and eliminating a bunch of stuff from my diet. Soy (in excess messes with your hormones, which is especially bad if you’re a teenage girl), gluten and dairy to name a few. Your inner ecosystem greatly impacts your thinking and mood. I strongly believe in the power of natural medicine as its truly the only thing that’s ever helped me.

 

So that’s it!

These 5 things have all proven to be effective for me and continue to be a huge part of my life.

I hope you find them as helpful as I have.

 

Now, let’s journal! Grab a pen and paper, jot these questions down and then write out your answers.

 

What do I wish to accomplish in the next year?

Why?

 

p.s. Today I made one of my favorite soups EVER. The recipe is from The Body Ecology Diet which was practically my bible for a good year. I scanned the recipe for you. Get it here.

p.p.s. It’s toddler approved.

carrie leigh sandoval loves adin isaac sandoval

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions? Comments? What was your biggest insight from this post? Please share in the comments box below. 

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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.

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Being vs. Doing

Let today be less about doing, and more about being.

Let it be more about remembering who you are and why you’re here.

Just let it be.

Stillness births new ideas greater than action. Do take action, but make sure that you are calm, you are cool and that you’re doing it because you want to. And if it is something you don’t want to do, but know you have to, ask yourself this: What do I need to remind myself of in order to feel better about this task? What can I choose to focus on that feels a little bit better than just dreading it?

Patience.

That’s what I need more of.

Patience with myself. With the world. With the way that everything is unfolding.

I’m learning it.

Trust.

Trusting myself. Trusting that all is well. Trusting that I can do this.

I’m growing it.

Reminding.

Reminding myself of what I’ve accomplished. What it took for me to be able to accomplish it. And knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I can do it again.

Yes, I can.

Because I want to. And that wanting and that desire is greater than the stress. It’s greater than the fears that are surfacing. It is greater than my old ways, old beliefs, old…stuff.

I am being.

The absolute best version of myself that I can be.

JOURNAL TIME!

Write down and answer the following questions:

What do I need to do when I’m starting to feel overwhelmed?
What activities most nurture my patience?
How can I accept this situation + learn from it?
How can I accept myself?

 

When you’re done, take some deep breaths and wrap your mind around this:

All is well. <3 <3 <3

Bonus: Make a “to be” list, rather than a “to do” list and share it here! Who do you choose to be today?

self-harm mental health
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A Former Cutter’s Rant

The following is a poetic retelling of my experience with cutting, panic disorder, drugs and rejection. It is my intention to give those with similar experiences a voice. To say, you’re not alone. You’re okay. This won’t last forever. You’ve got this. You’re doing just fine.

It bothered me that you didn’t ask.
I hated how you pretended you didn’t notice.
I heard what you said about me behind my back.
But I didn’t say a word.
I believed every word you said.
I didn’t look up.
I stared at the ground.
You said I was scary,
But I was just scared.
You said I was crazy,
But I wasn’t even there.
I was nowhere to be found.
I didn’t exist.
That’s why I have these scars on my wrists.
You didn’t ask,
But now I’m going to tell you.
When you can’t handle your life,
Your options are few.
When you can’t handle your life,
No one can handle you.
It’s not that I wanted to be this way.
I hate the words “are you okay?”
So riddled with expectation.
I had to say yes.
I had to pretend.
Did I pass the test?
Is this a test?
Hello, can you hear?
No my dear, you’re all alone here.
I’m just a notebook.
Remember me?
Snap out of it Carrie.
Hear my plea, hear my plea.
“Stop it.”
“What’s wrong?”
“Here we go again.”
The worst things to hear
When no one hears you.
“Hey, we’ve given up on you.”
A lost cause.
A statistic.
A textbook example.
Of a girl who’s lost her mind.
What’s the diagnosis?
Bipolar’s just fine.
Oh labels, let’s dance.
I’ll give you a chance.
Friends are my fears.
Bad habits and jokes.
Friends are manic.
Depression.
And dope.
Good day.
Let’s play.
Take a dip.
Take a spin.
Now I’m spun.
Wow, she’s even crazier than before.
She’s talking to herself.
She’s hard to ignore.
Well, not that hard.
Let’s just close the door.
Let’s leave her there.
Yawn.
What a bore.
She’s exhausting.
And she hardly says a word.
She’s stuck in her notebook.
In her own little world.
My world is the only world that is safe.
But do you think I don’t hear every word you say?
I can recite it back to you if that’s what you’d like.
I can tell you
Whatever you’d like.
I’m here to please you.
It’s what I do best.
Are you impressed?
I doubt it.
I can’t breathe.
This pressure is too much.
When, oh God when will I be enough?
I said I can’t breathe.
Can I please disappear?
Crazy crazy crazy crazy.
Fear fear fear.
The thoughts just get louder.
And louder.
And then.
I grab something
To make the pain end.
I have to feel something
Other than this.
I have to feel something.
Is this all there is?
Oh razor blade, you’ll have to do.
Alright arms and legs,
I’m going to cut you.
Relief starts to spread
As the blade touches my skin.
I have to go deeper. 
I have to win.
I didn’t want to die.
At least not all the time.
I didn’t want to die.
I just wanted to fly.
Far far away.
And never come back.
I’m back to my senses.
This blood is bright red.
I notice.
I see.
I am not in my head.
My thoughts are now focused
On this puddle of blood.
The torture has ceased.
I can hear myself breathe.