Books That Have Recently Changed My Life

Simply put- these books changed my outlook on life, my brain and my perception of absolutely everything.

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

  1. The Desire Map- Danielle LaPorte
    This book feels like a gift for my soul each time I open it. With words that I believe can ring true to any soul searcher, LaPorte invites you on a journey of creating a life you desire based on how you want to FEEl vs. what you want to DO/Accomplish.

    “I ONLY WANT TO HIT MY TARGETS IF THE AIMING AND THE HITTING BOTH FEEL GOOD.” 

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    Buy it here

  2. Take Me With You- Andrea Gibson
    This book holds your hand during the worst of days. Filled with Gibson’s best, most raw and hopeful poems, it is sure to welcome you in for a warm embrace whenever you need it. Though many readers criticized Gibson for the “messy” format and grammatical incorrectness, I believe the heart and soul of these poems make up for it all 10 fold.  Bonus #1: Small enough to take everywhere. Bonus #2. Cute illustrations!

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    Buy it here

  3. UNFU*K YOURSELF: GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND INTO YOUR LIFE- Gary John Bishop

    This book gives it to you straight- no bullshit/no dancing around the truth/ no sugar coating. Though Bishops “tough love” approach may not be for everyone, it was insightful and reaffirmed what I already believed- If you want it bad enough, you’ll go for it. If you don’t go for it, you don’t want it badly enough. A read that encouraged me to get out of the ruts and limitations that I set for myself.

 

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Buy it here

 

My Naturopath Experience

Note: I am in no way trying to disrespect Doctors who work in family practice, I appreciate the work they do and believe there are good doctors.

I saw a naturopathic doctor for the first time a few days ago. I booked the appointment in hopes that she would be able to help me live a life with less anxiety, pain and exhaustion. I had no expectations though. My experience with doctors in general hasn’t been the most pleasant. Although my family doctor has good intentions, she rarely asks what I want in terms of treatment. She’s quick to prescribe and is incredibly busy. Appointments have never lasted more than 20 minutes (that’s if I’m really lucky).

But seeing the naturopathic doctor was as different from traditional medicine as can be. I approached the office (which is a hut outside in the middle of nowhere), and was greeted by a Doctor who genuinely seemed happy to see me. We spent 1.5 hours together. She asked me questions regarding my diet, lifestyle, mental health, sleep, relationships and everything in between. She really tried to get a full picture.

She also took the time to explain every single suggestion she made. She helped me come to realizations about my health and wellness and gave me tips and tricks to combat my concerns. She also reaffirmed my decision to work half time (and volunteer and pick up shifts) instead of working at a place that I didn’t feel fulfilled me.

She is 100% positive that my mental illness stems from both life experiences/trauma AND a hormone imbalance. She informed me that almost all of my cortisol (Primary Stress Hormone) is constantly being used to manage my anxiety Vs. manage my hormones. This would explain why in the most stressful years of my life I went months on end without a period. I have never had a doctor even consider the idea that a hormonal imbalance may be exacerbating my mental health issues.

After the appointment, she sent me her notes, and a list of recommended supplements as well as a full diet plan to help improve my mental health and energy levels. She also offered me the Nutraceuticals at her cost (she literally made no money off of it). She didn’t try to push anything on me, just informed me of the benefits of each recommendation.

Here’s the diet and lifestyle changes I am going to work on changing:

  • More protein. Meat is very important in the treatment/management of depression & anxiety. She recommended I get at least 60g of protein per day (before seeing her I was getting maybe 30g).
  • More root, energy and rainbow vegetables: She stressed the importance of having all 3 of these vegetables at lunch & dinner.
  • Eat protein and fat with EVERY meal
  • Drink 8 cups of water per day minimum
  • Add flax seeds to 1 meal per day to help with hormone balance

She also prescribed these nutraceuticals:

  • B6: helps with neurotransmitter synthesis
  • Omega D3: helps with immune function, hormone production and mood balance
  • Magnesium: helps with stress, anxiety, sleep, hormone production and ovarian function.

Luckily my insurance covers 80% of Naturopathic appointments. I would highly recommend, if it’s affordable, to visit a naturopath. I’m not going off my anti-depressants, I’m just taking her recommendations and pairing them with my anti-depressants in hopes that I may be able to eventually go on a lower dose.

I’m feeling hopeful. Have to stay brave and trust the process.

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How to Make Hard Decisions

Lately, I’ve been making some hard decisions. Decisions, I quite frankly, wish I didn’t have to make. Decisions that I wish the depression could make for me. I mean it takes up my entire body anyways. Making decisions when you have anxiety and depression is light fighting a fight you aren’t even sure you want to win. But god, I know these decisions are important to make.

Growing up, when making decisions usually resulted in making the wrong one, my dad would tell me:

“Life is about choices.”

I didn’t know how right he was until I grew up. Had to make these choices, with no idea of the outcome. Just a strong hope that I was doing the right thing. But what is the right thing? Is it what

  • society wants
  • brain wants
  • my body wants
  • my heart wants
  • my family wants
  • everyone expects from me
  • is stable/safe

Its taken me years of struggling, and doing things that don’t benefit my mental health, that I realize I finally have a definition of what is right (for me).

“Doing what is right means doing what benefits your body, mind and soul. It has to light you up. If it doesn’t, it isn’t right for you.” – Tara Jean

Some hard decisions I’ve been making lately include the following:

  • Go back to therapy (mine went on mat leave, and finding a new one has proved to be difficult)
  • Up my meds
  • Reduce # of hours I’m working to better manage my mental health
  • Eliminate as many things in my life as possible that do not bring me joy

All of these decisions have consequences. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good decisions. It just means they may be hard to make. My heart feels heavy knowing that these decisions all have consequences, and that I may never know if the decision was the “right” one to make. All I know right now, is I have to trust my heart and listen to what it needs. I have to block out judgements, and make room for love and understanding.

Here are my 3 steps to help in making hard decisions

  1. Figure out what is driving the decision. Is it fear, money, health, opinions of others, opinion of yourself…
  2. Determine what the pro’s and con’s are. Make a list to help you see it.
  3. Consider the impacts of the decision and decide if the impacts are manageable.

For anyone going through a hard time, or in the process of making hard life choices, you’ve got this. Trust your soul and follow your passion. And most of all, take care of yourself. 

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Top 3 Spoken Word Poems by Andrea Gibson

Spoken word poetry (specifically by Andrea Gibson) is one of my greatest influences in my writing. I’ve been a fan of Gibson for years. Gibsons’ poems are my number 1 favourite purely because of the emotion, the shaking voice, the honesty of it all. Aside from the spoken part, the writing is absolutely chilling. With metaphors I never would imagine. My feet enter Gibson’s shoes each time I listen.

You could say Gibson is my favourite spoken word poet, but that wouldn’t be giving them enough  credit. Gibson advocates for LGTBQ+ people. They advocate for equality and for love and mental health. They are the purest form of art I have heard so far.

Here are my top 3 favourite poems by Gibson in order.

  1. Angels of the Get Through“Say this is what the pain made of you. An open open open road. An avalanche of feel it all. Don’t ever let anyone tell you, you are too much. Or it has been too long. Whatever keeps the stutterer from stuttering when he sings a song, you are made of that thing.”
  2. Your Life, Gibsons newest release is so pure and rings so true to not only myself, but so many LGTBQ+ people. It explores the struggle of a child who doesn’t connect with the gender/sexuality they feel they should be.
  3. I sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power’s Out

    “The day my ribcage became monkey bars
    For a girl hanging on my every word
    They said “you are not allowed to love her”
    Tried to take me by the throat
    And teach me I was not a boy
    I had to unlearn their prison speak
    Refuse to make wishes on the star on the sheriff’s chest
    I started wishes on the stars in the sky instead.”

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The Reason For the New Blog Name?

I changed my blog name. I hope to not do this too many times. But, I’ve always had trouble with commitment.

My old blog title Mentally Not Quite Well implied that I was sick, and that anyone reading my posts who can relate must also be unwell. While I think it was a clever name, it didn’t convey the message I hoped to convey.

So why Undertow? Take a look at the definition:

“any strong current below the surface of a body of water, moving in direction
 different from that of the surface current.” 

If that doesn’t explain mental illness definitively, I don’t know what does. I have always felt the pressure to maintain a strong facade, a still ocean, ripple free. When beneath the calm, there was an undertow; a tenacious current, grabbing my feet and pulling me beneath the surface into the depths of the ocean.

How-to-get-out-of-an-Undertow

Also consider the following steps that I found upon searching “How to escape an undertow.”

Steps
  1. Identify an undertow. …
  2. Exit shallow water if you feel a undertow. …
  3. Remain calm. …
  4. Call for help if you are a poor swimmer. …
  5. Swim parallel to shore to escape the current. …
  6. Conserve energy when necessary. …
  7. Swim diagonally toward the shore.
I cannot grasp how similar escaping an undertow is to escaping or battling mental illness. Here are some steps I created based on the above information.
  1. Identify the problem, trigger etc…
  2. Exit the triggering event, space etc…
  3. Remain calm
  4. Call for help
  5. Stay close to shore (home)
  6. Rest
  7. Get out alive

I’m hoping people can resonate with this new blog title. I’m hoping you read it and say “hey, I have an undertow. I have a current beneath the surface that no one can see.” And even more, I want you to read it and truly feel a lull knowing you aren’t the only one.

If anyone wants to share the story of their “Undertow: please reach out.

I hope everyone is having a good Monday and has a peaceful week. ❤

 

5 Poetry Books to Read When You’re Struggling

I’m an avid poetry book reader. I have read some that I love, and some that didn’t resonate with me. Here are my top 5 poetry books I read when I’m struggling with mental illness (in no particular order.)

  1. The Sun and Her Flowers– Rupi Kaur
    Words cannot express my love for this author. She covers such a wide spread of topics from heartbreak to immigration and loss. Reading this book was like traveling the world in her shoes. I could feel her pain. Right when I thought she couldn’t top Milk and Honey, she proved me so wrong. And I’m glad she did.

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  2. Pansy – Andrea Gibson
    Andrea Gibsons ability to perform her spoken word so humbly while still wrenching my chest has always amazed me. I was pleasantly surprised by their book. I truly didn’t think the spoken versions of their poetry could translate onto pages without seeming empty. I was 100% wrong. This book is like a big hug when the world is crumbling around you. These poems are your night time screams into your pillow. They hit you in the face and you’ll surely go back for more.

    “They’re telling you to blend in, like you’ve never seen how a blender works, like you’ve never seen the mess from the blade.”

  3. Become  – Emery Allen
    This was the first poetry book I ever fell in love with. It’s imperfectly perfect and will surely engulf you in one breath. It’s simply about growing up…becoming. Great for a nostalgic kinda feel.
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  4. Depression and Other Magic Tricks – Sabrina Benaim
    This book intrigues me. The writing is spectacularly odd. The depth of the symbolism is what kept me turning the pages. It’s perfect for anyone struggling to be. She creates a friendship with the reader and reminds you you’re never alone.
    “I am sleepwalking on an ocean of happiness I cannot baptise myself in”

  5. Neon Soul – Alexandra Elle
    A hopeful collection of prose and poetry. Elle creates a sense of undeniable hope. These poems are gentle and undeniable inspiring. This book is a healing experience paired with beautiful illustrations. This book should be in everyones self-care tool box.
    “Sometimes you’ll 
    be too magical to contain 
    in a human heart.”

Medication and Mental Illness

Taking medication for mental illness has always been a struggle for me. Not because I think it makes me weak, but because I know most of society thinks so. I’d like to raise the argument that taking medication isn’t for the weak, but for the fighters, the people ready to battle the side effects, judgement and spend years trying to find a medication that doesn’t make them sicker than the mental illness itself.

I have been medicated on and off since the age of 12. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression with components of OCD and insomnia. The doctor prescribed me a baby dose of Effexor. It made me sick, paranoid and put me in a lull of numbness. But, as a young teen, I thought that’s just what my life was going to be like on medication.

I spent 10 years trying to adjust the dose so I could function properly in school, without hyper-paranoia and constant shaking. Eventually at 17 I tried to get off the drug all together. The side-effects were so unbearable, I decided I’d rather battle the mental illness than the medication.

Getting off Effexor was the hardest thing I’ve tried to do. Physically I was nauseous, weak, shaking so badly I could barely get out of bed, my brain zapped and I couldn’t hold a train of thought. I felt like my brain was crumbling and I worried it would always be this way. I got down to a low dose but couldn’t get off of it completely.

In my last semester of High School I tried to end my life. The battle of getting off such an addictive drug, and fighting depression proved to be too much. I felt alone and like the world was a harsh, judgemental space that I had no place in.

Luckily, I got placed in CHEO’s mental health unit, they immediately helped me wean off Effexor (little did I know what I was doing was super dangerous). I tried a handful of different medications under supervision of the Drs at the hospital. Some made me sick, and some made me sicker. I began to lose hope of ever finding relief. Until they tried me on Zoloft. It didn’t make me as sick as any of the others. And eventually, it started to reduce my anxiety and I felt able to face the world again.

I have been on Zoloft since. I have tried to go off of it countless times due to my internal shame and perception that society won’t accept me if I’m on medication. But, I’ve been working to challenge those thoughts. I’d argue that medication is not for the weak, but for the people who are ready to fight for their lives.

I am open about my medication use and mental illness now. At work, I’ll disclose my anxiety and depression with close co-workers. And for the most part, I have experienced only support. Many of them will share their struggles, or open up about family members who have struggled through mental illness. I find this empowering and motivates me to stay stable so I can continue to connect with others who are fighting their way through.

Once we share our stories, we can empower others to do the same.

 

Staying Inspired When Struggling

When I wrote my first book Waves, a poetry book surrounding my experiences with mental illness, (Purchase here) I found it incredibly hard to stay inspired and motivated. It took me years (more than 5…) to compile all of the poems, edit, format, hire an artist and get the books made. My problem wasn’t that I was lazy or even too busy. It was that I was lacking inspiration which translated into lacking motivation!

Inspiration = Motivation

Struggling with depression and anxiety can make finding inspiration and motivation difficult at times. When all I can focus on is not having a panic attack when I’m at work and not letting the depression consume my energy, there isn’t much room left in my brain to become inspired by the world around me. This translates for any mental illness. They take up so much room in our brains, and in our lives, that other aspects of life sometimes get pushed to the back burner. But, there is hope.

Here are steps that I’ve found to be helpful when struggling with writers block/ lack of creativity and have had a hard time staying inspired and finding motivation.

  1. Get out of your normal space. Seriously, your wallpaper isn’t changing. You need to go outside, to a coffee shop, on the bus, to a mall, anywhere that has stimuli you aren’t used to. (When I used to take the bus, I would imagine the lives of different people on the bus and I would write poems about them.) This is a prime example of how leaving whats comfortable a.k.a home, for something far less comfortable.
  2. Expose yourself to new/different creative content. New music, books, exercises and even movies has left me feeling inspired in the middle of a depressive episode. I’ve gone to different art shows and yoga classes and music festivals in the past that have filled me with enough inspiration to write new poems.
  3. Foster a space for creativity to bloom. When you do create inside, try to create a space that’s comfortable and has the tools you need to be creative. If you know you like to paint with music that inspires you or takes you back to a specific time on, make sure there’s a music device in the room. If you know you have to be sitting comfortably to write, make sure you have a decent chair and some fluffy pillows. A space that is comfortable and inviting will likely lure you in more often, which hopefully leads to inspiration and creativity. (I’ll include a list of my creative space must-haves in the next post!)
  4. Connect with other artists. As someone with extreme social anxiety, this one is still a struggle for me. But, when I force myself out of my comfortable space and collaborate with others, I find it to be extremely inspirational.When writing Waves, I hired an artist who’s work I loved. But I also loved our coffee shop meetings. I found we both had the ability to inspire each other. It might not happen each time you hang out, but when it does happen it’ll be worth it.
  5. Force it. When all else fails, force it. I don’t believe creativity can be forced. But, I do believe if you force yourself to sit in your comfortable space, or in a new space with room for inspiration, you will likely notice by the end of the time you’ve spent, you will have created something. I used to force myself to write when I was at coffee shops between classes or when I was off work and bored at home. I’d usually start doodling and just playing with my phone. But, eventually some sort of magic would usually happen. Just holding the pen would ignite a certain flame in my brain and the words would eventually flow. If you’re a painter pick up the brush. A musician? Pick up the instrument. A writer? Pick up the pen. This rings true for just about anything. Starting is the hardest part.

I hope at least one of these can help all you creatives who struggle with mental health and/or finding inspiration and motivation. ❤