5 Questions to Ask Someone Going Through a Breakdown

*Firstly I want to state that everyone is different and no two mental illnesses are the same. These suggestions are what usually works for me, but I can’t promise they will work for your loved one.*

When I am having a breakdown of some sort, I tend to withdraw and get quiet. It feels as though I’ve been deflated, and all of my energy is gone. The act of standing or even sitting up is exhausting.

When this happens, I know my husband wants to help and get me back to feeling like myself.

He often comes to me and will sit near me and wait a bit to see if I want to talk. This is a great idea for most people because it gives them the feeling of not being alone, even if they can’t talk just yet.

My husband knows that talking (ranting) about what is stressing me out is helpful for me, but I have a hard time starting the conversation. I don’t really know why this is so difficult for me.

The mistake he often makes is asking me very vague questions that are easy for me to dodge or ignore. His favourite is asking “what’s up?” And I get it, it’s a general “what’s going on?” Type of question, but it’s so vague that I will usually just say nothing, or “the ceiling”

There are a bunch of different options for things to say/ask someone to help them feel more comfortable opening up. The key is to be specific. When you ask specific questions, you get specific answers.

  1. You seem sad/upset/stressed, do you know what caused it?

Asking if I know why I am upset is so much better than asking why I am upset. When you ask why, you are telling me that I have to justify my feelings when it’s very possible that I have no idea at all.

  1. Do you want to talk about what upset you?

This is a yes/no question that is easy for me to answer and gives you an indication if I want to talk about it or not. You might get an “I don’t know” as an answer as well, but hopefully, it can help start some communication.

  1. Is there anything I can do to help?

I don’t want to be a burden on my loved ones, no one does. Offering to help would mean the world to me because I will never ask for it.

  1. Are you upset because of xxxxxxxx?

If you are pretty sure you know what caused the breakdown, confirm it. In my experience, something will begin the breakdown, and it will cause me to think about something else, which will make me think of something else. Before I know it, my puppy chewing up one of my shirts turns into me feeling shitty that I can’t afford to buy a house. If my husband asked, “are you upset about Pixel ruining your top?” I would say “yes, but not only that…..” and I would take him on my thought journey of how that action caused me to think about all of these other upsetting things.

  1. Do you know what would help you feel better?

This one might not get much of an answer. But if they are anything like me, they might give you a truthful but impossible answer. For example “a box of kittens.” It’s a way of expressing the intensity of my feelings. If the only thing that can cheer me up right now is a box of kittens, you know it’s bad! It also will just start a dialogue.

The hardest part about opening up is getting started and feeling comfortable. Asking questions that make me feel like you really want to hear what I am thinking, and just getting my mouth moving are the best ways to get me to open up.

What helps you open up with your feelings?

5 Reasons To Consider Volunteer Work

Volunteer work, the backbone of every non-profit or charity organization. Without them, a lot of these places could not do the great work that they do.

I’m going to share my experience with volunteering and why I think everyone who is able to, should.

I volunteer at the Toronto Humane Society working with behaviour cats, and feeding kittens. Each of the following reasons I recommend volunteering is based on my experience there, but can be applied to any place you wish to volunteer.

The most important thing I can tell you is to volunteer for a cause you are passionate about.

1. It is very rewarding
As cliche as it sounds, knowing the impact your work is having does make you feel great. For me, seeing a cat that came in terrified and anxious, who wouldn’t let anyone pet them gradually become more and more comfortable with people, and then eventually get adopted is amazing! Every volunteer who interacted with that cat had a part in helping it find it’s home and have a great life.


2. It gets you out of the house
For anyone who is between jobs, unable to work, or is retired, it’s a great way to help you get out of the house on a regular basis so that you don’t go crazy staying home all the time. I personally have a day job and my business, but I see a lot of people who volunteer at the THS a few more times a week than me because they aren’t working and they love it.

3. You meet new people
I love the people I volunteer with. We may or may not have very much in common, but we all share the same compassion for animals. Some amazing new friendships can be formed with people you never would have met otherwise.

4. It looks great on a resume
This isn’t really the best reason for why someone should volunteer. This should not be the only reason you are doing it. It’s just a perk.

5. It’s wonderful for your mental health.
Whether you have a mental illness or not, your mental health is important. Doing something nice for others gives your brain a neurochemical sense of reward. Basically, you just feel good! Personally, I’ve found that during times of bad depression, going to the THS has really helped lift my spirits. It’s hard for your brain to tell you that you don’t matter when you are doing something that will positively affect another’s life. When I begin to feel this way, I try to remember the cat who never came out of her box for the longest time, who finally came out and after a long visit, and ended up purring on my lap! By my next volunteer shift, that cat had been adopted. I think about the cats who love attention and how happy they are when I show up with their favourite wand toy or a brush. I remember all the cat’s that weren’t eating because of stress, who I was able to encourage to eat. I know I matter because I helped improve the lives of these cats.

 

 

 

How Chester Bennington’s Death Affected Me.

*This post deals with the topic of suicide and depression and is potentially triggering*

It’s been one year since the world lost the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington. His death indirectly affected me a lot more than I ever expected.

I’ve never been overly interested in celebrities, and when news of a celebrity death by any means occurred, it rarely upset me. Unless it was someone I enjoyed watching/listening to. But even then, I would just think, “yea, that’s sad, too bad for the families” and go on with my life. Their death didn’t affect me personally.

I’ve heard about many celebrity suicides and overdoses during my battle with depression. These always made me stop and think about them at least a little bit. Most often when it was a fellow fashion designer, such as the recent passing of Kate Spade. I also still very much remember learning of legendary fashion designer, Alexander McQueen’s death years ago.

Whenever I was to hear about these suicides, I knew what to expect. An outpouring of support for people suffering from depression, the media and people of Facebook sharing the suicide hotline number, and reminding the world that it can happen to anybody, and that money truly cannot buy happiness. And then a week or so later, everything would be back to normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment behind what people are trying to do when they share the suicide hotline, but at the same time, it can feel insincere. Mainly because it seems “trendy” to share the hotline on Facebook with an easy copy/paste anytime someone high profile dies by suicide. I have seen some people posting after a suicide that they are available if any of their Facebook friends need someone to talk to. I like this, but it’s starting to become trendy as well, but the fact that the person is willing to do more than just a copy/paste post, is nice to see. Although I have never taken anyone up on these offers. Not everyone is going to feel comfortable messaging someone after seeing that post, but it’s nice to know people are willing to help.

So this brings us to July 20th 2017. That day, the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington passed away from suicide. I found out about it at the end of the day. I came home from work and saw it posted all over Facebook. It was a big deal for sure. But like with other celebrity deaths, I thought “that’s horrible” but didn’t put much more thought into it. The days that followed, many posts and articles were shared relating to his death and the reactions to it. I read a lot of them, mostly from The Mighty.

I read a lot on the topics of anxiety and depression on The Mighty, and I do share the occasional post on Facebook. Before this, I shared the odd post, and never specifically wrote anything about myself in the share. I had never talked about my struggles with depression and anxiety publicly on Facebook at this point, and I was still very hush hush about it.

I found a post titled  “What We Can Learn From Brian Welch’s Infuriating Response to Chester Bennington’s Suicide”  I read it, and I thought that the points it made were worth sharing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but sharing this post was the catalyst to a major change in my life. But before I get into that, I just want to share the brief points this article made about what we can learn from insensitive comments about suicide.

1. It sends a hurtful (and unhelpful) message to people who are suicidal and to those who have attempted suicide.

2. Calling suicide “cowardly” can be especially problematic for men, who historically are under societal pressure to appear “strong.”

3. It simplifies the cause of suicide.

The article really expands on each of these points, and I highly recommend reading it.

So, I shared it, hoping it can educate a few people on my friends list who choose to read it. Unfortunately, people who don’t read it, are still able to comment on the post, and that is where the problems started.

One person, I am going to call “Red,” said that they liked what he said.

And a friend “Blue” asked for an explanation, and what Red answered with really upset me.

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He expressed that he believes that Chester abandoned his family, he expressed a belief that suicide was a cowardly act. This “friend,” a person in my life, will believe that if I were to die by suicide, that it was a cowardly act of abandoning my family. So, I had a lot to say…

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I wanted to highlight certain points from the article that I thought would be impossible to argue with. But he completely missed the points, and I assume he just skimmed my comment. All he seemed to take from that was that we were trying to force him to agree with us, but we just wanted him to hear us.

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My friend “Yellow” who is a nurse began getting involved. She and Red know each other and don’t have the best past. She is very smart and tried to explain the difference between “opinion” and “ignorance” to him. Then continues to educate him about mental illness and how it should be treated like any other illness.

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I was very impressed with her explanation, and said so in my response. At this point, I decided to do something I never thought I would do. I opened up, publicly, about my struggle with depression and suicide.

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I sat and thought about whether I should say this for a long time, I re-wrote that comment over and over again. Then when it came time to hit the button, it took a few moments because I kept worrying about who all might see it, and find out. But then I realized, that is just as bad for allowing the stigma to stick around. People aren’t worried about being judged for having cancer, diabetes, or asthma. Why should I worry about being judged for this?

After posting this, Red didn’t respond, and Yellow commented with an image that said “Facebook comment of the year” so I felt good. But then, out of nowhere, my brother-in-law “Brown” who is very good friends with Red decided it was time to chime in.

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….I was speechless. I couldn’t believe it. The comment about the longer messages on here really baffled me.

One of 2 things happened here. Either, Brown read all I had to say, about my struggles with suicide, and still agreed with the guy who thinks suicide is cowardly, or, he didn’t even read what I had to say before disagreeing with me and agreeing with Red. (It was the latter)

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I questioned his knowledge about depression to be able to make such a statement, and if he read the “long” messages. Then re-shared Yellow’s great comment about the difference between “opinion vs ignorance”

Then, without answering my questions, goes on to try and say that not every suicide is caused by depression. Which, I know I said they all are in this thread, maybe a couple aren’t, who knows, but that’s not the topic at hand. This is about the fact that Chester Bennington had depression, and Red and Brown believe he is a coward who abandoned his family and feel that a high profile person with a lot of influence is ok to just make those comments publicly.

I was at work when Brown began to chime in. During this back and forth, I began to feel so defeated. I was having a hard time concentrating and had to try really hard not to break out in tears when I had to interact with clients occasionally. And for the first time in years, I began having suicidal thoughts.

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My best friend, “Purple” joined in, which I was hoping she wouldn’t, as she had been having a hard time with her depression that week, and I didn’t want these guys to cause her any harm. But she made a good point to answer Brown’s question about if all suicides are from depression. Yellow also gives her input. Then, Red comes back. He derailed the conversation with a picture of a rainbow bagel that he referred to as a “gay bagel” for some reason.

He and Brown never read any of my comments, they didn’t respect me enough to do so. I know this for sure because my husband spoke to them both, and mentioned that I have depression, and they both told him they didn’t know that. Not that that would have been a good excuse for their behaviour, but they would have known, had they read anything I had to say.

I came home in a frenzy, the moment I walked into my apartment, I let it out, the crying, screaming, and yelling I was holding in all day. I told my husband that I never want to see either of them again and deleted them both from Facebook. Ironically, my husband had plans with Red that night, and I didn’t tell him not to go, it was a concert he was looking forward to. I didn’t tell him I was having active suicidal thoughts. I didn’t want to ruin his plans.

I laid on my couch all night while he was away. I was afraid to be alone, but I didn’t want to tell anyone to come over because I didn’t want to tell anyone why. I was texting with my best friend (purple) and tried to hint at the fact that I was feeling suicidal, but I couldn’t bring myself to just say it. I had a few drinks to try and get my brain to stop over-thinking about that entire situation.

In the days and weeks that followed, I was in a bad depression. At work, I had a hard time concentrating, but I just did my work until it was time to go home. I often listen to music at work, and instead of my usual pop stuff, I decided to listen to some old Linkin Park music. I almost wanted nostalgia for my angsty teen emotions. I spoke to a support group about everything that happened, and that was very helpful. I recall one person saying that suicide is the opposite of cowardly. If you think about the number of times people change their mind last minute because they are scared. That resonated with me because I chickened out once.

I made an appointment with my doctor and my medication dosage was increased. And I began my climb out of the depression hole. A couple of weeks ago, I started to reduce my medications back to what they were before this depressive episode. I have a better understanding of the reality of my condition, and I know that even if I haven’t had suicidal thoughts in a long time, it doesn’t mean I am out of the woods entirely. I have passive suicidal thoughts occasionally still, but I don’t worry about them too much, I just pay attention to my thoughts more and begin to do things to help keep me from going in the depression hole again.

I haven’t spoken to Red since this incident. It’s hard to avoid Brown, he is my husband’s brother. I needed a lot of time at first, especially during the depression. I was adamant about not seeing him again, but ultimately I decided I would be civil with him for family gatherings. He messaged me with an apology when my husband told his Dad why I didn’t want to come up if he is there. It was sent within 20 minutes of my husband hanging up the phone with his dad. It was generic and he didn’t actually apologize for what was upsetting me. I don’t care about an apology, I just want him to care enough to read what I had to say. And even though I’ve been around him a few times since and I’ve always gotten along with his girlfriend, who I would hate to not see anymore, I’m still a little bothered by the lack of closure here. Basically, I still feel hurt, by both of them, and I don’t know if anything can possibly change that.

Whenever I hear about Chester, or Linkin Park, this comment thread pops into my head. The hurt feelings and pain I felt that night I laid on the couch fighting off my demons come flooding back. But now, I feel that going through a depressive episode as bad as that one was has given me the strength and understanding to handle them going forward. So I am able to use my CBT techniques, and other strategies to cope when the pain comes back. I try to see Chester as a symbol of my ability to get through a bad depressive episode, but also a reminder that my depression recovery is something I have to work on every day.

RIP Chester Bennington

 

Why it’s Important for me to be Open About my Mental Health

I was quiet for so long, but that wasn’t helping anyone, especially me.

I think it is very important for people to talk more openly about their mental health issues. Because the more we normalize it the more we reduce the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds it. Continuing to keep it a secret and feeling embarrassed or shameful about it only helps the stigma stick around. And guess what, there is nothing embarrassing or shameful about having an illness. Any illness. 

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However, I do understand that some people suffer in silence because they aren’t mentally prepared to “come out” about their struggles, or they know how a certain person will react. That is why the people who can speak up, should. We can be a voice for those that can’t speak up yet, and hopefully be the inspiration for them to eventually speak up.

For me, I had such a hard time being open about it. I feared judgement from my family and friends. I still haven’t exactly told everyone yet, but it’s not something I am going out of my way to hide either. Just like a person with diabetes doesn’t need to announce their illness to everyone, but they have no problem saying they have it if the topic comes up.

I make a point of speaking very casually about it now. I used to be a little hushed when I brought it up, my tone of voice would change, and you could tell I was feeling a little worried bringing it up. I was still a little embarrassed by it. Talking about it like it’s no big deal, is what will help others realize its no big deal. There’s no need to change how you treat me (unless I bring something up with you specifically) or interact with me. You can still joke around with me, but just have an understanding that my mind works differently.

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To those that have someone in their life with a mental illness, if they are open about it with you, go ahead and ask them questions about it. Don’t get too personal of course, but if I bring up taking my meds, you can ask me a little about them, how they are working for me, if I had any weird side effects, whatever. Just don’t ask why I need to take them, and offer “natural” ways to treat depression. (Seriously!) If someone doesn’t want to answer, respect that of course.

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Basically, the more normal we all make talking about mental illness, the more the stigma will go away. And a little bit of humour can go a long way too!

The Fear Hierarchy – CBT Lesson #1

Hello everyone! As mentioned in an earlier post, I am conducting my own “CBT Class” on this blog. That being said, if you have severe depression or anxiety, I highly recommend speaking with a professional. I am no doctor, just a person that has done CBT. However, if for whatever reason you’re not ready to go see a doctor yet, or you have but would love an extra refresher on CBT, I hope this helps you.

So I am going to start things off pretty easy for you right now. All I want you to do is to identify the things that cause you anxiety. (This is going to be focused on anxiety, as that is what I took CBT for, but you can alter it for depression for yourself. This part is very anxiety focused, unless you can name the things that trigger depression, you can use the following chart for that too.)

Get yourself a piece of paper and create a chart like this:

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List everything that causes you anxiety. Be specific! And rate your level of anxiety on a scale from 1 – 100. This will help you choose what exposures to start with later, and help you see your progress when you re-rate your anxiety levels.

I recommend having a notebook or binder dedicated to this work where you will keep everything together. You will be referencing your list occasionally.

Next lesson will be an intro into Thought Records.

 

 

 

 

How a Change in Mindset Made all the Difference for my CNTC Experience

A couple weekends ago, I was one of the 6000 Arbonne Consultants that went to Niagara Falls for our Canadian National Training Conference, or CNTC. This was an amazing weekend, full of inspiration, learning, connecting, and fun!

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View from our hotel window!

I had participated in the CNTC 2 years prior in Montreal, and while I learned a lot, I have to say it was a bit of a different experience. After coming home, I reflected on both conferences, and there were a lot of little things that were different after this one, then main thing is definitely my mindset.

Two years ago, I hadn’t quite admitted to myself that I had a problem. I figured the way that I was feeling was my fault. I had low self esteem and was always worrying. I worried about what people thought of me, and worried about failing. These are also things that really held me back in my Arbonne business. And while yes, that has nothing to do with Arbonne, or network marketing in general, it wasn’t entirely my fault either. But I still had control over the situation, I just didn’t know it.

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CNTC 2014 Montreal

With everyone I met 2 years ago at CNTC, I was always worried that they were judging me. “Already almost 2 years into the business and she’s still just a consultant?” “She doesn’t have anyone on her team still? She must be really bad at this, why is she even here?” I put these words into other consultants mouths, and that wasn’t right, for me or them.

Then, listening to the speakers, hearing about their success, I felt worse. This is supposed to be easy, so what’s wrong with me? The tips they gave were great, and helpful, but I told myself they wouldn’t work for me, or I wouldn’t be able to do them. (I don’t want to take anything away from the speakers at that conference, they were inspiring, and I still watch the youtube videos to this day. I just wasn’t receptive to them at the time)

Since then, I’ve admitted to myself that there was a problem. I spoke to my doctor, and was put on antidepressants, and also took part in a CBT program for anxiety. I’ve read a lot about CBT for depression as well. I started taking yoga classes, and eating better. I realized that just like a diabetic needs to do certain things and take medication to stay healthy, so do people with mental illness. It doesn’t seem fair, but no illness if fair.

Fast forward to this CNTC. I am now almost 4 years into the business, and still no team member, and I am still a Consultant. You’d think I would feel even worse right? Especially since the 2 weeks leading up to the conference, I had actually been going through a bad depressive episode. It was the first severe one in a long time, and that scared me a lot. Were my meds not working for me anymore? I haven’t been on them long and I’m still playing around with dosages. Is the conference going to be a waste of time because I’m in a bad headspace? UGH!

I was able to force myself to do a few of the things I know help me feel better a few days before I was going to Niagara. The things your brain tells you are a waste of time when you’re having one of these episodes. The things you have no energy for because the depression has sucked it all out of you. I have developed the skills to help pull myself out. (but that’s not to say I always can)

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When I got to Niagara, I arrived before the rest of the girls I would be staying with. My upline Stephanie and her team. I hung out in the hotel lobby for a bit and then went over to register for the conference. I spoke to a few of the other consultants, and later when the Arbonne Boutique opened up, I stood in line waiting to buy the Arbonne luggage I had been waiting for.

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When the other girls arrived, I was so excited, not nervous. I met some wonderful people, and not once did I feel like they were judging me. I instantly felt a click, like I belonged and I think I made some amazing lifelong friendships. That is the wonderful thing about these businesses, the friendships you make are incredible!

Something I’m doing, to try to get rid of the stigma, is be more open about the fact that I am on antidepressants, and the issues I have with anxiety and depression. Guess what I found out doing that this weekend? A lot of people have similar struggles. Who knew?! Ok yes, I knew that, but  I didn’t realize there were a lot of people in Arbonne. I’ve been told that network marketing isn’t a good idea if you have a mental illness, by people that don’t fully understand network marketing, but I still believed them on some level. This weekend shattered that!

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The talks were amazing. We heard from so many amazing men and women that have achieved great things in their business, despite many setbacks. I heard from someone at the top of our company that had a negative bank account balance when she started out. There was someone who was stuck at one level for years (I sure know what that feels like) One woman had one of the people she sponsored promote faster than her, which has been one of my worst nightmares when it comes to this business, and partly why I don’t think I’ve gotten anyone to join me yet. I want to be more consistently successful before I bring someone on in case they blast by me! But I realized, there’s nothing wrong with that if you are doing your best and working your business.

So basically, what I am trying to say here is that this kind of business can absolutely be fine for a person with a mental illness, in fact, I think this was really good for me, this business is really good for me! A lot of things that stigma says isn’t a good fit for a mentally ill person, are just fine. As long as the person is doing their part to keep themselves healthy, and know what they can and can’t personally handle. No matter where you are in your journey with mental illness, I want you to know, you can do this, you can do anything! You are stronger than you realize, and if you need medication or therapy to see it, that is just fine!

I can’t wait to see all my Arbonne sisters next year in Edmonton!

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My Experience with CBT

If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you have likely been told about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. It is a great tool to help you change your thinking and be more able to cope. However, even with my husbands benefits, there is no way I could afford it as an ongoing treatment. That is the problem for a lot of people that suffer from mental illness. Help is too pricey.

My doctor was able to refer me to a therapist at a hospital here in Toronto for the possibility of receiving free CBT therapy. I waited about a month to hear from them, and was brought in for an assessment in July last year(2015). I was told that private CBT would be the best fit for me, but the hospital was only offering group CBT sessions. I was put on a waiting list, and began my 12 week group sessions in Januray 2016.

This CBT group was for anxiety, however, the concepts can be used for depression as well. I could have gotten into a group for depression, but at the time it was my anxiety that was affecting my life the most.

Despite the fact that I would be better off with private sessions, and that is something I want to look into eventually, I found the group very helpful. There was something about hearing other people’s struggles that made me realize I was not as “crazy” as I thought.

As the sessions went on, I became more comfortable speaking to everyone else in the room about my issues. I also found myself offering advice to some of the others. You know how they say the best way to learn something is to teach it? That is so true. I found myself giving advice to another person that I then realized I should use too.With all of us having different things that cause anxiety, we were able to give logical advice about something we weren’t anxious about.

I was the only one who had specific phobias about medical stuff, and general anxiety about fainting whenever I feel overwhelmed. Most of the people in the group had anxieties around social situations, being the center of attention, being judged or making decisions. I have some anxiety with these things, but they weren’t why I needed help. Some had specific anxieties that I would think “why would they be anxious about that?” And I’m sure a lot of them thought the same thing about my anxieties. But it didn’t matter. We were all there for essentially the same thing, and we wanted to support each other.

I definitely recommend that if you are thinking about doing CBT, you should do it! Find a way, either join a group, read CBT books, or find a program online. Do a mixture. And don’t rule out the idea of going on medication. They say that medication along with CBT is the most effective way. But talk to your doctor and do what is best for you.

A book series I recommend is by Jessamy Hibberd and Jo Usmar. They have books titled “This book Will Make you Calm” and “This Book Will Make you Happy” Along with others for confidence, sleeping, and mindfulness. They use CBT techniques and even have homework for you to do. They are easy to read, and not very long, which is perfect if you’re not much of a reader.

On top of that, I would love to offer you my own CBT lessons. I am going to post lessons that go along with what I did during my CBT program at the hospital, and even give you homework! This will be a great way for me to refresh my CBT knowledge and make sure I put it to practice on a regular basis again. I hope that anyone thinking about it will find value in my posts, and they can at least help you get through until you’re able to receive some professional help.

Keep checking back, I will be posting Lesson #1 soon!

 

 

 

 

An Anxious Bride

“Oh my God, what if I faint at the altar”

That thought ran through my head on a daily basis for about a year leading up to the wedding. Along with many others, but that was the most prominent one.

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A wedding can make anyone anxious, but when you already have anxiety, planning a wedding can be extremely overwhelming. I was constantly battling with myself to try and stay calm and enjoy the process.

My issue, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is that I sometimes faint. It was explained to me once by a medical professional that the likely cause is, when my anxiety reaches an all time high, and then I start to calm down, my blood pressure drops so fast that I faint.

This has been something I’ve experienced many times, for a long time. Most of the time it is caused by “medical stuff” I always faint after a needle, and sometimes get light headed and anxious when someone is even talking about graphic medical things. The first time I remember fainting in public, I was 12 years old in grade 7. We were in health class and the teacher was describing in great detail the symptoms of an STI we were learning about. It happened so fast, before I knew it, I was on the floor with 2 teachers knelt over me and the rest of my class staring. So fun right!

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Now I’m sure you’re wondering, so why was she worried about fainting at a wedding? It makes very little sense even to me. But there have been many times that I felt like I was about to faint because I was just overwhelmed. It hadn’t actually happened yet, but I’ve come very close, and knowing my luck, the wedding would be the first time!

So I googled and googled and googled. “Tips for a bride with anxiety”, “anxious bride”, “how to cope with anxiety on your wedding day”..and so on. Brides were suggested to have a small ceremony, just a few people and then have a big reception with everyone later. But I didn’t want to do that, I had always dreamed of my wedding, and everyone watching me and my future husband say our vows. I wasn’t going to let down the little girl inside of me.

There were also a lot of calming techniques that I found, which I mostly heard before. I never found any advice specific to fainting, anxiety, and wedding days. I also voiced my fears to a few close friends, my fiance, and the people in a CBT group I was in for 12 weeks at the start if 2016. (I will talk more about that later in another post) mostly people kept trying to reassure me that it likely won’t happen, and if it does, it won’t be a big deal, and no wedding goes entirely perfect.

Someone even said that if it happens, it would be a funny story about the wedding. Yes haha! The bride’s mental illness intervened on her wedding day. Hilarious! This is not something I wanted to be made fun of for later on. I already get enough of that from times I’ve fainted previously.

I don’t want it to sound like I am uptight and can’t laugh at myself. This is just something I don’t want to laugh about. It’s not funny. The day before the wedding, me and my bridesmaids were practicing walking in our shoes so we don’t trip going down the aisle. My sister asked me, “would you be mad if you tripped walking down the isle and I laughed? Because I don’t think I would be able to help it.” Nice eh? I told her I would probably laugh myself, so go for it, but hopefully that won’t be an issue. (It wasn’t)

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I am so glad we had a rehearsal. It helped a lot. One thing I was taught in CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) is that the more exposures you have to something that gives you anxiety, the easier it will get over time. So I treated the rehearsal as an exposure. And boy was the first run through hard! As the bride, walking down last, standing at the back waiting for your turn to go is so nerve wracking! For everyone, not just anxious brides. When we walked up the aisle, I rushed a bit, and then when we were standing at the altar, listening to the minister talk about what all we were doing, the thought hit me like a ton of bricks! “What if you fainted right now?” this question pops in my head at random times, usually inconvenient times. It actually popped up when I was trying on wedding dresses. When it happens, I get suddenly dizzy and panicky. My vision can get blurry and I feel lightheaded.

Usually when this happens, I can sit down, or if I’m with someone who knows about this stuff, I will tell them I need to sit down. Both when I tried on the first dress and when I was standing at the altar during rehearsal, I couldn’t do that. Not without letting everyone know I was having somewhat of a panic attack.

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I wish I could share with you some magical tip I have for getting those moments to pass. I was able to power through both times and just tried to breathe slower and focus on something to distract myself from the panic. At the rehearsal I started listening really hard and paying attention to Keegan. I grabbed his hands, and just felt more supported. The second time through, I was a lot more comfortable, still a little nervous at the back of the church waiting to walk, but once we started, I was fine. Another thing I learned in CBT, and kind of already knew, the anticipation almost always causes more anxiety than the actual event. Hence the nervousness all brides feel while they are waiting to walk down the aisle.

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The night before the wedding was a whole crazy ball of emotions. Excited, relieved that it would be over soon, panicked, anxious, happy, and nostalgic. I spent the night in my grandma’s house with 2 of my bridesmaids. I had had so many sleepovers in that house, and so many wonderful family occasions. Of course I couldn’t get to sleep. Who can fall asleep fast the night before their wedding? I began to think about all the possibilities that tomorrow would bring, everything that could go wrong, the major thunderstorm we were expecting for that day, and how tired I was going to be because I can’t sleep. And just like every Christmas morning, I woke up at 5 am full of adrenaline and no chance of going back to sleep for another hour or two. So I got up, and went downstairs to talk to my grandma. I always got up early with her when I would sleep over. It seemed like any other day, but I knew it wasn’t. This was going to be a long, amazing, stressful day. I couldn’t wait to get it started and over with, but also wanted to savour every second at the same time. Such a strange inner conflict.

After everyone else woke up and my mom and sister came over, we headed out to get our hair and makeup done. On the drive over, I had my first panic moment. I remembered the almost panic attack I had when I had done my makeup trial, and thought, “what if I faint at the salon?” UGH It begins! I started my slow breathing technique, and my mom asked if I was ok. “oh, yea I’m fine” is all I said. Once we got there, I started feeling better. I was probably distracted and had a great time chatting with my bridesmaids, mom, and the hair stylists at The Hair Professionals salon. My makeup was done by a fellow Arbonne Independent Consultant who I definitely had a lot to talk about with.

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When we arrived back to my grandma’s house to get dressed, the photographers from BiancoNero Photography were already there (they took all of these awesome pictures!), and so was the rest of my mom’s side of my family. One full house! We had a quick lunch and got dressed and started taking pictures out front.

My next moment of panic was the one that would stay with me right up until the ceremony. We got into the limo to head over to the church. Our driver asked if we would like to stop at Tim Horton’s on the way since we still had a lot of time. (Yes, how Canadian of us) I got a peppermint tea to help calm my stomach, even though it was a thousand degrees out. Even just waiting in the limo for my matron of honour to run in, was nerve wracking! The whole way there I was just breathing deeply, knowing the ceremony was about to happen, and trying to stay calm for it. I think part of my issue was knowing that I would want to be present for the ceremony and enjoy it, rather than trying to stay calm.

When we arrived, we went down to the basement of the church to our waiting room. Still feeling panicky and being more vocal about it. My bridesmaids all know I struggle with anxiety, so I felt comfortable letting it out with them. I don’t think I could have managed without them. I made sure to use the washroom before the ceremony start time, as I was trying to keep myself super hydrated to avoid fainting, but I was also concerned about needing to use the washroom in the middle of the ceremony. There are just so many things to think about!

When the minister came down to let us know that everything is ready, my heart sunk. OMG this is it! And what I call a “wave of anxiety” pulsed through my body. I kept saying, “it’s the anticipation” over and over again to myself as we walked to the stairs to come up into the back of the church. When waiting at the back with my dad, I just kept breathing, and once my musical cue was about to happen, I took one last deep breath and told myself, you are going to do this, just power through! And you know what? The moment I turned the corner and saw all the faces staring at me, I suddenly forgot my anxiety! Of course it didn’t last, but that walk down the aisle was amazing. I was looking left to right at all of these people that were there to celebrate Keegan and my day. I felt so much love! Then I thought, “oh I better look at my future husband up there at the front” Seeing his face made it all worth it. I made him cry! And throughout the ceremony, I had a few “holy crap I’m getting married” moments, and a few anxious moments, but standing up there next the love of my life gave me the strength I needed to get through.

The rest of the day was just awesome. It was so hot out, and taking pictures in that big puffy dress of mine wasn’t the most comfortable, but I was just so happy it didn’t end up storming. We took so many great pictures, the reception was a blast, the food was awesome, and I had a cute little white dress for dancing, later in the evening.

Our wedding had a few slips and falls, but fortunately for me, I wasn’t one of them. My mom tripped on her way out of the church after the ceremony, one of our groomsmen fell out of his chair and hit his head on a speaker, and there were a few bodies on the dance floor.

Even with the struggles I have with anxiety and depression, having my husband and my friends by my side, supporting me, I know I can get through anything. It wasn’t a perfect wedding, but it was definitely the best day of my life, and I wouldn’t change a thing!

 

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