i am sad and i am angry

The US 2016 presidential election results are in, and I can’t even say the name of the winner because he and his actions disgust me so much. He’s managed to insult and threaten every marginalized group, making many, many people absolutely terrified for their safety today. Today and for the next four years. Among those groups is disabled people, although a group of people being treated terribly should be something you care about even if you are not a part of that group of people. 

So maybe you aren’t even severely mentally ill and poor like me, and you don’t have to worry about your benefits being cut, or your health services, housing, income, etc being taken away as a result. So you aren’t a Muslim woman having to refrain from wearing hijab for safety reasons. You in no way are negatively affected personally, maybe even those you love aren’t. You should still care, you should still feel empathy, because I like to think my readers aren’t, idk, fucking monsters. I don’t know. I’m so scared that so few people seem to feel empathy or care, that so many people are expressing such violent misogyny, and that that person and his running mate could ever possibly be in power, with a republican house and senate to back them up.
For the record, yes, I voted early, for Hillary Clinton.
I would love to direct those of you who will be affected, who are terrified and crying and angry and so many things (so many reactions are valid) to a suicide hotline list in case you need it, but while you should absolutely try if you think you need to, national hotlines have been busy since she lost and he won and we were handed four years of fear on a platter. You should still try but please don’t expect to necessarily get through to anyone right now. I’m so sorry, and I’m going to do my best to list other resources you can draw on after listing these currently unusable helplines:
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
The Trevor Project (LGBT): 1-866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
Okay. So maybe you don’t want to call a helpline, or maybe you tried one, or two, or three, and they were all busy. Okay. Deep Breaths. Here is a gif about breathing that might help with that:
source
Maybe you’re angry. I get that too. A personal favorite coping technique of mine when I have feelings of anger (usually directed inward in my case, although not this time for once) is to play a song that helps me get some of my emotion out and maybe even sing along, really loud.
For this presidency, I think that the Dixie Chicks’ Not Ready to Make Nice is pretty appropriate (or find something you like better, if that’s not your jam!)
So what have I got to recommend besides deep breathing, music and hotlines that may or may not work? WELL, ladies and gentlemen and non binary people also wearing formal wear for some reason, here’s a list! I may add to it over time:
  • Got extra money burning a hole in your pocket/sitting around? Help out with the situation we’re in for a tangible feeling of having done something good. Of course, you can do this for free in many ways, by helping others, and volunteering, for example, but what I’m talking about is donating money to a charity that will probably really be needing it soon thanks to our future president – such as Planned Parenthood, NAMI, or Radical Monarchs. There are many more, and I hope to blog with a longer list included soon.
  • Learn how to fold a paper crane.
  • Spend time with your pet if you have one, cuddling or playing with it.
  • Take a bath, keep sharp objects away if that’s an issue, and use some relaxing essential oils or a bath bomb to help de-stress and indulge in some physical and mental self care.
  • Take a hot or cold shower, even if it’s quick.
  • Brew a cup of caffeine-free tea. The caffeine could increase anxiety so I’d recommend avoiding that, but the warm beverage itself can be very soothing.
  • Look into volunteering somewhere local. You’ll be benefiting your community and also have a reason to feel good about something in this world – the hard work you’re putting into making it better!
  • Write. Journal, write poetry, or blog. There are other options too. Express the emotions you’re feeling. They are valid.
  • Coloring books are extremely soothing, even if you haven’t heard of the adult coloring books trend and it sounds silly to you. The simple act requires some concentration but not enough to make it difficult, and you may find it very helpful in coping with negative feelings or anxiety.
  • Put your hands in cold ice, or hold ice tight for a minute. The bearable pain from the cold is especially good if you are struggling with a dissociative disorder or strong sadness.
  • Reach out to those you love. Let them know you care. Send an email with cute animal pictures to your favorite people, or call someone who matters a lot. Talk, make sure they’re okay, make sure you’re okay.
  • Deal with anxiety preemptively if you need birth control but need it covered by insurance to afford it by looking into longer term options, since we may have access to birth control restricted in the next four years. Implants that go in your arm can be effective for up to four years, and IUDs can be effective for up to 12!
  • Paint your nails, do your makeup, or use a face mask, if you enjoy that sort of thing. It may not help much, but you’d be surprised how soothing these acts can be for many people.
  • Look into local community events coming up protesting the election results, and other similar events. I don’t think anything can be done about the situation, but you’ll meet like-minded people who may help you cope with your frustrations and fears.
Okay. That’s all I’ve got for now. Feel free to share suggestions for coping or helping things be better in the comments. I’m emotionally drained and still crying more often than not. 
Stay strong.

smartphone apps & computer software for coping

Hello!
I know it has been a while since I’ve blogged here, especially regularly – my mental and especially physical health has been pretty terrible for a while, and on top of that I am getting ready to move into a new apartment in mid September. I’ll totally do my best to update you guys on all kinds of things going on in my life in another post soon, but for now, I really want to share some resources with you, specifically some of the apps, and software I have found to be very helpful in coping with my mental illness. Some of these programs and apps have adds, but none of them are extremely intrusive or stressful advertisements in my experience.
Many of these apps and programs are free, and the ones that aren’t are low-cost! I’ve suggested free and low-cost apps/software both because I don’t have the extra money to spend on expensive software and also because a lot of mentally ill people (and people in general!) don’t either. I think that the majority of these could be helpful to neurotypical people as well, especially if they struggle with stress or insomnia, for example. I’m very excited to share these with you since any tools to help someone cope can make a huge difference in their life!
I will note that while some of these may be helpful to mental health professionals, this post is aimed at people who are struggling themselves. I also want to mention that not a single one of these companies/programs/etc has sponsored me, and everything I write here is my own honest opinion. Some of these apps are for iphones only and not on android and so unfortunately won’t be accessible to everyone, even everyone with a smartphone. There are also some browser extensions that are very useful, but since I don’t currently use any of them I don’t want to recommend them here, yet. I will, however, mention that if you have difficulty with viewing gifs or autoplay music/audio while browsing the internet, there are multiple extensions to help with both of those – extensions to not allow any music to autoplay, and extensions to stop gifs from displaying and/or animating.
I’ll start with the software section, because so far I’ve only found one program that is helpful to me, but it is pretty great – so I’ll cover it quickly and move on to the apps and extensions after! This might be kind of a long post in general, since I want to share many things that could be helpful for all kinds of problems neuroatypical people have.
SOFTWARE:
  1. Optimism – this is available as a program for windows and mac, an internet extension, and as an app! You can sync your account between these devices if you use more than one, and it’s also totally free. Wow! I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty exciting. Optimism allows you to track your mood, exercise, and sleep, catch your symptoms worsening early on, and create a “wellness plan” which can remind you what is helpful to you when you are too distressed to think clearly. Here is their website.
APPS:
  1. Mango Health – this is my favorite app for tracking when I’m taking or missing doses of my meds, and for helping to remind me to take my meds. Sure, I have a billion and twelve alarms set on my phone (and other devices!) to ensure I don’t forget doses of my by now multitude of medications, but this app doesn’t just remind you to take your meds. It sends you a second reminder if you don’t let it know that you took them, it allows you to log which meds you are taking (and have taken in the past), it gives helpful tips, and it has a feature to allow you to show your prescriber your history of which med doses you’ve taken and which you’ve missed.  It can also warn you about possible negative interactions between different medications that you’re taking. Honestly, I don’t even use every feature on this app, because there are so many, and yet it’s very easy to use.
  2. Reach Out – this is an app that I installed recently that gives you easy access to a list of helplines and other people you can contact when in crisis. You can add phone numbers for people or organizations you may need to call when in crisis. It also features some short videos that are reassuring.
  3. Colorfy – I use this app to help soothe my anxiety when it isn’t super severe, but I can feel it getting worse and I want to use a discreet coping technique on the go to help calm myself down. It is basically a digital coloring book. There are a lot of different “coloring pages”, divided into categories for you to choose from, and you can color the little spaces in the pictures by clicking on them, and choose colors to fill them in with (there are a lot of color choices, too, and you can purchase more color choices within the app) I find this to be a great and distracting app that doesn’t require a lot of mental energy to utilize.
  4. DeepCalm –  I love apps that make a rain sound, ocean sound, or other soothing sound (sometimes even several at once, depending on the app!) to help me calm down and/or sleep. This app is one of my favorites that falls under that category.
  5. Balanced – this app is great because it reminds you to do five activities of your choosing (or more if you spend $3.99 on upgrading the app to get more) regularly with notifications. I personally have chosen activities that I find therapeutic or helpful for my mental health in order to keep my mindset as positive as possible.
  6. Stop, Breathe & Think – This app is fantastic for anxiety, since it helps you to breathe and especially to meditate. It allows you to select a mood from a fairly extensive list, among other factors such as your physical wellness, and then automatically selects several guided meditations for you to choose from (or to choose to ignore and do something else instead if none of them appeal to you at that time), or you can choose from their entire list of guided meditations to use.
  7. Good Habit Maker –  this app reminds you multiple times per day (you get to choose how many times) of a statement of your choosing. I have mine set to remind me to hydrate and drink a glass of water, but it would also be very useful for other tasks you need reminders for, such as taking meds or stretching.
  8. Infinite Storm – this is another app that I use to make calming sounds that help me relax, de-stress, or get to sleep. You can also play music on your device at the same time as the relaxing sounds, if that helps you.
  9. Pacifica – this is an app that lets you focus on your mood, or your anxiety, and track your health habits and mood. My favorite thing about this app, though, is that you get to choose a daily activity that makes you feel better – such as going outdoors at least once a day, or spending time with a pet or pets. It also includes some unconventional things you can track, such as caffeine, alcohol and cannabis usage.
  10. SleepySounds – another app to create soothing sounds to help you relax (there are many of these apps, including many I don’t even know about!) that also allows you to play your own music on your device. This app is especially helpful for getting to sleep, as suggested by its name.
  11. Grid Diary – this app was recommended to me by my lovely friend Farrah, who also has a blog, and it is currently one of my very favorite apps. It allows you to choose questions, either preset questions or questions that you write yourself, and answer them each day. You can also track your mood from a limited list of mood options, and the weather that day. Then, you get to look back on each day you’ve written in your grid diary for, which I think is so darn neat! I paid $4.99 for extra features within the app such as being able to add pictures to your question answers, although it’s a great app even if you only use the free version.
  12. Bellybio – (EPILEPSY SEIZURE WARNING for the website) this is an app that is great if you have difficulty with deep breathing from your belly but do still find it helpful. In order to utilize it you recline in a chair and place your phone above your pelvis on your lower stomach area. It tracks your breathing physically, while also providing information about your breathing, and can help to guide your deep breathing with colors and sounds, letting you know how you’re doing and when to inhale and exhale.
I also want to mention that if you’re on any medications (psychiatric or otherwise) then your pharmacy likely has an app of its own that you can use to refill prescriptions and check on the refill dates. Since different people use different pharmacies I won’t link to any of them – but search your pharmacy on the app store on your phone (for example “CVS” if you use CVS pharmacy like I do) and it should be easy to find, unless you use a small local pharmacy. I know that this is very helpful for me since going out in public and talking to people is difficult for me with my anxiety, and this reduces how much I have to do that.
That’s all for today – but I’m hoping to update again soon – I love blogging for you guys!
xoxo,
Zelie

seven things to do when your friend has an anxiety disorder

Hey!

This is my first post of 2014 – and I’m really sorry about that!  It’s almost March! I’m terrible.

This blog post was inspired by a chain of facebook comments on a post linking to this Huffington Post article. Someone commented and basically said that they thought an article about seven things you SHOULD tell people who are experiencing anxiety would be helpful for those people who don’t know what to say or do.

I took it upon myself to write a blog post about their idea, since I have a lot of personal experience with anxiety and I know some things people can or have said that help me personally when I’m dealing with anxiety. I have severe social anxiety which I am actually on SSI for, because my anxiety is too severe for me to work (and sometimes leave my home). I’ve had countless panic attacks because of being in public, and in times when my anxiety hasn’t been so bad I’ve still felt anxious and panicked slightly over trivial things. This won’t be an extensive list of every good thing you can say, because there are a lot more than seven examples and I mostly experience social anxiety and some phobias, while there are other kinds of anxiety I don’t fully understand. Feel free to leave a comment with your own ideas for things to say if you have an anxiety disorder!!

This post, however, is mostly for the people who just don’t know what to do in these situations. They don’t teach this kind of thing in health class (although perhaps they should). So here’s my list, in no particular order!

  1. Ask, “would it be helpful if I hugged you or held your hand?” some people with anxiety disorders, especially kinds of anxiety other than social anxiety can often find gentle and friendly physical contact comforting – but never assume. Always make sure they’re comfortable with it before you touch them. Sometimes, for certain people, being touched even briefly by someone they know well can be incredibly upsetting and make the anxiety feel much worse much faster.
  2. Ask, “would you like me to get you some water?” often having something to sip on or even a cup to hold can be helpful, if they aren’t shaking too much. Also, staying hydrated is important.
  3. Get stress balls, spinner rings, and other pocket-sized things to play with, carry them with you, and maybe give them as small gifts to your friends with anxiety, or suggest that they get some themselves. Having something to do with your hands can help with anxiety a lot, especially when symptoms of anxiety include trichotillomania or dermatillomania, for example, which is the case for many people.
  4. Remind them to breathe, deep and slowly. It’s just science. When you breathe more slowly, your heart rate slows down too, and you calm down. Really though, don’t tell them what to do in general – they know what feels the least anxiety-inducing, and aside from a few tricks like breathing slowly, you can’t know what will help unless you’re experiencing it. 
  5. If they have asthma, make sure they have their inhaler nearby at all times. Especially in stressful situations, either an asthma attack or a panic attack/similar anxiety symptoms can occur and then lead to the other starting up as well. They can often keep making each other worse, so make sure they use their inhaler if they experience asthma symptoms and in both situations remember #4.
  6. Ask them if they want you to leave, or if they’d rather you stay with them. Different people have different preferences, sometimes at different times. Both being alone or not being able to be alone, depending on the situation, can make anxiety worse.
  7. Take their anxiety seriously. This is a really important one. It is a mental illness that they have at best not full control over and possibly no control over at all. A lot of people learn to use coping techniques that work for them, take prescription medications for anxiety (such as xanax), attend regular therapy, or use other methods to cope. You have to take their illness seriously, since that is what it is – an illness. It is real and it is difficult to live with. Respect their boundaries and what they need, and try your best to be supportive in a genuine way (which also means it is definitely not the right time for sarcasm). 

Well, that’s all for today – I’d like to start posting more in 2014 though, we’ll see how that goes! Hopefully this post was helpful and possibly informative.

xoxo,
Zelie