Living With Depression and Anxiety as a Young Woman in Her 20s

“…focusing on myself this past year has been a roller coaster of emotions but I’ve made improvements and I know I will continue to do so…”

In today’s society, there is a stigma placed around mental health and, in particular, depression and anxiety. Some people have a hard time grasping how depression and anxiety can affect someone so deeply that it leaks all over and affects every aspect of their life. As a 26 year old woman, I have dealt with depression and anxiety for over half of my life.

I’ve gone through and put my family and friends through the ringer at times whether it was my battle with self-harm or my questionable life decisions. I’ve been on medication for most of my struggles and continue to stay up-to-date with my prescriptions through my psychiatrist. While I stand by the idea that medication isn’t for everyone, it certainly has been and is for me…at least for now.

Having such an up-close experience with the diagnosis of depression and anxiety, there is one factor that, for me, seems to affect it the most: environment. This applies to both personal and professional environments, especially when one directly affects the other.

In the situation of my last relationship, it got to the point where I would no longer go out with my friends for fear of upsetting my ex. In my mind, I would rather sacrifice spending time with my amazingly supportive friends than deal with him being upset and verbally abusive when I came home. I couldn’t even truly be myself as he would constantly berate me for my “childish interests” such as enjoying Disney or playing on a community quidditch team. As a result, my frame of mind was severely affected.

I would end up in tears daily, regardless of if I was at work, in public, or at home, and spend a lot of time and effort trying to cover it up to make myself look okay.

I started sleeping more to avoid the stress of being at home. He could sense my depression and would insist that my mood was the cause of his temper and irrationality. When the verbal and emotional abuse first started, going to work became my refuge. It was a place I could get away and be myself without being judged or put down. However due to technology making everyone so frustratingly accessible, he soon began to consume me at work as well. My work performance suffered as a result and that is when I started to see that no matter how hard I tried, nothing would be good enough and that I couldn’t help him in the way he need to be helped.

After moving back in with my moms, it took a while to start feeling like myself again. I had moved into a more ideal home environment, but that meant leaving some people that I love behind. My friends were all very understanding of my decision to leave, but that didn’t make leaving them hurt any less.

Moving back to Pennsylvania meant finding a new job. The job I got as a mental health worker at a psychiatric residential facility for youth came with its own stress. While that kind of stress was one I had dealt with before at previous jobs, it wasn’t one I was keen on returning to. But I needed a job and this was a decent one that I could get quickly.

Working with kids who have constant suicidal ideations and/or erratic and aggressive behaviors puts a toll on the employees’ minds and bodies. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always super stressful and I really did enjoy the work I did with the kids. However the days that were stressful, were usually filled with enough stress for at least a week. I stayed at that job for a year and had definitely reached a point where I needed a less stressful job and one that pays better. The mental health field is one that is severely underpaid and that in and of its self adds a whole other stressor.

Last month I started a new job as a living well specialist working as an advocate and support for youth and adults with disabilities. It has been going extremely well so far and I have high hopes for my future in this position. I’ve been taking is so much new information that sometimes my brain feels like it’s going to explode, but I’m working on my organization along the way so that I can reference back to everything I’ve learned. I have already noticed a rise in my mood and have been experiencing less anxiety. There have been the occasional setbacks, but overall things have been looking up!

Photo: TCP Photography

Another part of my life that I attribute to having been less depressed and anxious is getting back into quidditch again. Quidditch is a part of my personal environment that I severely missed and desperately wanted to get back into. Joining the Philadelphia Freedom team has made me happier than I have been in a very long time. I’ve been able to find a family in them and I’m so grateful for their love and acceptance.

So how do I live with depression and anxiety as a young woman in her 20s? While medication definitely helps regulate my symptoms, taking life day by day is the best thing I can do for me right now. I have a few friends that I can be completely honest with about how I am feeling and they have been amazing supports during my low and high points. I also talk to my mom a lot. She has her own mental health struggles and understands a lot of what I say on a personal level. I also attend therapy about once a month and I cannot stress enough how beneficial therapy can be!

There are definitely days that are much worse than others, and in those times the motivation to write and do the things I love is very low. But those days are coming less and less as time goes by. Focusing on myself this past year has been a roller coaster of emotions but I’ve made improvements and I know I will continue to do so.

My advice to other young adults struggling with depression and anxiety is to be honest about how you are feeling. Those around you can’t read minds and even if you just want to be left alone, tell them you’re not in the best space but would prefer to be alone for a bit. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This can be anything from a crisis hotline to a friend to vent to. I tried handling things all on my own for a long time before I finally reached out and trust me, it helps. If you feel you need a little bit more one-on-one help, I strongly encourage you to look into therapy. A lot of companies these days have Employee Assistance Programs that can help connect you with someone and maybe even provide some free sessions!

There is no “cookie-cutter” way to deal with depression and anxiety, this is just how I view my journey with them and how I try to keep myself going. Navigating your mental health can be frustrating and exhausting…just remember that even if today sucked, tomorrow is brand new and has the potential to be the best day ever!

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie ♥ 

5 Low-Key Coping Skills For When You Can’t Walk Away

Ever get stuck in a spot where your anxiety is sky-high, but you’re surrounded with no real exit strategy? Maybe you’re at a work meeting or a concert with friends and the chances of you being able to slip away are slim to none. Yeah, me too. The trapped feeling that is quick to follow only makes things worse and harder to handle. 

When it happens to me, it’s usually when I’m at work. My job can get pretty damn stressful at times and it takes all I have not to freak out. There are also times where it is calm and leaves me time to think. Sometimes when I think too much, my anxiety skyrockets but most times I still can’t walk away. 

Having a coping skill with you everywhere you go can be the best way to combat anxiety and it might be easier than you think. To have a coping skill with you doesn’t necessarily mean you have to physically have something with you and let’s not forget that not every coping skill will work for every person–everyone is different, requiring different things to calm them. 

That being said, here are five low-key coping skills to try next time you can’t step away…

Deep Breathing

This is a coping skill that is widely overlooked. Truth is, taking some deep breaths could be just what you need to keep yourself calm. Sometimes this is all I have at my disposal at work and while it definitely isn’t my first choice of coping skill, I make it work!

Deep breathing can help lower heart rate as well as relax the body’s muscles. Try following the inflating shape, syncing your breathing!

Fidget Cube

Fidget cubes are perfect for work meetings when you start getting restless but need to pay attention. They are discreet and can be used under a desk or table to keep from distracting others! I don’t currently have one of these but I really wish I did!

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is whimsical in nature due to its true variability. Different scents can trigger different responses. Carry a small spray or scent roller (or hand sanitizer in my case) of whatever scent gives you the relief you’re looking for! Some scents that promote relaxation and stress relief are lavender and eucalyptus. I, personally, carry eucalyptus spearmint hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works with me.

Neck Rolls

Built up stress and anxiety can contribute to muscle tension along with everyday activities such as driving or working on a computer. Taking a minute to stretch and roll your neck can help relieve that tension and even improve your mood once that tension is lifted a bit!

I find myself stretching out and rolling my neck a lot lately so it definitely wasn’t a surprise when I got a massage last week and the masseuse told me my neck and shoulders were extremely tense and full of knots. However, when I do stretch it feels better at least for a little bit. 

Slime/Putty

Slime may be a fun craft to do with kids, but I, a 25-year-old woman, love me some slime. In fact, I recently made some slime for myself with one of my best friends because she had bought a kit and we were bored! Now I use that slime all the time.

This is a coping skill that can help keep your hands busy and your mind focused on something other than what is around you. It can be made or bought in small batches so it has easy portability! I bought a mini one that I keep in my backpack!

Personally using four of these five coping skills, I am confident that they could work for others! All you have to do is give them a chance! The girls I work with use all of them, though they tend to tell me to shove it when I suggest they try deep breathing…

I’d love to hear what coping skills work for you, especially those for when you’re in a situation you can’t walk away from! Drop a comment below ↓ 

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie ♥ 

All About Mental Health Stigmas

The mental health sector has faced negativity from the beginning of time and, unfortunately, that negativity probably won’t go away any time soon. What people need to realize, though, is that mental health is a much bigger issue across the world. The World Health Organization and the WorldEconomic Forum reported that mental illness is the largest economic burden of all health issues worldwide. In 2010, $2.5 trillion was spent on mental health and it is projected to reach $6 trillion spent by 2030. That’s a shit ton of money. You would think that with all of that money being spent, people (especially employers) would put more emphasis on taking care of your mental health as well as their own.

Mental health stigmas can be separated into two categories; public and self. Public stigmas can often lead to self-stigmas within mental health patients.

Public Stigmas: come from negative beliefs about people with mental illness. This usually involves a negative emotional reaction or interaction. The mindset of the public stigma is that mental illness is something to be feared and contained.

Self-Stigmas: come from a person with a mental illness having negative beliefs about themselves. This often results in people with those negative beliefs not seeking proper treatment and ultimately getting worse.

Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigmas

  • Proper self-care: find what works for you. Running, binge-watch Netflix, volunteer…the possibilities are endless.
  • Proper treatment: there is no shame in asking for help. Finding the right course of treatment can make a world of difference, so sometimes patience is necessary.
  • Self-education: do your research! But also make sure you’re getting your information from the right places.
  • Be open and honest: mental health is not something to be tabooed. Helping to show that having a mental illness does not mean you can’t function in public will only aid in decreasing public stigmas.

The best way to change these stigmas is through education and training. It is common for some people to be scared of professional punishment at their workplace due to having a mental illness and they are unsure of how their boss might view it. For example, police departments are slowly starting to realize that more training on how to interact with people with a mental illness is necessary. In turn, police departments do not always consider how mental health could affect their officers. Most departments only mandate treatment once something bad has happened.

I was extremely fortunate to be a part of a team in Massachusetts working as a foster care caseworker that put self-care and mental health at the forefront of pretty much everything. Every time I went into supervision I would be asked what I was doing for my self-care. Our program director even set up outings for us which included activities like escape rooms or ending the day early to get food and drinks as a team.

When I left that job, it was very unexpected and quick due to the situation I was in. And by quick, I mean within a matter of days. I can not express how grateful I am to how my boss and co-workers responded. All they cared about was that I was safe and making the right decisions for my well being. The job I have now as a mental health worker (direct care staff) had me fill out a self-care card on my first day of orientation and asked that I have it with me while working. 

Don’t let anyone dull what sparkle you have by labelling you based on your mental health. You are more than that and deserve more than that!


Love always,
Caitie ❤

To The Person Lost Inside Of Their Own Head

They say you’re supposed to be safest with yourself. But what if inside your mind is the most dangerous place?

You’re an over thinker. You think of every single possible outcome but you tend to focus mostly on the negative ones. In your mind, good things don’t happen to you–or when they do, something bad is surely not far behind.

That negativity seeps in from your mind to your body and you don’t do anything remotely productive for days. Staying in bed, going in-between sleeping and binge-watching Netflix, seems like the best thing in the world because you just can’t bring yourself to get up.

When you do get out of bed, you’re rundown and tired but try to compensate with exuberance. Except that doesn’t always work out. You put on a front and act as happy as possible because that’s how you want others to see you. Happy.

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Your thoughts get so loud that the anxiety peeks out as tears show up uninvited, but you’re in public so you try so hard to hold them back that it physically hurts. You’ve gotten pretty good at hiding it, but sometimes you can’t stop them so you excuse yourself because crying in public is frowned upon.

Due to all of this, you’re pretty sure you’re just crazy despite several others telling you the opposite. Your mind rallies behind the negative thoughts and feelings until you feel as though there is no positivity left within you.

If any or all of these sound familiar, know that you are not alone. I know all of these things to be true because they’re me, too. I get so negative in my mind that I’m all but fully convinced that I’m going to be stuck for the rest of my life. Stuck in one place, doing one thing, with just one person: myself.

Being alone in the present isn’t what freaks me out. Being alone for the rest of my days with 20+ cats for company is the scary picture in my mind. I fear I’ll never get to see all that I want to because I’ll never get out of the financial hole I’ve found myself in. I get stuck on the thought that I’m not good enough to do or be anything but what my life and self currently are.

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I think I’m crazy because my thoughts won’t stop and won’t gravitate anywhere near positivity. They consume me and make trying to do anything else an intense struggle. I meditate, work out, write, and more to try to distract my mind into motivation. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does long enough for me to forget about the things that stress me out for a bit.

You may have gone through some shit to get your mind where it’s at or you might not…and let’s not forget that everyone’s definition of “going through some shit” is different. For me, my last relationship really messed with my head from the verbal/emotional abuse and manipulation. I’ve been struggling long before that, but a part of me broke over the last couple years.

If you are someone who knows a person lost in their head, please be patient. It’s a tough road to journey on and it doesn’t help to have others saying things like “suck it up, it gets better” or “you’re just being crazy, you’re fine”. Instead, be supportive and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Honestly, most of the time the answer will be nothing. It’s literally the thought that counts! Everyone needs a little help now and then even if it’s just needing a shoulder to cry on.

If you’re like me, we are stronger than we think. These feelings are not forever and will fade with time and work. How much time is impossible to say. It sucks now, but finding your way through is all you can do.  Whatever we’ve gone through, it’s happened and we can’t change that no matter how much we want to.

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We are all different. Find what works for you and your mind. Meditate every morning or throughout the day if needed. Watch a sappy movie with your favorite wine (or in my case, tequila) and get a good cry in. Check if your employer has an employee assistance program that offers free therapy sessions.

This blog is a safe space for everyone and especially those on their road to self-recovery. Comment anonymously if you choose, but remember that we are worth every bit of effort to get our minds back on track! Together we can lift each other up during our lowest times to thrive and live our best times.

Love always,

Caitie♥

What Should Have Been

I started this blog with a purpose and had so many goals when I published my first post. Don’t get me wrong, I still have those same goals in mind. I simply lost my way a bit these last couple of months. I let my mind wander and get focused on several other things. Some real and worth the focus and some that kept me trapped within my own mind.

What I wanted was to be posting two blogs a week, growing a following of readers who enjoy and believe in what I publish. That is still what I want and what I am striving for. I want to be able to begin my van life journey sooner rather than later but it has not exactly gone to plan.

The biggest part of my recent life that swayed me from blogging is freelancing. I’ve picked up a couple of side jobs writing blog and Instagram content. Putting so much time into writing content that would make me money set aside the writing that was supposed to be my therapeutic path back to happiness.

Since my last blog post in July, I have lingered in a strange limbo state of depression and being just okay. This is one of those things that I just can’t explain. I don’t have a clue why the depression sank over me like it did. I don’t know why I have yet to shake it off and return to my new normal. I’ve discussed it with my therapist and she confirms that there does not necessarily require a cause for depression to take over. It is a disorder that is always inside me regardless of any medication I may take. Depression can be an unpredictable beast.

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So what I had hoped to be a thriving blog has turned into a fizzling collection of articles. What I had hoped would be a fruitful road to my dream lifestyle has turned into a hazardous, disappointing journey thus far. But that’s how life is, isn’t it? A rollercoaster of unpredictability and failures before a life of success and consistency.

I have a lot of ideas and goals that I would like to make a reality. I see a lot more for myself than what I am right now. I’m still on my road to recovery and will be for some time. But as I go through day after day, I know I am meant for something more than Netflix binges and working a low-paying youth worker job. I respect my job and those who do it with me, but it is not something I plan to do for any significant amount of time. I strive for a more ideal and creative way of living and I plan for that to include my form of income.

Things very well might not work out the way I imagine them to. I definitely hope that they do and I am willing to work hard to make it happen. It would be a disservice to myself not to try. The support of my friends and family help me to believe in myself. In fact, it was my mom who questioned me about my blog’s inactivity. She bugged me about it for a couple days until I talked to her about it. It was that small conversation that kind of snapped me into writing therapeutically again.

So here is to the reboot of my therapeutic journey through this blog. Not all posts will be like this one and act as a journal. In my mind, it is a very adventurous journey so I hope you stick around to be a part of it!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

8 Yoga Poses to Improve Your Zen

In my opinion, for all it’s worth, yoga is a fantastic way to either start or end the day. For me, I have been doing my best to do 15-20 minutes of yoga every morning after/while drinking my smoothie. I’m not a huge breakfast person but I know it’s, as they say, the most important meal of the day so I drink a nice, big green smoothie.

I have a pretty high-stress life right meow, so I’ll try pretty much anything to help myself relax a little. So I started poking around the web, mostly on Pinterest. I had done yoga before, although that was to a class that could probably have passed as yoga for bodybuilders.

While I’m no expert, I’ve done quite a bit of research on different yoga poses to implement into my own routine to help de-stress. Here are my 8 favorites that help me improve my zen:

WARRIOR I

All of the warrior poses help to build stamina and strength and Warrior I is a great place to start. This pose helps open up the hips while working to strengthen the core and legs. The slight backbend really allows the body to open up and stretch out.

CAT/COW

This is technically two poses, but they make such a good combination that they really should just be lumped together perminately. This combination pose is great for people with back pain as it helps to stretch out the spine and hips.

DOWNWARD FACING DOG

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This pose is the pretty much like the king of yoga poses. It does it all; arms, shoulders, hips, spine, and legs. Enough said.

PLANK

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I. Hate. Planks.

However…this pose is AMAZING for helping build core strength. I do it for that reason alone because core strength is an area I need to work on. This pose also helps build strength in the wrists, arms, and shoulders.

SEATED FORWARD BEND

Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend yoga Pose) for Beginners (1)_1

If your hamstrings and calves need a good stretch, this pose should be in your yoga routine. I’ve had this in my own routine and it definitely burns the first few times. But having done it almost every morning for a little while now, I can feel a difference.

CHILD’S POSE

Again, for those with back pain, this is a good pose to practice. By extending your arms out in front of you, it allows your spine to stretch out and get some relief.

TREE POSE

This pose is great for improving balance and I definitely need help with that! A good tip is to find a spot straight ahead of you and focus only on that spot while you take deep breaths. It helps me from falling over at least!

CORPSE POSE

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It might sound silly, but sometimes it’s good to just lay down and breathe. That’s exactly what this pose does. I find it best to end my routine with corpse pose to give my body and mind a quick break before moving on with my day.


I won’t say that some days I struggle with the motivation and desire to do yoga in the mornings. Most recently, I’ve struggled to even pull myself out of bed. So if my darkness gets the better of me, I always try to get some yoga in at some point in my day, even if it’s late at night.

Basically, don’t sweat it if you’re low on motivation sometimes. It happens and it won’t last forever. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself!

I’d love to hear what your favorite yoga poses are! Leave a comment below!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

Why You Should Make a Vision Board

Figuring out life goals and keeping them in focus can be a struggle. I know I struggle with focus and motivation regularly. That’s why everyone should have a vision board! Check it out!

Figuring out life goals and keeping them in focus can be a struggle. I know I struggle with focus and motivation regularly.

A vision board is a tool to help put chosen life goals into perspective and provide a visual representation of those goals. This week at work, one of the group therapy sessions was to create a vision board for how the kids wanted to improve their mental and physical health.

Tools Needed:

  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Paper/poster

First thing you’re going to want to do is think about what parts of your life or daily routine you think could use a visual cue to help you stay focused on your goals.

Next you go through the magazines and look for things that inspire you and fit the idea you’ve thought up in your mind. Don’t worry if some things that catch your eye don’t make sense…that’s part of the fun!

Cut those things out. Since the kids at work can’t have scissors, we ripped out the pictures. I actually like the look of the ripped paper, too!

Glue everything on in the placement you want and voila! I got a little extra and doodled in the empty white spaces that hadn’t been covered by magazine pieces.

Let’s disect my vision board. Some things I put on there simply because they make me happy; the corgi, panda, cats, and smiley balloon. The word ‘awesome’ honestly just looked cool and fit with the aesthetic of my board.

Phrases like ‘make life unexpected’ and ‘miraculous experience’ help remind me to live life to the fullest and not take it for granted. ‘Portion control’ and ‘refresh’ help me to remember to eat healthy and not stress eat. And by stress eat, I’m talking a whole pack of Oreos!

The yoga chick represents my newfound love for yoga. I’ve implemented it into my morning routine to help keep myself relaxed and balanced.

Your vision board is exactly that…yours. Make it how you want it and hang it up somewhere you know you’ll see it every day. I put mine on the mini fridge in my room.

If anyone decides to make their own vision board or already has one, I’d love to see them! Drop a comment below!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie

Quidditch Changed My Life

I get told, if I had to guess, around ten times a week how weird or nerdy I am by the kids at work. This is undoubtedly due to my unashamed love of all things Disney and the fact that when the girls watch Disney movies, I know all of the words. I also talk about Albus…a lot. Some girls have even started asking how he’s doing every now and then. But with all my love for Disney and cats, there is one thing that my true nerd spirit holds dear.

hp books

Harry Potter is the series that brought the creative part of myself out of my shell. It’s the first world I really escaped into and one of the few I feel at home with. I seriously can’t count the number of times I’ve read these books. That doesn’t even take into account the number of times that I’ve listened to the books as well (I just started Prisoner of Azkaban yesterday). As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like music that much right now, so I turn to audiobooks. Even though I’ve read and heard the story so many times, it is just as much of an engaging story as the first time I read it.

So it wasn’t a surprise to any of my friends or family when I joined my college’s club quidditch team.

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Coming in as one of those fan-girl Harry Potter loving nerds, I was pleased to find just how physical the game is. If anyone were to ask my mom, she would tell them that she has never seen me be more competitive than when I was on the quidditch pitch. I would definitely have to agree. I’ve played plenty of sports in my life and did well. However, being on this team of misfits has been more fun than all of my sports experiences combined.

Not only that, but the quidditch community as a whole is simply amazing. I’ve met several wonderful people through traveling for tournaments and even doing some summer fantasy tournaments. Being a co-ed, full contact sport makes an even playing field for male and female players in that all are treated the same and follow the same rules. This, I feel, helped add to the overall family feeling because it wasn’t a sport aimed towards any kind of specific person. There were several people on the team who had never read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies.

When I first started at Lock Haven University, I was a lonely transfer student with no friends in the area and my cats were three hours away. I was in kind of a dark place after my last college experience, so I was nervous about starting new. I got lucky, though, that one of my first roommates became one of my closest friends.

I attended the club fair that is a college staple everywhere and saw three hoops in the distance. I didn’t stop at any other table. I beelined right for it and saw a group of students tossing around a volleyball. They were all extremely friendly and genuinely excited at my interest in the club. After that, my dark place slowly faded away as I was welcomed into this family.

I use the word family to describe the team a lot because that is exactly how I see them. Just about all of us have graduated and new, young players are carrying on what those before me built and what we all helped to grow and sustain. I may not talk to all of them on any kind of regular basis, but I know if I were to see them, it would be easy to fall back into conversation as if I had just seen them the day before. Some I do talk to quite often and some I consider my closest, truest friends.

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Photo credit on watermarked photos belongs to Isabella Gong Photography

Remember that fantasy fiction trilogy I mentioned…well that close friend co-author of mine is none other than my best friend, Zach. Without this team, he and I would never have met and would never have become basically siblings.

My parents were very supportive of the quidditch team and treated them like family as well. My mom even drove Zach about 5 hours from a tournament to his family because his nose had been broken. They traveled to almost every tournament, even though it meant spending money on hotels, gas, and sometimes event tickets. But they loved seeing how happy I was out on the field and were happy to make the trip to see me at my best.

Not going to lie, there were ups and downs with the team just like any other family. At times it was so stressful that I debated quitting. There were so many internal couples that it was hard to keep up at times. But my love for the sport and my love for my team kept me going. Any drama that had happened was settled eventually and I can easily say that I am on good terms with everyone from the team. Being with them taught me so much about myself as a human being and a lot about who I want to be going forward. They took me in as a lonely transfer student with no one and helped me transform into an almost whole adult.

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today, as cliché as that sounds, without this group of people. They showed me that anything is possible and it’s okay to struggle because those who love you will always be there. I gained so much confidence in myself while I was a part of LHU Quidditch and I wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything.

To any of my teammates who may be reading this, thank you for being fucking awesome. I love you guys more than you know!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

Self-Care Is Key

I have mentioned before in a couple of previous posts that I take self-care very seriously. I implement it in my every day life probably would not be a very nice person without it! My self care routine can also change. I have also mentioned before that due to recent events in my life, I no longer find music an effective self-care tool. At least not like I used to.

Losing the love of music, when music has always been a go to for me, was particularly disheartening. I love to sing (by myself) in the car to anything that fits my mood. However lately, I’ve found it significantly less helpful as a coping skill. Having left a negative and abusive relationship left me more upset after listening to music on the radio or even most of the stuff in my Spotify than relaxed or happy. At first I would cry when I was in my sister’s car because I felt like I couldn’t ask her to turn the music off when a particularly hard song to listen to came on. That has since gotten easier. However, when I’m in my own car, I still don’t listen to music. Instead, I listen to audiobooks. Honestly I truly enjoy listening to audiobooks, especially the Harry Potter series. On long road trips I would often prefer to listen to Harry Potter than music.

Self care has several levels that goes beyond finding things you enjoy to de-stress. Taking care of your body will in turn help your mind and soul. This section of self-care is easier to figure out, as it is pretty universal for everyone.

  • Get Enough Sleep…sleep is a crucial part to having a healthy body. I have been trying to ensure I get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Only one night every 8 days do I get less sleep (more on that later). Now that I have been doing that for a few months, my body has adjusted to the sleep schedule and I now only set an alarm as a backup. I pretty much wake up on my own now, well ahead of my alarm. Lack of sleep can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies have even shown that sleep problems can more severely affect those with a mental health diagnosis than those without one.
  • Eat Well…this is the part I struggle with the most. I am a HUGE stress eater. This is most prominent in my love for Oreos. However, lately I have been doing my very best to implement more healthy options into my food choices. I’ve broken out my Nutri-Bullet and make myself smoothies to go with my lunch. I’ve also started drinking chai tea to help boost my system in the mornings with breakfast. Breakfast is something I hadn’t really taken seriously, but as the doctors say… it’s the most important meal of the day! I have a love for avocado toast so that makes breakfast pretty easy. I don’t really tire of it since there are so many ways to change it up. A healthy diet is another huge part of having a healthy body and mind. In fact, there have been studies about how having a healthy diet can lessen the risks of severe depression.
  • Implement Physical Activity…while I have always enjoyed working out, finding the motivation to do so has forever been a struggle of mine. I have noticed recently that I am very out of shape, getting winded going up just a couple of flights of stairs. This especially carries over into my job when there is some physical requirements at times. I have recently started yoga in the mornings to try and help with my flexibility as well as my general fitness. I have also done quite a bit of research on how yoga can help your mental health as well. It’s actually a lot more involved that I ever though, but that is what makes me more intrigued to continue with it.

I never exactly went into detail on how my work schedule works. It’s not the most conventional of schedules but it works pretty well for me. I have a rotating schedule where I work for four days then I have four days off. So basically my days off are always changing, which means that I get some weekends off. Working in the direct care field usually mans that having weekends off is a luxury. I work 40 hours; 2:30pm to 10:30pm for the first three days I work and 6:30am to 10:30pm on the fourth day. Having a 16 hour work day has definitely proved difficult at times to stay awake. So as I mentioned before, the night before my long day at work I don’t get quite as much sleep as I would like since I get home close to 11pm and have to wake up by at the very latest 5:30am the next morning. However, implementing more body-based self-care practices into my life have helped me to have more energy.

I also definitely haven’t done away with my de-stressing self-care habits either. For example, Saturday was my long day at work and it was pretty awful. Long story short, by the end of the night I had been bitten, kicked in the jaw, and a sore back. All of this made me one not very happy Caitie. But I can’t let that show around my kids at work. I have to retain my emotions and keep them in until I leave for the night. When I got home that night, I got an ice pack to try to avoid having a gross bite bruise and settled in at my

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computer to kill some orcs and protect Middle Earth. I’m taking a break from my usual favorite, Dragon Age, for my new love Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

I find it extremely de-stressing to sit at my computer and just let myself go into this other world that is so very different from my own. I typically gravitate towards games in which I can create my own character from looks to personality to abilities. However, the game play of Shadow of Mordor is so good, I couldn’t care less that I can’t create my own character. So Saturday night I spent a couple of hours immersed in Middle Earth while my dad snored away on the futon in my bedroom. He had just returned from a trip to the beach and wanted to spend the night at my place so that we could spend some time together the following day.

Yesterday was a mental health day for me meaning that I did pretty much nothing but relax. I stayed off social media for the most part, only going on to scroll through Instagram or Facebook for a little. I got breakfast with my dad at a really cute little café in town where I had salmon eggs benedict and pretty much died over how good it was. I enjoyed my time with him since I don’t see him as often as I would like. Then he went to drive home after dropping me off and I took a long nap. I felt so rejuvenated after that nap. I then made myself a chicken caesar wrap and binge watched The Crown on Netflix. This portion of my day also included a lot of cuddling with Albus. Probably the best part of my day, though, was beating my moms in a grueling game of Scrabble! My mom boasts about her superiority in the game so it’s always nice when I manage to beat her!

Waking up today, I felt much better both mentally and physically. I took my time getting up and moving this morning, which I am happy about as my mom now wants me to go out and do yard work with her! If nothing else, please take away from this blog the sense that you are worth taking some time out for. You can’t even start to truly help others if you cannot help yourself first!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

The Reality of Vicarious Trauma

Honestly, vicarious trauma sucks ass. Too many people think that vicarious trauma is a myth that people use as an excuse. Truth is, it’s real and it’s too easily overlooked by society. By definition, vicarious trauma is the result of continuous interaction with those who have experiences trauma and by association, highly stressful situations. If left alone, the effects of vicarious trauma can be dangerous.

Unfortunately, my job is about 85% stressful situations. I have chosen a career path that has me interacting with a lot of children who have dealt with way more shit than they ever deserved or should have experienced. I read their files and hear their stories and it breaks my heart. Then, to see the effect it has on the kids is even worse. I have interacted with countless children who have had and currently have self-harm behaviors and suicidal ideations. They want to die because of what happened to them. They ask to talk and try to process their feelings with me and other staff at times.

If that’s what they need, then I am happy to provide a set of ears for them. Most of the time, I am confident in my responses and do my best to put their minds at ease at least for a time until they can meet with their therapist. But sometimes, I just don’t know what to say. And that makes me feel absolutely horrible. If I don’t have anything to say to them, then what good am I? How can I be good at my job if I’m at a literal loss for words when the kids need me to say something that will help them not want to hurt themselves or end their lives. My own therapist tells me that it’s okay to not know what to say and to tell the kids that. Deep down I believe that, seeing as how I am not a licensed therapist. I didn’t endure the years of school and learning that requires. But on some level, I still feel worthless to the kids that I have no words for. I know they appreciate me just listening to them, but I wish there was more I could do for them. For now, I guess I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that I am doing the best I can.

There are a lot of signs and symptoms that can lead to the conclusion that someone is suffering from vicarious trauma. I’ve noticed several of them in myself over the years. If you notice them in someone around you, don’t be afraid to speak up and be supportive!

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Physical

* Unusually tired, even after taking a rest

* Difficulty sleeping or over sleeping

* Irregular headaches or body aches

Emotional

* Increased anger and irritability

* Lasting feelings of grief and anxiety

*More easily distracted

Behavioral

* Increased isolation

* Increase or decrease in eating habits

* Avoiding work or other responsibilities

Burnout is a huge part of my job. My first weekend of work at the program I’m at now, an incident occurred with several girls that led to three staff quitting. Some people just aren’t able to handle the stress of the job and that’s okay. However, it’s frustrating when they all realize that at once and split, leaving the rest of us to figure it out. It ultimately leads to more stress on those of us who tough it out. The above symptoms and the associative stress is what leads to such a high burnout rate among mental health workers.

Unfortunately another part of my job includes physically restraining the kids when they become self-harmful or aggressive. The proper term is Emergency Safety Physical Intervention. No one enjoys doing this, but it necessary at times. The last week or so, one of my girls at work has been having a hard time with self-harm. We’ve had to intervene several times and it definitely takes a toll both physically and emotionally. The ESPIs can lead to vicarious trauma as well. It is extremely stressful to be holding a child who is screaming at you to just let them kill themselves. There have been several nights where I’d like to just throw in the towel and be done. But as much as I hate my job sometimes, I love it, too. It can be very rewarding when you see a kid make progress and eventually make it home or wherever their next step is. It definitely isn’t something I will do long-term; I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I think that’s part of where my dream of a nomadic and free lifestyle comes from.

My previous job as a foster care case worker in Massachusetts put a lot of emphasis on self-care. We even, at times, had whole meetings on the subject. Self care was hard for me while in Massachusetts. I dealt with the stress of my job during the day and went home to the stress of my fiancé at night. I literally never had a break. It usually doubled up with my ex texting me and calling me all day while I was at work to complain about one thing or another. I was burning out fast and everyone at my job took notice. No one really said anything because they weren’t sure how to help. I made two friends while working there who I know will be close friends for life. I talk to them regularly and they have been a huge part of me getting through leaving my ex and moving away.

Now that I don’t have that extra stress at home, I am able to focus more on myself and my own well being. I can come home and escape into one of my video games or take a long shower then relax with Albus without anything getting in the way. I think that, for sure, helps me be better at my job. I’ve talked a little about my main self-care components before and I plan on doing a bigger post about the topic in the future. It is something I take very seriously and preach to my girls on a daily basis. The biggest piece of advice I give them is that, from experience, it always gets worse before it gets better and that now is not forever. I have told every single one of my girls this and I have heard them repeating it to their parents and other kids in the program. I like to think I am making a difference in the lives of these girls and I truly hope that I am.

Everyone go home tonight and take some time for yourself. Sit for ten minutes and practice deep breathing. Go for a walk. Blast music and dance without a care. Do whatever works for you. You’re no help to anyone if you can’t take care of yourself.

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie♥