How to talk to your struggling youth about mental health.

Through my positions as a youth with lived experience in the child and youth mental health world and advocating over the years, I have been asked by several parents how to talk to their children who are struggling. I can’t imagine what its like to be a parent of a child with mental health struggles, but I do know what it’s like to be on the other end of it. I’d like to think that I’ve grown and matured enough to have some kind of an idea of how to help them, but the truth is, its hard. And what works for one child and parent is not necessarily going to work for the next. There are however a few common parent-child situations that I hear most often, that I feel I can comment about.

Obviously the advice in here is based on my own life and the stories I personally hear from youth, parents and professionals, and by no means do I believe that this even begins to cover the vast spectrum of family dynamics or mental illness.

When your child says that they are experiencing something, believe them. And by “believe them” I don’t just mean silently believe them while telling them that they’ll be fine. No child or person wants to feel depressed, or

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Self-care is a septum piercing.

So today I did a thing – to my face – against all my friend’s and family’s advice (besides 2) – and it made me think about self-care.

I have seen a flooding of internet posts on self-care in the recent months, even more so in the last week with the recent tragic Hollywood deaths by suicide, as well as many equally as tragic deaths by suicide that happen every single day to people’s families and friends and coworkers and lovers all around the world. But did you know that the media isn’t recommended to talk about suicides because there are studies that show that this can trigger other people to end their lives too? I don’t know where I stand around that one because to be honest I haven’t read the studies, and I have mixed feelings surrounding the obviously complex pro’s and con’s surrounding the balance between raising awareness for a continuously-rising suicide rate, the risk of triggering someone else who’s already struggling, and the feelings of the deceased’s loved ones. What I do think we need to talk about though, is how to better take care of ourselves, each-other and our communities so that possibly, we can help keep our people healthy and happy. The scope of mental health is so vast and there is still so much that we don’t know. Maybe you are perfectly healthy as it is, both mentally and physically and don’t need any help ever, but let’s face it that’s not the case for most people. Which is why I love that self-care is becoming trendy, but I want to tell you that it’s not all about pedicures and bubble baths with a glass of red.

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How to be happy

I wish that everyone would just be honest with themselves and others, about what truly makes them happy. If, instead of being taught to follow the lifestyle steps and patterns that society tells us is “right”, everyone was taught to find what makes them happy, and to build their life around that, the compound effect would have a vast, positive impact on the whole world.

Yes, we all need to make a certain amount of money to live on, we all have to pay taxes and be contributing members of society. I’m not saying that everyone should quit their jobs and live barefoot and carefree on the beach. What I am saying, is that if you are truly honest with yourself about what style of actions, behaviors, thoughts,

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Meditation; a game changer.

You’re talking to the girl who wouldn’t take yoga class because she’d burst out laughing during savasana – the meditative, still, yoga posture that always ends a session – out of the pure discomfort of being still.

The girl who would rather be doing burpees or mountainclimbers or deadlifting than rest day or yoga/stretch day.

It’s become clear however, that I’m not coming out the other side of Lyme the same girl I went in as.

Never would I have thought that I’d be paying money to sit with a group of people while

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My new dating profile

Releasing myself from societal norms and 300 characters or less.

We live in a world that is afraid to be seen. We hide behind computer screens and then wonder why we don’t have any real relationships. We don’t want to listen to other people’s problems because they’re too real and we don’t like having to face that kind of reality but then we wonder why we’re all alone in our own. All we want is a date, a relationship, but we’re too afraid of being rejected to ask anyone out on a date. We stay within our comfort zones of 300 characters or less and a few photos and talk about how much “fun” our lives are. No one wants to do the hard stuff so we pretend it doesn’t exist until we can’t pretend anymore. But when we finally stop pretending

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Juice Fasting and Social Media Detox!

I am on the end of day 3 of my juice fast, day 5 of my cleanse and day 3 of no social media or cell phone use (phone/text). My Facebook, Instagram and snapchat are all logged out and I’ve only used very minimal email for communication for the past 3 days, and only when necessary.

It’s been beautiful.

I’ve meditated, read, and detoxed. I’ve spent more time in complete silence than I probably ever have before. I went over 24 hours without speaking a single word to another person. I haven’t left the house besides the vet on Friday, and my only visitor was one girlfriend today.

The juice fast has been great, as has been the whole cleanse so far. It is 2 days of raw food, prepping my body for fasting, then 3 days of juice fasting (making your own juices as per their recipes not store bought), and then tomorrow will begin 2 days of easing my body back into solid food. I have to be very careful during this time to follow the meal plan strictly. In the first few days it’s easy to follow the meal plan because it’s new, but now that I’ve had 3 days without solid food and I’m nearing the end, I find myself really wanting those chocolate almond bites that are prepped in the fridge for Tuesday nights dessert! After a juice fast though, my body is not prepared to digest many foods such as leafy greens and I’m sure it’s not prepared to digest the fat from all the coconut oil in the chocolate almond bites that I want to eat!

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Who taught you not to love yourself?

The following is quoted from Inga Muscio’s book, “Cunt”, in her interview with Soraya Mire, a Somali woman who also produced the film, “Fire Eyes”.

“In countries like mine, the law is blatantly against women. What we do have, though, is love and community. You never think only of yourself, you always think of your neighbors and family, too.
The problem with a lot of Western women is they think they can help me, that they know what’s best for me. Especially feminist women. They come into conversations waving the American flag, forever projecting the idea they are more intelligent than i am. I’ve learned that American women look at women like me to hid from their own pain. They can’t face their pain, and mine is so obvious, they think they can help me without looking at

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Balance

This weekend I did very little, because I chose to do little, not because my body forced me to. That’s not to say that I was bursting with extra energy, but I could have pushed myself to do more and I didn’t. I did a huge grocery shop Saturday, organized my meds, and attended a baby shower today. Besides that I vegged out and binge watched Grace and Frankie on Netflix (I’m going to be Frankie when I grow up LOL).

I ate chocolate and pho and cheese and crackers and drank tea under a blanket on the couch. Alone. Happily. By choice. My laundry basket is full, my dishwasher is clean (and full) and my kitchen is dirty. For the first time in a month. And most significantly, the first time in ages (a year? Maybe 2?) that it’s dirty because I’ve chosen to chill and binge Netflix and not because my body has forced me into submission.

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Real men are not Unicorns.

Sometimes we are forced to reevaluate our lives and the choices that we are making and patterns we are falling into and why our lives look the way that they do. Tonight I realized something, probably for the first time realizing it deep within me and not just brushing it off but actually feeling it and allowing it to process. This something, is something that I felt needed to be shared because I bet that there are a  lot of people out there living the same way and wondering why.

I realized that never in my life have I “expected” to be in a healthy relationship. When you think about how you speak – either out loud or in your head about relationships, what words are you using? Do you think of a loving couple, children, a home? Do you think of parties, arguments? Do you think of fear or do you think of love?

For years I said I was going to adopt, because I didn’t want to pass along my genes and risk the children having mental health issues (and now Lyme).

I’ve always said I was pro-divorce and that its never too late to leave. I do stand by this in cases of abuse or where two people are truly not happy, but maybe it would be nice if I didn’t think of it for myself!

I’ve always said its okay to be single forever. And it is. But again, maybe I should be at least thinking like I’m not going to be?

I have never been able to picture myself in a healthy relationship. My trust for a man to be there for me and stand by me and take care of his own shit never existed. I am not even sure what that would look like.

I have always expected to have to be able to financially, physically and emotionally, take care of myself, my pets, my future children and possibly my husband; or at least to to play a minimum of a 50% role in that area. I’ve never even really expected a man to take me on a real date. You know, plan it with no help from me (control freak!), pick me up, pay without that awkward conversation finishing with me insisting on paying for at least my part if not all of it.

I’ve never even expected a man to be able to handle his own shit, let alone a relationship. Or to be a real man. I’ve basically just believed that they don’t exist.

In fully, truly, deeply understanding this I can’t help but think “uhh duh. No wonder you’ve never had a good, stable, healthy relationship. No wonder successful, nice, got their shit together men are not knocking your door down. You made them out to be unicorns.”

Well, apparently they are not unicorns and they do exist. I, however, never let them exist within my mind and therefore they could never exist within my 3 dimensional life. How many other men and women are walking around thinking just like me and never getting their wake-up call? Well, this is it! What you think about, you attract. What language are you using when actually thinking about the things that you want in life? I for one, will certainly be changing mine.

Lessons from someone who couldn’t (wouldn’t) slow down

I am literally sitting in an office in Steveston, BC, with an IV in my arm as I write this. Antibiotics quite literally coursing through my veins, in attempt to kill the bacteria that have stolen my life.

I often forget how active and vibrant I was just before I got sick. I read a quote the other day that truly hit home for me, it was “make time for health or you’ll have to make time for illness.” Wow. That’s a gut punch. If someone had said that to me before I got sick while I was exercising 7 days a week and meal prepping and working 3 jobs, I would have said I didn’t have time to rest. Or that I didn’t need it. The truth is the thought of slowing down was terrifying. I truly believed that if I slowed down or stopped any of what I was doing the world would crumble around me. It was like the walls were slowly crumbling and I was running in circles trying to catch the pieces before they hit the ground, half-ass gluing them back in place just in time to catch the next one, trying to seal any cracks as I went.

While I was so focused on keeping everything outside of me together, I had no idea that it was actually what was inside that was succumbing to intruders like an attack by a Trojan horse.

My body kept asking me to slow down and I kept ignoring it. Through all of my fitness and businesses I had gained a confidence that I’d never experienced before and I was afraid to loose it. Growing up with mental health issues such as severe depression and panic disorder you stop trusting your body and mind. You learn to push through and ignore the signals your body is sending you because often in the case of panic disorder anyways, they aren’t real. Your mind and body believe you’re in danger when you aren’t. To overcome that you learn to ignore those alarm bells and keep trekking through.

Physical illness on the other hand is the opposite. You have to listen to your body and slow down when necessary and give your body plenty of rest and time to heal itself. So you can see how opposite that is. If I hadn’t learned growing up to push through my mental illnesses I wouldn’t have survived. Now, if I don’t learn to listen to my body again and to rest, I won’t survive either.

Ideally though, growing up with mental illnesses I would have learned to sit with the uncomfortable. To allow myself to truly feel all of the sharp and ugly pieces and to then allow them to pass. Ideally I would have learned mindfulness and grounding and some of the spiritual lessons that I’m learning now so that I could have understood better what was happening in and around me and then maybe I wouldn’t have had to get Lyme in order to learn all of these things. But I didn’t, and I can’t turn back time so what’s really important is that I’m learning all that I can now, and sharing my journey to help others.

I’m 27 and learning to listen to and trust my body and intuition all over again – or really, for the first time. Some people learn this young and others don’t learn it until their skin has softened and hair turned gray. Others, I think, maybe don’t ever learn it, and what an unfortunate situation is.
It’s no secret that the Universe will continue to give us the same lessons over and over again until we learn them. I’ve learned to let myself feel the ugly. I’ve learned to let myself love and forgive and heal. I’ve learned enough therapy that I could practically be a therapist. In fact, I’m often teased by my hair clients, “Denise, I’m here for my therapy session!”. I’ve learned what boundaries are and what they feel like and how to put them in place (almost!). I’ve learned what no feels like and the power of the word and when to use it, as well as the same for yes. I’ve learned how to say yes to my body and it’s needs and to rest and to experience the uncomfortable in all of its lessons. I’ve learned that I’m worth a lot more than I thought I was. That my mind and my heart and my knowledge and willingness to share and be open and all of the quirky little things that some won’t appreciate, are worth something; they’re meant to be appreciated not cut down. I’ve learned that I’m not for everybody. And that I’m okay with that. More than okay with it actually because it wiens out those who are not my people without me having to do the work. I’ve learned that there are so many people who love and appreciate and honor and respect me for being exactly who I am. I am now one of those people as well.