My journey with (diagnosed) mental illness started when I was 12. First came anxiety, and then depression, and, most recently, bipolar disorder. Though these 9 years have been difficult, I have been fortunate enough to be able to receive therapy. I know this is unfortunately not the norm for many struggling with mental illnesses; many go without help (that is another blog post all in itself). That is why I wanted to talk about 3 things I have learned in therapy that have helped me expand my thinking in order to cope with my various mental illnesses.
Just a reminder, I am not a professional. I’m a 21 year old simply speaking from experience. These skills have taken me a long time to work into my coping toolbox, and even still I am not a master of them. Give yourself grace.
Dialectics falls under the umbrella of DBT. Dialectics is the shifting of the mind to see that two things can be true at the same time. I used to be confused when I would feel two emotions at once, because I didn’t really know if that was normal. When I learned about dialectics in group therapy, I realized that two things can in fact be true at the same time. For example, I can be sad *and* excited. I can be lonely *and* content. Instead of saying “I feel X *but* I also feel Y”, I have gotten into the habit of saying *and* instead.
Here are some other examples of dialectical thinking provided to you by Sarah (@sar.thrives on instagram)
2. Feelings are not facts
When I am experiencing a depression cycle, I sometimes *feel* like my negative emotions will last forever. I *feel* like i am not strong enough to rise up and beat off the zombies. Then i learned that just because i *feel* a certain way, that does not mean it is a fact. It is simply a feeling. We must not attach factuality to feelings or thoughts because you can end up believing some nasty stuff about yourself. So, here’s a tip: when you are in your most grounded mind, or your “wise mind”, we must tell ourselves that what we feel is not always the reality. Repeatedly. This will help us when we are in times of distress, because we have already been reminding ourselves of this.
3. Radical acceptance
Ah, radical acceptance, my favourite. Simply put, radical acceptance is the act of accepting your reality, when you cannot change your reality (despite the desire for it to be different). We cannot change what we cannot change. This is a tough pill to swallow! That’s hard! That’s why for me, radical acceptance is the key to letting go of suffering from what I can't change. Once I accepted my reality, I could stop fighting so hard. Resisting my “present'' so much. So, whatever we are experiencing suffering from that we cannot change -- i.e. our weight / our bodies (yup, I said it. We cannot change our bodies long term...), our face shape, our current situation in life, etc etc, we must work to accept it wholeheartedly to reduce suffering.
I want to reiterate that these skills, like acceptance for example, are so much easier said than done. So so so much easier said than done. For me, effective coping comes in waves. Sometimes I am a mess for weeks on end, and sometimes I can pull myself out of it quickly. It all depends on how actively I am working to make myself feel better. Having mental illness(es) is a full time job. So fight like hell. While fighting like hell, though, have some patience with yourself. Be gentle. Be kind.
From the outside looking in you’d say “wow, look at this guy… he’s got it all!” “He’s always so happy”…
I mean, why wouldn’t I be happy? I’ve had so much success professionally and not too many people in my industry can say that but it’s what happens when the lights go down and screaming fans are not there… that’s when you are tested the most.
Despite what everyone thinks, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows … Imagine not really knowing if people liked you because you were you or because you were someone famous and all they wanted was to be around that. Imagine having critics chew you up and spit you out because they didn’t think your work was good. Imagine having people on your team that you trusted for years to only have them disappear off the face of the earth with tens of thousands of dollars of your money. Imagine after having so much success being told by your record company that they’re “going in a new direction” or having family members repeatedly struggle with addiction… These things can really mess with someone mentally and I fell into a bit of a dark place.
My career started when I was very young and I was brought up in a home full of love but we weren’t the “come home and tell me what you’re feeling” type of family… If you were sad, you dealt with it… If you were mad, you dealt with it… Problem with that is when you’ve held in so much over so many years, you’re setting yourself up for a nuclear bomb of emotions to explode. The other problem I was facing was that because of my upbringing, I wasn’t comfortable talking about my feelings. “I’m a man and I should just deal with it myself” or “I’ll figure it out” but I came to realize that is not healthy and I wasn’t gonna figure it out. Well I mean my wife really helped me realize that as it really started to take a toll on our relationship so I needed to make a decision… Go and get help or be unhappy and keep making the people around me unhappy. Well… I decided to go and get some help and it was the best decision I ever made.
In 2019 I started seeing a therapist once a week. To be honest, the first time was kind of weird… You’re thinking that this person is judging you because you’re a bit of a screw up, “Why are you here?”, “What is your biggest problem you think?”, “What do you wanna work on?”…
Umm how about EVERYTHING! Haha! The more he spoke and the more I spoke I became really comfortable talking and realized he was not judging me, he was listening. I think that’s a huge part of it for men, we just want someone to listen to us, support us and not judge us. Atleast for me that was a huge part of it. Every time I left there I felt lighter and felt like I took something away from the session that I could use everyday at home with my wife and my kids. I’ll never forget this one exercise we did that REALLY hit home for me…
My therapist picked up a piece of paper, rolled it up and asked me to grab one end as he held the other end and said “I am the bad thoughts you think of, The fear of what your wife is gonna say to you when you open up to her , the fear of talking about your feelings, all of that stuff and right in front of you is this dark hole and I’m going to pull you into it… what are you going to do Shawn?” At first I thought to myself “I don’t know what this guy is trying to teach me here, it feels kind of dumb playing tug of war in his office, this is what I’m paying for?” He asked me again “Shawn, I’m your thoughts, fears and I’m pulling you into this black hole, what are you gonna do Shawn?” to which I answered “I have no idea what you want me to say” then he answered “Just let go” so I let go and said “WHOA, WHOA, WHOA!” I didn’t expect that” So deep yet so simple! It’s crazy how that moment has stuck with me for 2yrs and anytime I feel embarrassed about saying something, expressing my feelings or feeling depressed in someway I just say to myself “Shawn, Just let it go and say it!
This whole idea of a man felling like less of a man in terms of seeking help is so backwards to me now… I believe it takes a real man to realize he needs help and not be embarrassed about that. Sure maybe 30 years ago this wasn’t a thing but in times like we are living in right now, it is more important than ever to seek the help you need and deserve. Since going public with my struggles, the amount of support and other men who have told me they’ve experienced something similar has been so inspiring. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not perfect (my wife will tell you that herself…haha) and I’m still a work in progress but I continue to work on it everyday.
I’m not sure there is one answer on what makes you happy in love and in life but I hope my story can help someone feeling like there’s no answer get the help they need to at least find their answer.
Stay safe & much love
TW: disordered eating
It’s been hard to just come right out and say it, and its been a process of acceptance.
I’ve definitely gone through the different stages…Denial, anger, sadness, acceptance (sort of)
The more I talk about this in therapy, the more I realize that my ED has likely been manifesting itself in different ways, probably since childhood when I was deemed a “picky eater”. Growing up I was called high maintenance or dramatic for not eating certain foods or not eating my packed lunches at school, when really I think it was always more than that. I had a constant fear of getting sick, and I had this idea that food that was sitting in my lunch bag all day and out of the fridge, would make me sick. I had some safe foods, foods that I would love when my mom packed because it mean I could eat my lunch with peace of mind and not go hungry all day. Mind you, this was to no fault of my parents, because there was no way I could’ve expressed this and they just wanted me to eat and be nourished! Lunches were always my struggle area even today, I find it very difficult to eat in the middle of my day as opposed to the very beginning or the very end, and for no particular reason that I’m aware of (yet). I also think growing up a dancer and being so deeply immersed in sub-conscience diet culture and fat-phobia was definitely taking a slow toll on me (not surprised), especially in my first year of university when I was in the Ryerson dance program.
I truly believe this is where my eating disorder really started to surface…
Now I want to be clear, did the program itself cause me to have an eating disorder? No. Did the program itself severely worsen my mental health issues because of how it’s facilitated? Absolutely. And I had to make the tough decision to leave... This program is broken and an old and desperately needs to be revamped with loads of trauma-informed care and empathy.
The faculty members lack basic knowledge and training in terms of students dealing with mental health struggles (which many are), especially in such a rigorous program, and this is a huge issue.
My experience in the program included being shamed for and deemed as less capable due to my mental illnesses, lack of support, and lack of accommodations. It also included daily comments such as “suck your stomach in, I can see your breakfast, flat tummies please!”, as if these are appropriate things to say. By those examples, I’m sure you can see where my issues began to surface and worsen, and this is just a small snippet of what goes on in the program, but there will soon be a whole post on here dedicated to this topic, so keep your eyes peeled!
I’m now in my third year of university (thankfully in a different program) and only just got my ED diagnoses about 2 months ago, and I only realized that I might actually have an eating disorder about a year ago (imposter syndrome took over for about a year until I finally talked to my doctor about it). So now I find myself in a weird place between just diagnosed and recovery, but these are just labels, just words. To some people they are hugely helpful and to some they aren’t important… either one is perfectly fine! I have gently thrown myself into the online community of people who deal with ED’s and I’ve already found so much support and kindness. I am waiting on treatment (because the Canadian healthcare system is good but not great) and in the meantime am in group and individual therapy to help me cope with this new found part of me.
That's all I have for not, but more to come on this topic soon…
P.s I truly hope you’re all loving the guest post collection as much as I am!
All my love,
TW: thoughts centred around disordered eating/binge-eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and self-destruction.
Helloooo :) I’m Bri, pronounced like the cheese, and I deal with disordered eating. Wow, that feels good to write. Specifically, my eating disorder (ED) is referred to as binge-eating disorder (BED). Shit, that feels so good to write! It feels good to write that I deal with an ED because for many years, I hid that part of myself. I believed I might come across as a weak person who has no will power if I declare I have BED. But it’s time for a declaration.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when my relationship with food became toxic but looking back at my old journals, it was around the time I was 15 years old.
Flashback - It is the summer of 2013 and I am participating in an intensive ballet program in a different province. For the first time, I have to plan out my meals for myself. I have to rely on what my body is telling me and what signals it is sending me. After a long day of dancing, my body tells me that I am hungry. Food, please! So I listen, and I feed my body with whatever cravings it wants. Oftentimes, I would feed myself to a point of discomfort. Ouch! Stomach is filled. Then, I would throw up the food that has already gone down my throat, and I would pray that I got it all out. Noooo! I need that nutrience! Next, I would prevent myself from eating due to the fear that I would overeat again. Help! I am in pain! Thus began a cycle that would continue for many years.
eating to the point of discomfort,
purging when unhappy,
body checking in store windows,
sucking in my stomach,
preventing normal breathing patterns,
choosing diet fads that did not align with my body,
lying to loved ones about my issue,
being jealous of others for having the “ideal body”...
My habits were distractions to rid me of having to make healthier choices. Not good.
Later on in my teens, I realized that my body had been trained to reject certain foods because they were deemed “unhealthy for a ballerina”. Growing up, I wished so badly for a “ballerina body” that I stopped listening to my natural hunger signals.
There were wonderful moments in my adolescence, and I am lucky to have had the opportunities I did. Yet, along with those delightful moments came many moments where I completely missed the parade. I was self-destructive. It got to a point where I stopped believing in my ability to be beautiful. I couldn’t accept compliments from others because I didn’t think I deserved to be beautiful. At least, MY definition of beautiful. Looking in a mirror, my mind would distort the image I saw, and I would only see a monster looking back at me. The reflected image of my stomach area reminded me of a globby-goopy-monster who gobbled on anything in its garden. My neck area, in its reflected image form, reminded me of a mogully-manufactured-monster who munched on megatronic meals. I write “the reflected image” because that is not what was actually there. My ED enveloped my sight and blinded me from who was actually in the mirror. A human. A body.
Flashforward to the present - I am 23 years old, a graduate of Ryerson’s BFA Dance program, a podcast host, and a lover of musical theatre. Most importantly, I have been in ED therapy for over a year now. Working with counsellors one-on-one, and with BED group therapy facilitators. These experiences have guided me to take action to control my ED and seek health. Three times a day (perhaps more) I face food. In order to nourish myself, I confront the history of pain that I’ve battled within the presence of food. The binging, the starving, the hateful thoughts towards my stomach and neck areas... I try to remember the tools I’ve been given and I try not to revert back to my old habits. And that can be EXHAUSTING at times. I often get tired from trying to eat!!
My relationship with food will continue to be rocky, even with the therapy I am involved in. Grocery store shopping is still an anxiety-inducing experience. Ordering at a restaurant, before COVID-19 restrictions, takes me longer than most people I know. When I sit down with a friend to eat, my ED voice pulls up a chair at the table too. An uninvited guest. A loud, arrogant cousin with a million statements in my head: Ignore your cravings, conceal your taste buds, only eat the vegetables, don’t even think about dessert, wait to eat until someone else has started, wHYYyyy are you thinking about dessert?! Stop eating you fat piece of shit!! This dialogue can be louder than my healthy thoughts. I feel guilty thinking about some of the interactions I’ve had with friends because I wasn’t being present with them. Half-dealing with the ED voice, half-engaging in friendly conversation. What a fucking mess.
I hope that every dancer, and human, does not put themselves what I put myself through. As a dance teacher, I try to incorporate affirmations of gratitude towards the body in my classes. Thanking the muscles and joints that brought each student to the class. Practicing those positive thoughts of love to the body, helps me remember that my body is mine, and I have the power to nourish it.
I’ll leave you with this affirmation - I am responsible for what goes in my mouth. (you can use this in a sexual situation too!!)
All jokes aside, this affirmation has helped me to eat with mindfulness and with love for my body’s signals. Eating is what propels me into living a happier life.
And I am done being angry at my body.
My website: themusicthemirror.com
Some resources to check out:
- Sheena’s Place Organization (link here) - center for eating disorder support
- Mindfully Megg on IG (@mindfullymegg) - helps educate & empower dancers to prioritize nourishment
- Kathryn Morgan on YouTube (link here) - professional ballerina who makes honest videos about her journey with body image issues
(This post is interview-style unlike most posts on the blog. For this one, I asked Tiffany a series of questions about her business, and she answered!
Hope you enjoy, xoxo -Maddi)
Hi everyone! My name is Tiffany Turchyn, founder and designer of Unsalted Honey. I began this magical journey in 2017, after my backpacking trip across South-East Asia. I was in the midst of my undergraduate degree in business at Ryerson University, downtown Toronto.
I began remixing jewelry I already had and made new pieces for my sisters and friends. Being the youngest of three girls, I had a lot to live up too. I had big dreams for myself, I still do! While being in school, I worked at a boutique on Queen Street West, for a startup fitness app as well as at a warehouse on my days off of school.
I still remember the moment when I knew I was going to give my jewelry line a shot. I was in the south of Thailand at the time, had a Singha (Thai beer lol) cracked with my older sister and thought to myself “I’m gonna just do it”. When I got home from my trip, I did a lot of research and maxed out my Visa card!
A hobby turned side-hustle which now blossomed into my career. I am beyond proud to call Unsalted Honey my own and even happier to have created a space where everyone reading this feels welcome and celebrated. Unsalted Honey is by me, but for you. I hope you enjoy your honey as much as I did making it!
Why did I decide to start my business?
I was working for many entrepreneurs at the time and was studying at Ryerson for Business. I knew I wanted to start something of my own! I was remixing old jewelry for friends and family, when I took my trip to South-East Asia. When I got home, I went for it! My mentality was, if I failed at least I could say I tried! I loved creating fun and timeless pieces back in 2017, and I love it even more now in 2021.
What inspired you and your business?
Travel. Being immersed in culture is one of my favourite feelings. I get inspired through meeting people and seeing new places.
Doing it alone! It's super tough to grow and expand, research the market and trends, do marketing and advertising, financials, taxes, quality control, packaging orders, shipping, social media, designing jewelry and making it alone! Although it can be tough, I love it.
How do you stay motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Taking breaks and having a daily schedule/to-do list to ensure things get done!
I take the weekends off! Although I end up working most Sundays, it definitely helps balance work and play!
I'm Maddi and Im a full time student (studying Child and Youth Work), and a self proclaimed content creator. Here I have my blog and my shop, I hope you enjoy!