Feeling all the Feels…

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By Anita Manley

In May of 2021, I wrote a blog about emotions. I think it is important to revisit this important topic.

I think it is fair to say that with everything going on in the world these past couple of years, many of us have been feeling lots of emotions. Sometimes these emotions may even conflict.

@unsinkablestories says: “Many people can feel confused when experiencing conflicting emotions at the same time, but please know that this is totally normal! The human experience is not that straight forward, and it’s ok to feel more than one thing at the same time.”

@unsinkablestories continues by saying: “Polar experiences can simultaneously co-exist. Such as: Growth/Mistakes, Anxiety/Confidence, Accountability/Self-Forgiveness and Learning/Unlearning.”

An exercise that we do in our “Journaling as a Wellness Tool” group, is to take 10 minutes to write down all the emotions you can think of. It is important to be able to name the emotion in order to better cope with that feeling. Expanding your emotional vocabulary is a good first step.

Brene Brown says: “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

As the CMHA campaign says: “Name it, don’t numb it!”

Brene Brown also says in her most recent book, Atlas of the Heart: “When we name an emotion or experience, it doesn’t give that emotion or experience more power, it gives US more power.”

I encourage you to name your emotions. Journal about them. Get in touch with how you feel. It is ok not to be happy all the time. It’s ok to have conflicting emotions.

Go ahead and “feel all the feels”. I think we all have lots of emotions going on inside of ourselves these days. I know I sure do!

Take care!

It is important to feel all of the emotions. Name them by writing them in a journal.

Things I wish I could tell my 25 year old self…

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By Anita Manley

I recently posted a throwback photo of myself on Facebook (see below). It really spoke to me and I started thinking, oh what I wish I’d known then. So, I decided to write a blog about it. I originally thought I would write 25 things, but the list grew larger. Here are 35 things, I wish I’d known when I was 25:

  1. Practice patience. (As my mother always said, “Good things come to those who wait.”)
  2. Practice self-love. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
  3. Get rid of the negative self-talk track going on in your mind.
  4. Hobbies are not a waste of time, they are wellness tools! Really!
  5. Read a book for enjoyment.
  6. Walk daily.
  7. Join a group/club/team/class to have fun and meet new friends.
  8. Volunteer doing something you enjoy.
  9. “This too shall pass.” The good times, and the bad.
  10. Be yourself – nothing more, nothing less – You are good enough!
  11. You are worthy of love.
  12. Keep busy, but calm your mind.
  13. Have a daily routine.
  14. Practice mindfulness.
  15. Enjoy your alone time. Don’t be afraid to be alone.
  16. Pay yourself first (save and invest).
  17. Relax – learn methods to keep your anxiety in check.
  18. Believe in yourself. “You’ve got this”.
  19. Trust your gut.
  20. Some things are better left unsaid.
  21. Always use the sandwich approach when communicating with people regarding a difficult situation.
  22. When angry – go for a walk, write in a journal. Take time to digest and calm down before discussing. You can’t take those words back.
  23. Compare yourself, to yourself – not to others.
  24. Learn to love and appreciate your body.
  25. Don’t be afraid to feel all of the emotions. You don’t have to be “happy” all of the time.
  26. Journal!
  27. Have an attitude of gratitude!
  28. Stop blaming others. Take personal responsibility!
  29. Have compassion for yourself and others.
  30. Stop worrying about things beyond your control.
  31. Continue to do your best and be satisfied with that.
  32. Aim for progress, not perfection.
  33. Breathe!
  34. Take care of yourself first so you can truly take care of others.
  35. Surround yourself with people who hold similar core values.
When I look at this picture, I feel so much love and compassion for my younger self. There was just so much I had yet to learn.

Tips to Help With an Anxiety Attack…

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from Youth Mental Health Canada

Look around you:

  • Find five (5) things you can see,
  • Four (4) things you can touch,
  • Three (3) things you can hear,
  • Two (2) things you can smell,
  • And one (1) thing you can taste.

This is called grounding. It can help when you feel like you have lost all control of your surroundings.

Give it a try!

Naming one (1) thing you can taste (among other things), is a great way to ground yourself when having an anxiety attack.

Taking Personal Responsibility.

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By Anita Manley

Several years ago, I was privileged to participate in a peer led group called  WRAP® (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). The concepts that I learned from this group, set me up with a strong foundation for my ongoing recovery. The 5 Key Concepts of this group are:

1)Hope 2)Personal Responsibility 3)Education 4) Self-Advocacy 5)Support

I have written a bit about hope and support already. It is important to note that when talking about support, we mean both “giving and getting” support. It’s a two-way street.

In this post, I’d like to focus on taking “personal responsibility” for your actions, wellness and recovery.

For me, I was actually unable to start my recovery journey until I took full responsibility for my illness. I had to look at myself straight in the face and say: “Hey, you’ve lost EVERYTHING in your life due to these delusions you believe to be true. EVERYONE (including professionals) is telling you that they are not true. So, you have to give up believing them in order to see your daughters again.” Once I took responsibility for that, I was off to the races and my entire focus, and energy, went into getting better again. I did everything I was advised to do by my psychiatrist… from taking medications, attending groups, and talking to professionals, with the singular goal of seeing my daughters and rebuilding my life.

During her research of people living in recovery of a mental illness, Mary Ellen Copeland, (the creator of  WRAP®) found that those people who continued to blame others for their mishaps (e.g. if only my kids would behave, if only my husband would help out more, if only…) were less likely to recover, than those who took personal responsiblity and moved on with their life. Those who took personal responsibility, were much further along in their recovery. The others were stuck in the “blame game”.

In my example, I could have continued to blame those whom I thought were responsible for my delusions, but after taking  WRAP®, I decided to own it myself. I also stopped saying “why me?”. I am forever grateful for this group. I liked it so much that I became a peer-facilitator and offered the first  WRAP® for Women group in the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal back in 2012.

By taking personal responsibility for my actions. and by implementing all of  WRAP®’s Key Concepts, I’ve been able to completely transform my life.

WRAP® is offered world-wide. Perhaps you can find a group near you.

Stop asking “why me?”, and start taking personal responsibility for your actions, wellness and recovery. You’ll be much better off for it.

Family Day 2022 in Ottawa, Canada

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By Anita Manley

A lot has happened in our sleepy town since the last time I posted in mid-January. Ottawa, our nation’s capital city, was invaded by what was dubiously named the “Freedom Convoy” and approximately 400 trucks took over our downtown core, including in front of Parliament Hill. But today, on Family Day 2022, we are finally breathing a collective sigh of relief! Ottawa Police, with the assistance of the OPP and RCMP, have taken back our streets after a 24 day occupation.

This was by no means a peaceful protest as the occupiers claimed. They took over our streets with their blockades, idling trucks, diesel fumes, blaring horns, noisy partying, loud music, chanting, fireworks, bullying of our residents, racial, homophopic and transphobic slurs, and symbols of hate for over 3 weeks! Many businesses in the area had to close, or had very little business as a result of people feeling unsafe in their own city. Parked cars had their windows smashed. Our residents in the downtown core couldn’t sleep with all the noise and many people, including those with disabilities, and people of colour stayed in their homes for fear of violence. I know people who live in the area who said they could not get the sound of honking horns out of their head, even after a class-action suit brought the horn sounds to an end, thus affecting their mental health. Others, trying to get to work, were harrassed for wearing masks. Thousands, were unable to work due to business closures, but still had to pay their rent. The amount of economic devastation alone is appalling, especially after the past two years. All of this happening over a period that is usually a fun, festive and huge tourist attraction for everyone in our city, Winterlude.

And then there are the children who were brought to this protest by their parents. Protesters travelling with their families and Ottawa families bringing children to the protest as “an educational moment”. Honestly, even during the period of time when police were moving the protestors out of town, families insisted on having their children there witnessing it, despite frequent warnings that it was a conflict zone. I will never understand this logic.

We are all tired of COVID. I know that this far right movement has not come to an end, even if the immediate occupation of Ottawa has.

In the meantime, Ottawa will be getting back to business and to “the city that fun forgot”. I am relieved that this horror show is over… for now!

A peaceful moment captured along the Rideau River, away from “The Red Zone”. I am feeling relieved and grateful to police on this Family Day.

Blue Monday 2022… “Let’s Dance”!

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By Anita Manley

Today is “Blue Monday”, the third Monday in January. It is called that, as it is thought to be the most depressing day of the year.

Newsweek magazine says, “There are claims around this time of year that this specific day commonly coincides with the arrival of some of the year’s toughest psychological challenges.

Issues can include a combination of particularly bleak winter weather, the post-Christmas comedown and being wracked with guilt over yet more failed New Year’s resolutions.”

More on “Blue Monday” here.

Today, in Ottawa, we had a blizzard or up to 40 cm of snow. Talk about bleak weather! So, I decided to take action.

In follow-up to last week’s blog about turning up some inspirational music, and at the recommendation from Canadian singer/songwriter, Serena Ryder on her January 7th Instagram post, I’ve resolved to turn on some dancing music and dance away the blues, or as David Bowie says, “Let’s dance. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” I’ve been doing this for about a week now, to at least one song a day, then maybe more as the mood strikes. It really gets those endorphines moving and helps to cheer me up, so I’ve included it as part of my daily routine. More on the importance of a daily routine for mental wellness here.

So today (on Blue Monday), and everyday, try putting on some upbeat music and “Just Dance”! Be sure to watch Serena Ryder’s post for some inspiration!

Dancing as part of your daily routine can really help boost your mood and burn off some calories. “Let’s dance!”

Choosing HOPE for 2022…

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By Anita Manley

I’m not going to kid you, this last wave of the “super-spreader” omicron variant of COVID has really been difficult. I’ve been struggling. I’m sure that many others are too, as we welcome the New Year with anticipation, anxiety, fear and every emotion in between.

I’ve started wearing a KN95 mask everywhere I go, since it has been said that the 3 layer cloth mask is not effective against omicron. My friend says, “all the stylish people are wearing them.” Folks are worried and want to stay safe. Yet, despite our best efforts, I know several people who have tested positive. Fortunately, they have all been vaccinated and several had also received their booster. As a result, they only had mild to moderate symptoms and avoided serious illness. Vaccines work! Trust the science. Go get vaccinated and get your booster as soon as you are eligible.

I’ve been listening to the radio as I’m driving around in my car, often joining in on the chorus. Songs with lyrics such as: “Everything’s gonna be alright” (No Woman No Cry by Bob Marley) and “And what it all comes down to my friends, yeah… Is that everything is just fine, fine, fine.” (Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette) – and I hold onto the HOPE of these lyrics like a lifeline. I belt out these lyrics with all my heart and soul, and I begin to believe that everything will be fine, it will be alright. It always amazes me how music can do that… change your state of mind, and in this case, make me feel more hopeful than I was before the songs came on the radio.

So, I invite you to also choose HOPE for 2022, because we know that all pandemics do come to an end. We also have vaccines and science on our side. Despite the huge rise in cases, people (in Canada) have been staying out of the ICU and recovering in their homes after just a few days. There is lots to be grateful for, and hope lives on.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy 2022! Choose HOPE!

When I look at this photo, I feel a glimmer of hope on the horizon for 2022.

Volunteering is like a gift to yourself!

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By Anita Manley

It is no surprise that volunteering has been the absolute best wellness tool that I have undertaken on my recovery journey. Since I started volunteering a mere 2 months after being discharged from the hospital back in 2012, my recovery soared. That is because among many other benefits, volunteering and giving to others makes you feel good, gives you a sense of purpose and often makes you realize that you are doing better than you thought. Volunteering helps me stay well. I learn so much from others while conducting my groups, and it makes me feel so good that others are grateful for my time and expertise. While improving my life, I am helping improve the lives of others.

For more about the benefits of volunteering, read my blog here.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) says:

“While it’s often said that volunteering is selfless, we believe the sense of fulfillment that comes from bringing joy to others is priceless. This holiday season, consider the power of giving your time, your talent, and your empathy. You may find that it’s the greatest gift you receive.”

So, if you have time on your hands over the holidays, consider volunteering. It will bring joy to your heart. And who doesn’t need more of that?

A quote from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). Consider giving your time and talent over the holidays. Merry Christmas to all!

Be Proud for Trying Hard…

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By Anita Manley

I’ve really been taking note of how incredibly amazing my family members are lately.

They have all been showing up everyday, despite obstacles and times when they were feeling very discouraged.

My oldest daughter has been working hard on her Biology and Chemistry assignments, completing them with an A average, while being a full-time Mom to a newborn. My youngest daughter is studing at university full-time while working to put herself through school and live independently. Ron’s oldest daughter is working full-time and taking a university level course towards completing her degree. And Ron’s youngest daughter is working hard at two jobs, plus some musical gigs on the side, while recovering from an injury.

Things have not been smooth sailing for any of them, and I’m just so very proud of how much they have accomplished through sheer willpower.

I know all of you are working hard towards your goals as well. Just remember to be proud of yourselves for how hard you are trying. And if today all you did was hold yourself together, I’m proud of you!

I see you and I’m so proud of how hard you are trying! Keep going!

Thankful for medication…

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By Anita Manley

Yes, that’s right everyone, if you don’t know this by now, I take medications to stay well!

I know that there is a feeling out there by a rather large number of people, that taking medication for a mental illness means you are weak– expecting a pill to fix everything for you. I can tell you that this is simply untrue. I am a very strong, resilient and capable woman, but medication helps to manage my highs and lows, helps to keep my delusions at bay, and more.

On this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, the birthday of my eldest daughter, I’ve been reflecting upon my past 29 years of motherhood. It can be broken down into two parts: 19 years of instability and 10 years of stable recovery. Although within the past decade, I am older, wiser and have many more life skills and wellness tools in my toolkit (including medication), I resisted taking medication early on, when my children were young.

I will not tell you the exact names of the medications I am taking, but I will let you know what families they fall into. I’m taking a mood stabilizer and an anti-psychotic. The “mood stabilizer” does just that — it stabilizes my moods, evens them out, makes the highs and lows less noticeable. The “anit-psychotic” is something relatively new that has been introduced into my regime and it has been a game-changer. In addition to helping rid me of my delusions, this wonderful little yellow pill helps make me less irritable and also acts as a sleeping aid. In the irritability category, I asked my husband, Ron if he would describe me as being irritable? He said, “not at all, that is not even a word I would use to descibe you. I would describe you as being good humoured, unflappable and resilient.” On the other hand, when I inquired with my eldest daughter Nicola, “would you have described me as being irritable when you were growing up and living at home?”, she responded “oh ya, that’s for sure.” So there you go! A personality enhancer– anti-psychotics! Who knew? Also, many years ago, my psychiatrist advised me that it is imperative I get enough sleep to manage my symptoms. So, having a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, as a result of taking this anti-psychotic, is immensely helpful to my overall mental health and well-being.

Quite frankly, I am a better version of myself because of the medications I take every single night. Don’t get me wrong, I know that all the other things I do for self-care; journaling, deep breathing, knitting, baking, cooking, daily nature walks, cross-country skiing, practising an attitude of gratitude, etc. also play a big role, but I do not underestimate the value of medication for good mental health and wellbeing when prescribed by a doctor.

I am blessed to have so many strong and healthy relationships that I have carefully tended to over the past 10 years, while living in recovery. I have my husband, both daughters, a son-in-law, his family, baby Rowan (my new grandson), my extended family, many friends and neighbours and, of course, my peers at The Royal. All of this has been possible, in part, due to the medications I take to keep me well.

So, if you think that people who take medication for their mental illness are weak — think again. I’m sure you wouldn’t think that someone who takes insulin for diabetes is weak. They are trying to stay alive and live their best life. That’s what I’m trying to do, too — to stay alive and live my best life. Mental health and physical health should be viewed equally. Mental health is health.

I have so much to be grateful for on this Thansgiving weekend — including my medications.

Taking medications, every night before bed, is part of my wellness regime.