100 Tips for Bipolar Disorder

Introduction

Small things help. When Sir Clive Woodward was asked how England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 he said “Winning… was not about doing one thing 100% better, but about doing 100 things 1% better”.

Making small changes can really help improve your quality of life as a bipolar sufferer. The cullmative effect of developing a few good habits can help you manage your disorder better and create a more balanced life. Whether you’re just beginning to realise that you have a problem or you’ve been diagnosed for many years, these tips could help you feel just a little bit better everyday.

Some of these ideas will make a lot of sense to you. Some of them you will be doing already. Some will not suit you at all. Start with one or two of these tips that seem achievable, but try to avoid doing it all too quickly as it could trigger an episode.

In a few months hopefully you’ll be doing a number of things 1% better.

N.B. This is a collection of tips gleaned from my own experiences and research. It is not exhaustive or in anyway scientific. You should always consult your doctor regarding your bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a physical disease where one experiences low and high moods. It used to be called manic depression, which is a good title because the disorder is a mixture of mania and depression.

Depression can have the following symptoms:
• Low mood
• Intense sadness
• Lack of motivation
• Crying
• Low self worth
• Low energy
• Disinterest
• Anxiety
• Indifference
• Physical pain

Mania can have the following symptoms:
• Lots of energy
• Rapid speech
• Racing thoughts
• Aggression
• Grandiose ideas
• Self confidence
• Dangerous behaviour
• Irritability
• Anxiety
• Overspending
• Starting over-ambitious projects

A sufferer can also have rapid cycling – cycling through your mania and depression rapidly. This can happen several times a year through to several times a day.

The most dangerous type of Bipolar disorder is the mixed state. It has a very high risk of suicide. Sufferers have the energy and racing thoughts associated with mania alongside the feelings of worthlessness which come with depression.

Sufferers may have periods of feeling fine in between these episodes or it may be a continual cycle.

Go to School

1 Take an online bipolar test.

2 Learn from other people’s experiences.

3 Learn from the experts.

4 Look at websites that offer advice and revisit them from time to time.

5 Get familiar with the symptoms of depression.

6 Get familiar with the symptoms of mania.

7 Get familiar with the symptoms of rapid cycling.

8 Get familiar with the symptoms of the mixed state.

9 Get familiar with what it is like to be fine.

10 Understand that this disorder can make you feel things that are not real.

11 Learn the language of the disorder.

Know Thyself

12 Observe your moods.

13 Record your moods using tracking software, chart or a diary.

14 Identify what feelings are genuine and which are symptoms.

15 Learn your cycles.

16 Get somebody else to give you feedback on your moods.

17 Work out what keeps you calm.

18 Work out what your stressors and triggers are.

Trigger Happy

19 Work out what causes you stress – these factors will be unique to you, don’t worry if they seem petty or weird – you don’t have to tell anybody.

20 Avoid stress as much as you can.

21 Work out what your triggers for going manic are and avoid them.

22 Be aware that your triggers and stressors can change.

23 Allow yourself time to react to things, especially big life events.

24 Avoid stimulants. Smoking, alcohol, caffeine and sugar.

25 If you’re a woman check with your GP that your bipolar is not triggered by your menstrual cycle, if it is then you may be able to reduce your symptoms with medication.

26 Be aware that sexual promiscuity is a symptom of bipolar disorder. Take precautions and stay safe.

27 Avoid recreational drugs and taking over the counter drugs to help with your moods e.g. sleeping pills, St. John’s Wort, antihistamines and painkillers.

28 Try to stay healthy as illness can be a trigger.

29 Avoid going without sleep or sleeping too much.

30 Don’t deliberately make yourself go high.

31 Avoid fighting your depression or trying to avoid it.

32 Be careful when traveling in different time zones. Be aware of the changing seasons and when the clocks go forward/back.

33 Beware that you and those around you may really enjoy your mania and hypomania.

Help!

34 Don’t try to tough it out on your own.

35 Get help as soon as you start getting symptoms.

36 Find a good GP.

37 Get a diagnosis.

38 Communicate with your treatment provider.

39 Take an advocate or loved one with you to appointments.

40 Keep appointments.

41 Don’t skip medication. Take your medication as prescribed.

42 Know the side effects of your medication.

43 Write a list of pros and cons about your medication.

44 Be patient.

45 Get talking therapy.

46 Manage your expectations – there is no magic bullet.

47 Find support support services outside of the medical profession.

48 Be your own advocate.

49 Tell your doctor as soon as you can if you become pregnant and keep in touch with them throughout your term. Some medications are not suitable for pregnant women.

50 Be wary of quick fixes, self help, spiritual and alternative therapies.

Do The Right Thing

51 Try to get the same good amount of sleep every night.

52 Avoid working late or early shifts.

53 Create a good night time routine.

54 Create a good morning routine.

55 Make your bedroom a relaxing place.

56 Give yourself a time out.

57 Create whatever routines you need to get you through the day.

58 Practice meditation or mindfulness.

59 Learn relaxation techniques.

60 If you’re stuck on something don’t force yourself to do it.

61 Don’t hide your feelings.

62 Don’t try to change the way you feel.

63 Have a balanced diet, including Omega 3s and vitamin B rich foods.

64 Go outside at least a couple of times a week.

65 Exercise.

66 Be boring.

67 Take up a hobby.

68 Wash yourself.

69 Relax.

70 Balance work with more enjoyable activities.

71 Find alternatives to self harm.

72 Make your homelife as stable as possible.

73 Don’t avoid people.

74 Cry when you feel like it.

75 Love helps.

76 Breathe.

A Cunning Plan

77 Make a list of symptoms and a plan of action for your family, partner and friends.

78 Plan for mania.

79 Plan for depression.

80 Ask for extra help from family and friends.

81 Make a list of emergency contacts, all medications you are taking, including dosage information and information about any other health problems you have.

82 Make a list of symptoms that you feel would indicate that others need to take responsibility for your care and who those people should be.

83 Decide who is authorised to make decisions on your behalf and inform your doctors.

Straight Talking

84 Find somebody you can talk to about it.

85 Get talking therapy.

86 Tell your story – keep a diary or blog.

87 Join a support group.

88 Connect with people.

89 Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.

90 Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.

91 Don’t take it personally if people don’t understand or seem uninterested.

Keep Going

92 You are not alone.

93 Don’t beat yourself up.

94 Don’t apologise for having bipolar.

95 Personal responsibility. Take ownership of your illness.

96 Never think the illness defines you.

97 Don’t underestimate the danger.

98 Remember that it can get better.

99 Remember that one in four people have mental health issues.

100 Don’t give up.

Words and images ©Kate McDonnell 2013.

This article was originally posted on The Bipolar Codex

Breadcrumbing

Breadcrumbing

It was only recently that I realized I had spent a great deal of time in not one, but two relationships where I was the victim of breadcrumbing. Although the term breadcrumbing is relatively new, the acts behind it are not.

What exactly is breadcrumbing?

Breadcrumbing is basically the act of leading someone on. The person doing the breadcrumbing has no real interest in the same type of commitment to the relationship (romantic, social, intimate, etc) that the other person desires. Still, the breadcrumber enjoys the attention or special favors gained from associating with the other person, so they do just enough to keep that person seeking more through superficial acts of interest and flirtation. In the end however, the breadcrumber never gives the other person the full relationship they are seeking and often ends up hurting them through abandonment, false expectations, and empty promises.

The breadcrumber often shows interest when they want something and once they get it, they go back to being elusive and self-absorbed. Most of the time, the person being breadcrumbed eventually realizes that they are being led on, but often continue to deal with the other person in hopes that eventually the breadcrumbing will stop, and the other person will genuinely desire the same type of relationship with them that they are seeking.

Breadcrumbing happens a lot in dating and relationships where one person is looking for commitment and is being strung along by the breadcrumber who does just enough to give their “victim” hope. It can also happen in other relationships as well such as friendships where one friend is constantly seeking connection while the other entertains the friend when it benefits them and then basically disappears when it doesn’t. It can even happen at work in situations such as a supervisor giving you extra responsibilities and hope saying you’ll get promoted one day, but that day never seems to come.

Breadcrumbing can cause the person being subjected to the breadcrumbing to undergo emotional stress, anxiety and even depression due to breadcrumbing being inconsistent and lacking integrity. More severe forms of breadcrumbing can even border on the lines of manipulation, emotional abuse, and narcissistic behavior.

Sometimes it’s hard to identify if you’re being breadcrumbed because usually the person being breadcrumbed is unsure of how the other person feels about them. They know how they feel about the breadcrumber, but they get mixed signals in return. Often this can make the person feel like they’re on an emotional rollercoaster.

I know in once incident when I was being breadcrumbed, every time I thought this person and I were finally crossing over the line of friendship into a romantic relationship, she’d back off only to come back around again whenever she was going through personal problems and again we’d get close, spend a lot of time together and practically be in a relationship only for her to put distance between us again. It was painful. Sometimes she’d tell me she wasn’t ready for a relationship only to get into a relationship with someone else. Of course when that relationship (and the next, and the next) didn’t work out, she’d come back around and I would hope that this time would be different, but it never was.

This lead to me having a lot of anxiety, self-doubt and insecurity which is a very common experience when you’re being breadcrumbed.

Relationship Dependency

Breadcrumbing can also lead to relationship dependence because of the inconsistency and false hope given to the person being breadcrumbed. They keep showing up and trying in hopes of one day winning the lottery and somedays they feel like they get so close to picking the lucky numbers that it’s hard to stop playing even when it seems hopeless.

Like I said, the young lady I was being breadcrumbed by often spend so much time together talking, or going out for dinner or drinks that it very often felt like we were a couple, but only when she wanted to. More often than not we’d make plans only for her to cancel them at the last minute.

The breadcrumber has all the power over approval, attention and acceptance which adds to the relationship dependency. The person being breadcrumbed always wants to be in the company of the breadcrumber, but the breadcrumber only comes around when it benefits them in some way. They usually aren’t really there when the person being breadcrumbed needs them, yet the person still holds out hope that one day that will change.

Sadly, often times the breadcrumber doesn’t really care about the person being breadcrumber or they are too emotionally unavailable to offer more than what they are giving. Perhaps they are already in a committed relationship or are holding out for what they perceive is their ideal person and until then, they will take what they can get from you.

Eventually the person being breadcrumbed usually realizes that they have been wasting their time, energy, money and attention on someone who is not going to return it in the way that they desire and deserve.

For me it took years and multiple times being hurt and disappointed before I realize that it was never going to happen. By then I had suffered through bouts of loneliness, low-self esteem and even depression because as much as I wanted our relationship to work, it was always leaving me feeling as if I weren’t good enough.

People who do the breadcrumbing aren’t usually bad people. Yes, sometimes they are narcissistic and just want to hurt and use you (those tend to be bad people), but often they actually like you, just not in the same way you like them or they just can’t give you what you want. They don’t want to totally let you go because they realize you have a lot to offer. Exes often do breadcrumbing because they haven’t really moved on or they don’t want you to move on, for example.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you deserve to be treated better than the way the breadcrumber is treating you and if that answer is yes, then it’s time to move on from that relationship and seek the fulfilling relationship you deserve with someone who wants the same thing.

Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

Most people don’t choose to fall in love with a narcissist. Narcissists have an uncanny way of being charming and swooning. Yeah, they may be a little arrogant, but confidence is attractive. What separates someone who is confident from someone who has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Is your partner a narcissist? I know that term gets thrown around a lot out of context, often when someone disagrees with their partners behavior, but if you were in a relationship with a true narcissist you would know it.

Perhaps you know that your partner isn’t treating you right and that they are arrogant, seem to have an inflated ego, takes pokes at you that make you feel bad, and they have angry outbursts that are often out of proportion to the situation. You may not realize it, but you may be stuck in what is known as “the narcissistic abuse cycle”.

Narcissists for the most part are not capable of being in a healthy, loving and equal relationship because when it comes to the narcissist, they must always put themselves first. Even when it seems like they’re not, it’s usually because they are planting seeds for something later.

As someone in a relationship with a narcissist, you will feel the relationship is constantly suffering and you might not be quite sure why.

Here are some signs you should look out for to help determine if you’re indeed in a relationship with a narcissist and caught up in the narcissistic abuse cycle.

You Hold Back Constructive Criticism

Do you Feel like you can’t give your partner constructive criticism because they always take it the wrong way? It turns into a fight you weren’t trying to have, or they find a way to turn it around on you? So instead of saying what’s on your mind you tend to bite your tongue more often than you’d like. An example is, if you tell your partner after his fourth beer that maybe he doesn’t need another, he lashes out at you for calling him an alcoholic or he says you’re always breathing down his back and you’re the reason he drinks.

You Come Second Almost All the Time

Do your wants, needs and desires come second to your partners? Does it feel like most of the time they’re not even considered? A narcissist is so focused on themselves that they often don’t even consider what their partner might want or need. For example, your partner knows you’re a vegetarian, but never takes you to a Vegan restaurant, but instead to his favorite Steak House where he insists you can order a salad and veggies there.

You’re Unfairly Labeled

This is a form of gaslighting that narcissist do very well. They dismiss you as being “dramatic’, “silly” or “controlling”.  The way a narcissist does this makes you start to question yourself. You start to doubt your own thoughts and believes. What the narcissist is doing is slowly eating away at your worldview while reinforcing theirs. You start wondering, “Maybe I am too sensitive and dramatic”.

You Start Falling for Their Fantasies

Often narcissists live in a fantasy world where they are better at things then they really are. This is especially true when it comes to money. Very often, a narcissist will spend money they don’t have in order to appear more successful than they are, even if that means neglecting their spouse and other priorities. They may not buy you gifts, or buy you gifts that seem not thoughtful, while splurging on gifts for themselves they can show off.

The Relationship Is Unstainable

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is very much like being in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder, much of their traits are similar. The only way the relationship has a way of surviving is if you are okay with always putting the other person first and your needs, desires and dreams second if at all. That isn’t a healthy relationship for anyone and yet many people stay in long term relationships with narcist and suffer every day. Their wishes, desires and dreams are constantly being ignored and even extinguished. This can not only cause the person to have low self-esteem, but can actually be traumatic and cause post traumatic stress disorder in some people.

It’s important to recognize if you’re in an unhealthy relationship with someone with a narcissistic personality and start educating yourself and taking the necessary steps to protect your mind and emotions. It’s important that you separate your reality from their fantasy and in the end, it will help you determine to either end the relationship or at least keep you from totally losing yourself while in it.

Cheslie Kryst: Rest In Peace

Cheslie Kryst: Rest In Peace

I was saddened to hear the news yesterday of the apparent suicide of Cheslie Kryst, former Miss USA 2019 . Not only was she a beautiful woman on the outside, she was also intelligent, working as an attorney in North Carolina practicing civil litigation and worked to help prisoners who may have been sentenced unjustly get reduced punishments, free of charge She was also a former Divsion I athlete and work as a corresponded for the show ‘Extra’. She was only 30 years old.

Cheslie served as a role model, inspiration and a light for so many people which is just another reason it’s so disheartening that her light has been extinguished. I have no ideal what her personal struggles were, but I truly wish that the light she gave to others had been bright enough to help see her through those self destructive thoughts.

According to reports, police found her unresponsive on the ground outside of her apartment in New York where she apparently jumped to her death in the early hours of Sunday morning. She  left behind a cryptic message on her Instagram page along with a pho of her self, “May this day bring you rest and peace,” .

Suicide is always a tragedy, and many times it’s a mystery. We may look at someone who appears to have it all, their entire future in front of them and wonder what made them decide to take their own lives. We never know what demons someone is grappling with on the inside, despite their outward appearance and the way they portray themselves on social media. That’s why it’s important to remember that we’re all dealing with something and to check in with each other often.

Suicide often comes from profound feelings of hopelessness, the inability to deal with a certain problem or to see an end to a temporary problem. That feeling of hopelessness is so tense that it feels permanent.

As you might expect, depression also plays a major part in suicide as well as substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, chronic pain, impulsivity, a family history of suicide and past history of suicide attempts.

Suicide is complicated by the fact that some people, once they have decided to kill themselves may be at peace, appear happy and show no obvious signs that they are actively suicidal (To learn more about warning signs of suicide, see Signs That Someone Is Contemplating Suicide.).

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources 

Is Your Partner A Wound Mate or a Soulmate?

Is Your Partner A Wound Mate or a Soulmate?

It’s often difficult to distinguish a wound mate from a soulmate or helpmate because at least in the beginning of the relationship, they feel exactly the same. Both wound mates and soulmates feel like the perfect fit. The connection you feel towards the person, the chemistry and things you share often feel uncanny.

Just like with a soulmate, you will feel like your wound mate understands you better than anyone else. As if they are a part of you that you didn’t even realize was missing. Your feelings for them will be intense and your closeness will feel natural as if it were meant to be. Falling and being in love with them can feel intoxicating.

The issue is the connection you feel with your wound mate doesn’t come from the best of places. You and your wound mate connect because you share unaddressed emotional issues and therefore the bonding you create is due to trauma. You form a trauma bond.

The love you feel for your wound mate is eventually followed by negative energy. At first you may not be able to put your fingers on it, but your intuition tells you that something is off. One or both of you may have trouble committing to the relationship or have inappropriate outbursts of anger, rage or jealousy. Your relationship will become unstable, often breaking up and getting back together only to do it again and again.

Because of your shared unaddressed emotional issues or trauma bond, you and your wound mate trigger each other in ways that are deeper and more heartfelt than in other relationships. This can leave you feeling a mixture of exhilarated and heartbreak. On one hand you have this person who you feel connected with like no one else, but with that connection you also know how to hurt each other like no one else can.

Your wound mate is a person that is so much like you because they are a version of you. They are the dark parts of you that you don’t let anyone else see. The parts of you that you may be ashamed of, scared of, think others will judge you on or simply parts of you that you don’t think others can understand or accept.

Your wound mate triggers and reopens does wounds constantly.

Your soulmate in comparison will not re-open your wounds the way a wound mate does, instead they will help you see what wounds need to be healed and allow you to work on healing them. It’s not your soulmates job to “fix” you, but they can show you what needs to be addressed and allow you to work on yourself.

It’s common in relationships for unresolved emotional baggage to be triggered by both people, but it’s each person’s job to recognize what is their baggage to claim and work on and what’s their partner’s so that they can connect and grow. Wound mates on the other hand, even if they have the best intentions, don’t have the capability to do this. Instead, they just continue to trigger and be triggered creating an unhealthy relationship that will drag both people down.

You feel connected to your wound mate and want to make the relationship work despite all the anxiety, anger and chaos. However, you’ll realize at some point that the relationship is reflecting your wounds and not who you really are. The relationship may be showing you the parent who left you, the kids who bullied you or the brother or sister you hurt.

Your wound mate will show you all those wounds and you will see it as an opportunity to heal through intense love, but that is not love. A healthy partner wouldn’t do that or allow you to do that, only an unhealthy partner will allow for such a toxic relationship.

So many people spend their lives dating wound mates, confusing them with soulmates, but if they checked in with themselves to see how the relationship really makes them feel, they’ll realize that they are just continuing to hurt themselves and potentially their partner as well.

Are People Ruder When Wearing Masks?

Is it me, or have you noticed that since the pandemic, people have become less cordial and almost downright rude while wearing masks?

I first noticed this several months into the pandemic when I was at my local grocery store. It seemed like people didn’t bother to even say “excuse me” when they nearly bumped into me or say “thank you” when I opened a door for them, let alone even mumble “hello” or “good morning” when passing by.

I live in the south where people tend to have the curtesy to speak to each other in passing, probably more so than they do in other parts of America so at first, I was amazed at how quickly people seemed to have change once they felt partially hidden.

Think about it, wearing a face mask isn’t that far off from wearing a Halloween or custom mask. People wear masks during Halloween and at custom parties because it allows them in some sense to be hide their identity, thus allowing them to act out of character. Some people will say that it allows them to be someone else while others will say that it allows the person to be more of who they really are and not the person they feel they have to present to society.

In the same vein, I feel like face mask do that to some degree. People who would normally smile and be polite in the grocery aisle now feel no obligation to be polite. I noticed this even more so when I started my new job in the hospital. I would say good morning to people and half of the time they wouldn’t even acknowledge me, let alone speak back.

I do know that sometimes with a mask on it’s hard to hear and understand people, especially with not being able to see their lips moving so I do take that into account, but it happens way too often to dismiss it as people just not hearing me clearly. I do know also that masks hinder communication to a great degree.

A lot of the way we communicate is nonverbal. We read a lot from a persons expressions and we tend to look at the whole face for understanding and not just the eyes. The eyes and mouth work together to communicate feelings. The mouth in general is more expressive when it comes to showing emotions.

Perhaps, wearing a mask makes it easier for people to not see us, look right past us or find it not as important to connect with us even briefly. In the past, when I would go to the grocery store or the mall and want to be in my own world, shutting out everyone else, I would put my headphones on. Now, I kind of feel like putting on a mask does the same thing. Once I put on a mask I feel less exposed and less obligated to acknowledge strangers. I recognize that, but still have the curtesy to be polite. I’m just curious to if anyone else has had this experience.

COVID-19 Depresion

In the very beginning of August, 2021 I contracted COVID-19. Initially I was in denial because I had been fully vaccinated and wore a mask when I went out into public, but after I got tested twice and both tests came back positive, I had to succumb to the fact that I indeed had COVID-19. Not to mention by then I was feeling like pretty sick. I was exhausted, had no appetite, my body ached and I got extremely fatigued just walking from one room to the next. Perhaps though, the strangest and most mysterious symptom I felt was depression.

At first I wasn’t sure why I was feeling depressed. I wasn’t that upset over having COVID-19 and isolating myself didn’t really bother me because I still had family in the house so I wasn’t exactly totally alone. Still, as I laid around trying to feel better, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was feeling increasingly depressed.

As a mental health counselor, of course I tried to process why I was feeling down. I ran through everything I could think of and while I had areas in my life that needed improvement, there was nothing really making me that sad or stressed. Then I started to wonder if it was possible that COVID-19 was causing my depression and I started doing some research.

A lot of people during this pandemic have had their mental health statuses negatively impacted for a variety of reasons. Reports of depression and anxiety have increased during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic numbers based on research. Some people became depressed or anxious due to social-distancing, fear of contracting COVID-19 or seeing their family members or friends become sick and some even dying from the illness. I understood that, but what I was more concerned with was if having COVID-19 itself made a person more likely to become depressed.

What I learned is that COVID-19 is an illness that can actually infect the brain and increase a persons chances of displaying psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia or even dementia. One study, Neurologic Manifestation of Hospitalized Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Wuhan, China written by Ling Mao, Huiiuan Jin, Mengdie Wang; et al. showed that one-third of patients with COVID-19 developed neurologic problems. So while depression can be caused by the pandemic itself, it appears that it can also be caused by the infection alone.

Another interesting, but related fact is that I noticed my blood sugar, which normally is in the normal range, was running a lot high during and even for a couple of weeks after I had COVID-19. Again, I did research and learned that it wasn’t uncommon for relatively healthy people who had battled COVID-19, to temporarily have higher than normal blood sugars. I know from past research that high blood sugar can also increase a persons risk of having depression. COVID-19, as I was finding out, is a very complex illness affecting people in ways we may not even realize.

Here are some mental health statistics from pushcare.com when it comes to Covid-19:

  • 56.2% of young adults (18-24 years old) report symptoms of anxiety or depression compared to 29.3% of adults over the age of 65 years.
  • 53.4% of adults in households that have suffered a job loss due to COVID-19 reported symptoms compared to 31.8% of adults in households without job loss.
  • 56% of adults in households that earn less than $40k per year report a negative impact on their mental health status compared to 48% of adults in households that earn more than $90k per year.
  • 48% of non-Hispanic Black adults reported symptoms compared to 46.3% of Hispanic or Latino adults, 40.9% of non-Hispanic White adults, and 33.1% of non-Hispanic Asian adults.
  • 42% of essential workers reported symptoms of depression or anxiety compared to 30% of nonessential workers.

Coping With COVID Depression

Self-care is the best way to manage COVID-19 Depression. Eating healthy and trying to exercise when you can (even if it’s just a short walk if you’re still having symptoms such as fatigue or shortness of breath) can start to alleviate the symptoms. I started with a slow paced walk around my block in order to just get my body moving and get some fresh air. Try to stay connected with friends even if it’s through social media or texts.

Try to find time to enjoy life and if nothing seems to be working, seek mental health help.

I personally had to get back to my regular routine to start feeling better. Going back to work, while initially exhausting, helped me recover from COVID-19 depression faster. Going back to the gym and training jiu-jitsu also helped, just don’t push yourself too fast too hard. Remember, you’re in recovery and recovery takes time.  

Toxic Tendencies to Watch Out for in Your Relationships

Toxic Tendencies to Watch Out for in Your Relationships

Many of us have or will be in toxic relationships at some point in our lives. Some of us without even realizing it. I believe the key to avoiding allowing most relationships to disintegrate is through open communication and learning the recognize the little tendencies that can grow into habits that create a toxic environment.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

A lot of people think a toxic relationship is only a relationship where there is physical and/or verbal abuse, and while those are often indeed the most toxic relationships, the average toxic relationship may not be filled with yelling, screaming or violence all. Some of the most toxic relationships involve emotional abuse and manipulation.

In a toxic relationship, the romance, passion and even friendship that once made you happy is pretty much all disappeared and replaced with negative feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, resentment and disappointment. Of course we all know that relationships have their ups and downs and aren’t usually filled with sunshine and rainbows all the time, but there is a difference between toxic tendencies and allowing those tendencies to fester and ruin the relationship.

Toxic Tendencies to Watch Out For

Mutual Avoidance

In relationships, it’s healthy to have your own space and even take breaks from each other from time to time. Those times a part allow you to be your own individual person and even have your own experiences to talk to your partner about when you are together. They help us grow as individuals and even as a couple, but if you and your partner both prefer to do things without each other, sigh in relief when the other one is not home or can’t come to an event you both were invited to, it may not be a good sign. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to and enjoying a night out with the girls or the guys, but when you are looking forward to not seeing your significant other, it may be a sign that the relationship is headed for trouble.

Lack of Autonomy

With that said about mutual avoidance, it’s just as important that you don’t lose who you are while in the relationship. Some people are so eager to be a part of a relationship that they almost willingly give up their autonomy and therefore, their identity as an individual. They no longer are an “I”, but a “we”. Many people think it’s supposed to be that way. They stop being Jane and become Steven’s girlfriend, Steven’s wife and if they have kids they become mom or Asher’s mom. If the relationship fails or when the kids grow up and have their own lives, Jane may become depressed and feel lost because she no longer knows who she is as an individual.

You Tell Half Truths

Okay, so maybe you don’t consider yourself a liar, but you find yourself telling little half truths because it’s easier than telling the whole truth. Like you may say you went to the bar with Jane and Erin, but purposely leave out that John was also there, maybe because you know that will become a fight between you and your partner or that he’ll start asking more questions you don’t feel like answering. It may seem relatively innocent, but telling little white lies is definitely a sign that there may be a bigger issue that needs addressing.

You Can’t Do Anything Right

Your partner is always nagging or criticizing you. It’s a sign that your partner doesn’t appreciate you and in-turn can lead you to develop little toxic tendencies of your own that will only add to the overall toxic level of the relationship.

I once date someone who complained about how I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen or made the bed. It got to the point that I just stopped doing those things out of rebellion. What was the point of me doing it if it was never right. Eventually part of her argument became that I never washed the dishes, cleaned the bathroom or made the bed.

You Feel Malcontent

When you’re around your partner you feel unhappy, uncomfortable, anxious or like you’re walking on eggshells, then it’s a sign that you’re in a toxic relationship or one that is on a clear path to being one. Your partner should bring joy and happiness to your life, and like I said, there may be times when you two aren’t happy with each other, but that should be the exception and not the rule. You should never feel in a constant state of unhappiness or anxiousness around the person you’re supposed to be in a loving relationship with.

Jealousy and Envy

Your partner is jealous of your achievements instead of celebrating them with you, Instead of making you feel good, they try to bring you down. In one of my last relationships, I got promoted three times during our relationship nearly doubling my income whereas she didn’t. She would bring that up, not as a means to celebrate me, but in a way of throwing a pity party for herself in which instead of feeling good about my professional growth, I had to turn my attention to her and try to reassure her of her career.

Constant Drama

He or she is constantly finding something to fight or be upset about. If you’re at the beach he or she complains that the sun is too bright, the water is too rough and the waves are too noisy. Some people can’t be happy for too long or they get bored so they constantly stir up drama. It may look like they’re upset, but it’s what makes them feel alive while it drives you crazy.

Living in the Past

Your partner is always bringing up the past. Past mistakes you made, past hurts you may have caused them. They never let you forget that one time you messed up. In a relationship where one partner sees themselves as a victim and wants to hold on to that title, it’s hard to see a promising future because no matter what great things you do in the present, they will always bring up the times you weren’t so great in the past.

Disrespect

I once dated someone who when we fought cursed me out like she hated me. I always always amazed and hurt at the level of filth that came spewing out of her mouth. On top of that, even when we weren’t fighting, we’d go out and she’d start drinking and openly flirt with other people. It was something I tried to ignore, but when it was brought to my attention by other people I realized just how disrespectful she was. If your partner disrespects you often and you have any respect for yourself, then those two realities will constantly clash and you definitely deserve to be with someone who respects you.

You’re Probably Part of the Problem

I have been in a few toxic relationships and eventually learned that I was part of the problem. I eventually learned that I was choosing partners who had certain character flaws and I myself, had a big character flaw called codependency. If I didn’t take time away for myself to address that issue, then I would continue choosing the same toxic people and having the same toxic relationships over and over again. It took a lot of self-discipline, introspection and learning about codependency for me to start trusting myself when it comes to dating again. I know what I am attracted to and I know what I am attracted to is not good for me. I had to learn to trust that I was good enough for healthy partners, not partners who needed saving or that I thought I could fix, help or change.

And that’s the thing, if we don’t find out what it is about us that chooses the type of people that we end up in these toxic relationships with, we’ll just recreate the same mess with someone else. There’s a saying that goes, “Wherever you go, there you are”, which to me means, you can change people, jobs, cities and even states, but if you don’t change what you need to change about yourself, you’ll just recreate the same environment over and over again.

Confessions of an Emotional Fluffer

Confessions of an Emotional Fluffer

For many years I was an emotional fluffer without realizing It.

What’s an emotional fluffer? Well loosely defined, an emotional fluffer is someone who basically is there for another person in the same role a romantic partner would be, but without the benefits of romance, sex or physical affection. I believe this happens most when the other person is in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable partner, but still wants to be with them and they us the emotional fluffer to satisfy their emotional needs of talking, venting sharing feelings, etc. Basically, the emotional fluffer sustains them and gives them the emotional energy they need. The term is bored from the porn industry, when back in the day before Viagra and penile implants, there would often be a person who performed fellatio or hand jobs on the male actor to get or keep them aroused between scenes.

My Story

When I was in my late twenties I was really interested in a young woman who was in a toxic relationship. She was beautiful, and sweet and being treated poorly by her boyfriend. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why she stayed with him, but I did understand attachment and later I started to feel like she had become financially dependent on him.

Her and I became friends and I wish I could say I only wanted to be her friend, but the truth was I was hoping that when she ended things with her boyfriend she would see me as more than a friend. Her and I became really close. She told me things about herself she hadn’t told anyone. She was open and genuine. She shared her fears, her hopes and her dreams. She was funny and not afraid to be vulnerable.

She had her flaws which she didn’t try to hide and all that made me even more attracted to her, both physically and emotionally. We talked all the time, sometimes every day, multiple times a day. We even hung out ocassionally, not as often as I would like, but about as much as I could expect since she was in a relationship. However, when we did hangout it felt good. It felt right. It almost felt like we were dating.

We went out for dinner, out for drinks, out dancing or just hanging out. There were multiple times we stayed out until the sun came up. We laughed together. We cried together. The bond I felt between us felt impenetrable and natural. I never wanted our time together to end. I felt like it was an escape from reality.

Physically we never kissed or became intimate. The closest contact we ever had was occasional hugs and even times when we cuddled briefly, her putting her head on my shoulders and in those moments, it felt as if everything in the world was right.

There were a couple of nights out after we had been drinking where we became flirtatious and I was tempted to make a move, but I didn’t out of both fear of rejection and fear of ruining our friendship. As much as I hoped she felt for me the way I felt for her, I wasn’t really sure. In the very early stages of our friendship when I mentioned us dating she always said she made a better friend than a girlfriend, but I always thought she was just being self-deprecating. As beautiful as she was, I knew she suffered from bouts of low self-esteem.

When we were together we talked a lot about her frustrations with her boyfriend, about how she couldn’t talk to him or express herself openly. According to her he wasn’t sensitive to her needs and reeked of narcistic personality disorder. It always seemed like she was on the verge of leaving him and each time they would get into a fight, I was there for her and slightly hoping this would be the end of their relationship, but she never left him. Instead just more and more time passed by with me feeling like her boyfriend without actually being her boyfriend.

Whenever she needed me I would drop whatever I was doing. I would listen to her vent and cry about her relationship and tried to cheer her up whenever she was down. I tried to treat her the way she deserved to be treated and I hoped she would see the difference between my love for her and the way her boyfriend claimed to love her. Still, she never left.

Years went by like this and the longer it continued, the more attached I became, but also disheartened that our friendship never developed into anything more. I felt like I was doing all the things her boyfriend wasn’t doing for her and at times it was exhausting, but I did it because I cared about her and yes, I was probably a bit selfish as well. I really wanted her to wake up one day and see me as someone other than her friend, but that never happened.

Eventually, I had to detach for my sanity. I hadn’t put my life on hold waiting for her, but I had compared ever woman I met to her which wasn’t fair. I was never angry with her nor do I think she purposely used me emotionally. I was a willing participate and sometimes there is a fine line between being a good friend and being an emotional fluffer. The main difference as far as I can tell is that being an emotional fluffer gets exhausting and frustrating where a friendship shouldn’t be that way. It’s like you’re satisfying someone’s needs without getting your needs fully satisfied.

Today her and I are still friends. I imagine we’ll be friends for life. We don’t talk or hangout as much as we used to which is a good thing for me. I still have feelings for her, but I no longer sit back and expect one day she’s going to leave her boyfriend. Yes, they are still together and she’s still unhappy, but she’s still with him.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Around the world, about every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life. That’s at least 800,000 people per year. Here, in the United States, the rate of suicides is up 35% from 1999 to 2018. The U.S. Centers for Disease control has identified suicide as a growing public health problem. It is the second leading cause of death in teens and young adults in the U.S.

As a psychotherapist, I have dealt with hundreds of suicidal individuals and have lost several people I knew to suicide including two popular high school students and a beloved nurse and mother.  Losing one life to suicide is one too many. 

On World Suicide Prevention Day, I didn’t want to just write another post about suicide. I want to encourage anyone who is having suicidal thoughts or knows someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, to seek help. Talk to a friend, a teacher, a pastor or a mental health professional.

If you feel like you don’t have anyone you can talk to or prefer to talk to someone anonymously, here are some other options:

If you live in the United States, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-873-8255 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you need help in Spanish, call 888-628-9454.

Trevor Lifeline offers suicide prevention counseling for the LGBTQ community: 866-488-7386.

You can also TEXT a crisis counselor in the U.S. or Canada at 741741, 85258 in the U.K and 50808 in Ireland

No matter how you reach out and seek help, the most important thing is that you do.