Response to “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing”

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Ok so I’m on a roll with the “response” posts, but one particular blogger had me fired up late last week. Last Thursday xoJane.com published the article “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing”. When I first saw the article I was intrigued. While I thought the title was exploitive click bait, I thought maybe what followed would offer a provocative personal perspective about mental illness. Or I thought maybe it would be a reflection on how relief can sometimes be a complicated and even more painful aspect of grief.

But I was wrong. The article that followed was a string of shallow and callous judgements that begged the question of how it made it past an editors desk. XoJane later removed that article and apologized, though the author has not apologized. You can still see the original post here.

As someone who works with the mentally ill and has loved ones with mental illness, I was not only angered and offended, but also disappointed by the lost opportunity a explore a challenging but worthy issue. Let me try to explain what I hoped the article might be, and point an angry finger at what it actually was.

As a sibling of someone with severe and chronic mental illness, I’ve watched first hand the pain caused by mental illness to the individual and everyone that cares for them. The value of living such a painful life is a worthy conversation, not because anyone with mental illness is better off dead, but because the conversation brings light to the suffering that goes ignored or stigmatized. I’ve watched my brother go through hell. I’ve watched my parents’ lives turn upside down in their exhausting efforts to help him. I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments, when things were really bad, when somewhere deep in the darkest corner of my mind would it be better if he wasn’t here? became a thought. The times this has happened, shame and pain immediately follow. Shame for my own weakness and difficulty merely observing the pain that my brother somehow finds the strength to endure every day. Shame for my narrow sightedness that my parents’ unconditional love is a burden and not a triumph. After the shame, comes immediate gratitude for my brother, everything he teaches me with his experience, and everything his presence on this earth offers us. Our society has become so motivated by pain and discomfort avoidance, that we often forget pain precedes growth; pain precedes strength – and that must make my brother and others with mental illness some of the strongest people in the world.

As much shame as I have associated with that thought, I think that maybe it’s worth sharing. Sometimes our mind goes to a terrible place without asking our permission first. It’s human. It’s a product of the pain caused by mental illness, and the helplessness felt by anyone who cares, which is a result of such insufficient treatment and support. So maybe others have had similar experiences/thoughts, and similarly judge themselves. Maybe instead of judging ourselves we could share our experiences, lean on each other for strength, and try to make some change.

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This is the complicated emotional experience of someone whose life is touched by mental illness. You, Amanda Lauren, are not one of these people.

Your article didn’t mention any pain you experienced at a result of this person’s struggle. At most you described inconvenience and annoyance in response to what sounded like mere personality differences, not pathological symptoms. If you’re going to make the dubious argument that life with mental illness isn’t worth living, talk about homelessness, talk about insufficient treatment, talk about stigma, talk about being the victim of violence… Don’t talk about having a messy room and lack of a boyfriend.

You admitted to not even giving this girl a thought for years before you decided to add her to your Facebook feed solely for your entertainment. Based on some concerning behavior and posts about her diagnosis, you draw assumptions that she died lonely, unhappy, and a burden to her family, while simultaneously judging her family for allowing this to occur (as if it were something they had control over). You wrote an article assigning value (or lack thereof) to a person’s life that you weren’t even involved in.

If your point is that your former friend’s life was a tragedy best ended, you need to take responsibility for that tragedy. You watched and judged someone who needed help, and did nothing. Now she is dead. You can try to justify your behavior by backwards reasoning that she’s better off dead – But no, she’s not.

Now you not only need to take responsibility for how you treated your former friend, but the message you sent to everyone suffering with mental illness by publishing that article. The first step is taking responsibility for whatever mindset is at the root of such callousness. Seek some help Amanda Lauren. Don’t worry, you’ve cause some people some pain, but you’re not a lost cause.

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Response to “Staying Hot for My Husband”

In a recent article , Blogger and newlywed Amanda Lauren posited that “staying hot for my husband is ESSENTIAL to a successful marriage”. Not sure what data Amanda is basing this advice off of, but as a relationship researcher, and woman with a brain, I feel obliged to respond.

Makeup routine of beautiful young woman.

Some points that I think you’re trying to make are valid:

  1. Sex is an important part of a relationship and is related (correlationally) to happiness. (See research here)

“While sex can’t make a marriage, it can break it. Having that physical, intimate connection is very important… And if my husband wasn’t turned on by me, we couldn’t have that essential intimacy.” – Amanda Lauren

BUT you don’t need to be a super model to have great sex, and relatedly, being attractive does not mean you’re great at sex. Furthermore, intimacy is a lot more than sex.

  1. How we feel about our own looks is important for our self esteem, and self-esteem is important for our happiness. And YES it’s helpful for a relationship when the people involved are happy people.

“Feeling good ultimately allows me to be a better, happier and more considerate partner. I see the look on my husband’s face when I come out of the bathroom, ready for a night out, or the way he checks out my butt on the way to Pilates class. Having an attractive wife makes him happy. They say “Happy wife, happy life,” but I’m happiest when my husband is happy.” – Amanda Lauren

The important distinction here is that how we feel about ourselves matters for our self-esteem. The more our self image is dependent on the feedback we receive from others, the more insecure we’re going to be no matter HOW objectively hot people might think we are. For instance, when I’m 70 years old I hope to look into the mirror and feel great about myself. Not because I look “hot” for a 70 year old, but because I see the reflection of a wise accomplished woman who makes shit happen and gives no fucks.

  1. Attractiveness is one way to offer value to a mate.

“All relationships require work, and working on myself is doing the work I need to do for the sake of my relationship. Even if I’m running 15 minutes behind on date night because my hair isn’t straightening, my husband can’t complain if he’s swooning over me.” – Amanda Lauren

Attractiveness is… well, attractive. Therefore you can leverage it to a certain point in your search to secure a mate. However, your looks are one small aspect of the self, and therefore one small way to offer value to another person. Other people might offer value with their financial stability, or their social resources. At a deeper level the value you offer to your mate could be your humor, your insight, your kindness, or intellect.

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Sure, I hope that my partner finds me attractive, but I also believe my looks are the LEAST valuable asset I offer to others. Therefore in the list of qualities that I devote my energy towards, keeping up my looks is not at the top. If you’re prioritizing “staying hot” for your husband, your implying that this is the most value you offer him. If this is the case, hate to break it to you, but your most valuable asset is a depreciating one.

In conclusion:

Physically attractive women are a dime a dozen. Beauty is no accomplishment and certainly doesn’t secure you a high quality relationship (just ask the many supermodels and actresses that have been cheated on and/or gotten divorced). Set a higher standard for yourself. Don’t focus on “staying hot for your hubby”. A woman with compassion, patience, humor,  insight, and intelligence is a true treasure to hold on to. Real men know that.

“If men can’t help but be visual creatures, I need to oblige.” – Amanda Lauren

Men should be offended by the statement “men are visual creatures” degrading them to less evolved creatures as if their ability to see somehow overrides their human capacity to think, feel, and discern. Guess what, we’re all visual creatures, in that we all have eyes, and behind our eyes are brains capable of complex reasoning and deep emotional experiences.

My partner lets me know when I look nice, but it’s obvious what really turns him on. He’s ready to pounce on me when I’m speaking about something I’m passionate about, or when I’m making him laugh, when I’m more focused on the status of the world than the status of my eyeliner, when I’m rushing out the door for our next adventure rather then waiting back to finish straightening my hair.

I felt strongly about writing a response to this article, because Amanda Lauren isn’t the only one spreading the idea that if woman wants an enduring happy relationship, she better stay “hot”. This message is scary for women who are already under pressure of unrealistic societal expectations, but furthermore this message is degrading. Women of the world, there are so many other reasons you’ll be loved than how “hot” you are.

Everybody likes to look nice, but the woman I’m trying to be usually has much bigger things on her mind, and has a man that does too.

Stop Categorizing Other People… and Yourself!

We live in a world that loves to categorize things. It’s the human brain’s little trick for sorting through a lot of information efficiently; “It’s either this, or it’s that”. While categorization can be helpful, there are some negative consequences, especially when applied to human experience. For example, we tend to sort other people into various categories, i.e. male/female, gay/straight, nerd/jock, etc.. This type of black and white thinking not only limits our ability to understand another person’s experience, but often times it can make it difficult to understand our own experience as well. We feel pressure to fit into rigidly defined categories that society has laid out for us, and as a result we might mitigate unique parts of ourself and our experience that don’t fit so neatly into these social boxes. People might hide or play down the parts of themselves that blur the lines so they can fit in and identify more closely with a certain group, all the while feeling fundamentally different. The point of this post is to highlight some examples of areas that we need to challenge our categorical perspective, so that we can all relate better to each other as unique and diverse individuals, rather then members of separate homogenous groups.

Sexual Orientation

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 10.20.08 PMWe generally think of sexual orientation as identification with a certain category (gay, straight, bi), but this can cause a lot of people confusion when trying to understand their own sexual feelings and experience. A healthier way to consider sexual orientation would be to think of it as a point on spectrum with strict heterosexuality and homosexuality representing the extreme end points of the scale. It’s actually rare that someone would fall on an extreme end of this spectrum. Maybe you’re mostly attracted to the opposite sex, but you can recognize when someone of the same sex is attractive. Maybe members of the same sex even show up in your fantasies from time to time, but you don’t necessarily ever feel inclined to act on those fantasies. The point is, whatever your experience may be, it has a place somewhere along this scale.

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Sexual Fluidity

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 10.25.26 PMTo add to the dynamics of sexual experience is the fact that sexual orientation isn’t necessarily a fixed trait. For many people, who they are attracted to evolves throughout their life. This concept can also be represented on a spectrum with complete sexual fixedness on one end and complete sexual fluidity on the other. Someone who has always been attracted to one sex (be it same or opposite sex) for as long as they can remember and never experienced periods or moments of attraction to the other sex, would be a very sexually fixed person. A more sexually fluid person might have periods of being exclusively attracted to one sex, but has also had periods of being exclusively attracted to another sex, and maybe also periods where they felt attracted to both sexes. In other words, wherever you fall on the sexual orientation spectrum discussed above, you don’t necessarily remain on that one point of the spectrum, but might move around a bit over time.

Research shows that women tend to be higher in sexual fluidity, and therefore are more likely to change sexual orientation throughout life. However, it’s unclear how much this is affected by different societal gender norms. For example, it’s generally considered more acceptable in our society for a straight women to experiment with other woman (e.g. making out with another girl at a party), than it is for a straight man to experiment with another man. The take home point is that there is a lot of gray area when it comes to our sexual preferences, and it’s totally normal to not fit into our society’s rigid categories.

Gender

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 10.22.03 PMA related area where society attempts to squeeze us into dichotomous categories is gender. Our society has established ideas of what it means to be a man and we call it masculine. We have established ideas of what it means to be a woman, and we call it feminine. However no man is strictly masculine and no woman is strictly feminine. The reality is that a woman can identify with any masculine trait(s) and it does not make her less of a woman, and the same it true for men. Therefore we can again consider these traits on a spectrum where regardless of your biological sex you may lean towards masculinity or femininity but still identify with traits of either gender. Right in the middle of this scale would be androgyny, which research has actually shown to be connected to many positive traits. In other words, it’s actually best to embrace positive characteristics associated with both genders. If we embrace this spectrum perspective of gender as a society perhaps we will be able to show more compassion and understanding for those who feel they identify more with the gender opposite of their biological sex. Perhaps individuals would not feel so conflicted and confused when their experience doesn’t seem to match what society prescribes for their sex. Perhaps we would all feel more able to explore and embrace our most genuine selves without pressure to conform ourselves to gender norms.

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Relationships

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 10.33.28 PMSexologist Jessica O’Reilly applies the spectrum perspective to relationships in this TED Talk, where she explains Dan Savage’s concept of “monogamish relationships”. She suggests that strict monogamy doesn’t seem to work for many people (as evidence by high divorce rates), however she states that the opposite (strict polygamy) doesn’t work for many people either. She encourages us to open our mind to the many possibilities in between monogamy and polygamy, and define fidelity in our relationships on our own terms. For example, maybe you and your partner do not have sex with others, but flirting is ok, or bringing a guest player into your fantasies/dirty talk is enough to keep things exciting. Whatever it may be, the spectrum perspective opens up the opportunity to have an honest conversation with your partner about wants and desires that might lay outside of society’s standard definitions of relationships.

Mental Health

Once you understand that most traits exist on a spectrum rather than in categories, you can begin to apply it to many areas of life. Even our typical understanding of mental illness has been defined by categorical diagnoses, and as a clinical psychologist in training I’m all too familiar with the problems inherent in trying to fit a unique person with complicated psycho-social issues into a strictly defined diagnosis. There is actually a current a push in the field of psychology to describe mental health conditions on spectrums rather than categories. An example is the transition from separate diagnoses for Aspergers Syndrome and Autism, to Autism Spectrum Disorder, which recognizes that individuals may experience symptoms of Autism to various extents and thus present in very different ways. In terms of other disorders, the presence or absence of one symptom can currently make the difference between whether someone qualifies for a diagnosis or not. Would it not make more sense to describe a person as “having the following depressive traits” or “falling above average on the depression scale”, rather than depressed or not depressed?

Take Home Point

The underlying point here is that few things in life are black and white, and it does us a world of good to look for the gray areas. It’s particularly dangerous to apply black and white thinking to other people, because we rob ourselves of what we can learn from the idiosyncrasies of others. Furthermore, let’s think about what we lose when we subconsciously apply black and white thinking to our own identity. What parts of life, what parts of our self, have we not explored because they seem to conflict with the labels we’ve applied to ourself? How can we meet our full potential, if we hold ourself to the confines of categories? So periodically check in with yourself… are there any areas where you’re not allowing yourself to explore the full spectrum of life?

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Justice for the Mentally Ill

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That’s my brother Brennan. He’s the most creative person I know. A gifted artist. Talented musician. Amazing sense of humor. Brennan was the best big brother a little girl could have asked for. Some of my favorite childhood memories were of Brennan “reading” to me, but making up his own (infinitely more entertaining) story to go along with the pictures on each page. During the holidays, I used to whole heartedly believe I had my very own special elf who would leave me notes and treasure maps to little presents hidden throughout the house – all Brennan’s work. He was always up for a game of make believe anything, and any pretend world was exponentially enhanced once Brennan’s magically creative mind got involved.

Brennan had his first psychotic episode when he was about 18. Since then, Brennan has been on every antipsychotic medication that’s out there, in and out of hospitals, living on and off the streets. On his best days, Brennan is still a shadow of his former self. It’s hard for him to engage in conversation, as he’s distracted and tormented by voices in his head. A naturally sweet natured person, paranoia often makes him become combative and disrespectful to his loved ones. He has periods of abusing substances, because they work better than his prescriptions at providing relief from his painful symptoms. It doesn’t really occur to Brennan to change his clothes, brush his teeth, or cut his nails, making it all the harder for him to fit in with society. It’s been over 10 years now, and Brennan continues to struggle, and it’s certainly not for a lack of a family that cares about him. Unfortunately, a loving family isn’t nearly enough to treat schizophrenia, and the type of care that Brennan really needs simply does not exist. Brennan is one of many.

A large part of the problem is that Brennan is not compliant with his antipsychotic medication. In fact, about 50% of those with schizophrenia are non-compliant with their medication for several reasons.

Medication doesn’t help everyone equally.
For some people, medication is a gift that enables them to function and even thrive in society. However, there are some with treatment resistant illnesses, for whom the medications available simply don’t do much. My brother for example, continues to hear voices in his head all day, every day, with or without medication. Medication helps him function to an extent that his loved ones can notice a positive difference, but not quite enough that he can notice a positive difference.

Unwanted side effects.
Not only do the medications available not always work, but they often cause side effects that lead individuals to stop taking them. Side effects can include movement disorders, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and more. Brennan complains that his medication makes him feel “doped up”, like “a zombie”, and unable to think clearly.

Maintenance.  
The symptoms of schizophrenia (and other similar disorders) make it difficult for many individuals to care for themselves. Simple activities of daily living such as bathing, brushing one’s teeth, and even eating can go ignored. Remembering to take medication daily is yet another responsibility that’s difficult for someone with mental illness to maintain. Without help/supervision, many with schizophrenia simply won’t remember to take their medication regularly. Some medications are becoming available in monthly injections, but many people are not open to being injected with a month’s dose of medication for all the other reasons discussed.

Psychosis.
It is the very nature of schizophrenia to not have good insight into how mentally ill you are. In other words, many are resistant to taking medication because they don’t believe they are sick. In my brother’s case, the less medicated he is, the less he believes he needs medication. Many with schizophrenia also experience paranoia, making it even less likely that they will listen to the advice of medical professionals or their loved ones.

As Brennan is an adult, he cannot be forced to take medication against his will. So when he stops taking his medication, our family is left with no choice but to stand by and watch him slip into complete madness, waiting for him to deteriorate enough that he can be involuntarily admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit. For that to happen Brennan has to be an imminent danger to himself or others, which essentially means he must have already hurt himself/someone else, or verbalized a specific plan to hurt himself/others. He’ll be inpatient just long enough to stabilize his medications (maybe a week or two at most), and for him to assure everyone he’s not going to hurt himself or anyone else. Then he’s released back home, where we know it’s only a matter or time before the same cycle repeats itself all over again, like it has for the past 10 years. Like so many other families in our position, we are put in the position of trying to reason with a psychotic person to stay on their medication. We can try to make medication compliance a condition of living at home, but in his psychotic state Brennan often decides that living on the street is the favorable option – leaving my family to worry that he’ll be attacked, freeze, get arrested, etc. In fact, Brennan has been brutally attacked while living on the streets.

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I share Brennan’s story because I want to put a face to a need that our society must address. Brennan is one of many chronically mentally ill citizens for whom there is inadequate treatment and support available. My family is one of many, trying our best but failing to provide our loved one with the care they need and deserve. The severely mentally ill often cannot advocate for themselves, and so they go underserved and underrepresented. Analogous to the modern day leper, so many like my brother are ostracized, stigmatized, and ignored, making about 25% of the homeless population due to no fault of their own, merely their unfortunate genetic predispositions. We as a society cannot continue to ignore the needs of our fellow humans with mental illness.

Why do so many individuals with mental illness go untreated? Why are so many left to roam the streets?

“Aren’t there places for people like that?”, I’m sometimes asked.

“Not really, no.”

A Little History Lesson

When you think of mental institutions, scenes from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest might come to mind, but psychiatric hospitals weren’t always such dreadful places. Psychiatric hospitals are rooted in an early 19th century movement called moral treatment. Prior to this, the “insane” were often put in shackles, isolated from society, neglected, and subjected to tortuous “treatments”. Moral treatment was based in the idea that mental illness could be treated by providing a therapeutic environment. The leaders of the moral treatment movement had chains and shackles removed from their hospitals,  banned physical punishment, and replaced dungeons with sunny ventilated spaces that patients could walk about freely. Employees were carefully selected to deliver humane treatment with a balance of empathy and authority. Retreats where patients functioned as small communities emphasized a balanced routine of rest, talk, and manual work. In hospitals in the US, attendants would read to the patients, talk with them, and go on regular walks with them. Recovery rates with moral treatment were showing promise, and many countries began passing laws requiring local governments to build mental hospitals.

What the eff happened?

By the early 19th century these mental hospitals were growing in size and number, eventually becoming large out-of-town institutions. Economic and social changes caused these institutions to become grossly over-populated and far too understaffed to adhere to the individualized moral treatment philosophy. Eventually little to no therapy of any kind was being provided, and these institutions essentially became inhumane warehouses for the mentally ill.
institution.afterpartychatIn the mid 20th century anti-psychotic medications began to come on the scene and successfully treat many individuals with severe illnesses like schizophrenia. The populations in mental institutions began to drop dramatically as many patients were able to return home. However by this time, attention had already been called to the terrible conditions, and there was a movement to reform the asylum based mental-health care system. The anti-psychiatric movement gained popularity along with the counterculture movement of the 60s, and pushed for total de-institutionalization. The anti-psychiatrists emphasized the individual rights of the mentally ill (such as the right to deny treatment), and criticized psychiatry for pathologizing/diagnosing those who thought/acted differently. The majority of psychiatric hospitals around the world began to close, and the few that remained significantly decreased the amount of beds available and the duration of stay.

So what now?

The new answer was community-based mental health treatment – a system based on the idea of getting the mentally ill treated and integrated back into society, as opposed to isolated and neglected. Sounds like a great idea, but unfortunately the follow-through has translated into a shortage of space in psychiatric hospitals, leading to pressure to quickly release patients. Patients are “stabilized” until they no longer present a threat to themselves or others, then they’re referred to outpatient services from an array of different providers such as case-managers, psychologists, psychiatrists, community mental health centers, nursing homes, workshops, etc.

Without the asylums, centrality of mental health care was lost, and the treatment efforts of the new system are often disjointed and inadequate. I currently work in community health care, and I’ve seen the system truly help many people recover from their mental illnesses. However, there is a portion of the population most in need for which the system is inappropriate and unhelpful, yet there’s no other option for them.

Flaws in the System

No long-term treatment
The current system does not seem to adequately address the needs of chronically and severely mentally ill. There are those for whom no amount of group therapy or medication will enable them to completely care for themselves. Often responsibility for the long-term care of mentally ill falls back on their families or other unofficial caregivers, but societal changes (economic change, rise in divorce, rise in women entering the workforce) makes this a challenge to say the least. Families are undereducated about their loved one’s illness, and under equipped to provide the care and supervision necessary, causing stress and conflict within households, only adding to psychological distress. Thus many individuals, such as my brother, are frequently rehospitalized, and many end up living on the street or in jail.

Imminent harm to oneself or others
In order for someone to be involuntarily admitted for treatment, they must pose an imminent threat to the safety of themselves or others. In other words, they must have already acted violently against themselves or someone else, or verbalized a specific plan to hurt themselves or someone else. I understand the importance of strict criteria when it comes to taking away anyone’s freedom, especially considering the days when someone could be sent to a mental institution against their will simply for being nuisance. However, the criteria of imminent harm poses problems. All too often by the time a person is dangerous enough to be involuntarily committed, it’s too late. A clinician or family member might have a strong suspicion that an individual is a risk to themselves or others, but their hands are often tied as long as the person denies any plan to harm.  Many individuals who truly want to act out a plan to hurt themselves or someone else know enough to keep their mouth shut.

Right to deny treatment
Within the same issue of the right to deny treatment, is the right to deny medication. Philosophically I understand the dangers and the violation of human rights involved in forcing an individual to take a medication they don’t want to take. However, a problem arises when it comes to illnesses such as schizophrenia, in which the very organ needed to make a responsible decision about treatment is where the disorder lies. We wouldn’t put the burden of making treatment decisions on someone with dementia, and allow them to choose to wander the streets. Yet we expect someone with schizophrenia to choose whether or not to be treated, and allow them to go homeless as if it’s their responsibility to change their situation.

This highlights part of the problem, that schizophrenia and similar mental disorders are still stigmatized almost as character flaws rather than medical conditions. But my brother didn’t choose to become mentally ill. Brennan already had all his rights to normal happy life taken from him through no fault of his own, and rather than receiving sympathy and support from society, he is ostracized and neglected.

What’s the answer?

Our culture needs to stop turning a blind eye to our fellow citizens with mental illness. Mental institutions were shut down due to inhumane conditions, but so many of the residents were left to live on the streets. At least the institutions provided a roof over their heads. Much of the inhumanity present in the institutions was due to overcrowding and understaffing, but with modern anti-psychotic medications the number of individuals who remain chronically and severely mentally ill has decreased. The individualized therapeutic environments that began with moral treatment did benefit patients, and should be revisited as long-term treatment options for the chronically mentally ill. The chronically mentally ill don’t deserve to be locked away in isolation, nor do they deserve to be banished to the streets. They deserve to participate as members of a community that supports their mental health. A community that does not view them as a burden, but as individuals capable of long term growth and recovery. They do not deserve to be passed from one program to another, but to be able to work within a stable system that’s working for their stability.

I don’t know the person Brennan would have become if he never developed schizophrenia, and honestly, I try not to think about it. I do know that Brennan has contributed to my life immeasurably even with his diagnosis, but that he still has much more offer this world. I know we won’t get to see the full impact of Brennan’s human potential without a therapeutic environment that suits his mental health needs. Brennan is one of many.

Things to Remember Should I Have a Daughter

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1. She has to learn from her own mistakes, she can’t learn from yours.

2. Tell her your mistakes anyway. Not so she can avoid them, but so she learns it’s ok to make them, and so she knows that you’ve been where she is.

3. Help her develop her femininity and masculinity from an early age. Play sports with her as much as you play dress up with her. Teach her how to apply mascara, and teach her how to change a tire.

4. Honor all the ways she is different from you. She was put on this earth to be her, not a mini-you.

5. Encourage her to question everything, even you.

6. You’re not her friend. You’re her mother.

7. Have all types of music playing, all the time. Give her the gift of rhythm through osmosis.

8. She has to date some assholes before she can appreciate a good man (or woman). Let it happen. The more disapproval you show, the less she’ll want to share with you.

9. Take her camping. Take her to the beach. Take her to the desert. Drown her in nature.

10. Help her think through things, offer your perspective, but resist telling her what to do.

11. Meditate with her. Make it part of her routine like taking a shower or brushing her teeth.

12. It’s ok if she wants different things for herself than what you want for her.

13. Raise her to make her own decisions, and then trust the ones she makes.

14. Develop an interest in her interests. If she’s into video games, pick up a controller. If she’s into yoga, start stretching.

15. Show her both sides of every story. Expect her to develop her own opinion, not just parrot yours.

16. Fill her world with a variety of powerful women. From Eleanor Roosevelt to Laura Croft. Mother Teresa to Lady Godiva. Elizabeth Bennet to Katniss Everdeen.

17. Never yell at her for crying.

18. Help her cultivate an appreciation for healthy living, but never critique her appearances. She’ll get an abundance of that from everyone else in the world, it should never be from you.

19. Make sure she knows how to indulge in chocolate, without a damn thought about calories.

20. Try your best to resist complimenting her on her looks, and even on her intelligence. Compliment her on her hard work, her perseverance, and her kindness.

21. Make dirty jokes. Let her know sex is a safe topic.

22. If you’re anxious about something, she’ll learn it’s something to be anxious about. Don’t sweat the small stuff, so she doesn’t either.

23. Read to her, and then read with her.

24. Let her explore. Let her go wherever she wants to go, and let her know you’ll be there when she returns. But give her mace to take with her.

25. Don’t let her take herself too seriously. Tease her regularly.

26. Admit when you’re wrong, and when you don’t know something. Teach her its ok to not know it all.

27. Remind her to look up. At the stars. At the clouds. At the leaves. Just look up and remember how tiny we are.

28. Develop an interest in her friends. If she finds something lovable about them, you can too. It’s in your best interest for her friends to feel comfortable with you and welcome in your home.

29. Dance with her. On a Tuesday. In the afternoon. In the kitchen. Teach her to cha-cha.

30. Always treat others with respect, treat yourself with respect, and demand respect from others. You’re the model from which she’ll learn how to treat others, how to treat herself, and how to expect others to treat her.

31. Expose her to many possibilities, but then sit back and watch her become whoever it is she wants to become with warmth and acceptance.

32. Take care of yourself so a) she learns to take care of herself, and b) she learns she doesn’t have to take care of you.

* Special thanks to my mama(s), for passing many of these blessings along ❤

I plan to keep adding to the list, so let me know what you think I missed!

The Social Psychology of Ferguson

Witnessing the dialogue sparked by the events in Ferguson, MO, I just feel so so sad. Sad to see people pointing fingers at each other, sad to hear overly simplistic assessments of a complex situation, sad to see people citing other crimes by other people as if it validates or invalidates what’s happened in anyway. Mostly it makes me sad to see people pushing away from each other, rather than coming together. It makes me sad, but I also understand. Having an education in social psychology, I can appreciate the complex factors that come together to create situations like this. This knowledge makes me feel far less judgmental, and far more empathetic when something like this happens. That’s why I truly believe that social psychology should be a required and fundamental aspect of every person’s education.  So for what it’s worth, I thought I would write a little crash course in social psychology to give some perspective on the events in Ferguson. Let’s first look at some of the ways prejudices are perpetuated and affect our behavior.

Confirmation Bias

To save energy, our brains take shortcuts (called heuristics) to quickly navigate the overwhelming amount of information presented by our environment. One shortcut our brains make is to seek information that supports the beliefs we already have. It takes less mental energy to continue believing the same thing, than it does to re-evaluate and adapt our beliefs. This is called Confirmation Bias and is one of the main ways that stereotypes and prejudice persist. For example, if I’m convinced Asians are terrible drivers I’ll notice every time a terrible driver happens to be Asian, but I’m not on the look out for all those Asians who aren’t causing any trouble on the roads. We find what we already believe.wpid-photo-jul-19-2012-1059-pmIf I think a black man is likely to be a criminal, my belief is reaffirmed every time I hear a story about blacks committing crime, but I give less weight to experiences that contradict my belief (i.e. all the black people around me every day not committing crimes). If I believe cops are racist, I’ll pay more attention to accounts that prove me right, and overlook instances of police officers treating people of different races with respect.

In-group/Out-group Bias

Back in our tribal days it was important for us to be able to quickly differentiate between “our peeps” and “outsiders”. So another energy saving trick our brains play is to categorize people into In-groups (groups I belong to) and Out-groups (groups I don’t belong to). Due to the homogeneity effect, we overestimate how similar members of out-groups are to each other, and recognize more individual differences between members of our in-group. It’s probably not surprising that we also tend to regard our in-groups with more positive attributes than out-groups, but you might be surprised by how arbitrarily we can make these attributions. For example, one researcher split strangers into two groups based on a coin flip, and participants still reported liking their groups members more, assumed they had nicer personalities, and were better workers (Tajfel, 1981). thMuzafer Sherif’s famous Robbers Cave Experiment was intended to examine the influence of group membership. He randomly assigned 22 white middle-class boys in summer camp to one of two groups. The two groups were separated from each other and encouraged to bond with members of their own group. The two groups were then brought together to compete in various activities for prizes. Before long the two groups engaged in name calling and taunting… then in vandalism and theft… then in such aggression that researchers had to physically separate them for two days. When asked to describe each group, the boys would describe their group favorably and the other group derogatorily.


Many other social psychology studies have demonstrated how easily we identify with a certain group, and develop biases in favor of our groups and against other groups. Think about the hatred some sports fans have towards fans of opposing teams. If identification with something as superficial as a sports team can cause such bias and result in extreme behaviors like rioting, think about the influence of something as personal as the color of your skin. Consider how much your perspective of any situation might be affected by who you see as part of your in-group or part of an out-group.

Fundamental Attribution Error

The Fundamental Attribution Error refers to the social psych. finding that we are prone to disproportionately attribute a person’s behavior to innate character traits, and underestimate the influence of the situation. In a study by Jones and Harris (1967), participants were told to read articles for and against Fidel Castro. Even when participants were told that the authors were assigned to write for or against Castro based on a coin toss, they still rated authors of the pro-Castro articles as having more favorable opinions of Castro. In other words, they were unable to fully consider the situation, and couldn’t stop themselves from making assumptions about the authors’ personal beliefs. Social experiments have shown that we’re more likely to attribute our behavior to the situation, but other people’s behaviors to their personality. So when I cut people off in traffic it’s because I’m really in a rush, and it’s not something I would normally do – but when someone else cuts me off in traffic it’s undoubtedly because they’re characterlogically a big d-bag. th-1We are more likely to make attributions consistent with our own prejudices. For example, an analysis of over 50 studies showed that when men failed to accomplish a task, it was assumed they didn’t work hard enough. When women failed it was assumed the task was too hard for them. Thus interpreting the same situation differently due to a bias that women are innately “less able” than men. We are also less likely to consider the influence of the situation on members of out-groups. So when a white cop shoots an unarmed black man – If I more strongly identify with the white cop, I’m more likely to consider how the situation influenced his behavior, but attribute the black man’s behavior to his character. If I identify more strongly with the black man, I’m likely to consider how the situation influenced his behavior, and attribute the cops behavior to his character. In reality, the situation influenced both of their behaviors more than I probably realize.

Group Dynamics

In the good ol’ days before ethics boards, Philip Zimbardo wanted to study how much the behaviors of prisoners and prison guards were influenced by innate personality, but ended up conducting one of the most important studies of group membership, power vs. oppression, and the influence of situation. The Stanford Prison Experiment involved a make-shift jail in the basement of a campus building, and 24 “psychologically stable and healthy” middle class male participants. Zimbardo randomly assigned participants to be a “prisoner” or a “guard”. Guards dressed in a uniform, carried batons, and wore tinted glasses to prevent eye contact. Prisoners were given identification numbers, smocks, and a chain around one ankle. stanford_prison_experimentThe study was supposed to continue for 2 weeks. After 6 days the experiment had to be called off, because the situation had gotten out of control. After the first day, prisoners revolted against the guards’ authority by refusing to follow directions, barricading their cells, and cursing at the guards. Guards then attempted to assert their control over the prisoners with increasingly sadistic methods. They attacked prisoners with fire extinguishers, stripped them naked, made them do push-ups (while they sat or stepped on their backs), refused to let them use the bathroom (instead making them defecate in a bucket in their cell and refusing to empty it), removed their mattresses, and put them in solitary confinement. One prisoner had to be released from the study due to a mental/emotional breakdown involving disordered thinking, uncontrollable crying, and uncontrollable rage. spic63If such chaos can unfold after only 6 days of otherwise equal people being assigned roles of power vs. oppression, think about the consequences extrapolated across centuries. If 6 days of having your rights taken from you can cause someone significant emotional distress, what’s the effect over generations? If 1 day of make-believe guards asserting authority over you can cause average people to revolt, how do you expect people to act when it’s a part of their every day lives?

Crowd psychology

This subject can easily fill an entire book, and involves many social psychology phenomena in combination, but the point returns to the power of the situation. Groupthink causes the a desire for conformity and cohesiveness in the group to overpower rational thinking and behavior. People experience de-individualization, and thus anonymity in crowds. groupthinkDiffusion of responsibility means the more people involved, the less responsibility any one person feels. The less responsibility any one person feels, the more they’re likely to do (or not do) things congruent with their morals. Group polarization is the tendency for groups to think and act in more extreme ways than individuals. So if the individuals that make up a group wanted to rebel, together they are going to be extremely rebellious. If the individuals that make up a group wanted to be punitive, together they are going to be extremely punitive. It’s worth mentioning that uniforms also de-individualize, particularly helmets, visors, glasses, masks, shields – things that are covering a person’s face and thus their identity. When our identity is concealed, we feel less inhibited and less personally accountable for what we do.
police-300x180

Fight or Flight

This is not a social psychology term, it’s a biological term. When we feel threatened past a certain point, our reflexes kick in and our bodies decide to either fight or flee. When this happens, the emotional center of our brain is on autopilot, and is not taking the time to consult with the rational part of our brain about whether or not we are making good decisions. The reason it’s important to include this in the discussion, is because it’s another way a situation affects our behavior. If I’m in a situation where I feel I’m in danger or my life is being threatened – whether it’s because someone I think is a criminal is coming towards me, or someone with a gun is trying to overpower me – my body reacts before I can think about what I’m doing.

The situation does NOT absolve personal responsibility

But before we pass judgements, I think it’s important to remember that we are all susceptible to the influence of the situation, and that other people’s behaviors are influenced by the situation more than we tend to think. People of all races commit crimes against all types of people for all types of reasons. In my opinion, none of these crimes justify the existence of any of the others. But the situation is such that white people experience power and priveledge daily, while black people and other minorities experience oppression and discrimination daily. Thus, in interracial conflicts white people’s behavior is often influenced by  power and privileged, and black people’s behavior is often influenced by oppression, and the behaviors of both parties are influenced by biases.

The character of any individual involved in such events usually has less impact than you probably think. I don’t know officer Wilson, I don’t know Michael Brown, and I don’t know exactly what happened that day. Chances are that both Wilson and Brown are people who have done some very good things and some bad things. Chances are that depending on the situation, they’d both be capable of doing terrible things that they would regret, and that weren’t in line with their character. Chances are that they both had beliefs and engaged in behaviors that were influenced by biases, sculpted by the environment that they grew up in. None of which changes the fact that what happened is terrible, and tragic, and representative of a much bigger problem than this singular event.

While I have some understanding of why people behave the way they do, and have my own opinions about what behaviors are right and wrong, I hate seeing the country divided rather than united against the situational factors that underlie such events. As far as I’m concerned, the events of Ferguson are the product of a society that we all participate in, and thus we all share some of the responsibility. Instead of pointing fingers, how about living our lives in such a way so as to reduce the devisions between us, and increase solidarity of the only true race – the human race.

To me, a large part of the puzzle is increasing our awareness of our own biases, as awareness is the first step to change. To that effect, I hope this helped a little.

Be Grateful.

All upset feelings are a consequence of desire.
This isn’t a new idea. Good ol’ Siddhartha figured this one out like a gazillion years ago.

Man-i-want-happiness

#buddhadroppinknowledgealldayerrday

Every time you’re feelings down, pause and identify what it is you want that you’re not getting. More money? More things? True love? Power? Better abs?

Consumerism has us constantly focused on the ways our lives could be better, and it’s a hamster wheel to no where. Because we find what we look for. If you’re looking for ways that your life could be better, I guarantee you will always find something, and so you’ll never be satisfied. In some ways that’s ok… because it motivates us to grow. But if you think trying to filling in those gaps is going to make you happier, you’re very wrong.

Unless you're this easily please tarsier.

Unless you’re this easily pleased tarsier.

Many social psych. studies have found something that increases overall well-being more than money, power, looks, etc.:

An Attitude of Gratitude.

One study had a group of people journal once a week for 9 weeks about 5 things they were grateful for, and compared them to a group that journaled about 5 burdens in their life, and another group that just journaled about whatever the hell they felt like. At the end of the 9 weeks, the gratitude group had better health, exercised more, reported more joy and happiness, were more optimistic about the future, and felt better about life in general (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). This study’s cool because it’s not just correlational – In other words it’s not just that happier people are more grateful, but when people were randomly assigned to be more grateful, they became happier.

Desire is focused on the deficits in life, while gratitude is focused on the abundances in life. Part of the problem is that desire is also future oriented. It’s about gaining something so that you’ll be happier than you are now. But we don’t live in the future. We never get there. We live in the moment. Gratitude orients you towards the present. What is there to be thankful for right now?

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
~ Meister Eckhart

So once you’ve identified the desire that’s at the root of your negative emotions, remind yourself that achieving it probably isn’t going to affect how happy you are – you’ll eventually just find something else to desire. So try to check yourself, and challenge yourself to switch perspective. Take a moment. Look around. At any given time there are a million things to be thankful for. Try to name 5. The warm clothes on your back. The tasty hot coffee in front of you. The fresh air filling your lungs. The sound of a child laughing. Wet kisses from a wagging dog. The master piece of blue sky, soft clouds, fluttering leaves, and rippling water that God’s laid out for you every. damn. day.

Challenge yourself to open your eyes and find the things to be grateful for…

I guarantee you’ll find them.

Tips For Guys From A Girl On OkCupid

The Thing About Dating Online Is…

The quantity of prospective dates online is simultaneously the biggest advantage and disadvantage to online dating. I am much more selective of who I respond to online than I am of who I would talk to in the real world, solely due to the sheer volume. If I go out to a bar maybe one or two guys will approach me to strike up a conversation, which I’ll almost always engage in (unless they attempt some a-hole opener) because I’m a decent human being and open to engaging with other decent human beings.

Online however, I receive multiple messages daily. When I first started I wanted to respond to each person (unless they attempt some a-hole opener) because I’m a decent human being, and it seems decent to respond to another human being that reached out to you. Unfortunately it quickly became apparent that the logistics of this simply did not work out. One the major reasons I have an online dating account is because I don’t have a ton of free time. So it ends up that for practical reasons, I probably respond to about 2% of the guys that contact me. This 2% are the one’s that seem the highest quality/most attractive/most compatible from their profile. Admittedly, that doesn’t mean they ARE the highest quality/most attractive/most compatible, but alas I can only do the best with the information available. The point is that the guys who don’t get responses shouldn’t take it personally, chances are that if they approached me in real life, I’d gladly chat with them and maybe they would even be a better match for me.

So I apologize in advanced if my advice comes off as harsh or dismissive of the guys that have reached out to me. Getting many messages and only having the resources to respond to a select few, forces me into becoming very selective. I don’t necessarily like it, or think it’s a perfect system, but I haven’t figured out a better approach. So in the mean time, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips based on what’s likely to quickly turn me off to a person’s profile.

Disclaimer:

This is purely based on my personal experiences and preferences. It’s very possible that what turns me off about a dating profile might not bother some one else. But I think I’m a pretty typical gal, so there’s a good chance other girls feel the same way I do. So without further ado, if  one of my guy friends asked my advice on making a profile, here’s what I would suggest:

1. Smile in your profile picture

I’ve seen quite a few profiles where the guy looks very sad, angry, or intimidating in the main picture (or sometimes all the pictures).  When I see these I think “Why are they sad? I don’t want to date someone who’s sad. That’ll make me sad. I want to be happy! I want to date someone who is happy!” Your profile picture is your first impression. People are attracted to others who look happy and like they are having fun, because we want to be happy and having fun.

Above all else – as a guy trying online dating, the last thing you want is to look angry or intimidating!!! Just by being on the site you already need to be working against a girl’s anxious suspicion that you might be a total creep. The last thing you need is anything in your profile that is going to confirm that fear!

2. Be the best looking person in your pictures

Especially in your main photo, but ideally in all of your photos. The last thing you want to do is have a girl see your picture, think your buddy next to you is really cute, and then get disappointed when she discovers it’s not his profile. Alternatively if she never saw your cuter buddy, she might still think you’re attractive and never experience a let down.

There’s a social psychology concept called “the contrast effect” which states that how attractive people perceive us to be can be relative to the attractiveness of those around us. In other words, I don’t look so great when standing next to a super model, but put me next to a below average girl and I don’t look so bad. So keep this in mind when choosing your picture.

3. Be clearly visible in your main picture

Again, as a girl online I have an overwhelming amount of options. If I can’t tell what you look like right away, you’re going to need to send me a very intriguing message in order to incentivize me to invest time/energy into looking further into your profile. If I can’t get a good idea of what you look like from any of your pictures, there’s almost no way I’m going to respond. Call it superficial, but again it’s a consequence of the numbers. I can only respond to so many people, and actually meet with even less. Chances are that there is a guy on the site with a comparable profile as yours, but with pictures that actually allow me to see what he looks like. In such a case the devil I know is better than the devil don’t.

Things that can get in the way of me feeling like I know what you look like can be:

  • wearing sunglasses/hats
  • being far away
  • group shots
  • side profiles
  • extreme close-ups

*none of these are bad to include, but if all your photos fall into these categories, I’m moving on. If your main photo falls under this category, your making it harder for yourself.

In the same spirit, have more than one picture. We all know a picture can be deceiving, so the more you include, the more confident I am that I know what you look like. Plus more pictures usually give me a better feeling for your personality.

4. Put some effort into it

If it’s obvious you put little to no effort into your profile, you’re unlikely to get a response. Again, I’m not going to invest time messaging/meeting someone who I know nothing about, especially when there are plenty of other options on the site. Being on a dating site but putting little effort into it seems to reflect an attitude of indifference that I’m not really attracted to. As best as possible, your profile should be a reflection of yourself. So think about how it reflects on you, and what it says about the time/energy you would invest in a relationship if you put no effort into your profile. Would you go about putting together a job resume the same way?

Also I have a theory that a lack of effort in a dating profile is an act of defensiveness. It hurts less to be rejected when you didn’t try that hard, than it does to be rejected when you really put yourself out there. Obviously the cost is that you’re less likely to find high quality dates. Personally, I’m not interested in someone that needs to be so protective of their ego. But most girls probably don’t analyze this so deeply  🙂

5. Talk about what you offer, not just what you want

I’ve come across several profiles where guys include lists of what they’re not interested in from girls. Even if nothing you list applies to me, this just seems very critical and confrontational. I (and I assume other girls) am attracted to warm and open people. It also seems a bit cocky to be on a dating site and announce all the types of girls that should keep away from you.

* I realize this post could look like just what I’m describing above, but this list is not on my profile – and the intention is really just to help out some guys that might be unknowingly turning girls away from their profiles by some of these simple faux-pas.

There are also a lot of guys that list what they are looking for in a woman. There’s nothing wrong with this, but don’t forget to include all the things about yourself that would make that type of woman attracted to you.

6. Be confident, but don’t be cocky.

If under “Things I’m Good At” you’ve put “being awesome” I’m going to think you’re not that awesome, or else you would have been able to think of something more specific/creative to put there.

Rather than bragging about positive qualities (i.e. “I’m always making people laugh” “I accomplish whatever I set my mind to” “I’m an extremely passionate person”), include things about yourself that demonstrate these qualities. Don’t tell me you’ll make me laugh, make me laugh. Don’t tell me you can accomplish anything, tell me what you’ve accomplished. Don’t tell me you’re a passionate person, show me how that passion materializes in your life. A truly confident man doesn’t have to convince others of his positive qualities, he just goes about being himself and allows those qualities to come across.

7. Limit the selfies

I understand that guys don’t take typically take pictures as often as girls do, so it can be hard to track down flattering pictures. But if every one of your pictures are selfies, I’m asking myself “why are there no other people in your life?” Plus having a bunch of pictures of yourself taking a picture of yourself can come across as a bit self-absorbed.

8. Open with more than just “Hi”

If all you say in your first message is “Hey, whats up”, I probably won’t investigate further. I get that it’s not always easy to think of what to say to someone, and I’m not asking for some super creative and clever opening, but again consider the numbers. The bottom-line is, if you want a response, you have to stand out, and “Hey, whats up” isn’t going to cut it. Also, “you’re beautiful” and variations of that are nice to hear, but they’re not enough. Pretty much every other message says something along the same lines, so it’s not setting you apart or giving me sense of who you are as a person.

A good start is to let a girl know what about her profile in particular stood out to you, besides the pictures. That way she gets the feeling you actually took enough interest to read through her profile. Look for something in her profile that interests you or that you can relate to. Ask a question to learn more, and let her know how you can relate.

9. Don’t get snippy

I actually don’t mind a repeat message if I didn’t respond to your first one. Often I might get a message from a guy that interests me but I don’t have time to respond right away. So I’ll save the message with plans to respond later, but next time I sign on I have more messages to go through, and get side-tracked, and so on. So sometimes a follow up is a good reminder to me, but what you definitely don’t want to do is get snippy or defensive with me. For example something along these lines has happened several times:

I get a message from a guy that looks like he might have some potential, and save the message to respond to later. I guess the guy sees that I checked his profile and didn’t respond immediately and is insulted. He messages me again saying something aggressive like “Seriously? Not even a response?” or “guess you’re not interested in meeting one of the few genuinely nice guys out there” or “your loss”

Little do they know I actually might have responded until their follow up, which left me thinking “good thing I didn’t respond, that saved me some time”. I’m not sure what these guys are trying to accomplish with such messages, because all it does it make them come across as highly sensitive, defensive, aggressive, not to mention desperate.

10. Lose the ladies

Avoid pictures of you with a bunch of girls. You don’t look like a ladies man, you look like a player. Pictures of you with one other girl look like pictures with an ex girlfriend. I personally (and I know I’m not the only one) don’t want to see pictures of a potential date with their ex. If you use a picture with a girl other than your ex, at least specify in the caption that it’s your sister/cousin/friend/friend’s girlfriend etc.

I do hope this doesn’t come off as too cocky or judgmental on my part. Like I said, every girl might not feel the same way about these things, but on the chance I fall in line with the average girl – I hope this might be helpful for some fellas. I’d be curious to hear other opinions, or any tips for girls from guys! Happy hunting!

30 Things to Remember When You’re Feeling Down

This a more personal post than I usually write, but something was telling me to share. I find it’s generally best to listen to your gut in such situations, even if your brain hasn’t figured out why yet. Who knows, maybe the universe is telling me someone else might need to see this.

Like everyone else, sometimes I feel down. As I get older, I think I’m getting better at putting these low moments into a healthy perspective, but some times are more difficult than others. I recently decided to write in my journal about all the things that are helpful to me when I’m feeling down, so that I could later refer to it, and maybe it would help me snap out of future ruts. Below is this journal entry:

  1. Remember to be tough. Stand up to life. You’re stronger than whatever is facing you.
  2. Remember the positives. Focus on your strengths, your blessings, your happy memories, and the things you have to look forward to.
  3. Remember to have a perspective of gratitude. Whenever you get upset about wanting more out of life, remember everything you already have to be thankful for. Focus on enjoying and appreciating what you do have, instead of focusing on how it could be better.
  4. Remember to meditate.
  5. Remember that only you can make yourself happy or sad/secure or insecure. Remember that when you are upset, it is only because you are choosing to focus and indulge in negative thoughts and get carried away by them.
  6. Remember to distract yourself until you are feeling more emotionally/mentally equipped.
  7. Remember that the people in your life can only be who they are. Don’t get caught up in wishing or hoping they would be someone or something other than who they are. They can only do the best with what they’ve got.
  8. Remember to exercise.
  9. Remember that most of the time you are pretty happy, but sometimes you’re just going to be sad – and that’s life. As humans, our moods will fluctuate regardless of our external circumstance.
  10. Remember that your mood has always fluctuated throughout various circumstances in life, and it will continue to do so no matter how your circumstance change. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
  11. Remember that allowing yourself to believe external factors are responsible for your mood/happiness only jeopardizes your external situation i.e. corrupting a relationship because you keep blaming the other person for how you feel or asking for more from the other person so you feel more secure, or convincing yourself your job is awful and keeping you from feeling happy.
  12. Remember to journal.
  13. Remember to get outside. Get fresh air. Get sunshine. And if at all possible, jump in the ocean.
  14. Remember to make yourself laugh. Watch a funny movie, or listen to stand up comedy.
  15. Remember to call a friend. Feeling low can make you want to isolate yourself… fight this urge. Put yourself around others, even if it’s sitting and reading in a crowded Starbucks.
  16. Remember to constantly ask yourself if you’re looking for a sense of security from someone or something else, and avoid doing this at all costs. The only sustainable sense of security comes from within, and the more you allow yourself to depend on outside sources of security (validation from others, financial prosperity, etc.) the more insecure you will feel in the long run.
  17. Remember that you’re lucky to have some amazing people in your life, but you also do just fine on your own.
  18. Remember to listen to music. Especially the kind that makes you want to dance.
  19. Remember to try something new that will help you grow.
  20. Remember that there’s no way to know how the future will turn out, but chances are you’re going to be just fine.
  21. Remember to continually invest in yourself above and before anyone else. Remember how doing this tends to attract positive things, and that doing this is the only way that you can offer the best version of yourself to those you love.
  22. Remember all the happiness you’ve been able to experience despite hard times in the past.
  23. Remember that those who make it through the hardest circumstances are the ones who can assign an important meaning/purpose to their struggle.
  24. Remember to put on an outfit you love. Even if it sounds superficial, remember that when you look good, you feel good, and when you look like a slob, you tend to feel like a slob.
  25. Remember that if you’re a generally happy person, you’ll probably continue to be generally happy even if things don’t work out the way you hoped.
  26. Remember to pray.
  27. Remember there’s a lot of people who think you’re hot shit.
  28. Remember you are hot shit.
  29. Remember that every struggle = growth. Every struggle is shaping you into the person you’re meant to be, bringing you closer to reaching your fullest potential. Remember to find the lesson, and look for the growth within yourself. Remember some of the darkest parts can be what will make the tapestry most beautiful when it’s complete.
  30. Remember that this too shall pass.

What helps you through the tough times???