6 Signs It’s Time to Find a New Therapist

Therapy can be hard, but your relationship with your therapist shouldn’t be difficult. It takes courage to start therapy and let yourself be vulnerable, so you should have a therapist you trust.

If you don’t feel like your current therapist is working out, don’t give up. There are many reasons a therapist may not be a good fit, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a therapist out there for you.

Here are six signs you might want to go shopping for a new therapist:

You feel judged.

Therapy is supposed to be a safe space where you can talk freely about what’s bothering you. You shouldn’t feel judged or shamed. If they “shut you down,” it’s probably time to find a new therapist.

With that being said, your therapist may be trying to introduce a new perspective that you haven’t considered. If you feel comfortable enough, explain why you felt judged or shamed. There could have been a misunderstanding, and if that’s a case, a good therapist will address that empathetically.

Other times, a therapist is just bad. They judge you, and it’s definitely not a misunderstanding. If you’re made to feel ashamed of your body, sexuality, religion, etc., it’s definitely time to find a new therapist.

You’re not seeing improvement.

This one may not be easy to spot. Therapy doesn’t work overnight, and a lot of improvement is subtle.

For me, I noticed changes around the three-month mark when I began seeing a therapist that was a good fit. That’s a long time, but therapy takes time.

Give it some time, but also know that therapy with any therapist won’t work if you don’t put in the work as well.

You just don’t “click” with them.

Rapport with a therapist is a major factor in whether or not therapy is successful.

Your therapist may even notice if the match isn’t good before you do. They might ask if you think you’d see more improvement with a different therapist or approach.

Not clicking with a therapist doesn’t mean you or the therapist did anything wrong. Sometimes the connection isn’t there, but maybe give it a few sessions before you decide it isn’t a good match.

I had one therapist who really wanted to focus on the bipolar aspect of my life. Everything we talked about was connected back to bipolar or a symptom, so her questions were all related to symptoms. Of course, my mental illness will play a part in therapy, but it’s one aspect of my life. I prefer a more well-rounded approach.

They’re constantly running late or canceling.

Many therapist’s offices have “no-show fees,” meaning if you don’t let them know in advance you’re canceling an appointment, they may charge you a fee.

As clients, we can’t charge therapists for lost time, but our time is just as important as theirs. If your therapist is frequently canceling your appointments or running late, they’re not valuing your time. And they’re certainly not worth your money.

Like anyone else, therapists have things that come up and cause a disruption in scheduling. If it’s a constant issue, though, it’s time to look for someone new.

If your therapist is chronically running late, bring it up in session. It’s your time. Most therapy hours are 50 minutes long. It’s a pet peeve of mine when a therapist starts 10 minutes late but expects our session to still end at the original stop time.

They don’t incorporate your feedback.

If you don’t feel like you’re getting much out of the current treatment plan or framework, let your therapist know. If they aren’t open to trying a different approach or taking your thoughts into consideration, it’s time to say goodbye.

I was in a heavily structured therapy program, and while I found the group portion insightful, the individual therapy didn’t help. It actually made me feel worse when I was already severely depressed. There was no room for me to bring up what I actually wanted to talk about. When I mentioned this in therapy, it was pushed aside because it didn’t fit in the structure.

They don’t respect boundaries.

This can mean a lot of things. A relationship with a therapist is a little weird. They know intimate and vulnerable information about you, but you aren’t friends or family. There’s a professional boundary that has to be respected. Neither you or the therapist should cross that.

You may not be ready to talk about something in particular. Though a therapist may encourage you to talk about it, they shouldn’t be pressuring you to the point you’re uncomfortable with them.


Starting therapy isn’t always simple. Some things have to be sussed out, but if you give it time, there’s a possibility you’ll see improvement. At the very least, you’ll feel heard and supported (if it’s a good therapist).

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What to Expect at Your First Therapy Appointment

For nearly four years, I’ve been in and out of therapy. I’ve seen ten different therapists, which is way more than I would have liked. Some moved away. Others didn’t work out or weren’t available for more than 12 sessions (looking at you university counseling centers).

While it’s taken a while to find consistency with therapists, I’ve become somewhat of a regular with first sessions. Each therapist has had a different approach to the first appointment, but there have been some similarities.

If you’re anxious about your first appointment, here are a few things you can do and expect to feel more prepared:

Paperwork

Like any doctor’s office, you’ll have paperwork to fill out. Some places also request you print off the intake forms before your first appointment. I’ve seen a wide variety of paperwork and forms at each therapist’s office I’ve been to.

Some take 25 minutes to fill out. Others take five. You’ll give your general information such as your insurance details and address.

They may ask about your relationships and other social factors of your life. They might ask about your family history. You’ll also list any diagnoses you may already have, and if you’ve been to therapy before.

Some offices may provide you a checklist of concerns that may have brought you in. They may give you an open-ended question of “What brings you in today?”

Some places may give you questionnaires like the PHQ-9 where you rate the frequency of your symptoms. On a scale of “not at all” to “nearly every day,” you’ll rate your experience of nine signs of depression.

When it comes to paperwork, each office varies widely in what they want. The best approach is to be as honest and thorough as possible. It may feel weird to write down vulnerable information, especially if it’s your first time. Though I’d recommend still writing everything down, you will get a chance to bring it up during your first appointment.

You’ll also fill out confidentiality agreements. What you discuss with your therapist is confidential, but there are a few caveats to that. A therapist can break confidentiality if they believe you may harm yourself or others. They can also break it if they suspect ongoing child abuse.

Common Questions You’ll Hear

Even though you have spent time filling out paperwork, be prepared to answer some of the same questions in person. Your therapist needs to get an idea of why you decided to come in, and it’ll give you a chance to elaborate on what you wrote.

Your first appointment won’t really be a therapy session. It’ll be more of a “get to know you” session.

They’ll ask why you came in. For some people, it’s a vague question. You might not be able to put a lot of what you’re going through into words. Try your best, and if needed, write down your concerns/symptoms before coming in.

For others, the question may seem like there’s too much to put into a succinct answer. That’s OK. Therapy is your time, so feel free to say as much as you can.

A therapist may refer to your paperwork to get an idea of what needs to be assessed. They may ask you to elaborate on something in particular. This isn’t a time to clam up about something. If it’s hard to discuss, especially before establishing a rapport with the therapist, feel free to answer as much as possible and then let the therapist know it might be a topic to discuss later down the road when you feel more ready.

Another question you’ll probably hear is, “What do you want to get out of therapy?” When I first started therapy, I hated this question. How was I supposed to know when I’d never been through therapy before?

The question is not meant to be that serious. You’re not expected to come up with a treatment plan. Your therapist just needs to know what you’re expecting. In the beginning, my answer was a vague “to feel better.”

Maybe you’re looking for better coping skills for stress or depression. Maybe you’re wanting help regulating anger. Maybe you’re interested in building better relationships. It doesn’t need to be specific. Your therapist will work with you over time to establish the best treatment plan.

Questions to Ask a Therapist

You can ask your therapist what type of therapy they see using with you. Every therapist is different, and there are many approaches to therapy. In my experience, many therapists work with a combination of approaches. A therapist may use a cognitive-behavioral approach but could also utilize aspects of dialectical behavior therapy.

You can also ask what you can expect from therapy. Ask if your therapist assigns homework. I prefer therapy with more structure and homework. I feel like I get more out of it, but not everyone feels that way.

Ask about the frequency of therapy. They may ask you what you think would work, but they may recommend coming in once a week or every other week. Ask what’s the best way to contact them. Some therapists will prefer you email or call them directly. Others may prefer you to work with the front desk depending on how large the practice is.

The Intake Therapist May Not Be Your Actual Therapist

A couple of the practices I’ve been to have had “intake” therapists. It’s typically another therapist who works in the office. Their job is to figure out which therapist in the office may be the best fit for you. The rapport between a therapist and a client is a key component of successful therapy.

You may end up working with your intake therapist if it seems like a good fit. There’s also scheduling to consider. This setup usually happens in larger practices.


Seeking therapy can be nerve-wracking, but having an idea of what to expect may help you. You may not find a therapist that’s a good fit right away, but that’s OK. It takes strength to reach out, but scheduling your first appointment is a great first step.

5 (More) Lessons Therapy Taught Me

Nearly nine months ago, I published a piece about five hard lessons therapy has taught me. I figured it was a good time to mention a few more lessons I’ve learned recently.

I’ve been in therapy off and on since Feb. 2016. I’ve taken breaks during periods of wellness. I’ve also been unable to attend therapy due to long wait periods, financial issues, etc.

Since my last post, I’ve had to change therapists due to one moving away. I was happy with my previous one, so I was worried I wouldn’t do well with a new one. Turns out, I’ve done pretty well with my current one, though it took months for me to really feel improvement.

I can’t blame my therapist for that, though. That’s kind of how therapy has always worked for me. Improvement and effort move at a snail’s pace, but it’s still movement in the right direction. Therapy takes time, so don’t worry if you don’t see changes right away. And if you feel like you’re not clicking with a therapist, look for a new one! Not every therapist will be the right fit, and any therapist worth your time will understand that.

Here are five more lessons I’ve learned while in therapy:

1. I can’t control everything about my depression.

I have bipolar 2 disorder, and my main issue is depression. I’m not currently in a depressive episode (knock on wood), but a big fear of mine is getting stuck in one again. My last depressive episode lasted three weeks, which is quite short for me. They usually last months.

My therapist gave me a metaphor to explain “control” with depression. She told me depression is like a hurricane. You can prepare the best you can, but we can’t prevent it altogether or stop it from hitting hard.

I can find strength in what I can control. There will most likely be days when the depression is overwhelming. I can’t control that.

But I can control what I do on the better days to help prevent worse days. I can take my medications, go to therapy and my support group, etc. When my depression is severe, I can decide if I need more intensive care. No matter how bad it gets, there will be some aspect I can control, even if it’s just choosing to open my eyes in the morning or take deep breaths.

2. The fear of depression can be worse than the depression.

The operative phrase being “can be.” Depression is a horrific monster I still struggle to put into words. There’s no doubting how hard and painful depression is, but it isn’t always a severe episode.

I can have mild episodes or episodes that only last a few weeks. But I’ll spend months terrified of an impending episode. I explained this to my therapist as tiptoeing when I feel good because I don’t want to wake the giant.

I don’t trust stability or good moods because of my mood shifts. Fearing depression prevents me from taking risks or truly enjoying the good moments. I’m always waiting for the ironclad shoe of depression to drop and squish the life I have.

I’m working on not fearing the worst. I want to live my life without worrying my next depressive episode could take it all away. I might not be able to control everything about depression, but I can work on not giving it any more of my time than needed.

3. No one is made to be on top of our game 24/7.

I used to work for a media company, and I became accustomed to working 60+ hours a week. I felt guilty if I actually signed off at 6 p.m., and I rarely took a day off.

I did this for over a year, and it completely burned me out. The burnout was a major reason I experienced a seven-month depressive episode.

I still have feelings of guilt and shame that I couldn’t handle my work schedule. I feel guilty for not continuing to perform my best, though I know it is impossible for anyone to work the way I did for as long as I did.

I felt guilty my bipolar disorder was getting in the way of my work, which is ridiculous because it’s a mental illness, not a personal shortcoming. I can try to prevent mood shifts and prepare the best I can, but there’s only so much I can do.

4. Look for another perspective.

This is one of the main points of therapy. We’re told to put ourselves in another person’s shoes to gain insight into someone else’s perspective. We aren’t taught how to change the perspective of ourselves and our thoughts.

For instance, I recently increased one of my medications. I had rapid cycled for over a month, and it was clear I needed something more than therapy to get ahold of it.

I experience side effects anytime I change the dosage of this medication. I get a dry mouth, which I combat with lots of water and gum. The worst side effect, though, is how shoddy my memory becomes.

As I explained my frustration with my memory to my therapist, she had another way of looking at it. Yes, my memory wasn’t great, but my mind wasn’t spiraling downward as much. I wasn’t experiencing as many negative thoughts, and I wasn’t ruminating on them.

The medication seemed to slow my mind down. While that ruined my memory, my mind was more peaceful. I could only see the negative aspects of the med increase, but she showed me another perspective. Eventually, the memory issues outweighed the benefit of the slowed mind. I’m working on a better solution.

5. I’m where I need to be in life right now.

I have a bad habit of comparing myself to my previous selves. I’m not able to handle a job in my preferred career path right now. I don’t feel like I’m going somewhere. I was a determined kid who always thought ahead. When I had to take a break from journalism, I felt like I was somehow failing.

I’m not used to living without striving for something greater. I know this is common among my generation. A lot of us aren’t taught to work 9–5 and leave work at work. We’re always striving to move up or do better. There’s nothing wrong with this, but a lot of us have trouble with not working ourselves into the ground.

I’m meeting myself where I am instead of fighting for something more. I can handle my current responsibilities, and my mental health is improving. This doesn’t mean I’ll never push myself to do more. It simply means I’m listening to my mind and body.

If we’re constantly striving for the next thing, we’re never going to enjoy what we have.

The Dissociative Experience: What Is It?

I stood in a corner halfway up a parking garage. I was lost despite using the garage for the last four years. I didn’t know where I had parked my car an hour prior. I aimlessly walked around, unsure if I was going up or down levels. My head hovered above my body, and though I felt like I was going to cry like a child lost in a store, I couldn’t physically cry.

I walked to the middle of the garage and peered over a ledge to see the ground floor a few levels down. I wasn’t extremely high up, but I still felt that dizzying sensation like I was looking down from the top of a skyscraper.

One thought entered my head: I could jump from this ledge to the bottom, and all of this would be over.


I’m not sure how much time passed between that thought and when my mind came back to me long enough to call a friend for help. While that suicidal thought is alarming, it was one of many during my senior year of college.

We drove up and down the garage as I pressed the lock button on my key until it led us to my car. I played the ordeal off as me being spacey with Haha! Of course, would forget where I parked my car.

I didn’t want to go into the details of what happened for fear I’d dissociate again. I had dissociated to that magnitude before, so I knew what it was.

Earlier that day, I had driven to campus to meet with a counselor at my university’s disability center. It was my second meeting after I had applied for disability accommodations for the rest of the year.

I hadn’t received a diagnosis of bipolar yet, but I had severe depression. I needed assistance with my school workload and flexible attendance. My counselor told me I didn’t “prove” my struggles enough to qualify for accommodations, which sent me into the dissociated state.

Eventually, my accommodations were approved after I shared more detailed and vulnerable information with the disability center. But issues with having to prove invisible disabilities is another post on its own.


Dissociation is feeling disconnected from your thoughts, memory, and sense of identity, according to the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI). Dissociation is an involuntary escape from reality and can be a response to trauma or other overwhelming situations.

Some dissociation is common such as daydreaming or forgetting the last few miles of your drive home (highway hypnosis). Dissociation can be a symptom of a wide array of mental illnesses, but there are three dissociate disorders where it is the hallmark characteristic:

Dissociative identity disorder (DID)

This was formerly known as multiple personality disorder. People with DID have two or more distinct “personalities” or identities. Each identity behaves and thinks differently.

Depersonalization/derealization disorder

Depersonalization is feeling as though you are watching yourself or having an out-of-body experience. Derealization is feeling as if the world around you isn’t real. You’re detached from your environment. During depersonalization and derealization, you are aware that what you’re experiencing isn’t normal.

Though I do not have this disorder, the feeling of my head floating above my body in the parking garage is an example of depersonalization.

Dissociative amnesia

Dissociative amnesia is the inability to recall an event(s) that was stressful or traumatic. This can range from not remembering a specific event or time period to not remembering who you are or your life.

Think of a person who has been in a car accident, but, despite not having head trauma, doesn’t remember the accident.

All information about these three disorders was collected from the American Psychiatric Association.


You don’t have to have a dissociative disorder to experience dissociation. It can happen to people with and without a mental illness.

People with bipolar disorder like me have an increased risk of experiencing dissociation. In a 2018 study, researchers noted that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience dissociative symptoms during a depressive episode than those with unipolar depression.

I’ve dissociated when I’ve felt extremely overwhelmed, helpless or hopeless. I felt all three when I was denied disability services. Dissociation is usually associated with trauma. My trauma was related to being severely depressed for months with no substantial help, despite reaching out for it. Mental illness can be a trauma itself.

Other disorders that commonly have dissociative symptoms are borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. This isn’t surprising considering both of these conditions are related to experiencing trauma. Dissociation is also a common side effect of drug or alcohol use.

It can also happen in depression and anxiety. A common complaint from people with depression is that they feel “numb.” Emotional numbness can mean dissociation, though we may not think of it that way.

 

Feeling numb for me is a sense of being detached or behind an invisible curtain separating me from the rest of the world. I’ve also described this as feeling “far away.” This only happens during depressive episodes.

Most people have experienced dissociation, and some dissociation isn’t bad. Daydreaming is a perfectly fine way to pass the time when you’re bored. Like many aspects of the brain and life, it’s only considered a problem if it’s distressing or impairing functioning.

Reading Children’s Books Brought Back My Passion for Reading

I’ve been a reader since the day I read my first book Green Eggs and Ham. There was no stopping me with my LeapFrog and Scooby-Doo mysteries. Then it was the Junie B. Jones series and so on.

By high school, I was reading a mix of young adult and adult fiction. I read books on top of my school-assigned reading list. I spent way too much money in Borders (RIP) and Barnes and Noble. I fangirled over Jodi Picoult when I traveled to Chicago from Kansas City to hear her read an excerpt from her latest novel Lone Wolf.

My reading time dwindled in college as I juggled my course load, but I made up for it over school breaks. When I became depressed during my junior year, reading anything seemed insurmountable.

I can count the number of books I’ve read in three years with my hands. Some of those were for school or work. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve picked up books only to drop them halfway through.

It wasn’t until now that I’ve broken this pattern. A part of my income is working as a nanny and tutor for two fourth graders. Earlier in the school year, they began reading Because of Winn-Dixie. I remembered reading it at their age and falling in love with that scruffy dog.

As the kids have started reading books of their choice for a project, I decided I’d read the books as well, so they could discuss the storyline with me.

I laughed as a read Ben Franklin’s in My Bathroom. I finished it in a day, and while it was an easy read, I felt just as accomplished for finally finishing a book. A silly book about a time machine bringing Ben Franklin to present-day ignited a passion I hadn’t felt in ages.

Then, it was time to read the other fourth grader’s book, Annie’s Life in Lists. I became intrigued as to the real reason Annie’s family moved from Brooklyn to a tiny town. I related to both awkward 10-year-old Annie and to her parents, worrying about money and life.

The other night I perused my neglected books in my apartment. As much as I had stopped reading, I still bought books. Old habits die hard.

I settled on the adult fiction book Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown. Months earlier I had read the first few chapters but lost the motivation to keep going. Now I’m passed where I had stopped, and I have no intention of putting this one down. I don’t understand how I could’ve stopped reading such a compelling mystery of the disappearance of Olive’s mom.

Reading is a skill I neglected for so long. I needed to start small to get back to my previous momentum.Also, children’s books are pretty good, so I can’t wait to read my next one.

5 Signs You’re Resilient Even When You Feel Weak

Resilience isn’t something I typically associate with having a mental illness. Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from stressors. It’s how well you handle difficult situations with your thoughts and behaviors, according to the American Psychological Association.

While some people may have a natural high resilience, many of us have to work at it. There’s no shame in that.

I certainly didn’t feel resilient when my mental health took a deep dive into depression. A year and a half was spent just surviving. I felt weak and hopeless. I certainly wasn’t “bouncing back” from anything.

It’s taken three years for me to call myself resilient. The funny thing is, I was resilient in my deepest depression.

If you’re struggling with your mental health or are feeling vulnerable against what’s happening in your life, here are 5 signs you’re still resilient.

1. You’re surviving.

When your mental and emotional pain is unbearable but you choose to keep living, you’re resilient as hell. It’s easy to feel like you’re weak when you seem like you’re only hanging on by a thread. But the opposite is true. You are strong. Living despite your mind telling you to die is arguably the strongest thing someone can do.

This isn’t to say those who attempt suicide or die by suicide are weak. I attempted suicide in 2016, and I occasionally still deal with suicidal thoughts. My past experience has made me more resilient in the face of those thoughts.

Surviving can be exhausting, and sometimes we reach our breaking point. If we can hold on for just a little longer, we may surprise ourselves with what we can handle.

Breathing is resilience.

2. You’re looking for ways to feel better.

Searching for ways to handle your depression or other mental health issue shows an effort to move forward.

This could mean medication, therapy, meditation, exercise — anything you’re using to manage your mental health or illness. They don’t have to be traditional ways of coping or recovering. It’s about the motivation to keep going.

Bonus resilient points for looking for ways when you’d really rather curl up in a ball.

3. You’re reaching out for support.

This may include therapy but could also include confiding in a friend or family member.

You don’t have to handle depression on your own, even when you feel isolated. If you have someone in your life who is supportive, try to let them in. If you don’t have anyone you feel close enough to, you could look into a support group.

Resilience may be individualized, but that doesn’t mean it’s cultivated without others.

4. You’re accepting where you’re at in life.

If there’s one thing I have fought, it’s accepting how I’m feeling instead of desperately and impulsively trying to change it.

This is different from looking for ways to feel better. When I refuse to accept my current situation or mood, I’m prone to turning to unhealthy and impulsive coping skills. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to accept changes in my mood and use healthier coping skills instead of running away from myself.

Change is going to happen, and if we can accept that and work through it instead of against it, we’re practicing resilience.

5. You’re handling hardships better than you have in the past.

This is the primary reason I believe I’m resilient now. I don’t turn to unhealthy coping skills as much as I used to. I utilize therapy, meds, support group, and the people in my life to work through the rough patches. This isn’t a fool-proof system, of course. But I’ve come a long way in the last three years.

I’ve realized that my lows aren’t more shallow than they’ve been in the past. I’m the one who has changed. While there are moments I want to abandon all I’ve worked for because it’s so damn hard sometimes, I don’t.

Think about what you’ve experienced or felt in the past. You made it passed that, albeit probably with some scrapes and bruises. With time and practice, you might realize you’re doing better than you think. One thing that seemed insurmountable before, isn’t anymore.


I used to believe I wasn’t resilient because I still experienced depression. I thought a mood episode meant I lost what little strength I had. I was wrong. My mental illness doesn’t negate my resiliency. If anything bipolar disorder has made me more resilient.

While I may not have had much resilience innately, I’ve cultivated it. And I’m damn proud of that.

5 ‘Affirmations’ I Use as Someone With Bipolar Disorder

I’m too much of a pessimistic realist to believe affirmations like “I am happy.” OK. I can tell myself that all day long, but it’s not going to change the fact I’m really effin’ depressed.

My affirmations are less about the end goal and more about the process. They are somewhat of a fancy way of identifying where I need to incorporate coping skills and better emotion regulation.

These are “baby” affirmations. Right now, they’re what I’m working on, but down the road, they’ll likely change.

I like to learn to be content. (1)

When I mentioned this one in therapy, it was “I’d like to learn how to be happy.” My therapist helped me change it to “content.” Happy is an emotion, and emotions are not forever. I may experience more depression than others, but no one can hold on to happiness. If you spend your time striving for “happy,” you’ll be let down.

Contentment is much more attainable. One of the things I’m learning to do is not judge or overthink my emotions. It’s more “neutral” than happy, though it’s in the same wheelhouse as happiness. I don’t feel the need to hold onto or worry about losing contentment as much as happiness.

Of course, life happens, and we can’t always feel content. But, by using coping skills and self-care, I’m able to learn how to feel more content when stressors come up.

My therapist called it “finding contentment in the face of resentment.”There are things I’d like to change in my life, but those changes are not possible at the moment. The trick is to find ways to feel content in the present despite the factors in life you’d like to change.

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I used to write as a full-time job. I loved it, but depression likes to take away the things I love the most. This affirmation is quite vague. That’s on purpose. I didn’t set a specific goal of how much I need to write in a given week. My only goal is to “write more.” I’m not looking for my affirmations to add extra pressure to my life.

What this affirmation does, however, is remind me of what I want and know I can do. I’d like to write more again, and I am doing that. It’s not as much as I’d like, but I’m getting there.

This affirmation also fights self-deprecating thoughts that tell me I’m no good. I’m trying to find confidence in writing again, and this one helps with that.

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This one is a bit cliche. Who doesn’t have parts of their past they’d rather forget?

Mental illness itself can be traumatic. My experience with undertreated bipolar disorder wrecked many aspects of my life. Whenever I feel down, I spiral into believing I’ll be back where I started three years ago. That severe depression and mixed state terrify me.

When I experience a depressive episode now, it’s easy to think I haven’t grown or become more resilient. But I have. My past is not who I am now.

I can learn to process my past and identify how I’ve grown without feeling sucked into it.

I like to learn to be content. 4.jpg

Depression makes me a pessimist. My entire thought process and state of mind changes. I believe that nothing will ever get better. I believe nothing (meds, therapy, other skills) is helping. It’s like I become engulfed in bipolar disorder and forget I can do things to gain back control. All coping goes out of the window, and I shut out all means of help. I become hopeless.

This affirmation helps cancel out some of my pessimism. I can learn how to manage my symptoms to minimize the risk of a severe episode. I can’t control everything that happens with my mood, but I can arm myself with tools to help. Learning how to manage my symptoms is best done when I’m feeling “stable.”

I like to learn to be content. 5.jpg

This one goes with writing more again. I am definitely passionate about writing but also learning and helping others. This is why I fell in love with journalism. It allows you to learn something new through every story, interview, and research article. I’ve always been a curious and determined person.

A part of depression is a loss of interest. When my mental illness became severe, I was stripped of the very characteristics and passions I prided myself on.

I remember what it felt like to be passionate and excited about life and my work. I haven’t been able to get back there in a while. With this affirmation, I’m not focusing on feeling passionate, but rather doing things I know I (used to) enjoy.

I’m still that person who wanted to double major in journalism and psychology— which I did—and minor in history and economics—which I thankfully didn’t do.

 


My plan is to print these affirmations off on Cardstock. On the back, I’ll write ways I’m implementing that affirmation in my life. For instance, I’d write that I’ve started attending a support group on the back of my “managing symptoms” better affirmation.

My Wackiest Mental Health Coping Skills

We all do things to destress. Some of them are common — like getting more sleep or taking a bath. Others are unique to each of us.

I use coping skills to manage my bipolar disorder, specifically my depressive episodes. I try to find things that comfort or distract me in the harder moments. Coping skills are also good for preventing an episode from getting worse.

Truthfully, coping can be annoying. When you struggle with mental illness, it can feel like you’re just coping through life because you have no other choice. I experience this, but I also know that eventually, I won’t need something to help me “cope” from moment to moment.

These three coping skills are activities I also enjoy when I’m not in need of a way to cope. If we look at things we enjoy, they can become coping mechanisms for when we struggle.

Here are three ways I cope that might seem weird to others:

I sleep on an air mattress.

I don’t know why people knock air mattresses. Have you ever slept on a really good air mattress? Heck. I even love the cheap ones that gently swallow you throughout the night as air lets out.

I don’t sleep on one often, but I do have one just in case. College friends recently visited, and I stopped one of them from deflating it before they left. I used it for about a week before I realized my back needed the relief of a real bed.

There’s something about blowing up an air mattress in my living room to watch movies that brings me back to childhood. It’s comforting and it’s comfortable — for a while.

I also find changing my environment, even if it’s just sleeping in my living room instead of my bedroom, helps with late-night restlessness. I often wake up in the middle of the night and move to my couch. If I don’t, I’ll spend hours tossing and turning in my bed.

Sometimes coping mechanisms are finding comfort and joy in small things — like sleeping on an air mattress instead of your perfectly good bed.

I take a cold shower.

I can’t take credit for this one because I learned about it in therapy. I use this one multiple times a week. It helps with everything from stress to anxiety and near-crisis moments.

Changing your body’s temperature sort of “resets” your body and mind. If I find that my head is spinning with negative thoughts, a cold shower brings me back to the present. If I can’t stop crying or calm down, the temperature helps my body do what my brain can’t.

I also live in Florida, so hot showers rarely sound appealing. What I usually do is put the shower on warm to bathe, and then turn it to cold. The initial shock is the same as if I were to jump into a pool. I focus on the sensation on my skin, and when I get out, I feel energized but calmer.

I look at real estate in other cities.

Anyone who knows me knows I. Do. Not. Like. Florida. I can’t really change where I live at the moment, but I can think about where I’d like to be.

Right now, I look at houses in Seattle. Buying a house in Seattle is a pipe dream because I’m a “millennial” (and apparently we don’t buy houses) and also because housing prices there are astronomical (which is why millennials don’t buy houses).

I grew up moving a lot, but I always enjoyed searching for a new house with my parents. Also, I watched a lot of HGTV with my mom growing up, so yes, I enjoy jumping on Zillow and looking at the craftsman houses in Seattle.

I’ve put in work to figure out what helps me with my mental illness. While some things may seem weird, they work for now. That’s all that matters.

The Wilting Flower

The wilting flower sits forgotten,

Unkempt.

The yellow petals droop in surrender,

edging closer to the undusted table.

The sun is no more.

The water has run dry.

It’s winter inside,

but summer is just beyond her window.

Warmth she will never know again.

The unkempt flower survived for so long,

weakened from the weeds in her carer’s mind.

She does not blame her carer,

for she knows how hard it is to survive,

when it’s winter inside.

Netflix Is Finally Removing That ’13 Reasons Why’ Scene

Two years after its premiere, Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” no longer shows Hannah’s graphic suicide scene, the streaming platform announced Monday.

Netflix said in its statement that the decision came after talking with medical experts who advised against showing the scene.

 

It is dangerous to show suicide methods in media, according to suicide reporting guidelines. Showing a method can elicit copycat suicides.

“Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death,” reportingonsuicide.org states.

I watched “13 Reasons Why” when it premiered in March 2017. At the time, I was severely depressed and not quite a year post-suicide attempt.

Most episodes weren’t “triggering” for me, meaning it didn’t add to my suicidal thoughts or down mood.

When I made it to the last episode, I had no idea the graphic scene of Hannah dying by suicide was included. I knew she would die by suicide, but that did not prepare me for the unnecessary graphic details included in the scene.

Many people have said that the graphic scene shows the reality of suicide and could make people think twice about attempting suicide. Maybe this is true for some, but let me explain what that scene meant for someone like me.

It was senior year spring break in college when I decided to binge watch the show. Everyone else was either home or on community service trips. I was severely depressed, so I stayed in my campus apartment alone.

I was already struggling with suicidal thoughts. When the scene came on, I couldn’t look away. I was enthralled. Had my brain not been so sick, I probably would have used better judgement and turned it off, knowing the impact the scene could have on my wellbeing.

But my brain was sick — and a part of me wanted to watch it. I feel gross saying this, but when you’re suicidal, the thoughts feed on themselves. All you want to do is die, so why wouldn’t your mind want to watch someone take their life?

This is why scenes like this are dangerous. A suicidal brain, at least mine, wanted more ammunition, more ways to die. Rumination can be a big part of suicidal thoughts. You think over and over again of how you could die and why you should die. Scenes play out in your mind.

That scene became another way I could kill myself. I was more suicidal because of “13 Reasons Why.”

I never wanted to be suicidal. I didn’t want to make it worse, but I didn’t have the capacity to take care of myself at the time. So, when people say, “You should just turn the TV off, or don’t watch it,” they don’t understand that some of us are fighting a battle between doing what’s right and what our suicidal minds compel us to do.

Now, a whole two years after watching the show, I still play that scene in my head when I have suicidal thoughts. I don’t want my brain to play the scene on a loop, but once something is in your head it’s hard to ignore. My thoughts are distressing, and I certainly don’t need a TV show adding to that.

I wish I could go back and take that piece of ammunition away from my mind, but I can’t. It’ll always be a part of my suicidal brain’s arsenal.

Some say the scene’s removal is too little too late. I agree that it’s too late for many, but it’s better than never. Other people in my situation won’t see it, and that could mean the difference between one person’s suicide and one person’s continued fight to live.

If you need support, you can reach the suicide prevention lifeline at 1–800–273–8255.

What an Emotional Support Animal Actually Is

Emotional support animals (ESA) are constantly in the news. Does anyone remember the woman who tried to bring an emotional support peacock on a flight?

Pet owners are always trying to pass off their pets as ESAs to bypass laws and requirements. They make a mockery of the true need for ESAs. My ESA has saved my life countless times. And I’m not exaggerating.

Before I rescued Phoebe, my friends joked that I knew more dogs on our college campus than people (true). On my worst days, the only thing that made me smile was seeing a dog. I realized an ESA might be what I needed. A dog wasn’t going to cure my depression, but it would undoubtedly bring relief.

I rescued Phoebe nearly two and a half years ago while a senior in college. She was a neglected boxer mix who was missing small patches of fur from malnourishment and untreated allergies.

She was a dog who needed a lot of love and care, and I needed a purpose in life. I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder around the time I adopted Phoebe. My emotions, thoughts, and life were too much to handle. I isolated myself in my bed. I missed classes, parties and everything else a 21-year-old is supposed to do.

Phoebe forced me to get out of bed because she needed to go outside. She forced me to eat because I had to go to the kitchen to get her food. She forced me to drive to the dog park because she needed a place to run. She added structure and routine.

On the days my anxiety was high or I couldn’t stop sobbing, she’d jump in my lap and put all her weight on my chest. This is a task some service animals are taught to help their owners who need help calming down or dealing with sensory overload. Note: ESAs are not service animals. Phoebe wasn’t trained to have this response. She does it instinctively.

When I had suicidal thoughts, she kept me here because she needed me. I still struggle with my mental illness, and Phoebe is by my side through it all. She makes me laugh when happiness seems impossible. She quite literally pushes me off the couch when she needs to go potty.Phoebe is my dog, but she’s also a lifeline. I used to roll my eyes at the bumper stickers that asked: “Who rescued who?” But it’s true. I rescued her and she rescued me.

I didn’t get Phoebe to have her in a no-pets apartment. Believe me, my landlords were horrible people who tried to get rid of her, and I had to fight like hell. I wouldn’t have tried so hard if I just wanted a pet, especially when I was moving out in a few months.

I didn’t pass her off as an ESA when I signed my new lease because I didn’t want to pay a pet deposit. I haven’t told an airline she’s an ESA so I can keep her in the cabin. She isn’t a loophole in the system.

She’s an ESA because she helps me function in day-to-day life.

What to Say Instead of ‘It Gets Better’

It’s often hard to know how to support someone who’s struggling with their mental health. You may worry you’ll say the wrong thing or be unable to help.

I’ve been on both sides of the conversation — the one needing support and the one giving it. I’m more sympathetic because of my experience with mental health issues, but I don’t always know how to help.

When I’ve needed support, it helped to have people by my side who were there to listen to me. There wasn’t much they could do aside from showing me they care and being there when I needed a distraction.

Support doesn’t have to be incredible insight or advice. It can simply mean being there. It may be hard to know how to be there, though.

A lot of people have heard the phrase, “It gets better.” It seems like a hopeful sentiment, but many in the mental health community, myself included, do not care for this phrase.

“It gets better” shrugs off the current pain and issues. While the phrase may be true, you’re not addressing the person’s concerns and troubles at the moment. Telling someone their issues may lessen in an arbitrary time frame means nothing.

For me, it was frustrating to hear this phrase because I had tried to feel better for years. I felt ignored when someone would tell me “it gets better” or to “wait it out.” That doesn’t validate the very real pain I experienced. It’s like telling someone to shut up because you don’t want to hear about their problems.

People don’t use the phrase to be invalidating. They don’t realize there are much better ways to support someone.

Here are some tips for helping a friend struggling with their mental health:

Validate their concerns and emotions. Let them tell you what’s going on. You don’t need to offer solutions or advice. Get on their level and let them know you understand. Sometimes people just need someone to listen. Here are some alternative phrases to “It Gets Better” that are actually validating:

“I understand you’re feeling _____. You have every right to feel that way.”

“That’s really hard to go through, so it makes sense that you would be struggling.”

“You don’t have to be OK all the time. It’s also OK to feel hurt or upset.”

What you say depends on the situation, of course. Validation may seem disingenuous when you actively use it but in my experience, I’m never trying to say the “right” thing. I’ve become more sympathetic, and I listen intently. I want to validate someone’s feelings because I care and believe them.

Let them know you’re there for them. Now and in the future. It takes a lot to open up to others. If you let someone know you’ll be there for them, you become a “safe” person. A safe person is someone whom they can trust or lean on when needed.

While it’s nice to provide support for others, make sure it’s not at the expense of your wellbeing. Your mental health is important, too. It’s one thing to put someone’s needs before yours in a moment of crisis or hardship. It’s another to constantly put another person’s needs before yours.

Ask them if you can do anything to help. They may not need anything from you (aside from being there). Asking is another way to show you care.

Check up on them. It’s a good idea to reach out to your friend, even if they haven’t reached out to you. Ask them how they’re doing, honestly. You don’t need to hound them, but people can pull away when they need support the most. Sometimes you may need to take the initiative.

Offer to help them find resources or help if needed. You can offer to look into resources if they decide to get professional help. Sometimes people aren’t ready to reach out, but if there’s a concern, you could ask them if they’d be willing to try. Don’t force treatment but make sure they know it’s an option.

Ask them if they’re thinking about suicide. This may seem extreme, but if you’re worried, it’s better to ask than to ignore your concerns. It shows you care, and you can help them find the resources they need.

At the end of the day, showing you care is more important than the words you choose. Don’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from helping someone.

What They Don’t Tell You About Surviving a Suicide Attempt

Content Warning: If you need support, you can reach out to the lifeline at 1–800–273–8255.

A few months prior to my attempt, my therapist told me that people who attempt suicide typically have tunnel vision. Suicide seems like the only viable option at the moment.

She said that most people who attempt suicide regret their decision. This is true. There are a number of suicide attempt survivors who have shared their regret, most notedly Kevin Hines, who survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Hines has said he felt instant regret as soon as he left the bridge.

What no one actually tells you about surviving a suicide attempt is that you can experience regret at not dying.

It’s irresponsible to push a narrative about surviving suicide without addressing the fact that many who do attempt still struggle. They may even attempt again. Forty percent of those who do die by suicide had a previous attempt.

While there were (and are) days I’m appreciative to still be here, there are days I regret being alive. Many times we hear survivor stories about gratitude. They share how they’ve since gotten better and no longer find themselves in that dark place.

This may be true for some, but it isn’t true for me or many others who attempt suicide. A previous suicide attempt is the “single most important risk factor for suicide,” according to the World Health Organization.

My attempt was three years ago today. May 16, 2016, was supposed to be the first day of summer break. Instead, I was finally giving into my thoughts and overwhelming emotions I couldn’t fight anymore.

The last five months of my junior year in college were hell as I juggled school and crippling depression. I thought things would get better as soon as I finished the semester. It was the reason I held out all semester, holding onto the last sliver of hope that I could get better.

When I didn’t feel better, I became completely hopeless. My friend/neighbor came over that day and found me distraught on the bathroom floor. (I will not detail the method I used because it’s proven to be dangerous to people at risk for suicide.)

Days after the initial numbness and shock of my attempt, I had moments where I realized the magnitude of the situation. I found myself grateful for dogs and mundane parts of life. This appreciation for life has come and gone over the last three years. I’ve cried thinking of how grateful I am.

But that’s half of the story, and the other half is just as important.

I’m not always appreciative. I think about all the pain I could have avoided had I died. My disorder is cyclical, so depressive episodes will be a part of my life forever. I still have suicidal thoughts, though not presently and not nearly as intense as they used to be.

This anniversary is both a blessing and a curse. I am stronger now than I was then, partly because of my experience. I can see how far I’ve come. It is a reminder, though, of emotions and worries I’d rather forget most days.

Thoughts of regret are just another version of suicidal thoughts, which I’ve learned to handle over the years. They come and go, which is why I know I can beat it. While one day may be tough, the next day might be better. The better days are worth it, and they will come. I hope you stick around to experience them.

Don’t Tell Me To Come Off My Psych Meds

Nothing puts people on a high horse quite like telling others what to do with their body (with the exception of telling people how to raise their children).

People love to talk about diets and weight loss. They like to give “advice” on what you should do. Lately, I’ve noticed the (maybe) well-intentioned yet unsolicited advice is more about psychiatric medications. Instead of telling others how to drop a few pounds, it’s how to drop their medications.

It’s insensitive to talk about someone’s weight, and many of us know this. It’s just as insensitive to talk about someone’s psychiatric medication usage.

I’ve found that there are three types of people who like to tell others to get off their meds. In their own ways, all of them are uninformed — partly because my body is none of their business.

The Testimonials

The testimonials are people who used to take psychiatric medications. They generalize their experiences to an individual. They tell you every med they used to take and how they’re “so much better” without them.

It’s true that some people can come off their medications and never need them again. It’s true that medications can make things worse for some people. But our brain chemistries might as well be fingerprints — they’re different for everyone.

There are also a lot of compounding factors when it comes to who can come off meds and be OK and who can’t. Antidepressants may be prescribed for situational depression, meaning there’s a particularly trying time in your life and your doctor thinks medication may help you come out of it more effectively.

Then there are patients who are prescribed multiple meds who end up feeling tranquilized or “out of it.” They taper off the medications and understandably feel better. Polypharmacy is a huge issue in psychiatry, but that is a post on its own.

If someone is able to stop taking psychiatric medication, that’s great. I’m a big proponent for doing what is right for you. This doesn’t mean I can come off my medications, so please stop with the patronizing.

The All-Naturals

The all-naturals may include some testimonials. These are the people who believe if you take this supplement or do that diet, you won’t need the medications anymore.

It’s true that your lifestyle can have an impact on your mental health. Multiple research studies have shown regular exercise has mental health benefits. I’m not minimizing the importance of taking care of your mind and body.

Assuming people who take medications haven’t tried nonpharmacological therapies is the problem. Most people who take psychiatric medication do so in conjunction with other treatment approaches like therapy or lifestyle changes. Our brains might need that extra push medication gives us.

Giving unsolicited advice might also hit an emotionally sensitive topic. Very few people who take psychiatric medications find the right medication the first attempt. Medications may also be the last resort for someone who has tried everything else (therapy, lifestyle changes, etc.) but still needs help.

If you must give your two cents, maybe suggest something you found helpful without making it seem like the Holy Grail. For example:

“I tried ____, and it seemed to help with my energy. I know you said your energy levels are a little low, so I thought I’d let you know in case you wanted to look into it.”

If the person doesn’t seem interested, back off. There’s a difference between being compassionate and demanding we try something to “help.”

The Conspiracists

Conspiracists like to talk crap on Big Pharma. I mean, I do too. It’s no secret Big Pharma cares more about making money than helping people. That’s why we have people pinching pennies to pay for their medications, even with insurance.

Conspiracists like to tell others that psychiatric medications were made up for people to buy pills they don’t need. They tell people that doctors are in bed with the pharma companies, so they’re more likely to push medications, even if you don’t need them.

Yes, psychiatric meds are some of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. I’d even say some medications are overprescribed, but this doesn’t mean psychiatric medications aren’t beneficial for many.

Recent research shows that antidepressants do work, and researchers hoped the results would quell some of the wariness about the medications. The researchers did point out that we still don’t know exactly why antidepressants are effective, and there’s a great need for more research into this and other treatment options.

You can criticize the health care system, the lack of research funding and Big Pharma. Don’t criticize those of us trying to feel better.

My medications, along with therapy, have helped me rediscover myself after my diagnosis of bipolar 2. They don’t change who I am. If anything, the depression stole me from me, and the medications helped get me back.

Goodbye Queen Smurf

I made the biggest adult purchase of my life so far. I bought a new (used) car Saturday after driving my 2010 Nissan Sentra “Queen Smurf” for the last seven years. I loved that car but it was time to “Kon Mari” it and say goodbye.

Queen Smurf was with me through the last half of high school, all of college and the first couple of years after. Queen Smurf rarely had maintenance issues (or at least none that I could hear if I turned the music up loud enough).

It got me from Missouri to Florida. It survived a rear-end accident when a woman behind me wasn’t paying attention. It bravely stood by through all the bumps and scrapes, especially the time I misgauged the garage opening and broke my mirror. You could barely tell the replacement mirror had a black encasing instead of a dark blue.

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 11.02.54 AM

My friend, Max, scraping snow and ice off Queen Smurf.

It was there to take me on late night drives when I was depressed and couldn’t sleep. It heard more of my crying than any living being, and it suffered through my incredibly bad singing.

When I first got Queen Smurf, I decided I would drive it into the ground before I purchased a new vehicle. I came close to doing just that. I was young and not educated on the value of a trade-in, though I still managed to get a solid trade-in value. I thank Queen Smurf for being the best first car I could have asked for, but it’s time to move on.

I traded up for a 2016 Fiat 500X. I’m still learning about its gadgets and how to use a rearview camera. It doesn’t rattle or make weird noises like Queen Smurf. All of its hubcaps are still attached, and it has Bluetooth.

I look forward to seeing where my new car takes me (literally). I do not, however, look forward to the car payments.

 

Tired Friday and Are the Pretzels Worth It?

I woke up at 5 a.m. today. I wish I could say it was because I’m that person who wakes up early to do things morning people do. Instead, I woke up in a dazed panic because my phone (read: alarm clock) wasn’t on my bedside table.

I starfished on my bed in hopes of hitting it with one of my extremities. Eventually, I had to turn on my lamp to find it underneath my dog, who looked at me with red, tired eyes and on the verge of growling for waking her up.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had some interesting sleep issues. I used to sleepwalk. I even drew a bath and got in fully asleep in the second grade. When I’m not walking, I’m talking in my sleep. Hell, I once called someone on Snapchat, and I didn’t even know you could call people on Snapchat.

So when I couldn’t find my phone, there was no, “oh, I’m sure it’s close, and I’ll still hear my alarm.” It’s more like, “I hope it’s not in my betta fish’s tank.”

My frantic search woke me up enough that I knew I wasn’t going to fall back asleep right away. I got up, drank a smoothie and browsed social media.

By 6, I grabbed my pillow and went to lie on the couch to watch “Friends.” I managed to squeeze out another hour of sleep before my dog barked in my face, demanding to go outside.

It’s now almost 4 p.m., and all I can think about is curling back up on my couch. My apartment complex is celebrating National Pretzel Day with free pretzels in the clubhouse tonight, and I haven’t decided if a pretzel is worth being social.

It always takes more effort for me to go to gatherings like these. I hate the unknown. And it’s literally a room full of people I don’t know. I also like to know the “schedule” of things and how things are supposed to go beforehand. Will they be warm, soft pretzels? TBH, if they aren’t, that’s a bust and definitely not worth my time. How long do you have to socialize before you can leave? Will there be drinks? Pretzels without drinks sound like a nightmare. Should I bring a drink just in case?

Socializing is exhausting. I just want the damn pretzel.

In addition to longer blog posts, I’m now writing daily, shorter posts about life happenings and whatnot. A post a day is my goal, but, really, how much is there to blog about on days I only binge Netflix and fall asleep at 2 p.m.?

Why I Still Go to Therapy When I Feel Well

(My fitting coffee mug this morning before therapy.)

In addition to longer blog posts, I’m now writing daily, shorter posts about life happenings and whatnot. A post a day is my goal, but, really, how much is there to blog about on days I only binge Netflix and fall asleep at 2 p.m.?


Therapy isn’t only for people who are in crisis or at their lowest point. I sought therapy three years ago during a severe depressive episode, but I’ve learned there’s a benefit to sticking with it, even when everything seems OK.

I haven’t been in therapy consistently since I started going. I’ve changed therapists, I’ve moved, and I’ve taken breaks when I’ve felt “stable.”

I started attending therapy again in September 2018 when I realized I needed help getting through my latest depressive episode. I saw her until December when she had to unexpectedly move. Now, I see someone else in the same office, but I no longer consider myself in a depressive episode.

Instead of once a week, I go every other week on Thursdays. Sometimes it feels like I have nothing to talk about because I’m still learning how to use my time effectively in therapy.

Honestly, I’m not used to going when I feel well because I’ve been more depressed over the last three years than anything else. But I’m slowly learning that therapy when I’m well is just as important as therapy when I’m not.

When I’m depressed, there are things I can’t address in therapy because they’re either too hard to talk about or there is a more pressing matter in the moment.

Therapy while I feel well gives me the space to address issues like how bipolar disorder has affected my life over the last three years. “Well Therapy” gives me a chance to more objectively analyze my thoughts and behaviors that bubble up during depressive episodes.

Therapy right now essentially helps me gain the tools and perspective I need in order to survive the next depressive episode or stressful event.

This doesn’t mean I’ll have to stay in therapy for the rest of my life. Depending on how long I feel like myself or “stable,” I might stop before my next episode. I might need to start therapy again after taking a break from it. On the other hand, my next depressive or hypomanic episode could be around the corner, and I’ll need to continue going. I don’t know.

There isn’t a time limit on healing and bettering yourself. Therapy is for whatever you feel you need it for. You don’t have to hit rock bottom to go to therapy, and you don’t have to stop going the moment you feel better.

Growing Up With a ‘Gross’ Skin Condition

I was a sophomore in high school, working on the school’s yearbook after the last bell of the day rang. Though Yearbook and Newspaper were separate classes, we all mingled in the journalism room after school.

A junior newspaper girl with her friend sat at the computer next to mine. I heard her mention psoriasis after an ad for a medication popped up on her screen.

Her friend asked her what psoriasis is, and for a moment, I thought about telling them about it and that I have it. The moment was short-lived, though. The newspaper girl shuddered and said it was itchy skin and “so gross.” People who have it should, like, shower more, she said.

I continued to act like I was focused on my work. I was angry at their insensitivity and ignorance. But more than anything, I was embarrassed.

I shouldn’t have felt embarrassed. Psoriasis has nothing to do with bathing, and I’m not gross for having it. But it’s hard not to feel embarrassed when classmates act like psoriasis is leprosy.

I’ve had psoriasis my entire life. I was officially diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis when I was 6, but psoriasis came before arthritis. About 15 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by red, itchy and painful patches of skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Everyone sheds skin, though we can’t see it. In psoriasis, the “life cycle” of skin cells is sped up, causing them to build up (the patches of psoriasis).

Psoriasis is thought to be caused by an overactive immune system that attacks healthy skin cells. Your immune system fights off viruses and other infections to keep you healthy. In autoimmune diseases like psoriatic arthritis, the immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign invaders like a virus or bacterial infection.

Some of my earliest memories are of my mom slathering my scalp in an ointment. Or shampoo. Or another cream. Or all three. I’d wear shower caps to keep the goo on top of my head as I tried to ignore the intense itching on my scalp. I imagined my psoriasis was screaming in agony from being bothered by the goo.

One treatment came after another. And then another. Though I was 4 or 5, I don’t remember anything working. I’d force myself to keep from scratching. Sometimes I’d scratch in my sleep and wake up with blood under my nails, on my scalp and pillow.

Anytime I went to the hair salon, my mom explained to the stylist that I had psoriasis, so she may see flakes and red spots. The stylist would nod in familiarity. I found most of my hair stylists were aware of the condition or had previous clients with it. They understood more than most.

After I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at the age of 6, I began weekly injections of a medication designed to help both psoriasis and arthritis. I was one of the first kids to take the medication, so the doctors didn’t know what the short or long-term side effects would be. It had been approved for adults but use in children wasn’t established. My parents had to sign forms, stating they wouldn’t sue if I got sick or died.

After surgery on my wrist in high school (photo by Odi Opole)

At that point, my arthritis took center stage over psoriasis because it was progressing quickly. An autoimmune disease, like psoriatic arthritis, is dangerous if left unchecked. Though not fatal, damage to joints is irreversible and the pain gets worse. Mobility can diminish, and you’re more likely to develop a host of other chronic illnesses.

The medication improved my quality of life immensely. My pain diminished and my psoriasis mostly cleared.

Though I was doing better, the medication lowered my immune system response. I was more susceptible to sicknesses like the flu, strep, colds and everything else classrooms are a hotbed for. A common cold could keep me down for a couple of weeks instead of the typical four or five days.

Psoriatic arthritis is chronic, so I’ll have it for the rest of my life. I’ve had long periods of inactivity or “remission,” but I still have flares from time to time. Overall, my skin is relatively clear.

My medication has made it possible to pass as “healthy” to most people. This is why I sometimes hear ignorant statements from people like the newspaper girl in high school. What she and others don’t know is that I know what it’s like to have my body fight itself. Believe me, bathing is not the issue.

What Made Me Stick Around After My Suicide Attempt

My therapist in college told me most people who attempt suicide say they regretted it soon after. Most people realize the gravity of the situation and lose their “tunnel vision,” which makes them think suicide is the only answer.

Many of us have heard the inspirational stories of suicide attempt survivors who realized the preciousness of life after their attempt. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it wasn’t my experience.

I didn’t have an all-knowing, eye-opening revelation about life and its value after my suicide attempt. For me, the aftermath was much less divine.

I didn’t immediately find wisdom that you supposedly only discover at the brink of death. I’m not even sure what that “wisdom” would be.

No, my revelation was much smaller. I was lying in the hospital bed on the medical floor silently scrolling through Facebook while the nurse tech (AKA my suicide-risk babysitter) sat a few feet away on a computer.

I came across a photo of a pug on my feed. That’s when the gravity of the situation hit me.

Holy shit.

I would have never seen another dog again. I cried and quietly moved into the bathroom next to my bed where I could have a couple of minutes to myself, without my babysitter.

That was my “come to Jesus” moment. A dog picture on Facebook.

But I’m glad it was something rather minuscule in the grand scheme of life because what is life if not for the small things that bring us joy and comfort?

But I guess that’s the wisdom I received from that experience. Dogs are worth sticking around for.


18 Lessons About Bipolar I’ve Learned So Far

World Bipolar Day is March 30. I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder in March 2017 at the age of 21. It’s only been two years since my diagnosis, but my symptoms began in childhood and became overwhelming in college.

Bipolar 2 means I experience depression and hypomania. Hypomania — or “under” mania — means I don’t experience full-blown mania.

Hypomania for me includes insomnia for a few days, racing thoughts, jumping from one project to the next or spending hours fixated on one thing. I don’t sit still and everything irritates me, especially sound.

My impulse control diminishes. I’ll shop. A lot. As in maxed out two credits cards in a short time. Hypomania can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I get a lot done. I feel incredibly alive, which can be a relief when you spend a lot of time depressed. But it can also cause a lot of damage — on my wallet and in my life.

Most of my mood episodes are depression-related, though. It can be the lowest of the lows. Other times, it’s just lurking in the background of my mind, reminding me what it can do.

In honor of World Bipolar Day, which aims to raise awareness about the disorder, I’ve decided to share lessons, realizations and other tidbits I’ve gained along the way.

Disclaimer: No two people are the same. My experiences with bipolar will not be the same as another’s. These are my experiences and takeaways.

1. I feel emotions more intensely.

People with bipolar disorder feel emotions more intensely. Our lows feel lower and our highs feel higher. I can be overwhelmed with emotion.

Experiencing intense emotions has its upsides and downsides. While the negatives are unspeakably bad, I feel love, excitement, and happiness in their purest forms.

I know what it’s like to feel emotions that are almost tangible. On the flip side, I’ve learned how to mask my emotions (namely the negative ones). My emotional wall is made of concrete, steel, and poisonous thorns that is a bitch to break down.

2. Not every upbeat mood is (hypo)mania; not every bad mood is depression.

Everyone has a spectrum of emotions. No one feels content or happy all the time. I will have bad days but not every bad day is because of bipolar. Sometimes it means I need more sleep, or I’m a bit stressed with work.

Hypomania is a bit trickier to identify. Frankly, I don’t even worry about identifying hypomania unless it’s clearly going to be a problem. Who doesn’t want a few days of amazing productivity and euphoria?

Sometimes I’m just excited or motivated. I think happiness and motivation feel more intense for me because I spend so much time depressed and without either. This doesn’t necessarily make it hypomania.

3. My moods may be unreliable, but I’m not.

As a person, I make lists and fill out planners. I deliver on my work and am always trying to improve. I care immensely for my writing and work. I’d never let something intentionally slip.

As a person with bipolar disorder, I sometimes don’t care to get out of bed, let alone do something. I can’t rely on my memory because my brain is mush, and I can’t keep track of time.

When I’m hypomanic, I might get a lot done and then people expect that level of work from me all the time, which is an impossible level to keep myself at. Hypomania might also cause me to hyper-fixate on a research paper I’m reading. Hours will go by and it’ll feel like five minutes. There’s also the other side when I can’t focus on one thing, but everything is exciting and I spew multiple ideas that I can’t possibly follow through with all at once.



4. I don’t have to believe every thought I have.

It took a while for me to understand that our thoughts are not us. Sounds impossible, right? What we think, believe, say and do are the basis of who we are.

The thing is, the brain is really effing weird. Most of us experience intrusive thoughts — those thoughts that have you thinking, “Why did I just think that? That’s so weird/messed up/etc.”

Thoughts can also be irrational. Do I really believe if I don’t tap four times on the outside of the plane door before I board that we’ll all plummet to our deaths? No. Am I going to skip tapping on the door on my next flight? Also no.

I’m not a horrible person. I’m not worthless. Not everyone hates me or thinks I’m annoying. These are things my depression tell me.

I’m not being monitored (more than any other American). People can’t read my thoughts. These are thoughts my hypomania tell me.

5. Misdiagnosis is incredibly common.

I was first diagnosed with major depression. Misdiagnosis can happen to anyone, but it’s especially common for people with bipolar to first be diagnosed with depression. In my case, the hypomania wasn’t nearly as noticeable as the depression at first. It first seemed like good motivation and random happiness. It wasn’t until the other more troubling symptoms appeared that I was diagnosed.

6. Meds can make things worse.

The first medication I took did not help whatsoever. In fact, it was the worse thing for me. My doctor kept me on this antidepressant for a year, despite me telling her I felt worse and thought I needed to try something else. Her response each time was, “It’ll get better,” and “Give it time.”

I can’t say if the medication led to my suicide attempt, but I believe it was a factor. Antidepressants can ironically increase suicidal thoughts in people, especially young people.

Each time I told my doctor I didn’t feel any better, she’d increase my dosage. Eventually, the increase led to a hypomanic episode and my diagnosis changed from major depression to bipolar 2. I had experienced hypomania before but didn’t have a name for it. It only became extreme when the medication was increased.

7. Meds can make things so much better.

Though my first exposure to psychiatric medications was not a pleasant one, I have finally found a couple of meds that keep my highs a little less high and my lows a little less low.

I’ve gone through an antidepressant, a mood stabilizer, an antipsychotic, and a few meds for sleep and anxiety.

Sure, I’ve had to tweak my doses because of my latest depressive episode and physical side effects, but I currently feel like my medications are truly helping. I’m taking an antidepressant and mood stabilizer now. I also have an as-needed sleep medication.

When I finally got my meds figured out, everything got brighter. Literally. I could see vibrancy in life again. I was happy and content. My thoughts were not dark or suicidal. I felt like myself again after a year and a half.

8. I have to advocate for myself, especially with doctors.

Like mentioned in number 6, I had a doctor who did not listen to me. She made things worse, and I felt completely ignored. I lost more of myself each day while she just scheduled me for monthly appointments.

Through that experience, I’ve learned to take a stand. Doctors are authority figures, but it’s my body. I ask questions. I say no if I don’t agree with a medication change. If I feel like I’m not being heard, I let my doctor know. If I have to, I find a new doctor. They see me for 15 minutes. I live with myself 24/7.

9. Moving between episodes is extremely exhausting.

Depression is exhausting. Coming down from hypomania is exhausting. Honestly, exhaustion and fatigue are kind of my thing.

Brain fog is both hilarious and awful. I mean, when you circle gas pumps for a solid five minutes because you can’t figure out how to get your car to face the right way to pump gas, you have to laugh.

When you forget your phone number or PIN you have to make light of it in front of the cashier. I had to have my friend buy my groceries once because I couldn’t remember my PIN.

Fatigue is a part of depression, but when you shift between having all the energy in the world to no energy at all, there’s a whole other level to exhaustion.

10. Bipolar is more than highs and lows.

Depression and mania are the hallmarks of bipolar disorder, but there are hypomania and mixed episodes, too. Each mood state comes with its symptoms.

One of the symptoms people don’t usually connect to bipolar is paranoia. I’ve had paranoid thoughts, but I wouldn’t say it’s led to delusions. Bipolar disorder can also include psychotic symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. These symptoms are typically associated with bipolar type 1 because they’re more common in full-blown mania than hypomania.

11. Mixed episodes are a special kind of hell.

Mixed episodes are what they sound like: you’re given a mix of depressive symptoms with hypomanic or manic symptoms. It’s like the Vodka Redbull of mental illness. You get both the downer and the upper.

You experience the various symptoms all at once or in very rapid succession. It’s hard to explain what a mixed state feels like. For me, it feels like my skin is crawling. All I want to do is scream. It’s a lot of energy and no energy.

One night I texted my friend multiple times telling her I was coming to visit her in Kansas City. KC was two and a half hours from Columbia, Missouri, where I went to school.

It was already after 8, but I asked if I could visit. She said yes, and I became ecstatic and began packing for the weekend. Two minutes later I laid on my bed, feeling as if someone punched me in the stomach. I was too depressed to move. I texted her that I wasn’t coming after all. Two minutes later I was packing again and asking my roommate if he’d watch my dog. This went on for hours. I couldn’t get comfortable in my mind or body.

12. There’s intense fear about having an episode.

Bipolar is technically a chronic illness. This means that, for the rest of my life, I will fluctuate between depression, euthymia (stable mood), and hypomania. Medications can help. Therapy can help.

The first time I felt sad for a couple of days after spending over a year depressed, I freaked out. I feared those couple of days were the start of another lengthy depression. Turns out it wasn’t, but I will always harbor the fear of an episode.

Once you live through the worst of depression, it’s hard not to fear that again. It’s easy to think you couldn’t handle going through that again.

13. It’s possible to go months without an episode.

Before my last depressive episode, I had seven months without any issues. I felt like my true self again. I made strides in my professional and personal life. It seemed like the worst was behind me, but that’s the thing about bipolar, it comes and goes.

I was “unstable” for about a year and a half, shifting between depression and hypomania. Everything was a battle — getting to class or even getting out of bed, working, eating, breathing. Then one day, my mind became quieter, and I felt like myself again.

14. It’s possible to lessen the intensity of mood swings.

This ain’t easy, believe me. Many things help prevent mood swings for me. I talk to friends. I go to therapy. I journal and track my moods. I workout (kind of) and take my medications. Routines are important because predictability in my life is important when my moods aren’t.

Therapy and tracking my moods can help me notice when an episode may be coming. Then, I can be proactive with self-care and coping skills to lessen the impact.

I could be better at doing these things, but adulting on its own is hard enough without the added responsibility of mental illness.

15. Not every mood swing can be lessened.

While it is possible to smooth out the highs and lows at some points, it isn’t always going to work. Sometimes your brain and its chemicals are going to do what they want, no matter what you do or what meds you take. Maybe it means you have to change a medication or dosage, which I’ve done countless times.

Coping skills may help lessen the intensity, but sometimes coping skills become survival skills. It may take all my energy to keep my head above the water during an episode.

16. I don’t always feel like “myself.”

Depression takes me away from me. At my core, I am curious, determined, and passionate. Depression steals these away from me. I become a shell of who I am, and it’s like I’m living as two different people. I go from living and making strides in my life and career to treading water to survive.

17. People don’t understand bipolar.

It wouldn’t be a mental illness if it didn’t come with a heaping pile of stigma. People think you “snap” and become angry or depressed in a moment’s notice. In reality, most mood episodes last days, weeks or even months.

People try to understand, and it’s important that they do. But unless you’ve felt this, it’s impossible to get it completely.

18. I am not “bipolar.”

I have bipolar disorder. It is a part of me, but it isn’t me. Like anything we experience, bipolar has had its influence on who I am.

There are many negatives about living with bipolar disorder, but there are also lessons I’ve learned by having it. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have become passionate about mental health and advocacy. I’m also more compassionate and understanding because of it.

How I Discovered I Had Binge Eating Disorder, Not a Lack of Self-Control

It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so I figured it’s a good time as any to talk about binge eating disorder (BED). About a month and a half ago, I saw my psychiatrist. During our talk, she asked me if I struggled with binge eating.

Then I delved deeper into my relationship with food — something I try not to think too much about.

I don’t overeat because the food tastes good. I don’t eat more than others because I’m bigger. I don’t just overeat once in a while. I don’t see a piece of cake or pass a sandwich shop and “give in” to temptation for the food. It feels more like a need instead of a want. It’s a compulsion.

I feel gross after a binge. I beat myself up about it. I want to treat my body better, but I find myself in the same situation time and time again — binging fast food or all the snacks in the pantry.

So, how are BED and lack of self-control different when it sounds like BED is about a lack of control? Feeling a lack of control when binging is a symptom, after all.

When we (society) think of someone lacking control, we think of someone who gives in to their every need. We may see them as “weak.”

I’ve internalized this concept. Yes, self-control is a good thing, but before I knew about BED, I always blamed it on having no control. I felt like I should have done something different. It seemed like my fault I found myself in this situation over and over again, even when I tried hard not to binge.

My issue isn’t a lack of self-control. Believe me, I’ve told myself that all I needed was more self-control. I’d resolve to have more control and… I’d binge.

I can’t recover from BED if I don’t address the emotional issues that lead me to binge. I can’t address binge eating from the perspective of control. I have to address it from the root: a need for better emotion regulation. I’ve always been an emotional eater.

Angry? Eat. Stressed? Eat. Sad? Eat. Happy? Eat. It’s hard to hear your thoughts or feel emotions when you’re intensely engaged in something physical like eating.

I’ll eat when I’m not hungry, and I’ll continue eating even when it feels hard to breathe because of my overly full stomach.

If I start thinking of eating something when I’m trying to sleep, there’s no ignoring that thought. It’s loud and intrusive. I have to eat. Food is almost always on my mind.

On the other hand, I’ll go all day without eating, or I’ll skip meals. Then I’ll binge at night or the next day. I don’t have a routine for eating or nourishing my body.



In high school, I spent three months gaining “control” over my eating and body. In reality, I restricted, counted every calorie and worked out multiple times a day. I felt faint but dropped weight quickly.

I became obsessed. I constantly thought about food and the number on the scale. I stared at myself in the mirror asking myself questions. Is my collarboneshowing more? Can I feel my hipbones? Is there less fat on my stomach to pinch?

It wasn’t until years later I understood my disordered eating and the slippery slope I was heading down. It may seem ironic that someone who once obsessed about weight and calories could be struggling with binge eating disorder, but it’s two sides of the same coin.

My relationship with food is closely related to my relationship with my emotions. During those three months in high school, I had just come out of a depression but there were still many stressful things in my life. I found comfort in focusing all my energy on what I ate and restricting. I liked going to bed hungry.

Before then, I had struggled with overeating and binging. I’m not sure what caused the switch during that time or what made it switch back. What’s clear is my relationship with food was and is not healthy no matter which extreme I find myself in— restricting or binging.

In some ways, binging, restricting and/or purging can seem like a way we have control, though this is a dangerous facade created by eating disorders. I’m “controlling” my emotions and stress by eating a lot to deal with it. Or I’m “controlling” what goes into my body when everything else around me feels chaotic.

Whatever someone’s experience is with an eating disorder, you shouldn’t decide they have an issue with self-control or need more willpower. There’s way more to it than that.

5 Hard Lessons Therapy Taught Me

I spent the first two and a half years of college working up the courage to start therapy. At the beginning of my second semester as a junior, I finally bit the bullet and made an appointment with my university’s counseling center.

Fast forward three years later to now, I’ve gone through my fair share of therapists and only recently found one who I felt was truly helping. I have bipolar disorder type 2 and generalized anxiety with a few other things thrown into the mix. My main and most debilitating issue is depression, but this isn’t a post about my issues. Rather, it’s a post about what I’ve learned throughout these last few years sitting on couches, trying to make it one day at a time.

1. Drop that emotional wall you’ve spent years building.

OK, I haven’t quite figured this one out, but that’s why it’s a hard lesson. I learned at a young age to “swallow” my emotions and put on a neutral face. When something traumatic or negative happens, my first instinct is to go numb and survive it. I take on the role of being the brick wall who’s “unaffected” so others can be emotional. This lifelong practice has made it nearly impossible for me to express sadness or any negative emotions to others.

While I’m in therapy, I have to let that wall down, and I’d like to be able to let it down outside of therapy, too. The problem is I don’t know how. I’ve spent so much time guarding myself that I now have to learn how to express emotions. I spent a solid month in therapy just building up to talking about a particularly trying and traumatic time in my life. When my therapist and I finally began talking about it, I had no reaction to talking about it because I became an expert in compartmentalizing and removing myself from my emotions.

Compartmentalizing became my coping mechanism, but the problem is I can’t do it forever. Eventually, all that emotion I’ve buried has to come to the surface. I haven’t fully gotten there, but I’ve slowly taken down bricks in my emotional wall. I feel a little less claustrophobic as the wall comes down.

2. It’s OK to cry in session (and in places other than the shower).

This really goes along with the first lesson. I am 100 percent a shower crier. It’s only there that I feel like I can release my emotions by crying. Like I’ve said, I’ve been in therapy off-and-on for the last three years. You want to know how many times I’ve cried in session? Zero.

There’s been the occasional watery eye, but I’ve been good at keeping the real crying to the shower. I want to be able to cry in therapy. I know it’ll help me feel better, but I’ll refer you to lesson 1 about why that’s hard for me.

My therapist has told me it’s OK to cry before, and I wholeheartedly believe her. One day it’ll happen, and I’ll actually be happy that it happened. I just hope it’s not like the “don’t break the seal” rule when you’ve drunk too much.



3. You’ll only get what you put into therapy.

Talking about your week or ranting to a therapist can be helpful but in my experience, that’s not enough to see real change or feel better long term.

I prefer therapy that comes with homework. One of the things I do is fill out weekly mood charts I’ve customized to my experiences and coping skills. This helps me remember how I felt the week since my last appointment and can help identify triggers or an oncoming depressive or hypomanic episode.

There’s also less concrete homework such as challenging your thoughts. I struggle with self-doubt and negative self-talk. If I come into therapy each week and explain the same thoughts but don’t question them or challenge them, I’m not going to quiet those thoughts.

Therapy is not a passive activity, and you’re most likely paying for it. Get your money’s worth by being active in your progress.

4. You’ll learn new things about yourself, and you’re not going to like all of it.

I’m a writer. I like writing. The first time a therapist pointed out that I have a restricted emotional vocabulary, I was mad. As time went on, I realized she was right. I struggle to name my emotions past the superficial sad, happy, angry, etc.

Once I realized this, I slowly began building out my vocabulary. It’s still not where I’d like it to be, but I’ve noticed that specifying an emotion helps lessen the power it has over me. Labeling my emotions more aptly gives me the power instead of them having power over me.

Our first instinct when we learn something about ourselves we don’t like is to deny it. You’ll learn more if you consider it.

5. You have to accept and process how you feel before you try to change it.

Being patient is not my strong suit, especially if I feel miserable. There is nothing about depression that would make me want to say, “hm, I need to sit with this.” My initial reaction is to fight like hell to make it go away. Unfortunately, that usually doesn’t include assessing why I’m feeling depressed (if there is a reason). I can’t just run over the depression by keeping busy 24/7 or burning up all my coping skills (healthy and non-healthy). I need to recognize how I’m feeling and work through it.

It’s a bit like telling someone who is drowning to take a moment and reflect on drowning. It seems counterintuitive, but I’ll run myself into the ground trying to get out of the depression if I don’t first accept that I’m depressed.

Reclaiming the Word ‘Woman’

I’ve always identified as a female, but lately, I’ve noticed a weird reaction whenever I use or hear someone call me a “woman.” Sure, I can blast “Woman” by Kesha or some other empowered anthem, but calling myself a woman? Yuck.

I had become accustomed to using “girl” to describe myself and other women, though we’re all adults. To me, there’s something inherently sexist about this. It’s typical to use the word, which literally means female child, to describe women in our culture.

“Let’s take a girls’ trip.”

“I’m the kind of girl who likes to [insert hobby].”

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

Men, on the other hand, call themselves men — or guys. There might be a “boy” thrown in there sometimes, but in my experience, men have no issue using the word “man” whereas “woman” isn’t rolling off tongues of many women.

I asked my friends about this, and they agreed; we all feel a bit cringey when we use the “W” word. I’m no linguist or sociologist, but I have an inkling as to why some of us feel uncomfortable.

Whether we do this subconsciously or not, calling women “girls” instantly puts us beneath men. “Girl” implies innocent, childlike and dependent. “Man” implies grown, independent and strong.

We’re taught to identify with the word, and it’s commonplace for us to continue identifying with “girl,” even when we’re well out of adolescence. “Woman” becomes weird, unfamiliar and only comes up when you have to visit a “woman” doctor or deal with something else related to your vagina.

It’s almost as if it’s a dirty word. If people see you as a woman, you’ve may have been called bossy, loud or bitchy. If people see you as a girl, you’ve probably been called cute, adorable or sweet. Like with anything else, we’re taught to slink into the background like “good girls” and let the “men” do the heavy lifting.

There are movements like the Women’s March and Empower Women, but how often are we using the “W” word to describe ourselves? Our friends? The woman you saw in passing and then told the person you were with that you liked her hair, shirt, etc.?

I haven’t been a “girl” since the day I turned 18. I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable using “woman” when men are encouraged and praised for identifying as a man. The only way I can become comfortable is if I call myself a woman.