Self-Care

People often confuse self-care with selfishness. I won’t lie, I used to be one of them.

I’ve always struggled with self-care. In fact, I still do even as an advocate. It’s always easier to give other people great advice on how to manage their self-care but when, in turn, we look at ourselves, we struggle to follow through with our own damn advice. Why? Well, sometimes we feel guilty ourselves for focusing on what’s best ONLY for us because we tend to associate it with selfishness, probably due to assholes telling us it is (eff them). Regardless, never feel guilty for needing a mental health day. Make time for yourself now because you won’t get that time back.

You see, starting with my own mindset was a big step in overcoming the intensive care I needed for myself. I had to shift my way of thinking, self-care is selfish – NO, it’s not. Our minds need rest and relaxation just as our bodies do. Do you want that delicious slice of cake? Or to buy yourself that really pretty necklace? GET IT, GIRL. It’s okay to take a break, it’s okay to sit in our emotions and feelings and stuff our face with chocolate while binge watching Shameless all day long in your pajamas. Why? Because YOU fucking deserve it.

We are all facing some sort of battle that nobody knows anything about – nobody needs to understand our reasons for or choices of self-care. That’s where I get trapped – I feel like I need to justify why I’m being “lazy”, I shouldn’t have to. Nobody should. Just be you and focus on what’s best for you.

Ask yourself, What makes me happy? Write a list down. Memorize the shit out of it. And when you face a moment of sadness, depression, ANY struggle, OR just because you feel like it – grab that list and choose what would be best for you. Here is a list of things on my self-care list:

  • Cuddle with my kids
  • Talk to my best friend
  • Write/blog about how I’m feeling
  • Go for a walk
  • Take a social media break
  • Take a long shower/bath
  • Stay home and miss an event with friends
  • Take the day off
  • Eat chocolate cake
  • Say no (take a step back)
  • Buy myself something
  • Deep clean my house (yes, this works for me)
  • Read a book about how I’m feeling
  • Set boundaries

Now, sometimes its incredibly tough to focus on self-care during your toughest times. When I’m in the midst of my depression and haven’t showered in a week or I forget to brush my teeth or I can’t cook a decent meal (if any at all) or I sleep too much (or not enough), I have a list of self-care tips I use to help me as well. I call them “my baby steps” – they have a HUGE impact and they matter. Below are some of my essential no bullshit tips:

Cant work up the energy to have a shower? Use dry shampoo for your hair, baby wipes for your skin, and put on deodorant – you’ll look and feel cleaner.

Too overwhelmed to get groceries or cook food? DoorDash it! or utilize the “pick up” feature at your nearest grocery store and order online. Don’t even need to get out of your car or pajamas!

Can’t sleep at night due to intrusive thoughts? Put on some calming music (I prefer piano or jazz), a sitcom (FRIENDS!!!), a podcast, or a guided meditation app, so you feel more comfortable.

Can’t work up the strength to brush your teeth? Use mouthwash or chew some gum – you’ll notice a difference!

Remember, feeling a “bit better” is the best thing you can do when you are in tough times. You’re a survivor, you’ve been here before and you’ll get through this again. Remember your list and keep moving forward.

Much love,

Kayla

Braving the Wilderness

I recently picked up a book off my shelf that had been sitting there collecting dust over the last six months. You see, I’m not an avid reader, albeit wishfully I was, therefore I buy all these books that I admire and read great reviews about, but I never read the actual book.

I’ve been going to therapy twice a month over the last four years and we often discuss different types of self-help or inspirational books and it feels as though every session I walk out thinking, ‘I need to read more – It will be good for me.’ So, why didn’t I pick up that book for all these months? I could come up with several different excuses, but who cares. Instead, I will share, over this beautiful four-day holiday weekend, I woke up feeling grateful, made some coffee, opened my window and listened to the rain, put on some piano peaceful music, grabbed my glasses, and that beautifully covered wilderness book off my dusty bookshelf. It is the perfect morning setup.

Let me just say, when I do read – I highlight my favorite quotes and inspirational sayings, and the more sticky notes you see on the side, means it was a damn good book. I will tell you, Braving the Wilderness is a damn good book. I’m a fan of Brené Brown and her writing/research. She’s truly inspirational. This book is about The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. I want to share just a few of my favorites from this one and how it resonates with me:

True Belonging – is a spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

“I don’t think there is anything lonelier than being with people and feeling alone.”

I rarely feel lonely, however, I am often alone. There is a big difference between the two. I hear people often say, “…but being alone is lonely.” Not necessarily. I value my alone time. If anything, I feel my loneliness most when I’m in a room surrounded with people.  Why’s that? Well, I believe that maybe we don’t feel that connection to the people or the place we are at. At home, when I’m alone – I’m always connected. Connected to all my efforts, projects, memories, cleanliness, smells, music, and my kids. It’s my happy place. However, sometimes we may go someplace we’ve never been or meet new people for the first time – it’s likely the connection may not be there. We are humans, naturally, we want to feel connected, to something – anything. It’s inevitable.

“Loneliness tells us that we need social interaction-something as critical to our well-being as food and water.” yet, “…we feel shame around being lonely – as if it means there’s something wrong with us.”

There are times where I’ve felt lonely at an event full of people, but I cannot pinpoint why I feel that way as I am enjoying myself and having great conversations with family and friends. I’m aware of it at the moment. I don’t feel sad or ashamed of it – I just wonder why that is. If anything, I want to find a way to get connected. I use my awareness as an opportunity to find that connection so that if/when I may return – I will have the memories, the new friends, the sounds and smells I missed most from it in hopes that I will feel connected next time. Sometimes It doesn’t always work out that way though and that’s okay too. Do you ever feel this way?

“I will leave you with this. There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, “Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.” This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, “I am the wilderness.”

Are we mindful enough of our Children’s Mental Health needs?

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I am fairly confident that if I were (as I have below) to quote the lyrics of this popular Whitney Huston song, most folk would recognise them and a lot of you would even know what song it was part of.

I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.

And indeed they are beautiful words and convey a beautiful message don’t they?  But the question is, are they – is the message they convey – a reality for our children?  Especially when it comes to their Mental Health?  In fact – I would suggest – that even the song itself conveys a certain scepticism.  Check out the next few lines for example…

Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be
Everybody…

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How I handled My Son’s Anxiety Attack

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My seven year old son is in the first grade and struggles with anxiety. He is typically quiet and  not the emotional type. He gets along with almost everyone and enjoys going to school.

A few months ago, I overslept and was running late taking the kids to school. I could sense a little panic in my son’s behavior but I didn’t think too much into it. When we arrived at their school ten minutes late, my son refused to get out of the car. I was running late for work myself and was in a rush to get the kids to their classrooms. I could see his scared face and body tense up so I parked my car and walked him up to his classroom.

Thirty minutes later, my son, his teacher, the principle and myself are sitting outside his classroom trying to get him to relax and walk into his classroom. I have never seen this side of him before. This was more than just being shy – this was an anxiety attack. I recognized his symptoms and behaviors and have seen them in myself. He wasn’t crying or throwing a tantrum or screaming because he just didn’t want to go to class. His body was shaking very badly, he just stood there moving his hands in front of his face back and forth, trying to breathe and work up the courage to walk into his classroom. Eventually, I was forced to leave and let the teachers handle the situation. I felt like utter shit walking away. (Worst. Parent. Ever.) I wanted to take him home and talk to him about what he was thinking and what his fears were. It was an extremely difficult moment for me, as a parent.

After this incident, I did my very best to leave the house early and always arrive a few minutes early so he could get to his class on time. Well, just last week we left the house at our usual early time and hit traffic. There was a horrible car accident and I knew we were going to be late for school. Because I was sitting in traffic, I had some time to come up with a plan to help my son face his fear. I kept quiet about the time and the fact that we were going to be late until he asked me in concern if we were going to be late. I said that we were and that I was going to be there by his side to help him get into his classroom.

Now, lets get back to this awesome plan. I had to make this as distracting and fun as possible. Sure, it may sound ridiculous but it was all I could come up with in such a short time. Right after he asked me if we were going to be late, I mentioned the movie Inside Out. I asked him to tell me the five emotions that the movie talked about: Fear, Disgust, Anger, Sadness and Joy he responded. I said, “Great! Right now, in this moment Fear is taking over all the other emotions in your mind and trying to stop you from going into your classroom. Lets tell Fear to step aside for a moment so you can handle this yourself. BUT – don’t tell him to go away!! We need Fear. We don’t want to hurt his feelings and never see him again. He’s an emotion we can’t and don’t necessarily want to get rid of.” My son laughed and said, “Okay mom.”. I looked in the rear view mirror and could see him in deep thought as if he was actually picturing the emotions in his head just like in the movie. It was cute.

Perhaps I went a little too far, but I was having fun with this scenario so I kept going:

  • Me: Korbin, tell me what Disgust is saying right now.
  • Korbin: I hope we don’t have carrots for lunch today! Gross!

  • Me: haha Great! Now what is Anger telling you?
  • Korbin: Stupid traffic! People need to learn how to drive better!

  • Me: No kidding! Now, what about Sadness?

  • Korbin: I hope everyone in the car accident is OK. (so sweet, right?! Gahh)

  • Me: I was thinking the same thing! Now, what about Joy?

  • Korbin: Ummm, Recess is going to so much fun!

“Awesome, now lets remember to tell Fear that it’s all going to be okay. I’ll be with you every step of the way”, I said. He seemed incredibly distracted at this point, so far my plan has been working. Of course, it helped that his big sister was very engaged as well.

We pull up to the school, I parked and walked my son to his classroom while trying to remain positive and discussing such Fear. Korbin was giggling and basically looking at me like I’m crazy (lets face it, I was.) It came down to the moment of drop off, and he started to tense up and shake. I got down on his level and looked him in the eyes and said, “What do we tell Fear?” He replies, “Step aside!” then he grabs the door handle and walks into his classroom – just. like. that.
Wow. It actually fucking worked.

 

Story of a brick

Such a great read! Thank you for sharing your story.

Seeking the Feather Things

Several years ago I bought an engraved brick to put with other alumni at my old school Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL. I was recently back and got to see my brick. I wrote a story for the school newspaper Eagle News. This is that story.
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Story of a Brick 
by Bridget Regan Kolek
You’ve probably passed it.  It’s a few over from the second bench in front of the Cohen Center main doors. Let me back up, my name is Bridget. Not to boast, but when I went to FGCU I was kind of a big deal. FGCU was my life. I served on Student Government for 3 years as Civic Engagement Director, helped start Students Against Hunger and Homelessness, worked at Alico Arena, was a chemistry supplemental instructor, played viola in the school orchestra all while getting a 3.8 GPA in biology. I won…

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Knowledge is Power

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The more research and reading I did on my mental health condition, the better I understood how it all works. Awareness is key! I have a better control over my emotions than ever before thanks to DBT, research and recovery. I’ll admit, once I was diagnosed four years ago and started reading, it was scary to see how complex the disorder was but I was determined to not let fear get in the way of my recovery. I can’t tell you how many times I put this book down in tears wanting to give up. It wasn’t easy but four years later, I can confidently say I no longer meet the criteria in the DSM for Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD is recoverable. Recovery is possible and help is out there. Stay strong and keep pushing forward!

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Past Quote

“My past has not defined me, destroyed me, deterred me, or defeated me; it has only strengthened me.”

-Steve Maraboli


 

I’ll be the first to admit, I have made so many big mistakes in my past but those mistakes DO NOT define who I am, just like mental illness doesn’t define who we are either.

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Friendships In Recovery

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Especially when you’re in recovery. It’s important to have a solid support group around you. If your “friends” don’t support you or help you through the hard times then maybe consider taking a step back like I did and continue to do. Maybe they don’t understand your journey or difficult times. They don’t need to. Just be you and continue on with those who do support you and understand. Surround yourself around people who inspire you and motivate you through recovery.

I recently went through my personal Instagram and Facebook and deleted a few hundred people. Not because they are bad people or I don’t get along with them, but simply because it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality of those friendships. Not to mention the amount of negativity out there on social media, I have to keep my environment positive. I keep those around me who are there for me, motivate me, inspire me and support me. Thank you to all that do.

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Emotional Neglect

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“Our children’s behavior is driven by their emotions. So the best way to help our children to behave is to teach them how to manage their feelings.”

This blog couldn’t be more true. I’ll be the first to admit, I often said the things in column one when my kids were little without realizing. It’s common and goes from one generation to the next. End the vicious cycle and make a conscious effort to change for our babies mental health. I have been working on this for a long time now and column two works beautifully on my babies.

I grew up believing that emotions are bad and wrong but they aren’t. Most people are taught to hide their emotions but I think expressing them, man or woman, in a positive way is a sign of strength. We can’t stop our emotions but we can manage them.

As a single mother with BPD, aka emotionally sensitive, I often struggle with managing my own emotions and leading by good example to my two little ones. When I have a tough time emotionally, I often turn to my DBT skills and it has helped tremendously! You can read the entire blog here.


 

The Three Goals of the Emotionally Attuned Parent:

  1. Your child feels a part of something. He knows he’s not alone. You’re always on his team.
  2. Your child knows that whatever she feels, it’s OK, and it matters to you. She will be held accountable for her behavior, but not for her emotions.
  3. Your child learns how to tolerate, manage, and express his feelings.

Any parent who accomplishes these skills well enough is raising an emotionally healthy child and an emotionally intelligent child. You don’t have to do it perfectly. You just have to do it well enough.

WHAT WE ALL SAY WHAT THE IDEAL PARENT SAYS
Stop Crying Why are you crying?
Let me know when you’re done with your fit That’s OK. Get it all out. Then we’ll talk.
Alright, enough! I’m done with this. Let’s take a break so we can both calm down.
Fix the attitude! You sound angry or upset. Are you?
You need to think before you act! How’d this go wrong? Let’s think it through.
Go to your room until you can behave better. I see you’re angry. Is it because…?
OK, OK, stop crying now so we can go in the store. Look at me. Take a deep breath. Let’s count to five.
There’s nothing to be nervous about. Everyone gets nervous. It’s OK.
Don’t talk to me with that tone. Try saying that again, but nicer so I can hear it.

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