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themuslimhippie

At the intersection of race, culture and mental illness

Single Parenting a Sick Child… and some tips!

This is a wonderful post!! Really insightful.

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Part of parenting is taking care of your sick child or children, right? But is single parenting a sick child so much tougher?  YES. You cannot split the physical and emotional exhaustion.

In the beginning of a child’s illness, there’s this instinctual softness that overwhelms you as a parent. You want to soothe your baby with warm baths, whip up hot soups. Awe… the snuggling. You can’t beat the snuggling and rubbing your fingers over those curls and waves while they fall asleep.

Sounds lovely, peaceful and filled with hope. It reads like a commercial story board for a baby bath time product. But there’s another side, especially for single parents. After I share some truths, I’d like to offer a little encouragement along with a few tips for you, your family and friends. Hopefully it helps ease the stress of caring for a sick child as a single parent.

The Truth.

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Guest Blog: Why I Self-Harmed And How I Quit

I am 8 years free from self-harm 🙂

Slay Girl Society

Hi everyone! Today is Self Injury Awareness Day, so I thought it would be the perfect time to publish my first piece on self-harming. I think it is extremely important to discuss because it is very common yet there is such a huge taboo and stigma around talking about it. Even MORE so than talking about other aspects of mental illness. A very kind mental health advocate named Jessica Remter from the blog Flight of Recovery Flight of Recovery agreed to write about her own experiences. I am so grateful that she was so open and honest. It is a very powerful story. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Nine years ago I started self-harming. Three years ago I quit.

When I was thirteen years old, life wasn’t too bad- at least that’s how it looked from the outside. I’m not sure what planted the…

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Guest Post: Being a Muslim Parent With Mental Illness

Slay Girl Society

Today’s blog post is from another guest contributor. She is the writer at themuslimhippie, which discusses the intersection of race, culture and mental illness. I’m so excited because she has agreed to write a series of posts about her experiences with mental illness. Here is her first! Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

I’d like to begin by stating that I was thrilled and humbled to be asked to write for Slay Girl Society.  I’m new to blogging and happy that my posts resonate with those in the mental health community. Today I want to talk about my experience being a mom living with mental illness in a Muslim community. It’s hard enough living with a bipolar I disorder. Harder yet when you’re a parent and spouse. And it’s even more complicated when you’re part of a tight-knit religious community. I’ll start my story here: When I…

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A letter to my friend mental illness

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Dear BP,

Hi, how are you? How have you been? I’ll admit I’m a little nervous writing to you because I don’t want you to think I’m asking to see you. And I don’t want you to think about me and decide to visit. I’m just not ready to be around you. But I did want to check in with you since you’ve been relatively quiet lately. If you recall, it’s been about six months since we spoke. Well formally anyway. I see your posts online from time to time but I never comment. I think we were last together at the hospital, right? That particular stay was a doozy! I hope I never go back. Remember that one girl who kept attacking everybody and calling us names? That was so wild.

So Ziprasidone and I are pretty friendly these days. I know how you guys feel about him, which is also why I’m staying away. But he’s good for me. I do miss our old friends though. How’s Elevated Mood doing? I hear she might be coming to town soon. I know she always heads this way in the spring for an extended visit. Ooh, maybe she’ll get to see the cherry blossoms this time. Tell her I said ‘hi’ if you talk to her. Out of everybody, I miss her the most. She can be a lot to take, but she doesn’t mean any harm. She just has a ton of energy. We always have fun when we’re with each other. I wouldn’t mind getting together with her for old time’s sake.

Hey, you know who I’ve been thinking about? Impulsivity. Man, we used to get into so much trouble back in the day! I’m so glad I’ve learned to love him from afar. But sometimes I like to reminisce about the things we used to do. If nothing else, to remind me what life used to be like before my health got better. Do you remember when he and I went to get matching tattoos? Goodness, it was like we couldn’t help ourselves. We just had to do it and nothing would deter us. I was shaking so much in the chair from all my nervous energy that the tattoo artist got upset. He said if I couldn’t sit still, he wouldn’t continue. Imp just laughed at me.

Afterwards I felt so ridiculous. And by then, Imp was nowhere to be found, as usual. I was embarrassed I’d let him talk me into getting the tattoo. What bothers me is I’m not even supposed to have those. It’s against my religion. But as soon as Imp started hyping up the idea, I couldn’t say no. And it came up out of the blue, so suddenly too. We didn’t think about the consequences or wonder if we’d regret doing it. This didn’t occur to either of us. All that mattered was getting that ink. To be honest, we’d been hanging out with that guy Compulsion too often back then, and we let him influence our choices. I think both Imp and I are pretty suggestible, if you ask me.

Oh my gosh, do you know what I did the other day? I decided to create a gratitude journal to remind myself of all the good things in my life that I’m grateful for. Oh BP, it’s been such a help. Every day I write about the things that make me happy and what I appreciate. You know they always taught us to do this whenever we’d go to the hospital. Well I finally got around to it. You should try it sometime. You’d love it!  And maybe it will give you a better outlook on life.

Guess who I’ve been chatting with lately? Insomnia! Can you believe it? I know we used to hate each other. But we’ve since reconciled and we’re spending almost every night together. We laugh and carry on like two little old ladies. Her jokes about not sleeping are too funny. And she still loves to play pranks on me in the middle of the night, as much as she always did. That Insomnia is such a card! We really have to stop meeting up though, or I’ll get sick again. You know how that goes.

So I have to know, how’s BPD doing these days? Do you see her often? Has she gotten herself together yet? Last I heard she was ruining yet another relationship. I’m sorry to say it but I hope I never interact with her again. She and I do not get along. She makes me so mad, I can’t stand it. And we always bring out the worst in each other. It’s always all or nothing with us. Things are either great or horrible. There is no in between, it’s awful. She’s just not a good influence for me so I try to avoid her at all costs. And if you remember, I had to go to therapy partly because of her. I’m still salty about that. I’m not trying to shift blame or anything, but I can’t help thinking that if I’d never met her, my life would’ve been much less stressful and anxiety ridden.

Speaking of my cousin Anx, did you hear she had a baby? Yeah, she named her OCD. I’m not one to criticize name choices, but OCD? Ok, I have so many questions. Don’t tell my cuz 😉 But why that name? What does it even mean? That kid’s going to have a tough time in life with a name like that. Why OCD? Is it a family name? Is it symbolic in some way? I keep saying it over and over, letting it roll around on my tongue so I can get used to it. It just makes me feel so prickly inside when I say it. But I can’t stop. I’ve repeated it about 500 times now. OCD. OCD. Nope, I still can’t get used to it. It sounds strange in my head, like an echo and a hollow tinny sound all at the same time. Oh wait; I’m getting fixated again. Don’t mind me. You know I do this sometimes. It’s gotten better, but I still slip now and then. My brother Buspirone has been helping me overcome it. He’s been such a blessing. He has his moments, like everybody, but overall I’ve loved having him around. I wish I had told him sooner that I needed his help.

You know, Depression has been on my mind a lot lately. I can’t help thinking about him and wondering if he’ll ever get better. He just seems so lost sometimes. It’s like he lives in his own dark world where no one can reach him. I feel so badly for him. He brings everyone down with his misery, negative outlook and detachment, and he doesn’t even realize it. He’s a good guy, just misunderstood I think.

I guess you heard that Anger and I made up a few weeks ago. We decided to part ways for good, but in doing so I think we’ve reached an understanding. I’m so happy about it. I think he realized how he much he was hurting me and knew why we couldn’t see each other anymore. It’s really for the best. I sometimes get scared that I won’t find anybody else, but I’m trying to be patient. I don’t want to go back to him just because I’m lonely. It’s hard though. Being alone I mean. I can’t shake the fact that I’ll die by myself, with nobody there to notice. That thought bothers me all the time. People say ‘just be positive’. But even in doing so, I haven’t found anybody else that understood me like Ang did. A friend of mine always counsels me to accept things as they are and to look forward to better times. You know that girl Patience? The one everybody always talks about? Well she’s his best friend. I guess that’s why he’s always so calm and collected. Maybe I should meet her someday. She sounds lovely.

I’m not even going to ask about Grandiosity. He annoys me to no end. Always thinking he’s better than everybody and deciding he can do whatever he wants. He seems to think the world revolves around him. That guy is so obnoxious. And he makes me look bad when he’s around. I get sucked into his schemes and plans, and I forget who I am. But his presence is so intoxicating. You know how he is; charismatic and charming…until he completely alienates everybody with his over inflated sense of self. I’m sure I’ll run into him again soon. It’s inevitable.

Oh wow, I just realized this whole letter has been one big gossip session. Hey, maybe we both needed that. Anyway, I hope you’re doing well, BP. I don’t hate you or anything, but I need some space. I hope you can accept that. I know we’ll always be in each other’s lives. I just think it’s best if we limit our time together. Take care of yourself.

Love,

Karen

Dealing with migraines, anxiety and bipolar

Placeholder ImageI’ve had migraines since I was a child. As long as I can remember I’ve been dealing with them. My earliest recollection is laying down in the nurse’s office in 4th grade, with one hand on my stomach and the other flung across my forehead and eyes. Even though it was dark, I could still sense light trickling in from somewhere. And it hurt. The nausea was excruciating and I just wanted my mom to come to the school and make everything better for me. That was the beginning of my long history with migraine headaches.

For years, those headaches were the only complaints I had. Being active in sports and social activities didn’t allow me to notice anything extra. But then I was diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. My life drastically changed. Things weren’t only different because of the mental health diagnoses. But I also had to adjust to how my mental and physical health were so intertwined; both symptom and treatment-wise.

It seems like everything about my illnesses and medication regimen intersects. Sometimes I feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel, trying to keep up with it all. if I get a migraine, I have to be careful which meds to take to alleviate it. The wrong ones can send me into a depressive episode. Or into mania. And just having the migraine itself is a threat to my mental wellness. If it lasts too long, I’ll get sick mentally. And the headache always brings a bout of anxiety and panic symptoms with it. Which is another assault to my system.

My body just can’t handle the weight of physical and mental illness together. It’s too stressful. So I’m always vigilant, making sure to take care of my neurological health so that I don’t have any mental side effects. It’s a unique and specific dance I do every day just to stay healthy. And it’s extremely exhausting at times. But lately, I’ve been well on all fronts, which makes me very happy.

My experience with coloring apps to calm anxiety and stress

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Art therapy is widely known to be an excellent tool in alleviating stress related to mental and physical illnesses. But for me it’s specifically coloring as an art form that seems to have a calming effect. This makes it a wonderful coping mechanism. The American Art Therapy Association says, “A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being” (arttherapy.org). When I was in the hospital we used art as therapy in order to learn how to relax and smooth the prickly feelings of anxiety. We had guided lessons with the therapist, who used soothing music as an adjunct to our drawing/coloring sessions. I enjoyed those times in the art room. I learned to channel my energy into something beautiful, and the repetitive motion of coloring gave me something specific to focus on, instead of my symptoms.

The therapists advised us to keep a small notebook and a set of coloring pencils with us so that whenever we felt anxious, we could use coloring as a coping skill. However one of the challenges that I ran into early in my recovery was the fact that anxiety doesn’t appear on schedule, in a neat and timely fashion. It can be extremely unpredictable, especially when you’re out in public. So as an alternative, I began to use coloring apps on my phone to achieve similar goals. No, it isn’t the same as using real paper and pencils. There definitely is a difference between technology and traditional coloring utensils. However, I’ve found this to be a suitable alternative that I can live with, considering I’m often on the go when I start to feel anxious or a when a panic attack occurs. So these kinds of apps have truly been a life saver for me. In addition, I tend to obsess over minute details, such as the paper getting wrinkled, and if my pencils are sharp enough. Not to mention what happens if I color out of the lines or create something that’s flawed. Because of my OCD and anxiety, there are times when the nuances of coloring will leave me with more anxiety than I began with. And for this reason, the exact nature of coloring using a tech gadget comes in handy.

I’ve used my apps when traveling, in crowded spaces when I felt overwhelmed, and on the bus. It would have been difficult to pull out a pad and pencils in these settings. Yet my apps did the trick. I know that coloring is only one of the many ways in which a person living with an illness can de-stress. And I also know that people may prefer old school methods rather than the new ones we have today. For me, this is the perfect blend of therapy and current trends. And I plan to continue using these electronic tools to help manage my anxiety.

Adult colouring books – a meditative practise?

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For a long time colouring books have been associated with something that we do and grow out of some time during infancy. It has even been suggested that around “real school” age, we stop encouraging creative activities like coloring and drawing and instead encourage more structured academic activities. It is hard to deny that there is some elements of truth in this statement. This is regrettable, seeing as there has been much debate surrounding the usefulness of this exercise, from both sufferers and mental health professionals alike.

tardis-1 And so it begins with the blue box itself! If you look closely you will see that I used (or tried to use) different shades of blue for the exterior.

However, if you are anything like me, trying to see the appeal of  colouring in a dozen of tiny shapes of various contours can be a difficult concept to grasp. Indeed upon…

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Guest Blog: Black History & Mental Health

This really resonated with me as a Black Muslim woman living with mental health issues. I’m so glad I came across this post via slay girl society.

Slay Girl Society

Today’s guest blog is from Tolaya Geredine, NCC, LPC. I actually approached her to write this blog post because I saw her activity on Instagram and thought she would make an excellent contributor. You can follow her at @Mental.Health.Major.Keyor visit her blog The Urban Therapist.I really want to share thoughts and stories from various perspectives on this website and so I thought Black History Month would be a good start. However, I definitely want to commit to this year-round and not just in February. So if you are a member of the Black community, I would really like to hear from you about your experiences with mental health. Or any member of a marginalized community. I am open to anyone contributing because I feel that each person has a unique view that deserves to be heard. Check out Tolaya’s post below and let us know what you think…

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Dealing with OCD and intrusive thoughts

I have a thing for numbers. I guess you can call it a strange sort of fascination. I don’t love math, but numbers themselves are fascinating. It’s how they interact that gets me. Combinations, coincidences, pairs, all of it. It’s part of how my OCD manifests. I get hung up on numbers in every facet of my life. For example, on social media I always check my followers versus how many people I follow. Not because I’m interested in how many there are, but because I’m addicted to the numbers in my count. I need to have things even. And I also have an obsession with odd numbers. Weird combination, I know. As an example, if I have 1443 followers and follow 774 people, I’ll feel off. Even typing that made me feel icky. I can’t handle seeing it. So for my social media, I’d have to then delete somebody to make the 3’s match. And it’s a constant challenge because people are always following & unfollowing one another. It never fails. As soon as my numbers match, someone gets added to or deleted from my count, and I have to start the whole process again. Sometimes I’ll notice that I’m coaching myself in my thoughts. I’ll say things like, “Ok I just have to choose 5 people to unfollow and then it’ll be alright”.

It happens in my religious life too. Such as with the Quran. In it, there’s a verse where God says He taught Adam the words to say (a prayer) to seek forgiveness. That’s in chapter 2 verse 37. Then in chapter 7 verse 23, there is a description of that very prayer. The circular nature of those numbers is amazing to me. It’s something I think about all the time. I repeatedly go back to those 2 verses to check that the numbers are still similar, even though I know for a fact that they are. I can’t explain it.

I can name countless other instances where numbers and counting play a big role in my life. But that’s just one facet of my obsessive disorder. Another thing I deal with on a constant basis is intrusive thoughts. Sometimes even in my sleep. Ever since I was younger I’ve had this problem. Like when I’m near someone on the steps, it scares me to death. Because out of the blue I often think, “what would happen if I suddenly pushed this person down the steps by accident?” Or when I’m in a moving car I’ll wonder what would happen if I suddenly jumped out. One time I did start to open the passenger door. It was almost like a compulsion. I couldn’t stop it. All of a sudden at the last moment I caught myself and jumped back from the door handle. I remember crying silently because I didn’t want my mom to know what had almost just happened. It was one of the scariest moments in my life.

Some of the other intrusive thoughts surround my relationship with my children. I’ve mostly had thoughts about what would happen if I didn’t feed them for a period of time. Or something of that sort. This all sounds absolutely horrible, I know. And I used to think I was a monster for thinking these things. But I couldn’t help it or stop it from happening. I used to cry, thinking I was a psychopath. It took years of me researching psychopathy and then finally getting my OCD diagnosis to realize that I wasn’t a monster; that I simply had a disorder, which was causing these thoughts.

Here’s a story which illustrates how harmful it can be to have this problem during a crisis. When my son was a baby, a fire broke out in my dining room. At the time we were living in a 2 bedroom condominium and the washer/dryer set was situated off the side of the dining room. In a small nook. I was sitting with my son across the kitchen in the family room. I could see the fire straight ahead. I realized it was coming from the cord plugging the washing machine into the wall, so I called 911. But at the same time I was having trouble collecting myself in order to leave the apartment. I kept thinking about what would happen if I left without my scarf on. I was in my pajamas and uncovered. And I thought something bad would happen if I left. Not in a religious sense at all, but in some other ominous way. It consumed me and I ended up literally turning in circles deciding what to do. I ran back and forth between my bedroom and the front door, filled with indecision.

I ended up unplugging the washing machine, on instinct, and the fire burned itself out. Later when telling the story to someone, she gasped. “You’d leave the house uncovered in that case!! She shouted. Of course I know that. It’s obvious. But that’s the problem with intrusive thoughts. You can’t just decide to shut them off. Even when faced with danger.

Fast forward to today. I’m so pleased that I’ve finally learned to take control of my OCD and begun living again. Even though what I’m describing doesn’t sound functional, it’s heartening to know that things used to be so much worse before I sought treatment. Now when those thoughts come, I can challenge them. And of course medication helps a great deal. Even when faced with symptoms I can’t quite manage, the time it takes me to recover and move on is much less. For instance, instead of spending hours correcting my social media numbers, I may spend only a few minutes. And when harmful thoughts come, I don’t take as long to ignore them. This is my life with OCD. A glimpse of it anyway. But it’s no longer my life ruled by OCD. And that makes me happy.

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