Worth Living Ambassador Kara Lynn

Kara Lynn graduated university with a B.A in Psychology and is in the final years of Psychiatric nursing. Being an avid mental health advocate, Kara is able to offer therapeutic programs to aid in challenges that people face while being able to bring awareness and enlightenment to those within the community to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.Not all mental illnesses come from trauma, and not all traumas inspire mental illnesses, however these are paired among society.That said, Kara is also a motivational speaker, looking to inspire and encourage others to live a healthy, positive and full life.

Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can occur for a variety of reasons. Alcohol abuse, medical conditions such as an underlying endocrine disease that causes nervous system hyperactivity, and stress are just a few examples.

Although anxiety has been considered by some as a condition to be feared or frowned upon, anxiety is a much needed component for our survival. Every living being has some level of anxiety. It is a key component in threatening situations and is part of the fight or flight response in the sympathetic nervous system. Your fight or flight mechanism ensures greatest possibility of protection by providing increased energy in potential danger situations. Research has also shown that low levels of anxiety lead to greater risk of death, therefore making anxiety crucial to our survival.

This is all important to confirm you are not alone in this.

Taking deep breaths tend to ease tension in times of stress and apprehensive situations, while allowing the mind to bring its focus back to a less agitated state.

In 2015 I lost my best friend. I had arrived home from work and received a call from one of my oldest friends.
In a quick moment, my mental and physical state changed.

For the first time, I found it difficult to breath and the only words I could muster were “I’m so sorry”, as if it were somehow my fault that he was no longer with us. In an instant, I took the blame for an unforeseeable and unfortunate outcome. The anxiety I had felt consumed me. It took my logical and practical thought and replaced it with what felt like irrational feelings.

I thought I could have done more to prevent it. But I couldn’t. You can’t control the inevitable even if the inevitable is unexpected and may be preventable. When you seek control and guidance, anxiety will take away clarity and leave behind uncertainty. It takes away your potential to understand situations and instead leaves you with questions that hinder your actions.

It was the first time I had ever truly experienced loss. There was a constant weight that sat centre on my chest everyday as I lay in bed and the most simple tasks such as eating became daunting.

An attempt to return to work proved unsuccessful. Stepping out from the four walls of my bedroom into what felt unknown frightened me. I’d make it part way then find myself returning home. Back to the comfort of my own home, to my own bed which became my sanctuary, with my cat who stayed snuggled by my side. As I would lie in bed, the weight on my chest would grow heavier. It was as if someone was laying on top of me, restricting me from movement.

I pride myself on being pollyanna. I could no longer just sit in bed, basking in sorrow. It didn’t make my situation easier, if anything it was more difficult. It seemed to heighten my current state of emotion.
Did I stop hurting? No, absolutely not. But I refused to give up. I devoted all my attention into school and found daily activities that could ease what I had been feeling for months. I put my focus in the gym, improving my health and lifestyle while removing alcohol in its entirety. Slowly, I began to see the outcome I desired. I no longer perceived anxiety as a venomous snake holding me back from what I wanted to achieve. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight but I continued to strive for results that fed my eagerness to overcome what set me back for months.

Finding motivation in people you surround yourself with while using resources to return yourself to a happy medium helps to discover what you desire and what it takes for you to conquer your biggest fears. Start small.

It takes work and dedication. In some cases, the anxiety may never fully diminish. However, each step forward is a step toward success and overcoming your obstacle. Find what works best for you.

Life isn’t always about what you don’t have, it’s about what you have and finding ways to enjoy them. Life can be grim and uninviting if you allow it. Investing time and energy into activities and resources can uplift your mood and provide the proper coping skills in anxious situations.

Keep a journal close by, write down what made your day enjoyable and what didn’t. Look for improvement in unfortunate moments. Find the good in the bad, the happy in the sad. Everything happens for a reason. We may not want to believe it because those unfortunate moments hinder our ability to see past the negative, but the positive is there. Search for it.

I’m blessed that I got to spend half my life laughing until my sides hurt and making bets where I could win for a dinner at the Keg. I’m forever grateful for the abundant knowledge I’ve received from him.
What works for some doesn’t work for all. Finding what lifts your spirits, what inspires you, and what motivates you will have the greatest impact on your future.

Worth Living Ambassador Jess Harvey

I’m a mother of 2 who let my depression run my life for way too long. After losing my father to cancer when I was 30, I spent 7 years trying to deal with my grief and understand all its stages. It’s not something that defines me anymore, and Now I want to offer strength and inspiration to those around me by speaking out in the hopes that I can give someone else a voice. Please visit my personal blog www.jessharvey31.blogspot.com

When you find a way to be stronger than your depression, life gets brighter ~

This is What Progress Looks Like

So today I decided to do things a little differently after a conversation last night with one of my best friend. I realized that I’m not the only one who often has the feeling that you’re having a midlife crisis.

I’ve written about this before about the uneasy feeling that lives inside of me, the feeling of fulfillment, the feeling that I’m not successful enough or like I have so much more I want to accomplish but I’m always unsure how to accomplish it, or maybe it’s the anxiety of failure that stops me from doing it.

It seems that my problem is going from step A – which is me deciding what I want to do, to step B – which is me actually accomplishing said task. I think I lack the ability to put a plan into motion, this is my weakness… AKA Fear!

Which is weird because I’m a very well organized person.

My plans usually sound really good and would make me feel very accomplished if I achieve them, but I don’t always get there.

Sound familiar? It should.

I’ve been writing about this in my blog for years stating that I know that there’s more I’m supposed to be doing, I know that this isn’t “it”for me, and I know that I’m not alone when I say that. So now that I have activated my body and my mind is in a healthy state, I am more excited than ever to finally put the steps in place in order to fulfill all of my goals.

What I’ve discovered is that baby steps are my key to success.

First off, let me explain what my goals are. This will help keep me accountable.

It should be no surprise to any of you that I have a passion for helping people, I want to advocate for mental health, and I want to teach people about body image, self-confidence, and especially kindness as I used to lack all of the above. (Except kindness, I would like to believe I’ve always been kind) but I don’t feel like these things are discussed often enough.

Believe it or not, I am excited to speak in front of people and help them get to a healthier place in their life however it scares the hell out of me. I want to make an impression on people because I know what I’ve had to overcome to get to this place. I’ve lived through something I never thought I could.

I lost my dad, and it rocked my world. I never thought I could feel “Normal” again.But I made it through, even though there was many times I wanted to give up, I had zero drive or ambition. To make it through a day it took everything in me.

If you’ve never had depression or anxiety or any other sort of mental illness, you’re very lucky. However, I think that there are more people faced with this then they choose to admit.

I want to help change that.

I want to empower people to believe in themselves and realize that in order to start overcoming some of those demons you must start with yourself. For me, a journey of personal growth has been the most beneficial part of my life. Starting with learning how to appreciate who I am, learning how to get rid of negative energy in my life, and learning how to stop giving a shit about what other people thought of me

Of course I say that with the upmost respect but truthfully if more people just stopped worrying about what everyone else thought about them, I’m sure their own image of themselves would become much brighter. Once you step out from behind the shadow of other people’s opinions, it’s amazing how bright your days will become. Giving people that power over you is like adding more weights to the backpack that you’re carrying around every day, it weighs you down, tires you out and it drains your energy. Worst of all, your anxiety FEEDS off this like the disease that it is.

This is part 1 of the things that I want to help people understand. Self -Talk is the key to Self- Improvement
This will be a process and at this point I’m unsure what people’s response will be but I’m certain it will reach at least one person. That’s a victory.

One small step for me, one giant leap towards my goal 😉

So far I’ve survived 100% of my worst days, you can too 💛

Worth Living Ambassador Frankie Samah

Hi I’m Frankie and I’m from Wales, UK. I am a psychology teacher and postgraduate education psychologist. I am a women’s right activist, working with women’s aid to raising awareness and to break the silence. I am a mental health advocate and writer. I believe in counteracting the stigma around mental health and we should begin with the ideology. Instagram- Frankie Samah www.frankiesamah.com

The Psychology of Loneliness

As I approach being middle-aged and working far too many hours with little contentment, I ask myself what is it that makes me sad? It isn’t smoking or drinking too many gin and tonics, my grey hairs that now looks like a badger stripe down the middle of my head or even the whiskers that seem to have appeared on my chin but probably more the loneliness or the lack of genuine connections I have and how I have tended to let my friendships lapse.

Now if I quickly take a stock look at my life, I’ll try to prove to myself that in fact, it was just life that got in the way. During the week, my life seems to revolve around work and children, driving to work, driving home from work, remembering which after-school club my daughter has to be at that evening, making dinner, cleaning, washing, etc. But this seems to be a familiar story and in recent reports, health practitioners believe that it is not cancer or heart disease that is the epidemic for this country but in fact loneliness. The late Mother Theresa described loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted as the most terrible poverty.

As we know, I have a slight love for old literature, so it seems like a poignant part to mention the psychology of loneliness in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. The protagonist’s need for love is expressed not through loving but rather through the anguish of loneliness. Brontë uses a Freudian approach to explain loneliness, exploiting the conscious misery of loneliness trying to prove love in impossible with the characters learning in their childhood to fear rejection and love eventually leads to rejection, so they keep themselves isolated, highlighting the dark side of love. Satisfaction must be bought about by bringing the unconscious alive and arousing their fantasies. But we know this is just a story and keeping yourself alone eventually only hurts ourselves.

Times have changed, we live in a time where we can connect with anyone at any time from any place in the world so why is there this epidemic of loneliness?

Despite our societal advancements and even though communication may be easy, it is finding connections with people that is the tricky part. Social media allows us to stay in touch with people and keep up to date with their news without having to connect with them.

Humans are hyper-social beings; social situations influence our emotions. As a society we tend to organise ourselves into little communities, we all like to feel we belong. But as we hit being middle aged, we don’t short change our children; we short change our social life. So those connections are put to one side and we continue with our responsibilities.

Loneliness is not just a source of inspiration for the arts; it is a biological mechanism. Our brains yearn for interaction because our prehistoric ancestors desperately required company to survive; being surrounded by other humans ensured protection and children. Our brains still tell us we should surround ourselves by others to thrive.
Loneliness is a different feeling than being alone and loneliness in all accounts is
a natural feeling that everyone can experience at some point in their life. But if that feeling of loneliness continues, it can become a concern as chronic or long-term sense of social isolation is linked to depression, anxiety and PTSD.

When we were younger, I remember being in the car with my two brothers and two sisters and Mum refused to let us listen to the radio as she wanted quiet for five minutes. I thought Mum was such a fun spoiler and it’s only now I realise how important this quiet time was. It helps us to reflect on our day, on experiences, to shed the expectations and judgement of society and this is good for our self-care and mental health.

But being alone and lonely are not the same thing. Loneliness is a feeling that we are socially isolated but we don’t wish to be. People might surround us, but if those connections aren’t meaningful to us and make the soul feel alive, we might as well be the only person on the planet.

Neuroscience and psychology provide insight that the pain associated with loneliness is real, it is a psychological feeling of being more fearful, more anxious, and more depressed, but additionally physically making us more susceptible to disease with raised levels of stress hormones and a decreased immune response.

Loneliness is not just a physical malady but an emotional one too.

Research shows that social isolation affects the activation of dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons which are vital to our emotional well-being. The dopaminergic neurons in a brain region called the dorsal raphe nucleus were activated in response to acute social isolation and triggered the subject to become more motivated to search for and re-engage in social interactions.

This suggests the brain controls loneliness; we must learn to recognise the traits we have when we feel loneliness taking its toll. Our brains tell us when we have physical pain, with psychological distress; this is our brain telling us there is something wrong. Next time you have these feelings think of the neurons in your brain; they are trying to help you out, seek contact and social interactions and give them a break.

As mentioned earlier social media helps us keep up to date with people but doesn’t necessarily mean we are connecting with others. But it can be used for a positive tool, it’s a platform to connect with anyone and there are plenty of bloggers who are open and talk positively about how social media has helped their feelings of loneliness by building connections with people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and join groups. My dear friend sadly lost her husband a few years ago and after hearing my stories about travelling around in my camper, she decided to buy one. She joined some Facebook groups and now goes all over the country with the dogs meeting up with like-minded people. If you are feeling low or have feelings of loneliness speak to your general practitioner who can give you advice. Don’t let the fear hold you back and remember we all have a life worth living.

“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”
— Orson Welles

Worth Living Ambassador Michelle Peterson

Michelle Peterson has been in recovery for several years. She started RecoveryPride.org to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction. The site emphasizes that the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride and offers stories, victories, and other information to give hope and help to those in recovery. www.recoverypride.org

Perpetual Therapy: Incorporating Art and Music into Your Everyday Life

There are many ways to treat addiction, but what truly matters is whether an individual recovering from drug or alcohol abuse can sustain the benefits of addiction treatment. Sustainability is what truly matters. Being able to live each day without succumbing to temptation is the measure of the treatment that a recovering addict receives. Meeting with an addiction support group allows you to talk through the challenges that threaten your sobriety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you alter negative behavioral patterns by modifying dysfunctional thoughts and emotions.

Art and music therapy are proven effective supplemental treatment approaches that draw on creativity and improve self-esteem and confidence, alleviate stress and help recovering addicts avoid relapse behavior.

Music affects every part of your brain, encouraging relaxation, relieving depression, mitigating pain and lowering blood pressure. These are all benefits that can have a powerfully positive impact on people who are trying to remain free of drugs and alcohol. Music therapy is used to treat Alzheimer’s patients, patients suffering from brain injuries, people in chronic pain and many others. Therapy subjects are taught to appreciate, dance to and, in some cases, sing or play music as part of their treatment.

Patients who undergo art therapy create imagery through painting, drawing and sculpting. They are then encouraged to discuss the images that they’ve created with a licensed art therapist. Art therapy helps free you from the constant worry that you’ll give into temptation and fall back into addictive behavior patterns. As such, it helps individuals come to grips with underlying psychological issues that contribute to self-destructive behaviors.

Get a hobby

Taking up art or music as a hobby is an excellent way to incorporate these two effective therapeutic pursuits into your life. It might be something you’ve considered if you played music in the past or did well in art classes when you were in school. Select a part of your house that’s out of the way and offers enough square footage for you to play music or create artwork every day. You’re taking advantage of a creative outlet that can prevent you from dwelling on your struggles with addiction.

Consider converting part of your garage, laundry room or a large walk-in closet into a creative workshop. Acquire an easel, a large drawing table or large work table if you’re into working with clay or some form of sculpting. According to HomeAdvisor, “Everyone deserves to have their own space for their passion project, be it a crafting station or simply a place to journal. Look around your home with a creative eye, and you’ll realize that much of what you need to create your ideal hobby workshop is already nearby and can easily be converted.”
Visit an art museum

If you live in an urban community, you likely have an art museum nearby or perhaps there’s one affiliated with your local university. Become a member and make visiting it on a weekly basis part of your usual routine. Look closely at the paintings and exhibits that impact you the most and let them inspire your creativity. You can also find an exhaustive supply of websites dedicated to great artworks that you can enjoy free of charge.
Dive into reading

Even if you’re not in the habit of reading for pleasure, dive into a great literary work, maybe a book you enjoyed in high school or college, or a book that inspired a movie you love. You might be surprised at how much more you’ll get from reading the book than you do from watching the movie.

Perhaps the most valuable benefit you can derive from a therapeutic activity is that it involves your mind completely. You’re not left with time to dwell on temptation and risk relapsing into addictive behavior. That’s why it’s important to incorporate a pursuit you enjoy into your daily routine.
Courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Worth Living Ambassador Nikki Opara

My name is Nikki Opara, I am 22 years old and a recent psychology graduate from California State University Fullerton. I am a Mental Health/ Lifestyle Blogger, with a passion for fighting the stigma around mental illness and encouraging young teens to never give up. I hope to attend grad school someday and pursue my masters in macro social work and global practice. – Nikki ( Her Daring Thoughts )

Caution: Nikki discusses suicide

Forgiving Yourself After a Suicide Attempt

I cannot help but wonder about the people who have attempted suicide and failed, then somehow have to live with that nightmare of that day or multiple days that the thought crossed their mind.
Do you have to live with that nightmare? I do too. So let me start now by saying as cliché and repetitive as it is, you are not alone. I am living with that overplayed image in my head as well. I live with the thoughts that will creep in and out and it will leave me so frustrated saying , “ why am I so unhappy? Why can’t I just LIVE MY LIFE?”

Although one of the things that I feel holds me back and probably a lot of us is that we haven’t forgiven ourselves yet. I’ll be the first to tell you, that it is so difficult and something I have to work on every day. Forgiving Myself. If you have read the “Dear 12 year old Me” poem I wrote, it was basically me apologizing to my younger self, apologizing for not only having high unrealistic expectations for how “12 year old” me should look and be perceived, but also apologizing for not valuing myself more. And isn’t that essentially the fore front of what suicide is? Don’t get me wrong, it is a symptom and a fatal cause of mental illness. But most importantly, it is the loss of value and love for oneself.

I am not a therapist by any means. I am just a young women who struggles on and off with depression and writes about her experiences and what life teaches her along the way. And one of the most important things I am learning is Forgiving Myself. How does that look like? It is different for everyone, but maybe forgiving yourself is waking up every morning and actually saying it out loud, “ I forgive you for….” before continuing with your positive affirmations. Maybe forgiving yourself is taking a break from work and school, going to take a walk and just breathe. Maybe forgiving yourself is first coming to the realization that you are human with imperfections and that is okay.

“ Forgiving yourself is transformative, it allows you a fresh start at living” – Justin Peck

With forgiving yourself you begin to have clarity, that shame and self-condemnation will fade, and you will be able to mend friendships and relationships with family that you probably would have not been able to do before. After forgiving yourself, you allow yourself permission to look into your future instead of being reminded of your past. When you forgive yourself, then that is when you start sharing your truth because now you are going back into that place not out of guilt, but with empowerment in order to share with others the true fact that if you can get through it, they can too.

Worth Living Ambassador Katie Campeau

My name is Katie Campeau and I am going into my Masters at Acadia University. My studies have been devoted to mental health within Sociology. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression, and I’m on the eating disorder spectrum.

In A Year

A year ago today, I was being rushed to the hospital because of an OCD spiral that led to suicidal thoughts. A lot has happened in this last year, but I feel that it’s important to reflect on what happened back then because it was so pivotal in my recovery.

There was a lot of negativity in my life in 2017. My OCD started fixating on contamination-based intrusive thoughts, so most of my days were spent obsessing over whether I had some sort of virus. On top of this, I was deep into an eating disorder that I completely ignored. That whole past year, I restricted my caloric intake and started immersing myself in cardio. I thought that this behaviour was normal for girls my age and I wasn’t thinking properly through this haze of hunger and anger. At this time in my life, my therapy was strictly reserved to talk therapy—specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I had trust issues with medication in relation to treating mental illnesses. My brother was mistakenly put on antipsychotics due to a misdiagnosis. So my experience with medications was based on watching someone I love lose themselves in a cocktail of ten different medications. My parents then became anti-pharma for obvious reasons. It never occurred to any of us that medication may be a viable option for me until July of 2017.

Last year, I did something incredibly stupid that triggered my OCD in a big way. I spent a couple of days with the thoughts, “You have a virus… you’re going to die, and it’s all your fault. You deserve to die.” Could you imagine having these thoughts on repeat every day? I spent that time sleeping all day and not eating. I stayed in my room and when my family and friends came up to see me, I pretty much ignored them. Eventually I went to my mom and I told her that I didn’t want to live anymore. It was too hard. I thought that after four years of treatment that I was better and yet I was still so sick. I couldn’t imagine falling into a new OCD spiral every couple of years. It wasn’t the life I wanted for myself.

After my mom learned about these thoughts, she woke me up one night and asked if I would go to the hospital. I said no. But it wasn’t a question. Mom started packing my things and I begged her to not make me go. I told her that I was scared that they’d never let me leave but my parents didn’t listen because they were too scared for me.

The hospital visit was a blur. I remember speaking to three psychiatrists who asked me about my mental health history. I had to tell my story over and over again. I told them about the childhood OCD history, the self-harming, and I told them I was afraid to eat sometimes. The first two psychiatrists were judgmental. They tried to pick apart my illnesses and questioned whether certain parts of my past were actually true. The third psychiatrist, on the other hand, focused more on my life beyond my illnesses. After I spoke with him about my ambitions, my hopes, and my dreams, he told my parents that he felt I didn’t belong in a hospital. He said that I was too driven and too accomplished. He said putting me in inpatient treatment would only hold me back.

He said that I should give medication a try. Specifically an anti-anxiety/antidepressant that also treats OCD symptoms. Being put on this medication was the beginning to my recovery.

I wasn’t admitted into the hospital, but since that hospital visit, I have been on that same medication (even increased the dosage) for the past year and it has made my life more than bearable. It has opened me up to so many positive experiences and it continues to help me disregard some of the darker intrusive thoughts. It’s made my future look so much brighter than I could have ever anticipated.

This isn’t a post dedicated to preaching about the miracles of medication. Medication has been beneficial for my mental health—but I understand that it’s not for everyone. This treatment is the reason that I’m still kicking around and pursing a Masters. In many ways, these two treatments have saved my life.

At the end of the day, I find it kind of ironic how a major setback in my life—a mental health crisis like no other—has improved my mental health so much. My OCD pushed me down so hard, and I was given the tools to bounce back, ready to fight. Ready to thrive.

What a difference a year can make.