How to Have a Hard Conversation…With Yourself?

I initially started college as a physics major, but during my first semester of my final year of university, I decided to switch my career path to clinical psychology. The process of realizing that psychology was the best path for me took a lot of thought and I want to share with you the steps that I took to make this huge decision.

I like to think of the process that I endured as a hard conversation with myself. I believe we’ve all had this talk at some point in our lives, whether it was conscious or not. Feeling uncertain about selecting the best decision often feels scary, overwhelming, and confusing. On top of these negative emotions, people often fear the idea of change. Sure, getting a new haircut post-breakup is one category of change, but moving across the country to obtain your dream job is definitely a bigger and riskier change. For these reasons, many of us choose to continue with our current life path, as it’s routine and not uncertain. However, I challenge you to have this difficult conversation with yourself, as the rewards can greatly outweigh the challenge. Here are some steps I personally took when deciding on whether or not to switch my career paths:

  1. List out all the rewards (be it material, intellectual, spiritual, etc.) that the current goal engenders that are appealing to you.
  2. Articulate in detail why those rewards are personally appealing.
  3. Contemplate whether this change of heart is permanent. Specifically, is this change following a recent event that had an impact on you? For example, if you recently went through a breakup and decided to move across the country, there may be other reasons for this decision. Take time with carrying out your ideas and try to acknowledge if there are any hidden motives for your decision.
  4. List out the possible unpleasant or unwanted consequences of your goal and describe why those components are personally displeasing.

Essentially this list is an in-depth pros and cons list to help you determine the benefits and struggles that you may encounter from obtaining this goal or making a drastic change in lifestyle. However, making a pros and cons list may not be enough in assisting you with your decision on whether or not to pursue this change. You might also want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the worst that could happen if I pursue this goal or change? Am I willing to experience this outcome and grow from it?
  2. What is the best thing that could happen if I pursue this goal or change? Will I be happy if I do not meet this outcome?
  3. What do those closest to me think about this choice? If they don’t support my decision, would I be able to accept it?
  4. How committed am I with to this decision and completing the required steps to achieve this goal?
  5. Will I be proud of myself if I make this choice? Does this choice align with my personal values and beliefs?
  6. What is the impact of this decision financially? Am I financially capable to do this?

Although these questions may be difficult to answer, they will help you determine if your reasoning is rational and provide you with insight into whether or not this change would be the best fit for you. Remember, you have the power to change your life at any given moment!

By: Ruihong Yuan

Ruihong is a graduate from University of Toronto with a major in Psychology and Physics. He is currently looking to gain either clinical or research experiences in psychology. His goal is to become a clinical psychologist with his own practice and research in order to help people improve their lives and explore the mysterious human mind.

Truth about Postpartum Depression

A woman’s body goes through hormonal changes during and right after pregnancy. These hormonal changes that occur after delivery can cause many women to experience something commonly known as the “baby blues.” This condition affects 1 in 7 women and causes women to feel sad, nervous, lonely, and/or stressed. When these feelings are experienced more intensely and for a longer period of time the condition is known as postpartum depression (PPD). PPD is a mental health disorder that could be debilitating to everyone involved in the arrival of the newborn baby.

The distinction between the common “baby blues” and PPD can at times be difficult to diagnose. They both manifest in similar ways involving mood swings, irritability, sadness, and fatigue. However, in the case of PPD the symptoms are more extreme and longer-lasting and can cause the individual to experience suicidal ideation or the inability to take care of their newborn baby, even up to four weeks postpartum.

The biological foundation of PPD misleads us to think that mothers are the only ones who experience PPD. But it is also possible for fathers to experience PPD. Although there is less research on paternal PPD, it has been established that maternal and paternal PPD are highly correlated. It has been suggested that when a couple has a baby, they are highly influenced by each other, meaning that if one partner is depressed, the other one is more likely to be depressed as well. This is especially the case in paternal PPD, which occurs when a father starts feeling that his partner is not as reciprocating and supportive, leading to feelings of depression. In fact, the strongest risk factor for paternal PPD is maternal PPD.

When mothers are afflicted with PPD, it has been reported that infants are breastfed for a shorter amount of time, have temperamental difficulties, suffer from sleeping problems, and experience emotional maladjustment. On the other hand, when fathers have PPD, there is a higher chance of increased family stress, spanking rate, and child psychopathology such as conduct disorder and emotional difficulties. So it becomes evident that regardless of who is depressed, it leaves a serious footprint on the baby’s life. Fortunately, when only one of the parents are experiencing PPD, the other parent can work as a “buffer” against any adverse effects by taking up both parents’ job in taking care of the baby. However, if both parents are suffering from PPD, it can be extremely problematic, as research has shown that these parents perceived their babies in a significantly more negative light and considered them to be below average overall.

A quick and easy way of assessing PPD is to use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, an easy 10-item scale questionnaire that is globally used to determine PPD. If the total score is above 13, PPD is a serious possibility and action should be taken accordingly. It is also crucial to keep in mind that if the answer to question 10, “the thought of harming myself has occurred to me,” is anything but “never,” even when the total score is below 13, the respondent must entertain the idea of PPD.

It is important to keep in mind that when a couple decides to start their own family, they really are in it together. It is certainly the mother who goes through the physical changes after the carriage of the newborn baby, but nevertheless, the father is also an active member who has to get used to new routines and changes that occur. It is therefore very important for both parents to keep each other in check. If either parent notices signs of PPD from their partner, it is key to maintain open communication and be supportive. If you find that your PPD is not going away on its own, try setting up some counseling appointments in order to work through it with a professional who specializes in PPD.

By: Stella Hyesoo Pock

Stella is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with a double major degree in Psychology and Neuroscience. She is currently working on three projects that focus on maternal mental health at the Mothering Transitions Lab at the University of Toronto under Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis. She has various research experiences that range from postpartum depression to LGBTQ members with schizophrenia. She is dedicated to help those who are afflicted with mental disorders.

Talking to Kids about Relationships

Talking to kids about relationships may seem like a challenging task, and it actually is. I do not have any children myself, but I did grow up in an environment where I was able to witness a lot of parent-child interactions. I noticed that parents often tell their children, in regards to romantic relationships, to “wait until you’re older”. Even though this may seem logical since kids are not going to be in a romantic relationship anytime soon, I believe there are many aspects of relationships that children should be told about before they are “old enough” to be in a relationship. They include but are not restricted to:

1. Know your self-worth. 
I believe that it is very important for kids to be explicitly taught what self-worth is. When kids are taught that they should give and be given respect, they will be more likely to enter and maintain healthy relationships in the future. Cultivating the habit of giving and receiving respect will pay off both now and later.

2.  Know that it is okay to say no.
It is important for kids to know that they do not have to accept anything that they are not fully comfortable with, whether it is a person that they do not like, or a whole relationship that they are not comfortable being in. When this is taught at a young age, kids will learn that sometimes they need to place their own happiness first. This will make it less likely for these kids to remain in an unhappy relationship when they are older.

3. Know that you have support.
Parents should let their kids know that they are always there to support them. Even though this may seem like a natural thing, yet you will be surprised as to how many parents do not explicitly say this to their kids. By hearing that they have their parents’ support, kids will feel secure and will know that they always have someone to lean on when times get tough. When these kids grow up and enter relationships, they will know that they have their parents there to give them relationship (and any type of) advice.

4. Know that everyone has their ups and downs.
When kids are taught that they should be considerate and mindful of other peoples’ needs, they will be able to have more realistic expectations of relationships in the future. These kids will later know that when their partner acts off sometimes, it is not necessarily because of them, but it could be because they simply had a bad day or a pending issue worth an open discussion!

Some parents might think twice before starting a “relationships conversation” with their child, which is completely understandable. Things can progress slowly, but there are long-term positive effects with starting the conversation at a young age. By teaching your children some basics that pertain to relationships, they will have a solid base when they grow up and become romantically involved with someone. This will make their transition into romantic relationships easier and more satisfying.

By: Ghinwa El-Ariss

Ghinwa El-Ariss holds an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She will be pursuing her Master of Science degree in Psychology at Trent University starting September 2017. She is passionate about Psychology and the Environment. She hopes that her blog posts help you learn a bit about her and her take on certain things. Most importantly, she hopes that you enjoyed what you read!

Merging Pathways – Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton Locations

“Speaking with a mental health professional is no longer associated to one experiencing a crisis. Having a therapist is now a part of a healthy lifestyle” – KMA client

In thinking about the differences between the population, age groups, and many different concerns that I see at our Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton locations, I realized how similar we all are in terms of our human behavior. We are all striving to be happy, content, and peaceful with our work and the many relationships in our life. Where we differ is in the path we take towards feeling better about ourselves. Some choose to find their path on their own and some choose to seek professional help.

As an intake therapist, I am fortunate enough to have spoken to many people of different cultures, age groups, and populations. The one thing I find that the people at both our Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton locations have in common is that all of them are seeking to speak with a professional in order to maintain a fulfilled life, regardless of their presenting concern.

Let us take a look at the statistics below with regards to the gender and age groups at our Liberty Village vs. Yonge & Eglinton locations.


Both locations have a higher percentage of females, but as you can see, the male population is not far behind. Clients of both genders are willing to connect with mental health professionals to help them grow in their personal and professional life.

 

The Yonge & Eglinton location is becoming a residential area with growing families and so I witness more couple clients compared to the Liberty Village location.

 

In terms of the population and age groups, statistics show that both Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton have a higher percentage of people between the ages of 20-25 years.

 

 

As an intake therapist, I am very proud to see that people are willing to talk about their feelings, insecurities, anxiety, depression, and challenges in their relationships. People are motivated to speak with a mental health professional to develop some strategies to maintain an emotionally healthy life style.

Hats off to all of you for trying to be the best version of yourself! It takes courage to talk about your feelings and thoughts and prioritize self-care.

Even though Liberty Village and Yonge & Eglinton are two different locations, I still choose to call them Merging Pathways because the challenges I see people face are all similar in nature with varying intensities and lengths of time.

Check out this article for more information about KMA Therapy: http://www.datingadvice.com/for-women/kimberly-moffit-associates-offers-constructive-relationship-counseling-in-toronto

By: Zainab Adil Gandhi

Zainab has completed her Masters in Psychological Counselling, specializing in Marriage and Family therapies. She is a member in good standing with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).

Zainab has had 6 years of experience in counselling with Adults, Couples, Parents & Children. She understands that for clients to speak to a complete stranger about their concerns is very challenging. Therefore, her approach to counselling and therapy is client centered. She works with empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard to make sure that the client is extremely comfortable and in a very happy space. It is important to her to establish a good rapport to be able to bring about a healthy change in her clients. She believes in the ‘Human Potential’ that each client brings with him/her. Zainab chooses to be a facilitator in the process, where she guides the clients with her education and experience.  Once she has made the client comfortable in the session, she then moves ahead to use a Cognitive, Behavioral or an Emotional orientation, depending on what the client is willing to receive at that point in time.

Zainab has experience working with issues such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, bullying, parenting challenges, marital concerns, divorce, building healthy communication, relationships, balancing work and life, and dealing with a death of a loved one. She loves to use a variety of visual aids with her clients, which will help them understand their concerns more effectively. Her ultimate goal is to make sure the clients can be independent and cope with their problems efficiently.

 

Learning to Take Care of Yourself

It was around January when I came to the decision that I needed to start doing what I wanted to do, for myself and no one else. I had spent the past year of my life consumed by work, graduate school applications, job searches and resumes. When I look back now, I realize that somewhere along the way I had stopped doing the things that I loved and stopped taking care of myself because I was so focused on being “successful” so soon after graduating from university. Ultimately, this took a toll on my health and well-being. My days were centered around emails, applications, and coffees. I lost sleep worrying about whether or not I had done enough to advance myself during the day. Ultimately, I neglected my own feelings and desires for my future. After experiencing one of the most overwhelming days of my life, I decided to take a step back and walk away from the routine I had gotten myself into for the past few months. I decided that something needed to change because my happiness had become so inconsistent.

The first thing I did was I bought a blank journal from our local bookstore and wrote down all the activities I wanted to try during my spare time. Soon after, I found a volunteer position at my old yoga studio, where I could attend as many classes as I wanted to in exchange for helping out the instructors a few times a week. As you will soon realize, I love yoga and I swear by its magic-like remedies. Practicing yoga is something that I’ve been doing since I was young to help with my anxiety, as it helps me find clarity. In addition to yoga, I began swimming again, a sport that I started soon after I learned how to walk. Equipped with a waterproof iPod, it has been my go-to activity when I’m feeling stressed. I also decided to take up rock-climbing, which to my surprise is something that I look forward to challenging myself with every week.

After filling up my time with activities I enjoyed, I proceeded to write down my goals for the future and how I was going to achieve them. Doing this helped me realize that some goals were too unrealistic and some were goals I had outgrown. It helped highlight the goals that felt intuitively right and it gave me a place to start. With advice from a friend, I then wrote down what I most wanted to achieve. After looking at my list, it became clear that I wanted to spend more time with my family and friends, so I now dedicate my Sundays to spending time with them.

Now don’t get me wrong, these changes did not happen overnight. However, I took the time to think about what I really wanted to change in my life in order to move forward in the best possible way. I had to learn how to clear my mind and dedicate time to learn about myself and figure out what makes ME happy. But most importantly, I had to learn how to accept the place I was in and not rush things. This doesn’t mean that I no longer have bad days, because I do, but rather that by making these changes I’m slowly learning what I need and I’m at a better place than where I started.

Going through this transition, I have realized that learning how to take care of ourselves is one of the most important skills we can have as individuals. Taking care of our bodies and our minds helps keep us resilient, independent, and motivated to overcome the struggles we are faced with and achieve the goals that we set for ourselves, without taking away from our happiness. So if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed or feel that your heart needs a little TLC, first take a break. Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we aren’t able to see the big picture or think clearly about what we need to feel better. Sit and think. Make a list. Try new things (e.g., rollerblading down the lakeshore, joining a pottery class, anything you’ve ever been remotely interested in doing). If it helps bring your stress level down, it’s worth it!

Next, remind yourself that you can only do so much. This is so important. If something is weighing you down, sometimes letting go is the best thing to do in order to start feeling better. We often hold onto too much, try to do too many tasks, or set too many goals. Try to set one goal at a time, the one you want to achieve the most, and tackle it! Focusing on one goal helps you achieve it faster and better because you’re not exerting all your energy being stressed.

Finally, listen to your intuition. Your body knows how much it can handle and it will let you know when you’re doing too much and neglecting self-care. When you start feeling overwhelmed or stressed, that is your body letting you know that it needs a break. If you remain mindful of your own needs, than you’ll be happier and more productive in the long run!

By: Eliza Watts

Eliza graduated with a degree in Psychology and a specialization in research from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a passionate mental health advocate whose goal is to help others through her own personal experience.

Loving You From A Distance

We had been talking about him going to Medical school for a while now, but nothing really quite prepares you for a long-distance relationship. For four months prior to starting this journey, I was in complete denial that it would ever happen. It only quite hit me on the last day, as we kissed goodbye, and I realised that I wouldn’t see him for a few months. Let’s just say that things didn’t look to bright from where I was standing at that moment.

The first two days were probably the hardest two days of my life. We occasionally communicated using video chat, but seeing his new sense of excitement towards his new island life somehow broke me down emotionally. Seeing him in an unknown place served as a constant reminder that he was no longer here, and I took it as being synonymous to me not being part of his life anymore. In just two days, I could already feel myself getting more and more distant. The thought of the distance leading to a break up was always in the back of my mind and it would cause panic attacks.

They say time doesn’t stop for anybody, and surely it didn’t stop for me. A week later, I felt much better. I still felt extremely distant, but I had more control over my emotional outbursts. We still spoke every night and shared a few texts here and there, but I constantly felt anxious not knowing where he was or how he was doing emotionally. This anxiety was surely irrational, since I have been with him for almost five years now sharing many milestones, but what made me feel anxious was the uncertainty of how he was doing emotionally. Every time I tried to talk to him about his feelings, I only got “I need time to express myself.”

To make matters worse, soon after he got settled, he decided to travel with a friend for a few days before classes began. Despite knowing this was all part of the package, I almost felt betrayed; how could he go out there and have fun knowing that I was sitting here desperately longing and crying for his presence every second? Feeling hurt, I constantly told myself that travelling was his only way of coping with the stress he was experiencing, and I should be supportive and not voice my own sadness. I’ve been told by many that the next 20-months will fly by in the blink of an eye, but me and my boyfriend have yet to discover how we are going to love each other from a distance.

It’s been three weeks now, and I feel like the harder I try, the more disconnected I feel. So, my strategy for now is to not read too much into what is going on in his life. We have great conversations every night and I continuously tell myself that things could be worse. One suggestion I have for people who are going through something similar is to avoid thinking about how long you are both going to be apart. I know I am guilty of dwelling on the 20 months that me and my boyfriend will be apart, but I have been trying instead to break down the months, telling myself that it’s only 3 more months until I get to see him again. In the meantime, I have many small trips, events, and outings to look forward to that will keep me distracted. It’s time for me to connect with myself.

Nikita Singh 

Nikita Singh is a graduate from the University of Toronto who is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University. Her future goal is to have her own private practice specializing in marriage and couples counselling.

Mom! He Hit Me!

Sibling fights are right up there on the list of parental pet peeves. It can be annoying to hear your kids fighting in another room, and it can be agonizing to hear how they treat each other. I remember reading somewhere that research shows that siblings between the ages of 6-12 years fight on average every 10-20 minutes. Eek. If there is a silver lining to this research, though, it is the awareness that it’s not just your kids – all parents know this struggle!

If we think about the goals of misbehavior and why kids do what they do, fighting between siblings pretty much always falls into the “attention” category.  Who can ignore WWIII breaking out in your family room? Your kids are well aware of that. Don’t think that they haven’t come to rely on your speedy response to their crazymaking. As a child, if you’re not getting your way, when Mom or Dad comes in, at least the playing field is level again. You now stand a chance of coming out on top after they make their decisions about who was in the wrong and what’s going to happen now.

One of the best ways of handling sibling fights is to simply stay out of them. Let everyone know at your next family meeting that your intention is to not interfere with their disagreements because you have faith in their ability to sort out their own problems. Then you need to follow through and allow them to actually do it, regardless of what method of conflict resolution they take.

If this approach gets particularly tense and leads to some sort of physical means of resolving the issue, there may be value in letting them sort it out themselves. For example, an effective way of learning that you shouldn’t hit your sister is getting hit right back. But if you do decide to step in, do it in a different way than you have in the past. Be calm, treat them all the same, don’t get involved, and give everyone choices. “I’ll take the toy/game/tv remote and when you guys can sort out who gets to take a turn first/who gets to roll first/what channel to watch, come and get it from me. I’ll be downstairs making dinner/folding laundry/cleaning the bathroom, and if you can’t decide, you’re welcome to come and help me.” Not only does this method encourage them to sort out their own problems through (hopefully) communication and compromise, it also sends the message that they are in this together and that you won’t get involved. With you as a common enemy, instead of the judge and jury, they are more likely to be motivated to work through their issues together and reach a middle ground everyone can live with.

If they’re really struggling to find a solution they’re both content with, put it on the agenda for your next family meeting, and work at solving it as a family. Talk through some basic problem solving and conflict resolution skills, tailored to the age of your children, and walk them through the process of solving this problem together. With practice, they’ll pick up on the steps they’ll need to apply to solve other problems between them.

While this strategy may not eliminate fighting between kids altogether, it will certainly help keep the conflict from getting beyond the point where they can resolve it themselves, and it will keep you from having to wade into the middle to rescue everyone, every time it happens.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

Andrea Ramsay Speers, M.A. is a Psychotherapist practicing in Oakville. Her entire practice is built around one purpose: helping people enjoy their families more, whether that means coaching parents in learning new parenting tools, increasing connection and harmony between couples, improving relationships with teenagers, or helping individuals overcome their feelings of depression, stress, or anxiety and start enjoying their lives again. She can be found online at www.OakvilleFamilyInstitute.com.

The First Time I Realized Something was Wrong (PTSD)

downloadI didn’t fully understand everything that went on during my childhood, until I moved out and started college. As a child, I thought that my parent’s yelling, fighting and the physical abuse was how every family was. I remember trying to talk to a counselor in high school about it, but I don’t think they took me seriously. The counselor probably thought that my stories were a bit exaggerated and didn’t want to believe that it could have happened.

It was only when I started college and was away from home for 4 years, that I realized something was wrong. My surroundings seemed too quiet, as there was no longer any fighting in the background. I found I had to sleep with a radio or a fan on to drown out the silence. Most people like silence, but for me the silence would make me have nightmares and they would be the same ones over and over again. I ended up sleeping with some kind of background noise for years afterwards.

After college, I moved back home and got a job in my field of study, which was good. But eventually, I found myself applying for more jobs. I ended up with 5 part time jobs just so I could fill up my time and avoid being at home. I found that things between my parents were very different, as they grew distant from each other. My dad would stay in his room for days at a time and when my parents did speak, it was brief and at times not very pleasant.

My father passed away in 2004 and shortly after I noticed things about myself changing. I was having nightmares again and I was blaming myself for his death. I was feeling like I didn’t help him enough with his Bipolar. It became hard to sleep and I would have flashbacks of certain incidents, which were easily triggered by things in my surrounding, such as seeing certain things on the television. I dealt with all this on my own for years after his death, since I found it difficult to talk to my family.

It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I stopped having nightmares and stopped sleeping with the radio on. There are still certain scenes in a movie or a television show that I cannot watch because it brings me back to a bad place, but I no longer carry the guilt of my father’s death. I have also since repaired my relationship with my family and we now have a great relationship.

Although I haven’t been officially diagnosed, I’ve been told I live with the symptoms of PTSD and I’m not ashamed. The PTSD is a result of what I’ve seen and heard within my house. Over the years I have developed strategies for how to deal with certain things. I want to bring awareness to mental health issues and I want you to know that it’s okay to talk about your experiences. I found that writing and sharing my stories helps me and it reminds me that I am never alone.

By: Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

Screen Shot 2016-10-02 at 9.54.13 PM

Tips on how to Survive a Long Distance Relationship

imagesMy husband and I shared a long distance relationship for a year before we got married. Most of what I am writing today is in retrospect of our experiences. It is undoubtedly tough to sustain a long distance relationship, but it is not impossible.

The challenge in a long distance relationship comes from managing our lives in the real world and making time for each other virtually, as well as keeping track of the time differences. As testing as it may sound, long distance relationships help strengthen the bond between a couple as it encourages effective communication, which is the foundation of any strong relationship. In a long distance relationship it can be easy to become attached to your phone, as it’s the only way of communicating with your partner. However, just like any other relationship, it’s important for you to set boundaries for yourself in order for you to form healthy habits.

Here are some tips that worked for us, and hopefully they come in handy for you too!

1. Break-Up with your Phone.

We tend to get busy with work and school, so when socializing with friends and family, take a break from your phone and enjoy their company. A lot of times, especially during the initial stages of a relationship, your partner becomes the center of your universes and all you want to do is to spend every waking minute talking to him/her. It helps to be mindful of the company you are in and not be on your phone all the time. Drop your partner a text saying you are out with company and will call him/her as soon as you are done.

Having some time alone, or “me time,” applies as much for couples in a long distance relationship as it does for any other couple. A lot of times, couples in long distance relationship struggle to understand the need for “me” time because they are not physically together. It is healthy to have some time alone to do what you enjoy and recharge, be it, watching your favorite soccer game or reading a book without checking your phone in-between. Having some time to yourself is just as important in a long distance relationship as it is in a regular relationship.

Long distance relationships, for the most part, give you the opportunity to prioritize your time well, allowing you to make time for yourself, your friends, your family and your partner.

2. Fighting Long Distance.

Having an argument with your partner can be emotionally draining as it is, but adding long distance to the equation can make it a lot more challenging. When having an argument with your partner in a long distance relationship, it is always better to talk it out over a video-chat or phone call versus texting. Texting, as convenient as it is, could be the reason why a lot of couples get into arguments because it allows room for misinterpretation.

As with everything else, long distance relationships have evolved with time. From writing letters and sending it by post to WhatsApp messaging, calling and video chats, technology has given couples the opportunity to be present without actually having to be present. What helped my husband (then boyfriend) and I to get through our distance was planning our next visit and what we would do together. This gave us the strength we needed to go on with our relationship and have something to look forward to.

 

LOVING SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS AND VALENTINE’S DAY

downloadValentine’s Day is here and it’s a day to express love and affection towards family, friends and loved ones. It’s an emotional day for most, but it can be a frustrating day for others, especially for those living with a mental illness.

I remember the first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend. Even though it was a new relationship and we were just getting to know each other, we treated Valentine’s Day just like any other day. For me it was a day to show affection, but not it wasn’t for him. You see, my boyfriend lives with a mental illness and when he first moved in, 2 months prior, I discovered that he was not on any medication and as a result he couldn’t tell me how he felt. I didn’t completely understand then, but I do now.

He lives with clinical depression and with that comes sleeping all day, not wanting to do anything or go anywhere, and emotions are put on hold (don’t want to laugh and don’t know how or what to feel). He also lives with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which adds anxiety to the depression. Now you add dealing with the fear of going outside and the fear of talking to someone (you don’t want to text, call or email anyone). When you’re in a relationship you may also see paranoia, at least I did. He would ask me questions like “Do you love me?” “Why do you love me?” “Why don’t you find someone else, someone with a stable mind?”

Something else that I noticed, was that he couldn’t be touched when he was upset, anxious or panicky. The best thing I could do in those situations was to just talk to him and provide reassurance. What helped me the most was reading all I could on other people’s experiences of mental illness. I found it helped me to better understand him and his needs.

I’m not afraid to say it was a rough year, but it was worth it. We made it through. For the past 2 years now, he has been going to therapy and taking his medication, and we couldn’t be happier.

If you have a loved one that lives with a mental illness, I have some advice for you:

1. Please be patient. I know it can be frustrating and upsetting, but it will be worth it.

2. Your loved one will need reassurance. Don’t be afraid to tell them you love them even though they may not be able to express the same back to you.

3. Be sure to take time for yourself. What you’re experiencing may drain you mentally.

Overall, just remember that Valentine’s Day might look different for you and your partner, but the important thing is that you’re with your loved one and that you do love them and see them for who they are and not their mental illness. Also remember that they DO love you, even if they don’t always express it.

By: Anita Levesque

Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiences with mental illness.

Screen Shot 2016-10-02 at 9.54.13 PM