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Mental Health

Heather Armstrong, Dooce, died of suicide

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

It’s been a fucking horrible week. Let me be really, real it’s been a really fucking awful month and we’re only 10 days in. I’m actually terrified of what the other 21 days in this month might bring. Heartbreak and devastation, there’s been too much. In just 5 days, I’ve experienced the heartbreaking loss of my Lola and shocking death of suicide of friend and colleague, Heather Armstrong .

Real talk, I had to take an edible just to chill myself out enough to write this post. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve had verbal constipation. So many thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head in a fury. I just couldn’t get them out onto the screen. This is my process and if I can’t write, I might actually implode from all the unprocessed, “stuck in my head” feelings that are hitting my heart so hard right now. So, fuck it, life is unbearably short and I’m just going to bleed all over this damn keyboard. Consequences be damned.

Today, after a particularly horrible, country song lyric sort of week, I heard the news that my friend and the woman who inspired me to speak my own truth into the world, Heather Armstrong (Dooce) was no longer on this earth. She died of suicide. I am absolutely fucking heartbroken. A world without her in it to shine a light on all the ugly and beautiful sides of life seems bleak. This may actually be the fucking winter of my discontent.

I spent my daughters’ early years in motherhood solitude (like prison but on an island and it’s just you and a couple little natives who don’t speak the language), searching for “mom friends” and longing for community. Lonely and isolated was an understatement and there was nothing I yearned more for than connection, understanding and commiseration. I found that community amongst my people; fellow moms, dads and other “mommy bloggers” (I hate that fucking term) and Heather. We’re content creators (who happen to have kids) and we’re the OG founding mothers of today’s content creators and influencers.

I was stunned at the news yesterday. Heather Armstrong, aka Dooce to the online world, is no longer in this world. She was more than the original “mommy blogger” or the “Queen Mommy Blogger”. She was a woman, a mom, a lover, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a foulmouthed hooligan, free spirit whose vulnerable and authentic words made the world a better place for a lot of us. Heather was a pioneer and legend in the mom blogging field. She crawled so we could run. She paved the way for all modern day influencers. For me, the world is a less beautiful place without her in it. There is a deep void where she is supposed to be in the world. I hate the thought of the last thing the world will know about her is she died of suicide.

Heather Armstrong, Dooce

She was more than just a click bait headline. Heather’s words inspired me to push through my fear and share my most vulnerable, irreverent and often scary truth. When I first started blogging, not knowing anything about the industry and just knowing that words were my way of processing life, I reached out to Heather. Yep, I was so green that I fucking cold called (via email) the literal Queen of Mommy Blogging and asked for guidance. I had no idea about the hierarchy of the blogging world, I was brand new to the blogosphere. I jumped in with both feet and no idea of what I was doing. She responded.

That’s the type of person she was. She was fierce and feisty and fucking fabulous. Not shying away from what might have been a very inconvenient 10 minutes out of her crazy busy day, she read my email and gave me guidance. She was gracious, appreciative and generous. Heather didn’t hoard her secret to success. She knew there was no other Dooce and there was room for all of us on the internet. She offered thoughtful, useful advice instead of nuanced suggestions or condescending platitudes, as some prefer to do.

The first thing she did was to thank me for taking the time to reach out to her. Thanking me for my support, as a fan, because it allowed her to do what she loved the most… write and share her life.

Heather Armstrong, Dooce

Her advice shaped the writer I would become and the community I would build. She warned me that growing a following and community was hard work. She encouraged me to keep writing and keep working. Then she told me something that was invaluable and is the reason I have the connections I do in the blogging world… “Get involved in a community of people who you want to read your blog.”

So, from there on, I wrote my truth, in my voice for the people I WANTED to read my blog…moms like me. Moms like Heather. The moms who are struggling daily, appreciating the small moments, sometimes think their kids are full on assholes but ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS love them and appreciate the burden and the bliss of motherhood while not taking any of it too seriously. At the same time, moms who were as serious as a fucking heart attack because, after all, this is the world we are leaving to our daughters and sons.

She wished me luck with much love and that was the beginning of over a decade of friendship. I loved her from that moment. I admired her for her words on the screen. But the words in my emails and messages, those were the words that really touched my heart. The conversations about everything and nothing, the wellness check ins, the commiseration and compassionate understanding.

Heather Armstrong, Dooce

I can’t presume to know all the thoughts that led her to that dark place on May 9th or positioned her to die by suicide. But, I’ve been there myself on many occasions. I know that depression is a lying demon that gets in your head. Cruelly, it beats you down from the inside out. It is torturous and painful. Mental illness, the self-medicating addiction just to feel normal (or not feel at all) can be all consuming.

Sometimes it feels like the only way out is by death. Going through it is just too painful an option. How much pain is an individual going through that death by suicide feels like the the only option? That’s not an easy decision, nor does anyone make it lightly. Heather was a warrior and fought through the pain publicly and privately for over 2 decades. She was a prolific mental health advocate. With her candor, she helped make the world a more livable place for those of us who struggle with the darkness.

I don’t know about other people’s mental illnesses but believe me, I’ve done the research and lived with mine for most of my existence. None of us is perfect and we’re all just trying to survive this life.  We make mistakes and faux pas when we are trying to get our mind right side up. At my worst, I was probably unbearable to others. Heather made it okay for me to be vulnerable and brave enough to share my own struggles with mental illness. Her bravery helped other women know they are not alone in their fight.

During my teens, I was suicidal for all of my high school tenure. I’ve had body dysmorphia since I was 12-years-old, followed by acute eating disorders that actually almost killed me from age 17-25. In college, my depression evolved from depths of hell suicidal ideation to full-on mania. The kind that makes you reckless, impulsive, dangerous, delusional and narcissistic. The kind of mania thats so bad, you become so angry and irritable that you circle right back to suicidal. You’re on a runaway train and you cannot get off. The train is speeding towards a mountain and the brakes don’t work. The gas pedal is stuck to the floor. All you can do is hold on and brace for impact, hoping you die so the pain will stop. That’s where I spent a big chunk of my life.

When the proverbial train didn’t crash into the mountain, I was left stuck in the hell that was my existence. I turned to alcohol and started to self-medicate because I couldn’t stop what my brain chemistry was doing to me. I didn’t even recognize the person I was becoming. The guilt of the reckless behavior, the shame of things I said and did while manic, the narcissism and self-absorption that everyone around me had to endure was too much to live with. From day to day, I had a plan to stop the pain but I just couldn’t do it. Ironically, my mental illness, which created my need to be perfect, please my parents and not disappoint anyone is what kept me fighting. Its why I’m here now. That and a whole lot of Catholic guilt.

Eventually, I got help. But for a long time, I didn’t even know what was wrong with me. I assumed I was just broken; undeserving of happiness. But once I was diagnosed, everything became clear and with the help of my team of doctors and specialist, we made a plan to live. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of hard work. It hurts. You have to face things about yourself that maybe you don’t want to accept but accepting it is the only way to get through it. Depression is a liar. The thing no one tells you is that it’s a fight that you will be fighting for the rest of your life. There is no fucking cure. Just medicine and therapy to make it bearable.

Heather Armstrong, Dooce

All this to say, Heather was more than just the “Queen Mommy Blogger” to me. She was a friend, a confidant, an inspiration and a mentor. Loved and beloved. She shone the light on the ugly and beautiful of life without hesitation and with complete vulnerability. Heather was a talented writer and wordsmith. She was kind, caring, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, hilarious. Off-the-wall and irreverent and we loved her for every single bit of it.

She lived for her Leta and Marlo. Loved Pete. Her time was too brief but it was impactful on the world. She used her platform to give light to important causes, sometimes even to her own detriment. She made a difference. Her words were a big part of her legacy. I’m heartbroken that I’ll never get to read another new post or message from her again. Still, I can take comfort that for a little while I was in her orbit.

I will forever miss you, my friend. You were so much more than just a mommy blogger. I pray that you are free of the pain of this world and you are finally at peace.

Heather Armstrong, Dooce

To all of my OG blogger friends and community ( you know who you are), I love you and I’m here for you. I always have been and I always will be.

If you have a favorite memory of Heather, please share below in the comments.

If you are struggling with mental illness and/or suicidal ideation, don’t do it alone. You are not alone. You are a warrior and there are people to help. Even when the pain feels unbearable, you are worthy of living and being loved. Don’t give up.

988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline

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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Have you ever found yourself stressed the F out and you just couldn’t shake yourself out of it? Stress can sneak up on you. Sometimes it takes our bodies reacting before our mind realizes what’s going on. That’s how panic and anxiety manifest in my house. So, if you’ve been feeling overly stressed lately, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. Right now, feeling stressed out seems to be the national pastime. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just affect us physically but also, had a profound effect on the mental health of most of the population. Add to that the fact that job satisfaction levels are at an all-time low among many and it’s easy to see why we’re all so stressed out.

Why Is Stress a Problem?

Many people assume that high levels of stress are not a big deal and accept it as just a part of living. However, this is not the case. In reality, it’s not healthy to deal with massive levels of stress in your life. Stress can manifest in all kinds of physical ways that will have you Googling symptoms and self-diagnosing with WebMD. Don’t do it. Here are some of the key ways that stress can impact you that you do need to be aware of. 

Chronic Pain 

First, stress can manifest in forms of chronic pain. Pain like this can impact virtually any area of your body. Due to this, it’s important to make sure that you are working to heal your mind as well as your body. Chronic pain can make it difficult to function effectively on a daily basis. If you are in severe pain, you might assume that it’s a physical issue. In reality, the route of your pain could be connected to a mental health problem. 

Depression and Anxiety 

Stress can also make other mental health issues more likely or more significant. This includes possibilities such as depression and anxiety. If you are stressed, you are always going to find it more difficult to deal with certain aspects of life including problems that you are currently facing. This can lead to people becoming depressed or growing more anxious than usual. This is one of the reasons why levels of stress are often more significant to your well-being and your mental health than most people realize. 

Chronic Health Conditions 

You could also find that you are more likely to develop issues with chronic health conditions if you are more stressed. Various research has found evidence that stress increases the symptoms of certain chronic health conditions. This includes conditions such as RSI, tinnitus and even diabetes. Other research has provided evidence that stress is somewhat linked to certain severe conditions including particular forms of cancer. This is not surprising when you consider that tension will impact every aspect of the body including your muscles as well as your mind. 


One of the main ways people tend to deal with stress is by binge eating or engaging in another unhealthy habit. As such, it’s possible that stress is going to have a ripple effect on your diet. This is one of the reasons why you should absolutely think about monitoring what you are eating and drinking if you do feel as though you are under a lot of pressure. You don’t want to get into a situation where your diet changes dramatically without you fully realizing it. 


You could also find that stress changes your appearance. As mentioned, stress can have an impact on the physical aspects of your body and this does include your appearance. For instance, you might find that you notice changes to your hair. If you are overly stressed, you could notice that your hair seems a lot thinner or frailer. You could also notice that skin conditions tend to flare up when you are more stressed. This could include eczema, acne and dry skin or redness. The good news is that if you read articles like: Is eczema contagious: everything you need to know, you’ll find that you don’t have to worry about issues like this being too serious. The symptoms will gradually disappear over a few days if they are tied to your mental health. 


You may also find that high levels of stress start to impact your sleep patterns as well. If you are overly stressed, you probably will struggle to sleep through the night. This could mean that you have difficulty getting the amount of sleep that your body requires. That in turn can lead to lower levels of energy than usual which will make it more difficult to function overall. You might even develop issues with insomnia if your stress is severe. 

How to Fight Back Against Stress

Now that you understand some of the issues that stress can cause in your life, it’s important to consider some of the steps that you can take to combat it the right way. Here are some of the options that you can and absolutely should consider. 

Identify Your Triggers

First, you should make sure that you are taking the time to identify the triggers of your stress. There can be lots of different types of stress triggers that you might need to consider here. For instance, high levels of stress could be due to your work or career. Alternatively, you might find that it’s something related to the people in your life. If people around you are toxic, then they can cause you a lot of stress. 

Find Ways To Relax 

Next, you should think about finding ways to relax throughout the day. There are lots of options that you can explore to try and relax when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. You might want to try breathing exercises. This helps regulate the level of oxygen that your brain receives each day. As such, it can help you think more clearly and solve problems far more effectively over time. Of course, this isn’t the only option that you can consider when you are trying to relax a little more. 

Try Exercise

You might also want to consider exercise as a way to relax. Exercise will allow you to work off the tension that is troubling you. Again, this can help ensure that you are able to think far more clearly overall and ensure that you are not plagued by issues. 

The good news here is that there are lots of different types of exercise that you can explore which could be beneficial to you. As such, you don’t need to just focus on something like lifting weights. Low-impact exercises such as yoga can be highly beneficial. 

Improve Your Diet 

Next, you should explore the best ways to improve your diet. While stress can change what you eat, stress can also be partially caused by a poor diet. If you are not eating the right foods on a regular basis, then you won’t be giving your mind the fuel that it needs to function effectively. 

This could mean that you struggle to think clearly when you are faced with a problem or a task. That could be why you constantly feel as though you are overwhelmed. There are lots of ‘brain foods’ that could help with this. However, in general, you should make sure that you are getting your five a day and a relatively balanced diet. This will help ensure that stress doesn’t become a major issue in your life. 

Make Changes to Your Life 

Once you have identified the issues that are causing you stress, it’s important to be ready to make some changes. There are lots of positive changes that you can explore here. For instance, you might want to work on setting a schedule for yourself throughout the day. This will allow you to stay on top of targets and avoid a situation where you feel as though things are starting to build up or grow out of your control. 

Alter Your Environment 

It’s also worth considering whether or not your environment is contributing to higher levels of stress than usual in your life. This could relate to both your home and professional environment. For instance, it’s possible that your home isn’t set up for good mental health. This can be the case if your home is overly cluttered and filled with things that you don’t need. Research also suggests that keeping a high air quality can improve stress levels and ensure that you will be able to think far more clearly overall. 

Seek Support 

Finally, if you are struggling with high levels of stress and tension in your life, then you should think about seeking out support. It’s possible and indeed likely that your stress is tied to trauma or a deeper aspect of your past. If that’s the case, then it’s in your best interest to make sure that you are doing something about this. Speaking to a professional can help because they will encourage you to tackle a type of trauma like this head-on. 

We hope this helps you understand some of the key steps that you can take to fight back against high levels of stress in your life to ensure that it doesn’t have a severe impact on your well-being. In doing so, you can get your life back on track and focus on things that truly matter. 

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How to Spend Less Time Stressing

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The new year is the opportunity to consider your new year’s resolutions or more honestly, reconsider your life choices. But, while many resolutions concern improving yourself, you can also look at better ways to deal with the world around you. In today’s world, a common issue experienced by many people is stress and anxiety. Although it is a natural feeling, stress is one that can also cause severe problems for many people, especially those who work full time and have to juggle family demands. If you’re looking for a positive change in the new year and beyond, consider these tips to spend less time stressing. 

Be More Active 

More activity and exercise can positively impact your stress levels. You don’t need to become a bodybuilder or run a marathon, but you can still find an activity that works for you. Yoga, short runs, or walks around the neighborhood are excellent options to begin with, and you’ll quickly find an activity that you love. If you’re looking for something more team-based, there should be plenty of clubs nearby that you can explore and join. 

Spend More Time Outside

With more activity comes more time spent outside, but you don’t need intense exercise to get the benefits of fresh air and nature. Again, walking is a fantastic solution, especially if you live close to nature walks while getting a dog could give you a reason to get out of the house. Even so, simply going outside more often rather than sitting on the sofa watching TV could make a significant difference to your stress levels. 

Find A Routine That Works For You 

Everyone is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, you should find a routine that works for you. If activity and nature don’t hit the right notes, you can still find something beneficial. Many people will choose to unwind with a book, while others may prefer to celebrate the end of each day with a delicious home-cooked meal.

Be More Organized 

Strong organizational skills are a clear sign of productive people who do not encounter as much stress. By being more organized, you always feel ready for whatever’s coming up. You are prepared for meetings, and you have a straightforward list of tasks and projects you need to focus on for the week. By referencing this list, you can stay on top of everything, making it easier to manage your time and stay on top of all your responsibilities. 

Accept What you Can’t Control 

No matter who you are, there will always be things out of your control, but it’s often stressful when you feel powerless, which can cause many other problems in your life. Looking for solutions to problems you can’t solve or control will only make you even more stressed. The sooner you recognize what you can and cannot control, the easier it will be to manage your stress. You can focus on more important things and avoid unnecessary stress and panic that could impact your performance and happiness. 

Get Off Your Phone

Your smartphone has been a godsend for many reasons. You are always connected to friends, family, and the office, so you never miss a thing. However, this is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Spending too much time on your phone can make it difficult to get to sleep as the blue light affects your brain chemistry. Social media also forces you to compare yourself to others, especially strangers. You can feel like you’ll never match their incredible and exciting life, making you feel stressed. 

Lower Caffeine Intake 

Although coffee and tea have been fantastic friends throughout the years, relying on them too much can cause issues. One significant reason is that caffeine can increase stress and raise your blood pressure, and these two problems often go hand in hand. You don’t need to ditch your morning coffee (although a cold glass of water can give you the same wake-up jolt), but you shouldn’t rely on it all day, especially not anytime after 2 PM. 

Balance Your Time Better 

The work-life balance has become a popular topic throughout every industry over the past few years. Thankfully, more people realize that their leisure time is just as (if not even more) important than their work time. Many people cannot afford to ditch their job, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find ways to balance their time better. Many people experience stress because they work long hours and don’t get time to unwind. If you want to overcome this, being kinder to yourself and setting workplace boundaries should help you treat yourself and benefit your professional and personal life. 

Stop Procrastinating 

Everyone has that project they have been putting off for days or even weeks. It seems too complicated or dull, and you’d want to do anything else. However, the project is not going away, so preventing procrastination will take a load off your mind. Simply facing up to the task at hand can provide relief, and this will make it easier to tackle your next project without too much stress along the way. 

Have Stress-Busting Solutions 

No one can live without some stress, and there may be times when this stress is inescapable. Rather than have a negative reaction, you must find stress-busting solutions. You may be amazed to see how effective deep breathing techniques are in stressful situations. These techniques provide positive coping mechanisms rather than shouting or panicking. Breathing is not the only option. You can also try mindfulness or meditation to ease any stress you encounter. 


You won’t go through the year entirely stress-free, and stress is sometimes good for you. Still, allowing stress to become a frequent part of your life can cause many challenges, which often compound to make your experience worse. With these tips, you can find ways to overcome and avoid stress when it’s not needed to ensure you feel happier and more positive. 

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Stephen "tWitch" Boss, Suicide an insider's guide, depression

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

My feeds are full of the news of the sudden death by suicide of Stephen “tWitch” Boss. Everyone is shocked that he’s dead. It’s a travesty. Simultaneously, the world is knocked off its axis by the idea that a seemingly happy man/father/husband/celebrity who appeared to be living his “best life” with everything to look forward to, in fact, committed suicide.

Stephen "tWitch" Boss, Suicide an insider's guide, depression

But, I’m not shocked that anyone commits suicide anymore. Life is hard. Many of us contemplate it, some of us go as far as to meticulously plan it, still others attempt and too many succeed. As someone with Bipolar 1 disorder, I’ve become intimately aware of the statistics that 20-60% of all people diagnosed with bipolar will attempt suicide at least once in their life and 4-19% will succeed.

Depression does not discriminate. It gives no fucks about what you or anyone else thinks your life should feel like. Mental illness doesn’t care how wealthy you are or how charismatic you are. It strikes and it’s a cruel, clingy and unjust bitch. Once she has her greedy hold on you, she doesn’t want to let go. Wave after wave of sadness, grief and melancholy battering every inch or your heart, soul and body. It’s no wonder we start to drown in the seas of sadness. Survival is not guaranteed. Only by the grace of the universe, holding on for literal “dear life” determination and the support system to keep fighting through immeasurable pain, self-doubt, loathing and loneliness until the storm passes do we get to see another day.

Stephen "tWitch" Boss, Suicide an insider's guide, depression

To the outside world, Boss seemed like a man who had everything; a beautiful wife and 3 lovely children, a loving marriage and a career that was glowing up in all the best ways. He looked his happiest when he was with his family. He literally seemed to radiate from within. However, the truth is that we have no idea what was really going on in his heart and his head. He was beloved on the internet for his big personality, devotion to his family and all the good he brought to the online world. He was someone we needed; he was light. But even the most optimistic person has worries and weight. Most importantly, who did he see in the mirror? How did he feel in his own skin? Who was the real him to tWitch? The public is left bewildered and maybe even a little scared because if “it” could happen to him, it can happen to anyone, right? I feel this deeply because I’ve been on the precipice of eternal darkness before and it’s a terrifying and out-of-control place to be.

In my weakest moments as an adolescent, I spend many hours lying awake in the night, quietly full of despair silently sobbing into a pillow because I felt trapped in an inescapable hell, completely and utterly alone. Part of me wanted to disappear and another part of me wanted to be noticed and saved but that other part wanted to cease to exist and quietly float off into the ether. I wanted the peace that could only be found alone in the silence and darkness. These were my constant, ever-pervading thoughts throughout my early teens my early 20s.

But if you were to ask 99%of the people who knew me then, they would describe me with words like “nice,” “sweet”, “smart”, and “FUN” (yep, bipolar mania, professional and consummate compartmentalizer skills), and “funny”. I laugh a lot and I like to make others laugh even when inside, I’m falling apart. I’m one of those people who always holds it together; the deeper the pain, the quieter I get about it, and the less I scream and yell about it. I retreat into myself. I hide in plain sight.  If you know, you certainly know what I’m talking about. Feeling sad sometimes feels shameful because where the hell do I get off feeling sorry for myself when so many others have it so much worse? That’s what I told myself.

In high school, I was the smart, quiet “girl next door”, the “most likely to succeed” type. I got up, went to school, did my best, and got through my days pretending to be happy and good-natured; friend to everyone. I was the type that teachers and other people’s parents loved. But my thoughts were dark. I was sad, scared, anxious and angry. No one knew what was going on at home. I never told them. I was ashamed. At home, I was the victim of physical and emotional abuse from an alcoholic father. Every moment, of every day was erratic and school was my solace. From 8-3 pm every day, I was safe. I was normal.

By the time I got to college, I had become comfortable with pretending. I was on my own for the first time in my life, I was away from my boyfriend and friends, everything was new and overwhelming. I felt out of control. In the beginning, I was scared and felt swallowed up whole by the experience but then I just let go or rather I broke under all the weight of bending. Let me explain, I pretended to be care-free. I pretended to be cool with a lot of things I wasn’t. I pretended that being completely alone in a new place, wasn’t scaring me to death. I pretended that waking up with a guy (I thought was a “friend”) on top of me, slithering off like a thief in the night while I slept…never happened. I pretended that I was tougher than I was. I pretended to be happy. I pretended to be the life of the party. None of that was true. It was quite the opposite.

What the world saw was not me. It was some version of me. She was the only reason I survived. She was the fake it until you make it Debi. Or maybe I was the push it til you break it Debi. Around this time, my eating disorders kicked into high gear. At one point it was so bad that I was consuming roughly 200-300 calories a day while purging (without the binging) sometimes up to as many as 10 times in any given 24-hour period. I felt trapped inside my own body and mind. Never free to be the real me. No. I couldn’t handle that rejection.

In those days, I survived on 3-5 hours of sleep a night, worked full-time, went to school full-time 1.5 hours away from where I lived and had to drive back and forth every day and still maintained a boyfriend and robust social life. I lived like a frat boy, drinking into the early hours of the morning, satiating my id and sleeping on the sofa at my best guy friend’s house. Pretending to be okay. No one met the real me then.

There was a Debi for school, one for work, another for the boyfriend, one who pretended to fearlessly sleep on the sofa of a house full of guys, and even one more Debi for nightlife. I felt like a little girl playing dress-up. I was not ready for any of this. The time I was the most myself was in the 3 hours I was in the car alone, blaring Alanis Morrisette and Mazzy Star, singing at the top of my lungs. No one knew me. I was a lot of people for a lot of people but I was almost never “me”.

I was tortured but when I was doing what I needed to do, when I was chin-upping it I could avoid reality and the reality was that I wanted to die. Living was too painful. Breathing was a chore. Slipping on and off personalities like comfortable coats was exhausting.

It felt like everyone wanted a piece of me but only the palatable pieces. No one wanted or cared enough to move past the “me” that they needed to really see the “Me” that I actually was. This explains how the body dysmorphia got so bad. My therapist once told me that my perception of myself is so skewed that I can never trust my own eyes to know what I really look like. So, the cost of the chameleon life I led, straddling reality and pretending to be everything to everyone is that I no longer get to see the real me. I’m gone, vanished from my own sight.

As you may surmise from the previous paragraphs, I was chronically and acutely depressed with suicidal ideation and I had a plan. I even had the opportunity and motive. My point is that to the outside world and even to those closest to me, I seemed okay. Some people even called me the life of the party. I was good at hiding the darkness. I was great at pretending to be happy and go lucky when inside I was breaking. I compartmentalized my life in such a definitive way that I built a fortress around my innermost me that cut myself off from everyone and everything I loved. I lost my joy. Even when I was smiling, I was probably actively planning how, when, and where I was going to give myself over to that eternal quiet darkness that I was longing for. I was done but I couldn’t share that part of me with anyone. I didn’t want them to console or stop me. At the time, I felt like there was no way out and I was destined to a fate of pretending to be alternate versions of myself to be loved by others. The burden was too heavy but I wore it like a dress with pockets and no one seemed to notice the gravity of it all.

In the end, we see what we want to see. We choose to believe that some people have it better than others. It’s the lie we tell ourselves to help us make it through the days. To be fair, we only see what people allow us to see of themselves and they only see what we give them access to of ourselves. In a world built on flawless filters where people are so busy that they seldom look up from their screens to see a sunset, how can any of us be expected to check in on our friends who seem to be okay? Or worse the ones who seem to be good? And that, my friends, is the problem.

We live in a world where we don’t have the time or bandwidth to care about others the way that we’d like to believe we do.  We’re a society saturated in our own woes and even when we want to, it can seem futile. But we put on our brave and happy faces and we soldier on until we can no longer endure.

I don’t know what happened Monday to trigger and escalate the situation for Boss. I don’t know what his “no longer can endure” breaking point but I know the pain it feels to be there in the thick of it. I know the sorrow and thick melancholy that makes it hard to breathe and even harder to live. My heart goes out to Boss and his family. It breaks my heart to think of how alone and desperate he must have felt in those final moments when no longer existing seemed the only option.

Stephen "tWitch" Boss, Suicide an insider's guide, depression

People always want to know how and why someone could do such a thing, especially when they seem to have it all. The thing is “having it all” is worthless when you feel completely alone and unworthy of your blessings; when you hurt so much that you can’t even find joy in the things that used to make you profoundly happy; you can’t function normally under the heaviness of the sadness. You begin to doubt the point of your existence and wonder if removing yourself might actually be better for your family and friends.  I’ve been there and now; my daughter is there. Sometimes, I think I survived just for this moment. I’ve been on both sides of the darkness as someone’s child and now, as the parent of someone mired in the darkness and it’s worse than you can imagine.

If you or someone you know is feeling alone in the darkness, having suicidal ideation and/or making a plan, reach out for help. You are not alone. There are so many of us who have survived. There is no switch to turn or pill to take to be all better. It’s painful to survive BUT it’s worth it. Take it day by day, hour by hour or even minute by minute. The pain seems unbearable and the crisis unsurmountable when you look at the big picture, so look for the tiny moments to get you through to the next.

If you’re in the United States, you can call the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988, available in Spanish and English language, 24 hours a day. Someone is always there to listen. You are worth saving. You matter.

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Food addiction can be much more harmful than many people think because, unlike other addictions, you can’t just stop food. It’s not just linked to obesity, but diabetes and other health conditions. If left unchecked, it could lead to premature death. Nobody wants that, but it’s a difficult addiction to overcome.

The good news is you shouldn’t need to go to an outpatient center to overcome it. It would be beneficial to consult your doctor and then a therapist to get to the root of what’s precipitating this behavior. It could be just a matter of understanding your addiction and getting professional guidance on how to beat it. While it’ll take time and effort, it could be relatively straightforward.

How To Beat Your Food Addiction

1. Know What Triggers Cravings

In many cases, there’s something that triggers your cravings and makes you want to overeat or eat something unhealthy. You’ll need to know what these triggers are so you can start managing them and beat your addiction. While these can take time to figure out, it’s a necessary part of figuring out how to beat your addiction.

Stress, low feelings, and similar triggers can be relatively common. Whatever your triggers are, take the time to understand and deal with them. Your addiction will become more manageable after that, and you’ll have fewer and fewer cravings in time.

2. Have A Distraction Tactic

Having cravings is relatively natural, especially when you’re still figuring out your triggers and how to overcome them. While you’re doing this, you’ll still want to find a way to manage and start beating your addiction. Having a distraction tactic is one of the more notable ways of doing this.

Instead of eating when you feel a craving, replace it with something else. A short walk, and even some music or a television show, can be great options for this. Focus on something that takes your mind off the impulse to overeat or engage in your addiction. In time, you’ll see your cravings fade away.

3. Explore Non-Food Rewards

Everyone likes to feel good, and eating can often be a quick and easy way to do this, especially with chocolate and similar foods. In many situations, your brain treats them as a reward and something to use to feel better about a specific situation. There are ways to overcome this.

Exploring non-food rewards can be an effective way of doing this. These still give you the satisfaction of rewarding yourself without harming your health. Even something as simple as rewarding yourself with a new book can be a great way to do this.

How To Beat Your Food Addiction: Wrapping Up

Figuring out how to beat your food addiction can seem like a complicated process. While it takes time and effort to understand and overcome, it could be simpler than you might expect. You’ll need to focus on the right areas when you’re doing so.

Exploring non-food rewards, knowing your triggers, and having a distraction tactic can all be recommended with it. They’ll help you understand your addiction and overcome it properly. Your food addiction will be in the rear-view mirror in no time.

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How to Keep Your Shit Together while Busy Taking Care of Everyone Else, how to protect your mental health while taking care of everyone else

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

These past few weeks of motherhood have been thus far some of the hardest ever. Shit has happened that no one teaches you about in the parenting books. I’ve studied the whole of the DSM and I still couldn’t have been prepared, as a mother, for the kind of emotional toll that has been taken on me. That’s why I’m realizing how to protect your mental health while taking care of everyone else is so important for parents.

You know there are things you expect, in the back of your head, in the bottom of your heart and right there in the pit of your stomach. Things that you know can happen, like all those terrible side effects they warn you of when you are taking the drugs that will save your life. You take them anyways because living is more important than having the shakes. Well, my friends, this shit was not on the warning label when I got pregnant. Or maybe it was and I chose not to believe it.

I have been struggling with mental illness since the teen years. There is a whole list of disorders and illnesses that I can speak of at length and in-depth. That should have been a red flag to me that maybe I needed to be a little more prepared for what could happen if the girls got triggered. But, I thought, I’ve got this. I found my way out of the darkness. It’ll be fine. And it was until it wasn’t anymore.

In my teen years, my mind was held hostage in a dark abyss. I couldn’t find my way out or at least it felt like I couldn’t but, true to Debi fashion, one step at a time, one moment at a time, I survived. Barely. Even though there were days when it was so painful to be alive that I prayed something or someone would kill me because I couldn’t do it myself and hurt my mom. She was my savior and she had no idea of the dark thoughts that were infiltrating my brain. It’s probably better that way. But I know.

In those days, it hurt to breathe because it felt counterintuitive and I cried more tears than I thought were even possible. But, my childhood was tumultuous to put it nicely. A lot of bad shit happened to me and when you’re a kid, you can only take so much before you break. Or so I thought. I’m more resilient than I ever imagined because I never actually broke, I just bent as far as my child mind and body could.

I promised myself that I would never allow that to be my daughters’ stories. They would live a “normal” life. As if I even know what that looks like. I promised myself they would never be triggered and I thought I could protect them from my same fate. But I was wrong. There are some things we can’t actually stop from happening, no matter how hard we try or how ‘good’ we are at this parenting thing. Maybe this is why I feel like such a fraud when people compliment me. I know the truth. There are simply some things that are beyond our control. That’s a hard and bitter pill for this recovering smother mother to swallow.

How to protect your mental health while taking care of everyone else is a hard, but imperative, balance to find

Today, I took my daughter to her first adolescent group therapy session. Never expected that to be a milestone. She almost cried when I left her. I almost cried when I left her in a room full of strange kids in their own turmoil. Is this a good idea? Is she going to get ideas or learn bad habits? But isn’t this supposed to help her live? All that matters is that she makes it through, by any means possible. She is the most important thing in my life. She and her sister are truly my entire reason why.

A couple of weeks ago, her depressive episode got so bad that I could see her slipping into that same dark abyss that I used to live in. I lived there for years. I honestly thought I’d never escape. I resigned myself to living there alone with my pain until it killed me. For me, it started at 12-years-old with body dysmorphia, then the major depression and suicidal ideations started around freshman year of high school, onto eating disorders beginning around 17 ( bulimia then anorexia with extreme exercising), and ultimately a diagnosis of bipolar 1 when I spent most of my college years and my mid 20’s manic AF. I didn’t have my first panic attack until I was 35-years-old but according to my psychiatrist, anxiety was there first.

As a child, I was prone to terrible stomach aches that landed me in the emergency room on more than one occasion. That’s how little Debi’s anxiety from living with an abusive, alcoholic father first manifested. But I learned quickly, around 7-years-old, how to develop my coping mechanisms. I’m a counter. It worked for years until my husband lost his job when I was 35. #mommysfirstpanicattack Yep, if I’m anxious and talking to people (pushing through my anxiety) I’m probably counting every word you are saying and all the letters in the words.  I know I’m an extrovert but I also have my limits. I didn’t even realize I counted or what it meant until about a year into my therapy. Did I mention now ADHD is on the table? Aye aye aye. Like seriously, what the actual fuck?

Anyways, most if not all of these things are in control ( save for a little mania that gets triggered when I’m under duress…you know like when you’re dealing with the guilt and pressure of passing along your fucked up brain chemistry to your children). You have not had mom guilt of this level if you haven’t genetically fucked your kids up. It is a special kind of hell because it is in fact my fault. I’ve been crying about this a lot lately.

Right now, I’m trying to keep my shit together while putting out a seemingly unlimited amount of mental health trash fires over here daily. It’s a lot. I’m overwhelmed. I’m triggered and I’m trying my best to do what’s best for everyone, especially my girls. I thought I was holding it together. I mean I know that on the inside, I’m falling apart but I thought on the outside, I was taking care of business. I think I am for the most part but I’m neglecting myself. I know this because the other days while I was sobbing about my daughter’s mental health crisis, I could hear my pressured speech and feel my pressured thoughts machine-gunning out of my head and my husband gave me a hug and said, “But Debi, you haven’t looked happy for a while.” And he’s not wrong. I’m too overwhelmed and exhausted and scared to be happy because what right do I have when my children are in pain?

That’s how I know that I need to step back, take inventory and do whatever I need to do to get my own mental health in order. Because skipping myself isn’t doing any favors for my children or my husband. In fact, I’m adding to the pile of neverending trash fires currently going on. Look, I’m not complaining. This is me processing. I write, that’s how I survive. If you’ve ever wondered why my feeds are not perfectly curated, it’s not because I don’t know that it’s what people want its because I refuse to live a lie. My battle with eating disorders made me a liar for about 8 solid years. You have to lie to hide the fact that you are slowly killing yourself from the people who love you. If not, they will stop you from your slow suicide. And I preferred to exile myself from everyone than to let them know how truly vulnerable and pathetic I was. I spent so many years striving for perfection and I’m still a fucking relentless overachiever. It’s just who I am. If I stop moving I die. But now, with years of therapy and doing the work to not only understand my disease but myself, I will never silently suffer again and I don’t want that for my daughters either. I never want them to feel that alone and afraid to live. So how do I protect my mental health while taking care of everyone else? I have to be vigilant that I take care of myself first or I won’t be able to take care of anyone else. I know from a mom’s perspective, it sounds very selfish but it’s not. It is giving myself permission to heal so that I can help the people I love the most heal and get the help they need with my full support.

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Tonight, I’m sitting here with a lot of feelings swirling around in my heart and a lot of thoughts and unanswered questions in my head. At the top of that list is how to help your child survive depression and anxiety. There’s been a lot of big things happening around here. Yesterday, we celebrated Bella’s Junior day at school. How can my first baby be a senior and be leaving for college soon? Sunday will be the 10th anniversary of the loss of our third baby and it’s tinging every day this week with sadness.

Today was the day that I’d been dreading my entire life even before I had my children. The one thing I hoped would never happen, the thing that has filled me with guilt and sadness since even before thinking of becoming a mom.

Today, my daughter verbalized what most adults cannot… she told me that she no longer feels any joy in her life.

I was diagnosed Bipolar 1 when I was in my 20s and back then, I was very regularly manic. That’s how my bipolar presents mostly, I fly so high that I can’t come down so I fly erratically until the extreme irritability and anger kick in. Then, I become unbearable. So, I was relieved when I got my diagnosis because it meant I was bent not broken and that felt kind of like a miracle to me. It felt as good as being cured. But the one thing that scared me the most was the possibility of passing it along to my children. I’d rather live my life dealing with the harsh reality of highs and lows than ever let my children feel one moment of unrest but we don’t always get what we want.

Because of my own experience with mental illness, I am an advocate for my children’s mental health. I’ve raised them knowing that everyone could benefit from therapy and that there is no shame in having a mental illness diagnosis. It just is what it is and all we can do is get a good psychiatrist, a compassionate psychologist and work the plan and take our meds. We have to do the work and it is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do but it’s the only way to get through it.

Today, my worst fear was realized when I heard my child, whom I love more than my own life, say that she could feel no joy and thought maybe she needed more help than I alone could give. On one hand, I was so proud of her for advocating for herself and for being so self-aware at such a young age but on the other hand, I was absolutely terrified. How can this be happening?

I’ve done everything I could think of proactively because of living with and learning about my own mental illness. My girls have been in therapy for the past 2 years. I keep a close eye on their mental health and well-being, we talk about everything openly and I look for the signs because I know how torturous it is to go through it alone. But there are some things you can’t stop from happening. You can only be there to help them find their way and mental illness one of those things that you can’t stop from happening. No matter who you are, how much money you have, where you live or who you think you are, mental illness does not discriminate. The difference in the outcome is whether you get the help you need or not.

In my 20’s, I was very manic almost exclusively but when I was my daughters’ ages (really from about 14-18 years old) I was highly suicidal. But it wasn’t just ideation, I had a plan. I had backup plans to my plan. It was so painful to live that I often felt the only way to stop the pain was to disappear into the abyss. I wanted to die more than I wanted anything else. Honestly, I used to pray for the strength to do it but there was one thing that stopped me, my mom. I just couldn’t get past what it would do to her and the thought of me being the cause of her feeling like she wanted to disappear into the abyss was the very thing that prompted me to keep fighting. I never told a soul and the fact that my daughter discussed her mental health with me, I feel, is evolved beyond what I was at her age.

I knew that if I killed myself, I would essentially be killing my own mother and I could never do that to her so I kept living. One day at a time, some days, one minute at a time and on others, one second at a time. Living during that time felt cruel and unusual but it was my only option. I think that’s where my unbreakable (or as my daughters call it unbearable) optimism comes from. I had to find a way to keep going through the darkest time of my life, alone.

My point is that life is a struggle for all of us in its own way. Sometimes life is so hard and scary that it’s almost impossible to see clear of the darkness. But I promise that eventually, the darkness lifts and becomes bearable. Learn to read between the lines and hear what your teenagers are feeling, beyond what they are saying. It’s not easy being a teenager in today’s digital world. There is so much pressure to be perfect in a world where everything is filtered and curated.

At the end of the day, all I want is for my girls to be happy. I want them to feel loved and filled with hope and a sense of purpose. I want them to know that everything is possible and no dream is too big. But mostly, I want them to feel real, genuine joy and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that I safely get them to a place where they can and they do. It’s been one of the hardest weeks of my life but I am grateful that she felt comfortable enough to talk to me because it terrifies to think about the alternative.

Have you ever been faced with the fact that your child may have a mental health issue and need help beyond what you can offer as a mom? What did you do? How did you get through it and comfort your child in a meaningful way without trivializing or catastrophizing their situation? How did you learn to listen beyond their words?  

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World Mental health day, Mental Health is the Cure to Generational Trauma

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Today is World Mental Health Day and I’m here for it. I’m here to tell you that I crawled on glass to get mentally healthy so that my girls could casually and nonchalantly get the help they need without stigma or hesitation.  You see, when I was growing up, everything was “rub some dirt on it” and “just calm down” and “ADHD? My kid doesn’t need meds for ADHD, she’ll outgrow it.” No one thought that mental health is the cure to generational trauma. Seeking mental health help was about as taboo as sodomization. Yep, I said that too.

Growing up the daughter of a depressed, introverted mother with a people-pleasing complex and an alcoholic father prone to fits of rage, tumultuous was an understatement. Most of my childhood felt like I was stuck on a tiny, deserted island prone to excessive erosion and every day was hurricane season and when it wasn’t hurricane season, it was surely typhoon season. Any wrong step in any direction could surely make this house of cards childhood crumble.

I was prone to stomach issues from anxiety, from a very early age. I remember frequenting the pediatrician’s office and even the emergency of our local hospital often because no one could get to the bottom of my constant pain and diarrhea. The kept up until high school and then I fell into a deep, dark hole of depression. Still, with six kids, a raging alcoholic and a depressed mom…no one really noticed and if they did, they chalked it up to teenage angst and hormones. My eating disorders went unnoticed for years, as did my body dysmorphia, depression and subsequent bipolar.

They say that people can be born genetically predisposed to mental illness disorders but without trauma to activate that illness, they may never develop one. I wasn’t that lucky because if there was one thing I had a plenty of, besides brothers and sisters, it was triggering trauma. Most people who know me today, think I am an eternal optimist. In fact, in my house, the Big Guy and my girls think I’m practically delusional with my “where there’s a will, there’s a way” attitude but when you’re raised with so little, you have to believe that you can to survive the despair.

But back to my depression, it was the kind where you feel like you’re so far deep in a hole that even when you’re looking up all you can see is more black. I was suicidal. I don’t say that lightly but with reverence and honesty. It wasn’t a cry for attention or help. I felt so helpless and hopeless and stuck that I really wanted to just go into a deep, dark corner and disappear. I had thought it out thoroughly. I had several ideas of how to do it quietly, without a chance to be caught before I was done and how to make sure that it was final. I wanted to be dead because living was torturous. It was so painful to live that I just couldn’t see enduring it any longer. That was my existence between the ages of 15-17. The only thing that kept me from doing it was my mom. She never intervened, in fact, she had no idea I was even thinking about it but I knew that if I were to kill myself; it was the same as murdering her so I could never go through with it. Her love, literally, saved me from myself.

Fast forward a few years later and at the age of 27-years-old, I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder. I was relieved. I know some people would be embarrassed or ashamed but I was just relieved to give a name to the brokenness I had suffered since I was in my teens because giving it a name, gave me the courage to face it, process it and move through it. My diagnosis was, in a way, the power to heal and the chance to realize that I was not broken, just bent.

It may seem from reading this that I was sick and then I was better. Obviously, that was not the case. The years in between were the things that drug-fueled nightmares are made of. I was out of control of myself and I couldn’t stop any of it. I was just along for the ride, as my brain chemistry held me hostage and nearly killed me in a myriad of ways while destroying many relationships, obliterating opportunities along the way and all I could do was hang on for dear life.

Meanwhile, I had no idea what was happening to me. I just knew I was impulsive, reckless and irrationally irritable and angry. I waxed and waned between manic elation and extreme irritability almost daily. I blew things up in my mind. I cried a lot. I got angry. I hurt the people I loved with my words, actions and deeds. I was selfish but I thought I was magnanimous. I was narcissistic. I was mean when I wasn’t the sweetest person in the room and you never knew who you were going to get. To be honest, neither did I. To the people who knew and loved me through those dark and twisty times, I apologize and for those who remain, words will never be enough to express my love and gratitude for your love and care.

It took multiple diagnoses, years of behavioral therapy, psychiatric care, a cocktail of medications, a lot of education, a handful of clinical psychology classes in grad school, a shit ton of self-acceptance, a healthy devouring of the DSM and learning to let go to become the woman I am today. I have been practically non-episodic for almost 20 years save for a couple of hypomanic episodes, the most recent during this pandemic. The Big Guy and I are constantly monitoring my moods and sleep habits because hormones and big life changes can trigger an episode. I’ll spend the rest of my life being the guard of my own mental health. To be honest, after recently speaking with a therapist, maybe mom should have treated that ADHD because you don’t just grow out of it. But that’s a story still in progress.

My point is that I had to do a lot of work on myself, really look inward, and learn about my illnesses, embrace them in order to become part of the solution. Knowing my own mental health challenges, I have always been very open and honest about mental health with my girls and, I am always looking for the signs because mine was missed for so long. Mental health is just as important as physical health in our family. In fact, in April of 2020 I put both of my girls in therapy because the pandemic was very negatively affecting their mental health and, to be honest, I’ve always thought that every single human being could do with some therapy.

My girls had no qualms about talking to a therapist. Though we are very open, I know that there are things that maybe they would feel more comfortable with, as teens, speaking with a non-biased professional and I’m fine with that because their mental health is more important than my pride. The goal is to be mentally healthy, comfortable in their own skin and happy. I never want them to feel shame and stigma about a very normal issue that so many people are affected by and avoid getting the help they need.

The thought of my girls lying in their bed at night alone in the dark, feeling such despair that it hurts to go on living like I used to, breaks my heart. So I talk to them about their days and their feelings, sometimes more than they want to and reassure them that I am here for them always and if it’s beyond my capabilities to help, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep them healthy in every single way.

I believe that mental health is the cure to generational trauma but it takes lots of work. How can we make it easier for our kids, and each other, to get the mental health help we need, when we need it?

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Tips to Help your Teen Survive

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

We’ve all been so worried about keeping our kids safe from Coronavirus that we’ve forgotten to keep their mental health safe from seclusion. Check in on your teens and little ones, they are not alright. Not even close. I put my girls in therapy last April at the beginning of the pandemic and they are still struggling. We can’t shelter them from the world but we can try to ease the weight of the world so many of us are feeling. Below are some Tips to Help your Teen Survive Depression, Anxiety and Pandemic Burnout.

It’s not fine. We’re not fine. They’re not fine. The kids are not alright.

We’ve been quarantining since March 9th. Our life went on pause and everything we had planned for the spring and summer was canceled. Nothing is like it’s supposed to be. The new normal absolutely sucks. We are a family of huggers and kissers. Friends are family and family is everything. We’re explorers and adventurers. We celebrate life in the small moments but this past year has been hard to find the silver linings.

Disclaimer: Firstly, let me start by saying I am not a therapist or a trained mental health professional. I’m just a mom who is very self-aware, has years of therapy under her built and pays a professional to treat her children. A good licensed mental health professional to follow for great tips is Katie Hurley.

Bella turned 15 last March 10th and 16 this year. March 14th , 2020 was supposed to be her quinceañera. We planned for years for her big day. Everything was ready to go. The dress, the court, the venue, DJ, photographer and videographer. It was going to be the quinceañera she had been dreaming of since she was a little girl. Friends and family from around the country were flying and driving in to celebrate our special girl. I can’t even put into words the devastation I felt taking that away from her. It hurts to even think of it now, especially since we rescheduled it to August 8th and had to postpone once again. Instead of getting the quinceañera of her dreams, she didn’t even get a proper birthday celebration. Her birthday was basically skipped for the past two years thanks to CoVid.

Gabs turned 13 last May, the day after what was supposed to be last day of school. There was no party. No family and friends to hug and play with. There’s no theme or games in the backyard. There was no bbq with 50 of her favorite people. There was a birthday drive-by parade which made her pandemic heart break with gratitude for those who showed up. She felt alone and forgotten. The smallest gestures mean so much when human contact is few and far between.

But how do you help your teen survive pandemic burnout?


We’ve learned not to take things for granted. We know the worth of our freedom to move throughout the world safely. We know the value of a hug and human interaction in real time. Virtual is a poor substitute but it may be the only thing offered at the moment.

Our kids are resilient. They are strong and they are amazing. They carry on even when they want to give up but everyone has their breaking point, even you and I. I’ve been doing everything that I’m supposed to do and still, people I love are getting sick. People I know are dying. My heart is breaking but I’m trying hard to keep my mental stability. Manic mom has even made an appearance this pandemic and I was hoping to never see her again. I’m trying to be strong for the Big Guy and the girls but even I notice that while I’ve had to adopt the let it go, one day at a time mentality, I am also holding on to things. I’m holding on to things and anxious about things I don’t even realize.

I’ve started clenching my jaw and my fists in my sleep from stress. I wake up sore. I’ve started finding myself angry for no reason at all or maybe it’s for every reason under the sun. Why would I think my girls are any different? They are younger with less life experience and more hormones. How could I forget that?

Check in on your kids. They are not alright.


My girls have been overly silly. At first, I was annoyed by this but then I realized this silliness is what is allowing them to get through this unbelievably stressful time. If they need to regress and find joy in the simplest things, who am I to judge? Right now, all bets are off. We’re all just trying to get through this pandemic. We’re in survival mode and that’s ok. Unfortunately, all that silliness has begun to give way to anxiety, depression and burnout and not just for them. I am burnt out too.

I’m so over virtual learning. Not only have my girls been virtual all year long, so have I. I had the bright idea to get a masters and enrolled a month pre pandemic. I’ve been struggling with burn out myself for the past couple months but watching my girls buckle under the pressure and anxiety of this non-stop pandemic life is too much. I hate it for them and can do very little to make it better other than pay for therapy and give out random hugs and encouragement all day.

Worse, I feel like I’m failing at that because I’m struggling myself. I hate all of this. There’s 2 weeks left of school for the girls and I feel like we’re all drowning. There’s no down time and days and nights are just one long exercise in never ending lists of shit to get done. I want to scream but I’m afraid if I start, I’ll never be able to stop. F*ck you pandemic and all the people who aren’t doing their part. I’m tired of my cage. I know this will pass but watching my girls struggle is the worst.


Tips to help your teen survive depression, and anxiety and overcome pandemic burn out.

  • Create calm times of the day, preferably an hour or longer.
  • Spend time with them doing silly and fun things like playing a game, being outdoors, cooking a fun meal (this helps kids calm down their nervous system so they aren’t so triggered by stress), or just plain talking.
  • Structure helps kids know what to expect which always improves stress.
  • Sleep and eat well (less sugar).
  • Help them write about their feelings.
  • Get them a therapist, many are offering virtual right now. Do it.
Tips to Help your Teen Survive  Depression, Tips to Help your Teen Survive Anxiety, Tips to Help your Teen Survive Pandemic Burnout

Anxiety specific simple but effective grounding techniques

Grounding Techniques
Grounding is a technique that helps keep someone in the present. They help reorient a. person to the here-and-now and in reality. Grounding skills can be helpful in managing overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety. They help someone to regain their mental focus from an often intensely emotional state. 

Grounding skills occur within two specific approaches: Sensory Awareness and Cognitive Awareness.

Sensory Awareness
Grounding Exercise #1:
Begin by tracing your hand on a piece of paper and label each finger as one of the five
senses. Then take each finger and identify something special and safe representing each
of those five senses. For example: Thumb represents sight and a label for sight might be
butterflies or my middle finger represents the smell sense and it could be represented by
After writing and drawing all this on paper, post it on your refrigerator or other safe
places in the home where it could be easily seen and memorize it.
Whenever you get triggered, breathe deeply and slowly, and put your hand in front of
your face where you can really see it – stare at your hand and then look at each finger and
try to do the five senses exercise from memory.

Grounding Exercise #2:
• Keep your eyes open, look around the room, notice your surroundings, notice
• Hold a pillow, stuffed animal or a ball.
• Place a cool cloth on your face, or hold something cool such as a can of soda.
• Listen to soothing music
• Put your feet firmly on the ground
• FOCUS on someone’s voice or a neutral conversation.

Sensory Awareness Grounding Exercise #3:
Here’s the 54321 “game”.
• Name 5 things you can see in the room with you.
• 4 things you can feel (“chair on my back” or “feet on floor”)
• 3 things you can hear right now (“fingers tapping on keyboard” or “tv”)
• 2 things you can smell right now (or, 2 things you like the smell of)
•1 good thing about yourself

Cognitive Awareness Grounding Exercise:
Re-orient yourself in place and time by asking yourself some or all of these questions:

Where am I?

What is today?

What is the date?

What is the month?

What is the year?

How old am I?

What season is it?

Tips for parents

Build coping skills. One thing kids and teens need to hear on repeat is that all emotions are okay. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this global pandemic. Parents should get in the habit of checking in with each child privately throughout the day to give them an opportunity to verbalize feelings and talk about triggers.

Learn how to manage anger. Now is the time to figure out some techniques to decrease negativity in the home. In other words, stop yelling. Parents have a lot on their plates, and it is difficult to juggle work responsibilities, parenting responsibilities, keeping the family physically and emotionally safe, and running a distance-learning school. Chances are, you feel like you might snap at times.

Adjust expectations. To hear social media tell it, this is a time when everyone should be enjoying every moment and learning new things as a family (a privilege not everyone shares). And parents suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat for their children’s education, expected to manage distance learning regardless of resources, finances, work schedules and child-care struggles. Then there are the expectations parents have of their kids regarding learning, training for extracurricular activities and being “productive” during this time away from school.

Practice empathic communication. There’s a lot we don’t have control over right now, and that can trigger negative emotions, but we can control how we respond to and communicate with others. One thing I hear on that tiny screen day after day during my sessions with kids: I just want my parents to understand me.

Tap into technology, and stay connected. Many parents spend a fair amount of time trying to manage and limit screen time. There are positives and negatives to technology, though, and now is the time to tap into the positives. It’s still important to focus on balance and make sure that kids and teens are getting exercise and engaging in activities that don’t involve screens, but technology can be a source of support, connection and education.

Parents, don’t forget to take care of your own mental health. It’s hard to help your teen survive depression, anxiety and pandemic burnout if you are holding on by a thread yourself. Believe me, I know. Find yourself some coping mechanisms and a licensed therapist.

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Look at me. I probably look just like a lot of you. Most days, I look a little tired, wearing yoga pants, an oversized sweatshirt and a messy bun and some days, I look cute. But, there are subtle differences, ones you can’t see, bubbling right beneath the surface like well-placed Botox. Lately, I’ve been feeling a sort of way; like I’m walking a tightrope of mental health. Any wrong move could send me toppling and it’s exhausting. I feel like my bipolar diagnosis has been standing at the back of the room hanging out and suddenly, the pandemic has got behind that diagnosis and begin to nudge me uncomfortably forward. This might not make sense to you, if you’re not a person with mental illness but if you are, you know exactly what this feeling is. This is my diary of a manic mom.

My diagnosis of Bipolar 1 came the year after I got married, from the unlikeliest of places, my gynecologist. I know, her specialty is cervixes and uteruses not mood disorders with a side of mania but lucky me, I met a gynecologist who also happened to be the mom of a daughter with bipolar. This is where my journey from broken to bent began. Let me tell you, it is a relief when you realize there is a diagnosis and you are not in fact broken.

The diagnosis was terrifying at first. I had no idea what that meant, which made it even scarier considering everything I’d ever heard about the illness up until that point was limited misinformation and worst case scenarios. The consensus from my doctors is that I started having episodes in my teens and by college, they were at their peak. I can only speak to my particular flavor of mental illness but for me, it waxed and waned between full mania and extreme irritability. My “low” is the extreme irritability that comes from not being able to slow down. It’s like racing towards a brick wall going 125 miles an hour. I see the wall. I know it might kill me. I want to slow down but my mind keeps pushing the gas pedal. It is so bad that I get on my own nerves. That is a new level of irritability.

When I’m in a manic episode, I lose my ability to think rationally. I become reckless in all the ways you can imagine. I also feel invincible mentally, physically and spiritually. I’m naturally an optimist but when manic, its beyond reason and consequences were never considered. I am also inspired because all boundaries are null and void.

My diagnosis was not easy on the Big Guy, myself or the marriage. It took a lot of therapy, medications, research and willingness to embrace my disorder. I had to put everything into accepting my diagnosis, otherwise, I could not have learned to live with it. My husband also had to learn about and come to terms with my diagnosis. From that point on, he became my accountability partner, meaning we’ve discussed it and he knows the difference between my normal moods and reactions and when I’m becoming episodic. I need him to tell me if he recognizes the train going off the tracks, in case I’m not aware.

My experience with a mental health diagnosis has made me a mental health advocate. I had to learn about bipolar disorder. I believe every single person could use some therapy, especially during this pandemic, children and adults alike. My family knows this and we’ve all been in therapy at one point or another. I don’t believe in needlessly suffering when help is available.

I don’t have episodes like I used to. In fact, since the onset and diagnosis, I can only think of two other occasions when I’ve experienced a full manic episode. However, thanks to self-awareness, education and all the work I’ve done over the years to understand my illness, I’ve been able to find my way through them without losing total control.

With the pandemic and some of the situations that has brought with it (quarantining, best friend is a doctor who keeps me abreast of all the latest CoVid news, virtual learning, masks, an election, going back to school, deaths in the family, constantly worrying about the people I love and never being able to hug them), I have felt anxious. I’ve been able to deal with the anxiety. I’m aware it is happening but I push it to the side and move on. However, that constant state of anxiety has triggered what I’ve felt like was a manic episode.

What did it feel like? It felt like running in high heels across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. Other times, it feels like I’m stuck on a roller coaster perpetually going up, violently coming down and going right back up again. When this happens, all I can do is try to process my feelings while separating the noise and chaos from what must be done. Sometimes that means shutting completely down and being still until the attack of everything of the world is hurling at me can pass. I need to make things digestible or I will be swallowed whole. The most important thing is knowing myself and being aware of the symptoms that accompany my illness.

Giving myself over to those old reckless and self-satisfying behaviors is no longer an option for me. I’m a mom. Not only do I need to be mentally healthy for myself, I need to be healthy enough to take care of and love my family. Being mentally healthy is for my family. Knowing how to recognize, treat and work through my illness is the only way that can happen. There is no room for ignoring and denying in mental health because in the end it can mean the difference between life and death. Also, our children are always watching. I want them to know that there is no stigma to being mentally ill, seeing a therapist, taking medications or whatever needs to be done. The important thing is that we can embrace our disorder and love ourselves. 

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