So, if you know me by now, you know that I suffer from OCD and anxiety. It has been crippling at some points and sometimes is very hard to deal with. However, I have stumbled upon a method that has decreased my anxiety significantly.
I was grocery shopping the other day, and as I had loaded all my groceries into my cart, ready to put them in the trunk of the car, I noticed something on the cart handle. It was a brown mark. My brain immediately started disasterizing things and saying that it was from a baby that was sitting in the cart. I started to panic, because I had touched that handle before touching all of my groceries that I just bought. I thought they were all contaminated and that I was going to get sick if I handled them or ate them. Then a thought popped into my head – why not just pretend it never happened? Just go home, put all your groceries away and move on with life. Don’t sit around worrying or even avoid touching the groceries. Just move on! To my surprise, this worked fantastically. I was able to put that mark on the cart handle behind me and move forward with my day.
I was at work yesterday and I was sitting talking to a patient. She revealed to me that she also suffers from OCD. We chatted for a while. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a sticky mess on the arm of the chair I was sitting in. Again, irrational thoughts began flooding my mind. And then I remembered… it never happened. That was final, nothing to worry about, nothing happened. My fears and churning thoughts began to slow down and I was able to rationalize my situation.
As our conversation went on, I decided to tell the patient about my newly discovered method of defeating anxiety. I explained to her about the shopping cart handle and the arm of the chair. I told her that if you just convince yourself that it didn’t happen, thus re-focusing your mind, the anxiety will subside. It really surprised me at how well it worked.
Re-focusing your mind is key. By accepting that your crisis is in fact not a crisis, you can begin to focus on the rest of your day. If you believe that the troubling issue didn’t even occur, you are able to move on.
So, I encourage you try it. When something is really bothering you, just say in your head “this just simply didn’t happen”. It might seem a bit silly or unorthodox, but I have found it works wonders.
Bullying is an epidemic. Everyday, thousands upon thousands of people are bullied for their race, gender, creed and sexual orientation. Bullying has driven thousands upon thousands of people to self harm and suicide. What are we going to do about this epidemic?
I myself have recently been the victim of bullying. About a month ago, I came out to the world as transgender. This was not an easy step to make. I spent weeks prior agonizing on how I was going to come out to my dad, to my siblings and to my friends. Fortunately, I have the most amazing father who accepts me and my transition fully. My brother Christopher and his wife Michelle have also been very supportive. And, I can’t say enough about how my friends have rallied around me and been there as amazing supports.
However, not everything about my transition has been sunshine and rainbows. Albeit, I am very blessed to have so many people around me that care and love me, I have faced bullying and discrimination. I have been called derogatory names. I have been told that my transition is a transgression. I have been told that I am loathed. These kind of things really broke me. These sorts of statements drove me into a rut of depression, anger and suicidal contemplation. I thought that I was never going to fully be accepted for the person that I really am, and that I would be rejected for life.
I broke down in front of my dad the other day because of this bullying I was experiencing. Because of one bully, I thought that the world hated me. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I felt sick to my stomach for being transgender and finally living my life the way I believe I was meant to. I wondered if I was ever going to be fully at peace for who I am.
However, my dad made a very good point. He explained to me that by reacting to the bully’s words, I was feeding his methods, and he would just continue to say hurtful words towards me. As long as I was giving him a reaction, he would continue. My dad is a very knowledgeable man, and is seldom wrong. So, I went home that night and I took some time to really think. I realized that yes, my dad is correct. If you react with tears or anger, you are fueling the bully to continue insulting you. Those who have been bullied are hurt and don’t know where to turn. But, if WE can stand up to our bullies, not give them a reaction and just ignore what they are saying, they’ll get bored and move on.
So, I am saying right now, Don’t Let the Bullies Win! If you are reading this and you are being bullied, please know that you are a loved, important and beautiful person. The bully has no control over you unless you let them. I know it’s hard to just turn around and walk away, but you will find that it really does work.
I am making a decision here and now that I will no longer fuel my bully’s attempts to hurt me. I don’t know what is going on in his head, but I am making the choice to turn around and walk away. I will no longer react with tears and anger. I am a stronger person and I know that I am loved and accepted for who I am by the people that matter!
So, to my bully: See ya! You will no longer have any power to hurt me.
Positive thinking is very powerful. I have learned that if you have a positive attitude, that you will be someone that people want to be around. No one wants to be around a negative person. I have found that simply saying aloud when I wake up in the morning that “I am going to have a good day today”, it gets me started on the right foot and the right frame of mind. It sounds so simple, but it works. I challenge you to look in the mirror and smile. A simple smile can release serotonin in your brain, which creates a “feel good” property. It literally makes you feel good. If you feel good when you start your day, you are more likely to be positive and upbeat. So try it! When you get up tomorrow morning, tell yourself that you are going to have a good day, that you are going to make it the best it can be. I think you will be pleased to see how well it works.
I recently found myself in a very low place. You could read it on my face. People around me were noticing that I was down and upset. One of my dearest friends said to me “Alex, when I see that you are down, it makes me feel down too.” That really upset me, because the last thing I want to do is be a negative influence on my friends and the people around me. At first, I was really hard on myself and had negative thoughts, saying to myself that I simply was not going to be around the person anymore. I really internalized what she had said, and I started to beat myself up.
Then, I made the realization that I control how I act and how I display my emotions. I control my state of mind. So, at the point where I was personalizing and beating myself up, I gave myself what I call a mental “ass kicking”. I activated my positive thinking abilities and initiated positive self-talk. Self-talk is very powerful. For instance, negative self-talk can tear you down, while positive self-talk can build you up, increase your positive mood and re frame your mind into a better state. So, in my situation, I said to myself “I am going to pick myself up and present myself with more positivity. I want people to enjoy being around me and have fun with me.” That slowly helped me to re frame my mind. I made the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to sit around and mope, I was going to ensure that the people around me were feeling good. So, in fact, I picked myself up and enjoyed the rest of my day, laughing with my friends. On the car ride home, the one friend told me that she saw such a change in me and she was very happy that she got to spend more positive time with me. It was a really good example about the power of re framing your mind. Like I said, YOU have the power to re frame your mind when you are in a negative situation. Pair that with positive thinking, and you’re set!
Today I am writing about an issue I came upon recently. One of my biggest flaws is that I personalize things that really don’t have anything to do with me. It is something that I have really realized in the past little while.
To give an example, I was on Skype with my sister in law the other day. I am planning on going over there for 5 days next week. She mentioned that Cadence had a rash and a possible viral infection. I was worried that my trip would be cancelled if Cadence was ill. I phoned my dad in tears because I was looking forward to the trip for a very long time. Later that evening, my sister in law said that the trip was still on. This made me feel great, my vacation was coming!
I was riding in the car with my dad yesterday and he made a really good point. See, I immediately thought about myself and my trip when I found out Cadence wasn’t feeling too good. I panicked, thinking that this trip that I had been looking forward to for so long wasn’t going to happen. Really, I should have been thinking about Cadence. Is she okay? How sick is she? When is she expected to get better? Are some of the things I should have asked. Instead, I thought of myself and what would happen to ME personaly. I should have been more concerned about Cadence’s health.
I also personalize a lot of situations with different friends of mine. A lot of the time, I will get stressed out, thinking it’s my fault that someone is struggling or isn’t able to meet for coffee. I feel like I have done something wrong, when really, I am not even related to the real situation.
So, it is my goal to start analyzing my behavior more. I want to realize when I am being selfish or thinking about just myself. The world does not revolve around me. Everyone is going through their share of issues, just as I am. It doesn’t mean I am at fault, though. I am going to start thinking of others first, before I make it anything about me.
I encourage you to do the same. Look at how you react to situations that are really not under your control or don’t have anything to do with you. Think of the person in the root of the issue and be understanding that they need to deal with things as well. It’s not always about you.
I am constantly working on my flaws, and this is just another step in my journey.
In 2016 I was presented with the opportunity to take a unique course for an organization called Stand Up For Mental Health. This is when I met the amazing David Granirer. David is a stand up comedian and founder of Stand Up For Mental Health.
Going into the course, I was facing a long bout of depression. I took the course in hopes that it would benefit my public speaking skills. What I got from it was something so much more, so powerful. At first, I started out slow, not feeling like I was able to laugh at what I was going through. But, through the teachings and wise words of David, I started to realize that my illness is not a death sentence, that I can laugh about it. The course lasted for 3 months and at the end we did a show at the White Rock Playhouse Theater. I had been so used to doing public speaking, but this was a whole new experience. I will never forget walking on that stage and feeling so supported and encouraged by the audience. It was very empowering and I delivered my set, to cheers and applause.
Fast forward to January 2017. For the last year, I had been asked by many people when I would be doing my next stand up comedy show. I never really thought about it, figuring it was just a one time occurrence. However, as the new year started, I thought of an idea to have a “reunion show” for the White Rock stand up comics. I was fortunate at the same time that someone walked into my life and really believed that I could be successful at stand up comedy. At first, I was skeptical. Did I really want to start doing comedy again? Then I remembered the feeling, how it felt to get on that stage and make people laugh. Through a lot of encouragement, I decided that stand up comedy is something I really want to do. I ended up helping plan the reunion show. There is no greater feeling than having people appreciate and laugh at what you have worked so hard on. I realized that this was a whole new way for me to help others.
Thanks to the inspiration of a friend, I went back and read my jokes, forming a set list for the reunion show. Now, I am happy to announce that I have four stand up comedy sets lined up in the next 3 months. I have found that doing comedy really makes me happy and it’s something I can do for my own enjoyment. That feeling, the rush of being on stage is a feeling I crave. I know it’s not going to be all puppies and rainbows, but it is a new journey for me that is already progressing and I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of it. We all have a purpose in life. As much as I love being a Peer Support Worker, stand up comedy is something I can do in my spare time and it’s something that I do for myself, something that makes me happy. To make people laugh is a big passion of mine, and I know by sharing my story through comedy, I am helping a vast array of people. I look forward to what the future has in store for me in stand up comedy.
I was recently presented with the opportunity to do some pretty important training for my job as a Peer Support Worker. The task seemed very daunting to me, and everything inside my head told me “you can’t do that, you’re not good enough” and “you will fail, don’t take it”. I ended up listening to what my head was saying and said that I was not capable of the training. Fortunately, I have some amazing people in my life that support me constantly. My dad being the main one. He explained to me yesterday about me selling myself short. He said that sometimes I hastily make decisions, thinking I’m not good enough or I can’t do the task at hand. My dad said that that is selling myself short and not giving myself the chance to do things that I am actually capable of doing and that will better me in my career. I miss opportunities to move forward because I am constantly holding myself back. So, yesterday I was doing some thinking about the whole situation. I realized that there are many times in my life where I don’t do something because I think I can’t. Riding the bus. Going to events at the Whale House. Facilitating groups. What my dad said, made me realize that I CAN do so much. I need to stop using the word can’t and replace it with CAN. I CAN ride the bus, I CAN go to events at the Whale House, I CAN facilitate groups, and yes, I CAN complete the training that I will be taking. I CAN and I WILL. So, I encourage you to take a look at your own life and see where you are selling yourself short. You are capable of much more than your head lets you believe, as am I. Take time to make decisions, don’t back out immediately because you don’t think you’re good enough or you can’t do it. Have faith in yourself. We as individuals are capable of amazing feats. Keep your head up high, don’t listen to those thoughts that undermined you. You CAN do it, and you WILL do it.
So, I have written pretty extensively about my journey over the last 16 years, dealing with Schizophrenia and OCD. I have found though, that I was wrong in my initial thinking that mental illness is a death sentence. When I first started hearing voices and was going through psychosis, I thought I would be turned into a drugged up drooling zombie in a padded room. This scared me so much that I went for 2 years without telling anyone that I heard voices. However, my journey has been very' different than what I thought it would be. I was very fortunate to have the Early Psychosis Intervention program parachute in right at the beginning and they brought a lot of hope and answers to what I was going through. I also from the start have had a very strong support network. So, along with medication and a lot of hard work, I have blossomed into this successful, intelligent young woman, who lives in her own apartment and pays her own bills. I have realized that having a mental illness has actually been a blessing in disguise. For the last several years, it has been my goal and fight to erase the stigma that is associated with mental illness. There just simply isn't enough knowledge out there for people who are struggling, and they continue to struggle because of that. No one wants to talk about mental illness or disclose that they have mental health issues.
I go to high schools, colleges, meetings, workshops and even the RCMP and 911 dispatchers and I do talks about how far I have come. It is so great to be able to bring hope especially to youth and young adults that are struggling because I was once there myself. I have really been blessed with an amazing father as well. We are pretty well known in the mental health community. We have been dubbed "a great tag team" and we do a lot of talks together, me sharing my story and my dad sharing from a parent's perspective. We get all these cool opportunities to share our story all over the place. We have talked to thousands of family members, mental health professionals and people going through psychosis themselves. This is such an amazing opportunity to have. My dad and I are able to go out and change lives. We bring hope to so many people where there once was none. We bring strength to families and the idea that with psychosis, recovery can be expected. You have no idea how much I love being able to do that. My dad and I have touched so many lives.
So, I would definitely say that having a mental illness has been a huge blessing in disguise. If did not go through everything I have in the last 16 years, then I wouldn't be changing lives. I wouldn’t be bringing hope to people. I wouldn't be going to high schools and helping kids who are going through their own personal hell. I get to fight stigma and be a beacon of light to not only people with psychosis but also their families. How awesorne is that? Without everything. I wouldn't have such a strong bond with my dad- I wouldn't be as close to him as I am now. There are so many amazing things on the horizon for my life and I have made it so far. It is my life goal to help others and show that mental illness isn't the end of the world.
So, if you are facing a mental health diagnosis, remember, it is NOT a death sentence. There IS hope. You CAN recover- There is so much positivity and a future out there for you.
Ok, so I did a talk a few months ago and there was a mother in the audience. As I finished and was accepting questions, she spoke about how her son spends all his time on video games and that she has to constantly get him to stop playing so much. Now, I know what a lot of you think about video games, that they are a waste of time. Well, this is a big subject for me because I am an avid online video game player myself.
I told the mother that it's not the end of the world that her son is so into video games. There have been many studies about how video games can affect a person. Games are actually a lot more than just staring at a screen, mashing keys on a controller. It is a fact that video games online can promote healthy, social relationships. Online video games can also be an escape from anxiety, depression and anger. I’ll speak from my own experience...
Go back to the year 2000. I was fourteen years old. My mom's health had been severely ailing for the last several years. On March 30, 2000, she passed away. I was a shell of emptiness, anger, depression, frustration and hated God for taking my mom from me. I remember however, before she passed away she gave me some money to buy myself a video game. Now, at the time I wasn't a gamer. I was into ice hockey and music. I went out to the store and bought myself Rainbow Six. I had never really played any video games on the computer before. I played the single player for a while and then discovered the online feature. My computer was very low tech and my internet was slow. However, I did have a desktop microphone. At first I just joined games and played with others, being absolutely terrified to speak into the microphone. Finally, I built up the courage and said "hello" to the group of people in my game. That's where it all started. Rainbow Six was the first game I ever got into. I went on to buy the next Rainbow Six game called Ravenshield. I met some amazing people online in that game. I think back to the hours I spent playing that game in which I was especially into the co-op mode. I loved the fact that I was fighting terrorists with people from all around the world. As I got more and more into the game, I met more and more people — people from all over, from Canada and as far away as Australia. I began talking to people. I will never forget my first online "friend", Chris. We played so many rounds of Ravenshield together that I couldn’t count. I could tell he really cared. Now, you always hear on the news that there are tons of creeps and weirdos on the internet, and I will acknowledge that yes, there are some interesting people out there. However, the internet is also the home of some of the most trustworthy, caring, understanding individuals. I began to realize this very quickly.
As I was trying to deal with my anger and depression from losing my mom, I got more into online video games. Alongside my buddy Chris, we played many different games, one we got hooked on was Shot Online, a golf game. I was able to talk to Chris about my life, about losing my mom and expressed to him how depressed was. I remember many late nights talking to him. He was there for when my "real life" friends ditched me. I had found an outlet. I was getting out my anger and frustration in a healthy way, it was my alternative to self-harm.
When I turned 16, I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. This is where I really needed some coping mechanisms and support. I had started playing a plethora of other online video games, from Call of Duty to Left 4 Dead. I found that getting online and talking with the amazing people I had met, made the voices a little quieter, the anxiety a little less severe, the sadness a little less overwhelming.
As the years went by, I met many different people and became close friends with people of all ages, genders, races and locations. Some people came and went. Some people lasted for years. Some people are still in my life. I went from talking to no one at all in my life to talking to friends online and getting advice and help from them when I felt like I had no one to go to in my real life. I created a social environment where am not judged or criticized, and I actually TALK out my problems.
I had finally found something that gave me relief from the mental affliction inside my head. Video games. I met my best online friend a few years later, my good buddy Goose. Goose and I have recorded a ridiculous amount of hours playing Left 4 Dead online together. He is definitely my best online friend and I feel really comfortable talking to him about my illness and what is going on in my life. He is the funniest, most encouraging person I know and he can make me laugh no matter how bad I am feeling. There have been many times where I was having really bad anxiety, and I would turn on the computer and send Goose a message to play some games together. As soon as the games started, the anxiety went away. The voices calmed. I had found a reason to wake up in the morning.
I was finally introduced to the amazing game, World of Warcraft, in 2010. About a year ago, I Google’d "friendly WOW guild" and came across Two Percent. I am now part of an amazing group of people that play World of War-craft together. These people all know that I have Schizophrenia and OCD. They all I know I suffer from extreme anxiety. I have shared many things about my life with them, and they genuinely care. They can tell in my voice when something is wrong, and they are more than willing to talk about it. They are a huge support to me and huge in my support network.
You might have a better understanding now of my love for video games. I'm not the only person out there like me. I've come across countless people who actually credit video games for them not committing suicide. Video games can bring so much hope and joy into people's lives. I agree, there are negative aspects, like video game addiction, but if used in moderation, Video games can be an escape, that volume knob to turn the anxiety down, to get away from sadness. I advocate for video games because they have given me a reason to live, and they take me away from things when I am having a hard time. I also realized that I am not alone. There are SO many people out there that suffer with the same things that I do. I have a special bond with these people and we are able to talk about our illness and come together to fight it.
So, the next time you want to get on your son/daughter's case about playing video games, take a look at how beneficial they are. They might be that key in your child's life that is helping them hold on. There are countless people out there who genuinely CARE. I am lucky to know so many of them and I have a beautiful internet family. THAT is why I play video games so often. They quiet the voices, calm the anxiety, and brighten the sadness. Video games are my joy and passion.
A big shout out to my online friends, Chris, everyone in Two Percent and especially my friend Goose. You guys bring me an incredible amount of happiness and hope. Thank you.
It's always good to look at the accomplishments you make in life. Working on the IPU I am sometimes reminded that I was once there. At that time, I was living with my dad and I was completely hopeless. I found solace in self-harm and isolating myself from the world. After some turbulent years of medication changes and therapy, I have made it to where I am now. Next month I am 31 years Old. I have been living with Schizophrenia and it symptoms since I was 14.
So, as you can see it has been a long time. I credit my dad for helping me recover, he has dedicated his life to me and I would not have made it this far without him. Also, it has taken a lot of personal self-work. Writing this blog has helped me express my feelings and share with the world what works for me might work for them too.
Reflecting today. In February I will have been living on my own in this apartment for 6 years. I am surrounded by the things I love. Guitars, 2,500 CDs and an awesome gaming computer. This is my own little slice of Heaven. I was just looking around the room and realized how lucky I am to live here. I realize how lucky I am to have come this far in my recovery. A lot of people don't have that. I am so grateful that I can live on my own in my own apartment and not need assisted living or living in a group home. My job on the IPU shows me the rawest emotions and struggles that people face. I was there 15 years ago, I am just appreciating what I have and how blessed I am.
You can never be too grateful to be in a good situation. Recovery takes a LOT of hard work and determination. It also takes different amounts of time for different people. We with mental health issues all struggle and succeed in our own ways. We are all on a path in life.
So, I sit here, happy and content. I know my future is very bright. I am cozy and warm. I have a roof over my head. I have food in my fridge. Yes, I have a mental illness. No, that does not determine the outcome of my life.
Hard work. Determination. Gratitude. Love. Hope. Empathy. The will to fight. We need all of these to progress and move forward in life.
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
"I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so, it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes".— Charles Swindoll
My dad gave me this quote today. He spoke to me about attitude and it really hit home for me. I have been going through some difficult times recently but my dad helped put everything in perspective. Our attitude and the outlook we have on our lives determines the outcome of situations. I have been faced with a dilemma recently that I can either carry a grudge and cause more grief than it's worth, or I can decide that I don't need the drama and enforce a positive attitude on the situation. I have been wallowing in my own self-pity and harboring a lot of angst and frustration recently. It turns out that my attitude was the main factor. See, we all control our attitude and the way we react to different situations in life. I myself have the ability to decide that I am going to ‘not sweat the little things’ and keep pressing forward in my life.
I can't change how other people are going to treat me but I CAN change how I react to it and how I handle things. so today, right now, I am choosing to take the higher road and say, you know what? yeah, I don't like what has happened or what this person is doing, but I am going to just focus on my life, my job and myself. I am going to treat people that cause me stress with compassion and kindness, because we can all agree that the world can sure use a bit more of that. This is my decision to pick myself up and move on, strive forward in life. The things that have been bothering me? Oh well. I can't change a person's opinion when it's already been set. I can however change the way I respond and the way I react. One thing my mom always taught me was to "do everything with a happy heart". I remember the very first time she said it to me. I was upset because she had asked me to do something that I didn't want to do. However, I will never forget her sitting down and telling me to do everything with a happy heart, and live with a happy heart because I as a person resonate to the world and the people around me.
So, gaining wisdom from both my dad and mom, I am in a much better frame of mind. I am no longer going to choose to hold grudges and be upset with people. I can change my attitude and take things in the way that shows compassion and a happy heart. My dad told me that we choose how we think and act and other people notice it. Do I want to be noticed as a miserable, angry, angst-ridden, selfish person? No. I want to be noticed as the woman that really cares for others and herself.
I take these two bits of wisdom from my dad and mom and apply them in my life. You can apply them in your life as well. Let the little things go. Don't hold grudges. If someone treats you poorly, respond with kindness and compassion.
You are not going to change the world with negativity, neither are you going to change what happens to you in life. Just take it as it comes, choose to have that good, positive attitude and do it all with a happy heart.