Interesting Article About Childhood Anxiety And Possible Treatments

I was going through my usual morning RSS feeds while eating breakfast, and I came across this article from Science News:

“When anxiety happens as early as preschool, treatments can help”, by Sujata Gupta for ScienceNews.

Do you know one of those kids who’s afraid to try anything, thinks that everyone is going to hate them or make fun of them, or can’t tolerate being unable to see their parents? It seems there is no lower limit to the age where excessive anxiety or an anxiety disorder can appear. The article mentions that there have been experiments done that have identified children that are overly cautious or anxious, and the researchers discovered that many of those children grow into adults who have anxiety disorders.

Researchers also think they have identified the parts of the brain involved, and what about those parts causes the problem.

The great news is that a particular kind of CBT that’s customized for kids appears to work in almost two-thirds of cases. A combination therapy with CBT and an antidepressant (they used sertraline) seems to work about 80% of the time. As it’s still a new and somewhat experimental approach, it’s not widely available yet, but the researchers’ success so far bodes well for being able to help children and potentially keep them from suffering from anxiety disorders as adults!

Stay safe.

The Flop Sweat Experiment

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of hot weather. Not to be any more disgusting than I have to, but I sweat. A lot. Yes, I’m fat, and yes, I have an armoire full of black shirts, pants, and shorts, but there’s something else going on, too.

I remember one New Year’s Eve when I was in high school. I was driving friends home from a party (I was always the designated driver). Some of them lived out in the country, so there I was, squinting through thick clouds of blowing snow. It was so cold (below -33C) and so windy that my car wasn’t warming up, and to keep the breath of five people (four yelling and joking around) from fogging up the windows, I ran the defroster on full blast. It felt like my eyes were going to freeze in their sockets. I was cold – very cold, and nervous – very nervous. Despite the cold, I could feel sweat running down my chest in little icy rivulets. Once I finally dropped off my last passenger and made it home, I took off my jacket and was surprised to find my shirt was soaked with sweat.

Fast-forward to my first year of university. My vector mechanics final exam. I knew I was unprepared but had crammed as much as I could into my brain over the previous day. I made my way into the gym and sat down on one of those crappy metal folding chairs, staring at a very thick pile of exam pages turned face down. The TAs supervising the exam called out, telling us we could start and we had three hours. I flipped my exam over.

At the top, it said “IMMUNOLOGY”.

In hindsight, I probably would’ve done better on the immunology exam than I did on the vector mechanics exam, but at the time, I thought I was going to throw up. My skin felt prickly everywhere and I started to sweat like crazy. It only took maybe 30 seconds for me to get mildly scolded by a TA and moved to a table with the correct exam, but it really knocked me for a loop. As I tried to concentrate on the exam, I had to keep wiping my forehead and I could feel the sweat running down my chest, back, and sides.

Three hours later, they announced the end of the exam. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I stood up, felt something kind of weird, looked down, and sat right back down, fiddling with my pencils and staring at my watch until almost everyone else had left. Turns out I had sweat so much that I’d soaked right through my shirt and jeans and there was a puddle on the chair. I got up again, cleaned it up as best as I could, dropped my exam off at the front table, and ran as fast as I could to get back to my room so I could change. It was humiliating.

A few years later I was dating J and her parents came into town. They took us out for dinner and as we sat around talking, I said something (I don’t remember what anymore) that I was worried that sounded wrong or dumb. Nobody said anything or acted any different, but I felt that familiar prickly sensation and I started getting the sweats. I had to excuse myself from the table four or five times so I could go to the washroom and run cold water over my face and hands, and use the hand dryer to dry the sweat out of my hair.

So yeah, I’ve got a history of the flop sweats, although they used to only show up when I was in some kind of high-pressure situation. Since I got sick, though, I get a good flop sweat going for almost any reason. Getting ready to go for a walk? Flop sweat. FA coming over? Flop sweat. My parents coming into town? Flop sweat. Dr C appointment? Sitting in the truck? Setting something up? Measuring something important? Threading my sewing machine? Getting into a cab? Installing a new app on my phone? Walking through the hardware store? Taking a shower before going out or someone coming over? Waiting for a package on the day it’s supposed to be delivered?

Flop sweat.

Something that really gets me about this whole thing is that I may only be a little anxious about something in the first place and just get a little sweaty, but then I start worrying about the fact that I’m visibly sweating and what are they going to think when they see this and why is this happening… I sweat because I’m sweating! It’s stupid and annoying and embarrassing.

A little while ago I decided to try and figure out if there was anything I could do to lessen the frequency or magnitude of sweaty armpits. Two things came to mind for me to try that could possibly make a big difference: flop sweat when I’m getting ready to go out or have someone over, and lessening the visibility of the sweat after it happens.

For the first thing, I needed to figure out why just taking a shower would get me nervous. I thought about it for a while and realized that one (or more) of four songs play in my head:

The theme from the Commodore 64 game Zarjaz. Speed it up to about 50 percent faster than usual. This is the one that gets stuck in my head the most. I have no idea why – I haven’t played Zarjaz since 1992 or so.

“Rockin’ Robin” – the original Bobby Day version, but about 25 percent faster than it’s supposed to go.

The theme from the Commodore 64 game Commando, bumped up 50%. Again, no idea why. I remember the music from a lot of C64 games, but this and Zarjaz are the only two that get stuck in my head. What I would give to get Hover Bovver stuck in my head sometime.

“The Circus Bee”, by Henry Fillmore. I was in a band that played this back in… 1992? 1993? It’s already pretty fast, but bump it up 25% and that’s more like what plays in my head. It’s a great song, but at the wrong time it definitely contributes to my anxiety.

I like uptempo music, but for whatever reason, those four songs play extra fast, get stuck in my head, and make me nervous. The good news is, all I had to do was play another song loud enough that it drowned out anything I was thinking and my brain fixated on the song that was coming from OUTSIDE my head. So far, it’s been “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO. It’s a great song, uptempo and happy, and it’s one of those songs where so many things are going on that I don’t think I will get tired of it for a long, long time. It’s been over a month now and it’s been pretty consistent with keeping me from going back to those four songs and getting nervous.

As for hiding the sweats when they happen, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I’ve been wearing black clothes pretty much exclusively for the last 18 years or so because they don’t show sweat as much as, say, a red shirt would. Nowadays, though, that’s not enough. It could be because my confidence and self-esteem vary from ‘nonexistent’ to ‘maybe tomorrow’, it could be because I have the kind of complexion where someone can look at me and tell if I’m lying or embarrassed or any number of emotions, it could be that I’m disgusted and embarrassed at the idea of being the only person sweating in an air-conditioned room.

Since I got sick, I’ve carried a handkerchief around with me whenever I go out, just in case I need to dab (or swab) my forehead, neck, or even if I have to squeeze some extra sweat out of my hair (I’m sorry, I know it’s gross). Sometimes, the hankie doubles as a fidget toy and I fold and unfold it over and over. Most of my worry in this department is about beads of sweat forming on my forehead or the top of my head and running down my face.

My experiment for this problem? A hat. I have a big floppy one that I wear outside when I’m doing yard work but I needed something a little less… silly. J bought me a baseball cap a while ago and, while I’ve never really been a baseball cap person, I find that wearing it while I’m out (and sometimes when people come over) helps tremendously when it comes to ye olde flop sweate. Not only does it hide any sweat that shows up on my forehead, it also absorbs and keeps the sweat from going anywhere. It doesn’t do anything about sweat getting into the hair at the back of my head, but with the other things minimized, I feel a lot less uncomfortable so I sweat a lot less and my hair stays dry.

Jeebus… I’ve gone on about this for two and a half pages. I guess the takeaway from this is that there are aspects of my behaviour that I seem to be able to do something about, and it doesn’t take a huge investment of time or effort. Being able to break out of that loop where I’m nervous about getting all sweaty and gross, then I start sweating, then I get more nervous, then I sweat more… breaking out of that loop helps me in a few ways. Sure, I’m still going to get nervous and sweat like crazy when I’m at the dentist, but at least I won’t have had sweaty pits two minutes after I got out of the shower, and I won’t have to worry about people seeing me sweat in the waiting room.

So yeah… I’ve figured out how to lower the number of times I have to change shirts during the day. I know it sounds silly, but every bit helps.

Stay safe.

Working On A Plan

Song: “Snowbird” by Anne Murray

Mood: 6

Nightmares: 0

Ghosts: Lots

This is going to be a very short post – I really need to get to bed.

Dad texted me today with some questions and thoughts and we ended up talking about particle-wave duality, classical vs quantum computing, lasers, quantum entanglement… it was quite the chat to have by text and I enjoyed it. Got me thinking a lot.

Had my Dr C appointment and spent almost the entire thing talking about the stuff that’s been butting me a lot this week. No 100% solution, but I’ve been giving it some thought and I think I know what I’m going to do. Just need to do a bit of research, some more thinking, and then talk with J or Dr C to make sure I’m not going overboard or anything like that.

Finished that Spirograph set for my nephews today! I was tweaking the settings between runs and some of the pieces look a little different but hey – I made it very clear that I’m still getting used to this and the parts may not look 100% but they’re sincere…

FA is coming over tomorrow! It will be wonderful to see her again! I’m not 100% sure what we have planned yet but I’m hoping to ask her some questions about 3D printing (she’s been doing it for a while now) and it would be great if we could get in some Carcassonne or something!

Stay safe.

Finally Made Something!

Song: “Midnight In Moscow” by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen

Mood: 6.5

Nightmares: 1

Not a great sleep last night either, but it could’ve been worse. Only one nightmare, but it had me sitting on the edge of the bed with my face in my hands, trying really hard to not wake J up.

My day went alright. Had a couple of conversations through text with people and got a couple of really funny pictures from one of my friends.

My sister called today and we had a good talk. My nephew is really enjoying playing hockey and his team has yet to be defeated this season. My sister is super busy (I have no idea how she does it) so I appreciate the time she takes out of her schedule to chat with me for 45-60 minutes each week.

Got a call from Dr W’s office today – he’s sick so my appointment today was cancelled. I hope he feels better very soon, but to be honest I wasn’t too unhappy about not having to go today.

The big news today was that I finally forced myself to make something with the new cloth that J picked up for me the other night – a towel. It took about five hours in total (and a couple of rounds of flop sweat) but the next one will go much faster than that. I lost some time because I washed the towel material last night but didn’t secure the edges so they fell apart, which required that I cut two new straight likes and remove the frayed areas. Of course the material is much larger than my desk so I needed to spread it out on the bed to get a look at it. Then I needed to fold it in half and then adjust so the frayed parts ended at the same place on both ends. Then I needed to mark it but I couldn’t figure out how to do that with the tape measure I had. A quick trip downstairs for the drywall square and I had two nice straight lines.

I measured again, this time for the first hem. I held it in place, ironed it, and then pinned it, moving along four inches at a time. Then I put it into the machine and carefully started sewing. It went pretty well and didn’t take me too long to get to the end. When I held it up to look at it, I realized that the hem was waaaay too big. So, I got out my seam ripper, fully intending to remove the stitching and do it over with a smaller hem. Unfortunately, I saw this:

Can't Find Thread In HemSee the white thread in there? ME NEITHER.

I did my best to remove the stitches for about 20 minutes and then gave up and hacked that part off and started again. It went better the second time, and, being happy with the way that hem went, I flipped the towel over and did the other side. So, here’s how it turned out:

First Completed Towel!The edges are a little wavy but I think that’s because they got stretched a bit while I was sewing them and I’m hoping they’ll shrink a bit when I give the towel another trip through the washer and dryer.

So… not bad for a first try, I think. A little woogly and it’s also kind of a weird size: 48”x21”. It was supposed to be closer to 23” but I lost some when I cut that strip off. Hopefully when I donate the stuff to a shelter they’ll still be able to use it if it looks a little odd or isn’t made to standard towel dimensions.

Over all, I enjoyed doing this today. It took a lot of time but I was getting used to how things worked. The sewing machine performed beautifully and I didn’t end up with any thread tumbleweeds or missing stitches or anything like that. Tomorrow I will either make another towel or some facecloths. Or something else entirely. I’m not sure yet.

I’m glad I tried this sewing stuff out. It’s a good hobby that tolerates interruptions well (and there were a lot of them today), and I already feel good about making a single weird towel to donate to someone who needs it.

No appointments tomorrow so I will crank up the music again and get some more stuff done!

Oh, and there is now yellow thread loaded in the machine for tomorrow. Should be easier to find if I want to remove some stitches.

Stay safe.

Healthcare Visit Template

I do not like having to go to the doctor. I am very lucky that Dr H is a fantastic GP, but I find appointments are difficult for a few of reasons, some of which are:

  • It’s very difficult to leave the house,
  • I don’t like talking to people about my problems,
  • I have trouble remembering things,
  • I know they’re professionals but appointments can be embarrassing,
  • I don’t like other people touching me, and
  • All I want to do is get out of there and be back home.

Before I went to the walk-in a couple of weeks ago, I was worried that I was going to be sitting there, fishing for words or trying to remember a relevant, important point. So, the night before I went to the clinic, I sat down and typed out a page of information so I had something I could either read from or pass to the clinician.

It helped me because I didn’t need to worry that I’d forgotten something and it was a lot easier to type out the embarrassing stuff beforehand. Maybe it will help you.

Here are ready-to-print copies Healthcare Visit Template (pdf) and Healthcare Visit Template (doc).

Here’s an example of how I’d fill one out:

Template SampleLike it says at the bottom of the document, please feel free to modify it to fit your needs – everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you.

Feel free to drop me a comment and let me know if you think of a way I can improve the template!

Stay safe.

Videos I Find Relaxing

It seems like everything today is competing for attention. Commercials, TV shows, healthy living trends, real estate agents, political candidates/parties, monster trucks… I’m not saying any of it is bad, but some days it can seem pretty relentless.

Every once in a while, I run across something that – instead of demanding my attention and trying to stretch my mind – I find to be quiet and calming. Some of the videos are designed to be relaxing, while there are others that probably aren’t intended to be that way but end up relaxing me anyway. Maybe you will find some of them useful to help unpack your brain at the end of a stressful day or perhaps they will help take your mind off of something that’s bothering you.

Some of the following videos are very long and I haven’t watched or listened to the whole thing so I can’t be sure there isn’t an interruption or something surprising in them somewhere. Watcher beware, I guess.

Riding Light

This amazing video by Alphonse Swinehart is a 45 minute journey at the speed of light through the solar system. It starts at the sun and ends just past the orbit of Jupiter. The music is good, the graphics are impressive, and it even shows the orbits of the planets as you get far enough from the sun for them to be put into perspective. You can download the video, too, and put it on your tablet or phone and watch/listen to it whenever or wherever you want.

Dan Gibson – Thunderstorm In The Wilderness

We have several of the Solitudes series of CDs by Dan Gibson. There are a couple of tracks that I really like but I think this one is my favourite out of all of them. It’s a thunderstorm, but it’s relaxing – slow rolling thunder and some rain falling at a pond or perhaps a creek. It’s not a wild ride with hail and crashing booms and coyotes blowing through the air. This is one of the two tracks I have been experimenting with listening to (along with a track of waves at a beach) to help blot out the real world when I’m doing my mindfulness and worry exercises. Seems to be working so far.

Guinea Pig Muffin Sleeping

I like guinea pigs. They’re cute, they each have their own personality, and (for the most part) they love snuggling up to their humans. This video here shows a very relaxed pig, ears twitching and mouth moving while it dreams. It’s not a very long video, but it makes me wish I was zonked out on a comfy bed, having pleasant dreams.

Beautiful Coral Reef Fish – Relaxing Aquarium and White Sounds 1080p HD

I have always found it relaxing to watch fish as they slowly wander around in the water. Sometimes I’ll pull up a chair to Lloyd’s aquarium and watch him and Buddy leisurely go about their days. There are a lot of relaxing fish videos out there but most of them are set to music and I prefer the water sounds. You may want to turn the volume down a bit for this one – I like the sound but find it a little loud.

11 hrs. Healing Sea #1 – No Music – Gentle Ocean Waves – Soothing Sound Of Ocean

A camera perched on an empty beach, watching the waves roll in. The sound of the waves rushing up the sand and breaking. No beach umbrellas, no dune buggies, no water skiers. Just the sand and the water and the air.

I hope you find some of these videos useful and/or enjoyable!

Stay safe.

Should’ve Brought An Anxiety Toy To My Appointments

Last week I had two appointments – Dr W on Wednesday and Dr P on Thursday. I get very anxious at the appointments and wring my hands a lot. This week, however, I wrung my hands a bit too much and ended up with this:

Bring An Anxiety ToyYep, rubbed the skin enough to give me a blister and then I tore right through it, too. I didn’t notice I was doing it until just before the end of my appointment on Thursday.

I’ve had blisters on my hands from wringing them before, but this is the first time I wore my skin down to the point where I was bleeding. I think it was worse this time because I had both appointments one day right after the other, and my Dr W appointment went longer than usual. It may also be because it’s warmer out now so my hands are a little clammier and sticky than they were in the winter.

So, to prevent this from happening again, I need to do one of two things: stop wringing my hands, or find something else to channel my anxiety into when I’m at my appointments. Since it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll be able to just tell myself to stop wringing my hands, I’ll need to find something to fuss with instead of my own skin. Whatever it is, I’ll be taking it to appointments so it has to fit the following criteria:

  • It has to be small enough to fit in a pocket or my hand,
  • It can’t make noise, and
  • It can’t require a distracting amount of thought to use.

Fidget spinners are popular nowadays (I have two) but I think they’re probably a little bit too loud and distracting to use when I’m in a session. I also have several large toys that can be formed to make different shapes, but they’re too large and would distract me from what I’m supposed to be doing during the sessions. J made me two large skeleton keys with beads hanging from them that I use a lot at home when I’m having a rough day, but I think they’re a bit too big to do the trick.

I’ve been adding things to my Stress Box since I posted about it last year. I opened it up and found three things that I think will fit the bill:

Bring An Anxiety ToyOn the left is a little beanbag that J’s cousin made for me. This is the second iteration of the beanbag – I wore through the original ones she made pretty quickly so she used extra thick fabric this time. I haven’t worn through any of the new ones yet. It makes the barest whisper of sound when I use it.

In the middle is the good old fashioned stress squeeze ball that my sister gave me. This is a little big to fit comfortably into a pants pocket but I can carry it around in my hand with no problem. I think there’s sand inside of it and it makes some noise when I squeeze it.

The third item is this weird little ring that I got from my sister:

Bring An Anxiety ToyIt is made of a piece of spring that stretches when you put it on your finger but is quite tight. The spring is formed into ridges that press into your finger skin while you roll it up and down your finger. It feels very strange when it rolls around and is completely silent. The only downside to this is that it’s small (so it might be easy to lose) and it’s a very different kind of action with my hands than I usually do. I wonder if I’ll put the ring on and then go wringing my hands anyway.

I think I’m going to start with the beanbag. It will keep both of my hands occupied, is almost silent, and will easily fit into my pocket.

What kind of objects do you use to direct your nervous energies into?

Stay safe.

Hobby Focus: Journalling

Hobby: Journalling

Cost: Zero if you’ve got a pen and some paper or an empty book lying around

Time Required: Completely up to you

I never used to keep a journal. It always seemed like a lot of effort to write down things that I’d probably never read again. Some people are really into it, though, and buy special books and paper and keep meticulous records of their days. There are entire books and websites dedicated to the art of journalling and how to keep track of your day. Some of the journal sites out there have pictures of amazingly decorated and very precise lettered books, but don’t feel pressured to do that. Make your journal your own.

J bought me a very nice lined book just after I started therapy, and I decided to try writing about my day. I was surprised by what it did for me.

Firstly, I found it to be a good mental exercise to jot down my experiences and thoughts from the day. I first felt a little bit of pressure to fill a whole page every day, but after a little while I realized that it was perfectly fine to have entries that were just a few lines long. It was also fine to have entries that spanned two or more pages, depending on the day, how I felt, and what was going on.

I also found that thinking about and writing down how my day went is helpful to wind down and get ready for bed. I sometimes put on some music while I’m writing and the whole process is quite relaxing. I don’t care about writing something amazing, I’m just writing for me. I don’t fret about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.

On bad days, it seems like every task is insurmountable and I can’t possibly accomplish anything. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be able to relax or be happy again. Right now I’m having trouble with my OCD again and I sometimes feel like I’m never going to be able to beat it. Reading my past journal entries from when I’ve had good days proves to me that I have had days where my anxiety, depression, and OCD aren’t trying to push me around, and I can have them again.

It also helps me keep track of anything new I’ve learned. Things like techniques and tools, what works and what doesn’t, that sort of thing. I know that some therapies work for me for some things but not for others. I can always go back and see which one’s helped me the most and when so I can put the things I’ve learned to the best use.

Even something as simple as keeping track of events can be useful. Everything from the dates of all of my hospital admissions, when things have gone really well or really badly, and when and how my medications have changed is good information to know. Sometimes there will be a pattern that emerges that can help predict how I’m going to feel in a particular situation.

Since J got me that first book, I’ve kept journalling. It’s been almost two years now. While I was in the hospital, I filled up two more books. When I started this blog, I decided that I would switch to writing about my days online. It’s still a relaxing and useful activity.

Nobody’s telling me how much I have to write, what I’m supposed to write about, what format or medium I should be writing in, or that I need to write every day. I can write about my day on a legal pad, on a computer, or even buy and decorate a special book. I can show other people my journal or keep it completely private. It’s all up to me.

Journalling has helped me feel better about myself and is a great way to keep track of my recovery (and prove to myself that I am getting better). If you’ve never tried it, I recommend giving it a shot. It doesn’t take much time, you can do it whenever you want, and you can use it to help yourself in many different ways.

Stay safe.

A Letter To Myself

When I had emerged from a nasty low last year, Dr C encouraged me to write myself a letter to read when I was stuck in a rut again and having a rough time. My first effort came across as way too glib and saccharine, so I made another attempt some months later. It was quite a bit better but I think it was still off the mark.

Since I just clawed my way out of a rough rut and am feeling pretty good, I figure that this would be a good time to write myself another letter. Maybe I’ll hit all the right chords this time. Here goes…

 

Dear Mark,

I’m writing this to remind you that things are going pretty well right now. Your medications and therapy are doing the trick and you’re feeling good.

You were stuck on the couch for quite a while there, and it was really tough to do anything. Even simple things like brushing your teeth felt out of reach on some days. Remember when you’re having days like that that it’s not your fault or you being lazy, it’s the illness talking.

Keep in mind how much better you felt on the days when you’d go for a walk. Not only did you get some exercise, you got outside and off the property and pushed your comfort zone a little bit. Even the days when you sat in front of the computer or electronics bench, things were better.

Hanging out with friends is really important, too. Getting together with DA or going to the record store with WG is fun, and hanging out with FA is always a treat with a bunch of laughs built in. Plus, the trips to the hardware store get you on your feet and out of the house, too.

You’ve got family all over the country who care about you and want you to feel better. Your parents, sister, uncles and aunts, in-laws – everyone is just a phone call, text, or email away and they’ll always take time to talk if you’re feeling down.

You’ve got the best wife in the world. She’s your best friend and your coach. She makes you laugh, she dries your tears, she understands and encourages you, and she’ll stick with you through anything – she’s already proven that. You’re a very lucky guy.

Somehow, you’ve managed to luck into a great group of professionals, too. Dr C, Dr P, and Dr W are all fantastic and you’re always less than a week away from your next appointment. If you have to go back to the hospital for a tune-up, you can – and the staff there is fantastic, too.

Family, friends, professionals… there are so many people who want nothing more than for you to feel better. You have a great support structure in place – don’t be afraid to use it.

When you’re feeling down, remember your mindfulness exercises and try to stay active. You’ve been through rough patches before and have always made it out the other side – remember that.

Take it easy,

Mark

Self-Compassion

There are few things in my recovery that have been more difficult for me to accept than the idea of self-compassion. Each time I was in the hospital, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. Whenever a nurse would sit down with me and talk to me when I was upset, I worried that I was wasting their time. Every day when we would talk, I would feel guilty about taking up Dr W’s time when he had so many other patients to see. Even when working with Dr C, I worried that there were other people who deserved or needed a therapist more than I did and I shouldn’t be bothering her. I felt like I was a burden to everyone who knew me, whether it was J, my family, friends, the staff at the hospital, or my therapist.

While on the ward, I would occasionally hear another patient crying or upset and my heart would break for them. I wanted everyone to get better and have a normal, enjoyable life. Nights were the worst for this sort of thing – sometimes I could hear a single voice crying softly somewhere on the ward and it was difficult for me to handle.

I met a lot of good people while I was in the hospital and some of them had been dealt a really bad hand in life and I would worry about what was going to happen to them once they were discharged. I shouldn’t say “would” – I still worry about them and hope they’re doing well.

I felt guilty and hated myself for being a burden when J or my parents or friends stopped by the hospital for a visit. They all had other things to do and the hospital was quite a bit out of the way for everyone. I really appreciated the visits, I just felt bad that people had to go out of their way to see me.

With all of the effort that I spent worrying about other people, I never spent any time extending the same courtesy to myself.

I was introduced to the concept of self-compassion early in my first hospital stay by one of the therapists during a group session. It seemed like something so simple, yet so strange: take time for yourself and be kind to yourself. The nurses and Dr W repeated the message over and over again. I don’t know how many times Dr W and the nurses told me that I was in the right place and if I wasn’t supposed to be there, they’d discharge me. They also repeated that I needed to be easier on myself and not berate myself for taking up a bed in the hospital.

It took quite a while but I finally started to go easier on myself. With lots of self-compassion exercises in the group sessions, the therapists were always coming up with ways to help people be nicer to themselves. Things as simple as taking time for a two-minute breathing break, to going off the ward for a walk outside, to understanding that everyone was supporting me and just wanted me to get better slowly made me feel better about myself and broke down some of the barriers to my recovery.

Nowadays, instead of worrying that I’m wasting someone’s time or being a burden, I do my best to make sure to thank them for their time instead. I also make sure that I take some time to sit down and try to clear my head and relax each day. I try to remind myself that I’m just as deserving of being well and happy as everyone else is, and I count my blessings every day. Sometimes more than once.

It’s easy for me to fall back into bad habits if I’m not careful, though. I still slip up, and on bad days I find it very hard to understand why anyone would want to help me or even talk to me. When that happens, I try to think about all of the people who I care for and what I would tell them if our situations were reversed. Of course they’d deserve treatment, caring, and love.

And so do I. Even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it.

Stay safe.