Reflecting On “Addicted: Notes from the Belly of the Beast” (Review)

“If I have a few drinks every single night before I go to bed, does that mean I have an addiction?” A friend said mockingly. “Of course it does!”

“The question you should ask yourself is why would you drink every night. It’s only an addiction if you depend on it,” Argued another.

The casual conversation that began about drinking at parties escalated into a debate, causing a domino effect of question and answers to which we all couldn’t quite agree on. Considering addiction wasn’t officially classified as a disease until the late 1980’s, grey areas and stigmas remain around the subject.

One thing we could agree on is that drinking is a risky gamble for those more susceptible to addiction. None of us personally claimed to have an addiction, but myself and a few others had seen addiction severely impact those around us.

What begins as a way to kick off a memorable (or should I say forgettable) weekend could turn into a serious problem. Those celebratory shots, evening glasses of wine, or even some fizzy champaign walk on a fine line of being your best friend or worst enemy.

By no means am I suggesting everyone who begins a drinking habit will fall into addiction. The danger is, you never know who will.

Naturally, conversations like this only further my curiosity of psychology. And as a new psychology student, I’m always on the lookout for interesting yet insightful reads to help me learn more about the subject.

Without any specific book in mind as I walked into the store, I came across Addicted: Notes from the Belly of the Beast and I’m grateful that I did. Addicted*, edited by Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, documents the stories of multiple writers who suffered from addiction.

Due to the graphic nature of the novel, readers should be cautious before opening the book. The writers do not hold back as they share dark, vulnerable moments of their lives. However, it is the authors’ courage to share these stories that makes it even more powerful.

Overall, I took away a great deal of knowledge and debunked some of the myths around addiction that I used to believe.

  1. Addiction isn’t limited to alcohol, or even drugs for that matter. It can take the form of food, gambling, sex and more, that stems from the need to cope with stress and other negative feelings. It’s more present in our lives than we may think.
  2. There’s an undeniable stigma around addiction around who is most likely to develop an addition. Like most stereotypes, we tend to paint an image of this person in our heads. Each writer who participated in the novel had a unique story, emphasizing the fact that people from all backgrounds can fall victim to addiction.

Diseases such as addiction are difficult to understand from an outsider’s perspective, which is why it is crucial that there are first hand accounts of addiction for people to read. Gaining a better understanding of it is necessary for someone supporting a loved one through an addiction, someone going through the recovery process themselves, or students specializing in disorders.

Although at times it is difficult to read, each story left an impact on me. Compared to other books about addiction you may read, Addicted provides a variety of first hand accounts that cover different forms of addiction. Each story is touching in its own way, while showing the harsh reality of the recovering process.

Have you read Addicted, if so what are your thoughts? If not, what are some books you recommend?

xx

Thank you for reading as always.

Using Poetry To Discuss Mental Illness

Today I’m returning to a more personal topic, or what I originally began this blog for: understanding and recovering from mental illness.

Too many of us shy away from the topic in fear that we won’t attract as many readers, however we should all learn to make it a priority. After all, one of the best ways to provide support for others online is to discuss mental illness and raise awareness. I wanted to take the time to share an outlet of expression I use as a writer that may help other people.

After I experiencing episodes of depersonalization, a side effect of anxiety, I found it difficult to describe how I was feeling. Writing helped me stay in touch with my emotions, even when I felt disconnected from myself.

I wrote the poem “Blue” to describe what it feels like to lose yourself due to uncontrollable forces.

As somber as the poem is, it was the only way I could put what I was going through into words. I know that others reading it will have their own opinions; but at the end of the day it’s honest and true to my experiences, and that’s always how writing should be. Being able to describe my feelings through writing is always therapeutic.

I didn’t know what depersonalization was at the time because I never knew that there was a term to describe it, nor do I hear it discussed nearly as often as the other symptoms are. At the time it helped me pinpoint what the true source of my worries was.

Not only is writing my feelings out a process of catharsis, but it helped me realize that what I was going through was more serious than I thought at the time. It encouraged me to find an explanation to the distressing periods of depersonalization I endured. This realization ultimately became the reason I was able to combat that feeling of helplessness and take control of myself again.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and naturally the changes in the poetry I write reflect that changes I go through in my life.

It took me a long time to decide whether or not I should share it before posting it online about a month ago. I feared that no one would relate to where I was coming from. It can be terrifying to post work, especially personal posts like this, because there is that fear in that back of your mind that you’ll be misunderstood. But sometimes it is necessary to let go of that fear.

To my surprise, I received feedback from various people who said they experienced the same feelings before. In fact, the more I found other writers, the more pieces I found that I truly resonated with. Writing proved to be a common outlet of expression for so many people.

Writing isn’t the only form of art that can be very effective in portraying and educating about mental illness. Take music, song writing, painting and many other forms of art for example- they are outlets in which people can express themselves better than they can through a typical conversation.

xx

Thank you for reading as always.

Changing The Way You Define Happiness

What does it mean for you to be happy?

For many of us, happiness is something we chase every day of our lives. Our own definitions of happiness are described by a list of achievements and assets we desire to call our own, and even after we reach these goals, the list seems to reach beyond infinity.

It means having the ideal body, obtained by endless hours of pushing ourselves to the limit in the gym, followed by scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror until we find something new to ‘fix’.

It means creating the perfect facade in our online profiles to convince our family and friends that we are living our absolute best lives. Sometimes we do this by posting pictures from last years spring break with the biggest smiles on our faces, or by flaunting how insanely in love we are with our significant other.

It means landing our dream jobs, often because they have higher salaries, and the feeling we get when we can finally say “Look, I made it!”.

We tell ourselves that it will not hurt to chase these goals and successes, certain that once we reach the next step we will finally be happy and content with ourselves. Just one more pound, just one more time, just one more day spent doing something we don’t want to do in hopes of creating a better future. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these goals- in fact, a great sense of pride can be accomplished in working towards a better version of ourselves. This drive to better ourselves is what we need to keep ourselves moving.

The problem is that in constantly finding things to change about ourselves, our definition of happiness becomes perfection. By thinking that what we have in the moment is never enough, we are condition ourselves to think that we can never be happy in the present moment.

This is when it becomes necessary to draw the line between maintaining a healthy amount of motivation and chasing an unrealistic state of perfection. Because obsession with the distant future plants a seed in our mind that is difficult to uproot. It leaves us in a constant state of unease, trapped by the belief that we can never be happy by simply loving ourselves and our lives for the way we are now.

Sometimes it takes stepping back and assessing our current situation to realize what is worth pursuing, and why exactly we want to pursue these goals. Are we seeking change because of an intrinsic motives, or extrinsic motives? In other words, is it because it will bring us joy- or because we are seeking validation from others? Once we identify the true reasons we want to change, we can determine whether or not it will provide us with long lasting happiness.

The best way to find happiness is to stop associating it with perfection, and start associating it with peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is okay for each of us to move at our own pace and choose the paths in life that we wish to take. Is is not until we learn to accept ourselves and our current condition, flaws and all, that we can finally be happy.

5 Warning Signs of a Manipulative Friend

No friendship is perfect. It’s unavoidable to encounter challenges in any relationship, even with the friends whom we feel closest to. Yet in the long run, our best friends should be the people we can trust and feel comfortable with.

When we share history with someone, we tend to overlook things they do that don’t feel right. This feeling of unease settles in us and we continue to ignore it because we’re convinced that our friendship can endure anything. We make excuses for toxic friends, telling ourselves that things will get better. Do they though? In the case of toxic friendships, we are led to believe that someone who is manipulating us is truly on our side. There is a point where you must admit that someone is not as genuine as you once thought they were, and decide how to salvage your friendship or if it is worth saving at all.

It is bittersweet to admit that you must let go of someone, but it is important to know that a manipulative friend isn’t what they pretend to be. Friendships with toxic people are one sided, and staying in these relationships becomes detrimental to your own mental health. If you feel that someone is repeatedly making you feel anxious, exhausted, or stressed, it’s vital to take a closer look at the situation and identify the signs that you may be in a toxic friendship. Some of these may appear to be clear signs, but are often masked underneath lies that manipulators tell. These behaviors may be subtle at first, but persist over time and take a toll on your own happiness.

Before reading, remember that manipulators are experts at hiding these behaviors behind lies. Sometimes, they may even place the blame on you.

1. They Are Overly Controlling or Protective

For many of us, friends are some of the first people we go to for advice. Whether we need someone to talk to about a new career move, a change taking place, or our personal relationships, we can always trust a close friend to be honest with us. However, toxic friends tend to cross the line between caring and controlling. Initially we may perceive this controlling behavior as them being invested in the friendship.

But over time, they will become too controlling and demanding when it comes to your personal life. It is common for a toxic friend to become too involved with your personal life. You may notice them trying to get passwords for your accounts. You might also notice that they need to know details about everyone you talk to. While it is completely normal for a friend to give welcomed, honest advice, it is never healthy for a them to overstep boundaries. A genuine friend will gladly help you make decisions, but will never forcefully make those choices for you. They will allow you to be an independent person, without making you feel poorly about it.

2. They Take Advantage of Your Generosity

A toxic friend will often trick you into providing for them. For money, food, clothes, or any other items that they may ask for.

Toxic friends will make you feel guilty for not giving in to their pleas. They will commonly make an excuses such as “I promise, this will be the last time I ask.” Or say something convincing alone the lines of, “But you’re my friend. Friends are supposed to help each other.” Another typical response is for them to turn the tables on you. If you deny their requests, they could respond with “But I would do this for you”, as another tactic to make you feel empathy for them. It goes without saying- someone who takes advantage of your kindness or generosity is not a true friend.

While stuck in a toxic friendship of my own, I remember my friend constantly scolding me when I did not help them pay for their food. They did not have a job at the time, and knew that I had been working and saving up my money for a long time. So whenever they asked me for some help and I declined their request, they would remind me that I had more saved and that I had a consistent flow on money. Over time I began to believe them, and it took a long time for me to realize that they were make me feel guilty the whole time. While I am always glad to help out a friend, I had to remind myself that it is not my responsibility to provide everything for them.

3. They Disappear When You Need Help For Once

As mentioned previously, these manipulators always seem to be around when they need something from others. They will suddenly start conversations with you or compliment you to lead you to believe they care. But the instant you need a small favor or emotional support in return, they vanish.

You try reaching out to them, but are met with no response. This happens too often to be a coincidence. These friends will continue to bombard you with details about their life asking for support, but lack any empathy when you need a helping hand. They might apologize, but it’s always very insincere. Friendships aren’t about what you get in return. But when a friendship becomes completely one-sided, it’s important to acknowledge that you may be the only one putting in effort.

4. They are Competitive- And They Don’t Like to See You Succeed 

A toxic friend will become bitter if they see you doing well and constantly try to one-up your achievements. They may go about this in subtle ways. Many times it begins with small remarks. They may be lighthearted jokes at first, until their remarks become more and more serious. For example, they might try to downplay your achievements, while constantly drawing attention to their own. When you share something that you are proud of they may ignore your messages, or compare it to one of their own, making you feel like what you did was not an accomplishment.

Toxic friends don’t want to see you doing well, especially if it makes them feel insecure about themselves.

5. You’re Always the One at Fault

You find yourself falling into arguments with this kind of person more often than notThey aren’t playful arguments, nor are they civil discussions about your differences., either. A toxic person always seems to place the blame on you, even for things that are simply out of your control. These people are not capable of admitting then they are at fault for their own mistakes, and as a result they will continuously blame others for their unhappiness.

So, what can you do if you are in a toxic relationship?

The people we share our lives with affect us much more than we think. If someone consistently brings negativity into your life, it’s time to ask yourself the question: should I let go of this friendship?

It’s never easy to exit a friendship, especially when you have created so many memories with someone. However, it’s necessary to draw the line when a friendship begins to hinder your well being. If you sense that a friendship is beginning to cause you more stress than relief you may need to take some time to think about the situation.

It may be wise to confront the friend about the issue and have an honest conversation before jumping to any conclusions. But if this person continues to repeat the same toxic behaviors, you may need to take time away from them or end the friendship entirely.

At the end of the day it is key that we surround ourselves with positive, supportive friends. Friendships are about sharing life with the people who lift you up, not those who drag you down. If it becomes clear that someone is toxic to you, do not let them convince you other wise. Sometimes we must break ties with someone before the relationship takes more energy than it is worth. There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking time off from the things that cause our unhappiness.

Why You Should Open Up About Your Mental Health

four person standing at top of grassy mountain Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com[/caption]

If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, bi-polar or other mood disorders it’s important that you know one thing: it’s much more common than you think. I know how just scary it is to go through this thinking that you are alone, and especially how overwhelming it can become when you feel as though no one will quite understand. I’m here to tell you that there are people out there who understand, and opening up about it to a close friend or family member can be life changing in many ways. Here’s why.

Communication Is Key

Telling your loved one’s what you are going through is vital if you wish for people to understand you and the reasoning behind your actions.

As someone who has dealt with this first hand, I know what it is like to let anxieties damage relationships with family and friends. Many of us tend to isolate ourselves from those we care about, convincing ourselves that they don’t want to be around us before we give them a chance. When a close friend of mine sensed that something was up, I decided that I should open up about my own anxiety before I let it get in the way of an important friendship. I explained that I’ve always dealt with anxiety and that lately it had reached a high.

Doing this allowed them to understand that I wasn’t pushing them away because I didn’t care about them- that it was actually the opposite. They understood that they hadn’t done anything wrong. That sometimes I might feel distant.

Telling someone you know you can trust means they know when to reach out to you when you need it the most. They’ll understand that sometimes you want their support even when you deny it. They’ll also grow to know when you need your space and that you have limitations that they should not push.

Sometimes We Need To Let It All Out

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Before I finally gathered the courage to tell a close friend what I had been going through I kept everything balled up inside. Every single anxiety inducing thought and worry was suppressed, leaving me feeling utterly hopeless. The longer I waited to tell someone the more built up. And for the longest time I had convinced myself that I shouldn’t trouble anyone with my worries. I thought that it wasn’t fair to burden others with my problems, that I could just push those negative thoughts and feelings and that it would be all right.

Keeping everything inside isn’t healthy, or will whatever you are dealing with will go away.

Something I learned from opening up about my problems is that talking about them might not fix it, but it may help bring some clarity  and release pent up feelings.

This is always up to you- some of us find it easier to resolve things on our own while others find comfort in seeking advice and sharing.

But what if they look at me differently?

I could lie and say that I am 100% comfortable discussing my experience with mental health and that writing this is easy. But I’m not going to because that is simply not the truth.

My biggest fear before telling those close to me was that they we treat me differently and see me as fragile or weak. Recently I discussed this with a close friend and I discovered something different. They told me that after I told them they were shocked that I was able to function so well. In fact, they said they felt proud knowing that I continued to put myself out there despite the fears holding me back. I was surprised by what my friends told me after I said this. They didn’t think that I was “weak” or “just paranoid” as I thought they would. They understood that my anxiety and depression didn’t define me. I was the same person I always had been- they just knew more about me.

What if you don’t feel ready, or you feel that your family/friends won’t be supportive?

In this situation the best thing you can do is encourage them to do a little research on mental illness- it is amazing how much someone’s perspective can change once they gain more knowledge on the topic. It’s absolutely okay if you want more time, just know that it’s never too late to reach out.

If all else fails and you still feel that they aren’t supportive, know that there is always someone out there who is. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted adult or to the many resources you can find online.

Don’t let your anxiety or depression convince you that you are not worthy of love and support. If there is anything you take from this let it be that you are always worth it and your health should remain your priority. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. It’s up to you how you fight your battle and those who you wish to bring with you.

light sunset people water
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