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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

Posts tagged mental health

Check out my interview with Saskia and Dana of Northumberland Parents Empowering Parents!

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We talk all about youth mental health and this new group for parents to talk about how to approach youth mental health from a parenting perspective. Part way through the interview, we’re also joined by Dana’s daughter, Kira, who shares some insight about being a teenager in Northumberland County right now- and she plays a song live, in studio!

Featured Tunes:

Matt’s Song by The Soviettes
10 000 Miles by Clan Hannigan
Angela (Lumineers cover) by The Hannigan Sisters
Eyes Closed (Halsey cover) by Kira Gelineau

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Check out my conversation with Kat Mokus!

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We talk about:

  • 2spirit and nonbinary gender identities
  • Kat’s creative work, including their zines, through Disabled Femme
  • The intersection between mental health and physical disability
  • Why access to cannabis is important
  • Gender-neutral pronouns
  • Keyboard activism
  • Kat’s new project, Accessible Resiliency
  • Various types of therapy and our favourite coping strategiesFeatured Tunes:Corn Dog Sonnet No.7 by Sincere Engineer
    Rotten Egg by Avem
    Grow Up/Stay Young by The Anti-Queens
    Realness by RuPaul

Additional Stuffs:

twitter: mx_kat_mokus
instagram: mx.kat, accessibleresiliency
Kat in Broken Pencil

 

Content: mention of self harm, suicidal ideation, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, rape, disordered eating, self-harm, consensual sex, naked bodies, posting nudes online

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There are two things you need to know about me right off the bat if we’re going to talk about this:

1. I used to be really into self harming and I also have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The combination of these things manifested for me as an eating disorder when I was a teenager and coping with trauma. I developed dysmorphia, which means I didn’t see myself the way I was. The way I saw myself was distorted.

2. I was raped when I was seventeen.

Okay, heavy, I know. But it’s all good, I’m still here. And, no word of a lie, taking and generously sharing nude photographs was one of the key contributions of my wellness plan during, arguably, the most significant time in my recovery.

I was in university, the most crushing waves of grief around my mom’s death had run their course, I had my own apartment, and I had embarked upon the most exciting a sexually adventurous relationship of my life. I was learning that sex could be powerful and sweet and absolutely filthy all at once and it was incredibly healing. This intimate new relationship also meant that I was accountable to a person who cared deeply about me and who I connected with on a level I’d barely even ever dreamed was possible before it happened. It meant I had to stop cutting and start eating, even if it was almost unbearably uncomfortable.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by obsessions, often in the form of “intrusive thoughts” that infiltrate your brain repeatedly until you’re ready to do anything to get rid of them. My intrusive thoughts focus on either contamination or suicide. I’m either obsessed with the things in food I become convinced are killing me or I’m repeating over and over in my head “I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die…”. Starving myself became one of my compulsions. I’d go through rituals around counting calories or simply restricting compulsively. When that stopped being a feasible option since it became so difficult to hide, I decided I needed to find a healthier way of feeling good and in control of my body.

The good news is that, as I mentioned, this was also a sexually explosive time in my life. I was living an hour and a half away from my new partner and, as many young couples do, we used technology to stay connected (okay, and to get off). We’d sext and send nudes and I realized how much I got off on it. I loved the intimacy, the (seemingly, anyway) undivided attention, and providing something that gave pleasure to someone who gave me so much pleasure. I got to engage with my own body on my terms in a way that felt good to me- a huge deal for any sexual assault survivor and for someone who had a history of disordered eating. I was finally feeling good in my body.

I started a blog of nude photos online. I loved the engagement, just being honest and confident in my body. Repeatedly posting photos where I had chosen the pose, the body part(s), the time of day I posted- everything. I got to choose how I responded to any comments (if at all). I got to choose my aesthetic- trashy, authentic punk girl. I came up with a name (based on a song my partner had written about my blowjob skills) and it was a blast. There’s something about repetition that really works for me. Repetition and intentionality. Writing things out (like “things that feel good“, saying things out loud a few times, and posting nudes.

I had control, I had a reaction, and I was learning what it felt like to love and appreciate the body I was in and the ways in which it contributed to me feeling good.

I read about a woman who was a professional (or semi-professional?) vocalist. When she lost her hearing, she learned to memorize the way the sounds felt in her body. That’s kind of how I  started to feel about my body when I was posting nudes regularly as a person with dysmorphia. Each time I went through the process, it felt good. So I began to associate my body with good. Being in my body felt good, and that is something I’m grateful I learned.

I don’t post nudes publicly anymore, though I sometimes send them to my partner or my girlfriends. But I still hold on to that feeling. It’s like that work during that time in my process flipped a switch for me. I can honestly say that taking nudes contributed positively to my mental health.

Content- This essay contains my miscarriage stories and suggestions about what to say to people in your life when they’re miscarrying. This advice is based on my own experiences, but you know your friends best. This is meant to be a starting point and also to generally start more conversations about miscarriage in general, because it’s more common than we think…
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Almost a year ago, my partner and I decided we were ready to have a baby. We’d always talked about wanting a family, and we were at a place where we felt that financially and emotionally we were ready to start it. After 6 months, I took a test and found that it was faint, but positive. I tested religiously the next few mornings and watched the line darken- just a bit. Within another week and a half I was bleeding and a visit to the doctor confirmed that my HCG levels had fallen to 4. They called it a chemical pregnancy.

Two months later, I was pregnant again. I hoped that this was the time, but I was secretly waiting for blood. I started to feel sick, I monitored my HCG levels, and then started to see them rise more slowly than they should. I went to the the hospital for an unrelated reason, and when I told them I was 7 weeks pregnant, they offered to do an ultrasound for me to confirm that my organs were all in decent shape, related to my reason for being there. They weren’t looking for  heartbeat, but they also didn’t find one. I was referred to an OB who sent me for a more in depth ultrasound. It was confirmed that there was no heartbeat. I opted to wait to miscarry naturally, hoping for some miracle baby that was just hiding. A few weeks later, after a visit with my midwife, who I was planning to get my care from, where she answered all my questions, I got my final confirmation. My next choice was to take a medication to help pass the pregnancy or to do a D&C. I was still hoping not to have a D&C, so I tried the pills.  

They caused some bleeding, but nothing like what I was expecting. A scan a few days later proved me right, I was still pregnant, but there was no baby. I tried another version of the medication and I had a day of pure hell where I thought it was all over with, but my next follow up showed that there was still tissue inside of me. They told me they would do a D&C that day and I texted my partner asking him to come to the hospital. When he had to go to work, my dad showed up to drive me home and make me soup and walk my dog. When my partner got home, he sat with me and we talked for a while and then went to bed early.

**Important side note: the “abortion pill” became approved and available in Canada over the last few years and is only covered by six provinces. Without OHIP, each round of drugs would have cost me $337.25.

All in all, it’s been one hell of an experience trying to expand our family. My partner and I had been of the mindset that is was something to be open about with the people close to us, since it was something that was a huge deal in our life and support (or at least understanding) would be nice in the case of a loss. What we found when we told people about our losses, was that most women we knew had their own miscarriage stories. We also found that, like with any loss, people rarely know what the “right” thing to say is.

The short answer is that there’s no right thing to say because there’s nothing that can be said to change that your friend/family member/whatever has experienced a loss. That’s not always the most practical (or sensitive) thing to say in the moment though. The only thing I heard more than people’s own miscarriage stories was “people really need to talk about it more”. And we do, and I gotta tell you, it felt good to hear that my story wasn’t unusual. because grief is lonely enough without acknowledging that miscarriage is such a common reason for so many people’s grief.

Here are some ideas for things to say when someone in your life has had a miscarriage:

1. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

As someone who has experienced a decent amount of significant deaths around me, I feel pretty confident saying that this is solid way to respond in any situation where someone is grieving for any kind of loss. You acknowledge that they’re going through something and it’s appropriate, regardless of your relationship with the person or how close you are to them.

2. Do you want to talk about it?

If you’re fairly close with this person, it’s worth asking if they want to talk about it if you have the emotional capacity and physical time to take that on. If you don’t have that emotional capacity or physical time, just don’t offer.

This shows that you’re able to hold that space for your person and encourages them to process what they’re experiencing. Even early loss can feel like crap (to say the least) when you’ve been trying to get pregnant and found out that you were. Some people don’t process through talking about it, or they may just not  want to in that moment. By asking, you’ve given them the option to talk about it or not with you.

3. Do you want some company? I’m available at [time, days].

This is another way of identifying a way you feel capable of being supportive. Sometimes it can be lonely when you’re grieving and it helps to have people around physically. Sometimes it’s nice to have a distraction from feeling bad to talk about completely unrelated things.

Miscarriage can be an intense experience, both physically and emotionally, at times, but it’s important to consider that even grieving people are whole humans and their grief isn’t all that’s going on for them. It can be a really helpful way of supporting your person.

4. I get that you’re going through a lot right now. Take whatever time you need.

We live in a society where we put a lot of pressure on women to carry on with their lives during their pregnancy, especially early pregnancy, which people are typically expected to hide. My experience of early pregnancy was that it can be pretty challenging to carry on with everything in your life when you’re exhausted and nauseous. Miscarriage can be painful, physically and emotionally.

Sometimes, knowing that people realize you need a little more gentleness or time or space or care can be really helpful, whether that’s an extra day off work or understanding around missing a meeting.

5. What kind of soup do you like?

Bringing people food is rarely a bad idea, especially if they’re sad or not feeling well. Soup is warm, comforting, and most people like at least one kind. Be a friend. Bring soup.

Check out my interview with Wayne Kennedy here!

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Wayne and I sit down (with no notes or prep!) for a solid follow up to our first conversation a few months ago, which you can find here.

We talk about:

  • Wayne’s cool new gig at Long & McQuade
  • Recording his recent live album
  • What’s happening with his new solo album
  • Joining Avem
  • Surviving suicide attempts and living on the bipolar spectrum

We get really honest about the mental health stuff. This conversation is about as real as it gets. If you need crisis support, please phone Four County Crisis at 705-745-6484 or toll-free 1-866-995-9933.

Featured Tunes:

Grow Up Stay Young by The Anti-Queens
Of Flesh & Blood by Jenn Fiorentino
Shut Up, I’m Trying to Sleep (LIVE!) by Wayne Kennedy
…And the Hits Keep Coming by Old Wives

(In the spirit of Wayne, keepin’ it 100% CanCon and 75% local!)

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“I texted my friend to say I wanted to talk with them about something and it made them really anxious and now they want an apology.”

It’s never fun to get those texts or to be the person who genuinely just wants to have a conversation and finds out someone was distressed by their message. We’ve all been there, probably on either side at some point or another. Whether in romantic relationships, friendships, or even professional relationships, our actions affect one another.

If you’re a person with anxiety, you can probably relate even more. Catastrophizing is a thing we do by definition, and “Hey dude, can we talk when you get off work?” can quickly turn into “Hey dude, I think you totally suck and I don’t want to be friends with you anymore ’cause you’re the worst”.

This  fear relies on the concept that things are being done to us, and that means that we have no control over our experience. By giving into this fear (which, yeah, is real and uncomfortable), we allow ourselves to give any power we do have over our reactions away. And then our fear is enforced. It’s also a way we tend to avoid accountability for our uncomfortable feelings. If we can blame someone else instead of taking ownership for ourselves, that’s a lot easier in the short term. This then allows us to justify our feelings, which are often unavoidable within ourselves, rather than just giving ourselves permission to feel them. I wrote about this before when I wrote about escaping and preventing toxic communities:

Escaping and preventing toxic communities comes down to changing our perspectives from “they did this to me and this feels awful” to “this happened and it feels awful because I’m perceiving it as something that was done TO me that I have no control over.”. The reality is that you do have control over what you do with your hurt. Sure, communicating to the person you felt hurt by may be helpful, but what will be really helpful is you changing your perception (and thus, your reality) of the hurtful thing. It’s not about ignoring the hurt or “choosing not to feel it”. I mean, that sounds nice, but we all know it’s not that simple. It’s about feeling it and acknowledging that it probably had nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person/people. What is yours is your reaction. When we accept people for where they are at, it makes for far healthier and happier interpersonal relationships. And when we can’t reconcile where someone’s at with the reality we’re choosing to actively build for ourselves, we get to choose the context in which we relate to that person.

This works on a smaller level than just in the context of community-building. It also works in individual relationships. So here are three easy steps for what to do when someone makes you feel bad:

1. Readjust your paradigm.

Did someone make you feel some way? Or are you feeling someway about something what happened?

2. Take back your power.

Once you’ve shifted your paradigm to a place where you’re recognizing that you have control over your reaction rather than simply being a passive recipient of something someone else does to you, you’ll find you have a lot more choice over how you respond. No, this isn’t a magical anxiety cure- but it does help.  A lot. This is the time to make an in-the-moment decision about what’s going to happen for you. Sometimes, (okay, a lot of the time) that reaction is emotional and it’s totally okay to let yourself feel it. But don’t act on it immediately. Take a breath and give yourself a little time and gentleness to feel what you need to feel.

3. Make a decision about how you want to react.

Sometimes people do things that violate our boundaries, which is one of the most common reasons we end up getting in our feels. The good news is that we’re in control of our boundaries and we can shift them as we need to. Although emotions aren’t always negotiable, actions (and reactions) are. And it can feel really empowering to choose who you want in your life and the context that you choose to have them. Sometimes it’s worth the work to communicate about your boundaries and to negotiate your interactions with people, and sometimes it’s not. The cool thing is that it’s your choice.

I’ve mentioned that emotions aren’t always negotiable, especially for people living with anxiety disorders, but I also need to acknowledge that we live in a social world where so much is out of control. The way our disabled bodies operate in a late-capitalist system, the way race affects peoples’ experiences, the way our gender dictates literally how much we will be paid or how likely we are so be raped… We don’t have control over those things. And I want to be very clear that I am not talking about systemic violence in the rest of this post. It’s also well worth noting that people have the choice to use whatever privilege they may have to hold some space for oppressed people’s reactions for being oppressed. That shit is real.

What this post is about is about how we do our best to operate within this world and how we can tangibly go about standing in our power when we do have control over what happens. Because that’s real too. And all of these things can exist simultaneously.