I think we can all agree that reading uplifting stories is great. But what about writing them? Today’s guest poster, Rosey Lee, writes uplifting fiction stories with a little bit of hope, faith, and love. Continue reading to discover her motivations for doing so.
Reading and writing have helped me to cope since I was a kid. Like many people, I’ve experienced anxiety, and reading books offered an escape. I spent hours engrossed in characters’ lives, and I often felt comforted, energized, and hopeful after reading a good story.
Similarly, I discovered that writing felt therapeutic. I found myself working through my struggles by writing fiction stories, frequently for homework assignments. English teachers from primary school (elementary in the US) to university had a front row seat as I processed family issues, relationship drama, and whatever else I may have been dealing with at the time.
I always planned to continue writing fiction, but life got busier after university. The author Toni Morrisson once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” This sentiment eventually drew me back to writing. Over the last year or so, I’ve become more serious about it. Again, it’s helped me to cope. I’ve also received a gift from writing that extends beyond myself – the opportunity to share comfort, positivity, and hope with others. My stories are intentionally uplifting. Just as I found comfort, positivity, and hope through reading, my goal is for readers to find the same in the stories I write.
Rosey Lee is the pen name I use as I pursue my passion for writing. My alter ego is a physician, so health is important to me. Most of my stories have a health element, and I am guided by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health, which holistically encompasses physical, mental and social well-being. Mental and social well-being are common themes in my stories. Sometimes mental health is the main focus of the story. Sometimes it’s in the background. And sometimes my stories reflect the connection between mental and physical health.
There are a few reasons I incorporate mental health issues in my stories. First, as the WHO suggests, “there is no health without mental health”. Second, writing fiction stories that have a mental health theme is one way that I can advocate for mental health promotion and help lessen the stigma around mental health issues. Third, I hope that readers are touched by the mental health themes in my stories and find comfort, positivity, and hope through my characters’ experiences. You can read a couple of my flash fiction (short) stories for free on my website. Audioversions of the stories are also posted there.
Writing uplifting fiction stories has been a gateway to other unexpected benefits. I’ve become active on Twitter, where I enjoy sharing uplifting content and have begun to connect with mental health bloggers and advocates. There are pros and cons associated with social media, and it should be considered on an individual basis. I’ve also discovered the joys of Pinterest, which is particularly fun when I need a break from Twitter. I’ve created Pinterest boards for my short stories, as well as boards around hope and health.
I encourage you to consider writing as an outlet. Of course, not everyone will be drawn to fiction. Perhaps nonfiction, poetry, or journaling is more aligned with your interests. It’s worth a try.
Hearing you have a mental illness can be difficult. Your mind can trick you into believing all sorts of things. Today, Hannah is challenging some of those myths.
It’s a confusing thing a mental illness diagnosis, and if you’ve recently received one, you may be flailing with different and conflicting thoughts about how to deal with this life event. Whether being diagnosed is a recent thing or whether you’re reading this to weed out some misbeliefs that you’ve accumulated along the way, here are some simple tips and focus points to help you make sense.
5 things not to believe about your mental illness diagnosis.
That this label fundamentally changes who you are.
That this label is unchanging and for life.
That you can’t make a difference
That your mental health is somehow separate from you
That your mental illness is unusual
So far, so ordinary, right? You’ve probably heard these before. But have you really taken them on board? I’ve got a take on this that will help you get these messages right into your core. Read on.
Things not to believe:
1. That this label fundamentally changes who you are.
No, it doesn’t. You are the same person you were before your label. However you chose to relate to it, whether that is to refute it, to argue with it, to feel relief, to feel there is an answer, you are the same person. However, as human beings we are constantly in a state of evolution, and we are never finished. It doesn’t help to think of our identity as sudden shifts or jars, rather it’s more constructive to think of it as something that is in state of continual development.
The analogy I find most helpful here is some wise words a friend shared with me when I had a big shift in my identity coming up, that of becoming a mother. In my pregnancy, I became quite anxious about whether being a mum was going to fundamentally change me. She said that it would be another part to my identity, that I would carry on being a sister, friend, wife, neighbour, but that I would also be a mum.
She also said, and this is the bit that stuck with me, that identity shifts take time to process and I might need to give the new identity of being a mum extra space and time in my life to reflect on until it took its rightful place in the whole picture of who I am. Now I think of being a mum as just being part of what I do, but not the whole thing. It is one lens through which I can be seen, but it doesn’t take up the whole vision.
To a large extent mental illness is about being seen – it’s not possible to diagnose yourself. If someone else has seen you in this way, it is up to you how you choose to process this vision of yourself. Hopefully you can do it with kindness and self compassion. It doesn’t change who you are.
2. That this label is unchanging and for life.
Again – no it isn’t. First, recovery is possible. Second, when you do recover, and you will, you will have learnt skills in managing your mental health that make you more equipped to deal with the mental health side of life than an average person who has never had the experience you have.
It may say on your record, as it does on mine – ‘bipolar’ – for life. That’s just the documentation. What most matters is how I choose to live with skill and relate to that descriptor. When I was first diagnosed, I made life limiting decisions on that basis to do with my career choices and my relationship choices. I don’t make these any more. I wish I’d had someone to challenge me at the time to stop me making them then. However, living with my diagnosis the way I have has led me to make some really fulfilling choices too. This leads me onto the next point.
3. That you can’t make a difference
This is the core of the argument. You can make a difference. This is an opportunity to learn a whole new set of life skills. It isn’t your ability that will determine whether you will learn them, it is your attitude. The skills you will learn are unique to you, only you know what your mental health needs. You can build them up from a patchwork of advice, good memories, and techniques that you pick up over a lifetime. You may find yourself passing them on, and that can be part of your gift to the world.
When I was first diagnosed, I remember a really significant moment of waking up in the morning depressed and angry. I was staring at this blank wall in front of me, both literally and metaphorically – the wall beside my bed. I swore a promise to myself – that whatever happened and however bad it got, I would somehow find a way to make this experience useful. If I couldn’t – well, it would be a total waste of the most precious resource I have, and that is TIME. I couldn’t see how I would do it, but that was the promise I made.
You can make a difference to your diagnosis, to your capacity to deal with it with the skill, artistry and innate talent that you have inside you. Believe it.
4. That your mental health is somehow separate from you
I promised you a special take on mental health that would help you really take this stuff on board, here it is. Your mental health is a part of you, not an object. Just because you have been diagnosed, you are not an object to be observed by others. The key to recovery is to observe your whole self with compassion and accept and care for the person you see.
We recognise that if someone has a fundamental life event in their physical health, like a stroke or cancer, there will be mental health implications. We seem to have a harder time taking on board that having a mental illness diagnosis is a fundamental life event.
These implications are to do with our expectations of stigma, discrimination, self stigma and shame. These expectations can trigger a range of very primal emotions from anger, guilt, shame, fear, all of which cause a fight or flight reaction, which can exacerbate the mental health condition. No, your mental health label is not separate from you, it is part of the warp and weft out of which you weave your life experience. If we can treat these fundamental and primal emotional drives with compassion and acceptance, we are well on the way to recovery.
One of the keys to doing this is observation and acceptance. I have always kept a journal. I have also always made films to tell my own mental health story and encourage others to do the same. In 2015, I combined these two passions to create an app, Mental Snapp, which is a way to easily experience the therapeutic benefits of telling your story on film using video diaries. Mental Snapp is free to download on the App Store. Our users say it helps them be kind to themselves and to build their confidence. It’s a great way to learn your patterns, accept your emotions and move them forward.
Give Mental Snapp a go – tell me how you find it – and I encourage you to observe and learn from the emotions you have surrounding your mental health condition. They are the key to managing it effectively. You don’t have to treat yourself or your mental health as an object, you can befriend yourself. You can do it.
5. That your mental illness is unusual
You are no more unusual or different than the other 7 billion individuals on this planet. You are a child of the universe, as the poem goes. There is no separation from the mass of humanity by an observing glass, or a one way mirror, or a microscope. There is an inherent wrongness in the process of diagnosis, that holds that the observer, or the doctor, is neutral, that the observed, or the patient, is isolated in the moment of diagnosis away from their context, their family, their friends. It’s like being held under the microscope. This experience can leave people to come away with their identity in pieces. This is wrong and it is injust. It is built into the history of psychiatry. It will take more than a generation to change it. Change it we will. It cannot go on.
In the meantime, rather than simply rail against systems, let’s change them with our pure dignity of spirit. No, your mental illness is not unusual. It will in time connect you to more people and at a more fundamental level than you ever expect, if you can use it to build relationship and share the lessons it teaches you. Your mental illness is not unusual, it does not separate you from humanity.
You, on the other hand, are more than unusual. You are unique, and you have a unique opportunity to give to the world. Here is that poem.
“…Nurture strength of spirit to shield you from misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” ― Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life
Hannah Chamberlain is a mental health film maker, story teller and campaigner of 20 years standing. She is the founder of video diary app Mental Snapp, which she designed after realising that her story telling and film making had helped her get over her own self stigma, and as a way for others to do the same by telling their own stories using the power of film.
Mental Snapp is looking for people to be involved in user testing and feeding back on our exciting new version. If you’d like to be involved, please email our product manager, Wendy on [email protected].
Procrastination. Something we all do and something most of us beat ourselves up about. In fact, I was doing exactly that when this post appeared in my inbox. It wasn’t that I had done anything that day, but I hadn’t done what I should have. So, this was comforting to me, and I think it will be to you, too. Here’s Laura’s positive spin on things.
Yesterday was my super Sunday. I was pumped for all the work I was going to do, all the words I was going to write and how good this would make me feel. I love days like this, the sun shining it makes our flat glow, the breeze flows through the window and I’m so content. I’ve got the whole day to myself, its infinite possibility stretches out in-front of me. It is so precious. Anything can happen. I’m smiling and ready to go then suddenly this ugly green monster rolls out from under the bed, his face is terrifying, with big black holes for eyes and tentacles for arms. He loves slowing everything down. The monsters name is procrastination. I run around trying to hide from him all day. It was no use.
Here’s a list of everything I did before I sat down and started some work:
Made waffles from scratch (a lot of waffles with extra golden syrup).
Made homemade toasted chickpeas, just because.
Cleaned the old coffee machine. Cleaned new coffee machine and switched them over. Made a lot of coffee. Got headache from drinking all the coffee.
Prepped two meals
Cleaned kitchen (after all this cooking)
Watched 5 episodes of greys anatomy (season 10 FYI – anytime you want talk to me about Greys, holla at me)
Finished making a picture board for a party (glitter everywhere)
Vacuumed said glitter
2 loads of washing (including all our tea towels on hot wash, why?)
Laid out my coloured pens (an essential when working)
Read BCC news, twice
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram for 8767779 hours
Spoke to my mom
Sorted my bag for work tomorrow
Cleaned my desk
Wow, I’m exhausted just writing the list. Sometimes, I’m stuck between validating my days by ‘getting things done’ and letting myself work on my dreams. Dare I spend the day working on my blog or writing the book that I know is waiting? Imagine, if I’d put all that energy into writing all day? Why’s it so hard to sit down and work on what we really want? Why is it so painful, when it’s all I think about? Why are we scared to invest in ourselves and our ideas?
Steven Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art” is incredible. It looks at the invisible force that we know as resistance and how it creates blocks when we are getting to the really ‘good stuff’, the really creative work, it’s the fear of success, just as much as failure. “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from us from doing our work”. – Steven Pressfield.
But we can’t let procrastination and resistance get in the way of our beautiful creative work.
So when you have a day that drags and pulls you in all directions, face that green monster and say, “I’m here now and that’s what counts”.
Even if we just push for that 1% improvement, that 1% achievement, that 1% of work. Moving forward with our goals. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there, all that matters is you’re there, you made it. You showed up.
I’m learning to be proud of what I achieve in my day. You should too. Whether you made it out of bed on a day when the clouds were grey and hung over a heavy heart – or you wrote a 1000 words or you just made it to work on time. You’re out there, working on your dreams, getting through the day and that is amazing. You showed up!
Laura Stroud – Chief Storyteller at Stories from a Backpack.
I believe the best stories come from a backpack. We all have beautiful stories to tell and I’m creating a place that is full of inspiring stories and travel adventures. Travel changed my life, it changed how I view the world and what I value, I’m turning that into a lifestyle. The world is waiting to hear your story…
I have something different for you today from singer-songwriter, Sarah Jickling. It’s the premier of her music video! To accompany it, Sarah has shared her story in a piece called “When Your Coping Skill Becomes An Obsession”, which you can read below.
If you’ve ever been even a little depressed, you’ve most likely been advised to exercise. Those of us who have chronic mental illnesses hear this so much, we often start to resent the people who bring it up. If you’ve ever laid in bed, staring at the ceiling wishing you could go to sleep and never wake up, you know that getting up to go to your local ZUMBA class feels as likely as getting up to go present an award at the Grammys.
And yet, after years of depression, hypomania, panic attacks and distressing thoughts, I am a complete convert. Now, I exercise one or two hours a day. I’m also on five psychiatric medications. I’ve graduated from the local hospital’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program. Plus, I see a therapist on a regular basis. Exercise is not a miracle cure, but has been an important part of my recovery. And when I say exercise, I don’t mean jogging or soul cycle or bootcamp or even yoga. I mean hanging upside down on a metal pole from your right knee pit.
After 26 years of abhorring sports and exercise in any form, I’ve become addicted to pole dancing, and it’s saved my life.
Before I started aerial arts (aka dancing in the air using a pole/silks/hoop/monkey bars on an elementary school playground), I always hated hearing the “have you tried exercising” line. During the high episodes of my bipolar disorder, I had enough energy to pull myself to the gym and onto a treadmill. Then my low episodes would always come back. They would make something as simple as walking down the street into a physical challenge. Once I started my first mood stabilizer, my hypomania vanished immediately. This left me with nothing but groggy depression and constant anxiety.
While my doctors played trial and error with my meds, my boyfriend dragged me to the community centre once a week. He would play basketball with his brother while I tried out the ZUMBA class across the hall. Fortunately, the ZUMBA instructor at the Trout Lake Community centre was more than an expert in Brazilian jazzercise. She was also a pole instructor at the studio down the street. She was my gateway into the world of lifting your entire body weight up off the ground in a fun, sexy way. With no previous experience in anything physical and a history of lying in bed crying, I was always the worst in the class.
But when I saw my instructors do things that seemed to flip gravity the middle finger, I felt hope for the first time in a long time. The possibilities of pole dancing gave me a reason to wake up in the morning. If I was dead, then I’d never be able to learn how to climb the pole or spin really fast. It might seem trivial, but this excitement was enough to wipe out the lingering suicidal ideation that my medication couldn’t seem to touch. I was going to be strong and wild and upside down, and I couldn’t wait.
Flash forward two years.
The excitement of being strong had turned into something troubling, and my mental health began to crumble. This time, it was pole dancing that was chipping away at my mental wellness, one class at a time. I had forgotten about the girl years prior who could barely walk fast enough to keep up with her friends. I was now comparing myself to girls who had never known chronic mental illness, and had also been training as dancers or gymnasts since they were small and malleable. I’d leave the pole studio in tears after failing to swing my body upside down on the pole with my legs perfectly straight and my toes perfectly pointed. I was disappointed in myself for not getting certain “tricks” that my friends managed to pull off. I started dreading class, knowing that I would probably fall or fail yet again.
The aesthetic of pole dancing had become much more important than how it made me feel. I found myself trying for a perfect Instagram pose instead of for my own satisfaction. One of the side effects of my medication is increased sweating. I began to hate my pills for making me slide off the pole, taking for granted the fact that these were the pills that had stabilized me and allowed me to show up to an exercise class every single day.
A few days ago, frustrated as my sweat sent me sliding down the pole yet again, I nearly screamed as another dancer tried to turn off my fan. I reminded myself of the person I was before all the meds and the therapy. I left the room in shock and took a serious look at who I was becoming. How had I let the thing that had given me hope and inspiration become my main source of stress and negativity?
Pole dancing had given me a creative spark as an artist.
Throughout my mental illness, I worked as a musician and songwriter. However, I had gotten to a place where I no longer felt curious about music. Instead, I felt frozen, comparing my own music career to those of my peers. Dance was another way to express myself that was separate from the music world, where I felt judged and discouraged.
I even felt brave enough to connect the two worlds. My hope was that my excitement for pole would turn into new-found excitement for music as I learned a routine to my own song and turned it into a music video. I worked hard with my instructor to learn new moves, and bring them alive with emotion. The version of me that you see in the video is enjoying the process of turning movement into meaning, and I’m giving the choreography every I’ve got.
When I watched the footage back later, I was a little disappointed. I wanted my fellow pole dancers to see my “Jasmine split,” my “hood ornament” and my “stag handstand.” The filmmaker, who is not a pole dancer and had never seen the routine before, captured instead the flow of my movements, the interesting shapes my body makes, and look on my face as I danced. The part of me that has become obsessed with nailing the moves was louder than the artist inside of me. I cared more about what other pole dancers would see when they watched the video than what anyone else saw.
For two months, I sat with the video, not sure what to do.
I thought that if I released the video, people would think that I was a failure for practicing pole for almost two years and having no fancy tricks to show for it. But as I write it down now, it’s clear to me that I’ve lost my way in my struggle for perfection.
Last week, I sent the video to the pole teacher who choreographed the dance with me six months ago. She immediately sent me a message back. “I’m so proud of you. I love it.” I watched it again and realized that the filmmaker had captured the healthy parts of pole dance. The movement, the emotions, the flow. The picture perfect poses were not important. My obsession with them was turning my favourite coping skill into another source of insecurity.
Today, I’m sharing the video with you. I’m trying to look at it the way that I looked at my first pole instructor, as she gracefully did what I would later learn was a simple spin. A couple of years ago I could barely get out of bed. The fact that today I can dance at all is a cause for celebration.
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Making goals is the easy part. Making them happen? Not so easy! It’s not impossible, though. Today, Megan from overthinkersnotebook.com shares her best tips to help you accomplish your goals.
I’m a big fan of Megan’s blog and I can’t recommend it enough. It is packed with information to help you get more done, as well as mental health advice. Make sure you check out if you enjoy today’s post.
With each new year comes new opportunities. New opportunities for success, new opportunities for change, and new opportunities for a more positive mindset. For this reason, a lot of us take the new year as an opportunity to set goals for ourselves. However, these new year’s resolutions rarely stick.
By this point in the year, many of us may have fallen off the wagon on our proposed lifestyle changes. Whether we’ve already let ourselves slip too many times or we had an idea after January 1st and were “too late,” we feel like we’ve somehow failed ourselves this time and will have to try again next year.
However, you’ve only failed when you decide to give up. If you’re serious about making a positive change in your life, don’t let a minor setback or two stop you from getting up, dusting yourself off and trying again. Need a little help or inspiration to regain your motivation and finally reach your goals? In this post, I outline a framework for how to stick with whatever you’re trying to accomplish, whether it’s launching a new product on your blog, losing 20 pounds or improving your day-to-day mindset. This system will help you achieve any goal you’re after — new year’s resolution or not!
Make a Detailed Plan
The first step to reaching your goal is to determine how you’re going to get there. After all, without some sort of plan, how will you know where to start? Once you’ve decided what you’re going to focus on, make a detailed plan for yourself for how you’re going to get there. If you want to launch a product, maybe you’ll map out how to research your market, what components you need to create and how you’ll promote your launch. If you want to gain 100 Twitter followers, maybe you’ll plan out how often you’ll post and which accounts you want to engage with. Believe me, having a plan in place off the bat will make your goal seem ten times easier!
Block Off Time Every Day
If you’re set on reaching your goal, you’ll need to make it a priority. I recommend blocking off an hour or two each day dedicated solely to working toward your goal. Pick a time when you know you’ll be motivated, whether it’s in the morning, the afternoon or at night. Avoid scheduling anything else during that time, and tie up any loose ends beforehand so you won’t be distracted. Then, get to it and work until time’s up! (As a bonus, reward yourself afterward for putting in that day’s work!)
Anyone who’s set out to make a lifestyle change knows how easy it is to skip a day. Or two. Or a whole week. In order to prevent this from happening (or at least make it happen less), you’ll need a system for tracking your progress. I’m a huge fan of bullet journals, so I create habit trackers in those. However, stick with what you know will work for you. Maybe it’s a whiteboard on your wall where you keep tallies of the days you follow through. Maybe it’s a workout buddy who will knock on your door when it’s time to go to the gym. Pick something you think will be helpful in keeping track of your progress. And if it’s not working? It’s never too late to try something else!
Even if you follow all of these steps, there will still be days where you’re just not feeling it. I get it; it sucks. However, you have to keep pushing through. When days like these come up, think back on why you decided to make this change in the first place. Was it to finally start earning money with your blog? Was it to feel better on a day-to-day basis? Whatever it is, give yourself some time to visualize it and try to get back in the groove. And if you end up skipping a day here and there, that’s okay too, as long as you get back up and keep going!
Know You Have It In You
Achieving your goals is tough, especially if you’re trying to make a major change in your blog, your habits or your lifestyle. However, you’ve accomplished so many great things in your life already. I’m willing to bet at least a few of them were harder than this. You pulled through those times just fine — give yourself a pat on the back! Now use that self-confidence to get out there and start killin’ it!
With this system, some hard work and a little positivity, you can achieve almost any goal you set your mind to. It won’t always be easy, but with the proper steps in place, you can totally do it! If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to give it a share. And if you want to talk about how you can reach your goals, my inbox is always open at [email protected] 🙂
For lots more productivity tips, you absolutely have to check out Megan’s blog!
Want your own turn at guest posting? Head over to the join my squad page for all of the information you need.
After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety then receiving treatment, I wanted to turn my situation into something constructive. So, with a lifelong passion for writing and a renewed sense of determination, I took a step out of my comfort zone and began putting all my efforts into creating a positive space online.
I talk openly about mental health and also share blogging/social media tips to help others on their journey.
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