Easy & Life Changing Vegan Mac ‘n Cheeze

 

 
Hello Lovelies!

Happy Friday! How are you feeling today? I hope you’re feeling… HUNGRY! 

Today’s post is one of the blogs’ *newer* segments which is. all about…drum roll please………………..FEEDING YOURSELF!

I don’t know how much I’ve talked about my love for home cooking but here it is now, all out in the open. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by fantastic home cooks in my family all my life, always pushing the boundaries of ingredients, flavours and everything in between. When I moved out of the sanctuary of my family home and into my own apartment, I still wanted to eat healthy and tastyyyy meals, so I just finally had to buckle down and start experimenting. Along the way, It was suggested to me by the professionals i’ve been working with on my mental and physical health journey to start cutting out overly processed things from my diet, such as gluten, dairy, soy and sugars. 

As a result, my skin has drastically improved (I have been struggling with cystic acne for about 4 years- the biggest culprit for that has been soy f*cking w/ my hormones!), my tummy doesn’t get as upset and I generally find I have more energy and mental clarity as well! Anyone who has struggled with any kind of skin ailment or lethargy will generally tell you the same thing – upping the whole food intake in your diet (fresh fruits, veggies and legumes) and cutting out processed foods is a GAME CHANGER. 

So anyway! This is typically my diet now, and I find that it helps me feel happier, lighter, healthier and more confident as a result of my skin clearing up again too. It has also helped me push the boundaries of my home cooking adventures, seeking lots of alternatives to my old favourites. 

Today’s recipe I am sharing is a classic comfort food: MAC ‘N CHEESE!

Not a week goes by where I don’t typically crave some sort of comfort food, and some classic Mac ‘n cheese is always in my top 3. After a lot of experimentation with this, I have found my favourite yummy, quick, easy and HEALTHY recipe that I always go to when this craving hits.

It satiates the cravings, but it also happens to be VEGAN, GLUTEN AND SOY FREE, and chocked full of healthy goodness. WHATTTTT???? So here we go! 

 

 

 

And there you have it my lovelies! I’m still wrapping my mind around how something so delicious can also be so incredible quick, easy….AND check off all my dietary boxes! I hope this inspires you to try something new for yourself this week. Prepare to be amazed at how good you feel after a big heaping bowl (or two!) of this! 

Until next time, have an inspired day!

-Spirit Sister, Nicolle-

Advertisements

5 Ways To Lighten The Mental Load

 

Hello Lovelies!

How are you feeling today? I hope you are feeling some peace of mind.

Today I wanted to chat about something that affects us all in some shape and form. The Mental Load.

What is the Mental Load?!

While there is no clear official dictionary definition out there describing it, to some degree we all know exactly what it is. It is the part of life that becomes almost managerial; not just the ‘DOING’ but also the ‘MINDING’ and ‘REMEMBERING’ of life. It is the constant internal monologue of all day to day functions, tasks and to-do lists in your own life, as well as often in the lives of those around you too. It’s never ending, and most of all it’s exhausting.

Some daily examples of  maintaining the ‘mental load’ are things like:

-Minding the grocery list/list of chores even after you’ve written it down for everyone including yourself.

-Constantly thinking about your goals and the steps you need to achieve them, setting yourself targets, making lists and plans, etc.

-Maintaining detailed calendars, schedules, important dates etc, sometimes for a household or for a group and not just for yourself.

-Balancing your personal work schedule, social/extracurricular schedule and perhaps even the work schedules of others.

-Having a notepad beside your bed to write out lists before going to sleep

-Remembering to take care of the “little” household details like having clean towels and socks, dusting, putting stray objects away, health care appointments, etc. 

Some personal examples from my own life are that right now since i am not working a permanent full time job in lieu of my mental health status, I am managing a schedule of a number of side jobs (dog walking, temp work, etc). I am also kind of the unofficial manager of my band Strange Breed, and since i am home more than my partner is on week days, I take on a bit more of the housework (what needs to be done?), grocery list making (what are we running low on?) and the likes – at least for now, and I’m good with that! As well as of course my many grand plans for life, and working towards those. That is my mental load. Most of the time I don’t mind, but there are days where it all suddenly catches me off guard, and throws my mental health for a nasty loop.

 

Quite often, the mental load is taken on as ‘women’s work’. We see it growing up, and as a result we see it and experience it as “grown ups” ourselves. Common examples of the way the mental load is put on individuals (especially mothers, as a classic example!) is through language. It’s often in the tiniest things that we don’t think much about, but language is the fastest way to convey to someone of what we expect of them.

A few examples of this language include (but aren’t limited to!):

-“If you wanted me to do it, all you had to do was ask”

-“I can do it, but can you please remind me?”

-“Where is my_____?”

-“When is our______?”

Now, as much as I do identify as a feminist, please believe that I am not trying to turn this into a gender based political piece. This chat today is ultimately about how all of us as humans experience the mental load, the effects it can have on our mental health and some ways to help keep it in check. However, we all know that when we think of a classic ‘domestic manager’ caricature, typically we think of a mother. She might be a stay at home mom, or maybe a working mom- but usually she is the first one to come to mind. So as much as we know that nowadays there are any number of genders and any number of individuals taking on the burden of the mental load, most often it is one individual per household who takes on the majority of it. A lot of the time that happens to be one who’s always envisioned to be ‘nagging’ about chores, cleanliness, upcoming dates, getting ready times, etc…thinking of your mom?? Me too! (I love you mom!!!!).

Why we should stop viewing delegation as ‘Nagging’

Asking people around us for help with these things constantly is often seen as nagging  or hovering behaviour, especially when it is done by a woman/female representing individual. That is a problem! Asking for help does not equate to being a ‘nag’. This is where language comes into play again – if you shame someone for asking for help, what does that say about you?

If and when we can start seeing the mental load for what it is – ACTUAL WORK THAT TAKES AN EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL TOLL- Maybe we can stop viewing it as ‘nagging’ behaviour, and see the people in our lives that handle the ‘managerial’ tasks of our lives with such ease that we don’t even notice as (S)HEROES!!! The mental load can cause anxiety, stress, racing thoughts, negative self talk if things ‘don’t go just right’….any number of mental/emotional and sometimes even physical ailments. So this is why if you are managing a mental load and are afraid asking for help makes you a ‘nag’…. you shouldn’t have to worry about that. You are human. The burden of every small detail in the universe is not on your shoulders. At least, it shouldn’t be! 

Are you the manager of a mental load? Maybe it’s just your own personal one, or maybe it’s for multiple people. 

Here are some ways to start working towards “lightening” up that load every day – at least as much as you can!

  1. As much as having multiple/many lists can ultimately lead to stress, anxiety etc for some,  having at least one solid to do list and/or agenda can be extremely beneficial. A big help is training your mind to let go of a thought or task once you have written it down. Put that important date in the calendar, write those items on the list and then immediately move on to something that helps you decompress. Whether it’s just going to bed, reading a book, having a hot shower, watching a good movie, having coffee with a friend…whatever it is to take your mind off of the tasks that aren’t even immediately important! Just write them down, and then forget about them until you NEED to remember. Remind yourself that everything will find a way to work itself out, and everything is taken care of. You won’t forget, your agenda will remind you 🙂
  2. Delegation is really one of the hardest things to do for a lot of people who constantly fall victim to the mental load, as discussed above. But it is extremely important in order to protect yourself from burn out. And you WILL burn out! Have a chat with the ones you live with, or those close to you and explain how and why things are affecting you. Explain in clear terms what it is you need help with, why and how it would benefit your well being. Then once again, you have to just LET GO! You can always check in with those people on how things went / if it got done etc. – but have a little faith in the people around you that they will deliver! Trust that when you ask for help, you will receive it. Trust in the fact that as much as it sometimes feels like all the little details are up to you, they really aren’t.
  3. Try a ‘one task at a time’ type approach. It’s really easy to get caught up in the brain activity of productivity, planning, completion, etc. In fact it’s really easy to get quite obsessive about it even. It feels good to get things done, and to be so organized and on top of things. But ultimately, there is no need to do 8 things at once. You are not an octopus. You will burn out, you will hurt yourself in some way shape or form. Practice prioritizing the things on your list(s) that day and really just challenge yourself to tackle one thing at a time. Don’t call so-and-so about the thing while you’re driving to the other thing to finish doing the whatever. Just drive, get there safely, take care of business and then move on. Maybe take a break even! Treat yourself to a coffee, or something you like. So-and-so will understand if you can’t call them while doing a dozen other things- we are all human here!
  4. Challenge your expectations. This is a hard one for yours truly. I love things to look a certain way, or to be a certain way, etc. That is a side effect of my mental illness, allowing me to keep some form of control over things when so much else is out of my control. However, the amount of energy it takes to have a picture perfect home, or to be exceeding your goals at some kind of super-human rate is just ridiculous. I’m not saying that you are not capable of anything and everything that you want to do- i’m just saying, remember that there is always tomorrow. Remember that it is quality over quantity. Remember to be gentle and supportive of yourself.
  5. Accept that making errors is only human, and if something goes wrong it does not all fall on you. You haven’t failed anyone, and you haven’t upset the flow of the universe. Everything can be fixed.

So there you have it my lovelies! We all carry a mental load to some degree – whether it’s for ourselves alone, or for a number of people all at once. Regardless of whether or not you struggle with mental illness, it is exhausting. But the biggest thing to remember is that it does not control you! You control your to-do lists, your schedule, your time. You are more important than crossing something off of a list. It’s truly amazing how much we are capable of when we are just a little bit more gentle with ourselves.

Have a fantastic day!

-Spirit Sister, Nicolle-

Favourite Self Care Rituals for 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Lovelies!

How are you feeling today? I hope you’re feelin’ yourself in these first days of the new year. 

Personally, I started mine off nice and relaxed which is exactly what I needed. As you may have read in my last post, i’ve been off work (again) thanks to my mental illness, and dealing with a re-diagnosis situation. I’ve been doing pretty well and making some serious strides, gaining back some of my old energy little by little. That being said, the last thing I wanted to do was buy a $60 ticket to a venue packed wall to wall with sweaty, yelling, squirming strangers, and then not be able to flag down a cab home. NIGHTMARE!!!! Even when i’m not dealing with social anxiety, I hate that shit. My partner and I had a cozy games night in with some good friends, eating snacks and giggling like goofs, and it was perfect. Bonus: we were able to WALK home! 

Anyway! I hope however it was that you spent your NYE, it was exactly what you needed and felt like the perfect way to ring in 2018. 

So here we are! 2-0-1-8.

 

 

I’ve been mulling it over, and in today’s post I decided to do something fairly short and sweet – (for ME, as we all know i like to write novel-esque entries). It’s typical to write about new years resolutions, and things we learned from last year. I thought I’d kind of combine those things a little bit with some of the things I don’t consider to be resolutions, but more like lifestyle changes. Things that i’ve been implementing for awhile (thanks to suggestions from counselling, reading other helpful posts, etc!) but am really gunning to stick to this year for the sake of my mental wellness, and healing from the awful episodes that 2017 brought me. 

I am simply calling these things my “favourite self care rituals” for this year – and hopefully for the foreseeable future!! 

So let’s get to it! In no particular order…. 

1) Feeding myself new, creative & healthy recipes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the last 2 years, I’ve made a lot of modifications to my diet specifically for the benefit of my skin. For the last 4 years or so, i’ve had awful skin – hormonal, cystic acne – the kind that makes you want to hide in a hole. Through finding the right skin care regime and cutting out most dairy, gluten, soy and refined sugar, I’m seeing MASSIVE improvements, and my skin is healing! The added benefit has been when I stick to this diet, I feel happier. I feel lighter. I have more energy and don’t feel as lethargic. It’s impressive. Luckily, I love to cook and experiment with new tastes, ingredients and recipes so this diet has been kind of a fun challenge for me. I thought I’d share one of my favourite new recipes i’ve been devouring as of late! A VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE BREAKFAST SANDWICH! Yes! it is amazing!!!!! Leaves you satisfied and full for hours, and gives you a huge energy boost. Give it a try 🙂

 VEGAN, GF BREAKFAST SANDWICH
Ingredients
  • 2 slices Gluten Free Bread
  • 1 can White Kidney Beans
  • 2-4 slices Tomato
  • 1-2 slices Vegan Cheeze
  • 1 Tbs Vegan Mayo
  • 1/2 Tbsp Ground Turmeric
  • 1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Crushed Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Vegan “butter” spread
Instructions
1) Turn on your oven to about 350º F.
2) Pop your bread in the toaster. Throw your beans in a pan, and sauté with a bit of olive oil and the crushed garlic.
3) Slice your tomato, and place in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper if desired. Put in the oven to get nice and roasty, only takes about 5 minutes.
4) Put your beans into a bowl, and add your vegan mayo, turmeric and onion powder. Use a fork to mix and mash these ingredients together. You don’t want to mash them all the way smooth, leave it so that it is textured.
5) Butter your bread with your vegan spread of choice (i use Earth Balance, soy free version), and lay down a thick layer of the bean filling. Pop your roasted tomatoes on top, and then your vegan cheeze slices on top of that. Now, put it into the oven for about 5 or so minutes to help melt the cheeze, and get things nice and toasty.
6) To finish it off, I also added a little bit of tomato ketchup and sriracha hot sauce, and it tasted better than any brekky sandwich i’ve ever had!
ENJOY!  

2) Facial Massages

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know what’s great? Massaging yo’ face. And no, not to get all Regina George ^^^ about it and start criticizing flaws in your skin, but just to take a moment for yourself. As I said above, I am really big on my skin care regime, as it has been a huge part in improving my skin, and diminishing the scars left behind from cystic acne. I hated my skin for a long while because of what it was “doing to me” mentally. I deprived it of anything good, and just slathered on everything under the sun to destroy the acne bacteria. Flash forward to now – I am educated enough to know that the only way to get rid of my breakouts is internally. So to properly encourage my skin to heal from the outside, it is less about covering it in zit cream and acids and more about putting generous amounts of protective, healing and nourishing ingredients IN. 

So since this is something that I do religiously twice a day, I’ve turned it into a self care ritual that goes above and beyond just caring for my skin. My favourite part of my skin care ritual is to use a hydrating, nourishing oil and massage it into my skin for about 2 minutes. Make sure you do this after cleansing, and any treatment products like serums, essences, etc. I use gentle, circular motions starting from the middle of my face and always working up. Physically, this has some lovely benefits like stimulating collagen and brightening the complexion. But internally? It brings me a moment of peace, to check in with my body and relieve tension. 

My favourite facial oil is the Facial Recovery Oil by Eminence. Yes I am slightly biased because i used to be an employee of Eminence – but for real? I have always used other brands simultaneously, and I have gone all the way through 3 bottles of this one. That never happens. It has a luxurious texture, tons of skin benefits and a relaxing spa fragrance attributed by the organic oils. It’s also 100% organic and biodynamic. Win. 

3) Walks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time and time again in the midst of mental health crisis, I forget about the benefits of simple movement. It has been reminded to me constantly as of late by my counsellor AND my doctor that I should be more active – that this will not only keep me physically healthy, but will help me feel happier, help slow down my mind and help me sleep better. 

So I’m challenging myself to not only get back to doing yoga every day at home, but also to leave the house and brave the cold for the sake of a simple walk. Get the blood moving, see some nature and shit. So far 50% of 2018 I have stuck to this, so that’s not too bad! (I had a dip in my mood the first to days so I was basically couch ridden). Today, I walked to go get a kombucha and a couple supplies for dinner, and took the long way home to take in a bit more fresh air and scenery. I have to say, it IS nice to let your mind clear and to feel connected to nature, or to your community for a little while. I think that bit of connection is so important during trying times. So i’m going to make this effort every day- rain or shine!!!

I’m also going to start dipping into listening to Podcasts as I do this, which is new to me! Today I listened to a Ted Talk, as well as an episode of my friend Nicola and her pal Tia talking about true crime on their channel 2 Blonde Ghouls. I highly recommend those goofs!!

4) Setting a bedtime ritual

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have not been sleeping well. It’s been rough. Sleep has never been an issue for me, but the last month or so it’s been extremely difficult. A part that is playing into that is, I believe, some new medication that I am trying. But aside from that I know that my sleep patterns have been all over the map.

My counsellor proposed a simple question the other day: “Do you have a bedtime?”

No. No i do not. At least I didn’t, not until now! We are so addicted to our screens and to keeping ourselves busy all the time that it is so easy to forget about one of the most basic human needs, and that is REST. We need rest. Mental illness or no.

So now, I’m aiming to be in bed by a certain time (barring the occasional exception), and leading up to that time I’m trying out this thing where I unplug from life a little bit. Plug in my phone to charge, set my alarm, and then leave it. Make some tea, snuggle into warm blankets and pull out a book. I usually do a guided meditation or body scan before bed as well, so I am keeping that in the program. So far, so good!! I feel like this is a ritual I can look forward to in the evenings, and can also ensure that I’m setting myself up for the best rest possible. What works for you???

5) Letting Creativity Flow Freely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always been a creative person. I literally don’t think I would have made it to 25 if I didn’t have music as my outlet. I’ve always been a writer, a performer and a dreamer. The thing is, the kind of negative thought patterns and self talk that I have developed over the years through my mental illness sometimes makes it really hard for me to go after those things. It’s a huge inhibitor of my creative process and my writing at times, because I become a huge self critic, which triggers me to hit some really low, self deprecating points (all things I am actively working on with professionals). 

That being said, when I am working through mental health issues and DON’T feel up to working as hard on my music as I typically would, the last thing I want to do is halt my creative process all together. I’m trying to keep the creativity alive through alternative avenues such as crafting/DIY’s, making creative meals, therapeutic coloring/drawing, etc. These things help me still feel like I am accessing the creative part of my brain and MAKING something, but at the same time lowering the pressure that I sometimes feel when I spend time on projects that are extra dear to my heart. 

 

 

So there you have it my lovelies! Those are a few of the main “self care rituals” I am currently implementing into my life to make my transition back to ME feel more balanced, healing and complete. I hope that some of these things inspire you to try them for yourself, or create your own rituals. If you already have a list of your own, i’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading. Have a wonderful week!

-Spirit Sister, Nicolle-

 

It’s Back to the Basics – Relapse & Self Preservation

Hello Lovelies!

Long time no see! As usual.  I am so very sorry for not being very active on here anymore. I realize i wrote a grand total of maybe like 3 or so posts for all of 2017! Unbelievable! Thank you for those of you who have stay tuned all these years, and been ever so patient in between posts during years like this. This is going to be a very honest post, with some details that some may find discouraging, but i promise you i am writing it for the opposite effect. I want to write this as a reminder to myself, AND to you, my lovelies….that in the world of mental illness, it is natural to have an ebb and flow of ups and downs, forward steps and back steps, and starting from the drawing board. It is okay when these things happen, ALWAYS. It is not the end of the world. It just means we have to go back to basics, and re-learn what it means to take care of ourselves in the here and now. Anyway…shall we?

YEARS LIKE THIS.

Where do we even start? On a global level, so much has happened that has brought us together, AND pulled us apart as humans. So much has been weighing on the collective consciousness and it has been severely damaging to many – at least to so many people i know, and myself included.

On a personal level, it has been a whirlwind too. I haven’t been able to work for about 50% of 2017 thanks to my illness. There was a hopeful moment i had in 2016 where i was trying to wean OFF of medication, do you recall? You can read about that HERE. Well, as you can imagine, that has not panned out. I am currently in the middle of a possible re-diagnosis all together, and am on 2 new kinds of medication, and still unable to work. During the most expensive time of the year no less! I’m not going to lie, i have been feeling useless and I can’t help but feel like I have taken major steps backwards. It’s the sad truth of how it feels, but inherently I know it’s not REALLY true. It IS however a truth that has led me to revisiting a lot of aspects about habits and thought patterns that i have, as well as what it means to take care of myself.

I guess in this post today, i just wanted chat a little bit about relapse, the struggle that comes with it and a few of the things I am doing to try and get back on track. Ultimately if you or someone in your life is dealing with mental illness in one of it’s many forms, relapse is inevitable at least once. For me it has been several times over the last 12 or so years, and that is part of the reason that at this point the medical professionals and counselling I have in my life are starting from scratch and revisiting what I might truly be fighting. Part of me goes WHAT THE HELL WHY DIDN’T WE SEE THESE THINGS SOONER, WHY COULDN’T YOU HAVE FIXED ME SOONER? but the reality is that’s not the way this game works. The reality is I HAD to live with it this long to learn, and to understand it’s complexities. I HAD to live with it this long to learn that some things that i THOUGHT were a part of my character as a person, are actually rather difficult and persistent traits of my ILLNESS. Things that trying to rewire in counselling without the CORRECT medication would never accomplish. Now we know. I wish it had been sooner, but it’s never too late. And as I write this, I’m accepting that that’s okay.

The toughest parts so far of relapsing this year have been….

  1. Having to leave my well paying job in a company in which I thought i’d be staying at for the foreseeable future – feeling like taking major steps back, losing money, losing contact with that social circle, etc.
  2. Pulling away from some involvement in things that are important to me – feeling like i’m burning bridges, feeling like I’m setting myself up for failure
  3. Switching medication a couple of times – emotional/physical ups and downs, exhaustion
  4. Learning that I have some extremely deep rooted patterns formed by my illness that are going to take some major work – scary.

…Amongst some other things, but those are a few main points as an example. I am constantly living with mental illness, as many people are. But when I say relapse here, please note that I am referring to relapsing into having episodes – for me, those episodes look like deep depression, restlessness, suicidal thoughts/plans, anxiety, OCD, impulsive behaviours, inability to communicate or perform basic tasks for myself OR taking on an excessive amount of tasks to overcompensate. It looks like many different things. Sometimes I relapse for a day, sometimes a week, or sometimes like this year I relapse for months at a time. Due to having this lead to some of the above points, I’ve been trying to utilize the time off I am taking to put the pieces back together as best I can starting from the very basics. I personally experience a constant daily firing of neurons in my brain that often doesn’t ALLOW me to slow down or focus on the task at hand- until my brain shuts down entirely into a full blown depression where I can’t do anything at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So “Back to Basics” for me looks something like this…(although it might look different for you, and that’s great!)

  1. Focus on Nourishment of my body and my soul. One of the hardest things to do sometimes when you’re not feeling like yourself is to stay physically healthy. Luckily, i do actually like to cook most of the time. So most days, 60% of all that schedule myself in a day is to make food. To make healthy meals that I will enjoy and that will sustain me. I try to make the effort to move every day too, usually through yoga…but there are days I just don’t have it in me, and I am trying not to beat myself up for that, as your body knows when rest is more important. Meditation has always been a powerful tool for me too – i’ve been struggling with it recently, but i make the effort to try at least 10 minutes a day anyway. Even if my mind wanders, at least I am practicing a healthy habit. 
  2. Practicing the art of asking for help. There are times where I really don’t have it in me to do any of the above. There are days where being at home on my own only entices my compulsive behaviours to come out and drive me to the brink of self destruction. When those days come around, I am trying to get better at acknowledging that it’s okay to ask for some help. It doesn’t make you less of a person and it doesn’t mean that you will need to lean on others your whole life either. But it’s okay to lean on your support system when you need to- they want you to get better! Ask for help making a meal, ask to stay over somewhere for a couple of days if you don’t want to be alone, don’t feel safe or feel like you can’t rest. Ask for help picking up a medication if you don’t have time or money. Those favours can always be returned when you are stronger again.
  3. Steering clear of emails, social media, etc. Obviously not entirely, as I am clearly on my blog today! I’ve been trying my hand at not making checking my email, facebook or texts the FIRST thing i do in the morning. One of my compulsions is to say ‘yes’ and to get involved in as much as I can, feeling like that will speed up my personal growth (spoiler alert- it DOESN’T!) So I’m trying not to spend as much time reading invites to events, messages, emails, or to be the first one to respond “yes, i’ll do that, yes i’ll take that on”. It’s very natural to compare ourselves to what we see online as well, so I am trying my best to avoid that at all costs. I’m trying to lay back and treat it extremely low priority, with only a few exceptions. I can only hope this will be a healthy habit i’ll carry with me even once i get back to myself, back to work, etc. I am also being very honest with those around me about what I am dealing with. It’s not always easy, but people appreciate transparency, and are often more understanding with this stuff than you’d think. The world will not end if I politely decline an opportunity or an invite. It will not end if I don’t sort and reply to my emails before making a coffee. Deep breaths, it can wait.
  4. Only physically scheduling health related and otherwise “important” appointments. I am a compulsive scheduler and list maker (OH GOD I’M MAKING A LIST RIGHT NOW!!). I do not say this lightly. It’s bad. So a big step for me is laying off the lists and the calendars, even in the slightest bit. I sometimes need gentle reminders from my partner that it’s not appropriate to schedule “date night” into my phone – but hey, baby steps! Over all, i’m making an effort to only put reminders in my devices/in lists in regards to very important things like doctors appointments, counselling appointments, prescription pick ups, etc. The main list I am updating now and then is our grocery list. Other than that, i find that not scheduling much else in gives me the chance to fill the rest of the time with what my mind and body NEEDS. It is a challenge for me to literally take things day by day instead of thinking 20 steps ahead, which is a surefire way to end up burnt out. 
  5. Write down my desires for my future, and then leave them alone. This is a big one for me too! It would be easy for many (myself included) to look at all this empty calendar space on a ‘good day’ and try to fill it with projects to work towards your big dreams and goals. I know that’s not a reality for everyone with mental illness – sometimes half the battle is just recognizing ANY dreams. For me, that has rarely been the problem. The problem has always been having manic episodes of taking on too much, over extending myself, impulsive spending, impulsive decision making – leading to inevitable burnouts and feeling like a failure etc. So for me this is  a real challenge, but a basic concept. I have made a chalkboard wall poster beside my bed that lists out the ‘long term goals’ i have in mind for myself, so i can see them everyday. But instead of making constant, structured plans to make those things happen, I am just letting it be. I think about those things lots, and I might even meditate on them, but I am definitely not focusing on projects. I have reached a point of acceptance that I am only 25, and that my health takes priority here. The current goal is to have a long, healthy life to achieve those things. I have to trust in my future self that I will make those things happen when I am stronger, when I am well. 

 

 

 

 

 

So my lovelies, those are a few ways I am going back to a more basic ‘self care’ approach in this current chapter of my life. I am not taking on lots of projects, I am not surrounding myself with distractions or lots of appointments. I am simply focusing on taking care of my physical and mental self in the most simple and basic ways possible. I think I got off to a rocky start in building my foundation before, so this is essentially me trying my hand at that all over again. The hardest part has been accepting that this isn’t truly a backslide…all of this is helping me grow as a person, and learn what it means to take care of myself NOW. I am only human. But not really – I am human, living with mental illness. Relapse is hard, stressful and scary. But I am lucky in that I’m making it work, and I have endless support. Know that even if your situation is a little different, you are not alone. There is always someone who can help lead you to the resources you need. Even me! Never hesitate to reach out. I promise you, I have not been fighting this thing alone, not by any stretch.

Thank you so much for tuning back in, and staying with me on this journey.

Oh! and Happy Holidays to you and yours!! ❤

-Spirit Sister, Nicolle

Learning To Swim

Hello Lovelies!

Today, I want to just share with you a poem about where I have been hiding out for the last little while, and where I might be for awhile longer yet. Mental illness has it’s ways of always reeling us back in, and it has its ways of forcing us to go down all different kinds of paths. It has an interesting way at making us examine death, and it has an interesting way of making us see life. I resent my mental illness for so, so many reasons, but I have to give it some credit where credit is due. I have learned a lot about myself as a person- my needs, desires, fears, strengths. I have learned lots of coping tools, but I have also learned that as time goes on, sometimes those things change and we need to evolve our treatment plan with it. So that’s where I am at right now, on the verge of evolving my plans to meet the needs of my mental wellbeing- and getting myself BACK. Back on track to enjoy every little moment in life, loving my job, loving my hobbies and even my chores, spending time with the people I love and planning for all the exciting things the future has to offer. I know that thanks to my amazing support network and the spark that I still have inside me, I will get to that place soon. I have lots of things that still bring me comfort, so I will just be focusing lots of energy on to those things and starting a new treatment plan that *hopefully* works out my faulty wiring a bit better than it has been for the past while.

I thought, what better way to express all of this than through metaphor, on the INTERNET! So my dear readers, here is a little tale of making changes, making choices, and facing the darkness. Enjoy, and take care of yourselves! ❤ 

Learning to Swim

I am removed, far on a hillside. It’s raining a little over here, but it hasn’t started to down pour entirely just yet. But you know how you can tell? by the smell of the earth and the way that the wind picks up, you can tell that a flood will be coming soon. You have all the time in the world to prepare, because you know.

I once built a raft, and it kept me afloat the way i needed…it worked….so i pull it out of an old, dark, musty shed and get to work dusting it off. I work on my raft for hours…days….weeks….and still it rains, harder now. I work on it for months, but not under any kind of cover so the pieces of wood i’m using are getting wetter and heavier, and the rope becomes saturated in mud and hard to work with. I will have to discard this raft, I will have to start again.

I never imagined I would have to start again so close to the flood. It could happen any day now. I look around wildly for a sign of something to keep me floating above the swirling fifty fucking shades of blue, and to no avail my head hangs heavy and I am stuck looking at my shoes. The smallest feet, that have already walked so many different roads in one young life, often leading me back to where I stand. They slowly begin to sink as the earth gives way and the first of the flood releases.

PANIC. Anything will do, just not this again. In a split second I am running, running down my hillside, the place that sheltered and held me so comfortably dreary for so long. Looking over my shoulder, I see it dip, see it melt, see it crumble, and see it flatten- see the earth take it back, see it give way to the flood. Comfort level: zero. But I know fear is not an option anymore either. I know I need to continue. 

The rain has picked up as I reach an eventual a fork in the road I have been treading. No signs indicate which leads to where, or why I might choose either one, but it appears it is one or the other. I look closely and see that one of these roads, to my left, is flooded all the way through. The water is rushing quickly along, no will to be stopped, and even the thought of travelling down that road is exhausting to me. I think of myself flailing through gasping for air at times, losing all strength at others. It is an overwhelming sense of chaos, and it feels reminiscent of floods I have treaded before. I’m so tired.

I glance to my right, and the road is entirely dark. I feel a warmth emanating from somewhere within it, pulsing and swelling…and it creates a pull unlike the other path. It tells me that this path is where I can finally rest. I don’t have to fight anymore, I don’t have to make rafts or tread water until my limbs give out on me one by one. But there is something else about this path I notice immediately. I feel this sudden awareness that it is a path that no one else has ever come back from, it is deeply hidden away behind the trees, and perhaps that is for a good reason. Perhaps if I were to tread this path, it might just save me….but what if it remains dark forever? Surely I can reason that floods come to an end, but what about THAT kind of darkness?

I shiver. I am cold, and I am tired, and the water is beginning to rise on all sides. I take several steps towards the dark path, and feel the warmth envelope me. I can’t see what’s on the other side here, but I am not afraid of it. What I am afraid of more than anything is fighting against the currant in yet another round. My stomach twists, but my mind tightens it’s grip on me and wills me towards the pulse of this path, the comfort in that.

But then it happens. A beam of sunlight! My head lifts to the patches of sky above the trees, and I see it breaking the clouds. I feel it warm my cheek, and suddenly a warm breeze smelling of pine and sunshine and salt and greenery grips me. It turns me around and forces me to look at the flooded road to my left. The breeze lasts but a second, yet somehow it manages to remind me of something I feel like my mind has forgotten…everything on the other side of this flooded road. “there is something, it is anything you want it to be”, the breeze sounds as if it is whispering to me. I now take some steps towards the flooded path.

The water still rages, and I am still tired. I can see that there is long way to go, but I have to make a decision, and quick. I realize I want a shot at smelling the warmth of the earth again over the sodden trails I’ve been following for so long. The dark path behind me seems to get smaller, hiding itself further away behind the trees. But I still know where it lives, and I know that it is there. A sudden pang of realization tells me that all those other times I’ve been stuck in the flood, I found a way to just float above it. This time, I realized….this time would have to be different, or else I might find my way back here, I might choose to take the road to my right. I glance at the darkness behind me out of the corner of my eye.

“I see you, but this time I believe I’m going to have to learn how to swim.”

On Insecurities, OCD and Hurting over the Things You Love

Hello Lovelies!

How are you today? I hope you are feeling inspired.

I am sorry that I have been rather MIA over the last little while! I don’t really have any specific reasons as to why aside from life being busy and I haven’t felt very inspired in terms of writing. Life has been good; mostly just settling into the ebb and flow of the New Year and new elements of my life (such as living in the city with my girlfriend, etc).

I have also been really focused on things like my to-do lists, long term/short term goal setting, trip planning and things like that. At a glance, all good things! When your anxiety decides to act up, it completely transforms into OCD. I have to have lists upon lists to feel like I can function at a normal level or have any sense of control over my life. I have to write reminders in my day planner for the most mundane or ridiculous things, as if GOD FORBID I forgot to do the dishes or check the mail, what heinous things would be unearthed???!

I have also been completely consumed with my skin. That sounds like a weird thing to say, but if you know me it makes sense. I’ve dealt with adult acne (due to inflammation from food, stress, hormones, etc) for a number of years now, and I finally reached my quota of how much of it I could take about 6 months ago. I have completely revamped my diet (no gluten, no dairy, less sugar/salty things, less coffee… that’s a hard one!), so that has been a big experiment and a huge time suck recently. But so far- it’s yielded nothing but impressive results! I feel lighter, less tired, have less headaches/stomach issues and my skin is clearing up in the sense of not breaking out. Not even ¼ as much as before! It’s pretty great. My biggest thing I’m dealing with now, is the residual inflammatory hyperpigmentation/scarring. The combo of the right diet, right topical products and some professional treatments has really helped, but nevertheless, after a few years of struggling with this it has embedded itself as an obsession in my brain, and not always in the healthiest sense.

So, as good as life has been in general recently… there have definitely been a few mental illness related moments making me feel rather scatterbrained and not quite myself.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other night about the kinds of insecurities we face in our daily lives, or that society at large faces in general. This got the juices flowing a little bit, in terms of maybe sharing some of my own current insecurities, and what I have learned from them so far.

So no further ado, I present…

MY CURRENT INSECURITIES (AND WHY), WHAT THEY FEEL LIKE AND WHAT THEY HAVE TAUGHT ME (IF ANYTHING) THUS FAR, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER: ← WHAT a title!

INSECURITY #1: MY MUSIC.

You may or may not know this about me, but I used to be QUITE a young, upcoming, blossoming musician. I had a myspace page, ok? And a token eyeliner style that made all the neighbourhood raccoons jealous. Joking aside, it was my thing; it has been for a long time. I used to come home from school and bang out decent song in 20 mins (complete with actual structure, a hook, and creative lyrics – keep in mind, they were age appropriate in my teens aka semi-juvenile, but still relate-able). I loved performing and competing, I loved writing and recording and sharing, and playing with others. When I finished highschool, I went on to study music. I Didn’t complete my program due to mental illness, as well as overall not being entirely sure of what I wanted to be doing at 18 years old (and I still don’t really know). I still sometimes feel guilty that I never persisted and finished what I started. After I returned from that year and settled back in at home, I was the biggest critic I had ever been of my own music. I no longer wrote fearlessly and honestly, and I shied away from sharing and performing a bit more. Any projects I joined up over the years fell through, and I became discouraged. Through all of this, I have never STOPPED, but I definitely haven’t been as committed. Due to that, there are days where I lay my hands on my piano for maybe 5 minutes, and then become ridden with anxiety, sadness and desire for a time where my art came more naturally to me. A time where it was playful and I was unafraid. I didn’t have a context of what I was up against, I didn’t worry about the opinions of others, and I hadn’t yet lived through 10+ years of anxiety and depression. Those were simpler times. Again- despite this, I still try. I have written less music, but what I HAVE written has been some of the best I have ever written.

What this insecurity has taught me: I’m still learning a lot from this one everyday, and overall it’s an insecurity I have a long way to go with. I guess more than anything, I’m learning that it’s OKAY to be vulnerable and insecure about it. For awhile I was feeling like solely because it is something I have spent more than half of my life doing, I should be rather confident in regards to it. So the fact that this was far from the truth has been painful in moments. It has taught me that we really have to trust the timing of our lives, and that reflecting back on the desires of teenage me (Ie; expecting to be a full fledged touring musician by now) is totally unfair and unrealistic to CURRENT, wonderful, amazing me. I have accomplished a lot of great things in my life. Just because it doesn’t look like the one that I imagined for myself 10 years ago….that really means nothing, because i had no idea about what real life looks like 10 years ago. It has taught me that when something holds your heart, it never leaves you even in the shittiest, worst parts of your life. So at the very least, THAT is something. It has taught me that it’s always something I can come back to, and that it is something more important to me than I have acknowledged in the last couple of years. Baby steps.

INSECURITY #2: MY SKIN

All my life, I have adored my skin. I was genetically blessed in my teens to have flawless, relatively pore-less, clear, even, glowing skin with rare breakouts. My mom introduced me to skin care around the age of 12 or 13 (when I started playing with makeup), and it was probably the original Noxema cream from what I can remember. From there, Christmas and birthdays I would typically get some form of skin care and makeup products or gift sets – and I was hooked. So about 12 years later and here I am, saying my skin has become one of my biggest insecurities. How did this happen? Over a decade of regimented skin care, NEVER sleeping in makeup (…okay, once or twice), and religiously researching beauty trends, ingredients and ways to keep my body healthy and somehow I am the one suffering with adult acne? It’s a classic story, really, that affects so many people in their 20’s and 30’s. It fucking sucks. There is no sugar coating this. I have learned a lot of lessons about my health through the last almost 3 years of dealing with adult acne, and as I am on the verge of finally having it under control and healing my scars, I am happy to share those things. That being said, I have to clarify the insecurity part a bit more before I can do that. Listen: I work in the beauty industry. In the SKIN CARE industry. Period. It’s shitty to have awful skin in this job. It has been rare for me to feel ‘professional’ unless I wear a full face of makeup, which I only enjoy doing once in awhile. It starts to feel like to doesn’t matter how perfect my outfit or hair is that day, because it’s not going to be all nicely pulled together when my face is a mess. See, I know this is not entirely true. I inherently know that people shouldn’t treat me any differently, regardless- and if they did, they would be a shitty and judgmental person. But I am only human, and all humans are vain on a spectrum of some kind. I long for the days of the perfect skin I once had, no matter what I ate, no matter how much makeup I wore, no matter what time of the month it was, no matter how stressed I got. And now, when I see people who have a seemingly perfect, clear, smooth base underneath a full face of makeup, I tell myself if I had their skin… I would never take it for granted that way. But of course, that is stupid and immature ‘cause those people can do whatever the eff they want.  

What this insecurity has taught me: WHAT HASN’T IT TAUGHT ME? That might be a shorter list. At the root of it, it has taught me that confidence comes in so many forms, and that a positive, fearless spirit shines brighter than anything else. It has taught me that it’s not gonna kill me (or anyone else…) if I don’t wear makeup. It has taught me that some people will treat you differently in a full face of makeup, but that’s not necessary because of your acne- that’s actually because of the societal standards set on women and what the term “POLISHED” means by those standards. It has helped me learn even further what it means to treat skin conditions from the inside, and also to discover how some big, plant based, clean changes in my diet are benefiting me in so many other ways than ONLY my skin. It has taught me that bodies change, hormones change, and needs change over the years and that’s okay. It has taught me that gentleness is the most important part of treating acne- treat your skin gently, your body’s systems gently, and your heart gently. It has taught me that I am me regardless, and that I am still beautiful. It has taught me that it is only a temporary condition, and CAN be fixed with the right treatment options. It has taught me that life really has a weird sense of humor sometimes (“you will work in the beauty industry while simultaneously looking like a goalie for a dart team…” NO, WHY!!!!?). That’s what it has taught me, among many other things.

So there you have it lovelies!

Believe me, I COULD GO ON. I am only human, and I have had many things- large and small- that I am insecure about in my life. I just thought I would dive into detail about a couple of the big ones for me, just to share that sometimes insecurities are beautiful things because they teach us some of the most important lessons. Also to remind myself of that.

In the mean time, I am still dealing with OCD, and I am still going to obsess over my skin and nit-pick at my musical abilities, all in some warped effort to ‘feel better and gain control’ – but I am working at these things everyday so that I can be a happier, stronger, better person. I’m going back to counselling too, and I have no shame in that. it helped me leaps and bounds before!

As for today, wishing you all the happiness and health in the world! And I hope you have an inspired day.

-Spirit Sister, Nicolle-

Your List of ‘Daily Gratitude’- An Enlightening Exercise

capture

Hello lovelies!

How are you feeling?? I hope the first couple of weeks of 2017 have left you feeling grateful for the wonderful things and people (and pets!) in your life.

Let’s be honest- it hasn’t been the EASIEST couple of weeks. Not between the inauguration (and I’m from Canada!), new years resolutions maybe not going the way you’ve planned so far, the cold, dark winter days suppressing your vibrant light and making you retire early every night.

giphy-2-1

me right now

Given these circumstances, I figured that something we could think about this week would be the things that DO give us that light. The things and people we are most grateful for, and the the things and people that make this life worth fighting for every day, even at the most terrifying, hopeless, dark moments.

I took a bit of time on a day i wasn’t feeling particularly chipper about the planet, and did this. If this is not your first time dropping in to my blog, then you know I am an avid practitioner and advocate of mindfulness, meditation and self care. Well, in these practices of mine that particular day as I tried to re-balance my mind, my heart and my energy, i thought i would also re-focus my energy on to things that made me feel gratitude.

tumblr_majesticgratitude

I’ve done the gratitude journal thing before (journalling small notes every day about things you are grateful for in your life), and I enjoyed it and the result. But I realized sometimes, that was hard to keep up with and ultimately, fairly easy to quit doing altogether during the busy days. There have been a handful of studies that show that a regular practice of gratitude, just like a regular practice of meditation, has exceptional benefits for the brain/body functions, greatly improves our mental health in the long term and helps us find the connection  and self love that we all seek for in our daily lives. So it’s definitely worth it to reflect on gratitude often. But the hard part is finding the way that fits your lifestyle best!

I decided to make a list of an average day in my life, on a work day, and write out a list of all the things i would typically be grateful for in that day. It could be anything! Thoughts and feelings, people, things, actions, opportunities. And you know what happened? By the time i was done i had written quite a bit more than i initially expected! And it wasn’t even a list of all the big things that have happened in my life, just general things that come up in an average day. This emphasized to me just how lucky i am, and how many wonderful moments i can create for myself everyday. It felt really good. shutterstock_307015133

I’ve decided to share my list with you, in hopes that it might inspire you to try it too! I guarantee, your list of daily gratitude will be longer than you initially anticipated too. 🙂

*keep in mind, i don’t do ALL of the things listed here every single day, i mix it up during the week! just compiled an overall list of what an average day could look like for me 🙂 *

SPIRIT SISTER’S LIST OF DAILY GRATITUDE: AN AVERAGE DAY

-Waking up to Megan in our cozy bed, in our home.

-Snoozing my alarm for an extra 15 minutes.

-Turning on the kettle.

-Doing a meditative body scan in my cozy robe to start the day.

-Having time to do even 5-10 minutes of yoga stretches in the morning.

-Doing my morning skincare regime.

-Feeding my fish and talking to him like he’s a dog.

-MY DOGS! Even though I don’t get to see them too often.

-Finding the perfect outfit that makes me feel confident.

-Having an extra moment on the bus commute to close my eyes, or let my mind go quiet. Observing the morning commuters and the streets come alive.

-Having (or ‘making’) an extra 5 minutes on my commute to visit Megan at work and get a coffee from her.

-Fresh. AIR.

-Making breakfast at work, and having pleasant convos/catching up with coworkers in the kitchen.

-Our morning meeting that everybody joins; sharing success stories, important information, previous day sales, and exciting updates.

-Working for an ethical, philanthropic, innovative company with positive vibes and incredible products.

-Making a really good sale, providing excellent customer service, or excelling at my job.

-Helping someone else excel at THEIR job

-Making someone laugh or feel recognized.

-Chatting with my friends in the different departments to break up the day.

-Having really yummy leftovers for lunch, and taking a bit of time to read my book.

-Finishing the work day, and knowing I’m on my way home to either relax, see Megan, see a friend/family member, or do something that makes me feel inspired.

-Cooking dinner with Megan, and having endless laughs while we do. Or if we’re lazy, ordering Indian take out and binge watching one of our shows together.

-Having a hot shower or bubble bath.

-Doing DIY facials at home with all my favorite products… and slathering on my favorite delicious smelling body lotions!

-Turning on the kettle, again. Peppermint tea.

-Playing music, writing, making diy projects- any sort of creative expression.

-Turmeric, cause i put that sh*t in everything.

-Music in general- all my favorite artists who have influenced me deeply, and all my favorite Spotify playlists!!!

-Making plans with my family- knowing how loved and supported by them I am, and how much I can return that with ease.

-Making plans with friends- knowing how loved and supported by THEM I am, and how much I can return that with ease.

-Writing lists of things I want to do and see, places I want to go. Keeping my day planner up to date. Planning goals.

-Crossing OFF goals.

-Going to a yoga class, or doing my own practice in the comfort of my home. The feeling of spreading the yoga mat, and stretching and reviving my tired body.

-Having the ability for the first time in a while to actually save money towards the many adventures I have in mind.

-Not wanting to off myself. (Disclaimer: not saying that as a joke, we don’t joke about mental health here, which I hope you know by now!)

-Being gay (but having a straight enough presentation that I have the ‘privileges’ of a straight, white woman. I am grateful to be a voice for the lgbtq+ community for different demographics of people who might not otherwise notice what being gay can look like or mean- especially from visible minorities. I don’t mean this to sound harsh or prejudice as I am neither of those things, it is simply a reality.)

-Essentially, I am grateful for my voice.

-Intimacy and vulnerability, in their many forms.

-Having full mobility of all my extremities, and having more or less ‘good’ health.

-Mental illness, for the lessons it has taught me.

-This blog, for all of the healing is has given and will always give me.

-YOU for reading said blog!!!!!

-Meditating before bed, or having the ability to go to a meditation group/class.

-Cuddling up to the love of my life and falling asleep.

rs_560x315-130918115644-henrygif12

And there you have it lovelies! That is my ‘average day list of gratitude’. I am going to make these occasionally here and there, and read over previous ones to remind myself of the wonderful moments, things, and people i have around me. I suggest you do the same. Even an average day in your life is probably more incredible than you think!

Thanks for stopping by, and have fun with your list! 🙂

Have an inspired day!

-Spirit Sister, Nicolle

heart