Thursday, July 20, 2017

Social Media and Mental Health

I had my first real taste of social media back in the days of Myspace. I never considered it to be anything of value; I just thought it was something to do for fun. However, it was essentially just a waste of time. In about 2006, when I got my first email invitation to join Facebook, I had no idea that it would be both a blessing and a curse.

So, when I first ventured into the Twitter arena, I was completely lost. I didn’t understand 75% of what I was looking at, and hashtags were just tic-tac-toe boards in my experience. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that you could see tweets from famous people from time to time, and I found that to be rather fascinating, so I stuck with it.

All these years later, social media has become my preferred method of communication. I enjoy checking my various pages and keeping up with what my friends are doing. There are times when I rely on those people to help keep me sane. Have there been negative experiences? Too many to count. If you’re not face to face, humor or sarcasm can be taken as rude behavior; which can launch you into a war of words with your friends looking on like they’re watching a tennis match.

Even with the pitfalls, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a valuable tool that has the potential to catapult you onto the computer screens of hundreds of thousands of people. I won’t lie, when I was new to Twitter and reaching out to others for help with promoting my book, it felt like a clique; and I didn’t belong. I sensed early on that there were mean girls (and guys) that didn’t have any desire to assist you in any way.

However, I was persistent, and I kept posting and eventually started to connect with people. People that today I am proud to call my friends. On the negative side, people are trolling social media searching for a weak spot that they can exploit. I’ve had downright scary interactions with people that made me second guess everything I stood for. But, that’s what the bullies are hoping for, and I refuse to let them win.

The camaraderie felt within the mental health community on Twitter is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We’re a community - you might say we’re a family. We protect our own, and we lift each other up. I’ve seen it first-hand. Sure, there’s a little competition, but we’re all on the same team and ultimately have the same goal. To finally end the stigma of mental illness.

But, there’s something important that you must remember about social media. If you’re ever in a situation where you’re in so much pain, you’re having thoughts of hurting yourself, don’t go on Twitter looking for help. The worst feeling in the world is pouring your heart out and for whatever reason, nobody answers at that moment. You may not garner the attention you had anticipated, not because you aren’t important, but because we’re all working through our own issues. We’re wrapped up in our lives and our causes, and maybe we just didn’t see your post.

That will only leave you feeling more lost and hopeless. Believe me, I’ve been there. Your best bet is to talk to someone you trust face to face, like family, a friend, a therapist. Take it from me, it makes life a lot easier when you don’t rely on social media to the degree that it becomes life or death. Always remember, everyone if fighting their own battle every single day. Perhaps they’re just not stable enough themselves to offer you encouragement or advice. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have to work with.

That being said, don’t be afraid to tweet about your feelings, or a great movie you saw, or something exciting you have planned for the weekend. If you’ve selected the right group of friends, they will be there for you and both Twitter and Facebook will have their own rewards. Just try to keep in mind that you need to disconnect now and then. Don’t have your phone out at dinner, at the movies, in the car on the way to the movies. It’s not only obsessive, but it’s downright annoying.

Connecting with like-minded people has its benefits. I can’t say enough about it. Of course, you’re going to run into people who are nothing like you and some may be quite menacing. That’s what the lovely little feature called BLOCK is for, and thank God for that! Social media has the potential to be a fun and interesting experience if you learn the protocol first and try hard not to take anything personally. If someone has an issue with you, that’s their problem, not yours.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Guest Post - Mental Health Advocate - The Unfiltered Mama - Better Yourself, Better Your Mental Health

Each day I wake up is a new start to the disappointment that will soon fulfill my mind. I slowly roll out of bed, take a look in the mirror and wonder why I'm never satisfied with the reflection staring back at me. Once I start scrolling through social media, this only adds to my questions. "When will I have that hourglass body? Will my clothes ever start a new fashion trend? I want to be her... I want her life." This routine is one I absolutely dread, yet, can't seem to break no matter how hard I try. Welcome to the life of an anxiety filled disaster. Are you ready to learn more?
I have always been self-conscious of my looks and personality. I often picture myself living in someone else's shoes because that's the only happiness I feel for that short-lived moment. Not a day goes by that I don't compare myself to another woman, and quite honestly, it's exhausting. I long for popularity and acceptance from those who normally see right past me. I want to be the fashionista that stands in front of her closet not knowing what to wear because there is TOO much to choose from. But the voices in my mind pull me back into reality. I talk myself out of this fantasy because I wasn't meant to live that kind of life. My hair is supposed to lay flat and boring. The awkward laugh I have comes hand in hand with my shy personality. This is just who I am and there's no turning back. I was destined to be the person I am, so why can't I just be thankful?
By the end of the night, my mind has circled around these make-believe thoughts thousands of times. My face falls into my palms and again I wish, please wake up as a new person. There have been countless times that I've given in to my temptations. The scars on my body are proof that I've struggled to make it into the next day. But they only add to my lack of confidence, so again I've lost the battle. The walls around me feel as if they're closing in on my existence. My breaths become scattered but all I could do is dream of waking up in a new body. Let me leave behind this mess that does nothing but takes up space. Fly away with the wind and please don't return. You are not welcomed here, you are no longer wanted.
The depression I had created left me crouched in a corner. The only way out was to find the strength I never knew I had. I was aware of what I was doing to myself and only I could change my life's direction. I was addicted to pretending to be someone I was not. My life was run by assumptions of what people thought about me which ultimately backed me into a corner of no return. It was time to wake up from this nightmare! Now or never, Courtney. It's time to get better.
One thing I've realized is that everyone has their off days. You don't always wake up and approve of what you see or feel. But you have to remind yourself of what makes you, you. If I woke up one day and really looked like who I wished to be, I wouldn't stand out like I do now. It would be impossible to be seen for who I've worked so hard to become. I want to be the crayon that still has a pointed tip. I want to be the marker whose ink never dries. The only way I could have made this reachable was to improve my mental health. I had to stop using social media as my source of happiness. Instead of feeling shameful of my scars I embraced them. I still run my fingers against them and remember that yes, it was a tough road, but I survived. I lived another day to tell all of you that I am a survivor, and so are you. That is something you need to remind yourself of with each passing day.
Your road to recovery starts here. Ask yourself what makes you stand out and shine brighter than the star next to you? Make a list and reflect on it.
My mental health is my best friend, and I make sure it's taken care of day in and day out. But I will never stop spreading the word. I will never hold back or regret to share my falling out phases.
Without them, I wouldn't be ME. I am here for a reason, and that reason is to help you stabilize the same mindset. Are you ready to be mentally healthy?
Your time starts now.

My name is Courtney, The Unfiltered Mama, and I've recently become a mental health blogger. I have shared secrets that I kept bottled up for years. But my reason for opening up is to be the voice for those who aren't ready to break their shell. I hope that my words will be the vice you need to pay attention to your own mental health. There is a never a wrong time to decide that you deserve more. You can find my work using this link: Thanks for reading and please don't hesitate to reach out to me.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guest Post - Patrick Roland - How My Bipolar Makes Me Sparkle Even More

Two years ago this past May, I found myself in the most frightening and dire predicament of my entire life: in a foreign city - Las Vegas of all places - I was to be hospitalized on a psychiatric hold (I prefer to say "Britney Speared" because it sounds more interesting-slash-fabulous) against my will.
I can still feel the terror and uncertainty of the moment. I can also still remember how numb and mostly dead from a several day drug and alcohol binge in Sin City I was as the sudden realization of the gravity of the situation overtook me and forced me to contemplate the direction I was going in my life.

Here I was 40-years-old. And standing on a ledge. Literally. I had just narrowly not jumped out of a window of the 26th floor of a prominent casino. My mother - who has dementia and who was in Phoenix totally unaware of where in Vegas I was I should point out - had somehow found me and stopped my dramatic post Mariah Carey concert suicide attempt and I was about to face the real music.

I'd like to say this was the first time I was in a situation like this, but stuff like this was becoming pretty normal for me in the months since my partner suddenly died in January 2014. It was almost a bi-annual occurrence if I'm being honest. Still, I was determined to make it my last. And soon I was given the diagnosis I needed to really make sobriety essential to my life.

In the very hospital that I was forced into at the rock bottom of my decent into drug addiction triggered by very real complicated grief, I was given the diagnosis I needed to set all my demons free.
I was told I was bi-polar.

I think the way it's supposed to go is that when you get diagnosed with a life-altering illness that you're supposed to be sad and go through a period of denial, bargaining, depression and anger - much like the grief process - with it. But that just wasn't the case with this diagnosis. I was overjoyed. I was happy. I was even excited.

You see, I finally had a name for everything about myself I intuitively knew to be true. And that made me feel a sense of relief that I hadn't ever felt in my entire troubled life. It also made me realize perhaps the most important thing of all: I could no longer put drugs and alcohol in my body that were only making me crazier. I had to take care of myself. Now my health and well-being actually depended on it. Suddenly I felt empowered. I decided to own this new truth about myself and make it work for me. And that meant I had to completely change my life. So I did.

In that hospital I decided I was a bi-polar, drug-addict, alcoholic widow. I figured that if I finally and ultimately owned all the bad parts of me, I would no longer be undone and ruined by them. And for the most part, I've found this to be true. I'm not saying I'm perfect or even not bipolar - because that never goes away and it's annoying when people think it's gone just because it has a name - but what I am is sober, happy and for the most part, healthy. That's something that I want to fight for. Because it feels good to know who and what I am and no one can ever take that away from me again. And this is coming from someone who was bullied and abused his entire life so that should prove how powerful this realization really is.

Owning who and what I am is the single greatest thing I have ever done. Because now that I am no longer ruled by fear and shame, I am able to bask in a new reality of self love and positive affirmation. The truth is for many years, I was afraid of you knowing all of these things I am, so I did everything in my power to mask them and hide from them. But I've learned through this whole journey that the very things in life you are the most afraid of are the very things that bring the most growth. And so, in not being afraid of who and what I am, I have been able to grow in to the man of purpose and power that I am today. In facing my fears, I have become the truest version of myself I ever have been. And that's a miracle no one can take from me.

My wish for people reading this is that the same will happen for you. I hope it happens before you are forced to like I was back in that hotel room in Vegas. But however it happens, know that who and what you are is not only beautiful, standing in that truth will help you sparkle brighter than you ever thought possible.

Patrick A. Roland is an award-winning journalist, author and editor with twenty-one years of mainstream media, specialty publication, corporate and public relations experience. He currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona and he celebrates his status as a bi-polar, drug addict, alcoholic widow because he is now sober, happy and healthy. He hopes that by sharing his experiences and strength with others, they will find hope in the way that he did. 

Patrick's website is
You can find his book on Amazon: Unpacked Sparkle by Patrick A. Roland