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DO.YOU

How do you DO.YOU?

I’ve been given the DO.YOU speech by family and friends alike and the significance of a simple phrase has been vital to the changes I’ve been making in my life. In all my time spent taking care of my mental health, I have heard that there is value in selfishness — that we have to put on our own oxygen masks before we can put them on our loved ones in the proverbial plane ride. I still show my love for others, but I put myself first. And the improvement in my mood has felt amazing.

You may be asking, how do you DO.YOU? Well let me tell you, it is easier than you think! The most difficult part has been starting the mental refocus of my energy towards doing things that are important and enjoyable to me, rather than only to others.

It’s about putting your passions first. And the first step to that is figuring out what it is that you deeply care about, and making that your main priority each day.

DO.YOU everyday!

Habits form when you make yourself a priority. Healthy habitual practice at a hobby, pursuing a career in a field that you are passionate about, exercising in a fun and exciting way: these are all steps towards the DO.YOU mantra that I practice. Find something you enjoy and pursue it everyday.

For me, writing has become my habitual practice towards putting me first. Writing helps me express myself when I’ve felt silenced by my mental illness in the past. To put my thoughts and feelings onto paper helps me express myself creatively and share my story with others.

DO.YOU for positive self talk!

Think about the things you like about yourself. A few weeks ago I posted about positive affirmations and I took my own challenge by reciting “I am” statements that made me feel good about myself. It felt a little awkward to say out loud, but I felt so good after reminding myself of my good qualities that my mood improved. I continue to recite them daily. If your friends and family say those positive things about you, why can’t you say them to yourself?

DO.YOU and you will see that all the great things others love about you are easier to remember and act on. I’ve been making better choices for my life and have been able to assert myself so that my needs are met. You can too!

Only you can DO.YOU!

We are all responsible for our actions, but mental illness can make it difficult to choose the right paths in life for ourselves, and most of us haven’t chosen to have chronic invisible illness. I see my loved ones telling me to DO.YOU so that I can refocus my attention towards the ways I can better my life, away from the traumatic events that were out of my control.

Only you have the power to DO.YOU — simple as that. And what makes life great is the uniqueness we each have and coexisting harmoniously with each of our differences. If we live to put ourselves first, we are less likely to feel slighted by others, events, and circumstances that we cannot control. We have responsibility to find and follow our happiness. And then we may make strides down our paths towards living our best lives.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. — Mark Twain

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ART.THERAPY

Art is a creative expression just as writing is for myself. I paint my mood and feelings with vibrant colors or draw my emotions with dark and rich charcoal and pastel. I used to talk about art therapy years ago with people outside of my mental illness circles and it was not fully understood by some. The value is unquestionable.

I was blessed to have experiences with art therapy on both sides of the spectrum — from receiving it at renowned hospitals to assisting in teaching it at mental health facilities. I found it to be a valuable tool for putting your thoughts on paper and painting what you may not know how to express with words. It is especially helpful with adolescents going through difficult times.

Why is ART.THERAPY important?

For many reasons. I am blessed to have found the gift of writing as a catharsis for expressing myself. I also find out about my inner beings wants and needs through processing my paintings and drawings. Especially with young children, art therapy creates a safe and familiar space to kids whose brains may not be fully developed yet to put their mental pains into words or writing.

Not just for kids, art therapy helps adults get in touch with their childlike wonder and curiosity about what is deep down inside of them. For more on the value of art therapy, check out this American Art Therapy Association description here.

So you want to become an ART.THERAPY professional…

There are increasing numbers of art therapy programs popping up as it gains traction with the mental health movement. In particular, I looked at a program in New Rochelle with an excellent Masters; you can find out more about it here.

It is a great major to pursue if you love both helping people and using your artistic talents.

Last but not least, ART.THERAPY with a shameless plug twist!

I’ve been given the compliment from friends and family to start selling the artwork that I create for my own form of art therapy expressions — and I finally put the advice into action!! You can find my brand new Etsy shop “PUNKARTFAIR” here.

I only have a few paintings up so far, but be sure to check back as I add more to the collection for sale!

Thank you for reading! xo and happy painting 🙂

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. — Vincent Van Gogh

Photo: Original Artwork by Joanna Fanuko

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ENABLING.LABELS

My topic of choice today is a touchy subject for me and many others. ENABLING.LABELS means a few different things for me. The word “enable” has a fairly positive context in the typical use of the word. We can enable each other to grow through teaching right from wrong when young; we can enable those of use with physical disabilities to live a more comfortable and active life with wheelchairs and crutches. But there is another side of enabling that maybe isn’t as positive. In the mental health realm, it can mean allowing someone with addiction or mental health issues to stay put in the patient role by unknowingly enabling them to continue down an already slippery slope.

That’s where “labels” comes in.

If family and friends are ENABLING.LABELS it makes it hard for someone to advance out of their patient role. For myself personally, I often manipulated my way to staying dependent on my parents because I knew it was more comfortable for me to feel better. As soon as I lived alone (thanks to huge help from my therapist) I found that I actually did have the capacity to be less codependent with my mom and dad. I didn’t feel like just a patient anymore.

If someone is in trouble with mental illness (or physical illness for that matter) the majority of the time their support systems (family, friends, loved ones) just want to help them feel better. We are coddled in some cases (as was my case) and while that does feel comforting, it makes it difficult for me to step out of my patient role.

What can you do besides “enabling?”

If you have a loved one who needs help, by all means, continue to be there and support them. But remember: in some cases it can be kinder to allow them to exit that stifling comfort zone where they are always being rescued with habits fed — on their own. Give the gift of independence and freedom from the shackles of illness.

We are all stronger then we think.

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.

— Audrey Hepburn

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OVER.JOYED

Why is it that I stifle my joy, but fully embrace my angst, anxiety, and negativity?

I frequently put heavier value on the pessimistic sensations than I do the positive vibrations. Over time, it eats away at my optimism and I begin to feel mentally and emotionally fatigued. There are a few ways I am working on this and counteracting my old ways, because change happens from within us and I only have the power to adjust my own thoughts and actions.

Treating myself with kindness so that I may treat others with care as well.

It sounds like a simplistic adjustment, but it requires a huge amount of effort. I worked on positive affirmations this past week (see previous post) and it has developed nicely into a baseline for a better internal dialogue with myself. If I can show others respect, I have to treat myself with respect — and vice versa.

So far, I feel improvement in my mood and have slowed down my reaction time to interactions that make me uncomfortable or angry. I’m cutting myself some slack (my new favorite phrase) and in turn, cutting others some slack as well. My empathy has always been something I’ve taken pride in, so I’m being understanding of my own faults and shortcomings as well.

I don’t have to be perfect.

I read a great article on The Mighty about someone’s experience with the detriments of perfectionism. I’m blessed to have my education and to have the freedom to apply it to my everyday life. However, there reaches a certain point where I take my expectations I have of myself a step too far, leading to total burnout.

Loving myself is about stepping back, focusing on my breath, and realizing that I am human and can never achieve my vision of perfection. And that’s okay! In this respect I am able to love others as I begin to love myself.

This is all a work in progress…

There is no endpoint in sight for my vision of personal change — and therein lies the beauty! It’s a process and what’s so important is the progress. I can’t change my thoughts overnight.

A friend once gave me advice that has lasted with me for several years: Be patient! It is literally a virtue and has guided me to self awareness. I can’t tackle all my demons in one single battle. It requires time, patience, and consistency. Like nurturing a green plant to bring it to bloom, I am watering my growth each day.

Thanks for reading, and be the change you want to see in the world! xo

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. — Benjamin Franklin

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SOS.TRONG

Some days, no matter how much I build myself up in preparation for the day ahead of me, I want to cry out for help. The thought and idea of giving up is alluring. I wish I could put my fear into an empty bottle and ship it off like an SOS note, only to be found by some savior who can mend my bent and damaged self.

The cry for help is not necessarily a submission to being weak, though. A reaching of the hand in times of need is a sign that you are STRONG. It’s okay to feel weak and strong at the same time. Human nature is more about the gray areas than the black and white, all or nothing. I am working on being SOS.TRONG. There is beauty in the shades of gray.

Letting others in is SOS.TRONG.

It takes some serious guts and strength of will to recognize you need a helping hand. It’s even grander when you accept help offered. No man/woman is an island. We are all set on this Earth to support one another on our individual journeys. Without the caring we show one another, we would not be the evolutionary and progressive race we continue to become.

If you are in need, let others in and accept the help given. Speaking from personal experience, it can be a very lonely thing to avoid the gift of friendship and support from others who have the ability to give it. Kindness and compassion are an integral part of human nature and we need social connection just as we need basic living necessities. Reach out and ask for help, and be willing to accept if it is offered. I am blessed to be alive and given hand after hand of support to continue thriving.

It is SOS.TRONG to give back.

More for feeling well, give back when you have the strength to return the wealth of kindness you have been shown by others. The gifts you can pay forward are among the most rewarding. Bringing myself back down to Earth and grounding my roots in my surrounding, getting my footing, and returning the favor to those who need my help is an important part of my mental health recovery. Those moments are mutually beneficial because I remember what it is like to feel so low. And I can be a guiding light to others who need help navigating the darkness. Give back whenever you are ready to reciprocate the kindness you have been shown, and your support will have a twofold positive effect.

Lastly, being SOS.TRONG is a process.

Here comes that all or nothing part again! It is not cut and dry. Over time, it takes many pitfalls, many mistakes, and many lessons learned to build up strength. In fact, I bet it takes an entire lifetime to feel like you have mustered up your full potential. Where I am going with this, is that cherishing your weakness and strength is something that may take your whole life. Reaching out to others, and accepting the gift of kindness is not something that happens once in a lifetime, and then is gone. Human care and concern builds strength over time and matures with nurturing.

I hope that I never stop learning my lessons, my weaknesses, and my strengths. And I hope the same for you, too!

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. — Eleanor Roosevelt

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DARING.DARLING

Everyone has a hard time of it sometimes. You don’t need to have mental illness to prove that to me. It takes empathy to recognize that true fact — we all have our struggles. I’ve been going through a rough patch these past few weeks, and my challenge to myself, should I dare accept, is to let go of the things that hurt me and focus on the positive qualities that make me who I truly am. Be DARING.DARLINGS and join me in a positive affirmation challenge: Follow the prompts and repeat your prose in the mirror every morning for a week (I promise I will do mine and follow up!!) and see if your self-talk becomes more gentle and less judgmental (I bet it does!).

DARING.DARLING what’s your favorite personality trait you’ve had since childhood?

Recall the things you loved about yourself as a child. Do you still have some of those traits? If yes, really embrace the one you loved about yourself the most. And repeat the affirmation in the mirror each morning to bring back those happy memories and appreciation for yourself. Bring that childlike wonder back into your life. For me, I really liked my inquisitive personality as a kid, and still hold that near and dear to my heart. My challenge will be the affirmation: “I love having grown up with my inquisitive personality.”

DARING.DARLING what’s the personality trait you possess that you’re most grateful for?

Think of the quality you possess that really works in your favor. It could be brains in school, brawn in sports, or even sympathy towards friends. The trait I am most grateful for is my empathetic nature. It works in my favor by providing me with understanding of what others around me are feeling and allows me to sympathize with them, feel joy, fear, or sorrow along with them. It is a gift, and I will use the affirmation in this challenge: “I am grateful for my empathetic quality towards others.”

DARING.DARLING what is your best and most unique personality trait?

Here’s where it may get difficult — but I double dog dare you to continue the challenge. The quality I want you to use in your affirmation is the one that sets you apart from everyone. The thing that makes you uniquely you. It may not even be something you originally thought of as positive. The challenge is to take that thing that makes you different and wonderful and sets you apart. For this challenge, I am choosing my tenacity. It stands out because it is the main reason I have kept going in spite of setbacks. My affirmation in this challenge is: “My best and most unique quality is my tenacity that gives me the motivation to keep improving myself.”

You made it through the challenge, DARING.DARLINGS!

Repeat your tailored affirmations every morning for one week. And see how positive psychology can enrich your life. Appreciate yourselves, and flourish!

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night. — Steve Martin

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INDEPENDENCE.DAY

HBD.AMERICA,

Independence Day knows what it wants. It begs for beer and greasy food slop, sweating, hot and drunk, bathing in skin cancer and shouting obscenities. And that’s cool. I like it more for the metaphor.

I found my independence, or at least some baby-form of it, just a couple years ago. I was in the vice grip of illness. No way was I about to take care of myself. And then, support came. With diligence and TLC from loved ones, I bounced back. Out of the rubble that I was buried under, the plague of silence that my mind begged for, I came out of that ash and spoke.

Living alone was difficult. But it brought me out of my empty shell. It sounds counterintuitive; yes, I was very lonely. Even around people who “get me.” The hard work came from introducing myself to me, my personality, my morals and values. Without a voice, I lost myself. Independence woke me up from my Sleeping Beauty slumber and returned my soul, mind, and voice to its proper place in my heart.

I am not independent.

Yeah, so I am not independent. But I am getting there. I’m working on my life from every direction. And I won’t slow down. This is the lessen I learned for myself. It’s vital to feeling accomplished and successful. It doesn’t have to be some big atomic thing. A small step, and a mindful next move, each-and-every-day spent wholly, I’m learning what I want in life and continuing to move toward it.

I believed in myself again.

I told myself, no more. Not the way it is anymore. I wanted to return to the old me. The old me was not there. And I’m glad. Because I believed in the real me that I found. Anyone who truly knows and loves me would agree. Old me was not me. It was a hollow shell. I believed I would learn who I was if I let go of the pain, the attachment I had to the voices in my brain, and no longer shoulder all the blame.

Independence Day.

It came and there’s no more shame. I will never lose my optimism. I believe in myself. And I believe in any woman who gets torn down, and gets back up. Wipe the fucking dirt off, and give me your hand. Because you know I will be there to pull your ass up if you need help. That’s the real American Woman.

xoxo, God bless, America,

Joanna

I am not Jasmine, I am Aladdin. — Nicki Minaj

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