7 Ways to Show up for People with Mental Illness

7 Ways to Show Up for People with Mental Illness

Hi friends! Today I wanted to talk about how to show up for loved ones (or just people in general) that suffer from mental illness. I want to specify that I am taking about mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and other mood-based behavioral mental illnesses because those are the ones I have the most personal experience with. In short, these may not work for everyone and may not meet everyone’s needs – I am totally open to talking about more inclusive ways of interacting with our people with mental illness. These could also be useful for people who don’t suffer too because everyone has bad or tough days right*? I’m not a professional, but these are things I have learned and try to do with my interpersonal relationships, both as someone who suffers from depression and from multiple forms of anxiety and as someone who has dated and generally interacted with people with mental illness.

  • Communicate. The biggest piece that is woven through these tips is communication. Not everyone is self-aware or in touch with their needs, but if you or your loved one are, you can discuss them. Like what your needs look like when you’re having a hard time.
  • Try not to fix them. I know it is hard to tolerate seeing a loved one in pain or going through a hard time. Our usual response is to do whatever we can to stop the pain right? When you end up trying to fix a person with mental illness, you run the risk of expending energy to meet needs that don’t need to be met and/or creating an unsustainable dependency for the person you are trying to fix. On top of that, the simple fact is that you can’t. But you can cause damage in the process if you try to.
  • Check in, sometimes often. So now you have either articulated your needs, heard the needs of your loved one or both. Great! But guess what, these can change and shift so it’s important to check in regularly with yourself and/or the person if you can.
  • Negotiate. Sometimes your needs will be in direct conflict with your loved ones needs. Negotiating emotional space for moments when that happens is crucial. Relationships are not always equal and can require us to hold space and love for other people in our relationships even when we have little room for that. Communicating ways to deal with this can help ease expectations you may not be able to meet.
  • Set boundaries. And communicate them. Figure out your boundaries about how much support you can lend to your loved one and in what capacity. This is incredibly important if both/all people are dealing with a disability or hardship. If you know you can give little support, consider encouraging and helping this person access other means of support.
  • Have a support system. That isn’t exclusively tied to your loved one so that you don’t need to rely on them to meet all of your emotional needs. Having a support system in place gives you something to rely on during struggling times when your loved one can’t show up for you for whatever reasons. This support system can include a network (or even a handful) of people you feel safe coming to, self-soothing techniques that you can use on yourself, or a plan with steps to do to help you reach a more manageable state. Your loved one may see you in ways you can’t so they may have good ideas for your support system too!
  • Practice. Practice communicating, checking in, negotiating, self-soothing, reaching out, whatever helps you. And practice ways to not take your loved one’s struggle personally while still giving yourself space to feel your feelings. Depending on what this person struggles with, the severity, the ways it affects them personally, and more, sustaining a relationship with a mentally ill or disabled person can be tough. But not necessarily hopeless.

I struggle a lot with not taking things personally. Because of my giant Leo ego, I tend to go there first when I sense that something is up with people in my life. And also because of that ego, I will internalize it because I don’t want anyone to know I’m having a hard time. I’m learning how to let it out and ask about it, to communicate. I’m also learning that taking things personally hurts myself the most because it’s not about me. Assuming things are about me can create problems that aren’t there and deny people in my life the opportunity to communicate directly. There is a  delicate balance between intuition and necessary independence. I know I don’t need to carry that weight unless and until it’s presented to me. This has been an important and necessary lesson.

I hope this list helps you in your partnerships and relationships like it has helped me. If you can think of anything else that I missed or that you think is helpful, I’d love to hear about it!

 

*This is not to equate dealing with mental illness as the same as having a bad day – although many people with mental illness, myself included, will tell you that some days are ok and some are bad. This can be directly tied to our mental illness or just life – there is generally a difference.

Look Mom! I’m in Reflekt Magazine!

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Ok, so my mom doesn’t read my blog but when I received Issue 11 of Reflekt Magazine, I immediately ran over to show her! Reflekt is a really rad independent magazine based in Los Angeles. It’s all about style and culture in a way that’s personal and less commercial, more accessible and less cookie-cutter. Basically, Reflekt is the coolest! I’ve been a huge fan ever since I found out about it and am so happy to be a part of a magazine that showcases real people and their styles.

Here’s how the Reflekt team describes what they do:

Reflekt Magazine focuses on featuring personal style of our celebrated Muses, style tribes around the world, subcultural and cultural fashion, as well as cheeky and insightful articles based on fashion theory, style anthropology and identity in order to celebrate your wonderfully weird self!

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When staff writer, Janet, approached me about doing an interview, I was a little nervous. I had met her only once before at the OC Zine Fest and I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m usually pretty awkward in person and I am a *thinker* so it takes me awhile to answer questions on the spot sometimes. Because of this, I almost always ask for questions ahead of time or like to do online/email interviews. But Janet was so sweet and a total pro with my awkwardness – we have since become friends! Surprisingly, I ended up talking about so much! Like the intersection of feminism and fashion or how going to a catholic high school has influenced my fashion (how about how I am wearing a vintage uniform skirt here? It’s so deliciously preppy). Or how my grandma’s style was and is a total inspiration to me. I lived in one of her brown chunky knitted sweaters all winter!reflektlegscrossed

Of course after showing my mom that I am in a magazine, I curled up outside with a snack and devoured the entire issue. I was super excited to see some other friends included in it and I love how the spirit theme was interpreted in a myriad of ways. There are some really beautiful photo shoots (my favorite is this dreamy one called A Folklore that is straight out of a fairy tale), stories from some rad local style icons, and some cute/weird fashion and beauty tips (like make-up looks inspired by some classic horror movies – which if you know me, I am ALL ABOUT). I loved everything about it!reflektlooking

Outfit details: 
Pink cat-eye glasses: Firmoo
Green polka dot top: Old Navy
Gray pleated skirt: vintage, thrifted
Floral sneakers: Old Navy
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If you’re looking for a magazine that will inspire you and show you real people and real fashion, grab a copy of Reflekt Magazine! Plus you know, I’m in this issue so there’s reason enough right? *wink* Pick up a copy and support independent press, yes?

You can pick up your own copy of Issue 11: Spirit over at Reflekt Magazine (ps there’s a digital version too!) to read my interview and the rest of the issue. Issue 12, on Travel, is also out now. You can find Reflekt Magazine on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Youtube too!

Help Me Get to New York for BlogHer15!

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Hi friends! I need your help to get to New York! I am a proud #BlogHer15: Experts Among Us Voices of the Year Honoree and have the opportunity to accept the award in person at the BlogHer15 conference in New York City!

Last year I wrote a blog post about my experience growing up as a fat person and how that played out in some of my personal relationships. I wrote about the stigma and invisibility I experienced as a fat woman, particularly a queer fat Latina woman.

My story is not unique – so many people responded sharing similar stories. Now I get to fly across the country to present my writing to a huge group of bloggers and social media superstars. I get to share my story and in a way, the story of so many others.

I began blogging four years ago. Skinned Knees began as an eating disorder recovery blog – to help keep me accountable in my recovery and to shift the narrative of how we talk about those with eating disorders to include people of color, people of different sizes, incomes, sexualities, genders, and more. Today, Skinned Knees focuses on feminism, body positivity, and culture.

Blogging has given me the opportunity to use my voice to do something important for myself and my community. Being able to physically accept the BlogHer15 Voices of the Year award would be a dream come true, validation for the years I’ve spent writing my heart out, and motivation to keep doing it.

Here’s where you can help! I am asking for donations to cover the cost of a round-trip flight from Los Angeles (where I live) to New York City, plus transportation and/or housing costs. If you have access to airline miles you can share or know of a place I can stay in New York City, please be in touch!

Anything you can donate would be incredibly appreciated – literally every $1 counts. Thank you for believing in me and what I do! 

Easy Vegan Banana Bread Recipe

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Hi friends! I have a confession to make. I don’t know how to cook. I always say I don’t like to cook, which is true, but that’s primarily because it doesn’t exactly make sense to me. Baking though? I *LOVE* to bake. If I could bake every meal and snack, I would. Today I want to share with you this delicious vegan banana bread recipe (adapted from here) – but first, let me expand a little bit about why cooking doesn’t make sense to me!
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I grew up around some great cooks – my grandmother, my aunts, and my mom are all amazing cooks. My mom made dinner at home 6/7 nights a week growing up, my grandmother made me breakfast before school every morning, and for every family get together, all of my aunts each contributed a dish or two. I was pretty lucky to be fed yummy primarily Mexican home cooked food!

As a kid, my mom would try to teach me recipes but I didn’t really have the attention for it. I also hated touching or being around raw meat which made it difficult to really learn how to make the dishes she would make. Once I became vegetarian in my 20s, there were very few things left that she could teach me how to make that I could actually eat. Yeah, I could probably learn how to sub out the meat and use some other kind of protein but it wouldn’t taste the same and I’m not big on processed fake meats anyway.

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Another reason cooking doesn’t make sense to me is that I’m used to cooking for one person, myself, and occasionally someone else. Most recipes make *so much* food! And that’s ok, especially in terms of leftovers but it’s also hard for me to eat all that food before it goes bad or I’m just tired of eating it.

And there is something super fluid to me about cooking. Even with a recipe, there’s so much leeway and improvising that I literally get overwhelmed. For me, cooking isn’t structured enough. I just don’t understand how to do it! Does anyone else have this problem? I try to learn all the time though – there are some things I know how to make that I love but stand me in front of a stove with an empty pan and I’m just like ……?

But yes, baking! Baking makes sense. The recipes make sense. The measuring things makes sense. The throwing it all together and then putting it in the oven makes sense. Even improvising in baking makes sense to me. There is more of a balance that you have to maintain when you bake – which is why it was super fun to make this banana bread, especially since it is vegan!

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Easy Vegan Banana Bread Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium over ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (coconut oil works well here!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (brown works well but so does granulated)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two bread pans.
  2. Slice your bananas and add them to a bowl with the sugar. Mash the mixture well.
  3. Add the oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the banana mixture and mix well.
  4. Sieve the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the banana mixture. Fold into banana mixture well.
  5. Fold in the sunflower seeds and walnuts.
  6. Divide the mixture into the two bread pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Notes: 
Store your bread wrapped in foil or an air tight container. It tastes absolutely delicious warmed up or my favorite – toasted and slathered with peanut butter.

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So tell me, which do you like better – baking or cooking?

If you have any amazing vegetarian or vegan recipes for 1-2 people to share, please send them my way!

DIY: Unraveled Dip-Dye T-shirt

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Hi! I’m Aurora Lady. I created a t-shirt company that focuses on feminism, DIY, and love. Yesterday Jen, Daisy, and I shared a photo shoot that we worked on together, featuring my “Girl Gang” t-shirt. Today, I’m thrilled to share with you a little DIY I put together. Think relaxed, loved, rock’n’roll…. even a little bit vintage-y. This one is a head turner, but it’s so easy to wear you might forget why people are looking at you with a slight smile.

​When I created my first t-shirt series, Feminasty, it was very important to me that it have the opportunity to reinvent itself in the hands of everyone that embraced it. DIY is my jam– it’s a way to give new life to something you love that might not be just perfect for you yet. The do-it-yourself ethos is something that radically empowered me as a young person, saddled with lack of funds and a lot of gumption. I thought very specifically about what sort of material the shirts would be printed on (ethically made in the USA), the shape (it had to work on folks of varying body types, from small to xxxlarge– I’m working towards even more sizes!), and the style (flowy, comfortable, dirty-living ready).

I wanted each shirt to not only be able to handle a DIY, but to inspire you to create a DIY!

What you’ll need:

  • a t-shirt, white or light colored. This particular DIY works better if you use a shirt sized larger than what is fitted. The more fabric you have to work with, the better! (Get the Girl Gang tee here)
  • Rit liquid dye in the color of your choice (I used fuchsia)
  • sewing needles (You really only need one, but I loose these babies like crazy and therefore would feel like a jerk not telling you to have a few on hand)
  • thread in the same color as your t-shirt
  • latex gloves (if you’re a DIY rebel, you don’t technically need these. The RIT dye will stain your hands though!)
  • small pearls with a hole straight through the middle (5-10, depending on your penchant for pearls)
  • large pearls with a hole straight through the middle (5-10, depending on your penchant for pearls)
  • butter knife
  • iron
  • 1-quart plastic cup (something you don’t mind getting stained by dye)
  • rhinestones with back clasps (I used some made by Bedazzler)

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Dip Dye-ing Your T-shirt:

Start in an area that you won’t mind getting color on. You can always lay out old towels or rags to catch whatever dye might get everywhere.

Fill your cup with warm water, about 3/4 of the way full.

Add a drop (and I mean ONE DROP!) of dye to your water. Be careful! It’s easy to go overboard. Your aim is to give the shirt a light coat of color. You don’t need much dye at all to make this happen.

Gather one edge of your t-shirt in your hand and run under faucet of clear water. You are wetting your shirt before you dip it in dye– this allows the dye to travel up the shirt, adding more of a gradient effect to the shirt, and not a hard delineation of color.

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Once wet, go ahead and dunk that corner of the t-shirt in your dye cup. Set a timer for about ten minutes, and then check on your t-shirt.

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Is it dark enough for your tastes? Leave it in longer if you want a richer color. Keep checking every five minutes and pull it out when your color is achieved. Heads up– your t-shirt color will be lighter when it dries.

Pop that t-shirt in the dryer (after 6pm, of course!) or hang it on a line for a few hours if it’s sunny. Dry that sucker out!

Unraveling Your T-shirt

Cut the bottom hem off from your shirt. Who needs hems? Not you, that’s for sure!

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Here’s where the magic happens. Start by picking at the bottom edge, where your hem used to be. Your threads with come loose with persistence. Do your best to pull out the threads from side to side, rather from top to bottom. This creates a longer stretch of unraveling.

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Eventually your unraveling will taper up to a point. You can keep unraveling til this finite point. And then start over in a new area.

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This unraveling technique is easy and fun, but it takes a LONG time. It’s great to do while waiting in a doctor’s office, in line at the grocery store, or marathoning episodes of Daria.

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I chose to unravel huge areas in the front of my tee, and in the back. I also made small areas of unraveling along the neckline and along the sleeves.

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Adding Pearls and Rhinestones to Your T-shirt:

I chose to add stones and pearls randomly all over the top of the shirt. I scattered them so that they were a bit denser towards my shoulders.

Attach these only in areas that HAVE NOT been unraveled. The unraveled areas of fabric are uber delicate.

These stones are the easiest thing ever! Just press the prongs through your fabric, so that they’re sticking out of the INSIDE of the fabric (basically, so that your jewel is on the outside).

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Press gently on the prongs, so that they lay flat against the fabric, using your butter knife.

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​ Ta-da!

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Pearls are your finishing touch! Simply thread your needle with thread (about 10 inches long) and create a knot at the end. Poke you needle where you’d like the pearl to be in the shirt, back to front, so that your knot is right up against the back of the fabric and your thread is fully out the front side of the fabric. Thread your pearl through and then poke your needle through the opposite way. Do this two times for each pearl, and then tie off your thread with a knot.

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You’re done! Wear your t-shirt everywhere! I’d love if you Instagrammed your creation– tag me at @auroralady and hashtag #feminasty. For more rad DIY tshirt ideas, check out our pinterest board!