Thank you SO MUCH for stopping by on this post. I have two main things I want to say before we get started–okay, maybeeee three, ahaha.
Firstly: This post is inspired and predominantly follows the amazing Jenny in Neverland’s blog post for this tag which you can find via this long hyperlink! Her post originally existed back in 2017 and I am inclined to reignite the spark and carry it over into this year which is 2021!! Her post was also inspired by another blogger which you can find through her own links there. But on to point number two!
Secondly: If you don’t know and this is your first time on my blog, I used to write articles for my university’s student newspaper about my mental health recovery journey from spring 2016 – fall 2018. The most relevant article for this post is the one I did as an interview with my friend I named Naomi. It was about the impact of stigma upon the mental health community and how it can act as a barrier to receiving the appropriate help for those conditions. When I had asked my collegue from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness, USA) about how to conduct the interview, they suggested that I add in fun facts and other interests besides mental health that I want to carry over into THIS blog post. So, that’s how I’m going to be tweaking this post, my contribution to the tag, itself. I’ll add in comments about my hobbies, the types of things I like and enjoy and other factors that have contributed to my far more emotionally stable lifestyle and the hopes and dreams even beyond mental health that I plan to embark on and explore one day.
Thirdly: Within this vein above, I’d also like to describe the different factors that I highlighted and created in the associated thumbnail for this post. Just little facts or small discussions on each item shown and what the process was like coming up with this thumb overall. If I count them all up for both of us…there’s 12 so I shall space them out throughout this post! With that being said, let’s jump in!
Who are you?
Hi there! My name is Raquel Lyons and I’m a blogger here on WordPress, while also managing multiple accounts throughout the Internet, some being:
My Loki centered Avengers fan fiction accounts on both fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own (AO3) where I write a lot about overcoming adversity, hurt/comfort, angst and the intersecting points between mental and physical health conditions. 😁😘🤗 I put Loki through a LOT of shit but he manages regardless haha. My most popular stories are A Little Unsteady (fainting) and Distorted & Disordered (mental health fic set in high school and will be a trilogy). I do not shy away from hard topics like trauma, PTSD, suicidality, mental health, eating disorders etc. Another popular story I have would be Severed (waist down paralysis) and An Unseeing Shadow (a spinoff for Come to Pass before I started that story which is about differing forms of blindness). My account names on both sites with just a space at FFN vs AO3 is Unmasked Potential. So, if you’re curious and you’d like to read more of my writing beyond this blog, check those out! FFN and AO3. And leave me a comment or critique if you can and are interested!!! 😅😌☺
My Youtube channel with the same name as here: RecoverytoWellness — where I make videos (I am ending a hiatus soon, within the next few weeks!!) about my recovery (life updates, Support Stands); my artwork (coloring, creative writing, filming (newly), photography, Ink on Skin, etc.); hauls (stationery, journals, books); art time lapses; room care; talking videos and more. I even have a couple of collabs but more so tons of other videos I have to edit and put together soon. I just got a new editing software so I’ll be tinkering with that very soon to see how that goes and hopefully return with a better uploading schedule!!! My most current videos I’ve filmed (but haven’t edited) include room care/reorganizing, a body positivity vid, hauls, going through my childhood stuffed animals, a multiple part Get to Know Me series! (To celebrate 100 subs).
My Twitter page: Recovery Raquel that I, for better or for worse, treat as my online journal, much like here and other sites if I’m honest, where I update about what I’m up to and what I’m creating or sharing some of my artwork or just what’s on my mind at that moment. 😃
My old (but soon to be resurrected) deviantART account. I made this account back in Feb. 2010 and it’s seen so much of me and it’s where I came up with the name for this blog, even. I settled more into here for my writing and chatting but DA was definitely where I started at sixteen. It has my artwork ranging from creative writing, journals, photography, drawing, coloring, etc. I want to get back into it very soon (this year) but haven’t quite managed to just yet. I do aim to though.
Besides my online presences, I am a twenty-seven year old living at home with my parents with my four year old doggo Mocha (AKA Mokeys). I mention her often on Twitter and I actually did here, too, way back in the day when we adopted her in June 2017 with some blog posts and old photos. I actually just took a BUNCH of photos of her just yesterday but they’re all still on my camera’s SD card at the moment. Regardless, I’m an avid artist ranging from: adult coloring, photography, filming, graphic design (Canva; it’s where I make all my blog and Youtube thumbnails), creative writing (particularly fan fiction as of late, but also poetry and short stories (and more I’ll mention in just a moment); beaded bracelets, scrapbooking/collages; painting, water coloring and you get the idea.
I live in MA, USA and I love rainbows and rainbow lighthouses, even if they are technically only a thing in my imagination (a lighthouse with a seven colored rainbow as the base instead of the traditional plain white or white and red combo) — (I tried to include an image of a drawing of this but I don’t have them on this laptop at the moment and I’m not about to go digging any further than what I just managed for about 15 mins, do forgive me.) Any how, I love to read books and books provide me with SUCH a great comfort, even if my reading ability today is far behind what it used to be. I still love books. I also love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, no surprises there. I love rainbows and I’m a small gay little bean. I enjoy my Disney+ and Netflix accounts and I love to create from a perspective of art therapy and mindfulness. I love falling asleep to an assortment of things like ASMR, creepypastas, horror stories and chiropractic cracking ahaha. I have a supportive family and many wonderful friends from all over the years. I love buying books, journals, art supplies and stationery.
:=[[WHAT I’VE ALREADY ANSWERED ABOUT THE THUMB ABOVE]]=:
So, no surprises here, a few of my answers and lengthy about me and my online accounts should have already cleared up a few things from my thumb. Namely, the camera to represent photography (and filming!), the Love wins bottle because it’s aesthetically pleasing and also very gay of me, the cute rainbow because rainbows (they’re my fave color!! I do accept 5 colored rainbows but anything less than THAT isn’t a rainbow to me), the girl reading a book because books and reading and I am a woman (she/her pronouns, thanks very much)–I’d say that totals to about 4 things answered of the 12 thus far. Let’s keep going to see how that changes!
What is your mental health condition?
Aaaa, yes, we’re diving into the actual purpose and questions of this very mental health tag!! I live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on self-harm and suicide obsessions (intrusive thoughts in-congruent with my values; unwanted images and thoughts about these usually occurring these days in flashes I most often ignore), secondary depression (with genuine thoughts of hurting myself, urges mostly these days), trichotillomania (hair-pulling), dermatillomania (skin-picking), and this is a little complicated final one but technically Borderline Personality Disorder as of fall 2017 buuuut I don’t know how much I agree with it per se, because I fit at one point more under borderline traits because I didn’t hit five or more of the 9 symptoms so sometimes I just say BPD and sometimes I don’t. Depends how much I want to explain that day ahaha.
But yes, short technical version is: OCD, depression, BPD, trich and derm.
As a disclaimer, I will add that diagnosis in the US (though I imagine it’s applicable worldwide) is more for the purposes of insurance companies and treatment direction, knowing which to apply to what and so on. I also believe diagnostic criteria exist on a fluid spectrum where at one point I may have identified more with an OCD diagnosis and at another a BPD diagnosis. For me, luckily, it’s been over 3 years since I last self-harmed via scratching and it’s been about 3.5 years since I was last hospitalized. I do get urges still today and bad dreams about suicidality or self harm but I definitely don’t act on it as much as I used to. I’ve grown a lot and I’ve really changed in a lot of ways. But we’ll get more into that soon.
Do you take medication or have you had therapy?
Okay, Raquel, this question is a simple question and you’re gonna answer it more in-depth in the next one. Keep it simple. Think simple. BE the simple.
Short answer: Yes and yes. As for my current providers, I’ve had the same psychiatrist “Phil” since Mar. 2015 and my current therapist “June” since Feb. 2018. She began as my family therapist with sessions with myself and my Mom in that same stroke of time but became my main therapist at least in like Jan. 2020. Occasionally we still do family sessions but not as much anymore. Pandemic-wise, I was seeing my psychiatrist in the summer months in person with physical distancing (since winter, it’s only been over the phone and as of yet hasn’t reshaped at all yet) and I’ve been over the phone for the last year and a half with June. Soooo, yep.
What therapy or medication combination worked best for you? What were its short comings and what were its strengths?
So, a more complicated answer and question here.
I tried out various medications at different times and dosages over the years. Largely, I’ve been on my current anti-depressant since about Mar. 2015 (I don’t go into specifics of particular ones because my advocacy work discourages that so I just never have over the years) and I’ve been taking the current anti-psychotic since about Sep/Oct 2017. It took a lot of tinkering but I finally found the right ones that worked for me. I’ve been stable on both of these meds since, hmm, let’s say Feb. 2018. And by stable I mean, we haven’t changed them in any way.
Also, I want to preface my answer to this question in particular with the fact that I am only an expert in my own experiences and I can only tell you what’s worked for ME from my own perspective and I vastly encourage you to take your own liberties in your own treatment up with your treatment team and don’t necessarily spout off what worked for me in your sessions because we’re all very different and what works for me may not work for you! So definitely, advocate, advocate, advocate. Be the main person in your team that stands up for you and helps you get help because you deserve it, you’re worth it and life gets soooo much better!!!
I’ve had a lot of treatment over the years which I’ll spell out more down below, but to put it in perspective, I’ve been hospitalized for psychiatric purposes 12 times over 3 years. Here’s what helped me the most plus an overview of all treatment I’ve had in that length of time (which this will get clearer down below, sorry this is a strange jumble of stream of consciousness and also some parameters set in place for other more specific questions that come later in this tag!!!)
- I originally began my treatment using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) at the Counseling Center at uni. I did this for maybe like 6-7 months before I transitioned to my OCD specialized therapist.
- I saw my OCD specialized therapist twice weekly for about a year and half, approximately from Feb. 2015 – Nov. 2016
- I stayed 5 weeks at the OCD-Institute in Belmont, MA in Sept – Oct. 2015. The main therapy I learned there was exposure and response prevention (ERP), family therapy, individual therapy and group therapies like introductions into DBT and mindfulness and more. ERP is used to treat OCD which is to essentially expose the person to the thing they’re most afraid of (predominantly as a hierarchy so small stuff first then leading up to bigger stuff; we want to avoid flooding ourselves!) and NOT engage in the compulsions that only make the anxiety or distress temporarily disappear.
- I then saw my therapist April once a week for about a year. We did like maybe CBT and art therapy and crisis management work (I was still very unwell at this point)
- I was hospitalized on and off through this period of time (fall 2016 – Jan 2018)
- I began to attend a day program “Passages” from Feb. 2018 to June 2020. Here I would attend groups and activities during the day and then return home at night. I attended three days a week and did activities like group therapy, mindfulness, art therapy, socialization, psychoeducation, and the predominantly taught modality there that was Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT.
- DBT is comprised of four main modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation. DBT is the therapy that really genuinely and honestly transformed my life to what it IS today. I began to attend the DBT-Intensive (DBT-I) program from May 2018 (leaving April to do so) to Jan. 2020. On Wed’s at the program I would attend the DBT-I session which was to review the last week’s homework assignment, offer an issue we had with the previous week via referring to our diary cards that tracked our moods and behaviors and then in the second hour we learned the next skill and received the next week’s homework assignment. On F’s I’d meet with my individual therapist there and talk about what was going on and all that jazz. I learned SO MANY skills of DBT that I still practice mostly unconsciously today and with many avenues I still have to update myself on and relearn (gwah).
- My most used skills are probably opposite action, pros and cons and self-soothe. I’ll be honest though, I haven’t really been reading up on them or practicing them more again in the last year or so. However, overall DBT taught me how to tolerate my negative emotions and build a rather high pain tolerance. It also taught me to fall in love with other things and passions like music, fan fiction and Marvel movies. I learned how to sift through my emotions and went from triggers affecting me for 3 – 4 days like back in 2017 to instead having a very painful and uncomfortable 20 mins as more of the norm and the baseline of my existence. I also became super stable and just haven’t needed the hospital setting like I once used to.
- I still struggle with catastrophizing, all or nothing thinking and avoidance but overall it’s gotten so much smaller and better than it first began as. I struggle more with avoidance, procrastination, denying anxiety and the hair pulling and skin picking these days
- By Feb. 2018 I started seeing June for family therapy and then in about Jan 2020 I saw her individually once a week until probably these past 6 months where I was able to do biweekly appointments (which would have been unheard of back in the day!!)
Overall, my treatment has definitely taken bits and pieces and various varieties over the years. I am hoping to find myself an OCD specialized therapist again within the next year because I think I’m ready to do that and would benefit a lot more from that as well. Medications weren’t one and done, they took different amounts and unfortunate side effects like weight gain, irregular heartbeats, stiff jaw and the like. Therapy had always felt like something I’d be locked in for for life yet in the last year I’ve been able to play around with the idea that maybe it didn’t always have to be. I definitely still have my struggles today, they’re just different than they used to be.
:=[[Thumb Discussion Time]]=:
I’ll pick the unicorn this time!! I LOVE unicorns. Always have since I was a little girl ahaha I just think unicorns are great mythical creatures and I love their aesthetic and have drawn a few of them throughout the course of my art making days. I just liken them to rainbows and you know how much I love rainbows so it’s a perfect match!!!
How long have you been living with mental health conditions?
I was diagnosed first with OCD back in fall 2014 when I was 21. I was seeing my uni’s Counseling Center until, well, you already read that part. I was diagnosed with depression in Jan. 2015. I was then diagnosed with BPD in fall 2017. I was never officially diagnosed with trich but I’ve honestly had it since I was 15 and it pre-dates all my other mental health conditions, but it only became severe (enough that I was missing my eyebrow two or three times over the course of a year) in 2017. And derm is still new but that’s been since I started to manage my trich so probably 2018/2019.
Do your family/friends know?
Yesssssss, my Mom is most active in my treatment with my Dad thereafter. My Mom is really the main parental figure that attended my family therapy appointments with June. My parents have been active parts in my treatment as I would need hospitalizations and crisis support, even if they were one of the last ones to find out about that stuff (sorry, Mom and Dad!). They would call me, visit me in the hospital, bring in my clothing or books or homework. They were through the original family therapy appointments at the OCD-I. They still carry me financially for the most part. They’ve been there to take care of Mokeys and put up with all of my bullshit (which is the avoidance for sure; I need to do more chores, I swear). I live in their house still and it’s been a hot spot of struggle for years and then just betterment in the last three.
As far as my friends, yes, they also know. Most of them also live with their own mental health conditions to be fair.
And beyond my friends, I do advocacy work with NAMI so tons of audience member/strangers know about my recovery too. And I was open about it via my articles at uni. And, relevant to here, I’m still open about it and I tell the entire world my shit. For better or for worse, haha. So yeah, probably the only people who don’t know might be extended family. But pretty much, everyone knows. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of where I’ve come and all that I manage today, which brings me to the next thing:
What are some of your dreams for the future?
Technically not a question in the original post but I’m adding it, because I THINK this is what I was going to write about next (it’s been about 3 hours of work overall and I’m getting tired to be honest), but I’m definitely looking forward to writing my own fiction novel, a RecoveryHome workbook, my memoir and probably novellas or a series of short stories and poetry books. I also still dream of one day giving my own TEDtalk about my recovery journey. I also want to become a Certified Peer Specialist next in my career. I plan to continue watching the MCU movies. I plan to actually finish my fanfics, ahaha. I plan to become more involved with advocacy work, like with CPS and also just with NAMI in general. I would love to make my recovery art projects a thing (all the different R’s involved with that.) I want to get out beyond my bubble of comfort and into driving around the countryside and looking at homes and houses because I’ve always found that soothing. I can’t wait to listen to more and new and old music. I dream of my house’s front door and having rainbow lighthouses everywhere, haha. I’m starting to explore romance in my life and continually trying to let go of fear and let myself live. Existential awareness is still too strange for me but I’ll take it, and deal with it however I can at the moment. 😊😎🤗 Okay, let me be honest, that was a necessary mini break that I needed right there!!!
What helps you to self-soothe?
I swear I won’t jump around too, too much in this post, haha. Here are the types of things I find self-soothing:
- Looking at houses and interior/exterior design. It shouldn’t be too much to wonder how I have an entire project set aside called Recovery Home, then, right? Looking at the different types of things people have out and in their homes just fascinates me. I love it. Storage boxes in neat rows and colors, art studio things, windows, types of doors, porches, banisters… I just love it
- Driving in the country-side. I definitely find this soothing, just roaming about and learning the road, finding new places. It’s nice. Simple and adventurous and nice.
- Libraries. God, I love libraries. Also, is this surprising? My idea of a good time is just being in a library. So fascinating
- Book stores and stationery shops, plus other shopping things. I don’t know, there’s something just so nice about to do lists and cute journals or finding nice, new or different art supplies and they’re always coming up with new stuff. I love it. Book stores are so great too. Dangerous to be in because of how much money I’ll spend but still it’s nice to look and write down into my journal which I’ve been doing more often now.
- Watching a movie or TV show. Like “Mom” or “Grey’s Anatomy” but you better bring the tissues to the latter! Even when I finally do get myself to watch an MCU movie it’s nice. Work, quite a bit, but it’s nice. Just getting lost in someone else’s head for a while
- Ink on Skin. Definitely a great self-soothing crisis type of coping strategy for me. Need I say more?
- Reading a book (even if it doesn’t happen as often these days).
- Watching a Youtube video but I have to be careful with this because I’ll over-distract and over-avoid.
- Creating art or listening to other art while I create art like music and horror stories, ahaha.
- Listening to music. Definitely a great skill that one is.
- Taking even just 10 mins for myself. If I need a reboot or a moment to just peruse a book, without or very few expectations, this helps. I’ve been able to get a little bit further in a book doing this before. So, this is a nice skill. Maybe falls under ‘brief vacation’ from DBT in the IMPROVE skill
What helps or what could you do when you get triggered to re-stabilize?
Outside of NAMI my longest standing employment is at Amaryllis a trauma informed residential for youth where I work with children aged 4 – 12 years old. I’ve been there almost 2 years now. It’s my more traditional 8 hour shift job (which I have all this weekend and once I FINALLY finish this post I’m gonna re-calibrate for that). I work only about once or twice a week. Regardless, if I get triggered (which does happen) at work I can usually take a quick 5 min or swap with a co-worker, get emotional support from co-workers or feedback of some kind, cry, listen to music, call a hotline or call my Mom about it later too.
Making plans is also really important for me so like coming up with parameters ahead of time of skills I can use and resources I can reach out to is important as well as self-care practices thereafter. So things like small mindfulness exercises help, listening to music, IOS, making artwork, blogging, filming a video, and the like. Sorry, I’m a little off now since I just spoke with my dating friend ahaha.
Overall I think having an idea for how to handle it before then after helps me a lot. I don’t always do my therapy homework though, to be honest, but doing like half hour or hour by hour safety check ins like what would happen in the hospital can be a great last resort. Even going for shopping or being around books helps. Getting out of the house or look at other people’s houses etc. Getting support from family or friends. You get the idea.
What is something you want others to know who are struggling?
It gets better. It really, really does. I could never have imagined this type of life for myself over four or five years ago. It won’t always hurt this badly, life that is and pain, too. My tolerance for pain has increased so much and the human body naturally adapts to new situations. The body and the mind can adapt and pain doesn’t last forever. It can definitely come in waves and it can be like a tsunami sometimes too, and at the same time, I think nowadays I’m only ever in a puddle in comparison to the bigger, more life-threatening things I used to deal with.
Know that it’ll get better. It’ll take a lot of work and effort and time and it will be sooo, so worth it. Build those reasons to stay alive, whether it’s looking forward to a new movie or a video game. That helped me so much when I struggled. Finding something, tangible or abstract, to hold onto counts so, so much. I’d cradle my teddy bear dog stuffie and hold onto the hope that it wouldn’t always be so dark or bad.
And it got better. It did. And now I have dreams and a life and new relationships and things I can now explore and imagine and create and that is so, so special. You will be okay again. And if you need hope, I can hold it out for you until you can carry it yourself. I believe in you. And I’ll believe in you until you can light that candle for yourself, too.
Stay safe and above all, love yourself. 💜💙💚💛🤍
How would you describe your recovery in 5 words?
Optimistic, hopeful, persistent, determination and perseverance.
As for the final points about my chosen thumbnail:
- The makeup palette: I’m slowly and gradually getting into makeup and it’s been fun so far and I can’t wait to explore more of it in the years ahead!! Most of my artwork of females has always featured makeup so it’s kinda natural this is where I’m headed 😉😚
- Ipod: music is SUCH a big part of my recovery and mental health conditions journey. I’m still listening to music even just alongside this post (I’m on some Iron Man instrumentals now) though not what I started out with ahaha. It’s great though and I love to reference it in my art, which I’ll probably share in a future post this month, if you’re curious!!!
- Kiss and profile woman: symbolizing love and romance, exploring that part of me that I’ve left abandoned and rugged for years. It’s nice though, something different to think of and maybe it won’t pan out or maybe it’ll be everything I always wanted and never knew I needed. I’m excited about it. 👄👩❤️👩💟
- A photo of me! An old selfie from about fall 2020 sporting my extra big extra glasses haha Just something nice to personalize and humanize this post!!
- You Got This: because affirmations are awesome, helpful and I love writing cards and letters to people and giving them out which ALSO includes myself!! (though it’s been forever, I’ll be honest)
- Journal: I feel like using the photo that I did from Canva for this project was perfect to create this little collage-like thumb. It was perfect and I got to create all over it even if no actual physical page was marked. It was great and worked out far better using this blank paged journal for me to spread out all my ideas! Yay!
- Woman in a dress: I love dresses. I can’t wear them at Amaryllis but I love dresses. They’re just so cute and flow-y. But I’d be lying if I didn’t also mention how much I want to wear a men’s suit one day!! I’ve dreamed of it for years but they’re always too expensive for me. 🤔🤨
But yessssss, that IS ALL THE TIME I have for you and myself and for all of the peeps today.
This post took me many of the hours to write and I’m sick of it and can’t wait to move on to the next thing ahaha. I hope that you enjoyed it though!!!! And we’ll see what post I do tomorrow, honestly, probably celebrating hitting the 500 post milestone!! (at least that won’t wind up being 4k words long)
I lied…. it’s been 5K words long. *sobs internally*
But yeah, I have to go do something else now. I hope there weren’t any or many errors in spelling or grammar because I’m not reading this back over again but do check out the people I linked in this post and the things that I also linked and all of that jazz. Thank you SO MUCH for reading and let me know if you want to do this type of tag on YOUR blog or if you’re interested or want to create your OWN version of it, because I definitely took some creative liberties on mine ahaha.
Thank youuuuuuu. And let me know what you thought down below!! I didn’t do this much work for nothing. Kidding. Ahaha 😅😉😶 I will see you guys tomorrow. The amoutn of spelling errors at the vrey end of this post is concerning. Sigh.
Written from: 3p; 4-7p, phone break for 10 mins, 7:15-7:35p. All written May 7th 2021. Thumb created around 2p, I think, if I had to guess.
“As always, stay safe, take care and be well. Much love and light to you.” — Me in my tag line for the end of my videos. 🖤🤍💜🌈🌞