Mental Health, Review

I Tried The Anonymous 7 Cups Website | Website Review | Mental Health

I wanted to follow up the last review (I Watched 13 Reasons Why And It Kind Of Triggered Me) with something that could possibly help others with their mental health and a website popped into my head. I’ve only tried out the website 7 cups once and it was around the time I joined online counseling for the first time. Back then I figured I should just stick with the therapist and put all of my focus on there (Talkspace). Now that some time has passed, I thought it would be a nice time to try out the website again. The plan is to try 7 cups for one week, a new listener every time. I also want to stick to one topic which is my grandmother.

As I’m writing this blog, the news of my grandmother’s health is still all too fresh. Things aren’t looking so great. I haven’t really talked about it on here so I’m not really sure how to go about it either. I’m just going to talk and then hopefully some of it will make sense. At this point, I feel like it’s okay even if it doesn’t make sense. I just need to get it all out. Writing is my therapy after all. These last few months, I’ve been struggling with the distance from my family. It’s always been hard but there are times where I feel so fucking guilty for living so far away. It’s always when something big happens and I can’t be there for emotional support. One of the hardest things I had to accept was my grandmother’s cancer. I’m not sure if mentioned this before so I will briefly summarize it. About ten (probably more by now) years ago, my grandmother found a lump in her breast. It was cancer. She managed to beat its ass but like most cancer patients, it came back. It came back just after my au pair year ended. I just came back to South Africa and had to wait until I turned twenty-one in a few months so we can start the immigration process. They found cancer in her inner ear and she needed to undergo a massive operation to remove the cancer cells. She went in and she came out cancer free…or that’s how it looked. It looked really good in the beginning but then a few months passed and her ear started to hurt again. She went back to the doctor and we heard those dreaded words. There is nothing they can do for her. They can only make the rest of her time on this earth as pain-free as possible but her cancer can’t be treated. When this news broke I was already in the Netherlands. I’ve just immigrated a few months prior and it was a big blow. It was a difficult time. I couldn’t go back to South Africa to say my goodbyes. It’s simply not possible. I couldn’t afford to go down and visit and I had to accept the fact that there is a possibility I won’t see my grandmother alive again. With that being said, my grandmother is the kindest human being you will ever meet. She has this will in her. She is so positive and shines as bright as sunflowers under the sunlight. She is doing good. She dived all odds and pushed on for another year. Cancer has not won but…I almost feel guilty about bringing this up. I’m not the one with cancer. It’s not my mother dying of cancer but here I am, upset that I can’t remember what the last words I uttered to my grandmother in person were or if I hugged her before I left. Did I tell her I loved her and I’m so grateful to have her as my grandmother? It also didn’t help that we found out about her cancer being back when I was diagnosed with PCOS and everything was just happening at once. I can’t wait to tell you what that intense thing is and what affected me so much all throughout 2018…it should go up in late May or early June. I just need to finish all the part. It’s going to be a long blog series. I’m getting slightly off track…

Accepting my grandmother’s diagnosis and realizing that I might not be able to see her in person before she dies was hard. Really hard. A lot of family members went out of their way to go see her and it stung that I couldn’t do it. I can’t get that goodbye. I can’t hug her one last time. Damn, all of this is making me incredibly emotional. I haven’t really talked about all of this and it’s getting deep and raw very quickly. Yesterday, my dad shared that they found cancer in the back of her neck. It’s spreading fast and they don’t think she has a lot of time left. She can go today. She can go in a week. She can go in a month or heck she can go in a year. The good news is that she isn’t in a lot of pain and if she is she has medical support to inject her with a pain reliever. It’s difficult. When we heard the news that her cancer can’t be treated and her days were limited (Janaury 2018), I had started to prepare myself mentally but as my grandmother kept thriving…I allowed myself to hope. I allowed myself to hope that she will somehow make it until I can come back to South Africa and I will get that goodbye moment. But…I know I shouldn’t put my heart on that idea. I think I need to accept that she is going to die soon and that I won’t see her in this lifetime again. I need to accept that I’ve already hugged her for the last time. I also need to accept that my grandfather will go soon after her. One of the hardest things I also need to accept is that I won’t be able to go down for the funeral. I just don’t think we will have the money for it. It’s something you don’t know you’re signing up for when you move abroad. You don’t think about that part.

So, it’s intense and I’m curious how I will feel about talking to a listener about it. Before we jump in and start this process, I should probably explain what 7 cups is. I will let their website do the explaining for me.

About 7 Cups

We live in a world where you can be surrounded by people, but still feel lonely, with nobody to turn to when things get rough.

But being heard is an important part of being human. Psychologist, Glen Moriarty saw that there was great power in listening, but he knew not everyone had someone to talk to. He started to wonder. “How can I make being heard a reality for everyone?”  That’s why 7 Cups was born. Thanks to thousands of volunteer listeners stepping up to lend a friendly ear, 7 Cups is happy to say, “We’re here for you!”. No matter who you are or what you’re going through, this is a place where you’ll be heard and cared for. We might be strangers on the surface, but underneath we’re just the friends you haven’t met yet.

Chat online with caring listeners

Need to talk to someone? Our trained volunteer listeners are available 24/7 to give emotional support over online chat. It’s anonymous and completely free. When you need someone to talk to, we’re here to listen and help you feel better.

Meet people who understand

The community is at the heart of 7 Cups. You can find support and friendship in chat rooms and forums for many issues, like depression, anxiety, relationships, LGBTQ+ and more. Ask for help, join a scheduled group support session, or share your own wisdom and life experience to help others along the way. We’re all in this together.

So, as you can see 7 cups, is a very safe place where you can talk to others that understand where you are coming from. It’s a judge-free space and most of the times, it’s just nice to unload. To feel heard.

It’s incredibly easy to join and connect to your first listener not long after you join the website. It is relatively easy to navigate and find a listener who specializes in the topic you want. This is your starting screen when you join.

1.png

You can do two things now. You can chat to Noni which is a bot that can explain everything you need to know and connect you with a listener. You can live chat with a free listener which is usually according to my understanding, the listener will be chosen randomly. I immediately clicked on the browse for listeners button as I wanted to filter and find a listener who specialize in grief. As you can see in the next screenshot, it’s incredibly easy to filter and find exactly what you need.

filters when searching for listeners.png

Now, let’s say you’ve browsed the available listeners and you click on their profile to read more. This is what you will see.

listener 1 profile.png

As you can see every Listener has some stats that can tell you what you need to know. You can use these stats as a deciding factor if you wish you connect with the listener or not. The website also has longterm services and there are different levels in the listeners. I didn’t dive into it that part of the website as I didn’t think it was needed. I’m sure you will find all the information you need if and when you join if not through the bot, then through all the emails they send. Now, let’s get started!

Listener 1

It took a while to get started, the first two listeners I clicked on weren’t available but I finally matched with a listener and the conversation was very interesting. I’m not entirely sure what I want from these listeners or anything like that. I’m open to trying it out and I don’t know. The first conversation was…it just wasn’t what I needed or wanted to hear? I almost felt like instead of just listening or unloading my burden on this listener, I felt like I had to over-explain myself. I don’t really know how to explain it. But I wasn’t about to give up on listener number one. I will continue or attempt to keep the conversation going until it ends naturally or the listener ends the chat.

I will insert the first chat in a bit but I will be completely honest…I feel a little better but at the same time, I don’t. I still don’t think I got what I needed or wanted but then again, I have zero idea what that is though. The chat was also on the short side, it was only 14 minutes but that’s okay. Her responses were short and she didn’t exactly pull much out of me. I don’t know. I might be holding her on the same level as the listener I talked to when I joined way back then (September 2018). He was a therapist in training and I truly felt so much better after talking to him.

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Reading over the conversation I still think it’s a bit on the strange side. I just don’t know how to explain it. It felt off. I mean, just look how things ended. I tried to end it in a nice way and I don’t feel that it ended abruptly but that could just be me. She also took forever to respond so we just couldn’t connect. I don’t really know how to explain it. The conversation just felt off.

Listener 2

Things were a bit smoother with listener 2. I still felt like I had to defend or overly explain myself. The horrible truth is that I simply don’t have the funds to fly down to South Africa to say goodbye or find closure at her funeral. It’s just not possible. It’s just the ugly reality of things and there is nothing I can do about it. I almost felt judged because of it…but on the other hand by this listener stressing the importance of a funeral, I started to think. What can I do while I’m on the other side of the world? Oh, I know. I can have a little funeral here. I will go buy some flowers and spread them at the sea and just have a moment with my husband. I feel a lot of emotions right now. On the one side I’m feeling good because at least I know what I want to do when the dreaded moment arrives but at the same time, my heart is still hurting that her time here on this earth is coming to an end.

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I liked listener 2 a lot more than listener 1 but it’s on the edge. By talking to the both of them, I learned something new and my inner turmoil shifted to the good side. I’m not sure if any of this makes sense. My mind is all over the place.

***

I feel almost guilty to write a blog about this and test out a website while using my grandmother but on the one side it’s so good. I haven’t really processed all my feelings about this matter and this is helping me to do so. I’m feeling more at peace about the reality that is cancer, if that makes sense. The little funeral idea opened up my mind and I started to think. What can I do to celebrate her life before it ends? What can I do to help sooth this ache in my heart and hopefully support my father emotionally in the same process? I’m incredibly limited in my choices as I live on the other side of the world but there must be something. There must be something that only I can do. The answer came to me within a few days and I feel a lot better about everything.

I know technically I only contacted two listeners but I don’t think I want to contact anymore now. I kind of know what I want to do about my grandmother so I don’t think it would be fair or right to continue with 5 other listeners. I’m still on the fence if I should pick a new subject (there is a lot I’m stressing about) and talk to the new listeners about that but I don’t know. I think I got what I needed and for now, I will keep 7 cups on the back burner. So, let’s talk about my experience.

I honestly like the idea of this company and the premise of it. I think it’s incredibly good and although these listeners aren’t trained and should in no way replace a therapist, it can still do wonders. Sometimes just talking about what is bothering you, can help tremendously. It’s always nice to unload and walk away lighter and more clear-headed. I do think that you should be cautious about it though. These listeners are just average people and they won’t necessarily have the response you need or want when it comes to the bigger things. I’m not making much sense so I’m going to try and explain myself more. Where I’m comfortable to talk about my grandmother with these listeners, I wouldn’t be comfortable to talk about suicide with them. Mostly because I’m not entirely sure that their responses would be good for my mental health. Where a therapist is trained in these situations these listeners aren’t. I don’t really know how to explain this. I just think you should keep an open mind and take everything with a grain of salt. Talk to them about whatever you want but at any time the conversation is going in a negative way, please leave the chat. What I really like about 7 cups is that they realize this and they will have little messages pop up between the chat (they disappear after a while) telling you the same things I just said but in a clear and understandable way.

Would I recommend 7 cups to others? Yes, I would. It can be helpful but it depends on where you are in the healing journey and how your mindset is. If you’re in a really dark headspace, I don’t think 7 cups is the place for you. You need to connect with a professional who can guide you through it. They can provide tools that you can incorporate to help with your mental health as you go down the healing journey. The first time I used 7 cups, I wasn’t in a good headspace and it was doing more harm than good the more I used it. I needed to talk to a professional and that’s what I did.

Will I continue to use 7 cups? Yes, but in moderation. I don’t think it’s a website I will turn to every single day but instead when I want to unload. I’m a little annoyed by the sheer amount of emails they send. I don’t like it when a company sends a message every single day. I find it incredibly annoying. That’s the only big negative for me. I’ve reported them as spam so at least I don’t have to see all the emails.

Conclusion: It’s incredibly easy to use and join. They go out of their way to explain everything and you have listeners reaching out and making themselves available if needed. It’s a very positive place and it can benefit your mental health but you should tread carefully. That’s everything I wanted to say. I hope you enjoyed this blog.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

010101

7 Cups website — https://www.7cups.com/

Mental Health, Review

I Watched 13 Reasons Why And It Kind Of Triggered Me | Series Review | Mental Health

Okay, the moment I thought wouldn’t arrive until much later but here we are, about to watch the first episode of 13 Reasons Why. I mentioned before that suicide is a sensitive subject for me and that I didn’t jump on the 13 Reasons Why wagon when it came out because I feared what emotions and thoughts it will bring up. I’m still not sure if I’m ready to watch this show and I’m a little scared about what emotions it will bring up but I don’t think I will ever be ready to watch it. The title itself has and still does, rub me up the wrong way. Suicide can’t possibly be explained or reasoned. It’s not that simple. There aren’t 13 reasons why someone would decide to take their life. It’s can be brought down to just a number. Now, keep in mind this is my feelings before I even watched a single minute of the show.

I decided that I’m not going to watch the entire show. I will watch one episode, make notes as I’m watching it and then leave. I won’t watch the second episode until quite a bit of time has passed. I need time to process what I just saw in a healthy manner. Okay, let’s jump in. I’m terrified about pressing play but this can be good for me.

This is my notes as I’m watching the movie:

Okay, first of all, I’m one-minute in. I truly appreciate what they have done by having the cast members talk about the premise of the show and warn those who might be triggered by the topics of the series. That’s incredibly important as if something so deep catches you off guard it can do a lot of damage. I also appreciate the fact that they know that this is a serious topic and they’re being cautious. They refer the viewer to 13ReasonsWhy.info (I will check the website out when I finish the episode) for more information. Okay, so this helped with my quite negative view on the show. I like that they did this. It tells me that their intentions are good and that they truly just want to shed light on such a serious topic and start the discussion. Okay, now let’s move on to the actual show. I will be completely honest with you…my heart is racing like crazy. Last night I dreamt about my friend who committed suicide and it’s hard. It brings up a lot of thoughts like why did I survive and he didn’t? The thing is, I know how it feels. I have quite a good idea what’s going through their mind and it’s hard to accept that others who had the same thoughts than I did aren’t alive today. They’re not here to see that things will eventually get better. Their demons won and sometimes I’m terrified that mine will win one day too. Oh wow, I didn’t expect that. Where did these thoughts come from?

Let’s press play and see what happens. I do want to add then I will pause and stop this show at any moment I feel like it’s affecting my health in a negative way.

The start of the first episode by showing Hannah’s locker and it kind of made me lose my breath. One of the things I struggle with the most is the part that comes after suicide. What happens to the family members? To the friends? To the people around you? That’s the part that hurts me so deeply. When I was in my darkest moment, hours away from swallowing those pills and ending it all…I didn’t for one moment think about what would happen after. What about my friends and family? Will my school also decorate or put a picture up? Will my peers write a letter? Will my life be mourned for a few days and then will everything continue? Like I never left. Like I never even existed in the first place. Would my existence on this earth be easily forgotten? Those thoughts never went through my head but they do now. They scare me. I like to think that I’m supposed to be here. That my voice can be heard and I can make a difference. That my existence isn’t for nothing. The daily struggle, the agony that I’ve experienced, it’s not for nothing.

It’s surprising to me that just seconds of this show can pull out thoughts and emotions that I have yet to utter. It’s unexpected. I’m feeling raw and vulnerable and I’m not sure if watching this episode by myself is a good idea. I’m keeping some distance to myself emotionally from the show or well I have a wall up so I’m feeling all of these intense thoughts, but I’m numb. I’m going to see if I’m able to watch more by myself. I might watch this with my husband just so I have that comfort of knowing that he is here. He makes me feel safe and right now, I need to feel safe. I need to know that it’s worth it.

My husband came home from work and for the last 30 minutes, we’ve been talking about what has been going through my head as I watched literally not even 2 minutes of the show and I’m feeling a lot better. Let’s press play and watch some more. Oh wow. Okay, so I’m 3 and a half minutes in and it’s hitting some interesting topic. Girls posing in front of her locker and sharing it but with no emotional attachment. The teacher is talking about the death of the student and another student asks: “if we can move on, it’s been a week.” The truth is, that’s the reality. Some won’t truly understand what it means, some are so involved with their own problems and some just don’t care. That is just the harsh reality that is life. I’m not really sure what to think or to feel if I’m honest. I’m disappointed that my predictions and fears were hit right on the nose but at the same time, I’m happy the show included that because it’s the reality. Unfortunately, not a lot of people are taking mental health seriously and hopefully, that will start to change. Talking about suicide, openly talking about your mental wellbeing can save a life. Okay, let’s continue. And two seconds in…they’re talking about knowing the signs. Are they withdrawing from friends and family? I feel like this can be damaging in its own way. Some who are depressed or have suicidal thoughts won’t have these signs. I sure as hell didn’t. You learn to put on a mask, to act normal. I feel by telling people to look out for these signs can do a lot of harm…I don’t know. I feel like this can damage those who they leave behind. Oh, I should’ve noticed the signs. Oh, how I should have helped them. But some don’t show any of the signs. I don’t know, I feel like it can do a lot of harm and should be said carefully. The next signs the teacher brings up is a bit silly to me. Are they changing their appearance? Really? I feel like this is so broad, especially with teenagers. I don’t know how I feel about this one. I definitely want to Google signs of depression and someone with suicidal thoughts when I’m done with this episode. I personally feel like there weren’t that many signs or shifts in my behavior. I literally decided that I wanted to commit suicide out of the blue, in the middle of my English class. I had every intention of swallowing those pills after I got home. Before that, I was normal with my friends. Nothing was strange about my behavior.

The first sight of the parents brought some intense emotions up. My mind is racing and I have no idea what to think and feel. I think I’m going to stop and come back to watch the rest later. It’s important for me to take the time and place my emotions before I continue watching it. I need to get my thoughts straight and process everything otherwise it might affect my mental health negatively. On the other hand, I’m at the 7 minutes mark and it has taken me down many roads so far. I’m still not sure if this will do more harm than good. On the one side it’s bringing up thoughts and feelings I didn’t know I had. Which is kind of good, I guess. It’s getting these emotions out but…on the other side, it’s a lot of intense emotions.

***

A few days have passed and I’ve decided NOT to watch the rest of the episode. I’m still going to share this blog even though I only made it 7 minutes in because this is important. It’s important that I gave it a chance but decided to take a step back when it was too much. I’m not in a mental frame of mind to watch this show and I don’t know when this will change. Who knows when I will be able to watch it? Heck, I might never finish this episode and that’s okay. I still appreciate that they’re trying to open a discussion with this show but I can’t exactly tell you my opinion or experience because I barely watched the show. I don’t know. I guess only you will be able to tell if you’re in a frame of mind to watch the show and only you can press pause and stop watching the show when it’s too much. I’m not really sure what to say. This show brought up a lot of intense emotions and I need more time to process them before I can get my thoughts straight and explain what’s going through my head.

I’m going to round this blog of here. It’s an intense one and I’m emotionally exhausted. Before I do that, I’m going to check out that website that they recommend at the start of the show. Oh wow, I’m fully impressed. You can get all necessarily crisis information by whatever country you’re in. That’s really cool. They truly went the extra mile with educating others which I appreciate.

I wanted to Google signs of depression and when someone is suicidal but I’m not really in the frame of mind to do so. This entire ordeal has been incredibly intense. I’m not sure if the feelings and thoughts it brought up are good or bad. I just need some time to wrap my head around it. I definitely want to come back to this and talk more about it. Suicide is such an important and serious subject that needs to be discussed more. I truly believe it can save a life. If you’re struggling in any shape or form, I encourage you to reach out. You’re not alone in this.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

010101

13 Reasons Why Website — https://13reasonswhy.info/

#pcos, Body Love, Mental Health, Self Love

I’m A Worthless Human Being Because I Gained Weight

20 February 2019

I’m writing this blog after a really difficult day. I realize that these are my toxic thoughts now but I need to write about this. Writing is my therapy and maybe by writing out all my thoughts, I might gain a new perspective on things. I don’t know but I need to get these feelings out.

Today I found out I weigh 90kg. I feel sick to my stomach. I feel disgusting. I feel like I should go crawl into some hole and hide. No one can see me like this. No one can know I weigh so much. When I saw that number on the scale I wanted to cry. I bit back my tears and told myself, cry about this tonight. I’ve gained so much weight in this last year that it’s been an incredibly hard pill to swallow. After the big weight gain where the scale climbed 2-3kg a WEEK for two months, I thought that was it. I’m 20kg heavier but I will lose it. I was diagnosed with PCOS soon after that and it’s been one ugly mix of emotions since. I felt horrified that I gained so much weight. I immediately changed the way I dressed or constantly tugged at my clothes because I didn’t want people to see the obvious weight gain. Hello, oversized everything. And now, when I’m already so fragile, I find out I’m 10kg’s higher than that. I can’t hit that 100kg mark. I can’t.

And I’m scared. I want to lose weight because I want to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin but I’m terrified I will become obsessed with fitness again. It was truly horrifying that the pressure of maintaining the weight loss or fitness journey did to my mental health. I get so overwhelmed these days. So much extreme thing has been happening to me this last year that I’m barely keeping my head above water. I can’t add that weight loss pressure onto my shoulders again. I will break. I’ve found a system that is taking steps towards the right direction but it slow and forgiving. It’s all that I can handle at the moment but it’s not enough. I’m not doing enough. I’m still gaining weight and I’m disgusting. I need to starve myself. I need to drink just smoothies for months straight. I need to eat, drink and sleep fitness again. I need to eat nothing and just drink water. I need to make myself throw up when I eat candy. I need to. I need to. I need to. These thoughts are disgusting. I look at my body and I hate it. I hate how that is just another thing in my life that I can’t control and I hate how it doesn’t feel like my body anymore. I hate how I’m scared someone will point out my weight gain out and I hate how I no longer feel beautiful. I hate that this weight gain makes me feel worthless. Like my life has no meaning because I have back rolls. I hate that I feel this way and I want to change but I don’t know if I can handle it now. It’s a constant toss up of 1) go big or go home or 2) one day at a time. I’m struggling to find a middle ground. I’m struggling to get out of this ugly and toxic loophole. I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I don’t want to be this big anymore. I tell myself I will be happy when I’m back to my fit body but the truth is, I wasn’t fucking happy back then. I still thought I was fat and worthless. I still bit back tears when someone pointed out my stomach. But now…it’s worse. Back then I felt confident and proud at least 70% of the time. Now, I feel like a worthless human being. I don’t really know what else to say. I think I’m just going to go to bed now. Maybe I will feel different tomorrow? I’m just so tired of feeling like this. It’s too much. Life has been so much. When am I going to catch a break?

***

It’s the next day and I don’t have clarity. I don’t really feel much better. I realize that I’m inching into a depressive state and what I thought yesterday wasn’t entirely true to what a really think deep down…but yeah. I still feel the pressure that I need to do something. What I’m doing isn’t enough and I’m scared that it will all get too much. I woke up, hungry. Already, my thoughts are like sit the fuck down you fat fuck. You’re not worthy to eat. It’s ugly and toxic. These feelings will pass and I refuse to surrender and do anything I will regret. I will fight these thoughts and feelings. I will fight this negative voice and when I come out of it the other side, with a clear and positive mind I will make adjustments to my way of life that isn’t anything too crazy. And eventually, over time, I will lose some weight but who knows? Maybe I will never weigh 60kg again and that’s okay…I guess. It’s baby steps.

Sorry that this blog is all over the place. I just feel like it’s something I should share. Maybe someone who struggles with the same thing or has struggled with the same thing will have some advice. Who knows?

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

010101

PS, I’m adding this as an afterthought because I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about their bodies. I’m not saying if you weigh 90kg you’re ‘fat’ and ‘worthless’. Nor if you weigh more than that. THIS is how I feel about MY body because of my weightgain.

Guest Blog, Mental Health

Balancing A Full-Time Job And Being A Student Simultaneously | My Struggles With Anxiety | Guest Blog Part 2

In the previous part, Anje talked about her experience as a South African au pair in America. She also shared 5 tips on how to help with homesickness. She really opened up and talked about a lot of personal things. I’m sure her journey/story will help someone. All of her links will be below. Now, without further ado. Let’s jump straight in where we left off last time.

  1. You’re balancing a full-time job and being a student. Can you tell us more about this experience?

Yes, so I started studying online for a few months after arriving in the US. It all started when I had told my host mom that I was thinking of going to Canada as an au pair after I finished my contract in the US so I would be able to save up more money for my studies. My host mom took this as an “Oh no, she is going to leave us,” and immediately started researching colleges I could apply to while in the US. So the next morning she comes down and tells me about a college in South Africa that offers a three-year online course for a Bachelor’s degree in social sciences. With her encouragement and assistance in the application process, I got in. I soon had to adjust to having a full-time job and needing to study. I would work from 8 to 5, then immediately go downstairs and study until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Every few weeks I would have assignments and essays to do, which meant a lot of the weekends I was in my room or in Starbucks working.

It also became extremely important for me to budget and save most of my salary. What definitely counted in my favor was that I was paying for my college in Dollars and seeing as it is about 14 South African Rand for one Dollar, I was definitely saving a lot of money. That doesn’t mean, however, that it was always easy to save the money. I would make around $800 to $850 each month, and my studies came around to about $500 in the first year, and $650 in the second year. So needless to say I had to budget really well. I started prioritizing the necessities, making monthly lists of things I needed. Luckily I didn’t have to pay for my own food, so it was mainly just personal things, like clothes, shampoo, school books, etc. I would also work a lot of overtime, which helped a lot. I soon became used to it and was still able to enjoy my time in the US. If I knew that I wanted to do something or go somewhere, I would work overtime and save up until then.

It wasn’t always fun, there were days when I wanted to give up, but I am so happy I pushed through. I am now in my third year and after this, my goal will be to get my Masters and maybe even a Ph.D. as a clinical or child psychologist. Right now I don’t have any debt or student loans, which will help me so much.

  1. Unfortunately, you struggle with anxiety. Can you tell us more?

Anxiety is actually still a pretty new concept for me, though I’ve had it for most of my life. During high school I would often wake up with such a strong feeling of dread and panic, it often felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would have this weight on my chest and begin to feel so extremely stressed, even if I wasn’t doing anything stressful. When I told my mom one time she told me that I was probably just stressed about school, not having any other explanation I accepted it. That following year I went to the Netherlands to be an au pair and things seemed to be getting better. I still experienced that feeling, but whenever I traveled or explored a new place, it went away.

When I came home I did not adjust well at all. It felt weird being back, I missed the family, I missed my best friend. It was just really strange, so I became really moody, easily annoyed, and would have these bursts of anger I couldn’t control. I would lie in my bed for most of the day, not having any energy to get out. I then got a call from my aunt, she lives in Johannesburg which is about 2 hours by plane from where I live. She owned her own mobile grooming company and wanted me to help out. I jumped at the opportunity, eager to get out of the house and feel as though I am doing something meaningful with my time again.

I went there thinking that she would only need me to work for her for about a week or so. When I actually arrived she told me that it would take more than a few months, I didn’t feel great about this, but didn’t argue. In all honesty, the first day was probably the best day of my whole time there. She showed me the work that needed to be done, we went out for lunch, had dinner at her friend’s house. It was great, but then the next day came and it was like she was a completely different person. As the months went by things got worse and worse. She would often yell at me about emails that were sent out, even if the date of the emails was before I had even arrived. She would talk about my family in such a negative way, telling people who were complete strangers to me about how my parents are struggling financially and how bad things are back home (she was lying). She would often call my grandma and tell her how ungrateful and spoiled I am, she would say I demand things and tell her she needs to buy me things (she was lying). She would tell me how I was ruining her business whenever I made a mistake and how I was causing her to lose a lot of money (surprise, surprise she was lying). She would also make comments about my weight and say that having a fat belly ran in my family on my mom’s side. I often cried myself to sleep, waking up with such intense dread and worry. Whenever I heard her drive up to the house, it would feel as though I needed to run away. I was so stressed and anxious, though I still didn’t have a name for how I was feeling.

It finally came to the point where I had had enough. I told her I needed to talk to her, so we sat down and I explained that I wanted to come home. She immediately started guilt tripping me, saying that I wouldn’t make as much money back home and that my parents are struggling with money. She said I would only be making it harder on them. Something you should know about me is that I am very sensitive when it comes to things like that, especially revolving around my parents. So I gave in. I went back down to Cape Town for three weeks as a holiday soon after that. It was amazing, I felt relaxed and at peace. When I found myself on a plane going back to Johannesburg again, the dread and panic returned. The second time around was even worse, I think it is because I was more aware of her emotional abuse and what she was doing. As the days went by I felt worse and worse. I’m not going to lie, suicide crossed my mind every now and again. I just thought about how easy it would be to end things. How I could take the pain away. I think what made everything worse is that I kept most of what was happening to myself. I didn’t want to burden my parents or anyone else for that matter. Tensions rose with every passing day, fights becoming a very regular thing, though they were often very one-sided. Growing up I was taught to respect those older than me, especially when it came to family. So, for the most part, I stayed quiet. But it hurt, a lot. Her verbal assaults became even more personal, as she targeted everything from my personality to my eating habits. She once sent me out to go to the store for her, which I didn’t mind but it turned out to be a complete disaster. I got lost more than once, seeing as I didn’t know the area well enough and Uber was a new concept to me. But I got everything she needed, at least, though my feet were full of blisters from the walking and my shoulders in pain from carrying everything. That night she went through everything I had bought and, of course, she wasn’t happy. Apparently, I had bought the wrong color fabric for the bandanas she made for her dogs, even though I had called her and she said it would be fine. For a whole week, yes a week, she continually brought it up. Telling me how careless I was and how I’m too used to having my parents do everything for me. Another incident I remember is when we went to her friend’s house for dinner, wanting to start a conversation I just asked her “so what do you think she made for dinner?” Of course, I didn’t mean this in a rude way, I was simply curious. She immediately went off to tell me how rude that was, how my parents should have taught me better. She again said that I was spoiled and too use to things being given to me. As always, I allowed it.

It was only once I was matched with a family in the US, that I finally decided I was done. Again I went to her, we sat down and I told her I wanted to go home. I told her how I felt in the nicest, most respectful way I could. She didn’t care for it, at all. I think it must have been half an hour of her telling me how ungrateful and spoiled I am. How the whole situation was my fault and how I needed to work harder in life. Her words cut deep, but not because they were true, they weren’t, but because after months of me putting in everything I had into her business, after crying myself to sleep for most nights, after giving everything I had, it wasn’t enough.

I booked the plane ticket for two days after that. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but I already felt like crap so I barely noticed. When I got back, again I felt a thousand times better. But it was only temporary. The dread and panic now came back regularly. It was only once I had begun studying when I finally had a name for it. I had anxiety. I don’t blame her for it, even though she definitely contributed to how bad it got, I know it was always in me. Being able to call it something definitely helped, I now knew why I was feeling like that, which made it a lot easier once I started getting panic attacks.

One thing I had to accept is that most of my family does not understand why I sometimes behave differently or why I get overwhelmed by certain situations. It is, unfortunately, a part of it. I wish I could say that I have conquered anxiety, that I no longer feel as though it is controlling me, but then I would be lying. I have accepted that it isn’t something that would one day just not be there anymore. I now know that some days are going to be better than others. I also know that I am strong enough and that what I am feeling is valid. I hear too often about how people are told to “get over it” or “just be happy.” This completely invalidates how they are feeling, which is beyond wrong.

I don’t really know where I am going with this, the words just kind of spilled out. But just know, if you are struggling with mental health, you are not alone. You matter. Your feelings matter. And you are strong enough to get through it. Focus on yourself and do what makes you happy. Be unapologetic about who you are and what you need in order to be happy.

  1. What is your favorite quote?

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

***

I’ve thanked her privately but I’m going to thank her on here as well. Anje is the kindest person I know and I’m so incredibly grateful to have her in my life. She has been with me through the bad and the ugly. She is my sister. I’m so proud that she opened up and shared her struggles with Anxiety. I’m sure doing so made her feel anxious. Please show her some love on her Instagram or in the comments down below. I will send it all through to her.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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Part One — https://fitcouchpotato.com/2019/02/15/my-experience-as-a-south-african-au-pair-in-america-5-tips-to-help-with-homesickness-guest-blog-part-1/

Abnormal Roses — https://www.wattpad.com/story/170208404-abnormal-roses

Anje’s Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/anje_tait/

 

Mental Health

Why I Deleted My Instagram | Mental Health

My decision to delete my personal Instagram wasn’t repulsive but I didn’t know it was something I wanted to do the night before. The morning of the deletion, I talked to Onno about it. Well, Onno in my dreams. It was a very realistic dream and we had a full conversation why I wanted to delete it but then when I messaged him hours later that I deleted my Instagram, he was very surprised. What is the importance of this piece of information? Absolutely nothing. I can try to spin some story how my subconscious mind knew it was the right choice to make but my decision to delete my Instagram isn’t that deep.

I started my Instagram account in 2015 to keep myself accountable with my fitness. I just started BBG (Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines) and wanted to connect with other girls who were doing the workouts. I was apart of a very small community where what you posted and the quality of the pictures wouldn’t matter. I felt no pressure to be perfect. I would post pre- and post- workout selfies in bad lighting; pretty bad angles and I just wouldn’t care. I would post pictures of my food even if it was nothing fancy. There was just no pressure. I didn’t care how many followers I had or how much my account grew. It was just a way to stay accountable. This changed quite quickly. At a certain point, I felt like I had to post quality content. I had to play this role of a perfect Instagram girl that lived a luxurious or cool life. There was this pressure to constantly be the person that is portrayed in these perfect Instagram worthy pictures. I couldn’t even explore a new city or go relax at a park without feeling the need to do a little mini photo shoot. And then when I didn’t achieve the standard of the perfect Instagram girl, the pictures came out shitty or the lighting was off, it would ruin my entire day. I also followed so many girls that had this perfect lifestyle and I would tear myself apart when I couldn’t live up to them.

When I started my blog, it was all about the numbers. The appearance of the perfect Instagram pictures and everything just needed to be…you guessed it perfect. When I couldn’t be perfect, then my dreams would never come true. Writing this now, I realize that it doesn’t really make sense. My worth never has and never will be attached to how many strangers follow me on the internet. I’m not going to be a failure or waste of air just because I don’t have a thousand likes on every picture I post. But when I didn’t get in so many likes or clicks on my links, it felt like I was failing. I also had to constantly post pictures of my body. When I was still active, I had to record all activities but when I stopped being active, I needed to fill up my feed with body positive pictures. I couldn’t just be myself because that wouldn’t be good enough for Instagram. I couldn’t just take a picture of my cup of tea in the middle of the night and caption it; tea time. No. I needed to have a super meaningful essay of a caption and it had to make a difference in the world and the photo had to be perfect as if a professional photographer took and edited it. Things got really bad. I would spend hours scrolling on those pretty perfect girls feed and wish I could be like them.

I asked myself one morning, why do I have this app? Does it spark joy? Does the good balance out the bad? Is it toxic for my mental health?

When I was sixteen or seventeen, I had this scrapbook. It was filled with cut-outs from magazines of these perfect and fit girls. I was so ashamed to have this book but at the same time, I felt disgusted that I couldn’t look like them. The truly sad thing is that even though I cut up tons of magazines, filled 100 of pages of pictures of other girls’ bodies, I never found a body like mine. I realized that Instagram has become my new notebook. It was a reflection of a life that I wanted to live, a body that I wanted but it wasn’t me. The good never came even close to balance out the bad. The toxicity of the platform poisoned my self-worth. Once I realized all of this, it was easy to delete my account.

I asked myself; if you could cut toxic people out of your life, why couldn’t you delete this one app? It’s doing you so much harm. Why are you so attached to this account? I couldn’t answer these questions. I have no idea why I’m so attached to this app. Why I couldn’t just be myself and fight against the obsession to be perfect. Being raw and vulnerable comes so naturally to me when it comes to my blog. I’m completely myself and it’s easy. I don’t have this pressure to be perfect heck I don’t even heavily edit my blogs. I’m completely accepting of myself on here and I don’t understand why the same can’t be said for Instagram.

On my birthday this year, I felt like I needed to take a perfect picture but to be completely honest, I could barely smile on my birthday. Not even for a picture. I was at such a low point that I didn’t have the energy to fake it for the perfect picture but this made me feel worthless. I told myself well you can just take any picture and write this inspiring caption how ugly you feel and you realize that these emotions and thoughts are only temporarily and etc. A few days before my birthday I got a phone call that made my heart drop into my stomach. My father is in the hospital. Just a few days prior my father had a big health scare. His heart is weak. His blood pressure is high. His cholesterol is high. His liver is damaged. His sugar is high and he now has diabetes. So, when my brother called out of the blue…I don’t have words to describe that horrible feeling I got in the pit of my stomach. That night I cried myself to sleep. My father was discharged on my birthday but that pressure I felt after I got my brother’s phone call has only loosened its reins a little, two weeks later. I’m still terrified I will get a phone call one day and I won’t make it in time. I don’t think that fear will ever really go away. My father’s health scare also made me realize how little prepared we are for an emergency trip to South Africa. We had no extra money on the side to afford a last-minute trip. I couldn’t even hire a car because 1) I don’t have a credit card on my name and 2) my South African driver’s license is about to expire.

For the first time in nearly a decade, my father didn’t call me bright and early in the morning and sang happy birthday to me and I felt that loss. I just didn’t feel happy or light-hearted on my birthday but yet I felt like a failure because I couldn’t announce my birthday or act like everything was perfect on social media. It’s stupid. The last thing I need on my plate right now is a platform I feel pressure to be perfect. Oh, you’re not super fit anymore, okay now you need to post your tummy rolls and be the bigger girl you wanted to see in magazines back then. Oh, you’re having a bad day, talk about your thoughts and feelings. Talk about your depression. The list goes on and on but I guess what I’m trying to say is, that it became painstakingly clear to me that Instagram was doing more harm than good so yeah, I decided to delete my account and concentrate on things that make me happy. When I decided that I was going to give it my all when it comes to my mental health, I fucking meant it. Anything toxic that I can remove, I WILL remove.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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PS. I only deleted my personal Instagram (will officially deactivate my account at the end of February. I just want to make sure everyone who cares, sees that I left.) but my two fur babies accounts are still live and active. I never for one second felt any pressure to post perfect pictures of my animals. They’re already perfect. I also don’t scroll or browse anything on their accounts so the toxicity that seemed to drown me on my personal account never reach me there. I literally only go online to post a picture and then I leave. If this ever changes and I find myself clicking on those perfect Instagram models accounts and wish I could be them, I will delete those accounts. I just wanted to make that clear while we’re on the subject.

PSS. I still have the fitcouchpotato Facebook and Twitter accounts. These accounts don’t cause me any harm mentally because I’m not on it long enough to do so. I mainly just post links of recent blogs when they go live but I might post an occasional picture or random thought here and there. You can follow me on those socials if you want to but honestly, the only social media platform I need and want is my blog. It’s my therapy.

PSS. What do you think of my new little hearts at the end?