Writing Portfolio
Psychology and Substance Use

The Internet Can Help Trauma Survivors— But It Can Harm Them, Too || The Establishment

While online support groups can be a powerful tool for those with PTSD, they can also amplify feelings of negative self-worth.

I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) several years ago, and despite being proactive in treating it, I am still bent by its weight. I find solace in a few key places: at home with my husband and dog, in my therapist’s office, alone in nature, during peer support meetings — and online.

How To Practice Self-Compassion in 6 Steps || The Fix

Self-compassion is one of the most important life skills. Unfortunately, many of us don’t even know what it means to have compassion towards ourselves. One person may think of it as self-care while another may be annoyed by what they imagine to be indulgent selfishness. Self-compassion is neither of those things. Rather, to be compassionate towards oneself is being kind to yourself with the same tenderness and understanding you would bestow on a loved one who is suffering.

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health While Traveling || The Fix

Even people without a diagnosis can have a mental health condition emerge during travel.

Travel can be enormously beneficial to mental health. Seeing the world can teach important skills for adapting to new circumstances and make you more open-minded. Engaging with different cultures can boost creativity and just planning a vacation can be enough to improve someone’s mood. But despite the benefits, there are risks involved. Travel and mental disorders can make for a potent cocktail.

How Journaling Has Helped Me Heal || Ravishly

My loyal companion, my journal, has traveled as far and wide as I have. I have been unable to stop writing since the age of nine when I first started keeping a diary inspired by Harriet the Spy. Following Harriet’s lead, I would write down observations and curate mysteries out of ordinary incidents, “Penny doesn’t like Cool Whip, but she likes whipped cream. Must investigate more.”

The Family and Medical Leave Act and Addiction Treatment || The Fix

The FMLA may help you keep your job if you need to take a leave of absence to get treatment for yourself or a family member. Here's what you need to know.

The United States does not have a great health care system to help people with substance use disorders (SUD). At every socioeconomic level, treatment is not easy to access. Stereotypes about addicts are outdated and inaccurate. Addiction and alcoholism are usually treated like moral failings or personal choice. The trope of the homeless alcoholic wandering the streets in rags is the story for some people, but it isn’t accurate for most individuals with an SUD.

Watching Intervention While Wasted || The Fix

People say that reality TV is just scripted lies with a dose of reality, but Intervention showed me my own reality.

My obsession with the show, Intervention, planted some warning flags in my line of vision. I had to fall over a ton of them before I realized they were there, but I finally did realize. Intervention showcases people who are deep in their addictions. When I started drinking in the morning, I knew it was a problem. It had been a problem long before that, but this felt very on brand for an episode of Intervention. I fell asleep--er, passed out--at night and in the morning, there was always a strong drink on my nightstand left from the previous evening. When that drink started coming with me into the shower, I knew I was hitting a point of no return.

Why Do People Return to Domestic Abusers? || The Fix

Research on adult survivors of trauma shows alarming levels of re-enactments and re-experiencing of the traumatic event.

It never fails. Whenever a high-profile relationship goes public with domestic violence accusations, the internet will buzz with people who withhold sympathy for the alleged victim because they stayed in the relationship. If the accusations come after a long relationship comes to an end, the victim will be met with incredulous skeptics who don’t believe such a thing could be kept secret for so long. The judgmental victim-blaming criticisms ramp up exponentially if it is revealed that the victim returned to their abuser multiple times.

Why I Didn't Try To Lose Weight For My Wedding || Ravishly

To take care of myself in the months preceding my wedding I had to make a conscious effort to not dive into dieting. Wedding weight loss was off the list of things for me to do, or to even attempt.

As soon as I begin to try to control the outcome of any situation, I become lost in an obsessive spiral.

I will never forget the night I realized that my relationship with food was not a healthy one. It was late, long past when I had meant to fall asleep. My eyes blurred as I watched, for the third time in a row, a plastic bowl of ramen spin behind the yellow tinged window of the microwave. I opened the door before the countdown finished. I wanted to throw it away, but I ate it instead. Less than an hour later, I stole a slice of chocolate cake from my roommate. I inhaled it as I walked back to my basement bedroom. Minutes later, I threw it up.

How to Stay Sober on Vacation || The Fix

You cannot predict every misfire, but you can arm yourself with coping strategies.

Summer is here and the warmth radiating into the office window conjures up dreams of poolside lounge chairs and remote sun-kissed beaches. While you mentally plan your dream getaway and add pins to your vacation planning Pinterest board, guilty and anxious thoughts about drinking can trickle in. You don’t want to throw away your sober lifestyle for two weeks at an all-inclusive resort. If thoughts of getting loaded on vacation are making you uncomfortable, you aren't alone.

Retracting Rape Allegations is Not Proof Victims Are Lying || The Fix

We blame victims for their victimization and then blame them if they retract their accusations.

Retracting an abuse allegation is not proof that the abused is lying or that the alleged abuser is innocent. Rape is amongst the most underreported crimes. Victims face enormous obstacles in the aftermath of rape. Not the least of which is deciding whether or not to contact the police. The justice system is designed to be a hostile and foreboding institution, for better or worse. Across the world, victims have reported feeling intimidated by criminal justice systems.

When Depression Shows Her Face || Argot

Why is Depression so heavy?

Hanging around in the pit of my stomach, a pulsating orb, a cancer re-emerging after remission. The sorrow is physically manifested in my gut. I feel a deep discontent. A piece missing or shifted into the wrong position. A heavy weight, crushing. Like soaking wet wool fabric, clinging to my skin and dragging me down. Why won't she leave me alone?

Drinking as Self-Harm || The Fix

In recovery, I have heard many stories about relapses that started because someone thought they could handle a drink at some joyous occasion. Turns out, they couldn't suddenly become a non-alcoholic, no matter how happy they got. Then there are others who found themselves craving a drink when their basic needs weren't met. Twelve steppers might know this warning as HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Falling into the trap of grabbing a drink to take the edge off, to loosen the tight feeling of social anxiety, or to get cozy in uncomfortable circumstances.

Let Us Heal: On Surviving and the Controversial ‘Comfort Woman’ || Rewire

Grief is an innate human response to loss.

When someone you love dies, there are rituals like funerals, viewings, and memorial services that provide social support for people who are reeling from the loss. Bereavement rituals hold space for mourners to process their grief in a compassionate environment.

We grieve over many things. Death is just one of them. We might grieve over losing our job, losing a well-loved item, ending a key relationship, losing our bodily autonomy to coercion, or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

I have experienced a lot of loss in my life, and to work through those emotions I’ve become familiar with the importance of grief. Knowing this, when I heard about the Japanese government’s ongoing disapproval of a public memorial in honor of “comfort women,” whom Japanese soldiers took as sex slaves during World War II, I was both exasperated and baffled.

I Can't Stop Picking At My Skin || Ravishly

Mom liked to redecorate and renovate. She decked out the main bathroom in blue and put up yellow and blue wallpaper. The dated linoleum floor was replaced with one to match the new décor. The bathtub had always been blue, now the rest of the room was too.

I noticed how the new wallpaper curved in the corner. It didn’t lie flat against the wall; it didn’t meet the wall at the 90-degree angle of the corner. I was transfixed by that bit of wall, by that odd architectural detail — or rather, that slight design mishap. I didn’t think of it as a mistake or as off-putting, I was just interested in it. Interested in it the way you might be interested in watching white clouds pass by on a summer day. Or the way you might feel a little sore and find relief with a nice stretch. It was not an itch I had to scratch because it didn’t bother me. It hypnotized me.

Willpower Doesn't Keep Me Sober || The Fix 

When it came to 12-step programs, I was immediately turned off. I was not about to give up my self-will to some esoteric supernatural being. I've gotten a significant amount of side eye from acquaintances who hear I quit drinking the day after a binge. They think either I have immense willpower or didn't actually have a problem with drinking. The truth is, I have awful willpower and had a huge drinking problem.

Opioids, Dissociation, and PTSD || The Fix 

Post-traumatic stress disorder can make a person feel disconnected from the world. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, I finally had something that helped explain why I didn’t understand myself and why I had an overwhelming urge to alter my perception with drugs. Right before I got sober, my journals filled up with entries that could probably be used in a psychology class to teach future therapists what their patients might be thinking.

Why I Won't Be Making New Year's Resolutions || The Fix 

Setting big goals is dangerous because, unless resolutions are understood as flexible processes, the only outcomes available are to fail or succeed. For me, that is a risky proposition. I lack the ability to moderate.

New Year’s Resolutions are rarely successful. Research published by Statistic Brain, a non-partisan independent research group, found that only eight percent of people achieve their resolutions. That number is significantly higher for people in their twenties versus people over fifty. The longer we maintain certain behaviors, the less likely we are to be able to change them with a simple resolution. Overall, 75 percent of people claim to maintain their resolution for at least one week and after that the success rate plummets with each passing week. I have a difficult time understanding the eight percent who don’t fall off the resolution wagon.

 

39 Excuses for Not Drinking || The Fix 

Other people shouldn’t have a problem with you saying no to a drink. Unfortunately, as with many scenarios, "no" is not always accepted as a final answer. There may be people who, for reasons of their own, will pressure you to take that first drink. The fear of this pressure can discourage someone from attending events where their old drinking buddies are likely to be partying. I do not suggest using excuses as a way to manipulate someone, but I do encourage keeping a rolodex of diverse excuses to make people shut up when they won't stop pressuring you to drink.

Student debt made the domestic violence against me worse || The Guardian

Debt wasn’t something I could talk to my boyfriend about. In fact, there were many topics that were too dangerous to broach – that was just one of them. The red flags had been popping up all over the place. A healthy person doesn’t snap at someone for chewing too loudly or too fast. Getting your hand slapped for trying to show a funny YouTube clip isn’t normal. And being in debt shouldn’t result in bruises. But it did.

The first time my ex-boyfriend got violent, we were both graduate students living in Britain and had been together for less than a year. He violently shoved me and then acted like he didn’t mean it and that it couldn’t have hurt. Moments later he did it again. Nearly yanking my arm out of the socket, he threw me down the hallway.

Denial and Blackouts: A Vicious Cycle || The Fix 

Metaphorically, what happens in a citywide blackout is the opposite of a drug-related blackout. In an electrical outage, the lights are out and people are home. In a drunken amnesia, the lights are on but no one is home. Like that scene in Home Alone where Kevin McCallister uses props to make it look like his family was at home partying, everything a blacked out person is doing seems normal but they aren’t saving those memories. This kind of memory failure is called a complete or en-bloc blackout. Then there are "brownouts" where the drinker remembers only fragments of their drunken antics.

Will Big Pharma Support a Non-Addictive Opioid? || The Fix 

Opioids are highly addictive and sometimes, especially in combination with other drugs, deadly. There is, as of yet, no other kind of pain medication that matches the level of relief provided by opiates, nor is there any comparable high for people who are addicted to the drug. Thus, the epidemic grows and more people die.

Some researchers are unwilling to give up on the search for a non-addictive opioid and they may be getting close to finding one.

M. Night Shyamalan’s Newest Flop: Demonizing Mental Illness || Gradient

Hearing there was a new M. Night Shyamalan movie coming out starring James McAvoy, I was cautiously optimistic.

Depending on which critic you ask, Shyamalan hasn’t released a good movie since either Signs, Unbreakable or The Sixth Sense. Me? I love the twist endings and am always waiting for the next Sixth Sense. When James McAvoy, one of my favorite actors since he appeared in Wanted, signed on to play the bad guy, I didn’t see how it could lose. The optimism faded once I watched the trailer because there is nothing good about the premise of Split. Not even bothering to skirt around problematic stereotypes, the trailer plainly shows that this story demonizes mental illness..

What Trump's Presidency Means for Mental Health || Wear Your Voice

Donald Trump is the President-Elect, and it is not good news for mental health care. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who had acomprehensive mental-health-care program as part of her platform, it’s difficult to discern what Trump’s plan is — or if he has one at all.

Simple Ways to Cultivate Joy When You Have PTSD || The Fix

Living with post traumatic stress disorder and her bluesy sister, depression, has drastically changed how I handle everyday life. PTSD changed me from a determined and self-sufficient tigress with a moody disposition, to a wimpy and terrified house mouse. There are days I can hardly rouse myself from the couch, let alone take life by the horns to fight for my keep. I have beat myself up about my inability to follow through. In the pre-diagnosed days of my PTSD, I turned to alcohol to ease the panic and dull the pain. Anxiety and lethargy applied for permanent residence in my body, and I thought I had to fight to have their applications thrown out. Turns out I didn’t have to fight, I had to give up and stop trying to control everything, including my drinking. My saving grace has been learning to cultivate gratitude, even in smallest measure. No matter how down and out you are, there are ways to access serenity during the darkest days of trauma.

Scientifically Proven Ways To Become A Happier Person || Listverse

It’s the holiday season and the new year is upon us. The holidays are not always an easy time of year—many of us are missing loved ones, while others are struggling with mental illness that stand in the way of feeling happy. This year, let’s explore 10 proven ways that we can all become happier and less stressed people. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution worth trying.

How I Learned to Love Meditation || The Fix 

I live in the same city where I got sober. As much as I love the supportive community I’ve built here, I do not really enjoy living in the middle of a huge city. I grew up in the country, and it’s much easier to be an alcoholic in a city with 24-hour public transportation. Not to mention, a fifth of vodka could be purchased for cheap right outside my doorstep. Urban hubs were the ideal locales for this former drinker, they eliminated obstacles to the next drink.

In Defense of Trigger Warnings: Survivor's Perspective || Wear Your Voice

Another day, another university embarrassing itself by making light of trauma. A professor from Loyola University in Maryland, John McIntyre, recently released a video in which he jokes about victimhood and insults all of his former students.

The white haired, bow-tie wearing McIntyre could easily be played by Steve Martin in a frustratingly humorous family film. McIntyre, also an editor at the Baltimore Sun, calls his video a “trigger warning” so students will be aware his class will be hard. Someone needs to remind McIntyre what a trigger warning is (although I appreciate the ample warning to never take one of his classes — not just because he is a self-declared jackass, but because I wouldn’t trust his ability to edit). As a professional purveyor of words in all their complexities, he should know that impact is everything in writing, and editing clarifies impact.

Denial and Blackouts: A Vicious Cycle || The Fix 

When I came to, I was pounding on the door and ringing the bell even though it was obvious my roommates weren’t home. I slid to the floor. My knee brace was digging into the back of my leg; as I readjusted it, my leg throbbed painfully. I injured myself earlier that week and had the brilliant idea to go out drinking, without crutches. I couldn’t remember getting home and had no idea what time it was. I was sitting on the dirty carpet of the apartment entrance with my legs sprawled out. I searched for my keys over and over again, mainly because I kept forgetting if I had already looked for them. I frantically looked for my wallet or phone but they were gone. I didn’t even have my coat.

10 Surprising Ways The Modern World Is Making Us Sick || Listverse 

Some researchers are unwilling to give up on the search for a non-addictive opioid and they may be getting close to finding one.

Everything in moderation, as the old adage goes. As it turns out, that couldn’t be more accurate, as research continues to shed light on how the modern world is damaging our health. We might be living longer today than our ancestors did, but the current era isn’t as health-friendly as we might think.