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Bell Let’s Talk – What Is It? Why Is It Important?

what is bell let's talk? Why is it important? #bellletstalk www.slothspeedrecovery.wordpress.com, sloth speed recovery

Bell Let’s Talk is an annual event and campaign that began in September, 2010, that Bell started to try to raise awareness about mental illness, reduce stigma and encourage people to talk about mental illness. For every use of their hashtag on specific social media platforms, making phone calls and texting, or other interactions, they will donate 5¢  to fund mental illness research and services in the country of Canada. Bell is the largest company to step in, speak out about mental illness and create a movement for the community.

In 2015, they increased their campaign to 2020, where they commit to donating up to 10 million dollars in regards to mental illness. On January 27, 2016, Bell donated over 6 million dollars based on the near 126 million long distance and mobile phone calls, texts, tweets and Facebook shares. Currently, Bell’s total donations stand at 79,919,178.55$ as of 2016.

Hopefully, this year, we can exponentially increase the funding, have open discussions about mental illness, and end the stigma.


How can you help this year?

All day, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health initiatives for every:
• Text message sent by Bell and Bell Aliant customers
• Mobile and long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers
• Tweet and Instagram post using #BellLetsTalk
• View of the official Bell Let’s Talk Day video on Facebook
• Snap using the official Bell Let’s Talk Snapchat filter

(Join the event on Facebook: Bell Let’s Talk Day Event)


Why is this such a phenomenal movement?

Mental illness has always had a stigma cloud that followed it, where people aren’t entirely understanding or compassionate towards others because of their illnesses. It is often a topic for jokes and put downs, where the joke is at someone’s emotional expense. Though the stigma has reduced over the years, thanks to Bell Let’s Talk and other mental health movements, it isn’t gone. People with mental illness are still being degraded, disrespected, turned away by doctors, deemed unworthy of medical attention and completely ignored by the public.

When the conversation is closed, people bottle up their emotions and feel that their feelings are not valid. The further this happens, the more individuals isolate themselves and feel embarrassed to open up, the more suicides continue to happen. No one truly wants to die; they are hoping their pain will stop.

The majority of society acts as if mental illness isn’t a part of their everyday life, when 1 in 5 Canadians struggles with some form of mental illness. These people are in your life, in your schools, at your work, on the streets, in hospitals, in your home, in your family, in your social groups… They are your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, your aunts, your uncles, your friends, your enemies, your acquaintances, strangers… They are everywhere, living normal lives, with not so normal symptoms. Mental illness is THAT common.

A large majority assumes that the mentally ill can only be categorized by schizophrenics, psychotics, and those with bipolar. Those conditions are very hard to live with, accompanied by delusions, voices and uncontrollable emotional levels (and should not be stigmatized), but are not the only ones. Mental illness is much more. It’s depression, anxiety, personality disorders, variations of eating disorders, variations of body-focused repetitive behaviours, and many other, rather uncommon categorizations. It is possible that you may have a mental illness without being aware of it. Mental illness does not make you “crazy” or “psycho”.

It’s time that we, as a society, open up the conversation for mental health, learn about the different conditions and how they affect people, and urge to reduce the stigma in our everyday lives.

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Understanding Self Harm; What Is It?

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Self-harm is the act of self-mutilation, where an individual purposefully harms themselves in hopes to alleviate stress, emotional pain, trauma, depressive feelings or find control. A large number of self-harmers are approaching or are in adolescence; using these methods to cope with new emotions, mental illnesses and overwhelming situations, though many are adults or progress into adulthood with these maladaptive coping skills. Some self-harm for short periods of time or in crisis, whilst others may become fully addicted or may not know that they are self-harming because the method isn’t widely known.

Self-mutilation is not a suicide attempt; it is a maladaptive coping strategy to find control in out-of-control situations and can be replaced by healthy ones. The individual self-harming is struggling and needs professional help. They may use a combination of self-harming methods.


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Cutting. Cutting is the most well-known self-harming coping mechanism and has been widespread on the internet over the last few years. It is the most heard of the bunch.

Most adolescents turn to cutting to cope with dysfunctional families, bullying, trauma, schooling and overwhelming feelings, though adults do also partake in this method. The act of cutting releases endorphins to the brain to deal with the emotional and physical pain, giving the cutter a high. It’s an exciting rush, followed by a sense of relief from what’s bothering them.

Cutting is often assumed as suicidal behaviour when, in actuality, it’s a very common way people cope with issues. The blood and mutilation factor frightens caregivers who feel they may have to bring their child to the hospital for an attempt, which is not a necessity.

It is important that, if the cutter chooses to continue, they use clean materials and clean their wounds to avoid infection and STD transmittal (as it can be deadly). They must monitor themselves; if they cut too deep, they need to request medical attention, as an excessive loss of blood can kill them.

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Burning. Burning is frequently used in combination with cutting. The individual takes a hot object and holds it to their skin until it cools down and a wound is formed. Some may use hot baths or tap water instead, which may not leave a mark, but is as serious. These burn wounds may bubble up and “pop”, oozing a liquid; it is important for the person self-harming to monitor this wound and ensure bacteria doesn’t contaminate.

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Scratching/Pinching. Someone may choose to scratch at their skin until blood surfaces for a quick sense of relief. This could be an occasional thing, develop into dermatillomania or be dermatillomania.

Dermatillomania (Excoriation Disorder or Skin Picking Disorder) is when the individual has an incessant need to scratch and pick at “imperfections” resulting in worsened bumps, wounds, acne or infection. This disorder can be combated through therapy and extreme efforts, but is not always noticed by the one doing it.

There is a difference between choosing to do it, and having a disorder. Someone with dermatillomania will scratch or pick during anxious or tense situations, but may not notice, while someone who is picking occasionally is constantly doing it on purpose. It must be monitored as the occasional behaviour can evolve into a disorder as they grow unaware of their actions, and lean on picking to cope. It becomes second nature.

Wound Interference. This ties in with dermatillomania and skin picking. The individual repeatedly picks at scabs which result in either blood or scars.

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Hair Pulling. Hair pulling is because of a disorder called trichotillomania; a compulsive desire to pull out ones hair. The puller may notice bald patches from continuous pulling, self-esteem issues, and hair follicle changes (hairs growing in curly, thin or odd colours). Constantly pulling out one’s hair can increase anxiety, and affect their confidence, usually accompanied by depression. They may find flaws in specific hairs and feel that they do not belong, resulting in pulling it out.

Trich falls under the same umbrella as dermatillomania, (Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour/BFRB) and is not always intentional. With over exposure to pulling, they become dependent on it and may not notice themselves acting out, and can be so severe that they pull in their sleep.

Photo: © Europen Parliament/P.Naj-Oleari
pietro.naj-oleari@europarl.europa.eu

Drugs/Alcohol. Substance abuse starts off as using drugs and alcohol to cope. Someone may reach for a bottle when they are upset to “lose themselves”. With repetitive use, they will become heavily addicted and full-fledged alcoholics or drug addicts.

Their body will be tolerant of the substance and require higher doses for the same effect, develop a psychological and physical dependency where they may not be able to function without it as their body and mind experience withdrawal, and addiction. Addiction is the compulsive need for the substance and effort required to avoid or reduce usage.

Depending on the substance, risks include:

  • STDs from needles and injectors
  • Irregular heart rate or heart failure
  • Infertility
  • Lung damage
  • Memory loss
  • Periods of psychosis and disconnection from self
  • Seizures
  • Organ failure
  • Irritability, anxiety, jumpiness, sweating and shaking
  • Violence
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

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Hitting. Hitting involves violence towards oneself, where the individual hits and punches themselves for relief. This can result in bruises and painful areas.

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Disordered Eating Behaviours. Disordered eating is a common gateway to eating disorders. They feel they have lost control when it comes to food or their body, finding flaws in their figure or eating patterns. There are heavy influences in media and they could turn to Pro Anorexia Websites for tips on weight loss. Disordered eating can be controlled and restrictive (anorexia), strictly healthy foods only (othorexia), use of laxatives and vomiting after binging (bulimia), over eating (binge eating) and other, personalized methods.

This behaviour must be heavily monitored as a traumatic change in diet can remove years off their life, become extreme with no way back or fatal. They must seek out medical attention and learn not to use food to cope. The recovery process is not short and may take years; it’s best to catch and treat it early.


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“Suicide Attempts” (Testing the Grounds). These types of suicidal behaviours are parasuicidal, meaning it is suicidal in its nature, but suicide wasn’t the intent. This is very common with individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder as they experience chronic suicidal feelings and use this to cope. They do not wish to die, but to control an out-of-control situation. Facing death but not dying can be satisfying to some.


Remember: Self-harm is used to gain control in out-of-control situations. It isn’t use to get back at or punish anybody.

Self-mutilation should be avoided, discouraged and discussed in therapy. Overcoming self-harm will take time, but can be done when trauma, pain and other factors are discussed, and healthier coping mechanisms are implemented. When an urge arises, they should consider journaling, going for a walk, drawing, calling a friend, etc. Constant denial to these urges will improve their quality of life, as they ween off of their need.

Relapse is inevitable, but self-mutilation can be conquered.

If you are a worried guardian or friend, do not demean them. It may not seem logical to you, but it is necessary you open the conversation, lend an ear once in a while, and tell them that it is acceptable to talk about self-harm. If you use it against them, they will lean on the behaviour more, and could hurt themselves further. Don’t overreact, don’t under react. Finding a balance can be complicated, but worth it. They are dealing with a serious problem and need your support.

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Dear Trichsters: HAIR WON’T MAKE YOU HAPPY!

Humans are creatures of the overplayed concept of “I want what I don’t have”. It repeats in our brains like broken records. We want money, stability, healthy relationships, material possessions and great jobs… But sadly, not everything we want can be ours, nor will it make us happy.

Those who suffer from trichotillomania, the compulsion to pull out one’s hair, who have lost significant amounts of hair may think that the solution to their problem would be a full head (or body parts) of hair, which is false.

hair, trich trichotillomania www.slothspeedrecovery.wordpress.com sloth speed recovery

In my experience, I began pulling the hair from my scalp in early 2014, and with such a large bald spot, I was forced to chop off most and shave half of my hair. I reminisced on my long locks and all the fun ways I used to style it, and desired that feminine definition again. I tried to stop my pulling, reducing it great amounts to which it what practically unnoticeable. I grew my short pixie cut over 2 and a half years. I had hair down to my breasts. It was long, healthy and beautiful. I finally felt like a woman again.

I had the hair I had long awaited, but I wasn’t satisfied.I wasn’t any better, or any more “cured”. I was still little ol’ me with a hair pulling disorder, who still wanted more and more hair. My hair still wasn’t good enough by my standards, and I soon understood that that wasn’t the cure to my unhappiness.

I have come to realize, and so should many, if not all “trichsters”, that hair will not make us happy. We want the hair because we lack it, but believe me, hair has its down sides. We have lost something that so easily defined us, and it was practically out of our control. We want hair to avoid isolation and to feel validated, and because we have been robbed.

It’s great to have a goal to work to, and to try to curb the behaviour, but it is important to note that no amount of hair will make us happy. We may be more confident, style it in various ways and flaunt it, but it will not be our solution.

What will make us happy is trying to control the trich, working on our self-confidence and accepting our disorder for what it is. We will fight for the rest of our lives but our happiness will not be dependent on the strands of dead cells that hang from our scalps, no matter how much we crave it. Our hair does not define our happiness.

 

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My Struggles with Trichotillomania

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Trichotillomania: a compulsive desire to pull out one’s hair.

A Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) is an umbrella name for impulse control behaviors involving compulsively damaging one’s physical appearance or causing physical injury. (source)

The concept to pull my own hair out seemed ridiculous. A friend had actually brought it to my attention that she suffered when we were 11 years old. I didn’t think much of it and I don’t recall what I said, but today, I hope it was something helpful, as I hope someone would be when I confess to them that I, too, struggle with trichotillomania.


STORYTIME:

I was 14 years old and very mentally ill. I was traumatized by my childhood and the recent additives of feeling followed, having been hospitalized, run aways and police appearances. I was cutting several times a week and was very suicidal, but I felt numb. No matter what I was going through, what I was doing or the fears I had, I remained emotionless. I had previously been obsessed with keeping my eyebrows groomed, and chose that when things had gotten too stressful and I just wanted to feel something, I would escape to the bathroom and take the tweezers to my eyebrows. Tears began to drip; which was exactly what I was looking for.

A spiral began slowly. My 9th grade (age 14-15), I had half my eyebrows and i was constantly taunted by people who would ask if I shaved them off and why I would shave them. I was ashamed and had no way to tell them. And I liked them short.

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10th grade came around and I had dyed my hair black and red and loved it! I dyed it weekly/bi-weekly and trimmed it to maintain it. But it was my favourite feature and, being the new kid in a new high school, I was quite the attraction. I concealed myself under this mask of hair, and I didn’t dread it either. I didn’t want anybody to see my actual face, especially without makeup.

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I was in the improv team and I had created an image for myself. But something happened. January 14th, 2014, a family friend of mine killed himself… In a gruesome way, too.

I had already spent so much time in the counselor’s office, but after that incident, I was in her office and in a room to be alone for a good 2 days. I did not show up with my hair done or my makeup on and my mask was removed. I became very vulnerable and felt I was losing my identity. During improv, I had even broke down out of nowhere after drawing a blank in practice and ran away from my team. The pulling moved from my eyebrows to my head.

The bangs I loved so much quickly disappeared. I would pull constantly watching tv, just sitting around and I began to run water over myself as I sulked in the bottom of the shower, ripping chunks out. I became very vulnerable and came out of the shower on numerous occasions to cry to my mom. My mother would come to vaccuum the living room to discover piles of hair scattered on the floor from me watching House M.D. This bald spot had quickly expanded and became very apparent. I discovered trichotillomania.

I wore bandanas around the house and my favourite baseball cap at school, swooping my bangs from one side to the other, folding them in ways to conceal the large spots, held in place by the cap. The pulling had taken a toll on me and I had lost control.

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The day after my 16th birthday, I took a day off school. My mother came downstairs and offered we go get my hair cut like “Miley Cyrus”, as she said, and I had considered it for a brief amount of time. Well, I did and my bald spot was hidden, but it didn’t get better from there.

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I got compliments and many people thought I looked good with short hair. I was fully exposed, face and hair, and it wasn’t easy. I didn’t know how to take it; it wasn’t exactly a choice, I thought. I felt decent, but comments aroused about me looking like a boy and that women with short hair weren’t attractive, which stung.

I struggled as it grew and a bad relationship I was in worsened it. I was cheated on constantly and it played my femininity. Not to mention, the girl I was cheated on with had hair nearly down to her hips and I wanted to cry when I saw that, especially after he was the one to tell me he wasn’t attracted to girls with short hair. The abuse in that relationship caused me to pull a lot, creating bald spots on several occasions, even after the hair had started to grow again.

On one occasion, I had ripped so much out, triggered by loneliness or a comment he said. He came into the bedroom and yelled at me for making a mess of his bed.

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When arguments would arise, especially the abusive comments and anxiety attacks, I would lock myself in the bathroom in darkness and rip chunks out until he would break in and hold my hands down.

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My hair had weird stages and I just wanted to make myself feel better. I styled it in several ways; down naturally, something similar to a male come-over, my “sheep hair” (twisted it and it turned into a slight afro), etc. I compared myself constantly and begged for help, but did not want it.

I used to collect hair balls and get fascinated by large amounts I would pull in one tug, feeling upset when the hairs would separate from their cluster.

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I worked really hard in getting it to grow and eventually dyed it in a way I loved. By the time it had grown out, my pulling had greatly reduced from my scalp, and despite losing my eyebrows and lashes entirely, I was able to maintain hair growth.


TODAY:

Today, I have grown my hair to the top of my breasts. I have dyed and cut it and tried to satisfy myself but I hate my hair with every fiber of my being.

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It’s nappy, knotty and has not chosen a texture it likes. I am incapable of coping with the knots that form and I find little interest in styling it due to it’s condition and some shorter hairs that I conceal. A lot of hair just falls out as well, not exactly helping with my perception of my hair. It’s uneven and quite frustrating.

I tend to pull the hair of my scalp when I’m stressed in social situations and coming out of the shower (to get rid of knots). I pull my eyebrows because they bother me; their existence feels like a curse and they keep growing, they’re never equal, they never look good and I can’t stand having a full eyebrow. My eyelashes tend to go if I put on makeup or I’m anxious; I actually get physical pain in my eye and feel like they don’t belong. My nose hairs get ripped out because I hate them and it’s a private place to pull. On a personal and TMI (too much information) level, I pull my pubic hair and leg hair as well as an occasional after shower activity.

Showers are rough because it will not untangle and so, I rip chunks out from under. I pull at my bangs and still have baby hairs that are struggling to reach the length of the rest of my bangs. It is constantly tangled and causes me to rip the knots apart, because even when I brush it and fill my hair with conditioner, it doesn’t work and it won’t stay soft or straight. It’s gotten thin and though I began to pull less, it frustrates my current partner to no end.

Reality for me is, it feels like a virus or a needle. It’s a pain and I physically can’t handle the existence of my hair coming out of my body. I don’t know how to explain it exactly other than a nuisance. It’s in my skin, and my brain is convinced it shouldn’t be there and so, I rip it out. It’s an obsessive hatred that can control my thoughts for hours and that bothers me daily.

It gets to a point where I sometimes ask to rip my partner’s hair out when I feel it doesn’t belong there.

Sometimes, I’m just fascinated with the “pop” sound, the root that comes out, how stretchy or weak some strands can be and the different colours in my hair, and those are the times I am pulling “mindlessly” or “for fun” (habit or boredom).

I become pained when my loved ones get furious with me about it. I pull to cope with social interactions and I get yelled at insensitively and held down as I struggle not to cry. I will try not to pull but thinking about it makes me want to pull more. I am usually not too bad on my own but something about someone else around me arises this need to pull, and sometimes I fear doing it in case I subconsciously am doing it for attention.

I feel as though they don’t understand. Yelling at me and cursing doesn’t make it better and causes me to isolate myself. I don’t feel loved in those moments and wish myself away from the situation. The intensity of emotions can, at times, cause a worse outcome of me being physically violent with myself to relieve myself.

My life hasn’t been entirely damaged by it in the recent years, but it is still a struggle. It feels as though it has forever affected my view of myself; my perception. I have a full head of hair and I don’t understand why I can’t just enjoy it? Why did I grow it out for over 2 years to not play with it and style it? Why do I still feel unbeautiful for it?

I had felt like I looked so manly in the last years and it stripped me of my feminine identity, drawing me back.

On the day of prom, I had my brows done at Saphora and it took them 20 minutes to do my brows alone and I STILL left unsatisfied, even after a staff change. They assured my brows were the perfect length and shape (after a waxing), but I didn’t feel that way. I hated explaining that the hair felt like little infections in my skin and that their existence makes me so angry and frustrated. I hated what they tried and was overall displeased with the service.

I am highly dissatisfied with my hair and my mind hasn’t processed that my hair has grown as long as it has. I find myself trying to conceal things that aren’t there or feeling like I have a huge bald spot when, in reality, the pulled hair is scattered and there are no prominent spots.

The length it has reached has caused me to pull less. The longer it got, the less I pulled. But when it becomes reborn as it is, I need support and love. I need to know that I am not alone and that I can continue to fight it. The encouraging and acknowledgement of my loved ones would be greatly appreciated, eve if it’s just a comment like “I’m proud of you”. The support and belief in me can go a long way and push me to continue fighting.

In comparison to others, I also feel like it’s nothing. I don’t have any bald spots exactly and I am not violently pulling daily, so I’m okay, right? No, I’m not and it’s not, and my condition is individual and valid.

I may not be in therapy currently but I am trying to take it day by day. If I have to cut it again or buy a wig, it will not mean I failed and it will be a decision I will take for myself then.

I am tired of feeling alone, ugly, insane and ridiculous for a condition I have learned to manage in ways I never thought possible. I miss my hair and all the ways I had dyed it but god damn it, this is huge progress and I want to keep growing it. Whether it be patchy or perfectly even, I will continue.

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DO YOU HAVE TRICH?

If you are speculating that you may have trichotillomania, you should seek out a doctor’s advice and assistance.

If you are already diagnosed and need some help, consider buying yourself textured toys like a Tangle or Silly Putty to distract you from the behaviour, as well as seeking therapy.

There are many online support communities for peer support and the sharing of various experiences.

A popular YouTuber named Rebecca Brown runs a channel called Trich Journal where she shares her life experiences and helpful tips, and helps to raise awareness.

Trichotillomania is a battle, but you are not alone nor are you insane for suffering. We need to become mindful of our pulling and continue to support one another. Seek out help from loved ones and professionals. Our goal can be to, one day, be pull free.