Coping Skills for Calming Down

One of the things I’ve been dealing with a lot lately is anger. As in, I’m some degree of angry 100% of the time. It’s something I need to bring up with my therapist next time I see her, but in the meantime, I’ve had to find some ways to deal with it.

Calming Coping Skills

So I put together a list of all the coping skills I use (and a few I’ve tried that don’t work for me) when I’m trying to calm down.

  • Coloring. When I was in the psych ward, my friend Sarah brought me one of those adult coloring books. Adult coloring books have gotten really popular lately, and some people (like me) find it very relaxing to color in all the tiny little shapes in those intricate designs.
  • Guided meditations. I tried one of these after going through a unit on Buddhism in one of my classes, and they’re actually really awesome (plus, you can find a lot of them on YouTube). This one is my favorite, and there’s a huge collection of them here.
  • Warm bath/shower. Personally, this doesn’t work very well for me, but some people swear by it.
  • Candles. Watching the tiny flame can be soothing. (Or could make you want to burn something, so be careful.)
  • Music. There’s all sorts of stuff on YouTube that’s great for just laying back and listening to, and a slower tempo can physically lower your heart rate and calm you down. This one is my favorite (violin and cello), this one is nice if you like piano, and this one has water sounds with it.
  • PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation). I plan to do a whole post (or maybe a video?) about this, but it’s a way to relax your muscles. Basically you start at your head and work your way down your body, tensing groups of muscles and then relaxing them.
  • Aggressively _____. Especially when I’m angry, I get in a mood where I aggressively organize my bedroom. Or sometimes I aggressively cook. Doing an ordinary thing with a little more force than usual (as long as it’s not something like polishing the china) can help work out some of your negative emotions.
  • Vent. Send 52 angry texts to a friend, drive to your bestie’s house and tell them how worked up you’re feeling, tell your life story to the next random person who asks how you are. (Okay, maybe don’t do that.) And if you don’t have anyone to talk to, feel free to shoot me a long, rant-y email. I promise I’ll read it and respond.

What would you add to the list?


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What I Learned About Sadness from “Inside Out”

Yes, I know this is not exactly a new movie and I’m a little behind on seeing it. I just got around to seeing it a few nights ago, and not only was it a great story, it actually helped me process some emotions.

What I learned from "Inside Out"

I just want to let you know ahead of time that if you haven’t seen the movie, you might not completely understand some parts of this post, but I’ll do my best to explain. Also, there might be some unavoidable spoilers.

(But seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie go see it ASAP.)

First things first: Let’s talk about the movie itself.

Here’s the trailer (which I think is pretty awesome):

So the basic story follows the personification of Riley’s emotions. After Riley and her parents move from Minnesota to San Francisco, Joy is doing her best to keep Riley happy and keep Sadness from doing anything. But in trying to prevent Sadness from interfering, Joy and Sadness both accidentally end up away from Headquarters and stuck in Long-Term Memory, and Joy is desperate to get back so Riley can be happy again.

Inside Out movie posterThere’s a lot I could say about this movie (and you should definitely watch it if you haven’t already), but I’m going to stick to one point: it helped me get over my ex.


At the end of Inside Out, Sadness touches Riley’s important “core memories,” the ones that influence her personality, and turn them sad so she can move past them and create new ones.


Even though that one scene was just a tiny little clip at the end of the movie. it was revolutionary for me.

My ex was at my apartment the next day (he’s dating my roommate, so he’s over a lot). My relationship with him is a long story, but let’s just say I’ve spent the past several months being pretty f***ing pissed at him. Mainly because I missed him.

And for some reason, as I was laying on the floor that night, listening to that painfully familiar voice tell my roommate he loved her, I started thinking about Inside Out.

Since I like personifying things, I pictured my Joy and my Sadness together up in my Headquarters, sorting through all my memories of him. Most of them were happy, and I wanted to keep them happy. But then I’d remember how important sadness is, and I’d let my Sadness touch the memories and turn them sad.

And I’ll admit, it wasn’t fun. It hurt, and I cried because they used to be happy memories. I cried because I missed them and I missed him. But once I was done crying, I felt better. And when I saw him the next morning, I could actually treat him like a regular person for the first time since September.

Sadness is important. And sometimes you have to let happy memories become sad in order to move on.

My main point is this: Sadness isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It’s important. If something was special to you, you have to grieve its loss before you can let it go.

Also: Watch the movie. You might not get the same thing out of it as I did – this writer found a completely different epiphany. But you’re sure to get something out of it.

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Why I Won’t Be Quiet About My Depression

Yesterday my mom told me that I should be careful with this blog. If I started dating a guy and his mother decided to Google me, she said, this blog might raise some concerns and give her a wrong impression. (Although I’m not sure how many parents really Google their kids’ dates. Anyway.)

But really – that’s the main reason why I write this blog.

Why I won't be quiet about my depression

There’s a lot of different stigmas attached to being mentally ill. And that sucks because I didn’t choose depression any more than a leukemia patient chose cancer. But the mentally ill get belittled, told to “snap out of it,” and shunned – and, as my mom is worried about, parents asking if their son should date a “crazy” girl who talks openly about the kind of stuff society wants her to hide.

But this fight is a part of me. It’s shaped me into who I am today, and I can’t talk about myself without talking about my struggle. This fight is the reason I am where I am and who I am, and it’s always going to be a part of me – I’m done being ashamed of it.

The difference between me talking about my depression and someone else talking about her cancer is society has told us she is brave for fighting and I am weak for having a problem. But I’m going to say it for everyone out there who’s afraid to admit this struggle, shout it to every corner of the internet this little blog can reach:

I am not weak for having depression. I am brave for fighting it.

Society wants us to be silent, sweep this confusing and scary thing called mental illness under the rug and pretend it’s not a thing you struggle with. They’ll tell you the mentally ill are crazy and dangerous. But

She is your neighbor.
He is your coworker.
She is the smiling waitress.
He is the young man who cuts your grass in the summer.
She is the fashionable woman who just passed you on the street.

Unless we’re close friends (or you read my blog), you’d never guess the label “mentally ill” applies to me. I smile. I laugh. I’m not hyper but not lethargic. I hold normal conversations and get good grades. Yet because my brain chemistry is a little messed up, they say I should be locked away, or at least silenced.

Suffering in silence because you fear the world’s judgment does no one any good.

I’m done being quiet.

So I’m not going to “pretty up” this blog, now or ever. If someone’s mom has a problem with me because of this, then the fault lies with the way society portrays the mentally ill and the negative associations people are conditioned to make. My depression does not make me a bad person.

I’m going to say it again. My depression does not make me a bad person.

I want to put a voice to the silenced, those of us who are afraid of society’s judgment. Yes, I don’t want it. Yes, it sucks. Yes, I would do almost anything to make it go away and never come back.

But no, I will not be silent about it.


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Silver Linings Playbook: Review

I’ve been blogging book reviews for four years, so reviewing things is kind of second nature now. So whenever I find something in the mainstream media that deals with mental health, I like to share my thoughts with you.

My opinion of this movie went from “the title is catchy but it looks disappointing” to “this movie is interesting” literally within a minute, which is probably my fastest opinion change ever. And even though it took me a long (very long) time to actually watch it, I’m glad I did.

silver linings playbook

A brief description:

After losing his job and wife and spending time in a mental institution, Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) winds up living with his parents (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver). He wants to rebuild his life and reunite with his wife, but his parents would be happy if he just shared their obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles. Things get complicated when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who offers to help him reconnect with his wife if he will do something very important for her in exchange.

Of course, I didn’t have any of that information when I was deciding to watch it. All I had was Netflix’s brief description: “Their average day consists of football, dancing, and prescription meds – an unusual combo for an unusual duo.” I’d seen the movie on Netflix, looked at it several times (because Jennifer Lawrence), and decided it sounded kinda boring (and also kinda football-y, so doubly boring).

Then I read somewhere that it was about mental illness (I wish I could remember where I read that, but I can’t seem to find it again), so I added it to my Netflix queue. It landed in the “someday when I have time” category, which means I have every intention of watching it but it won’t actually happen.

Finally, one Saturday afternoon, a friend and I were trying to decide what to watch. We ended up in a toss-up between Sherlock and this movie, and since I suck at decisions, he decided on this one because he’s from Philadelphia. He could actually tell what year the movie was set in (2008) based on the Eagles scores mentioned – which was cool and weird at the same time. But anyway.

The trailer captures the essence of it pretty well:

First thing of note – this movie is not very football-y. With the title and the Netflix blurb (see the end of the post) I expected more sports, but really Pat’s father was a huge Eagles fan and that’s about it.

Second thing of note – Pat is bipolar. And I think Bradley Cooper did an AMAZING job portraying it. The scene that stands out most in my mind is when he was manic, getting upset over the ending of a Hemmingway book and ranting to his parents about it at 4am. And as he actually started taking his meds, you could see him calm down and become more stable.

The mental health aspect was most interesting to me, but there’s a good story, too. There’s several tangled plots that all tie together at the end, a messed-up sort-of romance with Pat and Tiffany, parental relationship problems… I wouldn’t say there’s a main plot, but there’s enough stuff there to make it a pretty good story in and of itself.

The downside is that the bones of the story is a pretty typical Hollywood romance: Boy meets girl, boy and girl work together to achieve their goals, fall in love in the process. I’m honestly not a huge fan of that template, but like I said, I found the mental health angle interesting enough (and there’s quite a bit of dancing, which I also enjoy) that I liked it.

Overall, I wouldn’t say it’s the best movie in the world, or even in my top 10. But it was worth the watch, and I found the great portrayal of bipolar refreshing. I give it 3.5/5.

Movie Details

Silver Linings PlaybookRating: R (for language, mostly an overuse of f***, which wasn’t out of place for the context)

Genre: Comedy/Drama (although I didn’t see a whole lot of comedy)

Year: 2012

Length: 2 hours 2 minutes

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Netflix blurb: Their average day consists of football, dancing, and prescription meds – an unusual combo for an unusual duo.


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8 Things to Say to Someone With Depression

I thought about writing one of those “what not to say to someone with depression” lists for today’s post. But Google can give you a bazillion of those, and honestly some of them are really good.

But let’s be honest, knowing what not to do doesn’t usually help you figure out what to do. It’s a good idea to avoid saying some kinds of things, but it can be hard to know what to say to someone who’s trapped in an emotional black hole.

8 things to say to someone with depression

So, speaking as someone with depression, here’s a list of good things to say to someone you love who’s struggling with it.

  1. How often do you want me to text/call/snapchat/etc.? We tend to feel guilty about asking for someone’s attention, but sometimes we really want to talk to someone. Contacting us at regular intervals helps with the guilt – and keeps us from being walled up in our rooms with no human contact.
  2. I’d be happy to cook you dinner/go to a doctor’s appointment with you/fill-in-the-blank. Ordinary things can get overwhelming sometimes, and it can be nice to just have someone with us.
  3. An alternative to #2: What can I do for you? Just be aware that we might not know at the moment or be too afraid of burdening you to ask. (In which case, see #7.)
  4. We can just watch Netflix and not talk, if you want. Because sometimes, we don’t want to talk about it, we just want to know someone is there.
  5. I can only imagine what you’re going through, but I’m always here to listen and I’ll try to understand. Unless you’ve experienced depression personally, you can’t understand. Just let us know you’ll try.
  6. I’m not going anywhere/I’ll always be here for you/I care about you. It often doesn’t feel like that, so you really can’t overuse this one.
  7. You’re not a burden or an inconvenience. We feel like we are almost constantly, so it’s nice to be assured that we’re not.
  8. Thank you for sharing what you’re going through with me. Being open and vulnerable is scary. Let us know it’s okay to share with you.

Feel free to share this with any friends, family, loved ones, etc. who might be interested (or who you think need to read it)!


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Pantry Staples for when You’re too Depressed to Cook

This may sound like a weird topic, but let’s be honest – when you’re in the depths of depression, how much energy do you have to go cook things?

If you’re anything at all like me, not much.

When you're depressed, it's hard to do anything - this is a list of foods that are easy to make when you don't feel like cookingI grew up in a house where my mother cooked something delicious from scratch every night, and I have delusions ambitions of being able to do that myself. But when I find myself depressed, it’s more likely that I’ll go into the kitchen, look at all the ingredients to make food, and go back to my room without making any food.

I can go for days without eating anything more than a slice of free pizza on campus or a cookie someone brought into work. And no matter how little it feels like it matters or how undeserving you feel of eating food, it matters. Eating something, anything, is important.

So here are some pantry staples for those days when cooking feels like too much. They’re easy to heat, and a lot of them will store for forever. Even if you’re the kind of person whose kitchen is full of things like fresh veggies and whole-grain flour, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep a few of these things on hand for days when you just can’t.

  • Canned soup. This is top of the list because it really doesn’t get any easier than heating up some soup. I’m partial to chicken noodle (comfort food ftw), but pick your favorite, or a variety. (Healthiness bonus points: try a beef stew – protein and veggies – or vegetable soup.)
  • Leftovers. They’re perfect for these kinds of situations. They’re easy to throw in the microwave, usually they freeze well, and it’s something to do with all the food from days you do feel like cooking (because cooking for one is harder than it sounds).
  • Pickles. Personally, I love them. But they’re also really easy to eat right out of the jar, and are somewhat good for you.
  • Ramen. College student staple, right here. It does require a little more effort than dumping a can of soup into a pan – but it’s still really easy and results in a warm, comforting bowl of pasta and broth. Bonus: It’s cheap.
  • Boxed mixes. These do require some effort, but muffin or biscuit mixes can be huge comfort foods. And I confess that I have made a brownie mix and eaten the entire thing without baking it. But these are great to have on hand in case you feel a little more capable of cooking. (Jiffy mixes are the perfect size for one person with leftovers.)
  • Crackers. Easy to store, easy to eat, and no dishes to clean up afterwards (although crumbs tend to get all over the place). And there’s such a huge variety of kinds and flavors that it’s hard to get bored. Plus you can eat crackers with other things (like cheese or dips) and they’re somewhat better for you than chips.
  • Fruit. This is an iffy one, because you may not want to eat fruit when you’re depressed (I still have an apple I bought two months ago because I do not want to eat fruit when depressed). But if you actually want to eat something healthy, or have the willpower to force yourself to eat it, it doesn’t get much easier than an apple or banana. (The main downside is it will not store for much longer than a week.)
  • Cereal. This is top of the quick-and-easy breakfast scale, and you can either eat it with milk or dry straight from the box (which has the bonus of no dishes to do afterwards). I’m currently obsessed with Cheerios, but get whatever you like. (Cons: cereal is expensive.)
  • TV dinners. Personally, I don’t like them. But they are a complete meal and really easy to make, so they made the list anyway.

Also, pay attention to what you do eat when you’re depressed. Look for patterns and themes. I always gravitate towards soups, pastas, and sweets (even though sugar is terrible for me physically), so that’s what I keep on hand. Buying any of these foods is going to do you no good if you won’t bring yourself to eat it.

And this is a VERY IMPORTANT REMINDER if you try to eat healthy, want to eat healthy, feel like you should eat healthy, or come from a family like mine where “processed food” was of the devil:

It’s okay to not eat perfectly. If making an egg and spinach frittata with seasonal vegetables is too much effort, have a bowl of cereal. If you ate an entire brownie mix in one sitting, okay. Don’t feel guilty about what you did or did not eat. The point is that you ate something.

The point isn’t that you’re perfect. The point is that you’re trying.


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Writing Myself Through a Rough Day

I wrote this last Sunday and it’s only been lightly edited. Fair warning.

Sometimes I have good days, sometimes I have bad days. And sometimes I have both on the same day. At 4 this afternoon, I was seriously considering suicide. Now as I’m writing this at 11:30, I don’t want to go to bed because I’m excited and inspired – to write things, to do things, to get work done and make something great and useful out of this blog.

Bad days, good days, and fighting on

Or even just do my homework, because I still have five chapters to read and three short papers (ugh) to finish before Monday. And I’ve done absolutely nothing today except sleep until noon and watch Netflix and wander around the apartment in my pajamas.

But I keep telling myself that’s okay. I have depression, and sometimes doing things feels like wading through molasses (physical molasses or mental molasses, depending on the thing). I feel like I have to be an overachiever, but it’s okay if I spend a day watching Netflix in my pajamas. Or a whole weekend. It’s okay if I can’t do everything I feel like I should do.

I made it through another day. I’m alive, I’m unharmed, and those are victories to celebrate. Tomorrow will be better. I’m fighting on.


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5 Things No One Tells You about Taking Antidepressants

I was reluctant to take medication for many reasons (which is a whole different post). But when I stayed in the hospital, they put me on an antidepressant.

It seems pretty straightforward in theory – take the meds, feel better, there might be some side effects. But there’s some things the doctors just don’t tell you about them, probably because they’re the kind of things you have to learn from experience. But here are 5 things I’ve learned about antidepressants.


1. They’re not a cure

This morning, it still took me an hour to get out of bed. Last Saturday, I did nothing but eat ramen and watch Netflix in my pajamas. I have yet to put away two weeks worth of laundry or do any semblance of cleaning my room.

Antidepressants aren’t a magic bullet or insta-cure – or any sort of cure.  There will still be those times where you can’t get out of bed for anything and the blackness in your mind makes you want to die. They make things better, absolutely, but you’ll still have days that are just as bad as before.

2. They might make things worse (at first)

Since I’ve been on my antidepressant, I’ve thought a lot more about cutting or killing myself. Not in an “I’m actually going to do that” way (at least not with suicide), but the thoughts have been there almost constantly.

The FDA actually put out a warning about this: in people under 25, for the first few months antidepressants can actually make suicidal thoughts worse. Which is kinda mentioned in the long list of side effects but isn’t really brought up as important.

There’s not much that can be done about that – you just have to wait it out. But actually knowing it’s going to happen can help.

3. Emotions will happen (and coping skills will be needed)

Depression is kind of like a heavy wool blanket (or three) that’s just kind of laying on top of you and smothering you. Taking an antidepressant is like pulling all the blankets off and experiencing all the lights and sounds.

Bad metaphor aside, you’ll feel emotions. Probably a lot of them. You’ll be able to feel joyful and excited, but there will also be less fun things like anger. You’ll probably have a hard time managing them.

They’ll probably feel extreme, but they’re really not. Until you adapt to them, though, you’ll need to find some new coping skills.

4. Sometimes they stop working

I haven’t had to deal with this one (yet), but I met a lot of people in the psych ward who were there because their meds stopped helping. Sometimes your brain chemistry changes (or gets used to your antidepressant) and it just stops being effective. So keeping in touch with your psychiatrist is doubly important.

5. Your new normal will be weird

You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness. Or just plain used to being depressed. And once you’re not – it’s weird. And as strange as it sounds, you might actually miss the depression. It may not be fun, but you’re used to it, and even change for the better is hard.


It’s worth it. As hard as it may seem in the moment, you just have to push through. It’s worth it to feel excited again. It’s worth it for good days to be less rare. It’s worth it to have multiple good days in a row. You’ll get used to your new normal and it will get better. Promise.


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Welcome to my head.

Now that we’ve got that rather awkward introduction out of the way, this is the inaugural post of my blog! is where a bunch of different aspects of my personality (nerd, academic, writer, Christian, over-analyzer, solution-finder) intersect about one particular topic:

Mental health.

Jalyn ElyI’m a nineteen-year-old college sophomore who’s dealt with varying degrees of depression pretty much my whole life. It went untreated until a few months ago, when I spent a week in the psych ward after what would have been suicide if a friend hadn’t intervened. (You can read more here.)

For some reason, hearing “take care of yourself” from a friend doesn’t have quite as much impact as hearing it from a psychologist in a mental hospital. (And the antidepressants helped, too.)

So now that death is off the table, I have to learn how to live.

That’s what this blog is for.

I think better in writing than in my head, so this blog is a way of processing (and recording) my insights, tips, and things that worked. And this way it’s easy to find and share, so you can learn from my experiences and failures.

Post topics will vary from personal experiences to tips and suggestions to just what I’m feeling at the moment, and even tone will vary depending on my mood.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, because let’s be honest: nobody does. We’re all different and need different things. But we can learn from each other along the way.

Let’s learn how to live through this depression thing.


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