ED Recovery Affirmations to Remember on Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday—not even close, in fact. As someone who was raised in a large, boisterous Italian American family, I understand the importance of seasonal traditions, quality time with loved ones, and communal expressions of gratitude. But as someone who is also in eating disorder (ED) recovery, the overt emphasis on food this time of year can still cause ripples of anxiety to surface. So as another holiday season rounds the corner, I want to share with you a list of ED recovery affirmations to remember on Thanksgiving. I often repeat them to myself when I feel overwhelmed or anxious during the festivities, and I hope these affirmations calm and re-center you as well. 

5 Affirmations to Support Your ED Recovery this Thanksgiving

  1. You deserve to fuel yourself with foods that offer both nourishment and pleasure. You do not have to earn the right to eat or punish yourself after the meal. You can taste, savor, and enjoy without feelings of shame to ruin the experience.  
  2. You can carve out alone time to pause, breathe, and rejuvenate when you start to feel those undercurrents or anxiety or emotional depletion near the surface. Do not apologize when you need a timeout—it's a valuable form of self-care.  
  3. You are empowered to either change the subject or leave the discussion if any negative talk about food, weight, calories, or body image circulates at the dinner table. Protect your mind from toxic messages that can lead to unhealthy behaviors. 
  4. You have so much intrinsic worth beyond the amount of food you consume at Thanksgiving—or any other event on the calendar. Eating is not an indication of weakness or an epic moral failure. Your human value cannot be measured in calories.  
  5. You matter at this table, in this moment, during this season, and on this earth. So claim your space and commit to doing whatever feels the most restorative in times of stress. Your body requires gentle, tender care. Your mind requires intentional, positive thoughts. Your spirit requires nurturing, compassionate love. Be kind to yourself.

As you take a few deep, conscious breaths and steel yourself to enter the fracas that is Thanksgiving, I hope those affirmations will soothe your fears, calm your emotions, and bring you a measure of peace. I know firsthand just how tough this holiday can be with an eating disorder voice in the back of your mind. So these ED recovery affirmations are for you to remember on Thanksgiving—because I believe in the power of healing self-talk, and I want you to harness that same power for yourself.   

Knee Pain Through the Lens of Schizoaffective Disorder

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For the past six weeks, my left knee has been causing me a lot of pain. The pain is flaring up as I sit to write this. It may have been caused by doing a stretch during an online ballet class--I honestly don’t know what caused it. What I do know is that it hurts a lot, and it’s wreaking havoc on my schizoaffective anxiety and schizoaffective depression.

How Knee Pain Affects My Schizoaffective Disorder

First of all, although I suffer from frequent migraines, I wouldn’t say I’ve been in this kind of constant physical pain before. Also, the migraines usually come at night before I go to sleep and are gone in the morning. This is different. I can barely walk at times. I haven’t been able to go for my daily walks outside. This has caused me to sink into a deep cavern of schizoaffective depression, with some anxiety thrown in for good measure.

A lot of the anxiety has been caused by driving to the doctor to get my knee checked out. You see, I have a phobia of driving, especially driving in the snow. I know, I know, Chicago is probably the wrong city for me. And it hasn’t snowed yet. All joking aside, I made myself drive to the doctor today--even with the threat of snow--because I’ve read or heard from multiple sources that the only way out of driving phobias is to move your way through them. I’m happy to report that I didn’t get into an accident. I didn’t even get honked at.

Schizoaffective Disorder and Worrying About My Knee

Driving to the doctor is not the only source of my anxiety surrounding my knee, though. I’m worried about my knee. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, though my general practitioner has suggested a torn meniscus, the cartilage that cushions the bones at the shin and thigh. The holidays are coming up, and I don’t want my knee to be messed up over the holidays. I get depressed just thinking about that.

I’ve seen two doctors about my knee, and I’ve had X-rays done. The X-rays show that I don’t have arthritis, so that’s a relief. Now I need to get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan done to look at the tissue inside the knee. I called a place to get the MRI done and it’s scheduled for next week.

Waiting for phone calls from doctors is also a big source of stress and anxiety for me, and a lot of that’s been going on as I try to figure out what’s wrong with my knee. I always thought having something wrong inside my head was worse than having something wrong with my body. But I’d never had something significantly wrong with my body like this before. Sure, it could be true that my mental illness is making this experience of having a knee problem worse. But I’ll never take my physical health for granted again.

Physical Complications of Verbal Abuse

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Although victims of verbal abuse do not have bruises or other physical scars, the effects of the abuse are still genuine. While anxiety and depression can result from verbal abuse, it is not the only side effect. In fact, many people who suffer at the hands of an abuser will have physical problems that stem from continuous verbal abuse. Knowing how abuse can affect your physical well-being is just one of the ways to help you maintain a healthier life. 

Physical Symptoms of Verbal Abuse

You may wonder how verbal abuse can cause physical harm, but it is possible. Someone who regularly faces put-downs, insults, criticism, or degradation can develop physical ailments. These symptoms are the body's way of responding to circumstances that it cannot control.

Some physical problems verbal abuse victims may experience include: 

  • Stomach pains or digestion problems 
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Headaches or migraines 
  • Tension in the neck or shoulders
  • Back pain
  • Unexplainable aches or pains
  • Impotence in men
  • Miscarriages in women 

Even though verbal abuse victims do not carry bruises or visible wounds, their bodies may hurt just as much as their psyche does. 

How to Counteract Physical Symptoms 

For many individuals, physical symptoms appear because they have no way to resolve the negative feelings they have from verbal abuse. Much like those who keep anger bottled inside, anxiety, depression, or other emotional triggers that do not have an outlet for resolution and healing can manifest in physical signs. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing verbal abuse and dealing with one or many physical side effects, there are ways you can help minimize them. 

  • Talk to a professional for emotional support. Allowing yourself to work through your feelings from verbal abuse will allow your body to release the building anxiety. You may also find better tools and methods of dealing with your internal feelings, so your body does not have to.
  • Try to participate in some physical activity in each day. You do not have to go to the gym for an hour or run a marathon. Even taking a walk after dinner for 15 minutes can do wonders for your mind and body. 
  • Try to follow a healthy diet. Your body will function better at handling stress if you minimize junk foods or alcohol. Eat a well-balanced meal with snacks each day and make sure you drink enough water. 

There is Help 

Even if you have visited your family physician who cannot explain your physical ailments, there are ways you can get help. With the proper tools and methods, victims of verbal abuse can live a healthier life without dealing with physical or emotional side effects. Talk to a professional in your area or through a toll-free line from our Resources page, and start taking care of your physical health by helping your emotional well-being.

Self-Harm Prompts for Recovery Journaling

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Journaling can be a powerful way to work through the difficult feelings and experiences of self-harm and recovery. When you're at a loss for what to write about, these self-harm prompts can help.

Self-Harm Prompts for Reducing Stress and Overwhelm

These self-harm prompts are ideal for when you feel overwhelmed by something affecting you in the present. They are designed to help you identify what you are feeling, accept what you cannot change, and find ways to change what you can—including your perspective.

  1. What physical sensations am I currently experiencing? (e.g. "My neck feels tense and sore" or "I have butterflies in my stomach")
  2. What thoughts are currently running through my head? (Try free writing—scribbling down whatever comes to mind, without worrying about whether it makes sense, for a set amount of time)
  3. What names can I give to the emotions I am currently feeling? (Consider whether you are feeling multiple things at once)
  4. What are some things I enjoy that I can do to feel less overwhelmed? (Try to think of as many options as possible, then circle two or three that seem most appealing)
  5. If I were to talk to someone about how I'm feeling without worrying about their reaction, what would I say?
  6. If someone I loved were to tell me they were feeling the way I am now, what would I tell them?

Self-Harm Prompts for Recovery Motivation

These self-harm prompts are focused more on the recovery process—finding inspiration for healing, and maintaining motivation over the long term.

  1. Why do I want to be self-harm free? (Go into as much detail as possible; feel free to list more than one reason if you can!)
  2. How will being self-harm free change my life for the better?
  3. What is one small thing I can start (or continue) doing today that will help me avoid hurting myself?
  4. What milestones can I set to help mark my progress? How can I reward myself for reaching those milestones? (e.g. "When I reach 30 days clean, I will treat myself to a fancy new journal")
  5. What does my support network look like? Are there any other groups or individuals I can reach out to in order to strengthen my support network?
  6. What coping strategies do I find the most helpful for dealing with cravings? Which ones might I need to change out for something more effective?
  7. What small, easy self-care practices can I incorporate (or continue to practice) that will help me maintain my mental and physical health?

Self-Harm Prompts for Coping with Relapse

These self-harm prompts can be used to work through the difficult experiences and emotions associated with relapsing during the recovery process.

  1. What events, thoughts, or feelings may have played a part in triggering my relapse?
  2. Are these potential triggers things I can avoid or change in the future? If not, can I change how I perceive or react to these triggers?
  3. How did I feel when I first relapsed? How do I feel about it now?
  4. If someone I love was going through this, what would I say to them?
  5. Do I have a relapse plan in place that I can follow? (If not, now may be a good time to write down some steps you can follow now and, if necessary, in the future as well)
  6. Rewrite your relapse incident, imagining what alternatives to self-harm you could use to cope with your triggers.
  7. Write a letter to yourself expressing forgiveness, kindness, and understanding.

I hope you find these prompts helpful. If you have other self-harm journal prompts you'd like to suggest, please add them in the comments—the more, the merrier.

Social Support Can Help Holiday Anxiety

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Here we are in the second holiday season of the pandemic. Even though things have changed over the past year, there are still many areas of uncertainty and things that are anxiety-provoking. Dealing with anxiety during the holidays becomes vital, and particularly during these uncertain times.

For myself, anxiety tends to increase during the holidays for several reasons. Over the past couple of years, my family has dealt with many changes, and with those changes, I have become very aware of times that I've felt very anxious. So, this holiday season, I have found myself being more vigilant of my anxiety symptoms. I am more aware of what I am feeling and how things are affecting me. One of the things I have found to be so important is to have a strong support system.

Why Social Support Helps Anxiety During the Holidays

Many times, I think the term social support tends to bring about ideas that this pertains to being social and being around others in social settings. But even though social support can include that, it is so much more than that. Social support refers to those in your support system, those around you whom you can lean on when you need assistance, and those who can help you cope with stress.

This has become so important during these times, and it becomes critical around the holidays, as there tend to be unique stressors that contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed. I often feel anxious around the holidays, and sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint what has triggered those feelings. But because of this, I also know it is important to lean on my support system, even if it is simply to express what I am feeling so that I don't feel so overwhelmed.

Talking to someone you trust is helpful to express your feelings, to identify your feelings, and sometimes for helping you to put those feelings into perspective. Additionally, this can be helpful for problem-solving when you are dealing with challenges. Your support system should be a person or persons you can trust who will listen to you and allow you to express yourself without judgment and with care and compassion.

But even more so, during the holidays, leaning on your support system allows you to sustain and maintain positive connections with others, which can help relieve stress. Maybe people in y our life help distract you from things that have triggered your anxiety, or maybe they help you to stay grounded. Maybe they help you to focus on the moment instead of the past or future. Or maybe they simply bring about positive feelings that help to calm your anxiety. In any case, maintaining connections with others is beneficial, especially during the holidays.

During this pandemic, and even if the holidays do not look exactly like they used to, there are still ways to stay connected with others. This includes: taking advantage of technology, making it a priority to spend time with loved ones, and finding ways to interact with others.

As someone who is quite introverted and can find it challenging to engage with others, I have found that being aware of the benefit of maintaining social connections is critical for me in making sure that I do so. Therefore, it is important that I am self-aware of my anxiety -- especially during this time of year -- and that I reach out for help when I know I am feeling particularly anxious. Sometimes, simply being around others is helpful enough to pull me from my worries. Share in the comments below any strategies you find are helpful for using the support of others to help with your anxiety during the holiday season.

Stop 'Correcting' Mental Health Language

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People feel the need to "correct" mental health language constantly. This is mainly a product of political correctness and virtue signaling -- both of which I detest. In fact, talking about mental health and mental illness is like talking through a minefield. Wrong mental illness name -- boom -- you've exploded. Wrong sentence structure -- boom -- you've exploded again. And the thing is, running around correcting mental health language simply shuts down conversation altogether, and that's exactly the opposite of what mental illness needs. Mental illness needs more open acknowledgment, not people shuddering in the dark scared of being publically shamed for incorrectly using words.

Correcting Mental Health Language Examples

Here are some of the ones I detest the most:

  • I'm bipolar -- wrong -- you have bipolar disorder.
  • The mentally ill have higher rates of addiction -- wrong -- people with mental illness have higher rates of substance use disorders (that's a twofer).
  • I suffer from bipolar disorder -- wrong -- you experience bipolar disorder.

All of those corrections just make me want to gag. On the left, you have perfectly acceptable English, no hate language, nothing untoward, and yet, the mental health language on the right is considered to be "correct." And if you dare use any of the examples on the left, people will absolutely jump down your throat and correct your mental health language. No one likes to be corrected, of course, but to be corrected, not because you were incorrect, but because someone thinks they are more correct, is maddening.

Why Do People Correct Mental Health Language?

As I said early, the main reasons are political correctness and virtue signaling. We, as a society, evolve our language over time. This is normal. But the problem is the way we evolve our language. Some evolutions are justified, such as when hate speech becomes no longer tolerable. For example, using a recognized slur in common speech should be corrected. It's just not okay.

However, society has also decided to tune language at the behest of an extremely loud minority -- many of them advocates with decent motivations in their heart. For example, if I say, "I'm bipolar," it's most likely someone who considered themselves an advocate who will "correct" me. These people, seemingly wanting to help people with mental illness, are stomping on me, a person with a mental illness. Nice work.

These advocates, knowingly or not, are often driven by virtue signaling. In other words, they make this "correction" of mental health language specifically to prove that they are more enlightened, a better advocate, or, in short, more virtuous than you. I don't respect this in the slightest. Put your resume up against mine. I have 18 years of experience writing about mental health and mental illness and have written more than 1000 articles on bipolar disorder alone, not to mention that I have lived with bipolar disorder for 23 years now. How are my bona fides? And you're correcting me?

Respect -- Don't Correct -- Mental Health Language Differences

People may be using mental health language you don't agree with for many reasons, and I would ask that you respect that and not jump down their throat. But, at the very least, you can respect people who are using the language to refer to themselves. This video explains more of what I mean:

Because really, here, what we're talking about is mental health language differences. Many examples of mental health language "corrections" are not inherently better; they are just different. If those differences matter to you, then I suggest you go with them. But it's not appropriate to jump down every else's throat just because they either don't know about or don't want to jump on the latest politically correct bandwagon with you. Sure, if someone makes an actual error with regards to mental health, something factually wrong, then, yes, offering more information on that topic is warranted. But stop being the language police. All you're doing is just scaring people away from us and our cause.

How to Find Peace and Gratitude This Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving gatherings trigger feelings and emotions for everyone, but not all of those feelings are of peace or gratitude. Some people have wonderful memories of celebrating with childhood friends and relatives. Many of these people feel excited to reunite with loved ones they have not seen in a long time. Other people have unpleasant memories of the holiday. Many of these people feel stressed out, sad, lonely, angry, etc. If you feel anxious or depressed around Thanksgiving, it can be hard to find peace and gratitude. Here are six tips to help you feel better during Thanksgiving.

6 Ways to Find Peace and Gratitude This Thanksgiving

  1. Acknowledge your triggers. If Thanksgiving sparks negative thoughts and feelings for you, it is important to identify your triggers. For instance, if you have lost a loved one around this time of the year, you might feel depressed. If you know that you will see a toxic family member, you might feel anxious. As hard as it is to let yourself think about your triggers and emotions, doing so will allow you to mentally prepare for gatherings.
  2. Talk to trusted family members or friends. Struggling with anxiety and depression can feel very lonely. You might think no one wants to hear about your concerns. But the truth is, someone in your circle might feel the same way you do. By picking out a few people to talk to about grief or a toxic family member, you can come up with ways to get through the festivities together. If you are close to the host, you can ask for permission to invite a friend to the celebration.
  3. Give yourself time to relax. People often make a big deal about the time around this holiday being busy. But it does not have to be busy for you. It is okay to enjoy some time with yourself, especially before a big celebration. Ask a loved one to babysit your child while you take a nap. Bask in a bubble bath. Turn off your phone. Decline a party invitation. Do what makes you feel relaxed so that you will be ready for the holiday activities.
  4. Create a mental health wellness plan with your therapist. Having a mental health wellness plan is essential to cope with mood disorders at any time of the year. This is especially true around Thanksgiving. Your therapist can help you identify your triggers, come up with coping activities, and create a list of supporters to contact. By having coping strategies and support contacts in place, you will feel more confident and relaxed before a gathering.
  5. Set appropriate boundaries. If someone says something that triggers you during your feast, it is okay to set boundaries. Tell the person that you do not feel comfortable talking about a certain topic. If they do not listen, politely excuse yourself from the table. Taking action to maintain your boundaries will help you gain control of your emotions. 
  6. Create a simple gratitude list. At this time of the year, many people share several things that they feel grateful for. Facing negative events and emotions around Thanksgiving can make it difficult for you to find gratitude. If this is the case, come up with two or three things that make you feel good. For instance, do you have specific friends or family members who lift you up? Do you have a favorite memory, hobby, or food? As trivial as these things might seem to others, they are important to you. That is what matters.

Try at least one of these strategies this Thanksgiving. Do you have any of your own coping techniques? If so, help others find peace and gratitude by sharing your ideas in the comments.

Why I'm on Antidepressants Even Though They Make Me Lazy

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I have been taking antidepressants since 2018, even though they make me lazy. They are lifesavers that help keep my clinical depression down to a manageable level. However, they come with a hard-to-ignore drawback: they make me feel drowsy. I have long been one of those people who are slightly sleepy at all times. Antidepressants, while giving me clarity of thought and a will to live, make me more sluggish than usual. 

Antidepressants Make Me Lazy: Significantly Less Productive

All medicines have a range of side effects, and antidepressants are no different. Side effects vary from person to person, and so does the intensity. While I have to put up with a few other undesirable side effects due to my medication, they are low in impact. Drowsiness is by far the worst side effect that affects both my personal and professional life. 

It's a given that if you are feeling constantly sleepy, you will be less productive. In other words, my antidepressants make me lazy, or at least less awake than I used to be when I was unmedicated. Today, I have to consistently push myself to do things that "normal" people accomplish without a second thought. From waking up when my alarm rings to beginning work in the morning, many things are a struggle for me now. Even though I try my best to be productive, there are days when I get tired of fighting the urge to rest. I often give in and take some time off. I rearrange my schedule according to my energy levels to make time for a nap or two. 

The Pros Outweigh the Cons

In a fairer world, antidepressants would not make me want to lie in bed as much as possible. However, feeling drowsy is a small price to pay as compared to the pros of antidepressants. I would rather be groggy and less productive on medication. Because I know that the alternative will lead to unmanageable levels of depression and increased suicidal ideation, I will continue to take my pills. Ultimately, my life is much more valuable than the number of hours I put in at work. Depression is a disability, not a choice, and I will not apologize for taking care of myself. Yes, my work matters to me, but my quality of life is far more important. I will continue to take my antidepressants for as long as I need them.

Are you medicated? What effects do your pills have on your productivity and work-life in general? Please let me know your experiences in the comments below. 

Recovering from Abuse the Right Way

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If you are leaving an abusive situation or are trying to put one behind you, congratulations. Finding the strength to do what is best for you can be difficult, but it is worthwhile. However, recovering from abuse, whether verbal, emotional, physical, or otherwise, is not easy, and the path can be full of triggers or roadblocks. 

Why Proper Abuse Recovery Is Critical 

You may think that everything will be okay once you leave a verbally abusive situation, and your life will return to normal. Unfortunately, for many individuals, that is not the case. The effects of verbal abuse can last for years, especially if the victim does not seek active recovery treatment and healing methods. 

Without proper healing and recovery, individuals may harbor resentment, mistrust and have silent triggers that can cause their emotional state to spiral without any warning. This hampered emotional state can directly affect the victim's personal relationships, work environment, and any interactions with others throughout life.

Sometimes the individual does not even realize why negative circumstances happen to them because they cannot see how their deep-rooted internal scars are altering their world. Not surprisingly, childhood abuse, trauma, and neglect can physically change the brain's composition, significantly impacting a child's developmental milestones. 

Proper recovery from abuse can help reduce the ill effects of abuse, whether it comes from childhood, an intimate relationship, or a workplace environment. 

Some Considerations with Abuse Recovery 

If you want to recover and heal from abuse, I applaud you. Taking steps to find a healthier balance in your life is challenging and is not always easy. It is important to take in some of these considerations when you are on the path of healing from abuse. 

  • Your recovery will look different from someone else's. Do not compare your healing to others since each individual will move away from abuse differently.
  • Be gentle and patient with yourself. You may be fine one day and face harsh triggers another day. This process takes time and will not happen overnight. Remember that you are doing the best you can right now.
  • Try to eat healthy, exercise, and get enough rest. Taking the necessary steps to feed your body and mind will be especially important during your healing.
  • Do not avoid asking for professional help. Healing from abuse is a messy situation, and having someone with training to provide the tools you need can make a huge difference. 
  • Accept any negative thoughts you may have, process them, and then move past them. Do not ignore your sad or angry feelings since this will just prolong your recovery. Accept them and learn how to move on from them so you no longer dwell on these negative emotions. 

There are many ways that you can recover from abuse. Finding which methods and tools work best for your situation can help you heal and move forward away from that part of your life. Remember that you are never alone in your journey, and take your recovery one step at a time. 

Maintaining a Self-Harm Sober Streak Through the Holidays

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Maintaining a self-harm sober streak can be difficult in the best of times, but for many people, the holidays can be especially trying. Here are some things to keep in mind while walking the path of self-injury recovery this holiday season.

Why Staying Self-Harm Sober During the Holidays Is Hard

It doesn't matter whether your self-harm sober streak has lasted a day, a month, or a year. The holidays represent many things to many people, but all too often, they hang upon us a pressure that can be overwhelming to bear—especially if you are trying to bear it alone.

If you see the holidays as a stressful time, the source of that pressure is obvious. But even if you look forward to the so-called "season of giving," there's stress inherent in that, too. You may feel pressure to buy beyond your budget, or to spend time with people you would rather not. Even if you're excited to celebrate with friends and family, that's still positive stress.

And all of that excitement and stress builds and builds, and can quickly become too much to carry if you do not have the support and coping strategies in place to deal with it healthily. And if you turn to self-harm to cope, the stress of relapsing—and of hiding that relapse from friends and family—may only make matters worse.

How to Maintain a Self-Harm Sober Streak in Times of Stress

If your perception of the holidays is a positive one, it's easy to get wrapped up in preparations and festivities and forget to look after your mental health. And if your outlook is negative, the difficult feelings that this season can stir up can also trigger self-harm cravings.

In both cases, the most important thing is to make space for self-care. If your schedule is full to bursting, try and cancel a few activities where you're able and pen in some time just for you. If your schedule is empty, avoid isolating yourself completely. Try and make some plans, whether in person or remotely, with people you enjoy spending time with. You don't have to celebrate anything you don't want to; it's enough just to have a good time together.

If you feel you don't have anyone you can turn to for help, support, or good cheer, now is a great time to look into joining a support group. Don't feel up to it? Try a hobby group instead—anything that you could conceivably enjoy doing with other people, whether online or locally.

Now is also a good time to consider therapy. If you're not already actively attending sessions, signing up now for some kind of professional mental health support can help boost your ability to stay self-harm sober during the holidays. If you can't attend in person, remember that there are remote options, too.

What If You Break Your Self-Harm Sober Streak During the Holidays?

First of all, don't panic. You're far from the first person—or the last—to relapse during the holidays. There is help available if you need it. Call emergency services or a hotline if you need urgent help, or call your therapist. If you don't have one, talk to a friend or family member if you can. You can even comment on this blog if you like.

The important thing is to reach out to your support system. If you don't have one, there's no time like the present to begin building one.

Remember, relapse during the holidays isn't uncommon. It's an overwhelming time for many of us, myself included. While yes, it's obviously better to avoid relapsing if you can, know that if you cannot, it does not mean you are a failure or that you are weak. It simply means that you have stumbled along the path to recovery, but you can still pick yourself up and begin again.

Just take it one day, and one step, at a time. And remember what the holidays are really supposed to be about—love. That includes self-love; never forget that.