To My Dad

17 Jun

You’re the coolest person I know.

You also live life more fully than anyone I know – so fully, in fact, that one day and one blog post is not nearly enough to celebrate all that you give to the world, our family, and me. But I’ll try.

My favorite thing I inherited from you is the desire to share the things you love with others. You want the things that bring you joy to bring joy to others. When you have a new favorite song, you play it during our kitchen cleaning jam sessions. When you have a new favorite show, you hype it up until I watch it and, of course, I end up loving it too. When you have a new favorite restaurant, you take the whole family.

It’s a quality I see in myself, and I value it always because the greatest feeling in the world is to bring joy to others. And you bring so much joy to others. Through the stories you tell, the things you write, and the people you surround yourself with.

During the worst times of my illness, the hardest time of day was trying to fall asleep, but you made my nighttimes bearable, even enjoyable. The CD mixes you made for our nighttime drives remain the most epic mixes anyone’s ever made for me. You introduced me to Billy Joel, James Taylor, and Dar Williams – all to help distract me from the things that were hurting me.

And when I was in the hospital, you helped me stay connected to my world. By bringing my favorite PJs, brainstorming how to decorate my new bedroom, and eating Subway meatball subs with me on the days I was allowed visitor meals.

While my illness controlled my every move, you helped provide such normalcy to my life. With sports and Harry Potter movies and camping and homework.

And speaking of homework, thanks for being my best teacher.

Thanks for teaching yourself photosynthesis so you could teach it to me.

Thanks for teaching me how to swim, skate, and shoot a basketball.

Thanks for teaching me that listening is as important as speaking.

Thanks for teaching me it’s just as important to know where you came from as it is to see where you’re going.

Thanks for showing me that the harder you hustle, the farther you’ll go.

Thanks for instilling in me a love of lifelong learning.

And thanks for encouraging me to write my story.

You’re one of the most driven people I know, but you always remember to take others along with you for the ride. Because life is more fun when it’s spent with the people you love.

You live life with an exclamation point. Whether it’s whooping and crying when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, spending 10 hours on the beach, making pancakes for 40 people, or cry-laughing at Parks and Recreation.

I know it’s normal for parents to express great pride in their children’s achievements, but I love expressing how proud I am of you.

I’m proud every time I sit in the audience and hear you speak.

I’m proud every time I see you on TV.

I’m proud when you run marathons.

I’m proud when my friends think you’re cool. (And they all think you’re cool.)

And it’s all because I’m proud to be your daughter.

You’re strong and still, compassionate and giving, smart and hilarious, and the best dad ever.

I hope today is wicked awesome and filled with barbecuing, the Red Sox, indie jams, and Walt Whitman quotes.

Happy Fathers Day! I love you.


Kelly Cub





To My Mom

13 May

Thanks. For everything.

The word “selfless” doesn’t begin to describe you.

Thanks for always picking me up from school early when I needed you.

Thanks for sleeping on my bedroom floor for countless nights to keep me safe.

Thanks for bringing me to the emergency room. Thanks for riding with me in the ambulance. Thanks for visiting every day.

Thanks for crying with me. We did that a lot. At home. In the car. In many parking lots after bad doctors’ appointments. When James Taylor sings “Sweet Baby James” at Tanglewood.

Thanks for laughing with me. We do that a lot more these days. You taught me it’s easier to look back with laughter than to look back with anger. And there’s a lot to laugh at.

Like that time I was so manic that I knit an entire sweater in one night.

Or that time in the hospital when I thought my new meds were upsetting my stomach, but it turned out that the staff was letting me eat too many Fig Newtons.

Thanks for sending me to college. Thanks for letting me study theatre, even though that would make most parents nervous. (Thanks for not letting me know if it did make you nervous.) Thanks for helping me write the speech I gave at graduation. I was up there because of you and the others who guide me in everything I do.

Thanks for that time you followed me when I ran away from home when I was 8. Thanks for now always saying “You can come home” when I’m depressed, even though home is 2 states away.

Thanks for always having the right book to recommend.

Thanks for teaching me compassion.

Thanks for teaching me to be still.

Thanks for letting my dad be the one who taught me how to drive. Good call there.

Thanks for teaching me independence. But also thanks for helping me through my breakups. And thanks in advance for enduring the inevitable meltdowns that will happen when we plan my wedding.

Thanks for always answering the phone at literally every hour of the day. I call when I’m happy. I call when I’m sad. I call when I’m anxious and can’t get on the train. I call with good news. I call when everything is too hard and I just need to hear your voice.

And you always answer. Even if you don’t always have the answers.

When I’m a mother myself one day, I plan on calling you for advice to learn how you did it so well.

Because you did it REALLY well.

You fought my illness for me when I couldn’t do it myself. It was hard on the whole family and somehow you made sure we all came out the other side in one piece.

Thank you for helping me write my story. And thank you for using my story to help others.

You are beautiful of mind, of body, and of spirit. I am forever amazed by the depth and breadth of your capacity for love and understanding.

I am who I am because of you. So thanks for that.

And Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.






Favorite Recipe: Sweet Potato Banana Cookies

10 May

A healthy diet is essential to my mental fitness. It’s been scientifically proven that the food you consume affects your brain as well as your body. I’ve certainly found this to be true. There are times when I can find a direct link between my mood and what I’ve eaten. When I eat a lot of processed sugars, I feel my ADHD and mania ramping up; when I eat too much dairy, my mind feels slow and lethargic; and when I haven’t eaten enough I have no motivation to keep up with my busy schedule.

So I try to keep to a diet that both fuels my body and my mind. This is an ongoing, years-long process that I haven’t perfected yet, but through trial and error and a few wrong turns, I’ve landed on a few healthy eating habits that really work for me.

One aspect of my diet that I’m always working on is finding substitutes for desserts and sweets. I have a HUGE sweet tooth, and sometimes my cravings get the better of me. I’ve been known to demolish a giant bag of Haribo gummy bears indecently quickly or put way too much Nutella on my waffles. So I’m always on the hunt for recipes for snacks that are sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, but don’t affect my physical and mental health too much.

So today I’m going full-on lifestyle blogger and sharing one of my favorite healthy recipes for sweet potato banana cookies. Sounds weird, but trust me, if you like sweet potatoes and bananas, you’ll like these. 

Both sweet potatoes and bananas are really good for you, but they also have a lot of natural sweetness to them, so when combined, the sweetness is amped up and you have a healthy, delicious snack. I make these in bulk and keep them in my fridge to pack for lunch or grab when I’m running out of the house. For other runners out there, I’ve found these to be really good pre-running snacks.

This recipe is inspired by the Youtuber who calls herself Cheap Lazy Vegan. I’m not fully vegan, but I do my best to keep to a meat and dairy-free diet because that’s what feels best for my body and mind. Even if you’re not vegan, I would recommend checking out her channel. She has hundreds of super healthy, inventive recipes and she’s super fun to watch.

Okay, onto the recipe!


2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 cup)

2 large bananas

1/4 cup of unsweetened soy milk (can be swapped out for any kind of milk)

1 cup of oat flour



Preheat the oven to 375°F

Cook the sweet potatoes until soft. I find it easiest to bake them one at a time in the microwave. Just pierce them a few times with a fork and cook for 7 minutes. You can also peel and steam them or bake them in the oven. Whatever you prefer. The insides just need to be soft and able to be scooped out of the skin.

I make my own oat flour by tossing a handful of old fashioned oats into my Hamilton blender. I only blend them a little bit, keeping it a little chunky, because I like the cookies to have an oatmeal cookie vibe.


Peel and mash the bananas in a mixing bowl.

Add the sweet potatoes and milk. Mix.

Add the oat flour gradually until the batter reaches a cookie dough consistency. Don’t go overboard with the flour. The more you add, the more likely you are to get a bland, cardboard-y taste. Let the sweetness of the bananas and potatoes come through. Add just enough flour that the cookies will hold their shape.




Grease a cookie sheet liberally. (Sweet potatoes and bananas are sticky!)

Roll the batter into cookies and place on the tray. These don’t expand in the oven, so you can place them close together, but don’t make them too thick because they won’t bake fully.

Bake for 35 minutes.




Be sure to refrigerate! Even though I call them cookies, they have milk and cooked potatoes, so they’ll go bad if left at room temperature for a few days.

Try these out and let me know what you think of them! 

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I See My Miracle

7 May

I have an on-again/off-again relationship with God. Ten years ago I would have said I had a love/hate relationship with God, but in the years since then, our relationship has morphed into a certain kind of friendship – the kind where you enjoy each other’s company when you’re together, but if a few months or years go by without contact it’s not the end of the world. There’s an implicit respect, but also an understanding that you’re not essential to each other’s happiness.

At least that’s how I feel. You’d have to ask God how He (or whatever pronoun you choose…) feels.

I was raised Catholic – Catholic elementary school, church every Sunday, a week each summer of religious camp, Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, the whole nine yards. The Nicene Creed is seared into my brain forever. The words “and also with you” involuntarily pop out of my mouth at the weirdest times. I can sing every verse of “The First Noël” without looking at the hymnal. As a child it was just my normal, as a tween it was annoying, and as an angry, bipolar teenager I hated it.

Church told me that God had a hand in everything that happened in my life – good or bad. So that meant God made me bipolar. And I hated Him for that. The cliché Why me? was always present in my mind. God must be a pretty cruel guy to give me an illness that makes me hurt myself, scare my parents and siblings, and want to die. Real cool, man.

I finally started refusing to go to Mass with my family. I couldn’t sit through 7th grade algebra without leaving to cry in the nurse’s office, let alone sit quietly for an hour and hear about God’s plan for me. Fuck God’s plan, I thought.

And then I decided to stop believing in God altogether, and that worked out pretty well for me. I fully subscribe to the idea that you should cut toxic relationships out of your life, and that goes for metaphysical relationships too.

Many people of faith that I know say they feel that a part of them is missing without God in their life, but I didn’t feel like that. There wasn’t a void that needed filling. I just went on living my life none the emptier than I was before.

However, there is one part of religion that I couldn’t shake.

Christians believe that God takes three forms, known as the Holy Trinity – Father (God), Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the mostly unseen, amorphic form of God’s presence that exists in and around us all. (Think, the Force in Star Wars.)

I have always been down with the idea of the Holy Spirit, though I prefer not to think of it in relation to organized religion. I truly believe that there is something more to us all than just mind and body. I like the idea that we each have something within us that is beyond what can be proven by science and logic. I certainly have it. I can’t describe it, but I know it’s there.

When I do try to describe it, I sound like I’m basically describing what many people believe to be God – something other than my brain that guides my choices and influences my life. Sure, calling that presence God works for millions of people, but not me. I have an aversion to organized religion and God is too restricted a term for me. So I don’t call it anything really. When I have to give it a name when I talk to other people about it, I call it my Kelly Flame (which is a little Catholicism creeping back in.)

And I guess my belief in my Kelly Flame is the essence of faith. Faith by definition is believing in something that cannot be proven.

And here’s how my Kelly Flame intersects with my mental health: I have no earthly idea why I’m still here. The obvious answers are my doctors, my medication, and my support system. And that thought is definitely my privilege speaking. I understand how lucky I am to have these things. So many people do not. However, many people who do have my circumstances never recover the way I have.

My favorite quote about faith that I’ve ever heard is from the incredible book I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. A deeply spiritual mother says to her angsty, over-it teenager daughter, “You have to see the miracles for there to be miracles.”

And that’s the essence of my belief in my flame.

I see my miracle.

I see that my reason for still existing is beyond medicine and therapy and parental guidance.

I see that there is something within me that makes me want to live, achieve, and have an existence beyond bipolar disorder.

This is a big part of how I came to peace with my illness. Once I was through the worst of my struggle, I got to a point where I could see my miracle clearly, and that was something to be grateful for. I have been given an intense illness to battle, but there’s something inside me that makes me up for the fight and able to win.

Bipolar disorder is purely chemical – nothing to do with a higher power – so maybe my ability to win is because I have a little something extra on my side. Though sometimes it appears to be beating me with a depressed month or manic insomnia, bipolar can’t shape-shift and adapt as quickly as my Kelly Flame can and I always pull through.

During the times when God and I are in the off-again part of our relationship, I don’t believe much of what I’ve been writing about in this piece. I don’t like to give credit to anything other than my hard work and strong will.

But as I get older, I’ve started marrying those two things into one explanation for my ongoing existence: my Kelly Flame is what gives me my strength and will. So giving credit to my flame means I’m also giving credit to myself.

So when God shows up at my door, I’m always happy to see Him. I don’t need to mention His long absence or feel guilty that I didn’t miss Him. I thank Him for my flame and my miracle and we enjoy each other’s company for a while.

And then He inevitably leaves, and that’s okay. We don’t have to hold onto each other for dear life. For life goes on. And there’s something kind of freeing in that, and freedom from my illness is all I can ever ask for 

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Happy Mental Health Month!

5 May

It’s May, which means it’s Mental Health Month! Every year, the mental health community uses the month of May to share stories, raise awareness, and bring together mental health professionals, allies, and, of course, those of us living with mental illness. It was started in 1949 by Mental Health America. The organization describes the month this way:

Since 1949, Mental Health America and our affiliates across the country have led the observance of May is Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. We welcome other organizations to join us in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about by using the May is Mental Health Month toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities.¹

The topic of mental illness is vast, so every year there is a theme to Mental Health Month, which Mental Health America and other organizations choose to focus their programming on. Previous themes include: Mental Illness Feels Like (2016), Healing Trauma’s Invisible Wounds (2012), and Get Connected (2008).

This year’s theme is Fitness #4Mind4Body.

When we talk about health, we can’t just focus on heart health, or liver health, or brain health, and not whole health. You have to see the whole person, and make use of the tools and resources that benefit minds and bodies together. That’s why this year, our May is Mental Health Month theme is Fitness #4Mind4Body. We’ll focus on what we as individuals can do to be fit for our own futures – no matter where we happen to be on our own personal journeys to health and wellness – and, most especially, before Stage 4. ²

And Mood Sponge will be joining in the movement! I absolutely love the idea of talking about mental healthcare through the lens of fitness. The mind and body cannot be considered separate entities when it comes to treatment and care. Psychology and physiology are deeply intertwined, so when you care for one, you’re caring for the other. And conversely, when you neglect one, you’re neglecting the other.

This month, Mood Sponge is going to be filled to the brim with #4Mind4Body pieces (and maybe some random things too).

So, sign up for email alerts, follow @MoodSponge everywhere, and join the celebration with me! 


A Little Bit Late

19 Mar

I’ve always been a little bit late.

5 seconds late to get the sarcasm

5 minutes late to an event

5 months late to get into that new song that everyone’s been talking about

5 years late to read that book everyone else read in school

Growing up, my life’s timeline was entirely controlled by mental illness. I felt frustrated and ashamed that I was hitting certain milestones much later than my peers. I wasn’t able to hang on to deep, meaningful friendships until college. I couldn’t get my driver’s license until I was 18. I couldn’t sit down and read a book for fun until my twenties.

I was living mania to depression to mania. Good day to bad day to awful day. Appointment to appointment. Hospitalization to hospitalization.

I had no choice in the matter. If I tried to take a dance class, I couldn’t remember choreography because of my heavily medicated mind. When I agreed to hang out with friends, I would get anxious and end up bailing. I dropped out of high school halfway through my sophomore year and didn’t pick my education back up for almost 2 years. And I didn’t take a gap year to travel the world or find myself – I was unstable, unable to live anywhere but with my parents, and hospitalized that February. I actually wrote my college applications in the hospital.

I hated every birthday in my teen years because it was just a reminder that I hadn’t achieved anything other than still being alive. I was missing out on having a “normal” life. I wanted nothing more than to attend school every day, go to prom and football games, and have a dumb retail job. But there was room for nothing more than therapy, medication, and bipolar disorder.

But then something funny happened.

These years passed. I grew up. I stabilized.

And somehow, through immensely hard work and a strong support system,  I became the person my 16-year-old self was desperate to be: a college graduate, a professional artist, an independent and self-sufficient adult. I had friends, a cute apartment in my favorite city, and a life to be proud of.

I learned that there’s no such thing as a “normal” timeline. Who’s to say that my path through school was wrong? Not everyone fits into this societal construct of what childhood and adolescence should be. Some of the most interesting, self-possessed people I know didn’t follow the pre-approved blueprint of life. Either through their own choice or circumstances beyond their control, they said no thank you to hopping on the conveyer belt.

So I started playing catch-up. I started doing all the things I couldn’t do as a kid, but I was now capable of doing as an adult. I read all the books that everyone else read in middle school and high school: The Giver, The Outsiders, Walden, Pride and Prejudice, and The Diary of Anne Frank. Honestly, I don’t think 1984 would be my favorite book today had I been reading it knowing that I had to write a paper on it for class.

I had always wanted to be a dancer, so I started taking a beginner’s adult ballet class. (It’s actually called Ballet Workout. I live in New York – a city of dancers – so “beginner’s ballet” for adults is actually filled with formerly amazing dancers who are looking to get back in the swing of things, but can still do perfect pirouettes and cross-floor combinations. In my class, no one can do the splits or dance on pointe, but I get to wear a bun, tights, and ballet slippers, and live my dream of taking dance classes.)

I taught myself about politics and history by reading books, watching documentaries, and going to talks. I learned about Shakespeare by seeing it performed and performing it myself. I took fashion design and photography classes at the local art museum. And slowly but surely, I caught up. I had fewer and fewer embarrassing moments when the cracks in my education showed.

And as I evolved so did my feelings about my timeline. I started to look back on my twisted, atypical path through adolescence with a new perspective. While living through the horrors of full-blown, severe childhood mental illness, I was becoming hardened to adversity, empathic to the struggles of those around me, and strong-willed as hell. Bipolar disorder tried to kill me, but it did not.

To put it simply, I am who I am today because of how I got here. Not in spite of it. Because of it. I would not have the life I do now had I not broken away from the pack and been forced to fight my way through the forest while everyone else stuck to the well-worn path.

I became less ashamed of always being late, and proud of the fact that I eventually caught up to everyone else. Others got to take the highway and I had to take the side streets. Now, as an adult, I’m not easily scared off of trying something new and different because I was forced to be different from a very young age. What may be daunting to others is less so for me.

Being late is okay sometimes. I say, screw the system and do what’s right for you, your life, and your happiness. Every human is unique, so we should be allowed to live a thoroughly unique life, free from the judgment of people who have a narrow view of the world. (Easier said than done, I know.)

It’s also okay to never show up at all. I never had a high school graduation. I took the GED, dropped the mic, and went to college, leaving all that pain and anger behind. I don’t regret that for a second.

As a teenager, I may have been late to most “normal” experiences, but I was certainly early to many more. It’s hard to quantify maturity, but I grew up faster than most kids. I had to. I understood my brain and body far sooner than my peers. The diverse group of kids that I encountered in the hospital opened my eyes in ways that would not have happened in my small, suburban town. I laughed less, but I understood more.

Though the laughter returned long ago, these days, my life is still imperfect. I will always be bipolar, so every once in a while my life takes a detour – a spell of depression that makes me anti-social, a panic attack that makes me late to work, mania that messes up my sleep pattern. But my life is also the best it’s ever been. I turn 26 this Sunday and I’ve never been so happy to have a birthday.

Time marches on whether I want it to or not, so I’ve stopped classifying my life experiences as late, on time, or early. That only breeds anxiety and self-doubt. I’ll never have everything straight and I’ll probably always be a little bit late, but I’m proud of the life I’ve built on top of this mixed-up, out-of-order adolescence and that feeling is timeless. But I apologize in advance for being late to your party 

For a more in-depth look at how I overcame the worst years of my bipolar, take a look at my previous piece Life With Bipolar Disorder.

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My On-the-Go Anxiety Kit

12 Mar

My anxiety and panic attacks sometimes hit me when I’m out of the house, and at these moments I don’t have the time or space to employ the coping skills I can do in the privacy of my home. I take public transport almost every day and I have a job that can get pretty stressful, so on days when I’m not in the best headspace my anxiety can be a real problem. So today I want to share a few essential items I always bring with me when I leave the house to help deescalate my negative thoughts:

1. Noise cancelling headphones and a phone filled with podcasts and music

This is my go-to when I’m on a crowded train during rush hour. Audio that distracts my mind from the loud noises and hoards of people around me is massively helpful, so I always make sure my phone is loaded with my favorite podcasts and music.

I have two favorite anxiety-free podcasts: Arianna Huffington’s pod called Thrive Global where she interviews notable people and celebrities about their daily practices that improve their productivity, creativity, and physical and mental wellbeing. It’s fascinating. My two favorite episodes are with Jennifer Aniston and Demi Lovato – two ladies who are big proponents of self care no matter how busy your life is.

And Tara Brach’s podcast. Tara is a goddess of Western Buddhist practices. Her podcast is a combination of live lectures she gives in Washington D.C. and short meditation exercises. I definitely recommend checking her out. Her voice is unbelievably soothing.

For music, I usually go for a musical soundtrack or movie score, so I can visualize something other than the present environment causing my negative thoughts. You wouldn’t think the Les Miserables soundtrack would be conducive to treating anxiety, but, hey, it works for me. Don’t over think it.

IMG_6693   IMG_6694

2. Stress ball

This is a simple one. I have this amazing stress ball that I’ve had for almost 10 years that I got in the hospital. It’s not made out of the typical Nerf-like foam material. It has a gel-like texture with a lot of resistance, so I can squeeze it really hard and it doesn’t smush up like a regular stress ball. It feels like something Brookstone would make. It’s also small enough that I can almost cover the whole thing with one hand, so it’s pretty inconspicuous. I get really fidgety hands when I’m anxious so having something tactile is really helpful.

3. Things Organized Neatly

Okay, you’ve probably heard of music and stress balls as anti-anxiety measures, but this one is pretty unusual. There are these amazing Tumblr and Instagram accounts called Things Organized Neatly. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s literally pictures of things organized neatly. For example, hundred of crayons in rainbow order or the contents of a toolbox arranged in a geometric array. It’s the most visually pleasing thing you’ll ever see. During a panic attack, my brain and body feel out of sorts and mixed up, so scrolling through pages and pages of beautiful, organized images is so calming to my brain. Sounds silly, but it’s actually so helpful to me. I have it bookmarked on my phone and computer, and when I’m feeling out of sorts, I realign my brain with, say, an image of dozens of rolling pins arranged like a star.




4. Healthy snacks

I have a tendency to stress eat and stress shop when I’m anxious, so I always make sure to have a healthy snack with me when I leave the house. This way, I’m not tempted to buy chips or candy at a bodega. In general, eating healthy is super beneficial to my overall mental health, so I do my best to cut processed sugars and high sodium snacks from my diet. My go-to snacks are apples, baby carrots, and raw greens beans. They’re quick, easy, and can be eaten virtually everywhere – even while power walking to work. Healthy snacking both raises my blood sugar and gives my body an alternative to grinding my teeth. (Bonus benefit: knowing I’m eating healthy eliminates any anxiety I have over my body image, which also suffers on my bad days.)

5. Drugs!

And when all else fails… I turn to good, old-fashioned medication. I carry a little pill container everywhere I go. There are two meds I can take as needed when I’m anxious. They do slightly different things: one is good for when I’m having a persistent feeling of anxiety throughout the day and the other is stronger and is good for deescalating a panic attack. Both take about 20 minutes to kick in and then I’m usually good to go. I cut the tablets in half, so I have the option of taking a half dose if I just need a little relief.

I usually turn to my meds as a last resort, because I don’t want to become dependent on them. If my body gets used to taking a milligram of Ativan every single day, it becomes less effective when I’m having an emergency. And when I try to cut it out of my daily regimen, I get anxious simply because it’s not in my system, which, obviously, is exactly opposite of what I need.

So there you have it: my on-the-go anxiety kit.

It’s a good mixture of both mental and physical coping mechanisms that, when paired together in a variety of combinations, lower my anxiety and allow me to continue my day in relative peace. And they’re all fairly inconspicuous, so I don’t ever feel self conscious about appearing distressed and attracting unwanted attention in public. I just look like a Millennial scrolling through Instagram on the train or eating baby carrots on my break.

They’re my little secrets that make me feel like I have real power over my mental illness, and that is an amazing feeling.


Do you have any anti-anxiety skills? I learned some of these tips from other people in my life, so please share in the comments or shoot me an email at It always brightens my day to hear from my readers, and that, in its own way, helps my anxiety! 

Check out my post about my depression coping skills.

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