Mental Health App Review: Pacifica

The Pacifica app is a new find with a bit of everything to track and treat your mental health on the go. There are some great aspects of this well rounded app and some things I’d like to see improved. If you want the condensed version, Yes. I would recommend this to a friend.

What you’ll see first is the “Mood” screen. You can log your mood between “great” and “awful”. If you’d like, you have the availability to write in details associated with the logged mood. From this page you can also quickly navigate to a journal/thought log which you can do a minimalist version of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which is recorded and can be referred back to.

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This feature allows you to write a distressing thought, highlight the inaccurate or negative parts of the thought/feeling and recognize the cognitive distortions. What I appreciate about this bit of the app is that while it’s on my phone, I can conveniently plug in my negative or obsessive thoughts without having to scribble them down elsewhere and then transfer them to a journal I keep specifically for CBT. Seeing as how it’s usually too much of a hassle to keep my CBT logs together I don’t do them, this allows me to have them in some form. Cool, right? What I don’t like is that if you want to go back to edit the thought later, there is no option to.

There is also a Goals section. You can choose a long term goal (mine is “feel less stress or anxiety in social situations”) and choose daily goals. Write your own or pick from a large selection of pre-made challenges such as ‘sit in the front during class or a meeting’. There’s a tab that logs your completed challenges. Though this is nice in concept,

The Health section allows you to decide what goals you’d like to meet for yourself every day to stay well. Hours of sleep, minutes exercising, etc. If midnight rolls around and you forgot to check in, you can tap back a day and fill out the information (this feature is unavailable on the website). This is great for folks like me who tend to neglect remembering to fill it out until 12:02am and then have to back up.

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Social aspects of the app include Groups (“Groups are private chats centered around peer support”), and Community, which is more of a forum than a chat room. Again these are great concepts. I feel that Groups lacks the depth it could have. With hundreds of members in a 1 section chat room it’s hard to lose focus or let everyone have a turn like you can in a forum setting. However, in Community, which offers some more of that depth, it lacks in the availability of mental health support groups. I love that it has forum space for things like books and general community, but I would prefer to be in a forum about Bipolar Disorder (and OCD) rather than a chat room about it with people that tend to dominate the conversation and a lack of back to back chatter that makes a chat room a great place to communicate (you’ll see people responding every few hours or so instead of seconds).

For $3.99 a month you can unlock all of the meditations (“Relax Now”). There are 15 altogether. You get the first 4 free. I took the bait and gave them my money for a month and was able to review all of the meditations for you guys. I mean the only way to tell if they’re worth it for you personally is to try it, and I believe that they ought to give you a one month free trial option to begin with. I also think that one thing that would make a subscription worth it is if they were to give a different meditation every month or two. Even if they switched it out and gave a different one to replace it, I feel like I’d be on board for that subscription. For all the searching I’ve done for guided meditations, I find these pretty good. They’ve made fitting 5-20 minutes of meditation a day into my routine very easy. 1-5 a day is my goal, but the meditations don’t drag and are to the point which allows for the option of multiple before bedtime.

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Breathing is largely practiced across all meditations. Each meditation also has the opportunity to have either “No Soundscape” or any of these options to accompany the meditation: Ocean Waves, Thunderstorm, Summer Night, Rooftop Rain, Forest Morning, Bach Cello Suite #1, Underwater, White Noise. When the meditation is finished you can “return” or continue sounds. Minor interrupts are noticeable in some soundscapes when sound loop ends. They are most noticeable in the “unguided meditation” which I’ve found soothing to fall asleep to.

  1. Deep Breathing: (FREE) Text tells you when to inhale/exhale. There’s a visual that also widens/becomes smaller as inhaling and exhaling is prompted. You have the option to ‘play breathing sounds’. You can pick your breath length as well in 1 second increments (between 5-25 seconds – holy lord if you can do 25 second inhale/exhales).
  2. Unguided Meditation: (FREE) Just soundscapes here. Length between 5 and 30 minutes, increments of 1 minute. I tend to throw on 15 minutes of Ocean Waves and go to bed without anxiety of having not turned off the sounds. I love the timer option.
  3. Muscle Relaxation: (FREE) Tense up and release all over your body. One of the best ones.
  4. Mindful: Senses: (FREE) Grounding through the five senses. Guided attention from one sense to another. Good meditation.
  5. Mindful: Breathe: Awareness of body sensations while breathing. Attention to the fact your mind may wander and that it’s okay. What I like about THIS meditation in particular is that at the end you get some closure. It says when you’re ready to return to the space around you. They need this in more of them. The lack of ‘closure’ in some of these meditations is a big turn off for me.
  6. Mindful: Observe: Find a small physical object to hold in your hand during meditation. Focus on this item, guided examination of it, an open and closed eyes exercise. This would be a good soothing meditation in a public place with headphones if you were anxious.
  7. Mindful: Body Scan: Grounding through attention to your body in it’s environment. Virtually the same as the sleep meditation.
  8. Anxiety Emergency: Whereas other meditations start with breathing, this jumps first to tell you you’re going to be okay and these are just sensations that are real. “Trust you’re getting all the air you need in this moment.” Grounding using 5 senses. Good meditation. Then affirmations putting logic and control over anxious thoughts/sensations. I’m not a huge fan of all affirmations such as, “I am safe”. I mean I get it, but what if you’re not?! I think something like, “These thoughts can’t hurt me” would be better.
  9. Visualization: Pick your breath length before you start. It’s hard to navigate if you want to record your own mantra with the lack of instructions. They do have ones to choose from though if you’d prefer like, “This too shall pass” and, “I love myself”. Personally, not a fan of this one.
  10. Sleep: Focus on the body. Guided awareness of bodily sensations. I find muscle relaxation a superior meditation to achieve same end to sleep, personally.
  11. Gratitude: Focus on something you’re grateful for. ‘Analyze’ the goodness. Affirmations after. More generalizable than ‘cheesy’ self compassion mantras in later listed meditation. Nice relaxing exercise.
  12. Becoming the Tree: Visualize a tree you’re seen before with some significance. Attention to the environment that has an affect on the tree and how it stands strong regardless of environment. Tree goes through changes, so do you, blah blah blah. It’s decent.
  13. Difficult Experience: Visualize experience that brought up difficult emotions. Examples to help. Allow yourself not to suppress details and physical sensations. Label what you feel. Make it a physical item. I like this one a LOT, but the ending of it doesn’t make me feel super awesome. Perhaps I need more practice.
  14. Self Compassion: Environmental and inner state mindfulness. There’s a prompt to bring to mind something you’re self-critical about and bring attention to sensations in your body triggered by these thoughts then compassionate mantras.
  15. Intense Emotions: Focus’ on bringing attention to thoughts and feeling and to label them as being just that, while stressing that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. For someone feeling intense emotions, I’d recommend the anxiety or difficult experience meditations before this one, but it’s still a good listen.

Thanks for reading folks. Go on now, give it a try.

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The Future is Everything that Hasn’t Happened Yet

One of the clients that lives in the CILA house I am the main DSP for asked me what ‘the future‘ meant. That was the best answer I could come up with. Working with a special needs community (ranging drastically in functioning levels) makes you have to answer a lot of questions you don’t normally think you’d be asked. At least by adults. Some of them more than twice your age. That you cook dinner for. And help learn the difference between pushing and pulling. And teach manners in a grocery store.

I was freshly thirteen when I had the first manic episode I can remember. It lasted MONTHS, and ended with a bang. I had hit the major depressive whiplash from the damage done and thought that my life was over. This was nearly a decade before I’d be diagnosed with Bipolar and several years before anyone would assess me for depression. Either way, therapy wasn’t in the cards at the time, but my dad did hand me a book as a ‘gift’. It was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. The book became my bible. I read it again years later as a 20 something when I was having a really rough time, and it still held its head tall with values for people of all ages.

I remembered this book on my ride home from work when I thought about my future. Big changes are ahead regardless if I welcome them or not, that’s just the way life works. The prospect of some of these had been popping my heart strings tonight and firing my anxiety off like rockets. I thought to myself, “Barbie, if you can cross your arms the opposite way for 30 days, you’ll have retrained your brain. You would make crossing those arms a learned habit, and if you can create a habit like that in 30 days, you can deal with other big changes in 30 days, and looking at it like that makes life changing events seem like much less of a living nightmare.” I felt less like crying after a little clear thinking, but I still felt like crying, nonetheless. I started tapping into memories from different ages and circumstances. My life adventure has been turbulent.

The holiday season every year since I got “the news” about Santa has been an emotional time for me. I think about the mortality of my family, and hold traditions and immediate family bonds more sensitively than I do the rest of the year. I’m also Bipolar, so, duh, I’m extra emotional to begin with. I start to doubt that my boyfriend who I’ve been through the ringer with (who I met 11 years ago this month) and who I’m getting closer to spending the rest of my life with would be able to fully accept the fragile little holiday Barbie that I am inside the grown up shell. I hold up my sword and shield every time I walk out the door, but have only ever let down ALL of my defences in front of my mom, dad, and sister and let myself be 100% vulnerable. One. Hundred. Percent. This is because I know I’m accepted regardless and supported, and of course they’ve known that squishy Barbie for 28 years, in addition, to the Paladin Barbie that I am when facing the world. In fact, I’m sure my family knows that side of me LESS.

I’m embarrassed to show them the paladin the way I’m embarrassed to show ANYONE else the little girl. I’m really horrified to put that part of me on the table for my partner in full, and I wouldn’t even know how. He knows me, he’s my runner up to my immediate family and knows me better in a lot of ways, but I still face fear of rejection in this one aspect of my life. Again, that little girl “me” that only my family has experienced has never even tried going out in the sun before, and I fear how badly and quickly that could start a fire, charring everything around it.

Originally, this post was meant to tell stories from work and about how I miss an online gaming community aspect and how great I’m doing at always keeping myself busy with things I enjoy which makes me feel fulfilled and accomplished. About how I’m the best caretaker I know, how I’m glad to have the opportunity to care for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities and how I’m damn good at it. The perfect fit for the job actually. This post was going to be about how the only aspect of my job I detest and makes me want to call in on a daily basis from anxiety, depression and anger is every other staff I have to work with or under. Their actions and their attitudes. About how come December I’ll have that coveted 1 year of experience in my field, and once I get the degree paper in hand, I can wave around that experience and let the fish bite, moving my career forward. Then this post was going to tell of how my adviser screwed me over unintentionally, and I can’t run the experiment for my independent study until next semester, which pushes back my graduation date another several months, which leaves me feeling trapped at my job, and makes my days a little colder.

I may have squeezed a post into a paragraph, but I feel less constricted that I’ve let ALL those feelings fly. I hope never to stop writing, and I hope people will always be around to read what I have to write. That being said, I’m going to try to catch some Z’s.

Quit that Pickin’!

This is my third full week at the women’s CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement). I work with 3 (soon to be 4) adult women of varying ages with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I fought for the position for months and finally got the main full-time position which has been the focal point of my life right now. This is after nearly a year working at the larger group home that houses 100 individuals with these disabilities at the workshop where we teach life skills.

If you follow the BBQ blog, you know how frustrated I was with the laziness and unjustness of the job, and Lord let me tell you how much better it is to be at the CILA. I’m good at my job, I care very much about the women, and I rock at paperwork. Most importantly I’ve lasered off the incompetence of the workshop staff, and finally feel like I have some control. I’ve been calling myself the “house-mother” because, well, I am! (We spent over an hour on our first big grocery shopping trip today and remembering I’m teaching people how to live and behave in the community from scratch can be pretty rough.)

If you were to ask me if I had kids I’d have to say yes my oldest is 58 and my youngest is going to be 3. Remember for 4 years I was a nanny before all this, and if I never have kids of my own I can say I’ve been able to put my motherly personality to work. I’m proud of that. I’ve always had a big heart and a lot of love to give. I’ve also for the longest time felt bad complimenting myself. It’s a tremendously rewarding job and equally as tremendously difficult. I’ve been keeping my spirits up through the rough spots, and the amount of love the girls give me makes me beam. Anyway, on the side I’m carving out my research for my last semester of my undergrad and trying to take care of the family and maintain some semblance of a social life. Take that 3 and a half years of severe agoraphobia that ruined my mid twenties! You can suck a ****. Look at me now! (No worries life, I’m still kinda miserable and that should be reason enough not to need to jinx me).

I’d have to say the hardest part of life right now is waking up. I feel all the little Lyme Disease critter bacteria I’ve been host to for 14+ years crawling under my skin and traveling to work to make me achy and tired and hypersensitive and itchy and all around miserable. Learning to live with chronic physical illness has been a long process but if I can learn to handle living with my chronic mental illnesses as eloquently, I’ll be in good shape to live out the many more decades I hope to be able to.

On that note, I’m at that point in my life where I need a new man…maybe a woman, I mean don’t judge me here…I’m desperate. I need someone kind and understanding who I can laugh with and most importantly who is a psychiatrist who can up my dosage of Luvox. My OCB’s (Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors) have been out of control and my intrusive thoughts have been throwing frat parties on the regular. My skin picking and fear of my house burning down in particular are REALLY bad right now. I’ve also been off of Ritalin way too long.

If I get one thing done tomorrow before my shift, I’m going to try to make it find a doctor who will take my insurance and my hours and get myself there ASAP. I can do this. I can do this…I can do this. Right?

Bipolar, OCD, and My Cousin’s Wedding

I went to my cousin’s wedding this past weekend out-of-state. If I could change one thing about myself it would be not to brood over things like she’s much younger than me, has known her fiance for a way shorter period of time than I’ve known my non-fiance, and has a picture perfect public relationship with him. Doting over each other and whatnot. Making productions of kisses. That’s just a clogged emotional artery though. Guilt that I’m a couple of years away from 30 now and just finishing up my undergrad, a semester behind my cousin, to add to the embarrassing feelings. Blood however is still pushing through my veins, and thank God for that.

Turns out I had a nice time, and got in some family bonding with extended family that I enjoyed very much. I took a million pictures and was proud they had good composition and decent lighting. Photography has been a hobby of mine for years now and though I don’t currently have a working nice camera, I still managed to use the technology available to take shots. The key is to keep snapping away, and then skim off the crap ones, then skim off the not so great ones, then keep the good ones but show off the great ones. In my opinion at least.

The night we arrived at the hotel I ran to a Walgreens to pick up a card after we ate a late dinner. (I went with my immediate family). I ended up bluntly exposing my feelings about why I wish I had a closer relationship with her (and it’s true, I wish I did). Mental illness was the key component, and the stigma revolving around the subject made me cringe and tear up while writing it.

This was the letter. She hasn’t read it yet as far as I know. They were busy all day and are going on their honeymoon in the morning. I both want her to read it and don’t. I’m scared of her reply. More so I’m scared to be let down by her reply.

“Dear C,

I am very proud of you. I remember little blips of walking down the hospital hallway to see you when you were first-born. I remember dominating bowls of black olive appetizers at your birthday parties at your old Chicago house and playing games like ‘Elefun’ in that living room.

Something old: childhood memories.

Then, to speed this up, you guys moved, later yet i got sick with Lyme and all my confidence flew away and I’ve spent the days since fighting major depression, ocd and bipolar disorder. There IS a point to this recap. You need to know that for those reasons, I have sabotaged my relationships with family and friends for years. It’s an enormous regret of mine that my little cousin is 21, a college grad and getting married i hardly know her. And you hardly know me!

Something borrowed: my ears are yours anytime. I’m a great secret keeper and of course a growing psychologist.

After grandpa died, one of my biggest fears was that if grandma passed away the BARBIE side of the family would fall apart. I’ve meant to start mending gaps and making up for lost time but how do you explain to a perfectly normal extended family  that you carry around a constant sadness and fear that’s not reasonable 90% of the time and it makes it hard to socialize with them because you’re super far from comfortable? Putting that out there for you right now is super terrifying. If you know though, maybe that’s the first step toward having a solid relationship.

Something blue and something new: the color you now know I secretly carry.

You’re about to start a brand new chapter of your life and I’m so happy for you. I felt that if I didn’t tell all that to you, you would never know on the happiest day of your life so far that your big cousin loves you so so much and always has.

Now get out there lady! Get married!!!

‘Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts.’ -William Shakespeare”

Well that’s it. That’s what it was. Of all my impulsive ideas this one wasn’t so bad I suppose. Now if only I could use some of that impulsive energy to knock out so I get some rest tonight. Maybe after accomplishing as much as I did after we got home and additionally emptying my mind of all the thoughts I was saving up to get out, that’ll do the trick.

G’night moon, G’night stars, G’night WordPress.