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#Fearless But Still, I Rise MHAM Shirts On Sale Now!

It’s finally here, May 1st. That means it’s officially Mental Health Awareness Month, and the But Still, I Rise t-shirts are officially on sale!

I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited about this fundraiser, so if you missed the details in my Mental Health Awareness Month announcement article, here’s what you need to know:

  • The t-shirts are being sold through TeeSpring, and will be available for purchase May 1-May 31 at 11:59 p.m. MST.  You can order them by clicking here!
  • We are selling t-shirts, hoodies, stickers and mugs, all of which will have the beautiful design (created by Allie Dearie) on them.
  • 75% of your purchase will go directly to The Trevor Project, an organization that focuses on crisis intervention and suicide prevention in LGBTQ+ teens. The other 25% will go to helping maintain #Fearless (such as keeping our domain, purchasing a stock photo subscription, or something else that helps keep our site working wonderfully!).
  • Because we know that price is everything, we made sure to price our items in a way that would maximize profit without making you feel like you have to give up an arm and a leg. So, if you haven’t clicked the link yet and want to know the prices we’re selling the shirts for, here they are:
    • $20 for t-shirts
    • $35 for a hoodie
    • $10 for a mug
    • $5 for a sticker
  • This is the most important note of all. On the website, it will have a countdown timer to when the “campaign” ends. Despite what this timer says, the campaign will run for 31 days! That timer is just a countdown to when the shirts will be printed, not to the actual end of the t-shirt sale.

It is my hope that this t-shirt fundraiser will yield a bigger donation than last year’s – which was $220. It would be amazing if we could raise as much money as possible for this wonderful organization! So, tell your friends, your family and your neighbors, and buy a t-shirt, mug or sticker.

Any questions, comments or concerns about the t-shirt fundraiser, don’t hesitate to comment on this post or email contact@hashtagfearless.com.

Once again, if you want to buy a shirt, you can do so by clicking here!

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

#Fearless Family: Why I Stayed

By CMT
#Fearless Family Writer

I had a good portion of this written, and then I erased it all. After a period of dwelling and analyzing, I realized that I was writing down every horrible thing he did to me and found myself explaining my actions to possible readers. I was writing out of anger and I wanted to drudge up a “She-woman Man Hater” club. I wanted strangers to hate him. I was writing from a place of anger and re-living every negative detail made it feel like it was happening all over again. I’ve spent two years trying to heal and forgive him and I was slowly undoing my progress.

“Why did you stay? I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. Well, if it was me, I would have left before it started.”

Whenever I try to talk about my experience about being in an abusive relationship, those are the words that I hear the most. No one likes to be abused and no one stays for fun. I can’t speak for others’ experiences, I can only talk about my own. The more I reflect, I can see all of the red flags; it’s something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Not as a mistake, but as a lesson.

Thanks to  him, I will never let anyone mistreat me. I will not accept anything less than what I deserve; I have found my voice and my backbone. Yes, to stay is a choice, I understand that and it was a choice that I made many times. I’m sure he did love me in his own way, but it was a convenient love, not a soul love. No matter how much love we have to offer someone, you can’t make them love you back. You can’t force them to give as much as they’re getting.

For anyone who is reading this and has gone through something similar, I want you to know that it is okay. Maybe it’s not okay right now, but it will be.

For five years I stayed in a mentally abusive relationship because I thought he loved me. Don’t get me wrong, it takes two to tango. I have my moments that I am not proud of, but I am no longer that young, naive girl. It started off really fast and not from the best circumstances and I allowed myself to go blind to what was happening around me. Any time I would sense something was wrong, I immediately brushed it off. By the time I was aware of what had happened, I felt like I was too far in to back out.

I thought “Maybe if I just love him harder, he’ll change. He’ll be motivated and just needs to be loved through this slump.” So, I did just that. I kept making excuses for his behavior because I thought I was helping him. I was desperate emotionally, financially, mentally, and I thought admitting the abuse to myself would somehow make the situation worse.

It didn’t though, it made me his puppet instead.

I didn’t know who I was anymore and at such a young age when most people are discovering who they are, I had no idea. Because of that, all he had to do was tug on the right string and I would end up doing exactly what he wanted and I thought it was what I wanted, too. I thought everything going wrong was my fault and that I wasn’t doing enough. It was a continuous cycle of abuse, depression, and isolation.

A while back, after I’d left him, I came across a quote that said “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it.” That resonated so deeply within me because I realized that’s exactly what I had done. I thought that I would be throwing away all the hard work I’d put into our relationship. I asked myself what kind of person I would be to leave someone in such a manner who would have nowhere to go or a way to get there. I painted myself as the villain in my own life and I tumbled deeper into a black hole.

I stayed because I thought I was doing right by myself and that leaving would just be running away; I thought I was being responsible.

We always speculate how we would conduct ourselves if found in a certain situation, but honestly, we have no idea until we’re in the middle of it. Even then, we don’t know what we’re doing until it’s over and we begin to reflect. In the end, it doesn’t matter why I stayed, because I got out. I found myself dreaming about better days ahead, realizing that I didn’t want to live my life as a shell of a human anymore, and I was done being scared.

In my line of work, I always tell my clients “Sometimes figuring out what we don’t want leads us to what we do want.” I knew the life I was living was not what I wanted and dreams began to outweigh the fear. I was scared of being alone, but I was already alone. I was scared of being broke, but I was already broke- I knew I could actually break the cycle by living for one instead of two. I was scared of being isolated, but I was already there.

One day at work, someone sent me a picture with the words “Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” That gave me the smallest bit of courage I needed and one by one, I began to cut my strings. I couldn’t get it out of my head and it became a nagging in my mind.

With the love and support of my roommates at the time, I was finally able to break free. It was then in that moment that I saw his true colors. When I told him that I wanted to end it, I saw the fury in his eyes. He stopped loving me a long time ago and was angry that he was losing his free ride. I don’t remember anything that he said to me, but I remember the malice in his voice. That gave me all the confirmation I needed to know that I was doing the right thing for myself.

Since then, I had been asking myself how I would move on from the pain and forgive him. I didn’t want to forgive him because he deserved it, but I did. We don’t forgive others because they need it, but because we deserve peace. It’s cliche, but it’s true; if we don’t, then we can’t truly be happy. If you don’t learn to forgive those who have done you wrong, then you will carry that pain with you and it will manifest in every action.

Forgiveness is also not a one step proclamation; it may take days, weeks, months, or years. It’s something I’ve had to say to myself on a daily basis while enduring random times of crying. The tears would appear out of nowhere, but I had to let them out. I had to make myself feel the pain so it would go away. The longer we suppress our feelings, the longer they will fester. I would allow myself to cry, then I would dry my tears and move on. Whether I was at work, cleaning the house, or waking up from a nap. I refused to cut myself off from emotions any longer and eventually it started to get easier.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was still grieving. There’s no time limit on healing and just because you’re healing doesn’t mean you can’t move on. I have been shown true love and even that it isn’t glamorous like the books try to make us believe. I ended up getting a random message from him with an apology. I was so caught off guard that I started laughing and crying and had no idea what my emotions wanted to do. I decided that I wasn’t going to reply right away, though. I wanted to respond when I wasn’t being ruled by emotions; I needed a clear, grounded state of mind.

When I told a few friends and family about the message, they all scoffed at the action and some were even worried that I would go back to him. I was perplexed by their response, but brushed it off. I wasn’t going to let anyone affect my decisions again.

I replied with a simple sentence: “Apology accepted and I forgive you.”

We are often driven by anger in one form or another and it’s exhausting. To be controlled by anger meant that I was still being controlled by him and forgiving him was an act of taking that control back.

All of a sudden, I could breathe easy, and I smiled because I had finally let go.

Thank you to CMT for sharing this moving story!

If you would like to join the #Fearless Family, please visit the #Fearless Family page for more information on submission guidelines!

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

Everything You Need To Know About… Norovirus!

In probably one of the most requested articles from my support group of all time, I think I may finally possess enough knowledge to write an article about norovirus in a way that will truly do it justice!

Over the years, I’ve learned enough about norovirus that I almost feel like I’ve gone to school to study it! Between my own personal research, talking with those who do actually study norovirus (and other viruses like it), and just having an understanding of science in general, I’ve amassed quite a large amount of knowledge on norovirus.

As a former emetophobic (that still feels weird to say), knowing the facts about norovirus actually truly helped demystify it, and ultimately allowed me to feel calmer going into the winter months. Plus, this information is useful to have for non-emets as well, because families with kids tend to get the hit the hardest.

I figured, why not do this article in the form of modified FAQ? All of the points below are frequently asked, and commonly unknown, questions that come across my group.

What Is Norovirus?

Norovirus, also known as the Norwalk virus (fun fact: It’s called this because the first recorded case of norovirus was in Norwalk, OH in 1968!), is a gastrointestinal illness that causes vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and cramps. It can also cause fever, chills, headache, weight loss and fatigue. Because of the severity of the symptoms, people who get norovirus also struggle with dehydration, which can cause other major side effects.

For those that are more interested in the science, norovirus is actually a type of Norwalk-like virus which can be categorized by non-enveloped, single stranded RNA viruses. According to the CDC, there are currently 6 recognized norovirus genogroups (GI, GII, GIV), but within these groups there are a total of 25 different genotypes. The most common cause of norovirus outbreaks around the world has been the GII.4 genotype.

How Is It Spread & How Do I Get It?

The easy answer is that norovirus is spread by vomit and diarrhea particles, but it of course gets a little more scientific than that. Without getting too in depth, a person can only spread the virus if it is either shedding in their stool or if they are actively sick (as in, vomiting and having diarrhea).

Because the virus is transmitted via vomit and diarrhea, it should come to no surprise that the way it’s spread is by people who do not properly wash their hands after going to the bathroom, and by improper decontamination of affected areas. It takes as little as 18 particles of norovirus to make you sick, so hand hygiene and proper decontamination is extremely imperative.

You can get norovirus in the following ways:

  1. By touching a contaminated surface and putting your hands in your mouth (without washing your hands).
  2. By sharing food/drink/utensils with an actively sick and contagious person.
  3. By eating/drinking contaminated food/water.
  4. By getting vomit/diarrhea in your mouth.
  5. By inhaling the viral mist that arises from throw up.

Now, before you panic, let me explain what viral mist means. Viral mist essentially means that particles from the throw up that can get you sick rise in the air after hitting whatever surface it falls on. Many people when they hear this assume that airborne means it’s free floating through the atmosphere and will ultimately get you sick. That’s actually not true!

When it comes to norovirus, the particles are far too heavy to stay suspended in the air for long, so even if the virus is acted on by an outside force (think a fan, the wind, etc), it won’t stay suspended and float for miles. They will quickly fall to the surface, which would mean that in order to catch it via viral mist, you would need to be right by the pile, as it hit, and also take a huge deep breath in.

Infections via viral mist are actually extremely rare, and if you get sick from someone, it’s more likely because of poor hand hygiene or improper decontamination.

This then leads us to the most ways you CANNOT get norovirus:

  1. By simply sharing the same space as someone who is sick.
  2. By using the same bathroom as someone who is sick.
  3. By walking past a pile of throw up on the ground.
  4. Sharing food or drink with someone, or kissing them, before symptoms are showing.
  5. From a cut/wound, or cracked skin.
  6. From simply touching your face, eyes or ears.

Just being near someone who is sick, or walking past throw up will not be enough to transmit the virus. The virus would need to be ingested in some way, and simply occupying the same space or walking past throw up isn’t enough to make you sick.

What’s The Incubation Time For Norovirus?

From the moment exposure happens and you’ve ingested the particles, norovirus can take anywhere from 12-72 hours to present symptoms. Most commonly, though, symptoms will present themselves in about 24 hours. During this time, a person may or may not be contagious, which sounds silly to say but the CDC and other scientists who study this virus are unsure whether someone is contagious during the incubation period.

If someone is contagious, however, it is through their stool. If you catch it from someone who has not presented symptoms, you did so from them not using proper hand hygiene. Or, it was a total coincidence that you both got sick around the same time! After all, correlation does not imply causation.

I’ve Got It, Now What?

So you, a family member, or a roommate have norovirus. What do you do, and what else do you need to know? Well, the most important aspect to tackling this virus is understanding it’s timeline.

From the moment symptoms start, most people will be actively sick for 12-48 hours. At this point, they will be their most contagious because they will be actively spreading the virus through throwing up and their diarrhea. Once symptoms stop, a person is still actively contagious for 48 hours. This contagious period is usually through the stool, and is a result of improper hand washing and bad decontamination.

After the 48 hour window has passed, a person may or may not be contagious for another 2 weeks following. Again, the strange wording is because many people who study the virus have confirmed the virus is still shed in the stool for up to 2 weeks, but they cannot determine if that virus is active (meaning contagious).

What Can I Do To Avoid Spreading Norovirus?

There are a lot of ways you can stop the spread of norovirus, even if someone in your home already has it:

  1. Properly isolate the person/people who is/are sick. This is useful because it contains the sick person to one area and limits exposure to other family members. While this is not always possible, properly avoiding additional and unneeded exposure is a great way to stop the spread. Don’t bunker them down and dead bolt them away, but keeping them in one room, versus having them bounce from place to place is incredibly smart.
  2. Do not cook/prepare food while sick! This should be a no brainer, but almost 50% of food borne illnesses are norovirus. If you are sick, stay out of the kitchen – it can absolutely wait. Same goes for chefs in restaurants and bakeries, or any person who works in fast food.
  3. Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before eating and/or preparing food, after using the restroom, or after coming in contact with someone who is sick. It doesn’t matter if you use cold or warm water, but 20 seconds is the key number! If you struggle with knowing how long that is, just sing happy birthday twice.
  4. Clean affected areas with a diluted bleach solution. Depending on what you are cleaning this will change, but here’s what you need to know. For stainless steel or food/mouth items, use 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. For non-porous surfaces (think tile floors, counter tops, sinks, toilets, etc), use one third cup of chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. For porous surfaces (like wooden floors), use one and two-thirds cups of chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.  Leave the solution on the area for 10 to 20 minutes, then rinse with clean water. You can also use bleach in your washing machine wash sheets, clothes and towels that may have vomit or diarrhea on them. Use the bleach as directed for clothes on the bottle. It’s also important you get true, chlorine bleach, as other bleaches may not kill norovirus.
  5. Do not go back to school or work until symptoms have subsided. Ideally, you should wait for the 48 hour period is up after symptoms stop, but in today’s world that’s sometimes hard. Once you go back to work, make sure you practice good hand hygiene to avoid the spread to other co-workers.

How Can I Protect Myself & My Family?

So, this question is something that many people ask and the short, easy answer is: the best way to protect yourself and your family is effective hand washing. There have been plenty of commonly passed around methods for magical protections against norovirus, but the bottom line is there is no scientific evidence that those methods work.

Many people turn to alcohol based sanitizers for their winter month protection, but unfortunately, due to the nature of norovirus (being a non-enveloped virus) they do not work. Truthfully, I just tell people to avoid hand sanitzers all together, as typically they kill the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria, which actually makes us more susceptible to sickness.

There are not surefire ways to avoid the virus. Even hand washing is not 100%, but it does help. Many people wonder if there will ever be a vaccine, and that answer is a solid maybe. Scientists are currently working on a vaccine, but it’s been hard to pin down. Viruses, by nature, are not really “cureable”, at least the vast majority aren’t.

According to the CDC, making sure that this vaccine actually would do anything of value is going to be the hardest part. How long does a person have immunity from norovirus, if any at all? Does this immunity extend to other strains? These questions have to all be answered before a vaccine can even be considered.

Can I Become Immune To Norovirus?

Following up the end of the last section, understanding the immunity of norovirus is greatly understudied. The most popular strain of norovirus that makes its way around the globe does offer a small window of immunity, I think 16 weeks at most. However, it’s not something that stays forever, and it’s not something that has been totally confirmed.

An interesting fact, however, is that there is a gene that makes you immune. The rs601338(A;A) gene, when switched on, causes genetic immunity to the infection. It’s actually been shown that 1 in 5 people in the UK hold this gene, but it’s not all rainbows and butterflies for people with this gene. While they do avoid the dreaded winter stomach bug, they have a greater susceptibility to influenza, and other types of bacteria.

You can read more about that gene and what it does here. But, be warned, it’s a bit scientific, but it’s quite the fascinating read!

Got questions that I didn’t answer here, or want clarification on a point that I made ? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them!

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

When will it be enough, America?

59 dead.

525 injured.

22,000 people victimized.

Words cannot express how I felt Monday morning as I watched the coverage of the Las Vegas mass shooting unfold. My heart ached as the death and injury count steadily rose throughout the day, and I felt nothing but horror that a city that I had just recently departed now lies in the shadow of one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent history.

On Monday, I took the day to avoid posting political rants because it was neither the time or place. Thousands of people experienced one of the most traumatic moments of their lives, and it would not have been appropriate to politicize their misfortune.

I did, however, take to Facebook to tell everyone that they should use this as a firm reminder that life is short. That nothing is certain in this life, and you should tell the people you care about that you love them today, because there may be no tomorrow.

However, today is a different day, and today I feel like speaking my mind.

If you are more concerned about the “snowflakes” taking away your second amendment rights or single-handedly destroying your collection of 14 pistols, 25 rifles and 9 semi-automatic weapons than you are about enacting some kind of firearm reform to keep the lives of innocent men, women and children safe I have some news for you: YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

I will say it again, just in case it wasn’t clear enough. If you are prioritizing your accessibility to guns over the safety of our country, you are the problem.

Let me ask you a very important question: At what point will it be a big enough tragedy for you to realize it’s not about YOU anymore?

It wasn’t enough, apparently, when Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook. It wasn’t enough, apparently, when Seung Hu Cho took the lives of 32 VA Tech students. It wasn’t enough, apparently, when Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 58 others at the PULSE Nightclub in Orlando.

And, it’s obviously not enough that Stephen Paddock perched himself on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, NV, and open fired into a crowd of 22,000 people, killing 59 and injuring 525.

So, tell me, when is it going to be enough?

At what point will your empathy and understanding for the human lives lost finally show itself behind your massive amount of privilege and fragile, gun dependent ego?

I do not have the time, patience or ability to empathize with anyone who tries to make excuses or defend what happened in Las Vegas with second amendment arguments.

This is not about you, and you are not the victim of this crime.

If you are the person who is demanding that the current laws regarding firearms are fine the way they are, I encourage you to find a the families of the victims who lost someone in Las Vegas, or Orlando, or Sandy Hook, or VA Tech, and tell them that there needs to be no change to our gun laws.

I want you to sit down, face to face, and tell them that while the loss of their loved one was quite terrible and truly a devastating event, you just aren’t willing to sacrifice your ease of access to firearms for the greater good; that your right to bear arms is more important than ensuring that we minimize the tragedies that continue to plague our country.

And, I want you to tell them that “bad people will do bad things”, and if Adam Lanza really wanted to hurt those 20 children and 6 adults, or if Omar Mateen really wanted to kill those PULSE Nightclub patrons, that they could have done so with a knife, or a car, or a bomb, and it likely would have happened anyways.

If you think you can’t do that, but you’re still fighting to keep the gun laws the same as they’ve always been, perhaps it’s time to accept that you are the problem.

Let me just make one more thing explicitly clear: I really don’t care if it’s harder for you to get a gun, because at least I’m more confident that it’s harder for guns to get into the hands of people who wish to do harm.

Those who make defenses, excuses or belittle the tragedy that took place in Las Vegas with their own slew of victim playing in regards to potential gun reform, please, take a good, long look into your priorities and your soul.

Because, newsflash: this isn’t about you.

What happened in Las Vegas was a devastating tragedy. It is something that I sincerely hope is the wake up call America needs to take action, to begin truly snuffing out this strange obsession the American terrorists have with mass murdering the innocent.

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

But Does It Work? Revisiting Norovirus Prevention Methods

Disclaimer: This information is strictly for the examination of the listed products and their effectiveness against NOROVIRUS. This article does not deny that there could be other, valid health benefits to any of these methods when done in moderation and under the direction of your doctor.

So, over the course of a few months I did a couple But Does It Work? articles on very specific norovirus prevention methods. Specifically grape juice, apple cider vinegar and activated charcoal. I had a lot of knowledge at the time of writing those articles, but in 2017, I have more knowledge, and a better understanding of all these methods, and what it means for norovirus.

In the effort to provide the best, most informative articles I can, I’ve decided to re-do all those articles, plus add a few more, to make one big comprehensive tell all on these commonly used norovirus prevention methods, and finally answer once in for all: But does it work?

Method One: Grape Juice

The Story: If you drink 3 glasses of grape juice every day during exposure to the virus, you will prevent the norovirus as it’s supposed to make your stomach more alkaline (or acidic, depending on who you ask) AND is supposed to help boost your immune system by providing a good dose of vitamin C.

The Facts: Did you know that when you eat, your stomach changes in pH for a brief period of time? This happens because when you eat, your stomach reacts to the influx of items that are different in pH from your stomach. However, it doesn’t last long and it ultimately shouldn’t, as complications from your stomach changing drastically in pH and staying that way would be very bad for us. It’s why people with stomachs that stay more acidic than normal end up with ulcers.

As far as why this matters, norovirus survives the standard change in pH when you eat, whether it be more alkaline or acidic, and ultimately travels to your intestines where it begins to replicate. That’s right, norovirus replicates in your intestines, not your stomach. This slight change in pH while you eat is the same generated effect for grape juice. The difference is, instead of staying at that level like many blogs and sites say, when you drink grape juice, it will effect your stomach no longer than it would when eating. This means that even if your stomach were to become more alkaline or more acidic, norovirus would be unphased because it manages to survive given that situation anyways.

Also, given that norovirus replicates in your intestines, changing the pH of your stomach would not effect much of anything. Plus, any virus that can survive the journey from a very acidic stomach, to the neutral level of your intestines, likely won’t be killed by a slight change in pH to begin with.

There have been studies to suggest that the reason we get sick from norovirus is because norovirus slows our gastric emptying, and not so much because the virus itself causes vomiting (though, that’s still to be determined). There have also been studies that have shown that in controlled lab settings, grape juice when applied to norovirus does kill it, but that’s in petri dishes and ultimately does not reflect how it would react in a human.

Lastly, while grape juice does provide a great helping of vitamin C, just upping your dose of vitamin C per day is not enough to help boost your immune system to prevent norovirus. Plus, drinking copious amounts of grape juice can cause side effects such as: acid reflux, diarrhea, stomach aches, nausea and irritate those with GERD. The amount of sugar you’d be drinking heavily outweighs any health benefits to grape juice, but if you’re looking for a grape product to help your health, try a glass of red wine instead (if you’re of age of course).

The Verdict: This method does not work, and has no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

Method Two: Grape Seed Extract

The Story: If you incorporate grape seed extract into your diet, it will ultimately boost your immune system and keep you healthy from the stomach bug.

The Facts: Much like it’s relative grape juice, this method is going to have a similar fate. Interestingly enough, this was one I had never heard before until recently, but a little research into the topic definitely helped.

The only science I’ve found to back up that this could be useful in preventing norovirus is in an article on a website meant to sell you this product, where they mentioned that while being tested on norovirus in a lab in a petri dish (does this sound familiar?) it killed the virus. However, no tests have been done in humans, and it wasn’t even the human norovirus – it was a surrogate virus which shares the same genome but is not identical.

No where else does it say that grape seed extract is good for preventing gastrointestinal upset. In fact, much like grape juice, side effects of taking grape seed extract include headache, nausea, dizziness, sore throat, itchy scalp and stomach ache. It’s also bad for pregnant women to take.  While grape seed extract does have plenty of other wonderful health benefits, preventing norovirus or other gastrointestinal upset is not on that list.

The other big point that people that make the claim that grape seed extract helps is that it’s full of antioxidants, which ultimately boost your immune system to keep you healthy. While incorporating items into your diet that do help boost your immune system is helpful, just taking grape seed extract alone will not be enough of a boost to prevent norovirus. While it certainly can’t hurt to try, it won’t stop the dreaded winter bug.

The immune system has it’s name for a reason: it’s more complex than just eating right or adding vitamins. Stay healthy this winter by eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, reducing your stress, exercising and practicing good hand hygiene. Everything else is out of your control.

The Verdict: This method does not work, and has no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

Method Three: Apple Cider Vinegar

The Story: Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar every day will ultimately effect the pH in your stomach, causing it to become more alkaline and will kill norovirus.

The Facts: I wish I could simply copy and past the information from grape juice to here, because the answer is virtually the same. As we already learned from grape juice, while drinking ACV does likely shift the pH in your stomach, the likelihood that it shifts it enough to damage norovirus doesn’t seem possible. And, given that norovirus replicates in the intestines, which is drastically less acidic than the stomach, the likelihood that you would ultimately effect your stomach’s pH great enough (that isn’t damaging to you) is likely impossible.

It’s also worth noting that just because ACV makes your stomach more alkaline, it does not mean that the stomach is now alkaline. Making your stomach more alkaline just means lowering the pH, but your stomach will still be acidic. It just means that your stomach will lose acidity briefly and then level back to the normal acidity soon after.

So, if your stomach is usually about 2.0 pH on average, and then norovirus survives that acidity and moves to your intestines to replicate, which is usually 5.5-6.5 pH on average, you’re not going to damage the virus simply by taking a shot of ACV. Your stomach would not fluctuate enough, either in pH or in time, to damage the virus.

The Verdict: This method does not work, and has no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

Method Four: Activated Charcoal

The Story: Taking a tablet of activated charcoal at the time of exposure can prevent you from getting sick; and taking activated charcoal while sick can ultimately reduce the severity of your symptoms or stop the virus all together.

The Facts: When I first researched this method of norovirus prevention I was confused because in all my time, I always thought that activated charcoal was used to make someone throw up, not prevent it. Turns out, my mindset on activated charcoal was just flawed, and that activated charcoal is an effective remedy for nausea…

BUT! The biggest but I can muster, is it’s an effective remedy for nausea when the activated charcoal has something to bind to, like a toxin. Activated charcoal is most commonly used for drug overdoses or when someone has ingested a toxic particle that needs to be neutralized. In fact, in most situations of activated charcoal being used, it’s done in cases where a toxin is being produced by the body that needs to be stopped.

So, let’s talk about how this is relevant to norovirus. Many people feel that if you take it at the time of exposure, say by way of eating contaminated food, it would ultimately stop the virus in it’s tracks. Well, here’s the issue: norovirus is not a toxin. Activated charcoal is most effective when it has a toxic substance to adsorb, and norovirus is not a toxin and the body doesn’t register it as a toxin. It doesn’t poison the body the same way other bacteria may.

Also, considering that the primary reproduction of the virus happens in the intestines, treating norovirus with activated charcoal would not work the same as other viruses or illnesses that replicate in the stomach.

While I cannot speak for nausea in general, I can speak on the fact that taking activated charcoal specifically for preventing and reducing norovirus symptoms seems far fetched. There hasn’t been any science or studies that have shown that activated charcoal effects norovirus in humans, and without the science, it’s dangerous to use this method too frequently simply for virus prevention.

The Verdict: This method does not work, and has no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

Method Five: Colloidal Silver

The Story: Ingesting small doses of colloidal silver will protect you from norovirus.

The Facts: I had a long drawn out explanation but I think I can sum this up even better in a few simple statements. Colloidal silver is literally pieces of silver suspended in some kind of liquid. The silver reacts with the liquid, and then, according to natural and homeopathic websites, it becomes this magical, curative substance.

Here’s the problem with that research: there is no true, scientific evidence that it is this magical curative substance like many say, and there have been countless lawsuits over companies that make these claims by the FDA. Many websites that promote alternative medicine, and other natural, home remedies make claims that it can cure a wide range of previously difficult to treat illnesses like: AIDS, cancer, the common cold, shingles, tuberculosis, and many others.

Also, silver serves no physiological purpose in our body. We don’t need it, it’s not something that aids us in any way, so ingesting it doesn’t necessarily do much for your body. There are also high risks to taking colloidal silver, especially ingesting it. Beyond potentially dying your skin a blueish grey color (permanently!), you can also risk kidney issues, neurological problems, stomach distress, headaches and a few more problems.

The biggest concern is what it does to your gut health. Some studies claim it destroys both good and bad bacteria in your gut (much like alcohol based sanitizers for your hands), while others claim it’s not that it discriminates but that it does disrupt the flora production in your stomach. Either way, ingesting colloidal silver is not good for your gut health when taken frequently, or at all.

As far as it’s potential to fix norovirus? Forgive me for being skeptical, but I would imagine that anything that could possibly disrupt the production of the bacteria that protects you from catching viruses would likely only make you more susceptible to norovirus in the long run.

Want to help your gut health? Take probiotics or eat yogurt!

The Verdict: Can be dangerous to your physical health (especially your gut), and ultimately there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim.

Too Long; Didn’t Read?

Essentially, what you need to know is: none of these methods have been proven through scientific research to be effect for preventing norovirus. Those methods that have had tests on norovirus have been on what is known as surrogate norovirus, which is different than the virus that infects humans. Your best defense to preventing norovirus is understanding how it is spread, what to do when someone in your home become ill, and of course proper hand hygiene.

Have another method that you want me to explore? Leave it in the comments and I’ll get to researching!

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

Finding #Fearless: The Epilogue, Part Two

This is part one of a two part follow up to my series Finding #Fearless.
Names and locations have been changed to protect identities. 

Epilogue, Part One | Epilogue, Part Two


After only seeing my therapist twice in two months, I walked in to my appointment in September feeling different about being there. He asked me, “How are things going, let’s get an update on the past month?”

I took a moment, and that’s when I told him: “I don’t know, I just don’t feel like I need to be here today.”

That’s actually pretty freaking huge.

About a month ago my therapist declared me recovered from emetophobia. It was a very odd transition, because I had literally just started getting back to a normal state of mind. And, not soon after that, I started to have anxiety flare ups again that made me start to question if I could really be recovered.

Did he speak too soon, or did I bite the bait too quickly? What if I wasn’t ready to be deemed recovered and there’s more work to be done to make things better?

That’s when I remembered though, that anxiety and worry are normal human emotions. What I was feeling wasn’t necessarily more than I could handle, but it was a stark contrast to what I had been feeling anxiety wise for the past month: which was nothing.

Being “recovered” is such a new path to walk, seeing as though I’ve struggled with mental health every moment of every day for about 22 years.  And, if I’m being quite honest, it’s kind of scary to be recovered.

The world becomes essentially yours; everything that once held you back doesn’t anymore. You are exploring worry free, have new experiences that you never encountered before, and it means that you’ll like run in to new situations that cause panic that maybe didn’t before.

Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve had a couple people ask me what I would define as being “recovered.” There are plenty of theories for what recovered means, and I think that some people may state that with mental health, it’s not so much recovered, but recovery – an ongoing journey to maintain your mental health and remain stable.

For me, being recovered is defined by the little moments, and absolutely is something that is attainable outside the journey of making your life better.

Recovery is those times when I don’t feel like therapy is necessary, and when something that usually sends me into a 5 day obsession fest is barely even thought about in the moment. It’s those times where I get anxious but I can rationalize with the irrationality, and it’s the self awareness I have when I start to feel overwhelmed or emotionally exhausted.

Being recovered doesn’t mean I still don’t struggle with little moments of emetophobia here and there, it just means that now I am able to rationalize completely and effectively. It means that I can hear those worries circulating in my mind, but not give them any extra time or energy in my brain.

Emetophobia, though, is only part of my battle. I still have some ways to go before I’m fully recovered from my other phobia, and until then, I know I’ll sometimes still struggle with small emetophobia flare ups.

So what’s the future look like for me?

It’s wide open, and that’s actually kind of terrifying. It’s scary to go from knowing exactly what you can and cannot do from a mental health stand point, to realizing that you can actually do whatever you want.

You also kind of go through this identity crisis of not knowing who it is you are now that you have no limits and no boundaries. I feel like, in my mental health journey I’ve had several moments of identity crisis. My life has not been short of moments where I questioned who I was, and what I would do with my freedom. At every major turning point in my recovery, I had a moment like that.

I’m beginning to start really heavily considering being a mom, after years of putting it on the wayside because I was too terrified of making that happen. I’m not sure if that time is now, but it’s no longer something that I worry about like before.

Most of all, I think it’s important to remember that getting to the point of recovered is a journey, and it might take time to get there. There is no set time frame for when it has to be done, or how long it will take. Your journey will be starkly different than mine, and mine will be starkly different than another’s.

The most important part is just taking that step, and just keep walking forward; even when it seems like you keep falling back. When life was trying to push me down, I got back up. It might have taken me a few days to do it, but I always got back up. The moment you stop pressuring yourself to be something you aren’t, and accept yourself for where you are, you can truly make progress.

Will there be another follow up? Perhaps a part three to my epilogue? Maybe. But, until then, you have this, the grand follow up to my Finding #Fearless series. Sure, it may not be the most gripping tale, but I think I like these stories the best, because they show where I’ve come, and where I hope to go.

So, until part three comes, I leave you with this: go out and fearlessly tackle the problems that are holding you back. It’ll be hard, and it might be quite the journey, but you will never, ever regret making your life better.

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

Finding #Fearless: The Epilogue, Part One

This is part one of a two part follow up to my series Finding #Fearless.
Names and locations have been changed to protect identities. 

Epilogue, Part One | Epilogue, Part Two


This article does discuss topics that may be triggering to those struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts or self harm. If you ever feel like you need hope in a time of darkness, please call 1-800-273-8255.

Usually epilogues find themselves nestled safely at the tail end of any published story that warrants one. They don’t typically surface many months or years down the road, but in the case of my story, the epilogue is a bit fashionably late.

When I sat down to begin this site, I opened up the inner workings of my mind, and shared six unique, but intricately intertwined, stories of how #Fearless came to be more than just a webpage, but my way of life. I explored my childhood, my teenage years, my anxiety, my self harm, my sexuality, my fears and my hopes. This carefully crafted journey through my life was meant to show my vulnerability, and to meet all who ventured into my story at a level ground that showed I was human too.

My final post, Finding #Fearless: But Still I Rise, was open ended. It didn’t really have resolution, and while I’m not promising a full resolution here either, I can promise a better look at how my life has evolved since I first wrote Finding #Fearless almost 8 months ago.

Last October, I had entered an era of my mental health I had never seen the likes of, and I never would have predicted to be in such a dark place. It’s hard, even now, to admit that I could have been dealing with some minor depression. Not clinical depression, but situational depression that stemmed from the loss of something that I thought I had a firm grasp on: my sanity.

Due to one poorly timed thought in the midst of what was my lowest moment, I had developed this fear of depression, suicide and death that had me second guessing every moment I wasn’t beaming with an ungodly amount of optimism and happiness.

Like the world’s worst record player, I felt my mind stuck on this idea that I was depressed, that I was suicidal, and I was ultimately going to die. It would hop, skip and repeat the same intrusive phrases, the same intrusive images, over and over and over again.

Looking back, it’s easy to see I was not truly depressed and I was not suicidal. No, I was just obsessed with the idea of becoming those things, but that’s how anxiety gets you. I was checking every emotion, every thought, every smile for any indication of falsity. I was second guessing my intentions in life: did I really want to be here? Was I truly happy? Did this life even mean anything if I couldn’t be truly happy forever? I was viewing this life in very stark, black and white terms, and completely ignoring the existence of grey area… and that’s a dangerous place to be.

I don’t want to say I was in existential crisis, but I was basically in existential crisis. Everything I thought I knew about life, myself and the people who inhabited this earth had been completely shattered. The carefully crafted illusion that I had led myself to believe for almost as long as I had been alive was gone, and I was, for the very first time, facing the world with a new set of eyes.

I felt the crushing weight of the vague and completely vast reality of life smothering me, and that in itself still kind of makes me feel the rise of panic in my chest. I honestly would not recommend existential realization and crisis for healthy, functioning adults.

It was, in all honesty, the first time I was truly feeling the emotion of sadness. Terrible, terrible things happen when you purposefully suppress certain negative emotions (remember my Shit Baton article?). It doesn’t seem like it’s hurting you in the moment, because it allows you to power through and be a better support for those who need you; but in the long term, it starts to fester and eat at you from the inside out.

I had opened the metaphorical flood gates to almost 15 years of suppressed sadness, and I spent many months just trying to get through what I call “sadness attacks”. I would go from absolutely fine, to feeling absolutely paralyzed by sadness. I would zone out, and I felt my insides screaming because I was absolutely terrified that this time, I wouldn’t snap out of it.

I felt like a prisoner in my own body.

I was scared that these moments would cause me to black out, and in that time I’d do something I didn’t want to do. That I would be unable to control myself because I wouldn’t be able to think clearly. Instead, I just found myself frozen in fear and having horribly intrusive thoughts that if I got up and walked downstairs, or to another room, I wouldn’t come back.

When it would pass, I would be exhausted, emotionally run down and ready to cry (and many times I did cry). It was strange because I probably cried more in those three months than I cried for my entire life leading up to that point and I cried a lot as a baby. I had become completely consumed by sadness and it was the one and only time I ever felt like I could maybe relate to those who had depression.

And, the fact I felt I could relate to those with depression made me feel twice as panicked.

I typically don’t condone panic googling, but in my worst moment I did look up: “Can you have suicidal thoughts and not be depressed?”, which then turned up results on suicidal obsessions.

Suicidal obsessions are different than suicidal thoughts and ideations, because typically the person is experiencing a serious amount of panic and distress about the thoughts happening. They typically take the form of what if questions (what if I get in my car and get the urge to drive off a cliff? what if I see a knife and can’t control myself? what if I die before Christmas, how will my loved ones cope?), but they can also take the form of intrusive images and phrases that mimic suicidal thoughts and this causes serious distress.

The biggest difference between suicidal obsessions and true, suicidal thoughts, is that typically the person experiencing suicidal obsessions does not want to act on the thoughts, or has become unsure whether or not they want to based on the thoughts they are having (for example: if I’m having these thoughts, does that mean I want to die?).

My therapist and I discussed this, and he never confirmed if what was happening to me was true suicidal obsession, but what I can tell you is that I was clearly obsessed with this idea that I had become depressed and suicidal, and it was running me into the ground.

During this time, though, it was my one and only issue, which was a blessing and a curse. I almost wished I could have emetophobia back, because being afraid of my own mind seemed far worse than anything a fear of throwing up had ever thrown at me.

Emetophobia seemed trivial at this point, because this idea I was depressed and my fight for survival (which was all created by my irrational, obsessive brain, mind you) seemed far more important.

Depression and suicide, in a way, had become something I almost felt was inevitable. In fact, my mind had almost personified them as if they were living beings that were stalking me. I had this idea that I would come home from work, and Depression and Suicide would be standing shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed, mob boss style. I imagined that I would come home, put my purse down, turn around and there they’d be, as if to say, “The Lannister’s send their regards”. This idea always ended with them murdering me and leaving my family to find me.

Not so great at the time but I can laugh at this now because I recognize, much like emetophobia, these intrusive thoughts were just that: intrusive, untrue and worst case scenarios that likely would never happen. Of course, in that time, I felt so hopeless, powerless, and out of control, it was easy to be tricked into thinking that I had some how, unknowingly, opened Pandora’s box and I was finally realizing my true self. I truly felt like if I were to be depressed, death was the only ending for me. It felt like depression was an incurable disease that was going to kill me, one way or another, whether I liked it or not, and I couldn’t stop it.

But I was wrong.

Not only was I not depressed, but even if I had been, it’s not a death sentence. You always have a choice, and you always have a way around this. Never forget that.

It took some time, but I finally started making progress. I was learning how to finally allow myself to feel negative emotions, and was no longer fearing them. I had to learn how to be okay with feeling anger, sadness, boredom, and most importantly: neutrality. I had to learn how to be in a state of calm, and how to not create chaos just to feel less uncomfortable.

I wasn’t cured or recovered by any means, but I was finally having more good days than bad. I was having small episodes that weren’t sending me into a spiral for weeks at a time, and I was controlling myself and my thoughts again. I could rationalize and be exposed to triggers without crying and hyperventilating. It was kind of nice.

Then, in August, a break through happened. I woke up one day and I was fine. I can’t even really explain this feeling to you, but I was at peace. I was relaxed, I had no anxiety, I was just living and existing, and letting my life flow in the natural ways it was meant to flow.

I finally felt human after 25 years of feeling like an outsider by my own thoughts, emotions and realities.

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

#Fearless’s Simple Steps To Practicing Self-Care

Self-care is something I have written about thousands of time in the history of #Fearless, and it’s something that I will continue to write about for the rest of time because it’s so freaking important. Not just for people with mental health issues, but for every single human being on the planet.

I don’t care if you’re 100% healthy, everyone gets stressed sometimes. Work, life and human responsibilities take a lot out of you. Dedicating 30 minutes, an hour, a day to focusing on what you know you need, versus your responsibilities, really can make a difference.

In the past I’ve written about the importance of self-care but I’ve never really given you the key steps to finding what you need to be doing for self-care. I figured, in light of this, why not offer you my tips on how to find the best self-care routine for you!

Step One: Assess the mental, physical and emotional state you’re currently in.

Before proper self-care can be done, you have to be able to look inside yourself and see just how worn down you are. Sometimes, our bodies give us signs for days, weeks or even months leading up to a really bad break down that we just ignore or didn’t see as a compiling issue. If you find you seem abnormally stressed, take a moment to stop and be introspective. Has your neck been tighter than usual? Have you been having more headaches, or seemed to be overwhelmed by simpler tasks? Do you find that you’ve been a little more grumpy with your friends, family, colleagues, or spouse? Are you withdrawing from social activities, or finding yourself unmotivated to keep up with daily chores at home? If you feel you have been showing these signs, but feel like you’re “too stressed to stop”, I have news for you: you are too stressed, and it’s your bodies way of saying you need to stop.

Step Two: Schedule your self-care time.

You don’t have to know what you’ll be doing yet, that comes later, but you need to actively schedule that time. Much like you schedule meetings, appointments and dates, this should be something that ends up in your planner as frequently as possible. Self-care works best when done for longer periods of time, but if you’re the kind of person who is new to self-care, a good solid hour is a good place to start. I’d personally recommend taking half a day to an entire day to yourself, but I realize that’s not always possible. If you work, perhaps now would be a good time for a sick day to be used, or if you’re a mom, maybe find someone who can watch the kids for the day if they aren’t at school.

Step Three: Decide what your self-care will consist of.

Now that you’ve determined you need a day to yourself, and you’ve scheduled that time, you may be asking: What can I do with all this free time? The answer: Whatever you want. The beauty of self-care is that it seriously is focused on what you want to do, and it doesn’t have to be the normal activities you may do to decompress. Depending on how much time you have set aside, self-care can be as time consuming as spending the day doing a hobby or activity you love, or as simple as laying at home, in your pajamas and eating ice cream. If you don’t really know what it is you enjoy, try asking yourself this question:

What do I enjoy that I’ve been putting off because I just haven’t had time or other things have come up?

If you’re an avid puzzle fan, put together a puzzle. If you have a hobby that always seems to get brushed under the rug because life has other plans, do that hobby. If you are just craving a quiet hour under a blanket with some tea and some funny YouTube videos, do that. Listen to what your body needs, and make it happen.

Step Four: Commit to the self care, and don’t feel guilty.

Now that you have your date, your time, and your activity planned, here comes the most important step. Fully commit to your self care day, and don’t feel guilty about it. Stress and anxiety is bad for us, because it makes us believe we have to do everything, right now, or else. Any normal day to day tasks can always wait, and after all you can’t continue working if you’re sick and run down from overworking yourself.

The first few times you sit down to do self care you may run in to this nagging feeling that you should be doing other things, or perhaps you may feel guilty or selfish for taking this time for yourself. This is totally normal, but ignore it, and tell yourself that you’ll get to those items on your checklist after you do this. You aren’t selfish and you shouldn’t feel guilty. This you time is just as important as all the work you need to be doing, the difference is this is going to help you come back to those tasks with fresh eyes and a rested mind.

Step Five: Repeat as needed.

Self care is not just a one off decision. Self care, much like many other aspects of our lives, will likely need to be repeated and done frequently. I try to schedule self care time once a week, even if it’s just a few hours. My recommendation would be, even if you can’t take a full or half day from work or your responsibilities, try your best to find time once a week that you can devote to doing what you want to be doing, versus what you need to be doing. That may not always be possible for everyone, but setting up a routine that includes self care will be the best decision you may ever make. Frequency and consistency are key to just about anything you are attempting to learn or do, and self care should be no different!

What do you guys do for self-care? And how frequently do you try to employ it? Let us know in the comments!

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

5 Things Millennials Need To Stop Feeling Bad About

I feel, as millennials, we get a lot of crap. Whether it’s headlines about what we’ve “killed” or for simply being “entitled” or “lazy”, we just can’t seem to get any positive praise from the generations before us. Yes, I’m looking at you, Baby Boomers.

But, in the midst of all this chaos, it got me thinking how many times I’ve felt bad for simply making choices that seem to be bettering my mental, physical, emotional state because of said headline writers and Baby Boomers. The constant tug of war of doing what I know is right, versus doing things “the way it’s always been” has never been a bigger issue than it is now for millennials.

And, to be honest, I’m downright tired of it, so here’s a list of 5 very important things that millennials (or really, anyone) need to stop apologizing for and feeling bad for, like, yesterday:

Your relationship status.

Listen here, fellow millennials. Just because your great, great, great Grandma Sally Mae was married at the age of 17 doesn’t mean you have to be. Hell, you don’t even have to be married at the age of 30 or 40. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being single, and choosing to stay single, for any period of time – even if that time is forever. More and more millennials are turning their sights to travel, self discovery and the single life, and honestly, I think that’s pretty freaking awesome. Focus on you, develop who you are, understand what it is you want and need to be your best self. Learn to love who you are, every single part of you. Yes, including those nights you eat three day old, cold Domino’s pizza while you wear the same pajama’s you’ve worn every night this week and binge watch Friends for the 200th time.

And, if at the end of this coffee fueled peyote-style spiritual journey known as your 20s, you realize that you’re just better off alone then do it. Shirk off the “you’ll find someone” comments with that carefully taught coping skill you learned from your therapist that is literally just imagining yourself Superman punching those who cross you directly to the center of the earth. Inhale peace, (attempt to) exhale that crippling wave of existential crisis crushing your very being, and be proud of your life choices – because I’m proud of you, and that’s really what matters here.

Oh! And on that same note, you definitely shouldn’t feel bad if you do decide to: be in a relationship but never get married, get married young or quickly, get divorced, be in an open relationship, be in a polyamory relationship or any other type of relationship! Your focus should be your happiness, your well being, and then the terrible, ignorant opinions of total strangers. Because, usually, once you get to that and you have the other ducks in a row, you won’t really care about the terrible ignorant opinions of total strangers; that’s a fact.

Your decision to not have children.

Remember how your great, great, great Grandma Sally Mae got married at 17? Well, you probably also know by now that she also had kids .0000001 seconds after she got married, and that’s just the way they did it and it’s how Baby Boomers expect you to do it. They expect you to get married, have kids, have a fence, minus the white picket,  and be the perfect stay at home modern day (but highly regarded) slave to tiny humans. But, listen, you don’t have to do that, and you don’t have to feel bad for making the conscious choice to remain child free.

What makes millennials so ahead of their time is that they get that kids are a HUGE DEAL. They are literal beings that need you and depend on you forever. Or, well, basically forever. You give up a lot to have a child, and honestly it’s just not for everyone. Stop feeling like you have to have kids just to have purpose in life. News flash: having kids doesn’t make you any better of a human being, because I know some pretty terrible people who have kids (and probably shouldn’t, if we’re being honest).

Truth be told, having kids just makes you more exhausted and twice as stressed about the already tiny amount of money you have remaining in your bank account after you pay your monthly student loan bill and the ever inflating cost of living that is strangely disproportionate to the area you’re living in. Yes, yes, I know, there are tons of pro’s that outweigh having children, but please, leave me alone so I can imagine Superman punching you into the earth’s core, okay?

Your desire to speak out against racism, sexism, abuse, corruption and many, many other issues plaguing our world.

I hear it now, rising from the depths of the lungs of your 50 year old whiter-than-rice aunt and uncle: “Back in my day we didn’t have racism or sexism or abuse or corruption or other misc. issues! We just ignored they existed and kind of just hoped they went away. After all, those POC, Gays, Hippies, Females, and Other Misc. People Not Like Me can’t be a problem if we refuse to acknowledge their existence.”

Sorry, Aunt and Uncle I’m Not Racist But…, that’s not how this works. Instead of us ignoring the issue, we millennials are here, some of us are queer, and many of us are filled with existential fear.

Honestly that phrase has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to use it because it makes me laugh. Sorry, not sorry.

Anyways, so maybe it’s just me, but I feel like millennials get a lot of heat from older generations for “stirring the pot” and “creating issues that aren’t actually there”. Just because you ignored your racist neighbors actions doesn’t mean racism still isn’t alive and well. Millennials are tired of watching the world sit idly by while perfectly wonderful and valid humans are being denied basic rights, and I don’t see how that’s so bad?

If you feel like by us doing this, that we’re “creating issues” and “stirring the pot” because we’re identifying how people are being mistreated and how we (sometimes unknowingly) continue to breed hate, misogyny, racism, bigotry, sexism, pineapple on pizza, and many other huge divided issues, then allow me to put it in a blender and turn it on high.

We’re an outspoken generation, and it’s not a bad thing. Stop apologizing for showing the world how they can improve, and how to be better at creating peace in a day and age that is filled with hatred. Never stop advocating for what you believe in. Just… don’t be a tool about it, nobody likes tools. Everything is good in moderation.

Practicing and maintaining a rigorous (but needed) self care routine.

I just don’t get the hate for the self care movement. People say us millennials are “obsessed” with self care as if I’m supposed to be offended by this. I will never feel bad for possessing the self awareness to understand my mental, emotional and physical limits before it propels me into a month of panic attacks. Seriously, while it all seems like a good time to spiral into the depths of your own mind for a month, I can attest that it’s not exactly as appealing as some Tumblr users like to make it seem. Just say no to the romanticism of mental health, kids; just say no.

So, Debbie or Brenda or some other stereotypical name for “Can I speak to the manager about this 2 year expired coupon?”, if it makes me self absorbed, pretentious or selfish to prioritize my personal needs in order to be my best self, then I’ll take the vanity label and wear it like a badge of honor. Give me a 360 degree mirror and watch me stare at myself making duck faces for the rest of time, but don’t you dare make me or anyone else feel bad for taking a day off work to rest if I feel like I’m hitting my limit.

Personally, I find self awareness a much more attractive and useful life skill than knowing how to do math in Excel. In fact, I can think of 500 far more practical skills that are more useful than understanding how to do number magic in Excel, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

Cutting off toxic friends and family members, or leaving toxic situations.

Let’s get real here: if I had a toe that was infected with some super rare, incurable disease that could only be stopped simply by removing the toe, I don’t think I’d think twice about it. I would, probably without hesitation, decide to remove that toe and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would shun you, shame you, guilt you, for choosing to do so. I mean, really, who would choose keeping a toe that would ultimately slowly destroy them when you can get rid of it, cut it off, and feel almost instantly better? Probably Debbie from our previous point. I see you Debbie, and I’m disappointed in you.

So why is it that we, as millennials, some how feel guilty for doing the same when that toe is actually a person, and that disease is emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse by a friend, family member or spouse?

Yeah, that’s what I thought man in the back row with his mouth hanging open slightly. Oh, but I hear him saying slightly under his breath: “Well yeah, but you’re just lucky to still have *insert toxic person* in your life. Mine’s dead and you’ll feel bad when you no longer have them here.”

Kind sir, I don’t have the time of day to go through all this, because if I opened my handy dandy notebook full of clap backs, we’d be spilling more tea and throwing more shade than all the seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Taylor Swfit’s LWYMMD music video combined.

Let me just make this clear: REMOVING. TOXIC. PEOPLE. FROM. YOUR. LIFE. IS. NOT. SOMETHING. TO. FEEL. BAD. ABOUT. Did I just do the news version of clapping out my syllables? I think I did. Am I cool yet? Probably not, says my not-middle-aged-but-I-feel-middle-aged, out of touch self.

The moral of all these points are: Don’t make excuses for people who do not understand your reality. They will never understand what you’ve been through, what you struggle with, or how it made you feel to live in your own personal hell each day. Be confident in your decisions, and anyone who makes you feel otherwise? Throw glitter in their face as you float away on your cloud of all the shits you do not give. Do not apologize for prioritizing your own personal happiness to the standards of total strangers; you are worth more than that.

So get out there millennials, seize the day, order your avocado toast, and buy homes to support your growing family of 4 dogs and 7 cats. I see you, and I’m proud to call you a fellow generational buddy.

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

#Fearless Family: Navigating Alcoholism’s Aftermath

By Alexa M.
#Fearless Family Writer

I am 26 years old, and a full blown millennial. I shared my wedding pictures on Facebook the day I got them, my snapchat is approximately 99% my dog and 1% my anxiety attacks, and I wanted Bernie Sanders to win the election. Part of the territory of being my age (and any age after me, really) is having friends discuss their longing to return back to the “good ol’ days”.

You know, the days when their biggest worry was finishing their math homework, or whether that birthday invite was coming in the mail. Not working 40 hours a week or trying to pay the bills on time. After all, “adulting” is hard. But I can’t identify with that. Despite my mortgage, car insurance and student loan payments, I would never wish to go back to my childhood.

You see, I’m an adult child of alcoholics. Both of my parents are alcoholic/addicts, and even though they are in recovery now, the events of my childhood still affect me to this day.

Just before sitting down to write this article, I picked up my phone and checked Facebook. I saw a post on an Al-Anon group I’m in about their alcoholic staying up all hours of the night, being belligerent and loud. For whatever reason, memories of my childhood came flooding back to me. Long nights of alcoholics partying until all hours of the night, blaring their music and keeping every light in the house on.

At the age of twelve, I didn’t know what to do, so I laid in my bed and cried myself to sleep. That was a common occurrence for me – crying. Crying because I was scared. Because I was angry. Because my alcoholic was up partying. Because they yelled. Because they were sick without the alcohol. Because it was midnight and they still weren’t home, and I didn’t know where they were. Because they slurred their words. Because they talked down to me and ignored me. Because they existed, really. And because I existed, too.

I cried a lot – I still do, honestly.

Being an adult child of alcoholics is something that has affected every inch of my personality, and every second of every day of my life for as long as I can remember. The situation causes you to grow up far too quickly. When you don’t have stability, especially emotional stability, surrounding you as a child, it leaves you in a situation where you are the only one you can trust. You rely on yourself to make sure you’re safe. At 7, 8, 9, 10 years old, that’s not an easy task, yet somehow it just becomes like second nature to you.

Suddenly the roles are reversed. You are the parent, while your parent is the child. You constantly spend your time worrying about whether they’re happy, whether they’ve been drinking or abusing their medicine, where they’re going and who they’re with, whether they’ll be happy when you get home or angry or just plain emotionless. You feel like it’s your job to make sure they’re making proper choices in life to keep themselves alive. Because you have to – they are your lifeline as a child.

It’s a terrifying experience watching your parents – people you should be able to lean on for anything, people who you should trust with your whole life – do things that you know aren’t safe. You’re desperately trying to control their actions and their moods and their thoughts and their reactions, so that they will make the choices you think are right for the family. To make you the family you know you should be. So you can finally have trustworthy, stable, loving parents. So you can keep them safe so you can stay safe.

Unfortunately you can’t control anything about the addict. That’s something that I’m actively trying to learn now, but as a child, that is one of your only survival mechanisms. Keep them safe to keep you safe. Unsurprisingly, this left me with extreme control issues and crippling anxiety as an adult.

People often ask me – if I could go back and change things, would I? Truthfully, I don’t have an answer to that. My answer changes depending on what mood you catch me in. Some days I lie on my bed crying hysterically, cursing my parents for even having me. Questioning why they would be so stupid and selfish bringing a child into this mess that they knew they had created. KNOWING that it would affect me. KNOWING what a dangerous disease addiction is, and KNOWING they had a plethora of their own issues that were not worked out.

On those days, yes. I wish I could go back and change everything. Sometimes, on the really bad days, I wish that I would have been born to different parents. I feel a twang of guilt just writing that, but it’s the unfortunate truth sometimes. I love my parents, but I’d be lying if I said I sometimes wish that I would have grown up in a totally different house, different town, different state, with different parents.

But that’s not how you heal.

Living in a constant state of day-dreaming, regret, what-ifs, and I-wishes will not help you heal and live your life to the fullest extent possible. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Al-Anon, it’s that some things in life you just have to accept. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” I cannot change my parents. In both the literal they-are-biologically-my-parents-and-I’m-stuck-with-that-fact, but also in the I-can’t-change-their-thoughts-emotions-feelings-actions fact. The only thing I can change or control in this life is me, my thoughts and my reactions.

Which leads me to this: Most days, I’m inclined to say that I wouldn’t change my story. It’s my story, and it happened for a reason. Was it terrible and miserable? Yes. Did it create this huge uphill exhausting battle for me in my teens and 20’s? Absolutely. But my story made me the person that I am today, and I am slowly – very slowly – learning to love that person.

My childhood affected me negatively in a lot of ways. It turned me into a short-tempered, controlling, don’t-give-a-fuck-but-in-the-bad-way, but-also-cares-too-much-because-of-low-self-esteem, overly sensitive and emotional person with extreme anxiety and abandonment issues who is afraid to love and be loved in return.

But somewhere deep, deep down, hidden underneath all the shields, all the masks, and all the hard-ass layers I’ve put up, my childhood made me a devoted, caring, strong, resilient, empathetic, stubborn-as-fuck woman who will stand up for my beliefs until I can’t stand anymore. It gave me the strength to take the steps I needed to recover from this, from my anxiety, from my illness, and to stick with it even when it feels difficult.

Do I cry and complain a lot while I’m doing it? Most definitely – ask my husband. Some days I feel like I’m way too burnt out and weak to even contemplate walking this path to recovery, but then that strength, determination (and mostly stubbornness to be honest) comes through, and I take one more step forward. Being an adult child of alcoholics made me strong whether I believe I am or not. It just comes with the territory, you have no choice but to be strong because that is the only way you can survive.  

If you are affected by alcoholism in any way, whether it be a family member, friend, coworker, etc. Please consider going to your local Al-Anon or Alateen meeting. It can and will change your life if you let it. It works if you work it. For more information, you can visit the Al-Anon website.

Thank you to Alexa M. for sharing this moving story!

If you would like to join the #Fearless Family, please visit the #Fearless Family page for more information on submission guidelines!

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

 

7 Awesome Anxiety Reducing Items (& Alternatives!) To Keep At Your Desk!

If you’re like me, working a desk job and having anxiety are two inevitabilities of life. I get up, go to work, and sometimes my buddy anxiety is right there with me. Other times, they show up after a stressful day, or right before a deadline. Either way, I’ve just learned that life with anxiety is going to happen, so why not be prepared? This got me thinking about ways I can best equip my desk with items that will help me in the midst of anxiety. While not a comprehensive list, I’ve compiled a list of seven awesome anxiety reducing items to keep at your desk, for your reading pleasure.

  1. Essential Oil Defuser: I feel like as an anxiety sufferer, essential oils are just part of my calm down process. I use Eucalyptus and Mint, together usually, to help me relax and get to my “calm place”. This “calm place” is a meditation I do to help me get grounded again during a panic attack, and that meditation is attached to those scents. So, having essential oils with me at all times can be an extremely useful when I can’t just stop everything and go for a walk.

    What’s even better, is that essential oil difusers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can work any kind of space you have. If you don’t have to share a cubicle, and have your own office, buy a larger desk difuser that fills your entire room with your favorite scent. If you share a cubicle, and want something a little less extreme, you can go for a smaller difuser or a necklace difuser – which is great for personal use and can be used anywhere!

    Alternative: If your workplace allows candles, or if you work in an environment that isn’t exactly an office space, you can buy a candle with your favorite scent! It’s cheaper, and works just as well.

  2. Glitter Jar. If you’re an avid DIYer like me, and love pretty, glittery things, let me introduce you to the glitter jar! This jar is meant to help you promote mindfulness, and seeing the color and glitter swirl around is supposed to relax and calm you. While it is used a lot for kids, there isn’t anything quite like being able to shake a beautiful jar of color and glitter, and then get lost in the swirls. Better yet, they’re easy and fairly cheap to make! All you need is a voss water bottle, some glitter, some kind of solution (like soap or corn syrup) and food coloring.

    Alternative: If you’re not into DIYing, and would rather have something already preassembled, try a Glitter Lava Lamp, or a just a standard lava lamp! They look great on a desk, and would serve a similar purpose.

  3. Coloring Book/Colored Pencils. I had a boss at my first job out of college that never let our office space be without a coloring page. We’d print off these giant pages, buy a big box of crayons, and whenever we needed a mental break to work through something, or simply to step away from our work, we’d color. Our office became very popular for people looking to break from work, and it was always nice to know that if I needed something to distract me, coloring was an option.

    Now, you may not have the room for a large coloring page, but keeping a coloring book and some colored pencils in your desk drawer for break time might be helpful! There’s been countless of studies looking at how coloring is relaxing, reduces anxiety and stress, and helps us stay grounded. I even did an article about this for our But Does It Work? segment! Take 5 to 10 minutes when you feel like you’re stressed beyond belief and color, you might be surprised how well it’ll help you get a level head again.

    Alternative: If you’re not in to having coloring books and colored pencils at your desk, there are tons of free coloring apps that are a bit more discreet and allow you to still spend time working that creative muscle!

  4. Fidget Cube. I have to fidget. There’s no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. Especially in meetings or in situations where I may not be having enough stimulation to keep me focused. It’s the perfect breeding ground for me to zone out, and start dwelling on my anxiety again. Unlike the fidget spinners which became all the craze and quickly got banned from many schools, fidget cubes have a bunch of different sides to allow you to fidget how you see fit. My recommendation though, is to buy it from the people who originally created it, and not just a knock off from Wal-Mart! You can find the Fidget Cube here.

    Alternative: A fidget cube can be seen as a lot of money, so instead of a fidget cube, you can also look at fidget putty or something you can squeeze, stretch and squish for all your fidgeting desires.

  5. Headphones. So, this might be a bit misleading, because headphones themselves don’t help you avoid anxiety. It’s what you listen to through the headphones that helps! I find that for me, music can be a great tool for processing through tough emotions, whether it be anxiety, sadness or anger. Having music on in the workplace is sometimes frowned upon, and not everyone is going to enjoy your taste in tunes. Having headphones means you can listen to the music that you love, and drown out the rest of the world.

    I also tend to listen to ASMR a lot, so having headphones while at work means if I’m feeling particularly tense, I can turn on a video or two and relax a bit while working on something that might be potentially stressful or overwhelming.

    Alternative: While there really is no alternative to headphones, if you work in an area where you can close your door and turn on some music, meditation or breathing exercises for a few minutes, that’s always a great way to decompress after and during a stressful day!

  6. A Sign or Poster of your Favorite Quote or Self Affirmation. As I’m typing this, I’m staring at my “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome” sign sitting in front of my computer. It’s not exactly my favorite quote or self affirmation, but it does help me smile and keep my chin up on days where awesome seems impossible. Finding a poster, picture or wooden sign to put in or around your desk with your favorite quote or self affirmation is a not only a great way to remind yourself of your worth and strength when you need it, but also really fancies up the standard workplace desk.

    One of the first techniques I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was positive self affirmations to help me stay calm, rational and happy on tough days. SO why not incorporate that into your office space, where you are most likely to feel high levels of stress and anxiety? Find one online, or create your own!

    Alternative: If desk space or wall space is an issue, but you still want a reminder, sticky notes are a great way to include reminders to yourself and most office spaces have them! Write down a few of your favorite quotes and positive affirmations, and stick them to your computer or desk!

  7. A Journal/Anxiety Notebook. I’m one of those people that greatly benefits from writing during anxious moments. The biggest reason for this is that when I write it down, those thoughts no longer seem as scary or vague. I’ve down this for days when my obsessiveness gets the best of me. Sometimes it makes the obsession worse, but in the situations where I can’t talk it out, I write it out.

    There are TONS of great anxiety notebooks that are centered around helping you sort through anxious thoughts, and monitor your mood. A simple search on Amazon will find you hundreds of listings, some of which combine a journal, positive self affirmations and quotes, AND a coloring book! If you don’t really want an anxiety specific journal, you can always stick to a plain journal for you to chronicle all your anxious thoughts.

    Alternative: Sometimes buying a journal seems wasted because you never use it or it gets misplaced. You can do the same kind of thing with a variety of journaling phone apps, or even just typing it up in word and not saving the document.

These are just seven awesome items (and their alternatives) that you can use to help reduce and manage anxiety while at work. Do you have a method that you use that wasn’t listed here? Let us know what they are in the comments!

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.