All posts by anissa.alvarado

The Importance of Music

In third grade, my elementry school had an orchestral performance in our school gym. They were playing the story of Peter and the Wolf. At first, it just seemed like an ordinary performace that we occasionally had in elementry school. As the performance progressed, I was infactuated with the music. The story was great as well. This all changed when I heard the flute excerpt of the bird from the story. I was immediately taken aback and astonished by the musician playing. I was completely encaptured with every performer after this sudden flush of love. This experience led to 15 years of playing the flute. Though I dont play as much anymore, I wish to pick it back up again to revisit those memories.

I would like to discuss something else though, the importance of music in our lives. There are many benefits when incorporating music into your daily life.

They include…

  1. Music is the key to creativity
  • Music is a universal language and tells its own story if you pay close attention. When you are playing an instrument, you are telling your own story through the notes and emotion within.

2. Music releases endorphins which make people happy

  • As a result, there is a great effect on the immune system which influences mood greatly.

3. Music positvely affects emotional and physical well-being

  • Music helps develop coordination and stamina. Playing an instrument and producing notes takes a lot of coordination. I say stamina because you need lots of air support to produce a clear sound from the instrument.

I watned to share my love for my music in this post. My favorite piece to play is Cecile Chamindaes – Flute Concertino. It is a great exerpt and exercise that’ll definitely tire someone out, including me. It is unlike me to share my musicianship with people. If you asked to see this two years ago, I would have been reluctant and timid to share. I was not confident about my skills whatsoever.

I hope after this brief introduction of the importance of music in our lives you either pick up and instrument or you listen to your favorite genre of music every day. Make it a part of your daily routine. The benefits outweight the negatives. Try it out and see how you feel afterwards.

My Mental Health is Stigmatized

I have mental illnesses that are stigmatized in today’s society. Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar type II. I am not afraid to share my diagnosis’ with people because I believe they need awareness. One of the many problems that contribute to the mental health stigma is the lack of understanding or willingness to understand. This applies to all mental illnesses. If we want to take a step in the right direction, there need to be resources that provide society with insight into mental health. Not only to understand mental illness but to understand your mental health to achieve your highest self. Your mental health is just as important as everyone else’s

What is BPD? 

BPD is short for Borderline Personality Disorder. It is characterized by difficulties regulating emotions. It’s a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, a pattern of unstable relationships, a fear of abandonment, frequent mood swings, and inappropriate outbursts. All of which are difficult to manage day-to-day. Even though these symptoms have been identified, it still stands as the most misunderstood disorder in the field.

The causes of Borderline Personality Disorder are tied to environmental factors that may increase the likelihood of BPD. If you have a family member that struggles with BPD or your someone who has had a stressful childhood because of trauma or neglect, you are more likely to develop BPD at some point in your life. 

Mental health stigma around BPD lies in the field as well as in society. Mental health professionals may choose to limit or decline those with BPD as patients. Even those who can see a professional, may not be adequately trained to help treat BPD which could hurt their treatment. This includes not feeling heard or understood, even valued.  They reinforce misconceptions by labeling BPD patients as treatment-resistant. Because of this, professionals are quick to gloss over them to the next patient in-line. This intensifies BPD symptomology and could lead to more harm in doing so. 

BPD vs BD

I struggle with both Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, type II. To clarify, Bipolar I and Bipolar II are not the same. But one thing stands the same, moods cycle high and low over time. Type II’s typically don’t reach the extreme mania that usually happens in type I’s. They reach hypomania which lies underneath full-blown mania. Hypomania is characterized by euphoria – feeling “high”- or irritability. I experience both. But, what dominates the mood cycles are the depressive episodes referred to as manic depression. This is characterized by depressive moods and tendencies. 

Common symptoms you see in Bipolar type II’s are…

  • Flying suddenly from one idea to the next
  • Having exaggerated self-confidence
  • Rapid, “pressured” (uninterruptible), and loud speech
  • Increased energy, with hyperactivity and a decreased need for sleep

Even with these symptoms and the variation of moods, we can still lead a fairly normal life. I am a full-time student and a part-time mother. No one would know I had both Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar II. It just shows a normal life is possible even with having mental illnesses. Our symptoms don’t define us, nor do our diagnoses. If information like this was provided with first-person accounts, the understanding of mental illness would flourish and there would hopefully be an effort to combat the stigma that exists in our society today. It’s just a matter of time as mental illness rates climb. 

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/June-2017/The-Stigma-Associated-with-Borderline-Personality

/https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237

https://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-2-disorder

Homelessness in Minneapolis

Minnesota is ranked 16th for homelessness. You may be asking yourself what that means. In 2020, Minnesota had approximately 8,000 experiencing homelessness. This includes those unsheltered, sheltered, in hotels, or suffering from chronic homelessness. California is the leading state with the highest homeless rate with approximately 152,000 homeless. The difference of amount is what ranks us sixteenth and what ranks california as first.

Within the state of Minnesota, Minneapolis has a high amount of homeless in one area. It is quite obviously a problem. Not because there are homeless around our parks and schools. It’s the fact that the number of homeless are increasing, especially with the pandemic. This is an issue that needs to addressed. We need to take a step and act to help the community around us. If we don’t, the problem will only get worse.

Minneapolis’s Population of Homeless

There are many homeless encampments throughout the city of Minneapolis. The one that is most populous is the Powderhorn Park encampment. Homeless were evicted out of neighboring hotels suddenly after George Floyd’s killing. They were forced to venture for new shelter which landed them to the nearest park, Powderhorn. Currently, there are about 550 tents at this park. The people’s response was welcoming and full of helping hands. Volunteers, neighbors, and organizations rushed in to care for the homeless that was quickly evolving. Organizations started organzing funds to donate the bare necessities. Elected officals seemed to be overlooking this blaring issue as if it weren’t a problem. These volunteers advocated for the homeless and demanded help from policymakers of the city and state.

Problems still lingered despite these efforts. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, Governor Tim Walz sent $6 million of relief to the Minnesota Zoo. Money that could have been better utilized for the homeless. Now that the eviction moratorium has been lifted, those not eligible for the COVID-19 emergency relief can be evicted. This is worrisome because this means the homeless population will climb even higher as people and families are evicted from their homes. Protestors took this issue of ignorance into their own hands and camped outside of the govenors residence to advocate for the homeless and the funds they undeniably deserve.

City’s Response

As encampments started growing, the concerns from the surrounding community arose. Residents complained to the city and county because the encampment was mere feet from passing cars, and between two alternative high schools, prompting one to end in-person schooling and go online. They said people openly sold and consumed drugs and walked into traffic.

As a response to these concerns, the city began a clearing out process that affected many encampments. This act ultimately displaced the homeless residing there. The recent clear outs were the North Loop and Powderhorn encampments in Minneapolis. This upset both homeless and activists, so they took this into their own hands to protest this ugly act.

Activists confronted police and expressed the lack of understanding about homelessness. These activists were quick to inform them that not enough is being done for those who need a home the most, which is true. The city isn’t helping, it’s only making the problem worse. The clear outs are based on crime in the area that residents report and the deterioration of the area. These are baseless accusations and the city needs to realize that there is no proven correlation. It’s just a mask for the ugly truth of their feelings. Generalizations are drawn from the homeless population way to often. It’s time to stop and implement programs that will actually help the homeless and not drag them down further.

In order to change other people’s mindsets on the issue of homelessness, we need to bring awareness. Protestors are doing one thing that has made an impact, they are marching for the homeless that have died due to the homeless conditions. The frigid cold being the top cause of their deaths. Even though the tempature was below freezing on December 19 – the day of the march – they still followed through. This is only proving that they are desparate for awareness, and for help. I agree with them. The signs have names, ages, and locations. This personalization will impact those not aware of the cause substantially, hopefully,

Minnesota’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

The state of Minnesota realizes that everyone should be treated equal. For the homeless, this means providing stable homes, employment, and resources for their overall well-being.If this is provided, the community will only prosper.

The state’s main program is called Heading Home Together, which was presented in Minnesota’s 2018-2020 action plan to prevent and end homelessness. This plan is different that the last that was proposed. This one urges for all minnesotans to take part in this cause. If we realize our awareness contributes to the prevention and end to homelessness, we can make a difference. We all play a role in this action plan and we will continue too, especially me.

I admire what the state is trying to do here. The city’s response has been extremely negative and something I do not agree with. The only aspect I agree with is the positive advocacy. The state realizes the issues with this community of homeless. There is nothing for them. Nothing is provided or noticed by the city other than the crime in their area that residents pick on because they are uncomfortable for no good reason. This plan does the complete opposite and urges minnesotans to fulfill their role. The one thing we can do to make a change.

If more acts like this were implemented, the awareness could change the game. Influence from protestors would ultimately affect the city’s decision process when it comes to the homeless. Maybe funds will be allocated to the population, or donations will be made. If we try hard enough, we can make a change that’ll impact a community that needs love and comfort. I believe in helping the homeless and I hope you do as well after reading this.

Resources

https://www.fox9.com/news/protesters-gather-at-powderhorn-park-after-homeless-encampment-asked-to-vacate

https://mn.gov/dhs/heading-home-minnesota/

Video Games: Good or Bad?

The biggest debate in the world of gaming asks one question: Are video games good or harmful? The truth is, the answer to this question is opinion-based. People can list all the reasons why video games are bad and detrimental to our health. But people can also list the benefits of gaming. It’s a win-win situation. Both sides have research to back up their beliefs. That is the wonderful thing about this divide. Both sides are supported. But, there are extreme articles out there that blindside one another. For example, the article The Negative Effects of Video Games, completely misses the points and ideas that I believe are important in understanding this worldwide debate. 

Analyzing “The Negative Effects of Video Games”

In this article, the author is quick to present twelve common negative effects of video games. As I was reading through this article, I realized one thing was missing. It’s the lack of proof. There aren’t many studies that prove this side of this debate. There is still some work to be done on this side of the divide. The positives include an abundant amount of studies that prove the benefits and their impact on gamers. The number of gamers is on the rise and scaring them with these “common” negative effects will not work. They will eventually find out if gaming is good or bad for them through personal experience.


I don’t agree with much that was said throughout this article. The author, Cam Adair, fails to realize that the symptoms he mentions are extremely rare. One must suffer tremendously from a clinically diagnosed gaming disorder. This is of course based on the symptomology listed in the DSM-V. He provides very little statistical evidence that shows the population that struggles with extreme and prolonged gaming. He did share personal accounts that explained multiple individuals’ experiences with extreme gaming issues. One thing I noticed was their negative tone. The author used these accounts in a negative spotlight which makes me like the article less. I wish there was awareness of the opposing side of this debate as it does exist, whether you believe it or not. You can’t hide from that fact no matter how hard you try.


I can appreciate one thing from this article and the author. He provided a resource for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and ideation. He also provided a personal account that relates to overcoming suicidal ideation and thoughts that came from the effects of a gaming disorder. Not only this but a resource for how to overcome gaming addiction. The negative tone slowly developed into a helping hand. There is no mention that there is an upside to gaming though. The article only focuses on the idea that gaming too much quickly develops into a disorder that can, of course, be managed and treated. I would have preferred he stated the positives of gaming as well. There are two sides. If you bring awareness to the other you may reach a larger audience that wants to be swayed in one direction or the other. The bias is ultimately eliminated and the readers would begin to trust you. This is just my opinion though.

Positive Effects from Gaming

I believe in the counter-proposals of this article and debate, which are the positive effects of gaming. After a little bit of digging, surprisingly, I came across an article authored by the same individual. Cam focuses on one side at a time. He takes the time to prove one side, then moves on to the next. I can appreciate that. But, I believe articles covering this debate should meet somewhere in the middle. It seems logical to cover both within the same article in a brief manner to catch the reader’s attention.


I am not here to provide specific statistics or ideas. I am here to address how gaming has helped me and why I believe it has positive effects. Not only this but why I think it has negative effects as well. Firstly, I will discuss the positives.


Gaming has served as an escape for me. A place where I can go to forget about my life for a little bit of time. I’ve come to realize I deserve that. I pack too much on my plate and don’t release it. Gaming has become the perfect pleasing skill for me alongside music. When I can incorporate gaming into my day, I find my stress levels greatly decrease. I play with a bunch of my brother’s friends and all we do is laugh. My social life thrives when gaming. I can play with others and talk with them every time. I have also gained confidence in my skills, especially with video editing. I make gaming YouTube videos to help fill the time when homework becomes too much, but I need something to do. It makes me feel capable and confident. I love this feeling.


I have pointed to more specific benefits of gaming in the Instagram post below that was published by Forbes. I resonate with the idea of improved emotional health because I have experienced it firsthand. I have made friends, I have also uncovered skills that have paved the way for my future career (e.g. social media/marketing work).

“Technologies are invented to make our lives easier – not our choices”

Adam Jensen, Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Though there are countless amounts of positives, I have experienced the negatives. One of them being HORRIBLE sleep hygiene. I was dealing with a lot a while back and needed an escape bad with all my unwanted free time. I took advantage of my free time though, and never slept. I was severely sleep deprived for weeks. Until I said, enough is enough. I learned to moderate gaming. There’s a healthy medium when it comes to stress and gaming. My diet was non-existent as well. I’ve lost a lot of weight after my pregnancy because I had no time to eat. This was worsened when I picked up gaming once again. I’d play all day if I could and I’d forget to eat and hydrate myself. The bare essentials of daily living and I forgot all about it. I have dealt with both the negatives and the positives, and thats okay. You can believe in one side and have experienced the other, it’s your opinion and your choice. Go with it.

In conclusion, articles need to reveal both sides of the debate instead of sticking to one side. Especially if one side cannot be proven with extensive studies or lack thereof. There are both negatives and positives. It’s up to you to decide what side you are on. Do you believe in playing, or do you believe in not playing? Be careful about what you read on the internet. A lot of publications hold bias on this topic and lack logic on certain ideas. Now that you’ve read this, I hope you gained a better understanding of one of the biggest debates we have seen, which will continue into the unforeseen future.

Resources

https://gamequitters.com/negative-effects-of-video-games/

https://gamequitters.com/positive-effects-of-video-games/

Mental Illness Stigma is Hurting us

My name is Anissa. But, some people may label me as a crazy, and dangerous individual. You may be asking why. No, I have never harmed anyone in my life. But, I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, and Anxiety. Not to mention that there’s the added stress of a stigma attached to every single one of these conditions.

As someone who struggles with this, I knew this was an important topic to bring awareness too. From my perspective, many people are uneducated on the impact this stigma has on those who struggle with a life-disrupting diagnosis.

Mental illness stigma is slowly decreasing in our society. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s still not a prevalent issue. We all have our issues and we have to fight our own demons Every. Single. Day. That doesn’t make us less of an individual. We are strong and capable of the things that those with no mental issues insult us for. Keep that in mind as you read on.

“Your illness is not your identity. Your chemistry is not your character.”

Rick Warren

What is Mental Illness Stigma?

Mental illness stigma can be defined in many ways. The main definition is that it’s “a negative and often unfair social attitude” that can applied too many different areas of life and our society. The commonplace being on those with mental illness. People often place negative attitudes and feelings towards this group of individuals. As a result, it’s harder to open up and seek help when you need it the most.

There have also been numerous stereotypes that have risen from this existing stigma. Some of them including that you are crazy because you see a therapist, or you’re lazy because you have depression.

From these examples I have mentioned, this is the main cause of this stigma. Even though “none of these characterizations are valid.” This makes individuals with mental illness vulnerable. This is a battle that should’t be added too. We should protecting one another, not fearing.

Types of Stigma

It’s important to know the depth of this stigma. Because not only does it happen from others, it happens within ourselves. Stigma ties with discrimination and prejudice. Even if it is a subtle amount, it doesn’t mean that it’s not important to address. If our society took the responsibility of addressing this issue and bringing awareness to the importance of mental health, could ultimately help eradicate this stigma.

There are three types of stigma,

  • Public stigma involves the negative or discriminatory attitudes that others have about mental illness.
  • Self-stigma refers to the negative attitudes, including internalized shame, that people with mental illness have about their own condition. This can be found in four ways: alienation, stereotype endorsement, discrimination experience, and social isolation.
  • Institutional stigma, is more systemic, involving policies of government and private organizations that intentionally or unintentionally limit opportunities for people with mental illness. Examples include lower funding for mental illness research or fewer mental health services relative to other health care.

As you can see, this stigma does not originate from outsiders, but it also occurs internally. Think of public stigma as what I have been communicating throughout this explanation. Refer to the instagram attachment for examples of public stigma.

Secondly, there is self-stigma. I struggle with this distinction of stigma the most. I fight a battle with my own mind every day. Not only do I have image issues, but I also struggle with negative attitudes and thoughts that I don’t share with others as there is a lot of judgement. I destory myself more so than others around me.

Lastly, there is institutional stigma. Even though this distinction is evident in the funding aspect for mental health resources, I also find it in the psych ward itself. This can be a combination of institutional stigma and public stigma. I watched a great slam poetry segment that depicts this issue very well. This resonated with me because I was hospitalized at one point and experienced this first hand.

**TRIGGER WARNING: If you are easily triggered a long the lines of suicidal ideation and/or have trauma associated with institutions, just know that this segment could affect you. Watch at your own discretion.

Anita D performing at IWPS

How to Overcome this Stigma

There are many ways we can overcome the many forms of mental illness stigma.

These include…

  • Talk openly about mental health
  • Educate yourself AND others
  • Be conscious of language
  • Encourage equality between physical and mental illness
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness
  • Choose empowerment over shame
  • Be honest about treatment
  • Let the media know when they’re being stigmatized
  • Don’t harbor self-stigma

If we collectively use our voices, we can easily face mental illness and fight the surrounding stigma. We can make a difference by understanding that mental illness is not anyone’s fault, even if this existing stigma is feeding us that thought. If we collectively decide to live stigma free, we can make a huge impact on societal attitudes towards those with mental illness.

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination

https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/october-2017/9-ways-to-fight-mental-health-stigma

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mental-health-stigma#how-to-overcome

Why I Choose Gentle Parenting

“Too much love won’t spoil. Kindness doesn’t provoke poor behavior. Respect doesn’t invite disrespect. This backward thinking has caused us to feel trapped into being too harsh for too long. Generations of children are still searching and longing for unconditional love.”

Rebecca Eanes

What is Gentle Parenting?

Gentle Parenting is considered to be the most beneficial approach to raising children. It focuses on these aspects; gentleness, empathy, nonviolence, thoughtfulness, listening, and embracing. You can easily remember these by the acrostic nature of this approach (G.E.N.T.L.E).

This approach doesn’t throw discipline out the window completely as you may think. Instead it focuses on teaching rather than punishing. Discipline in this aspect is highly recommended as it helps a child understand how to healthily express their emotions, or how to communicate effectively in the future while in an established safe space.

I have been on the opposite side of gentle parenting. I was, and still am, scared of approaching my parents in any way. During my childhood, I have been brushed off or told I wasn’t doing good enough based on their standards. If I talked in a certain way or didn’t want to do something, instant punishment. As a result, it led to some doubts towards my abilities and overall being. This is where the issue lies. It isn’t just my experience, it’s a huge representation of our population, and we have the power to change it for our children and those to follow.

There are many benefits to this evidence-based approach of parenting. These include…

  • Focuses on cognitive state of child to help establish boundaries that are suitable for the specific age category and in the end, benefits them.
  • May reduce the risk of anxiety
  • Children see parents model appropriate behavior and set expectations that children can effectively acheive and easily follow.
  • Children gain a better understanding of how they should act and speak

“When we show gentleness, especially during stressful times, we model frustration tolerance, and we model flexibility. Staying calm and being gentle and firm sets the tone for positive growth and development”

Allison Andrews

How to Become a Gentle Parent

It can be both simple and difficult to implement this approach of parenting for your children. To help you get started and gain insight of this technique, here are some helpful tips.

  • Don’t expect perfection
  • Always apologize
  • Pay attention to your triggers
  • Not all solutions will work

It’s important to be conscious of your mental health and well-being first to properly display behavior to your children. It’s a learning process that goes both ways. You learn from each other as you build a healthy connection. I believe that is the beauty behind this parenting approach. This is why I choose gentle parenting, and I hope to influence others to do the same.

Resources

https://sarahockwell-smith.com/2015/08/20/what-is-gentle-parenting-and-why-should-you-try-it/