Category Archives: Success Stories

4 Go-To Tips to Take on (Unbearable!) Social Anxiety

Getting busy striking up a simple conversation or just helping an event organizer can allow you to ease discomfort in situations with A LOT of people

Photo: GeorgePeters/Getty Images

By Brittany Sibley

Over the years I have realized a few things related to my journey with Bipolar I. The fact that I can experience hard core anxiety is one of them.

In busy, active situations, my brain can sometimes label this as too overwhelming. These types of situations, for example, include riding a crowded bus, eating lunch in the employee lounge, holiday parties, birthday dinners, outside festivals/concerts, ordering food in a busy restaurant, and waiting in long lines at a local grocery store, supermarket or any other place a lot of folks—familiar or unfamiliar—may be located at one point of time.

At times, my “bipolar 1 mind” cannot conceive baring situations with lots of people because it feels a little too much for my five senses. I have learned a few tips to try and ignore the sense of unbearable discomfort to help you get through your day, run your errand, stay put at the party, and enjoy your family’s get-together, concert, festival or any other situation where your brain would like you to detach, resist, isolate or literally walk away.

I have experienced when walking away is necessary to maintain your calmness, and if you find yourself in this situation, please do what’s necessary to ensure stability. However, if you think you can stay put, staying active personally is a great way to get over that hump. These are often my go-to tools for keeping myself active in busy situations.

1. Try to make convenient, comfortable conversation with at least one person.

It does not matter who the one person is, and you don’t need many details to start the conversation. Just mention something you both have in common in that moment of time. I hate to be cliche, but it really could be the weather, how his or her day has been thus far, how and why the place you both are presently in is so crowded or decorated (depending).

Usually as the conversation progresses, your mind eventually fades from unbearable to sort of bearable to not so bad after all.

2. Always have something to read!

If not, pick up something to read. A magazine, a book, a schedule, a brochure, an itinerary—it does not really matter what it is.

In my experience, by reading, you are taking your mind off the sudden discomfort your body experiences in busy, or suddenly busy situations. Your mind begins to instead focus your energy on reading and learning, possibly information you did not know before.

If you continue to read long enough, the urge to walk away from the situation will settle. When in long lines, I usually read long enough until it is my turn to check out.

3. Offer/ask host of event or gathering if there is anything you can do to help.

I have found making myself available to the host keeps me very active at busy events. From helping with displays and food layouts, to assisting with clean up by gathering dishes, and finally helping any elderly with second plates, take home bags, and drink refills, these tasks can take your mind off of your anxiety.

4. Keep your head up and remind yourself that the reason you feel anxiety is because you actually got up and went to the situation, event or invite in the first place.

While some places can be required and unavoidable, choosing to remain active in them in any effort deserves a little recognition. Recognizing any small feat allows the next accomplishments to become easier and easier.

These few tools can help in trying to remain active in anxiety-inducing situations the same way they continue to help me. I speak from my personal experience, and you or your loved ones may have experiences quite different than what I know to be true.

Either way, trying the tools will not hurt, especially during this summer season where things to do abound! I would love to hear if these tips work for you and if not, what other tools you may know of to better assist in similar situations. Happy July and continue to take care of your mind as well as you do your body…until next time, Happy Summer!

Learn more:

7 Strategies to Outsmart the Sun: Staying Clear of Summer Mania

Stress or Bipolar Anxiety? How to Tell the Difference

Steps to Recovery

The Path to Recovery: An Overview and Reminder

I believe the path to hair pulling and skin picking recovery includes the following steps:

1) Learn to accept & love yourself whether you’re pulling or not If you withhold self-acceptance until you have complete recovery you create a battle ground within yourself. (Read Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.) This is NOT the same as giving up, or accepting the pulling will never change. This is accepting yourself, regardless of whether you are still pulling or picking; not making your self love conditional.

2) Keep a calendar and rate each day from 0 to 10, 0 being 0 pulling or picking, 10 being your worst day. This will be your “scale” so that you can see improvement, even if you can’t see it on your head, face or body. If one month has 9s, 8s and 7s, and the next has 8s, 6s and 4s, you may not see a physical change yet, but you are on your way. This helps when you have a bad day. My blog at will expand on this.

3) People always ask, Is there a substitute for pulling or picking? Something I can do with my hands? I say, the real substitute is something you do with your MIND. If you usually go go go all day, and then suddenly sit down to watch a movie, get on the computer, read, and find yourself pulling or picking, then pulling is aiding you in the transition from doing to not-doing. Instead of trying to fight the pulling, you want to adopt a nightly ritual that will help the body release stress Before you sit down to read, watch TV, et al. I suggest before you sit down with a book or TV, SIT for FIVE minutes and either do a relaxation exercise (inhale relaxation, exhale stress, tension & tightness) or do a mindfulness meditation for five minutes. Your mind & body then get a chance to make the transition into a state of relaxation. Your urges will begin to lessen as you do this since you’ve already addressed one of the reasons you have urges.

4) Bring awareness to your conscious mind: I once worked with a 60-ish woman who had a severe cuticle picking problem. It was so bad her hands were bloody and nicked, and she was deeply ashamed. I asked her if she did this all day or at specific times. Oh it’s always the same, she said. I sit down at 5pm for an hour before my husband comes home and read the paper and have a glass of wine. That’s when I pull. So I asked her, Do you think about it before you sit down? Do you bring to mind the fact that this a dangerous time for you? She said she did not. “I guess I don’t want to think about it because I’m always hoping that I won’t do it.” When I asked her if there was ever a time in the past 35 years that she didn’t pick, she said no. I explained that what she called “hope,” I called denial. I urged her to simply acknowledge to herself before she sat down that this was a danger time for her, and it was important to be aware. This often is not always enough to make a change, but for this woman, acknowledging to herself before hand that this was a dangerous time for her allowed her to stop picking entirely.   For other people it is one small piece in the bigger puzzle of trich and CSP recovery.

5) Until you understand & accept that recovery is a gradual process, you are unlikely to be able to recover long term. Pullers and pickers often proudly tell me they are perfectionists. Here’s the problem. If you are perfectionist, you are, by definition, a failure. Humans are not perfect, cannot be. So if you set a standard for yourself that is unattainable, you will always feel bad about yourself. The reason I suggest using a daily number (#2 above) is because recovery is generally a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. The reason it’s so tough to recover from these disorders is that it’s quite common to have a “bad day” after having several good ones. And it’s just as common to think to yourself, “Oh boy, I ruined everything. Here I was doing well, and now I’ve messed it up. I guess I’ll NEVER recover, so I MIGHT AS WELL JUST PULL (or pick). That voice–the one that tells you that you’ll “never” recover? That’s the trich or CSP addiction talking. Think about it. If you tell yourself that you’ll “never recover,” you’re free to pull or pick! If you are a perfectionist about this, you are saying that either you suddenly stop and stay stopped 100% or you are a failure. Since that’s unlikely to happen, you in fact have now made it impossible to recover. What if, in order to get to zero, you have to achieve less and less pulling first? You might say, I did so well for three weeks, and I “ruined” everything all in one day. NOPE, not true, that’s impossible in fact. If you pulled very little or none for three weeks, and had one bad day, that means 21 of 22 days were good or even great. This is a huge improvement. And yes, I understand that you pulled out a bunch of hair and picked a bunch of skin. However, you didn’t “ruin” your progress. The more days you have where you pull less, the faster overall you’ll grow back your hair or heal up your skin.

6) Change your short-term goal. If your goal is to have your hair back or to have your skin clear, that’s always six months in the future. Your short term goal must be to feel good about yourself for improving and to validate yourself for any gains made, including gains made in awareness and self-talk, as opposed to lessening of the behavior. If you often say, I was so “good” for a while; now I’ve “messed” things up again. I have so little hair, or my skin is so messed up, “what’s the point” in trying to stop now. I look terrible anyway (and I’ll probably just pull or pick tomorrow). Here’s the POINT: You will feel better about yourself later if you pull even a little bit less right now. And if you don’t, you can learn to celebrate small victories.  You have to admit you will probably feel bad if you continue to pick or to pull. So at the very least you are avoiding that. The POINT is, recovery is gradual. The hair and the clear skin come later: the small steps happen now. The POINT is, taking any step, however small, is a step toward recovery.  This is a great point! The POINT is, Hey, even though I tried to tell myself that my hair is so messed up I might as well pull, I did NOT pull. Each day that goes on, and that you pull a little less, is another day that you can remind yourself, hey, I’m doing this. I’m making small steps these will add up. Good for ME! And every day you are able to pull or pick the smallest bit less, you are closer to the long term goals around hair or skin.

Changing the way you look at this so you understand it is not your fault that you have trich (but like any other disorder you could have, it’s your responsibility to yourself to address it), encouraging and supporting yourself as you recover, becoming more mindful, taking five minutes before those transition times to relax your body and mind, keeping track of the days with a single number (so you can look back and see that, hey, overall the numbers are getting lower), and accepting yourself no matter what, these are all important pieces on the path to recovery. Everyone can get there. Congratulations. You are on the path.

It’s Never too Late for Recovery

I’ve Had Trichotillomania So Long – Is It Too Late for A Cure?

At the Trichotillomania Relief Specialists, we hear a lot of concern from folks about just how “curable” their case of trichotillomania may or may not be.But it’s not always because of how much they pull, or how often.  Often, we find that the longer one has struggled with trichotillomania, the greater their concern – or outright pessimism – about even thepossibility of a cure.51-year-old Aubrey feared she might never find freedom from trichotillomania.But is this pessimism justified?  Is it really true that the longer you’ve suffered with trichotillomania, the harder it must be – and the longer it must take – to resolve?

As you might imagine, we have our opinion.  Let’s talk.

Coaching The Coach

Glei and I started work with 51-year-old Aubrey back in November of 2013.  Believe it or not, it took Aubrey a full year and a half (!) from our first contact to finally decide to take a chance by registering for our flagship 90-Day Distance Personal Breakthrough Coaching Program™.

A corporate coach herself, Aubrey was a very busy woman.  And as a breast cancer survivor, she had already proven herself to be one tough cookie – a woman who could conquer almost anything, once she’d set her mind to it.

But one thing she’d never been able to conquer was trichotillomania.  You see, Aubrey had been pulling her eyelashes for a long, long time.

46 years, to be exact.

Aubrey desperately wanted to be free of trichotillomania.  She told us it was the one thing she felt had been a skeleton in her closet for years…  She said she felt like a “fake” on stage at corporate events, teaching the power of positive talk and positive thinking – all the while, knowing full well she had been unable to personally live out her teachings in her own life.

She felt powerless to take control of this behavior.

So what took Aubrey so long to finally make the decision to move forward with us?

You can probably guess.  Despite our confidence in how we communicated to her what we thought we could do for her, it was the very understandable fear that even this wouldn’t work.

Because if this didn’t work, whatever would she do then?

And It’s Not Just Aubrey

Unfortunately, we know that Aubrey isn’t the only one in this kind of position – an older adult who worries that because of all the years in struggle with it, their case of trichotillomania is a case that’s now just too far gone.

Based on fears just like this, many older folks won’t even give themselves a chance to get better – they assume in advance that recovery at this late stage either isn’t possible – or even if it is, it has to be fraught with hard work and struggle.  Some people decide they simply don’t have the energy for that anymore.

But Wait!

And then we come along with the bold claim that it’s possible for anyone– regardless of age – to experience nearly immediate relief from trichotillomania, no matter how long they’ve had it, or how hard they’ve struggled with it over the years.

Admittedly, this claim raises some eyebrows.  But that’s only because of the limiting beliefs many people hold about what’s actually possible in terms of a “cure” for trichotillomania.

You see, beliefs are nothing more than a state of certainty about something.  They do not at all necessarily represent objective truth.

Too Good to Be True – Or Is It?

So how exactly is it possible that one can have been pulling seemingly uncontrollably for 20, 30, 40 years or more – and then be able to dispense with it almost overnight?

Put simply, it’s because the “past” is over with now – no matter how long a past we’re talking about.  All that’s “real” is the present – this specific moment in time.

The desire, urge or impetus to pull is a present-moment experience.   Any such urge you may have here in the present is not any stronger, or any more irresistible now just because you’ve been pulling for 40 years than it would be if you’d been pulling for just, say, 2 years.

And if here in the present you can find any way at all to stop pulling (especially simply!) then does it really matter how long you’d been pulling before that?

Back to Aubrey’s Story

As you might guess, Aubrey’s story has a happy ending.  With nothing more than a minor hiccup along the way, Aubrey reported she was now able to effectively exercise control of her eyelash-pulling activity.  Perhaps more importantly, the seemingly overwhelming urges she used to have to work so hard to resist were now gone.

You see, here at the TRS, we don’t believe in “white knuckle” change.  We believe it’s possible not only to take quick, relatively simple control of one’s hair-pulling activity, but to be able to do so in virtually struggle-free fashion.

We believe it because we’ve seen it; we’ve witnessed literally hundreds of clients live out this dream in their own lives.

Late in followup, with tears in her eyes, Aubrey related to Glei and I the story of how she had finally been able to look her partner in the eyes, finally permitting him to see the real “her” – the Aubrey free of her old false eyelashes – free to present herself as the real, true, authentic Aubrey.

She said it was a moment she will never forget.

Moments like that are why Glei and I do this work. :-)

The Moral of The Story

It turns out that any concept you may have about having suffered with trichotillomania for an extended period of time – and especially to the extent you’ve been believing it means a big problem – in practice meansnothing – except to someone who believes it actually does means something (which by now, I think you know does not include us – and it’s a good thing it doesn’t!).

Here at the Trichotillomania Relief Specialists, when we get together with a client who’s been suffering with trichotillomania-related behaviors for 20, 30, 40 years or more, it means only one thing – that Glei and I are about to join you in having a whole lot of fun knocking this thing out far more quickly and easily than you probably imagine possible.

Question:  How long have you (or your loved one) been suffering with trichotillomania-related behaviors?  What kind of beliefs do you have about how easy – or difficult – a cure has to be, based on how long you’ve been struggling with it?  We encourage you to leave a comment or question below.



I’ve Had Trichotillomania So Long – Is It Too Late for A Cure?

The Bipolar Coaster


My bipolar roller coaster in a nutshell …. I’m just holding on tight, enjoying the ride, and doing my best to level out. I am way better than a few years ago, but I still have ups and downs. My super talkative, productive hypomanic self is coming out right now. I know it freaks out a lot of people who know me and think I am not acting like myself. I am thankful I am in touch with reality and have realized what is happening. It is a welcome change from the overwhelmingly gloomy and exhausting postpartum depression I have been in for the last 10 months. To anyone with a mental illness, I empathize with your struggle. Although each of us suffers in our own way, we have similar feelings.

The Bipolar Disorder Definition of “I’m Fine”

Gabe Howard

Social etiquette is an important thing for society, and that includes such things as asking, “How are you?” when we greet others. As a person with disorder, I dont’t have any special exemption from answering that question in any way other than, “Fine”.

There are three main moods that most people with bipolar will experience at any given time: bipolar mania, baseline, and depression.  As we all know, “fine” can mean different things, based on our moods. Here are my truthful answers based on each of those moods.

Bipolar Mania: How Are You?  

When I am manic (not very happy, not excited, not hypomanic), there is only one truly honest answer to the question: “I am a god from the planet Awesome. I’m better than you. And I can shoot happiness from my eyes into your soul.”

Then, over the next five minutes, in dramatic and rapid fashion, I will tell you my amazing plans. I’ll tell you how to fix everything wrong with the world, and what incredible, exceptional, and amazing rock-star caliber thing I am getting ready to do. At some point, I will forget what I’m talking about and rush off to do said rock-star caliber thing and — who knows? — I may actually succeed.

I will make no sense, but trust me when I say you’ll love it – and me – right up until it goes horribly wrong. That generally happens around the next morning, long after everyone has gone home.

Bipolar Depression: How Are You?

The more depressed I am, the less likely you are to get any answer at all, both because I simply won’t have the energy and because I’ll be holed up alone somewhere away from your ability to ask. But, if we did come into contact and I did have the energy to answer, I would tell you I feel nothing.

Describing “nothing” is difficult and confusing. There is no analogy that is truly fitting. It can’t be described as the absence of something, much in the same way describing darkness as the lack of light doesn’t really help someone understand.

Specifically, I say: “I have no energy. I have no desires. If I were to die right here, right now, I wouldn’t care, mainly because I lack the motivation to care one way or the other. I feel nothing for myself. I feel empty, as does the world around me. I feel abandoned, alone, and broken. I have no belief in future happiness, nor any recollection of happy times in the past. And all this seems perfectly normal to me.”

Bipolar Baseline: How Are You?

Depression and mania are symptoms that anyone with bipolar disorder has experienced to some extent. However, living in recovery, which is the goal, means I spend most of my time in the middle. My moods still exist on a spectrum, but the spectrum is a lot narrower. My depression is manageable and I’m able to continue moving forward, even if at a slower pace.

I am still excitable, but mania is almost completely wiped out. I function, day to day, pretty much the same as everyone else, just with a chronic health condition to manage. This takes work, but life for most people takes effort. This is just my lot.

So when someone asks how I am, you might be surprised to know that the answer, nine times out of ten, is “traumatized.” My exact answer would be:

“I’m scared, worried, and I know that I’m going to get sick again and be left alone or be a burden to my loved ones. The emptiness I’ve felt, the suicidal feelings, the loss, the abandonment, and the failure are still living inside me. Since the illness is still with me – albeit controlled – the potential for it to come back and torture me again is very real. And that terrifies me.”

The reality is that my daily life is hard because I have to move forward with the trauma of my past weighing me down. I am scared of ending up back where I started. I’m scared of losing everything. I’m scared of hurting myself or others emotionally. I’m scared of making my granny cry again.

So that’s why I answer, “Fine.” It’s the easy answer. But never has a little word carried so much hidden meaning.

Please Note: Gabe is writing a book about a regular guy living with bipolar and needs your support. Pre-orders available and much more. Check it out by clicking here. ·