How Do You Cope With Your Pain?

Let’s talk sex and drugs. I’ve shared my story with Rethink Stigma and today you can read about my darkest days on their blog, alongside some of my artwork from my recovery journey.

“I don’t tell these stories because I am proud of them. I have never told these stories before because I am not proud of them. In hindsight they feel like a stain on my existence, but a stain only starts to come off if you acknowledge it and treat it. Maybe it’ll only fade, but at least it won’t be as bright – you’d have to search with a keen eye for the memory of those past mistakes.

I hope that at least one person reading this can learn from my story. Don’t do what I did. But if you did, you’re not alone.” 

Read the full story here.

My My My

Confession: I have edited my pictures on social media for as long as I’ve HAD social media. I don’t change a lot, at all. Really the only thing I change is the texture of my skin.

I started this when I was only 15, when I first started on Facebook. There was this app called Picasa via Google that I used to airbrush away my acne. I didn’t have much of it at all – it just made me feel better looking back on the pictures.

This became painful when there became a larger gap between picture me and real life me. It wasn’t even intentional. Stress had caused my once “I don’t even need photoshop lol” face into

And you can view how I cover that up here. This was the worst of it all, when my hair was bright purple and my husband was in the midst of all his chemo treatments. I was wearing the stress on my face.

But did it make me dishonest when it came to showcasing my using the products in pictures? The UK says so.

So, enough of that. At least for makeup products. If I’m showcasing something else, who cares what my face looks like. But you deserve to see the real results of the real products. Real life is messy, it has fallout and pores. This is the youngest and freshest my skin will look in photos the rest of my life so I best embrace it while I’ve got it!

So alas: my latest makeup product sponsor! Sans photo editing!

Mynena Shanie Marie Luxurious Pro Eyeshadow Palette & Mynena Lux Liquid Lipstick in Alex (unavailable – but other colors of the formula are still available!)

To start off: yes, they sent these to me for free. But no, they didn’t pay me to say good things. And they didn’t even tell me to make this blog post.

I’m making it bc I wanna say, get this eyeshadow palette. If even a single color speaks to you – and it’s got great basics in there. It’s $20. Cruelty free, Vegan, and supports a small business based in Puerto Rico. There are immediately 2 gorgeous highlight shades – reminiscent of my Balm’s Mary Lou Manizer and Becca’s Champagne Pop. A little bright white to tap on a little extra glam. A stunning metallic gold that I’ve swept over my eyelid here. Super pigmented, and very buttery – not at all a pan of fallout that smokes off your brush every time you try to get some pigment. They have some GREAT colors to play with – the burgundy and orange can create a great rusty look, or paired with the gold you could go for a sunset vibe. Then the blue! I wore it as “eyeliner” in this Insta ad

Now, the lippie? That is totally personal preference. It’s a lippie. Take it or leave it. You can’t get this color but the formula is great. But to bring your cart up to $35 for that free shipping? Why the hell not. Treat yourself baby, it’s stimulus time.

Ferris Built Giveaway!

Be kind to your mind.

I became obsessed with FerrisBuilt as soon as I saw Meghan Markle rocking their #RBG shirt while recording for podcast promoting therapy for teens. The company is run by a single mother of twin girls who lost her company of 12 years due to the coronavirus pandemic and dove headfirst into her side hustle – wood art and apparel that expresses what she feels strongly about. I particularly love her female empowerment & mental health lines!

You can check out the Ferris Built website here.

And…it’s giveaway time! They’ve offered one of my followers the 🌈 chance 🌈 to choose one of their favorite items from their store.

The giveaway is available on my Instagram January 11-16 – so act fast!

Thanks for your support loves!

💋 Cora

Prevent Dementia With These 12 Lifestyle Changes

Originally Shared on HoneyColony

There is currently no cure for dementia, though science continues to research prevention and ways to slow down the spread of the disease. Just within the United States, approximately 5.7 million people are living with dementia. 

It’s clear to see that many people are impacted greatly by this disease. As a young girl, I was one of them. You don’t have to be the person diagnosed to be impacted by the disease.

My grandfather Stanley Bondelevitch — a decorated war veteran, football coach to the likes of a young Dick Jauron, and coach to an unheard-of eight undefeated seasons, was a man I never truly met.

We were on Earth together for nine years and even stood in the same room. But he never saw me there, nor knew who I was. I celebrated at the dedication of a street named after him and at a book dedicated to him feeling entirely like an impostor. I felt like I’d never truly met this man, yet there I was standing at these events representing him.

He’d been diagnosed with dementia when I was a toddler. The years we spent together were shadowed by the fact that our visits were in nursing homes. He would smile at me, I would play my viola for him, but there was never a real familiarity there.

We’re Learning More About Dementia Prevention

A report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care was published at the end of July 2020. It expands upon earlier work that up to a third of dementia cases could be delayed or even prevented by addressing certain lifestyle changes. If there is anything we can do to prevent dementia from robbing us of precious years with our other loved ones, it’s worth a shot. 

The report can be broken down into three major categories: reducing neuropathological damage, increasing and maintaining the cognitive reserve, and activities.

1. Minimize The Risk Of Diabetes

Diabetes is a known risk factor for vascular dementia, according to Mayo Clinic. This type of dementia is caused by reduced or blocked blood flowing to the brain. In the past, we linked blocked blood flow to heart disease and strokes. Now we understand that the complexity of type 2 diabetes development can further advance this reduction of blood flow. A type 2 diabetes diagnosis could be indicative of the brain and other body tissues to use glucose and respond to insulin. 

These risks can be minimized by monitoring your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure. You and your healthcare team can determine how often you need to check these based on your current health, age, and level of activity.

2. Treat Hypertension

Hypertension is a well-known cause of vascular dementia. Studies have shown that the disruption of regular blood pressure is closely related to cognitive impairment in injury. Several clinical trials have proven that blood pressure-lowering hypertension agents after injury reduced the risk of dementia or cognitive decline. 

To treat high blood pressure you’ll want to get closer to the recommended below 120/80 mm Hg. You can make lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy diet (low-sodium, heavy on fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean poultry and fish), getting regular physical activity (at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week at a moderate level OR 1 hour and 15 minutes at a vigorous level), maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink. Your doctor may have additional recommendations if these lifestyle changes are not enough.

3. Prevent Head Injury

Over the past 30 years, research backed by the Alzheimer’s Association has linked moderate and severe traumatic brain injury to a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. It doesn’t matter the year of the injury, either. Professional football players’ (soccer, for us, US folks) head injuries recently gained attention from the BBC. An October 2019 study from the University of Glasgow revealed that former professional football players had an approximately three and a half times higher rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease than expected.

While all head injuries aren’t preventable (car accidents can come out of nowhere), you can mitigate your risks by wearing protective gear while participating in hands-on sports and minimizing your exposure to these activities

4. Stop Smoking

There are so many harmful chemicals involved in smoking that it is unclear to researchers exactly which ones are causing the damage. But it’s clear that the damage is there. In 14 studies done by The World’s Alzheimer’s Report 2014, smokers were found to have a significantly increased risk of dementia compared to nonsmokers. The 2017 Lancet Commission highlighted smoking as one of the nine top risk factors associated with dementia. Overall, the Alzheimer’s Society considers smoking to cause a 30-50 percent increased risk of developing dementia.

Quitting any habit is obviously easier said than done. If you ever need to commiserate about your cravings, a free telephone quit-line — 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) — provides support and counseling. I also recommend the Reddit community /r/stopsmoking/ and tracking apps that help you keep track of your progress and congratulate you on reaching milestones.

5. Reduce Air Pollution

A 2016 study in Mexico City and Manchester confirmed that magnetite from air pollution can pass into the brain. They found an abundance of magnetite in the brains of patients, and though it is a naturally occurring brain chemical, they dug further to see where the excess came from.  In this study, they were able to view surface properties of the magnetite particles to prove they had been generated at high temperatures found in engines rather than natural processes. These particles were abundant in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

There are lots of actions you can take to reduce the air pollution around you. Conserve energy by carpooling, biking, or walking to your destinations. If you must drive, keep your engine properly tuned and tires inflated. When you reduce your trips, you reduce your exposure.

6. Reduce Midlife Obesity 

In observational studies on the association between overweight and obese patients and dementia, Embase and Medline concluded that compared to normal weight, midlife obesity can increase the risk of dementia later in life. Their study estimated that 7.1 million Americans could be diagnosed with dementia in 2013 as a result of obesity, with another 11.3 million to follow in 2050.

In the conclusion of the study, it was determined that public health measures to reduce midlife obesity are simultaneously primary prevention measures to reduce the risk of dementia. To prevent obesity, you can start incorporating meal-tracking, weight training, and cardio regimens into your routine. Diet and exercise are major ways in which we take care of our bodies, and taking care of ourselves is really how we can best help to prevent dementia. Eat less processed foods. Eat lots of fiber, fruits, vegetables, and foods that are low on the glycemic index.

7. Treat Hearing Impairment

This one is tough because the strongest trait in people with hearing impairment is stubbornness. It’s easy to picture the grandparent who doesn’t want to address this particular medical issue because they don’t want to admit to there being a problem. 

Longitudinal studies of senior communities have demonstrated that hearing impairment is associated with a 40 percent rate of accelerated cognitive decline and a substantial risk of all types of dementia. Neuroimaging also have demonstrated independent associations of hearing impairment with accelerated rates of the lateral temporal lobe and whole-brain atrophy.

8. Maintain Frequent Social Contact

Quality social contact is important for our mental health in general, and social isolation has been a long known trigger for mental illness. 

A group of 10,000 London civil service department employees aged 35-50 were studied back in 1986-1988 for a baseline assessment. When followed up in 2017, they measured social contact six times within a self-reported questionnaire and were followed through electronic health records. The study concluded that a greater frequency of social contact with friends (rather than relatives) at age 60 was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. They also found that a greater frequency of social contact was associated with a higher cognitive performance overall.

9. Attain The Highest Possible Level Of Education

Within 88 population studies, only 51 (or 58 percent) reported significant effects of lower education on risk for dementia whereas 37 (42 percent) reported no significant relationship.

It seems that a more conclusive result on the effect of education may be best evaluated in a lifespan model rather than by diploma. The desire for higher education can be reflective of a lifestyle choice to challenge your cognitive abilities. If you continue to challenge yourself intellectually, exercise different areas of your brain regularly, and continue learning about new things, you’re on the right track. You can do this with crossword or jigsaw puzzles, learning an instrument, expanding your vocabulary, or even learning new languages.

10. Maintain Frequent Exercise

Results of 11 studies showed that regular exercise can reduce the risk of dementia by about 30 percent, and 45 percent for Alzheimer’s disease in particular. One study noted that of five behaviors assessed (regular exercise, not smoking, moderating alcohol intake, maintaining healthy BMI, and maintaining a healthy diet) exercise had the greatest effect in terms of reducing the risk of dementia. Those who followed four or five of these behaviors, however, were up to 60 percent less likely to develop dementia. 

It’s definitely more about balancing healthy habits than honing in on one specific area. A lot of these lifestyle changes also play into each other. Regular exercise can help to minimize your risk of diabetes, reduce hypertension, and reduce obesity – all of which we’ve already discussed can aid in preventing dementia. The Mayo Clinic recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week (or a combination), as well as strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.

11. Reduce the Occurrence of Depression 

Obviously, this one is much easier said than done. Depression does take a toll on your well-being. When dealing with depressive episodes it’s easy to stop taking care of yourself in general, and depression requires a good deal of self-care. Attending therapy, taking medication as prescribed, getting enough sleep, and creating a healthy space for yourself are important self-care factors that help reduce the recurrence of depressive episodes.

Research specifically links symptoms of depression to a more rapid decline in thinking and memory skills. Though while finding an association, they specifically stated it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

12. Avoid Excessive Alcohol

There may be a link between alcohol and dementia. Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is a brain disorder caused by regularly drinking too much alcohol, and covers several different conditions including alcoholic dementia. While not actually dementia (like how a peanut is not a nut, but a legume), it shares similar symptoms like poor decision-making/judgment/risk assessment, problems with impulsivity, difficulty controlling emotions, problems with attention, slower reasoning, lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others, and socially inappropriate behavior. 

Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults generally means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men – about 12 fluid ounces of beer, five fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Drink responsibly, and not to excess.

The Changes You Need To Make

There may not have been anything that could have prevented my grandfather’s dementia diagnosis. The research was not there at the time. As we move forward and learn more, it’s possible that we can prevent ourselves and others from going down the same path.

In general, take care of yourself. Listen to your body. Treat your symptoms – physical and mental – as they arise. Exercise, socialize, eat foods that nourish you. Don’t overeat or drink too much. Breath in fresh, clean air. Do what you can to make yourself happy, because when you’re happy, you’ll be able to give your body what it deserves.

My PTSD Story

Originally Shared on Rethink Stigma

I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was 20 years old. I didn’t feel like I had “earned” this diagnosis, though. I wasn’t a war veteran, nor had I been beaten or life-threateningly injured. But I had been dealing with constant nightmares and debilitating panic attacks regarding a certain day of my life.

The day I was raped.

​It wasn’t as violent as films portrayed – perhaps because cinema relies on visuals to portray the pain. I resigned, submitted, and silently cried. Even now, trying to recall moments I’m comfortable enough describing, my heart races. Everything around me narrows. Trying to go back to those moments is like running into a burning building. If I know I’m going back for a specific item, and I know just where it is, I can zip in and out while only dealing with the heat for a moment. But if I wander in, looking around at everything, the fire starts to nip at me. It burns.

The man who did this to me had been around since I was 14. He was a trusted family friend. He started texting me every day starting when I was 16. He took my virginity when I was 17. He raped me when I was 18.

I dealt with nightmares starting about six months later. Almost a year after the fact, I finally admitted to one other person what had happened. Their response was to hold me close, make me feel protected and safe. It made me feel like talking might not be so bad. Still, it took another calendar year and some change for me to open up to any other friends. With their support, I went to seek therapy for the first time and was diagnosed with PTSD. Unfortunately, I didn’t continue therapy as I was too busy at college to focus on my mental health.

When I was 21, I made a police report. I was aware that the statute of limitations in my state was running out, and realized that I wanted my report in the system to be absolutely sure that if he did this again there would be a paper trail. I struggled to write a coherent report, but submitted one nonetheless.

That report was the catalyst to my breakdown. I started having a different breed of panic attacks. Sounds were split up and amplified – I could hear them all at once and at the highest volume. Time slowed and I could note every single detail of everything around me. I searched faces in crowds, convinced he was there. I struggled to sleep every night – I shook, I cried, but sleeping brought nightmares and nightmares brought back his face.

A month after I submitted my report, it had become too much. I thought about killing myself every day, and talked about it casually. I wanted an escape, but I also knew logically that I still had things to live for even if I didn’t feel that way. I wrote a suicide note, but there was still a hesitation. I didn’t know what else to do so I admitted myself to a hospital, and from there was sent to a well-known psychiatric hospital (with previous residents such as Sylvia Plath and the author of Girl, Interrupted).

That place changed my life. I am still in contact with a handful of residents I met there. I found a place where I was heard, where I wasn’t alone. I went to group therapies where I learned about stressors and the best ways to cope. I was further diagnosed with depression and anxiety. They also started me on some psychiatric meds at a low dosage. My assigned doctor, who had previously appeared on Oprah (just a fun fact), explained to me that the dose was not so much as to fog up my world, but rather give me a foundation to build off of. Instead of trying to rebuild my mental health on rubble, I now had this.

I won’t lie, it wasn’t immediately easy when I left. Finding the right therapist for me took a little while. College ended, and I was no longer in close contact with the support systems that had helped keep me together while I was wilting.

For months afterwards, I spoke with police and was given updates. He was confronted by officers, and immediately called for a lawyer. The lawyer gave a statement on his behalf. The detective on my case told me he would be charged at the highest degree possible.

When I was 22, I got a phone call from my detective. The district attorney had thrown out our case for “conflicting testimonies” – essentially a he said/she said. He maintained his innocence and is a free man to this day. When I got the call, I took an early lunch break, and bought my first pack of cigarettes. I sat on the sidewalk outside my office, chain smoking and sobbing.

Today, I am 27. While I found solidarity in the #MeToo movement that quickly followed my own journey, I still have not publicly shared the name of my abuser. I’m not sure how it would torpedo my own life if I did. I don’t think I want that kind of attention. I do hope that my report served as a warning to him, and scared him from ever doing it again. I finished my Nicorette patches this week and plan to live nicotine-free post quarantine.

I’ve struggled for a while to find my place in this world. I do sometimes feel like he has robbed me of something I was supposed to have and can never have back. I am not who I was. But the journey I have been on is not at all abnormal. The pain I have felt is actually quite common. 6.8% of Americans develop PTSD in their lifetime.

Life is hard. It gets hard for every one of us, at one time or another. But life is also beautiful.

If I had died the day I wrote my suicide note, I would have never gotten married. I would have never adopted my dog. I would have never become lead singer of a rock band. I would have never made an album. I would never have made any of my webseries appearances, nor podcast appearances. I wouldn’t have become a Rethink advocate to speak to you now.

It is a roller coaster of ups and downs, but you can survive this. Things in your life will change, you can’t change that. What you can control is your reaction to the world, the way you treat yourself, and your passion for the change you want to see.