Tag Archives: depression

Knowing Yourself Is The Key To Beating Depression

Posted on April 7, 2016 in depression, Personal Growth by Sandra Bienkowski

I like to analyze things. My desire to dissect what I’m thinking and feeling stems from growing up in a confusing environment fueled by alcoholism, mixed messages, and instability. When things got tense in our home, I’d retreat with my journal to escape. I desperately wanted to understand what was going on around me and how I was feeling. I wanted to think I had some control when I had none.

Yes, analysis paralysis does exist. But sometimes analysis (combined with action) is exactly what you need to live a productive, self-aware life. When you are willing to take a hard look at who you are, the choices you make, and how you feel, you constantly raise your self-awareness. Knowing yourself well is essential to wiggling out of depression’s grip and finding happiness.

Here’s how knowing yourself better can create a happier life:

1. It brings your needs clearly to the forefront.

My love for self-analysis led me to talk therapy. I wasn’t afraid of it because I desperately wanted to understand why my parents were the way they were and how to repair my damaged self-esteem. I wanted to know why I felt lost, angry, and empty. The process was life-changing for me. Talk therapy helped me realize I was strong and helped me practice turning adversity into insight. If you suffer emotional pain regularly, talk therapy could help you heal in a lasting way.

Read the rest of my article here on MindBodyGreen.


11 Ways To Shut Down Depression and Anxiety For Good

Posted on March 2, 2016 in depression, Personal Growth by Sandra Bienkowski

Throughout my twenties, I was lost. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t believe in myself. My head was a jumbled mess of negativity and insecurity from a painful childhood. I lost myself in any relationship I found.

Despite my journalism degree, I worked as a waitress and an administrative assistant because I was scared to take a risk. I used food to fill my emptiness. My depression eventually led me to talk therapy.

While weekly therapy wasn’t a quick fix, it gave me lasting tools and coping skills that helped me fight my way out of depression and anxiety. I hope they’re of use to you, too.

1. Seek professional help.

I found someone who validated my painful past, who helped me understand why my parents were the way they were, and who called me out on how my current behavior was fueling my depression. We identified issues I had from growing up with an alcoholic parent — fear of abandonment, unexpressed anger, people pleasing — and how I could work through each of these issues. I tell anyone who will listen to find a good psychologist, because talk therapy can have an incredibly positive impact on your life. It could even save it.

2. Practice self-compassion.

Learning self-compassion means learning and choosing to be your best friend more often than your worst critic. Catch yourself. Interrupt negative thoughts. Stop them in their tracks. Forgive yourself quickly for mistakes. Set out to tell yourself kind things and coach yourself with positive pep talks when you need ’em. Ask yourself, at random intervals, whenever you think of it: Am I being a best friend to myself right now? Self-compassion builds resilience because eventually you realize you have your own back.

3. Take responsibility for your choices and your circumstances.

When I was in my twenties, I thought I had bad luck. A possessive boyfriend with lots of drama, credit card debt, a job below my skill level, toxic friends, etc. Then I realized I was the common denominator between all my problems. As I made began to make healthier decisions — about relationships, finances and my career — each area started to improve. Take responsibility for your decisions and their consequences. If you don’t like the outcomes, choose differently.

Read the rest of my article on MindBodyGreen.

7 Steps Back From Depression

Posted on January 11, 2016 in Personal Growth by Sandra Bienkowski

Try my emotional toolkit for life’s ups and downs.

When I was in my 20s, I just wanted to stay in bed and cry. I had a journalism degree but worked as an administrative assistant and a waitress. A rough childhood with an alcoholic mother made me think I couldn’t do any better. I had an apartment that I shared with a friend, but depression left me feeling lost and hopeless. Desperately wanting to feel differently, I made an appointment with a psychologist.

My psychologist was funny and blunt. After a long psychological assessment, he described me back to me: “Chronic depression; fear of abandonment; angry but you have a difficult time expressing it; people pleaser.” That hurt, but it also hit home.

Talk therapy helped me because I finally felt heard and understood what was happening inside my head. I’d drive home from those appointments and write down everything I could remember. I wanted to study my way out of depression’s dark grip. Slowly, I started to feel strong. My solution wasn’t a quick fix, but I came away from therapy with an emotional toolkit that has stood the test of time. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1. Practice self-compassion

Would you treat a friend the way you treat yourself? When I was depressed, I condemned myself for normal human flaws. Start treating yourself in the same compassionate way you would treat a child or close friend. Give yourself a soft place to land when things don’t go right or something doesn’t work out.

Read the rest of 7 Steps Back From Depression on Live Happy.


5 Ways To Dig Yourself Out Of Depression

Posted on December 28, 2015 in Personal Growth by Sandra Bienkowski

I was in my early twenties, and I knew something was wrong with me. I was too uncomfortable with myself to even enjoy just one night alone. I worried something might happen that I couldn’t handle. So I spent a lot of time losing myself in T.V., food or dating bad men. I was afraid to be quiet with my own thoughts, and had about zero ability to comfort myself.

The healthiest thought I had was knowing that I needed help. Tired of feeling deeply alone, I found a psychologist who fired a gazillion questions at me in hour one on the first session.

He didn’t accept patients unless he knew he could help them. He was blunt and kind of a smart ass. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my day one of digging my way out of the crushing hole that is depression.

I answered a gazillion more written questions in a standardized psychological assessment about my tumultuous childhood and about me. Around session three, he described me back to me: chronic depression, fear of abandonment, angry but afraid to show it, and lack of boundaries in relationships (people pleaser).

With talk therapy one hour a week for several years, my depression became a thing of the past. My solution wasn’t a quick fix, but it has been lasting.

Call me a student of depression. I’d drive home from those sessions, type up things he said while still fresh in my mind, and place my notes in a three-ring binder. I slowly got healthier, and life got better. I hope what I learned can help you too.

Here are five lasting changes in how you think and behave that will help you heal from depression.

Read the rest of this article on MindBodyGreen!

Why Therapy Saved My Life

Posted on November 2, 2015 in Personal Growth by Sandra Bienkowski

When I was a teenager, I told my parents I wanted to see a psychologist.

At the time, I was dating a guy who lived up the street. We had an exciting relationship but I was holding on too tight. With my shaky self-image, I pictured him breaking up with me and it felt like falling into a dark, bottomless well. I had no identity without him, and I knew the way I was feeling wasn’t healthy or normal.

I wanted help.

But asking for it wasn’t easy. I’d come home from school to find either a beautiful, kind woman at the front door or a drunk, disheveled, hateful monster (depending on whether my mom had started drinking vodka during the day). My childhood was filled with unpredictability, drama, screaming, and insults. My dad didn’t protect me — he was also lost in denial. My sister and I lived in fear for years.

But once my dysfunctional parents agreed that I should talk to someone (because I was adopted, they convinced themselves that I had “faulty genes”), I started talk therapy that changed the trajectory of my life.

Read the rest of this article on MindBodyGreen:

Why Therapy Saved My Life

Why Therapy Saved Me 2015-10-07 09.13.59


Why We Should Share Our Stories

Posted on August 26, 2014 in Adoption, Fulfillment, Happiness, Relationships by Sandra Bienkowski

“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”  – Robin Williams

Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite movies. I love all of its messages …

Seize the day.

Live deliberately.

Constantly look at things in a different way.

Find your own voice.

It’s not easy to find your own voice–especially on a stage. Now keeping journals? That’s easy. My thoughts flood out on paper and it’s how I think and process. (Ever since I got married I journal a lot less because my husband is now my journal–poor soul.) Keeping a journal is such freedom. Blank pages. Space to write and think. And no one judges what you have to say or how well you write it. Writing for a big audience is an entirely different story. People aren’t always kind in the comments section, and as much as I can pull up my big girl panties, I can’t always let go of what people think. Even though it can be difficult to write the truth and serve it up for public consumption, I feel compelled.

I know our stories can change the world.

Lately, I’ve received a lot of kind emails from strangers about my stories. Strangers thanking me for writing openly about finding my birth mom or overcoming my battle with my weight. Recently a woman said my story about seeking counseling in my twenties to overcome depression led her to seek professional help so can have a chance at a happy life. I felt so grateful to read that email. To know we can even help one person is the greatest gift. Helping just one person makes the vulnerability of writing and sharing our stories so worth it …

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”   Brene Brown

Here are some of  my latest stories . . .

5 Ways To Dig Yourself Out Of Depression





This Is The Biggest Relationship Mistake You Can Make





Why You Really, REALLY Shouldn’t Date Someone You Want to Fix





What Happened When I Tried To Find My Birth Mom





What I Wish Every Adopted Kid Knew







Make your life extraordinary.

Carpe Diem.



I Have Not Disappeared (Completely) into Mommyhood

Posted on June 14, 2014 in Happiness, Relationships, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

Yes, you might just find me in the morning picking up Cheerios off the floor and smashed banana pieces off my clothes. I turn my back for two seconds and my 17-month girls have found a way to dump water out of their sippy cups or make each other giggle by throwing food on the floor. Life is fun chaos … for sure.

With twins, my hubby, working from home, exercise, sleep (what’s that?) and all the usual life-maintenance stuff, I finally squeezed in a moment to share a bit of news with you! I recently started writing for MindBodyGreen. If you haven’t heard of MBG (say what?) it’s an awesome personal growth and wellness site! Check out my three latest articles below!


And thanks in advance for reading/commenting/sharing!

Gotta go now, I think I hear a baby waking up from an afternoon nap.



The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist in My 20s

When I saw a psychologist for depression in my 20s, he told me I could win the hurt Olympics. My butt landed in that recliner chair across from him every Wednesday for an hour so I could stop the cycle of hurt. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist In My 20s

5 Signs You Are With the Wrong Person

Before I met my prince of a husband, I dated this guy I can’t even think about for two seconds without cringing. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: 5 Signs You’re With The Wrong Person

9 Tips to Save Your Marriage From Being Totally Boring

I heard once that people spend more time planning their wedding than their marriage. It stuck with me because it defies logic. Why spend more time planning a single day than the decades of marriage to follow? READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE:  9 Tips To Save Your Marriage From Being Totally Boring

Thanks for reading! Talk to you on the next send! – Sandra