Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Are you a 'taker'? How to tell if you take too much + what to do about it

Here are some things I've needed help with during the last 10 years of my life: 
early morning drop offs/late night airport pick ups (about a million of 'em)
some heart-rending breakups
lots of Craigslist runs that necessitated borrowed pickups/hatchbacks/another pair of strong arms

Many of my nearest-and-dearest buy furniture from, like, stores and have the nerve maintain happy, healthy marriages so I haven't been able to return all those favors. Slowly but surely I've developed a (tiny) complex about the give and take in my friendships.

Was I asking too much of my friends?
Were people going to avoid my calls because they thought I'd just ask to borrow their truck? Again?
Was I becoming That Person?

This obviously lead to the idea for a blog post series and some Big, Relatively Deep Thoughts about give and take and healthy friendships.

Here, inspired by my own neuroses, are four questions you can ask yourself to discover if you're a 'taker' 

Do most of our conversations focus around me + my life/problems?Did I spend an hour and a half detailing the project I just completed? Did I monopolize our night with tales of car repair? Do I have any idea what's going on in their life? Did I think to ask?

If you're going through something tough you are 100% allowed to talk about it. At length. I will happily talk to you about your breakup every time I see you - for a few months even!


If your life is clipping along as usual, with the absolutely normal ups and downs we all experience, it's kind and important to share the floor with your friends. This does not require memory tricks or black belt conversation skills; it can be as simple as "What's new at work?" or "How are things going with botanist you were dating?"

Does it feel like this person is doing more for me than I'm doing for them?
How many times have I asked them to help me move? How many times have I shined the friend-beacon in the night sky and requested emotional support? How often have I asked for a professional favor or introduction?

You needn't keep a spreadsheet of who's-done-what (because that would be weird) and you can't really help it if your friends are homeowners and you're an apartment dweller who moves every two years. We can all, however, be conscious and intentional of how often we're calling in favors.

Do I tend to complain when I'm around them?
Some people love to complain + vent and I even know some people who manage it in a hilarious, endearing manner. It can even help you bond!

But I think there's a big difference between a shared, affectionate, five-minute rant about the service at your favorite noodle joint and regularly railing against your partner to your friends. Or talking about how you hate your body around a friend who struggled with an eating disorder in college. For a lot of people negativity is draining and derailing and when we spend our time venting our frustrations at them we're just sucking up all their energy.

Do I only reach out to them when I need something?
When was the last time I sent them a text just because I was thinking about them? When was the last time I initiated plans? How many hilarious otter videos have I sent them?

Again, you don't need a spreadsheet, but let's all make a conscious effort to show our friends we love them and not just call them when we need a ride to the airport.

So you've got some 'taker' tendencies (we all do.)
Here's what you can do about it.

Really, it's insanely easy to be a little bit less of a taker.

Ask your friends about their lives
We all know conversation works both ways. I ask you a question and then you ask me a question. And I'm asking you questions because you're my friend and I care about you and I want to know about your life.

When you know they're traveling/moving/going through a tough time, reach out
Many of us aren't good at asking for help; it makes us feel weak and incompetent. Save your friend the trouble and when you know they need something, offer to help.

Help them be the person they want to be
If you know your friend is giving up alcohol, invite them to coffee or make reservations at a place that only serves juice and tea. If you're super active and you know they're training for a 5k, include them in your running group.

Of course (of course!) friendship is a two-way street and it's important to know that you can (and should!) lean on your friends from time to time. We love you! We want to help you! There will be times in your life - divorce, miscarriage, unemployment, death, crushing debt, mental health struggles - when you have to lean heavily on your friends.

At the risk of being eye-rollingly trite we should all be the sort of friends we'd like to have.
Which probably starts with a little less taking a few more links to otter videos.

Have you ever been a 'taker' in your friendships? How have you dealt with takers in your life? 

P.S. How to travel with a friend and not kill them + Things we don't say enough (and when to say them)

photo by Zach Dischner // cc

Monday, September 29, 2014

True Story: I'm a Supertaster

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Mel and her amazing tasting abilities. 

Mel with a steamed bun

Tell us a bit about yourself! 
My name is Melissa, and I was born in Hong Kong before moving to San Francisco at the age of 7. I lived in San Francisco most of my life and in Seattle and New York for a bit before coming full circle by moving back to Hong Kong 3 years ago. I work in planning and strategy for a Fortune 500 company and I am a food blogger and photographer in my spare time. 

For those of us who don't know, what is a 'supertaster'?
A supertaster is basically a person who experiences the sense of taste with far greater intensity than the average person. The term was coined in the 1990s by Linda Bartoshuk of Yale University after she discovered that some people reported a bitter taste to a certain chemical while others did not. Besides having more taste buds, supertasters are more sensitive to bitter tastes and fattiness in food so they tend to dislike strong bitter food like coffee, broccoli, grapefruit juice,green tea, etc. It turns out that about 25% of the population are supertasters, 25% are nontasters, and the rest are in between. 

When did you realize that you tasted foods differently than other people?
I guess I always knew I was a picky eater ever since I was a kid, but I have always attributed it to personality rather than genetics until I came upon an article about supertasters a few years ago. I found myself nodding in agreement as I was reading on the typical likes and dislikes of a supertaster, but I still wasn't sure until I did the test. Apparently there is a test you can do at home, which is to apply blue food coloring to the tip of your tongue and count the number of papillae in a small area. If you count more than 30, then you are a supertaster.

How has being a supertaster affected your life? 
Being a supertaster just means that I'm more averse to certain food than others. I tend to avoid eating green vegetables for example, which can cause nutritional problems in the long run. On the plus side, supertasters tend to be leaner than the general population because they tend to find fatty food distasteful. At least I got that working for me. Funny enough - no one in my family seems to be a supertaster since they pretty much eat anything. 

Are there any foods that a lot of people seem to like that you don't? Or vice versa? 
Coffee. Or specifically black coffee. Being in the corporate world, I'm surrounded by people who typically go for coffee runs at least twice a day, but I can't drink coffee without adding a lot of milk and sugar because it's too bitter for me. If I need caffeine, I usually get a latte as the milk balances out the bitterness of the espresso. Beer is also something I mostly can't stand. Because so many people seem to enjoy these kinds of food, I feel like I'm missing out sometimes.

Does your supertasting affect any other aspects of your life? 
Because I'm so picky, my friends are usually afraid to suggest places eat with me. As a food blogger, I also tend to be pretty vocal about my likes and dislikes of food immediately so I guess I'd eventually scared them off after a couple of times. Luckily they still like me (or I like to think so), so I end up being the one choosing the restaurant most of the time - which I prefer actually. 

What's your your favorite dish?
I love sweets! I absolutely love all desserts like cakes, chocolate, ice cream, etc. My favorite dessert is Tiramisu!

Thanks for sharing, Mel!  Are any of you guys supertasters? Here's a test to find out. 

P.S. Homemade junk food and How to win the next potluck you attend.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Web Time Wasters

How was your week, guys? I made fried green tomatoes with friends, caught up with a buddy from college and I'm afraid I put some decorative guards on my dining room table. 'Tis the season.

Also! I just brought on a new columnist to revive the 'Dear Dude' Column! And (biased opinion alert) he's probably the handsomest, smartest, funniest man EVER. If you want advice about dating/relationships/the hairier sex, send 'em to sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org and I'll pass 'em along.

Links! For you!

a cute folk song.

Co-signed. 9 things you need to stop apologizing for immediately.
It’s your money, you spend it however you like and you don’t apologise for it. If you want to spend your Christmas bonus on limited edition Star Wars memorabilia or a solid gold coffee mug, go for it. And tell everyone else to get stuffed.

I loved this house tour of a modern family farmhouse. Even their nursery is cute!

Someday, I'd like to be the sort of woman who has 'investment pieces.' I'd start here.

Do you switch up your beauty routine when the seasons change? I've been using this moisturiser every winter for years. This is my 'winter' lipstick and this is my 'winter' scent (okay, it's actually room spray. And?)

Random recommendation: my BFF bought me an amazing wood wick candle for my birthday AND IT TOTALLY MAKES CRACKLING NOISES. It's like having a fireplace without, you know, having a fireplace.

For the kiddos in your life.

Illustrations that I'm obsessed with now (like a suspicious capivara)

Things we should eat/bake/stuff in our faceholes: fancy things on toast, creamy roasted red pepper soup, inner goddess chocolate truffles, breakfast root cake.

I take friendship seriously, so I loved this post about how you should treat your friends.
It’s so easy for me to feel warm, loving thoughts about friends or family members… and then go on about my day, never reaching out, sending a text, or setting a date to connect.
I think about them all the time, pray for them, and watch the details of their lives spool out over Facebook—first day of school photos, last moments of summer photos. I feel connected and warm, full of affection for these lovely people.
But how on earth would they know that?

I never thought I'd be linking to a stylish cooler, but here we are.

What do you think this smells like?

Another surprising DIY: this grassy house number.

My go-to karaoke song is Heart of Glass. Don't let your lack of a signing voice stop you! 10 awesome karaoke songs for the tone deaf.

Cute rings!

A very good point about our beloved Indiana Jones.

Chelsea has been traveling and organic-farm-working all over France and England and I am jeaaaallllouuuus!

Some Yes and Yes posts you might have missed: Let's stop pretending it's always easy, 5 steps to up your personal dignity quotient, Mini Travel Guide: Bali.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fun links! Social drinking + A mantra + Stop comparing

Who needs Target runs and meal planning when you can spend your Saturday looking at links from this month's sponsors?

Favorite posts:

Favorite stuff:

Favorite posts:

Want to see your face/products/links here? Check out my rates and traffic info here or drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org and let's get started!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How To Host A Blog Crawl (spreadsheets! @mentions! organization!)

If you’re just tuning in, dear reader, yesterday I posted the last in a three-part series about hosting and coordinating your very own blog crawl. We’ve already covered why you’d want to do such a thing and how to find + woo people to take part in your adventures.

Today? Today, we discussing how one coordinates a jillion contributors, tweets, and guest posts without losing one’s mind. Here are five logistical things to consider while you’re making magic. Pop over to my small business blog if you're curious! 

5 Clever Tricks To Make Your Apartment Look Great Look On A Budget

decorating on a budget
Dudes, I spent this week prioritizing things other than blog post writing. As such, I'm pulling up this still-really-helpful post from my 2009 (!!!) archives. Enjoy!If you are human being, somewhere between the ages of 18 and 32, living in a sizable city and generally rocking the not-quite-settled-down life, you probably live in an apartment, right?

And said apartment is probably a high-ceilinged number, with hardwood floors, looking out over a park, just down the block from work, renting for a whisper and a prayer. No?

Weird. Mine's not like that either.

Like most things in life, apartments require a certain amount of compromise.
The big place in the suburbs or the closet in That Really Cute Neighborhood.
The acres of dingy carpeting or the three square feet of imported cherrywood.
Oh, the luxury of choices.

I, personally, would rather live in a wee little place in a neighborhood that I dig, rather than in a mansion in the 'burbs. And by the grace of the real estate gods I found a gem in a neighborhood full of giant lawns and big Victorians and tiny cafes.

But said gem? It is very, very much in the rough. Like, hasn't been repainted in years, kind of rough. So I'm summoning all my DIY powers and thrifting talents to posh up my place without going into debt.

Here's are the five tricks I swear up-and-down by.

Clean the Sweet Bejesus out of that place
No, I mean like a really epic down-on-your-hands-and-knees kind of cleaning. Shampoo the carpet, dust the ceiling fan blades, bleach the grout. Cleaning supplies don't have to cost a fortune, you can even make your own for a pittance.

Little details add up: you can remove paint splatters from hardwood with nail polish remover and return the gloss to dry, faded wood with a $1 bottle of mineral oil. Anne Sullivan, you're not the only miracle worker in town!

Replace and upgrade the hardware
Most of the things that come with an apartment are rubbish, or at least not particularly attractive - those beige light plates, the dirty blinds, the skinny towel bars.

It's easy to replace these things and usually not too expensive. You can upgrade to nice brushed nickel light plates, bamboo blinds and towel bars that don't leave a crease in your linens. And you can even take them with you when you move!

I splashed out on one pair of these insanely cute knobs for my dresser and complimented them with (much cheaper) brass knobs on the other drawers. I've even been known to replace cupboard knobs and light fixtures. But then don't go by me. I'm the girl who will spend her Saturday night joyfully oiling her floor.

If you are lucky enough to have a laid-back landlord, embrace the power of the brush. Even if you are required to stay within the confines of "neutral earth tones" a new coat of paint makes everything look clean and fresh. And painting over questionable wood paneling or dark cabinets can make a world of difference. If you're really ambitious, paint or contact paper the interior of your kitchen cabinets.

Choosing a vibrant color can overcome mediocre furniture or a weird layout. Painting an accent wall can help delineate your 'dining space' from your 'living room' or add personality to a space furnished exclusively from the Ikea as-is section
 (because we've all been there, right?) 

Never pay full-price
But then with Craigslist, Ebay and garage sale season, why would you?
I furnished my last (very tiny) apartment from scratch with a love seat, buffet, bed, dining room table and chairs, desk and chair, rug for about $400. At the most.

I also find that buying things on the cheap keeps me from getting too emotionally attached to stuff that is, ultimately, just stuff. It's a lot easier to sell off your belongings and head to Russia when you found your sofa on the curb.

Cover up the ugly
Cheap-o apartments usually have character up the wazoo. "Character" meaning windows in your shower, avocado green fridges paired with mustard yellow stoves, or a giant brown 70's air conditioner mounted into the middle of your living room wall.

Dude, just cover that shit up.

I am a huge fan of obscuring any unpleasant views via a 'frosted' window and hanging big ol' pictures over unused air conditioners/fuse boxes/bad plaster. I solved the problem of the ridiculous fridge and stove by painting stripes in varying shades of green and yellow onto one wall. And lo! There was matching!

How have you fancified your place on the cheap? And leave links to your favorite design DIYs and affordable, realistic design blogs in the comments!

P.S. A tour of my apartment + How to score the best home goods at thrift stores

photo by Monika Clarke // cc

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Life wisdom + the things I wish I'd known

Why was every hair-related decision a bad one? 

Dear 22-year-old self,
I'm so glad you decided to teach in Brazil! What an excellent adventure! And you were so proactive about finding that event planning job! High five from your future self.

However, a note about that boss of yours. 
Your instincts were right. She is The Actual Worst. When she asked on your first day if you were "trying to not answer the phone" she wasn't joking. And that's a pretty accurate representation of who she is. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. 

And that kind, funny guy you've been dating for years? You knooooow he's not your person. Like, down to your bones you know he's not. Save yourself (and him) a lot of time and heartbreak and find the courage to end it cleanly and sweetly. 

Such would be the beginning of what would be a 75-page letter to my younger self.
(also included: "no dreadlocks fashioned with Elmer's glue" and "don't rent the yellow house on sixth street.")

Last month, 20 of my favorite bloggers, writers, and internet humans were kind enough to share their Notes To My Younger Self in support of The Post College Survival Kit. Each of their posts was overflowing with good advice - so much so I thought they were book caliber.

So Kim Lawler bundled up all those clever, helpful posts into one pretty, 62-page ebook.

And it's yours for free if you're on my email list - piles of life advice from insanely smart women. Click below to sign up for the newsletter and get four (!) of my best, most helpful little ebooks. 

Thanks again to all my super lovely (and ridiculously talented) contributors. I hand chose them for their awesome - so you should pop over and check 'em out.

Today I'm Bobbi // Kyla Roma // Rebecca McLoughlin // Mara Glatzel // Sarah Storer // Greatest Escapist // Smaggle // Katie Lee // The Nectar Collective // Elise Blaha Cripe // Rosy Blu // Hey Eleanor! // The Loudmouth Lifestyle // Courtney Bowden // Scathingly Brilliant // Save The Kales // Betty Means Business // The Wonder Forest // Kim Lawler // Braid Creative // Xosarah // Halley Grey // Dr. Danielle Dowling //

As always, thanks so much for making Yes and Yes part of your day + your online life! And if you're already a subscriber? Be on the lookout for a copy in your inbox this afternoon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mini Travel Guide: Luxembourg

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals give us insights into the best stuff. (And then we try not to immediately book tickets). This guest post comes to us via Steffi.

travel guide luxembourg

Nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the North”, Luxembourg is the only Grand-Duchy in the world, which gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1839. It is a multicultural little gem in the heart of Europe, home to some 530.000 people from 171 nationalities. 

I cannot believe that it has taken me seven years of living abroad, first in the UK and then in Germany, to truly realise the beauty of my wonderful and unique home country. If you arrive by plan and then catch the bus into town, you will know what I mean – the view of the valley and the rock on which Luxembourg sits is truly breath-taking. 

Must go
As lovely and charming Luxembourg City is, you need to venture beyond the borders of the Capital City. Catch a train to Clervaux in the North of the country where you can discover the Family of Man Photography Exhibition, which is housed in a medieval castle. 

You can also get on a bus to Remich, in the South-East, where you can start the afternoon with a wine tasting session, followed by a boat trip on the Moselle, the river which divides Luxembourg from Germany. 

For the hikers among you – do not miss out on the Mullerthal, which is also known as Little Switzerland. 

Must do
An absolute must do is a visit to the Casemates in the City Centre, which are fortified gun emplacements built nestle into Luxembourg’s city rock, and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is definitely a photography opportunity not to be missed. 

Must eat
These are potato fritters, served on food stalls during open-air public festivities such as the Christmas market, the Octave (the yearly pilgrimage to the Cathedral) and Schueberfouer (the annual fun fair). They are the perfect side dish for the Bouneschlupp, a traditional Luxembourgish bean-in-beef-broth. 

For the more culinary adventurous among you, I would highly suggest you try some game meat (venison or boar) or horse meat, another Luxembourgish speciality. 

This is a sausage served in a mustard sauce, accompanied with mashed potatoes and some vegetables. 

Luxembourg is also very proud of its wine making region; so do it like the locals, order a glass of crémant (the name for the sparkling wine which is not from the Champagne region) as an aperitif and round off your main course with a glass of Rivaner or Elbling (the table wines) or Auxerrois or Pinot Gris (the more upmarket white wine). 

Cultural tips
Luxembourg is a Catholic family-oriented country and as a result Sundays are considered as “holy”, which means that shops are usually closed (with a few exceptions). So go with the flow and enjoy a lazy Sunday, rather than getting annoyed that you cannot go shopping. 

Apart from that, learn how to say “moien” (hello in Luxembourgish), Luxembourgers are very proud of their identity and their own language, and you will see that this little word will go a long way, and way further than “Bonjour” (the French word for hello). 

Travel on the cheap
Let’s be honest, Luxembourg is not a cheap place to visit, so be prepared. 

Youth hostels are good-value for money and there are several in different places around the country. 

In terms of food, I highly recommend having your main meal at lunch time (that is what the Luxembourgers do); a lot of restaurants, cafés and bars cater for this and offer a “Plat du Jour” (Dish of the Day) for less than 10 Euros. A traditional Luxembourgish dinner is a few slices of bread with cheese and ham, which you can easily pick up in the supermarkets. 

Believe it or not, there are things which are free in Luxembourg: in the summer the City of Luxembourg organises free open air cinema screenings and concerts, like the “Blues and Jazz Rallye” in July. 

There are also a few parks around Luxembourg City, so grab a local beer from the supermarket, and soak up the sun. 

In regards to transport – avoid taxis at all costs, they are unbelievably expensive. Public transport in contrast is very cheap, a day ticket, which provides you with unlimited travel on all buses and trains for the whole country, only costs 4 Euros. 

Enjoy your time in Luxembourg, and if you need a tour guide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me!

Thanks so much for sharing, Steffi! Have any of you guys been to Luxembourg? Any tips to share?

P.S. How to plan a month's-long, quit-your-job kind of trip + the art of travel zen

photos by 55laney69 // david jones // alis whim // filtran // wolfgang staudt // cc

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Well-Mannered Otter + October Ad Space

It may surprise you to know that I think of otters as my animal counterpart rather than cats. This little buddy neeeeearly nails it but things fall apart pretty quickly when he forgets himself and climbs on top of the table for a wee nap.

C'mon.guy. Get it together.

Anyway. This post isn't just about otters. I've got ad space! You might want some!

Who advertises here?  Life coaches. Etsy shops. Indie fashion labels. Travel websites.  Artists.  Designers of all types.  Who reads Yes and Yes?  Smart, funny, awesome women.  Mostly 18-40 English speakers - though there are plenty of teenagers and above-40s who stop by as well.  If you're a Big Deal Brand and you're interested in working together, check out my past partnerships with Blowfish Shoes and Shutterfly among others.

Sidebar ad space is available in one, two and three month packages with pricing discounts at two and three months. All 220 x 100 sponsors will be included in the mid-month sponsor introduction post.


$80 and $200 sponsors also have the option of offering discount codes to Yes and Yes newsletter subscribers (4,000+ people!) at no additional charge.

Some facts about Yes and Yes?
Daily unique visitors: 3,200 - 3,500 a day
Page views: 240,000+ per month
Twitter followers: 6,700+
Facebook fans: 4,280+
Blogspot followers: 3,270+
Google Page Rank: 4
RSS feed subscribers (between Feedburner, Bloglovin', Feedly) 10,000+
Newsletter subscribers: 4,000+

Some of the nice things that previous sponsors have said about Yes and Yes?

I've sponsored with Sarah a few times, and each experience has been amazing! The day my sponsored post went up I got five times my usual traffic! Not only is she a breeze to work with and prompt with communication, but she is also genuine and really does want to support other bloggers. So many times, advertising on another blog is a one-way street, but when I sponsor Sarah I feel like we're supporting each other. It's wonderful to have someone like her in the blogosphere! - Stephanie, The Loudmouth Lifestyle

Sponsoring Yes & Yes is the single best thing I've done to grow my blog's readership and community.Sarah is a joy to work with and has shared thoughtful ideas to make the sponsorship a real partnership. My data-loving jaw dropped when I looked at site statistics for readers from Yes & Yes: the average (lovely) visitor from Y&Y stayed on my site for 3:22 minutes compared to an average 1:22, the bounce rate was 44% compared to the average 78%, and Y&Y was my second largest traffic source for the month. The community Sarah cultivates on Y&Y is a supportive, engaged group who have kept reading and commenting since I first sponsored Y&Y in March. Thank you, Sarah! - Alicia Johnston, Jaybird

Sponsoring Yes and Yes was the first time I'd invested advertising dollars into my business and I could not be more pleased! The whole process was simple, organized and, best of all, drove huge spikes of traffic to my site, especially on the days Sarah's sponsor post went live. - Alana Morgan, Paper Planes

Are you keen? Drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org and let's get you started!

True Story: My Dad Has Paranoid Schizophrenia

This is one of many True Stories interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Sarah and her father's mental health.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm Sarah. I'm 30 years old. I'm originally from a suburb of Philadelphia, but I've been living in Portland, Oregon for the past decade or so. I love to travel and go on little adventures as much as I can, but I am also really quite a homebody. I have a strong appreciation for the domestic arts - cooking, baking, crafts, gardening, canning, and so on and I write a blog called New Wave Domesticity.

I think a lot of people have misconceptions about paranoid schizophrenia, who it affects, and how it affects them. For those of us who don't know, what is it? And how does it affect your dad in particular?
There is no one way that schizophrenia presents itself, but generally the most common symptom is auditory hallucinations - hearing voices that aren't there. Every person's hallucinations are unique to them, but the vast majority of them are based in paranoia and negative self-perception. Schizophrenia symptoms generally present themselves later in life and are sometimes triggered by a stressful or traumatic event. Anyone can have schizophrenia, but there seems to be a strong genetic component. Most people with the disease are actually incredibly intelligent and some have become famous musicians or mathematicians.

My dad suffers from auditory hallucinations and he basically believes that there is a radio transmitter in his brain feeding these voices from someone who is conspiring to ruin his life. His delusions onset in his twenties after he had a routine surgery on his knee. My dad keeps this hidden 99% of the time and has always held down a job in which he very much kept to himself. He's a pretty normal guy the vast majority of the time and if you met him, you would never know.

When did you realize that your dad was struggling with a mental health issue? 
I guess I always knew there was something wrong, but we didn't talk about it. It was really the proverbial elephant in the room for our family. I would sometimes hear my dad yelling and going on about these people that were after him and conspiring against him to ruin his life. Sometimes he would even tell me they would come after me next. I was pretty genuinely afraid of some group of people or monsters coming after me when I was little.

The first time I think I remember a real diagnosis was when I was about 10. He and my grandmother were fighting about it and I think that is when I heard the words for the first time.

How did you feel when you heard your dad's diagnosis?
When I heard the words, I remember them hitting me really hard. There were words for this... and if there are words for this, then I wasn't alone and there was information about it. Maybe there was even hope of it getting better. Even at 10, I think I knew it was a big deal to be able to have language for it. It helped me to not be afraid of invisible monsters, but instead opened a door of many years of learning what those words mean.

How has his diagnosis affected his life? How has it affected YOUR life?
Unfortunately, my father has never received treatment for his disease, so it is always part of his daily experience. My father's paranoia and delusions told him the doctors were in on the plan to hurt him and so treatment for it wasn't going to happen if he had anything to do with it. In his mind, I think he doesn't believe he is sick, but rather he genuinely believes the delusions to be his reality. I know it is a really painful thing for him to deal with, but he keeps all of it a secret most of the time. My dad goes out, he goes to work, he is an amazing guitar player, and has a knack for fixing things. It's a pretty silent struggle for him, but sometimes it does come out as he interacts verbally with the voices when he is angry or upset.

His illness has definitely impacted my entire family dynamic and my relationship with my father. I had a pretty traumatic childhood and I developed some really bad coping mechanisms as a result, but I've worked really hard to get past that. I think the whole idea of a family secret really hurt my ability to trust anyone. 

Schizophrenia has a strong hereditary component. Does anyone else in your family have it? 
To my knowledge, no one else in the family has it, but we also don't talk about it. It's very possible that someone has in the past or present does, but unfortunately because of the intense stigma about mental health, it's not really a dialog that my family has often. I don't even think most of our family knows about my dad's diagnosis. 

I once read a statistic about schizophrenia onset being most likely before the age of 27 and on my 27th birthday, there was a moment of relief deep down for me. I don't know how reliable that statistic was, but that made me realize that it was more a real fear of mine than I wanted to admit.

How has your father's diagnosis affected your feelings about family and familial responsibility? 
I suppose the big thing is that my father's diagnosis made it hard for he and I to connect. Schizophrenia is a very isolating disease and I think it had a real impact on how my father relates to and connects with others. There was also a time where I felt resentment to my mother for "making us go through that." I realize now that wasn't fair to put on her.

It definitely had a huge impact on how I perceive family overall. It created a lot of tension in our house and also created some sense of isolation because it was this big secret that we kept. I really wish my family and I were closer, but I think I don't really know how to have a family in some ways. I recently married into a really lovely functional family and it was really bizarre to me because I just don't really know how to be a part of it and I feel bad that I create that distance with them.

I think the hereditary nature of schizophrenia has definitely had a big weight on my choice to not have children. I made the decision in my teens (and still feel strongly about it) that I just can't live with that possibility of passing it on and would not have biological children. I choose not to have children for other reasons as well, but that definitely plays a role in the choice.

Have there been any silver linings to this?
I think the silver lining for me is that I am proud of my dad in this really unique way. Schizophrenia is a life altering and life shattering disease. People with the disease are 50 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Imagine if you had to wear headphones in your ears every single day that played a message about how you were ugly, stupid, and a failure...and that even told you to commit suicide - that would be awful for most of us. I really don't know if I could handle it, but my dad does.

I think about that a lot. He gets up every day and he moves on. My dad is a survivor and despite all his faults, I see him as an incredibly strong and admirable human being. He worked hard my whole life, he did animal voices for me and read books to me at bedtime, and he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. He was the best dad he could be. I am proud of him for never giving up even though he wasn't dealt the best cards. It's a huge inspiration to me.

I am also grateful that these experiences encouraged me to have a more opened heart and learn as much as I could about mental health. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in my late teens and I've been much more open to treatment and talking about my own mental health than I might have been had I not grown up in the situation I did. I have met some amazing people through sharing my experiences. 

If we know someone who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, how can we help? What are some things we shouldn't do or say?
I think compassion and an open mind are the most important things when dealing with this kind of diagnosis or any other mental health issue. Schizophrenia is a disease that is not kind to people and that's important to remember. There is a lot of fear around the disease and I absolutely understand why - it can be scary to see someone you love, or even a stranger on the street, express delusions. Sometimes people with schizophrenia are dangerous, but more often they aren't - they are just like everyone else. Everyone's situation is different, every person with schizophrenia deals with it differently.

It's necessary to recognize that the delusions and/or hallucinations are very real to the person experiencing them. You should not be dismissive or argumentative about what they are experiencing. Try to stay as calm and nonjudgmental as possible as the person is really likely to respond to your emotions and if they are heightened, it could escalate their experience. 

Early detection and treatment are important, so if you feel that someone in your life may be developing signs of schizophrenia - talk to them as soon as you can. That conversation will not be an easy one, but it is very important, so it might be a good idea for you to first have a conversation with a professional about the particular situation at hand and how to approach it. I strongly advocate finding support for yourself as a caretaker or ally to someone with schizophrenia. You will be much better for that person if you take the time to support and care for yourself. 

On a side note, no matter what your situation is, I want to make a plea that you try to keep an open mind next time you are talking to anyone about mental health. Try to re-frame the way you mentally respond to that "crazy" guy on the street who is talking to himself because he might be someone's dad and you really don't know what he has been through to get to that place. If a friend tells you they are having mental health issues or know someone who is, take a moment to find compassion and try to talk openly with them. Make an effort to see people as whole and dynamic human beings instead of diagnoses. If more people are aware of breaking down the stigma of mental illness, I genuinely feel we could make the world a better place and create a better life for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. 

If you have questions or want to share thoughts, I encourage you to comment or email me. I'm not a professional and I might not be able to give you advice, but let's break a little stigma and talk about it and support each other.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Sarah. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have any of experienced something similar? 

photo by billy lam // cc