The Happiness Project: Advocacy

I had big plans this month. Mental health is a topic really close to my heart so for Mental Health Awareness Month, which is in May every year, I wanted to up my advocacy. Some of my plans didn’t happen as I planned a lot of this before COVID. For example, I was supposed to be going to a writing festival this month where I would have been on a panel about mental health and writing. Obviously that didn’t happen but some other things still did. 

I’ve had a mental health podcast for about a year now. We normally release an episode biweekly, but this month my cohost and I decided to release an episode every week. We started the month with an interview with Holly Forness on grief. All three of us have experience with the topic and we were able to discuss how different it is for everybody. Our second episode of the month was on mental health depictions in Disney movies, which was a really fun episode to record. On top of Mental Health Awareness Month, its also Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month, so our third episode was a special episode where my cohost interviewed me on living with BPD. Lastly, we ended the month with an interview with Callyn Dorval about routines and self-soothing toolboxes. You can listen to all these episodes (and our full library of episodes) here

I also planned on upping the social media for the podcast as well this month to spread awareness. I was only successful for a while. After a couple of weeks, I just didn’t seem to have the energy for it anymore.  Balancing my own mental health with wanting to be an advocate was tricky. It was triggering my anxiety too much to do some of the social media so after a couple of weeks I just accepted that we weren’t going to post much and I tried to be okay with that.

I also tried to write another piece for The Mighty for this month but it wasn’t accepted. After my luck of getting three pieces published in a row by them, it’s been hard to deal with rejection after rejection but I’m working on it. 

Join me next month for fear. An interesting topic in the time of COVID-19.

The Happiness Project: Power

It’s a new year and I thought power would be the perfect theme for January. I have a friend who always calls me a superhero, and I never really believe her but I’m trying to. So this month has been all about taking my own power back and taking care of myself. In fact, Andrea and I did a podcast episode about how we’re going to take better care of ourselves in 2020, that you can listen to here.

Back in 2018, I got really into makeup. I’d also been into it, but I got really into it. I would spend hours watching makeup tutorials on Instagram and youtube while trying to perfect the perfect cat eye and learn what the hell highlighter was. 2019 was the year I got slightly obsessed with skincare. Suddenly I did more than just wash my face and slap some moisturizer on (if I even remembered to do that). I had a routine and more fancy skincare products than I could even name. This year it’s going to be oral hygiene and haircare. I brush my teeth daily (though twice a day could be iffy sometimes), but that was about it. I’ve been trying really hard to not only make sure I brush them twice a day, no matter what but floss and use mouthwash as well. For low spoon days when choosing between showering and brushing my teeth is just too much, I have a travel toothbrush and toothpaste in my shower so I can do both at once. I’ve set a reminder on my phone every night so I actually floss. It may seem overkill, but oral hygiene is really important and I’m just trying to get better at it. Is JVN proud of me yet?

As for hair care, I’ve been pretty brutal to my hair over the years. It’s already curly and very dry and damaged, to begin with, and then I’ve also spent the past ten years of my life, dying, bleaching, straightening, and doing everything else that’s bad for it. I’ve finally decided to give it a break. I’ve been bleaching it blonde for cosplays for a long time now, and I’m finally letting it grow out into it’s natural mousey, dishwater blonde state. I bought satin pillowcases, were are much better for curly hair. I regularly do hair masks and use products designed for damaged curly hair. Another thing I’ve been doing is trying to be more mindful of how I tie my hair up. With unruly hair, it’s so tempting to just throw it up in a tight elastic and forget about it. I’ve switched to gentler methods of putting up my hair such as these types of ties, or the fun spiral ones that look like old telephone cords. I’m also trying to wear my hair down more. As for bedtime, if my hair is wet I put it in a braid, but I’m trying not to sleep with wet hair as often, which is a bit of a challenge since I’ve always been an evening showerer.

Food and fitness is another goal of mine. Not going to lie, I’ve been failing at fitness this month. I’ve kind of been working out, but not really. So that’s a thing I definitely need to work harder on. As for food, I’m cooking at home more and really loving my new crockpot as well as sheet pan recipes (both are incredibly low spoon). It’s snacks I’m more focused on though. I always buy good food for meals, but I never think to buy snack food and then when I get hungry between meals I end up resorting to going and getting junk. So I’ve filled my kitchen with nice healthy snacks, and am eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. I feel a lot better and it also has the added bonus of seeing my pet rats happy because I share my healthy snacks with them.

I’m trying to make more healthy choices for my mental health as well. I usually watch all the movies nominated for an Oscar (you can read my blog post about lasts year’s here), but this year I’ve finally decided to not even attempt to watch them all and to just watch what I want to watch. First of all, the Oscars are earlier this year so there is less than a month between when the nominations are announced and when the award show airs. It’s a lot of work to watch 30 something movies in a month and it’s kind of stressful. I wasn’t about to do it this year in like three weeks. Also, there were movies this year that were nominated that I didn’t even want to watch because I knew they wouldn’t be good for my mental health (I’m looking at you Joker!). I’m not saying I’ll never watch all the movies nominated for Oscars again, but this year I’ve just decided it’s not for me. Besides, it might be fun to just guess what’s going to win at random.

I’m also starting to prepare for some big life changes. I’m looking for a new job since my contract is up in April. I honestly don’t really know what I want to do yet, so I’m doing some self-searching to see what might be a good position for me. I’m also starting to clean and purge my apartment since I will be moving in with my girlfriend over the summer. I know that’s a ways away, but I’m a bit of a hoarder so it’s going to take a while to go through all my stuff. Anyways, big things are happening.

Self-Care Advent Calendar

This time of year can make it hard to remember to take care of yourself. So in the spirit of the holidays, I have made a self-care advent calendar for December. Feel free to alter any of the activities if you need to, and remember to take care of yourself.

1. Make a list of holiday activities you want to do

2. Make your favourite seasonal clothes easy to find

3. Drink your favourite tea before bed

4. Make a list of things you’re grateful for

5. Turn off your phone for the evening

6. Meditate before bed

7. Have delicious brunch

8. Spend time with friends

9. Do something you love

10. Go for a walk

11. Take half an hour for yourself

12. Go to bed early and read

13. Meet up with a friend for hot chocolate

14. Write about your day

15. Do a holiday activity with someone

16. Do yoga

17. Have a bath

18. Reward yourself with a treat for being awesome

19. Walk or drive around your neighbourhood and look at the lights

20. Eat a good breakfast

21. Read a book by the fireplace

22. Take a long shower

23. Watch a holiday movie

24. Give a gift to someone

Happy holidays!

The Happiness Project: Solo

I’ve never been a person who’s had problems doing things alone. When I lived with my parents I would go to the movies by myself every week. I don’t mind going to eat by myself or go sit in a coffee shop and write. So I thought this month was going to be a breeze. I went into it with a plan. Both my best friend and my girlfriend were going on vacation at the same time and I thought that would be a great opportunity to take myself on some nice dates. I’d go to the movies, out for dinner, stuff along those lines. 

Then November came around… With Christmas coming around, funds are a little low, not to mention time. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on Christmas gifts and all my money on the rest of them. So dates by myself weren’t exactly going to happen. 

Then there was the other factor. For anyone who listens to my podcast, you’ve probably heard my episode on Favourite People. I’m not going to sum it up here (but I recommend you go listen to that episode if you want to learn more). Anyways, Andrea is my favourite person and I was really struggling with the idea of her going away for a week and a half. Everyone else was so excited and happy for her, and I was too, but underlying it all was an overwhelming sense of panic and abandonment. Yes, I’m aware it was only a week and a half. I know most people would think I’m being completely unreasonable, but it was a big deal to me. I was talking to another woman with BPD beforehand and she completely got it. 

Anyways, before Andrea left she made sure to remind me that there are other people who love me and that I should leave the house every once in a while. I like to think I succeeded. I went to my friend’s Caffe one night, went to a show with one friend, out for coffee with one, for lunch with one, and I even hung out with a few friends to watch a movie. And yes, I did end up taking myself out for dinner one night too. I also let someone help me when I was having a really hard day. She came over and really lifted my spirit. It’s hard for me to admit when I need help, so I’m really proud of myself for admitting that. 

I’ve really been working on expanding my support system. Reaching out to more people, taking on a lot more myself. It’s hard but therapy, DBT, and CBT are working wonders.

I thought this month was going to be about me doing things by myself, but it wasn’t at all. It ended up being about doing things without Andrea and also accepting help. The theme of the month may have been solo but even my childhood hero Han Solo needed help sometimes. He had Luke and Leia and I have my friends too. Now, I don’t need validation for doing this. I needed to do it for myself. 

Join me next month for joy. Yes, an appropriate theme for December, I’m aware. 

Introducing Not Enough Spoons

I’m sure anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows this, but May is mental health awareness month. I used to keep pretty quiet about my own mental illness, but it’s never going to be normalized if we don’t talk about it. I’m not ashamed that to quote a friend of mine, I have a bunch of letters and acronyms that follow my name. Alicen Ricard, sufferer of GAD, OCD, BPD, and depression. Not as good of a title as Daenerys Targaryen, but I own it. I am not my mental illnesses but I do have mental illnesses and I’m not afraid to talk about it.

One of the steps I’m taking in my mission to normalize mental health issues is to start a podcast about it. I’ve been working on it for quite a while and am pleased to announce that the first episode is going to be released next week.

I approached my friend Andrea and I one night and nervously told her my idea and asked if she’d produce it. To my delight, she said yes and the podcast was born.

With help from my co-host/producer, Andrea, I dive into various topics on mental illness and types of mental illness themselves while debunking common stigmas and misconceptions about them.

I’m more than a little nervous about putting my own story and mental illness on the line, but I truly feel it’s important.

Not Enough Spoons podcast will release its first episode on May 21, 2019.

You can follow us on:

If you have a topic suggestion for us or want to share your own mental health journey with us you can send an email to

“I Suck” and Other Borderline Thoughts

This past year has been a mental health challenge to say the least. Back in October I had depressive episode bad enough that I finally went on antidepressants. Though my depression did get better after that, my struggle was far from over.

Fast forward to January of this year and things started going downhill again. I was medicated, I didn’t have the same stresses I had back in 2018, so why wasn’t I feeling better? It all came to light when a friend mentioned a topic I didn’t want to talk about and my emotions went off the rail. I had a complete meltdown and I didn’t know why. That friend grew more concerned as I pulled away from her and shut off my phone so I could ignore her and the rest of the world.

I had so many thoughts and feelings and the emotions were clearly clouding my judgement. I wanted to immediately go see my friend and hear her say everything was going to be okay, but at the same time I had pulled away, so clearly she hated me now. Right? Wrong! This is just one of the many lies my brain tells me.

Turns out it wasn’t just my depression and anxiety that were kicking my ass. If you follow me on twitter and saw my outburst this month after I had some anon asshole tell me I shouldn’t tweet about such a “volatile illness”, then you already know this, but for the rest of you, I have Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD. Don’t know what that is? You’re not alone.

BPD is commonly mistaken for bipolar disorder, and although similar, they aren’t the same. I could give you some clinical description of BPD but honestly those never make it sound great. I did way too much reading after the diagnosis, as the only things I knew about it were from watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (which is amazing and you should all go watch it!). The reading just sent me into a downward spiral as a lot of books and articles really villainize it. People with BPD are seen as volatile monsters that can’t control their emotions or maintain friendships or relationships.

Let me just say, this isn’t true. People with BPD love big. I once told a friend we have so much love in our hearts for our close friends and family that we don’t have any left for ourselves. I personally don’t really seem to have trouble maintaining friendships, but that might be because my friends (especially the select few that know I have BPD) are stubborn and refuse to let me sabotage any of the relationships in my life. The only person I struggle to love is myself, but I’m working on that. Despite the title of this blog post, I don’t suck, even if my brain lies to me sometimes and tells me I do. I’m trying my best.

Struggling to deal with emotions is a huge part of BPD. I suffer from emotion dysregulation and black-and-white thinking (using always and never statements about yourself and others that may be harmful. Example: I’m never going to be able to do this). Add my anxiety and depression into the mix and my brain is a hot mess of emotion at any given point and time. I’ve cried more in the past few months than I ever have in my life. And considering the amount I cried last year, that’s saying something. I use a mood tracker and the vast amount of sting emotions I can go through in a single day is a little crazy.

But back to my point, once I found out I had BPD and cried for a while (followed by listening to “My Diagnosis” from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on repeat), I realized the past year (longer, if I’m being honest) suddenly made so much more sense. Suddenly I knew why I was struggling to “get over” emotional situations.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s been rough. I’d like to express nothing but gratitude to the people I’ve broken down and cried on because I just couldn’t handle all the emotions anymore. Nothing with BPD is a quick fix. I meditate, do grounding exercises, see a therapist, go to a BPD support group, and do daily Dialectical Behaviour Therapy homework. I work out even when I don’t want to. I journal nightly. I work so hard to maintain my mental health, and sometimes it still fails. But I don’t give up. I’m in this for the long haul.

Now, I’m not saying any of this for sympathy. There’s nothing I hate more. I’m here to break down stigmas. I want nothing more than to spread awareness about a terribly stigmatized but not well-known mental illness. Talking about all this feels like coming out all over again (actually worse, cause I never really “came out” I just started dating women and didn’t care anymore who noticed). This is worse, because I don’t want anyone to think less of me, but the only way I’m going to break that is talking about it. So I refuse to be quiet anymore.