The Best of The Tempest: Life edition. Our favorite 7 stories from 2019.

2019 was a year. While in the grand scheme of human history it probably won’t register as particularly significant, it was a year where womxn and femmes, and basically anyone who isn’t a cishet white man, started to find words to speak their truth. We talked about deeply traumatic experiences. We shared pain. But we also shared resiliency. So in no particular order, these are the Life Editor’s top picks for 2019.

1. “I couldn’t speak about my assault for years, until now” by

I couldn’t speak about my assault for years, until now

We all know assault sucks, but to describe it and confront it in writing? That’s something special.

2. “We’re all the victims in a world of school shootings” by  

We’re all the victims in a world of school shootings

In an America where shootings seem to happen every other day, a deep and personal narrative describing the effects of such happens is so important. Even if you haven’t been directly involved in a shooting, the PTSD hits us all in its own way.

3. “My neighborhood believes in walls and privacy, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed a week without a wall” by

My neighborhood believes in walls and privacy, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed a week without a wall

Walls are made for privacy but are they hurting human compassion and sympathy? During one week without a wall in the suburbs of Johannesburg, this author discovered an entirely new side to her neighborhood. But at the end of that week, the wall went back up and the camaraderie faded. Is privacy worth it?

4. “I wish people talked more about this depression symptom” by

I wish people talked more about this depression symptom

Brain fog is a real and horrific effect of depression that doesn’t nearly get enough attention. Brain fog refers to a cluster of symptoms that affect thinking, memory and recollection. Moreover, it affects more than just those with depression. Understanding each other is the first step to making this world a better and more accepting place.

5. “What I didn’t know about life after graduation” by

What I didn’t know about life after graduation

Moving from the freeform setup of college into the abyss of the unknown is terrifying for everyone. We think the real world will offer the same freedom but, instead, we take any and all jobs that will pay the rent and offers health insurance.

6. “Here’s why I’m done helping you with your white guilt” by

Here’s why I’m done helping you with your white guilt

It is not up to women of color to make you feel better about your inherent racism. The everyday turmoil of microaggressions and stress placed on the shoulders of POC is simply unfair and exhausting.

7. “I lost my faith in religion. Now I have to tell my Muslim parents” by

I lost my faith in religion. Now I have to tell my Muslim parents

Something changed in this author’s faith over time. Slowly, she began to listen to music, dance and lose her passion for Islam. Is she still Muslim? Why couldn’t she connect?

Life is nuts but when we share our experiences the world gets a little closer and we understand each other a little better. Cheers to 2019!

Tech Now + Beyond

How ‘On This Day’ on Facebook inspires me to fight for the person I once was

A few months ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook memories when my attention was captured by a post I made in 2015. And it read, “I wonder if I’ll ever be happy again.”

The post caught me off-guard because I don’t remember writing it. And, while I used to be a fan of nihilistic humor at the time, it was unlike me to vaguely post something so dark and serious. When I clicked on the post, I realized the privacy settings were limited so that I was the only person who could see it.

I’m not sure why I shared it on Facebook, or why the privacy settings were so limited. It felt like a future diary entry that I knew only I could see. One thing’s for sure though – it reminded me that I’m lucky to have eventually found that happiness which I thought I’d lost

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ app. At times, it can be triggering for me. They include previous posts about abusive partners I’ve struggled to forget, photographs from traumatic stages in my life, and other tiny reminders of my trauma. I have PTSD, which means these memories are really difficult to view. For that reason, I don’t often look through the app.

But there’s an upside to seeing those upsetting posts too. They remind me that my life was difficult and that things have vastly improved since then in the space of a few years.

Some of the most difficult experiences of my life happened between 2013 and 2016. In this time period, I was more active on Facebook than in previous years because I had solid access to the internet. My posts from this time remind me of the difficulties I had gone through – hating university, having an awful immune system, battling anxiety, changing universities, enduring toxic and abusive partners, losing friends, experiencing multiple sexual assaults, dropping out of university.

Those posts remind me of the times I’ve wanted to give up, the suicidal thoughts, and the feeling of wanting to disappear because life was too hard. I ached to be free of the pain that surrounded me.

So now, when I read these memories, I desperately want to hug my past self – I want her to know that she’ll be okay, I want to tell her not to give up because the places she’ll go and the people she’ll meet will be worth all the pain one day. I want to tell her about the food she’ll eat, the cats she’ll adopt, and the friendships she’ll nurture.

I want to tell my past self that she’ll find a happiness sweeter than she’s ever felt before.

But I obviously can’t do that – we can’t time-travel and we can’t send posts backward through social media. What I can do, though, is take away one major lesson from all this – things can improve.

Our social media posts are often like time capsules. When we look back at our posts from years ago, we don’t just read what we’ve written – we remember the context, the environment we were in, and the feelings we were experiencing back then. When we share an old post from 2009 WhEn Yu TyPed LyKK thiSS***, we’re not just cringing at the way we typed. We’re cringing at our awkward, pre-pubescent selves, who were so keen on following a trend that we didn’t mind taking an extra few minutes to type out a post while alternating the case.

We remember how much we’ve grown since then. Likewise, when we see our posts from dark periods in our lives, we’re hit with a bundle of emotion and we might recoil at the memory of the pain we faced.

I’m always overcome with tenderness when I think about myself when I was a younger, more vulnerable human. I yearn to treat my past self gently, and while I can’t take care of her – I know I can take care of myself in the present.

 I often gaslight myself, thinking that my experiences couldn’t possibly have been as difficult as I think it was, but that’s not true – those experiences were hellish, and these posts prove it.

This reminds me of my resilience. I realize I’m in a much better place than I was a few years ago, and I’m confident that there’s no way to go but up. These reminders fuel me with self-love and with a resolve to practice self-care.

Millennials are often criticized for the fact that we record everything on the internet. We’re also criticized for treating our social media accounts like diaries, but there are many upsides to the ways we share our lives over the internet. And one upside is that it can provide us with tools for introspection and healing. These historical records keep notes of our individual growth, and sometimes, those notes are what we need to motivate ourselves to heal.

As annoying as Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ function may be, there’s something amazing about remembering how far I’ve come.

Mind Love Wellness Pop Culture

10 celebrities who opened up about their mental health in 2018

As 2018 comes to an end, lists of celebrities and their accomplishments, whether its movies they starred in or music they release, begin to pop-up. This is another one of those lists, though instead of applauding celebrities for the work they’ve released, this list will take a look at some celebrities who have spoken up about their mental health in the past year.

Mental health struggles affect most people at some point in their life, whether they are famous or not. There is still a lot of stigma around mental health, which is why it is powerful when people with a platform and a large following speak up. Celebrities can often seem to be perfect creatures, so when they share their struggles with anxiety or depression, it tells us that successful, talented people are working through their own issues. So it’s perfectly fine if we, lesser-known albeit awesome people, do too.

Here are 10 celebrities who were honest and open about their mental health struggles in 2018:

1. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, a mental health advocate, smiling at NYC Pride 2018
Lady Gaga, a mental health advocate, smiling at NYC Pride 2018. Via

Lady Gaga has spoken publicly about her diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being raped at age 19 throughout her career. Between her many albums and starring role in the critically-acclaimed 2018 adaptation of A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga and her mother created the Born This Way Foundation, which strives to improve the mental and general wellness of young people.

When receiving an award from the SAG-AFTRA Foundation in 2018, Lady Gaga said that we are losing “a generation of young people who do not believe that their voices are worth hearing” due to mental health not being properly addressed. Lady Gaga shared ways that PTSD has impacted her own life, which have included “physical chronic pain, fibromyalgia, panic attacks, acute trauma responses and debilitating mental spirals that have included suicidal ideations and masochistic behavior.” She also spoke about her mental health when she was receiving an award, which goes forth in helping normalize discussions around mental health.

2. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande giving a peace sign while on a red carpet.
Ariana Grande giving a peace sign while on a red carpet. Via Billboard

In an interview with British Vogue for its July 2018 edition, Ariana Grande shared that her anxiety increased tremendously after a terrorist attack at her concert in Manchester, England. “I think a lot of people have anxiety, especially right now,” Ariana said. “My anxiety has anxiety… I’ve always had anxiety. I’ve never really spoken about it because I thought everyone had it, but when I got home from tour it was the most severe I think it’s ever been.” Many people have some inherent level of anxiety, so it’s important that people like Ariana realize when their anxiety is not “normal.”

Gisele Bundchen listening to an interview on ABC News. Via ABC News

At the surface, Gisele Bundchen is a famous supermodel who has everything going for her. Gisele revealed in her memoir “My Paths to a Meaningful Life” that she contemplated suicide at the height of her career. “The idea swept over me: Maybe it will be easier if I just jump. It will be all over. I can get out of this,” Gisele wrote.

“When I think back on that moment, and that 23-year-old girl, I want to cry. I want to tell her that everything will be all right, that she hasn’t even begun to live her life. But in that moment, the only answer seemed to be to jump.”

Speaking up about suicidal ideations is crucial, as people who have them often feel alone.

4. Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson smiling while on the Today. Via Today

Taraji P. Henson started the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, which is named after her late father, to fight mental health stigma in the African-American community. Taraji also said that seeing a therapist is “the best thing [she] could have done in [her] life” while balancing being an actress, working through trauma that she endured, and being  a single mother.

5. Halsey

Halsey smiling at the audience while performing. Via Melofania

Halsey, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a suicide attempt when she was 17, talked to Marie Claire about her less than glamorous journey with learning to manage her mental health. “I don’t manage my mental illness to keep up with my lifestyle,” Halsey said. “I manage my lifestyle to keep up with my mental illness.” Halsey’s outlook on managing her mental illness shows that she prioritizes taking care of her mental health, like we all should.

6. Sarah Hyland

Sarah Hyland attends the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Via Getty Images

In a profile for Self Magazine, Sarah Hyland, who has kidney dyspepsia, said that her depression plummeted after the kidney that her father gave her failed, as she felt like a burden. “For a long time, I was contemplating suicide, because I didn’t want to fail my little brother like I failed my dad,” Sarah said. No one should feel like a burden, and it’s great that Sarah was able to work through her feelings regarding her kidney failure.

7. Emma Stone

Emma Stone on the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival. Via The Wrap

Oscar winner Emma Stone recently shared her experience with panic attacks when she was seven years old with Glamour Magazine. “It was really, really terrifying and overwhelming,” Emma said. “I was over at a friend’s house and all of a sudden I was absolutely convinced the house was on fire and it was going to burn down. I was just sitting in her bedroom, and obviously the house wasn’t on fire—but there was nothing in me that didn’t think we weren’t going to die.” Emma was able to work through her panic attacks. For many of us, working through our mental illness issues may seem impossible, but she’s proof that it can be done.

8. Selena Gomez

A photo from Selena Gomez’s deactivated Instagram next to a screenshot of her from Instagram Live Q&A. Via PopBuzz

Selena Gomez has continued to take care of her chronic illness, she has lupus, and her mental health in the public eye.  In an Instagram Live Q&A, Selena said that depression consumed her life for five years. “Depression and anxiety were the forefront of everything that I did in my life,” Selena said. “Every single thing. I would make myself have the courage to just keep going.” Mental health issues can seem consuming when we’re in dark places, so, like Selena did, it’s important to make ourselves keep pushing through these times.

9. Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams posing on a red carpet. Via BBC

In an Instagram post, singer Michelle Williams wrote that after empowering others to seek mental health treatment, Michelle decided to seek “help from a great team of healthcare professionals.” She later checked into a treatment facility for depression.

10. Kendall Jenner

Kendall Jenner arrives at the 2018 CFDA Fashion awards. Via Mercury News

In an interview with LOVE magazine, Kendall Jenner said her mental health prevented her from “Last season I didn’t do any shows,” Kendall  said. “Just ‘cause I was working in LA and I was like ‘Oof, I can’t right now — I’m gonna go crazy.’ I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.”  Kendall’s struggles with anxiety have been documented on her family’s reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Here’s to continuing to fight the stigma against mental health in 2019.

Gender & Identity Life

I am a dog person, but I’m terrified of meeting new dogs

If you look at any photo of me before I was 16 years old, I could likely be spotted fawning over a dog. Not my dog — any dog would do, as I thought they were all perfect angels and much better than humans. This all changed when I was 16 years old, not because I randomly became a cat person, but because of trauma. I had a traumatic experience with a dog that has left me feeling like I have been drowning for the past four years. It also made me afraid of meeting many new dogs, particularly big dogs.

On Halloween in 2014, my friends and I had decided to go Trick-or-Treating for the last time ever. Sure, we may have been too old, but this was still a fun tradition. I would have done anything to go back in time and decide not to go out. I dressed up as a Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and my dog Terry was Toto. We, my dog and I, had this group costume for five years. It was perfect, as she was the same breed, a Cairn Terrier, as the dog that played Toto. These two dogs looked like carbon copies of each other.

We walked up to a house, which must have been located less than 10 minutes away from where I lived at the time. It seemed like a normal house with, what I thought then, a Newfoundland who wanted to play with my dog. I asked the owner if the dog was friendly, and I let my dog walk up. Terry was the friendliest dog ever. This is not an exaggeration at all. Terry, on more than one occasion, had jumped into cars when she had the chance to meet “new friends.”

Terry ran up, excited to meet this new friend. I would be lying if I tried to tell you the precise details of what happened next because I can’t. I remember the bigger dog grabbing Terry, her screams, my friends and I pulling her away, and us running away. What I can remember next is me being drenched in her blood. I remember telling Terry, my best friend that she was such a good dog. Then she passed away less than a minute after I told her this.

To be blatant, I was a wreck for the next six months. I couldn’t sleep. Well, for more than three hours a night, which felt like nothing. My nightmares were terrible, but the flashbacks I had when I was awake were just as bad. At the same time, I had somewhat of an identity crisis. Before this experience, I was a proud believer of the idea that dogs were better than humans, and anyone who said anything different was wrong. Well, that dog that killed my best friend was capable of being violent like any human. I still love dogs after losing my dog at the hands of a  violent one, and I even have a dog now, but I’m afraid of meeting new dogs.

I should not have had to deal with this experience. But, on the only bright side, it made me understand what trauma can do to a person better. I should never have judged people for not liking dogs, as I don’t know what others have been through. By looking at me, people don’t know what I’ve been through either.

Roughly five months after losing Terry, my family got a Havanese named Lucky. Yes, he’s the light of my life, but he’s also a replacement for Terry, and I can’t detach my relationship with Lucky from that. One thing is for sure, I won’t let Lucky play with bigger dogs, as I’m so afraid to lose him too. I see the look that owners give me, trying to assure me that their dog is friendly, but I can’t trust them. I was told that once before, and then I was covered in my dying dog’s blood. I love dogs, I always will, but my relationship with them is different. I don’t like this, but I shouldn’t judge myself for trauma has changed me as a person, as it changes everyone.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories Advice Life

3 ways to stop blocking your blessings in love

If you grew up around abusive unhealthy love, or have experienced unhealthy relationships, it is mostly what you end up being attracted to subconsciously.

I believe that this is true because it explains why I was once so attracted to love that never quite met my needs. In Why We Keep Attracting The Wrong Partners, the idea is that we attract what we think we deserve and what we think we deserve is deeply rooted in what we experienced or witnessed in our early childhood. For me, I have always thought there has to be a way to change damaged men; I have watched my mom try to crack the code since I was conscious enough to notice to subtleties of her marriage with my father.

It is natural to be uncomfortable with unfamiliar things, even when they are good for us. As living creatures, our natural instinct is to either fight the things that scare us or run away from them. Despite what our bodies may be feeling in new situations, I am here to tell you that it is okay to stay in uncomfortable things that are good for you because that is where the biggest growth happens.

Recently, I started dating someone who is so thoughtful and kind, it’s actually kind of gross how cute he is. A few weeks ago, when I was in the middle of an anxiety attack on the phone with him, he left work because my wellbeing is important to him. He came over with my comfort foodChinese yellow rice and fried chickenand after making sure I ate, he lay in bed with me and held me as I tried to calm down.

I’m in a really healthy relationship with someone who has more than enough time to shower me with loving affirmations. After three soul-sucking unhealthy relationships, this one feels too good to be true. At first, it was really unsettling and at times it still is. In my current relationship, there are no manipulative chasing games, being left on reading for days, gaslighting, insecurity inducing neglectful behaviors, verbal abuse, nor emotional misleading. Instead, I’m told really sweet things every day and my wildest dreams are encouraged.

However, I still find myself thinking that this form of stability is only a mind made up reality. My own past traumas can’t believe it’s real. I’ve confused unhealthy patterns with healthy ones before making it really hard to feel confident in my own present-day understandings of my new relationship. 

A new relationship is an exciting thing, especially the beginning stages. After identifying my needs in my new relationship and being in open communication with my partner about what those are, I get a good feeling in my body that lets me know it’s okay to keep moving forward. The following things have helped me become more open to my partner’s genuine efforts to love me for who I am, despite the trauma from my past abusive relationships:

1. Recognizing why I attract what I attract

[Image description: A GIF of a girl tapping her chin and looking up in a pensive position.] Via Giphy
It’s very hard to fix something when you don’t know what needs fixing. In my relationships, much like my need to have my dad be more emotionally available to me, I tend to seek validation from emotionally empty men. I attract partners who can’t offer me genuine love because I subconsciously do not believe I deserve it. At least not without having to work hard for it. In the past, I have been comfortable with begging for affection because I had been doing it my whole life.

2. Prioritizing my well-being 

[Image description: A GIF of Oprah Winfrey taking a bubble bath smiling with white wine.] Via Giphy
We can lie to everyone, but ourselves. Unpacking trauma from past relationships can leave us on edge and unable to trust others. In the early stages of my relationship, I debated the following questions a lot: do I feel safe when I am with this person? Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally? If not, what do I need? For a while, I tried so hard to hide all of my apprehensive feelings but after a while, I realized there were things that I needed from my boyfriend in order to feel safe. A good indicator that your significant other’s intentions are pure is if they do the work to meet you where you’re at.

3. Going at my own pace

[Image description: A GIF of a couple in bed, the woman is on top of her partner and they are smiling at each other.] Via Giphy
My boyfriend has already told me he loves me. Instead of giving into the moment and saying it back, I told him that I still need more time. In past relationships, my eagerness to fill my voids has made me rush things. I allowed myself to fall all too deeply and too fast without really taking the time to process all the newness. This made me miss out on a lot of red flags. I’ve since made a vow, that I will check in with myself throughout all of my relationships to make sure things are going at a pace I feel comfortable with.

After taking the time to soul search, accept my needs, and communicate them with my partner I felt ready, I feel safe and in control of my well-being. If you’re still debating if you can trust the person who is trying to give you the world, know that your body will know what does not feel right. Listen to your intuition and trust that you will have your own back.

Health Care Love Wellness

As a chronically ill person, I understand #DoctorsAreDickheads

Having health issues which impact your life really sucks. Having doctors that don’t take your concerns seriously and even mock you can make this so much harder. Recently, the #DoctorsAreDickheads hashtag has shed light on how common and degrading this can be for patients.

The #DoctorsAreDickheads hashtag was met with some pushback from the medical community. While some doctors understood that their colleagues often gaslight and are condescending to patients, others believed the hashtag was divisive and rude.

Twitter user Lindsey (@VMLDSMom) pointed out that many patients who have had bad experiences with doctors have a chronic illness, including people with rare diseases. This hits very close to home, as I have a chronic illness, which also is a rare disease, and I’ve had my fair share of doctors who were dickheads.

Even when I see good news doctors, my past experiences with bad doctors continue to impact me. As I sat down in the waiting room a few weeks ago to a new doctor, my stomach felt like it was going to burst. Sure, this could have been a symptom of my autoimmune disease, vasculitis, but I blame my anxiety. I am afraid of hospitals because I nearly died as a result of medical negligence less than a year ago.

I found myself stuck in a Montreal hospital due to hives, being unable to eat or drink, and anaphylaxis-like symptoms in October 2016. I had no idea what was happening, and neither did my doctors. They didn’t seem to really care about finding what was making me sick. The hospital tested me for HIV, lupus, and syphilis – and that was it. A rheumatologist a spoke to before leaving said I was probably just stressed.

I asked them to continue testing me and to see a doctor to follow-up. They told me that they did not think I had an underlying condition and that I would have to go on a waiting list to see a doctor. I knew absolutely nothing about medicine, but I knew that they were wrong. I also did not want to spend all my time looking up possible conditions on the internet. I knew doing that would make my anxiety worse. After a year of Emergency Room visits and still waiting for a rheumatologist, I left Montreal. At the time, it felt like I fleeing to save my life. In a way, I almost was.

After briefly returning home to the United States, I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my family on vacation. My body felt like it was crushing itself, and my morale was low because my family was criticizing me for leaving school. The day after my birthday, I was hospitalized again for over a week. I almost didn’t make it that time. My c-reactive protein, which measures inflammation levels, was at a level akin to someone who had just had a heart attack. I also had to receive nutrients through an IV and was incubated. Not receiving treatment, or a diagnosis, put my life on the line.

Unlike the hospitals in Montreal, the doctors in Puerto Vallarta tested me for a variety of rare diseases until I was diagnosed with vasculitis. They took me seriously.  Although I am grateful for their care, I am now terrified of going to hospitals.

I am afraid, after what happened to me in Montreal, that I will be told that all my symptoms are in my head. Like most people sharing their story through the hashtag #DoctorsAreDickheads, I’ve had my symptoms played down many times before. I am afraid that they will miss something, and then I will have to fight for my life again and again and again. I can assure you, being afraid of hospitals is not the best thing in the world when you have a chronic illness. I have found myself at a hospital for a scheduled appointment or an Emergency Room visit every week for the past two years. This does not look like it will change any time soon.

I need to work on my anxiety and not be afraid of hospitals anymore, but it is hard. My anxiety and what happened to me are not my fault, but I need to take my life back. Hospitals will never be a good place for me; frankly, they aren’t for anyone. But I do need to find a way to feel safe and not terrified in them.

Tech Now + Beyond

Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we help domestic violence victims

Domestic violence is a serious problem in the United States. On average, three or more women in the country are murdered every day by their boyfriends or husbands. About 74 percent of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner of which 96 percent of the victims were women.

Stephanie Whack, an outreach program counselor at the Haven Hills domestic violence shelter in the San Fernando Valley, routinely helps victims of domestic violence obtain restraining orders through an AI-assisted platform called HelpSelf Legal. The program asks victims emotionally sensitive questions to fill out the necessary court documents against their abusers.

This platform was founded by Dorna Moini, who developed it after quitting her job as a corporate trial attorney, in an effort to help low-income victims of domestic violence. Almost a year after its launch, Moini says the service seems to be the most effective when it is used through a legal aid organization or a domestic violence shelter.

“While individuals can find and use the platform on their own, we have found it is better to have victims use it through an organization because those organizations can help with anything that comes after filing the paperwork like helping the victim find a counselor,” relayed Moini in a personal interview.

The service aims to help lawyers, not replace them.

The HelpSelf site “interviews” users by having them answer a number of easy to understand, friendly questions that are designed to be sensitive to trauma-victims. Explanations are also provided throughout the process so that the victim can truly understand what is being asked. The questions are asked in a bite-size manner so the process doesn’t emotionally overwhelm. If it does become too overwhelming, the user can leave the system and come back to finish the interview at any time. Users can also upload evidence and screenshots throughout the process.

Once the interview is complete, the documents are ready to be e-filed, mailed or filed in person depending on the court’s requirements.

The time a victim spends on the platform depends on their state of mind but ultimately reduces the overall process time. “The process can take up to five hours if a victim is extremely distressed. We provide emotional support while they are answering questions. If a victim is triggered during the process, we take a break and help them calm down,” said Whack.

The platform drastically reduces the time a lawyer has to spend looking at the final paperwork because there is no longer a need to talk through the documentation each time. Once the paperwork is complete, it is printed out at the shelter and reviewed by a lawyer. If there are any mistakes, they are corrected before the documents are filed.

The platform works best for relatively easy and straightforward cases, according to Whack. If cases are extremely complicated involving child protective services, for example, counselors at Haven Hills will refer them to agencies that provide on-site attorneys for legal advice.

Of course, the HelpSelf platform is not a victim’s only option to get a restraining order. There are traditional ways to file restraining orders for low-income victims such as self-help lessons at the courthouse or workshops at the police station but these avenues typically have long wait times. The other challenge is that these programs are only available at set times, which may not always work for victims.

“The self-help lessons at the nearby courthouse are usually only offered in the mornings and are on a first come first serve basis, which can be difficult for clients who have children,” Whack explained.

There are also safety concerns. The courthouse is open to everyone and sometimes the abuser is trying to file a restraining order at the same time as the victim.

HelpSelf isn’t the only AI tool helping victims of domestic violence. Deevi is an Australian emotionally intelligent Chatbot that asks victims with a list of questions and provides them with a list of services at the end.

In California, Jael.AI helps victims by helping them find a safe place to stay, the service contacts nearby shelters and gives them other resources as well. Deevi and Jael.AI, however, connect victims to legal professionals as opposed to guide the victim through the legal process itself.

AI-based resources in the realm of domestic violence are relatively new and their large-scale effectiveness remains to be seen. One thing is clear, however, it is an area of law that will always require a component of empathy, which is why the most effective tech solutions will likely involve a human element.

Editor's Picks Health Care Gender & Identity Advice Wellness Life

5 lessons I wish someone told me about mental health – so I’m telling you

Not to brag, but I’ve been in therapy on-and-off for the past 17 years, starting from when I was seven.  While not every therapist I’ve met was right for me, I learned lessons from each of them. They’re lessons that I still take to heart today. 

1. There is a link between chronic pain and mental illness.

Judy Greer on a late night show with the caption “I eat my pain and all my feelings.” via Giphy

In high school, I met a therapist who was the first person to point out the very real link between chronic pain and mental illness.

It seems obvious, but I hadn’t realized just how much the two connect. As someone who has suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) since age 12, it made sense. My therapist helped me to understand my mental illness, even giving it a name: generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Additionally, she helped me recognize toxic situations in my life that I didn’t even realize were affecting me.

A therapist can often provide a fresh perspective to help us see things in a new light.  Realizing the links between different aspects of my life helped me start making sense of my problems.

2. Group therapy is not for me.

Nicki Minaj with the caption "I'd rather not."
Nicki Minaj with the caption “I’d rather not.” via Giphy

In college, my options for therapy were limited. Between juggling my classes, my job, my social life, and my chronic illness, I was quite overwhelmed. There were resources available on campus, so I attended group therapy for anxiety management. I learned that group therapy wasn’t for me, at least during that time in my life. There are a bunch of different options for talk therapy,  and some may work better for us than others.

After college, my life drastically changed. When my autoimmune disease led to complications, we decided I needed a bone marrow transplant sooner rather than later. I was dealing with a blood disease called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). That January, I was admitted to the oncology ward and I felt myself spiraling downward. 

3. You won’t connect with every therapist.

Kristen Wiig as the Target Lady on SNL with the caption “It’s a match!” via Giphy

There was nothing fun about living in a hospital while undergoing chemotherapy.

The physical toll it took on my body seemed almost incomparable to how my mental health declined during this time. The hospital provided me with a psychiatrist, but I was struggling to connect with her.

Maybe it was my rapidly deteriorating mental state, but I just couldn’t and wouldn’t talk to her.  The hospital then provided me with another therapist. He was a young dude and the first person to introduce me to podcasts, which I now love. Although he was great, he wasn’t right for me. I made my dad ‘break up’ with him for me via text message.

Not every therapist will be the right match. It can be discouraging to make an effort to see a therapist, only to find you don’t vibe with them. I always encourage people to try a few sessions to see if there’s a connection. Or, if you have the option, try out different therapists to until you find someone you’re comfortable with.

4.  Plan three activities a day.

A planner opens and a finger points at a March date.
A planner opens and a finger points at a March date via Giphy

After my discharge from the hospital, I lived with my dad during my 100-day post-op recovery. The days were long and I was struggling to feel anything but hopeless.  It felt like I would never be healthy or free.

I saw a therapist twice a week as I desperately sought the will to keep going. She taught me to plan three small activities per day.  Whether going outside for five minutes, painting, journaling, or reading, I needed the structure. This broke up the endless bleak days and helped make me feel a little more like a real person.  When I feel especially depressed and unmotivated, I still use this strategy to manage my time.

5.  Keep going.

Truck driving on the side of the road. via Giphy

Now that the days of hospitalization are behind me, I’ve found a therapist who I connect with really well. With a fresh diagnosis of PTSD, he helps me restructure harmful patterns of thinking.  I commit to seeing him once a week to keep my emotional state in check, even when my depression seems at bay. This is immensely helpful for coping with the stress of day to day life. I have to keep going to maintain my progress. Therapy is hugely helpful, but it’s not something that will work overnight.

On my road to manage my mental health, I’ve gained valuable insights from every therapist I’ve met.  Each experience provided me with different perspectives, suggestions, and small comforts that continue to help me cope to this day.

Editor's Picks Gender & Identity Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I’m afraid to tell the police what happened – because he follows me everywhere

If I were a different person, maybe he would be in jail right now, instead of in my grocery store when I’m trying to buy cheese.

I was raped a decade ago. When I was in college I would flee the common area once I spotted him. At my first job, he walked in, asked me about nail polish and said we should be friends again. At a Denny’s on Halloween, I excused myself, went to the bathroom, and vomited after seeing him enter with his friends.

There are a million reasons why people don’t report sexual assault. Mine is: he’s everywhere.

By the time I was nineteen, I was already very familiar with the concept of fear. Most are. But with an untreated anxiety disorder and a history of sexual abuse by a former partner, fear and I were far better acquainted than I would have liked. I’d never dealt with it particularly well, especially not considering the many ways it had been used against me during that relationship. But I’d learned to ignore the knot in my throat – to swallow the nausea and remember to breathe. I counted slowly with deep inhales, and though it wasn’t a cure, it helped.

But how do you overcome that sort of fear when you’re faced with reliving your experiences? When the source of terror walks casually through a door and grins at you, almost as if nothing had ever happened? That’s the thing though. That calm collection that fills whichever room you’re in can also get into your head.

Looking back now, older and more educated, I have the resources I need to cope with what happened to me and pivot the need for accountability away from myself. But a younger and newly independent me couldn’t understand why he thought it was okay to look in my direction and show no remorse. He thought it was more than okay. He thought we could be friends. It was so much different in my head than his.

Fighting against his perception only fueled the endless pump of doubt that I had to somehow keep in check. How was I supposed to feel about my trauma when there was this nagging fear that maybe I was just overreacting? That feeling bled through all of my decisions, and like many people, I ended up sinking into it, trying not to be seen.

On those occasions when I would run into him, he would corner me and make small talk while I chewed on the inside of my cheeks and tried not to say anything. He said we should be friends. I gave nothing in return save for a polite smile – the kind that can barely be regarded as one.

“Don’t you think?” he pushed, as was his M.O.

I received a text from him three days later and blocked the number. I wanted it to be as easy as that. But every time I stepped out my door, I ran the risk of bumping into him. He went to my school. He lived four minutes from my house.

He showed up at my work, my social events, and even once came to my home unannounced, only leaving because my brother refused to let him in.

Even to this day, I’ll happen upon social media posts from himself and his family. They’re usually along the lines of shaming women and the victims of assault.

It’s no new story, only the ignorantly accepted norm of a white family from the south. I feel lucky because he hasn’t contacted me in years. Our last encounter was one I can’t even remember, as a friend informed me that he tried to get my attention on a drunken night out after we passed him on the street. It was my birthday. I’m sure he knew that. I’m sure he felt comfortable in approaching me with the cushion of that fact behind him.

But there is no comfort in knowing what I know. I’ve gained a sense of peace through my openness. When it came time to decide whether I would participate in the #MeToo movement, it wasn’t a question of whether I would admit I had been abused. It was about whether I felt safe enough to admit who the abuser was. And I didn’t. I don’t. I’m not sure I ever will.

Not with him lurking around the corner.

Maybe I’ll find my words once I’m far enough away to know he won’t come knocking at my door. Maybe I won’t. But he does know. And I’ll never forget.

TV Shows Podcasts Pop Culture

‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ has returned with a second season – and that’s worrying

It’s been nearly a year since the first season of Thirteen Reasons Why was released, and it’s only become more controversial as the months have passed. The second season just arrived on Netflix las week and many people are questioning whether it should have been renewed for another season in the first place.

Adding to the initial controversy is the fact that Jay Asher, who wrote the book Thirteen Reasons Why is based on, has recently been accused of sexual harassment. Because of these allegations, he was expelled from the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Asher denied the allegations.

In an Exposé podcast last year, CEO of The Tempest Laila Alawa sat down to talk to guests Kayria Taghdi and Katie Kaestner about Thirteen Reasons Why. They discussed the merits of the show as well as its potential harms. The show graphically depicted a suicide, bullying and abuse, social isolation, mental health issues, and sexual assault. It even hinted at the possibility of gun violence at the end of the first episode.

There are many good aspects of the show, of course. While I didn’t grow up in the US and thus am unfamiliar with the cultural context of the show, I feel like it’s quite realistic in its portrayal of high school politics. As someone who’s experienced suicide ideation and mental illness, I felt that the last few episodes depicted suicide in a fairly relatable, realistic way.

The podcast guests concluded that the show can’t positively change opinions about rape culture. I don’t necessarily think this is true, because it does show how the school system – including staff members – protects rapists. When Hannah tries to talk to her school guidance counselor about the fact that she was sexually assaulted, he used typical victim-blaming tactics on her. In my opinion, this was meant to anger the audience and prompt them into talking about rape culture. I don’t know whether it definitely improved people’s opinions, but as someone who’s been assaulted, I felt validated by it.

That said, I have a lot of reservations about Thirteen Reasons Why. I am sure that the show prompted some constructive conversations – but at what cost? A study noted that Google searches around suicide – including searches for information on how to commit suicide – skyrocketed after the show was released.

According to reports, Netflix was advised by suicide prevention groups not to show Hannah committing suicide, as it could trigger suicidal people and those with PTSD. Netflix went ahead and did it anyway. It’s reminiscent of when Netflix was warned about depicting eating disorders in To The Bone, as many of the scenes could trigger those with eating disorders. In both cases, it felt like Netflix was capitalizing on a growing awareness of mental health issues without caring about the people who were affected by it the most.

Many of us know our triggers, and we’d avoid depictions of suicide if we knew it would trigger us. However, there are many people who don’t know what their triggers are and what might push them over the edge. This is why “If you don’t like it, simply don’t watch it” is a problematic attitude to have – it’s not about whether you’d like the show, but how it would affect you and your mental health. Similarly, most people might not know their triggers. It’s possible that the show can trigger people and they won’t realize until it’s too late.

This is especially true for young people, who are given very little space to discuss their mental health and reflect on their emotional wellness. As Laila says in the podcast, teenagers are more impressionable than adults – something that is demonstrated by neuropsychology.  Since young people – including teenagers and preeteens – are the target audience for the show, this is particularly worrying.

So what’s to be done now that the show’s second season is out there? As mentioned in the podcast, many high schools were banning conversations on Thirteen Reasons Why, thinking these conversations could promote suicide.

As Laila mentions in the podcast, conversations on mental health are stigmatized enough. Although Thirteen Reasons Why can potentially be harmful, people will inevitably talk about it whether they like the show or not. For that reason, it’s essential that schools use it as an opportunity to promote positive coping mechanisms and to destigmatize mental illness and suicide. Ignoring the existence of the show isn’t a constructive move.

The first season of Thirteen Reasons Why taps into a lot of important conversations, and the second season is bound to do the same. That said, the show is not beyond reproach. The potential gain of “sparking conversations” is not necessarily worth the fact that it’s triggered people and even encouraged people to commit suicide. So, while I’ll watch the second season to satiate my own curiosity, I don’t buy that it’s great for society.


If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


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TV Shows Pop Culture

I never realized that ‘Skins’ would help me deal with my own trauma

Skins, the controversial British TV series that premiered in 2007, has become a beloved cult hit in recent years. With its racy storylines and talented cast – Dev Patel, Kaya Scodelario, and Daniel Kaluuya all starred in the show – it’s no wonder why it appealed to a lot of people. For me, though, the series has always been deeper than that: it was incredibly validating to me as a teenager struggling to cope with PTSD.

I started watching the show in 2010, when I was 15. From the beginning, it struck me that this was a series for teenagers. The show unapologetically showed teenagers aged 15 to 18 doing drugs, having sex, and making some awful decisions, which meant it wasn’t meant to be palatable to adults. In fact, Skins was so unpalatable to adults that the US version was cancelled, partly due to the fact that the Parents Television Board boycotted it.

It looked at teenagers’ lives in an unapologetic, raw way. One of the issues it dealt with was mental illness.

[bctt tweet=”‘Skins’ was never meant to be palatable to adults.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Both in the media and in the rest of society, teenagers are seldom given the space to have mental and emotional problems. Symptoms of mental illnesses are often dismissed as mood swings or over-exaggeration. We should take it seriously, but we don’t. This is partly because children and teenagers aren’t treated as people, and we dismiss their autonomy, opinions and experiences. It’s called adultism, and it sucks.

The media perpetuates this adultism. In many sitcoms and movies, teenagers’ emotional problems are often made to be the punchline of a joke. The problems often disappear an episode, underlining the implication that teenagers are over-dramatic. These issues are often contrasted with adult issues, which are shown to be more valid. This representation did nothing to validate me, a mentally ill child. Skins was a breath of fresh air.

Initially, I thought it was a show about kids behaving badly and getting up to mischief. A few episodes in, it became abundantly clear that it was deeper than that. Skins dealt with suicidality, abortion, death, grief, psychiatric hospitalization, addiction, eating disorders and more. The show never invalidated these issues. The characters engaged in adult-like vices, but they usually did it to cope from trauma. I went from thinking, “Holy shit! They’re too young to act like that!” to “Holy shit! They’re too young to go through that trauma!” to remembering that in real life, teenagers deal with this stuff every day – myself included.

[bctt tweet=”Both in the media and in the rest of society, teenagers are seldom given the space to have mental and emotional problems.” username=”wearethetempest”]

On the surface, the teenagers were irresponsible – but beneath that, they were worthy of our empathy, forgiveness, and compassion. Like real teenagers, they all had their own struggles and hurdles. Despite the fact that there were a lot of central characters and not enough episodes to look at all of them closely, the teenagers were all were shown as complex humans with their own thoughts, traumas, and feelings. 

An example of this is Effy, one of the show’s most beloved characters. She goes through a great deal of trauma throughout the show: she sees her brother getting hit by a bus, she’s kidnapped, her parents get divorced, she nearly kills someone, she runs away from home, and she was abandoned by her mother. She goes on a bender with her boyfriend in season 4, but it’s clear that it’s about self-medication and not superficial pleasure-seeking. She ends up in a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt.

The characters in Skins all had reasons for their actions. Cassie had a reason for her suicide attempt. Freddy had a reason for his reaction to Effy’s breakdown. Cook’s questionable choices occurred for a reason. Mini’s eating disorder was founded in real anxieties. In other words, the teenagers’ problems were shown as valid. Skins was unique in that it showed teens working through emotional baggage without once invalidating their feelings. For the first time, I felt like I had a right to be a mentally ill teenager. 

Additionally, it shows how the characters were let down by the adults meant to protect them. Very few of the characters have supportive parents or teachers, so it’s no wonder they struggle. In seasons 3 and 4, Jay Jay and Effy both see psychiatrists who harm them more than help them. As someone who was mistreated by the counsellors and adults that were meant to help me, this meant a lot. It reminded me that adults weren’t always right about these things.

[bctt tweet=”On the surface, the teenagers were irresponsible – but beneath that, they were worthy of our empathy, forgiveness, and compassion.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Skins is imperfect. The dialogue is sometimes frumpy and awkward, some of the jokes and gimmicks are cringe-y, and the cliffhangers are frustrating. On a deeper level, the show wasn’t the best example of diversity – I’d have liked, for example, to see a fat character represented well. That said, it was pretty revolutionary for its time. I can only hope that it inspires many future projects to deal with the topic of teenage mental health in an empathetic, understanding, and validating way.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Tech Now + Beyond

Startup apps that are taking the reins of mental health care in India

In my final year at university, I was assigned the task of making a documentary about the mental health care scenario in India. I went ahead with it like I would with any other assignment, but the more I researched and learned about the issue, the more concerned I became and soon the assignment turned into a personal mission to spread awareness. I now believe that no matter how many documentaries or articles I make based on the topic, it will never seem enough to me.

We all are familiar with the stigma attached to the conversation over mental health all over the world but compared to the west, India still has a lot to learn. Indians often fall short of providing support and care to those who wish to discuss their mental health issues openly.

Quoting data from National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, 2005, the last report available:

Nearly 60 million people in India suffer from mental disorders, out of which nearly 10-20 million (1-2% of the population) Indians suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and nearly 50 million (5% of population) suffered from common mental disorders like depression and anxiety

One major aspect that India lacks in terms of the mental health care scenario, is psychiatrists. The reason being the vast population of India. A huge portion of the mental health care facilities is concentrated in the urban cities and the private sectors. That makes them financially inaccessible for the people below the poverty line, which is a big number in itself.  A conclusion drawn from a report by WHO states that India has only 3 psychiatrists per million people.

For someone with anxiety like mine-who needs professional help but is held back by the fear of being judged-having mobile applications that provide help at the touch of a button is something to be grateful for.

There is a dire need for convenient, affordable and professional provisions of mental health support in India and there are startups catering to just that. While we work on getting rid of the stigma and make the discussion on mental health in India more practicable, having helpful technology like this can save a lot of lives.

1. YourDOST

(Image Description: Screenshot of a conversation between Shruti Singhal and the user (Shri). Shruti Singhal: Hi Shri. Good evening. Shri: Hello. Please help me. Shruti Singhal: Yes sure, how may I help you Shri. Would you like to tell me what’s on your mind? Shri: I’m feeling blue these days.) Via Google
(Image Description: The logo for YourDOST- a yellow circle with a black border around it. The word ‘YourDOST’ is written under a graphic of two faces facing away from each other.) Via Google

(‘Dost’ means friend in Hindi)

Founded by IIT  alumnus, Richa Singh, YourDOST is a platform that provides online counseling and cultivates emotional wellness. It connects people in need to experts like psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, life coaches and career guides. It offers anonymity and confidentiality both of which are good encouragements for getting people to share.

YourDOST has counselors that prioritized my issues and helped me find the root cause of my problems. The help provided at YourDOST is the perfect combination of professional, mixed with friendly and comforting.

2. Wysa

(Image Description: The logo of the app- a graphic of a penguin over the word Wysa.) Via Wysa
(Image Description: A photo of a mobile with a conversation on Wysa in the screen. There is a graphic of the penguin peeking from above the phone and says “Organise your thoughts”. The conversation reads- Wysa: Let’s try the ‘thoughtpad’. It’ll help organize your thoughts and find your focus. User: I’ll try it. Wysa: Great. Breathe deeply ,and watch your thoughts as they appear for a minute or two. Write each thought down in the text box as it comes to you. We’ll organize them later. ) Via Wysa

An adorable chatbot penguin that empathizes with you and listens to your rants while keeping all conversations anonymous. Wysa is an AI-based chatbot that uses evidence-based cognitive-behavioral techniques (CBT). Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati founded the app to help people manage their thoughts and emotions. It tracks the user’s sleep and other activities by proactively engaging with the user.

I love ranting to this little guy. By linking to the health app on my phone, it tracked my workout and sleep activities and analyzed my behavior. The guided mindfulness meditations really got me through the tough days.

3. Happy Being

(Image Description: This is the opening screen of the app- graphics of a meadow under two mountains with snow tops, the sun and clouds. The words “Happy Being” are written in the centre.)
(Image Description: A screenshot from the app that says- 50+ Relaxation techniques, involving body and mind. When you feel jittery or low, use the techniques in relax and relieve to learn to relax instantly. Try the techniques to discover which technique works best for you.)

Happy Being is a self-improvement app by nSmiles that offers personalized guided meditations, assessments, and activities. It caters to students, job seekers, working professionals, healthcare staff, homemakers, and senior citizens. By means of a tracker, the app helps people set, prioritize and achieve goals. One of its many features, ‘Relax and relieve’, contains Relax Audio, a De-stress journal, and my favorite: Affirmations.

I love how this app personalizes everything to suit my specific needs. The writing prompts along with the daily journal entries helped me put my emotions to the forefront and tackle them. I couldn’t help going back to the affirmations over and over again for boosts of confidence throughout the day.

There are many more upcoming online counseling platforms like Trijog, Seraniti, HealthEminds, and ePsyclinic that are making professional help as accessible as possible with the help of technology and digital media. These startups are a great step forward in the process of change and don’t make the future world where mental health care is a top priority, seem so far away.