When You Have a Sibling Who is Different From You

Author: Kerrin Frappier, Real Life Stories

I’ve never met sisters who are so different,” my mother says at least twice a week.

She says it incredulously, but she’s been coming to terms with this since my sister and I were just babies, as the differences between my twin and I were clear right from the get-go. She was a great eater and learned to talk very early, while I couldn’t have been less interested in food, or speaking in actual English.

Siblings, even twins, can have contrasting personalities — one can be confident and engaging, while another may tend to be reserved and a little bit guarded until he or she gets to know someone. One sister can be stubborn and loves to have the last word during any disagreement, while the other sister may abhor conflict and like to make jokes to lighten up uncomfortable situations. One brother could get nervous making doctor’s appointments, and another brother can talk to any stranger without hesitation. Siblings could have clashing interests in movies, television programs, and music.

But, why shouldn’t this be the case? Where is it written that people from the same gene pool must be clones of one another? Sure, siblings may have virtually the same experiences growing up, but that doesn’t mean they internalize things in the same exact way. And they don’t have to.

It would be boring to have to do everything in the same manner and never have an independent thought between two people, siblings or not. Siblings’ distinct identities can compliment one another. No one knows how to push buttons like a sibling, but perhaps, few people know better when we’re in need of advice, or a swift kick to get us into gear again.

Siblings can also use their different strengths to be influences on each other. Very often, they can talk about just anything, but also have outlets that allow for some space from one another. You don’t have to enjoy the same things or agree on everything to love and look up to one another!

Let’s hear it for the siblings who are nothing alike. The ones who struggle sometimes to understand one another, but always come back to love and support each other. The ones who disagree on everything except the fact that no one will ever love you (or get on your nerves) quite like a sibling. Here’s to the ones who put up with listening to that awful country music station on a trip in the car or are forced to watch your favorite “dumb” movie over and over and over.

To my sister, I appreciate your quick wit and your steadfastness. I love that you are my sister to bother and annoy, and I know we have learned a lot from each other. Here’s to many more fights over the TV remote and where we should go to dinner. But most importantly, here’s to many more days being each other’s best friends and confidants… even if we don’t always show it.

It’s Harder to Leave Than it is to Stay

Author: Danny Abriano, Real Life Stories

Before getting into the crux of this discussion about life and relationships, it first needs to be noted that I’m divorced.

This shouldn’t come with a stigma or raised eyebrows, but it sometimes does. Why? Because for most people who are in long-term relationships that are going wrong, it’s easier to stay than it is to leave. Leaving is better.

I’ve had a woman I was talking to stop answering me, and never answer again, after I told her I was divorced. That sucked. But, it’s better than being in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy.

And for most people, the process that is separation or divorce or moving out, combined with the fear of being alone for whatever period of time that transition lasts, is somehow preferred over starting anew. Starting anew is better.

The details of why I’m divorced really don’t matter. I have no ill will toward my ex, and she has none toward me. But we weren’t right for one another. And while I perhaps knew that before getting engaged, it took time to muster up the courage to leave the situation. Four years to be exact, one of which was absolutely brutal.

And in a long and winding way, that brings me to the main point, about long-term relationships — marriage included — in general.

I can literally count on one hand the amount of people in relationships I know who I believe are truly happy. And I haven’t drawn those conclusions anecdotally. I’ve drawn them from things I know to be true and posts on social media that portray two happy people, while I know one of them is dying internally.

Perfection, in relationships or elsewhere in life, isn’t possible. But happiness? That shouldn’t just be possible. It should be a requirement when you’re in a relationship with someone, let alone a marriage. And not sporadic happiness, either.

Yes, there will be fights. If you’re in a relationship and don’t fight, either one person is being dominated by the other and afraid to react, or both people are so boring that there are never any disagreements. Disagreements, within reason, are fine.

What’s not fine? Being with someone who you can very easily live without. Being with someone who doesn’t make you smile and laugh. Being with someone who doesn’t challenge you intellectually. Being with someone who you can’t wait to get away from.

And, there are far too many relationships/marriages like the above, as evidenced by the number of truly happy relationships I can count.

One such relationship involves people much older than millennials — a couple who are both around 70 years old. They realized after having kids that they should get divorced, but didn’t. Why? For the kids. They stayed in an unhappy, loveless, sexless marriage for their children, who were then raised in a house where their parents fought every day and showed no love toward one another.

The lesson?

While it can be incredibly hard and scary to leave a situation and start over, there is simply nothing worse than potentially wasting your life with someone you don’t belong with. And the sooner you get out, the sooner you can find the person you should be with. The person who will actually make you happy.

How to Manage Your Chronic Pain Through Diet and Exercise

Author: #NAMB Guest Author, Real Life Stories

Many people, millennials included, suffer from some sort of chronic pain — defined as lingering pain following an illness or injury. Though some turn to medications, which certainly have their place in some scenarios, they can lead to the development of a dependence.

Rather than relying solely on medications, it’s a good idea to give attention to things like having a proper diet and getting enough exercise (and the right kind) to help you manage your chronic pain. Now, how can we get started managing all this?

Reduce inflammation to reduce chronic pain
“Inflammation is the body’s immune response to toxins as it works to ‘purify’ itself. There are many ways to treat and manage chronic pain [but] one of the most exciting approaches, however — because it is all natural — is adopting an anti-inflammatory diet,” says The Cleveland Clinic.

Eat foods that help fight inflammation
Need a list of them? Here’s one. Also avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation. Try to eat as many fruits and vegetables that you can every single day. Include cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, sprouts, and broccoli into your diet as well as fish and nuts.

Avoid certain foods
Unfortunately, this list is pretty long. Studies have shown that fried foods, red meat, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and dairy can all cause inflammation. It may help to begin a sort of elimination diet and remove all of these at first, and reintroduce some to see what effect they have on your pain. Take baby steps until you figure it out.

Drink more water
No, you can’t go through your whole life drinking nothing but water — nor would you want to. But you can surely reduce the amount of things you drink that aren’t water. What you drink affects you just as much as what you eat. And if you think about all the things we drink, so many of them can cause inflammation.

Drink less caffeine and sugary drinks
Coffee and tea (due to caffeine), alcohol, sugary sodas, and milk can all exacerbate chronic pain if you buy into the inflammation model. And what about diet drinks? Well, according to, “The artificial sweetener [aspartame] found in diet sodas and many sugar-free sweets is part of a chemical group called excitotoxins, which activate neurons that can increase sensitivity to pain,” says Try drinking diet sodas sweetened with other artificial sweeteners, but if you find that you are not feeling any better, stick to water.

Start with moderate exercise 
Many chronic pain sufferers feel as though they are in too much pain to get up and exercise, even when exercise is the very thing that could make them feel better. Break out of the unproductive cycle by easing into exercise. Find exercise scenarios that put less stress on your muscles and joints, such as stretching, yoga, pilates, and other low-impact (but still somewhat strenuous) exercises. Also remember there are the “lifestyle exercises” like gardening and swimming.

Listen to your body
Whatever exercise you do, don’t push yourself to the point of extra pain. Listen to your body and know your limits. In the end, any exercise you get — however minor — is going to help. There’s nothing worse for chronic pain than being sedentary.


About the Author

Jackie Waters is a mother of four boys, and lives on a farm in Oregon. She is passionate about providing a healthy and happy home for her family, and aims to provide advice for others on how to do the same with her site

Mental Illness is Real and Frightening

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Real Life Stories

My mental health is not at its peak.

Mental illness is something that I have struggled with for most of my life, especially as I entered adolescence. I’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, depression, an unspecified personality disorder, and I have frequent bouts of dissociation. I spent two years misdiagnosed as bipolar. Yes, misdiagnosed. Casual, right?

I have been to edges that I don’t like to admit. I have felt like my brain is broken and doesn’t work “right.” I have experienced days that are just one panic attack after another. I have been frightened by the status of my mind. I have to keep a list of things that make me happy on a wall so that I don’t lose sight of them.

When my mood crashes, I can become uncharacteristically mean or distant. I have a nasty habit of isolating myself when I feel low, which can lead to extreme breakdowns. Cutting myself off leads me to make projections of my fears and anxiety. Essentially, I believe my friends are replacing me even when they aren’t. 

My panic attacks can be triggered by almost anything. A lot of times it’s caused by social situations, but not always. Each panic attack presents itself in a different way. While I can normally identify when one’s coming on, I’ve had other moments where I just genuinely thought I was having an asthma attack only for a doctor to find my lungs fine. When I panic, nothing makes sense. 

Being afraid of your own mind is something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

When the irrational part of my brain takes over, I lose control. In a moment that I’ve only recently become more open talking about, the irrational part of my brain led me to slice open my hand with a butcher’s knife because that part of my brain wanted me to use my blood as paint. What was terrifying in that moment was that I didn’t consciously make that decision; the knife was already making contact with my skin by the time I realized what was happening. Even by the next morning I wasn’t sure if I had dreamt the event or not.

I have come to terms with my illnesses, my hand is completely healed, and I’m taking the proper measures to control them. I share these to show how much can be going on in the human brain at one time. While there is so much going on in my brain, and anyone else’s brain who suffers from a mental illness, I have to continue to go to school, have a social life, and deal with the everyday responsibilities of being a human.

But I’m in constant fear that my mood will crash and suddenly I won’t be able to do anything, or I need to give myself a ten minute pep talk before I’m able to go ask for help in a store. I have to pretend everything is okay if I suddenly begin dissociating in class and don’t know what’s real anymore, which is really difficult to pull off convincingly.

And I am not alone. I know many people who suffer from depression, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and even moments of blackouts. Mental health is a part of life in every possible way that it can be.

But, there’s still a misconception out there that our generation is making mental illness “fashionable,” or a fad — and that even celebrities are using mental illness as they would fashion accessories. This a gross and potentially harmful misunderstanding. Carrie Fisher, everyone’s favorite and much missed space princess, was very vocal about her struggle with bipolar disorder… and nothing about it was ever for publicity.

Mental illness is not a new thing. And yet, the phrase “it’s all in your head” is thrown around constantly. There is so much fundamentally wrong with this phrase.

When you tell someone that their struggle is “all in their head,” it invalidates what they’re feeling and can even cause the person to not believe that they have a problem, which will prevent them from getting help. 

There is a stigma surrounding mental illness that states that if you just “think happy thoughts” then everything will be cured. But there’s a lot more to it than that. It consumes your body. More than once I have found myself unable to move because of severe anxiety sending waves of nausea and dizziness throughout my body. I have been trapped on the couch because my depression has drained me and I lose all motivation. I can’t simply “think happy thoughts” in those situations, because my mind and body are completely overridden.

Millennials are one of the first generations to actively seek help for mental illness on a wider scale. Previously, it was often seen as something that you kept to yourself. Because we are now seeking help, it is perceived that mental illness has become a trend and is something that has been publicized in every possible way.

I am not ashamed that I go to therapy. I’m not ashamed that I am on medication. And nobody should be. Why should we be subjected to live in a society where mental health isn’t taken seriously until it is too late?

This is just one of many questions we need to be asking ourselves everyday in order to be living our best lives. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about — being the best you you can be?

If you think you may be suffering from mental illness and don’t know it, I implore you to do some research on mental health facilities near you.

If you or anyone you know experiences suicidal thoughts or tendencies, whether related to a mental illness or not, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


What I’ve Learned From My Public Transportation Experiences

Author: Danny Abriano, Real Life Stories

Riding on public transportation in any large city can take lots of patience. The annoyances are plentiful, from delays to blazing hot subway cars, commuters eating disgusting food with the scent wafting, and much more.

One thing you can control, though? Your public transportation etiquette. And if everyone did this and learned from my experiences (and the experiences of many other commuters), the ride would be much easier for all.

Let people off before you get on
This is common sense, but I see this rule violated every single morning. Whether you’re trying to force your way on as people are getting off or simply standing in their way, you’re in violation. When the train pulls in, stand to the side (but close to the doors) and allow everyone to get off. If you don’t get a seat, you’ll live.

And that brings us to…

If sitting down will result in discomfort for others, don’t sit down
Again, another bit of common sense that is rarely used. I go by a simple rule. If there is an open seat with no one next to it, I’ll take it. If there is a middle seat with the seats on either end taken, I’ll only sit down if doing so does not squash the people on either side. There’s no reason to make two other people uncomfortable while not even being comfortable yourself.

I’ve had people literally sit on my thigh in order to squeeze into the seat next to me. It’s horrifying. And it’s resulted in me telling these people that they don’t fit. Because they don’t. And what they’re doing is a major violation of public transportation etiquette.

Do not force yourself into a crowded car during rush hour
The desire to race to work (or home) is understandable, especially if you’re running late. However, trains come every few minutes during rush hour, and there’s no reason to spend an entire ride with your elbow in someone’s side. Or your arm literally in their face. Doing this means you’re an idiot, Don’t be an idiot. Wait for the next train.

Recently, I had someone force their way on to my PATH train, which resulted in me being pressed up against a metal bar while this imbecile was pressed up against the entire right side of my body, My response was to shove them repeatedly in order to get more space, which brings us to…

Resist the urge to start a fight
I nearly violated this upon the morning that someone forced their way on to the train. Even if you follow all the public transportation etiquette rules, you’ll often be surrounded by those who don’t. I’ve had people accuse me of intentionally falling into them when trains nearly fly off the tracks, sending everyone flying. Don’t be that person. I’ve also had people accuse me of not giving them enough room when they try to sit down. And accuse me of elbowing them when they basically sit *on* me. If you respond to these imbeciles, do it in a calm way.

Do not ‘manspread’ or ‘womanspread’
This doesn’t mean that you should sit with your legs totally closed, since that would be insanely uncomfortable. But you should also refrain from taking up more room than necessary by spreading your legs to the point where you infringe on the space of those around you (or those who may sit around you). As an added part of this, do not ever put your feet on seats next to you or use them to place your bag or other personal belongings.

Do not eat
This comes with a few caveats. If you have a medical condition that requires it, or if you’re eating something totally non-offensive smelling (a candy bar, etc.), go for it. However, in almost all other instances, refrain from eating on public transportation. The smell will make those around you want to throw up. And make them hate you. I’ve seen people eat everything from chinese food to sandwiches to McDonald’s on the subway. Do not be this person. It’s disgusting.