RHOC’s Braunwyn Windham-Burke: ‘I’m an Alcoholic,’ 258 Days Sober

The first step. After calling herself “an alcoholic” in the season 15 premiere of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Braunwyn Windham-Burke candidly opened up about her journey to sobriety.

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“When I first got sober, I was scared I wouldn’t be fun anymore, that my life was going to be boring. I really thought alcohol made life enjoyable, and that’s sad,” the Bravo personality, 42, wrote in a Glamour essay published on Thursday, October 15. “Now, nine months later, I realize that’s not at all true. Honestly, I dance even more now because I can stay awake. I sometimes used to pass out at, like, 7 p.m. because I had been drinking all day. So yeah, I actually have way more fun now.”

Windham-Burke acknowledged that she “never had a healthy relationship with alcohol” after taking her first sip at the age of 14. She would drink until she “blacked out or got sick” and only avoided liquor while pregnant or nursing her seven children with husband Sean Burke.

“I went to a meeting when I lived in Miami, but instead of sticking to a program, I just got pregnant,” she recalled. “I have seven kids, so that’s a huge chunk of my life that I was sober — or I should say, not drinking. Now I realize there’s a difference between not drinking and being sober, for me.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke and Sean Burke’s Ups and Downs

The reality star realized she had a problem after watching herself on TV and having “no recollection” of some of the scenes she filmed. She also admitted that she put family members and the show’s crew “in really uncomfortable positions” by overdrinking.

Windham-Burke decided to make a change in January while celebrating her costar Kelly Dodd’s birthday in Miami, where she was “drinking around the clock” to the point where she “started shaking” whenever she did not have a drink in her hand. She called her friend Leah Shafer and asked to speak to Shafer’s girlfriend, Below Deck star Captain Sandy Yawn, who has been sober for 30-plus years.

“We talked for an hour, during which time I told her what I was dealing with and asked if I could do this [sobriety journey] on film,” Windham-Burke wrote. “She said, ‘Absolutely, but you need to own it on the show. You need to be accountable, otherwise you’re going to drink again.’ Before I could change my mind, I called my producer and said, ‘This is the truth: I’m an alcoholic. I have been for many years, and I need to get sober. Let’s tell this story.’ Five days later, we started filming.”

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The stay-at-home mom marked 258 days of sobriety in an Instagram post on Wednesday, October 14, the day RHOC returned to Bravo.

“9 months ago my life was unmanageable, but today I’m happier then [sic] I’ve ever been, living life honestly on life’s terms,” she wrote.

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“I’m isolating in halls with people I barely know”: how it feels to be a student right now

Written by Lauren Geall

UK universities were already facing a mental health crisis – the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to make things worse.

I have a vivid memory of the moment my family dropped me off at university. I was terrified – as someone who lives with anxiety and had always relished in the comfort and security of home, moving almost four hours away to live with complete strangers was always going to be a challenge. 

Watching my parents and sister walk out the front door of my accommodation was like an out-of-body experience – like I was playing a part in some imaginary life detached from my reality.

What happened next was a bit of a blur. To my surprise, I coped pretty well those first couple of weeks – whenever I felt anxiety or homesickness creeping in, I tried hard to distract myself by heading out to a freshers meet up or attending parties with my flatmates. 

When I look back now, I realise that, despite all those positive experiences, my mental health was still incredibly fragile during that time. Detached from all the support systems I relied upon at home, I spent that first term teetering on an emotional edge; I was fine as long as everything went as expected – I used milestones such as being able to go home for the first time and submitting my first essay as stepping stones to get me through that term. 

Watching this year’s students head to university for the first time, that feeling of emotional unease came flooding back to me. At a time in life when thousands rely upon everything going according to plan, today’s young people are being forced to reckon with a constantly changing agenda – from coronavirus outbreaks on campus to having their lectures moved online. Add to that the fact that many are now being restricted from socialising outside their flat and having to stay in their rooms for long periods of the day, and it’s hardly surprising so many students are finding this time particularly difficult.

Elena*, 19, who is in her first year studying English and History and is currently having to isolate in her student halls, says she feels “overwhelmed and disillusioned”. 

“I am isolating in halls with people I barely know, and I fear that a continuous cycle of testing and isolating will characterise my first year,” she tells Stylist. “Students inevitably had to socialise during the first week of term, yet some took more irresponsible decisions than others.”

She continues: “The whole experience is scary and unnerving. It feels like we were only told it was safe to move in because the unis needed our rent and tuition money. My course was also changed due to budget cuts and I’m nervous about the challenging academic work on top of the mental strain of moving away into a high-risk city.”

And it’s not just the freshers who are suffering as a result of the uncertainty facing UK university campuses at the moment. Returning undergraduate and postgraduate students – who typically live in privately rented accommodation off-campus – are still having to come to terms with a university experience wildly different from the one they’d been taught to expect, with little chance to socialise and on-campus events being postponed for the time being. 

Rosie*, 20, who is in her second year studying English, says the whole experience has been “very confusing”.

“We’ve had barely any communication with how lectures and seminars are working,” she explains. “It’s really annoying how students are getting blamed for the second wave because all I’ve done is sit in my house for two weeks basically.

“I’ve been to the pub twice and out for dinner twice like any normal person, but I’ve heard nothing of any house parties or crazy gatherings, so I don’t know where everyone is getting that idea from.”

Sophia*, a 26-year-old forensic psychology PhD student whose course placements could be delayed by the pandemic, says studying from home has left her feeling demotivated when it comes to her course work.

“We’re paying £10,000 out of our own pocket because it’s a postgraduate course and it just feels really difficult and like we’re not getting the full experience. I fully appreciate it’s nothing to do with the university, it’s just really difficult in order to progress and learn at postgraduate level,” she says.

“It’s also quite demotivating sitting at home and writing essays because there’s no balance between going to university, getting out the house and then coming home and doing whatever you need to do in the evening.”

No matter where they’re studying, it’s clear that students are finding the changes which have come as a result of the coronavirus pandemic particularly difficult – especially those first-year students who are dealing with the additional pressure of moving away from home for the first time. 

The worrying part about this rise in stress and anxiety among students is that universities were already facing a mental health crisis before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Since the early 2000s, the number of students facing mental health problems has been on the up – in 2015/16 over 15,000 first-year students in UK universities reported that they had a mental health problem, compared to 3,000 in 2006.

With so many students facing additional pressures during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s worrying to think about how many more students could be facing mental health problems as a result.

However, it isn’t all bad news when it comes to students’ mental wellbeing. As a result of the additional pressures of the pandemic, new resources are being put in place to ensure that students are able to get timely support – a problem which many universities have faced due to the rise in demand.

Student Space – the new platform set up by student mental health organisation Student Minds – has been set up to provide students access to dedicated support, as well as resources that can help them face the challenges of coronavirus and a guide to the help on offer at their own university.

The Mental Health Foundation and NHS Every Mind Matters also have dedicated guides to help young people struggling to cope as a result of the pandemic, which include helpful information about taking care of your mental health, the importance of self-care and a list of dedicated helplines for people in need of support.

As someone who found my first term of university particularly draining and faced a mental health crisis in my second year, I know first-hand how isolating it can feel to struggle with your mental health during what is supposed to be a “fun” and “exciting” time – and I want today’s students to know that it’s OK to ask for help.

It can be hard to admit that you need help – especially when you’re trying to pretend that everything’s fine – but if you’re struggling at the moment, it’s important to reach out and access the resources and support systems that are available to you.  

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on mental health charity Mind’s website or see the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations here.

For confidential support you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected]

*names have been changed

Images: Getty

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Here's What It Really Means When a Narcissist Says 'I'm Sorry'

Clinical psychologist and therapist Dr. Ramani Durvasula makes videos educating people about how to best spot harmful toxic behavior in others, and what to do to protect yourself and limit the damage that can be wrought when you have a narcissist in your life. Having previously explained why it’s not wise to call out a narcissist, Durvasula’s most recent post explores how to respond if a narcissist actually apologizes for the way they have acted.

“The idea that their apology means they understand what they did, and they’re going to change their behavior, it isn’t true,” she says, “and if you hold that belief, it’s likely that you’re going to be very disappointed.”

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“An apology, done correctly, is taking responsibility; addressing the other person’s feelings, striving for reconciliation, and committing to learning from it,” she continues. “Unfortunately, that’s not what a narcissistic apology is. A narcissistic apology is sort of a way of keeping the trains running on time, of getting off the hook for something, of getting back to the way they want things to be.”

A narcissist doesn’t actually care that they hurt somebody else, and often, Durvasula points out, an apology only comes after a lengthy argument where they believe the person they hurt may take away their “supply.” And in each instance, the narcissist does not learn from the experience or adapt their behavior, and the cycle continues.

It’s pretty easy to identify a narcissist’s apology, simply because they won’t take responsibility for what they did. We’ve all heard that particular kind of non-apology, when somebody sounds like they’re apologizing but really they’re talking around their own accountability by saying things like “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“In all of these apologies, what you see is that they are not apologizing for something they did or said,” says Durvasula. “They are in essence, though, using the apology as a way of gaslighting you and invalidating your experience: ‘I’m sorry you feel that way,’ meaning ‘you probably shouldn’t.'”

A healthy apology, Durvasula explains, involves acknowledging and owning the original action, not just the reaction. There’s a huge difference between saying “I’m sorry you’re hurt” and “I’m sorry I hurt you, I’ll try to do better.” Durvasula’s three hallmarks of a healthy apology are responsibility, acknowledgment, and commitment.

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Kristin Cavallari: I'm Going 'Stir-Crazy' Parenting 3 Kids Amid Pandemic

A new normal. Kristin Cavallari is struggling to adjust to parenting three young children amid the coronavirus quarantine.

The Very Cavallari star, 33, opened up about the unexpected challenges she’s facing with her sons, Camden, 7, and Jaxon, 6, and 4-year-old daughter Saylor — whom she shares with her estranged husband, Jay Cutler — in an Instagram Live conversation with her stylist Dani Michelle on Saturday, May 16.

“I’m at my friend Justin’s house right now. We’ve been together for the entire quarantine time, literally from day 1,” Cavallari explained, referring to her pal Justin Anderson, with whom she and Cutler, 37, spent three weeks on vacation in the Bahamas in April.

“With my kids, it’s, like, ‘All right, what should we do today?’ We’ve maxed out every creative idea,” the Hills alum said. “I used to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning, work out and then I would get my kids ready for school, take them to school and go to the office. I haven’t set an alarm since all of this has been going on. It’s going to be really hard for me to get back into it. I don’t know that I can go back to that 5 a.m. lifestyle.”

Cavallari noted that she now has a later start to her mornings due to the quarantine and sharing a bed with her children.

“Because of my kids, I get up from anywhere between 6:30 and 8. I don’t normally let my kids sleep with me, but I’ve been rotating my kid for the last week,” she said. “It’s cute but those are the moments that will never be the same, we’ll never get those back. So in that sense, I’ve been trying to really enjoy that time with my kids.”

The Uncommon James designer has also undertaken the “tough” job of homeschooling — a feat that has been particularly difficult for her youngest son.

“I will tell you, the no school thing is tough,” Cavallari said. “With the boys, Jaxon will not listen to me. He refuses to do work. I’m like, ‘I can’t fight with you about doing schoolwork.’ It’s too hard.”

She added, “My kids are young so that’s nice. My boys are 7 and 6 so it’s not the end of the world if they’re not sitting here doing schoolwork every day but everyone’s going a little stir crazy because we really can’t go anywhere.”

Cavallari and the retired NFL quarterback announced their separation in April after seven years of marriage. Us Weekly confirmed on May 1 that the former couple settled on a custody agreement for their children, with each parent receiving 182.5 days a year.

After their split, Cutler penned a sweet Mother’s Day tribute to Cavallari on May 10.

“Happy Mother’s day to all the moms. These 3 little ones picked a good one,” Cutler wrote alongside a photo of Camden, Jaxon and Saylor via Instagram.

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