Trauma

Emotional and Psychological Trauma - HelpGuide.org

Working at a child advocacy center, I have learned a lot about trauma. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) isn’t just something that war veterans have, it’s something that can result from many different situations. A lot of the children I work with end up having PTSD as a result of the abuse they have experienced. You might have PTSD from childhood trauma, a car crash, an abusive relationship, the sudden loss of a loved one, or any number of different scenarios. I’ve also learned that what defines “trauma” is different for everyone. Two people may experience the same thing and react completely differently. There are tons of things that factor into trauma.

It seems like trauma and PTSD are popular topics in the media today. I hear it mentioned all the time in the various videos and podcasts I listen to. The reason I want to talk about it today is because I caught myself feeling guilty about not having experienced any serious trauma in my life. Let me explain. I’ve always kind of considered myself a mess. I feel incapacitated by anxiety and neuroticism most of the time. However, I have heard so many stories of people that have gone through so much more than I could even imagine that seem to be coping with life better than I am. It makes me feel ashamed of myself, quite frankly.

It almost feels like I don’t deserve any compassion or sympathy for the issues I am struggling with from myself or anyone else. I often joke with my coworkers that the kids we meet are still higher functioning than I am, even though I’ve had such an easy life so far. I genuinely can’t understand it. Combing through my memories trying to find some kind of event to explain my poor mental health only makes me feel worse as I realize that I’ve not even had many minor forms of trauma in my life.

When I caught myself feeling guilty the other day, I tried to imagine what I would say to myself if I were a good friend. (We should all be our own good friends anyway, right?) I would have told that friend that they don’t need to justify or explain why they feel the ways they feel. It’s their experience and that’s enough to make it valid. This isn’t the trauma Olympics. Not all people who have anxiety or depression or any other mental illness have to have had a traumatic life experience. That’s why the DSM distinguishes between PTSD and other anxiety disorders, for instance. Not every mental illness has to be trigged by a particular life event. Not all traumatic life events have to lead to mental illness.

I often fall into that familiar trap of black and white thinking. Just because other people have it worse, doesn’t mean that my suffering doesn’t matter or that I’m not allowed to experience it. We each have our own shit to deal with. There is no need to compare ourselves to others in any way, let alone when it comes to mental illness. It’s not as if I choose to feel this way. Just like others didn’t choose to experience traumatic events or the aftermath that comes with them. You should never feel ashamed of something that is out of your control.

I would never want anyone to feel ashamed for not being able to “justify” their mental illness. That’s like being ashamed of having cancer because you never smoked and lived a healthy lifestyle. It makes no sense at all. In fact, even someone that does smoke cigarettes, resulting in lung cancer, still deserves compassion and sympathy. Despite all of my psychology education and social work experience, I can’t seem to let go of these nonsensical perspectives when it comes to myself. Even though I know mental illness is just as real and valid as physical illness, I can’t seem to shake the idea that it’s somehow my fault that I manage it so poorly. Even when I really am trying my best.

It’s amazing to me how much easier it is to offer love and understanding to others, while it feels impossible to extend the same kindness to myself. So this post is for all the other people like me out there, beating themselves up over things they can’t control. If you are unable to say it to yourself, I’m here to say it for you. No matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’ve gone through, no matter who you are, or what you’ve done, YOU deserve love. YOU deserve compassion. YOU deserve happiness. YOU are enough. YOU are worthy. Don’t forget it.

Sierra Boggess Quote: “You are enough. You are so enough, it is  unbelievable how enough you

Limiting Beliefs to Let Go of in Therapy

Today I want to write about some of the limiting beliefs that prevent me from being happy in my life. I think these beliefs will be what I’d like to tackle first once I find a therapist. I’m hoping that by writing it all down, I’ll be able to get a clearer picture of why therapy is important to me and my personal growth. Even though I majored in psychology and have a great respect for therapy and the field in general, part of me still feels hesitant about whether or not talking to a therapist would benefit me personally. I’m not sure why I have this reluctance. I think part of me believes that, while therapy works, not many practitioners in my area are very good at it. What I mean by this is they don’t seem to employ any evidence based therapies whatsoever. I’ve met quite a few therapists through my work and sadly only two have ever seemed legitimate to me. Even more sadly, one is a child therapist and both are off the table for me because we work together.

That brings me to my first limiting belief though. When I decide something is going to be difficult and take a lot of time and effort, I am quick to give up. I’ve always been someone that would rather not try at all than try and fail. This is no way to live your life though. Failure isn’t something to fear and avoid. It is a healthy part of the process of growth. I even try to avoid putting time and effort into personal relationships. Rather than have a painful conversation, I prefer to simply disappear. I almost ghosted my boyfriend the first time he asked to hangout because I was so afraid of setting time aside from my busy schedule to meet him. Part of me still wants to run away from him rather than make the five hour drive to his new apartment and stay there for three days at the end of the month. I have to keep reminding myself how grateful I am that I didn’t run away from that first meeting. I faced my fears and met an amazing boy that I’m growing to love. These are the types of experiences that I stand to lose if I continue to run from the hard things in life.

Ironically, while I am afraid that I won’t be able to find a good therapist, I’m also afraid that I will find one. What I mean by that is I’m afraid that eventually my therapist will make me face my self-destructive habits, particularly when it comes to food and exercise. I’m petrified that my therapist will challenge me to stop my insane daily cardio sessions. I know that she won’t be able to make me do anything. What scares me is I already know how much these obsessive compulsive habits hold me back. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make personal progress without facing them. I’ve always been afraid of giving up my exercise routine. I’ve been working out for at least an hour every single day for nearly a decade at this point. You might wonder what I’m afraid of. Most people would love an excuse not to exercise. That’s where my next limiting belief comes into play. A big part of me believes that my appearance directly reflects my worth as a human being, as a woman. Strangely enough this doesn’t apply to anyone else in my life, just me. I would never look down on someone because of their physical appearance. But when it comes to myself, it already feels like I hardly deserve to take up space in this world. I feel like I have to make myself into something pretty to look at in order to earn the right to exist at all. I have directly linked personal happiness and the right to be loved with how I look. Not only is this highly detrimental to my mental health, it is also completely unsustainable. Even though I’m not even 30 years old yet, I’ve already begun to fear aging. What will I do when my skin begins to crease and sag? When my hair turns grey and brittle? If it falls out completely? When my body can no longer keep up with the strenuous routines I impose upon it? No matter how afraid I am to face this, I know I’ll have to eventually.

Another limiting belief that I’d like to address in therapy is my dependence on the approval of others. This is somewhat part of my issue with looks, but this applies more to my personality. I have always been afraid of confrontation. I’d rather say yes to something and burden myself than say no and risk upsetting the other person. In order to avoid criticism or tough conversations, I’m quick to put other’s needs ahead of my own. I’d like to learn how to say no with confidence. I want to learn how to navigate more complex social interactions. More importantly I’d like to have a stronger connection with myself and learn to trust my intuition and see my own personal needs more clearly. I want to stand firm in the belief that I don’t need the approval and acceptance of others to be happy.

Finally I’d like to learn how to be more gentle and forgiving with myself. No matter how much I do or how far I’ve come, it’s never enough. I am quite good at criticizing myself for my mistakes, but utterly inept at congratulating myself when I succeed. After years of only focusing on my flaws, it’s often hard to even identify the things I’m doing well. I want to build a healthier relationship with myself through therapy. I’d like to be given some tools to help me practice loving kindness with myself. Even why I try to be kind to myself, it often feels hollow or uncomfortable. I have a hard time really believing anything positive I direct at myself. That cruel little voice in the back of my head is quick to counter anything nice I have to say. And after years and years of feeding that awful voice, it has become much stronger than my attempts to love myself.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had strong ideas about what I need to do to find happiness and fulfillment in my life. However even after years of effort, I can’t seem to overcome these limiting beliefs I have. The real reason I want to start therapy is so that I can have someone on my team. I want there to be someone else to help me and hold me accountable. It would also be nice to have an outside voice of advice and reassurance, someone to help me get perspective. Maybe then that mean little voice inside will finally be overpowered by positivity. Even though I’m afraid, even though it may be hard and take a long time, all I’ve got to do is focus on the step right in front of me. I don’t need to worry and wonder how many different therapists I’ll have to meet before I find the right one. Right now all I need to do is make one phone call and schedule that first appointment. Future me is capable of handling the rest as it comes.

Thrive Therapy Phx – Live Well. Live Free. Live Today.

FOMO

In case you don’t already know. FOMO is an acronym that means Fear of Missing Out. Until today, I never really thought of myself as someone who had this fear. I had only heard it in reference to more social situations. For example, being afraid of missing out on important milestones, dances, parties, etc. Today I realized that I do have my own slightly different FOMO. For me it’s more like I’m afraid of missing out on all of the different things I could do with my life. There are just so many options and choices to make in each moment. It’s usually impossible for me to decide. The anxiety I experience from contemplating all of the different options I have leaves me paralyzed, and I end up doing nothing.

What should I do with the very limited time I have each day? Should I clean out my fridge? Tend my garden? Decorate my yard? Paint my porch? Hangout with friends? Find new recipes and make a meal plan? Go shopping? Call my mom? Each and every one of these things is something that I want to do. It’s hard for me to prioritize one over another. I have a difficult time focusing my attention and ambition on just one thing at a time. But I worry that one day I’ll look back on my life and be full of regrets that I didn’t spend my time more wisely. I’d rather avoid thinking about it all together. It’s easier for me to just continue mindlessly going through the same motions that I went through the day before.

I keep trying to remind myself that ultimately it doesn’t matter what I choose to do with my free time. I could do all of these things and still be unhappy. I could do none of them and be perfectly happy. You’d think I would have learned this lesson last year when I cleaned and organized every inch of my house like I had been longing to do for ages. I felt quite accomplished and content at first. Since then that feeling of satisfaction has dwindled and disappeared. Despite my house being cleaner, I still feel like there are a million more things for me to do. But these external tasks have nothing to do with the quality of my life or my ability to be grateful for each day. I already do all the things I really need to do everyday. I don’t have to cause myself stress over deciding what more to do on top of that. Everything else is just extra. None of these things are necessary. I have to remember that all of these little things are insignificant in my life overall. Maybe one day I’ll get around to doing some of them, maybe not. Everything will be okay either way.

What matters isn’t that my backyard isn’t stylish enough, it’s that I am giving myself grief about it and overthinking it every day. It’s so tempting to externalize our discomfort and displeasure in life. It always feels like if we could just get every little detail in perfect order that THEN we could finally relax, THEN we could finally be comfortable and happy. The good news and the bad news is that this simply isn’t true. A much better way to achieve personal happiness and peace is to just be kinder to ourselves. Sometimes I think it’s not even the end result of these tasks that I truly desire, rather the peace and quite inside my head without that little voice constantly nagging me about it.

I’m the only one that can get that little voice to go away though. That is something that I have to resolve from within myself. Maybe the real thing I should be afraid of is living a life where I’m always so cruel and hard on myself. Wouldn’t I rather spend my time on this Earth showing myself unconditional love and support? Wouldn’t doing that be better than anything else I could possibly do? I would really like to find out.

Get Growing: If you're 'too busy,' start doing this - Bizwomen

Toxic Monogamy in Media

I truly wish that as a culture we would change the way that monogamy and cheating are portrayed in the media. I’ve written a lot about Polyamory on this blog. While I am currently in a monogamous relationship, I still think as human beings we are naturally polyamorous. There is a lot of social and biological evidence to support this theory, but I won’t get into that now. Today I just wanted to discuss the harmful effects of the way monogamy is represented in TV shows and movies.

The other day I was watching Doctor Foster on Netflix. It was a very good series, but I couldn’t seem to get past one huge problem in the plot. Ultimately the show revolved around a doctor whose husband had been cheating on her. It seems to be a reoccurring theme that if someone is cheating they are inherently a monster, a liar, and incapable of true love. Viewing things in such black and white terms is unhealthy for everyone involved, in my opinion.

Now I’m not saying that cheating on a partner that you’ve agreed to be monogamous with is okay, but demonizing someone for cheating doesn’t make the situation any better for anyone. All this does is make the person who has cheated think they are a hopelessly flawed person, selfish, heartless even, when in reality it may be that they are just unable to conform and live up to society’s unrealistic relationship standards. In the end, monogamy is going against our nature and some people, despite having the best intentions, simply aren’t able to do it. After all cheating would not be so insanely common if humans were truly monogamous biologically. But does this mean people who cheat are awful and unable to love? Of course not!

I understand that a lot of you out there may not be too eager to have sympathy for cheaters. Especially if you have been cheated on in the past. However, take a moment to consider the way this perception of cheating and monogamy also harm the person who gets cheated on. I doubt being cheated on would be so devastating and painful were it not framed in such a light. Just because your partner has cheated, it is assumed that they never cared about you at all. Your whole relationship must have been a lie. They must not have ever really loved you, otherwise they wouldn’t have cheated, right? Wrong. I can say from personal experience as someone who has made the mistake of cheating in the past, that I never for one moment stopped loving my partner. It wasn’t that he wasn’t good enough or that he couldn’t make me happy. The fact is I just fell in love with someone else at the same time. It didn’t have anything to do with the way I felt about my partner. There is no need for people that have been cheated on to doubt themselves, their love, or their worth as a partner.

The idea that we are only able to love one person at a time is ridiculous to me. There are all different types of love. We are able to experience many different forms of them at the same time. If we can love multiple children, multiple friends, multiple family members, why would we be incapable of loving multiple people romantically at the same time? Once again, this still isn’t a defense of cheating. It is completely unacceptable to break a partners trust in such a way. My problem is more with the culture surrounding romantic relationships in general. It is unnecessarily toxic and harmful, causing immense amounts of heartbreak for no reason.

I am hopeful though. A few years ago when I first heard the term polyamory, I had no idea what it was. Now it seems to be a widely understood concept. It is becoming more and more accepted among the younger generations. I am quite excited to see how this shift effects society as a whole. I believe a shift toward polyamory can only benefit humanity as well as individual mental health.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Altruism

For the majority of my life, I’ve considered myself a pretty selfish person. It’s not something I’m proud of or anything, just something I’ve recognized about myself. As I get older, I identify with that label less and less. I am still definitely more selfish and self-obsessed than a lot of the people I know, but not nearly as much as my past self. I think selfishness is something we all grow out of to some extent as we grow older. Although I’m not really sure why that is.

As far as my own personality goes, I think I’ve changed because the more I’ve experienced in life, the more I’ve learned that it feels good to be “selfless.” I say that almost ironically, because I’m not really sure if there truly are selfless acts in this world. Regardless of what our reasoning might be, we all have our own motives for doing everything that we do. In the end I truly believe that we are all connected anyway. We are all one. So by helping others, we are also helping ourselves. Even if in the moment it looks as though we’ve put ourselves at risk or denied ourselves something for the sake of another, all that truly means is that we value the way it feels to help more than whatever it is we may lose in the process. I just think some people are a little bit more honest and in tune with their intentions than others.

I don’t want this to sound cynical. I’m not trying to argue that no one is motivated by anything other than self interest. There is nothing wrong with feeling good about helping someone else. I think it’s quite beautiful even. It’s just one of the many ways this world provides us with a perfectly symbiotic relationship with all other life. It’s so bizarre to think that what was once a playground taunt “what goes around comes around” has actually been a profound truth all along. I’m not sure how I feel about karma because it is more focused on past lives. However, I do believe that we can feel the direct impacts of our own actions coming back to us in this life.

The real reason I wanted to talk about this idea today is because of the impact it can have on our mental health. It seems like despite the sunny warm weather returning, my mental health hasn’t improved like it usually does around this time of year. I’m not sure whether it’s because of this ongoing pandemic or what I’ve learned about our oceans recently, but something has been weighing on me quite heavily this past year. Yesterday, my best friend since third grade messaged me and expressed that she has been feeling the exact same ways that I have. Her anxiety has been worse than ever, she’s having panic attacks, depressive episodes, fits of rage, etc. While it truly broke my heart to hear how much she’s been struggling, comforting her did help me remember something very important that I’d nearly forgotten.

Sometimes when we are drowning in mental illness and focusing on all of our problems, it becomes hard to think about anything or anyone else. We get sucked into this painful, self-defeating vortex. Although it may seem impossible in these moments, one of the best ways to pull ourselves out is to try to focus on others for awhile. Even though it feels like you have nothing left to give, give anyway. One of my favorite quotes is, “the heart that gives, gathers.” A simple, yet powerful truth. There is nothing more uplifting or fulfilling than being of service to others, especially those you love. It’s nice to feel needed, to feel that you are a valuable part of someone else’s life, to see that you are capable of contributing to the lives of your friends, your family, your community.

When you fixate on something, it often grows and becomes larger and larger the longer you do. The same goes for your problems. A day spent focusing solely on my anxiety level is guaranteed to be a difficult day. As I spent hours on the phone with my friend last night, my own anxiety couldn’t have been further from my mind. I was even grateful for my own experiences with mental illness as it allowed me to better understand my friend’s suffering. I was so happy to be able to be there for her.

We briefly discussed the idea of “burdening” others with your distress or personal issues. Both of us have a tendency to be hesitant to speak up about our problems to those we love. It seems cruel to make them share our pain, even if it would lighten the load for us and provide much needed comfort. Even though I often feel this way, I do believe there is also another way to look at it. Perhaps it is a gift to share our troubles with our loved ones. After all, I didn’t feel burdened by talking to my friend about her struggles yesterday. I felt honored and thankful that she would come to me for help. It made me feel better to help her feel better. It is a beautiful experience of bonding and trust to be vulnerable with someone else.

The next time I am starting to feel overwhelmed by my own inner world, I want to remember what my friend reminded me yesterday by coming to me with her despair. I don’t need to be afraid to also share my difficulties. And even more importantly than that, sometimes the best remedy for those difficulties is shifting my focus to helping someone else instead. To remind myself that there is so much more in this world than my own suffering, that I am capable of more than suffering. I am even capable of easing the suffering of others, and that is something I am truly grateful for.





Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

Signs

Isn’t it funny how certain experiences in life tend to stand out at us? We’ve all had moments that made us wonder if some higher power is at play, nudging us along or drawing our attention to something important. Whether you believe in any particular higher power or not. I certainly haven’t for the majority of my life, yet still these moments continue to present themselves. Even though I learned all about the psychology behind why we feel this way about some events, but not others, I can’t help but wonder.

If I remember correctly, the scientific explanation for these “signs” we notice, is simply that our brains are placing more attention on certain events that fit our narrative, while ignoring all the others. It isn’t that we are doing this on purpose. It’s mostly unconscious. It is similar to the way we often feel like every time we are late there is traffic, and only when we’re late. In reality there is probably traffic quite often when we aren’t late as well. We just don’t notice it as much, or make a mental note of it like we do when it’s an extra inconvenience. Or maybe a better example would be when people share all of the supposed times prayer has miraculously healed people. These miracles are attributed to prayer, but all of the billions of times prayer didn’t work are ignored.

So when we notice “signs” in our lives, this is more than likely the same mental process behind it. Even so, it is hard to ignore that tingling intuition that there is something more meaningful at play. It’s quite frustrating to be honest. I like to think of myself as a logical, rational person. However, when it comes to this one situation, all of my rationality seems to fly out the window. I’m trying not to get into specifics, but I feel it’s going to get too confusing if I don’t.

Surprise, surprise, I’m referencing my relationship with my old high school sweetheart yet again. I swear, it makes me feel so pathetic and insane to even think about him at all. Part of this strangeness surrounding him is that I do seem unable to let him go. Despite my shame and my occasional hatred of him, he is still probably one of the people I think about most. Even when it felt like I had finally moved on a few years ago, it seemed like the universe conspired against me to place him back in front of me again.

That was probably the most significant and hard to shake of the “signs” I’ve experienced in relation to him. It had been years since we’d spoken. I had him blocked on all social media. I really hardly even thought about him anymore. My heart felt like it was finally at peace. Then one night, I had a vivid dream about him out of nowhere. Exactly one week later, he made great efforts to contact me out of the blue. I even tried to ignore his attempts, but he wouldn’t stop. Apparently he had even planned to appear at my house if I continued to be silent. Although I was happy in the end to get an apology and explanation from him and to have him in my life again, I still can’t help but feel cheated by that whole situation. Why was I dragged back into his orbit, just to be set adrift once again with renewed pain?

Since then there have been a few other, less impressive “signs” regarding him. I don’t pretend to know what these signs even mean, however. Perhaps simply that he is to be an important part of my life whether I want him to be or not. A year or so ago after newly mending our friendship once again, I found a blue and purple marble on a path I often walked in the woods behind my house. This seemed significant because it was just after I decided to talk with him again. Not only that, blue and purple are the colors I once assigned to him for his aura. This marble was dead center at the start of my hiking trail. No one else uses this trail besides me, certainly no children or anyone who would be carrying marbles into the forest. I had walked it just a day or so before. Never had I seen this marble which would have been easy to spot if it had been there all along. Certainly I would have noticed it earlier.

The most recent and frustrating of these “signs” happened just a few days ago. Once again I was beginning to feel like I was managing to let him go. I have a wonderful new vegan guy to talk to and I’ve been happy for the most part. Then I discover that my vegan guy is actually going to be moving 5 hours away from me for a new job he applied to before we met. Even though we’re going to try to do long-distance, I have little hope it will work out now and am desperately depressed about the whole thing. Then just two days after receiving that heartbreaking news, I run into my ex’s girlfriend at the grocery store.

At first, like the marble, this may not seem like anything significant. But the context matters. Since I’ve graduated high school, I don’t think I’ve run into a single classmate. Not only that, but my ex and this girlfriend don’t live in my area. They live two hours away now. This girl just happened to be in the area, in the grocery store, at the exact same moment and spot where I was, a few days after my new romantic relationship took a nosedive. It just seems so ridiculous. I’m sure I still sound crazy, but at least my mom sees the absurdity of all these things as well.

The most frustrating part is when something like this happens, it makes me wonder if I am supposed to do something about it. I’ve spent the last two days wondering if I should message my ex. Ultimately I’ve decided not to. Part of me worries that I am ignoring important direction from the universe or whatever. My mom thinks that whether I act or not, the universe will have it’s way, so I don’t have to worry too much. I hope she’s right. Although I don’t even know what I want to happen. Right now I mostly just want these strange occurrences to stop because whatever they are, they cause me so much pain.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

Change

I think it’s very interesting how many people I’ve heard say they don’t like change. I am one of them. Yet change is the only true constant in this world of ours. Without change none of us would even exist as we are. Just like with most things, it can be beautiful and also terrible. Just a few weeks ago I was quite excited about all the new changes that seemed to be happening in my life. Now as things continue to develop and change even further, I feel as though change is no longer a friend, but a bitter enemy.

At times like these I try to remind myself of all the changes in my life that initially felt unbearable, that ended up leading to some of my greatest joys. You can never really tell what even the smallest change may mean down the road. At the very least, it is an opportunity to practice letting go. Something I’ve never been very good at. I’m surprised my fingers are not just bloodied stumps from all the clinging I’ve done in my life.

One of the things I struggle with when facing an unpleasant change is whether or not to surrender to the sadness and pain that accompany it. I never know when I am just letting myself experience a healthy amount of painful emotions or when I am feeding those same emotions. Surely it isn’t healthy to turn away from every pang of the heart, but at the same time it is so easy to fall further into that deep dark hole that I’m still working to climb out of.

I suppose when I was younger there wasn’t much of a choice to be made. It was impossible to deny the feeling of raking claws across my chest, tearing at my tender heart. It seems like I used to cry so often as I was lying down to sleep at night. I never thought I could actually miss those awful moments of sorrow. Yet now I almost long to feel in the way that I once could. For years now, it has been nearly impossible for me to cry. It isn’t that I haven’t had reason to. The tears just don’t seem to come anymore. Instead of stinging eyes, now I only feel this strange gaping chasm behind my ribs, a terrible emptiness.

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

I Choose

The longer I live, the more I realize just how much about our lives and the way we experience reality is a personal choice. Our upbringing, our genetics, and our environment definitely contribute to how easily we are able to choose one thing over another, but we all have a choice. Some people may be naturally inclined to view things more negatively than others. For these people, it will always take more effort and practice to see the good in other people and situations. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort.

I think I was born a with a friendly, happy, and positive disposition. Even so, as I grew older I began to lose touch with that lighthearted, open nature. Encounters with heartache, pain, and rejection caused me to close my heart little by little in an attempt to protect myself, to shield myself from the world. I started to view myself as a pessimist. I was the stereotypical “emo” kid throughout high school. The longer I stayed in that “woe-is-me” mindset, the more I started to identify with it. Suffering became an essential part of me. For years now I have been working to redirect myself back down a more positive path, a path that feels more true to who I was meant to be, and who I want to be. (I plan to keep that emo aesthetic though. I love me some black clothing.)

Currently, I am at a stage where I am able to clearly see both sides of that coin. I can see the negatives, the pessimistic viewpoint I would have once had, but I can also see the positives, the option I have to view things in a different way. I used to think one way was more true or honest than the other, but now I see that reality is all about perception. There is no right or wrong way to experience the world. It is always a choice. At times this can lead me to feel frustrated as I struggle against that doom and gloom voice I spent so many years feeding and building up inside my own head. It can be easy to get stuck feeling hopeless, feeling unable to change, a lost cause.

When these doubts begin to bubble up I try to remind myself just how far I have come. I never could have imagined that I would be able to become the person I am today. All I can do is keep moving forward and trust in myself. It may be a slow and arduous process, but it’s worthwhile. Truly, it is the only kind of self-improvement that matters. You can tell yourself you will be happy once you get a promotion, make more money, lose more weight, build more muscle, move somewhere else, but even after reaching all of your goals, you are still the one you have to face at the end of the day. It is easy to think that changing external circumstances will change the way we think and feel inside. That inner voice loves to complain and blame this or that for all of our problems. However, those upsetting and limiting thoughts are the real problem. This is always where we must start our journey, inside ourselves.

Even after seeing so many people achieve the things I want to achieve in life and continuing to be miserable, I find myself thinking those same accomplishments will bring me happiness even if it didn’t for them. We always think we are the exception. But those things we desire are ultimately just distractions. They are excuses for why we aren’t able to be happy right now. It can be difficult to admit that we are the only reason we aren’t happy. Happiness comes from within. It has been ours since the day we gained consciousness and it will be available to us in each and every moment until the day we die. Even when it feels impossible for you to allow yourself to be happy, just know that it’s because you haven’t spent enough time practicing. Sometimes I even think of this practice like a game. When I find myself facing something exceptionally upsetting or challenging, I ask myself: are there any positives I can find in this situation? Just like the hag stones I scan the riverbank for, the more time you spend searching for certain things, the easier it becomes to spot them. When I first tried to find those special stones, I felt like I would never find one. I wasn’t even sure if there were any to find. Yet now I am easily able to pick up two or three as I walk along the shore without even trying. At first it might feel like there is really nothing good about different parts of your life, but the more you practice looking for the good in things, the easier it will become and the more abundant those good things will seem.

It can be hard work, training ourselves to be happy, but it is possible. Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. Keep trying. I say these words for myself as much as for anyone who happens to be reading this. We are capable. We are powerful. We have everything we need inside of us. Don’t be afraid. You are safe. You are loved. You are enough. Even if at first you don’t believe it, keep repeating these uplifting, empowering words to yourself. Eventually they will become as true and real to you as that negative inner dialogue that many of us have become accustomed to. It may not be easy, it may take a very long time, but I promise you, it will work. And it will be worth it.

I Will Be Grateful for This Day

I will be grateful for this day.

I will be grateful for each day to come.

– Bright Eyes

After watching the devastating documentary, Seaspiracy, on Sunday, I feel as though I was given a death sentence. I imagine it feels similar to going to your doctor and being diagnosed with a terminal illness. In some ways it’s not that bad. I should at least have a few decades rather than only a few months or years. Additionally, I’ll hopefully be able to enjoy good health up until that point. However, in other ways it is worse. A terminal illness is merely a personal end. Whereas, this will result in the end of all life. Certainly all human life.

I actually cried on my drive to work this morning. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the trees and the grass on the side of the highway, the cows calmly grazing in the fields, the sun, the atmosphere, the air we breathe. How much longer do I have to bask in the absolutely majesty of these things? How much time have I spent allowing myself to be distracted by insignificant nonsense? Why have I continued to waste my time and energy on anything other than love?

It is really hard for me to fully wrap my mind around all the information I now have. I feel as though I need to start living each day as if it were my last. How exactly do I do that though? That has been my issue. Even with death hanging over my head, it is still surprisingly hard to let go of all of my ridiculous habits. It feels like I have been primed since childhood to plan for the future. We are all encouraged by our schools, by our families, to make decisions and go about our days in ways that will benefit us in the future. Being able to delay gratification is a coveted and admired character trait. Years of living each day with my mind in the distant future, has made it quite hard to be comfortable just living in the present moment.

I don’t want to waste any more of the limited time I have to love and be loved on this dying planet in the middle of the vacuum of space. I have been reminding myself to be grateful for every moment. I am even going to invest in some books about coping with death and mortality. I was actually somewhat excited and relieved when I realized that these types of resources might be able to help me. For years now I have been struggling with how to seek help for myself given that most people don’t take my concerns seriously. Viewing this as a terminal illness has really allowed me to open my eyes to the vast amount of self-help materials that are out there for me.

Yesterday, my mother, who is skeptical about all of this data, asked me what the point of people making these documentaries is if we are all doomed anyway? I’ve been taking some time to think about that myself. It seems like the people that make these films somehow still hold out hope that we will be able to come back from this. I personally think they are in denial. However, even though I believe we no longer have a chance to change things, I still feel the need to spread this information and share it with those around me. I didn’t really understand why I felt it was important to do that though.

After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided that it is still important to get this information out there even if nothing can be done. It is important because I think people have the right to know this information. Most won’t believe it, but that’s their choice. I just want to make sure that for those that are willing to accept this data, they are given the opportunity to know about this harsh reality. Perhaps this will give them the motivation to live these final years in a more meaningful way. Maybe others will have moments of simple joy and happy tears just from the sight of trees and grass like I did this morning. Either way, I believe that knowledge is important in its own right. Reality matters.

For me, I am going to use this grim information to inspire me to live what remains of my life in a way I can be proud of. I want to give away all the love I have within me before my time is up. I want to be helpful and make a difference in the lives of those around me, those I care about. I want to savor each sweet moment of experience on this beautiful Earth. I’m going to spend more time outside in the sun, feeling the cool soil beneath my feet. I’m going to spend more time with my loved ones. I may not be able to save the world, but I can save myself by being grateful for the time I have.

Photo by Keegan Houser on Pexels.com

Tired of My Own Shit

Over three months into 2021 and I haven’t made nearly as much progress towards my goals as I had hoped. I had such grand plans to stop smoking and get my eating habits back on track. Yet hardly anything has changed at all. I suppose I am slightly proud that I have managed to stop smoking in the morning and all day at work. I’ve gotten back to only drinking sugar and creamer in my coffee on my days off. I’ve also managed to at least reimplement some healthy meals back into my diet, despite it overall still being extremely repetitive, shamefully odd, and unhealthy.

When I’ve stopped smoking cigarettes in the past, it has been because I would suddenly realize that this activity that I once relished and looked forward to, had become something to dread or at least feel indifferent towards. This same weariness has crept into all of my once cherished, bad habits. It is quite a strange realization. When once I could justify these behaviors to myself because they brought me some semblance of joy and calm, now I have no excuse. Now instead of feeling like I’m indulging myself and being cheeky, I feel as though I’m a slave to these compulsions.

To me, these feelings are similar to what some people call “rock bottom.” In that sense, I do understand why a lot of people say you must reach rock bottom before you are willing to change. Once you’ve gotten that low, it seems equally difficult no matter which path you choose to take. There is no longer a path of least resistance. It is just as hard, if not harder, to continue the negative behaviors than it is to change. Changing can almost become an exciting idea again, a real possibility, a real path back to some sort of happiness. After all, nothing could feel worse than continuing down the road you are on.

I feel like right now I am just on the precipice of that place. I can feel myself hesitating at the fork in the road before me. On the right I can see ahead of me more of the same drudgery, the same guilt, shame, and pain I’ve become so accustomed to. On the left, however, the path is completely obscured by a dense fog. At what point does the fear of the unknown become less terrifying than continuing on the way you have been? It feels like I am about to find out first hand. I hope that I am about to find out.

I promised myself that if I was still struggling after starting the new year that I would begin therapy. Even though I desperately don’t want to, nor do I really have the money to, I think it may finally be time to make an appointment. I’ve got to get a professional, outside perspective in order to help myself. I am too lost within the delusions of my own mental illness. When I first began these disordered eating habits, I told myself that it would be worth it because I would finally be able to be super skinny. And I was for at least a month or two last summer. So much so that my friends and family began to worry about me. Yet it didn’t bring me any happiness at all. I was more anxious and miserable than ever before. I still hated myself. I still hated my body and the way I looked, maybe even more than before. Somehow even though I felt bony and stick-like, I never stopped feeling bulbous, bulky, and too big.

Now I’ve basically reverted back to my normal weight (I’m too afraid of the scale to know for sure) but I’ve been unable to shake my disordered eating. It feels like all of that suffering was ultimately for nothing. I’ve maintained all the negatives, but none of the “positives.” And even though I keep reminding myself that my weight did not correlate with my happiness at all, I am too afraid of gaining more to take proper care of myself again. It’s been so long that I’m not sure I ever remember how to. Food used to be my crutch, my comfort, but now it has also become my greatest fear and my greatest shame. The damage I have done to my relationship with food and with myself seems impossible for me to fix alone. I need to push through my anxiety in order to ask for help, to get an outside voice to help overpower the unhealthy one in my head.

I just want to trust myself again. I want to reconnect with my body’s wisdom, with my intuition. I want to feel healthy again, mentally and physically. I want to love myself. I want to take good care of myself. It is insane to me that the fear of being fat is able to overpower all of my more positive impulses and instincts. I know that I have to overcome that fear in order to get back to a healthier place. I need to accept that I’ll probably have to gain weight in order to set my body right again. Why on earth does that feel like a death sentence?

I want to stop focusing on weight all together. It doesn’t matter. It is meaningless. I want to focus on the things that really matter in this life, like being kind to myself and others, being a good person, a good daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend. I want to live a life that doesn’t have to be a shameful secret. I want to live a life that I can be proud of. I want to get excited about my life again.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com