Chemical Dependency

I make no secret of the fact that I take Paxil for my anxiety. For the first few years that I was taking it, I was quite outspoken about it. I never really understood why some people felt embarrassed by the fact that they were taking an SSRI or other mental health medication. Far from being embarrassed, I was advocating for the medication. I was encouraging other people struggling with anxiety to take it as well. I was telling anyone who would listen about how wonderful it was, how completely changed my life was now thanks to Paxil. And it was irrevocably changed, in a good way, at first…

Now I’m kind of glad that none of the people I pressured to get a prescription actually did. I would have felt awful if I ended up seeing them struggle in the same way I am now. Don’t get me wrong, I am still grateful for Paxil. If I could go back in time, I honestly don’t know if I would decide not to start taking it knowing what I know now. I suppose the point is, SSRIs aren’t meant to be lifelong medications. They are supposed to be temporary ways to cope with particularly difficult mental health situations while you work on targeting the issue behaviorally through therapy. If I could change anything, it would probably have been to go to a therapist and a psychiatrist before getting a psychiatric medication from my primary doctor. While they are able to prescribe these medicines, they really don’t have the depth of knowledge about them that a psychiatrist would. Perhaps a psychiatrist would have at least warned me of the side effects and potential consequences.

For a few years now, I’ve been contemplating the idea of lowering my dosage. I’ve just been too afraid to take the steps to do that though until now. I’m afraid. I’ve read that Paxil is a particularly hard drug to wean yourself off of. You have to do it extremely slowly otherwise the withdrawal effects can be overwhelming. I’m actually afraid that my doctor won’t understand that well enough to lower my dosage as slowly as it needs to be lowered. I’m also afraid that even taking small steps may result in big emotional issues.

I remember thinking how insane it was that just taking a pill could make me feel and think completely differently. I didn’t understand how it was able to target something as specific as social anxiety. Not surprisingly, I found out later that it doesn’t. No, Paxil has effected many different aspects of my life. I don’t feel as anxious around people anymore, but I do feel more generally anxious about nothing in particular. I also don’t really feel very much at all. I haven’t cried in years. Haven’t felt really happy or excited about anything in years either. We all want to avoid our lows, while keeping our highs, but unfortunately there is nothing that can make that reality happen for us, not even medication.

For years I genuinely thought I didn’t have any side effects from Paxil. It was only recently that I realized a lot of the things I was just attributing to my personality, were because of Paxil. I’ve mentioned before that it has completely obliterated my libido. I actually thought I was just asexual for awhile there. Even more disturbing than that is realizing that it might have something to do with my struggles with relationships in general. Just yesterday, I decided to google the effects of taking an SSRI on love. I wish I had made this connection years ago. There was page after page of results about taking Paxil and having a difficult time falling or even staying in love. No wonder no other love has felt the same as the love I shared with my high school boyfriend. Who I was with, coincidentally, before I began taking Paxil.

This whole time I have been torturing myself, thinking that maybe soul mates do exist, that maybe he really is the one and only person out there I’m capable of loving. I’ve been agonizing over the fact that the love I share with my new boyfriend feels different. I’ve been worried that this discrepancy of emotion was a “sign” or some other such nonsense that I don’t even really believe in. I could never understand why even when I would meet people that seemed perfect, they couldn’t hold my attention and affection for long before I would lose interest, despite desperately wanting things to work. I’ve spent years alone, thinking there was something wrong with me. It was bad enough that this medication damaged my sexual relationships, but my romantic relationships too? How could anything be worth that?

What finally pushed me over the edge and helped me make the decision to call my doctor today and start lowering my dosage was what happened yesterday. As I was refilling my weekly pill capsules, I realized that somehow I had nearly run out of Paxil. I only have enough to last me until this Friday. Immediately I was panic stricken. The withdrawal symptoms of Paxil become debilitating within a few days of not taking it. Never before had it really hit me just how dependent on this medication I actually was. I felt like a junkie who didn’t know when or how they’d be able to get their next fix. It felt so awful knowing how much I needed this little white pill. I don’t ever want to feel that I need anything in that way ever again. It’s time for a change. It’s time to uncover and rediscover who I really am and how much of me has been Paxil this whole time.

Changing Antidepressant Medication: Coping with Side-Effects | HealthyPlace

Perspectives on The Age of Innocence

I love to read classic books, especially ones written by female authors. I just recently finished reading The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This book was, not surprisingly, absolutely heart-wrenching like many other classic novels. It seems like none of the great works of literature ever seem to have a happy ending. Yet somehow that makes them all the more poignant and real. It allows you to empathize and relate to the characters in a powerful, emotional way. When you read a good book, it almost feels like you’re making new friends. Which makes it all the more painful when things don’t turn out as you had hoped for them.

This particular book struck me in a way that a book hasn’t in a long time. I was so moved by this great work of literature that I just had to write about my thoughts. So here is your official spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t read it. While I found this book simply heart-breaking, I understand that not everyone may see it the same way. I found myself swaying back and forth between a couple different perspectives.

To me, this book was a tragedy. I desperately hoped that somehow, against all odds, Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska would be together in the end. At the same time, I found myself feeling sorry for Archer’s wife, May. She was not the wicked woman some books may have written her as. She was a perfectly lovely, respectable woman that certainly didn’t deserve to be abandoned by Archer as I, nevertheless, hoped would happen. And in the end she isn’t. Although it could be argued that his love alone for another woman was a betrayal. Still, he remains faithful to her and their family until the end of May’s life.

Some may think this book did have a happy ending. Instead of cheating or leaving his wife, Archer did the “right” thing. He stayed. He did what society expected of him. He honored his commitments. But at what cost? He really had no good options. Either he abandoned his family and his wife to pursue passionate love, or he sacrificed that love for the sake of others and to live his life as a sham. In the end he chose the latter, and honestly, I’m not sure if that was the right decision or not. I can’t say what I would have chosen, myself. Perhaps his love for Ellen was only so passionate because it was forbidden and out of reach. Maybe if he had thrown everything away for her he would have found only disappointment and resentment rather than true love.

The most upsetting part of the story for me was that I saw my own life within it. It sounds wretched and narcissistic to say it out loud, but I saw myself as Ellen and my ex boyfriend as Archer. (Perhaps in a desperate attempt to console myself for not being the one he chose in the end.) My ex chose to stay with his new girlfriend, as I see it, primarily because they had an accidental child together. Even though he had expressed to me just how much less compatible they are than he and I were. Luckily for me, I’ve found someone else to love and be with. I’m not sure if Ellen ever did. However, my heart broke for Archer as it does now and then for my ex. What a wasted life. What a sad, phony existence, to have sacrificed such a love. I foresee him as an old man some day, filled with regrets and “what ifs.” Then again, who am I to say. Perhaps we are both better off this way.

The Age of Innocence | Book by Edith Wharton, Colm Toibin | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

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

Hesitation & Uncertainty in Love

I’ve been dating someone now for a couple of months. It’s the first time in years that I’ve had a partner and on paper he’s absolutely perfect. He’s handsome, smart, progressive, atheist, and vegan. He reads, dresses well, lives a healthy lifestyle, and is always trying to make me happy. We agree on practically everything. We’ve never had an argument. We’ve recently even started saying, “I love you.” Everything is picture perfect. We make a very handsome couple.

Yet hesitation still lingers in my heart. This always happens. I get excited, then I worry I’ve rushed in too quickly. I start picking at every little thing. Such as the question of whether or not he’s funny. Being able to have that easy, witty banter with someone is very important to me. And while he checks an unbelievable amount of boxes when it comes to what I want in a partner, he has yet to check that one. It still feels like we’re nervous and awkward around one another. I keep waiting for us to become more comfortable, but we never seem to make much progress. I know that’s partially because he lives so far away and we don’t get to spend that much time with one another. Part of me fears that we may never find that easy companionship with one another though. Is he not funny because he’s nervous or holding back? Or will he genuinely never make me laugh? Is it wrong to continue on feeling this hesitancy? With everything else that is so amazing about him, does he also have to be funny?

If love is supposed to feel the same each time, regardless of who you are in love with, then I may be making a mistake. However, not being well versed in the art of love, I wonder if maybe each love has a different flavor and flow to it. That is what I hope for. Because I desperately want to be in love with him. He does bring me great happiness. He makes me want to be a better person. I enjoy talking with him. I miss him when he’s gone. I’m sad when he is too busy to text me all day. Is it okay to be cautious in love? Does love have layers? These and so many others are the questions I don’t have answers for, that I find myself having to face alone, too fearful to share my doubts with my partner.

In my past love, everything came naturally. It always felt easy, passionate, overwhelming, magical. Is it possible to build those aspects of a relationship over time? Or are they things that are either there or not? Is it okay to continue on being unsure? This is one of the reasons I have always been interested in polyamory. Nate may not be perfect for me in every single way, but he is perfect for me in a lot of very important ways. I don’t want to have to pick and choose what I’m willing to live without from my one and only partner. No one is going to be everything I need. But it’s hard for me to tell which of my needs should outweigh others. I always end up focusing on the areas that aren’t right rather than the ones that are.

If I knew I was free to have other partners to fill my other needs, I wouldn’t be having this difficult conversation with myself at all. I would more easily be able to love and admire him for who he is rather than worry about who he’s not. I could have one partner that is hilarity and passion, and another that is tenderness and safety. It seems unfair and unrealistic to expect one person to be absolutely everything you need. I feel so conflicted. I feel so guilty for feeling conflicted. I genuinely don’t know what the right thing to do is.

How To Get A Guy To Admit He Likes You

More Than This

Like most people in my area, I was raised Christian, Methodist to be more specific. My family was never super religious or anything, but we did go to church every Sunday when I was little. As soon as I was old enough to question things, I did. When I found that none of the important questions I raised could be answered, I decided to cast aside these religious teachings and become an atheist.

Without really realizing it, I harbored a lot of pain and resentment toward religion after that. I spent a lot of time feeling superior to people that were still religious. I thought they were idiots, brainwashed, or at the very least painfully ignorant. Slowly I began to give up that anger though. While there are plenty of things I disagree with about a lot of religious teachings and organized religions, I don’t feel the need to fight against them or throw them out entirely anymore. I’m content to let others find comfort and meaning in life in whatever way they see fit.

My yoga journey has reawakened my interest in spirituality and the things we still don’t understand about this existence. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts addressing these fascinating subjects. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge and there is simply nothing better than learning something new that completely changes your perspective. I’ve been lucky enough to learn a lot of those kinds of things in the last few days and I’d love to share a few of them with you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about exactly what we are. For most of my life, it seemed obvious. We are these physical bodies. We are matter moving through the world and when we die we’re dead. Our consciousness disappears. These bodies turn back to dust. A few things I’ve heard have led me to challenge that belief though. Did you know that what we consider to be our body is actually made up more of the empty space between/within atoms than the actual atoms? Not only that, when you only consider the cells our bodies are composed of, we are made up practically equally of germ/bacterial cells as we are human cells. How can that be?! It completely changes my conception of what it means to be me.

With those two things in mind, it seems like we should identify more with our consciousness and the energy inside of us than our physical bodies. But what exactly is that energy and where does it come from? I don’t pretend to know. But I have learned that our thoughts, feelings, words, and emotions are not as immaterial as I once thought. I may not have all the answers that I would like to have, and I may not ever have them, but I believe there is much more to existence than can currently be understood or explained by science. I no longer have the arrogance I once did. There is so much I don’t know. There is so much for me to learn and discover. And that’s okay. I am so excited to keep searching.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Sublime Surrender

Breathing in
I taste the thick sweetness
of summer air
breathing out
A shimmer of satisfaction
ripples through me

Enveloped in a world
so miraculous and perfect
humbled by the chance 
to simply be
my soul sings sweetly along
with the heartbeat of existence

So much beauty to behold
the many layers of this life
an endless spiraling 
inwards and outwards
far past infinity
incomprehensible complexity

Unfurling like a flower
to the sunlight
my innermost essence
opens to encompass
the vast vibrations
of this earth

Five superpowers called senses
ten fingers, ten toes
a body that heals and grows
a brain that questions and creates
at one with all there is
but also somehow separate

How sublime it is to surrender
to the deep knowing in our bones
that stardust inside of us
that says, "all is well"
that tells us, "have faith,
and you will find all you seek" 


Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

Feeling Emotions In Your Body

As I was growing up, I remember crying quite a lot. I guess it’s normal for kids to cry often, especially little girls. Even as a teenager I have many memories of crying myself to sleep at night. It seems sad, but I actually miss those days. Now I go literally years without a single teardrop. That’s a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. Not crying doesn’t necessarily mean you’re happier than if you cry every day. Crying is a release. It’s a release I’ve actually been longing for and unable to find for a long time now.

Until recently I didn’t think too much about it. I figured if I wasn’t crying, I must just not be sad enough. As an adult, I’ve always thought of myself as not a very emotional person. However, as human beings we are all emotional creatures. Unfortunately some of us have just cut ourselves off from those emotions. I don’t necessarily know if it’s a natural defense mechanism in my case, or if it’s because of the SSRI that I’ve been taking for around 6 years now. Perhaps neither, or a combination of both. I suppose the reason doesn’t matter.

It’s only come to my attention lately because I have been working with a few kundalini meditations. For some reason, each time I do one of these practices, I feel this deep pit of emotion open up inside of me afterward. I’ll randomly feel the urge to cry throughout the rest of the day. It feels like there is so much feeling welling up, but still I am unable to fully release that energy. Although I’m sure I need that release, it’s not a pleasant experience. So, true to form, I’ve been shying away from kundalini, despite my interest in it.

With emotion front and center in my mind, I happened to stumble upon a podcast that was talking about just that. The woman being interviewed even described exactly how I’ve been feeling, but haven’t been able to put into words. She said that she never really understood it when people talked about feeling their emotions in their bodies. For her, emotion was always a mental state, not something you necessarily felt physically. She even talked about the way she likes to visualize walking down a staircase from her head into her body in order to find that deeper, primal connection with herself.

After hearing that, it dawned on me that I haven’t been feeling into my body at all for a long time now. I guess part of me even felt powerful and strong for never crying. But courage is sitting with those emotions, not blocking them out. I want to make an effort to really rediscover what it feels like to experience life from my whole being, not simply living in my head all the time. I feel like I’ve been taking this body for granted, not fully embracing it as a part of myself. I’ve somewhat disassociated from my body as I’ve grown older. I’ve lived the last decade or so of my life as if I’m just this floating head, completely disconnected from the physical world.

Even though it feels scary, I’ve been trying to come back to my bodily sensations when I notice myself getting too caught up in my thinking mind. It seems like the only two emotions I feel anymore are anxiety (if that can even be considered an emotion) and anger. So I’m going to start there. I’ve already noticed that allowing yourself to be open to the experience of whatever it is you’re feeling let’s you have the space to really be present with it. It feels much better than trying to avoid or control it.

The next time you feel yourself starting to get overwhelmed, take a few breaths and tap back into your body. Let go of any thoughts you might be having and simply ask yourself, how do I feel right now? What is going on in my body? Maybe your chest feels tight. Maybe your clenching different muscles. There’s no need to try to change what you notice. Just noticing it is enough. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is. Forgive yourself for the way you feel. Offer yourself compassion. Emotions, even painful ones, are just another part of the human experience. They teach us about ourselves. They connect us to others. They are energy moving through us. Trying to avoid these feelings just causes them to become trapped within us rather than flowing in and out of us like the breeze. Let’s relearn how to let go. Become the curious observer of your own human experience.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Pushing Past Limiting Beliefs

We don’t generally question that little narrator inside our heads as we go about our day. Often times we don’t even take notice of the things it is saying. We’ve become accustomed to the phrases it repeats over and over again. For most of my life I was completely unaware of just how important this voice was when it came to how I saw myself and how I moved through my daily life. We become so used to the things this voice has always said, that we can forget that we have the ability and the responsibility to continue challenging them as we grow and change.

I realized the other day that one of the things I often tell myself is, “I can’t.” I can’t handle this. I can’t do that. Etc. etc. I don’t like to test that assumption though even when I should. The reason I don’t is because I’m so afraid to fail. However, I’m just putting the emphasis on the wrong thing. Sure, maybe I really can’t do whatever it is. But won’t it be interesting to find out? Maybe at the very least I could change that inner dialogue to: I can’t do this yet.

One of the many lessons I have learned through my yoga practice is that trying and “failing” at new things is how we grow. It’s how we actually become able to do those hard things one day. If after the first attempt I made at a headstand, I determined once and for all if I could do the pose, I wouldn’t have ever learned how to do it. Lots of things in life are just like learning how to do a headstand. You’ve got to take the time to kick and flail your legs up over your head so many times before you get the hang of it. You’ve got to give yourself the extra support you need in the beginning, like a wall, so that you feel safe enough to try. Rather than focusing on the end result, which usually isn’t the perfect headstand you hope to attain some day, it’s more important to focus on the process.

Curiosity has always been a close companion of mine. However, as I’ve gotten older it has gotten harder to remember to tap into that curiosity. No matter what is going on around me, I can make the choice to stay curious. This energy really helps me to stay present as well. There is a bit of levity in curiosity. One of the new mantras I’ve been working with is, “let’s see.”

When you hear that inner voice telling you “this is too much” or “I can’t do this,” try responding to that voice with “let’s see.” Staying curious, being present for the process, focusing on learning. These are the ways that we can find more ease and excitement in our lives. There is always something new to discover. There is so much depth, so many overlapping layers to this life. Make sure you find the time to invite some curiosity and joy into your day today. If you notice that automatic voice in your head, try responding to it with, “let’s see.” Explore new ways that you can learn and test your limits today. Accepting whatever the outcome may be with compassion and grace, being open to the many different forms “success” can take. Knowing that either way, you’ve learned something new, and perhaps even added one more building block towards your goal.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sharing Yourself with Others

Yesterday was my favorite holiday, Independence Day. I love being able to spend a day with my friends and family in the sunshine, by the water, enjoying fresh fruit and BBQ food. I also always like the opportunity to drink around them as strange as that might sound. Being a generally reserved person, having a little alcohol at family gatherings gives me the courage to be more affectionate with everyone. The only problem with that is sometimes I’ll make promises that sober me isn’t brave enough to keep.

One of the things I always think about is spending more time with my family. My grandmother is over 90 years old, and although she’s SHOCKINGLY healthy and spry, I know I have limited time with her. I think a lot about all the time I spent with her growing up. There was a point I even considered her more of a mom than my actual mom. She would babysit my sister and I while my mom was at work and for a few hours after school every day. Even as a teenager I would often stop by her house before going home from school once I started driving. She was always there for me. I told her everything. She taught me so much and I cherish every memory I have with her.

I honestly don’t know when I started to drift away. Maybe it was once I started college and I wasn’t as close by anymore. For awhile I really didn’t have the time either, although I certainly still could have called. It just seemed like the crippling anxiety I carried with me all through my youth never applied to her. Then at some point, all of a sudden, it did. I became afraid to go see her, afraid I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, afraid I’d be bothering her. The longer I’ve let this anxious energy remain, the bigger it has become.

Now that I’m older I feel similarly about my Aunt. She is an amazing woman whom I love and admire so much. Before I never thought she really cared to be close with my sister and I, but over the last few years that’s changed. These past two presidential elections have really pushed her and her husband apart. It’s also really hurt her relationship with all of her boat club friends. I get the sense that she feels alone now. I want to reach out more and spend more time with her, but I get so anxious at the idea that I usually avoid the thought all together.

As I was sitting with my feet in the damp grass this morning, setting intentions for my day, a new thought struck me. Whenever I’m considering spending more time with friends or family, my main focus is on convincing myself that even though the thought makes me anxious, I will feel better overall. Embarrassingly, this morning was the first time I really considered the other person involved, other than feeling guilty for not following expected social conventions and possibly letting them down. The idea rang through my head that this time that I want to carve out for my friends and family is a gift to them. It is an act of love and compassion. Giving of myself to bring them happiness.

Of course my self-defeating inner voice immediately tried to tear down that idea. “No one cares whether or not they hear from you or spend time with you. You are insignificant,” it tells me. I am constantly afraid of bothering people with my presence. But once again I am merely focusing on myself and my own ego. The fear of feeling unwanted, facing rejection, or feeling like a burden has kept me from forming deeper bonds with all the people in my life. Deep down I know that isn’t true though. My grandmother would never feel burdened by being with me more often.

Not only that, but it helps to remind myself that even if I were an annoyance, so what? I truly believe that the closer we are able to live to the way our distant ancestors lived, the happier we will be. In the tribal communities that once made up humanity, and even in more recent times in small rural towns, every member of the group had value. I don’t have to be perfect to deserve love and quality time with the ones I love. No one expects me to be perfect, except me. There are plenty of people in the world that are more aggravating and problematic than me that are still loved and embraced by those around them. We are all flawed, imperfect beings, but that doesn’t disqualify us from having meaningful, important connections with one another.

What's the Secret to a Happy Family Gathering? – Conquer the Crave – Plan Z  Diet

What Is Self-Love

While enjoying my new favorite hobby, listening to MindLove on Apple Podcasts, one of the comments I heard really struck me. The host, Melissa, was talking about defining self-love. She gave an anecdote about times from her past when she thought she was practicing self love. She was doing all the “right” things, making new healthy habits, eating healthy, etc. The problem was, if she ever didn’t do those things one day or fell out of her new self love routine, her mean inner voice was waiting and ready to criticize and condemn her.

This is a story that really resonates with me. I feel like that is the kind of “self love” I’ve been practicing. She made the point that true self love is loving, accepting, and being kind to yourself even when you may not be at your best. Self love is about being there for yourself with love and compassion during the difficult moments as well as the easy moments. Self love isn’t: I’m a good person and I love myself. I’m healthy and I love myself. I’m beautiful and I love myself. I’m loved by others and I love myself. Self love is: I love myself. Period. Full stop. There are no caveats or exceptions to self love. We must learn to love all of ourselves, every single messy part of us. True healing self love is unconditional. We don’t need to do particular things, look a particular way, or have a certain lifestyle in order to earn our own love. We are inherently worthy of that love.

Self love is also something that can be difficult to fully comprehend at first. For a long time while practicing that somewhat toxic version of self love I mentioned earlier, if I had been asked: do you love yourself? I would have answered yes. I think a lot of us, especially in these trendy self improvement circles practice this type of self love. It’s an outward expression. If I behave and speak in alignment with the self love examples I’ve seen, then I must love myself. I do yoga. I meditate. I exercise. I eat a whole foods plant based diet. Of course I love myself! However, while these are all wonderful, healthy, even loving habits, they aren’t going to be enough to combat the way you truly feel about yourself inside.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a long, painful journey full of trial and error. At least that’s my experience with learning to love myself. I’m still not quite there yet. But I think I’m ready to take the next step. I’ve gotten used to all the outward self love tools. Now it’s time to really focus on that inner work I’ve been avoiding. It’s almost funny now that I think about how often I ask myself why I’m so anxious. It’s so irrational! The mystery has been one of my greatest frustrations each day. But when I step back and really look at the way I treat and talk to myself, I’d be amazed if I wasn’t anxious. If a friend or a partner spoke to me the way I speak to myself, it’d be so easy to recognize it as blatant abuse. I’m anxious because I’m in constant fear of my own abusive inner voice. My ego threatens me all day long. Not only does it tell me that I won’t be loved by others unless I do x, y, and z, it tells me that I won’t be able to love myself either. If I can work to take away that fear, I’m certain my anxiety will lessen. I’m ready to start confronting that inner voice, my ego. It’s simply amazing how much reassuring and reaffirming my own love for myself can open my heart.

One of the most moving parts of the MindLove podcast I listened to today was when the guest speaker said something along the lines of, “I finally decided that I would rather be abandoned by everyone else in my life than keep abandoning myself.” I actually teared up when I heard that. And as someone who is very rarely able to cry, that’s a big deal for me. I felt so in alignment with that brave sentiment. I think I’m finally ready to make that decision too. I hope you’ll do the same.

This weekend, drench yourself in self love by following these 16 golden  rules