Sick of Self-Care

Acts once performed with the intention of loving kindness
have become just additional burdens of mindless routine
every little task now resonates with resentment
self-care disfigured and transmuted into self-harm

Somehow I turn even healing practices into poison
to punish myself for not meeting my own expectations
what is there inside me that turns self-love so sour?
why doesn't putting in the work work for me?

Tools I was told would transform me if I was patient
were twisted into weapons of perfectionism
just more masochistic mutations of all the miracles
I used to think would some day save me

I'm so tired of this futile self-improvement project called me
the pearls of ancient wisdom I've turned to soot within my fingers
the internal pressure of trying to get better is
the terminal illness of my inner-most essence
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Stop Searching

The healing hum that reverberates
through all the small, silent moments
can become buried beneath the louder
frequencies of frustration and forward motion

The panicked pace of ungrounded grasping
the breath that's stolen while being swept off your feet
it can feel like dying to slow down, to surrender momentum
in favor of savoring the soft rustling outside your window

Finding peace can be counterintuitive
stop flipping over rocks and just pause
to feel the cool stone against your skin
and hear the whispering stream gurgle past

It's hard to accept that happiness is here
when we've wasted so much time searching
learning to laugh at ourselves like when we've been
seeking the object that's been in our hand the whole time

It's the simple things that will save us
if we can sit with the fear that they
won't be enough in the end
they will

It Doesn’t Feel Like a Choice

Can a broken brain really fix itself?
maybe it requires a lot of help
but how can you seek out something
you're already certain you don't deserve?

I've tried relentlessly to turn
the tides of my mind toward the sun
but the familiar shore of rage and despair
is magnetic as it resists every effort

It's gotten no easier to resist this automatic
under toe of self-defeating thoughts
when it pulls my head below the waves
so swiftly and with such strength

Self-love practices that once felt like salvation
have turned sour under the miasma of this mind
shame and disappointment have piled onto the
frustration of not being able to be different

I had really hoped that it was a choice
that I could decide to feel better
but now I doubt that it's fully true
there are more factors to change than sheer will

It feels like an attack to keep hearing it's up to me
when I've been trying my very best
but it's still not enough to get by
I guess I should be glad it worked for a little while

Sweet Dreams

My higher self hides sweet droplets
of honey dew inside my head
glistening gifts given to ensure
a good night's sleep

The best self-care is kindled
deep within my dreams
a dependable dripping of sustenance 
I am so grateful to devour

Sleep ensures I am swaddled within
all the sensations the waking world lacks
a nightly reprieve from suffering
sharing space with you in my soul

A tender treat from my unconscious mind
to tide me over on this tiresome journey
far away from where I would like to be
sometimes it's enough to be happy as I sleep

Stones in My Shoes

Walking around with small stones in my shoes
because I am too busy to dump them out
my subconscious is soaked in this silent shout
the mindless unkindness I continue to choose

I gnaw at my fingers to pacify my agitated mind
perpetually impatient and in a rush
my hands are covered with small burns and cuts
these subtle seeds I sow when I don't have time

This body I abuse and push past its limits
prevent unconscious punishments from piling up
silent reinforcement whispering, "not enough"
sometimes we need boundaries even from ourselves

I wouldn't dare to treat others in this careless way
would never make my children wear stony shoes
or rush so much that it made others bruised
so why, when it's me, is it suddenly okay?

I let even the thoughts that harm me repeat
the sweet pain of memories I clutch as they cut
bringing up the thought of you feels like a must
embracing waves of lacerating emotion at my feet

But if anyone else would bring you up as much
I would cringe from the cruel agony inflicted
would wonder why I am always the victim
those friendships all withered and shriveled to dust

I've neglected the inner child still in my care
I'd like to apologize and change things now if I could
it's become blatantly obvious that I should
I wonder after all I've done if that small self is still there

Third Level Anxiety: The Paradox of Overthinking

Anxiety and overthinking go hand in hand. It’s a chicken and the egg scenario. Does the anxiety cause the overthinking or does the overthinking cause anxiety? Hard to tell. In the end, I’m not sure if it even matters which comes first. The result is the same, discomfort, distress, and inability to make decisions. The prefrontal cortex shuts down in that all consuming sympathetic nervous system reaction triggered by the amygdala, or the emotional center of our primitive little lizard brain.

Over the years, anxiety has a way of building. The pathways between stimulus and response get more and more defined. My anxiety used to be directly related to specific instances. I would get anxious in social situations. Soon that anxiety would begin to bubble up at just the thought of being in said situations. Now it’s transformed into more of a vague fear of the anxiety itself and trying to avoid all situations in which I may start to feel anxious. I’ve reached third level anxiety, fear of the fear of the fear. This stage is practically paralyzing. It can cause you to avoid your life completely just in an effort to avoid anxiety. It can manifest in a covert way, such as the inability to make decisions.

I have to admit it is humorous to realize I’ve always tried to “fix” my anxiety by somehow thinking myself into a sense of ease. But it’s pretty hard to use logic and reason to defuse a completely illogical physical reaction. It’s counterproductive to try to think your way out of overthinking. But what else can you do?

Learning to Cope

One of the reasons I have my doubts about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s effectiveness when it comes to my mental health specifically and anxiety disorders in general is the focus on the thinking mind. CBT’s primary method is changing the way you think in order to change your behavior. But you can’t solve the problem of too much thinking with more thinking. A lesser known therapy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT feels like a better fit. Rather than teach you how to reframe your thinking, this therapy helps you cope with and understand your emotions so that you can feel safe and accept yourself.

Even though in the moment anxiety feels like it’s demanding action or some solution, I’ve learned by now that there really isn’t anything I can do or think that can dispel my anxiety completely. The frantic effort to avoid it only causes more mental suffering. The only real way I can learn to handle this fear is to let myself feel it. More than any catastrophic imagined outcome, I’ve become afraid of the physical sensations themselves. I’m anxious about feeling anxious. However, that quickly dissipates when I face those feelings rather than try to run from them.

How to Face the Feelings

Coincidentally, I’ve found the advice from my previous post about how to help yourself focus and be mindful in a calm, neutral setting works just as well when you’re lying in bed on the edge of a panic attack. This time rather than being unable to focus because of the vague sense of disinterest or boredom at the everyday objects around me, it’s the exact opposite. It’s hard to focus because everything just seems so overwhelming that I don’t know where to begin. But nevertheless, imagining I have to describe what is happening in that moment as if I’m writing a story is tremendously helpful.

The next time you find yourself feeling anxious, overthinking, or distressed by indecision, take a moment to step out of the thinking mind all together. Accept that the solution you’re desperately trying to find with your mind is not in the mind at all. The solution is surrender. It’s accepting that sometimes there is no solution but to sit with the sensations. Try to describe the feelings of anxiety swirling around in your body to someone who has no idea what anxiety even is. Be as detailed and creative as possible. Get curious. What is anxiety? Where does it manifest in the body? What does it physically feel like? How long can it last? Does it ebb and flow? Does it get stuck in your chest, in your throat?

Avoid concentrating on what it is that’s making you anxious. That is irrelevant once you’ve determined that it is irrational. Let it go. Show yourself that you are capable of feeling these difficult feelings. Even if they don’t go away. That’s not the intention. It’s learning that you can handle them. When I slow down and breathe into my anxious feelings, I often realize that the feelings themselves are no where near as bad as my struggle to avoid them. I can befriend these sensations by simply allowing them to exist.

Conclusion

I know all this is easier said than done. It’s hard to do anything with intention and mindfulness when your brain and body are on red alert. However, knowing that this is an option available to you is the first step towards practicing it. You won’t be able to every single time, but the more you notice the opportunity to sit with your difficult feelings instead of trying to fight them, the easier it will become. Give yourself the time and the space and the permission to experience even unpleasant situations with patience, curiosity, and equanimity.

Overwhelmed by Imagination

Mental illness is a side-effect of great intelligence
the convoluted, crippling creativity of an aimless mind
consumed by endless possibilities others cannot conceive
a life held suspended in anticipatory anxiety

A feedback loop that becomes incapacitating
a simple fear can become compounded tenfold
fearing the fear, fearing the fear of the fear, and so forth
spiraling into a paralysis of infinite indecision

Stuck in the self-deception of finding a solution
trying to think your way out of overthinking is absurd
salvation lies in the surrender to sensation instead
forsaking the mental landscape for the physical body

What does this fear feel like? Where is it held inside?
a jittering energy of dis-ease beneath my chest
the dizziness that sets in from a blood pressure spike
an unsettling static nestled deep in my stomach

The fever of neurosis is broken by awareness
how strange it seems to have survived the sensation
I've been running from all of my life
the cure of quiet curiosity

Being present in the storm as it passes
acknowledging the connection between
frightening delusions and flowering imagination
the balance between benefit and burden

Learning to embrace the full scope of being
this incredible entity with boundless potential
finally finding gratitude within the fear I carry
my best qualities sprout from that same seed

Take Your Medicine

Silence is the medicine
so desperately needed
in a deafening world of noise
the earth is always waiting
with gentle tea leave tonics
to soothe an aching heart
rough, strong branches
to support your tired limbs
soft, sweet smelling grasses
to cradle a head made heavy
with over stimulation
invite in the fearful feeling
that rises suddenly inside
at the thought of slowing down
prove to yourself
that the world keeps spinning
when you completely stop
rest is the only remedy
that can refill an empty cup
taking a break seems impossible
when you need it most of all
this is your permission slip
to settle into stillness
and reconnect with
the almighty ebb and flow
of ever-present earth energy
pulsating beneath your feet
you deserve to take deep breaths
and sprinkle your days with
compassionate commas
and plump, perfect pauses

Cozy Fall Activities – Living Alone Edition

My inner child has been lighting up at the prospect of all the fun fall possibilities this year. I can’t remember a time when I felt this delighted by this season. Maybe it’s just something about being in your late 20s that makes you a sucker for pumpkin spice lattes, scarves, and watching the leaves change. My tendency is usually to dissect and scrutinize such an uncharacteristic feeling. It is quite unlike me to feel like celebrating rather than mourning the end of summer after all. However, this time I’m not going to let myself spoil my own fun by overanalyzing. I just want to be kind and allow myself to fully embrace and enjoy this strange experience. So here are a few of the ideas I’ve come up with about how to do that.

1. Try a Homemade Seasonal Drink

While I do already have my pumpkin spice oat milk creamer in the fridge, I was craving something even more autumn inspired. Even though I’ve only ever had hot apple cider like once in my life, I really loved it. I didn’t really want to buy a whole jug of apple cider for just me though, so I looked online to see if there was some kind of alternative I could try. I stumbled upon this recipe for an apple cider vinegar drink instead. It’s very simple. I already had all the ingredients on hand. And it is quite yummy and hit that hot apple cider spot quite nicely.

2. Movie Night

Even if you live alone like me, there is nothing like snuggling up on the couch to watch a spooky, fall themed movie. Yesterday for the first time in years, I allowed myself to just lie in bed all afternoon and enjoy my day off. It was truly delightful. If you’re looking to get into the fall spirit, I’d definitely recommend making some popcorn (or maybe even roasted pumpkin seeds), grabbing your favorite, most comfortable blanket, perhaps enlisting the company of a furbaby or two, and settling in for a private little movie marathon, the cheesier the better.

3. Take a Walk

Autumn is the ideal season for long, introspective strolls. There is something so indescribably satisfying about hearing the crunchy sound of leaves beneath your feet. While I love the summer heat for walking my dog just as much, it’s even better when there is a crisp wind giving me a reason to quicken my step. Rather than sweating bullets, the soft sun peaking through the trees makes everything glow and gently warms me as I walk. Not to mention there is that perfect cozy feeling when you make it back inside.

4. Decorate

I’ve never been big about seasonal decorations. I’ll put up a tree and a few other things for Christmas, but that’s usually it. However, I’ve had the urge to purchase all those cute little fall decorations this year. I’ve even saved a couple of the pattypan squashes I’ve grown that look particularly like mini pumpkins. I can’t help but smile when I see their plump little presence on my kitchen table. Instead of asking myself, “What’s the point?” as I usually do, I’m not going to question my strange desire to spruce up my home with corny little doodads.

5. Journal

As I’ve already mentioned, there is a certain special quality about the fall and winter months that are perfect for solitude and introspection. It even seems like introverts tend to like these colder seasons more for this very reason. Light a candle, make yourself a warm cup of tea, coffee, cider or whatever suits your fancy, and write a few pages in your favorite notebook. Stream of consciousness will work just fine, but you can also look up some fall themed journaling prompts if you want to get extra festive.


I hope you’re all having as scrumptious of a fall infatuation as me this year. Let me know what your favorite ways to enjoy this season are. I’d love to get some new ideas since this is the first year I’ve really felt in the mood to celebrate and go all out.

5 Unexpected Benefits of Going Vegan

By now I think most people are familiar with the major benefits of transitioning to veganism. Many, like me, are initially drawn in by promises of weight loss while still eating large quantities of food. Then they wind up staying for the animals and the myriad of other bonuses you notice along the way. Other people do it to be healthier in general or to contribute less to the destruction of planet Earth. There are tons of posts out there that will tell you about the same handful of positive changes a vegan diet brings into your life. After being vegan for over 10 years, I’d like to shine a light on the somewhat stranger, less discussed benefits a vegan lifestyle offers.

One: Level Up Your Cooking Skills

I hate to cook. Or at least… I used to. Now although the amount of time it takes and the mess it makes frustrates me from time to time, I can’t help but get an immense sense of satisfaction from the incredible, healthy dishes I’ve learned to throw together so easily. In the beginning the increased necessity for cooking your own meals may be daunting to new vegans. In a small area like the one I live in, going out to eat every night or buying pre-made vegan food items isn’t really an option (even if I could afford it.) I can’t just go to the deli and buy a rotisserie chicken for dinner when I’ve had an unexpectedly long day. On the other hand, I honestly have no desire to let others make my food. They simply don’t do it as well as I am able to now. I’m quite surprised and proud of my newfound cooking ability and can genuinely say I prefer the meals I make at home over the expensive vegan restaurants’ dishes. If you’re interested in the types of food I prepare, you can find links to all my most used recipes in this post.

Two: Expand Your Food Repertoire

After ten years of hearing, “But what do you eat?” I’ve grown quite perplexed by the question. Imagine trying to answer that as a non-vegan. Am I supposed to list dozens of food items and meals? I eat so many different things! I feel like simply responding, “What do you mean?” I once heard someone on a podcast who explained it perfectly. How many different meats are there really? Maybe three or four that people eat regularly, then cheeses and milk. That really isn’t much variety. On the other hand there are thousands and thousands of different plant foods available to us to eat. Non-vegan meals now look quite sad and tan-colored to me, very bland and unappetizing. Since going vegan, my experience with new, interesting, and exotic foods has expanded beyond the wildest dreams of the normal, American meat-eater. I’ve tried dishes from many different cultures, mastered the art of utilizing spices, and tasted fruits and vegetables I never knew existed before! I assure you I eat a more exciting and varied diet than any non-vegan I’ve ever known.

Three: Bye-bye Common Cold

While I had a vague awareness of this before, the Covid-19 pandemic really brought it to the forefront. I think we’ve all gotten a bit more paranoid around anyone who seems to be sniffling or coughing in the last few years. What’s surprised me is just how often everyone I know experiences cold symptoms like these. It’s almost as if everyone around me is perpetually ill. There are people I’ve noticed who are literally always congested, dripping from their noses and eyes, and have a cough that won’t quit. And these aren’t people with long Covid. Many of them never got it to begin with. Hopefully I won’t be jinxing myself by saying that in my ten years as a vegan, I’ve never gotten sick. Seriously. Not once. And before you go attributing this to luck or good genes, I used to get sick all the time. At the very least, I could expect a few days of serious battling with a stomach bug every year and being plagued by the pesky common cold every fall/winter. I never even realized how badly my body felt at a baseline level until I went vegan and experienced real health for the first time in my life. I thought regular sickness was just how life was supposed to be. I’m here now to tell you, it’s not. Veganism is your ticket to not only long-term health, but daily wellness.

Four: Faster Recovery Time

Not only does a vegan diet prevent you from feeling achy and sluggish after a big meal, it also helps your body recover more quickly from a workout. A vegan diet contains absolutely zero cholesterol, so the heart benefits are usually a big focus. But in addition to a stronger, healthier heart, the rest of the body’s abilities are also bolstered by eating plant-based. I can’t help but laugh when I see fitness bros proclaiming vegans are weak and can’t build muscle for lack of protein. Not only are there world-class, record breaking athletes that are vegan, the diet is also a great help to the average fitness enthusiast like myself. You are not only just as capable of building muscle, but the process will be much less painful. Inflammation in the body wreaks all sorts of havoc, but it also is the culprit when you notice sore, tired muscles after an intense workout. While I still get a satisfying sense of soreness from a challenging leg day, my body recovers and replaces those aches with new, stronger muscle tissue much faster than it ever did before I went vegan. If you’d like to learn more about the effects of veganism on athletes, I’d recommend watching The Game Changers. Or you can read about this specific aspect on their website.

Five: Brain Fog Finally Lifted

Before the pandemic, this aspect of veganism was also a bit harder to explain to people. With so many long-covid patients reporting the now common term of “brain fog” I feel I have a better chance of helping people understand what I mean. It’s been so long, I can’t really remember what it used to feel like inside my head. Still I’ve never forgotten the experience I had after about a full month of vegan eating. I woke up one morning and everything just felt clearer. It’s hard to describe exactly. I’ve always said it was like a cloud had lifted off of my mind. I could think faster, more coherently, more easily than ever before. It’s not like I had been struggling or anything. I had always been a straight A student and prided myself on my above average intelligence. Even so, this was something different. Almost like I had been carrying a heavy weight that was suddenly dropped, allowing me for the first time to move at my full potential. When you and every one you know have been living in a perpetual state of mild illness, you don’t really understand what it means to truly be healthy and well, physically AND mentally. But I promise you, give it a month, even if just as an experiment. You’ll be blown away by what you discover.


I hope that this has given you a bit more insight into the nearly infinite reasons to go vegan. I’m sure there are many more that I have accidentally overlooked, but these five are the ones I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m no saint. I went vegan in the beginning for selfish reason, not for the animals, as I wish I had. I’m hopeful that personal gain will be a motivator to other people as well. Regardless of what aspect of veganism you look at, there is some incredible benefit to be had whether it be to your health, daily lifestyle, cognitive function, the Earth, or the animals. Please consider giving yourself, everyone else, and everything on this planet this amazing gift.