So Far…

I wish getting a job was a lot easier than it is. I also wish that I had an advanced degree that would make getting a job easier. And, I really wish getting a higher education didn’t make people bleed money. It’s such a shame that education is so expensive. I’d have gotten a Masters a decade ago if higher education wasn’t so expensive.

And, if I had taken care of my mental health.

May is mental health awareness month. It’s no secret that I live with major depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Life is no picnic for me, and part of living with these is the constant, nagging thought “there are actually large communities of people out there in the world who actually have serious issues, so get out of bed and be happy.”

Yes, I think this very regularly. It is a common thought that many people with lifelong depression (may) think. The people I have spoken to with similar mental health concerns can empathize with this train of thought. It has the potential to be detrimental to our healing and self-care, as it minimizes our health.

One thing that I have learned over the course of self-care is that I “can’t heal the world.” Really, I can’t. I am one person in an aquarium full of 6+ billion people. And, the best thing that I can do to help people who I feel have it worse than me is take care of myself to the best of my ability.

When I take care of myself, I feel like a productive part of the community. I believe that my efforts have an effect on the immediate world around me. When I make other people happy and/or create or fix something, other peoples’ lives are easier. When their lives are easier, they can pass that flame on.

Something that I rarely talk about is that I have borderline personality disorder traits. We have a tendency to over-overthink things and see the world in only black and white. Mix this with obsessive compulsive disorder, and life gets real tricky. I am constantly having to remind myself to calm down, take a step back, and think in the grey.

This is why I get fixated on people who have it worse than me. The guilt is something that has been ingrained in my psyche. It’s what I have known for twenty years. My mind can go in a guilty loop for days, until I do something good and I’m shocked that I’m an okay person. It’s an extremely annoying cycle.

So, after 36 years, I’ve had enough. That’s why I started seeing a therapist and got on an anti-depressant. I’ve chosen to stick with both, because both are tools for success. It is important that I take care of myself, so I feel comfortable in my skin. A byproduct of this is that I’m more pleasant to be around and people will enjoy my company more. When I am a pleasure to be around, I feel better about myself. This is a cycle that I can get used to. But, I need to not think of it as a cycle. I just need to go with the flow.

Because not everything is black or white. Most things are grey and grey is a pretty color.

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Change is Inevitable

Here I am, still unemployed. I am also very hormonal, or so it seems.

My weight seems to drastically fluctuate daily, and even something low calorie, like cucumber or spinach makes me extremely bloated and uncomfortable. This is always a sign that my flow is about to start. But, I’m 36 and have never had a naturally regular cycle. So, this could just be my body rejecting change.

Whatever the case, I had two phone interviews yesterday, both of which seemed promising. One lead to an actual onsite interview (and was told I needed to ensure I had two free hours to do so). This morning, I let someone know that I would like to rent the room she has available. It’s the most expensive room I looked at, but it’s a nice room with a large private bathroom.

Here’s a secret: I am a bathroom fanatic. I love large bathrooms that are light and welcoming. The larger, the better. And, a bathtub is essential.

When I was a teenager, my parents let me have the master bedroom. This meant I had a private entrance to the house, as well as my own private bathroom. High school was great, because I got to sneak out whenever I wanted. I could take a shower when I crept back in at 4:30am to wash the night’s fun off. But, there wasn’t a bathtub.

I am absolutely excited for the bathroom that will be all mine. The bathtub is perfect! As soon as I am all moved in and settled, I’m going to light a few candles and toss some essential oils and salts in, and luxuriate in this new journey I am embarking on.

The next couple weeks are going to be jam packed with packing, storing, interviewing, exercise, mindfulness, eating well, and moving.

I do still have my GoFundMe active, as well as an active Patreon page! Please visit both. Any donations are greatly appreciated. Please know that I will keep all donors updated on my progress with moving and job hunting, as well as any exciting events in my life!

Letting Go

Yesterday, something happened to me for the first time in my life. It is something that I was slightly expecting, but didn’t want to happen. The law of attraction was working its magic, as much as I hate to admit that.

The last year and a half has been strange. I have learned a lot about myself, and I know that the last 18 months have presented a whole slew of facts and truths that I am only now starting to fully grasp.

In the 20 years of my employment history, I was let go. I was let go from a job that served my life in many ways, both positively and negatively.

Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. I’ll bounce back.

But, this is a huge shock to my system, and I don’t quite know how to move forward. Fortunately, I have an incredibly part time job at a yoga studio lined up, so I am not completely at a loss. I also have been sending my resume and Linkedin profile out like mad. I am doing what I can to move forward.

To be completely frank, I’m freaking out. The panic is all internal, which isn’t the most healthy. I need to talk this out with someone. I need to process. A lot of the panic stems from the fact I am seeing a therapist, and that service was covered by the company I worked for. I also had health insurance, which kept my anti-depressant cost at $5 a month. The temporary lack of income is a cause of panic, but the lack health insurance coverage is the aspect that is really freaking me out. This is a vicious cycle. I suffer from constant anxiety, which is lessened by regular talk therapy and anti-depressant therapy. Not being able to afford the two things that help my mental health is detrimental to my mental health. And, here I am, feeling myself getting caught up in the panic fog.

I have ways of getting myself out of this. I know exactly what I need to do. One of them is reminding myself that I am actually employable. I need to use this knowledge and spend some quality time today (well every day) looking at jobs and being ruthless.

Another thing I need to do is get outside and move. This is a free way to ensure that I’m taking care of my body and mind. I can fill my ears with podcasts, whether they are comedy based or news based. This will be a time for me to clear my mind, and either laugh or learn (both, maybe). One of the perks of getting the job at the yoga studio is unlimited yoga is accessible for employees. Another way to take care of myself! As I spend time practicing yoga, I can work towards my goal of doing Yoga Teacher Training, a skill I want to have in my wheelhouse.

Last, I need to ensure I am doing creative things. This could be writing, drawing, coloring, knitting, or taking photographs. I want to knit a whole slew of headbands/ear warmers and set up an Etsy store. This is a way to bring in a few extra dollars.

Today, right now, the best I can do is keep my head up. As soon as I hit publish, I am going to hop over to some job sites and send my resume out.

You, dear readers, can do me a solid. I have a Patreon page that is active. I have a few reward levels, but I don’t expect anyone to splurge on me. I would, however, really appreciate it if anyone can spare a few dollars a month to help me put gas in my car and set up an Etsy storefront. If you can spare $5 a month for two or three months, that would be amazing and I will be eternally grateful!

Today is a new day and the beginning of a new journey. I’m scared. I’m nervous. And, the fire is lit under my ass.

It Takes Time

There has been a quietness to my voice. I haven’t been able to say what I need to say. More than a year has passed; while there have been things I’ve wanted to release, I’ve felt lost and not known where to start.

So, six months ago, I started seeing a therapist again. I started taking an anti-depressant again. Both of these have been incredibly essential tools in helping me find my voice and story again. But, it’s been six months and, only now, I have been able to feel comfortable sharing stories.

The questions I have been asking myself for a long time are so cliche. Where do I start? How do I begin? Is this appropriate? These are cliche, but they are honest. They help me understand who I am, why I am where I am, and how my life has unfolded the way it has. These are questions that are touched on during my weekly therapy sessions. This is how my mind wanders when I go for my long walks. I am constantly evaluating my life and how I feel, which is part of the human condition.

Going forward, I will be writing one post a week. I will be touching on my spiritual and emotional healing process, and how this process correlates with my physical health. I’ll be sharing my story, because we all have stories to tell, and mine might resonate with someone out there in the world.

This is a way for me to be honest with myself, as well as being of service to others. I am not a licensed therapist or medical professional, nor am I person in a spiritual authority role. But, I am a human, and we are all connected somehow.

Be kind to yourselves, and remember that love is good.

 

The Stories We Tell

Each line tells a different story, their histories equally unique and identical. Without them, who would I be? I could tell you who or why or what was the root for every line.

It started soon after I hit my teenage years. I felt I had no ability to voice what I was feeling. Life was scary and confusing (it still is, at times). At that time, I believed I had no way of speaking up. Many of you understand that feeling, and lived that in a deeper way than I.

The first time I did it, there was a momentary internal sigh of relief. The tension in my neck loosened. My forehead no longer wrinkled in confusion. While the weightlessness was fleeting, it was real and exciting.

Over the space of a decade, these moments started off few and far between. In times of internalized crisis, I found solace in this secret time with myself. That momentary rush of endorphins got me through the night. Just like an addict, that chemical reaction in my brain was a quick fix to a deeper problem.

Over the years, the time between each moment grew shorter. Finally, I found myself focusing on seeking relief most of the time. While I was in the throes of it, I was acutely aware of how damaging my behavior was. But, I was addicted. During that time, the only coping mechanism I knew and had was my behavior. At one point, I was able to count 37 fresh marks on my body. That number scared me and the palpable guilt was hard to shake.

It took removing me from the environment I was in and being physically near people who I felt I could give permission to monitor me. Another decade passed. During that time, the desire to seek out temporary moments of bliss melted away. It is rare for me to have that desire, and if I do, I have learned how to cope in healthy ways.

Twenty years of learning how to love myself and finding my voice has left me with scars. Each one happened for different reasons; ultimately, they are all rooted in the same place. At 34, I embrace my scars. They are a part of who I am, and the shame I attached to them no longer exists. With that lack of shame, I’ve found that people no longer ask about them. I used to tell some people I was a highly adventurous child and teenager. I would tell others I couldn’t remember how I got them. And, there were some days I’d simply say “I get that you’re curious, but we’ve never met before and asking me about the scar on my wrist isn’t very polite,” because, really, it isn’t polite to ask a stranger about scars that are clearly self-induced.

So, I am happy to talk about my scars. But, I have to be in control of the conversation. It has to be on my own time and in an environment that lacks judgement and full of compassion.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any kind of self-harm and/or addiction, there is a multitude of resources available. A couple posts back, I listed some sources for mental health help. There are so many more options, including (but definitely not limited to) the following:

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Self-Harm
HelpGuide: Self-Harm
Self-Injury Outreach
S.A.F.E Alternatives
Selfharm.co.uk
Harmless
The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury & Recovery

This only skims the plethora of online resources. But, this short list is a great starting point. Remember, we all deserve care and compassion. We deserve to find our voices and speak our truths. Be kind to yourself and share love with others.

Scars

It Always Takes Time

All of this will be old news to many people by now. But, sometimes, the world needs a little help remembering important things. Right now, Earth has approximately 7.4 billion* people roaming her (the world’s birth rate is just over twice the rate of deaths), and a sizable number of her inhabitants live with some sort of mental disorder or illness.

“Just snap out of it” and “do something about it already” are two incredibly insensitive things that one can say to a person living with a mental illness or disorder. We’ve heard it countless times, and often from loved ones.

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing from family members that my depression will pass and that I’ve just got to get over it. There seems to be a lack of understanding or compassion when statements like these are given to me. Yes, they might feel like they mean well and it might actually be coming from a place of love, but the choice of words often can do more damage than good. Another thing that bothers me is that I can be, at times, treated with hostility, rather than love. When that comes from strangers, I am not effected. But, if and when the hostility comes from someone in my circle, naturally, I hurt.

I’ve spent twenty years dealing with depression. This clearly should tell my loved ones something. One does not just “get over” depression, nor can one “snap out of it.” If it was that easy, I would have been free of it 19.5 years ago. Mental health is a daily task for every human. It is in everyone’s best interest to check in with themselves every day, whether mental illness exists or not. For those of us who live with any kind of mental health issue (depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, etc.), we do have to be diligent about monitoring our environment, our nutrition, and our moods in order to maintain our health. When we don’t, the disordered mental health we live with can take over.

For the last three months (maybe four?), I’ve been going to a therapist. The time I’ve spent with her has been incredibly helpful. Not only am I learning a lot about myself and humanity in general, I am learning how to live with the mental health of others. Someone in my life has finally gotten the DSM diagnosis he deserves. An actual licensed psychiatrist said “you fit the criteria for this mental disorder and these are things that can be done to help manage it.” It’s a relief that he now has an official diagnosis and seems to be, at the bare minimum, attempting to manage it. Frankly, I feel that this person could benefit from weekly counseling sessions and other mindfulness based therapies, but I am not a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, so I can’t (won’t) consistently urge him to follow through.

It’s not my place to tell a person how to manage their mental health, especially if they don’t ask me how they should. I have always believed that it’s improper to hand out advice willy-nilly to people without being asked. If someone wants advice from me, I am happy to give it.

So, I am learning how to live with a person learning how to live with their own mental health concerns. I am also learning how to be mindful when I am given unwarranted or unnecessary advice (that is often lacking compassion, empathy, or validity). And, I’m learning how to let go of any hurt that may have previously been caused or continues to be caused at the hands of someone’s altered mind. One person’s experience usually doesn’t reflect my own, nor does it need to dictate my own. How I choose to react in a situation is my responsibility, and the reactions of others are theirs.

We should all be treating each other with kindness and compassion. It can be difficult at times, especially for those of us who sometimes find it difficult to feel love for ourselves (or even understand love and care).

Mental illness is rather common. This is why I am a huge supporter of mental health advocacy. [I’m also a huge fan of preventative and holistic health care. I’ll talk about my favorite places for healthcare, Northern & Western Europe, in another post.] If you or someone you know lives with any kind of mental disorder or illness, there is a wide array of information out in the world for you. By doing research, not only will you become better educated, you will be able to care for your community with compassion and an open mind. We appreciate people who are willing to take the time to understand where we are coming from and how we live our lives. Receiving compassion and love does actually alleviate a lot of stress we deal with. The less stress we experience, the easier it is for us to focus on being as healthy as we can be.

Here are some great resources to get started with:
Bipolar Disorder: Effects on the Family
NAMI: Mental Health Conditions (I love NAMI. It’s a fantastic resource for everyone.)
National Institue of Mental Health: Topics & Info
NIMH: Depression
NIMH: Borderline Personality Disorder
NAMI: Borderline Personality Disorder (Again, a great resource, especially for something that is under diagnosed, but more common than people realize.)
NEWSWEEK: How Colleges Flunk Mental Health (An interesting read, and has light a fire under my bum. I’d love to finish my college education with Social Work and do advocacy on college campuses for students.)
An Open Letter From Those of Us… (This is a go to piece for me; it might be BPD specific, but the soul of it can be applied to many mental health experiences.)

There are so many other resources out there, but these are trustworthy resources that can get you in the right direction.

Seriously, if you or anyone you know is experiencing any kind of mental health issue, help is out there. I promise, it doesn’t matter how large or small the issue is. There are a lot of trained professionals and support groups out there in the world. Utilize them! You and your mental health are essential and important! I know, first hand, that one can never just snap out of their mental illness. It takes time, care, compassion, and love.

*Worldometers: World Population

Wait. Stop.

Here you are, you beautiful, bright eyed babes. I applaud you for dreaming big and wanting the world to be your oyster. And, I’m not lying when I say that the world is everyone’s oyster. Most of you will go on to be successful in your careers. You’ll fall in love and create a beautiful family in a wonderful house. Your lives will be rich with all of the important intangible things.

But, let’s be real for a moment. Not everyone is that grain of sand that will produce a smooth, creamy pearl. In fact, many of us aren’t. Ouch. That’s intense…

With that said, I urge you to be the best pearl making grain of sand possible. Try your hardest. You’ll have days that knock you off your feet. There will be moments that make you feel like you’ve conquered Everest. Sadness is inevitable. Happiness is common. Joy is something we all deserve. Laughter is essential.

Let me tell you a story.

When I was young, I was overcome with a depression seemed to have no exit route. My entire high school career could have been much different had I gotten the help I needed. I would have succeeded in my classes, instead of barely scraping by. I would have gotten into more than one college I had applied to. And, I probably would have been far better equipped to handle going off to college.

I was a confused teenager. My only focus was wondering why I was angry and sad, and wanting to be the opposite. This isn’t new. It certainly isn’t unique. Millions of people in the US have experienced similar emotions. Listen to this, approximately 12.5% of adolescents in the US are clinically depressed. That number doesn’t sound big, but that’s one in eight adolescents.* These people have gone weeks, months, even years feeling lost, confused, sad, and hopeless. My situation wasn’t unusual, but like plenty of people experiencing depression, I remained silent out of fear that I would be judged or wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Twenty years and plenty of mistakes and wrong choices later, I have finally figured out what I want to do with my life. Also, I know what I need and deserve. Like every human existing, I deserve to be nurtured, not only by myself, but by my community. Remember, a nurtured person is a caring person.

I am going to be that 38 year old taking undergraduate classes with people like you. I’m proud that I plan on finishing my Bachelor’s degree (some point before I turn 40). My journey has been rocky. It hasn’t been pleasant and it definitely hasn’t been remarkable. The last decade of my life has been an interesting experience, and one that I’d love to take back and redo. But, I am where I am now and I don’t regret anything. As long as I am alive, I strive to keep learning about myself, my community, and the world that I live in. I’m aware of the fact that I won’t be the next Gloria Steinem or Eve Ensler or Hillary Clinton. I’m one of billions on this planet. I might not be a trailblazer or innovator or leader of the free world. But, I can make an impact in my community. More so, feeling good at the end of the day means that I am being the best person I can be.

Some of you might find yourself in the same boat as me. For those of you who are feeling blue, lost, or confused, please know you are not alone. The world is yours. Live in it. Experience it. Know that the hurt can be temporary if you allow yourself to find the help you deserve. Remember that therapy is an amazing tool. Also, finding a group of your peers allows you to build a safety net. Call your friend(s). Tell someone you’re hurting. A true friend will listen and help.

Plenty of you have a plan set out for your lives. I commend you for that.

When I was 18, I had a plan. I wanted to be a stage actress, churning out quirky roles in Off-Broadway indie pieces. That hasn’t happened… Yet. I also wanted to be a writer. I still do, and I am a writer. At 34, my plans have changed. I want to help people. I want to make one person genuinely smile every single day. I plan on giving back to whichever community I am, and that includes all of humanity.

Some of you with plans will stick to those plans, and that is a beautiful thing to do. You are the future of medicine, arts, law, athleticism, and all around world domination. I’m proud of you and wish you great success. And, some of you with other plans, please don’t get discouraged if life throws curveballs your way. Bumps in the road are inevitable. We cannot avoid them, nor should we ignore them the moment the appear. Also, plans change. It is incredibly natural to not have things set in stone. The world we live in and our lives would be very boring if plans didn’t change or get upended.

Take this time in your life and enjoy being young. This is an awful cliche, but you really do have the rest of your lives to live. Relish every moment. Laugh. Love the ones you’re with. Hug someone. Say “thank you” five times a day, even if it’s to yourself for waking up that morning. Wait a minute and think before doing something dangerous. Go slow, unless, of course, you are competing in a sporting event that places a lot of importance on speed. Don’t make a hasty decision, especially if your gut is telling you not to. Listen to your gut; we have instincts for a reason.

We all can be successful in our own right. Remember, money isn’t the only factor in success. A lonely, unhappy billionaire is less successful than a joyful sanitation worker who has a huge circle of loved ones.

Do what you want in your life, as you only have one. Let your actions create positive reactions. Be kind. Smile. Go forth and be the best pearl producing grain of sand you can be.

*Depression Statistics – DBSAlliance

Alma Mater