Fall. Fallen.

Today was the first day that it really felt like autumn. The morning greeted us with a thick blanket of clouds. There was a crispness to the air. I even had to put on a fleece before sundown.

Here’s the thing: leading up to this day, my body has been responding to the seasonal atmospheric change.

Earthlings, flora and fauna alike, respond to light and temperature. Both are necessary parts of our lifecycles. My body, like a good chunk of humans, seems to be a bit more sensitive to changes in both.

Y’all. Seasonal Affective Disorder is legitimate. There is a moment when one notices the days getting shorter and the temperature is just a couple degrees below comfortable. As much as we try to keep some pep in our steps, life seems just a little bit more unbearable.

In the last twelve months, I have learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself, as well as mental health as a whole. The past year has given me insight about my values, work ethic, desires, and a deeper understanding about why I feel all the emotions that I do. It has been an interesting and amazing journey.

So, I’ve known for awhile that my moods are very much affected by the weather and the seasons. I am a cranky bitch if I’m in an non-breezy atmosphere hotter than 80 Fahrenheit. My body runs hot, always; being in a hot environment without any solace is painful. That has nothing to do with SAD, though. That’s just a physical response to heat. I’ll take the risk of being physically uncomfortable if it means the sun will be out until 9:00pm.

As soon as October hits, my body starts to slow down. I feel the upbeat mood still lingering from summer waning. It’s harder for me to get motivated in the morning, and I feel like I’m dragging most of the day. The Major Depression my body hosts is heightened from mid-October to the beginning of March.

The SAD started to kick in a week or two ago. For a moment, I just thought it was menstrual hormones. It might still be, but I know my body well enough. The sluggishness and apathy stem from a lot more than just a change in my hormones. It’s the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. We are creeping into winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

I’ve started to ensure I have tools in place to help ward off the deep navy winter blues. The apartment complex I live in has a “gym” (two rooms with a few pieces of equipment). I need to make sure I get down there and get on the treadmill at least three times a week. I’m starting to stock my bedroom with some dumbbells. They get used everyday, especially when they are in plain sight. All of my lightbulbs are warm to give my brain a boost of happy lighting. I use uplifting aromatherapy, citrus blends being my favorite. I make sure I take a B-Complex pill every day, as well Vitamin D3 and Magnesium. Being a vegetarian, I get a lot of nutrients from all the veggies, fruit, lentils, and nuts I eat. And, about a year ago, I invested in a light therapy box. I’ve used it only three times, but it’s living right next to my bed, so I can use it more often. Apparently these light boxes are great for people with SAD (and people who live in places far away from the equator), as they help regulate circadian rhythms, ensure melatonin is being produced, and the body’s ability to create Vitamin D is not a lost cause. Or, something like that. Don’t quote me. In fact, please correct me. I’m not a licensed medical/mental health professional. I’ll have to go look at the legitimate studies again. 

This will be my first winter without my family nearby. My parents are enjoying their retired life thousands of miles away in Ireland. I am definitely in for a huge learning experience, as I don’t get the treat of my mother’s delicious wintery Irish soul food. (Irish people really do do the best comfort food during winter months.)

Who else experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder? What are some of your coping mechanisms? Share! We are not alone and should lift each other up.

Take care of yourselves. Remember: YOU ARE LOVED.

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Am I Not Valid? Part 1

In the last couple months, I have been told twice that there is something about me that is not valid.

The first occurrence happened back in November. I was told by a guy that I was dating that because I have never been married and haven’t had three children, I have absolutely no idea about relationships. He told me that what I was feeling wasn’t valid, as I have no basis of what emotions in relationships are. Sure, at 33, I haven’t been married. I haven’t had children. I’ve chosen that path, because that’s what I get to do as a human. I get to navigate my way through life.

At 33, I’ve had plenty of relationships. Hello, my first relationship happened before I came out of my mother. I spent nine and a bit months inside her, developing a biochemical relationship. Growing up, I was a social person. I talked to most people and wanted to be friends with everyone. Throughout the history of my life, I’ve had relationships. It would be impossible not to have relationships, unless I was abandoned in a forest as a child and never experienced other human beings for 33 years.

I’ve been in romantic relationships. Sure, they failed. That is a common occurrence for many people out there in the world. But, I’ve been in romantic relationships. I’ve dealt with the emotions that relationships cultivate. I’ve had to learn how to deal with them. Because of being in relationships that have failed, I consistently learn what I like, need, and desire. I learn how to approach situations. My only problem is that I seem to pick people that aren’t emotionally available, or have a lot of their own emotional discovery to do.

The problem I had in that situation is that this guy has a PhD in psychology. He is a licensed therapist in two states. This is a person who one would assume is a bit more patient and open minded to the emotions of others. Nope. Not this one.

Over the course of two months, I slowly let out information about myself and past relationships. This was after a year of us being aware of each other’s presence on social media. Once the dynamic changed, I was more cautious of what information I revealed to him. Finally, on the fateful night (almost three months after dating), before I was accused of having no valid emotions, I opened up. I told him why I’d rather have an actual conversation over the phone instead of short, choppy messages through Snapchat. I told him why I feel it’s important for people to communicate consistently. I told him my experiences with my own fertility and feelings on having children. I told him how I was treated in past relationships. It was after this he claimed that my feelings aren’t valid, that I have no knowledge of relationships because I’m not a mother, nor have I ever been married.

My response was, “you are absolutely correct. I’ve never been married and I’m not a mother. I just told you that I could have a two and a half year old, but I don’t, because I heavily considered the options. However, you got married really young, cranked out three kids, and divorced after ten years. You also have consistently told me that you don’t know how to date or how to be in a healthy relationship, because you never did either. So, how can you easily tell me that how I feel isn’t valid and that I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to relationships?”

I can’t remember what he said, nor do I have any record of it, because, of course, it was all said over Snapchat. It seemed impossible for him to use his phone as it’s actual purpose.

[In the 2.5-ish months of us dating, he only ever called me once and that’s because I told him that Snapchat and Facebook messenger were no way to really connect with another human.]

I do remember him telling me he was annoyed and that he’d talk to me tomorrow. I remember telling him “I’m sorry you’re annoyed” and having no intention talking to him ever again.

A week or so later, I sent him a letter. I was so put off by what he told me, that I had to release the angst inside me. The short letter essentially explained why he hurt me and that he should consider how he approaches new romantic relationships if he wants them to be successful.

How did he respond? He didn’t call me. He didn’t text me.
He wrote me a damn message on Facebook.

He claimed that he really likes me. He claimed that he was really sad to see things transpire the way they did. He, again, tore down my emotions.

In a nutshell, I responded “I’m sorry you feel the way that you feel, and you are absolutely allowed to feel whatever you want. You are human, after all. If you do like me as much as you claim, in six months, you can use your phone as it is meant to be used: you can actually call me and have a real conversation with me. If we are both single and feel that we could come to some sort of an agreement, we can try dating each other again. But, understand that, while I know that I have a lot of work to do on myself, you also have to learn how to date like an adult. If you want to be in a successful relationship, take care of yourself and learn how to love yourself. I’m doing exactly the same in my own life. Be well.”

So, I ask all of you: are our emotions valid?

I truly believe they are. That’s the joy of being a human. We are all unique. We are snowflakes. How we emotionally react to situations vary on who we are in that exact moment.

We all must be mindful and caring. We must choose our words with the best intentions.

Go with love.

Day Zero: Overwhelmed

Exactly a year ago I ran my first half marathon. It was the first time I had run more than 10 miles in approximately 14 years. After high school, I eschewed running. The thought of doing fartleks and hill sprints and making sure I jogged (at the very minimum) at least five days a week made me sick. Competitive running had been a huge part of my life for six years and the moment I left home for college, I decided to wash my hands of the emotional toll that running had become.

In the last year, I ran a very small amount. I had started the year wanting to train to do a triathlon for the first time. But, “life got in the way” (don’t you love that excuse?). Being a full time student and working part time, I allowed myself to get lazy. I went to the gym once, maybe twice a month. I’d go on the occasional walk around the neighborhood. I’d use the free weights very occasionally while I watched TV. I found myself getting frustrated and depressed more often, at a rate that was much quicker than when I was exercising regularly.

My cat died on July 28th 2014 and I had sunk into a deep depression in the following weeks, finding it really difficult to claw my way out. September arrived and I was feeling completely alone and hating the direction my life found itself in. Being poor and having nothing to do, I scrambled to get to the gym about four or five times the entire month. But, that was it. That was the only exercise I managed to make myself do.

That brings me to this very moment, Day Zero, the day that I have decided that I cannot afford to be sullen, depressed, and as overweight as I am. At 5’3″, I am not allowed to be 180lbs. That’s right. I said it. I am barely 5’3″ and 180lbs. Disgusting, right?

I used my fat to hide from getting painfully unwelcome attention from men I have no interest in, only to find that other men I have no interest in give me even more painfully unwelcome attention. On top of that, I have noticed that “fat girls” seem to attract all sorts of unwelcome “I met you 28 seconds ago, let me tell you everything that is wrong with my life and ask you incessantly to tell me what’s wrong with your life, even when you say no” people, people I had never encountered when I was healthy and taking care of myself.

So, it’s time I take back my life. I will take pride in my physical and mental health. I will be mindful of what I put in my body and when. I will make myself move for an hour a day, even if I’ve been on my feet for eight hours already. I will take time to journal and make sense of why I feel the way I do. I will go back to the clinic run by a graduate school that offers therapy at a price I can actually pay. And, in May 2015, I will run another half marathon. I have eight months to train for it. And, I absolutely need to train for it. I don’t want to just get through the 13.1 miles. I want to feel light when I run. I don’t want to feel like I’m running with three tires around my waist.

I may never get back to my 117lb 26 year old self. Until I can afford actual health insurance, 117lbs is an unreasonable target. By the time the half marathon happens, I’d like to have the scale read 148lbs. And, that is taking into consideration the physical change I will be doing to my body: transferring all of this excess fat into muscle. And, we all know muscle is more dense than fat. So, the scale can read 148lbs. More importantly, I want my body to feel healthy. I want clothes to fit better. I want to be able to look in a mirror and not hate what I see. That simple.

Here is a little preface:
If you didn’t read my about page, I share with you that I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago. The entire span of my menstrual life has been challenging. The only time I have ever had any semblance of a healthy reproductive system was for approximately a year when I was 25. That is often when women find their cycle evening out. Also, I was taking great care of myself then, which played a huge role in my reproductive health. Even then, my cycle was anywhere between 34 and 40 days. Never less than 34 days and never more than 40 days. Fast forward seven years, my cycle ranges anywhere from 25 days to 80 days. You can imagine how frustrating it is. Now imagine having aggressive PMS for an entire month. That happens at least twice a year. My body will get itself ready to have a period, then a month later, it’ll happen. Then three weeks later, I will feel like someone has taken a steel bar to my back and walking becomes the hardest thing to do. All of you Cysters out there understand, I am sure. PCOS comes with a few unfavorable side effects: excessive weight gain that is hard to control, irregular periods and many are extremely painful, PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder; if you’ve never heard of it, look it up), and the occasional burst cyst. Sometimes, when those cysts rupture, the woman experiencing that does need to see a doctor, however, in many cases, the only thing we can do is ride out the pain. For me, it is rare for me to get a burst cyst. I know exactly what is happening and that there is really nothing that can be done. I’ve never experienced the sudden pain, fever, or vomiting. In all of my experiences, the pain has aways been intense, yet a constant annoyance for about two or three days. I feel nauseated, but never enough to actually cause vomiting. My body and mind are always exhausted and I have a difficult time walking, and whichever side the cyst is on, the corresponding leg is always more difficult to move. Bending over is usually not an option and sitting down/standing up takes more effort than usual. This is what I know. This is how my body is. And, I know that if I actually take care of myself, my body will repay me kindly.

Here it is. I am back on a healthy path. In six months, my 33rd birthday will be here. I want to enter my 34th year lighter, mentally and physically.

Lots of love and light to everyone reading this. May your days be filled with laughter and joy.