Thursday, October 10, 2019

Wanting To Feel Enough

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I'm going to be totally honest - I didn't have a blog post planned. Not because I don't want to write for WMHD - of course I do. But because I wasn't really sure what I wanted to write, and from what angle. Ultimately, I was inspired by some thought work and self-development work I've been doing, and I decided to write about me - it's my blog after all, and one of the things I'm working on is not letting myself be defined by the "shoulds" (mine or others'). Like, what I "should" write about for World Mental Health Day.

As you probably know from reading this blog/my social media/having any conversations with me ever, I'm really into self-development, self-discovery, and personal growth, in basically every form I can get. I do yoga. I meditate. I journal. I read personal development books. I listen to podcasts. I go to therapy - which I do both for my illness and learning how to work with/understand it, and for my personal growth that may in some ways be related to my illness and may in other ways just be related to me as a not-perfect human being, as none of us are. There are plenty other avenues for personal development and growth. These are just my (current) preferred methods, though it's likely that therapy, yoga (I'm a yoga instructor), and journaling (I'm a writer) are among my go-tos for the long haul.

I say all this because I've been really delving deep into some particular development work, and I've noticed that almost every area that I want to work on comes back to one theme - wanting to be enough, and not feeling that I am. The thing is, depression and anxiety lie. All the time. Depression likes to tell you that you're nothing, that you're not capable, that you aren't worthy. It tells you that you aren't as skilled or successful as others, or that even when you do feel successful that it's not real/just lucky/short lived. It gives you all the "yeah but"s you can imagine. "Yeah, you have a Master's degree, but you're not really using it as you could be." "Yeah you ran your own business for years but you had financial help and you didn't get where you hoped". "Yeah you accomplished xyz, but others accomplished that AND abc." "Yeah you did this thing that makes you feel successful but here are all the reasons it doesn't count".  Anxiety likes to play a similar game. It tells you that you'll fail/get rejected/embarrass yourself. It tells you that you can't/won't be able to handle something. It tells you that ridiculous things that you logically know aren't true but it tries to convince you of anyway -that people are just being nice and don't really like you. That you're only being invited to stuff/included because people don't know how to get it out of it or feel bad. That that you really didn't do a great job on that thing you actually did a great job on. That any minute the other shoe is going to drop, and that everything that's been going well won't be. Anxiety analyzes every conversation/text/tweet/post, everything you wear/say/do, trying to find a way to convince you that they're somehow going to have some negative consequence, that there's something wrong with it and you. And ultimately, what all of these things that depression and anxiety boil down to, at least for me, is this one fundamental whopper of a lie that's horrendously convincing to the emotional part of my brain: That I'm not enough. And I'm learning through this work that I'm doing, and through (many years) of therapy, that this thought influences virtually every aspect of my life.

Every time I don't go after something I want to, it's because secretly, I think I'm not enough. That I'll fail or get rejected and it'll be proven that I'm not enough (aka imposter syndrome). Virtually every behavioral habit or pattern that I don't really like but can't make myself break is because I feel like I'm not enough. I'm not good enough to break that pattern or habit. OR, that pattern or habit makes me momentarily feel better, which momentarily masks the terrible feeling of not being enough. Every time I don't set boundaries it's because I feel I'm not deserving enough of whatever respect I'm asking for. Every time I go against my nature, try to change myself for someone else (note: not compromising/adjusting, I mean trying to change my authentic self at the core), it's because I don't feel like I'm enough and therefore somehow they must be right and I must have to change to be enough. Every time I don't stand up for what I believe in, or allow myself to be guilted/shamed/etc into something -either by my own brain or someone else- or allow that guilt/shame to sink in and make me feel badly about myself, it's because I don't feel like I'm enough. 

And quite honestly, I've had enough of not feeling enough. I want to change this fundamental lie that my brain tells me, because I can see the domino effect that will happen if I can just manage to understand this one thing. I see all the areas of my life, including relationships with those I interact with, that can be positively impacted if I can come to truly believe, to truly understand, that I am enough. It's a journey that I'm beginning to embark on with this fresh vision, with this knowledge of exactly how much impact this lie of not being enough has on me, and it's a journey I'm both excited and scared about (because, you know, anxiety). And to be super clear here, all the self-development in the world won't get rid of my depression or anxiety. Mine are lifelong - I have a genetic condition I was born with and will always have. I can't think my way out of my mental illness (cyclothymia, in my case) no more than I can yoga or smile or kale-eat my way out of them - which is to say, I can't. But if I can learn to recognize the patterns, recognize that it's depression and anxiety and not really the core of me, recognize the lies they tell me as lies, I can work with them, at least some of time, And knowing how to work with my brain, instead of simply always battling against it, could go a long way.

I'm not writing this post because I want anyone to feel bad about how I feel. I'm DEFINITELY not writing this post for unsolicited advice (note: this goes for anything that anyone writes about ever, unless they say "I'd like some advice",  in which case, it's not unsolicited). I'm writing it because: 1.) It's been in my head, and I think it's important to put it "out there", so to speak. It takes it from being something I technically, logically know in my brain, to being something that I'm willing and able to "speak" out loud, and that goes a long way, at least for me, in taking the next steps to address it. 2.) Surely, I'm not the only one out there that feels this way, but it can often feel like it. So if you, too, deal with this, I want you to know that you're not alone, that I get it, and that I'm here to listen if you need to talk/vent/discuss/connect about it, or if you just need someone to say "I get you". 3.) People have a wide variety of ideas about what mental health and mental illness look like. And yes, sometimes it does look like bouts of crying on the bathroom floor, or severe worry over something that appears minor to the observer, or some other more well-known symptoms of depression or anxiety (or other illness). But sometimes, it's not as obvious. Sometimes it looks like a multiple business owner, newly certified yoga instructor, recently published author, who's traveled to six continents, sat on multiple boards of directors for years, and has the support of family/friends/loved ones, but who internally continues to think/feel that they're never enough.

Please understand that you don't always understand what's going on under the surface. Even with someone like me who's extremely open about... well, almost everything, but in particular my mental health struggles and my illness, there's so much that you don't know. I share a good amount, but there's still plenty that I keep internalized. There's still so much that I haven't yet processed or even discovered about myself.  While I can't speak for anyone else, I personally am an open book. I am happy to answer questions, to discuss, to share (note: STILL not OK with unsolicited advice).  Don't judge or assume. And understand that underneath all of it, at the core, is someone simply wanting to be enough.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Theme Words As I Step Into My 40th Year

As you undoubtedly know by now, because I've been posting about it regularly on every platform for approximately the last month, I'll be turning 40 in less than a week. I've been reading quite a bit about choosing theme words for the year, and while I know this feels like something traditionally done at New Year, entering into a new decade of my life seemed like as good a time as any to think about where I want to focus for the upcoming year. Plus, setting these focuses in September allows me to take the New Year, if I choose to use it as a marker like so many do, to assess where I am, and to make any adjustments I feel I want or need. Some people choose one theme word, but life right now (and always) seems so multi-dimensional, and I've got numerous areas in which I'm working to grow and refocus, that I thought I'd pick four. Turns out, I ended up choosing five  (listed/described below in no particular order except the one in which they came into my head, which we all know is generally haphazard). Also, I didn't stick to a certain word type (noun, verb, etc). I simply chose what felt appropriate.

1. Intentional. The number of times I find myself checking my social media, getting distracted by something unimportant, letting my mind become a runaway train into the land of "what if" and negative thoughts and so much else, without even realizing it, is a bit startling. I'll suddenly pause and realize my actions/tasks/thoughts are far from where I planned them to be. So many times on the drive to work or walking my dog, I don't recall how I got there. To clarify, I'm not sleep-driving or sleep-dog walking. I'm simply not noticing. Yes, I'm noticing the cars moving or stopping in front of me, I'm noticing my dog stop and sit at the corner and making sure it's clear before we cross. I'm noticing enough to be safe, but I'm not sinking into it. It could be a beautiful morning, sun rising over my neighborhood, flowers blooming, gentle breeze, birds chirping while I'm walking my dog, and I'm going over something in my head or planning my to do list or revisiting an argument or disagreement I had with someone from last week or stressing out over something I can do nothing about at 5:30AM while walking my dog. So my goal is to be more intentional. In my actions, in my thoughts, in my interactions with people, in my being present in the world around me. Social media checking is fine (and beneficial to my business, even). But I don't want to look up from twitter or IG or FB 30 minutes later and not even recall why I went onto the app in the first place. And I DEFINITELY don't want to be doing this while in the presence of friends, family, etc, who are actually there with me, being ignored while I absentmindedly scroll.

2. Growth. This year is a growth year for me in numerous ways. I'm growing my yoga business. I'm growing in the writing community, having just self-published my first novel. I'm also focusing on growing personally in numerous ways. I'm working on finding my voice and using it where appropriate (but not to drown out others). I'm working on recognizing dependent and codependent tendencies (revisited shortly here), and adjusting course. I'm learning how to work through parts of growth that can be difficult, triggering, painful. I'm working at recognizing my own faults and missteps and mistakes, and taking accountability, while learning NOT to take accountability and responsibility for other peoples thoughts, words, or actions,which are the responsibility of them, not me (in other words, I'm accountable for me, you're accountable for you).

3. Non-dependence. I'm not sure this is actually a word, either with or without the hyphen. Originally, I had this as independence, but that doesn't really explain what I'm aiming for. I already have a pretty independent spirit. I am generally not a conformist, I don't do things because they're "cool" or everyone else is doing them. I'm not easily swayed in my opinions or beliefs (other than about myself, and I'm working on that). But, as I mentioned above, codependency (i.e. supporting negative patterns with others by trying to 'make everything better', basically) and dependency (believing I'm not good enough/worthy/capable/don't know enough/others know better and therefore stepping aside and letting others take control, make decisions, etc) are both issues I've struggled with for years. So I'm focusing on NOT being those things. On learning those patterns and habits and how I get caught in them, and breaking those cycles. Hence, non-dependence. And to be clear, this doesn't mean I never accept help. We all have strengths and areas we're not as strong. I'm not going to refuse to let someone taller than me get something off of a high shelf when I can't reach because I "don't want to depend on anyone." We should all have people we can rely and depend upon when  needed. It's about not doing so at the detriment to myself and others.

4. Reconnecting. Connecting is also my monthly theme for my yoga and wellness business, and you can read about that in my blog post discussing why I chose it. But basically, I've become disconnected. My introverted and social anxious nature lends itself to disconnecting from others. Depression doesn't help when it tells me that people don't really want to be around me, that I'm a burden, that people don't actually like me and that they're just including me or talking to me to be nice. So I'm working on reconnecting with others, and also, examining those connections. Are all the people I've been connected to still the people that I should be connected to? Am I hanging on to situations, people, that I don't need to, that aren't serving me (or them)? Am I staying around in groups, organizations, etc just because they're familiar? So I'm doing some re-examining. I'm also working on reconnecting with myself. Knowing who I truly am, deep down. Focusing on my core values, my personality type, my beliefs, my path and goals and dreams, my innate self, and getting back to that person. I'm working on not allowing fear or worry or others' opinions or values change that (or at least trying not to, as best as I can). I'm learning to be me again. And finally, I'm working on reconnecting with the world around me, especially in nature, through being present.  Connecting to the earth, grounding.

5. Letting go. This was a late add, but I realized how important it was. I have held onto SO much. Guilt, shame, self-blame, self-loathing, regret, negative beliefs about myself, fears, that do not serve me. They often aren't even based in reality, in facts, they're stories I tell myself. And  I can't ever move forward, ever grow, if I can't let these pieces go.


And so, as I cross the threshold from my 30s to my 40s, these are the theme words I'll be stepping into. These are the areas in which I plan to focus. They are not, of course, the only things I'll focus on, but they will help to guide me when  I feel lost or confused or am questioning myself in my decisions and path. They'll help me to guide myself, both when I come to important crossroads, as well as while I move through every day life.

Thanks for taking this wild ride of life with me. Here's to 40 more years!




Tuesday, July 23, 2019

As I Enter The Last Two Months of My 30s

Exactly two months from today, I turn 40. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I'm not exactly where I pictured myself at 40. To be honest, that picture has changed numerous times over the years, so it's a little tough to say where I thought I'd be, but there are definitely some things I pictured that haven't yet happened, and some things I didn't picture happening that have. I'm not saying it's all bad by any means. This isn't a dismal "whoa is me I'm almost 40 and my life is half way over" type of post at all. I'm also by no means saying that life happened to me. But for my illnesses (genetic), I know that I made choices that directly or indirectly affected where I am today.

39 was a pretty eventful year. I started and graduated from yoga teacher training and became a certified yoga instructor. I started my new yoga business and got my first private yoga client (OK it's a family member but still, baby steps) and have a corporate benefit client in the works. I taught my first few studio classes. I self-published my first novel! And I got my first royalty check within a month, and though I'm not doing it for the money, seeing your name on a royalty check for your novel is pretty cool. On the mental health advocacy front, I was interviewed on a podcast, published on several patient advocacy sites, and made new connections with several patient organizations. Like I said, eventful year. Lots of cool stuff happening.

I also started doing a lot of self-discovery work in an effort to reconnect with myself and remember who I am, because it's been honestly years since I really did an aggressive deep dive head on. I have spent years taking on other people's definitions of me, never asking myself if they were true. I always assumed everyone knew better than me (and when I think about it, assuming others always know you better than you know you is actually kind of ridiculous, since you're the only person in world that's actually lived all of your life, inside and out.  But it happens to a lot of people, me included). The work has been really  revealing  - as in personally revealing, not as in wardrobe malfunction revealing - and I've had to take a lot of accountability for my own part in a lot of my own shit. Which, I'll admit is still a work in progress, but it's now more because I'm working on trying to recognize when it starts to occur and redirect course, as opposed to not realizing what's occurring or not wanting to see it. But I'm making a progress, and as difficult as it is to look at oneself and be completely honest about your role in the pieces you don't love, it's also oddly hopeful to know that I have a part in it, because it generally means that I can do something about it.

"What at all does this have to do with your impending birthday?", you might wonder. When I turned 39, I made a list of things I wanted to do throughout the last year in my 30s. And it's a great list. It has served me well. Some I accomplished, like graduating yoga teacher training and self-publishing my novel. Some, I did not (I haven't gone hiking in one state let alone five, which saddens me because I really love hiking and nature, but again, I had a part in choosing other activities).  Some of the goals  became things I'm no longer really striving for, at least not at this time, because life and growth and change happen. And as I come down to the last two months of my 30th decade on this planet, I'm looking at the list realizing that 100% of these goals are external - do this, become this, go there, get that certification. And while that doesn't make them bad - some were super meaningful in fact -  none of them were about how I wanted to live my life in the long term. None of them were about me, intrinsically, and who I want to be, now and in the future. So I thought that as I approach these last two months in which I'm able to say that I'm in my 30s, I'd work on a new list. This is the list I hope caries me into the next decade of life feeling more connected with myself, more sure of who I am, and more confident in where I'm going. It's a list that focuses on some of the internal changes I've been delving into, and that I plan to continue to work on.
  • Living intentionally. This is a biggie for me. Honestly, I think it's a biggie for many of us. The number of times I check social media, look at my phone, eat a snack out of boredom, fill my head with 100 things instead of noticing what's going on around me in the moment, is startling. I know this because I've begun actively paying attention. I'll notice myself on twitter or Facebook or wherever and think, "Wait, why did I sign on again?" And it's fine if to intentionally sign on because I want to check in on what people are doing. But it's not OK with me that I go there by automation without realizing it. Same with my phone. Same with not paying attention to actual life happening. I could be walking my dog on a gorgeous sunny morning, and even living in the city I can hear the birds chirping, and my dog can be happily walking along and enjoying the moment with a big smile on her face, and I'm running through a list of 100 "to do" items in my head. And then I later bemoan the fact that I  "I haven't had the chance to get outside all day", because I wasn't being intentional and present during the time that I was, in fact, outside. 
  • Owning my own shit. Or taking accountability. Or keeping your side of the street clean. Or  whatever other description you want to give it. Basically, this means acknowledging my own part in things, whether it's overt (I actively said/did something I know I shouldn't have) or subconsciously (letting others' beliefs/criticisms about me define me, instead of questioning if they're true - see next bullet).  
  • Not owning other people's shit or taking responsibility/blame for keeping their side of the street clean. What I said above, but in the reverse. I have a really bad habit of trying to fix everything for everyone, often at the expense of myself, my values, my core, remembering who I am. In it's extreme, this is called codependency, and it's not a healthy or happy way to live, for anyone involved. To clarify it's not that we shouldn't do nice things for each other or be decent human beings. We 1000% should be thoughtful and considerate of others, be good people. But we cannot make other people happy. Nor can we change others. And thank goodness, because I wouldn't want to put my happiness/life direction solely in someone else's hands with zero control. Nor would I want that control over someone else. 
  • Stop questioning my intuition, and for that matter, stop fighting my innate personality.  Let me psychology/self-help nerd out for a moment here. According to the Myer's Briggs personality assessment (and life experience/knowledge of myself) I'm an INFJ - Introvert. iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging.  This means:  I get my energy from time alone/one-on-one meaningful time with people I'm close to (Introversion). I "just know' things instinctively instead of gathering all the evidence/data/details and then figuring it out based on that (iNtuitive). I make decisions with my heart (Feeling). I need a plan and can't live life five minutes in front of my face (Judging).  INFJs are 1% of the population if that, the least common personality type.  So I am not like a lot of other people.  But that's ok. None of this is wrong. It's who I am. We are born with our personality type. It's innate. It's "how I'm made" for lack of a better phrase. I need to stop spending my life trying to prove to everyone that just because it's different it isn't wrong, and just start being me. It can't waste all my energy trying to defend who I am. Yes, life always requires us to adjust, make accommodations, meet people in the middle, etc. But we also need to honor ourselves and meet ourselves where we are. We are way more effective, happier, are more enjoyable to be around, and overall more at ease in the world if we work with who we are, instead of rallying against it. 
  • Remember that the negative "what ifs" aren't the only what ifs. This is part a mindset thing,  part an anxiety and depression thing. It also goes along with the "trying to make everyone happy" above. My brain is super good at saying things like, "Yo lady, what if you fail catastrophically? What if you make a mess of things/embarrass yourself/make a major decision that causes financial chaos for you and those in your life" etc. And these could be possibilities. Extreme and relatively unlikely ones, but possibilities nonetheless. Unfortunately, my brain rarely plays the positive what if game. "Yo lady, what if this is exactly the right path for you? What if you're super successful and everyone's proud of you and more importantly you're proud of yourself? What if you prove all the doubters wrong? What if you go with that intuition that's so strong, and you do what you know is the right decision and it turns out great?" My brain doesn't like this game. Lifelong illness won't allow my brain to totally get off the negative what if train, because depression and anxiety love to be a**holes that convince you that you're crap. But I *can* work on the mindset piece, the part where I let everyone else tell me what's best for me, where I believe the doubters and critics, where I don't trust my own intuition and self, where I allow myself to only look at the negative what ifs as if they're fact, instead of a hypothetical.
  • Stop asking so much permission. Note: this doesn't mean not communicating/making unilateral decisions when they affect others. I'm not going to two buy tickets for a concert and then tell a friend they're going with me and owe me $100 for the ticket. Communication is just common courtesy and quite honestly a necessity for basically any type of positive relationship between two humans. But I ask permission to the point where I don't make decisions without someone else's approval/OK, even if it doesn't affect them. Which thinking about it, strikes me as especially absurd because iNtuitiveness is my strength. I often KNOW the right decision. I just need to trust myself. 
  • Live the heck out of life, and offer something to others in the process. Yes, I know the bills need to be paid and the house cleaned and I need food in the fridge and laundry done and all that. But I often say that I want to live the my life according to what I want my eulogy to read. And I don't want the highlights to be my clean house or how much time I spent at the office or the grocery store or the things I have. I want to have made a difference in people's lives, to have made their lives better, and for them to have positive, lasting memories with and of me. Nor do I want to spend my last days with regrets of "if only I had".  I want to experience as much as I can, while acknowledging that sometimes, my health requires a step back so that I can do so again in the future. 
So happy last two months of my 30s to me! I'm looking forward to what the next couple of months, and for that matter, the next decade. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Life Updates and Thoughts

Hi readers. It's been a while. Apologies. The last month or several have been busy. I thought I'd give a life update, and also a bit of what's been going on in my brain. First, the life update. I graduated from Yoga Teacher training on May 19th and registered with Yoga Alliance, so I'm now officially an RYT-200 Yoga Teacher. Woo hoo! I've also been working on my yoga business pretty diligently. I am on the sub list for one studio and working toward being on the sub list for another. I'm teaching two community yoga classes at The Grant Building in Collingswood, NJ, one on July 6th, the other August 3rd, but 12:30-1:30PM. They are donation based classes, so pay what you wish, and the proceeds go to Twist Out Cancer. I have a some other things in the works that aren't at the stage where I'm able to really promote yet, but hopefully soon.

In addition, my novel went to the self-publisher, I just received the first copies of the soft-cover version in the mail. So that's super exciting! Tentative release date is July 16th, but I'll keep everyone posted.

I have been working on my self-branded business, super creatively named Maya Augelli, LLC (that's not the DBA, I'm working on those, it's the LLC name), and I have a website for that as well. You can check out all I'm doing yoga/wellness/book/writing wise, and more, here.

So, on the business front, things are going well. I feel I have goals I'm working towards daily, and it's helping me feel like I'm regaining some sense of control over the course of my life and I'm not floundering around waiting for a lifeline.

Personally, I've been working a lot on my inner strength and belief in myself. As is probably obvious by now to anyone who reads this regularly, low self-esteem, lack of belief in myself, and low self-worth have been my companions for close to the last 25 years now. They've become gradually lower, due to numerous factors including my illness and life stuff. I'm working on changing this. But it's brought up some questions that I'm grappling with. I'll note that while these aren't rhetorical questions, I'm not actually expecting anyone to answer them. I'm simply laying them out there because, well, this is my blog and they're in my brain and I figure others might have dealt with similar questions themselves.

1. How do you differentiate between finding your voice/setting necessary boundaries/standing up for what you believe in, and selfishness/self-centeredness? It seems like this should be obvious, but when you think about it, often, it's about perspective. If I strongly believe something should be one way and I'm standing up for it, and you strongly believe the opposite and are standing up to it, who gives? And is the person who doesn't give good at setting boundaries and saying "I won't let myself be pushed into going against what I believe", or are they being selfish because they are putting their needs/values first? I'm working at recognize those areas where maybe I am sticking to my guns unnecessarily, and those where I need to actually stand up for myself and set boundaries more.

2. How do you differentiate between letting fear hold you back and making excuses, and being smartly cautious. For instance, when I first started Chimera, I chose the "not letting fear hold me back" route. I decided to dive head first into my business and just go for it. I knew I could make excuses all day - How would I make enough money? What if I failed? I wasn't good enough. Etc Etc. But I was luckily in a position that, with help from family, I was able to make this leap. I don't regret for a second starting my business. I learned so much, and building up that business and the storefront were some of the happiest times of my adult life. But I did learn that sometimes the ocean that looks nice and calm has an unexpected undertow. I also know, though, that my fear strategy is self-sabotage. Which means I become my own worst enemy, my own worst critic, and I constantly find 'reasons" that I shouldn't take that leap.  Often, I'm over here worrying about the dangerous undertow (i.e. something catastrophic happening) when reality is like, "Um, it's a 12-inch high kiddie pool". Where is that sweet spot of "I'm not jumping in without enough of a plan, but I'm also not waiting until everything is perfectly set because nothing is ever perfect"?

3. How do I take accountability for my own actions, while not also always taking unnecessary blame/fault? I'm struggling with this, because I'm really big on personal accountability. I know my faults, my weaknesses, my points that I need to work on - 20 years of therapy will do that for a person. But I also know what's NOT a fault - things like a difference of opinion, a different approach to something, a preference. So where is the line for saying "Yes, this piece is something I have to work on. But that piece over there, that's not a fault, that's just a difference/something others might not understand/something someone may not prefer about me"? It's a delicate balance between not taking enough accountability, and taking accountability for others' stuff, or for stuff that doesn't require accountability from anyone.

So that's what's going on in my life and brain right now.  I'll try to be more consistent about writing. In the mean time, I have been updating my yoga website and blog, so if you're inclined, go check that out. As always, thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Crumbling and Disappearing

I haven't written in a while. I've been going through a lot. January and February were horrible brain wise. My illness grabbed hold, and tossed me, flung me, emotionally beat me until I was literally praying for some, any, reprieve from it. Then March hit, and the horrible emotional grip started to ease. The majority of my March was amazing. I felt positive, energized, I had hope. Most of all, I began to feel like I was reclaiming a bit of the me that I've lost for years now. I was finally, finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In March, I began working on my personal branding website for all of my various services and skills, to be premiered once I (fingers crossed) graduate from yoga teacher training. The editing on my book was finished, and I started moving into the next stages. I was working on more travel clients than I have in a while. I actually felt like I was capable in building what I want to build. Like I might really regain autonomy over my day to day again. I began to feel more independent again. I actually found myself occasionally making decisions and suggestions instead of just going with "whatever everyone else thinks" for fear of causing an issue. I found myself standing up for what I need, what I know is best for me, what I believe in for my life, even if I was only defending my cause to myself most of the time. I started making small changes each and every day. I also worked on reconnecting with my faith, which has been a lifelong process in which I've generally failed miserably, and I felt like I was getting somewhere. In addition to yoga and meditation and writing and my other self-work, this was helping me get through things when I did feel alone and hopeless at times.

And then, March started coming to a close. And the proverbial ceiling caved in. My emotional life came crashing down on me. I woke up one morning and all of that calm and piece and quiet self-worth I'd finally thought I was finding was gone. I don't know why, but it was. In it's place was sadness deeper than I've ever known, hurt, emotional pain, hopelessness, and yes, I'll admit it - anger, resentment, and bitterness, driven by the aforementioned. I say that because a note here: actual anger as a reaction doesn't last long at all naturally. I forget the stat, but it's something like after two minutes, if you're still angry, it's because it's masking another emotion like fear, pain, hurt, sadness, etc. Few people will admit this because it's easier to point fingers than take a deep dive into our own pain, but I'm a master at deep diving into my pain, so I'll own my anger. I woke up feeling like I was again a rat in a maze that didn't actually have an exit. Like a puppet in a show, being yanked around. Hope was gone, which is particularly devastating for someone who runs the Spread Hope Project. All the things I thought I could do, they felt like silly dreams. Like a little kid dreaming of being an astronaut, like a girl dressing up in her mom's heels and makeup and pretending to be an adult, instead of a grown adult who believes in themselves and dreams that they can actually accomplish.

I don't know what happened. Not entirely at least. I know, of course, that I have a mood cycling disorder that involves depression and anxiety, and that it can hit without a moment's notice. But I also know that it doesn't usually cycle in months. It's normally hours, days, a week at the most. I also know that part of what hit me is that you can't single-handedly change situations in your life that involve others, and that my trying to do so finally crashed in on me, and it felt like I'd been beating my head against a wall. If this doesn't make sense, here's an example: Say you work in a place where negativity and gossip is rampant, and you easily pick up on other people's energy. You can go in and be positive and cheerful all you want. But if you have to interact with other people who are negative and gossping all the time, and they don't change, you still work in a toxic environment. And yes, people will say "well you could change that by getting a new job." But sometimes it's not that easy. and besides, the job is just a random example that I chose. Sometimes, it's not a situation you can just change like you can a job. Sometimes, it's a whole bunch of things at once. You can't suddenly just be out of debt (unless you win the lottery), or make people believe in you and support you (emotionally not financially). You can't make friends suddenly have tons of time for you. You can't suddenly get tons of clients and build your own business so it's super profitable (no matter what those courses they sell try to tell you.. it doens't turn around like that). You can work your ass off every damn day, you can be the best person you can be, you can be willing to throw yourself in front of a speeding truck for people, and you still can't affect what anyone or anything else in the situation does. Sometimes there are pieces of life you cannot control, and when you're trying to change your life and things just. won't budge it's physically, mentally, and emotionally painful and exhausted.

Lately, I feel like I'm mentally, emotionally, and physically crumbling. It feels like each time I move pieces of me fall off. There are physical effects. I've had headaches and been nauseous a ton. I've oddly been losing sensation in my extremities frequently, and I'm not sure if it's related but that's super annoying/scary. I'm exhausted all the time. I am in constant physical pain. I don't even mention my physical pain really because I don't recall what it's like to not be in physical pain. And every single morning that I wake up it feels like there's a ton of bricks sitting on my heart. I spend probably at least an hour a day crying, often more. I'm getting to the point where I struggle to hide it. I know I am not living the life for me, and yet I feel like I'm tangled up in it, unable to make any changes. I feel so frozen in my life that I literally am afraid to do the tiniest things - like cook a meal or choose something to eat.

I feel like I just want to fade away, like some special effects in a movie where I become more and more transparent until eventually I'm just not there. Sometimes, I feel like disappearing quickly. Most days I feel like making drastic, massive changes in my life because I can't stand the  crushing ache of pain every day anymore. But any way I slice it, this version of me, this crumbling, hurt, scared, frozen version of me that feels like a caged animal is not sustainable.

That's where I am right now. I know it's not super uplifting, but I wanted to give a life update. If you want to support me, please reach out. In person, not on a Facebook comment. Not with a "virtual hug" (please, please no virtual hugs, I can't explain but I'm practically begging you not to say this). But actually reach out. And please no cliches please. I can't handle it. It won't end well. I'm broken. You wouldn't give someone with a heart attack a cliche, so don't give me one either. Just be there to listen. Not one and done, not a perfunctory check in, but actually be there for me.  As much as I need, as long as I need. I have a lifelong illness. I need people in my life who are prepared to be there for me through life as well.

Thank you for listening.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Believe In You

I believe in you. Whoever you are. Whatever your dreams. I'm serious. I might not even know you personally. I might not know your plans or goals or dreams. But I believe in the human potential. In every human. It doesn't mean they always live up to it (I can think of plenty of examples in which people took their potential and used it in really harmful ways, or squandered it all together). But the potential is there.

Why am I telling you, potentially a total stranger, that I believe in you? Because from time to time, we all need to hear it. We especially need to hear it if you, like me, have ever shared your dreams with someone or someones, and been told that you aren't capable, you're unrealistic, you don't have the education or training or qualifications, that you'll never make it happen.  Or put another way, that they didn't believe in you. And if like me, you've ever struggled with self-confidence or self-esteem or self-worth or feeling like you're not enough, if like me you've ever battled depression and anxiety that magnifies these feelings, you know that this can feel like someone physically tearing you apart. It can feel like they reached into your chest cavity, grabbed ahold of your heart, and ripped it out. Maybe for you it wasn't that extreme. For me it is. Because to me, one of the most amazing things you can have in this world, in the darkest moments, the moments when you struggle so hard to believe things will work out, is hope. And telling you that you can't accomplish your dreams can tear this hope, potentially the only thing keeping you going at times, to shreds.  And yes, when this happens to me, is it on me a bit that I rely so heavily on others' opinions? Absolutely. I'm working on that daily. I'm putting huge effort towards self-love and appreciation, self-worth and self-esteem. But when you already feel like you're not good enough, and others basically tell you you're right, it's pretty natural that it'll affect you seriously, at least temporarily, perhaps longer.

Now naturally, there are going to be things we're not qualified to do. I'm not qualified to perform surgery because I haven't gone to medical school. So if I were to say, "I think I'm going to get a job as a surgeon", the response of "you don't have the education and qualification for that" is legit. But if I said, "I think I want to go to medical school because my dream has always been to become a surgeon" and someone replies "At you're age? Come on, that's so unrealistic. You'll never make that happen!" that's where the dream killing happens. And the thing is, they may be right. I am 39 years old. If my dream was to go to medical school, I'd probably be in my 50s when I finished (I'm eyeballing this, not calculating the actual years so excuse any innaccuracies), and it's probably pretty tricky to get accepted to medical school at 39, then interneship, residency, get hired for the first time as a surgeon in ones 50s. But telling me right off the bat I'll never be able to do it? It might be unlikely. It might be improbable. But I likely already know this, so shutting down my dreams  in one stroke and saying you don't believe in me literally serves no purpose. there are ways to voice the struggles, to help someone be realistic, without telling them you can't. For instance, "This could be really tricky. It could be tough to get into medical school at that age, and it'll be a long road, but if you really want this, let's talk about what the next steps could be." Or maybe you help them "troubleshoot": "Well, you'd need this qualification to get into school, so maybe start by taking pre-requesites somewhere local. Also, it's going to cost a lot, so let's talk about how you're going to be able to support yourself while doing this." There are numerous other ways to approach it. But flat out: you can't make that happen is just a hurtful one. And if you're anything like me, it's probably one you're already telling yourself. So what does someone telling you this actually accomplish, besides making you feel worse about yourself?

So I'm here to tell you I believe in you. I don't care how silly or weird or out there your dream ism how unlikely it is or how much effort it'll take, because if you really want it that badly, you'll put in the effort. (Caveat: I can't support you in something I think is illegal/unethical/immoral because that would be going against my core values, and we should never ask someone to compromise their core beliefs and values.  But I'm going to assume here you aren't asking me to support you doing something immoral, so with that exception, I believe in you.) If your dream is to dress up in a chicken costume and dance around and make viral videos and get sponsors to make money, go for it. Hell, that sounds fun and I might even join you.  If your dream is to travel the world, to restart your career, to start your own business. If your dream is invent something new, to run away to the mountains and build a retreat, to go back to school and get a new degree/desertification/training. I believe in you. If your dream is to find a way quit your 9-5 so you can stay at home with your kids, I believe in you. If your dream is to write a book, I believe in you.

And if you ever need someone to bounce idea off, or someone just to listen, or someone just to remind you that someone believes in you, I'm here. Because there way too many people in this world that'll tell us we can't do something. So I'm here to tell you that you can. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Simplifying, Letting Go, & Spreading Hope in 2019

I don't set new year's resolutions. I've written about why before, but basically, resolutions tend to be all or nothing. "I'm going to lose 10 lbs". What if you lose 9.5? Technically, you've failed in your resolution. But you've lost 9.5 lbs through hard work and dedication - no failure about that. See where I'm going? Instead, I set goals and focuses. Yes, there are concrete items I'd like to accomplish in there that I create plans for  (resolutions don't generally involve plans, which is another reason I don't set them). But my real point is, I am more focused on patterns, on ways of being, and changes I'd like to make in those ways of being to improve overall quality of life.

For 2019, I'm focusing on Simplifying, Letting go, and Spreading Hope. If you'll notice, two of the three are related (I'd argue that all are, but two are more obvious) - they're about less. Getting rid of or shedding. And to me, if I'm able to do that, I'm more able to focus on the third, which if you've known me for any length of time and have paid any attention to what I've been doing over the past two years, should ring a bell.

Why have I chosen these? Well, life in general and my brain, are messy. With a rapid cycling mood disorder, there's literally no telling what's going on in there at times. I could have had the best day of my life, go to bed, and wake up in horrible depression. Then, I could rapidly cycle into hypomania by the end of the day. I'll be anxious through the entirety of it because everything seems unstable and uncertain, and I do about as well with uncertainty as I would handle being chased by a rabid dinosaur.  Note: I have had people tell me, when I say this about uncertainty, that I should never have kids. I'd like to point out that 1.) That's a shitty thing to tell someone 2.) I have, in my past, had a young child in my life, and done just fine. 3.) If you repeat this "wisdom", YOU will fare about as well as if you were chased by a rabid dinosaur. Just putting that out there. But I digress.

My point is there are certain types of uncertainty that I'd like to pare down in my life, in order to improve my mental and physical health, and to get me on the path to where I'm quite sure I need to be going. Furthermore, I have a habit of throwing myself into everything 1000%, trying to be everything to everyone, even when time and again, it feels incredibly one-sided or I feel that my efforts aren't respected/valued the way they should be (i.e. the number of times I've been passed over for things I worked my ass of for and feel I deserved is rather alarming). I've cluttered my life, hanging onto each and everyone of these situations, often for years. I've also hung on to all of the ideas, all of the ways of doing things, all of the criticisms and "ways I should improve myself", impressed upon me by other people over the years. All the ways I "should" live. All the views I "should" have. All the ways I should be more like everyone else says I should be, and deny who I am. I have hung onto all this stuff. And it's suffocating me, and it's time to get out from under it.

So, Simplifying:
  • I'm simplifying my things. I don't need fancy stuff. I don't need that necklace I haven't worn in two years because part of it broke off and I keep saying I'll somehow figure out how to put it back together, or that purse with three zippers missing that I'm so sure I'll somehow find a use for anyway. I don't need those jeans from five years ago that I haven't been able to fit in for the last two. I don't need that book that was required reading for a CEC course five years ago that I  haven't looked at since. I do not need them Sam I Am. So, I'm simplifying my things. Ill donate what I can.
  •  Simplifying my routines and habits. This involves things like making a budget and sticking to it. Meal planning and prepping and sticking to it (also helps budget, so bonus). Making plans and sticking to them as best as possible (i.e. no constant last minute decisions/changes/etc). I need to try to eat around the same time, go to bed and wake up around the same time. My therapist has consistently told me my life needs routines and plans I can rely on, and that the lack of this is detrimental to my mental health.  The more I can rely on in my outer world, the easier it is to handle when my inner world changes unexpectedly, which is often.
  • Simplifying my space. I've read time and again that your physical outer space is a representation of your inner mental space. This makes sense. When your thoughts and emotions and brain feel all jumbled, it can be tough to keep a nice orderly home/desk/office/closet/etc. Similarly, when your house looks like a mad scientist is using it as their lab, it can be really tough to organize your thoughts, and it often feels like the walls, or your things, are closing in on you, and that's anxiety inducing. 


Letting Go:
  • I need to let go of pieces of my life I've held on to for too long. Whether it's organizations that I was involved in that no longer serve me, or friendships that now feel totally one-sided, or anything else that used to maybe be a big piece of my life that no longer is (like the fact that I had to sell my storefront building four or so years ago). This doesn't mean big friend breakups or loudly denouncing organizations for which I previously gave so much, or anything like that. But I can't spend my life chasing ghosts.
  • I need work on letting go of all of the stories I've told myself about how I'm not worthy, I'm not enough, I'm a failure. Depression and anxiety are assholes that lie to me daily, so I know that sometimes, I'm going to feel this way and there's not a ton to do about it but whether the storm. But not letting it be my defining story any longer is key.
  • I need to let go of all the untrue stories I've been told by other people. Those stories that tell me I'm wrong, I'm inferior, I'm lazy, I'm selfish, my ways are wrong, my views are wrong, I'm not capable, that my illness is attention-seeking. To those stories that others have told me that degrade me, berate me, make me feel bad about myself, that aim to make me feel ashamed or guilty for who I am or how I'm made, that tell me I'll be good enough if only I'd change like this or that. Every one of those stories needs to go, because these do nothing but reinforce the untrue stories I already tell myself, which only depletes my self worth and self confidence further, and that massively affects my mental health. This doesn't mean I can't learn and grow, because as humans, we're almost all continually doing so. I love learning new things and having new experiences. I'm an open person, and I love expanding my horizons. But negative words and name calling that offer no actual helpful insight, no solution, no new opportunities or experiences simply don't serve me. They serve one purpose and one purpose only - to put the other person down. And I'm good enough at doing that to myself.
  • I need to let go of everyone else's idea of success. I heard something on a podcast the other day that I've heard in numerous forms before, but the way it was put succinctly drives home the point: "The richest wo/man in the graveyard is still dead." Success doesn't have to mean having a 9-5 that makes x amount of money (hell, it doesn't mean having a 9-5 at all). It doesn't mean having x car in the driveway or y size house. It doesn't mean having fancy china or designer clothes. It doesn't mean having abc qualifications or xyz degrees or titles. The person running around like a chicken with their head cut off isn't any more successful simply because they're "too busy".  For too long, I've let other people's opinions of success make me feel unsuccessful. To long I've let them hold me back. It's fine for them if those are other people's measurements of their own success. But they are not mine. 




  • Letting go of grudges and wrongs.  One of my favorite quotes of  all time comes from the Dalai Lama, "Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else. You're the one that gets burned."  Note: Letting go of grudging and forgiveness doesn't mean the person's actions were acceptable. It doesn't always mean reconciliation. Nor does it mean they've apologized and asked for forgiveness. They never may, but waiting for that gives them control over you, and I refuse to allow that. Forgiveness is something you do for you, so that you can stop feeling burned and move forward. You stop holding that hot coal that hurts you more than anyone else. That's what I'm aiming to do.
  • Letting go of how things should be. I'm going to write more on this later, but I, like many people, tend to have strong ideals of how things should be. I have visions/ideals in my head how things are going to go, and I get super disappointed when things don't turn out like those visions. I'm working on tempering that. Note: this does NOT mean that I just do whatever everyone else wants and abandon my own hopes/goals/dreams/ways of life. But it does mean I'm open to new experiences that don't require me to give up me totally but maybe bring in new opportunities as well.

Spreading Hope 
  • If you're unfamiliar, I founded the Spread Hope Project. My goal in 2019 is to bring the theme of hope into even the tiniest pieces of my life. Hope doesn't mean kittens with rainbows coming out of their butts - or at least it doesn't have to. Hope means that despite everything we have to go through daily, we still see that all is not lost. We see that there is a way out, a way forward, a way through, even if we don't see exactly what that way is. We see that there's the chance of things getting better. I recently talked to someone very wise (who happens to be related to me) who said that when you have a word that means so much to you, like hope does to me, it informs everything you do - from the way you run your business/org, to the way you cook, dress, communicate. This has honestly opened my eyes so much. I love personal challenges, and this challenge to basically bring hope into every aspect of my life is one that I am wholeheartedly embracing. It's given me a lot of clarity.
  • You can learn more about Spread Hope Project on the website (linked above), Instagram, or Facebook.