Wednesday, October 21, 2020

New Beginnings

 I know I promised to get back to writing on here, and in truth, I have drafted a few blogs but not yet gotten them published. The past few weeks have been a bit mentally and emotionally hectic. I've been wading through a few things that I haven't been able to share publicly, some of which I'm now able to. 

Yesterday was my last day at the company where I've worked for the past 2.5 years. I'm super grateful for the opportunities I've had there - I have the chance to work in administrative capacities in both Borough management and L&I/Code departments, which is certainly something I hadn't done before, and I learned so much. I also feel incredibly fortunate that I've made it to Oct 2020 with a job - I know there are so many that have been dealing with job loss since the early spring. 

Today is my first day of being unemployed and it feels ... weird. Not bad weird, but weird. Partly, it's a schedule thing. I'd been back in the office since June, so it's not even like I'm transitioning from WFH to ..... not WFH. And even during quarantine when I was working from home, I had set hours (because that's when the Borough was open) so I logged on and off at set times. Now, I have no schedule. And I'm sure I'll get into a rhythm, but for this first day, it feels strange. It's not a holiday or a long weekend. I'm not off for a Dr appointment or anything. I'm just not working. 

It's funny, for years I ran my own company full time and for much of that time, worked from home or coworking facilities.  Even when I had my storefront, I created my own schedule, so the feeling of not having to get up get ready and keep a set schedule shouldn't be all that unfamiliar to me. But for the past seven years or so, not only have I worked in an office, but I've worked in jobs with set shifts. When I worked at a conference center, my was driven by the events being held, and most recently at the Boroughs, it was based on Boroughs operating hours. So it feels unusual to not have to be at a set place at a specific time. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE having autonomy over my schedule, which is one of the things I enjoyed so much about working for myself (and one of the many reasons I'm a huge advocate for companies offering flexible working arrangements where feasible). I'm just not used to it these days. 

In addition, being at home (technically I'm actually writing this from my parents' house) on my personal computer, which hasn't gotten much use since I went back to the 9-5 type job, brings me back to the days of running my travel business, of working for myself. And there's an ache, both a nostalgia but also a longing, to make this a reality again. At the same time, the timing probably is not quite right, considering that we've been looking to buy a house (we're in a one bedroom condo right now), along with other factors. Plus, there's the fact that my primary industries in terms of doing my own thing are Travel and Wellness/Yoga/Health, and both of those industries are suffering big time right now. I'm not going to book anyone on international trips during a global pandemic (I wouldn't for ethical reasons, even if countries were letting us in). I'm not in a place where I personally feel comfortable (i.e. safe) teaching yoga and wellness class live, especially without masks, and I certainly won't be planning any in person programs or retreats any time soon. My zoom classes are going well, but I'm not at the point where I feel they'd be enough full time, in and of themselves (financially speaking). I'm feeling this pull of freedom, of autonomy, of entrepreneurship which I love so much, or my path, but I don't know that I'm in a place to follow it just yet, and not quite knowing where my next step will be. In addition, since my major industries are not thriving right now, knowing where to look for a job that might fit, or what type of job I would want to find, is tricky. 

Still, I'm looking at this as a new beginning. It's a little tough because it wasn't a planned new beginning, and it's not a certain new beginning - i.e. it's not like when I left my job in Fitness to start my own travel company, where everything was a bit uncertain (and in hindsight I had little idea of what I was doing other than the actual planning of travel), but it was exhilarating, hopeful, and I had a firm direction that I was moving towards. With this, that's not the case. Still, I'm trying to stay open. I'm trying to approach this new place I'm in with curiosity and excitement at possibility. I think that it will work out. I simply don't know how it will work out, or if the next step is going to feel like it's the right path or the necessary one for the current situation, that I can later look back and realize had to be part of the journey all along.  I'm sitting with a lot of feelings. I'm allowing them all. I'm laughing. I'm tearing up. I'm anxious. I'm smiling. I'm reveling in the ability to control my day and my time, and dealing with anxiety over uncertainty. I'm feeling them all, while trying not to hold too tightly to any of them. It's a practice of yoga in everyday life. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Stepping Out of the Box I've Been Putting Myself In

 Yesterday morning, as I was going through my morning routine - meditation, affirmations, gratitude, journaling, to name part of it - I got to thinking about some areas in my life in which I feel stuck, or don't feel like things are quite lining up. Like I'm missing a piece of the puzzle. And it occurred to me that one of the reasons I feel so constrained is that I've been more or less trying to pigeon hole myself, unintentionally of course. 

I've never been a person that easily fit any type of description - and I get that really, nobody fits neatly in to one particular category. But for me, it's been particularly apparent. Growing up, I didn't fit in with the cool kids, but I wasn't especially uncool (I don't think - maybe I was, who knows). I was an athlete, being a gymnast, but I definitely wasn't part of the "sporty" crowd. I worked hard at school, was focused on education and was in the honors and AP classes, but I wasn't part of the geeky or nerdy kids (again, I don't think?). I wasn't popular but I wasn't particular unpopular. I was a little bit of everything, but not quite enough of any one thing. Really the only group I fit in with was my gymnastics team, and even then, only my specific team, because while we were all pretty talented, we weren't hard core - we practiced a ton and worked hard, but we also took off every time it was someone's birthday to do a group trip to Great Adventure or down the shore or some other shenanigans, and our coach understood this. So all of the weigh-ins and cut throat nature and sacrificing life for gymnastics that you hear about (which honestly appalls me), that wasn't us, and it wasn't me. 

I think that to make up for never fitting in, even to the group of people who didn't fit in, I've always tried to find "my thing, my specific place." As a business(es) owner, I add to that the advice of basically everyone in business everywhere that it's all about super niche, finding your specific hook, honing in on that one thing that makes you stand out. It's easy to get sucked into the idea that if we can't streamline everything into one specific title/description/eleven second elevator pitch, we won't succeed. And, as someone with a Master's in Marketing, I get it. People who hire a professional rarely want a "jack of all trades and master of none". They want someone that's specifically trained at what they're looking for. At the same time, I think that trying to force oneself into on label/group/tagline, either in business or life, can be detrimental. 

One of the reasons I love being an entrepreneur is that I don't like being confined by a job title or position description or company red tape or anything of the like that. And I know I'm a person that has a lot of interests, experiences (life, career, educational), and passions. I'm a person who always likes to be learning, exploring, adventuring, finding something new and different. I know I'm a person whose skills involve deeply connecting with others (even as introvert with social anxiety), understanding and empathizing with others, helping others to connect with themselves. And these aren't attributes that can be neatly fit into one particular job title or position. I know I love the travel planning business. I have found deep meaning in yoga and mindfulness, and bringing this to others. I am a writer who recently published my first novel. I am passionate about mental health advocacy and suicide prevention. Yet I've been trying to pare this all down into the equivalent of a one-line "What am I? What do I do?" In my mind, it looks like one of those fan interaction games that you see on the big screen at a baseball game, where the different colored cars are racing along the track, each one pulling ahead for a time and then falling back, and everyone trying to guess which is going to win out. But human journeys aren't a car race graphics for fan entertainment. It's not "this wins, and everything else fades away". And yet that's the tactic I've been trying to apply to myself as of late. And it's why I'm feeling so stuck, so "not quite right". Because that isn't quite right, at least not for me. 

I love travel planning, I have long time clients that I love working with, and helping others to experience travel makes me come alive.  But it hasn't been my full time, storefront business for some time now (and right now it's my no-time business because I'm not booking anything due to COVID). Yoga and integrated wellness (mind, body, spirit) touches me on a deep level, and I am loving exploring where this path is taking me. But I haven't allowed myself to focus on the exploration part, because I've been so focused on trying to quantify it into something that fits nicely into the typical business school business plan. Mental health advocacy and the Spread Hope Project are deeply a part of who I am, but it's unlikely that they'll be a career path in and of their own (thought they do combine nicely with other things I do). And writing, well, I have no goals of being a NY Times Best Selling Author. I write because I love to write and, if it's on my blogs, to share with those who might get something from it. I don't have to choose one thing and eat, sleep, live, breathe it, giving up all else. Quite frankly, that's not me. Confining myself to one set path and staying within the predetermined lines/groups/classifications has never been my thing. And who knows, maybe THAT is my thing. Maybe I'll find some parallel paths, maybe I'll watch interests and passions and skills merge to create something I hadn't imagined, something I couldn't imagine when I was trying so desperately to quantify it and "figure it out right now". 

So for the next little while, I don't know how long, I'm going to allow myself the opportunity to explore. Instead of trying  figure out not only "which car is going to win the race" but exactly which path it will take and what exact time it will finish at and every single twist and turn of the race, I'm going to allow myself to be open. I'm also going to start listening to myself, my inner knowing, my intuition more. It's always been extremely strong for me, but I tend to discredit or discount myself. (Note: this NOT a "I'm not listening to facts/stats/science" statement AT ALL). It might be that I come back to an idea or path or plan that I'd previously had. It might be that I discover a different way to move forward. What I do know is that whatever I do, it will be true to me, and I think that this, more than any marketing strategy or business plan or impressive elevator pitch, is actually what I've been missing. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Losing a Sense of Self

 It's been MONTHS since I wrote.This is actually my first post in 2020 here. I've been writing over at my other website, (you should go check it out, there's yoga stuff and more :-).  2020 has been weird and honestly, I felt there were more important messages that needed to be heard than my personal feelings about life with my mood disorder. Not only that, but I'm going to be totally honest here - I felt better under the quarantine/stay at home orders than I have in YEARS! To be clear, I don't like the reason for it. I would never wish a global pandemic, people losing their life and falling seriously ill, people losing jobs and home. But for me, personally, I felt exceptionally well. I realize how incredibly privileged I am to say that, to be perfectly clear. This is in no way a "make the best of this" type of post, because I cannot speak from the point of view of those that went through so much this year (illness, caring for ill loved one, homeschooling, job loss, being an essential worker through this all, being in the hardest hit populations to name a few). I'm also an introvert who loves working from home and got to do so for three months this spring, so I have that advantage. Those months that I was home I felt more like me than I have in ages.  So, I didn't really feel that during those months, blogging about how great I was doing when so many were struggling in so many ways, was really the best or most helpful thing to do. 

The last few months, though, have been tricky. I don't mean COVID related, though I do have extreme anxiety watching the complete disregard people have for science and their fellow humans. I've been feeling super not myself lately. By not myself, I don't mean it the way people say "I'm not sick, I just don't really feel myself". I mean that there are times it's tough to recognize myself. And honestly, when I think about it, minus the months I felt exceptionally better during quarantine, this has been building for years. I think about the woman who, at 19, spent a semester studying in Australia, traveling all over Australia and New Zealand on my own, taking 24 hour bus rides by myself, meeting new people, making new friends. I went sky diving and bungee jumping (twice on the latter). Now, I struggle to meet people's eyes to say hello. I am afraid to try a new recipe because "of course I'll mess it up!". And equally as bad, I care that I mess it up. Not like 'that's a bummer" but in a way that I make it mean something about my worth as a human. I feel frozen in making decisions, to take any chances, even the tiniest chances. I think back to the woman who graduated college a semester early, went home and immediate interviewed for and got offered two jobs in my field. The woman who, at 25 years old, was my company's head of National Employee Health and Fitness Day programs for all of the GSK sites in the US (I worked for a Fitness company that contracted there to run their health and fitness center). I think about the woman who started Chimera Travel at 26 years old, got a storefront, made it my own, jumped into running my own business. I did this shortly after graduating with my Master's Degree and simultaneously taking a 2 year correspondence course in travel while working full time. I think about the woman who sat on the board of PAMPI (now MPI PHL) for six years, working my way up to a VP position - and I think about how at my last board retreat our facilitator, who I'd never met, came up to me and said "I hear that everything you touch turns to gold." How I jumped as the President of my ASTA chapter, and immediately was nominated as the Secretary of the National President's Council (literally, at my first meeting as a president). I jumped into every one of these things whole-heartedly, with everything I had, convinced I was going to make an impact. Now, I struggle to decide which produce to pick out at the grocery store because I second guess myself about the simplest things. Now, the fear of failure makes inertia so strong that I'll sit on the couch thinking "I know I should something" (work on my business, get outside, clean the house, a mini adventure, whatever), but it's like my brain enters a cavernous space where I can't even think of what that something is let alone do it. Now, instead of boldly stating "I've decided I'd like to do this" or "I'm going to go for that", I ask permission of 10 different people 10 different ways with phrases like "Well, I mean, I was thinking, maybe if it's OK and not too much trouble, but if not, that's really OK I understand. Do you think that's a good idea?" 

I don't love this version of myself. That's an understatement, to be honest. I hate not recognizing myself. I can see the person I was, in my head. I could even write her in a story most likely. But I can't make that person come to life in actual life. I miss the fun, smiling, woman who wasn't afraid to take chances. I miss the woman who knew what she wanted, and that that she was going to succeed, or who at least had the confidence that she would. I miss the woman who believed in herself, who others believed in so strongly. I miss the woman who could be her quirky, weird, unique but hopefully lovable self, and didn't later spend hours over-analyzing everything I did, anxious that everyone thought badly of me (badly isn't actually the word I'm looking for but I can't think of a better one).  

I also don't love the anger that comes along with this loss of self. It's not always there, not pervasive. But I've noticed it lurking lately. I'm probably going to write another post about anger, because most people dislike addressing it, but I think it's extremely important. Anger masks so many other emotions and feelings, and without digging into it, we just perpetuate the anger, which eventually turns into bitterness and resentment - a place nobody wants to be. For a while, I wasn't sure what I was angry at. And don't get me wrong, there are things "out there" (in the world) that I'm angry about. But recently, I've realized that I'm dealing with a lot of anger and frustration at myself. I'm angry at myself. To be clear, I'm not angry at myself for my illness - it was certainly not something I chose, and I feel I'm trying my hardest to navigate it. I don't entirely know what I'm angry at myself for. But when I break it down, because I know anger in and of itself never last long, it's always masking, I find so much else. Frustration with myself for feeling stuck, for the apathy, for not taking steps I want to. Frustration and a bit of hopelessness at not being able to feel my own worth, at my lack of self esteem and confidence. Even though I know they're the result of a lot, including my illness, I'm frustrated. A feeling of hopelessness that I'll stay stuck in this cycle of perpetually not feeling enough and therefore not going for things or being myself and that leading me to feeling bad about myself. I'm discovering A TON of shame and blame and guilt over decisions of the past, especially regarding my business and storefront and monetary choices. I discover fear and anxiety deeper than I even realized and hurt. I'm finding so much I thought that I processed but never did fully. I know that I need to do that work. As much as I dislike feeling angry, I think it's actually a spark. I think often of the saying (paraphrasing) "Don't worry when I fight with you, it means I still care. Worry when I stop, it means there's nothing left to fight for." It's meant to be about fighting with others, but in my case, I take it about my anger with, or my fight with, myself. If I stopped caring that I wasn't myself, that's when I'd be even more concerned. As long as it bothers me, as long as I'm still willing to fight to get myself back, it means there's hope. So I'm trying to not be angry at myself for feeling angry (we have such negative emotions and stigma around anger, so this is tough), and instead using it as a sign that I need to continue to fight, to work extra hard to figure this out. I think I'm ready to do the work. I think I have to be ready. I need to keep up this fight while it's in me, to keep myself out of the hopelessness and despair that is always a threat living with depression. 

It feels good to write this all out though. I think that's an important step - acknowledging where I am. It also feels really good to be back on this blog. I didn't realize how good until I started writing. This is one of the few places I feel I can nearly fully be myself. I don't have to worry about branding or hashtags or themes or business mission or anything else (and I get that, that's what business is). I can just share how I'm feeling and what I'm experiencing. That's what a personal blog about my life with my illnesses (and my life in general) is about. Thanks for reading my hodgepodge of thoughts. I'm hoping to update this blog more often. I hope you're all doing as well as can be with all that's going on in the world right now. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Being All-In On My Relationship With Myself

I know it's been a while since  I've written. I've both had a ton going on, and also been feeling stagnant, which seems like it would be counter-intuitive, but I find both happening at the same time.

I've been slowly building my yoga business.  I now teach one Benefit Yoga class each week, a weekly Barre class, and have a private client each week, though that happens to be my mom, so I'm not sure I can count it as actually having gotten my first private client. Still, though, I get to help someone (and bonus, someone I'm close to) through yoga, and watch how yoga helps her with each week that passes, celebrate progress with her, and make headway into my private yoga business.

Additionally, my novel has been out for about five months now, and despite the fact that I anticipated making about $5 ever on book sale royalties, each month I get some royalties, and I've well passed the $5 mark. I also exhibited at my first book fair in October, which was a great experience, and I even sold a few books.

But still, I feel stuck. I know, logically, that this year has had a lot of milestones. I've made a lot of progress.  But I'm struggling. Depression has been really rough the past few day I've spent a lot of time crying, though I don't especially know why. It hits at random times. Sometimes, it's a particular thought that induces it, but other times it just happens out of nowhere. And when it does, it feels like if only I could drain my body of tears, I'd feel better. Like I've been holding everything in, and it's finally spilling out, despite the fact that I cry numerous times a week, and sometimes, numerous times a day. Despite the fact that I go to therapy and I journal and I talk to trusted friends and loved ones, it feels like still, there's so much in some deep well inside of me that I need to get out.  It particularly likes to dwell on every decision from the past twenty years that I now question, everything I wish I'd done differently, every mistake I feel I've made. It likes to live in "if only" land. "If only you hadn't done such and such..." "If only you had chosen xyz".  Most of all, it likes to tell me that I be where I wanted if I'd only done things differently, and that therefore my unhappiness is all my fault. To be clear, I don't think my illness is my fault. But rather, my brain tells that the circumstances that I am unhappy about are.

And in some way, it's right. I made the choices I made. I took the actions I took. I made the decisions I made, many of which were gut-wrenchingly difficult, but I made them none the less. Or in some cases, they were made for me, and I chose how to respond to them, what to do in the aftermath. I also know that I tend to chase the dream, to be a "dive in the deep end and hope you know how to swim" type of person, and that once I have made that decision, I'm all in. I don't do anything - work, business, education/training, friendships, relationships, hobbies, passion projects, or anything else, half-assed. I'm all in, or all out. At the same time, I know that I often act, or don't act as the case may be, out of fear - fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of upsetting someone else, impostor syndrome (aka fear that I don't actually know what I'm doing and will be a found out), fear that I'm incapable, fear that everything negative anyone has ever said about me will be proven true. All of this combined - the blame, the judgement, the questioning myself, the fear - often leads me to feel like I can't trust myself, that I can't believe in myself.

And this, I believe, is what's at the core of everything for me. This is what my depression and anxiety (which, to clarify, I do NOT have a choice about because they are genetic illnesses) cling to. They hold tight to this lack of belief in myself, this lack of self-worth, this fact that I tie my worthiness, my enough-ness to external things like a job or having enough money, or relationships (of all types) or what others will think/say/etc about me, and they pull with all their might. They tell me on one hand that if I take this big leap, if I make these big changes, that I'll fail/be rejected/history will repeat itself. And then when I say "ok, so I'll wait a bit before doing that", they tell me that I'll never accomplish anything because I'm too afraid and don't go for it, that I'm not trying hard enough, that I'm lazy, that it's my fault I'm stagnating. They tell me to trust myself and when I do they tell me I'm doing it wrong, I'm incapable, I'm not enough. They get me in this catch-22, this tug of war where I feel frozen.

But so I have finally come to realize that my biggest goal right now, the thing I *do* need to be all in on, is not a particular career/job, not even to be successful at running my own business, it's not something specific within my external relationships, whatever type of relationships they are (family, friends, marriage, etc), though I certainly have these goals as well. My all-in goal is in my relationship to myself. To understand that my worth, my being enough, has nothing to do with anything outside of me, but instead, that I am enough and worthy exactly as I am. And that's not to say there aren't things I want to improve, because there certainly are. I love learning, I love working on my own growth, I love being open to new information and new experiences. And it doesn't mean that I don't compromise or adjust at times for people and circumstances in my life. It simply means my worthiness as a person, my enough-ness, is not intrinsically tied to them.

I want to be honest, I'm not a quite there yet in terms of believing this. I know it, logically, and on my good days, I can see it. But on my many tougher days, I'm not there. I understand it, I believe it for other people, but I can't truly believe it for myself. So I'm working on it. I've recently joined a group coaching community called The Clutch, and one of the tools that I've learned there are ladder thoughts - thoughts that help you get to the thought you actually want to have. They're not flashy, exciting thoughts. They're steps (aka rungs on a ladder) that help you step away from "I'm incapable, I'm not worthy, I'm not enough" and help you on your way toward "I am worthy and enough exactly as I am". So instead of trying to convince myself that I'm enough and worthy right now, when it feels like some sort of fairy tale that I'm telling myself but can't believe, I tell myself "It is possible that I am worthy and enough exactly as I am". Or I tell myself "It is possible that I have everything within me that I need to create the life I want". Or "It is possible that my worthiness is not connected to anything external". These allow me to dip my toe into the idea that maybe I am more worthy than I give myself credit for, without requiring that I magically jump from one end of the spectrum to the other. And this is especially helpful on days when depression and anxiety are in full gear, because on those days, it feels absolutely impossible that I could be enough and worthy exactly as I am, and trying to think this feels futile in those moments. It only makes me feel worse about myself, that I can't see it. So I practice these in between thoughts, that feel more possible, that give me hope, even in the darkest moments, that I might get there. And I realize that this might not seem like I'm all-in in this relationship with myself, but I am. Because I finally realize, really realize, not just logically know, that this is they key piece, that no matter what else I do in my life, no matter what else I accomplish, if I do not feel worthy or enough to myself, I will always feel like I'm missing something.

I know this is a long post, and a bit rambling. But I wanted to write it for three reasons - 1.) In case you, too, struggle with these types of thoughts, I want you to know, as always, that you are not alone, and that I understand and am here. 2.) Because part of this process is being really honest with myself, and sometimes I find it most effective to write it here - ,putting it in writing makes it feel really real, and while painful, helps me to move through it and with it, so that I don't get mired down in it. 3.)  When I was thinking this morning, as I was crying ugly tears into my morning coffee, thinking about who I am deep down, what I'm really passionate about, and where I feel I've made any impact at all in my life, I thought about this blog, and the mood disorders group I started on Facebook. I thought about how so many people, often times people I had no idea where struggling, have reached out and told me how reading my posts, or being able to share in the group, has helped them. It reminded me that I do make an impact, that I do have something I'm able to offer the world, and that I do help people. And it made me realize that I've been away from this blog for too long, and that this is one of the things in my life that I'm truly passionate about, and so I wanted to share this here.

Thank you for reading this incredibly long post. As always, my messages, inbox, text, etc are always open if you need to reach out. Much love to you all. 

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.