addiction, mental health, self-care

Sucking It Up In The Name Of Self-Care

Sometimes you gotta suck it up and let that stupid comment go.

You’ve got to ignore the messages from the person who refuses ownership – who refuses to acknowledge their part in what you’re parlaying.

And it sucks because in order to be free you need to let some people continue to just not get it. Maybe even let them think you’re the one to blame.

We’ve got our hands full because we have this buddy of ours, our ego, who really wants us to get all up in someone’s inbox, and let them know that what they’re dishing out isn’t OK.

I love my ego – It cracks me up. It teaches me to stand up for myself. But there are many, many times where I’ve had to say, “Thanks for the motivation bud, but I’m tapping out on this one. There is no point in pursuing the need to be right with this particular person.”

Sometimes you have to suck it up and let someone think you’re wrong in the name of self-care.

Even when people try to displace all the wrong right back on to you, you have to hit delete and carry on.

Especially when it comes to addicts. Because you can’t expect truth and generosity and bravery from someone who is locked in an addiction. It is simply not possible, and to try for it is a disservice to your health. 

Addicts are living in survival mode, which skews their ability to witness or acknowledge reality.

A person with a heavily engrained addiction will do whatever they can to protect and defend it and the lifestyle it requires to survive. (Think dissociation. Heavy doses of it.)

I’m not saying the folks without hardcore addictions are always right. No one is immune to being arrogant, narcissistic or selfish on occasion (Because we are human, through and through.)

But when you don’t have a crutch killing off brain cells faster than you can make them, you’ve got a lot more clarity than those who do.

Ego has a field day with hangovers and withdrawals, using it as prime time to make sure everyone knows that no matter what, it is never wrong.

It remains committed to denying ownership or responsibility for any chaos that results from its wake.

And sadly addicts don’t know how to be emotionally generous, specifically in situations where they are being called on to step up and take ownership of the outcomes of their behaviours.

As much as we want to clap back and let them know how we really feel – that what they are dishing out is grade A bullshit – we need to be strategic with our efforts.

As my friend Jen used to say: “Choose Your Battles.

Self-care is more important than attempting to convince someone who isn’t capable of being generous that you’re right.

Which means sometimes you just have to walk away. Or hit the delete button. Or mute the conversation. Whatever works. 😉

addiction, drugs

Let’s Talk About Cocaine

I’m going to talk about something no one will admit to doing in this fentanyl-laced society, but a lot of people still do: cocaine.

If you do a quick google search you’ll see loads of articles about all the fentanyl deaths due to drug use these days. It’s horrifying, to say the least.

What you don’t know is that these headlines aren’t stopping people from doing it. There are loads of folks who still use it on a regular basis.

These are people with nice cars, good jobs, mortgages, vacation funds. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.

It sounds weird, right? Why would people who seemingly have their lives together, and have so much going for them risk losing it all for cocaine?

And it’s hard not to judge them, right? I mean on the surface it appears to be the dumbest thing you could do: risk your life for a temporary high. And it’s not like they’re all using it daily either. For some, its one-offs a few times a year. Why bother?

I’m going to explain why a person would risk everything for cocaine.

I used to use cocaine – a lot. I was a severely depressed person who spent years self-medicating with alcohol. Cocaine worked in conjunction with booze. It boosted my dopamine levels more than any anti-depressant ever could or did. It made me feel better. It allowed for a temporary reprieve from my intense depression.

Here’s how it would go: I’d feel depressed and start drinking. Shortly thereafter my inhibitions would go out the window and I’d make the call. By “make the call” I mean call a drug dealer. There was always some guy to pick it up from. Some of them would even deliver.

I could have killed myself. But I made it out the other end of what research and psychologists acknowledge as being the hardest cycle of self-medicating to get out of.

That’s right: the cycle of a depressed person using cocaine and alcohol to self-medicate is the hardest addiction to recover from.

Why? Because for every high you experience from a line of coke the lows are devastating. You end up even more depressed than you were before. So you drink to feel better. And a couple of glasses of wine in you think, “gee, I know what would make me feel even better.”

Then you are depressed for days afterwards. And if you just can’t take it anymore you decide to pick up another bottle of wine and the cycle continues.

At my worst, I used cocaine most weekends and sometimes during the week. I know people who have the same schedule today. And I also know people who use it less frequently.

What I want everyone to understand about people who use cocaine is that they aren’t pieces of shit. They aren’t terrible human beings who should be given up on.

They are people who are suffering. And I know they are suffering because they wouldn’t feel the need to escape from their lives to such a degree if they weren’t.

They wouldn’t feel the need to risk their lives whenever they make the call to that drug dealer who is “cool and would never sell coke with fentanyl in it.

They will try to justify using coke with statements like, “I just want to have a good time.” or, “it’s just once in a while.

But let’s deconstruct these troubling statements. How much self-hatred exists in a person if they attribute staying up all night, risking their lives doing cocaine and binge drinking with having fun? How much pain must be hiding behind that surface-level success we see from the outside?

Therein lies the problem: Too many people don’t like themselves. Too many people are hurting. Too many people are living in survival mode with zero self-worth or sense of self, doing their damnedest to justify their high-risk behaviour by labelling it as a good time.

Here’s what isn’t a good time:

  • The pain your loved ones feel when they find out you risked your life and potentially irrevocably damaged your children, parents, friends and siblings for a good time.
  • The devastation your loved ones feel when they realize they can’t enable you and therefore, can’t have you in their lives anymore.
  • The betrayal your loved ones feel when you try to turn it around on them by saying they are overreacting and that it’s not that big of a deal – That it’s normal.

I don’t know how to fix this issue. I don’t know how to make people love themselves enough to stop doing drugs like this.

All I can say is that I see you, I hear you, I care about you, and that you are loved. Because I’ve been there. And I know it’s not easy to change. 

But please do whatever it takes to find a spark of self-worth big enough to motivate change. I’m begging you, no matter what your usage levels are, do whatever it takes to consider a life without this deadly crutch.

Because you deserve so much more than throwing your life away over a night of coke. 

Truth: People who love themselves don’t risk their lives for drugs. People who hurt do.

If you want to understand the cycle of addiction and what leads to it I recommend reading Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and watching the documentary, In Utero.
emotional wellness, speaking up, women

Lessons On Using Your Voice From The Deli Counter

I had an interesting interaction at the local deli yesterday.

There were a lot of people in the store, so I was keeping tabs on my position. When it was my turn, I stepped forward to place my order.

Shortly thereafter I heard the woman who had just completed her transaction say to the next person in line, “I thought you were next.

To which I automatically responded to her, “Busybody.

The line-up dictator left. And the woman behind me said, “Well, I guess some people just know more than the rest of us, hey?

We both gave each other a smile, and life went on.

Here’s why I’m sharing the details of this seemingly superficial deli counter interaction with you today:

I used to be really scared to speak up in real-time, choosing to relentlessly fester on unsavoury interactions instead.

Maybe you can relate: I would think about what I should or could have said, and get increasingly pissed off in the process.

It felt safer not to speak, even though not speaking caused so much internal chaos – Chaos that manifested into me being unnecessarily aggressive towards other people.

The words that came out of my mouth yesterday provided the first scenario in my life in which I’ve spoken up for myself without guilt or shame or over-the-top anger consuming me.

I didn’t feel the need to lash out- the words just came out, void of hyper-aggression.

Prior to this interaction I always felt bad about standing up for myself. I’d witnessed a lot of people affirm that it wasn’t OK to speak. Variations of the belief that it’s best not to, like “best to keep quiet” have been the norm throughout my life.

These statements affirmed the validity of the shame and guilt that kept me from using my voice in a productive way. And the aggression that festered from reliving unsavoury interactions fuelled a hyper-aggressive self-protective mode, which led to a lot of suffering. 

You never get the outcome you’re looking for when you approach an interaction with heightened aggression. But it’s hard not to, especially when it’s ingrained in our psyches that speaking out is something to be ashamed of.

We are human – we crave connection. Logic tells us we will never connect with people if they disapprove of us, and disapprove they will if we speak. How can we not turn speaking out into an aggressive tirade when we deny ourselves, through no fault of our own, the right to stand up for ourselves? That festering energy needs to go somewhere.

It’s super scary to use your voice. More often than not women get labelled overly dramatic, ridiculous, or some variation of inadequate.

Some women will even embrace the patriarchy and turn on those who are being assertive with their rights and needs as human beings.

We have women trying to shame other women in a desperate attempt for power. They are so committed to distracting themselves from their own insecurities and pain that they choose judgement because it feels safer.

I used to be one of those women. And there are days I catch glimpses of her in my behaviours and beliefs.

Compassion is the only viable response to judgement. It’s the only offering that will lead to anything positive. (Here’s an amazing example.)

It’s not easy and it’s tough to get right. For example, I’m well aware of the judgment not-so-subtly hidden in my “busybody” comment. I’m also aware that it makes me sound like I’m from the early 1900s.

In a perfect world, I’d have been more honest with the woman at the deli counter. I’d have told her I see her and know what she’s trying to do, and that I have compassion for her struggle because I live it, too

But I know that interaction, in all its imperfection, provided a huge opportunity for me.

It offered me a chance to be assertive and stand up for myself.

It offered me a chance to speak. 

Even though it was on a small-scale, it was a chance for me to communicate without taking a hyper-aggressive stance.

That’s a win for me.

Many of us don’t know how to speak. We were never taught how to or that it was OK to do so.

So we need to start practicing how to use our voices. And for me, the deli counter provided a great opportunity to do just that.

Thanks for reading. ❤️
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emotional wellness, mental health

New Year, New, Bold Moves

Two days into 2018 and I’m already making some bold moves.

Bold is of course subjective. But to me, the choice I’ve made it feels courageous enough to take a moment to celebrate.

It started last month when I submitted a post about my dad and I reconciling to the Huffington Post (Check it out here.)

If you’re a follower of my blog you might be wondering why. I previously explained in this post a bunch of legit reasons why I didn’t want to share my writing on that platform anymore.

The answer: I got a great organic response from that piece (Organic = no paid promotion.) People really connected with it, it was uber cathartic to write, and I felt like it had the potential to inspire huff post readers to work on forgiving themselves and others. (Forgiveness = emotional wellness. Believe it.)

Couple that with my ego telling me I needed to work on remaining relevant as a writer and use my platform there to market myself, and I pressed submit.

I pretty much forgot about it after that, save for a few 2 am reminders via a visit from my asshole friend, Shameful Rejection (seriously dude, sod off.) Usually, I’ll get an email telling me when they publish something I write. And I get google alerts telling me when they mention my name in a social share.

But I didn’t with this one, so naturally, I avoided logging in to my blogger account to see if there were comments suggesting I change things up.

Why? Because if they want me to change things my inner rejected and traumatized child tells me it means I’ve failed. If I haven’t delivered something perfect I didn’t do a good enough job. (Yes I’m aware this is a troubling way to look at criticism, and yes I’m working on changing that belief.)

So I pushed through the fear and logged in yesterday, and found there were comments and suggestions on how to change it. Surprisingly I didn’t take their existence as a sign that my writing was shitty. I even replied and told the editor I’d work on making the suggested changes.

But I very quickly started to feel the need to be bold and stand behind what I’d written.

To paraphrase the editor’s suggestions, the piece would be better if I turned it into a “5 ways to reconcile with your parent” type thing. Basically, he wanted me to completely rewrite it. He wanted me to turn my heartfelt and emotionally cathartic post into something trendy, and use the delicate nature of my newly mended relationship with my dad as click bait. Plus, he wanted me to violate my dad’s privacy by using his image in the piece.

When I explain it like that it sounds like the dude is a total asshole. Please believe me when I say this isn’t the case at all. The blog editors at Huffington post are lovely people and I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with every single one I’ve dealt with.

The guy was just doing his job and adhering to Huffington Post’s MO, which is to pump out click-worthy content. They are looking for content that grabs the attention of the masses, and what he asked me to do is in alignment with that MO.

But that’s where I don’t fit into the equation. I don’t write to be popular. I started writing because I had to. It lights me the F*** up and helps me heal and make sense of all the shit that happens and has happened in my life.

Writing has helped me learn to like and appreciate who I am, eradicating deadly addictions in the process.

The years I spent pursuing the acceptance of others and trying to fit in demolished my self-esteem and self-worth. I sacrificed my emotional wellness by committing my life to seeking the approval of others.

Why would I revisit that life? Why would I hack up a piece of writing I’m proud of and that inspired others, for the sake of fitting in with the masses?

I realized after I told the editor I would make his suggested changes that the idea of turning a raw and honest piece of writing that I am proud of into a “5 ways to…” article makes me want to barf.

And while the Huff post editor dude was just doing his job, what he suggested just highlighted that they aren’t into my style of writing: they are only interested if it is coiffed to conform to mass consumption standards.

I’m not interested in entertaining the masses. I’m interested in inspiring others to invest in their emotional wellness. 

This leaves me to make a bold decision: Do I sacrifice my instincts to be true to my calling, or do I conform in a desperate attempt to be relevant?

I think I just answered my own question. 😉

xo

A

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mental health, new years resolution, wellness

The Only New Year’s Resolution You Need To Make

More often than not, our new year’s resolutions are directed towards improving our exterior.

I am not going to shame that. I think it’s great to want to look and feel great through diet and exercise. I just finished yoga and am eating a bowl of organic something or other right now (OK it’s oats and wild blueberries with hemp seeds. Part of me wishes it was a plate of french fries though.)

But eating right and working out isn’t going to make your 2018 great. It’s a strong contributor, but not the end all be all. Here’s why.

For many years I had a belief lodged in my head that told a lie:

“If I eat healthily and work out, life will fall into place. I won’t be so depressed and anxious all the time, and I’ll be more successful.”

I was committed AF to that belief. And while it came from a really great place (me wanting to be healthier and happier) it did not address an integral component of the wellness process.

It didn’t acknowledge the beliefs I had about myself that were affecting my ability to be healthy and happy.

While I think it is absolutely paramount that we pay attention to what we put in our mouths and commit to looking after our bodies through exercise, there’s much more to achieving a state of health and wellness than those extensively interrelated processes alone.

The truth is, the beliefs you have about yourself, particularly the negative ones, have the ability to sabotage all of your efforts to create an exceptional life.

You can juice cleanse to your heart’s content, ditch the dairy and gluten, and cross-fit the hell outta yourself on the regular. You can get skinny AF and fit into jeans you last wore in your early 20s.

But if you’re holding strong to negative beliefs, you’ve got an invisible drain siphoning all the value from your efforts.

So the most practical new year’s 2018 resolution I can think of and am recommending to you, is to pick the shittiest belief you have about yourself and work on changing it.

You may have a lot of them to choose from, which isn’t a bad thing. It just means you are in good company because every single person I know has a ton of ’em.

Take some time – schedule it in if you have to – and figure out what beliefs you’re white knuckling.

Find the absolute worst one. You know, the one that makes you feel all sorts of terrible every time it crosses your mind.

The most hurtful belief you come across – the one you wish didn’t exist the most – is the one you’re going to work on changing.

“Ok. How the hell do I do that?”

Great question.

To counteract that limiting belief, you’re going to create an empowering belief.

How does that process look? I’ll share one from my vault to get things started:

Limiting belief: If people don’t like me it means there is something innately wrong with me that needs to change.

Empowering belief: I am learning to accept myself exactly as I am.

The empowering belief you create is going to become your BFF during 2018.

You’re going to get up close and personal with it, reading, speaking and writing it out every morning (multiple times a day if necessary), taping it to your fridge, making it a pinned note on your phone, and a screen saver on all your devices.

You’re going to put that sucker everywhere. And you’re going to repeat it in your head or out loud whenever you can remember to do so (morning and night for sure) but particularly when the terrible-awful beliefs come ‘a calling, telling you how much you suck.

Why does this process work?

Our beliefs guide our actions, influence our decisions and impact our mood and well-being. So if you’re thinking shitty things about yourself, you’ll be less inclined to be kind to yourself.

I.e., act in ways that support your wellbeing.

You aren’t likely to commit to working out or eating healthy if you don’t like yourself.

If you don’t appreciate who you are, you aren’t going to pay much attention to your most basic requirements, like eating well, exercising, and taking time to clear your mind (I added that last bit in as a nod to the power of incorporating meditation into your life. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself.)

If you can eradicate the stress one painful belief causes your body, mind and soul (the stress that distracts you from looking after yourself in loving ways) life can and will get better.

Now this process won’t guarantee that your 2018 will be picture-perfect, no-stress, no-bad-days kind of amazing (I loathe those bumper stickers. Seriously, who has no bad days? And like we need any more guilt about not feeling grateful 24/7, right? Oy vey.)

But if you do your best to commit to reminding yourself of that empowering belief, you’ll feel better about yourself, which will open the door to you accepting and seeking out more opportunities that make you happy, balancing the scales so there are less shitty moments and more hell-yes ones in the coming year.

Make sense?

Wishing you peace, prosperity, and self-love this coming year and always. And I look forward to connecting with you more in 2018. Please feel free to reach out anytime if you want to chat about anything I mentioned here, in my newsletter, or any post moving forward, OK?

xo

A

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mental health, wellness

Being Human (and a mantra for you to add to your morning routine)

From what I can see, I spent much of my life feeling guilty for being human.

I didn’t feel I had the right to use my voice. I didn’t feel I had the right to speak.

When I spoke I was loaded with guilt and shame and fear, which sucked the value from the messages I was trying to deliver.

Couple the fear of speaking out with the shame and embarrassment I felt over the fact that I felt fearful about using my voice, and things got pretty meta. And shitty.

If you don’t speak up people can and will treat you badly. You aren’t able to set boundaries (just learning how to do that now) and you end up creating toxic relationships of every flavour.

Basically, you endlessly suffer.

What birthed the fear of using my voice was the societal belief bullied into my heart, telling me it’s not OK to speak.

Being human entails a lot of gritty, not-so-pretty, imperfect scenarios. EVERYTHING society tells us we cannot be.

Our psyches are layered with ridiculous expectations that constantly remind us that we cannot be that which we are: human.

Women aren’t given the freedom to be human. And to be blunt, it’s fucking bullshit.

Even though it’s Christmas time, and it’s probably more societally appropriate to be writing a post about gratitude (well, trendier at least) I’m going to let myself be pissed off about that for a bit. I’m going to keep it real. And you know why?

Because emotional wounds don’t take breaks – they exist year round. 

And because it’s a lot better to be angry about something than taking it on as a deficit of ones personal character.

Anger is empowering; Guilt is minimizing.

I don’t know about you but I’m sick (literally) of not being allowed to be human.

And I’m committed to figuring out a way to be a human being moving forward, without a full-time sack of shame on my back.

To jump-start the journey towards letting go, I’ve been using the following mantra every morning.

It’s a fantastic reminder before I head out into the world every day to be kind to myself.

And it’s helping me learn how to reliably appreciate who I am as a human being.

We need all the strength we can get to encourage ourselves to keep speaking and to keep our hearts open, amongst so many that believe it’s our duty to keep our mouths and our hearts shut.

I’m hopeful it will empower you in all the ways it’s empowering me:


Compassion for Yourself

I want to forgive myself

for reaching for the unreachable star

for being fragile

for being ashamed of my pain

for blaming myself for my misery

for striving after unattainable perfection

for turning against myself along with my persecutor

for closing my heart to myself

for rehashing hurtful accusations others made against me

for not being able to anticipate everything

for hating myself

In short, I want to forgive myself for being human.

– John Monbourquette

Much love, and merry do-whatever-the-hell-you-want-mas, friends. (Read some motivational words on the Christmas season and all its must-do-everything-perfect pressure here.)

xo

A

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mental health, therapy, wellness

A Woman and Her Ego Step Into A Psychologist’s Office

My name is Andrea and I’ve started seeing a psychologist.

That’s not an easy thing for me to reveal. It’s extremely hard on my ego to admit that I’ve not been able to figure out how to be OK on my own.

I’ve lived much of my life believing I needed to be self-sufficient when it came to my mental health, particularly over the past few years.

Thus there is a part of me that feels like seeking help is admitting defeat – That it shows a weakness of character or failure.

The logical side (ie: not the freaked out little kid gripping onto emotional wounds) knows that it is a sign of strength – That it takes courage to admit you need help.

But my ego is still really uncomfortable with it.

So why now? I mean I probably should have considered this when I was in the depths of my addictions.

Back then I didn’t like myself enough to consider spending money or time on myself in that way. I didn’t think I was worthy of someone’s care, concern and validation.

And I was too scared to face what had become of my life, let alone tell anyone else about it.

Through writing on my blog, on huff post and medium, I’ve been able to give myself permission to speak about the formerly unspeakable.

I’ve been able to get used to using my voice and speaking out.

But I still feel immense amounts of shame and guilt and fear when I do speak. And I know that I can’t live through the damage it’s doing to my body and mind anymore.

The truth reveals the reality:

I won’t live a healthy life-span if I don’t figure out a way to heal my emotional wounds, because they are making me physically sick.

Thanks to the meditating and yoga I do, I am able to notice the correlation between the physical ailments I experience and the unaddressed emotional trauma I’m carrying.

But it’s one thing to notice it – it’s another thing to work through it.

Quite frequently I feel like a deer in headlights. I become panic-stricken because I don’t know what to do to not feel terrible.

I’ve got all these books, meditations, affirmations, courses, and messages from amazing spiritual seekers that I admire in my inbox – Lots of resources to tap into.

But instead of helping, lately it all overwhelms me, and I feel even more ashamed, afraid and confused.

What do I know?

  • That I have a boatload of shame I need to work through.
  • That I don’t know how to love myself with consistency.
  • That I can’t help others if I’m not healthy.

So I’ve asked for help from a psychologist in an effort to work through the shame I feel for being human.

This is me admitting to the world and to myself that I’m worth the effort and the money it will take to get better.

Even if I’m being haunted by the memory of people telling me that what has happened to me isn’t bad enough to warrant compassion or help…

This is me learning how to consistently value and validate myself. 

I anticipate some “Awww, hugs. Feel better soon” comments. And that is absolutely not what I’m looking for  – at all. Though I know I have zero control over what other people do or say, the thought of seeing those kinds of comments really irritates me.

Because the purpose of this post is not to get pity and sympathy. It’s to show that it’s OK to not be able to do it all on your own – that it’s OK to need and ask for help, and to invest money in that process.

I know I’m not the only one who has spent years believing what other people have suggested:

  • That I have no right to be this traumatized;
  • That I have nothing to complain about;
  • That I’m entitled and spoiled;
  • That I’m ridiculous;
  • That I should just “get over” myself;
  • That only rich people pay for therapy;
  • That getting help is a luxury I can’t afford;***
  • That I’ve had an easy life.

I have had equal parts assholes and amazing humans attempt to minimize my suffering over the years. And the truth about it is this:

It doesn’t matter whose mouth it comes out of – it’s really fucking mean to try to shame someone who already feels shameful. And it’s mega dangerous because when you do you’re telling them they don’t matter.

I’ve felt the need to justify my wounds to people my entire life. I’ve craved compassion and empathy FROM ALL THE WRONG PEOPLE.

And I know I’m not the only one who has done so.

So this is me telling you to say Fuck That to the folks who try to minimize you and your struggle.

Seriously, just boot that crap right out of your head.

You matter.

I matter.

Our pain deserves investigating, not minimizing.

So if you are struggling; if you can’t seem to figure out how to be well on your own – get help. You are worth the effort. And so am I.

***To my fellow coupon-using, only-buy-something-on-sale, only-use-what-my-benefits-allow-for friends

I salute you. I value you. And I get it: parting with money is tough. Especially on stuff that feels like a luxury.

Case in point, a psychologist appointment.

But this is something I would consider going into debt over. This is something I categorize as healthy debt.

This is an investment in your future because your emotional wellbeing directly affects your ability to make money.

The right therapist can teach you how to value and appreciate yourself, resulting in a healthier, happier and empowered you, giving you the self-esteem and drive to go out into the world and make that money.

So please don’t put it in the out-of-question pile. See how you can make it work.

How I made it work?

I thought about all the times I freely spent money on alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, throw-away clothing and make-up that I didn’t need. And then I transferred money from my line of credit to my visa because I get cash back when I use it, and paid for the appointment.  😉 

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christmas, mental health, wellness

A Wellness Bloggers Annual Christmas Post

I wasn’t planning on writing a Christmas post. I was more so looking forward to the inspirational New Years 2018 version.

But then I thought,

“Sheeeaaaatttt. Christmas stress is intense. Even if we do try to stifle the legitimacy of its existence by filing it in the shame-laden “first-world-issues” folder, it still causes a lot of damage.”

So it’s worth talking about in my mind.

It’s not all Christmases fault. It’s just that the festive season provides for an excellent span of time for us to shame ourselves for not being good enough. 

From speaking with friends and family and digging into my own vault, here’s some examples of what that looks and sounds like:

  • “I’m a terrible mother because I’m too f***ing exhausted to be excited about making cookies with my kids.”
  • “My partner got me too many presents and I don’t deserve them because I’m been struggling with my health lately and haven’t been kind/loving/patient/generous with him/her.”
  • “If I had made more money this year and saved more cash, I’d be able to buy more presents for friends and family. Because the more I spend on others the more I prove my worthiness as a human being.”
  • “How can I tap into any form of gratitude, let alone Christmas spirit when the world is going to shit?!”
  • “I am the worst person that ever walked the earth because I don’t want to spend Christmas with my family. I don’t relate to them and I’m not comfortable around them.”
  • “F*** everyone and everything – I’m buying myself new jeans. And a new lipstick. Everyone else can suck it!”

Now if any one of these gems sound familiar, soak in this truth with me for a minute:

A perfect Christmas won’t fix everything. So don’t put so much stock into it, OK?

Listen to some festive tunes if you’re into it; put up some lights if it suits your fancy; bake some cookies if you’ve got the energy and inclination.

But if you don’t feel like doing any of those things, don’t do them. Christmas will not be ruined if you pass on them this year.

Feeling like a little Rage Against the Machine and head banging in lieu of Christmas jingles? Have at it (just mind your neck, OK?)

No desire for baking? Zero shame required in the solid runner-up decision to support a local bakery instead. (And if someone asks you if you baked them, a simple “Heck no. I don’t have the time or the desire for that this year” will suffice.)

Worried about the kids? Release the reigns on the must-be-organic lifestyle for a spell and give yourself the gift of easily entertained children: get a decorate-it-yo-self gingerbread something or other.

(Side note: Not everyone needs to want to make artfully crafted shortbread or sugar cookies at Christmas. And for what it’s worth, it’s a good business move to buy them locally: spruce up the local economy, reduce your electricity bill and save yourself a lot of time and energy. Win-win-win.)

So what am I getting at?

It’s way OK to not have the wherewithal to do Christmas the way you’ve always done it.

Mix things up. Cook something different this year (if at all.) No one is holding a gun to your head, screaming “Cook a f***ing turkey or I’m doing you in broad!!”

Order a pizza, or bake a frozen meal from a local shop. Heck, do what I’m doing: get a half-priced turkey after Christmas, and make a turkey dinner in (gasp!) January. (I know – I’m wild!!)

If that simply won’t do, ask for help. No harm ever came to a human who admitted they cannot do it all on their own. Just the opposite in fact.

And if you can’t get the help you need, then be strategic with what you choose to take on.

You can’t do it all and expect not to suffer from exhaustion/annoyance/resentment. 

Because guess what happens after Christmas?

Life goes on. And you don’t get a recovery period after all the Christmas chaos is over. You just have to keep on keepin’ on.

So don’t wear yourself out for two weeks for just one day of the entire year.

I fear for the emotional wellbeing of those that do put so much stock into the festive season. It’s gotta be a major f***ing bummer when it ends – a recipe for serious depression.

And I say that because that used to be me: I used to get super depressed after every Christmas season.

But I’m not doing that anymore. Why?

Because If I’m going to get depressed it’s going to be over something legit, like seasonal depression or thyroid issues damn it – not Christmas!

And just to add some sauce to all that…

What makes us think there is one time of year that we simply must be happy anyways?

How insane is this logic:

You must do all the things that make you unhappy (pretend, overspend, overextend) and be happy about it.

I mean WTF right? Can you see how ridiculous all that is?

Good. Now don’t forget how ridiculous it is as you continue on the countdown to Armageddon Christmas.

JK about the Armageddon part, but it does showcase just how serious we take the holiday season, right?

We put so much darn stock in one single day. And we turn ourselves (and the people around us) into ragey little greed monsters in the process.

So let’s all just chill the F out on all this must-make-it-all-perfect craziness and extend a little love our own direction, OK?

Before you start losing sleep, wondering how to make everything just right this Christmas on the outside, consider how you feel on the inside.

And if it’s all proving to be way too much, dial it back.

Do what you need to do to be OK. That might entail letting go of the beliefs that tell you Christmas needs to be a certain way in order for it to be successful.

Now, someone come and get these damn Lindor chocolate balls would ya? Things aren’t looking good for my new jeans.

(And now you know I’m the one that had a bit of a spazz, said f*** everyone and everything and went shopping. Zero. Shame. )

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family, mental health, wellness

What I Learned From Reconciling With My Dad

Me during Christmas 1980-something with my cat, Sockeye. (Yes, we named our cat after a fish, and it wasn't the first time. Lol)

I reconciled with my dad this past summer. It had been about 6 years since we last spoke or saw each other.

We’ve had a tumultuous relationship over the years, which I associate in part to us being so much alike (Full disclosure: it’s taken a while for me to be able to admit that.) We both have strong presences and personalities, which has played a big role in our inability to establish and maintain a healthy relationship.

But here we are today, and I’m grateful for this space of time in which we can establish a level of trust, which has never existed until now.

The process of rebuilding a relationship with him has had its share of awkward moments. Time changes people, at least it has both of us. And you have to get to know the new version of them.

You have to release the memory of the person you used to know, in order to appreciate who they are in the present.

I think we both get a little freaked out at times: scared to say the wrong thing and have everything go sideways. But I am hopeful that won’t happen again because I know we have both missed being in each other’s lives, and that this is important to us.

When he wasn’t around, life never felt complete. There was a constant lead weight on my heart, in the form of gut-wrenching predictions that would run through my brain – emotional torture really: “What if he dies and I never get to see him again?”

So it’s a huge wave of relief, being able to communicate with him, and release my grip on all the agonizing what-ifs.

This version I see of my dad is more like the father I’ve always wanted: Loyal, Dedicated, Kind.

And I think I’m more like the daughter he’s always wanted: Honest, Generous, Kind.

I feel like I can rely on him now in the ways that are truly important. I.e., emotionally.

It’s really a monumental feeling to own, as I spent much of my life seeking what I never got from him growing up from other people. (FYI: I failed miserably).

I’m a realist and know I’ll never get the version of my dad I dreamed of or wanted. And truth be told, I am absolutely OK with that. It’s not productive or kind to create a blueprint of the perfect father in my head and expect him to live up to it. He is human after all, just like me, readily capable of making mistakes.

And he has made mistakes. But in holding my forgiveness ransom in exchange for perfection, I suffer. So I’ve decided to be courageous, and let it all go. And he’s done the same for me.

I’ve learned that if I want a good relationship with my dad, I have to be generous with him. And generosity looks like patience when he’s not being the way I want him to be.

When I’m patient with him, it makes it easier for me to extend some patience my way. Because in order to forgive myself for all of my deficiencies, mistakes and terrible choices, I have to forgive him too.

There can be no healing if there is not full circle forgiveness. Click To Tweet

I now know that you can’t get love from others unless you love yourself first. You have to model how it is you want to be treated, by way of treating yourself well. Meanwhile, you must accept that in doing so, there is no guarantee you will get treated the way you want to be treated.

But you can appreciate who you are, with or without the approval of others. And you don’t need other people to relate to you or even understand you to do that. Which brings us to a powerful truth:

No one is capable of being your saviour: That’s your job.

By meandering this new relationship territory with my dad I’m noticing all the ways in which we are the same: We both just want to be valued and appreciated for who we are.

And after all the years I spent feeling so different from my family – like I didn’t fit in with them, which led to years of feeling rejected, isolated, less than –  I now know that I was spinning a torturous story in my head.

We are all very much alike in our desire to be loved and validated. Our differences lie in the methods we use to try to attain it.

On good days, I see the humanity in all of us – innate flaws that are in and of themselves quite beautiful, if you can get past the instinctual need for judgement.

And on bad days, I feel like a rejected 12 year old.

But below the surface, I know that I’m just trying to continue to value myself, which is a volatile process. Depending on the day, that can and will look like me feeling like the odd one out. But most days I’m cool with it, which is great because:

It truly is paradigm shifting, when you learn to value yourself. Click To Tweet

And I think that’s a huge reason why I have a relationship with my dad right now that actually works: because more often than not, I value and appreciate who I am. My ability to do that cracks open the door to me being able to value and appreciate him.

And while there’s still a level of comfort missing between us (with my entire family for that matter) I’m working towards feeling more relaxed around him, meanwhile continuing to embrace what I bring to the table:

Sensitivity.

Compassion.

Insight.

Instincts.

Voracious emotional generosity.

So in a roundabout way, reconciling with my dad added more fuel to the volatile belief that who I am as is, is OK. And for that reason and many more, I’m extremely grateful.

xo

A

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