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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mental health, self-care, wellness

Doing Less to Be More

NOTE: If you’re a newsletter subscriber of mine this post will look familiar. I received so many lovely replies to my most recent email I decided to share it on the blog, too. ‘Cause why not right? 🙂

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything.

Why?

Because the only thing you can bet on is that life can and will reroute your plans.

My reroute?

A major case of depression sprinkled with severe anxiety;

Two emotionally turbulent job changes within a couple months;

Family stuff,

And a couple of colds that wouldn’t quit.

As is always the case, the choppy waters I meandered through in the past month or so have settled and produced some clarity, which I’m super grateful for. Here’s my resulting mantra:

Simplifying equals peace.

Pretty obvious right? But the thing is, simplifying doesn’t mean what it used to mean to me anymore.

I used to associate it with the whole less-is-more movement and decluttering. And while I still acknowledge the value in releasing what no longer serves me (that goes for ill-fitting sweaters and emotional baggage) these days I’m all about decluttering what I’m doing.

Which means I’m making conscious choices in regard to what I’m choosing to add to my to-do list. I’m consistently asking myself, “Is this important to me? Is this the best use of my time and energy?”

And I’m listening to my body and mind, and acknowledging the messages they are parlaying (“forget cleaning the floors woman — we need to rest” and “you’re not a graphic designer — outsource it!”)

As a self-betterment obsessed Xennial (definition here) I have a tendency to get a bit, let’s say preoccupied with improving and making progress. (OK bugger it: I am obsessed with bettering myself, all the time.)

And with that passion comes some side effects, namely, stress from overdoing things.

Case in point:

  • I get too many books on the go, and each one is filled with advice that contradicts the others.
  • I place an excess of value on my need to seek out experts to fix myself.
  • I sign up for and receive too many e-newsletters from self-professed experts, which overwhelms me and clogs up my email.
  • I put too much on my to-do list (clean out inbox is at the top)
  • I put too much on my shopping list.
  • I expect too much of myself.
  • I don’t give myself permission to just chill.

How does all this mess with my health?

When I think only experts know the answers, I de-value my ability to innately understand how to best care for myself. And I sabotage my well-being, by way of distracting myself from taking ownership of my mental and physical health (“I can’t make myself feel better on my own — only other people and things can”)

Then I get in a loop of thought that says I need things outside of myself to make me feel better, which often results in me getting into mad consumer mode (“must have more books, vitamins, wellness products, appointments with healers, etc”)

All of that adds more tasks to my to-do list and depletes my bank account at an alarming rate.

So I end up doing more, thinking it will result in me being more, when in truth, I just end up mentally and physically depleted.

Enough.

These days I’ve been cutting back on everything. I’ve been reading and writing less, and dialling back my incessant need to understand and make sense of everyone and everything.

Just taking a big old time out from my need to be productive.

I’m keeping my to-do list short, and focusing on the stuff that’s most important to my health:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Writing content for clients
  • Updating the blog and working on my wellness resource guide, as I feel the urge (Side note: I never force myself to write. I don’t attempt to pry, shame, or coerce soul work out of myself. Otherwise, I end up with garbagio.)
  • Cooking healthy food (the foods we eat affect our mental health, and I’ll be doing an interview with a nutritional expert about this soon, which I’ll be sure to share with you.)
  • Keeping my house in acceptable shape (there will be some clutter, and that’s OK. At least I’ll work on being OK with it…)
  • And most important: Being unwaveringly kind to myself, on every single occasion.

So that’s what I’m all about these days. And I’m wondering if you can relate?

Maybe you’ve felt the same internal chaos over the past while. And perhaps you see the correlation between the incessant pursuit of progress and the likelihood of ending up at an emotional and physical stalemate.

Maybe you can see how counterproductive the go-go-go, more-more-more lifestyle really is. Click To Tweet

And maybe you can dig into the idea of filtering out the stuff you’ve been doing that doesn’t serve you. You know, the stuff that if you really let yourself sink into how it makes you feel, you realize it drags you down, and needs to be let go. ASAP.

And even if it takes you a bit to fully release it (because breaking a habit can be hella hard to do) maybe you’ll tap into that part of you that, like me, just wants some relief from the emotional overwhelm.

If you’re vibing with all of that, join me in committing to giving yourself permission to dial back the need to always be doing, and turn up to truly living.

Try it on. See how it feels. I think you’ll dig it.

🙂

A

abuse, mental health, wellness

Validating the Victim: Truths on Being Violated and Sharing Your Story

I don’t often write posts that are timely and topical. Ie, ones that reference what’s happening in Hollywood or on the news.

I usually ax any ideas to do with it because more often than not what’s coming out of the news elicits an extremely heated response from me, of which I’m not keen on sharing here. Because negativity is toxic.

I often fear the backlash speaking my mind about heated topics might bring about too. Lord knows there are many people out there who make it their job to attack beliefs opposite to that of their own. And I have to be in the right head space to be able to handle that kind of stuff.

But sometimes things come up on shows like entertainment tonight (which I watch occasionally – don’t doubt the power of distracting yourself from the constant drive to evolve) that have me going, “whoa – I need to write something on that, even though fear doesn’t want me to.”

Hearing the harrowing stories of sexual assault in Hollywood is one of those things.

It started with me feeling incredibly emotional about it all. Realizing these women had been violated without any validation just gutted me. Not to mention the trauma of being silenced by a predator for fear of losing their careers, and having to see that man in the spotlight, incessantly reminding them of what had been done to them.

And sure they get validated for other things, like their looks and acting. But that’s not real.

Real validation is when someone looks you in the eyes and says, “I’m so sorry that person hurt you. I am here for you. I care about you.”

Glam teams, press junkets, million dollar homes and thousand dollar red-soled heels don’t provide that kind of validation.

These women are worthy of empathy, compassion, and support. And even though Hollywood feels like a world away, and I don’t know what it is to go through what they went through, or live the life they do, I feel their pain and share in their suffering.

Which is why I’ve shed quite a few tears thinking of these women over the past couple weeks. I’ve thought of Rose, and Reese, and Jennifer. And I’ve taken the time to read the admissions of the lesser named actresses – stories of which hold no less value than that of their admittedly more famous counterparts.

These women were taught that good little girls don’t speak out. That to be nice is to be quiet. That in order to be good, you must keep your mouth shut – just like the rest of us were.

I still catch myself shaming myself for speaking, or sharing an opinion. I often feel heavy amounts of guilty for doing so.

I learned that somewhere, just as every other woman out there has. And I need to unlearn it.

I’ve witnessed so many women over the years, including myself, scared to speak out for fear of being labeled “Shit disturbers” or not being liked or approved of.

And it’s all gotta come to a close.

I’m so grateful for the courageous Rose McGowan, and countless other public figures who inspired so many women to come forward.

Sharing your story is one of the most powerful things you can do.

Because when you speak, you inspire others to speak, creating a dialogue that can help heal not only yourself but other women as well.

In light of that truth, here’s my story:

A couple of years ago, when I was in the thick of my own healing, I recalled a memory from my childhood. I was 15 and on the ferry, heading to visit a friend in the city, when a very large man came up behind me in the bus ticket line-up.

I remember sensing the predatory nature of his stance and his breathing – there was lot’s of room in the line, and there was no need for him to stand that close. My suspicions were confirmed as he whispered in my ear, through staggered and labored breathing: “Don’t worry little girl. It’s OK. Just stand right there.”

I knew something was very wrong about this scenario. Yet I froze.

I didn’t feel it was OK to speak.

Two years ago when I remembered this moment, I felt a huge wave of rage come over me. I was so angry about the fact that I didn’t feel it was OK to stand up for myself. That I didn’t feel I deserved to tell someone to back off.

Why didn’t I yell out, “back off you fucking pedophile!” Why didn’t I say anything, or at the very least, leave the scene? What was wrong with me?!

I’m not mad anymore. I’m not even mad at the severely damaged man who eagerly sexualized a 15-year-old who was waiting for a bus ticket. I’m just sad because I didn’t know the full story.

The full story is, had I valued myself, and been taught that it’s OK to stand up for myself, I’d have said something. And then maybe that potentially dangerous person would have gotten called out and shamed for his disturbing behavior, and been less likely to try it again. Because I know in my heart he has.

I won’t take on the blame. I was a young girl lacking many lessons, some of which would take over 20 years to learn. And today, I have too much self-taught love for myself to carry any shame about that scene.

But I know from reliving that experience that we have to teach each other it’s OK to speak out. And we have to support the hell out of each other, even when we don’t understand each other’s pain.

We don’t have to birth children to teach the women of the future what it is to value themselves. We can do that by speaking out.

So tell your story. Hollywood isn’t the only place this happens. It happens every single day. And we all have to get more comfortable talking about it.

It’s so important that we admit to the times we’ve been violated or assaulted. Because when we do we teach other women that being female doesn’t mean silencing yourself when you’re suffering.

Much love,

A

health, mental health, wellness

Rewrite Your Story

You can edit your story.

Perhaps you’ll choose to rework it and tell it a different way.

Perhaps instead of concluding that you are a terrible person and unworthy of love because of the mistakes you made, you’ll try on the idea that you made them because you were so full of hurt it spewed out like a geyser, blasting everyone and everything in its path. And it altered your ability to see clearly.

Perhaps you’ll acknowledge the little kid inside who is still reeling over the love they never received in the ways they individually and innately required it, and ask yourself if you’d bully 5-year-old you the way you bully yourself today.

Perhaps you’ll warm to the fact that you are human, and therefore incapable of perfection. Perhaps you’ll realize the power in admitting to a mistake, and notice how much happier you are when you stop putting so much work into persuading yourself and others that you didn’t do anything wrong.

Perhaps you’ll realize you don’t need to be the expert on everything all the time, and that it’s OK to not comment on small-scale ignorance, instead choosing an internal state of chill.

Perhaps you’ll make some space in your heart for forgiveness, because they truly, madly, deeply, know not what they do. And sometimes, neither do you.

In realizing that, maybe you’ll release the need to bully yourself every time you aren’t impeccable with your word, your thoughts, and actions.

Because that stuff is so damn exhausting.

Perhaps you’ll acknowledge the spectrum of perspectives that houses good and bad. Perhaps you’ll start to see the goodness living within your perceived deficiencies, and begin to value yourself more, instead of spending so much time berating yourself over your societally deemed “negative” qualities.

Maybe you’ll see the beauty in the OCD;

The braveness in the overly emotional;

The benevolence in the overactive brain.

Perhaps you’ll see that just because someone doesn’t acknowledge your worth doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Upon realizing that, maybe you’ll give yourself the gift of swiftly exiting exchanges with people who don’t appreciate your efforts, or what you bring to the table.

Perhaps you’ll come to realize that you have the right to question the experts and the elders, as they too are human and capable of making mistakes. Even if they are too all-up-in-their-own-heads to acknowledge that fact.

And perhaps you’ll accept that you don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed if you don’t agree with someone’s view about what they see as being the “right” course of action. Even if that view is coming out of the mouth of an MD, a specialist, a registered massage therapist, a naturopath or a yoga teacher.

Perhaps you’ll find the courage to accommodate your comfort. Even if it encompasses not going with the crowd.

Perhaps you’ll realize that the only one who can answer the question, “What is right for me?” is you.

The story you tell yourself about who you were yesterday and who you are today can and will evolve. And for that to happen you’ll contradict yourself.

Contradiction is part of this life thing we are all doing. It entails seeing things differently from day-to-day, week to week, even morning to afternoon. It’s about evolving and growing and learning and healing, and figuring out what feels like the right thing to do for you.

It’s not hypocritical. It’s not sinful. It’s not outrageous. It’s not shameful.

It just is.

You don’t have to be ashamed of your evolution.

We have to re-write our stories in order to heal. And to do that we have to convince ourselves that it’s safe to throw our hands in the air and surrender to our evolution.

addiction, health, wellness

Avoiding your fears through addiction

I might have spent 20 plus years on a convoluted quest to feed an addiction to things, like alcohol, cigarettes, shopping, and drugs. But the act of avoiding my fears was the soil that these socially unacceptable vices of mine grew out of.

I embraced fear in the early double digits — around 12 or 13. I started to believe that to live was to suffer and there was no way around it. I thought I was destined to experience a lifetime of discontent.

So I began to worry a lot, about everything: making mistakes and being rejected for it, not being perfect and being abandoned by my friends and family because of it, never being able to make enough money, and not being able to sleep.

Needless to say, all that fear caused a lot of problems. I struggled with intense bouts of depression and anxiety, got sick a lot, and had major sleep issues. And I was forever feeling terrible, both mentally and physically.

So to distract myself from this learned addiction to fear and the feelings surrounding it, I began to commit my life to the act of avoiding it.

It all started with shopping. As a kid, if I had a really bad day or week, my mom would buy me clothes. And I’d feel better, albeit temporarily. So when I could, I started doing it on my own, the problem being that I didn’t have the money she had.

I was ruthless about it: I would go to any means possible to get what I wanted. All that mattered was the rush I got in the immediate moment of purchase, and the subsequent feelings of comfort surrounding getting the items home and hung up in my closet.

I coveted anything new and expensive, and I became obsessed with the constant pursuit of acquiring things that made me look good on the outside. And It was all done in the name of avoiding feelings of inadequacy that stemmed from that dreaded emotion, fear.

Shortly after I began to embrace shopping as an avoidance tactic I found alcohol. 

I loved it — another escape, albeit a more powerful one. I essentially became a functioning alcoholic in my late teens, until I reached my mid 20’s, and there was no way to hide the fact that I’d lost the ability to do so.

And then there was the smoking that started in my teens, and the drugs that came into play in my 20s – the use of which evolved and intensified as the years passed.

I could go into great detail about how my life fell apart because of all these destructive activities that I felt I needed to survive and be happy. But I’d rather focus on the motivations behind these addictions, as I feel they are most important.

Straight up, I didn’t know how to love myself.  I was never taught how to. And when you don’t have self-love you get the opposite of it, fear.

Based on my views of life, and how terrible I believed it was destined to be, I began to embrace behaviors grounded in fear, like negativity, and aggression.

The logic behind my commitment to negativity and aggression goes like this: If I called out the world as being terrible, rather than letting the flow of terrible only be directed at me, I could feel like I had more power and control.

So I became a beacon for aggression and negativity. I was sending and receiving it and it dictated the direction my life went for many years.

You can imagine how difficult it would be to wrangle in an ego that out of control. That sucker was like a wild horse. To spend 20 years being scared, angry, and bitter, and then to attempt the work involved in removing that toxicity from my mind and soul has been one hell of a process. And it’s not over.

Negativity and aggression is like a blanket with thorns. I get scared and cold, so I want to wrap myself in it, but every time I do I end up scratched  to shit.

And I can’t even get frustrated at myself about it anymore — I know it’s my subconscious trying to protect me.

Because all addictions, whether to things, feelings and emotions, or behaviors, come about as a means to keep us safe. Even though they end up doing the opposite.

I’d like to say I have it all figured out — that I have it all under control. I’d also like to be able to share a clear explanation for how I released my addictions, and learned to deal with my fear in a more constructive way,  because I think that could help a lot of people.

But the truth is I’m still trying to figure out how to keep some of my go-to’s,  like negativity and shopping, at bay. I still default to them when I feel the rush of fear, telling me to put up my guards of aggression, or my credit card.

And while I’m still working on understanding and explaining exactly how I managed to pull myself out of the darkest times in my life, I’m also trying to deal with fear in a different way.

I still feel it. In fact, I feel it more than I’d like to or know to be healthy. But whereas before my greatest fears stemmed from being abandoned or ridiculed, the scariest moments I experience now are when I realize I no longer have my addictions to comfort me.

I feel a deep ache of mourning every time I realize that my fear or anger can’t be helped with a bout of rage, a cigarette, a bottle of wine, drugs, or some emotionally charged shopping.

And In some ways I miss my addictions like one would miss an old friend who passed away. I mourn the loss of them every single time I am upset.

This new response to fear, which encompasses the realization that I have to feel this – there is no way out – is bewildering to me. It’s such a foreign concept, to know there’s nothing that can be done but just feel what I’m feeling until it passes.

But I have no other choice. This is what life has offered me. I can only surmise that the fact that I’m experiencing the feelings or emotions I’m experiencing, is so I can learn that I can and will survive them –  if I only choose to surrender.

Surrendering to everything — every good experience and every bad one — is how I choose to live these days. Some days I really struggle with it, because I’m human, and I have this ego that wants its own way, all the time. But on others I handle everything in spectacular fashion, and really amaze myself in the process.

Every day though, I continue to train myself to get used to the idea of a bad feeling not being life ending. And in doing so I teach myself to fear less, trust more, and make better choices that contribute to my health and wellness — not my addictions.

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