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

connection, winter

The snow connection

Full disclosure: this picture is from last year. ;)

I quite like the snow.

My hubby is not much of a fan, mainly because its presence coincides with shoveling our dangerously steep driveway at 5 am and then driving on slippery roads all day for work.

I have the same qualms about it that he does. When it’s still dark out and the driveway has a fresh coat of fluff, the west coast winter version of the Schroedinger’s cat principle dances in my head (is there ice under that layer of snow, or not?) It takes nerves of steel and some serious shovel elbow to just leave the house at times.

But it’s not all bad. There’s something about how snow makes the world feel smaller that makes me feel comfortable and safe.

It muffles voices and draws the mountains in. Everything feels closer and more intimate. I feel more connected to people and the world in general.

And when it snows we’re all so much more connected to our humanity.

Life becomes simpler – it’s about our shared quest for survival. People are more generous and considerate. They’re helping other people out (shout out to our neighbor Leo for snow-blowing our driveway) and leaning on their snow shovels, talking to their neighbors.

They’re connecting to each other, and that’s a beautiful thing to see.

You can sense the shared connection to a simpler way of being when it snows. All that matters is staying warm and safe.

While I often dream of summertime and the tropics, as the years pass I become more and more enamored with the seasons, and what they each bring with them.

Particularly when winter offers up a “can you believe it!?” snowfall in early November on Vancouver Island.

(PS: shout out to my momma who is basking in the Hawaiian sun as we speak. Your timing was impeccable as per usual. xoxo)

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.

If you likes this post, please share it. 🙂

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autobiography, health, wellness

Why I won’t be blogging on the huffington post anymore

When I first started blogging, I desperately wanted to become a Huffington Post blogger.

Fast forward a year and change later, and that dream was realized.

I was elated – cried a few tears of gratitude upon seeing my name in the byline. And the support from my friends and fans was just, well, it was heartwarming and made me cry even more.

Now here we are, present day. And I’ve realized that the dream I had of what it is to be a Huffington Post blogger is not all that I thought it would be.

Everything I share on that platform is ripped to shreds by faceless strangers who read the title (which the editing team writes – I have no say) and use it as an invitation to attempt to shame me and my story.

Don’t get me wrong: I know that anytime you put yourself out there, and be 100% you, you risk the chance of being rejected and ridiculed.

But NEVER have I been met with such toxicity in response to my writing on other platforms, like mustlovecrows.com, twitter, Medium, Instagram and good old Facebook.

So what is the lesson here?

The lesson for me is that it’s time to let go of the dream I had of what it is to be a Huffington Post blogger. It’s time to say thank you for the opportunity, but I won’t allow my writing to become an impetus for hostility.

I cannot control other people; I cannot make people face the reasons why they hate so passionately.

But I can stop offering up bits of myself – bits of my soul –  on a platform that is a breeding ground for all that is wrong with this world.

Which by the way, is a lack of love.

I appreciate you all so much for your support over the past couple years. And I look forward to continuing to connect with you here on mustlovecrows.com.

You just won’t catch anything new from me moving forward on The Huffington Post.

xo

A

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Anxiety, depression, mental health

Listening to the Right Voice

There is a voice in my head that has consumed my life for over 20 years, and it tells me a lot of crappy stuff. Maybe you can relate. Here’s a quick summary of what it has to say:

  • Making mistakes is a character flaw.
  • You don’t make enough money, and the amount of money you make determines your worth.
  • Your brother doesn’t call you because he is embarrassed by you. That’s also the reason why none of his friends knew you existed.
  • You keep attracting bad employers because you yourself are bad.
  • You need to be stern and serious and rigid. It’s not OK to be happy all the time — Being overly happy is ridiculous.

So that’s the voice that bullies and reprimands me. But there is another voice — One that I’ve tapped into over the last few years — that has a much kinder take on who I am, and what I have to offer the world.

It’s not so much in my head but in my heart, and it’s got a lot of kind and comforting things to say, such as:

  • Human beings were made to make mistakes. And you are human. So your mistakes are inevitable and natural, and not a character flaw.
  • You have enough money to feed, clothe, house, and create a savings account for yourself. If you want to make more of it, work on releasing your fears surrounding it. (PS: I’m reading a great book about that right now)
  • Your brother doesn’t call you because he is busy. And the reason he doesn’t talk about you with his friends is that he is so focused on his life that he doesn’t feel the need to share details about his family.
  • You are not bad. You are learning to release the need to be surrounded by negativity and aggression. And you’re doing a really good job of it.
  • It is safe to be happy, even if you were raised to believe otherwise.

So depending on the day, there are some seriously conflicting beliefs rumbling through me, which lends itself to a bit of confusion. Although logic would dictate that the second voice offers the most constructive conclusions, I am excessively familiar with the negative one. I’ve gotten up close and personal with it for over 20 years, and have built a sort of toxic trust with it — I’ve taught myself to believe what it tells me.

Choosing to accept the second voice — the one telling me things I’ve never known to be true— has been a challenge. Some days I have faith in the foreign assertions and graciously accept them. While on others, I just don’t have it in me, so I default to what I know.

I see a lot of folks out there claiming it’s as simple as swapping out a negative for a positive. Heck, I’ve been one of those people at one point or another, because I wanted so much for it to be true. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a really good thing to get in the habit of doing, but science proves it’s not so simple.

These are subconscious beliefs, and those suckers aren’t so easy to change, particularly after years of programming. On top of that is the physiological stress response to the negative thoughts we have(1). This stress response triggers the amygdala, which over time becomes more reactive to apparent threats, like our negative thoughts. This results in anxiety, even when there is no perceived threat.

And then the hippocampus — which assists in developing conscious and clear memories of what actually happened — get’s worn the F out by the repetitive stress response. This makes it harder to create new, positive memories because we are overloaded with the bad ones. So pretty soon our brains get overwhelmed with all the stress-inducing thoughts, and we end up in a state of chronic fear and anxiety — with no clarity on how the heck it all came to be.

Then we bash ourselves for how we feel. And others minimize our struggle, with dangerous statements like, “Just think something different,” or “What do you have to be stressed about? My life is harder than yours.”

It can be wildly difficult to shake heavily engrained beliefs. We have to work hard at eliciting a relaxation response (more on that in the coming weeks), in order to keep the stress from consuming our bodies and minds and creating dis-ease. We essentially have to re-train our brains, a process that takes a lot of time and a strong commitment.

And we do have to swap out negatives for positives, but with the understanding that it’s not going to be a one-off act: they will keep coming back to haunt us. And there may still be times when we wonder what voice is right: when we follow the crappy thoughts down the rabbit hole and have to pull ourselves back out. But we have to commit to the process, even when it seems easier to just let ourselves fall backward into the abyss.

Because one voice accepts — the other rejects.

One creates peace, while the other creates discontent.

One voice is love, while the other is hate.

Life to me these days is about figuring out which voice to listen to, and cultivating kind messages instead of hateful ones — about myself and others. It’s about choosing to love myself, by choosing to reject the voice that hurts me.

It’s about chipping away at the beliefs that tell me I am less than, and replacing the chips with ones that tell me I am more than.

It’s swapping out a less than (< )with a greater than (>), and realizing that when you choose to believe positive thoughts about yourself, the equation balances out like never before.

What does the voice in your head tell you? Something crappy? If so, I urge you to look for other beliefs — ones that support you achieving a state of wellness, rather than a state of discontent. Start chipping away at the crappy thoughts. I’ll be doing it with you.

(1) Rankin, Lissa, M.D. The Fear Cure, ed (2015).

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acupuncture, Anxiety, pain

Why I Use Acupuncture for Anxiety and Pain

The first time I tried acupuncture I was around 21.

I was living in Calgary, and doing a really good job of overdoing it in many categories: I was partying hard, working tons, doing a course at the local college, having a love affair with my 32-year-old dance teacher (lol), and dancing at Alberta Ballet up to 4 times a week.

At the time I was feeling a little lost about what I was going to do with my life. I knew I was a good dancer: it’s something that has always come very naturally to me. While I had dropped out of a performing arts program on the island during my high school years, in my early 20s in Calgary I got obsessed with it again.

I was good enough to get asked to be in a new dance company, and ended up filming a Bollywood music video in Vegas at one point with my boyfriend/dance teacher (21 and in Vegas? Fun times!) Outside of all that, I would dance at Alberta ballet as much as I could, and take classes at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks as well. My goal? To get some more notoriety for my skills by way of being accepted into the dance program at the University of Calgary.

I think at the time I was feeling an intense need to be validated for something. To be straight up with you, I am 100% positive that if I had gotten accepted into that program, I would have dropped out at some point. I was not ready to commit to anything. But I was craving approval, and this would have been a big, “Hey Andrea, you’re really great at something” kind of approval.

Long story short, I didn’t get accepted. And I was devastated at the time, as I’d put a lot of stock into it. But today, I completely understand why I received a rejection letter.

As gifted as I was, I lacked joy when I did it. My body moved in all the right ways, but my face said otherwise. I was afraid to let my guard down long enough to show I was happy when I danced. Looking hard was a protective shield I put up as a pre-teen, and I didn’t actually feel safe enough to let go of it until about 5 years ago (Side note: there are still days when the veil of protection creeps back up. My self-preservation and protection skills are fierce.)

But I took dance seriously. I trained hard, went to class steadily, and was always practicing at home and at work (jete’s through the dining room before the restaurant I worked at opened for the day was pretty normal for me.) And I wasn’t giving my body a break either, which is why I ended up with some seriously messed up calves.

Those calves of mine were in bad shape – there were knots all through them. I tried massage and active release therapy (that was extremely painful) and neither techniques made a difference, save for leaving bruises all over my legs.

Then I tried acupuncture, and while it didn’t get rid of the problem completely, it provided some relaxation and relief, and introduced me to the world of eastern medicine.

I found the whole process fascinating. I didn’t understand the principles behind it at the time (which in part involves getting stagnant energy moving through the body so it can function better as a whole) but I did enjoy the treatments and felt they made a difference. So I did as many sessions as my $5.90 an hour minimum wage plus tips job allowed for (yikes right?) and then left it at that. In the end, the pain subsided when I stopped overdoing the dance classes, which was a byproduct of starting university and not having the time to take classes anymore.

Fast forward to present day, as in a few weeks ago. Emotional melt down? Check. Terrible digestive issues? Check. Anxiety off the charts? Check. Insomnia? Check. 400 bucks in my health care benefits account that could be used for acupuncture? Check.

So I went for my first acupuncture appointment in a very long time, and it make a huge difference.

I fell asleep on the table 3 times, which is wild because sleep is an elusive beast to me. And my body was so relaxed – it was amazing. I felt like I got hit by a bus, but not in a bad way – I was just so relaxed that I was wondering how the hell I was going to get home by the end of it.

Long story short I made it home safe and sound, and when I did I called the clinic and made another appointment.

Here are a few things I learned about acupuncture  through my experience:

  1. One off appointments are fine, but if you’re looking to get energy flowing through your body and release stagnation that can result in physical pain, you need to go regularly. Twice a week is best, but once a week works too.
  2. You might get emotional because you’re releasing blocked energy and emotions in your body during the process. I had a pretty solid crying session during my last appointment but that’s nothing new for me as of late (read about that here.) And I’m not going to shame myself for it, even though it was uncomfortable at first, being that vulnerable in front of a stranger.
  3. You might get an area in your body that feels full once the needles are put in – for me, it was my shoulder on the first appointment, and my elbow the second. This is normal and nothing to be freaked out about (I say that after getting freaked out about it and then calming down after  the acupuncturist told me it’s totally normal.)
  4. You may experience a needle that doesn’t feel so great. If it hurts, you don’t have to sit there and suffer through it (I’m talking to my fellow people pleasers out there.) If you are uncomfortable, say so and the acupuncturist can adjust it.
  5. More needles do not always make it a better experience. My first appointment I was loaded with them, but my second I felt more comfortable with half the amount. Both appointments were equally beneficial. So if you’re prone to thinking more is better, like I often do, release that belief for the appointment. (Probably best to release that belief on a global scale but let’s just both go easy on ourselves and commit to working on that in the future, OK? :))

What struck me as another therapeutic aspect of acupuncture during my last appointment was the process of learning to trust. I am inherently untrusting, a learned belief of mine being that we cannot trust ourselves or other people. Because of this, getting the most out of alternative therapies and treatments has been difficult, because I feel vulnerable – this is one of my most feared feelings to feel, so much so that I committed most of my life up until recently working hard at avoiding it.

So this whole process of submitting to and accepting these appointments with a complete stranger, and handing over unearned trust in order to heal full circle has been challenging, and a form of therapy in and of itself. I’ve really had to let go and breathe through my fears – with every needle – and trust that my body and mind are safe.

To be honest, every appointment has its challenges when it comes to trust. I think in many ways my body and mind know how fear feels to such an extent that neither wants to be without it – to be without it is to accept the unknown, which is far scarier than the pain it has found comfort in over the years. So though challenging, acupuncture is also teaching me the gift of acceptance – accepting the present and that the purpose of it will come to light in due time, if I am willing to submit to it, wholly and fully.

So long story short, acupuncture is amazing.

I used to be so freaked out to spend money on stuff like this – I wouldn’t even use the benefits I had because I’d have to pay upfront, because it seemed too opulent. But I’m at this point where I don’t care how it looks anymore – I deserve to feel better. And I have to deal with the anxiety I feel or it may cause me some serious health issues down the road. I’m not willing to accept that being anxious and depressed is OK anymore, and I’m not going to bully myself and shame myself for what I’m going through either.

For me, taking pills doesn’t work. Believe me, there have been many days as of late where I’ve thought about heading to the doctor’s office and starting up a prescription for citalopram again. But 20 years of that route proved it doesn’t work for me. How am I going to deal with the stuff that is troubling me if I numb it all?

So for now, I’m all about acupuncture for body pain, anxiety, sleep issues, and even digestive issues.

If you’re feeling stuck right now, or ever for that matter, consider trying acupuncture for yourself. And if you have any questions about my experience, please feel free to reach out via email or in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Cheers to healing, in whatever form that comes.

xo

A

 

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mental health, wellness

On Quitting, Crying, and Shaming

I quit my job the other day, an act which was preceded by a series of long time comin’ emotional melt downs.

Before you start getting ideas in your head of what that entailed, let me paint the picture for you: I got super pissed off about how employer dude treated me last week, tried to laugh it off when he gave me a raise to compensate for his digressions, and then had a fierce crying session, that came and went with varying degrees of intensity for about 4 days.

I cried at home. I cried in the car. I cried on the acupuncturist’s table. Then I cried some more when she left me in the room to percolate with all the needles in.

I cried a lot. And to be clear, I wasn’t crying about this dude. I was letting out years worth of emotional stifling that I had convinced myself wasn’t worthy of crying over.

I taught myself that how I felt wasn’t OK; I told myself that in comparison to others, I didn’t have it that bad and therefore, had nothing to cry about.

So I shamed myself, and in doing so, ended up with some seriously shitty subcutaneous beliefs that said, “You don’t matter.”

Except I do matter. It’s just this little kid in me who thinks otherwise.

So right now I’m in the thick of the healing process and trying to do it sans shame. I mean I still think of the comments I’ve heard in the past (“compared to what’s going on in my life, your issues are nothing”) and think, “Really Andrea, WTF do you have going on that’s so bad that warrants all the dramatics?”

But then I remember that I deserve compassion and love and empathy, even if some people, including myself, don’t think I do. And I also remember that I have some things that I’ve been trying to ignore my entire life – Namely, why I feel so attached to the need to be perfect – and that it’s not going away. I need to unpack that shit and get rid of it.

Except I’m a little confused on how to do that at the moment.

But then I remember this neat little truth: it’s not my job to know the answer to everything, all the time. It’s my job to be kind to myself, and give myself a break, and love myself, even if part of me isn’t on board with that.

So I’m doing a few things: seeing an acupuncturist (who is miraculous in my opinion), taking a course I took last year that really helped, amping up my yoga and meditation practice, and am going to start seeing a psychologist to help me release the need to be perfect. So overall, self-care is at the top of my list right now.

And so is quitting my job, which was a pretty courageous and bad ass thing to do.

Here are some things I know right now: everyone on the planet is doing the best they can. It doesn’t seem that way, but given the restrictions we set upon ourselves belief wise, there’s bound to be some variations on what we consider to be our best.

And right now I’m trying really hard. Even if it’s not my top shelf, finest shining moment in the eyes of the 10-year-old perfectionist in me – it’s still pretty fucking spectacular.

And that has to be enough.