Learning Self-Love

I used to hate time alone. I feared my thoughts and despised my own company.


When I began to heal, self-love became more natural. Slowly, I started to appreciate time with myself.


Maybe I realized I only get one me. Perhaps I understood the positive relationship I could create. Regardless, I began to see myself as more of an opportunity and less of an anchor.


Unfortunately, when it comes to others, people may come and go from your life. Life changes, sometimes for the best, and other times may be more difficult. Regardless, you will only have one you.


Recently, I’ve observed the changes in my relationship with myself. I came up with three steps to self-love.


First, language. I am not as harsh or critical as I once was with myself. I am kinder, more forgiving, and more patient with myself. I started talking and viewing myself the way I would want others to.


They say to treat others the way you want to be treated, but for those of us who need a nudge when practicing self-love: treat yourself the way you treat others.


Next, I am more cautious about the actions I take for my health. The food I consume and how it makes me feel. The products I use and being mindful and present when I care for myself.


Lastly, I began to appreciate time alone i realize that not only can I be my own best friend, but I should also be.

Define Yourself

Remember these icebreaker activities you were required to do in grade school? The teacher would ask for a fun fact or three ways to define yourself. What makes you, you. Those ice breakers always brought extreme anxiety. Now just the fear of all eyes on me or speaking out loud. It was the fact that I had no idea how to define myself.


What I didn’t realize then was that I have the power to choose who I am.


I would answer that question with adjectives others labeled me as. I was shy, kind, quiet, and caring. While at times, I am these things, these characteristics don’t define me.


While I don’t find myself getting forced into an ice breaker activities, I do meet new people. I think about how I introduce myself, and the characteristics people see are ones that I CHOOSE to show.


I don’t want to be defined by aspects that are not me, and I used to see that as something external or out of my control. But now I know that I hold power.


Others may see aspects in you and label you, but at the end of the day- you define yourself.


Christmas Spirit

I feel this external pressure to be happy and cheerful during the holiday season.


I get caught up with the holiday bustle, and I forget to slow down.


I want to be present when I’m with my family, but I also need to take time for myself and remember that it’s okay if I don’t always feel positive.


Even though it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that my mental illness goes on holiday. Because of this, I need to set boundaries with myself. Taking breaks, going on walks, and most importantly, trying to keep a schedule.


Last year I was hard on myself. I wasn’t feeling particularly cheerful, and that made me feel selfish and ungrateful. This year, I am removing the pressure and expectation. How I feel is how I feel, and I can be grateful and full of joy even if I’m having a stressful day.

Difficult Conversations

I remember the conversation. I hadn’t planned on having it and I did not fully understand my thoughts and goals, but I knew it needed to come out. “I don’t think I want to go back to school.”


When I began, the words spilled out. I explained how on-edge, irritable, and depressed I constantly felt. I worried about my safety and future. How could I enjoy life and take care of myself if my future career is taking 110% of my energy?


Tyler was immediately supportive. He suggested alternative careers and options for me.


That wasn’t what I wanted either. I realized it wasn’t about a specific career, I was taking on too much. I just needed a job.


I don’t think I processed my thoughts before having this conversation, but I don’t think it mattered. When I said what I needed to say, a weight was lifted off of me.


Life is all about having these difficult conversations. Putting yourself and your thoughts out there, being vulnerable, it’s awfully uncomfortable. Although, these moments and those conversations are periods of growth and development.


When we push our feelings down and don’t have the difficult conversations, we become stuck. In situations, jobs, relationships, and life.


We owe it to ourselves and our happiness to have difficult conversations. I know from experience how uncomfortable being stuck feels.

Minimizing

I used to minimize and dismiss my pain for the comfort of myself and others.


I thought that doing this would result in the feelings just going away. I believed that when others asked how I was doing, they didn’t actually want to know the truth. I wanted to be seen as strong, not weak.


Mental illness is a fight again the mind. You feed it and give it power by minimizing because that is exactly what the illness wants. Minimizing only covers the severity of your illness. Hiding the illness and letting it win.


When you’re going through it, this concept is very difficult to understand and accept. At least that’s how it was for me. I didn’t understand the harm in minimizing until I’ve reached this point in recovery.


Now I’m honest with myself and those around me. It’s amazing how honestly and vulnerability can bring people closer together.


I can better help myself because I am willing to accept however I feel – no judgments.


Being honest about my mental health with Tyler has only brought us closer together. He can express his pride in me because he’s aware of what I’m actually dealing with.


My friends and family feel closer to me. They feel as though they understand me better. When I am open and honest, they feel comfortable to be vulnerable as well.


So join me on this journey of authenticity and stop minimizing your pain.

Surviving or Thriving

I used to survive each day. That was my goal when I woke up every morning. Get through the day, and get through life.


I was drawn to mindless activities that took up my time but resulted in achieving nothing. I could survive the day by sitting in front of a screen. What I watched didn’t inspire me or improve my life in any way. It helped me survive, but nothing more.


Recovery changed a lot in my life. It had cleared and shifted my mindset. I’ve been becoming more mindful of how I am spending my time and my life.


I no longer want to just survive, I want to thrive.


For me, this means modifying my diet, reading more, using my skills and creativity, and improving my life.


Surviving just isn’t enough for me anymore.


I am beginning to take responsibility; for a healthier, happier and more stable life.


I know recognize my worth. I see my skills, talents, healthy body, and a world full of endless opportunities.


I see the world in a way of possibilities instead of obstacles. My hard work has led to this point in my recovery. All I want for you is to feel this clarity too.


Allow Joy

There was a point where I didn’t want to accept moments of happiness because I feared my illness wouldn’t be accepted by others. I feared that if I expressed these moments, my depression would be overlooked and forgotten. That I would be forgotten. I feared that these brief moments would be mistaken for my entire reality. I didn’t understand that I could feel happiness without necessarily being happy.


It wasn’t until someone suggested that I could call it something other than ‘happy.’


This small suggestion shifted my perception. I can be unhappy and experience joy. I can be happy and experience joy. I can be however I am and still experience joy, but only if I allow it.


Currently, I am at a place in my life where I can say that I am happy. Yet, this does not mean I am always happy. This means that I am now able to allow joy in my life without effort.


Happiness is not an end goal, but if often mistaken for one. By acknowledging moments of joy, instead of happiness, this end goal perception is diverted.


So I will leave you with this. Be happy, be unhappy, be angry, excited, and sad, but remember to allow and acknowledge joy. Because without joy, life has no meaning.

Sick Enough

There will always be someone who doesn’t understand. Someone who rejects and invalidates your pain. Someone who judges your choices and actions.

Mental illness attacks from within. It changes a person in a way that many will not understand. Symptoms can be easily misjudged as rudeness, awkwardness, or unintelligence. This leads to continued stigma because many are unable to accept it as an illness and not a character flaw.

Your pain is enough. Your suffering is enough. You are sick enough.

You do not need to prove your pain. You do not need to cut deeper, eat less, or withdraw more to prove your illness. There will always be someone who is unwilling to accept what you’re going through.

Everyone experiences mental illness differently. For some, symptoms are easily recognizable, but for others they are hidden.

Remember, no matter the stigma, no matter the judgments, no matter the illness- you are enough. You no longer need to prove your pain; you are sick enough.

*This post was written to someone who needed to hear: “you are sick enough” Hang in there, you got this.

You Should Be Happy

I remember going to a psychiatrist appointment, maybe two years ago, when she asked me if a student could sit-in on the session with us. As a student myself, I understood how valuable hands-on learning is, so I agreed. The student, an older woman likely in her 50s, greeted me as I walked in. We exchanged hellos and commented on the weather. I could feel and see her examining me- well dressed, clean, and tense maybe what she saw. I looked put together, I knew that. I hid behind my name brands and job in mental healthcare. I wanted to appear like I had my life together, and I wasn’t crazy.


The student asked me about my education, job, and personal relationships. Then she looked me dead in the eyes and said: “Wow, with your Kate Spade bag and getting accepted into graduate school, you should be so happy.”


I looked at her, stunned by both her ignorance and bluntness, and replied: “Yeah, I should be.”


My psychiatrist quickly tried to descale the tense situation: “Well, that is why she is here today.”


The problem with the student’s comment has to do with one word: should. I believe she meant to say something along the lines of you have wonderful things in your life, and I can see how depression must be impacting your mental health. Instead, the comment sent a different message. By saying I ‘should’ be happy, it implies that the reason I am unhappy has to do with me and not something out of my control. The comment suggested that I am ungrateful for the wonderful things in my life because I ‘should’ be happy, but I wasn’t.


I was not hurt by the comment, but I was surprised. I was surprised because even in the mental healthcare field, there is still a skewed perception of mental disorders. Even someone studying to prescribe medication FOR mental disorders is lacking basic knowledge about mental health. This is a bright red fluorescent sign that mental health education is severely lacking. How we are taught to talk about mental health as a society is flawed, and change needs to occur.


This was a very minor experience for me. I was not hurt or set-off, and I quickly forget about the comment after I left. Yet, I still remember that comment like it was yesterday. it stuck in my mind so clearly that I am able to write about it today.


I want to reflect on this moment not only because it is a sign of how mental healthcare needs to change, but also because I know I will be told something along the lines of this again. Next time, I want to be prepared. If I were in that situation again, this is what I would say: “Just because I am in extreme pain and suffering does not mean that I am simply unhappy with my life. I want to be able to love and appreciate what I have, but I can’t. This does not mean that I am ungrateful or an unhappy person in general. This means that I have a severe mental illness and I am struggling right now. Which is exactly why I am in this office today. So no, I shouldn’t be happy. I SHOULD be exactly as I am right now, regardless of how it makes you feel.”

 


 

 

Setting Boundaries

I just turned down a job. It paid really well, was only for a few hours, and it was doing something I love. I said no without a second thought.


I know my limits, and I understand that my current schedule and mood is enough for me to manage. Could I use the extra money? Absolutely. However, my mental health and personal wellbeing are much more important to me than money.


This is what setting healthy boundaries looks like. I am using self-awareness and reflection to understand where I am and what my limits are. I understood that my plate was full. I didn’t have the energy or mental stability to “just add one more thing.” Although, a year ago that is exactly what I would have done. I was driven by money and success. I believed that doing this gave me worth and purpose. What I didn’t understand was that my life already had purpose and I was already worthy, just by being me.


I am a recovering people pleaser. I believed that I needed to meet other’s requests in order for them to accept and value me. It turns out that the people I want in my life are the ones who can accept ‘no.’ The people I was trying to please, were already pleased. They want what is best for you, so if you have to tell them no, that’s okay. They will recognize your self awareness and healthy boundaries.


I was influenced by social media. I thought I had to be doing something everyday, and if I didn’t document my life, how would people remember my existence? I saw others “living their best lives” and I felt horrible about myself. The problem was with me, not them. I was believing my negative thoughts and what they were telling me about myself. I accepted that I was boring, unwanted, and that everyone else in the world was doing better than me.


It has taken a lot of self reflection and mental work to get to this point. I guess I had to realize both my worth and my limits. I had to recognize and accept – I mean fully and truly accept- my own worth. I now understand that taking on more than I can handle is not a reflection of who I am. My level of importance does not change because my schedule is packed.


Learning how to say no gave me the freedom to heal. I am consciously choosing how I spend my time. I am observing my thoughts without accepting them as truths. I am setting myself up for success by saying ‘no.’