Reconnecting

This year has been stressful, to say the least; slowly, I stopped doing what made me feel healthy and like myself. Now I’m reconnecting with myself, my body, and my mind.


It’s easy for me to float through life, not present and numb. If I don’t take care of myself, time passes without me, and I lose touch with who I am.


I now know myself well enough to understand my needs and how to reconnect when I’m feeling lost. I have a list of things I need to do daily to stay healthy and connected. As requested by my new therapist, I am tracking these behaviors to keep myself accountable.


Each day I write, read, move, and take my meds.


Writing helps me process my thoughts and emotions. It clears my head of all the unhelpful thoughts that have been ruminating through my mind. My life feels more purposeful after I process, and because of this, I journal daily.


More recently, I have incorporated reading into my daily routine. I often read before bed as a way to relax and clear my mind. Although, I have noticed the more frequently I read, the greater my desire to read. I now find myself taking breaks throughout my day to read a chapter or two. Additionally, reading strengthens the brain, supporting healthy brain cells, unlike watching TV, which kills brain cells.


Movement is also an essential part of my routine. It connects my mind to my body and releases the endorphins I desperately need. Running and yoga are my go-to activities, but something as simple as a walk has the same benefits.


Taking my medication may be simple, but it is a prominent part of my routine, but it is also the most important. My meds stabilize my mood, making it easier for me to accomplish what I need to and can for myself more effectively. Even missing one day can offset my whole week.


Even with the weather getting colder and the amount of sunlight decreasing, I feel stable and comfortable. Not every day is a ‘good day,’ but I also don’t expect it to be. I no longer sit in my feelings; instead, I complete my daily routine, even when I don’t feel like it. Every day seems to have a purpose, no matter how small it may be.

Relating To Others

I feel as though I live in my own reality. I uniquely experience the world, and at times, it separates me from others.


My emotions are very intense, and I struggle with both experiencing and controlling them. Other than experiencing these emotions, my relationships are most affected by BPD and my feelings.


At times, my emotions build-up, and I’m unable to keep them inside. I become erratic and unstable. Most of the time, I can keep my feelings inside. However, it is not that I am burying these feelings; my emotions change moment to moment. The difference is every one of my feelings is extreme and will often be viewed as an overreaction. I cannot burst, break down, or express these unpredictable and sometimes irrational emotions.


When I am with others, I may not say much or always seem ‘there’ because my mental reality is going a mile a minute. I am processing what the other person says, I interpret and internally react; I manage my emotions.


Often I struggle to relate. The issues I deal with daily are not the best conversation starters, and most people in my life cannot connect to what I go through. I find myself jealous of their goals and abilities. I am so proud of those I love, but it reminds me of what I cannot do and how easily it comes for them.


Being around others drains me. While I enjoy being around those I love, I need a lot of alone time. I can spend more time with those I am closest to. They understand me better than most, so they are more comfortable for me to be around. Although they may not understand my life, they support me and love me for who I am. Even so, I keep myself at a distance, protecting my mental state.


There are vital signs for when I have been around others too much or need time alone. I become irritable; I emotionally react to others and am often controlled by these emotions. I attach to those I’m around. I usually expect too much of people but am unable to communicate my needs. I will take others’ actions personally, so it affects me when I am pulling people too close.


Relationships are essential for a happy and healthy life, but it is also necessary to have healthy boundaries and understand one’s needs. I need people in my life to connect, feel loved and supported, grow within relationships, and share experiences. Relationships are complicated for me, but they also make life worth it.


Guilt and Shame

Those living with BPD commonly experience guilt and shame.


Many of my negative thoughts are centered around guilt. Did I wrong someone or hurt their feelings? Have I disappointed, someone? Did I say something I shouldn’t have?


Outbursts triggered by intense emotions can result in me doing or saying things I immediately regret. I feel ashamed, and if I allow it, this emotion will consume me. Thoughts of my wrongdoing replaying in my head, over and over.


From an early age, guilt and shame distorted my perception of myself. Eventually, I learned to work through this.


One factor in my healing process has been learning how to combat and ultimately change these negative thoughts.


I can’t ignore the fact that I do and say things I regret, that would limit my progress. I also can’t blame myself for the symptoms of my mental illness. So focusing on these thoughts is essential to my recovery.


I have more control when I feel healthy, and my stress level is low. I feel my best when I get enough sleep, rise early, and eat well. I am patient and kind with myself. Instead of focusing on guilt and shame, I am moving forward.


My mind still tells me horrible things about myself, but I feel in control. If I say something I regret in response to my emotions, I feel extreme guilt. If I hold onto that guilt, it turns to shame. To fight back, I need to process these emotions and not hold onto them.


I no longer need to hold onto this guilt and shame; I am allowing myself to let it go.


Vulnerability

At first, I thought to be vulnerable meant sharing the awful and miserable parts of life. The ones that we often refrained from sharing. I believed that by sharing these stories, I was the most vulnerable I could be.


But that’s not how vulnerability works.


We are vulnerable when we share our emotions. Stigma has conditioned us to believe we should keep our feelings hidden, and those who choose to talk about their emotions are looking for sympathy or attention.


We are vulnerable when we talk about our hopes and dreams. When we share goals and desires we have not yet accomplished, we are putting ourselves out there and being real.


We are vulnerable when we share our work.


I feel most vulnerable when I share the thoughts I hold and the content I have created. I am aware that others may not understand or disagree with what I create, but regardless, I am putting myself out there.


While vulnerability can be opening up about a dark time or situation, it is not limited to.


Vulnerability is sharing your authentic self with the world, knowing that not everyone will be accepting of what you have to say.

Intention

If you follow my Instagram, you know that I’m not one for big New Years’ resolutions. I find that most are instructed and unrealistic. While I could make one attainable goal, I don’t want to be held down by one big thing. I also find that the added stress results in little to no positive change.


This year I thought I would try something different. Instead of a goal, I am creating a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase to set your choices and life.


My mantra for the year is Intention.


Since beginning to work from home, I find myself wasting a lot of time as a reaction or response from an emotion. I feel overwhelmed, and I distract. Helpful, but I want to do something more meaningful. I rationalize this downtime by reminding myself that I need to rest and keep stress down, but resting should only go so far.


Instead of telling myself to buckle down and get tasks done, which would only add anxiety and shame, I am using my mantra to make my choices more intentional.


By intention, I mean mindfulness and purpose. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I know from DBT skills that I need to stat mindful and self soothe. While watching TV is very relaxing, it does not keep me aware. Now, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I want to be intentional about how I cope. Music helps me relax and soothes me. To stay intentional, I may use my record player and focus on the lyrics. Taking it all in, being present in life. Or perhaps ill play some music and write. Allowing the thoughts and emotions flow through me. Afterward, I will feel less stressed and more relaxed, but the difference is my actions were intentional and productive.


What is your goal or mantra this year? Why did you choose it? What changes do you want 2020 to hold?

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.

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.

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.’