Self Help

4/30: I want to break free!

This seems to be a reoccurring topic of conversation for my fiancée and I. She’s mostly fearless and I’m fearful of a lot. We’re an odd pairing when it comes to how we live out our lives but we somehow make it work. While she genuinely means well, her blunt opinions of me always stir up a ton of feelings for me. “You never leave your comfort zone.” My instant reaction was to be defensive. How could she say that? I do a lot of things outside of my comfort zone, especially with her. But, after collecting myself out of “my feelings” I decided to really take a look my inner scope and workings. This happens a lot when she talks. I like to think, it’s a mix of her opinions mattering to me more than anyone and she’s someone I admire and trust. When she’s on, the girl lives and dies by logical thinking; a trait I wish I could capture.

Today’s prompt questions my preference on safety net or taking risks. See below for the full question asked in the 300 Writing Prompts book by Piccadilly.

“Do you prefer taking risks or having a safety net?”

My heart pounds when I’m about to do anything that I have a fear of. My body tightens up, my face drops and I’m ready to curl into a ball and shut down. My knee-jerk reaction is to always go to what’s safe or what feels safe in my eyes. However, a safety net hasn’t always been kind to me. While it protects me from these fears, it’s also robbed me of experiences. I skipped out on amusement park rides, going places with friends, going away to school and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been afraid of so many things. I don’t like the dark, I don’t like going out of control fast, or being at a height any bigger than myself. I don’t like to shy away from routine or what I know to be normal and safe. As a child and teenager, the world is your oyster for adventures of all kinds. However, I spent a lot of time terrified of what could happen; would I get hurt? Would I fall? Faint? Be alone? You name it and I’ve probably ran the scenario. This is paralyzing to feel and the more I age, the more I want to turn away from fear and into adventure and love. We’re given one life and I want to make it count.

I’m not totally denouncing my comfort zone. It’s a great place that isn’t just built on fear but my moral compass of right and wrong. It has kept me out of trouble and for the most part on a clean and safe path away from harm. It’s not all bad but for the most part, I want to break free like Freddie Mercury in front of a packed crowd. Life waits for no one and I’m ready to at least /try/ and step away from the same old thing and find some new places, new ways, and live with an open mind.

What do you prefer? Are you a risk taker or do you like to play it safe in your safety net? How do you carry out these lifestyles? Let me know!  

2/30 – I am woman, hear me ROAR!

Over the course of my relationship with my fiance, she has gotten me countless tools for the betterment of my writing. She’s given me journals, fancy pens, not so fancy pens, and most recently a book of 300 writing prompts.  Today’s selection comes from that book. Thank you, babe! The book comes with lines below each prompt to write on but I know that I would likely go beyond the lines so I’m using some of these wonderful prompts here for this series.

“In what way are you are strong?”

Most of the time I have trouble identifying my positive qualities. I am self-deprecating by nature and it’s a habit that I’m working hard on breaking. To be humble is one thing, to self-loathing is another. I have found that my thoughts of myself have been shaped by the people around me cementing sometimes incorrect things into my brain that just are not true! As I age, I’m starting to realize my strengths while accepting my weaknesses. Not everyone will excel in everything and people can only hurt my feelings if I let them; best advice my Father has ever given me. Strength comes in many forms. For me, I see strength in my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self. Each of these differs in journey for the winding road that’s my life.

Physical strength, I excel at in brute force and ability to shift weight in many ways that most women couldn’t. I really don’t know how that worked out. I am bigger in stature so I could only assume that it’s a result of being that body type. I am able to lift heavy boxes in my office, I am able to break a part the cardboard when its called for. It’s a minimal example but it’s a valid one. My family jokes that I have “Monica strength” like Monica Gellar from the TV show friends.

Mental strength has been a journey for me. I like to consider myself a work in progress because it has taken me quite some time to reach the mental space that I’m currently in. I have been seeking validation from all the wrong places. Whether it’s in education or dealing with life, I have always downplayed my abilities because I found my self-esteem in what others thought of me. It became a downward spiral to live through because anytime someone spoke ill of me, I found myself in a tail spin. The acceptance that not everyone will always approve of everything I do was hard to come by. I’ve always had a need to be liked so it was a mountain to climb inside of my brain. Knocking on the door of 30 years old, I find myself less enthused by the opinions and approval of others. I’ve learned that it’s my job to decide what I need and what I don’t.

Emotional strength is one of my strongest points. As a self-proclaimed empath, I feel for me, I feel for the room I’m in, the world around me. I am forever feeling in the biggest of ways and sometimes it’s absolutely exhausting. I’ve done a lot of trying to push away my feelings to fit the needs of others. Being the sap in the room isn’t the easy of tasks but it’s not an impossible task. I am forever going to be the one with the most emotions in any room and you know what? That’s okay. The acceptance of myself has been the final hurdle that has solidified my pride in my emotional strength.

Last but not least touches on my spiritual strength. This has been an arduous journey for me. I was born into a home that casually taught the teachings of Christianity. We went to Sunday school at the local Lutheran church and for some reason I took to the teachings. Religion has always been a foundation for me. It has been the space where I have my found my moral compass and values. I eventually became Catholic in the fifth grade and completed my sacraments making me an adult in the eyes of my church. However, all of that was tested when I came out at 17 years old as a bi-sexual female. Catholicism doesn’t recognize my relationship as natural. “It goes against God’s wishes and teachings”. With my pending marriage coming up, I find myself gutted. I would love to be able to complete the sacrament of marriage with my own, I would love to find a way to make my union “valid” in the eyes of my church but the closed minds of others doesn’t allow this. But, I can’t be stopped. My faith in God is unshakable, I live by my mother’s example and pray without a church, and believe with a whole heart that God’s got me and despite how much it hurts he’s there with me and will be the day I marry my fiancee.

I’m stronger than I give myself credit for most days. While I may not always feel it one hundred percent, I know that it’s there. What are your strengths? Are they inner or physical? Are they hard to attain or does it come naturally? I’d love to know more.


1/30: Fight Fear

26. Fear: What scares you a little? What do you feel when scared? How do you react?

Credit: https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

May starts Mental Health Awareness month. Approximately 1 in 5 people in the US suffer from some sort of mental illness. It’s a stigma that needs to be erased by talking about it and fighting out in the open to show those who suffer in silence that they are not alone. I figured I’d kick off this series with a dose of honesty. I deal with my own share of anxiety and fear. Every single day is a new vow for me to fight fear and do my best to not allow my anxiety to get the better of me. Some days I kick fear’s ass, others not so much.

The door opens and I step inside of the well lit tight space, it’s filled with other commuters getting around New York City. Sometimes they’re sleeping and weary from the early morning, others they’re wired with their to-do-lists trying to race home to their home lives with the small amounts of daylight that they have left in their days. I stand with music blaring in my ears and as far away as possible. Truthfully, riding the train back and forth to work scares me more than it should. I take the bus to get to the train and it rarely triggers any kind of anxiety but the train pushes it to happen. The crowds of people squeezing into a tight space just feels suffocating and life in the Big Apple of New York City could present tragedy at a moment’s notice so knowing I would have to combat those crowds who are usually self-serving 9 times out of 10 is unnerving. Add the below the ground factor away from any kind of resources but the scatter of subway rats and garbage and I’m in a tailspin of fear.

My best combatance of this fear is my phone and listening to music. While a lot of people discourage people to be glued to their devices (they’re probably right, but…), I find myself using mine as a life jacket of sorts. The music keeps me tuned into the rhythm and lyrics of the song versus allowing my mind to wander into the land of “what ifs” creating unneeded scenarios that may or may not ever happen. My phone has games or a book I’m reading to further tune out the mind wandering and keep me occupied instead of counting the train stops only.

Despite, my distraction of myself I do my best to stay tuned into my environment just on a less intense scale so that my brain doesn’t freak out my body. The physical symptoms of my anxiety can be very debilitating which feels a lot more dangerous than my multi-tasking with my phone. Extreme anxiety has been known to induce dizzy spells so I’d much rather find a happier, calmer mind set and have a safe commute versus working myself up and risking not getting to my destination in one piece.

What scares you? How does it affect you? Better yet, how do you handle this fear? Let me know!

DARE: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks (Review)

“The only way out is through.” That’s one of the many positive affirmations given to the reader in this book and it’s the one that stuck with me the most. Last year was probably one of the worst of my life professionally. I was in constant conflict with my managers, always having to look over my shoulder in professional settings and my anxiety was at all-time high. I saw a therapist for a little over six months but my insurance was no longer accepted at the facility. I was out of options and too anxious to try and get to know another therapist. That’s when I found DARE by Barry McDonagh. Social Media keeps me in touch with people from all parts of my life and a friend from high school was posting excerpts of the chapters of this book and I knew I had to read it. Everything on his Instagram stories felt like it was talking directly to me. After doing more research, I found out that author and founder of the program DARE, Barry McDonagh also suffered from debilitating anxiety. Knowing this made me feel less alone and less suspicious about opening my mind to his new suggestions. He had applied his program to his own anxiety and it had worked so I took a chance and hoped it would work for my own.

The book introduces something called the Dare Response, which is a new way to view your relationship with your anxiety. The key points of the response are defuse, allow, run toward, and engage. Defuse shows the mind that you are not in any real danger when you take on a blasé approach to anxiety, “Who cares”, “So what” are phrases that the author uses to allow anxiety to take on a smaller form rather than feel unstoppable. By using the act of diffusion, it replaces worry with power of the situation when anxiety makes you feel powerless. Allow is the means of letting the anxiety come as it wants to. Resistance can make anxiety seem bigger than it is. By allowing anxiety to just come and flow naturally through you, it takes away the fear of what could happen or what is happening to you. You have the control of the outcome. A funny line from this step’s section for me was when McDonagh says to sit down your anxiety and invite it in for tea. The visual created in my brain was exactly what I needed to see that I was in control of my anxiety and my anxiety didn’t control me. I was the one calling the shots and deciding what, when and where anxiety can appear. Run towards is the next step. McDonagh suggests that by running toward your anxiety you can change the perspective of it. He explains that fear and excitement are often the same and when the mind readjusts the feeling toward anxiety, it can reduce its power and change the way the brain views anxiety. A negative can quickly become a positive and instead of looking for the “boogeyman” over your shoulder, you can embrace the present world around you. The final step is to engage. Engage in something that takes up your full attention so the anxious feelings can no longer reel you back in. This felt like the most important step because it encouraged me to focus on my life and stay in the present versus stay in my head with the fearful anxiety. Furthermore, the book details ways to apply the response to several different aspects of anxiety such as panic attacks, health anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and fear of being abnormal. Each section details how to apply the response to the situation but also provides thoughtful insight on his experience with the situation or the experiences of others that he helped. I found several different scenarios relatable and have returned back to these chapters for guidance and help.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Self-help books aren’t for everyone but this method got me through a time in my life where I feared there would be no way out. Applying the DARE response to my life allowed me the confidence I needed to take back control of my anxious mind. While I still have issues with health anxiety from time to time, I have since gotten a new job and thanks to the DARE response I am able to contribute my experience with an open mind and heart to my position and have had a very successful three months at my firm because of that. I think any kind of positive outlet can help mental health issues and I would suggest this book to anyone who wants to reach with themselves and learn to navigate ways to better themselves.

Setback happen

Last week disappointed me greatly. I have been trying to stick to a weekly schedule for posting but my mind just went blank. My mood has been all over the place and my muse had nothing to give. However, I’m back this week to explain where my head is and hopefully give a little insight to anyone who has experienced a setback. My current mind state isn’t a total setback but I have definitely felt an unpleasant shift from where I was before. I will get better though.

Just like exercise and healthy habits for the body, the same applies to the mind. Since January, I have been over-the-moon happy professionally. I am learning every day, I am in a positive environment and in turn I am flourishing in my new position. My work life was a main point in my anxiety and mood levels so since that’s been good, I have been slacking on the maintenance that I worked so hard in the months before I was settled into this job. Well, that has to change.

The past two weeks have been up and down for me. One day, I feel okay and the next I find myself plummeting. The anxiety isn’t as prominent as it used to be when I’d hit these speed bumps but the negative mindset is roaring up like an engine at NASCAR race. Knowing my mind, if I leave that alone too long it’s going to trigger every other dark emotion that comes with it; anxiety, self-hatred and just overall terrible behavior. I am a very empathic person and I find myself easily affected by the emotions of others. If the environment that I’m in is blah, it’s very contagious for someone like me. Admittedly, it makes me feel highly vulnerable being such an emotional being because no matter how much logic I’ve tried to apply to situations, it doesn’t always prevent this embarrassing snowball effect.

In situations prior to my therapy sessions and DARE Response application, my symptoms would manifest physically with a vengeance. I would get dizzy, tired faster, and feel lethargic. When I feel any physical symptoms I turn to breathing exercises, lots of water consumption, ice on each of my cheeks, and DARE audio if it’s truly inconsolable. Each of these combined with the DARE Response of taking anxiety head on has allowed me to be in power of my reaction versus my reaction having power over me. I am no longer a prisoner to anxiety but rather have accepted that anxiety is like an old friend that needs a piggy back ride along the way. I am bigger, faster and stronger and am merely allowing it to tag along. “The only way out is through,” A positive affirmation that I picked up from Dare and have turned to a lot for hard times. I’ve learned when you run from something it gets bigger than you but when you face it head on it minimizes like a bully on the playground. For anyone further interested in the DARE response books, I’ll link the amazon page here but I am also going to be reviewing the book and my experience with it further tomorrow.

All in all, it has been a shitty few weeks in my brain but I am doubling down on all the things that keep me focused. I am attempting to sleep earlier, eat a little better, drink as much water as my body will allow and be more consistent on my 5 minute daily journal. Nothing is going to stop me from maintaining a healthy brain, not even myself.


What’s Normal?

By definition normal is conforming to a standard; the usual, typical or expected. Normal could also be defined to gage a state of condition. Normal by definition is pretty clear cut when it’s applied in the right way. However, normal in society starts to get these patchy gray areas of falsified perfection which can be problematic for people’s self-esteem and mental health. Society places a lot of pressure on what’s normal and what isn’t. There’s a certain size you’re supposed to be, a certain way you’re supposed to act, a certain standard you’re meant to uphold. In the age of social media, we are setting ourselves up for disaster finding any kind of measuring stick in what we see online. It’s a horrible feeling to scroll past these things and feel like you’re the outcast in the room. Normal is a relative term. Other than the actual written definition, the term normal is what you make it.

In my journey through mental health and life overall, I have found that it’s important to find a normal that works for me and accept it fully. I first discovered the term radical acceptance in therapy and applying this term to self-love has been truly beneficial. Leaning into the positive aspects of my life has been helpful to my process. In my radical acceptance of myself it’s given me a place to feel grounded and no longer distracted by social media, corporate environments or women/men around me. I am now the decision maker for my normal. My normal is curvy, my normal is comfortably dressed, my normal wears little to no makeup, my normal curses like a sailor, and that’s okay because I have finally come to terms that I am enough. Three words have been the gatekeeper to my process of acceptance and fully loving myself. Like everyone else, I have bad days but I hold onto tight to those words and repeat them as many times as I need to, to remember my mission.

I challenge all of you to figure out your normal. What’s it look like? What’s it sound like? What’s it feel like? There is no right or wrong answer to the question, there is just is the radical acceptance that no matter what you come up with, you are enough.

Therapy on my own terms

Mental Health is a slippery slope to navigate in general. But, when it comes to treatment it gets even trickier. No one case is the same so what works for somebody else may not necessarily work for you and guess what? That’s okay! There are many different positive ways to deal with mental health and no one way is right or wrong.

As a child and teenager, I was always the awkward kid; the bullied, quiet, keep to herself kind of girl. My mother for many years thought therapy was the answer for me to help me deal with issues but each experience ended up crazier than the next. I had guidance counselors who deemed me crazy, I had multiple therapists blame my parents, and I had some dude who could easily be mistaken for the janitor of the building. Each interaction did more harm than good and every time she further suggested it, I found myself more in a reclusive state. I wasn’t ready to talk to a stranger about my problems. I wanted to handle things by keeping myself close to family, friends, and people I trusted. For years, I denounced therapy because each time felt like more of a burden than the issues I was dealing with. Talking to people I trusted was hard enough, talking to a stranger felt impossible.

However as an adult that changed for me. I was working for a job that kept me stressed every day. I was learning but I wasn’t happy. The work culture was toxic and nonproductive and it started to take a drastic toll on my mental health. I could feel the weight of my anxiety for the first time since getting let go from college and I knew if I didn’t do something about it, I was going to be in bigger trouble than just the stress was causing me. I found myself a therapist close to my job and that luckily took my insurance. The fear for the first appointment was intense. What would I talk about? What would she think? Would she tell me I’m crazy? Worse, would she blame my parents like everyone else did? I had a ton of anxiety about the appointment but I pushed myself to try. I was tired of exhausting my venting sessions with my inner circle. I needed an unbiased opinion so therapy was the best option.

The first appointment completed shattered my fears. The woman I saw reassured me that I wasn’t crazy, that everything I was going through was a lot more common than I believed and I would be okay. For a few months, it felt as if I was talking to a friend or an oracle who had a lot more advice to offer and a much bigger ear to lend than most people. I spent six months in therapy before they no longer accepted my insurance. Despite, its untimely end I know I’m better for it. Having the time to talk to a trained professional and obtain tools I didn’t know how to use prior was a great help to me. With the combination of the tools given to me in therapy and the self-help outlets I’ve found, I manage my anxiety a lot better than I ever have.

At the end of the day, I was going to get anywhere without the will to do it. The first step to getting a hold on any situation is actually wanting to. I came to a point in my life where I could no longer be stubborn and blame past bad experiences on why I couldn’t help myself in the now. I took the bull by the horns and did therapy on my own terms and I am much better for it today. You control your recovery entirely. It’s very important to do the positive things you want to do in an effort for a calmer and peaceful life.