Posted in Business, healing, learning, self-love

Worth It

It is my belief that people are born inherently worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of respect, worthy of just taking up space and existing exactly as they are.

Almost immediately, we all start to unlearn this. We each have different experiences that help us form our beliefs about ourselves and what we are deserving of. Sometimes, these are good beliefs like, “Mom and Dad still love me even though I did poorly on my school assignment. My worth is not dependent on doing well in school.” But sometimes, they are limiting beliefs like, “If I hadn’t spilled my drink on the sofa, Mom and Dad wouldn’t be fighting right now. It is my fault they argue because I am always making mistakes.”

Obviously, we don’t usually form these beliefs in straight-forward, black and white sentences, and that is what makes them so sinister. We are constantly shaping the way we view ourselves without even knowing it! Then, we behave in a way that we think will make us more desirable, more lovable, more worthy, believing that worthiness is something that can be achieved.

We try to achieve worthiness through our jobs, our relationships, our belongings, and the way we present ourselves to others. We think that if our life just looks a certain way, if we could just obtain perfection, then FINALLY, we would be deemed worthy.

I created my business, Chariot and Charm, as a way to help others release the limiting beliefs they hold about themselves so they can rediscover their own self-worth. The modalities I offer (Life Coaching, Tarot and Oracle readings, and Yoga Nidra) allow clients to reconnect to themselves in a world that often encourages numbing and disconnection. By reconnecting to their truth, my hope is that individuals can become aware of how their beliefs effect their behaviors and then consciously decide which beliefs they want to keep, and which beliefs are no longer serving them.

In my dream world, all people would know they are valuable and worthy. All people would know they are here for a purpose and they would pursue that purpose confidently and passionately, knowing that they don’t have to be “perfect” to be good enough. My goal is to offer a safe and supportive environment for people to get to know themselves so that they can really, truly love themselves.

Posted in healing, learning, self-love

Please please please please love me

Hi, my name is Jordan, and I am a chronic people-pleaser. This has been the case my entire life. So much of my identity is built upon wanting others to like me (or, even better, LOOOOOVE me). I became so codependent (on everyone), so focused on being who I thought everyone else wanted me to be, that for a long time, I didn’t even know myself.

I believe this started in my childhood around the time my parents started to have problems in their marriage. I remember once, hearing them shouting at each other in our garage, I quickly drew a happy family portrait with my crayons and presented it to them. I was trying to “fix” whatever was broken (even before I understood how a marriage could be broken).

My sister was what you would call the “problem child” in our house. She struggled with school and often cut class. She had a hard time holding down a job. For a lot of reasons- some fair and some really unfair- my dad (technically our step-dad) had issues with my sister. Which meant our mom had issues with my dad. There were other problems, too, but a lot of it centered around the struggles my sister dealt with. Before I was even old enough to realize what I was doing, I made it a point to be the easy kid. I performed well in school, I got a job at 16 and worked hard at it, I didn’t really ask my parents for anything. I tried not to be a “burden.” I saw that they already had a lot on their plate (especially my mom) and I did my best not to add to it.

This translated into pretty much every relationship that followed. My first boyfriend would become distant and cold if I ever brought up concerns about our relationship. On one occasion, he didn’t speak to me for 3 days. I didn’t think my requests were unfair or unwarranted, but I also didn’t want him to leave me, so I apologized excessively and smoothed everything over. I internalized any discomfort or pain that I felt, because I felt it wasn’t safe to share; if I shared it, I could potentially end up alone.

In my early 20’s, I moved to Arizona to start fresh. I soon learned that you don’t just leave all your baggage behind. My people-pleasing, codependent ways followed me. I was basically alone in a new state where I knew exactly two people. I didn’t know who I was or what I liked or what I wanted. All I knew was I was afraid of being alone. I wanted to badly to be loved and wanted. If others didn’t love me, I knew it was beIMG_8400cause I was unworthy of being loved. I was unlovable. It was my fault.

These feelings weren’t reserved solely for romantic relationships, either. I was completely codependent on my friends as well. I did whatever they wanted to do. I never started an argument and I avoided conflict at all costs. I am an introvert by nature, but I was so afraid of being left out that I was constantly out partying and drinking. I avoided my feelings by being constantly in contact with other people; I could NOT be alone. Sometimes my friends would become upset with me or need space, and when that happened, I would spiral into my depression, even resorting to self-harm. I didn’t share any of these sad or bad feelings with my friends because I didn’t want to be a burden. I wanted them to like me and I thought that if I wasn’t “easy,” then they wouldn’t want me around.

(This photo is from one of my many drunken nights out. Don’t get me wrong, not every night out was bad, and I have a lot of good memories. But when I look at this girl, I see someone so lost, someone who didn’t love herself, and who was using alcohol as a way to fill that void.)

Of course, there is a rock bottom in this story (involving way too much alcohol and an interrupted suicide attempt). Fortunately, there were professionals there to catch me. I wound up in a mental healthcare facility off the Las Vegas strip. It was fucking real and fucking terrifying. It was also what I needed to open my eyes. I realized, I don’t want to die. What am I doing?

It was in a group therapy session at this facility that I first heard the term codependency. It resonated deeply and I wanted to know more. Codependency has traditionally been used to describe relationships with addicts, but more recently the definition has evolved and expanded. Codependency is a sort of relationship addiction based on an excessive reliance on approval from others. A person puts so much focus on keeping their partner around and filling their needs that they ignore their own needs. As I read, I was like whoa. This is me.

So, I knew that in order to crawl my way out of rock bottom. I needed to make some changes. It helped that now I had an idea of where to start.

The first thing that had to go was drinking. It wasn’t just unhealthy for me, it was dangerous for me in my current mindset. This meant I had to miss out on going out with my friends multiple times a week, which was hard for me. At first I felt left out, and was certain I would be forgotten. I wasn’t actually too far off. Pretty quickly I realized that there wasn’t much to these friendships beyond drinking. Most of these people didn’t reach out to me to see how I was, or invite me to other activities like dinner or the movies. I mourned the loss of these “friendships.” But this showed me who my real people were. The ones who stood by my side and helped me through my transition, who genuinely cared about my well-being. These people are still my best friends today.

Maybe even more difficult than quitting drinking was learning how to set boundaries. I had to fucking learn to say no, and it went against everything in my body. I learned that I couldn’t go to every event, I couldn’t take every late-night phone call, I even had to lessen my load at the community college I was attending. I had to slow down. I had to take time for me. I had to spend time with me, learning to check in with myself and pay attention if I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. It was uncomfortable, spending time alone. It was hard to be alone with my thoughts instead of out numbing and ignoring. But it got easier and I’ve become in tune to what I need for my mental and emotional health. Now I can make a decision to do something based on what I truly want, not how I think others will perceive me.

Finally, and this is I think a constant work in progress, I had to learn who the hell I am. What my likes and dislikes are. What my fears are and what my hopes and dreams are. What kinds of personalities I enjoy and want to be around. I was 25 years old and I didn’t know these things!! I had worn a mask for so long, I didn’t know what my real reflection looked like. This takes practice and discovery and trying new things and again, boundaries. I learned to listen to and respect my own opinion. Now, I am finally in a place where I know who I am and what I stand for, and this has been my greatest gift to myself.

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(Infographic by Sara Kuburic, @millennial.therapist)

Posted in goals, healing, hope, learning

F.E.A.R.

One of the things I love about Life Coaching is that it helps a person make an impact on their life right now. Unlike therapy or counseling, it isn’t necessary to know the whole story and all of the “why’s” in order to start taking steps forward.

I want to make it clear right now that I do NOT think life coaching should take the place of therapy/counseling. Some people may need one or the other, some people may want to have both. It is an individual’s choice to make sure their specific needs are being met. Life coaching isn’t about delving into past traumas or childhood experiences to discover why we act or feel the way we do. It is simply about coming up with a motivating plan to move forward from where you currently are.

That being said, life coaching does require a person to be vulnerable and honest. This can be really hard when talking about fears and insecurities, especially if you haven’t already been working your way through them.

My big fear is to live an unfulfilling life. A life with little emotional connection, no big-life talks, no exciting new experiences or travels to different places. A life where I am stuck in a comfortable but boring day job, feeling like I don’t make a difference in the world. A life where I don’t have a purpose. Essentially, I am just waiting to die because I’ve given up hope that life can be bright and inspiring and full.

The thing about my fear is that I have already lived it. I was trapped in a job, a relationship, a life that felt suffocating. I was filled with anxiety over the thought of never having something more meaningful to me. That is why I quit my job, ended a five-year relationship, and moved to a different state to start over. I had to leave behind the comforts of home and embrace the unknown in the hopes that things would work out for the better. And, so far they have.

I recently learned a new definition of fear in class:

F- false
E- evidence
A- appearing
R- real

How do we overcome fear?

F- face it
E- express it
A- acknowledge it
R- release it

One way of facing and expressing your fear is by turning it into a metaphor. Speaking of something metaphorically is sometimes easier than openly discussing a painful fear, and it can bring objectivity to a situation. Also, in your metaphor, you are entirely in control. You can overcome any roadblock that is set in your path.

My fear feels like a room with no doors. I’m in the room alone, and it is pretty threadbare. One entire wall is made of glass and I can see out into the world. People are constantly passing by, but they don’t pay attention to my little room. I try to get their attention but they can’t hear me. They are participating in life. They are making a difference in the world through work that they’re passionate about. They are embracing relationships and friendships fully and basking in the love they are giving and receiving. They are traveling, trying new things, finding new hobbies, new likes and dislikes, new ideas. 

My room is isolating and uninspiring, but it is safe. I can’t be hurt by others. I can’t fail or disappoint myself or others. I want to go outside, I want to live in the light, but I’m so worried I won’t be good enough, I won’t succeed, I won’t bring anything important to the world. What if I enter the light and fail? What if I am a burden to those around me? What if they were better off when I stayed in the shadows?

Still, my heart longs for adventure. I can’t stop thinking about what I might achieve. “Maybe I could succeed,” I whisper to myself, and a small crack appears in the glass.

“I have stories that others might relate to.” A snapping sound as another crack appears.

“I’ll never know unless I try.”
Crack.

My voice slightly louder, I say, “I’m a good listener. I’m thoughtful and caring. Others could benefit from having me around.”
Crack.

“Why shouldn’t I be happy? Why shouldn’t I dream big dreams?”
Crack.

“I’m holding myself back in this room. I’m playing small. I’m hiding from potential happiness and success.”
CRACK.

Taking a step back, I see the web of cracks connecting all over the glass. It seems precariously balanced, like one wrong move would send it shattering into a million pieces. 

“My voice is powerful,” I say louder.  
The glass shakes, every so slightly. 

Suddenly, I am so sure of myself. “I am powerful!” I shout. “I have the power to create any life I want!”

With this final declaration, the glass bursts into tiny, glittering pieces clattering to the ground. The dividing wall between myself and the world is gone. It is up to me what I do next. I step forward and feel the warm sunlight hit my skin. I smell the fresh, clean air. I hear laughter in the distance. My heart is so full. 

Looking over my shoulder, I see my small, dark room. Sunlight is streaming through the opening, brightening the corners. It doesn’t seem so threatening anymore. I turn back to the sun and take a step forward into the unknown. 

When I started speaking this metaphor to my classmates, I had no idea what was going to come out. I knew I felt trapped, but hadn’t realized the feelings of isolation and looking out at others. I sure as hell didn’t know my voice would be the tool I used to free myself. But with my eyes closed, deep in the visualization of my metaphor, I just knew. I knew that the power was inside of me. I just had to be brave enough to use it. 

What is your fear? What is it holding you back from? If you turned your fear into a metaphor, how would you smash it? 

Posted in healing, hope, learning, self-care, self-love, Uncategorized

Born Worthy

Last weekend, I took my first course in Life Coaching. While the creator of the course, K. C. Miller, was giving her introduction speech, I got really teary-eyed. I thought I was able to blink them back well enough, but K. C. locked eyes on me and said, “I appreciate that you are having a physiological reaction. Would you please share with us?” And then the crying hit my throat, and I knew I couldn’t speak even if I wanted to.

What got me so worked up was K. C. Miller’s philosophy that, “There are no extra people.” It’s simple and short. But the meaning is so potently beautiful, I couldn’t help but break into tears.

I am someone very familiar with feeling “extra.” I didn’t think I had a purpose or a reason to be alive; most of the time I just felt like a burden on my loved ones. I still remember the day I had an insane breakthrough with my therapist, Joy, when she told me, “You matter, Jordan.” It was the first time I had ever heard it, which maybe isn’t so unusual. It isn’t exactly the sort of thing you go around casually expressing to others. But for me, it was life-changing. Before that, I didn’t know if I mattered. In fact, I doubted that I did. In this pivotal moment, I realized that I didn’t have to earn the right to matter. I didn’t have to earn my worthiness. Every single person matters just because they exist. By extension, that meant I must have to matter too.

While in class, there was a lot of sharing (as is to be expected from a healing arts school). I listened intently to the stories of my peers. The boy with the mohawk covered in tattoos. The pretty young yogi. The blue-haired witch. The ever-giving mother. As I listened, I was brought to tears more than once. Throughout all of their trials- be it with addiction, abuse, grieving a lost loved one, low self-worth, poverty, and more- these beautiful humans still found their way to a school where they could learn to heal themselves so that they could then help to heal others. How amazing is that??

I thought, “There isn’t a person alive that you couldn’t love if you heard their story.”

Life Coaching isn’t really about giving advice or sharing stories. It’s about asking the right questions. The goal is to help your client discover their own answers through self-reflection. On the last day of class, K. C. asked us to contemplate, “What is the one most important question that we need to ask ourselves in order to heal and move forward?” Fucking intense, man.

Initially, I came up with, “Why do I think I don’t deserve to love myself?” You see, even with the important realization that I matter in this world, actually loving myself is still a work in progress. Some days it is so easy, I don’t even have to think about it. Some days it is so hard, I don’t want to think about it or I’m afraid I’ll break down.  While I meditated, though, another thought hit me. “Why do I deserve to love myself?”

Even speaking the question aloud, I felt insecure and undeserving. But I don’t believe that narrative anymore, so I am here to answer my question.

Why do I deserve to love myself?

  • Because I am brave.
  • Because I left home so I could spread my wings.
  • Because I lost myself, completely.
  • Because I tried finding myself in bottles of liquor, in strangers’ beds.
  • Because I have had my heart shattered by an ex-love.
  • Because I allowed myself to love again (and again and again…)
  • Because I am a Scorpio.
  • Because I put so much stock into astrology.
  • Because I’m a good ass friend.
  • Because I’ve been a bad friend at times, but my apologies are sincere.
  • Because I am the absolute best gift-giver you’ll ever meet.
  • Because I feel things so deeply, and it’s fucking hard.
  • Because I love learning.
  • Because I hate being told what to do.
  • Because I believe in love and equality between genders, races, and religions.
  • Because I can’t keep a hairstyle for more than six months.
  • Because I’m, like, really funny sometimes.
  • Because I’m an introvert to the max.
  • Because I have anxiety.
  • Because I’m so. goddamn. awkward. sometimes.
  • Because I won’t let my depression win.
  • Because I understand those who do, and I love them anyway.
  • Because I have zero sense of geography, even in my own neighborhood.
  • Because I’ve gotten too drunk and said too many things I can’t take back.
  • Because I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I can count.
  • Because I find answers in poetry.
  • Because I find meaning staring into the ocean’s vastness.
  • Because I keep trying to grow things, even though I have a brown thumb.
  • Because I’m a fucking dope wife and an even better fur-mom.
  • Because I know the world is mostly good.
  • Because I know the world is entirely deserving of love.
  • Because I am always striving, always expanding.
  • Because I was born worthy. 
  • Because we all were.
Posted in depression, goals, healing, hope, self-care, self-love, Uncategorized

Fall down 6 times, stand up 7

I am currently taking a class called Building Resiliency. It’s inspirational, obviously, and throughout, I’ve also learned methods and techniques I can use to coach others on resiliency. The techniques are so applicable, I have been integrating them into my own self-care practice as well. (For instance, I have recently found great closure in a past relationship through the practice of Higher Consciousness Conversations.)

What is important to know about resiliency is that it isn’t a personality trait. It’s a skill. That means we can all develop resiliency and learn to grow through the trials life throws at us, and even come out stronger.

For me, building resiliency has really been about coming back from my depression as a stronger person. To be frank, depression knocked me on my ass and sent me tumbling hard into rock bottom. Not only did I feel completely alone, but I felt like I deserved to be alone. I felt like a burden to the people I loved. I didn’t feel worthy of joy, love, or even existing. And through this, I completely lost my sense of identity. I wasn’t an animal-loving, poetry-writing, kind-hearted person suffering the despair of depression. I was despair and depression.

Everywhere I looked, I found evidence of this fact, evidence to support how unworthy of love I was. I put on a mask everywhere I went of a happy, silly, easy-going girl, so even my “friends” and “family” (quotations because, at the time, I felt they didn’t want to be a part of my life and were unfortunately forced to because they felt sorry for me or felt too guilty to blow me off) couldn’t see how lost and full of hurt I was. I didn’t let anyone in, sure that nobody could love the real me; the me that carried a heavy heart and a tightness in my chest so stifling that sometimes I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

For me, rock bottom and the turning point were one and the same. On what was supposed to be a joyful trip to Las Vegas to celebrate friends’ birthdays, I found myself alone, drunk, and crying, wishing for my non-existence. Here, I attempted to end my own life, and was stopped at the last moment. I got to see another side of Las Vegas- an emergency room visit, followed by a stay in a mental health facility where my life was on a consistent schedule of meal times, group therapy, and two outdoor breaks a day. Not what I really had in mind when I embarked on this trip. Still, it was here that I realized, I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to stop existing. I just wanted to feel better. I didn’t know if that was possible, but I committed to at least trying.

I went back to my therapist, who I had been ignoring for the past few months. Here, I did WORK. Hard, dirty, painful, soul-searching work. I strengthened and learned new personal protective factors. Because I spent so much time in the chair, exploring my past, my emotions, my thought processes, I learned Inner Direction. I was able to consciously evaluate how I felt about something and make my decisions based on this, rather than what I felt would make me most lovable to others. I learned Perseverance. Things didn’t feel better for a long time. But I held onto a tiny glimmer of hope that one day, they would. I deepened my Spirituality starting with the belief that we matter because we exist. On days that I couldn’t convince myself that I mattered, I would come back to this belief. Everyone matters, so by default, I had to matter as well. Self-Worth came slowly, and there are still rough days when I can’t find it. But it is now something I know is there, so I trust that if I show myself some love and compassion, I can always find it again.

Another very important piece to my healing was pro-social bonding. Prior to my hospitalization, I spent as many nights as possible going out to parties or bars with a large group of people I considered my friends, but who actually didn’t even know me. After I decided to quit drinking for a while, I didn’t see many of them again. Who I did see, were the people I discovered were my real friends. The ones who called to check in on me in the hospital, and who sent me encouraging notes in the weeks that followed. The friends that I could hang out with without drinking and (though it was scary at first) be my true self around. My circle shrank significantly, but the love I felt grew immensely.

The tricky part about pro-social bonding and depression is that depression doesn’t want you to bond. It wants you to stay home alone and compare yourself to others on social media and wallow in regrets and past traumas. And it’s comfortable, and it feels safe, so sometimes we give in. Some nights, I had to force myself to go watch a movie or meet for dinner because I knew I would feel better after spending time with a good friend. My advice to others dealing with depression would be, “Say yes sometimes.” You don’t have to go to all of the events; in fact, you really probably shouldn’t. But do go, sometimes, with the people you care about and who you know care about you. Being around people who love you is miraculously helpful when you are trying to learn to love yourself.

While I am in a much healthier head-space these days, my recovery from depression is ongoing. There are great days and there are days that I feel I barely made it through. Resiliency is what keeps me going through all the days. Resiliency helped me climb from the shadowy darkness into the light. Resiliency helps me find humor and creativity around what I have experienced. And resiliency helped me find myself again, which was the greatest gift of all.

Posted in depression, healing, relationships

Through the cracks

Okay, this one is hard to put into words. There isn’t a story line with a beginning, climatic middle, and a heartening resolution that makes you thankful for the life lesson. It wasn’t long enough for that. And I definitely wasn’t thankful.

Storytellers of all kinds speak of their “one GREAT love.” Often it’s the one that got away, and sometimes, if they’re lucky, it’s the one who stuck around and changed the way they saw the world. Devin wasn’t my one great love; we didn’t know each other enough for that to be true. Looking back, I’m not sure if what we shared was love at all. Instead, it was something desperate, longing, and sharp to touch. It was characterized by an unhealthy need and both of us looking in the wrong places to fill it. It was dark, lonely, painful love; I guess that’s why he is my one great heartbreak.

I remember the first time I met Devin, the exact way his face looked as we locked eyes at a party. Maybe even then we could see the urgent need in each other’s faces in spite of the drunken smiles on our faces. Devin was a past friend of my best friend, Matty. He had just discovered his girlfriend of 6 or 7 or 8 or something years had gone back to using heroin, secretly in their home, in her car, in the bathroom at her job, in spite of promising she was clean. She had been placed in a rehabilitation facility where she wrote him regular letters, and he had moved back in with his parents where he was living a nightmare.

At the time, I don’t think I realized I was worse off than Devin. My depression and self-loathing was reaching new depths, but I was able to stave it off as long as I constantly kept busy, was never alone, and drank copious amounts of alcohol. Devin, Matty, and I spent more time together, usually drinking. Devin smoked weed almost constantly, needing a hit every hour or two in order to maintain the numbness he preferred. I lost 60 pounds in the course of a few months, not because I was trying to diet or lose weight or be thin, but because my anxiety killed my appetite most days.

Our relationship changed one night after the three of us had been out bar-hopping. I don’t remember a lot. I know I had been dancing on Devin the whole night. I was later told that I smoked with him in the backseat of his car in the parking lot of the bar. I remember watching a movie on the couch at the house Matty and I shared, he on one couch with his fiance and me on the other with Devin. I don’t remember the movie. I don’t remember asking, “Are we going to have sex, or what?” although I was told about that the next day. I do remember going down on Devin in my bed and that he eventually took off my pants and we started to have sex. I remember that almost instantly I started to panic, said, “Wait wait, can we stop? I can’t do this right now.” And he stopped, and he apologized for starting. I wasn’t mad. I walked him to his car and said goodnight.

After that, we talked all day, every day. We said we were “friends,” although on my end I was developing feelings at a rapid, unstable pace. Devin talked to me about how hurt he was by his ex-girlfriend and I played the part of a selfless caregiver, always offering comfort and advice that I should have been giving to myself. I opened up to Devin too about how I hated being alone and how I doubted my own worth. I think I thought if I could save him, he would save me next. One night, Devin told me that I was what gave him hope every day, and I made him happy, and he didn’t understand how it could happen so soon, but he wasn’t going to fight it. He kissed me and I felt needed and necessary, things I hadn’t felt in as long as I could remember.

These are the parts that make forgetting hard: On the phone, Devin tells me that even though we are only apart for about 8 hours a day (while we were at work), those are the longest, hardest parts of the day. We discover we have a shared interest in the Illuminati and Transformers and rum and coke. Taking drags off his cigarette and holding hands as we drive. Slow dancing to a metal song outside a rock bar. For Christmas, I give Devin a copy of my favorite book and I reread it at the same time and we talk about the characters like they’re friends of ours. When I go home to visit for a few days, we Facetime every night and Devin says, “How is that perfect smile for me?” When I fly back, he is waiting for me at the arrival gate. He calls me “his girl.”

It was palpable when things started to fall apart. We would have snarky arguments via text message (and I would end up apologizing profusely for having any type of feeling that wasn’t 100% pleasant). He told me he though we should stop saying, “I love you,” because we had started saying it too soon. His smoking increased even more somehow. I was frantically trying to save a sinking ship. I spent as much time with him as possible. I spent way too much time away from my home and way too little time with my dog.

My best friend Cherish and I had planned a long-weekend away to California. At the time, it made me anxious because that was 4 days away from Devin where I would be unable to convince him to stay with me. Now, when I imagine my happy place, my safe spot- it’s on this beach with Cherish in February. We were titillated when we got mistaken for locals. I brought my dog, Bella, with us, and we shared strawberries at a farmers market. We bonded and cried a lot about how hard things had been since we moved away from home and into the party house in Arizona. I think she realized that in spite of my absence and all of the changes, I was still her best friend.

The night I got home, Devin broke up with me. He said, “I can’t believe I’m doing this and I’m probably going to regret it because you’re so amazing and good to me but…”

But…

I was shattered. I cried every free moment of the day. On the way to work. On my lunch break. After work, I drove around sobbing for hours or came home and cried quietly in my closet. I cried through the night and into the morning, sleeping for only tiny, incremental pieces of time. It was like someone had thrown me a life-preserver and then yanked it away and I was left drowning, thrashing in the middle of a dark, deep ocean.

I watched on social media as he spent nights out with his friends having the time of his life. I watched as he got close to a new girl, only weeks later. I saw their first kiss, documented in a snapshot taken by their friend. He gave her my favorite book, the copy I had given him for Christmas. Every image of his happiness without me sank me deeper into sadness.

This went on for months. I had given him every piece of myself, opened up every dark corner, and when he turned away I collapsed into a vacuum of despair and self-loathing. Sometimes, even years later, it still hurts to think about. I never went to him for closure, never wanted to give him the satisfaction of knowing how long I cried over him.

Remembering it now, I can see how we used each other. How unhealthy our relationship was from the get-go. I can see that what I really needed was to love myself, but at the time, I didn’t believe I was worthy of anyone’s love, least of all my own. I think, if we had met now, we wouldn’t have given each other a second look. At the time, I had thought he was my one great love, but actually he was just another way to numb myself. No wonder it hurt so much when he left; I was stuck feeling everything I had been ignoring for months.

They say though, that it’s through the cracks that the light gets in. And, eventually, after months of crying myself to sleep, I woke up to a sliver of light.

Posted in healing, hope, relationships

Growing up and growing apart

Nothing makes me feel quite so vulnerable as talking about my past relationships. For good reason, though; although with each ending came a valuable lesson, they gutted me in the process. Sometimes, it still hurts, which I used to think meant I was hung up on an ex or I wasn’t able to “get over it.” That isn’t the case though. I read this quote by Barry H. Gillespie,

“The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.”

I try to remember that when I’m driving home late at night, tired from a long day at work, and my thoughts drift to a particularly painful memory. I try to see it as circling through my healing process. It doesn’t always feel like I’ve gained “deeper truths” in that very moment, but as the years have gone by, I do have a greater understanding- both of those relationships and of myself.

Billy and I met working at the same fast food restaurant. I was 16. He was 21. The age difference wasn’t a big deal at the time because A) he never pressured me to move quickly or have sex before I was ready and B) our mental ages matched. We were together for almost five years. That’s a lot of growing. Towards the end, I had accepted that I couldn’t delve into deep, dark, hard-to-talk-about subjects with Billy without him shutting down. I couldn’t bring up relationship issues without him going AWOL for 3 days. And eventually, I realized I didn’t want to go to him for those things that were important to me: mourning a sick family member, questioning existence and what I was put on Earth to do, even my own goals and hopes. I went to others, or, more likely, kept silent.

Enter: my quarter-life crisis. I had flown to Arizona to visit a life-long friend for a long weekend. You would think we would have missed each other, but actually Billy and I didn’t talk the whole time I was gone. I had so many new experiences. I tried new foods, tried drinking (growing up in Utah, it was not the popular pastime of choice), met new people and encountered this whole different life than the one I was used to. My last night there, I met Paul. No dramatic betrayal happened. He and I just talked, a lot (more on that later). And it made me realize that I wanted that. I needed that deep, intellectual, and vulnerable connection with somebody.

When I got home, things were really strained. Billy came over with fast-food lunch a couple of times before I went to work or school, but somehow we didn’t see a lot of each other right away. I knew I wasn’t happy, knew I wanted to end things, but that is a big fucking decision when you’ve been together that long. I took a week. I literally got a therapist, and then burst into uncontrollable sobbing at my first appointment when she asked, “What brings you here today?” I didn’t tell my mom, who I knew would be heartbroken. I did tell my best friend, who was stunned but supported me no matter what (thanks, Cherish).

I still remember it so vividly. I walked into his parents’ house and into Billy’s bedroom. I said, “Hey I need to talk.” I explained that I was sorry for being distant recently but I had had a lot of thinking to do. I wasn’t happy being in a relationship. I wasn’t ready to settle into what we had built. I needed to explore more and I wanted to do it by myself. I said sorry so many times. I cried and cried over having to hurt him. When I got home, sobbing hysterically, I told my mom what I had done and that I didn’t care if she didn’t understand it, it was what I needed for me. And she was so confused but she supported me, still. Cherish slept over and listened to me cry myself to sleep for two days. But, also, I felt so much relief. I felt newly hopeful about my future. I felt so free and so ready to go after a life that I wanted. I ate my first meal in a week.

After we each had time to heal, we stayed friends (how could we not after 5 years?), which eventually faded into friendly acquaintances.

Not long after, Cherish and I made the decision to move to Arizona. We got a little tipsy at T.G.I. Friday’s (class af) and called Matty, who we had visited less than one month prior. “We want to move in with you,” we giggled into the phone.

He said, “Alright, cool.” And then life began to come together.

Posted in depression, healing, hope, self-love

Breaking down the walls

I started thinking about blogging and its many forms. WordPress, Tumblr, Instagram- the list goes on and on. If you frequent the internet, you see a lot of Millennial-shaming for their tend to “over-share” on social media. “Nobody cares what you ate for breakfast,” or “We’re all looking at the exact same sunset,” and the ever-present “TMI!” are just a couple of comments I’ve seen or heard more than once. In an insecure moment, I questioned myself and this blog; does anyone really care what I have to say?

In regards to this question, I look to some of my big female heroes. Glennon Doyle Melton. Elizabeth Gilbert. Brene Brown. These women are famous for opening up in their books and blogs about many personal topics considered taboo to talk about in our society. Divorce. Mental illness. Shame. Pain. They don’t gloss over the hard stuff; they lay it all out in the open, where anyone can see it. They’re vulnerable.

Brene Brown has written an amazing book on the subject of vulnerability, “Daring Greatly.” In the book, she states,

“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. We’re afraid that our truth isn’t enough- that what we have to offer isn’t enough without the bells and whistles, without editing, and impressing.”

We love when others are open and honest, we crave it, because it lets us relate to them on a new, deeper level. Our hearts cry out, “Oh! I’m not alone in all this!” But vulnerability is really hard to do. I’ve been working on that with my therapist for a few years now, and it’s still hard. How can you know if someone is trustworthy with this tender piece of yourself? How can you know they’ll take care of it, that they won’t use it against you?

The fact is, nobody makes it through life unscathed. We have all been hurt by somebody we thought we could trust. Somebody who we cared about, who we once trusted to protect us. And after being marred like that, it’s difficult to expose ourselves again- to that person or others.

When I’ve been emotionally hurt, I can almost see the walls coming up around me. My body tenses. A knot forms in my stomach. It feels as if the wind has been knocked out of me. Much like a wounded animal in the wild, my first reaction is, “Protect yourself!” I want space between myself and the perpetrator. I recoil from their touch. It’s hard to speak because in my head, alarms are flashing, telling me, “THIS PERSON IS DANGEROUS! DON’T GET TOO CLOSE!”

This has happened with many previous boyfriends. With my parents. With my best friends. Even with my husband. The link between this people? We care about each other. I’m vulnerable with them.

In the darkest months of my depression, I was terrified of letting people get close to me. My heart was already aching so much, I couldn’t bear the thought of adding any more pain. During this time, my walls stayed up. Always. With everyone. I kept my very closest friends, the ones I had known for over a decade, at arms’ length away. I would still have conversations with them, sometimes even emotional conversations, but I always held back. I never let them see too much of myself. I was afraid for two reasons:

  1. If I told them my deepest thoughts, feelings, fears, dreams, and secrets, they could use them against me. They would know my weak spots, know right where to strike a blow.
  2. I didn’t want to be a burden. I didn’t want my loved ones to pity me, or to be a burden in their lives.

Of these fears I would like to say this: I was never a burden, nor could I ever be. I know that now, although it took years of unlearning to get to this place. The reason they’re called loved ones is because we love them. My family and my friends loved me then and love me now. And I love them. And when you’re in a loving relationship, you’re there because you want to be. You’re there because you genuinely care for somebody.

When it comes to baring myself to others, I’m getting better. It’s a work in progress, and I’m fine with that. There is a (very) small circle of people who I can now let myself be completely raw with. No walls, no distance. Does that mean they know where to attack my most fragile parts? Yeah, it does. But by keeping those parts hidden, I wasn’t allowing myself to be fully loved. So it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Sometimes, because that’s just how life is, we hurt each other. But I’m learning to peek over my rising walls and just be honest when that happens. Admit that I’m hurt. Then, together, we can move forward and heal.

So, yeah, maybe some people don’t care what I have to say. Maybe some people do. My goal with this blog (other than helping me keep track of my own self-care journey) is to be vulnerable and honest and raw because to be known, truly known, is a good feeling. And that is my wish to you all.

Posted in anxiety, depression, healing, self-care, self-love

This isn’t a gardening blog

But I did start a garden. It’s small. Four pots. Two vegetables and two herbs.

It’s an experiment in self-care. The idea came to me because I kept drawing the Nine of Pentacles every time I did a tarot reading for myself. The Nine of Pentacles often depicts a woman in her luscious garden, not laboring, but rather, enjoying its richness.

Work hard and then enjoy thIMG_4454e fruits of your labor. The garden acts as a symbol for my real work.

Since my last post, I’ve come a long way in my healing. There is still work to be done (because there is always more you can learn about yourself), but I am in a good place. It’s weird. I constantly question my happiness, am nervously waiting for everything to come crashing down on me and plunge me back into the dark depths of my own brain. But so far, it hasn’t happened. Can I get a HELL YEAH?!

Mainly, I think this is because, through therapy (and more therapy and more and more and more therapy), I’ve learned the skills I need to get back to my center. I have learned that I am worthy of self-care. As someone who has consistently put the needs of everyone I know ahead of my own, this is a new notion for me. But hey, turns out my therapist, Joy, has some pretty solid advice.

Depression and anxiety are different for everyone, but for me, a lot of it was being completely overwhelmed by the smallest, simplest of tasks. If I knew I had to do the dishes, I would dread doing them. I was too tired to do them, but looking at them made me even more tired. The stack would continue to pile up and become more and more daunting. Before bed, I would tell myself, “Tomorrow after school I AM GOING TO DO THE DISHES.” And after school, I was so exhausted I couldn’t bring myself to move off the couch. This could go on for days (once for 2 full weeks). Add to this a list of other tasks: homework; laundry; text so-and-so back; make an effort to socialize (ughhhh). Even things I legitimately wanted to be doing, like practicing yoga, seemed like so much work. I just didn’t have the energy. So I literally did nothing, and my list continued to grow, which overwhelmed me even more, so I did nothing still… you can see how the cycle goes.

Anyway, I have sort of learned how to better manage my anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely still fall to pieces here and there, but I try to take inventory of how I am feeling, try to be aware of my triggers, and (this is a big one) I try to say ‘no’ sometimes when I don’t want to or don’t have the energy to do something.

Which in turn, gives me time to do things I actually want to do, and thinIMG_4408k about things that I want to think about. One thing that I keep circling back to is writing. Even if it isn’t any good, even if nobody reads it, I just need to get the words out.

So, here I am, trying this blog again after a 2-year hiatus. (Oops.) I’m hoping to document my attempts at self-care and self-love. Because, although I’m better at it than I was two years ago, it still takes work and conscious effort.

But you’ve got to water the garden if you want to eat the damn tomatoes.

 

Posted in depression, healing, hope

On Falling Apart

A couple of days ago, I read an essay (named so aptly, I borrowed the title for this post) about a young women who was checked into a psychiatric facility by her best friend at the age of thirty. By the end of this piece (“On Falling Apart,” by Sady for Rookie Magazine), I was in tears. Although Sady and I had different experiences with mental illness, this story hit so close to home.

Almost one year ago, I left with seven of my friends for a weekend in Las Vegas. Two of my friends were celebrating birthdays, we had tickets to EDM shows, and our days were to be spent lounging poolside with drinks in hand. On the first night of our trip (or rather, very early the next morning, sometime around 1 or 2 AM), I attempted to end my life. I was twenty-four.

A lot of things led up to this moment. I was working full time (usually 50+ hours a week) and was enrolled in 5 classes (more than full time) at my local community college. I was living with two friends, and though our apartment was, for the most part, peaceful, it was a home of three young females. Attitudes rolled through occasionally. Lately, I hadn’t felt like myself and I had been spending any time I wasn’t at work or school locked in my bedroom where I would lay in bed, alternating reading and sleeping all day long. I was too tired to go out with friends or even chat with my roommates over dinner.

I called my mom the morning we were leaving for Vegas and she asked me to please, please, be careful. Stay with my friends, don’t drink too much, take care of myself. I was excited to forget about all of my responsibilities for a couple of days and just let go. I wanted this, but for some reason, I was nervous. It wasn’t abnormal for me to experience social anxiety before group outings, so I brushed the feeling away.

We began drinking around 7 PM as we got ready for our night out. It made me feel more relaxed and I was able to laugh and enjoy time with my friends. We went to a bar in the hotel for a couple of drinks before heading to our show. One of my friends (my best friend, Matty,  actually) told me I was already too drunk and I needed to slow down. Instead of seeing this as wise advice, I felt hurt and judged. I was just trying to be like everyone else.

The rest of the night comes in flashes. I know the line to the club we had tickets for was incredibly long, so one friend and I went to gamble in the casino to kill time. I remember being sternly talked to by staff when my friend snapped at a waitress for skipping us as she took our orders. Time more than got away from me; I looked at my phone and had several missed calls from my friends who were waiting at the door to the club waiting for us to go in. We got to them and they were, reasonably, irritated. I sensed their frustration and, as I was apt to do those days, assumed that my friends hated me, they didn’t want me around, they wished I hadn’t come. So I headed to the bar and I got another drink.

I don’t remember much of the show. I danced a little bit and walked back and forth from the bar to the area my friends were at. I left repeatedly to refill my drinks. The next thing I remember is being outside of the club (which was located in a hotel lobby on the strip) talking to some staff members. I told them I wanted to leave and go back to my hotel room but when they asked where I was staying I couldn’t remember. I wanted to go back inside to find my friends and, obviously, that was not allowed. I texted and called Matty repeated, as did the men helping me, but he was in a loud, music-filled club, also intoxicated, and didn’t answer. At some point, my roommate came out and found me, and the men handed me over to her to get back to the hotel.

She was pissed. “This is my birthday, I shouldn’t have to be taking care of you!” she shouted as we ran through the lobby. “You need to grow the fuck up and get your shit together!”

She was sobbing, as was I. “I never asked you to take care of me,” I yelled back. We were outside on the strip now, bright lights flashing everywhere. Other visitors were walking past, laughing at our drunken show. I don’t remember entirely what was said, but we both ended up huffing off in separate directions.

My phone was dead and I had no idea where I even was. I didn’t remember what hotel I was staying at or even know which hotel I was currently in. I was in my party dress and my hair was sticking to my face and my makeup was smearing. I felt dirty and ashamed and ridiculous. Ridiculous, I guess, for believing that my friends cared about me or wanted me around. I was alone and achingly lonely. I was tired of being stressed and anxious and sad all of the time. I wasn’t myself anymore and I didn’t want to be anybody.

So, a few stories up in the casino, I climbed over the railing. Looking down, I could see the multiple levels of shiny games and flashy bars and people people people. All of these people that wouldn’t care if I was gone. I was ready for everything to end.

Can you imagine hating yourself this much? Feeling like the entire world would be better off if your presence could just be erased? Feeling a sadness so deep and all-consuming that the only viable escape you can think of is death?

Then, though, there were voices behind me. Several officers were surrounding me on the other side of the railing. One tried to grab me and lift me over and I screamed at him not to touch me and stretched away, holding on with one hand. They asked me why I was trying to jump and I said, I was sad. I hurt.

They worked at keeping me calm and trying to get me back over. One female officer named BJ had taken my wallet off the ground. I had lost my ID at some point during this horrendous night, but my debit card was inside, with a picture of my chihuahua, Bella, on the front.

“Is this your dog?” BJ asked me. I said, “Yeah, that’s my baby.” She said, “I bet she loves you very much.” I sobbed harder. “She does,” I replied. “What’s her name?” “Bella.” “Bella would miss you a whole lot if you were gone. What would she do without you?” she asked me. “Okay,” I sniffed. “Are you ready to come back over?” BJ asked. I cried, but through tears, “Yes.”

Two male officers lifted me over the railing and I hugged BJ and sobbed into her shoulder. They took me to their office, located in the hotel. They asked me questions and did some paperwork. I was sobbing, “I’m so sad,” over and over. I remember a young officer sitting across the office watching me. He looked so sorry. I didn’t even care that he was pitying me. I asked BJ if she had kids and she did, a teenage daughter. I told her I hoped she never felt as sad or lonely as I did.

Eventually and ambulance took me to the emergency room. I assume I was given fluids. I woke up in a shared room with a curtain around my bed. I was wearing two hospital gowns and no shoes. I only had one phone number memorized besides my mom’s, and that was my best friend, Cherish. She was still in Arizona, not interested in the party scene or drinking trips to Vegas. She didn’t answer her phone, so I left her a message. “I’m in the hospital. I don’t know what to do. I fucked up.”

She called me back and I was hysterical. I said I was so sorry for fucking up. I didn’t mean to be such a burden. Cherish cried and told me she loved me and I wasn’t a burden and she was going to take care of me. I didn’t want to tell my mom. I didn’t want my mom to be mad, or to worry. I didn’t want my other friends to know what happened. I was so full of shame and self-loathing. My depression, buried for so long, was now a wide open exhibit for everyone I knew to examine.

I was told I was being transferred to another facility and I would have to change into their hospital gowns. I took two into the bathroom and switched. When I came out, a stretcher was waiting for me. They wheeled me out into another medical transport vehicle which took me to the next building. This place was really just like a holding spot. They took my vitals, cataloged my items (dress, heels, necklace, earrings, wallet), and I basically sat in an exam room until another nurse came in and told me I was being transferred to a psychiatric facility.

In Las Vegas, they have a law that basically says they can hold you in one of these psych hospitals for at least 72 hours if they think you are a harm to yourself or others. When I arrived, I changed into yet another set of hospital gowns. Sans underwear, I had to squat and cough in front of a nurse to ensure I had no weapons hidden up any orifices. I met my doctor, a person I would speak to for around a minute and a half every day as a means of affirming my mental health, and he asked me the same questions I would soon hear daily: How are you feeling? Any voices or hallucinations? Any thoughts of extreme anger? Any thoughts of hurting yourself or others? As if this assessment was all that was needed to decipher what was wrong with me and how to fix it. They switched my medications, added a couple. (I had already been on anti-depressants for around a year).

Finally, they walked me down the hall into a room full of girls. There was a TV bolted high up on the ceiling. Markers and coloring pages were strewn about two tables. I sat down and was brought lunch on a Styrofoam tray with a rounded, plastic spork. I can almost see myself: trembling with fear, pale from a night of drinking, dark under-eye circles from lack of sleep, puffy eyes and a red, splotchy face from endless hours of crying. I had never in my life felt so absolutely frail and breakable. I was glass on the verge of being shattered. A couple of girls greeted me and I managed a “hi” in return. My voice broke. I sat, alone in a room full of people. I reached to my lunch tray and plucked a single grape off the small vine.

A kind voice said, “Grapes make everything better.” I looked up to a pretty woman, maybe in her early thirties, with long, red hair. She gave me a warm smile.

“I… um,” I quietly stammered.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I understand.”