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 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 Uncategorized

Don’t quit your daydream

It is becoming very apparent to me that I am an eternal optimist- mostly. It becomes clear when I’m driving through a town my best friend will later describe as “sketchy and dangerous” and all I noticed were the cute houses with different colored mailboxes. I notice it, also, as I listen to other people complain about the rude clients they’ve dealt with at work all day while personally choosing to remain silent about the injured pets I cared for and the euthanasias I assisted my doctors with that day. (It is a constant choice for me to leave work at work, and I do believe I am healthier for it.) Looking back, I can even see the small glimmer of optimism I held onto during the worst of the worst days of my depression. Even when my days were endlessly long, lonely, and dark, I somehow held out hope that one day they wouldn’t be.

The one place I find it hard to maintain an idealistic attitude? My future. My dreams.

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but as the end of high school loomed nearer and fear of the real world set it, I changed my major from creative writing to the more sensible journalism. Even then, I didn’t really think I had the chops to make it in that field, so I left my four-year-college for a technical school where I studied veterinary technology.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my job and I’m thankful to have my degree. I genuinely get to feel like I make a difference to people every day. But this isn’t what I always dreamed I’d be doing. And, the longer I’m in this field, the more I realize it isn’t really the passion-inspiring career I want for the rest of my life.

Lost and wandering (isn’t that how we all spend our twenties?), I visited a psychic in a lone building in a desolate parking lot in California. She told me she saw me in a career focused on helping people, something like therapy or counseling. Cut to me enrolling in community college for a degree in psychology. This is the closest fit I’ve found to what I actually want to be doing, which is helping people through my writing. I mean, I love therapy. I love going to my own therapist. I enjoy listening to my friends’ problems and assuring them that they are good, beautiful people, and they have everything it takes to succeed inside of them. I could easily excel at counseling others.

But… if I’m being honest, it still feels like the safer choice. The choice with job security and a 401k and a somewhat direct course of action. Does that mean it won’t be fulfilling? No. But will it be the most fulfilling? I don’t know.

Most of my life, I’ve carried around so much insecurity in my heart you could sink a boat with it. I believed I wasn’t funny enough, wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t kind enough, wasn’t good enough at anything. Some of that comes from childhood (none of us makes it out completely unscathed), and some of that comes from friendships and romances I’ve been hurt by as an adult. It has taken literally 5 years in therapy for me to be able to admit that I’m a good person. Even writing that is hard. Neurons in my brain are firing-off, shouting, “No! That is narcissistic! Try harder! Be better! You aren’t good enough to call yourself good!” The difference is that, now, I can acknowledge those self-doubts and say back, “No. Fuck you. I am smart and I am kind and I am good enough, damn it.”

A really important part of that for me is allowing myself to believe that I’m good enough to follow my own dreams. I’m deserving of a life that fulfills me. I am worthy of happiness. (For those of you that this realization comes easily to: consider yourself luuuucky.)

Admitting that I want to be a writer is scary. Admitting that I want to create something in the hopes that others will be receptive to it is scary. Letting go of the typical life plan is scary. But the scariest thing I can imagine is looking back on my life twenty years from now (as I go through the motions at a job I only mostly like) and wishing I had been brave enough to at least try to go after my dreams.

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A couple of years ago, at a particularly low point of my depression, I went with a friend to get a tattoo (great time to make permanent life decisions, right?) I chose the word brave because that’s what I wanted to be. And I was; brave enough to keep fighting. Brave enough to put in the work to get myself healthier. And now, brave enough to admit I have a dream and to chase it as hard as I can.

Posted in self-love

Who I Could Have Been

I am deeply introverted. Not only this, but I am shy. I can mull over my own thoughts in silence for hours. Often, in conversation, I find I don’t have anything to add. I listen, I process, I consider, and then I decide how I feel about something. Sometimes, I will know that I loved a movie or that a person’s comment made me feel sad, but even I won’t really know why at first. Through my quiet process, I become aware of my own thoughts and feelings in a way that allows me to really understand myself. I’d like to think I’m pretty self-aware (5-plus years of therapy can do that to a person).

I wasn’t always like this. As a middle schooler, I was outgoing and loud and silly (and really awkward). I wrote love notes to the boys I had crushes on and listened as my best friend read it to them over the phone. I hollered jokes across crowded rooms to my friends. I acted silly in drama class. (The current me would probably have a panic attack if I was required to take a drama class.) My favorite outfit was a pair of mismatched, brightly colored socks (with shorts, obviously, so they could be admired) and pink Converse. I wasn’t afraid of attention; in fact, I wanted it.

Things started changing around my Sophomore year of high school. A combination of teenage angst, my parents’ constant fighting, and my own first heartbreak, I guess. Everything I was so certain of was now shaky and unreliable. Scared, I turned inward, scuttling into my shell to watch the world from a safe distance.

Looking back at these things is weird. Who would I even be if my parents hadn’t spent years hurtling angry words back and forth? If I hadn’t had to take refuge in my best friend’s maroon Nissan Maxima every night, both of us singing as she drove us around for hours until I finally drifted to sleep and she brought me home. If my first “love” hadn’t been about, “Whoever cares least wins.” If after kissing me on my moonlit driveway that night, he had kept calling, taken me to Prom maybe?

Maybe I would have flown out into the world at age 18 with confidence that only the young and stupid can know. Maybe I wouldn’t have lost myself in taking care of everyone else first. Maybe I would have gone to my mom with my heartache instead of the other way around. Maybe I never would have doubted my own self-worth. What is that like, I wonder? To just inherently believe that you are worthwhile and important in the world?

Still, if I could change it, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t change my grown-up childhood or the pain that ruined forever my naive heart. I wouldn’t change the years I spent empty and lonely. I wouldn’t change the way I needed to run away from everything, but mostly myself. Not the way I ached for love and searched for it in messy beds or the bottom of bitter tasting bottles or finally, over a railing and onto a balcony ledge.

I wouldn’t change it because I am happy with who I am. Saying that feels like a revelation. The version of me who climbed over the balcony railing and wanted to jump wouldn’t have believed it was possible to one day feel that way. I am happy with who I am. Not necessarily with my job, or my slow progress in school, or my financial status. But those things aren’t who I am. Who I am is how I treat people. It’s the jokes that make me laugh. It’s the songs that make me cry. It’s the books that inspire me. It’s the spark of hope at my core that’s burned hot and bright throughout all of this.

So, no, I wouldn’t change my past. I wouldn’t choose the easier path. My struggles are what brought me here, to the woman I am today. And I’m proud as hell of her. I wouldn’t trade her for who I could have been on any day of the week.

Posted in depression

Your shining light

It’s been a while since I’ve written. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything I enjoy, to be honest. Depression has a way of sneaking up on you that is both slow but also unstoppable. There are certain things that help me feel better (I keep a list of them in my journal so I don’t forget about them when the depression hits) but for some reason, this time I couldn’t make myself do them. I would think, “I’ll wake up early tomorrow and do yoga before work. That will make me feel so refreshed.” I had every intention of following through, but morning came and all I felt was heavy and slow and numb and I just couldn’t make myself do fucking yoga. Or anything, for that matter.

September and October are hard months for me. October holds the anniversary of the day I tried to kill myself. And September is even worse; it holds the day that a coworker and friend of mine succeeded in taking his own life, almost one year after my own D-Day (Death Day). These days have a way of coloring my entire world during the fall months. Melancholy grey. Bright, burning red. Aching blue.

Even though I am so grateful to have survived myself, and I have since learned new skills to help myself cope with the depressed days (or weeks, sometimes), even though I can now say “I love myself” and actually mean it, these days hurt to remember. Recently, I drifted back into an old coping mechanism, one where I simply numb myself to life because thinking about it, actually feeling it, is too painful and exhausting. I go through the motions of my day as an emotionless robot, which to me, is even more awful than the deep sadness that comes with depression. This went on for a few weeks.

Finally, late one night, my heart felt ready to weep. I lit a candle and lay on the floor and I wrote what came. What follows is a direct entry from my journal. Because it is real and true and editing it to make it prettier, to make it less vulnerable, feels wrong.

I am trying to write the truth so I can feel the truth. I have been trying to write about Dr. W but it’s hard. I am overwhelmed. I am so sad. But sad is real and real is what matters. 

To be honest, my heart is broken. It will scar and heal and grow stronger, but it will never be not broken. Some days it is really hard to live with that. It’s hard to feel that hurt all of the time. I think it’s partly the curse of the empath. I feel everyone’s pain. And I do see my sensitivity and empathy as a gift. But the pain is a lot. Sometimes I get so down because I see this world of selfish politicians and homelessness and abuse and addiction and mental illness and pain, pain and suffering, and I just think, no matter what I do, no matter how much love I can put out, I can never fix it. There will always be pain and it makes me profoundly sad. 

Is this what Dr. W felt? Is this why he gave up? I can understand. Of course I can. 

There is the cliché that goes something like, ‘if love could have saved you, you would still be with us.’ But maybe love could have saved him. Maybe we all failed him. Maybe we needed to make it clear that we loved him, that he was needed, and valued, and essential. 

I love you, Dr. W. And I’m so sorry. I’m sorry you ever had to feel alone. I’m sorry I didn’t express to you what a great friend and human I thought you were. You were truly the kindest human I ever knew. I showed in your supportive words and the gentle care you showed your patients. I know that having a soft heart can hurt. And I can understand why you felt like you had to leave. I understand because I’ve been there too. But I just wish it wasn’t so. I wish I could have done anything to help you see just a glimmer of hope. Anything to change your mind. I feel like because I was once in your place, I should have been able to see it in you. I should have been able to sense it and to help, but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

Your anniversary just passed and mine is on its way. Yours, an anniversary of death. It will never again not be the day that you died. Mine is the anniversary of when I didn’t die. My D-Day. I’ve lived almost three years since I didn’t kill myself. It seems short and also very long. It’s been hard, which I know you understand. But there have been some really beautiful moments too. Moments where I can feel love pouring out of me over everyone I know. Moments of shining clarity, when I can see my path and my purpose. And even moments that I deeply know myself and love myself for all that I am.

I wish you could have had that. You deserved it. You deserved to see yourself for what you truly are and to have loved that person. I wish it for you. I wish that wherever you are, whatever happens after, that you have seen yourself and loved yourself.

We’re so much the same. You and I and everyone else. We need to be known and loved and we need to know that love matters, that love makes a difference. 

I am so sorry that your flame blew out before you could see the truth. Before you could see that it all matters, every single minute. All you can do is love and love and love some more. That’s the point, I think. We’re here to love and we have to trust that every small bit matters. We can’t fix all of the pain in the world but we can let our love heal our tiny piece of the world. The side effect to loving is hurting. But that’s because it matters. That means it’s real.

I wish I could have shared my candle, could have re-lit yours when it got dim. I didn’t always believe that this mattered, you know. I definitely didn’t believe that I did. Sometimes I still doubt that my love can make a difference. But I just keep holding out. There is a flicker in me that I pray never goes out. In the darkness, it gives me a tiny glimmer of hope that things won’t always be dark. That the light is coming. That one day I will bask in its glow. I hold onto that flickering flame like my life depends on it. Because it does.

I want you to know that you were a beautiful, radiant beam of light on this Earth and that anyone whose life you touched was better for it. I miss you so much. We all do. I still hold your light close to me. And it still hurts to think of you because I loved you and because that love mattered. 

Maybe you are a star now, or a sun, or maybe you are a spirit looking down on us, or maybe your energy was recycled to make ocean waves or to help grow flowers, or maybe you came back as a beautiful dog, like your Annie, or maybe you’re with her somewhere. Everywhere. Wherever, whatever, you are, I hope you have found peace. I hope you are happy and I hope you feel overwhelmingly loved, because you are. 

May you always hold onto your light.
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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.”