Hey, howdy, how’s it going! Nice to virtually connect with you all again via this little blog of mine.

The last time I wrote on here was to tell those who were frequent readers why I had been absent from my writing for so long. After I hit “publish”, I received wonderful feedback, comments, and love from people who read what I was going through. To this day, I am so grateful for that support. Sincerely, thank you all who reached out to show me some TLC. The community I have found online through my blog & YouTube has been outstanding.

But as it turns out, that blog post sharing some of my darkest experiences marked only the beginning of my struggle. I haven’t written since then for a number of reasons. For the most part, my hiatus has been due to the fact that I’m finishing up my final year of college, and I’m incredibly overwhelmed with the prospect of shedding my identity as a student for the very first time in my (remembered) life. Like, seriously though – I’m FREAKING out.

Secondly, even though I’ve been absent from the interwebs, I’ve still been writing a LOT! I’ve been taking a few different writing classes, and most of my creative energy has gone into working on my memoir and discovering the fact that I absolutely adore slam poetry! Who knew?! So I have been flexing my language muscles and putting the fingers to the keys, so to speak, I just haven’t shared it with anyone outside of my academic community.

Lastly, depression and anxiety are both still very present in my life. Some things have gotten a lot better, for which I am so thankful, and some things have shown up in new ways and posed new problems for me. I am still learning a whole lot about my mental health, my spirituality, and my community. I’ve been seeing a therapist for 6 months now, and let me tell you – unpacking all my childhood baggage has really been sucking up my energy!

So yeah – that’s a little bit about what I’ve been up to! (…Also for the sake of transparency: I watched every single season AND the revival of Gilmore Girls in one month while knitting an entire blanket…so…. lots of couch time)

I wanted to write a little update on here now that I’m on my spring break and have a little breathing room. Not that anyone has been waiting with bated breath for my next piece, but I do think it’s a little unfair to write a lengthy piece about how depressed I’ve been and then give absolutely zero follow-up.

So hey! I’m alive. I’m doing better. Life is going pretty well, and I’m doing a lot of self-care and self-discovery right now so that’s cause for a celebration.

The main update I wanted to provide in this little “part two” to my mental illness story is that I am indeed on medication right now as part of my therapy program. In my last piece, I mentioned that I started something and then got immediately off it last summer. I was terrified about starting medication at the time, and I decided to continue putting it off with the hopes I could overcome my depression without it. I feared it would change my personality or that I would become dependent or it would make my depression even worse.

As it turns out, I really do need it at this point in my life, and it has not done any of those things I feared. There are side effects, of course, but it’s been a good choice for me in the long-run and I’m very happy that I gave myself the chance to try it. I’m on 100mg Zoloft and it’s been an integral part of my healing process thus far. I’m actually still adjusting my dosage, so the process continues!

Taking medication and seeing a therapist weekly have worked in tandem with one another to help me examine my childhood trauma, my harmful habits, my patterns of thinking and behavior that further my depression and anxiety.

Now, therapy isn’t for everyone. Medication isn’t for everyone. Some people benefit more from intensive meditation, group therapy, or other forms of support. But I have found that this two-pronged approach to my therapy has been the most successful for me and those in my life who share similar experiences.

What I’m really longing to say is that I didn’t begin healing until I began letting go of my shame surrounding medication, therapy, and asking for help. I didn’t begin taking steps forward until I let go of the life I thought I was supposed to have, and gave into the one that was unfolding within me. I didn’t start to overcome some of my mental illness until I started asking myself:

“Now what’s your part in this?

How are you playing a role in your pain?

How are you playing a role in the pain of other people?”

Asking myself these questions has been hard; finding and accepting the answers has been even harder. It has resulted in me ending a relationship, stepping back from certain friendships, and learning a whole lot about my limits and boundaries. It’s also caused me to get real fucking honest with myself about the harm that I’ve caused, the mistakes that I’ve made, and the shitty habits I’ve built to “protect” myself.

It’s actually really really sucked, but this sucky feeling has also partnered with a feeling of authenticity, too. I know that I’m doing the right thing. I know that I’m learning and growing in directions that are authentic for me. It’s not easy to be asking myself to stretch beyond the limits I’ve set for myself, but it’s also the most at peace I’ve been with myself and my decisions in a long time.

If you are struggling with your mental health right now, I hope this blog post achieves one thing (at the very least): I hope it reminds you that you are not alone in this. If you can let that sink in, even for a moment, I believe it can be a turning point in which you begin asking for and seeking the help that you need. The only reason I am doing a lot better is because of the community beside and within me. The only reason I am doing a lot better is because I let go of the fear of asking for help from that community. If you need it, I hope you will ask, too.

Be well,

A

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I wonder what it’s like to be you. I wonder where your mind wanders when you drift off to sleep, and I wonder who you sleep next to. Who would you call in the case of an emergency? Or after a bad day? Or just to say hello?  There was a time when it would have been me.

I think often about that night on the pier. I wouldn’t let you take a photo of my face. You begged and begged, but I refused. “Only silhouettes,” I said. I didn’t want my insecurities peering back at you through an unforgiving photo. I didn’t want to look through images with you and feel embarrassed, insecure, nervous. I was unsure about you, a little shy. It was so unlike me to be so quiet and reserved, but somehow you brought that out in me that night on the pier. “Only silhouettes,” I repeated. And I turned my back on you and looked out at the water. Click.

 I wonder where you are sometimes, what you’re up to. I remember the days when I always knew. You were in the library, or at work, or in your apartment, or on your way to mine. When we weren’t side by side, I still knew how you were spending your time. Now I know next to nothing about you, or how you spend your days, or who you spend them next to. Remember when it used to be me?

Memories. They’re fickle things, you know? As each day passes they become dimmer and grayer and more difficult to recall. When I’m in those moments with someone I love, they’re full of color and life. But once they’re gone, now that you’re gone, they’re just words and faces and shapes blended together. Shapeless and lackluster, slowing slipping away.

I think often about that night in the yard out back. The music was blaring, I was crying, you were yelling. “Choose,” you said. “It’s either all of me or nothing at all.” I knew the ultimatum would come. But I didn’t quite believe it when it arrived right in front of me. Looking back, I think about how I should’ve chosen you. But for some reason, after all that time, I just couldn’t.

Time. It’s a funny thing, you know? Always moving forward, never looking back. It’s selfish, indeed, but also the most consistent and sure thing I’ve ever known. Time always puts one foot in front of the other. Time doesn’t stop and look back and remember.

I often think about that night in the kitchen. I often think about the night eating barbeque chicken wings. I often think about the paint streamed across your face. I often think about our nights on your couch. I often thing about the hike that started it all.

You brought your camera with you that time, too. You always brought your camera. “Only silhouettes,” I repeated. And I turned my back on you and looked out at Mt. Rainer. Click.

The view was beautiful. Absolutely breath-taking. But somehow, I just couldn’t keep myself from looking back at you.

*Note: this is a very rough draft of a lyric essay I wrote for my creative non-fiction class. 

harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-2-trailer-voldemort-attacks-hogwartsI’ve been carrying around a heavy heart today. A large lump has been stuck in my throat as I carry myself from one obligation, one class, one meeting to the next.

This morning I woke up to the news of Alan Rickman, beloved stage and movie actor, passing away from cancer at age 69. I know of Rickman most intimately from the Harry Potter movies. Surprise, surprise. He played the character Professor Severus Snape, and he ultimately shaped and performed one of the most unlikely heroes of modern book to movie adaptation. Not only would the movie franchise not be the same without Rickman’s portrayal, but the hearts and minds of so many young children who grew up reading and watching the movies would be subpar if he hadn’t inhabited the mind and body of Professor Snape. He brought to life one of the most complex, beautiful, and tragic characters in children literature. He will not be forgotten, and not only because his vocation was that of timeless art, but because of the kindness and compassion he gave to the many he encountered.

This blog post isn’t meant to be a tribute to Alan Rickman specifically, although I truly believe he deserves that and so much more. In reality, this post is what his passing has brought to light for me today: the uncertainty of life, as well as the certainty of an unavoidable death. Whether I meet death with cancer, as Alan Rickman did, or with tragic accident, or natural causes. Death for us all is the one truth we hold. Mortality is one thing we hold for certain. There are existential moments we all experience throughout life where we graze death, and come to the realization of our finiteness. But to live with that constant and consistent reminder would be an undoubtable cause for insanity. It’s brief moments that root us once again in our undeniable finitude.

I don’t know when my life will meet its end. To say that I have no fear surrounding that fact would be a lie. But quite honestly, I fear the loss of my loved ones far more than the loss of my own identity and personhood. Because that is a reality I would, and will, have to live through. What Professor Snape’s narrative brings to light is the courage and dignity we all can carry throughout this life, until we meet our death. What Alan Rickman’s passing reminds me is the choice we have to say yes to love and life in spite of our unavoidable demise.

I got a Harry Potter tattoo a few months ago, and people have asked me “Don’t you think you’ll regret having that when you’re 80?” My answer is consistently “No”, but I realize that my answer is actually much deeper than that. The world of Harry Potter gave me hope as a bullied child growing up, it gave me a world of magic when the realities of the harsh world started to set in on me, and it showed me the light of grace and forgiveness in spite of a world that can seem so dark.

When my grandchildren one day ask me about the 9 3/4 etched into my right forearm, they may ask the meaning and significance. They may ask “After all this time?”

And I will say, time and time again, “Always.”

R.I.P. Alan Rickman. February 21, 1946 – January 14, 2016.

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I’ve become the perpetual third wheel. The missing sock in a drawer full of pairs, the earring that has lost its match, the one burnt out headlight. And I’m totally okay with it. My best friend of nearly 15 years has been dating this new guy for about 6 months now, and I have to say that I’ve become really comfortable being the single friend in that group. I actually really like it.

If you feel like you’re the constant third wheeler, or you’re just bored with being on your own, here are 5 reasons to remind you why being single is the bees knees!

1.  You have a ton more free time.

Let’s be honest: being in a relationship is like having a full-time job. It takes commitment, communication, attention, effort, energy, and lots and lots of time. In fact, relationships are only truly successful if they are given the care that they deserve from both parties! But now that you’re single, you don’t have to worry about all the extra stress that comes from putting your energy into a significant other. You can just chill. You can spend your extra time exploring new hobbies, hanging out with friends, catching up with family. Your don’t have to feel like your days off are tied down to one specific person. You can go with the flow of your life.

2. You can focus on yourself.

Often times, focusing on yourself when you’re dating somebody else can come across as entirely selfish. When you’re not tied down, you have the opportunity to truly dive into who you are, and who you want to be. You can explore yourself independently, and really discover your goals and aspirations outside of being in love with another human. Because it’s true, being in love can be super distracting from the many other things we want out of life. It can take you away from the endless meaningful opportunities than lie in front of us daily. Right now, you don’t have to worry about that!

3. You don’t have to “check in” on anyone.

You don’t have to feel obligated to see what anybody’s up to, and you can completely check out for a while if you want to. You don’t owe anybody a phone call or text explaining what you’ve been up to the last few hours; you don’t have to worry about giving detailed descriptions of your day; you don’t have to talk to anybody if you don’t want to. You are free of emotional and romantic obligation to a partner. Phew!

4. You’re probably going to save a lot of money.

In my past relationships, I’ve always been the type of girlfriend to really spoil her partner. I’ve always been a really hard worker, and when I’m dating someone who identifies as a man, I try my best not to conform to the bullshit notion that he is supposed to pay for everything. And let me tell you – that can be expensive! Being single allows me to save more money, as well as treat myself more. And it can do the same for you! When you want to buy a book that’s been on you to-read list for a while, you can just go and buy it. When you want that new shirt that you saw while window shopping the week before, you can go back and grab it. Not that you’re not able to do any of those things when you’re taken, but still! Everything adds up, and because you have one less birthday and anniversary gift to worry about, you have a little more cash in your pocket.

5. You can enjoy the flirtatious fun of being single.

If you meet a cute boy, you can flirt it up as much as you want. If you start to crush on that girl that sits next to you in class, there’s nothing holding you back from letting her know. If you want to go out on a bunch of dates and have a hoot, you’re free to do so. You can give your number to whoever you want, and you can talk to whoever you want. There’s a lot of freedom and fun that comes from being unattached, and there comes a lot of opportunity to meet a lot of new people.

As I read through this list, I laugh a little at the fact that it kind of sounds like I’m trying to convince myself that I like being on my own. The truth of the matter is that there was a point in time when I really didn’t. I felt insecure and unloved and unsure about myself. But I am so grateful to say that I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel really, really free.

Until I meet someone who makes me want to leave the single life behind, I’m going to dance, laugh, smile, and enjoy my incredible life all on my own! Because it feels good. It really does.

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You were able to ditch that annoying man you met at the bar last weekend. You cut off communication with that toxic friend you met in college. You even managed to dump your old boyfriend when you realized you just really, truly deserved better. Way to go, superstar! Half the battle is finding the right community for you, and knowing when to walk away from certain relationships. But I hate to break it to you: there is one relationship in your life you will never be able to escape. No matter how hard you try, she’ll follow you around like a lost puppy dog. And after a night out, she might even smell like one, too.

No, I’m not talking about your mother, or your childhood best friend, or your weird but lovable Aunt Lori. That stinky Pomeranian I’m referring to is you.

If you haven’t already wrestled with this fact, then you’re either delusional or heading for a mid-life crisis. Making peace with who you are is probably one of the most difficult tasks we face, and it’s an ongoing and tiring process. Hell, I’m in my early 20’s and I swear I’ve already had about 3 quarter-life crises! And if you’re not there now, I’m sure you can think back to your years of young adulthood and chuckle with familiarity.

I’m quite frankly in a perpetual state of confusion, but I can say that at least amidst the chaos, I’ve found deep love and respect for myself and my life. And that, above anything else, has carried me through any dark or uncertain time.

Here are ten tips and tricks that will help you uncover, realize, and remember the beauty of your individuality. Because girl, YOU ROCK! Sometimes all you need is a simple reminder (or ten).

1. Set up healthy morning and evening rituals.

I’m not going to lie – I start a lot of my mornings with disheveled hair and a bad attitude. I am not a morning person by any means, as much as I’d like to be. But setting up positive morning and evening rituals is a practice that I’m trying to make a daily habit, because I’ve seen how powerful they can be. Each ritual will be dependent on your personality and lifestyle. For instance, my mother wakes up and reads The Bible every morning over her cup of coffee, and at night, she reads healings and testimonies in bed (she’s a Christian Scientist). Although that’s not my style, she swears by it as a way in which to focus her energy at the start and end of each day.

What I try to do is write a list of 10 things I’m grateful for within an hour or two of waking up. I write each item down in a full sentence or two (no emojis people), and write “Thank You” at the end of each line. In the evenings, I read something that’s life-giving either from bloggers or writers that I admire. Instead of counting sheep, I count my blessings.

2. Treat yourself from time to time.

Some people do this way too often, while others do this way too little. Finding the right balance of “treat yourself” activities is crucial for not only your well-being, but your bank account. If you bury your problems in Louis Vuitton clutches and silk shawls, you’re not doing it right. But if you constantly feel guilty whenever you splurge on anything, then you’re not really rewarding yourself for how wonderful and hardworking you truly are. Personally, I’m fine with spending money on experiences, but have a hard time spending money on material items. Find out what treat gives you the most joy, and give it to yourself when you need it. You deserve it.

3. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about who you are.

Write down a list of the people in your life, and cross out the ones that make you feel like you’re not good enough. Say goodbye to toxic people and welcome those that uplift you with open arms. This isn’t an easy task – I’m attached to a lot of people that probably aren’t the best for me – but if you don’t surround yourself with a community that inspires and celebrates you, you will always be held back from loving yourself. Sure, self-love comes from within first and foremost, but we are social beings and that cannot be ignored. Make sure your social circle is the right one for you.

4. Stand by your own personal goals.

Set goals for yourself and yourself only. I see a lot of couples who have plenty of goals in life, but most of them are dependent on the other person. I also see a lot of single people who are so damn bored with themselves that they are constantly seeking a relationship. Practice your independence by figuring out what you want for yourself. Whether it’s a promotion, a consistent workout regime, or an international trip you want to take, set goals for yourself and your future. Know that half the battle is just deciding you’re going to do it.

5. Dress up (or down) for yourself.

Put on that sexy little black dress and heels, or don’t. Wear what you want to wear and get as fancy or as comfy as you want, but do it for you and you only. Sometimes I like to put on a flow-y dress, big shades, and a floppy hat just to go to the grocery store. I do it for me – because it makes me feel good. It’s just one of my many Carrie Bradshaw moments, and it’s totally awesome.

6.Seek help when you need it.

Whether you were the constant front-row-hand-raiser in grade school or not, decide that you’re going to be now. This is the school of life, sweetheart, and you’ve got to learn how to ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s from a family member, a friend, a therapist, or a significant other, know what your individual limits are and use the strength others can provide when needed. Often times admitting you can’t do something on your own is the best way to love and nourish yourself.7

7. Make your house a home.

I’m the type of person that needs my living space to reflect not only who I am, but the best parts of myself. After a long day, I want to come home and feel at home. I want to be surrounded by art, photography, quotes, even color schemes that make me feel good. Make sure your space feels like your sanctuary. Make sure it’s a place that reminds you who you are when you seem to forget.

8. Do not compare yourself to others.

This is a lot easier said than done. I think it’s especially hard to practice self-care, self-love, and self-compassion in the 21st century because we are all constantly peering into the lives of others through social media. And let’s be honest, we all post the most flattering, most positive, and most exciting parts of our lives online. But you have to keep that in mind when you’re scrolling through your Facebook.

Don’t compare the reality of your life to the Instagram feed of that pretty cheerleader from college. Don’t get jealous over the seemingly flawless bikini shot of that girl on the beach in Malibu. Photoshop and Instagram filters do wonders, but that’s beside the point! Imperfections are beautiful, and so are you.

9. Write yourself daily affirmations.

Every day, write down something that you like about yourself and read it out loud. Make it a mental habit to think consciously about your many virtues, quirks, and successes. There are so many things about you that are meant to be celebrated, and nobody can do it as authentically and honestly as you can.

10. Encourage and uplift others.

I believe that the stead-fast way to happiness is serving others. Don’t go a single day without telling somebody you love how much you appreciate them. Don’t go a single week without writing a note to someone you care about. I send thank you cards and little tokens of gratitude to a different friend or family member every week. Loving others is one of the best ways we can love ourselves, too. Remember that what you give is what you get, so you better make it good.

Learning to love yourself, truly and wholly, is a life-long process. It’s a grueling task – similar to overcoming the mental battle of whether or not you should stay on the couch and watch Sex and the City reruns, or get off your ass and go to the gym. It’s mental torture just thinking about it, but after a good work out, you feel lighter, happier, and more energetic. You just feel better.

So if you’re stick in a rut, going through a break-up, or just need to refocus your life in a positive direction, be your own hero and set up some habits to help you do so. Practice self-love in your daily life and make the decision that you are going to be your own cheerleader. You have all the power you need to build the life of your dreams, because you, my friend, are one brave and authentic and wonderful woman.

Do you have any habits that help you stay grounded and centered in who you are? Do you have any self-care practices that you want to share? Leave all your self-love secrets in the comments below and feel free to tweet me with any further questions or comments!