Post Therapy Thoughts // The Thing About Expectations

Hi friends, it’s been awhile since my last post therapy thoughts. I missed it terribly. Lately, the motivation to blog comes in waves and I’m honestly just trying to ride them as they come. Not push myself to write if I don’t feel inspired because who wants content that feels forced?

Today, I went into therapy in a whirlwind. In the morning, I woke up early and gathered my thoughts into a journal – which I realized was basically full, so if anyone has any suggestions for a new one that they LOVE, let me know – so I figured I would be good to go, fully prepared for the session. Wrong-o.

Just when life lets you believe things are headed one direction, it yanks you into a completely different place. I got into an argument over a family situation, and got out of the car pissed, walking into therapy shaken up.

I sat down and basically vomited out all my feelings until I had to slow down and drink some water, it’s tough business sharing.

We changed topics and the theme of nitpicking and overly high expectations came up in conversation. Whether it’s a friendship, relationship, work, or anything really, I’ve always created unrealistic expectations. This can lead to symptoms such as disappointment, anxiety, and fear in the future of being let down.

In all seriousness, it’s been a big issue for me and my anxiety. Whenever something new enters my life, I overthink and build up these ridiculous expectations that will usually always end in disappointment. When I get let down, Anxiety Erica has me right where she wants me: afraid. Afraid of change, afraid of repeating my toxic patterns, afraid of anything unknown.

Because if I’m afraid, I won’t do it. I used to not let the scary stuff in. But now, I’ve learned that fear is just false facts and when I found that searching for the truth triumphs–my anxiety was shit out of luck.

However, it still occasionally pops up. That’s the thing about anxiety. With all the therapy and tools you can learn, your brain still thinks the negative thoughts from time to time. They don’t just vanish–it’s just I have new ways to handling them when they’re here.

I have fears, and from that comes expectations that are rigid and unrealistic. When I explained all this to my therapist, she stopped me and nonchalantly said (as she always does):

“Erica, don’t make it ‘good enough.’ It’s already there. Take it for what it is right now.”

Now, I’ve heard high expectations spoken about in many different ways, but this was a first for me. Don’t make it good enough. That really hit me. That’s exactly what I do.

I sit, fester, and obsess over little details until they are deemed “good enough.” Not even for me first, but for the other people in my life. For family, friends, coworkers. When I’m so focused on it feeling “right” and “perfectly fitting”  into my life, I’m missing moments where I could be present.

And that’s the most frustrating thing of all about anxiety. It keeps you caught up in your own little lies, making you miss what could be a truly wonderful moment. One that is good enough all on its own, without anyone’s permission.

This is constantly something I work on, and this new affirmation from my therapist is what I can repeat to myself when I feel the fear and need for expectation creep up into my bones.

No need to find what is good enough, it’s already there. It just is. 

 

Do you have overly high expectations, or a fear that something isn’t good enough? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Anxiety Art // What’s Your Stigma Saying?

“You just have to stay positive.” 

“You don’t look depressed.” 

“You have anxiety? You’re so social I would never have known.” 

We’ve all heard them. Sayings that may seem simple, but continue to perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health. It’s little phrases like “stay positive,” or “just snap out of it” that not only make those suffering from mental illness feel they are a burden, they aren’t even helpful or empathetic.

It’s been awhile, but I was so grateful to have these two wonderful artists share the phrases or sayings they’ve come into contact with throughout their journey.

What’s your stigma saying? 

 

Sydnei

An aspiring art therapist, this sweet soul is advocating mental health and recovery through her beautiful doodles. With bright colors shining off of each print she draws, her words and art are a mixture of her own lessons in therapy and empowering affirmations for those who face their fears on a daily basis. You can buy her art here!

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****TW: Abuse****

“That’s the phrase I heard over and over from my abuser. And I remember the first person I told said ‘that’s disgusting.’ Now, I am surrounded by people who care about me thankfully. But the word dirty has broke me, though these days I am much stronger. Even if I my room gets to a certain point of messy it’s like I shut down. Sometimes my hands with have paint and stuff and I shut down because it translates to ‘I’m dirty.’ It’s the biggest trigger for my PTSD. I’ve had to unlearn that phrase. I’d look in the mirror and instantly feel shame and disgust.”

 

Eliza

Promoting mental health one illustration at a time, this anxious doodler is here to break the stigma. I’ve only recently come to know Eliza, but judging from the vulnerable, authentic and powerful print she submitted for this series–we’ll be fast friends. 

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“Have you tried meditation? Omm yes… but that’s not the point.

Imagine having killer migraines that everyone you met had recommendations on how to take care of. But, you were allergic to the helpful essential oils and your tolerance levels were too high for pain killers. It would be frustrating to constantly hear solutions that worked for others but–because of your body’s chemistry–failed you.

It’s the same with my anxiety. When I open up about it, I’m not looking for solutions.

I’m looking for friendship and support. You don’t know the journey I’ve made or what solutions I’ve tried. You don’t know what may trigger bad memories or add to my anxiety. Perhaps try asking questions rather posing unsolicited advice. ‘Thank you for sharing. Is there something I can do to help?’ ‘I’ve never heard of that, can you tell me more?’

Solutions is what I pay my psychiatrist for. I need a network of caring friends not a network of well-meaning unlicensed doctors.”

 

With help from their pencil and paintbrush, these two artists communicate essential messages of unlearning phrases we’ve heard over and over and navigating unsolicited advice about our own individual struggle. I cannot stress how crucial breaking these stigmas are for those of us who consistently battle mental illness. I’m glad these two women are here, on the front lines with me. Showing up everyday and confronting society–while they confront each aspect of themselves. 

 

Are you an artist that supports mental health? Share your story and you might be featured on the next Anxiety Art series! 

A Look Inside Anxiety Erica

A few months back, my good friend Grace interviewed me for a project she was doing. She wrote an article surrounding a creative person and I was seriously honored–and maybe a little terrified–that she chose me.

Once I had finished answering her questions, she sent me what she wrote and I’ll admit it, I was in tears. Grace has such a way with words, a way of describing the very spirit of someone’s soul that I felt so grateful to be seen by her. Here’s her article below:

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“I threw out my back skiing in ’88. Never been the same since. Going to physical therapy now actually. 1988, that was one hell of a winter.”

“Yeah, just heading to my gyno again. You know, lady stuff going on down there that needs to get taken care of!”

“Can’t wait until these kids are 16 and can drive themselves. I have to pick them up from school, take one to tennis, one to saxophone lessons, get the dog from daycare…You know the routine.”

These are some classic lines you may have told your co-workers as you leave early on Wednesday, like you do every Wednesday, for your weekly therapy session.

Whether its a sense of shame, embarrassment, or denial, many people hesitate to tell others that they are seeing a therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist. But not Erica Arvanitis.

Erica, 26, is a proud ginger, a dog-mom, a puzzle maven, and take-no-prisoners, speak-your-truth, writing warrior. Her blog, Anxiety Erica, chronicles her journey with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and shares the stories of others living with mental illness.

I met Erica when I was living in San Diego. She was a recent hire to the company I worked at and, truth be told, she was pretty hyper and an oversharer. Despite her incessant peppiness, we became friends and I soon saw that underneath all the enthusiasm, there was an awkwardness, a desire to connect, and a cocktail of insecurities, emotions, and fear. By all means, this was the ideal recipe for a starving artist but Erica loved avocados too much to ever go that route. So, instead, with a little bit of nudging from moi, she started therapy.

It was in therapy that she was diagnosed with GAD and was encouraged to express herself to others, not in energetic bursts of conversation, but on paper. Erica lived in a studio where the walls were lined with books and she never left home without the latest read in her bag, so turning to paper to help her deal with GAD simply made sense.

A year into therapy, she decided to share what she had written with the rest of the world and Anxiety Erica was created.

Now two years into therapy, Anxiety Erica serves as an platform to help herself heal and reflect on her own setbacks and discoveries. And while therapy is the main impact in her writing, she feels that connecting with her audience is something that both improves her writing and her own journey with GAD.

“I write about mental health because not only is it important to bring up, but because I know what it is like to feel alone. When I was first diagnosed with GAD, I felt like I was the only person in the world suffering through it,” Erica said when I got ahold of her to chat. “From writing for this blog and connecting with the people I have, it’s so clear there is a wonderful community that’s sprouted from such pain. If I can make just one person feel less alone in their journey, it’s all been worth it.”

Becoming a mental health author has also pushed her into becoming an advocate fighting against the stigmas around mental illness. Her “Works in Progress” series gives others the chance to share their own stories, both triumphant and not, of living with mental illness. She believes intertwining their tales with her own will help more people see they don’t suffer alone and will help combat stigmas by showing the diversity and breadth of people who struggle with their mental health.

Both Erica’s writing and advocacy have grown thanks to her readers. Many readers have brought up crucial topics that she might not have thought of and they help give new points of views that she never would have understood without them. But, she admits, her willingness to write honestly about her life has taught her some lessons in boundaries and how to balance sharing and recognizing when it’s okay to keep something only for yourself.

Erica is still pretty hyper, I think that just comes with the package, but she no longer fits the profile of the starving artist. Since starting therapy and writing her truth, her awkwardness has turned into elegance both on and off the page, she no longer strives to connect but does so every day through her words, and she has learned how to turn insecurities into confidence, how to examine her emotions, and how to face fear. Avocado in hand, she is a healthy artist which is a cliche that I’m much more keen to idolize and follow.

Erica knows that people aren’t as open as she about their mental health or even about attending therapy as she is. “I’m not ashamed…Therapy is still seen as something shameful to others, embarrassing, or like you ‘need help,’” she said with a Liz Lemon-style eyeroll. “But what if I do? It’s okay to reach out, it’s perfectly okay to need help. We can’t do it all and therapy is there to support us in our own self discovery.”

Thank you for seeing me as I am and writing such beautiful words. I’m proud to know you and I love you. 

 

If you want to read about climbing, mental health and her adventures in Utah, go follow Grace at @gracexplorations

Anxiety Erica // Self Love Jamz

For the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize how important music is to my healing. To growing, and to emotionally exploring.

Wherever I am, I’m usually listening to music. Whether it’s in the car, in my apartment, or at work, I’m tuning into some sweet jams that speak to my soul.

Life is full of different – albeit unpredictable – chapters and we tend to listen to different music based on what stage of life we are in. For example, post-breakup I tend to listen to a lot of empowering, emotional and inspiring music to build myself up. As a rule, I do tend to listen to that music a lot, but during times like this it’s more frequent.

That doesn’t mean you can’t listen to an incredibly sad song when you’re happy as fuck, or a really angsty song when you have nothing to be angsty about. You do you. 

I’ve always said that you can tell how a person thinks by what they focus on when hearing a song. For me, I focus on the words. Sometimes, I can get addicted to a sick beat – I realize I’m not cool enough to say phrases like that but also I don’t care – but mostly, it’s the lyrics that get me going.

For others, it might be the melody or instruments, but I find that my heart seeks out certain words, lines or refrains in a great, emotional song.

In the past, I created an Anxiety Playlist, which has a healthy combination of lyrics and just music. From time to time, I do go back and listen when my anxiety spikes. More recently, I’ve been creating another playlist.

What’s funny is that it started out as a post-breakup playlist to get me past all of the anger I have, but it’s morphed into more. I entitled it Self-Love Jamz because that’s exactly what they are. They are a wide range – I like all kinds of music, man – and each one has a purpose.

I thought I would share a few of my favorites, and the specific lines that mean the most to me. Here we go.

Free to Fly, Betty Who

I lost my identity, I was wrapped in you, it was absolute
Now I’m finally seeing, yeah
That I’m a brand new queen, I don’t have to ask, I’m the quarterback
Of my own damn team, yeah

When I hear this song, I will forever be brought straight back to discovering it with my best friend. We had just jumped back into my car from being out in the pouring rain, and I randomly tapped on this song. Just so everyone is clear, Betty Who is a goddess. Listen to her everyday, all the time. I do.

That one moment hearing her empowering words of self-discovery was everything. Realizing that I have my own identity outside of a relationship, and it’s time to get back to that was much needed. Plus, jamming in the car with my very best friend while she came to visit was a major plus.

Best Thing I Never Had, Beyoncé

I wanted you bad
I’m so through with that
‘Cause honestly you turned out to be the
Best thing I never had
You turned out to be the
Best thing I never had
And I’m gon’ always be the best thing you never had

Without fail, this song seems to pop up when I’ve had my heart broken. And every time, it changes my perspective. It always reaches into the depths of my soul, and pulls out the confidence I always keep locked up.

I have been through three breakups, and all of them have certainly been the best thing I never had. Every time I get some space from the hurt, I realize just how much I wanted them at the time – and how much I benefited from not having them around anymore.

Dear No One, Tori Kelly

So if you’re out there I swear to be good to you
But I’m done lookin’, for my future someone (oooh)
Cause when the time is right
You’ll be here, but for now
Dear no one, this is your love song

This one took me awhile to understand, but I think I finally get it. Everyone always says, “the right person comes when you aren’t looking for it.” Commence the eyeroll. But, they are right in a sense.

For me, I’ve learned that I’m done searching for someone. It’s time to work on trusting myself, and being the best Erica. That’s more important and like the song says, when the time is right, they will be here. Dear no one, I’ll be ready for you when I’m ready. 

Dancing On My Own, Robyn 

I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her, oh oh oh
I’m right over here, why can’t you see me, oh oh oh
And I’m giving it my all, but I’m not the guy you’re taking home, ooh
I keep dancing on my own

Okay, so the lyrics of this song don’t exactly apply to me, but it’s the feeling that I connect with most. When I hear this song, it feels like being young, 20-something, and lost when it comes to love. I also think of the scene in Girls where Hannah and Marnie just dance in Hannah’s room to this song, no fears. Nothing stopping them. I’m even getting emotional thinking of the scene, because the first time I watched it, I really understood it.

Just the single refrain, I keep dancing on my own, means something. It means that bad days will come. Breakups will happen, but I’ll keep dancing on my own. I’ll keep going. Unafraid of what’s to come.

Body Of My Own, Charli XCX

Lights out
On my own
Got my darkness
I’m into myself
Don’t need you

Not only does this have a catchy as fuck beat, Charli XCX has always pumped out songs that are all about claiming yourself. I just love the line she keeps repeating. I’ve got a body of my own. It’s a melodic, angsty reminder that I’m whole all by myself. I don’t need someone else to create happiness. To feel joy. To grow, learn, succeed.

Life in Pink, Kate Nash

Wish I could let my brain
Decide and stop the pain
I keep heart-shaped glasses close to me
For when it rains (life in pink)
Rip it up and start again

I’m always a sucker for songs that focus on mental health, and Kate Nash really nails it with this one. Not only does she get into the details of how mental illness makes us feel, she even has moments where she talks about not having the energy to clean her room, or take care of herself.

But no matter how bad it can get, she always has those heart-shaped glasses close to her for the good days. It’s a wonderful metaphor for being ready to stay present for those wonderful, magical days where you are so clear and the thoughts aren’t overwhelming.

Have A Nice Life, Murs

Give it time, let it work itself out
Meditate on the better things, never dwell in self-doubt

For the last song I’ll share, I figured it should be a deep one. I was introduced to Murs from an ex-boyfriend, and for so long after we broke up, I didn’t let myself listen to his music because it didn’t feel like it was mine. It felt like it was the dead relationships’ music. But guess what? They don’t own those songs, go ahead and listen to it. 

Sometimes, people tend to stray away from certain shows, music, art or whatever because it has a painful connotation, but there are times when you can push past that and just enjoy it for it is again. I’m so glad I did that with Murs.

He has such a way of speaking to vulnerability that is heartfelt and authentic. I love it. Lately, his new songs have been very mental health focused and it’s wonderful he’s given it a voice. For this song, I love this specific line because his tone feels very introspective, he has been through so much. The line, Give it time let it work itself out, is almost like an affirmation for me.

 

So, there you have it. Those are just a few – okay, maybe a little more than a few – songs that mean something to me. To me, the right lyrics can be transformed into affirmations for me to repeat, practice and act out in daily life. Believe. 

Here’s my full Self-Love Jamz playlist, give it a listen if you’d like:

 

What lyrics really speak to you? Share them in the comments below! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Time To Trust Myself

Hi, friends. It’s been awhile. Man, I’ve missed you all. It’s been a whirlwind start to 2018, but it certainly hasn’t been what I thought it would be.

I’ve learned – and unlearned – so many important lessons. I got into a new relationship, and recently, things ended with that relationship. I was broken up with again, but this time it was very different.

In the past, when I’ve been broken up with, I react in pure, overwhelming sadness and grief. I’m a sobbing mess. I think it’s all my fault. That I’m the burden causing this surprising end.

This time, I felt anger. Pure, healthy anger. Wanna know why? Because I did absolutely NOTHING wrong. I was blindsided, and it wasn’t anything I could have done. He wasn’t ready to be in a mature, grown up relationship with someone else, so he skipped out. It’s as simple as that.

As I described to my therapist the night of my breakup, she became more and more proud of me. I’m not used to being direct or confronting my anger, so this was a giant step forward for me

I realized, I’m proud of me too. I’m proud that I didn’t automatically think it was my fault, or that I’m such a burden for having my insecurities or anxiety.

We then unpacked my intuition. Normally, I get a sense when things aren’t going how they usually do. Since I’m an empath, I can get effected by the smallest shifts in emotional behavior. Sometimes, these shifts are so tiny, the people themselves might not even know they are doing them.

But, time and time again – I feel them. Loud and clear. So, when I sensed them in my now ex-boyfriend, I asked him if something was wrong. He kissed my hand, and said everything was fine. This is where my anger started. 

Since I was told everything was fine on that front, I took the “this is my anxiety” path. The one where I go to therapy and unpack why I’m picking at my seemingly fine relationship. I told my ex boyfriend this as well, so he listened as I explained to him my anxiety with this, and let me be misguided. Let me stay anxious about something that was to become my reality. I don’t deserve that. From now on, I need to trust those instincts and let them lead my decisions.

I was disrespected by him, and that’s where the next key point comes in. This is now the third time I’ve been broken up with, and it’s never easy. Yes, I’ll freely admit that I’m always the one being broken up with, but it’s because I put up with a lot of bullshit from my partners.

I’ve recently come to the realization that, in my past, I’ve dated people with addictive behaviors. People that consistently prioritize their addictive behavior before me, and as a result, they are emotionally immature.

When this third breakup happened, I was pissed but when I finally called my friend to tell her, I started crying and said, “Why won’t anyone stay?” 

I told my therapist this and her reply was,

“It’s time to stop thinking no one will stay, and start picking the people who are capable of the long haul.”

Because she’s right. I’ve been settling and tolerating a good deal of bullshit because – in the end – I’m afraid they will leave. And honestly, I have that fear because it happens, and it happened in my childhood. All men did was leave.

But, the time for tolerating is over. The time where I thought I didn’t deserve a higher quality in men is cancelled.

Based on this extremely empowering and productive therapy session, here are my new affirmations:

I am worthy of my own trust.

do not have to tolerate disrespect or something I am not comfortable with in any relationship – I deserve better.

I am loving and worthy of unconditional love.

 

No more forgiving because I’m afraid they will leave. Let them leave. If they don’t want to stay, they aren’t meant for me in the first place. I deserve someone authentic, kind and willing to put in the work for the long haul. Nothing less.

 

What lessons have you learned from a breakup? Share your story in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Jocelyn

Suffering from years of abuse by a family member, Jocelyn’s mental health issues began at an early age. Pushing through a period of darkness, she was able to find the light through a combination of nutrition, consistent movement, and self-care.

Meet Jocelyn.

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Name: Jocelyn Zahn

Age: 25

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

(TW/CW: Suicidal ideation, self-harm, eating disorders, sexual abuse)

I have been diagnosed with PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder and have also battled orthorexia and anorexia.

My mental health issues arose at a young age. During my childhood, I suffered years of sexual abuse by a family member. At age 12, my life felt as though it was falling apart for the very first time. After going through the Texas public school system and taking “sex education”, which was really only abstinence only education, as an 7th grader, I began to panic. The system failed me entirely and I believed the abuse was my fault. I was scared, alone, and felt as though I couldn’t tell anyone what happened to me because they would view me as a sinner. When you’re young, you don’t always understand the concept of abuse, I certainly didn’t. And the “sex education” I received only left me feeling isolated and hopeless.

This was the first time I can recall staring a hole through my knife drawer in my home in San Antonio. This was the first time I envisioned what it would be like to take my own life…and I wanted to. The suicidal ideations have been a part of me almost every day since.

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

Well, I was truly pushed to my limit before I decided to reach out for help. The first time I received mental health treatment of any kind was when I was hospitalized at 18 for suicidal ideation. This was a result of me coming out and having negative backlash-to say the least. I lost almost everything and everyone I loved (at least for a time) and I wanted to throw in the towel. Though, I definitely wish I had received help earlier.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

While I am ecstatic to say my life is beautiful and fulfilling now, I still live with my mental illness every day. I have come to learn and accept the fact that it is a part of me, a part I will live with forever. Because of this, I have shifted my focus from trying to “rid myself” of my mental illness to learning how to cope with it daily.

I have learned coping skills that work for me, my mind, and my body. Developing these skills certainly looks different for everyone, but for me, I have found great success in balancing my mood through food, movement, and spirituality.

90% of our serotonin (some people call this the ‘happy’ chemical, or the ‘feel good hormone’) is made in our gut. This has been an incredible thing for me to focus on and experiment with due to the fact that the biggest daily challenge I face in regards to my mental illness, is volatile mood swings. Gut health has saved me a whole lot of random ‘crying for no reason’ tears or ‘lashing out at someone for no reason’ moments. I have found a balance of nutritious and not so nutritious food that works for me to maintain a steady mood throughout the day.

Other than that, incorporating consistent movement has been a life saver for me. Due to years of suppressed trauma, I have a whole lot internalized anger. Moving my body intuitively gives me the outlet I need to release this anger and anxiety. As you can imagine, this helps balance my mood, as well.

A couple years back, I learned that me and almost my entire immediate family has some pretty severe vitamin deficiencies. This was so helpful to learn (KNOWLEDGE IS POWER haha). To combat my almost daily suicidal ideations, I take a Vitamin D supplement, as I am lacking quite severely in that area.

I also practice affirmations, daily self-care, and tarot card readings- as they help me feel more connected to something bigger than myself and my own problems.

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

Wow. This is an excellent question. Contrary to popular belief, living with a mental illness has not been all negative for me. Living with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more has made me a much more empathetic person than most people I know. It has given me the skill of powerful and active listening. It has taught me so much about what it means to be “good enough” as a human being on this earth. It has given me perspective. It has also led me to the career of my dreams. All of which, I wouldn’t trade for the world.

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

If I could tell younger me one thing, it would be that no matter how much the darkness is consuming me at any given moment, it is not me. Darkness lives inside of me because of things that have happened to me, yes. But the light is a part of me.

I would tell myself that as alone as I feel at times, I don’t have to carry my burden alone.

 

Learn more about how Jocelyn has turned her mess into her message at Holistic Self-Love!

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments and you could be featured on the blog!

Post Therapy Thoughts // Focus on the Facts

Settling into a new job, new relationship and searching for a new space can take a toll. Recently, it’s been a challenge to find time to sit down and write. Even when there’s time, I’ve found it tricky putting the words together.

So, I took some time away. With much needed rest and self care, I’m back – and I come ready to talk about a new exercise my therapist and I came up with surrounding fear.

With all the new in my life, my anxiety has trouble keeping up. She normally finds a reason to unleash fear – an irrational, mean and overly criticizing monster. Any positive, new landmark in my life, she discovers an innovative way to suck the excitement out of it.

In therapy, we discussed my fear and while my therapist has told me the age-old acronym for it – false evidence appearing real – it was time to find a new coping tool for fighting fear. Here’s what she said:

“When dealing with fear, it’s essential to focus on the facts. Fear is irrational and will latch onto any negative thought, so fight it with what is real.”

I had never heard of fighting fear in this way. My therapist suggested that when I started to feel the fear, I break out my journal and write down a list of facts. Facts that are 100% real for me right now. Here’s an example:

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What I’ve written in my journal above is a list of the facts as they are right now. What this does is three-fold:

  • Distracts your mind from fear anxiety with the task of writing it down
  • Forces reality into your thoughts when put it to paper and read it aloud 
  • Creates new affirmations for the next time fear anxiety strikes 

It’s taken me awhile to find something that actually helps to ease my fear anxiety. When you can feel fear taking over your mind, think of the facts. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into another round of what ifs, or it won’t work out – take back the control with a healthy dose of reality.

 

Do you feel fear anxiety? Share how you fight it in the comments below! 

A Year in Reflection // 2018 Goals

The year is drawing to a close and we all know what that means. The dreaded New Year’s resolution. I’ve never been a fan of calling them resolutions. There is always a pressure to maintain them or you’ve failed, you aren’t good enough if you didn’t keep up with that drive to lose ten pounds.

I would much rather call them goals. I’ve always had much more concrete goals for myself each year. And if I don’t achieve each and every one perfectly, that’s okay. You aren’t a failure if you don’t do exactly what you said you would right off the bat. Practice makes progress.

This time of year always calls for reflection. 2017 has been a year of learning and unlearning valuable lessons. It’s a year of intense positives and negatives in my personal life. It’s a year that I moved onto a new job, got into a relationship and that relationship ended. It’s a year I lost several people, only to gain so many that were right for me.

2017 was the year I started this blog. It was the year I finally decided to take the plunge and start writing more, sharing my story and the stories of others. It was one of the best decisions I could ever have made. It has not only allowed me to overcome so many hurdles in my own mental health, but I have connected with so many wonderful people in this community. I feel so grateful to have them in my life. I’m much better for it. 

2017 was the year I lost a partner, one that was not ready to be in an adult relationship. One that didn’t understand what it was to be with someone with anxiety. I spent months learning from this loss, letting myself truly feel each emotion and it was how I let a new person into my life. The same year I lost a partner, I gained someone so much more.

2017 was the year I got another new job, one that I truly believe is my passion. When I got the call that I had it, I felt a wave of purpose mixed with true happiness wash over me. This is what I’m meant to do. I cannot wait to start 2018 with such a wonderful company!

Whether you’ve had a good, bad, confusing, or life-changing year, do not forget that you are full of possibility. You can make 2018 whatever kind of year you want it to be. I don’t know what this next year will bring, but here are some of my goals:

 

Learn to be smarter with my money

This has been something I’ve struggled with all of 2017. This past year, I had my first studio and I’ll admit – it’s really hard paying studio rent and not being broke all the time. With my new job, I’m making it a goal to learn how to budget better so I can thrive in a bigger space soon. We all have money anxiety and honestly I wish money wasn’t as big of a deal as it is, but I can definitely afford to be smarter with my cents.

Get more creative 

Whether that means getting more creative with things I write on the blog – new series, collaborations, etc – or picking up where I left off with a few of my creative projects on the side, I want to finish what I start. I’ve had an idea for a children’s book in the back of my mind for years, but never have the self-discipline to keep going with it. This is the year I push myself.

Spend time away from my screen

This past year, I’ve had multiple people tell me I spend too much time on my phone. While it can be annoying to hear, they are right. I’m so locked into my phone that I’m not experiencing life going on around me, and that needs to stop.

Whether it’s finding an allotted time where I don’t use my phone or actively practicing leaving my phone in my purse when I’m out, I think it’s time I learn to separate with my screen a little better.

Give this new job my all

It’s really starting to sink in that I have a fresh start with this new job. I have the opportunity to show my talents to the world through this wellness company, and that’s just what I plan on doing.

2018 is the year I give my new position all that I have. I so look forward to practicing more of my passion on a daily basis!

Make time to read

This year, I participated in a wonderful book club that had me reading so many different books! However, life has gotten the best of all of us lately and we are majorly behind. 2018 is the year I make time to read. Netflix tonight? No, I will actively be putting down the remote to pick up a new book. I love reading so much, it’s always been a form of self care for me. I want to find the pleasure in it again.

Practice unlearning

This year, I’ve unlearned more than I ever thought I would. It took a genuine relationship with a man who is able to communicate in a healthy way for me to truly understand that what I thought relationships were isn’t healthy.

Not just specific to relationships, I’ve had to unlearn how to be treated at work, how I deserve to be treated by my own family, and what a healthy friendship looks like. While learning is essential, unlearning is so, so important for growth. It’s not a negative, it’s important for us to realize our worth, what we deserve.

 

I’ve achieved so much for my mental health in 2017 with continuing therapy, this blog, and making new realizations about myself and my own anxiety. While I experienced a lot of loss, I also gained so much more than I thought was possible.

I still stumble and fall some days, but that’s all part of the process. I head into 2018 as a work in progress who knows her worth. I am good enough and so are you. 

 

What are your 2018 goals for your own mental health? Share in the comments below! 

 

 

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The Importance Of Animals // ESA’s + Service Dogs

I know, I know. It’s been a little while since my last post. Albeit, I’ve been sick this week and prepping for a new job, but still..it’s about time I get back to it.

While my holiday came and went without a hitch, today was something much different. Since I’ve been sick, I’ve really just been hanging out at home watching TV in bed. I’ve given myself permission to rest.

One of my family members came to visit and bring me a few things for my cold, and while it started out pleasant, it certainly didn’t end that way.

I found myself sitting through the same fight I’ve been in with some of my family lately. I’ve been fighting for my own mental health, my space, and my voice.

I have a very complicated and emotional relationship with specific members of my immediate family. One that has always been surrounded by the fact that I’m now sticking up for myself. I’m speaking up – protecting me. I have never felt safe or protected around them, so with therapy and inner work I’ve learned to raise my voice and fight for me.

I’ve come so far and done so much work in therapy to find my inner voice and authenticity, and sometimes being this self aware really sucks. It pushes people away – people drop like flies when they see growth. It’s unfortunate and hurtful, but it’s life. Weak people will always find a way to make a monster out of self awareness. While it hurts, it means I’m always fighting for my mental health.

When I asked her to leave my space – I could feel myself getting anxious and uncomfortable – she planted her feet firmly, with her hands on my bed frame, and loudly told me no. In one simple action, she disrespected my feelings, my space, and my mental health.

When she eventually left, I sat on the floor of my studio and cried. Noticing how anxious I was, my 11 year old dog Gussie – who is also my ESA – just came up next to me and laid down. With his paw on my leg. He didn’t move it until I stopped crying. In that moment, that was exactly what I needed. A safe, comforting touch from a soul who loves me exactly for me. ESA’s aren’t just for having your animal in your space fee free. They help in a huge way for mental health. He’s there when I need him. He loves me in any state.

I’ve written about Gussie as my ESA – Emotional Support Animal – before (you can check it out here) and it’s still as crucial now how he helps me heal.

Today, he was the little bit of comfort and support I needed, and just six or seven months ago, he was glued to my side during an emotional breakup. Whether you have anxiety getting on a plane and traveling, or suffer from severe panic attacks, ESAs and service dogs are a gift to this world. They unconditionally love you for you. 

ESA’s vs. Service Dogs

You might be asking yourself the question, what’s the difference? Don’t worry, it’s not a stupid question because you would be surprised how many people share that inkling. If I’m being completely honest, years ago I didn’t specifically know the difference until I took the time to research it.

Here’s a helpful definition of each from the American Kennel Club:

The key difference between a service dog and an ESA is whether the animal has been trained to perform a specific task or job directly related to the person’s disability. For example, alerting a hearing-impaired person to an alarm or guiding a visually impaired person around an obstacle are jobs performed by service dogs. Behaviors such as cuddling on cue, although comforting, would not qualify. The tasks need to be specifically trained, not something instinctive the dog would do anyway.

After the emotional fight and having my moment with Gussie, I took to a Facebook group I’m part of called Dogspotting Society. I had seen people post stories of their own ESA’s in the past, so I took the chance and posted about my own experience with my pup.

I didn’t really know what to expect from it, mostly just to help me heal from the day – since sharing and writing is cathartic for me. But man, did I get the most amazing response! Not only did I get words of support and praise, I had endless strong souls commenting to share their stories and photos of their sweet animals that have helped them along the way.

Here are a few of their stories and the animals that have helped them heal!

Rachel & Harley

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***Trigger warning: suicide, suicidal thoughts***

How did she become your ESA?

That is a pretty long story. Our history is a pretty complicated one. Long story short, I fostered her twice since she was a puppy and when she was returned to me a third time I decided to keep her. A week or two after I got her back, my mom (who I was very close to) killed herself in our backyard. My dad found her and I had to help clean up the remains that EMS didn’t take… It was very traumatic for me and I couldn’t move far from bed for weeks. Harley stayed with me the entire time and licked my tears away when I would cry. She would bring me toys and cuddle with me when I wouldn’t move. She never left my side, not even to eat or drink. I brought everything to my room because the only times I would get up was to bring her to go outside. After my mom’s death I thought about suicide myself very often after that. I forget the statistics but once a family member commits suicide, members close to them are more likely. My plan that was always in the back of my head was that I would drive my car into a tree. In order to keep myself from acting on my urges I started driving everywhere with Harley in my passenger seat. When I finally had the motivation to go see a psychiatrist they said that I could bring her with me to my appointment. I brought her with me to my next few sessions and after seeing and hearing how well she took care of me, my psychiatrist wrote me a letter for her to be my ESA.

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How has she helped your mental health?

As you can tell from my story, she pretty much kept me alive. She gave me a reason NOT to kill myself when that urge came, and comforted me the best ways that she knew how. My mental health has improved drastically in the 3 years that I’ve had her, I still see my psychiatrist and they recently mentioned how much I’ve changed. I used to go into their office so defeated and depressed, I wouldn’t even look anyone in the face. My eyes were always glued to the ground and I barely talked. Now I walk in smiling and have so much to say and talk about.

Emily & Wally

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I can’t believe how much my doggo has helped with my mental health. We got Wally as an ESA but it’s not official yet. He’s still a pup, so when I’m upset he’ll either ignore me, try to play with me, or, on one occasion, lick the tears off my face and nudge me with his nose. 

Kelly & Xena 

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Xena isn’t actually an emotional support animal but sometimes I think she should be. Her emotional intelligence is through the roof (though she can’t solve a problem to save her life) and any time any of us is upset she knows and comes over and MAKES you pet her, despite not normally being cuddly. Plus when I got her, she changed my other dog into a whole new dog – he went from being a ball of anxiety who was afraid of EVERYTHING and always upset to an almost normal doggo who still complains about everything but is much calmer and happier. 

Sorry about your rough day! I’m so glad for your ESA, they truly save lives. Xena has saved me from plenty of panic attacks and helps me chill when I’m stressed. I’m super glad to have her.

 

Danielle & Haru

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I’m kind of ashamed to admit it since I try to be cutesy with my posts here but I have a really REALLY terrible violent temper and usually after I act out I’ll get an urge to self harm or spiral into a depressive episode. Haru does typical ESA things like coming to me when I’m crying and tolerating being a hugging pillow when I’m sad, but his presence alone helps the most because not wanting to upset him with an outburst forces me to use healthier coping skills.

 

Victoria & Doomper 

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 My doomper man. He’s always been a mama’s boy. Every time I have an anxiety attack, he will come head butt me until I am using both hands to pet him and hold him close. He’s been a lifesaver for me. My husband said if an apartment complex won’t accept him, we don’t live there. There have been several nights where I’ve disassociating as I wake up and he’ll follow me to the bathroom and if I don’t respond when he meows, he’ll go wake my husband up in any way necessary so he can make sure I’m OK.

Kaleigh & Tootsie

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We’re emotional support for each other. ❤️

Ellen Jean & Harley Quinn

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She helps me when I’m having an anxiety attack by performing deep pressure therapy and basically annoying me until I take medication. She also is learning to retrieve items for me when I’m unable to do so for myself due to a vertigo spell or migraine. I decided to train her to be my service dog after my therapist suggested it being a beneficial part of my treatment along with medication. She has helped my family in many ways. We got her less than a week after our cattle dog passed away unexpectedly. She has helped us heal from his death and gotten back into activities that we used to do with him like going to local state parks and walking trails. She has also shown my husband how much she can actually help me with my mental and physical health. He is now extremely supportive and understands my mental and physical needs a lot more now because of her.

The more we bring up these special animals, the less stigma there is surrounding their gifts to those of us with mental illness. I’m so proud to have these strong, sensitive souls sharing their experiences on my blog – and the unconditional love from all those furry friends!Do you have an ESA or service dog? Share your story in the comments below! 

Self Care Club // Therapy Threads

Guys, life has been seriously chaotic lately. With new opportunities and adventures around each corner, I’ve been almost on standby – waiting to embrace the unknown of certain areas of my life.

I had reached out to Therapy Threads – a fantastic, meaningful company that combines aromatherapy and wellness with fashion – to be part of their Self Care Club a few months back because I truly believe in their mission, and the inspiring founder, Dani Singer.

Self care is something constantly discussed in the mental health community and what is so beautiful about it is how different it looks to everyone. While it can be marketed over social media as taking a bath, using bath bombs or a facial – it’s so much more than that.

Whether it’s reading your favorite book, going for a drive without a destination, exercising, or taking a nap – the focus isn’t really on the activity itself. It’s the meaning and purpose behind it.

Whatever it may be, self care is an active way that those with mental illness nurture the practice of putting ourselves first.

While I swear by my own forms of self care now, I didn’t always practice it actively. I still find myself having trouble truly focusing on myself. More recently, while learning about a new flyer my therapist gave me, my first thought was, I would love to share this on the blog – people would learn so much from it! But, what about me? I had to process it and learn too. I was completely skipping myself and my therapist didn’t hesitate to remind me.

It is companies like Therapy Threads that also help to remind me of the real mission. I’m so glad I get to partner with this wonderful brand that has come from such an authentic place.

Delivering hope and healing one thread at a time, Therapy Threads is the product of passion for using fashion as a foundation for wellness. Combating mental illness, their patent-pending aromatherapy scarves aren’t just super cute – you are literally wrapped up in the benefiting power of essential oils when wearing one of these bad boys. Cool, right? 

Dedicated to fighting the stigma against mental illness, Therapy Threads even gives a portion of the proceeds from each purchase to health and wellness organizations near and dear to their hearts.

An impressive woman, entrepreneur, designer, mental health advocate, and psychotherapist, Dani Singer created Therapy Threads to combine “scents of style and purpose.” Making it her life’s mission to introduce alternative therapies that empower healing, Singer is a survivor of sexual abuse, bullying and domestic violence. Spending years struggling with PTSD, depression and anxiety – she was determined not to let her past define her future. Now, she has decided to use her experiences to help others heal.

What is the Self Care Club? 

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Friends, I’m so stoked to talk about this. Not only are the shirts way cute from this brand – these brand ambassadors are kicking ass. A mental health advocacy club curated by Singer herself, the powerful people that make up this group help to build awareness and end the stigma associated with mental illness and sexual assault.

Promoting strength through the struggle, Self Care Club shows everyone that stigma isn’t cool and most importantly – we aren’t alone in this fight.

I’m so proud to have found my way to all of these courageous brands fighting the same cause as what drives this blog each and every day. I could never have dreamed that in starting this blog back in May I would be repping for such an empowering company, but pinch me – here we are.

 

 

Want to be part of the Self Care Club? Click here to share your story!