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! 

Rad Reads // The Sun And Her Flowers

Typing out this intro, I’m realizing it’s been a minute since I’ve posted on the blog. Life has been busy – in the best ways.

Life can get into a monotonous funk sometimes, I dread it. Sensing that, I truly feel like the universe has called a few new things into my life, to show me that there are new adventures waiting for me – I just have to have the courage to pursue that path without fear, without listening to my anxiety.

On the brink of all this positive change, I decided to treat myself to Rupi Kaur’s latest body of work, The Sun And Her Flowers. Having read Milk And Honey with an emotional connection so deep that I felt compelled to give it to every single woman I knew at their birthday, I knew I had to pick it up at the bookstore.

Excited to dive into her work, I started a bath, turned on my Anxiety Relief playlist and cracked open the first chapter.

Like turning the pages of my own heartbreak and emotion, Kaur is so authentic in her words that I felt myself intensely moved by her pain. By her ache, by her love for everyone and everything.

Beginning at Wilting and ending in Blooming, her symbolic meaning behind flowers is geared towards all the growth she has done.

Compelled to finish out her story, I stayed soaking in the tub until I read her last words. Pruning and wet in a now cold bath, my soul was on fire. I could feel her passion reaching out in every page – grabbing hold of my heart.

Milk And Honey was another collection I connected with, but this time around it was different. I had grown, and she had grown. It was like I knew her heart, and could understand the ways in which she had bloomed.

As I made waves with my body and soul in the bath, here are a few of the short poems I resonated with in The Sun And Her Flowers:

Wilting

Truly touching, this specific chapter was all about heartbreak. The gut wrenching pain that comes with the grief or loss. Of losing that someone, that connection. A few months back, I had my own heartbreak and while I am in a very different place emotionally, the words from this chapter still call to me.

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This particular poem really resonated with me. When I read the line, “love is figuring out all the kind sweetness we deserve,” I felt tears well up in my eyes. So eloquently strung together into a brief poem, Kaur perfectly explains that love doesn’t look like a certain person – it’s what we do.

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Damn, this one hurt. I won’t lie – this is exactly what I went through with my ex. When the breakup initially happened, I was so overwhelmed with grief that I found myself missing him each day. But, as time went on I asked myself – what exactly do I miss? The constant anxiety, insecurity and lack of communication or any emotion on his end? The foundation and connection I always thought was there was just a mirage. Only growth can open our eyes to these realizations.

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Again, this very short poem packs quite a punch. Speaking to my intuition, I’ve found – from both therapy and in life – that my body always somewhat knew my previous relationship would end. I experienced what my therapist called intuitional anxiety, which was where I thought the feelings were my anxiety going worse case scenario, but really it was my intuition warning me of events to come. After that, I’ve made a promise with myself to listen to that voice whenever she pops up – it’s time to start trusting my body.

Falling

Chalk full of little lessons in letting go and listening to anger, Kaur spends time speaking about the process of growth in this section. Most don’t quite realize just how long and grueling it can be to grow authentically. It’s lonely, scary and all consuming to change our minds completely. To unlearn. I appreciated the bursts of emotion throughout this chapter – good and bad.

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This was such an enlightening chapter for me. I haven’t ever felt part of a community before starting this blog and when reading this poem, I knew what coming home was. I’ve gotten much better at knowing when to let others help pick up the pieces, and when to trust and rely on myself for navigating the pain.

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Rooting 

An extremely personal, poetic chapter for Kaur, Rooting spoke directly to being a child of immigrants. While I do not know these feelings and emotions in my own life, I felt it was completely necessary to shed awareness and just to understand this life – to have empathy. I truly felt her pain and the sadness in wanting more for her mother while also loving the love her parents felt for each other.

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Rising 

Lifting herself with love, it’s clear this chapter centers around finding a new partner after heartbreak. In this stage of my own life, I really understood the lines from each of these poems. Having found a new sense of what she deserved, Kaur struggles with settling into a new person, and learning to let go of the old. Truer words have never been spoken. 

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Our fear anxiety tells us time and time again that it’s not only scary to start something new, but it’s too soon. Screw all those voices in your head – or toxic people – telling you that it’s too early for a new person, or a new experience. Only you know what works for you and in the end, don’t feel guilty for starting again, especially if it makes you whole.

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It’s as the person I’m currently seeing always tells me – never backward, always forward, always. While it’s a quote from Luke Cage, it still rings very true. I hadn’t prepared to fall into someone new right now, but it feels right and it’s my choice. It’s time for me to start making moments – not hiding from them.

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Learning all about someone new is exciting. Always so sure that the last one is “the one,” we find ourselves falling over and over again into different people. Each has a valuable life lesson. I truly believe that people come and go in life for important reasons. The people who are here right now are here not only because I want them to be, they are teaching me patience, understanding and how to cultivate my growth.

Blooming

Showing us women that it’s okay to heal and speak up at the same time, Kaur ends her second installment of poetry with a clear message of strength. The closer I got to the end, the more I felt a sense of closure. Empowered and fostering an enriched connection to all that I love about myself, Kaur’s words in this chapter – and all of the sections – brought about such an awakening for my soul.

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I’ve lost a good deal of people this year, but in all honesty – is it really a loss? When I find myself saddened by no longer having certain people in my life, I remember why I removed them to begin with. Give yourself to a few and to those few give heavily. Invest in the right people. This poem is currently on my fridge and I read it each morning when I wake up.

Do yourself a favor and get a copy of The Sun And Her Flowers. While I really believe that this collection benefits women, I wouldn’t say men can’t resonate with her words as well – or learn more about women from turning the pages. There are plenty of poems throughout the novel that apply to everyone – speaking to emotion, heartbreak, confusion, growth, and family.

It’s incredibly validating to pick up a work of art and know you’re not alone in your struggle. That all this painful growth has beauty. Beauty in the form of art and poetry. Thank you Rupi Kaur for reaching into your heart and showing us what love looks like on each page of The Sun And Her Flowers. I look forward to the next installment and seeing all your growth and success!

Have you read The Sun And Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur? Share what you thought of the poetry collection in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Lauren

Suffering from GAD at a young age, Lauren went through the tough experience of having to self diagnose at only 14. With doctors who weren’t fully listening to her pain, her anxiety worsened.

Not being able to work for the past two years due to her anxiety, this strong soul refuses to let her mental illness win. Realizing a new love for photography and even starting to create a book, meet Lauren and read her story below.

 

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Name: Lauren

Age: 20

 

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? 

I have been suffering with GAD from a very young age, however it started to get a lot worse when I turned 14. Depression has grown from this over the past two years. The first day of school in 2011 was when I realised something was very wrong, I felt extremely nauseous and had to be sent home. I then became too afraid to even leave the house, because the thought of going back to the place that made me so uncomfortable just wasn’t something I wanted to experience ever again. This continued for two more weeks until the teachers noticed a pattern in my absence, e.g leaving at the same time every week and not returning for the rest of the week. Eating became impossible because I felt so poorly and my whole routine was jumbled.

 

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

After self-diagnosing myself at 14 because none of the doctors I went to would listen, these anxiety flare ups would occur at least once a year but in a very intense way. This meant that I would spend 2-3 months each year fearing to leave the house, avoid experiencing fun events, my appetite would drop again and I’d lose weight, I even missed prom because I couldn’t imagine going when I felt so scared. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. It was only until I turned 18 and left college that I realised I desperately needed help.

I’d recently started a new job, which I was so excited for as I was finally starting a new life. However, shortly after I started, catching the train for 7 minutes became a chore for my brain and body. I would sit in the locker room before a shift trying to calm myself down with deep breathing and sips of water, yes I’d get through it but I would already be winding myself up for the next shift. Eventually, it got so bad that I wouldn’t even leave to go to a shift – I was too scared. Whenever I thought about work, I would have an anxiety attack. I couldn’t even go ten minutes down the road to see my best friend without panicking. This meant I had to leave my new job and seek medical help because I couldn’t physically function anymore. I was then put onto Citalopram and have been on it ever since, as well as FINALLY finding a doctor who listened to me and has helped me for two years now. I’m so thankful.

 

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

I still struggle a lot with my anxiety, especially when it comes to traveling or going to events such as concerts, etc. I look forward to when it’s over, instead of looking forward to it starting and experiencing it. I’ve not worked for two years, because my mental health is too unsteady for me to work comfortably at the moment. Going to town with a close friend, or going out for a meal with family can be a huge task for me as nausea and vomiting is a huge part of my anxiety attacks, so understandably I want to avoid that issue in public!

My weight has taken a huge hit, because I find eating difficult when I experience anxiety so I am now underweight. I struggle to maintain friendships and relationships with guys specifically because of a bad past experience, but I’m working on it! I use meditation as a way to cope, calm myself down and bring myself back to the present. Herbal remedies and essential oils are also something I use occasionally when I need a quick fix before going out. Breathing techniques are an obvious tool, but a good one at that! Another tool I use is a hard one, but an important one and that is making myself go to things, even when I really don’t want to.

 

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

It has benefited my life because I’ve experienced things and done things I never thought I would. For example, I’ve started doing photography again and created a project based on my mental health, which is now going to be a book! If someone told me I would have my own book at the age of 20, I would’ve laughed. I’ve met some incredible people who have inspired me immensely with their stories and have also become very good friends! It’s helped me learn what I do and don’t want in life, what friends to keep and who to move on from.

It’s given me the knowledge and strength it takes to get through life, as well as being able to help others which is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s given me so much I can’t even list it all!

 

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

Just keep going. Simple, but powerful. It’s so easy to just give up and believe that things will never get better, but if we choose to believe this then that will be our biggest downfall! We won’t ever get better if we give up and give in to these illnesses. Even when you’re at your lowest, just remember what you’ve done and what you’re working towards. Who you’re doing this for and why. You can do this, because you’ve gotten this far and that hasn’t been easy. 

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below (or send me an email!) and you might be featured on the blog! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Finding My Fire

I won’t lie to you guys, it’s been a rough going for me lately. With life and my anxiety reaching an all-time high last week, I decided to take the long Labor Day weekend for some much-needed self care and rest. Boy, did I need it. 

I’ve always had a problem with stopping. Taking the time to reflect and knowing everything will be alright in the “in between.” Over the entire holiday, my anxiety was triggered with fearful thoughts.

 

What if your writing isn’t as good when you come back? 

What if no one cares anymore? 

What if you stop relating to others? 

 

Swirling around my mind like a toxic milkshake, these thoughts overwhelmed me – but only for a little while. Therapy has taught me to be mentally stronger, so I know how to combat these irrational thoughts. Speaking of my fantastic therapist, I was beyond ready to have my bi-weekly session today. Getting emotional even on the drive there, I knew I needed to pour out my feelings.

Starting off the session explaining my day to day triggers and stressors, the discussion eventually turned to the topic that has been giving me the most anxiety: writer’s block. 

One of the reasons I decided to take this pause from the blog was because I was completely drained. Barely making out the words, I was sobbing even at the thought of saying I couldn’t write for Anxiety Erica – it’s everything. Why I come home excited, how I heal through my words, a safe space.

With an almost saint-like grace and wisdom, it was like my therapist knew that was the root of my issues. Her immediate response was to make the most of “me” time.

Embrace the pause 

 

“We must learn to be okay with, and embrace, pause time.”

Learning to completely stop is something I’m not good at. I will go and go until I can’t anymore – and I found out exactly what that feels like this week. It’s essential to spend time within ourselves and nurture the passion we have, rekindle the fire.

Whether that means staying in bed most days powering through a Netflix marathon, being around family and close friends, or even getting outside on a hike – do what you need to feed your soul. Reclaim your motivation.

 

Master the art of compartmentalization 

 

Writing has always been something I live and breathe. Not only a passion, but a purpose. It has been a goal in the past few years to make it a career, and with my current position being a Copywriter – I would say I can check off that to-do on my list.

Unfortunately, once writing became a daily part of my position, it turned from a passion to a chore. Where I once wrote about things that gave me fire, connection to others and authenticity, I was becoming completely drained from the “work” aspect of an entirely different form of the written word.

While I cried on the couch, feeling hopeless and like nothing would help me find my fire again, my therapist said these words:

“Just like we have different types of friends, we have several forms of writing too.”

Then, it clicked. Through the art of compartmentalizing, I could cultivate my fire again. When obligation and timeframe wanders its way into writing, the passion can immediately be sucked out. In order to find my fire, I needed to categorize my creativity, like so:

Work writing 

The creativity surrounding the writing I do during the day, i.e. Copywriting duties, any writing involving my work or company.

Passion writing 

Authentic, vulnerable and emotional words that I write whenever I feel inspired or motivated in life. It is where my connection to others starts, and ultimately – it’s for pleasure. 

 

The motivation to get up each and every day and slice out a piece of your soul for the world to read is fucking hard. Most people don’t realize the extent to which writers will go for authenticity and sometimes, a break is needed.

I’m proud of myself for taking this time to pause and reflect because now that I’ve rested, I’m quickly gaining back the energy and inspiration to hold my heart in front of you all again – finding my fire and coming home with my own words. 

 

 

Do you have trouble with writer’s block? Share your own tips on combating it in the comments below! 

Keep It Grape Art // Self Care Pack Review

Today was a great day. I decided to attend an event in my area called San Diego Festival of Books, where I walked around and did some networking for the blog. I met fantastic, creative people and I’m so excited to collaborate with them.

Putting yourself out there is not only draining – it can be a challenging task. While everyone was thrilled to hear about Anxiety Erica, my anxiety can find it easy to get worked up about whether everyone truly is interested in what I have to say. Paired with the fact that one or two posts I did on my Instagram didn’t go over as well as ones previously in the week, my anxiety was looming over the fact that I wasn’t good enough. That not enough “likes” equates to the caliber of my writing, my healing process. That’s not reality. I fought it in my ANT journal, because this blog is way too important to me to let a silly, trivial thing like social media likes bring it down. But, I was still a little drained.

Then my Keep It Grape Self Care Pack arrived in the mail. Game changer. 

Almost like mental health mail from the gods above, this package came right at the moment I needed it most. It made me realize I am making a difference – I’m connecting with creative, sensitive, and strong women like Katherine. 

Located over at @keepitgrape, Katherine is one of the purest souls I’ve ever encountered. Just 17 years old, Katherine is a freelance artist with her own online store filled with positivity prints, self care packs, custom commissions, zines, stickers, and poetry. Pouring her heart and soul into each piece she creates, she does it all while battling paranoid schizophrenia.

In addition to her art, she has a blog where she interviews other bloggers on the importance of mental health, recipes and positivity. You can check out her interview with me here! 

Madly in love with her fire, I’m beyond grateful to know this young, talented treasure in some shape or form. She sent over one of her wonderful Self Care and Realization Packs and boy was it filled with some goodies! Take a peek at the photos below to see some of the beautiful artwork, prints, info, recipes, stickers, and helpful mantras she included:

Self Care & Realization Packs 

Intended to promote relaxation and self care, these powerful packs get you to understand the importance of caring and maintaining your body. Focused on the essential mantra that we all deserve self care, Katherine showers each and every customer with love, positivity, and encouragement.

Tip Cards 

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Self care is important, but what if you don’t know what that means? While it’s different for each individual person, Keep It Grape has some great starter tips to delve deeper into what works for you!

Recipes

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This was a wonderful reminder for me, honestly. While I can be really good at self care involving reading, bath time, and relaxation – I’m lacking in the food department. I can be pretty lazy when it comes to cooking or prepping of any kind, so these recipes were a welcome sight. I plan to try this one out!

Prints 

Positivity can be hard to find sometimes. Not only great reminders to love ourselves, these prints are just gorgeous. Promoting and symbolizing self care and relaxation, I will be hanging them on my cork board next to my bed – that way I see the important words when I wake up and fall asleep at night.

Drawings 

I won’t lie, these were my all-time favorite. I adored everything in this package but these small, simple drawings were perfect. Encouraging self love and growth, they are beautiful and tiny enough to keep in your car, purse, tote bag, or on your bookshelf. Anywhere you are, there is a constant reminder of love, hope, and positivity!

Personal Thank You Note & Sticker 

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As if all of the goodies in the package weren’t enough, Katherine sneaks a lovely, personal note and sticker into my Self Care Pack. Reading through it filled me with inspiration, hope, and honestly eased my anxiety from the day. Job well done. 

 

With a combination of creativity and heart, Katherine makes it her full time job to bring others happiness with Keep It Grape. From opening up her package today, it was clear just how much she lives and breathes this work. She gives each person a piece of her heart. I’m proud to know such a talented, motivated and beautiful young woman – she is truly the future of mental health.

 

To learn more about Keep It Grape and Katherine’s art, visit http://keepitgrape.tictail.com/. Head to her blog and Instagram to see her latest pieces! 

Self Care Sunday // Wisteria Fox

I’ve always been a believer in the beauty of a great bath. Soothing and relaxing, it can help to heal the stresses and anxiety of a bad day. That being said, I also don’t believe that throwing a bath bomb in the tub solves all your issues associated with mental illness. Self care – however you practice it – is just one part of the picture. Therapy, journaling, cognitive behavioral tools. All of these things together is how I battle my anxiety.

Suffering from anxiety and depression, Alyssa Vicari –  the woman behind Wisteria Fox – truly understands the importance of self care. Baths always had the ability to calm, relax, and escape Vicari away from the stressers in life, so she created beautiful bath products that could help distract and benefit her skin. Eventually, she began selling her products so others could have this escape as well.

Researching different brands that spread the important message of self care, I stumbled upon Vicari’s shop and got to speak with the woman herself. A kind, gentle soul with a passion for healing others, I was all too happy to purchase a box.

Not only does Vicari sell these wonderfully scented products – she hand makes them. Vegan and cruelty-free, all the products are completely natural, using SLSA, an alternative to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. But don’t worry, the bath bombs still foam and fizz to your heart’s desire. Derived from coconut and palm oils, they smell heavenly.

This month, Vicari unleashed a new idea: Self-care boxes. For June, the theme was, “Goodbye Negative Mind, Hello Positive Life.” Loaded with a potential mix of bath bombs, bubble bars, bath soaks, body scrubs/shimmer scrubs, the box also comes with tips and tricks for coping and dealing with mental health issues/anxiety/stress, handmade stickers, drawings, and quotes.

While my box was a little bit different than the others, here is what was inside!

Amber Sunset // Mind Over Matter Bath Bomb

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A soothing, salmon colored bath bomb, Mind Over Matter is scented with base notes of raspberry, cantaloupe, and watermelon, middle notes of jasmine and violet, and fresh top notes of grapefruit and kumquat.

To say the least, it’s a serious plethora of scent. Last night, I used this bath bomb and it made for an extremely calming, content experience. I finished up watching GLOW on Netflix, and just soaked in the tub, smelling like an array of wonderful scents, it was great.

As an added bonus, once your bath bomb is all fizzled out, there’s a Carnelian stone inside of it! While I’m not super informed about the healing benefits nor do I practice, I’m always up for learning new information!

Providing protection from negative emotions from others and within yourself, the Carnelian stone is a great guide to a renewed love of life, increases inner strength, and grounds energies to the present. I even received a little note in the box on tips and best practices for using the stone!

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Wild Spirit // Essential Oil Bath Bomb 

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Scented with lemongrass essential oil and topped with dried lavender buds, this bath bomb is the perfect recipe for a Saturday night in. Notes of eucalyptus and spearmint are included for the utmost of relaxation.

On top of the beautiful bath products, I also received two adorable tips and reminders for my mental health:

The first was this super cute ornament saying, Without rain, nothing grows. I just love it! I ended up hanging it on my cork board next to my bed, so I can see it when waking up and falling asleep at night.

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And lastly, there was a really creative activity in the box! I received a bunch of cut out, white paper butterflies with a note that told me to write a negative thought on the butterflies, place it under a thin layer of soil, water, and watch as that negative statement or word turns into something beautiful. What a wonderful message, I absolutely loved the idea and will be trying it out soon.

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I absolutely loved all the different products and activities in my Wisteria Fox Self Care box! It was so beautifully packaged – I would definitely consider ordering another one. It brought some excitement and healing to my day in a simple way. It’s so essential to practice self care and when a company – and its founder – are part of this wonderful mental health community, it seems like a no brainer.

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If you want to treat yourself and learn to practice more self care, order a Wisteria Fox Self Care box to help heal your heart and soul.

Visit https://wisteriafoxshop.com/ to shop the many soothing smells.

 

Do you have a specific routine for self care? Share your practices in the comments below. 

Post Therapy Thoughts

Going into therapy after work today – I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and safety. It’s been an emotional, draining weekend and I was looking forward to getting those intense feelings off my chest. Since I had cried myself silly the past few days, I really thought I was finished with the waterworks, but that wasn’t the case. And that’s okay. 

Since I’ve been through heartbreak before, I know this feeling and lately I’ve been preventing myself from feeling fully sad because it’s a hard emotion to constantly feel, but I have to. When I got into therapy and felt comfortable, I told my therapist what happened and it wasn’t until I read her the letter I ended up writing and sending to my ex boyfriend that I started to cry.

It was through talking it out with my therapist that I realized just how proud of myself I should be. Throughout the rough weekend I experienced, my anxiety did not raise its voice. Yes, I cried so hard that I almost couldn’t breathe and it felt like someone was consistently punching me in the stomach but guess what? I knew it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t personalize and I’m proud of myself. Just a year ago, my anxiety could easily have latched onto a highly stressful and triggering event like this and told my mind that everything was my fault, but through my own personal growth and self-awareness, that anxiety never roared. It will likely spike down the line, but I’m ready for it – I have the tools to handle whatever is thrown my way.

From listening to me talk about my anxiety and feelings for the past week or so, my therapist discussed the possibility that I have intuitional anxiety, which means I have a sense of what is to come before it actually occurs, but I label those feelings as anxiety, rather than embrace them as reality. I’ve done this with almost every relationship I’ve been in and it’s about time that I view this as a gift for myself. When I’m feeling worried or insecure in a relationship, that’s a red, flashing NEON sign that I should be paying closer attention to. Lesson learned. 

The last thing my therapist had me do was an exercise where I generate a list of what I’ve learned about qualities I look for in the right match. Here’s the list I’ve come up with:

What I’ve learned about the right qualities for me in a partner: 

  • Respectful of my time
  • Ability to compromise
  • Healthy work-life balance
  • Emotional communicator & insight

As I continue to think about it, I will learn more from this entire experience and have a better handle on what the right match looks like for me in the future.

For now, it’s all about self-love. I need to allow myself to feel whatever I need to. It’s never easy saying goodbye to something or someone – there’s no deadline for moving on or “bouncing back.” It’s okay to not be okay. 

I don’t regret one minute of my relationship. I learned important lessons from it and will hold some very special memories with a person I still truly believe is a wonderful human being. It’s like I said in my letter to him:

We all slip and fall, sometimes we just need a new plan for getting back up.

Here’s to more personal growth and finding even more of myself in these next few months. I welcome it.

 

Have you gone through a breakup recently? How are you handling the anxiety associated with it? 

Dear Sensitive Soul // How To Live From The Heart

Wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t always a walk in the park. As sensitive, open-hearted people, we are deeply affected by the world.

Knowing this, my therapist gave me a helpful handout – of which she gives me many, I love it – adapted from the wonderful Beth Berry – Revolution from Home. When I read the handout, it was like Berry was speaking directly to me. While I’ve more recently come into the idea that vulnerability is a strength, I didn’t always believe it.

As Brené Brown says,

“We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

This is something I’ve always struggled with. Growing up in a childhood where showing emotion was looked down upon and emotional communication wasn’t exactly there – expressing any emotion was considered negative. But having this mentality also limited any good feelings too.

I’ve learned that it is possible to be a heart-led person and a high functioning human being. Here are some ways to live from the heart, while protecting it:

Discernment is everything.

It’s so crucial to be cautious about what and whom you let into your experiences. Opening your heart to your family, friends, co-workers, community members and regularly listening to the news can be extremely overwhelming. This doesn’t mean you’re living in blissful ignorance, but with self-loving discernment.

We aren’t required to hold pain.

Though we feel deeply, we aren’t serving anyone by stocking up on all that pain. Don’t bottle it up – let it in, feel it, then let it pass. I’ve found that holding in that pain builds up and channels itself into more anxiety and fear.

Self-love is key.

Creating a safe space for your heart to flourish should become a part of your daily practice – it will make healing a much smoother process. The more you realize that loving yourself is worthwhile, the easier it will be to share that love with the people who matter.

In addition, your version of self care is yours alone. It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else. Whether you want to leave a party, be the first to call it a night, or the only one ordering dessert at dinner – do what you need to for your own mental health and heart.

You are only responsible for my emotions, mindset and actions.

Becoming more clear on what I’m responsible for in my personal relationships and what I’m not, has helped to create healthy boundaries with those I love and surround myself with, as well as the world around me. No one else can control your emotions but you – own your feelings. 

 

To my shining stars who feel just a little deeper than the rest – I see you and want to make it clear: 

Never mistake sensitivity for weakness.

The world needs us softies, let’s show ’em how compassion is done.

 

How do you feed your heart? Share your ways of coping with being hyper sensitive! 

Cassiopeia // Thriving In The Face of Motherhood & Anxiety

When I set out to create this blog, I really wanted to cover topics that I might not fully have knowledge in. While I have an understanding of anxiety and mental health when it comes to my own journey and therapy, there are certain aspects I cannot speak to. This is where guest authors come in.

I am beyond grateful to my coworker and friend, Cassiopeia Guthrie (aka the creative blogger behind Free Hands Full Heart) for sharing her story on becoming a mother while navigating her own mental health. Filled with eloquence in each word she types, Cassiopeia has a magical way of making everyone feel warm, welcome and that they are enough.

Read Cassiopeia’s journey on finding her way as a new mom while teaching herself patience in her guest blog post below.

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I see it in your eyes and your posture. The moment you come up to me, I can see that you are struggling. I see it in the way you react as your baby gently calls to you. He might just be dreaming, might be readjusting his body in the cradle of your arms, might just be mewling softly to let you know that he’s almost ready to eat, but it’s like you’ve been burned. Your breath speeds up, your eyes dart from side to side, your shoulders tense. Your thoughts are racing; I can tell you’re worried. “Am I doing this right?” you wonder. Or you think, with certainty, that you are not. Maybe sometimes, in the wee hours of the morning, you wander the halls, babe in arms, pondering things that make no sense, like banging your exhausted head into a wall or a door to help to stay awake. But then, in others, you sit staring at her wondering: “Will she wake up?” I have been in your shoes.

When my oldest son was just 4 days old, an earthquake rocked our world. Coming in at 7.2, it was the largest earthquake to have hit the region in 18 years. As my little guy slept in his rocking seat that Easter Sunday, I recall the ceiling fan beginning to shake violently above us all. Without thinking, I grabbed him and ran outside to the driveway and sobbed as the world continued to roll and shake around us for over a minute. It was the first moment I realized that I was not fully in control and that I had a small person who needed me, completely and utterly. I was terrified of failing him.

Six days later, we found ourselves in Children’s Hospital to have his little heart looked at. A couple of days after that, I cried at a La Leche League meeting, completely overwhelmed, wondering if I’d ever be able to take a shower or do dishes again. When we struggled with breastfeeding, I drove all over the county seeking support groups. But when we left our house, I wondered if I’d turned off the oven or locked the door. I stressed about other drivers on the road, certain that our lives were in danger all of the time. I was inexplicably exhausted, and yet struggled with sleep. I wore a smile, but it was false; insecurity echoed in empty chambers of my mind.

I want you to know that I understand. I know that you may internally be questioning your decision to become a mother while, with every breath, you claim that you are overjoyed by it. You may feel unable to focus and concentrate, disconnected, overwhelmed. You may sit listlessly, or be unable to find the drive to eat. You may look at your baby like a stranger or an obligation. You may not be able to find the words you used to have at your very eloquent disposal. You may not care about brushing your hair, washing your face, or going outside. I just want you to know that you are not alone. You are worthy of love. And there are resources for you.

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I found my way into motherhood intentionally, and yet those first months were an incredible challenge. I felt isolated, helpless, and at times incapable of being the strong mother I’d always imagined. I attended workshops, classes, doctors appointments, and therapy. I worked hard to find my sense of self and to bond with my child. Although I returned to work full time when my son was only 4 months old, being the mother I wanted to be took constant attention and sacrifice, but it also took something more: it took community. That’s why I was honored when Erica asked me to guest blog on my experiences as a mother and postpartum care provider; I know exactly what made the difference when I was in those dark early days. It was human connection.

What made the difference for me was connecting with support groups… connecting with other mothers. It was gathering tools for my toolbox like babywearing, nursing lying down, and not being afraid to ask for help. It was creating experiences that my baby and I could enjoy together, whether taking classes or simply getting some fresh air. It was learning patience: not with others, or with my baby, or with my circumstances, but with myself. It was in finding the bits of sunshine in every day, the love for spending time in fresh air at the park with other mothers, the cups of tea in the evenings that soothed my soul, the quiet moments tucked in hot showers that helped me find the deeply buried pieces of shiny me that were hidden under the layers of motherhood. It was a reintroduction: the woman that I once was coming to terms with the experience that I had now. And it was a catalyst for growth, change, and support as I would eventually embark on a new adventure: providing love and care to other new families as a babywearing educator.

And this is why we are here now, you and I.  You, with your tired, anxious eyes. Me, with a soul that aches to take you in and mother you, anxiety level at a 10 and all.

And, at the end of the day, I just want you to know that it’s okay to reach out. We are here as a resource for you. It’s going to be alright.

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A special note: you are not alone. If you feel that you are struggling with challenges related to postpartum emotional health, know that this happens to 1 in 7 of us, and it can even happen to dads, too. Please do not hesitate to call the Postpartum Health Alliance Warmline (619-254-0023), visit the website to learn about where you can go for help, or email me directly. I am happy to help anytime.

 

Want to read more from Cassiopeia? Head to this original blog post on Free Hands Full Hearts for mental health musings from this momma!

4 Ways Reading Helps Me Cope With My Anxiety

I’ve always thought that books are the answer to all life’s problems. Turns out, they are the actual answer to some after all.

As a writer, reading has always been a part of my life. I was reading chapter books in kindergarten – I know, I’m a genius. I’ve cultivated that passion for reading into my adult life and with anxiety, it can seriously help me to cope. While you would think some of the reasons below are slightly obvious when dealing with anxiety, there are a few that popped up along the way that I wasn’t expecting.

Reading relaxes me physically.

While anxiety is mental disorder, it can have physical symptoms and triggers like high blood pressure and increased heart rate.

Studies have shown that reading can lower your heart rate and ease muscle tension quickly and effectively. Even better – it doesn’t matter what you read. Whether you’re a fan of fiction, poetry or even my own obsession of graphic novels, you can enjoy any genre and self care at the same time.

It’s an escape from reality.

While my own anxiety tends to take me far away from reality – reading removes me from it in a positive way.

Taking a break from reality can work wonders for your mental health. Anxiety is constant – overwhelming, enveloping your every thought and action. It taints every experience you have with a shadow of self-doubt and fear. If you could hit the pause button on that, wouldn’t you? 

Jumping into the story of a book allows me to escape my own mind and live in someone else’s. Getting lost in a story helps me to let go – somewhat – of my anxieties, insecurities, and fears, if only for an hour or so.

It shifts my daily perspective.

Reading about other people’s experiences, whether they are relatable or not, is a great way to shift my own perspective, which is constantly riddled by my anxiety. Living with anxiety can wrap your mind in me, me, me and everything I’m suffering through – reading breaks that school of thought.

By looking through someone else’s eyes in stories, I gain a perspective I wouldn’t otherwise find, which in turn forces me to realize that my own isn’t as bad as I make it, or not even reality.

Book club can be a form of therapy for me.

A little over a year ago, I decided to create my own book club. I’ve founded book clubs in the past, but they would always fade out. People get too busy and everyone bails on meeting up. But luckily, I’ve been able to get this one to stick.

When I first started it, I went in just wanting to read new genres and discuss them with some friends. It has morphed into so much more. While I go to actual therapy, I find that meeting up with my regular group of girls can be extremely cathartic. It is very helpful that most of the ladies in the group also have their own forms of anxiety, so I feel comfortable talking about my daily struggles with them. It’s a good reminder that while anxiety is a very lonely disorder – I’m not alone. 

Last but not least, I truly believe that having your own bookshelf is a form of self care. There is nothing I enjoy more than collecting beautiful books and being able to adorn them on my bookshelf. Here’s a quick photo of my pride and joy:

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I hope all my fellow bookworms enjoyed this post! Now, I must get back to reading The Roanoke Girls –book club is this week and I’m SO close to finishing.

 

Do you love to read – share your favorite book in the comments! How does it help with your anxiety?