For this month’s little ramble on human behavior, I thought I’d talk about a metaphor I think about frequently and have definitely posted about before: veils. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll leave the little excerpt from the book that first explained this concept to me here:

“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.”

This quote is from a book called When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead- a book I highly recommend, by the way. And ever since I first read the book about ten years ago, I’ve been thinking about my relationship with my own “veil” a lot, and what seeing the world with one means to me. After taking a required Ethics class back in college that discussed the theory of Rawl’s veil of ignorance, I began to think even harder about it and how other peoples’ veils affect their feelings towards themselves and others. And I wondered, years after first reading When You Reach Me, if perhaps Rebecca Stead was thinking about Rawl’s theories as well when she penned the quote.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about what this means to me and how shifting my view of the external world has created an internal change within me. Instead of the wind softly blowing my veil out of my face, I feel like 2020 has just ripped it away completely. For me, there were several moments of my veil being snatched away and forcing me to look at the world how it really is: COVID-19. Racial Injustice and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. Wildfires scorching across the hottest places on earth and mercilessly destroying everything. Hurricanes. Politics. Corruption. Shootings. Death.

And then, aside from those worldwide, universally-traumatic events, I had my own private life changes that shifted my view of everything. And not all of them were bad, actually. Falling in love with Nathaniel (and realizing I have everything if I have him) was a huge shift in my world that lifted my veil and opened my eyes to what true love means. Moving out of the house and getting my first apartment, being on welfare and working a “real job” and doing everything for myself, by myself, shifted me without me even noticing. Because sometimes, you don’t even see the change happening until you suddenly wake up one day and realize everything is different now.

Going through coronavirus and being forced to examine how broken things are in this country, and how I, even unknowingly and blindly, have been contributing to a corrupt system by ignoring it, has really forced me to reevaluate everything. It has made me realize that although I have my own problems in my life, and my struggles are valid, there are other people around the world who have it ten times worse than me. There are people who are losing their lives, their loved ones, their faith in humanity, and their homes. And while I have my own share of loss, I still feel inclined to open myself up to the world with arms of empathy and kindness and sorrow, ready to help in whatever way I can. I am ready to un-learn old ways of thinking and continue to think critically about how I can be a better light in this world for others.

I’ve noticed that these external changes in my life have subtly changed the way I think about a lot of things. I feel quite comfortable in my own skin now, and I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, despite all of the scary things happening around me. I’ve noticed in the past six or so months that being a harder worker has made me a brighter, kinder person, who appreciates human interaction and connection more than anything in the world. I’m the person who will start a conversation with anybody- the old man sitting next to me on the train, the person behind me in the grocery store line, or the customer ordering a coffee from me at work. There’s something about 2020 and needing to feel connected to everybody that has made me want to throw positivity around like confetti.

There’s another veil-lifting moment I want to talk about that struck me a couple of weeks ago. I went back to my hometown for a couple of days so that I could visit my eye doctor, and I ended up staying overnight with my dad. He put dinner down in front of my face- it was a piece of pizza from one of my favorite spots in New England- beach pizza from Tripoli’s. And I don’t know why it was this exact moment in time that struck me so strongly, but I just stared at that pizza in awe and looked back up at my dad, like, “Wait, you’re sharing your food with me? This is for me? And you don’t have to buy food with SNAP benefits? And I don’t have to clean up the dishes?”

I don’t know if I’m doing a great job of explaining how astonished I feel, so let me try again. For the past few months, living on my own and paying my own bills and just trying to get by on welfare living with two people who I don’t like very much (and definitely don’t share anything with, let alone pizza,) my brain was just having a really hard time processing what my father was doing for me, giving me some of his food. And in that moment, I felt my veil being lifted, seeing my world for how it really is, and how much I have changed along with everything else around me.

Another veil-lifting experience of pure happiness and astonishment: A few days ago, Nathaniel was walking me back to the train station after I came to visit him for an afternoon cup of coffee. The sky was playing some sort of an optical illusion that evening and the sun looked ginormous and red and beautiful, like a big glowing circle of red construction paper, and the clouds were streaked with pastel oranges and purples, and he proudly pointed out the sun to me because he knew I would gasp with delight. And I don’t know why, but there was something about that evening and Nathaniel showing me the sunset that made my eyes well up with tears and my heart feel so full, I thought it would burst. I remember I just grabbed him and hugged him so fucking hard, and I felt so happy to be alive in that perfect moment with him. That, to me, was another moment of lifting my veil and taking time out of my usual day-to-day life to stop and appreciate the world for what it really is. 

It’s moments like that which remind me why I have so much to be grateful for and appreciative of every day. I may not have much, like reliable food or enough quarters to do my laundry, but I have all the blood red sunsets and ten-minute hugs I could ever ask for. And that, for me, is something I’ve never even had to consider before this year.

Thanks for showing me the sun!

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It’s no secret I’ve been very open about my struggles with insomnia and restful sleep here on the blog. There are a lot of factors behind my sleep issues: anxiety, periods, and stress from work, but sometimes, you’re just going to have a rough night of sleep for no reason. If any of these struggles resonate with you as well, or if you also deal with insomnia from time to time, I hope this article gives you some insight or inspiration! Obviously I am not a doctor or a professional, but I do feel like I have built up some helpful tricks and coping mechanisms over time.

Create associations with sleep. Have you heard of the theory of Pavlov’s dog? Basically, he trained his dogs to associate hearing a bell ring with getting food, so that eventually every time they heard the bell, they would automatically salivate with anticipation for food. You can train your own mind to do the same thing with getting sleepy! For example, every evening when I’m getting ready for bed, I warm up a heating pad and light an apple candle. Because my brain has learned to associate those things with sleep, I now naturally start to get very tired when I smell my candle and feel the heat of the pad on my chest. You can find your own little rituals and habits to associate with sleep- maybe for you that’s listening to specific music, spraying a certain room spray, or drinking herbal tea.

Find a vitamin/medicine combo that works for you. I try to look at prescription sleep medication as a last resort because taking it for too long can become habit-forming, and that won’t be good for your health in the long run. However, if you are looking for something over-the-counter to take that won’t be habit-forming, I have a couple of recommendations. First of all, melatonin is always a safe bet. It’s safe, reliable, and highly recommended from every doctor I’ve ever spoken to. That being said, you may have to give it a few nights to work. I’ve been taking melatonin every night for the past six months, and it’s been working wonders for me. If I’m having a really rough night, or if it’s imperative that I get a good night’s sleep, I will take a unisom tablet as well. You don’t need a prescription to buy unisom, and it’s also non-habit-forming. 

Maintain a consistent nighttime routine. Because I usually get up at the same time every morning, it just makes sense that I should go to bed at the same time, too. Even on the weekends, when I don’t have to be up early, I still try to get up and moving around 8 o’clock or so. Doing so can help train your mind to have a more consistent sleeping schedule, and thus, make falling asleep easier. As I mentioned earlier as well, I also tend to go through the same motions every night to instill a sense of routine in my body, such as with the candle and the heating pad. Of course, make sure you blow out your candle before you fall asleep if you choose to do that! 

Don’t force yourself to sleep if you’re restless. Honestly, forcing yourself to try to sleep when you’re not sleepy is one of the worst things you can do. In most scenarios, all that’s going to happen is that you’re just going to get frustrated and have even more trouble dozing off. If you’re having trouble sleeping, change your goal from falling asleep to simply relaxing so you can take some of that stress off of yourself. Read a book, listen to a podcast, or even watch some tv to take your mind off things. Eventually, you’ll just get sleepy again and you should have an easier time going back to bed. 

Listen to audio. This sort of ties into the “don’t force yourself to sleep thing,” but listening to audio when you’re falling asleep can be a great way to distract your mind. My personal favorite thing to listen to before bed is Vsauce videos, because they’re interesting but not too stimulating that I can’t fall asleep. Nathaniel, on the other hand, does not like listening to Vsauce before bed because he “gets too interested in the videos.” When we’re together, we like to compromise by listening to the podcast 36 From the Vault, which is a podcast about the Grateful Dead. Regardless of what audio I have going in the background, it’s just helpful for me to hear anything to keep my mind occupied.

Anyway, those are my tips for falling *and staying* asleep. Like I said, I’m not a doctor or anything, but these are tips that have worked for me and I hope you find some solace in them as well! Sleep tight.

Most of you know by now that I’m really interested in human psychology, emotions, and how our relationships with others can influence our internal views of ourselves. And sometimes, a specific word will get stuck in my head that I feel inclined to write about, such as “honesty,” “growing pains,” “grief.” or “stubbornness.” Today, the word that’s stuck in my head is “pity.”

 Before even googling the actual definition of pity, I’d like to try and craft my own interpretation of what that means. In regards to self-pity, I think what that means is you’ve reached a point in your life where you feel unnoticed and unappreciated for the hardships and privations you go through. Maybe you don’t think your entire life is awful, but you think most parts of it are hard, and the only thing that makes you feel like you’re getting any sort of attention or validation for it is through feeling bad for yourself. So it’s not healthy, but it’s usually not malicious. I don’t think people who self-pity are bad people. I think they are damaged and haven’t developed healthy coping mechanisms for their stress or grief.

Webster says that pity is “the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortune of others.” (I suppose in a situation of self-pity, the only word you would have to change is “others” to say “one’s self.”) When I was a bit younger, between the ages of 14-19, I would say I really struggled with self-pity. A couple of the aspects that contributed to this unhealthy cycle was a low self-esteem and a poor support system, and throughout the years, both of those things have improved enormously. Even though I was dealing with a lot of factors and stresses that were out of my control, like my parents splitting up, not being ‘popular’ or well-liked in school, and not being happy with my round face and my oily skin, it was still essentially my own responsibility for the way I felt about these things. I couldn’t change the fact that this was me and this was happening to me, but I could change the way I responded to it. So I learned to understand, accept, and even love the “broken” parts of my life. Although my mom and dad getting a divorce was a difficult change to adapt to, it actually turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Turns out, we’re all much happier in my family now that my parents are separated. I can’t change the fact that other girls and boys didn’t want to be my friend in high school, or the fact that I had acne and frizzy, curly hair, but I could change the way I felt about myself. And gradually, I was able to drop the self-pity. It wasn’t something that happened overnight, but that seldom happens with any self change. It was a slow, soothing process of letting go of the sorrow and disgust I felt towards myself. Instead of trying to change myself to better fit my peers, I tried to say, “You know what? I’m going to like myself today. And I’m going to like my face and my body today.” Eventually, I did start to feel really good about myself. And then one day, I realized that I was truly happy for myself and happy with the person I had become. Other people noticed, too. Change really starts from the inside and works itself outwards, like a spiral. I didn’t realize how much the way I perceived myself could affect how other people viewed me, too. And then, after I started to feel better about who I really was, I started having an easier time making friends and feeling confident in my interactions with others. Having a strong sense of self-esteem does wonders for your social abilities, even if you’re typically shy and reserved, like I am.

I’ve noticed people in my own life getting sucked into a cycle of self-pity, so this next paragraph is for those people. Sitting around and feeling bad for yourself gives you a burn in your stomach- a hot, mournful, painful, yet somehow self-satisfying burn that you start to feel like you deserve. Even though you may feel like you don’t deserve anything better in life because of what has happened to you or what your circumstances are, it’s unfair to yourself and others to self-pity. In the long run, you are only going to continue to perpetuate a low self-image and drive away your loved ones. And trust me, this is coming from someone who felt bad for herself for years. It’s a selfish thing to harbor so much self-pity. It makes other people feel like you’re unhelpable. And you don’t deserve to feel like a burden and a waste of a life- you deserve to feel like you are a worthy life and you have potential for growth and happiness. You don’t want to lay in a hospital bed alone someday, cold and gray, wishing you had just given the act a rest and enjoyed your life a little bit. Because at the end of the day, it’s not that deep. As Pam Muñoz Ryan once said, “You don’t have to get over it, but you do have to get on with it.”

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Sometimes I look back and I’m amazed at some of the things I was able to accomplish through absolute exhaustion. I believe that, particularly as a student, it’s easy to assume constant fatigue is just a way of life. I know I sure was used to it by high school- getting up at 5:45am every day? I really don’t know how I did it.

But other times, particularly this past semester, I noticed I was alarmingly tired after getting up at 7am or even later. Even if I went to bed early and got up with 8 hours of sleep behind me, I would still find myself hit with a wave of exhaustion around an hour after waking up. It wouldn’t hit immediately in the morning- it would happen while I was waiting for the shuttle, sitting on the subway, or even at my internship itself. One time, I got so abruptly sleepy while riding the T, I missed my stop altogether. I would drag myself into the building and struggle to keep my eyes open until around noon or 1pm, when the sleepiness would finally start to subdue. It was annoying, but also concerning for me as it began to interfere with my life. 

When I realized that most of these sleepy spells lined up with my menstrual cycle, everything began to click together. Oh yeah, I reminded myself. You have PMDD. This is your reality. In fact, “severe fatigue” is listed as one of the top symptoms for PMDD on hopkinsmedicine.org

The thing is, my menstrual-related sleepiness had NEVER been as severe as it was this past spring semester. And now that I’m out of college, I almost never get hit with fatigue. So why did that happen?

Through doing a lot of thinking and researching, I’ve decided it probably had a lot to do with stress. Spring 2020 was an amazing semester, but it was also absolutely wild. For one thing, knowing this was my last semester of college and I had to do well to graduate was always pushing me in the back of my mind. And then, when the global health crisis emerged and my entire future went up in the air, well, I became exhausted. For me, numbing myself out rather than getting hysterical is just a normal coping mechanism. And so, I’m not surprised I spent a majority of January/February/March feeling absolutely fatigued. Especially when coupled with my hormonal disorder, which is notorious for causing sleepiness, it makes a lot of sense. I think I was truly just burnt out. Additionally, PMDD is associated with “non restorative sleep,” so even if I get my tight eight hours in, that doesn’t mean I’m getting good sleep.

There wasn’t really a cure for me during that time besides just trying to keep my mind busy, and through physically holding my eyelids open in the morning. I would also text my boyfriend during the early mornings, since he was an early riser as well and he could keep my mind occupied. Overall, however, it was a very bizarre experience. I tend to be a very energized, go-go-go kind of person, so not being able to feel alert or constructive for half the day really bothered me. However, like I said, my early-morning sleepiness has improved tremendously. For one, I’ve felt very in control of my life lately, and that definitely makes me feel motivated. Secondly, my physical PMDD symptoms have slightly subdued in the last couple of months. I’m pretty sure this is due to having better sleep hours, a healthier diet, and exercising more frequently, but it’s hard to know for sure. Nonetheless, I’m feeling great now! I do notice I do occasionally become fatigued while on my period, but it doesn’t drag on for hours and hours like it used to. 

For anyone else who struggles with PMDD, I’d love to know your experiences. Has fatigue ever interfered with the quality of your life? Do you notice that stress tends to exacerbate your symptoms as well? Let me know in the comments below! Feel free to drop your tips for preventing sleepiness in the comments as well, so that we can share tips and advice with other folks who may need it.

As many of you know, I’ve struggled with anxiety for my entire life, and I am very open and vocal about my struggle with it on this platform. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there are so many misconceptions people have about anxiety, and I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on what it’s really like to live with generalized anxiety disorder. That being said, everybody who struggles with anxiety will have a different approach and journey, so please know that anxiety can be vastly different on a case-to-case basis. What I personally feel about this issue could be completely different than the thoughts and feelings of another person with anxiety.

Self-Care Quotes - Because You Deserve Them | Hallmark Ideas ...


Misconception 1: “If you have anxiety, you must have depression, too.”

While it is true that anxiety and depression can go hand in hand, that doesn’t necessarily mean it always does. Even though I struggle with anxiety and it plays a large role in my life, I have actually never really struggled with severe depression or been diagnosed with it. Of course I have gone through rough periods in my life, in general, I am able to naturally uphold a positive, cheerful, self-loving attitude. I genuinely love life and view it through an optimistic lens- I just also happen to deal with anxiety along the way. 


Misconception 2: “If you eat healthy foods and meditate, your anxiety will go away.”

Improving your diet and your routines can help with anxiety, but if you have a real anxiety disorder, it’s not very likely that you can cure it just by eating more vegetables and practicing yoga. I’m not saying it’s a worthless practice, but if you suffer from severe anxiety such as myself, it takes years of therapy and even medication to maintain my health and help my anxiety become less severe. When people tell me to try exercising or drinking more water to “cure” my anxiety, I recognize the positive intent, but it is still frustrating to hear these things.


Misconception 3: “Oh, I have anxiety, too!” or something along those lines

Everybody struggles with anxiety from time to time, and it’s completely normal to do so. However, not everybody has an anxiety disorder. What differentiates normal anxiety from a serious medical condition depends on how severely it impacts the quality of your life. For example, it’s normal and expected to have anxiety before a big test or a presentation. But if your anxiety prevents you from enjoying your everyday life or if it interferes with your daily tasks and productivity, then it could qualify for an anxiety disorder. It’s important to understand that difference, because as with any mental disorder or condition, it’s common for those who really suffer to feel invalidated or one-upped. 


Misconception 4: “Taking medication for anxiety can make you become addicted to it.”

There is no evidence to support the claim that SSRIs or other antidepressants can cause dependent tendencies in those who use them, so the idea that anxiety medication can become “addicting” is a huge misconception. With that being said, it is possible to become dependent on benzodiazepines- or tranquilizers, such as Ativan or Xanax. However, just because you have a prescription for either of these medications does NOT automatically mean you will become addicted to benzos. I have a prescription for Ativan which I use very responsibly, and I only take my benzos if I am having an absolute anxiety emergency and I am afraid of passing out or having a panic attack (which only happens a handful of times per year.)


And finally, Misconception 5: “Anxiety is not a real medical condition.”

Even though anxiety is an invisible illness, that does not make it any less valid or severe than any other condition. 

Anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions- and should be treated just as seriously as any other condition, physical or not. Additionally, anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive of disorders in the United States. If you also struggle with having an anxiety disorder, your feelings are valid, and most importantly, you are NOT alone!

I hope you found this article helpful and informative. In the midst of the political climate and the pandemic surrounding us right now, it is totally normal and valid to be feeling anxiety. Remember that it is good to feel your feelings, even if they are not always sunshiney, and there are always people out there who want to listen to you and support you.

It’s hard not to feel impacted and potentially forever changed by a TED Talk. As someone who deals with anxiety and PMDD, I find hearing other perspectives on mental illness to be extremely enlightening and clarifying. Today. I’ve compiled what I believe to be the top five best TED Talks for discussing mental health topics, though there are several more amazing ones on YouTube and the official TED site. 

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com


I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia | Cecilia McGough

Of all the TED Talks related to mental health that I have come across, I believe this was the first one I watched. I think that this is a great introductory video for those who don’t know very much about schizophrenia, like I didn’t when I first watched the video. I was absolutely amazed and shocked by Cecilia’s story, and she painted her life experiences in such a vibrant, graphic way that I was able to easily empathize with her and her struggles. Most importantly, the video shines some light on the unfair prejudice projected onto those who deal with debilitating illnesses, such as schizophrenia, and breaks the stigma that those with the illness are inherently dangerous or violent in some way. It’s an extremely important video, and I highly recommend it to everybody. 


Imagine There Was No Stigma to Mental Illness | Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman

I recently came across this TED Talk on YouTube, and what I enjoy most about this video is the fact that Dr. Lieberman explains the stigma against those with mental health in such a clear, well-thought way. I admire that he has spent a substantial amount of his career researching mental illness and how the societal stigmas against it can be damaging to vulnerable communities, and how we as a community can continue to advocate for those with mental health struggles. I agree with Dr. Lieberman that less stigma and judgment would lead to the improved treatment of millions of individuals, so I really hope this TED Talk receives more traction and attention.


What is Depression? | Helen M. Farrell

Kind of going off of the stigmatization of mental health, there seem to be a lot of preconceived notions about what exactly depression is. I’ve spent a lot of time with friends and family who are clinically depressed, and one important thing in particular that I have learned is that depression does not always equal sadly moping around. Often, people with depression can put on an upbeat face and even feel happiness, but predominantly, they feel numbness or disinterest in the outside world. I really appreciated this TED Talk because Helen Farrell summarizes this notion much better than I can, and her use of visuals in the video is really helpful as well. If you know someone who is struggling with depression, or even if you simply just want to educate yourself better on the subject, I highly recommend watching this TED Talk. 


How to Cope with Anxiety | Olivia Remes

I’ve struggled with anxiety for all of my life, and that’s initially what drew me into this video. Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders, and according to Olivia Remes, very few people who struggle with anxiety actually receive the help they need. My own journey with being diagnosed with GAD was a long and often painful struggle, so I really appreciate that Olivia Remes validates this experience for us. Although I personally have found medication to be extremely helpful, I understand where she is coming from when she emphasizes trying other alternatives first. For those who also struggle with anxiety and may want to learn more about it, I really recommend watching this video from start to finish.


How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime | Nadine Burke Harris

I’m very interested in childhood psychology and how the traumas of our past can influence the people we turn into, so it’s no wonder I was quickly drawn to this video. I’m really happy that society is shifting its views on how childhood trauma is handled; what was once viewed as something you can simply “get over” as an adult is now being treated as a legitimate source of trauma on young, developing brains. Incredibly, Nadine Harris also reveals that those who have gone through extreme trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. It’s an important reminder that we need to take PTSD and other severe trauma disorders seriously, and I really appreciate that this video is getting the attention it deserves.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article! Let me know if you have watched any of these videos, and what you thought about them as well in the comments. 

I probably don’t need to begin this by reminding y’all of these ‘unprecedented circumstances’ and I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing it, so I’ll just skip all of that and jump right in. As someone who struggles with anxiety and PMDD, it’s really important to me that I stay in-tune with my emotions and communicate with myself. If I feel like something is off or brewing inside of me, I try to confront it head-on and get to the root of the issue. Sometimes, of course, you just have to stop cross-examining yourself and give your mind a rest. Here are the ways that I take care of myself and practice self love, particularly in tough times like these. 

I know it sounds really simple and cliche, but reaching out for support and upholding communication with your loved ones is so important! It can be as simple as a phone call to a best friend, partner, or family member. Whenever I’m feeling a bit gloomy or unmotivated, I’ll usually call either my best friend, Eli, or my boyfriend, Nathaniel. It doesn’t have to be a vent or a rant; even just having an upbeat, casual conversation can really lift my spirits and make me feel instantly better. In fact, sometimes it’s actually really nice and helpful to take your mind off the things that are driving you crazy, and focus on some more lighthearted thoughts for a while.

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Another way I maintain my mental health and practice self care is by keeping up with a personal journal, and no, I don’t mean my weekly blog newsletter! I have several actual print journals I write in, and unlike my blog content, I don’t share my journal with anybody. I think it’s important to have a special place where you can freely pour your thoughts onto paper, and not have to worry about what anyone else may think. I’m also starting to get into the art of junk journaling, which not only entails writing, but also crafting and sewing! I think it’s really beautiful to journal to yourself, and in most cases, it can give you a lot of clarity about problems you may be having. 

This is one that I particularly struggle with a lot: reminding myself that I am trying my best. Particularly in these strange times with my normal schedule being disruptive, I’m feeling less motivated and focused than usual. I also have ADD, which is making it really difficult for me to focus during my online classes. However, even though I’m sufficiently stressed and sometimes doubting myself, it’s important for me to remember that I am doing the best in these bizarre circumstances- and you are, too! It’s totally okay to feel not on top of your A game, because frankly, nobody knows what they’re doing right now. All you can really do is remind yourself that you are working your hardest in the given circumstances, and try to be gentle with yourself.  

Along with taking physical actions to improve my wellness, there are also a couple of analogies that help me to put things into perspective when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed. The first one comes from a wonderfully funny Buddhist monk named Ajahn Brahm, who posts fascinating lectures on YouTube, by the way. He said something in a video once that really impacted me, and the analogy has stuck with me since. Basically, he compared having lots of different stresses in your life to carrying around lots of heavy rocks in a backpack. He reminds us that it’s important to evaluate what ‘rocks’ we are carrying around, and to decide what weight we can take out of our backpacks and out on the backburner for a while. For me right now, I’m dealing with the stress of online college, finding a job after graduation, coronavirus, moving into my first apartment, etc. Ajahn Brahm’s analogy helps me because it’s a great way to physically envision everything on my plate, and subsequently decide what I can put on hold for a while to make the weight of life more bearable.

Another analogy I really like comes from a book called When You Reach Me. Rather than try to explain the idea, I’ll just go ahead and insert the quote here:

“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.”

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I’m not sure what it is about this quote that means so much to me, but I think about it all the time (at least a couple of times per week.) Pretty much every time I am reminded of the ‘big things’ in life, I can almost see myself lifting my veil and observing life in a more clear view. The other day, I stepped out of my apartment and noticed that the sunset was absolutely gorgeous. For me, that was such a veil-lifting moment: observing the quiet beauty of the world and forgetting about the tiny stressors in my life for a few minutes. And honestly, since that day, everything has felt a little bit more okay. 

Animal therapy is a hugely successful way to alleviate stress in your life, and I’m very fortunate to have a dog around to keep me company. Sometimes, you really just need a support system but you don’t feel like talking, and that’s where pets come into play as wonderful companions. My dog doesn’t judge me or understand anything that’s going on- he’s just happy to be here, and that’s honestly all I can ask for. Petting animals can also help lower your blood sugar, so the next time you’re feeling stressed or upset, consider adding some animal therapy into your life.

Although it’s just a simple, little thing, taking bubble baths is one of my favorite ways to unwind after a crazy or overwhelming day. I really don’t understand people who say bubble baths are boring. Just bring a book or a podcast with you, or honestly, just scroll through your phone if you really want to. There’s just something utterly relaxing and wonderful about being immersed in hot water for a half hour with a few candles burning. Even better, it’s an easy way to avoid human interaction, so you can have some peace and quiet to yourself for as long as you want. For bonus points, go all out and have a complete spa night, with face masks and cucumbers on your eyes. 

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I suppose this sort of relates to the spa night idea, but lastly, I like to do hobbies and activities that make me feel beautiful- and I utilize that time for myself as being extremely important. For me, this is taking 30-60 minutes to put on my makeup, usually while I listen to a podcast or watch a video. I like the way I look bare-faced as well, but there’s just something about a full-glam face of makeup that makes me feel really pretty and confident in myself. I think makeup is also a great way to get to know your face and embrace your features, which ultimately means finding new ways to love yourself! 

Those are all my tips and ways that I practice self-love and take care of my mental health. I hope you found this article helpful, and maybe you can even draw some inspiration from it! Let me know in the comments how you like to practice your own self-care.

Over the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve gone through an enormous internal metamorphosis. Most days, I wake up brimming with positivity and gratitude, and sometimes even a sense of self-actualization. I truly do feel like I am the best version of myself that I can be, and even when I make mistakes, I try to be gentle and forgiving with myself.

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I wasn’t always that way. Middle school and high school, the most formative years of my life, were turbulent and full of dark negativity. I constantly found myself plagued with anger, confusion, self-doubt, self-deprecation, a sense that I was a bad person or a broken person, and a tendency to exhibit fawning behaviors (common with survivors of verbal and emotional abuse.) I was extremely anxious and highly sensitive to loud noises, confrontation, and raised voices. If someone even criticized me a little bit, and particularly if they spoke loudly, my ears would begin to hum and vibrate. I shared several of my childhood memories with a therapist in high school, including the time I was dragged across the carpet and spanked as a child, screaming, and how similar memories tended to pop into my mind like uncomfortable flashbacks. I told her about my notable (but not alarming) social delays, my broken confidence, my damaged relationships, and my extreme discomfort with certain areas of my body. She swiftly summarized my case as C-PTSD, otherwise known as Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. C-PTSD is commonly diagnosed in individuals who grew up experiencing repetitive, prolonged abuse, usually as a child. One of the most common experiences for young adults with C-PTSD is growing up with a parent who exhibits narcissistic tendencies, which is what my family agrees probably happened to me from my father. As a result of disconnecting from him, I went through a very mournful period of traumatic grief. 

What may be normal and surmountable to some children could be extremely difficult to others. Many kids grew up with unhappy childhoods and ended up fine, but for me, growing up afraid in my own household and dealing with anxiety through the roof, panic, and fight-or-flight sensations permanently altered my brain chemistry. As the therapist described it, my brain was “on fire,” constantly lit up with a life-or-death panic and ravenous will to survive.

There are still foggy patches in my brain, and sometimes, I lay awake and think, What happened to me? Most of the time, however, I put those worries to rest and allow the unknown to be unknown. At 20 years old, I still have several unrecovered memories that I choose to leave unearthed.

After I was put on a standard dose of escitalopram (which I continue to take to this day), entered college, and became estranged from my biological father, something surprising happened to me: I have seemingly recovered from my initial C-PTSD diagnosis.

This raises two questions. 1) Is it possible to recover completely from C-PTSD? Also, 2), did I ever actually have it? Do I simply have a ‘mild’ case of it? Am I just exceptionally lucky?

Honestly, I have no idea, and I almost don’t care to know. I do know that my trauma still impacts my life in several ways, but it’s not unmanageable and detrimental like it was a few years ago. It’s almost as if I’ve learned to love that part of myself, and nurture it back into a state of healing. Additionally, as I emerge into adulthood, I feel like I have become very comfortable with self-regulating my emotions, particularly since I have such a strong support network now. 

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I am a highly sensitive person. I still catch myself exhibiting fawning behaviors from time to time; particularly recently when I was going through a difficult period of anger and conflict with a close friend of mine. Rather than being angry, however, I am learning to self-sooth and forgive myself for the things I cannot control. I can truly say that I love myself and I’m enormously proud of the progress I have made.

When I feel my weakest, I remind myself that I am actually made of strength and perseverance. 

When my heart begins to cloud with fear, as it was a couple weeks ago with my friend, I had a sudden moment of clarity and peace that enabled me to write this article in the first place: I am not a broken woman, I am not a bad person, and I am NOT going to push myself into a state of grief over privations when I can use this situation instead to love, forgive, and grow.

Like I said, I wake up every day full of gratitude and fullness for the beauty of my life. I wish it were easier to put this feeling into words, but truly, I feel such a sense of clarity and excitement about the beauty and complexity of the world. Having gone through difficult things, kindness and compassion are even more present in my life than they ever were before, and I think that juxtaposition is a beautiful thing. Please don’t ever destroy yourself over things that are out of your control; forgive yourself for the cracks in your soul and learn to nurture those patches, too.

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I’ve been on this earth for almost twenty-one years, and throughout that time, I’ve learned a few things. For one, twenty is a weird age to be. You’re definitely no longer a child, but you don’t have enough life experience to consider yourself an adult. You understand heartbreak and (maybe) taxes, but things like paying bills and healthcare still have a big question mark. Oh, and you learn that growing is painful. 

Life is so funny in the way it tricks you. The minute you think you have it all figured out, a new obstacle or adversity throws itself into your way. I’ve definitely had so many of these “a-ha” moments throughout my life, only to realize my vision was clouded by innocence and even ignorance. It took me many years to learn one singular important lesson: just because you’re a good person and you do good things, it doesn’t mean life will treat you any more fairly or kindly. We’ll all go through terrible things, and playing a martyr won’t make anything easier. All you can really do is roll with it and accept the reality that you are given.

I spent most of my life believing I was weird, different, unlikeable, and unlovable. In fact, I didn’t let that raw outer shell melt away until my senior year of college. It was a slow, gradual process, and it felt like I was shedding pounds of anger with every year I grew. Regardless of what my public school peers actually thought of me, I was absolutely convinced everybody thought they were better, smarter, and prettier than me. I was certain I would be everybody’s second choice, at best, and there was nothing I could do about that. I spent so much time wrestling in emotional anguish over what other people thought of me; did they think I was cool enough? Was I smart enough? Was I lovable enough? Was I, isolated, enough?

Coming from a loving, strong, mother, but a detached brother and father, I struggled with male-centric attachment issues throughout my life. I always knew I loved women from the day I even understood what love was, but my constant need to fill that male role (and my fear of judgment) prevented me from reaching that goal for almost twenty years. When I finally let myself accept the fact that I could love a woman just as much as I love a man (if not even more, if I’m being honest), those pounds of fear and resistance slowly began to break away from me. 

One of the worst pains I ever felt in my life was the day I decided to cut off all communication with my biological father. For years, the sadness and unease I felt surrounding our relationship plagued me from ever standing up for myself and what was best for my health. It would have been so much easier for me if he was completely and totally catastrophic; I think I would have had such an easier time pausing that relationship in my life if the pain was black and white. Unfortunately, even though the bad outweighed the good, a few happy memories and sensitive spots still lingered (and continue) to linger in my heart. One of the hardest things a person has to do is mourn the loss of a relationship, particularly with a parent who causes emotional and verbal harm. No matter how much you love a person and wish they could change, some things are just out of your control. I grew up about a thousand years that day, and even though I still sob into my pillow for feeling like “the worst daughter ever,” I still accept that this was I step I needed to take to protect my health and my well-being. If he died tomorrow, what would I do with myself? Would I regret ending this relationship? Would it be my fault? These are the questions I am still grappling with as I go through my own adult growing pains. 

Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be dingy and sad, so let’s switch topics. Let’s talk about the beauty of growing pains and going through dark times. 

I hated college for the first two or so years. I was very much still in my Me-Against-The-World mindset, and grew constantly paranoid of the laughing, happy students around me. I was absolutely convinced that everybody hated me; even the people I’d never spoken to in my life. I learned something very interesting this year: most people genuinely don’t even have a fleeting opinion. Secondly, the people who I judged and decided were just “bitches” ended up being the nicest darned people I’ve ever met in my life. And, most of the time, they were more scared of me– the ultimate resting-bitch-faced boss lady of Lasell. It’s kind of an embarrassing realization to come to, but also a very hilarious one. There are so many people I’m now best friends with that I never imagined would give me the light of day before. And it’s not because they changed- it’s because I’ve changed.

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I’ve definitely noticed a positive shift within myself this past year. Funnily enough, I didn’t even notice it happening- but other people did. “You’re so much more confident now,” my friends are saying to me. And I truly am. Like I said, it was such a gradual internal change within myself, I didn’t even actively notice it happening. That’s a huge thing I’ve learned about gaining confidence: you can’t just will yourself to be happier and then wake up the next morning feeling like a new person. It takes time and effort, and of course, it takes growing pains. But now that I’ve reached such a state of comfortability and gratitude for who I truly am, it’s almost like I don’t even have to put in the work anymore. I just live my life the way I want to live it, and the rest follows in suit. 

When I was in middle school, I always sat with the same group of friends during English class. One of the girls, who had Aspergers syndrome, usually had an aid sitting with her as well. When we got bored in class, the four of us (including the aid) would pass around scraps of paper and take turns writing down things that make us happy. It was extremely wholesome, and I still have all of those little scraps somewhere in my closet. Today, I wanted to recreate that idea with an updated list of things that make me happy. Enjoy!

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  1. Cows
  2. Fancy rats
  3. Mozzarella sticks
  4. Panera Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
  5. Juvia’s Place
  6. The Sims 4
  7. Blueberry tea
  8. Caramel macchiatos 
  9. Fluffy, squishy dogs
  10. Flemish Giant Rabbits
  11. Persian Cats
  12. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
  13. My beautiful mother and (soon to be) stepfather
  14. Winter candles
  15. Regina Spektor
  16. Strawberries and bananas
  17. Chocolate
  18. Even numbers
  19. The Golden Hour
  20. Laughing until you cry
  21. Kissing pretty girls
  22. Real Simple
  23. Sunflowers
  24. Lesbian vests
  25. KD Lang
  26. Thrifting
  27. Snuggling with Duke and giving him big, smooshy kisses
  28. Eli
  29. Being busy + managing my projects
  30. Writing handwritten letters
  31. Pastel lined paper
  32. Sunshine
  33. Strawberry frosted donuts
  34. When Eli’s cat sits on my lap
  35. Meaningful conversations
  36. Brand new books that still have that booky smell
  37. Getting paid & putting money into my savings account
  38. Weighted blankets
  39. Stand-up comedy
  40. Glitter
  41. Collecting eyeshadow palettes
  42. Big hugs
  43. Cucumber water
  44. Red roses
  45. Downloading CC for my sims
  46. When little kids come up to me and tell me they like my makeup 
  47. Coffee shops in Boston
  48. A THICC winged liner
  49. Cloudy days
  50. Dainty jewelry
  51. Falling in love