A little TL(S)C

When law school began, I will admit, I thought I had everything figured out. I had a coping mechanism toolkit for when things were rough, I drank loads more water than my entry into undergrad (a lesson I will never forget) and I was overall in a very good place. I came to a new state to start over. A complete redo, free from the baggage of the past. And that was a wildly freeing concept.

All of that was also incredibly naive and somewhat short-sighted.

Turns out, law school is where the gaps in my self-care capabilities became glaringly obvious. And for that, I am ever thankful. Because it’s given me an opportunity to fix them. So as I’m sitting here, nursing a stress-migraine, I wanted to reflect on all the really cool things that have changed.

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First, I became a vegan. It’s been something like 6 years since I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian. It’s been a bit of a struggle to wrap my head around it all the time (especially when iron levels are low) but I went about it all wrong. I didn’t focus on complete nutrition, I just focused on not eating meat. And there were days when I *did* eat meat (typically chicken or fish) and yet I still kept going. Because instead of listening to the reasons I couldn’t be a vegetarian, I was the best vegetarian I knew how to be. And that wasn’t good enough. I can’t ignore the crappy way I feel when I eat meat-or to my very wild surprise-the stinky-like-feet smell of dairy. So I’m leaving it behind. It’s a process I started in March, and I’m very nearly at the fully integrated stage. My grocery list contains only plant and plant-based foods, but it’s been fully researched and there are plenty of nutritional changes going on in it as well. I’m looking at plant-based things like mozzarella (because I adore pizza) and vegan sour cream (because baked potatoes).

And in more dietary news, I’m leaving behind heavy carbs. I’ve spent a long part of my life associating heavy carbs with happiness. So soda is going (and soon to be gone) and so are things like pasta, bleached breads and the like. That’s not to say I will be abstaining from all grains-in fact, I will be eating oats, rice, and ethically sourced quinoa, as well as whole grain breads on occasion. But I’m removing them from my grocery list in a big way-so that I can find happiness outside of carbs. And that’s a change I’ve needed to make for ages. I got myself a blender with a to-go attachment, and I will be using it to make all manner of smoothies to stop the unnecessary sugar cravings from that soda.

Image result for self care clip art freeRegular exercise! This one is something I did a lot in high school, but then got to undergrad and lost my sense of self. This summer, in addition to the wild amounts of sun I will be getting (because Topeka apparently never gets rain), I will be devoting each morning to yoga, and most afternoons to swimming. I’ve been at the gym more this semester than I’ve ever been, and I’m rather excited to add some variety.

I’ll also be meditating every day. As a way to spiritually and mentally ground myself, I have been working towards finding a balance in how I feel and how I am (I know, that sounds a little weird). However, I’m really excited to add this in to my yoga time and really begin to heal from the inside out. To that end, I will also be investing in hobbies this summer. Painting, writing and reading are going to take up a lot of my afternoons, because I’ve neglected those parts of who I am.

In regards to my spiritual self-care, I will be really exploring the different avenues of beliefs, and digging in to the ones I already have. I’ve been pagan for nearly as long as I’ve been a vegetarian, but I want to see if there are things that align better than others. I’ll be sharpening my tarot skills, praying to the ancestors and doing a lot more in the way of sharpening my spiritual skill set.

I’ve re-designed my Etsy shop, and hope to have it up and running soon. I really want to invest in sharing my love of essential oils. While I’m perusing the internet waiting for orders, I’ll be soliciting agents for my NaNo book! This is something I am not new to, but I have been hard at work trying to make the best draft I can.

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All this to say, this summer is about fixing my mental-physical-spiritual health before I begin my social work classes in the fall. I’m considering revamping my YouTube channel to kind of showcase the changes and do some reviews of things I’ll be doing. We’ll see!

Anything you think I’m missing? Anything you’d like to see changed in your own life? Have you made changes and they’ve made your life the better? Let me know below!

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I became an egg.

Ben and I got into a discussion earlier in the semester about how we’ve both changed. And a great chunk of it is for the better. But because we’re both in school, and surrounded by people that aren’t us, we’re picking up the mannerisms and behaviors of those other people. Me more than him. (I’m a people sponge.) And as we were talking, the story of the boiling water popped into mind.

The Campbell’s soup (condensed) edition of this story is that a child had an anger outburst and the parent, boiling water on a stove, asked them to retrieve an egg, a carrot and coffee. Pouring three cups of boiling water, each of the items was placed in a separate cup for a few minutes. When asked what the foods had to do with the anger, the parent replied that the egg, which had started off soft and fragile, when placed in hot water, became hard and rigid. The carrot, while firm and strong at first, became pliable and easily enough cut down. But the coffee, the coffee changed the water itself.

This is, of course, the metaphor for dealing with hard times. You either become tough and hardened, soft and depleted or you change the situation altogether.

Unfortunately, law school was my hot water and I became an egg.

Last semester was all about me surviving the frying pan without jumping into the fire. I threw up walls, didn’t let others in and became an all-around really oppressive force. I was so convinced that I needed to constantly prove my worth that I began to be, well, a bully. And I felt the change. I felt the words tumble out of my mouth the way bile does. I didn’t seem to be able to stop myself. I had wanted so badly to prove that I could handle everything that I was actually proving exactly the opposite.

Thus the talk.

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(Image from FreeImages.com)

Now, I don’t know if it’s possible to become coffee from an egg. But I’ve noticed the shift-just slightly-and I like it much more. I hold what I’ve deemed “Lunch Therapy” where other students come and we all sit and talk about what’s bothering us while we eat lunch. I ask people about their day, their life, I take an interest. Not because I’m trying to change the climate of the school, but because that’s who I am. Not the person who picks up on insecurities and jokes about them, but the person who cares too much. A couple people have really gotten into the idea, and I’m hoping that it will catch on, because it helps everyone focus on that self-care.

And I don’t know why I thought that was a bad thing. Empathy was my style since high school-when I used to stay up all night and talk people down from suicide. People would call and text me and I’d sneak around my house to find a private place and listen. I’ve always created a safe space for people to help themselves heal. Why was I so unwilling to carry that trend?

Because I had wounds that needed healing too.

And that, friends, is the thing about self-care. If you don’t keep up on it, if you put it to a back-burner for a while, you’ll be notified really plainly that you’re in trouble. And it’s so much more than drinking water and getting sleep and social activities. It’s the small, annoying things that make a huge difference. And for me, it was a void of validity. I needed something to make me feel worthy/respected/accepted/etc. And I thought that what I was doing was it, but I was wrong.

When I gave up facades for lent (for a religion I don’t practice, no less), this was the journey I agreed to. Restructuring my life so that instead of a rotten egg, I’d get back to being the earthy, grounded, free-spirit, passionate, hurricane of a me.

Cranberry Juice

It’s been a while since my last post, in short because of my health. While usually that means the mental flavor, this time it was physical health. But because it ties in really nicely with a conversation I had recently, I thought I’d pop down some thoughts. This ties into a lot of what I’m about: education, mental health, self-care, and well, let’s just get to the point.

I tell this story more frequently these days, but perhaps it just feels that way because everyone who knew it is several states away. I was a freshman in high school. I was still in the process of being diagnosed (mental health) and the professional assisting me asked:

“What do you do when you think about suicide and self-harm?”

To which I replied,

“I go drink a Dr. Pepper.”

And the advice I received was:

“Then every time you feel depressed, why don’t you go get one and drink it? That will take your mind off of those thoughts long enough to change your mind.”

And that’s where my story begins. What I’m sure was supposed to be a distraction from the thoughts which pervade the angsty teenage years, quickly became a self-medicating venture. Each time I felt sad, down a can would go. That quickly became bottles, which soon became liters. If Dr. Pepper were alcoholic, I would have died of liver failure. But we’re not to that point yet.

Because I drank so much of that delicious goodness (and it’s still my very favorite drink today), I developed a tolerance for caffeine. I was growing more and more tired as the days wore on and soon discovered the mystifying effects of energy drinks. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d become a connoisseur. I absolutely adored Venom Black Mamba’s, but even those didn’t have enough caffeine. I started undergrad in the fall of 2011 and that was about the time that I’d finally graduated to the Monster BFC’s.

Now, for those who never got into energy drinks, or just simply don’t know, the BFC (Big Fucking Can) contained 32oz or 4 full cans of Monster in one. And I would drink it in one go. This is about the time that organ failure came into play. I didn’t make it through my first semester of undergrad because my kidneys began to fail. I spent a great many days in the hospital because I couldn’t process water. Water. And I learned that I would need to do a great deal of care to rebuild what I had damaged.

My symptoms were fairly simple and were immediately confused with stress induced fainting spells mixed with a cold. But the fever, the fainting and the dehydration were incredibly strong indicators that I wasn’t just stressed. Even so, it took a long time before someone took me seriously. What had begun as a UTI became a bladder infection, became a kidney infection, became almost death. All from the things that were supposed to stop me from thinking about dying. Huh.

I’m not saying that I blame the healthcare professional who told me to drink a Dr. Pepper each time I was in a bad place mentally. What I’m saying is that for a teenager who wasn’t in a good place, vague instructions like that nearly killed me.

So zip to more recently. During my finals, I met the wrong end of a cross-contaminated batch of food and ended up taking a law school final with a fever so high, I was delirious. I drank water and gatorade until I felt like I was going to burst. But not once did I think about how what was going on would affect my kidneys.

This would end up being my mistake. And I’ve spent the past week and a half chugging water and cranberry juice, mixing essential oils and all kinds of medicines. And I remembered what it was like to be that teenager away at college and not understanding what was happening to them. This time, I knew the signs and knew how to fix it. I’m feeling better (finally) and I’m looking forward to the new semester.

You hear a lot about eating disorders being food. And obviously that makes sense. But I wonder how many other people out there are medicating not with chewables, but with soda and energy drinks and the things that simply don’t require a legal age-but are absolutely just as destructive as the things that do. Perhaps we need studies on this.

So folks, I’m not going to say not to drink these things. I’m going to say treat your energy drinks like alcohol: one can + one bottle of water. Your kidneys will thank you!

But it’s who we are.

Kesha put out her newest song this week, entitled “Praying” and I will be the first to admit that I ran the whole gambit of emotions listening to it, including the compulsion to listen to it on repeat for hours on end. Although the song itself deserves more words than I could give, it actually made me think about a different post I’ve been chewing on. (But don’t worry-there will be a Kesha post before I leave this state.)

I met up with a friend this week for coffee before I make the journey. She and I have been friends since second grade-making that just about 18 years. We’ve been strong friends since freshman year of high school and I consider her one of the people I hold most dear and close to my heart. It was during this coffee meeting that we talked about our lives, the directions they were heading and without breaking the level of commitment to each other, we spoke of doubt and concern and fear.

I told her that we didn’t have to tackle the heavy stuff, and she told me that that was who we are. I don’t know about you, but having a friend who you can make jokes with and take on the messy bits with-without fear of judgment or losing conversation flow is one of the nicest things I think a person can have. She makes me so sad that I’m actually leaving this state, because I won’t get to see her face.

But I had a point.

Sometimes you have all these external battles you have to face. Work, school, bills, moving, other people. And these battles can take the form of physical, mental and spiritual ones. But sometimes you have internal battles. Depression, anxiety, doubt, fear, a lack of self-care. And those battles are no less important. They just also happen to be really hard to fight, because sometimes they coincide with external stressors.

Life is hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. And so many times I have a heart to heart with myself about what it is I’m doing. Because it feels like I’m just a drop in the ocean of chaos. There doesn’t seem like there’s a meaning, a purpose to everything. And that’s such a hard place to be-because you’re the only one who can pull yourself out of it, but you’re the one in there fighting.

Love doesn’t mean coddling and over-protectiveness. Love isn’t shielding you from every bad thing that can happen. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be in pain, be scared, be sad. Love isn’t something that covers everything in bandaids and rainbows. Especially when your heart is in the right place.

Love is the thing that keeps you from giving up because it’s hard. Love means letting yourself get hurt because that’s how you grow and that’s how you learn to be a light for others. Love is the reason that you wake up every day, facing those battles that feel like they’re too much to handle.

I saw a post the other day on Facebook that said something like: “You were born to bring love to someone else. They need your laughter, your kindness, your hope. That’s why you make it through the tough times-so you can be a light for them.”

And I made a comment on that post that said just five words.
“And that person is yourself.”

So many times we forget that if we don’t pay attention the our own needs and our own brokenness, we can’t possibly do all the good we aspire to do. You are worth every ounce of love and laughter and empathy that you give out to others. And it’s not being selfish-it’s your duty.

I’ve spent a long time angry at the idea of God. I felt abandoned, I felt forgotten. I ran so far in the other direction that I passed deity and went straight to bitterness. And I spent a long time there. But bitterness can only take you to the rock bottom you were so desperately trying to avoid. I spent a long while looking for answers to those big questions, those “Why?”s. And I can’t say I have the answers. But I have the ones that keep me going, hoping for a better tomorrow. Religion and self-care have a lot in common. And whatever the “truth” looks like to you-if it isn’t wrapped in unconditional love, it’s just not the truth.

I think that each person has their own idea of truth, the truth that is true to them. And if that’s Christianity, that’s okay. If it is Islam or Judaism or Buddhism or Paganism, that’s okay. Because at the end of the day, you can only do your very best. And that very best is love. The love that doesn’t prevent pain, but endures it. The love that doesn’t disguise fear and doubt, but prepares you to battle it. The love that reminds you that you are just as worthy of happiness and empathy and care and hope as everyone else. No matter where you find that kind of love, it has to start within.

“I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come.
I hope you’re somewhere praying, praying
I hope your soul is changing, changing
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, praying.”
-Praying, Kesha.

Frankly my dear…

I’m a pretty complex creature. I have good days, bad days, days of all kinds of things. I’m an extroverted introvert and I could list a ton of labels that would go on for days. What I wanted to be, for a very long time though, is frank. Just very up-front, not wishy-washy. i want to call things like I see them, and have other people understand it as I meant it.

Which is why I started blogging in the first place. It’s why I tell the hard stories, the ones that are personal, the ones that enrage. Because if no one else will say anything, I have to. And that goes double for the topics I am passionate about: mental health and ending rape culture. This should come as no surprise-I talk about pretty much nothing else.

Something came up recently that crossed my mind and I thought I’d share it here. It’s a mental health blog day, so I want to be upfront with that. I’ll be talking about self-harm (although only about scars-no descriptors or pictures) and I will be talking about moving forward and healing. I’m going to start with the story I just submitted to The Mighty.

“My self image has always been a love-hate relationship. I grew up in a world where a woman who was headstrong, opinionated and loved herself just didn’t exist. That’s not to say that I had no support to be those things, but rather that I listened to everything else. Everything that was telling me how not good enough I was, how unacceptable it was to be me.

“I started self-harming as a freshman in high school. It wasn’t a cry for help, or a plea for death. It was a desperate attempt at a reprieve. I didn’t want to die, I just had no other way of expressing the pain and the level of emotions I felt on the inside. And although my skin has been forgiving, I avoid looking at my arms. I can see each and every scar and I think that hurts more than it did making them. The few people who know say that they can’t really see them, but it doesn’t matter-because I can.

“So I decided I was going to get a really pretty tattoo-something to cover them up. The most of them were on my left arm, so the location choice was easy. I spent weeks designing, critiquing and reworking until I had everything I wanted. It was a beautiful representation, the most lovely piece of artwork I’d ever made. I chose to remind myself that if I am unhappy, I can change. So I made a promise to myself that whenever I was frustrated or I didn’t like the choices I’d made, the situations I was in, I’d move on to something I did love, and that made me happy.

“When I was explaining my choice of design and placement, I picked my words carefully. I wanted to remind myself that life was beautiful. I picked the placement so that I would never self-harm there again. Why? Because I’d worked so hard on that art and destroying it was something I absolutely could never do. The hope and love that it represented were things that simply had to last much longer than the pain of a blade, or the pain on the inside.

“Later that night, as I reflected on what I’d said, I cried. If I could have such reverence for art-why couldn’t I have it for myself? I’ve spend decades becoming the person I am. A piece of art that takes that long is something that should be treasured far more than something that takes a few weeks and yet I’d spend half that time tearing it down, devaluing it and ripping at the very fabric of its creation.

“The thing is, I only let four people know I was getting my tattoo. I told two of them the meaning behind it and I kept the final design a secret from everyone except the artist. I sat down in the chair and when I got up again, the art on the inside was finally reflected on the outside. I keep looking at my arm, not seeing the scars that reminded me of how sad I was, how fragile and full of self-hate I was. Instead, I see hope and the promise I made to myself that unless I can say “I wish for this” to my choices, I have the power to change the situation, the duty to make myself happy, and the courage to be exactly the wonderful artwork of a person that I am.”


With that in mind, I went to work yesterday and my arm was uncovered-so everyone saw. I’m quite frankly very proud of the art, and the meaning and I had no problem telling everyone about it.  I even told them why. And the looks I got back were, well, they were interesting. And that’s what got me thinking.

I wanted to tell them the story of courage and beauty and love–self love. And the reactions were varied-usually some place between a pitying “I understand” or a shocked “I didn’t know that about her”. I’m not upset at either of these, but it made me think about why I was telling people in the first place. I’m not a “sharing” person, but I wanted everyone to know about it. So where was the disconnect?

I was so frank about what I wanted people to know because if no one is going to start the conversation, then I will. And as I said, if that means people give me looks, ask nosy questions or change their opinion of me, then that’s fine. Because maybe it’s the first time they’ve come in contact with these issues-and I want them to know that their preconceived notions might be wrong.

**Disclaimer-my work people are really great. They weren’t judgy or nosy, nor did they look down at me-I’m just saying that those are the reactions I’ve had from others.

 

 

 

 

It’s been a long day.

I’ve spent the last few weeks being less active on social media and more active in the political realm. I’ve learned a lot, been frustrated a bit and gained some clarity. Words are such powerful tools. We use them, we don’t think about it. And you know, that seems awfully silly coming from me. I sit on my pedestal and preach the power in intention and am blown away by the way language is used to convey meaning.

But I want to focus on something that happened in my personal life a week or so ago. Because I’ve been reflecting on it so much.

As a kid, I wasn’t super close with my parents. I loved them, to be sure, as all children do. But I don’t think I appreciated them as much as I do now-which is very typical I think. Anyway, since reaching this weird age, I’ve grown to be more appreciative.

Anyway, cut to last week when I had a break down in front of my dad. How mortifying. I told him that I was struggling, and that I didn’t understand why everything seemed so hard. I told him that I saw how hard he worked and how I thought I was making all the right decisions and still things weren’t working out. And he said to me

You can do all the right things for all the right reasons and things still might not work out. It doesn’t mean you failed, it means you’re not done yet.

As I said, I’ve reflected on that every day. I wrote it down in my bullet journal because it was something I needed to hear.

I get so wrapped up in things that I don’t always see the big picture that I’m wrapped up in. It’s the forest for the trees scenario. I want so much to for things to be balanced. Each time I try to look at the big picture, I ask for just one thing. Not for my life to turn out the way I want, with no worries and no troubles. But for balance. You see, somewhere along the way I decided that for each bad thing that happened, there would be a good thing to counteract it.

So for example, saving money and being responsible instead of partying and splurging should mean that I have money to cover all the bills without being stressed out.

But that’s not how it works. And often times it doesn’t account for emergency situations. And I think that’s why I needed to hear the message above. I’m just not done yet. I have to keep going. And believe me, it’s not something I think about with glee. I’m worn out. I’m exhausted. I want things to be okay.

But I’m not done yet. And that’s okay. I’ve just got to keep fighting and everything will work out.

I suppose this blog today is for my own benefit more than anything else. I know that life is hard. And I know that sometimes you just need a break that you can’t have and that more than anything it’s all about endurance. Taking a moment to make sure you’re okay before you keep pushing forward is important and I know I need to hear that. I’m a give-until-there’s-nothing-left kinda person. I get used up and then I don’t know what to do. So it’s time for me to unlearn that and figure out how to make my own balance.

Scheduling a Breakdown

(I submitted this to The Mighty a couple days ago, but I know they’re busy, so I thought I’d share it here. I’ll snag the link if/when it goes live. Until then, you can find my articles here.)

It seems like the minute I have a hundred things to do, my brain decides it’s the perfect time for a breakdown. Even though I have no time for it, it’s not convenient and I really don’t want to think about all the things my depression brain focuses on, I find myself doing all of those things instead of my full calendar. So I’ve put together a list of things that help me put a pin in my symptoms momentarily so I can finish up a few things.

1. Set aside time for yourself.
Trust me, as someone who understands all about
procrastinating, this can seem like both an obvious thing and an impossible
thing to do. But I’m talking about a five minute break here or there. Drink
your cup of coffee, slowly. Smell the steam, watch your creamer swirl in the
cup. Live the experience fully. Go get the mail. Do you hear any crickets? The
sound of ice crunching beneath your feet? This little break reminds you to catch
a little perspective and maybe distract you long enough to work through it.

2. Let yourself be upset.
Telling yourself that you’re not that upset only makes you worse. If you
absolutely can’t be upset-do math. It can be simple, like 1+1, 2+2 and so on.
As it turns out, your brain doesn’t like feeling emotions and doing math at the
same time, so you can usually stall your tears for a moment. But if you have
the ability, just be upset. Again, it can be a little five minute moment in
which you feel like the world is crashing around you and all hope is gone. I
ugly cry, take a tissue and blow my nose then get up and grab some water. I’m
not saying I’m done being upset, but if I let myself be upset in little bits,
then it doesn’t come out in a marathon. It’s your right to be upset. Even if
you don’t think there’s a reason. The way you’re feeling is completely valid.

3. Find something you wanna smile about.
I hate the advice “just turn that frown upside
down”. Sometimes that’s the absolute last thing I want to do-and even then it
just makes me angrier, or cry harder. But what I’m talking about is finding
something that you know you enjoy and experience it. If you think penguin’s
laughing is cute-find a video (I think it’s fantastic). If you know you smile
when you make chicken parmesan, make it. Like bubble baths? Take one. Because
finding something to enjoy usually results in some kind of self-care and let’s
be honest-is that ever a bad thing?

4. Take a deep breath.
This isn’t a novel idea, but it’s important.
Your whole body needs oxygen to function. Your brain is absolutely no
different. Think about how hard your brain is working, trying to manage
everything, fix problems (especially the ones you’re worrying about “for
nothing”). You need air. Plus, if you take a moment and focus on your
breathing, sometimes you’ll find that you already knew the answer to the
problems, you were just so focused on everything all at once that you didn’t
notice.
While you’re breathing, try this little
exercise. Take one breath in and list five things you see. Breathe out. Take
another breath and list four things you hear. Breathe out. Take one more breath
and list three things you smell. Breathe out. One more breath and list two
things you can feel. Breathe out. Take another breath and list one thing you
can taste. Breathe out. Take another breath and carry on about your day.

5. Get a validation outfit.
This is one of my favorite things, and it
happened completely on accident. I got a sweatshirt a couple sizes too big and
washed it and decided that I would only wear it when I felt like a terrible
person. I told myself that while I was wearing it, I wasn’t allowed to degrade
myself. The shirt itself has a graphic about always loving yourself, so I
thought I’d wear it when I needed a reminder that I’m not a monster, and that I
matter. It hangs in my closet until I feel depressed, or feel worthless and
then I put it on and read the words. And when the thoughts popped into my head
like “I’m an idiot.” Or “I’m unlovable.” I look at the words on my shirt and
force myself to take ten seconds to say something nice about myself. “I am
fierce. I am valid. I am irreplaceable.” The nice thing about validation
outfits? They can be anything: a business suit, a pair of shoes, earrings, a
bracelet, a pair of socks. The important thing is to remember to love yourself.
Soon enough, it’ll be your favorite piece of clothing.

Life is hectic and hard sometimes. But the important
thing to remember is that you can do it-even when you’re convinced you can’t.