A Reflection of 2016

Let me be the first to tell you that 2016 was the year a lot of legendary stars passed away-from Carrie Fisher, Prince, David Bowie and George Michael. It was a year full of tragedy, and change in the world, a year that we learned the importance of coming together, rather than coming apart.

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My best friend Gabu and I at my college graduation.

Personally, 2016 was a strange year, one that was full of personal growth, and victories. One of those victories was my college graduation a few weeks ago. While I was not on the traditional four year plan, there is no better feeling than completing my Bachelor’s Degree with a 3.32 GPA. College is not easy, and not everyone can do it. I was not on Dean’s List all of the time, however, being able to say that I graduated and worked hard for the degree, makes it worth all of the stress and hard work. Well, almost (kidding).

However, my graduation is not the only thing that I am celebrating. This year I dealt with anxiety, as a result of having too much on my plate, between work and school. At the beginning of 2016, I was stressed out, and frustrated as to why nothing would change in my life. This year, I realized that to truly become happy, I was going to have to change things in my life. I also realized that I was going to have to change myself and the way that I looked at things, whether it may be dating, school, and life in general. I learned when enough was enough in work. I learned to look at positive things in the most negative of situations.

As I approach 2017, I am content and happy with my life and have so much to look forward to. The changes that bought me to this point were a direct result of therapy sessions, and reading several different self help books. I also was lucky to have the support of a community compromised of friends, family, employers, professors and countless others who just wanted me to do well, something that I am grateful for.

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A shot of some friends that came to support me, along with some members of the Luther House community.

As I overcame my anxiety later on in the year, I was given the opportunity to speak at Luther House to share my story. The outpour that I got, whether it may be from fellow members of the community, friends, old teachers and even strangers was beyond overwhelming. It was a great thing to do, and I am so happy to be able to inspire those dealing with the same symptoms I did.

While sharing my experiences was not easy, I am glad that I did it, because so many readers/audience members felt that they can truly relate. And for me, that was honestly the best part about it.

Dealing with the effects of anxiety suck, whether it may be the panic attacks or the feelings of uncertainty. It is safe to say my anxiety was the central theme of the year. But, that is not going to be the theme of 2017. I have decided that 2017 is going to be my year, although I am uncertain of what it will bring. And, that’s perfectly alright.

So, 2016, you were pretty great. Thank you for the challenges that I overcame. Thank you for the memories that were made. But, let’s take a moment to celebrate 2017. Here’s to a new year, one full of new opportunities and new adventures. Of course, everyone says that on Dec. 31, but this year I believe it.

Happy New Year everyone.

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I Am Not Fragile

There is something that I want every single person out there who is reading this to know about my anxiety and about me: it does not make me fragile.

Anxiety causes me to be a bit more sensitive than a person who does not deal with anxiety symptoms, and the smallest of things can often turn into the biggest of deals. Sometimes, I have panic attacks. But, so what?

Just because I deal with (or I should say dealt with, as I am happy to announce that the majority of my symptoms have subsided, and I have not had a panic attack for the past five months) with anxiety does not make me weak or fragile.

In fact, I would like to argue that it has made me stronger. After all, I had just spent a year in therapy learning how to deal with them on my own, and investing time and energy into growing myself. I learned how to deal with it, to truly learn how to be strong, and maintain a positive outlook on life. I grew stronger and more independent, and I am pretty damn proud of this person that I have become.

And what did you do this past year?

Lets face it-having anxiety sucks. However, I learned to deal with the symptoms. Let me say this once and for all: not everything gives me anxiety, and it is not up to you to control my anxiety. My anxiety does not have to do with a lot of things that I deal with daily. I am not anxious writing this blog post. I am not anxious petting my dog, going to the store, buying a coffee, you get the picture. And, even if it did, it is not up to you to help me deal, although I appreciate the support. It is my problem, and I think that I  do a pretty good job dealing with them.

That may be harsh, yes. However, whenever I tell someone that I have anxiety, I often feel that they treat me as if I were made out of glass and easily broken. And, that frustrates me. Just because I have some sort of mental illness does not mean that you have to treat me like I am a child and protect me. I can do that by myself, thank you very much.

So, the take home message here? Just because someone has anxiety (or any other mental illness for that matter), does not mean that they are weaker than you. It does not make them fragile. It makes them strong, and that is why they deserve to treated as every other damn human on the planet, with a bit more understanding of course of what they went through, because they went through hell to get to the point where they are at today. We are not the label that we possess-we are so much more than that. Be sure to remember that.

 

Milk and Honey Lives Up To The Hype

Out of the 64 books that I have read this year, there is one book in particular I will definitely read again. That book is “Milk and Honey”by Rupi Kaur.

I had wanted to read this book for a while now-it had been very highly recommended by a several different friends, and after receiving a gift card (which was a graduation gift), I had finally decided to purchase it.

After finally getting my hands on the book, I eagerly finished my Hemingway novel I was reading, as I was anxious to finally read the words that everyone was buzzing about. It was worth the wait, and I consumed the book within an hour, as I was engrossed in Kaur’s beautiful prose.

“Milk and Honey” is a poetry book that is comprised of four parts-hurting, loving, breaking, and the healing, and some of the poems were accompanied by illustrations by Kaur.

The book talks about trauma, and about falling in and out of love, approaching heartbreak and self love in a way that everyone who has been in a relationship that has ended can relate to.

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Via The poem “Balance” appears in the fourth part, and offers a change of perspective of gratitude. 

Overall, I thought that Kaur did an amazing job with each poem, along the pictures that accompany the poems, as each of them enhances their meaning.

This book came with a lot of hype, and with books that come with the amount of hype that this book did, they often fall short.

However, with “Milk and Honey,” it did not only live up to the hype. It surpassed it.

I believe this book has all of the components to what makes a good book, as it draws you in to the point where you can not put it down, has something that pretty much everyone relate to, is well written, and is simply powerful. What I especially loved were the poems about strength, gratitude and learning to love yourself, because I felt both empowered and inspired after reading them.

Therefore, I recommend this book highly to everyone out there, no matter what gender you are. I especially recommend this book to someone who is going through a breakup or a heartbreak, because of the comfort it offers to those who need it.

So, if you are looking for a good book to spend your holiday gift cards on, look no further. “Milk and Honey” is the book to get. Chances are, it will earn a place of honor on your shelf, as it did on mine.

*Writer’s Note: All opinions are my own, and I am reviewing this book simply because I enjoyed reading it, not because I received it to write a review.

Conscious Uncoupling: A Break Up Must Read

Disclaimer: I’ve recieved this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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The book “Conscious Uncoupling” helps offer you a healthy perspective of a breakup. 

Let’s face it: break ups are not fun. It is safe to say that we all can come to that consensus. I always say that the only way to truly know someone is to break up with them, as the way that they break up with you or react to your breakup (or how a friend takes a breakup) can show a lot about their personality.

Breakups have also become a huge topic in literature. When I went through one a few months ago, I decided to go to the bookstore to look for some resources on the subject, only to be confused by the wide variety of books that are out there. So with so many books on how to break up, how do you know which ones are the ones worth spending your money on?

Katherine Woodward Thomas’ “Conscious Uncoupling” is that very book. The book is organized five steps-find emotional freedom, reclaim your power and your life, break the pattern, become a love alchemist and create your happily even after life. Each of these steps helps comfort you in a time of heartbreak and gives you the tools to not only cope effectively, but become better than before.

What I liked about this book is that it explores the ideas of letting go and maintaining a healthy relationship with your former partner, as well as learning how to find strength within. Cliche? Yes. But, I found it to be really helpful, and I believe that anyone would as well.

For instance, one of the things that I really liked was changing how people talked about your former partner. When I broke up with my ex-boyfriend, my friends as a way to support me, said that he was a jerk and that they didn’t like him anyway. I found that  However, after reading Thomas’ book, I want to correct them and say we both were at fault, and that I am not the victim.

While this is only one of the many things this book has, this book also offers readers a look of at patterns that one has in relationship. Because of this, I was able to take a look at who I am as a girlfriend, and what I could have done better in my previous relationship. For instance, I could have been more honest with my partner, and more open to him. I also could have asked him how he was feeling when it came to my anxiety. However, while I can not change the past, I can change the future and continue to evolve as a person, an even better one for whenever I do get into a relationship.

And, it all started with this book.

So, if you are going through a break-up, whether it may mutual or otherwise, the “Conscious Uncoupling” is the book for you to read. Trust me, it will help you get through it. And if you’re still trying to move forward, this book also offers you a great resource to help you take those next steps in your life.

Why We Need to Change Our Perception Of Mental Illness

Nearly 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and over suffer from a mental illness each year, according to the Kim Foundation. This translates into about a quarter of the American population who deal with the crippling effects of mental illness on a daily basis. These illnesses have a wide range, from anxiety, PTSD, depression and eating disorders. And, those are only a few that the DSM lists.

With so many mental illnesses out there, there is still a bad attitude towards those who suffer from them, whether it may be calling them “freaks” or “weirdos,” calling those who have a learning disability “retarded” or saying that they simply want attention. These perceptions can originate from many different places, from family members growing up, from media or from lack of knowledge. However, I believe that we as a society need to change this, so we can not only accept those who suffer from these illnesses, but encourage them to get the help that we need.

These negative perceptions have a variety of range, and can have an effect on the patient, because they feel almost as if they are not validated to feel what they are feeling. I suffer from anxiety and have experienced numerous panic attacks. One of the comments that I have received was “you are freaking out over nothing,” or “you are doing this just to get attention.” Honestly, let me ask you this. If I could control my panic attacks, don’t you think I would? Do you honestly think that I want to live with panic attacks that consistently put a stall on my life?

I didn’t think so.

I can honestly say that it is almost twice as hard to heal from a mental illness than a physical one. I myself can speak from my experiences, as it took nearly a year to get to a place where I can control my anxiety. During this time, it was like trying to fight a losing war, as I tried to change my way of thinking, tried to put myself first and figure out what treatment I needed to get better. Anxiety was not something I could just not “get over” at the snap of my fingers. Anxiety was something that consumed my body, taking over both my physical and mental states of being. By saying that anxiety is something that I simply can “get over” is both hurtful and offensive.

We need to stop those who suffer from mental illness to simply “get over it.” We need to change our perceptions of mental illness, and treat them with the same amount of respect, or even more, that we treat those who do not suffer from mental illness. We need to not disregard the symptoms that can not be helped. We need to listen to someone who is struggling with the effects of depression with a kind ear. We need to erase the r-word from our vocabulary.

Those who suffer from a mental illness do not deserve those derogatory terms. They do not deserve to be dismissed. Haven’t they been through enough without feeling that they are less than in a society? I think so.

6 Tips For Dating Someone With Anxiety

Being a significant other to someone with an anxiety, or any kind of mental illness for that matter, can be a daunting thing, especially if you have no experiences with the disorder. Anxiety can cause many different problems, especially in your point of view, you do not understand why your partner is freaking out about something small or a larger thing.

As a person who deals with anxiety, and has had relationships, I can tell you that it is not easy. In my experiences, my anxiety had become the third wheel in my relationships. While I was lucky to have a partner who wanted to understand, dating someone with anxiety can be tricky, and I hope this list becomes a resource of everyone who has a partner who has an anxiety disorder. While these tips pertain to people who have anxiety, these also pertain to all mental illnesses-from depression to eating disorders.

1. Communication is key. This is crucial in any kind of relationship, but this is especially crucial in a relationship with a person with anxiety. Ask them about what makes them anxious, ask them about what triggers a panic attack and talk to them about the things they can do to help make them feel better. The more talking you do, I think the better off you are.

However, with that being said, dating someone with anxiety can be overwhelming. If you feel like they are leaning on you too much, be sure to tell them (in a nice way, naturally). I am the first to admit it is not the easiest thing to date me because of my anxiety. With that being said, I also think that if my boyfriend should speak up if he is feeling like he is lost in my anxiety, because I feel like anxiety can consume the relationship as well. Therefore, if you are feeling like that, then please speak up.

2. Do not ever make them feel guilty or tell them how to feel. One of the worst things that anyone can do with someone who has anxiety is make them feel guilty for their anxiety, or tell them to stop feeling anxious over something so small. Whenever I hear that, I want to slap someone in the face, and say “if I could control it, don’t you think I would?” By saying that, you are shutting them out, and making them feel even worse then they already are. Instead of saying “stop being anxious,” replace the sentence with “I do not understand how you are feeling, however I would like to try to. Can you tell me what is going through your head?” This sentence is ten times better because not only are you opening up communications, but you are also making them feel like they can come to you for support, and not pushing them away.

3. Remember they are not just their anxiety. As I mentioned in my sermon, I am a lot more than my anxiety. That is something I want every guy I date to remember. Sure, I deal with this thing called anxiety. But, there is more to me than that. I am sure that every person out there who deals with any kind of mental illness can attest to that. Chances are, there is a reason why you are with that person, and attracted to them, whether it may be because of their sense of humor or the things you both have in common. Therefore, remember that their mental illness is not the whole part of them.

4. Come to a therapist appointment, if you want. In my last relationship, my ex-boyfriend attended a therapist appointment with me to further learn how to manage my anxiety, and become a support system.

While I do not think it is a necessary thing to do, I do think it is something that is beneficial for both communication factors and to help understand exactly the circumstances of your anxiety is. In addition to that, I think it is important for partners to do this, just because it can help create an honest communication with each other, and learn more about anxiety/whatever if not familiar with it.

5. Take care of you. Just because you are dating someone with anxiety, and needs constant support, does not mean that you have to give up everything just to be there for them. Going through a year’s worth of therapy helped me learn to manage my anxiety on my own. However, from time to time, I lean on the support of friends and family. Leaning too much in any relationship can lead down an unhealthy path.

What I want partners of anxiety patients to know is that they do not have to feel like they are on call consistently. As I could imagine (and hope for that matter), you have a life outside of your relationship, whether it is work, school, friends and family. Sometimes, if your partner is having a crisis, you just can not be there for them for whatever reason. And that is okay, and if your relationship is a healthy one, your partner understands that. You need to take care of you, which is something that is important. This includes making sure that you are getting your work done, making sure you do things that are fun for you and making sure you do things that make you happy.

However, I would also like to add that whenever you are able to talk to them, you should aspire to let them know that you are there for them to offer support when needed. That alone can mean the world to them.

6. Be patient and let them feel what they need to feel. Anxiety is often the combination of several thousand feelings at once pulsing through your brain. When I have a panic attack, I am hysterically crying, and feel like I just can not breathe from the weight of the anxiety. Panic attacks come from all sorts of triggers (which is important for you to learn about them), and as I mentioned earlier, some of them you might not understand.  Being able to support them and be patient with them is a combination of traits that I think everyone who has a significant other with anxiety needs to have to make the relationship successful.

However, it is important for you to remain patient and let them feel that anxiety. The more you do this, the more comfortable and supported they feel. Speaking more you do not let yourself feel that anxiety, the more destructive it can be.

So while you do not understand why your significant other may be crying in a corner, remember to remain patient with them, hold their hand if you are able to and if you are not able to, just say that you care/love them, and will always be there for them.

I can speak from experience by saying anxiety is tough, and is especially tough to deal with in relationships. With that being said, constant communication and discussion can be your weapons in dealing with its craziness.