Don’t Wait to be Happy

Not too long ago, I found myself a complete and utter failure down in the depths of despair. Being abroad had done a number on my body and my soul. And, as I began looking for internships to apply to, I realized that my once flawless transcript had become something that I was less than proud to call mine. I found myself on a college campus with no idea who I was and beyond that, I was more or less utterly alone. To summarize, I was a self-pitying, depressed pile of poop.

Now because I was still on a positivity kick blah blahblah. Here’s what I told myself. In fact, this is what I wrote on tumblr:

I keep thinking that because i’m a failure today, i’m going to continue being a failure for the rest of my life. but then i remember how much has changed over the past year. How much i’ve changed. And i have a little sliver of hope, that maybe if i start changing things little by little in the right direction, in a year or two from now, i’ll be a completely different person. but this time it’ll be for the better. Who i am now isn’t who i’m going to be forever.

So basically, its okay to feel negatively about myself because one day, I’m not going to be this person anymore. And that’s the problem. Why wait for the future? I feel like we do so much of that. I will be happy when I get into college. I will be happy when I graduate and get a job. I will be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I will be happy when I get married and have children. I will be happy when I retire and have all the time in the world.

Looking back, I have rarely ever been satisfied or happy with where I was. Sometimes for a brief moment or two. Like the day I returned from Japan, proud of what I had accomplished and delighted to finally have a bed and my own room and functional legs. But this satisfaction never lasts. I am always left wanting more.

But I have discovered that there can be positivity in every moment, but sometimes it is harder to find than others. Take right now for instance. I wouldn’t say my life is particularly in order. And if asked, I could list infinite things that I are horrible right now. I feel more alone now than I’ve ever been before, but its also hard to say for certain. It’s easy to be negative, to pinpoint things that you wish could improve even if you believe that they will. But that doesn’t really do any good. Instead, I choose to breathe, take my stress in stride, be proud who I am. It doesn’t mean I can’t look to the future. It just means that I can also look to the now and be happy with where I am on my journey.

I’m writing this because I often see posts where people talk about how their lives are going fantastically now: they are married, expecting their first child, and have their dream job, when only five years ago, they were severely depressed and self-harming. And these posts are wonderful no doubt, they give people hope, hope to keep living because of the prospect of such a future. But it doesn’t address the depression that people are in now. The depression that sucks someone in because their life actually is in shambles, because they feel alone and abandoned and like a complete failure. And I wish someone had told me that none of these things make you a failure. That everybody experiences these feelings no matter how complete they look on the outside. And that you don’t have to wait for things on the outside to get better in order to be happy on the inside. Because these things do not make a person a failure, it makes them human, a little too human.

I know this isn’t really a complete thought because I’m still learning myself how to be happy with who I am right now. But its just a thought. Yes, things will get better. But that doesn’t mean that things right now are bad. You are not a failure. You are a success for living and for being brave enough to keep going.

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Reminders for Me

Wrote this a while back. Reminders for the bad days and the good…

1. Things won’t always be this way. If you put in a little bit of work each day, things will get better. Doing that one little thing each day that’s a challenge for you will go a long way, but know that it will take time. Nothing is instantaneous.

2. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Focus on doing what you can do in the moment. That’s how you get where you’re going. Things happen. They aren’t your fault. They’re part of circumstance, or fate, and bad things happen to everyone. Don’t look back, look to the now.

3. Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Anyone else at all. You don’t know who they are, or what they’ve been through. Misery loves company, but looking around doesn’t help you at all. Nobody has a perfect life, no matter what it looks like. But you can’t understand or see someone else’s pain.

4. Things move up and down. Remember that. Having a good day? Take it all in. Having a bad day? Know that that’s all it is. A bad day. And when that happens, take every chance you get to start over. There’s no reason your day has to stay bad.

5. Don’t give up. Don’t give up for that day in the future when you can look back and see what you’ve become, but always remember what it took to get there.

6. No one has a perfect life, but the people who are truly happy being themselves? It wasn’t an easy journey getting there. Happiness isn’t a matter or whose life is better. It’s dependent on perspective and outlook. The hurt that you are experiencing now? It’s all part of your journey in getting there. Don’t ever think that its a waste of life. Nothing is a waste of life. Everything leads you somewhere, and wherever you are, its where you are supposed to be.

7. Always be appreciative of yourself and the things that are going well for you. Its easy to be dismissive, to focus on the negative because they seem so horrible, but give yourself credit, affirm yourself. That’s worth more than anything else in the world.

When you feel like giving up

When the world seems like its crushing you into tiny bits and bits. When you don’t have the will to get up in the morning. When everything hurts. When you’re alone. When you forget what it feels like to not feel like this. When its too hard just to exist. When you feel like giving up…

Remember how strong you are. How hard you’ve fought to get to where you are now. Remember that each challenge you’ve overcome makes you that much stronger. Smile because you’ve made it through another day. Remember that it won’t always be this way. Know that there is happiness waiting in your future.

Think about how great it is to feel the sunlight on your face. To close your eyes and listen to your favorite song. To have a heartfelt conversation with someone who understands you. To be given a tight warm hug. To lie naked in bed snuggled under the sheets. To sit at home and listen to the rain patter on the window. To go on a long walk to nowhere. To remember that you’ve made it through another day.

Smile. Breathe. Know that everything is okay. Because you’re here right now. This is your life. The possibilities are endless.

When you feel like giving up.

Don’t.

Surprises

I’ve been off antidepressants for nearly a month now. And its been kind of a wild ride. I first went on about a year ago after my anxiety debilitated me to the point that I constantly thought I was having a heart attack and I couldn’t sleep every night for fear that I was going to die in my sleep. Despite a chest x-ray and an EKG, I visited the doctor’s office or the health center at least once a week with a different ailment in my head. I finally succumbed to medication, and it really made a difference.

Of course there were the side effects. I was numb, emotionless, I couldn’t concentrate. When I wasn’t in class or even if I was, I was asleep. But I stopped constantly believing I was on the edge of death, and honestly, it was worth it. My anxiety vanished.

The only problem was that I simply didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about my grades which I had previously lived for, I didn’t care about what I did with my body. And I became really impulsive. This continued until I nearly failed all of my midterms, and I saw that something had to change. At this point, I lowered my dosage slightly and more or less coasted to where I am now, not in a particularly successful way, but at least I made it.

I finally decided I needed to stop. I was sick of wasting my life sleeping all the time and honestly, I hated being dependent on medication and I was willing to do whatever it took to stop. I was worried that I would spiral into a depression, that my anxiety would again debilitate me, but I wanted to have control again.

So here’s what happened: I spent a few weeks more depressed than I have ever been. I considered cutting again and I spent more time crying than not. My anxiety came back too, slowly but surely, and I had one of my worst panic attacks ever. But I started caring again. I found myself truly smiling and being genuinely happy for the first time in months. My foggy thoughts disappeared and I was able to think clearly and logically. And lately, I’ve found myself experiencing really deep emotions, the gut wrenching tearing up in a good way kind. And caring. Really and truly caring. My anxiety continues and every day I still have moments when I’m certain that I’m about to have a heart attack or my eardrum’s about to burst (which is a whole nother issue), but its no longer constant, and I’ve been able to talk myself through the situation.

It’s taken a really long time to get here, but I’m finally starting to feel like me again. Not just a shell walking through life, but a person that really and truly cares. I’ll always be a work in progress and I know that with all that’s going on in my life I may still face some very large obstacles in my near future. But here, right now, in this moment, I’m satisfied. And that’s what matters.

This is my experience and it is in no way universal, but have hope. Sometimes, its all you can count on.

Let it all in

 everybody want happiness nobody wants pain but you can't have a rainbow without a little rain

When hurt and pain approach us, our first instinct is to avoid it, to shove it somewhere deep and hidden where it can’t bother us. No one wants to feel these negative emotions, but they are such an important part of the experience of living.

I believe that those who experience the strongest emotions lead the fullest lives. Consider Van Gogh, Beethoven, Virginia Woolf, who accomplished so much not in spite of, but because of the pain that they experienced. I’m not saying that I envy that lifestyle nor that one ought to lead a life of negativity; however, there is a reason that emotions like these exist. Painful emotions help us explore parts of ourselves and to feel things more deeply than ever before. And when it is all over, we can experience and appreciate our positive emotions with the same ferocity.

One of my favorite articulations of this idea stems from a scene in Louie, a slightly dark comedy through which I have actually learned some fairly deep life lessons. After Louis’ love interest moves away, he is in a world of pain. His insightful neighbor remarks: “This is the good part. This is what you’ve been digging for this entire time. The bad part is when you don’t care about her. When you don’t care about anything. The bad part is coming so enjoy the heartbreak while you can.”

Don’t be afraid to embrace the pain. Don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t strong enough to block it out. Love yourself because you’re strong enough to take it in.

Hopelessness

So today I spent 12 hours at orientation for my new internship that starts Monday. By 3:00, my anxiety started to creep, by the time I got off the metro, my head was about to explode. I took a shower and passed out and when I woke up, the thoughts started to creep.

Last week I was trying on my pants from last summer to see if they still fit. They didn’t. Today, after I woke up, I saw myself in the mirror and I burst out crying. I saw the fat and the eczema and the ugly. Just so much ugly. I was physically repulsed by myself.

And then the thoughts came back. Thoughts that I thought I had pushed away… because I was stronger than that. Thoughts that maybe just one cut would make me feel better. That no one could ever want to be with someone as ugly as me. That maybe the world would be better off without me. That no one would be miss me anyway.

And then guilt. Because I didn’t value my life the way I should. And because of how much my family needs me right now. Really really needs me. And here I couldn’t even get over myself. My thoughts spiraled and I honestly didn’t know how to get out.

I’m on Netflix now. Nothing like a little Orange is the New Black to distract me from my thoughts. But I’m scared. I’m scared about making it through the summer alone. Because lately I have not been kind to myself and my thoughts have only gotten scarier.

My goal:
1. Find a way to stop my thoughts from spiraling when they seem out of control.
2. Stop caring what other people think. They’re only one of billions.
3. Learn to affirm myself.

It’s okay to wander off the path once in a while, as long as you eventually find your way back.

10 Steps for Fighting Harmful Behaviors and Getting Over Addiction

It was such a simple move, but simply acknowledging my addiction has changed my personal outlook quite dramatically. It has helped me understand why I do some of the things I do and how to consciously make a decision to stop reverting to all these things that end up harming me in the end. Nevertheless, I am a plan it out kind of gal, and I feel like writing down a plan will make me more accountable to myself. So here are my 10 steps for fighting harmful behaviors and getting over addiction:

 

1. Pinpoint actions and behaviors that you turn to when you stressed, depressed, or in a generally negative state of mind.

2. Answer these questions: Does this make me feel better in the short term? Does it have harmful long-term consequences? Am I becoming dependent on this? Do I know how to cope with my stress without this? And finally, am I addicted?

3. Acknowledge the addiction and make a conscious decision to get over it.

4. Make a list of reasons why it is harmful. How is it affecting your life in a negative way? Reinforce your reasons for quitting so that when you start to relapse, you remember why you committed in the first place. Write these reasons down and keep them accessible.

5. Make a list of your triggers so you are aware of when you are most vulnerable and when it is most important to steer clear of your addiction.

6. Find a hobby, or a make list of activities to fill your time with instead. Personally, I am trying to start meditating more regularly. I’ve also been practicing piano much more, as creating music is something that builds my confidence and allows me to be comfortable with myself. Going for a walk or listening to music are also great activities. Something my therapist suggested, but I’ve only tried once is listening to an audiotape to keep thoughts from going astray.

7. Reward yourself! (Albeit not by giving in to your addiction) Treat yourself to a meal at your favorite restaurant or buy yourself something nice. Set personal goals for your addiction, be it number of days, weeks or months, and when you fulfill these goals, give yourself a little something.

8. Get in touch with your feelings. A large part of meditation is understanding your emotions and mental states. When you are sad, acknowledge your sadness and try to understand what it is that is making you feel this way. By becoming more aware of what is going on within you, these emotions have less control over your actions.

9. If you have a relapse, don’t give up. Acknowledge that relapse is natural and happens to the best of us. It is not a setback. It is simply a reminder of how difficult recovery is and how strong you are for having come this far. Keep chugging forward.

10. Celebrate yourself. Acknowledge the little victories. Did you get out of bed today? Did you smile at least once? Did you make someone else smile? Did you check off something on your neverending list of tasks? Did you fight off an urge? Did you remember to celebrate yourself?

Metta.

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