Where Am I?

This time last year, I never expected to be here. This time last year I was comfortable, things were good for the first time in a long time. Things were turning around in my family and the fights were stopping, I had a group of friends that I really really genuinely loved being around, and I had someone by my side who taught me what true happiness was. My health was a bit of a shitstorm, as it is every winter, but this was the one time I managed to smile through it. This time last year, I was in the middle of the meditation retreat that inspired me to start this blog and to love myself a little bit more.

But shit happens. Time isn’t meant to stand still.

Here I am now, on the other side of the world, blindly grasping for something, anything that will point me back to the right track. I feel like I’m just floating, wasting away the minutes until I find it, whatever it is.

This year is such a blur to me, it feels like a dream. I don’t think I’ve even processed everything that has happened. I don’t think I can. Makes the future really fucking scary.

I don’t know what i’m doing right now. I honestly don’t have a clue. It’s a scary thing for a planner like me. But I know that this is something that needed to happen. I’ve learned a lot about myself, some good, some bad. But I also know that it’s prepared me better for the future. and its brought my family closer than ever.

I know that I can do it, whatever it is. Doesn’t make living any easier. Sometimes I still want to bury myself under the covers and stay there forever. But it does makes me like myself and appreciate myself just a little bit more. And to be honest, I think that’s the goal I set at the beginning of this trip.

I’m lost right now. Really fucking lost, but I think I’ve got the puzzle pieces in my hand. I just have to put them together.

The introvert in me

I’m an introvert. I love spending time with other people. I really do. I love hearing people’s life stories, understanding where they came from, where they are now, why they do the things they do. I love having long conversations, digging through that crunchy outer shell and finding the real shit. Because people are really fucking cool. I believe that despite all the differences between people, everyone has intrinsic human qualities that allow them to connect and understand each other. And I love that.

But I’m an introvert. I also love spending time with myself. All that stuff that I love exploring about other people, I also love doing for myself. And if I go too long without me time, I always feel a little lost, a little confused about who I am, how I’m doing. It’s not as if I sit alone in the dark analyzing my entire life, but I give my brain a little time off from focusing so much on other people and naturally, it starts to relax and take a little more of me into account. And if I don’t get enough me time? I essentially start acting like a non-functioning human being, and half of the sounds that come out of my mouth end up just being incomprehensible gibberish.

So what is this trip like for the introvert in me? I’m not really sure. On the one hand, I’ve almost never been alone. Its kind of hard when nine people are living in two rooms in the middle of a city. But this trip is meant to get me out of my comfort zone. While its been difficult, I’ve gotten to know people really well in the week and a half that I’ve been here, I haven’t imploded yet, and I’m generally happier than I have been in the past year.

In a way, I am completely alone. Coming here, I left behind everything that has ever been a consistent part of my life and had the opportunity to have a fresh start. Being in a completely new country for a limited period of time has allowed me to stop thinking about the past and the future so much and just concentrate on the today, the now. It’s weird because if I had had this mindset in the U.S., things would’ve been much easier. But for some reason, I just have trouble focusing on the present when I’m surrounded by so much stuff.

I keep thinking that when I return to school in February, its back to real life, back to stress and worries and everyday anxiety, but I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I can choose to just let go. We’ll see how that works out.

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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Addiction

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Addiction is more common than we realize. It goes beyond alcoholism or drug addiction. Much of our society is addicted to the internet, to being constantly online. Other talented folk are addicted to practicing their sports or their instruments. But these things aren’t necessarily bad or harmful. I’m talking about the addictions out there that mimic the effects of drugs or alcohol, that make you feel deceivingly good or at least numb for the smallest amount of time, but ultimately leave you in a much worse state then before. I’m referring to our addictions to certain emotions or actions or even people. This may not be the case for everybody, but as someone with an extremely addictive personality, I am starting to see how addiction has been manifesting in my life in ways I never realized.

Every person has their own way of dealing with stress or depression (the emotional trigger). Some turn to drugs, drinking, or sex, which are okay in moderation, but not in large doses. Other stress relievers are cutting, undereating, or overeating. These behaviors often come into play because people feel like they are losing control over their life and they reach for the one thing that they believe they can control. I have a tendency to deal with stress through impulsive behaviors, whether it be getting piercings or tattoos, or any of the above. While engaging in these behaviors gives me a sense of control and short-term elation or just numbness, I always end up at the other end feeling no better and often times worse, especially since I am aware that my body physically can’t handle some of these things.

My worst addiction is something that I’m not comfortable discussing online, but it is something that I never even realized I was addicted to. On a good day, I don’t even think about it and I’m always proud of myself for being able to control myself. But in times of stress or depression, its nearly impossible to get it off my mind. And every time I give in, I find it harder and harder to stay away the next time I am stressed out because I haven’t learned to deal with my stress in a healthy way, without this fall back.

So this post is my acknowledgement of my addiction, my first step to recovery. And my promise to myself that I will start addressing this addiction, and any other addictions I have in my life. I know that it won’t be easy, but I want my actions to be things that I want to do, not things that I need to do.

It’s Okay.

It’s okay to feel
To cry when it hurts too much
To scream when your heart feels ready to burst
Or to just sit.
Quietly.

It’s okay to take that wall down
That wall with all those holes
Even though you’re the only one that can see them
And you wish that if only you ignored them long enough
They would just magically disappear.

It’s okay if sometimes the world feels like too much
And you just can’t hold it back anymore
And you have to let go.

It’s okay.

Take your time.
Everything will still be waiting for you when you’re ready to come back
Even if it takes a day.

A week.

A month.

A year.

Your life belongs to you.
You alone define your happiness.
So don’t be afraid to love yourself.

And it’s always okay to not be okay.

Learning to Love Myself (All of Myself)

I’ve always been told that everyone has their own insecurities and that everyone thinks of themselves as imperfect in some sort of way.  But growing up, I felt for the longest time that everyone was so much more beautiful than me and I longed to have someone else’s body, any body but mine.

I was diagnosed with eczema at birth, atopic dermatitis in scientific terms, but to me, it meant itchy nights with no sleep, waking up bleeding with raw skin and oozing rashes covering my entire body. It meant that as a baby, my parents sometimes had to cover my hands when I slept so that I wouldn’t scratch. It meant that it hurt to shower and even sometimes just to move. It meant that when I finally started going to school, I tried to cover up as much of my skin as possible so that nobody else would see how ugly I was. It hurt that I had cuts in my skin that were constantly infected, but what hurt even more were the stares that I got whenever someone saw my rashes and asked questions like why I was risking infecting others with poison ivy by not covering up my skin (that’s not even how poison ivy works).

Through the years, I discovered that my true friends didn’t care what I looked like because they liked me for being me. But I still longed to be beautiful, to have perfect skin, to be able to show off my body at the beach. When the eczema finally spread to my face, as it often does, I had had it. I holed myself up in my room refusing to go out unless absolutely necessary and my anxiety reached an entirely new level (which obviously did not help my skin). Eventually, I got better with the help of a very controversial medication and believe it or not, some blessed water from a monk, along with some prayer and meditation.

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My lovely face eczema in recovery.

 

This was only last year, and to this day, I still check the mirror when I wake up just to make sure my rash hasn’t returned. It seems no matter how hard I try, I still have trouble overcoming the materiality of my physical appearance (no matter how shallow that sounds). I have made a few revelations following my experience at IMS. My winter break was filled with an extremely ugly period for my skin where I would wake up every two hours at night with bloody sheets and cuts in my skin. I’ll be honest, I stayed in the house mostly out of comfort because it hurt for me to move. But I had time to think that I could be so much worse off. While we were at IMS, the teachers commented that we were lucky just to be able to be there because so many people have not had the opportunity. And as I lay in bed moaning in misery, I remembered that I had a home, I had parents and friends who loved me, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a college like Williams, and I was young with a life of so many possibilities. Its true that often times I still end up feeling sorry for myself and conveying this misery on other people, but I have realized how important it is to gain some perspective, to look at the positivities in my life, since after all, brooding in misery was doing absolutely nothing for me. I can’t say that I no longer care how I look or what other people think of me. But I am starting to learn that the first step is finding the beauty in myself and learning to love who I am.