the light

The darkness started in November. No, it was before that. But I made the first cut in November. And it took me 4 months to stop. And I really thought that I would be dead before I made it here. Because it hurt to wake up. And to get out of bed. And to go to work.

It hurt to smile. And to talk to people. To spend every second of every day lying.

It felt like my mind was drowning and treading water all the damn time. Never quite reaching the surface.

I didn’t think I would make it here.

It’s one thing to be alive. It’s another to live. I’ve felt joy in the past week. Real joy. Not the plastic smile I’ve worn across my face for the past eight months, crying in whatever private space I could find. But that bubbling feeling in my chest, the one that can’t be contained.

I didn’t even recognize it at first.

And I kept up the motions. Waking up at 5:30am to put in a 12 hour day because it took me twice as long to get everything done. Riding Ubers to the office because I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel. I didn’t know where I would go. Or what I would do. The temptations I had, I could never say out loud.

The only moments with relief were when I drew blood. And for a brief moment, I could feel again. Better yet, I couldn’t feel anything else.

I stopped cutting four months ago. And this week, for the first time, I was happy. It still feels surreal. I’m proud to have made it here. But I still feel like I got lucky, and I don’t know how to reconcile that. Because what if I don’t make it out one day?

Someone today told me “its nice to see you smile again”. I don’t know why it felt so good. But I think I was glad someone said it out loud.

Striving to be

I’m at a place now where instead of choosing to be alive, I’m looking to choose to be happy. I honestly didn’t expect to make it here and I’m terrified that I’m still teetering on the edge, but seeing that option in front me is comforting. It’s a visible step forward.

Things are still hard, but in a different way. Over the past couple of months, I’ve gradually cut more and more people out of my life. I could barely manage the everyday interactions I was having, so I canceled plans, I stopped responding to messages, I spent as much time by myself as I could. Now that I’m finally ready to stop moping around, I’m finding myself unusually alone.

Its not the worst problem in the world to have though. Part of where I am now is little by little understanding the things that take me to a dark place, working not to overreact, and striving to be happy regardless of circumstance. Because I can’t guarantee that my life won’t sink to shit ever again and I want to be ready.

I’m not quite there yet, but having the option in front of me means that I’m moving forward. Here’s hoping I continue in that direction.

Sundays

I wake up on Sundays with my heart racing, a pit in my stomach.

It’s a habit now.

Another week is coming, but what have I accomplished this week? What have I accomplished this weekend? The obsessions never stop.

Things have settled down now. I know I’m on the upswing, but cycles of anxiety grasp at every thought. The meaningless worries, which used to sit in the back of my mind, seem to have nestled in and made their home. No amount of mental power will make them budge.

I’m trying to take things one step at a time. To appreciate the glimpses of light in every day, but I can’t help but dwell on the negatives. My brain seems to wander in search of the tiniest anxieties I’ve been running around to avoid. Last week, I couldn’t breathe. I thought my asthma had finally heard about LA smog. But it was just anxiety. I guess my subconscious knows, because the nightmares haven’t stopped in weeks. Swarming me every night and with every nap. Ironic since sleeping is how I used to avoid the world.

I’ll be patient.

I’ve gotten to the point where the me I’m trying to hide doesn’t slip out as often. I walk around with smiles, suspiciously positive retorts to the day old “how are you?” Things are seemingly back to normal. And I haven’t cut in a month. But every second of every day still feels like a war. To not get sucked in again, and to forgive myself when I do.

Sundays though. Sundays I aim for survival. Sundays I don’t make plans because I don’t know if I can live up to them, but when the day comes, the loneliness settles in. I walk around with a tightness in my chest, an urge to throw everything up. Sundays I despise, but secretly wish would continue forever.

Today, I’m remembering to breathe, be patient, and practice a little bit of metta.

Recovery

Recovery feels like finally realizing that the sun is behind the clouds and that its been there all along. But it’s not the same thing as seeing the sun.

Recovery is acknowledging that your life is worth it and fighting like hell every second to remember that. Refusing the vicious thoughts and temptations you used to rely on. Resisting the ease of slipping into a dark hole and lying there because it’s easier not to get up.

Recovery is struggling to remember that there is good in every moment even if you can’t see it right now. It’s being grateful for the ten minutes of every day that you have a smile on your face and it’s real.

But that sinking feeling in your chest is still there. Once in awhile it gets a little bit lighter, but you know that it’s there. You have to remember that those dark habits you relied on have consequences. So now before you reach for your razor, you stop, you breathe, count to ten, think of alternatives. You remember that people care. You remember that you should care.

Recovery is knowing that the sun is there, but fighting every second just to catch a glimpse. And every time you lose sight of it, you’re filled with terror.

Forgive yourself. Be kind. Be patient. Someday, every day will be filled with sun.

I thought I was doing better

But the emptiness is returning. My thoughts are so jumbled and anxious and obsessive. I can’t. I spend the entire day wishing I could go to sleep, and I spend my nights lying awake. My dreams. I can’t. I’m trying to get a grip on things but its only making things worse. Hopefully its just a passing phase. Time to go back to step one.

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.