Ahoy, ye friends on land! I am currently sailing around the world on a pirate ship while wearing bright striped spandex yoga pants and an eye patch. Could life be any better?
If that above statement held any truth to it, then my answer would be “no”. Alas, I am writing from my desk re-living yesterday’s magical adventure on beautiful Lake Michigan. A few weeks ago, I joined this rad lifestyle community called VibeUP here in Chicago. Check ’em out. It’s a legitimately awesome group of organizers, yogis, artists, sailors, energy healers–you name it, they have it. I’ve been feeling real low the last month or two, just trying to figure out what my next steps should be as far as life goes. I’ll be twenty-eight on Saturday and I, by no means, feel old. I just feel…different.
A number of people are talking weddings and babies and I’m over here completely unprepared and unwilling to even think about any of those things right now. It may be the right path for some, but I am on the total opposite end of the spectrum. And while these differences should be embraced, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing the boat on some of life’s greatest blessings.
Except I’d be lying if I said I wanted those things right now. The truth is, I am utterly selfish and cannot imagine a life where a child is dependent on me for everything. I will babysit your kid. I will play Hide & Seek with them. But at the end of the day, I will hand them back to their parents and happily go home to my bed with some tea and a good book, undisturbed by a three-year old jumping on top of me at 4 AM because “IT’S TIME TO PLAY.” No, no, it’s coffee and Netflix time, imaginary little one.
So life’s been weird which is why posts have been inconsistent. I physically, mentally, and emotionally haven’t had it in me to be vigilant over my blog due to a certain self-loathing party I threw for myself. And I’m sure most of you can relate to the numbness that takes over your mind and everything you produce is just crap, according to the critic in you. I took a much-needed hiatus and it was all in the name of recharging my creativity and positive outlook on life.
I’ve decided to cut out the feelings of hopelessness and focus on the things I truly have a passion for. It’s tough but not impossible. And like a sign from the great universe, an Instagram follower asked “Have you had much luck with anxiety relief?” on one of my photos–a photo capturing a scene from a music video about mental illness–to which I responded with all the ways I fight through my anxiety. In hopes of helping others get through the bad days, weeks, or months, I thought I’d share my secret weapons in defeating episodes of anxiety and depression.
- Take a shower. Water contains healing powers, I’m sure of it. I know my mental health hangs in the scale when I no longer feel like washing my hair or exfoliating my skin. I am the kind of person who likes to treat myself to manicures and facials. When it stops becoming a priority, I know I’m running on fumes and that is when I hop in the tub, put on my favorite Spotify playlist, and lather up. Cleanliness is next to Godliness…or sanity…or something like that.
- Put down the bottle of wine…Now. I love wine. I love it with dinner. I love to drink it when I’m out with friends or my boyfriend. But I want you to know something, something imperative. Alcohol will only put you at risk for an even greater anxiety attack. It might make you feel like a bad ass while downing it, but you know how shitty you feel when you’re depressed and sober? Yeah, let’s magnify that feeling by one-hundred when you’re hungover. Boozy brunches with your best pals is cool every once in a while, but if you are on any medication or are dealing with your mental illness au naturale (sans prescription pills) getting loaded is not the answer to chasing away the blues. Honestly. I promise. I swear. Trust me because I’ve tried it. I’ve learned to listen to my body after many years of ignoring it and use other strategies to feel good. With that said…
- Get up and move. I know. It’s easier said than done, especially when all you can physically do is sleep for days. Believe me when I say that lacing up your Nike kicks is the hardest part. Once you’ve done that, the rest of it is easy. Well, OK, maybe not easy, but your body and mind will thank you later. I stopped running when I no longer had any half marathons or 10K races to train for. I also told myself I was busy or that I’d rather go to yoga and that was fine…for a while. And while I am an advocate for practicing yoga to counter the negative effects of mental illness, there is nothing like a good run outside or even at the gym to boost those happy vibes. I started up again and I noticed how awesome I felt after a long (or short) run at my gym. Every little anxious thought would get worked out along with the rest of my body and fade with every mile I ran. If running isn’t your jam, then go for a walk on your lunch break. Lift weights. Take a dance class. Spin. Join a volleyball club team. The moral is to get moving but don’t beat yourself up if it takes time for you to get out the door or take breaks in between.
- Feed your soul with good food, good friends, and good movies or books. Cloak yourself in love. Remember you are worth it. Fill your body with energizing and healing nutrients. Let go of toxic relationships no longer serving a purpose in your life in order to make room for new people to come into your space. Find time to laugh over a funny movie or to cry over a moving book. Know that whatever you put into your body and your life, your body and life will mirror it.
- Stop comparing your life to what you see on social media. We were not all born as Taylor Swift. I do not have funds to jet off every weekend to some exotic location. I also do not “wake up like dis AKA flawless”. Basically, what I’m saying is so much of our identity is wrapped up in what we see on Instagram or Facebook when all we are really seeing is a quarter of the big picture. We base our self worth on how many likes or followers we have. We compare ourselves to projections of reality which aren’t even reality. So what does this have to do with mental illness? For starters, it’s an emotional low blow to the lives we currently lead. I, for one, am extremely guilty of scrolling through social media and instantly feeling crappy about who I am, what I’m doing with my life, where I’m at in my career, blah, blah, blah. It has made me feel self conscious, like I am wasting space on this beautiful earth. This is far from the truth. You need to know this, too. You matter. Your existence is neither tied to your presence on social media nor defined by how you choose to live your life. Your happiness should be linked to what you’re grateful for and how you personally are achieving greatness in your own way. Unplug from the web. Disconnect for a while. Go at your own pace. And stop comparing to what may or may not be true just because #blessed is underneath the photo.
I sailed on the lake for about an hour this past Sunday and meditated alongside 43 other yogis. I went by myself, without a companion, but I met some amazing folks and exchanged information with some folks who are working in areas I’m interested in. With this, I found a renewed sense of peace and purpose paired with a gut feeling that I’m on the right path. But I also believe the beauty which comes from a breakdown. It is in the uncertainty that teaches us to let go of what we cannot control which is why #6 is the most important tip of all…
Breathe. Everything is going to be OK.
Do you know how I know? Because I have had countless anxiety attacks and so many days of not wanting to get out of bed and I am still here. I am still fighting for myself on a daily basis, sometimes struggling against the tide and sometimes going with the motions of each wave that hits me. But the inevitable is my mental illness has not killed me or that tiny voice inside me whispering, “Keep going…” In the end, we are only as strong as the battles we win or continue to fight, and you, my dear, were always meant to be a fighter. Breathe through each anxious thought and exhale what you cannot control. Inhale the ground you stand on that serves as your foundation and know that it is there to support you. Exhale to release any negativity trying to swallow you whole. Inhale, repeat after me…exhale, everything is going to be OK…