to the girl I once was, still am, and will become. 

Once upon a time, you were just an idea your parents had before they created you. You were a decision they voted “yes” to and you were not a mistake or accident but a most cosmic symbol of purpose. When you were born, unconditional love filled the room. Everyone fawned over your perfection and knew you’d be destined to do great things. The universe conspired to bring you into the world and would certainly get you to where you needed to be. There was hope and a great big world for you to conquer and you would do that. 

As you grew up, life began to show you its uglier side. Not that your childhood was terrible. In fact, your environment continued to be positive, nurturing, supportive and, above all, loving. But as it happens, fate spares no one and even the most blessed individuals are susceptible to bad luck. There was a lot of sickness and death early on in your young life. Your parents did their best to shield you from it all, but you were an observant little being. Thoughtful. Anxious. Scared. I think early on, something clicked internally that made you lose a little of your sparkle. You saw just how rough it could be, how fast it could all change, how incredibly gut-wrenching loving and losing are. And you experienced that a lot earlier in life than most. 

You kept moving on though. Your heart and shoulders felt heavy at times, but you always persevered, sometimes with very little faith in yourself and usually with a stomach ache because you never liked transitions. 

And somewhere down the line, you lost your sense of self-worth. That’s the biggest thing. You started to associate your identity to the relationships you formed with men. That was (and still is) the biggest obstacle you face. 

You wear your emotions proudly but some people take advantage of that, and it’s hard to say “no” at times when you lead with your heart. The passion you possess for life is contagious and you attract all sorts of personalities, but more often than not you find yourself hurt rather than happy. I think now you’re starting to realize how precious your time and energy are. How it’s not worth it if it doesn’t completely move you. That if you’re not totally excited about it, then you cannot give your all. This, in turn, has hurt others, and you carry guilt from those encounters.

So let me be clear. Let me be perfectly honest and open because I think you’re ready to hear it: 

YOU ARE WORTH EVERYTHING AND THEN SOME. 

Repeat that and repeat that often. Stop relying on other people to define you, because you have the power to influence, to change, to inspire. And your light is constantly dimmed or brightened by a man. Your value is tied directly to someone’s interest in you when, in reality, they should be thanking YOU for inviting them into the depths of your soul which is rich and full of some of the greatest treasures one could possibly find. You possess strength, grace, determination, openness, and an insane capability to love. You need not hide all these characteristics in order to please another. Don’t dumb yourself down. Use big words. Let people and experiences and dreams go that don’t fulfill you. You’re no stranger to loss. Love fiercely but take no shit. Be honest and open. Keep being yourself. 

Above all, you are OK on your own. As just you. As “Brianna, party of 1.” You’re not lonely, just alone, and even that’s somewhat untrue because you’ve manifested a huge community of friends all over the place. You were born to two independent parents who taught you it’s fine to play alone, eat alone, be enough alone. And while you’re probably still thinking this is a load of crap, you believe it deep down. The fire in your eyes burns. You’re getting ready to embrace your truth and the best is yet to come. 

Breathe easy. Take even inhales and exhales and reset. Allow yourself the space to enjoy you. It’s been awhile. 

Remember that feeling of hope when you were born and how the entire universe conspired to get you here on purpose. You’ve still got a whole wide world to conquer.

Well, where has the time gone?

I’m still trying to figure out how it already November. Still testing every hypothesis on how time simply flew by. Still wondering how I let this blog sit idle for so long. I stepped away from The Happy Depressive in order to focus on my growth as a yoga teacher. When I realized how hard I pushed myself to teach X amount of classes in a week while also balancing a full-time gig, I soon found very little time to focus on what brings me joy.

To say I’m tired is an understatement, but after a work trip to Seattle and Portland I find myself cleansed of any residue left over from all stress leading up to the trip. I needed an honest reflection with just myself and traveling alone was the perfect way to do it. I needed to think about the next move, my path as a yogi and not just an instructor, the career move I made which, to me, doesn’t seem all that right anymore. I had to analyze The Happy Depressive not just as a blog but the person behind it.

Was I happy? Or, was I becoming just the depressive?

For a while, the wheels spun but produced nothing constructive. I was on the verge of another meltdown, rushing from one place to another and feeling guilty if I let just one hour of my day be totally open. But you know what’s great about going to therapy? You have all these tools in your pocket to help you cope. You realize the detriment of putting your body and mind through the ringer and the mental brakes grind you to a halt. You are then left to ask yourself, “What am I doing?”

And the biggest thing for me now is if it fulfills me. I recently re-took the Myers-Briggs and went from an INFJ to an ENFP. The word associated to an ENFP based on 16Personalities is The Campaigner, probably the most accurate description of who I am right now. One line in the description stood out to me though.

Don’t Lose That ‘Little Spark of Madness’

That single line resonated so deeply. That “spark” of madness I’d nurtured and tried cultivating into a wild fire was now being snuffed out. The fine line I’d walked between madness and ordinary curved more towards the latter. I felt that in the midst of trying to play it like a twenty-something professional I was also losing a key part of my identity, briefly pausing to consider what others would think of me if I decided to dive head first into something without thinking it through. I once did that with this blog, putting myself out there, baring a huge part of my soul to strangers and friends.

The last couple of months have been a lesson in self-study, or Svadhyayaas the Niyamas discuss. I studied my identities as a depressive, as a yogi, as a yoga instructor, a daughter, a partner, a friend. In this process I found that breaks from passion projects are necessary for the depressive, inevitable really. It allows us to come back stronger and with a clearer understanding of what is attainable.

I’ve allowed the battery to completely drain only to recharge and come back more in tune with what I’m capable of. Over the holidays, I will be giving this blog a massive reboot. A “cleaning house”, if you will. I have not been able to sit down and give myself fully to this space in which it deserves, in which readers deserve, and that fault is mine alone. I’m excited to lay out defined plans for this blog as a commit to being a better advocate within the mental health community. I’m feeling inspired to focus on the actual blogging and discussing depression in a more in-depth way. I’m also scared shitless, but I think all aspiring writers are.

Circling back to the yoga portion of this blog, I promised you all a series of yoga videos some time ago. That has not fallen off my agenda, but I realized I bit off more than I could handle, especially with teaching taking up a huge chunk of my free time. No excuses though. It’s coming online and I hope to start posting videos January 1.

I leave you with this though. Yesterday, I rode the train to work–a commute I sometimes take for granted when my eyes are glued to my iPhone. But I had the pleasure of sitting across from a woman meditating with what I assume are prayer beads. Eyes closed and lips moving ever so slightly, I studied her for several stops, watched her work her fingers over each bead while reciting something inaudible. She reached her destination before I reached mine, but I stared at her now-empty seat for a little longer. This woman was manifesting some energy or good vibes. She was literally taking the power within her into her own two hands and I thought, I can do the same…

So here’s to the madness that ensues. The glorious, brilliant sparks of genius rising up like a phoenix in the night sky. To transformation brought about by self-study. To the wild ones with even wilder imaginations. And to being able to hold it all in the palm of our hands.

 

what’s your “why”?

Image result for rune lazuli i am blooming quote

 

As I sat cross-legged on a chair opposite my manager in the yoga studio’s lobby, I listened intently to all the feedback coming from her mouth. She had just taken my class in order to graduate me from teaching level 1 classes to level 2 and sign off on the 30-class internship new instructors have to complete before they’re promoted to instructor. Everything was fine–the class, the eye contact with students, the cues. No complaints on all things I was genuinely nervous about. But as we started to focus on how to end class, she brought up something that punched me in my gut.

Make it personal. Talk about your “why” and what brings you to your mat. Share that story with your students.

Hold on. Was that not apparent? Had I–the great advocate of the practice, mala-wearing, Om-chanting, divine lotus-sitter of the mat–forgotten to mention that?

Sh*t… I completely left out the most important reason, the answer to why I come to my mat. I was grateful for the call-out. A reminder on why I started practicing in the first place sent me back a few years as I jotted notes while riding the CTA. It wasn’t that I had lost my why, but a great friend once told me that teaching yoga so often can keep you from your own mat, that it can cloud the very reason you started practicing yoga in the first place (Thanks for this, Charlotte.)

So I feverishly scrolled through my board of quotes on Pinterest trying to find one that would resonate with my spirit and prompt a post. This is what I came up with:

I am blooming from the wound where I once bled.

If you’ve followed this blog, you probably know I am living with depression and anxiety. You might also know about my past relationships and how, like most yogis, I came to the yoga studio for the first time after a long-term relationship blew up in my face. But what you might not know is that yoga has been–and continues to be–an evolution of self. It is a discipline, a mirror reflecting all I try to hide from. The depth of which yoga affects me is profound. I would even go as far to say that it borders euphoria.

When people ask me how I’m doing so well or how I don’t even look like I have depression (side note: WTF does that even mean?!), you’d think my most obvious answer would be medication. And that’s half true. The other half is comprised of exercise, therapy, self care, and learning how to love myself all over again sans boyfriend. For so many years, I found myself in my partner. Whatever was missing computed to being single. So, I’d go out and find myself a man and think, “Sure, this is fine.”

But it wasn’t and after hours of therapy, all of the wounds started re-opening. Losing my dad at 14-years old. Living in a small apartment with my mom deciding on whether we could afford both the electric and water bills. Feeling like I’d never had a “normal” college experience working two jobs and going to school full time. Struggling with FOMO before it actually became an acronym and wondering why every relationship I was in began with all of the promise of forever and ended with me wondering if all of it was a lie. At 26, weren’t you supposed to have your life figured out?

Every event that shot me down left unseen holes in my flesh. Exposed. Vulnerable. Exhausted. Sick of feeling the eyes of people whispering “Poor her” to each other as I blindly navigated an extremely rugged terrain. It was rough and I won’t lie by telling you it was anything but a struggle. When you put all of the experiences together and mix it with mental illness, it’s magnified by one-hundred. You aren’t sure if what you’re processing is normal or if it it’d be better to swallow a whole bottle of clonazepam just to stop hurting. This tunnel ate up the light and I’d convinced myself it’d only get darker.

I will always be indebted to my friend, Beth, who pulled me from the rubble, handed me a yoga mat, and said, “We’re going to breathe it out.” The instructor who taught my first class I ever attended walked into the room, took her place at the front, and as we moved into setting our intention she talked about the heaviness we all feel, the breaking of the heart, that glassy film shielding our eyes from seeing what it is truly beautiful. Within those first 3 minutes of class, tears rolled down my cheeks as I squeezed my palms tighter and focused on the message. I knew in those minutes I would be OK. I would fight my way to feeling better. I had to choose between sink or swim and damn it, I wasn’t about to drown no matter what.

The reality is, I needed to find my “why” in moving forward. I needed to find things that moved me, excited me, made me feel purposeful. I wanted to explore, peel back the layers of identity I’d associated with when I was in a relationship and discover who I was at my core. In the end, it led me to a yoga teacher certification, improv classes at Second City, a love of flying in planes, and the quality time I needed to send with myself building up the woman I eventually want to become. It also led me to a love I deserve–a true partner who is kind, supportive, blatantly sarcastic, and a eater of all good food.

So, the lesson…what is to be learned from our weakest and darkest moments? What can be said of those times we wish we could forget?

My answer? Do not try and erase your past. What makes us into the people we become is the power to persevere, to keep trudging along no matter how long it takes. Most importantly, do not apologize for how you feel. Never feel sorry for having depression, a broken heart, baggage to carry. Some are just better at hiding it, but in the end it always catches up to us.

I am so glad to have revisited my “why” in this post. Sometimes, I think I get caught up in looking like a yogi or comparing myself to friends on social media that I forget how important my personal journey toward happiness is mine alone and does not need comparison. Sometimes I forget to look down at all the unseen scars where wounds used to be and show gratitude for the struggles that have led me to this exact place in time. And if your “why” is still buried beneath a pile of rubble, take a step toward listening to your heart and following its advice. You never know when you might stumble upon your answer.

Things that go “BUMP” in the night. 

Sketch on post-it: John Kenn Mortensen


Some might say I have a dark and twisted soul because I gravitate toward art that speaks to the inner demons residing in us all. And the truth is, I love my inner demons. I love looking down the throat and into the belly of the beast, into the black eyes staring through me, underestimating me, not knowing I’ve brought more than enough to the table, because I’ve fought this war before. 

A lot happened emotionally and mentally, and I’m doing my best to channel my energy into passion projects, my yoga practice, everyday interactions with people I call friends, my relationship with my boyfriend. 

And inevitably, I come up short or grow lethargic in my quest to remain balanced. It is through this unbalancing act I find my “ugly” dark side seeping out of my pores. I turn into an impatient, combative, defensive personality because in one world, I have real people to answer to. In the other world, it is only me–the Queen of my realm–and if this world is infringed upon, I am not a nice person. These are MY demons. 

John Kenn Mastersen draws weird shit that is utterly symbolic of the weight we carry, the fears we stow away, the paranoia, the things that go BUMP in the night…which is why I am drawn to his works. 

At first, you might say, “This is strange.” And that’s a fair assessment. But take another look and suddenly, your whole body is flooded with emotions you may suppress underneath the blazer your wear to work everyday. Maybe your conscious is enlightened by your subconscious mind and encouraging you to keep staring into the monster in front of you to understand its significance in your present life. 

I get frustrated with the whole “Live your best life” because for a lot of us, living our best life means getting out of bed and putting on pants. It’s showing up to our place of employment and only crying once at our desk. It’s doing the dishes. This is how some of us face our demons–by engaging in what others might deem as ordinary activities.  

The truth is, small victories are not small for some. The truth is, there’s a little-known group of us who need to sit with our demons, converse with them, touch them to make sure they are, in fact, real and can be conquered. We need those moments (or days) with our inner struggles in order to come full circle and appreciate happiness. 

And though it is a vicious circle, the tango we dance with our minds, I have come to respect the untamed within, the one showing teeth heeding a warning to family and friends that poking the bear is an obvious mistake. To truly appreciate happiness means understanding that crap days are unavoidable. Waking up with a little cloud hanging over you is OK. 

So I leave with this monster, any monster currently restricting you from moving forward. What is the takeaway this monster is trying to convey by its ominous stature and sharp fangs? And are you listening? I mean really listening. 

Monsters rarely rear their ugly heads for nothing. To confront them means to have courage and reach out to them. Touch them. Gently caress their faces and say, “You’re not so terrible after all.” 

Like my good friend Max in Where The Wild Things Are cries, “LET THE WILD RUMPUS START!” A gift we can only give ourselves by relinquishing our stoic “everything is fine” face to a more open, more vulnerable you. 

If it it means breaking down, shutting down, retreating to the corners of your room to write/paint/yoga/whatever, do it. And invite a friend. Preferably a monster so that the two of you can have a conversation about where you’re both coming from and how to meet in the middle.  

West Coast = Best Coast.

I am still on a high from my weekend in Los Angeles. I know I’ll need to come down eventually, but let’s just stay in this dreamy state for a little while longer…

It seems like we were only planning this trip several short weeks ago. Probably because we actually were planning it less than a month ago which makes this trip that much better. Spontaneous travel is my favorite kind of travel and I hope 2017 brings more of it.

More doing. More following the heart. More impulse purchases of plane tickets. More living out of a backpack and less worrying about the trivial stuff.

It’s even more exciting of a trip when ONE OF YOUR MOST FAVORITE HUMANS MARRIES HER FAVORITE HUMAN. It was so incredibly hard to keep that secret under wraps. We refrained from creating the obligatory wedding hashtag and kept our mouths shut as people asked what our plans were while we were visiting.

“Oh, ya know, just really wanna see the ocean!”

But joke’s on everyone because Laura got hitched on a beach in Santa Monica in a stunning dress from Anthropologie while Paul wore his best Converse. We pinned flowers in our hair and squished sand between our toes. And by the end of the short but sweet ceremony, we smelled like the salty waves of something new and wonderful washing up onto shore. A marriage happened right before us and I am so glad I witnessed it with my own eyes. Love is so beautiful when it is in true form and celebrated without fuss or table centerpieces or DJ. Hell, I even made the damn bouquet myself from fresh flowers bought at the farmer’s market on the same day as the big event!

I am so full from all the food and love shared between friends. My stomach hurts from laughing so hard beside some of the people who know me best and understand that late nights spent gossiping call for gin and tonics and carbs. I am so tired from travel but feeling rejuvenated from spending time with some of my most favorite people.

So while I dream of beaches and the west coast and snuggling with my best friends, I leave you with small pieces of my weekend away in LA. Write more soon…

Sunday Reminders. 


Sharing some Sunday night vibes to you. The last few weeks have been tough. My mental health issues are even having issues, and the state of the world just feels so H E A V Y. It’s hard being an empath sometimes. 

But when we take on the weight of it all, we crush ourselves beneath the madness and turn to dust. From that dust, we swirl around taking on another shape, molding into something new and we are reborn. So maybe the pain and darkness endured are actually meant for good. Maybe our Achilles’s Heel of caring too much is really a blessing. 

Maybe our hearts break into a million pieces, our thoughts plagued by the evil within others because we are supposed to make sense of it all and find solutions. 

We’re not here to cure the world of all its ailments, but at least we care enough to recognize what needs to be done and try our hand at making a small part of this Earth somewhat manageable. ❤️

Taking back days. 

Toward the end of my day, there is little energy left for the things that matter most. With tired eyes and aching shoulders, all of my post-5PM plans go out the window and I am left with the sinking feeling of not being more of a someone.

This world we live in is always in motion, throwing technology in our faces, more work than we can handle on our desks, and coming home to the mounting chores we’ve left to do since Sunday night. When I look at my so-called To-Do list, I am overwhelmed by how catastrophically repetitive it can be leaving zero time for passion projects.

I haven’t blogged about anything in weeks. Probably in over a month. And I beat myself up over it. Constantly.

In a perfect world, I would not be behind a desk for 8 hours a day. My work attire would consist of printed leggings and cozy sweaters–not these uncomfortable trousers with the button that pokes my stomach. I would write constantly, unconfined to the humdrum that is the “9 to 5” gig. It’s not that I’m against establishments or schedules, but in a lot of ways, my depressive spirit needs room to breathe, to take an hour or two to space out the day and come back at 7PM to a more productive me.

And before you label me as “lazy”, you should know that it’s so far from the truth. I’m picking up yoga classes left and right, neglecting my own practice for the sake of money and received a promotion at work not too long ago in the name of a new title and small raise. Since then, I’ve consistently asked myself, “Is it worth it?”

I have seen what chasing money can do to a person. I have watched the rise and fall of having wealth to straddling the line of poverty. I have seen those older than me work for years and never once feel like they achieved something bigger in life. Is that who I am? Is that who I want to be? Will I ever shake the feeling of not feeling enough? 

So I did what I do best. I shamed myself for days. I stopped going to therapy. The half marathon I’m training for became something I dreaded when running at the gym or outside is one of my greatest releases. I took too much Clonapin to see if I could erase any sign of anxiety. And as a result, I did more damage than healing. 

Because that’s what I get for going back on believing who I am or what I’m meant to accomplish, even if it isn’t 100% clear to me. 

I’m not saying we deserve the unhappy thoughts when we aren’t fully committed to our goals. I’m saying the plan to wallow in self-loathing always backfires, always shakes us awake and slaps us in the face with a big, “THIS IS NOT HOW YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO FEEL.” 

So I’m working on taking it back–my head, my body, my heart–and refilling it with things that move me. The deep breaths I’m taking, the long sighs I’m releasing–it’s all part of the plan to take back what is rightfully mine. Returning to our most enjoyable moments grounds us yet again in what truly makes us thrive. For me, that is writing, running, yoga, reading, rejoicing in the silence of being completely alone with just my thoughts and relearning that I am enough. You are enough. 

We are all enough in this word. 

 

bouncing back. 


When I was in 5th grade, I had my first anxiety attack. I sat in church, looked around at the rows of pews searching for an exit even though I knew exactly where one was. In my clouded state of being, here I was unable to find my breath and the ability the focus on what Father was saying. My stomach in knots and hands dripping with sweat, I longed for the very moment when the bell would signal the end of school and I could slip quietly into my house. 

For years, I wrestled with anxiety and depression. I let a good portion of my social life as a child give in to the debilitating side effects of becoming agoraphobic and paranoid. I hated everything about my mental state and wondered if I’d always be prisoner to the vicious cycle of waking up happy and crashing by breakfast. I don’t think anyone REALLY understood what I felt other than my mom and my aunt. My dad would ask, “What’s wrong with?” in a genuinely concerned way, but it wasn’t like I could put my emotions into words. Mental illness was not something my father and his family talked about. 

When I was 25, I hit that same mental wall again which most of you are already aware of the story. Bad breakup. Self loathing. Little confidence. Lack of self worth. And don’t forget, I was certain zombies were coming to get me, and I was conserving water and not eating because I needed to stop climate change. I would wake up at night just to look outside to make sure the world was still there. 

I hate to say it, but the same kind of obsessive thinking is back. Over the last two weeks, I have felt the pain of the world as a highly sensitive person (HSP) and a general listlessness toward things that should make me happy. I’m not back to how I was when I was initially diagnosed with depression, but I’m recognizing the patterns that turned up nearly 4 years ago. 
It starts slowly, a trigger of some kind that I have zero control over like an event or comment not quite directed at me but I still feel like fire. Perhaps one with no sign of a mental illness would feel bad about such scenarios for an hour or a day. No, I obsess. I curate elaborate reasons as to why I’m at fault, why I’m to blame. I hang my head in shame because my logical brain says, “Oh, seriously??” while the other side of my brain says, “You are terrible. You will be fired from your job. You will live on food stamps. People hate you.” 

So yeah, the last two weeks have been anything BUT enjoyable. I don’t answer my phone (unless it is 1 of 5 people). I sleep through my alarm because I’m mentally exhausted from talking to myself all night. I look at my work in my office and think, “This means nothing. I’ll do it later.” 

But then, I start to grow tired of Depressed Me. Yoga can only do so much for my anxiety, so I opt for runs on the treadmill, and after a splendid 4.2 miles I’m feeling OK. Like feeling is coming back into my limbs. So I start to journal and get my head cleared of all the cobwebs that have been hanging in corners for the last several weeks. I ask myself questions like, “How can I look at things more positively?” And I pay attention to all the little things: a smile from my barista, something silly my boyfriend texts me, an email from my mom of an image of Buddha meditating on a quiet lake. 

So much to live for yet it always important to acknowledge the low points. I did that for two weeks and I’ll probably hit another low. It comes with the territory, I suppose. But I am alive. With hand to chest, I am breathing. I am slowly putting one foot in front of the other. 

I am bouncing back.