Living With Anxiety

Most people who meet me wouldn’t guess I live with anxiety.

Like anyone else, I have to take special care of my mental health, my highs and lows, and my sobriety.

Just because I put down the drink doesn’t mean everything will magically be sunshine and butterflies.  No, drinking was a solution to my crippling fear of what other people thought of me, my insecurities, and my stress.  Alcohol became much more of a hazard than a solution as the years went on, so I was faced with no choice than to put it down.

People who don’t know me wouldn’t suspect I’m an alcoholic, either.  But as I hit 30, I was no longer able to drink casually or control the things I did or said.  It stopped being fun, and started making my highs and lows much worse.

Being home in Michigan has triggered those old feelings of anxiety, worries, and fear.  Although I’m surrounded by love, there are still people in my life who just don’t get it.

They may think I’m pining away for a drink, but in reality, I’m so grateful to be sober.  That doesn’t change the fact that I still have those teenage girl feelings from time to time- very real feelings of anxiety.  It isn’t something I can control, which is why I started to meditate daily, take a lot of walks, and spend time in nature every single day.  Spending time alone is crucial to balance in my life, which can be hard when I am back in the place I grew up.

When things are going well or life is mellow, I seem to forget about the anxiety.  I forget how painful it can be, and how I feel I let people down if I’m not doing what “they” want or expect of me.  However, living in NYC and Boston for five years taught me to set boundaries, love myself as I am, and to not let expectations rule my life.

I am what I am.

Sometimes simply a missed call or text message (which, of course, I feel obligated to respond to immediately) will get my heart racing and will send me into worst case scenario mode.  I worry what people are thinking, whether or not they’re mad at me, or if I said the right thing if they need support or advice.  I have to remember that even though I try to help others, I first need to take care of myself.

If you don’t fill your own cup of wellness, how can you offer anything to others?

I may put on my sunglasses and a smile, but I have hard days, too.  Sometimes I want to spend all day in bed, ignore my phone, and be alone.  On others, I am go-go-go, social, and energetic.  Life is all about balance- and self care.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can own the story that is yours.

Dream Big, Darling

As 2017 comes to a close, I’ve smudged away old regrets, lost dreams, and looked toward everything the future has to offer.  I’m ready to take on 2018… are you?

It’s easy to dwell on the past, old mistakes, or missed opportunities.  For years I didn’t even realize I was settling for less!  Instead of following my heart, I listened to the opinions of people who weren’t in alignment with me, questioned my abilities, or stayed quiet in fear of being misunderstood.  It took several years, a lot of lessons, and some encouragement to discover I didn’t need to believe in anything but myself. 

I hid my talents and creativity for years because I was afraid of being criticized.  It didn’t even occur to me that I may get positive feedback!  As a child, any recognition wasn’t worth the hurtful things I may have heard (keyword: may).  At seven years old I wrote and illustrated an entire collection of children’s stories called “Suey and Friends.”  Suey was a chipmunk who went on all sorts of adventures with her crew.  Each character had a unique personality, often based on dreams I had or friends of my own.  My mom still has those old pieces of paper somewhere back in Michigan… she believed in me and encouraged me to continue creating.  Although it was just a hobby to me, she always insisted we send them to agents or publishers.  Being the shy and insecure girl I was, I never agreed to it.

It’s been 25 years since my last Suey story, but if there’s one takeaway from this all, it’s that life is too short to hold back.

Today I would rather be criticized than miss an opportunity.

2018 is right around the corner, and I’m ready to take on the next steps of my life- whatever they may be.  2017 was an amazing year to focus on myself, develop a solid foundation, and decide what I truly wanted.  Big dreams no longer scare me, and hard work has become second nature.  The key to hard work is to follow your heart and do something you love.

Since moving on from Suey and friends, there’s a long list of things I have done as a middle finger to the people who hurt or second guessed me.  Although I didn’t do anything deliberately mean, I did my best to succeed, stand out, or surpass any doubts or negativity they threw my way.  I called off my engagement with a controlling engineer and moved to San Francisco, started a style blog in my hometown of people who bullied me, and pursued a marketing career in New York.  Things definitely didn’t go as planned, but that’s okay.  Although I am glad the anger and pain inspired my creativity, I learned one important lesson:

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone but you.

When your intentions are pure, everything falls in place.  My life often fell apart because it wasn’t acting in alignment with my soul: I was simply doing things out of ego.  I no longer hold those old resentments or fear… and I can thank my spiritual practice and support system for giving me the strength to live my life with more love and compassion.

As you reflect on your goals for the future, remember to follow your heart; it will certainly take you a lot further than acting on ego or fear.  When you set your mind to it, you can have anything you want out of this crazy and beautiful life.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.

Compassion Toward Your Inner Child

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Although I am still learning to adult with balance and grace, an important thought came to mind:  not only do I need to practice self-care on a regular basis, I need to care for my inner child, too.

We forget to nurture the small people we once were and can be unforgiving to ourselves for the past.  Why are we so hard on ourselves for situations beyond our control?  Why do we push our own nurturing aside?  Our childhood is our foundation, yet many of us have histories of traumatic events which can follow us throughout our entire lives- if we let them.

I grew up with a wonderful mother next door to my grandparents.  I lived for art and nature, drawing and creating, but I was scared of the people around me.  I didn’t know what being an empath was back then, but I did know that being around a lot of people was overwhelming.  I always felt different but I didn’t know why.  Since I didn’t have many role models or siblings to shape my social habits, I lived with constant anxiety until I began to align with other creative people who understood me.

Getting bullied was something I lived with for many years.  One of my memories (which may explain my lifelong distaste for people in groups) was being bullied by several girls back in elementary school.  I was quiet and shy; an easy target.  They would usually strike on the bus where I was trapped and couldn’t go anywhere, but sometimes they’d follow me around at recess, too.  Recess was already traumatizing for me since I was terrible at sports- you’d find me on the swings.

Flashbacks of the bullying would always come back subconsciously when meeting new people or making friends.  In the back of my mind, I questioned my worthiness or value.  In a small town, “different” is one of the worst things you can be, so I stayed quiet and avoided conflict.  After college I moved to a big city, far away, where I could be whoever I wanted- I could hide, or I could shine.  In San Francisco, nobody cared what I street I grew up on in Michigan or whether or not I was “popular.”  I didn’t know anyone from my hometown out west, which is exactly how I liked it.  I was new.

San Francisco is where I started my cycle of running.  For nine years, I perpetually ran away, moved, or changed things because I was scared of letting people get to know who I truly was.  I was scared of abandonment, criticism, or failure, so I would be the one to leave.  I was scared of my mistakes.

It may have taken me 30-some years, but now I finally know it is safe to stand still. 

I used to think I could run away and ignore my problems, but that only made life more difficult.

Once I moved to Boston I knew that I would always be the same person until I made a change inside my soul.  Geographic cures and avoidance no longer worked: I had to face those bullies and demons… but more importantly, I had to face myself.

I didn’t realize how tightly I was still holding on to that timid, insecure girl.  Nearly a year later, I have forgiven those who hurt me, from family to perfect strangers, but I have also forgiven myself, too.  I am also learning to show compassion toward my inner child- she did her best for living without a solid foundation for many years.

My sensitivity and intuitive nature used to feel like a burden, it now they feel like of my greatest gifts.  I am grateful for each and every experience, from the mistakes to the pain.  Every road has lead me to where I am now:  a place where I am comfortable sharing what I have been through, who I am, and knowing what I want.

Today, being vulnerable isn’t so scary.  It’s my power.