7 Steps To Achieving True Authenticity

Authenticity is the opposite of shame. It reveals our humanity and allows us to connect with others. Shame makes us hide who we are, sacrifice our needs, and say yes when we rather not – all to be accepted by someone else. It warps our communication and damages our relationships so that we control, patronize, criticize, blame, deny, withdraw, attack, and make empty promises to keep a relationship and reassure ourselves we’re okay even when we don’t believe it.

Hiding Who You Are

For most of us, our self-doubt and hiding has been going on so long that by adulthood, we’ve lost touch with who we truly are. We’ve grown accustomed to behaving in certain predictable roles that worked in our more or less troubled families, in school, and in our work. In the process, we sacrifice a degree of freedom, spontaneity, vulnerability, and parts of ourselves.

Even if things look okay on the outside, if we’re fortunate enough not to be in an abusive relationship or one burdened by addiction or dishonesty, we may feel a malaise, an uneasy dissatisfaction and not know why. If we once shared vibrant love with our significant other or used to have a joie de vivre and hope for the future, we might feel trapped and wonder where our passion and enthusiasm for life went. What happened was, we started shrinking and stopped risking being ourselves.

Falling In Love

Often when we fall in love, we open up. Loving and feeling accepted in the eyes of our beloved catapults us out of our ordinary personality. We feel expansive and come alive. We rediscover our true self through the process of being vulnerable and revealing parts of ourselves that we don’t usually experience. Doing so is why romance makes us feel so alive.

Before too long, we discover things we dislike in our partner. Our feelings get deeply hurt, our needs conflict, we disagree and disapprove. In an attempt to make love last, we start keeping things to ourselves, withdraw, manipulate with words and deeds, or even try to change our partner into the person we imagined he or she was. As things pile up, the risk of being vulnerable and honest with each other looms larger. Even if words of love are spoken, passion and intimacy have vanished. Couples yearn for connection, but feel empty and lonely without intimacy, due to their fear of rejection and loss. We endure, or if the relationship ends, we hurt. Breakups can activate shame, chip away at our self-esteem, and raise our defenses, making being vulnerable again all the more risky.

Authenticity Requires Courage

Authenticity and intimacy require courage. Each move we make toward authenticity risks exposure, criticism, and rejection, but facing those risks also affirms our real self. There’s no question that rejection and loss hurt, but paradoxically, risking vulnerability makes us safer, and our defenses weakens us. Healing our shame, building self esteem, autonomy, and our ability to be assertive and set boundaries can make us feel more secure. When we’re authentic, it invites our partner to do the same. It keeps love alive, and we’re more likely to get our emotional needs met. We not only feel stronger when we’re honest, it begins to heal our shame. It also avoids the myriad of defenses and the misunderstandings and conflicts that they create.

Sharing our vulnerability with others requires courage twice. First we must be honest with ourselves and be able to feel our emotions and identify our needs. Some of us have become numb to our feelings and are clueless about our needs if they were shamed childhood. When one feeling is unacceptable, they all more or less shrivel. As a consequence, we start to shut down our aliveness. When we don’t acknowledge our needs, they won’t get met.

1. Identify Your Feelings and Needs

The first step is being able to name what we feel and need in order to communicate effectively. People often say that something made them “upset.” I have no idea whether they were angry, worried, or hurt. Emotions can be confusing. For example, often hurt masquerades as anger, resentment camouflages guilt, rage conceals shame, and sadness covers anger.

A key symptom of codependency is denial, including denial of feelings and needs (especially emotional needs). Being authentic with our rage that’s really a defense for shame damages our relationships and pushes others way – usually the opposite of what we really want. Similarly, if, like many codependents, we believe we should be self-sufficient, we might not honor and ask for our needs for closeness or support. As a result, we end up feeling lonely and resentful. Journaling is a great way to decipher our true feelings. Developing an emotional vocabulary helps us be understood, be better communicators, and get what we want and need.

2. Honor Your Feelings and Needs

We must be able not only to acknowledge, but also honor our feelings and needs if we’re going to risk exposing them to others. Many of us judge our feelings and needs, like pride or anger and affection or intimacy. We’re also unaware of the shame that conceals and derides them. Working with a skilled therapist will help you be able to feel again and accept your feelings and needs without self-judgment.

3. Improve Your Self-Esteem and Boundaries

It takes courage again to take the ultimate risk of sharing what we feel and need. Without self-esteem and boundaries, we take things personally and collapse into shame. Our prickly defenses immediately get triggered and destroy the emotional safety we’re trying to create. On the other hand, we derive courage from risk-taking. Taking the leap to be vulnerable builds self-esteem and empowers us. When we raise self-esteem and connect to ourselves, our boundaries improve. Flexible boundaries also enable us to discern when, where, how, and with whom we’re vulnerable. We’re aware that we’re separate from others and are able to allow their reactions.

4. Learn to Be Assertive

There are constructive and destructive ways to communicate our vulnerability. Most of us lack those role models from our families where communication is learned. Developing assertiveness skills not only builds self-esteem, but enables us to communicate in effective ways that promote connection. This is especially important when we want to share “negative” feelings about things we dislike or don’t want. Additionally, when we’re able to set limits and say “No,” we’re more generous when they say it to us.

5. Nurture Yourself

We can’t control other people’s reaction, so we also must know that we can nurture and sustain ourselves. This increases our autonomy. Most codependents don’t have good parental models of nurturing. Having supportive relationships and the ability to comfort ourselves make us less codependent on others. It’s also part of healing shame and building self-esteem. Taking reasonable risks builds self-esteem and autonomy, too.

6. Heal Shame

Developing self-acceptance required for authenticity may necessitate reviewing the messages and abuse from your childhood. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, many of us have internalized shame. A therapist can help guide you to challenge and cut through the dark cloud of false beliefs that hangs over you, undermining your self-worth.

7. Get Support

Working with an experienced psychotherapist is generally necessary to undo our old negative programming and support us in trying new behavior. Attending Twelve-Step meetings helps. Once we start living authentically, whether or not we’re in a relationship, we regain our zest and joy of living.

How To Break Down The Emotional Barriers Stunting Your Personal Growth

Everyone has seen fences. We have them along two sides of our property — one wood and one chain link. Just walk down the street and you’ll pass fences of all descriptions. They can simply be for decoration along the front of a lawn, they can surround a school yard, they can mark the perimeter of a farmers field.

The reality is that fences serve two purposes only.

They are used to keep things in or to keep things out. We build them ourselves or someone else builds them for us. They don’t spring up out of the ground like dandelions on our lawn.

People also build another barrier or fence — an invisible one.

These are the mental or emotional fences in our lives to keep things in or out, whether they be people, emotions, hurt, or pain. These invisible fences seemingly provide a sense of protection and comfort as we live our lives.

Emotional fence building starts early in life. Unfortunately, these fences get reinforced and strengthened as time goes by. They get built a little higher on a daily basis.

Just as physical fences can be made of wood, concrete, brick, or wire, the emotional or mental fences and barriers we build can be constructed out of:

• fear

• self-worth

• trusting others

• the past

Fear

The building supplies needed to construct the emotional fence of fear can be found all around us.

For many of us, there were two or three things about fear we figured out or, conversely, didn’t get a good grip on.

• we never learned how to overcome fear

• we learned that if we avoided making mistakes there was nothing to fear in life

• we learned to never take any risks due to the risk of failure.

Because we feared failure, we also learned the fear of trying. The hideous part of all of this is the spiral of fear of trying and fear of failure. This corrals us into a never-ending cycle of mind-numbing conformity of living life on a treadmill.

What Do You Fear?

We may fear starting a new career, asking a special someone out, or being in a long-term relationship. Perhaps it’s the fear of success, as we’re unsure how life might change as a result. Are you afraid of being pushed out of your comfort zone?

It is fear that tells us that we don’t have the correct skills for a new position when in fact we do. Fear convinces us that our new colleagues may not like us. Fear also convinces us that we are comfortable where we are, that life is good enough.

We fear intimacy or being in a relationship. We may have been hurt in the past and the fear of rejection or being hurt again whispers to us, “Don’t go down that road again.” As a result of this fear, we don’t. We turn down an invite for coffee, afraid it may go further. We come up with every excuse under the sun when that perfect someone shows interest in us. Even if we get into a relationship, our subconscious sabotages it because we fear the emotional intimacy.

The fears we have can appear to be real. Nevertheless, fear can pin us down like super glue. This results in us being stuck in a place we truly don’t want to be. We desire to move on in our lives, to grow and live life fully, but fear holds us back.

The fear of failure leads to the fear of trying, which leads back to the fear of failure. It is a vicious cycle.

Fears are personal — people are afraid of failure, rejection and possible conflicts.

Self-Worth

Self-worth is often tied directly to the level of self-esteem we have. At some point early in our life, we started to build those emotional fences because we may have felt unloved, awkward, or incompetent.

This can be a life-long construction project. The materials needed to construct the fence of self-worth can be delivered right to your front door by the truckload. Perhaps they show up on a daily basis. People with low self-worth are hypersensitive to the criticism and actions of those around us. The greater threat, however, in the construction of this emotional barrier can be found within.

We don’t believe in ourselves like everyone else does. Everyone encourages you, saying, “You have got a great talent for this or that,” but you don’t believe them, so you never try.

Every time that happens, you add yet another board to the fence of low self-worth. It slowly gets constructed higher and higher, year after year, until it becomes almost impossible to knock down.

The nails holding the boards together become stronger each time it happens. The boards become thicker and heavier.

You may hear negative comments, so you choose to never try. What might have been your destiny in life had you not allowed others to erect your fence becomes just another dream.

We come to believe we don’t have the talent, ability or skills to succeed in various areas of our life while those around us believe we are capable.

Poor self-worth keeps us penned in from entering into meaningful relationships. Why would they like me? How can I love others if I can’t even love myself?

Like fear; negative self-worth and low self-esteem are personal… real personal.

Trusting Others

Like the boards on a wooden fence rotting away over time, so does trust.

I read some place that trust is a “fundamental human experience” necessary for society to function and for any person to be relatively happy. Without it, fear rules. Trust is not an either/or proposition, but a matter of degree, and certain life experiences can impact a person’s ability to trust others.

Issues of trust may come from experiences in childhood, such as inadequate love and affection, mistreatment or abuse. Perhaps you experienced bullying during your school years. Whatever the reason, these experiences have culminated into our adult relationships. It is harder to trust people if your self-esteem has been kicked out of you over time.

As an adult it could be a traumatic life event such as the loss of a loved one, an accident or illness, or physical violence. These issues could very well lead to your inability to trust in the goodness of others. It might have been with a partner who broke that trust bond with you.

It could be all of the above. Trusting others, as well as trusting one’s self-care, becomes a major issue.

It can be helpful to remind yourself that your current circle of friends/family may not be responsible for past events. It isn’t fair to them to make assumptions based on the actions of someone completely different from your past. It can be a hard process, but building trust is a choice, and building trust in any relationship takes time, especially if your trust has been shattered.

The fence of “trusting others” can be hard to change and renovate, but it can be done.

The Past

The past often creeps into perceptions about the future. Unfortunately, the past gets carried into the present as the “baggage of life.” And we allow it to happen.

The tricky thing about emotional fences is that we may not even know we’ve built them. We don’t realize we allow the past to build yet another fence of emotional baggage when we get involved in a new relationship. The hideous part of this is, if we haven’t dealt with issues from our past, we are potentially sabotaging this new relationship, which just may be the one that has long-term potential…

If we never deal with past events, our feelings of fear and hurt continue growing until we somehow crazily justify the whole mess and the cycle continues.

We do the same thing over and over and wonder why the results are always the same.

Fences that went up in the past don’t have to define our future.

Why Does This Matter?

Some fences we build on our own; some get built by others.

Regardless of who constructed them, complex structures require complex solutions.

We travel through life and convince ourselves we’re comfortable. We tell ourselves this is all we deserve. We base this on the fences and barriers we have built around us.

We build fences out of our insecurities — our fears, our self-defined inadequacies, our lack of faith or our approval from others. Other fences get built to protect a broken heart or to hide who we really are. Maybe we build a fence so we can’t be wrongly defined by society.

Board by board, wire by wire, higher and stronger the fence gets built. Thus we live within the fences created.

A good reminder when we build fences around our emotions is that it doesn’t just keep people away from us, it also keeps us from moving forward. Fences keep things in and inhibit us from moving forward. Like fences surrounding a prison, we become emotional prisoners.

Often, fences have a window that looks out at others. Every so often we peek out, admiring those who appear free. They walk freely, run freely, love freely, seemingly without any walls stopping them.

“How can I be like them?” Our window to the world opens in the fence WE ourselves have built.

What Now?

There is good news. It’s not all doom and gloom.

Just as physical fences can be torn down, emotional walls and barriers can be knocked down and overcome.

Yes, it will likely be difficult. Speaking from my own experience, it is and continues to be a challenging but necessary process to go through.

In fact, you may need help at times. If we tried each day to punch a brick or take a board off the fence, someday there would be no fence at all.

Even if the fence only becomes smaller, we’d still be better off. When the fences come down, we can be like those walking freely, running freely, and loving freely.

How do we break down these fences?

How do we start dealing with the complex, difficult, and painful issues surrounding those emotional barriers in our lives? In my own experience, it takes these important steps — though you may not be in a place right now that reflect this and that is ok.

Decide

First, you need to make a decision to start — a real decision.

Identify

What are the fences or barriers made of?

A critical component is to identify what is keeping us a prisoner. Identifying and exploring what those barriers are helps to give us perspective, self-compassion and thus the catalyst to start the healing process. Remember, when you were born, you weren’t worried about building walls to keep from getting hurt. All that came later — much later.

Once we identify them, the work starts to destroy those false beliefs so that you can move forward in life. If we think we’ve dealt with thembut have only done so on a superficial basis, we can easily fall back into them. We revert to what is familiar to us.

You can’t escape from behind these barriers and move on in life if you keep retreating back into what is familiar.

This may not be an easy process; it certainly wasn’t for me. If you know you need to deconstruct these emotional barriers, remember you are not alone.

Ask for help

A good therapist can help you put in the effort and work needed to tear down emotional barriers, ones that can hinder us from a more fruitful life.

Therapy can help us with:

• rejecting irrational beliefs and self-defeating thoughts

•learning how to become empowered

• learning to identify and deconstruct harmful emotional fences

Remember, we are social beings; we were not made to go through life alone. There are plenty of people out there to support you and to be with you along this journey.

A Final Reminder

My wish right now would be for all of us to move outside of our comfort zones.

I don’t know what may be involved in moving you from your “comfort zone” to that place “where the magic happens.” In reality, you may not be in the right place to start the work necessary to deal with the emotional fences in your life.

If that’s where you are, that’s okay. Tomorrow, however, may be your day. Regardless of where you are at the moment or where you want to be in the future, there is hope.

Fences are broken down one post at a time.

Our desire is to inspire others to get outdoors, discover yourself, and find inspiration. The hardest part sometimes is taking that first step to climb over your personal stumbling block.

Perhaps today, you can take that first step.

The Psychology Of A Daily Routine

The most successful people in history – the ones many refer to as ‘geniuses’ in their fields, masters of their crafts – had one thing in common, other than talent: most adhered to rigid (and specific) routines.

Routines seem boring, and the antithesis to what you’re told a “good life” is made of. Happiness, we infer, comes from the perpetual seeking of “more,” regardless what it’s “more” of. Yet what we don’t realize is that having a routine doesn’t mean you sit in the same office every day for the same number of hours. Your routine could be traveling to a different country every month. It could be being routinely un-routine. The point is not what the routine consists of, but how steady and safe your subconscious mind is made through repetitive motions and expected outcomes.

Whatever you want your day-to-day life to consist of doesn’t matter, the point is that you decide and then stick to it. In short, routine is important because habitualness creates mood and mood creates the “nurture” aspect of your personality, not to mention that letting yourself be jerked around by impulsiveness is a breeding ground for everything you essentially do not want.

Most things that bring genuine happiness are not just temporary, immediate gratifications, and those things also come with resistance and require sacrifice. Yet, there is a way to nullify the feeling of “sacrifice” when you integrate a task into the “norm,” or push through resistance with regulation. These, and all the other reasons why routine is so important (and happy people tend to follow them more).

1. Your habits create your mood, and your mood is a filter through which you experience your life.

It would make sense to assume that moods are created from thoughts or stressors, things that crop up during the day and knock us off-kilter. This isn’t so. Psychologist Robert Thayer argues that moods are created by our habitualness: how much we sleep, how frequently we move, what we think, how often we think it, and so on. The point is that it’s not one thought that throws us into a tizzy: it’s the pattern of continually experiencing that thought that compounds its effect and makes it seem valid.

2. You must learn to let your conscious decisions dictate your day – not your fears or impulses.

An untamed mind is a minefield. With no regulation, focus, base or self-control, anything can persuade you into thinking you want something that you don’t actually. “I want to go out for drinks tonight, not prepare for that presentation tomorrow” seems valid in the short-term, but in the long-term is disastrous. Going out for drinks one night probably isn’t worth bombing a super important meeting. Learning to craft routine is the equivalent of learning to let your conscious choices about what your day will be about guide you, letting all the other, temporary crap fall to the wayside.

3. Happiness is not how many things you do, but how well you do them.

More is not better. Happiness is not experiencing something else, it’s continually experiencing what you already have in new and different ways. Unfortunately as we’re taught that passion should drive our every thought move and decision, we’re basically impaled with the fear that we’re unhappy because we’re not doing “enough.”

4. When you regulate your daily actions, you deactivate your “fight or flight” instincts because you’re no longer confronting the unknown.

This is why people have such a difficult time with change, and why people who are constant in their habits experience so much joy: simply, their fear instincts are turned off long enough for them to actually enjoy something.

5. As children, routine gives us a feeling of safety. As adults, it gives us a feeling of purpose.

Interestingly enough, those two feelings are more similar than you’d think (at least, their origin is the same). It’s the same thing as the fear of the unknown: as children, we don’t know which way is left, let alone why we’re alive or whether or not a particular activity we’ve never done before is going to be scary or harmful. When we’re adults engaging with routineness, we can comfort ourselves with the simple idea of “I know how to do this, I’ve done it before.”

6. You feel content because routine consistently reaffirms a decision you already made.

If said decision is that you want to write a book – and you commit to doing three pages each night for however long it takes to complete it – you affirm not only your choice to begin, but your ability to do it. It’s honestly the healthiest way to feel validated.

7. As your body self-regulates, routine becomes the pathway to “flow.”

“Flow” (in case you don’t know – you probably do) is essentially what happens when we become so completely engaged with what we’re doing, all ideas or worries dissolve, and we’re just completely present in the task. The more you train your body to respond to different cues: 7 a.m. is when you wake up, 2 p.m. is when you start writing, and so on, you naturally fall into flow with a lot more ease, just out of habit.

8. When we don’t settle into routine, we teach ourselves that “fear” is an indicator that we’re doing the wrong thing, rather than just being very invested in the outcome.

A lack of routine is just a breeding ground for perpetual procrastination. It gives us gaps and spaces in which our subconscious minds can say: “well, you can take a break now,” when in fact, you have a deadline. But if you’re used to taking a break at that point in time, you’ll allow it simply because “you always do.”

Read This If It Feels Like Your Depression Is Getting The Best Of You

Around you the sun keeps rising and setting. The traffic keeps pressing through in the most unrelenting way. The clouds roll by, the holidays happen. Everyone talks about how they can’t believe October is over and winter is almost here. And you smile as if you’re just excited as them.

But really, if you were being truly honest, you’d admit that nothing has felt different since the month of August. Rather everything feels blurry, muffled. You’ve lost track of the days and the nights because instead of being individual sunrises and sunsets, it’s just another day of you feeling like you’re walking upstream against a raging current. And instead of fighting, instead of it feeling like a challenge, you’re just getting tired.

Too many times you’ve just lain in bed avoiding any and every responsibility. You don’t know when the last time you checked your mail was. It’s probably overflowing with unanswered letters with bills and catalogs filled with girls who had enough energy to wash their hair that morning. You sit in the tub watching the now lukewarm water draining beneath you and you wish for a second that you’d go down with it into some abyss where there are no problems outside of wondering where the end of the pipe will take you.

The stereotypical depressed person is always in the dark maybe with ugly, forlorn, black, mascara streaks painting her cheeks or maybe with staring with bloodshot, red eyes from popping vessels while sobbing. And they sit alone, still in the dark, with that unnecessary war paint, contemplating how much better the world would be without them. And even though that’s a stereotype, sometimes that monster comes in rearing it’s nasty head and messes everything up.

As terrible as the extreme depression, the scary feeling of doom that exists, more often than not, it’s a different monster. And it’s a monster that doesn’t exist in the crazy highs or lows and because of that; it isn’t as easy to spot. It hangs out in the corners undetected just waiting until it can latch on and never let go.

Depression sometimes is a feeling of utter desolation, but what about when it isn’t?

Sarah Silverman recently described depression as the feeling of homesickness, but you’re home so there’s no way to satiate the feeling. I couldn’t agree or relate more. It’s knowing you have no real reason to not be ecstatic, to not be happy, but instead of feeling anything all you can feel is unenthused, sulky, static.

It’s seeing all of the crayons laid out in front of you, the entire 120-count Crayola box you always coveted in grade school, every single color you could possibly imagine. It’s seeing them and having the ability to pick any color, but only being able to force yourself back to the same broken grey crayon day after day after day.

It’s watching people promote asinine things like “drinking more tea” and “running for the endorphins” and thinking, “Fine. I’ll give it a fucking shot.” But then your bladder is bursting from your 18th cup of chamomile and your shins are aching from running for hours, but even after heeding all of this naturopathic bullshit you still just want to sit on the kitchen floor and eventually blend into your surroundings, ceasing to be you because being you is getting exhausting.

It’s hearing about how Prozac changed someone’s life and how therapy is their everything, so you keep popping open the little orange bottle and talking about your ex-bestfriend and your fears every Thursday. You do all of the things you’re supposed to do but nothing’s different. It’s researching at 4 AM for any possible answer but still not wanting to smile at jokes on Instagram or text anyone back because you just suck. And if you know it they must know it too.

It’s feeling like the same bland, sad, murky version of yourself day after day and just wondering if this is how the rest of your life will be.

So even though you got up this morning and you felt the like nothing was different, you feel like you’ve accepted that you will never have highs again, you still feel like you’re looking through fogged up glasses, and you’re simply going through the motions, there’s one thing to keep in mind.

You did get up.

And even though your world right now is that broken grey, your vision is clouded, you homesickness has not been relieved, and your choking down more fucking tea to try and “naturally cure yourself”, one day it won’t feel that way. It might not be tomorrow, or next month, but eventually it will be one day. That day your eyes will be clear, your heart won’t be heavy, and you’ll find yourself reaching for an orange or a green while you order a coffee because why not.

You just have to keep getting up.

A Short List Of Things I’d Do If I Didn’t Have Depression Or Anxiety

There are many moments in my life when I’d just stare into space and think about how my life would be so different if I didn’t have depression or anxiety. How I’d take more chances. How I’d stand up for myself when I need to the most. How I’d be more secure, more decisive, and just happier.

I wouldn’t think about the thousands of ways I could possibly die. I wouldn’t be afraid to make drastic changes for my health, sanity, and overall well-being. I wouldn’t keep self-sabotaging. I wouldn’t let the most excruciating pain of the past drag me even further behind. I wouldn’t isolate myself from others. I wouldn’t let my irrational fear of scarcity control the way I think or force me to accept a fate that keeps me wandering off to dead end after dead end.

Instead, I would live a life that’s closer to the one I envision for myself instead of surrendering to all the constraints of a harsh reality that keeps me paralyzed and fearful of uncertainty. I would take better care of myself and do more of what’s valuable to me and cut out any thought that’s extraneous to my future, irrelevant to my true self, and toxic to my mental health.

I often wonder how my life would turn out differently if I didn’t have depression or anxiety. But what I wonder about more often is how I can start to act upon the best interests of my future self, moving and taking control as if I didn’t suffer from severe depression or crippling anxiety. These are all the things I’d do:

Network with people

I’ll be honest here – I view networking as disingenuous and sleazy. I always stop myself from reaching out to people because I somehow equate advocating myself with “using other people for my own selfish gain.” Which is why I don’t do it at all and don’t even talk about the skills I have. My insecurities keep telling me that I have none – they tell me it’s because I’m worthless, I’m irrelevant, and I don’t deserve to ask for anything better in life, since I haven’t proven myself worthy yet. But recently, I’ve gotten so fed up with keeping myself stifled, silent, and small that I can’t move on with my life to greater things because of my irrational fear of being judged as incompetent and unqualified. If I didn’t have these thoughts of the worst possible outcome or feelings of worthlessness, I’d network my butt off. I’d tell people what I can do, even when I may not be a master at anything yet, because I have to start somewhere. I have to believe in myself and stand up for myself because otherwise, I’d be stuck in the pitiful stage of paying my dues for a lifetime.

Write more, even when depression makes me abnormally exhausted

I’m tired of keeping myself stuck with writing. I’m tired of holding in the thoughts that I still have yet to share – thoughts that have the potential to turn into thousands of articles, essays, and poems if I allowed myself to be even more vulnerable, resolute, and honest with myself. But my mind is a never-ending war zone, and every time I self-sabotage, my mental exhaustion manifests itself physically, and I shut down before I have a chance to express myself and share more of what’s on my mind. If depression didn’t affect me this way, I’d definitely write more and write my way to the freedom I’ve always craved – the ultimate freedom from my treacherous enemies that keep making their home in my mind.

Create more solutions to recurring problems

If I didn’t have depression or anxiety, I’d create more solutions to problems that always recur in my life: I’m too shy. I don’t stand up for myself. I let myself be a doormat. I let people make me feel grossly inferior and wallow in self-pity because of it. I avoid confrontation, even when confrontation is the only way to solve the problem of me not advocating for myself when I need to. I’d act in spite of the overwhelming feelings of inferiority, which tells me that I’m never going to be good enough to get what I deserve. I’d be a more solution-oriented thinker instead of a problem escapee and work my way out of my problems.

Love myself as I am, regardless of how others are doing “better”

I’d be bolder and claim that I am worthy, I am healing, I am evolving, and I am capable of freeing myself from what hurts me the most – the past, the deep-rooted terrors that control me, and agonizing self-hatred. I’d love myself for who I am and not beat myself up for lagging behind others who seem to be more outwardly successful and have what society considers as “better lives.” And the truth is, my life isn’t worse than someone else’s, but if people evaluate me harshly for it, I shouldn’t give their opinions any weight because my life is mine, and I will not spend the rest of my life hating myself or contorting myself just to fit into someone else’s agenda. If I didn’t have anxiety over how poorly I’m fitting in and if I didn’t get easily depressed about how worthless I seem on the outside compared to other people, I’d love the hell out of myself first and foremost, and then I’d build a life upon this abundance of love and settle for nothing less than that.

But now, it’s no longer a matter of what I would do.

It’s a matter of what I can do.

The Strongest Girls Are The Girls With Anxiety

She’s strong, because she’s in a constant battle with her anxiety. It’s telling her that she’s weak. That she shouldn’t speak up. That she shouldn’t get out of bed.

Some days, she listens to everything that voice tells her. But other days, she somewhat finds the power & strength to ignore it. She finds the strength to leave her room. To socialize. To smile.

She’s strong, because she shows up, even when she’s shaking. She speaks, even when it’s with a cracked voice. She keeps breathing, even when those breaths are shaky.

It would be easy for her to cancel plans with her friends, turn down dates, skip class, call in sick from work — and sometimes, she does. Sometimes, the idea of being around people is too much for her to handle.

But most of the time, she does what she has to do. She switches off her alarm. She showers. She dresses. And then she gets shit done.

Of course, she gets distracted throughout the day. The tiniest thing can send her mind spinning. A text from someone she didn’t expect to hear from. An email she isn’t quite sure how to answer. A strange look from one of her coworkers or crushes.

She suffers from constant self-consciousness, but she pushes past it. She ignores the way she thinks everyone is looking at her, judging her, and she forces herself to be productive. She forces herself to focus on what’s important.

She refuses to let anxiety control her life. She won’t let her dark thoughts eclipse the positive ones. She’s motivated to be the best person she can be.

At times, her anxiety makes her feel weak. Lesser. Like she doesn’t deserve to be in the same room as people that can talk to strangers as if they’ve known each other for years.

But even though she feels inferior, that’s far from the truth. She’s a warrior. A badass. Why can’t she see that?

She tries so hard. She puts in so much effort. And she’s gotten so far.

Some people rarely venture outside of their comfort zone — but she’s outside of her comfort zone every damn day. She’s either worried about what to say or what to wear or where to park. She’s never relaxed. She’s always on edge.

That’s why she’s always learning. Always growing. Every second of every day.

Sure, there are times when she suffers from setbacks. When she doesn’t say a single word for hours. When she stays in her pajamas and puts off showering.

But there are other times when she finds the courage to speak her mind. When she surprises herself with how brave she can be.

She probably doesn’t realize it yet, but girls with anxiety are the strongest girls in the world, because they never have a minute of peace. Because they’re always struggling — and yet they’re always winning. 

What Overthinking Actually Is Because It’s So Much More Than Anxiety

Overthinking. It’s the nights you spend not sleeping as mistakes you’ve made in the past act as a plague to your mind. It’s worrying about things that might never happen as you dwell over the things that have.

It’s every fear you have that paralyzes you. And as you think more you hold back tears.

It’s failure becoming your worst reality in your mind. Failing class. Failing at a job. Failing in relationships.

People who overthink tend to strive for unrealistic expectations which lead to success.

But the cost is exhaustion maintaining it.

It’s being both physically and emotionally exhausted from a brain that never slows down or shuts off.

Overthinking is that pause between texts as you wonder how they interrupt what you said. It’s typing and deleting and sending yet another because your mind is playing tricks on you.

It’s the constant need for answers and responses just to keep your mind at bay and calm.

Overthinking is the voice of criticism that is trying to destroy you as it doubts everyone and everything around you. Then it makes you doubt yourself and second guess everything. You never follow your first instinct when you overthink things.

It’s following the destructive path your mind leads you down and you can’t make it stop if you want.

Overthinking is like some fire you can’t control and it just destroys everything in its path including you.

It’s the critical voice that clings to mistakes only to bring them up later.

Overthinking feels like you’re constantly waiting for something but you don’t actually know what it is you’re waiting for.

Waiting for something to change.

Waiting for something to go wrong.

Waiting for someone to get mad.

Waiting for something to end dramatically and it is your fault.

Overthinking come bearing apologizes you didn’t need to say in the first place but you’re sorry for questioning them and thinking the worst. It leads you thinking every worst scenario will be a reality.

Overthinking leads you to be overly cautious with everything.

Overthinking is like tiptoeing around everything like there are shards of broken glass below your feet and any wrong move will lead to pain.

It’s the fear of relationships because you need so much in a partner you wonder if you are better off alone.

Because how do you even explain to someone it isn’t you I’m doubting or don’t trust my mind is leading me to be so cautious? How do you explain to someone you’re interested in that you need to hear certain phrases over and over again like, “it’s okay” or “we are okay” or “I’m not leaving you.”

Overthinking in relationships is accepting you aren’t going to be the strong and confident one ever. It’s needing that reassurance for every doubt. It’s needing someone, to be honest, all the time and explain things very thoroughly. It’s the conversations that might be awkward but the person needs to be able to communicate. Tell you when something is wrong. Tell you when you are mad. Tell you exactly what they are thinking. It’s the fights you want solutions to immediately because if you don’t your mind will create ten more problems.

It’s listening to scenarios that are very real in your mind even though to a ‘normal’ person it’s so out there.

Overthinking is caring too much and no matter how much someone else’s opinion shouldn’t matter or that ignored text shouldn’t even impact you, under the surface, you are wondering what have I done wrong? And what can I do to fix it?

The root of overthinking is just wanting people to accept you and be happy with you because you are still learning how to be happy with yourself.

It’s choosing words so carefully because you never want to intentionally hurt someone.

Overthinking are the relationships that end and you always think it’s you that to blame.

Overthinking are the solutions you want to fix to something that isn’t even a problem.

Overthinking is the want and need to control things because it feels like this thing in your life controls you.

But you know you learn to adapt to this thing that hurts to live with but you don’t even remember what it was like to live without it.

And as you navigate through ramped thoughts you’ll find comfort in others who love you through this flaw and they learn to adapt to having someone like you a part of their life and they are the ones who help you through it constantly reminding you they won’t leave.

Using Psychology to Find Pain Relief

If you find being in pain has left you feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or a little grumpy, you aren’t alone. These emotions are very common among people living with ongoing pain.

Pain can upend every aspect of our lives — from how we move, sleep, think, feel, and interact with others to earning a living and doing the things that we love most. That can be an awful lot to deal with. A field of psychology called pain psychology can help.

To be clear, when we say “pain psychology,” we’re not suggesting that pain is “all in your head” or that “the pain is not real.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This form of psychology acknowledges and addresses both the emotional and physical consequences of pain and aims to help patients get to a better place at a deeper level.

Pain psychology therapies for the treatment of chronic pain have been well-established for decades. Past studies have shown the importance of utilizing psychological-based pain treatments for a whole host of painful conditions, including low back pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, and even arthritis. Most experts don’t view pain psychology treatment as a stand-alone therapy for chronic pain, but rather as one very important and complementary part of a more comprehensive approach. Integrating different types of treatments is sometimes referred to as “multi-modal” or “multidisciplinary,” and it speaks to the complex nature of how pain impacts the human experience.

So what are some examples of pain psychology treatments and how can they help?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The most studied and well-established psychological treatment used in multidisciplinary pain care, CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing unhealthy thought patterns that may be exacerbating the experience of pain or mood problems like depression and anxiety. The theory behind CBT is that how we feel is influenced by how and what we think. By creating more positive thought processes, we can better manage pain. One of the goals of CBT treatment is to help patients become more effective problem solvers when faced with challenging life situations.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). The approach behind ACT is to gain acceptance of one’s inner feelings and deeper emotions, even if they are troubling, and to learn to not let those feelings stand in the way of growing and evolving in a more positive direction. ACT can give  patients tools to help them problem-solve and make impactful changes in their lives, no matter how difficult the pain problem may be. ACT differs from CBT in that you are not reframing your thoughts and feelings, but instead simply observing them while still working toward the desired goals.

Mindfulness. Based on ancient meditation practices, Jon Kabat-Zinn is credited with leading the modern mindfulness movement as a tool to alleviate pain, stress, suffering, and depression. Mindfulness training focuses on being in the present moment, as opposed to being distracted or overwhelmed by thoughts about the past or the future. Being non-judgmental while paying attention to our present thoughts and feelings is an important part of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness seems to help quiet an over-activated nervous system, and studies show promising results for its role in treating chronic pain. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a formal course developed to help with training and is now available in many communities.

Relaxation training. Any approach that can help calm an over-activated or overly stressed nervous system has the potential to relieve tension and pain in the body. Learning some simple breathing exercises can be a great tool to find relief during a challenging moment. Biofeedback is an example of a more formal relaxation approach, where monitors can provide direct feedback about bodily functions, like heart rate, as a tool to learn to control how the body responds and to then use this control as a way of tamping down the experience of pain.

In case you are wondering if any of this can really help, here are some tips on getting the most out of pain psychology treatment:

Find the experts. Not all psychologists and counselors have a background in treating chronic pain. Seek one who specializes in working with pain patients and is willing to make better pain management the focus. Consider using telehealth resources if you have trouble finding a pain psychologist nearby.

Build a toolbox. Once you start your treatment, start to make a list of the different things you are learning and working on. As you get more confident, make these techniques part of your toolbox, and a trusted resource for navigating all of the challenges and rough patches associated with your pain.

Manage flare-ups. Make sure to put your toolbox to good use on the bad days. Pain flare-ups can be exacerbating, but here is a chance to use pain psychology and relaxation techniques to quiet down these episodes so you can move on with your day again.

Change your communication. Relationships with spouses, family members, and friends can be adversely affected when you are in pain. A good pain psychologist can help you learn communication strategies that will help you better educate others about what you are going through while also getting better connected with them.

Practice self-care. Sometimes the first step in helping others or accomplishing meaningful goals is to take great care of yourself. With levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse around the country higher than ever, consider using pain psychology techniques as an important way of not letting your cup get too empty. And if insomnia has set in, remember many of these techniques have been shown to improve sleep, too.

If you have never considered pain psychology before, now might be a great time to make it a valuable part of your pain relief plan.

We Cannot Heal in a Toxic Environment

Survivors are always told that ”they are responsible for their healing.” I, as a survivor, say we as a collective world, society and culture are truly responsible for creating an environment that isn’t traumatized and causes intentional harm. One that isn’t oppressive in the first place.

A plant cannot thrive without the necessary conditions. An experiment was even carried out that showed how a plant responded to being verbally bullied by withering away and dying instead of thriving and growing. Humans are like plants, needing the right conditions to thrive. I do not believe trauma should be divided into small or big T’s, or abuse into ”worse” and ”lesser.” This is not helpful in any way as it only brings shame , and shame becomes toxic and blocks the healing process.

Survivors should not have to justify their pain or feel they are not worthy of help or support because pain and trauma is being measured. We shouldn’t allow abuse by acting only when it’s reached extreme measures, we should be saying ”no” period. Abuse is abuse. We should be supporting all who hurt and bleed not only physically, but also emotionally. It can take years for the psyche to heal, and even then, healing doesn’t mean things will be the same, it means adapting to a new life, managing the pain, triggers and emotions as well as the lessening of the struggle and pain. A fulfilling and a happy life is possible, but we need to adapt and learn new ways to live and function in life and new skills to help us do that.

COVID-19 is a collective threat and trauma. It has taken the lives of many and we have all struggled with all we have lost. Yet, sexual abuse and violence, domestic abuse and violence as well as racial trauma have been pandemics throughout endless history. And, in the present, continue to threaten the lives and well-being of so many who have lost their lives to offenders or are driven to end their pain by ending their own lives.

I see adverts encouraging survivors to come forward, and those who struggle with depression not to struggle in silence and to talk. How many times do survivors need to talk? We have been talking, but oppression has silenced us. Society has victim blamed us. Justice never seems to be served, changes take endless years to occur and when they do, it’s thanks to survivors.

The world thinks they can know pain they have never experienced, as well as judge those who have lived it.

As humans, sometimes we think we know better and know it all until it happens to us.

Survivors don’t need to speak up, the world needs to open their ears to listen, to see change and put it in action. It’s not enough saying, “I’m not a rapist, I’m not an abuser, I’m not racist, misogynistic …” because most of us have been the problem even when we don’t realize it. We need to really challenge ourselves and look within and we need to get angry collectively, not only when things personally affect us or loved ones.

If you really are in support of mental illness, stop shaming, judging, voting for leaders with narcissistic tendencies. Start believing survivors, start listening to them. Fight for equality, fight for justice, fight for the end of cruelty to all humans and animals. Start respecting the environment and world you don’t own and are not entitled to. Stop destroying life and nature and then wondering why things happen. Stop doing this and thinking there will be no consequences.

If we live in a world that doesn’t meet human needs, that isn’t safe or feels safe, do we really think mental illness is just a disease? That suicide is just the result of depression? Depression is a symptom that manifests in a world that can render us to feel helpless, hopeless and alone. The world needs to change if mental illness is to get any better. All these things are injuries to the psyche, and naturally, the psyche will bleed. Sadly, when it’s the psyche, many are left to bleed or told to stop bleeding. You see, struggling is a normal human experience and it’s hard to heal wounds when the environment that caused them doesn’t change.

Resources:

Suicide Prevention Resources:

If you are feeling suicidal, there is hope.

You can call Lifeline at 13 11 14

LET YOUR TRIGGERS BE YOUR TEACHER

Triggers make us human. They happen to us at work, in relationships, and in interactions with complete strangers.

A trigger is an unhealed emotional wound. The level of emotions you experience gives you insight in to how long the trigger has gone suppressed.

It’s not that triggers are bad, they actually give us an opportunity to observe and reflect which enables us to heal. If this sounds simple, it’s because it is. At the same time it’s so difficult to practice because we are having a subconscious reaction during an emotional trigger.

Our reaction is literally below our awareness, which is why if another person is involved it can leave them feeling completely confused.

In healing triggers, we change the way we perceive the world around us and our interactions with the people in it. If we can identify triggers and separate ourselves from the emotional reaction, we gain insight.

How to identify triggers:

1. Set an intention to see them
In the morning in bed or (even better) during meditation set an intention to see and learn from your triggers. Say to yourself, “I want to be able to see my emotional triggers today so that I can become a better version of myself.” Setting an intention begins to wire to the pathways of the brain to objectively view what you previously just reacted to.

2. Get a journal or notebook
Writing is incredibly powerful because our busy minds cannot always see and log patterns. Using a journal to write down times you were triggered, how you felt, and how you reacted will give you valuable data. As you write and read past reactions you’ll learn so much about things you couldn’t see before. Let’s say that someone makes a comment to you at work. You feel your blood boil and it throws your energy off for hours afterwards. Taking 3-5 minutes to write down what happened as well as the thoughts and feelings you’re having each time something like this happens will help you for the next step.

3. Find the “why”
We think other people are triggering us, but they’re just holding mirrors up to our triggers. For every emotional reaction, there is a root underlying cause. Usually this comes from childhood or a past emotionally powerful moment. The more you observe instead of reacting the more insight you will receive. When you can understand why you react emotionally in different situations, you open yourself to choice in how you react.

Now that you have set an intention to identify and learn from your triggers, you’ll need to know how to get through them when they come up.

Emotions change the chemistry of both the brain and the body, so understand that this is a process that takes a lot of work. In the beginning of this practice you will feel completely overwhelmed, but each time you do this you have an emotional breakthrough.

Here’s how to use triggers for growth:

1. Feel the emotion as energy
Relabel what you are feeling as energy. Allow the energy to go through you. Try not to label it or react to it. Just acknowledge and breathe.

2. Practice observation
We have been in a subconscious habit of reacting to our triggers. In the beginning observing the trigger will feel almost impossible. Use your journal to write down what your feeling even if it doesn’t make sense. Every time you observe your reaction acknowledge how difficult this was and assign a positive emotion to the experience. As you practice the pathways of the brain will change and you’ll be less inclined to go into habitual reaction.

3. Lock in your progress
Use this affirmation as often as needed. Breathe and say this while connecting to the emotion of gratitude “I am grateful for this emotion and what it can teach me.” Linking any thoughts with emotion helps to actually change you.  It’s what manifestation is all about.  Thoughts and feeling together are very powerful.

4. Be mindful of your new relationship to emotions
With some presence and practice you will begin to see how your ideas around emotions are shifting. You become lighter and more willing to have a different emotional experience. Each time this is practiced you become more aware of your own behaviors, habits and thoughts. Self-awareness will be your reward.

5. Release
Allow yourself to process and move forward. Do not push yourself to observe and learn if you’re having a natural resistance to it. Be patient and use your intuition to let you know when to release.