Lesson #6: Don’t ever assume you’ve been cured of anything

I’m a big believer in dropping expectations. I don’t do it very well myself, but I think the concept is fantastic.

I have anxiety. And though it took me a while, I have come to accept it as a part of me. I don’t believe it will ever truly go away, not fully anyway. But there were times during the early years of living with it that I begged for it to go away. I wanted someone to hand me a cure, so I could move on with my life and stop being so scared of all things mundane.

And then, one day, I realized that I couldn’t be cured. Because my anxiety is a part of me and as real as the heart inside my chest. Remove the heart, and you die.

I experience anxiety in many different forms. Tremors. Panic attacks. Depression. Apathy. Butterflies. Tears. And then there’s my little friend, I call SAD. Or Stupid Ass Depersonlization.

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I first met Depersonalization one night after accidentally smoking too much, how do you say, cannabis. Ironically, I had made it through both high school and college without smoking a single joint. I do it one time, and I have the worst panic attack of my life. They don’t warn people about this stuff… If only they did, because it would have saved me six months of emotionaly turmoil. Yes, six months.

About a month after my weed experience, I began to notice an unease. Nothing felt particularly real anymore. I couldn’t connect with anything around me, even the people. Even my family. I’d look out my window and felt like the apartments across the street were a backdrop on a stage. Two dimensional almost. I remember staring at an almond, focusing on the lines running up and down, wondering how in the world almonds could exist on the same planet as me. Then I freaked out. And my mom told me to stop eating almonds for the time eating. But these things kept happening. I couldn’t think without wondering who was thinking for me. I had been dropped onto a planet I’d never been on before. I couldn’t go to work; I went home for a week to live with my parents.

I finally started feeling better after I discovered the term “depersonalization” online and how cannibis can cause it, but boy, was I in for a hard six months? My symptoms followed me, making me feel like two people, reminding me how broken I was. I regretted my decision. I felt like a virgin who had sex for the first time and acquired HIV. I had gone on an active duty military tour and come back with PTSD without ever putting on a uniform. It wasn’t fair, I conceded.

And then, after days of working with a therapist, reading happiness books, and centering my mind, I began to pull myself out off that dark place. And between October and November, I hadn’t once felt the sting of SAD (Stupid Ass Depersonalization, in case you forgot). I was on the road to a full recovery. But I tried not to assume I had been cured. Because I wasn’t.

Last night, on the couch with my mom, as I was crying about becoming an adult and leaving the security of childhood behind, I felt one half of my mind slip away, behind the glossy veil to hide from the world. See, the thing with SAD is… one half of your brain ostriches to avoid all things evil in the world and the other half of your brain is fully aware that there is nothing at all scary about my family’s living room. And that dissociation causes anxiety. Ironically, this is a defense mechanism. A pretty shitty one, though, amIright? Still, aren’t most defense mechanisms? I TURN MY NOSE AT YOU, DENIAL!

But, as I lay there with my mom, I didn’t let myself panic and doom myself to insanity. OH GOD IT’S BACK!!!! THAT’S IT! IT’S OVER! IT’S OVER FOR US ALL! No, I took a deep breathe and calmly coaxed and glued my brain back together. I assured it that everything would be okay, that even though life seems hard right now, there is nothing we need to do right now other than lay on this couch and cry into mom’s lap. Like my mom always says, just do what’s next. And crying was what’s next.

After about an hour, I felt whole again. And everything was okay. And when SAD knocks on the door again, I won’t scream at it to go away. Instead, I’ll tell it that we’re all good here; but thanks for checking in.

Lesson learned: Be kind to your mind, and don’t expect to ever be cured of anything. That’s just setting yourself up for disappointment.

We are all broken people, and that’s okay.

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Lesson #5: Don’t lose your debit card and then go to the biggest mall on the East Coast

Man with empty pockets
Don’t be this guy…

There’s nothing worse than being a 23-year-old girl (I say “girl,” ’cause I’m not ready to call myself a woman) with empty pockts in a mall. 64 needles to the eye? Nope, not as bad as aimlessly wandering through a shopping district completely broke. It’s really just masochistic.

But alas…. I am a masochistic creature, which I why I found myself at Tyson’s Corner, PRACTICALLY THE BIGGEST MALL EVER, without my debit card on Sunday. Of course, this wasn’t on purpose. I had lost my debit card the day before and didn’t realize until later…until I stood in front of the register at Forever 21, stale-faced and confused when I couldn’t locate my card. Luckily, I had SOME cash in my purse, which I emptied onto the counter and used to pay for my new burgundy sweater dress.

Six bucks left.

Of course, I didn’t come mall-traversing alone. I was with one of my best friends. Her name is Hannah. As we continued through the mall, I worried aloud over where my card might be, but Hannah assured me that, until I found it, she’d spot me, which I thought was very kind. Still, my Pride was not a happy camper. Or, rather, shopper. I captitalize the word “pride,” because my Pride has made it perfectly clear that it will stand nothing less than upper, and that includes case. And class. But not to be confused with the drug.

I figured I’d just try not to buy anything for the rest of the day, because, as nice as Hannah’s offer was and though I would promise to pay her back, I still felt weird about taking someone else’s money. Charity Schmarity.

And then we walked into the next clothing store, and all bets were off. I ended up grabbing a few things, and piling them into Hannah’s arms. “I’ll take these. I couldn’t help it. Thanks Mom. I’ll pay you back.”

Next store…same thing. And then we got ice cream, which I didn’t pay for. Did I mention I didn’t pay for lunch either? OH! Or dinner, because we stopped for subs on our way home.

All of this to say… if you’re at the mall and you realize you don’t have your debit card or any money for that matter, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. Because as many times as you tell yourself you won’t spend your friend’s money, you will. You will spend your friend’s money, and it will feel gooood. You feel happy about it. That is, until you’re writing out a check a day later for $150. Only then will you regret your poor decision. But at least you had fun, and at least sharing finances with your friends will, in a weird way, bring you closer together.

And today, dressed in my new clothes (side note: I actually got up early enough to do my hair this morning, so there’s a win!), I look as cute as EVER, simply because I denied my Pride and mooched off Hannah. Hannah 1. Pride 0. Or maybe everyone loses in this scenario?

Lesson learned: Lose credit card so friend will pay for shopping spree. Hold off paying back until they forget. Free clothes!

Real lesson learned: Keep better track of money. Hannah is a very good friend, and I will most certainly pay her back.

 

 

 

How Realizing My Narcissism Made Me A Better Person

I didn’t grow up in a hostile environment. Quite the opposite in fact. Loving family. Wonderful friends. And opportunities abounding. But living with a co-dependent as a mother, and a father who daily pronounced me “perfect” took an insidious toll. In the world’s defense, I was born with a predisposed low self-esteem. It was inevitable.

Source: How Realizing My Narcissism Made Me A Better Person

Lesson #4: Don’t research ISIS in bed right before going to sleep

With all of this chaos happening in Paris, I decided to do a little research and update myself on current events.

I read about what happened in Paris, and saw some pretty graphic pictures. And this was CNN (I think)! This news stuff is getting bold, my friends. Then I read ALL about the Syrian war and how ISIS came into existence, and then I read about their beheadings. And then, being the curious, yet messed up person I am, I looked up pictures. I have regrets.

Luckily my brain had my back. Not literally of course. That would look weird. You know those super surreal moments in our lives that makes us feel like we’re hovering in the clouds, above it all? Yeah, that’s a defense mechanism. Basically, your brain goes, “Woah! NO! That is a head… not attached to a body. Oh Jesus, is that blood? Oh God…. #nope. Let’s detach.” And then it does. And you feel like you’re looking at stills from a new movie coming out, or you’re gazing through a thin veil, or you’re dreaming. Your brain doesn’t want to believe what you’re seeing is real, and that’s why, as I looked at those gruesome pictures, I didn’t cry or throw up or gasp or scream. I flipped through them with neutral, yet sad eyes. What I was seeing is a tragedy, but neither I nor my brain could relate. And it certainly did not want to.

And as I closed my eyes to finally let myself drift off, I prayed that I’d have good dreams, preferably without the severed heads. And then I prayed for peace.

Lesson learned? Don’t research ISIS at 11:00 at night. 

Peace be with those who’ve lost.

Lesson #3: Fake it ’til you make it

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I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. Apparently, when I’m sad, people can tell. When I’m mad, the stench comes off me like three week old trash. Really? And I thought I was so good at hiding it. That’s a lie. The past year, I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve in hopes that people would recognize my struggle and come to my aid.

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But here’s the thing: If you’re putting off a stink that’s smellier than a dead raccoon in a pile of cow poop, people probably won’t want to come to your aid. In fact, they’ll stay clear of you–about 1,000,000 miles clear of you. Wouldn’t you? Who wants to smell dead raccoon and cow feces all day? No one. And yet I expected people to WANT to. That was a mistake, because most expectations go unmet. And that’s not me being cynical. It’s just reality. Drop your expectations to avoid a life FULL of disappointment. Once you do, you’ll find people surprise you much more than you ever thought. BUT DON’T EXPECT THAT TO HAPPEN EITHER!

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What I’ve learned is that I have to fake it ’til I make it. I’m allowed to have anger, sadness, fear, and disgust (yes, I just listed all the Inside Out emotions but the most important one), but I don’t need to bring everybody down with me. If I’m mad at someone, I’m the type of person who wants to fix the conflict right. this. instant. I don’t care that we’re at dinner with a bunch of friends who look really uncomfortable right now; we are going outside to work this out! But that’s not always the right way. Sometimes, you have to allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a little while. Patience is truly a virtue. That stupid cliche is right.

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Put a smile on your face, and resolve to solve the situation later. Because you love your friends, and you owe them your happiness, and also, look at their faces; they look like they’ve just eaten cow shit for dinner. Of course, I’m not condoning dishonoring your emotions. What I’m suggesting is to hold from acting on them right away. Be angry, yes, but don’t allow it to control you. Let it work itself out; and then, an hour later when you’re at home and you still feel those gnawing claws of frustation, perhaps it’s time to address the issue, with yourself, with whoever caused the frustration, with life. Whatever it takes to prevent it from taking over and dictating your actions, and eventually, everything else.

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It may sound like bullshit to have to smile your way through life. That’s not fair! Life doesn’t deserve my happiness when it does nothing but bring me down! But here’s the thing: By smiling, you’re actually throwing up a huge middle finger in Life’s face AND ALL THOSE WHO WRONGED YOU. It’s a snarky way to look at it, but hey, whatever helps you keep that smile on your face. Plus, smiling tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy and sending little happiness receptors to all parts of your mind. So REALLY, you’re beating that mother-effer at its own game. Smiling is basically you stealing third, and who doesn’t want to steal third? It gets you that much closer to homebase.

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Now go find happiness, and you steal it!

Lesson #2: Treat yourself as others would want to be treated

My mom is a wise woman, and she’s helped me through many a struggle. We oftentimes get on each other’s nerves, but isn’t that just a sign of love? I bring her up, because she gave me a good piece of advice this morning…

I’m prone to base my identity off my reputation. For instance, if people don’t like me, even just one person, then I must be doing something wrong. For that reason, I avoid conflict and say “I’m sorry” even when the fault isn’t mine. By saying “I’m sorry,” I’m hoping to gain back the person in question’s favor. They’re mad at me about something, right? I don’t know what I did, but I must have done something wrong, right? Because they’re mad at me. Like my mom, I’m that person who assumes every honk she hears on the road is at her. So I pretty frequently correct myself when no correction is needed.

Gosh, just writing this depresses me.

But on the flip side, it’s also helping me understand myself. It’s helping me understand that I need to forgive myself. In the grand scheme of things, I need to forgive myself, as we all should. People will disagree with me or with something I do, but I need not chastise myself. I need only love myself and give time to those I feel time is owed–to my truest friends and family in this world.

I also need to own my feelings. You see, there’s a little man who lives inside my brain–he’s quite small, but he has a mighty power. He has the ability to sic his pet beast, Guilt, on all thoughts positive or negative in my mind. Mostly the negative ones.

You think your best friend betrayed you? And now you're mad and ignoring her? You're a terrible person. How dare you be mad. She's just doing what's best for her. Stop being mad, and cater to HER feelings.
You think your best friend betrayed you? And now you’re mad and ignoring her? You’re a terrible person. How dare you be mad. She’s just doing what’s best for her. Stop being mad, and cater to HER feelings.

I didn’t draw that guy. Found him on Google. But my Guilty Beast kinda looks like that…

Let me give you an example of how Guilty Beast dictates my conversations. If one of my friends snuck into my house one night and killed my entire family in cold blood with a machete, here’s how I would approach them:

“Hey, I’m angry, because I feel like you killed family. And that makes me sad. BUT I know you were just doing what you thought was right, so it’s probably hard for you to hear that… REALLY hard actually. I just wish you would have maybe asked me first, because killing my family would obviously hurt me, but I get why you didn’t, because how do you ask, “Would it be alright if I killed your family?” You probably knew I’d say no. You probably knew I’d yell at you or call you names. I get that you probably think I’m a bitch, because I can definitely be one. And that’s not fair to you. Of course it isn’t. Communication just isn’t our strong suit, and that made it hard on you. I don’t want you to think I’m putting all the blame on you, because I’m not. If anything, it’s my fault for not seeing that you wanted to kill my family and talking to you about it. I mean, I even caught you sharpening your machete last Tuesday! Gosh, what kind of a friend am I? Look, before you say anything, let me just say I’m really sorry. Friends?”

What the eff?
What the eff?

Probably really confused that friend, but hey, they get off scrotch-free! You think I’m kidding. Anger makes me feel guilty. Guilt makes me feel angry. So I just avoid the anger. Here’s the catch… Whether or not I’m voicing my anger, the anger doesn’t go away. And I’m just failing myself by not allowing my truth to come out. By not allowing myself to own my emotions.

So, friends, FEEL your feelings. That’s what they are there for. To feel. Don’t over-analyze. And don’t make any rash actions. Just feel your feelings. Be honest with yourself and those closest to you. If they care, they’ll listen. They’ll help you work through them, and they’ll apologize if they’ve hurt you. Because you are about yourself, you should listen to yourself, as if you were listening to a close friend. Treat yourself like a child, in need of comfort and support. It’s not your fault for being human. It’s whoever created you, that’s who! If anyone is to blame, it’s the Masters of the Universe!

First and foremost, be at peace with yourself. Forgive yourself. Love yourself.

Treat yourself as others would want to be treated.

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Lesson #1: I Am The Problem. And So Are You.

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I’ve realized since picking this blog back up that I need to focus on a theme. I have to ask myself, What can I offer the world via my blog? What insights do I have that those reading my blog crave? Initially, I was going for the “I’m young and twenty-three” angle, but I’ve learned that’s not enough. There’s lots of “young and twenty” blogs out there. What’s new? Where and how do I stand out?

For the past year, I’ve been going through an extreme emotional, physical, and theoretical transition. I have experienced depression, anxiety, sadness, excitement, determination, depersonalization, fear… sometimes it feels all at once. I’ve gone up and down, thrown side to side, and good grief, I am dizzy. As you might have read in previous posts, I have A LOT to complain about. And THAT right there is my problem. All I’ve been doing is complaining. Who wants to read that? What I’ve discovered in just the past few weeks is that if we take time out from complaining to find the good in our greatest challenges, we might find our solution.

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I have a friend who has been telling me from the beginning that “you, Stephanie, are the problem,” which I, of course, immediately defend, or rather rebel, against. “Are you kidding? No, I’m not. It’s not my fault this happened. It’s not my fault that happened. It’s not my fault she betrayed me… Are you saying IT’S MY FAULT?” I can go on and on like this, but he stops me mid-breath to say, “No. You are the problem.” NO I’M NOT, I scream. I’m not kidding. I’m always screaming at this point. HOW DARE YOU BLAME ME FOR WHAT’S OUT OF MY CONTROL!

But that’s the thing…

You see, it may not be my fault that so and so did this or that…. but it’s my choice on how I respond. It’s my fault that I’m letting what life hands me bring me down. It’s my fault that I’m brooding and letting my past taint my present, what’s right in front of me. I am in control of how I respond to life. I am in control of my happiness. Because I do believe happiness is a choice. It’s not simply given to the lucky. Don’t get me wrong–I think some people are more apt for happiness (i.e. the obtuse), but I digress. What matters is what I’m doing for myself to be happy, not what others are doing for me, or to me, or with me.

I am the problem. But I am also the solution.

I am on an active search for happiness, having dedicated myself after a long line of mistakes made. So if I can provide anything to a world of young, naive, eager twenty-somethings, they’re the stories of my mistakes, my observations, and what I’ve learned in effect.

I am the sculptor and the sculpture, itself–just as we all are.

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So, what’s my theme, you ask. Well, I’m still thinking of a nice, concise tag-line to sum it all up. Feel free to help me with that. But, for now, my blog, in essence, embodies the life of a young woman who readily admits her failures and actively seeks to gain that consequential wisdom needed to achieve a lasting, purposeful happiness in life.

I can’t wait to share all I’ve learned and have yet to learn.

I’ll start with something simple. Love yourself. No matter what. No matter what anyone else thinks. Love your feelings. Your emotions. Your past. Your present. Your future. Be grateful, be happy, and love yourself. Always.

Easier said than done? Of course. Let’s get technical in posts to come.