2017

It’s January 1st, today is the day people everywhere reflect on the previous 365 days and make plans for the next. The past few years I’ve always started the new year by making a pros and cons list of the prior year. Reflecting on the previous year is a great way to be thankful for your positive experiences and to learn from the negative ones. This year
I’m not doing that. I’m not wasting the happiness I have today by trying to decode 2016’s cons and learn something from them. I will however focus on making 2017 better than 2016, one day at a time, starting with today.

I talk a lot about living in the present and not dwelling on the past, however that isn’t something I’ve done a very good job of lately. The past couple months have been very difficult for me. My past kept forcing itself to the forefront of my mind and even the reminders I have tattooed on my body couldn’t bring me back to the present. My mood seemed to be stuck at a dangerously low level, my thoughts turned dark and I started to experience intrusive thoughts of suicide. These  dark thoughts and shadows aren’t anything new to me, however it’s been a long time since I haven’t been able to do something to help myself out of the darkness. It scared me. I made some very poor decisions in my vulnerable state, grasping at the smallest pieces of temporary happiness to try and brighten my mood. Of course this only resulted in pulling me further down, and scaring me more.

Today, I’m grateful that it’s the beginning of a new week, and a new year.

Today, I got out of bed feeling rested, meditated for 6 minutes, got dressed, left the house, sang along to music while driving, and was finally able to organize my thoughts enough to write.

Today, I feel less scared.

As I previously said, I’m not going to waste today’s happiness on yesterday, but I’m going to focus this positive energy into making today great and tomorrow even better.

Daily Challenges:

Meditate ; Write ; Eat a minimum of 2 meals ; Drink a minimum of 2 litres

Weekly Challenges:

1 Blogpost ; Exercise 4 times a week

Monthly Challenges:

Read 2 books ; Put 15% of each paycheque into savings

Yearly Challenges:

Travel to 3 countries ; Cross 5 things off my bucket list

I have more challenges and goals already set for myself and I’m sure the list will continue to grow, but these are the ones I’m choosing to share because these are all second-chance-goals. I’ve set these as goals before and have not completed them, that is why this year they’re challenges instead.

So thats thats. I’ve set my challenges and goals for 2017 without dwelling on the past year, I’m finishing one chapter and turning the page to the next. It might seem strange, but this year I’m embracing my inner Bob Ross..

“You need the dark in order to show the light”

“Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere, you only have to look to see it.”

and of course,

“There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents”

Pencils vs. Crayons

I’ve always thought that true happiness was a mindset. That you couldn’t find happiness, or buy it, but if you truly believed you could be happy, then you would be. It wasn’t until I was in a business meeting last week that I realized I was wrong. Happiness isn’t a mindset, it’s the result of a mindset.

There are two different types of mindsets: Fixed and Growth. A fixed mindset is the belief that people have set skills, talents, and intelligence. I see this as the black-and-white mindset, you’re either good at something or you’re not. Then theres a growth mindset, which is the belief in ones ability to develop or change. I see this as the more colourful mindset, like a 64 pack of crayons, you aren’t limited, you can choose to be whatever colour you want.

In the meeting I was attending, we were talking about how each mindset can have a different impact at work. If you are stuck in a fixed mindset, you, or your associates, will feel just that, stuck. You’ll catch yourself saying things like, “We never hit our goals before, so we never will”, or “I’m just bad at that, I always will be”. You may be really good at something and very successful in your current role, but a fixed mindset creates a glass ceiling on your achievements. Focusing only on the end result, will discourage you from trying new things from the fear of failure. However if you have a growth mindset, you break that glass ceiling and you have room to thrive. You embrace the power of the words “yet” and “will”, and celebrate effort rather than achievement. Having this mindset encourages your associates to develop themselves and try new things.

Being the Mental Health advocate I am, I couldn’t help but think of how the two mindsets also affect your wellbeing. If you are someone who struggles with depression or anxiety, like me, you may find yourself in a fixed mindset from time to time. Dealing with these obstacles make it really easy to say things like “I won’t ever be happy”, or “I just can’t cheer up, I never will” and when you’re repeatedly saying these things, you start to believe them. I know for a fact, how difficult breaking out of the habit of negative self-talk can be, and it can definitely prove to be a very long task. Personally, I managed to chip away at the habit by meditating, however I think that if I had known about fixed vs. growth mindsets then, it would have been much easier. Knowing the signs of a fixed mindset would have helped me realize that the things I was thinking, or saying to myself, were do to my mindset, not the chemical imbalance in my brain.

I’m not saying you can’t be happy if you have a fixed mindset, but I strongly believe that the “glass ceiling” effect I spoke to earlier, also applies to your happiness. If you have a fixed mindset, you put a limit on your happiness. You may be really happy in one moment in time, but it may only be temporary. If you have a growth mindset, your happiness is never-ending.

I can now confidently say that I have a growth mindset, maybe I always have and I just got sidetracked along the way. I think that might be the case for everyone. That everyone has the ability to have a growth mindset, they just need to want it.

I still believe that you need to believe you can be happy before you can be, but now I realize believing in yourself is actually having a growth mindset, and happiness is the outcome.

Acceptance.

I’m painfully optimistic. I’ll always root for the underdog. I’m stubborn. I’ll always take chances. I’m headstrong. I’ll always see something broken as something whole.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree with either one of the traits above, or you like to fix things. I’ve always liked picking at things, finding out how to break them and then patching them back up. I’ve been known to “break everything I touch”, which sounds a little like Midas. I mean, I do tend to break quite a lot of things, but not everything. Unlike Midas I have the ability to return things back to it’s natural state, or at least try and for me, there is no better feeling than seeing something broken put back together. Now this doesn’t always go as planned and often times I’m just left with something broken, which infuriates me. I hate not being able to fix something, even more so when I was the one who broke it.

When I was at my lowest of lows I saw myself as this broken shell of a human. I was breaking down almost on the daily, and I had started cutting slits in my skin to let anything left inside me out. It felt like I was a ghost, lost between worlds, stuck in purgatory. It was obvious I needed to be fixed; My doctors were giving me medication, my therapist was giving me her time multiple times a week, everyone around me was trying to fix me. This went on for months and then I realized that I couldn’t wait for someone else to fix me, I needed to fix myself.

My way of fixing my mind, was accepting it. I had to accept the fact that I would have days when I feel like I’m stuck in quicksand, and that from time to time I’m going to have impulsive thoughts and think I see something thats not really there. Some things are going to make me anxious, some things are going to make me paranoid, and I’m going to need to take medication every day. I needed to accept that these things are okay. These things are “normal”. I couldn’t expect anyone to accept me when I didn’t agree, and now that I do, I don’t care what you think.

Wanting to fix things isn’t a bad trait, you do however need to know when to stop changing things and start accepting things. This is the case when it comes to people, no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone who doesn’t want to change, but you can accept them for who they are. Acceptance can be difficult, especially when you’re as stubborn as I am. You may always want to help, always want to do what you can to make someone’s life a little easier for them, save them from any pain. But some people don’t need saving, some people need to save themselves, and you have to accept that.

You’ll never be able to change someone into who you want them to be, but you can change the way you think and accept them for who they are. 

My Own Best Friend

While flicking through the “Quotes” category of Pinterest, I stumbled across this;

“And if I asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”

I don’t think I ever would have named myself, which is kind of scary. You’re supposed to love yourself, right? But I not sure I know how to love myself, or what that even means, so I figured I should probably investigate.

My first thought was; Why should you love yourself? Love makes people happy. If you picture someone in love, they’re positive, they’re smiling, they’re happy. So if you love yourself, do you have a better chance at being happy? They say happiness comes from within, which makes sense seeing positive thinking evokes happiness. If that’s true, then being happy with who you are starts with thinking positive of yourself and ends with loving yourself.

My second thought was, How do you know if you love yourself? This question was a little more difficult for me. I’m not one to use the word “love” very much. There have been a few points in my life when I wasn’t sure if I was capable of feeling that emotion, and I’m still not 100% sure. So asking “How do you know if you love yourself?”, quickly turns externally for me, into “How do know if you love anything?” To further investigate I look to the top of my “Things you love” list, my friends and family. I think of my best friends and what I want for them; I want them to do things that make them happy, to do great things and be successful, to date the best of the best and feel loved, to never have to deal with negativity, and to know they have someone they can always depend on so they never feel alone. I thought about how I always want the absolute best for them.

Considering all that, do I love myself? No.

I’m not positive on how to change my answer, but I think I need to start treating myself, the same way I treat my friends. If my friend was feeling sad, or alone, I’d tell them its okay to feel down, and remind them of all the positive things they have in their life. If my friend was in a bad situation, or dating a horrible person, I’d tell them they deserve better, that they deserve happiness. So why do I tell myself the exact opposite? Why do I trap myself in the shadows but push everyone else out into the sunlight? Maybe it’s from depression, or history of self-harm, or maybe it’s just my personality, but it has got to stop. I need to become my own best friend.

Being my own best friend sounds a little sad, like I don’t have any friends, which is not the case. I have a lovely group of friends, but it doesn’t matter if I have 2 friends or 200 friends, when I’m feeling sad and down, I’m completely alone. I push myself into a dark place inside, but function completely normally on the outside, so no one knows I’m hurting. This is why I need to become my own best friend. If I’m hiding my happiness and burying it so deep it’s unreachable, how can I expect my friends to save me? You can’t rely on anyone to understand your feelings, other than yourself.

I need to rescue myself. I need to love myself.

I’ll always be my own worst critic, but starting today I’m my biggest supporter as well. I’m writing that statement here to hold myself accountable, so I don’t let myself down, or the two people that might actually read this. I’ve been told before how I can be quite contradictory, and this kind of proves that, but arguing makes relationships stronger and I’m here for me ’til death do us part.

 

Disappointment?

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility. 

This was my answer for as long as I can remember. There was always something I wanted to hide away from, whether is was an awkward situation, an uncomfortable conversation, or just my own spinning mind. Wishing I could fade away, out of existence became a daily ritual. I felt that my life was a disappointment, that I was disappointing everyone around me, by just being here. I’m pretty sure everyone agrees that it’s better to have someone mad at you, than for them to be disappointed in you. It is not a good feeling knowing you’ve disappointed someone, it’s even worse when you’ve disappointed yourself.

Lets backtrack 5 or 6 years; I was always know as the heartless one with my friends. They wouldn’t come to me when they were upset because they knew they wouldn’t get much emotion out of me. I kind of let this define me and I got really good at keeping my feelings to myself.

Cut to present day and all of a sudden, I find myself standing on this figurative ledge, telling this captivating person how I feel about them and I get shot down.

Scheisse.

I started to fall backwards into my old ways of wanting to crawl under a rock. I was so disappointed in myself, I opened up to someone about my feelings. Why did I do that? I gave up on everything I believed in! I should have just kept it to myself. I felt like such an idiot. My mind started to spiral.

Then something weird happened.. life went on.

Of course, I was extremely embarrassed, and I still am *silently praying that he never reads this* but at the same time I’m also kind of proud. I did it! I opened up to someone! I told someone how I felt! Sure, it didn’t exactly go as planned, but it was still a big accomplishment. It’s a step in the right direction, away from the shadows of my safe, hiding place.

Somewhere along the journey of these past 6 years I guess something changed. I guess, I changed. I’m not exactly sure when I became this person who declares her feelings to attractive men then writes about the embarrassment of it on the internet, but whatever, I’ll go with it.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility. The ability to travel through time and space.

Today is a Good Day to Have a Good Day Today.

You might call me a bit of a “workaholic”. I tend to throw myself into my work and not do much else. I’ve been known to come in early, stay late, and my manager has had to force me to take a lunch break on many occasions. So when I show up at work on my days off, my associates are not surprised. The thing is though, I’m just not that great at taking a day off.

I wish I could say this over-dedicated personality comes from wanting to do the very best I can at everything, which part of it is, but a bigger part of it is liking to have everything planned out. Fear of change is not something new I’ve discovered about myself, I’ve always liked structure, and many people who have anxiety feel the same.

I work five days a week and spend the other two days feeling like I’m forgetting something. Days off for me normally consist of me taking a few hours to relax then spending the rest of the time wandering around wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. Making plans ahead of time is a great idea, but sometimes plans fall through, or all my friends will have other commitments, or I’ll just want to be by myself for a weekend; Those weekends are the worst. I’ll want to hang out by myself but if I stay in bed all day my mood is going to take a nosedive.

Recently a friend of mine suggested that I plan my days off, so I don’t feel so lost. I’ve been told this before by therapists, but it somehow just made a lot more sense coming from a friend. I mean my work days are planned out, down to the half hour, so it would make sense to plan my days off as well. I decided to take his expert advice and give it a try;

9:00 – Good Morning, Jenn – Read something!

10:00 – Up and at ’em – Get in the shower… now.

10:30 – Eat breakfast – 1 large coffee, 2 boiled eggs

11:30 – Time to get dressed! – Wear something that makes you smile 🙂

12:00 – Head upstairs and visit Steph and Poppy (my niece, who happens to be a yorkie)

1:00 – Coffee date with Gillian! – Jumping Bean, Duckworth Street.

4:00 – Solo coffee/blog writing – Still at Jumping Bean

5:00 – You’ve definitely overstayed your welcome – Go home.

6:00 – If you haven’t already, edit/post blogpost – Post photo on Instagram for blog 

7:30 – Pick up Ji Hyun from the airport! – My Korean sister is finally home!!

8:00 – Relax until bedtime – Get things ready for work tomorrow

10:00 – Goodnight Moon 

So that was the plan. It’s currently 4:00 and the day has been great so far! I haven’t done anything all that different from what I normally would have but I feel so much better than I have on past days off. Maybe it has nothing to do with the planning, maybe its due to the beautiful weather, or the long-overdue coffee date with my dearest friend, Gillian. I’m not entirely sure, but regardless of the reason, a good day is a good day.

It might sound a little foolish but making my day seem busy by having things planned out resulted in a very calm and relaxing day. Planning out my days off is something I’m 100% going to continue to do. It is something I’m going to recommend everyone to do, especially someone with anxiety. The uncertainty of what you’re going to do is eliminated, planning out your day is a great form of self-help, and actually doing what you’ve planned is kind of empowering. So even if all I did today was relax and write, I accomplished everything I had planned, and that feels pretty damn good.

Thanks, friend!

 

Trigger Warning

You can’t start a new chapter if you keep rereading the last.

As a child, I was horrible at spelling. My parents told me that I would be better at spelling if I read more, because reading would increase my vocabulary. We were encouraged to read everyday, and for the most part we did. I would read Junie B Jones, The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes… My love of reading grew with each book and is still growing today. Unfortunately I’m still horrible at spelling, but at least I have a killer book collection.

If you looked at my bookshelf, you’d see a wide selection. There are school books, books I purchased, books I’ve borrowed, and books I was given. There are books I’ve read for pleasure, books I’ve read for enlightenment and books I’ve read to gain knowledge. I have classics, awarding-winning novels, biographies, journals, mysteries, essays, short-stories, locally published, self-help, the list goes on.. I don’t only read books of one genre or subject, I read anything and everything. Reading different types of books allows you to explore different parts of the world and different parts of yourself. I think that’s why I love reading so much, you can travel the world and travel through time, you can escape.

One of my most difficult years with depression also happened to be the year I read 50 books. I read to escape my reality. I hated myself, so putting myself in someone else’s shoes, was a relief. I got to forget about who I was for a little while and be someone different. Looking back, I am so thankful I was able to find this escape in reading, and didn’t have to resort to alcohol, or drugs, which would have been so easy. That being said, reading wasn’t my only form of relief.

In 2013, whether it was due to depression or the medication, I don’t know, but I started to feel completely numb. No, I didn’t “feel” numb, I wasn’t feeling anything, I was numb. My emotions were muted, I didn’t know what was happening. All this anxiety and depression was crashing down on me, but I didn’t feel sad, or angry, or frustrated. I wasn’t living, I didn’t even know if I was actually even alive somedays.I needed something to make me feel something, anything. I needed something to help me realize I was still here. I turned to self-harm.

I started cutting myself. I could see the blade in my hand, running across my leg, slicing my skin, but I still couldn’t feel it. The blood was what brought me back to life. Seeing the blood pooling and running down my body making little red trails is what reminded me I was alive. If I could still bleed, I was still here.

It started out innocent, one cut was enough. But thats the thing with addiction, eventually you need more, you keep needing more. I needed to see more blood, I needed to see it spill out over the cut, I needed to see my leg covered in red. I moved to different parts of my body, started trying different techniques. I was obsessed. I won’t get too far into things, but what happened was I ended up not just battling depression but always addiction.

This continued for almost 2 for years. I’d try and stop, I’d go days, sometimes months, without even thinking about cutting, but then I’d slip back into my old ways. However, on May 12th, 2015, I stopped and haven’t looked back. I was finally finished with that part of my life. That’s not to say I don’t think about cutting these days, it’s just now those thoughts are fewer and less frequent. Even when I do think of cutting now, I can redirect my thoughts to something else, like reading, or writing.

For the past few years of my life I’ve been embarrassed of the scars on my body. I was terrified that someone would see them and think less of me, or judge me. I wore long sleeves and would never wear shorts, regardless of the heat. Now however, things are a little different. I’m not embarrassed of my scars, I’m proud of them. They show that I fought through the sadness. They’re battle scars, they show that I survived.

So here we are today, exactly one year later. One whole year and zero self-harm. I never knew if I would ever get here, somedays I didn’t even want to live another full year, but I did. I did it.

They say life is a story, but if you keep re-reading the same chapter you’ll never start the next. I’ve turned the page, finished the book and now I’m writing my own.