Recovery Diary 09/24/18

Sounds of a rushing stream trickle out of my phone, trying to trick my brain into thinking I’m not actually in my bedroom on the third floor of an apartment complex in downtown Chicago. My roommate isn’t vacuuming and my downstairs neighbors aren’t blasting shitty pop music. It’s the illusion of calm- the roaring fan blowing cold air, the phone singing of rushing water, the candles flickering offering up vanilla and toasted coconut. I trick my mind into believing I’m somewhere in the forest burning incense and sleeping under the stars while my mind tricks me into believing I am fat, unwanted, and all alone. It’s a trade-off, an unwritten contract, an agreement made some time ago that neither of us can seem to let go of. It’s a habit at this point, one that I am slowly trying to break.

It’s like trying to stop biting your nails. At first, you don’t even realize you’re doing it until your thumb is between your teeth and the top part of the nail is ripped off. Awareness is the first step. I tell this to the girls I work with all the time. We don’t want to hear that because it suggests that the process standing in front of us is far more intense than we expected. But, awareness is the first step. It was and always will be my fall back point. I find myself day-dreaming about losing weight, I light the candles. I start heading towards the scale at the gym, I listen to the stream in my headphones. I lie in bed reminiscing on depressed thoughts, I turn on the fan and allow myself to fall asleep and reset.

I trick my mind to keep my mind from tricking me. I used to believe it was a trade-off, a balanced relationship, one that would always leave me on the same level as my mental illnesses. I thought recovery was just about managing symptoms and thoughts and behaviors. Take my meds, eat my food, go to therapy, wash, rinse, and repeat.

I started to lose track of the days, but somewhere through the last couple of months I have risen above the tricks of my mind. I have found ways around them. Awareness became planning and planning became actions towards fighting back. The sounds of the stream, the candles, the fan, my art, my books, my snacks, the pool, the medication in my cabinet- these aren’t tricks anymore. These things are my safety net. They make me feel safe when my mind is a battleground. I have found weapons to quiet the cannons and gunshots. I know the secret now. Sometimes I just forget I have the tools.

Recovery Diary 09/12/18

It’s 8pm but it feels like 2am because I spent all of last night tapping my foot against the wall and counting the shadowy lines through the window panes. I’m in Florida, somewhere in the woods, in a cabin by a underground cave that I’ll be scuba diving tomorrow. I love it. I love the taste of adventure fresh on the tip of my tongue and the promise of the water that the next sunrise is going to bring, but I also struggle, even on vacations, even on adventures.

I forgot all of my medication in Chicago. I realized it at 11pm last night and my heart sank. Of all things, of all the damn things I could have forgotten, it had to be the medicine. The one thing that isn’t easily accessible to me when I am driving around the southern forests looking for random caves to jump in to. I had to make frantic calls and find a CVS the next morning. I felt nauseous from the lack of medication last night and my heart was racing because I didn’t take the pill that keeps the arrhythmia at bay.

I have a chill personality, but a racing mind. I have so many ideas and thoughts and plans and dreams that jump behind my eyelids with each passing moment. The tree on my left inspired a short story playing out behind my right eyelid while the song in my ear plays a modern dance piece behind my other eye. Call it the syndrome of a creative. Call it the artist’s madness. Call it whatever you want, but there are moments where I lose it. Not externally, no externally I have never been calmer, but internally I am a bucket of boiling lava that is raging a war against my intestines and throat.

I started making a list of all the things I needed to accomplish when I got home. At what point did my racing thoughts turn from creative to anxiety? I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps somewhere between arguing with the pharmacist and incessantly calling my psychiatrist hoping that she would call back. But, there was a switch and suddenly the adventures of my friend and I in the forest, scuba diving, and camping in tree houses became an obsessive search of the vaccines I never got and what diseases I am now going to die from. I don’t know why, of all things to worry about, vaccines popped into my head. Maybe because I had been dealing with doctors to try and figure out my medication? Who knows why the mind does what it does? But either way, I googled Walgreen’s clinics next to me and tried to make an appointment. I mean, might as well go in tomorrow so that I don’t worry for my entire trip right? Plus if I wait another day before being vaccinated, I could be infected tomorrow and I’d never forgive myself.

The mind is a crazy machine. It needs to be carefully watched and attuned or else it may run rampant and convince you that you should spend your time in rural Florida searching for a Walgreen’s clinic instead of diving the underwater cave 100 yards from your cabin.

Flash forward to passing out around 8:45pm and waking up to the 90 degree heat of the morning. Flash forward to a night’s rest and the magic of sleep. Sleep has a remarkable ability to reset the mind and challenge my irrational thoughts, worries, and obsessions.  I decided the mix of sleep deprivation and forgetting my medication resulted in the panic. I’m sure anyone reading this would have been able to figure that one out. But when you’re trapped in that moment, everything feels so real, so heavy, so extreme.

Yesterday was a day heightened by anxiety. Today was a day enlightened by adventure.

Diving into that cave…breathtaking.

The thrill of swimming through those smalls crevices…heart-stopping.

The beauty of the pictures….unexplainable.

The moments…cherished.

Recovery Diary 09/05/18

Recovery is not linear.

Recovery is not linear.

Recovery is not linear.

Recovery…..is…..not…..

I have heard it a thousand times. In fact, I have heard it so much that the words have started to disintegrate the minute they fall out of professionals mouths. I’m not asking for linear. I just want relief. I want a surgeon to go into my brain and remove the parasite that has made its home between my sanity and freedom.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am in recovery. I am the farthest I have ever been in recovery. Months are passing and I am slowly becoming more and more of myself, but I have these nights. These god-forsaken nights where everything folds in on itself and I am left curled into a little ball of confusion and desperation. And then what happens when I feel small, conflicted, and stressed? I want to lose weight. I dream about it, fantasize about numbers, I pinch at my skin, I revel at the release that removing this layer of cellulite would give me. It’s my default. Same as a drug addict craving a hit. I crave emptiness, numbness. I am addicted to food. I know that. I am constantly reminded of this fact.

My day was perfect. The morning was great, peaceful. I went to a bookstore and spent way too much money on books that excited every cell in my body. Books are my high. They have always been there for me. The stories can bring me far, far away from my reality. I could read for weeks, never speaking to anyone, and be the happiest girl in the world. Of course, that would be unhealthy and weird by societal standards so instead I limit myself to hours at a time with incense and jazz music playing the background. My safe place. Therapists always tell you, you need a safe place.

Anyways, the morning was great. Had some avocado toast that was bomb. Listened to a Trevor Hall’s new album, and drank a latte that was poured by the gods. Then I walked into therapy and everything started to shift. The air in the office was thick. I felt suffocated, uneasy. I wanted to turn around and run away, but I always feel this way when I walk into therapy. It is in this tiny little office on the third floor, that I am confronted with all the issues I ignore throughout the week. I am asked how I am, what I need to talk about, and I shrug. It is the usual routine. I never know. I always feel fine like there’s nothing to be discussed. I am eating and apparently that translates as nothing is wrong in my life.

Therapy leaves me walking like a maniac down the sidewalk. I am checking my email, Instagram, texting people back. I can’t do one thing. I have to have my mind racing with many many thoughts in order to keep this panicked energy at bay. I am manic. I am manic. I am sure that I am manic right now. But I just had a session. It could be anxiety. It could be mania. I could be dying of some brain tumor that is pressing on the sanity part of my mind and turning me crazy. The possibilities are endless, but my doctor just increased my meds so I rule out mania. I have no other symptoms of a brain tumor, and I fall back on I am panicking. Suddenly I wish it was something more because I have no idea what to do with this moments of sheer anxiety. I turn on my car. The gas light is on. I can’t pay for gas. The prices are so high right now. But I Google gas stations and pick the one with the lowest price. I start driving. Traffic is awful, my hands are shaking, but I make it to the gas station only to realize it is the Costco one and the line is crazy long and I am not even sure that I can get gas here because I am not a member of the Costco tribe. So I go to the next gas station. There’s another line. I wait and wait and wait. It starts pouring. Traffic is getting worse. I need to get to work by 5. I will never make it by 5. I call my boss. She doesn’t answer. I call the house. My co-counselor picks up. I tell her to ask someone to help her make dinner. She says no one else is there. I swear. I tell her I am sorry. I’ll be there as soon as possible. I beat myself up about being an idiot for spending so much at the book store. I put the gas on my credit card. At least I’ll get rewards points for traveling. I get on the highway. Suddenly everyone has forgotten how to drive because of the rain. I try to sing to music. I am still panicking. Nothing is helping. I roll into work a half hour late. I frantically start preparing dinner and things seem okay for a moment. I start to get in a grove. I talk to the patients. They make me feel at home, they make me feel welcome, they make me feel like I have a purpose. Work is good. It keeps me busy. But then as the shift comes to a close I start to spiral. The panic I shoved down the moment I walked into work resurfaces and all I can think about is the eating disorder. I start dreaming about it, planning my relapse, how to get to the grocery store, how to lose weight, how to binge, how to get a scale, on and on and on. My mind is relentless. I can’t turn it off. I start pinching the dimples on my thighs and panicking about how large I have gotten. Everything feels bleak and hopeless. I drive home. I listen to Julien Baker’s “Turn Out the Lights” and everything changes…

Do you ever have those moments where there’s the perfect song at the perfect time? The song is a little bleak, but it spoke to me in that moment. Then I was reminded of tomorrow. That even these hard moments in recovery, even the worst days are only 24 hours. Ride the wave. Come on Morgan, ride the wave. Don’t do something you are going to regret in the morning. I drive straight home and immediately get into bed. I close my eyes and sigh. I made it. The demons didn’t catch me. I made it another day. I made it through another battle. And I fall asleep exhausted from the war I had been fighting for the years and years and years.

Baylee’s #myunpolishedjourney Story

#myunpolishedjourney stories are stories individuals share about their journey with mental illness and recovery.  Interested in sharing?  Email us at info@unpolishedjourney.org.  

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello hello! I’m Baylee, and I am 27 years old. I grew up in a friendly suburban town just outside of Chicago up until my early twenties; I then made the big move to the city with my dad. Five years later and I’m happily still living here with my boyfriend and my 15-year-old dog. I enjoy arts and crafts, trivia, outdoor patios with friends, thrifting, collecting mugs, and anything nature-related!

Currently, my life is very quiet, very simple. I like to start my day by arriving; even if it’s just a mental reminder that I am here and that I am present. My day-to-day is being a mental health advocate; practicing self-care, writing, storytelling, collaborating with like-minded/hearted people and strengthening the light that’s being shed on mental illness. My life today looks very different than it did six months ago before I left my 9 to 5 full-time career, but I know that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be; helping, sharing and giving mental illness the transparency it deserves.

What has your mental health journey been like?

My mental health journey has been a beautiful messy scribble of loops, zig-zags, twists, turns, dips and peaks. I was 20 years old when I first experienced symptoms related to an anxiety disorder. I went to every doctor I could, trying to find out what was “wrong” with me and what was causing these strange sensations, thoughts and feelings. I was told by a mental health professional that I had an anxiety disorder, but I was so resistant to a mental illness diagnosis. I couldn’t accept that my mind was causing my body to respond – it just didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t make sense that I was just a girl going into her senior year of college and now was a housebound agoraphobic who couldn’t leave her home without having a crippling panic attack.

I don’t blame myself for the fear. My whole life had been turned upside down and all I wanted was to be right side up again, but that resistance was prolonging a very necessary journey of unearthing long-since buried feelings and a painful past. The day I finally waved the white flag and accepted the fact that I had anxiety was the day my healing journey began. That was seven years ago. Since then my life has become about learning; who I am, what I’m capable of, how to take care of myself, how to advocate for myself, how to say no, when to say yes and managing a mental illness before it tries to manage me. I’ve established this deep connection with myself and an understanding of what it means to show up to each moment as you are. I’m still learning, I’ll always be learning.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in pursuing recovery?

The biggest obstacle in my recovery is and probably will always be trying to stay hopeful when I have a string of bad days or even weeks. Every dip feels like the first. Every pause feels like eternity. It’s hard to think outside of a painful moment and remember a time when you didn’t feel uncomfortable or anxious or sad. It’s hard to instill faith that it will pass and the hard moment won’t last a lifetime, even when it feels like it may. The hard moments are where the growth happens, the appreciation is reborn and the strength that sits silently on our shoulder steps in and carries you through. It’s all a part of the process but believing that truth can be very difficult when you’re so deep in it.

What helps you maintain recovery?

What helps me maintain recovery are words; whether spoken or written. Talking to my therapist, my boyfriend, my family or friends has saved me countless times. Living with OCD can at times make sitting with myself a very scary and lonely place. Reaching out and asking for support or to be heard has been instrumental in my recovery. Writing has always been that independent outlet for me. Absolving my thoughts onto paper or into my Instagram, @anxietysupport, has always been so therapeutic for me. It’s two-fold in that I’m no longer holding onto everything internally, and I’m also able to hopefully help others who read what I say and can relate. It’s that beauty in sharing that I love so much. I’ve had a connection with words since I was little and without them, there would be only silence. Filling that silence with raw, authentic moments has been crucial in my recovery.

What advice do you have for someone in the early stages of recovery?

My advice for someone in the early stages of recovery is just to be. Be still. Be you. Be sad. Be happy. Be anxious. Be anything that you are feeling. Don’t get caught up in the doing or the fixing; just be. Healing comes in the absence of resistance. Remember that you are exactly where you need to be; even if it’s painful and confusing. Nothing is expected of you except to show up as you are. Never hesitate to reach out to your people. Never underestimate the power of a good cry, some nachos and your couch. Never underestimate you! Self-care over everything.

Anxiety Subsides When We Trust Ourselves

Written by: Marcela Sabía, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @marcelailustra.

The other day I was faced with a problem that I didn’t know how to approach. I was feeling anxious and lost after so much deliberation and uncertainty. As usual, I called a friend for advice. We talked for a while, and she shared her perspective on the situation. I knew she had the best intentions when giving her input, but I didn’t feel relieved after the conversation.

I felt uncertain about the advice she gave me because it did not align with my values. My friend’s perspective was true to her values but not mine. I don’t mean that in a bad way – I simply mean that we are different people. But I felt so distressed and insecure about the issue at hand that I decided to follow what she told me anyway. My anxiety left my mind clouded and feelings of insecurity surfaced as I told myself that I was unable to sort things out my way.

Days passed, and I felt increasingly agitated by the situation. So agitated that I found myself crying frequently.  Clearly, I was not okay with the outcome. I found myself in my room and decided to take a moment to clear my thoughts. I lit a candle I use for meditation, sat on the floor, and closed my eyes. As I focused on my breath and silently let my thoughts surface, I realized I knew how I wanted to approach the situation. My gut, my intuition was providing solutions, but I had chosen not to pay attention to them or rely on my own opinions. Sitting in my room, with my eyes closed, I realized how desperately I needed to trust my intuition, my mind, and my heart.  

While I think asking for advice is a wonderful tool and can provide a new perspective or help you think more rationally about a situation, I also believe it is necessary that we learn to trust ourselves. If I had genuinely listened to my own opinion, I likely would not have experienced as much anxiety over the situation. But fear and insecurity made me believe more in someone else’s opinion than in my own.

It is necessary to know oneself, to love oneself, and to trust oneself. We have within us a universe of infinite wisdom, and we must learn to draw upon it. We must believe we have an opinion worth sharing and a voice worth listening to.

 

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Maybe I Don’t Know

Written by: Emily Blair, Director of Operations

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Riding home on the L from my karate class this week, Jon Bellion’s song “Maybe IDK” came on shuffle.  The song states a variety of “I wonder why statements…”. Here are some that Bellion mentions in the song:

I wonder why I say yes to everyone in my life.

I wonder why I can’t run that fast in my dreams.

I wonder why I miss everyone and I still don’t call.

As I sat listening to the song on the train, I thought about how I would finish those “I wonder why…” statements.  The theme of the song touches on questioning why something is the way that it is or why something happened – something we all have probably done.  Sitting on the train car, I started to think of my mental health journey and started to finish those “I wonder why” statements in this framework.

I wonder why I still get anxious when I go to karate.

I wonder why I still have difficulty setting boundaries and saying no.

I wonder why my depression still creeps in.

I wonder why I’m not as bold and confident and sure of myself as her.

I wonder why I put up walls when I know vulnerability is so important.

I wonder why I even struggle with anxiety, depression, and body image issues in the first place.

This list could go on and on and on and on.  That would be an uplifting post, wouldn’t it?  

The truth is, I think that in our journeys’ with mental illness and recovery, we often get bogged down with figuring out everything from A to Z.  What is the root cause of my anxiety and depression, what are strategies to saying no, how can I stop comparing myself to other people, etc., etc.  We create plans, attend groups, take our medication, and when we still have a panic attack or when we still struggle with that one fear food, our head becomes filled with “I wonder why” statements.  This cycle is so dangerous because mental illness will always be an “I wonder why.” I wonder why people have to struggle with it to begin with, so where do we get ourselves if we just keep asking why?

The song is not solely about questioning why certain things are the way that they are.  The pre-chorus and chorus say this:

Although I guess if I knew tomorrow

I guess I wouldn’t need faith

I guess if I never fell, I guess I wouldn’t need grace

I guess if I knew His plans, I guess He wouldn’t be God

So maybe I don’t know, maybe I don’t know…

But maybe that’s okay.

I can’t help but sit back and marvel at how true these statements are.  Now, I believe in a higher power, a God whose fingerprint is always at work in our lives.  In fact, spirituality is a core value of Unpolished Journey. In recognizing this, I think there are some things we may not understand for a long time or possibly never understand in our journey with mental illness and recovery.  And if we constantly question why we are still struggling, we’ll be left walking in circles, because, while there may be some behaviors someone is partaking in that are feeding his or her mental illness, the truth of the matter is we will never really know – we’ll never know why he struggles with bulimia or she turns to alcohol or he has manic episodes.  

I think of it this way.  Say someone gets a cancer diagnosis.  The doctor may explain the diagnosis at a scientific level – maybe it was genetic or maybe the individual smoked a lot.  But the question is a deeper why.  Why that person, that individual, that human being.  

And the same goes for mental illness. We will never know why [insert what you struggle with] has to be an issue for us.  We may never really uncover the exact root cause of our depression that we are so intent on finding or read enough self-help books to create a perfect, foolproof plan for recovery.  

I want to take a moment to say that taking medication, attending groups, reading books, creating coping ahead plans, and everything that you do to help your mental illness is beyond necessary, in the same way that someone with a cancer diagnosis needs to get radiation and chemotherapy or whatever the treatment might be. The point of this post is not to discredit any of those things.  The point of this post is to remind us that even while doing those things, we may never fully understand parts of our journey.  And that’s okay. If we let these “I wonder why” statements cloud our thoughts, we will never fully experience recovery.

As I see it, Bellion reminds us that without these struggles, without these hardships, we wouldn’t truly appreciate faith and grace and all of the beautiful things that exist in this world.  So, while we’ll never fully understand our journey, we can be patient, watch it unfold, and appreciate faith and grace in the process.

P.S. I highly recommend listening to the song.  Click here to do so.

Kenzie’s #myunpolishedjourney Story

#myunpolishedjourney stories are stories individuals share about their journey with mental illness and recovery.  Interested in sharing?  Email us at info@unpolishedjourney.org.  

Tell us a little about yourself. 

Hi, I’m Kenzie! I’m 21 and a senior Spanish and Social Work student at Loyola University Chicago.  I’m originally from California but absolutely LOVE the Midwest. I adore penguins, dogs, coffee, and travelling. I’m a firm believer that people need other people and am aspiring to work in clinical mental health to promote hope and help.

What has your mental health journey been like?

I have struggled with mental illness for most of my life but never prioritized mental health until college. I didn’t grow up understanding mental illness and wasn’t aware of treatment or resources that were available. Untreated depression, anxiety, PTSD, disordered eating, and more had been building on each other and getting worse until the beginning of my junior year of college I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. In my two-week hospital stay I knew I was ready to do whatever I could to prioritize myself and my health. I became super outspoken about mental health and my current mental health journey. I joined a therapy group at the wellness center on my campus and met with multiple therapists and psychiatrists until I found some that seemed to fit.

During this time, I had many different diagnoses and medication plans thrown around, and I was overwhelmed and confused. Things didn’t feel like they were getting any better, and I didn’t know what to do. Second semester of my junior year I realized I needed a higher level of care than I was getting and started an intensive outpatient program (IOP) to focus on trauma and substance abuse. I balanced IOP, individual therapy, work, volunteer and school for four months until the semester ended. School was not something I was willing to take a break from unless it was completely necessary and IOP was the most that I could do while still in school so when summer started I started a partial hospitalization program because I needed a higher level of treatment than I had been getting. I took half the summer to completely dedicate my entire days to recovery, while still maintaining freedom at night, which was exactly what I needed. I came into senior year much more grounded and rooted in my mental health than ever before.

I have a therapist I love and trust who pushes me to go deeper and grow more than ever before. I have a psychiatrist who I feel genuinely listens to me and isn’t quick to overmedicate or misdiagnose. I am part of therapy/recovery groups on my campus that help me feel belonging, while allowing me to continue to learn and use skills. I have community that supports and encourages me and my mental health journey. My mental health is still a struggle.  Most days are a lot better than before but to be honest there are still some that really suck. These are so much easier to get through with the resources I am connected with and by knowing how strong and resilient I have been and will continue to be. For so long I felt silenced, isolated, powerless, and alone because of mental illness.  Now, I try to combat those feelings not only for myself but for others too, by sharing my experiences and journey.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in pursuing recovery? 

To be completely honest, the biggest practical obstacle has been insurance/financial situations. My insurance plan cut out halfway through my planned time in PHP, which wasn’t the first time it stopped covering treatment. I say this not to scare you away from getting treatment for financial reasons but to encourage you to find the resources. I want to affirm that mental health coverage in the United States is often less than desirable but there are tons of resources our there if you search for them (or ask for help to find more). My current therapist and I have a sliding scale agreement that is totally doable for a self-supporting college student.

The biggest personal obstacle for me has been shame/honesty. I spent a long time wearing inspirational t-shirts from To Write Love on Her Arms and talking about wanting to work in mental health without being open about my own struggles. I felt ashamed not only because I was struggling with mental health but because I never felt like I was far enough in my recovery. I struggled to know how open and honest I could be with myself, my treatment team, and people in general. As someone who wants to work in mental health, it’s easy for people to say that I’m not capable if I’m not “recovered” and that makes it really easy to want to stay silent about struggles and pretend to be okay all the time.

What helps you maintain recovery?  

COMMUNITY. Recovery is choosing every day (or every hour) to heal and grow and without people supporting me it would be so easy to give up. People, especially other people in recovery, are huge part of my personal recovery because they show me that recovery is possible and important. Honesty and authenticity are also huge parts of keeping on track with recovery. Having people with whom I can be unfiltered and honest about the authentic highs and lows of life is essential.

On a more practical level I love using various creative outlets as self-care activities. Some of my current favorites are: coloring (mindful coloring books and swear word coloring pages are amazing), watercolor painting, collage making, tie dye, and dancing. I’m not very creative but I love looking up different projects on Pinterest or Tumblr that can allow me to be artistic without feeling pressured to come up with something new myself.

What advice do you have for someone in the early stages of recovery?

Be gentle with yourself.

Know there are resources.

Ask for help when you need it. Please never feel like you’re asking for too much or too often because you are deserving of recovery no matter what.

Find support systems and treatment teams that fit you. It’s always okay to switch therapists, psychiatrists, and friend groups.

Know you are someone loved and worthy even when you feel you do not deserve to be.

Self-Appreciation

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

Self-appreciation

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“We appreciate your consistent releasing of resistance.

We appreciate the continual opening of new doors, allowing your further discovery of who-you-are.

We are eager about the consistent ease that is before you.

We are eager about your new desires still to be launched.

We are eager for your inevitable rendezvouz with good-feeling ideas and experiences.

We are eager for your realization of the unlimited abundance that surrounds you.”

(Esther & Jerry Hicks)

I had a moment the other day where I paused in my tracks and considered how wild it was that past-me, some previous version of myself, had worked so extremely hard to make sure my feet were standing right where they were at that moment – on the London pavement, coffee in hand and opportunity stretching before me.

To be clear, at no point in my life did I ever really plan out a specific road map – and that used to stress me out. I’ve always known my ambitions and my bigger-picture dreams deep down, but I tend to get bogged down in the “how,” in feeling like I need to be actively doing something to make all of my dreams happen. When given the topic of appreciation, what first came to mind was an image in my head of me just wrapping my arms around myself, praising the girl who, from a very early age, committed to a life of doing everything in my power to live a life of adventure, of ambition, of reach, of no boundaries. Because of her relentless commitment to herself, I am now in a place where I can recognize and fully bask in all that I have achieved in my mere two decades on this planet.

I appreciate the family who instilled these values in me – a family who never drew strict lines around me (and thank goodness, because my internal demons definitely took care of that one for them…), a family who showed me that through hard work and perseverance, I can truly achieve anything I set my mind too.

I appreciate the time I have allowed myself to heal. As much as hindsight allows me to recognize the rewards of all of my hard work and nose to the grindstone moments, it also lets me recognize that none of that hard work would have come to fruition if there weren’t also periods of pause. I hope that I continue to give myself this grace – realizing that this recovery is a marathon, one that requires dedication and training every day. And that two years, or five years, or ten years, is just a blip on the timeline of my full life. I am not losing time or wasting time – rather, I am giving myself back years of love and feeling and wholeness.

I appreciate the relentless commitment I have made to myself. This body and this mind is my home, and I intend to treat my home with respect and care for its longevity. Time has shown me that every time I dig deep into my core values and use those to guide my actions, the result feels right and truly bountiful.

I appreciate that at some times I may not feel so content with myself, but I hope that I can look back and remember that I have always made it through those rough patches – and come out stronger and more resilient on the other side.

We are eager for the tipping point that will surely come that will allow you to see yourself as we know you to be: deserving of all manner of abundance, worthy of all good things, satisfied with what-is– and eager for more.

(Esther & Jerry Hicks)

Mindfulness vs. Resolutions

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

Mindfulness and mental health

“You go where you look.” The repeated phrase of my ski school trainer, my driving instructor, my ballet teacher, my high school tennis coach. A lesson that at the time I filed away as just another way to improve my performance, but now realize was probably the most relevant and profound advice I have ever received.

What you are giving energy is what you are giving life. More important than any physical resolution, concerning my health or my weight or something I need to fix or change, this year I resolve to try to pay more attention to where I am investing my energy. If I’m focusing on stress, or on the past, or on everything that can go wrong, then I am probably directing myself down a path of disappointment and grief. We have an internal dialogue going on 24/7, but as I heard Dan Harris say recently on a podcast, so often we pay more attention to the speaker in our head than the listener. By only engaging with the speaker that tells me I’m scared, that tells me I’m a failure, that tells me I’m way too busy to figure out why I’m scared, I miss out on a whole other dimension of human experience.

I prefer mindfulness over resolutions. Mindfulness deconstructed from the zeitgeist version of it – at its core, it really just means stepping back and listening to your internal dialogue. If you set out on a quest to quiet your thoughts, you will not be successful. If you approach mindfulness as another thing to add to your “New Me” to-do list, then the quest is doomed from the beginning.

There is so much to be said for just observing your thoughts, without judgement. When I learned that my thoughts aren’t truth, that the speaker in my head is not always quoting facts, it was honestly revolutionary. Taking time to just tune in to the movie constantly projected on the cluttered walls of my mind helps give me clarity into why I may be feeling the way I am and always reminds me to quietly redirect my mental energy. As Dan Harris says, “You just want to see whatever is there, so that it doesn’t own you.”

Another reason I prefer mindfulness over resolutions is because resolutions imply rigidity. How do I know what is going to serve me in October, when I barely know what I want for dinner tonight? Mindfulness allows for flexibility – it is the practice that helps me make quick decisions that feel right, in tune. It allows every day to be a moment to focus on my intentions, not just the beginning of the year.

I try to stay far, far away from anything that connotes restriction – and resolutions seem to have gained a reputation for doing exactly that. I like the idea of committing to something that adds, that brings joy, that gives back to my community and my loved ones. By being very conscious of where I’m throwing my energy, ultimately I’m showing up as the best, most authentic version of myself, both in my inner dialogue and in my interactions with others.

You go where you look. And once you find yourself somewhere, there you are. I have a tendency to constantly calculate my next move and forget about the girl who is here, now, present tense. In all of the planning and prioritising, and even in the depths of the quest for betterment, the girl that likes soft rain on tin roofs and tends to get distracted by sunlight on her cheeks gets lost. Here’s to prioritising her, to observing my thoughts but not necessarily believing them. And to be mindful of my precious energy, because when channelled in the right direction, my strength can move mountains.

Intentionally Mindful

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer

Breathing, circulation, digestion. Your body completes so many actions every day without your attention, intention or mindfulness. Your body is constantly working for you, a chorus of natural processes orchestrated without you giving a single thought, command or request. There is so much in the natural world and in our own bodies that happens without mindfulness. We run, dance, jump, play, and work often without taking the time to be aware and grateful for the miracle of our own natural mechanisms. When reflecting on these bodily functions that occur seamlessly, like breath, my attention was drawn towards the actions I complete everyday without giving much thought or intention to the process. And since the new year has begun, everyone is buzzing with talk of resolutions. My resolution this year is a large intention that encopasses most of my goals in one statement: To live intentionally through experiencing my life more mindfully.

Take, for instance, breath. When I slow down enough to become mindful of my breathing, I am able to create an intention behind each breath. For example, I can use my breath to calm my nervous system. I can use my breath to clear my mind. I can use my breath to create space and heat in my body. I can use my breath to engage my muscles and activate my senses. I can use my breath to create sound and vibration. I could go my entire day without giving my breath a second thought, and my body would continue to take in air and expel it just the same. However, when I take the time to become mindful of this natural process, a world of opportunities arises in which I can utilize my body’s functions for an intentional purpose.  The gravity of this realization brought such a paradigm shift in my own life. I began to realize that some days I was just going through the motions and allowing my life to pass by without a sense of purpose or intention. I have seen drastic changes in my own life by simply becoming more mindful and using the awareness to create an intention and purpose for my actions.

Now I set intentions each and every month. These intentions are a direct response to a behavior, mindset, or action that I have become mindful of in my everyday life.  In addition, I began to see that the more mindful I am of my actions, the more introspective I am of my emotional/mental health and wellbeing.  When I begin to see patterns of behavior arise in my daily life that do not serve my highest self, I am able to look at what is driving the behavior, which is always some type of emotional unrest that I need to address.

I am constantly in awe of the opportunities that I create in my life when I choose to live intentionally. But more recently I have realized that the more mindful I am, the more purposeful my intentions become. It is often easier to walk through our day to day lives as we always have, often times habitually repeating the same patterns of damaging behavior.  Every behavior that we do serves a purpose, but the purpose may be causing more harm than good.  For instance, our behaviors may be to numb or to escape uncomfortable emotions. When we live each day more mindfully, we can reveal these behaviors and begin to transform our lives.

As I begin this journey into the new year, I invite you to wake up each morning with a conviction to live mindfully. Living mindfully can act as a catalyst that gives life to intentions. An intentional life opens opportunities, connection and growth. Each of our journeys requires that we play an active role.  Our personal growth demands that we live purposefully to support the change.