I had just turned 17 when I began therapy. I was scared for many reasons. The biggest one was that I didn't know the answers to the questions I would be asked. I stuck it out with this therapist, perhaps longer than I should have. I left every session crying, hating myself more. I felt judged. I felt like a "difficult" client. I knew I needed help, because my anxiety was not normal, but I don't think this person knew how to help me either. She was knowledgable about the laws, and the legal aspect of things. Maybe she would've been a great lawyer, too. What I needed at that point in my life was for someone to validate my feelings, to make the embarrassing things less uncomfortable for me, to be patient with me, and to meet me where I was at.
I never got that. I only got worse. I don't remember my time with her very much. The only thing I took away was a comment she told my worried mother. "Haley doesn't want to die. She just doesn't want to feel like this anymore."
When I decided after a couple months of seeing her that things were not working with her, I let that relationship go, without feeling as though I lost a thing.
That was my first experience with therapy. That very much summed it up for me as to how therapy is, and how all therapists are. You would think I had thrown the therapy idea out the window, but I didn't. I held on to what everyone was telling me. There are other fish (therapists) in the sea. You may have to try around a few times, until you find one you can connect with.
In January of 2016 I reached out to a therapist I had found on Psychology Today.
Maybe it was because I needed someone to talk to.
Maybe it was because I felt misunderstood in my household.
Maybe it was because my doctor continued to recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for me, and I felt guilty each time I walked in having yet contacted one.
I just sent an email out, asking if she was taking new clients. She was. I had my first appointment with her that same week.
I remember leaving that same appointment, feeling hopeful. Feeling understood. Feeling as though I finally found someone I could open up to. Some people have therapist preferences that stand out to them when they are searching. For me, I wanted a female, and for her to be younger. I was afraid of being treated as though my problems were "teenage issues" and my feelings being minimized by someone of an older generation. I wanted to feel comfortable, and for me that meant working with someone around their 30's.
I turn 19 the end of this month. I have been seeing this same therapist for almost 2 years now. She saw me at the worst time in my life, and she was there with me to celebrate the best.
Leaving a therapist can be just as hard as a breakup. You have this person that knows just about everything in your past, your fears for the future, your triggers, your dreams, all of it. How do you know when to let go? Or when you will no longer need them?
These questions had been weighing on me.
I am not that 17 year old girl anymore. In fact, it is work for me to find things to talk about in our sessions now. I am truly in a "life is good" mindset. That should be a great thing! But instead..I found my sessions have been weighing me down, or leaving me feeling more empty than when I had walked in. I no longer felt the spark. I no longer had questions, insights. Not even a worry. Perhaps this is me after all of my hard work finally accepting things as they are. But, I no longer felt empowered by my sessions. I continued to go back, knowing I have "stuff" I mean, we all do.. but none that had been keeping me up at night, or creating overwhelming emotions. I would leave my appointments and almost feel..disappointed. I felt disappointed in myself, that maybe I wasn't using this time as I could be. It felt like energy has been sucked out of me. I had to ask myself, "what am I even doing anymore?"
Instead of beating myself up for these seemingly "blah" sessions. I decided to search for another outlook. Maybe this "time" in session I am not using to the best of my ability, isn't about therapy at all. Could I possibly be doing OK on my own? Is it time for a break?
I held back from telling my therapist I had been considering stopping therapy. I was scared. This "I don't know what I'm doing" turned into "I don't know if I'm doing the right thing."
I have been working on my personal growth, beside some amazing spiritual beings. In our group, we often talk about the negative energies we hold onto in our lives. The energies that do not, or no longer serve us. A *ding* sound, and a bright light bulb when off above my head. I was facing the fact that these appointments I had been dragging myself to weekly, were no longer serving me. I felt obligated to go, to become the best me I could be. I was no longer empowered by talk therapy, and that doesn't mean it is because I am healed. At all. It means there are other options for me, that will empower me, that will also help me heal.
After having an anxious stomach all last weekend, preparing for this official realization, on Tuesday 8/8 I told my therapist what I had been thinking.
Like most things, it did not end up being what I was worried for. She was so understanding, and supportive. It didn't feel like an "ending" it just felt like a break. And I felt confident, and safe enough to take that break.
Her door is always open for me. So if something were to come up, I needed her again, I have that. We talked about my progress. My emotions are easier to manage, as I now know how to best manage them. I have found ways to ground myself with my anxiety. I have improved immensely with knowing my needs, and feeling confident enough to enforce them. I have improved at communicating my needs and my feelings. It is still a challenge for me. Everyone has something, and that is just how it is for me. It is something I improve at each time I work at it. I didn't leave in tears, or question if I was doing the right thing. I felt believed in. By her, and most importantly, myself. I can always go back. There is nothing tying me down. But for now, I left that session feeling like a free bird.
I have a crystal in my pocket. I've started going to yoga classes again around home. (including yoga with cats and kittens!) I finished the last of my 2 summer courses. I have been spending more time outside this summer than I ever have. And it feels cheesy to add this, but I am oh so happy.
Something as simple as "what makes you happy?" "how do you spend your days?" and comparing the two lists can really get your life into gear. Honestly, I was afraid to trust myself. It is this fear in the back of my head that there is a chance I could end up where I once was. Excuse me, but I'm telling that fear to "F off" and to look at all I have done on my own. I listened to the signs, I trusted my instinct, and I followed it. I am ready to see where I am guided now.
I've been having a really difficult time lately. And it makes me sad because my blog is stuck in this "break" and though I need it, I'm also finding something that moves me to be too difficult to do right now because I have my own 'stuff' to work through. I am all about being authentic but I can't write about this yet. and if I write about anything BUT that- I feel I am being inauthentic and making it appear that life is all sunshine and rainbows over here but really I just can't share what I'm struggling with. And that's like soo not the point of my site. I usually write through it, to work through it, sharing my insights along the way.
I sent this in an email last week. I have not blogged in almost one month!!
This rut I am in began with my post on gut instincts.
I couldn't talk about it then, and I can't talk about it now. It is so difficult for me, but as Robin from The Diary Of An Empath reminds me, it takes strength to show up. So here I am, with little direction, but I am showing up.
I haven't been writing, or in other words, utilizing my coping strategy. I don't have much of an appetite, I've been having digestive troubles, and I have been skin picking in my sleep from stress.
But OH, because you asked, I'm OK!!
Who else does this?
I sat in silence at a therapy appointment trying not to cry, but when she asked I said I was OK and she asked what OK means to be. I replied with a faint smile, "not terrible."
And she smiled back, "just surviving."
Is this being resilient or is this dismissing our feelings? Maybe it's both good and bad.
If you look again at what is in bold above, one can view those effects as red flags.
They sure are! Something is up with me, that's for sure. But, I am OK, and I'm going to tell you how I know that. I am showing up, in more ways than I think I am.
Listening to lately
Skip to 1:00 to avoid the intro. The music video isn't my favorite, but this song is just all the feels. I read that "Kesha's new song is for those battling depression" and when I first heard it I could NOT believe it was her. So so powerful. I had to listen to it more than once to really get into it, but if you are one for powerful ballads and vulnerability, you should check this out.
I have been listening to more Christian music lately. For the reason that I love how motivating the lyrics are, and I love the Singer/Songwriter genre. I was playing this song, "Soar", while on that really difficult mountain hike that I wanted to give up on. Hint: I kept going anyway.
I finally watched this movie, and if you have Netflix and have not seen it yet either DO IT. It's a true story of a 5 year old boy who was lost from his family in India, and was adopted by an Australian couple- and traveled to reunite with his family in India after 20 years !! That's not a spoiler, it's the main description. The music is phenomenal, the acting, the storyline, everything!
Miracles + motivation lately
I admit- some unfortunate things do just happen, they happen all the time, and sometimes we can't prevent them from shaking us to our core.
It may be difficult for me to write as much as I used to.
I may not be sleeping as well, and developing unhealthy anxious habits (skin picking)
I may be needing more support than usual.
but when I say that I am OK- everything I listed above is why.
I'm doing just fine, I'm doing the right things, I am helping myself heal by showing up.
I don't have to be able to write every difficult emotion and piece of my story to do so.
a challenge for you..
if nothing seems to be going right, and you don't feel like yourself, but you keep saying you're OK -
Ask yourself what OK means to you. Ask yourself what you are doing/thinking/believing in that IS making you OK, and ask yourself what isn't.
Your answers are what you are doing right,
and how you are choosing to heal.
I'm still here, lovelies. Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my story.
I would like to give a big thank you to Kait from Life as Kait for nominating me for this award.
I was nominated on June 15th, and I am now sitting down to write this post, the night of the 23rd.
Before I opened the email, I had no idea a "blogger recognition award" was a thing. I haven't been blogging for that long, and at first I questioned whether or not I was qualified to give any advice about blogging haha.
But here I am! Thanks to Kait I am able to connect with other writers :)
So let's get into it!
How I started my blog:
my about page certainly explains a piece of it, and I refer back to the story in a lot of my posts. But I'm going to be more specific about how.
My high school social worker.
That is where it began.
I found myself in her office, a lot, and check-ins every single morning. This whole "seeking help" thing was new to me, and I had no idea what I was doing. Communication was a key ingredient in progress, and that was my main struggle. I would sit in her office just staring at the wall, trying to form words in my head that were safe enough to say aloud.
I wrote a list instead. Everything I was afraid of, everything (that I was aware of) that was contributing to my anxieties. I handed it to my school social worker and felt my body dissolve as she read the lines in front of me.
It was uncomfortable, but the two of us discovered something that day. A way for me to express myself.
She told me about how she started her own personal blog, and how she loves to write. I related to her interest, and how writing has always been a way for me to tap into my soul.
I didn't know anything about blogging, but I was willing to try it out. I built my first site, and wrote daily about my mental health journey/challenges. I had one reader; my high school social worker.
I began like most bloggers do- on WordPress, with a few readers I knew personally, and the rest who found me by my tags. I was not writing to reach anyone else, but me. It was a way for me to express and analyze some very dark, and complex thoughts that were overwhelming me. It was so private, that it even scared me to have strangers finding my words.
... but I recovered. It was a bumpy road and this blog I write now tells that story. Part of healing from my mental illnesses was moving away from the dark patterns of my old site, and writing to put the good pieces out there instead.
As my about page states at the bottom:
My site is named "Very Haley" for a reason. I have always been very clear about who I am and what makes my soul shine. If my mom saw something in a store she would say "this is very Haley!" Or a video of another person doing something silly or dancing around looking like a fool, "that's very Haley." In other words, this is me. I fall down, I get up, and this is my story. Very Haley. As real as can be.
My advice for new bloggers..
If you are nervous about where to begin, or putting yourself "out there"scares you- start small.
Build your foundation. Get some posts out of the way, and work on your message.
If you aren't sure yet, don't let it hold you back.
So many times I would hide away from the keyboard because I had no sense of direction. Just write anyway. The drive, the path, the inspiration will find you.
Focus on you, first. Blogging can get tough if you only focus on who is reading, and what they are thinking. Blog for you, first. Build the confidence. Confidence is like your own personal fuel or gasoline that helps to run your blog. Practice, leave your comfort zone on your own watch, and try new things until you feel comfortable with the direction you are going. Then you can work your readers. I had thought it was the other way around, but trust me, it is no fun to have self-doubt about your own site. This is your space.
Build your home sweet home, before rushing to call in visitors.
Do not compare yourself to others.
This is a given statement for any situation, but it is crucial with blogging because there are so many bloggers out there.
I had NO idea when I started how many bloggers there are. They are all so different; different interests, different stories, different parts of the world. Fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers, wellness bloggers, personal blogs, business blogs, freelance- the list goes on.
Social media is almost scary. You will find the bloggers with the perfect theme, the professional photographs, and the 2.5k followers. It's hard not to compare.
Heck, I did when I was nominated for this award and questioned how much of a "blogger" I really am.
and now for my chosen nominees:
Special thanks again to you, Kait.
In a recent post, Therapy talk: the importance of using skills as prevention techniques, I had been yearning to find ways to stay grounded in the classroom when anxiety becomes present.
I completed my first week of my first college summer course, and so far so good! I am now on week 3.
In the same previous post, I asked you all for some crystal knowledge, and which stones are best for grounding. My lovely cousin, Lauren was the first to get back to me, finding hematite a popular choice for grounding purposes.
For now, I have been bringing one of my own stones.
I keep it in my pocket during class. Sometimes I will go an entire class forgetting it's there, but I believe it is comfort to have with me.
It is the fact that you have something of a positive energy in the palm of your hand when you need it most. It reminds me to breathe, it reminds me I am supported, it reminds me there is good in the universe.
I remind myself that I am safe. I remind myself that I am okay, and I remind myself to breathe.
My mom and I have been carrying our worry stones [pic below] in our pockets as well. Yesterday she expressed to me that if I see another one, tell her, because she is afraid she will lose hers. I told her about the crystal I carry with my when I go to class. My mom, like me at one point, knew very little of energy healing. I told her what reiki is, and how crystals work, and how different stones have different healing purposes.
We talked for a while about this in our kitchen, and it made me so happy she was just as interested as I am.
now to where the inspiration for this post came from-
our family reunion..
Every year my Papa's side of the family gets together for a reunion. Growing up, it has always been June. We would celebrate my Papa's birthday, the 7th, and my Great Grandma T's the 16th. Since they both have passed, we have continued the tradition of gathering at my Nana and Papa's house for a pool party/barbecue picnic. My mom's cousins come from CT, MA, VA, MD, and NH.
I never know what to expect since my Papa passed away. What memories will come up for me? Will it be weird seeing someone else at the grill? On the drive to Woodstock I asked my Papa to bring us some sun today. "I don't know how much control you have over the weather, but can you bring us some sun? Some sun so we know you are there." Within 20 minutes after I arrived to the party, I saw the clouds slip away and the sun showed itself- even if it was just for a little while. I smiled. Thank you Papa.
I thought a lot during that drive. Often at family events I walk in with enthusiasm, silliness and make my presence known. Eventually, though, I shut down. I slip away from that energetic side of me and I become overwhelmed without reason to be.
Today wasn't like that though. For once, it felt as though I stepped outside myself. I wasn't trapped in my head, I wasn't an intense observer. And I realize why now. I was a healer.
"Haley come on we have to go."
"Cousin ___ is in her car, she texted 'I'm having an anxiety attack.' "
I jumped. "OO, I'm experienced with that!!"
I ran across the lawn and crossed the street, up to the window of my mom's adorable cousin's car. She looked up at me and wiped tears from her eyes.
"Hello beautiful", I said.
I had been waiting to see my mom's cousin all day. I kept asking when she was coming, if she was still coming. I just adore her.
I ran around to the passenger side and climbed in her car. I've never been in her car before. I haven't seen her since- my Papa's funeral? Has it been that long?
We've bonded many times before. Our personalities just click. She's sweet, silly, warm-hearted, and oh, so huggable. She's also struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, and her overall mental health- like me. We haven't talked about our stuff before, but we both had known we could probably relate. And this was my time to go into action and let this precious little lady know how fricken special she is through my own eyes.
She didn't know why it was coming on. And that's the thing with anxiety attacks often you just don't expect them.
There was the internal pressure of "pull yourself together, and smile for the family" and that scared her. She just sat in her car for 20 minutes before entering, and cried.
I put my head on her shoulder and told her I loved her.
My mom exclaimed "OH you're twins with Haley!!"
I laughed and said "YEAH!" assuming she was referring to the anxiety episodes- but nope. Our nose rings. She laughed, and calmed down a bit. Before we walked with her back to the house I asked if she wanted to go for a quick walk before going inside. She agreed. This was our first 1:1 time together.
The 2 of us walked a lap around the neighborhood, just talking. She did a lot of talking, and I did a lot of listening. We talked about how not many people understand anxiety attacks. "You just want someone to understand, but they don't really understand unless they have been through it- but of course, I wouldn't wish this on anyone." She talked about her life growing up, struggles she dealt with, body image, anxiety attacks in college. We talked about therapy, coping techniques, ones that worked, ones that didn't. And we talked about our interests in psychology, sociology, and well, people.
She is in her.. early 40's? and then there I am- but it just didn't matter. I forgot it in that moment because I felt what she was going through, and I knew a walk might just help.
Before you knew it, she was in the house, wiping a few more tears and hugging those so excited to see her. "You're going to be my buddy for the day, ok?" I said. Age just doesn't matter. For me, I have always been an old soul anyway. I just wanted to make sure she was OK, and I wanted to be that person there for her that just "gets it."
I am reflecting now- and I had this caregiver sense in me, and I just focused on her and making sure she was supported, making sure she knew it was okay if she needed a break. My energy remained positive, and hours went by and my light hadn't burned down. I was living. I was out of my own head, I wasn't viewing my life as a movie, and I was living it.
Being a support for another, is rewarding for me as well.
I thought of my Papa, and how he always was the light to our family, and a shoulder to lean on. I don't doubt I have those pieces of him within me.
Relatability is such a tool. And it isn't "oh your life sucks? Yeah one time my life sucked really bad too.." haha. No. I had told our cousin about the Thanksgiving I spent crying and shaking in the upstairs bathroom of my aunt's house, and how I had no idea what brought that on either. After the party, I reflected on that memory again. I remember my mom telling me "you did it." I got through the holiday. It wasn't easy, but I did it. I have since learned to celebrate every tiny victory. And I wanted her to celebrate her own too.
In an article on IHeartIntelligence.com, it is stated that social anxiety is linked to empathy and intelligence.
Anxious beings often feel like they have limited control in the world, but that might just not be true.
Without my anxiety, without my struggles, it would've been an even longer road to discovering my passion, and maybe even, my purpose.
If it is control you seek, know you can use all of your power to be a supportive voice, and listening ear to another.
Usually when I step away from the keyboard for a bit, it's because of a lack of new ideas, too much "real world" to attend to, or I'm just ultimately feeling off.
I guess attending to the "real world" has left me inspired with an idea for this post.
I have always been a lip-biter; someone who pushes through the discomfort. Someone who brushes herself off when she falls down. Some may describe this as being "tough."
I have come to the conclusion that life is a test of our resiliency.
We can spend our days at war with ourselves, but some days it's okay to put down the sword, or stop the fight, to protect ourselves.
And this post is going to explain WHY.
As many know, anxiety is a battle between the rational and irrational.
Sometimes we must CHALLENGE the instincts anxiety brings us.
Last week I went out to dinner with my family to celebrate a birthday. I was looking forward to going, and my mom and I were laughing the entire walk to the restaurant. She was wearing a yellow sweater, and I was wearing yellow converse sneakers with yellow shorts. Walking next to each other- we just laughed.. "Mom, we look like a f***ing lemon." The 2 of us were just losing it. I was loud, bubbly, laughing, and well, me. Once our group arrived, I was slowly beginning to notice how out of touch I was feeling. There were many different conversations going on and I was trying to find my way into them. My anxiety had me interrupting a couple times, making a joke, realizing nobody was listening, and awkwardly sipping from my water glass. That night, the restaurant was busy, more like crazy. Our waitress was overwhelmed, forgot to bring out 3 of our orders including mine. I was patient, I felt badly for her remembering my own waitstaff experience. My discomfort was my fault though. I hadn't eaten anything all day so of course I would be feeling sick by this time of night. I became overwhelmed, too. I had been sitting there for an hour waiting for my appetizer, feeling myself becoming fidgety and rubbing my hands on my thighs. I just heard a lot of chatter from different directions, and I just wanted to remember what quiet sounded like. My mind was racing to keep up. I just continued to smile, feeling my body shut down. My introversion, my social anxiety, my need for food? Maybe all of the above. My aunt smiled at me saying "I think Haley is ready for bed." I just smiled back and nodded. I don't like this part of me becoming visible, but I tried not to beat myself up for it too. It is hard for it not to be visible. My 'very Haley' self is very bright, and when I am quiet- those who know me best become worried. I just hung in there, and when my busy waitress came back I reminded her of my meal and she went running for it. Mistakes happen. I ate my meal so quickly, and tried to pass my mom 'the look' that it was time for us to go. She didn't catch on, she continued chatting away. After dinner, I didn't speak much. The entire walk to the car. I just wanted to recharge. I focused on breathing. I paid attention to the fresh air, and told myself I was ok now. Driving back home, my mom started asking me questions and telling me stories and though part of me wished she'd ask if I was ok, I just told her I would like a quiet car ride. She said okay, but shortly after she began talking again and I jumped "I said I wanted quiet!" "Haley, that's rude!" "I'm sorry I don't want to sound rude, I am just really overwhelmed." In the driveway she reminded me (firmly told me) to say hello to everyone when I went inside so they wouldn't think I was mad at them. I hated this feeling. This overwhelming feeling where you feel like you are about to crawl out of your own skin. I wasn't trying to be rude or moody, this was me keeping it together. I wanted to go right to bed. Upstairs, I couldn't find my phone. I knew I had it jumbled in my covers but I became more anxious and shaky and my mind was racing as I tore my bed apart. I just whined to myself, "my phone. where's my phone. i can't find my phone." as I paced around my room. When I found it, I took a breath and headed for the bathroom. One of my siblings was showering. So I stood outside the door as tears fell down my cheek. My mom did catch on. She gave me a hug. Asked if anything happened. No. Just overwhelmed. "It's okay" she whispered, "I get like that sometimes too." I continued to cry and shake just hearing the water running and waiting for it to turn off. I just needed my toothbrush. I wanted my bed more than anything, and until that bathroom door opened I continued to fight off an anxiety attack.
I share this embarrassing anxiety restaurant story for a good reason.
There is an anxiety instinct; when something is uncomfortable and your body responds to that.
- Me waiting to leave dinner so I could finally sit in my car with peace and quiet.
BUT instead, I hung in there and though I cried when I left, I can say I did it. I pushed through the discomfort.
One more quick example of me challenging anxiety:
In high school I had a 504 plan that supported me during my anxiety attacks, when it was especially difficult for me to do oral presentations. Those who helped create my plan, didn't want to take away presentations entirely from me. I was able to say no if it was too much, but I also had the option to try it if I was doing okay. They didn't limit this because they didn't care about me, or didn't believe how triggering they were for me. INSTEAD it was because they knew it was something that would follow me after high school and taking that task away would not help me cope or overcome that fear; it might make it more difficult.
In my life I have become used to biting my lip, saying "I'm ok" when I am clearly NOT OK. Because of this, sometimes I don't know the difference between the two. I don't know when to take a break, and when to keep pushing.
I have fought many fears in my lifetime. I saw this quote recently about "my life being out of my comfort zone." It's funny, but it feels true. I am resilient, and there are so many good qualities that come with that. Though, I recently took this personality test. My results...
and on the opposite side with much less of a percentage: assertiveness.
Yup that's me.
Should I be laughing though? Is this trying to teach me something? Do I know when to challenge myself (fighting my anxiety) and when to listen to that feeling (be assertive for myself)
We all have had the "oh I shouldn't have said that" or "oh I wish I had said __" moments.
Recently I found myself facing one of those thoughts, but it wasn't just silly anxiety, it was a red flag.
I knew I didn't want the same thing to happen again so I've been thinking deeply about it.
Do I know the difference between typical anxiety and when to stand up for myself? Do I recognize the difference between those 2 feelings?
Yes, yes I do.
Sometimes we get those instincts that are irrational, "mild" or temporary, so sometimes it's best if we are lip-biters and just push through the discomfort life may bring.
But we also have that "gut feeling", the instinct, for a REASON. It's a much different feeling, and we all have felt it and can probably tell the difference. It is when something isn't right, you don't trust it, or you feel a sense of danger. You see the red flags, and that is the time to LISTEN to what your gut is telling you and get out of a situation.
I've been processing a lot. I felt stupid. I realized that I had become accustomed to sitting in situations that made me feel like I was melting, knowing I can not do a thing about them. In return, I am training myself to do this without realizing I am.
I had to scream these words to myself:
"THIS TOO SHALL PASS" HAS ITS LIMITS.
Every experience, good or bad is there to teach you something. Or, you can learn something from any experience.
I learned that I can accept myself as an anxious being, but I can sure as hell work on being more assertive. I have to. I am in the right direction. I know how to put my hands on my hip and tell someone if something is not okay, I know how to stand up for my needs and my rights. And recently, I didn't. I crumbled like a cookie.
It is important to check in with yourself. "Is this feeling/thought something I should challenge or listen to?"
Do not allow yourself to become hurt. That is not something you should become "accustomed to."
Today I went back to therapy. I am now home, and able to return to my work at home.
For a brief moment we talked about the difference between prevention and intervention.
In life, do you start brushing your teeth after you get a cavity? Do you start washing your face after you breakout? Ok- maybe some people do, but ultimately no. You do these things to prevent a certain outcome.
But for some reason- people often forget about preventions when it comes to their mental health. Mental health in its existence, is often forgotten.
Or like many: You wait until an issue blows up before you seek counseling.
In August, I had an intake at the campus counseling center. I wasn't in crisis. I wasn't even nervous about college. But I knew myself and I wanted to seek help before I needed it. I advocated for myself. I was using prevention techniques without even being told to.
Just like that decision, one week from today I emailed my therapist on the car ride home from Boston. I wanted to check-in with her and give myself that reminder that she is there if I need her.
Ok, but besides counseling how can you prevent a fallout with your mental health?
I mentioned to my therapist how I live inside my head. My mind has a mind of its own. I can be a space-case, and concentration can be difficult for me. I have said in previous posts how I struggle with this in my classes, and how it then affects my self-esteem as I tend to punish myself for it. I have learned ways to accommodate for this, though, leaving me less overwhelmed so it is easier to focus.
My therapist asked if anything has been bothering me, (or that I have been anxious about.) I had to think. I realized, I did not have anything. Not a single thing. "Honestly, I've been in a really good place. I just want to keep things this way." I laughed, saying that if I thought too hard about "if" something had been making me anxious, I would only create reasons to be anxious.
Some people may assume that when you've reached this enlightenment or overall content place in your life, that you can say "see ya" and counseling is no longer needed. I have learned that this is one of the best times to go to counseling. The challenge, is finding things to talk about (or vent about), but this way you can listen and build on skills to work on any day despite what current state you're in.
This summer, I am taking a 1 month course, 3 days a week at my local community college in order to get some credits out of the way that go towards my major. My therapist found this as "good timing" weirdly enough. I will have just one course to focus on, and study for, instead of 3 or 4 other courses to follow. With this, I can work on mindfulness this summer with my therapist, and practice skills to use in and out of the classroom.
This is where therapy + prevention come together. You learn skills, not just to get you through the moment, a shitty week, or mid-life crisis. It is recommended you treat these skills as "homework" (many therapists actually give homework) so they can be implemented in your life, and one day these skills won't feel like work- you will just find yourself doing them.
Since I have been doing well, I decided to do counseling every other week instead of every week this summer. We'll see, or maybe I will push it back even more!
Until then I want to create goals for myself that relate to mindfulness strategies. I will start with 3 for now.
Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.
- Teddy Roosevelt
** And a question for crystal using folks, Which type of crystal would you find most suitable for bringing into the classroom? Best for grounding, focus, anxiety..
Please comment or contact :-)
Every Mother's Day..I want it to be special. I want it to be perfect. Every year on her birthday AND Mother's Day, she should be expecting a written letter, poem, or blog post from me. I love my mom A LOT but I am running out of new words to express it. And writing is "my thing" it is a "gift" in my mother's eyes, so how can I not write for her, even if my love is repetitive? :-)
Last year's Mother's Day Post was about me leaving for college in the Fall and how that was going to be a milestone for her as well.
This Mother's Day, my post is going to be a little different. I am not just dedicating this to one mother, I am dedicating it to many women that deserve to be celebrated today, and every day.
I was thinking about social media on Mother's Day, and how my news feed is usually blown up with dedications to mothers all over.
I personally don't know what it is like to want to avoid the media at all cost on Mother's Day. I personally do not know what it is like to not have a mother, or to not have her here with me. I do know that there are so many people in the world that deserve a day- that deserve a day to be celebrated. I have even "adopted" a 2nd Mom, Dad, and grandparents outside my family tree.
For that reason, I have many amazing mothers I know who I can wish a happy day to today.
Here are the gems today's post is dedicated to:
My mother, Auntie Sara, Aunt Kelly, Aunt Josie, Nanny, Nana, Grammy, and Mimi.
They are all different, and wonderful in their own way. I am going to write 2 things about each of them.
1) Something I love about them.
2) Something they have taught me.
and, my lovely grandmothers. :-)
and my Mama Pumpkin, of course
We teach each other to love ourselves as we are.
We get spacey, we get sensitive, we are easily excited, and easily pleased. Our minds often wander. We are "look at the moon!" kind of people. We appreciate the little things.
I would not want it any other way.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, and those who have made me into who I am.
This post is dedicated to my friends, and all the new people this year that have been a part in my journey.
By the first day of classes, I had already made over 20+ friends that I could say hello to on the sidewalk. And that, was because of my decision to move in early for the bridge program.
We shared our stories through narrative essays, we shared our nerves about starting college, and we all had a mental breakdown of some sort during those 2 weeks.
I want to stop right here, and reflect. When I started college I was not expecting to stay. I mean, stay here. I was not expecting to become connected to the school, and the people, so soon. [Many of you remember my goal to stay for one year (my mother's wish) and then go to school down south.] I also, was not prepared for the amount of goodbye's I had said by the middle of my freshman year.
Our school is not for everyone. Something I was not expecting to learn about my college decision- was that this school is meant for those who know what they want to do with their life. Like- who does? This school is for people that just "knew" they were going to be child life specialists and have known since they were little that teaching is their calling. It is driven for helping professions- teaching, child life, social work, juvenile justice, etc. This has not affected me. I am drawn to social work, and my school has one of the best programs.
I had to say a lot of goodbye's this year, because my friends were realizing where they fit as well. The small campus size- not for everyone. I thought it was not going to be for me, but it turns out it is helping me to shine, to stand out. Living on campus, or out-of-state is not for everyone either.
Within my first semester I had 2 friends (different scenarios) who withdrew from school, so they could receive mental health treatment. I praise their decisions to do so. It is a tricky decision when your health is rocky. Do I leave school, or do I stay and risk things getting worse? They are both doing amazing now.
My "dream" roommate, decided she was gong to commute her second semester to save money. I miss living with her. It was just easy. It was sad to see her half of the room empty. Things have worked out, though. She is forever my original "roomie" and I still get ultra excited when I see her in the campus center.
I feel blessed to be at a school where the students cheer each other on, and are respectful, and always willing to learn new ways of thinking.
I met some of my friends just by them approaching me as strangers, to compliment me after hearing my bridge essay read aloud. Now, I eat dinner with those people.
A moment that still stands out to me is when a girl in my class expressed her presentation anxiety. I, of course, could relate to. She had never given a presentation in her life because she always had accommodations. She gave her first presentation in our class, and everybody clapped and congratulated her and I just felt so much happiness for her, and to be a part of a community like that which gives everyone room for growth.
There are always the flaws, and the drama you hear about from being on a small campus. You meet people and question their people skills, and sometimes you have to ask yourself "how old are we here?" It is in class, where I forget about that. My courses touch upon big ideas, and current life events, and I am always thinking deeply. It is in class, where everyone is reminded why they chose this school in the first place. A school whose message is to "inspire a world of good" and asks us if we are "tough enough" to do so. There are always those little things that take you back, but you get back up by focusing on a study you are passionate about.
3 of my friends are not returning next year. This makes me sad because we are all so close, but I support their choices and we plan to stay in touch as our journeys take us in different directions.
My best friend this year, worked in our marketing office. She left a few weeks ago to return to her old job. My campus counselor, being this year's intern, was another "goodbye" that had to be said. And my first social work professor is retiring, and we were her last "intro" class.
Those are 3 more people I have connected to this year.
I guess I have not adjusted to this part of life. High school graduation is one thing, but every day we meet people and are unaware of how they may impact us. This isn't a sad thing. You take what you can from people. It's hard to go a day without those who made you feel good, but the point is you can go on without them.
I have learned this year that sensitivity is a part of me, and I am learning to see it as a strength rather than a weakness. College has allowed me to embrace more people in my life, and I am very attached to the feeling I get when they inspire, or motivate me.
Thank to all of my new friends that have stood by me this year. I look forward to seeing many of you again in the Fall.
and now, I am ready for a laid-back summer break
It's here.. Mental Health Month is here!
May is here.
This post is going to be vulnerable because I am using photographs to tell the story.
I chose 3 pictures of myself in order to discuss mental health, and what it means to me.
Did I pick the best pictures of me? Ha. Nope. (As your eyes have already glanced down)
I chose the 3 pictures because of the memories they brought up for me.
I wish I could say I don't care what people think about me. Sometimes, I don't. In a way, though, we all do. We all do care. I care while writing this post, and I will care after. But when does the meaning of "normal" fall out of the dictionary? When does "beautiful" mean something you cannot visibly see? When does the internet become a safe place, a realistic view of what is, and not just what we choose to portray?
Did I send it? No. I kept it for me. Sometimes I think I took this photo to show myself "this. this is what you've become. this is who you are." and sometimes I think I took this picture because I had hope. [What?] I had hope that things would get better, and I knew I would have this picture to look back at and see how far I've come?
and then I have my awful reason. Maybe I took this picture, in case someone were to find it. Then they would know how badly I had been hurting when nobody seemed to understand.
The story at the time this was taken. It was November 2015. I am standing in my bathroom. I would go in there a lot, lock the door, sit on the rug, and lean up against the cabinet, falling apart, questioning every piece of my life. I hadn't showered. My hair looks greasy. I hadn't been taking care of myself. You can see mascara under my eyes. That was me trying. My face is swollen from tears. At school I would sit alone in the hallways and dissociate. I would bang my head against the lockers when nobody was watching. I would leave class to cry in a bathroom stall. I would text my mom at work, obsessively, throughout the day. Leaving her concerned.
I was sick.
I was pale.
I went days on end without an hour of sleep.
And after this picture? I most likely had wiped my eyes, washed my face, and opened the door again as if nothing had happened.
That is what happens when you have a mental health condition. You are just like the girl who decided to show her smartphone what her Instagram doesn't see. When you walk out those doors, there is no room for the what is expected of you. You get dressed, you go to work, you blend in with society, and you smile- because god forbid someone sees you not acting "okay."
And nobody knows that the one who smiles, and shows up, had reached their breaking point the night before.
I think when people see the words "mental health awareness" they think about depression, anxiety, or just the word "mental illness." I think many forget that mental health awareness, includes them too. It includes all in the topic of discussion. There are the sides of pain, the sides of fighting, but there are also those sides that do have pure genuine smiles. And that is an example of mental health too.
People may see me now and forget I have an anxiety disorder, and still struggle with depression at times. At my school counseling center, I take a mini questionnaire as their check-in. The numbers always confirm that I have severe anxiety, but when my counselor addresses it, she learns that those results are my constant. She reads "severe anxiety" but I say, "yes I'm anxious but I've been worse." My heart always races for no reason. I always am afraid I am going to have a panic attack in public. Anxiety is a part of my daily life, but I go about my life despite that. My mental health is also:
showing self respect,
snorting when I laugh, and then laughing even more!
It is the self-talk inside my head saying "this too shall pass."
It is advocating for myself by going to therapy.
mental health awareness IS self-awareness.
We can all feel sad, glad, mad, and we have the right to feel whatever we feel.
Mental health awareness is important because our minds are powerful, and fragile all at once.
Everyone deserves support, care, and treatment.
And unfortunately we still live in a world with oppression and stigma.
Unfortunately many forget there is always more to a person.
And unfortunately not everyone receives support, care, and treatment.
- But we do have a month dedicated to spreading awareness. A month so we CAN talk about it.
It affects everyone.
At times we have to ignore the fact that we care what people may think, and we must be vulnerable to get the attention the world needs.
This post is going to be entirely dedicated to me.
Writing is reinforcing self-talk. I have been so hard on myself, as I always am with schoolwork.
I've said before that I tend to focus on everything I am not doing, instead of praising my own tiny accomplishments.
That has been these past few weeks. Finals are tough. I am not downplaying the stress that all college students endure, but I can also say that with my personality I find it difficult to keep up at times. My severe anxiety, my tendency to be lost in my thoughts, forgetful, and my trouble concentrating are only worse when I am overwhelmed. I have a quiet demeanor, and my friends often describe me as "chill" because that's how I appear. Inside me, is a different story.
And, boy I am overwhelmed.
I don't get homesick, but lately I'm so desperate to just go home. All year, I hadn't been the one calling mom wanting to come home. Lately, my mom has practically been on my speed dial. Even my mom knows I am not the type to call home crying about papers, so she just knew I had hit a breaking point.
No, a 15 page research paper on social class in America is not the easiest/most exciting thing I could be writing. It is challenging for me. I write like I'm telling a story. I write from my heart, and the thoughts just floating inside my head. Research papers are difficult for me, because I don't write like that. I can't share my story, or my own opinions because they don't matter.
This paper has been the death of me. I truthfully want to cry just by looking at the thing. It's done. It's written. It's a rough draft, though and it needs much more work.
I had a conference with my professor and I expressed how overwhelmed I have been by this assignment along with my gazillion other final papers.
"I don't know why I've always struggled with research papers."
"I can tell you why" he said, "they are really fucking difficult."
The thing is, I'm not even doing terribly. He even told me I described it to be much worse than it actually is. But during those full 15 minutes I sat with him, I was choking on air, struggling to hold back tears. When I left, there was no holding them in anymore, and my phone was ringing for my mom all over again.
I am just burnt out. I feel brain dead. I just want to turn in my assignments as they are as long as I "just pass." That is where I am at.
I am tired of the stress, the tears, the fact that I have had trouble eating because my anxiety is so severe, and I just want the relief to come. I have less than 2 weeks left. I just want to be back home with my fluffy cat, watching movies on the couch, laughing with my mom.
Even my professor's last words to me as I left his office were, "You got this, be confident-." and some other words I can't remember.
I know it's a me thing.
As a 2nd grade student, my teacher had watched me while taking a test. She told my mom how I would tense up, and how she could visibly see me shaking. 2nd grade.
I know I am doing just fine. My grade point average is better than it has ever been, I am getting my work done, passing my classes, I haven't given up. I just always beat myself up knowing I could be doing more. My mom, my professors, everyone tells me to breathe and believe in myself. They can see it written all over me that I am hard on myself.
I have always been a smart kid who tries very hard. But there are things like my attention span, and my anxiety that have impacted my grades. My mom even said, "I wonder sometimes if you should have had a 504 plan in elementary school." I cried in frustration. Just wishing these little self esteem flaws were addressed when I was young. If someone had seen past the quiet girl in class who was well-behaved, and had been there as a support for me. What if I have inattentive ADD that was never diagnosed?
"Haley, honey you have to stop digging." my mom said.
I am not looking for things to be "wrong" with me. I may be digging, but only because I want to be supported. I don't want to feel like I'm struggling to keep up, or that I could be doing better when the "average pace" is too much for me.
- and that is where I am going to stop. The worries have been released, and now it's time to snap back into shape.
I have made SO many accomplishments this year. Public speaking, articles published, the people I have met, declaring my major, my field placements- the list goes on!
In late August of 2016 I showed up at my college's counseling center.
Why I was there? Why I was seeking counseling? I remember the words clearly, "I do not want to end up where I was."
Now it is almost May, and my counselor reminded me of that. She reminded me, to show me that after all the kickass things, and struggles of my freshman year, I accomplished my original goal. I stayed safe.
It put things into perspective for me. My standards, my needs, are different from others. Everyone has there own. I need to stop comparing myself. I need to stop forgetting that I have every right to be where I am at, right this moment and every moment after that.
At the end of the day it does not matter how well I did on a paper. What is important to me is that I keep going, pushing through every obstacle, and be able to say "I got through it." My challenges are my challenges for a reason. Education seems to be one big fish bowl and everybody has equal expectations. How can you not compare where you are at, to another student, or the student you used to be?
I may not be able to change how I get easily overwhelmed, but I can learn to change how I respond to myself because of it. Maybe that is my new goal to work on for next school year.
For now I shall see my happy vision of summer around the corner, and bang out my final assignments and presentations even if the tears follow.
Yep, welcome to college!
Here' s a look into the life of a living contradiction! Welcome Welcome! Just a college girl trying to create a peaceful life while managing irrational anxiousness. :-)