A few days ago I received an email from a lovely soul from the Philippines. Her words struck so dear to my heart as she expressed how much she related to me. After reading my journal entry post from November of last year, she reached out excited to read more.
My dear friend Marisa Conte also wrote in a recent FB post:
I challenge you to speak more, to talk about what it is you are feeling, and to never feel denied of your voice. The world needs to hear you now more than ever."
This blog post is inspired by these two women. Thank you for inspiring me to move forward.
When I first started this blog, I was absorbed in labels I had been given. My blog was going to be a look into the life of a student with an anxiety disorder; a mental illness. When I see my blog now, I am unsure how to categorize it. I am totally ok with that, and the reason why, is because I am in the smack dab middle of self discovery! I am no longer obsessing over what is "wrong" with me. Instead, I am facing the truth about who I really am, and it's all positive.
My world has revolved around my anxiety, because for the longest time that was all I was able to recognize it to be. My sleep, my eating, my mood, my behaviors, my fears- all have been affected by anxiety. I haven't known it any other way. This past summer someone said to me, "I don't doubt that you suffer from anxiety, but what I also believe is that you are a highly sensitive person."
To hear someone else point that out honestly surprised me. How could they tell?
A highly sensitive person? That isn't a label you want to introduce on a first date..
What I learned is that it is an actual 'thing'- a thing that I am, and so is 15-20% of the population - and it is actually pretty cool.
"(HSP), has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity." - Elaine N. Aron
HSP's are more creative, and conscientious. We notice things others may overlook.
As a child I was very quiet, but I noticed everything. I would take in every subtle detail and study it.
I feel things deeply.
I have the ability to take in other energies.
What I thought all along was a social anxiety disorder, and a depression, may just be the fact that I am sensitive to my environment, I care a lot (compassion fatigue), and I can become easily overwhelmed.
Now, I am seeing these qualities as gifts, and I don't want to be ashamed of them. I want to bring them into my blog and embrace them! Someone needs to give sensitivity the power.
I'm going to share another childhood memory to promote the healing I suggested in my last post.
My very first “goodbye” ever to be said. My 2nd grade teacher. We were her last class before she retired.
I remember the parents organized a small party for her in our classroom at the end of the year. She sat at the front of the class and all of her students including myself stood in line taking turns to go up and thank her, giving her a flower, and a hug. I have no idea whose [awful] idea this was..but one of the parents had a radio playing Sarah Mclachlan’s “I Will Remember You” in the background as the line was moving.
That hit me like a bullet- haha. I remember standing in line holding my flower and crying as I took steps forward. I remember trying to hold it in too, I didn’t want her to see me cry. I couldn’t hide it though. I was so sad, and though I knew she wasn’t..it felt like someone was dying and it was the first time I felt so scared to not see someone again. I did not like that painful feeling. From what I remember I was not the only one of her students who cried that day, but for me personally, I was 7 and sensitive, and it was the first time I felt the pain of being so attached to someone.
I had said before that I get very attached to people. I don’t think it is an attachment 'issue', as I value my independence. I think it is just something about me that can feel like a strength and a weakness at the same time. It is because I love people, and I love deeply. And I realize it doesn’t take much, it doesn’t take something crazy or someone to save my life. Often times my love for others is a reflection of what I admire in their hearts. A person who allows you to feel safe, nurtured, to be yourself. I love those who are genuine, authentic. And so it isn’t a question why I have always loved things like movies, music, old photographs, and poems. I am moved by a story.
I am not one for small talk, but knowing someone else's passion, personality, laughter, that is enough story for me to feel connected to them. My Papa shared his heart, his story, and charm with me and I lived his story too. It makes sense to me now why I hurt so much. Sometimes I hate that I feel so deeply, because I hate the pain that follows. I hate the grief of goodbyes and distance. Or knowing not everyone feels the same way..to the same depth. But I also see it as a strength that I am able to hold people so dear to my heart, that people can make me feel that way. That not everyone can feel the little things like I can. The very fact that people can make me feel that way, inspires me to want to be that person for someone else. The way I get so attached to people, and distraught when they’re gone- does not mean I was never loved, or nurtured enough, it doesn’t mean I had been abandoned, and it doesn’t mean I had experienced childhood neglect. I think that’s what people think when they hear how often I think of someone, and how the tiny things mean so much to me.
I am highly sensitive, and sometimes it hurts, but I also think it is privilege to be able to love this much. It is hard to compare myself now to 7 year old me, honestly, because I still feel overwhelmed when I experience empath overload. It is rewarding every time, but I still try to shove the feelings back in, and wonder why this pattern always happens. I am still learning to accept this part of me.
I can't write an inner child work letter to 7 year old me and tell her some massive discovery about how she can detach herself, or no longer have those feelings, because I still do.
The healing part is that 7 year old me did not know that what she was feeling was a lovely human quality that would bring her good things. It was just an uncomfortable emotion.
When I share this part of me, it feels weird, and I call myself a dork, or a sap to acknowledge that. It is something that my friends would read and go "gee Haley that's so deep" or make a joke that I have a lot of feelings. But, there are people out there who feel the same way, who feel ashamed of their sensitivity too. There are those people who recognized I was an empath and an old soul before they recognized me to have anxiety. There are people who won't make me feel like an alien haha.
Empathy, sensitivity, and vulnerability are mental health too. They are human superpowers that unfortunately also have stigmas attached.
I want to challenge the idea that loud is strong, quiet is weak, and feeling too much is something to hide.
By doing so, I shall share the most authentic and vulnerable parts of me.
"is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging." - Brene Brown
Do you know where shame stems from?
Most of the pain we feel from childhood we carry as adults. At one point in our early years we might have made a mistake, gotten in trouble, been ridiculed, felt embarrassed, and thus created the existence of shame within ourselves. It could have been something big, but it could have been something very small.
For me there was this fear of being vulnerable.
A week ago I received an energy healing, and the healer described my throat to have what appeared as a brick wall or blockage. For those who are not too familiar with the chakras, I will save my woo-woo talk, but will share that the throat chakra is all about expression and speaking your truth.
Mine has been blocked probably since I was in elementary school. Each year I chisel away at it, but I haven't been able to put the wall down completely. It has not felt safe to do so. There is this fear that is blocking me from sharing my true feelings at times. A fear of being misunderstood, but a fear of feeling alone.
Shame. It is this returning feeling that I don't want to admit exists within me, but it does. No matter how many times I tell myself I am worthy I am still holding myself back.
For this week, I designed a plan for myself and I want to share it with you too. Any shame that exists today within ourselves, no matter what brought it up, has been there longer than we have known. But it's never too late to work on it.
Inner child work is not easy. Processing takes time and energy.
I have decided that each week I will pick a new memory to process, and in using that memory I will write a letter to my childhood self.
There is a psychological reason why we remember the things we do, and it really isn't that complex.
For me, I remember silly things from my childhood like a boy stapling his finger in kindergarten class, or a time I was embarrassed to have forgotten my homework. Sometimes I chuckle, like why of all my childhood are these the first few things to come back to me? Whether it was my empathy for that injured boy, or being hard on myself for not doing my homework- these little things can heal my self-talk today, if I acknowledge them.
An example letter..
Last week I chose to write about a memory that even today I laugh at, and look at it to be a "pathetic" version of me. It was a memory of elementary school music class. I had a cold, and my nose was running, but I was so painfully shy that I was too scared to get up from my seat and get a tissue from the other side of the room. Instead, I shamefully wiped my nose on my sleeve.
In writing to "little Haley" I offered her compassion, support, and understanding. In a weird way, years later it was exactly what I needed.
Inside your head you are feeling weak, pathetic, and disgusting. You are afraid of what they're thinking if you stay, and you're afraid of what they'll be thinking if you move. I know, I hear you. I hear your fears loud and clear and they are safe with me. You don't know why it's hard to be seen, you just know that it is. You feel invisible. I'm here to tell you, you are not. People see you, in the ways you want them to and not in the ways you fear they will. They see you as kind-hearted and gentle, and that may not seem like enough, that may not seem like it matters, but it does. You may not feel strong, but you are, and your heart carries your strengths. Right now, all you can focus on is that tissue box. To get there you have to raise your hand, or just stand up. You have to say excuse me to the kids in front of you, and you have to walk behind where the teacher is standing. You sniff in instead, wiping your nose on the sleeve of your shirt. You feel anxious and afraid and you want to leave but you feel so stuck. I want you to know you are being held. You are not alone. Right now, that person is me holding you closely and caring for you. If sitting still makes you feel safe that is just what we will do, and I will sit here with you. Though, If you so choose, I will also be there with you as you anxiously get up to blow your nose. It may feel like every eye is on you, but please know you are not the only one to have that feeling, and those eyes you are afraid of could be afraid for the same reason. You have a gift that allows you to notice everyone and every subtle detail, so it is no question why you would think others do the same to you. But Haley, not everyone can. Their minds are elsewhere. They are not as intuitive, as thoughtful as you are. You are safe. You are okay. You are absolutely okay. Whether your fear is making noise or tripping, nothing is as bad as it may seem. These feelings are uncomfortable but they will pass and later today you will be back in your bedroom reading books on fairies and going outside in the woods with your best friend Hannah. Your imagination will take you away. But right now I need you to listen to a voice telling you you are not weak, you have absolutely no idea (yet) what you can and will accomplish. You are not pathetic, you are in fact, wise beyond your years. And what you feel now is valid. Your feelings do not make you any less worthy, any less important, any less intelligent. Someday you are going to walk out to something much bigger than a tissue box, and you will be ready, and you will be amazed at what you have done. I can see it, you may not be able to yet. Just know that I will be holding you and loving you as you are, along your journey getting there and beyond. You are not alone, you are safe with me.
This past weekend my aunt sent me online albums of old photos. I spent hours looking at the memories and pictures of myself. In almost every picture..I am making a funny face. I am extremely expressive, with huge smiles and am carrying myself with such confidence and joy. It is healing to remember that side of me too. I can so easily remember the shy, the anxious, the quiet version of me. Though, there are so many positive traits that have been there all along too. They should all be celebrated.
Interested in practicing inner child work through journaling? I invite you to share in a supportive space! :)
There is this picture of me in kindergarten. It was our class photo where we each sat in rows with our teachers standing beside us. I was sitting criss-cross in the front row. Each face beside my own has a smile, some sort of expression, but nothing like mine. I am easy to spot in this photograph. My hair is in 2 braids, I am wearing a light blue dress with black buttons down the front. I am not looking at the camera. My chubby cheeks are bright red, and drooping down, and my eyes are swollen with tears.
This wasn't just picture day. This was every morning I was dropped off at school. Yes, I was 5, but I always felt that way. I was scared to be alone, "dropped off", to count on myself. I was scared of the unexpected, the unfamiliar.
Starting from middle school, I could not stop talking about college. I couldn't wait, I was just too excited. One day during my early high school years, I was in the car with my mom when she stopped at a gas station. She asked me if I could run in for her and pay. Immediately I panicked.
What? Me? I can't- how do I-?
"Haley all you have to do is hand them the money and say $25 on pump 5 please.."
I started fighting with her. Stubborn, attitude, assuring her I was not getting out of the car. Tears filled my eyes. My mom gave me 'the look', and I felt guilty knowing I was making things difficult, but I was just too scared to get out of the car. Annoyed with my behavior, she grabbed her purse and left me to wait in the car.
I sat and waited feeling absolutely ashamed of myself. When she came back she gave me a talk. I remember her saying,
"You're the one who can't wait to go to college, but Haley, I worry about you. How will you be ready if you can't do something like this I ask of you? What about when you get your license?"
Somehow she found words around, "You need to suck it up."
Of course, now I am in college and I have no trouble paying for gas or other things. At the time, however, her words pained me because they were the words I had feared to believe myself. I had all of these dreams and wishes, but the fear:
what if I can't? Am I crazy to think I can?
About a month ago I got a job here in Boston. And when I say "in Boston" I mean smack dab right downtown where people from all over come to experience this city. I got the job on a bit of an impulse. My cousin told me they were hiring, and I applied for the heck of it. One month later, here I am, taking the T each week to be a hostess in Faneuil Hall.
My confession, that I have honestly been embarrassed about, is that I have not had a job since I was newly seventeen. It is no secret why. 2015 and 2016- I was not in the place to focus on a job. I had 2 things to focus on. First, my mental health, then school. But I had been feeling guilty, being raised in a family that strongly stands for "you earn what you work for."
With time I have grown so much, but I still have been hiding away from taking certain risks. I have developed this fear of getting a job. If you have been caught up with my newsletter, you know that I was so nervous about this job because I was petrified of having anxiety attacks like I had with my old job. In the same newsletter, I recognized that I needed to view each new opportunity as a clean slate. That is not me anymore. I didn't have the tools then to take care of myself and communicate my needs. I do now. And this job, is not my old job. There will be new challenges, but this is also a new me.
Leading up to the interview, I hardly slept and my stomach was in knots. And as usual, afterwards
I recognized I had no reason to be anxious in the first place. Two days later, I got the call that I was on board.
But what if - oh..yeah, THAT-
My first day of training was exactly what I was afraid of. I believe this was karma telling me that if I was going to have anxiety over the unknown, karma was going to give me a reason to worry. I had a bad cold, on the start of bronchitis. I assume that my stress prior to the interview contributed to that. I needed sleep, but I thought it would look poorly to call out on my first day. I took DayQuil and left my campus with emergency cough drops and tissues overflowing my pockets. When I got there, though, I wished I had called out. I showed up for my first day of training expecting to be following someone for the day. (As they told me I would be) Instead, I showed up on a Friday (busy) and the main hostess who was going to train me had gone home sick. The assistant manager greeted me in a rush.
"Have you ever hosted before?"
"Have you worked at a restaurant before?"
"Have you ever used *name of software* ?"
"OK well, we are short staffed today, so..looks like today we are going to throw you into the fire."
I was left alone at the host stand. Not only did I have no idea what I was doing as far as working the computer, I also was dressed in work attire so the general public would just assume I had been working there for a long time. I was asked questions I did not know the answers to. About the menu, directions to places in Boston, making a reservation, and oh god if that phone rings- I panicked and locked myself in a bathroom stall. I texted my mom in all caps and she gave me the most "mom" advice.
no shit .. lol
Luckily my cousin would be coming in later for her shift, but until then it would be me alone for almost 2 hours, and the assistant manager didn't check in on me once.
One of the servers approached me first. He asked if it was my first day (like, can ya tell?) and shook my hand, and told me if I needed anything he would be around to help me out. Thank god for nice people. After him, about 2 or 3 other servers, a bartender, kitchen staff also came by to say hello and check in. Though I was tense and worried, that made me feel so much better. I knew they weren't told to do that, I was just working with adults who just genuinely were willing to help and noticed I was a new face in their work space.
When my cousin showed up she saved me from the 'fire.' I am so lucky to have had her there with me. It was such a comfort. Even she, had been stressed FOR me!
She vented to the others, "They left my cousin alone on her first day!!" One of the servers looked at me and said, "And you stayed?" And you know, it never really registered to me that it was an option to walk out lol. I just bit my lip and pushed through it. I realized that it was just a rough day, and that if I survived that, it would only get easier from here.
My cousin, Lydia was the one to continue training me. Those next 3 days I had a familiar face to ask even the stupid questions to. I could observe, and learn from her, as I've done all my life. I knew she would have my back, and I got really lucky in that way.
The more I work, the more comfortable and confident I become.
I can tell by my smile, my tone of voice, and my improved posture when dealing with people. Some customers bring out my sense of humor, and I can tell I bring it out in them as well. I even handle the lunch or dinner "rushes" quickly, but smoothly, realizing after how I didn't choke, I just did it.
I was walking back to the T station one night after work and I had to call my mom because I was just so god damn proud of myself. I started to think that inside me is that 5 year old girl on school picture day.
If someone were to tell her she would be working at a city restaurant years later she never would have believed it to be possible. It is crazy to me now, to remember where I was. Now, I deal with customers straight off tour buses, language barriers often, difficult customers, and work in the most populated area of the city. Still, I jump right in, I carry a smile, and live through kindness over any stressor. At the end of the day,
I head back to campus full of pride. That's me. The girl who once feared paying for gas in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut.
"How will you handle college if-" said the voice.
"With time I will get there." I should have replied.
I have always had this instinct that I was born to be seen. That may just seem odd, because of course, nobody should go through life unnoticed. I realize in broader terms, I have always felt I am here for a bigger purpose.
It seems ironic, though, because I wasn't at all near those expectations.
Growing up, I was hardly seen, but when you live inside your head I guess it sure does feel that way. I could sit in a room full of people and not make a sound, or meet eyes with anyone. Still, my head would throb, and my face would feel warm as I instinctively felt eyes upon me. It was never the "seen" I had hoped for.
My bedroom was my center stage. I would stand in front of the mirror and confidently sing, or create this imaginary world where I was the leader, and it felt so much more like, me. My imagination would often battle with the 'real world.' At age 10 I approached my mother and asked what it would take for her to find me an agent. I wanted to be an actress. I was obsessed with the movies, and acting to me- would be living my imagination, and that was all I could hope for. My mom didn't laugh, or shut down my crazy idea, but she did tell me that I couldn't just jump in front of a camera. I needed experience. She suggested I try out for plays at a theater near my home. This terrified me. Hello, real world. I'm not sure what I was thinking about how the process would work aha, but the idea of being on a stage scared me much more than the thought of being on television.
Let's just say, I let that fear be a sign. I decided to search for a new dream.
Tonight, I am thinking back to that time, as I am all cozy in my college dorm room bed. I just left an event at my campus where the actor, Matt Damon (!!!), was speaking in a panel after sharing a documentary he had narrated. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I felt empowered to be there, and to listen in. After a couple hours, though, I felt dizzy in my chair. I got that feeling again, that eyes were on me, even though the spotlight was not at all on me. I had to force myself to blink more, and remind myself to take deep breaths as I walked out of the auditorium merged in the crowd. I'm sure that people who don't feel this way in a public setting, can not imagine that others do. I'm sure not everyone observes as intently as I do. It takes a lot for me to be in a room full of people, whether the room is big or small. I go, because I crave it as much as it can drain me. I want to be around people, to learn from people, to get to know people, even if my body fights against it.
I was back in my room, standing with my head buried in my bed. Just breathe, you're ok, just breathe. I tried to look at myself through a different viewpoint. I changed that voice in my head, and I praised myself for even the tiny steps it took to get there; to stay there. Instead of getting annoyed with myself, analyzing why I am this way, or searching for a meaning that will tell me what is "wrong" here- I put the spotlight back on my story. My story has different battles. My story has different things to praise, even if they seem 'smaller' compared to others.
As a writer, I have recognized that even in my younger years where I wrote fiction stories, my main character was always a version of myself. Maybe it was a part I didn't like, but most often it was who I wanted to be.
My main character was always:
- highly admired
- courageous; a fighter, a risk taker.
- assertive, and outspoken
- different. She stood out from the rest, but she didn't mind.
- always fighting a physical battle
Who I have wanted to be, is the reason I feel I should be seen, and the reason these things don't quite add up.
I can feel fire inside me, that leaps in my heart, and the fact that I explain this- does probably make me different. I don't see many of my peers going around sharing in depth about the feelings within their body, or even just what makes them different. I guess that if someone were to be that person, it can be me.
I am not very assertive, but I would like to work on that. I want to smash that idea that the quiet ones go unnoticed, or unseen. I can still fulfill my purpose. I can still strive to be seen. I can lead, even if it is in a quieter way.
I am a firm believer that everyone deserves healing.
We have the potential to see the good in others.
I was raised to be kind to all. Both of my parents did not care whether or not their kids would be "the best" at anything, because what mattered to them was that they raised their kids to be kind.
I care very deeply about people, and often put others before myself. I am an empath. Empaths are known to put others before themselves. It is in our nature. Empaths are also prone to depression, and this is because we don't always set the boundaries we need to live a healthy life.
Setting boundaries is like pulling teeth for me. I want to do what is morally right. I care what people think, and I never want to hurt another.
This is a hard thing for me to accept.
We are all different in our own beautifully made way. We also see things differently, feel things differently.
Sometimes I try to do what is best for me, and I end up upsetting another because of it. It hurts, and I end up in this stuck point as I try to determine which way to turn, and if what I am doing is morally right.
Gut instincts will tell you what is right and what is wrong. Being empathic is a strength, but I also notice how I can silence my gut instincts to listen to the outside voices that need pleasing.
In my family, I have a toxic relationship. This relationship happens to be with my father. I repeat, everyone deserves healing. Including my father, no matter what our relationship turns into. By writing this, I do not intend to hurt, but I'm sure there will be those who will disagree with my choices, especially to put this in writing, and that is something I will just have to accept.
Last weekend I planned to visit my father along with my brother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. With boundaries, comes listening to what your body is telling you. I can feel the morals I am searching for, if I tune in to the mind-body connection already within me. I knew I could tolerate a short trip, and I decided from the beginning that I would spend one night instead of the two nights the rest of my family were spending.
This decision to take a shorter trip, and coming home for my 19th birthday, left me displeasing 2 of my grandmothers on both my mother and father's side. Leaving a fews days early meant it would not be "convenient." Someone (me) would have to drive to get my brother home 2 days later. And my father would say he did not get enough time with me. But my gut still begged my heart to listen. I am not eight years old anymore. I thought when I got to college people would stop expecting things of me when it comes to my relationship with my father. The truth is, it won't change. In any scenario, people will always give their opinion. There will always be those who do not see from your point of view, who have not experienced your exact situation, and can not feel what you are feeling. Empath or not, we need to learn to be OK with this.
In my social work classes we learn about boundaries and why they are necessary for self-care and to prevent burnout. Mental health professional or not, this is true for anyone who wants to be happy, and healthy.
We all want to be happy. Those who say they don't, maybe just don't know how to get there.
At a young age, at a fragile time, I was the caretaker in my family. Because of this, I trained my brain to forget my own wants and needs.
You cannot pour from an empty cup. So, what happens to me if I continue to give all the energy I have to others?
Healers find that giving to others, also gives them the energy they desire. There just needs to be a balance.
Sometimes relationships are so toxic that they need to go.
If we aren't ready to let them go, we can at least create boundaries.
I set my own boundaries last weekend when I gave myself a time-limit for the energy I was capable of letting go.
I even had a nice time! Though I did travel back to the same location days later to get my brother, I didn't regret a thing.
Despite those who rolled their eyes and saw me as being selfish, I had some other adults in my life tell me they were proud of me.
"I don't take this stuff lightly."
"I'm proud of you. So, I hope you are- just as, if not more proud of yourself."
What I did for myself this past weekend is an example of self care.
It is something I should do more, and unapologetically.
When I want space, it can be hard for some of my family members to be supportive. "Support" over a relationship does not have to mean encouraging another to adjust to what is toxic.
What I've been told, is that when someone in a family or relationship changes (their routine/way of thinking) , those around them do not adjust; at least not right away. They don't like it.
An example I was given, is if 2 parents decide to strengthen their household by eating dinner at the kitchen table instead of their usual, in front of the television. At first the kids will hate it, complain, and the family will probably argue. But, eventually this will not be as big of a change.
Eventually- people will adjust. Right now I am learning that I have the power to choose the life I want, by what makes me happy and eliminate, or adjust what is creating negative energy. A relationship with my father, or any family member should be healthy, and if for right now it's best for me to take more space, and less time when visiting then that decision is in my power.
A couple weeks ago I had a mini crisis over "turning 19" haha. It just started to sink in.
Wait, this is my last year in my teens? Next year I'm going to be twenty. Next year, I'll have to admit I am "in my twenties." Next thing you know, I'm going to be THIRTY, and then kids and career and there goes my life!!
I can see through my screen, the adults reading this and rolling their eyes. Ok, I'm melodramatic, but I was honestly just being humorous. :-)
19 is like one of those forgotten years. The "big whoop." Part of me is confused, because I've "felt 19" for the past few years. 16 seems exciting, but you're not as old as you think you are. 18, you can say you're finally "legal." And you know, then 21-
but NINETEEN. I know age is just a number, but I feel determined to make this year memorable. Believe me, I've been waiting to say hasta la vista to the teenage years, but right now I am going into my second year of college and I just want to hold on tight.
I wasn't sure at first how to go about this post. I decided to honor those nineteen years. I am often called an old soul, wise beyond my years. Sometimes I close my eyes and think of the events I have endured so far in my life. It feels weird, that all these things people would describe as the "big stuff" can be checked off my list of major life events already. I'm sure this old soul in me is a personality trait, but I think in a lot of ways I had to grow up a lot faster than most.
At nineteen I am running my own blog site for mental health awareness. At nineteen I am telling those of all ages how important it is to be authentic and vulnerable. At nineteen, I can say I have met the darkness, and hiked towards the light. I feel like I have learned some of the most important lessons in life. I'm not perfect, but I feel prepared at times, for whatever my life will throw at me from here on out.
I truly believe we all learn something new every day. I also believe we are continuously learning new things about ourselves, even if we aren't open to listening.
I could be wrong, but from my experience, I feel as though our earliest years are the most accurate to who we are. Before our family, friends, society gave us any other ideas. Before we knew what fear was. We had our passions in the palm of our hand, and somewhere down the road we questioned that.
I remember being eleven, and wanting basketball shoes, and athletic branded t-shirts. My first way of figuring out "who I am" was with my apparel. Should I be sporty like my friends? Should I listen to their music, too? Am I enough, as I already am? Probably not.
I was actually a klutz, and good at any sport in school that did not involve a ball. So, running! I liked headbands, and floral tops. I liked to climb trees wearing dresses. But, I still begged for those basketball shoes that honestly messed with the arch on my feet, because fitting in was so important to me.
It's not so important now.
What is important is how I continue to learn who I am, while ignoring what the world wants me to be.
So, as I turn nineteen-
I am honoring what I have learned about life, about my life, and myself up until now.
In this post, I am sharing my discoveries, and what I may still be discovering.
I am still me, but a new and improved me.
discoveries, growth, and accomplishments by age 19
so, what now?
The good thing is that those things that were once "work" and "practice" are now becoming habits. These areas of growth in my 19 years are my foundation. I have some new goals for this coming year, and so on.
The purpose of this post was to reflect on who I am at 19.
Once we push aside the doubt and the fears, our purpose is much more visible and the dreams seem more do-able. Who we are is a mix of where we started, what we've discovered, and who we can be.
This is intriguing to me now, because each year we learn and grow, and later I shall refer back to this post and see what I had discovered next. Who will I be?
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.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.