Do you have a place that heals you?
A place where you go when you're feeling down?
Or maybe you need to travel to get to the place that heals you?
I wish I had a treehouse as a kid. I would get into these sad and angry spells where I would want to run away and wouldn't come inside for hours. I wish I had a ladder to climb (which is ironic because I don't like heights, especially ladders) and a place up high to separate myself from the world.
Adults can benefit from the "treehouse effect" too. And I don't mean sitting in your car, though sometimes a drive can heal too. I mean a place. Outside. Fresh air, but a place that feels like your own.
For me, it has always been the ocean.
Now, growing up in rural Connecticut I did not have much access to salt water. Instead, I had the woods, and large grassy fields.
So, how do I know the ocean heals?
My second home, is Martha's Vineyard.
In middle school I became friends with "Trulia", the real estate site.
I would email my parents links to homes for sale on the Vineyard and found joy in looking at the Vineyard school websites. I was happy at my school, but I wouldn't have minded leaving for the island. Of course, my parents always said no, that we couldn't afford it, that they wouldn't find jobs there. I didn't give up though. In 7th grade I had an "I am myself" project, where I had to write an essay about "me at 28." I said I would be living on Martha's Vineyard with a career as a fashion designer. (chuckle)
I would cry every time I would leave MV. I would wave goodbye to my grandparents as I got on the ferry and I couldn't help the tears from falling.
My dream even distracted me in school. When I would finish my work early, I was allowed to take out a book and read. I never read. I only looked at the pages, while daydreaming about my next trip to the Vineyard. It was my happiest dream to escape to.
The ocean always had an effect on me. It is calming, and it carries so much light. I think I wanted to be the ocean.
It is confusing to me now, how my dreams have changed since my 7th grade self. Half of my family is on the Vineyard, so of course I would have a connection there. Things change, though, and I find that I am no longer fighting as hard to go back.
I have an estranged relationship with my father. I don't write about it for the public, so I am leaving it at that. My brother wanted to go to the Vineyard to see him for Easter, and he didn't want to go without me. I gave in, knowing it would make my brother happy. I did it for him, and for me. I would be taking my own "mental health trip" and it would be good for me to reunite with my happy place.
- and it was! (I even used the Peter Pan bus system for the first time- haha)
It was as if time stopped just as I had wanted it to. I was able to breathe. I was able to laugh. I was able to enjoy. It was a full long weekend I spent free of tears falling!
Sometimes I wonder if it's a sign. Maybe I should live by the water someday. I do believe climate has an effect on depression. It helps that spring is here, summer is coming, and I have reunited with the sunlight.
I do have to say, estranged relationships are hard. There is this sense of brokenness and now when I leave the island, I have a different feeling than I had when I was pre-teen. Now I feel this weird emptiness, and confusion. I am reminded what I had, and what I could have. It used to take me a little while to bounce back after these trips. This time, I am noticing the "bounce back" to be happening faster.
I think this is because I have become more sure of who I am, even when I try to make sense of somebody else. I know myself enough to give myself a break, and know when I need one. I know to pause, before I keep going. This pause is a lot quicker than it used to be. I think that is because I have learned how to
cope by myself?
[not finding the right phrase..]
Or maybe I haven't learned anything new at all.
I am simply growing.
A caption or "insight" of mine in a recent Instagram photo on Sunday.
A little message from me to you: This morning I went to a service at my grandparents' church. I gained a little wisdom about this holiday when I was there. There is much focus today about "rebirth" and I think that is a universal symbol. Many of us are fighting great battles, or know of someone who is. You can be reborn again. You can fall down and get back up again. One foot in front of the other. I know for me, I thought of my personal journey with depression, and how at 18 I have already experienced climbing out of a low low point.
I have just 2-3 weeks left of the semester.
I let the ocean air recharge me, and empower my thoughts.
Now May is coming, and if you remember this time last year...
May is Mental Health Month!
I will organize a set a daily prompts for the month and post the list sometime next week :-)
As always, topic suggestions/questions taken and appreciated!
They warned me about spring semester of college. They were not kidding.
I'm not sure what is going on with me. I am having trouble focusing in my classes, I am forgetting things, and it is affecting my work ethic. I'm hard on myself with a lot of things, but one of the biggest factors is my education.
It has just been the week. I felt as though I was disappointing myself, my professors. I know I am a better student than this. I feel as though I'm drowning in assignments. My anxiety is through the roof, and I haven't been good about self-care. In class yesterday I had this continuous feeling like I was on the verge of a heart attack. I couldn't stop scratching my hand, and I was so stressed it hurt in my chest and I fought back tears. I wanted to throw up. Papers, and exams, and presentations, and projects and just 1 month (less actually) left. I'm almost there! I'm so close! I know I can do it! But getting there...feels like hell.
When my anxiety becomes severe, I get stomach sick. I stop eating, I become overwhelmed to where I can hardly motivate myself to do anything. It isn't laziness, it's anxiety.
I am reminded that college is stressful. Being a freshman is stressful. I know I'm not alone. I know I am not the only one overwhelmed at this point in the semester. At the same time, I know I need to take steps back. I know that everyone has different needs, and moves at a different pace. When my anxiety becomes too much, and I don't address it from the start, I can head down a dark road. I know this. I've been there. I know anxiety about college is normal, but my anxiety history creates a different story.
I emailed a professor about missing class in need of a mental health day. I assured her I would get missed information, and work on my assignments out of class. I felt weird typing "mental health day" because in the past I would just say "I'm sick." I wanted to be honest though. I am overwhelmed, and it will help if my professors know that. There is fear that goes along with it. "What if she doesn't believe me?" "What if she thinks I'm just skipping on a nice day?" As nervous as I felt (I hate missing class) I was proud of myself. My counselor noticed that I tend to push through the pain, expecting things to fix themselves. I guess there are pros to that, but I also could be doing the fixing. My anxiety is generalized. I am overwhelmed often because I let things build up into one big gum-ball mess. I have trouble concentrating in class because my body is telling me I am under too much stress, and it is trying to cope.
Yesterday I missed my only class of the day. It was a warm, sunny day, but that is not why I missed class. I need to stop being so go, go, go. I needed a night of extra sleep. I needed a day to relax and catch up, or get ahead of things so I can finish the semester strong.
I asked for a mental health day and there was something weird about that. Why is having a cold more acceptable of an excuse than being under too much stress?
Why am I worried about honesty, when many professors are genuine and understanding?
My professor did reply and was understanding. I heard from other students in my class that my she had decided to push back one of our assignments because a lot of students have been overwhelmed with work lately. It's not just me.
I have made many mistakes recently. At times it feels like the world is out to get me.
Though it has been a rough past few weeks, and my days are more of a struggle than a serenity, I am able to see the good. It's there, I just need to look a little harder to find it.
I wasn't sure what to write about today, because lately what has been consuming my time is: crying myself to sleep, not having the appetite to get a real meal in me, forgetting plans with friends, and missing appointments to take a nap.
They've not been the glorious of days.
I am being honest, though. Just as I was with my social work professor.
This is just a rough patch that I'm fighting to get through right now.
So about gratitude..
I used to do a daily gratitude journal. It was helpful for me to see that even if I only had 1 or 2 things written, there is something good in every day. I haven't kept up with it, but I think it is a great way to end today's post. My week may not be as bad as it seems.
Ahh the innocence and motivation
of Haley from August
Best of luck to my other college folks or anyone else going through a tough time.
We will get there.
Those who follow my social media may know that I decided to take a break from blogging for a little while.
I got stuck, but I'm working on becoming unstuck.
With everything going on in the world, it is overwhelming.
On top of that, a family member of mine was in the hospital, and I was written down as their power of attorney.
Racing thoughts, mixed emotions, and I hadn't slept for 24 hours, still getting up to go to class..
I didn't know what to think or how to feel because I was feeling and thinking so many things at once.
I spent a few days after feeling lifeless, and sad and just crying often even when I wasn't sure why. I was watching TV with 3 close friends, and all of a sudden I just let some tears fall. I scooted back and rested my head on my friend Amanda's shoulder. In that moment it was all "Are you okay?" "What's wrong?" "Is Haley okay?" I don't like that kind of attention; those needy moments. I like being the happy, silly one. But I was overwhelmed and I just let it happen.
It's hard to talk when you don't understand things yourself. All that you know, is that you hurt.
In these times I pull out my "toolbox" of options. My self care/self help strategies.
The only one I used: Friends. I wasn't alone, I went to the movies, out for dinner, and I had continuous distractions.
Distractions only work for so long, and then you may need to face your problems to fix them.
Writing is my savior. When I'm falling out of place and can not talk much, I turn to writing. In this case, I couldn't even write. I felt lost without words and thought that was a problem. I was then told that it was okay if I couldn't write for now, and that I will feel up to it again. That helped me give myself permission to take a break from writing, instead of putting pressure on myself.
Within that time I still went to my campus counselor, and I was told I did a great job at explaining how I felt, and what was going on. I did okay without writing.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to take those few steps back, and trust that we will get caught up again when we are ready to.
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How is taking a break when you feel stuck a form of self care?
A lot has happened while I have been away.
The Mighty published an article I wrote as a high school senior, and Teen Vogue republished it to their site. During a time when I wasn't writing, my writing was still being shared.
One of the comments:
Your story hit so close to home. You see I have a 14yr old and he has everyday that sounded just like yours. Just tell him he's not alone that there are so many more students that deal w these same things. Thank you for your story, gone to have him read it. It will help him alot to see that what I been saying isn't just MOM saying those words!
It's why I keep doing this. My story, can help others feel less alone.
That same week I went to an information session at the Samaritans in Boston. I have been interested in volunteering at a mental health agency/organization in the area and came across Samaritans.
From the site:
Samaritans has been providing compassionate suicide prevention programs for over 40 years. We have provided caring, non-judgmental support on over 2.5 million calls from our community’s most vulnerable individuals. We have trained over 4,500 volunteers with befriending skills that benefit them, not only in their service on our 24/7 Crisis Services, but also in their ongoing relationships and within their communities. We have provided workshops and trainings on suicide prevention to more than 100,000 individuals in human service organizations, churches and community groups. And we have supported over 10,000 individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide.
After the session, I became interested, and that same night I had an interview where I was told I would do very well there. If all is good with my schedule, I can begin training either September or next February.
I want as much experience as I can so I can be a successful and knowledgable social worker, as well as a better human being in a world where mental health is so prominent.
veryhaleycom I have discovered that every time I throw my hands in the air and smile really really big it creates an extra amount of #happiness 😁🌬☕️ I'm serious, try it, it's fun!
It feels good to be back to blogging. When asked what I did that helped me gain my energy back I really had one true answer. I just needed time. I needed time to take in all that I was feeling, and process it.
This is a speedy world we live in. My message to you is to care for yourselves by slowing down when you need to. It's not quitting, or being lazy. It is a self care act of taking a break to recharge, so you can get back to conquering the world again soon.
As always Ask Haley is available for questions for submission. Questions can be taken anonymously as well.
Thanks for your support!
A perspective post
I haven't blogged like this in a while. I have been guilty of overthinking things to write about ever since my blog went public. I am not just free-writing for me, or giving little thought to the outcome.
I always know when it's time to sit down and just write it all out. The thoughts in my mind go much slower, smoothly, and it is as if I am telling a story to another person inside my head. I then know it is a good time to empty my mind.
My day was spent binge-watching a Netflix series with 2 friends. We ordered thai food and were wrapped in blankets. It was a good day. But, at one point I started to get scared it wasn't going to stay that way.
It's fun to binge-watch a good series full of drama and suspense, but me being me, I believe it drains me after a while. My friends noticed I was shutting down, and as much as I didn't want to be, I wasn't sure why either. "I'm okay, just tired."
I wear my heart on my sleeve, emotions all over my face. I am loud, silly, sarcastic, a story-teller, so when I shut down it is quite obvious that something is wrong. There is just no hiding it.
I felt overheated, a buzzing in my lips, a sick feeling in my stomach, and the feeling just reminded me of one thing: anxiety attack.
For no reason. I wasn't worried about a thing, I was with 2 people I felt comfortable with. Why does my body do this? Anxiety attacks out of nowhere? Is it because I am adjusting to a change? I shouldn't be this scared by this feeling..I probably just need to learn how to accept it more. Am I going to start feeling dizzy next? Yeah, that usually comes next.
I was jumping to conclusions. With good reason, I suppose.
I knew how it began, so I knew what would come next.
"What if I start crying, and they ask why? I don't know how to explain that I am having an anxiety attack for no good reason at all. But I'm not really having one. How do I explain I think one is "coming?" Oh great, now I am fighting back tears. Just watch the show, Haley."
The feeling passed, just as it always does. I was left feeling drained. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to curl up in my bed, ask my friends to leave, cry a little, get some emotion out in writing, and recharge. But- I also didn't want to be alone.
With these two friends, it is perfect. We can be goofy, a support for one another, go out and do things together, but also be alone together. We can be in the same room, with little energy at all, barely talking, without it being 'awkward.' I liked that, and I needed that. So, I let them stay. I needed the company.
I think it is great how I am so invested in finding ways to help myself. At the same time, I find it difficult to separate a necessary "time" to think about these things. While watching a show with my friends, I was trying to analyze in my head what could possibly be causing this anxiety, or this empty, drained feeling inside. That is a lot of energy I use up on thoughts.
I love the friends I have. Even if I shut down for a little while, they don't push me to be any different, and they look forward to seeing my energy again as much as I do.
Those things mean a lot.
I am able to be happy, and I've come so far, but I do have moments when I just fall out of it. Smiling depression? Walking depression? Fighting depression? Whatever you call it.
It's hard hearing, "please Haley let's go somewhere." and "C'mon Haley you've been in your room all day." when I know I truly need the mental break. At the same time, I know that is encouragement over any guilt-trip.
Do you ever get so caught up in your own thoughts and emotions, (and for lack of better words)- pity. Once you are given some perspective, another outlook, you start to feel better though guilty for being so blindsided?
That happened to me today. I was so caught up in my head while worrying about an anxiety attack returning, and feeling sad and empty for no reason at all. To me, that was the worst thing I could think of in the moment and the only thing in my mind. It just happened to be during the show I was watching where I grasped the perspective I had needed in that moment.
The idea was: Parents who didn't want their kids, and no one else there to take them in.
My heart just sank. I have to draw a diagram in order to explain my huge family to people. If that were ever me... I would have a line of people willing to take me in..
It wasn't a "other people have it worse" outlook; but a "remember the good you do have" outlook.
I have a line of people behind me, and so much support, even when my self esteem has me questioning it.
It's difficult to get out of my own head.
I feel lost with the things I am struggling with, and what I don't have. When I push those aside, and truly acknowledge what I do have, it is almost powerful how much perspective can affect your mood.
Alright, Haley girl, we need to talk.
Something isn't working here. But maybe it isn't supposed to.
I called a friend from my car after my therapy appointment. When she picked up the phone, I answered her hello with a grunt. "Yeah?" she said jokingly. "Yeah." I said. "What happened?"
I left therapy fighting back tears. I don't know why this is so hard for me. Every question that is asked gets a response of "I don't know" or "I'm not sure" when normally I could write a chapter of a book with each answer.
How I resonate with the empath title? It's easy to write about, but embarassing to talk about?
I write things down and bring them in, but once read aloud I realize how foolish it sounds, or by then I am over it.
I am given specific options to choose from, but each choice makes me think, "Well I want this because, but I also don't want this because-"
I am left feeling stuck.
For someone who cares so much, I show myself to not care at all.
It is as if each word that crosses my mind is being filtered before it is said, leaving me speechless.
It is such an uncomfortable feeling, not knowing what to say, but wanting to be heard.
I spend so much time outside of therapy, planning, to get the most out of my next appointment. It's like I forget how to speak when I get there. I am reminded that this is "my session" and I become inevitably frustrated with myself that this keeps happening. I choose to sit in silence, fight back tears, and try to think of what on earth I'm doing.
How come things don't matter as much to me when I get in there? Or am I just fearing judgment?
My friend even said how I write so eloquently, "but when you speak it can come out so jumbled." She then said, "Haley sometimes when you speak I am like..wait what the fuck are you saying?" I laughed and joked back saying, "Maybe I should just sew my mouth shut like Coraline and walk around with a mini whiteboard and an expo marker."
Writing is how I express myself. It works for me.
My friend even said, "Maybe you should just do therapy over email that way so you can just get everything out easier?" Not a bad idea..
However, I need the social interaction to practice these things. I've already come so far, I can't just give up yet. This takes work.
I almost just need a confidence boost. I need to hear someone point out all that I'm doing right, that it's okay to feel what I feel, that I'm not as difficult as I think I am. I just need reassurance, a boost to keep me heading in the right direction.
I'm going to try something.
I go back to school next week. I have a long break from therapy at home, and I have an on-campus counselor if needed.
I need to start having faith in myself, so maybe I should give myself some room to do so.
Sometimes just by doing this, writing in my bedroom, I am able to let things go, and discover new insights all on my own. Sometimes that's all I need to do. Sometimes forcing myself to speak makes me feel worse.
When I go back to campus, I'm going to give myself time to settle back in.
I am not where I was last year. Maybe I am running out of things to say, because I really am doing okay? If I go once a week, I am most likely "over with" last week's issue. I'm going to stop being so hard on myself; trying to figure things out all at once. I'll suggest going to counseling every other week, or every 2 weeks instead.
Give myself time to just be.
To start off, I have a perfect excuse to blog over anything else. I got my wisdom teeth removed yesterday and as fun as this is, I'm happy to be covered up in blankets, watching movies, computer on my lap, and snow falling down outside my window.
I am known for carrying self help books on my shelf, pinning wellness hacks on Pinterest, and doing crafts to boost my self esteem. I try to educate myself the best I can to learn new ways that may help myself.
In my dorm at school, I have a book on crystals and their healing power.
The power of energy healing is new to me, and when I first heard of it I did not have much interest in it. Because how much could it really help? Still, the idea intrigued me. I did a lot of research on the 7 chakras, and the influence they have on the human body if there is an imbalance.
This article from yoga.com explains how you can tell if your chakras are blocked.
It had been recommended by many people that I try reiki.
We have had reiki on campus, but I hadn't signed up for it. I was planning on trying it when I returned to campus and finding a reiki master nearby, but then I thought- why wait? Why not try it while I'm home?
My aunt gave me the name of a local reiki healer about 15-20 minutes from my house.
I went online, read her site, her services, and booked the appointment just like that.
I filled out some of my medical history online prior to the appointment as an intake form, and the next day I went for 11:30 am.
When I got there, the lady greeted me in her driveway. "I was surprised to see your age." she said. "I don't usually get too many young people for reiki."
She also said, "I was surprised after reading your medical information too. For a young girl, your cardiovascular history, and hashimotos disease." I laughed, "yeah I'm a grandma."
It made sense for me to be there. It made sense to try it out. My overall health, and my body can get out of wack, and I'm still young. Why not learn these things now? Even if it is "surprising."
She brought me inside and explained exactly what she was going to do. "All it is" she said "is energy." The movement of her hands, the use of a crystal pendulum. I was lying on my backside with a cozy blanket over my legs, and meditative music playing softly in the background. I kept my eyes clothes and tried my best to relax. It wasn't difficult to.
It was weird. I could feel a buzzing sensation over my lips, at times I wasn't sure if she was even touching me, and her hands would get much hotter against some places in my body than others. I had read that would happen.
All it is, is energy. Energy that is already within us, that is in some places in our bodies more than others.
I was incredibly relaxed as the time went on, and very curious to hear what she would say when she was finished.
I almost fell asleep.
She told me when it was time to sit up slowly and I wiped my hair out of my face.
She said that the 2 chakras that were the most blocked, and needed the most time spent were crown and throat.
So what does that mean?
If your Crown Chakra is blocked, you may feel indecisive; worry that your life is meaningless and suffer from depression. Also, this chakra is negatively affected when we get too attached to material things and lose the ability to let go. To start healing, meditate and do more of those things that make you feel peaceful. Learn to think of yourself as a part of the Universe (as opposed to, for example, being a professional belonging to a company).
Blocked Throat Chakra is usually associated with self-expression problems, deception, manipulative communication. The key to healing your fifth chakra is to be honest with yourself and others. Sing, talk to yourself, write a blog - do things that stimulate your ability to communicate with yourself and with the world.
When this was explained to me, it made so much sense. I struggle with self confidence, and self expression. I often hold things inside, and don't say as much as I am thinking.
How can I help this?
I need to have faith in myself.
I need to find ways to express myself. Little did I know that writing is a way to open up your throat chakra as well. To push myself even further I can share my writing with others, read aloud, and get my message across.
It was an interesting experience. These things that I could tell about myself inside, were confirmed by a test of the energy balance inside me.
"Do you worry a lot?" she asked.
I nodded and jokingly gave wide eyes.
"yes, that came up a lot."
Came up a lot?
How? How does this work?
I'm still learning about the practice, and the little adjustments I can make to my lifestyle to improve my overall wellness.
Would I try it again?
Maybe, down the road, yes. It would be interesting to see how things would change.
So whether I had this reiki session or not, I do know I have the same areas to work on.
Faith, and self expression.
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Which will bring me to my next post very soon.
This goofy picture was taken exactly one year ago today on New Year's Eve. I was a senior in high school, had just received my first college acceptance letter, but was probably giving the biggest, yet, fakest smile I could. I was not taking the first months after my Papa's death well, and as I've written in many posts before, I had severe anxiety attacks daily, followed by an overwhelming sadness, emptiness, and loss of self worth. If you look at a photograph like this though, along with all of the other smiling photographs taken during that time like Thanksgiving family photos, my senior portraits, you would have no idea what was going on inside me. A smile can be a mask, a photograph is just a captured moment. When I look at this photo, I do remember laughing as I found a selfie-stick in my closet and brought it down for John to put together. You can see I'm being my silly self as I'm in my pajamas, no makeup, messy hair, bunny ears on top of my mom's head. Though, I look deeper into the memory. After the photograph was taken I was going to head back to my room and pack my duffle bag, for the next day where I would be beginning the new year of 2016 by driving to Martha's Vineyard to visit my family.
New Years Day began with an accident. Miles from home I was lying on the side of the road as an EMT rolled me onto my side and strapped a thick neck brace under my chin. At the time, I remember feeling ashamed more than grateful. It was an accident, but I still put the blame of my totaled car on myself and the fact that I hadn't yet reached the Cape was considered another "failure" of mine. I did not understand after wishing for an ending for so long, I was still here.
It was when my mom looked at the remains of my car and started to cry, and the EMT's called it a "miracle" that I began to realize how special this situation was. "You certainly had an angel looking over you." they had said. My mom cried and looked at me and said, "I just don't know how you are okay."
Do I thank the Subaru for keeping me safe? Chance? Was my Papa my angel that made sure I stayed safe? Am I supposed to view this as a reason about why I'm meant to be here? Or does shit just happen, and I was just lucky?
2016 began with a BIG bump, but I think that BIG bump jumpstarted something that I needed.
I took initiative when I made the decision to return to therapy for my anxiety, and find a therapist that was a good fit for me. I made that decision on my own, and I got myself there. I was proactive and did some online searching. I sent my first email out, recieved my first response, and booked an appointment for later that week.
It is weird where everything went from there.
I needed help, and I got it. I spent time in the adolescent unit of a hospital for my mental health; not where myself, or my family, or anyone would have imagined me to ever be. My nickname has always been "Happy Haley."
You don't expect these things to happen to you, or you expect this only happens to a certain "type" of person, but that isn't true at all. Mental health is serious, and can be so delicate, and is just as important as physical health. A broken bone needs to heal, and I needed help in healing as well.
Yep, that is the bottom I had reached. I sure hope that was the lowest I will ever reach, and that I can only bounce up from here with everything I have learned.
Soon came being discharged, graduating high school, continuing writing, deciding to share my voice and story with others, and getting articles published on the internet. Beginning to discover the worth.
By Fall I had moved to the city and was beginning my college career.
I read a 5 page speech aloud at a banquet and began my college journey by sharing some difficult parts of my life, and how change turned for the better,- to a room full of my peers, professors, other faculty members, and the president of my college.
Kicking social anxiety right in the ass!
"Did I really just do that?"
By October I stood up in front of a different room of people, and shared a toast I had written for my mom and John on their wedding day.
I am resilient. I fall down, sometimes I stay down for a while, but I get back up and I keep working on all that I need to work on.
Mental health struggles are isolating, and terrifying places to be.
My mom has reflected on the year with me. She said that with showing a lot of effort, good things will come from it. It takes time, but they always do.
You can't snap out of it, you can't change your thinking immediately, you can't just "be happy", but you can work work work at it.
I'm writing in a coffee shop right now. A place that I probably would have been too scared to drive to alone this time last year. When my anxiety led to a fear of parking lots, sitting in a restaurant, or public places in general.
I have been laughing and smiling and finding comfort at this year's latest family parties, whereas last year I would've needed to leave early due to an anxiety attack when nobody had known what had happened to me. (Not related to my family themselves they rock)
I still get anxiety attacks, but infrequently, and know now that they always pass, and I can/will rise above them.
When I think back to 2016 I can only say, "Weird." It has been weird how things have turned out. How can the absolute worst and the absolute best things happen in the same year?
I am not sure if this has been the worst year of my life. Or maybe it has been the best year of my life because of all the accomplishments. Maybe both. Years come and go, and I don't pay much attention to the solid view of them. I do know, 2016 will be a year I won't forget and will encourage myself to remember and keep in my heart.
Who knows what challenges and heartaches 2017 will bring, but I know that I will get through it somehow. I've seen, felt, and survived the lowest of low places and feelings, so bring on what is yet to come!
Resolutions don't tend to last with me.
Instead I will create reminders:
Thank you thank you thank you 2016, and all of you amazing people that have been an active part of it.
I hope this brings some hope or perspective to those wondering or fearing what the new year will bring.
I wish for strength for us all.
I will kindly say,
"Hey, Welcome, 2017, join the club! :-)"
but also firmly say,
"Bring it on, 2017, this girl's ready for ya"
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.
Over 2 hours ago if you had asked me why I was going to attend the town hall meeting at my campus, run by the student government, I would not have said "so I can blog about it later."
Being a freshman can feel like the bottom of the food chain. It isn't the label that bothers me; it is the unknown that goes along with it.
When you begin your new life on a college campus your first task is to learn the basics. This may be where your classes are, what is expected of you, the dining hall, or all of the above.
I have now tackled my first 2 months of college, and it is truly sinking in. I feel the desperate need to leap over the basics and "just know" whatever knowledge I am lacking about my new found community.
When school first began, I had absolutely no idea what the town hall meetings were all about. I received the emails, but I just opened it and moved it aside with the other notices in my inbox. I'm still finding my place. How can I benefit by attending this? Is this even something first-years are welcome at?
I am from a very small town in a rural CT setting. At home, "town hall meetings" would be a gathering of the adults that are active members of our small community to discuss the board of education or small-town politics, I don't know. I didn't know that this event was on my campus. [Which I probably should've figured since Boston itself is a city] I didn't know it was run by students. I didn't think to look deeper into another email on my account. I didn't know that this was for faculty, staff, AND students to come together as one community.
After I missed the first town hall meeting, I felt very left out when hearing side conversations about the impact it had left others with. After the second one, (I don't remember why I couldn't attend), I wanted to promise myself I would get to the next one.
I saw the message in my email address this week. Town Hall Meeting November 7th 5pm-7pm topics: "self care, coping, progression." I, of course, was drawn to the words self care. I was going.
When the time came, however, I found it difficult to get myself there.
I just stood outside the room, waiting for a friend to pass so I would have someone to sit with. My friends all had homework, appointments, or just weren't interested. I was on edge and very anxious. I walked by the room a couple times to imagine what seat I would sit in if I found the courage to walk in. I realized how ridiculous I was being. Meetings, events, or actually- anything new- make me anxious.
I was then standing in the back. Nobody could really see me, and I could get a feel for the environment and just listen. Just breathe. I didn't want people looking at me.
I spotted another one of my friends among the chairs, and I snuck by people and planted myself next to him.
I didn't use my voice, but it was my first meeting, and I was listening.
I believe you have the right to listen as long as you want and need to before you choose to include your voice in a new setting. I didn't speak, but I was learning.
I paid a lot of attention to the vibes of the room. There was some tension, a lot of care, and separation and holiness all at the same time.
Everyone was there for a purpose, even if each had a different purpose.
There was discussion about creating a safe environment on campus.
Physical safety is not our biggest concern. Our biggest concern is feeling safe on campus, emotionally.
Other topics discussed:
I just thought.. wow..I didn't imagine I would end up here..but I ended up at a really special place.
The faculty and staff care about their students. Truly. I believe it, even as I hear it. They want to help us outside of the classroom, and get to know us. They are willing to hear us out, and help us with any concerns.
To me, that's special.
I had never wanted to go to a small college, but now that I have that..I am grateful.
I have had teachers in my lifetime just like that, but there is an entire community of the faculty that are in the same agreement.
It feels good to be respected, taken seriously, treated as an adult, and a peer.
Since tonight was focused on self care and community, I am going to say my stance on the two topics.
Self care, to me, is a valuable balance. It is not ignoring the outside issues. It is making sure you have to time to take care of yourself; giving yourself time to stop and breathe with it all. Self care is acknowledging that you can find peace within a stressful situation. To me, is taking time to do something you love. Anything that triggers a positive reaction. Something that makes you happy, something that makes you laugh, something you're good at, or something that simply relaxes you. It is a time to check in with yourself. The balance, is being realistic. Acknowledging our inner self does not always eliminate the problems in the outside world. The positive balance is so we can recharge, and keep moving forward.
Community, to me, is being a part of something. At tonight's meeting, I wouldn't say I was super involved, but being in the room with other members of my school made me feel welcome. I was among my community. My mom has always told me that it is great to feel connected to your school, not just in the classroom. It is important to feel as though your campus is your home, you feel supported, and are able to be involved. Community building is about including your own voice, as well as welcoming other voices to be heard. It is respect, and wanting to better one another.
Our motto is "inspire a world of good." We are about social justice, and making a difference. We want to be social workers, child life specialists, educators. We all have a story and are here for a reason.
I am blogging tonight to gather these thoughts, as well as express gratitude for my new found community. Every school has its flaws. Not every student can say their school actually gives a shit about them.
At the meeting, flaws were admitted. It was admitted that there are things that have been a problem for too long, and need improvement on. I listened, but as a newbie I was also thinking..but what about all of this good I am hearing right now? My professors actually give a shit about me. About us. I think that's awesome.
I'm finding new ways to get myself out there and be involved. In my school, AND the world itself. There is a lot going on in this world, and a lot of hurt and baggage being carried around us. Being a voice, a listening ear, and a member of a supportive community big/small, makes a difference.
Do you ever feel defeated?
...because YOU let something get to you.
...because YOU know that you have the power to decide who/what hurts you.
...but you still let it hurt you?
It hadn't reached my understanding until this year that you can choose to be happy.
It sounds like total BS to say, because clearly- shit happens. In a depressive state, nobody wants to hear "just choose to be happy." It doesn't work like that. There is no way you can be happy all the time. It is perfectly normal to have down days, or moments where you fall apart.
Most of the time, you can choose to be happy. You can change your point of view, to change an outcome. You can decide to bite your lip, take a breath, or do whatever you need to keep doing you.
Earlier this week, I allowed my past to creep into the present and disrupt it.
I have been protecting myself for a while now.
I spent my early adolescence taking care of everyone but myself. I've been working to break that pattern by learning the difference between self-care vs. selfish.
Sometimes, I slip from my duty. My obligation. I take 3 steps back and question whether or not I'm doing the right thing, or if this "self-care" thing is morally wrong if it is protecting me but hurting others.
I was in class when I got a text.
I just went into a downward spiral. I thought I was doing the right thing, but is this the right thing?
I held back my tears until my class was over. I went back to my dorm, unzipped and kicked off my boots, took 4 melatonin supplements and climbed in bed. I slept 3 1/2 hours. I was mentally exhausted. I didn't want to be awake to feel that emptiness and sadness.
These intrusive messages- I have had this happen before, many many times. I have always just ignored it, not putting pressure on myself to reply, and surrounded myself with positive people to keep my life on track. Why the hell am I letting it sink me now?
I hadn't fully noticed how low I had gotten myself until I woke up, almost slept through our dormitory fire drill, and missed my advising appointment while in my "coma."
I did this to me.
Instead of blaming myself, I realized that this week I may need a little more rest than usual. I forced myself to say "yes" or "okay" when my friends asked me to go out. I made sure I got to yoga class Wednesday night..
Today, I had an appointment at the counseling center. I honestly look forward to these appointments. I leave feeling drained, but I recharge soon enough. It is like getting new batteries for my system, or putting gas in my car.
I expressed my frustration that something I have dealt with for years, is bothering me now. I was reminded of the word that does it all: change.
College is change. Whether I feel it or not, I have brand new stressors. College classes, a new social life, a new schedule; So maybe some of the things I have been able to handle before, are just not cooperating with this new environment.
Back to my issue:
I have been distancing myself from negativity. My mental health is everything to me. It is fragile, and I must take care of myself. I am protecting myself by choosing happiness with what I want and need around me.
The best way I can explain it is... that the negativity is still there, banging its fist on the door to the content lifestyle I have finally pieced together. I am having trouble ignoring the sound. I am having trouble moving forward. I know if I stop, and answer that door I could be risking things for myself. I have already gotten this far.
[At this point you are probably extremely confused with my sound-like guessing game.]
I still don't know what exactly I should do.
However, I now know that it is OKAY to feel what I feel.
I have members of my support system who have been reassuring me that my feelings are valid, because I have spent too much of my life fighting my feelings.
I don't know whether or not to take the risk in opening that "door."
I do know this:
I am going to continue to take care of myself, trust myself, and remind myself that I am a good person who is doing what's best for me.
At my appointment today, my counselor told me that something she has noticed about me is that I am very resilient.
Being able to "keep going" doesn't have anything to do with gliding through greatness.
"Keep going" is everything about picking yourself up when you fall down.
I continue to prove to myself that good things are around the corner. Even when I am caught up in questioning morality, self-doubt, and worries, I am still able to spring back into shape like a boomerang.
My therapist back home would always refer to our troubles being waves. They come, and go. It is our job to ride them out.
Wednesday October 26th 2016:
I knew when I woke up this morning that today was going to be a busy day. I began with a checklist:
Some people are immune to a busy schedule. They need to having something going on at all times. Me? Not so much. I love my schedule for this semester because I have breaks between my classes. I can grab a snack, breathe, get work done, take a 3 hour nap if I need to.
Not gonna lie, after my 8 am class I was ready to cancel my yoga class sign-up for the day and just go back to bed. I was already dressed in yogi apparel so that definitely was a motivation booster.
There is this one thought that comes across me at every single yoga class I take.
"I got myself here."
Despite whatever is going on in my life, within my body, I got myself here. That alone, is enough for me to push through anything that day.
Things were working out. My Connections group was canceled so I had extra time to do homework, AND the campus welcomed a therapy dog for midterms week.
I went to yoga, I pet a therapy dog, life is good.
I recall saying "Wow, I'm weirdly.. very calm and chill right now despite all of this sh*t I have to do. Must be the yoga. Nice."
I still do believe the yoga helped me continue my inner calm throughout the day.
But it sadly did not last..
I had my psychiatrist appt. There is a consulting psychiatrist that comes once a week and this was my first meeting with him. It went well considering how awkward it was.
"Hi I'm Haley- okay now you want to know my history? Ok well, Once upon a time-"
I had forgotten the amount of discomfort over restating the worst, and even self-conscious moments of my life to a complete stranger. I kept it brief. We both were awkward and made jokes which made me less anxious because he was new to [working at] the school as well.
So after that, and my seminar, I lost my shit. Yeah, guess I'm not semi-censoring this anymore. I started crying. I was in the library looking for a political cartoon and crying. Nobody could tell. By crying, I mean tears here and there, but discretely.
Everyone (mainly twitter) talks about those college mental breakdowns over assignments. Yah I've had them, but not over an assignment. This was my first. Should I mark it on my calendar?
Social anxiety folks, it is a tad easier to present when you are confident with what you are presenting.
I was not.
I had no idea what I was doing.
9pm..I just want to go to bed.
"9 am tomorrow I have to..."
*starts crying again*
I just froze up. Overwhelmed. Scared. Scared I will present nonsense and that I will sound stupid. (I do not know much about the government or politics.) Scared at the fact that if my presentation is under 10 minutes it will be "heavily penalized." Worried because my brain works faster than my mouth, and my words result in a jumbled mess.
BUT also in my head I had, "Okay Haley, you know that no matter what you will be okay. Worrying is a waste of energy. If it sucks, you pick yourself up later, but right now just focus on knowing you will be okay no matter what."
I fought back tears, and then said in another mindful reasoning, "F that, you go ahead and cry because your body wants to. Just cry, give your body what it needs. Listen to your body." So I did. I went back to my room and just let myself hold my hands in my face and let out all of my stress and frustration.
I tired out, pulled myself together, and continued working on my presentation.
I told my roommate that whenever I started to dread my presentation, she should remind me that once it is over all I can do is look forward to Candace Moore's book signing and yoga workshop tonight.
I love love love the inspiration found from those who rise above from a difficult past and use their story for a purpose. I am so looking forward to meeting her.
When I started to stress/cry about my presentation my roomie, Kelly blurted out, "Candace." I stop, say, "Oh yeah." and continue to breathe.
There is something good in every day.
I nailed my presentation. Eye contact, wasn't shaking, didn't fumble over my words (even though at some points I probably was babbling nonsense in a way that might have portrayed intelligence?)
The best part? Besides getting it over with and a weight off my shoulders-
My professor looked me in the eye after class, gave me a thumbs up, and said "Good job."
I notice a pattern, and it is incredibly frustrating to me.
I get so worried, and then I am okay. I am ALWAYS okay. No matter what, I will be okay!! LOGICALLY I know this. A part of me, however, is still scared.
Worst case scenario: I get up there, I freeze, I give a crappy presentation, everyone knows I'm nervous, and I get an average grade.
And there's more that could go wrong, of course, but why go to extremes?
I realize it is not so much a fear of the outcome at this point. It is a fear of the present. It is a fear of the uncomfortable feeling that goes along with "riding the waves" and I prove to myself every time I make it out on the other side that it was worth the discomfort.
I am here now, trying to analyze what I need to work on, and what I didn't do.
Maybe that is not the point.
I could have stayed in bed "sick", I could have emailed my professor an "anxiety = I can't", I could have tried to handle this mess all on my own.. but I didn't.
I reached out to my uncle, and a former teacher of mine for insight and suggestions. I eliminated the worries I had control over.
I gave myself permission to cry.
This is what gets me very very confused:
I often believe that "recovery" and "working on me" mean that I should be able to let this magical thing called "positive self-talk and redirecting thoughts" save me. No. That is a piece, but not all.
I need to give myself permission to have the fear in the first place, right? To worry, to cry-
It is then that I use my tools to decide where I will go from there.
Holding back crying, and then letting it all out showed me the difference between accepting and rejecting my feelings.
I am reminding myself through my return to the yoga practice, and my wise mind, that to keep going forward, does not mean you can not have "down" moments.
I have proof of this when I find myself here.
Blogging, about how I picked myself up again.
I have so much behind me, and so much to look forward to today.
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Thanks for the support!!
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. :-)