Spring Changes

As a midwesterner, I would say that the best season should probably be spring. It’s the relief from months of depression and vitamin D deficiency. New life, fresh air, garden parties, BBQs, patio beers…what else could we possibly want after what seems like an eternity of white knuckle driving, falling on ice, rusting our cars, coughing up mucus and dry heat bloody noses.

But not me.

Spring triggers all kinds of anxiety. I have a long history of facing life changes and trauma during this particular season, and it’s usually a very uncomfortable transition. I’ve accepted my anxiety long enough now to be able to anticipate it. So this year, I’m trying something new. I’m cleaning, organizing, drawing, and donating as much as I possibly can. My goal is to get rid of all unnecessary possessions. I’ve also decided to work on a garden project with my husband, create new routines, and watch new shows. Memories are a powerful thing - they’ve controlled so much of my attitude about myself. It’s time to be mindful about the present moment and create new memories.

I’m loving this journey for me. #ALittleBitAlexis #SchittsCreek #BestShowOf2019

Speaking of Schitt’s Creek, David is my spirit animal and after I publish this blog post I’m realistically going to contemplate the meaning of life while I wash my hair and then take my husband out to dinner and binge that show until I forget I’m anxious.

xo,

Victoria

Weddings

You know what a lot of people think is fun? A wedding. The pinteresting, planning, mood boards, flowers, colors, fancy gowns, hairstyles, photography…it’s the one day in everyone’s life where they get to be the star of the show, look picture perfect, dance while everyone is watching, celebrate love and family, take advantage of the 24 hour social acceptance of an endless camera crew…

If you love all of those things, and you’ve been dreaming about those magical moments for years, I believe you should do what makes you happy. But do you know what option always seems to be swept under the rug?

Not having a wedding.

Hear me out. You’ve worked hard for months to put this event together, and you’ve encountered several bumps in the road. The venue was overbooked. Your mother wants to wear a different color dress than the one you picked out. You have to add a bridesmaid or two so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Your best man/woman doesn’t have time to help. Your aunt keeps calling you asking if her ex husband will be on the guest list. Your friends from high school are all married and by inviting 10 of them, you essentially invite 20. You’ve taken out another loan on top of your student debt just to pay for the venue. You want a traditional cake, but your partner wants cupcakes. The flowers you want are unavailable that season. You heard your sister complain about the price of the bridesmaid dress when your bachelorette party is also in Vegas and she can’t afford both, so she applies for a credit card and takes the only 3 days vacation she’s saved up for the year to go on your trip.

I could go on and on.

Why isn’t it socially acceptable to say no to all of this? Sure, some people don’t have this much anxiety during their big day. Some people’s parents pay for their wedding. Some people have wedding planners. Some people are closer to the industry and have more available resources. But what about the rest of us? The introverts, the wallflowers, the financial freedom fighters.

Let me tell you a story. A couple realizes they’ve been together for three years. They’ve lived together for most of it. They share finances. They decide it’s time to make a commitment. They make an appointment at the courthouse. They order refurbished estate rings from Etsy for less than $400. Three weeks later, they get married on their lunch break and go back to work. The next day, they have a pool party with 50 close friends and family members and drink lots of beer. They paid off some debt and booked their honeymoon two years later. The end.

That was me. When you put it on paper, it probably sounds boring. We aren’t the romantic types. I’ll tell you what is romantic - being able to come home to him every day. We make each other laugh and enjoy each other’s company, and we don’t post about it on Facebook or expect grand gestures. My idea of romance is being happy enough to not need anything besides the other person.

Yeah, we’re not perfect, we have our own issues just like any other couple. I don’t have all of the answers. But I am a little defensive about our decision to not get married in a conventional way. Whenever I told people about our silent staycation elopement, they always asked me the same question: Are you pregnant?

I don’t think everyone should give up weddings. In fact, I am very much looking forward to planning my sister’s some day. I think I would be able to help make it a perfect day for her! I just don’t think we should put so much pressure on how much money we spend on one day of our lives. The entire experience of a wedding can put a lot of strain on many relationships with those involved, and even cause temporary anxiety and depression. Why make it harder than it needs to be? Because everyone you know is going to see it on social media? So what if they do? You do whatever makes you happy. And don’t be friends with people who judge those decisions you make.

xo,

Victoria

Valentine's Day!!

Happy Valentine's day! This is by far one of my favorite holidays. I know it's a Hallmark holiday filled with consumerist ideals, blah blah blah. But it's only negative if you choose to look at it that way. I don't expect to be showered with gifts. I'm a giver, and I want to treat myself and everyone else around me. I like dipping strawberries and making treats for my coworkers. I love taking my husband out for dinner. I look for excuses to send my mom, sisters, and friends small packages and cards to show them I'm thinking of them. It doesn't matter what holiday it is, I have a box of thoughtful gifts on reserve that I buy whenever I see a thoughtful gift for a special someone in my life.

That being said, if something has ruined the holiday for you, I understand. But if you can make a good day out of a universal reminder to show love and gratitude to the people around you, I think you should do it.

Another important message I want to share is that you should spend a few moments today or this weekend focusing on the things that you love about yourself. A daily recognition of your strengths can go a long way to building self esteem and confidence, which will resonate throughout other parts of your life. It’s easy to get stuck living in the past, or fixating on your weaknesses. Whether you have depression, anxiety, or both, your mental illness doesn’t define you or your value. If you can’t forgive yourself for making a mistake in your past, if you can’t break away from a toxic relationship, if you can’t stop obsessing about your student debt, if you can’t ever see yourself living your dream, if you haven’t quite found the right job, or if you’re simply just going through a hard time, even if you’re not necessarily sure why - you have more power than you think. Those of us who live with mental illness every day - we don’t always get to choose how we feel, or what we are capable of doing. Some days, we don’t get an option to be happy and motivated. We can do some things, though. We can:

  • Ask for help when we need it (Not just from a doctor, but from our friends, family, spouses, coworkers, teachers, etc.)

  • Reevaluate our goals and pursuits (Do you really think you’ll be happier as a full-time musician if you’ve never put the extra time in to work on your skills?)

  • Establish a sense of purpose (Do you secretly criticize yourself for not going to the gym? Have you always wanted to learn a new skill? What have you done to adopt these new behaviors?)

  • Follow through with goals (So...you don’t have the energy or courage to get back in the gym. What if you walked 10,000 steps per day? Are you really bad at staying positive, but you don’t know what to do to change? What if you read a chapter of a self-help book, or watched a 20 minute Ted Talk every single day?)

Start small and only do as much as you can handle. Don’t beat yourself up about not being as productive as you think you should be - that will only lead to more depression/anxiety. Set small, reasonable goals each day, get enough sleep, and take a multivitamin. Get a health and wellness checkup - tell your doctor about your symptoms, and get blood work done to see if you have any deficiencies. If you need help with basic activities, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of others is a sign of strength, and we often do much better in life when we allow ourselves to connect with others. The more you love yourself despite your flaws, the more you’ll enable yourself to learn and grow.

xo,

Victoria

Guest Post: Re-Centering

Guest: Liz

For the past 33 years, I have struggled with appearing perfect on the outside while trying to conceal my learning disabilities. After years of suppressing my emotions and feelings, mixed with the potent cocktail of lack of sleep and exercise, poor eating habits, and anxiety at work, I entered into the perfect storm that ultimately led to my mental breakdown and hospitalization.

My meltdown led me to take the past year off and re-center myself. Prior to the hospitalization, I normalized my anxiety. Constant doomsday thoughts and persevering on mistakes consumed my days with worry, leaving my stomach in knots and crippling my appetite. One silly mistake could send me on a downward spiral of thinking that one single mistake could unveil something catastrophic.

It has taken me more than a year, but I now understand that these thoughts happen when my anxiety spikes. With the right help, I use different coping skills to address and quell my anxiety. I have a better understanding to how my anxiety affects me on a daily basis.

Before this experience, I disregarded mental health. In turn, I scoffed at anyone who pulled the mental health card for anxiety or depression. I didn’t understand how anxiety and depression could paralyze a person. It hinders people from fully living their lives and their ability to be present.

My biggest challenge to overcome my anxiety has been to slow down. I have to work on slowing down my life’s pace. Life is a marathon not a sprint. The faster I respond to emails or complete a chore doesn’t mean that I’m winning the rat race. Instead, these fervent habits just prevented me from doing my best work. Learning to take lots of deep breaths before each task, I continue reminding myself to smell the roses while completing the task.

Now, I see life in a different way. By slowing down, I have time to notice the colors, sounds and smells that surround me. Brené Brown’s research has helped shaped my outlook on life. One of my favorite quotes by her is “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”

My advice for someone in a similar circumstance or feeling the world is coming to an end is to seek help. Mental health is no joke. It can become stiffening and prevent you from living your fullest, happiest life.  After being a prisoner to it and coming out on the other side, my hope is that anyone who feels slightly or entirely what I felt, please get help. It is the most invigorating feeling once you shed a light on your struggles and learn how to overcome them.

Unsponsored: Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life Recommendation

Most people don’t realize the brain is just as good (or better) at muscle memory than any other muscle. The human brain learns by association, which is why we have a memory at all. The emotion we feel at any given moment is automatically associated with whatever is happening around us. This is the same reason why domesticated animals learn certain behaviors with sounds, treats, and other cues. When we have a bad experience, we associate feelings, objects, smells, sounds, colors…anything our brain can grab onto to remember the moment. This is how we develop interests, learn to fear things, stay in bad relationships, fall into addictions, and even stick with that new diet and gym membership. Although muscle memory is not the sole reason we have anxiety or depression, if you’re in a place where you are able to learn to control it, you can work hard to change your thoughts and behaviors.

If you are not in a good place, and you need the support of a therapist, medication, or if you simply need more time to work through something, don’t feel guilty. Your experience doesn’t need to be compared to everyone else’s. If you’re taking the time to read about mental health, you’re in the right place.

I would like to take the time to recommend this book. This post, and my review, is completely unsponsored. If you’re looking for answers on why people experience mental health issues (anxiety and depression - this book does not apply to other unrelated disorders), and how to accept and overcome them, stop everything you’re doing and read it. (As with every mental health post, I would like to disclose that I am not a counselor, and that my advice will not solve every problem.) I have learned a lot from reading this, and it has given me peace of mind that my experience is universal and that I am not going through it alone. If you’re reading this post, I hope it helps you too!

xo,

Victoria

Mental Health: Happy New Year!

Good afternoon! Happy New Year, and Happy Sunday.

I am both excited and anxious to be back to blogging/drawing/art after my holiday break. I am a firm believer in taking breaks from your passions, as the time apart can really inspire you to be even more creative when you come back to your projects. However, I may have bit off more than I can chew for 2019. After writing down all of my resolutions, I took a step back and decided that the vision I have for myself is to become a fully toned yogi and swim master, an Insta-famous artist, a debt-free financial guru, a chef, an avid reader of every pop psychology, art, ancient history, and science fiction book, and occasional traveler.

I know what you’re thinking - no wonder this girl has anxiety! Well, you’re partially right. All of the idealism I experience with my resolutions, and with my expectations in general - isn’t a result of me arrogantly thinking I can accomplish all of these goals, it’s a form of distraction. My brain is wired for high speed levels, and if I can tire myself out with productive tasks, I will fulfill my purpose every day, get good sleep, and alleviate some of my symptoms.

If you experience something similar, don’t fret. Anxiety is like a superpower - it’s a sensitive trait that could easily be used for good or bad depending on if you let it control you. Avoiding my anxiety is what has made me make the most mistakes...but listening to it and allowing it to motivate me has gotten me every good thing I have in my life today. I have to detach myself from the outcome of all these resolutions, and just take time every day to burn off my energy on something productive that helps me be a healthier person.

Cheers to good things in 2019!


xo,

Victoria

Guest Post: Open Call Advice 12/16

Hello! I’ve asked, and you’ve submitted! Today I am featuring our very first guest post from the open call. Originally, I was going to close this and re-open quarterly, but the Instagram account is growing and so are the responses. Thank you to everyone who submitted their stories and we appreciate you participating in this healthy exercise!

Guest: Dominique

What triggers you most?

Past Experiences.

Tell us about obstacles you've faced.

Peoples opinion, family’s judgement, insecurities, suicidal thoughts.

Tell us how you overcome those obstacles either long term or on a daily basis.

I currently go to therapy once a week and I’m also taking anti-depressants. Both of those contribute to me getting better daily. With my therapy sessions I’m able to open up completely and heal those open wounds that have held me back in my life. It helps give me clarity, perspective and understanding as to why and how I got here. It helps me save me. I’m also a writer. I’ve been doing that since I was about 10 years old. It is the best therapy I could ever have. My soul is completely free and liberated every time I put pen to paper. When and if I have a suicidal thought or feel like taking my life I redirect my thoughts. Either by reading, praying, or talking to a friend or taking a walk. I do something to change the chemical that my brain is receiving. It’s no easy task but I fight anyway. From it I’ve learned to love me. Love who I am and who I’m going to be. I read positive quotes and devotionals. Things that will help change my thoughts in a positive way.

What advice would you give to people looking to overcome similar circumstances?

Therapy isn’t a bad thing at all. Save yourself for yourself. Find something else as well that makes you happy and sets you free. No matter what it is as long as it brings positive energy into your world. Never stop fighting for yourself. Learn to love yourself. Your authentic self.

Blogging Frequency + Open Call

Happy Monday, folks!

I’m going to make an effort to blog more regularly. It wasn’t exactly my intention to blog on a frequent basis, but I need to develop more content to fill in the gaps. Most of you are brand new readers who deserve to know my intent. For more information on my introduction, please see my first post.

Some of you really enjoy this Open Call, and I have some lovely entries to share in the future. (If you haven’t yet submitted, click here.) I feel very inspired to keep going and collect more of your thoughts. I am featuring my first guest later this week!

In the future, you will find more content on the blog Sundays and Thursdays. Don’t be surprised if I throw in a few posts here and there - I’m still developing my blogging strategy. I’m curious to hear your thoughts…what would you like to see on the blog? What content subjects would you come back for every week? I anxiously await your comments, DMs, and emails. :)

xo,

Victoria

Unsponsored: 72 Day Meditation Streak

Alright, folks. I’ve decided to do some unsponsored product posts. I have done sponsorships in the past, but when it comes to the subject of mental health, I want to keep that authenticity. That being said, I will share certain products with you that have helped me improve my life.

I’ve signed up for meditation apps in the past and thought they were okay…but I never really found one I was in love with, much less wanted to pay for. I decided to do a trial period for the Calm app, and I used it so much within those seven days that I decided to invest in the purchase. After all, when you break down the cost…it’s really only 1-2 doctor or counseling appointments that you would need to maintain your mental health, or get a prescription to alleviate symptoms.

I started by trial period 72 days ago, and my current meditation streak is 72 days. I cannot recommend this app enough! It includes daily guided meditations, soundscapes, sleep stories, ASMR, soothing music, nature sounds, guided meditations based on subjects for personal growth, relationships, anxiety, motivation, focus, self-care, emotions, etc…guided yoga, podcast style classes, guided breathing exercises, and more. Calm offers something for a variety of audiences - parents, children, students, employees - and pretty much anyone looking to improve some aspect of their life. The guided meditations offer assistance breathing, clearing the mind, and contemplating on a particular topic encouraging mindfulness and acceptance. Calm seems to be developing a more diverse narrator portfolio with time as it gains more popularity. The app currently only syncs with Google Fit and only offers English and German languages, but given the growing momentum of the company, I would imagine they will expand these options to include several languages as well as Apple and Fitbit users as well. The way I see it, the more we support them, the faster they will add these features.

So…how has it helped me in my daily life? I started by listening to one 12 minute guided meditation before bed every night. It helped me get to a relaxed physical state that I was unable to experience on my own. But that wasn’t enough for me to fall asleep some nights - so I started listening to sleep stories and soundscapes. I’m now at a point where I can’t and won’t fall asleep without the app. By clearing my head before dozing off, I’ve had less nightmares as well. My nights of insomnia and perpetually anxious night terrors are now fewer and fewer the longer I use this app.

For as long as I can remember, sleep has been a very negative experience for me. Everything about it made me anxious - not being able to fall asleep, nightmares, night sweats, constant disruption, feeling bad in the morning - and now I look forward to opening the app every night.

Have you tried Calm, or any other meditation app? Do you turn to YouTube for those features? How do you fall asleep? Let me know in the comments!

xo,

Victoria

Mental Health: Why Should I have Anxiety?

My life is easy. Why should I have anxiety? Why should I ever experience depression?

For years, I denied myself treatment because of that mentality. Mental health is such a taboo issue that as a society, we don’t even know what it is. I am a fourth generation Polish American and I was taught with an old world mentality that life is generally painful, and if I don’t develop a thick skin and deal with it, I won’t survive. I was taught that doctors were thieves who want to take your money and give you pills. My ancestors settled in America not even 100 years ago and built lives out of soil and sweat. What do I have to complain about?

I’m not a psychologist and my opinions don’t matter. But I just don’t believe mental illness is that simple. I was born with anxiety, and to put it simply— my brain is wired differently. My thoughts are rapid, senses heightened, and I’m convinced I would survive a zombie apocalypse. My anxiety makes me do things out of fear of being an unsuccessful human being, whatever that means to me. I imagine that this genetic trait is what helped my ancestors survive in an otherwise unforgiving world. They traveled across the world with seeds in their pocket to escape poverty, oppression, and genocide. Surely in my millennial bubble of technology, video games, and consumerism, I should be grateful.

Have you heard all of this before? I’ve heard it all— anxiety and depression are for the underprivileged and weak, and if you should experience them otherwise, you’re an entitled and ungrateful little shit. There’s a rise of mental illness because we’re raising our children to be spoiled and never grow up.

This way of thinking is very flawed— stay with me for a second! Sure, there will always be lazy people in every generation. I’m not going to make excuses and tolerate laziness. But we’re doing a great disservice to those who make a sincere effort. First— my very first thoughts on this earth involve my childhood anxieties revolving a lack of control on my own life. I can’t change my brain function without medical intervention. Treatment can mean a lot of things— therapy, medication, meditation, mindfulness, exercise, and even getting treatments for physical ailments that can cause or increase anxiety levels. Second— I didn’t grow up in a generation where alcohol and tobacco use was widely accepted without guilt. I can’t use substances to control my attitude without some serious consequences that are no longer acceptable. (Not to mention that this seems like a slow and painful death.) Third— it’s 2018. The only time I don’t use my mind to accomplish basic tasks is when I’m cleaning my house. The world we live in— whether at work, school, at the grocery store, and even sitting on our couches— requires constant processing of information. Our brains work on overdrive. If you think meditation, yoga, and mindfulness is a yuppie cliche, then you must have a lot of time in your life that you spend NOT thinking. If I want to shut my brain off, I have to schedule it on my calendar, even if it’s a weekend.

We are told that mental illness is only a word we can say when speaking of extremities. Imagine if we thought that way about our physical health? Physical illness has a range from common colds and flus to cancer and disease. Yet, we don’t cringe or judge people when we talk about doctor appointments and antibiotics. However, the moment we use the phrase “mental health” it suddenly becomes a heavily debated topic. We shouldn’t deprive ourselves of any self care simply because other people’s lives are worse than ours. I know plenty of successful people who weren’t half as sheltered as I was. We shouldn’t associate mental illness with those who are so sick they can’t help themselves. When we start seeing each other— regular people we interact with every day— as people who will ultimately experience mental illness at varying levels throughout the duration of their life— we can accept this as part of our reality. Anxiety and depression is not a choice people make. These illnesses are inherited, taught to us, or come and go with circumstance. One thing we can choose is to be kind to one another.

xo,

Victoria

Mental Health: Responsibility

Anxiety will not prevent bad things from happening or make you any more prepared for disaster. It has given me heightened senses and makes me a more sensitive and intuitive person. However, anxiety also makes me visualize every scenario, as if every action and reaction is somehow connected in a web-like diagram in my mind. That diagram holds every bad decision and wrongdoing I've ever done, weaves resolutions of karma and consequence, justifying all the worst case scenarios I can consider. It lives in my subconscious and unravels itself at the perfect moments, convincing me that something is wrong or that eventually something will be wrong, and that there is a reason to be alarmed.

In the thirty years of my life with anxiety, the perpetuating cycle of suffering has become so normal that it's just another emotion I experience on a daily basis. There are times I've caught myself experiencing pure joy--which is quite often, despite the stereotypes--and then I feel guilty for letting go. As if fear is a responsibility to the rest of the world, and that my foresight might save myself or someone else.

I'm still learning how to trust my own mind and distinguish intuitive thoughts versus paranoid rationalizations. I often use humor to laugh at my own perception. I vocalize it to others, and I've cracked so many jokes on myself I could start my own comedy routine. Humor pairs with anxiety and depression like cheap coffee and sugar...hard to swallow without the additives.

xo,

Victoria