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

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

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.

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