T.

Two New Zealand Star Experiences That Drove My Love For Astronomy

Bright. Plentiful. Stars are just everywhere. Unfortunately, growing up in New York City meant that I really didn’t get to see all the stars that exist in our night sky. The highest I ever counted was about nine from my dining room window, though I am pretty sure that five of those ‘stars’ were actually airplanes because stars don’t usually blink red and white right near John F. Kennedy Airport, right? No, no they don’t.

Living in New Zealand, though, that number went from “nine” to nine-hundred (and quite possibly to nine-thousand) fairly quickly. I felt comfortable with the first one hundred, but the more they appeared at night, the more scared I started to become. I had, what you would call “astraphobia,” the fear of stars and space. And the feeling was real. It was like I was a cavewoman and someone lit a torch in front of me for the first time. You can’t process it. You feel threatened. You feel like you don’t know what to believe. Camping in the middle of farmlands and mountains and being surrounded by pitch dark and little lights in the sky was just scary. Read more

Y.

Yoga Teacher Training: Halfway There!

Yay!  I am so happy to finally get the chance to sit and write! It’s been too long, Internet, too long.

So, here’s the scoop: I have been taking yoga teacher training classes Saturday’s and Sunday’s for the past 5 weeks and it has been amazing. I am not finished just yet, but the incredible self-observing journey this has taken me on is one that I am grateful for. I, too, am eager about what this all means at the end of it!  I cannot yet generalize my whole experience since I am not a time traveler and have, well, not experienced it all, but I want to share with you my journey thus far.

I don’t know whether to say that my life at the current moment is crazy good or crazy bad; therefore, I will just label it ‘crazy’! Having a full-time corporate job, finding a new apartment, packing, starting to move, going to yoga on the weekends for 14 hours and then yoga during the week for at least 6 hours (total of at least 20 hours a week, if you’re keeping track!), attending family events, attending friend events, being a wife, and finding time to just breathe (*breathes*) has been a little… crazy! You’d think that yoga was relaxing (it is!), but this teacher training is definitely isn’t; it’s quite intensive and like a part-time job! So I guess I’ve been, for the past month, been working 1 full-time and 1 half-time job- mamma mia!  But. all. worth. it.

My Experience:
Rather than me go on about how each week was and go off on a tangent, I want to share with you my entries in my journal that I have been keeping (don’t worry, they are short and to the point!). But just see how crazy of a roller coaster ride this is (I was surprised!): Read more

O.

One Year Since Anxiety Struck & What I Have Learned

I can’t believe it has been one year!

I must say, when I think of ‘365 days’ it seems quite overwhelming; but, the beauty is that I didn’t think like that while getting to this point, I honestly took it one day at a time.  And here I find myself, one year later, better.

The past year has definitely been a work in progress.  And while I am not 100% yet, I feel so much better than I did back when it first happened.  There were struggles, yes, but they were all tests of how far I have come and grown.  The beauty of it all was that I learned to control my anxiety so that if I felt an attack come on, I could just calm myself and nip it in the bud.

One of my hardest times dealing with anxiety during the past year, I must admit, was last week.

Being Your Own Worst Enemy
To be honest, I have been living anxiety-free for a couple of weeks, actually, and it wasn’t until last week, when I realized that my ‘one year’ was coming up, that I started to panic.  I kept thinking believing that the attack was going to anniversary itself.  It was as if the world was going to end and I, only I, knew it.  It just built this giant fear inside of me and I knew I was being overtaken by it.

While on my way home last Thursday, I almost lost it on the train again.  My mentality and way of thinking was “This is too good to be true, I have been able to fight the anxiety for almost a year and it is just going to come back and slap me in the face, I know it.”  So, naturally, thinking like this had me a bit paranoid for the whole week because I was just waiting for it to happen.  It was as if I wanted it to be a one-year anniversary.  But that was the thing: why was I waiting for it again?  Why was I putting myself in this prison that it will happen again?  Because if we think like that then, chances are, you will find yourself making it happen… again. Read more

M.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Breaking the Stigma, Accepting Myself

They’re ‘crazy’.  They’re full of ‘issues’.  Someone get them a therapist and keep them away from me.  I don’t want to associate myself with those kind of people.

That’s what many people think of when they hear that someone has a ‘mental health disorder’.  It’s a social stigma and it needs to end. May is Mental Health Awareness month and I want to share my personal story with you about coming to terms with my mental health disorder.

Growing Up
I was raised in a pretty strict household.  The road less traveled always sparked my intrigue, but I could never go down that road while growing up.  When someone asked me how I was, I had to say that I was OK (no one wants to hear a complainer, right?).  I was pressured to always get straight A’s in school and would be reprimanded if I came home with anything other than that.  I needed to get a job that paid top dollar.  I was never allowed to have a boyfriend, yet I was supposed to get married.  And when I finally got married, that’s when I could move out of my parents’ home, or else I wouldn’t be thought of as ‘lady’ anymore.  And when I got married, I should then buy a house, have kids, cook my husband dinner every night, and do all of the chores around the house myself. I should be able to manage all of this with no problem and never with any kind of complaint. In short, I was living a life that was already laid out for me with standards that should never be questioned. I was a programmed robot. And that was my life.

My pressures may have seemed normal to some, but were actually draining to me.  Because the standards were held so high above me, I learned that I could never disappoint. I learned that my every move should be a success and that I had no opinion on what I wanted to do- unless, of course, if it was choosing to be either a doctor instead of a lawyer (which, I should point out, wasn’t the outcome to this pre-planned fairytale anyway).

Since I was told how I should live my life, step-by-step, I never had the chance to find and be my true self.  I did, though (here’s the grand bonus!), grow to be very critical of my own self.  I was raised to be so ‘perfect’ that I never settled for anything less than that. Imagine that.  Living a life where everything had to be ‘perfect’.  It was hard and unattainable.  But I didn’t know the latter part.  What do you mean life couldn’t be ‘perfect’?  I had no sense of reality.

My Consequences
Life isn’t easy (as you probably know), but when I finally got a taste of liberty and it finally came time to be autonomous, I couldn’t make a decision. I was always very indecisive, over-analyzed everything, and freaked out when I couldn’t come up with what I wanted to do. People would come up to me and say “You are so put together, you are perfect, I wish I had your life.” And while the compliments were great to hear, I could never fully accept them because they didn’t know that I, internally, was struggling. I actually didn’t have it all together. They didn’t know the real me. And it wasn’t until recently that I didn’t even know the real me either.

I grew up so poor- confidence-wise. Approval and direction from others were what I was seeking 24/7. I was nothing but insecure (decisions were so hard, was I making the right choice that would make everyone else happy and keep me ‘perfect’?), had very low self-esteem (I’m not pretty, I was never told that I looked like a model, so I must be ugly), had a super low confidence level (I’m not confident in doing things on my own without direction), and was always worrying about my next move- no matter what it would be- to make sure that it would please others. I couldn’t ‘fail’; that would show weakness and would show that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Standing Up for Myself
With such a pressure to live up to, it’s no wonder that I felt anxious all the time and had mini panic attacks here and there. It’s no wonder that I felt like I was going through crazy turmoil.  But, I could never share any of this with anyone because I would be judged. Those times where I felt overwhelmed and felt like I couldn’t breathe were the times that I knew I needed a therapist or something. But how could I ever tell my parents that?  What would the family think?  No, I couldn’t share that about myself because that meant showing ‘imperfection’. They couldn’t know that. My whole life was about being ‘perfect’; so I had to make sure I kept this ‘perfect’ face on for everyone around me… or else.

And it was skiing back in January in upstate NY that it finally occurred to me: or else what?

What if I let someone see that I’m not perfect? What if I let people know that even those you think may have it all together around you actually don’t? What if there were people out there, like me, that were living with such societal pressures and had no outlet or example, could see that it was OK?

I never allowed myself to fall while skiing; I always avoided it and would tell myself that, if I did fall, I was nothing but a useless failure at life.  But it was back in January that I realized that life wasn’t fun anymore, that skiing wasn’t fun.  So I did something crazy and I let myself fall.  And when I finally did let myself fall back in January, I cried. Not because I hurt myself, but rather because I felt FREE and LIBERATED.  Life had a whole new meaning when I let my own guards down… and it felt amazing.

Being My Own Remedy & Finding My True Self
So I started this blog. Because it occurred to me that living a life of not trying to show that I was perfect was so much more liberating and worth living. I never wanted to see myself as someone who had a mental health disorder, because that meant that I wasn’t ‘perfect’, but you know what, I do. And I came to terms with it.  I came to terms with the fact that I do freak out under many circumstances and can’t think clearly.  I came to terms with that I doneed to face reality, I don’t have all of the answers, I will be judged, and that I will fail.  But all of this is OK. Because if I can start to fix this now, my tomorrow will just be so much better and much truer.

mham

As a result of letting myself fall since January?  I have definitely started to recover and get stronger with every passing day. It’s amazing how ever since starting this blog, I’ve wanted to find more ways to let myself continue to fall and learn from it. My confidence level and self-esteem have both increased, genuinely, because I feel like my true self. I feel like I’m not hiding anymore. I feel like I can BREATHE. Because when you have panic attacks, you feel like you can’t breathe. And you probably can’t.  You’re under so much pressure that you don’t know how to do something as simple as breathe. Freaking out isn’t perfect; it’s deemed as an imperfection. And you can’t handle imperfection. But what if that pressure was alleviated a little at a time with baby steps, once or twice a day, just by standing up for who you really are or what you really believe in?

Conclusion
The amount of responses to my blog have not only been overwhelmingly positive, but also such a such a blessing. There have been so many people that have opened up to me and I thank them. Because it takes a lot of courage to come out to even one person. And by doing so, you are actually showing yourself that you are ready for a change; you can handle the new you that wants to come out. It is with a community that we can get through this. And while at times we may feel like we are alone, we are not. There are so many others like us out there that have said “enough is enough” and are making small changes already – for the better.

So this month, reflect on yourself. If you are afraid of the stigma, don’t be. And if you don’t want to stand up and say that you have a mental health disorder to the public that is OK! But make sure you most definitely say it to yourself. Because that’s what counts the most. If you have your own identity on your side, the rest slowly starts to fall in place.

My name is Loren, I have an anxiety disorder, and I’m not ashamed. Instead, I am so empowered. Try to knock me down, you won’t be able to. Try to tell me what I should do with my life and you won’t be able to either. My confidence level has been building up, authentically, like a strong house, made with TRUE bricks made up of my TRUE self.  They are no longer bricks made up of what those around me want. Nope, not anymore.

Help Others
If you know someone around you that is going through the same things I am/was going through, please share this with them.  I may not be a big, popular example of someone with an anxiety disorder, but I am an example nonetheless.  I wish I read something similar to what I just wrote years ago.  I wish I knew it was OK.  Things may have been different today.  But we live and learn, right? 🙂

Help Yourself
Do some research, read up on Mental Health Awareness Month, and find ways to start feeling better. Drink lots of water, get active, eat well, meditate, and be brave.  Remember to be true to yourself because you are great. The better you awaits tomorrow. And he/she starts today. There is nothing wrong with you. Absolutely nothing wrong about the beautiful, strong, no-one-expects-you-to-be-perfect you.  Let’s end this stigma.  Everyone is human.  No one is a programmed robot.  Not even you.

Loren.

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Resources:
Letter from the President of the United States of America on Mental Health Awareness Month
www.mentalhealth.gov
Jimmy Kimmel – Bringing Awareness in This Cute, Funny Video

L.

Letting Others Affect You: DON’T.

I’m not perfect.  And I don’t expect this blog (a reflection of me) to be either.  With that said, I want to share an obstacle that presented itself to me that turned into a real struggle.  And although it comes once in a while, the way it took me over was unacceptable.  And so I learned a new way to test myself to be brave.  Maybe this can help anyone out there with a similar situation, too.

What presented itself:
The other night I went out for dinner with a few people that I hadn’t seen in a while.  And while it was meant to be an enjoyable outing, it turned into something that took my high spirits for a detour – for about a week.

It’s hard, as you may know, to accept everyone you come in contact with as they are.  There are things that people might say or do that you may not necessarily agree with.  And while I am generally good about not letting others affect me, there seems to be a few selective ones that I cannot shake.  And that was my case the other night.  Someone at dinner seemed to have changed within the past year and acted in a way that I didn’t think was appropriate and, thus, tested my tolerance level for it.  So, throughout the whole dinner, I had this anxiety building up, just brewing inside of me.  I was worrying about: what they may say next, how they would say it, or if they were going to do that annoying thing they do again.

My dinner, though, had all the right ingredients for a successful night: delicious food, a great glass of red wine, and an environment that was ready to foster a night of open conversations and laughter.  But there I was: angry, sad, confused and frustrated.  Because out of everything I was doing to make my life better, there just seemed to be that one person that ‘messed’ it up.

So, that was a couple of nights ago.  But ever since then, the way I perceived myself hadn’t exactly been the same.  I noticed that I allowed this other person’s actions come in and encompass me, turning me into someone I couldn’t shake.  I kept worrying about the situation, kept re-living the conversations, and kept letting it get the best of me  Yes, I did go to yoga, but for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t concentrate; my practice was not enjoyable.  And then I noticed, after each passing day, that a little something was starting to chip off of my ‘road to recovery’ block.  It was like someone was taking a sledgehammer to a home I had been building for months.

Breaking us down:
I allowed for all of the negativity to come in and live itself inside of me.  And the consequences were presenting themselves very clearly, I may add.  For starters, my white board wasn’t updated.  My room started to become a mess, followed by the kitchen, and then the living room.  I craved nothing but junk food and my water intake was very low.  I was not in a clear state of mind and, thus, I couldn’t concentrate.  My self-esteem was low and I even started to panic a little on a crowded train (ugh!).  I just didn’t care about myself anymore, it seemed.  Because, why bother building myself up when someone could just come in and break me down?

I was stuck in a rut and realized that I was regressing.  The signs were all clear: I was starting to feel sluggish, I wasn’t as happy as I was throughout the weeks prior, I became more anxious, and I even started taking every day for granted.  Who was this person?  No, this was just not acceptable anymore.  I didn’t like this person; I didn’t like me.  There was no need to be stuck in this rut.  I hated feeling bloated and feeling like I was just wasting my days away.  It was time to wake up and realize that I was heading in the wrong direction.  So I put my foot down and decided that I was going to suck it up, be brave, and change my habits.  I was going to regain control of my life.

Picking ourselves back up:
I tried yoga again the following night and when my husband picked me up afterwards, I burst into tears and told him that I wasn’t happy.  I told him that the dinner from the other night was driving me insane and that it was taking over my life.

So he talked me through it (he’s so kind) and made me realize that I was basing my everyday view of myself and life on one person.  Who, let’s be honest, probably doesn’t even know that all of this internal turmoil was happening.

Yes, there was someone that messed up my evening that night.  And that person was me.  I allowed the outside world take me over and I let myself succumb to being put second.  And so, because I let in the aggravation and held on to it for days, I suffered.  No one else.  My internal suffering isn’t going to change the other person; the other person may never change (they may never know).  And we can’t control that.  Yes, we can try to talk to this person (which I have done so in the past and, no luck), but if that isn’t an option or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, then just let it go.  Don’t let it control you.  I know it’s easier said than done, but I’m saying it and learning how to do it.  So I know the struggle.

Change comes from within, as we know.  So unless I dive into this other person’s soul and live life as them, then there’s no changing anything.  Heck, the closest thing I can get to is thinking of how I married my husband and how we became ‘one’, but there’s no way I can change that man (haha, he’s great actually).  But putting jokes aside, what I can control is how I handle the situation and how I compose myself throughout it.

How to deal in the future:
So, knowing that letting what someone says or does boil up inside of me leads me to gain five pounds, be unhappy, and perceive myself as ‘not worth it’, I think I’d rather not let their actions get to me and lose five pounds, be happy, and perceive myself as definitely worth it.  Next time, I can just nod my head politely and smile.  I don’t need to have an opinion or engage in a deep conversation all the time.  I can still be respectful, but shouldn’t anticipate myself changing them.

Letting others affect you?  Don’t.  I know, sometimes it does hurt to take things in, but if you’ve been working so hard on yourself for a better you and a better tomorrow, then there should be no one that can be able to tear down your walls down and make you regress.  Not even you (ah, that quote that says “you are your own worst enemy” is starting to make sense now…).

And I came to this realization when I was taking a hot shower yesterday. Because it was in the shower that I noticed that the person wasn’t there.  The other person was just another event in my life.  The other person was about a week ago away.  So I let the water cleanse me, I started to clear my mind, I breathed in deeply and let out a huge sigh.  I was telling myself that I really do deserve better.  And that I should not let another week of self-pity and anxiety control me.

To summarize:
It’s hard being brave.  But it’s not impossible.  I’m sure the first few times will be a little difficult, but there is always a challenge before being presented with the greater success.  So my plan for today is to pick up my home, clear up my mind, and clean up my act.  I am going to update my white board, go out for a run, and be happy again.  Because at the end of the day, it’s me that counts.  And no one should ‘mess’ that up or take it away.  Because, honestly, the only one that ‘messed’ it up or took it away was myself.  And that’s just not right.

behappybeme

Last thought:
I remember when I first started telling my parents a few years ago that I wasn’t going to continue to eat white rice and oily chicken every night for dinner anymore.  And I remember telling them that I would prefer a healthy piece of salmon, some brown rice, and a baked sweet potato instead.  It wasn’t something that was exactly accepted at the time with an open mind (because, who was I to go in and change them and how they did things?  Who was I to say how they should raise their family?).  But, had I let their actions, comments, and traditional ways get to me and anger me internally at the time, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I casually pushed for that salmon because that’s how I wanted to live my life.  Happy.  Healthy.  With a piece of salmon.  And, in the end, I got my salmon.  On my own.

And that applies to many things we may encounter in our every day life.  And it’s in these situations that I have to remind myself to either take it easy or not care at all.  My parents, by the way, did accept this new way of eating (they practice it themselves today and were actually the ones that introduced me to quinoa!).

So, with that said, what do I say to my next dinner outing with that person that I can’t really tolerate?  Life is wonderful.  I am wonderful.  No one is tearing me down.  Not even me.  Bring. It. On. 🙂

Loren.