Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Vulnerability: The Double Edged Sword

[originally written on cell phone Notes app 7/15/17]

Numb.

Not completely, but the first word that pops into mind when searching for the right ones to describe how I am feeling lately. Everything is happening so fast and my primary thought/mantra is "don't sink, don't sink, don't sink" because these are the exact situations that enable my mind, sinking it back to places I vowed to erase every time I have crawled out. I worked so hard on loving myself in the past few years, and I have come so far. I got validation and reassurance from myself and that was more than enough.

Vulnerability is tricky. I'm one of those that are huge proponents of "being vulnerable". By doing so, you allow yourself a new insight to things, you open your heart, you open your sacred inner home (read: soul)...and yet I sometimes play the 'ignorance is bliss' card and fail to remember how crushing it can be to be vulnerable, opening yourself up to love just to have the hand holding your heart to crush it. You're not enough, another woman was better, or their own personal issues make them act out of fear.

Vulnerability can be such a useful tool in life, the dynamics involved in the transformation are tools you can use for a lifetime. However, it also opens you up to people who aren't always equipped to handle you and your vulnerability, and damage your being when you are trying to act so soft.

I willingly was vulnerable. I willingly loved, and was rewarded by love in return. This love was so great that I continued to be vulnerable, each day opening up more and weaving ourselves into each other so delicately. Even so, when the day came and he hurt me, regardless of his circumstance, I felt a deep hurt from that place of vulnerability. I questioned why someone I made such a cozy, safe home with would so easily wish it away. I wondered how this person that became part of me, the one I felt most comfort around, most at ease and happy around, could just change their mind.

I will not go into specifics, that is for him and I only.

My point of writing this is to better understand the intracacies involved in making oneself vulnerable and the risks associated. I'm not sure anything different could have changed my situation besides better communication. We were fully open to each other and it lead to amazing things for us. What it does do is put in perspective pain associated with vulnerability.

Though he is still my best friend and we don't plan on cutting contact, my walls have already been partially rebuilt, restricting access to those wanting to get to know me.

But is that the solution? Do the opposite of vulnerability?

Another major aspect of my life has taught me a lot about being more open and vulnerable; travel. So many people journey to foreign places still clinging to what they know. They enter into this new space with a mindset already shaped from our home lives, closing themselves off to so many different cultural practices, beliefs, and community.

Allowing yourself to be a level of vulnerability while travelling that while best position you in this foreign space to learn as much as you can, is a beautiful way of immersing yourself into the Other. By listening rather than acting/speaking first, you create a space in which you experience the Other's way without placing your own preconceived notions on everything.

But even then, vulnerability while travelling is tricky, and can get you into a dangerous situation fast if you are not careful. Trusting the wrong places or people can happen quickly and in many parts of the world there are people who can spot weakness in travelers and will attempt to abuse that.

Vulnerability presents a very fine line to walk, but if you are able to slowly introduce it without pushing it too far, it can create one of the best personal spaces for growth. It can bring you face to face with real fears and dangers but from that we can become stronger, and wiser.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tips for Women and Solo Travel

I had a good friend of mine reach out to me today regarding solo travel. She's going to India (LUCKY!) and will be heading there alone and wanted some tips.

Travelling solo can be daunting, especially for women as there are physical limitations we must acknowledge (as much as I think my 5'5'' build could take down anyone). Through my experiences of independent travel I have learned a lot of your safety relies on being prepared and thus more confident. When you are confident (or at least exude confidence) while travelling, you are much more likely to avoid problems.


Here are some quick helpful tips before you take off:


  1. Resources
    Make sure you have adequate resources for "just in case". Have your phone charger on you as much as you can (hell, bring 2). Try to have your phone charged as much as possible. Have an emergency contact list on you or in your bags. If you're visiting someone, have their information on you as well. If you know how long you will be travelling or even have a planned itinerary, give this information to someone you trust at home- this way if you don't come home for whatever reason they will know when you were supposed to/possibly where you are (if you have that itinerary....I never have one! Oops). Another good idea is to look up important emergency phone numbers of the areas you will be visiting.
    Recap:
    - Phone charger/charged phone as much as possible
    - Emergency contact list
    - General itinerary for fam/friends at home
    -Emergency phone numbers for location travelling too (police, embassy, hospital, etc)
  2. Papers/Documents/IDs
    Keep track of these, they are extremely important! Your ID, passport, tickets, credit/debit cards, money, etc. These things can create a major issue for your travels if you misplace them. I like to keep them all together in a wallet or folder. When it comes to the airport, this is key for a smooth ride. Also, I like to take a small amount of "emergency" cash that I hide in my belongings in case my wallet is lost or stolen. If you lose your passport, you will have to contact the embassy which you are from located in the country you are visiting. If you for whatever reason lose all your cash/cards, money orders are always an option if you have someone willing to send you one.
    Recap:
    - Bring necessary papers & documents
    - Keep track of them in a folder and/or wallet
    - Emergency cash hidden in bags
    - Know how money orders work 'just in case'
  3. Be Confident [and if you aren't, fake it]
    A major thing I tell people travelling solo for the first time, and honestly good advice for any sort of travel, is to exude confidence. If you're lost, confused, scared, try your absolute best not to show it! Right when you show that sort of vulnerability it opens you up to becoming a visible target. Not to say this is going to happen, the fact is that it can happen so it's better to avoid it. If you look like you know where you are going or what you are doing, it's less likely someone will view you as a vulnerable and target you. This also pools over into cultural sensitivity, which is another entire topic I could write about buuuut ~not the time~. Make sure you know somewhat about the culture you are visiting (personally I'd say to extensive research BUT that's me). Some cultures find certain "dress" inappropriate- shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops may be okay where you are from but can be very disrespectful in another.
    Recap:
    - Confidence minimizes vulnerability
    - Know the culture
  4. Safety
    For those travelling on an airplane, certain personal safety weapons may or may not be allowed. Typically it's best to put any you may want to bring in your checked baggage, but to be sure it is allowed check the airlines policies. I've carried a jacknife for most of my life because it has great utility and safety use. Pepper spray, or other knives are also options. Make sure you know how to properly take care of/use these items as they can turn into a danger for yourself if you do not know how. Also, taking a self defense course before you travel may be smart and instill further confidence in yourself. 

**I will be writing a tips page on airports as well, I just hate them for the most part so I'm being lazy about it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I Kept it Up Till I Crashed

It's odd how well I'm able to thrust myself forward in times of duress. I cling to the minor feelings of happiness and hope and ignore everything else. It works for a while, enough to fool myself and those around me.

I've been dealing with major anxiety and panic issues for years- around 6 to be exact. Only once before has my symptoms transpired into depression, around 5 years ago when I finally accepted that I had a major problem in my head that I needed to deal with.

Well, it's happened again. I slowly started noticing symptoms I had not felt in so long. I felt numbness and fatigue, lack of empathy, lack of care. This was happening over a few days, just enough for me to raise an eyebrow but not enough for me to call it what it was...until yesterday. I got a job offer, one that pays me enough, has benefits, and is in my dream state. My heart jumped and I felt thrill for all of a minute, until I broke down crying. I just didn't care.

For an empathetic person like myself to not care...it may be one of the most frightening feelings in the world besides grief.

I care about everything, I care too much. I've accepted that side of me, because it's actually who I am.

The way I feel right now, I feel like I've lost myself. I don't know who I am, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin, my chest feels tight all of the time, and I feel like my whole being will burst or burn and crumble at any time.

With anxiety I was for the most part able to see it for what it was. Anxiety usually allows me to be a functioning human, albeit difficult at times. It has never stripped me of my empathy, of my essence. This depression, it seems to rob me of everything. Like I'm drowning, reaching up grasping at what I have left of myself but constantly slipping further.

I just gotta remember and keep telling myself it'll get better, even if I don't really believe it in this moment.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Confusion

Pathetic. Failure. No value.

The spiral. 

My mind is a mess, thoughts flowing improperly through my head, bumping into each other, arguing with one another over who is right or wrong. Of course I, the owner of said head, cannot trust either side pushing itself to the forefront. Am I doing anything right? Why do I have shit to show for all of the hard work I've dedicated to my profession? Why did my perfectly imperfect home I built with him not survive? What did I do wrong each time someone close to me decided I was too much for them, and easy enough to leave behind? No one has found me too hard to leave behind.

I feel alone. I feel tired, and angry, and confused. How can the universe let you love someone so fully, and trust in the full love of theirs, only to remind you its not true? And why would it continue to taunt me, his interactions causing my gut to know that we will always have that deep yet ethereal connection.

Is it that I expect too much from people? My mom tells me you can't expect anything from anyone...but how lonely is that statement? Should I not expect those close to me to see when I'm distraught and expect them to have a heart to reach out to me? Should I not expect them to see me sad and want me to be happy? Is that not that what these relationships are for?

These are the days I hate my extreme empathetic nature most, because it restricts me from seeing it through their perspective. Most people don't care as much as I do, and that is hard for me to accept, as I know no other way. I cannot physically walk away from someone close to me in duress. I cannot look away, I cannot ignore, I cannot let it just happen without trying to aid them in some way.

And people say this is a great quality, and that it is necessary because not many people have it at this level, and empathy is the single most important force behind love when it comes to healing our world. But what if empathy is merely a sling and the world is a severely broken bone? What good is my empathy then?

I've spiraled tonight. And I know tomorrow will be a new day, but tonight...oh tonight. No direction, no prospects, no value found in myself laying in my childhood bed wondering what lead me here. But tomorrow I know will be a new day, and I will look back upon this and reflect on the power of a nights sleep as a reset button.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Rut and Fighting My Way Out

It's been a while- my apologies.

To be frank, shit has been hard. A reality many have to face daily.

I'm not exactly happy with my current situation. Actually scratch that- I really really dislike my current situation. I'm a recent college graduate with an awesome degree and a pretty rad employment history but right now, and I mean right now [read: this & past few months] has been a muddled mixture of trying to figure out my plan after everything crumbled and managing my anxiety so it stops interfering with my efforts.

Don't get me wrong- I have come an extremely long way and I am overall "happy". Not my peak happy, but in general, I know things will work out and I still have amazing love & support from friends and family. I've been seeing a really great guy who has helped a lot too. However, when I focus on paying off student loan debts/my career I have to stop myself from falling into a panic attack almost every time.

This is when my dear frenemy anxiety has a damn hayday. It sees the wheels start turning in my head and jumps in with the gumption of a 5 year old in a ball-pit. It speeds up those wheels and mixes shit around, making it hard to concentrate and figure out my situation. It takes me down paths that aren't conducive, aren't healthy, and ultimately a slide to dark places I once lived that I would like to never visit again.

And even worse, people around you rarely get it, let alone sympathize. For those that have escaped anxiety disorders, its hard for them to fathom the gut wrenching feeling of panic, and that it comes for no conscious reason. They don't realize that you do want to progress in life, and that you're not a lazy P.O.S. making excuses as to why its so hard to get your butt out the door and into society for work. And worse yet, they don't realize that people with anxiety beat themselves up daily for the seemingly unprovoked shakes, panic, and jitters we have that impede our daily activities.

Just an update that I am here, and trying. I am struggling, yet still prevailing. I may be on a "side-track" but I will not let my anxiety stop me from getting back onto my real path.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dear Anxiety,



What triggered it this time? I was sleeping. I don't even remember my dream. I only remember the pool of sweat my body was drenched in when I suddenly woke up, soaking from my feet to head, heart pounding out of my chest, short of breath, that small incessant buzzing feeling throughout my body. These mornings are the worst, so please explain what was it this time?

And why, after 9 years of asking this question have you still yet to answer me?

That's not to say I haven't become well acquainted with you and your behaviors slowly over these past 9 years. We have gone through a lot together, consciously or not, and piece by piece I am figuring you out.

Like, the fact that I keep realizing your appearance in my life may have come much earlier than I originally thought. That you have been creeping up my spine for years, making your mark, and building stronger. The other day I remembered how when I was little, I would have stomach aches all the time for no reason...no reason?

There was always a reason, but you were subtle enough at that stage for me and others to ignore it.

Then came tragedy, and that seemed to be the stage you were looking for to make your grand appearance. And still, I somehow missed a ticket to the show.

After my father's death, now looking back, there was a noticeable change in myself. I became a much more pessimistic, negative young adult who just wanted to grow up and move on. I coasted through high school, subconsciously faking it and somehow making it. You were like a parasite at this time, slowly eating my insides, myself unknowing to the damage being caused, ignoring it until it rose to the surface.

I had always been a natural explorer and traveler so it was easy to piggy back on the idea of hope after I was accepted and moved away for college. And this worked to get you off my own back. For once, you shut up! New people, ideas, experiences, friends, loves, and teachers. It was enough to occupy my fast paced mind and feed me everything I wanted, while being my favorite thing- independent. You weren't there to steal that.

Unfortunately, I had no idea that you didn't leave me. Instead, like a bear, you were only hibernating.

And again, you piggy backed tragedy. Only, I had a ticket to this show, and so did others.

You knew of my emotions, and their innate sensitivity. You knew I was on a high, not ready or expecting a low. You knew the exact way to make me spiral and come undone. This time, after two years of learning myself and opening my mind I was finally able to realize you were a "thing". I wasn't sure exactly what but I knew it was 'something' and not a good 'something'. And as much as you fought me with racing thoughts, constant jitters all over, daily bouts of a racing heart, fearing, worrying, fighting...I won.

It was hard, long, and one of the worst processes I've had to go through, but I won.

I won't tell you my secrets but I found some of your triggers that never made any sense. I saw you for what you are and not what you do to me. I learned techniques to properly fight you and come out stronger. I've learned how to do these things every day.

Four years later this is still the reality for us. I begrudgingly accept your existence in exchange for creating a stronger self in the long run. After nine years of this I've realized you are here for a while and hoping that you just disappear. Would it be ludicrous to think I, the landlord of my body, cannot kick out the worst tenant- you, anxiety?

You still manage to make your presence known, even with all my nifty tips and tricks, therapy, and medicine. And the fear of being forced to buy a ticket to a show I hate can be debilitating at times. My mind still races to a speed where I cannot catch up. My heart still pounds for "unnecessary" reasons, panic attacks occurring for no apparent reason. However- they are less frequent, less powerful, and less apparent as I fight forward.

I didn't think or understand for a long time that mental illness could or ever would take this long to not only recognize but strategize, deal with, and cope with.

That, and I never realized just how many of us are ignoring these things. We've all been through shit and could use some help on our way through life and that should never make you feel inferior to others. We could all benefit from it in the end. Life is tricky as fuck and throws you through the ringer you deserve someone to be like "it's chill, lemme help you dude".

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Valley Between the Mountains


This quote simplifies not only every day struggles, but also mental illness. It exemplifies the roller coaster battle. Reminding us for every valley, there is an ascent to a mountain; for every mountain, a descent into a valley. 


I have to constantly remind myself of it, mostly when I'm in the valley, wondering how I got back down there when so recently I was ascending to a peak.

Mental illness can take a long time to figure out, analyze, get to know, and find ways to survive through. It takes trial and error...many errors. It can become so daunting to fail at figuring it out so many times and to constantly wonder when it will be better (forever). To understand that it might not get better forever is a realization many don't want to face, including myself for many years. 

I wondered what the fight was for if I was going to be in battle for so long. What was the point of continually agonizing over the way my mind worked if it couldn't be fixed? I hated it. I hated my mind. I hated the way it made me act, and feel, and respond to others around me and situations presented. 

Don't show me paradise if it's only going to be burned down...over and over again.

But this battle is being fought, and each peak I reach feels better than the last. Each climb brings me more strength than I had before, and each time I find myself descending into a valley I remind myself there is another mountain always waiting to be climbed and conquered, and the views at the top are always worth it.

I'll say it again- the views at the top are always worth it.

Mental illness is controlling, it can cloud the brain like a dense, dark fog. This fog may seem impenetrable but the fact is that it is not. Your eyes and soul are a flashlight if you choose. They can lead you through it to the other side to find the trail back to ascension. 

If you don't believe this, it only means you are lounging in the valley. It's plush, dense, tangled in a mess. But if you keep walking, you'll approach that mountain side and see the incline. It's daunting, it's challenging, and likely will take much effort on your part, but again:

the views at the top are always worth it.

Each step up the incline you take, you are telling your mental illness that it does not have the power you once thought it did. You are telling it that you will prevail, amongst all odds. You are growing, with each step to a better you. The pain of the ascent will only make reaching a peak even better, it will make the views take your breath away and make you happy you are alive to see it, because, yet again,

the views at the top are always worth it.