Category Archives: advice

The magic of inspiration

I began writing a book about my journey through mental illness back in February of this year. I had written a few chapters but eventually hit a road block so I put it away in a drawer and haven’t look at it since.

However, one of my literary heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert, just released her new book Big Magic which profoundly changed the way I think about creativity and the “hidden jewels” lying inside me.

After finishing the book, I pulled out the chapters I had worked on so diligently for several months and the words made me cringe. The meat of everything I had written was about what happened to me rather than how it transformed me. Basically, it was dull and boring, even to me.

So I went back to the drawing board and asked myself, “Lindsay, at the beginning of your journey what would have been the ideal outcome of your story? Because that is what you should write about.”

It took an hour of soul-searching and self-introspection to get to the bottom of it, but in the end my ultimate desire was this: I didn’t want to waste my suffering. I wanted to use it to get closer to myself and to become the heroine of my own story.

I thought that sounded pretty cool and when I wrote that, inspiration struck me with such ferocity that I wrote and wrote and wrote. Before I knew it, nearly ten hours had passed, my Saturday virtually gone. But I looked through my composition notebook and realized I was looking at the outline for an entirely new book – a more real and genuine one than what I had previously written. One I was writing purely for me, not anyone else.

And you know what’s strange? I found myself writing about the profound pain and suffering and emotional confusion I had endured and was actually enjoying it, which is to say I am in a drastically different state of mind compared to where I was many months ago. Maybe that is because enough time has passed for me to look at my story as a spectator rather than writing it all as it unfolded.

At the time I had begun writing my book I had only been out of the hospital for a little over a month. I was still depressed as my medications hadn’t quite kicked in yet. And I was angry. Why did this happen to me? Why is life so unfair? It’s no wonder, then, I had written a book from the viewpoint of a victim. Thank god I’ve moved on.

Perhaps the most encouraging piece of advice I took away from Big Magic is the idea that your creativity and art is begging to be made manifest. It doesn’t matter if what you create is any good. It just matters that you finish it. It may not always come easy or naturally, but then again your work never promised it would be either of those things. It just promised it would interesting. And it is interesting, indeed.

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Filed under advice, books, heroes, inspiration, self-introspection, Writing

How to be more vulnerable in relationships

Warning: this post is really long.

Whew! It’s been a few weeks since writing in here but I’ve been knee-deep in finishing the last school paper I will ever write. Because guess what? I’m graduating with my Masters degree in THREE WEEKS (can I get a whoop whoop?!?). Obviously, words cannot describe how excited I am because it has been  such a struggle working full-time, attending school part-time, and dealing with the tumultuous and traumatizing events over the last year (well, really the past three years).

Having spent weeks in economics theory and how it can be applied to environmental science policy I definitely needed a reprieve because if I had to write one more thing about particulate matter emissions I was going to explode. So I took a break from all that and started working on something far more interesting to me. And that’s where the rest of this post comes in!

As some of you may know, a few months ago I was approached by Ambiance Matchmaking (based out of Chicago) to be a contributing writer on their blog on all things dating/relationships. I was pleasantly surprised because I hardly feel like an expert on the subject. I mean, I am the girl who is queen of first date fuck-ups. The worst being that I set up two first dates in one day (don’t do that). I got drunk on the first one and by the second one I was puking. You wouldn’t think I’d be asked out on a second date, but I was. So somehow my winning personality must have beat out the most embarrassing moment of my life. Or maybe they just pitied me. But I digress.

Last month my editor asked me to write an article on how to be vulnerable since many of her clients have mentioned they struggle with vulnerability in their relationships. It took me a month to write this because every time I sat down to do it my mind was blank. I’ve certainly taken a lot of opportunities to be vulnerable in the last couple of months but I’m definitely no Brene Brown. I struggle with being vulnerable so who am I to offer advice on the subject? Well, it turns out I actually did have something to say. After nearly a month it’s finally finished and will be posted to Ambiance Matchmaking’s dating blog (check it out!) sometime this week. Here’s a peek! 

In the exciting but sometimes disastrous world of dating I often ask myself why it’s so hard for me to be vulnerable in a relationship. I imagine most of you have asked yourself this same question too.

Sharing our vulnerabilities isn’t always easy to do, especially at the point when you and your partner decide to take casual dating to the next level. This stems largely out of fear. Fear that if we share the most authentic versions of ourselves – those things we keep hidden like our insecurities or the guilt, denial, and shame we may hold about what we’ve done to someone or what they did to us – then we will be rejected, judged, labeled, even misunderstood.

Out of this fear we tend to portray only the perfect parts of ourselves – the parts that make us fun, lively, and enjoyable to be around. But to truly be vulnerable means to reveal those parts of ourselves we keep hidden. Why don’t we do that?

Well, I imagine all of us can think back to a time in our past relationships when we bared our soul to someone we thought would protect our vulnerabilities and they didn’t. When we love with reckless abandon and fall into those kinds of people quickly and relentlessly they mess with those vulnerabilities. They find ways to abuse them and sometimes they abuse them in the most cruel of ways. We realize that rabid dogs can take human form.

In order to protect our hearts from future hurt we build walls so high that they are impenetrable. We wear a suit of armor as if our lives depended on it. We suppress the scary, beautiful, tender side of our love because the idea of letting someone else in – even for the right sort of person – seems impossible.

But despite how scary it is to open ourselves up to someone we still yearn for connection and intimacy. Intuitively, I think we all know that true emotional intimacy requires vulnerability and that to be vulnerable requires strength and courage and authenticity. It requires us to be brave. It requires us to stop suppressing our deepest vulnerabilities because without letting your guard down it’s very likely your relationship will fizzle out.

In reality sharing our deepest vulnerabilities is easier said than done. After all, our first instincts when we feel shame, hurt, indignation, or disappointment towards ourselves or our partner is to mask those feelings, likely because we fear that expressing any sort of negative emotion makes us weak.

We may even fear how our partners will react. Maybe they’ll think I’m needy. Maybe they won’t want to date me anymore. And if they don’t want to date me because of these vulnerabilities then who will?

In all honesty (and for the sake of being vulnerable with my audience) I will tell you these things may very well happen.

Being vulnerable in a relationship will not always mean your significant other will share the same sentiments. If you open your heart to them and they view it as a weakness or they belittle your feelings or they refuse to show you their heart in return, you are with the wrong person.

In fact, run. Because despite our fantasies of being the rescuer – the one that finally changes them – they will not change. Even knowing this we may very well find ourselves staying, which probably stems from our fears. In return we become trapped in emotional turmoil. We become the source of destructive habits. Our happiness wanes and we unnecessarily suffer.

The truth is that the only people we can truly change is ourselves. We can choose to be someone who expresses their love. We can choose not to close ourselves off. We can choose to love ourselves despite our faults. We can choose to walk away from someone who abuses our vulnerabilities.

In that same regard, be kind and walk away if your partner shares their heart with you and exposes their deepest vulnerabilities yet you deny them the same sort of consideration. Do not exploit their vulnerabilities or make them feel small or judge them for sharing who they truly are. Because if you do, then you are not the right person for them.

Despite the rationality of this advice, I will admit that I am no expert in actually being vulnerable. In fact, I am more likely to sabotage a relationship than I am to be the one that puts myself out there. Certainly this stems from three years of emotional abuse from someone I loved – someone who I desperately wanted to love me back. It also stems from my fear of rejection and the stigma I hold about having a mental illness (although I hate admitting that because I am also an advocate for mental health). Yet in the last year I have been determined to practice being vulnerable despite how damaged I feel. And I’ve found endless opportunities to do so.

The obvious question then is if you see an opportunity to be vulnerable, how do you do it? Although I admitted to not being an expert, I will share what I’ve learned and what has worked for me since taking those opportunities. I hope these tips will help you too.

 

Love all of you
I am very open to sharing my personal journey of dealing with bipolar disorder to strangers, friends, and family, although I sometimes find myself attempting to hide that part of my life to someone I like or want to date. Inevitably, though, it is a part of who I am and until I was diagnosed, educated myself about bipolar disorder, and started attending support groups, I didn’t understand why I acted the way I did. I couldn’t help but be angry and irritable a lot of the time. I spent more time depressed and crying than I did being happy. There were moments when I was reckless and did things that were destructive to my life.

It was difficult to accept my illness at first and I drowned myself in denial, guilt, and shame, but when I resolved to sharing my story it helped me realize I was not alone – that many people had similar experiences and what I felt wasn’t abnormal.

After publishing my stories, many people reached out to me sharing their own. They talked about how sharing mine inspired them to be open about their own struggles. They realized they too could be a vehicle for change, fighting the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

Despite how absolutely terrifying it was to be brutally honest about my breakdown and the time I spent in a psychiatric ward, I am stronger because of it. Seeing these strangers and my family and friends love me unconditionally and offer up compassion allowed me to begin creating a space where I accepted that part of me. I am actually grateful to have gone through such tumultuous and traumatizing events leading up to my diagnosis because those experiences finally revealed my true self. And I love my true self.

By creating space for self-love in my life it meant there was less space for fear. When we stand in that space of love we reach self-acceptance. This is where the true power of vulnerability lies because when we accept ourselves – faults and all – we pave a path to finding true happiness.

 

Be willing to try, even if you fail
Those suits of armor we wear are hard to take off. While there is no magical pill for the hurt and pain we – or others – may feel or have felt, we inevitably survive it. Our lives do go on. By practicing vulnerability, we open ourselves up to finding the right sort of person (even if you come across rabid dogs along the way).

Although we may ultimately fail in our attempt at being vulnerable we can recognize where we were successful and where we made mistakes. We can carry those lessons with us into future relationships and ultimately become better versions of ourselves. Really, the only important thing is that you try because that in and of itself is the very definition of being vulnerable. Maybe you didn’t shred your suit of armor to pieces but I bet that just trying resulted in a helmet or glove coming off. Baby steps, my friends.

 

Vulnerability isn’t just about you
When we suffer we turn to those we care about seeking comfort and understanding. We expect them to be there for us. But ask yourself this: are you willing to be with someone who is suffering? Are you willing to be compassionate and kind and understanding towards them despite how uncomfortable it may make you feel? When someone exposes their vulnerabilities to you, you can practice being vulnerable just by sharing their emotional space. You can listen to them, feel their emotions without judgement, and offer up compassion whether you can relate to the situation or not. By doing all that you help them create their own space for love and self-acceptance. It is humbling and inspiring to witness that kind of transformation.

 

Say what you really feel
In my last relationship I learned quickly not to share any of my feelings because what came afterwards was blame, yelling, and the threat of “well maybe we shouldn’t be together.” I became afraid of speaking my mind because I was afraid I would say the wrong thing. I valued how he felt and what his needs were so much that I stopped considering my own.

I imagine many of us have, at some point in our lives, fallen into this trap and that we’ve let it impact how we communicate in the relationships that followed. When hiding what you really feel becomes a habit it can be difficult to break. But being vulnerable means being truthful. It means honoring what you feel, what the other person feels, and being brave enough to address those circumstances together. If you’re scared, say so. If you’re hurt or angry because you felt they were inconsiderate, say so. Don’t hide your emotions. You have every right to feel what you are feeling.

I myself have struggled with doing this and I’ve ruined some relationships along the way, which I deeply regret. But I’ve made significant strides and now I’m so much more open about how I feel that people probably want me to stop sharing. Don’t stop sharing.

Vulnerability has so much to offer and although it opens us up to rejection and pain and hurt it will be worth it (maybe not right away, but eventually) because without vulnerability we cannot distinguish the wrong person from the right person, just like we would never know good until we’ve known bad.

I don’t believe there is any right way to be vulnerable and what works for me may not work for you. But I do have faith you will succeed in however you approach your journey and I wish you all the joy and happiness that comes with taking such a giant leap of faith because you definitely deserve it.

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Filed under advice, Ambiance Matchmaking, authenticity, bipolar II, compassion, fear, lessons learned, love, relationships, self-love, vulnerability

4 tips for beginner writers

Recently a follower of this blog emailed me and asked what advice I had for someone like her who was a beginner writer and blogger. I was deeply flattered because I hardly feel like an expert on the subject and only recently has my freelance career started to take off.

In particular she wanted to know the “hows” and the “whys”. How did I choose my blog title? Why write about travel and mental health?

Reflecting on these questions provided an opportunity to examine what has shaped my writing over the past five years. While I don’t think there is any right way to write, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way and which I think answer her questions.

If you’re a beginner writer or just looking for some reassurance, I hope this helps.

1. Write what you know.

While “write what you know” is probably the best piece of advice I’ve received as a writer it is what I most misunderstood when I first started out. Write what you know isn’t about the events that happen in your life. It’s about the emotion those events provoke. In all the years you’ve been alive what have you felt? Despair after a devastating heartbreak? The sense of accomplishment you get from finishing a project? The adventures and misadventures of raising a child? The longing of an unrequited love? The loss of a friend or family member? The excitement of trying out a new recipe in the kitchen?

I can guarantee most everyone in the world can relate to these emotions in one way or another, although perhaps under different circumstances. If you write about the way you think the world is and about the things that are important to you, you will write from a place that is based on what you feel. Do this and readers will be moved and feel what you feel too.

2. Write with the sole intention of sharing.

When I turned 25 I made a 30 before 30 list and at the top of my list of career goals were 1) get published, and 2) write a book. At the time, my motivation for writing stemmed mainly from extrinsic rewards. I wanted to make my mark as a researcher in the academic world and I thought the only way to “make it” as a writer was to write a book. The thought of making money from my writing or being published in one way or another served as powerful motivators in the beginning, but over time I didn’t feel any particular sense of enjoyment from what I was writing about. Moreover, putting a timeline on achieving those goals made me feel pressured to accomplish something I wasn’t quite ready to do.

Over the years I’ve learned the key to finding happiness and fulfillment in my writing is to do it for the sole purpose of sharing. While extrinsic motivators have served me well, my career didn’t really take off until I started writing for the sake of writing. I was passionate about travel and from my own experiences with mental illness I was a strong advocate for mental health issues. I wanted to provide insight, help others, and along the way maybe even inspire them. When my writing became less about recognition and more about sharing, my career soared.

3. Be true to your voice.

The urge to imitate your favorite authors is incredibly tempting. After all, they’ve been successful in their own craft so if you copy what they do then surely you will be equally successful. While your favorite authors will undoubtedly influence how and what you write, imitating them is far different.

My favorite author is Elizabeth Gilbert but I will never write like her (although in the beginning I certainly tried to). When I finally came to terms with the fact I can’t write the way she does I started being more authentic. It’s when I started writing what I know! One thing I’ve witnessed is that many writers often spend too much time (especially if you’re an English major or in a writing program) imitating certain writing styles. Yes, there are components to fiction and non-fiction writing that you should adhere to but the way in which you write it or weave together a story should be unique to your own style.

4. Don’t let worry drag you down.

I often find myself doubting the quality of my writing. I worry about sentence structure and feel indecisive about how best to pursue an article. I write several articles a week and I’ve had more articles rejected than published. I worry about that too. I wonder if I’m going to get anywhere. I see other people my age aspiring to and achieving goals that I have yet to accomplish myself. I even worry about being worried. I believe every writer experiences this at some point or another and if you haven’t then I am skeptical. While it’s not particularly insightful, the only thing I can say about worrying is don’t let it drag you down and don’t be discouraged. Because eventually someone will read your work and say, “Yes, I want to publish this,” or, “Yes, I want to follow this blog.”

Overall, these tips answer the “whys” and part of the “how” in terms of coming up with my blog title (e.g. the tagline adventures of a travel enthusiast and mental health advocate). But what does The Scenic Way Home mean?

Well, despite my lust for travel I yearn for roots. And despite the fact I feel like my life is the equivalent to being on a seesaw, constantly moving between joy and despair, I always get through it. I always make it home.

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Filed under advice, Writing

6 ways to support a friend or family member with a mental illness

Friends and family play an important role in my recovery. For the most part, people want to help but may find that starting a conversation with me about my mental illness is hard to do. They may feel uncomfortable or unsure of what to do or say, which is normal. Over the last couple of months I’ve had a lot of interactions with friends and family related to my mental health and what I’ve learned is that it’s often the small things you do or say that make the biggest difference. Based on my own experiences, I’ve compiled six ways you can help a friend or family member with a mental illness (including me!):

Reach out and take the lead. Include them in everyday plans like going to the movies, dinner, or on a hike. If they resist ask again or offer to pick them up. When suffering from depression, I am more likely to isolate and alienate myself from friends. I end up spending more time alone than I do around other people. However, being around people and engaged in activities is important to recovery. Sometimes we just need a little push to get out the door.

Don’t just talk about their illness. Mental health is only one part of their life. Don’t define them by their illness by only talking about this one subject. Talk to them like you’ve always talked to them. While I need to talk about my mental health I also need to talk about everyday things like work, school, a funny story I heard, or the boy I like.

Educate yourself. If you feel awkward or uncomfortable or have no idea what to say, the best thing you can do is read about the mental illness. Not just medical information but books and articles by people who live with that mental illness. Doing so will provide understanding and insight and perhaps make you feel more comfortable talking about it to them. Two books that have helped me are The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon and Crazy by Amy Reed.

Don’t avoid the issue. If they come to talk to you about their mental health, don’t change the subject. If you ask someone how they are feeling the response may not always be “Good” or “Fine”. Sometimes it may be deeply depressing to listen to but doing just that, listening, can make them feel better. This is particularly true if they are in self-harm or crisis mode. In moments where I’ve been overwhelmed and tempted to self-harm again I’ve called or texted my friend Jesse to distract me. I know I can be honest with him and that he won’t avoid the issue, which helps me be open in the first place.

Be mindful about the comments you make as they can come off as insensitive,  particularly if they are in a vulnerable state of mind. A few comments that have hurt me are: “We all go through times like these,” and “You were depressing to be around; it brought me down,” and “I wish you would have told me so I didn’t feel alone,” and “My situation is more dire and important than yours.” It would have been more helpful to hear, “I may not fully understand how you’re feeling but I am here for you and I want to help,” or “I’m glad you’re getting the treatment you need,” or “You’re important to me. I love you. I’m here for you.” Some people may be in a more dire situation than others but everyone’s difficulties are relevant. Be careful not to belittle their situation.

Show support but don’t be intrusive. Ask what you can do to help them right now. This could be cooking meals, doing an activity together, or just letting them know you’re there to talk. Be patient if they don’t respond right away. If they want to talk they will. Sending a card or email to let them know you are thinking about them every once in a while is a gentle reminder you are there for them if they ever need you. Sometimes just knowing is enough.

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Filed under advice, bipolar II, mental health, mental illness, mindfulness, recovery

Coming out of the bipolar closet

Absent from the blogging world for several months, I’ve wrestled with being open, honest, and vulnerable about my recent diagnosis of bipolar II disorder. When it comes to the mind, people are anxious, nervous, and not quite sure how to react when you tell them you have a mental illness, which makes giving voice to my story one of the most difficult things to do.

Living with bipolar II has certainly presented its own set of challenges, from battling the stigma, guilt and denial that comes with a mental illness diagnosis to practicing self-awareness and self-care during the recovery process. Recovery is not simple or quick but I see my family and close friends standing in my corner and they remind me there is meaning and hope. Most days I am fighting to be better for them. Only recently have I fought to be better for myself.

Here are five ways I’ve been able to embrace my mental illness:

  1. Acknowledging its presence in my life. I think bipolar II was a secret I kept from myself for years. It seemed to always sit there quietly in my unsettled mind, occasionally making an appearance just to remind me it was still there. I always willed it to go away but denying its existence only brought more pain to my life. In the depths of my most recent major depressive episode, I resorted to self-harm and began cutting my wrists. I wanted the parts of me visible to the outside world to match how I felt on the inside, which left me with four scars on my left wrist for the rest of my life. I ultimately reached a point where I could no longer hide my struggle from family and friends and as a result I spent a week in the psychiatric unit at a local hospital. Sharing this struggle and my subsequent diagnosis with close friends and family was the best thing I ever did for myself. People came out of the woodwork to be there for me; to offer their support, love, and a shoulder to lean on if I needed it. I didn’t realize how much I needed all of them until they appeared. By finally admitting I needed help, I recognized that I was no longer alone in my journey. I realize now the crucial role family and friends play in my recovery and I’ve found that by acknowledging my mental illness I’ve laid the groundwork for a dependable support network.
  2. Making friends with fear. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar II I was plagued with fear. Fear that people might judge me or think I was different and weird. Fear that the free-spirited, adventurous qualities my friends and family loved about me were just the byproduct of being hypomanic. Fear of the sudden realization that I would live with bipolar for the rest of my life, which in turn left me wondering what ‘the rest of my life’ actually looked like. However, admitting I was afraid and voicing my fears brought an enormous amount of relief. I started to view my diagnosis as a blessing because I finally knew what I was dealing with. Armed with that knowledge I’ve been able to use my fear to understand and learn what I needed to do to manage my illness and continue living a healthy, stable life.
  3. Acknowledging my current state of health. In my most severe depressive episode, I stopped taking care of myself. I didn’t shower. I didn’t cook. I didn’t clean. The thought of doing any of these things nearly debilitated me and as a result I stunk, didn’t eat, and slept in dirty sheets for months at a time. It was only at the hospital that I finally became mindful of how much I wasn’t functioning in the everyday world and that I needed help doing all the simple things that seemed so overwhelming to me. I needed medication to stabilize my mood. I needed someone to help me clean and cook and do the laundry. The only thing I seemed to be able to manage in the initial weeks after my hospital stay was to take a shower. I was too exhausted to do anything else. Even though it was a small task it was something. Understanding my abilities and my limitations at the present moment is important to my recovery process. I can’t think about where I want to be or how I ultimately want to function. Instead, I continuously have to ask myself where I’m at today and cut myself some slack. I realize I may need some help getting through rough patches and I’ve found that there are people in my support network who are willing to help even if in a small but significant way.
  4. Participating in the recovery process in a meaningful way. When I decided to take an active role in my recovery I began educating myself about my mental illness, joined several support groups, and found a creative outlet through writing. Doing all of these things has helped me cope with and manage my mental illness in a way that helps me function and continue living. I think the biggest blessing in my recovery is what I give and receive at support groups. I cling to them like a totem pole. They are my brothers and sisters; my comrades. They are the few people I know who truly understand what it’s like inside the mind of someone living with bipolar. Writing has also been helpful as it’s given voice to my worries and fears and helped me process and grieve my diagnosis. Taking an active role in my recovery process has empowered me to seek help and find purpose and meaning in a post-diagnosis world.
  5. Not letting it define me. As soon as the psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar II I thought others would stop seeing me as the free-spirited, adventurous sometimes sad and lonely writer and instead start seeing me as that crazy girl. The pervasive stigma that exists regarding mental illness is a battle I will constantly fight. Some people will embrace me while others will shy away but I can’t let how others perceive me define the kind of existence I want to live. Yes, I am different, unpredictable, impulsive, at times reckless and at other times seriously depressing, but I am also many other things. Most importantly, I am a strong person with a giant heart. I am a loving daughter and caring friend. My mental illness is a part of who I am but it is not me. For that reason I decided to use my mental illness as a vehicle for change; to break down the walls other people put up.

If you live with a mental illness please know you are not alone in your journey.

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Filed under advice, bipolar II, depression, mental illness

Thoughts on anger

I read a line in one of my self-prescribed self-help/do-good books this weekend that made me pause. For the most part, I loved the book because it was about embracing your messy, fucked-up life but there was one chapter in particular that talked about forgiveness, saying we must always forgive because “Forgiveness helps quiet the anger.”

What gave me pause wasn’t that we should aim for forgiveness so much as it was the idea we should quiet any negative emotions we feel for fear of how others will perceive us. Anger is not meant to be quieted, it is meant to be expressed in whatever safe and healthy medium that we identify with. For me, I choose to express my anger through writing and running because both activities leave me feeling empty of hate instead of consumed by it. For others, anger is expressed through painting or even smashing plates on the sidewalk (Liz can attest to how much fun this actually is). Whatever medium you identify with, expressing your anger is far better than stifling it.

I think back to the day I found myself curled up in a ball on the hardwood floor of my parent’s bedroom sobbing and gasping for air. I kept telling myself the best thing to do was to forgive and let go. The reason I didn’t – couldn’t – do that is because I was not capable of forgiveness at that point in time. As much as I would have liked to say I forgive you and I wish you happiness and love because I have loved you so much, I just couldn’t. I still can’t. Why? Because that’s not actually how I feel. In fact, at the risk of sounding maniacal, this is what I really feel: I hope he loses all his money because he prizes stance and stature more than anyone else I know. I hope he gets divorced as quickly as he got engaged and married. I hope his new wife cheats on him and gets pregnant by someone else (because he did that to me twice and I would really love for him to know how that feels). I also really hope he ends up unhappy and alone and the sooner that happens, the better. I am not ashamed to say I feel any of this because this is HONESTLY where I’m at.

The point of sharing this is to illustrate that we can only hope to reach forgiveness by going through all of the other emotions we feel, not around them. Whether its depression, anger, hate and bitterness or just plain hurt feelings, we are so often taught to quickly release those emotions as soon as we feel them because they’re exhausting and they consume our energy. Yes, they are all of these things, but I can honestly say that quieting those emotions and jumping to forgiveness before you are ready to do so does not get you past the visceral pain you feel right now – it only prolongs it. To forgive someone before you actually feel it in your bones is not forgiveness. It is something else entirely. We must endure the ugly side of hurt even if it brings out the most un-redeeming qualities.

I believe the idea that we must always forgive (and well before we are ready to) creates an undue pressure and hardship on our hearts. I also believe it is not necessary to forgive in order to let go. It is only necessary that you first be kind to yourself and second that you love yourself more than anybody else could. The only way to do both is to honor what you feel by going through your journey, not around it. To promise to show up every single day and embrace the ugly side of hurt. To express the emotions that rise up because otherwise (like me) you spend years forcing yourself not to feel. You really only need reach acceptance in order to let go. Quieting the anger is not an option but releasing it is.

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Filed under advice, books, depression, forgiveness, insight, love, self-introspection, self-love, truth

It’s okay to not be okay

To say I have been unlucky in love would be the understatement of the century.

While I’ve certainly had some amazing moments over the years I’ve always managed to choose partners who are damaged, emotionally unavailable, and/or fit the “bad-boy” type. In fact, if you are any one of these (or better yet, all three) I will smell you from a mile away and immediately claim you as mine. “Hello, my name is Lindsay and I’m here to save you.”

You know what happens? I end up falling head over heels in love for someone who ultimately does not feel what I feel and does not want what I want. Every. Single. Time. In my desperation for love all I ever find are black holes and beautiful disasters. This should be my clue to run like hell but stubborn is my middle name and I never do. As if to prove a point, my two legs stand firmly planted where they are despite being painfully aware of how unhappy I am. This is the curse of being a people pleaser. You end up sacrificing your own happiness for what you think could be happiness. The classic line of, “If only…”

Recently, I’ve had to sit with this and try to figure out the parts of me that continue to engage in such masochistic behavior. It isn’t healthy. I’m fully aware of that. Yet, I still do it. The only explanation I can come up with is that even though it’s painful at least it’s pain I know. At the root of it, though, I know there are deeper issues I don’t yet really understand. There are these inner demons taunting me on an almost daily basis. I usually tell them to fuck off and sometimes they actually do, but other times they win out.

I wrestle with this because of the fact that I’ve lived a blessed childhood and had the best examples of loving relationships. I don’t know why I push people away when things are good or where this lack of self-esteem decided to take root and grow at alarming speeds.

I sometimes wonder if I’m just meant to always fall for people I can never have. There is a quote that says something like, “..there could be a bunch of people out there just waiting for me to find them and every single time I will repeat the same mistakes all over again.” That is really depressing to me. So I started seeing someone who could help me work through the very issues I mentioned above.

While some of you are aware of the events that transpired in my life almost three months ago, many of you only know the aftermath (i.e. my depression). I think we all seek happiness and balance and harmony in our lives. Hell, I had an entire blog dedicated to just that. But I’m coming to realize those states of being are temporary and fleeting. Just as we go through times where we feel happy, we will also go through times where we don’t feel happy.

I suppose the best advice I’ve received so far is that it’s okay to not be okay. If you are reading this and also struggling please know that you can cry and write and be open and vulnerable about your depression without being ashamed. In moments of severe hurt, you have every right to feel it deeply and you have every right to not have your shit together every second of the day. But please don’t let it debilitate you either. LG inspired me to embark on my own psychological self-examination. And even though the journey isn’t all roses and champagne, it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself.

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Filed under advice, depression, love, self-introspection, self-love