The Art of Accomplishing Nothing

I visited my therapist this past Friday, like I do every week. We were discussing accomplishments and how I am notorious for downplaying even the big and exciting things that happen to me.

“I guess something cool happened to me. It’s not huge, but…”

“You’re doing it again.”

Dammit. She’s a great therapist and she’s even better when she calls me out on my bullshit.

Her point did get me thinking– Why do I downplay myself? Why do I find it so difficult to celebrate the small stuff? I have this irrational way of thinking everything I do or say needs to be momentous; and if it’s not, I probably shouldn’t go about it. I practice this with articles, in conversations, with schoolwork. It’s an exhausting way to go about life.

“Not every accomplishment needs to be big. Sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning is an accomplishment.”

She’s absolutely right. Sometime’s it’s really fucking hard to get out of bed, or take a shower, or finding time to eat a decent meal. These tasks seem menial, but some days they’re the hardest ones to start or finish.

I had a bad day yesterday, but I still finished my day. I still ate. I still smiled. I still took a shower, found time to eat, checked in with my friends. There was a lot I could have done and didn’t do– but that’s okay. Life goes on and it won’t stop for you or I.

Today started off equally as terrible, but I still got up. I went to class. I did what I needed to do. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mundane style of our day-to-day, so I try to break things up. I order a different coffee in the morning. I take a different route to class. I listen to a new song. It seems silly, and maybe it is, but things like these do count as accomplishments some days. There’s something to be said for the effort put forth. There’s something to be said for trying.

I’m not going to pretend like this revelation will change my way of thinking all-day, every-day. It won’t. I’m still going to feel very, very unaccomplished some days. I’m still going to have doubt and worry. I’m still going to feel like I’m not doing enough.

But the good news?

I’m ok today.

That’s all I can ask for.

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What to Look For— 5 Signs Someone May Be Suicidal

I knew a little girl once. She was twelve-year’s-old at the time, just beginning sixth grade at a brand-new school with different faces in a fresh neighborhood. She was weeks away from beginning classes—when it happened.

Her father killed himself.

This little girl’s daddy took his life in the basement of her childhood home. It was awful. The things I could tell you are tragic, the sheer pain and guilt that followed her for years was more than anyone’s fair share of heartbreak.

That girl was me.

The mental anguish that battered me for years after his sudden death gave me a sense of empathy for those who experience depression or any mental health issue.

I decided to use my life experience for the wellness and betterment of those around me. Turning a harsh reality into a positive outlook was and is a hard thing to do; for anyone, I’m sure. The only way I’m able to emotionally deal with his suicide is by helping others. It’s unfortunate life had to be this way, but I can’t go back and I can’t change things. In the very least, I’m a better person because of his actions. I am much more aware of what to look for now, and you can be too:

5 Signs Someone May be Feeling Suicidal

1. Withdrawal (McSwain, Lester, & Gunn, 2012, pp. (186-188)—this seems like an obvious factor, but few take this seriously or even notice. If you or someone you know no longer enjoys participating in once-loved activities and refrains from social opportunities, this may be something to be concerned about. Everyone has off-days and times where they wish to be alone; however, if the problem persists, there may be a larger and more serious issue at hand. It’s easy for things like this to go unnoticed in our hectic lives, but stay aware. Check in on your friends or family, even the “strong” ones.

2. Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol (Szumilas & Kutcher, 2008, p. 286)—Sure, not everyone who smokes or drinks has a mental health issue, but increased activity may be concerning, especially for those who become interested out of the blue. People with depression often turn to unhealthy habits as a means of coping with their thoughts or problems.

3. Giving away personal items (Szumilas & Kutcher, 2008, p. 286)—If someone seems to be giving up personal and important items suddenly, you may want to check in on them and their well-being. A suicidal person may feel the need to give prized possessions away to family members or friends as a token of remembrance for when they are no longer physically here.

4. Hopelessness (McSwain, Lester, & Gunn, 2012, pp. (186-188)—An individual that is constantly hopeless and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel should be taken seriously from the get-go. Many suicidal individuals feel like they have gotten themselves “in too deep,” and they often don’t know how to rise above whatever mistakes or problems they have encountered. They might find themselves drowning and don’t know how to “swim.” This is, quite literally, life or death. Any talk of “no way out” or “no hope” for someone should be brought to the attention of a parent, spouse, doctor—anyone really—so treatment can be sought.

5. Changes in appetite/weight (King & Vidourek, 2012, p. 15)–It is not uncommon for individuals with depression and suicidal thoughts to be showing physical symptoms. Mental health radiates on the outside, too, and that is often overlooked. Those with depression and who are feeling suicidal tend to lose or gain a lot of weight because they either; A. Use food as a coping mechanism or B. Cannot bare to eat because it makes them ill.

Obviously not everyone with these traits is or has been suicidal. Humans are just that—humans. We go through phases, bad days, off-weeks… sometimes we just aren’t our normal selves and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with imperfection. What’s not okay is when negative traits become habits. The need for concern comes when we find ourselves or those we love in a rut that we/they can’t dig themselves out of.

It is imperative to remember that those with depression and suicidal thoughts cannot control feeling the way they do. Please don’t question or make them feel bad about it. Mental health in our society is unfortunately not taken as seriously as it should be, but I think we become more aware every day. Warning signs are often ignored or overlooked due to the idea that “it can’t” or “it won’t” happen to those we love. I am living proof that it absolutely does happen, every year, to thousands of people. According to afsp.org, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,965 people die every year from suicide. To put that tidbit of information into perspective, that’s more than half of the entire population of West Chester.

If it’s you that feels suicidal, please try to understand that you aren’t in this alone. I know it’s hard. I know you feel isolated and empty. I’m so sorry. But keep this in mind: It isn’t shameful to ask for help or reach out when in need—plenty of services are out there specifically for crises. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7, where you’re able to speak to a live individual when you need it the most. The same service also offers a chat, just in case a phone call isn’t your thing. (I know it’s not mine.)

I didn’t go through this tragedy on accident. I’m a firm believer that events, even tragedies, happen for a reason. My purpose is to spread awareness in every way I can, to whomever I can.

Luckily for us, much information is readily available to those who need it, and you too can become an advocate for suicide prevention.

We’re all fighting the good fight. You’ve come this far—we need you.

Anxiety + Coming Out of the Comfort Zone

 

Simple situations garner the most anxiety.

Ordering food, walking into an unfamiliar situation, speaking to someone new– all of these brainless tasks can immediately send me into panic mode. I’ve missed out on so many positive experiences and beautiful people because of fear.

Recently my roommate asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with her. I’m fairly sure I laughed in her face.  I laughed in her face.

Gym? Don’t know him.

Despite telling her no, she basically forced me into going with her.

I’ve wasted money on memberships I’ve never used because fear would not allow me to better myself. Fear controlled me 99.9% of the time.

But I went. Once, then twice, then three times. For someone that never leaves her apartment, this was truly a step in the right direction. (I’m not sorry about this terrible pun.)

Living with anxiety is a lot like taking 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. I’m not lazy (despite contrary belief) and I’m not unmotivated. I just don’t always know how to turn the negative into a positive. I don’t always feel like I am worthy of change or happiness. The “what-if’s” consume a good portion of my thought process, and it’s something I’ve always dealt with. What if they judge me? What if I make an ass out of myself? What if I can’t do it? Most days I don’t think twice about it– I am anxiety and anxiety is me.

I do know that I’m tired of letting irrational fears control who I am and the things that I do. Anxiety has made me older than I am. With her, I am burnt out and worn.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

So, I will say this– I’m no fitness guru, I didn’t lose any weight, and I’m not remotely close to my ideal shape.

The good thing? I have time. This isn’t a race, nor a competition. This is a journey towards self-expression, health, and productivity– powered by me.

If not now, then when?

As always, we need you.

–Leah

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5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known 5 Years Ago

I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past and how the events that took place during the last ten or so years of my life have shaped me as a woman. I like to think about how I can improve as a human being, a friend, a daughter, a girlfriend– the roles in my life that make me who I am.

Is that a good or bad way to spend my time? That’s up for debate. I don’t have a definite answer, nor do I want one.

What I do know, however, is that there are a lot of things that I look back on and wish I would have known sooner. It seems silly to think about the what-if’s and the could-have’s. That’s not what this article is about. This is merely a look at the lessons I’ve learned and the knowledge I have gained from being a really stupid teenager. The fun bit of this is that not much has changed–as opposed to being a really stupid teenager, I am now a really stupid adult with a caffeine and ibuprofen addiction. (Don’t get old, kids.)

Let’s begin.

  1. Credit cards are not your friends.

Ah, yes. I remember eighteen-year-old me thinking I was so cool because I got approved for a credit card. Instead of being responsible, I just nearly maxed that bad boy out. Why? I was using it to impress other people with bullshit items and buying things for my ex-boyfriend whom literally did not deserve to even know me. What did we learn from this, my friends?

  • Don’t buy things you can’t afford, don’t need, or will not use.
  • Don’t go spending money on men that don’t have any goals/jobs/aspirations
  • If you do not listen to the first two points above, you will end up in debt and needing to take out a small loan to cover the ridiculous balance and interest rate. Don’t be me.

 

2. People are not projects.

There is not a single person in this world that you need to fix more than yourself. I can scream this from the rooftops, from the mountains, hell; I would scream it from a plane if I could. If a person isn’t willing to get help for themselves, it isn’t your problem and it’s not your responsibility to put their pieces back together. Everyone goes through shit–especially you. Yourself. At the end of the day, as depressing as it sounds, you are all you have. Not everyone that walks into your world is going to have the same heart or mindset that you have– that is exactly what makes you so unique. Run with that. Nourish yourself. Eat well. Seek help. Go to the gym. Sleep enough. Take care of you. Unless you have children, everyone else comes second. The sooner you put yourself into this mode, the better. I wish this was something I realized sooner. What happens if we do not follow this golden rule?

  • Heartbreak
  • More heartbreak
  • Disappointment and a lack of trust

3. Not everyone is out to get you.

Listen, if you’re anything like me, anxiety makes you their bitch. There are times I will walk into a coffee shop or a store and feel an overwhelming sense of dread because I feel like everyone is judging me or looking at me. You know what that is? Egotistical. It is absolutely egotistical to think that in people’s everyday busy lives that they’re thinking of me amongst all of the other bullshit they’re dealing with. People have work they need to get done, kids they need to feed, cleaning they need to do. They’re not thinking about me. They’re thinking about how the hell they’re going to clean the house whilst doing a 16-page report for their art history class. What I wish little Leah would have known/did:

  • Nobody cares what you wear
  • Nobody cares what your hair looks like
  • Breathe, you big dummy

4. If a man cares about you, he will not force you into having sex with him.

Ah yes, you all knew this was going to get uncomfortable at some point. Guess what? Life is uncomfortable, and awkward, and overall messy. Get over it. I wish I could go back and smack 18-20 year old me in the face for this. No man will make you do any sort of sexual act and call it love. You know what those guys are? Assholes. They are assholes. A man will never disrespect you or your body for their benefit. True men will wait as long as they need to if they truly respect you and your boundaries. Manipulation is not synonymous with love. Key points:

  • You don’t need to have sex with someone in order to love them
  • Sex is a two-way street
  • If you withdraw consent, it is then considered rape
  • Be safe

5.  Be honest with yourself.

Listen, the hardest part of recovering from anything is admitting there is a problem. It’s silly and cliche, but you’ll never heal unless you allow yourself to realize that things are either not good, not healthy, or not progressing. Everyone and their mothers go through rough patches, fall on hard times, and go through phases. You are absolutely allowed to feel that way. However, it is up to you to get up and brush yourself off. It might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Show yourself some respect and better yourself from whatever tragedy, problem, or slump you are in. Don’t wallow in self-hatred and don’t be the “woe is me” person. I have dark humor, and I joke constantly about self-loathing– but truth be told, I know my limits and I know that my happiness is entirely up to me. What I learned:

  • Nobody is going to pick you up when you fall except for you
  • Don’t rely on others to make you happy
  • It’s going to take a long time to get to where I need to be. I may as well enjoy the ride

And kids, there you have it. I could probably think of many more things I wish younger-me would have known, like remembering to change the oil in my car regularly and not to talk to strangers on the internet or whatever. However, my fingers are sore from typing and I have other adulty things I need to get done today.

Keep on keeping on and remember– we need you.

 

 

An Apology Letter to Her

I think in the midst of life’s changes I lost myself. I lost what I stood for. I lost sight of my goals, my dreams. The bigger picture once painted beautiful shades of blues and reds had crumbled along with my mental health.

I won’t pretend like I’m in a good state of mind— it would defeat the purpose of everything I stand for. Still, even on the darkest days, my message remains the same: we need you.

I wish I could take my own advice. Isn’t that funny? We have sound advice for everyone but ourselves. Humans are funny and incredibly sad creatures.

Firstly— I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I repeatedly fail you and treat you like shit. You don’t deserve that…no one does. This won’t be the last time I apologize. It’s a repeat offense, a cycle that never ceases. I long to be in love with you but most days I can’t bare to look at you. I don’t want to feel that way. You’ve come so far and there’s something to be said for that. Deep inside, buried underneath the rubble of our past, I am proud of you beyond words of expression. You need to hear that.

Secondly— please understand that success is not a race, nor a set destination. Little things can be considered successes too. There’s triumph waking up in the morning when the night before you wanted to die. There’s power in conquering an essay when you didn’t know if you’d pass or fail. There’s beauty in terrible things. Don’t let it go unnoticed. You will fail, (a lot, probably) but that is not a representation of who you are. Perfection is not the goal. There is more to life than making good money or getting a 4.0.

Existing is easy but living is hard. My mind is constantly gnawing at the “could have’s” or the “what if’s.” Pay no mind to those questions. They are not beneficial. They will destroy you.

Your existence is meaningful to people, even if some days you don’t understand why. There’s a purpose for everyone, so what makes you any different?

Try to understand that existence is not black and white. Shades of color fill in the void, even on the black days. Happiness is on its way— but don’t chase it. It is not a destination. Its just an emotion. Let it engulf you when opportunity arises, but understand that some days you won’t find it anywhere. That’s okay.

Everyone grows at different rates. Life is not a race, nor a competition. Don’t let society and social media tell you any different. Everyone is fighting a good fight. Everyone has demons that dim their light. We are all just trying to get by on what we have– including you.

Your existence is a beautiful, fiery mess. Let it be.

I can’t get out of bed

I can’t get out of bed.

The mornings are dull, my heart aches with the desire to feel something other than void, the thick air feels heavy against my skin.

I can’t get out of bed.

What’s the point? You can’t afford this. How are you going to manage a real job? You’re in over your head.

The voices speak but I’m tuning them out. They don’t know me. They don’t define me.

I can’t get out of bed.

Responsibility calls but I don’t answer. Instead, I cry; for nor particular reason at all. Depression calls. I answer her.

I can’t get out of bed.

I read endless articles about positivity and happiness and how to become a healthier me. It seems simple. I try it.

I still can’t get out of bed.

Tomorrow is a new day. Opportunity awaits. Depression will call me, but I’ll try to decline her. She never has anything good to say.

Tomorrow I’ll try to get out of bed.

How Anxiety Landed Me in the Hospital

For the past week and a half, I’ve been feeling truly sick– heart palpitations, leg numbness, shortness of breath, extreme thirst. I let it go for awhile because I assumed I was just dealing with a pesky cold. I didn’t want to make the trek to urgent care unless I was truly dying.

Yesterday I grew tired of feeling like death’s guinea pig, so I made the trip and forked over my ridiculous copay– only for them to tell me to go to the emergency room for blood work. My blood pressure was high and they began to worry because of my leg numbness.

Reluctantly, I made the trip.  The last thing I wanted to do was spend the next 10 hours in the ER, but I clearly lack strong decision making and any dignity, so I did it anyway. They ran a multitude of tests; from blood work to urine sampling to a CT scan. Despite my oddly above-normal heart rate, all tests came back normal.

The doctor’s suggestion?

  1. I should see an endocrinologist for further treatment.
  2. It is likely I just have severe anxiety which causes me to have physical symptoms.

How frustrating it was for them to come to that conclusion, seeing as though I already knew I had anxiety, yet it has never affected me like that before. I have had real panic attacks, debilitating ones that have stopped me in my tracks. I have hyperventilated.  I have gone through all of that before– but never something like this.

Do I really believe the doctor?

I mean, I guess I don’t have much choice. She’s obviously much more qualified than I. I suppose more than anything I am just frustrated, with myself and this feeling that has plagued me for most of my life.

What’s next?

I don’t know. I am too stubborn to give up on this fight for normalcy. I would sooner die than be put on medications again. It does feel unbeatable sometimes– especially nights like yesterday. It’s frustrating. I feel dumb. I feel misunderstood. I feel a billion things– none of them necessarily good. But I know deep within me that I am worth so much more than this, and I will get it.

Even if it takes fifty years, I will get it.

 

 

 

The Art of Pleasing Others– and Why it’s Bullshit

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Living is hard enough. Living for others? Bullshit.

Societal pressures, family, friends– they all tell us we need to be something other than ourselves.

If we don’t do this then we won’t amount to anything.

If we don’t lose weight we’ll never be attractive to the opposite sex.

If we don’t have kids, our futures are worthless.

If we follow our dreams, we’re irresponsible.

If we play it safe, we aren’t living. 

Quite frankly, it’s all bullshit.

I truly believe our early twenties are the roughest years in terms of trying to find ourselves. It’s painful to be pulled in fifteen different directions, silencing your inner voice for the sake of others’ happiness. We are afraid to branch out and see things for ourselves because we can’t handle the unknown. We are petrified of not being accepted. We are so consumed in other people’s (irrelevant) opinions that we often forget that our only duty is to keep ourselves happy and healthy.

When I first enrolled in college, someone told me I was “stupid” for studying anything other than computers or technology–words I remember being spoken like shards of glass in my back. It hurt to be let down, but it hurt even more coming from someone I thought I could trust.

Gradually, things began to change. I found something I was good at and ran with it. It’s hard to incorporate passion with career. It’s hard to keep your head above water when it seems like the whole universe is attempting to drown out your hopes.

Don’t let them steal your spark in life.

The day I enrolled in university, I knew I had to do it for me; regardless of what people thought or how crazy it seemed. They thought I was crazy for studying media and culture– but I thought they were crazy for not giving me a chance to prove myself.

The art of pleasing others digs much deeper than career choices or college majors. I’ve done a whole array of things that my family has deemed questionable; from relationships to my appearance to how I act or what I do. Its exhausting pretending to be someone I am not.

So I stopped.

I imagine it hasn’t or won’t be that easy for others in the same situation. I feel for them.

Truthfully speaking, I don’t owe anyone any explanation for why I do the things I do– and neither do you. It is not our job as humans to conform to what other people want. We need to do what’s right for us in order to grow and contribute as decent people. Being someone we are not gives the false idea that it’s okay to hold back.

It is not okay.

We aren’t doing the world any favors by keeping ourselves on a tight leash. The world desperately needs more authenticity.

At the end of the day, it is imperative to remember these three things–

  1. You don’t owe anybody shit
  2. You are you for good reason– don’t question your worth
  3. You don’t need anybody that doesn’t need you

When life seems to be getting too tough, too unbearable– keep going. We need you.

We really fucking need you.

Anxiety // How I “Cope”

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A few months ago I made a post regarding my use of CBD oil and how I had been using that to soften the everyday effects of anxiety I had been forced to reckon with.

It’s only been a few short months since I’ve posted that article– but a lot has changed. Although it helped greatly at the time, I no longer feel the need to take CBD in order to cope with my anxiety. I can’t say that the levels of my anxiety have changed after stopping CBD, because they haven’t. It is not a cure. It is not a magical drug. I still have panic attacks and sometimes even sleep paralysis. Some nights are complete hell. Some days are complete hell. Its how I choose to face it that is entirely up to me.

Some mornings I wake up with nothing but existential dread, which sounds fifty shades of dramatic, but its the truth. The reality is people with depression and anxiety don’t get to pick and choose which days are good or bad. We also don’t get to just stop living our daily lives because things seem to be snowballing downwards. Its a lifelong battle; one I am not sure people really grasp unless they or someone they know have gone through it.

So, how do I cope? That’s a loaded question, because I am not really sure I would consider it coping. Some days I am just trying to distract my mind, aka ignoring the problem at hand. But when I am doing the “coping,” I find myself doing things like:

  • reading
  • writing (such as this!)
  • getting knee deep in Netflix
  • listening to music
  • taking naps
  • drinking coffee
  • meditation

Now take a look at that list and breathe it in– because it is truly dumb. These are not coping mechanisms. These aren’t going to somehow cure my anxiety and rid me of my depression. These are just things. Nothing more than activities that bring me an inkling of joy. However, I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with that. We all have things we do to relax, but it is entirely up to us to decipher when a “coping” habit becomes a “bad” habit.

Honestly, I don’t have an answer for you because some days I can’t even help myself. I am always quick to say that things get better, and they do, but it is not helpful in the moment of a sweaty panic attack or an on-edge day.

I think we’re all human and none of us really know what exactly it is that we are doing– but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

It’s easy to take comfort in knowing that I am not alone, this isn’t the end, and tomorrow doesn’t have to be the same way.

Just remember we all have to get by in life, so be nice to those around you.

You never really know who needs it the most today.

 

 

 

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