The Courage to be Vulnerable

stranger on a train

Nobody is perfect. We can’t pretend that we are. Everybody has something in their past that is painful to think about, no matter how long ago it occurred. Becoming self-aware, and facing the difficulties of our past is often not the first thing on our agenda. In fact, many people spend their entire lives in denial or avoidance of their deep-seated trauma. They unknowingly let it affect their patterns of behavior, coping mechanisms, communication style, and relationships. They are held hostage by their ignored inner conflict, and are inhibited from operating as their best self.

To me, this is the biggest shame of all. A hesitancy to want to look within is the greatest self-sabotage a person could inflict upon themselves. They are hindering their own self-growth, and are therefore not making the most of their human experience and emotional capability.

So why would a person refuse to look within? The vulnerability. It is scary to look within. It is scary to uncover the dark truths of our past, that we have worked so hard to suppress. Why should we dive headfirst into our painful memories, if we have the option to avoid them? Why shouldn’t we just bury those thoughts into a dark corner of our mind, that we never revisit again? Because, try as we might, they will continue to affect us as long as we choose not to face them.

Therapy is a practice that is accepted by some, and refused by all others. While many people have come to believe that it is vital to their mental wellbeing, others believe it is a stark sign of weakness. No matter what state they are in, their sense of pride convinces them that they are not a candidate for therapy and would never benefit from sharing their emotions with a stranger. I am here to dismantle the latter notion.

Since nobody is perfect, then we can all agree that there is always something that a person could learn to do better. There is always room for improvement. If you know you could improve at something, then wouldn’t you want to? If you could strive to be a better you, then what’s stopping you? If you are in agreement with this, then already everyone is a candidate for therapy.

Why would you want to talk to a stranger, when you don’t even feel comfortable talking to a loved one or friend? This stranger is not just someone you’ve picked off the street. They are a professional, who has been trained to guide you through your subconscious and help you to face the daunting and crippling ghosts of your past and present. They have your best interest in mind, and will do anything they can to help you on your journey of becoming your best “you”. They will provide a safe space for you to speak and think without restraints. They will push you to be vulnerable, but hold your hand along the way (so to speak). They are always on your team.

In psychology, there is something called “the stranger on the train phenomenon”. This is the idea that sometimes a stranger can be our most trustworthy confidant. It is called the “stranger on the train phenomenon”, because people who meet on a train can often talk for hours getting to know each other quite well and sharing some very personal secrets, simply because they know that they will likely never see the person again. To me, this is kind of like a therapist. While of course you will likely see them again, they are not at liberty to discuss anything that you tell them with anyone else (much like the benefit of never seeing a person again). Your therapist can be your stranger on a train.

While many people believe that therapy is for the weak, I would have to disagree. Therapy is for the courageous. Therapy is for those people who have the strength to look within, even if it means being uncomfortable and facing your biggest fears. Therapy is for those who are ready to be a better version of themselves. Therapy is for the humble–the people who know that they are not without flaws, and are willing to work to be better. I admire the people who go out of their way to do something courageous and difficult for the better. For the better of their relationships. For the better of their self-concept. For the better of their future.

xx allie

 

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Black & White

I like to believe that things are black & white. Logic rules all, and there is a reason for everything. Every feeling, every thought, every emotion. I want to ask, “why” and eventually come to find the answer. But herein lies the problem.

Black & white is a myth. Not all things are black & white. Things are hazy. Things are grey. Things are unexplainable. Some things aren’t meant for understanding. Some things are meant to be pondered, but never anything more. Some things are meant to change us. To help us grow. To motivate us. But still not to be answered.

Some things dangle in front of us, only to taunt. To remind us of our inability to know everything…or even anything. They remind us that we are only human. Even our understanding is flawed, because it is just that–our understanding. Only that.

Love is not black & white. Love is radiant, but it is dull. It is beaming but it is hideous. It is luminescent but also drab. Love is a bird without feathers. You learn to love it, despite its flaws. It flies at times, but often not well. It is cold and vulnerable, but reaches new heights. It will exceed your expectations…but it will also always be the bird without feathers.

If you can learn to love the bird without feathers, you may find you can’t do without it. If you can accept its featherless anatomy, you might find you prefer it that way. Tattered and worn, but beautiful nonetheless. And in fact, all the more beautiful because of it. It is raw and it is real. It is a symbol of the imperfection that is life…and love. It is the bird that knows not of its own ugliness, but flies in stride and confidence because it is able to fly at all. It is not aware of its limitations. It flies without worry of how high it can get. It scoffs at risk, and proves it powerless. It is strong and admirable, but not to the bird with feathers.

The bird with feathers barely notices the bird without. He is more beautiful and soft. He is more lovely to behold. But one thing’s for sure, he never flies higher. While easy on the eyes, he is not as special. He lacks the pizzaz that the bird without feathers just exudes. He is boring, and simple. He is prototypical and lackluster.

He is black & white.

 

“13 Reasons Why” Review (Mild Spoiler Alert)

hannah baker

I honestly don’t even know how to begin this post. This series had a lot of shock-value, but the strange thing is, it was wildly realistic. The series starts off with a recording of a young high school girl, Hannah Baker, explaining that by the time anyone hears the recording, she will have already killed herself. She then proceeds to explain how she’s recorded 13 different tapes, outlining the 13 reasons that led up to, and caused her suicide. She has requested that 13 people (all who contributed to her suicide in some way) listen to the tapes and pass them along to the next one on the list after finishing.

If you aren’t a fan of dark shows, then you probably won’t like this one. However, I couldn’t help but be drawn in as I witnessed a likeable and charismatic young girl suffer from the constant bashing and bullying of nearly everyone around her. And while she isn’t always the target of the antagonists, she unfortunately must bear witness to some of the awful things that occur behind the scenes of the high school setting.

She quickly learns that her peers only care to look out for themselves, and will easily throw her under the bus to avoid criticism or confrontation from others. She learns that making friends is not an easy task, and that even the people she considers friends at one point or another, make poor decisions and betray her in the end. She is objectified by the students, and has to endure unwanted attention towards her body, and inappropriate ass-slaps by boys in public settings. She has loving parents, but they are constantly swept up in their business, getting by from paycheck to paycheck and in turn paying little attention to their daughter, who is clearly not okay.

The romance in the story is sweet and promising, but unfortunately Hannah pushes away even the boy she secretly loves due to her fear of being used and hurt yet again. She loses trust for everyone around her, and ultimately feels alone and empty. She makes efforts to participate in school activities, like the “Dollar Valentine” or the poetry club, but even those backfire and she’s left in despair. Hannah stands up for herself in many occasions, and faces the criticism head-on, but towards the end she loses the battle and ceases to care about anything. After trying so desperately to get through the drama that has become her life, she comes to believe that the world would be better off without her in it. She cries for help, and even visits the school counselor as a last ditch attempt to save her life, only to be disappointed one final time by his lack of support and professionalism.

Hannah Baker, although not a real student in the real world, has a story that is shared by many. Many students feel afraid to go to school because of the extreme peer pressure and disparagement that exists. And while students should be supporting one another and lifting each other’s spirits, it is exactly the opposite in too many cases. Although one bad-mannered comment may not mean much to the person who says it, it could potentially be the comment that causes someone to pull the trigger. We can’t pretend that we understand what others might be going through. Everybody has their own story, their own past, or their own family issues. There is more to life than meets the eye, and kindness and compassion can mean all of the difference to someone who is struggling with the will to stay alive. This show truly mastered the dangers of teenage life, and the everyday challenges that so many kids must face. While it is a difficult show to watch, the message is quite profound. The show encourages parents and schools to pay better attention to those children who may be struggling. It encourages children to be kinder to one another, and more accepting. It is a devastating portrayal of the sorrows of life growing up, but the sad part is that it’s hardly an exaggeration.

The show concludes with a lot of questions unanswered, making me squirm with anticipation for the second season. Although the ending is sad, as you are made aware from the very beginning, there is still hope for justice to Hannah’s family and a sense of humanity for those people who come forward to make things right for all of those involved. Nothing but amazing things to say about this show and its impact on me, and hopefully on others. Take a chance & give it a watch. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

xx allie

A Cute Little Story..

Today I have a funny little story to share. If you’ve shopped at the Target located off of Las Posas in Camarillo, CA within the last few weeks, then you might have noticed something particularly fascinating while walking through the parking lot on your way in or out: a family of birds have decided to build their nest in a rather problematic location. While anyone can appreciate the rare sighting of a bird nest and the adorable baby birds that comprise it, this nest is different.

This nest was built in a small parking lot divider right in front of the store. For this reason, almost every individual that entered or exited through one of the two doors at Target would walk near its path. For these birds, a 15 foot radius around the nest was MUCH too close. The mother [or father…I’m not the best at distinguishing bird genders] would sit atop the handicap sign and guard the invisible perimeter around their nest. If ANYONE got anywhere near them, it would fly off its ‘throne’ and attack the person relentlessly. It didn’t matter that the nest was hidden underneath bushes outside of the view of any passersby. It didn’t matter that Target had noticed the bird nest problem and had surrounded the circumference of the “danger zone” with caution tape. This bird didn’t discriminate. Anyone was fair game. Anyone could be their target.

bird2

bird1

My boyfriend, Ben, and I found this amusing. We caught on to the bird situation rather quick, and sat down on a nearby bench to watch other, oblivious people get harmlessly “attacked”. We had never seen such an aggressive bird.

A few days later, Ben called me to report a new finding at Target. Target had hung up a sign (in addition to their caution tape) to ward people away from getting anywhere near the nesting area. They mentioned on the sign that a protected species would be in danger if people got too close. Now this took me by surprise and really impressed me. The bird had conveyed his/her message loud and clear. There had been a successful inter-species dialogue between the bird and the Target staff. Target had created a sign on the bird’s behalf, to send the same message in writing to people who missed the previous attempts of caution tape and attacks. This made me feel warm & fuzzy inside, as it took an act of teamwork between the bird and Target to keep the nest safe from harm. Not only that, but it also takes the continued cooperation and understanding of the Target customers to respect the sign by giving the nest the space it needs.

bird3

The environmental community works together. Animals communicate without the use of a common language. I thought I would share this story, as it really depicts the beauty of nature and the harmony that exists amongst species. Respect knows no bounds when it comes to Mother Nature.

xx allie

Appreciation Post: Hot Water

hot water

One of the main reasons why I live a happy and fulfilling life is because I have learned to be grateful for even what seems like the smallest of blessings. When you take the time to FEEL grateful and actually count your blessings, even the biggest of disappointments begin to feel small.

Recently, I was given a reason to be EXTRA thankful for easy access to hot water. Our water heater malfunctioned, and left us without hot water for nearly a week and a half. While this may not seem like the biggest tragedy (and, of course it’s not), it was definitely a large inconvenience that I had to learn to adapt to.

I make it a priority to go to the gym at least 4 times a week. When you’re breaking a sweat and getting dirty, it’s absolutely essential to shower. Every day that I went to the gym while our water heater was out, I had to pack a shower bag: clean clothes, shower flip flops, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, hair brush, detangler…the whole shebang. While this was undoubtedly a hassle to me, it made me feel grateful for even having access to the gym showers. Because no matter how many germs were infesting those shower walls, it still beats a watering hole in murky, muddy water that must be the solution elsewhere in the world. I showered happily and contently in those showers, thinking about the lesser alternatives that I might have if I lived in a different, less fortunate country. In fact, I began to see the bright side of my gym showers: a feeling of nostalgia for my college days, when bringing my shower caddy to the shared bathrooms was the norm.

I was also fortunate to be able to shower once or twice at my boyfriend’s house—thanks Ben! I even had multiple friends who offered to let me borrow their showers, if I preferred (thanks Noosh and Al!). My predicament was a reminder of the fortune and kindness that surrounds me when I need it.

Not only was it difficult to wash my body while the hot water was out, but it was also difficult to wash the dishes! My mom was able to boil water every morning to get the water hot enough to wash our dishes sanitarily. Inventive…I know. Lucky for us, we have large pots and fire that enabled us to boil the water so easily. While it was definitely an extra step in the process of cleaning the dishes, it was an extra step that we were ABLE to do.

While lacking hot water made life a little bit more difficult, I am actually grateful that this happened to us. It was a good reminder of how easily things can be taken away, and how lucky we are to be able to adapt. Losing the hot water made me prioritize something so simple…finding a place to take a shower. And yet, I have a newfound appreciation for the simple things in life. Because what seems simple to us, is not simple to everyone. And what is standard to us, is by no means standard to everyone. Be grateful for your hot water, today and every day. You never know when your tables may turn.

xx allie  

Update: 10 Months on Lexapro

allie

It’s been 10 months that I’ve been on Lexapro now, and let me tell ya, time flies when you’re happy.

Lexapro has undoubtedly changed my life. On only 5 mg, I am a different person. I am finally me. The effects of lexapro were, and continue to be, astounding for me. I see the world through rose colored glasses, and glean positivity from most all scenarios. Things that would normally bother me, still do, but I no longer ruminate on them and allow them to ruin my day. Small problems stay just that…small. Things no longer escalate into catastrophic emotional turmoil or a downward spiral with no end. Responsibilities no longer feel  daunting, overwhelming, or impossible. I welcome my responsibilities more readily, and do not feel angry or resentful to have them. I am more confident, as my self-esteem has greatly increased. Make no mistake…it is not inflated, but it is finally normal and exists! My irritability and anger has subsided, making my interactions with others much more pleasant than before. I am no longer guilty for carrying so much negativity around everywhere I went.

Lexapro is like a magic wand. It’s science, but it feels like magic. I didn’t doubt it’s ability to help me get through my depression, but I never imagined how drastically different I would feel in my day-to-day life. A good day before Lexapro, is a mediocre day on Lexapro. The bad is never as bad as the good is good. I still get sad. I still cry. I still care about all of the same things I used to. But now, things don’t seem as drastic. If something upsetting happens, it’s not the end of the world. I am more equipped to handle disappointment. I am more motivated to finish tasks I’m not excited to begin.

The positive effects of Lexapro last over time. I have been on 5mg from the very beginning, and have never felt a reason to increase my dose. My body does not get used to it, and then need more to get the same effects. The right dose is the right dose, period. (Or at least in my own experience).

Lasting side effects:

When you’re depressed, you often lose your appetite. Food isn’t appetizing, and it doesn’t taste nearly as satisfying either. As the lexapro kicks in and diminishes the depression, your appetite comes back. Food becomes enjoyable again. To me, this was a good thing. I had lost about 20 pounds while depressed (mostly because I was eating 1/3 to 1/2 of my normal portions). In the last 10 months, I’ve gained about 10 pounds back. I feel that I am at my healthy weight now. Do I think the Lexapro caused me to gain weight? No. I think getting my appetite back caused me eat regularly again. My body restored healthy weight back to my body. I’ve also been more motivated to work out lately, meaning muscle weight is most likely included. Lexapro didn’t cause me to gain weight. Lexapro restored my appetite.

Sleep: I have not had one night of bad sleep since I’ve started taking lexapro.  Sleep was never an issue for me even before taking the Lexapro, but it’s drastically improved nonetheless. I sleep very soundly throughout the night, and hardly ever stir. I struggled with crazy bad dreams up until lately, but they’ve slowly settled down and become less frequent. Night sweats were also relatively frequent after starting the Lexapro, but those too have become less frequent with time.

That’s about it. Lexapro has provided me with so many amazing benefits, and next to no long-term side effects. If you are struggling with depression, and have been thinking about trying an antidepressant, I would highly recommend trying Lexapro. One of the best parts about this pill is that it’s also an anti-anxiety pill. My anxiety has decreased substantially, and no longer gets in the way of my life. I am now living without any unnecessary or crippling constraints. Lexapro has given me the freedom to live my life happily.

xx allie

 

Sunday Brunch…Why You Should.

breakfy

Ahhh Sunday. The first day of a new week. What better way to start off a week than to BRUNCH?

Here’s Why:

 Sleeping In

It’s Sunday…and if you’re like most, then you don’t have work today. It’s a relaxed day, where you have little to no responsibility. Take this opportunity to sleep in and catch up on the much needed zzzz’s that you’ve been missing throughout the week. The best part about Sunday brunch is that you don’t have to even set your alarm! Sleep in until noon if you wish, brunch usually lasts until at least 2pm anyways!

Different Menu

If you’ve ever brunched before, then you’ve probably noticed that brunch menus are usually separate from the typical breakfast menu. Specials, specials, specials galore! If you’re feeling something sweet, then go for the sugary plates: waffles, pancakes, French toast, etc. If you’d prefer to just skip the breakfast grub, then go straight for the burger! Basically, there’s something for everyone. Not to mention mimosas. Don’t mind if you do.

Value Meal

Alright let’s get real. We all know that brunch plates cost slightly more than the average breakfast plate. But have you ever stopped to consider why? At second glance, brunches are actually Value Meals disguised as trendy, high-end plates. You have now saved yourself from having to go out and buy your breakfast AND your lunch. Brunch covers you for two meals. Who doesn’t love a shortcut?

Cuteness

Most breakfast places are truly adorable. Many of them offer outdoor seating on cutely decorated patios. It’s extremely relaxing to sip on your coffee or latte outside underneath the sun and beside blooming flowers. This experience gives rise to the lyrics, “easy like a Sunday morning”.

In the Name of Brunch

Brunch is becoming such a ‘thing’ that you can’t go to any department store without finding “brunch” themed apparel. You might think, ‘I’ll barely ever wear a brunch shirt, since I only have the opportunity to wear it once per week’. On the contrary my dear, a better way to think of it is, ‘I’ll wear it at least once a week! Totally worth it.’ Purchase baseball caps, tank tops, backpacks, etc. Brunch seems like reason enough to dress up to me!

Catch Up

I said “catch up” not “ketchup”! Use brunch as the perfect opportunity to catch up with a friend or family member. Have a birthday to celebrate? Mother’s day? Take them to Brunch! Ain’t nobody gonna be disappointed about that.

Brunch is my motivation to get through the work week. Always remember…work hard, brunch harder. 

xx allie