Bad Days

bad day 2

Humans are not infallible. That’s what makes us human. We have bad days. There are days that we wish we could quit. Forgo all of our responsibilities, retreat back to our bed, pull the covers over our heads and press “reset”. But life doesn’t work that way.

So instead, we do our best to pull through. To continue to do everything we planned on, despite the dull feeling in our chest and our sudden onset of demotivation. Despite the starkly opposing good moods we come across during our day, and our intense effort to tiptoe around them without causing harm.

On these days, antidepressants don’t seem to do the trick. The dosage hasn’t changed, but yet something seems off. You recall once again what it feels like to feel. What it feels like to hurt. These are the days that the medication ceases to matter, and we are put to the test. It can’t take away reality, or even diminish your experience of it. It just sits dormant in your system–as if every active particle running through your veins slows to a halt and descends to the bottom-most layer of your being. Maybe tomorrow they’ll pick back up again. Maybe.

But today, you go back to feeling. The pain a band aid makes after it’s been ripped off your supple flesh. Not the immediate sting, but the throb that follows it. The throb that withstands, until it finally diminishes to nothing but a memory. A memory you hope to never relive.

Depression is the ugliest monster I know. It lurks and taunts you from time to time, just to remind you that you are not infallible. That you are human. And while sometimes I loathe its existence, other times I take a moment to cherish the ability to feel so strongly. To relish the very assets that make me feel alive. Because good days cannot truly exist without the occasional bad day. Because the range of human emotion is what makes the experience of living so intimate and formidable. And because perhaps my appraisal of this experience means more holistically than the experience itself.

xx allie

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Predicting the End.

fighting.jpg

Oftentimes, relationships last in what people call “the honeymoon stage” for 6 months to a year (in my experience). When the excitement wears off however, the relationship can often turn sour rather quickly.

As an undergrad that double majored in Psychology and Communication, I spent a good deal of time studying relationships, and the ways individuals communicate to effectively (or in many cases, ineffectively) get their messages across to their partner. One of the most monumental researchers I learned about in school, Dr. John Gottman, has been of particular interest to me both within the realm of academia and in my own personal experiences or observations of others. Dr. Gottman has an approach to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship. According to his research, there are four telling communication patterns that, when combined, lend themselves to what he calls the “Apocalypse of” the relationship.

Let’s look more closely at these 4 patterns:

  1. Criticism

Criticism is not the same thing as simply voicing a complaint. It is a personal attack that is not necessarily specific to a thing/behavior that your partner has done, or a mistake that they’ve made. Criticism of this sort involves dismantling your partner at their core, aggressively speaking to their character, or personality as a whole.

  1. Contempt

Contempt is an extremely volatile way of speaking to someone you care about. People that speak with contempt mock their partners, ridicule them, call them names, mimick them, eye-roll, or display other degrading body language to make their point. When people speak with contempt, they undermine any efforts they have previously made with their partner to show respect. Contempt is the ultimate way to degrade a person, thereby bringing their spirits down. Believe it or not, couples that are contemptuous of each other are more likely to experience illness as a result of a lowered immune system. So not only is contempt emotionally painful, but it also doubles as a hazard to your health. According to Gottman’s research, contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce in a relationship. If you are experiencing contempt in a relationship, it is important to recognize this pattern and communicate to your partner about the danger of continuing to argue in this way. If the contempt continues for much longer, it can only further erode at the relationship and wither any chances for improvement.

  1. Defensiveness

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been defensive at some point in our lives. However, this begins to be a problem when you are confronted with a form of defensiveness any time you try to voice your frustration, make a complaint, or describe your feelings about something. When people make excuses for their behavior, they are unwilling to take responsibility for something they may have been able to handle better. They are not validating their partner’s concerns or emotions, and find a way to turn the tables and blame them instead. Defensiveness is a roadblock for making progress. No progress can ever be made when someone is not willing to admit there was a problem that could have been avoided or diminished, and therefore not open to making changes for a better result in the future.

  1. Stonewalling

Last but not least is stonewalling. This phenomenon occurs when one partner decides to suddenly withdraw from the interaction. They shut down and close themselves off from the other partner. They refuse to answer or respond to anything that is said to them. It is as if a stone wall is standing between the couple. Obviously, this is not an effective way to communicate, as it disallows the couple to engage in a conversation that is validating and effective to fixing the problems at hand.

Why am I bringing this up? When we notice that a relationship is starting to veer off course and go downhill, we often panic and scramble to fix things at all costs. Our desperate attempt to ameliorate our issues immediately may result in worse problems. Patterns don’t fix themselves over night. Big changes take time, patience, and persistence. But, if you are able to notice negative relationship patterns ahead of time (and possibly before they become damaging enough), you may still have time to stop them in their tracks. Being knowledgeable and informed about these styles of communicating can help you when you’re confronted with a difficult situation and just want to feel heard. The most important thing to remember is to speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to. It may sound intuitive, be we often forget about this simple notion when we are in the heat of the moment. Have respect for people, and show your respect through your actions and behaviors. Thinking before you speak can only ever result in a better interaction. If you work on your patience, and will power to refrain from saying hurtful things while feeling worked up, you will notice your relationships drastically improving over time.

Words can be like daggers. You can really hurt a person by the things you choose to say. Some words leave scars, which may take a very long time to heal. Before leaving those scars on another, take a moment to consider whether your word choice is carefully selected, accurately portrays how you feel about someone, and is what you are trying to say. Will your message come across effectively? Do you think you will be heard? Will you be deliberately hurting someone in speaking your mind? There are many things to consider, and often not a lot of time to do so. So be careful what you choose to say. Your diction and delivery are everything.

 

xx allie

Life on Life’s Terms

serenity

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.

The serenity prayer has helped millions of recovering alcoholics to accept life on life’s terms, and cope with the everyday struggles that are sometimes out of our control. Whether you are an alcoholic or not, chances are that you could also benefit from the teachings of the 12 Step Program. I am lucky to say that I have never struggled with having a problem relating to alcohol, but I have a whole heart of compassion for the people who have. I honestly believe that the 12 step recovery process is a life changer for anyone (alcoholic or not) who commits to the principles and seeks to live a satisfying, honest, and accepting life.

Undoubtedly one of the most difficult things to accept in life is that there are many things that we have absolutely no control over. It is important to recognize those things, and learn to accept our powerlessness over them. We should expend our efforts and energy towards the things that are within our control, allowing us to reach a greater level of satisfaction, pride, and meaning once our influence has proved successful. Learning to live life on life’s terms means that you are willing to accept the ups and downs that the universe delivers, without putting up resistance or acting out as a means of coping.

I recently starting reading the NY Times Bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson, and despite what you may think from the title, it’s actually been a pretty eye-opening read. The premise of the book is that life sucks sometimes, but it’s better to just admit it, shrug your shoulders and get over it. Manson says that we should really stop kidding ourselves and acting as though nothing but positivity surrounds us. He says we should just honor the fact that the world is shitty, and then make the most of what’s left of it. In other words, accept life on life’s terms. It’s important to remain level-headed through all of life’s shitty, unfair moments, and continue to give fucks about only the things that truly matter. Be honest with whatever your situation, and be honest with yourself. Life gets better once you accept the things you cannot change.

xx allie

You Look Tired Today

tired

You hit the snooze button for the third time this morning, and roll out of bed. You forgo your eye shadow for today,  scarf down your half toasted bagel, and run out the front door leaving your packed lunch behind absentmindedly. Despite the struggle being real this morning, you make it to work on time. As you are about to pat yourself on the back in your mind, your coworker leans over your desk and says, “You look tired today”.

If you’ve ever be told this line, then I feel your pain. WHAT? I am sorry to say that unfortunately this blog post is going to be somewhat of a rant. Personally, I feel that this comment is entirely inappropriate for a number of reasons. Let us count the ways.

  1. Excuse me, but did I ask you for your opinion on how I look today? Was your feedback welcomed in any way? If I didn’t ask, then maybe it’s because I don’t care to know. And who made you the expert on what I should look like, and whether I’m up to par with your expectations?
  2. I look tired, you say? Oh really? What gave it away today? Was it the bags under my eyes? My messy, half put together hair? My outfit choice? Am I pale? Do I look sick? Do I look like shit? Thank you for noticing. Something about me is not right, which is why I look tired today according to you. Well, out with it! What are you trying to tell me exactly?
  3. Okay, so I look tired. Is there something you want me to do about it? What’s the point of telling me this, other than to make me also FEEL like crap in addition to looking like it?
  4. How am I expected to respond? I immediately feel awful now that you think I look tired. Should I make up an excuse for a reason why? Should I agree that I put little effort into my appearance today? Should I go in the bathroom to reapply my makeup? What is the proper response? TELL ME.

Okay so basically, a word to the wise: DON’T ASK THIS QUESTION TO ANYONE. It’s just not nice, and doesn’t come across well. If you think a person looks tired, maybe just keep that thought to yourself. Save your personal feedback for positive affirmations and compliments. Build the world up, don’t knock it down. The world is tough enough without you telling people that they look tired. End rant.

xx allie

On Integrity

integrity.jpg

In·teg·ri·ty

inˈteɡrədē/

noun: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

Synonyms: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principles, ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness.

As I grow older, I am discovering the value of integrity in others. Not every person we meet has integrity. Not every person we meet is authentic, and true. There are many people who struggle with being honest and trustworthy. There are many people who feel a strong need to fabricate in order to win acceptance from others. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) the truth is often uncovered, making the acceptance and belonging that was so sought after, virtually unattainable.

As social media becomes more central to society, it seems that integrity as a trait is declining. Now I don’t have proof or statistics, but I’m just describing an overwhelming observation.  More and more people are beginning to obsess over how others see them. More important than the true nature of a person, seems to be the façade that they create for themselves and protect at whatever cost or expense.

What exactly is a façade?

Façade: an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.

What’s more, they are more or less unaware of (or in denial about) how unauthentic they are being. Not only are they not being honest to others, but more importantly they are not being true to themselves. What happens as a result? They live an unfulfilling life. They cannot be wholehearted. They cannot be at peace within their soul. They will constantly work to uphold the image they’ve created, and a false one at that. It’s like running on a treadmill that never lets up. Running and running, but getting nowhere. Trying to catch up with their lies, but coming up short every time.

More than anything, I feel sorry for the people that don’t feel “good enough” to just be honestly themselves. They are afraid of criticism or rejection. They are afraid of judgment. But what is worse is that they are harvesting superficial relationships that are not built on a foundation of integrity. People like and accept them for the façade they are displaying, but not for the true person that they are. They are illusionists–sometimes so good at creating the illusion that they start to believe it themselves. That’s where the problem ensues. But deep down they don’t have a choice. They’ll do anything to feel accepted. They’ll do anything to feel belonging. They don’t realize that they are only hurting themselves. They are only sabotaging all that the universe provides to them.

To the outsiders that aren’t fooled by the façade, we get angry. We wonder how people can be so foolish and conniving. We wonder why they could lie to prop themselves up, at the expense of others. But instead of anger, it is best to harbor compassion. It’s time to notice their struggle and acknowledge their powerlessness in defeating it. Or moreover, their unwillingness or incapability to notice it themselves. They are afraid of being vulnerable. They are afraid to step out from under their veil. They are afraid to have integrity.

Be Honest. Be True. Be Humble.

xx allie

Being Real

the velveteen rabbit

As I was reading my book the other night (“Daring Greatly” by author/researcher Brene Brown), I came across a quote that I absolutely loved:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

*Excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Although it has been quite a long time since I’ve read the story of The Velveteen Rabbit, this passage truly touched me. Growing up and even today, I’ve always had stuffed animals (even a blankey). I remember when I was little my mom would always say, “Allie, what are you going to do when you go to college? Bring your blankey with you?”. Well…that’s exactly what I did. I brought him along for the 4 year ride.

To me, this passage hits home. I have given my stuffed animals and blankey so much love and affection over the years, that they are worn, tattered, ripped, etc. One of their noses has fallen off, and of course I’ve taken the liberty to superglue it back on. Fact is, I’ll never give them up for as long as I live. And you can bet that no matter what, there will always be an animal of some sort in my bed that I sleep with.

But what makes this passage even more profound to me, is the fact that it also alludes to humans in love. Sometimes, it hurts to be loved. We are worn, tattered, and scarred from the love we’ve received, and in the end, it only makes us more real. It only makes us more beautiful. Not everybody can accept being loved. They are fragile and meek, and would prefer to be left unscathed. They may not look damaged or worn, but that is because they are not real. They have not gone through the one human experience that sets the real apart from the unreal. They are afraid to be vulnerable. They are afraid to be tossed around from the tempestuous emotion that is love. The incredibly sought after, yet infinitely feared emotion. They are not willing to be tattered from the wounds of love, and they’ll never understand the beauty inherent in feeling this sense of “realness”.

But those who are real don’t mind that it hurts. We are eager to be tattered and worn. We are eager to be shabby.

xx allie

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

 

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.

 

I Am Awake

awakening

I am awake…

to the strength of my soul

to the power of my thought

to the resilience of my spirit.

I am awake…

to the smile of my heart

to the gentle of my word

to the warmth of my voice.

I am awake…

to the beauty of my lonesome

to the sharp of my mind

to the hope of my future.

I am awake…

to the promise of tomorrow

to the joy of today

to the beauty of despair.

I am awake.

xx allie

Introspection

introspection

We all strive to have honest relationships with our friends, family members, and significant others. After all, honesty is the best policy. We want to feel like we can trust those who are close to us.

But sometimes, we are so caught up in determining whether there is sound honesty in our relationships, that we forget to be honest with ourselves first and foremost.

What does it mean to be honest with yourself? It means to reflect on your values and ideologies and evaluate whether you act in accordance with them. It means to listen to what you preach, or tell others, and interpret whether or not you practice these beliefs in your everyday life and actions. If there is a disconnect between the way you are, and the way that you tell yourself that you are, then perhaps you are not being honest with yourself.

If by being introspective you discover that there are inconsistencies between your actions and your dialogue (either internal or external), then perhaps it is time to reevaluate what is important to you and how you portray it.

It is definitely not easy to be honest with yourself. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes the truth feels better left unsought. Sometimes we’d rather lie to ourselves than deal with the discomfort of living with the truth. And still yet, no matter how honest you think you are being with others, if you are not honest with yourself then you are living less than ideally. Honesty with others often relies on the mere stipulation that you’ve been honest with yourself first.

When we ask others to be honest, therefore, we are really asking them to be honest with themselves. Nothing else is true or valuable without first the knowledge that this person has come to understand and uphold their own belief systems and values. They must be true to themselves, in order to gain our respect…and in order to gain our trust.

You can only suppress or deny a truth for so long, until it bubbles up from beneath the surface and becomes so blinding and apparent that you can barely withstand its noise. You cannot live a satisfying life by lying. You cannot feel fulfilled.

Introspection is key. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who will live their lives feeling unsatisfied, but never find the courage or patience to look within. When you look within, questions are answered, conundrums are solved, and discovery is promising. You can never unlearn what you learn, but who would want to? The truth will always set you free. The truth is your identity.

xx allie