The Nordstrom’s Fitting Room Ruined My Independence Day

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The 4th of July calls for a tradition of hot dogs, chips n’ dip, beer, and good ol’ American apple pie. It’s all about the red, white, and barbeque. No one counts calories on this day, because to do so would be asinine. I mean c’mon, on this day one man singlehandedly scarfed down 74 hotdogs. If that doesn’t prove how glutton-heavy this holiday is, then I don’t know what would!

Coincidentally, it is also a day to dress scantily—if you are a female that is. Short shorts, bathing suits, crop tops, you name it. Not only is it a scorcher, but it’s also a day to prove to the media world (insta, twitter, facebook) what type of body you have. It’s an opportunity to show to the world the gains you’ve made over the course of the winter/spring in light of the summer months.

Go figure.

The day started out for me as good as any other. Went to workout, drank my protein shake, and headed to the mall to make a quick return. The sun was shining bright, and the insta feed was already poppin’. The day had started off with a bang, in much the same way that it would end.

After finishing my return and perusing the aisles of Nordstrom’s, I came across a plethora of cute finds that I simply needed to try on. Bathing suits, crop tops, and the like. With the help of an eager attendant, I made my way into a room to try on the discounted one-pieces I grabbed. I slipped them on, and was appalled by what I saw: my body looked horrendous—a splotchy bumpy surface covered the back of my thighs and butt cheeks. It was as if a firework of cellulite went off on the lower half of my body, spewing its explosion of  clumpy texture all over my 25-year-old legs.

Now of course, I knew that I had cellulite prior to this moment in the fitting room. I’ve seen it for years, and have learned to accept it. HOWEVER, here in the fitting rooms at Nordstrom, it was as if gravity took a whole new turn for the worse. The cellulite appeared to be 3x worse than ever before, and I was SHOOK. Even Alexander Hamilton would have thrown in the towel at the sight of this.

While I normally would have scoffed at this abysmal observation, cursing Nordstrom’s lighting specialists for choosing the least flattering lights for the most pivotal buying decision time-frame, this time was different. Every ounce of my being wanted to blame this corporation for making me look FAT, but the truth was, this was really me. The cellulite belonged to me. It was not photoshopped on, and it could not be photoshopped off.

I sat on the bench in the fitting room, fighting back tears. I am 25 years old. I work out hard 4-5x per week. I have been on a highly-devoted gluten-free diet for nearly a month and a half. Yet, I had nothing to show for it. I have always been taught that if you work hard in life, it will pay off. This was the ideology I have lived with for as long as I can remember; it makes sense. Nothing good in life is simply handed to you, and if you want to experience results you HAVE to be willing to put in the work. But with cellulite, this belief was null and void. None of it held true.

The day wore on, and I continued to be reminded of this malady. A sea of shorts-wearing, cellulite-less females flooded my consciousness and berated my psyche. What a cruel world we live in, where hot dog eaters could grace the world with their beautiful legs, but the hardworking, breadless folk were stuck sweating in long jeans to hide the nightmarish skin dents that were ever-apparent on their flesh. Let freedom ring? I think not.

I had ordered a salad for dinner that night, and skipped the rolls at Woodranch BBQ (I repeat, skipped the rolls at Woodranch BBQ), only to find myself crying at the harbor with my boyfriend only minutes before the Fireworks show began. ‘I feel ugly. I feel fat. I don’t feel good enough. None of my efforts are paying off. I am SO discouraged.’ I couldn’t bear to see all the smiling, laughing girls my age mindlessly enjoying Independence Day, while I was caught up focusing on my body image, and nothing more. My 4th of July was indeed tainted by what all began in the Nordstrom fitting room that morning.

Today, only 2 days later, I look back and realize how RIDICULOUS I was being. Are you kidding me? I had a loving, sweet, caring, thoughtful boyfriend by my side, the privilege of watching the fireworks in a beautiful, and safe neighborhood, and God’s good grace all around me, and yet all I could focus on was the cellulite on the back of my legs. What a tragedy. I wasted a beautiful moment that I’ll never get back worrying about something that was essentially out of my hands.

More women have cellulite than those who do not. It is part of being a woman. It is part of being healthy. Society has decided that it MUST GO….but what if we decide that it can stay? What if we decide that it is normal, that it is expected, and that you are STILL beautiful? What we see in the media is modified. We are surrounded by images of flawless women, and made to believe that flawless is the only type of beauty that exists. In reality though, even flawless women do not exist. Public photos are edited and enhanced. Models are airbrushed and contoured. No imperfections are exposed, and the normal, raw beauties are the ones who pay for it.  Where is the justice? Where is the morality?

This post serves to remind you women that you are BEAUTIFUL, no matter what shape, size, or color. You are beautiful, because you are you. We (myself included) need to stop focusing on our imperfections, and instead begin to recognize our blessings. I am lucky to have two hands. I am lucky to feel healthy on a day-to-day basis.  I am lucky to have long, luscious hair. I am lucky that my vision is not impaired. I am lucky to be alive, and loved. The list goes on and on and on… THAT, my friends, is what truly matters.

So with that, I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice—Sun’s out, Buns out! Get to it.

xx allie

 

 

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Depression & Creativity

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Hello everyone. I’m sorry that I haven’t written in a while…truth is, I haven’t really had the motivation to. I’ve thought of a number of topics (even started to write about them), only to realize that I wasn’t passionate enough about the subjects and therefore could not write a post that would be worthy of your attention.  So thank you for being patient with me and not ‘unfollowing’ during this period of stagnation.

These days, I do not experience depression. And while I am grateful for that in several ways, I also miss my emotional depth and creativity. When I am depressed, I am motivated to discuss several topics, and inspire others with my words and reflection. I am more compassionate, more in-touch with nature and my senses, and even more grateful for the tiny blessings that occur in a given day. Everything becomes more acute, and it is as if a new ability to experience heightened awareness floods my body. For lack of a better way to describe it, it is a beautiful sadness.

 When I am ‘normal’ and happy, I am on autopilot. I plow through my day more effortlessly and with less thought/attention to detail. While life like this is easier and less taxing, in a strange way it also feels less meaningful. I am less provoked by stimulating events, and less likely to cry during emotionally-laden conversations. Things don’t shake me in the same way that they used to. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I shed a tear…and I seriously believe that’s a first. That’s not to say that I don’t care about things. I definitely still do.

That being said, I am still 100% thankful for my continued happiness and stability. Lexapro is killin’ the game, even at my 5mg dose.

A few more things to note about it though:

*My blood pressure has dropped considerably since I’ve begun this medication. I think that may be attributable to the pill’s potential to reduce salt levels in the blood. Since I know that I don’t drink enough water, dehydration is likely causing this drop in blood pressure.

*My memory has worsened. Everyday stories and details are forgotten much more easily. This isn’t adversely affecting my work, school, or personal life. It’s just a bit frustrating when things need to be told to me more than once.

Although life without depression is less intense, it is also much easier. With nothing holding me back, I feel like all of my professional goals are attainable. Heck, I’m even considering pursuing a PsyD in the future! It’s exciting to feel like my life is on track, and that I am on the path to achieving an independently secure future that I can feel proud of. Life is kind of crazy, and I’ve gotta admit, I’m loving it.

 Until next time ❤

xx allie

Stop the Stigma

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The other day I had a routine gyno appointment with a new doctor that I had never seen before. She spent the first half of our appointment trying to get to know me, as they usually do. She slowly scanned down my health chart, asking for clarification here and there. “It says you’re taking antidepressants. Lexapro? Why are you depressed? You’re so beautiful?”

Hmm…”you’re so beautiful?” Is that even related to the question she just asked me?

I replied, “Well, I’m not depressed anymore. Since I’ve been taking a low dose of the Lexapro, I’ve improved substantially”

“What’s your background?” she asked. “Your ethnicity”

“Assyrian”, I said.

“See! There is no reason why you should be depressed. Imagine all of the individuals who are living in Syria right now, in a third world country. You live here, you are so lucky. You are beautiful, young, healthy. You shouldn’t be depressed.”

Wow. Who does this “doctor” think that she is? She is basically telling me that I don’t have the right to feel depressed. She is basically telling me that I don’t deserve to be depressed.

Completely aside from the fact that she clearly does not understand that Assyrians don’t come from Syria, I was entirely offended. Depression does not need a reason to rear its ugly head. Depression can happen to anyone, regardless of you being wealthy, beautiful, intelligent, skinny, etc. And the thing is, you should never be made to feel GUILTY for it. If you have depression, then chances are you already feel guilty for other reasons–acting less like ‘yourself’, bringing down the emotional climate of any room you walk into, cancelling or rejecting plans with friends, lashing out at people you love for no good reason, etc. Many people do not understand that depression is not selective about its victims. It is relentless, and often attacks unexpectedly. People who are depressed, in many cases, can’t tell you why they are feeling down…they just are. And let me tell you, it sucks.

As I sat in the room with the doctor, I began to zone out of the rest of the conversation. In my head, I had already decided that I would never return to see her again. I felt completely misunderstood by her. I know that I am privileged and blessed in my life, and I wish that those reasons could serve as an inoculation against Major Depressive Disorder…but they don’t. That’s just not how it works.

Depression is a serious illness. At my worst, I would consider driving my car into walls on the freeway as an escape from the pain that I was feeling. Thank God, I no longer have these thoughts. But if I were truly still in the same place, this doctor’s words might have pushed me to hold down the gas pedal, close my eyes, and take a deep breath (perhaps my very last one). Even if I had a mere sliver of hope left in my depressed state, this doctor’s words would have shattered it into pieces.

When a person is depressed, they need compassion. They need patience. They need support. This doctor provided none of the above. This doctor was extremely ignorant, and came across as critical and judgmental. The sad fact is, there are so many people like her who don’t truly understand depression. Unfortunately, it makes the stigma of mental health illnesses even worse than they already are. If doctors are judging patients for being depressed, then why is it a surprise when the general public does?

No, you are not any less of a person for being depressed. No, you are not any less of a person for needing antidepressants…or any other medication for that reason. Not every person is lucky enough to live their entire life without acquiring a mental illness…whether it’s addiction, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, or any of the other hundred+ illnesses. And if you are, then be thankful every. damn. day. Because tomorrow could be different.

This post is for every person who has ever felt criticized for a mental illness. This post is for every person who has ever felt embarrassed to admit that they are depressed, suicidal, unhappy, etc. You do not need to feel guilty. You do not need to feel ashamed. And most importantly, you are not alone.

xx allie

The Scoop on High Cholesterol

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What’s up guys! Sorry that I haven’t posted in a long time, it’s midterm season and ya girl has been all tied up. This is a health post–so if you love your body & want to learn something helpful, then read on…

About two weeks ago, I visited my general practitioner for an annual exam. Since this was my first time seeing this new doctor, she thought it would be wise to run basically every blood test in the book. Although I’m not much a fan of needles & blood, I’m not one to argue with taking a precautionary approach toward health. For that reason, I happily obliged.

For the most part, my results came back excellent–everything I normally worry about (glucose, white blood cell count, platelets, etc.) was perfectly in the normal range. However there were two things to note:

1. Vitamin D levels were low–this one was obvious. Virtually everyone that I know has ‘low’ levels of vitamin D. This one is easily fixed with a daily supplement & additional sun exposure (with sunscreen!). Nothing to worry about.

2. Borderline cholesterol. Doc say what???? This was the first time I’ve ever tested high for cholesterol. Granted, it wasn’t VERY high, but it was still noticeably ‘up there’. Good total cholesterol should stay under 200. Borderline total cholesterol is between 200-239, and high cholesterol is 240 or higher.  Mine was at 219. Upon receiving this news, I immediately thought back to my recent diet. Let’s see, I had been abstaining from eating  chocolate for months, and as a result, have been eating a LOT less sugary desserts. I’m also relatively careful about limiting my fast food intake. I exercise 2-3 days per week. Peculiar.

Regardless–this was a bit of a wake up call for me (along with the fact that I weighed in at 150 lbs–a record high for me). The last time I weighed 150 lbs was when I returned home from studying abroad in Europe 4 years ago, after eating 2 gelatos per day in Italy and 3 croissants per day in France. At that time, I deserved every pound of weight that I gained, and I took it in stride. This time was different…I didn’t feel it was deserved. Perhaps my metabolism has slowed in the last four years. Or perhaps my body’s composition is different–more muscle, less fat this time.

I am 5’5″, and my normal healthy weight is about 140-142 lbs. When I was clinically depressed, I got down to 132 or so and I wasn’t a huge fan of the way that I looked. I lost a lot of my booty and some of my hips. I had lost some fat, but also a lot of muscle. I didn’t look as fit/healthy, and I definitely was not happy. Anyways, after learning that I was again at my high weight, I realized that perhaps I could still be making better eating choices. My cholesterol was borderline, and my weight was about 8-10 lbs over my body’s ideal.

QUICK ASIDE–I absolutely love my body. I am a dense young woman, with wide child-bearing hips, a big butt, and thick legs. My sister is my same height and weighs 110 lbs (literally 40 lbs less than me), and it doesn’t bother me for one second. We have completely different body types, and one isn’t any better than the other. They are just different, and beautiful in their own ways! So learning that I weighed 150 lbs didn’t make me feel less beautiful, or even ‘fat’. I just knew that my body operates and looks better at 140-142 lbs.

At this point, I was now intrinsically motivated to be healthy, and treat my body in the way that it deserves to be treated. I realized that it was time for me to add a day of exercise to my week, and start to be more health conscious with my eating habits.

The good thing about having high cholesterol is that it is REVERSIBLE! It is totally within your control.

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Here are the tips on lowering your cholesterol (bad cholesterol= LDL) and getting healthy!

1. Eat Oats–I’m talking steel cut oatmeal or even oat-based cereals like cheerios. Your body needs high sources of fiber at this time, and this is one way to get it. Rotate your breakfasts for variety and add fruit, always!

2. Whole Grains–I’ve been getting my whole grains in a few different ways. Lately I’m obsessed with Clif Kid Organic Z bars–in the flavor Iced Oatmeal Cookie. These little snack bars have 12g of whole grain and are a good source of fiber. Not to mention they are super delicious! Sometimes for breakfast I’ll eat 2 slices of Orowheat Whole Grain Double Fiber bread, with peanut butter & organic strawberry jelly (sometimes add banana slices). Two slices provide 48% of the daily value of fiber, and is also an excellent source of vitamin D. I also eat Kashi Vanilla Shredded Whole Wheat Biscuits cereal for breakfast. There are 48g of whole grains per serving and 6g of fiber. Win.

3. Beans–I’ve been making homemade hummus using garbonzo beans! Also can make taco salads with black beans!

How to Make One-Serving of Hummus:

1/3 avocado

1/2 can garbonzo beans

1/2 lemon squeezed

salt & pepper

garlic clove

Tablespoon of Olive Oil

4. Nuts–Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, up to 5%. I like cashews.

5. Vegetable Oils–no butter or lard! Swap out regular butter on toast for nut butter! Don’t cook with butter either. I think this is huge! Olive oil is a great replacement.

6. Healthy Fats–Omega-3s found in fish like salmon and also avocado!

7. Chocolatedark chocolate!

8. Green Tea

9. Berries–blueberries, raspberries,  blackberries, strawberries! Throw them in cereals, salads, or eat them alone.

10. Increased Exercise!

If you discover you have high cholesterol, don’t panic! You can bring it down yourself with some healthy new habits that are better for you in general! I hope this post is some motivation to begin treating your body better today!

xx allie

 

The AA Movement

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As most of you might already know, I am in graduate school studying to earn my MS in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. As part of my program, I am enrolled in a Substance Abuse and Dependency course that requires me to attend at least one Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting and one Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting.

In the past week, I have attended two AA meetings and one NA meeting.

While I walked away from each meeting feeling like a better person than I did when I entered, the Friday night meeting felt the most impactful to me. This meeting was an AA open speaker meeting, scheduled for 8pm this past Friday. Coincidentally, 8pm on a Friday night is a typical hour for people to begin to ‘turn up’ and pre-game before hitting the bars and clubs. But not here. Not at this church. A community of over 200 people joined on this night to celebrate the ‘birthdays’ of alcoholics.

What is a birthday of an alcoholic? It is another year of sobriety. It is another year of willpower, temptation, good days, bad days, cravings, and mastery. Mastery of another year without a sip of alcohol. Mastery of sobriety.

At the beginning of the meeting, the speaker asked all alcoholics to raise their hands. Every person in every pew raised their hand. You wonder, how do all of these beautiful humans walk among us and work beside us, without us having any knowledge of their membership to the AA program and the insane struggles that they have faced? There is an entire community of alcoholics that are a large part of every city, and the average person exists entirely devoid of this knowledge. We are naive to it. We are ignorant.

I was moved as I watched individuals of all ages, ethnicities, and professions blow out the candles on their cakes and proceed to tell their stories. These people were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. Drug dependency is no respecter of peoples. It can affect anyone, at any time.

But what was amazing to me was the camaraderie that had been formed amongst all of these people with a common desire: the desire to live. The desire to gain their lives back. Here they had come to make, quite possibly, the toughest decision of their lives. The decision to abstain from a substance that had succeeded at running (and ruining) their lives. Here they had come to gain control back. To take the control away from the substance and to work hard every.damn.day. to live a clean and sober life that at first felt unfamiliar, vulnerable, and scary. Here they had gained the support that they lacked, when they lost all of their family and friends from their addictions.

One of the hardest things that all AA members must come to accept is the notion that “once an addict, always an addict”. An older gentleman was 33 years sober, and yet still an addict. One lady said in her speech–“I will be an addict until the day they lower me into my grave…but the one thing I will not be, is a drunk”.

One addict explained how, even after 9 years of sobriety, every time he walks through the liquor aisle in a grocery store it feels like he is walking through an aisle of explosives. He then went on to say that he fears the day it ceases to feel that way, as he knows it will be a very bad sign for him.

He mentioned that alcohol continues to come up in a number of life scenarios. People cook with alcohol. There is alcohol in medicines. Do these things count for the alcoholic? It’s a fine line, but it’s questionable. Addicts must be mindful and wise in their decision-making if they do not want to relapse.

It felt ironic that alcohol could be the absolute enemy for all of these people in the church that night, while at the exact same time, hundreds of other people would turn to it as a way to unwind from the week and let loose. Alcohol is powerful. As one alcoholic put it, “choosing to drink is like playing with fire”. It’s never a problem at first, but eventually things can get out of hand. Before you know it, you hit bottom and lose everything that matters.

It is because of programs like AA and NA that people get their lives back. Alcoholics Anonymous instills hope. It brings about change, and positivity. It is a catalyst for miracles to occur. AA is a community of love, faith, non-judgment, and friendship. AA meetings can be found in every 5 mile radius, nearly every hour of the day. It is ALL OVER, and widely available. These meetings will gladly welcome anyone, and everyone. It is a movement…and an absolute beautiful one at that.

Although I am not an alcoholic myself, I have been able to gain a great deal of insight and perspective from the meetings that I have attended. And even though I have fulfilled my requirement for my course, I intend to continue attending meetings. They make me want to strive to be a better person. They put life into perspective, and remind you just how fragile it can be. These meetings give us reasons to be thankful for wherever we are at in our lives. I think that if more people (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike) were to attend these meetings, the world would undoubtedly be a better place.

I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, and attend one. You will be surprised what you can learn from others.

xx allie

Temptations, Declined

Addiction Journal Entry #2

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What’s up guys?! Here’s a little update on how my abstinence from chocolate is going thus far:

It’s been since January 1st (with one slip on my 25th birthday party) that I’ve abstained from eating all forms and amounts of chocolate. And although I slipped on one day, I feel rather proud of myself so far. The day that I slipped, I indulged in a small portion of chocolate (a small M&M/Oreo McFlurry from McDonalds, a literal sip of hot chocolate, and about half of a small slice of marble cake). I wouldn’t even consider it a “relapse”. Since then (which was January 6th), I’ve been exceptional about refraining from chocolate [if I do say so myself].

Since I am so in love with chocolate, a sugary sweet that does not include any chocolate is barely worth my time; I hardly have any trouble rejecting offers of other types of sweets. Because of this, there are many things that I’ve been able to reject effortlessly, including but not limited to ice cream, pastries at the office, rich Jamba Juice shake flavors, and carrot cake cookies brought into my Diagnostic & Therapeutic Interviewing class. Overall, my diet has improved substantially since I’ve begun to restrict chocolate, and (surprisingly) most other sweets as a result.

I have, however, been satisfying my sweet tooth in SOME ways. Let us count them:

Jamoca flavored ice cream from Baskin Robbins–Noteworthy is the fact that I visit Baskin Robbins now WAY less often than I used to. Before committing to this assignment, I would generally visit the ice cream store 2-3 times per week. Now I go about once every 2-3 weeks. I also used to order at least a single scoop (sometimes a double), but now I only go for the kids scoop, since Jamoca isn’t tantalizingly good enough to eat more than that.

Baklava—Random, I know. Guess I’ve tapped into my middle eastern roots a bit with this one. I really love the spices and flavors of baklava, and I’m able to buy it fresh from our local Persian market. I only have a bite in order to satisfy my sweet tooth, and it works every time.

Iced dirty chai from Starbucks, only half the normal pumps of chai, nonfat milk, and EZ ice—To be honest, I don’t feel too guilty ordering this drink. I used to indulge in salted caramel mochas…so this is a much better option.

Medjool Dates—I consider these God’s candy. They are the sweetest, most naturally sweet and organic thing I’ve eaten. One date gives me all of the satisfaction that I need.

Blueberry Muffins—I hardly count this, as I’ve only eaten a total of 2 in this time-frame. But since I had never chosen blueberry muffins prior to this assignment, I figured it was worth mentioning. The blueberry muffin option is a fast way for me to grab breakfast from Starbucks in the morning, while satisfying my early craving for sugar and adhering to my disciplined chocolate detox.

Overall, chocolate has been less pervasive on my thoughts, and the cravings for it have begun to diminish (except, of course, during my time of the month) —-the struggle was real, as I’m sure you could imagine.

Well, that’s all I have for today! Hope you enjoyed this follow-up.

xx allie

Mind the Grey

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We broke new ground in my therapy session yesterday. For the first time ever, I was given a homework assignment at the conclusion of my hour: write a blog post on “the grey area of life”. Upon receiving this instruction, I beamed with excitement. Finally, the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what I’ve learned from the session and how I can apply it to my life. Any homework assignment that involves personal reflection and self-expression is one that I will readily take on with open arms. I have always loved to write, as I find it therapeutic and insightful. This assignment proved to be no exception.

If you’ve ever known a perfectionist, or if you consider yourself to be one, then you are probably aware of how invasive the desire for ‘perfection’ can be.  It has the potential to penetrate any number of areas of your life, whether it be your career, your education, your family life, or your romantic relationships. You start to notice distinct black & white thinking. If something isn’t perfect, then it’s no good at all. You choose to remove it from your life as best you can. But herein lies the problem. Nothing in life is perfect. Life is messy and unpredictable. Expectations are not always met, and disappointment is inevitable. When you limit yourself to accepting nothing but perfection, you limit your life to few possibilities. And of those possibilities, the options become even more obscure as life continues to muddy the waters further. Even if something appears to be ‘perfect’, it may not always exist in a perfect state. The perfect person makes mistakes. The perfect flower ultimately shrivels and dies. The perfect day turns into night and then vanishes forever. Perfect is not a reasonable standard. There is room for imperfection. There is room for the grey.

If you begin to compartmentalize the world according to black & white, you’ll soon find that many things do not fit well into either category. A third category begins to outweigh the other two: the grey category. Life isn’t as concrete as we hope it to be, and sometimes all we can do is accept it. I don’t believe in standards being too high, but I do believe that standards can be too extreme. And unfortunately, I’m beginning to think that I’ve set too extreme of standards with little room for imperfection. Maybe it’s in my nature…or maybe it’s from my upbringing.

I remember when I was little (and even to this day), being limited to the types of trash that I could throw in my father’s waste basket in his room. No food, no crumbs, no dirty tissues, and no crumbled up papers. All disposables for that trash had to be neatly folded papers. He was anal, and had extreme expectations for perfection. I remember being warned not to eat a tic tac even 2 hours before dinner since it would “ruin my appetite”. I remember being scolded for trying to draw lines free-handedly on my projects. “Don’t you want it to look nice and neat? Don’t you want it to look like you spent time on it? You need to use a ruler”. I remember being forbidden to ride on a school bus in the rain (on account of the danger), causing me to miss out on class field trips with my friends. I remember coming home from school, excited to share a “B+” grade, only to be asked why it wasn’t an “A”. So maybe it is a bit of nature…but my suspicions tell me it’s nurture.

I have been programmed to strive for perfection, and to look for perfection in everything I do and in everyone I know. And while in many ways this is a blessing, it has also doubled as a curse. I have scared away many good people from my rigid judgements and extreme expectations. I have discounted the good because it wasn’t good enough. I have allowed myself to feel disappointed from people and things that have not even truly been disappointing. I have allowed myself to dwell on the future and fear imperfection, rather than revel in the present and appreciate the now.

So I challenge myself to mind the grey; to accept the fact that the world is imperfect, and that many things in life will not be black or white. I challenge myself to get comfortable with grey areas in my life, and to find the good in even the things that aren’t the exact way I wish them to be. I challenge myself to be mindful, and to seize the moment without the mistake of tainting it with flawed and senseless suppositions of the future. A friend at work once told me of her favorite quote, which resonates nicely with the theme of this post: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. I challenge myself not to.

xx allie

 

 

 

 

The Addiction Project: Journal Entry 1

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What’s up guys?! Happy Wednesday! So as you know, since the beginning of this year, I’ve been abstaining from eating all things chocolate, to begin what I like to call my “addiction project”. It’s been a total of 10 days now, so I figured I’d check in and document my progress/experience so far. Here are some of my notes:

  1. Out of the 10 days that I’ve been avoiding the consumption of chocolate, I’ve only caved on one day (which was my 25th birthday party). I justified that day as an “exception day”, and I am STILL feeling guilty for doing that. In the life of a recovering addict, there are NO EXCEPTION DAYS. An alcoholic cannot just decide to drink on ‘exception days’ like their birthday, a wedding, a bachelor/bachelorette party, a trip to Vegas, etc. A meth addict cannot just decide to light up when they’ve had a long/difficult day, or when a group of their addict friends decide to hang out. When an addict makes the decision to go into recovery, there are no loopholes. They are committing to a lifetime of honesty, restraint, and willpower. Although this addiction project of mine is a mock-recovery assignment, I will commit to adhering to my recovering ‘addict’-mindset moving forward. No more cheating. No more caving. No more exceptions. [[not even on Valentine’s Day–the most chocolate-ridden day of them all]]. *sigh*. The best way that I can get an accurate experience of recovery (given that I am not actually addicted to a drug or alcohol) is to do all that is in my power to emulate the struggles and victories that addicts face on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Social Life Crisis: Between work life and grad school life, I love to find time for my friends by meeting them for coffee, late-night happy hour, or ice-cream runs. But I am starting to realize just how many calories I consume in a given week as a means of being social. In these past 10 days, I have had to refrain from pizookie offerings, Baskin Robbins pitstops, mochas & salted caramel hot chocolates, and much more. From choosing to reject all forms of chocolate, I have noticed that my usual lifestyle is ridden with poor eating decisions, and literally NO will power. Until now, I have allowed myself to accept nearly every opportunity of something delicious and sugary, and as a result of this realization, I’ve decided to be more selective in my acceptance of dessert offerings at the conclusion of this experiment. Due to this project, I’ve had to find new ways to spend time with my friends. No more discussion over dessert. I imagine that this would be a very big problem for addicts in the real world, who have likely found friends who enjoy the same vices as them. When all you’ve ever done with your friends is engage in your addictions together, there are few other options when you decide to quit…and chances are, your friends are not on the same page as you regarding recovery. So what does this mean? You lose old friends, and are tasked with the difficulty of making new ones—ones that are a good influence. It is not easy to leave your old life and habits behind and start anew. It is scary and daunting. I imagine this is a big part of the reason why people get stuck in their addictions and feel that there is little way out. The motivation to progress is hindered by the fear of abandoning the familiar and venturing off into the overwhelming unknown.
  3. Pervasive Thoughts & Urges: The first few days were the worst. I never really noticed how often I thought about eating chocolate until I was not allowing myself to eat it. In the morning, in the late morning, after lunch, in the late afternoon, after dinner, you name it. For many years, I’ve looked to chocolate to start my day, and to end my day. I have stashed chocolate supplies in every place that I visit on a daily basis. It’s in my drawer at work, in a jar in my bedroom, in my kitchen, etc. I have used chocolate as a motivation for many things, including as a way to treat myself when I accomplish something (or really anything at all). Chocolate has been my driving force, my happiness, my relief, my depression’s friend, etc. It is my vice. I’ve had to re-train my thinking in the last 10 days, and I’ve noticed that I crave it less and less as time goes on. I’ve thrown away all of my stashes, and have removed any reminders of chocolate (including a little sign in my room that says, “Love is all you need, but a little chocolate every now and then doesn’t hurt”). The best way to remove yourself from your addiction is to remove the things that spur the addiction.
  4. Alternatives: I do still have a sweet tooth, and I do still look for ways to satisfy it. Instead of chocolate, I now try to snack on yogurt, nut & dried fruit trail mixes, peanut butter & bananas, medjool dates, etc. Getting my chocolate fix was oftentimes mindless. I would reach into my drawer or chocolate jar and would immediately satisfy my craving. Now my alternative options take planning. I have to go to the store and stock up on my options, then remember to take them with me when I leave for the day. One of the lessons of the church service I attended last Sunday was that if you spend your life coasting, the only way you can go is downhill. When we get used to doing things mindlessly, we cease to make improvements and progress in our lives. Planning ahead, calculating our day, and making new choices is healthy. Do it.

So in 10 days, I feel that I’ve already gained a good deal of insight. It’s just the beginning so far, but I am confident that I will continue to learn more about myself and this process and I am excited to share my findings. Stay lovely folks.

xx allie

2017 Reflections

reflection

Luckily, I had much to be grateful for in 2017. This past year was a year of personal growth. I spent a good deal of time and effort bettering myself and working on my shortcomings. It was a year of recovery from depression, personal psychotherapy sessions, reading self-help and psychological novels, and coming to know more about who I am as a person and what I am looking for in a future. I have come to acknowledge and accept my weaknesses, and have discovered the potential I have to be a great therapist nonetheless.  Because even therapists are not perfect. Because even therapists do not have all of the answers. We are all human, and we are all susceptible to the obstacles inherent in being alive.

Through trial and error, and hardship and hurt I learned about what I am not looking for in a relationship, and consequently the things that I value most. I learned that no amount of love for a person supersedes compromise or respect. I learned that not everything can be fixed, and that sometimes letting go is the best, albeit the hardest, solution.

I learned that people who block your path to betterment and success are better left behind…not with anger or hatred, but with compassion toward their self-set limitations. When you are ready to let go of the people who are holding you back, beautiful things begin to happen.

After letting go of my last relationship, I was able to divert misused energy and passion to something that truly mattered: my education. Gone were days of tears, anger, bewilderment, and betrayal, and instead came feelings of self-fulfillment, gratitude, and pride.  A sense of completeness came over me, as I felt more whole on my own than with anyone else. Nothing had the power to upset me now. Nothing had the power to knock me off my feet, except my own exhilaration and momentum in life.

I started graduate school in August of 2017, and began to surround myself with anything and everything that steered me closer to my goals. For the first time in years, I found myself sitting down to write papers at coffee shops on weekdays—my absolute favorite thing to do. I could immerse myself in the topics and literature that fed my passions and left me itching for more. Everything felt right again. Everything felt purposeful. I completed my first semester with nothing but ‘A+’s, and I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work and countless hours that I devoted to earning those grades. Nothing came before school. Nothing served as a distraction. For that, I feel lucky.

In 2017, I was able to adhere to a good routine involving a number of various exercises per week. I lifted weights, took Zumba, played tennis, and became a new member at Studio Barre in Newbury Park. The community at Studio Barre, paired with the physical challenge, kept me coming back and actually looking forward to it. Exercise ceased to feel like a hassle, and therefore I kept it up. This year I experienced less “phases” and more of a hard-wired lifestyle.

I have managed to hold on to all of my best friends, despite occasional tiffs or disagreements. Again, I was graced with another year of proof that my friendships are solid and shatterproof. The health of the ones I love is, for another year, pristine. There is nothing that is more of a blessing to me than this.

Wealth has entered into my life in many forms. But monetarily speaking, I cannot say enough great things about the cryptocurrencies that I’ve invested in during 2017. I feel that good earnings will continue to come, and I truly encourage people to educate themselves on these types of investments and join in while they continue to rise!

It is true that 2017 brought with it a few unforeseen endings. However, with endings come new beginnings…and I can’t say enough about how excited I am to embark on the new beginnings that have recently entered my life. I feel good vibes heading into the new year, and I am excited to be carried by life’s waves of spontaneity and good grace.

Happy New Year to all. Let’s make it the best one yet.

xx allie