I am a chronic “fixer.”
Over my lifetime, a majority of my romantic relationships have been with men who I perceived to be in need of “fixing” in one way or another. I dated chronic underachievers, men with children they never saw, and men with abysmal self-esteem. I didn’t just see their red flags, I charged directly at them like a bull to a matador. I told myself I saw their potential. I rationalized away their shortcomings:
“Oh how perfect he would be if he would just apply himself!”
“He just wasn’t raised in a supportive household that recognized his talents.”
“It’s not his fault, he’s never been in a stable relationship before.”
I constantly dismissed warning signs as rough on the diamonds, choosing to see the glimmer of promise buried beneath piles of wreckage. And I convinced myself that it was my duty to save them from the rubble.
It wasn’t until I started to work on myself outside of a romantic relationship that I realized that I was the one who actually needed fixing. I had mountains of issues that I had never even acknowledged, let alone resolved. Severe lack of confidence, poor sense of self-worth, and body image issues galore all bubbling beneath the surface, never permitted to emerge. After decades of pushing up against the door, I finally moved to the side and let all of the skeletons pour out of my closet into a heap on the floor. I closely examined each, one by one, and then put them on display in the forefront of my mind. I tended to them every day via writing, meditating, and putting myself and my well-being first.
Today, I am no longer just a fixer – I am a fixer and a fix-ee. I am loving myself wholeheartedly and dealing with my stuff like a goddamn adult. It’s not easy, but it is a whole lot more productive than seeking out, trying, and failing to fix others. And I have learned a few lessons along the way. If you are a chronic fixer, you really need to hear this:
1. Dating a fixer-upper is the same as ignoring personal red flags. A partner working the same job for 10 years can indicate stability or a lack of ambition, depending on your personal value system. Registering this as something to “fix” tells you that you view it as a problem, a deal breaker, or a personal red flag. In other words, there is a fundamental difference between you and your partner’s worldview and belief systems. When you are in a healthy relationship, however, there is nothing to fix because your values, dreams, and ambitions are aligned.
2. You cannot fix anybody but yourself. We all have issues that interfere with our happiness and our potential – that’s the price of being human. Either those issues control us, or we control them by owning up and doing the work. There is no other option and there is no shortcut. No matter who you date, how much money you make, or what you look like, those issues will always be there until you, and only you, decide to deal with them. The same goes for any romantic interest that may enter your life; they must make the decision to fix their issues. No matter what they might tell you, nobody else can do it for them – not their mom, not their boss, and sure as hell not you.
3. Once you fix your own shit, you will no longer feel the need to fix others. Once you start really taking care of yourself and working through your issues, you will realize that you are no longer interested in the people you used to date. When you work so hard to level up, you will not want to be around those that have not put in the effort to do the same. Your time and energy become sacred because you worked so hard to make them that way. And anybody who threatens that will no longer be welcome.
Fixing others can be a hard habit to break, especially if you struggle with your own self-esteem. However, once you decide to love and make yourself whole, you will create the space for somebody deserving to enter your life – no fixing required.
Note: This post originally featured on Thought Catalog. See the original post here.
Dear Inner Critic,
We need to talk.
This relationship isn’t working for me anymore. I know the polite thing to say is, “it’s not you, it’s me” and, “we can still be friends,” but honestly, neither one of those things are true. It is most definitely you. You constantly berate me, tease me, and put me down for everything I do. The way I act, the way I look, the way I write, the way I talk to others. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even have a conversation without you repeating what I said over and over in my head for hours thereafter; saying how I should have said this, how I definitely should not have said that, how awkward it was when I told the other person I had to leave. It’s beginning to drive me insane.
I get it – you’re just trying to protect me. You remember those times when I was young, when excluding “different” kids was the norm. You saw how painful it was for the outcasts and vowed to shield me from that pain. But, despite your best efforts, it didn’t work. It was never going to work. Everybody gets teased, everybody gets excluded, and everybody gets laughed at from time to time. And, like a diligent student, you filed away every one of these incidents for future protection. So, the next time a boy showed interest in me, you exasperatingly reminded me, “But remember that time that someone left fake love letters in your locker? Boys only pretend to like you as a joke!”
Fast forward twenty years, and you’re still hanging around like a bad song stuck in my head. Even as an adult, you are trying to protect me from straying too far from the pack in fear of me being ostracized from the group. The thing is, the more you keep me “in check”, the more insecure I become while the more insecure I become, the more I ostracize myself from that same group.
I recognize that most of this is my fault. I have never stood up to you before. I have tried to ignore you in hopes that you would take a hint and hit the road. And while you did take a hint, it was the wrong hint. You assumed that no news was good news; that if I didn’t have any complaints, everything was just fine as-is. Over the years, I may have weakly whispered my objections a time or two, but I have never come right out and told you how I felt with any conviction.
But now, it’s finally time to trade those whispers for screams. I have to tell you something, and you’re really not going to like it, but it has to be said nonetheless.
Inner critic, you are a big ol’ bitch. You’re an asshole. You’re a prick. You’re rude beyond measure. And I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.
I hate how every time I put myself out there, you rein me back in. Every time an article of mine comes out, you attach meaning to the number of likes or the number of views like it’s a litmus test for how good of a writer or person I am. I hate how every time I open up Instagram or Facebook, you remind me how I don’t measure up, how different my life is from “everybody else.”
Well guess what, asshole? I don’t want to be just like everybody else. I don’t want to spend my time questioning myself and staying the straight and narrow because I’m too afraid of what everybody else might think. I don’t want to hide my creativity and my voice just because it’s different from that of others. And I don’t want to hurry to get married, buy a house, get a 9 to 5 job, and have children just because it’s “expected” of a woman my age. Instead, I want to live the life I was put on Earth to live. I want to spread my message about mental health to others that may be living in the same personal hell I just escaped from, even if other writers do it “better” (or so you say). I want to travel the world and see beautiful places without worrying about what my body looks like in the photographs. I want to live my life so fully and so unapologetically that it scares you back to the evil place you came from. And I want to shine my light so brightly that others feel like they have permission to do the same.
So watch out, inner critic. You may win the occasional battle, but you sure as hell ain’t winning the war.
With a big hearty middle finger,
Note: This article was originally posted on Thought Catalog. See the original post here.
As a child, I was what many would refer to as “chubby” or “plump” or “big boned.” These are all phrases meant to be polite but intended to convey the same meaning – I was bigger than what I was supposed to be.
I was consistently in the 80th percentile and above in weight compared to others my age and, when BMI came into the picture, I was above average there too. In doctors’ offices, these were statistics that were usually whispered and tip-toed around. “She’s [whisper] a little bigger [end whisper] than most children her age.” As an eight-year-old, this conveyed that my body size was a secret, something nobody should know, something of which to be ashamed.
Almost overnight (and with early onset puberty), these external ideas about my weight became internal thoughts about my body. I can’t remember a single instance in which I was bullied in school for my weight. I do, however, remember many instances in which I bullied myself. Breaking an ancient fraying rope swing at my cousin’s house turned into “I’m so fat.” Weighing more than my 70-pound crush in elementary school became “I hate my size.” Shopping for jeans in the junior’s section in fourth grade grew into “Why can’t I be skinny like the other girls in my class?”
So, it’s no wonder that by the time I hit high school, I was in an all-out war with my body. Even though I had gained about 5 inches in height and most girls had caught up with my curves, it was too late. I still hated my body and treated it accordingly in all the self-destructive ways one can imagine.
It has taken two decades, but I am finally calling a ceasefire in the war on my body. The smoke has cleared, and I can see plainly enough to share with you what you need to hear if you have ever struggled with your body.
To the woman who has been teased by her peers, siblings, or even her parents for her size as a child. To the woman who has been put on diets or sent to fat camps or enrolled in sports that she hated in an effort to lose the weight. To the woman who has cried in dressing rooms or in front of bedroom mirrors trying to find a pair of jeans that fit for the first day of school. To the woman who got changed in the bathroom stall in gym class in fear that others would make fun of her body. Listen closely:
You are no longer that girl.
You are no longer at the mercy of your parents, your siblings, or the popular kids in school.
You have survived the years of being mocked, not feeling good enough, or not fitting in because of your size.
However, there is one woman still standing in the way of loving the body you have. And that woman is you.
Look around. Chances are, you are the only person who is still mocking you for your body. When you look in the mirror, yours is the only voice that speaks.
What does she say?
Does she tell you all the things that should be different, could be different if you just tried a little bit harder? Or does she celebrate your form, your uniqueness, your beauty? If she doesn’t, you are now the bully. Denying your body and yourself of the love you deserve makes you no better than the snot-nosed kids who used to tease you in school. Belittling yourself as you stare at your reflection robs yourself and the world of the beautiful light that glows within you. It’s time to show that little girl inside that she is worthy of love, she is worthy of respect, and she will no longer allow herself to be bullied into submission. You have the power to change the voices in your head from those of discouragement to those of encouragement. In fact, you’re the only one who does.
Note: This post originally featured on Thought Catalog - view it here.
She is depressed. He has depression. They are suffering from clinical depression.
What do all of these phrases have in common?
They put the depression on the person. They say that the essence of a person is their depression. That every single iota of their being is tainted by a mental illness. That all they are and all they know is sadness.
In reality, depression is an illness, a disease. It is only a small part of somebody’s wholeness. Depression does not define them and does not make them weak, much like having cancer does not make somebody made of cancer or spiritually weakened by cancer. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Living with a mental illness and choosing to continue to live every single day in the face of that mental illness makes a person powerful beyond measure. And if that person is willing to open up about their depression? That reflects an incalculable amount of strength, considering the world around them is full of people pretending to have a life that is 100% perfect (just scroll through Instagram once and a while and you’ll see what I’m talking about).
So let’s change the way we talk about depression to reflect the sheer amount of strength it takes to live with a mental health disorder. Instead of saying you are depressed, say:
You are a depression survivor.
You are not depression itself. Depression does not own you or your soul. Instead, you own depression, to the point that you continue to live a life that, often times, feels excruciatingly painful.
What makes you a survivor? The choice you make every single day to continue living, to continue trying, even if you do not feel like doing so.
In 2016, according to the CDC, 45,000 people tragically died by suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. As one would suspect, a majority of people who complete suicide have been touched by depression in some way (60%, to be exact, according to the US HHS). The fact that you 1) have a disorder that makes you 25 TIMES MORE LIKELY to complete a suicide (American Association of Suicidology) and 2) choose to continue living in spite of that risk, makes you badass beyond words.
That makes you strong. That makes you powerful. And that, my friend, makes you a depression survivor.
Note: This post was originally featured on Thought Catalog. Read the original post here.
Relatively speaking, I am a meditation novice. I tried (and failed) incorporating this practice into earlier stages of my life, but it never really stuck until recently. Since attending a retreat in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago, I have started meditating at least once a day and sometimes up to three times per day. And, let me tell you, the outcomes have been surprising and incredibly encouraging. Here are my initial observations on how this practice has impacted my chronic depression and my life:
As I said, I am very new to this whole meditation thing, but I am excited by the promising effects I have already begun to experience as a result of being more mindful. Quieting the mind, especially a depressed or anxious one, can be a daunting feat but, in my experience, the benefits surely outweigh the investment.
I love being naked around other people. I don’t mean in the flashing-innocent-bystanders sex offender way, but in the naked-hippie-retreat kinda way. I’ve recently discovered the quiet power of exposing my bare body around others, sporting my birthday suit at clothing-optional baths, retreats, and hot springs galore. If you, like many of my friends, are someone who thinks they would never be able to do such a thing, read on. It’s truly not as scary as you think, and you may be surprised at what you discover about yourself when you’re immersed in a body of water with a dozen other naked strangers.
1. It’s Beyond Freeing - There is something to be said about spending some time in the form that we’re in when we enter the world. If you think about it, most of us wear clothing 23.5 hours a day, removing our clothes only to bathe or have sex. It can be nerve-wracking to be naked in a sea of naked strangers but, let me tell you, removing your clothes around others is a seriously liberating thing. Why? Because, in a clothing-optional space, literally nobody cares that you are not wearing clothes. Nobody looks at you weird, nobody judges you, and nobody stares at the flaws you think you have. In a world where we are constantly worrying about how we look and what we do, this ambivalence provides a level of freedom that is indescribable.
2. It Boosts Your Self-Esteem - Being in a clothing-optional place exposes you (literally) to a myriad of different body types – hairy, smooth, large, small, tall, short – you name it, you’ll see it. When I went on my first retreat, I realized that was the first time I had seen naked and near-naked bodies outside of advertising, entertainment, and pornography. These bodies had not been selected and airbrushed for their perfection, they were normal people with normal bodies – just like me. It made me realize that 1) I had been holding myself to an impossible standard of beauty and flawlessness that did not exist outside of a photo studio and 2) the body I was working with was pretty bangin’ in and of itself.
3. It’s Physically Comfortable - Many types of clothing and bathing suits, especially those designed for women, are inherently uncomfortable to wear. We’ve grown so accustomed to bunching underwear and scratchy fabric that you don’t really notice how uncomfortable it is – that is until you shed this outer layer. The first time I went for a swim in a pool without a bathing suit was nothing short of magical. I had never noticed how uncomfortable and restrictive it was to do the breaststroke in a suit of nylon, spandex, and elastic – aka the most uncomfortable materials known to (wo)man – until I tried swimming au natural.
4. It Restores Your Faith in Humanity - One of my fears going into a co-ed clothing-optional space was whether, as a woman, I would be the target of unwanted stares or advances from male retreat-goers. My experience, however, was so far the opposite it seriously restored my faith in the human species. I never got so much as a lingering glance or even an undesired conversation for the entire week I was there. I realized that rarely happens in a given clothed week of my life! People who flock to these types of retreats are normally there for spiritual and relaxation reasons, not to scam on unsuspecting women. I felt 100% safe and comfortable the entire time and realized that it was a nice break from the normal street harassment many of us, unfortunately, experience in day-to-day life.
Of course, it’s important to find a place that you feel comfortable and safe. Luckily, there are tons of clothing-optional places for you to choose from and the internet age has made it easy to find reviews from other newbies like you! Co-ed, single-sex, day-use, retreats, nude everywhere, nude only in designated areas – the options are endless and ready for you to discover your naked self!
Note: This article was originally posted on Thought Catalog. See the original post here.
Depression is an asshole. There, I said it. Thank you for your time.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a profound statement. Anybody who has ever been afflicted by or close to somebody with depression knows that it’s shitty and ruins your life. And not just because it makes you sad sometimes or forces you to cry in the bathroom at work for no reason or fastens you into the same set of pajamas for three days straight. Depression is an asshole because it is inherently contradictory. This is the foundation for my theory of The Depression Paradoxes.
Paradox 1: You’re Numb Despite “Having It All”
Clinical depression has no rhyme or reason to it. Unlike grief or situational depression, which can be linked to a single problem or event, clinical depression often pops right out the blue clear sky. As a result, things can often be going pretty well for you but, out of nowhere, you start to feel absolutely miserable. For someone with depression, this can be even worse than your entire life falling apart ,because then at least you would have an explanation for your sadness. Not having a “reason” to be upset about something makes the voices in your head that much more cutting. “You just got a promotion, you ungrateful fuck! Why are you blubbering in the shower?” or “You’re on a yacht in the middle of Caribbean, sipping champagne with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and you can’t smile for one. friggin. second?!” (Anybody else have that fantasy? Just me?)
So hopefully this explanation makes it easy to understand why a common piece of advice spewed by everyone ranging from Instagram yogis to Dr. Phil doesn’t often work for people living with depression. You can hear a choir of soothing New Age-y voices crooning it now: Practice Gratitude. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for not being a greedy prick and being thankful for what you have. And gratitude is an amazing and powerful tool for those not in the middle of a depressive episode. But for someone agonizing in their own personal hell for no reason other than shitty neurotransmission, counting blessings can be a rough reminder of the fact that they are still suffering despite all they have been given. Even more, for someone with the messed-up thought patterns characteristic of mental health disorders, this can quickly feed into the cycle of negative self-talk and depression.
Paradox 2: Exercise Is Supposed To Make You Happy, But You Can’t Even Get Out Of Bed
I, like many of my fellow mental health warriors, have googled the phrase “how to fight depression” or some variation of that more times than Kanye West has googled “Kanye West.” (Mom, if you’re reading this, that’s a lot of times.) What pops up are several different blog posts listing the same strategies tested by time and scientific evidence: exercising, eating well, socializing, and looking on the sunny side of life! And, of course, all of those things are wonderful suggestions for people with or without a mental health disorder. However, to quote Carrie Underwood, “There’s just one little problem…” Depression makes those things pretty much impossible, especially when you’re knee-deep in self-doubt, fatigue, and crying spells.
Before you yell at me, I am a lifelong student of the sciences, with degrees in Nutritional Sciences and Physical Therapy. I am a big proponent of healthy living, both mentally and physically. Professionally, I have seen the positive impact of appropriate exercise, solid nutrition, and social interaction on people with mental and physical disorders. Personally, however, I have seen just how difficult it is to follow this advice when you can barely get out of bed in the morning. I, a physical therapist and normally an avid exerciser, had an entire three (okay, six) month span where I did not exercise a single minute. I used all of my social, physical, and mental energy just getting myself to, through, and from work. By the time I got home, I could barely keep it together enough to binge on Triscuits and The Office before crying myself to sleep at the thought of waking up and having to do it all over again. And what made it even worse was knowing that I should be exercising, I should be meeting up with friends, I should eat a goddamn vegetable once in a while. (Translation in my brain: I am definitely a waste of a human and probably do not deserve be living on this planet anymore.)
Don’t get it twisted—it is not my intention to for these paradoxes to function as excuses or reasons not to engage in methods proven for battling depression. It’s just that these practices require two things that are often lacking in the depressed mind: energy and motivation. The point of this is to 1) explain why depression is a total dick and 2) provide compassion and understanding of how depression operates for those coping with the disease as well as those living on the outside trying to empathize. It is only by identifying and demystifying these paradoxes that we can begin to address and modify our treatment strategies to make room for hope and healing in the depressed mind.
Note: This article was originally posted on Thought Catalog. See the original post here.
Two weeks ago, I quit my job, sold or donated most of my belongings, packed up the rest, and moved out of LA with no definite destination. However, just because I lacked a physical destination didn’t mean I didn’t know where I was going. And it was all based on where I was coming from.
For the past year, I have been barely scraping by, trying to survive in the worst depressive episode of my entire life. Which is really saying something, considering I have struggled with depression for over 15 years. I moved to Los Angeles with an exciting job prospect, a significant social network, and the promise of better weather and a new, improved me. Instead, what I found was a life in a dark, direct sunlight-less apartment where I spent way too many dollars per month to spend way too many hours on my couch absorbing Netflix series. I took a major pay cut for what seemed like a dream job that turned out to be anything but, and despite my extensive social network, I was miserable.
I somehow got it in my mind that I would make it a year. As the months passed, that year felt farther and farther away until suddenly, it wasn’t. I couldn’t figure out what was scarier – surviving in a life that felt like it was never going to end or finding myself at that end without any real direction. I decided it was the former.
So here I find myself, “jobless” and “homeless” but really not lacking in either one of those things. I decided, partially on a whim and partially over the last 15 years, that writing was the one thing I truly loved to do and had been denying myself all of these years. My amazing family has agreed to take me in on month-long bases to put a roof over my head during this time of self exploration. And I have never been happier.
I thought being “less” in all of these capacities – job, health insurance, home, stability, benefits, blah, blah, blah – would make me feel like “less” as well. I thought a time of certain instability would surely bring back the depression demons living deep inside the neuroreceptors of my brain. But that couldn’t be more from the truth. Instead, I found that I am living a life I never thought I could or ever would live. And that, I can say, is the best feeling in the entire world.
I recognize that I am incredibly privileged and lucky to have these safety nets in place for me to take this time to get my feet on or at least hovering above the ground. And I am also realizing that I am incredibly lucky to possess a trait that I originally thought of as a curse – the inability to accept to concept of less than perfect. This “curse” has left me single at 30, living with six figures of student loan debt for a doctoral degree in a field I no longer loved, and a struggle accepting a lifelong mental health battle. This same “curse”, however, has led me away from an unhealthy relationship that no longer served me, caused me to reconsider my life in a profession that felt good but never great, and fostered the strength to walk through the firiest parts of hell and emerge alive, although scathed, on the other side.
And while I know that this is just the beginning and there will be greater battles to fight, I also now know that I am truly, utterly, and unapologetically unstoppable.