Hey kids. You annoy the hell out of me. You freak out my dog, you leave trash in my patio, and you like to play that dumb game where you grab a big rock and bang it against the electrical box. I don’t know why your parents don’t stop you, but they seem fine unleashing you demons into the world to plague the rest of us.
However, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to say….thank you. As much as it pains me.
I’m not a huge fan of kids. Mostly because they are loud. But what I will say is that each and every one of you loves me dog. And my dog loves you. Thank you for being her friend.
My Car Troubles
A huge shoutout to my car for not dying this year, but doing everything it could to make that happen. Three batters and four new tires later, you and I still hit the road on the daily.
You caused me a LOT of stress this year, but you also showed me that I have a great support system that will not only offer me words of encouragement, but will drive me in the rain to get new tires.
You make my blood boil. You steal my precious minutes of life after work away from me.
But today, I thank you for giving me time for the things I love. I’m not the best at letting myself take down time since I’m always afraid I should be doing something else. But when you’re stuck in a car with nowhere to go, you suddenly find yourself enthralled in an audiobook or binging a podcast.
While you still are the bain of my existence, thanks traffic for giving me back time.
To my old friend, Anxiety
Hi, Anxiety. We’ve known each other for as long as I can remember. I didn’t recognize you until I was in my early twenties, but you always were nearby, like my own shadow. You have caused me immeasurable pain, cutoff life experiences for me, and terrozied me on the daily.
But you’ve also shown me tenacity.
By learning to work with you, and not against you, I’ve learned how to weild your powers. When you used to make me overthink to the point of insanity, I now use that analytical mind to solve problems and notice details others can’t see. When I used to fear trying new things, I realized that I could turn that fear into excitement. I learned that if I was going to be afraid no matter what, I might as well go in with everything I’ve got.
My anxiety has turned me into an explorer. The fear and panic still creep in, but they now fuel me. With that energy, I’m able to take in the world, one step at a time.
Oh, depression, you old bastard. It’s hard for me to think of things to be thankful for with you. You make me eat emotionally, let go of friendships, turn me against myself. You sort of piss on my own parade.
When I think about you, depression, I think about hopelessness. I think about the darkest times of my life. You’re kind of asshole. Actually, no. You are an asshole.
But, you’ve also taught me a lesson that took me many years to learn – the art of being kind to myself.
Between my anxiety, my upbringing, and my ruthless perfectionist tendencies, I’ve spent many years thinking of myself as “less than.” I can see clearly how I could be better, and yet, I’m not doing anything to do it. Or, so I tell myself.
You creep out of the shadows and bring me down with you, but when you do, I have to take a step back and put myself force, a position I had never willingly done in my past. Because of you, I see the importance of loving myself and giving myself an actual chance.
I’m not perfect, and I’m working on letting that image go. In a way, your dickish nature has released me from my impossible standards I had set for myself.
My Weight Gain
Thank you, weight gain, for all that you have given. Mostly, you given me a higher BMI, stretch marks, and bigger pants. But, even through it all, you’ve still given me something valuable.
I have spent the majority of my life picking apart my body. I have never been skinny and I don’t even know if I fit into the commercialized version of a plus size girl. I don’t recognize my body, and I blame a lot of my life’s troubles on it. If someone doesn’t like me, I think it must be because of my size. When I was younger, I was told by those close to me that boys wouldn’t like me if I was “fat.” I took that to heart and etched it in my brain.
If I am fat, I am not valued.
However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I use my weight as a shield. It’s easier to think that I have trouble dating because of my weight than to dig deeper and realize that I have sever trust issues. It’s easy to think that I don’t belong because of my weight instead of realizing that deep down, I don’t believe in my own worth.
My weight has contributed to these items, but only because society has deemed it so. If I lost weight, maybe it would be easier, but those problems wouldn’t go away.
So thank you, my extra pounds, back rolls, chubby thighs, and blossoming second chin. Thank you for showing me that I need to focus on my real issues, and not pick away at an image that won’t heal me.
For the fourth year in a row, I will be attempting the writing challenge for National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo.
In the month of November, thousands of writers will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
I’ve won each year so far, but it took a lot of self-acceptance to get there. This challenge is a mental one, and I’ve found that every year, I learn something significant about how I frame my day-to-day life, the stories I tell in my head, and how I can be too critical of myself.
The best way to conquer NaNoWriMo is to shut off your inner editor. If you spend your day trying to write the perfect page the first time around, you will never reach your word count. It’s hard to let go of the perfectionist tendency to be amazing on the first try, but that’s why we have this beautiful thing called a rough draft.
You could be writing about aliens in one scene and then decide, you know what, I honestly want to write a Western, and then chance the aliens to cowboys in the next scene. And you just plow forward with your book being a Western. You don’t spend two weeks rewriting what you already had. You can edit in December and January: the main point is to prove to yourself that you can write a book!
NaNoWriMo also has shown me that even with a day job and a social life, I can still find time to write. In fact, NaNo makes me schedule my life and it’s FANTASTIC. I do my chores, I workout, I get my life together–all so I can block off some writing time to reach this goal.
In this episode, I talk about how the lessons of NaNoWriMo have crossed over into my life, especially with my anxiety and depression. If you’re writing this month, I send you all my good vibes and best wishes!
The main source – http://www.nanowrimo.org! You can log your word count, make writing buddies, and set yourself writing sprints to help you knock out your daily writing session.
The #amwriting Hashtag
While you’re going to find your kind using the #NaNoWriMo hashtag on Twitter and Insta, the #amwriting hashtag is chock full of writers and authors of all sorts. Encouragement, inspiration, and good spirits are plentiful with your fellow writers here!
Sometimes you need outside help to spark your creative mind! There are hundreds of prompt generators and lists online to help guide you in your plot. I like to have a couple of different tools on hand and love this writing prompt deck! The questions are great for journaling, but can also apply to certain characters you’re writing about. Almost like you’re interviewing them!
I was a hot mess in high school. Unfortunately for me, a lot of people around me–including myself–didn’t quite understand anxiety or depression. This meant that a lot of the time, people assumed I was:
Just a pissy teenager
In this episode, I talk about my experience with anxiety and depression in high school and really dive into what was NOT helpful from my peers, elders, etc.
What Could Have Helped Me
I was very messy through my high school years. I had no concept of how to keep a binder, go through a to-do list, or even time block my day. My brain took that to mean that assignments would take hours to complete and I’d never get to have any fun ever again. Ironically, I’d end up sitting on my floor, to panicked to even attempt this eternal assignment. Then, I’d have to rush to get it done the next morning.
BestSelf has this scholar planner that I would HAVE LOVED TO HAVE IN HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE. I’m almost mad this wasn’t around for my school days. I can only imagine how much more calm planning out my day would have made me. Sigh.
I didn’t join my improv team until Junior year of high school, and once I did, it helped me so much. I suddenly had a group of people I saw weekly, something I could achieve that wasn’t related to my academics, and it got me out of the house. Whether it be a club, a blog, or what have you, having something I could work on that wasn’t homework was empowering and a breath of fresh air.
If I’d had a chance to talk to an adult who wasn’t my parent or a teacher, I think I could have gotten a lot of my chest. I also would have been diagnosed earlier and would have started learning coping techniques to help me. If you’re the kid, see if your school has a counselor or, if you feel comfortable, ask your parents to see one. If you’re the parent, keep an open mind and see if you can make therapy happen. IT IS SO GREAT.
Ask For Help
On a similar note, I wish I had asked for help and not assumed that I was this “weak” person that couldn’t handle life. In my opinion, you’re never too young or old to start reading Brene Brown (will I ever go a post without mentioning her? I doubt it.). She has a Netflix special as well as an awesome TedTalk you should check out.
2:37: I explain my behaviors in high school and what my life looked like.
4:14: I talk about my LOVELY BODY IMAGE as a TEEN.
5:52: How getting A’s looked fine on the outside, but was destroying me on the inside.
9:26: The debunking begins mwhahaha.
10:17: “Yelling at someone to smile makes sense when someone is depressed!”
12:10: “Berating a depressed person for being ‘lazy’ is a great idea!”
“It’s like saying, ‘Hey, you did what you could today and it sucked.” You can’t ‘fix’ it that way. [Lack of motivation is] not something that they can just turn a light switch on because, again, and this is going to be REAL shocking, people do not want to feel like this.”
14:35: How the stereotypes of the “moody teenager” can be dismissive of someone with a mental health disorder.
16:29: When I took off my mask of happiness, I was yelled at for not being good enough. I talk about that experience and how you can avoid that as well.
19:24: The pressure to get good grades and get into college ran me into the ground.
“…if there had been an adult on the outside who had seen that I was going to get this perfection at any cost to myself, it would have been a nice time to kind of step in and say, ‘Hey, this is not a healthy lesson to learn moving forward because you’re not always going to be able to make something perfect.'”
24:01: Telling a highschooler that “it gets better” or “just wait for college, it’ll be the best years of your life” is not helpful. It doesn’t give them anything to work with in the present, and can be damaging if they go to college and still have anxiety/depression.
27:33: What I would tell Teen Elaine.
30:39: The most helpful thing you can do for a teen? Listen to them.
32:00: Outro fun!
Do you have do’s or don’ts you’d add to this list? Let me know!
In The Monthly Meltdown series, I review my previous goals, assess how I’m doing, and then set my new goals for the coming month.
OCTOBER GOALS | Time Stamp: 8:00
I did not walk Fern to three new places. I kept travelling this month and didn’t have my act together. But, I did try to take her on longer walks and make sure she got quality outside time. [8:00].
I’ve some what figured out buying a car? But mostly, I figured out which car I want. Looks like now is not a good time for me to make a big purchase (thanks, psychiatry!), but I’m glad that I learned that! [12:30].
I know what I’m going to get everyone, but didn’t actually buy them. I love my people, but let’s be real – they’d lose my presents if I sent them this early. [14:00].
Reflection On October
I ended up changing my focus from my three original goals and I’m not mad about it. I realized that financially, I need to focus on my health. I sought out and booked my first psychiatrist appointment in October, and that’s more important than me deciding which Honda Civic I want to take through the Taco Bell Drive-Thru.
To hear more about the goals I ended up focusing on, head to the 16:00 minute mark!
November Goals | 2019
To learn more about my NaNoWriMo experience, you can listen to my episode on how NaNo has helped my mental health here.
I’m a hot mess and tend to have issues keeping my home clean (i.e. my Spring Cleaning episode where my friend came over and we attacked my home for five hours straight). I’ve gotten so much better at maintaining my home and want to keep it up!
Between podcasting, NaNo, and my #sloblife, my posture is getting heinous. Yoga will be a great way to connect to mindfulness while also caring for my body.
I have spending issues where I think Amazon can cure my depression. Time to face the music and see where I’m putting my money!
As an ambassador for BestSelf Co, I get to share with you my favorite planner with a discount! Use code ANGUSEYETEA to get 15% off your order.
Right now, they have a super helpful gift giving guide for all the folks in your life! From writing prompt decks, to planners, to wall calendars, you can help everyone in your life get their act together! (Jk, people in your life may already have it together. This may only apply to me. LOVE YOU, FRIENDS & FAMILY!).
I use Digit to save up for my spending sprees. It’s been so helpful to prevent me from splurging! First 30 days are free, and then it’s $5/month. For me, the cost is worth it due to how much I was spending before!
Clarity is another budgeting app I’m using that has been eye opening. Clarity let’s you know how much you’ve spent on Taco Bell, Walmart, gas, etc. for either the last week, month, or…year. Yikes. But, also good to know! You can also make mini-savings goals in the app, check on your credit debt, and more.
I’m a creative person, so when I feel that source dwindle, I feel like I’ve lost part of who I am. If I can’t write, or podcast, or plan amazing Halloween costumes for my dog, then what good am I?
Part of having depression as a creative is learning to work with your depression, not against it. Some people find it useful to view their depression as a separate entity from themselves; others like to see it as a part of them. Whichever view you relate with most, use that perspective to help you. For me, I like to think that my depression gives me special insight, or a different perspective, on how to approach a project. I don’t create the same way I do when I’m out of an episode–and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In today’s episode, I share with you some ways I’ve powered through on creative projects when I’m feeling down, apathetic, lethargic…you know, depressed!
Vibrant Visionaries is a fantastic podcast hosted by Heidi Bennett. Heidi interviews multi-creatives about their process: what works, what doesn’t, struggles, wins, etc. It’s a great insight to other artists and creatives who have gone what you’re experiencing, and a well of advice to test out for yourself!
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Liz Gilbert
Big Magic is a tad cheesy for my taste, but Liz Gilbert does an excellent job describing the pain, agony, and delight of chasing your muse. Quick read and great for a dash of inspiration!
Tessa Violet – my depression + creativity
Heart Of Thorns by Bree Barton
I return to this video all the time. Tessa Violet is a singer/songwriter who suffers from anxiety and depression. This video does a great job talking about how the label of “artist” or “creative” can create a life crisis if you do get depressed and can’t fulfill that title anymore.
I don’t normally read fantasy books. My usual go-to’s are either grotesquely romanticized World War II novels or an action-packed FBI novel. Bree Barton’s book has been SO FUN TO READ! Having a different story than I’m used to has helped me while I write mine for NaNoWriMo.
Last week, I attempted to cook up some chili. I figured the process would be simple – chili is essentially the garbage disposal of recipes. I assumed you dumped everything into a crockpot and then walked away.
Yet, I found a way to mess it up.
Making chili is easy and should be foolproof. But in my stubbornness and manic running around, I didn’t bother to grab one of my three cookbooks for a reference, nor did I feel the urge to look up a quick ingredient list online. Similar to how a bird naturally knows to migrate during the winter, I figured instinct would take over and create this dish.
That is how this happened:
My chili was watery, had an overwhelming flavor salt, and was not chili.
So, to roll with this failure, I’m claiming it as a SUCCESSFUL Stewli: a hybrid stew/chili.
Below, you’ll find the wonderful recipe for this SALTY SURPRISE.
…Should I not call it that?
I’d say send me your beautiful stewlis but
a) That sounds way too close to stool, and
b) I truly doubt anyone will be inspired by this recipe.
Instead, maybe share some recipes even I can’t mess up, and we’ll put it to the test.
Most people get seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the winter, but I am part of the 6% – 10% of the population that gets SAD in the summer! The below series explores Summer SAD and what I’m going to do to quell my depression around this time!
This blog post accompanies the below podcast episode. Listen, read, and subscribe!
I have a handful of moments in my life where I have experienced complete and utter confusion, wondering what I am doing with my life. In no particular order:
When I unexpectedly found myself abandoned in Gatwick airport with no phone and no map.
When I brought my dog home for the first time and she jumped on my couch and it hit me – oh, I have a dog now.
When I sat in my car fifteen minutes before my first improv class where I knew no one.
Each of them brought their own stresses with them, and each of them turned out with varying degrees of happy to tragic endings. They were moments that forced me to get myself together and figure out what was happening, whether I had made the decision to be a part of it or not.
Right now, however, I am not alone in a foreign country. I am not bringing home a new pet, nor am I off taking new creative classes. I’m sitting at home in dead silence wondering what I am doing with my life.
The thought what am I doing isn’t said out of fear for me most times. I find that usually I’m making sure that I haven’t “fallen asleep” with my life. Lately, I feel like I’ve been fringing on waking up and to be honest, I could not even begin to tell you what I mean by that. I have NO idea what I mean by that – and for a gal who owns two tarot decks and three crystals, consider me shook.
My friend, Laura, runs a blog about her running adventures that parallels her creative experiences as well. She started posting writing prompts to not only motivate herself to write more, but to get everyone else off their ass and…get back on their ass to write. I completed the prompt and had a spine-chilling moment.
I had forgotten I loved writing.
I have loved writing since I was little. I used to think I didn’t have a passion growing up because there aren’t really writing clubs for elementary kids, and most people don’t think putting down that you isolated yourself in your room for hours on end writing stories is great to put on a resume. But writing has always found a way back to me. I abandoned it when I started high school, and then it crept back in my junior year. I dropped it for a while again, but then I had a professor in college who looked me dead in the eye and asked, “Have you ever thought about a career in writing?”
That question changed my life. Is that too dramatic? It is. But I get to say that because i AM A WRITER aNDd drama iS IN M y BLOOD.
I decided to give my writing a chance. I took writing classes. I joined the newspaper. I sat down and gave it my all, and absolutely loved it.
When I graduated, I lost touch with that side of myself again. I assumed that my writing had only been fueled by a grade, that the pressure to receive an A had been my only motivation. Any great pieces I had were the product of a judgement system.
This, my heifers, is imposter syndrome at its finest.
I do NaNoWriMo religiously each year, and every year I remember how much I love writing. But, I’m afraid to say, I really have stopped writing outside of November. I’ll do blogs which, for some reason, I don’t count as writing. Good for me. But I haven’t sat down, thought about a project, and then completed it in a long time.
So, when my friend Laura nagged me to do her prompt (I’m kidding, Laura. Kind of.), I thought “I’ll just word vomit and get over it.”
Reader, I did not get over it.
Since the writing prompt, I can’t stop thinking about my writing career, what I’ve done with it, and if I’ve lost what I had built up. Like I said, writing always comes back around for me, and I love it every time. It’s like each time I mention going to the gym and how great it is for me, but in between lulls of working out, I think I absolutely hate it. The main difference is that I yoyo more with my writing and have, uh, more lulls with the whole gym thing.
This is why I am finding myself tonight, sitting under my gravity blanket, thinking about what I’m doing with my life. Or, more importantly, what am I now going to do with my life? And to ask this question requires me to have some ski poles at the ready because I tend to do the Diamond Back slippery slope trail on that one.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m hoping my March Mental Health goals will help me get there. Here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish in March
Write 5 days out of the week
Have a finished writing piece by the end of the month
Care for my body by working out and eating healthy
Care for my soul by not holding back
If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that you shouldn’t ignore the universe when it keeps aggressively throwing things your way.
What is the one thing I’d never do? I’m torn between two:
Unfortunately, I see two flaws with these choices. For one, if the apocalypse happens, I may not have much of a choice on the space travel. The second is that murder should have been the first thing that came to mind and it wasn’t? And now I’m having some really weird moral debate with myself. Would I kill someone to save my dog? Isn’t that a bit much? Why am I talking about killing people? How do I get out of this topic I’ve fallen into?
Anyway, this was the question that popped into my head the other night and I couldn’t stop wondering what would be something I would absolutely never do, and how there were definitely things I used to think I would never do but then did.
How about smoking a cigarette? I only did it once, and to be fair, my friends and I had just been abandoned in a bar at 3:00 a.m. in the middle of Oslo, Norway with no idea where we were, and someone offered me a cigarette. I figured, what the hell, I’m probably going to get kidnapped and die tonight anyway. Might as well have one final (well, first) puff before I am trapped in a cell for the remainder of my days.
It was gross, I handed it back, and spoiler alert, I was not kidnapped and caged.
How about ordering a medium Meatzza from Dominos and eating it all in one sitting? I had some adorable body image issues growing up, and for some reason, Teenager Elaine decided that the truest sign that she had fallen off the deep end and had become “fat” was if she sat down and ate a whole pizza in her adulthood.
Ha. Ha ah. Ha ah ha ah ha ah ha.
I definitely did this three times in 2018. I didn’t feel great about it, and it’s definitely not a decision I would recommend to others (I mean, the Meatzza is amazing but it’s also called a Meatzza). In a weird way, it felt empowering? Like, fuck you Meatzza, you are mine now? Anyway, one unhealthy decision doesn’t suddenly make you “fat” and mean that you’ve completed made your life go down the drain. So, I work actively hard to not eat whole pizzas by myself, but accept that life happens.
How about murder? I was five years old when I first wielded my battle ax.
You know what, never mind. I’ll save that story for my tell-all in twenty years.
We change as people over the years, and sometimes we end up doing things that our older selves would have thought completely unacceptable. Whether that’s a good or bad thing really depends on the situation. It’s healthy to look back on your past and see why you had reasons for “never doing that one thing.” Do you have a habit you’ve taken up that maybe you shouldn’t have? Or, have you let something slide that you can forgive yourself for?
Also, sometimes we change and grow for the better with our list of nevers. I was never going to get on an airplane because the sheer terror I felt at the idea made me feel sick. But travelling is one of my biggest passions in life, and I’d never have that part of my life if I didn’t do my never thing.
In the end, perhaps never doesn’t have to mean always.
And that sounded really profound in my head, but now that I’ve written it down, it sounds like some kind of crap I would pull out in English class.