Stop Making Sense

As humans, we try to find logic in things we don’t understand. We envision patterns and concepts and labels that are of our own musings, just to satisfy our hungry curiosity. It’s hard to accept what just doesn’t make sense.

As is the case with anxiety. And wow, has mine been bad lately. All it takes is one little misstep or inconvenience to really throw me into a mental tizzy. A dentist appointment, an usually not-so fun situation, has been a trigger enough to get my mind on an endless race except nobody is winning. Just one hour to be away from my normal workday schedule has me on the verge of tears at all times, hardly able to get a full breath in my lungs.

As with any other time I’m in a frenzied state, I always seem to turn to this space. To try and refocus my mind on something practical instead of just letting an endless counting of numbers consume my mind as I fear the worst of everything, just from going on the normal one-hour break to go to the dentist. Which, as it usually seems to be, sounds ridiculous. Why make a fuss over a shortened work week and putting in enough hours? Why automatically assume the worst results from my appointment without even going there yet?

I like to think that by thinking the way I do, I am preparing myself for the worst. I’m worrying about whether or not I’ll need my wisdom teeth removed and the potential aftermath from that so maybe it’s easier to accept if it truly is the case. I’m obsessively counting through my hours of work each day multiple times just to be extra sure I’m getting my time in to make sure I’m doing my best at my job and pleasing my coworkers. My mind trickles down winding paths that fall into the drenches of my fears.

For example, if you aren’t lost already, let’s go through my wisdom teeth logic. I picture myself going to a new dentist. Taking the procedural x-rays that leave me gagging on those random stints they stick between your teeth for the best image. The appointment takes longer than expected because the dentist won’t stop scraping. They find cavities to fill. They want me to take out my wisdom teeth immediately. Which would be the first time I ever go under anesthesia, having no clue how I react to those drugs. I wake up from surgery sick from them. I cannot work, so I fall behind in everything. I can only eat soft foods, which limits my diet, which triggers me to restrict food again after my longest time in the recovery phase of my eating disorder that doesn’t cease to nag me every day. The voice only gets stronger. And if it’s during the summer, I’m missing out working on hours. I’m disappointing the people that have given me this great opportunity. They get frustrated with that and fire me. I’m thrown into the depths of severe depression.

If that didn’t throw you for a tailspin, then you must have a twisted mind yourself. I rationally know that feeling on edge by a scenario that would most likely never reach fruition is a waste of my time and energy, cleaving fractures between myself and those I love when I trap myself inside my trembling shell, somehow kept safe by conjuring up nightmares.

I have faced my fair share of triggering moments like this where I lose all control I have over my anxiety. That voice can take on various personas depending on the setting, a nagging ache or a whisper of unease or a false caregiver keeping me safe. But in its worst moments, it feels like the only grip I have on keeping myself together, fashioning myself together by a flimsy thread that can barely be considered a functioning human form. I feel reliant on that feeling. Otherwise I would just cower under the covers of my bed and never leave. Somehow the anxiety is both debilitating and necessary. A twisted balance of extreme highs and sinking lows. A continuous game I play that keeps going into overtime, no winner in sight.

So I just go through the motions. I have no choice but to keep on moving, no matter how much I’d love to take a week off from everything, from living. But that would just make more anxiety for myself about the world turning without me there. that I’m wasting my life away. It never ends. Which again, what sense is there in that? To spin every situation into something terrifying like a magnified news headline. Then to eventually find out the truth, putting on your glasses to read the blurry figures and feel exhausted, only to worry again.

And just like anxiety, this post probably makes no sense. This train of thought has fallen off the rails long before ever putting it onto virtual paper. But when anxiety is dependent upon our internal debates, it’s hard to understand that perspective when all you see is a tapping foot, a dazed expression, a restless mood. While this example is only one of many faces anxiety might take on, an inside perspective is better than none. A realization that yes, anxiety lacks any sort of reason for those only seeing its repercussions, but it’s real to the person experiencing it. They’re illogical but valid thoughts. Anxious people don’t ask for you to find the patterns and sense of reality behind our thoughts; we only ask that you empathize, you support us, and you stop making sense from nonsense.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Starting Young

A common theme for people who have transitioned into accepting and treating their mental health is that they wish they had started earlier. That if they had any inkling of how their mental health might need extra support, they’d do more and learn more in a heartbeat.

Mental health treatment and therapy is too often an afterthought, a response to a realization that perhaps medication or counseling might help dig us out of a deep abyss. It rarely seems to begin as a proactive effort. But that makes me wonder, could it be? Could we avoid hitting those lowest moments before they even drag us down?

Except that means we need to include all people in our perception of what mental illness looks like. We assume that depression and anxiety are conditions that bubble up during adolescence, a repercussion of hormonal changes during puberty. That teenage angst that might seem to go too far. Or we just picture adults who struggle getting out of bed and functioning at work. It’s as if there’s a cut-off for how old you have to be to receive a diagnosis or suffer from the emotional turmoil.

But are we leaving out an important population of mentally ill people in the process? At what age is it appropriate to pinpoint mental health’s effects on individuals and how to find balance? If we want to see mental health differently, we need to include everybody into the mix. Children suffer, too.

When I was in elementary school, I don’t remember having anybody who took any medication, who went to therapy, who had any major issues that affected themselves or anybody around them. This environment I remember seems very different to what classrooms look like now, where kids are medicated, sent away to facilities for treatment, and face difficult challenges in life I wouldn’t wish on anybody. I don’t know whether behavioral and emotional issues are more prevalent now or they are now actually classified and treated. Either way, I empathize with those young people and genuinely hope they receive the care they deserve.

Even with this increase in awareness, how much do we really know? How are we communicating this to people of all ages? How can we prepare and educate children to know when and how to support a healthy mindset? We cannot approach mental health to children the same way as adults. Their developing minds are vulnerable to resorting to forms of coping that harm themselves and others if left to their own devices, including bullying, self-harm and suicide.

According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 15 million of our nation’s young people can currently be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Many more are at risk of developing a disorder due to risk factors in their biology or genetics. There is a great need for mental health professionals to provide the best available care based on scientific evidence, good clinical expertise, and that takes into account the unique characteristics of the child or adolescent. However, it is estimated that only about 7 percent of these youth who need services receive appropriate help from mental health professionals.

Quality healthcare at every age is a basic human right, not a privilege. Insurance for healthcare services, especially for young people, is questionable in its availability and quantity. Families that cannot avoid the expenses of counseling or in-residence therapy options for their children shouldn’t be punished. In fact, we’re lacking in mental health resources that don’t completely disrupt a child’s life by uprooting them from their familiar family, friend and school dynamic to be placed in an institution.

In the battle to improve mental health treatment across the nation, we need an entity within that specifically for children’s mental health. This not only includes community-based programs that could easily be included at after-school locations like the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club, but also in educational curricula that is less standoffish and clinical and more personal for kids to grasp and relate to. We need to not only emphasize the importance of yearly checkups at the doctor’s office and staying up-to-date with vaccination schedules, but also emphasize the importance early diagnoses and awareness of mental illness.

It’s easy to play off certain behaviors in children as just a need for greater discipline. An excuse to send them to the principal’s office. A mention at parent-teacher conferences that a child might be more withdrawn in class and social situations. Which yes, they can easily just be those things. But what if they’re not? What if those little signs are a signal to a greater issue that is holding a child back from a full, balanced life? That isn’t fair to anybody.

Cliche as it is, but let’s think about the children. We’re raising the next generation. What do we want to teach them? How do we want them to lead their lives and treat themselves and others? How can we support these young people so they have a better upbringing than those before us? We cannot take these questions lightly. This is a narrow window of time we need to utilize. I don’t think it’s ever too early to start teaching others these crucial ways of taking care of our well-beings. We can avoid wasting precious time and help young people make proactive steps to avoid those regrets later on.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

To Feel Attractive

I’ve been doing quite well lately. My mood hasn’t dipped down too far lately. I’m kept pretty busy at work, which I really crave and enjoy. My anxiety has been okay, but I still clam up in stressful and/or crowded situations. Even eating has continued to feel more normal. This has to be one of the longest periods where I haven’t felt consumed by food rather than the other way around.

However, I do have an aspect of myself that just feels very weird to me to think about. I don’t know if others feel similar about themselves, but that’s why I want to write it out, and if you resonate with anything I say, at least know that you aren’t alone.

My relationship with my physical body is practically nonexistent. I personally think it would be much easier if I was just a floating soul, a gust of air moving through life. And it’s not that I’m unappreciative of my health and the abilities I have, being able to move and think and all that jazz. It’s more of my actual appearance that bamboozles me.

It’s very complicated to explain. I guess I feel indifferent. I don’t bash myself down like I used to, but I also don’t have much emotion when people say I’m pretty or attractive or whatever compliment they throw at me. I don’t know how to really respond. In a polite situation, I thank the person, but if it’s someone I’m close with, I either just let the comment roll off me or try to disprove it.

I’ve come to be comfortable with myself. I’ve found some sense of balance that I can not always yo-yo around with my weight. And I like where I’m at. But with my set point, I realize that I’m still a smaller person. I don’t necessarily consider myself petite or whatever word out there, but I also think that can be a good thing, to be content with yourself at a healthy state.

I am just me. But “just me” isn’t appealing to others usually. I joke that I slightly look like a young boy, and that’s just how I’m built. I along with most people am not a representative of what the media and society deem as “attractive” or “sexy.” I think what bothers me the most is not believing people like my boyfriend, who says he’s attracted to me and I’m completely dumbfounded by that. My face is fine, but everything else? Just pretend it’s not there. There isn’t that much there, anyways.

While it’s not the obsessive focus I’ve had with my figure, it can feel like a complete avoidance of it altogether. I flip-flop from one end of the spectrum to the other and cannot seem to reach a balance. Rather than needing to weigh myself every chance I get, I completely avoid it altogether. It’s an anxiety of knowing just one little misstep could lead to potential relapse, and that scares me.

All of this inner debate makes me wonder then, how skewed is my body image still, even when I’m on a great track with food? This is where body dysmorphia comes in. No amount of counseling can “cure” me of that. It’s just another included feature of imbalanced neurotransmitters. I can accept that. I can still fully enjoy my life and feel content. I don’t feel like I’m missing out by never putting on a pair of shorts or a swimsuit. There are so many important things in life to think about. All I care about at this point is that I’m physically and mentally healthy.

As you can see, it’s a delicate bridge I walk on. I carry on my days hoping people notice me for my work ethic and personality, but we’re so geared to observing our “book covers” before taking a read inside. That’s just human nature. I can accept that, but it’s more difficult for others to understand my different perspective.

Personally, I’m never one to comment on others’ bodies not knowing how they’re feeling inside. That’s not important to me, as long as you’re a good person. But in a romantic relationship especially, I don’t know how to comprehend the simplest positive comments from my partner. I feel almost shameful about that. I feel like I sound ungrateful or even rude for not wanting a reminder of how my body looks. It seems like such a normal thing in a relationship, but being considered attractive is something I cannot grasp. I dwell on it far too long.

We focus so much on recovery for eating disorders and body dysmorphia, as conditions people can completely overcome and lead normal lives. I wish there was more awareness about that minority that struggles more often, that still takes it a day at a time. Too often we think of that mental voice as a clear indicator that you aren’t “healed” already, but if it’s just part of your anatomy, an aspect of yourself you can’t completely change, what then? You cannot tell me all the hard work and effort I’ve put in and continue to put in to take care of myself isn’t enough.

I wish I had a solution to my problem. A way to convince myself that my body is a part of me that looks a certain way and I can clearly see that in the mirror or believe it when someone tells me so. As with anything about myself, that is just a work in progress.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Served a Full Plate

I’m not going to lie. They have been very few occasions where I come to my blog and I feel….uninspired. This is one of those times.

It’s not like I’m completely in a dragging moment where I feel like I’m walking through a pool of mud when trying to write. I’ve been pulling out stories for my internship and taking on assignments whenever I can. My days feel fairly full of writing and researching and driving to some locations for stories. But then I come here, my safe haven away from the bustle of school and work, and I have no clue what to write.

For any writer, it’s important to have a niche. An area of interest and/or expertise that you can fall back on and call your own. I’m really grateful that I have found that for myself. I love talking about wellness in all aspects of life: mental health, veganism/nutrition, and taking care of the environment and all living things. I love being able to share those passions and not feel tied to specific assignments and in the midst of it all, people have come to my blog and have stuck around. That’s still crazy to me.

The problem that arises is that as my viewership grows, I feel a greater responsibility to put out content every day that is compelling and worth reading. A new perspective on a current hot-button issue, or bringing attention to something I have strong opinions about.

The thing is, I overestimate my energy. When I have this new opportunity at the forefront of my mind, a place where my blog usually has been, this gets pushed to the sidelines. I feel like I slack off, the internal battle of typing out a full post every weekday but not wanting the post to be pointless. Quality over quantity, right?

Not when you have such an obsessive work ethic that once you’ve established a clear routine to follow and caliber of work you produce, anything short of that quota is failure. Very extreme and probably irrational, but I cannot deny that in whatever I do and write, I attach a sense of self-worth to it. That’s not an unfamiliar phenomenon for creative folks receiving criticism, but it backfires when it’s too high of a degree.

So I come here today, open and honest with everyone. It’s not easy balancing your life with mental illness thrown in the mix. Anxiety has a strong foothold in everything I do. It’s that sense of urgency, a fear of falling below expectations, of not doing enough, of disappointing yourself and others.

I talk very often about my depression because it’s something that is very constant in my life. Antidepressants usually keep me at my middle ground of not overly bad, but not great, a life jacket that keeps me from drowning. Anxiety, on the other hand, tends to be more sporadic. When you’re fairly high-functioning, I embody anxiety restlessness and a compulsion for order in every little detail. In stressful situations, I internalize everything so people often can’t tell when I’m panicking. A blessing and a curse.

I hope that when people come to this blog, they can take a break from a potentially hectic day. They can read something that takes their mind off of other racing thoughts. I put a lot of time and thought into what I share, and I hope that reflects in my content. My problem now is figuring out how to balance my energy devoted to work and here because yes, I do see this as a job rather than a side hobby. So stick with me as I learn how this routine might revamp how I approach this platform.

And while I’m here, I have a shameless plug for where most of my attention is going that, by the end of my shift, I am both exhausted but proud of the work I’ve accomplished. As of writing this post, I have two stories published online to be included in print. If anything, follow this link for anything else I might have written. I’ll also be more active on my Twitter account to help draw in some people to my work.

But through this whole learning experience, know that I’m not going anywhere. This is what I love to do. Has my first week been full of long days and coming home to zero motivation beyond finishing every book within my reach? Sure it has. And with that exhaustion comes an immediate need to take care of myself and make sure I don’t become completely drained. However, I don’t want to hold myself back either. See my dilemma? Not to mention summer college classes online? A German CLEP test in the coming months? My plate is full. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Those They Call “Hipster”

At this point, calling someone a hipster seems like an insult. It’s just ironic to me that people actively try to “go against the grain” and avoid anything considered “mainstream,” but they simultaneously make their own cliche that in of itself becomes mainstream. What a strange line to cross.

A line that very much confuses me. I certainly don’t consider myself falling into this category, and yet I still feel myself falling into stereotypes they might portray. Which isn’t my fault. But I still for some reason feel a sense of guilt for it.

I have a music taste that is what many call “eclectic.” I know the names of some current artists on the top charts and on the radio twenty times a day, but I wouldn’t know the first thing about what’s popular or not, what songs people are listening to. I generally find new music from lots of digging, and I’ve come to a point where I don’t even try anything that is not a high enough rating. Probably crazy and excessive, but I have a sense of confidence and individuality in having a diverse but specific type of music I gravitate toward.

Not only the music do I dwell upon as potentially not as unique as I might envision it as. I now only really go for thrift shopping for clothes whenever possible, avoiding any fast fashion. My style is generally more bohemian-esque and vintage-inspired. Which again, sounds hipster to me.

I now wear exclusively glasses on a regular basis. I could spend all day in a bookstore, especially a used bookstore. I am usually on Tumblr at least once a day. I read Edgar Allan Poe outside of an English classroom. I relish dreary rainy days. I support local businesses, especially when they happen to be coffee shops. I don’t keep up with popular TV shows or movies. Heck, some may even go as far as to say suffering from chronic mental illness is hipster (which, to burst that bubble, it’s not). The examples go on.

But the reason I want to stop myself before I completely denounce everything I enjoy, I want to make an important distinction. When saying someone is hipster, that means that they truly are a walking contradiction. Their attempt at being edgy and different is ultimately becoming one of the sheep in the flock. They embody just another stereotypical “genre” of young people trying to find their own identity and clinging to one that is clear and neatly laid out for them. That’s just a simple fact when coming of age.

But this is where I hope I deviate from that. I don’t mindlessly follow the trends of others and fit myself into that mold. I’m not trying to please anybody else but myself when I search out new books to read and podcasts to listen to. I have clear reasons that I enjoy certain artists and pastimes over others. I have no need to impress others or devalue others’ favorite things by toting how hard I try to not be “basic.”

Why can’t we just enjoy what we enjoy and not try to categorize it in certain social expectations? Yes, I’m guilty of seeing someone having an appearance or enjoying activities that I immediately jump to labeling. That was my entire spring semester living with roommates who listen to Spotify’s Top 40 radio station and talk about watching Shonda Rhimes dramas. They were people that I really struggled to relate to, but is it my right to judge them based on those observations? Not really.

I can’t help having a critical view of the world. I’m included in that mix, too. That’s what this entire post is about: the way I view myself and how others may or may not view me. I ask myself, why do I care so much? Why am I spending this whole post today as a stream of consciousness? Because when keeping this internal dialogue to myself, I could be holding myself back from relating to others. I know I’m the only one out there in this big wide world thinking similar thoughts. People who might be judging themselves to the point that it holds them back from living their best life and being their complete self. People who think that world fits into certain cookie-cutter traits, clean cuts distinguishing black from white.

But guess what? We’re human. Life is messy. We don’t go through life as if running in a rat maze, sticking on a clear path for the cheesy end-goal. We have the freedom to explore and learn something new about ourselves every day. We are always evolving. What we might hate one day we eventually enjoy, and vice versa.

Having labels and stereotypes can help us understand others, but they need to stop there because there is so much more to us. So much more than our iTunes libraries, our bookshelves, our closets, our lives viewed simply from face value.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Tragedy Strikes Again

When will this type of news ever cease?

This week, my thoughts are with Manchester and those affected by the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert on Monday. When I first heard the news, I was honestly in disbelief. I couldn’t picture a bomb going off in a large concert venue, a concert targeted toward a tween-teen audience. Why would someone go

Obviously the news continues to update the available information as we learn more about the event. That over 20 people have died due to this explosion, including the bomber. The bomb was placed in the arena’s main corridor. ISIS claims responsibility for the terrorist act. And yes, the police fully recognize this as terrorism, not just a random crime.

I think I along with many others have a similar question: Why? Before ISIS made its influence known, I could have seen the motive being something with no reason. A breach of probably lower levels of security in a public place. A grudge against Ariana Grande or even Brexit. But it always seem to come back to a similar cause. But the previous terrorism commited by ISIS has been in public areas, busy with all types of people. This felt like an attack on a very limited audience. It’s young people, people who we tell to not feel paranoid about going outside and enjoying events together. This attack doesn’t just bring about fear; it brings about a terrifying realization that, truly, nobody can feel safe.

I wish I could offer more wisdom, more hope and encouragement as observe the aftermath. I want to stay optimistic, no matter how difficult it seems, no matter how many times it feels like we go through the motions of violence and grief. But this the opportunity to decide what perspective we want to take.

I hope we focus not entirely on the violence, but the support that has risen to take care of those in need. I hope we hear the stories of those young people whose lives were cut too short. I hope we demonstrate humanity’s tenacity and empathy when we demand that connection the most. The more power and attention we give to terrorism, the more motivated these radical groups will be to continue wreaking havoc. It certainly gets their message across when every news outlet in the world is saying their name.

And I’m not saying to avoid the reality of the situation altogether. You can’t sugarcoat it. You can’t undermine the gravity of the loss, all the people affected. So many young people now have a traumatic experience they may never shake from their conscious. The damage inflicted at this moment is only the beginning. Letting this event pass by like a fading trend isn’t an option.

It’s one thing to empathize with Manchester. It’s another thing to actively reach out and help them. I’m not in the position to say what the best course of action to take is, but if we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that violence sees no borders, no ages, no religions, no ethnicities. Humanity’s shortfalls can also bring out our strengths. Whether we keep trying to keep with whatever strategy we’re using now for security and foreign relations or we try a different approach, this is one of many problems society faces. Whenever it feels like it can take a backseat to poverty or climate change or anything else, we are reminded again of the severity and its implications.

For those who may fear being out in public areas, in crowds, at events, I completely understand. Especially young people who often feel they’re invincible to life’s hardships, now who knows what may happen just by going to a pop concert or whatever else? But we have to keep living, keep moving forward. We cannot let fear dictate our existence. We must be smart about making decisions and our vulnerability in certain scenarios, but still go to concerts, activities, whatever else. Enjoy life. If anything, tragedies like this show how fragile we are, how just one moment can change everything.

Just like violence is blind to society’s boundaries, so is love and compassion, the emotions that tie everyone together with a common thread. The cracks created by terrorism and hate also allow the light to seep in and shine more prominently. We look toward the future not knowing what each day may bring, but all we can do is help each other and make the most of every moment we have.

I truly believe that when all is said and done, love will overcome every ounce of hate in the world, that vocal, radical minority trying to define our world and shape it into a dark place. I will always believe that we are innately good. I say that not as a naive testament against a global rise of terrorism, but as an observation from my short time here on this earth, the immense beauty I’ve seen in people. Our show will go on. We will not stop singing.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Devotion and Inspiration

Yes, I’m guilty of watching my fair share of cliche romantic comedies. We all know how those Hallmark TV movies are going to end. But generally, I’m not super mushy-gushy.

Today I just wanted to mention that it’s my parents’s wedding anniversary. Twenty-five years, in fact. Which, to me, is an incredible accomplishment.

I’ve discussed my thoughts before on marriage. It’s something I definitely want in my lifetime, but a simple desire doesn’t even begin to encompass every moment, every blessing and challenge, that comes along with it. Especially when I see so many people on my Facebook feed getting engaged, there is a sense of pressure that I’m somehow behind on the marriage bandwagon.

There is always that fear, though, of the dreaded d-word. Something that I still feared for my own family even when reassured that it isn’t something to worry about. It’s so common for families to be broken apart, for life to get more complicated when relationships come and go, but legal binding adds complication.

It’s not necessarily that people are less happy in marriages so they inevitably fail. I see the increasing divorce rates as people, especially women, feeling empowered enough to take a stand in situations where they may feel threatened or disrespected. However, I’m not going to ignore that when devalue the sacrament of marriage, we turn it into an easy decision to undo when couples cannot or are unwilling to work things out.

I’m not judging either way. Who am I to judge, an unmarried woman barely out of my teenage years? But with all of the controversy over whether marriage is worth it or not anymore, I turn to examples like my parents for inspiration. Two people who got married within a year of first meeting each other and have been together ever since. Two people who have had their fair share of obstacles and tension.

I look to them, their steadfast commitment to each other, and say that yes, marriage is something I desire. Not just because I’d love to drop my last name, or at least shorten it with a hyphenated version. I want to reach those annual milestones with someone. I want to share my life with someone and create memories to look back on. I want someone who will evolve with me, who will grow and learn with me as the years go by.

I’m getting gushy, aren’t I? Whoops.

This admiration of my parents’ union doesn’t change the fact that there’s a part of me still scared of it, a challenge I want to take on that simultaneously worries me. The practical side of me overlooks the romantic side of marriage to all of the responsibility it entails. The commitment it requires. Picking one person forever and hoping that you picked right. No pressure, it’s just (hopefully) the rest of your life.

I believe no amount of advice and words of affirmation is going to completely guide people with their lives, whatever their decisions might entail. There is a certain degree that makes life a little different for everybody. That uniqueness goes up even more if you bind two people in holy matrimony. That just makes me admire couples even more, whether they chose to put a ring on it or not, that can endure for years and work through the kinks that life brings. It’s beautiful to me, and it makes me appreciate anniversaries even more.

So I already look at marriage as something very real, very serious. A clear indicator that yes, I want to spend my life with someone and work through life’s challenges together. I’m too optimistic to dwell on anybody who has gone through divorce or separation negotiations, even if the statistics are clear as day. I’m still going to say that despite the odds, I can be in the population that does make it. Knowing me, I’m someone who will feel the inkling for something more and not even hesitate to take a relationship to the next step. It’s in my nature to move very quickly than dawdle.

This is the second time on my blog I’ve discussed marriage explicitly. Again, that’s probably odd to some people. But if I’m so adamant about planning out my professional ventures and goals, why not talk about my personal ones, too? They’re just as, if not more, important to prioritize. As much as I love independence and solitude, life is something that should be shared with others. And a significant other. The people are the blessings that keep us grounded every step of the way.

Once again, congratulations to my parents today for the example they lead, for the love they share, for the past twenty-five years and every day encompassed within that time. It’s about time you took a vacation, huh? You deserve it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Prescription for Chris Connell

Last week was certainly shocking. While I’m not a big fan of Soundgarden, I at least appreciate their impact on the Seattle music scene. So I was taken aback as everybody else finding out that the lead singer Chris Connell completed suicide.

It’s not like I’m jumping to conclusions and it’s a big mystery to solve. Unlike comparisons made to Kurt Cobain’s death, this one is cut and dried. I don’t see any room for conspiracy. The night before, he performed a concert in Detroit, the last song of the night being Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.” That just gives me chills up my spine.

Connell was found in a hotel room, a band around his neck. The verdict was very quick after finding the evidence that he hanged himself. I’m sure people might question how upfront I’m talking about this story, but it’s necessary. We need to see this clearly. Yes, Connell was fifty-two years old, seemingly a late time to consider taking your own life, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The thing that is bothering me the most with this, however. Is the response from his family. That they say he wasn’t suicidal, wouldn’t do such a thing. They actually claim that the anxiety medication he was taking was the reason why is “judgment was impaired.” Ironically, the medication he was on, Ativan, is one I just recently prescribed myself for anxiety. Side effects for these types of drugs are inevitable and sometimes all over the place, but it makes me uneasy how quickly they made that statement.

Here’s how I see the family’s response. They’re willing to shift the “blame” away from themselves, that he might have been depressed and they didn’t do anything to help, and instead blame outside sources. This is a typical pattern with suicides. The fact that suicide is in fact something that requires placing blame or ownership on the tragic situation, that it was one main factor at the root of the fatal decision.

Why do we have to go through the same pattern over and over again? We are unwilling to accept that mental illness is the cause of suicide, just like other diseases killing people. People die from heart disease, cancer, a multitude of diseases out there, and never would we say to them, “It’s selfish of you to die from this. Even if you are treating your illness in any way you can, you aren’t doing enough, so try harder.”

Because I agree, there’s nothing so bad, so unmanageable in life that it requires escaping life completely. However, in a suicidal state, that’s not on the forefront of your logic. Otherwise you wouldn’t be suicidal.

Many medications, even antidepressants, list suicidal thoughts as a side effect. So if that IS the reason for Connell’s death, once we get back a toxicology report back, that’s one thing. But when you come from a past of depression and agoraphobia like Connell does, the family’s statement feels like a defense mechanism. Going through the emotions and grief of losing a loved one to suicide, the last thing you want to be thinking is that you’re at fault. That if did one thing differently, he would still be alive. This isn’t even solely based on Connell’s career. More local suicides still go from similar patterns that, once you notice them, can feel like society is just running around in circles to avoid discussing this serious topic.

It’s almost shameful itself to accept suicide for what it is. That if we close everybody off and not say a word, or completely deny that the suicide resulted from an individual’s mental health, we’re responding normally. I wish we would take an opportunity like this to be open and honest, utilize the tragedy as an example and lesson for others to understand the complexities of mental illness.

Even if mental illness truly wasn’t the key player here, this update to the Connell story demonstrates how the stigma surrounding mental health is an active force in reporting and responding to suicide. I should just be glad that we didn’t leave Connell’s cause of death up in the air. But the aftermath is just as important to address and be mindful of how we can about it.

Those of know the victim, family and loved ones, are emotional. Heartbroken. You cannot deny them that. But their role is crucial in how the rest of the world perceives suicide. They have tragic experience with it. Not everybody has to be a vocal advocate, but I think simple words and actions resonate the loudest of all.

So where do we go from here? Suicide is all too common. Inevitably, a situation like this will arise again. But how are we going to react to it? What will the aftermath look like? How will the conversation surrounding the suicide sound? We’ve made bad habits with suicide. Our public relationship with it is still a hazy line to jump across. Something common, and yet so shameful and secretive.

Obviously the news is writing up stories on a 24/7 news cycle, so who knows what the next headline will be about Chris Connell and really anybody else in this situation. Regardless, these thoughts still stand. And we cannot forget them.

Sending my thoughts to Chris Connell’s family. May he rest in peace.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Anti-Consumerism

With the speed that trends go through social media and YouTube, I’m probably late to game talking about this concept, but I love the idea nonetheless. If it’s not a thing anymore, I’m reviving it. Or at least the intentions behind it.

For those familiar with social media content, you’ve probably heard of and/or seen a fair share of hauls. People showcasing what they’ve recently purchased because for some reason, the random things other people buy is really interesting to find out. It’s easy to get sucked in. So much so that you forget that these “haulers” are spending lots of money on items they most likely don’t need.

On top of social media content creators going out on shopping sprees for some extra views and followers, now companies have hopped on the bandwagon. Turns out, social media personalities, once they develop enough of a follower, can be influential in what others will purchase. Although a YouTuber, blogger, or content creator is just an average person gutsy enough to put themselves out there, consumers really value others’ opinions. I mean, if we are reading the reviews of products online and choosing products based on others’ recommendations, the correlation makes sense.

So now companies are pulling all the stops when it comes to the products they send content creators. If you’ve ever typed into YouTube “PR unboxing,” you’ll be in for a surprise. Not only do these people receive lots of makeup, clothing, games, books, and whatever niche a person may focus upon, but the packages themselves are ridiculously intricate. The boxes are their own form of advertising. And with PR products often comes sponsored content, a new form of a commercial that is often less obvious to the audience.

I understand that making these sort of deals with companies is crucial for content creators to make any sort of living from what they enjoy doing. I know if I had the chance to be paid to write a blog post, I would certainly be enticed. However, from this reliance upon consumerism, we’re losing the essence of what social media originally was. YouTube alone was just a bunch of people using lousy webcams and talking about whatever interested them. That world has expanded to professional filming equipment, millions of dollars, and lots of unnecessary books.

When I heard about the concept of an “anti-haul,” I was intrigued. Basically, it’s the same setup as a normal haul, but people discuss what they don’t plan on buying and why. Which, in a way, is still a type of product review or critique, but I see the intentions very differently. It promotes people to analyze the messages they take in on a regular basis and actually gauge their ties to material belongings.

I’m not asking us all to become full-blown minimalists, nor am I insinuating to never buy anything ever again. But when we look at our collections of clothing, shoes, makeup, video games, etc., what are we personally gaining from that? From a past bargain that you’ve never touched since? Ten shades of lipstick in essentially the same color? A closet overflowing with fast fashion and pairs of shoes and handbags? A closet full of video games you’ve completed through once and will never play again?

There’s a distinct difference between investing in a hobby or passion project you’re especially passionate about, and cluttering up space with impulse purchases that may be unnecessary and impractical. The marketing ploys stores and companies use to lure us in lead us down vicious cycles of excitement, indifference, and sometimes regret.

So it’s refreshing to hear somebody say what they won’t be buying and why. Certain items and trends that just aren’t worth putting your money toward. Most likely, they’ll come and go anyways. Fueling a market always asking us to buy and spend keeps corporations (and piles of waste) growing. It’s just not a sustainable lifestyle to lead.

A dollar is essentially a vote. What we put it towards is reflection of what we value. Not to judge those who love some retail therapy (the thrift store is always calling my name), but the need of instant gratification blinds us from saving up funds toward purchases that add meaning to our lives. Not always needing the newest piece of technology. Not running out to Forever 21 every paycheck. Personally, I’d rather save up for products and experiences that I know I will love and benefit me. I’m willing to steer clear of major fast fashion and department stores and paying more for my small makeup collection if it means I’m supporting small local businesses and good causes. I’m aware of the impact of my choices and want to do my best to be wise and responsible about them.

An “anti-haul” is probably just another one of those passing trends we won’t remember in a few months, but let’s not forget how “consuming” consumerism is (bad word play, but still). It sucks you in. Advertising and PR know exactly what they’re doing. The strategies they use work. But once we can step away from possible spending instincts and look objectively at products, we might decide instead to choose the more sustainable option, or just save some money for something you might really care about. That simple but powerful decision is a step toward living more sustainably and consciously.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Communicate Love

There are so many different words of wisdom and advice for those in relationships, romantic or platonic. The right things to say to each other, how to handle conflict and compromise. Couples counseling can give you some tools and tricks to use, too.

Now I’m not all into the nitty-gritty details of what’s the best course of action because every relationship is different. It can be helpful to have some sort of example or guide to follow, yes. However, you cannot expect a blanket statement to apply to everybody’s unique situations. Especially when multiple people are involved, each person brings their own personality to the table.

Something that I’ve found that I really enjoy and find interesting is the concept of love languages. Okay, that in of itself sounds like the thing I was just criticizing, but hear me out. There is still a sense of fitting into some categories, but each person is still going to have a different result that can tell a lot about how they behave with a companion or partner.

If you enjoy taking quizzes, here is your lucky break. At this website, based on a book by Gary Chapman, you can answer a questionnaire that will explain how you show affection to others. The five most common forms are physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service. I’ve found that my results have really made me take notice and realize how I do show my love to others.

The important element here is having the receiving party also figure out their own love language. Most likely, not everyone you communicate love to will receive it as you do. If you aren’t aware of that difference, you might feel unfulfilled and run into lots of misunderstanding. If you think a loved one is ungrateful and doesn’t appreciate or reciprocate your feelings, chances may be they just do so in a different way.

Here’s for my personal, real-life example. In case you were wondering what my love language(s) are, it’s heavily weighted toward words of affirmation and acts of service, gift giving in close third. Basically, when I care about you, I will tell you and speak to you kindly, I will do thoughtful things for you, and give you things that show that I’ve been thinking of you. Dead last on my list? Physical touch. It’s not that I don’t like being around other people, but it’s not a high priority to me. I like my space. My first instinct isn’t to always hug or sit intimately with others in conversation. I’m probably paying more attention to any deep topic we might be discussing instead.

Now my boyfriend is quite different from me. He craves physical touch. I assume that is often more associated with men, but I’m not drawing any conclusions. He’s often the one saying romantic words, but he is definitely the one who values touch. Without him knowing that I’m not drawn to much physical touch, he would have liked guessed that I wasn’t interested in him or was just a standoff-ish person, neither of which are true.

You don’t have to have a book or website tell you these details. Cliche but true, communication is key. But having a resource readily available can help start the conversation to best know how to reach one another. It bridges the potential divide of two people caring about each other but not expecting to receive love in a new way.

And that’s where the compromise comes in. I know now to become more comfortable with little moments of just being close to my significant other and reach out myself sometimes. My boyfriend knows that his immense thoughtfulness is one of my favorite things about him. We meet in the middle to suffice both of our needs.

Again, I don’t see this just as a romantic understanding, but one necessary for every relationship, including friends and family. A major root of conflict is a lack of fluid communication, feeling withdrawn from somebody because they don’t translate your words or actions as love. This communication may be different not just in love, but also apologies, appreciation, and anger.

There is no best way to love another person. You shouldn’t feel ashamed if, like me, you just don’t feel compelled to always let others into your personal bubble of space. Or you think words of affirmation are cheesy. Or you have no clue how to respond to gifts. As long as you aren’t hurting others and are acting out of the best intentions, once you know yourself well enough, you can clarify what you value most in others to establish that fulfilling sense of closeness and support. That’s joy of being surrounded by loved ones. But if you feel out of touch (no pun intended) with them, no matter how may people you consider a friend or how great your partner may be, you’ll still feel isolated, craving more.

And here’s another cliche thrown your way: be yourself. Stay true to your own personality and love language. You cannot successfully fake being somebody else. Loved ones won’t genuinely love you if they know a facade. Be vulnerable and honest. Yes, it’s scary. But the end result? The people who enter your life who value your presence and enjoy you despite your flaws? That’s what makes life worth living.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie