Hello Old Friends
It appears as if my blog posts are destined to be months apart as I can’t seem to write anything worth sharing during the days in between. All is well though because I've got something personal tonight.
On September 24th, my twenty-fifth birthday, Jack and I boarded a plane to Spain to celebrate our birthdays and to give ourselves a break from reality. Outside of obvious reasons, I was ready both physically and mentally to leave Los Angeles.
The level of stress and anxiety I had been experiencing peaked and began to make itself present in my gastrointestinal tract. I felt nauseous all of the time. Food I had been eating for years no longer agreed with my stomach and it made the days a shy difficult to get through as I never knew when my body would reject a meal. As a result, I fasted most days as I tried to figure out what was happening to me. Eventually, through a doctor and a few friends, I discovered the root of my problem – s t r e s s & a n x i e t y – and picked up probiotics, ginger pills, some ancient chinese remedies and made my very first appointment to see a therapist.
In those five weeks before we left, I lost close to twelve pounds – which is something I didn't really feel like I had to lose.
It wasn't until I was driving up the coast of Northern Spain that everything registered, and I felt my breath come back to me.
You see, for close to ten months, I don't think I ever caught my breath. I lived in a permanent state of anxiety, and only let those close to me in on what was going on. I constantly overextended myself in both my personal and professional life. And while I felt the weight of what I was doing, I didn't pull back, ask for what I need or give myself the time and space to catch my breath. Rather, I convinced myself that this is the way you're supposed to live when you're in your mid-20s living in Los Angeles trying to chase a dream. It’s what you’re supposed to do, because you’ve got to make sure everyone else around you is happy and breathing.
While those are great virtues, it’s not an excuse to stop taking care of myself and that is something I am finally coming to terms with.
The love and compassion I give to the world must also be directed inwards.
The word selfish is not a bad word.
You are allowed to put yourself and your needs first and it doesn't make you a bad person.
You don’t have to be everything to everyone.
You’re allowed to say no and not feel guilty about it.
I don't know why I allowed myself to have that mentality for 24 years, but I did. I convinced myself that I didn't need to be taken care of, and that's insane because everyone needs to be taken care of. Everyone needs to feel loved and safe. Everyone needs to take a minute to be still.
Spain is the first time in 10 months that I caught my breath. It was a trip that not only inspired my writing and made me fall more in love with Jack, it’s the trip that I TRULY returned to myself and learned the importance of being still. It was a trip filled with little “A-ha” moments about myself and the world. Full transparency, there were several times when I was alone that I found myself crying in relief and gratitude.
This trip was more than I could have ever imagined and I returned a new woman because of it.
In the week since I've been back, I've made small changes to my day. I've communicated my needs where it felt pertinent because I made a vow to myself in Spain that I would start putting myself first. I would listen to my body and my mind and give it what it asked for. I would do a better job at communicating with those around me and I wouldn’t feel guilty for asking or stating what I need.
I still feel silly when I say all of this, even though my therapist and Jack assure me it’s not, because this is something that’s so naturally ingrained in everyone else. Yet, I truly struggle with asking for what I need, with speaking my mind and with putting myself first.
I know it’s something that’s going to take time and oddly enough, practice. I’m also sure there will be moments where I’m wickedly uncomfortable and fighting the inner catch-22 battle I always find myself in, but the sheer fact that I feel lighter now, just by having the realization, is enough to make it worth it.
The clarity is enough.