Why can’t we be allowed to be happy?

Happiness is an emotion we should all be allowed to experience. For me happiness means uncontrollable smiling, giggling at things even if they aren’t funny, and just feeling a sense of lightness in every part of my body. But I often find moments in my days where I should be happy and the emotion makes complete sense, but for some reason, I cannot express my happiness. This is likely due to an anxious mind feeling the need to focus on what could go wrong to take this happy moment away.

Think about relationships. When you first start getting to know another person you feel nervous, excited, hopeful, and you cannot wait for a moment until you talk to them again. For an anxious mind, these positive emotions get translated into moments of doubt and panic. Instead of feeling hopeful to see this person again, my brain would obsess over the fear of rejection. Of that person getting bored, or forgetting about me or lying about my importance to them. I do not allow myself to cherish the small moments that provide bliss.

But this goes beyond relationships. These moments of doubt can come along with good news from work, or feeling “lucky”. My immediate mental response is to go on the defense. I want to process what the worst possible scenario could be and what has the potential to take this good feeling away. Instead of enjoying the moment and living in a state of complete happiness and appreciation, I self-sabotage everything. This is one of my most irritating traits and something I am working diligently to improve.

I have always been a believer in fate and destiny. I believe that you meet people at certain points in your life to sever a purpose when they are meant to. I believe we have good and bad things happen to us when it is meant to happen as a way to grow and learn. So who am I to argue with destiny? Who am I as one girl in the entire world to challenge what the plan is for my life?

The truth is being along for life’s ride is a part of the journey we all take. I have lost so many great people in my life to tragedies and time. I have always had a revolving door of friends and relationships come into my life, and I never used to understand why people always leave. But those few connections I have made over the years that continue to stand by me mean so much more than having a whole army of people that mean very little.

I am an optimist by nature and always strive to see the best in even the most toxic person. But the constant contradiction with my pessimistic anxiety is really exhausting. I have purposely driven people away from me if I have even the smallest perception they will hurt me in the future. Instead, I should be living in the moment and appreciating them for what they have to offer. After all, life is too short to not allow yourself to indulge in the people and things that bring you happiness.

Life Feels Robotic

There is no secret the last week has been a mental challenge for me. Overcoming this constant buzz of anxiety has been extremely difficult, and I find myself having more bad moments than good. Last week I posted a video on my Instagram story talking about not being ok but needing to know when to ask for help. When I am on a downward spiral the last thing I want to do is feel like I am burdening someone else with my issues. My brain categorizes help with being a burden.

I just feel like I’m letting people down. I’m letting my fitness team down by not being sales-y and selling tons of product this month. I’m letting my friends down by not being mentally present. I’m letting my family down by not contributing to the push to be ready for big life changes ahead. I’m letting my pets down by feeling like I neglect them. I’m letting my coworkers down by giving into my “burned out” attitude that has been developing over the past few months. Of all these people I feel I have let down, the only person I am actually disappointing is myself.

I allow myself to feel like this. I allow myself to cry and rely on other people for happiness. I need to believe I am strong enough to survive because right now that’s all I can focus on. Make it through today in order to see what tomorrow has in store. I am extremely tired mentally and physically. I have lost the ambition to enjoy activities I usually love. I am shutting out the people that truly care about me. I am doing all of those things because I am afraid of not being good enough.

If you told high school me that I would grow up to have an incredible job, incredible family, a 4.0 GPA in grad school, working out for fun, she never would’ve believed you. I was a kid that lived my life unchallenged because avoiding the challenge meant I couldn’t fail. I went through my adolescence coasting by and was a C average student, but as I have gotten older and matured, I realized how bored I was from not allowing myself to see more potential.

I get lost in my thoughts, and I get lost in these ideas I’ve created that I am not enough. Part of me buys into the idea that I will never truly make another person happy, that I will never be pretty enough, that no matter how hard I try I will always let someone else down. I have worked so hard to build my confidence, but these little thoughts are always there chipping away at my masterpiece. Here are the truth bombs:

  • I can’t make everyone happy, that’s an impossible goal
  • It’s ok to disappoint people because not everyone will like your decisions
  • I AM beautiful, strong and intelligent

But saying these affirmations and believing them are two incredibly different things. During an anxiety attack, someone without anxiety will tell you to “not worry about it” or “just breathe”, but at that moment my mind is not being rational. While rational ideas make sense to a brain that is fully functioning, my brain is not always working with the same chemical balance. Some days I can’t seem to buy endorphins to put into my brain. My burnout with life, in general, has made my world unbearable to live in. I am constantly walking on eggshells with myself, just waiting for the moment I have another anxiety attack or crying for no reason. I am exhausted, I am sad, I am angry, I am anxious, but I am not giving up.

I need to realize that the answer is to not suffer in silence. I need to start letting people in and be a part of my world. I need to stop blaming myself for every little thing not going right. Life will never give anyone more than they can handle, and that is certainly true for me. I am just terrified when everything is going to right, that something will happen to take it away. Instead of waiting for life to take away those good things, I self-sabotage to force those things to no longer exist. I need to really take some time to look at myself and realize everything is going to be ok.

Positivity is a Choice

I wake up every single day and make the choice that I am going to live my life in a positive mindset. Optimism comes second nature to me, and through everything I have overcome in my life, I have always tried to maintain that sense of balance. The one thing I’ve learned over the last year is that I can’t wait for good things to happen. I can’t sit on my couch watching Parks and Rec, drinking wine and waiting for the changes I want to see to magically appear. I have fought so hard, and continue to fight every minute of every day to earn my happiness.

The traumas and hardships I have overcome cannot be compared to the journey of someone else. In reality, I come from a strong, family-oriented background. We had nightly family dinners, took road trips together (mostly for hockey tournaments), lived in relatively close quarters, and always attended each other’s events (no matter how boring ). I remember growing up and not getting along with my siblings most days, but that frustration had an underlying layer of love attached. I never experienced any standardly classified traumatic event. I didn’t lose my first loved one until I was in middle school, my dad didn’t have his amputations until I was in high school, and I was given unconditional love from my parents. By textbook definition, I should not have a reason for anxiety.

In all of my years of therapy, my therapists have attempted to “get to the bottom of the issue.” They were under the clinical mindset that something within my past triggered my brain to develop anxiety to use as a defense mechanism. My earliest memory of anxiety was first-grade taking timed math tests and having such extreme testing anxiety I couldn’t even answer a simple “1 + 1 =” question. When I would go on field trips I would get physically sick the entire night before and the morning of the event. Was I ever in any risk of physical harm taking a test or going to the zoo? Absolutely not. My body’s reaction to those situations was extreme and inappropriate.

I have been under the belief the past year and a half that my brain was built differently. I don’t have the same chemical makeup as a person without anxiety. My body lives in a constant state of defense, and I can feel my anxiety living inside of me like a gentle hum of energy. I find very rare moments in my life where I can truly relax, but when I find them I cherish them. When I feel anxious I get so uncomfortable in my own skin that I wish I could take my body apart and clean it piece by piece. It’s almost like part of my consciousness views the experiences in the 3rd person, and wants to help the version of me trapped inside. I live under the constant threat at any little thing could set my anxiety off. But my mental toughness and willingness to fight this battle is what gets me through every day.

I have always believed that psychotic drugs serve a beautiful purpose for people who need them, and should be used as an aid to help balance some of those imperfections we are born with. I also am vocal about the fact that I do not take medication. I was put on antidepressants in my early 20s, but I didn’t have depression. I was misdiagnosed, and given drugs to alter my brain chemistry that was not even out of balance. As a result, I became an emotionless robot that lost the ability to feel anything. I went 2 years not experiencing joy, sadness, excitement, absolutely nothing. The thought of that happening again terrifies me, and I decided I would rather feel too much all of the time then to ever lose my senses like that again.

I acknowledge that if I had been properly diagnosed and treated, my experience would have been different; however, life tests us so we can learn and grow into the people we were meant to become. I have grown into someone that is intelligent, witty, understanding, empathetic, and strong. Looking back, I have come so far from the girl that was insecure and sought validation from people around her. I am now at the point in my journey where reflecting on my progress is important, and I can see the milestones I’ve hit in my recovery process. I went from 5 years ago almost losing my job because my anxiety made it impossible to function, to use my own experiences to help others find their balance.

I use humor to combat my sadness.

I use music to soften the buzz in my head.

I use goals to hold myself accountable.

I use blogging to get my thoughts on paper.

I use exercise to release endorphins.

It takes time and dedication to figure out what works best for you, and sometimes you will experience moments of failure. My journey certainly hasn’t been perfect. I continue to have moments of doubt with what I’m doing. Some days giving into the darkness feel comfortable because that feeling of emptiness is so familiar, but I know deep down that’s not my answer.

I have met some incredible people through this blog, and to everyone I have ever impacted, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for supporting me and offering kind words. Thank you for knowing me well enough through my writings to know when I need help. Being open and being vulnerable to complete strangers is incredibly difficult. If it wasn’t difficult more people would do it. Find your passion and share it with the world as I have. In a society where we thrive on the darkness, decide to be the light.

Push from the Darkness

Full disclosure: I am not a mental health professional, nor have I had any training in the treatment of disorders. The purpose of this post is to share my experiences, in hopes of creating conversation around these issues. If you are suffering, please seek a professional for help.

Have you ever had a moment in your life where it seemed impossible to be happy? Where you feel a pit inside of your stomach and it feels like it could swallow you whole? Maybe you’ve lived in darkness for long periods of time and convince yourself it’s easier to just let the darkness control you than to fight. For people with anxiety and depression, these experiences are real. I have had moments where I told my therapist I would rather let my anxiety (darkness) control my life because it feels like less energy than fighting it. I chose to be an outsider in my own life and to become a different person because I was lost. I was in a headspace where I put too much focus on negative events surrounding me, and I ALLOWED that feeling to consume my entire being.

I have been in professional treatment for anxiety for years. My first therapist diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, with minor depression and obsessive tendencies. My second therapist did not think I had signs of depression (despite marking high on all of the pre-counseling testings) but agreed with the anxiety diagnosis and added social anxiety. My most recent therapist also agreed with the generalized anxiety disorder with depressive episodes but did not think I have social anxiety or obsessive tendencies. You see, even with professional opinions, it’s all a matter of perspective. If I lived my entire life according to my diagnoses I would’ve been so confused with my own identity over the 6 year time period. I chose to focus on the way I was feeling and how to cope. Not what diagnosis code they were billing to my insurance company. From my perspective, that is the only reason mental health patients get put into categories like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc., for reimbursement and to provide general ideas for treatment. In reality, mental health is incredibly complex. If you compare my anxiety to someone else that suffers, we will have similarities, but that’s about it. A treatment that works for one person will not work for another person.

With uniqueness in mind, I was asked yesterday by a friend for advice on how to get out of the darkness. I was taken back by the question for a moment, realizing I preach the importance of self-care often for preventative maintenance, but I never talk about how I climb out of my own depressive lows. Through most of my life, I suffered in silence. I never spoke to anyone about how I was truly feeling because I lived in fear of being labeled. I was always a little bit of an outcast growing up. I had a lot of friends, but I never belonged to a “group”. My self-identity was unique, and in a world where your peers expect you to dress or act a certain way in order to properly fit in, I have always fought against that narrative. Even as an adult when people ask me what my interests are, they are all over the board. I enjoy things in life because I want to, not because I need to in order to fit in. Make sense?

My experience with anxiety has also been unique to me, and when I talk to other anxiety sufferers I can identify commonalities but we are not identical. When I go into a depressive episode I tend to become distant from people in my life. I still attend some events and I will still return your messages, but the reality is I am emotionally cut off from my life. Imagine having the worst day of your life, now replay that moment in your mind on repeat and allowing that feeling to consume your mind and body until you convince yourself that is how you function now. My body feels heavy, I am constantly exhausted, I am not eating enough to sustain my caloric needs, I stop self-care activities. During episodes, I have been known to sit on my couch for HOURS and not realize how long I sat there staring into space until I realize it’s dark and I missed an entire sunset. Moments like these are terrifying, but I had myself convinced that I did not deserve good things to happen to me.

Thankfully I do not have depressive episodes often, mostly due to my ability to identify and prevent these episodes from happening. Through my therapy treatments, I have gained a fantastic understanding of why I feel and think the way I do. I have been told by multiple professional that this level of self-awareness is rare, so I have been thankful to be blessed with being able to self-evaluate. In moments where I lose perspective, I still have a tendency to touch the darkness again. I have learned to focus on things in my life that I like. I force myself to experience moments of joy, even if they are temporary. Sometimes it’s a trip to Target to buy more art supplies or pulling up a meme on my phone that cracks me up no matter how sad I am. During a depressive episode, I often lose my ability to be rational, so it can take me days or weeks to come up with a solution to find the light.

My favorite food? I eat it.

A TV show I love and watch on repeat? I watch it.

A hobby I haven’t done for a while but enjoy? I do it.

As humans, we have a tendency to be our own worst enemies. We are raised to believe that being selfish is a bad thing, and you should always put other people first. I am here to burst your bubble, being selfish is good! There are moments in your life where you need to focus on yourself. If your mental health is not in a good place, how in the world do you expect to be helpful to someone else? It’s like the saying “you can never truly love another person until you learn to love yourself,” and that is 100% true. Over the last few months, I have fallen in love with the woman that I have become. I am a strong, independent, driven, caring, and intelligent. I live my life every single day believing in myself, and this helps keep my light stronger than it has ever been.

Do not ever let your brain convince you that you are not worthy, because your brain is a con artist. Regardless of your mental health state we all experience times of darkness (the loss of a family member or being denied a job). These experiences are what make you stronger. Life will never give you more than you are able to handle, but you need to make the choice to grow. When I thought people in my life would be better if I didn’t exist, this was my brain giving me an excuse to stay in my darkness. Breakthrough the stigmas, wash your mind clean of all negative thoughts, write down on paper things you like about yourself and your life, and live every day like you matter. It is going to be a ton of work, but everything in life is worth fighting for.

Be On Time or Die

My heart was racing, I was panicked, I couldn’t think straight, and I was speeding. My body always has the same response anytime I think I’m going to be late somewhere. And by late, I really mean being late for being early. Last weekend my sister and I attended Beachbody Super Saturday with some of the other coaches (and my coach) from the team I work on. I had the time management planned to a T, as usual, and thought the morning was off to a great start. Once my sister and I left our meeting point to head to the convention center, my sister realized he left her phone in her car.

Now mind you we were only about 5 mins away from her car and it wasn’t that far out of the way to get back, however, tell that to my anxiety. I immediately felt frustrated and profusely asked her if she is sure it’s not in her bag. I even asked her if she really needed it, which is so mean because I would also need my lifeline. My body was tense, I could feel my blood pressure increase, my breaths became shallower, and my brain couldn’t process why in the world she could be so careless and risk making us late.

In that moment I allowed my anxiety to control the situation. I didn’t use rational thought and reasoning with the part of my brain that was over processing information. Was I really in danger of physical harm by being later than expected to the event? Absolutely not. Should I have lashed out the way I did and made her feel like complete shit, like she messed up the entire day? NO. These are the situations I am still a work in progress.

What I should have done is taken a moment to breathe. A deep inhale, deep exhale. Focus my attention on the task at hand, which was retrieving her phone. I have this weird phobia of being late for anything, and I have had that my entire life. I think this stems from wanting to please people and I associate being late with making others angry or disappointed. I need to remember that sometimes you do everything you can to be timely and there are occasions it doesn’t work out.

We ended up making it close to the time I had mentally scheduled for myself and had an absolutely amazing experience. But I risked potentially losing that experience or ruining it before it began because I couldn’t control my anxiety. I know this is an area where I need to focus more of my attention for improvement. Maybe try being late to a few things on purpose to realize that I am not going to die if I don’t make it to things early. I had someone ask me once what one of my faults is and I replied that I am too timely. That statement clearly still holds true today.

Tiffany, I am incredibly sorry I almost ruined our day together. I love you!

Constantly Spinning

I attempted to write this first sentence about 20 times before I gave up because I had nothing witty to say. It’s Sunday night, and I have been sitting here post homework, post-meal prep, post-workout reflecting on everything that happened this week and weekend. I have met some incredible people and made some amazing strides forward in my business, but for some reason, I keep coming back to the feeling of not being satisfied. I feel like no matter how much I push myself, no matter how much I try to look forward I keep shifting my focus back on shitty things in the present.

I always preach honesty and being your authentic self. We all have a tendency to wear masks to fit the narrative that other people expect us to deliver. With friends, I feel like I need to be upbeat and hilarious, ready for anything. At work, I need to be focused and professional while maintaining my sanity. With family, I need to be caring, loving and compassionate, always available to lend a hand when needed. With strangers or new friends, I need to be sweet and open about who I am. In school, I need to be an overachiever, and capable of performing tasks, but fake it till you make it. In all of this, I have a tendency to get lost.

I lose focus on who I am, who I want to be. Last year offered so many opportunities for growth, that I sometimes am not appreciative of how far I’ve come on this journey. January last year I remember still being new to my job, networking at Epic training, and not having any confidence in myself or my ability to be successful. Grad school wasn’t even a thought in my mind yet and my relationships were suffering because my focus was not in the right places. I have gained SO much in the last few months that I feel like that scared insecure girl again.

I am scared my business will fail. I am scared I will not perform well enough at work or school. I am scared of losing people in my life that I value. That bucket of fear inside of my head can sometimes spill over when I am having moments of high anxiety. But living in this world of being scared and putting too much focus on the “what ifs”, does absolutely nothing to propel me forward.

I have a lot of faults that I need to work on. I look to others to make me feel good about myself, but in reality, I am amazing AND beautiful. I put too much focus on being perfect, but perfectionism is not an attainable goal, it’s not real. I always look to my friends and family to make me happy, but my happiness is controlled by me. I spend too much time assuming someone else’s thoughts and feelings, and not enough time analyzing my own.

This year has been challenging for me in so many aspects. I feel like this “new year” has just been a continuation of last year. I am spinning my wheels trying to figure out how to get out of the mud I am stuck in. I decided that I am going to do “Affirmation Mondays” on Instagram. Allow myself to have 1 story post each week where I express what affirmation I am believing in that week. I am going to continue to push hard through my fitness and nutrition to be the change that I want to see.

At the end of the day I control my happiness, I control my progress and I control the way that I feel. To anyone that has seen the ugly side of me lately, I am so sorry. I continuously have so much to learn, but I really am trying. I need to find the balance in a world that constantly tries to spin me out of control. I just need to remember that no matter what it will always get better.

I believe in myself. I CAN do hard things.

How Did Everything Get So Far Off Track?

2019 and I have gotten off on the wrong foot. I should probably just completely ignore the fact that this year is different, because nothing has actually changed. We just restarted the process of re-writing dates on all documents, and writing a strong ‘9’ over my ‘8’. I had grand plans of being in such a positive mindset and looking forward to the next 6 months of hard work to hit my major goal, but mentally I am not in a good place and feel sidetracked.

I started the year waking up shortly after midnight to discover I caught the stomach flu. It’s a fantastic diet program if anyone is wondering, but not one I would recommend. I honestly miss my workout routine and I miss my diet, but I do not have the strength or the stomach yet to get back to it. The moments I have been able to be on my phone scrolling through Instagram, I am instantly jealous of everyone having such an amazing time. Working so hard on their goals already, while I lay on my couch trying not to die, and googling how long it takes for muscle atrophy to kick in.

My goals are never just physical though. Of course, I want to look the best I have EVER looked by my 30th birthday this summer, but it’s so much more than that. I want to be overall a better person or what I perceive is me being a better person. I want to have a more positive mindset, I want to have better moods, I want to focus on self-care, I want to reduce anxiety attacks, I want to be able to say no more often. But in my current mental state I can’t focus on any of those things.

I feel like I’m beating myself up. Like I am the reason why the universe actually hates me and never wants me to be successful. I have proof I am the reason that I’ve always given up on everything I’ve ever put my mind to. I just need to focus my brain, but when I go into these downward spirals of hell it can be hard to pull myself out of it. I thought about bringing Macie on an adventure, even though it’s cold, just so I can get outside and breathe again. I miss the warmer months when I could just go for a hike or go sit down by the river and clear my head. I need to find a winter escape place. Somewhere quiet that I can go and be alone and process all of these emotions.

Being an emotional person is the absolute WORST. You either spend your time hiding how you really feel in fear of people alienating you for being emotional, or you just let it all out because you can’t hold it in or you no longer care to hide it. I’m at the point where I have so many emotional walls and barriers up it can be hard to get through them. Processing how I really feel about people and situations is something that feels easier to ignore, but I am actually doing myself and those around me an injustice. For someone with anxiety there is a fine line between being emotionally expressive and having an absolute breakdown, so I need to sort some of that out first.

I just want to be in a place where I can cry when I want to. Where I can call someone when I’m having a bad day and just talk to them. If I’m happy I can tell the world without feeling annoying. I need to find my happy place again. I’m not sure where it went to but I need to find it. I have a few more days until school returns and life gets back to normal, and in those few days I vow to find my positive energy and never let it go.