I’m back with Episode 2 of Conversations with Anaston! In this episode I am sharing a piece of my story regarding my experience with depression. Often times we shy away from telling our stories and being honest about the challenges we face with our mental health, so I am sharing my story in hopes that I can continue to encourage others to do the same. So in honor of #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday and #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth here is my depression story.
Photographer: Josh Garrett (@itsdannygphoto)
So, honestly I have not been feeling much peace for the last few weeks or so. Really, 2018 has been off to an interesting start…and for a while I was worried.
When I wrote Because I’m Happy! back in June of 2017, I was in a really great place. I was so excited about the work I had done on myself, the progress I had made, and the happiness I was blessed with. For the most part everything was going right, and I was dealing with the things that were less than desirable in a healthy way. So I am sure you can imagine my frustration when life started throwing its challenges at me toward the end of February. Now that I feel like I am on the other side of the storm, a few things have been put into perspective for me:
- God never said the weapons would not form. He said they will not prosper.
I think I got so comfortable in my “happy place” that I felt like I was untouchable. So when challenges started presenting themselves, it threw me completely off of my game. I began to question a lot of things and wondered why God was putting me through what felt like so many tests. I kept asking a lot of the “why me” questions, feeling like I did not deserve any of what was happening to me. This “level” of happiness I was experiencing made me think that I would no longer have to suffer through drama, disfunction, and negativity anymore. Boy, was I wrong. However, in the midst of each challenge, I have come out victorious on the other side. Every situation or outcome has not been ideal, honestly, but each was necessary for my growth. Though I was very uncomfortable, experiencing frequent anxiety, and very stressed, I am good. I have not suffered any losses. I wish I could keep this mindset while I am in “it”, but it is refreshing to have this perspective now that the dust has settled.
2. Always be the bigger person.
We all have those moments when we get tired of being the “bigger” person, always having to rise above, “go high”, etc. If you’re reading/listening to this and telling yourself you do not have those moments, you are lying, beloved. I had quite a few of these moments over the last few weeks. I felt like I was being put in situations where I had to be the bigger person, when everything inside of me wanted to be mean and petty…but I am not a mean and petty person. So why would I even waste my energy resorting to that type of behavior? I am not perfect, by any means, but I know that I have done the work to be sure that I no longer intentionally cut people with my actions or my words. So changing the very nature of who I am for a temporary game of tit for tat is not worth it to me anymore. I had to remind myself that getting even, proving a point, etc. could potentially do more damage than what was already done. Regardless of whether I was right or wrong, what matters most is that I can go to sleep each night with a clean conscience. And I do not want to sacrifice my peace of mind gambling in a game of revenge. At the end of the day, I can only control myself. I have the right to feel how I feel and even express how I feel, but the goal is to do so with tact. This can be easier said than done sometimes though. There are moments where I still yell, curse, and say things out of frustration, but thankfully those moments are few and far in between. When I am feeling the pressure to act out of character, I literally just close my mouth or stop myself from typing a message. Hopefully, once I have given myself a moment to calm down, I can handle things the right way.
3. Never give up.
Sounds cliche, but it is the truth. Here I am about to graduate from law school, and it seems like life is challenging me the same way it was when I was preparing to graduate from college. The part I have to remind myself, though, is that I made it through those experiences. They were also uncomfortable, stressful, and caused anxiety. However, they were conquered. I try not to spend too much time reflecting on my past, but it can be quite the teacher. Your past shows your strength. When you think about all that God carried you through, you ought to be able to keep pushing and stay the course. So I try to remind myself that if I “just keep swimming” everything will be okay. I will come out on the other side, I will get through whatever it is, and life will continue. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. There will always be things that will come to steal your joy, but if you keep seeking the light, happiness will always be there.
So I am continuing to do the work. I wish I could tell you the many ways I put my self-care routine to use during this time, but in the midst of the chaos all I could do was call my parents a thousand times a day, do a lot of deep breathing, shed a lot of tears, pray a lot, and try to have a few YOLO moments along the way…but now that I have typed this, I am realizing that all of those things are self-care, too.
How do you find the balance within yourself during difficult times? Think about the last time that you were faced with a challenge, and how you handled it. Think about how you felt, the things you said, and the things you did. Was there a sense of peace within you regardless of what you were being faced with? Were you able to return to that sense of peace after you freaked out or got upset? Try to figure out at least one thing that will be your go-to when you start to lose the balance within yourself. My goal is to be more intentional about meditating and breathing through things and to trust God and the capabilities He gave me.
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” x Unknown
“And right now…I’m the blues in your left thigh, trying to become the funk in your right.”
It’s amazing how many people think that romance only exists between two people, that it is something that only couples can share…but I am here to tell you that romance should start with you. Because when you truly know how to romance yourself, then you can give romance to somebody else. Your Star Player is waiting on you to romance her/him. S/he’s waiting for you…trying to become the funk in your right.
So today’s #TakeCareofYourSELFTuesday question is tough, but as usual it is a necessary one.
In April of this year, I will turn 25. For the first time in my adult life I can answer confidently that yes, I love myself. If you had asked me this question a couple of years ago, my answer probably would have been some variation of “I think so”. Honestly, I believe I started on this journey of learning to love myself in high school, when I first started seeking love in other people. I can tell from old Facebook statuses that I was standing at the end of the aisle waiting for the love of my life to commit herself to me. And after a couple of failed relationships and disappointments over the years, I finally realized that love has to start with me.
And now I’m so in love with myself that it no longer troubles me when I do not receive the same amount or kind of love from another person. I’ve recognized that if I truly love myself wholly, that I will always be enough.
I show love to myself in many ways, one of which is discussed in L is for Love, Pt. II. To put it simply, I do all of the things for myself that I was previously looking for other people to do for me. So this means that I send myself flowers (just because and for special occasions), I take myself out on dates, I overload myself on self-care when I am feeling down, I remind myself of how special and beautiful I am, I look at myself in the mirror. & I mean, really look at myself in the mirror. I enjoy my own company. I know how to make myself laugh, I know what makes me smile. I know what makes me cry. I know what I like, what I dislike…I know who I am.
I recognize that even though I am far from perfect and will continue to grow and evolve through life, that I’m lit. However interested I am in someone else, I make sure I am just as interested in myself. The things I want for someone else to love or appreciate about me, I love and appreciate about myself. From my smile, to my laugh, to the way I give and how my mind works. I focus on building myself up. I do the work, even when it is tough. Every day is not pretty, and some days I am a mess. There are still days where I second guess myself, and allow myself to be swayed by the opinions of others, but I am 100% committed to making sure that I stand up and show up for me.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an overnight, instant thing. Loving myself is a journey, and I walk through it every day. It has probably taken me the better part of two and a half years to get to this place, and I am excited about how much more in love with myself I will be in the years to come.
On Tuesdays I encourage my loved ones and those I am connected with on social media to participate in my #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday movement, which was inspired by the post Take Care of Your Star Player.
In 2018, I want to take this movement to the next level and really encourage others to start doing the work when it comes to their mental/emotional health. So I have decided to start creating journal questions to share each Tuesday.
Today’s question is a simple one, but it can reveal a lot to you. We ask people “how are you?” quite frequently as a conversation starter. Often times, we do not even truly listen to the answer. Today I challenge you to ask yourself how you are doing and then take the time to actually listen to the answer. Use this Tuesday to take care of your heart.
In the spirit of transparency and to hopefully make others feel comfortable sharing their answers with me, here is my response:
Today, my heart is full. She is happy. It is warm outside, the sun is shining, and I am having a great day. I have been working really hard to maintain my happiness despite being in a phase where a lot of things are uncertain. I feel as if I am transitioning into a new chapter of life and shedding some layers from my past. I slept pretty well last night, but had some interesting dreams. It always amazes me how my desires seem to manifest themselves in my dreams. Even though I try to refrain from spending time thinking about certain people or things, they still find me while I am sleeping. I’m really proud of my heart today. There are times when I want to be closed off, and I am fearful of taking new chances…but my heart remains open. She is not bitter, despite all that she’s been through. Today, I am extremely proud of that, because I could be in really bad shape emotionally. Sometimes I have to pinch myself during my moments of happiness, because I am not used to this. I find myself waiting for something bad to happen…and bad things have happened lately. But now that I allow myself to feel whatever emotions come my way, I am able to deal with them in a way that serves me. I am able to return to being happy. There are many things I am procrastinating on though, so I really need to sit down and focus on these tasks. I can already tell that the uncertainty in a few areas is the root reason of why I am procrastinating, so I know I have to work on this.
“I’m proud of my heart, it’s never been a quitter, it hasn’t become bitter, it’s had the courage to stay open, and that has only made me better.”
We made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas is rapidly approaching, & the weather is changing– it’s obvious that 2017 is coming to an end! The months of November & December tend to be the hardest for people, no matter who you are, & unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into “seasonal depression” & experience anxiety.
As I’ve gotten older these Winter months have previously been more difficult for me, too. The weather & lack of light cause me to want to stay inside, keep to myself, & sleep. Conditions like these make it easy for me to lose motivation, focus on negative things, & experience deep levels of disappointment & sadness. Because my family is spread out, holidays aren’t as big as they used to be, which can also cause some sadness here & there.
So it is my goal for the rest of 2017 to keep my energy high & full of positivity. I want to maintain my happiness, continue loving myself, & be grateful for everything God has blessed me with. I am determined to make Winter the best it can be, & here’s how I am going to do it:
- Write a list of everything I accomplished in 2017. It seems like 2017 wasn’t a great year for many people; my Twitter feed is full of tweets with people confessing how rough of a year it was, how they are ready for it to be over, etc. (What’s funny is that I️ wrote these very same sentences in Block Queen in 2016. It’s really disheartening to see that the same things are happening all over again, a year later.) Though we don’t realize it, negativity like this can fuel depression & anxiety. Why not try a different approach & focus on the positive? What were the good things that happened? How did you grow? This idea was inspired by Myleike Teel’s podcast for the end of the year & it was a great suggestion to end 2017 on a positive note.
This is also a great time to practice gratitude. Once you’ve reflected on all of the positive things that 2017 brought you, spend some time being grateful for these things. Look at how different 2017 was from 2016; look at how God blessed you & kept you safe. If you are living, breathing, & healthy, then you have many things to be grateful for. Sometimes it takes being grateful for small things like clean water or air to breathe, your sight, food to eat, etc. that will push you to recognize the big things, too.
2. Set goals & create a plan. We all know it is popular to set resolutions for the New Year, so use this time to plan for 2018. I will publish a post on goal-setting in January, so I won’t go into much detail here. I set many of my goals in August, when my last year of law school started, so I am going to use those as the foundation for 2018’s goals. Write them down, put them some where you can see them often, & make them happen!
3. Stay active. In every sense of the word. This is the time to kick all of your self-care habits into overdrive. Actively practice self-compassion, forgiveness, and love. If you need reminders on how to start those practices, I’ve got you covered. (Each “practice” is linked to my previous posts on said topics.) Spend time doing things that make you happy & relaxed. Actively nurture your relationships with loved ones & yourself. Be intentional. Remember to be physically active–summer bodies are built in the winter, right?
I’m going to try a few new self-care practices in December & revamp some “old ones”. It’s always a good time to make improvements to your self-care routine. If something isn’t working for you or if you haven’t really been doing something, then work on it or change it. For example, I really want to delve deeper into my yoga practice, & become more consistent with my workout routines. So I need to create a different approach to both. Since it’s colder outside (sometimes, where I live) I might not take my daily walk, but I need to be diligent & do it anyways. I’ve also realized that my relationship with God needs some TLC, so I re-created my prayer journal & plan to spend time reading the Bible outside of church.
This is also a great time to clean your living space. I am trying to practice minimalism (we’ll talk about that later) so I have cleaned out my drawers, closets, & got rid of a lot of unnecessary things. My bed linen is usually black in the winter, so I have switched to all white bedding to brighten my room. I keep my curtains open to allow for more light as well. Try rearranging some furniture, adding a few new pieces, & do some good, deep cleaning. This can help improve your mood, allow you to relieve some stress, get some creative juices flowing, & accomplish something new at the same time.
How are you holding up, now that Winter is upon us? Trust me, the Winter & holiday season can be challenging. Don’t let this scare you though, because I am confident you can get through it. The most important thing is to recognize that you need to pay a little more attention to your mental, emotional, & physical health during this time. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t even have to go anywhere! It is as simple as doing something intentional to take care of you. This is also a good time to talk to your friends or family. If you are having a hard time & don’t feel comfortable seeking professional help, you can always reach out to a loved one.
“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” x Anton Chekhov
Have you ever heard the saying that you are your toughest critic? For some reason, we tend to be the hardest on ourselves–always critiquing, criticizing, & analyzing who we are & even the things that we do.
In one of my recent posts, So You Had a Bad Day, I discuss some of the ways I recover from feeling down. What I don’t mention is that days like those can also cause me to beat myself up about my progress (or lack thereof). Bad days can create feelings of insecurity & cause me to second guess myself in areas where I previously felt secure. It’s easy to be hard on yourself at times like these, but at some point you have to show yourself a little compassion & realize whatever it is, it is okay. You’re human, & things happen.
As we are winding down into the last few months of 2017, I have started to focus more on having compassion…not just for the people around me, but primarily for myself. As someone who has experienced depression & currently experiences anxiety, it is easy for me to feel like there is something wrong with me. It is easy for me to pick a part the pieces & be hard on myself in those moments where I feel as if I have failed.
In order to start practicing more self-compassion I am trying to find ways to add practices to my self-care routine where I am intentionally building myself up. One of the ways I have achieved this is by writing myself love letters–you can read about this practice here. I have also started utilizing affirmations. I must admit, when I first heard about the concept of affirmations I was skeptical. I really didn’t believe that telling myself different things over & over could affect how I felt & improve my mood…but now that I have actually given affirmations a try, I notice that they make it a lot easier to love on myself. Here are a few tips when it comes to affirmations:
#1: Start with pre-written affirmations. Practicing affirmations can be awkward at first, so using pre-written ones, like those written by Alex Elle, can really inspire you to write your own.
#2: If you can, write them down. Writing down your affirmations allows you to revisit them throughout the day. For me personally, it’s easier to write them on sticky notes & post them on my computer or put them up around my apartment.
#3: Don’t get stuck on the routine. Although I am trying to make affirmations a part of my morning routine, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. So instead of getting frustrated with myself, I try again the next day. It also helps to still find a few minutes to be intentional throughout the day or reread previous affirmations.
Listen, life is far from easy. There will be bad days, you will make mistakes, & sometimes you will fall. Those things don’t mean that you have to stop loving yourself along the way. Self-compassion means that you recognize these not-so-great moments & you try to comfort & care for yourself thereafter. Self-compassion means that you operate with a certain level of understanding instead of judging & criticizing yourself.
Be careful not to go overboard, beloved. There are days when I straddled the fence of self-compassion & self-indulgence. You must still do the work & recognize the things that you need to work on. Avoiding them will be counter productive, & self-compassion won’t be able to help you.
If you’re not supposed to pass judgment on other people, why do you pass judgement on yourself? You weren’t created to be perfect–humans are not perfect. Compassion is something we all deserve. Spending some time directing that compassion to yourself will allow you to have clarity, feel good, & it should be comforting to know it’s always there. Try writing some love letters & affirmations, & let me know how it goes.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, & that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.” x Budda
I wrote L is for Love a little over a year ago when I was heartbroken, disappointed, & at one of the lowest points in my life. Growing through that experience forced me to put the pieces of my heart back together again & fall in love with one of the greatest loves of my life…myself. Going through a break-up or a fizzling out of a relationship is never fun, & it is rarely ever easy. Figuring out how to enjoy your alone time, love yourself, & get back to happy can be hard, ugly, & full of ups & downs…but I did it. I did it before, I did it then, & I keep doing it every day. In a moment of transparency I want to share with you one of my most beloved practices on my journey of falling in love with myself.
I write myself love letters.
I pray you love yourself. I pray you love yourself wholly, fully & as fiercely as the love you pray for & seek in other people.
I pray you love yourself when you are at your worst. When you are down to the bottom, tear-stained, battered, & broken. When your mind is working against you & you are anxious, afraid, & your faith is wavering. I pray you love yourself enough to recognize when you need to pour into you & that you are never too self-conscious to ask for help.
I pray you are able to look at yourself in the mirror, stripped from everything that society & the world around you wants you to be & that you are happy with the woman who looks back at you. I pray you love yourself when you don’t get invited to that event & get passed over for that opportunity. When everyone is busy & the only person you have to come home to is yourself…and Pablo.
I pray you love yourself when you stumble & fall in this dating life. When he doesn’t answer your text messages or return your phone call. When you think “this could be something”, but it doesn’t work out. I pray you love yourself enough to stay the course & be confident that God has created the partner just for you.
I pray you love yourself when he comes. When he sweeps you off your feet & all your practice & work finally pay off. I pray that you can wrap yourself up & dive into the love that God talks about in the Bible. I pray you love yourself when you find yourself in love & you’ve traded your heart for his. I pray you love yourself when your routines change, when someone else is in your space, & when you have him to come home to…and Pablo.
I pray that you love yourself enough to know exactly how beautiful you are. That you love every bump, every hair, every pound, & every inch of your skin. I pray that you recognize your worth, your talents, & your intelligence. I pray that you love yourself enough to be neutral & humble, knowing that you are here to just be you, to serve, & to love.
And if no one else ever tells you that they love you, I pray that you love yourself enough to be rooted in just that…the love you have for you.
I love you,
Why wait for someone to write you a love letter? One of the things I’ve always dreamed is that my husband will write me love letters (I’m old-fashioned like that), but until & hopefully after he comes, I will write them to myself. Both writing & reading the letters that you write can serve as an immense healing tool as you put your pieces back together. You discover things about yourself that you may have forgotten & you give yourself some much needed love. When you’re feeling down or discouraged, read one of your love letters & refill your love tank. I’ll share other practices that I’ve tried throughout this self-love journey in another post, but I wanted to share what really helped me figure out how to love Anaston.
Have you ever had your heart broken? How did you get through it? Let’s face it, break-ups & the ending of a relationship doesn’t mean that you no longer love that person, but if you spend time redirecting that love back to you, it’ll soften the ache just a little bit more.
“Today I affirm: I am responsible for doing the work in my healing. I am my own validation. I am abundantly full of all that I need.” x Alex Elle
Lately, the anxiety I have been experiencing has been through the roof.
& despite being in a healthier, happier place mentally, I still have been feeling anxious. The anxiety led me to have a few bad, pretty emotional days during the month of July. I started to question if I really made any progress mentally & if my self-care practices were really working. Why, after being able to recognize all of the progress I made, was I starting to feel like I was back in the same place as June 2016? Honestly, I fell off the wagon in some areas & really had to push myself to stay on track.
So what happens during these “bad” days? What do I do? How do I recover?
A bad day for me usually occurs when things aren’t going my way. Let’s be real. If everything went your way the entire day, what would you have to feel bad about? & most of the time, it only takes one thing to start the domino effect of a bad day…People failed to meet my expectations, so I’m disappointed. I made mistakes, so I’m frustrated. Things are happening that I didn’t plan for, so I panic. All the decisions I have to make are looming in the back of my mind, so I procrastinate. Someone said something I didn’t like, so I’m offended. & before I know it, what may have started out as a great day has now become a “bad” day. In encountering a few of these days lately, here’s what I have learned:
I have learned to feel whatever emotions I am feeling at the time. Too often we try to process how we feel before we really even feel it, & this perpetuates a never ending cycle of hurt. In order to move past something, you actually have to deal with it. Otherwise, whatever it is will resurface later. Dealing with it can take time & many different bouts of emotions, but what’s important is that you allow yourself to grow through the healing process. You must tend to yourself mentally & emotionally. So I sit in whatever I am feeling until I am ready to move past it, & I don’t necessarily give myself a hard time limit of when I need to be “okay”.
Even though I don’t give myself a hard time limit on when I need to be okay, I don’t allow myself to sit in those less-than-desirable emotions for too long. It’s okay to be sad, cry, or even be angry, but if you feed too much into those emotions it can be more difficult to bounce back. So experience the feels, but be careful.
Sometimes, I do nothing. Which may sound counter-productive, but it works for me. If I am having a bad day, sometimes that just means I need to rest. So, I rest, & I rest, & I rest some more. I binge watch a few shows, catch a few movies, & eat my favorite snacks. I lay out by the pool, or at the beach. I sleep. I give my body the time that it needs to rebuild, after subjecting it to so much every day. Allowing my body to rest also gives my mind time to rest. As I mentioned in Ep. 3 of Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria, our generation is known for not resting, which is exactly why so many people are experiencing mental & physical health issues. Part of living a long, healthy life, is knowing when to rest & when to slow down, so take a vacation from #NoDaysOff & relax.
& I like to be left alone. If I am not in the best mood, it is not necessary for me to cast that negative energy on other people. I don’t send out invitations to a pity party–people don’t always want to hear about everything that is going wrong with you today. Do you know someone who always has a “woe is me” story every time you talk to her/him? Don’t be that person. I can also tell the difference in my conversations when my mood is off. I’m usually easily irritated, short, & very nonchalant. That’s not fair to whomever I’m talking to, so it’s best to wait until I can participate in a conversation the right way.
Being left alone also means I take a break from saving everyone else. Sometimes you have to be unaccessible, & if the people around you are really for you, they will understand. Being by myself allows me to give Anaston the attention she usually gives to other people & other things. As I’ve started paying more attention to my mental health, I’ve realized that anxiety can be caused by the people around you. Always worrying about what everyone else is doing, the problems they are having, etc. can cause you to be a big ball of anxiety.
Have you had a bad day recently? That’s okay. No one said there wouldn’t be bad days, but it’s important to remember that they don’t last always. Develop your own routine for a bad day, so that when those days come you are able to get through them with a little more ease. Don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself, do nothing, & experience what you feel. You’ll be better for it in the end.
“Breathe, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.” x Anonymous
My sister bestie and I recently started our very own podcast, called Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria! We are both educated brown girls, & bloggers.
Here’s our third episode! We discuss the importance of physical health, having a healthy diet, weight struggles, body shaming, cleanliness, & being consistent!