Because I’m Happy!


I started this blog in June of 2016 as a way to share what I was growing through. It was my hope that my blog & what I had to say would touch just one person…& let her/him know that she/he is never alone in whatever difficult situation that gets in the way. I’m grateful that I have accomplished just that, & if my story never touches anyone else, I truly believe I have fulfilled a part of my purpose in life.

 

But I’m sure you’re wondering how I got here. How did I go from not even being able to get out of the bed some days to being fully “functional”? How did I survive the depression I was experiencing? How did I survive the anxiety I was experiencing? How was I able to reach the place I’m at now–a happy, whole place. Well, I’m glad you asked, & here’s how:

First, I reconnected with God. 

I firmly believe that the sole reason I was able to pick myself back up again, is because I had God pushing me back on my feet. Once I started back going to church & bible study, I started to feel this immense sense of hope that I didn’t feel before. I started to believe that I could actually overcome my situation & get back to a happy place again. Prior to last summer, I did have a relationship with God–but it was weak. I was streaming church, & not actually going to a physical place of worship. I wasn’t reading the Bible, & my prayer life was lacking. It’s sad that it took me experiencing all the negativity I did to reconnect with God. However, God may take you through a storm to get your attention, & to let you know that He wants you to come back to Him. That’s exactly what I did. I found a church home where I live & made it a priority to go every week. I purchased a new study Bible & created a prayer journal. Having the comfort of knowing that there is this Person who knows every thought, every action, every flaw, but still loves me so made me feel so selfish for not even trying at times. If He took the time to create me & make me exactly who I am, who was I to not be grateful for life? Who was I to just give up on myself when He never gave up on me? Now this way of thinking may not help everyone, & I don’t encourage beating yourself up about having a bad day or experiencing depression. I simply want you to realize how blessed you are & start to make a change. Reconnect with whatever Higher Being you believe in & see what a difference the relationship can make.

Once I reconnected with God, I started talking about my situation.

For me, this meant going to therapy (& of course, launching this site). Therapy is such a taboo topic in the African-American community, but I am not ashamed that I needed help. Because of therapy, I have now learned that there is strength in asking for help when you need it. I initially looked for someone who could help me through the grieving process after my Granny’s death. I experienced losing a loved one before, but her passing took a toll on me, & I needed someone to help me figure out how to navigate through the grieving process. The first therapist I saw was great in helping me initially, but I realized I needed something different & began looking for another therapist. My current therapist completed an assessment for me to help me determine if I was even experiencing depression at all. (In a previous post, I encouraged readers to at least try therapy once & get an assessment, so that you are able to know what you are actually dealing with mentally. I still encourage this today.) During that assessment, we connected in a way that I usually don’t even connect with people, & I still see her to this day. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean that I’m crazy. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean I am even “depressed” or that anything is wrong. I continue to see her because she listens to me, with no judgments. She encourages me when I feel like I’m not making any progress. She let’s me be me, & she helps me find the tools I need to keep making progress in this journey. She helps me lay the foundation for processing through what ever life experiences I may be having, & I look forward to going to see her twice a month. If you have a friend that you call & vent to, no holds bar, then you would enjoy seeing a therapist. It’s the same concept. My therapist has become a friend. Try it at least once, just to have the experience, & see how it could benefit you. It can be a little uncomfortable at times, but the feeling you get afterwards is worth the temporary awkward moments. 

If you’re one of those people that just side-eyed me because I see a therapist, my blog is not for you. Don’t be a part of the problem & the reason why people are afraid to talk about their mental health. We are here to break this cycle, not contribute to it.

Then, I started doing the work.

I realized after hitting such a low, low that I never wanted to feel that way again. So I had to figure out what I needed to do to make a change in my life. This is when I developed my self-care routine & started trying out different practices. I started walking every day to get endorphins going & to get some sun/fresh air. I started exercising as well & eventually started my yoga practice. I talk about some of my self-care practices in “Self Care ’17” & “Take Care of Your Star Player“. I also began letting go of some unhealthy relationships, started a forgiveness journey, & made changes to my living space. What’s most important is that I simply started putting forth effort to getting back to a positive mental space. When it got hard, I still kept trying, & didn’t give up on myself or the process. Life takes work, just like everything else. You have to be willing to do the work to live the life you want. Eventually everything will fall into place & it won’t even feel like work anymore. 

Finally, I started accepting being happy.

So here’s a little secret–among other things, I am afraid of being happy. My fear of being happy is decreasing as the days go by, but there are days where I resort to old habits & ways of thinking…honestly, I was so used to living a life that was dysfunctional. I wasn’t always unhappy, that’s not what I’m saying, but I had grown accustomed to having drama in my life. Bad things always happened, eventually, so I anticipated them even when things were going well. I was walking around with this dark cloud over me, & I didn’t even realize it. There were times where I felt like my brain was working against me, tricking me into thinking the worst. (Anxiety.) So I am learning how to get through those moments without letting the anxiety take control. I’m in a really great place now, & I am so grateful for this happiness. I appreciate it a little more because I know what it is like to be unhappy. I appreciate life & am striving to take advantage of each & every day. I’m learning to live in the moment–to not always have to take a picture or rush through eating my food because I’m “starving”. I’ve realized that being so focused on “timing” will have you missing out on a lot of things. Timing is never perfect. Tomorrow is not promised & you just have to go for it (whatever “it” is). Be happy.

What progress have you made in the last year? Looking back on this past year has shown me that God is still in control, & His work is amazing. I never thought I’d be in this place–happy, whole, loving Anaston. There were days where I never imagined I’d be openly sharing my story & giving others advice on their own self-care journey. But look what’s happened in a year! I’m here, doing all of those things! I’m excited for what will happen in this next year & the years to come.

Stay tuned.

 

 

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” x Frederick Keonig

 

 

All _____ Given.

 

Why is it that in 2017 it is “trendy” to be a person who doesn’t give a ____ about anything? Our society is obsessed with being numb to everything even remotely related to feelings & emotions. Emotional awareness seems to be this new concept no one has ever heard of, when honestly, it is something that should’ve been prevalent all along. There are books that teach you how not to care about anything, songs that talk about it–it’s like an entire movement. But this is a time, if unrealistically no other time existed, that we need to give a ____ about something.

Honestly, there was a point in time where I tried to be one of these people. I went through a period where I thought I was too emotional, cared too much about people, & needed to turn off the emotional switch that seemed to control my life. So what did I do? I bought a ticket to the “No ____ Given” train & proudly took my seat, ready for the ride. However, before this train even took off, I had to exit quickly. I just couldn’t be a person who doesn’t care about others, myself, & even what is going on in the world. I knew deep down that emotions don’t make people weak (despite what “they” say) & that being aware of my own emotions & the emotions of others, was something I could not continue to avoid.

So once I finally accepted how in-tune I am emotionally, I discovered that I am an empath. But what is an empath? What is empathy? How is it different from sympathy? Here’s what I found:

em•path

noun

A person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.

em•pa•thy

noun

The ability to understand and share feelings of one another.

sym•pa•thy

noun

1. Feelings of pity & sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. 2. Understanding between people, common feeling.

Reading those definitions really doesn’t tell you much, but what I have commonly heard is that the difference between empathy & sympathy is that when you sympathize with someone, you only “feel” for the person, but when you empathize with someone, you actually put yourself in that person’s shoes. Empathy is personal. It is genuine. It is strong. It is perception. That’s me all the way, & when I finally accepted this, I became a lot healthier emotionally.

Empathy for me looks like this: I am extremely aware of the vibes & energies of people around me, & I absorb those vibes & energies as my own, whether I want to or not. This means my mood can fluctuate, depending on who I am around, & certain people’s presence can put me in bad mood. Usually this is more common with my loved ones, but it happens with not-so-loved ones too. I can easily pick up on people’s intentions & motives–if you’re hiding something, I’ll know. I often take on the problems of others & often find myself carrying everyone else’s load. It can even happen in a situation as small as me watching an emotional commercial or movie–I will cry or feel some overwhelming sense of emotion rather abruptly. Especially if it involves elderly people or children or something about love, I will fall a part. Sounds silly, I know, but hey, it happens. My empathic traits often leave me emotionally drained, because I get lost in everything (& everyone) around me & forget to take the necessary time for myself. I don’t deal well with areas of confusion or disharmony, & both cause me to feel highly uncomfortable. I also don’t deal well with people who tend to be negative most of the time. It stresses me out, & I tend to get mad at that person. I am working on trying to separate the two, so that I can focus on whatever is troubling the person in a way that does not affect me

Being in-tune with my emotions also means that I express them more than others. With those I am close to, I am okay with having conversations about how I feel. I’m pretty open & honest, & talking things out really allows me to develop the level of understanding that I need. I am okay with telling people I care about them or that I love them. I truly wear my heart on my sleeve. Life is way too short to run around acting like you don’t care about anyone or anything, & I’ve suffered enough loss to know it. So I tend to give my all in my relationships–all or nothing. Sometimes this is hard for other people to accept or understand about me, but the more aware of it I have become, the less disappointed I feel when I’m too much for another person. Not everyone is equipped to handle what comes with being involved with a woman like me, but because I can handle it, it makes it easier to explain or show others this aspect of who I am.

On the other hand, there are times where I create a wall & bottle up my emotions. As much as I like to talk & no matter how open or honest I am, sometimes it takes a lot of effort for me to talk about myself. These are things I am still working on, & journaling really helps me get everything out in a healthy way. I’m a work in progress, & learning how to function in a healthy way, while being emotionally aware, is a journey. (My blog post about self-care practices can be read here. These are a great way to take some time for yourself & not get lost in translation.) Learning how to live as an empath is something I have to work at every day & sometimes I don’t make very much progress. 

 

Are no ____ really given? Or do you give a ____ like I do? 9/10 regardless of how much you want to identify with question one, you really are closer to the latter. Accept it, & let’s figure out how we can get you to live a healthy life being that way. Don’t get me wrong, this post is not a call to care about everything & everyone. That may not be healthy for you, & can definitely be overwhelming. You have to protect your heart & yourself. My advice is to find something to care about. You better! If it is not people, then I suggest finding a cause that resonates with you. Find something that you can willingly, & safely, dedicate your emotions to. If you identify with being an empath as I do, let’s talk! I have some great resources for you. 


IF YOU ARE SKEPTICAL OF THIS WORD EMPATH, AS USUAL MY ADVICE IS TO DO YOUR RESEARCH. I AM NOT RELATING THIS TO ANY RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL BELIEF. THIS POST REFLECTS MY PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS & REALIZATIONS ON MY PATH TO SELF-DISCOVERY.

 

“I care. I care a lot. It’s kinda my thing.” x Leslie Knope
“A caring heart that listens is often more valued than an intelligent mind that talks.” 

Self Care ’17

 

We are three months into 2017, & I am so glad that both mental wellness and self-care  are becoming a constant topic of discussion this year. It’s important, though, that people recognize that mental wellness and self-care are not trends. This is a lifestyle, & is not something to “get into” just because your favorite YouTuber or IG personality is into it too. That can certainly be your inspiration, but remember the goal is to create lifestyle changes, not temporary changes. If you’re committed to being your best self, being in tune with your body, your mind, & your spirit, then it’s time you start your own self-care journey. 

As a part of my own personal self-care journey, I started a hashtag on my social media accounts called #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday. It’s often hard for people to take the necessary time to take care of themselves, & honestly, I still struggle sometimes. I’ve talked about the importance of taking care of yourSELF in a previous post, you can read it hereSo on Tuesdays I am encouraging my social media friends to be intentional about taking some “self time” & doing something that will make themselves feel good. Once you start with at least one thing, once a week, you’ll look up & be doing something to take care of you every day. 

Taking care of yourself is different for everyone, but there are some staple practices that you can implement in your journey. I’m going to share 4 of my favorite self-care practices, in no particular order, as a source of inspiration. They are:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Coloring 

So what is meditation, exactly? There are many myths and misconceptions about meditation, especially in the African-American community. People tend to be skeptical about practicing meditation, & honestly, I’ve experienced some opposition of the practice in my own personal relationships. So the first piece of advice I can share is: do your research. Learn about meditation and the practice before automatically refusing to give it a try. Meditation exists in different forms & fashions for different people, & there isn’t a strict, right way to meditation (despite what some people may tell you). You have to find what practice works for you, at the point you are currently at in your own journey. I also suggest starting in small time increments. When I first began meditating, 10 minutes was way too long for me–I had difficulty getting my mind to be “quiet”, & I struggled sitting still for 10 minutes straight. After doing some reading & research, I decided to start small, & work my way up. I started with 3 minute meditation sessions, & I am currently at 5 minutes in the morning & at night.  The goal is to slow down & find peace–your mind should be calm, silent, & rested, but still alert. Meditation gets you to focus on the present, & turn inward, instead of focusing on the external world. The one thing I can tell you meditation is not, is a religion. Though different religions may practice meditation, meditation is something completely different & you don’t have to sacrifice your religious beliefs to practice it. Again, I encourage you to research & find the best practice for you; there are apps like the Calm, Headspace, or Simple Habit that can be helpful as well. Here’s a great article I read, if you are interested in learning more about meditation.

I meditate every morning, night, & sometimes in the middle of day. As mentioned before, I am currently practicing 5 minute sessions & still working my way back up to a larger amount of time. I also meditate with music, using a playlist that I found on Apple Music. I sit with my back straight, legs crossed, with open palms rested on my legs. This is a position that is comfortable for me, but there are other options to choose from, like moving meditation. During a session, I make sure I breathe & try not to get frustrated if my mind tends to wander. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get, so it is important to stay encouraged & keep working at it. I also recently started a 30 day meditation challenge, with Faith Hunter via DoYouYoga. It’s been a great source of inspiration to see a spiritual, African-American woman who practices meditation (& yoga). The sessions are longer than my 5 minute sessions, but it helps having guided videos to help me along the way. 

 

 I love to write & create, as you can see…but there is something that is so therapeutic about journaling. I’m not going to bore you with the many ways journaling can be beneficial to you mentally & emotionally, because I’m sure you already know this. For me, it is a great release being able to put my thoughts & feelings on paper. I can be open & honest, without the fear of having to account for what I’m saying to someone else. I usually sit for about thirty minutes at night & write. That’s it. I sit quietly at my desk & pour out whatever I have held within myself for the day. It helps me address issues & feelings head on, process things, & move on. You can find a cute journal almost anywhere, but I purchased mine from TJMaxx. There are also many journal challenges floating around on social media, if you need writing inspiration. So, grab a pen, sit down, get comfortable, & write. 

I keep a separate prayer journal & an additional prayer journal for my future husband (yes, I am still single, but I am praying for the spouse I know God has for me. We can chat about that later though.)

 

I am also a newbie Yogini. There are so many great resources out there if you want to learn more about the practice of yoga itself.  Here’s one that I found to be very helpful. I honestly chose to begin practicing yoga because I thought it would be a great pair with my meditation practice. I also had some superficial reasons, like wanting to be to do a split or a complete forward fold. Over time, as I have started researching & reading about yoga, my intentions behind it have shifted & aligned with my mental health efforts. I also enjoy the physical benefits from practicing yoga, since stress & anxiety carry over into the condition of my body. I recently started a 30 day yoga challenge too, also via DoYouYoga, & I also take classes with one of my favorite professors/people. (Shoutout to her if she’s reading!)

My yoga journey has not been perfect. There are times when I am inconsistent, miss a class/day, forget to breathe while in a session, or get distracted by my flexibility (or sometimes lack thereof). But it’s a journey, not a destination, so I am determined to keep at it. I’m excited to see how I feel emotionally & physically once I finish the 30 Day challenge. 

It may sound “childish”, but I love to color. I had no idea when I began tending to my mental health, that one of my favorite childhood activities could serve as a huge benefit mentally. Coloring allows the mind to enter into a meditative state (without having to actually practice meditation), giving the brain time to relax.  So if you’re skeptical about actual meditation, give coloring a try. As someone whose brain is constantly in motion, I always need time to give my brain a break. Coloring can also potentially lower stress & anxiety levels, while opening your mind to more positive energy. It’s a great way to calm down and relax. When doing research on how I could make coloring a self-care practice, I came across a great Huffington Post article that discussed the ways coloring can help with different mental & emotional health issues. You can read it here. If you experience anxiety like I do, coloring can be a great practice for you.

I purchased my crayons and coloring book from Target, but you can get them almost anywhere. There are even “adult” coloring books, but I just pick books that look great to me. I usually sit at my desk & color for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Depending on my mood, or what I need from my coloring session, I might play music or listen to a podcast. Otherwise, I limit all other distractions. Not only do you feel relaxed, but you get great pictures to look at as well. 

Self-care doesn’t always come with a price tag. I enjoy getting pedicures, massages, etc. but those are not the only ways to practice self-care. Meditation is free, all it takes is your body, mind, & some quiet space. Cleaning your home is also free. There are many other practices that you can do right in your own home that cost nothing–take a nap, take a bubble bath, go for a walk, give yourself a hug, etc. 

What are you your self-care practices? I’d love for you to share some of them with me! It’s important that you develop your own self-care routine & tailor it to your needs. These practices may work for me, but they may not work for you & that is okay.  Try different things out, see what you like, get rid of what you don’t like. Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself or progress. Remember, its a lifestyle journey. Don’t be afraid to open yourself to new possibilities & experiences–you’d be surprised what your mind (& body) are capable of. Take care of yourself & your mental health!

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve with an empty vessel.” x Eleanor Brown

What About Anxiety?

 

In my last post I introduced a new concept/way of thinking when dealing with depression. The same concept can be applied to experiences with anxiety, as well. If you aren’t familiar with the concept I am referring to, read my last post “Hello, My Name is Anaston…” first, then come back to this one. In this post I am going to talk about my own personal experience with anxiety and what it means for me, instead of explaining that concept again.

Honestly, I am not sure when I first started experiencing anxiety, but I realized within the last year or so how it affects my life & that it was time for me to actively deal with it.

So, what is anxiety? Here’s what Google says:

anx•i•e•ty  

noun

“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome” 

I guess that gives you a nice, “ice cream” idea of what it can include…but here’s what anxiety is like for me.

Anxiety is over thinking. It is having little to no peace of mind some days about any and everything. Sometimes it is second guessing things that I was originally sure about. It is panic attacks, having trouble breathing, feeling like the walls are closing in on me. It is having trouble sleeping–my brain never takes a break. It is feeling self-conscious in social settings, feeling nervous and out-of-place. It is self-doubt. It is the creation of & asking of questions that revolve around my self-identity. It is questioning if I am making the right decisions, or being worried about my future & the days ahead of me. It is having to know things 100% one way or another & feeling completely uncomfortable with the unknown. There is no gray area for me. It is having to be in control & have a plan. It is feeling anxious at times & being unsure why. It is wanting to be alone & isolating myself, because I cannot juggle both the world and the anxiety I am feeling. It is being trapped by the unescapable–my  own mind.

I think the most important part of dealing with anxiety has been accepting that I actually deal with anxiety. Now that I have accepted it, I deal with it in a healthy way & don’t include it as a part of how I identify with myself. Sounds complicated, but I just look at it the same way I look at depression. The moments when I feel anxious are temporary, no matter how long they last. They are not permanent nor do they consume my entire being. I didn’t choose anxiety, so I don’t have to choose to let it control my life. 

Anxiety does not mean that I am dramatic or that I’m being ridiculous. I can be an extrovert (which most people seem to think I am, although I wonder if I am an introvert, truly) & simultaneously experience social anxiety, which may come off as me being “stand-offish” or reserved with an attitude. Anxiety does not mean that I am paranoid. For someone who is a free spirit, I am also cautious about things, & that is okay. The anxiety that I experience is not the same as the anxiety the person next to me experiences, & that is okay too. Anxiety does not mean that I need a pity party or for “you” to feel sorry for me. Anxiety does not mean that “you” can make me feel like a burden or an inconvenience, no matter how frustrated or irritated “you” may be with me. 

Another important part of my experience with anxiety is how it affects my relationships. I no longer apologize to other people for my anxious moments. If someone wants to be a consistent part of my life, it is something that she/he simply has to accept about me & then act accordingly. It is important that my loved ones possess a level of understanding when I am having an anxious moment. Meaning that, even if a person doesn’t understand or agree with my experience, said person just has to accept that it is real to me. It means looking at me as the human being that I am, not a crazy person or a person with a problem. Said person has to be willing to work though the moment with me, or lovingly give me the space that I need to work through it on my own. I am also learning that I have to take the time to explain to my loved ones what I am experiencing, & that I have to be open enough to give people the opportunity to walk with me through the journey. 

I am learning that I cannot control every aspect of my life–sometimes it is okay to not have control over every single detail. I practice a lot of deep breathing, & I am learning how to meditate. I haven’t had a panic attack in a while, but when I was having them I would breathe through them & then go outside afterwards to lessen the “walls closing in” feeling. I also try to express myself more & let important people know when I am feeling anxious around them. I pray a lot, which doesn’t help all the time, but it does help a lot. 

Do you experience anxiety? It is important that you know that there is nothing wrong with you. More people experience anxiety than people realize…most just don’t talk about it. Take every day as it comes, one step at a time. Develop some self-care practices to take care of yourself in those anxious moments & surround yourself with people who will love you through your walk, not judge you through it. It is important that you have people who will not make you feel guilty for being a person who experiences anxiety; find people who will grow with you. That also means that you have to be strong enough to walk away from the people who cannot rise to the occasion. Recognize that what works for one person may not work for you, but you must stay dedicated to your growth & trust your own process. Remember that God will never put more on you than you can bear.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts & minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV