Why I’m Going Back to Therapy

Life

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I’m going back to therapy.

Oh. *awkward silence* Uh. Are you okay?

The easy answer is to say, “I’m fine!” But technically, not really. I’ve slipped back into some bad habits. And I want to talk about them.

Even though it’s 2018, mental health is still an uncomfortable topic for some. That’s why one of my goals in starting this blog was to be real about it and help break down the stigma.

Here’s how it goes. Life seems to be going normal. But the demands, stress, and existential questions involved in just being a human sometimes can mean… a dark cloud can sneak up.

It’s easy to justify at first: I’m stressed, so I’ve been binge eating. I have a headache, so that’s why I haven’t been listening to much music. The headlines are depressing, so I feel anxious. Decisions stress me out; whatever, it’s been a long week. By the way, I’m turning 30 this year, wtf am I doing?

But how tired do you have to be to stay in bed for 12+ hours at a time? Or is it really just laziness that keeps me sleeping on a bare mattress, when clean, crumpled sheets are within reach at the foot of the bed?

The morning I didn’t feel like doing yoga — the highlight of my day — anymore, and was too overwhelmed to control crying spells… The red flag was waving in my face.

So I did some research, and booked an appointment with a new therapist in town. It’ll be my first time going back to therapy in nearly two years. Last time, I learned to cope with debilitating anxiety. This time, I hope to answer some questions that keep me feeling down and “stuck”, learn ways to express and acknowledge my feelings, and revisit some old trauma to better understand it.

I don’t feel scared, sad, weak nor “crazy” by taking this step. Instead, I feel strong. It is the most intimate act of self-care to acknowledge your pain, explore what’s causing it, and work on making life a little easier.

While I don’t want anyone’s sympathy, I do want to encourage an open conversation.

It can be awkward when someone shares their struggles, but finding supportive words doesn’t always have to be strained. However, I can’t properly emphasize the importance of validating a hurting person’s feelings and letting them know they aren’t alone.

After sharing that I was seeking help again, here are some responses that made me feel empowered and loved:

“Good! That sounds like a great decision.” 

“Sorry to hear you’re going through this again. Let me know if there is anything I can do.”

“How can I help?”

The more people talk about mental health, the more we can normalize it and inspire society — parents, bosses, friends, etc. — to understand and acknowledge its real value.

To quote my old therapist, Gail (miss you, gurl): “Mental health isn’t something we have, it’s something we do.”

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a long weekend in san francisco

Travel

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I always kind of rolled my eyes whenever someone would reference “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” How original. But after spending a long weekend here, I can understand how it happens.

Bonus: The city is only 7 x 7 miles! Most areas are super walkable, but if you need to jaunt across town, you can Lyft seemingly anywhere within 15 minutes.

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I went to visit my college friend, Dana. She lives in SF and was my top-notch tour guide all weekend.

Also, you know a friendship is legit when you haven’t seen each other in years, but can pick back up like no time has passed!

Our first activity was a picnic in Alamo Square Park.

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…complete with wine, Greek salads from Souvla, plenty of laughs and some judgment.

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The park is bordered by this famous view of the Painted Ladies. (Full House, anyone?)

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Haight-Ashbury: I’ve wanted to visit this spot since I can remember! The neighborhood is home to the 1967 Summer of Love and essentially the birthplace of hippie life.

We spent the afternoon wandering in and out of the unique shops on Haight Street.

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As far as thrifting goes, you’ll be entertained inside any of the vintage shops on Haight. I found this dress ($48) at Wasteland and this bag ($5) at Piedmont Boutique, a flashy costume shop. If you’re looking for cheap, the Goodwill was full of hipster-y finds.

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For anything New Age, you must stop inside The Love of Ganesha. You’ll find plenty of crystals, plus an array of bohemian and Indian-inspired clothing, jewelry, and gifts. The vibes (and prices) are just right.

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The colors, the hills, the homes. I loved it all, but the sidewalks… kind of kicked my ass. Not used to those inclines!

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Brightly-hued Victorian homes are synonymous with San Francisco, and the colorful details are fun to admire on a leisurely walk to basically anywhere.

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I was rather delirious by dinner time (I worked the night before and was up for 40 hours!), but I do remember Nojo Ramen Taven was on. point. Before this dish, my ramen history was embarrassingly limited to the 99-cent kind, so my standards are suuuper high now.

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I slept for 12 hours, hit a hard restart on the Pacific time zone, and wandered over to Cafe du Soleil for a solo brunch.

It’s a French cafe, but I was delighted to see this special on the menu:

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A salad, not only with bacon, but SPANISH TORTILLA.

Why does this matter? I lived in Spain for a summer in high school, and haven’t had tortilla (egg + onion + super-thin potato omelette) done right in 12 years! This was an emotional experience, you guys.

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Another thing about SF: there are little doggies… everywhere! These bebes were up for adoption outside of a corner pet supply store.

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Next up was hiking Lands End, which hugs the coast and offers sweeping views of Ocean Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sutro Baths, and cliffsides that drop into the ocean.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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The trail dips out into a fancy neighborhood, with multi-million dollar homes like this one.

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And not too far away, these colorful tiled steps! Upon closer look… #girlpower

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Next, we were off to a house party, hosted by Dana’s boyfriend and his roommates.

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Not just any party, but a… gnome party.

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U gnome what I mean? luuulz

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There were a few stand-up comedy acts, and this band capped off the night.

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So my favorite meal in life is brunch, but dim sum was new to me! So many nomz at Hong Kong Lounge.

There are dozens of options for bite-sized apps served on small plates. (I trusted Dana on ordering everything.) This picture is only maybe half of what was delivered to our table!

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Chinatown was my final stop in San Fran, and I couldn’t get enough of it. So much culture in the shops and on the streets.

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I wish I had more time, but a long weekend was the perfect getaway I needed.

There’s still so much to see in San Francisco, which gives me an excuse to plan a return trip sometime.

Yay for friends who live in cool places!

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my first solo travel experience

Travel

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(photo: Courthouse Rock, Sedona, April 2018)

I’ve been afraid of doing this my entire life.

I wanted to travel alone — just to prove to myself that I could do it. So I booked a flight to Arizona, and spent several days wandering.

I didn’t need a friend. I didn’t need a man. Hell, I didn’t even need a stranger to take my photos. (I used a tripod the majority of the time.)

Yes, I still interacted with humans, but the point is — I relied on none of them.

I did whatever the hell I wanted, whenever I wanted — without feeling lonely. And that was more liberating and soul-enriching than I could’ve imagined.

While traveling alone, I found myself more open to genuinely connecting with strangers — and trusting them. (That’s a big deal.)

But I also felt a raw (re)connection to myself. There was nothing to hide, nothing to lose, and that felt so… free.

It feels good to conquer a fear. It also feels good to recognize growth.

So buy the ticket, take the ride — and don’t wait for someone else to “buy in” on your life. Live for yourself!

Anyway, most of the trip will be documented in the next post. So keep reading… I’m excited to share this experience with you!

5 days in arizona

Style, Travel

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Oh, the desert. So open, old, barren, and beautiful. It was my first time experiencing this part of the country, and I felt a deep connection to it.

I’m a fan of places that make me feel small. But there was something more magical at work here.

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I split my time between Phoenix and Sedona. I rented a car. And I stayed in a different airbnb every night.

My flight to Phoenix was delayed several hours, so I lost most of my first day. That being said, I knew authentic Mexican tacos would still be waiting for me.

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Oh yeah. Tacos Chiwas is where it’s at for fresh, delicious, and cheeeeap tacos. Get the carnitas.

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Surprise! This is my little (21yo) brother, Evan. He goes to school in Phoenix and blogs for The Suns. It had been several months since we’d seen each other, and were able to catch up over dinner.

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This was my first airbnb host, JayArr, and his daughter. He was super chill. It was nice to have thought-provoking conversations with a stranger, especially when you’re staying in their house.

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I questioned if I should include a photo of my breakfast the next day, but damn, this acai bowl was just so good. Berry Divine – Tempe was the perfect place to fuel up before making the two-hour drive to Sedona.

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First of all, I highly recommend visiting Sedona. If you go, I also recommend taking SR179, or the Red Rock Scenic Byway, into town. You’ll get views like these at each wind in the road.

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All of these photos were taken by me! I bought a mini iPhone tripod on Amazon, which came with a tiny remote. It was kind of awkward at some points, because there were a few people who pointed and laughed. But to be honest, I was more concerned with getting sick pics for the blog, so I didn’t care.

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Skip the tourist shops and buy jewelry straight from the maker! Vendors like Denise travel from the Navajo Reservation and set up shop outside the Dairy Queen.

The Navajo make everything on the reservation. Every material, shape, color, animal, etc. carries a meaning, so I was given an explainer on the symbolism behind each piece! (I left with a couple necklaces for myself and a silver arrowhead for my bf.)

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Here’s my airbnb. It was a single room, detached from the main house. And as you can see, it was impeccably decorated. The city of Sedona has strict rules to prevent light pollution, so the property was a great place for stargazing. (I actually cried.)

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This was the very first time I’d ever eaten alone in a nice restaurant… and I didn’t have any anxiety! At Cafe Paleo Brio, all the ingredients are fresh, local, and organic. I decided to #treatmuhself with a steak, quinoa, and veggies.

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Sedona is known as a metaphysical place with special “vortex energy” in the red rocks, and there are plenty of shops that tap into those vibes. Which leads me to…

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My aura photo! My aura is orange, which stands for a creative adventurer. The green halo means I am a communicator who loves animals. ACCURATE? I think so! 🙂 I enjoyed my experience at Mystical Bazaar for aura photography, crystal shopping, and a psychic reading.

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Here’s my tarot spread. My reading felt more personalized, as it combined a couple kinds of tarot decks, astrology, and even a chakra cleansing. (My heart chakra is the strongest!) I was able to record audio of my reading, but interpret it as you wish…

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As for mystical gifts, go to Crystal Magic! This is a little dog collar pendant for Saki. The blue lapis lazuli stone stands for harmony and friendship!

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Here’s a shot of the famous Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church built into the red rocks back in the 1950s. It was way too crowded for me to go in, but the architecture alone was worth admiring.

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The Local Juicery: killer smoothies and bomb avocado toast. The employees helped me pick the best smoothie for the kind of day I had planned, which was a hike.

It’s also where I met a dog, that introduced me to his human, who happened to be a local tour guide.

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I asked for tips on Brins Mesa, and Jim offered to take me on a free guided hike.

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The dog’s name is White Paw. He’s half wolf and such a good boy.

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The desert was bright and blooming with wildflowers in mid-April! These were my favorite. They’re called Indian’s Paintbrush.

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After the hike, it was back to Phoenix for my next airbnb, which was advertised as a private resort experience…

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And it was.

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One of the hosts, Emma, is a retired French chef. Dinner was waiting for me when I checked in: Caribbean chicken, breaded squash, and fresh pita with various dips.

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Swimsuit from Target. (Sold out, but I like this one, too!)

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The backyard was like a mini botanical garden.

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AND there were doggies! For $65/night, this can’t be beat, so I’m linking the property here.

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Holy saguaro! I planned a hike for the next morning, but accidentally ended up in the wrong park. The McDowell Mountain Regional Park is pictured above. (Who knew there was more than one park baring McDowell’s name?) Point is, it was a mistake I didn’t regret. The park was empty, and just look at these views…

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Desert plant life is fascinating. So many different kinds of cacti were on the side of this hill. And yes, it is very sharp.

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Sibling photo for Mom! Real talk though, I’m glad I wasn’t alone on this hike. Because this particular park was so totally remote, scorching hot, and we veered onto the wrong trail —  it was nice having a hiking buddy.

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Final day! This is part of Roosevelt Row. It’s basically an arts district in Central Phoenix where the businesses are emblazoned with murals.

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There was enough time for breakfast on the patio at Ollie Vaughn’s (biscuits and gravy on point) and quick localAF souvenir shopping at Frances before having to head back to the airport.

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Arizona will always be special to me because it was my first solo travel experience.

I know I’ll be back…

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Break On Through (To The Other Side)

Life



This is a post about feeling depressed — and then digging out. Since today marks the first day of spring, I thought I’d honor the gradual return of more light, in a figurative sense.

While it may not always be detectable to others from the outside, because I’m still forced to work, look presentable, and function overall — when a depressive episode does hit, it can feel exhausting to fake a smile or complete simple tasks.

Although everyone’s experience is different, I’ve implemented some new habits that help me feel lighter and more in control.

1) Cleaned my house.

The condition of my house tends to be a pretty good reflection of my mental state. And the embarrassing piles (er, mountains?) of laundry that had accumulated over the winter months are no longer occupying various rooms in my apartment. Clearer space = clearer mind.

2) Cut off toxic friendships.

Trying to make me feel bad about myself? I don’t have the time. Bye.

3) Fighting negative thoughts.

I forced myself to become painfully aware of some of the constant negative thoughts I perpetuate internally. And then I would interrupt myself — “dude, stop” — to replace the bad thought with something more pleasant. Whether it’s repeating the opposite as true, or picturing something that makes me happy. The demons might still return, but they no longer dominate my headspace all day.

4) Minor physical activity.

Maybe someday I’ll make it to a gym, but in the meantime, I started to incorporate some very light exercise — extremely short jogging — during nighttime walks with Saki.  I also added stretching and basic yoga to my daily routine.  Even 15 minutes is enough to feel more relaxed and energized.

5) Self-care!

I’m no stranger to the concept of #treatyoself. But lately, I’ve indulged in various forms of more deliberate self-care. Whether it’s making extra time to relax, like using a face mask with weird ingredients … or giving myself something to look forward to, like planning that aforementioned solo trip. (More on that another time!)

It’s all pretty simple, but these minor changes feel much better. What helps you?

Dress: Target. Booties: TJ Maxx, old.

(Yes. Post title was inspired by this song.)