Keep Moving Forward

I know I’ve posted a lot about how difficult winter can be for someone who struggles with mental illness, but today I want to write a little more.

My first admission to a psych ward was when I was sixteen years old. I don’t want to go in detail because I’m scared to trigger someone, but I was in a bad place emotionally. It was December 20th, 2011. Ironically, I’m writing this on the same date seven years later. My anxiety was preventing me from sleeping more than two or three hours per night and it lead to a psychosis. I was hearing, seeing, and feeling things that weren’t there. I was terrified that those things would hurt me if I told anyone, so I dealt with it for a while before I broke down. I was admitted to a children’s psych ward and was inpatient for a month while they stabilized me on medications. I was angry at my parents for sending me there. I missed Christmas and New Years at my family’s house. I missed weeks of school. I missed my anniversary with my then boyfriend. But my family missed my funeral. My family didn’t have to miss me.

When I got out of the hospital, I switched schools. We thought that changing schools would fix me and there wouldn’t be problems anymore (I’ll save more of that connection for another post). It helped for a while.

During my senior year of high school, a friend committed suicide. He wasn’t my best friend or someone I hung out with all of the time, but he was a friend. He was someone who always knew when something was wrong, even if we hadn’t talking in weeks, and would make sure that I was okay. And when he needed someone, I wasn’t there. I didn’t even realize how badly he was hurting. He was always the funny guy, the person who could make anyone laugh. That was a tough time for our whole community. I was in shock. I couldn’t talk for days. For me, it hurt that he died, it hurt that I didn’t help him, but it also hurt because I realized how I would have made the people around me feel if I had ended my life. I promised that I would never again do something to hurt myself.

For a while I did really well. I’m talking years that I never self harmed or had suicidal ideations.

This next part isn’t as clear for me. I remember waking up in a different psych ward on December 20th several years later. What I do remember from the few days before that is just a compilation of stories that other people told me. This was the last time I have seen my father. He was there when I woke up at the hospital and he told me how selfish I was. I told him to leave and never talk to me again. He listened. The guy I was dating at the time never visited because he relapsed and went back to prison (after stealing money from me). I felt horrible. I felt alone.

To be discharged, I had to move back in with my mom and her husband. I returned to work a few weeks later and that’s when my now husband and I started hanging out. So much has changed since then, but I will never forget everything that I learned. I am so incredibly grateful that I wasn’t successful at committing suicide. I wouldn’t say my life is perfect (nobody’s life is), but it’s pretty damn good. I never would have thought I’d go back to school to be a nurse and get married. I never thought I would be in a relationship that builds me up instead of tearing me down.

There is so much about the future that is unknown. Things may seem unbearable now, but trust me when I say it’s worth it to keep moving forward. The darkness will eventually slip away and a better day will be on the horizon.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Boudoir For-Sure

So recently I did a thing. One of my friends is a professional photographer and I finally scheduled a boudoir session with him. Yeah, I have photographed dozens of boudoir photos, but never have I ever been photographed in one of those sessions. I was terrified. I felt like all of the photos he posted were of people who had “perfect” bodies and I knew that I would never look like them in my photos. I almost chickened out of the session a few days before, but Tracy (my photographer friend) convinced me to keep our appointment. He showed me some photos of women who had similar body types as me and they looked amazing! They looked so beautiful that I instantly realized that everything was going to be okay.

When I first got there, I was nervous. But then, after a few minutes, I felt completely comfortable and confident! He let me see the photos right from his camera and when I saw how things were going, I was super excited to continue shooting. We took photos for about three hours and by the end of it I was tired, but i was also feeling really great about myself. I have always struggled with confidence issues and hated having my photos taken, so it was amazing to see how getting these photos taken changed the way I saw myself.

Since then, the photographer has sent me a photo (or two) each day that he edited and it is an awesome confidence building surprise for the end of my day. I did this for myself and it was one of the best gifts I have given myself. The gift of self-esteem. It helped me to realize that although I have stretchmarks, thick thighs, wide-set hips, and don’t look the way I want to, I am still beautiful. I am glad that I didn’t continue to put off photos until “my body is ready” like I said for years. I realized that my body would never “be ready” and I would always have issues with my appearance and feel that there was room for improvement regardless of how much weight I lost.

You are beautiful right now. In the body you have in this moment. You don’t need to lose weight before you start appreciating yourself. The sooner you love yourself, the happier you will be. It’s not about loving a result, it’s about loving a process. Don’t spend your life waiting, enjoy every day and every stage of your life.

I’m taking baby steps in the right direction. One step closer to self-acceptance and self-love. No apologies and no regret.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Perfectly Imperfect

You would think that because I am an anxious person, I am great at dealing with other anxious people. On paper, I am. Through text, I am. In person, it’s often a train wreck. My anxiety builds off of their anxiety which builds from mine which…well, you get the point. Or we both have no idea what to say and its just awkward.

Speaking of building my emotions off of other people’s feelings, I have something really embarrassing to share. When I was younger, I thought that my over-sensitivity and anxiety was my “superpower”. I thought that deeply feeling the emotions of those around me was my Superwoman skill. I remember one instance in particular when we (my family and I) were driving by a group of people who were at a roadside memorial for someone who was recently killed in an automobile accident and I could feel their sorrow so deeply that it actually brought me to tears. I hadn’t experienced a loss in my life yet at that time, but somehow I felt their pain. I was amazed and scared at that point, but now I know that it was due to being a highly-emotional person. But what if it is also my superpower?

Empathy is one of my strengths and it is something that has guided me into a nursing career. What if we thought of some of our “flaws” (such as being overly sensitive and emotional) and twisted them into strengths (such as the ability to be empathetic)?

Why does being emotional always have to be a bad thing? Why does having anxiety always have to be a bad thing?

Having anxiety has saved my life at least once. In the fall after I graduated high school, I tried going to a university. The night before classes started, I went to an outdoor concert. I convinced the guy I was with at the time that we needed to start leaving two songs before the end of the concert. He fought me about it, but I said I needed to go and had a bad feeling about staying any longer. Long story short, we made it to the buses that drove us to the parking lot down the street. The buses never came back to get more people from the concert. Everyone else had to walk in the dark down the road and through the woods to the parking lot. Someone was hit by a car and died that night walking to the parking lot. I remember hearing the news a day later and how everyone who was left by the buses had to wait hours for the police and medics to clear the scene. That could have been me that night and if it weren’t for my anxiety and deciding to go with my gut, I would have been there when the tragedy occurred.

Maybe the things that set us apart aren’t all bad. Maybe those are the things that make us better at what we do and will protect us in certain situations. Sometimes you don’t have to understand why things are the way they are or why you are the way you are. Go with your instincts and try to put a positive spin on all things in your life. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it will make your life much more manageable.

You are perfectly imperfect.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

It’s All About Perspective

The outlook you have on situations in your life speaks to the kind of person that you are. I have been trying to focus on being a better person and a large part of that for me is changing my mindset. Today one of the nurses that I work with had an emergency and had to go home early. We desperately needed someone to cover her later hours and it didn’t seem like anyone was going to volunteer. Instead of thinking “why me?” I deliberately chose to think “why not me?”. If I can’t change the outcome of a situation, then my only option is to change my outlook on the situation.

When you have a bad day, try to remember that the bad days are what make the good days so magnificent. If you didn’t have bad days, you would’t appreciate the good days. This mindset goes for a lot of things. For example, I was in a very unhealthy relationship before I started dating my now-husband. It was my first exposure to a drug addict and I was completely unaware of what his behaviors signified.

Looking back, there were so many warning signs. He was stealing my seizure medication and selling it – when I approached him with my suspicions, he accused me of abusing my meds. I would wake up in the middle of the night and he would be gone (we lived together) and I would have to go out searching for him until he decided to come back. His stories never added up and he made me feel like a worthless human being. I lost my mind when I was in that relationship and I ended up in a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt that December. Those moments were heartbreaking, but they also changed my life.

When I was admitted to the hospital, the guy I was with relapsed and went to prison for parole violation. I now know that was the best thing that could have happened to me at that point. It was just the thing I needed to wake me up and get me out of that situation.

This is when I starting hanging out with Blake (my husband). We worked together for a while, but I was in a relationship at the time. After I got home from the hospital and eventually went back to work, we became friends. I told myself that I wasn’t ready for another relationship, so we just stayed friends for a while. But then we fell in love, I went to nursing school, we got married, and the rest is history.

For a while I was angry. I didn’t understand why I had to experience the things that I did. I thought about how “unfair” it was and wondered why God would let something like that relationship happen in my life. I did a lot of “why me?” thinking.

As my relationship with my now-husband blossomed, I realized why I went through the emotionally abusive relationship that tore me apart. It’s because those bad days and bad experiences make me appreciate my husband and what we have so much more. My husband is such a kind man and if it weren’t for my relationship with my ex, I don’t think I would have appreciated my husband the way he deserves.

I wish my ex all of the happiness and health in the world. Just because he is/was an addict doesn’t mean that he is a bad person. But I will say that I am so incredibly grateful that the chapter in my life that included him is long gone. I learned so much about people and myself during that relationship. I have decided that instead of dwelling on the terrible and scary parts of life, I will focus on what I learned from the experience and how I have grown from the challenges that arise.

I can’t change what happened in my past, but I can decide how I will use those experiences to better my future.

I hope that you can find the strength within yourself to do the same.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Chronic Sorry-er

I am a chronic sorry-er. I don’t know why I say it, but “I’m sorry” is an impulsive response for so many things in my life. I don’t even mean to say it, but it come out of my mouth without thinking. It’s a work in progress.

I realize that saying I’m sorry so often not only makes me seem weak, but also makes the words mean less. I think it stems from being a perfectionist and never wanting to inconvenience anyone. Maybe it’s from always feeling like I was doing something wrong or at fault for something when I was a kid. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist. What I o know, however, is that over the years it has become a pattern ingrained in my daily conversations.

I need to stop being so sorry. Stop being sorry for doing my job. Stop being sorry for having a question. Stop being sorry for all of the mundane things that don’t need an apology.

I need to build other phrases in my vocabulary that can be used in place. Maybe I could say “excuse me” or just get right to the point. I talked before about “fake it until you make it” and I think confidence is another great example. If I’m not feeling super confident in myself, maybe I can just fake it until I believe it myself. Belief in having confidence and having confidence itself aren’t that much different in the end.

Can you think of someone in your life who is a chronic “sorry-er”?

If that person is you, maybe it’s time to stop the habit and start a new conversation.

You are strong and you are confident.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

 

Boudoir Photography

I have learned a lot about body-image and self-love through boudoir photography. For about a year I focused my photography primarily on boudoir photography and I loved it. Photographing women in a vulnerable situation was a great opportunity to alter their self-image and hopefully grow their self-esteem. I loved when women would get their photos and message me to say, “Liz, I have never felt as beautiful as I did at the session or looking at these photos.” Or when they couldn’t believe the photos were of them (even though I would do very minimal editing). It was one of the most rewarding things that I have done thus far.

Each woman was beautiful in their own way and it was awesome to see them transform throughout the session. Typically the women would be nervous (understandably) at the beginning of the session. And then as we continued to talk and photograph, they became visibly more confident and comfortable with their body.

I found that the more I did these types of photo sessions and saw women begin to accept and love themselves, the more comfortable I became with myself and my body. Working on photos of women of all shapes and sizes that were each gorgeous, made me realize that there is no one true “perfect body type.” Each woman, regardless of how perfect their body would seem to society, had a part of their physical appearance that they did not like.

I think we, as women, need to not only practice more positive self talk, but also need to tell the women around us how beautiful and important they are. I believe that practicing positive peer talk will make it easier to see ourselves in a more graceful light. We are our own worst critics. I know that I would never talk to or think about the women in my life the way that I think about myself at times. That’s something that needs to change.

We need to start uplifting those around us and maybe in turn we will start thinking more positively about ourselves. It is all about a positive mindset. Get yourself in the routine of thinking more positively (no matter how difficult it may be at times) and you will find yourself in a healthier and happier mindset.

Fake it until you make it.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Social Media

We live in a world that has us logged in at all times. Whether we are scrolling through Facebook, checking Instagram, Snapchatting friends,  or Tweeting throughout our day, we seem to always be connected to some platform. It’s an addictive cycle. Social media creates a dopamine high with every positive interaction we face. Every “like” or comment releases a bit more dopamine that leaves your body wanting more. It’s hard to imagine going a day (let alone a week) without any source of social media. Our bodies crave that feeling of acceptance and validation.

 

Not to mention that most of what we see on social media isn’t true reality. We see the highlight reels of everyone’s lives. We see their workouts, their vacations, their nights out, and their achievements. What we don’t see is those people’s real life struggles and frustrations. It can be difficult to not hold your life in comparison to the lives that you see on your social media sites. Just know that although those people may be happy and experiencing success in their lives, they are not perfect. None of us are perfect.

 

I have learned that if following someone on a social media site makes me feel badly about my life, I need to unfollow them. It doesn’t mean that I’m not happy for them, but somehow their posts trigger feelings about myself that I don’t wish to subscribe to. There is nothing wrong with taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing. That includes checking out of those social platforms at times.

 

There is nothing wrong with enjoying social platforms. They can be informing, interesting, and fun. I love seeing what family has been doing, posting about my life, and keeping in contact with friends. There is a problem, however, with feeling that you have to be on social media at every free moment. I personally have deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I still have an account and check it pretty regularly, but I actually have to go through the process of going to the website and logging on. And not seeing the Facebook logo on my phone every time I unlock my screen makes me less likely to find myself scrolling aimlessly for hours. It’s all about balance.

 

I challenge you to pick a day and do not use any form of social media. Just for that one day. During that day, ask yourself these questions:

-How difficult has it been for me to stay off social media?

-Why do I think that is the case?

-Do I feel more free or relaxed?

-What have I been able to accomplish today with my free time?

-Will I be more apt to use social media sites less regularly?

 

Free your mind and remember your self-worth.

 

Love Always,

Elizabeth