A hundred different lives

The following post is more of a word vomit than anything else... though I did make a promise to myself to be more transparent and open on this blog. So here goes nothing :)

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I feel like I've lived a hundred different lives in the last two months. Some are only slightly removed from the other, while others are in different cities - time-zones, even. Each life comes with its own unknowns, joys, expectations and countless other emotions that seem to mess with my head no matter where I am in that life.

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This is what JOB SEARCHING is like, for me. 

Each job I apply for, I envision myself in that role, in that town, with those colleagues you read about online; what goals I can accomplish in that position, what house or car I can buy with that salary, how much more I could do because of this or that. I also envision all the office drama, the commute time, the stress and long work hours that usually comes with managerial work. Those moments help me decide if I really want the job or not. 

Imagining what life might be like if I had **insert job here** can be exciting, but its also so exhausting... And unrealistic! No one knows what a job role will really be like until they are in it. I'm so guilty of putting emotional and mental energy into "living" through the interview, offer, contract sign, and first few months of a potential job. Yet I'm only sitting at my computer filling out application after application.

I think its fairly normal to do this, but it definitely doesn't help. Lately, I've tried to imagine myself in a certain field, doing a short variety of jobs and roles in a certain city. It helps to narrow down the potential options, which can be good and bad. For example, while in the middle of this black and white mindset, I had the opportunity to interview for a job that was totally left-field. Not in the same city, not in the same field, not anything I was currently pursuing, but something I was still qualified for. 

So imagine my brain trying to scramble for a new mindset after all its hard work narrowing down my future life 20 years from now. NOPE. Despite this, the really really good thing that happens, thanks to these moments, is the clarity it provides in the midst of chaos. While my brain is trying to comprehend pursuing different job fields in different locations while trying to finish a degree in another field, its a reminder that nothing is permanent. 

And, even better, I can do all the things I want to do. I can pursue yoga teaching, and economic development work in my community, and writing, and painting, and all the things. Because it is my life and its up to me to truly live it. 

Are we, as a generation, more depressed?

I read a blog post on theeverygirl.com and felt like I needed to share it here. Depression is real and it truly does seem to be spreading. Between the issues we have going on in our household and the conversations I have with friends and family around the country, depression is not limited to a certain gender or season of life. But I do find that our generation suffers extraordinarily.

There is a certain amount of solace in knowing you're not the only one who feels this way - sad, tired, irritated, angry, apathetic - but its definitely not ok to continue feeling this way. So below are some examples that I found to be extremely relevant to my life, along with tips that are actionable. I hope you find it useful! All words below are straight from the post, but the photo is mine :)

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Why Aren’t Millennials Talking About Depression in Relationships?

"  I recently caught up with a friend who, over wine and with the TV rolling in the background, divulged to me some of her recent troubles in her romantic relationship. She and her boyfriend had recently moved in together, and their dating bliss was cut short by a cruel winter and a sudden shift in attitude around the house. With winter came a cold shoulder, early bedtimes, and an ever-present silence in their home. This shift scared her and tested their relationship tremendously, and it wasn’t until she came upon the name “seasonal depressive disorder” did she have some identifier as to what had been plaguing her relationship.

After some brief conversations on this subject with her introverted, manly-man boyfriend, he, too, agreed that the cold had bothered him so much so that his general mood and attitude had been shifted. The rift had driven them further apart and space needed to be created in order for moods and behavior to start fresh. With warm weather came a semi-return of their usual selves, but the relationship was not as hunky-dory as it had been before.

As she discussed this with me, I wondered why it had been difficult to find material online, or people she knew around her, that had gone through similar things in their significant relationships. Though lots of diagnostic information and general advice can be found on this subject, none of it spoke to her and her generation — millennials that would ideally be enjoying some of the best years of their lives.

I did research on my own to see what I could find on the subject, and though I read pages and pages of articles I found more solace tucked away in the comments on forums on online articles that graced the topic. However, three large themes emerged in the realm of why depression impacts millennials and their significant relationships. In these cases, there are straightforward answers and suggestions provided to help solve them, but nothing worth change comes easily.

Because they are lonely.

Loneliness (which can be experienced even in relationships) is a driving factor in millennial depression. Loneliness can often feel debilitating and fruitless, but seeking other solutions outside of “going out to meet people” can help in these cases. Loneliness can often lead to negative physical behaviors, such as over-drinking and smoking. Even though being in a relationship can seem as though you’re taking “being alone” out of the equation, sometimes it can be the opposite. Because relationships take daily commitment and hard work, if one person decides to check out, it can leave the other person in despair.

Exercise can boost spirits and release endorphins, even if only a couple times per week. From personal experience, listening to a book on tape, podcast, or music out loud in your home, at your desk, or while commuting can help stave off the lonely blues. You can also journal, try something new (classes, restaurants, etc.) and give yourself some breathing room to adjust.

New female roles make bridging the gap difficult.

New advances for women in their professional and personal lives often challenge traditional female roles in relationships. In the past, the clear gender roles left women by the sidelines, professionally, which is — finally — starting to change. But that sentiment can be hard to break, and both you and your partner might have preconceived notions about who does what in the relationship. Everyone brings home their own work stresses, but if you and your partner are on different pages about what “should” be difficult for the other, contempt and miscommunication can definitely creep in.

Open communication is always your best bet. Take a long look at your expectations for yourself and your partner, and then have a conversation about it so you can both be on the same page and support each other better.

Heavy comparisons thanks to social media.

Social media can be one of the largest triggers of depression. Dependency on Instagram to pass time or entertain us only shifts our frame of mind to pure comparison. The quote “comparison is the thief of joy” rings true here. Social media can not only be draining but also cause you to over-compare yourself to others’ “highlight reels” of their life with their partners.

A few things you can do…

  • Set a timer and limit yourself to scrolling
  • Hide your apps in a folder so you’re less likely to get to them
  • Download a time-tracker app like Moment to really time how long you spend scrolling through the ‘gram

I hope, on behalf of all millennial women and men, that more avenues of communication and connection can open up in this space, and that whatever stigmas exist surrounding this issue dissipate with time. Millions of young people suffer from depression and similar illnesses — and this doesn’t stop when love enters the picture.

 

It is important to know when to seek assistance outside of what you can give. If you’re feeling depressed, know that you’re not alone and you will not feel like this forever. We recommend reaching out to your doctor or setting up an appointment with a licensed therapist or counselor. Getting help is a sign of strength, and you deserve to feel well. "

 

Thank you theeverygirl.com for posting such a timely, relevant topic and getting it right!

*visit the original post to see in-text links!*

Undercuts and other changes

Last week's post was sort of a downer, so I want to counter it with this happy one :D This particular life season has allowed me to try so many new things and in turn, find some new passions. So for all the tough stuff, there has also been a lot of good too.

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Remember when I became a full-time student and sort-of freelancer back in February? Well It's funny what being unemployed can do for you creativity. It's like mine has been hiding all this time and only came out to play when I was forced to just DO SOMETHING with all the free time I had (because apparently grad school full-time isn't enough HA). Two things in particular stand out:

Painting

I pulled out my acrylics and old canvases from college and began painting again. AND I LOVE IT. I love it so much I actually dream about painting. That's only slightly weird. But I'm happy to have found this creative, artsy side of me. There are no boundaries, no rules, everything is fair game and everything is what I make it. It's fantastic. Right now I'm a huge fan of gouche paints, because they feel like acrylics but behave like watercolors. I'm working on a series of monotone abstract horses and it's so fun to see ink come to life.

I'm also getting into acrylic pouring - there are so many techniques to getting certain types of pours and I can't wait to try them all! Acrylic pouring is definitely a fun entry into art, especially because its supposed to be messy! Pinterest is my go-to source for inspiration, but I also follow some pretty amazing artists on Instagram. I hope to one day create art on their level and maybe even make it a side business of some sort. But for now, #someonefundmyhobbies

@badwaycreative @inventiveroots @poli.bright.art @art_by_mariadruggenilsson @mossandblue @emilyquandahlart @heatherday @martinalenhardt @sarahcaudleart @irinacumberland @racheljennieart

... and sooo many moreeee

Photography

Ben is the master photographer, but since he got a camera upgrade, I've played with his old DSLR and had more fun than I thought I would. I really dislike cellphone cameras, mostly because I've never had a good one, so I never thought I would enjoy taking photos as much as I do now. I recently had the pleasure of working a couple of events, taking photos and documenting on social media for BOOM Charlotte's fringe arts festival. 

It's also funny what happens to people when  you say you want to take their picture. They either get shy or really, really excited. On my end, its funny to see how people react to me when I'm holding a DSLR with a big lens. Suddenly I'm the most interesting person in the room. It's strange.

On a more abstract note,

I've felt more free to try new things - new to me, at least. For example, I'm skateboarding now? LOL. I will sometimes wear hot pink lipstick (that is a whoa factor for anyone who really knows me). I also got an undercut. Turns out that was a great decision. I no longer have a sweaty neck or those little dreadlocks underneath after a hot day.  I was at first concerned about having less hair in general, but my hair is noticeably easier to manage now. Less shampoo and less time to dry and style is always a plus. But honestly, you can't tell I have less hair when its down. In fact, you would have no clue its shaved unless my hair is up. It's a win-win.

 

I'm on energy saving mode

I recently discovered the cause of the fatigue I’ve been complaining about for three years now.

You know that frustrating feeling of knowing something is off but not having the right answer for it? I saw multiple doctors and had many, many vials of blood drawn, but everything came back fine. Even when my doctor thought my hormones were out of balance, they weren’t. Other than “being tired”, I was a model of perfect health. In fact, even my ovaries are “textbook perfect” (maybe someone should pay me to put sonograms of my ovaries in a textbook – any takers??).

Once we moved, I saw a new doctor and had new tests done and wouldn’t you know, I tested positive for mono. MONO. The most basic, teenage illness that almost everybody gets, usually from kissing. I remember sitting in high school health class, learning about diseases transmitted via saliva and other bodily fluids, thinking to myself that I would be in the clear for a long time given my social and relationship standing….

I wasn’t expecting to have mono at 25, let alone having mono symptoms for three years. That’s the key though - mono doesn’t last three years. But the virus that causes mono (EBV virus) does. Basically, once you have mono, you have it in your system for life. It lays dormant, waiting for your body to exhibit extreme stress and autoimmune failure so it came come back to life and make you all tired and out of whack. Most people, and when I say most, I mean like 99% of those who have the mono virus in their system never see it again. It usually takes an already-compromised immune system to take on the mono virus and let it remain in an activated state for so long.

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So essentially, I have chronic EBV virus, or chronic fatigue syndrome, or some sort of autoimmune dysfunction. They all work in similar ways and present themselves with similar symptoms. While it’s totally possible that I do not have a “disease” per-say, my body is running on fumes. I feel the way that truck looks. Its not 100%. Its not even 60%. I’m sitting somewhere at maybe 40%, I would say.

While it’s great to finally – FINALLY – know what the deal is, it doesn’t help me feel any better. What has helped though, are some fairly major life changes. Through trial and error, a few test results, and willpower, these are the things that I HAVE to do if I want to function like a normal person:

  1. Eat Vitamin B12 like candy. Literally, I take up to five a day because I am deficient, per test results, and they do really help – the complex kind though, not the basic grocery-store brand.
  2. No dairy, no added sugar/artificial sweetner, and NO GLUTEN. This is tough yall. I have been dairy-free since I had C-Diff three years ago (another factor in my health saga) but the gluten thing is like brand new. I have kept a food diary for a number of years and recently noticed that I had major joint pain/inflammation, acne and headaches in the immediate days after eating gluten (which is typical with autoimmune issues). When I didn’t eat gluten, I had none of those issues. So by trial and error, I no longer eat some of the tastiest foods on earth…
  3. SLEEP ALL THE TIME. It’s not a new thing for me to take naps and generally enjoy slow weekends, but I have to set a rule – go to bed early enough to get 10 hours of sleep. Ten hours is my magic number, for whatever reason. Less than that and I can’t function. More than that and I’m pretty out of it for the rest of the day (not to mention more than 10 hours of sleep means fewer hours of productive work time).
  4. This isn’t a rule, because I don’t follow it, but I should – no caffeine and no alcohol. Let’s be honest, there is a very slim chance I will ever give up coffee. Not drinking alcohol is easier, because Ben can’t drink it, but I really enjoy wine… so I indulge occasionally. But alcohol gives me issues similar to what gluten does, while caffeine interferes with overall hydration.

So what is the point to this? I don’t write this to garner sympathy, I just thought it would be a good time to let family and friends know what is going on. I've had some super supportive friends and family (shout out to my girl Katherine, my parents and of course Ben). But I also get lots of comments and remarks when I politely request a gluten free version of something (oh, so you are gluten free now? *snicker*). It bothers me because everyone has a reason for making a certain choice, right? Why do we have to be judged for any of it?

So now you know – I don’t eat gluten because I don’t want inflamed joints and pimples and headaches for days.

BUT ALSO, the real meat of this blog post – the level of mindfulness I have achieved in this season of my life is HIGH. I must be mindful of what I eat, my time management, my attitude through it all... I posted a while back about not having the energy to care so much – it is totally true and totally awesome. It’s tough being too tired to care sometimes, but it has given me a new peace and a new sense of contentment. Sometimes I have to push myself to care more, as it ultimately means using more precious energy, but isn’t caring part of the point of life? Being mindful of how I spend my emotional energy is a life lesson that I’m learning in double time.

I’ve taken to appreciate the little joys in life and especially enjoy the time and energy someone else expends on their craft of choice. For example, art, artfully prepared food, blogs and articles, photography and editing, even technology advances I read about in the news. I have this newfound appreciation for time spent wisely. That doesn’t mean I always use my own time wisely, but I’m working on that.

I would like to close with this: find the time to fully appreciate what is in front of you, whether it is a plate of food, a project, a task, a coffee date – if you are engaging with another person, take the time to really understand them. They might have a lot more beneath the surface and everyone wants to be understood in some capacity. Be that good listener and take the little things to heart. It might totally change your life!