I have memories of myself in elementary school running circles around people in gym class and hugging strangers because I couldn’t contain my excitement for life. Where this love for life came from I have NO idea, but I’ve had it for as long as I can remember.
There have been more times in my life I’ve cried from happiness than from sadness, and I‘ve been naturally high most of my life. I know it’s not normal.
Don’t get it twisted, I’m not immune to life’s bullshit- no one is. But for the most part, I’ve cherished my ability to maintain an unabashed love for life throughout all of my 20+ years.
But this year has been different. Since the start of 2016, I found myself feeling dejected. Hopeless. Helpless. Lost. Broken.
I’ve tried to pinpoint what contributed to this dip in morale. I think it was a combination of:
- Frustrations at work: I was doing everything I thought I should be doing, yet still wasn’t seeing the opportunities I thought I deserved. I was stuck in a role I felt I’ve outgrown. I also went through a discriminatory and traumatic experience with a supervisor that left me questioning my creativity and talent as a writer.
- A bad breakup: I mean when is a breakup ever good? But when the first guy you fall in love with in years one day decides you’re no longer worth his time, it shatters you in ways you can’t possibly prepare for.
This left me feeling pretty shitty.
The kind of shitty that sits in every part of your body, so you feel exhausted all the time for no reason. The kind of shitty that sits in every part of your brain, so everything that happens points back to doubts and confusions about yourself.
After a lot of crying, a lot of frozen spooning (I read if you put metal spoons in the freezer then hold them over your eyelids, they help the swelling) and a lot of self-destructive habits (I started smoking cigarettes…I do not recommend this as a healing mechanism), I took slow and not-so-steady steps towards finding my happy place again.
These are the things I did with my life that helped pull me out of my misery pit. I hope this can help other people out there who are also trying to find their own way again.
- I found new hobbies and put more time towards old ones.
This was important in making myself feel valuable again. When both my job and the guy I loved treated me as if I was worthless, it was important for me to feel like there were parts of me worth sharing with the world- in whatever capacity.
I started improv classes, which I highly recommend for anyone who would enjoy spending a few hours each week playing adult games with people who won’t (visibly) judge a single thing you do or say.
I started sewing again, transforming vintage clothes into modern pieces. I took photos and posted them online. It made me feel like I had something unique to share with the world (or at least with the internet).
2. I focused on passion projects.
There were a couple of projects I had been wanting to work on for the past 6 months. But whenever I had free time, I always had an excuse: I was exhausted from work, I wanted to spend time with my dude, I wasn’t in the mood. I always put some type of obstacle between me and the project, so I’d never get around to working on it.
After the breakup and after coming back from a spiritually cleansing trip to Bali, I resolved to devote specific time to my projects. My friend and I made a pact to meet every Sunday to work, which held us accountable to our progress.
3. I learned to enjoy my alone time (with new shows, books, and foods).
When you’re in a relationship, you spend most of your free time with your boo. You watch the same movies and shows, most of them probably ones you don’t want to watch but watch out of courtesy for the other person. You compromise on what you want to eat because you chose last time and now you have to eat that fake ass teriyaki chicken from their favorite “Japanese” spot.
2016 gave us plenty of new binge-watching options: Atlanta, Queen Sugar, Insecure, Luke Cage, etc.
And if you live in any major city, there’s always a new restaurant to try.
I also had a growing stack of books I’ve been meaning to read since 2014. So whenever I felt lonely or my mind started to wander to stresses or frustrations, I took out a book or turned on a TV show. Engrossing myself in another world helped take my mind off of my other stresses, until I learned to release them.
Some books I recommend that helped with my healing process:
- salt. by Nayyirah Waheed: a book of beautifully poignant poems.
- Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker: another book of poems about navigating through painful experiences.
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: a classic; once you read about everything the great Maya Angelou went through, your worries will pale in comparison.
- All About Love by Bell Hooks: a spiritual, feminist view on love that makes you rethink everything society has taught us.
4. #healthyliving is a thing. I tried it, it works.
I lost FIFTEEN WHOPPING POUNDS without meaning to, all because I started living a healthier lifestyle. That meant no more overeating, drinking more water, not eating EVERY dessert in front of me, and staying active* in one way or another.
*I use “active” very loosely: going to a party = active, climbing a giant flight of stairs = active, finding parking myself instead of valeting = active.
It was never about the lbs to me- I don’t even own a scale. But I noticed as I started making healthier food choices, I automatically trained my brain to want to make healthier choices in other areas of my life. Choices that made me feel good about myself, and not worse.
Ex. Calling your ex on a lonely Friday night is equivalent to faceplanting into that gooey, unnecessarily large piece of cake. Sure, the temptation is real. But you know you’ll feel 1000x worse than you did before if you make that call/eat that cake.
Healthy choices are when you do whatever will make you not hate yourself tomorrow.
Healthy choices also make that once-too-tight dress feel amazing on your bangin’ new body.
5. I knew what to stay away from: I recognized destructive habits and stopped them.
- If you find yourself hating on people all the time, catch yourself next time you make a negative comment. Ask yourself why you’re bothered. Most of the time, it’s an insecurity about yourself that you should face and work through.
- Have you ever watched a sappy, completely unrealistic romance movie and was immeditely hit with a wild urge to call your ex? Yeah, don’t watch that movie. Stay far away, if you’re healing from a breakup (the movie Waiting to Exhale is a good alternative).
- Stop checking his Instagram. And Facebook and Snapchat and gatdahm there are too many places to not check but just keep your eyeballs on things that won’t make you sit in past memories of him.
6. Lastly, I stopped defining myself by my circumstances and emotions.
It’s easy to think that because of the way I was treated at work or because of the way my relationship didn’t work out, there was something wrong with me. That those situations and people defined who I was in other aspects of my life (as a person, creator, writer, etc.). But with a lot of poetry reading and encouragement from uplifting friends, I realized I’m not the sum of those specific experiences.
Instead of letting my past experiences hold me hostage, I realized they were stepping stones to where I’m intended to go.
And a final, random tip:
Buy more pillows. It helps fill up the empty space of where your ex used to sleep, makes you fall asleep a lot faster so you’re not wandering into sad thoughts, and it’s also comfy AF.