Trust

Trust is a tricky thing, and it becomes even more complicated for those of us who have been hurt in the past. For those of us who have ever felt used, lied to, or have found that someone we believed in was never who they claimed to be. Trust is a difficult thing to hold on to after life has given us reason after reason to be skeptical of those around us, and even of ourselves.. After all of this, we begin to associate trust with naivety. Some of us decide that to trust is a weakness; that if we put our faith into someone again, we’ll end up looking like a fool.

How can we learn to trust again without feeling so vulnerable or naive?

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, and the episode I came across was a lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson, called “Structuring Your World View”. Before I continue on with this post I want to say that I can not recommend Dr. Peterson’s lectures enough! As a psychologist, he has some amazing insights to share, and this episode in particular gave me the clarity I needed when I found myself in a hazy place. He is one of my inspirations for pursuing a degree in psychology and becoming a therapist.

One phrase that Jordan Peterson said in this lecture stuck with me, and that is “You trust people because you are courageous.”

The reason why I believe this is so crucial to understand is because when I have been brave enough to trust in others and even myself, some amazing things have happened. The decision to trust has undoubtedly led to more opportunities, from forming new and valuable relationships to discovering my own capabilities. Even if it’s intimidating to put yourself in such a vulnerable place, it is absolutely worth it to take the leap.

In contrast, the times where I have been the most unhappy are in no doubt the times where I let a cynical, distrustful mindset take over. That is exactly what has happened to me in the past. I found myself choosing to stay in my inner circle because of the poor experiences I had with letting new people in. Although we begin to see choosing wariness over trust as a defense mechanism, becoming too distrustful of others can lead to a path of loneliness and missed chances. Although I’ve never been on the extreme side of this, I have known people who have let their past hold them back from jumping in to new relationships or experiences. It’s hard to see the people you care about lose faith in others, especially when you know that they how much happier they could be if they would learn to trust others.

That’s not to say that we should put blind faith into anyone and anything, but we can’t keep our walls so high that no one can ever find a way in.

I like to think of it as this way. You may not always know whether or not your decision to trust someone is worth it, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a chance. If every time a new person came into our lives and we shut them out, we might be missing out on a new great friend, a significant other, or someone who simply enhances our life. Likewise, we will never know what kind of impact we could have made on them, either.

No matter how daunting it may feel to put ourselves in a place where we feel uncertain or afraid, it’s essential that we never mistake trust as a weakness. To trust again doesn’t make you weak; for some of us, it’s the bravest choice we can make.

Toxic Friendships and Mental Health

It’s key to remember the environment we live in- that includes the people we surround ourselves with- has a profound impact on our well being. Studies have proven that having a solid support system of friends and family is linked to better mental, and even physical, health. Likewise, any toxic relationship will leave you feeling dejected, tired, and sometimes downright miserable. Why is it that some of us choose to stay in these relationships for so long, even when we know it’s not good for us?

(* Please read the disclaimer at the end*)

Speaking from personal experience, there are a variety of reasons for continuing to stay in a toxic friendship. For one, it’s difficult to leave once you have invested so much time into any relationship, whether it has to do with a friend or significant other. Once you are so attached to someone you don’t only see the poisonous side of them. You think of all the memories you share and the good times you associate with them. Unfortunately, these joyful memories tend to overshadow all of the trouble they bring into your life. Seeing the good in people is by no means a bad trait, but blissfully ignoring the fact that they are bad for you will only inflict more damage. 

Another reason it’s difficult to separate from these people is something that is not always noticeable right away. That is that sometimes, we cross paths with a downright manipulative person. Anyone who has ever found themselves in a toxic friendship knows how frustrating and hurtful being manipulated is. Sometimes it goes right over your head, and you can not pinpoint the source of the negative emotions you associate with them. Other times you know it is happening but feel like you can’t do anything about it. Manipulative people have a knack for turning the tables on you and making you question whether you are in the wrong for not trusting them.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, you have to seriously consider the kind of toll it is taking on your mental health. As a friend, someone should bring positivity to your life. They should bring honesty, support, and encouragement to the table- not deceit, confusion, and degradation.

Speaking from first hand experience, I know that separating yourself from a toxic friend or significant other can be complicated. But at the end of the day, we need to make choices to protect ourselves. 

I remember being in a certain toxic friendship at one point in high school and so much confusion and even hurt came from it before I finally went my separate way. Although I would never blame this person for my struggles at their time, their friendship did anything but help me when I needed to work on being happy with myself the most. This person was not satisfied with themself, and wanted the people close to them to feel the same way, which as a result hurt my mental health. While I was trying to improve myself they would always discourage me from doing so, and that is when I started to realize they didn’t really want the best for me.

Once I started to find my own interests and achievements they would instantly find a way to discourage me. This person said things to me sometimes, and although now I know it is because they were in a bad place, that severely impacted me and my confidence. It’s not that I really think that they were full of malice, but we were at completely different places in life and it became clear that staying close with them would prevent either of us from moving on and growing.

So at one point I decided to let it go, and even though it took a while, I found more supporting and good-hearted people to spend my time with. It was hard at first to part with someone who I associated with so many good times and cherished memories. However by doing so, I learned what the difference between true friendships and toxic friendships are. People who have your best interest at heart will build you up and be honest with you, while manipulative people will break you down. It should seem obvious what a healthy friendship is like, but once you are caught up in a toxic friendship for so long the lines between what a normal friendship and a toxic friendship should look like become blurred.

If you decide it is necessary to cut ties with someone, it is also important to know that you do not need to be hostile about it or leave any bad blood behind. If the other person involved is reasonable enough, it is always best to be honest and considerate when telling them you want to put an end to the friendship.

Again, I would like to emphasize that I know cutting ties with someone you share a long history with is not easy, but if you ever find yourself in a toxic relationship of any kind, it is crucial that you put yourself first. At the end of the day you are living this life for yourself, not them, and need to take care of your own mental health. The effects of toxic relationships can be devastating, especially when it is taken too far. You should never second guess how important your own health, happiness, and safety is for someone who doesn’t do the same for you. 

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Thank you for reading. This blog is based on my own personal experience and the advice I give is based almost entirely on that. If you have found yourself in a dangerous relationship or friendship of any kind, please seek help. Below I have linked resources to learn more, and a hotline if you feel you need outside help.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parenting/201810/how-identify-and-inoculate-toxic-friendship

thehotline.org

Practicing Mindfulness in Quarantine

It’s safe to say that the pandemic has affected every American in some way at this point. For some Americans this means the worst- coming down with COVID-19, unemployment, severe isolation from family, and much more.

For others, we still are not exactly sure yet. We’re patiently waiting. Anxiety is welling inside of us as we wonder what the full effect will be by the time this is all over, and just how long we will have to wait it out.

I’m lucky to say that I am on the more fortunate side of this. It has been hard temporarily leaving work and losing my sources of income, but at my age I’m still living with my family so this has not hit me as hard as it has for people on their own. I’m grateful to have a support system getting me through this. However, it has still been difficult to be out of work and separated from the people I care about. Like many people, I’ve been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions because of it.

What I and many others are especially concerned of is how this will effect our mental health.

In response to this, I have been focusing more on mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a popular practice discussed by many psychologists and counselors today. To summarize, it encourages people to focus on the present moment, rather than getting caught up in thinking of the past or future. To me this has been a hugely beneficial practice during self isolation, as my anxiety has skyrocketed lately.

(I highly recommend listening to “The Psychology Podcast” with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman as a simple way to learn more about this and psychology in general. I’ve been tuning in to an episode almost every day while I go on walks. The speakers on this show always have insightful advice on how to exercise mindfulness into your everyday life as well as other healthy ways to cope.)

So, what does it mean to practice mindfulness during quarantine?

First and foremost, I’ve been reminding myself of this: I can’t control or see into the future; but I can do my best to stay healthy, productive, and most importantly sane while I’m stuck at home. During social isolation it is especially important to learn how to manage negative thought patterns.

A huge reason many of us are experiencing increased anxiety right now is because how out of control we feel. Some of us are feeling out of control financially, over our health, over the safety of our loved ones, and our overall well-being during these times. For me, the root of my anxiety is grounded in my financial state and feeling uncertain of how long this will all last. I’ve been overwhelmed with guilt for feeling as though I’m not doing enough. By practicing mindfulness, however, I’ve managed to get some of that sense of control back.

One of the ways I have been maintaining this feeling of control is by focusing on my physical health through exercise and pushing myself every day. Exercise has always been one of the ways I manage stress. Exercise helps people get through stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) in many ways, from producing mood-boosting endorphins and helping with sleep. Knowing that I have complete control over my health during these times motivates me to get up and out of bed, and has given me something to aim at. Even if you aren’t feeling up to working out, I highly recommend walking or spending some time outdoors. Going on even a light walk has proven to be good for the mind, too.

Another way I have been trying to maintain this sense of control is by keeping a loose routine. Being at home has definitely given me more room to do what I want, when I feel like it, but in excess this is not a good thing. It can lead to unhealthy habits and sleep patterns that will only make matters worse. I have not been keeping a rigorous schedule, but have been holding myself accountable to keep some of the structure I had while going to school and work. For me this means making time for school work, my health, talking with friends, and creating time for the things I enjoy each day.

Overall, through mindfulness I have been able to keep a positive outlook on all of this. Each day I remind myself to simply live in the moment and focus on what I can do under isolation, instead of all of the things I can not. Rather than dwelling on all of the negative effects that this pandemic has had or might have in the near future, I’m focusing on what I can do each day. Instead of letting the time slip away I’m trying my best to use this time to improve myself and hopefully learn something new each day.

For me, this means getting back into art. I’ve been trying my hand at painting and sketching again- something that I never really had time to in between work and school. I’ve also been discovering new music and movies to keep me entertained during my down time.

I’ve noticed that the more I practice mindfulness and keeping a balanced perspective, the more I have been able to subside all of the negative emotions and anxiety. And I hope anyone reading knows that they can do the same; it is never out of your control.

It’s crucial to remember that in times like these, it is more important than ever to check in on ourselves and others around us, and to keep our heads up. No one is alone in this; we are all experiencing this new world together and are here to support one another.

Photo by Arthur Brognoli on Pexels.com

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I hope everyone is doing well by staying healthy and safe (indoors). Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts below, we are in this together.

Can You Always Be Positive?

True happiness isn’t forever, it might not even be for a while. It is found in the moments we least expect it, and sometimes hidden in the times we need it most. Happiness is fleeting.

When I say that happiness doesn’t last forever, I don’t mean that in a such a cynical way. I say that happiness is fleeting because the truth is, life happens and we don’t ever get to choose when. Mistakes are made, things are lost, and bonds are broken. And with these losses, there goes our expectation of infinite happiness right down the gutter.

Many of us feel unsatisfied with our current state of life because our ideas of happiness don’t coincide with reality. Our ideas of what real success and happiness look like are corrupted by social media and the fabrications we’re exposed to every day. We are lead to believe that happiness is perfection, and we convince ourselves that once we are finally happy that it will last forever.

This faulty perception of happiness only gets worse when we begin browsing through social media. I consistently come across a sea of lifestyle posts and ‘hacks’ on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram that I can’t take seriously. These influencers tell us that if we drink more water and get some sunlight each day, then we’ll grow into the person we want to be as if we are mere plants rather than complex, unique human beings. If it were as easy as drinking water and getting sunlight, then we would achieve perfect physical and mental health. For someone who has dealt with anxiety that interferes with everyday life, I understand that there’s a lot more to overcoming the downs of life than that and I’m sure almost everyone can agree.

The thing is, of course platforms like Instagram are going to be filled with picture perfect profiles. We all want the world to see the best version of our lives- even when it isn’t truthful. I can relate with the desire to create a positive image, and I do believe that platforms such as Instagram can be beneficial in that sense. When people land on my profile I want them to see the best version of myself.

The issue I have with this is the negative effect it has on all of us to be mislead by these perfect profiles, particularly the younger generations who are so invested in social media. When we scroll through all of these images, we’re seeing people living in a dream like state. These perfectly crafted profiles make us feel as though we’re missing out on the joy that all of these people we follow are experiencing, or seem to be experiencing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people comparing themselves to popular influencers that promote this image, or commenting along the lines of “I wish I was you!”

So there we go again, reaching for something out there, for that pure joy we see on social media.

But it’s not real.

We can convince ourselves that we can control our lives the way that we control our social media profiles, picking and choosing which moments we want to live out.  

But again, that’s not possible. If that was the case, then we’d all be manic.

In real life we live out the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the sunshine and the rain. We don’t get to slap a sunset filter over it and say that we had a perfect day. Sometimes things just don’t go the way we want it to, and that’s okay. That’s life. And the sooner we begin embracing the unexpected rather than running away from it, the closer we are to real happiness.

I came across this quote while watching Euphoria the other day that perfectly sums up my point.

“I had a therapist once who said that these states will wax and wane.

Which gave my mother relief, because it meant that in the bad times, there would be good times.

But it also gave her anxiety because it meant that in the good times, there would be bad times.”

Although simple, this episode does an excellent job of explaining how clinical depression works for most individuals. Not only does this episode accurately portray how it feels to live with depression and anxiety, but it holds true to the nature of life for all of us.

It can be somewhat frightening to realize that we don’t always know when the next low point will be for us. But if everything always went the way we want it too, we simply wouldn’t be alive. Think of it as the ups and downs on a heart monitor. If you see a straight line, there’s no pulse. If you see it consistently going up, well, that’s not exactly healthy either.

So at this point you might be asking yourself, what’s the point? 

Why am I writing this? As I began to write this post I didn’t know exactly what direction I was headed, I just wanted to remain honest above anything else. Even though I try to keep my writing on the positive side, it’s not always so easy. If I only covered the positive topics then I would be missing out on exploring so many other subjects surrounding mental health that other people can relate to.

So back to the question I set out to answer, it’s a little complicated. While I don’t believe there is a way to always be positive, I do feel that it’s important to always hold on to the hope that things will get better.

If I could give anyone advice on how to be a more positive person, it’s to accept that you don’t always know what tomorrow will bring, but hold on to the hope that the hard times will pass and you will find yourself living out those happy moments again. Don’t let that fill you with fear, let it fill you with excitement.

Instead of viewing happiness as perfection, instead of trying to keep it forever, view it as moments. It’s true that happiness is fleeting; like every other emotion it comes and goes. Happiness is found in moments that turn into memories we can cherish.

So stop chasing perfection and start chasing those moments. It’s that rush you feel when you catch the perfect wave, or that moment when you break through the surface of the water after taking a daring leap. It’s the sense of pride you have when you can finally feel your diploma in your hands and the warmth that radiates from those who supported you along the way. It’s in those moments when you find yourself laughing until your chest aches, or that joy you feel when you reconnect with a friend for the first time in what felt like forever.

Even on your absolute worst days, happiness is there, in that smile that illuminates someone’s face when you do something kind. Happiness is everywhere, even in the bad, if you would just open your mind to it. 

It’s like catching a firefly in your hands, even in the darkest nights. There will be times where the nights feel dark and you think the light has ran out, but it is still there, waiting to land on the palms of your hands again. And those moments, like fireflies, will come back to you when you least expect it.

Reflecting On “Addicted: Notes from the Belly of the Beast” (Review)

“If I have a few drinks every single night before I go to bed, does that mean I have an addiction?” A friend said mockingly. “Of course it does!”

“The question you should ask yourself is why would you drink every night. It’s only an addiction if you depend on it,” Argued another.

The casual conversation that began about drinking at parties escalated into a debate, causing a domino effect of question and answers to which we all couldn’t quite agree on. Considering addiction wasn’t officially classified as a disease until the late 1980’s, grey areas and stigmas remain around the subject.

One thing we could agree on is that drinking is a risky gamble for those more susceptible to addiction. None of us personally claimed to have an addiction, but myself and a few others had seen addiction severely impact those around us.

What begins as a way to kick off a memorable (or should I say forgettable) weekend could turn into a serious problem. Those celebratory shots, evening glasses of wine, or even some fizzy champaign walk on a fine line of being your best friend or worst enemy.

By no means am I suggesting everyone who begins a drinking habit will fall into addiction. The danger is, you never know who will.

Naturally, conversations like this only further my curiosity of psychology. And as a new psychology student, I’m always on the lookout for interesting yet insightful reads to help me learn more about the subject.

Without any specific book in mind as I walked into the store, I came across Addicted: Notes from the Belly of the Beast and I’m grateful that I did. Addicted*, edited by Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, documents the stories of multiple writers who suffered from addiction.

Due to the graphic nature of the novel, readers should be cautious before opening the book. The writers do not hold back as they share dark, vulnerable moments of their lives. However, it is the authors’ courage to share these stories that makes it even more powerful.

Overall, I took away a great deal of knowledge and debunked some of the myths around addiction that I used to believe.

  1. Addiction isn’t limited to alcohol, or even drugs for that matter. It can take the form of food, gambling, sex and more, that stems from the need to cope with stress and other negative feelings. It’s more present in our lives than we may think.
  2. There’s an undeniable stigma around addiction around who is most likely to develop an addition. Like most stereotypes, we tend to paint an image of this person in our heads. Each writer who participated in the novel had a unique story, emphasizing the fact that people from all backgrounds can fall victim to addiction.

Diseases such as addiction are difficult to understand from an outsider’s perspective, which is why it is crucial that there are first hand accounts of addiction for people to read. Gaining a better understanding of it is necessary for someone supporting a loved one through an addiction, someone going through the recovery process themselves, or students specializing in disorders.

Although at times it is difficult to read, each story left an impact on me. Compared to other books about addiction you may read, Addicted provides a variety of first hand accounts that cover different forms of addiction. Each story is touching in its own way, while showing the harsh reality of the recovering process.

Have you read Addicted, if so what are your thoughts? If not, what are some books you recommend?

xx

Thank you for reading as always.

Roundabouts.

I wanted to take the time today to reflect on the past month. Additionally, I want to explain exactly why I have held back from publishing any blog posts the last month.

This post may seem a little scattered, mainly because I wasn’t certain on how to approach this as I began writing. I just felt that it was important for me to keep The Journey as up to date as possible. So please bear with me as I try to piece all of these thoughts together.

If you take anything from this post today, let it be that stress can be turned into a positive experience. Let stress be that force that pushes you to do your best work, rather than something that holds you back.

If I could describe what this last month has been like for me in one sentence, I would say that I’ve been stuck in a never ending roundabout. Fortunately, even the most hectic roundabouts have an end, and that brings me to where I am now.

Thankfully in the last few days I have managed to find some sanity and, finally, have a pretty solid schedule again. Meaning I will have set times to write again- something that I have been missing from my life.

The reason why I had to hold back from publishing any work is for two major reasons. First and foremost, huge changes that took place in my life. For those of you who don’t know i began blogging in high school and I just graduated, so I’m currently planning for college which had to be my main focus. During this time, I had to figure out how to balance two jobs while trying to finish up my last few weeks of school before the summer began.

Second, is that I have been working on polishing up the first few parts of Don’t Speak. Since this new series is so important to me, I want to take time time to ensure that everything is thorough and complete before I share it on my blog. My long term goal is to turn it into either a podcast or a complete book, so I’ve been pouring so much energy into it.

So given these factors I decided to hold off on posting anything, knowing that I wasn’t in the right place mentally to publish work I was proud of. I began feeling really conflicted. I was a little disappointed in myself for not having created any content for my blog.

However, this past month has motivated me to keep writing, and has left me with some ideas I’m very passionate about, and many rough drafts for me to elaborate on. For a moment during this time the stress almost got to me. In the end, it ended up being the force that kept me on my feet through all the chaos. I believe a lot of bloggers can relate to this. Many of us feel this pressure to keep creating, even if we’re at a place in life where it’s difficult to.

I think it’s important that more bloggers take the time to do this no matter what situation you’re in. Even if you’re not in a place where you can share your work, never hesitate to jot down some ideas or a stream of consciousness. This is an amazing way to keep in touch with your voice as a writer and have some rough drafts prepared for when you are ready to write that next story or blog post.

If you feel like you’re in the same situation as I was in- don’t worry, that roundabout will come to an end! Don’t forget to take some time to relax and gather your thoughts once you do.

Feel free to share any comments below if you’ve come through any similar experiences. How do you currently feel about activity on your blog?

xx

Thank for for reading as always!

Have Faith In Yourself Today

A simple reminder that confidence does not mean believing that you are perfect, or thinking that you can go the rest of your life without making any mistakes. Confidence is never to be confused by arrogance.

Confidence is having faith in yourself, knowing you have the power to make your own choices each day. Likewise, it means having the strength to forgive yourself even when you make mistakes, because you know you are capable of growing and becoming a better person than you were yesterday.

Don’t let the word “confidence” intimidate you any longer.

There’s no better way to build you own confidence than to place trust yourself in every step you take.

Have some faith in yourself today.

xx