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

An Honest Review: “The Voice Of Knowledge” by Don Miguel Ruiz

I caved. I’ll admit it.

I finally read the infamous series I heard so much about.

My family told me to read it, every lifestyle blogger alive told me to read it, my dog told me to read it, even my my neighbor yelled over the fence, “You have to read this book!!”

I may be exaggerating a bit- but the point is, I heard a lot about the series before I finally picked it up for myself. For some reason, my very stubborn personality works in strange ways. Sometimes the more I hear about a book, the less I want to read it.

Despite this, the main reason I was so reluctant to read it was because it’s common for the reputation to precede books in this genre, and I couldn’t help but convince myself that this would be the case.

When I got stuck on a five hour flight I decided I would give it a chance, and to my surprise I couldn’t put it down. I was pleased to discover that The Voice Of Knowledge lives up to all of the praise.

After reading it thoroughly, I felt enlightened and refreshed with a more positive perspective on life. On some days when I’m feeling particularly stressed or negative, I find myself reaching for the book again.

Reading The Voice Of Knowledge took me on a walk down memory lane, reminiscing over the joy I experienced as a child before I let the the opinions of others affect my self image.

Any young adult will thoroughly enjoy this book because I’m sure we can all relate to Don Miguel Ruiz’s experiences growing up in a fast paced world. As he mentions in the first book of the series, so many of us let the opinions of others define our worth.

At one point Ruiz remarks that you must read his book multiple times in order to catch some of the details you missed the first time, and this definitely holds true. Depending on what your current situation is, you can apply lessons learned in the book to your own life.

Ruiz’s work in The Voice Of Knowledge stands out to me for his ability to take such a complex topic, finding inner peace, and breaking it down into a way that any reader can understand. Ruiz draws inspiration from toltec wisdom and applies it to the modern world.

There is a certain simplicity to the book that makes the message even more powerful. Ruiz stands by the “one simple truth”, inspiring readers to stay their most authentic selves. Ruiz motivates readers by telling them to take control of their own happiness again and embrace every little thing that makes them different.

Anyone who reads the first book of this series will take away so much knowledge, and get a step closer to a peaceful mind.

Now if you haven’t read the book yet- I’m adding myself to the list of people who recommend it.

xx

Thank you for reading as always. Have you read any of Ruiz’s work? Let me know in the comments!

Using Poetry To Discuss Mental Illness

Today I’m returning to a more personal topic, or what I originally began this blog for: understanding and recovering from mental illness.

Too many of us shy away from the topic in fear that we won’t attract as many readers, however we should all learn to make it a priority. After all, one of the best ways to provide support for others online is to discuss mental illness and raise awareness. I wanted to take the time to share an outlet of expression I use as a writer that may help other people.

After I experiencing episodes of depersonalization, a side effect of anxiety, I found it difficult to describe how I was feeling. Writing helped me stay in touch with my emotions, even when I felt disconnected from myself.

I wrote the poem “Blue” to describe what it feels like to lose yourself due to uncontrollable forces.

As somber as the poem is, it was the only way I could put what I was going through into words. I know that others reading it will have their own opinions; but at the end of the day it’s honest and true to my experiences, and that’s always how writing should be. Being able to describe my feelings through writing is always therapeutic.

I didn’t know what depersonalization was at the time because I never knew that there was a term to describe it, nor do I hear it discussed nearly as often as the other symptoms are. At the time it helped me pinpoint what the true source of my worries was.

Not only is writing my feelings out a process of catharsis, but it helped me realize that what I was going through was more serious than I thought at the time. It encouraged me to find an explanation to the distressing periods of depersonalization I endured. This realization ultimately became the reason I was able to combat that feeling of helplessness and take control of myself again.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and naturally the changes in the poetry I write reflect that changes I go through in my life.

It took me a long time to decide whether or not I should share it before posting it online about a month ago. I feared that no one would relate to where I was coming from. It can be terrifying to post work, especially personal posts like this, because there is that fear in that back of your mind that you’ll be misunderstood. But sometimes it is necessary to let go of that fear.

To my surprise, I received feedback from various people who said they experienced the same feelings before. In fact, the more I found other writers, the more pieces I found that I truly resonated with. Writing proved to be a common outlet of expression for so many people.

Writing isn’t the only form of art that can be very effective in portraying and educating about mental illness. Take music, song writing, painting and many other forms of art for example- they are outlets in which people can express themselves better than they can through a typical conversation.

xx

Thank you for reading as always.

Staying Authentic as a New Writer

Sometimes when I read through my own unpublished writing I look back and think, “That doesn’t even sound like me.

That’s because my voice as a new writer wasn’t entirely mine. It’s so clear to me that in the process of writing some of my older, unpublished pieces that I was holding back from stating my truth. I focused too heavily on the opinions of others that made me doubt myself and it showed in my work. I lost my voice.

I like to think of myself as confident when it comes to my blogging. I strive to encourage honesty and vulnerability. I highly emphasize the importance of authenticity in everyday life, especially when it comes to mental health. I learned the importance of staying truthful because there are people out there who will not only relate to my story, but need to hear it.

That is a responsibility every writer holds whether we’re writing a best seller or a post online. If we share our work and we don’t stand behind our message, then we lose our integrity. We can not expect readers to believe in our message if it doesn’t even hold true to ourselves.

This loss of authenticity in anyone’s writing can be attributed to a few factors, but my main focus will be discussing how the pressure to create perfect and ‘acceptable’ work actually took away my authenticity.

I like to compare this to voices in a crowded room, similar to a writer in a world full of opinions. When the voices around you become too loud, yours is dulled down. When you allow the opinions of others to dictate yours, your writing becomes weak.

You might be wondering, what does that have to do with keeping my authenticity? Surely I can rise above the voices if i’m loud enough; of course other opinions don’t have to influence mine.

However when I was first introduced to blogging and the idea of sharing my work publicly, my mindset shifted. Comparing my own experiences to others made me seriously doubt myself.

I’m going to pause for a moment and rewind to writing as a child. Writing as a child, we write purposely for our own enjoyment. We write our most authentic ideas in this time, creating bizarre characters and stories with no doubt in our minds. We are proud of our work and we feel such a great sense of ease. Because we aren’t writing to please others; we don’t feel the pressures of our work being edited and reviewed. We write as children as a tool to express ourselves, so of course we’re proud of our work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s perfect or not. Because it’s our own.

This changes as we grow up and learn that our work isn’t always as flawless as we thought. The value of our work is defined by the grades we earn. We begin writing essays and discover that what we want to talk about is not always acceptable. We take our first creative writing classes and we’re told that our work isn’t interesting enough. We grow up reading all of these prestigious authors and we realize that we have a long way to come before we’re ever as accomplished as them. We show our friends and families are work, and once we’re old enough, we discover that not everyone likes our work. Those are the voices. When we want to be accepted as a writer, they start to influence us every time we sit down to write.

Eventually the biggest critic is no longer those outside voices. It is ourselves.

In my case, I internalized these voices and it affected the way I approached things when I first started to share my work publicly. Rather than appreciating the fact that my experience was different than others, I thought that I had to put up a better image in order to seem appealing to my readers. So, I didn’t share the work I used to be so eager too. I tried writing in a completely different style, which didn’t work out for me.

When I first started The Journey on WordPress, I found so many blogs with talented writers. I convinced myself that I could never amount to them. I told myself, “I’m too young! I don’t have enough credentials. I can’t write in the same style that them. How can I compare?” Instead of considering what I do have to offer as a writer, I focused on all of the things I did not. As a new writer, it became so tempting to follow those voices. I started to doubt my own story. I grew worried that people would not relate to the stories I had to share, or find them acceptable, so I held back from publishing them.

It took some time for me to realize that I don’t want to be perfect on my blog, nor do I to be perfect to be a better writer. I don’t have to prove myself, or criticize myself down to the core.

Because to be authentic isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be real. After all, how can anyone write about growth and learning if we don’t share share the lessons we learned for ourselves? I’m not afraid to share my own experiences, imperfections and all, if it means helping someone else in any way.

xx

Thank you for reading. Be sure to comment below if you have any additional thoughts, or have any posts to share.