Posts Tagged With: coping

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Two days before moved to London for the semester, I found out the guy I liked this summer had cheated on his girlfriend…with me. Not only that, but I found out from said girlfriend.

I found out I was the “other woman” in someone’s relationship. Then I flew halfway across the world to London. I spent a week touring Europe with my dad, and the following week moving and settling into my new home. The week after that, classes started up and I had to prep.

In other words, had not processed anything. In fact, aforementioned boy called me the night before I left to “apologize”. And I accepted it – or I thought I did. I even went as far as THANKING him for the “good” parts of the summer, telling him we would be cool as soon as we got over it, and basically acting like the whole cheating situation hadn’t really happened.

Funny thing, though – it DID happen. And even if I pretended like it hadn’t hurt me too badly, it WAS a big deal and it was NOT okay like I said. Ask me how I know!

Last week, after my dad flew back to the US and I found myself on my own again, I immediately saw some scary habits creeping back. The scariest was the emotional eating, and all of the negative feelings that come along with it. That is to say, the guilt, the shame, the sadness…the horrible self-image, the hopelessness, the desire to purge…generally hating what I was doing, and hating myself, all at the same time.

I felt overwhelmed, and it all came crashing down on Saturday night. I finally, FINALLY broke down and just let myself process everything. I needed the chance to feel sad and betrayed and whatever else, instead of pushing it aside and ignoring the underlying emotions. But the worst part of even THIS was that, despite it all, what I mostly felt was disappointment – in him, in myself, in the situation, in general.

Feeling

My biggest issue was that I felt like I made great progress in my personal growth the last few months. Coming out of my last relationship, I felt I picked myself up quickly, channeled my energy into positive things like exercising and eating better, and worked so hard on treating myself right.

But this guy had NOT treated me right, and I let him. He played me for two months – strung me along, sent mixed signals, took advantage of my innocence and trusting nature, and used me to fill whatever void was in his life. Yet all I could think was that it was somehow my fault, that if I had only liked myself more then I wouldn’t have put up with his poor treatment, that I could have avoided this situation altogether.

HE was the manipulator, the cheater, the one who lied about everything from the very start – but I was putting the blame on MYSELF, and rapidly self-destructing. There are so many things wrong with that kind of logic, and it is such a dangerous line of thought. All it did was make me feel even worse than I already did, while simultaneously taking the blame away from where it should have been from the start – on HIM.

A few days ago, his girlfriend got in touch with me again. I told her my side of the story and we filled in some of the missing pieces of the timeline together. We’ve made our peace, which I genuinely appreciate. However, despite learning that he has STILL been lying all this time, even though she’s giving him a second chance that he does NOT deserve, she’s decided that she wants to stay with him.

It’s her life and her choice, I guess. But seeing another sweet, kind girl give in to someone like that pushed me over the edge. It is a month later, almost to the day, and I am FINALLY angry about it. Not annoyed, not sad, not in shock – truly and genuinely ANGRY! I haven’t felt like this in ages.

You see, I strive to be a good person. I want to be a positive piece in the lives of those around me. I try to not speak poorly of others (even if they hurt me), forgive quickly, and take the “high road”. But there’s this quote I saw, and it resonates deeply:

“Don’t light yourself on fire trying to brighten someone else’s existence.”

My goals of kindness, positivity, and forgiveness are noble aims, and they generally do help me keep focused and continually work on being a better person.

But my constant effort to let go, move on, and then welcome the damaging people and relationships back into my life were also attempts at fulfilling these goals. I thought I was showing that I was nice, healthy, and mature – and let me just say, that behavior is NONE of those things. In reality, I was hurting myself even MORE, just to make other people feel better.

Well guess what? I don’t owe those things to anyone, LEAST OF ALL the people who chip away at those better pieces of me. I am trying my best, but I am HUMAN. I am ALLOWED to feel hurt, and angry, and betrayed, and any other emotion on the spectrum that I experience. I am allowed to feel this way, to work through it on my own time and in my own way, and without obligation to anyone else.

Seriously, this guy was awful. He CHEATED on his girlfriend of a YEAR, put me in a position I would NEVER participate in knowingly, and painted me out to be some desperate little girl. He objectified me, sexualized me, DEHUMANIZED me. He made me question my self-worth, damaged my confidence, and set me back in my incredible goals and progress from the summer.

Progress Pic - September 2015

So NO. That is not fine, and not something I have to forgive. I will move on – clearly, I will not let someone break me, much less someone like THAT – but I think this time around, I will utilize this backbone of mine and not let this person back into my life.

Coming out of this terrible experience, I can genuinely say I learned a lot. More than anything, it opened my eyes to some of my subtler unhealthy habits – in all types of relationships, romantic or otherwise. It’s okay to support people; it’s NOT okay to NEVER put myself first. And it also showed me that although I made AMAZING physical progress these past few months, I still need to focus on my emotional and mental growth. I am a much stronger person than I was before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to get stronger.

The reason I’m sharing this, and in a way that’s perhaps less upbeat and cheerful than my usual posts, is because I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. We are constantly taught that anger and sadness are negative emotions we should avoid at all costs. They’re not worth it, we should just get over it, we are in charge of our own happiness…and so on and so forth. And a lot of that might be true – I mean, I much prefer having fun and being happy! BUT IT IS OKAY TO HAVE THESE BAD TIMES, TOO.

Sometimes when I’m going through something, I sit here and think things like, “Well, logically, I know I shouldn’t feel XYZ” or “GOD Ariel, it’s all in your head”. I’m not wrong, but I’m also actively devaluing my emotions and my experience. Even if it IS illogical or in our heads, not addressing it and bringing ourselves down is not the way to go. You don’t have to beat yourself up even MORE for feeling the way you do, and you also don’t have to explain or justify it.

A caveat – there’s a fine line between letting yourself process something, and letting yourself dwell even more on something. The important thing is to let yourself feel whatever you need to, and once you’ve done that, then it’s time to start doing what you need to do to move forward.

All of the above writing? That’s me venting, listening to angry Fall Out Boy, and working through the last bit of these emotions. Then I’m finishing my homework, going to bed, and getting up early for my morning workout. That guy is, in the words of Jean-Ralphio – the wooooorst.

This post was for ME, and also for YOU. Because WE are what matters MOST!

I really hope this helps someone, and I say this (literally) in every blog, but PLEASE feel free to talk to me. I’m over-sharing on the internet to hundreds of people (ha…ha…NICE!); you can over-share to me in my email or Facebook or Tumblr or in person! Seriously – the support you all give me is amazing, and I am ALWAYS happy to return the favor in any way I can.

Anyhow, that’s all for now. Positive London adventures and life updates are to come soon, I promise! Until then, keep being you, kick butt, and stay awesome!! #cliche Much love to you all!

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What Makes You Happy?

Hello everybody! Today, I have just one question to ask: what makes you happy?

Hopefully a lot of things and people and events pop into your mind. That is AWESOME, and I am genuinely glad for you. It should be that way! But I have a confession: I’ve often struggled to come up with ANY answer to that question, and I’ll bet others have the same difficulty.

To give a little context that I will surely elaborate on soon: I recently experienced some of the greatest months ever, but the good times came to a halt when reality finally hit. In other words, I dated a really awesome person for a regrettably short time, and now that relationship has unfortunately ended. I went from being the happiest I’ve been in a long while, to being incredibly sad and dismayed.

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Now, there is a lot of research out there on happiness, and I am by no means an expert. I’m not even a novice, really. That being said, the approach I’m using to move towards happiness and towards becoming the better person that I truly want to be – it fit under advice given by researchers. Not too shabby, huh?

Important above all else is the intention to be happy. According to a variety of research, that alone is an important first step towards feeling and being happier. For me, even amidst all the self-generated angst and all the negative thoughts – I knew that I didn’t want to feel that way. I wanted to feel better; and I must say, that underlying desire has pulled me through some of the toughest times I’ve experienced.

In fact, intent and intentional actions seem to be the best way to find that happiness we’re constantly searching for. It’s waking up and telling yourself that today is great. It’s thinking about the things for which you are grateful. It’s getting excited about the plans you have. It’s scheduling in time with people and activities that energize you in positive ways. It’s taking a moment to enjoy the little everyday things that we experience.

Basically, it’s every good thought you have – and finding ways to fill your day with more positive thoughts like those than anything else.

If you’re anything like me, however, getting into that frame of mind is incredibly difficult, especially when you’re feeling like you’re at your lowest low. So, the pieces of advice I want to leave you with today are the following:

  1. Find the things that make you happy WHILE you’re feeling that way. Not only does this feed into the idea of gratitude and learning to enjoy the moment, but it also helps you when you hit another rough patch. One of the problems I encountered post-breakup was trying to distinguish what exactly made those times so wonderful. It was easy to latch on to the idea of “I was happy because I was with him” and harder to realize that the reason might actually be closer to “I was happy because I felt cared for and I made someone else feel happy, too.” I’d say write it down, because I’m a list person and having a “What Makes You Happy” list has become clutch in my life, but I know that for some people, words just aren’t their cup of tea. So, whether you write it down or not, just do something to acknowledge what you are feeling and WHY you feel that way.
  2. Find things that make you happy ANYWAYS. Like I said, I was already sad when I started trying to discern “how to be happy” again. Even though I took a super logical approach and didn’t feel all that enthusiastic about it, I sat down, busted out my trusty bullet journal (it’s so cool, I love it), and started doing what I do best – writing and making lists. I now have a What Makes You Happy page (petting dogs, talking to people I love, working out…), a Laughter List of things I know make me smile (Arrested Development, YouTube videos…), and even a list of Who You Gonna Call where I wrote down names of people I love and know I can talk to no matter what (my RAs, my roommates, close friends…). Any time I find myself laughing or doing something that makes me feel good, I go add to my lists. I can’t avoid every kind of sadness – because life is going to be filled with ups and downs no matter WHO you are – but I trust that having these on hand will help me feel better and happier much faster.

Patrick Stump Love

Again, I’m no expert here. But I can tell you that I want to lead a happy and healthy life, and to do that will take constant effort. Until we can internalize the positive behaviors and make optimism a natural state, it will be a tough road. And even if and when we get to that point, life is not always going to be easy.

Regardless, I 100% believe you can find happiness in yourself and in those around you! Whether it’s a fleeting moment, or you’re having the best months of your life – take a minute to acknowledge that joy, be thankful for it, and remember why you felt the way you did.

That way, next time someone asks you what makes you happy – you’ll have plenty of answers to give. 🙂

I’m linking below to some fantastic articles that explain in more depth and clarity the ways in which you can actively engage in choosing your own happiness. Sending good vibes your way!!

Scientifically Train Your Mind to Be Happy

The 8 Things The Happiest People Do Every Day

How to Increase Happiness & Meaning in Life

Practice Happiness (former blog post!)

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Journal Journeys

At the start of the new year, I went out and bought this little bugger:

IMG_1768I’m a sucker for cutesy things, dogs, and inspiring quotes – and this has all three. Seriously, look at how cute the dog is!

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But I digress. The main reason for buying this cute and cost-effective journal, and the focus of this post, is journaling.

There are a lot of reasons to start journaling, and a lot of different types of journals you can create. Maybe in the future I’ll pursue one of those, but right now, the current goal is consistency.

For some context, I attempted journaling in the past. I started this blog as essentially a public journal, and I also wrote a lot of shorter personal journal entries when I was volunteering in Peru, as well as when I started experiencing irregular anxiety over the summer.

Those are all good reasons, and perfectly fine behaviors. They were helpful at the time, and I especially like going back to read about my more positive experiences. But I am here to talk about casual and consistent journaling, because in the short few months I’ve been doing it, it has been a great experience.

WHAT & WHY

This article was my main blueprint, and I highly recommend it. It provides some good details on different reasons for journaling, as well as different platforms – notebook, blog, phone apps, etc. For my purposes, I went with the traditional physical notebook, and I don’t have any regrets.

What I like best about this journal so far is that I can actually trace my emotions, and better understand my experiences. For example, my very first entry was about two weeks after my dog died. I was still missing him a lot, so I sat down, pulled out this journal, and finally wrote about everything.

After that, more entries ensued about normal life things. What exercises I was doing, homework due dates, stuff I did with my friends. And then, randomly one week, I suddenly felt overwhelmed between class and friends and body image, and all sorts of things really. So I sat and wrote about my thoughts, and I realized I had looped back to a lot of the underlying sadness about my dog that I still hadn’t addressed.

The thing about writing solely in times of crises, from what I’ve gathered, is that it is a lot harder to trace your actions and behaviors in a broader context. Having a journal of only your struggles and severely negative times makes it harder to see the ways you overcame it all. The action of writing your thoughts and feelings is pretty cathartic and can help you get a handle and a better perspective of what is going on in your life, but it also makes the focus on these struggles – versus all the good things that happen in between. Keeping a regular journal helps see the bigger picture.

WHEN & HOW

Now, I am definitely not proposing writing in a journal every night for an extended period of time (though that would be quite a cool thing to look back on)! Life is busy, regardless of your circumstances, and journaling can quickly become a chore – and that isn’t the point of it at all.

A lot of my reluctance to starting this was because I didn’t want to get bogged down in staying up late to spend a bunch of time reflecting on my day. Then I realized that it is my journal, for my own personal use and development, and I could do whatever I wanted. So I started writing two or three times a week for about 20 minutes – enough to do at least a page – right before I went to bed. It was an easy way to take a moment for myself and relax, for starters, something I’m definitely working on.

Chill

It was also fun, and I didn’t have that usual “ALL OR NOTHING” mentality about it, or the super perfectionist tendencies about writing in it. If I had to leave one major take-away, it would be this: do whatever you want with it, whenever you want with it – but just do something.

While I’m here trying to convince you to write about your life, if that isn’t your style – please just find a way to give yourself some “me time” to reflect. People, school, and life in general throw a lot at us everyday, and it’s easy to let those external forces rule our thoughts and behaviors. Taking a little time to get centered is not a bad thing.

Until next time…!

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Life Update(s)

The last time I wrote a post was MONTHS ago, and I apologize. It was a rough time to say the least. But I’m back from a relaxing spring break that gave me time to refocus and think, and I realized that I definitely want to keep this blog going. So, this post is a general life update on the major things that lead up to this point, and it will also set up a pattern from here on out!

Here we go…

I stressed myself out A LOT last semester. It was the first time I took an upper-level economics class, and I let the courses intimidate me. My GPA took a hit, which caused more stress, and my confidence as a whole went down. All of that, combined with being off campus, led to a decrease in exercise (“I’m too busy!”) and an increase in stress eating. I didn’t feel great AT ALL, but I kept up with my bi-weekly counseling sessions up until the semester ended.

I survived though, and the world did not end with a few bad grades and a few good grades to balance them out. Overall, I enjoyed being home for winter break. It was good to be with the family again! My eating still wasn’t so great, but I exercised more, played with my dogs, went out with my friends, and it was nice.

Sadly, the week before classes began, my dog of 12 years passed away. Lex was a good boy, and we all miss him a lot. I still feel upset when I think about him, but I have a lot of happy memories of him that I look to when I start feeling down. Lots of love for that dear dog.

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Look at that smile! Plus one of many forced selfies I made him take…

Later that week I got a tattoo. My grief over Lex was the impetus, but I had wanted one for awhile. I just realized that time wasn’t stopping – so what was I waiting for? I went down to the tattoo shop, talked to the artist about my ideas, and he came up with a killer design. It took 2 hours and it hurt like HECK. The ribs were the worst, and I couldn’t sleep on my side for month!! But it was worth it.

There’s some symbolism to it all, and I have zero regrets about it. In a way, I’m glad that I went on my own – I saved myself the embarrassment of people seeing me cry, but it was also an experience that is uniquely my own. The tattoo is not fully complete – I will be getting color done later on down the line – but it’s the real deal.

Since then, we’ve started a new semester and things have still been somewhat rocky. I participated in a test group for a program called “The Body Project” hosted by Rice’s Wellbeing Office. I am really grateful that I got to meet other people who were working through similar body image issues. It was helpful to have an open place to talk about what we were going through, as well as have other people offer their perspectives and advice.

I’ve also been trying to preempt my stress before it gets out of hand. I went to the Wellbeing Office to talk about my worries and problems before I reached a point of distress – where it started impeding on my daily activities. It’s another resource specific to the Rice campus that I recommend, but I’ll talk more in-depth later.

To sum it all up: I feel like I am in a better place than I was last semester, or even a week ago before spring break. I am ready to finish out the semester in a strong and positive way. Current goals include staying on top of my school work, gaining control over my emotional eating, finding ways to relax, and working on other “healthy” habits (this blog being one of them).

I hope you all are doing well! I’m sending lots of good vibes your way. And as always, I am here if you want to talk about anything!

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