Like father, like daughter

This past weekend by birthfather and stepmother came to spend some quality time with my husband and I. I’m very close with the both of them, so I was quite excited to see them after two years finally. When my father and I had some alone time, he tried to pry me open as is tradition. He thinks that I don’t open up to him as much as I should when in reality he’s one of the few that I run to when I need help. He takes my lack of conversation to heart, so I am very blunt whenever we have these talks to show him that I’m never afraid to open up to him.

 

Back in November, we had a minor spat over an issue, and my solution was to back off to cool down for a few days. I’m lucky that he understands that I need this, but I also have to be sensitive to the fact that he does not appreciate it. He would rather open the wound fully to bleed out than patch it. I don’t blame him but whenever I get overwhelmed it seems like the most viable solution for me. He asked me if I was OK at this moment, and I was happy to state that I was. However, the tears started to flow as I put myself back in my situation in November: how overly stressed I was at work, how my husband’s schedule didn’t align with mine and the financial hiccups that I had to endure.

I apologized to him as the tears continued, I reminded him that I couldn’t stop them sometimes and to know that I am happy at this moment.

“I know – I suffer from the same thing, too.”

Those words have been echoing in my head. I’ve gotten nothing but encouragement from them since I’ve started this blog but hearing that validation almost turned those tears into a full-on waterslide. There have been tiny moments since our reunion that truly made me feel as if I were a part of this family and I can add another one to this list. I had a family member that UNDERSTOOD why I was crying. I got up from my chair and buried my head into the neck of my dad’s – I continued to gently cry as he whispered in my ear “It’s OK, it’s all OK.”

He has no idea how long I’ve waited for a father to say this to me

I pulled away and wiped my tears, thanked him for bringing me down and continued our conversation. No more tears fell, and my anxious flashback seemed like it happened hours ago. Even though it was a short visit, we had much other heart-to-heart’s and of course some sneaking father advice. It’s reassuring to know that the way I feel comes from my father and it makes me calm knowing that I’m not alone.Happy Personality with Heavy Soul

Where do I put my hands?

A little over a year ago, a friend of the family came to me with some advice knowing that I was struggling. Automatically, my guard went up. I started to become defensive about the situation and chose to ignore what she was saying. I politely asked her to leave my house, and without hesitation, she agreed. When she left, I went straight to my husband asking what her intentions were and all he said was “Andrea, she was just trying to help, can’t you see that?” When I looked back on the exact words that she said, her demeanor and how she approached me with caution I felt sick to my stomach. She was utterly genuine, and I was an ass by choosing to deflect as I’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

no idea how to respond

I apologized the next day profusely to her and thanked her for being concerned. I couldn’t believe that after years of therapy that I was still struggling to put my guard down. One of the techniques used in CBT Therapy is to catch yourself in an automatic thought before you react to it. I was upset at myself up over not being able to do it in this instance. I know that it’s only normal and it will most likely happen again, so, I try not to let it affect me as much as usual (easier said than done!)

Do you ever find yourself confused over a compliment, too? I do when it comes to something personal. Take for example this blog, one of my aunts came up to me recently and told me that my mother would have been proud of me for starting this. I stood there in a daze. With a little whisper I managed to say “Thank You” and my cheeks flustered. When you always talk yourself down as I do, it’s hard to know how to respond to positivity.

Akward when someone compliments me

When I thought about it more that night, I wish I could have said more to my aunt; to thank her for thinking of my mother, the kind words and how I too think she would have been proud. (Seriously, thank you, Susan)

My anxiety will never entirely go away, and I’ve come to accept that over the years. I do wish that I was a little better at receiving help or getting a compliment, though. I can only hope that over time it will get better, but in the meantime, I feel like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights.

 

I’m Tired

Whenever someone asks how I am my usual response is “I’m tired.”

This tiredness isn’t because of a long day at work, or not getting enough sleep at night (although sometimes it does add to it). It’s usually from the constant battle of anxiety that pulsates through my head telling me not to speak up because I will annoy those surrounding me.

Some days I can fight that voice, but often than not it’s hard to find the strength to ignore it. I want to word vomit how I am feeling

I’m burnt out; life is overwhelming right now, I’m mentally exhausted.

But my anxiety will send my mind spinning telling me that no one will understand, so I resort to the short version of “I’m tired.” I can be in the same room as people that I’ve known for years, whom I trust dearly, but I won’t over divulge.

It’s exhausting having that voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m weak, that I shouldn’t expect much and nitpick away at everything that I do. It makes me feel less of a person, and I think everyone can see it. It makes it easy for me to cancel my plans because the thought of being around people would be too much to handle on top of this.

I refuse to let my anxiety control my life any more than it has. Even though my mind rushes at a mile a minute the moment I wake up: I still get out of bed, I still prepare for my day, and I still go to work. All I want to do is go back under my warm blanket with my husband. (I can make a living like this, right??)

I push through the discomfort of my day so that I can turn my dark thoughts into positive ones. I ignore my thought of “everyone is judging you” and force myself to be productive. Always trying to be one step ahead is tiresome. I feel like I’m constantly trying to get out of my comfort zone and never feel truly relaxed. Yet, I try. I try so hard and put in so much effort.

The days when I do find the courage and strength to speak my mind amaze me – how can I be so brave when other days I let it consume me? These are the days that I realize people with anxiety are the strongest because we never have a minute of peace. I’ve been called “Strong” before, but I don’t feel it, I have a tattoo as a reminder.

Ani Hazika
Hebrew for “I’m Strong”

The next time someone says “I’m tired” try to understand that they might be struggling with something deeper. Maybe they need words of encouragement, a shovel to dig them out of a situation or just a simple hug saying “It’s OK to be tired.”

Loving yourself after a toxic relationship

Toxic relationships have always hit close to home for me. I grew up in a loving household, but once my adoptive mother passed away, the tune changed. For the eight years that followed afterward, I noticed my old self-starting to fade away; I was becoming a shell of a person that I once knew. I decided to take action and leave that atmosphere once I was of age. However, I felt lost. Instead of figuring out how to love myself again I jumped into a serious relationship thinking that would solve the problem.

It was a whirlwind of infatuation, and I was drunk. When the honeymoon stage started to fade, the toxicity started to creep up. I kept telling myself that no relationship is perfect, but the fighting and masking kept happening. Everyone who shared moments in our lives was none the wiser; this mostly happened between closed doors. My partner manipulated me into thinking that I was unhinged and I started to question my sanity. I was the one who was getting hurt yet he made me believe it was my fault.

I was there for him; I supported him. I was good to him.

When he brought up the conversation of parting ways (third time in over five years), I accepted. I felt drained, and I couldn’t keep apologizing for moments that were not my fault.
If this sounds familiar to you, I want you to take a step back. Are you making this person a priority when you’re not one? I didn’t realize how toxic our relationship was until after the fact.

I became depressed. I stopped eating. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

After a couple of weeks of wallowing, I knew that I had to do something about it – I couldn’t rely on someone else for my happiness. The only issue was how was I going to learn to love myself after being berated for so long?

  • Surround yourself with Love
    Support systems are different across all boards but make sure that you engage with those who are there for you in good or bad times. I surrounded myself with my closest friends whom I’m happy to call family. They kept offering their support and reminded me that things would be OK. I started to listen to them more even though I didn’t believe them at the time. I know they had my best interest at heart
  • Keep Busy
    I found that staying home under a blanket wasn’t doing me any good, so I decided to work extra hours at my retail position, and I stayed back from several classes to engage with other students. I didn’t want to do this, but I forced myself too. I was still exhausted from everything that happened, but I pushed through. (I got a promotion at work shortly afterward!)
  • Be Positive
    Yeah, OK Andrea easier said than done.
    TRUST ME, I KNOW. I’ve always struggled with being a positive person since negativity always surrounded me. It’s so easy to feel that you will never find love in yourself or others but you need to know that this is not true. Create a mantra for yourself: “Everything will be OK – You are where you need to be” I know it sounds corny but saying it to yourself every day does help.
  • Make ‘me’ time
    I’m not saying to be positive all the time here, that’s not possible. You will cry, you will hurt – and that’s NORMAL. We’re all human, and there’s no shame in having low points. If you need to stay home, eat a pint of ice cream while watching Grey’s Anatomy – DO IT. I cannot stress this enough. Making time for yourself is a major part of healing!
  • Define your self-love
    Everyone’s definition of self-love is different; mine is to be comfortable in my skin & not apologize for my personality. Yours will most likely be different, and that’s OK because it’s for yourself. You need to understand what works and what doesn’t so you can stand up for what you believe. A great way to start this process is by making a list: What are your best attributes?

Happy with yourself
None of this will work if you continue to hold onto the past. Don’t feel like you can jump into this, either. I’m still navigating on my route of self-love, but I can thank my change in atmosphere. Leaving all of that behind really did make my transition to being happier easier.

If you’re unsure about toxicity – please read my post “It’s not you; it’s them” 

Unforgettable Tragedy

Toronto has experienced a tragedy. Yesterday, a man decided to drive up on a sidewalk and hit walking pedestrians who were going about their everyday life. My heart aches for the families who were affected by this senseless attack. This type of distress can cause shock to anyone surrounding the area, and I wanted to write up this emergency post for people who need to reach out.

First and foremost, I want to reiterate that it’s normal to feel scared after something like this hits close to home. Do not avoid these feelings. Anxiety can easily overwhelm most people – do not feel defeated if you feel this way. It’s very important to talk about how you feel with someone even if you weren’t directly related to it. It’s so easy for us to close up when tragedy strikes but I urge you to reach out to a professional if you think you cannot cope with it on your own.

Toronto never ceases to amaze me, the outpour of support is almost palpable, and I want to make sure all of this information is available:

  • If you live in the area and are displaced you can head over to Mitchell Field Community Centre where emergency social services and accommodations are being offered.
  • If you are under the age of 29, What’s Up Walk-In is offering free counseling sessions with no appointment needed
  • Distress Centre Ottawa is also offering support for Residents who might be out of town: 613-238-3311
  • Morneau Shepell has opened up a national crisis support line at 1-844-751-2133

The following helplines are also available:
Toronto Distress Centre: 416-408-4357

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

Gerstein Centre: 416-929-5200

Victim Services Toronto: 416-808-7066

The PARO 24 Hour Helpline: 1-866-435-7362

LGBT Youth Line: 1-800-268-9688

31290644_10156431763619429_5357113412675436544_n

Pushing through

Back in February my Mother-in-Law notified me about a short story contest that The Star was holding. She likes to cut out articles for my husband and I whenever something catches her eye – I think it’s adorable. When she handed me the small advertisement, I checked the deadline and realized I only had two weeks to submit something. Cue my anxious thoughts:

You don’t have any ideas on what to write about, you won’t get it done on time, and nothing you write is good enough

I sat in front of my computer for a good couple of hours letting these thoughts wash over me, and I was slowly starting to agree with all of them. Acknowledging this fact, I knew that I had to do something about it.

What’s the worst that can happen? I don’t win? At least I can say I TRIED

So, the next day I started to form a character in my head. I kept a notepad close by to jot down a couple of notes and by the end of the day I had a solid story – in my eyes, at least. The turnaround time took roughly a week to complete, and I was quite proud of how quickly I was able to bang it out. I circulated it throughout my office to gain some feedback, and I got nothing but praise. My spirits were elevated, but that didn’t mean my anxiety wasn’t knocking on my back door.

Since I was cutting close to the deadline, the plan was to drive to their head office and drop it off personally. My ears were throbbing with my heartbeat the entire ride down. I lost grip once on my steering wheel from the excessive sweat exuding from my palms. I missed my turn and had to circle the office at least twice before landing a parking spot two blocks down. Once I turned my car off, I just sat in silence for two minutes. My breath was rigid, and I needed to calm myself down.

You’re only dropping off your story, Andrea. A decision won’t happen for over a month. You’ll be OK.

Once I was calm, I entered the lobby of and placed my entry in the provided box. It was officially too late to back out. I walked out of that building with a little more confidence. Weeks went by, and the official date of being notified came and went – I was not selected.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t overly upset about it. I was happier with the fact that I gained the confidence to push through my anxiety and draft up a short story. I hope this new found confidence can help me push through other anxious scenarios!

Click here to read The Lottery

Verdict: INFJ

Roughly five years ago my then supervisor sent an e-mail to our team with an MBTI test. For those of you who are not aware, MBTI is Myers-Briggs. It was defined by a mother-daughter team based off of Carl Jung’s theory that humans experience the world with four functions: sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking.
I was always fascinated with these types of tests, so I dove right into the questionnaire. After answering all of my answers honestly, I was given four letters: INFJ

I = Introversion (preferred to extraversion)

N = Intuition (preferred to sensing)

F = Feeling (preferred to thinking)

J = Judging (preferred to perception)

A lot of my co-workers came back with EXXX types of personalities but I was quite similar to my supervisor, and that made me quite thankful to know I wasn’t the only introvert in the office. The test came with a comprehensive assessment, and I was blown away by it all. I felt as if I was being described perfectly about how I handle situations.

So what does it mean being an INFJ? I can get exhausted and overstimulated from social interactions and prefer interacting with a handful of people or alone with a book. I am very open-minded, imaginative and curious which can be an asset when looking at the bigger picture. I am sensitive and have a lot of empathy which makes my competitive nature almost non-existent. I have no spontaneity whatsoever – I prefer predictability, structure and am quite organized. Some negatives include; being self-conscious and sensitivity to stress. I experience a wide range of emotions and call myself a “Monica” because of my perfectionistic drive.

I was hooked, this test gave me so much clarity! When I got home later that evening, I tried to soak up as much information as I could. If this summary was completely on point, there must be MORE information that I can gather to make sense of myself.

Guess what? Anxiety ties into INFJ just like PB&J – for years I was led to believe that my personality was “wrong” and always had self-doubt creeping in the back of my mind. Now that I was down a path to learn more about my perception I started to love myself in whole other light. All of those negative opinions of me being “too emotional,” “a loner,” “not trying” seemed to wash over me. If Mother Teresa was an INFJ, it can’t be all that bad!badass