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

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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

Social Media Disorder

As I was driving back home from work this week, I turned on a local station (102.1 The Edge) and listened to one of my favorite ‘jockeys’ Fearless Fred. He brought up an interesting and important subject, Social Media Disorder. People were responding to his news via text and phone; a woman caught my attention when she called in crying saying “I didn’t leave my house for a week binge watching Netflix” – She needed to be ‘in the know’ for fear of missing out.

My heartstrings pulled at her; I knew what she meant. I’ve been in a similar situation, but it never got that dire. As I look around at our society today, I notice a lot more people being ‘married’ to their devices: updates are shared numerous times a day, that perfect Instagram photo takes hours to capture, and our social interactions with one another have become limited.

For several years I’ve been trying to unhinge myself from my devices. This started a day before my wedding when I shut off my phone completely when I went on my 10-day honeymoon with my husband and more recently whenever I notice that I jump from three Apps for over an hour. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to stay away from my devices, but, over time I realized that it was healthy to do this. I would get stressed out when I couldn’t check my notifications – why? What’s so important that I need to be validated online?

Think you might be affected? some of the most common symptoms of social media disorder are:

  • Interrupting conversations to check your social media accounts
  • Lying to others about how much time you spend on social media
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Trying to stop or reduce your use of social media more than once before without being successful
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Neglecting work or school to comment on Facebook or Twitter accounts
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are not able to access social media
  • Spending over six hours per day on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  • An overwhelming need to share things with others on social media sites
  • Having your phone with you 24 hours a day to check your social media sites
  • Using social media more often than you planned
  • Severe nervousness or anxiety when you are not able to check your notifications
  • Negative impacts on your personal or professional life due to social media usage

If you feel that you’re obsessed or addicted to Social Media, you’re not alone. Social Media Disorder affects over 30% of the population and I’m sure that number gets higher each day. If you are having trouble going out to enjoy your true life, not your social media life, please reach out. We’ll find someone who can help

Case of the Mondays

It’s not even 9 am and I’m already having a case of the Mondays.

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Last night before I was heading to bed my husband went into a slight panic attack. Nothing to worry about – I was able to calm him down from a ten to a six within minutes. The only downside to this issue is that I’m an empath.

What the heck is an empath, Andrea?!
So glad you asked! Being an empath means that you can feel others’ energies. The number one trait of an empath is to feel/sense their emotions whether it be physical, spiritual, etc. In layman’s terms – you are an emotional sponge. Being able to process other people’s feelings and energies means that I can sometimes take on what their feeling: sad, anger or in this case, anxiety.

While I was quite eager to help calm down my husband I knew there would be a possibility of his anxiety rubbing off on me, and boy did it hit me hard. I wasn’t able to fully calm myself down until 3 am this morning, and even then I was in and out of sleep till my alarm went off at 7 am.
Fatigue is a big symptom associated with empaths, and I’ve grown quite accustomed to it at this point.

I still pushed on with my morning.
I scheduled an oil change for 8 am and what is a 45-minute appointment (usually) will now turn into a longer wait due to customer backlog. What’s the point of making an appointment? SIGH More people are showing up in the lobby – even though I am in the corner writing this up, I can still touch on the majority of the emotions in this room: tiredness (PREACH) and annoyance.

Being an empath can be a blessing and a curse – I’ll delve more into this later. Due to my environment today I’m letting it affect me more negatively. So, I’m having a case of the Mondays.

Think you might be an empath? Take this quiz to find out:
http://www.tarameyerrobson.com/empath-test/