One of the hardest things that I’ve ever done was loving myself again after many narcissist relationships. It wasn’t an easy feat either; I had no memo, no guidelines, no one to ask where to start. There was one thing that I did know, that I couldn’t move forward in life without starting somewhere.

My first step was getting a new apartment, all by myself. I never lived on my own before, and I was petrified. I was fresh out of a failed relationship which I should have left years ago, and every night I succumbed to crying nightly, feeling sorry for myself. I knew if I continued on this path that I would go back to the same old Andrea, and to completely heal myself from this I had to start fresh and become the person that I so longed to be.

I spent many nights trying to figure out what I wanted, and it was gut-wrenching & hard but precisely what I needed. I came face to face with my failures over again and the heartaches that crept in deep within. I was starting to be honest with myself for the first time in years, and there were truths that I had buried that finally came forth. I had no idea that healing myself meant going through every emotion that I tried to hide because I wasn’t comfortable with it. Once I started to accept everything that happened to me – every decision that I ever made – I began to live my life finally.

I know how hard it is to work on yourself, I’ve been there, and I’m still learning.

What I would love to give to you is at least some guidelines on how to start down this path so you can try your hardest to be the person you WANT to be.

  1. Stop worrying so much what others think or say about you. Remember, this is YOUR life – you are not living for others. Also, fuck Gossip: a negative mind will never give you a positive life.
  2. No matter how hard you try – you can’t be right all the time. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can move forward.
  3. There is no such thing as “Perfect,” especially when it comes to our bodies. Accept your flaws and try to learn how to love your body – Do not accept the marketing lies as your standard.
  4. Whatever happened in the past is where it will stay, you cannot change it and wasting your time thinking/stressing over it will not help in the slightest. Also don’t stress over the “What-ifs,” just because it could have been different doesn’t mean it would have been better.
  5. Don’t regret what has happened. Learn to accept that what you did was YOUR decision and take accountability for it.
  6. Set boundaries with those who surround you, you’ll quickly find those toxic people that you need to remove from your life and PLEASE do so.
  7. Don’t be afraid to fail, this is all apart of your learning process, and everyone goes through this at some point or another. Pick yourself up and “just keep swimming!”.
  8. There will always be people who will have “more” than what you do. A better job, house, etc. Don’t let this be intimidating to you – appreciate and take care of what you DO have. Don’t care about material possessions so much; it doesn’t guarantee happiness – building a memorable life does.
  9. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to satisfy everyone out there so stop putting all of your energy into those who don’t understand you.
  10. OWN it. Embrace your weird & flaws, show the world that you’re not afraid to be yourself. You will find your tribe and support system when you start to glow

The end of November is upon us, and I’d like to bring up a topic that is still considered taboo: Men and Mental Illness.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve noticed a trend in more people talking about Mental Illness. Instead of being elated at the fact that we’re breaking social norms, it’s come to my attention that all of these posts have a photo of a woman. With this over-saturation, it makes me wonder how we’re addressing the male perspective of mental illness.

When I look back on my upbringing and the primary gender roles that I’ve experienced, whenever I think of “Man” I immediately think: tough & emotionless. All of the males in my family rarely talked about their feelings and the phrase “man up” was tossed around a lot. Don’t cry, don’t show weakness, don’t be less of a person. Somehow, we’ve skewed the vision of vulnerability as weak, and the fear that subsides within us is too tangible even to admit.

Mental illness is not something that one can sweep under the rug, and it’s imperative that males speak up about it. I understand the fear that is associated with it, especially when it comes to bringing this topic up with your immediate family. “Get over it” still echoes in the back of my head whenever I run into an anxious thought or a depressive state. However, over the years, I’ve grown stronger. I’ve accepted what I’m going through and I own it by discussing it more freely with those who support me.

Everyone’s situation is different, but the fact of the matter is – you’re not alone. Someone else is struggling, too. It’s OK to cry; It’s OK to be vulnerable – you’re NOT less of a person. We’re all trying to live our best lives and some days are going to be harder than others. If someone asks if you’re OK, be honest and say “No” even if you do not want to divulge in its entirety what’s going on. Even though mental illness is considered invisible, it does not discriminate.

20 years ago I lost my mother to a long battle of cancer. From the age of three to eleven I had to understand what exactly was happening to her and didn’t fully grasp it until I saw an episode of Charlie Brown called “Why, Charlie Brown, Why?”.why charlie brown why

When I approached my mother after the show tears welled up as I asked “do you have cancer?” the room fell silent as she nodded yes. I tried my best to be hopeful, knowing that within the episode the character survived her cancer. My mother beat it once; there was no reason for me to believe it couldn’t happen again.

Not long afterward she passed away. I remember being angry for the longest time – I didn’t know how to access my emotions properly and became reclusive as the depression sank in. I felt so incredibly alone even though I lived with my adoptive father. We never had the best relationship, and we handled our grief entirely differently. He went through the five stages of grief within a year whereas I was stuck in the fourth stage, depression, for too long. It probably didn’t help that I had other stressors in life and I would always think that if only she would still be here, things would have gone differently.

Recently I read “The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck,” and a chapter on grief hit me hard. How I reacted to my mother’s death was my own choice.

Pain of one sort or another is inevitable for all of us, but we get to choose what it means to and for us.

It was my choice to wallow in my grief, and I know now that it wasn’t healthy for me. I didn’t choose how my life unfolded, but I was capable of choosing HOW to live with it. It took a long time to accept that my mother wouldn’t physically be around anymore. I would always think about my life adventures that she would miss out on – graduations, marriage, kids, etc. Sometimes I would have to stay home from work on this date just to make sure I wouldn’t show my “ugly cry” to others.

20 years later and this date still brings a tear to my eye. I don’t think my sadness will ever entirely go away, but I can make a choice – to celebrate the woman that she was and all of the positive influences that she brought to me. Her unconditional love made my heart full, and I cannot wait to share that once I have kids.

In the past couple of months, I inherited some pieces of vinyl from my Aunt that belonged to my mother. She signed the cover of her Beatles and Supremes LP’s, and I’m so thankful to call them a part of my collection. As well, My husband came home with Candy Buttons during Christmas. I was elated to tell him that it was my mother’s favorite. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion, and I know today is that day.IMG_3160

I will be spending the remainder of the day unplugged from social media and just focusing on how much my mother meant to me.

If you have any wonderful memories of Reesa Stein, please leave them in the comments