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

My husband and I got back from an exciting and much-needed vacation. We ended up going to one of our favourite countries, Mexico and ended up staying one week in an all-inclusive. Usually, when I go away, I try to limit my phone use, since I rarely have my husband all to myself I try to bask in each moment. Since I’m also a freelancer, I know that I do need to check my professional e-mails for potential clients – I will log in each morning, but no longer than half an hour. The rest of the day I lock it away and spend quality time with my husband.

As we walked around our resort, I was astonished to see that the majority of vacationers were glued to their phones. People who are trying to get away and spend time with their loved ones are doing the exact opposite. Reading articles, listening to music, even face timing someone back home was amongst the things that I observed. I also witnessed one woman grab her caseless IPad into the party pool to snap a picture. (I kept thinking in my head, why not enjoy the moment?) I can understand that it might be tough to put down your phone, but I never felt that we as a society were THAT addicted to them! Unfortunately, this vacation just proved that we are.

I notice when I limit my phone usage, I’m less anxious. I’m not worrying about the perfect instragramable photo, the witty Facebook post or liking that political tweet. I know that I need this break in my life so that I can recharge and live in the moment. I’m glad that I did, I was more sociable with my husband, and we met another incredible couple from Ireland (Gemma, we’ll be there I promise!)

I think a lot more people would be happier and less stressed if they put their phone down. Look up and notice what’s happening around you. I urge you all to try – especially on vacation when you want to soak in all of those moments with your loved ones.

It seems I cannot turn on the TV without seeing another brave soul come forward with her sexual assault or harassment story. It’s disheartening, depressing and unfortunate that females are STILL put in a position of not being believed by others. It seems impossible for men these days to wrap their heads around the issue. However, I am happy to say I’ve had several of my male friends come up to me asking how they can better themselves and the situation.

Even though I’m not brave enough to come forward with my specific memories (+ details), I would like to relay a story of my ex and I so other males can understand the toxicity of certain situations and why we do not feel safe coming forward to report you.

I hate being tickled.

I have relayed this to every boyfriend that I’ve ever had, but for some reason, my Ex didn’t listen or care. I kept laughing whenever I was being tickled, that was his indication that I was enjoying it. Even though, through my rasped breaths, I would vocalize “Stop!” “No!”
I would reiterate, after each time, that I do not like it and wish he would stop.
The tickling continued as did our relationship, and my aggression started to come out more. My body went into full fight mode at each attempt, and the kicking started.

The first time I kicked him, it was his face. I got him square in the jaw, and my body immediately froze. He stopped what he was doing, almost in shock that I would kick him. I profusely apologized for kicking him, but his response was to punch me in the thigh instead. He walked out of the room as if he were disgusted with me, leaving me with feelings of guilt, embarrassment and my thoughts:

But you DO Enjoy it if you laugh, right?
He had every reason to punch me since I kicked him, so we’re even?
What can I do to make the situation better for him?

I never came forward about that punch because he taught me that this was all my fault. Why would I open up to someone about my stupidity at this situation? Especially if I DID enjoy it. It’s MY fault, and no one would believe me otherwise. I endured tickling for several years, even though I knew deep down how much I despised it. I would cry, at times, not at the excessive laughing, but at the fact that I felt powerless in this situation.

Laughter is a response to tickling, but if the stimulus is unwanted, then it completely changes the context.

He never could stop, he never would WANT to, either. It was all about him, and how he felt and if I did not play to his rules then he would make me feel like shit. He was an expert at twisting things around and making me feel guilty – I’m SO incredibly thankful that I’m no longer in that situation but imagine how other women feel in worse cases than mine.

I made a pact with myself never to let that happen again. I knew that I had to communicate boundaries and consent with my partner – I told my husband immediately never to tickle me, and after seven years of being together, I can honestly count on one hand how many “tickle fights” we had (because we’ve set boundaries). There are days when I joke around with my husband, and I’ll tickle him to get his attention – but when he tells me to stop, I do. I do not make him feel guilty or tell him how he feels.

My one piece of advice that I can offer is listening & understanding what your partner/friend is telling you. Repeat it back if you don’t understand so that they can give more clarity. The male mind needs a radical switch, and it’s time to make the change.

For the longest time, people mention that I take things too personally or that I’m too sensitive. Hearing it for years and from different groups of people, I started to look in on myself and ask: is there something more to this?

Last year I decided to research this aspect of my personality as I started to believe that there was more to me just being “emotionally sensitive.”
On top of being emotional, I know I get easily overstimulated by
a) Noises (One Example: When my husband sharpens the knives I cannot be in the same room)
b) Lights (One Example: Some concerts I have to lower my head to withdraw from the strobes)
c) Smells (One Example: Old Spice triggers me)
d) People (One Example: Feeling others emotions all too well)

All signs were leading to me being a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP for short). I couldn’t believe it! When I was a kid all of my peers called me “shy” or “quiet,” but I was mislabeled. Since I was highly sensitive, I often felt overwhelmed in most aspects of my life that would make me clam up and withdraw from others. Especially when people subject emotions around me on a daily basis. Through being highly sensitive, I’m more susceptible to anxiety through this absorption.

MIND. BLOWN.

It also affects the way that I think, since I have a more creative and active imagination, it can become more challenging to remain calm or convince myself there’s nothing to worry about since I deep dive into negative ‘fantasies.’ It usually feels like there is nothing that I can do to lessen the intensity.

AHHH what do I do?!

Well, first things first – You need to learn how to stop allowing emotions from invading your mind and protect yourself. Easier said than done, right? In all honesty, you just need to find the willingness to react differently if you don’t want to be overwhelmed.

  • Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of getting overwhelmed: for me; it’s usually dry mouth and a racing heart. Being in the present will help you overcome your situation.
  • Focus on yourself: If you’re anything like me, you tend to put everyone over and above yourself. Well, STOP. Self-care is imperative to recharge yourself and to boost your self-confidence.
  • Get mindful: you cannot control what others are going to do so live in the now, breathe deeply and try relaxation techniques. I cannot emphasize enough how important exercise is to burn off the adrenaline coursing through your system
  • Set Boundaries: Avoid the sources of your fear but don’t run away. The more you understand about your boundaries you’ll be able to prepare ahead of time to avoid or adjust your day to reduce the effect on you. I don’t like to avoid things as I feel it sometimes makes my anxiety worse, so I adjust.
  • Remember that it’s not the “end of the world” all of the thoughts racing through your brain is part of your imagination – let them go!

Curious to know if you’re an HSP, too?
Take this test to find out