To Sparkle Punch...

That is the question

self-care

Rebirthday #5

JessComment
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FIVE YEARS. Wow. What a surprise, indeed. 

I could have died five years ago. Sorry to get all “seven strangers picked to live in a house” real right out of the gate, but it’s the truth. My thoughts had gotten so dark that they almost turned out my light for good. But I didn't let them. And today is the day of the year that I get to celebrate that for the huge freaking victory it is. I don't know if there is an accomplishment that I'm prouder of, honestly.

It's shocking that I can talk about all of this so openly now because I was terrified to admit how I really felt for a long time--eleven years, to be exact. Eleven years of hiding the impulses that scared me but felt like they would scare other people even more. Eleven years of feeling so deeply alone, even while I was with other people. I didn't intend to share my feelings on March 19, 2013, either, but I was so desperately in need of help that I just blurted it all out to my unsuspecting friend Kristin. She took me to the hospital the next day and has become one of my closest friends. (And we originally met through blogging! So if that doesn't speak to the power of blogging friendships, I don't know what does!) I talk to her (or at least bombard her with Pusheen stickers in fb messenger) every day. The whole wild ride ultimately made our friendship stronger. Certainly, this is just one person's experience, but I share it to show that it is possible to let people in to the dark and twisty parts of yourself, and not have them run away in horror. I have to remind myself of that on a regular basis, but I do know, deep down, that it's true.

If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal depression, I can say from my own experience that it was extremely heartening to know that my friends still supported me despite my dark thoughts. It must be scary, and possibly confusing, to hear that a friend or loved one is suicidal. But if you love the person, reassure them of that. This site has some great suggestions for things to text someone with depression. You can also just sit with them while they call the suicide hotline--that's where Kristin and I started. And you can go with them to the ER as a possible next step. We went to the ER at a hospital that she knew had a well-respected inpatient program in case I ended up staying. Which was my choice, by the way--the doctors didn't feel like I was enough of a risk that they had to keep me. My psychiatrist at the time told the ER doctor to just increase the dose of my antidepressant. But I knew that that would only make me feel the numb kind of "better" that eventually cycles back to suicidality. Over those eleven years, the periods of suicidal depression seemed to be coming closer and closer together, so I knew it would come back, and I wanted my life to be more than that.

So I said yes to inpatient, which is probably the most responsible, adult decision I've ever made. 

It's hard to imagine that good things will happen to you when you're trapped in the darkness of suicidal depression. But once I started taking my life back, a cascade of good things followed, and quickly too! Sure, we're not together anymore, but I met B a mere 50ish days after inpatient! DAYS! And in my depression, I thought for sure that I was unloveable! It's so wild to think that, at any moment, you could be meeting the people who will become very significant in your life, or you could be doing something that ends up being hugely impactful in the long run.

Let's recap some of the unexpected, wild, and wonderful things that happened after inpatient: 

April 2013: I start consistently going to therapy for the first time in my life.

May 2013: I start group therapy and meet B. 

June 2013: I move to Philly with Deena. 

July 2013: I go to my first ever yoga class, which is a total trainwreck BUT is where I hear about an upcoming retreat for women with trauma, which I attend--and that’s how I meet one of my current therapists! (She’s the one who does the retreats and the yoga teaching training.) 

July 2014: To Sparkle Punch is born! 

April 2015: I start exposure therapy for my driving phobia.

May 2016: I buy my own car. 

None of these things would have happened without that first step of seeking help.

Now, that's not to say that the past five years have been all rainbows and sunshine. B and I broke up. My uncle died of lung cancer and my cousin of a drug overdose. I moved back home. I had to find a new Philly therapist when my original one left her practice. The important thing, though, is that I don't turn to suicide on the non-sunny days anymore. I see my suicidal thoughts as being in remission--I'm not experiencing them now because I'm taking care of my mental health by going to therapy, journaling, doing yoga, etc. It's an ongoing process, and I still struggle in a great many ways. I mean, hello, two months ago, I couldn't eat, sleep, or sit still because I was practically vibrating with anxiety! I have a hard time leaving the house (aside from going to work or therapy). I struggle to see a future for myself, which I think is a known side effect of PTSD. But I'm working on those things. I haven't given up yet. And today, that matters more than anything. 💜

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How I journal

JessComment
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Because I mentioned in my Rebirthday post that journaling has been hugely helpful in my recovery from suicidal thoughts, I thought I would expand on my journaling process a little. But it's not a "process" at all--it's surprisingly unstructured for a type-A person like myself! Here's how it goes (in case you want to take notes 😜):

 

1. Have an intriguing or emotionally-charged thought.

2. Write it down.

3. See what happens.

 

Seriously. I just write when I think of/realize something interesting or insightful (especially something that could possibly be explored more in therapy). And I just write for however long it takes to spit out that thought. And a lot of the time, magic happens--I get another, sometimes completely out-of-left-field thought or insight, which is pretty darn cool and often more interesting than the original thought I'd had! Or if I'm writing because I'm freaking out about something, in time, I'm usually able to start taking off the anxiety goggles to see the situation as it really is. 

I don't journal every day, and I never aim to write either a certain number of pages or for a set period of time. I also usually journal on the fly (while sitting on the couch, while on the train, etc.), which keeps it from becoming just another pressurized thing on my to-do list.

I've gone through a few journals since 2013... 😬 

I've gone through a few journals since 2013... 😬 

I have a hard time sitting still, and certainly sitting still with my emotions, but the act of journaling seems to make the "sitting still" less still and therefore more tolerable, you know? But full disclosure--journaling was a tough habit for me to get into. My first journal, which was just a marble notebook given to me by one of the nurses when I was inpatient, was more like a diary of what was going on each day in the hospital than how I felt about things. 

Where it all began. This quote from  My Darling, My Hamburger  really jumped out at me as I was working on my MA thesis (which I had just finished a few months before inpatient).

Where it all began. This quote from My Darling, My Hamburger really jumped out at me as I was working on my MA thesis (which I had just finished a few months before inpatient).

But once I started exploring deeper, "scarier" thoughts in writing, I started to understand myself and the seemingly incongruous things I did and felt more. Some things finally started making sense. The writing also helped to "tame" some of the scariness of the thoughts, as writing forced my brain to slow down and actually consider the truth of a situation or thought, rather than just believing it without question. And, on a purely practical level, the act of writing helped me to actually remember said thoughts to bring them up in therapy! 

So yeah, that's it! A super chill habit that's really paid off for me. ❤️

Real talk on Rebirthday #4 + things that have helped me to stay alive

JessComment

Four years ago this week, I checked myself into the hospital for suicidal thoughts and started to make major changes in my life. At the time, I just wanted to be able to feel more than "meh" and "totally freaked out or depressed" in my everyday life.

I'm not there yet. And honestly, it's frustrating. The past year has been tougher than I'd like to admit, largely because I can see ways to improve my life and mood, but I haven't been able to get myself to do them.

Like, I know that I'm still comfortably numb on routine and pessimism a lot of the time. I know that I settle and succumb to anxiety more than I would like. (I am definitely an introvert, but I've gone full hermit this past year, even for me!) I know that I eat horribly and don't get enough exercise or sleep, and that those shortcomings hurt my mood and overall health.

I know these things, and yet I don't change them--which doesn't really make me feel good about myself, you know?

But then March 20 rolls around and reminds me that I have been in a much much darker place than I am now and have come out of it. That I am capable of changing my life for the better. I may not be in love with my life at the moment, but hey, I'm still alive! So as much as I get annoyed with myself and wish that I could just FREAKING DO THINGS without battling anxiety all the time FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, at least the fight is between fear and growth these days, and not life and death. That is huge.

While my struggle with anxiety and PTSD wages on, here are a few things that have added stability to my life over the past four years and helped me to move away from suicide:

Admitting that I had a "problem"

This is the first step, right? No one else knew that I was feeling suicidal until I accidentally told two friends the day before going inpatient. Owning such an "ugly" truth and admitting it to other people felt awful in the moment but has been very freeing in the long-term. Before, I felt like I constantly had to hide my true feelings because they would freak other people out. But allowing myself to be a "burden" to a few trusted people and admit how bad I was feeling lifted a burden from me. Those friends didn't run, and one even took me to the hospital. In addition to saving my life, admitting my feelings helped me to then open up to other people and see that I don't have to hide my true wacky neurotic self from the world. :)

Journaling

This has probably been the number one game-changer in my life. I used to hate journaling, even just the idea of journaling. Any time I did try to sit down and write about my feelings, I would just end up writing about boys I thought were cute, HA! But post-inpatient, I started journaling regularly and found that it actually worked for me. I don't force myself to journal in any way (so no schedule or set number of pages per day)--I just write when I have an insight that I want to explore more, or when I want to calm myself down if my emotions are spiraling. Writing really helps me to slow down my thoughts and take off the anxiety goggles so that I can see a stressful situation as it really is.

Weekly therapy

I had never been in therapy (aside from the college counseling center) until after inpatient, and having a trained professional to talk to and unpack my feelings with every week has been incredibly helpful. Therapy has helped me to be less scared of my emotions, to begin to discover my authentic self (who dat?), and to understand myself better--especially why I do and feel things that never really made any sense to me before.

Discovering my path to healing

Once I started exploring my suicidal thoughts, all the stuff that was under them--the stuff I was trying to push down or run from--started coming to the surface. UGH. But honestly, it helped. The first time I read about the symptoms of Complex PTSD (at a therapist's suggestion), it was a big aha moment, like, "Hey, I'm not a freak! There's something real going on here, and a 'something' can be helped and treated! A 'something' can get better!" 🎉 It was an uplifting experience, like, oh my God, there's a way out after all! And I'm on that path now, thanks to therapy (of course), and also EMDR, inner child work, and bodywork. It's a bumpy road at times, but things are definitely better than they were before.

Final note: It feels important to mention that I am on medication, but I didn't highlight it above because a.) I was on medication pre-inpatient too and b.) I don't feel like it has been the biggest source of change in my life/mindset. 

 

There is certainly still work ahead of me, but that idea operates on the premise that I will be alive to do it, which is a very good thing indeed. Happy Rebirthday, self. 💖🎂

And for anyone reading this, your rebirthday could be today, or tomorrow, or any day you decide that enough is enough with something making you miserable. Progress is always possible; I am living proof of that. ❤️

She's a rainbow

JessComment

I have never been as enthusiastic about the start of a new year as I am now. I didn't quite realize it at the time, but I was feeling really blah in the waning months of 2016. And I should have known, because the evidence was right there in front of me: my unpainted nails.

As dumb as it sounds, the state of my nails often reflects my mental/emotional state. If I'm not painting my nails at all OR they're painted a barely-there color, I'm probably feeling scared or sad. I may really want to blend in and hide. My bffl (an even bigger nail polish enthusiast than me!) actually called me out on this tendency in college when I was taking a class that terrified me and, as a result, only painted my nails a pale opalescent pink the whole semester. (2017 must be off to a good start because my nails are currently this awesome shade of blue!)

So one of my fun self-care resolutions for 2017 is to try to paint my nails every week because having pretty nails just makes me happy! (And happy people don't shoot their husbands! Er, among other things...) And I have quite a collection of polishes, so I might as well use them!

This is as close to minimalist as I can get! 

This is as close to minimalist as I can get! 

If you too love painting your nails, then you know that the struggle to find a good color AND formula is realer than real. So here are my go-to polishes, the tried and true ones I know will look good without 47 coats (and assorted expletives):

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Essie "Splash of Grenadine"

Zoya Pixie Dust "Tomoko"

Sally Hansen Triple Shine "Red Snapper"

Illamasqua "Jo'mina"

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Maybelline Color Show "Porcelain Party"

Essie "Where's My Chauffeur"

Ginger + Liz Rock and Ice Collection "Is It Friday Yet"

 

None of these colors is particularly "quiet," which is a good sign! Jo'mina is probably my favorite color in my whole collection (hello, purple 💜). It's just such a pretty, vibrant lavender. I actually get compliments on it every time I wear it! A close second fave is "Red Snapper"--I wear it seriously all.the.time. Such a good cherry red. And the brushes on the Sally Hansen Triple Shines make applying a breeze!

I didn't include it in the pictures, but Poshe top coat is the only one I've used for the last four+ years. (Props to my pal Piper for introducing this magical potion to me!) It dries really fast, makes your nails super shiny, and lasts for days. What else could a gal want? 💯

The matte glitter polishes (like Zoya Pixie Dust, Ginger + Liz's Rock and Ice Collection, and also OPI's Liquid Sand line) are my go-tos when I need my nails to look perfect for an event or a vacation (when I won't be able to immediately change polishes or fix a mistake). They just don't seem to chip as fast as "normal" polishes. Bonus that they usually look great in just two coats and don't need a top coat! (The sandpapery texture is a little weird, but I can overlook it because, above all, I am LAZY with my beauty products.)

What are your go-to nail polishes that I need to try?