Vulnerability around my mental health

Today I wanted to take a step back and write about the current state of my mental health.

When thinking of a title for this post, I wanted to start with “transparency” or “honesty,” but the word “vulnerability resonates more. Brené Brown, one of my favorite researchers and mental health advocates, says that being vulnerable – no matter how scary – is one of bravest things one can be.

Lately I’ve been struggling with current pain and past trauma. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about my family members, former coworkers and friends who have hurt me deeply. The blessing and curse of being an empath (or “indigo child” if you will) is feeling so deeply. Deeper than the average person can feel. I remember every word, moment, feeling… when I have been hurt in the past. For certain friendships or working relationships, time does heal all wounds; I’m not thinking about certain people as frequently as I used to. And I understand that people grow apart, but this is different—this is people who I believe have genuinely hurt me or have taken full advantage of my kindness.

All processing past pain, I’m also coping with current depression. Depression about Chicago not being what I thought it would be, my marriage not being as strong as I’d like it to be, people here letting me down no matter how hard I’ve tried, family and friends from Michigan continuing to let me down… It’s difficult for me to not feel like a failure. I feel like I’m failing in my family’s eyes, in Juan’s eyes, in certain friends’ eyes… I feel like if I leave Chicago that I would be a failure. But is it worth staying when my depression is worsening?

Last week one of my closest friends here betrayed my trust. I continue to feel like Juan and I are growing apart, not wanting the same things of the future. I feel financially trapped and scared that I’ll never live the life I want to live. I’m afraid my family will continue to misunderstand me and never fully accept me as I am.

For the first time in my life, I truly don’t know how to move forward. I know I’ve been open about my struggles with mental health on this platform, but things feel worse this time.

Living with depression feels like living with a deep sense of hopelessness, despair and constantly feeling alone or misunderstood.

But what I really want and need to feel is a clear path forward—a light in the darkness.

Photos taken Friday, May 20, 2022

It has been a WEEK.

It’s only Tuesday and so many little odd things have gone wrong…

For starters, yesterday was my first day at my new job. After going seven weeks without working, it has been extremely hard for me to focus. My dog also kept making noise during my only real meeting of the day—mainly because our upstairs neighbors are moving out and also made a lot of noise. AND my travel Instagram account was hacked, and will likely be disabled…

I. Am. Devastated. ☹️

BUT me being me, I’m trying to find the silver lining in it all. Perhaps this is a great way for me to live in the present; not the past (not posting throwback travel photos, etc.).

Until/if I can even get this sorted out, you can find my dog at westiepoo.linley on Instagram. His account is private – for now – but he’ll follow you back, I promise!

It was a beautiful day yesterday, and here are some photos from my 6am stroll:

Photos taken Monday, May 2, 2022

New season of life

On Friday, September 24 we said hello to our Chicago home. And on Sunday, September 26 we said goodbye to our first home. What an emotional “changing seasons of life!” Seeing it empty reminded us of our first time viewing 747, and made us realize all the memories shared over the past two years. Saying hello and goodbye simultaneously is never easy, but the memories will always be cherished and it’s not a goodbye to our neighbors: simply a “see you later.” Wherever the three of us go, the house will always become a home 🏡❤️

A spectacular September in Michigan

As my last couple of weeks in the mitten come to a close, I move into my new season of life with a full heart. I was able to spend time with my best friends and although no time spent is ever enough, I’m heading to my new home with happiness and peace in my decisions. I could think that my time in Michigan was filled with “lasts,” but I’m truly elated for all of the upcoming “firsts” to be experienced with my small family unit 😌

September 1 – spending the evening with an old neighbor/friend, and our dogs

September 2 – celebrating a friend’s birthday with sushi and cocktails in Ann Arbor

September 3 – a long overdue phone call with one of my best friends from Asheville

September 4 – all-day quality time with one of my best friends and our dogs, filled with much needed conversations and exploring

September 5 – breakfast with a dear friend who instantly makes me feel at home, and floating in Ann Arbor with two friends and Linley

September 6 – a morning walk along the river

September 7 – floating down some rapids with one of my best friends, right before the storm

September 8 – spending nearly all day on the couch with Juan, watching Never Have I Ever while I worked

September 9 – Linley’s “Gotcha Day!” festivities

September 10 – we received an offer on our house and took Linley on a nice afternoon walk

September 11 – Linley’s third Doggie Splash and dinner with good friends

September 12 – our last hike at the arboretum

September 13 – morning snuggles with Juan and Linley before work and a much-needed phone call with a dear friend

September 14 – a night on the town, all on my friend Donna

September 15 – another great night with a friend in Detroit, and watching Lin run and play with his friends

Memorial Day Memories

For those of us in the United States, Memorial Day weekend can mean a variety of things, even though its main purpose is to celebrate those we lost in service. I strongly disagree with the reasons why we enter into war, but I support those who defend our nation for the right reasons, and heavily reflect on my family members and friends who have served overseas.

With that being said, I’m not only reflecting on my loved ones who have served today; I’m also relishing in past memories with others who I’m not as close with anymore. For some reason, I’ve traveled somewhere on or around Memorial Day weekend in recent years and cannot stop wishing to be back in those places, with those individuals, during those exact moments in life.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (May 2018)

One of the happiest days of my life

Empire, Michigan (May 2020)

One of my favorite days last spring

I wish things were different with my loved ones. Maybe things will be better again or maybe they never will be, but either way I can cherish these memories and plan future adventures with friends.

I wish all of you a safe, healthy and fun-filled Memorial Day weekend!

Continuation of Gratitude Journaling

Whenever someone says, “You know what would help? Journaling,” I cringe. Turning something I love (writing) into a chore, a “must-do,” is really difficult for me to overcome. It reminds me of high school: I loved reading until the teachers told me what I had to read, how to interpret the literature, and how many chapters to complete by the next session…

I digress. But my point is that journaling can feel daunting and forced if it becomes something you have to do as opposed to something you want to accomplish.

Gratitude journaling, however, feels different to me. I simply reflect on people or moments that brought me joy a few days per week, then I’m done. It reminds me to focus on the positive and feel gratitude toward the people and situations that truly matter.

1. My former and new teams

I started a new position at a different company last week, and I’ve been emotional about it on many levels. My former teammates put together a touching “see you later” video for me, and it moved me to tears. Even through screens miles apart, I grew very close with my team-turned-friends and will miss them very much (I already do!). The same day, I received a welcome kit, a box of chocolates and a gorgeous bouquet of springtime flowers from my current teammates. I was moved on many levels last week, and am incredibly grateful for the lifelong friendships from my Asheville team, and the newfound relationships to be established on my Chicago team.

2. Midweek dinner and drinks with one of my best friends

Jaclyn and I always know how to have a great time, even on a Wednesday! We tend to work very different schedules, and we’re good about making time for each other regardless. Detroit is the perfect midway point for both of us, so we grabbed dinner at the Basement Burger Bar in Greektown. The two of us had a lot to share with each other, which led to us enjoying some Long Island Iced Teas on Old Shillelagh’s patio (a staple of late-night adventures!). Jaclyn and I have lived far away from each other before, and have continued to remain close and make time for each other despite the distance. Who knew a random college roommate would turn into a lifelong friend 🙂

3. Saturday brunch with Dani in Ann Arbor

As much as I love Detroit, Ann Arbor is my go-to place in Michigan. Dani and I enjoyed a lovely meal at Café Zola, followed by some spicy cocktails at Vinology. We met in 2018 when we worked on the same team, and become even closer ever since. The two of us are planning some summer/fall vacations together – I’m very excited to travel with her soon!

4. Getting the best seat in the house at Cliff Bells jazz club

If you know me, you know how much I love going out to eat at funky places, and how much I love live music. Detroit is known for its history with motown and jazz, and Cliff Bells is the prime place to experience both. Juan and I have been to Bells somewhere between five and ten times since moving to the Detroit area, and were finally placed at the booth closest to the band. The Rodney Whitaker Quartet performed on Saturday night and let me tell you: THIS was the show to have the best seats for. I can’t wait to go back!

5. Kayaking with Aniya in Bay City

Yesterday was full of adventure when my Little Sister and I went kayaking on one of the windiest days. We had no idea the weather would be as extreme as it was, but we were able to share some laughs and still enjoyed ourselves through the struggle of getting back to shore. The owners and employees at Float Paddle Center in Bay City were beyond kind and truly cared about our wellbeing during the storm; they called me while we were out on the water and took great care of us while we were soaking wet, getting out of the kayak we were sitting in for nearly three hours. Aniya high-fived me afterward, I hugged her and we headed home with the heat cranked all the way up in my car.

Not to sound negative, but life sucks sometimes. I’ve been on a rollercoaster with people and situations that life has thrown me, but focusing on what’s going right will hopefully help me overcome what is going wrong 🙂

Finding Hope in Friendship

In the midst of a worsening global pandemic, a gut-wrenching American presidential election and the beginning of some painful family estrangement, I wanted to post about the people I’m especially grateful for these days.

♥️♥️♥️

Jaclyn and Dustin / Detroit, 2020
Carolyn / Washington D.C., 2020
Linley counts as a person too, right? / 2020
Saskia / Germany, 2016
Bethany / Colorado, 2020
Jacomijne 😂 / Sweden, 2016
And Bernie… always Bernie!

Friend & Family Breakups

I wanted to put a pause on my regular travel posts and write about something that’s been lingering in the forefront of my mind this year.

I’ve been struggling with long-term extended family estrangement and somewhat short-term immediate family drama, as well as some pretty upsetting friendship breakups. I won’t go into specifics in order to protect those around me, but I’ve been in a dark place for about a year or so now. As one can imagine, this has taken a toll on my mental health.

I recently heard a quote on one of my favorite podcasts that goes a little something like this:

“Depression is the greatest acting teacher. I can smile through anything even though I just want the ground to open up and swallow me whole.” If that doesn’t hit you like a semi truck, I’m not sure what will…

I’m not a therapist or licensed professional by any means, but I wanted to share some strategies I’ve been applying to help with the pain of broken friendships and family relationships. It’s important to note that all of these points coincide with each other and this is the “flow” as I see it. Remember: everyone’s journey is highly personal and individual.

1. Don’t change who you are for those around you.

I have a lot of people in my life – family members in particular – who will never be proud of me, no matter what I do. In the past and present, I have been laughed at or mocked for my dreams and ambitions. Family members have and will continue to make me feel small to build themselves up. About five years ago, I chose to let them go as opposed to clinging onto the gaslighting and the guilt (e.g.: “well, I guess it’s your choice if you don’t want to be here” comments when THEY were the ones hurting ME).

2. Create your own closure.

Oftentimes we find that friendship and family breakups seem abrupt, without true closure. I was best friends with someone for nearly 12 years and I’ve been thinking about our good times lately. But with that, I’ve also been thinking of the bad. The truth is that she was like an older sister to me, whereas I was her “plan b”/“second choice” friend for a very long time. Write a goodbye letter. Get rid of photos. Do something that allows you to create your own closure. Remember, don’t change yourself to fit others’ narratives of you.

3. Try not to hate the person on the other end.

It would be so easy for me to say, “She was a horrible person because of X, Y and Z.” Although there are times I’ve been hurt by family and friends (and honestly still am hurting from recent experiences), I try my damnedest to acknowledge that we all have flaws and shortcomings. I realize this is much easier said than done, but I’m hoping this will make me a better, stronger person in the end.

4. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings.

Conversely, it’s okay to be angry, hurt, frustrated or upset. As long as you aren’t taking it out on the other person, allow yourself to reflect on your feelings in the present moment. Thinking of a past memory you miss? Cry. Thinking of how good things were in the past? Smile. The more you hold back and shove your feelings into a corner of your mind, the longer it’ll take you to move on.

5. Focus on yourself and the great relationships in your life.

I may never have a best friend who reminds me of an older sister ever again, but I do have amazing friends in my life. I feel loved every day, even if it isn’t by a family member. I may never be close with my family, but I have several friends-turned-family relationships that fill my heart. Be around like-minded, supportive people who will always be there for you (and always be there for them, too!).

Every day of 2020 has felt like an overwhelming struggle, but I am much more resilient than I was before. “When life hands you lemons, they say to make lemonade, but you can’t make lemonade without any sugar.”

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me 🙂

True friendships during Coronavirus

There is no right or wrong way to feel during this pandemic. I repeat: THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO FEEL DURING THIS PANDEMIC.

I have really strong days where I feel confident, in control and overloaded with optimism. The next day, I endure the utmost anxiety and deep sadness. Needless to say, some days are more productive and positive than others…

The only consistent thing during this entire quarantine has been my truest friends supporting me every step of the way. I’ve been in touch with a lot of my best friends during this time, and their reciprocation fills me with warmth and hope.

Madison & KayLee
Carolyn
Terry & Brandon
Donna
Danielle
Cassidy
Zachary

I hope you’re all staying safe, healthy and happy through this pandemic!

Everyday Resolutions

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays with your loved ones.

I never establish New Years resolutions per se; however, I believe in continuous personal growth and becoming better every single day.

Things I’m scraping:

  • Allowing others to bring me down
  • One-way friendships/giving people too many chances
  • Comparing myself to others/feeling inadequate
  • Not putting myself first (sleepless nights, etc.)
  • Pressure to be “normal” (no need to follow others’ status quo)

Things I’m embracing:

  • Spending quality time with the best people
  • More travel (duh, it’s me!)
  • Volunteering more
  • Gaining 10+ pounds
❣️
PS: please note the new name and domain change 🙂

Depression

I’m going to come right out and say it: I have depression. I’ve known that something was “off” since I was about 10 years old, but things really took a turn for the worst when I was 17. And at 26, things are REALLY BAD and have been since late 2018.

During my routine spring cleaning in November, I decided to go through some old photos. While recalling memories of how my family once was, I felt numb. I kind of shrugged it off like, “well that was nice, but it’s in the past now.” What really hit me were the photos of how happy I was as a child. I was outgoing, genuinely excited about everything, and didn’t have a care in the world if others thought I was crazy. I was unapologetic 100% of the time.

When did she go on vacation and never return home? How can I get her to come back and visit me, or even stay forever? These are the necessitous things I’d like to know…