goals and dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence — specifically, the confidence that makes you successful, in whatever way you define “successful.” (Because let’s face it, it’s different for everyone. At least, I feel like the way I define success is 100% different than the way my husband would, or the way my best friend would.)

Since the start of the new year, I’ve been doing some hard thinking (and a lot of serious hand-wringing) about stuff in my life — I’ve written about it a bit on here. Part of that hard thinking has to do with what I want to put my passions towards, what new things I want to accomplish for myself, and how I can use my foray into the author world (what has become a platform and networking of sorts) as a means to further my interests and goals. I have my dreams tucked away in my pocket, written on a folded square of paper, and a renewed sense of feeling like I can do these things — hell, I want to jump up and start now, slam the gas pedal and speed towards all these projects!

Hilariously, this all came about from watching the new Carmen Sandiego series (which, oh my god, I’m so glad I finally got to sit down and watch it. Some of my favorite people get to play with their voices in it.) While delighting in Gina Rodriguez’s character, I was hit with a memory of my intern days at EW. It was Upfronts week — the week that networks trot out their talent/promotions for the new television season in flashy New York presentations for ad buyers and the like — and it was the year the CW decided to greenlight some new superhero shows (hello, Flash) as well as a show called Jane The Virgin. A few cast members from the network, including Gina, came to the EW office for a quick meet-and-greet with staff and I remember her talking specifically about how she didn’t think she’d get the role, and being charmed by her honesty.

I wasn’t familiar with her work — I didn’t even expect I would watch the show. (Spoiler alert, it’s my favorite show currently airing and never ceases to make my happy AND it’s become meaningful to me because Jane’s author journey has basically mirrored my own.) But deservedly, the show blew up in the months its debut, winning awards and putting Gina on a pedestal that included her taking on new projects and gigs.

(Bear with me here, I’m going to detour and I swear this whole entry has a point.)

Recently, I realized that one of the things I’d love to try to do is write a graphic novel. I’ve got ideas for a second book that I’m currently working on that’s similar in genre to my first one, and I’d love to attempt to get an actual fiction book out there at some point — but I’ve also got a story that I think just works for a graphic novel. It’s queer, it’s fun, it’s something that WORKS, and even though I don’t have an artist (and am not an artist) I know it’s at least worth putting down on paper.

Here’s where it gets funny, though: for all my work in comics and working so closely WITH comics (and also because I work primarily in marketing and not in editorial; I only sell the sausage, I don’t participate in getting it made), I didn’t realize until I started researching that I’m not familiar with what it takes to actually script a story. It’s not exactly hard, and it’s pretty easy to get the hang of (or so I’ve read.) But it’s something that I have to definitely adjust my mindset to because the process is different from the way I’m used to writing when I churn out a book manuscript. And once I realized what the undertaking would be and how it would essentially be learning a new skill, I found myself feeling totally freaked out. I messaged a friend who is an artist, and she kindly talked me down and tried to put things in perspective.

So how does “omg I want to write a graphic novel and pursue new projects but I’ve never done it before and I don’t know if I can do it/I’m too scared/overwhelmed HELP” and “aw, I love that Gina Rodriguez voices an animated character for the first time” go together? It’s the idea that somewhere, at some point, people started to take notice of someone’s talent. They offered opportunities like directing projects and movies and voice acting. Someone said, “hey, we think you’re perfect for this project. You’re getting a lot of acclaim. Why don’t you do it?”

But I guess in a broader sense, what I’m trying to get it is that when you really think about it, there’s not a whole lot of difference between someone influential reading my work and coming to me (or my agent) and saying “you’ve got talent. You can sell. I want you to do this thing” and me saying “I want to do this thing.” And if there is a difference, it’s that you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — if someone says “I want you to do this” and gives you an incentive (ie. a deadline and a paycheck) well, you’re probably going to be a little more motivated than if you tell yourself “I’m gonna do this!” at the vague promise of maybe selling something. Granted, I understand that’s a pretty big difference. I work well under pressure, and I’m more motivated if I have deadlines and know that there’s something to work towards. But I also know I can be just as motivated about something if I’m passionate about it, if I feel good about my work and the work I’m doing. And that’s a mindset I have to get myself into.

Because I want to get myself OUT of the mindset that just because I’ve never done something before, I’m not sure if I CAN do it. I mean, that’s ultimately silly. I’d never written a book before, but I still wrote a book! (And a proposal.) I’d never done serious journalism before I went to grad school, but I learned how to transition into journalism from working in non-profit — and then transitioned into PR after that! I’ve done many other scary things in my life that I had NO IDEA how to do, but I decided I could do it or learn it. (This also applies to DMing, but that’s a whole other discussion for a later time.) But I’ve always been someone who forges ahead even if there’s no particular path…I’ve always been someone who pushed forward because she believed that there was opportunity for her when other people would probably hold back. So in 2019, as I try to take hold of my dreams, I’m going to be better about pushing forward even if things scare me. I’ve got a lot of things I wanna do, and dammit, nothing is keeping me from doing them except for me.

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a happy new year

Well, since we’re basically halfway into 2018 and I’ve done a rather terrible job of blogging in the last few months, I should write about those reflections/goals/resolutions I mentioned awhile ago, right?

Right.

Last year, I adopted the practice of throwing the word “resolution” out the window because I didn’t want to be held to making myself “better” by doing certain things. That’s something of a different beast, independent of whether I eat less or drink less or save more money. I wanted a list of things that I could potentially accomplish and work towards, whether it was something small (drinking more water) or big (write a book/comic.) When I wrote out what I had in mind for the year, I titled it “2017 Things To Accomplish” so it would stick in my head more like actual goals and not pressured improvements.

If I look at this page at a glance, it’s easy to see how many blank boxes there are instead of ones that are colored it. And yeah, I put a lot of lofty goals on there, not knowing if I’d actually accomplish them – but why not?

I may not have interviewed all of my “dream core four” (Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans) or covered an awards show, but I DID interview Scarlett Johansson! In person! At a premiere of her movie, on a red carpet! I stood in front of someone I’ve admired for ages, one of my favorite actresses, and talked to her and asked her a question and she directly responded to me – and I didn’t even fall over! I may not have published or sold a book, but I queried, got an agent, and started submitting to publishers. I may not have completed the “Coast to Coast” challenge because of timing and laziness, but I did run my second half marathon at Disney. I may not have written a story at my “dream” publication, but I did write numerous celebrity cover stories for a luxury magazine, in what has become a great anchor client, who have allowed me to continue to write for them every month. I didn’t read once a day, but I did read more this last year than I have in awhile, and I’m so glad I got my head back in the game where good literature was concerned.

And just because there were things that didn’t happen, it doesn’t mean that I won’t stop doing them – or trying to do them, even in a year that will be otherwise filled with wedding planning. I still would like to try to get myself in a position where I have the opportunity to moderate or sit on a panel at a con. I’d still like to travel overseas or to somewhere fun (at least I’ve got my honeymoon destination, if nothing else). I’d still like to do things I’ve always wanted to do even though my career has shifted in a way that they’re not readily associated with them anymore, like visit a movie/tv set or write a comic.

This year, I took a page from my friend’s book and divided my goal list into different categories: personal, financial, professional and mental health. I may add more as I think of them, I may not – but as I learned last year in getting my dream job and interviewing one of my favorite A-listers – nothing is impossible. (Also, apparently I like running so much I put it on there twice by accident…whoops.)

Oh, and I promise to be better at blogging. Promise.

wait for it

This is a post about many things, but the subject title can apply to all of them.

Wait for it.

Roughly a week ago, I got engaged. No, I didn’t cry. Yes, I kind of expected it, but I was wary of believing my suspicions, so I was still really surprised when it happened. I’m just not used to things actually working out the way I envision them. It’s strange when you spend so long thinking of things associated with huge life moments and then they happen and you’re forced to confront the fact that suddenly, all your thoughts are REAL – your daydreams of your dance with your dad, how you’ll feel when you’re wedding dress shopping, the things you’ll buy for your bridal party. The next few months are going to be a whirlwind of stress and money anxiety and things happening really fast, but it’s HAPPENING, and I finally feel like my life is slotting into place in some way.

Wait for it.

2016 was one of the hardest years of my life. I was the lowest I’ve ever been in terms of my mental health. I was miserable, even after I got on medication to help my depression. Freelancing was only taking me so far, and I was the only person I seemed to know who had left my current job and couldn’t get snapped up by a new one (even after interviews where I came so close, but not close enough.) I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or what  I was supposed to do. I was broke, in my mid-30’s, and yeah, I had a serious boyfriend and great friends but I had no job, no savings, no ring, no kids, and no hope that any of that would happen in the immediate future. There was a point where I couldn’t see any kind of way my life would improve, and I spent a lot of time angry about decisions I had made in my past, where I had let people control my life in some way. I was never entirely suicidal, but I did think about what would happen if I just never amounted to anything, and what if I just walked into traffic one day? Would it be so bad? Hey, maybe at least my student loans would get paid with insurance or something.

I was really, really down. I started looking for any kind of job, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to do, and I felt like I was out of college all over again — just trying to find someone who wanted me. I finally took a job that made more money than I had ever seen, but I was absolutely miserable and hated everything about it. Two weeks after leaving that job, I lucked out with my dream job, through a series of events that can only be described as serendipitous. Sometimes I think about how long it took to get here – the long hard waits of being patient while other people got their due, working all my connections, never giving up on pursuing what I truly wanted. I still have issues with the fact I’m here later than I was supposed to be — an obsession with my age will forever be a cog in the wheel of anxiety that slows down my mental health — but I recognize how lucky I am to be where I am. After a long time, I’m finally where I’m meant to be. I’m happy. I love most of my coworkers. I love what I do and I feel like I can work towards a brand and a career.

I’m also a girl working professionally in comics who is being taken seriously. And that’s pretty rad.

Wait for it.

When I started my journey to get published, I got some luck in a way most people don’t – I had immediate interest from a publisher and got an agent pretty quickly, despite not having any experience selling a proposal or a manuscript. After months of working and revising, I was excited to hopefully have some bites…and got rejected by all publishers that looked at my project, including the one who initially seemed interested. Going back to the drawing board and feeling like I had nothing to offer sucked, and getting back on track took longer than I wanted it to. But I hit the ground running, revised, and months later, I have revisions that my agent praised as the strongest so far. My proposal is currently on its second round of final edits, and hopefully will be sent off again soon. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I can’t predict if I’ll be any more successful, but I do feel more confident about putting it out into the world.

Wait for it.

Last year, I went through a period where I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be. I wanted a life that I saw reflected in other people, religiously and otherwise. I still want that life — I still want things that are harder for me to have because they won’t come naturally — but I think I’m getting better at realizing I don’t want to be the person I thought I wanted to be in certain ways. I don’t need to be like other people who I think have it all together. I like my life the way it is. And yeah, I wish there were things that were different about it. But it’s my life and what I know. I can accept that. Or try to.

Wait for it.

Reflecting and looking at my life as it was a year ago, it’s amazing to realize how different things are. Nothing is perfect — there are a lot of things that aren’t perfect, and there are things that still aren’t great. But there’s also a lot of stuff that’s good. And yeah, it took awhile for things to swing up, but they did. I’m glad I kept fighting, even when it was hard. I’m glad I kept going, even though I know it’s going to continue to be hard.

I’m glad I waited for it.

 

so, i ran a half marathon

I don’t make that many New Years resolutions. And if I do, the resolutions I make are small, like read more books and write more during the year. Or they’re things that relate to my mental health, like spend less time online and stop drinking coffee before bedtime and cut back on alcohol. I don’t make big, grandiose statements to myself like “eat better” or “lose/gain weight.” But last year, I made myself a decently big promise: in 2016, I would run a half marathon. Specifically, I would run in Disneyland’s Superhero Half Marathon weekend.

For a few years, I’ve watched friends participate in the weekend and I always wanted to join them. But, well, I’m not a runner. And getting to California isn’t cheap. It’s so much easier to let the idea slide and say, “well, I wish I could…maybe next year.” So, in January, when I was making a list of goals in my passion planner, I kept it in the forefront of my mind and made it a number one priority. If I planned for it enough, and saved enough, I could commit myself to it.

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Here’s a secret: initially, I was going to sign up to run a 10K. To me, the 10K race was less intimidating than doing a half-marathon. I then found out that the theme of this year’s 10K run was Doctor Strange, and, well…not to be a bummer, but I was less enthused about participating in a race that honored a character I wasn’t that into. The Avengers Half Marathon promised to make the run a celebration of all the Marvel characters I loved, and so I asked a few friends who were serious runners if it was totally out of the question for me to run a half — given that, while I’m in good physical shape, I’m not a serious runner and have never run any kind of timed race before. With the reassurance that I could train and work up to it, I booked myself into the half-marathon run when sign-ups went live in April. Running 13.1 miles? Getting to see my favorite Avengers? Not such a bad thing. And so I trained — at least, as much as I could. I got myself to a comfortable 5K in about half an hour and built up my stamina over the summer.

Then depression and my mental health and personal commitments and being busy took a toll. As the race got closer, I trained less and less. I slacked a little more on getting outside as the weather got a bit chillier. I didn’t do any long runs or practice runs the way I was supposed to, which left me nervous about my race — so nervous that I kept making self-depreciating “I might die” remarks leading up to last Sunday whenever anyone asked me about running. But I still got on a plane and flew across the country. I still got up at 3:30am. I still stood at the starting line. I was doing this, and damned if I was going to back out on the one thing I had promised myself I’d do this year, in a year that has been one of the hardest years for me, mentally. One of my favorite lines in Hamilton is when Burr sings “I am the one thing in life I can control” which, for me, really resonates. I can’t control if I get a job, or what the country is doing with this goddamn election, or my mind getting down because I’m unhappy with certain things I can’t change. But I can control this. I can say I’ll do something and then DO IT. In therapy, I often talk about how one of the things that’s been really hard on me with unemployment is the loss of control, and feeling like there’s not a lot that I can count on in my life right now. But this? This was something I could control.

Guys, I ran a half-marathon.

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Was it easy? Hell no. The first few miles were fun, getting to run through all of Disney and California Adventure. I stopped for photos with Black Widow and Hawkeye (naturally), took in some of the sights that were super cool to run through, and there was MCU music blaring everywhere in the parks. (I regret not taking a photo with Captain America but he was the first person I saw and I was worried at that point about timing so I chose not to stop.) The hardest stretches by far were miles 8-10, particularly the stretch where I had to run around and then through Angels Stadium — mostly because the length between the miles was so long it seemed like it would never end.

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Hawkeye liked my leggings, clearly.

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By Mile 9, my legs hurt enough that when I would slow to a walk, I really felt it, probably because I had never really trained to run more than 50 minutes at a time and I was going on two hours of continuous running. But I kept going, little by little, and managed to pace myself so that I ran/walked the rest of the way and ran the last 800 meters to the finish line. Those 800 meters were arguably the most painful because I was ready to be DONE, but I knew I had to push myself to finish. And so I put on “My Shot” from the Hamilton Mixtape and let Busta Rhymes guide me over the finish line.
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YAS QUEEN I DID IT. I also hurt, you can’t tell.

Coming out to California, I had three goals for my first half-marathon: finish the race, don’t come in last, and run in under three and a half hours. And the girl who used to absolutely dread mile run day in middle school accomplished everything on her list. I finished the race, well before a lot of other people. I didn’t come in last — far from it, in fact. And while my clocked time was about 3 hours and 25 minutes (I started in the second to last corral, so my run didn’t actually start until 40 minutes after the race officially began), my actual run time from start to finish line was 2 hours and 38 minutes.

I ran a half-marathon.

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Running is SUPER SEXY…not.

The RunDisney crew was great. The people were great, the atmosphere was great, and all of it contributed to making my first run a success. People came out with signs, and my friends came out to cheer me on. Right now, the world is in a state of turmoil that feels so despondent and so bleak that I don’t know how to cope. This election hit me hard, left me vulnerable, and left me feeling helpless. I admit it was a bit of an escape to have this trip come at the time that it did — I admit it made me feel better to be with friends who shared my sexual orientation and provide them with love — but more than that, the whole weekend was about people of all ages and all ethnicities and all skill levels supporting and loving and being appreciative of each other. I hugged and talked with strangers I didn’t even know, and those anonymous encouraging smiles during the race or people who would talk to me before the race to share their stories were what helped me power through. It was a weekend about feeling good, and about love.

We could all use a reminder of love right now.

Crossing that finish line gave me a sense of exhilaration that I can’t describe. Everyone says you get adrenaline highs and endorphins while running, and while running has certainly helped my depression, I never got that total “high” people talked about. But when I was running, I felt a sense of accomplishment that can only be described as relief. Not just relief that I had finished a race, but relief that I had completed a goal that wasn’t easy, and that I worked for. I proved to myself that it didn’t matter if I hadn’t worked out enough or run enough. I had pushed myself to complete a big goal. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget what that feeling felt like. I didn’t beat my depression, and I don’t know how to do that yet, but in those moments I crossed the finish line? I beat my depression. Because I proved I could do something beyond what my body thought it was capable of.

And I did. And I can do it again. And I will.

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getting back in the game

Oh, hello. It’s been awhile.

I could talk about how I’ve fallen off the blogging train (despite weekly reminders in my planner) because I’ve been spending all my free time writing a super long story; because I’ve been trying to balance my Internet time and “real world” time; because I’ve been making more time to read; because my self-care has been quite terrible and embarrassing lately. All of these things are true, but what has kept me from being most productive lately is depression. Funny how that works, right?

I tell people I’m doing okay — my parents, my sister, my friends, my boyfriend, my boyfriend’s parents — when asked about my well-being. I’ve been essentially unemployed since the beginning of April, which is not long comparatively to some people I know (and not long compared to how many months I spent jobless back in 2014), but no matter how positive you are and how much you try to ignore it, the situation takes its toll. You relish the ability to wake up leisurely, the ability to spend time catching up on television or writing or building furniture or sitting outside or drinking dozens of cups of coffee without interruption. You freelance and try to believe that all your hard work will pay off one day. You make money on your own schedule while still setting aside time to do what you want creatively. But then there always comes a point where you fall down. Where you become angry and bitter and sick of just being leisurely. When the rejections pile up, when you have to deal with getting your hopes up way too high in interviews and callbacks that seem like the biggest strokes of luck, only to be ignored or cast out again, back to square one, all of your effort and optimism of the past few weeks seemingly for naught.

The truth is, I’m not doing okay. Beneath the happiness I’ve tried to create for myself on the Internet and elsewhere, I’ve been struggling with figuring out how to power through all of the things in my head that are constantly weighing on me. I’ve had more anxiety attacks and bouts of insomnia than I know is normal. I’ve shied away from my friends, I’ve had shorter fuses for my frustration. And the worst thing about not doing okay? I’ve made it very, very easy to find ways to hate myself. Self-care and love is so important, and it’s something I struggle with, and something I’ve been quite terrible at lately. Because depression is, well, depression, and as good as you feel about yourself some days, it’s very easy to fall into a spiral of thinking everything around you is falling apart. Taking an antidepressant regularly and being more open about my depression in general has helped me to feel a little more confident about being in the place I’m in right now, and it’s something I’m trying to continue to do. Because sitting in silence the way I’m prone to do during the times that things get bad…that’s not good, either. And if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that I have a superb support system that will absolutely always be ready to prop me up if I admit that I’ve fallen.

But I still have a long way to go. I still need to be better about recognizing when to take a break, when to give MYSELF a break, when to trust myself. I still need to learn how to be happy with myself, about myself. Things are changing, slowly: a few positive scenarios have sprung up to give me light and hope because when it rains, sometimes it pours (and sometimes good karma leads to a windfall of optimism.) Summer is on its way out, fall is on its way in, and I always feel better when everything gets colder and more colorful and real. I’ve tried to embrace more friend time. I’ve tried to go easier on myself when it comes to what I’ve achieved in life and what my goals are. I’ve been writing a lot more and trying to create based on what makes me happy rather than just for validation, I’ve actively sought out things like meditation and yoga and have been trying to get myself out of the house on a daily basis. Running, aka the training I’m doing for my half marathon in November, is helping in some ways, too — as much as I still subscribe to the Sex Criminals adage of “running is bullshit.”

In short, I’m trying — which is more than I can say I was doing for a lot of this summer. And I’m AWARE that I’m trying. Sometimes, you have to accept the small steps in order to make bigger ones.

one more candle

It’s my birthday tomorrow.

Ever since I turned 30 a few years ago, I’ve had a hard time with birthdays. Maybe it’s just the very real fact that after you hit a certain age, you start to realize how much of your life you’ve already lived, and you get that “back 9” syndrome Robert Downey Jr. talks about. But for me, birthdays past 30 are continual reminders of the fact I’m not where I want to be or where I thought I’d be at this point in my life, professionally and personally. It’s hard to shake that mindset, to look forward to another year when you’re so focused on what your age means.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 20’s, about mistakes I made because I was young, and stupid, and listened to the wrong people, and had different priorities. I think about if I would feel different because had I not made certain decisions, I would be where I always wanted to be. On the other hand, I’m astute enough to realize if I had taken that path, there’s a chance I wouldn’t have the friends I currently have. I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to work at the company of my dreams, doing a job I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do. I probably wouldn’t be in my current career. I might not have gone to grad school. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into comics as much as I did, and comics not only saved my life, but they also brought amazing, inspirational people into my world.

The thing is, it’s hard to focus on the road less traveled when all you can see in front of you is the one that is now defining your life. Maybe it’s because I know people who are younger, who have already gotten their lives together, and it makes me feel like moving at a slower pace is demeaning. Maybe it’s because I know people who ARE my age who have the things I desperately want, and I wonder if and where I went wrong.

This was an up and down year. There were extreme highs and extreme lows; I had a lot of positive opportunities and moments but I also had a lot of setbacks. I’ve been reflecting recently, about the steps I’ve taken to improve my life and mental health, the things I can be proud of and the things I could have done differently. In my Passion Planner, I purposefully designated today as “self care” with an attempt to relax and enjoy the day without being upset or depressed that tomorrow will see me another year older, and another year closer to an age that’s pretty significant.

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A few years ago, Kelly Sue answered a question about life and balance on her blog. I bookmarked it at the time, and still look at it today when I need to be reminded of the fact that you don’t have to be successful at 20 to have a good life. Or even successful at 30. Age doesn’t matter. Drive and motivation does. Being happy with yourself does.

It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m closer to having the things I want, but not close enough that I can feel optimistic that turning another year older will bring enough good things that will make me feel like I’m on the right track. But this year, I’ve had experiences, and I’ve learned. I’m older. I’m wiser. I have amazing people in my life who I am proud and thankful to call friends, who I love dearly, who help me every single day just by having my back in the smallest of ways. I have a family that is big on tough love, but they catch me when I fall, and lately, I really, really have fallen.

In the words of Kelly Sue, I’m doing the best I can, figuring it out as I go. And that has to count for something.

learning how to be me: an ongoing journey

I’ve been ultimately terrible at blogging lately for a number of reasons. The most glaring one is that anxiety and depression due to unemployment have made it hard for me to do anything other than sit around or sleep. But also, I’ve been settling into life post-move, and adjusting to sharing a space, and, oh yeah…a lot of writing (aka my catharsis). I had another entry focused on how I was feeling lately, but since May is mental health month, I thought it was finally time to talk about things I’ve been hesitant to say out loud because, well…sometimes you do things and sometimes things change and then you forget you had done things because you’ve made enough progress. I guess my point is that everyone struggles, no one is perfect, and we all have demons under the surface, right?

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bless tumblr for always giving me posts that sum up my feelings

I wrote a post awhile ago about finally accepting help and facing my fears by taking medication to combat my anxiety (which included accepting I HAD a problem that required medication). And honestly? It’s been a huge, huge help for me to know that when I’m spiraling out of control, I have that little white pill that I can take. In the past few months, I’ve also been steadily attending therapy each week. Unlike my earlier (read: years ago) visits, I’m not sitting there refusing to talk — I’m actively expressing my feelings, trying to accept the bad parts of myself, trying to be okay with them. But there’s something I haven’t talked about openly, and that’s self-harm. So, in the spirit of mental health month, I am writing this post.

In my junior year of high school, we were forced to take these sex ed classes and keep a journal where they’d make us write about our thoughts on the topics we had learned about, and we’d get graded on our responses. Kind of like an interactive exercise to also prove we understood the material, I guess. At the end of the school year, we were told we could write an “extra” entry if we wanted, aka a topic that that we hadn’t had a chance to discuss in class. So, I wrote about not feeling good about myself, about wanting to “rebel” (hey, seventeen or eighteen year old me thought it was GREAT to be rebellious, hence the belly button ring). I remember being nervous as all hell to hand it in, and when I got it back, there was a nice long handwritten response in my journal. Essentially, it boiled down to, “this is your cry for attention.” And maybe it was, at the time. Maybe I wanted attention for hurting and didn’t know who else to turn to, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell my parents that I sat in my room and clawed at my arms with my fingernails. The teacher questioned things I wrote (“if you don’t want to be like everyone else, why do you want to ‘rebel?'” is a line I remember quite clearly, despite the fact I don’t know where this diary is and haven’t seen it for years…it’s probably in my parents house somewhere.) But ultimately, I remember feeling hurt and embarrassed.

In college, I traded the notion of self-harm for other non-healthy habits — cigarette smoking, pot smoking, alcohol. The quintessential “rebellion” things, if you will. None of those stuck, and I guess the good thing about it is that I never got into anything that became too detrimental to my health (except well, okay. Alcohol and I are still on a bit of a rocky road when it comes to my anxiety but I think I try to pretend it’s not a huge issue.) I also traded fingernails for nail clippers and scissors. It helped, in a way, to see those marks on my skin, to feel the pain when I was upset. I don’t know when things changed and I can’t even say I “grew out of it” because there are still times when emotionally, things become too much. In a few recent instances, the thought and intent has been there, because I’ve been so low that I haven’t known what else to do. But I know that compared to where I was a few years ago, I’ve made progress, and that’s due to everything from friends to improvements in my personal life to comics to people who have, unknowingly, provided me with strength and inspiration to get through my worst days. And I’d rather have a string of bad days where I’m lying on the couch upset, rather than feeling like the only way I can make myself feel better is to act out.

I’ve sat on this post for awhile because I wasn’t happy with it. Not because I was afraid to say these things, but because for awhile, my brain went right back to that teacher who scoffed at my thoughts, however serious or not serious they really were at seventeen. I’m not the “normal” case of a person going through this, and I hate that society (and the Internet) has made it so easy for us invalidate our personal struggles, because no one except you ever knows the extent of what you’re going through. I thought this post should be longer, I thought that I should explain myself more fully, I thought that it should be written better — I’m a perfectionist at heart in everything but in my writing most of all, because from an early age, writing has always been the one thing I’ve been good at when I haven’t excelled at other things in life. (Maybe this is why I put so much emphasis on writing in fandom — it’s not so much the validation that bothers my brain, but the throughline of “if something isn’t inherently liked enough, it means you’re not good enough.”)

But the month will soon be over and I’ve sat on this long enough, so it’s time to put it out into the world, and let the light in.

silencing the demon voice

I recently plowed through Amy Poehler’s autobiography, Yes, Please, something that I’m almost embarrassed to admit considering the book has been sitting on my bedside table for about a year and I only JUST got around to reading it now. Chalk it up to the fact that my year of reading in 2015 was pitifully pathetic and just…not productive in any way, shape or form. Anyway, it’s not that I wasn’t interested — I mean, I ADORE Amy Poehler. She’s one of my favorite people, and Parks & Recreation is one of my favorite shows ever. Plus, hell yes to being neighbors by default! (She grew up in the next town over, which made reading her book super fun, because she not only worked at restaurants I frequented as a kid but there were also a lot of in jokes I was able to appreciate. Ah, Massachusetts.)

Among the cheeky references and amusing anecdotes, there was a chapter early on where she talked about dealing with her “demon voice” — you know, the degrading, nagging thing that comes along somewhere in your teens and then stays with you for most of your life. It goes away after a bit, after you’ve gotten through the high school adolescence period of, “I’m not popular enough” and “I’m not pretty enough,” and it sits in the closet or gets put on a shelf and gathers dust. You kind of forget it’s there when things start to straighten out and when you get more confidence. But it never really goes away. It always comes back, reminding you that you’re not successful enough, that you’re not good enough, that you’re not worthy enough, that you’re not smart enough. The list goes on.

I’m dealing with a lot of different things right now that my “demon voice” is currently having a blast with. (No, really. I’m pretty sure it’s having a full-on party, complete with the kegs and the raves.) My demon voice is telling me I made the wrong choice with my job. (“Go back to your safe, nice field! Even though that’s not really what you wanted to do and you had no promotion opportunities!”) My demon voice is telling me I made the wrong choice with choosing my boyfriend. (“Maybe when you went with first instincts, you should have worried more about his job and his motivation!”) My demon voice is telling me if I hadn’t fucked up my priorities 6-7 years ago, I wouldn’t be having these problems to begin with. (“Look at all that money you wasted! Look at all those decisions you made because you let other people influence you! You’re responsible for all your depression now when you wish you had things you don’t anymore!”)

According to Amy Poehler, you’re supposed to tell your demon voice things like HEY. DON’T SAY THAT TO ME. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? You’re supposed to push back at it and let it not control you. You’re supposed to give it a face like this:

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I wish I could do that because the problem that I have, and the problem that I’ve always had, is that once I get pulled into the spiral of self-doubt and depression, I find it very easy to let the demon voice stomp all over me. I can’t feel optimistic and I can’t push back, because all I can do is focus on the shitty things that I’m being told, and then I start to look at everything in my life through that lens. It leads to anxiety and even more depression. It’s kind of like yelling EXPECTO PATRONUM! at a Dementor, when you WANT to yell but all you do instead of freeze up and let it suck the life out of you.

It’s really, really annoying.

My therapist and I have spent a good amount of time talking out my regrets and worries, and each conversation is a small step towards making me more accepting of the good things I have in my life. One of the biggest things we’ve talked about has been trying to pinpoint what the cause of my demon voice is. Get to the heart of the matter, that’s how you kill it, right? (Hey, it works for vampires.) And it makes me think, because I really don’t know where my demon voice came from in particular. I’d always been an introverted, shy child, but where did this absolute “you are worthless” sense and lack of confidence come from? When did I get to the point where I can’t even enjoy the things that make me happy because there’s a constant comparison of how I’m just not worth anything? I didn’t have a terrible childhood, by any means. I grew up in a supportive privileged household with strong family values. I attended a high school that was competitive and focused on academic success, and although I wasn’t the smartest person in the room, I did more than okay. With a few exceptions, I was never really bullied. My mom pushed me hard, and sometimes too much, but never with any negative connotations. I was always told I had talent — in writing, in ice skating, in theater — although I didn’t always get everything I wanted or win every award, I was never told that I was terrible at anything.

And maybe that’s it. I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I always have been, no matter what the situation is. Maybe I was just always close to being “perfect” but the fact that I could never quite get there built up over time, and gave that demon voice a bigger presence. It’s something that’s inherent in all of us, unless you’re just really good at pushing your feelings aside — you have a good job, but someone your age has something better. You have a good relationship, but someone out there is in a relationship that has something a little more perfect than you, that you can’t quite achieve. You have a good life, but there are things about it that aren’t quite perfect. You have a good piece of writing, but there’s someone out there that gets better reception.

I’m not writing this blog post to say that I found a way to cure myself of this demon voice. Or that by just realizing what it is and what it maybe comes from has solved everything. Or that it goes away and never comes back if you just wait long enough. Or that I used to be more affected by it, but now I’m totally fine. (As evidenced by last night’s breakdown. Yes, demon voices can make you cry, too.) But I’m working on it. And whether it’s by talking to friends, or taking meds, or writing it out, or talking to my therapist, I like to think there’s hope it’ll get better. As my favorite FBI agent likes to say, I want to believe.

monthly round-up: january

If you use a passion planner, one of the big organizational things they try to instill is goal setting. Whether it’s for the week, the month, a year, whether it’s three years, ten years, your lifetime, whatever, the point is to try to accomplish as many things as you can even if they don’t end up being your SOLE goal. (For example, you may not have published a book, but you did write 10,000 words of a draft of a novel that you can query. Or you didn’t get married, but you did get engaged. Or you didn’t get a new job, but you did get a promotion.) At the end of each month, you reflect on your goals and your steps that you’ve taken to get there, however big or small. You sit down, you look at questions that ask you about specific feelings or moments, and you reflect on how you’ve changed over the month. You look at the things you said you wanted to do/accomplish 30 days ago and you see if you’ve made progress on them. If you have, yay! If you haven’t, that doesn’t mean that you failed anything — you look at the month and you think about why you didn’t accomplish things, and you make resolutions to do better next month.

(See, look at me trying to make it look like I don’t feel like a failure for that whole “no I didn’t make my goals this month” thing!)

The monthly exercise is a way for you to keep your motivation in check, and I figured putting those things in a blog would be a good way to do that, as well. Maybe it’s all a little redundant, since I’m doing this in my planner each month, but hey, it can’t hurt.

These were my “goals” for January, as put into my planner at the end of December:

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blah blah blah, ignore all the life commitments

So, how did I do?

  • FIND AN APARTMENT

I didn’t find an apartment. The truth of the matter was, I didn’t expect to find an apartment, not with my lease ending in two months and knowing the way the market moves in New York. But I did start looking, and I plan to kick that more into gear this month. I basically have to, considering that I’m leaving my current place no matter what. Have I mentioned that I hate apartment hunting? Because I really, really hate apartment hunting. Number one, it means making a huge change, which basically fuels a lot of my anxiety. Number two, I hate processes that are out of your control, so when I need to make a huge life decision or change I usually end up putting it off or hiding in order to avoid dealing with it. My therapist and I have been talking about ways to combat my fears, because I can’t really do that with this situation or I’ll screw myself over in more ways than one. In good news, I saw a place that I fell in love with. In bad news, I’m pretty sure for a variety of reasons it won’t work out. But if not, the search goes on.

  • START SAVINGS/BUDGET

I didn’t do this the way I envisioned I would, or by starting some program that helps you track your spending. (Apparently programs like that don’t do well for me considering I live alone and have a hard time allocating expenses and I get overwhelmed more often than not.) But I did become aware of my spending, and I kept a vigilant eye on my checking account and my credit card balances, more than I usually do. I carefully calculated what was coming out each month (usually, I just handwave a lot of the automatic payments and forget about them) and at the beginning of each week, when I wrote out my passion planner, I tried to remember to put in my starting balance so I always knew what I was working with when it came to spending. It’s a slow process, but I do feel like I’m slowly gaining more control over my financials, however small the steps are.

  • WRITE EVERY DAY

I cheated slightly with this — even before I made all my “resolutions,” I was pretty much writing every day because it’s how I spent my free time or downtime. So it wasn’t really about making myself write more, but more refining my writing — how much I do it, when and where I do it, etc. Admittedly, although I blocked off time in my passion planner every morning and night for writing, I didn’t stick to those constraints. I did find, however, that it does help me to visually and mentally put the time aside, because even if I go out on a weeknight or sleep in too late, I always remember I need to at least try and write. But I did open a google doc every day and make progress on projects. Right now, all of the things I’m working on are fic, and it will probably stay that way until NaNo starts again. But in other ways that writing every day has made a difference: I’ve blogged regularly almost every week, I’ve kept on track with my huge multi-chapter, and I started new stories I have inspiration for.

  • READ EVERY DAY

By the end of January, I had finished Wishful Drinking (love Carrie Fisher so much), The Night Circus, and Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please. I read three books this month! THREE! Last year, I read maybe two books over the course of the entire year, and one of them was Margie’s Black Widow novel which was half work. The only difference between last year and this year, aside from commuting, is I made an effort to read when I wasn’t doing anything else or when I had some free moments to relax, rather than sitting on the computer and scrolling through Tumblr, or re-reading fic on my Kindle. (Which I still do, I just default to it less often, having an actual book I know I want to get through.)

  • POST ONE NEW FIC A MONTH*

Success! I finished my Star Wars/Avengers AU, which I had started back in December when I realized just how much alike Rey and Finn were to Clint and Natasha. And I’d like to finish one of the three ideas I’ve been working on for next month — even if I can’t break my word count from last year, as long as I can keep posting one new story every 30 or so days, I think I’ll be satisfied. It’s just important for me to keep my brain creatively active, even if I go through periods of feeling like I have no motivation or inspiration whatsoever, or I feel like there’s no audience for my words.

*(for the record, this whole “one fic a month” thing does not include an ongoing multichapter that is, at this point, over 100,000 words.)

Every step is a baby one, but I think so far, I’ve done okay. It’s been a productive first month of trying to make myself happy with what I have. And looking back at what I’ve accomplished makes me feel positive I can push forward, even if things endeavor to push me back.

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blah blah blah, ignore all the life commitments

talking about stress…and meds

A secret that is not actually a secret at all is that I am terrible at handling stress.

I’ve gotten a little better at it, thanks to being more aware of how my brain and body works, and with that comes an ability to try to recognize when I’m letting myself get too overwhelmed. But like a lot of things in my life, it’s still a work in progress. My dedication to improving my self-care this year isn’t just to make myself more productive and get more sleep and the like. It’s also to get myself into a place where I can hopefully feel better about myself. Part of that involves finding ways to quiet my brain when it wants to take the rest of my well-being on a ride — and that doesn’t just extend to things during the day. It would be nice to not wake up in the middle of the night constantly, and, you know, sleep a little better for once.

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My sleep schedule, according to my fitbit tracker – I’m too restless, so don’t let the actual hours fool you.

A large part of my stress ends up coming from the fact I have a hard time believing that what I do is right or enough, which is probably a holdover from the way I was raised — loving, supportive parents who also pushed me far too much, who made me believe certain ideals were more important than others, a top high school full of kids who were all smarter than you, etc. But it’s tough to want to be social, to be out with friends every so often and think, “I would be better if I was spending time writing,” or to be at home doing nothing and think, “I would be better if I was more productive.” The noise that I get in my head kind of paralyzes me in the same way I can’t turn my brain off when it comes to the self-worth things compared to the rest of the world (my writing isn’t as good, my life isn’t as good, my relationship isn’t as good) and then half the time I just end up whining to people about the way I feel, which causes my friends to do really lovely things like threaten to put a shock collar on me so I stop getting down on myself. (See? True friendship.)

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In all honesty, I know this isn’t something that’s unique to me. This kind of mental stress is something everyone deals with, and some people are just better at figuring out how to handle it. Some people need help, and I’ve recently come to terms with accepting the fact that I’m one of those people — no, I might never be satisfied, but I can make efforts to keep myself from feeling like everything is too much.

For years, I resisted taking any kind of medication for various reasons — I didn’t believe I had any kind of issue that was worth being medicated, I had been told by some friends that I shouldn’t go down that route, I felt like I was a failure for admitting I needed help more than just talking to someone. After a recent incident made me realize just how much my brain could overwhelm me (read: a complete anxiety attack where I lost it while with my boyfriend and his uncle at a Broadway show, and became unable to function for a few hours) I made it a mission to get that kind of help for real. (Not just doing things like, you know, having friends slip you pills in times of need. Whoops.) And honestly? Just knowing that I now have the option of that little bottle of pills, that I have a way to quiet my brain when it gets to be too much, has made me feel so much better about things.

Aside from certain coping mechanisms that I’ve been trying to take advantage of (audiobooks, coloring books, tea), I’ve also been using iPhone relaxation apps more and more, especially before bed. And it actually helps a lot.

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I made my app background look like this because it reminded me of Clint Barton’s farm. Yes I did. It’s calming, okay?

Once I have a chance to sit down and put aside some money for my budget, I’m going to let myself indulge in a few more “self-care” things that I can put towards taking some of that stress off of my brain — a new tea, a new candle, some new audiobooks, maybe new colored pencils. But the fact remains that I’m someone who likes to hide from addressing their feelings, and I would never have thought I would have the courage to take control of my life with medication. I owe a lot of that to my friends who have been steadfastly supportive, most of whom are in the same kind of boat I am and understand what I’m going through.

But I guess everything is progress. And I’ll accept that bottle of pills with pride, because progress means I’m finally learning to ask for help.