Toxicity Coming to the Spotlight

Toxic relationships and toxic traits are things that have recently become a part of a large scale conversation. And as important as it is to have this conversation, I have significant worries as well.

Toxic relationships whether romantically or platonic are not built upon mutual respect; there is often times a struggle of power and abuse of power. They don’t always start off this way and there are experiences of both immeasurable joy and horrifying fear or disgust or anger. The hard part about toxic relationships is that 1. you may not know you’re in one until it is so far into the roller coaster that it is hard to get off, and 2. there is not only one person at fault for the ride. In order to have a toxic relationship, there has to be two negative poles like magnets. They repel and they push back on each other allowing the individualization of power and lack of effective communication to overcome the relationship. It is ugly and it is hard to walk away from.

Side note:Toxicity and abuse are not the same thing. There is interplay and often times a relationship that is abusive is also toxic but they should not be used interchangeably.

I was in an abusive relationship but even more importantly, I was in a toxic relationship and it has completely changed my ability to build another, a stronger relationship. I brought toxic traits to the table as did he and now I am in a relationship of a completely different caliber. It feels healthy and strong and I see a future with this person. I never saw that in the last one. In the last one, I was constantly trying to convince myself that everything was normal, that couples fight, that certain things were happening because trust is hard to come by and its normalized for infidelity to happen: what I was experiencing was what I deserved.

And I am still so lost. I am still very much overcoming that mentality. My current relationship is built on friendship and strength and a mutual desire to push each other. It is strong and beautiful. But there are moments that I completely lose sight of that and I revert to the toxic habits I relied on a couple years ago. I didn’t trust this last person at all. I knew I was being lied to, I knew I was being cheated on and I found sneaky ways to confirm those suspicions. And every now and then, I find myself doing a similar thing in this relationship. There are times when I say to myself, “I’m being treated too well right now. He’s being too nice to me so something has to be up. He must be lying to me somehow. And then I get so mad at myself for doubting that I deserve to be treated as a human who is shown love and compassion from another person.

But that is what a toxic relationship does to you. It breaks you down as far as you can go before you are completely submerged underwater. And then it makes you question how you were able to start swimming again. 

I took almost 2 years to myself after breaking off the relationship that nearly broke me to focus on healing and bettering myself, to work and to spend time with those that supported me and to count my blessings. I thought I had overcome the hardships and toxic habits of being in this relationship. And then I found someone I wanted to share my life with and ALL the habits came back. I had to and am still having to learn ways to overcome the bad habits I formed and used to cope. It has been a unique journey and not one that very many people have been able to stand by nor support me with. There are a lot of decisions and in the moment doubts I have that only I can address with enough confidence to overcome. It has come with a lot of isolation and internal battles. Even when confiding in others who have experienced similar journeys, there are still battles that cannot be shared or overcome in pairs. It is personal and independent- neither of which toxic or abusive relationships allow for. 

It is this personalization and distinctiveness of the battle after the fact that scares me about the conversation coming to spotlight. I think when topics become over-exposed, they lose their power and influence. We run the risk of becoming desensitized and then the conversation, empathy, and support that is so desperately needed around this conversation disappear for good. Because this topic and the experiences people have around the words toxic and abuse are so near to my heart, the overexposure scares me. I will listen and read and write about this topic until the day I no longer can but I fear  individuals will get lost to the bigger story. This isn’t just a narrative, it is a life and an everyday battle that me and probably most of you are having with yourselves every single day.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Today Ruth

I could really feel it today. The hot breath of Ruth (that’s the name I granted my anxiety monster- thought it was creepy and yet somehow rational similar to the way it feels to  have anxiety). It was tapping the back of my neck as I opened my eyes this morning creating a slight pulse in my temple. Just enough to give me an excuse not to get out of bed, just enough to claim another mental health day instead of knocking the 15 things off my to-do list.

She’s been gone for awhile but Ruth’s presence certainly has not been missed. She’s graceful, I’ll giver her that: always popping up without a sound but she is quite the freeloader once she does make an appearance- staying however long she wishes. And with her entrance this morning into my subconscious, I knew she was planning to stay awhile this round.

Well Ruthie baby, we aren’t gonna let you win this time around. I am not the only one with a persistent anxiety monster that wakes up with me in the morning. So I am asking all of you with a Ruth to join me in success today despite her companionship.

Get out of bed. I know, I know. Much easier said than done. But it is an active choice to roll onto your side and put your feet on the ground. Take as long as you need to but roll over and get your ass out of bed.

Kill the headache. Pop an ibuprofen along with your antidepressant. That might mean a prescription, a joint, or both. Do some yoga, go on a run, or brew a cup of coffee. Either way, do not let a reminder of Ruth’s presence sit in your temple all day long.

Create a list of goals. And put getting out of bed on there with a big fat check mark next to it. Because you accomplished that and you need to be proud of it. And put something that challenges the hell out of you on there. No matter what it is, push yourself. Find your favorite pen and start checking things off every time you finish one. It’ll feel like you’re beating Ruth with every accomplished task she made you question you were capable of.

Breathe. This shit isn’t easy. Ruth isn’t easy. Some days are better than others- a phrase used all too much but accurate nonetheless. Give yourself a break, have a meltdown if you need to. But don’t forget to breathe and really focus on each and every inhale. We take for granted how simple oxygen moving in and out of our lungs is but it is so powerful. We are alive and focusing on our breath is the easiest way to remind ourselves of that. We are living and breathing with a purpose. Don’t lose sight of that.

Find yourself an outlet. I suggest chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and The Noticer by Andy Andrews but it can be absolutely anything as long as it gets Ruth off your back for more than 30 seconds.

Just please please please Say kind words to yourself. It is so easy to lay in bed, succumb to your headache and quit for the day. But don’t. You’re stronger than that and you deserve better than that. Ruth hasn’t earned the right to take over who you are and what you are capable of. Don’t let her have it without a fight.

So join me as I continue to sip my coffee and knock things off the to-do list (first on my list is making the bed). Ruth is gonna stay with me all day, I can still feel her breath but even if it takes every ounce of effort in my soul, I will not let her defeat me today.

Loud and Proud

Over the past few days I have debated about creating this post, about taking the thoughts in my head and putting them into a concrete summary. I’ve never been known for my ability to be humble but for some reason, spending the time to write, edit, and publish a piece focused on nothing but myself seemed egotistical and self-serving. I thought, maybe I’ll just write it in my personal journal but that might as well stay a thought secluded from everyone around me. And then I realized that there should be no shame in posting something themed with a positive self image and pride of my accomplishments. I never second guess writing a piece filled with my negative thoughts or criticism toward an aspect of society or self but when it came to explicitly writing my accomplishments and the pride I feel toward myself, I couldn’t do it. There is something wrong with that. So here I am, being loud, aggressive and proud of who I am.

As some of you may know, I recently moved across the country for no other reason than to chase an opportunity outside of my comfort zone alongside my best friend. I was given criticism, doubts, and negative feedback. I was told I wouldn’t be happy, I wouldn’t find a job, and that moving for a boy was naive. And I want to say thank you to those of you who set the standard so low for me and my success.

I have done over five years of research on the child’s brain, have a degree in human development, and have witnessed first-hand the resiliency young humans have when presented with change. The plasticity of the brain and the adaptability of the personalities is admirable. It is theorized and somewhat supported that as we grow older, it becomes more and more challenging to adapt to change because of pathways in our brains. It’s like walking the same path over and over again until the Earth is eroded beneath our footsteps. We form habits and those habits erode our brain until it is muscle memory: the way we think, the way we act, the way we respond to change. We try to find a path we have already made so the emotional response is lessened.

But we do so by choice. We choose the path of least resistance so we don’t have to respond outside of our comfort zone. That my friends, is where all of your negative responses stemmed from- the use of negativity over and over again in your brain. Change can be scary but you chose to respond by walking down the path of least resistance by offering criticism instead of pride and excitement.

At the same time that our brains are creating overused walkways with our thoughts, it is simultaneously growing egocentric and competitive. We have a hard time recognizing the blessings those around us have received. Few of us are able to utilize or have created pathways for praising others because we are so focused on our own negative ways of life.

Luckily, my competitive neurology has given me an ultimatum: listen to them and fail or make that move and succeed. Guess what kiddos, I’m killin it. I hate that I second guessed whether this was the right thing to do, hate that I questioned if I was brave enough to succeed 1300 miles from home. All I had to do was choose to be happy, choose a new pathway and it was SO EASY. It is so easy to be open-minded and positive. It is so easy to take an environment of unknowns, strangers, and what-ifs and turn it into a land of opportunity. We just have to make an active choice in walking the pathways our brain chooses to take over and over again.

I was scared to write this post in fear of sounding egotistical or like I was better than my readers simply because I’m choosing to be happy. That’s not what I’m saying whatsoever. What I am saying is we should not be scared to be proud of ourselves, to brag about things we are doing well, to accept change and flourish amongst it. We should not be scared to create new pathways in our brain based on positive thoughts and pride for others. We are just as plastic and flexible as our younger counterparts, we are just stubborn in our ways. It is a choice and we have to make it every single day.

With that being said, I power through daily depression and anxiety attacks. It isn’t easy uprooting everything you have ever known for a city in the Deep South. Feel each of your emotions as deeply as possible whether it is positive or negative but do not become a victim of circumstance. Choose to succeed and choose to create a prideful pathway in your mind for yourself and for others. It’s easier than you think to change and to accept change.

I feel like I’m missing something

I still haven’t felt it. That overwhelming sense of fear or uncertainty. I haven’t felt that pit in my stomach that accompanies the trip down a road unknown.

As I was packing my bags and deciding what was most valuable for me to take on my journey across country, any emotion was replaced by a to-do list of things to see, people to hug, and stuff not to forget.

Every hug, every tear shed by a person I hold close to my heart was met with a quick ‘but this isn’t goodbye.’ Or ‘I’ll see you soon.’ I never felt like I was losing someone-simply just adding mileage in between sightings.

I thought I was in denial. Scared to come to terms with the idea that I was leaving everything I have ever known and called home goodbye. I figured it would hit me on the final drive away from my moms house or at least after posting a goodbye photo of my beautiful city. But it didn’t. Ok- maybe it would come in the car ride across the country when I could see nothing but grass and clouds, never knowing what the next mile was gonna bring. It didn’t. For sure when I woke up in a new house on my very first morning, a new city, a new life, I would cry.

But I didn’t. And at first I didn’t understand why. I should be nervous and scared about a life changing move, a new relationship, a new everything. I should be scared of not knowing anyone in this city and not being 15 minutes from my mom at any given time. But I didn’t.

I felt and feel excited and almost at home amongst the uncertainties. I know I have a man next to me that loves and supports me. I know I have the ability and determination to succeed anywhere and I know that life is meant to explore and love and meet as many new people as possible. Life isn’t about comfort or succeeding within a boundary but for pushing those boundaries and doing whatever it is that feels right and makes your heart beat a little bit faster. It’s about being happy with who and where you are.

I realized, while unpacking my everyday clothes into a foreign closet that I’m succeeding at that life I just described. And maybe the reason I am so comfortable and content and not overwhelmed by this transition is because I know it’s the right thing to be doing. I feel proud of myself and so ready for this next chapter. And that shouldn’t be a foreign feeling- for any of us. Cheers to all your next adventures and the emotions felt while experiencing them.

If you live in Denver, this one is for you

Dear Coloradoans and more specifically Denverites,

This letter is to all of you Colorado residents (natives or transplants) with whom I’ve interacted with within the last couple of months. I have defended you nearly my entire life as kind, welcoming, and beautiful people. I mean we live in one of THE most beautiful states of this nation, why would we need to be anything but happy and kind? I have built some of the strongest friendships and met people with unbelievable stories in the last 24 years. Some of you have taught me what sacrifice looks like and what it means to truly love someone. I am in debt to the love, support, and experiences I have received from some of you. My dreams, goals, successes, and failures have always been met with applause, collaboration, and at the very least constructive criticism. I relished in my happiness and wanted to share it with all of you without hesitation. I have loved my time here and questioned the love I felt rarely.

Until recently. Recently, I have become so disappointed and embarrassed of the people I have surrounded myself with as well as people I hardly know due to the life-changing news I have shared with all of you. I am moving to Alabama to begin a new relationship, have a fresh start, leave some of the ugly experiences and heartbreak I have felt here behind, and quite frankly, to just do something different rather than settling for the life I have known thus far. There is nothing wrong with my life here, but I have always searched for experiences and thriving outside of my comfort zone. And I’m FINALLY doing that. I thought, due to the track record of sharing news, that this would be met with excitement and a slight amount of sadness toward my absence- but mostly joy toward me pursuing something different and meaningful.

Instead, it has been met with sarcastic comments, doubts, remarks about living in the Southern part of our country (most of which have been made from people with zero experience living in the south), ignorance, and degrading, borderline and blatant racist jokes. For awhile, I was taking these comments with a grain of salt if you will, because I knew that I had support and real friendships here. Change is difficult and we all respond to it differently. But the comments have yet to stop or even slow down. And quite honestly, it breaks my heart. I have relied on the people in this state to be a community of support and guidance my entire life and you have yet to let me down. Until I tell you that I’m leaving and demanding more than what I have here. Then, you are rude, disrespectful, and the most unsupportive I have ever experienced.

At a time in my life where huge changes are happening as I am leaving friendships, family, irreplaceable views, experiences, coffee shops, sunsets, dry heat, and every familiar thing I have ever been able to call home behind, the support I have always relied upon has vanished and been replaced with comments that rather than building me up are starting to break me down. I have always had high expectations for the people in my life but most of you have let me down and not gracefully. I am nervous, scared, worried, and even sad about leaving this state and what could possibly happen when I’m thousands of miles from home. But I am also certain that this move, along with many obstacles, will be amazing and humbling. I never thought I would have to ask for support in making this next step of my journey one of the best but as I spend my last month in Denver, I will only be accepting true friendship in the form of positive affirmations, support, and advice. I want to defend the beautiful state and its residents that have been my home for 24 years as I travel and change my life but you, Colorado residents: best friends and acquaintances, need to step your game up because as of now, the terms of which I am leaving on are not as prideful as I hoped they would be. I know we can do better.

Our lives are infinite

I have been in my feels for over a week now and unable to put my frustrations, fears, triumphs, and emotions into words (unusual for me *winky face*). However, I found an amazing piece of writing that has opened my eyes to a pathway toward forgiveness and strength I didn’t know before. I hope you all feel as humbled when you read this as I was. Credits to Caitlin Moran. 

“At 19, I read a sentence that re-terraformed my head: ‘The level of matter in the universe has been constant since the Big Bang.’ In all the aeons we have lost nothing- not a speck, not a grain, not a breath. The universe is simply a sealed, twisting kaleidoscope that has reordered itself a trillion trillion trillion times over.

Each baby then, is a unique collision- a cocktail, a remix- of all that has come before; made from molecules of Napoleon and stardust and comets and whale tooth; colloidal mercury and Cleopatra’s breath: and with the same darkness that is between the stars between, and inside, our own atoms.

When you know this, you suddenly see the crowded top deck of the bus, in the rain, as a miracle: this collection of people is by way of a starburst constellation. Families are bright, irregular-shaped nebulae. Finding a person you love is like galaxies colliding. We are all peculiar, unrepeatable, perambulating micro-universes- we have never been before and we will never be again. Oh God, the sheer exuberant, unlikely face of our existences. The honor of being alive. They will never be able to make you again. Don’t you dare waste a second of it thinking something better will happen when it ends. Don’t you dare.”