Comparison is the Thief of Joy

I was recently asked if I had any advice for stopping comparing myself to others. I have a huge problem with this and can use this myself. Eventually, after a lot of self reflection, here’s my advice for coping with the negative feelings we experience when we compare ourselves to other people. 

  1. Build yourself up! This is easier said than done and I’ll dive more into this, but basically to start with, give yourself three compliments. Thank your body for what it can do, and take stock of what you’ve accomplished so you can keep in mind how wonderful you are when you feel less than.
  2. Get yourself a squad that will always build you up! Friends exist to make you feel wonderful and they will always help you. 
  3. Take a break from social media. It may be difficult, but it’s absolutely worth it. 
  4. Take stock of who you’re following on social media. If you’re only following successful incredible people, maybe follow some positivity pages, activists, and people who are open on social media with their less than perfect lives. 
  5. Remember that the “perfect people”s social media is ONLY highlight reels. There are people who look at YOUR social media and want to be YOU! 
  6. Remember it’s okay to fail. Even the most successful people fail 100 times a day. And we don’t know that. 
  7. Remember that every person has their own timeline and that no two people are meant to be on the exact same path – what some people do at 13 others do at 83. 
  8. Think about why you’re comparing yourself to that person. Ask yourself what do they have that I want? When you figure out what that is, ask yourself how to get it if it’s something you truly want. And if it’s not something you can just have, let it go and remind yourself that you are a magnificent person as you are. Use it to motivate you to work for what you want without bringing down that person in your head. Give that person a compliment and give yourself one for spreading love, since it’s not a competition. 
  9. If you believe all people are created equal, remember that applies to you. A favorite mantra “Noone in the world is better than me. I am better than no one.” 
  10. Lastly, remember that you are enough just as you are. Life is not a competition. And the world needs you. 
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Tidy Up

A week before Christmas, much to my outrage, my brother was fooling around in my closet. I heard a huge crash. The entire bar of my closet fell. My closet was in shambles on the floor, and my room was a mess. I was so upset that I had to close the door and cry and calm down. After my Dad fixed the bar, I looked at the piles of clothes and junk I had everywhere. I knew it was time to clean it up. I also have a mess of bins in my basement from when I moved into my Dad’s. I cleaned out the bins and cleaned out my closet. I donated three garbage bags of books, old toys, stuffed animals, and clothes to goodwill and threw out about three garbage bags of trash. I let go of so much stuff and it honestly felt phenomenal. I organized all my clothes back into my drawers and closet. I reorganized the whole basement. Then I started on my room. I got some command strips and hung some stuff I hadn’t gotten around to. I got a new multicolor lamp, a Himalayan salt lamp, and an essential oil diffuser. I also got an amazing weighted blanket and a new duvet and sham pillow for my bed. I discovered the Netflix show tidying up with Marie Kondo, and became obsessed. Within a few days, I had done my whole room! I felt so much better. I had even unintentionally started my whole cleaning and mini redecorating spree in the same way she suggests! My head feels so much less cluttered, too. We are products of our surroundings. That’s why I keep my room neat, and surrounded by inspirational sayings and things that make me happy. A sanctuary in a sea of anxiety. I chose calming lights and white bedding for this reason. I live among a lot of chaos inside and outside of my head, and it helps to have encouraging and nice things to look at in those moments. I took organization to the next level as well. I’ve made good on responsibility by digitally organizing my finances. I’ve had a couple of doctors appointments this week all with excellent results and organized my schedule, so I’m very happy with how 2019 is starting. I hope if you’re reading this you are tidying up whatever areas in your life make you feel better and letting all else rest!

Dreams

Recently, Anastasia tour star Lila Coogan shared here that she had almost given up on acting after not being onstage for years. She then landed the lead in the national tour after about 40 auditions of nos! To those who want to give up on your performing dream: you may be one step from being the next Lila Coogan and I’ll never give up on you. This post meant so much to me because since I left college- really since high school- I’d given up on the dream I once had of performing. Since I was seven years old, I wanted to be a broadway actor. Although I got some roles in school shows in high school, I was not cast in a single show during my college years until my last semester.I compared myself to others. I thought I was terrible and there was no place for me on a stage. I didn’t look like other girls I saw onstage. I wasn’t taller or thinner, and I didn’t have the courage to study theatre in college or take voice lessons. I basically accepted I’d never be an actor, even in community theatre. While I’m not sure my dream is a career in the arts, theatre means the world to me. Stories like Lila’s and others showed me I don’t have to give up on that dream or ANY dream- that I can share the talents God gave me in any way I want! I know I won’t give up on performing for good now: people like Patti Murin, Bonnie Milligan, Alexandra Socha and Christy Altomare showed me I don’t have to. All actors have droughts- it’s part of the process. Right now, I am focusing on making money in my work. But I am entering this year with renewed faith that I can keep performing in my life. Maybe you’ll even see me onstage in 2019! Or sharing what I’ve learned with the next generation of broadway stars- I can’t give up my dream of teaching and helping kids either! I hope for a clearer path in 2019 and the bravery to dare greatly and pursue any dream that comes to me!

Welcome to 2019

Happy New Year! I wanted to end 2018 by setting down some intentions for the upcoming year. 2018 wasn’t the greatest for anyone. For me, it was marked by gradual improvement and surviving through hope. 2018 gave me many beautiful experiences I am so grateful for. I am heading into 2019 with a lot of fear, but I am doing my best to put that aside. This year I will turn twenty five years old. Here are my intentions for 2019

  1. Be more responsible, in particular financially responsible. I am challenging myself to save more money this year. My two biggest goals are in this category. The first and foremost is to become a teacher in my own classroom or take on another job. My ultimate goal would be to move into my own apartment/home around the end of this year. I also want to prioritize spending on my health and wellness.
  2. Be more still. I have never been very good with stillness. I am going to challenge myself to spend more time simply sitting with myself rather than force myself to accomplish things in order to feel happy. I want to be more present with my loved ones, and listen more. Even though I’ve gotten a tiny bit spacy with my attention span lately, I’ve been more comfortable with people, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to work on that. I want to maintain contact and conversation more. I also want to use my phone less as a crutch to calm my social anxiety when I’m with people and be PRESENT.
  3. Listen to my body. I have been afraid of making goals related to health, fitness, and exercise, due to my issues with body dysmorphia. My goal is to get back into an exercise regimen that will make me feel more comfortable in my body- to work out at least twice a week and eat intuitively. In addition to sharing body positivity politically, I vow to try and be more kind to my body. I have delved a lot into the body positive movement and am an advocate against disgusting diet culture, but I’m still having trouble liking what i see in the mirror, and I’m working on that still.
  4. Continue my mental health progress and continue to identify who I am. I am someone who has lived with mental illness my whole life, and that is something that was really difficult for me to even identify. Now I know where a lot of my issues lie. As someone outwardly very high functioning, it can be difficult to notice change in how my brain works. I have noticed changes in myself, but they have been hard to identify due to how gradual the changes have been. I’m calmer, and finding it easier to identify when I feel depressed and easier to control my anxiety attacks. I’m so thankful for Zoloft. I am hoping to, if my financial and emotional status allows, to begin to see a therapist this year.
  5. Be honest without oversharing or attacking myself. Vulnerability was my goal for 2017, and I made improvement with it in 2018, but I want to focus on it in some different ways in 2019. I want to accept that it IS okay to keep some things private. I want to be honest with MYSELF as well and allow myself to process my decisions like an adult. And I also want to be careful of OVERsharing on social media. One of my biggest faults is that I am needy. I am an extrovert with anxiety who likes attention. Not the type of attention that involves a spotlight, because that gives me anxiety, but the type of connection that is marked by meaningful connection is essential to me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can feel like they’re shouting into the void for affection sometimes, but I’ve found a HUGE support system- I’m so blessed that sometimes it seems TOO large! I want to continue being honest because the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given is “you’re really good at making people feel like they’re not alone”. This meant a lot coming from the person who taught me I am not alone. I refuse to be silent because there are way too many people out there like me who feel like they are completely alone. People have been very kind to me; telling me that I’ve made a difference. I’m not delusional enough to think that my thoughts will be widely shared;I don’t have a bunch of followers, but the few that I do have care a lot and I talk about my mental health for them, not me. If my openness ever seems like it is “attention seeking” (which would be fine if I was because attention seeking people need help too! I can come back to that later) , I’m trying to humble myself, don’t worry.

These are lofty goals that largely depend on factors not entirely in my control. It’s tough to know how long these goals will take to accomplish, but I remain faithful in the journey and commit today to working as hard as I possibly can to make all of these goals. To my readers, wishing you a Happy, Healthy 2019! 49065930_1961036304192103_302767792476651520_n

It’s Been a Year

Happy Anniversary to this blog! I began this blog a year ago. It’s crazy to think that it’s been a whole year of sharing here. At the beginning of 2017 I never would’ve thought I’d be here. Additionally,, several other anniversaries have been at the forefront of my mind. November 15th marked a year since I’ve been at my job. My work as a paraprofessional has been exhausting, tough, and occasionally boring, but it’s also been a beautiful and rewarding experience that has taught me so much. It is already December, which means it’s now time to start thinking about next year, which is nuts!

On the outside, not a lot has changed since My First Blog Post.I’m still working in the same job,still living at home, and still struggling in some ways. I feel as if I still look and act the same. On the inside, though, I like to think I’m getting better. I have been working hard to get my mental and physical health in place for the past year. I am on Zoloft for my anxiety and depression (recently increased to 100mg daily). I am lucky to say that those close to me have noticed an improvement. Things are always going to be up and down, but I’m trying to accept that I am doing better than I have ever been. I am seeing a chiropractor for physical therapy, adjustment, and acupuncture for my hip, back, and neck issues. I am more mentally present and live in the moment more than I have ever been before. I have had experiences I never could’ve imagined with friends and seen shows I thought I could only do so in my dreams. Some of the highlights of this year included seeing Frozen several times and forming relationships with the cast of that show, seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, going to the broadway flea market and winning Mean Girls lottery, meeting Elizabeth Lail, spending amazing moments with friends and family, and more. It truly has been a great year.

That being said, I still have a ways to go with the goals I set at the beginning of the year. I have made some poor financial decisions and experienced challenging working days. That being said, I’ve worked as hard as I possibly can so I can move forward into 2019 ready to do even better. I’ve found this attitude to be more productive in the end than beating myself up for being stupid- after a LOT of work!

I spent a lot of 2018 feeling behind in life. I turn 25 years old next February and while that is not that old, it has been difficult watching peers and colleagues cross major life milestones. I see them getting married, having children, getting promotions at work, and moving on their own. Meanwhile, I feel as if I’m still trying to figure out how to “adult’ There are so many things I wish I could have next year: more confidence, my own apartment, a romantic partner, and a well-paying full time job. Yet, at the same time, I’ve found that true maturity doesn’t come from material possessions or accomplishments on a list. It comes from making choices to take care of oneself, to remove oneself from drama, and to be a healthy, responsible person.

My word for 2019 will be “responsible”. I vow to be more responsible with my money,my life decisions, and my energy. I want to stop saying yes to things cause I feel like I have to say yes. I hope to focus more on the future and planning. I will be diving fully into that idea in a new blog post, so expect more on that before January!

To everyone who’s stuck with me on this roller coaster for the past year, Thank you! All my love, Ally.

Self Care

Self care is getting out of bed in the morning.

Self care is hitting snooze one more time.

Self care is taking your medicine.

Self care is taking an amazing hot shower and washing your hair.

Self care is throwing in some dry shampoo and throwing your hair in a messy bun

Self care is dressing up to feel better.

Self care is wearing sweatpants.

Self care is doing your best at work.

Self care is “adulting”.

Self care is acting like a child.

Self care is taking work off if you need it.

Self care is calling and making a doctor’s appointment.

Self care is asking for help with tasks you struggle with, like talking on the phone.

Self care is fuzzy blankets and sweaters and socks.

Self care is walking the dog.

Self care is messaging your friends to talk about what you’re going through.

Self care is telling people you can’t answer right now.

Self care is salad and healthy food.

Self care is pizza and chocolate.

Self care is cleaning your room and lighting candles.

Self care is sleep.

Self care is vacation.

Self care is staycations.

Self care is stretching.

Self care is exercising.

Self care is telling yourself it’s ok not to exercise.

Self care is saying nice things to yourself.

Self care is closing your eyes and listening to what your body needs.

 

End the Stigma

Content Warnings: self harm, anxiety and depression, body image issues (no graphic details of anything)

This week is National Mental Illness Awareness Week as started by the national alliance on mental illness. As someone diagnosed with mental illnesses, it was important to me to add My voice in the hope of ending stigma as the theme of this week.

First I’ll start with an update on how I’m doing in general I’m doing quite well. This past week I went to a situation that would have often triggered a lot of anxiety for me with crowds and people. I did better than I imagined and was able to give myself what I needed. I got through it with lots of love from friends and frequent breaks. I still definiely am a work in process. I woke up this morning with the seed of anxiety in my stomach, so I am anticipating a possible attack soon.I’m being careful. Two days ago, I had a psychiatrist appointment where we raised my dose of Zoloft to 75mg from 50 and will possibly raise to 100 at the end of November.

At the broadway flea market, I also had the chance to thank Patti Murin for her candidness and interview here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s48ZyrWTPQ&feature=youtu.be&t=10235. Extraordinarily, the same day before I watched it, I had the same conversation with my best friend that Patti described where my best friend answered that Yes, I am different. It is a huge relief to me. I choose, like Patti, to speak up about the role medication plays in order to end the stigma against it. It’s no difference than the medication I take for my allergies or my other health issues.

It took me many years to learn to accept my brain chemistry. There is so much stigma and misunderstandings around mental illness that I feel it is important to educate people of every age on what the realities of living with these disorders is like. This could’ve been instrumental in helping me when I began experiencing this even as a child. The first panic attack I remember having I was only seven or eight years old. I had no idea what was going on so I never spoke to anyone about it and it only continued getting worse and worse until I ended up in a full-blown spiral by the age of 13 or 14. Hatred of myself and the real diseases that I didn’t know I was living with led to me harming my body and experiencing issues with diet and exercise. (In addition to self harm, I can’t say I had a full fledged eating disorder, but unhealthy body dysmorphia definitely manifested in unhealthy ways). Meanwhile, those close to me just didn’t understand and continued to try and help by telling me to “calm down” and “stop being dramatic”. By the time it became so clear that I needed help at 17 that I was briefly hospitalized and diagnosed with major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. The stigma and the voices of those close to me still told me these weren’t real. Those close to me who knew discussed that I should not go on medication cause “I could get addicted” or “it could mess me up”. At this point, I started counseling. It definitely helped and I highly recommend. There were a lot of things I didn’t address, but I definitely survived my senior year of high school and first year of college due to it. During that year, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through panic, loneliness without any friends, and struggling with suicidal thoughts.

I shared in my essay about Frozen about how when I was 19 and saw Frozen I finally began talking about it. Until that point, I was more scared of people finding out I was sick than the illness itself, which anxiety and depression feed on. I began to become more self aware. I got hurt. I graduated college. I had a pretty bad relapse shortly after. And three months ago I began Zoloft and am, like I said before, feeling better than I have in years.

If you need help or want to learn more, the National alliance for mental illness can be found at https://www.nami.org. If you want to understand more of what it’s like to live with these illnesses, watch pattis interview and read Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig. The suicide hotline is 18002738255. And if you need to talk to a friend, I’m available on twitter @allyobrien .