Get To Know Me Questions
How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
Describing myself is something that is always so hard for me. It makes me uncomfortable when people ask me about myself. It’s something I’d really like to get better at. That being said, I’ve been trying to work on introducing myself as a writer when someone asks me about myself. This is not what I’m doing for a living right now (I’m working in an office, not writing) but it’s the thing that I am in my heart. If I had to come up with some words as well maybe I’d use passionate, dedicated, loyal. Sometimes soft and emotional. A little bit tough. A lot of awkward.
Which 5 songs are on the soundtrack to your life?
I’m sure I’d answer this question differently every single time based on my mood but here’s what I’m feeling right now:
“Release” Pearl Jam
“Silver Lining” First Aid Kit
“Eyes to the Sky” Joseph
“Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” Pearl Jam
My very favorite band is First Aid Kit but I’d say my favorite genre is 90’s alternative rock (2nd favorite genre is probably folk rock or something of the sort).
What are some of your goals for 2019?
Ah, I love making goals! Right now my two biggest goals are finishing my novel and buying a house. This year I’d also like to get a draft done of my next project, get some short stories published, and stay consistent on my blog. But my most important goal this year is to just write something every single day, no matter what that is.
Do you ever see yourself blogging full time?
I certainly would love to be spending a lot more time on my blog and connecting with humans on the internet, but I don’t think that blogging will ever be my sole focus. Fiction is my number one love, and I’m hoping that someday that’s what I’ll get to do for a living. But I really want to keep up with my blog on the side of that because I find it very therapeutic and I love connecting with other like-minded people this way.
Who inspires you?
So many people inspire me, from my family to prolific writers to bands to random people walking on the street. To narrow it down to blogging, though, the blog I love most, hands down, is Fire and Joy run by Nirrimi Firebrace. It is the most beautiful blog I have ever read and I have gotten lost in its pages for hours more than once. It doesn’t hurt that Nirrimi is an incredibly talented photographer and the imagery on her blog is just as beautiful as her words. And also — she’s just a wonderful human being all around!
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Ah, I am definitely a night owl! If I ever get time off from working a “normal person” 9-5 schedule I gravitate towards staying up until 2AM naturally. I definitely feel a little sleepy for the first few hours I’m awake.
General Mental Health Questions
Do you have any advice on managing your mental health while waiting to get help (eg. being put on a waiting list)
It really sucks that this is a problem that people have to deal with. I’m certainly not a mental health professional, but I can say what has helped me manage anxiety personally. Meditation always helps when I do it consistently, and there’s a lot of free resources online and via apps for guided meditation. Also, exercise is super important; sometimes I find that the only way I can calm myself down is to go for a walk. Honestly, it’s super simple but deep, belly breaths always help me too.
What have you learnt about yourself through your mental health journey
The most important thing that I’ve learned is that other people’s brains don’t work the way that mine does (honestly, this can probably apply to any person on the planet, because we’re all so different). I used to think that I was just weak for not being able to handle life the way that other people can. When I realized that not everyone deals with what I do I was able to find a lot more kindness for myself. I’ve learned that I can be incredibly sensitive, and that’s okay. Sometimes I think that that sensitivity is a superpower; that I’m able to feel things more deeply than other people. Anxiety isn’t always bad. And the times when I can really accept that it is something that is part of me I am able to manage it best.
Do you use any apps for your mental health?
Yes! The meditation app that I use is called “Insight Timer.” It has tons of guided meditation options but you can also just use it as a timer that will go off every few minutes so you get a sense that your meditation is progressing.
I also use “Digital Wellbeing” which is part of the settings on my phone but I know that there’s other apps out there like it. Basically I limit myself to 30-45 minutes of Instagram a day because I find that if I don’t I’ll spend all day on it, get absolutely nothing done, and feel terrible about myself. And I do not have the Facebook app on my phone at all for the same reason.
Lately I’ve also been using this app called “Woebot” which is kind of cheesy but also fun. This little “robot” texts you every day and chats with you about various strategies for managing mental health. It’s certainly not a replacement for a real therapist but it has been a positive supplemental tool.
I’ve also just started using the notes app on my phone to make lists (this was suggestion from Nirrimi, at Fire and Joy). I find that I can be pretty forgetful, especially when I’m feeling particularly anxious. I’m hoping that this helps me remember things a little better.
What made you seek therapy ?
I’ve been putting off going to therapy for years. I have known that I have an anxiety disorder since about sophomore year of college (I’m now 27, so about eight years ago) and I’ve never worked up the nerve to go before. I always knew I wanted to go but I would always think “oh I don’t have time for that right now.” And then, this past fall, I had a series of really terrible things happen in my life over the course of a few weeks. I was desperate to gain control and to make the situation better, and the only thing I had control over was myself. So I decided to finally take that step to gather the tools that will help me become a better version of myself.
And honestly, I wish I had gone years ago.
What misconceptions did you have about therapy?
I was so worried about what my family and friends would think about me going. I didn’t want my parents to think that they failed me. And I’ve also always had this strange complex where I worry that maybe I don’t actually have anxiety and I’m overreacting (that is a bit of a paradox, I know) so I don’t actually need to get treatment for it.
None of that really mattered once I got there, though. No one has questioned why I’m going and certainly, no one has accused me of not having anxiety after all like I was worried.
How can I build the courage to start therapy?
Just remember that bettering yourself is something that you have control over. I was so worried about family and friends judging me for going — but there’s nothing shameful about wanting to feel better. And the more often I go, the more comfortable I feel admitting that’s where I go.
Honestly? My best advice for doing anything that you’re afraid of is to just take a deep breath and do it. I know that’s hard. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean that it is easy. But the longer you put something off, the scarier it becomes. I know because I’ve put a lot of things off. And I’m still fighting that particular beast.
After your experience with therapy so far, would you recommend therapy to someone?
Absolutely. I’ve been able to sit down and talk about some really difficult situations in my life that are causing me a lot of anxiety with someone who is completely unbiased and simply has my best interest at heart. She’s been able to help me with solutions that I would not have come up with on my own, and she can point out different perspectives. I almost never want to go to therapy before I get there but I always feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders when I leave.
Do you have any recommended resources for someone who can’t afford therapy?
I may not be the best person to provide advice on this, but I’ll try. I know that some therapists offer sliding scales based on income. I also imagine that in certain areas nonprofits may provide some sort of resource for therapists. And I’m also wondering if there are support groups out there for people with anxiety/depression, like there is for addicts and alcoholics (AA/NA). If not, they should exist!
What’s your dream?
My biggest dream has always been to have my novel published. But there are smaller dreams in there, too, like published stories and a successful blog and a family and a home.
What’s stopping you?
Ah! This is where I want to say “well no one has published me yet” but the reality is that I’m stopping myself. I don’t spend enough time writing, and I definitely don’t spend enough time submitting. I need to overcome the paralyzing fear of not being good enough and just sit down and do the work. Sitting down is always the hardest part.
Do you think people’s opinions of your dream has affected your confidence in chasing your passion?
It absolutely has. The thing that almost always keeps me from writing (or from sharing my writing if I’ve already written it) is the fear that it isn’t good enough. It is so hard for me to let go of perfection and to be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to resonate with my art and that’s okay. I am always picturing that imaginary audience who is sitting there, waiting to judge my work.
I’m trying really hard to push through this and just focus on enjoying the process. I hope I get there someday soon.
Are you working on any cool projects at the moment?
Right now my big project is my novel. I finished the second draft back in October and I’m just now picking it back up. It’s a story about a father and daughter cleaning out the family house after everyone in their family has passed away or moved elsewhere. It’s about grief and family stories and dealing with the past.
I also have an idea for a collection of linked short stories but I’m having a really hard time getting started on that one.
How long have you struggled with anxiety for?
Looking back, even though I didn’t realize it until fairly recently, I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. I was a very shy child and found simple things like interacting with distant relatives or playing games with other children nearly impossible. It’s been better at certain points of my life and worse in others. I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t feel nervous about something.
How did you identify your triggers and what do you do when something or someone triggers your anxiety?
I’m still trying to figure out exactly what my triggers are. I can’t always tell why I’m feeling anxious when it happens. I have been able to identify a few things with my therapist, which has been a great help. As an example, I’ve always been really anxious about doctors/hospitals, and I’m working with her to try and figure out exactly what that fear is about, since I’ve never been sure. Otherwise, journaling can really help me identify what it is that’s bothering me. But sometimes it takes a few days before I really know.
When something triggers me, I try to take a lot of deep, belly breaths and try to distract myself from whatever negative thoughts are spiraling in my brain. I also tend to call my boyfriend a lot, but I kind of think that’s a bit of a crutch and I’d really like to stop burdening him with my anxiety so often.
What things has your anxiety prevented/ stopped you from doing?
So many things! The main thing right now is that I want to share more of my writing/art in general but I haven’t been able to. It feels so vulnerable to share blog posts/Instagram posts and often I’ll put off doing it because it scares me. In the past it’s kept me from sharing my fiction, making friends with people that I really connect with, moving out of my parent’s house (still live here), and many other things. It almost kept me from studying abroad in 2011 which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I can’t imagine what I’d be like now if I had never gone.
Do you have any tips for calming yourself down when you feel anxious?
Lately I’ve been trying to distract my brain when I get stuck in an anxious spiral with the “categories” game. For example, I try to think of as many different kinds of trees I can. Aspen, Pine, Maple, Willow, etc. until I’ve gotten my brain out of the negative loop and I feel a little bit calmer. Sometimes those adult coloring books are also a good way for me to distract my brain for a little while. Other times, I just have to sit with it and accept it and just let it pass.
Do you think it’s healthier to focus on the healing than the anxiety?
Something that I’m trying to learn to do right now is to try not to fight the anxiety. The moment I fight against the fact that I’m feeling anxious, it turns into a full-blown anxiety attack. If, instead of fighting it, I accept that it’s there and try to work through it, it tends to resolve quicker. I guess in that way I am focusing on the healing — focusing on breathing deeply and distracting my mind while I just accept that I am anxious and that’s the way it is.