Self-loathing inner dialogue

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“I’m so ugly.”

“I hate myself.”

“I want to die.”

These are sentences that have run through my head frequently for years. The latter two probably at least a few times an hour.

This wasn’t something I was even conscious of until one day in 2016 when I was hanging out at the artist book library Also As Too Well with my new friend, Murat Ates. I don’t remember exactly how he worded it, but he basically asked if I was kind to myself in my inner dialogue.

Clearly not.

After this realization, I put some work into changing that, but the phrases popped into my mind so often without my control, it was difficult. I tried consciously thinking more positive things and correcting myself when I was aware of my thoughts. It didn’t really change anything. A few months ago, for an online self-love course, I came up with a few affirmations to say to myself each morning in the shower, but it just felt insincere.

Separate from my inner dialogue issues, I’ve been putting effort into self-care, which to me means doing the more basic things I need to do to keep myself happy and healthy. This has meant cutting back caffeine, taking naps, stopping working before my concussion symptoms flair up and not beating myself up for not getting through my to-do list on days when my head hurts and I’m dizzy. It also means cooking delicious meals, even when my husband is out and the food is just for me. I’ve started treating myself like  a friend, buying myself the occasional gift (like a zine subscription!!!!) and being understanding of my inability to do it all.

Through taking better care of myself, I’m learning how hard I’ve been on myself and am learning  to be more compassionate towards me. I’m also learning to love myself.

A few weeks ago, my internal dialogue started to change. “I love myself.” The words popped into my brain while I was standing in the backyard, petting our dog.

It’s pretty important that we all like ourselves. There’s no one anyone spends more time with than themselves. If you dislike the person you’re spending most of your time with, how can you be happy? And if you’re always beating yourself up, how can you be doing your best work?

As a freelancer, I’m my own boss. I’m in charge of making sure the work gets done, and done well, but I’m also in charge of avoiding burnout, providing encouragement and praise, and keeping morale up. I’ve been failing pretty damn hard at some of my job and it’s probably been holding me back.

I’m excited about this new, loving, compassionate relationship I’m developing with myself and I can’t wait to see how it impacts my career. And I, in part, owe thanks to my kind friend, Murat, for bringing my attention to my negative inner dialogue.

For more from him, check out his zine, Life. Fire. Prose.

Things are gonna be quiet over here for the next two weeks. I’m taking a little break over the holidays to enjoy my family and my first Christmas with my husband. See you all in the new year!

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Book review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck

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TW: cis-dude saying creepy things re: men wearing “women’s” clothes and a woman’s body

I only got 37 minutes into the 5+ hour audiobook.

I like the premise, although the title is somewhat misleading. Author Mark Manson is suggesting that people choose what they give a fuck about. Instead of yelling at a cashier for not taking a $0.30 coupon, find something more important to worry about. We’re all going to die. Make life full and meaningful.

This is great advice for someone like me. I’m still anxious about a dude who honked at me three years ago for not speeding into a merging lane. (It’s a traffic intersection I can’t explain in words, but I was in the right. Trust me. I’ve been playing this over in my head for years).

From the half hour I listened to of this book, I got a new tool for my anxiety toolbox. When I get the rude cashier at Good Samaritan and she goes out of her way to imply I’m lacking intelligence, I’m going to shift my attention from hating her and plotting ways to never have to see her face again to thinking about how I’m going to use the new crafting supplies I’ve picked up in upcoming Stitching Hearts projects.

But not giving a fuck, according to Manson, is also about just doing things without caring too much about what people think, etc. “These moments of non-fuckery are the moments that most define our lives,” Manson wrote. I like this. This is sort of how I run my life. I don’t dwell on decisions. I dive into whatever seems the most fun, exciting and fulfilling.

I’ve known my husband a total of 11 months and I’ve already moved to another country to be with him. The moment I made that decision was a moment of non-fuckery. I didn’t think about logistics or finances. I’m now so homesick and so broke and really miss being able to work for money (still waiting on that green card!), but when I’m giggling so hard my stomach hurts and I’m about to fall off the couch, I know I made the right decision. A decision I never would have made if I’d taken the time to gather information and weight the options. This is also how I chose my post-secondary program, became a freelancer and got cats. All some of the best decisions of my life.

However, one of Manson’s examples of not giving a fuck is breaking up with your boyfriend because you caught him wearing your pantyhose one too many times. There are so many things wrong with this line. But, basically, this is something that someone should definitely not give a fuck about. Unless said boyfriend has been asked to not wear your tights for practical reasons like he’s stretching them out. I wish I’d just hit pause and moved on then. I’m a little ashamed to say I decided to keep giving this guy a shot.

But not long after this, Manson writes that we need to accept that we’ll never get to touch Jennifer Aniston’s tits. That’s where I bailed. Way to make the breast-harbouring readers super fucking uncomfortable, dude.

If anyone knows of a book that’s similar but missing out on the transphobic, objectifying bullshit, lemme know!

 

Eliminate clutter

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Life is noisy and busy and chaotic.

For me, that can be difficult to deal with when I’m anxious. Too much stimulation is overwhelming. Too long of a to-do list leaves me panicked. Too much physical clutter to sort through to find what I need is frustrating.

Earlier this year, I came down to the US without any of my belongings and decided to stay. It’s going to be a while before I can get anything, so I’ve been experiencing life without a kitchen full of all the fun gadgets and without a totally decked out craft supply. My closet is pretty bare and our food cupboards aren’t overflowing. This is different than what I’m used to.

It’s made me realize that not only do I not need a lot of what I had before, it was actually making life more difficult. When I needed anything from my baking shelf in my Winnipeg home, I pretty much have to take everything out to be able to find what I was looking for. In my Helena home, I can just pop up on my tiptoes and spy the baking powder hiding in the corner.

This has made me think a lot about simplifying my life.

I surround myself with to-do lists a mile long that are impossible to complete in one day. I have dozens of apps on my phone, but only use a few daily. On Facebook, I’m constantly getting notifications from groups that I just completely ignore. By doing this, I’m pretty much setting myself up for failure. There’s no way I can do everything and pay attention to everything in one day.

So, I’ve started to slash it back and think about what is absolutely necessary. I’ve unsubscribed to many emails and turned off notifications on apps. My pal Jenna Anderson actually just posted a list of the ways she keeps her social media under control and I’m using her tips to do a little Facebook weeding. My daily work to-do lists include bare minimum that I want to accomplish. In some cases, thinking about my why helps. Does this app really do something to help me in my why? Nope. Then it’s trashed.

This is also a huge reason why I took pressure off myself to respond to Facebook messages in a timely manner, especially when people are sending me videos and links to articles. As a general rule, I don’t even look at what people have sent me unless there’s a specific reason for sending it, like a friend wants to discuss the book mentioned in an article or have found a craft they think I’d enjoy doing.

Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the stuff and noise in your life? Do you need to simplify? What can you to do right now to make that happen?

 

Your “why” could simplify decison-making

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I recently listened to The Slow Home Podcast’s series on finding Your Why  and it really resonated with me. If something doesn’t align with my why, then does it need to be apart of my life?

One episode in the series brings you through finding your values. Mine are:

  • Relationships (with myself, family, friends, strangers, animals, the planet);
  • Adventure; and
  • Passion.

Playing games on my phone is in no way connected to any of my values, so immediately after coming up with my values, I deleted them all. Then I unsubscribed from some of the podcasts I’ve been listening to that I don’t get excited about or that I don’t learn from, the ones that just clutter my feed and stress me out when my phone starts getting too full. And then I spent some time reflecting on how unhappy I’ve been since the car accident, and especially since I’ve moved.

IMG_2902.JPGI’ve been isolated with few friends in my new home and not a ton of connection to the people I love back home. I stay home most of the time. Other than running errands, my husband and I go on a hike once every couple of weeks and occasionally I tag along when he goes to check out a band. And I’m really not doing anything that excites me. There’s a lot of sitting on the couch listening to podcasts and knitting, which is fine, but it doesn’t get me fired up.

A lot of this is because I still have a concussion and just can’t get out much to meet new people, have adventures and work on projects I’m excited about. But I’m also putting precious brain energy towards things that don’t matter, like my phone and Netflix.

With these values in mind, I’ve had some direction in figuring out what I need to do to live a happy life and what can be deleted so there’s more time for what I love, but also time to just breath and relax. It also makes it easier for me to decide if I should say no to a project or restrain myself from committing to something.

Will it help me build deeper relationships? Would it be an adventure? Is it something I’m passionate about? No, no, no? Then the answer is no.

My biggest fear about going back to work full-time is that I’ll get back into the habit of over-booking and over-working myself, saying yes to everything and even offering to take on projects that don’t benefit me at all. I’m thinking this new way of going through life should help keep me on a track to happiness.

What helps guide you when it comes to saying yes or no to a new project?

 

Routine to reduce anxiety

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I like to jump into my work first thing in the morning. The sooner I sit down at my laptop, the sooner I can close it and go have some fun. Before I moved in with my husband, I used to wake up at 6 a.m. each morning, feed my cats, make coffee and then get to work by 6:30, frantically plowing through my to-do list. Oftentimes, when I was done, I’d just sit on the couch, watch Netflix and craft. Super fulfilling. Super worth rushing through work I love.

In October, during my newsletter challenge to be more mindful, I took a free self-love e-course from Margaret Rushing. It started with carving out time each day to work on the challenge and to dedicate to myself and a routine for me.

I chose 8:30 a.m., right after Luke leaves for work, to do a 10-15 minute yoga video followed by making breakfast in the kitchen while listening to music that gets me moving. The whole while, I focus on being present and in the moment, really feeling each stretch and smelling what I’m about to eat.

And then I sit down to look at what needs to be done for the day, check social media and refresh my emails, feeling both energized and at peace.

Cait Flanders–a self-employed woman who suffered with anxiety–has talked quite a bit on Budgets and Cents about how having a morning routine has helped her. She calls them “slow mornings,” taking time to do something for herself before she starts work.

Taking time for oneself each day isn’t something I really thought I had time for before, but it’s made a huge difference in my days. What’s your morning routine like? Do you take time for self-care at some point during the day? Join the discussion on the Cockroach Facebook page.

Fuck politeness

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Trigger warning: sexual assault.

A few weeks ago, our instructors introduced the close embrace in a tango class I’ve been taking with my husband.

I immediately became nervous. Being pressed up against a strange man wasn’t something I was interested in. Our instructors assured us that the close embrace is only something pairs do when both parties are comfortable and showed us how to set up what we were comfortable with. I relaxed. Sweet. I could just keep doing the same embrace we’d been using for a few weeks.

And then they told us to go ahead, right then, and get into close embrace to practice.

They pulled my out from under me.

I’m a runner. When something scares me or makes me anxious, I bolt. That was my first instinct, but I didn’t want the guy I was paired with to be offended, so I stuck it out, promising myself I’d duck out before the next pairing. But, again, I didn’t want to be rude. And again. And again. Until I was with my husband and he, realizing this wasn’t okay with me, suggested we both leave right then. I didn’t want to be rude to the instructors.

I held it together until we were almost at the car and then I broke down sobbing. Maybe you can imagine, but being physically against and being touched by a strange man who I don’t want near my body is a super shitty reminder of other times I’ve been in situations like (but much worse) than that.

I strongly feel that everyone, especially in 2017, should be expecting sexual assault survivors to be in all spaces and should be giving people ample freedom to set boundaries. I’m putting 100 per cent of the blame here on the instructors.

But there are always going to be situations that make me uncomfortable. People fuck up. People are uneducated. Some people are just rude and don’t care. And it’s up to me to take care of myself and stick up for myself, even if it hurts someone else’s feelings.

Karen and Georgia of My Favorite Murder have a saying: Fuck politeness.

Women feeling like they need to be polite is dangerous. It leads to us not trusting our gut instincts, which can lead to us being raped and murdered. No blame on women here–I’m blaming a society that teaches us to consider other’s feelings above our own comfort and safety. In a much less serious situation, caring about other’s feelings more than our own can lead to being triggered and winding up a sobbing mess in the passenger seat of our partner’s car while we relive our trauma.

I get a lot of anxiety about wanting people to like me but also wanting to protect myself. It’s why I say yes to jobs that I know will put me over the edge in terms of how much work I can handle. It’s why I say yes to under-paid writing gigs and to editing jobs I find ridiculously boring.

Politeness is important, but taking care of one’s own interests and health should come before it.

If you’re interested in joining in discussions like this about being a creative who’s struggling with their mental health, “like” my Facebook page.

A book review: Present Over Perfect

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Reading has been a pastime I’ve thoroughly enjoyed since I was a child, although I haven’t made time to read enough over the last few years. With plenty of time on my hands since the accident, I’ve made my way back to it. Of course, with a concussion I can’t physically read books. Thank goodness for audiobooks!

And now that my brain is mostly healed (although reading for more than 20 minutes is still difficult) but I’m unable to work for pay due to being in the middle of an immigration process, this seems like an excellent time to do a bit of work on myself.

So, I’ve started listening to self-help books, a genre that previously I’ve shied away from with a great deal of hostility. It seemed like a waste of time. What worked for one person surely won’t work for me. That’s true. A lot of what I’m reading in these books is garbage advice, for me at least. However, I’m still walking away with some great lessons and insights that I can apply to me.

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist has a lot more religion that I’d like in any book, but even as an eye-rolling atheist, I was able to get over all the god talk. A lot of what she wrote about actually really resonated with me.

In this book, the author discusses her journey from being an overwhelmed, anxious and too busy writer to living a more quiet and meaningful life where she’s at peace. Sounds pretty much exactly like the journey I was hoping to make before life forced me to just stop.

It’s not really a how-to, but rather a collection of stories of how difficult it was to change her mindset, to say no to work and yes to a healthier life, and to become okay with stillness. This format leaves the reader a lot of space to learn their own lessons from her experiences.

Although she doesn’t specifically talk a lot about mental health, there’s a lot for anxious creatives to learn from her. Specifically, through her stories I got a better idea of which projects I want to accept and which I’d rather pass on. I learned that quiet and stillness are things you can learn to embrace and love. And, most importantly, I learned that I can change me life. It’s just going to be fucking hard.

Present Over Perfect is available as an audiobook (I listened free on Hoopla using my library card) so you can get through it while making art!

Here’s what I did while listening: