body

When I was twelve a boy in my class told me

I shouldn’t wear leggings to school

And at first I didn’t understand 

but then I understood 

more than any pre-teen should

from then on

magazines and movies and the voices in my head

confirmed the reason behind 

my constant feeling of dread

and ultimately led to a fear of being fed

a fear of what was and what wasn’t unsaid

academics were not the only thing I learned in school

math was fractions and how to calculate a calorie deficit 

biology was mitochondria and how fat cells make you an elephant

I learned that before I was even on my own

I was paying rent to the minds of people I owed nothing to

trading the acceptable curves of my body 

for a stamp of approval 

in the form of silence and the absence of ridicule

I learned that leaving little to the imagination 

is only okay when it’s something people want to imagine

that compassion is directly correlated with my level of attraction

and their reaction to my distraction is the fault of only my actions

I wish unlearning was easy.

but since my introduction to middle school law

not a day has gone by

where I haven’t looked in the mirror and disliked what I saw

haven’t taken the time to go through my flaws

to pinch and preen and prod

until my person was palpable within the parameters

of what society considered comfortably in awe

It’s so unfair, isn’t it? 

that I figure my figure is an inevitable part 

of my worthiness to exist? 

that the weight on my shoulders has to be 

directly proportionate to the weight of my thighs?

that extra padding does nothing to shield me 

from words like stones and glares like knives?

no one should ever feel a need to become smaller

so that they can be more easily digested

no one should feel as if their weight

is what tips the scale of how they are treated 

there shouldn’t be a fine line between 

being conceited and feeling defeated

and sometimes I feel like my mind was cheated

out of the experiences I could have had

if I didn’t need to drain energy on the idea

that I was given a limited amount of space in this world

and I am taking up too much of it.

if I didn’t feel pressure from the amount of pressure

I was exerting on the floor 

as if the world can’t handle a few more pounds 

when the weight on my chest weighs much more

I can’t tell you that my mind has yet healed 

from the divided thinking I forced it into 

from the dichotomies and discordances 

of loving myself and being larger than a size 2

but I can tell you I know the things I wrote are facts

and I’m trying to make myself believe they’re true

Hope

Hey guys. It’s been a while.

Ugh, I hate sounding all mopey, but I’m not feeling awesome.

This year has been tough (duh) and I feel like I’m struggling to do anything fulfilling. Even though writing is one of my main sources of fulfillment and nothing about 2020 inhibited my writing process.

Except for despair, I guess?

The world has just felt pretty awful and lonely and sucky. I haven’t felt motivation to do something in months. And that thought makes me feel even worse because I know that you shouldn’t have to feel motivated to get stuff done. Maybe I feel like 2020 was a test of my mental strength and resilience and…I failed.

I could have pushed past those feelings of suckiness and done something I was proud of, but I didn’t.

And now I’m entering the new year feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything last year.

(Sigh.)

I dunno, I’m going to work with this.

But on the brighter side, a certain someone ended their time with a certain country yesterday, and THAT is very hopeful news.

I’m trying to focus on that. Better days ahead.

What It’s Like to Debate Politics When You Have Anxiety

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

There has been a lot going on in the world over the past few months. (Past few years? Is it September already? What is time??) Yes, there has always been a lot going on, but the COVID-19 pandemic and death of George Floyd seemed to spark a shift in the tone of political and human rights discussion in the United States.

I’ve never been extremely vocal about issues. For as long as I can remember I’ve tried to stay well-read about what was going on in the world but I wasn’t rushing to Facebook to share my opinion or even raising my hand in class unless I was prompted.

While I do harbor a certain amount of guilt over not adding my voice to the public discussion for many years (the reasons for which, as the topic of this piece, will be discussed soon) I finally hit a point a few months ago where I decided I couldn’t stay quiet anymore.

I haven’t turned into a human rights activist by any means, and I don’t even post on social media that frequently compared to many other people. There are a few reasons for this (including my limited knowledge of certain subjects) but the main one, by far, is my anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a funny thing. The simplest definition is that it causes excessive worrying, which is true, but how it causes that worrying is what gives it the power to grip your entire life.

I love debating political and sociological issues. I’ve always described myself as someone who “likes knowing what’s going on” and this mindset eventually led me to a journalism degree (which I never used because of my anxiety, but that’s a different story) and a need to browse various news sites several times a day.

My entire family is similar to me in this way — we love talking about things. We don’t always agree with each other, but in recent years we’ve reached a point where we can discuss pretty much anything from any angle without disrespecting or insulting anyone who disagrees. We have some fantastic talks and I find myself thinking or saying “I never thought of that before” often, which is extremely satisfying and makes me feel like I’m growing.

I’m lucky that my anxiety has not been able to penetrate my relationship with my family yet. I’m not sure why I’ve been spared (this is definitely not the case for everyone) but I feel able to say pretty much anything I want to my family without the persistent dread and negativity my anxiety brings in almost every other environment.

I wish I could feel like that when sharing my thoughts and beliefs with other people, but that’s not the case. Sharing my thoughts about anything remotely political, whether it be an article I’ve written, a Facebook post, or the work of someone else shared to my Instagram story, feels like pulling the pin of a grenade and waiting for the inevitable destruction that will follow.

We all have at least one person on our Facebook feed who loves criticism and debate, friendly or not. They post multiple times a day, sometimes material that is fact-checked and sometimes material that isn’t, and obviously revel in the chance to have a back and forth text discussion on the issue. After they press “post,” they go about their day like nothing happened. If someone disagrees with them, they rebut the point and move on, probably not dwelling on the comments more than a few minutes or so.

I am not one of these people. When I feel strongly about an issue and have gathered enough viable information to share a small part of my belief on it, my first thought is, “what will people think of me when I post this?” There are a few people within my Facebook and Instagram community who I specifically think of, and those people, whether I consider us good friends or old acquaintances, have stopped me from posting many times in my life.

After going back and forth about posting something to social media, usually for several days, I’ll finally decide I’m going to post to social media and share my opinion. As soon as I post, my heart begins to race and I start sweating profusely. I try to put my phone down and ignore it for a while, but I can’t help but check every few minutes to see if someone replied. What would they say? Would anyone agree with me? Are they laughing as they read my text on their screen?

Most people who disagree with me aren’t rude or mean about it, but the idea of someone criticizing me is terrifying and makes me feel nauseous. (Great mindset to have for an aspiring writer, right?) When I post something and someone I know responds with some form of “I don’t agree with this,” my first reaction is, “this person thinks I’m an idiot,” or, “this person doesn’t respect me anymore.”

I know that’s silly. If I don’t agree with someone, I don’t immediately think “wow, what a loser” so why should I believe other people are thinking that about me? But hey, that’s how anxiety works.

Reading a comment from someone explaining why they think I’m wrong sends shock waves through my heart. My head pounds and I feel a heaviness settle on my chest that lasts all day. It’s the only thing I can think about for hours — I can barely concentrate on anything else that day and rarely get any work done. It makes me feel pathetic and completely dependent on the opinions of others and I begin to think I should have kept my mouth shut.

I always respond to comments and end the discussion politely when I feel like it’s going nowhere. I’ve never had friends call me to say we can’t be associated with each other anymore because of my beliefs, but I haven’t come out unscathed. I know for a fact that someone people I’ve known my entire life have lost some respect for me and I’ve had uncomfortable discussions with friends that have led to a silent departure from each other’s inner circle. That really sucks. Is being an informed and vocal member of society worth this mental torment and the very real possibility of losing friends?

I think so.

I’m not saying everyone with anxiety or any other mental illness/other hardship should feel obligated to share their entire life on social media. You do you. My feeling of obligation comes from how informed I try to be about events and my desire to share information with others. If I take the time to fact check sources and weed out the truth from all the spam I see flying down my Facebook feed, I feel like I owe it to the people who actually want the facts (and to the people who are sharing blatant lies without realizing it) to share what I know. Our country is entirely dependent on the people and the only way we can create a healthy and well-rounded society is by people sharing their voices. And as long as my anxiety lets me, I’ll try to share mine.

No, Anxiety and Introversion Do Not Always Go Hand in Hand

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I’m an introvert. I also have an anxiety disorder. While those two things are related for me, that’s not the case for everyone. It’s a common misconception that anxiety and introversion always go hand in hand, but that’s not true! I can’t tell you the number of times someone who knows I’m an introvert heard I have anxiety and said, “Oh, that makes sense.” Let’s dig into this stereotype and debunk it.

Anxiety is a mental illness. Introversion is not.

The definition of an introvert is someone who “prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments.” The definition of an anxiety disorder is someone who “displays excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about a number of things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances.”

Being an introvert means you are the most comfortable under certain circumstances, while anxiety means you are rarely comfortable at all, depending on the level of severity. While you can certainly experience both at the same time (like me!), I want to make it clear that introversion and anxiety are two very different life experiences.

I can see where some of the confusion can come from. Introverts thrive in calm situations and need alone time to recharge. Many people with anxiety also thrive in calm situations and need alone time to recharge. But that’s not always the case for someone with anxiety — some people may feel trapped in their mind when they are alone or would rather move around and stay busy. It all depends on the person and their feelings should be validated.

Extroverts can have anxiety too.

Assuming anxiety and introversion go hand in hand can even further the stereotype that outgoing extroverted people don’t have anxiety. Again, this is simply not true. An anxiety disorder can affect someone no matter what their personality type looks like.

It can be harder for people to imagine the bubbly person at the frat party with an anxiety disorder, but their (and everyone else’s) mental health experience is just as valid as someone who better “fits” a stereotype. Many extroverted people have a hard time admitting to their anxiety and seeking help for it because of these stereotypes.

Mental illness doesn’t fit into a box, nor does introversion.

Any sort of stereotype about mental illness is at best ignorant and at worst incredibly damaging to the people involved. No one should feel like their mental illness isn’t as “real” or “difficult” as someone else’s because they don’t fit into a tiny box of what anxiety “should” look like.

Personality types are very similar — while introversion and extroversion fit a certain classification (just like mental illnesses), there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be an introvert. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told “I never would have thought you were an introvert!” by friends and coworkers. Maybe my solo travels around the world and my bubbliness at parties with friends is what throws people off.

But while sometimes I fit an extroverted stereotype, I am absolutely and unequivocally an introvert. I need alone time from even the people I love the most and I’m the most comfortable by myself cozying up with a good book. Heck, I even need space from my dog sometimes.

How can introverts help debunk this stereotype?

I know being an introvert and speaking out about things doesn’t sound great to everyone reading this, but if you feel comfortable talking about being an introvert, go for it! Sharing experiences is the best way for people to connect and break down walls of misunderstanding.

The same goes for people with anxiety (again, if you feel comfortable). Writing about my introversion and anxiety has been a great way for me to speak out about things I don’t feel comfortable saying in front of a crowd or in person.

Everyone has at least one introverted friend and everyone knows at least one person with anxiety. (Okay, I don’t know if that’s true for sure, but it’s probably a good guess.) My point is, many people won’t take the time to learn about something or someone different from them until they have a reason. But many people do have that reason, they just don’t realize it yet!

Final Thoughts

Never assume people are going to live the same experience as the one you’ve been taught by the media, family, or even your own experiences. Negative stereotypes don’t always come from a bad place — it’s often just not having enough information to make a rational and compassionate thought.

Just because someone is an introvert, it doesn’t mean they have anxiety. Just because someone has anxiety, it doesn’t mean they’re an introvert. Everyone is doing their best to work through their own life experience and stereotypes like these don’t make that any easier. Be compassionate and stay open-minded about everyone.

Important Issues Are Not Mutually Exclusive

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I see it all the time.

“Instead of focusing on Black Lives Matter, why don’t we talk about abortion?”

“I have an idea, why don’t we start sharing information about child trafficking the way we do about COVID-19?”

“Y’all spend your time discussing masks when we should really be bringing attention to police brutality.”

The world is full of problems and issues that need to be discussed. Public examination and debate is a vital way to bring awareness to these issues and we are in a better spot than ever before to do so. Our access to communication makes bringing light to a cause as easy as opening Twitter or Facebook.

A side effect of this communication is how quickly our timelines now fill with issues to talk about. In an ideal world, I suppose, this wouldn’t be a bad thing — the internet is big enough to harbor every charity event, news article, and personal essay out there. However, we as a species are driven by competition (queue “survival of the fittest” quote) and instead of welcoming multiple ideas at one time, we have created a competition of constantly pushing new things forward.

While this isn’t inherently bad, this idea of “what I want to talk about is more important than what you want to talk about” is, in my opinion, causing more harm than good.

Pitting two social issues against each other assigns them a tier status when they don’t need one. Who gets to say homelessness is more or less important than police budgets? Who gets to say mental health awareness is more or less important than systemic racism?

The problem with deciding your conversation is more important than the current conversation (or your perception of the current conversation) is that, as wholesome as your intentions may be, the fact that you feel you can categorize the importance of social issues means you have a bias about them.

Again, it’s not inherently bad to have some sort of bias or affection towards a particular issue. But it starts to become problematic when you use that bias to draw attention away from other equally important issues.

It is irresponsible and unethical to take momentum away from a cause simply because the ego you have associated with a different one isn’t getting enough attention.

Let’s look at an example I’ve seen a lot on my social media feeds in recent weeks: “Let’s stop freaking out about COVID-19 and focus on the much bigger issue of child trafficking.”

The coronavirus pandemic is a very important, current issue. Over 600,000 people around the world have died and millions have been hospitalized. Over 14 million cases have been documented. People haven’t been able to give final goodbyes to loved ones or even participate in funerals. Economies have halted, millions have lost jobs, countless people have developed mental health complications, and domestic violence rates have increased. Cases in the United States are increasing and the number of deaths, while not significantly increasing, are not dropping. Wearing a mask to help slow the spread has gone from a medical recommendation to a political issue, causing further division in our country. The coronavirus has affected and continues to affect millions of people.

Child trafficking is also a very important, current issue. Current statistics estimate over 10 million children are victims of child trafficking at any given time. Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest and questionable death in 2019 and Ghislaine Maxwell’s recent arrest have brought more light to involvement from some Hollywood elite. The International Labor Organization reports that forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits per year. Children living in poor countries with little protection to begin with are often targeted, but people from wealthy countries like the United States also participate in this heinous crime. Human trafficking is an underground crime and very difficult to track, and more funding is desperately needed to help combat this exploitation of children. Child trafficking has affected and continues to affect millions of people.

Both of these issues are extremely important. But do you want to know the good news? Coronavirus and child trafficking are not mutually exclusive! We can talk about both! We can give plenty of time and awareness and money and attention to both of these causes, as well as plenty of others.

I know it’s impossible to give 100% of your attention to ten different social issues. It also gets mentally and physically draining to advocate for dozens of causes and give attention to everything else life requires.

I’m not saying you have to give a fair share to everything — people need to specialize in certain areas and causes so they have the ability to give that 100%. I’m just tired of seeing this constant competition for attention and watching equally important causes get undermined by someone who thinks the world is only big enough for one social issue at a time.

How My Anxiety Kept Me From Talking About My Anxiety

Realizing I had anxiety was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My life leading up to my sophomore year of college was a confusing and frustrating road of feeling anxious and nervous about everything but never understanding why. Finally being able to comprehend what was happening inside my brain was an overwhelming sense of relief and has since led to huge amounts of progress with my mental health.

But that progress was slow because when I was diagnosed with anxiety I didn’t tell a single person for almost two years.

It was a strange feeling. Here I was, finally able to explain why I spent hundreds of nights crying myself to sleep, why I couldn’t breathe when it was my turn to read a paragraph in front of the class, and why I questioned if my friends since elementary school actually liked me.

That moment in college, I wanted to throw open my apartment window and scream at the top of my lungs, “I GET IT NOW. THIS IS WHY I FEEL SO CRAPPY ALL THE TIME. I’M NOT CRAZY.” I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to tell people. I wanted to share my experience and hear experiences from others. I knew speaking out and talking would help — I could practically taste the relief I would one day feel from that — and I almost wrote a Facebook post about it right then and there.

But then, as it always does, my anxiety chimed in. And all the relief I was feeling was replaced with words of caution telling me to stay silent. Here are some of them:

If people know you have anxiety, they’ll treat you like a fragile person for the rest of your life.

I’ve always been an independent person. I like people to think of me as a strong, capable woman who doesn’t need to be taken care of. My anxiety told me that if I spilled the beans on my mental illness, everyone would suddenly look at me as a fragile little girl who needed help. Someone who couldn’t take care of herself. Someone who was too afraid to live life. Someone who needed help all the time.

I hold absolutely zero judgment towards people who want or need help because of a mental illness. (I really should ask for and accept help more willingly — it’s a great habit to practice.)

Looking at it rationally, the idea that more people might reach out to me as an act of kindness is not something I should have been worried about. But when has anxiety ever been rational?

The idea of people viewing me as “fragile” was so off-putting and scary that it kept my mouth shut for a long time.

If you talk about your anxiety, people will think you’re just looking for attention.

Let me give you a quick piece of advice I’ve learned over the years — if you’re worried that speaking out about something will make people think you’re looking for attention, you’re not looking for attention. People who stir up drama for their own gain aren’t worried about the attention they’ll seek because that’s exactly what they want. Being worried about it means that’s not what you want. (Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.)

When I started to push past the fear of being deemed a weak and incapable person, my next anxiety stressor was that people would think I was lying about my illness for attention. I didn’t get an official diagnosis for some time after I knew I had an anxiety disorder and the fear of not having proof to back up my claims totally freaked me out.

I would actually picture people demanding a doctor’s note in the comments section of a blog post or a social media post. What a worst-case scenario (that wouldn’t be that person’s business anyway) to worry about! But anxiety’s funny that way, isn’t she?

If people know you have anxiety, they’ll think you’re unstable, on medication, or suicidal.

Okay, first of all: DESTIGMATIZE TAKING MEDICATION FOR A MENTAL ILLNESS.

I would never judge someone for being on medication, but there is a stigma out there and even though I wasn’t on medication at the time, just the idea that someone might think I was and judge my for it was terrifying.

My anxiety insisted my friends and family would view me as a ticking time bomb once they knew I had a disorder. I was afraid they would think I was unstable and suicidal. I was afraid my reputation would somehow be negatively affected.

None of these reasons make sense. Even as I write them, I’m thinking about how dumb a lot of this sounds and how easy it is to point out why my thought process was wrong. But that’s how anxiety works. It takes every rational thought you have and twists it into a knot in your chest.

My anxiety kept me from talking about my anxiety for so long, and I endured a lot of pain and isolation during that time. When I did start sharing my experience with others, it was a slow process and I’m still not very vocal about it. And that’s okay — never feel like you have to share your personal experiences with everyone. I just wanted to say that anxiety is weird and manipulative and stops a lot of people from living life. This is my experience.

You Can Have a Great Life and Still Have Anxiety

I’ve struggled with this concept ever since I first suspected I had anxiety, and I still struggle with it almost every day.

I have a really great life and I still have anxiety. I have a close family that would do anything for me, incredible friends who love me unconditionally, a strong support group in a church I love, and a deep faith in God. I have a job that allows me to live independently, the ability and means to travel often, and a dog I absolutely adore.

I have never had to deal with poverty, serious injuries, unexpected deaths, abusive households, or any of the countless other difficulties so many people are exposed to every day. I grew up surrounded by love and support and people who cared about me and believed in my dreams.

I can’t stress enough how aware and how thankful I am for all of this. But that awareness has caused its own problem: If my life is so great, why do I have anxiety? What reason do I have to worry and doubt so much of the good in my life?

This is so important to understand: You can have a great life and still have anxiety. Or depression. Or OCD or Bipolar Disorder or any other kind of mental illness. You don’t need to have had a traumatic experience or years of abuse to develop something like this. You can grow up loved and happy and lucky and still deal with mental illness.

Having depression doesn’t mean you’re choosing to be negative and checked out. Having anxiety doesn’t mean you’re choosing to stress about every little detail in your life. It’s the complete opposite, actually, and I cannot stress this enough:

We did not choose this. We do not want this.

Mental illness is really no different from physical illness. You can have a great life and sprain your ankle. You can have a great life and get cancer. And sure, just like there are things you can do to help with your physical health, there are also things you can do that can help with your mental health.

I absolutely agree that lifestyle choices like a healthy diet and frequent exercise can significantly improve mental health. Having a positive attitude and being optimistic is also completely legit. Intentionally dwelling on all your problems while watching a sad movie is not going to brighten your mood.

And when you have control over that, great. But you don’t always have control. Mental illness is a never-ending war, and inevitably you will lose some battles. There will be times — moments, days, weeks — where you cannot seem to feel happy no matter how hard you try. One day you might spend the entire afternoon with your best friends watching Disney movies and eating cookies and still feel like you’ll never be happy again.

Those are the feelings you can’t just decide to get rid of. Telling someone with depression to “just get over it” is like telling someone with a broken leg to “just walk it off.”

When you have a mental illness, even when you know everything is okay your mind is constantly fighting to tell you it’s not. And your mind doesn’t just tell you — it gives you a list of reasons and a very convincing argument that is sometimes too powerful to ignore. It is not you making the decision to be depressed or anxious — it is your mind.

Battling a mental illness is battling your brain. It is arguing against the negative and sometimes frightening thoughts that constantly run through your head. It is like someone is standing next to you incessantly telling you that you’re not good enough, you do everything wrong, and you shouldn’t even try. And even when you know you are loved and supported and surrounded by people who care about you, that voice begins to wear you down. It makes you second-guess everything. And sometimes you just get so tired of arguing with it that you give in and believe what it’s saying.

Mental illness is not your decision. You cannot choose one day to not have anxiety or depression or whatever it is you’re dealing with. If you could you would have gotten rid of this long ago, right? I know I would.

But you can choose to keep fighting. You can choose to keep living. You can choose to not give up after a particularly bad day. You can choose to try. You can choose to not let your illness win. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

7 Stereotypes about Anxiety and Why They’re Harmful

The only thing more difficult than having an anxiety disorder may be the false information and stereotypes that seem to revolve around it. While some of these assumptions may come from a good place, ultimately making a generalization or aligning your beliefs about anxiety with a stereotype is harmful to everyone experiencing the disorder. Here are eight common stereotypes about anxiety disorders and why they can be hurtful.

1. Anxiety always stems from trauma

While anxiety can be a side effect of a traumatic event, many people experience anxiety without it having any connection to a past experience. The Mayo Clinic identifies 10 different anxiety disorders and links anxiety to at least 15 different health and risk factors, with trauma being only one of those.

Why it’s harmful: The belief that anxiety always stems from trauma feeds right into another belief that someone who has not experienced a traumatic event cannot experience anxiety. This is untrue and can make people feel like their “reason” for anxiety isn’t valid or real enough to seek help.

2. Everyone experiences the same triggers

Mental illnesses are extremely complicated and affect everyone differently. While there are some more common anxiety triggers, such as medications, caffeine, or health issues, virtually anything can trigger someone’s anxiety.

Why it’s harmful: Assuming that everyone experiences the same anxiety triggers removes the validity of someone experiencing a less common trigger. It can make someone feel like they are being overdramatic or that they should try to hide their symptoms.

3. All someone needs is peace and quiet to feel better

While getting away from noise can be calming for some (me included), not everyone feels that way. Some people might feel trapped in their mind when they are alone or would rather move around and stay busy. It all depends on the person and their feelings should be validated.

Why it’s harmful: Offering suggestions and trying to help is never a bad thing, but make sure to listen to the person who is actually experiencing anxiety. They know what is going to work for them the best.

4. Therapy and medicine will cure it

Therapy and medication can be awesome and effective treatments for an anxiety disorder but they are not a guarantee. Some people have health conditions that don’t allow them to take medication and others might have negative experiences associate with therapists that don’t leave room for any positive change. Some people try both therapy and medication and still experience anxiety every day.

Why it’s harmful: Assuming there is a universal cure for anxiety in the form of therapy or medication makes people who don’t or can’t choose those options feel like they’re being stupid or making the wrong decision for their health. There are many other options for anxiety treatment.

5. Someone with anxiety is weak and fragile

Anxiety does not mean someone is weak. It may seem like someone with anxiety avoids things because of that, but they are just someone trying to do their best with what they have. Battling anxiety requires a deep inner strength that must be turned to again and again, which is anything but weak.

Why it’s harmful: No one wants to feel like they’re weak or incapable of taking care of themselves. The best way to support someone is not to baby them but to show them you know how strong they really are.

6. People with anxiety are antisocial and shy

One common type of anxiety is a social anxiety disorder, which tends to be manifested at social events where there are a lot of people. While social anxiety and shyness can be linked, this is not always the case. Plenty of extroverts who love being around people have social anxiety. They just need a break sometimes (or often) to make sure their symptoms don’t completely take over.

Why it’s harmful: The term “antisocial” has a pretty negative connotation to it and can make someone feel like they’re being rude for avoiding people. The term “shy” tends to be used with children and can make someone with anxiety feel like a child for choosing to forgo social situations.

7. People can just get over their anxiety

“Just stop worrying so much,” is probably one of the most overused answers to someone experiencing anxiety. Someone with an anxiety disorder has a mental illness and is as incapable of making it disappear as someone with a broken arm is incapable of making it heal instantly. Believe me, people with anxiety wish more than anything that they could just make it go away.

Why it’s harmful: Assuming anxiety is a choice completely removes the validity of what someone is going through. It can make someone who is experiencing anxiety feel like they aren’t trying hard enough to fix it or that people think they are making it up, which can make it difficult to seek treatment.

A Typical Day with Anxiety

Since I’ve started talking about it, I’ve been realizing how difficult it can be to explain what it’s like to have anxiety. Even after I spend hours crafting a long post or filming a video that I feel like accurately portrays what I want it to, I still get comments like “Well, just stop worrying about it.” Sigh. So I’m going to keep trying different ways you can look at it to get a better idea of what this is like.

My anxiety seems to manifest itself mostly in social situations and by making me incredibly self-conscious. This post may seem almost comical because even when I look back through it I think “why would I worry about that,” but hopefully you can see just how exhausting even mild anxiety is and be more forgiving to people who deal with these thoughts every day.

A Typical Day with Anxiety

Wake up. What time is is? Did I oversleep? 

Check phone. No, I’m OK. Today is going to be a long day. I have a lot to do. I hope I don’t get called on in class. What if I do get called on? Do I know the material well enough? Maybe I should study before class.


Look through social media. I feel like everyone is doing fun things and I’m not. I should do more fun things. I should get out there more. I want to join a club or something. But what if I say something stupid on the first day? Everyone will remember that for the rest of the year. Plus I wouldn’t know anyone and it’d be weird to join halfway through the semester and what if no one likes me and then I’d have to plan it around my school and work schedule…I don’t think it’s worth it.


Get out of bed. Shower. What should I wear today? It’s going to be cold in the morning but warm in the afternoon, so do I dress for the cold or for the heat? If I wear a sweater everyone’s going to stare at me when it gets hot. But if I wear a t-shirt everyone’s going to stare at me as I walk to school and wonder why I’m crazy enough to wear a t-shirt when it’s cold outside. 


Get dressed. Put on a jacket. Walk to school. Why is no one else wearing a jacket? Everyone else is in short-sleeves. Am I literally the only person on campus who wore long sleeves today?Everyone is looking at me. I should stop and take off my jacket. But then everyone would think that I wasn’t smart enough to check the weather this morning. I’ll just get to class quickly. 


Walk into class. Only a couple people are already sitting down. Am I in the right class? I know this is my sixth week of school, but what if I’m not in the right class? Or the professor changed rooms today and I didn’t get the memo? Do I recognize any of these people? I don’t recognize them. I’ll sit in the corner so if this is the wrong class I can leave without anyone noticing.


Other people start to arrive. I recognize her. Thank goodness. This is the right class. I hope we don’t have to get into pairs for anything. I don’t know anyone here. Who should I ask if we have to partner up? That girl looks nice. Shoot, her friend just sat next to her. Oh, please don’t make us pair up.


Professor starts teaching class. I have a thought about that. But no one else is raising their hands about it. Maybe it was a stupid thought. Besides, I never talk in class so if I talked this one time everyone would be super surprised. What if I stutter or something? That would be embarrassing. It’s probably not worth it.


Nearing end of class: I hope he doesn’t go overtime. I can’t be late to my next class. I’ll walk in and everyone will stare and watch me until I sit down. My professor might say something to me and then my face would turn red and I wouldn’t know what to say and that would be so embarrassing. 

Walking to next class: Everyone is staring at me. Is my backpack unzipped? Is my fly down? Is my shirt getting pulled up? Is there something on my face? Is my hair sticking out? Are my jeans too short? Am I walking funny? Do I look angry? Just stare at the ground and keep walking.


Next class: I’m hungry. But if I eat a granola bar the wrapper will be loud and I’l annoy everyone. But if I don’t eat anything my stomach will growl and that will be annoying too. I’ll just drink a lot of water. But then I’ll have to go to the bathroom and I’m meeting someone for lunch in an hour but if I go before I might be late and I hate it when people are late so I can’t go before and risk it but I don’t know if I’ll have time afterwards. 


Next class: It’s getting cold in here. I want to put on my jacket but it’s in my backpack and I’d have to unzip it what if it gets caught on my zipper or something and people notice? And what if I’m putting it on and I can’t find the other sleeve because I do that a lot and I’m this awkward person struggling to put a jacket on and people tell their friends about me after class? I’ll just wait.


Meeting a friend for lunch: Where is she? I’m here at the right time, right? And at the right place? Why hasn’t she texted me? Oh no, did I come here on the wrong day? No, it’s the right day. Well, I’ll just sit here and try to pretend like I’m doing something entertaining and I’m not a loser who doesn’t have any friends. I feel like everyone is staring at me again. They probably feel sorry for me.


Friend arrives. Eat and talk: I wonder if I eat weird. Some people look weird when they eat. Am I one of those people? Did I get my reading done for my next class. Oh crap, I forgot. I hope there isn’t a quiz. And if there is I hope it isn’t one of those where we have to grade each other’s work because the person grading mine will see that I missed all the questions and they’ll think it’s funny and think I’m a slacker or I’m stupid.


Lull in conversation: Oh no, we ran out of things to say. What do I say? Say something. I’m so boring. I bet she only joined me for lunch because she felt bad for me. She probably doesn’t want to be here. She doesn’t really want to be my friend. She probably goes back to her friends and jokes about how awkward I am. No, that’s mean. She’s too nice to do that. But she still probably doesn’t want to be here.


Next class: I have that movie thing on Friday. Why did I agree to do that? No, I like these people and I should hang out with them. I spend so much time by myself. I should get out more. But I like spending time by myself. What if there are people I don’t know? What time should I get there? What if I can’t find parking? What if I go to the wrong apartment? What should I wear?


Work: I’m only going to know a few people there I bet. I’ll just talk to them the whole time and follow them around. But what if I annoy them? I know I annoy people when I do that. I’m like a child. What will I talk about? What if the people I know leave for something? What if they aren’t there at all? What if I have the date wrong? What if I say something stupid? What if I make a joke and no one laughs? What time should I leave? How can I get out of it?


Getting home: Finally. Alone. 


Falling asleep: Hey, let’s worry about that party again. *Repeats every thought of the day.Remembers how I raised my hand in class and my professor didn’t notice so I had to put it down all awkwardly even though everyone noticed. Thinks about what my interview is going to be like for a job I might apply for in two years. Relives that time I slipped on the ice and fell off the bus in the seventh grade. Thinks about how I’m never going to accomplish anything because my ideas are all stupid. Also thinks about how I’m not working hard enough at my goals so I need to step that up.* Crap, I’ve been laying here for three hours. I’m going to be tired tomorrow and I have a lot to get done. *Worries about being tired until I finally fall asleep*


Congrats if you made it this far! It’s a lot, and this isn’t even half the thoughts that go through my head on a daily basis. I know a lot of it is ridiculous and believe me, I spend a lot of time talking myself down from the anxiety highs I get. But my point is that I can’t control these thoughts, and neither can anyone else with anxiety. It’s frustrating and annoying and exhausting. So just keep in mind that you never know what someone is thinking or going through, so be nice to people. 🙂

How I Plan My Trips

For someone who loves to write, it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on here. Eh. Lots been going on the past several months that have made casual writing harder than it used to be. But today is not a time to get into that! Today I’m talking about traveling. ✈️

If you’re reading this you probably follow me on some form of social media, and you’ve probably seen that I’ve been traveling a lot lately. It’s become a big part of my life and I’m really grateful I’ve been able to see so much of the world in the last few years.

I just have to do a couple of disclaimers so we’re all on the same page: 


1: I do have a job, and I usually work during my trips. I do digital marketing remotely, which means as long as I have a decent internet connection and can work around time zones I can work pretty much wherever I want. I do have to schedule my traveling around meetings and time-sensitive work, but again, most work can get done on my own time, which is awesome. It does mean I’m subject to 5:00 am meetings and middle of the night alarms to post something online before trying to go back to bed, but it’s definitely worth it for me in the end. (Obviously.) 


2: So going along with my last point, I pay for almost all of my travel expenses on my own. (I am lucky enough to have parents who love traveling as well, and I have done some traveling with them in the past. But other than that I pay for basically everything on my own.) Traveling can be expensive, but I do my best to save as much money as possible. I use credit card travel hacks, get email alerts for flight deals, put in hours of research for the best deals, etc. I could definitely travel for less money if I wanted to stay in hostels or do something like WOOFing, but for various reasons I’ve found my comfort level where I’m at. 


I also have very few expenses right now – I’ve been living at my parent’s house since graduating college last April (so almost a year ago! Wow.) and honestly it’s been super frustrating at times. I love my family, but I’ve been dying to get on my own for a long time, and my job just wasn’t providing enough hours for me to do so until very recently. The plus side of that is I don’t pay for rent, food, or pretty much anything except my phone and gas. So, for example, living in Hawaii right now I’m only paying rent for one place and not stacking expenses on each other. 


OKAY. Now that we have that out of the way.


After I got back from my last trip to New Zealand & Australia (my first solo trip, by the way! I should do a post on that) I had quite a few people ask if I could write a post on how I plan my trips. 
Not to “toot my own horn” as the kids say, but I’m pretty good at planning trips. The determining factor is that I have anxiety and obsessively planning every detail of a trip helps calm it a little, but I also just really enjoy researching where I’m going and what I’m going to do. There are a few situations where I’m a fan of winging it, but if there’s a lot you wanna get done in a short amount of time you gotta plan!


I don’t really follow a step system, but for the sake of this article I’ll try to break my planning process down the best I can.


Step 1: Pick Your Location(s)


This seems pretty obvious, but a lot of people have maybe one or two things in mind that they want to do/see and that’s it. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they’re amazed at everything I got to see on my trips, and it’s almost always because I did stuff outside of the normal well-known places. 
You have to have some starting point, so if you have say, a 1-week vacation, pick the main place you want to go or thing you want to see. Maybe you want to go to the beach over Spring Break, see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, eat your way through Japan, etc. You don’t have to figure out the whole trip right off the bat – start with one thing you’ve always wanted to go/see/go to. 


If you have a general idea of what to do but not a specific location in mind (i.e. a beach vacation), getting ideas is as easy as a Google search. It does help to be specific based on your availability – instead of searching “where to go on a beach vacation” search “best beaches in the U.S.” or whatever you can realistically do or the type of vacation you want.


I would also be careful about basing your entire trip around a single place unless you know it’s great. For example, basing a trip around seeing Westminster Abbey in London is probably fine because it’s very established and you know what you’re getting into. Basing your trip around one picture of a beach you saw on Pinterest is risky because that beach could be photoshopped, hard to get to, or even on private property. This can be avoided by some extra research as well. 


Another thing to keep in mind is how much you want to do. There are two ways to approach trips:

1. Do and see as much as possible
2. Take it slow and relax

For most of my life, my family trips were #1. I used to joke to my friends that I got in better shape on my vacations than I did any other time of the year. My parents are what you’d call “go-getters” and every vacation had a “leave no stone unturned” mentality. Our trips together are absolutely exhausting, but we really do see a lot – I always have people ask how I was able to do so much on trips, and part of it is definitely planning but the main part is that we are basically sightseeing from sunrise to as far past sunset as we can.

It’s a lot, but looking back I’ve always been glad we did it this way. Last summer I took a trip to Europe and we visited five countries in two weeks. It was a total whirlwind, but I still felt like I got to experience every country and I checked off so many things from my bucket list!

The first time in my life I took a trip at a slow and relaxed pace is actually right now as I’m writing this article. I’ve been in Hawaii for the past three weeks, and the trip has been relaxed because I’ve been working while traveling so I can’t go out every day or I won’t make any money. 🙂 And I do have more time, but I love the relaxed pace as well! There’s definitely a lot less pressure to constantly be doing something.

Ultimately it depends on your style, so just make sure you pick a destination that allows you to vacation or travel the way you want.

Step 2: Plan Your Itinerary

I like to plan a basic itinerary before I book flights and hotels so I can then try to book a hotel close to either certain attractions or public transportation to get me to those spots. A good accomodation location can mean the whole world on a trip, so keep this in mind.

What you do on a trip is obviously totally based on what you want, so here are a few ways I get ideas for what to do:

  • Google “Things to do in ________”. This will give you a ton of search results, but what I want you to look at is Google will compile a list of its highest-rated attractions/destinations automatically. I like looking through these because 1) You’ll get a good idea of what’s popular in the area, and 2) Everything shows reviews, which are a huge part of my planning process.

  • Search for your destination in TripAdvisor. Similar to the Google search, but lots reviews are from frequent travelers so you can see what experienced travelers liked and didn’t like. 
  • A lot of people like to search on Pinterest, which isn’t a bad idea, but it’s not my favorite place because everything is very curated to look nice, so a lot of photos you’ll see have been heavily edited. It’s fine to get inspo here, but make sure you look at some photos of that beautiful hidden lake on Google to make sure you know what you’re getting into. 🙂 

You should be able to get plenty of ideas from these sites. I generally stick to Google Trips/Maps and TripAdvisor to get a basic itinerary. From here you can narrow your search if you’d like. I always like to search for local thrift shops, places to get locally made souvenirs, local restaurants & bakeries, and at least one thing to do that isn’t very popular with tourists. 


It’s a good idea to create a very basic daily itinerary to get an idea of how much you can do. Both Google Trips and TripAdvisor give estimates on how long people usually spend at each place, so you can use that to plan as well. 

Step 3: Book Your Accommodation & Flights 

As soon as I have a general itinerary, I like to get my accommodation and flights figured out ASAP. You’ll get the best selection and prices the earlier you book for accommodation, and to some extent flights (flights aren’t necessarily cheaper the earlier you book them, but they will get more expensive the later you book them).

Accommodation


I’ve really liked Airbnbs lately, because you definitely feel more like a local and get a better idea of the culture than if you’re in a standard hotel. However, ultimately you’ll have to decide what works best for you on your trip. If you want a beach vacation and can’t find any Airbnbs walking distance to the beach, you’ll have a better experience in a hotel. Note that I have nothing against hotels, I just really like Airbnbs! My family stayed in an actual castle in Ireland last year. But depending on your trip, a hotel can definitely be a better option.

My favorite sites for booking accommodation:

  • Airbnb.com
  • Hotels.com (book 10 nights and get one free)
  • Google Maps (search “hotels near ________”)
  • Travelocity

If you’re booking a hotel, I highly recommend comparing prices across several websites. Prices vary all over the place, and you can save a significant amount of money by looking at 3-4 booking sites instead of just one. 


Flights

Flights tend to be the thing people focus on the most as the priciest part of a trip. And depending on where you’re going and how long your trip is, they can definitely take a chunk out of your budget. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of “tried and true” methods to save on flights, but here are my best tips:


Know your booking window. You tend to see the best ticket prices about 6 weeks in advance for domestic flights and 2-3 months in advance for international flights. As I mentioned earlier, booking a flight six months in advance is not going to get you a cheaper flight – it might actually be more expensive because you’ll then lose out on any price drops in the future. I would wait until the booking window I just mentioned, but not go too much later than that.


Some people swear by booking last-minute flights, but this is risky and doesn’t really work anymore.


Compare prices. Just like with hotels, never book a flight without checking a few different websites.


Compare airports. For cities with multiple airports or cities that are very close to each other, some airports are cheaper to fly into than others. For example, Gatwick Airport in London hosts mostly budget airlines and tends to be cheaper than Heathrow.  


Sign up for flight alerts. There are lots of websites out there to help people find the best flight deals. Hopper tracks specific flights and alerts you when it’s the best time to buy. Scott’s Cheap Flights is a free email service that emails you flight sales and mistake fares, and you should definitely sign up because they are AMAZING. Pomelo Travel is a similar service. 


Come to terms with the price. I know, terrible advice. But unless you get lucky and find an amazing deal on a flight, you’re going to hit a point where the price won’t go down and you just have to be okay with that. I’ve had multiple people ask me to find them a better flight, but a little research showed me they had already found the best price. There are no magic tricks out there – flights are just expensive sometimes. 


Step 4: Make a Detailed Itinerary

Once you know where you’re staying and when you’re arriving & departing, you can make a more detailed itinerary. How detailed you want to go is up to you – I prefer an hourly schedule (not joking) but once again, depending on what kind of trip you’re taking you may not need to plan that much. Trying to fit five countries into two weeks takes a meticulously planned itinerary, while a casual weekend in the mountains could definitely be less planned.

At the very least you should have an idea of what you’re doing each day, how long each activity/destination is going to take, and how long it will take to get between places. (A lot of people underestimate transportation time.) Google Maps is great for figuring out travel time, and Rome2Rio is another cool site that shows you multiple ways to get from Point A to Point B.

Once I’ve created a daily schedule I also like to look for places to eat near where I’ll be at meal times. Some places guarantee good food all the time (looking at you Japan) but it’s a bummer to be in a country known for great food and happen to pick a mediocre place. I’ve noticed meals and mealtimes change a lot while traveling, so I like to bookmark some good options all over the place so no matter where I am I can find a decent place to eat.

This is also the time you should book all tours and things you can pay ahead of time for. I recommend buying your ticket in advance almost always – unless you know you’ll get a ticket for the place you want at the time you want, there really isn’t a downside to booking in advance. It does constrain you to a time, but there’s nothing more disappointing than showing up to a place you’ve been dying to see and being told there are no more available tickets.

Booking in advance also keeps you caught up on schedules. Many places in Europe are close one or two days a week during the week, and it can be hard to keep track of when things are open.

My dad is a firm believer in printing all your bookings out before you go on your trip. Usually unnecessary, but we did run into a hotel issue once where the only proof we had was a printed copy of our booking. No downsides, just an extra precaution.

Step 5: Create a Packing List

I always make a packing list a couple weeks in advance so I have plenty of time to get everything I need and don’t have that last-minute stress.

If you’re not sure what to pack, just Google “packing list for _______” and you’ll find plenty of bloggers who have spelled it out for you. 🙂 Just keep in mind you NEVER need as much as you think you do. I’ve gotten better over the years, but as I write this I’m sitting in Hawaii next to two pairs of long pants and a bulky pair of Vans I have yet to wear after three weeks.

For trips 2 weeks or shorter, I only pack a carry on. It saves a lot of time and stress in airports and transportation. For longer trips (or trips with only one airport involved) a checked bag is fine. 


Step 6: Read Up on Your Destination, Double Check Everything, and Get Excited

Being the travel nerd I am, I love reading up at least a little on where I’m going, especially if it has some historical significance. It definitely makes the place a lot more interesting, and I get to feel cool telling my family/friends facts about the Great Wall of China.

Extra research on places can also get you information you wouldn’t have come across otherwise. For example, when I was planning a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle, everything I initially read indicated it was easy to stay in a nearby town and take a bus to the castle. But there were no bus schedules on Google Maps and the hotels felt very pricey and touristy. I did some research and finally came across a blog post that outlined the bus system, and I learned you could book hotels walking distance from the castle. Some of those hotels were expensive, but I was able to find a cute little bed-and-breakfast-type place with views of the actual castle for cheaper than a hotel in the neighboring town would have been! The buses also don’t start running for a while in the morning and they get crowded extremely quickly, so we would have wasted a lot of time and energy if we hadn’t been able to walk. Plus, walking got us there early enough that we had as much time as we wanted on the bridge with the castle’s iconic view without anyone else there. 🙂

A few days before your trip I would double check all reservations and tickets, and make sure you have confirmations for everything. You can also call to confirm reservations if you want.

Finally, get excited! You’re going on a super cool trip! It’s going to be awesome!

Things to Keep in Mind on Your Trip

If you’re going to a new place, especially somewhere foreign, a lot can happen. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Culture shock is a real thing, so be prepared when you’re visiting a new country. The heaviest (is that the right term?) culture shock I ever had was in China. Europe, not so much.
  • Things won’t always go according to plan. If something goes wrong, just accept it, do your best to fix it, and don’t let it ruin the rest of your trip.
  • The “travel” part of traveling is the WORST. Early or late flights, delayed flights, lost luggage, long bus rides…it sucks. Just try to have a good attitude about it because I promise you, being grumpy does NOT help at all. J
  • Be kind to people and they will be kind to you. I’ve visited a lot of countries where before going I was told “Oh, they’re so mean in _____” or “They hate Americans over there.” Uh, no. Locals hate Americans who waltz into a country demanding everyone speak English and cater to their culture, and honestly, who wouldn’t hate that? Try to learn a little bit of the local language, and the locals will notice and help you the best they can. And just be a decent human being.
  • Keep an open mind, be flexible, and take time to appreciate what’s around you.

There ya have it, how I plan my trips! I actually left out a decent amount (lucky for you) of all the nitpicky stuff I do along with all this, but if you ever want to chat about it just let me know. Happy travels!