Category Archives: Advice

Self First

Growing up, I was told that if I didn’t take care of myself, no one else will. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that no one else CAN.

No one else knows what we’re experiencing. There’s no way to truly communicate that. We can try verbalizing or using other means of communication, but another person can only get the gist. No one else knows what we really need. Heck, sometimes we don’t even know what we really need. But it’s up to us as individuals to figure that out. We’re all different, and we can’t go through life the same way.

I was told that my priority was school. That I had to finish school before my life could start. Finish college before dating. Finish college to find a good job. Finish school first! I haven’t finished school yet. I couldn’t.

It’s hard for me to admit because I think it’s shameful. But the matter of fact is, I did not finish college. In fact, I was academically dismissed from two different colleges. Why? Because I never put myself first. I knew I was struggling, all the signs were there, but I kept pushing. I didn’t get the help I needed, didn’t ask for the support that I needed. I was too embarrassed. School was always easy for me. I’m not stupid, and I did well academically. So when I started slipping, it felt like someone pulled the rug from underneath me. Then I became preoccupied with it. One failure became multiple, and all of a sudden, I lost control of everything. I didn’t put myself first. I put other people’s expectations first… or what I perceived as their expectations. The greatest relief for me came when my sister told me, “School is just school.” Wow. I never felt pressure leave me so fast as it did then. She told me that I mattered more than any degree could, and that I needed to focus on myself. I listened for a while, and then back to fitting the mold.

I had a nagging feeling about not finishing school, so I immediately transferred into a different one when I returned to NYC. Let’s just say, that was not beneficial to me at all. I still lacked the motivation, even though I was excited of the prospect of going to pursue a dream career. And again, it all came crashing down. I was not ready for school again. I didn’t even take the time to really work on myself before I jumped back in, assuming I was doing what I wanted and needed. Then I did take a semester off, and in that time I was itching to go back to school. I missed it. So, I thought I was ready. I did my summer class, and aced it. Then fall semester came, and I registered for 5-6 classes. I could’ve done 4, but I am always the overachiever. I felt that if I didn’t have enough work, it would be meaningless. But turns out, I took on too much too soon. So, some classes gave and others I worked my butt off to complete. That was a pattern. I could only handle so many classes, but I thought I was invincible, that next time would be different. Let me tell you, nothing changes if you haven’t changed in between that time.

So, I realized my passion for school dimmed again. Next best thing? Find a job. Maybe working would make me want to go back to school, and it would help me prepare for the future. So I got a job. It was supposed to be part time, turned out to be full-time. My first actual full-time job and I was ecstatic. I went in, did the job, and did it well. I felt great. Then, the stress of the job and my inadequate self-care piled on. Six months in, and I couldn’t manage anymore. Taking sick days, coming in late, just all the things that I should not be doing. Unprofessional to a fault. That’s where I was. The next step from there? I could’ve kept going, my boss was supportive and caring, but I know I was taking on too much and it was taking a toll on me. So my next step was to quit.

I hate quitting. I am stubborn to a fault, and quitting means admitting defeat. That does not sit well with me at all. I also really liked my job, so I didn’t want to quit. But everything my body and mind were telling me was that I cannot handle it. So that’s what I did.

I had to make difficult decisions in order to focus on myself. I like to think that I’m getting a bit better at it. I’ve enrolled in community college now, yeah clearly school still has a hold on me, but I’m going to take it easy this time around. I’m going to take it easy on myself and be practical instead of hopeful.

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I Used to Know

I was that kid in elementary school, junior high school, and high school who knew exactly what she wanted from life. I knew where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to major in, what age I wanted to get married, and how many kids I wanted to have. I had this whole plan in my head. I was set, and I was sure. 

Then life happened.

Now, I’m not sure anymore. I never felt lost before. I never worried about where I would be in five years, if I could even see myself in five years. I always knew. I always had a goal and a way of getting there. My biggest fear when I was in high school was if I wouldn’t be able to have kids in the future. Now, I don’t even think I want to have children of my own. I never worried about graduating on time or what I would do afterwards. I knew.

Then life happened.

College was my turning point from the self-assured, I know what I’m going to do and I’m going to do it person to I have no idea what I’m doing with my life person. Psychology major fell through when I realized, I don’t care about brain chemicals and how they work. English major fell through when I realized, I didn’t want to be a literature major. I was set on being a creative writing major, and when that didn’t happen, I chose to go with what interested me–sociology. And although that didn’t fall through per se, it did leave me questioning what I’m going to do with that degree. No worries, why?

Because life happened.

I fell into a pit of depression and anxiety which became a vicious cycle where terrible thoughts fed upon and fueled themselves. And that took a toll on my academic performance, thus my dismissal from SUNY Geneseo. Upon receiving that dismissal notice, I was distraught. This could not be happening to me! But eventually, I was able to evaluate myelf and my career goals. I decided that I wanted to work behind the scenes to help better the world. I wanted to create my own non-profit, or in the least, manage one. Thus, my decision to take up Public Administration as a major. After that was decided, I looked for schools that had that program. Granted, with a GPA slightly above 2.0, I was worried I wouldn’t even get the chance. Thankfully, I was lucky.  Eve with that solved, I still feel lost. Why?

Because life keeps happening. 

That’s probably the hardest part for me. I used to be able to move with the flow, ride the current. Now, I’m stuck drifting and hitting the river bank and jagged rocks. I have no idea how to move straight with the rest of the water anymore. I don’t like this uncertainty. It bothers me a lot because it’s foreign and cumbersome. Unfortunately, it’s a huge part of life with which I need to get on board. I may be stuck in this spot for a while, and I can’t keep willing for life to stop. No matter how much I wish and pray, life will keep happening. And I cannot foucs on what I used to know, but to start thinking about what I could know.

Life will always happen,

but I don’t have to always fall victim to the constant changes.

Resolution

Where opportunities lie, we must tell our fears goodbye.

I am one of those people who want great things in life. Yet, I am the same variety of people who wait for the world to present opportunities to them.

I can say that I may have let my fair share of opportunities pass me by simply because I am too afraid to take the necessary risks. Too fearful of rejection and feel like a nothing — tortured by the failures abound. Unfortunately, there is no way to escape failure or rejection, it is an integral part of life. They are the ingredients that help build character, set inner strength aflame, and most importantly, encourage perseverance.

I have big dreams. I have dreams of starting a non-profit organization and to become a published author. I have dreams of the white picket fence in a quiet suburb with a loving husband, four children and a dog. I desire all the things that people would call impossible. I may be a hopeless romantic, an idealist, but those are the most basic parts of me. I want things beyond what most people believe are within reach. Still, I let fear cast a shade over my dreams, and set me into the cruel reality. A reality that tells me that I’m not good enough, that no matter how hard I try, there will always be obstacles in my way.

I wish I could say that I easily push those naysayers and negative thoughts aside, but I don’t. I have little belief in my self-worth and my capabilities. My confidence is shot, and no matter the encouragement I receive I do not believe it. Why? The easy way out would be to say depression, but even at the root, it’s fear. I am afraid. Afraid to let others down, afraid that my dreams really are too far out of my reach.

I am taking a semester off from school so that I can work toward my goal to become a writer. Every day when I wake up, all I want to do is register for classes. All I think about is to get that stupid degree and get a full-time job, dead end or miserable as it may be. I just want to follow the typical path, the one everyone expects me to pursue because it is the norm. But I want more than that, I know in my heart that I am meant for more than the typical 9-to-5 job. But I also know that in pursuing my dreams, I am walking straight into rejection central.

There is no person who made it to greatness without struggle, without insecurity, without rejection. We live in a world of handheld devices, computers, and the Internet. But not long ago, the idea of a personal computer was impossible. There was a time when social media was just a dream. It took capable people who believed in their dreams to make it come true. They overcame adversity to create what they saw in their dreams. Just as all writers, each one has received at least one rejection letter telling him or her that the writing was not up to par. I’ve received a rejection before, and to say that it hurt would be an understatement. It was nearly crippling. Yet, the names we throw around in reference to most accomplished or successful, started off in the bottom too. They had to climb their way up, they saw opportunity and jumped towards it.

I want to be one of those people. I want to be able to say goodbye to the anxiety and fear that hold me back. And because I want it so desperately, I am sure that I will be able to do it. Not to say that doubt won’t be a constant companion, but I will be stronger and I will push through and prevail.

2015 is a new year, and it is this year that I stop putting my pursuits on hold. Instead of saying I want to do things, I will do them. It’s the only way to get to where I want to be. Fear is the most potent deterrent there is–it’s harder to overcome than lack of money and support, it’s harder to avoid than harsh critique and negative people. But my resolution, not only for this year but life, is not to let fear get the best of me.

Hello, Opportunities.
Goodbye, Fear.

Honesty

Growing up, we are taught, “Honesty is the best policy.”

Ironically, as we grow older and garner more experiences, we realize that people lie. People lie all the time, and there isn’t a single person who is completely honest or truthful to anybody, not even him or herself. But why do we lie?

As a child, we may lie to get out of trouble. To avoid punishment, we may dishonestly accuse another person.
Spilled milk? Nooo my imaginary friend or younger sister did it!

Another possibility might be to reap rewards that we don’t deserve.
Did you clean you room?
Yes.
Okay, you can have a cookie before dinner.

Even in our childhood innocence, lying is a natural thing for us to do. Is it a learned behavior or is it innate? Do we lie because we want to, or because we are simply incapable of being honest?

Then as we get older, we realize that the truth might not be the best thing to tell someone. It can come off as brutal or insensitive. And now we have to be conscious of how we express our opinions and feelings without hurting the other party. Sometimes we phrase our thoughts different, sometimes we stretch the truth, or tell a “white” lie.

No matter how small, or how good the intention, a lie is a lie. Period. You don’t get away with saying it was his or her own good. That’s his or her decision, you can’t make those choices and you can’t coddle someone from the harsh reality. If you’re not the one to be honest, someone else will be, and in the end the person who asked for honesty in the first place will feel betrayed.

Does this dress make me look fat?
No, it makes you look curvier.
Not to be rude, but the dress makes you look a little frumpy.

Then we become more cynical and jaded as life continues forward. We may not be lying because of malicious intent, but we start to lie to manipulate and get ahead in our careers, success, life. People always tell me to bolster my resume, to “sell myself” on cover letters. They tell me it’s okay, everyone does it and that employers know this too. But why would I want to get a job or acquire an interview on something that is not my actual merit? Why would I do that to myself, and to the person that hires me?

Moreover, there are people who play mind games to get what they want. They use their knowledge about you, what makes you tick and uses it against you. Those liars are the worst. Those are the ones that leave the scars behind from which you need to learn to heal. We’ve all dealt with one of those people, and if you haven’t, one day you will.

Liars are everywhere.

I admit that I’m a liar. I lie to people I care about, I lie to people I barely know, and I lie to myself all the time. I am dishonest as a way to keep myself safe, to set up a barrier to keep those who can hurt me out. I may not tell the truth to try not to hurt other people’s feelings, but lately I’ve been more honest and open. Sure, they may be mad at me now, and yeah they may leave, but don’t ask for my opinion if you can’t handle my response. I lie to myself to keep myself from falling into the depths of depression, and to build my self-esteem. It’s not as much lying as it is staying in denial (which I guess is a form of dishonesty).

I don’t like lying, it makes me feel rotten. It makes me angry at myself because I didn’t have the courage to express my true opinion. I’m working on honesty, and I wish others would too. I am sick of people lying to my face, and then turn their backs and do something contradicting their words. If you don’t want to be my friend, just say so. I won’t force you to stay. Don’t say that you’ll be there for me when I need you and be MIA when the time comes. Don’t tell me you care about me, when you don’t even bother texting or calling to check up on me. Don’t tell me you miss me and not make the effort to see me.

I just want honest people in my life. Open communication, honesty, trust, and respect. They all go hand in hand, and I don’t want anything less. I deserve at least as much as I give. And if I’m willing to give that much to you, then I expect the same in return.

Those are my honest thoughts.

 

Moving On or Running Away?

Ever had those moments when you just instinctively feel that you’ve done what you were supposed to do in a certain place? It’s like a feeling of completion, and a compulsion to move on.

Ever had those moments when you start doubting the gut feeling you have about your decision right after you make it? You start taking in all the circumstances surrounding your choice, and all of a sudden you feel like a coward, as though you’re really running away.

If you’ve had either of those moments happen to you, you have the gist of what I’m feeling right now.

For a while I felt a sense of belonging; as if I were exactly where I was supposed to be and doing what I was meant to be doing. That feeling has since left, and I feel a pull to move forward with my endeavors, gravitating toward new opportunities. But even knowing that I’m meant to be walking ahead, I can’t help but shake off the uncertainty and doubt. It’s not unusual to feel doubt when making huge decisions, but it doesn’t quiet the question: are you moving on, or running away?
Regardless of how I feel, I can’t help but look the situation objectively as well. To any other person who is not myself, it seems as though I am taking the coward’s way out. It seems as though as soon as obstacles rise, I’m running for the hills. And it makes me wonder if that’s exactly what I’m doing?
I try not to let others’ opinions affect my decision, but it would be a lie to say that I didn’t put any stock into what my friends and family members’ advice. The future is unknown; what may or may not happen is as good a guess of mine as it is yours. So how do we really know what’s the right path for us? No matter what we choose, there’s going to be a moment in the future when we wonder what it would’ve been like had we walked the other path.

I guess that’s what Robert Frost was trying to say in his poem, “The Road Not Taken.” There will be moments when we have tough decisions and two roads if not more to go down. No matter which one, it leads to something, and people will have travelled all of them at one point or another. Unfortunately, we can’t take all the roads, and there’s always going to be a mystery of the other. So depending on perspective, I could be moving on or running away, I could be making the best change in my life or making the worst mistake. It’s something I’ll never know, something I’ll always think about, but in the end, what’s done is done. No matter how I feel about the decision, it’s a choice I have to make.

Here’s some advice for you, and for me: no matter what choices we make in life, we should stand firm in our decisions. Even if we live to regret it in the future, at some point in the past, it was what we thought was best.

– Ling

Understanding Depression

Understanding Depression

I want to start a non-profit organization to help people with mental illnesses, to help them move forward. It’s a personal interest of mine, so every Wednesday, I will share a post about different diseases. To start off my new Wellness Wednesday segments, I’m going to start with the mood disorder closest to me:depression.

Depression is probably one of the most prevalent mental illnesses out there. It affects 1 in 4 people in their lifetimes… That’s a lot of people. You could know someone who’s depressed, maybe that person is you, but he or she may never confirm it. There’s a shame associated with depression as there is with other mental illnesses. There are misconceptions, misinformation, and stigma attached to it that prevents people to come forward and seek help. People keep it hidden like a deep dark secret; and honestly, that’s what depression is, a deep dark secret. People would rather live a life of lies than to be recognized as abnormal in a negative light.

Everything I learned about writing comes down to one basic rule: show, don’t tell. That’s exactly what I’m going to do, to show you what depression feels like instead of telling you. Telling you would make no difference, you’ve heard stories before, you’ve witnessed people struggling, but you will never truly understand the experience until you’ve been through it.

You’ve seen those cliche scenes in movies where someone’s being bullied, he or she is surrounded by peers taunting, jeering at, and attacking them. The victim is always helpless on the floor while all he or she sees are the mocking faces of his or her attackers, that’s kind of what depression feels like. Except the bullies aren’t other people but yourself.

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(Image from charlesjturner.com)

Struggling with depression feels like you’re using your energy to charge pass these bullies only to be pushed down to the ground harder. You use all your energy reserves to fight and end up being exhausted. There are so many moments when you just want to give up. You just want to escape it all–that’s where self-medicating, hypersomnia, binge eating, self-harming come to play–you begin to depend on methods to help you leave it behind, hide it in the back of your mind. You end up fluctuating between feeling too much to feeling nothing at all. And while all of this is happening inside, you have to put up a front for everyone else so they don’t worry, so they don’t suspect anything. After all, there’s a shame to being a victim. It means you’re incapable and weak. Day in and day out, your completely drained, and anything else seems better. Wherever you look you see people happy and you just think, why cant that be me? Why does everyone else have it together while I’m breaking apart? You feel stagnant and there’s nothing you can do, you’re stuck in this rut. Some days you don’t even get out of bed, don’t eat, don’t take care of yourself because it’s all just pointless. In those moments death seems better than life, not because you want to die, but because you want the pain to stop. You want to stop facing these demons, your tormentors, that won’t let you have peace of mind.

And for those courageous enough to tell people that they are indeed depressed, they get these similar responses: “It’ll get better;” “Stop being so dramatic and get over it;” “You have too much free time on your hands;” You just have to change your perspective.”
Those words to the downtrodden don’t make them feel better, no, those words make them feel worse. It’s not that they don’t want to get better, it’s that they don’t know how or have the resources to do so. No one is taking their issues seriously and they feel alone. Depression is an isolating illness.

You go out with your friends because it’s a social obigation. While you’re there you laugh and smile and joke around. Everybody believes that you’re okay, that you’re fine and you’re enjoying being there. The reality is much deifferent, you sit there going through the practiced motions while on the inside you feel so distant. Even though you’re physically present and laughing, you don’t feel anything. Then someone says something wrong, a trigger word, and gone is your happy-go-lucky facade, no instead you’re bawling your eyes out. It’s like someone flipped a switch and you can’t stop the sobs wracking through your body. You realize your friends are looking at you, so you run. You find some deserted location like the bathroom and lock the door. You continue to cry and you don’t know when it’ll stop. You’re plagued by memories or feelings that those words brought up, and you’re back to square one. When you’ve finally calmed down, you return to your group. The atmosphere is tense and they look at you, expecting you to explain your outburst. Instead you smile and say that you’re fine, that it was no big deal. They look at you uncertain, but they shrug it off and decide not to push. Everything returns to before, but there is a tension in the air and you catch them sending you glances. You return home later and you cry yourself to sleep because you feel like a mutant.

As I mentioned before, people who suffer from depression often look for ways to take away the pain. What they’re feeling isn’t physical pain, but emotional pain, a pain that they can’t describe in words but know that it’s killing them on the inside. Sometimes these methods are healthy: drawing, painting, excercising, writing, etc. And other times, these escape methods are dangerous: self-medicating, self-harming, engaging in reckless behaviors, over-excessive eating or spending. All of the above are considered coping mechanisms, but people don’t realize that. There’s a stigma on those who follow the more dangerous route of escaping.

There are an insurmountable misconceptions about self-harm, and particularly, cutting. For the record, cutting is not the only method of self-harm but it is the one that garners the most attention. Other self-injurious behavior include scratching, burning, picking at scabs, pulling hair, etc. Basicaly, anything that you do purposely to feel pain would be considered self-harm. As I was saying, self-harm comes with a lot of negative stereotyping. Common beliefs about self-harm are:
1. It’s for attention.
2. It’s only a problem within teens.
3. All self-harmers are suicidal.
4. It’s a habit that can easily be stopped.
These statements are false. I will go through each of them individually and explain why these statements are not the reality.

1. It’s for attention.
Many people believe that cutting or other self-injurious behaviors are attention-seeking behaviors. This is untrue. More often than not, people who engage in self harm try to hide their scars, and are embarrassed by it. In fact, they’re afraid of what people will think of them if the scars are revealed. Self-harmers go to great lengths to cover their scars and hide them, and some even injure themselves in locations people will not see (the inner thigh for example). I am not saying that there aren’t people who may confess to self-harming as a way to seek attention, but that is definitely not the majority. Keep in mind that depression to the person suffering is shameful, and anything associated with it is shameful–especially self-harm.

2. It’s only a problem within teens.
False. Absolutely false. Self-harm, like depression, does not choose its victims based on age, gender, race, etc. Self-harm is a coping mechanism, it’s a way to stop all the craziness inside their heads. So it doesn’t matter if your fifteen or fifty-eight, the chances that you’ll engage in self-ham do not dwindle. Just because you know that’s it’s illogical and that it’s dangerous doesn’t prevent you from engaging in the behavior. It’s the desperation of the moment that takes over, and all rational though flies out the window.

3. All self-harmers are suicidal.
Some self-harmers may have suicidal intent or thoughts, but do not generalize those few to encompass everyone else. Most self-harmers are not suicidal. Sometimes self-harming is their way of staying alive. I like to believe that scars from self-injury are battle scars–physical manifestations of the inner struggle.

4. It’s a habit that can easily be stopped.
You would think so. Unfortunately, self-harm is not completely all voluntary, and like any other addiction, it’s hard to quit. Self-harm is addictive. It may seem bizarre to think hurting yourself would be something you’d be attached to, but it’s true. Humans are creatures of habit, and we often continue to engage in things that make us feel good. Self-harm for someone who struggles with depression does exactly that. As I said before, self-harm is an escape, and that relief that comes with it becomes ingrained. So, when things get tough, engaging in something that makes you feel better is the no-brainer.

I don’t encourage self-harm and I don’t romanticize it. I’m just trying to explain the reality of it. I don’t want people to judge someone who is already criticizing him or herself much more harshly than others could. When it comes to mental illness, we have to be understanding. I hope reading this post helps you understand a little bit of what it’s like to suffer from depression.

Depression is sometimes a precursor to suicide, so if you think someone may be going through depression, or is suicidal talk to him or her. Sometimes they just need someone there for them, because depression makes you feel a great deal of loneliness, so knowing they have someone can make a huge difference. There are also many resources available. Here is a link to the National Institute of Mental Health for more information about depression and resources you can seek or share: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml

Self-Doubt

One of the toughest hurdles anyone can come by is self-doubt. A gripping fear that leads to a torturous cycle of questioning whether or not you’re good enough, whether or not you should just give up.

I’m not a stranger to self-doubt. In fact, it might as well be the closest companion to my heart. I doubt so many things about myself ranging from my abilities of being a good friend to whether or not I’ll ever be a good writer. The worst thing about self-doubt? It doesn’t just go away, you have to actively challenge it like you would a bully. You have to face it, and stop letting it scare you, stop letting it take advantage of your weakness.

I lost my ability to write essays and papers because of self-doubt. I would stare at the empty Word document and panic. All the information I knew, all the knowledge I had would just vanish as soon as I saw the cursor blinking in front of me. What do I do? Where do I start?

And when I fail to put a single word on the page, I feel the self-doubt eating at me more. It confirms that no, I cannot write a proper paper anymore. I almost gave up writing in general because of my self-doubt. I almost gave up poetry, fiction, and academic writing. I just couldn’t handle it… no matter how much others believed in me, I couldn’t see past my own insecurities.

I was only able to move past it because I decided that I would give it a shot again. I wanted to see if writing was a fluke for me. As soon as I pushed past the hurdle of self-doubt, I didn’t care about whether or not my writing was good enough, I was just happy I was writing again. And since, I’ve been continuing to encourage myself–refusing to give up my passion because of fear.