Disclaimer: this is blog style writing I just type and post w/o editing
A month ago today I was at Danielle’s apartment in Chicago getting ready for a beach day by myself and finally just breathing for the first time in what felt like months. I don’t know if I seemed as stressed out and anxious as I now realize I was a lot of the time. I can tolerate stress a lot better when I am “happy” or more optimistic. I almost feel guilty for getting frustrated with anxiety because I am overly aware that there have been times where I have felt much worse – felt completely disconnected. But I am learning I deserve to be at my full potential, my best despite the fact I was at my worst previously does not mean I have to settle for “ok”.
When my lease was coming to an end me and my therapist spent a lot of time digging into how my environment affects me. Everything from the size of my room, traffic, accessibility to friends, what overwhelmed me about Chicago, places I found peace and safety, how hard it was not being able to get home when my dog passed away, etc etc. The conversations were hard to have because it felt like admitting to defeat to explore a reality where I wasn’t a “city person” when so many people around me seemed to be fine. I mean I had been doing it for a year and a half right? But surviving or coasting isn’t thriving and once you factor in mental health it becomes important to put a priority on environments where thriving and growth can take place. It was just frustrating, like what do you mean what I chose wasn’t what is best for me right now? Am I working too much? Should I feel guilty for staying in tonight? Will I have time to cook once I get home? How can I sit at home when there is __ event here or this place I haven’t been yet? The thoughts spiraled and really weighed on me, more so subconsciously but still there affecting my decision making and leaving me drained in an endless cycle to feel fulfilled.
I have a hard time talking about my present day anxiety because I feel much more in control over it then I did a few years ago. It is almost embarrassing that it still slips in every once in a while, maybe a panic attack I try to hide or an intrusive thought that demands my attention or a nightmare I have to talk sense into when I wake up shaking. For the most part it doesn’t control my day to day or conscious thoughts thanks to practice, therapy, a support system that allows me to ask for clarity and reassurance and space. All that being said, for whatever reason the environment of a city, a job with strict clock-ins, traffic, being far from other people in my support system (boyfriend, family, friends, etc), having a “smaller” room (than I was used to), less access to free space to hike / write in silence, walk alone, etc etc – all of that combined just contributed to a daily stress level that sort of always kept me a bit on edge and then made anything else that much more amplified. Just noisy and stuck and busy and pushed and going going going. I didn’t hate it, don’t regret it, don’t think I could never do it again. It just turns out it wasn’t what is best for me right now.
In the same breath, which might be confusing, I still believe Chicago was where I needed to be to be challenged in every sense of the word. It took me way out of my comfort zone, grew me exponentially, forced me to be independent and I learned to take pride and responsibility in taking care of myself both mentally and physically. Being in charge of myself, my emotions, my money, my wellbeing, my relationships. It made me prove a lot of people wrong, most importantly myself. I was so dissociated when I moved there that it felt like watching someone else make all those big decisions because that was far too terrifying to take ownership over and have confidence in. Moving to Cleveland I felt so present, so proud – nervous but sure. Now I can defend my decisions, be proud of them, and also know I really only need to know it is what is best for me. You can disappoint people on the journey to being the healthiest and happiest version of yourself and that is ok and does not invalidate your decisions. I think learning that makes you tough and allows an inner peace we all deserve.
I am rambling a bit, huh? I hope you get something out of this. Whether you need it now or 5 years from now. Maybe take time to reflect on what in your life is causing you unnecessary stress that you tolerate because maybe you feel embarrassed it is not what is best for you (since it is ok for others) or maybe what or who in your environments is making you feel on edge or suffocated. There could be a lot of ways to think about it but just learn to take inventory of how you are feeling and then dig into the why without fear of what you will find – it is much scarier to go along being complacent when you could be doing better with even small changes. I have also learned to set boundaries with both myself and others. We tend to think of boundaries as hindering relationships but really they help them last by keeping them balanced and healthy.
I can say right now I feel more present than I have in a while. I feel like I am making new memories which is hard to do when you feel disconnected from yourself and surroundings like I used to. I don’t totally know why I needed this. But I live in a house I love decorated with vintage pieces I collected and find joy in and it is starting to feel like home, I can walk a bunch of places that help me feel centered, I can connect with people more meaningfully and really be able to give my attention and invest in relationships with people I care about and want to support, I have a job that allows me to have more balance, taking care of myself has become more natural and less of a chore, I have more of a drive to create and be creative; I just feel like I am coming back to myself. Which is exciting. And I hope worth sharing. I am sorry if you aren’t in a place where I am right now but I never thought I would be writing something so positive and honest 2 years ago so just keep fighting for yourself because you deserve it I can promise you that.