Arts and crafts  – not only just for the mental breaks in the movies

So I’m on my way to recovery…been on that way for a while, years, decades even, you know this, I don’t have to repeat this. I’ve been looking to enhance my well-being through a series of ways – like alcohol and memes, which my therapist seems to disagree on. …oh the eye-rolls and looks of disapproval… But! I’ve also seen enough of shows and movies where people have their mental breaks and end up in mental institutes. And. What do they do? Arts and crafts! So. I thought there  must be something to it. Sure, my therapist goes on and on about talking and crying, and weird stuff like exercising. But. Netflix shows and movies, they have millions of views. How many views does my therapist have on her stuff? One view, mine. And was I convinced, no. So. Arts and crafts.

Painting. Painting will be my thing. I went online and bought some brushes, paints, and canvas. I also googled “abstract art”. Abstract because I do know I have no artistic talent so abstract will have to do, and googling because; I am a perfectionist, and do want to be rich. So thought I’d just google what others do, kinda sorta do the same thing, paint stuff, sell stuff, become a millionaire. I thought it was a great plan.

I laid the canvas on the floor, took out my brushes and paints and started thinking of stuff to paint. What a wonderful journey it started. I painted my first thoughts, then other ones, then other ones, then… It tooks a good couple of weeks to finish. Or maybe I’m still not finished…but here’s where I’m now.

Version 1. Organized, structured. I selected the paints carefully, I measured the canvas, marked it with 10cm intervals. I drew a sketch on an excel sheet before to check the measurements and lines. I had it all planned out.

It’s funny because; that’s how I was thinking when I was a kid. Everything, everything! Needed to be planned out. My future, school assignments. I’d write down my school speeches from word to word and get anxiety pre, during, and post speeches if I missed a word. My life was planned out; married by 20, kids by 23, divorced by 30….. so structured.

But then life happened

Suddenly my pre-planned life didn’t make sense. Other things came up. But I remained calm, kept my structure. These new things, events, realizations, I’ll just box them up. They don’t matter.

They did matter. They expanded. The chaos, darkness expanded, it took over. My beautiful, boxed, structed life and plans, ruined. Ruined.

The years I spend coping with it, dealing with it. Ruined. Destroyed.

Getting help. Finally, after decades. Getting help. I felt guilty painting over it. It felt like denial; am I only painting over things pretending they didn’t happen. Should I keep them, to show I suffered? And then I realized. I’ve kept my hurt. I’ve kept it for me to see, not others, for me to see. I’ve lived my life thinking I need to suffer. I need to have my pain. I need my pain. I need to keep it.

There’s a difference between remembering your pain and letting it drive you and denying you have it. I’ve denied it, ended badly. I’ve let it drive me; ended badly. What I haven’t tried is moving on. Moving on. Remembering the pain, accepting it exists, but moving on. That’s what I need to do. Paint over it, not in denial, but in building new, building something new. Paint over it, keep it, remember it, but move on.

You paint it, you let it paint. You take your brushes, your paints, and you paint – not in denial but in remembrance. That’s what I did. I painted over. I changed it, I changed my life. I painted.

I’m proud of what came out. It’s certainly prettier than the squares I started with.

But here’s the thing. The thing I painted. It’s part of my childhood. It’s a view of my childhood and youngster escape. I used to walk to the strand from my place. 2 kilometeres and I’d be next to the sea, and this is the view I saw. This is the view, 30 years later, that’s what I painted. It was a place of hope, a place of relief for me. So, for my unconscious mind; is this a trip to the pain, or a start for something new – a new start, based on the pain and hurt, but driven by my safe haven?

I think it’s great example of life – we start with a clear view of our future, just to have it meddled with, completely destroyed and thrown over. And then we build a new. Then we build, having our past as a base, we build something new. We build. We should not forget our past, we build over it, we build. And we respect where we came from. For me, forever for me, my happy place will be by the sea looking at the world beyond. As a kid I wondered what possibilities it might bring. As an adult I want to make sure I’ve visited those possibilities. I want to make sure I can visit it all.

Fuck other’s perfect – If you want to benchmark someone’s life, benchmark yours.

Feeling like you or your life is not matching up? Like it’s missing something? Like you are not as good as others? Not as fit? Not as pretty? Not as funny? Not as smart? Not as wealthy? Not as put together? Like your life is not as good as others’?

Fuck them.

People posting pretty pics on insta. Sharing stories on snapchat. Being all perky and perfect on tiktok. Being smart on twitter.

Fuck that.

It’s not them. It’s not their life. It’s a million times edited, tried out, planned version of them. It’s perfected. Or. Maybe it is their authentic self, just a lucky shot, a thought or video clip. Maybe. Maybe they are the 1 in a million who have their shit together, whose life is perfect. Maybe. The odds are they are not. There’s photoshop, apps,, and empty storytelling. There’s the image and there’s the reality behind it.

So. Focus on your bubble, your reality, your life, you. Think about you and your mind in your bubble. Do you.  You do you. You be you. Your reality, your possibilities, your challenges. You set your self to be better. Better you. Not others, don’t better others, better you. Others don’t know where you are coming from, what you are battling, what you want and why. Others don’t know. Others don’t matter.

You do you. You.

You do you. You.

Aren’t we all one break away from getting better or worse?

What to do when all you want to do is forget. To take a break. You take a break. That’s what you do. You take a break. I haven’t written a post in awhile. I’ve been taking a break from. Everything. I’ve faced again the fun part of being mentally ill – you don’t know when it’ll hit you or how, but it might, it might hit you. It hit me. It. Hit. Me. 

I thought I was doing fine. I was not. I was drinking more and more, excluding my friends more and more, crying. More. And More. I was hoping I was on my journey of becoming better, healthier. And I still am, I hope. But for the moment I was not. I checked into a mental hospital, spent a few days there. I hated it. I hated being in a place where I had to admit I can’t cope. Hated being “lowered” to the ranks of people who need help with their lives. Where they need nurses and doctors to bring them meds throughout the day and have chats about “how to cope with reality”. I hated it. But I needed it. I was not dealing with reality. I was indeed one of those people. I am one of those people. I was crying hysterically for about an hour or two a day. And if you’re into stats, go through the DSM-V manual. Won that bingo. Easily. While you’re at it. Googling. Google “smiling depression” or “high functioning depression”. Got all that nailed down.

I was lying to others and myself. And I hate lying. But I’m really good at it. I try to pride myself in speaking the truth. I will voice my opinion. I will stand for what’s right. I don’t bow down to anyone. I’m proud of telling my truth. I will protect whoever needs protecting. I will fight for them. I will be true. Except for one thing. When people ask me “How are you?”. I will lie. 99% of the time I will lie. I will say “I’m fine” or “Doing great” or “Not too bad” or “Kind of ok for a Monday” or “Happy it’s Friday”. I say I’m fine so people won’t ask follow up questions. I say I’m fine. I lie.

I was “fine” – all the “fine”. I needed a break. A reset. A time in a place where things don’t move a hundred miles an hour in my head. A place in a time where I don’t have to pretend. I place where the rest of the world doesn’t exist. A place where I can make a decision. A place where you’re shown options for next steps. A place where you, and you alone, can and need to choose your path; better or worse, start or end, heal or consume, fight or flight. You choose.

I fight. I choose to fight. I am mentally ill. I am not well. But I am functioning. I am now getting help. I am fighting. I will have my stops, my breaks. I will allow myself the breaks; of drinking and/or crying. I will take my breaks to fall down and gather up. I will take my breaks to gain strength to keep fighting. I will take my breaks to choose. I will be better, I will keep fighting.

Welcome to the top of my world – get cocky with me

I have just learned to make keto margaritas! Celebrate with me! Keto margaritas. Is that not the best thing in the world? What an achievement. Hand clap.

And get ready for a plot twist #spoileralert. I will not be sharing my dark side of the mind stories today. Today’s about the highs, the future, the potential, the wishes, dreams and goals. Today’s about celebrating our awesomeness. Today’s about patting ourselves in the back and saying atta girl. Today’s about telling ourselves, and the world, how great we are, and how we are going to do great things.

I’ve had a good week. Sure, I still have my ever-growing list of people to kill and I keep reordering it based on the incompetence points people insist on gathering during the weeks. And some people really seem to want to go for that “dickhead of the moth” trophy. But. I’ve had a good week, even with the aspiring incompetent dickheads. An article I wrote is getting recognized on LinkedIn, my manager (who is still in the running of becoming the next dickhead of the month) has changed his behavior and actually tries to make me happy, I got to make my nieces happy by drowning them in presents, and, maybe most importantly, it’s finally sunny weather and I’m on my balcony, listening to music, and enjoying a frozen margarita – a margarita that will not destroy my diet.

I took out my paper and pens and started drafting some global strategic initiatives for my function. Some ground-breaking, change-making initiatives. Brilliant stuff really. Can’t wait to send it to my manager who now apparently has recalibrated his default settings and should now fully support me with them. And then I stopped. I picked up another pen instead, and opened my notepad, my blog notepad. A journal if you wish. A book where I write down stuff I might want to write on my blog too. I thought I needed to share this with you. A post of positivity and light. Today. This week. I got reminded of why I do what I do. Why I’m still here. I’m damn capable at my work. I’m awesome. I’ve done great stuff, I’ve made a change – and not just in my organizations but in other people’s lives. This week. This week reminded me of that.

This moment. In this moment I’m full of energy, determination, and fighting-spirit. I will improve, create, help, support, drive, grow – myself and everything around me. I will do awesome stuff. I will help others. I will make my life worth something. There is no way in hell I would have gone through everything I have and not use it to try and make the world a better place. I will make a change. I will.

Maybe that’s why I created this blog. Maybe that’s the reason. It’s not to drown in depression, it’s not to drag others with me. It’s to share what I’m going through. It’s to shed some light into the mental issues people go through, and how mental illnesses impact people’s lives. It’s to show how multiple different sides and realities can coexist in one person.

I am fucked up. I suffer from depression and anxiety. Everyday for me is a fun game of “which issues should we trigger today? Daddy issues? Nah, we had that last week, let’s go with abandonment today”. I deal, I cope, I survive, and I want to do something with them. I am not my issues, I am more than that. I am successful, I am smart, I am capable, and if you believe my friends I’m also lovely and funny and charming as hell. I’m awesome.

What am I saying? Life is not black and white. Just because you are one thing doesn’t mean you can’t be another. You can be a mess but also successful. You can be successful but also a mess. Own your issues, own your awesomeness. Do great things.

Life inventory – take stock! We’re not where we started from

Stopping. The world stopping. Your head stopping. That’s heaven – part of it at least for me. I’ve spent my life running – not literally running, I’d be in a better shape if I had been, but figuratively running, running away from things and franticly running towards something. I’ve moved across continents to escape my problems and issues – but those fuckers don’t need a plane ticket or google maps to find you, they’ll ride along anyways. I’ve killed myself at work chasing deadlines, “unrealistic” goals, and a title I thought I needed – at the expense of a burnout a few years ago. I’ve been running. Not stopping. Not breathing. Not enjoying. Running.

I’ve been running away from my issues (got plenty of them, you’re smart, I’m sure you’ve gathered that already), trying to climb that career ladder (because validation), and dealing with anxiety, depression, and sooooooooooooooo many issues, so, so many issues. But hey, got a fancy title! I’m a global head of my function in a multinational organization as of last year. Like giving me global responsibility of anything is a great idea… Anyways! I started therapy a few years ago to deal with the forementioned issues, and I have come a long way. But I do still have fun chats with my therapist where I tell her what I’ve done and what I’m about to do and just see her shaking her head in her mind. Her words say “oh of course, I understand”, her eyebrows say “the fuck…again…haven’t we talked about this” and the voices in her head are probably screaming, SCREAMING; “the fuck’s a matter with you!”. …man, it must be tough to be a therapist. At least when I see an idiot at my work I can call them an idiot…

Anyways. Back to the original point. Life inventory. I have come a long way. Partly because of all the running. I did climb that career ladder. But also because of the therapy. I have worked a lot on my head – the harmful mental models, the unhealthy coping mechanisms, the self-sabotaging and the negative voices in my head. They are not gone, but I acknowledge they are there. I’m at a place where I’m living with my damage, still dealing with it and healing from it, but no longer neglecting it or denying it. I’m in a place where I see my life more clearly – what happened and how it impacted me, my behaviours, and my choices. I am in that place where I can stop for a moment, look around, and choose where to go next.

It’s a nice place to stop. A good place to take a breather. Also thanks to COVID – I don’t have my normal excuse of travelling so much for work that I can’t focus on my life. I’ve been able to stop. Breathe. Think. I feel like I’ve just climbed a mountain and I’m sitting at the top of it looking around. I wanted to stop there. I needed to stop there. I wanted to take a moment and see where I’m at, where I came from. I wanted to figure out what’s next.

Interestingly – I picked up a pen and my note pad. I started to write down what defined me – who I’ve always seen myself as. And that was easy. I could easily fill that paper with bullet points of how, and what, had defined me so far:

  • Daughter of an alcoholic father and an emotionally abusive mother
  • Best in class in school
  • Depression, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety
  • Overachiever at work
  • Burnout
  • Always smiling and charming as hell
  • Never felt like I belong anywhere
  • Proud of my capabilities – I’m determined, smart, and resourceful
  • Perfectionist, stoic, afraid to ask for help
  • Poor, barely getting by
  • A chameleon – I will adapt to whatever people or situation I’m dealing with and charm my way through
  • A mental mess – I will open my apartment door with my key, close it, and fall to my knees hysterically crying
  • …All that, and so much more, coupled with a nice selection of unhealthy coping mechanisms!

I do feel like I’m at the point of my life where I can, I should, leave all that behind, use this moment for figuring out what I want to carry forward – where am I headed next, what I want with me, and who I am going forward as. I was trying to write that down – what defines me now. I got stuck. Stuck! I couldn’t write a single thing down. While I can easily write down what I’ve been and where I’m coming from, I cannot define where I’m now or where I’m headed. I don’t know. I started crying. …I do cry a lot… surprisingly a lot…anyone who knows me would be shocked. Back to my point; I wanted to start doing everything else but writing. It took me a good hour or so to pick up that pen and start writing down who I am today. It was easier to live in the cloak of the former me, not easy to open it, break it, step away from it, leave it behind. What I am today, is not what I was before.

Today:

  • I can ask for help – I have plenty of amazing friends who know my struggles and support me, and a therapist who is getting way too comfortable with calling me out on my bullshit
  • I’m not a vulnerable kid anymore – I don’t have to rely on fucked up people to choose for me, I can make my own fucked up decisions, and own them
  • I don’t have to rely on others for money or food or other things – I make enough money to buy things I need and don’t need (my credit card agrees)
  • I don’t have to prove myself at work – got that fancy title that tells people I must know what I’m talking about (works out great in theory….in reality; mixed results)

Looking forward to discussing this particular gem of self-reflection with my therapist and hearing her words say “that’s great! I’m so proud of you” …and seeing her eyebrows say “…….duh…….”. Maybe the voices in her head will go with “there’s hope for this one yet”. And maybe there is?

Reaching the “save game” flag

Ever played Super Mario brothers on Nintendo wii? Or any other applicable video game? …I don’t discriminate, as long as they fit my story… You start the game, you advance, you gather the coins and kill the goombas, and then you die. And have to start again. Try again. Die again. Try again. Die again. Get frustrated, yell at the game, cry, drink some wine, and try again. Fine, it’s a bit too many die-agains, it’s not that hard of a game, but I’m making a point, so listen up. You try, you fail, you repeat. That has been the story of my life. I try, I fail, I try again.

It got to the point where that was my way of living. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do. The only thing I was supposed to do. Maybe you’re the same? And what happens? You bring that with you to everything you do, your work, your hobbies, your friendships, your relationships. You try, you fail, you start again. You even start getting bored with excelling and following through on something because that’s not the game, that’s not what you think you’re supposed to do. You don’t win – you start. It’s the start of the game that excites you, what gets your energies up. Starting something, trying something. You don’t live for the maintaining something or finishing something. You don’t know what that’s like, that seems boring, frighting even. You want to begin. To build. To grow. To jump on innocent turtles and face a horrible death by fire breathing flowers. You don’t know what comes after. But you get good at starting again.

One day you reach the save game flag. A flag that will allow you to skip the first goombas, canons, turtles and evil flowers on your way. One day you don’t have to start from the beginning anymore. You don’t have to start from nothing, you don’t have to have the early fights, go through the struggles or have the challenges you are used to. It’s all done. It’s all over. You don’t have to worry about the first part of your life(s). You can build on, move on. You can continue. You can move onto what comes next – not just surviving but maybe winning (in a non-Charlie Sheen kind of way)?

I’ve been stuck living in my past; playing the damaged girl that comes from a world of pain, starting my life over and over again; new hobbies (from acting to baseball), new universities (been to four), new countries (been to three), new jobs (had six serious ones so far), new “relationships” (let’s not count those). I’ve been living with a mindset of needing to start again, build again. It’s been comforting, the idea of erasing the last try and seeing how this one turns out. “This time I’ll make it work”. I’ve also carried the fights and burdens with me; the dysfunctional family and childhood drama and the baggage that comes with it. I’ve been fighting that over and over again. Trying to start again, to make it different. I’ve been trying to rewrite my origin story. But the thing is, I’ve been so busy focusing on my past, trying to make it right, trying to build that into a beautiful story of survival and happy endings. I didn’t realize, I didn’t understand, I can’t change the past, as capable as I do think I am I don’t have those types of powers. What I needed to understand is my story is far from over, and I needed to accept that. My story, so far, is messy, it’s ugly, it’s dark, it’s twisted, but it got me so far – and it’s far from over. Far from over. Who knows, maybe I’m working towards the pink roses and rainbows part of my story? Maybe that’s what comes next? Now that’s a scary thought!

What I do realize now, today, though, is that I’ve reached the save game flag of my life. I don’t want to start over again, I don’t want to face the demons I’ve dealt with before again. I don’t have to. I’ve fought them, faced them, beat them. I’m sure they’ll still come up every once in awhile to haunt me. But for now. For now. I want to move forward, I can move forward. I’m in a place of my life where I feel like I can breathe, take a mental break, stop for a moment and gather my energy knowing I’ve already achieved what will help me, what will provide me with the foundation for whatever I choose to do next, whatever battles I’ll fight next. And I’m sure there will be battles.

So. Hello part two of my life(s) – looking forward to starting, trying, failing and! eventually succeeding with whatever you bring with you.