Wednesday, November 29, 2017

OOTD: What I'm Not Thankful For

I am thankful for so much. I am also pointedly not thankful for some of the things in my life.
Whenever I'm confronted with something inconvenient or difficult for me, my initial reaction is to be bitter and/or feel sorry for myself. Unfortunately, neither of those emotions help me or the situation.
It's important to acknowledge and validate my initial emotional reactions, but I don't need to give them any more power than they deserve. This is easier said than done, but it's true nonetheless.

My parents always told me that if I don't like something, instead of moping or whining about it, I should change it. Problem-solving is a useful tool to use when confronted with something that makes life more difficult, but it's not the only tool. Accepting that which you do not like is important both in situations when you can make a change and when you can't. 

When you can change what you don't like in your life, acceptance is the first step to acknowledging something is off in your life. From there, you can truly address the problem head-on.
When you can't change what you don't like in your life or the changes you can make are slow to take effect, acceptance can help you go through life without being bogged down.

When my therapist first started talking to me about acceptance, I had a hard time accepting (lol) this as a method for dealing with things that make my life harder. For one, it sounds like it means you have to invalidate your emotions. For another, it sounds a lot like giving up.
True acceptance is neither invalidating nor giving up. Society often preaches ignorance disguised as acceptance, but that is not true acceptance. True acceptance does not mean ignoring your feelings or the problem. It means openly acknowledging and validating your feelings, being honest about the problem, and accepting the reality of the situation. From there, you can start to live without being weighed down by the misery of a problem you can neither solve nor, in your mind, live with.

This was supposed to be my Thanksgiving week post. The Monday before Thanksgiving, however, I was put into a really difficult situation with the lease on my apartment. What it boiled down to was that I would need to move out the week of December 1st, a full month before I was expecting to have to move out. I'd been leisurely looking for roommates and apartments under the impression that I had until the end of my lease at the end of December, but I hadn't even so much as arranged to meet anyone or see anything yet. I felt scared, angry, and hopeless at the prospect of having to move out in 12 days without anywhere to go.

Luckily, this was a difficult situation I could change. I could (and did) look at a number of apartments before the real estate offices closed for Thanksgiving. I could (and did) arrange a fall-back option if I couldn't find a place to sign a lease. But before I could do any of those things, I had to stop wasting all my energy by thinking about how I didn't want to leave my apartment, how I wasn't ready to look for places, that I was scared I wouldn't have enough time to find the right place or the right roommates, that I was angry I had to do any of this in the first place. I had to accept the situation I was in so I had the energy and mindset to be able to find myself (and Luxe) a place to live. Even though I didn't want to, I had to move, and I had to move soon. Accepting that made it so much easier for me to look for a place in a time crunch and start packing up to move with so little time.

Acceptance is a tool I'm still working on. However, it's something I feel content to put the energy into, because it's a tool that really helps me so often.

This belt was provided by Top Tier Style. If you would like to purchase your own, use the coupon code BLOG15 for 15% OFF everything on their store!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

OOTD: 23

Photography by Cassidy Hopkins

I celebrated my 23rd birthday last Friday. Another year of my life marked, another sappy post contemplating the meaning of life and my time on Earth.
*Trigger warning: suicide, depression, and themes of mental illness*

This was the year I realized how long life is. A strange side effect of being suicidal, for however long, is that you develop tunnel vision when it comes to thinking about the future. Except there's no light at the end of the tunnel, so you're left unable to see, fumbling around in the darkness, only able to perceive the immediate steps you're about to take.

When you unwillingly spend your time and energy desperately wishing for your life to be over, it becomes impossible to truly conceptualize your future. You may not realize it, but you don't think you have a future. Your brain simply can't comprehend how to think about something so impossible.

I've always thought I'm good at planning for my future. So far, I've completed some pretty significant parts of my life plan: I've studied in Spain, attended a private university, and moved to New York. Without my realizing it, though, I'd slipped into accepting that my life would be cut short.

I'd think a couple months, maybe a couple years into the future, but the best I could do was have kinda fuzzy ideas about what my long-term future looked like (I like to write, right? People retire, right? Dogs?).

In all honesty, the experience of being unable to think into the future isn't uncommon in people my age. In the process of developing a sense of self, many teens and young adults unconsciously come to perceive themselves as invincible. They simply cannot conceptualize their future, because their concept of self has not evolved past the present.

My fuzzy concept of the future was a combo of both depressive symptoms and age. Since being hospitalized 2 years ago and subsequently attending intensive therapy, I've turned the corner and committed myself to not acting on my suicidal urges. That, as well as simply growing older, has left me struck with just how LONG life is. 

I could own several dogs! I could live in so many cities! I could have several different career paths! I could go back to school! I could reach a point in my life where I want to work out! Suddenly, 23 doesn't feel so weighty. 

I've also started taking care of myself little by little. I've been adding veggies to my diet and cutting back on meals consisting simply of candy. I've started saving money not because that's what my parents have always told me to do, but because I'd like to have money to travel and to retire. I go to the doctor for preventative care instead of just to take care of immediate ailments.

Without even realizing it, I've committed to sticking around. I didn't even realize I wasn't committed until my treatment regimen pushed me to truly conceptualize a future. I'm another year older, and truly thrilled to live out my future and continue to work towards it.

On the note of living out my future, I'm already planning all the ways I can wear this floral romper soon — it's definitely coming down to Arizona with me next month. The piece was provided by Top Tier Style. If you would like to purchase your own, use the coupon code BLOG15 for 15% OFF everything on their store!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween 2017: Coraline and The Cat

Another Halloween, another hair color to take advantage of when deciding upon a costume. I started crowdsourcing blue-haired characters and costume ideas in August. I had 2 requirements in addition to the incorporation of the blue hair color: it had to have a position for my pup and it had to be DIY-able.

People gave me all sorts of ideas: Joy from "Inside Out" (one of my favorite movies), Hades from "Hercules", outer space, the ocean, etc. I thought about going as Helena St. Tessero from "Neo Yokio" because, not only do we both have blue hair, but we're both fashion bloggers who've lost interest and faith in the fashion industry. But I chose Coraline because the costume was the easiest to make for both me and my dog.

I've been DIY-ing my costumes since I was little (well, my mom was doing all the work before my fine motor movements fully developed, but everything was still homemade). I'm on a fixed budget and never want to ruin it by spending money on something I'm only going to wear once for a photo. Plus, I don't ever go out on Halloween, so the costume would literally only be purchased for the photo.

This costume was super easy because I already owned the pointy-toed blue boots and dark-wash jeans. All I needed was a star-print sweater and a dragonfly clip. I thought about buying them, but I knew I wouldn't ever wear the sweater or the clip again, and decided I'd rather spend the money on new books.

I made the sweater by cutting out stars from a huge swath of white fabric I have that I use for embroidery and tacking them onto a fuzzy sweater I already owned. I made the clip by painting a dragonfly onto the same fabric and gluing it on a bobby pin.

And voilá! A "Coraline" Halloween! I think my pup was the happiest with this costume because it didn't require her to wear socks or a jacket like she's had to wear in previous years' costumes.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

OOTD: Transparency

We all do embarrassing shit. We all do stuff we think others wouldn't approve of. We've all used our roommate's shampoo, kissed a friend's ex, or written a strongly-worded and not factually-sourced tweet about a current event we're not actually familiar with. When we realize what we've done or realize the likelihood of someone finding out, we're stricken with shame.

If you've made it far enough in life to be able to read this (and even if you haven't tbh), you are likely very intimate with shame. It's the feeling that accompanies not fitting into your environment and perceived failure. I say "perceived" failure because people often feel ashamed of life experiences that others wouldn't consider negative. You think there's something wrong with you, that you can't get anything right, and that others see you this way as well. You get that pit in your stomach and just want to disappear from sight.

A common response to shame is to vow to not reveal one's misstep to anyone. You've just done something wrong, something you may have even known was wrong. If our actions speak louder than words, doesn't doing something someone might consider wrong make you a little big wrong?

I've written about how talking about the not-so-perfect aspects of life on social media can contribute to an honest and positive social media environment. Now, I'm advocating that your honesty doesn't need to be blasted onto the internet for all the world to see for it to benefit the world. Being vulnerable and admitting your faults and missteps to a couple people will make you feel better.

I know, I know: One of the immediate symptoms of shame is to want to conceal your perceived shameful behavior from everyone. Hear me out. If you're experiencing shame without having your shameful behavior actually exposed to the world, you're feeling embarrassed in anticipation of what others might say. Just because you feel like you need to crawl into a hole doesn't mean that others think you should.

If you don't know how others are going to react — and you don't know unless they're actually reacting — there's often no point in trying to imagine. You can work with yourself to change how you perceive this failure. Telling others about your perceived failure can actually help you receive the validation and empathy you need in that situation. It can also lift the giant burden that accompanies keeping a shameful secret. Now, the experience gets to just be a human experience instead of a gross one.

To demonstrate the power of transparency when one is experiencing shame, I'm going to share a shameful secret of my own. I only shower once a week. Not wash my hair once a week, shower once a week. Everyone I know showers a couple times a week. Some people shower every day. I've met people who often shower twice a day. I know that once a week is not very often to shower, and I'm very ashamed of my showering habits. At the same time, this habit doesn't affect me negatively enough for me to divert any energy away from the more important things I'm working on to change it. I recently started telling people about this shameful habit of mine when it comes up in conversation. Instead of lying about why my hair looks nice and shiny on day 5, I answer honestly when someone asks: I haven't showered in 5 days. I don't even justify it with a lie about how often I use dry shampoo. I'm just honest.

And guess what: I'm still here, feeling better than ever! Most of the time, people move on pretty quickly, and I realize that this thing I've been feeling gross over for years isn't actually a big deal. Sometimes people even empathize, which makes me feel even better. Honestly, sometimes people express disgust. Maybe one day I'll shower more often, but it won't be because a couple people have told me my shower schedule doesn't match theirs.

So, you see, transparency can make your life better. Just like this transparent bodysuit has made my life better (I feel so sparkly and fun!). Except, unlike this item of clothing, honesty will never go out of style.

What do you do when you're experiencing shame? If you've tried honesty (either in certain situations or as a policy), how has it affected your life? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

OOTD: On Growth

*TW* Depression, anxiety, and other themes of mental health.

Last week, my therapist told me that the goal of life isn't to be perfect: it's to grow. This makes sense, and it isn't the first time I've heard it. No one can be perfect, and denying this makes making progress harder. It's hard to work when your goal is objectively unattainable. At the same time, though, this statement hit a little too hard. I've spent my whole life trying to be the best. What am I supposed to work towards if not perfection?

Dealing with depression and anxiety as an analytical person is interesting, because my emotion and reasonable mind are both regularly functioning on high and are often in conflict with each other. My emotion mind screams that I cannot possibly solve any given problem, and that there's no point in even trying because I was miserable before this problem arose and I'll likely be miserable even if I solve the problem. My reasonable mind overcompensates, telling me that I can solve every single issue I'm faced with, so long as I do everything right.

This is how I've tried to address everything in my life for as long as I can remember. Doing everything right, though, is exhausting. Sure, I'm taking good care of myself – I see my therapist weekly, my general practitioner regularly, I get in 30 minutes of exercise a day, I've cut back on sugars and added vegetables to my daily diet, I stretch every day, and I walk around with the most pertinent pages of my DBT handbook to deal with emergencies. But good is not perfection. I don't eat enough potassium, I could exercise more strenuously, I could eat plain oatmeal instead of adding brown sugar, I spend too much time in bed, and the other day, someone told me that I should go gluten-free if I wanted my depressive symptoms to ease up. In my mind, then, it doesn't matter that I'm doing better than I was a couple years ago: I'm not "cured" because I'm still not doing everything right.

And that's just to mention the things I know about that I could be doing better. Another key part of solving problems is being armed with knowledge. I am a firm believer that the more you know, the better you can do. I mean, I have a degree in psychology partially because I wanted to know everything about how to make myself "better" after being diagnosed with depression at age 15. Knowledge is a valuable power, but it's not the only power out there. 

After all, no one can know everything. Neither can you act on everything, as so much of what humanity knows is conflicting. So, striving toward knowing everything and behaving perfectly is inherently a doomed mission, certain only to create failure and self-doubt.

By no measure do I consider myself near perfection. I'm simply so obsessed with obtaining perfection in every aspect of my life that the growth I have made seems embarrassing when compared to my goal. I am so obsessed with obtaining perfection that, no matter what I do, I find myself trying to figure out how I could have done better, and how I'll do better next time. I am committed to growing and becoming a better person, more than I am committed to anything in life. Part of being a better person, I think, means being realistic and accepting of one's flaws and missteps. Plus, over-analyzing everything I do takes time away from actually living life. 

I'm not sure how to end this blog post because I'm still trying to figure out what I'm working towards if I'm not working to be the best. So, I'll end by saying that I've been waiting since the spring to wear this outfit with my denim jacket for the blog. It's the middle of October, but on the day my friend Sydney took photos of me, it was still too hot for a jacket. I'm going to post these pictures without thinking of how I should have worn this outfit another day or powered through and worn the jacket anyways. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

OOTD: On Second Glance

I've written a lot of posts about cycling items through your closet quickly and efficiently. Part of it is that I've moved 7 times in the last 4 years, so I've gone through my clothes fairly consistently since becoming an adult. Part of it is also that I only have the room and budget for a finite amount of clothing, so I really quickly buy and resell a lot of my wardrobe at thrift stores. If I don't wear it, I don't keep it.

I haven't often talked about the merits of keeping something you don't wear. Since moving here, I've found myself looking at old pictures, annoyed that I didn't keep this sweater or this skirt or this dress. I have less storage space here than I've had since I lived in a dorm room, so I've been going through my clothing regularly to take stuff to Crossroads to resell. Every time something sells at Crossroads, on Poshmark, or on Depop, I find myself worrying that I'm going to end up missing that item at some point down the road.

So, I've started experimenting with keeping some clothing that I haven't worn in a long time. This mostly means keeping some special pieces that don't fit me anymore, like these pants or these pants.

I actually totally unintentionally kept this dress despite not having worn it in over a year. I have a LOT of black dresses, and I guess this one just got lost in the mix. It wasn't until I was going through my entire closet this summer, trying to figure out my summer wardrobe, that I noticed it and reimagined wearing it in a new way.

I've owned this belt since I was in high school and this necklace since freshman year of college. You can't see in the photos, but the top is sheer, so I paired it with a bralette that I've had since freshman year of college that I'd kept in the hope that it would eventually fit again (thanks, past Hannah!). I hadn't worn this dress in a long time because it was a little baggy on me and I didn't like wearing a tank top under it to make it school appropriate. With a couple old accessories, though, I was able to wear the dress as a whole new look.

I walk the same route with my dog every day, twice a day. I've walked by this gorgeously growing building every day since I moved here. I've probably looked at it a couple dozen times, but I never really thought anything of it until a particularly sunny day a couple weeks ago. I was immediately drawn to the plants lining the stairs and fence. I thought it only appropriate to pair an outfit I'd once glazed over with a background I'd once done the same thing with.