September’s a weird month. Am I the only one who thinks this? It’s the last days of summer- for Oregon at least it stays relatively warm through a decent chunk of the month- so it’s the last days of the lifestyle I’ve had for the last few months. It means moving to something new; new schedules, new routines, new wardrobes. I hope everyone’s transitions are going well so far!
Anyway, happy Tuesday my friends. This week I’m talking to a blogger friend of mine who’s become such a joy to talk to as we’re both growing alongside each other in the blogging community, Taylor from Frayed Books! I hope you all enjoy our talk:
1. What has your mental health journey been like for you so far? You can tell us as much or as little as you like.
My mental health journey has honestly been a recent one since I have entered college and graduate school. I started realizing that these little things that I do (being a perfectionist, worrying over things, feeling extremely defeated when a friend cancels plans) weren’t exactly normal behavior. I didn’t actually go to a therapist until I was in graduate school for clinical mental health counseling. I know, kind of ironic, but I learned about self-care and realized that I shouldn’t be afraid to get help if I really needed it. Some of my friends have gone through similar situations so I had that support to get me to go to therapists for help.
I went into therapy as the ‘perfect client’ because I knew that I either had depression or anxiety or a combination of the two, and wanting to actually get empirically-based techniques that I could use in order to help myself when I am in the situations on my own. I also discovered that I am a highly sensitive person (HSP) which can explain almost everything that I have experienced. It is often misdiagnosed as depression, anxiety, or even OCD, but it is a temperament not a disorder, which causes this issue with counselors and insurance companies.
Anyway, I have been to two different therapists: neither of which I liked. The first one kind of just let me talk, which is fine for some people but for me I needed someone to help me help myself. The second therapist was older and didn’t even know what an HSP was. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder (unspecified), after having asked what she thought I was experiencing. I think I agree with the diagnosis in some ways but I also know my symptoms are due to high sensitivity. I did get one helpful tip from the second therapist that is basically a grounding technique and has definitely helped me in situations where I need that- but currently, I am not seeing a therapist.
2. How do you keep yourself content day-to-day?
This is difficult to answer because sometimes I think I fail at this. Some days I just get very overwhelmed, so much so that I become irritable and an honest-to-god monster, and other days I just sit in my room and read or spend time on Twitter. I think the key for me is taking everything one day at a time because when I overload myself with things I need to do (yes, even reading/blogging) I will just not do them and get so frustrated. I also make sure that I do set aside time to read because I realized that once I started reading every day, I would have far less “bad” days and it has seemed to continue to help me. I also make sure that I spend time with my family when I can. Even when we are simply sitting around and talking, that helps me feel loved and wanted, which are two things that I have struggled with.
3. Looking back at times you’ve struggled, what would you tell your past self to help them out?
I would tell past Taylor that she needs to realize that she is being overtaken by her anxiety and she needs to stop the thoughts in their tracks before they spiral out of control. I have problems with ‘if’s: I definitely think about the worst case scenario when I am in a tough bind. But I do this because I feel like I need to be prepared for every possible outcome. This is not healthy though, and I think I would tell her that she needs to use her grounding techniques in order to cope before the problem arises, not after.
I actually read a book recently called Optimists Die First, which is about a girl with anxiety and irrational fears of dying, but she does many of these things that I do. She believes that being a pessimist is safer because of expert research saying that pessimists live longer, but she has a character arc throughout the book where she grows so much. I would also say to admit when you need help and get it as soon as possible. Even though my experiences with therapists have not been stellar, I think that actually committing to going and trying to get professional help is something in itself that helped me out because I felt empowered that I was able to admit I couldn’t handle it on my own and did something about that.
4. What are the things that make you happy, how do you pursue them, and what would you tell others who are trying to pursue what makes them happy?
Some things that make me happy include reading and spending time with friends. I have a strong need to be close to my friends and that is partly because anxiety tells me that I am not good enough sometimes. I don’t think my friends really understand that and I get annoyed by people not replying to texts and cancelling plans on me. But this is about things that make me happy! Spending time with friends allows me to decompress and know that there is someone who actually does care about me so much that they want to spend time with me, and share new experiences together. Even if it is just going out for a drink or watching a movie, I cherish that time more than my friends know. Also, reading makes me happy. I like being able to escape every once in a while and reading allows me to do this. I love traveling, but I can’t always do this physically, so reading helps me to travel to new places without leaving my house. It allows me to put my attention on someone else’s story instead of my own, which is super helpful to me.
I pursue both of these things by setting aside time. I work almost every day and it is hard to find the motivation when I come home to do anything other than sit on the couch. But, I set aside time and plan to either read or hang out with a friend to make sure that I do these things. I would also add that helping people makes me genuinely happy. The other two things are somewhat momentary but being fulfilled? I really love to help people because it makes me happy. That is the main reason that I want to become a mental health counselor. I would tell others who are trying to pursue their true happiness to focus on that: it doesn’t matter how much you get paid or anything like that. Those things aren’t true happiness: I couldn’t live my life at a job I hated just for the money. Happiness is what means more to me.
5. How do you take care of yourself when you’re feeling down?
Different from in the past, I actually think now I take care of myself by admitting I need help. In the past, I would just curl up and sleep for hours in a dark room or completely disconnect myself from everyone by pushing them away. Now, I actually have sent texts to my close friends and asked if they could come over because I really need a friend and I don’t want to be alone. They are usually very good about it and text me if they aren’t able to come over. It’s a scary thing for me to admit because I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, but doing this takes care of me and allows me to have someone there for me. I think that’s been a huge change in my personality as I have taken this journey and I am proud of it since it took me a long time to get here. I also take care of myself by treating myself to something that I usually wouldn’t have every day: a special treat or even asking to go out to dinner or have a coffee with someone I love. I think even going out to Walmart is something I do as well: I know that if I stay inside, it would probably get a lot worse so I try to go out and take a car ride just to get out of the house. These are small things but I’ve noticed they help when I am sad.
6. How has blogging contributed to your happiness?
I only started blogging about two months ago but I can see a change in how happy I am for sure. I have a book blog and I have always loved to read. It’s contributed to my happiness mainly because I have made a lot of blogger friends on Twitter and I have had many people comment on my reviews saying they liked them. First let’s address Twitter friends! I have found the book blogging Twitter community to be very welcoming and accepting. I feel that these people definitely understand me better than some people in my life and it’s great to be able to go online and have conversations with new people about books that I really love!
As for the comments, they just make me feel like I am doing something that someone appreciates. Being appreciated is something that I struggle with sometimes as well, especially working a part-time retail job. But, when someone comments and says that my review spurred them to try a book, it makes me so happy. I love connecting with our readers and having conversations based on either a recommendation they gave me, or one from my reviews.
7. What inspires you, both for blogging and in your personal life?
For blogging, I am inspired by others who have been blogging for a long time. I followed these people before I made a blog and they are the ones who inspired me to make my own. I saw the fun they had reading and reviewing books, and I realized the fun I had reading their reviews and liking their Instagram posts. I was inspired to blog because I already basically reviewed books to my co-blogger and I thought about what would happen if I did it for the world to see. That’s very nerve-wracking, but I felt that my opinions might matter to people and it has seemed like they do! I am inspired to provide content to others who love to read and share that with them, even if it is virtually over the Internet.
I am inspired in my personal life by making the world a better place. That’s a tall order, but when I see inspiring news stories in spite of all this horrid stuff going on, those are the things that remind me what I am doing means something. One day I will be a counselor and hopefully be able to help people, like me, who struggle with mental health and other issues.
8. How have your friends and family supported your mental health journey? What helped and what did not?
My family understands mental illness, but they also don’t. When they say something that is damaging, I do let them know and explain why it isn’t good to say that and what they can say instead. I think the education part is what they lack and I haven’t really educated them on it before. But they have adapted well, asking me questions and respecting my boundaries, especially when I get overwhelmed. This means a lot to me and I am glad I have that kind of support.
As for friends, I think the biggest thing that happened recently was I lost my best friend of 9 years. We have had little dilemmas in the past but the last one was a huge one. I actually respected my high sensitivity and asked to be left alone and she agreed, leaving me alone so I could cool down. But later, the feelings on her side were amplified and she ended up cutting off all communication with me. This obviously hurt me a lot but what didn’t help was that she didn’t realize this was because of a misunderstanding. I had mentioned high sensitivity and anxiety in the past, but I don’t feel like she truly listened, or she might have understood why things happened the way they did. It’s an unfortunate circumstance but now I feel better than I was able to eliminate a toxic influence from my life.
I’d also like to mention here that erasure is very prominent in mental health. I experienced this once when I divulged my high sensitivity and someone said to me that no, I wasn’t highly sensitive. I know they said this because they didn’t know what the correct definition is, but it made me feel like they didn’t respect that aspect of me.
9. What are your goals for the future, both for yourself and your blog? How do you go about achieving those goals?
My goals for my future are to become a mental health counselor that helps at least 1 person. I know that’s a small goal but feeling fulfilled is something that I would love to feel in life. I would like to also have influence on diminishing the stigma of mental health and advocating more people to attend therapy, if they feel they are ready. Therapy is a healing process and it creates a lot of trust between the counselor and the person getting therapy. I think that positive relationship is also a goal to have between me and all of my future clients, because I want to be someone that they can talk to about anything. I will go about achieving these goals by getting all the experience I can in my fieldwork opportunities as well as connecting as much as I can with other emerging counselors in the field who share the same goals as I do.
As for my blog, my goal is an ongoing one of keeping it current and connecting with more bloggers. I don’t want to be ‘famous’ or have thousands of followers, those aren’t real goals for me. I want to provide quality content and create friendships that can lead to meeting up at cons, or other collaborations. I already have plans for this and I went about it by networking on social media. I really enjoy talking to others about books and that makes running this blog so much fun and not like it is a chore.
10. What makes you feel most alive?
I feel most alive in certain moments where I am with someone I care about, and I look over at them and think that I am so lucky to know them. I know that sounds so cheesy but these are the moments that I feel most happy and content with my life. A moment I can think of happened recently with my best friend: we were sitting on the couch, sipping wine and watching Big Brother (we are trash for it ok). I looked over at him and I realized how lucky I am to have him as a friend and to be spending time with him. It was a simple thing: but it made me feel genuinely happy. Even when I go out for coffee with a friend and she literally tells me all that’s been happening in her life, I feel alive because she trusted me to say all this and it makes me feel appreciated. These aren’t extremely ‘special’ things, but I definitely feel like they are the moments where I feel most alive and appreciate life to the fullest.
If you want to see more from Taylor, check her out at these places (P.S. Big Brother is life girl don’t feel bad):
Have a lovely day,
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