Some words of encouragement

I want you to know that you’re worth something.

I want you to realize that, whatever problems you may be dealing with, you are never alone.

I want you to understand that people, even those you may not realize or talk to every day, are here for you.

I want you to know that whatever may have happened yesterday, last month, last year, last decade, doesn’t affect how wonderful you can make the future.

I want you to realize that you can overcome anything that comes your way, no matter who or what tells you otherwise, including your own mind.

need you to understand that there are good people in this world, around every corner, who won’t judge you, or abuse you, or put you in a place you have no desire to be in.

need you to understand that you are stronger than any self-deprecating thought that crosses your mind.

I want you to know that I know being strong isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

I want you to know that no outside opinion of you matters, only the light you view yourself in.

need you to know that people care. I need you to know that I care. He cares. She cares. They care.

I want you to know that there are people out there who, when they look at you, see the sun.

Stay strong.

– Ryan

Life isn’t a straight line

So, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a post on here – coming close to a month since my last one. It’s been a hectic past few weeks, what with the obvious stress of the holidays, work (as per usual) and a certain family situation arising.But it’s quite alright, because, good or bad, everything passes eventually. I mean, I’m still working, but if I couldn’t balance my work time with my writing time I never would have started this blog in the first place. Anyway…

Something that DID happen over the holiday season was my five-year high school reunion. I didn’t go to it; it was perilously close to Christmastime and in a completely different state from where I live + where I traveled for Christmas, but it happened. It got me thinking why people  get so excited for their class reunions, and what it would have been like if I had went to this one. Ask a few people and I’m sure many would say they go to their reunion for just that – reuniting. With old friends, old flames, old teammates…and I don’t doubt that. If I had gone to my reunion, it would have been to see people I’ve barely (or not at all) kept in contact with, mostly via Facebook and mutual friends. On that note, reunions are great, and I’m glad they’re, well, a thing.

But anyone who has read my Comparison, the Enemy of Joy post knows how I feel about comparing myself to others, whether it be money, looks, occupation…the list goes on. The big thing that would scare me about a reunion is just that: comparison would be inevitable between former classmates. Basically a “who has gotten farthest, or made the most money, or had the happiest marriage in the past five years.” I don’t believe that this type of comparison is something people do with the intention of harm – I feel that those who are going to compare themselves to others are: A. People who are quite happy with their life, or B. People who are unhappy with their life.

Here’s why I say that: For people who fall into group A, looking at other people who haven’t been as “successful” as you (in whatever one of those categories mentioned beforehand) makes it easier to pat yourself on the back and say, “Good job, me. I’ve done things right for the past five years.” On the flip side, people who fall into group B would most likely compare themselves with others to either motivate themselves, or pity themselves. To be completely honest, if I had gone to my reunion, I would have been in group B, no doubt. As I’ve said a thousand times before, my depression makes it so that I see the worst in any scenario. If I’m in a room of people who have all been successful in their careers, or have been happily married, or whatever, instead of being happy for them and embracing their happiness, I instead beat myself up mentally, asking myself again and again why the hell I’m not at that point yet.

I know, I know, me having that mindset goes against everything I argued for in my Comparison post. I truly believe what I wrote in that post, that comparing yourself to others is an unhealthy mindset, but the truth of the matter is I still fall prey to that way of thinking sometimes. I’m by no means “unhappy” with where I am in my life right now – I have a job that I enjoy, friends and family who support me, and I’m rapidly saving up money so that soon I’ll be able to get my own place and establish my independence even more. I’m content, but to say that I feel incredibly perfect with where I am right now would be a lie. I don’t want to sound like I’m not grateful for what I have, I truly am. When I talk about “where I am in my life” in this case, however, I’m more so talking about things that can affect through my own actions (mostly career and independence).

So even if I did have a chance to make it to my five-year reunion, I’m not entirely sure that I would have even gone, simply because of the danger of me falling into that mindset of me vs. other. It’s fairly tragic, because I’m always a little heartbroken when my own anxiety and depression tries to stop me from experiencing what life has to offer.

My mother and father are both wonderful people. I’ve mentioned my mother briefly before and how she also struggles with depression and anxiety, but my father doesn’t have either one. While I can talk with my mother to an extent not many people can because I understand the way her mind works and vice versa, my father sees my thought processes with these mental illnesses from an outside perspective. This is where I give him so much credit, though – he makes an active effort to try and understand why I think the way I do. While we’ve both accepted the fact that he will never 100% understand the way my mind gets to its conclusions, he refuses to sit down in the back of the auditorium and let my life play itself out. From the little things, such as making sure my medication is full enough, to the big things, like helping me find and apply for outpatient counseling a few years ago, when I felt at one of my lowest points, he helps me. He’s a great man.

My father is a smart guy and has lots of sage advice, but one of my favorite things he’s ever told me is this: life isn’t a straight line. He told me this at my lowest point, soon after my depression and anxiety had surfaced and basically flipped my life on its head. Long story short, I was out of college, out of money, and was staying in bed half the day, doing nothing to make my life more productive. Since I wasn’t in school and not on some job-to-career path, I was, well, depressed. I was convinced that at the rate I was going I was never going to make anything of myself. I was convinced that in a few years I would be living in a friend’s basement, eating Ramen for half of my meals and working 9-5 at some dead-end day job. My father saw my despair, and after a long talk he told me – life isn’t a straight line. What he meant by that is basically things don’t always go as planned. In fact, they rarely do. Life takes sharp corners and turns unexpectedly and slows down and speeds up, but it always reaches the end. Life goes on, and us with it. It may seem obvious to some, but to me at the time, there wasn’t anything better for me to hear. We may not be able to control the “line” completely, but we can plot its course, its general path in the direction of where we want to be someday. Is it easy? Again, rarely. But it’s possible.

So going back to the whole comparison thing – there’s another reason we shouldn’t do it. Nobody’s life takes the same path as another’s – we’ll all be at different points at different times than others. But as long as we know where we want to go, we can get there. It may not be when we want or how we want, but it’s possible. Am I being super cheesy right now? Yeah, probably. But I don’t care, I genuinely believe what I’m saying, and you should too. Nobody, I repeat, nobody is a lost cause, no matter how far past rock bottom they seem to have gone. The zigzaggy, curvy, angled line of life continues. We all continue.

  • Ryan

Holiday Stress

There’s probably no need to tell you that the holiday season is super stressful. Between gift shopping, family get-togethers, and travel planning, it’s enough to make even the most composed of us sweat a bit. I love the holidays – getting to see most of my family who lives half a country away from me makes it all worth it, but to say I make it through the season with a smile on my face the whole time would be a lie. I take round-trip flight each year, and airports are quite literally my least favorite public places. Ever. I get that airport staff are just trying to do their jobs, and passengers are sometimes rushing to catch their flights, but the amount of stress buildup in airports is almost unreal. It’s isn’t even the actual flying in a plane part that I dislike, just the process of getting on and off it. Very rarely does my anxiety climb to such high levels than when I’m in an airport. Also, I live in the Chicago area, so I always fly out of O’Hare, one of the largest (ohhh no), busiest (ughhhh), most crowded airports in the U.S. Being right in the horizontal middle of the country makes Chicago a HUGE port for travellers.

Also, the last Christmas, my flight back to Chicago was cancelled, so I was stuck in the Newark, New Jersey airport for nearly 24 hours. Newark freakin’ New Jersey. For those who don’t know, Newark…isn’t the nicest place. So, instead of venturing out of the airport to find a motel for the night, I made myself nice and “comfy” on a booth in the food court. Being a naturally anxious person, you can probably imagine how much sleep I got being in an unknown, not entirely secure food court booth for the night.

But I digress. In the end it’s always worth it to see my family. But the mere act of getting on a plane is enough to make me dread it for weeks to come. Society looks at the holiday season as a time to be happy – a time to spend with family and friends and give, give, and give. But rarely is it that simple, it seems. There are so many stress factors involved, depression and anxiety have been scientifically proven to spike around this time of year. It’s almost like society views the holidays/end of the year as a finish line – once we pass this gift-giving season, we have quite a few months before another major holiday. So when that finish line is in sight, we sprint for it, giving it our all to finish strong, even if it takes its toll on us physically and emotionally. Just cross that finish line, and then we can rest…

To me, that seems to be a very unhealthy mentality. I respect people who want to really make others’ holiday seasons special by buying the thoughtful gifts, cooking the best holiday meals, throwing the best end of year party. But we’re only humans, even those of us who don’t suffer from seasonal depression or anxiety. We aren’t cars – you can’t just keep pumping us full of gas and hope we chug on. Our bodies need rest, in more ways than one. Physically, of course, but the constant barrage of holiday gift-giving and family reunions in such a short amount of time can drain us mentally. I’m not saying that spending time with your family is going to drain you, but whether we admit it or not, there are many social “obligations” forced on us during the season, whether it be gift-giving, holiday cards, lengthy, intrusive conversations with family members who want to know everything that’s going on in your life. I know most of them mean well, but still. It takes its toll.

I suppose the point of this post to to remind you to relax, even in this time of the year. You aren’t doing anybody any good if you burn yourself out before you reach the actual holiday. I’m not saying don’t do anything, but just because it seems like everyone else around you is rushing to get things done and bought like there’s no tomorrow doesn’t mean you have to. This may sound a bit selfish, but you really do need to take care of yourself first. People can sense when you’re burned out, and it can reflect on them. I guarantee that the people who truly care about you care far more about making sure you’re happy and functional than the cost of the gift you get them. 

If you’re stressing out this holiday season, breathe. Relax. Do something for you. Make yourself a nice meal, do some drawing, talk with some friends. Don’t be afraid to recharge; you aren’t a phone battery being pushed to the last percentage of its life just to get a few things done. You are far more complex. And the people who love you know that. Stay strong.

– Ryan