ATTACHMENT THEORY EXPLAINED WHY I SUCK AT RELATIONSHIPS

Learning attachment theory helped me understand why my relationships weren’t working. Turns out, we’re all pretty predictable (based on our attachment style).

I have a dirty dating secret: I’ve been single for 2.5 years, and for some reason, I’ve been the one to walk away in nearly every single dating interaction I’ve had in that time span. I felt like I was always the one sending the text saying “it’s been nice, but I can’t/don’t want to do this.”

In every serious relationship I’ve been in, I’ve been the one to drive it into the ground at the end (with a healthy dose of self-sabotage) then call it quits.

I would be fine being single for a while, but then the craving for connection and touch would come back. The shit thing is, once I got it I immediately wanted to run. I always had intense fear when things started getting even slightly more serious, even though nothing had seemingly changed.  One minute I’d be happy cuddling with someone and telling them my secrets, then they’d walk out of my apartment and I’d start spiraling and thinking I was better off alone. I was giving myself romantic whiplash.

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If you see commonalities in the people and circumstances you find yourself in, then you likely are experiencing a similar emotion in those situations.⁠ •⁠ Ask yourself, "What is the common underlying feeling I have in these relationships/experiences?" It's likely a constant sense of anxiety, a fear of not knowing where we fit, of not being chosen… And in general, of not feeling like we're lovable or enough for someone to choose us.⁠ •⁠ To begin to heal that underlying fear, ask yourself, "What would be choosing myself in this moment?" And then do that.⁠ •⁠ We change the pattern and the way people show up in our lives by changing ourselves. That's the work… Stop using other people as the excuse of why you don't have the love and relationship you want.⁠ •⁠ We're not victims of similar patterns, we choose them, and the reason we do is so we can evolve beyond those stories. You'll stop inviting the lessons when you learn them. ⁠ •⁠ Are you tired of repeating the same patterns? I have an exciting announcement—a FREE Valentine's Day Challenge to help you upskill in every area of relationships. This is my first ever free course and I know it will be a game changer! Sign up now at relationships101.com or link in bio #createtheloveyouwant

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Why was I like this?

I always wanted to be in a successful relationship, but I couldn’t break the pattern no matter how awesome the person was and how much potential was there. I felt ashamed I was like this. Even after I quit drinking nothing changed.

No advice seemed to help and no self-improvement work I did seemed to change the oucomes. I couldn’t chalk it up to not meeting the right people because even when I met someone and started to get to know them I didn’t know how to manage my feelings or express my needs. It got easy to put it on other people, but after I stopped drinking I knew deep down that I had some real work to do.

I had just finished telling my therapist about the guy I had ended things with who had the AUDACITY to call me “hot and cold,” when my therapist gave me some homework. She knows I love a good self-help book, so she tasked me with reading Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller.

Since she’s smart, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say she suggested the book because I seemed ready for a healthy dose of humility and self-awareness around how I am in relationships. At that time, I had recently become aware codependency was an issue for me, but I didn’t know I was about to find out that I am also part of 1% of people that fall into the most troubled attachment style.

Turns out, my whole ‘come here, go away’ act makes a lot of sense based on my attachment type.

Basically, there are four attachment types: secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganized/dismissive.

Here’s a really basic breakdown of all four that I pulled from this website (if you want more info). 

Secure: Low on avoidance, low on anxiety. Comfortable with intimacy; not worried about rejection or preoccupied with the relationship. “It is easy for me to get close to others, and I am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.” 

Avoidant: High on avoidance, low on anxiety. Uncomfortable with closeness and primarily values independence and freedom; not worried about partner’s availability. “I am uncomfortable being close to others. I find it difficult to trust and depend on others and prefer that others do not depend on me. It is very important that I feel independent and self-sufficient. My partner wants me to be more intimate than I am comfortable being.”

Anxious: Low on avoidance, high on anxiety. Crave closeness and intimacy, very insecure about the relationship. “I want to be extremely emotionally close (merge) with others, but others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t love or value me and will abandon me. My inordinate need for closeness scares people away.”

Anxious and Avoidant: High on avoidance, high on anxiety. Uncomfortable with intimacy, and worried about partner’s commitment and love. “I am uncomfortable getting close to others, and find it difficult to trust and depend on them. I worry I will be hurt if I get close to my partner.”

About 56 per cent of people in the world are secure. Around 20 per cent are anxious. Twenty-three per cent are avoidant, and the remaining 1 per cent are a combination of anxious and avoidant (according to this article by Elite Daily).

I don’t know about you, but I always wished I had a rare blood type so I could feel special. Turns out since I’m fearfully/avoidantly attached, also referred to as disorganized or anxious-avoidant, so I can still feel statistically special based on the fact that I absolutely run my relationships into the ground as soon as they seem like they’re going somewhere. Or as Mark Manson puts it, this attachment style is “the worst of both worlds.”

Thanks, Mark. You know how to humble us one percenters.

Excuse my french, but this revelation sacré blew my fucking mind. First of all, I wasn’t the only one who was like me. Second, it made me feel less alone to know that a little less than half the population is gonna ride the struggle bus when it comes to relationships because of something they learned in infancy.

Last: I was relieved to have a label and explanation.

A fearful-avoidant type both desires close relationships and finds it difficult to be truly open to intimacy with others out of fear of rejection and loss, since that is what he or she have received from their caregivers. Instead of the dismissive’s defense mechanism of going it alone and covering up feelings of need for others by developing high self-esteem, the fearful-avoidant subconsciously believe there is something unacceptable about them that makes anyone who knows them deeply more likely to reject or betray them, so they will find reasons to relieve this fear by distancing anyone who gets too close. As with the dismissive, the fearful-avoidant will have difficulty understanding the emotional lives of others, and empathy, while present, is not very strong—thus there will be poor communication of feelings with his partner.

I always had thought I was just a mess romantically because….well just because I had baggage and trauma. But then why was I still single after I stopped hating myself?

To add to the slap in the face attachment theory served it, apparently, if you put certain attachment styles together it’s more or less destined to be a hot garbage fire. Like for example, avoidant people and anxious people are like magnets to each other romantically but it makes for a problematic partnership. It’s shit, because it’s really not the fault of either people, but more a perfect storm based on their desire for intimacy and tolerance for closeness in relationships.

Since I’ve found out what attachment style I am, it’s helped me come to peace with my patterns and start challenging them with clear communication and different thought processes. It’s also helped me pick people who are better for me (*cough* where all the securely attached men at? *cough cough*). I’m shedding the shame when it comes to my dating dirty secret because I now see my behavior when it comes to men as a totally subconscious protection mechanism. I learned it before I even knew I learned it, and I can also unlearn it. I finally have some hope that romantically, I’m not going to keep reliving groundhog day of the same dating scenarios. I have a shot at being secure.

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What would it be like to frame rejection as a journey of self? As an opportunity to know the walls of your thoughts with added depth? An opportunity for a journey of self-discovery. . Yesterday I shared six steps to take after experiencing feelings of rejection (in no particular order). We don’t have to dismiss our emotions—pain, sadness, guilt, frustration, anger—in fact, we shouldn’t dismiss our feelings. . By confronting our feelings, addressing them, and working through them, we can move into a phase of self-discovery. . Our self-discovery can be enhanced through connection. Connection through our relationships (friends, family, dating, & even professional colleagues), but most importantly, through reflection and acceptance of the self. . When was the last time you invested in self-discovery? #SexELD #SexELDucation . . . [Image description: Light mauve background with white text that reads, “Rejection is a form of self-discovery.”]

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Like with everything else related to self-improvement, awareness is the first step.

As one writer for Elite Daily puts it: “none of these attachment styles are labeled ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy.’ They’re simply descriptions of the way you act in romantic relationships. They’re not forms of judgment.”

Unless you’re Mark Manson, then you can be a judgmental asshole, apparently.

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If you’re looking for a more detailed crash course in attachment theory that includes more actionable steps to take to becoming secure, your best bet is to read this book or this book. Yes, reading a self-help book to fix your love life is probably going to feel like a move pulled directly out of a rom com, but once you get over yourself it’s really not that bad. For more basic info, you can also watch this video or pay a little bit of coin to take a quiz to see what category you fall into. 

HERE’S WHAT MY FIRST YEAR WITHOUT ALCOHOL WAS ACTUALLY LIKE

Grey’s Anatomy. Being a hermit. Crying. Being horizontal and listen to sad playlists. Therapy. It’s all part of the sober glow up.

Today I celebrate one year living alcohol-free.

You won’t find a single mention of AA in this blog post because I never went (not knocking the program, just didn’t apply to someone like me). I also won’t throw around the word ‘willpower,’ or even try to sell you on the idea that you should explore your relationship with alcohol. You’ll know, in your gut, if you need to. Trust me.

However, you will find a whole lot of honesty about what it took to get to where I am now. Please keep in mind that everyone experiences sobriety and recovery differently, and this is just my account. If you are unsure of the difference between sobriety and recovery, I like how this article on PsychologyToday.com explains it.

With sobriety being a popular ‘trend’ right now, I always clarify that there’s a big difference between choosing sobriety and needing sobriety. I decided to stop drinking when things were going well for me and I know that is a privilege. Addiction exists on a spectrum – it’s not as black and white as we’d like to think it is (hence terms like grey area drinking).

I say all of this with the magic of hindsight.

MONTHS ONE TO THREE

I felt like I was on top of the fucking world. This wasn’t my first rodeo though, I’d been sober for two months straight before in 2018. Funny enough, at the start I thought I was only going to do 30 days dry, then as the first month went on, I read Sober Curious, and decided to *see* if I could stop altogether. Guess I proved myself right!

I was in a phase where I was feeling empowered to shape my life and make it look the way I wanted it to, so I figured “why not now?”

Even though my drinking had been a lot more mindful before I decided to halt things, it felt totally different this time compared to when I knew I’d only be boozeless for a set period of time. It felt like I had closed the book on a significant phase in my life and everything felt new and full of potential.

Cue montage of me reading all the self-help books, listening to motivational podcasts, decluttering my apartment, cooking, starting to watch Grey’s Anatomy, getting up early on the weekends and working out A TON. My on-again-off-again insomnia disappeared and I had orgasmic sleeps. I tried going on my first date since I quit drinking and it was nice, but I was awkward (it was way too early). I didn’t know how much to talk about it.

I kept myself really really really occupied. Grey’s Anatomy has 15 seasons guys.

I wondered a lot why everyone didn’t just stop drinking.

The hope and excitement of this new phase helped me navigate the cravings when they did hit me.

This was all likely possible thanks to my own little pink cloud.

MONTHS FOUR TO SEVEN

This was where my quest to stay sober changed into long-term sustainable change for me.

When the pink cloud drifted away I realized why people don’t quit drinking: because if you really want to glow up you’re forced to confront your own bullshit and address the reasons why you drank in the first place. Guess what? It’s a goddam shit storm.

It felt like I had been hit by a train, but the train was my own emotions. I knew I would never let myself back down from this challenge, but my performance during this time was definitely white-knuckling at its finest.

My insomnia also came back with an evil vengeance and I started masturbating a lot. I literally was on a quest for any serotonin I could….muster? Yeah that’s a good word choice.

I was depressed and wallowing in a lot of self-pity, but also wouldn’t admit I was struggling with my new lifestyle. I felt like the people in my life didn’t understand what I was going through because none of them had done what I was doing. I obsessed over alcohol and drinking when I did go out, and often felt overly self-conscious for no good reason. I started to feel like a burden to the people in my life.

I isolated myself, and when I did see my friends I was generally a bummer to be around. Cue montage of me crying two or three times a week, eating anything that came near me with sugar in it, bingeing Grey’s Anatomy, making a playlist full of sad songs (see below), spending a lot of time horizontal staring at things listening to aforementioned playlist and spending a lot of Saturday nights with my parents.

I had a lot of undirected rage inside me about the fact that I had to go through this while other people bopped along numbing problematically without thinking about it much at all. I was struggling, and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight or a quick and easy solution, so I just held on and plowed forward.

I told some acquaintances – not just the ones in my circle but also people I would grab coffee with and coworkers – with mixed reactions. I tried to date and it didn’t work out because I didn’t know how to make it work (gee, I wonder why).

I finally admitted I wasn’t going to get over this blockade on my own so I broke down, spent the money and went to counselling.

MONTHS EIGHT TO 11

I didn’t vibe with my first counsellor but I didn’t give up. I got another one. I saw her as much as I could. I did the homework she gave me. I realized a lot of the stuff I had to deal with I couldn’t blame on alcohol or other people, and instead had to stop acting like a victim all the time – a classic codependent trait as I learned. I focused a lot of time, practically all of my free time and energy, on healing.

I avoided dating and men as much as humanly possible because I didn’t feel like I could trust myself dating just yet.

I read books written by women about sobriety. I added people to my Twitter and Instagram timelines who don’t drink. I met more and more people like me and realized I wasn’t alone and this journey comes with its own set of unique challenges. I put myself to the test and started applying some of the healthy coping strategies I’d learned. Sometimes I failed, but when I succeeded it felt so so good.

I generally leaned into the idea that it was about time to lighten up. I also finished Grey’s Anatomy.

MONTH 12

I always knew I’d get here, but I was never sure what it would look or feel like. Are the urges gone completely? Nope. They still blindside me sometimes. But I can feel my way through them and understand them a lot better now.

For me, it looks like setting realistic goals for 2020. It looks like getting excited again about writing, giving back and practicing what I preach on Instagram. It looks like knowing what I’m worth in relationships and getting better at setting boundaries.

I feel like I have so much more growing to do, but I’m actually in the part where I feel like I can actually chill the f out and enjoy the journey.

I will tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this decision has changed my life trajectory completely.

Unsure if you are a social drinker, problem drinker or on a path to alcoholism? Read this.

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I ACCOMPLISHED ZERO OF MY 2019 GOALS AND I DON’T CARE

There was something I was being called up and out to do, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

I still remember how I felt when I made a list of goals for 2019 on the last page of my journal in December 2018: pleased with myself for reaching for the ~*starz*~, but like there was something missing.

I made a list of things that would feel good to accomplish and show the world I’m moving forward. This included finishing a draft of my book, hitting 3000 Instagram followers or running the SeaWheeze half marathon to name a few. But there was something out there that I was being called up and out to do, not on my list, and I could feel it.

I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

So I didn’t.

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It wasn’t until midway through Jan. 2019 when I was painting the trim of a house in New Orleans, volunteering with an organization called lowernine.org, that it occurred to me.

I needed to search for clarity and genuine connection.

During my volunteer work and that entire vacation, I felt calm and happy. It wasn’t a feeling that had resided in my body in a long time, and I wondered why I couldn’t feel it all the time. Why did I only feel clear on vacation? I didn’t sign up to live a life where I only felt good when I wasn’t at home!!!!

Maybe it struck me then because I needed the vacation and volunteer work to remember what it felt like to feel that good, and maybe because my head was basically in a bucket of wine in December when I wrote the list and I was still somewhat newly single.

I know now that list of goals that I could brag about on social media once completed hadn’t gotten me very far so far, as far as actual healing was concerned.

Deep down I knew chasing clarity and connection would be harder, require more of me and take longer, than everything on that list put together. This was the year I was being called to the challenge.

On the plane back, I was left wondering what I could do that would get me one step closer to where I wanted to be. The little voice in the back of my head finally let me admit to myself that maybe drinking was holding me back and I wouldn’t know how much until I stopped. The holidays had been rough, and alcohol didn’t make them easier even though that’s what we’re told.

So instead of chasing all the other goals, I came back home from that trip and haven’t touched alcohol since. I quit drinking because it intuitively felt like the first thing I could eliminate that would get me closer to clarity and connection. I didn’t choose to ignore my original list, but it naturally fell to the wayside.

As I’ve said before, drinking took away the gauzy veneer that had been allowing me to ignore my complete lack of healing. Talk about clarity – there’s nothing more f*cking terrifying than realizing that YOU’RE the one robbing yourself of inner peace because you refuse to do the work and haul the rotting issues out from under your soul porch.

I ended up doing the craziest things I’ve ever done in my life in 2019, and none of them were on that list. I am inching toward clarity and genuine connection as I continue to excavate my way through my own bullshit.

2019 taught me that the vision of my life I wouldn’t dare put into words is the very thing I needed to vow to do for myself. I didn’t have an entire roadmap, I just took a brave little baby step in a direction that my intuition guided me towards and had to have blind hope the rest would come.

Especially in the low moments, because trust me THERE WERE MANY, the hope got me through. You’ve gotta crack a few eggs if you wanna make an omelet.

Easier said than done, I know.

I don’t feel bad for giving up on my original goals. Write a list or don’t. Think on it. Pledge to do the thing you don’t want to admit to yourself you need most. Do the thing that gives you the most hope for future you.

Sometimes it’s not something that can be broken down into a to-do list.

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“WHAT AM I DOING?” AND OTHER QUESTIONS I’VE ASKED MYSELF IN MY EARLY 20’S

I’m turning 26 next month. Here are a few things I pondered over while trying to survive college, start my career and dodge dudes that didn’t like me.

This doesn’t require much of a preamble other than saying I’m turning 26 next month and saying goodbye to the first half of my twenties so I obviously have every right to write this.

I’M MATURE NOW MOTHERTRUCKERS. BEEP BEEP.

Here’s some of the questions I’ve pondered over, and what I’ve managed to sort out in terms of answering them.

“What am I doing with my life?”

There’s no wrong answer because it’s whatever is happening in the present. It’s an… ongoing answer? Kinda underwhelming, I know, but it’s a half-decent reason to rely on your intuition because you won’t know what you were doing in the grand scheme of things until the end. Not trying to be morbid!!!!! IT’S INSPIRING OK? Go see what you can get away with.

“What do I value?”

I feel like this is hard to know the answer unless you’ve actually thought about it. Once I made a point of answering this question with a pen and paper, I found it a lot easier to actually live out my values. I highly suggest it. Also can be interesting to look back on later because your values can change over time based on life experiences.

I know now that the number one thing I value is integrity.

“How will I know if I had an orgasm?”

I legit Googled this once. I’ll put it this way – you’ll know if you DIDN’T have one. How’s that for an answer?

“Are they into me?”

If you are truly unsure, I’m gonna go with no. See advice below. 

“How does XYZ person afford [insert whatever thing here]????!!?”

Ok, so to be clear, this is a rhetorical question because it’s nobodies’ business how you afford shit. Next, there are a few realistic answers:

  1. Debt. Maybe credit card debt.
  2. Support of some kind that relieves financial burdens and frees up income (perhaps from a sugar daddy who propositioned them in their Instagram DMs?).
  3. Responsible saving. Nobody wants to post about buying two-ply toilet paper on Instagram back to back with their photos from Fiji, but that’s the reality in some cases.

“What happened last night?”

I blacked out from drinking more than I have fingers and toes and teeth in my early 20s so I asked this a lot. Typically, I did something slutty. Or I came home at 3am and destroyed the kitchen making something to eat. Or both!

“Should I say something?”

Usually, yes. This applies to a whole bunch of situations. Have the damn conversation.

As a people pleaser and someone who has always struggled with this, I can safely say it hurts everybody involved more in the big picture when you withhold what you really want to say. Sometimes it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be, and sometimes it’s exactly as bad as you think it’s going to be. You can’t protect people from their own emotions, and you can’t control how people choose to react. All you can do is speak your truth when the time isn’t right (but don’t wait too long) and tell them whatever it is you need to say.

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I have chosen to have more hard and painful conversations in the last 18 months than I did in the previous 30 years, total. And I think it’s not a coincidence that the more I do it, the more comfortable I feel in myself— as myself. Conflict avoidance is a coping strategy, and a lot of us develop it as a completely understandable response to early life. 🙋‍♀️ But as adults, when we chronically choose the temporary relief of avoiding the hard thing over standing up for our own needs and owning our desires, we eventually pay for that chronic self-betrayal. For me, the price was an un-nameable and pervasive sadness, physical pain, heaviness and exhaustion. Every time I speak my truth, knowing it may not be what the other person wants to hear, I’m still a little surprised to look down afterwards and realize WOW I AM STILL ALIVE. Vulnerability will not kill you. The uncomfortable and temporary side effects of choosing yourself are badges of honor. They’re evidence that you are growing; breaking free of old conditioning and patterns that don’t serve you. Breathe and do the thing and remember who you are. That’s my self-imposed job description these days. #emilyonlife

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“Should I be saving for retirement?”

Yes, if it’s financially feasible, but also…no?

Anytime a question has a ‘should’ at the beginning I ask myself if I actually care about the answer, or if I feel like I’m *supposed* to care about the answer.

Doing certain things doesn’t make you more or less of an adult, and having an RRSP doesn’t automatically mean you have your life together.

“What should I do with my hair?”

I recently did something out of character and asked my new stylist this and he talked me out of doing something really dumb and expensive during our consultation.

Much like when a therapist tells you something is a bad idea, you LISTEN THE FRIG UP.

Sometimes in the heat of the moment we forget that bangs take approximately 9 months to grow out. Whatever you want is the answer, but it never hurts to consult an expert.

“Where do I go from here?”

This is basically another variation of “what comes next?” which is what this entire blog navigates through…arguably. In order to actually answer this question, I had to stop running away from it out of fear and accept that it was up to me to decide.

Sounds easy, but when you don’t trust yourself it kinda feels like hurling yourself off a cliff with a running start. How else are you gonna build self-trust though?????

Anyway, the answer is that I’m going to Australia. G’day mate.

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This is a photo of me standing in my first apartment after I signed the lease in 2016. Just like then, there’s a lot of change and hope in the air right now. Two weeks from now I’m moving out of my beloved bachelorette pad and back in with my parents for a few months before an even bigger change. The day after I turn 26 I’ll be getting on a plane and going to Melbourne with a working holiday visa (no return ticket booked) 😅 This has been the year of big leaps, extreme discomfort and questioning EVERYTHING but I can feel it in my bones that in order to keep growing I’ve gotta go for a lil bit. I also want to be in a different setting to work on my book baby. But between now and November my focus is to be as present as possible and to remind myself to *let go* every time I feel myself trying to resist change. ⚡️🌊 #australia

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OK I KNOW I NEED TO LIGHTEN UP – BUT HOW?

I thought I had to word vomit, exercise, or numb out all the darkness out in order to lighten up. I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is accept it, and light a match.

I know the moment I truly started on my self-improvement journey. I Googled ‘How to stop hating yourself’ in 2016, which led me to a book called Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself  that changed my life. You probably know the rest if you’ve read the post.

Recently, after a difficult but loving conversation with a dear friend about how our relationship was feeling heavy, I Googled ‘how to lighten up’ and found nothing useful. Not one single article or listicle I could relate to.

What the shit!!! It had worked once when I needed a solution. But this time I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be the same.

If you’ve ever read my Instagram captions or my blog – it’s not a stretch to say I’m a heavy person. I’m introspective and tend to get myself elbow deep into the piles of shit most people want to avoid at all costs. It’s the reason this blog exists after all…but it also means I can also come off as intense and a little dark at times.

We all have dominant traits that make us who we are, but when they get out of control they can mess things up in all areas of our lives. We all find ways to manage the internal see-saw. 

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The part of me that hates myself screams “who the do you think you are trying to write a book? Trying to become boxing instructor? Who gives a shit. And moreover, what do you know about any of this?” The part of me that hates myself believes that my urges to numb out every emotion with a grocery list of unhelpful techniques will never change for good. The part of me that hates myself tells me that I am a burden to my friends and family. That I have too many thoughts and feelings. The part of me that hates myself uses shame and fear to motivate me. The part of me that hates myself uses “why even bother” as an excuse to avoid vulnerability. This isn’t about proving other people wrong. It’s never been about proving other people wrong. Besides, I learned a long time ago people’s conclusions about you are less about you, and more about them. I’m trying to prove that part of myself wrong. I am, in fact, becoming the person I also hoped, dreamed and fought to be. Sometimes that part of me just needs a little proof and a lot of love. Sometimes I need to force that part of me to stop yelling and start listening. This isn’t some Bell Let’s Talk shit that exists only one day a year. As much as I can write this caption, I can’t write a clean beginning middle and end to this. This is just what goes on in my head and my work is fighting back against it. Sometimes I have the strength to win that fight, and sometimes I don’t have it in me. And that’s when I reach out for help. 💭🤝 #wholeheartedliving

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I used alcohol to manage as an adult. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I wasn’t an alcoholic before I stopped drinking almost 8 months ago. However, I showed signs of being a problem or grey area drinker. I would deal with negative feelings by drinking or eating them down so I could continue being the life of the party. I was still bitter and aggressive but at least after booze it was in a softened, silly half-cut kind of way. With alcohol, I could take myself from being in a mood where I wanted to cry from stress, to slurring sassy comments and texting people I shouldn’t be texting to generate some fun in the moment.

Alcohol was the easy lever I could pull anytime I needed to lighten up. 

When I first got sober, I lightened up immediately. I felt like I had found the ultimate life hack. All of the ease with none of booze-adjacent struggles. I was saving money! I was making better decisions! I didn’t have the booze blues anymore!!!

Then, inevitably, I dug into the work of recovery and shit got REAL. Sobriety and recovery are not the same, which is a fun fact that hit me like a brick to the face about three months in.

Believe me, I know I was a bummer to be around. I was groping around in the dark in an attempt to figure out how everyone else dealt with bad days on top of having, what felt like, a complete shit show of an existential crisis. I was doing my best, but I truly felt like I couldn’t lighten up.

So I tried all the normal stuff: yoga, meditation, therapy (the counsellor I had when I was in early recovery wasn’t a good fit for me unfortunately), journaling, and mostly texting and talking to my friends when I was feeling shitty. Which was a lot. I also revisited eating and Netflix as coping mechanisms.

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading, writing, reflecting and questioning lately. I guess when I think about it, the other three all feed into my writing. I’ve changed a lot and done a lot since finishing my degree and getting an “adult” job. My opinions are different, my hair is different, my mindset is different. I am older. I am more educated on the ways of the world. I now need special cream for my face (goddam eczema). But there is one thing that steadfastly has not changed, and I hope never will: I love writing. It is a warm blanket after being out in the cold for too long. It is a way of making sense of the world. It is a way of bearing witness. It is a messy mud puddle that you can’t wait to jump in. It is an unruly teenager that sneaks out in the middle of the night but makes you proud at the end of the day. It is trying to herd a bunch of hyenas on acid. Here’s a pic of my writing happy place with a new backdrop. I definitely wrote this while feeling a writer’s running high. Let’s be realistic: It’s not always sunshine and rainbows and sometimes I gotta rip the words right out of me, but it’s meant to be. It’s still love even when it’s hard. #instarealtalk #truth #vulnerabilityisstrength #mentalhealth #bravingthewilderness #writersofinstagram #selfcare #selfacceptance #calledtocreate #winnipeg #everydaygratitude #liveoutloud #parentsupport #findyourself #shameless #gratitude #desksetup #deskdecor

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Nothing seemed to help. I felt like a black cloud all the time, which was one of my biggest fears about giving up alcohol: I wouldn’t be fun anymore. And as it turned out, it sort of came true, but it taught me something really important.

I got into the toxic habit of treating a lot of close people in my life like my personal therapists. It’s healthy to ask for support and to talk things out, but there’s limits and boundaries to how much your loved ones can really help. Besides, now that I have a good therapist I’m trying to see regularly I can safely say that those are much more productive conversations and it means I don’t have to put the people in my life through unpaid emotional labour. Which isn’t cool.

Fortunately, my friends and family were willing to talk to me about what they were feeling instead of just running in the other direction.

So after my failed Google search, I started thinking about a new way forward in my recovery.

I thought I had to word vomit, exercise, or numb out all the darkness out in order to lighten up.

I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is accept the darkness and all that comes with it, and light a match.

I couldn’t find lightness in numbing because it obliterates everything — both good and bad. Denying negative or heavy emotions also isn’t realistic because it denies a part of you that exists for a very good reason. So now, I’m trying to stop grappling around for a lever or light switch and meet my internal struggles with unconditional acceptance instead of intolerance. I want to be empowered to make my own light.

Part of the journey has been figuring out the people, activities, and places that create light in my life. Especially my newly sober life.

So far, I’ve figured out that reliving ridiculous moments is a great way to light that match. My go-to memory involves a public park bathroom in New Orleans with a broken lock and yeast infection medication. Nothing reminds me how absurd life is quite like that moment.

Also on the list of things that seem to light a metaphorical match in the darkness: Being outside. Riding a good spin class. Looking at old vacation pictures. Writing. Laughing.

I’m looking to add to the list, but I’m still figuring it out. If all else fails, I just lay on the floor and listen to Magic by Coldplay. Can’t lose with Coldplay.


I recognize that seeking professional help isn’t always accessible or financially feasible. Here’s an article about different types of therapy options for different price points.

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AMY WINEHOUSE WAS MY VULNERABILITY ROLE MODEL

I looked up to Amy in ways I shouldn’t have. Some people might believe that’s sort of fucked because of all her issues, but I truly know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

 

Amy Winehouse said, “I wouldn’t write anything unless it was directly personal to me just cause I wouldn’t be able to tell the story right.”

I still remember when one of my high school boyfriends broke things off with me. I think I was in grade 11. I spent all weekend watching her concert DVD and watching the 30-minute doc they made about recording Back to Black with Mark Ronson. She talked about falling in love with Blake and admitted to fucking it all up. She talked about lies and things being less than ideal by her own doing. It made me feel less alone every time I was in pain or did something stupid while drunk. It wasn’t the first or last weekend I shut myself in my house and did nothing but listen to her voice and words.

She was my role model. I looked up to her in ways I probably shouldn’t have. Some people might believe that’s sort of fucked because of all her issues, but I truly know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

To say I was a fan would be an understatement. I think I wanted to be her.

I owned Back to Black on vinyl and I never even had a record player. I watched every interview she had ever done well before she died about a million times each. I owned the only concert DVD she ever released. I bought a black Adidas sweater because I saw her wearing the same sweater in an interview (this was before athleisure came back in fashion). I read her biography a dozen times.

I can point to pieces of my past and personality and see her reflected right back at me.

The way I’ve ALWAYS done my eyeliner since the moment I started wearing makeup.

The way I say “yeah.”

The way I love playing pool like she did (I’m half decent actually).

The way I dealt with breakups with a bottle of Jack Daniels.

The cheeky way of talking.

The way I can’t help but be inappropriate sometimes.

The way I love jazz.

The way I used to dress (till I stopped wearing push up bras).

The way I never brushed my hair and wore it big. I still don’t brush it if I’m being totally honest.

The way I talked about myself.

The way I wished my eyes were just a little darker so they’d match perfectly.

The way I wear my heart on my sleeve.

The brutal blunt honesty in my writing.

She taught me authenticity because it just oozed out of her. Despite being someone who acted like she didn’t think very highly of herself, she couldn’t help but be anyone but herself. Before I ever opened a Brené Brown book, I listened to her music and learned what vulnerability looked like. I saw her using art to tell the stories of her life and make peace with them in her own way.

She’s also goddam ruthless, which you’ll know if you watch enough of her interviews.

Even then, there was something about what she created and how she embraced her messy, aggressive nature. She was never quoted saying anything good about herself, but she was always honest even when it maybe made other people uncomfortable.

She just…wasn’t guarded. You can tell she literally didn’t know how to be. If you watch any interview with her you can see her emotions all over her face, in her expression and through her eye contact and body language. If she didn’t want to be there you could tell. If she was upset you could tell. If she didn’t like the questions she was being asked you could tell.

There were a total lack of walls, which you could argue hurt her in some ways, but made her utterly unforgettable in others.

She’s a beautiful singer and songwriter, yes. She was volatile, yes. But what she really taught me was about putting it all out there. Ugly stuff and all. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a great role model for kindness or dealing with your problems and pain the healthy way, but that’s ok. Nobody is perfect, and she never tried to pretend she was.

I remember where I was when I found out she died. I was sitting in class and my friend texted me and asked me if I had heard. I didn’t think it was true. I had been following her in the news because I had heard she was going to put out a new album soon. When I saw my friend later that day and she confirmed it I started crying right then and there. I don’t even think I could fully appreciate the impact she had on my life until I became an adult.

I grew up believing struggle was part of being a creative. Believing alcohol was part of being a strong saucy woman. Believing being raw, direct, uncensored and borderline offensive or difficult was charming. Believing relationships had to be difficult, rocky and messy. Believing destroying your own life was part of living your life.

Then she died. Way too young. And I realized then, and even more now, that she taught me so many amazing things, but also so many destructive things. You never get the sense that she’s overly happy about being famous.

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Amy Winehouse at the Union Chapel in London, UK. November 24, 2006 📸 Photo by: Jill Furmanovsky __ Photographer Jill Furmanovsky recalls, — "I took live photos of Amy Winehouse for MOJO Magazine at Union Chapel in 2006. She seemed particularly happy that night and made references to a loved one (Blake) who was in the audience. I asked Amy if she cared if I took a quick picture. The road crew was loading and a cold wind blew through the open stage door Amy did not care, she forced herself to stand against the wall in the hallway, raising her head to catch the light while the autumn leaves blow." — Jill __ #AmyWinehouse #AmyNeverDies #JillFurmanovsky #Uk #RockPhotography #RockArchive #UnionChapel #2006 #Photo #BlackAndWhite #Amy #Icon #Legenday #AmyWinehouseNeverDies

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Like I’ve said before, when you don’t like yourself very much it’s easy to spot in others. I could never shake the feeling that she was incredibly insecure, despite being so bright and amazing. I used to read it as being humble, but I don’t believe that’s what it was. I believe it was self-loathing.

She may have had a shaky personal life, but you could always tell writing and performing was the one thing she truly loved. We all need a thing, but sometimes it’s not enough.

It’s not a coincidence that I believe the most powerful, deep, soul touching writing comes from a very personal place. Just like the way she felt about music. She didn’t give a shit about being famous, or being well-liked, she just wanted to tell her stories and make her vision come to life.

You can judge her. You can pity her. You can love her the way I do. You can listen to her music. And you can learn from her. But truthfully, the world will never forget her and her music because she’s unforgettable.

She made me feel seen. She made me feel less alone. She made art and music that made me realize that you can put your everything out there, but you have to be strong enough to handle the criticism that goes with it. Resilient enough to handle the hatred for being different. Love yourself enough to know that you have to live with your fear and love it to death instead of trying to silence it because that’s courage.

I related to her. Her aura. Her dark nature. Her sadness. Her regret. Her flirty self-concious energy. Her way of brightening up other people’s lives but seemingly not being able to turn the light on for herself because she couldn’t locate it.

The way she so obviously went against the grain, almost sometimes seemingly just to piss people off but really because pain speaks volumes. She’s why I feel compelled to write about my own fuckups. But there’s one thing I really think she missed in some of her art, which was the gratitude and light parts of life. I would have loved to hear more from her about the good. That’s one thing we didn’t have in common, but I do believe if she had stuck around a little longer she would have found a way eventually to make art that didn’t come from a place of low self-worth.

She wasn’t the hero I was ever supposed to have, but we can’t help who we fall in love with. Being proud that her art and life (from afar) was part of my journey, and writing about that journey, is something that only Amy could have taught me how to do.

Please do me a favour today, and everyday, and remember that addiction doesn’t discriminate and sometimes there are factors in people’s lives that add kerosene to the fire. Not everyone has the tools and what it takes to extinguish that flame.

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ON REALIZING THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY: FORWARD

I’ve finally figured out how to describe what it feels like to go from who you were before to the vivid, sparkling present. It kinda feels like a form of…grieving?

I couldn’t find a photo I liked for the header so please enjoy this photo of me from Grade 7 when I still had a unibrow but didn’t really know *how* to pluck it and only wore black t-shirts because I always had sweat stains. Simpler times.

I’ve always had a habit of talking about who I used to be. Especially when I would go on  dates, which, as my counsellor has pointed out to me, isn’t really relevant to who I am now.

It’s no secret. I have a lot of regrets and pain in my past which is why it’s such a *subject* for me. I mean, I’m writing a book about some of the stories FFS.

I’ve spent WAY too long ruminating it and letting things that happened years ago dictate how I would feel about myself on a day to day basis. I’ve allowed regret to make me feel like a Bad Person. I don’t know when, but at a certain point I have accepted and fundamentally acknowledged that my past is a part of me, but it isn’t *me* anymore.

So I asked myself the other day, at what point does the past intersect with the present?

When does the ‘before’ become the ‘who I am now’?

And how do you know when you’re internally shifting from one to the other? How do you know when it’s over?

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I only have a handful of photos from when I was a teenager because I didn’t have Facebook until I graduated high school. I almost completely erased them all or lost them over the years. This one is from 2008. In most of the pictures of myself from this time I am drunk, and if I recall correctly, this photo is no exception. I couldn’t bear for many years to look back and reflect on this time I spent struggling, feeling misunderstood and trying to fit in. It would always bring back a flood of memories about eating disorder recovery, depression, therapy, pain, binge eating, drinking till I blacked out, heartbreak and academics. Even typing this I still remember sitting in a bathroom stall scratching the skin off my knuckles till they bled. I remember shutting my parents out. I remember having my first panic attack. I remember believing that I was only in university classes in high school because I knew how to work hard, not because I was smart. But I also remember wearing a hoodie with a tall collar to cover up hickies, winning an award for having the highest grades, setting the carpet on fire in the drama room, making out with boys in forests and under bridges, fighting with my one of my best friend’s and making up in a food court (thank god @jocelynhummelt ), getting an underage drinking ticket, writing a 30-page screenplay, giving people who tried to cheat off me the wrong answers and being an unpaid production assistant on sets 😂 I haven’t always been able to look at photos like this one and remember both sides of the same period of my life. The parts that make me laugh and the parts that hurt my heart. I know it’s the magic of hindsight, but also I’ve learned that you can’t have one without the other. I still have both sides in me and that’s ok. I was messy, deep, loud, raunchy, creative, all over the map and over the top then, and I still am now. I wouldn’t change any of it.✨☺️✌️#10yearchallenge #throwbackthursday #tbt #teenagerposts

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Grief is associated with death. Which totally makes sense. But I think it also can be a way to describe the natural response loss or perceived loss, not just of someone or something you loved, but of anything. I’ll give credit where credit is due – I started thinking about grief differently when I read chapter seven of Rising Strong by Brené Brown.

I think this is the best way I’ve found so far to describe the internal shift between the before to the vivid, sparkling present. It kinda feels like a form of grieving.

Now, I won’t say that what I’ve felt is anything like losing a loved one who was close to me. I wouldn’t ever make that comparison. But I do find it interesting that the emotional process of moving through grief has been similar.

By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the stages of grief and loss below is a briefing:

  1. Denial and isolation;
  2. Anger;
  3. Bargaining;
  4. Depression;
  5. Acceptance.

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

I think it clicked when Brené explained in Rising Strong that change that is perceived as loss can spark grief.

I guess 2019 has been sort of a weird grieving process for me. A confusing, emotional, slow, weird sobering process letting my past go. A movement between the ‘before’ to the ‘who I am now.’ I’ve written about on my blog while I was in the early stages of it, but I’ve always struggled on how to express what this whole thing has felt like now that I can get my head around it.

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Sometimes our past has the ability to confront and/or overwhelm us. When triggered we tend to lose perspective and begin to act from a place of insecurity, fear, and hurt (rather than awareness and authenticity). When being faced with our past, it’s important to remain aware, engage in a dialogue with ourselves, identify our needs, and seek perspective or support (if needed). •• • • • #selfawareness #awareness #reflection #relationships #boundaries #triggers #mentalhealthtips #selfesteem #mentalhealth #psychology #psychotherapy #counseling #therapist #selfdiscovery #selfcare #selflove #lifetransitions #identity #authenticity #emotion #privatepractice #onlinetherapy #onlinecounseling #millennialtherapist #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmatters #past

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It’s a confusing process to release your past self and way of life. It’s that moment where you deeply realize everything is different and there’s absolutely no way to go backward. It’s only forward from here on out.

For some people this might feel more like one chapter ending and another beginning, or a subtle slow shift until one day you realize you deal with things so differently you barely recognize yourself.

But once I read Rising Strong, I realized it’s felt a lot like grief. Which is kind of upsetting in itself, because who am I to compare losing someone to leaving behind a part of myself? But it’s a loss. I held onto it so goddam tight. But now that I’ve forgiven myself and come to terms with almost every part of it, it’s feeling like getting out of bed in the morning and not knowing what to do with yourself. It’s having nostalgia about the past, while knowing you can never go back. 

It’s saying goodbye to the story I’ve always believed to be true about myself.

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My past self still haunts me. Not always, but sometimes. Slipping in when she finds an opening. She is a spectre. Not quite a memory — a way of being. Coming back to remind me that at one time I was a different person who set fire to everything just to watch it burn. I can’t see her when she visits me but I know she’s there. I can feel her replaying old memories on a projector onto the back of my mind. The full body sensation of shame that puts you right back there in that moment when your world revolved around whatever was happening. I feel my spine tingle, and I know I’m not safe here. I plant my feet and observe that everything keeps moving even if I stop. I can’t go back to that place and time where she was thriving and making me believe that destruction was the only option. I remind myself she’s a spectre. Gone but never forgotten. Her lessons and scorched earth are part of who I am today. She left me with almost nothing so as an act of survival, and mercy, I left her behind so I could start over. I was built from a new blueprint on the rubble she left behind. #realtalk #poemsofinstagram Photo by @mskanishaszekely

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I can say “I’m different,” all I want, but it really appears in the smallest of moments.

Walking home through downtown late at night totally sober and passing groups of people on the street searching for where to go next. Hearing slurred voices cheering and yelling and conversing while I’m on my balcony. Feeling the twinge of desire to participate but knowing that’s not my path anymore. Finding my way in this new way of life. Smiling to myself and sleeping soundly. 

Being so fully present that I can’t ignore things anymore. Learning how to tell people when I’m hurt and tackling conflict head on. Accepting that my “cut and run” mentality has kept me emotionally protected but not connected for far too long, and knowing it isn’t brave. Coming face to face with my people pleasing tendencies. Looking around and realizing the people I love most are imperfect and worthy of love, and so am I.

Having those dates where you return home and walk in the door and either a) smile to yourself as you hang your keys up and brush your teeth because it felt GREAT b) come home and yell WHAT THE FUCK MAN to yourself in your apartment and go straight for the carbs because you are seriously questioning your own judgement or c) come home, let out a big sigh and text your friends asking “why do I do this shit again?” Trying very hard to not overthink shit, but also not ignoring the obvious. Yenno?

Laughing. Laughing so much. For me, laughing at when shit goes wrong and knowing it’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean I’m a Bad Person. It just means shit happens. Being able (for the first time in my life maybe) to not take everything so seriously!!!!!

Sitting with the moments where it occurs to me I’m not living my values and feeling the bodily sensations come over me. Feeling the shame story cloud my brain. Sensing the alarm bells go off in my head to drown the feelings – peanut butter, Netflix, anything – because they are seriously uncomfortable. Resisting the screaming urge to turn away from myself in that moment. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. Finding the courage to get curious. Exploring ways forward that are within my integrity.

Realizing my tendency to worry endlessly. Realizing my tendency to overload myself even though time and time again it sucks the life out of me. Realizing my codependent tendencies. Owning my tendencies and accepting it all. In some cases, admitting that if I can’t find a solution on my own, maybe a therapist can help. 

Being truly, truly happy in a way that I don’t think I could really feel before.

Catching myself hustling for the approval of people who will never understand me, love me or respect me. Finding out that connection really has to begin with how you feel about yourself. Knowing, deeply, that you cannot plant a flower in concrete and expect it to grow. 

Letting go of the sense of certainty about my future I clung to so tightly. Deciding to uproot myself for a while (fall 2019) because it feels right. No clue what I’ll come home to or how I’ll feel on the other end of the extended trip I’m planning. Dealing with the fear related to that.

Crying so fucking much. Because there have been many times where I can’t keep it together during these confusing times where my past tendencies push up against who I want to be now. Releasing because my body can’t keep things packed down anymore after years of doing that.

Forgiving myself for what I cannot change and allowing it to make me better. Because as I’ve figured out the hard way, there are no other options or shortcuts past this part.

“…When I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.”

The Book of Forgiving

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As I write this, I’m sitting on my balcony listening to Beyoncé’s Homecoming album drinking a non-alcoholic beer thinking about every summer before this one. I’ve never felt this different. Maybe it’s because for the first time ever, summer doesn’t really represent what it once did for me. It doesn’t hold the same kind of reckless promise, but I’m realizing that’s for the best. Summer doesn’t mean I start worrying about wearing shorts or preoccupying myself with the grand question if this is the summer I will *finally* grow a thigh gap. The answer is no. It will always be no, and that’s a-fucking-ok with me. Hotter weather just means I continue to wear what’s comfortable and makes me feel like…me. The idea of an open afternoon conjures bigger plans then sitting outside getting sunburnt while drinking pitcher of sangria followed by a nap to sleep it off (only to wake up in the evening hungover). It might mean I get up early to go for a hike or read a chapter of a book on some good grass somewhere. It definitely means no hangovers. Summer doesn’t mean I feel heightened expectations or weird irresponsible urges to have a fling. Be impulsive because of the heat and beer. Avoid tough conversations because they aren’t “good vibes only.” Summer just means I’m gonna keep doing me, loving the absolutely shit out of the people in my life and being honest with myself and others about what’s working and what isn’t. I don’t need to go wild to feel alive anymore. The start of this summer feels wayyyy different than every single previous one, and I’m just gonna tip my head back, feel the sun on my face and take it all in 🌞 P.s. The day after a breakup I was trying to distract myself so I ended up spending like $200 on decor in Marshall’s and bought this stone squirrel. Her name is Spinelli 🐿 #sobercurious #summer #livingoutloud #wholehearted

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It’s quite simple: I was always worthy of love and belonging but I never believed it, so I never acted in ways that aligned with those beliefs. Even now I struggle to believe it half the time but half the time is better than no time. I am still in it, this process. Progress over perfection and what not.

I suppose I am grieving the part of my life where I did not love myself. Where everything was a sign I was a Bad Person. Where there was very little questioning and a whole lot of self-destruction. Where I only directed criticism at myself and not kindness. Where I so badly and deeply wanted connection but was too scared to show up authentically in order to really let it happen.

It’s weird…because I thought at many points in my life I did this work already.

I thought I had done it. But I know better now. Even as I write this I’m still not done, but I know there’s a difference between this process and maturing.

Maybe there were some token moments of accepting that I couldn’t change the past, but they weren’t coupled with a healthy dose of compassion and forgiveness. There was an attempt to own my story and who it has made me into, but no execution. I wasn’t ready to accept my story.

I know it’s different now because there’s only one way forward.

Which is what my favourite movie scene is all about and I will endlessly repeat this quote because it’s too perfect:

I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you any good at that?

Silver Linings Playbook

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