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anxiety

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Therapy Changed My Perspective; Maybe It Will Change Yours Too 768 1024 samantha

Therapy Changed My Perspective; Maybe It Will Change Yours Too

Honestly I write these blogs for myself because I enjoy the process of writing it down, I’m not trying to be a blogger and 2017 me who started this blog didn’t know what I wanted to do with it either. These blogs have become an online peanut trail, so to speak, for myself as I move through life. I heard someone say once, “it’s about the becoming.” So if you’re reading this, I guess you get a peak into life through my eyes and if it helps you in anyway, I’m glad it did and hope you’ll carry it with you to pass on to someone else eventually.

For many many years, even through college, I made the determination that I just wasn’t someone that needed therapy. While I fully supported others in it, I was curious, but I felt like I didn’t really need it. I had a good head on my shoulders, could handle things that came my way, and if I really needed to talk to someone I had my mom; she gave great advice and I trusted her. I also felt like although therapists are certified and have gone through professional training, they’re also just humans. So a percentage of the advice they give, though I’m not sure how big that percentage might be, is still based on their own life experience, their own bias (as much as they try to be unbiased.) Mostly, I didn’t trust that I would be guided in the right direction by essentially a stranger with a certification.

I tried to go to therapy once early on in college, but I gave up, finding it a hassle to find someone affordable since my insurance didn’t cover it back then, and ultimately after not connecting with the therapist I went to (after one session), I was done. I didn’t leave feeling like I got anything from it and the thought of finding someone else was overwhelming. And that was that.

Fast forward a few years later. It’s 2019 and my anxiety is beginning to be unmanageable. It was affecting my day-to-day productivity and overall state of being. I would wake up so many days filled with dread because I didn’t understand how to manage the cloud of anxiety closing in on me every single day. I hid it really well, so only the people closest to me knew about it. I was spiraling down into bouts of anxious thoughts and I hated it. I really didn’t understand how to be happy or help myself. The only things I knew to do were to journal about it and talk to those I love. And while that can be helpful, it’s also not their responsibility.

There’s a journal entry I have from early December 2019. It’s weird to re-read some of these things, because I’m so far from the person I was last year. I don’t even recognize that girl and I think I knew at the time I didn’t really even like myself and who I was amidst all the anxiety and lack of self confidence, but I didn’t know how to pinpoint that.

I woke up and started crying because I feel so stuck and unhappy. I’m struggling with my happiness and I don’t know how to fix it. This feels never ending. 

I then went on to write for two pages about all the what-if scenarios of my life. What direction I’ll go in, where my career will go, what will happen with my relationship, etc. just filled with anxiety.

And then in January 2020 the relationship I was in came to a blindsiding ending. Everything that I thought I knew, thought I believed in, thought about myself, about that relationship, about my place in this world was completely shattered. The good that I so deeply believed in was shattered by reality. Life isn’t always fair and people aren’t always good to us. Sometimes people have this one event or moment in their life that wakes them up, and this was it for me. Everything didn’t revolve around the ending of that relationship, but that ending was the catalyst for me to look at all the other parts of me and my life. I always think of a book called “To Shake Thy Sleeping Self,” which I haven’t even read, but that title has always stuck with me. It was as if I was sleeping before. For me, I think of my life in two halves up until this point: who I was before 2020 and who I am now.

The trajectory that I was on, at least internally, completely re-routed. Thank fucking goodness for that. For me, that was the last straw of sitting in my unhappiness and anxiety any longer. I don’t think I really experienced being depressed until that breaking point and I’m not even sure I really knew it at the time. I just knew that every day for months was dark. I know that I was tossed aside and then metaphorically locked up with my thoughts when the world went into a global pandemic. I ached for things and people that did not ache for me back. I told my mom I was quitting acting for sure and possibly everything else I do in the film/TV industry because I didn’t think it was bringing me happiness anymore. I didn’t understand where my worth lies or how to be happy and content from within. Honestly I wasn’t sure what would make me happy and the thought of living life everyday feeling that way felt like torture. I tried hard to convince myself otherwise. I would have bouts of clarity, like when I wrote this blog post in March, and while it made me feel better for a while, I was still trying to convince myself of those things. I knew there was truth in it, to just be grateful for another day of life, but I didn’t understand this massive shift I was experiencing.

But what I did know was I didn’t want to be that person that said they were going to work on themselves and then put a bandaid on it. I did that before years ago and it wasn’t until two years later I realized what I had done really. I went from a long-term relationship and jumped right into another one after that. No time to really sit with or process one ending, no time to wholeheartedly work on myself. In fact I look back and realize I hadn’t had a long period of time where I wasn’t in a relationship with anyone. And while I do believe you always grow in some form, there’s a specific type of transformation within that happens when you work on yourself, by yourself. I promised myself that I wanted to be a better version of myself and that I wanted to work on myself this time. And I was so done feeling this debilitating anxiety and not understanding my own happiness. So I committed to going to therapy.

It’s not easy and when I say it’s a commitment, it’s a fucking commitment. But I was and am so committed to myself and my growth and honoring everything I deserve and if you’re reading this wondering if you do too– you absolutely do. It’s not an easy process and I think anyone who has gone to therapy will tell you that, but eventually the grind work settles and you get to reap the rewards. The reality is I had to do research to find therapists that were in-network with my insurance (what a headache, but I was grateful my insurance covered it) and then I went to 5 different therapists before sticking with the 5th one. FIVE. (2nd headache). Do you know how exhausting it is to tell people about you and where you’re at in life time and time again before you find someone you like? Oh man, so very exhausting. And I wanted to throw in the towel after the second one. But I kept going and if that’s where you’re at in your process, don’t give up.

Now, I’ve been consistently going to therapy this entire year and it has honestly changed my life. What I didn’t understand before, that I hope to help anyone entertaining the idea of therapy to understand, is that therapy isn’t about you sitting on a couch crying to someone about your problems. The right therapist will shine the light on things you didn’t see before, both within yourself and those around you, they will widen your perspective and challenge your way of thinking, and they will give you the tools and the proper thought-patterns you need to manage whatever it is you need to manage. After a while, it feels like you’re talking to an old friend or family member. Like a cool aunt who just gets it, or at least that’s what it felt like for me.

I learned SO many things in therapy this year, but here’s a few important things:

  • I learned to re-frame the way I thought about things. Once I trained my brain to do this, it was amazing how much my anxiety was manageable because I wasn’t spiraling out of control with my thoughts. I have never been so steady and calm within myself like I am now.
  • I realized how much I put others before myself and that I was always hardest on myself; mad at myself for feeling mad or sad, etc. I learned that it’s okay to feel the feelings. Just feel them and try your best to let it go.
  • I recognized my own behavior patterns both good and bad. I recognized the space I held for myself in the presence of others sometimes where I wouldn’t stand up for myself, or make sure my needs were being met, or have self confidence, or was fearful of certain things. And I became aware of times when I didn’t like how I handled my emotion or reaction to things or people. Recognizing habits that were engrained into who I was for so long and changing them, has affected me on a deep deep level because it changes your interactions with people, with your work, with how you move through the world. This realization changes how you present yourself to others, how you talk, how you navigate problems. The list goes on.
  • I learned how much childhood affects who we are today and how our parents deeply affect who we are. And this is coming from someone who had a great childhood and I love my family to death. I’m very close with my family and there’s still things to look at from our childhood that have a great impact on who we are today. And for me this came up naturally in therapy. It was never, “So tell me, did you have a difficult childhood?” I would’ve hated that. Recognizing this also made me realize how the way I was treated in certain relationships was a direct affect of how they were treated. Inherently we sometimes subconsciously do the very things we hate, and therapy woke me up to that. Not only to see that within myself, but to recognize it in others.
  • I learned to be okay with the unknown. This was the biggest challenge for people like me that like to be in control, like to know what the plan is, etc. it’s so very hard to be in the unknown. But there’s so much freedom in it too. You don’t have to have everything figured out and allowing myself not to know has been a nice change of pace
  • I learned what it means to be happy on my own and to be happy within, and this one took a long time to understand. Mostly, because I understand happiness in a completely new light. It’s one thing to be alone and just survive. Before I dated anyone this year I was alone, yeah, but I was just surviving day to day. It’s something completely different to thrive and be genuinely happy when you’re by yourself. I’m so grateful to experience this massive inner growth now at this point in my life. I don’t know if I can explain it, but for me it was an inner feeling of peace that I hadn’t felt in years.
  • I learned that not everything is black and white 
  • I learned to trust my inner knowing

If you’ve read this far, congrats for getting sucked down this rabbit hole. Working on yourself is hard work and I’m sure you know a thing or two about that. Going to therapy isn’t just for when something is going really wrong in your life and if you’re considering it, here’s my take: just like a writer who writes a story, that individual only knows it from their perspective. If they give that same story to someone else, they’ll have a completely different take on it. Give yourself, give your story, to someone who will offer you a whole new way of thinking. Someone who will challenge you to shift your perspective, confront yourself, and love yourself better. Loving yourself better just means understanding yourself better, understanding why you are the way you are, so that you can love others better too. And even so you can recognize when someone doesn’t have the capacity to love you the way you deserve to be loved. Work on yourself so that you can move through this world a truly better version of who you are. So that the mark you leave on people is a good one, not a painful one.

reframing thoughts
Coming Back to a Reframing 768 1024 samantha

Coming Back to a Reframing

Much of this year has been about a reframing of things. A reframing of our thoughts. A reframing of our vision of what we thought this year would look like. A reframing of how we look at everything we’ve gone through in this tumultuous year, and even in our lives.

reframing thoughtsGetting outdoors has been so freeing for me this year. It has filled my cup up more than I know how to express. Being in nature always allows me to pause, to breathe in the little things, to acknowledge life as it is in that moment, and even sometimes to shift my perspective. In those moments when I’m away from the busy routines of everyday life, it feels like a coming home to what really matters most in life. I will look back on this year and know for me it was the year I said yes to every outdoor adventure opportunity that came my way. Next month I officially get my scuba diving license and I was almost convinced to go skydiving. Almost.

Last month I went to Big Sur and camped on a ridge 45 minutes up a mountain, high above the cloud cover. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and I enjoyed every second of that trip. I had been talking about going to Big Sur for years now, and as a California native, I truly have no explanation for why I hadn’t been yet. It was so nice not to have service, to completely disconnect. To make new friends with strangers. To watch the most memorable sunset and have the best sleep in a tent I’ve ever had. I remember we were watching the sunset amongst strangers and everyone was so grateful to be there witnessing nature do her thing. I felt so grateful for life in those moments and so unencumbered by anything else.

But the everyday-ness of our lives sometimes still find ways to seep in during those moments of isolated clarity. Somehow a text from my boss had gotten through the no-service zone. My brain automatically went into stress mode, thinking about anything that might need my attention at work. I didn’t even bring my laptop in the car so that I could properly disconnect. Did I accidentally cause myself more stress by so intentionally disconnecting? By not tuning in to any of my responsibilities on this trip, would it be worse come Monday? Was disconnecting and relaxing actually just avoiding the reality of work and life? But just as quickly as the stress came on, I came back to something so relevant for me this year. A reframing.

Something someone taught me this year that’s been so transformative is how to reframe our thoughts. Instead of me looking at reframing thoughtsmy weekend away as me “disconnecting at first, but only for things to be so hectic come Monday,” I reframed it to: this rest is necessary for me to go back to work fully charged and with energy to begin again.

When I can feel my energy shift, feel the future-stressing creep in, feel that some anxiety is coming on, this reframing perspective has changed the way I look at things. It’s about asking myself: how else can I think about xyz, that still rings true for me?

Reframing is a tool though, not a crutch. And reframing isn’t supposed to take the place of a gut reaction to something you know doesn’t align with your highest good. I can reframe some things that have happened to me this year as necessary for my growth and necessary to level up, instead of a waste of time. Recognizing the positive shift from a negative thought that doesn’t really serve me to a more appropriate thought that feels forward moving is powerful. It’s amazing what you can train your brain to do. But I try to be mindful of that power of shifting thoughts vs. not listening my gut feeling of: this (fill in the blank) really doesn’t feel good to me, but it’s necessary to listen to that gut feeling.

Like I said back in March, life is FOR you. So if I can find a way to reframe things that align with me and that make me feel good, that’s exactly what I’ll do to give it my best efforts to stay present and peaceful.

Your Focus Creates Your Feeling 681 1024 samantha

Your Focus Creates Your Feeling

I am someone who fully believes that change and growth is needed to continue to be the best version of yourself, but change can still be a hard thing sometimes. When things are going good in your life and you have a nice routine going, who really wants change?

I’ve struggled with anxiety for a few years now and only within this past year have I truly started to understand how my thinking can change my emotional world.

My anxiety really started in college. It’s not that any single decision I made or new experience I was going through was particularly bad, but it started when I was hit with the realization that for once, I wasn’t completely sure what path I was taking or what was ahead. I stressed HARD on the what-ifs, lost sleep on whether I was making the right life decisions, and my body was physically struggling to keep up with me. When I felt riddled with anxiety, it’s like my mind hyper-focuses on all the negatives. For a little while it feels like things are just not going to get better. No, it’s not like over-thinking something. With anxiety, it feels like being thrown into a panic to try to solve a Rubik’s cube, only the harder you try to solve it, the worse it becomes.

I took time to sit and get honest with myself (and through too many phone calls with my personal on-call 24/7 therapist: my mom). What I’ve learned this year that truly has changed my way of thinking is this: my focus creates my feeling. Whatever holds our attention, molds our intention.  

It might sound so obvious, but for the most part we can control our thoughts. (This is of course with respect to any mental illness that simply doesn’t allow that). It’s crazy when I stop to think that I have the ability to stop myself when I’m sitting there thinking of all the possible things that can go wrong. When life seems to come to a halt and a dark cloud lingers over and all we can do is replay a little movie in our head with something negative or bad, we have the ability to think: ‘No. I’m not going to think that way. Instead, I’m going to dwell on all the positive outcomes that could happen and be grateful for all the good things in my life.’ My focus creates my feeling.

When I feel such anxiety over the what-ifs or play negative conversations or situations in my head that couldhappen, I realize I have the power to change that. I can immediately stop and tell my mind: ‘you’re better than that.’ Sometimes when I have anxiety, I truly couldn’t even tell you why. This sinking feeling hits me and I’m hard pressed to figure out what the heck is going on. But instead of feeling like I’m sinking, I actively tell myself to change my thoughts.

I stumbled across this verse from Philippians 4:8. Even if you don’t consider yourself religious, this is a sweet little reminder to dwell on the positive things when you’re feeling low.

“Fix your thoughts on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

 This is no easy task, though. It’s hard to block out the negative downward spiral when anxiety hits, and even harder to convince yourself to start dwelling on the positives. But through trial and error I’ve found that if I can tell myself, “you are okay, right here, right now,” I can usually lead myself to think about the positive things happening in my day or my life. That switch from worry and fear to gratitude may not solve everything 100%, but it leads me back to the present.



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