An Ode to Self-Love.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” —Brené Brown

Where do I begin?

It feels unfamiliarly odd to be writing right now. My ‘mini-break’ turned out to be much longer than intended. A lot of soul searching. A lot of questions. A lot of doubts. And a whole lot of tears. More tears than I ever wanted to experience. And although it felt painful; many sleepless nights filled with overwhelming anxiety, it felt unbelievably necessary. Detoxing is never easy. And I don’t mean clean diets to flush out your digestive system. I mean truly detoxing what needs to be removed from your life all together. Detoxing bad habits, toxic ways of thinking. Detoxing and separating yourself from people who do not have your best interest. IT’S NEVER EASY. I haven’t written in two months because honestly, I was not in a good place emotionally. The holidays were a painful reminder of what could be, rather than what was. I had high hopes for the New Year. A fresh start, a new slate. Instead what I got was a harsh realization that nothing heals overnight. Seems like everyday I struggled with accomplishing simple tasks, such as laundry and cooking. Sleeping became impossible. Weeks and weeks spent being sleep deprived and feeling defeated. I like to think of myself as an over achiever. Not being able to write, focus on work, plan a wedding, or even do simple household tasks had me feeling like the ultimate failure. Nothing brings you down like self-pity. It festers inside of you until it erupts like a volcano. Then before you know it, everyone is looking at you like a hot head and trying to dodge your self-pitied lava that seems to burn everything in sight, including yourself. And you really want to know what’s almost unbearable? Truly looking at yourself and realizing in some way, shape, or form, you have contributed to your own unhappiness. This is what I have been up to in my absence.

Self-love does not always look like bubble baths and candles. Sometimes self-love requires you to sit in your own darkness and push yourself to find the light. Here comes the transparency: I’m not there yet. But I am taking great strides in reaching that light. My form of self-love was disconnecting and spending time in solitude. I uninstalled all my social media apps from my phone. I suffer from FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. I would scroll and scroll and compare myself to other people in their pictures. They all looked so…happy. And I would think to myself, “What do I have to do to feel what they are feeling?” Cue even more self-pity. I have this incredible knack of putting myself down. Sometimes I find myself wondering why certain people are not accepting of me, or why I constantly feel like an outsider. I can be in a room full of people and still feel utterly alone. It really is a curse. During the month of January, I barely talked to anyone or even went outside to events or hangouts with friends. Everything felt too hard, too overwhelming. I would look at myself in the mirror and think, “wow, you really look how you feel- miserable.” I began questioning my self-worth and competence in almost every area of my life. What’s even worse, I started questioning those around me. And because of this, I isolated myself because I was convinced that no one would want to be around me like this. I finally decided it was time to go to the doctor. Not only because the lack of sleep was affecting my mental health but because it was affecting my physical health as well. I had a hard time concentrating. I would struggle with migraines daily. I began having neck and back pain. There were even a couple of times when I would get so lightheaded that my vision would fade. I went to the doctor and although I haven’t received a definitive answer as to why I cannot sleep besides the obvious reason of struggling with my anxiety, one thing was confirmed by the doctor- I am moderately depressed. He prescribed me medication, which normally I am against, but it was time to throw the white flag and accept that I need help and no longer have control. Self-love is recognizing you need help and cannot do it all on your own. I still need to get blood work done and I am looking into therapy, but for now, I seem to be sleeping better these days. I have been diving into reading more. A book a month is my overall goal. The clarity about disconnecting from social media is the realization that you have this abundance of time to do other hobbies and really connect with yourself. So that’s exactly what my focus has been on. My form of self-love is realizing that I am not okay and that’s okay. It’s okay to put certain things on hold in your life to make sure you are catering to your own well-being. It’s perfectly okay to take some time apart from your normal activities. If you don’t show up for yourself, how can you expect yourself to show up for others. Self-love is recognizing that you can no longer neglect yourself.

I turned 30 on January 30, 2020. A new decade of life. My 20s were filled with lessons. I am sure my 30s will be no different. The only difference is the realization that I have the power to truly love myself and be unapologetic about my flaws. I am imperfectly perfect. I am a 30-year-old who suffers from anxiety and depression but that does not make me a victim. It’s only an acknowledgement for the purpose of continuing my journey of healing. I am intelligent. I am beautiful. I am strong. My capacity to feel does not make me weak. It does not hinder me. I will always honor the compassion within me. It’s what makes me, me. No one can do me like me. That is what separates me from the next person. Our qualities are what separates us from others and makes us so special. But in the same respect, self-love is acknowledging the areas of yourself that could use improvement. I told myself I would return to social media on my birthday. I had it all planned. A fire selfie with a caption filled with nothing but positivity. Reposts of my birthday shout outs. It was all so…ridiculous. Like why? Why did any of this matter?! It didn’t. Ego is a scary and powerful quality within us all. It will have you feeling so entitled and will make anything seem overly important, even if it isn’t. What was even worse is that for a moment, I thought the validation of others would make me happy. Why did I need this kind of validation to feel loved? How can genuine love come from a social media app? I should have the ability to feel loved and valued regardless. Furthermore, I should not feel the need to post to show others that I am having such a great time on my birthday. I really had to put myself in check that day. In the end of my whole thought process, I decided to enjoy my birthday to the fullest. To be present in the moment and express gratitude for another year of life. And that’s exactly what I did. I took myself to the spa and got a deep tissue massage and facial. I met up with one of my best friends and we had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. I celebrated life with my other best friend and met her new baby, who was born just 5 days prior. And then I went home and packed for a weekend at the Smoky Mountains. Me and five other friends had a blast in Tennessee. I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome a new decade. I am excited for what the years will bring. Like fine wine, I only get better. I vow to accept change, to accept love, to accept the obstacles, to accept whatever life throws at me. I will work at accepting it all. But most importantly, I vow to accept myself wholeheartedly, with all of my flaws and imperfections. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the true essence of self-love. It takes constant work and effort. You will fall and rise and then fall again. You will have to brush the dirt off your own shoulders. At times, you will have to be your biggest cheerleader and your own support system. But if you always do your best, you cannot fail. I’m excited to be back into the flow of writing. Only time will tell what will happen from here. The poem below was written by me a few months ago, but never published. The irony is that I resonate with it so much more now than I did then. Sending everyone so much love and pocketing some for myself.

An Open Letter.

Hey Ang,

How have you been? I heard you was uneasy and that you needed a friend.

I heard you haven’t been sleeping. I heard you just stay up. Worrying about everything you cannot solve because nothing is ever enough.

I heard you cry when no one is looking because others ignore your pain. So, you stand there with a smile hoping the pain will fade.

I heard you show up for others and often forget yourself. Because being labeled ‘selfish’ is not what you want to be about.

I heard you fear judgement because this world can be so cold. You have abandonment issues that won’t go away, no matter how old.

I heard you have resentment issues. Issues resent you back. I heard the biggest resentment issues you struggle with, stay tied to your back.

But hey, who am I to judge? I’m only a reflection of what you can be if you learn how to just love yourself.

I can show you. I can offer my help. But you are going to have to stop acting like you have everything under control.

Sit down and listen- this is what you do. Get up every morning and remember to always do you.

Remember how far you have come. Give yourself a break. Grant yourself some grace and let all the doubts escape.

You are beautiful. You are intelligent. You are loved. Your value is not based on anyone’s opinions because you always rise above.

You are resilient and brilliant. You have gone through so much. Do yourself a favor and start showing yourself some love.

And if you ever need a reminder, I’m always here for you, love. I’ll always be your biggest supporter to boost you all the way up.

One day you won’t have to look for me in the mirror. One day that self-love won’t feel like an impossible thing to do. And in that moment, you’ll remember the rose that bloomed from the concrete. The rose that became you. 

Love always,

Your Reflection

Life After Death: 8 Ways to Cope with Grief During the Holidays

“As long as I live, you will live.”- Unknown

As the temperatures begin to cool and the leaves on the trees begin to change colors, it becomes more evident that the holiday season is quickly approaching us all. Usually a time of year that brings joy to many people, is a painful reminder to those who will not be spending those cherished holidays with their loved ones who have passed. Losing a loved one is never easy, and there are no easy solutions to offer that can heal the pain- only time can do that. And even then, it remains a faded scar engrained in our hearts. However, there are a few tips that will not only help someone to learn how to cope with grief during the holidays but will also allow that person to honor their loved ones during this precious time that comes year after year.

1. Acknowledge that the holidays will be tough without your deceased loved one(s).

Unfortunately, denial will never grant you the opportunity to heal. The first step is acceptance. Mentally prepare yourself for any emotions that may surface during the holidays. Know that it is completely okay to feel this pain; be present in it. It might even help to keep a journal to further explore your emotions and transform your pain into something tangible- to release.

2. Accept that other people may not be grieving with you.

I’m sure this sounds harsh, but it’s a reality. When I lost my baby, all I could do was grieve and then become extremely angry when others did not understand my pain. Please do not do this to yourself. I’m speaking from a survival standpoint. Be mindful that you are valid in your pain, but others may not understand what you are feeling. It is perfectly healthy to lean on another loved one for moral support if you are respectful of the fact that they may not say or do the actions you consider to be the ‘right thing.’ And always say yes to those who offer support or help! It is coming from a loving place.

3. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one(s) who have passed.

So many times, we focus on the death of someone. We grieve and morn their loss, and this is normal. But it is acceptable to celebrate their life as well. Creating a new tradition not only keeps their memory alive but allows you to continually feel connected to your loved one for years to come.

4. Seek therapy.

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are not okay and need help sorting through those internal issues with a medically trained person. Often, emotions are at an all-time high during the holidays and may not be as easy to ignore compared to the rest of the year. Talk to someone. You deserve to take that load off your back.

5. Visit your loved one’s gravesite.

It sounds depressing, I know. But if you can handle to do this, it might be beneficial. Consider it a way to ‘catch up’ with your loved one. You can tell them about all the amazing things you have experienced this year, your holiday plans, your New Year’s resolutions, and so on. Tell them how much you miss them and are thinking of them. It is also an opportunity to bring a gift for them to leave at their gravesite during the holidays.

6. Join a support group.

Because not everyone may feel the same pain you are experiencing, sometimes it helps to speak with others who can relate. As humans, we have a vital need to connect to others. We crave it. We thrive off it. Not only are you able to vent to others who understand, you may be able to make new, meaningful relationships.

7. Be honest about how you feel.

This tip alone covers so much ground. Be honest about how you are feeling. Be honest with others if you do not want to engage in holiday activities or join others’ events. Be honest about wanting or needing help, someone to talk to. But most importantly, never feel guilty or apologize about your honest emotions! You must heal on your own time, in your own way. Those around you who love and support you will understand, especially considering the circumstances.

8. Remember to enjoy the holidays.

It is easy to become consumed with sadness during the holiday season without your loved one(s). But never forget the foundation of the holiday season- this foundation consists of love and joy. There is so much love and joy to be experienced during the holidays. I encourage you to feel these positive feelings. And once again, do not feel guilty for enjoying this season. Your loved one(s) would have wanted you to do the same. Honor them by celebrating life.

Sending so much love and light to those who are reading this column. For those who felt the need to read this because they are desperate for solutions- solutions to overcome the pain. You are not alone in your grief. You do not have to apologize for loving someone so much that it has completely interrupted your life in the most painful way. But I also want to tell you, that there IS life after death. Life continues; a constant that never stops moving. It is up to you to decide if you want to continue living it and not just existing. I read a beautiful quote while surfing the web that resonated deeply with me and I am hoping it brings comfort to those who need it. An unknown source states, “Perhaps they are not the stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” Your loved one(s) are at peace. With a kind heart and a virtual hug, I urge you to find your peace during this holiday season.

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Guardian of Dreams

“In dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own.” – Albus Dumbledore

Originating in Native American culture, dreamcatchers has symbolized strength and unity throughout many generations. The purpose of a dreamcatcher is to swing freely above your bed, catching dreams floating by. It is believed that the good dreams know how to pass freely through the dreamcatcher, while the bad dreams get tangled up as if they are insects caught in a spider’s web.

I’m an avid dreamer. My dreams are often vivid and constant. Some nights they make absolutely no sense, as if I’m trying to decipher Morse code. Other nights they are terrifying, causing me to jolt out of my sleep in night sweats. And some nights, they are so comforting that I long to live in the dream world permanently. One of my best friends made me a dreamcatcher as a Christmas gift last year that still hangs over my bed to this day. Earlier this year, I was in a very painful mental space. I wasn’t sleeping. My nightmares haunted me. I often questioned myself…my sanity. I felt as if every layer of skin was being peeled back to expose me. To everyone else, I seemed fine. But internally, waking up each day and participating as a normal citizen in life seemed more difficult than it should have.

I began journaling consistently. I would write down random thoughts, poems, vents, whatever could come to mind. Anything that would allow me some relief and clear my mind. A lot of my journal entries were often sad and filled with pain. The other night, I was looking through my old journal entries. Reading back on them often puts my present into perspective. I came across a journal entry from January 7, 2019. It was one of those sleepless nights. I spent the night sitting in the dark looking up to the dreamcatcher that hung over my bed. It reads:

Dreamcatcher hangs over my bed

Dreamcatcher, work your magic

Catch the unwanted dreams that sink into the depths of my soul

The painful, engrained memories that haunt me when my eyes close

The muffled cries that escape from my mouth and leaves me exposed

The ghosts of nightmare’s past, nightmares I refuse to let go

Dreamcatcher, please do not judge me

Please accept that I am wounded, scarred, and beyond your repair

Please hold my secrets and fears

Please secure them in your netted home

Shower your love and light over me throughout the darkest realms

Dreamcatcher, I am scared

No one has an idea

No one knows that I am darkness itself, disguised as a flower blooming in a field

So you’re wondering what is the purpose of sharing this? To show you that it is okay to be broken. It’s okay to rely on an object for strength. Religion, beliefs. Fantasies, or even magic. Sometimes we need a bit of magic to keep pushing ourselves to carry on. You believe in whatever you need to, as long it’s not self destructive. You see, like a dreamcatcher, we are all connected in our pain. Netted and entangled with our individual problems and situations. And when we realize that we are connected in pain, we become a unity and beacon of hope. We open channels for necessary conversations that will ultimately lead to our healing. We become strength itself. Some nights I find myself awake in the middle of the night, staring at my dreamcatcher. Thanking God, the universe, and my lucky stars that I am not in the same mental space as I was in before. Acknowledging that I still have some work to do within myself, to heal. And on those bad nights that creep up on my every now and then, I close my eyes and vow to release the thoughts to the dreamcatcher, hoping somehow it guides my message to God. Sending all of my love to those who need it and saving some for myself. Happy Tuesday, my beautiful readers!

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