Self-Care is Important, Y’all

There’s something we need to talk about, folks. Today, we’re talking about this little thing called self-care. This is going to be as short and sweet as I can make it, because as you’ll see below, I’m focusing on this big-time.

Self-care is not only important—it’s a necessity. When life kicks into high gear, when it’s throwing things at you from this way and that, it’s easy to get consumed. And while you’re doing the best you can, becoming overwhelmed is a possibility at every turn. This can result in so many things.

Irritability.

Tears. Lots of tears.

Burnout.

Exhaustion.

And sometimes, you can become lost. You can forget who you are. You forget where your identity lies. And that may be worse than any level of exhaustion.

Trust me. I know this well. Because I’m there.

We absolutely need to have each other’s backs in this crazy life-thing, but we often forget to have our own backs. We give and we give and we give, to both our work and to others, and if we don’t refill ourselves…well, we’re drained. Empty.

So, what does self-care look like? It’s different for everyone. If you’re in a pretty good place, little things like an afternoon cup of tea and a great book may do wonders. But if you’ve let yourself go past that point (*eyes self*), then you may need to go bigger.

– Find your core group. Spend time with them. Reconnect. These are the people you do life with. These are the ones who know you, know you—the ones who won’t let you get away with “I’m fine.” These are the ones who’ll call you on your crap while meeting you for coffee.

– Pinpoint what is life-draining, and what is life-giving. If you can eliminate the life-drainers, do it. Drop them like a hot potato.

– Take a step back. Close your calendar. Take a social media hiatus. Focus on your top priorities, and give your best to them. Much like the life-drainers, if you’re able to eliminate anything here, do it.

Self-care is not selfish. Taking a step back is not selfish. Focusing on your mental health is not selfish. All of these—they’re necessary. Because if you don’t take care of yourself, there’s no way you’ll be able to take care of others.

Take care, friends. ❤

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Lessons Learned in 2014

2014 was a big year for me. There were no huge events or celebrations; most of the year was spent at home, revising and editing PLAY ON, revising a secret YA Contemporary, and drafting the follow-up to PO. So what made this such a big year? I learned. A lot. And in true-to-me form, I’m going to share some of those things with you guys.

1) It’s Okay to Say No

I’ve always been a people-pleaser, almost to a fault. I would say “yes” first, and figure out how to make it work later. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is when you become overwhelmed with all the have-to-dos. When you agree to be everywhere at once, you stretch yourself too thin. What happens to a rubber band that’s stretched too far? It snaps.

And I snapped. More than once.

When you say yes to everything, you’re unable to truly focus on the things that matter. So about midway through the year, I made a list of priorities, and those get my “yes” first. These are my best yeses. These are the things that are right for me. These are the things that get my full attention. And then, if I have time to spare, I’ll move on to something else.

Lesson learned: it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to admit that you’re one person, and you’re only capable of so much.

2) It’s Okay to Take a Break

Life is crazy. It’s hectic. You go and go and go, non-stop for days. Maybe you’re a writer and your calendar’s full of deadlines. Maybe you’re a parent and you’re in survival mode with an infant or toddler who always needs something. Maybe it’s your brain, which just won’t slow down.

You’re tired. You’re worn. You’re looking at a blank screen or at a baby who won’t sleep. You’re looking in the mirror, at a person who’s broken and exhausted and just tired. Maybe you actually say the words “I need a break.”

Take one.

Walk away from the computer. If your baby is fed and dry, place them in their crib and walk away for five minutes, or call a friend or family member and ask for help. If you’re locked inside your head and your thoughts won’t slow down for you, close your eyes. Breathe. Listen to music. Take a walk. Take a hot shower. Call a hotline. Call your therapist, if you have one. Do what you need to do keep yourself healthy.

I had more than one breakdown this year. I’ll likely have more than one in 2015 because hey, this is me we’re talking about–it happens. But this is when you need to have your safe place. And when you need a break? Run like heck until you reach that place. And remember: just breathe.

3) I Don’t Have it All Figured Out. And that’s Okay.

I’m a planner. I need a plan. I need to know what’s going to happen today, and tomorrow, and next week. But sometimes life throws a curveball, and you’re left wondering where the heck everything went wrong. Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe you completely screwed something up.

It happens.

Mistakes and screw-ups suck. Feeling defeated is downright miserable. But the important thing here is to give yourself some grace, and remember that it happens to everyone. It’s part of life. Forgive yourself, tuck the lesson into your back pocket, dust yourself off, take the consequences in stride, and keep going. And honestly? Some of the best lessons in my life have come from screwing up.

4) Do What’s Right for Yourself

This one is short and sweet. Repeat after me: You will never, ever, ever please everyone. Someone, somewhere, is going to find fault in something you do. Make the choices that are right for you.

In 2014, I grew. I learned. I acknowledged that I still have a lot of growing and learning to do. And I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll see y’all in 2015. ❤

Just Breathe

Tomorrow will be better.

It’s something I tell myself on the bad days. The rough nights. The moments when I feel like absolutely nothing is going right, or when my brain decides to do its own thing and goes barreling through that fun, fun tunnel of darkness. (Spoiler alert: it’s not fun.)

Tomorrow will be better.

And sometimes that’s a lie. I don’t know it at the time, of course, but I’ve become well aware that tomorrow isn’t always better. But it gives me that tiny little bit of hope I need to keep going until I fall asleep. And hope? Hope is a major driving force, not only for those dealing with depression, but for anyone. Because the bad days don’t discriminate.

Hope is powerful. Hope is that tiny sliver of light at the end of the tunnel, the light that you strive to reach. Hope is the better day, the clearer mind, the more peaceful heart.

Tunnels are long. But they don’t last forever. And no, tomorrow isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s not even the next day, or the next. But one thing is for certain: I have a pretty good track record at getting through the bad days. And if you’re reading this, I’d venture to say that you do, too.

The sunrise brings new chances. New beginnings. New opportunities. New surprises. You may feel the same way you felt yesterday. You may feel like you’re going through the motions, but the utterly amazing thing about this world is that there are always new ways to be surprised.

Life is kind of awesome that way.

And so I’ll leave you with something that’s probably incredibly clichéd, but it reminds me to relax, even for the briefest of moments. And if you’re yearning for a better tomorrow and it just doesn’t seem to come, I hope this serves as a reminder for you, as well.

Breathe. Just breathe. Because it will get better. We’ve done this before. We can do it again.

Why I Keep Talking About “It”

While chatting with someone yesterday, the topic of depression came up. I mentioned (very casually, might I add) something about my own experience, and this person asked me a question that really caught me off-guard.

Why do you keep talking about it?”

The person may not have meant it this way, but their question came across as an attack rather than genuine curiosity. But in case they (and anyone else reading) are actually curious, then I do have a few answers.

– To let others know that they’re not alone.

– To let others know that it’s okay to admit that they’re not okay.

– To let others know that, while depression is a daily battle, there is hope.

– Because it helps me heal.

Prior to my own diagnosis, I had no idea that depression was so widespread. I had no clue that so many people suffered in silence, that there were so many others who felt at war with their own minds. And so I talk about my own experience so that maybe, just maybe, it helps others see that it’s not just them. That there is a light at the end of that excruciatingly long tunnel. And yes, talking about it helps me. Hiding depression is like hiding a secret that eats away at you, slowly, slowly, slowly, until there’s nothing left but the pain, the loneliness, the downright agony. Being a shell of a person with nothing but the ache inside is no way to live. Being honest with myself, and with others, frees me of that.

Sure, the openness makes me vulnerable (especially to people who attack me for speaking out), but it’s also brought me so much closer to others. I’ve received messages from people I’ve known for years, saying, “Yes. This is me. Right now, this is me. Thank you.” And for that, it’s all so very worth it.

When All You Can Do is Sit

Today was rough.

One of the sucky things about depression is that it doesn’t care if the sun is shining, or if you’ve had a great morning, or if you just don’t have the energy to fight it off that day. Actually, I think if depression were a person, it’d be a jerk who loves to kick others when they’re down.

For me, days like these can go a number of ways. Sometimes a walk helps. Sometimes a scroll through Pinterest will brighten me up. Sometimes all it takes is the perfect song. Today wasn’t so easy, though it wasn’t nearly my worst–it ended with me sitting on the kitchen floor, listening to my kiddo play happily in his room and watching the dog sling around his stuffed dinosaur while dinner cooked. It’s been a while since I’ve hit a moment like that, when all I was capable of doing was sitting there, staring.

Moments later, my kiddo ran into the kitchen, a huge grin on his face, and plopped into my lap. Within minutes, I was smiling and laughing along with him.

And then I realized that, while it’s great to have someone help you to your feet, having someone who’ll sit with you on the kitchen floor is even more powerful.

It’s not as simple as dusting yourself off and getting back up. So if you’re reading this and you’re suffering from the ruthless depression jerk, I hope you have someone who will sit with you during your rough moments.

You Are More

You are more.

You are more than your past.

You are more than the choices you’ve made.

You are more than your mistakes.

You are more than the scars on your arm or on your heart. You are more than the tear stains on your cheeks. You are more than the ache of depression.

You are a person. You have hopes, and dreams, and aspirations. You have people you love and who love you. You have air in your lungs and blood in your veins.

And because of these things, you have a purpose. There’s a reason for the beat of your heart. There’s a reason you’re still here.

Life isn’t easy. It isn’t always fair. Sometimes we suffer, we cry, we ache, and we bleed. And more than anything, I wish I knew the reason for that pain. But in a way, I get it. It’s because of that pain that we’re living testimonies to the strength inside us.

You may not feel strong, but you are. I know you are. Because you’re still here. You may have fought tooth and nail to make it through another night of heartache and tears, but today, you are here. You are alive. And that makes you strong. It makes you a fighter.

The beauty of a new day is that it brings a new opportunity to move forward. To breathe. To live.

You are more than your past. You are stronger than you realize. You are here today. And that is beautiful.

If you’re struggling in any way, there are people who want to help.

The Trevor Project’s 24/7 lifeline for LGBTQ youth: 1-866-488-7386

National Suicide Prevention 24/7 Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

To Write Love on Her Arms: http://twloha.com/blog

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

I’m not always okay.

It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable saying those words in general, let alone in public. I wasn’t even going to post this, but I got to thinking (as I so often do). Since opening up about my depression about a year and a half ago, I’ve become more and more outspoken about taking care of yourself when you feel yourself slipping. Depression is a very slippery slope, and if you don’t grab on to every rock you can while going down that mountain, you’ll plummet to the bottom in the blink of an eye.

You have to grab every rock, every crevice, every edge that you can possibly reach. Even if you can’t reach it, you need to try. But sometimes . . . sometimes, you don’t even feel like trying. I’m not at that place–I’m trying, I swear to you–but that point sneaks up on you like a thief in the middle of the night. It blindsides you, hits you when you least expect it.

A key part of managing depression is being proactive, which is almost incomprehensible when you’re in the thick of things. This can vary from person to person: medication, regular exercise, staying away from certain foods (some foods are actually triggers for me), therapy, etc. One person may just need meds; another may need all of this, and then some.

I have a confession: I stopped taking my meds a while back. I know, I know–huge mistake. I did this under the supervision of a therapist, who agreed that with exercise, dietary changes, and proper sleep, I was thriving. Then, I stopped seeing my therapist–another huge mistake. For almost a year, I’ve been going at this alone. There have been ups and downs, and I just thought that hey, I’ve GOT THIS. Sleep. Eat. Exercise. Repeat.

Sleep. Eat. Exercise. Repeat.

Sleep. Eat. Exercise. Repeat.

…and then, those things weren’t enough anymore. A couple months ago, I started slipping again. I could feel it. That’s the good thing about accepting your depression: you’re more in tune with your warning signs. And mine were shining brighter than the freakin’ sun.

Step 1: Today, I saw my therapist for the first time in nearly a year. Step 2: Appointment with my doctor to discuss medication options. Step 3: Don’t try to go at this alone anymore.

Which brings me back to why I’m posting this. I talk a lot about seeking out the care you need, about taking care of yourself, about believing in yourself and in your story. For a while, I lost sight of that. But I’m trying. I’m really, really trying to be the Michelle that I know I can be.

I’m not always okay. But I will be.