Project; More than just a symbol

          Four years ago, I was in a dark place. I was questioning my  purpose in life and felt discouraged about being a social worker. I had become wayward and lost my way. It has been a long journey, but I am in a better place now. When I face moments of uncertainty, or struggle, when I feel like giving up, I look down at a tattoo that I strategically placed on my arm that states "Warr;or." Looking at this tattoo reminds me that I too am a warrior, and not defined by my limitations, the past, or what other people think.

        Warrior is defined by Meriam-Webster as: a person engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly: a person engaged in some struggle or conflict. To add to this definition, I see a warrior as someone who not only is a fighter but as a person of strength, courage and bravery.

          I want to make sure that you notice the word “Warr;or” and the spelling. The word itself carries a great deal of strength and hope for me.  It is a symbol of strength and hope. It reminds me of the importance of always being a warrior and to never back down.  This word reminds of the importance of fighting not only for myself, but well for those who don’t have a voice and experience the same struggles.  

           The semi-colon project defines the semi-colon tattoo meaning on their website as: “A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended but chose not to. The sentence is your life and the author is you.”  As someone who has been depression since the age of 14, it’s a reminder to keep going and that although I struggle with depression, it’s not the end of my story. I am still a work in progress.

          Project Semicolon is a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of suicide, based out of Colorado. The mission of their organization is to provide resources and support to those who are struggling with mental health. Their mission seemingly holds a belief that suicide is preventable and everyone can help with prevention. I first heard of the project four years ago. Their mission immediately resonated with me, as well as the spirit of their cause. As someone who has seen firsthand the catastrophe that happens when someone has a mental health condition, the impact can be devastating.

           Project semicolon was founded by Amy Bleuel. This excerpt was taken from her website: “Despite the wounds of a dark past I was able to rise from the ashes, proving that the best is yet to come. When my life was filled with the pain of rejection, bullying, suicide, self-injury, addiction, and even rape, I kept on fighting. I didn’t have a lot of people in my corner, but the ones I did have kept me going. In my 20 years of personally struggling with mental health I experienced many stigmas associated with it. Through the pain came inspiration a deeper love for others. Please remember there is hope for a better tomorrow.” These are struggles that are all too familiar to many of us. 

         Amy committed suicide in March of 2017. It saddens me to see the magnitude of suicide and how it’s not always about how much strength someone has. Sometimes even the strong and the resilient struggle. Please visit their website and learn more about how you can help prevent suicide and help others fight this invisible problem that plagues so many of us.          

Please visit:  https://projectsemicolon.com/

 

 

 

 

           

      

What Does Self-Care mean, Anyway?

           Lately, I have been working on self-care. I often ask myself, what is self-care anyway? It’s a concept that is thrown around the social work field like it’s no one’s business, and with good reason. We all know that when we don't practice self-care, it has can have catastrophic consequences.  There are so many excuses that could stop us from taking care of ourselves, “I don’t have time, I have things to do.”

          Self-care mean’s that sometimes I say no to a friend, that I spend the day in the vortex (aka my couch), sometimes I do nothing, sometimes I do a whole lot of stuff. Sometimes, I feel best when I just. get.things.done. 

         It takes a lot of courage to say no sometimes. Peer pressure is real and no, it does not go away after high-school. This is something that my 37-year-old self still struggles with. I don’t think I’m special or alone in my struggles.

         I know that this is something that I grabble with every day. What does it really mean? Why do I cringe every time someone in my life says, “You have to practice self-care!”

         Taking care of yourself means that you must face some hard realities. It sometimes means that you have to pull a Michael Jackson moment and take a look in the mirror. Sometimes it means looking at all those bad habits, such as not paying bills for 3 months, putting off work for months, avoiding the office, or avoiding your mother’s incessant phone calls. It requires a level of self-inventory that sometimes is scary.

          What is the answer? Well, my friends, sadly this is not a black and white issue. It’s much more complicated than that.  What do you need to do for yourself? What expectations from yourself or others do you have to let go of? Can you look into the mirror and start to accept yourself for who you truly are, can you start to love all of the parts of you, not just the good stuff? All of it.

         Here are some nuggets of information that you can take with you, on your journey into self-care:

          1.     Prioritize-Even if it means making a list of what needs to be done.

          2.     Ask for help-Even if it means having a friend hold you accountable.

          3.     Trust your gut-Even if you heard this before, it still is a free reliable source of wisdom.

          4.     Have self-compassion-Even when it feels corny or hard. Do it anyways.

          5.     Buckle up, make a to-do list, and then get things done-Even when there are distractions, or you just don't want too.

           A while back I stumbled across this article that discussed the concept of self-care, which spawned an internal dialogue that is very relevant to what I am currently working on. I attached the link below for your viewing pleasure.

            https://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/10/self-care-courage-face-yourself-get-sht-done/

5 reasons why I left my full-time job and never looked back.

            I remember the moment I finished graduate school, and as I walked across the stage with my pockets full of hopes and dreams, I remember thinking to myself; “I’m going to help so many people. I am going to make all this money! This is going to be amazing." There is beauty and a great sense of gratitude that I experience daily, but at times the work is draining. I often wonder, should I have been a plumber, an accountant, or something? 

            I left my full-time job as a clinical supervisor earlier this year and when people learn about my recent changes, I find that people are either utterly confused or very jealous. Some of my co-workers most likely want to assess my mental stability; I was making a solid salary and had good benefits. However, I had this aching since of not feeling fulfilled and I just couldn’t shake this feeling. After partaking in copious amounts of self-torture, I decided that I had to make a change. 

            So, I started a private practice, enrolled in a coaching program, found a part-time gig to hold me over, and finally quit my job. I was determined to live on pure hope, a lot of caffeine, and good-old fashioned hard-work.

            Do I regret this decision? Hell no. Do I wake up at 5:00 a.m. sometimes and think about my old navy bill (I’m a sucker for their sweaters) and how I am going to pay for it, sometimes.  Through the emotional rollercoaster, I am learning a lot about myself and finding that balance that we are all so craving. 

         Here five things that I am taking away from my journey so far:

          1.     If not now, when?

          There is never a good time to go work-rogue. People are always going to question your judgement and/or your sanity. I can easily identify 1,967 excuses as to why this was a terrible idea....I did it anyway.

2.   I became a money-saving, discount seeking warrior

            I have never in my short career, had to think about not having a consistent pay schedule. My relationship with money was forced to change. I must be strategic; by how I plan out meals, social outings, and how I pay my bills. It’s been challenging at times, and I am beginning to look at internal happiness as more of priority than material gain.

3.   The V word (vulnerability)

            It took a lot of vulnerability to leave my job and start something scary and uncomfortable. I feel more fear than ever before, except for when I watched ANY of the nightmare on elm street movies. I learned that I must be comfortable with being uncomfortable. After all, that's what being vulnerable is all about, right?

4.   Hire a coach…. asap

            I almost stopped breathing when I decided to commit to getting a coach. It’s a huge investment of time, energy and money. However, I don’t think I would of have taken the leap if it weren’t for my coach. Like most of us, life happens, distractions happen, and our human brains create anxiety. Anxiety creates fear and fear creates procrastination. My coach calls me out when I’m not getting things done. She knows me without even saying that she knows me. If this is your first rodeo, you need someone to wrangle you in. 

5.   APP (allow, patience, and persistence)

            You are probably thinking, "oh great, another acronym; just what the world needs." However, this my friend, this acronym is what I must practice daily. I am learning to allow things to happen in their own time. I am learning that I must be patient with myself and the process.  I am also learning that I must be persistent and continue to push myself even when this all feels "too hard."

            Taking risks is NEVER easy, wildly unpopular, and often causes people to have A TON of feelings. People will often say; “I’m scared to do this, I need health insurance, what if I fail?" I am learning that I can’t own any of this. None. Zero. Zilch.  I think there is solidarity in “You do you,” “YOLO,” or any other widely overused slogan or motivational quote that you can think of. We all want more than just the daily hustle. 

            As I write this blog, I am sitting in a Starbucks, in the middle of the day, doing one of the things that I love doing, without having to stare at an office wall.  The moments like these, where I have the freedom to be me, make life worth living. Just remember, you too can be a walking cliché of inspirational quotes.