Anxiety

So, it’s the end of May already. Seriously, how did that happen? We are seven months away from Christmas! Anyone that knows me, knows I love everything Christmas—music, decorations, the magic of it all. I don’t really know why I’m skipping to Christmas right now, to be honest. I love summer. It’s my favorite season—bonfires, watching fireflies, driving through the country on a Sunday evening, picking wildflowers (and putting them in my hair, obvs), fishing, car shows. I love it. You know what I don’t love? Anxiety. May is Mental Health Awareness month, and I wanted to open up a bit about my own struggles with anxiety. I want this to be safe place to be vulnerable, honest and to share my stories because I truly believe that when we share our stories, we can not only heal ourselves, but we can make it so that others can feel safe to share their own stories.

I don’t like change. Like, at all. Which is weird, because I also don’t like being stagnant and I love trying new things. But, when there is a change happening in my life, I resist…big time. It causes anxiety within me, and it just plain sucks. Not feeling like I am safe or supported in certain situations, also cause anxiety for me. If I’m meeting new people, trying new things, or if I’m trying to tell someone how I feel and I don’t feel like they’ve got my back or have empathy—I either give up or just let myself sit with anxiety alone because I don’t feel safe. Safety is key when someone has anxiety because when it hits, there’s really no stopping it. I had a recent experience with anxiety. I was out with friends at a musical and all of the sudden, the walls started closing in, I was sweating like a pig, shaking, couldn’t breathe and right in the middle of the performance, had to be practically carried out because I passed out. Um, yeah, yuck. Usually, something triggers it but this time, I was relaxed, calm and having fun, and then wham. Afterwards, I told my friend who didn’t know I even had anxiety, what happened. Their response was something I wasn’t expecting: “how can I help you in the future if this happens again? What can I do next time to be more helpful? What did I do that wasn’t helpful? What can we avoid that might trigger it? How can I help you?” They said it in such a calm, comforting way that actually floored me. I didn’t know what to say at first. Then I responded, “I don’t really know. No one has really ever asked me that in that way before, so I honestly don’t know how you can help me.” They actually took notes on how to help: water, fresh air, cold towel, affirmations, not making a production out of it, not yelling or getting angry, being patient and staying calm (because that keeps me calm). I was so grateful in that moment. I was expecting judgments, frustration or the usual “I guess I don’t know what that means.”

The other day I was researching anxiety, and came across a blog post and it was so perfect and so beautiful that I have to share the premise of it here. It’s called Validation and Hope vs. Toxic Positivity. I think we’ve all said at some point that we’re struggling with something, and have had someone say “just be happy!” or “you’ll get over it eventually, think positive!” While that’s nice and all, it doesn’t really help the person struggling. It honestly feels like a brush-off, like you don’t really care and you’re just trying to help in the quickest way possible. Because, really…if it were that easy to “just be positive,” don’t you think we’d be doing it already? Yeah. Exactly. The chart below is absolutely perfect. Thank you, Whitney Hawkins Goodman for this. Every single one is perfect, but my favorite is “good vibes only!” as if to say, “well, if you’re not chipper, then you’re not welcome here.” I thought this would be a good thing to maybe print out and keep as either a reminder to yourself in how to respond to someone struggling, or to give to someone so they can see what’s helpful and what’s not.

 

I really believe that if we share our hearts in a loving way, we will all feel a little safer to struggle. Because, it’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to not be ok. And it’s definitely ok to ask for help. Check up on friends who you know are going through something. Take a chance and have a real conversation with them about mental health and how you want to help them. Ask them how you can help and actually listen to them. Sometimes they won’t know how you can help, but if you can be a safe place for them that might be all they need. Believe in yourself, but if you can’t right now, it’s ok! What steps can we take to help you get there?

You’re not alone, trust me.

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:

“Rescue Me,” One Republic

“The Joke,” Brandi Carlile

“Desiree,” Keith Urban (this song is so old, but it’s been in my top ten all-time favorite songs)

“Maybe It’s Time,” Bradley Cooper (from A Star Is Born)

What I’m reading:
My Story, by Elizabeth Smart

Quick Update!

Hey friends! Just a super quick update here for those following along. I was just informed that the House of Representatives just passed nine bills addressing the Veteran suicide, transition assistance and housing! This is big news! Our voices ARE making a difference!

May is Mental Health Awareness month, so please, if you are suffering from anything–ANYTHING–please reach out to someone. I know it’s hard to do, but believe me, it can save your life. I am not a trained professional by any means, but I am here to listen if you feel sad or lonely. If you are depressed and/or feeling suicidal, please call this number immediately: 800-273-8255. You can also go to this website and chat with someone online: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Remember, you are not alone. You don’t have to face anything alone. YOU MATTER.

Xoxo.

Hey friends. I was hanging out with one of my best friends the other night, and our conversations usually go from totally random to totally deep and introspective. That’s exactly what happened this time, and it’s one of the (many) reasons why I love her—she seems to always pull things out of me that wouldn’t normally go through my mind, and then when I say it out loud, it’s like total mind blown moment. Like, “whoa, Aly. Why didn’t you come to that realization before?!”

So, we were talking about life and people in it, and I said “you know, all I ever wished and prayed for was for him to see his own potential and how beautiful he is at his core. I wanted him to believe in himself as much as I believed in him, and to see his own worth. I think I will pray for him for the rest of my life, regardless of what happens.” My friend just looked at me and said “Alyssa, do you realize what you just said?” Of course I didn’t. “You just said what me, all of our friends wish and pray for YOU. That you see how beautiful your core is. Why don’t you pray that for yourself, too?” Why don’t I? It’s so much easier when I pray for other people than it is to pray for myself. When I help other people. When I try to encourage and lift others up. Why is it so dang hard for us to see our own worth and beauty in ourselves, but so easy to see it in others? I feel like this is an age-old question that I will never fully have the answer to. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been the helper, the picker-upper, the soother, the listener. I always took pride in that. When someone in the family was sick, I would make them tea, bring them soup, and clear my schedule to take care of them. It’s easier to believe in others, than it is to believe in ourselves. Our negative self-talk is damaging on SO many levels.

Truth is, people can tell us for days how worthy we are, but if we don’t feel it in our own hearts we’re never going to fully believe it. I don’t know the secret to believing it/feeling it, but I do know that, for me, it starts with identity. I know I’ve talked about this a lot lately, but it’s because I am so passionate about it and truly, truly believe in it. It is literally one of my top priorities lately in prayer, meditation and study. I can find confidence in who I am at my core, how I was created, and can accept myself. It’s a learning process, and I don’t know if there is anyone on the planet (well, maybe Oprah) who has achieved full, complete acceptance of themselves.

In order to understand who we are in Christ, we have to learn who He is. His attributes. What His incommunicable traits are, and what traits He passed onto us. Trust me, it’s hard! Okay, maybe it’s not that hard for some people…but, it is for me! When I want to do ALL THE THINGS, thinking I have unlimited time, I have to shake myself into reality and remind myself that I am only human. As much as I want to do it all, see it all, say it all, I simply can’t. And that’s okay. If you want to read a great book on learning about God’s attributes, check out my recommendation below. Read along with me!

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and I want to let you all know that if you’re struggling, reach out for help. Whether it’s a friend, family member, teacher, neighbor, co-worker, therapist, pastor, whoever…there is power in asking for help. It’s a sign of strength and courage. You don’t have to go it alone. Oh, how I wish I could throw my arms around each one you and tell you that you are loved and cared for! Want to shoot me a message? Do it! letsallbefriends1@gmail.com

I just want to encourage you all to take a minute to tell yourself you’re worthy and your past doesn’t define YOU or your future, unless you let it. When you finally learn who you truly are and what you’re truly capable of, you can be unstoppable. Let’s be unstoppable together.

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:

“Lebanon,” J.S. Ondara

“More Hearts Than Mine,” Ingrid Andress

“Dreamers,” Jack Savoretti

“A Letter To My Mama,” Vince Gill (have a Kleenex for this one)

What I’m reading:

In His Image, by Jen Wilkins (amazing book!!)

Why you gotta be so judgy?!

Ok, that’s not a real word. I made it up, what of it?!

We all do it. There isn’t one person on this earth that hasn’t done it. Sometimes we feel guilty afterwards, sometimes we feel it’s justified. Judgments. We weren’t born with this trait, just like hate, it’s something we learn. It’s a yucky trait, but some people don’t really do anything about it (or even notice they’re doing it) because this is just how society is these days. Turn on the TV, you’ll hear lots of it in shows, movies. Listen to the news and it’s all about what politician is judging another politician.

We post pictures, quotes, diatribes about how we need to let everyone be who they are—110%, but yet we judge others for not believing what we believe in. We attack them. You’re not a democrat? Shame on you. You’re not a republican? Peace out. You don’t believe in same-sex marriage? Well, we need to protest this. You donate money to rebuild a cathedral? Well, they have enough money, so let’s protest that, too, because other things need your money instead. I mean, it’s constant. It seems like people can’t really seem to do anything anymore without backlash from someone, somewhere. You’re told to embrace who you are, but then get judged for the way you cut your hair or the style of clothes you’re wearing. We’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. It seems like we’ve fallen so backwards that we can’t even notice a good deed when it hits us in the face. Sometimes I get fed up, thinking what’s the point of even trying? Is this even helping anyone? Does anyone even read this?

What is judging someone accomplishing for us? Is it adding to the quality of our lives? And yes, I’m speaking to myself, too, because I’m just as guilty as you are, as everyone is. But, where is the line? People get bullied so badly every single day that they are taking their own lives. Let that sink in. They are ending their lives because they don’t feel good enough…because someone judged them. Or they’re judging themselves. Whatever the reason, I spend a lot of time thinking and praying about this lately. Like, a lot of time. Ok, so it consumed me. But, I just felt like this was something that has been on my heart lately and I started to let it make me so frustrated (which totally defeats my point, actually). We are not called to judge or hate others. We aren’t even called to do a certain specific job here on earth. We were created to love one another. LOVE. That is, really, God’s will for us. It isn’t a career, a location, a specific house. It’s love. Love doesn’t include making fun of, laughing at, calling names, judging, asking someone to be something they’re not, asking someone to change who they are just because it will make you feel more comfortable. Love is accepting others as they are. Not tolerating disrespect. Loving yourself. Respecting who someone else loves, regardless if it is what you believe in. We don’t get to decide who we should love. We are called to love everyone. Just think if everyone just loved one another. Smiled at a stranger. Gave compliments to someone. Helped someone without expecting anything in return. Listened without responding. Talked without anger. I mean, realistically, we are human, too. We all get angry. But it’s what you do with that anger. Which is another topic I won’t get into. But, really. Think about what this world would be like if we just loved instead. I mean, dang!

Judging others is just perpetuating the problem. It isn’t solving anything. Seriously, you guys. Just let people be who they want to be. I’m sure you want people to let you be who you are, right? Extend that same courtesy to others. You may not agree with everything they say, do, believe in, but everyone deserves respect. You can still love people and not agree with everything they say. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but just show them respect and love. Kindness. Gentleness. And you need to love yourself before you can ever love anyone else. Spend time with yourself, and extend grace, compassion and forgiveness towards YOU. You deserve that. Everyone does.

If you’re reading this (anyone? anyone?!) I want you to know that I love you. Whether I know you, we’re strangers…whatever. I want you to know that you matter. Your opinions matter. Your heart matters. Your core matters. Don’t be afraid to let your inner light shine. The world needs you and your heart. Reach out to me. Seriously, shoot me a message. I love you. Always.

Xoxo.

Where’s The Focus?

Anyone that knows me, knows that I love crime shows and podcasts. Most of my friends rave about a new podcast they’ve just discovered of uplifting, positive mantras, and I’m over here raving about a new podcast I discovered about forensics and trying to figure out who killed who. Morbid, I know. I even toured a local forensic lab and gave some serious thought about changing careers. Then I realized how much science is involved, and well, it was game over. When I discover a new show or podcast about crime, I become enthralled with it. It’s like I can’t wait to watch/listen to the next one. That actually got me thinking about where we put our focus. Focusing on crime shows, doesn’t really uplift me. I mean, it gives temporary satisfaction (and please don’t get me wrong—I don’t LIKE the actual crime—it’s more the reasons behind the crime—mental health, trying to solve it before the announce it, etc), but it doesn’t give anything long-lasting or doesn’t really add a whole lot to my quality of life, nor does it bring me any closer to my goals and dreams. So, why do I do it? Why do any of us do things that take our focus off of the real life-giving things?

I was thinking about this the other night while I was trying to decide if I wanted to clean, shop or work-out. I spent more time making the decision than actually doing the activity. (I ended up working out) The next night, I was faced with either going to bed early and listening to one of my podcasts or having my usual date with God. I mean, no brainer, right? Should be! I chose to have my date and oh man, the feeling I get when I do that is incredible. I don’t know about you, but when I carve out time every day to just sit with God and talk to Him, read His word and just allow myself to rest…I can feel myself coming back to life every time. I have found that when I give focus on that, everything else just seems to line up. My mood is lighter, my relationships with others are better, I am more productive. My last date with God, I closed my eyes and all of these hurtful memories from my past came flooding in. I thought “wait a minute! This is supposed to be when I escape from these!” But God brought these to my mind for a reason. Because it was time to let them go. Move on. Move forward. Stop living in those memories of pain, and start looking towards the future. It was a huge realization for me, and that was when I also realized that it really does matter what we give our focus to. Praying, spending time with God isn’t a luxury for me, it’s a necessity. When I don’t do it, I feel different. I don’t feel “filled up” or at peace. Here are my steps for the perfect Date With God.

  1. Set the tone! I usually do this right before I go to bed. I light some candles, incense and just sit and allow myself to clear my head. I invite Him into my space and heart, and ask that He guide me.
  2. I journal what my intentions are for the time. What do I want to pray about? Who do I want to pray for? What do I need to work on?
  3. I usually play a worship song and meditate on the lyrics. It just kind of is my way of starting with rejoicing and gratitude.
  4. I start talking/praying just like He is sitting next to me. I talk to Him like I talk to an old friend. I don’t hold back—I lay it all out there. If I’m angry, confused, sad, happy…whatever, I say it all. He wants us to come to Him and express ourselves fully. He isn’t afraid of honesty.
  5. I ask Him to search my heart and reveal anything that needs to be healed. Any unconfessed sins, any unforgiveness, anything that’s holding me back. I ask Him to remove those things and wash me clean.
  6. I pray for friends, family, others. I started a new thing where at the first of the month, I will reach out to friends and ask if there’s anything they need prayer about. I write them down, and pray for them throughout the month. Of course, I have my own list of prayers for other people in my life that I continually pray about, without even asking them.
  7. I journal anything else and just meditate on whatever He puts on my heart.

Sometimes this takes an hour, two hours, and other times I don’t have a whole lot of time. But, I generally try to find as much time as I can every night to spend time with Him. And I have to remind myself (and you!) that it doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to do all the things. Just cast your cares onto Him, take your burdens, your pain, sorrow, excitement, whatever you have…bring them to Him. Leave them with Him. Let Him work them out the way they should be. Don’t force anything. Don’t take anything out on yourself or others. He loves and cares for you. More than any human on earth.

Have a great weekend, friends! Be kind!

Xoxo.

What I’m meditating on right now: Philippians 3:13-14.

What I’m listening to:
“Got It In You,” Banners
“Rescue,” Lauren Daigle (let’s be honest, everything by Lauren Daigle!)
“Burden,” Keith Urban

Suicide Prevention at the Capitol

Y’all! Guys! Gals! Friends! Super exciting news to share! Eek! Yesterday, I was invited to the MN State Capitol to speak to Senators and Representatives about bullying and suicide prevention. I was going to post this last night, but needed some time to process all of the sweet goodness I experienced!

I met with so many wonderful people, shared my story and used my voice to help pass several bills. Just a little brief synopsis of the bills I talked about:

SF 804/HF 62: Fund Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Crisis Services
-To keep crisis lines open to anyone who is in need of immediate support and needs counseling over the phone

SF 1229/HF 1340: Ensure Mental Health Parity
-Existing state parity laws require all health plans to comply with the federal parity law, meaning that treatment limitations to mental health and substance use benefits must be comparable to and applied no more stringently than those applied to medical or surgical benefits.

SF 734/HF 813: Fund Suicide Prevention Training for Teachers
-Funds a grant for FY20 to offer interactive online training on suicide prevention and engaging students experiencing mental distress to teachers in every school district, charter school, intermediate school district in MN.

SF 83/HF 12: Prohibit Conversion Therapy
-Prohibit mental health practitioners and professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minors or vulnerable adults.

This was absolutely one of the most incredible, life-changing experiences I have ever had. I feel so honored to have had this opportunity to meet so many amazing people who want to help make a difference. Sharing my story with senators, legislators, etc., is something that I will never forget. Mental health therapy and counseling should be something that should be covered in ALL health insurance plans. I know people who suffer from depression, but their insurance doesn’t cover therapy. It should be the same as when you break an arm and need that to be healed.  I am looking forward to more meetings with them, and look forward to creating lasting change and help for everyone who needs it. We are going win this battle. I have faith that we will. Friends, I’m using my voice to help YOU!

Be kind to someone today,

Xoxo.

With Senator Pappas

Rep. Nick Zerwas

What I’m listening to:

“Awakening” by Amanda Lindsey Cook

“Counting Every Blessing” by Rend Collective

“Girl” by Maren Morris

Enough!

Hey friends. It’s been a while, huh? Have you ever reached a point in your life where you literally just said either out loud, or in your head, “Enough already!”? I know I have; sometimes I’ve said it while sitting in traffic for two hours, when it should have only taken me twenty minutes to get somewhere. Sometimes I’ve said it in a meeting when someone keeps harping on about something irrelevant. But, it’s when I say it out loud, when I really mean it. If you ever hear me say “enough!”, you know I’ve really hit my limit. There are a lot of things I want to say, but don’t, because a.) common courtesy/respect, and b.) I’ve been conditioned to keep my thoughts/feelings hidden in order to make everyone else comfortable. I’m starting to come out of the shell. Things I’ve had enough of:

1. Witnessing bullying of others. Mostly adults, and yes, adults can sometimes be the worst
bullies.
2. Being the target of bullying. Overhearing people I know, love and trust talking behind my
back. “Let’s say we’re going to this place, because she doesn’t like going there, so she
won’t want to go with us. We can get away from her for a while.”
3. Being shunned by extended family, and being called names…and them thinking that it’s
perfectly acceptable to do that.
4. Verbal aggression. Name calling. Bullying. Threats.
5. Feeling worthless, undeserving, and unlovable.
6. Keeping things in. Feeling like I can’t speak for myself, or feeling like I can’t stand up
for myself. Newsflash: we all have the human right to stand up for ourselves in a respectful
way.
7. Feeling physically ill trying to keep things in, trying to recover/repair and trying to find
peace.

Those are just a few things I’ve had enough of. Oh, and traffic. I really hate traffic. Like, to the point where I will take back roads to get places just to avoid traffic, even if it takes me longer.

Anyway, I think we’ve all been there. Some have recovered, some of us are in the thick of it, and some of us haven’t been there yet. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, let me say this: your tribe will be your biggest surviving tool. Take full advantage of your tribe, whether that’s family, a core group of friends, pastor, therapist, co-worker…whoever that is, keep them close. Call or text them when you find yourself slipping into that dark place. Sometimes just making a list of those you trust will help you. Create healthy habits for when you need a pick-me-up. Things that help me: a bubble bath with candles and zen music, putting on my favorite album and just letting myself get lost in the music, calling up a friend and talking for hours, writing (I’ve actually gotten back into the songwriting, and oh man, the songs that are coming out!), exercising, praying, and meditating. You can even create a little (or big!) box for those moments where you really need a pick-me-up. You can put in uplifting mantras, candles, tissues, a blank journal to write in, incense, note cards to write to someone (hint: yourself), your favorite movie or album, photos that make you smile. Put some positive mantras on your bathroom mirror. I know these are not always surefire ways to work all the time, but they can help. If you are a friend who is helping someone currently through something difficult, here’s what you can do: just be there. You don’t need to do anything grand or go above and beyond. A simple three word text is sometimes all it takes: I love you. I appreciate you. Or, even two words: I’m sorry.

I’ve been in this journey the last few months of re-discovering myself. Who am I? What do I want? What do I need? First of all, who I am is not who the world (or anyone in it) declares me to be. I’m not shy. I’m not anxious. I’m not too this, or too that. I’m not broken. I’m not messed up. I’m not unlovable. Who I am is who God says I am: loved, accepted, whole, chosen, forgiven, free, renewed, born again, not ruled by fear, unbroken, joyful, rescued, redeemed, healed, greatly loved and have a place to belong. Sometimes I believe those things, sometimes I don’t. But, one thing that I’ve learned is when I start to believe the lies of the enemy, and what others try to tell me, I think about what God asks me: “Who told you who you are? Me or them? And who will you believe?” No one will be standing with me when I die, and when God asks me that. No one will say on my behalf, “well God, you know, I bullied her and said some mean things to her, so cut her some slack.” No. It will be me and Him. Who He says I am: those are my credentials. My credentials are not the letters after my name, or what I do for a living. It’s high time that I put my faith into action and believe in who God says that I am, and no one else. I’ve had enough of people telling me who I am. You want to make fun of that and judge me for that? Ok! Have fun!

Just because someone says they had a “worse” childhood/adulthood than you, or they’ve been through “worse” than someone else, does not invalidate what YOU have been through. You have the right to those feelings, those experiences and you have the right to talk about those. It doesn’t make you selfish or a “victim”. It makes you human. It makes you vulnerable, and until recently, I hated that word. But, when you’re vulnerable and you talk about your experiences, it creates a safe place for others to do so as well. One of my favorite authors/speakers, Brenѐ Brown, put it this way: Think about applying for your dream job. You don’t really tell anyone because you don’t want to look foolish if you don’t get it, and then you will feel like you have to put your tail between your legs and feel like a failure. If you don’t get the job, your friends will say “oh well. You didn’t really seem to want it anyway.” But, you really did want it! You now don’t have the support you want. Or, if you DO get the job, their reaction could be “oh well, you never even mentioned it, so I didn’t know you were even excited about it.” But, I was! And I am! Again, you don’t get the support you were hoping for. Be open. Be real. Be honest. Most importantly, be YOU! You are NOT who the world says you are. You are not broken. You are not depressed, anxious. You are beautiful, full of so much amazing potential. Believe in yourself and what you are capable of. I know one person who believes in you, even if you don’t: me.

One more thing I will leave you with. Picture your inner child. For me, it was when I was really little and being bullied. Now, think about what you needed as your inner child. Did he/she need love? Forgiveness? Comfort? Realize that this little you is the most important relationship of your life. Tell that little one that you love him/her, and that you are sorry for not being there for him/her when they needed it the most. Close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting either in front of him/her or next to. Put your arms around them and tell them that they are safe now, loved and can truly be who they wanted to be. Free. Giggling. Giddy. Creative. Dreaming of the impossible. Tell them that it’s ok to be excited about life. That you are now there for them, and will never berate them, punish them, abuse them anymore. You are now a team, and you will do whatever loving thing you can to make them feel safe. Hug them. Put your hands on their little face and smile at them. Now, go…live your life giddy. Giddy is my word because that’s how I used to be. I love being giddy and enjoying the little things in life. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy (Arby’s, anyone?!). So, find that word for yourself, and go live today. And you know what is enough? YOU. Say it to yourself: I am enough!

Here is the little me from way back in the day. You can tell how old this photo is by the clothing I’m wearing. THIS is who I am fighting for. THIS is who I am apologizing to. THIS is who I am defending and loving. This is me.

What I’m listening to:
“You Say” Lauren Daigle
“Who You Say I Am” Hillsong Worship

Xoxo.