Thursday, January 29

Speak Gently to Yourself

So. After the blogging drought, I suddenly have TONS I want to talk about. This is sometimes how I operate. When I have a lot on my mind, I tend to cocoon - physically, emotionally, socially. I envy the people who, when stressed, go for a run or get busy scrubbing the interior of the cupboards. So not me. When I have a lot on my mind or on my plate, I play Zelda for hours at a time. I sleep a lot. I hide under blankets and binge watch netflix. I effectively swaddle my brain and allow it to do its work in the background while I nestle in and work things out inside. It's just how I learned to cope. Probably not the most healthy way to deal, but it is what it is.

Anyway, I'm finally coming out of such a phase and you lucky readers get to experience the joy of - well, me.

When you find yourself swimming in the oh-so-delightful waters of mental illness and recovery, one of the things they teach you is about checking in with yourself. This goes for basically any kind of emotional recovering, because we need to be reminded to check in with ourselves. (The idea being that we get so good at burying/ignoring our feelings and/or self-medicating that over time we don't even recognize them. As a result, we have to go back to consciously asking ourselves How do I feel? What do I want? What do I need? Am I okay? - yes, it gets old - fast. But then again, mental illness gets real old, too.

The second part of this is self-talk.
I'm sure you've all heard of the phrase "positive self-talk" and I actually hate that phrase but it's really the only one that works. As we learn to start checking in with our feelings, we start to (slowly) become more aware of our thoughts about ourselves. Ugh. Entire books have been written about the science behind what you think translates into how you feel, change your thoughts, change your life, blah blah blah...don't care. What I know is that my thoughts about myself are not a thing with form. They are dark clouds that surround me everywhere I go. I don't actively have negative thoughts about myself - they just are. I don't purposely berate myself via inner monologue, rather, generalized feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing are just...there. Always. The way my skin is there. I don't THINK about it, it just is.

Again, tons of books have been written on the subject and there are numerous exercises and cognitive treatments for changing your thoughts - thought-stopping and reframing being two of the most popular. (Of course, you have to be aware of these thoughts before you can change them, which is where the checking in comes in.)

I struggle with the above. What I am getting better at is asking myself: "How do I feel? Am I okay?" A lot of times I will ask myself "How do I feel?" and I'll respond to myself: "Bored. Indifferent. Blah." And then I ask myself "Am I okay?" and respond "yes." Because the point is not to feel good all the time, it's to realize that you can be okay and feel bad, but also to be aware of when you're getting into a danger zone emotionally and you need help.

I once read (somewhere in an Al-Anon book) the phrase "consistent, gentle, courtesy." And that struck me. The statement was referring to treating other people with "consistent, gentle, courtesy." For me, that's what I'm slowly learning to get better at: treating myself with consistent, gentle, courtesy.
And that is not as easy as it sounds.
But one day at a time, right?

Sunday, January 25

First World Problems - My Hair is a Pain in the Ass

~ I've noticed that my hair has become...well...more difficult than normal. I think I am going through one of those 7-year shifts people talk about, how your body changes. Over the course of the past year or so, my hair has gone from a constant state of desert dry and frizzy to being a stringy mess. Oily roots, dull color, and ends so dry they make me fantasize about using some sort of wrinkle filler cream or getting collagen injections for my hair.

Things I have done, attempting to reclaim the health of my hair: 
- Regular home trims (yes, I know - but with professional stylist scissors and just trimming the ends).
- Skipping washes for the whole "natural oil production" thing.
- Washing every single day. 
- Not brushing but using only a wide-tooth comb.
- Avoiding all products.
- Using products to add softness and moisture.
- Blow drying an average of 3-4 times a week.
- Avoiding the blow dryer (and all heat tools) completely.
- I did use a Tbsp. of baking soda once and it made a lovely shampoo, but then I read contradictory reports (some say it's the best no-poo ever and other reports say it rips the cuticle apart and shouldn't be used regularly, so...*shrug.)

(Some) of the products I have used in my attempt to find a nice balance:
- Shampoo & Conditioner in 1 products
Dove (various combinations; color care shampoo with intensive repair conditioner, etc.) 
- Nearly every line of Herbal Essences in existence. (Incidentally, the Touchably Smooth line worked fantastically - too bad I am wicked allergic to the scent and it gives me migraines. 
- Various formulas of Loreal Ever Whatever  and the problem with those is also perfume sensitivity that causes migraines. 
Yes to Carrots Nourishing Shampoo & Pampering Conditioner (which might've been a contender if it wasn't for the fact that Dear God, getting the conditioner out of the bottle requires superhuman strength. 
Yes to Carrots Scalp Relief - The shampoo is nice but too drying for every day and the conditioner is nowhere near strong enough.
Burt's Bees Super Shiny Collection - Meh. 
Nature's Gate - Too drying.

Does anyone else out there struggle with problematically combination or stringy hair? What do you guys use? What do you love and what do you loathe?

Tuesday, January 6

Life Right Now

Well guys and gals, The reason I haven't blogged much of anything is because not much has been going on. 
This is how Hope spent most of December.

Christmas was nice and for New Year's, Shawn & I stayed in and had a quiet night doing absolutely nothing. 

I did NOT make New Years Resolutions. Not because I am against them, they just aren't for me. I am a constant work in progress and as such I am always seeking to improve myself.
I am seeking to get my body in better shape. I don't really have a number or a size in mind, but I have an idea of what I seek for myself. Feeling better, more energy, better sleep.
More vegetables in my life, more protein, less sugar. More water, more tea, fewer artificial drinks. 

I've also reached the conclusion that life is too short to read crappy books. By crappy, I simply mean things that I don't get into. If I'm not captured, is is perfectly acceptable to move on to something I'd rather be reading. That's how I felt about An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England - I kept thinking "If I only had five years of life left, would I want to waste a single minute on this book? Nope." I did finish that one, but it was an interesting lesson in the value & importance of enjoying what you read. That doesn't necessarily mean reading only "fun" books - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is one of the hardest, most depressing, and most satisfying books I've ever read. Love it. On the flip side, Heart of Darkness is also a classic and that was one of the worst books I've ever read. I honestly have no idea how it ever got published. Bridget Jones and Confessions of a Shopaholic are wildly chick-lit and full of fun and fluff, but also tell good stories. I've also read a lot of chick-lit that is nothing but poorly written, predictable tripe. 

I'm also working on embracing my hair instead of fighting it. I've never been much of a flat-iron girl and I actually avoid the dryer as much as possible as well. But I've decided that my hair is what is is and I am who I am. I don't like the way product feels in my hair and while I'd love to have Jennifer Aniston's hair, that is not even a little bit who I am. I am a pull-my-hair-back messy bun kind of girl the same way I am a jeans & tee shirt girl. 

So I guess for me, it's been a quiet couple of weeks, and for the new year I'm simply continuing what I've already been working on - always growing, improving, and learning to accept myself.