Musings · personal

Writing With Intention & Some Tough Past Weeks.

I spoke to D a little while back about this blog. I told her that I wasn’t sure of my intentions with it. Am I writing for myself? Am I writing for others? Am I sharing my life for others? Am I wanting to give tips around mental health? What is it?! We came to the conclusion that my goal is to simply share insight. To talk a little bit about my sometimes hectic life, but mostly to write what I think about it and learn from it, in hopes that I’ll prompt thoughts in others, as well as myself.

I distinctly remember an acquaintance of mine reaching out via Instagram, mentioning that by reading my thoughts on IG, she thought critically about her own life as well. I remember how honored and fulfilled I felt, and even over a year later, I still think about what she wrote me.

And with that, I’ll start a new chapter of my blog. No more life summaries (well, maybe just a few here and there), they’re really not that interesting to read, nor very cathartic to write. Also, I’m hoping to also build more structure to this blog. A weekly thing, perhaps. Or a theme of the month. We shall see.


It’s been a rough few weeks. Midterms season is here, coupled with dreary October rain, and it has been hitting me hard. I was somewhat expecting it, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for it. Over the past few weeks, I’ve woken up with horrible anxiety more times I can count. Half of those mornings have resulted in tears before 7am. A quarter of those mornings have ended up with me lying in bed for the majority of the day.

But university is supposed to be stressful, right? It’s supposed to push you to your utmost limits, right? It’s easy to think this as I’m sitting on the 44 on the way to my 8am class. The man next to me has finished his large, large mug of coffee in less than 10 minutes, every single person across from me is asleep, and the rest of my fellow stressed students are dazedly looking out the foggy windows with bleary eyes.

It’s easy to think this as I sit in a half-empty lecture hall because there’s an O-Chem midterm the next day. My professor laughs it off and comments that he gets paid the same amount no matter how many students attend his class. The students that are present in class, are frantically scrolling through slides of functional groups and pkas.

University isn’t always fun. Learning can be fun! But coupled with exams, endless assignments, projects, quizzes, and the expectation that everyone should be doing 1230812 extracurricular activities, can overwhelm even the strongest students. But yet, everyone trudges through and accepts this as fact, and does it all anyways. We discard our health (physical and mental), relationships, social life, and everything besides the almighty transcript and resume.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being involved. I too, see the value in pushing past my comfort zone. Stretching beyond my limits (within reason). The question is how to remain happy, healthy, and balanced while doing so? I consistently reflect and question the structure of my life, when it clearly isn’t working for me.

I’m definitely not an expert at this… I’m learning what works for me, my mind, and my body, with respect to my situation and environment. By situation, I mean the fact that I’m enrolled in 5 courses with 12-16 hours of a work a week, and roughly 7 hours of extracurriculars. By environment, I mean that I need to navigate my situation in Vancouver’s horrible weather, which is definitely causing some S.A.D.

Exercise helps, as well as having a consistent sleep schedule. So does planning out my days. But what really brings me the most peace and calm, is journaling. Writing. Spilling my thoughts onto a page (or webpage). Reminding myself of what I’m grateful for. Working through my thoughts of frustration and anxiety. Questioning why I live the way I do. Coming to new realizations that fuel my discipline and motivation.

There are days when I feel extremely discouraged. Like I’m back to exactly where I was last year, before I entered the hospital for the second time. On those days, it’s easy (but really shameful and embarrassing, so really, not so easy) to stay in bed. The world outside of my apartment is scary and intimidating, the people are cold and uncompassionate. But, on those days, I relish in the fact that I have a boyfriend who loves me, and is my biggest cheerleader. I message my friends, telling them that I won’t be able to make it to our meetups, but my heart is so full knowing that they care. I delete my social media apps, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll spend hours on my phone in bed. And I pick myself up and out of bed. It’s hard, but some punk rock music makes it easier. I breathe deeply, in and out.

Remembering that although it is a bad day, it is not a bad life.

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Musings · personal

Being Creative – Writing About N.

Creativity is an outlet for me. It allows me to flow through my body, from my mind to my heart, through my soul and outwards. It reminds me to ground myself, and focus on the things that truly matter to me.

I’ve been wanting to write a zine or book about N for quite sometime. It was originally a summer project that was pushed to the bottom on my list of priorities. Since I’ve been starting to feel some minor symptoms of burnout, I’ve really been wanting to truly dedicate time to working on it, as a way of self-care that helps me focus on the people in my life that I love.

I’m planning on writing a mini book of poetry, just for his eyes. I’ve been slowly working on it, although only writing when inspiration hits. Often times, when I’m running around campus or on the bus, it doesn’t. I’m thinking about scheduling time during my short breaks on campus to write. It’s difficult to get anything school-related done during short breaks anyways.

He’s the love of my life, my ultimate supporter, and the main reason why I’ve completely changed my life. He’ll be my forever muse.

Anyways, enough about that (because my parents follow my blog… Hi Mom! Hi Dad!)

This is just a little thing to keep me accountable to my goals.

Hope you’re doing things that keep you well!

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Gratitude and Self-Discipline!

The start of the school year is going well, despite the fact that I’m taking on more than I ever have! Work (12-18 hours), school (5 courses), and Speakeasy, to name a few. I’m in a little bit of a catch up mode at the moment, because of my weekend camp retreat with the Speakeasy team, but I wanted to write a blog post as a form of self-care.

I’m feeling very grateful tonight. Grateful to come home everyday to someone I love, in the home that we built. Grateful for having the opportunity to go to university without minimal financial stress. Grateful for being integrated into a community of kind, empathetic, and like-minded individuals. Grateful for fuelling my body with healthy foods that help me push through 10+ hours on campus happily without fatigue. And I could go on and on.

I’m most grateful and happy for developing more self-discipline this term. I’m not sure what shifted. Perhaps it’s the fact that I finally have the energy to do what I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve definitely been more hardworking and disciplined recently. Or perhaps I’ve realized that my actions need to be inlined with my goals. Whatever it is, I hope I can keep it up! I’ve been spending my (although short and limited) breaks at school productively and have been getting work done.

More updates:

  1. I’ll likely be presenting a workshop in late October!
  2. I’ve been writing more poetry recently. Working on my zine on N… 😀
  3. Discovered some cool features on my mac! Guess I was living under a rock.
  4. Been eating clean(er) for the past little while.

I’d like to return to more structured posts once my schedule calms down a little next week, but for now, this’ll do!

 

 

 

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New School Year!

Currently sitting in Ladha in the ‘silent’ study space as I write… Not really silent, but that’s okay. With a good pair of earbuds, every space is silent.

Just finished a short lil’ meditation session in my seat. I was feeling a little tired, because my Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are 8am-5pm, and today I’m ending at 9:30pm (!! Ahhh). I forget that my daily practices and rituals for wellbeing are taboo amongst my peers, and I felt a little awkward meditating. (Note: Low carb lunches, B12 tablets, and green tea are lifesavers)

I’m excited for this school year. I’m excited to prove to myself that I can successfully grasp the content of the courses I’m taking, and achieve the grades that I need to apply to nursing, to pursue my dreams. In previous years, I slacked off till the last minute (aka a week before finals), and ultimately ended up disappointed and with a not so great academic record.

Since I spent 2 years in first year, I’m officially in second year, but have been at UBC for 3. I don’t know anyone in any of my lectures, and although I’m always (ALWAYS) open to connecting, the faculty of science tends to be kind of cliquey. It’s freeing to know that none of my peers have a preconceived notion of me, and that I’m essentially starting over. Going of on a tangent… but I often think about a quote that says that you can start over anytime, and that there’s no limitations to how many times you can start over in a day. As someone who thinks that they mess up often, it’s a calming and peaceful thought. Anyways, back to the thought at hand. It’s hard to make friends when you don’t know anyone, but I’m making an effort, and I’m excited!

I did something pretty out of my comfort zone today, and went makeup-less. Makeup helps me feel more comfortable in my skin, but when I’m waking up at 6am, the last thing I want to do is paint my face with goop. In this humid weather, I’m proud of my decision. It hasn’t affected my confidence, in fact, it’s helped me be more comfortable in classes, because I’m not thinking about how my makeup is sweating off. More on this experiment later… 😀

My classes are all pretty interesting, and I really enjoy all of my professors that I’ve met so far! I’m especially excited for a specific course that I’m taking this term. It explores the social determinants of health (a.k.a. questioning why a person a sick, and determining that health is not always a factor of individual choices). I kind of want to do a minor in Health and Society, but I’ll ponder that a little more.

Anyways, just wanted to write a quick post during my break! I find blogging very soothing and stress-relieving.

 

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Speakeasy Peer Support Interview!

A couple of days ago, I had my interview with Speakeasy for a peer support volunteer role. I’ve been looking to become a member of a community on campus, and thought that one that promotes wellbeing and supports diversity would be the best way to go!

When I was preparing for my interview, I tried Googling for peoples’ past experiences, but only came across one post specifically written about the interview! So I thought that I’d write my own. 🙂

As a disclaimer… I do have a background in peer support work, therefore, I felt confident going in.

I was welcomed into a room, and was interviewed by the 2017-2018 Speakeasy coordinator, Danny, as well as a team leader, Simona. They were both very kind, and gave me a possible trigger warning for the 3 hypothetical scenarios that were going to be asked. I thought this was very thoughtful of them, and appreciated it.

Questions that were asked:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Motives for volunteering for Speakeasy
  3. Personal understanding/definition of peer support
  4. Why peer support is relevant on the UBC campus
  5. What are the most important qualities that a peer support person should have
  6. What empathy/sympathy mean to me
  7. Why I think Speakeasy has a 3 appointment maximum for individuals
  8. How I work in a team
  9. What role I would play in a group project hosted by Speakeasy (such as campus parties, self-care packages, or mental health advocacy events)
  10. What professionalism in a team means to me
  11. Personal definition of self care
  12. What role self-care has in the realm of mental health support
  13. Personal definition of safe-space
  14. Barriers to safe-spaces
  15. Definition of confidentiality and how to uphold it
  16. 3 hypothetical scenarios
  17. How I’ve handled a difficult decision in the past that was necessary
  18. How I’ve handled a conflict with a coworker or supervisor
  19. What my plans are for the upcoming year and if I’d be able to commit to the 5hrs/week

And those are all I can remember at the moment… I’ll update if I remember any more.

Tip: Ask questions that show your interest in the role! They said I got brownie points for asking questions, haha.

It was quite in depth, and to be honest, I’m not sure how someone who had zero experience in peer support would be able to competently answer some of the questions.

Anyways, if any of you would like to know what my responses were, or anything else about the interview, just comment or send a message!

Best of luck.

My Growth · personal

People Who Believe in Me Even When I Don’t Believe in Myself.

I’ll forever be grateful for my first job – the one I’m currently working at. Working at Safeway is much more than just being a cashier, or a stock person, or florist. You develop relationships with your regular customers, hear about their good days and bad ones, as well as share bits and pieces of your own life as well.

I’m humbled and honoured when individuals share their lives with me. I’ve met countless interesting, hardworking, and intelligent people at Safeway. There are customers who have been close to me since I started working there, and customers who I see briefly  from time to time.

There’s one customer in particular who prompted this post. Since I started working at Safeway in March 2015, we’ve regularly chit-chatted. When we first met, he told me that I was ‘too smart’ for Safeway, and that I had bright, intelligent eyes. He’s around 60 with a thick German accent – half of the time I can barely understand him, but it’s never stopped him from sharing his wisdom and insights of the world with me.

Yesterday, I told him about my ultimate dream. One that he’s always believed that I could achieve since the day he met me. He asked me about what was holding me back, and I told him that I doubted my abilities. My intelligence. My work ethic. He dispelled all of my self-limiting beliefs, like he always does, and said at the very least, I should try. I later journaled about what he told me. Even customers at Safeway have more faith in me than  I have in myself. Even they think that I deserve more than I’m giving myself.

I believe that regular, normal, every day people, can do extraordinary things. I’ve always yearned with my whole being to do what I set out to do when I was young. Along the way, I lost some passion and calling, and faced some tough roadblocks. I’ve been prompted to search for what I’ve lost, because of my dear customer. At the very least, I have to try.

Here’s to a new perspective and hope for the future!

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My Tattoos!

I thought that I’d make a quick fun post about my tattoos! Most of them are so subtle and/or hidden that most people don’t know I have them. 😀

My first:

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I got it in May 2016. The 3 lines were originally supposed to represent 3 different meanings. Those meanings still have relevancy to me now, but now this tattoo is just a pretty, delicate, nostalgic memory from my past. I had it done by Yi at Black Medicine Tattoo! Such a great blackwork and fine-line artist. Also just a really kind, gentle, funny guy! I called many shops in Vancouver about this tattoo, and almost everyone turned me down. Guess straight lines around a wrist were more of a challenge than I originally assumed!

My second:

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I got it in June 2016. I had it done for free as part of a world-wide equality project done by many tattoo artists from Instagram. Equality is always something that I’ll strongly believe in, strive for, and push for in my communities. I thought it’d be a nice reminder to permanently have on my body. Also, it’s tattooed on such a private and intimate space that’s usually hidden, which I love. I had it done by Colin, in his private studio, but he also occasionally tattoo’s at Black Medicine as well!

 

 

 

My third:

IMG_0168I got it done this year, in May. It is probably my most precious and cherished tattoo so far! The molecule/hormone I got was serotonin. Serotonin is largely responsible for mood. After moving out, going off SSRIs (antidepressants), and essentially rebuilding my life, I realized that I was capable of making my own serotonin, through my actions. Is it a small reminder of what I’ve accomplished, and a push of encouragement for where I am going. Plus, as a science student, the nerd inside of me was so excited to connect so meaningfully to a molecule! I had it done by Joel at Black Medicine Tattoo. Another great line-work and black work artist!

Obviously, I’m a huge fan of Black Medicine Tattoo, and I recommend them to everyone! All their inks are vegan, and they use Saniderm, which helps speed up healing SO much faster and easier!

I’m planning for a few more tattoos in the future, and would ideally LOVE to be covered in them (sorry mom!). But we’ll see, depending on my future profession and desires. 🙂

 

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What Have I Been up to?

As school quickly approaches, I’ve been trying to squeeze out the last bits of summer as much as I can!

I’ve been…

  • still receiving training at my new job. I’ll be working with clients very soon! In the next week or two 😀
  • working at my current job
  • sorting out my timetable for school. UGHHH, a late second year registration will be Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 10.04.46 AMthe bane of my existence. Luckily, my timetable for term one is pretty much perfect! Here’s my schedule. I’ve blocked out the courses/locations because I’m paranoid haha. Also, the yellow is a waitlist but I’ve talked to the professor who’s going to manually move me into the course! My Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are pretty heavy, but that’s to allow for work after class on Monday’s, and possible volunteering on Wednesday’s. My second term is still in the works, and will probably be in the works until a week before term starts! Yay…
  • being active! I tried out an acroyoga class yesterday with N and it was SO FUN! (Tues/Thurs at TroutLake at 6:30pm for free!) We’re going to the beach today to practice our newly learned skills. It’s a lot of time-under-tension, and not as much explosive movement, which is different from my other forms of activity!
  • reading. I’ve been exploring different books! There are hundreds of personal development books in my apartment, courtesy of my lovely roommate and boyfriend. I’ve touched on The Happiness Advantage, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, The Power of Habit, Man’s Search for Meaning, Tools of Titans, the Psilocybin Solution, to name a few. I haven’t decided which book I want to actually sit down and commit to though, yet!
  • learning more about myself. I’ve been journaling a lot, in my personal journal. Thinking about my intentions and life. Thinking about where I want to go, where I am at, and where I’ve been. I’ve also been discussing my thoughts with N, who’s been wonderfully patient with me.
  • developing my spirituality. I’ve always been a spiritual person, but with no direction. I’m slowly developing a direction to take my spirituality in, if it chooses to go that way.
  • watching Game of Thrones!!!! Oh my goodness, I want to personally send out a big apology to anyone I’ve mocked in the past for spending hours on a TV show. It’s amazing! I’ve had pretty good self-control – watching a few episodes a week, but over the course of the summer, I’ve almost caught up! I’m currently in the middle of season 6, and it’s so much fun!
  • developing habits! Habits around eating, sleeping, and just living in general. I’m hoping to hit the ground running for this school year.
  • exploring new music. I grew up listening to punk rock/post-hardcore music, and have been addicted to it since then. But I’ve been trying to branch out (via Spotify) and have really been enjoying it!
  • planning. Planning for life, planning for the day, planning for whatever, whenever. It calms my mind, and it lots of fun to do!
  • spending time with my favourite people. Getting lunch, exploring nature, etc.

 

Anyways, that’s been the past few weeks of my life in a nutshell! Thanks for reading. 🙂

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B12? Vit D3? Supplements in General?

After a trip to the doctor’s last week to check on my lab results, I found out I was deficient in basically everything! Surprise, surprise.

My low energy is 100% because of my very low iron and B12. I have a hunch that my extreme fatigue was less of an iron issue than I originally thought, and more-so because of my B12. When I went vegetarian for a year or so, last year, I didn’t supplement with B12 because I didn’t know that B12 is only readily available in meats! Currently, I’m still paying the consequences for my lack of knowledge last year. My iron is higher than it was last year – last year I was “deathly low” (quoting the hospital doctor), which is an improvement!

Currently, I’m supplementing with probiotics, omega 3s, b12, iron, and vitamin D3. 

Probiotics: I’m in the process of healing my gut with probiotics and different foods after doing extensive research on the damages my body endured when I took psychiatric medications daily for 4 years. Funny enough, gut health is actually directly linked to mood and overall wellbeing as well. Seems counterintuitive that my medications were damaging my gut, making my symptoms worse. But at the time, the pros of medication (staying alive) far outweighed the cons. The cons are time, energy, and money to heal my gut.

Omega 3s: Omega 3s are just for my overall body and brain functioning. I could go into all the benefits but I’m sure everyone knows of them.

B12: B12 is for my energy/red blood cell formation. There are more complicated benefits of B12 that I won’t go into, but the main symptom of B12 deficiency is fatigue. Fun fact: almost all energy drinks contain megadoses of B12.

Iron: Iron is for my energy as well. Iron is an important mineral crucial to proper red blood cell function – it helps RBC carry oxygen in the body. Common symptom of iron deficiency is fatigue as well. It’s difficult for women with menstrual cycles to have enough iron, and doctors recommend that most women supplement with iron!

Vitamin D3: There are many research studies that show a correlation between vitamin D3 deficiency and depression, but the direct link is not known yet. During the Vancouver fall/winters, it’s easy to be affected by the gloomy weather and lack of sunshine. (Turns out my super happy roommate who’s happy all year round supplements with vitamin D!)  I’ll be getting a blood test sometime in October to adjust the amount that I’m taking, but because I’ve been deficient for a very long time, my doctor says I don’t need to worry too much about the amount I’m taking now.

It sounds likes I’m taking a lot, but it really isn’t too bad when I take some in the morning, and others at night! Overall, I have felt a definite shift in my physical health, which has helped my mental health greatly. I have more energy to do the things I love, and spend time with the people I love. I wish my psychiatrist had me do a blood test for deficiencies before we started on medications. Oh well, at least I’ve learned now!

I encourage you all to be advocates of your own health and get a blood test! It’s easy for symptoms to be bushed off and/or diagnosed as a common issue. Best of luck.

Musings · personal

Gratitude.

This morning, I woke up with an immense feeling of gratitude and love – for today, for where I am in life, and for my loved ones. I am so darn lucky to wake up every morning to N’s sleepy smile and begin my days with him.

About a week and a half ago, N and I bought new Five-Minute Journals (with D’s employee discount!). Both N and I have used journaling as a way to explore thoughts and practice gratitude, as well as done versions of the 5 Min Journal in our own ways, but it’s the first time we’ve shared the commitment with someone else. The 5 Min Journal contains a template where every morning you write down 3 things you’re grateful for, 3 ways to make the day great, and a daily affirmation. In the evenings, you reflect upon the day with 3 amazing things that happened that day, and how you could have made the day better. It’s a grounding way to start the day and helps me to live with intention. My favourite part of this habit is that N and I share what we’ve written with each other. Often times I am a part of his gratitudes, or his 3 amazing things, and vice versa.

I’ve finished 2 weeks of my work training, and it’s been great! I’m so lucky to be surrounded by such kind, soft, understanding, and self-aware people every time I go in. We praise each other for discovering ourselves, learning, and being softer in the world. It’s probably the most supportive group I’ve ever been in. Going in, I was pretty nervous. I’m always afraid of ageism, and feeling inadequate because of my age. Fortunately, my peers are all wonderful and everyone gets room to speak, share, and grow during sessions. Yesterday, our training module focused on self-care, preventing burn-out, and setting boundaries. Research shows that those working in health care fields or similar, experience the highest rates of burnout. We went through the signs of burn-out, how to properly take care of ourselves, and setting boundaries with our future clients. I was most appreciative for E though. E is a case manager for the team who has previously worked as a peer support worker. She told us that open communication between SW and case managers is key and essential to the success of the team. She urged us all to be open about our needs, limitations, and boundaries regarding work and our future clients. At my current job, I’ve been VERY lucky to have someone who knows of my story, and schedules my hours accordingly. She has been very flexible and understanding, and without her, I 100% wouldn’t have been able to keep my job or work during school.

It’s settling and humbling to give thanks and gratitude to those who fill our days with joy and love, even if they don’t realize it. I encourage you all to reflect on those who make your days just a little more manageable and pleasant, even when things are difficult.

And of course, a quote.

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” – Brene Brown