We covered A LOT of ground on our trip. Here’s what went down:
Sydney to Dallas, Texas
Dallas to Northern Virginia (Gainesville and Fairfax)
Northern Virginia to Central Virginia (Bedford and Madison)
Central Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Continue reading “USA, Chapter 1”→
Last year’s Friendsgiving was such a blast, we decided to do it again this year. But, in true Audrey fashion, I brought up making plans whenever we got together with our friends, and then forgot to nail down actual plans for the dinner until the day before Thanksgiving.
The word “funk” annoys me. The phrase “I’m in a funk” bothers me even more. Maybe because the word “funk” seems dismissive, a word used to describe a bad smell – or something gross growing where it shouldn’t. Like toe jam.
With that being said, I just came out of a two week funk. Usually, I’m pretty good at pin-pointing the reason why I’m feeling less than absolutely awesome. But this time around, the funk was more nebulous, more like everything had a cloud of “I’m so sad and I don’t know why” / “everything gives me anxiety” / “waking up and getting ready is excruciating.” Funks are unfun and they make life hard to live. Not impossible, just hard. Like when you’re wearing socks that keep falling off the back of your ankle and you have to stop and readjust them constantly and you’re all “I can’t wait to go home and change this pair of socks.” Except I can’t wait to change my fucking attitude toward life.
So it was a hard couple of weeks. And I’ve been thinking of my coping mechanisms, and how they helped me to some degree of success. And since this is a safe space, I thought I’d share some of my Funk Survival Skills. I’m in no way a qualified mental health professional (no matter what the internet says about me), but I’ve had 18 or so years of dealing with mild to severe depression, I worked 3 years at a therapy center, and I spent a year and a half of twice a week intensive therapy. So I’ve had a lot of trial and error. This shit works for me.
Talk about it. It’s amazing how much it helps just to talk it out. I can’t count how many times I’ve built an issue up in my head so much that it became the end of the world, only to talk about it with someone and realise it actually wasn’t a big deal. I’ve found that if I keep my negative thoughts to myself, I get suffocated, overwhelmed, and start to feel out of control and helpless. There’s something about verbalising your feelings. It’s like releasing a pressure valve in your Feels Grid.
Take an inventory. I sit down and think of any outside influences that could be at fault. Is my medicine affecting me? Am I sick? Have I been drinking too much? Not getting out of the house enough? Having problems at work? Conflict with friends or family? Low blood sugar? I was nearly suicidal for 6 months before a doctor suggested the hormones in my birth control (the patch) could be sending me into a tailspin. I stopped using the patch and felt better within a week. You never know, sometimes.
Make a list. This goes a bit hand in hand with “talk about it” and “take an inventory.” When I’m really mired in a funk and I don’t think I can talk about it yet, I write a list of “Shit That’s Bothering Me.” This list ranges from the most troubling (“I feel like I’m failing at my job”) to the most shallow (“cookies make me gain weight”) – if it bothers me, it’s going on the list. Making a list has duel benefits. 1) I’m releasing that pressure valve in my Feels Grid by letting it all out on paper, and 2) I can examine what’s wrong with me, and I can see what is and what isn’t in my realm of control. Failing at my job? In my control – I can ask for training, feedback, or guidance from my supervisors. Cookies make me gain weight? Out of my control – but I can limit how many of them I eat, and how much I exercise after eating them. It’s like making a battle plan for getting yourself back.
Show gratitude. I like list making. After I make my “Shit that’s Bothering Me” list, I make a “Shit that’s Good” list. I think of the positive things that are happening so I keep perspective. I get as real or shallow as I need to. Previous lists of mine have included, “My parents love me”, “I kicked ass at on that email”, “I took a shower today”, and “I’m glad I like tacos”
Indulge, but don’t binge. It’s good to take some comfort for yourself when you’re down. But don’t make your home there. It’s the difference between taking an evening to yourself to skip your shower, eat a brownie and watch Teen Mom; and calling out of work so you can eat an entire pan of brownies while watching an endless marathon Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2. Not that I’ve ever done this (twice). If your self care turns to an excuse for apathy, or “it’s just easier to do this“, it’s a red flag.
Don’t drown yourself. This seems pretty obvious, but it took me a while to catch on: listening to sad music, watching sad movies, and reading sad words when I’m sad makes me more sad. *lightbulb* I used to love that commiseration and that charge I’d feel when an artist or a movie would channel exactly what I was feeling. Eventually, though, I learned that depression is fertile, and it doesn’t take much fertilization to make my mind a breeding ground. Now I seek out material the opposite of what I’m feeling. And I stay away from known triggers – like TV shows and movies with sentimental attachments, and basically all music. Distraction gives me a good break from the negative thoughts.
Move. There’s heaps of science that backs up the positive effect of exercise on depression and funks. And it’s true. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, or sitting out on the balcony. Prying my ass out of bed or off the couch and into the outside world does a bit of good. And back when I was periodically active at my gym, it felt good to zone out while lifting weights. Also it makes me feel like I have control over something good happening – like I’m working out. I’m making myself do this, and it’s good for me, so that’s good. I’m awesome.
Confront your anxieties. You know what makes anxiety 800% worse? Avoiding it. I think I’ve had the same anxiety since I was a kid – something will happen, it will be my fault, and I’ll get yelled at. Seriously. I can trace most of my anxiety attacks back to the initial fear of “I’ll get yelled at.” sounds silly, until I’m shaking at my desk having heart palpitations with a red face and vomit rising in my throat. If I think I’m going to get in trouble, or in a situation where I might be talked sternly at, my first instinct is always to do everything in my power to avoid it. But, therapy helped me learn that confronting whatever is giving me anxiety is so much better than leaping to the worst conclusion. Problems at work? I’ll convince myself to ask questions about it until I understand and feel good about it. Stressed because you don’t have money to pay a bill? Call the company you owe and see what your options are. Feeling like you have a million things you want to do and not enough time? Write it out in a list and prioritize it. Think your friend/parent/family member/co-worker/facebook friend is mad at you? Ask them about it.Think your friend/parent/family member/co-worker/facebook friend is treating you badly? Say something about it. Dreading opening up your junk drawer or junk room because it might be out of control? Just open it. Take a small pile and work through it, one pile at a time. I’ve learned that no matter how hard it is to confront your problems, it’s much better than holding it inside and worrying.
Take a super shower. Literal self care: when I’m in a funk, showering is the first thing that falls to the wayside. I’ll sit in a dirty funk forever with absolutely no concern for myself. So I’ve found that taking a Super Shower – an extra long shower where you not only shampoo, rinse and repeat, but you also scrub, exfoliate, polish, use the loofah, use the pumice on your feet, shave, use body oil, use every toiletry and indulgence you have. Take the time to wash and pamper what usually gets a quick scrub in a morning shower. Then, dry off, lotion up everywhere, comb your hair, and put on clean clothes (or pajamas). I follow this up with mascara and eye liner, and blow drying my hair straight. It makes me feel human on the outside, even if I’m feeling like pudding on the inside.
Get dressed. If I have to go to work while I’m in a funk, going in unshowered and dressed with no effort makes me feel a million times worse. If I take a shower, get dressed with a purpose, and put on make up, I can trick myself that I’m in control and that my life doesn’t feel like a complete mess. But, I’ll admit that I usually talk myself out of this because I want to stay in bed for the 30 minutes it takes me to shower and blow dry my hair. You can’t win them all.
Do something. I’ve been trying harder than ever to funnel funk feelings into productivity. 90% of the time this means baking. I do my best baking when I’m in a funk. It’s a nice distraction/respite from being mired in the shit. I feel productive and in control, and after all is baked and cleaned and put away, pretty satisfied. And when the treats come out amazing, it’s not bad on the ol’ self esteem. I also like to write, draw, obsessively sort, re-organize or clean. Anything to keep my mind occupied and my ass moving. Except vacuuming. Vacuuming is the bane of my existence and is guaranteed to make my funk worse.
Be kind to yourself. This is the most important lesson I learned in therapy. Being kind to myself means listening to what I really need, be it alone time, sleep, help, a tantrum, or a hug. It also means reminding myself to think positively in the midst of all the shit. “This too shall come to pass” is one of my mantras. I remind myself of all the other times I thought it couldn’t get any worse, and how it I’m still here. Don’t belittle or hate yourself because you’re down. Give yourself the time, the space, and the encouragement to get through it. I’m my harshest critic, judgiest judger, and worst nightmare. It’s taken a lot deliberate action on my part to change the way I think about myself, but I’m glad that I did – and even more glad that I can enact positivity now.
Basically, the only way to get through a funk is to take care of yourself. Take care of yourself physically, as well as emotionally. Be encouraging, be honest, and be open to those you trust. And above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help – asking for help is much easier than you think, and much better than suffering. And anyone who tries to tell you different is a dick. True story.
It gets better. And there are always good things happening. Like tacos.
September 3rd brought about my one year anniversary of living in Sydney with Joel. We celebrated with Netflix, champagne and sweatpants.
Like every milestone that’s passed since I’ve been here, it’s still a little hard to believe that it happened. Like, how did all the holidays pass, all the seasons change, and all the shit that’s happened happen when I only got here like, 2 days ago?
Moving overseas was a huge process, and in the excitement of it all, I underestimated every step of it. I knew I’d miss my friends and family, but I didn’t know how devastatingly I’d miss them or how much I’d kick myself for not calling them every day when I was back in the States. I knew living in a new country would be an adjustment, but I didn’t account for the little things, for the crushing despair I’d feel from not being able to do a walk around Target when I’m feeling down, or for having to stand in the grocery store Googling “what is this ingredient called in Australia” or having a question about dinner and not being able to call my mom for advice. It didn’t occur to me that I’d feel like such an outsider in a first world, english speaking country, and I didn’t think about how feeling like an outsider would make it harder to make friends. I didn’t know how helpless and frustrated and angry I would feel when I’d hear about being able to do nothing about problems back home. I didn’t think about how scary it would be to count every dollar in my budget because I can’t just borrow $50 from my parents anymore. And I really didn’t think about the “hey, only I can talk shit about my family, ok?” reaction I’d get when I’d hear shit talk about the States and American policies – that was the most surprising.
So this year has been the biggest adjustment I’ve ever gone through. But, I can’t think of an adjustment that has been more important or more necessary. And for all the internal challenges I’ve faced this year, my support system has been incredible. I’ve met some great people through Joel and through work, and my parents been there for me, offering me endless support and turning a blind eye to me buying American TV shows through their Amazon prime (they also gave me a gift of temporarily taking over my student loan payments, which I’ll never be able to thank them enough for). My friends have never been more than a message or an impromptu Skype session away, which I’ve never been more thankful for.
I’ve also had a constant source of support and friendship and general badassery here, and it was from one aspect of my life that I knew I never had to worry about: Joel. For the first time ever, I feel like I have a partner. I have someone who isn’t just invested in me, but who is invested in us. I hadn’t realized it before I moved here, but I had always had him as my number one priority in life. Since being in Sydney, though, our life together has become the number one priority. And it’s been an eye opening experience. It’s our money and our problems and our home and our holidays and our life. He’s helped me to be more conscious of my spending, to be healthier, to be more patient and supportive of myself, and to let go of situations I have no control over. Of course, we’ve had our stumbling moments, but now, it feels effortless. I wake up every morning feel grateful that the universe knocked us together.
A whole year. Damn. It took a lot longer than I expected, but I feel like Sydney is becoming my home. I’ve met some great people, I know how to get around town more, I know what to expect from the seasons (i.e. how to dress and live during summer when you don’t have air conditioning), I have cheat sheets for the metric system, I’m determined to learn how to drive, I’m going to hit the beach way more, and life here doesn’t feel so lonely anymore. At the end of every month, I learn a few more lessons about living here. My visa is finally finished and turned in, and I’m employed full time. Basically, I finally feel ready to worry less and do more.
Time flies. At jet speeds. And it feels like so much has happened, even if it doesn’t look like it. Because all the things that happened were little. I realized the value of a dollar. The value of a phone call or even a text message to loved ones. The values of patience and consideration. The value of putting myself in someone else’s shoes. The value of eating healthier and moving more. The value in dropping bad habits. The value of letting go and forgiving. All these little realizations all added up to something huge: I finally grew up.
Happy anniversary, Sydney. Thanks for everything. xo
This morning was rough. I woke up early for more annoying phone calls about my finger prints, and Joel and I had a snit over a miscommunication, so I stormed out with barely a good bye, which I don’t do, and I proceeded to stew and growl all the way to work.
Work was super busy, which didn’t help my shitty “I don’t care” attitude. Joel and I made up over text later in the morning, but I was just over the whole day. And while I was on the bus ride home, after the longest day in the history of ever finally concluded, time hop reminded me of this:
And I was all heart eyes and awwwww.
I remember it as clear as day: unemployed, no real money to speak of, living with my parents, drunk, chatting with Odie. I decided in a split second that I wanted to visit. I suggested New Year’s. He said YES. I looked up tickets. And after 40 minutes, I had my credit card reservation and my Australian holiday visa sitting in my email. That’s how I roll.
I thought I was just going on a holiday. I hadn’t really spent more than 48 hours with Odie, ever, and I was about to spend 16 days with him. I didn’t know that I’d have one of the best trips of my entire life. And I didn’t know I’d make a new friend who I would eventually realise was my missing piece. And I sure as hell didn’t know that 3 years later, I’d be living there, dealing with visas.
That split decision changed my life. And I had no idea it would even happen.
I saw that post, and I thought, even on shit days, I’d still rather be here than anywhere else. So thank you, Drunk Destiny. You put me right where I need to be.
Just goes to show you, nothing bad will ever happen to you if spend your money recklessly and live your life with no expectation of success or adulthood. Ever*.
*And it definitely won’t make you move back in with your parents 3 times so you can pay off your bills. It definitely won’t.