I Ain’t Afraid of No Fear

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer 

I like to keep it real with myself.  I like to give myself mini check-ins to remind myself that I need to chase goals that bring my soul joy instead of buying whatever society is selling, dictating what I’m “supposed” to do.  I like to ask myself a mini-20 questions, pretending like I’m on a first date — well, that is if first dates moved beyond the “crazy weather we are having this week…” small talk to something actually deep, meaningful and vulnerable.

I ask questions like:

What would you try if you knew you could not fail?

What dream would you chase if you had no fear?

What would you tell the people you love if you knew it would be heard, received and the answer positive and receptive?

Who would you love if there were no constraints, judgements or threats to you and that person?

What feelings or emotions would you express if you knew that there would be no negative repercussions and you would truly be heard and seen?

I have been thinking about fear and the looming idea that there are dreams in this life we cannot attain or goals we cannot achieve.  I have been thinking about the paralyzing fear I have felt in my own life: fear of failing, fear of falling, fear of the unknown, fear of it ending, fears of

I like to keep it real with myself.  I like to give myself mini check-ins to remind myself that I need to chase goals that bring my soul joy instead of buying whatever society is selling, dictating what I’m “supposed” to do.  I like to ask myself a mini-20 questions, pretending like I’m on a first date — well, that is if first dates moved beyond the “crazy weather we are having this week…” small talk to something actually deep, meaningful and vulnerable.

I ask questions like:

What would you try if you knew you could not fail?

What dream would you chase if you had no fear?

What would you tell the people you love if you knew it would be heard, received and the answer positive and receptive?

Who would you love if there were no constraints, judgements or threats to you and that person?

What feelings or emotions would you express if you knew that there would be no negative repercussions and you would truly be heard and seen?

I have been thinking about fear and the looming idea that there are dreams in this life we cannot attain or goals we cannot achieve.  I have been thinking about the paralyzing fear I have felt in my own life: fear of failing, fear of falling, fear of the unknown, fear of it ending, fears of not being loved in return, fears of living a mediocre life that lacks adventure or spontaneity, fear of being alone, fear of answering the phone, fear of setting boundaries, fear of stating my opinion unapologetically, fear of asking for something to be explained again, fear of following through, and perhaps most paramount – fear of checking my online banking app for my balance.

I love toying with the questions that free me from the constraints of my fear.  I love these questions because often they reveal the true longings of my soul.  But there is also another part of me that thinks fear is a good and necessary part of the human experience.  Yes, yes, fear is a necessary evolutionary defense mechanism that keeps us alive, running from bears, and out of busy streets.  But deeper than these reasons, I think there is a true triumph and inner strength that comes from conquering one’s fears and overcoming thoughts of doubt or uncertainty.  It is disheartening for me to think that as children many of us didn’t have fears of failing or fears of ending up alone or not living up to our fullest potential.  The world may have seemed limitless – which is also why many of us broke arms jumping off the monkey bars, being under the impression that wings suddenly grow the minute your body free falls.  As we grow, the world often reveals aspects of life that plant seeds of doubt within us and leave us with lists of fears – some rational and some very irrational.  But, I have found that while I still battle many of my fears, naming these fears has helped me own pieces of myself and begin the journey of loving those parts and sending them healing.

One fear that I have worked on since the onset of my eating disorder is overcoming the fear of what other’s think of me.  I always lived for others’ praise and approval but soon the fear of letting people down became so ever present that I did begin letting people down – I stopped returning calls, stopped wanting to go spend time with people, stopped showing up and stopped following through.  I have slowly had to consciously work to answer emails, phone calls, invitations and duties.  I still struggle, but I have learned that honesty is the best policy, and if you say “no,” the person may not feel as let down as if you were to outright ignore them.

The second fear that I have fought and fought to overcome is the fear of taking up space.  It is odd, because I am not sure that this fear had ever really plagued me until I looked into some shame I had surrounding some trauma that had happened to me as a child.  All of a sudden I didn’t feel I deserved to take up space – I was unlovable, gross, disgusting, dirty, and undeserving.  Overcoming this fear and beginning the journey of believing I deserved to take up space was life changing, and something that has forever changed how I view myself and how I view the world.  If this fear had never entered my life, I would have never found such a profound sense of purpose and belonging.

This is the conclusion that I have come to: yes, it would be wonderful if there was no more fear.  But there is also so much strength and growth that comes from overcoming our fears.  So, do I wish I had no fears?  Some days I think it might make life easier, but I am grateful for what my fears teach me about myself and in the process of overcoming my fears, I often find inner strength and deeper connections to my community.  So no, I ain’t ‘fraid of no fear

The Monster Under Your Bed

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with fear. On one hand, fear can be a great motivator for an ambitious, strong-willed person like me who is quick to a challenge in the name of self-improvement. Am I scared of it? Then that means I am going to pursue it, head on. On the other hand, fear has been an invisible, vicious undercurrent consistently derailing my steady swim and yanking me further out to sea.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone particularly controlled by fear; to be honest, I’ve usually thought I tend to fall more in the opposite camp – making decisions that will be uncomfortable and scary, with confidence in my capacity to persevere.

That’s why, upon drilling down on a particular pain point and realizing that at the root of the discomfort is fear, I am always surprised. It becomes almost a humbling experience. Fear is, after all, an ego-driven quality. It is defensive and reactive – it’s a combination of how we are wired (the sympathetic nervous system) and how we have been trained by the world around us to avoid “bad” or “different” things/feelings at all costs. This fear reaction consequentially makes us very resistant to transformation.

For me, I find the fear monster lurking under my bed after huge changes have occurred in my life. I start to scramble around in the hopes that constantly doing will make being easier. This is how he rears his ugly head – disguised as strength, as discipline, as a coping mechanism that makes sure I don’t have to lean into the unknown.

As I grow more and more aware of myself and learn how to recognize when I’m off balance, it becomes easy to grow frustrated when I can’t pull myself out of something, despite using all of the tools in my self-help tool kit. Fear exists as control, as isolation, as complacency. Only when I sit myself down and internally scream “WHAT ARE YOU SO AFRAID OF” do I pause and realize that I am, in fact, acting out of fear – the fear of not knowing, the fear of being unaccepted, the fear of “getting off track,” etc. This is where the process becomes very humbling – I promise you that when you sit in stillness with yourself and really think about why you are so afraid of gaining weight, of being unregimented, of taking time off work, of quitting smoking, of missing a workout, the answer actually contains a lot more depth than those surface level issues.

What, then, is the antidote to fear? Well, I definitely know what it is not – it is not complacency or helplessness, just throwing up your hands and conceding defeat. This is putting yourself into victim mode – feeling like everything is happening to you. As seems to be a running theme, it comes back to finding the middle point between giving up control and feeling helpless.

I think our agency can be found in determination. When we think of fear we think of the overcoming of it, but sometimes the real strength lies in existing alongside the fear.

Fear can many times be rational, and in my darkest days I found myself wishing I was more afraid – wishing I had something to be afraid for, anything to feel strongly about. As I’ve learned how to deal with more irrational fears, such as a piece of cake somehow equating to my chances in the college admissions process, I recognize that many of my fears now – like the passing of time, my parents aging, being hurt when I’m vulnerable – are valid, straightforward, and are not going to disappear any time soon. I think naturopath and life coach Beth Bridges poignantly captures this duality when she says, “Life delivers us circumstances, events, people that are beyond our control. But – our acceptance of their place in our life, in our experience, is very much within our control.”

What if we retrain the way we react? Instead of collapse, of heaviness, of constricting, of hiding, what if we expand, listen, push into the hurt? What if we look under the bed and realise that the monster living under there isn’t really a monster at all, but rather all of the feelings, gut reactions, and daunting decisions we’ve brushed aside and let collect, out of sight?

And even if we did find a monster there, wouldn’t there be a relief in knowing? No more wondering or haunting nightmares about what is lurking. If we are prepared, equipped with strength and sound of mind, letting our hearts rather than our ego drive our reactions, that monster doesn’t stand a chance.

Transforming Love

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer here at Unpolished Journey

Hate breeds hate.

Love breeds love.

Negativity breeds more negativity.

Positive energy breeds more positive energy.

One of the most power tools that I have learned in recovery is the power of my own thoughts.  Your feelings shape your thoughts and your thoughts shape your actions and your actions shape your reality.  It wasn’t until recently that I learned that my lack of self-compassion and self-love was fueling the belief that I didn’t deserve good things.  I began to believe that I wasn’t worthy of a future full of opportunities and possibilities.  I didn’t love myself enough to want good things for my life.  In maintaining these beliefs, I denied the truth that I was a powerful force with the capability to shape my own future.  So I began to choose to believe that I was worthy.  Even when I didn’t believe it for myself, I chose to give my eyes a break and see myself through the eyes of those who love me.  I softly whispered statements like: “I am light” to myself.  I had to fake it to make it, but once I began to show myself the love and compassion that I would show to my best friend a world of possibilities opened.  I could imagine myself happy.  I could imagine myself healthy.  I could imagine myself content and I could imagine myself giving back to my community to create change.

Ok, cool, Gracie, but how? How do you just flip a switch? How long does that take? I don’t want to believe that I am loved, lovable and worthy because I’m a piece of shit.

I’ve been there.

I’ve been in that dark place.

And to be honest, I could be back there at any point in my life because that is the nature of mental illness.

But self-compassion starts from recognizing and embracing your humanity.  When you realize that you are not the first person to make mistakes and you are not alone if you feel that you have messed up, you can find the grace to see the beautiful life you deserve.  If you are a survivor of trauma, you are just that–A SURVIVOR.  It was not your fault.  Darkness tries to take our the strongest, most powerful lights.

The world has plenty of hate, it does not need yours.  The world has plenty of criticism, it does not need yours.  The world has plenty of negativity, it does not need yours.

This life will throw unknowns, trials and tribulations at you and what your soul needs is for you to build yourself a fortress of compassion and armor of self love.  It sounds cliche, but life will give you enough hardships that being kind to yourself is necessary and imperative.

Imagine the compassion and love that the universe has for you–enough to bring you into this world.  The fact that you are here means you have a purpose.  Do not look at the trauma and near death moments you have lived through as evidence that you should not be on this earth.  ALL of the trauma and experiences that you have lived through and survived are proof that YOU ARE STILL MEANT TO BE HERE. YOU HAVE A PURPOSE. YOU ARE A LIGHT. YOU HAVE INHERENT VALUE AND WORTH SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU ARE ALIVE.

The more you can foster self-compassion for yourself the stronger you light will shine.  Self-compassion is contagious and if you show yourself grace and compassion, those around you will begin to believe that you will show them the same compassion.  Those around you will begin to develop the same self-care and self-love.  I want to broadcast that I work to forgive myself and care for my spirit each day because I want my friends and family to know that I will treat them the same.  I speak kindly about myself so that those I love will begin to shift their focus to their gifts, talents and beauty.  Compassion for yourself creates more compassion in a world that needs transformation.  Transform the way you see and treat yourself and you transform the world.

The Quiet Victories

Written by: Emily Blair, Director of Operations

Being able to let go is something that I struggle with daily.  There are so many things I hold onto so tightly.  So tight my knuckles turn white and my hand begins to ache.  And the white color becomes the norm.  I forget the color of my skin and the capability of my fingers as they wrap around the rope that binds me to…well many things.

To the constantly comparison I play between my body and the body of other women.

To the need to always have my apartment completely organized, down to the last pillow.

To the impulse to pick at my skin whenever my hands are free.

To the guilt I feel when I decide not to attend an event one night.

To the dislike of the idea of the passage of time.

To the distress that comes the moment after I make a decision, as a wave of doubt nags at my mind.

To the fear that I will let down or disappoint those I let get close to me, causing me to build up barriers instead.

To the guilt of the toxic relationships I have let into my life.

To the anger I experience when I realize I let insecurity dictate so many of my actions.

To the pain behind the fact that I still have bad days – days where my depression sneaks in and my anxiety paralyzes me.

I could go on and on and on.  Although I do not know for certain, I can imagine that you may hold onto things of a similar nature.  And you know what?  It’s okay because I still hold onto a lot of stuff too.  It’s a daily fight to let go.  You have to slowly pry off each finger that surrounds the circumference of the rope and hope one day that letting go isn’t a fight but embedded within your life.

And learning to let go looks a little different for everyone.  It involves steps.  And those steps are specific to our journey.  For me, they are, at times, baby steps.  For example, the other day, I resisted the urge to flip through an entire cookbook where I had intended to choose which meals I would make my “standard” dinners throughout the week.  At the time, I was considering planning meals all the way up to when I had a family – considering kids!! I know, writing it out even sounds crazy to me.  But this reflects my desire to have every aspect of my life planned out, which to a certain point becomes an unhealthy obsession.  Or in the bigger picture, it shows my desire to have complete control, which I am learning does not exist.  So this tiny step, the moment where I took the cookbook, looked at it, and put it back in its place, was a quiet victory for me.

Why did I share this with you?  This strange moment of me in my kitchen staring at the Betty Crocker quick-prep cookbook fighting an internal battle within my mind?  I share this with you because many times I think we convince ourselves that other people can so easily let go of things in their life and embrace discomfort.  Especially within the age of social media, people can appear to let go of difficult things that impede their recovery, or their life in general, with such ease and grace.  We see people posting photos of embracing their bodies, sharing the miracles of mindfulness in their life, experiencing transformation through yoga, and on and on.  We forget to remind ourselves that the process is messy and most of the times painful.  I can guarantee the individuals behind the social media posts would agree.  The post doesn’t always share the quiet victories those individuals had to overcome to get to where they are.  They don’t show the moments in the kitchen, when the cookbook is placed back on the shelf.

I hope this reminds you that you are not the only one who struggles with letting go of things and that the quiet victories are just as powerful, if not more, than the loud ones.  The quiet victories are a sign that you’re trying.  You’re fighting.  And really, that’s all that matters in the end.

The Illusion of Expectation

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

I’ve always had a lot of trouble with the concept of “letting go.” That’s probably not particularly
surprising, as giving up control is one of the major pillars in recovery. And I could probably write
multiple books on the intricacies of that process, but that’s not the kind of release I have been thinking of lately.

The struggle that I think goes unmentioned is what happens after you’ve been to battle with control – the kind of darkness that seeps in through the side of the window pane, that makes you shiver even though you are staring straight into the sun. Recovery is so much more than just maintaining a steady ship. I have spent nearly half a decade building up my armor, strengthening my defenses; yet, I still can find myself exposed and alone in the middle of the battleground with no understanding of who I am or how I got there.

I recently ran head on into major life changes, and boy was I unprepared for how triggering that would be. In the midst of extreme stress, I found myself clinging to self-expectation and the dangerous cycle of would/could/should. How do you ground yourself when everything you thought you were, everything you have prepared yourself for, everything you think you should be, has gone out the window?

Pain that I thought I had buried a long time ago was unearthed, and I found myself drowning in an ocean of toxic coping mechanisms. I realized that crushing controlling thoughts in one area probably means that they will figure out how to pop-up in another. In order to deal with a whirlwind of change, I had switched into extreme stockpiling mode – making sure I was correctly positioning myself for the future, ensuring everything (from the daily grocery run to my career objectives) was perfectly calculated and set into motion. Here I was, like an empty wind-up toy, trying to fill myself back up by performing the motions of self-improvement. I was confronted with the notion that letting go is something you must do every day, over and over.

Now, there is something to be said for preparation, but that can easily slide into the realm of all-consuming control. This is where I sometimes get stuck – I know that my genuine self is strong-willed and extremely driven, so how am I supposed to just “let go” and throw all of my cares to the wind? The key is that letting go of rigorous expectations does not mean losing ambition. In fact, in stark contrast, it means grounding deeper in order to channel your authentic goals and desires. This is more difficult – obsessive planning allows you to go on a sort of hyper-drive cruise control in which you become disconnected from where your heart actually wants to go.

My need to control outcomes had morphed into a need to control the set-up, to micro-manage the scene – leaving myself with a false sense that I was then “letting go” as soon as action was called. This begs the question – am I just performing my life? By meticulously regimenting, I am actually removing my own agency. I end up just becoming paralyzed by wanting life to happen all at once, setting up all the spinning plates perfectly but then not being able to keep them all moving at the same speed.

I must let go of obsessive preparation that is based on some internalized metric of who I think I am/should be/could be/will be. Initially, I had to learn how to feel comfortable in my body when I could no longer rely on a skeleton identity. Now, after spending a lot of time becoming incredibly self-aware, I must let go of my own meticulous agenda in order to find balance – knowing my authentic goals but also leaving room for flexibility, for serendipity. To let go of the past, you must also let go of the future.

Right now is all you have, however cliché that may seem. Putting all of that pressure on The Now to dictate outcomes in The Later is unwarranted, not to mention exhausting. We spend so much energy trying to manipulate outcomes and resist what the universe has prepared for us – imagine how much more space our minds would have if they weren’t hypnotized by the siren call of “self-improvement.”

This month, I am focusing my energy on letting go of limiting beliefs.

I am letting go of to-do’s and giving myself the space to be.

Learning to Let Go

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey

What’s on your mind, causing you constant anxiety, keeping you from reaching your full potential, holding you back in fear, limited your abilities? Whatever it is…

Let that shit go.

It is weighing you down, keeping you from being able to spread your wings and take flight. It is the boulder tied to your balloon keep your feet stuck to the ground. When, you weren’t even meant to be on the ground in the first place.

I think a lot about the image of the butterfly trying to fly while being tied to a boulder. It keeps it low to the ground and exhausted, pulling down and inhibiting the butterfly’s natural born purpose.

We are that butterfly. We let stuff weigh us down all the time. Our past, our anxiety about the future, food, body image, fear, hopelessness. I could go on and on. I know, because I have been there. I have been carrying multiple boulders around with me in a backpack that seems to grow larger with each passing day and, you know what? I’m done. I have decided I am done. I am going to practice what I preach (shout out to Kesha) and let that shit go because it is no longer serving me in any way.

 

In order to experience true freedom in life, we have to first understand what freedom asks of us. Freedom is not something that you just magically wake up one morning possessing. Freedom is a battle. You have to first win, catch, and hold on to it. Freedom requires work and I think that is what people don’t understand. It’s like the saying of “if you wait until you feel motivated you will never start in the first place”.  The same could be said of freedom. If you wait until you’re ready to let things go, to experience release, to live a life apart from fear, then it will never happen. Why? Because, we never feel ready. Readiness is just an abstract construction we have created within our minds to try have a concrete understanding of a concept you can’t possibly tangibly explain. It is a dangerous thing to wait until we are ready for freedom because, in doing so, we may never experience the delicious taste of its blissfulness.

I used to think that recovery was something that eventually would fall into my lap. That one day I would wake up with an intense desire to get better and therefore would never have an urge to use my eating disorder ever again.  I waited years for that day.  I waited through many treatment stays and many relapses, always believing that my recovery epiphany moment would eventually come.

It never did.

I never had one moment where I was like “wow I’m in recovery”. It was a slow crawl towards health. An uphill battle, which I started to climb when climbing was the last thing I wanted to do. My recovery epiphany looked a lot like training. Slow and steady wins the race. It was months in the making. It was hard to even see the progress. But slowly recovery unfolded and suddenly I could look back and see just how far I had come.

I believe the same is true for freedom. Recovery and freedom go hand and hand. So, in order to obtain freedom, I believe the process looks a lot like recovery did and does. It is slow and hard and complicated. Freedom is an uphill climb with a tired back and sore feet. Freedom is starting from where you’re at and trusting the view at the top is better than where you are currently standing. Freedom is pushing and pushing and pushing yourself to do what scares you so that one day you can look back from the mountain’s summit and say, “I did that.” I climbed. I got myself here. I fought for my freedom. Because, there is nothing more satisfying than fighting to become the person you’ve always wished to be.  

If we return to the butterfly metaphor, freedom in the process of cutting those strings. No one is going to come and cut them for you. You have to be willing to do that part yourself. You have to get to a point where you are done carrying around extra shit and are ready to let it goooooooooo.

I don’t know what helped me get to the point of willingness to fight for my freedom, to start cutting the strings connected to my boulders. I think, perhaps, it was simply exhaustion. Exhaustion from fighting so damn hard. It just wasn’t worth it. So I got out my big girl scissors and cut cut cut away all the parts that weren’t serving me anymore. And boy can I fly better and higher than I ever have before. The summit of the mountain climb is near. I can finally see it after all these years of waiting at the basecamp.

It’s there.

It’s real.

I am coming for the amazing views.

Let that Shit Go

Written by: Gracie Mayer, contributing writer and Facebook manager of Unpolished Journey

Written for August’s monthly intention of Letting Go.

Image result for let that shit go

In my early recovery I remember having a transformative conversation with one of my friends.  I told her, “I have been praying and praying that God will take my eating disorder from me.”  Her reply was earth-shattering, and brilliant, and infuriating and one of the deepest truths I have ever heard.  She said, “God can’t take something from you if you are still gripping it as tight as you can.”

She was right.

I was begging God to free me from my eating disorder.  I wanted freedom, relief and a return to normalcy around food and eating.  I was begging God to take my eating disorder from me without doing the work of actually letting it go.  I still wake up every day and make a conscious effort to let it go–to loosen my grip and to turn it over to a higher power.  But more and more each day I have such gratitude for my eating disorder because it has strengthened my ability to let go, my unwavering belief that this too shall pass and my constant journey to embrace change.

There are so many categories of letting go.  I have had to let go of people because they let go of me.  I have had to let go of behaviors that didn’t serve me.  I have had to let go of thoughts that diminish my worth and convince me I am unloveable.  I have had to let go of the expectations for how I thought things or my life would be.  I have had to let go of the need to control and predict every step in my journey.

But with all of the things I have let go–there are so many things that I have gained.  I have gained improved relationships with many of my friends, learning to focus on loving without expectations or conditions.  I have gained new activities and behaviors like yoga and daily meditation that serve me and nourish me.  I have gained new patterns of thinking that affirm my worth and empower my goals. I have gained a beautiful perspective that allows me to embrace the alternative routes, detours and scenic routes I have taken in my life.  I have gained gratefulness and an ability to lean into the unknown with excitement and hope instead of dread and anxiety.

I am constantly learning, and every step is part of the process–the process of learning to love and let go, the process of learning how to breath and begin a new journey by letting go of the past, the process of remembering to not sweat the small stuff and let go of the trivial day to day mistakes that don’t matter.

I began to notice that the pain I feared in letting go was soothed by abundance that filled my life when I finally did start letting go.  Sometimes we have to let go in order to clear space for the new adventures, growth and relationships.  When we empty ourselves of everything that does not serve us, does not bring us joy and does not align with our life’s higher purpose we allow ourself the space to invite in new opportunities and transformation.

To recover I must transform.

To transform I must let go.

Free Refills Unavailable

Written by: Florence Taglight, contributing writer for Unpolished Journey and blogger at findingflo.co.uk

Free refills unavailable.

Unlike most places in America, here in the U.K we don’t get free refills at restaurants, so once you’ve drunk your drink, you’re done and either order another, or perhaps switch it up to water.  Needless to say on first trips to America I was guzzling so much iced tea and Arnold Palmers (something the UK needs more of) that I was constantly going to the bathroom and on return to England, practising my tiny sip taking to make my drink last the duration of my meal.

Okay, so you are probably thinking, what on earth does this have to do with compassion?  Followed by I’m reading this to gain some insight not learn about refill differences in USA and UK.  Well, be patient.  It’s coming.  Now in fact.

Often people in recovery from a mental illness, or perhaps those caring for one, tend to love and love and love, and care and care and care or even cry and cry and cry till we can love, care and cry no more.  That’s ‘normal.’  You are not emotionless or cold-hearted, merely a human being. A human being who needs to replenish, revitalise, rest and recuperate.  It can be extremely difficult when all you want to do is love someone and show them you care, but by taking time out for yourself, you will be able to be more present for them when they need love, more caring for them when they need caring for.

But although helping others is fantastic, and what I do believe we are put on this earth to do, throughout recovery I have learnt that as I try to be compassionate to others, I end up neglecting myself.  Sound familiar?  I will bake, cook, shop and clean for all those around me who show me love, because it’s a two-way street, right?  But I forget that these people also bake, cook and shop for themselves.  They also tell themselves nice things, refill their own cups not just everyone else’s.

I used to find it impossible to sit down and watch TV.  I HAD to be doing something – emptying the dishwasher, folding, organising.  I’ve always been a fidgeter but just watching TV for me seemed, well, wrong.  I’ll tell you what is wrong – that thought process. It could not be more wrong.  So, although I’m still learning, I’m learning pretty fast and enjoying the time I am spending with me.  After all, no matter if I meet my soulmate and we become attached at the hip (unlikely), I will spend my whole life with ME, so surely I should be the one most compassionate toward myself and not rely on those around me to give me love or to give my love too.

So if you are stuck on how to refill yourself so you can refill others, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Write yourself a poem, and then read it to yourself.
  2. Take yourself on a date, for hot chocolate preferably.
  3. Watch a film like Pretty Woman or The Lizzie McGuire Movie – I know extremely different genres.
  4. Buy yourself a present – fluffy socks? Fairy lights? But don’t go overboard…I fell at this hurdle; I own enough notebooks to document my life, twice.
  5. Paint your toenails – it is surprisingly relaxing. Plus if they suck, chances are nobody is going to see them for a while, so you can leave them all messy, which personally I find extremely satisfying.
  6. READ someone you trust your poem about YOU.

Compassion Fatigue

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey

First, before writing an entire blog post on compassion fatigue we need to define what it means. Compassion fatigue is officially defined as:

“a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.”

Dr. Charles Figley

In others words, caring too much can sometimes hurt. When we take on the role of caregiver, caring  the struggles of others, without practicing self-care problems can arise. We can turn apathetic towards the person we are helping. We can start isolating from others. We can even develop PTSD through experiencing secondarily the trauma of those we are helping. Most commonly, compassion fatigue arises in professionals dealing directly with people’s struggles, such as mental health workers, doctors, nurses, missionaries, etc. But it can also affect people who are naturally very empathetic people. They feel others pain and commonly find themselves in positions of trying to comfort, support, and help others. Now that we have defined compassion fatigue the question at hand then becomes, how can we avoid it?

I am a very empathetic person. I know this. I feel other’s pain on a deep level. This is not a bad thing. It has brought me to work in the mental health field as well as start Unpolished Journey whose mission is to bring together a community of people who have an array of struggles. I find my empathetic nature to be a gift, but it is a powerful gift that needs to be practiced with caution.  To be too empathetic leads to compassion fatigue. For me, compassion fatigue can lead to unhealthy behaviors and tendencies to isolate. So, how do I balance working with those in distress and my own mental health?  The answer is…Self-care!

Self-care is the mother of balance. Self-care keeps us rejuvenated and healthily distanced from those we are helping, or those we love who are struggling. Self-care doesn’t just look like taking a bubble bath at the end of a long day or taking a walk to clear your mind. Self-care can mean stepping away from a conversation that has become too overwhelming or unhealthy. It can mean taking a day off because you know that you are not in a good mental space to go into work.  It can mean distancing from those in your life that require too much compassion from you.  It can mean taking those hard steps to say, “this relationship is too much for me right now and I need to take from time apart” or “I care about my clients but have to remember that this is a professional relationship”.  Self-care is ANY action taken to help better your own mental health.

Self-care is not selfish. In fact, it is the opposite because taking care of yourself keeps your cup full.  You can only pour into another from a full cup.  If you don’t practice self-care your cup runs dry and then you have no compassion to offer anyone else, let alone yourself.  This is why in order to avoid compassion fatigue we need to make sure we are caring for ourselves in whatever way we need. So, let’s do something today that will better your mental health for tomorrow.

“The Flesh is the Surface of the Unknown”

Written by: Florence Taglight, contributing writer for Unpolished Journey and blogger at findingflo.co.uk

When an Artist starts a new artwork, they don’t start by imitating one they have already seen, one done by Hockney or Rothko.

When Musicians write a new song they don’t use the lyrics to other songs, or the same beat as the last number 1 hit (albeit, they come around, there are only so many words and notes)

And so why do we look at others and decide that’s how we should look too?

(N.B inspiration is allowed, after-all where would we be without it (Ellen D))

How boring would an art gallery be if each room were filled with the same paintings?

How tedious would car journeys be with every song the same? (Maybe this wasn’t the best metaphor as so many songs do indeed sound the same but imagine no indie-pop or Bob Marley dispersed throughout the Bieber’s and Swift’s).

And how DULL would life be if we looked all the same.

Wait.

New thought – Imagine if all dogs looked the same? No cute squishy faced pugs. No Great Danes standing next to a sausage dog the length of it’s own leg. Just all the same one dog. I mean not only would that be boring but talk about CONFUSING!

What I am getting at here is what Victor Hugo puts eloquently in an abridged version. The flesh is just the surface, that’s all it is, a layer on the top, like the waves are the surface of the ocean.

The ocean itself is far more than the waves, and you are far more than your flesh.

And I can appreciate the former so whole-heartedly, so why can’t I start to appreciate that I, too am more than the flesh on my body?

Although I will never visit the ocean floor – if it means wearing any further equipment than a snorkel; I tried, I really did but me + underwater with no escape is a bit like those horrendous food concoction lists you see on Buzzfeed…(e.g. Hot Chocolate & Curry…feel free to Google the rest if you are that way inclined.), hence never discovering an amazing new type of starfish or seahorse. What I will do is try and discover something new about me; and that’s why you should try to discover something new about you too – on a regular basis.

Alike paintings and songs and dog breeds (not saying I am pro crossbreeding dogs) even animals in general there are always more to discover. You may think you know all your talents, whether that be singing, dancing, eating a whole tub of hummus most days… I guarantee you can find one more hidden beneath the waves.